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Why Modern Physics Does Not Refute Thomistic Philosophy

Today some claim that modern physics evinces that Aristotelian-Thomist philosophy is an archaic myth that has outlived its credibility. They say things like, “If Thomist metaphysics contradicts modern physics, then Thomism is false.”

They make claims against Thomism, citing modern physical theories like quantum mechanics and relativity. We are told counterintuitive things, such as that (1) whole universes can pop into existence from nothing according to quantum mechanics, (2) effects sometimes actually exist before their causes, (3) special relativity entails that time is not sequential, but rather “B theory” says that past, present, and future are equally real and change is impossible, and (4) electrons around an atomic nucleus can be in two positions simultaneously, or “smeared over space.”

Still, on basic truths about the world, natural science and Thomism hold identical positions.

Epistemological realism: Natural scientists and Thomists share the conviction that we immediately sense the external world. Scientists are certain that they are discovering laws that apply to a vast extramental physical cosmos. Still, those who impose a materialist philosophical interpretation on sensation’s science find themselves entrapped in an epistemological nightmare whose immanent logic leads to the false conclusion that all we really know is internal neural patterns of our brains.

Thomism offers an alternate view of sense experience that supports natural science’s realist presupposition. It notes that all human beings have the same noetic starting point. There are three components to every human act of knowledge: (1) the thing known, (2) the act of knowing, and (3) reflexive awareness of the knowing self. In most relevant cases, what is known is known as external to one’s self. While an entire epistemology is not possible here, note that we cannot doubt external reality when it is directly confronted. Doubt arises only when we shift our attention to a judgment about the external object in which what we know is not the object itself. For example, if I close my eyes and wonder whether the lion confronting me is really about to attack me, I am no longer looking at the lion, but at some internal image of it. At that moment, I can doubt the real lion, but I cannot doubt its mental image. Opening my eyes provides a different certitude – as the lion takes its first bite.

Metaphysical first principles: Universal first principles apply to the minds and methods of modern physicists themselves. If there is even a single exception to such universal rules, there would be no logical reason ever to expect such a “broken rule” to apply again. Assuming, for instance, that the whole universe has no reason for existing, but that somehow the rest of cosmic phenomena still must have reasons, is special pleading in the extreme.

The principle of non-contradiction, which says that things cannot both be and not be, is universally applied by every scientist making an observation. Even the smallest phenomena must be read as what it is and not as its contradictory – otherwise, the reading would be useless. Claims of contradictory phenomena, such as wave-particle duality, rely on such observations. If a subatomic entity appears as a wave, that same exact reading cannot say it is a particle. Neither Thomist nor natural scientist could ever reject this principle, since, without it, every judgment could be contradicted.

Science simply cannot be done without the principle of sufficient reason. By “sufficient reason,” I refer, not to Leibniz’s famous definition, but simply the universal truth that all things must have reasons. Long before St. Thomas or Leibniz, Adam knew that all things have reasons. So do all scientists. Every scientist pursues explanations of natural phenomena because he knows they must have explanations. Through Hume’s influence, he may think of causes as “antecedents,” but he never stops looking for them because he believes in the principle of causality. Causes are merely reasons for things that do not explain themselves.

From the time a child begins to explore the world, his mind invariably demands to know reasons for all things. Things’ intelligibility demands that they “make sense” -- either through some external cause or their own internal coherence. “Why?” is the ever-pressing question. Science never researches to discover whether a given phenomenon has an explanation, but rather to discover what that explanation is. If sufficient reason is not universally true, scientists could never be sure that observed phenomena actually reveal the nature of what they study, since no underlying reason need exist. Science would be impossible. The mind’s reasoning process could never be trusted, since no reasons for thoughts need ever be present. Indeed, all the rational connections in the whole of reality depend upon our expectation that reasons underlie everything. And, if the way our mind works does not correspond to reality, science becomes fantasy and we are all, by definition, psychotic.

Even atheist scientists, like Stephen Hawking, questioning the existence of the cosmos, usually assert that it simply explains itself. They may claim that it is the end product of eternal cosmic “bubbles,” arising from “nothing” – which “nothing” turns out to be a “quantum vacuum” that itself turns out to be actually pre-existing active quantum fields consisting of virtual particles! Those who claim that the cosmos has no reason at all for existing are making a philosophical claim that happens to be at variance from both modern physics and Thomism. Thomist philosophy comports with and supports natural science’s universal operating conviction that things have reasons.

Potency and act, matter and form, finality, essence and existence: Most other Thomist principles are so clearly philosophical that natural science properly says little about them. The exceptions would be materialist denials that substantial forms and final causes exist in nature. Still, those are clearly philosophical, not scientific, claims.

What should be made of the types of counterintuitive scientific claims presented at the beginning of this article? To understand, we have to consider the various steps in the process of scientific enquiry. First, we have the target entity to be explained, for example, the actual movement of planets around the Sun. Since concrete solar system conditions are far too complex to “handle” in every detail, scientists create a “model” that abstracts essential elements of the target from less relevant details, such as, the actual shape of bodies, gravitational influence from other stars, and so forth. In the process, the model no longer perfectly fits the actual conditions of the target, and yet, is close enough to reality so as to illustrate an hypothesized explanation.

What happens next is where physicists can surreptitiously introduce philosophical assumptions. For now the scientist will make his own interpretation of the model – sometimes with hidden philosophical assumptions. Note that the “interpretation” is based on a “model,” which is based on the target reality. Hence, the speculative interpretation is two epistemic steps removed from the original reality. While the solar system model appears fairly straightforward, some evident instances of philosophical speculation are found in modern physics.

For example, most people would not realize that there more than a dozen different interpretations of quantum mechanics – many expressive of diverse philosophical assumptions or claims. Such interpretive pluralism alone bespeaks limited empirical evidence favoring one interpretation over another. Still, this philosophical quagmire does not prevent aggressive claims being made for various interpretations -- as if they were fully demonstrated by natural science.

Thomism or any valid philosophy must always comport with experience, for example, by acknowledging the fact of change. Conversely, natural science can never validly sustain claims that violate universal metaphysical principles.

Thomist metaphysics is often claimed to be “disproved” by conventional interpretations of quantum mechanics, also known as the “Copenhagen interpretation.” The paper, “Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”(2011), exposes how such physicists’ claims “are not consistent or coherent in their existential treatment of fundamental particles, their wavefunctions, and physical states.” (Introduction) In its concluding paragraph, it warns, “The great danger in Copenhagen sophistry is not that it will harm physics as a discipline, but that it leads to egregious errors in other disciplines, which accept the Copenhagen interpretation with the authority of scientific truth.” (no. 15)

The number of erroneous metaphysical assertions made today by physicists operating outside their proper field of competence prevents “unraveling” them all here.

Still, drawing upon the same paper (no. 6), consider the following example I offer regarding the claim of “superposition” of electrons around an atom’s nucleus. Rejecting the “old” model in which electrons remained in a single orbit around the nucleus, some claim that quantum mechanics affirms such counterintuitive notions as that, when unobserved, electrons are simultaneously in different positions, or perhaps, even “smeared over space.” Yet, when we “collapse the field” by making an observation, an electron is always found solely in one position or another – never in the indefinite or contradictory positions that are assumed prior to taking the measurement. Since an electron is always found in a single position, the counterintuitive claims should be rejected for clearly violating the principle of non-contradiction. Rather, we must be talking merely about conflicting levels of probability as to where a particle actually is when not measured. Quantum mechanics ought not to be interpreted as violating sound metaphysics.

This same paper offers similar explanations of other quantum mechanics enigmas, including wave-particle duality (nos. 4, 14), Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (no. 9), and the ontological status of virtual particles (no. 13). In these and other instances, it shows that sound metaphysical principles deserve rightful priority over counterintuitive interpretations of theoretical models. It counsels, “Denials of the principle of non-contradiction or of objective reality ought to concern physicists no less than philosophers, as these logical and metaphysical claims are presupposed by physics.” (no. 13).

A 2006 study appeared to support Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment suggesting that an effect could actually occur temporally prior to its cause, thus wreaking havoc on the metaphysical principle of causality. Yet, a published comment corrected this, pointing out that the experimental observations can easily be explained without recourse to claims of reverse causation.

Although both Thomism and modern physics proclaim general “principles” or “laws,” they “get there” in vastly different ways leading to vastly different implications.

Scientific research relies upon an inductive method from many particular observations to universal conclusions that can never achieve logical necessity. Experimental verification of hypotheses entails the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, remedied hopefully by a perfect “critical experiment.” Negative experimental results can falsify an hypothesis. But, no amount of positive results can ever absolutely prove one is true, since some unanticipated extraneous factor always might have produced the positive result. Competent scientists always admit that the experimental results merely tend to support their hypotheses. Both these logical weaknesses entail that the “laws of physics” possess neither absolute certitude nor guaranteed universality.

By contrast, Thomism and the natural metaphysics of human intelligence discover universal first principles based upon the intellectual apprehension of intelligible being in our very first experience of material things – forming a concept of being that inherently transcends all reality. Since these are principles of existence, not essence, they necessarily apply to all beings – whether of cosmic dimensions or infinitesimally small. Such universal principles are regulative of all physics and philosophy. Unseen philosophical assumptions that permeate the speculative interpretations of modern physics’ models remain subject to the primary universal laws of being – whether physicists know this or not.

Metaphysics achieves universal certitudes; modern physics will get man safely to Mars – maybe.

The rational approach to quantum mechanics given above applies to relativity theory as well. Much of relativity theory may be read as simply perfective of Newtonian physics. One novel feature of special relativity is its denial of temporal simultaneity. An odd philosophical “by product” of this was the “B theory” of time with its attendant hypothesis of “eternalism.”

The “B-theory” of time, proposed by McTaggart in 1908, states that, instead of the common sense progression of events from past, to present, to future, events can be ordered in a tenseless way. “B-theorists” appear to take a “God’s-eye” view of space-time, embracing all frames of reference. This leads them to say that past, present, and future are equally real and that change is an illusion. Some rely upon Parmenides’ ancient arguments against the possibility of change.

Those who follow Parmenides’ (born c. 515 BC) univocal use of “being” to argue that change is impossible imbibe genuinely archaic philosophy. Aristotle (384-322 BC) realized that “being” is an analogous term. Combined with his innovative principles of potency and act, he finally refuted Parmenides’ argument -- demonstrating how change was both possible and actual. Competent philosophers respect reason, but also immediate experience. Even if change were merely an illusion, as Parmenides claimed, it is real as an illusion and, as such, part of reality that must be explained, not denied.

All these peculiar “B theory” claims about time, together with its “eternalism,” are philosophical interpretations of special relativity, which are not empirically verifiable.

Special relativity shows that relativity of simultaneity obtains solely between “spatially-separated” events, meaning events outside each other’s light cone (no light-speed or sublight signal can connect them). Contrary to “B theory” claims, “Relativity does not abolish the objectivity of time as succession, at least not locally. For every physical event, there is an absolute past and absolute future that is the same in all reference frames.” (“Basic Issues in Natural Philosophy,” (2016) no. 14.1.3.)  Such local events are still temporally ordered in the common sense manner: past to present to future. Moreover, “This preserves the succession of causality, where a cause cannot be temporally posterior to its effect (though they might be simultaneous).” (Ibid.) Since all causal interaction is local (no action at a distance), the Thomist principle that the effect must be immediately dependent upon its cause is in no way violated.

Since it is impossible to examine every possible physical theory, it is reasonable to expect that any future claim by physicists that contradicts metaphysical first principles entails philosophical assumptions outside their field of competence.

Physicists loathe being told that they are doing metaphysics – even more so, that they are doing metaphysics badly.

Many competent physicists know the limitations of their science, and therefore, take their measurements, do their computations, and explain their findings -- without misleading the public with problematic speculations, which they falsely claim to be objective or definitive findings of natural science.

Contemporary science’s progressive achievements crown God’s gift of human intelligence. Still, the whole point of this article has been to show that, unlike the inherent logical weaknesses of the “laws of physics,” which prevent them from ever rightfully enunciating universal certitudes, Thomism’s universally-certain laws of being, not only are logically presupposed by physics, but, indeed, supersede any modern physics’ claims that actually contradict them.

No, Thomism is not an archaic philosophy in light of modern physics. To the contrary, Thomist metaphysics is regulative of modern physics’ speculative claims insofar as they contain philosophical assumptions and implications.

Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Joe Fischer

    Bandon, I love the articles here at Stange Notions. I would like to share them at the philosophy subreddit unfortunately you always put the title in the form of a question. The moderators find this tacky clickbate. It gets articles from this website removed. Please stop making the title a question.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Joe! Just swapped in a new title. Hope that helps!

      • Joe Fischer

        Thanks keep up the great work!

      • Rob Abney

        then Thomism if false

        While you are editing Brandon, "if" should be "is", in the 2nd sentence.

        • Fixed!

          • Sample1

            That was a fast fix. Good. Now why haven’t you applied the solutions Andrew G. from the alternate discussion site to SN (Outshine the Sun blog) provided?

            It’s been what, a month? Zero interest?

            Elephants.

            Mike

          • Mike, thank for the comment. I don't appreciate the sarcasm, though. Is it really that difficult to post a charitable comment or request without any snark? See Joe and Rob above for example.

            I briefly looked at Andrew's helpful suggestion. It's on my to-do list. But with a full-time job, six children, and tons of side projects, it's all I can do just to get new posts up here sporadically.

            Changing "if" to "is" is, as I'm sure you know, a far easier task than the comment database fix.

            I'll get to it eventually, but it's not a pressing concern right now.

          • Rob Abney

            Keep up the good work Brandon, SN has had good articles and discussion lately despite all your other responsibilities (like your recent trip to Facebook with Bishop Barron).

          • Thanks, Rob! Really appreciate it, and really appreciate you for all your illuminating contributions to this site.

          • Sample1

            Not a pressing concern. Why?

            Yes, we all have life to deal with. Perhaps I’m mistaken but you do derive an income from this site; aren’t you a paid moderator? How long do you think it will take for you to complete the task?

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            That is really unbecoming of you Mike, I've seen you being very charitable before, maybe you should keep editing.

          • Sample1

            I’m just asking an honest question Virgil. It’s on his to-do list, as he has said. I’m asking for clarification in light of many others wondering how paid moderators budget their time to their tasks. It has been a month now. If it takes a year or five years to complete the task, I’d like to know. If it’s never going to be finished, I’d very much like to know that too.

            Mike

          • I took a look at Andrew's article and I don't know what the underlined means:

            (Brandon could fix all this in a few minutes, using the tools mentioned here in the Disqus help in particular the URL Mapper. The affected threads are easily identified by the presence of "www." in the disqus identifier.) (EN: SN's broken comment threads)

            For example, I took a look at the source of https://strangenotions.com/what-is-classical-theism/ (one of the offending pages) and found:

            var disqus_identifier = '5691 http://strangenotions.com/?p=5691';

            Now, perhaps there is an obvious "disqus identifier" to those who have administered Disqus (I haven't). And it seems like Andrew has generated a complete list of the broken threads. So why doesn't he, or you, go the rest of the way and provide a CSV file for Brandon to use? It sounds much more pressing for you than it does for Brandon.

          • Sample1

            These are Brandon’s own words to Andrew G.

            Thanks for the tip, Andrew! I noticed that problem, too, but haven't had time to look into it. Really appreciate your efforts and recommendations. I'll plan to make the fix soon!

            Perhaps you should rather ask Brandon if he needs further recommendations and efforts from banned users on this site. If he does, he can ask. If he doesn’t, what is meant by his exclamatory soon? It’s been a month Luke.

            Mike

          • The issue is neither pressing for me nor, as far as I can tell, pressing for Brandon. He seems to have a lot on his plate. Given that you seem to care so much, why not preemptively help him accomplish the task? Were you to generate the CSV file, he could probably fix things in a few minutes. If you don't do this, it will seem rather that you want to paint him as a bad person, not get the problem fixed.

          • Sample1

            I have no interest addressing what is clearly occupying your mind.

            Mike

          • Heh, "clearly". Well, I'll do what I suggested you do. Executing the following code in Chrome's debug window at EN: SN Broken Comments yields this CSV.

            copy(jQuery("li a[href^='https://www']").map(function() {
            return this.href + ", " + this.href.replace(/(https://)www./, "$1");
            }).toArray().join("n"))

            @bvogt1:disqus, you should be able to follow the relevant instructions with that CSV. You can use the download link and may need to rename it to end in ".csv" before uploading to Disqus.

          • Sample1

            I don’t know if you still read OTS, but Andrew provides this correction to your post.

            The actual identifiers that need to be mapped aren't the same as the links on the "broken comments" page. Brandon needs to actually follow the Disqus help and download the CSV from the Disqus moderation interface.

            Mike

          • Andrew could be right, but the CSV I generated has the format:

            https://www.strangenotions..., https://strangenotions...

            The first link is from the broken comments page, but the second is not. I could be wrong, but that seems to be the URL remapping required.

          • So I did some more checking and I think my CSV is correct. Let's take one of the broken pages, What is Classical Theism?. SN reports 0 comments. However, on load I actually see it briefly report 129 comments before refreshing to zero. Andrew provided two URLs for it:

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/what_is_classical_theism/
            https://www.strangenotions.com/what-is-classical-theism/

            The first works and you see 111 comments—some were apparently deleted. But if you go to the second URL, you'll get immediately redirected to the following:

            https://strangenotions.com/what-is-classical-theism/

            Note that there's no www., unlike the previous link. Now, if I view the source of that page, I find:

            var disqus_url = 'https://strangenotions.com/what-is-classical-theism/';
            var disqus_identifier = '5691 http://strangenotions.com/?p=5691';

            Neither of these has a www., either. Now, is Disqus' URL Mapper meant for disqus_url, disqus_identifier, or both? My read is that it is meant for disqus_url. Especially since their Migration Tools contains the following:

            If two threads are merged into the same URL and have different identifiers as well, the new thread will contain both identifiers.

            So, it really does seem to be the case that the URL needs remapping, removing the www.—which is precisely what I did.

          • Sample1

            There is no way in hell I am clicking on your data collecting phishing links.

            Mike

          • Hahaha, "my" data collecting phising links. Disqus added the http[s]://disq.us/url/?url= tracking sometime around 2016-12-20; I immediately wrote a TamperMonkey extension Disable Disqus URL Tracking to remove them. Sadly, I'm having content security policy issues with SN and haven't had the time to track them down.

          • Sample1

            Get back to me when you know you’re correct and I’ll pass it on to Andrew.

            Mike

          • Sorry, I'm not going to set up a Disqus install to test it, which is the only way to "know" without Brandon doing some work. If you want to prevail on Brandon to simply download a list of blog links and paste a few lines here, it should be quite easy to see whether they are disqus_identifier or disqus_url.

          • Sample1

            You don’t understand though that’s not really your fault. What you think is my interest really isn’t. I’m just observing behavior Luke.

            We were also told that atheist comments were unintentionally removed. A fix for that was also offered.

            So, broken comments and unintentionally deleted comments.

            I have no expectations that despite being told otherwise, that they’ll be restored.

            I’ll revisit this issue in another 30days.

            Mike

          • I see, so this was never in your interest:

            LB: If you don't do this, it will seem rather that you want to paint him as a bad person, not get the problem fixed.

            I wonder if I'll be the only person confused. :-D

          • Sample1

            Not my problem.

            Mike

          • Now I know I am correct; Brandon sent me a dump from Disqus and it contained lines like this:

            https://strangenotions.com/the-historical-argument-for-god/
            https://www.strangenotions.com/do-atheists-believe-in-god-after-all/

            The CSV file I created from the get-go should work; my guess is that Brandon will give it a try within the next week.

          • The broken links should now be all fixed; please pass this message along to Andrew.

            The original CSV format I generated was correct. Andrew's claim[1] that it was incorrect slowed down the solution.

            It also took three CSV uploads to fix all the links, each with the working links removed and the first remaining link moved to the end (in case there were problem pages causing the whole remapping process to halt). Andrew underestimated the time it would take to solve this problem.

            As it turns out, Brandon was happy to solve the problem when someone technical offered to help. Consider that "moral ground"[2] staked out.

            [1] http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2017/08/exiles-thread.html#comment-3565153188
            [2] https://strangenotions.com/does-modern-physics-refute-thomistic-philosophy/#comment-3567731682

          • Thanks, @LukeBreuer:disqus! You were a tremendous help and deserve 100% of the credit for fixing this. Thanks for tweaking the CSV files and giving me simple, clear steps.

            And for what it's worth, if @Sample1:disqus would have offered the same help you did instead of merely complaining about the problem and sneering at me, I'm sure it would have been fixed much sooner.

          • You're welcome! Disqus did not make it easy; I ended up writing a script to poll the comment count of both SN pages and disqus.com/home/discussion pages so that I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time checking which pages had been fixed and which were still broken. Without that, I could see this having taken hours.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the update. I feel a bit like Switzerland brokering communication between sites.

            As far as Vogt’s comments, well, if I’ve ever behaved poorly I apologize, however any disappointments I may have with him or this site regarding his rift between Outshine the Sun atheists have evidence-backed reasonings and I make no apology for those.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            It depends upon what your meaning of honest is.

          • Sample1

            If staking out a moral ground is unbecoming then yes, I’m guilty.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You seem to be unsure of your motive, you previously said it was "just an honest question" but now you are staking out moral grounds. Are they your motives or someone elses? If it was an honest question then you should accept the honest answer that was provided.

          • Sample1

            Oh I do accept the response. But what you mean by accept is probably something less moral compared to my values. Or we just honestly misunderstand each other. Either way, I’m fine.

            Mike

  • Richard Morley

    From the article, emphasis mine

    Since all causal interaction is local (no action at a distance), the Thomist principle that the effect must be immediately dependent upon its cause is in no way violated.

    Castellano's article, which you cite, uses the example of the two slit experiment with a single particle.

    Consider a detector situated at one of the dark fringes of the interference pattern. If only one slit or the other is open, the possibility of the particle arriving at that detector is high. But if both slits are open, that probability drops to zero.

    So if, as claimed, the particle is always at one specific location, and only passed through the one slit, how did the other slit through which the particle did not pass cause the probability of the particle arriving at the detector to drop to zero? Is that not action at a distance?

    • Rob Abney

      The Castellano article seems to address the issue, here is part of his summary.

      An atom, no less than a cat, cannot actually be and not be some determinate property P in the same way at the same time. The law of non-contradiction, being a law of logic, is independent of the subject being considered.

      • Richard Morley

        I don't see how that answers the apparent action at a distance.

        • Ben Champagne

          apparent being the operative word. I think you answered it for yourself.

          • Sample1

            Apparent.

            1. clearly visible or understood; obvious.
            "it became apparent that he was talented"
            synonyms: evident, plain, obvious, clear, manifest, visible, discernible, perceptible;

            2. seeming real or true, but not necessarily so.
            "his apparent lack of concern"

            _____

            Which definition are you implying? One or two?

            Mike

          • Ben Champagne

            Not sure what you are trying to impress upon us by going to a dictionary.

          • Sample1

            If anything, I am trying to impress upon you that without clarification i am ignorant as to what you are trying to express. If you answer which definition you are using, it might help me understand your position.

            Mike

          • Ben Champagne

            First, apparently(1) the joke went over your head. I thought it was apparent(2) which definition was intended.

            Second, in all seriousness, did you edit your comment? "Which definition are you implying? One or two?

            Mike"

            This did not show up for me when I made my reply, which was intended to mock randomly giving a definition without a question or context in response to what was intended as a joke in the first place, so I apologize if I came across as crass or blunt in my reply to your question which now seems bizarre seeing the actual question attached.

          • Sample1

            I didn’t edit anything substantial, a semi colon if I recall and added the break.

            I still have no idea what your reply meant and am no longer interested in asking for further clarification.

            Cheers.

            Mike

          • Richard Morley

            I noted the possibility that some local mechanism might be proposed. That's what good physicists and philosophers alike would do.

            But you just assert that it is somehow not action at a distance. You don't explain how that is possible. The slit through which the particle does not pass influences the particle somehow. That doesn't answer the problem any more than my post did.

          • Ben Champagne

            It was a simple play on words of your use of 'apparent'.

            If you wanted a look at how it is possible, you can look at Bohmian mechanics, which have been argued to be the theoretical better to the Copenhagen interpretation, to which I would concur (you may not), based on current evidence. Copenhagen is valued for it's better and/or simpler mathematical solutions, which Bohmian mechanics can/do not provide, but on a theoretical basis, are far more in line with relativity than Copenhagen is.

            That aside, quantum mechanics is still largely a mystery, and referencing a singular experiment repeatedly (not saying you, but anyone on the topic typically brings this up) as some kind of evidence because causes are unknown is hardly proof of anything, and having a working mathematical model is hardly evidence for theoretical implications moving toward resolution.

            As far as what Rob was saying (to elaborate hopefully, not speak for), is that even if quantum fields are actually dilutions of particles absent interaction, it hardly changes the fact of non-contradiction or identity. The object in question is still an object in question even if it's properties change.

          • Richard Morley

            I am familiar with Bohmian mechanics, or thought I was, but last time I checked it was explicitly non local. Has that changed, if you are using it as a reason for this not to imply action at a distance? I would have thought that would be bigger news than those oil drop analogies, albeit probably less easily expressed in a funky Youtube video.

            The Bell inequality experiments imply a lot more than just causes being 'unknown', if you are getting at some sort of (local) hidden variable mechanism.

          • Ben Champagne

            It depends on what you mean by non local first of all. Second, all interpretations as far as I am aware deal with entanglement, the difference being what is actually being entangled. The easiest refutation to certainty here I see as far as this discussion is concerned is in the simple fact that entanglement must, at some point, occur locally, for it to exist. I don't know of any interpretations that posit all particles are permanently entangled and have been for perpetuity, I am not even sure one could truly discern what that means. Barring that meaningless position of permanent perpetuity, one can only declare non local interaction after the fact of local action.

          • Richard Morley

            It depends on what you mean by non local first of all.

            How so? Not entailing the kind of action at a distance that seems to be a problem for Thomism would seem to be the aspect relevant to this discussion. The Bohmian pilot wave depends on everything in the universe, which is about as non local as you get.

            Second, all interpretations as far as I am aware deal with entanglement, the difference being what is actually being entangled.

            There is an important difference between entanglement and non locality. What exactly are you getting at?

            Barring that meaningless position of permanent perpetuity, one can only declare non local interaction after the fact of local action.

            I have no idea what that means. Can you unpack it a bit for me?

          • Ben Champagne

            Not sure what interpretation of Pilot Wave Theory gets you to that conclusion, but that's news to me. Bohmian doesn't infer a universal 'constant' as you suggest, it just infers we do not know the actors that create the 'wave'. Also, I meant it depends temporally, which is why I brought up entanglement, which is a necessary precursor to most if not all interpretations of Copenhagen. Unless the particles have been previously entangled, then no non local action could occur.

            By permanent perpetuity (somewhat redundant intentionally and certainly not a scientific definition) I meant that unless you mean to assume particles gain actionable attributes in perpetuity with all others without any previous interaction, that non local action would in fact require said previous interaction in some capacity. I know of no inferences otherwise, though I am certainly no expert or even in the field of study.

            The point being (hopefully this is unpacked) that Thomism remains sound because of the assumption of some underlying previous interaction not yet known.

          • Richard Morley

            Not sure what interpretation of Pilot Wave Theory gets you to that conclusion, but that's news to me.

            The straightforward De Broglie–Bohm version - the pilot wave explicitly depends on the whole system configuration. If you had asked me for an example of a theory that got past the non-determinism of QM by embracing the nonlocality, I would probably have used this.

            Having had a quick shufti at the Wikipedia page cited above to make sure I was not going mad it actually says:

            The theory is deterministic and explicitly nonlocal: the velocity of any one particle depends on the value of the guiding equation, which depends on the configuration of the system given by its wavefunction; the latter depends on the boundary conditions of the system, which in principle may be the entire universe.

            (emphasis mine)

            The point of the Bell inequality and associated experiments is that they effectively rule out a local hidden variable mechanism to get around the non-determinism. So you must apparently pick either spooky action at at distance or non deterministic results. Or cheats like the Many Worlds interpretation that effectively say all possible results happen but maybe only from their point of view so it still looks non deterministic to us.

            May I ask, are you basing your understanding on reading popular science interpretations, or on the original math?

          • Ben Champagne

            Again, it depends on the definition of 'nonlocal'. Bohmian mechanics could simply imply contingency as the nonlocal entity, which is perfectly in line with Thomism.

            Any action at a distance can never said to be looked at in a theoretical vacuum. There are far too many variables to assume nonlocal theories to have any scientific value (hence why Bohmian mechanics has such a hard time in the field).

            Bell does not demonstrate any such thing, it only demonstrates that Einstein's interpretation of local realism was flawed.

            The science only demonstrates one thing clearly: We really don't know much about this stuff, yet. And I am pretty sure we won't know much more in our lifetimes.

            As far as my understanding goes, both and more. Again, I am no physicist, so I claim no expertise on the topic, but understanding scientific theory and it's logical cohesiveness requires zero mathematical knowledge.

          • Richard Morley

            Again, it depends on the definition of 'nonlocal'.

            Again, the use of 'nonlocal' in this context seems quite straightforward to me, and Bohmian mechanics would be a great example of a nonlocal model. The answer may lie in this next bit (emphasis mine):

            Bohmian mechanics could simply imply contingency as the nonlocal entity, which is perfectly in line with Thomism.

            I have no idea what you mean by that. The non locality in the classic Bohmian pilot wave function seems obvious to me, and not obviously something that might be called 'contingency'.

            At the end of the day, the particle in the Bohm model only goes through one slit, yet is barred from certain detectors and funnelled towards others depending on whether the other slit is open at that exact instant.

            Bell does not demonstrate any such thing, it only demonstrates that Einstein's interpretation of local realism was flawed.

            It rules out local realism full stop, surely, unless you are suggesting some more modern version of 'local realism' that gets around the Bell experiments?

            The science only demonstrates one thing clearly: We really don't know much about this stuff, yet.

            We know a great deal, and have put much of it to practical use. There is more to learn, but that is great.

            And I am pretty sure we won't know much more in our lifetimes.

            Well, not with that attitude.

            As far as my understanding goes, both and more. Again, I am no physicist, so I claim no expertise on the topic, but understanding scientific theory and it's logical cohesiveness requires zero mathematical knowledge.

            Really, no. Especially these theories. The math adds a vast amount to a popular science understanding.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I am trying to let commenters on this thread play their proper role for the most part, and so, while more could be said, I will make just one observation.

      The experiment you mention pertains to quantum mechanics, not special relativity. The context of my remark about "no action at a distance" was Einstein's special relativity theory. It is Einstein himself who insisted on "no action at a distance."

      • Richard Morley

        Fair enough. I think I've said this before, but it probably bears repeating:

        It is very much to your credit that you respond on these threads at all. I will certainly not construe anything if you do not respond yet or ever.

  • Rob Abney

    Great article Dr. Bonnette, very comprehensive!

  • Augen Rabin

    I just discovered this website, thank God people like you exist Brandon. It's really nice to visit websites like this one. Keep it up!

  • "Metaphysics achieves universal certitudes"

    Dr bonette claims certitude but I don't think it achieves it in much.

    I'm sorry that Dr Bonnete may feel certain well established scientifically conclusions or interpretations challenge the metaphysics that he relies on for his philosophical approach to theology, but my atheism neither depends on this science nor is challenged by these metaphysics.

    I don't believe in god because there is no good reason to. If he has reasons he can bring them. This is philosophy of science.

    • Rob Abney

      Since these are principles of existence, not essence, they necessarily apply to all beings

      If the metaphysical proposition does not apply to ALL beings then it is not a certitude. You are asking Dr. Bonnette to skip a lot of steps to convince you that God exists, you have to accept the first principles before you can accept any evidence.

      • Joe Fischer

        And not just evidence for God but evidence for anything else. The metaphysics described is essential if one is to prove anything at all.

      • Ok. But one must demonstrate this certitude not just claim it. These principles are assumed, which I expect is why he says they achieve certitude rather than they have been proven certain.

        Edit: actually yes he can skip these steps as Thomism fails for other reasons! I don't need to dispute causation or PSR etc. to show it fails.

        • Rob Abney

          But one must demonstrate this certitude not just claim it.

          How would like a self-evident proposition to be demonstrated?

          • Same as any other proposition. What proposition are you saying is self evident and what do you mean by this?

          • Rob Abney

            The principle of non-contradiction is self-evident, and from the OP: "Neither Thomist nor natural scientist could ever reject this principle, since, without it, every judgment could be contradicted". So, how would you like such certitude to be demonstrated?

          • Richard Morley

            Some would say that Leibniz' Principle of Sufficient Reason is 'self evident', others argue that the 'self evidence' of 'free will' takes precedence and so opt for a weaker version of the PSR.

            How do you propose such differences be resolved?

          • Rob Abney

            I would suggest that the two parties agree on terms and then reason toward the truth.

          • Richard Morley

            So? They agree on terms, but have different ideas of what is 'self evident'. What then?

          • Rob Abney

            A self-evident proposition is of such a nature as to be immediately clear to the mind. No one who understands the terms can fail to know that two and two are four, or that the whole is greater than any one of its parts, that a thing can't be and not be at the same time, and that all things must have reasons.

          • Richard Morley

            Still not answering the question. We probably all agree what 'self evident' means, and that agreeing on terms is useful, but what do you propose happens when two people disagree on what is 'self evident'?

            You and I disagreed on the form of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and you never really did respond to this:
            If we observe that throwing a switch sometimes causes one light to turn on, sometimes another, sometimes both or neither, then we look for a reason. Maybe there are other switches, or the bulbs or wiring are faulty, or the switch actually rings a bell causing people who hear it to turn on the lights if an only if it is dark to try to find the bally thing.

            That to me seems 'self evident', although I would prefer terms like 'intuitively evident' that leave open the possibility that we are actually wrong. There you seemed to argue that the PSR does not require that a reason exist that specifies exactly which bulb turns on, only that some cause exist which might produce the observed result but could equally have produced a different result under exactly the same circumstances. Apparently in order to preserve your idea of free will. Yes?

          • Rob Abney

            what do you propose happens when two people disagree on what is 'self evident'?

            knowledge will be less clear, less certain, and more liable to error. And will need to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature — namely, by effects. (Aquinas definitions paraphrased).

            If we observe that throwing a switch sometimes causes one light to turn on, sometimes another, sometimes both or neither, then we look for a reason. Maybe there are other switches, or the bulbs or wiring are faulty, or the switch actually rings a bell causing people who hear it to turn on the lights if an only if it is dark to try to find the bally thing.

            The more restrained version of PSR is self-evident where it seems to me that the PSR is satisfied with one or more of those reasons being the sufficient reason. The reason may be erroneous but we will still know that there is a reason. The version of PSR that you apply is more difficult to say it is self-evident because you ask for the specific reason and the specific negations also.

            I'm not sure about your idea about free will, if an action caused a totally different result each time then I would say that there is a reason but I wouldn't say that the reason was free will.

          • Sure that is a self attesting principle and you demonstrate it just like that. To be false it must be true. Nothing asserted in science challenges this any more than the trinity does.

            Causation and PSR are not self attesting.

          • It isn't self evident, that's the whole point.

          • Rob Abney

            What isn't self-evident? What are you referring to?

          • The law of causality, free will, the PSR.

          • Rob Abney

            Causality and PSR are self-evident as Dr. Bonnette explained in his first OP here at SN. Free will is not considered self-evident .

          • None of them are self evident. They are require evidence or proofs. Interestingly I've given really good evidence against each here on this very site in other articles.

          • Rob Abney

            What is your definition of self-evident?

          • Something that doesn't need demonstration or proof. The law of causality, the PSR, free will, all need demonstrations or proofs. To say, for example, that the principle of sufficient reason doesn't need a reason to explain why it's true would be blatantly contradictory.

          • Rob Abney

            Aristotle propounded the doctrine of intuition or self-evident truth. All things cannot be proved, he said; yet an infinite regress is impossible. Hence there must be somewhere self-evident principles which are no mere assumptions, but which underlie the structure of human knowledge and are presupposed by the very nature of things (Metaph., 1005 b, 1006 a). This doctrine, later on, was to prove one of the chief forces that checked the destructive onslaught of the Sceptics; for, even if Aristotle's dictum cannot be proved, it none the less states a fact which to many is itself self-evident. It was the Stoics who first took "evidence" as the ultimate criterion of truth.

          • It sounds to me like you're arguing for brute facts: things which cannot be explained or given a reason for. So if you're arguing that the law of causality, the PSR, free will, are all axioms which cannot be justified further, then I will understand your point of view.

            I would, however, disagree with it. Mainly because we have good reasons not to accept them as axioms. Free will for example is logically incoherent. As such it can't possible be an axiom since it's self-refuting. The PSR is too.

          • OceanDeep2

            Your motor neurons caused you to type this response out. You choose to do so out of free will and you probably have a sufficient reason to do so.

          • Choose how? Can you give me a chronological ordering of events that happen when you think one "freely" chooses something?

          • OceanDeep2

            As tempting as that might be I freely choose not to answer your question.

          • I think we both know it's because you can't.

          • OceanDeep2

            oh I think we both know you choose to type that response.

          • Rob Abney

            I've never liked that term, brute fact, but I will accept it as meaning no reasoning required.
            I am not including free will as self-evident though, and we've already discussed your issues with PSR. Do you accept causality or any part of it as a brute fact?

          • I understand causality to be something very different than most people, especially most Thomists do. I can't say that there are no aspects of it that are brute facts because I haven't examined it that far.

  • Richard Morley

    We are told counterintuitive things, such as that (1) whole universes can pop into existence from nothing according to quantum mechanics,

    That implies a temporal process taking place outside of spacetime. A more faithful rendition would be that the universe can exist timelessly, possibly as a self caused entity. Ring a bell?

    (2) effects sometimes actually exist before their causes,

    Nothing innately contradictory with this in B-theory time. Do you not believe in prophecy or a timeless God who is aware of all moments and interacts with the universe? Do these not imply the same?

    (3) special relativity entails that time is not sequential, but rather “B theory” says that past, present, and future are equally real and change is impossible

    Again, as does a timeless God. As for change, things can still be different at different points in time. 'Change' occurs in the Harry Potter stories from the point of view of the characters, who grow older or die, even though the words on a given page in the book don't change.

    (4) electrons around an atomic nucleus can be in two positions simultaneously, or “smeared over space.”

    No contradiction there.

    Still, those who impose a materialist philosophical interpretation on sensation’s science find themselves entrapped in an epistemological nightmare whose immanent logic leads to the false conclusion that all we really know is internal neural patterns of our brains.

    Emphasis on the word 'know' - in the strictest possible sense. Indeed, we don't even 'know' absolutely that brains and neural patterns are involved. All we know absolutely is our own experience of the current moment.

    Naturally, pragmatism leads us to accept that our senses and memories reflect reality, possibly imperfectly. Do you claim any more?

    • Richard Morley

      If there is even a single exception to such universal rules, there would be no logical reason ever to expect such a “broken rule” to apply again.

      You seem to reject the possibility of imperfect but generally reliable 'rules'. In such a case we could expect but not know that it would apply each time. Then try to work out why, as per the full Leibniz Principle of Sufficient Reason, rather than accept that a cause can have different effects for no sufficient reason.

      The principle of non-contradiction, which says that things cannot both be and not be,

      I would say rather that if statement A is true, then its negation not A cannot be simultaneously true.

      Using this to argue that a quantum mechanics is wrong in positing a particle existing in a superposition of states A and not A is in my view a failure of the philosopher to understand the physics, not the physics violating the law of contradiction. The particle is in one state which is confusingly rendered into natural language. Both statements "the particle is in state A" and "the particle is in state not A" are false, the true statement is that the particle is in a state formed by a sum of the two states A and not A.

      By “sufficient reason,” I refer, not to Leibniz’s famous definition,

      So would it not be easier to not use his terminology?

      but simply the universal truth that all things must have reasons.

      A rather vague definition. It is compatible with Leibniz' definition, to give one example. You really should define both 'thing' and 'reason' precisely.

      Every scientist pursues explanations of natural phenomena because he knows they must have explanations.

      I would say 'believes', not 'knows'. Even in a rather more useful pragmatic sense of 'know' than the absolute one used above.

      After all, do you claim that you can prove the PSR or laws of logic? Not that I am denying them, just aiming for precision of speech.

      Science would be impossible.

      Why? I can look for mushrooms, even if they turn out not to be there. Why can't we look for reasons unless we are certain they are always there?

      • Richard Morley

        The mind’s reasoning process could never be trusted, since no reasons for thoughts need ever be present.

        As with the laws of physics, something which is usually but not always and absolutely reliable can still be usefully reliable.

        Obviously we must pragmatically accept the validity of our thought processes, as with our senses and memories, but even more fundamentally. But we should at least note the possibility that they are not 100% reliable even if it is not clear what we can do about it. It could be argued that much of philosophy has been about identifying helpful and harmful tendencies of our thought processes, and trying to accentuate the former and minimise the latter.

        For those interested, there are many online resources such as the Critical thinker Academy linked in the OP and the Less Wrong blog site, especially the Sequences linked on the main page. Or for a more lighthearted treatment, there is "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality".

        • Richard Morley

          Even atheist scientists, like Stephen Hawking, questioning the existence of the cosmos, usually assert that it simply explains itself.

          Note that for 'atheist scientists, like Stephen Hawking' the likeliest definition of 'the cosmos' is 'everything that exists'. As such either it has no cause, or that 'cause' is something that does not 'exist', or it contains its own cause.

          They may claim that it is the end product of eternal cosmic “bubbles,” arising from “nothing” – which “nothing” turns out to be a “quantum vacuum” that itself turns out to be actually pre-existing active quantum fields consisting of virtual particles!

          I'm curious: do you feel that you understand modern physics well and that the above is a fair representation?

          Since concrete solar system conditions are far too complex to “handle” in every detail, scientists create a “model” that abstracts essential elements of the target from less relevant details, such as, the actual shape of bodies, gravitational influence from other stars, and so forth. In the process, the model no longer perfectly fits the actual conditions of the target, and yet, is close enough to reality so as to illustrate an hypothesized explanation.

          If this topic interests you you may wish to look into the mathematical technique of Perturbation theory. (Wikipedia link, but still a good jumping off point)

          What happens next is where physicists can surreptitiously introduce philosophical assumptions.

          (emphasis mine) I am sensing a little hostility in your language, both here and elsewhere in the post. Do you resent physicists and other scientists engaging in the philosophy of science?

          Surely any thoughtful and insightful discussion must express 'diverse philosophical assumptions or claims' and it is good that physicists recognise this and face it head on.

      • Richard Morley

        Thomism or any valid philosophy must always comport with experience, for example, by acknowledging the fact of change. Conversely, natural science can never validly sustain claims that violate universal metaphysical principles.

        So if we have concrete experimental results that contradict your metaphysical conclusions, what happens? Do you at least consider the possibility that it is the metaphysics that is unsound, or do you necessarily dismiss the experimental result?

        The number of erroneous metaphysical assertions made today by physicists operating outside their proper field of competence prevents “unraveling” them all here.

        (emphasis mine) There it is again. I won't highlight all the examples, but this one very neatly illustrates the point that maybe both you and they are operating outside the field of your professional title, but that does not rule out the possibility that they are competent philosophers who just disagree with you.

        Yet, when we “collapse the field” by making an observation, an electron is always found solely in one position or another

        Within the limits of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In other words 'smeared over space'.

        Metaphysics achieves universal certitudes; modern physics will get man safely to Mars – maybe.

        Metaphysics may claim universal certitudes while Physics acknowledges the likelihood of future better theories, but since both have changed significantly over time I am not sure that that is to Metaphysics' credit.

        As far as Physics' accomplishments, the chances are you are reading this on one very impressive example.

        Physicists loathe being told that they are doing metaphysics – even more so, that they are doing metaphysics badly.

        How would metaphysicists feel about being told they are doing theoretical physics, and doing it badly?

        Thomism’s universally-certain laws of being, not only are logically presupposed by physics, but, indeed, supersede any modern physics’ claims that actually contradict them.

        Would that be the answer to my question about experimental evidence contradicting your theories?

      • Rob Abney

        You seem to reject the possibility of imperfect but generally reliable 'rules'. In such a case we could expect but not know that it would apply each time.

        Why would expect a "rule" to apply if it didn't apply previously?

        • Richard Morley

          Because it works most of the time.

          • Rob Abney

            What percentage of the time should "most" be equivalent to? Is it safe to play Russian Roulette since most of the chambers are empty?

          • Richard Morley

            If you want to kill whatever the gun is pointed at, Russian roulette is better than nothing. A gun with more barrels loaded is better, one with all barrels loaded and no chance of misfire is best. So a rule which applies all the time and gives a definite prediction is better than one that only applies most of the time, or which only says there is a 90% chance that X will occur.

            Interestingly, in previous discussions, both Dr Bonnette and yourself seemed (to me) to argue for a weaker version of the PSR that would only require a cause for every thing or event, but not require that cause to reliably, predictably produce that specific result. Apparently to preserve one conception of 'free will'. Yet that would surely entail the kind of not-entirely-reliable non deterministic 'rule' that is being argued against here.

          • Rob Abney

            So a rule which applies all the time and gives a definite prediction is better than one that only applies most of the time, or which only says there is a 90% chance that X will occur.

            What do you mean when you say one rule is "better" than the other?

          • Richard Morley

            It's a value judgment, in my case based mostly on utility. All other things being equal, a rule that is correct more often is more useful than one that is correct less often, and one that is more precise in its predictions is more useful than one that is more vague in its predictions.

            Do you disagree? Do you, for that matter, disagree that a rule that is only correct most of the time can still be useful?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, I disagree that a metaphysical first principle that only applies most of the time is useful. A universal rule does not have value judgments. It doesn't have to be useful, it doesn't need an authority to make a judgement on whether it is invoked or not, it won't require a clash of wills.

    • [OP]: We are told counterintuitive things, such as that (1) whole universes can pop into existence from nothing according to quantum mechanics,

      RM: That implies a temporal process taking place outside of spacetime. A more faithful rendition would be that the universe can exist timelessly, possibly as a self caused entity. Ring a bell?

      Hmmm, that's not the impression I got from Lawrence Krauss' lecture "A Universe from Nothing" (which he later turned into the book A Universe from Nothing). The book received some pretty severe criticism; perhaps you agree with the relevant criticism? If so, you might want to expand on that "faithful"—faithful not to Lawrence Krauss, but to the best current science according to «insert scientist here».

      Now, how can an entity be self-caused? I don't recall any Christian theology claiming that God cause himself to exist; I've only seen claims that God has always existed. So no bell rung and I would posit that the very idea of a self-caused entity is nonsensical.

      [OP]: (2) effects sometimes actually exist before their causes,

      RM: Nothing innately contradictory with this in B-theory time. Do you not believe in prophecy or a timeless God who is aware of all moments and interacts with the universe? Do these not imply the same?

      How does the B-theory of time make sense of causes preceding effects?

      I don't see how a God who is taken to exist outside of the universe but who can interact with it "impl[ies] the same". Where is God alleged to make effects precede causes?

  • Cristina Coimbra

    "Indeed, all the rational connections in the whole of reality depend upon our expectation that reasons underlie everything."

    Dr. Bonnette, that's a fundamental point: the intelligibility of reality. Fr. Reginald Garrigou Lagrange wrote that the law of reason is the law of being - and went on to defend the ontological validity of first ideas and first principles. It is evident, he wrote, that the absurd is not only unthinkable, but it is also really impossible - the principle of identity, he concluded, is the supreme law of both thought and reality.

    At first glance, this assertion seems like a truism, a self-evident claim no one has ever denied. Nonetheless, the rejection of realism with regard to universals, the assumption according to which reality is ultimately physical and Reason is but the epiphenomenon of organic structures - these are, in my view, the sources of modern atheism and the touchstone of physicalism.

    Nominalism, however, is utterly absurd. Our knowledge rests upon the inferences we can draw from observed facts and sensory experience. Moreover, science relies on observation and hypothesis inferred from it. This is specially evident in the realm of fundamental physics: the order is described through complex equations which reflect, so to speak, the intelligibility of particles, fermionic fields, bosonic fields and so forth.

    There is an unavoidable question which arises from the previous paragraph: the rational links and connections, the mathematical order, the intelligible ties - do they exist in reality? Or are they a product of our brain? Is Reason eternal and uncreated or is it a language we invented?

    Atheist tend to think reason is a by-product of evolution. Theists, however, and christians, in particular, see Reason as the ultimate reality, the Logos that governs everything. If there are eternal truths and ideas, proper models of physical order, then naturalism must be abandoned. The thesis according to which logic and mathematics are epiphenomena of brain structures, on the other hand, necessarily leads to absurdities: the identification of physical events - the firing of neurons, for example - and eternal truths is contradictory, because physical occurrences are contingent and eternal truths are necessary - absolutely of ex hypothesi.

    Finally, if Reason is a mere construction of our minds, a language developed by human beings, we can not know anything about reality - our inferences, our equations and our arguments are nothing but human projections on a universe ultimately devoid of any rationality.

    C.S. Lewis defended this argument in his book The Weight of Glory:

    "One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the naturalistic worldview].... The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears.... [U]nless Reason is an absolute--all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming."

    (I'm quoting from wikipedia.)

    Dr. Bonnette, I would like to ask you a question: do you think the argument I have just summarized is more akin to the Fifth Way (about teleology and order) or to the Forth Way (about the Eternal Truths)? I know some thomists have rejected the Augustinian Argument for God's existence. But Garrigou Lagrange defended it in his book God: his existence and his nature.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      As I note below, I am trying to let the commenters play their proper role here, but I am pleased to see you are still around from Portugal! Your analysis is an uplifting addition to the early comments here.

      Since you ask a question that is more historical than the usual arguments, I will comment. In my judgment, Pere Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange was probably the most influential of the 20th century Thomists. His work, which you cite, deals with the fourth way on pp. 302-345, and, indeed, it seems to me centers on insights you have advanced above -- more than the fifth way. Having myself literally written a book on the five ways, I still find the work you cite as the most thorough treatment of proofs for God I know -- in just the first of his two volume masterpiece.

      Commenters often demand that Thomists offer proofs for God on these sorts of threads. They literally know not what they ask. The proper exposition of these sorts of arguments occupy Lagrange the full 392 pages of his cited epic volume! He knew full well that one must first fully develop the epistemological and metaphysical foundations presupposed by any valid proofs for God -- and did so with great rigor, including detailed defense of the metaphysical first principles -- taking up to page 242 to lay down the intellectual foundations for the proofs.

      Again, thank you for your intellectually refreshing comment.

    • Cristina, I wanted to echo Dennis' remark below about how refreshing your comments are. So glad you're part of this community!

      • Cristina Coimbra

        Dr. Bonnette and Brandon Vogt: thank you for your kind words. When I first wrote a comment here, I did not intend to reply to any comments or objections. That's why I did not introduce myself. But I think I should do it now, since it is the second thread in which I write a text.

        I do not have a facebook account and, since I need one to post in this thread, a relative kindly let me use her profile. My name is Luiz Felipe and I am from Brazil.

        Once again, thank you for the warm welcome.

        P.S. - I am not sure whether "I need one" is a correct sentence in English. I meant to say "I need a facebook account".

        • TheNuszAbides

          I do not have a facebook account and, since I need one to post in this thread

          P.S. - I am not sure whether "I need one" is a correct sentence in English. I meant to say "I need a facebook account".

          there was no error! either way is perfectly serviceable English, but your original statement - using "one" instead of repeating word-for-word the [singular] object - is the more economical way to go.

      • Cristina Coimbra

        Brandon Vogt: I have just read the Commenting Rules and Tips. I think I should not be using somebody else's profile. When I come back from my grandfather's house I will try to create an account. Thank you again for the warm welcome.

    • Nominalism, however, is utterly absurd. Our knowledge rests upon the inferences we can draw from observed facts and sensory experience. Moreover, science relies on observation and hypothesis inferred from it. This is specially evident in the realm of fundamental physics: the order is described through complex equations which reflect, so to speak, the intelligibility of particles, fermionic fields, bosonic fields and so forth.

      Nothing after your first sentence demonstrates the truth of your first sentence.

      There is an unavoidable question which arises from the previous paragraph: the rational links and connections, the mathematical order, the intelligible ties - do they exist in reality? Or are they a product of our brain? Is Reason eternal and uncreated or is it a language we invented?

      All of those things can exist in reality if one is a nominalist.

      Atheist tend to think reason is a by-product of evolution. Theists, however, and christians, in particular, see Reason as the ultimate reality, the Logos that governs everything.

      How are you defining "Reason"?

      If there are eternal truths and ideas, proper models of physical order, then naturalism must be abandoned.

      I don't at all see how that concludes.

      The thesis according to which logic and mathematics are epiphenomena of brain structures, on the other hand, necessarily leads to absurdities: the identification of physical events - the firing of neurons, for example - and eternal truths is contradictory, because physical occurrences are contingent and eternal truths are necessary - absolutely of ex hypothesi.

      What is an eternal truth? And why are they necessary for your thoughts to be accurately describing reality? The idea of a free will soul however, leads to absurdities. Libertarian free-will is blatantly self-refuting and I'll add that it is so for any thinkable model of how causality works because it would always boil down to choices that are simultaneously caused (else they wouldn't be volitional - due to the agent's will) and uncaused (else they wouldn't be "free" in a libertarian sense) - and something being "caused" while simultaneously being "uncaused" is a contradiction for any model of what "causality" is.

      Finally, if Reason is a mere construction of our minds, a language developed by human beings, we can not know anything about reality - our inferences, our equations and our arguments are nothing but human projections on a universe ultimately devoid of any rationality.

      Total non-sequitor. You need to define reason and argue logically how this flows.

      • Cristina Coimbra

        "What do you think of this truth we have been discussing for so long? Is it more excellent than our minds, or equal to them, or even inferior to them? If it were inferior, we would make judgments about it, not in accordance with it, just as we make judgments about material objects, because they are below us. We often say, not just that they are a certain way, but that they ought to be that way. The same is true of our souls: we often know, not merely that they are a certain way, but that they ought to be that way. We make such judgments about material objects when that something is not as white as it ought to be or not as square and so on[...] We make such judgments in accordance with the inner rules of truth[...] but no one makes judgments about those rules. When someone says that eternal things are better than temporal things, or that seven plus three equals ten, no one says it ought to be so. We simply recognize that it is so; we are like explorers who rejoice in what they have discovered, not like inspectors who have to put things right"
        Saint Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will.

        Thinker: Justice Scalia, one of my intellectual heroes, used to say that what Shakespeare is to high school english students, constitutional traditions are to prudent jurists: he does not judge them, but is judged by them. That's precisely what Saint Augustine wrote about the inner rules of truth, the laws of logic and mathematics.

        Nobody judges whether rules of inference - modus ponens and modus tollens, for example - should be true, or whether they should be this rather than that way; but we judge everything in accordance with the rules of inference. That's because they are not only true, but true in every possible world. In a totally different universe, the fundamental things apply. Therefore, the laws of logic and mathematics are not grounded in the physical reality - they will remain true even if the universe vanishes into thin air tomorrow morning.

        You suggest, in your reply, that Reason is not an epiphenomenon of our brain structures - because, quote, All of those things can exist in reality if one is a nominalist, end quote. In fact, you seem to think that Reason is an epiphenomenon of material relations, in general. The rational links exist in (physical) things and because of them.

        This thesis, indeed, is more coherent than its alternative, according to which Reason exists only because of the firing of neurons and electrical synapses. Anyway, it is a false thesis - and its falsehood can be demonstrated.

        First of all, it is false for the aforementioned reason: the inner rules of truth would remain true in every possible world; it would remain true in an angelic possible world - a world in which only immaterial minds exist, apart from any matter. And whatever exists apart from matter can not be grounded in it.

        Moreover, physical possibilities are a subset of logical possibilities. A round square is logically impossible, but Albus Dumbledore is not. If matter is the ultimate ground of Reason, the entire subset of physical impossibilities is not grounded anywhere and, hence, it is nothing but wordplay.

        Finally, our universe is contingent, as you acknowledge, Thinker. But it is impossible for the necessary laws of mathematics to be grounded in a contingent reality. If Pythagoras's theorem depends on the existence of (material) triangles or human beings, this theorem is not necessary, but contingent upon them, which is absurd.

        Thinker, I am sorry for having written such a long reply - anyway, that's all for now. I read your remarks about causality and induction, but I have refrained from answering them, because I think this debate about realism and nominalism is the fundamental one. All the objections you raise in your review on Edward Feser's book, The Last Superstition, are based on this essential disagreement.

        • This thesis, indeed, is more coherent than its alternative, according to which Reason exists only because of the firing of neurons and electrical synapses. Anyway, it is a false thesis - and its falsehood can be demonstrated.

          Sure, logically and evidentially demonstrate it with a logical argument.

          First of all, it is false for the aforementioned reason: the inner rules of truth would remain true in every possible world; it would remain true in an angelic possible world - a world in which only immaterial minds exist, apart from any matter. And whatever exists apart from matter can not be grounded in it.

          That's a total non-sequitur. Try and turn this into a formal logical argument.

          Moreover, physical possibilities are a subset of logical possibilities. A round square is logically impossible, but Albus Dumbledore is not. If matter is the ultimate ground of Reason, the entire subset of physical impossibilities is not grounded anywhere and, hence, it is nothing but wordplay.

          Another non-sequitur. Try and turn this into a formal logical argument.

          Finally, our universe is contingent, as you acknowledge, Thinker. But it is impossible for the necessary laws of mathematics to be grounded in a contingent reality. If Pythagoras's theorem depends on the existence of (material) triangles or human beings, this theorem is not necessary, but contingent upon them, which is absurd.

          That it is another non-sequitur. You are on a role here. There is nothing impossible for the necessary laws of mathematics to be grounded in a contingent reality. Why? Because the necessary laws of mathematics would be true in every reality.

          All the objections you raise in your review on Edward Feser's book, The Last Superstition, are based on this essential disagreement.

          Agreed, but you have not shown I'm wrong in any way in terms of my principles.

      • Cristina Coimbra

        By the way, my reasoning is not a non sequitur. You mistakenly think it is because you acknowledge rational links and mathematical proportions in reality. However, if this intelligible order was an invention of human beings, a language with a numeric alphabet, and a psychological expectation - then our knowledge would be mere projection, since there would be no correspondence between thought and reality, just as there is no correspondence between reality and a thirsty man who sees a mirage in the desert.

        • Your reasoning is either based on false premises or it is a non-sequitor. It is based on a false understanding of physics and the universe, that you would know, if you knew anything about the way the world works.

          However, if this intelligible order was an invention of human beings, a language with a numeric alphabet, and a psychological expectation - then our knowledge would be mere projection, since there would be no correspondence between thought and reality, just as there is no correspondence between reality and a thirsty man who sees a mirage in the desert.

          That's nonsense. All human language is an invention of human beings, and yet it can describe reality. Your total non-sequitor is that if something is is human made, it can't describe reality objectively. This is ridiculous to the point of absurdity.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            "Why should anything go right, even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape. The young skeptic says, 'I have a right to think for myself.' But the old skeptic, the complete skeptic, says, 'I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.'"

            Thinker, I have not defended the thesis according to which it is impossible for a human artifact to describe reality. The example of a thirsty man in the desert was sufficiently clear: there must be a correspondence between thought and reality; otherwise our knowledge is mere projection.

            It is evident that a human artifact can describe reality, if there is a correspondence between reality and the artifact. A thermometer can tell us something about the real world only because temperature is a real feature of this very world - and it is irrelevant to know whether this particular feature is fundamental or emergent.

            These remarks are also an answer to the concerns raised by Flan Man. I chose the example of a mirage because, once you acknowledge the existence of water, i.e., the rational links and mathematical proportions in reality, you concede my point.

            Our inferences and our equations can describe the universe because there is a rational structure that underlies everything; there are mathematical proportions that exist not only as ideas in our minds, but also as the form, the inner constitution of particles and quantum fields, for example.

            The patterns and the symmetry we find in physical things are necessary, at least in the order of possibilities, i.e., they are eternally possible. And since they are the underlying structure of reality, it is Reason the ultimate foundation of everything.

            Thinker, you may reply that I am only reiterating everything I have said so far. Let me take a step forward. You asked me to turn my reasoning into a formal argument. Furthermore, you said that there is nothing impossible for the necessary laws of mathematics to be grounded in a contingent reality.

            Would you hold the position according to which necessary ideas are nothing but physical events in our minds? Would you say that Pythagoras' theorem is, ultimately, a pattern of neurons firing in someone's brain? I would reply with this argument:

            1 - If ideas are physical occurrences, they are contingent.
            2 - Some ideas are not contingent.
            3 - Therefore, some ideas are not physical occurrences.

            Which premise do you dispute?

            Finally, let me sketch the second part of this argument from Eternal Truths (but, I emphasize, this is just a sketch): eternal truths are not an invention of human beings - they exist both in our minds and in reality. But since they are necessary ideas, and ideas (as such) only exist in a mind, there must be a necessary Truth, a necessary Intelligence that grasps all ideas - an eternal Intelligence that is the foundation of these eternal Truths.

          • Our inferences and our equations can describe the universe because there is a rational structure that underlies everything; there are mathematical proportions that exist not only as ideas in our minds, but also as the form, the inner constitution of particles and quantum fields, for example.

            I mostly agree with you up until here. The physical world exists, and it can be described using the human made language of math.

            The patterns and the symmetry we find in physical things are necessary, at least in the order of possibilities, i.e., they are eternally possible. And since they are the underlying structure of reality, it is Reason the ultimate foundation of everything.

            Still not clear what this means.

            Would you hold the position according to which necessary ideas are nothing but physical events in our minds? Would you say that Pythagoras' theorem is, ultimately, a pattern of neurons firing in someone's brain?

            All thoughts humans have are neurons firing in the brain. There is even a Halle Berry neuron. From The Myth of An Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death, pp 55-56:

            The physical structures of the brain are causally responsible for consciousness and its capabilities. A neuroscientist examining the scans of a stroke victim's brain can now predict, sometimes with remarkable accuracy, exactly what sorts of cognitive, conceptual, emotional, or psychological problems that the patient will experience as a result of his or her brain damage. The connection is too direct, too pervasive, too immediate, and too strong to be ignored. The physical foundation of mental functions shows that the alleged separation of the mind from brain posited by the dualistic survival hypothesis (hereafter simply "the survival hypothesis") will not occur. If a region of the brain is damaged or removed, the correlated mental capacity goes, memory is lost, emotional affects are abbreviated, conceptual abilities disappear, or the cognitive capacity is lost.
            In a remarkable study published in 2005, neuroscientists reported the discovery of what they called the "Halle Berry neuron." In order to isolate the location of the electrical chaos that induced their epilepsy, patients' brains were implanted with electrodes. Then each patient was shown a variety of pictures while the activity of neurons in the vicinity of the probes was recorded. In several instances, a particular neuron could be singled out whose activity spiked in response to specific images, such as those of Halle Berry, Bill Clinton, or the Eiffel tower. One neuron fired when the subject looked at a picture of Halle Berry in an evening gown, in a catwoman suit, and as a cartoon, and even when the words "Halle Berry" were displayed, suggesting that the neuron played an integral role in a large web or neurons responsible for a variety of abstract and high-level representations of Halle Berry, rather than some simpler function such as edge discrimination. The neuron did not respond comparably to the hundreds of other images used in the study (Quiroga et al., 2005). Contrary to what we would expect on the survival hypothesis, every year we discover more brain functions responsible for specific mental functions; and in none of the carefully investigated cases have we been able to find mental functions that appears to be autonomous from the brain.

            I would reply with this argument:

            1 - If ideas are physical occurrences, they are contingent.
            2 - Some ideas are not contingent.
            3 - Therefore, some ideas are not physical occurrences.

            Which premise do you dispute?

            You have to distinguish what ideas represent vs what they're instantiated by. A necessary idea, like that 1+1=2, is instantiated by contingent physical events in the brain, and by contingent I mean that those physical events do not logically have to exist. But there's no reason that necessary truths like 1+1=2 have to exist in their physical instantiation in the brain, but that doesn't also mean that such a truth is not physical. All ideas are contingent on physical brains to instantiate them. So premise 2 is false, if you mean by it that there are ideas not dependent on physical brains.

            Finally, let me sketch the second part of this argument from Eternal Truths (but, I emphasize, this is just a sketch): eternal truths are not an invention of human beings - they exist both in our minds and in reality. But since they are necessary ideas, and ideas (as such) only exist in a mind, there must be a necessary Truth, a necessary Intelligence that grasps all ideas - an eternal Intelligence that is the foundation of these eternal Truths.

            What's an eternal truth? Can I have an example? The idea of a "truth" to me relies on a mind to consciously be aware of it. Truths are when thoughts, beliefs, or claims correspond to reality. So without consciousness, there are no truths. A necessary truth is just something all minds would come to understand if they're capable of course. That doesn't mean that these "truths" exist out there in reality. But I see your train of thought and it's one many theists use to deduce a god. I think it's totally false. Thanks for your response though.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            Thinker, I would like to summarize my view and make quick remarks about your last reply. I will try to keep them short, but I can not promise anything.

            First of all, I think there is some common ground between us. We both acknowledge the intelligible features of Nature. But I would regard mathematics as an invention only to the extent that graphic signs, graphemes and ideograms are conventional - and thus, I reject any view according to which the realities and ideas they stand for are invented as well.

            The word tree is invented, but not the tree itself. The symbols in the equations are merely conventional, but the mathematical order they describe is real - it existed before the evolution of human beings and will continue to exist long after we are all dead.

            My second point is about the remarkable correlation between brain functions and mental events: this fact could be disturbing for a platonist or a cartesian dualist; for a thomist, however, man is not a soul, but the compound of body and soul - and Saint Thomas Aquinas even said , quote, The body is necessary for the action of intellect, not as its origin of action, but on the part of the object, end quote. That´s why I acknowledge all the facts in the passage you quoted and reject, nonetheless, the conclusions the author draws from the facts.

            The third point is about your reply to my formal argument. I am not sure I understand the distinction between what ideas represent and what they are instantiated by - it seems to me you conceded the point. Perhaps you distinguish between the act of thought and the content of thought. But this distinction does not solve the problem - it only pushes it back. Because, if the content of thought is necessary, the conclusion is correct: there are necessary ideas (the content of our thoughts) and they are not physical events.

            My fourth point is about an agreement between us. You wrote that "truth to me relies on a mind[...]". I agree - and that was my point. If truth relies on a mind and some truths are necessary - there is a necessary mind. 1 + 1 = 2 is an eternal truth, i.e., a necessary idea- it can not fail to be true and, hence, it can not fail to exist (in a mind).

            Finally, I would like to recommend the book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. It is the best book I have ever read about the relation between modern science and traditional christian doctrine - and the author is a physicist who rigorously address many topics in modern physics. I strongly recommend it.

            Thinker, these are my closing remarks. Thank you for the stimulating debate.

          • I do agree that the things that words can represent exist independently of the people thinking or saying those words. But that's not true for made up things of course, like Godzilla.

            My second point is about the remarkable correlation between brain functions and mental events: this fact could be disturbing for a platonist or a cartesian dualist; for a thomist, however, man is not a soul, but the compound of body and soul

            On cartesian dualism humans are also body and soul. That's the dual aspect of dualism.

            The body is necessary for the action of intellect, not as its origin of action, but on the part of the object, end quote. That´s why I acknowledge all the facts in the passage you quoted and reject, nonetheless, the conclusions the author draws from the facts.

            Thanks for the quote. I think Aquinas was wrong of course. We know from years of tests that the brain is the origin of thoughts and action. This is why almost all neuroscientists reject dualism. Modern science just doesn't corroborate the soul or the "intellect".

            That´s why I acknowledge all the facts in the passage you quoted and reject, nonetheless, the conclusions the author draws from the facts.

            So you reject the conclusion because a man 1000 years ago said the "intellect" causes the body into action? That's hardly a good reason. How do you know that the intellect causes the body to action.

            The third point is about your reply to my formal argument. I am not sure I understand the distinction between what ideas represent and what they are instantiated by - it seems to me you conceded the point. Perhaps you distinguish between the act of thought and the content of thought. But this distinction does not solve the problem - it only pushes it back. Because, if the content of thought is necessary, the conclusion is correct: there are necessary ideas (the content of our thoughts) and they are not physical events.

            This is a little hard to explain. By necessary idea in mean a necessary truth, like 1+1=2. Adding one thing to one thing will leave you with two things. It has to be that way. The thought about it however is made by contingent brain states that do not have to exist. A contingent brain state can produce the thought about a necessary truth, like 1+1=2. That doesn't mean platonism is true. All ideas are contingent on brain states - or physical things that do not have to exist. So your premise 2 would be wrong if you meant that ideas are not dependent on physical things.

            If truth relies on a mind and some truths are necessary - there is a necessary mind. 1 + 1 = 2 is an eternal truth, i.e., a necessary idea- it can not fail to be true and, hence, it can not fail to exist (in a mind).

            This makes no sense to me. A contingent brain state can produce the thought about a necessary truth, like 1+1=2. You'd have to show that this is false in order to make your point. Also, a necessary truth means that content has to be true, like 1+1=2, it doesn't mean that the mental state of that has to exist. If there were no live, there'd be no mental states about any truths, and "truths" wouldn't exist.

            Thinker, these are my closing remarks. Thank you for the stimulating debate.

            Are we done? Anyway thanks for the comments and the book recommendation.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            Thinker, I am about to go to my grandfather's house in the countryside - and there is no internet connection where he lives. I am going to spend a whole week with him, but I think I can write my last reply.

            The argument I have defended so far is an apodictic demonstration and it can be summarized in this syllogism:

            1 - If there are necessary truths and ideas, there is a necessary intelligence.

            2 - There are necessary truths and ideas.

            3 - Therefore, there is a necessary intelligence.

            I have spent most of my time defending the minor premise, which I regard as rationally undeniable, since its rejection entails the identification of mutually exclusive natures - a necessary and a contingent nature.

            The necessary is contingent - that's the absurdity of identifying ideas with physical events in someone's brain. In your reply, you make a distinction between the content of thought and the act of thought. In your view, a necessary truth "means that the content has to be true[...] it doesn't mean that the mental state of that has to exist."

            However, this distinction is either a concession or a reiteration of my original claim. If there is a real distinction between the meaning of a thought and the corresponding mental state, then you concede the point: the necessary idea is ontologically different from the mental state by which the idea is instantiated; the content is really different from the physical event.

            On the other hand, it is possible that the distinction is merely logical, i.e., it's only different ways of looking to the same reality. The meaning of a thought is not really distinct from its mental state; they are just different ways of defining the contingent physical occurrence. If that is the case, the problem is not solved, but reiterated. That's why I said, in my last post, quote, this distinction does not solve the problem - it only pushes it back, end quote.

            It is worth noting that many sentences you wrote suggest a real distinction. For example, you said "a contingent brain state can PRODUCE the thought about a necessary truth"; and you wrote many times that ideas are INSTANTIATED by mental states (sorry for the capital letters, but I don't know how to write in boldface or italics.)

            You also claimed that NECESSARY truths are CONTINGENT on physical brains. But your definition of necessity is rather peculiar. According to this definition, a necessary truth is "just something all minds would come to understand if they're capable of course". This is not what necessity means. Necessary is what can not fail to be: a necessary being can not fail to exist, a triangle can not fail to be trilateral, and a necessary truth can not fail to be true.

            1 + 1 = 2, however, would fail to be true in the absence of minds, because "[...]without consciousness, there are no truths". That's an important point: possibility is (logically) prior to existence. Everything must exist as a possibility prior to existing in reality. To exist as a possibility, however, is just to exist ideally, i.e., to exist in a mind.

            Godzilla exemplifies this point: it does not exist in reality, but it is logically possible, it exists as an idea in our minds. Since ideal existence and logical possibility are the same, it is impossible to deny the former without denying the latter.

            Finally, I would like to sketch Edmund Husserl's argument against psychologism. The world, he said, "is the correlate of the ideal system of all factual truths." Truth is the correlative of being. If nothing is true, then nothing exists: the absolute non-being would be possible in the absence of eternal truths. And absolute nothing is unintelligible.

            Thinker, I am not sure whether I will be here tomorrow. Since I don't know if I will write another reply, I would like to give two examples to show how fundamental this disagreement is: formal causes and final causes. The former can exist as an idea in a mind - triangularity, for example, is not only the form that exists in real triangles, but also the idea, the archetype, the exemplar cause in the Divine Intellect. The latter is the ideal existence of the effects - fire, for example, can exist as the effect of lighting a match, but only if this connection between match and fire subsists as an idea in the Divine Intellect.

          • Well enjoy your trip. Where do you live? I'm guessing Brazil? Or Portugal? Let me just outline some points of disagreement.

            I have spent most of my time defending the minor premise, which I regard as rationally undeniable, since its rejection entails the identification of mutually exclusive natures - a necessary and a contingent nature.

            If the minor premise is your premise 1: "If there are necessary truths and ideas, there is a necessary intelligence", then this is wrong. There is no necessary intelligence even if there are certain ideas that must be true, like that 1+1=2.

            The necessary is contingent - that's the absurdity of identifying ideas with physical events in someone's brain. In your reply, you make a distinction between the content of thought and the act of thought. In your view, a necessary truth "means that the content has to be true[...] it doesn't mean that the mental state of that has to exist."

            There is no absurdity here. Without physical events going on inside a brain (or perhaps some other really complex physical system) there are no thoughts. Period. No brain, no thoughts. I my reply I make a distinction between the content of the thought (what it's about) and the physical existence of it in your brain.

            However, this distinction is either a concession or a reiteration of my original claim. If there is a real distinction between the meaning of a thought and the corresponding mental state, then you concede the point: the necessary idea is ontologically different from the mental state by which the idea is instantiated; the content is really different from the physical event.

            I made a distinction between the corresponding physical state, not mental state. And technically it isn't a correspondence, it's a cause. The physical brain state causes or produces the mental state. If the physical state were different, the mental state would be different. This is how all drugs work: they change the chemical/electrical/neurophysiological state of the brain, thereby making you think different. Brain → mind, and never the other way around.

            That's why I said, in my last post, quote, this distinction does not solve the problem - it only pushes it back, end quote.

            Pushes back how? To what? You may have to take more than a week to respond since you're on vacation. That's fine.

            For example, you said "a contingent brain state can PRODUCE the thought about a necessary truth"; and you wrote many times that ideas are INSTANTIATED by mental states (sorry for the

            NO! Ideas are instantiated by PHYSICAL states. All of them are. You can't have a thought without a physical state like a brain producing it.

            This is not what necessity means. Necessary is what can not fail to be: a necessary being can not fail to exist, a triangle can not fail to be trilateral, and a necessary truth can not fail to be true.

            I think we're not defining necessary idea the same way. To me the necessary idea does not have to exist in a mind (or be produced by a brain). There's no logical law that says "Thought X must be physically instantiated in a brain." This is where we disagree.

            1 + 1 = 2, however, would fail to be true in the absence of minds, because "[...]without consciousness, there are no truths". That's an important point: possibility is (logically) prior to existence. Everything must exist as a possibility prior to existing in reality. To exist as a possibility, however, is just to exist ideally, i.e., to exist in a mind.

            This I agree with. And I think it supports my position rather than yours. So on my view consciousness comes into existence once you have sufficiently evolved beings to have it, and that means for the first few billion years of the universe's existence, there was no consciousness. Nothing would be true in this world before consciousness but that's because "truth" relies on a mind to have a thought that correctly corresponds to reality. Only statements, thoughts, and ideas can be true, and that requires thinking beings. Reality all by itself is just reality. But things that are physically impossible, like 1 thing + 1 thing not equaling 2 things just can't happen. If it could not have been otherwise it need not be sustained by a god.

            Finally, I would like to sketch Edmund Husserl's argument against psychologism. The world, he said, "is the correlate of the ideal system of all factual truths." Truth is the correlative of being. If nothing is true, then nothing exists: the absolute non-being would be possible in the absence of eternal truths. And absolute nothing is unintelligible.

            There's stuff I agree with and disagree with here. First, I think absolute nothing is most likely unintelligible. Non-existence cannot exist. It's an oxymoron. But I disagree with your view that "If nothing is true, then nothing exists" because on my view truth relies on minds corresponding to reality.

            I would like to give two examples to show how fundamental this disagreement is: formal causes and final causes. The former can exist as an idea in a mind - triangularity, for example, is not only the form that exists in real triangles, but also the idea, the archetype, the exemplar cause in the Divine Intellect.

            I don't believe in either formal or final causes. To me, formal causes are not really a "cause" its just a description of shape. Shapes like triangles are just abstracted perfections of individual three sided objects. Triangularity is therefore something we invented.

            The latter is the ideal existence of the effects - fire, for example, can exist as the effect of lighting a match, but only if this connection between match and fire subsists as an idea in the Divine Intellect.

            Makes no sense to me. Final causes assume time is intrinsically directional, when there's little evidence that's the case.

            Perhaps we're at an impasse on this. It's been interesting though. I think it's a very hard subject to communicate because of semantics and nuances.

        • flan man

          Mind boggling. Why choose the example of a mirage? Is there a correspondence between a thirsty man who sees water?

    • daniel

      The Lewis' quote ignores at least two things: the development of the brain and the specific development of the human brain.

      Actually, stating that "those who ask me etc." are asking him to believe that "Reason" is the "unintended by-product" of an "endless and aimless becoming" is the fallacy of the straw-man and it is amazing how many intelligent people fall for Lewis' poor use of argument.

      Setting up a straw-man is something Lewis did often, and then he shows how his predetermined resolution is the most satisfying answer.

      But back to brain development and human brain development. Apparently, the brain did develop and the human brain quite evidently in the area of the "smell brain," the cerebral cortex or, better said, the cerebrum.

      Certainly, it was not mindless but the product of much trial-and-error in adaptation and success of various humanoid species. As such, as with other evolutionary successes, it has flaws, no doubt.

      Secondly, it was not aimless in the sense of its purpose which was survival of the early humans.

      Both of these Lewis ignored in much of his writings on these particular subjects.

      [Side note: As a theist, I never use Lewis in argument; I recognize his learning and his grasp of literature was top shelf, but at best he was just another religious apologist and not at all a serious philosopher. I cannot believe he saw himself as anything else but a man of letters, well-informed to be sure (you read Classical Greek for leisure, trust me, you're informed), but he did not have a place among 20th century philosophers and not even among theologians, for that matter.]

  • Joe Fischer

    Dr. Bonnette how do you answer critics that insist the exceptionless metaphysics you defend here excludes the possibility of a God that performs miracles? After all miracles violate temporarily Thomistic metaphysics don't they?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Thomism understands God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens, that is, Subsistent Existence Itself. Thus, God Himself is the existential foundation of the universal metaphysical principles of being – principles that inherently apply to all things, since all things have existence, regardless of diversity and limitations their essential natures. God never “violates” principles whose very origin is his own nature.

      My paper aims, not to denigrate the wondrous practical achievements of modern science, but to note (1) the epistemic limits of the so-called “laws of physics,” and (2) that some scientists have a tendency to make “scientific” claims that are actually philosophical in nature and that falsely contradict metaphysical certitudes.

      God, who creates and sustains all of his creatures’ universal secondary causality is perfectly free to suspend that causality so as to produce what we call “miracles.” These acts in no way violate metaphysical principles, since God, as the Author of Nature, does not contradict himself by merely suspending “rules” of his own making.

      • Joe Fischer

        Thank you this helps

      • flan man

        "God, who creates and sustains all of his creatures’ universal secondary causality is perfectly free to suspend that causality so as to produce what we call “miracles.” These acts in no way violate metaphysical principles, since God, as the Author of Nature, does not contradict himself by merely suspending “rules” of his own making."

        This should be a disclaimer at the beginning of all Thomist writings. *Note: rules may not apply. It's the perfect get out of jail free card. You can "violate" the rules any time you wish because God is magic. After all the talk of potentiality and actuality and everything else, well, God can just do anything he likes anyway.

        • TheNuszAbides

          After all the talk of potentiality and actuality and everything else, well, God can just do anything he likes anyway

          , enable his favored mortals and other unfalsifiable agents likewise, 'grant' some pale imitation of Essential Reason or a 'timely' occasion of Exceptional Revelatory Insight, etc.

          agreed, it's an ever-stretched asymptote of explanatory power.

  • I knew an article like this was in the works, given the conversations on this site's combox the past few months. This article, like virtually all articles on this site, it's wrong in so many ways. Here's a few:

    Assuming, for instance, that the whole universe has no reason for existing, but that somehow the rest of cosmic phenomena still must have reasons, is special pleading in the extreme.

    Not at all. In fact given eternalism that's exactly what we expect, because causality on eternalism (which is exactly what special relativity gives you) would seem to have to be 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."

    That doesn't exist outside the universe, or outside spacetime. Hence it makes no sense to say causality or "reasons" exist outside the universe needed to explain it.

    Science simply cannot be done without the principle of sufficient reason.

    WRONG. It is actually logically impossible that all things have reasons. In other words, reason demands that not everything have a reason. And science doesn't demand that everything have a reason. In fact, many of the same proponents of the PSR claim science can't explain why the universe exists, but that it can only pick up after the universe's existence. All of the supposed entailments from rejecting the PSR that have been espoused on this site (like that it'll destroy science) are completely false.

    If sufficient reason is not universally true, scientists could never be sure that observed phenomena actually reveal the nature of what they study, since no underlying reason need exist. Science would be impossible. The mind’s reasoning process could never be trusted, since no reasons for thoughts need ever be present.

    That's true of all worldviews. If the PSR is true, it would also be the case that scientists could never be sure that observed phenomena actually reveal the nature of what they study, because they could always be wrong about the causes and effects. So this whole point is moot.

    Indeed, all the rational connections in the whole of reality depend upon our expectation that reasons underlie everything. And, if the way our mind works does not correspond to reality, science becomes fantasy and we are all, by definition, psychotic.

    That doesn't mean that reasons actually have to underlie everything. Our intuition that everything has a reason doesn't make it so, and especially since science doesn't answer all things, there is no expectation in science that literally everything has a reason. And as I mentioned above, logic requires that not everything has a reason.

    Those who claim that the cosmos has no reason at all for existing are making a philosophical claim that happens to be at variance from both modern physics and Thomism. Thomist philosophy comports with and supports natural science’s universal operating conviction that things have reasons.

    Not at all, since almost every theist proclaims that science can't answer many things - like morality, or existence itself. As such, science itself doesn't require that everything have an existence. So theists or Thomists who say science in principle can't answer certain things are contradicting themselves when they demand science operates on a conviction that all things have reasons.

    Potency and act, matter and form, finality, essence and existence: Most other Thomist principles are so clearly philosophical that natural science properly says little about them.

    My point exactly. Here you say science can't answer all things, yet above you demand that science operate on the assumption all things have reasons. This makes no sense. Science does not operate on the PSR. Science looks for answers to things and either finds them or doesn't. It doesn't require that all things have reasons. Furthermore, science actually does say things about Thomistic metaphysics like potency and act, matter and form, finality, essence and existence.

    The exceptions would be materialist denials that substantial forms and final causes exist in nature. Still, those are clearly philosophical, not scientific, claims.

    Not necessarily. If a philosophical claim made by Thomism contradicts known science, then the philosophical claim is stepping into the domain of science, and will be incorrect. Philosophy and metaphysics are not completely separate from science. Thomism's claims about causality and time are in contradiction with science and are hence false, and demonstrably so. (More on this in other comments)

  • Thanks for the interesting and well written comments on Thomism and contemporary anti-philosophical scientism. I've always felt that the proclamations by many scientists, from Hawking to Krauss, that philosophy is essentially "dead" to rely on a vulgar misunderstanding of what science philosophy is. Science is nothing more than applied philosophy, just as engineering is applied physics. It is for this reason that Einstein thought that scientific practitioners should also be philosophers of it. If true, however, this would undercut the argument you make about specialization, in which scientists specialize in forms of philosophy which are secondary to metaphysics. Scientists too are metaphysicians, and while your description of the metaphysics of science are largely accurate in terms of Cartesian epistemology, it leaves out the rather important contribution of Democritus's view of fallibilism.

    For me, this omission points to the problem of the premise on which your view of the certitude of rationalist metaphysics rests. Certainty, in the sense you use it, requires not only valid logic but also sound premises, and it is exactly this which Aristotle denied us. In the problem of the first principles, he demonstrated that deductive reasoning relies on a chain of inferences which cannot be grounded; it is infinite, or better perhaps to say self-referential. So I wonder, if philosophical certitude can be applied to metaphysics through first principles, how does one resolve Aristotle's problem?

    And there is Hume's radical skepticism, as well, which denies certainty in any form of induction. You seem to place the epistemology of science squarely within this problematic realm, while at the same time excusing metaphysics from it. But it is precisely the kind of certainty implied by the Principle of Sufficient Reason, of the relationship of cause to effect, that Hume denies us. So if metaphysics is as bound by the problems of deduction as of induction, then it too is trapped by them, and if so cannot claim to supersede science. Of course as you rightly point out, science employs metaphysics, so to refer to the one as superseding the other seems to imply that they distinct categories epistemologically, when in fact they are - to whatever extent they differ - variations of the same category.

    One key difference between scientific and Thomistic metaphysics is that while the latter leaves the problems of deduction and induction open, the former at least partially closes them. By employing tests involving deductive analyses of inductive theory, a falsification moves to a higher category of certainty than rationalist claims can. To borrow from Parmenides, to state "what is" leans necessarily on induction, if in nothing else but the premises. To state "what is not", however, in the sense of falsifying a "what is" statement, limits the scope of induction and its inherent susceptibility to flaws.

    Put differently, Thomism - as I understand you to have described it - provides a rationalization for prescription, whereas Popperianism ( for example ) rationalizes description. Given that each ultimately relies on the same set of assumptions ( the law of non-contradiction, for example ) I question why one would prefer prescription to description.

    N.B.: I have omitted further discussion of Democritus and fallibilism because it wouldn't add much to the issues already raised in terms of Aristotle and Hume in terms of sense data and certainty.

  • Even the smallest phenomena must be read as what it is and not as its contradictory – otherwise, the reading would be useless. Claims of contradictory phenomena, such as wave-particle duality, rely on such observations. If a subatomic entity appears as a wave, that same exact reading cannot say it is a particle. Neither Thomist nor natural scientist could ever reject this principle, since, without it, every judgment could be contradicted.

    This is true. Atheists who say the principle are non-contradiction is violated by quantum mechanics are wrong. In the wave/particle duality situation, waves are more fundamental.

    What happens next is where physicists can surreptitiously introduce philosophical assumptions. For now the scientist will make his own interpretation of the model – sometimes with hidden philosophical assumptions. Note that the “interpretation” is based on a “model,” which is based on the target reality. Hence, the speculative interpretation is two epistemic steps removed from the original reality. While the solar system model appears fairly straightforward, some evident instances of philosophical speculation are found in modern physics.

    Thomistic metaphysics is multiple steps away, derived from a false understanding of physics based on Aristotle's 2,300 year old musings. Pot calling kettle black here.

    First, we have the target entity to be explained, for example, the actual movement of planets around the Sun. Since concrete solar system conditions are far too complex to “handle” in every detail, scientists create a “model” that abstracts essential elements of the target from less relevant details, such as, the actual shape of bodies, gravitational influence from other stars, and so forth. In the process, the model no longer perfectly fits the actual conditions of the target, and yet, is close enough to reality so as to illustrate an hypothesized explanation.

    In physics there are models and theories. A model is an evidence-based representation of something that is either too difficult or impossible to display directly. A theory is an explanation for patterns in nature that is supported by scientific evidence and verified multiple times by various groups of researchers. The movements of the planets in the solar system are explained by the theory of general relativity, not the model of general relativity.

    Thomism or any valid philosophy must always comport with experience, for example, by acknowledging the fact of change. Conversely, natural science can never validly sustain claims that violate universal metaphysical principles.

    False. Experience is not always an accurate assessment of the way the world really works. We don't experience the phenomena of quantum mechanics, or relativity, and so regular human experience alone cannot deduce grand metaphysical conclusions. And "universal metaphysical" principles like the kind found in Thomism are in direct contradiction in known physics. So that claim is completely false.

    Thomist metaphysics is often claimed to be “disproved” by conventional interpretations of quantum mechanics, also known as the “Copenhagen interpretation.”

    The Copenhagen interpretation surely has massive problems and is almost certainly false. The problem that Thomists have is that the main contenders in QM once one rejects the Copenhagen view is that they're almost all deterministic, and that of course means free will goes out the window.

    By contrast, Thomism and the natural metaphysics of human intelligence discover universal first principles based upon the intellectual apprehension of intelligible being in our very first experience of material things – forming a concept of being that inherently transcends all reality.

    That's nonsense. What Thomists do is they inductively take common experience and extrapolate from that grand metaphysical universal conclusions. (E.g. Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause.) That's the standard fallacy of induction.

    Since these are principles of existence, not essence, they necessarily apply to all beings – whether of cosmic dimensions or infinitesimally small. Such universal principles are regulative of all physics and philosophy. Unseen philosophical assumptions that permeate the speculative interpretations of modern physics’ models remain subject to the primary universal laws of being – whether physicists know this or not.

    But since they're based on a fallacy, no conclusion from them is valid.

    Metaphysics achieves universal certitudes; modern physics will get man safely to Mars – maybe.

    If the metaphysics is derived from incorrect physics – or an incorrect extrapolation of human experience, then the metaphysics and all its derived principles are false.

    • Once again, as I've noted many times previously, it's difficult to dialogue with you here given the limitations of the form (comment boxes) and because you just fire off so many proposed objections, it's impossible to give them all the attention they deserve.

      But one quick comment on one small piece of your criticism. You say:

      "What Thomists do is that inductively take common experience and extrapolate from that grand metaphysical universal conclusions. (E.g. Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause.) That's the standard fallacy of induction."

      I'm not aware of Thomas Aquinas or any self-identifying Thomist who actually says, "Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause." I don't mean to exaggerate. I mean I can't think of a single Thomist who believes that.

      But you seem to think this is, perhaps, a representative example of how Thomists argue. Can you please provide a specific example of a Thomist who believes, "Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause"?

      • There is a typo in my quote that I realize I now have to fix. As for your question, the Thomistic law of causality is derived from experience, is it not?

        • Thanks for the reply, Thinker, but I have to apologize because I'm just not sure what you're referring to. I consider myself pretty well-versed in Thomistic philosophy, but I've never seen a reference to a "Thomistic law of causality."

          Are you referring to Thomas' argument for God based on causation? If so, it's still vastly different than the argument you suggested Thomists employ. It does not presume, or depend on, the premise that, "Since everything I [see/experience] so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause."

          Again, I don't know a single Thomist who has argued that.

          • I'm talking about the law of causality that is part of your first principles, it's not necessarily a "Thomistic" thing exclusively.

            Let me ask you this, how do you arrive at the law of causality. If you can very briefly detail the steps you take to conclude it please, that would help.

          • Sure! I'd be happy to.

            But before I do, just to be clear, will you at least concede that you misrepresented how Thomists argue about causality, whether intentionally or not, and that they don't actually make the sort of argument that you attributed to them? You said "there is a typo in my quote" but it wasn't clear to me whether that meant you were denouncing your previous accusation or doubling-down on it.

            And to clarify, it seems now you're asking about the general (metaphysical) law of causality, which as you note is not specifically Thomistic. Would you agree?

          • Yes the law of causality is not specifically Thomistic. I didn't mean to argue that it is exclusively a Thomistic idea.

          • OK, but again, just to be clear.

            You previously said that, "What Thomists do is they inductively take common experience and extrapolate from that grand metaphysical universal conclusions. (E.g. Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause.)."

            But you now agree that, in fact, Thomists don't do this and don't argue this way, right?

            It's an important point so I just want to be sure we're on the same page. Because if you're dismissing Thomism in general, or particular Thomists, for this reason, that's one less objection you have to Thomism.

          • But you now agree that, in fact, Thomists don't do this and don't argue this way, right?

            No, I think they do argue that way, not necessarily in those same words but they take induction and universalize it into a metaphysical principle. I can't say every Thomist thinks this way, but you can offer your logic for how you conclude the law of causality in a comment to this one if you'd like.

          • "No, I think they do argue that way, not necessarily in those same words..."

            I hate to keep pressing this, but it seems you're unable or unwilling to admit that you set up a straw man version of Thomism, whether intentional or not, and then dismissed Thomism because of it.

            So let me try asking one more time:

            Is it true, as you originally suggested, that Thomists generally believe that, "Since everything I [see/experience] so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause"?

            A yes or no would suffice. If yes, please provide a single example.

          • Oh no no no. I have definitely not dismissed Thomism because of any error on the law of causality. I've done much research into Thomism and I can see it's wrong on so many levels, primarily because it takes a false understanding of how the world works and concludes false metaphysical claims from it. The "law of causality" is just an example.

            Is it true, as you originally suggested, that Thomists generally believe that, "Since everything I [see/experience] so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause"?

            A yes or no would suffice. If yes, please provide a single example.

            Yes. Here's an example from this very own site:

            Still, the metaphysical principle of causality starts from the other end: from the effect – and reasons back to the cause. The universally true metaphysical principle of sufficient reason states that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be.

            So the Thomist is looking at effects, seeing they apparently have causes, and then is (somehow) turning that into a metaphysical principle (not just the law of causality, but apparently also the PSR).

            If you disagree I'm going to have to ask you by now to make a case for the law of causality without appealing to induction. If you can authentically do so, then you'd have a point. Otherwise, you should concede my original claim was basically correct.

          • Now I understand @LukeBreuer:disqus's frustration about dialoguing with you, as expressed above.

            You made, in my view, an indefensible statement, suggesting that Thomists generally believe something that not a single Thomist I'm aware of has ever written or said--and I'm fairly well-versed in Thomism.

            Yet you seem unable or unwilling to just admit this mistake. You could easily say, "Sorry, you're right. That was an unfair characterization, and it's not a good reason to dismiss Thomism. However, I do think there are other good reasons to question it, including..." That's it!

            But if, in a dialogue, you're incapable of admitting when you're sometimes incorrect, it's difficult for anyone to want to converse with you. The facade of infallibility is repellant.

            Regarding this specific point, and I'll let this be the last time I address it, you originally accused Thomists of believing, "Since everything I [see/experience] so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause."

            Yet again, you've provided zero examples of Thomists actually saying these words, or something even close to them.

            In your most recent comment, you provide one link to a previous piece from Dr. Bonnette, a Thomist, which simply claims that the metaphysical principle of causality starts from an effect and reasons back to a cause.

            But this is just not the same claim you posited. They are significantly different claims. Your claim could, perhaps, be construed as an example of the claim Dr. Bonnette put forward, but it's not equivalent.

          • It is basically the same thing just slightly different working. It's taking effects, tying them to a cause, and then universalizing the process into a principle. I'm open to you showing how this is wrong.

            I will admit when I'm wrong, when I'm shown to be wrong. I asked you to list your steps at how you arrive at the law of causality in a way that does not involve induction. I asked you several times now, and you have not bothered to even give it a try.

            Your criticism of me could just as easily betray Dr Bonnette's behavior on this site, as well as many of the Thomists. He's always right - it seems, and he never changes his mind or concedes anything, even when I showed numerous problems with his views. He admits of zero flaws in his beliefs. Now, in my experience with you, you seem to be much more reasonable in your interactions and I thank you for that.

            If you want me to admit that I'm wrong, you must show me I'm wrong. You can do this by proving Thomism doesn't rely on induction in order to arrive at the law of causality by briefly making an argument that concludes the law without ever appealing to induction. You keep on saying Thomists do not think this way. Well Ok, then please, show it.

            And Luke Breuer has his own problems. You will go round and round in circles with him.

          • OceanDeep2

            Can you tell us why you think induction has a problem?

          • It has a problem if you're trying to derive a metaphysical principle from it. Wouldn't you agree? If not, why not?

          • OceanDeep2

            It has a problem if you're trying to derive a metaphysical principle from it.
            Can you outline what that problem is?

          • Every bird we ever see is gay.
            All birds must be gay.

            Do you see a problem with that kind of thinking?

          • OceanDeep2

            Logically correct induction does not mean it is actually correct.

          • That's my whole point.

          • OceanDeep2

            So are you saying that Thomist's only use induction to set out a metaphysical claim?

          • For the law of causality specifically yes, they do rely on induction. Other principles/laws can be different. So I'm not making a universal claim on their whole thinking process.

          • OceanDeep2

            Even if they do, can you specify exactly where using induction they are not actually correct, rather than just logically correct?

          • I can't make sense of this question.

          • OceanDeep2

            The question is just because you can come up with logically correct induction that are not actually true that does not mean that using induction is incorrect so what specifically in causality do you have a problem with when Thomist's use induction as you say.

          • I think it's logically incorrect to use induction to derive a universal metaphysical principle. This simply can't be done.

          • OceanDeep2

            Why do you think that is the case? Can you outline your premises here to say why it cannot be done?

          • By definition you can't use induction to arrive at a universal. That's the whole problem of induction. You just acknowledged this, now you're in denial of it. So it seems that you're switching sides seemingly randomly.

          • OceanDeep2

            No I am trying to understand, induction is used to derive general principles, but of course they have to be actually correct not just logically correct . So my question is that what in causality is not actually correct?

          • Oh ok, that's a slightly different question. Well from the Thomistic perspective, their notion of causality is presentist-dependent - as is almost every notion of causality. They don't ever make an attempt to justify presentism, they just assume it. So logically that's known as begging the question. That's just one flaw. A big one, and I would say a fatal one. And it's one I love picking on. Another flaw is that the universe is not like any other thing in the universe. Everything in the universe exists within space and time; the universe is space and time: it's spacetime. You cannot apply attributes to what exists in the universe, to the universe itself, because the two are very different kinds of things. This is probably the most common mistake most people make when talking about causality and the universe.

            I just created this meme going over the point from Sean Carroll, every Thomist's scientist they love to hate:

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a3a92abd641cea8feb4a3f3cd2eb631ef93f831a7ba1df66ee095ec860d61b13.png

            The thing is, he's correct though, and the theists like WLC are wrong.

            And logically you simply can't take something that seems to be true and make it universally true per a principle with a claim to "metaphysical certainty."

          • OceanDeep2

            Thank you for that explanation but in order for me to fully understand your position on it can you answer two questions
            1) In your understanding what would simultaneous mean, e.g. you pull a chair and it moves simultaneously?

            2) When you say the universe is spacetime are you reducing the universe to just a mathematical structure only?

          • Phil

            For the law of causality specifically yes, they do rely on induction. Other principles/laws can be different. So I'm not making a universal claim on their whole thinking process.

            Ultimately, every single truth claim anyone makes, whether it is through philosophy or the physical sciences, is always based upon both a deductive and inductive argument.

            You lay our premises in a deductive argument and then provide evidence through induction to support your deductive argument. In other words, there is no such thing as a deductive conclusion that is true all by itself without using induction to support the premises.

            ----
            So to say A-T uses induction in its argument for the metaphysics of causality is just like saying that Einstein uses induction to support his argument for the truth of the theory of relativity.

            We lay out a deductive argument of what evidence would falsify relativity and then we use induction through empirical evidence from testing relativity to support the premises in the deductive argument.

          • Ultimately, every single truth claim anyone makes, whether it is through philosophy or the physical sciences, is always based upon both a deductive and inductive argument.

            Tell that to the Thomists on here who seem to be in denial of that. The "law of causality" is based on induction. They all deny this.

            So to say A-T uses induction in its argument for the metaphysics of causality is just like saying that Einstein uses induction to support his argument for the truth of the theory of relativity.

            But Einstein is not claiming a universal metaphysical principle. What Einstein theories do is show us how the world works at macro scales, but nobody says it has to be that way or that it's logically impossible for relativity to be wrong. And nobody starts with relativity as a first principle.

          • Phil

            But Einstein is not claiming a universal metaphysical principle. What Einstein theories do is show us how the world works at macro scales, but nobody says it has to be that way or that it's logically impossible for relativity to be wrong. And nobody starts with relativity as a first principle.

            Yes, that is the difference between metaphysics and physics. Metaphysics are the principles which underly physics and all reality. ('Meta' means beyond, not meaning 'above', but rather to a deeper part of reality. That which undergirds.) For Einstein to do physics, he is assuming a certain metaphysics of causality that undergirds his physics.

            And ultimately, you're addressing something besides deductive and inductive reasoning here. Deductive arguments only are true they have good inductive arguments supporting the premises.

            Tell that to the Thomists on here who seem to be in denial of that. The "law of causality" is based on induction. They all deny this.

            I mean, yeah, every truth claim one makes has some inductive component because we only gain evidence through human experience. So, yeah unless we are misunderstanding what they are trying to say.

            Inductive reasoning is necessary to show a deductive argument to be true so...there is nothing bad with inductive reasoning.

          • Yes, that is the difference between metaphysics and physics. Metaphysics are the principles which underly physics and all reality. ('Meta' means beyond, not meaning 'above', but rather to a deeper part of reality. That which undergirds.) For Einstein to do physics, he is assuming a certain metaphysics of causality that undergirds his physics.

            Metaphysics actually means after physics. Basic beliefs are the views that one assumes to get started - to do physics, and the your metaphysics is what you extrapolate from using physics to go beyond it. Your metaphysics needs to be derived from your physics. If the two are in conflict, physics wins because it's more reliable. Einstein's physics directly refutes the Thomistic notion of causality, so he cannot be assuming it in order to do his physics. You are completely wrong here.

            And ultimately, you're addressing something besides deductive and inductive reasoning here. Deductive arguments only are true they have good inductive arguments supporting the premises.

            There's deduction, induction, and abduction.

            Inductive reasoning is necessary to show a deductive argument to be true so...there is nothing bad with inductive reasoning.

            I'm not against inductive reasoning, since at some level it is unavoidable. But I am against deriving a metaphysical universal principle from it. That's my problem, and that's what Thomists do. Not only that, the law of causality is based on an incorrect understanding of causality. So not only is their method for deriving the law faulty, the law itself is wrong.

          • Phil

            Metaphysics actually means after physics. Basic beliefs are the views that one assumes to get started - to do physics, and the your metaphysics is what you extrapolate from using physics to go beyond it.

            Yes, "after" or "beyond"; but as I explained above this isn't a going of higher "up" the order of existence, but rather down *deeper*.

            If we picture our knowledge on a pyramid metaphysics forms the base and physics is above it. Metaphysics goes to a deeper part of reality.

            That may be one of our issues is that you are trying to get metaphysical principles from physics, which is like trying to use a saw to pound in a nail.

            Metaphysical principles ground all physical sciences, including physics.

          • Phil

            Here is a way to visualize it (note I didn't include all areas of knowledge just the basic so you get the idea):

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2afb0bccbab465f492a973588d8f612a9c9497051cbc54127087c5184ea8dca1.jpg

          • I think metaphysics would have to be a-priori and undisputed for that to work. But as it is, we first gain experience through our senses, then come to metaphysical principles later upon reflection, and in a circle use them to update each other until we feel we have a coherent and justified picture.

          • Phil

            I think metaphysics would have to be a-priori and undisputed for that to work. But as it is, we first gain experience through our senses, then come to metaphysical principles later upon reflection, and in a circle use them to update each other until we feel we have a coherent and justified picture.

            Yes! Aristotle and Aquinas completely agree with you that we learn everything through experience, even our metaphysics! A proper metaphysics includes our senses.

            A proper metaphysics is that "being/existence" is primary. If "being/existence" isn't primary then there would be nothing for us to experience through the senses.

          • Metaphysics actually encompasses both ends. You need a metaphysic to get off the ground to begin making sense of the world. Then using that you can create things like science. On the other end you can extrapolate beyond what science can give you, and that's also metaphysics. This should be derived from physics, not from your foundational metaphysic.

            This means that you cannot assert a metaphysical view that is in contradiction with physics, because then you'd have to deny the accuracy of your senses and intellect in order to maintain such a view. This of course would be fallacious.

          • Phil

            On the other end you can extrapolate beyond what science can give you, and that's also metaphysics. This should be derived from physics, not from your foundational metaphysic.

            Are you able to describe some metaphysical principle that comes from physics, rather than physics relying upon it to work?

          • Define "metaphysical principle".

          • Phil

            Define "metaphysical principle".

            "Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of existence, being and the world. Metaphysics is the foundation of philosophy: Aristotle calls it 'first philosophy', and says it is the subject that deals with 'first causes and the principles of things'."

            Anything that metaphysics can study is a metaphysical principle.

            And as is said above, metaphysics, *by its very definition* deals with first principles. This is why it cannot be at the "top of the pyramid".

          • "Metaphysics" is not the same thing as a "metaphysical principle." So right off the bat we disagree. Metaphysics can also be first philosophy and something derived from physics.

          • Phil

            One uses the discipline of metaphysics to come to metaphysical principles. I wouldn't think that would be too debated. (What else would one use to come to metaphysical principles?)

          • But I asked you to defined a metaphysical principle and you defined metaphysics simpliciter, which I already know. So once again, define a metaphysical principle and don't conflate it with metaphysics simpliciter.

          • Phil

            Metaphysical principle: The first principles in the underlying structure of reality.

          • What about one you derive from inductive sensory experience?

          • Phil

            What about one you derive from inductive sensory experience?

            Would you be able to give an example of one you are talking about?

          • Like how the law of causality is derived from inductive reasoning on apparent causes.

          • Phil

            Like how the law of causality is derived from inductive reasoning on apparent causes.

            That wouldn't be quite right. We don't figure out the law of causality by assuming causality in apparent causes (that would be begging the question). The law of causality primarily comes from asking what explains the apparent intelligibility of the material cosmos. This we don't gather this info from "apparent causes" because apparent causes assume a law of causality. But assuming a law of causality would be to beg the question.

            We ask, if the material cosmos is actually intelligible (as science assumes) what must be true about causality? Mainly, that anything that moves from potentiality to actuality must have a external cause that brings this about (or contain within itself the power to actualize this potential).

          • We don't figure out the law of causality by assuming causality in apparent causes (that would be begging the question).

            No, you see that some things have causes and then you conclude from that that everything has a cause.

            The law of causality primarily comes from asking what explains the apparent intelligibility of the material cosmos.

            Asking what explains the apparent intelligibility of the material cosmos and concluding a universal intelligence is logically no different that asking what explains the apparent causality of the material cosmos and concluding a universal causality.

            This we don't gather this info from "apparent causes" because apparent causes assume a law of causality. But assuming a law of causality would be to beg the question.

            Apparent causes don't assume the law of causality. They just observe causation. The observation of causation is not the same thing as the law of causality.

            We ask, if the material cosmos is actually intelligible (as science assumes) what must be true about causality?

            This, according to your previous claims, would be assuming the law of causality.

            Mainly, that anything that moves from potentiality to actuality must have a external cause that brings this about (or contain within itself the power to actualize this potential).

            And since the will goes from potential to actual it must have an external cause and there goes free will.

          • Phil

            No, you see that some things have causes and then you conclude from that that everything has a cause.

            That is maybe how *you* think about the law of causality, but that is not how Aristotle, Aquinas, and others (like myself) reason to the proper understanding of the metaphysics of causality.

            Apparent causes don't assume the law of causality. They just observe causation. The observation of causation is not the same thing as the law of causality.

            Observation of causation is assuming that causation exists. Again, begging the question.

            For example, anything that could appear to be a cause in science could all be an illusion. Therefore, science itself is an incoherent illusion. That is what happens with in improper metaphysics of causality.

            This, according to your previous claims, would be assuming the law of causality.

            All we are assuming is 'being', the existence of entities (this the first principle of A-T metaphysics). We then ask, the world appears to be intelligible. Can we deny intelligibility? Not coherently.

            Then we ask, what must be true for this intelligibility to be actually real and not an illusion. That is when we get into causality.

            And since the will goes from potential to actual it must have an external cause and there goes free will.

            As I explained in your blog post, the power of free will does have an external cause...God. God brings into existence and sustains authentic free will.

          • That is maybe how *you* think about the law of causality, but that is not how Aristotle, Aquinas, and others (like myself) reason to the proper understanding of the metaphysics of causality.

            Could you please provide for me a logical argument that concludes with the proposition:

            P1
            P2
            P3
            ...
            C Therefore, the law of causality is true.

            Observation of causation is assuming that causation exists. Again, begging the question.

            Um no. Seeing something is not assuming it exists. If I see a car speeding at me, I am not assuming it exists.

            For example, anything that could appear to be a cause in science could all be an illusion. Therefore, science itself is an incoherent illusion. That is what happens with in improper metaphysics of causality.

            Technically everything can be an illusion, perhaps with the only exception of consciousness. We could be living in a matrix. So your point is moot.

            All we are assuming is 'being', the existence of entities (this the first principle of A-T metaphysics). We then ask, the world appears to be intelligible. Can we deny intelligibility? Not coherently.

            Saying "the world appears to be intelligible" is logically no different from saying "the world appears to have causes." In other words your claimed question begging is done by you.

            Then we ask, what must be true for this intelligibility to be actually real and not an illusion. That is when we get into causality.

            But you were on another thread trying to claim that determinism negates your ability to be rational, where as here you're telling me causality (which is what determinism entails) is necessary for intelligibility. How can you square this apparent contradiction?

            As I explained in your blog post, the power of free will does have an external cause...God. God brings into existence and sustains authentic free will.

            Sorry, but once you have god causing all things you have theistic determinism, and that negates free will. So your view here makes little sense.

          • Phil

            Saying "the world appears to be intelligible" is logically no different from saying "the world appears to have causes." In other words your claimed question begging is done by you.

            Intelligibility precedes causality on the metaphysical hierarchy, which is why we get to it first. We only propose causality if the universe is first believed to be intelligible. If the universe is not intelligible, you are trying to figure out causality of an unintelligible universe, which is incoherent.

            But you were on another thread trying to claim that determinism negates your ability to be rational, where as here you're telling me causality (which is what determinism entails) is necessary for intelligibility. How can you square this apparent contradiction?

            Both of us agree that there is no such thing as something that is uncaused.
            Our disagreement is you think free will is uncaused, I hold free will to be caused. If free will is caused, then the PSR is satisfied for intelligibility.

            Could you please provide for me a logical argument that concludes with the proposition:

            P1
            P2
            P3
            ...
            C Therefore, the law of causality is true.

            Sure there are many ways one could go about this.

            Assumption: The law of causality--that an entity which moves from potency to actuality is ultimately caused from outside itself--is false.
            P1: If the law of causality is false, something can give itself what it doesn't have.
            P2: Something cannot give itself what it doesn't have.
            Contradiction: between P1 and P2.
            Therefore, we reject our assumption that the law of causality is false.

          • Intelligibility precedes causality on the metaphysical hierarchy, which is why we get to it first. We only propose causality if the universe is first believed to be intelligible. If the universe is not intelligible, you are trying to figure out causality of an unintelligible universe, which is incoherent.

            I think it's the other way around. If there are causes there is predictability, and that makes a universe intelligible.

            Both of us agree that there is no such thing as something that is uncaused. Our disagreement is you think free will is uncaused, I hold free will to be caused. If free will is caused, then the PSR is satisfied for intelligibility.

            Well I have a different view on causality than you do (but that's another topic for another day). If free will is caused by an outside agent then it isn't free. It's the same thing as being determined.

            Assumption: The law of causality--that an entity which moves from potency to actuality is ultimately caused from outside itself--is false.
            P1: If the law of causality is false, something can give itself what it doesn't have.
            P2: Something cannot give itself what it doesn't have.
            Contradiction: between P1 and P2.
            Therefore, we reject our assumption that the law of causality is false.

            How do you justify P2?

          • Phil

            I think it's the other way around. If there are causes there is predictability, and that makes a universe intelligible.

            Truly, when it comes down to it, you can't have one without the other. So it could very well be that they are on the same "ontological plane". I'll have to ponder this more.

            If free will is caused by an outside agent then it isn't free. It's the same thing as being determined.

            Yes, and as I said on your blog: God causes the power of free will. The person uses the power of free will and is the direct cause of his/her free actions and thoughts.

            How do you justify P2?

            Giving something that one does not have is incoherent. Therefore, P2 ("Something cannot give itself what it doesn't have.")

          • Truly, when it comes down to it, you can't have one without the other. So it could very well be that they are on the same "ontological plane". I'll have to ponder this more.

            I agree that if you have one you have the other, but causality comes first, then intelligibility: we have intelligibility because of causality. Which is why only on determinism can we even have the chance to have correct beliefs.

            Yes, and as I said on your blog: God causes the power of free will. The person uses the power of free will and is the direct cause of his/her free actions and thoughts.

            But what causes the person to use their will a particular way? If your view will eventually require the admission that the will in any particular scenario is an uncaused event, then by definition you can't have control over it and hence there's no free will. Your will is just a random fluctuation. You have no control what direction it goes in. Phil, free will is incoherent. I know this. There is no way you're going to win this debate. The sooner you realize that free will is incoherent the better off you are.

            Giving something that one does not have is incoherent. Therefore, P2 ("Something cannot give itself what it doesn't have.")

            Well then since you don't have your thoughts before you have them, your thoughts must be given to you by something else external to you, and hence no free will. That is what your P2 entails, right? If this is wrong, then isn't your P2 wrong?

          • Phil

            Well then since you don't have your thoughts before you have them, your thoughts must be given to you by something else external to you, and hence no free will. That is what your P2 entails, right? If this is wrong, then isn't your P2 wrong?

            It would entail that we can't give ourself free will. Which is correct, we don't give ourself free will. God gives us free will through a rational soul.

            But what causes the person to use their will a particular way? If your view will eventually require the admission that the will in any particular scenario is an uncaused event, then by definition you can't have control over it and hence there's no free will. Your will is just a random fluctuation. You have no control what direction it goes in. Phil, free will is incoherent. I know this. There is no way you're going to win this debate. The sooner you realize that free will is incoherent the better off you are.

            See my post on your site.

            But as I've said before, if free will is false, then your ability to come to truth is destroyed. So unless you actually have free will, you couldn't even make the claim that free will is false and incoherent.

            It is a self-undermining belief.

          • It would entail that we can't give ourself free will. Which is correct, we don't give ourself free will. God gives us free will through a rational soul.

            No, it would entail that god gives us all our thoughts.

            But as I've said before, if free will is false, then your ability to come to truth is destroyed. So unless you actually have free will, you couldn't even make the claim that free will is false and incoherent.
            It is a self-undermining belief.

            I've already refuted that notion. I've also shown how your own Thomistic metaphysics destroys free will because of the Aristotelian principle. Free will + AT metaphysics is self defeating.

            At this point I'm just repeating myself, but if determinism is true, things you do or say have a causal effect on people who hear them. However, it's only if free will is true — where your thoughts are uncaused and thus have no connection to anything that happen before them — that it makes no sense to convince anyone of anything. Don't confuse determinism with fatalism. On fatalism, things happen regardless of whether they're caused. On determinism, things only happen if they're caused. Trying to convince someone determinism is true will increase the likelihood they will accept it because you might be that causal force that changes their mind, and nobody knows the future with certainty. So it makes perfect sense to try and convince someone of something on determinism, but it makes no sense whatsoever to do so on free will. Free will requires your thoughts be uncaused (lest they wouldn't be free) and you cannot by definition have control over anything uncaused. So there is no "freely" coming to conclusions on free will; they'd all be random fluctuations.

          • Phil

            Don't confuse determinism with fatalism. On fatalism, things happen regardless of whether they're caused. On determinism, things only happen if they're caused. Trying to convince someone determinism is true will increase the likelihood they will accept it because you might be that causal force that changes their mind, and nobody knows the future with certainty.

            What caused you to believe that determinism is actually true?

            No, it would entail that god gives us all our thoughts.

            We would disagree about this statement:

            "If God gives us our power of free will, then he necessarily causes all our thoughts."

            I would say that the latter does not follow from the former.
            And actually, this above statement is contradictory. If God is causing our thoughts, then he couldn't have given us free will.

          • What caused you to believe that determinism is actually true?

            Hearing many arguments for it that made logical and evidential sense.

            We would disagree about this statement:
            "If God gives us our power of free will, then he necessarily causes all our thoughts."
            I would say that the latter does not follow from the former.
            And actually, this above statement is contradictory. If God is causing our thoughts, then he couldn't have given us free will.

            Thoughts have to have causes, and that causal chain will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event.

            You can never escape from this dilemma. But it's interesting to see you keep trying.

          • Phil

            Hearing many arguments for it that made logical and evidential sense.

            What caused them to believe that those arguments for determinism were true? What caused those arguments? What caused you to believe that those argument were true? What caused you to believe that logic is true and one should believe what is logical? What caused you to believe that one ought to believe evidence?

            The problem is once you cut off the branch of truth you are sitting on, one is left in an infinite regress of complete skepticism.

            And then I have no reason to believe there is any truth value behind what you are saying.

            Thoughts have to have causes, and that causal chain will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event.

            As I mentioned on your blog, we simply disagree about whether there is such a thing as an intrinsic power. For example, God causing the power of free will that the human person is capable of using.

            You do not believe that this is possible, and I do. So we will simply have to agree to disagree.

          • What caused them to believe that those arguments for determinism were true? What caused those arguments? What caused you to believe that those argument were true? What caused you to believe that logic is true and one should believe what is logical? What caused you to believe that one ought to believe evidence?

            You have the same problem you think I do. You claim the will needs a cause. Ok. Then there will be a causal chain that will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event.

            The problem is once you cut off the branch of truth you are sitting on, one is left in an infinite regress of complete skepticism.

            That doesn't logically follow at all. I'm not cutting any branch off. You are in fact, because your foundation for knowledge is literally self-refuting.

            And then I have no reason to believe there is any truth value behind what you are saying.

            That would actually be true on your free will view since it is self-refuting, and you've never shown it isn't. My view is the only view that your thoughts have any reliable chance to be true, as I showed on this blog post, which you have failed to refute: http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2017/09/if-determinism-were-true-thered-be-no.html

            As I mentioned on your blog, we simply disagree about whether there is such a thing as an intrinsic power. For example, God causing the power of free will that the human person is capable of using.

            Intrinsic power is irrelevant. Everything can only be caused or uncaused and neither will lead to free will. Thoughts begin to exist, and they need a cause, if they are caused you aren't free, and if they are uncaused you aren't free. No amount of word salad will get you out of this dilemma.

            You do not believe that this is possible, and I do. So we will simply have to agree to disagree.

            In other words you will continue going on believing an incoherent belief based on faith. If this was what you were going to do all this time, you could've let me know and I could've saved some time.

          • Phil

            You have the same problem you think I do. You claim the will needs a cause. Ok. Then there will be a causal chain that will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event.

            Something caused your belief and others belief in determinism being true (as you say over and over again). I'm trying to figure out what caused it so as to figure out if I should take your belief in its truth seriously. If it was caused by random particles interacting or by random firing neurons, there is no reason for me to take it seriously.

          • I need to get you on record acknowledging entailments from your position.

            Do you agree that you you have the same problem you think I do because you claim the will needs a cause, which means there will be a causal chain that will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event?

            Yes or no?

            If no, then tell me exactly where the above question goes wrong.

            I'm trying to figure out what caused it so as to figure out if I should take your belief in its truth seriously. If it was caused by random particles interacting or by random firing neurons, there is no reason for me to take it seriously.

            Determinism is not random. Your view on free will actually would require randomness. I'm busy telling you here that when you deeply think about it, your free will view requires the very thing that you claim makes you untrustworthy of my view. You just don't realize that.

            I'm telling you that your free will view is completely and utterly inconsistent and self-refuting and that you are unaware of this probably because you've never actually thought about or have been challenged on it this deeply.

            I've debated free will for years and years and years. I became fascinated with the issue about 5 years ago. I used to be a naive free will believer just like you, until I studied and critically examined it. Now I know it is self-refuting.

          • Phil

            Do you agree that you you have the same problem you think I do because you claim the will needs a cause, which means there will be a causal chain that will either go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined, or it terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event?

            Yes or no?

            No. Your position has issues if the human mind/intellect is not freely able to seek the truth. My position has issues if materialism is true.

          • Do you agree that because - as you said yourself - the will needs a cause, it means there will be a causal chain that will either:

            (a) go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined,
            or (b) it'll terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event?

            Yes or no?

          • Phil

            This is the distinction you don't agree with:

            Our power for free will is caused by an outside agent, namely, God. So we have the power of free will which is caused by an outside agent. What the will freely wills is not caused by God.

          • Do you agree that what the will wills needs a cause, and that means there will be a causal chain that will either:

            (a) go beyond what is "you," in which case you have no free will because you'd be determined,
            or (b) it'll terminates in an uncaused event, in which case you have no free will because you cannot by definition have control over an uncaused event?

          • Phil

            Do you agree that what the will wills needs a cause, and that means there will be a causal chain that will either:

            The immaterial power of the free will is this very ability to will what we do. To will, what we will, what we will, what we will...etc.

            But the power of free will always is being caused by the outside agent, namely God. But again, the power of free will is distinct from what the will wills.

            So again, this is only possible is materialism is false.

          • There's so many sides to this. Materialism is technically irrelevant, because the very concept of free will itself is incoherent. You can't just continually assert we have the power of free will without first justifying its coherency.

            You're basically saying "A logically incoherent and self refuting idea is this very ability to will what we do."

          • Phil

            Materialism is technically irrelevant, because the very concept of free will itself is incoherent. You can't just continually assert we have the power of free will without first justifying its coherency.

            I mean, you say it is incoherent, but you need to give evidence that even if the intellect/will/mind is not purely reducible to material (i.e., materialism is false), then free will is still logically impossible.

            I completely agree that free will makes no sense if materialism is true. But I ma arguing that it could be perfectly coherent is materialism is false.

          • I mean, you say it is incoherent, but you need to give evidence that even if the intellect/will/mind is not purely reducible to material (i.e., materialism is false), then free will is still logically impossible.

            None of my arguments have relied on materialism and I've already explained to you why free will is incoherent. Do you want me to make it again?

            I completely agree that free will makes no sense if materialism is true. But I ma arguing that it could be perfectly coherent is materialism is false.

            And I've already shown why that's not the case. You simply seem incapable of following the argument.

          • TheNuszAbides

            if you'll pardon the tangent, do you recommend any extended reflections on the better arguments for free will? all that i'm even slightly familiar with are Harris's counterarguments to brief mentions of Dennett's arguments, and vaguely-related science-of-mind stuff, like Lanier arguing against Yudkowsky that whatever happens with AI, it will never approximate consciousness because there's just something ~special~ about consciousness ... [yet which i perhaps-naively assume has some philosophical or cog-sci backing, somewhere.]

            for the record, i do not cling to any insistence that free will is real/actual. my default for years has more or less been "free or not, we must[/might as well] act as if we are" but i will occasionally find it an inadequate/unsatisfying approach when considering topics like addiction, crime & punishment, some threads of evo-psych, and so on. at worst, it irks me that determinism [e.g.] lends oxygen to the most arrogant hard-line Calvinism.

          • Phil

            If you throw out the base of metaphysics, you necessarily allow physics to crumble higher up in the pyramid.

          • The problem you're having is that you're assuming Thomistic metaphysics as a basic belief. In other words, you're in a sense presupposing it. This is faulty. Not only is this bad reasoning, the metaphysical is provably false by physics.

          • Richard Morley

            Ultimately, every single truth claim anyone makes, whether it is through
            philosophy or the physical sciences, is always based upon both a
            deductive and inductive argument.

            Even mathematical proofs? How so?

            For example, take the proof that the square root of two is irrational. Why do you need inductive proof there?

          • Phil

            Even mathematical proofs? How so?

            Absolutely, unless one believes in a priori human knowledge (knowledge which is "innate" and does not come from experience), then even mathematics have a grounding in experience.

            Mathematical and geometrical proofs ultimately become more abstract than scientific or metaphysical "proofs", but they still rely on assumptions that come from experience.

            For example, take the proof that the square root of two is irrational. Why do you need inductive proof there?

            How does one come across the knowledge of what '2' is? What an irrational number is? Both of the evidence for these is going to come from evidence from experience which is using an inductive argument In other words, there is no knowledge that is devoid of some experience.

            Only after experience can one then propose the mathematical proof that the square root of 2 is an irrational number.

            The word 'almost' was forgotten from what you quoted, sorry!

            You are correct, both pure geometrical and mathematical proofs are pure

          • BCE

            Question
            When Hawking describes "nothing" (no matter, no time) how is that
            substantively different then metaphysics?

          • Nothing by definition would have no matter and time. So your question makes no sense to me.

          • BCE

            How would you describe a point prior to inflation.
            Do all the theories claim there was both time and matter before inflation?

          • Different theories have different views. Some refer to a local inflation that has a series of inflations prior to it. That would of course involve space and time prior to the local inflation. Some don't.

          • Sample1

            I don’t know. Three words that can only be uttered after A/T metaphysics is accepted but not before. After A/T it is possible to get, “we are not in an epistemic position to know,” as a reply to certain faith mysteries, but goal post shifting shouldn’t be satisfactory for the person doing their best to avoid bias.

            Good luck.

            Mike

          • Are you trying to say that one has to accept all of AT metaphysics before being able to coherently say "I don’t know"? If so, do you have an argument that attempts to demonstrate that?

          • Sample1

            Someone who identifies as a person of faith has made a decision to submit or to believe without provisionality. In Catholicism it means assenting to claimed truths whether or not they are understood. Difficulty is allowed for the believer in this framework but not skepticism. Saying I don’t know for the believer is never applicable to the framework but only to the specifics. “I don’t know how the anatomy and physiology accommodated a virgin birth let alone subsequent virginity,” says the Catholic,”but my assent to that truth does not depend on knowing those details.” Difficulty can remain but not doubt. To doubt means to call into question the framework.

            Constrast that with the natural subjects. One is always free to doubt the framework of any model while provisionally accepting specific findings. This is even encouraged because truth claims, I claim, are valued differently. Differently because the actions of non-provisional assent and actions of provisional assent result in reliable discrepancies. These discrepancies are found under the labels of faith and reason.

            So when an A/T claimant says, “I don’t know,” they have done two things. They’ve assaulted reason by sequestering it after applying faith and two, demonstrated that specific beliefs still remain unknown. These two things are lauded in religion and lamented in science.

            Our discussions here on SN and elsewhere are fundamentally about picking at the edges of how our decisions are made. Just because phrases like I don’t know are used by the person of faith and those without faith doesn’t at all mean they are both using language the same way.

            This could be why Brandon has not, and likely will not, respond to your post above about induction. He cannot reconcile the two languages. He cannot say, “I don’t know,” without necessarily questioning his framework. So he remains silent.

            Mike, faith free

          • Rob Abney

            Or he won't answer a question that is phrased in the manner of "do you still beat your wife?"

          • Sample1

            What. Are. You. Talking. About? I have never beaten my wife. So, no.

            Are you saying he was ask loaded questions? I didn’t see that. Did you? Present them.

            At any rate, the way out of a loaded question is to challenge the assumption.

            Mike

          • That could be the case, and if so, it would be sad. "I don't know" is always a perfectly respectable position if one truly doesn't know. However, if one is asserting a position but is ignorant on the basics of how that position can be true, the "I don't know" becomes a bit problematic.

            I think Brandon isn't responding because he knows deep down that induction is a part of the justification for the law of causality, even though he called me out for saying that. And he'd much prefer not to be exposed on that. I think many of the contributors to this site do this from time to time.

          • Richard Morley

            I would also be interested in seeing a derivation of the law of causality other than by assertion or induction. Please?

            That would strike me as more constructive than wrangling over what looks to me like exaggeration for effect. Aquinas himself, for example, does start off going from observing that some things can not exist to talking about everything being able to not exist, admittedly while he goes on to show an alleged contradiction indicating that there must be at least one thing that cannot not exist.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not the best one to argue in favor of the PSR, but I think I can at least clarify the non-inductive nature of arguments for the PSR.

            By the time one has got around to applying inductive reasoning, one already has a question. "Are all swans white?", or something like that.

            By contrast, the PSR seems to be implicitly presumed as the basis of all questions. It doesn't make sense to ask questions at all if reality is not intelligible. Or to be slightly more precise, the PSR is implicitly presumed to the extent that one thinks that all of reality is fair game for questioning. Even the act of questioning: "Is the PSR true?" is preceded by implicit belief in the PSR.

            It seems to me that this is the flavor of reasoning that is applied by those who assert the PSR. That is, it is put forward as an (unavoidable) implicit presupposition, not as an inductive inference.

            To take a slightly different perspective, I think one could perhaps frame the issue hypothetico-deductively: If the PSR is not true, then our insatiable appetite for intelligibility would be misguided. But we "know" that our insatiable appetite for intelligibility is a good thing, therefore we reject the hypothesis that the PSR is not true. On this line of thinking one would again not be making an inductive inference.

          • But you now agree that, in fact, Thomists don't do this and don't argue this way, right?

            If I may, having spent hundreds of hours talking to The Thinker before giving up, I suggest re-asking your question:

            TT: What Thomists do is they inductively take common experience and extrapolate from that grand metaphysical universal conclusions. (E.g. Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause.) That's the standard fallacy of induction.

            BV: I'm not aware of Thomas Aquinas or any self-identifying Thomist who actually says, "Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause." I don't mean to exaggerate. I mean I can't think of a single Thomist who believes that.

            But you seem to think this is, perhaps, a representative example of how Thomists argue. Can you please provide a specific example of a Thomist who believes, "Since everything I so far seems to have a cause, well then everything must have a cause"?

            Accept nothing other than actual quotes from Thomists or an admission that the characterization may be wildly off.

      • All 5 ways start with an observation about some common experience (things are in motion, we see efficient causes, we see contingent things) and then extrapolate that everything must work that way. That's what they literally are.. (except maybe way #4, it's a silly word game)

        • "All 5 ways start with an observation about some common experience (things are in motion, we see efficient causes, we see contingent things) and then extrapolate that everything must work that way."

          This simply isn't true. Neither Thomas Aquinas nor anyone who follows his thought argues that since some things are in motion, everything must be in motion; or because we efficient causes, everything must have an efficient cause.

          Can you provide a specific example from Aquinas where he suggests that we observe some common experience and therefore "everything must work that way"?

          If this is really how you understand Thomism, then I'm totally with you in rejecting it!

          But unfortunately, it's a misunderstanding.

          • since some things are in motion, everything must be in motion

            Lol no, that's not what I'm claiming.

            Can you provide a specific example from Aquinas where he suggests that we observe some common experience and therefore "everything must work that way"?

            Sure, the first way is saying that since things we observe moving seem to require a mover, that everything that moves must require a mover, except the first mover. The rest, except way #4, are awfully similar in structure.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I respectfully request that you actually read the prima via.
            S.T.I, 2, 3, c.

  • The rational approach to quantum mechanics given above applies to relativity theory as well. Much of relativity theory may be read as simply perfective of Newtonian physics. One novel feature of special relativity is its denial of temporal simultaneity. An odd philosophical “by product” of this was the “B theory” of time with its attendant hypothesis of “eternalism.”

    Not it is not perfective of Newtonian physics. Special relativity (SR) truly undermines the nature of reality from the Newtonian view. Newton gives us absolute time, SR gives us relative time. Newton gives us a single universe reference frame, SR gives us relative subjective reference frames. While it's true that SR is more accurate than Newtonian physics, it's not true that it is merely more accurate. SR changes the nature of reality that is simply incompatible with the Thomistic view.

    The B-theory, or eternalism, is also not really a "by product" of SR. SR establishes spacetime as real, once you have spacetime, you have the B-theory or eternalism. In other words, spacetime is the block universe, which is the B-theory or eternalism. To deny eternalism from SR you'd have to deny spacetime, which is fundamental to the theory. Your linked article is wrong.

    Those who follow Parmenides’ (born c. 515 BC) univocal use of “being” to argue that change is impossible imbibe genuinely archaic philosophy. Aristotle (384-322 BC) realized that “being” is an analogous term. Combined with his innovative principles of potency and act, he finally refuted Parmenides’ argument -- demonstrating how change was both possible and actual.

    I don't see an actual argument here of how Aristotle did that. All I see is an assumption that Aristotle's notion of potency and act (which are based on an A-theory of time) disprove Parmenides' eternalistic (or B-theory) of time. There's no argument here.

    All these peculiar “B theory” claims about time, together with its “eternalism,” are philosophical interpretations of special relativity, which are not empirically verifiable.

    I notice that you don't mention any of the science of special relativity and instead pick entirely on Parmenides' view. This, I suspect, is because you don't understand the science behind SR.

    First, philosophical interpretations are not always false. Heck, Thomism is entirely based on philosophical interpretations. Second, B-theory claims are not baseless philosophical musings. They are direct entailments of special and general relativity. Here's a very simple argument using general relativity and the empirical findings of gravitational waves proving the A-theory (presentism) is false:

    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.

    For further explanation, premises P2 and P3 are necessarily true. Gravitational waves propagate in empty space, where the Einstein’s field equations are reduced to:

    Rab = 0.

    This expression means that the 10 coefficients of the Ricci tensor are identically null. But the full Riemann tensor3 has 20 independent coefficients since is a rank 4 tensor. The remaining 10 components are expressed by the Weyl tensor. Then, since the gravitational waves are disturbances in the curvature, the Weyl tensor must be non-zero in their presence. If the dimensionality of the world were 3, as proposed by the presentists, the Riemann tensor would have only 6 independent components, and since in 3 dimensions the Einstein’s equations in vacuum are reduced to 6, the Weyl tensor must vanish. Only in 4 or more dimensions gravity can propagate through empty spacetime (see Hobson et al. 2006, p.184, and Romero and Vila 2014, p. 19).

    So there. This is no "philosophical interpretation." This is a direct logical entailment of empirical evidence. Dr. Bonnette has no idea what he's talking about.

    Competent philosophers respect reason, but also immediate experience. Even if change were merely an illusion, as Parmenides claimed, it is real as an illusion and, as such, part of reality that must be explained, not denied.

    Yes, just like the illusion of free will is real. But none of that is reason to think these things are real. Competent philosophers know immediate experience is not reliable when it comes to understanding the fundamental nature of reality.

    Contrary to “B theory” claims, “Relativity does not abolish the objectivity of time as succession, at least not locally. For every physical event, there is an absolute past and absolute future that is the same in all reference frames.”

    I'm struggling to see how this is at all relevant to the question of whether all moments of time exist, or just the present moment.

    Such local events are still temporally ordered in the common sense manner: past to present to future.

    Actually time has no intrinsic directionality in physics, and so the "past" and the "future" depends on the increase of entropy.

    Moreover, “This preserves the succession of causality, where a cause cannot be temporally posterior to its effect (though they might be simultaneous).” (Ibid.) Since all causal interaction is local (no action at a distance), the Thomist principle that the effect must be immediately dependent upon its cause is in no way violated.

    But the Thomistic notion that only the present exists, of which notions of act and potency are based on, are violated, because SR entails that causality doesn't exist in the way Thomist think of it.

    • daniel

      On Newton and Relativity, I do not have the Physics background but I know enough that these are not the same. Absolute time and space as Newton proposed do not exist in the SR model as far as I know but maybe I'm wrong.

      Thanks for the post.

      • You're correct. Absolute time and space have no place in SR, but they do in Newtonian physics. Also, I wouldn't call SR a model, it's a theory. Theories have higher status in physics than models do.

        • daniel

          Ah, sorry about that. I was thinking in terms of "model" as a way of illustration and did not know the distinction among scientists between that and theory.

        • daniel

          Just for fun: This is sophomoric but this is the _Family Guy_ speculation as to what human society would be like had there been no Christian scholasticism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLnDy9Mjbnc

          The relevant portion begins at the 50-second mark. I don't like the term "Dark Ages" but, well, it's a cartoon.

  • Ellabulldog

    Modern physics need not refute Thomistic Philosophy.

    It isn't the job of Science to refute something. Why do you assume his philosophy is credible?

    When you look at someone's philosophy look at what problem they are trying to answer and what answer they are hoping for. Human beings tend to argue from and for their perspective and for their own self interest.

    A religious man during a very religious time had an agenda. He worked hard to substantiate the claims of religion.

    Aquinas was wrong on much. His 5 ways fail. Surely you know they don't hold up.
    It did appease the Church.

    There is no reason or why to existence regarding that definition. When the Sun goes giant red it is because it has exhausted it's fuel. That the Earth is destroyed is not part of some plan it is just a consequence of nature.

    What we credit Aquinas and Aristotle with is not being correct. But with their process of thinking. Which leads to others analyzing them and improving on what they did. We had to start somewhere to get to where we are today. But no reason to stick with what doesn't work.

    Humanity needs to move forward not stay stuck in the past.

    Let's not expect science to disprove things it is not concerned with. If in finding out more about our environment it contradicts someone's preconceived notions that person needs to change their stance. If it doesn't then that person can't claim some victory because it wasn't trying to do so anyway.

  • Ray

    Before Getting into the OP's main argument, I would like to point out that the linked article "Ontological Interpretation of Quantum mechanics" is deeply confused. It fundamentally relies on a distinction between "eigenstates" and "superpositions." This does not work at all. Every superposition of eigenstates of one observable can be expressed as an eigenstate of a different observable. The author occasionally attempts to privilege some observables over others (e.g. the Hamiltonian,) but this would create other problems such as denying the reality of particle number, electric field strength, particle location, or indeed anything whose expectation value can change with time. There are plenty of high quality peer reviewed articles and surveys on interpretation of quantum mechanics. I would suggest going there if you want to offer background on the available choices for interpreting quantum mechanics.

    With that off my chest,

    So this article is meant to refute the claim that many Thomistic arguments crucially rely on premises that are most naturally interpreted as erroneous claims about physics. I am prepared to agree with the target claim, although I don't think anything discovered after Newton really adds much to the case against Thomism. (I would say that relativity helped to clarify the problems with simultaneous causation, as expounded by the Thomists, but even without it, the freedom to set initial conditions, inherent in Newtonian mechanics, already establishes that simultaneous events are causally independent.) Moreover, I think Thomism can adequately be refuted even granting the erroneous physical claims -- I think the objections of Al Ghazali (to the predecessors of Thomism) as well as Scotus and Occam are quite sufficient. The real problem with Thomas is that his premises are neither established by overwhelming empirical evidence, nor logical necessity, nor even universal acceptance by successful reasoners. (And the stated premises are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely does a "therefore" in Aquinas actually mark a statement that rigorously follows from what preceded it.)

    Now that I've stated my position lets look at the claims the OP chooses to refute:

    (1) whole universes can pop into existence from nothing according to
    quantum mechanics, (2) effects sometimes actually exist before their
    causes, (3) special relativity entails that time is not sequential, but
    rather “B theory” says that past, present, and future are equally real
    and change is impossible, and (4) electrons around an atomic nucleus can
    be in two positions simultaneously, or “smeared over space.”

    I really wish the OP went to the effort of finding out who was making these claims and in what context. 1 looks like it might have been raised as an objection to WLC style Kalam Cosmological arguments, and are therefore irrelevant to the defense of Thomism. 4 looks like imprecise pop-science meant to explain complex phenomena to laymen without using too much math. Here imprecision is unavoidable. Of the claims given, I would suggest that only 2 is really actively misleading. I agree none of these are shining examples of scientific exposition (although they aren't direct quotes, so they might be bad paraphrases on the part of the OP.)

    Only 3 resembles something that seems likely to be relevant to Thomism. I think it's meant to refute the following Presentist argument for simultaneous causation.

    1) present realities must have a sufficient reason which is actual.
    2) Only present (not past) realities are actual.
    3) Therefore present realities find sufficient reason in the present.

    So yes, one way to avoid this is to deny premise 2, and indeed relativity makes it quite difficult to assert premise 2, since it relies on a distinction between present and past that becomes arbitrary in a relativistic universe.

    That said, granting premise 2 creates other problems for Thomism. In particular, if an eternal unchanging God is meant to be the sufficient reason for an impermanent present reality, this creates a contradiction, since when the impermanent present reality ceases to exist, a supposed sufficient reason for its existence is still present. Thus God is insufficient to produce what he's supposed to explain. Thus, on presentism plus PSR any impermanent reality must be explained by another (or the same) impermanent reality. (I would argue, given the freedom of setting boundary conditions in all modern physical theories, that taking all impermanent realities to be their own sufficient reason is the only natural candidate if we restrict ourselves to causes which are simultaneously present.)

    As for the final gloss on the "B theory" claim, "therefore change is impossible," I think that relies on a contentious definition of "change."

    • Thanks for the great comment, Ray! Really thoughtful reply. A few notes in response:

      "The real problem with Thomas is that his premises are neither established by overwhelming empirical evidence, nor logical necessity, nor even universal acceptance by successful reasoners."

      This strikes me as a very high bar for marshaling a good argument. Regarding the first premise, what counts as "overwhelming"? Who makes that determination? Wouldn't you agree that the same evidence could seem overwhelming (or even obvious) to one person and underwhelming to another?

      The third criterion strikes me as even stranger. Do you believe all good arguments really include "universally accepted" premises? Do you think an argument's strength depends on the number of people who accept its premises?

      And who determines whether a reasoner is "successful"? Are such reasoners successful only when they accept or reject a premise in line with the majority?

      "(And the stated premises are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely does a "therefore" in Aquinas actually mark a statement that rigorously follows from what preceded it.)"

      Can you please provide an example? You say it's rarely the case that Aquinas' conclusions follow from his premises, so it shouldn't be difficult to provide multiple instances.

      "In particular, if an eternal unchanging God is meant to be the sufficient reason for an impermanent present reality, this creates a contradiction, since when the impermanent present reality ceases to exist, a supposed sufficient reason for its existence is still present."

      Contra Aquinas, this is an example of a conclusion not following from its premises. It seems to me you're arguing that if a being has a sufficient reason for its existence, then if the being goes out of existence, so must the sufficient reason.

      But I don't see how that follows. Perhaps you can clarify? Why can't there be a sufficient before or after the being exists? What requires the sufficient reason to exist only when the being exists?

      "As for the final gloss on the "B theory" claim, "therefore change is impossible," I think that relies on a contentious definition of "change.""

      What's the contentious definition you think the Dr. Bonnette is assuming? How would you define change?

      • Ray

        The real problem with Thomas is that his premises are neither established by overwhelming empirical evidence, nor logical necessity, nor even universal acceptance by successful reasoners.

        This strikes me as a very high bar for marshaling a good argument. Regarding the first premise, what counts as "overwhelming"?

        In any plausible interpretation, it is a bar easily met by the core claims of modern physics, and it falls far short of the OP's claim of "universal certitude." If this is too high a bar, that is a major concession.

        (And the stated premises are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely does a "therefore" in Aquinas actually mark a statement that rigorously follows from what preceded it.)

        Can you please provide an example?

        Here's three I found on a quick skim of the five ways and the expanded version of the first way in Summa Contra Gentiles. Not meant to be exhaustive. I'm sure I could catch more if I read more carefully:

        1:

        Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause.

        2:

        We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence.

        3:

        But every body that moves some thing moved is itself moved while moving it. Therefore, all these infinites are moved together while one of them is moved. But one of them, being finite, is moved in a finite time. Therefore, all those infinites are moved in a finite time.

        See if you can spot the errors.

        Finally, you say this:

        In particular, if an eternal unchanging God is meant to be the sufficient reason for an impermanent present reality, this creates a contradiction, since when the impermanent present reality ceases to exist, a supposed sufficient reason for its existence is still present.

        "Contra Aquinas, this is an example of a conclusion not following from its premises.

        Granted, I am assuming a historically plausible, but not universally accepted, reading of "sufficient reason," that it implies "sufficient condition" at a minimum. Modern Thomists in my experience apply this reading somewhat inconsistently. For an example of a Thomist apparently assuming the same see: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/the-timeline-account-of-the-first-way/

        4.) Potentials are multiple. Think of all the places you could be right now. So if potentials sufficed to explain the actual motion, you would be in multiple places at once. Call the thing responsible for the actual motion “something else”. So every potential is (actually) moved by something else.

        Likewise, on this reading, if an unchanging God sufficed to explain what is actual at one time but not another, that thing would be actual at all times. Hence a contradiction.

        ETA: you also asked what contentious definition implies change is impossible on B theory of time. In response, I will say that I do not know the exact definition the OP had in mind, but he must reject the natural definition that defines change as one time differing from another. Just as one place differing from another does not imply that only one place is actual, one time differing from another does not imply that only one time is actual (although linguistic convention generally militates that we use "was" and "will be" , rather than "is" to refer to times that clearly predate or postdate the speech act.)

        • Thanks for the reply, Ray!

          Sorry, but I don't see the errors in Thomas' logic. Merely pasting quotes and saying "See if you can spot the errors" is not a sufficient way to back up your claim. You're the one who claimed that his conclusions don't logically follow from his premises, so it's up to you to back up that claim. I see no reason to think it's true, and you've yet to provide one.

          As for your "sufficient reason" point, whether you're referring to "sufficient reasons" or or "sufficient conditions," either way your conclusion fails to follow from the premises for the same reason I noted above. To paraphrase my earlier point:

          It seems to me you're arguing that if a being has a sufficient condition for its existence, then if the being goes out of existence, so must the sufficient condition.

          But I don't see how that follows. Why can't the sufficient condition remain after the being stops existing? What requires the sufficient condition to exist only when the being exists?

          As far as I can tell, you've yet to provide an answer.

          • Ray

            It seems to me you're arguing that if a being has a sufficient condition for its existence, then if the being goes out of existence, so must the sufficient condition.

            Yes. That directly follows from the standard definition of "sufficient condition." Modus tollens. To belabour the obvious, from wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessity_and_sufficiency we have:

            If P is sufficient for Q, then knowing P to be true is adequate grounds to conclude that Q is true; however, knowing P to be false does not meet a minimal need to conclude that Q is false. The logical relation is expressed as "if P, then Q" or "P ⇒ Q". This can also be expressed as "P only if Q"

            Suppose Q is the existence of a contingent being, and P is a sufficient condition for the contingent being's existence, then we have "*sufficient condition* only if *contingent being exists*".

            As for Aquinas's non sequiturs I can provide counterexamples if you really can't figure out the fallacies (I'm kind of shocked that you've never encountered the well-known objection to 2), but really, you have the wrong attitude with respect to deductive argument.

            You're the one who claimed that his conclusions don't logically follow from his premises, so it's up to you to back up that claim.

            Deductive logic is the realm of proofs. The burden of proof is always on the one claiming to offer a proof. If you think Aquinas's conclusions follow from his premises, please appeal to a well known rule of deduction, e.g. my appeal to modus tollens above.

          • I think you're confused on this point, Ray. To render your original claim in symbolic logic would look something like:

            P is a sufficient condition for Q to exist
            But if Q goes out of existence, so must P

            I just don't see how that follows.

            "As for Aquinas's non sequiturs I can provide counterexamples if you really can't figure out the fallacies (I'm kind of shocked that you've never encountered the well-known objection to 2), but really, you have the wrong attitude with respect to deductive argument."

            This is now the second time you've refused to point out a specific logical fallacy in Thomas Aquinas, despite blithely dismissing his arguments as fallacious. The first time you said "See if you can spot the errors," and now this second time you again fail to show any specific errors but simply say, "As for Aquinas's non sequiturs I can provide counterexamples if you really can't figure out the fallacies".....but then you never do.

            So I'll ask one more time, and if you're unable to provide a specific example of fallacious reasoning, I'll have to assume you have no real support for your assertion.

            "Deductive logic is the realm of proofs. The burden of proof is always on the one claiming to offer a proof. If you think Aquinas's conclusions follow from his premises, please appeal to a well known rule of deduction, e.g. my appeal to modus tollens above."

            Just to be clear, I'm not defending Aquinas' arguments here (although I happen to think they're sound.) I'm simply responding to your accusation that they're fallacious. You're the one who dismissed them on those grounds, so you're the one responsible for offering support.

            You can't just suggest:

            "Aquinas' arguments are fallacious!"
            "Really, how?"
            "Well, you can figure that out on your own."
            "Really, how?"
            "Well, that's not my job. YOU have to prove why the arguments are not fallacious!"

            That's a textbook case of shifting the burden of proof.

            You made a claim, I challenged it, and if you want others to take your claim seriously, you need to offer support.

          • Richard Morley

            If I may try my hand

            P is a sufficient condition for Q to exist

            Therefore if P is true, Q exists. Q exists as long as P is true.

            So for Q to not exist, P must be false.

          • Ray

            Hm. I can't see much hope for continuing this exchange if you can't even follow textbook modus tollens.

            P implies Q (P is a sufficient condition for Q)
            not Q (The impermanent being does not -- i.e. no longer -- exists)
            Therefore not P (The sufficient condition for Q does not -- i.e. no longer holds)

            But since you seem to have no desire to think about what might be wrong with the three examples I gave you on Aquinas, I guess I'll tell you:

            1) Aquinas premise is about what happens when you remove a cause from a finite causal chain. His conclusion is about inifinite causal chains. You don't get an infinite causal chain by removing causes from a finite causal chain.

            2) Straightforward fallacy of composition. It may be possible for B to not exist, only if A exists and vice versa. Then possibly A doesn't exist, and possibly B doesn't exist, but it is not possible for neither A nor B to exist.

            3) Less straightforward fallacy of composition. Suppose the last body is moved in 1 second, the body moving it requires 2 seconds, the body moving that requires 4 seconds etc. Then an infinite amount of time is required to move all the bodies, but only a finite amount of time is required to move any single body. Moreover, only a finite subset is moved in any finite interval of time.

          • Ray, thanks again for your comment. It's helping me think through things.

            (Though the condescension is starting to become grating. Is it possible for you to write without it?)

            "P implies Q (P is a sufficient condition for Q)
            not Q (The impermanent being does not -- i.e. no longer -- exists)
            Therefore not P (The sufficient condition for Q does not -- i.e. no longer holds)"

            Ah, I see my error now! Thanks for clarifying. Really helpful! Don't know what I was thinking.

            Regarding your three assertions about Aquinas' arguments, though, I'm still not tracking. If you really aim to convince me that Aquinas' arguments are fallacious, you need to unpack them further than these tossed-off notes. They're not even complete sentences.

            If you don't have the time or interest to convince me, that's fine and we can both happily move on. I understand.

            Yet this is the third time I've asked you to specifically show where Thomas Aquinas errs and I've yet to see a clear, specific explanation. The most you've responded with are these shorthand notes and condescending remarks about how *I* lack the desire to think carefully about these things, but I'm afraid I can't correlate your notes to the specific arguments Thomas makes.

            I wish you would just quote his own words and show specifically how his argument, as he presents it, is fallacious.

          • I agree with Luke's comment above. Suppose J.R.R. Tolkien is a sufficient reason for the first manuscript of "The Hobbit." He fully explains it. But if that manuscript is destroyed, it doesn't follow that J.R.R. Tolkien also goes out of existence. This is why I find your proposal hard to grasp. But maybe I'm missing something!

            In that case, J.R.R. Tolkien would not be a sufficient reason for the manuscript to exist, merely a sufficient reason for it to have come into existence. But you aren't really agreeing with my comment, because I meant to tease out an ontological difference between God and us; I illustrated this by comparing an author to the fictional characters he brings to life and sometimes kills off. If the 'fictional' aspect is a barrier, we can consider digitally simulating sentient, sapient beings. The key is to reject univocity of being. If you don't, I think at best you have Spinoza, who I think is readily adaptable to physicalism.

          • Very helpful clarification, Luke. Thanks!

          • Ray

            Suppose J.R.R. Tolkien is a sufficient reason for the first manuscript of "The Hobbit." He fully explains it. But if that manuscript is destroyed, it doesn't follow that J.R.R. Tolkien also goes out of existence.

            I would tend to consider Tolkien a contributory cause to the first manuscript of "The Hobbit" and to its continued existence, rather than a sufficient reason for either. You are of course free to a weaker definition of "sufficient reason" but as I illustrated previously, Thomists typically find a stronger definition helpful when trying to argue that such and such proposed non-divine cause for this or that cannot be a sufficient reason. (e.g. they typically assume both presentism -- to preclude past to present causation -- and that sufficient reasons are also sufficient conditions -- to preclude potentialities as sufficient reasons) When such a stronger definition is accepted, then J.R.R. Tolkien cannot be considered a sufficient reason for the first manuscript of "The Hobbit" nor can an unchanging God be considered a sufficient reason for any impermanent entity.

          • P is a sufficient condition for Q to exist
            But if Q goes out of existence, so must P

            That simply doesn't follow.

            You forgot one:

                 P does not change
                 P is a sufficient condition for Q to exist
                 But if Q goes out of existence, so must P

            But I don't see how this works either: if an author writes a story where a character lives for some period of time and then dies, why do we have to assert "the author is changing" in order to not have a contradiction? The error seems to be assuming that God exists in the same time frame as us, vs. existing outside of our time, or just "outside of time".

          • Ray

            You'll recall that I started this line of argumentation by trying to draw out the consequences of Thomist presentism. I don't think presentism is a natural metaphysic for the internal timeline of a book. B theory or fictionalism seems much more natural.

          • Do you have a sense of how much Thomism requires presentism? I am by no means an expert, but I wasn't aware that it had to deny the reality of the past, nor that Thomists tend to do so. Do they?

            P.S. Excluded from the conversation so far is the growing block universe, which seems to me to most naturally slot in with God extending grace to us, where grace is understood as "unmerited favor". The idea would be that nothing which already exists can predict the favor; the new thing God does would be truly new. Of course, the newness can take be introduced within a framework where much is still determined—otherwise you'd have an unintelligible chaotic flux.

          • Ray

            The whole Aristotelian tradition seems to me heavily reliant on presentism. Without presentism it seems quite difficult to make sense of many recurring themes in the Aristotelian tradition:

            1) What problem the whole act-potency framework is trying to solve.

            2) What problem the uniformly moving eternal celestial spheres were believed to solve.

            3) The need for "essentially ordered" causal series.

            I would say that Thomism is more willing than most Aristotelian variants to abandon premises the minute they start leading to embarrassing conclusions (e.g. the eternity of the world, the past eternity of the rational soul, the absence of miracles, celestial spheres in modern variants) so maybe it can do without presentism, but I'm doubtful given the OP's spirited attack on B-theory.

          • Rob Abney

            2) What problem the uniformly moving eternal celestial spheres were believed to solve

            as you and I previously discussed, he was demonstrating types of reasoning not trying to solve a problem.

          • Ray

            Aquinas, said uniformly moving celestial spheres had been demonstrated by sufficient proof. Generally such demonstrations imply that severe problems arise when the conclusion is denied. And indeed, you will find in the work of other Aristotelian thinkers that the spheres serve as a sort of intermediate between change and stasis, by which an unchanging being can supposedly cause temporal change. They pretty clearly think that such causation would be problematic without the spheres as an intermediate cause.

          • I thought act and potency were meant to reconcile Parmenides and Heraclitus; how is presentism a necessary framework for that shtick? Maybe we could start with just that one.

          • Ray

            Parmenides argument against change is that it involves passing from nonbeing to being i.e. Something coming from nothing. Parmenides pairs this with the claim that nothing can pass away to nothing. In order to make this argument work you have to believe past and future are in a state of nonbeing.

          • Asserting that "nothing changes" doesn't seem to imply or presuppose that "the past and future are not real"; it seems closer to implying/​presupposing that "time is not real". When Einstein defended eternalism to Karl Popper, Popper called Einstein "Parmenides". On eternalism, the flow of time is illusory. Here's Popper:

            The main topic of our conversation was indeterminism. I tried to persuade him to give up his determinism, which amounted to the view that the world was a four-dimensional Parmenidean block universe in which change was a human illusion, or very nearly so. (He agreed that this had been his view, and while discussing it I called him "Parmenides".) I argued that if men, or other organisms, could experience change and genuine succession in time, then this was real. It could not be explained away by a theory of the successive rising into our consciousness of time slices which in some sense coexist; for this kind of "rising into consciousness" would have precisely the same character as that succession of changes which the theory tries to explain away. (Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography, 148)

            A longer version can be found at WP: Eternalism (philosophy of time) § Determinism and indeterminism.

          • Ray

            Note that all the philosophers quoted in the eternalism article are 20th century or later. They may have some commonalities with Parmenides, but eternalism proper is a modern, not an ancient philosophy.

            In any event, the point I made concerned not just Parmenides' conclusion "nothing changes", which Aristotle rejects, but the reasoning he uses to get there, much of which Aristotle retains (See physics book 1 part 8 for details.) That reasoning starts from pretty distinctively presentist assumptions.

          • I'm sorry, but I don't see Aristotle as obviously presentist. You sound rather convinced that the Aristotelian tradition requires presentism; are you aware of this being well-accepted among scholars? I'd be interested in reading more about it, but I don't want to take up too much of your time.

          • Ray

            Well, I googled "presentism" and "Aristotle". The first hit was an article from a university of Missouri professor, claiming Aristotle is a presentist. Also present was an IEP article claiming there was some ambiguity about whether Aristotle was a presentist or a believer in the growing past position. Although It is notable that the IEP article lists Heraclitus and Scotus as both being unambiguously presentist, while listing no pre-20th century philosophers as unambiguously holding eternalism or growing-past. As such presentism seems like a safe default assumption for any ancient philosopher.

            In some sense it doesn't matter that much whether Aristotle held presentism or merely growing-past, since either position makes the question of what things are real reference-frame dependent. That said, the general dissatisfaction with causes located in the past, as in the essentially ordered series concept, seems very presentist, as opposed to growing-past to me.

          • Well, I googled "presentism" and "Aristotle". The first hit was an article from a university of Missouri professor, claiming Aristotle is a presentist.

            Sadly, Boyce comes at the matter from a completely different point (Aristotle's explicit discussion of time) and argues that at best he has produced a prima facie account, aimed mostly to argue against a claim of circularity in Aristotle's reasoning. I found a few other sources which find Aristotle ambiguous or presentist only if you allow processes to be real and extend into the past—which doesn't seem very presentist to me. Another argues that God being simultaneously present to all times makes Aquinas (via his agreement with Boethius) non-presentist, although we have to allow for contradictions.

            I'm afraid I may be out of my depth, here. I've always understood forms and telē to be temporally extended things. And like Harrington says at the end of Presentism and Eternalism in Historical Perspective, I'm not entirely sure how much difference there is between presentism and eternalism, when you try and deal with the practical plane instead of [very!] abstract thought.

            In some sense it doesn't matter that much whether Aristotle held presentism or merely growing-past, since either position makes the question of what things are real reference-frame dependent.

            Maybe this is a naive question, but why can't I just accept that anything which has happened in anyone's reference frame is real? Just because you know about it before me doesn't seem all that important. And even though I might see A before B while you see B before A, the causal story relating them will be the same. I'm inclined to see causation as more fundamental than time, making such observational differences rather immaterial.

            That said, the general dissatisfaction with causes located in the past, as in the essentially ordered series concept, seems very presentist, as opposed to growing-past to me.

            Sorry, but how does Aquinas have a problem with causes located in the past? As I understand it, essentially ordered series do originate in the past, just not infinitely far in the past.

          • Ray

            Why can't I just accept that anything which has happened in anyone's reference frame is real?

            Does "anyone" include future people? If so, you're accepting eternalism. If not, how do you non-arbitrarily draw the line between present and future people?

            How does Aquinas have a problem with causes located in the past?

            I don't see how the argument of Summa Contra Gentiles book 1 13:12 (where I got example 3 earlier in the thread) can reach its desired conclusion, unless each mover in the essentially ordered series begins and ends its movement simultaneously. This may be invoking a temporally extended present (I don't actually think it is, but that would be a more complicated argument.), but it still relies on an illicit assumption of a natural notion of simultaneity.

          • Does "anyone" include future people? If so, you're accepting eternalism. If not, how do you non-arbitrarily draw the line between present and future people?

            Well, "anyone" doesn't seem to cover my children (which I don't have yet). I don't see why I need to comment on any reality which has not yet causally impinged on me. I'm happy to play with God-like views for instrumental purposes, but I generally try to retract to my finite viewpoint for realist purposes.

            I don't see how the argument of Summa Contra Gentiles book 1 13:12 (where I got example 3 earlier in the thread) can reach its desired conclusion, unless each mover in the essentially ordered series begins and ends its movement simultaneously. This may be invoking a temporally extended present (I don't actually think it is, but that would be a more complicated argument.), but it still relies on an illicit assumption of a natural notion of simultaneity.

            Wait a second, surely Aquinas is not allowing for infinitesimal movements, nor zero movements. (And you're not going to get any movement in zero time.) Because if you're allowed infinitesimal movements, you can get finite movement from a set of infinitesimals with infinite cardinality in finite time. But as I've been saying for a while, there's something suspicious about getting an infinity via infinitesimals. Maybe Aquinas intuited that and maybe he just didn't think of infinitesimals. You seem to know him better than I.

            I also wonder whether Aquinas' position on simultaneity was more closely connected to time or causation. It is my understanding that while two observers may note the order of events differing, they will never see causation differ.

          • Lucretius

            Your argument strikes me as misunderstanding what hylomorphism is. The present is actual, while the past and future aren't, but at the same time, the past and future are not nothing, just not actual. The point of hylomorphism is that not all realities are actual.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            Fair enough, I suppose. I guess you could argue the Aristotelian view isn't quite the same as presentism. It still seems to have the same issues:

            1) Insofar as merely potential (and apparently equally so, on Thomist metaphysics) past and future realities are considered inadequate explanations for things becoming actual at a specific time, the same would appear to apply to an unchanging eternally actual God.

            2) The designation of some times and places as "actual", while others are deemed merely "potential," seems to define a preferred reference frame. This is an unnatural metaphysic for a universe conforming to either Special or General Relativity.

          • Lucretius

            Insofar as merely potential (and apparently equally so, on Thomist metaphysics) past and future realities are considered inadequate explanations for things becoming actual at a specific time, the same would appear to apply to an unchanging eternally actual God.

            Why would you say that?

            The designation of some times and places as "actual", while others are deemed merely "potential," seems to define a preferred reference frame. This is an unnatural metaphysic for a universe conforming to either Special or General Relativity.

            Relativity makes the present the first point of reference too. Under this view, which is actually Mr. James Chestek's, the past and future are real, but in reference to the actual present.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            Why would you say that?

            See my response to your other comment

            Relativity makes the present the first point of reference too. Under this view, which is actually Mr. James Chestek's, the past and future are real, but in reference to the actual present.

            I'm sorry. I can't really reconstruct a worldview from that. Are you saying that the facts about which realities are actual are observer relative? I.e. are you saying something may be actual for me which is not actual for you and vice versa? If so, I think it avoids the preferred reference frame problem, but it also fails to distinguish between essentially and accidentally ordered causal series.

        • R: (And the stated premises are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely does a "therefore" in Aquinas actually mark a statement that rigorously follows from what preceded it.)

          BV: Can you please provide an example?

          R: 1:

          Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause.

          Are you saying that there can be a past-infinite number of efficient causes? I'm not entirely sure what this would mean, since infinity is not a number. Possibly Quentin Smith does something a bit more mathematically sound in his A Cosmological Argument for a Self-Caused Universe (2008); I only just encountered that article yesterday and have not fully analyzed it. He may have run afoul of one of Zeno's paradoxes.

          Supposing that Aquinas is wrong as you claim, I wonder if his "therefore" seemed legitimate because the concept of infinity was not well-understood at the time. But then we could point to Plantinga doing the same thing to the logical argument from evil: he showed that the premises and rules of inference didn't quite take you to the conclusion. So if one is absolutely rigorous, how many instances of "therefore" outside of formal (closed) systems really do follow rigorously from what preceded?

          One thing I do know is that causation is an absolute mess in philosophy. Unless the Thomist can convincingly explain why this is the case, one is warranted in questioning whether the Thomist himself/​herself understands causation as well as is claimed. At least in my experience, the smartest, wisest people are not only right a lot of the time, but they're very good at understanding why others would be wrong and yet find it so compelling.

          P.S. Caleb Cohoe's There Must Be A First: Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered, Causal Series appears to be relevant to this issue. I've yet to really get into it.

          • Ray

            Are you saying that there can be a past-infinite number of efficient causes? I'm not entirely sure what this would mean, since infinity is not a number.

            I'm saying the set of efficient causes could have infinite cardinality, and the set of times at which causes occur could have no lower bound within the set of all times.

            Supposing that Aquinas is wrong as you claim, I wonder if his "therefore" seemed legitimate because the concept of infinity was not well-understood at the time.

            Quite possibly, although keep in mind that his contemporaries didn't universally accept his arguments (although they mostly agreed with his conclusions.)

          • I'm saying the set of efficient causes could have infinite cardinality, and the set of times at which causes occur could have no lower bound within the set of all times.

            Hmmm, I will have to pursue why some mathematicians seem so adamant that "infinity is not a number", if one can simply reword as you have. Maybe they just want their i's dotted and their t's crossed.

            Could we ever know that the set of efficient causes has infinite cardinality, or that the set of times has no lower bound? You are positing an actual infinity, here—a possible world with an actual infinity. Maybe Caleb Cohoe's argument works—he assumes Aquinas holds to a special kind of causation—but regardless, I wonder if Aquinas was assuming that reality is knowable. All sorts of things could possibly be true, but many of them would doom humans to permanent ignorance of so much. As a Christian who believed that God wants to be known, I could see Aquinas sneaking in a sort of "guaranteed intelligibility" presupposition. Or knowing him, he stated it in full detail.

          • Ray

            On infinite causal series: I think, to the extent that any modern physical theory can be described in causal terms, we find that causal series are not just infinite, but uncountably so. That is to say, spacelike surfaces in the past lightcone of an event are indexed by a continuously varying time parameter, and each contains sufficient cause for the event. The set of real numbers, and any subset of the reals with nonzero measure has a cardinality strictly larger than that of the natural numbers. "Uncountably infinite." Thus, at least from an "indispensability argument" type perspective, we have strong evidence from physics for infinite cardinalities.

            On "guaranteed intelligibility," that doesn't sound like Aquinas to me. iirc, Aquinas asserted that God's essence was infinite, and as such could be understood by finite beings only analogically.

            ETA: here's a link http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#11

          • That is to say, spacelike surfaces in the past lightcone of an event are indexed by a continuously varying time parameter, and each contains sufficient cause for the event. The set of real numbers, and any subset of the reals with nonzero measure has a cardinal it's strictly larger than that of the natural numbers.

            Wait a second, unless dividing up the time more finely actually tells you something new, it seems like you're obtaining your infinite cardinality rather suspiciously.

            On "guaranteed intelligibility," that doesn't sound like Aquinas to me. iirc, Aquinas asserted that God's essence was infinite, and as such could be understood by finite beings only analogically.

            Not being able to understand God completely does not entail we cannot understand him arbitrarily well. I would have to think on whether knowing that God is infinite in complexity is comparable to knowing that a sequence is infinite in length. I have an intuition that uncovering layer after layer of how reality works is superior for intelligibility to merely finding more elements, but intuitions do not make arguments.

          • Ray

            Granted, given some plausible assumptions (e.g. That the true vacuum state has positive cosmological constant) you can come up with some finite upper bound on the size of a discrete model needed to approximate reality "well enough that no one can tell the difference." Nonetheless, treating this model as something other than an approximation of the continuous model tends to produce more complication than it removes.

            Since Newton at least, all successful physical models have started by formally describing something continuous and then giving finitely computable approximations to make predictions.

          • I get that Ockham's razor pushes for that simplicity, but if you want to hang your hat on efficient causes being uncountably dense, it seems to me you ought to demonstrate you really need that many efficient causes. And it seems that you don't. Strongly asserting the existence of something you don't need seems like a bad strategy in discussions such as this.

            This leaves us with the past-eternal kind of infinity in causation. You don't seem to like the notion of an "essentially ordered" series, which means I would have to establish that it could be possibly important. One way which might work is to ask whether you think all causation is dependent only on the previous time slice. That is, can causation be perfectly modeled by taking the state of reality at t0, applying a deterministic transform to it and possibly adding some noise, yielding the state of reality at t1? If I'm reading Cohoe right, Aquinas appears to be implicitly rejecting this very specific kind of causation. He might be rejecting more, but at least he is rejecting this.

            The strategy I'm employing here is to ask what kinds of things past-eternal causation can and cannot support. If we are tempted to explain various aspects of reality using any notions which past-eternal causation cannot support, then we have to discard one or the other.

          • Ray

            The issue as I see it is that our best theories of nature index distinct spacelike slices within the past lightcone of an event (the closest thing relativity offers to instants in time) by real numbers, of which there are uncountably many. If we accept these theories, we then have a choice between accepting all, some, or none of these slices as providing sufficient cause for the event. I don't see any plausible reason for giving one slice a different ontological status from another with respect to causation of the event in question. If, on the other hand, we reject theories of physics that invoke continuous parameters, we need to offer a replacement. I've never seen one that doesn't look like the result of applying an approximation method to a fundamentally continuous theory.

            As for your specific questions, your reading of Cohoe at least sounds like my understanding of what Aquinas denies. Please note, however, that there is no such thing as "the previous time slice," since there is always a real number strictly in between any two distinct real numbers, and Aquinas would have known this, for example by reading Aristotle's treatment of Zeno's paradoxes. Thus, in rejecting the sort of causality you outline, he's rejecting any causation from past to present whatsoever. That's why he thinks cause and effect need to be simultaneous. He also seems to be aware that pretty much all examples of causation in the real world are exactly the sort he rejects ( hence accidentally ordered series.) He tries to offer examples of essentially ordered series, too, but these are all either (as with the hand, stick, leaf example) shown by modern science to be just like other causal series, in that the effect persists after the cause has ceased, or they are shown (as in the case of the celestial spheres) not to exist at all.

          • Correct me if I'm wrong, but the assumption of continuity is really a statement that after cutting reality up into fine enough discrete chunks, you will find nothing new and interesting. It is the denial of additional structure. Otherwise, it would be merely a statistical approximation. But if you deny that there is additional structure, then you gain zero new information by cutting reality up into more than finitely many pieces. Paradoxically, you get your infinity of pieces by assuming that finitely many pieces suffice to perfectly explain.

            Now, I have no idea whether Aquinas would have deployed the above objection. If he did, then I don't see how your objection to my "previous time slice" would matter; the point would be that after cutting reality up finely enough, nothing is gained by cutting it up further. Objections would then be philosophical, not scientific. There is irony here: if it is wrong to reason this way, then the continuous equations which dictate no additional structure are also wrong (= approximation valid only in some domains).

            I'm not sure it would matter if numerically, most causation were of the accidentally ordered kind. If in fact we desperately need essentially ordered causation in human affairs, then that ratio would be as relevant as the ratio of habitable spacetime to inhabitable spacetime. I think I could mount a pretty good argument that the weakest aspect of modern science, by far, is where the human element is indispensable. So if we're going to argue from the success of science, where it has failed is of paramount importance.

            To caveat the above, I mostly have intuitions that a bad understanding of causation is a key part of the human sciences (and politics in general) being in a piss-poor state. And even saying that is to claim much, because I'm arguing that we could be in a much better spot while not being able to single-handedly get us there. I also draw inspiration from mathematical biologist Robert Rosen's Life Itself, where he questions whether all can be explained by carving reality into "state" and "environment", such that about all the mathematics we need are differential equations to evolve that state forward in time. Indeed, he doesn't even think life can be distinguished with such meager formalisms. (I don't think he'd accept that gauge theory etc. changes things appreciably.) That actually seems like the most robust rejection of presentism: an inability to predict the future maximally well by only referring to the "previous time slice".

          • Ray

            Continuity is not defined as you say. Rather it says that for any desired approximation error, epsilon, greater than zero, the value of a continuous function at a point can be approximated by the value at a different point, so long as the other point is within some distance, delta, of the first point. Note, that there is no expectation that literally no approximation error (i.e. epsilon equals 0) is possible, unless you divide the domain up infinitely finely (i.e. delta equals zero.)

            This is also different from the issue of determinism. In a Laplacian determinist physical theory, which includes quantum mechanics under the many worlds interpretation, any single spacelike slice contains the information necessary to reconstruct all the other slices. There are no plausible candidates for causal relationships within a single slice, however, so if we are to talk about cause and effect we need to admit at least two slices, at which point there is no principled reason not to extend the allowance to all the uncountably many slices which modern physical theory appears to describe.

          • LB: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the assumption of continuity is really a statement that after cutting reality up into fine enough discrete chunks, you will find nothing new and interesting. It is the denial of additional structure.

            R: Continuity is not defined as you say. Rather it says that for any desired approximation error, epsilon, greater than zero, the value of a continuous function at a point can be approximated by the value at a different point, so long as the other point is within some distance, delta, of the first point. Note, that there is no expectation that literally no approximation error (i.e. epsilon equals 0) is possible, unless you divide the domain up infinitely finely (i.e. delta equals zero.)

            Huh? No approximation error at non-infinitesimal delta would mean the function is a constant.(?) If you really want I can explicitly mention that there is always a noise floor: measurement can only ever be so precise. Given any level of measurement precision then, there is a maximum granularity, past which we can find out nothing new. My point seems utterly unchanged, because we simply wouldn't be having this discussion if measurement had infinite precision (and accuracy).

            It seems you're saying that picking one time-slice over another is arbitrary, and thus we should open ourselves up to any and all of the [alleged] uncountably many of them. But this is tantamount to saying that Aquinas is wrong to think that any series is essentially ordered. No time slice would be "special", e.g. because an agent chose to act then and not before or after. It's hard to see how you aren't presupposing eternalism.

          • Ray

            Yes. No approximation error with nonzero delta means the function is constant. So, you're ok with some level of noise. What fundamental lower bound on measurement error are you using to set your noise floor? Even if you have such a noise floor, you still need a nonarbitrary answer to the question of which of the uncountably many events, described by the standard textbook physical theories, should be treated as unreal.

            You also seem to be accusing me of presupposing eternalism. I don't think I'm doing that. My starting point is the assumption that distinctions which fail to be preserved by the generally recognized symmetry transformations of physics, shouldn't be afforded any grand metaphysical importance (e.g. In deciding which events are "real.") If that leads to eternalism, or the conclusion that Aquinas was wrong, that's a conclusion, not a premise.

          • What fundamental lower bound on measurement error are you using to set your noise floor?

            It doesn't matter; any noise floor makes your objection based on the (ε, δ)-definition of continuity moot.

            Even if you have such a noise floor, you still need a nonarbitrary answer to the question of which of the uncountably many events, described by the standard textbook physical theories, should be treated as unreal.

            I don't see why I have to answer that. If there is no increased explanatory power from more than finitely many events, then I think I'm justified in asking what the jump to infinity—by chopping reality up more finely than can be helpful in any way—is warranted. The fact that current theory doesn't tell us how to non-arbitrarily pick finitely many events is a limitation; it means that current theory cannot describe any further structure to reality. Any time that you cannot describe further structure, you can manufacture an infinity. Maybe this is what you want to do, because if there is further structure, your assumption that there isn't will eventually be falsified.

            You also seem to be accusing me of presupposing eternalism. I don't think I'm doing that.

            I stand corrected.

            My starting point is the assumption that distinctions which fail to be preserved by the generally recognized symmetry transformations of physics, shouldn't be afforded any grand metaphysical importance (e.g. In deciding which events are "real.")

            Ok, but it still seems to me that the result of your argument is a claim that reality is only finitely complex, with any uncountable infinity adding nothing to our understanding (and sealing us off to additional complexity). Maybe that's even part of the reason for the beauty of those equations over others: one has something purer than the ick of reality. That can be quite useful on an instrumentalist interpretation, but dangerous on a realist one.

        • Likewise, on this reading, if an unchanging God sufficed to explain what is actual at one time but not another, that thing would be actual at all times. Hence a contradiction.

          Where are you reading God as a sufficient condition rather than a necessary condition? Christians have long been interested in God not being the author of sin, thereby requiring that creatures have some amount of freedom—actions taken not determined by God. So on the principle of sufficient reason, to gain sufficiency one would need both God and any other agent acting. But of course God can still be ultimately responsible for there being something rather than nothing.

    • Lucretius

      In particular, if an eternal unchanging God is meant to be the sufficient reason for an impermanent present reality, this creates a contradiction, since when the impermanent present reality ceases to exist, a supposed sufficient reason for its existence is still present.

      I don't see why this would be a problem for a Thomist: God is the explanation for an object's actuality, but if it isn't actual anymore, then it makes no sense to say it still has a sufficient reason for its actuality. It has no actuality in need of explanation.

      I get the feeling that you are assuming that if God is the explanation for an object's actuality, that this makes the object necessary. But this is clearly not what we mean. All we are trying to do is explain why the object is actual.

      Christi pax.

      • Ray

        Compare what you said to premise 4 from https://thomism.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/the-timeline-account-of-the-first-way/ :

        4.) Potentials are multiple. Think of all the places you could be right now. So if potentials sufficed to explain the actual motion, you would be in multiple places at once. Call the thing responsible for the actual motion “something else”. So every potential is (actually) moved by something else.

        Do you agree with the above reasoning?

        If so, what's wrong with the analogous argument:

        Times eternally willed into existence by God are multiple. So if the eternal will of God Sufficed to explain the actual present, multiple presents would be simultaneously actual. Thus, something other than God is the "something else" that explains why only the current present is actual.

        • Lucretius

          Times willed into existence by God are multiple. So if the will of God Sufficed to explain the actual present, multiple presents would be simultaneously actual

          I'm not sure I understand what you are articulating here, but on its face, I don't see how these are analogical statements, because you are assuming that all times are actual, which I reject.

          If you want it bluntly, I think that the past and future are related to potency, while the present is related to actuality. Does that make sense?

          The past and future are real, but they aren't actual. That's the major thrust of hylomorphism, that not all being is actual.

          Christi pax.

          • Ray

            I'm not sure I understand what you are articulating here, but on its face, I don't see how these are analogical statements, because you are assuming that all times are actual, which I reject.

            No. I was not assuming that. Read the sentence you quoted again:

            So IF the will of God Sufficed to explain the actual present, multiple presents would be simultaneously actual

            Which was in analogy to the sentence from the originally quoted Thomist argument:

            So if potentials sufficed to explain the actual motion, you would be in multiple places at once.

            I was only assuming that, on Thomist metaphysics, any moment that was, is, or will be actual, is eternally willed to be so by God. Do you reject that?

            The analogy is as follows: The Thomist rejects that the past can be an adequate explanation for the present, since it was and will be also potential at times when the present is not actual. (The principle here seems to be that realities having the same metaphysical status when an effect is actual as when it is merely potential are insufficient to explain the effect.)

            My point is that the same principle seems to apply to an eternal unchanging God and His eternal unchanging will, which has the same metaphysical status at all times (in this case actual.)

          • Lucretius

            The analogy is as follows: The Thomist rejects that the past can be an adequate explanation for the present, since it was and will be also potential at times when the present is not actual.

            It would be better to say that the Thomist believes that the past and present exist in relation to the actual present, as potential exists in relationship to an actuality.

            As a result, I don't see how this follows:

            My point is that the same principle seems to apply to an eternal unchanging God and his eternal unchanging Will, which has the same metaphysical status at all times

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            Lets back things up a little, since I don't see how the distinctions you're trying to make have anything to do with my argument. Do you agree with the Thomist website I quoted previously?

            Potentials are multiple. Think of all the places you could be right now. So if potentials sufficed to explain the actual motion, you would be in multiple places at once. Call the thing responsible for the actual motion “something else”. So every potential is (actually) moved by something else.

            In particular the sentence "So if potentials sufficed to explain the actual motion, you would be in multiple places at once."

          • Lucretius

            Yes, I agree. How would you carry this in the direction of your argument?

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            And do you agree that "any moment that was, is, or will be actual, is eternally willed to be so by God"?

          • Lucretius

            And do you agree that "any moment that was, is, or will be actual, is eternally willed to be so by God"?

            That's the major statement you've said that I don't think I clearly understand. Could you clarify it?

            What I've been assuming you've meant is that God makes the moment actual in the approach of the First Way.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            Ok. On what basis do you agree with the sentence I highlighted other than the assumption that "realities having the same metaphysical status when an effect is actual as when it is merely potential are insufficient to explain the effect."

          • Lucretius

            realities having the same metaphysical status when an effect is actual as when it is merely potential are insufficient to explain the effect.

            But that sounds like you are saying a torching being actually hot both before and after it ignites a fire makes it "insufficient to explain" the fire (I would just say it causes the fire, it makes the potentials of the wood actual).

            I don't see how this follows from Chestek's premise about potency. What he's saying is what could be is lots of different things, and if these things were the actual mover itself, then paper could become an paper airplane, a ball, or soot, even while saying a flat sheet, all at the same time. What he's saying is that potentials are actualized by something actual, and not potential.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            What he's saying is that potentials are actualized by something actual, and not potential.

            I know that's his conclusion. The point is the premises he uses to get there.

            This seems to be the actual argument you're attributing to him:

            What he's saying is what could be is lots of different things, and if these things were the actual mover itself, then paper could become an paper airplane, a ball, or soot, even while saying a flat sheet, all at the same time.

            And how's that different from

            "what God wills to become actual is lots of different things, and if God's will were the actual mover itself, then paper could become an paper airplane, a ball, or soot, even while saying a flat sheet, all at the same time."

            Suppose I take a sheet of paper, make an airplaine out of it, roll it up into a ball and then burn it. Did God not will all these things to happen. Does he cease to will them when they cease to become actual?

            Or, lest the previous example lead you on too many tangents about secondary causation, free will etc. suppose instead that an asteroid moves from one part of its orbit to another. For each place where the asteroid was, did not God will it to be there? Does God cease to will it once the asteroid is no longer actually there?

          • Lucretius

            what God wills to become actual is lots of different things, and if God's will were the actual mover itself, then paper could become an paper airplane, a ball, or soot, even while saying a flat sheet, all at the same time.

            God's will is the actual mover itself in the context of the First Way. It's the "something else," not the potential per se.

            Suppose I take a sheet of paper, make an airplane out of it, roll it up into a ball and then burn it. Did God not will all these things to happen. Does he cease to will them when they cease to become actual?

            Are you trying to argue that, since God's will is necessary, what God wills must be necessary too, that God wills can't be contingent?

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            R: IF God’s will were the actual mover itself, THEN paper could become...
            L: God’s will is the actual mover…

            You don’t refute “if A then B” by simply reasserting A.

            Are you trying to argue that, since God’s will is necessary, what God wills must be necessary too, that god wills can’t be contingent?

            I agree that trying to explain contingent facts by appealing only to necessary facts is absurd. The point I am making is more specific having to do with whether causes that do not change can explain effects that do. Are you asserting that God’s will can change?

          • Lucretius

            The point I am making is more specific having to do with whether causes that do not change can explain effects that do. Are you asserting that God’s will can change?

            We can say that God can move in the sense that God's doesn't will everything at every time.

            When we say that God doesn't move, we mean that he has no passive potencies, not that he has no active potencies.

            In fact, he has all possible, and unlimited, active potencies, which is what we mean when we say he is omnipotent.

            God being the ultimate reason why anything is actual at all is a direct result from the understanding that passive potencies are not causes, which is clear from the nature of the concepts themselves.

            What your argument sounds like to me is that God cannot be the primary cause of all motion because he is unmoved, because if he moved something now, he would always move it. But I don't see any reason to accept this conclusion, because what we mean when we say that God doesn't change is not that his will is unchanging in respect to contingencies, but in rather that nothing in creation can change him.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            But I don't see any reason to accept this conclusion, because what we mean when we say that God doesn't change is not that his will is unchanging in respect to contingencies, but in rather that nothing in creation can change him.

            This seems to be asserting that what is changing is not God, but rather His relationship with some contingency (e.g. what time it is.) This would seem to imply that God of himself is not sufficient to explain the contingency, since in explaining one contingency you invoke not just God, but his relationship to some other contingency.

            Leaving that aside. If we do deem it sufficient to say that for example "God wills (and always has willed) that a supernova become visible to the people on earth at July 4, 1054 AD" for example, why not also assert that potentialities can exist in relation to a time in the same way. e.g. "the light of SN1054 has (and always has had) the potential to reach Earth at July 4, 1054, but not the potential to reach Earth any earlier or later"?

          • Lucretius

            Leaving that aside. If we do deem it sufficient to say that for example "God wills (and always has willed) that a supernova become visible to the people on earth at July 4, 1054 AD" for example, why not also assert that potentialities can exist in relation to a time in the same way. e.g. "the light of SN1054 has (and always has had) the potential to reach Earth at July 4, 1054, but not the potential to reach Earth any earlier or later"?

            All I'm saying, and all Chestek is saying, is that if such light with that potential existed, that that potential itself, nor any other potential, cannot actualize itself. If the event happens, it is because some power caused light to do that, in this case, the supernova radiating light at a certain time.

            All we are saying is what is moved is moved by another.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            When the light reaches the Earth, the supernova is no longer actual (hadn’t been for about 6000 years in the case of SN 1054.) As such, this is exactly the sort of per accidens causation the first way is trying to deny the sufficiency of. Aquinas did not deny the possibility of infinite regress among per accidens causes.

          • Lucretius

            Okay, but what conclusion are you drawing from this?

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            That you are trying to defend a weaker thesis than what Chastek is trying to defend, and one that, Aquinas at least, acknowledges is insufficient to support his first way.

            BTW, while I acknowledge the supernova as a cause of the light in the example I gave, I don’t regard a distinct past cause for a moving object as any sort of metaphysical necessity. A single photon moving at c from past to future infinity is a perfectly valid solution to the standard model equations of motion, and seems in no way absurd to me. I suspect the universe as a whole can equally be viewed as a similar “ self mover” solution to the equations of motion of a currently unknown theory of everything.

          • Lucretius

            I agree with Chestek because his premise is just derived from the definition of potential. What he's saying is that if potentials, what an object could be, were to actualize themselves, we would get people in multiple places, and so forth. But this is absurd.

            Once we understand what potential really is, it is obvious that potential must be actualized by something actual.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            Again. Why does this not also apply to God? Do you deny that God eternally wills things that are not actual (since they belong to the past or future?) Why do you not also say:

            “If God were to actualize what he wills, we would get people in multiple places and so forth”?

          • Lucretius

            Again. Why does this not also apply to God? Do you deny that God eternally wills things that are not actual (since they belong to the past or future?) Why do you not also say:

            “If God were to actualize what he wills, we would get people in multiple places and so forth”?

            God doesn't create potentials in the same way he makes actualities, because potential is not a kind of actuality. God creates potentials in so far as he creates the actuals from which they exist in relation to.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            I really have no idea what that claim has to do with the argument I'm making. Either you are deliberately avoiding the argument or you do not understand it.

            This is a shame, since if you want anything more than a superficial understanding of medieval Aristotelian cosmology, you need to understand, for example, the reasons the medievals had for thinking that an unmoved mover must act by causing the uniform circular motion of perfectly spherical celestial orbs. Those reasons were not merely the empirical success of the Ptolemaic system, but were intimately linked to the logic of arguments like Aquinas's first way, and they were closely related to my argument that an unchanging God can no more be thought of as the cause of motion than can a rarely actualized potential.

          • Lucretius

            and they were closely related to my argument that an unchanging God can no more be thought of as the cause of motion than can a rarely actualized potential.

            From what I think you've been saying, you seem to be of the assumption that potential is made real by God in the same way act are made real by God (via the First Way), which is why I said you sound like you are treating potential as a kind of act. Is that correct?

            When God "makes" potential, this is not the same as actualizing it, as is implied when you say "If God were to actualize what he wills, we would get people in multiple places and so forth." Rather, a correct understanding of the concept would lead to something more like this statement: If God were to make things with potential, we would get people capable of going to a multitude of places, not at the same time, of course, potentially, and so forth. To say that God being the source of potential would make all potential actual, which is what it sounds like you are saying, is simply a conceptional error.

            What do you think potential is,?

            What are the reasons medievals had for thinking that an unmoved mover must act by causing the uniform circular motion of perfectly spherical celestial orbs? If I recall correctly, it was due to their understanding of the nature of the Spheres, and the relationship between univocal and equivocal causes.

            Christi pax.

          • Ray

            From what I think you've been saying, you seem to be of the assumption that potential is made real by God in the same way act are made real by God (via the First Way), which is why I said you sound like you are treating potential as a kind of act. Is that correct?

            No. If I thought Chastek's premise 4 had anything to do with assuming that potential or act was made by God in a certain way, I would be accusing him of begging the question rather than simply inconsistently applying his principles. No, the key fact Chastek cites as why potentiality cannot be the cause of actuality is that "Potentials are multiple." That is the potencies outnumber the actualities they are meant to explain, and that they are present even when their actualities are not. But, the same can be said of God's active potencies, aspects of God's eternal unchanging nature and the eternal acts of God's will. You do agree that God's will does not change. Right?

            What are the reasons medievals had for thinking that an unmoved mover must act by causing the uniform circular motion of perfectly spherical celestial orbs? If I recall correctly, it was due to their understanding of the nature of the Spheres, and the relationship between univocal and equivocal causes.

            On quick search, the "univocal/equivocal" jargon seems in the right neighborhood, but it would do you well to speak plainly. The point is that Aristotelians thought the effect should resemble the cause, and so an unchanging cause should manifest through an unchanging effect. Since a uniformly rotating sphere looks the same at all times, it can be explained by something acting the same way at all times. At least that's the idea. I differ in that I don't think this is quite good enough. If the sphere's symmetry is broken by an attached luminary body, an attachment point for an epicycle etc., then it doesn't look the same at all times, therefore its actual position at a given time must be explained by something that changes with time, if it is to be explained at all.

          • Lucretius

            No, the key fact Chastek cites as why potentiality cannot be the cause of actuality is that "Potentials are multiple." That is the potencies outnumber the actualities they are meant to explain, and that they are present even when their actualities are not.

            I don't think he's saying that multiples are potentials, only that potentials are multiple.

            So, for example, it would be incorrect to argue that the Trinity being multiple is a result of passive potential.

            But, the same can be said of God's active potencies, aspects of God's eternal unchanging nature and the eternal acts of God's will. You do agree that God's will does not change. Right?

            We can say that God's active potencies are multiple. In fact, we can say they are infinite in variety, and in scope, limited only by logical possibility. This is what we mean when we say that God is omnipotent.

            I don't know any theologian that argues that every act of God's will is unchanging, and this view doesn't clearly result from God's lack of passive potential, and I would argue it doesn't.

            The point is that Aristotelians thought the effect should resemble the cause, and so an unchanging cause should manifest through an unchanging effect.

            Yes they did, but we both know that this doesn't mean that the effect is the necessarily the same sort of thing as the cause. For example, St. Thomas argued that all creation shares in some level of likeness to God, but only rational creatures share in his image, and only the Son and Spirit are actually equal to God.

            By the way, your post are quite thought provoking. I thank you for providing a better grasp of activity and potency to me :)

            Christi pax.

  • daniel

    All of this is a sophisticated attempt to show how modern science "really does" need a religious foundation of Philosophy. Much more intelligent than the fundamentalist who claims that modern science, or any science, for that matter, "really does" support the Bible.

    Also, this is one obvious answer to the response "Is not the religious philosophical approach important?"

    Although that is not the question for physicists.

    So, kudos to Professor Bonnette, but some of this simply points out the obvious. E.g., the outlook of a scientist about reality in metaphysical terms.

    Nonetheless, there is much spouting off about "Science" as if every physicist sees it this way along with the recognition that there are many variant outlooks.

    E.g., on the "epistemological nightmare," the difficulty is that he is treating one scientist's ideas as the epitome of the scientific community. This is alike to saying that Gregory of Nyssa believed that the damned would be saved and, hence, so all Christians must think this way.

    "Metaphysics achieves universal certitudes."

    What would Occam have said?

    Also, there are some philosophical principles in view of any science, even the simplest notion of induction to be sure, but Pauli, Heisenberg, Dirac, and Schrodinger went ahead and did pretty well in their work. Well, Heisenberg out of all them probably had the best handle on philosophical and humanistic ideas.

    Professor Bonnette comes too close to saying that Aquinas knew it all philosophically, which of course Aquinas did not.

    More to say, but it would be more interesting to note how the medieval scholasticism paved the way for such dialogue and, eventually, actual _empirical inquiry_ about the world.

    This was something Aquinas and the scholastics never did--as far as I know--and on that subject they are entirely deficient. (One may qualify this and count Roger Bacon but not in terms of modern _experiment_ but more in terms of alchemy.)

    Indeed, the materialist scientist cannot be blamed for seeing them as irrelevant but that would signify a shallow sense of intellectual history.

    Aquinas is relevant for today to try to see _one_ possible philosophical viewpoint for science and on those particular points the article is excellent.

    Quite honestly, however, if all of Aquinas' writings were lost and all the Aquinas scholars were dead, we would not be in worse shape because of it. (Well, I would not be happy about their deaths.)

    By contrast, if all the technological knowledge and scientific principles were lost, that would cause a great upheaval in most societies today.

    • daniel

      I would like to add that one could begin with Descartes and trace that line of epistemology right through the Rationalist line to the Empiricists, through Hume, and then to Kant who was "woken up" by Hume's proposal of difficulties; for most scientists that would be more than enough for a philosophical grounding of what used to be called "Natural Philosophy."

      Of course, this means that we could dump off all the scholastics, and the ancients too, into the dustbins of history. I do not think we should do that, but if we _need_ a grounding for science then the Thomistic approach is unnecessary.

      And I say that with no offense to Aquinas' brilliance but more with a nod to those who came later.

      • daniel

        Now that I think of it, the Bacon boys, Roger and later Francis, are much more important for science than Aquinas. I cannot imagine modern science without an empirical investigation and the inductive method (though the scientific method uses both inductive and deductive methods, to be sure).

        Well, Roger was a Franciscan and Aquinas a Dominican so maybe that is a point of controversy for a Catholic? Don't know.

  • If modern physics contradicts Thomism, then modern physics is false.

    • Richard Morley

      So you trust what seems 'self evident' to you and the conclusions you draw from that more than you trust actual evidence?

      • Of course. Anything which appears to contradict the elementary laws of logic is either false or has not been understood properly.

        • Richard Morley

          So you will believe what you think Ought to be true regardless of any evidence to the contrary presented to you? That is rather refreshingly explicitly dogmatic, but does rather raise the question of why you are discussing the issue here, if evidence is irrelevant?

          It is also about as diametrically opposed to the scientific approach as it could be, which is probably why some here (raises hand) find it hard to relate to. Nor are we talking about the elementary laws of logic, but conclusions some way down the chain of reasoning.

          For example, different people here have different ideas of what the Principle of Sufficient Reason actually says. How do you determine who is correct?

          • Rob Abney

            why you are discussing the issue here, if evidence is irrelevant?

            It is also about as diametrically opposed to the scientific approach as it could be, which is probably why some here (raises hand) find it hard to relate to

            What if he accepts most things as having reasons/evidence but has a few things he accepts irrationally, is he still considered to be reasonable enough to relate to?

          • Richard Morley

            One can certainly be dogmatic on some topics and not on others, but the topic of this thread is precisely the one on which he claims to be quite thoroughly dogmatic. So why even read the article if nothing could possibly refute Thomism to you?

          • Richard Morley

            Interesting that Dr Bonnette 'liked' that comment, yet in the article seems to argue that one exception to metaphysical principles would cause the sky to fall (metaphorically).

          • Rob Abney

            It seems he "liked" the irony of your inconsistency, on the one hand you are arguing for the possibility that things can exist without a reason and that that would not affect the reasons that we do accept, and on the other hand you are telling doughnutguy that he shouldn't concern himself with arguing since he accepts things that he has no reason for accepting.
            You may be able to nuance that equivalency in a way that is not equivalent though.
            Here's the issue we disagree on though.
            If a coffee cup suddenly appeared on the table in front of me and I accept that it appeared there with no reason, not an unknown reason but no reason, then why would I accept a reason for my dog to be sitting at my feet? I didn't observe my dog coming to this position although I would say the reason she is there is that she walked there, but why can I assume that if I accept that a coffee cup appeared with no reason?

          • Richard Morley

            ..on the one hand you are arguing for the possibility that things can exist without a reason..

            Asking why one acausal event or thing would cause one to abandon logic and reason altogether is not the same as asserting that such an event or thing exists. I would expect Dr Bonnette at least to understand that.

            on the other hand you are telling doughnutguy that he shouldn't concern himself with arguing since he accepts things that he has no reason for accepting

            Again, asking why one is discussing a topic on which apparently no amount of evidence would suffice to revise preconceptions is not the same as telling someone not to do so. Nor did I imply that he has no reasons. You seem determined to interpret everything in the most belligerent sense possible.

            Since we are on the topic, saying that I find it hard to relate to a point of view is also not the same as saying that someone is too unreasonable to relate to.

          • Asking why one acausal event or thing would cause one to abandon logic and reason altogether is not the same as asserting that such an event or thing exists. I would expect Dr Bonnette at least to understand that.

            You may wish to pile on my question about examples of "intellectual suicide", plus my follow-up on Dr. Bonnett's terms "intellectual suicide" and "total deconstruction of the intelligibility of our whole world" being rather intense. Admittedly, my strategy is to ask about what happens in empirical reality, rather than for pure reasoning.

            One possible objection is that Dr. Bonnett's two very strong terms nevertheless do not entail "abandon logic and reason altogether". Anti-intellectual people still apply logic and reason, they just don't do it consistently. They allow certain things to be contradictory and other things to remain unexplained. One could argue that such people find the world "intelligible" in a limited and twisted fashion.

            You seem determined to interpret everything in the most belligerent sense possible.

            Based on our interaction in the previous Idea of Progress blog post, I worry that you yourself have demonstrated a tendency to interpret comments in this way. Such interpretations can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

          • Richard Morley

            Based on our interaction in the previous Idea of Progress blog post, I worry that you yourself have demonstrated a tendency to interpret comments in this way. Such interpretations can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

            Well, I'm certainly interpreting that as yet another attempt to reignite pointless wrangling, so take that as you will.

          • I state my intentions are otherwise. Will you accept them at face-value or choose to dictate them yourself instead of letting me dictate them? (I don't want to see your discussion with @rob_abney:disqus go down the same road things went with you and me. Apparently I cannot apologize to you and have it mean anything, so you and I appear to be toast.)

          • Richard Morley

            If a coffee cup suddenly appeared on the table in front of me and I accept that it appeared there with no reason, not an unknown reason but no reason, then why would I accept a reason for my dog to be sitting at my feet?

            Why wouldn't you? Even accepting for the sake of argument that we know that the cup is without reason, it is just one acausal event out of countless causal ones you have presumably witnessed.

            I for one would think "Gosh, how extraordinary" (and "free coffee cup! is it empty?") and go on with my life one coffee cup richer. Since everything else in my life had obeyed the rules of causality, I would see no reason to reject them entirely, albeit I would now have a reason to believe that they were not as absolute as I had hitherto believed.

            Also, of course, I would try to understand these 'acausal' events a bit better, if possible. In the case of QM, for example, it only really applies on very small scales far outside my realm of direct experience. If you accept that our senses and reason evolved mainly to find food, avoid predators and have as much sex as possible, then it is wonderful that we are as good as we are at understanding subatomic events, not shocking that some aspects of them are non-intuitive for us.

          • Rob Abney

            our senses and reason evolved mainly to find food, avoid predators and have as much sex as possible, then it is wonderful that we are as good as we are at understanding subatomic events, not shocking that some aspects of them are non-intuitive for us.

            I see it differently, we are made to understand the world and all creation and food, sex, and safety are important components of the maintenance and continuance of rational man. Our conversations help me know more, hopefully you too.

            What does it mean that you would try to understand acausal events better? Does it mean you would search for a reason?

          • Richard Morley

            What does it mean that you would try to understand acausal events better? Does it mean you would search for a reason?

            Well, if we relax the initial stipulation that we know for a fact that there is no reason, sure.

            But even without that, just because there is no reason need not necessarily mean that there is no order to be found in the phenomenon. QM events such as vacuum particle pair creation are posited to be non deterministic and arguably 'uncaused' (depending on definitions) but still yield very precise, verifiable and verified predictions such as the Casimir effect.

          • Rob Abney

            even without that, just because there is no reason need not necessarily mean that there is no order to be found in the phenomenon. QM events such as vacuum particle pair creation are posited to be non deterministic and arguably 'uncaused' (depending on definitions) but still yield very precise, verifiable and verified predictions such as the Casimir effect

            Are you claiming that this refutes the PSR?

          • Richard Morley

            I'm not sure what you are asking. Something existing or happening without a cause is contrary to the PSR. So are QM events where only one of many possible eventualities becomes the actual one 'for no reason', if you take Leibniz' definition but apparently(?) not the PSR used by many here.

            Does that answer you?

          • Rob Abney

            You are saying that QM events are similar to your light switch example. In the light switch example you don't know the reason for the seeming randomness of the light turning on so you say there is no sufficient reason. I say there is a reason because lights only turn on from a limited number of possible causes even if we're not sure which cause was the reason, one of the causes is the reason.
            So QM events are not acausal but uncertain-causal, and because we expect the PSR to apply we keep looking to determine the reason.

          • Richard Morley

            Ah, OK. The light switch analogy is intended to refer to non-determinism not acausality, so situations where something has a cause but that cause could have had other results. Not P→Q, but P→one of (Q,R,S,T). Causality, not sufficient reason.

            The light switch was supposed to illustrate my assertion that in that case we intuitively expect there to be an additional reason, a 'hidden variable' in QM speak, that explains which of (Q,R,S,T) is actually true. Hence my support of the PSR requiring a sufficient condition P for every true statement Q, such that if P is true then Q is true.

            The Copenhagen interpretation does violate that - outcomes are probabilistic, not necessarily determined. The Bell inequality and multiple experiments trying to test it assert that no hidden explanation exists unless one discards locality and have 'spooky' action at a distance.

            Flavours of QM do also predict some events that might be described as acausal, depending on what one defines as a 'cause'. For example, the virtual particles - once you have a patch of spacetime, so the potential for particles to exist, then they will pop into existence randomly, spontaneously. Does that count as uncaused? Or if the universe exists just because that is what quantum gravity predicts, is that uncaused? In both cases, if the answer is 'no', what are you counting as the cause? If laws of physics can be causes, do they also need causes? Or the laws of logic? Does the PSR itself have a sufficient reason?

            Likewise, logical proof that "God exists" is true given the existence of the Universe is not the same as proving that God exists necessarily, independently of the Universe, and neither is an explanation of how God's existence comes about. (Usual proviso about temporal tenses and timeless entities)

          • Rob Abney

            the virtual particles - once you have a patch of spacetime, so the potential for particles to exist, then they will pop into existence randomly, spontaneously. Does that count as uncaused?

            Are scientists searching for the reason? If so they accept PSR .

          • Richard Morley

            Hm? You seem to be all over the place, and I'm really not sure what position you are arguing for or against. You seem not to be referring to the original topic of why one irrational event would cause you to abandon reason, and you're certainly not answering my questions.

            No one is suggesting that all scientists reject the PSR, most scientists, and for that matter people, would support some version, the problem is getting them to agree on one version to agree or disagree with. You are not alone in being reluctant to specify what you mean by it, in detail.

            Nor would your conclusion hold in general - scientists tend to not only look for proof of their theories but also try to falsify them, to find evidence that they are wrong. It's avoiding confirmation bias, and it is what you do if you want to find out what is the correct answer, not just find support for the answer you want to be true.

          • Rob Abney

            You are not alone in being reluctant to specify what you mean by it, in detail.

            I prefer Dr. Bonnette's version: the universal truth that all things must have reasons, and causes are merely reasons for things that do not explain themselves.

          • Richard Morley

            I prefer Dr. Bonnette's version: the universal truth that all things must have reasons, and causes are merely reasons for things that do not explain themselves.

            But that is little more than the lowest common denominator that everyone would probably accept as applying to the PSR, not a detailed definition of terms. The only real detail being that you imply that some things 'explain themselves' and so need no other reason.

            But you still do not define what you mean by 'things' that need reasons, or what those 'reasons' must be to be 'sufficient'. This is why those questions you did not answer were asked.

            Is a 'thing' that needs explanation just any existent material object (cue definition of 'material') or does it include 'things' like spacetime or laws of physics, or is any statement in need of a 'sufficient reason'. Does the principle of sufficient reason itself require a sufficient reason?

            Is logical inference from evidence 'sufficient reason', such as inferring God from a contingent Universe, or the existence of a green dragon in my basement from going and looking, or is only logical deduction from just the laws of logic good enough, or do we need an explanation of how it got there? For that matter is a reason that explains the presence of a green dragon good enough even if it would also explain a chartreuse dragon, or a purple unicorn, or a sparkly vampire and a not overly dressed werewolf in my basement? Or do we need a reason that explains why one is actual and not the others?

            Can something be its own sufficient reason? If P being sufficient reason for Q means that if P is true, then Q must be true, every statement is its own sufficient reason. So what is the difference with the 'things' you apparently claim 'explain themselves'? Are they not just in fact things that you claim need no reason?

            Can "it just is" be a sufficient reason? For anything or just some things such as the basic laws of logic? Or free will choices. I don't see how the law of non contradiction can have a proof, but my intuition is to go on hoping to drill down to a yet more fundamental understanding. But to avoid an infinite regress of reasons, at some point you need a reason that does not itself need a further reason. At which you have (almost) certainly violated someone's idea of the PSR.

          • Rob Abney

            How about this one: Everything which is, to the extent to which it is, possesses a sufficient reason for its being so that it is capable of explaining itself to the intellect.

            or do we need an explanation of how it got there? For that matter is a reason that explains the presence of a green dragon good enough even if it would also explain a chartreuse dragon, or a purple unicorn, or a sparkly vampire and a not overly dressed werewolf in my basement? Or do we need a reason that explains why one is actual and not the others?

            That the dragon is there needs a reason, that he is green or another color also needs a reason, that it is a unicorn needs a reason, that it is a vampire needs a reason, that it is not a werewolf does not need a reason although the fact that it is a vampire is a reason that it is not a werewolf.

            Can something be its own sufficient reason? If P being sufficient reason for Q means that if P is true, then Q must be true, every statement is its own sufficient reason.

            I don't understand that. P is the reason for Q.

            Are they not just in fact things that you claim need no reason?

            I don't claim that there is anything that needs no reason.

            I don't see how the law of non contradiction can have a proof

            This is proved because it is something that you know via the reasoning intellect, it is not based on sensation although sensation can be part of it.

            But to avoid an infinite regress of reasons, at some point you need a reason that does not itself need a further reason.

            yes. I agree.

            At which you have (almost) certainly violated someone's idea of the PSR.

            only a version that is not universal.

          • Richard Morley

            How about this one: Everything which is, to the extent to which it is, possesses a sufficient reason for its being so that it is capable of explaining itself to the intellect.

            You still haven't defined what counts as a 'thing' beyond implicitly limiting it to something which 'is', itself rather vague. At a pinch, this could still refer to statements or fundamental laws of logic, not just objects or events, needing a reason.

            Possible 'things' range from:
            'material' objects
            events
            both those and spacetime and laws of physics
            all those and laws of logic
            any statement
            ..and so on.

            Similar for reason - you sort of imply, by referring to 'a sufficient reason for its being' that you are limiting it to reasons for existence, in line with Plato's "everything that becomes or changes must do so owing to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause".

            That the dragon is there needs a reason,

            Still doesn't eliminate the different possible meanings of 'reason' there. A logical proof that the dragon is there does not necessarily give an explanation of how he got there, but either might satisfy a definition of the PSR. indeed I can't think of a proof of God's existence that offers an explanation in that sense.

            that he is green or another color also needs a reason

            Ah. Yet I gathered in previous discussions that you objected to adding 'and not otherwise' to the PSR? So if God's 'free choice' was to create this universe, rather than another or none, that needs a sufficient reason?

            that it is not a werewolf does not need a reason although the fact that it is a vampire is a reason that it is not a werewolf.

            Not terribly important clarification: that was a werewolf who was not overly clad, not a 'not a werewolf'. Pop culture reference.

            RM:Can something be its own sufficient reason? If P being sufficient reason for Q means that if P is true, then Q must be true, every statement is its own sufficient reason.

            I don't understand that. P is the reason for Q.

            Definition of "P is sufficient reason for Q" is P→Q. If P is true, then Q must be true.

            So what does it mean to say that Q is its own sufficient reason? Q→Q? Well, of course it does, that is true for any statement.

            So for the PSR to mean anything, it cannot just allow Q→Q to be sufficient reason for Q to be true.

            This is proved because it is something that you know via the reasoning intellect, it is not based on sensation although sensation can be part of it.

            If that means anything it seems to be just "it is self evident". In other words, it is true because it just is. There is no supporting argument, no sufficient reason.

            I don't exactly disagree, if that is what you mean, but it does seem to imply that we eventually drill down to fundamental truths that just don't have a 'sufficient reason'. We eventually get to 'a reason that does not itself need a further reason'.

          • RM: our senses and reason evolved mainly to find food, avoid predators and have as much sex as possible, then it is wonderful that we are as good as we are at understanding subatomic events, not shocking that some aspects of them are non-intuitive for us.

            RA: I see it differently, we are made to understand the world and all creation and food, sex, and safety are important components of the maintenance and continuance of rational man.

            It would be fun if your belief that humans were created for something grand were a self-fulfilling prophecy. You might even invent/​discover social structures which are non-intuitive to those who buy into the anthropological equivalent of the mechanical philosophy. A 'common good' which cannot be adequately described as merely a sum of individual 'private goods'? Could such a thing even exist had it not been designed to exist? Hmm, that insistence that there is one acausal event—the impersonal existence of the universe—could have rather drastic consequences, down to how one tries to order society and bless humans.

          • I see it differently, we are made to understand the world and all creation and food, sex, and safety are important components of the maintenance and continuance of rational man.

            That may be a different view, but it is not a contrary view. Whatever is necessary for my survival is also necessary for me to be a rational man.

          • Rob Abney

            Well, it's not your survival that is supported by those actions (you can live without sex for instance), its the survival of humanity that depends upon those actions.

          • it's not your survival that is supported by those actions

            For two out of the three actions you listed, it is.

            you can live without sex for instance

            Sure, but not without food or shelter.

            its the survival of humanity that depends upon those actions.

            So what? Humanity doesn't survive unless people survive.

          • Rob Abney

            Im not sure what point you are trying to make.

          • Im not sure what point you are trying to make.

            That in order to account for our cognitive abilities, we don't need to assume that they have any function except to keep us alive long enough to reproduce.

          • Richard Morley

            My original point was just that this is one reasonable and common explanation for our minds, by which our understanding of physics is wonderful and the apparently non intuitive nature of Nature is natural.

            If God designed us to comprehend His Creation, then one has to ask why we don't naturally think in seventeen dimensions, for example.

          • My original point was just that this is one reasonable and common explanation for our minds

            It's obviously common, and for the moment I'm not interested in denying that it's reasonable. The OP seems to be arguing that the naturalistic alternative is unreasonable, and I am interested in denying that.

          • Rob Abney

            I see it differently. Our cognitive faculties, or rather more specifically our ability to know the truth doesn't rely on sex or food, in fact we often see the truth much more clearly when we are suffering.

          • I see it differently.

            That's why you believe in God and I don't.

            Our cognitive faculties, or rather more specifically our ability to know the truth doesn't rely on sex or food,

            I don't believe that our cognitive faculties have any incorporeal existence. We can't have any cognitive faculties if we don't have bodies. We can't have bodies if we don't have food, and we would not have had them if any of our ancestors had not had sex.

          • Rob Abney

            RA: I see it differently.
            DS: That's why you believe in God and I don't.
            Yes, we agree.

          • in fact we often see the truth much more clearly when we are suffering.

            That might depend on how you define "often." In my own experience, suffering has impaired my critical faculties on more occasions than it has enhanced them.

          • Rob Abney

            The worst that can happen to a person is for him/her to suffer death, so the threat of death often leads to very clear thinking. Such as, you are standing in the street as a car is approaching, you accurately assume that causes have effects and that if the car hits you it is not just a series of events that could just as easily go back to the past, so you move quickly out of the street.

          • the threat of death often leads to very clear thinking.

            About what?

          • Rob Abney

            only the important things

          • the threat of death often leads to very clear thinking [about] the important things

            How was this discovered? Do we know who discovered it, when, and under what circumstances?

          • Rob Abney

            It has been observed on death beds, in foxholes, on death row.

          • Can you be more specific? I could say, in reference to anything I wish, "It has been observed."

          • Rob Abney

            Summary of a study: "thoughts of death increased implicit belief in supernatural entities just as much in skeptics as it did in the faithful."
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103112000534

          • I would consider that study as evidence that you're mistaken. To you, belief in the supernatural indicates good thinking. To me, it indicates bad thinking.

          • Rob Abney

            Can you explain what you mean by bad thinking?

          • Thinking that either ignores evidence or reaches conclusions unsupported by the available evidence.

          • Rob Abney

            Your definition describes an objective method to verify the validity of one's "thinking", but you claimed it as a subjective choice where I choose one way and you choose another. I would not choose to engage in bad thinking, and I don't suspect that you are implying that. But the study specifically found that believers and skeptics both implicitly believed in the supernatural when threatened with death. I don't consider that good or bad thinking but "focused" thinking upon what seems to be important and true at the moment; that was my point and the study agrees.

          • I don't consider that good or bad thinking but "focused" thinking upon what seems to be important and true at the moment; that was my point and the study agrees.

            You conflate importance with reliability. Merely focusing on a question provides no guarantee of getting the right answer.

          • Rob Abney

            As an atheist, do you agree with the study that you might focus on the supernatural when threatened with certain death, or would you expect to only focus on the subnatural - the finality of death?

          • My atheism gives me no reason to agree or disagree with the study. My understanding of human nature, such as that may be, tells me that it's nearly impossible to predict what a person will be focusing on when they think they're near death. Whether that study provides solid evidence the contrary, I cannot know without reading it in its entirety.

          • Rob Abney

            You didn't answer the question.

          • You didn't answer the question.

            You didn't understand the answer. I'll rephrase. As an atheist, I cannot either agree or disagree with the study. Disregarding my atheism, I could agree or disagree after reading the study, but I have not read it.

          • Rob Abney

            Ok, you didn't understand the question.

          • You asked whether I agreed with the study. I answered that question. If you meant to ask a different question, you'll have to tell me what that question was.

          • Rob Abney

            I'll rephrase. You are an atheist. The study says that believers and skeptics embrace the supernatural when faced with death. You probably would not expect that to happen although there is no way to know at this point since you are not faced with death. What would you expect to be the focus of your attention when faced with death if not the supernatural?

          • You probably would not expect that to happen although there is no way to know at this point since you are not faced with death.

            Not with imminent death, but when you get to be my age, one's mortality is never far from one's mind.

            What would you expect to be the focus of your attention when faced with death if not the supernatural?

            Hard to say, but there are actually numerous alternatives. I'm sure it will depend on the particulars of the situation. A short peaceful death is bound to focus my mind differently than a long painful one.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for answering.
            What are the circumstances that you refer to when describing a short peaceful death?
            Let's keep the discussion narrow in focus by eliminating consideration of a long painful death.
            And I'm interested in knowing what are some of the numerous alternatives that you would possibly focus on with imminent death other than the supernatural?

          • What are the circumstances that you refer to when describing a short peaceful death?

            Any circumstance that doesn't include physical suffering. A painless terminal illness would be an example.

            And I'm interested in knowing what are some of the numerous alternatives that you would possibly focus on with imminent death other than the supernatural?

            Here are some examples: https://www.quora.com/What-do-people-think-about-when-they-are-dying

          • Rob Abney

            Are these likely to be your possible final thoughts: cleaning out the closet, dividing up your possessions, leaving messages for loved ones, or getting the last word on SN !

          • They're all possible. It will depend on the situation my life is in when the end comes. The closet, though, is unlikely to have more priority then than it has had for the past several years.

          • Richard Morley

            There is a theory that our cognitive abilities developed this much because of sexual competition.

  • Enrico Stachoń

    Dr. Dennis, may I have your permission to translate this article to portuguese for the use of a study group about philosophy?

    • Dr. Bonnette has given his permission! Go for it!

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Before this becomes a battle royal between all the philosophers of history as well as all opposing physical theories, I want to make a few basic observations.

    First, I am not proposing that everything St. Thomas ever said is true, nor that Thomism can decide between strictly empirical scientific theories.

    What I am saying is that certain basic Thomistic positions, such as epistemological realism and the first principles, including that things have reasons, are true and that scientists actually must follow them in the search for physical truths.

    Second, while some critics may know about Hume’s inductive association of sense impressions or ideas and/or Kant’s a priori forms, they appear unfamiliar with the very different Aristotelian-Thomistic use of abstraction and judgment in forming universal first principles.

    Third, any attempt to deny these basic truths results in intellectual suicide. The extensive reductio ad absurdum in the OP -- and intellectual honesty (with no special pleading) -- reveal “sufficient reason’s” universal and necessary role in every intellectual inference dealing with reality. For example, though it cannot itself be empirically verified, every scientist must accept as true that observed phenomena actually reveal the nature of whatever might be the reason behind the phenomena – or science is impossible.

    Since these basic truths are presupposed by every scientific investigation, it is unnecessary to debate whether any of them are violated by “controversial” modern physics’ claims. It is a priori impossible that any experiment can actually disprove any tenet that was logically presupposed by the scientific method itself.

    Finally, regarding the so-called “B-theory” of time and “eternalism,” Despite loud “scientific” demands by some for its acceptance, the very fact that it is still today hotly debated among both physicists and philosophers is sufficient evidence that its scientific foundations are not incontrovertible. For the ongoing debate, see: https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-debate-over-the-physics-of-time-20160719/

    Any claim that change, in its common sense meaning, does not exist constitutes philosophical malpractice. It is not just a matter of common sense, but one of undeniable immediate experience. Even if it is illusory, it is real as an illusion, and illusions are part of reality that must be rationally explained.

    • Do you have some compelling examples of this "intellectual suicide", where at first the endeavor seemed promising before it exploded—due to violating those "basic truths"? I'm thinking of something which happened over a number of years, not in a single argument. It's helpful to have past-and-resolved examples to point to; before explosion, there is always wiggle room. And sometimes the logically problematic bits are not necessary to the endeavor.

      An example where one doesn't immediately result in explosion is in the interpretations of the two-slit experiment which Castellano dislikes; because there is great mathematical similarity between the probability distributions in the two-slit experiment and the propagation of classical waves, one can make great progress on that similarity alone. One way to construe Castellano's objections is that he's saying "the analogy is imperfect"; what I didn't see him do was show where the imperfections would yield significant real-world badness.

      One example of intellectual suicide I can think of is logical positivism; A J Ayer said "the most important" defect "was that nearly all of it was false" while John Passmore said it is "dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes" (WP: Logical positivism § Retrospect). So if that's your example, how about another? :-)

      • Dennis Bonnette

        No grand historical insight intended here. Just a thought experiment. Imagine that not everything needs a reason. Some say the cosmos as a whole has none. That is a pretty big exception.

        But if you really cannot be sure everything has a reason (I did not say “cause”), use your intellectual imagination to think of what that does to all reality – your thoughts, your inferences, scientific enquiry,
        you name it.

        Honest contemplation leads me to see the total deconstruction of the intelligibility of our whole world – mental as well as physical. Reread the last several lines of the OP paragraph beginning, “From the time a child begins … “

        I am sure some will not admit my conclusion. That is their free choice. But, I guess some of them also think that they are determined “by some reason” to that refusal.

        • But if you really cannot be sure everything has a reason (I did not say “cause”), use your intellectual imagination to think of what that does to all reality – your thoughts, your inferences, scientific enquiry, you name it.

          Honest contemplation leads me to see the total deconstruction of the intelligibility of our whole world – mental as well as physical. Reread the last several lines of the OP paragraph beginning, “From the time a child begins … “

          You keep saying this but it is false. Logic actually demands that not literally everything has an explanation, as I've shown to you over and over again despite your insistent denial. It does nothing to undermine science - because for one thing science doesn't answer all things. It doesn't explain to us why we even have a universe - according to the very proponents of the PSR and virtually every theist. Science works perfectly fine starting with a universe, and then trying to make sense of it. And also thinking that everything has a cause will inevitably lead many to make up reasons why things are, which will be false. Your fallacious argument from consequence doesn't work. Supernaturalism also undermines explanations, since it allows suspension of the natural order that cannot be explained in the normal course of events, and you'll never know how or why that happened.

        • You're using some pretty intense turns of phrase: "intellectual suicide" and "total deconstruction of the intelligibility of our whole world". If these were really happening, wouldn't they be observable outside of the imagination? (BTW, I have reason to think they are really happening, so I'm not being a skeptic.)

        • Ok say the cosmos has no reason for its existence. So what? What's the problem?

          I don't see something such a fact doing anything to my thoughts, inferences, or scientific inquiry.

          my assumptions about causation do not rely on there being some reason for the existence of the cosmos. Nor does the truth of the logical absolutes.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since the whole blooming cosmos does not need a reason for being, it is clear that the universal principle that things need reasons is not universal at all and may fail in any given instance.

            I know you are completely wrong. But I don’t have any reason to think you are wrong.

            That doesn’t matter since I don’t need a reason to think it and you have no reason to expect me to give you a reason. In fact, you need have no reason to disagree with me.

            You can just do it.

            I did not even have a reason to reply to your comment. I just felt like it.

          • Richard Morley

            So if one thing doesn't have a reason outside itself, do we have to abandon the idea that anything has a reason outside itself?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Where do you get the idea that every reason has to be a reason outside itself?

          • Richard Morley

            I didn't say it did, I just asked a question to try to clarify what you are saying.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Sorry. Just because one thing does not have a reason outside itself does not mean that other things do not. That is because, if a thing does not have a reason outside itself, it could still be its own reason for being.

            The principle that things need reasons does not specify whether the reason needs be outside a thing or that a thing somehow be its own reason for being. The problem arises only when one says that something has no reason for being whatever. It would also arise if one were to say that a thing that is not its own reason also has no extrinsic reason, since that amounts to denying that a thing has any reason at all.

            The principle that every effect must have a cause is simply a subdivision of "sufficient reason" in that it means that anything that is not its own reason for being (an effect) must have an extrinsic reason for being (cause). I believe I spelled all this out in a prior OP.

          • Richard Morley

            Just because one thing does not have a reason outside itself does not mean that other things do not.

            So: Just because one thing does not have a reason does not mean that other things do not.

            Do you not see the point of confusion here?

          • DB: Just because one thing does not have a reason outside itself does not mean that other things do not.

            RM: Just because one thing does not have a reason does not mean that other things do not.

            You deleted two words. Apparently you want to allow arbitrarily many things to have reasons which lie solely within themselves?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No. EVERYTHING needs a reason. The logical division has to do solely with where that reason resides: inside the thing or outside the thing. Must be one place or the other.

            It gets more complicated with real beings, since the complexity of their make up can entail partial dependence on another, while some aspects are self-explained.

            In case you are headed there, the traditional atheist position has been to say the world is eternal and explains its own existence. It has not claimed that it had no reason at all, since it always existed and has its own laws of nature. There is no need for God, since it is self-explanatory.

            Theism claims that the world is not fully self-explanatory and God is needed to explain it. God is self-explanatory since his essence includes his existence, and thus, he is a Necessary Being.

            I am not trying to prove who is correct -- just spelling out the alternative historical positions.

          • Richard Morley

            But if I were to assert that 'if one thing lacks a reason outside itself then there is no point looking for such reasons for anything', you can apparently see the problem. But not with your own equivalent assertion.

            I am not, to be clear, asserting that, nor that something has no reason, especially not without defining what counts as 'thing' or 'reason' in this context. Just trying to clarify what looks like a big hole in what seems to be a core point in your argument.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now you confuse me. You can have one thing lacking a reason outside itself, provided it is its own reason. As long as everything has either an extrinsic reason or is its own reason, the general principle that everything must have a reason is satisfied.

            Where is the hole?

          • Richard Morley

            Splitting this off, there are a couple of related points I wish to raise/repeat.

            You may recall from earlier discussions that I am a proponent of taking the word 'sufficient' in 'Principle of Sufficient Reason' literally. So if P is sufficient reason for Q, then that to me means that if P is true then logically Q must be true. From that point of view, it seems to me that allowing the assertion that anything (God) is its own sufficient reason reduces the principle to meaninglessness.

            For any P, P being true entails that P is true. So everything is its own sufficient reason if you allow such a thing to satisfy the PSR.

            Which gets back to needing to define exactly what you mean by 'thing' and 'sufficient' and 'cause'/'reason'/'explanation' in the principle that every 'thing' must have a sufficient cause/reason/explanation, and how you derive that principle other than by induction.

          • Richard Morley

            First, to clarify, I am not arguing that there actually is something with no cause. Nor am I asking you to reiterate the assertion that everything has a cause or that God is his own cause. Quite the opposite, I think it would be derailing the discussion.

            I am trying to unpack your assertion that (in my own words) if one thing has no reason then nothing has a reason, or can be expected (not known, just expected) to have a reason. In your own words: "If there is even a single exception to such universal rules, there would be no logical reason ever to expect such a “broken rule” to apply again."

            We know that many things have reasons, and trying to find them has been very fruitful on many fronts, not least of which is the practical application such as the gadgets we are using to have this discussion. Why would this cease to be useful if one thing turned out to be a brute fact that 'just is'.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            "If there is even a single exception to such universal rules, there
            would be no logical reason ever to expect such a 'broken rule' to apply again."

            Richard Morley, I am right now debating whether reality is grounded in Reason. That´s why I do not intend to fully participate in this debate about the Principle of Sufficient Reason. But I would like to make a quick remark on this issue.

            The Principle of Sufficient Reason, as I understand it, asserts that everything must have a reason, either intrinsic or extrinsic. If a being is contingent, its existence depends on the extrinsic reason, just as the moonlight depends on the light of the sun. An infinite series of moons would not explain where the light comes from.

            That´s why a brute fact destroys the intelligibility of reality: it explains the light by positing a moon; it explains the existence of everything by positing a contingent being.

            Human beings lack the ability to fly. Therefore, if I am flying, there must be an extrinsic reason for it: I may be on a plane or I may have Aladdin´s magic carpet, for example, but if I posit a non-flying (does this word exist?) object in order to explain my flight, I have not explained anything.

            If reality is ultimately a brute fact - then we are all flying on a car, we are all sustained in existence by a non-existent being, i.e., a being which is as contingent as we are.

            John Peterson summarizes this point by saying that essences are existentially neutral. These are his words in his book Introduction to Thomistic Philosophy:

            "For since what must be explained in a is a´s existence, this can hardly be accounted for by something else whose existence, like a´s, also requires an explanation. Otherwise one explains something in terms of itself, i.e., one explains what is indifferent to either existence or non-existence in terms of what is indifferent to existence or non-existence. Since, therefore, no explanatio is or includes the explanatum without circularity, it follows that the only sufficient cause or explanation of a caused being is a self-existent being."

          • Richard Morley

            There are a number of potential related topics such as the PSR itself, whether an infinite series of 'reasons' is possible, necessary or desirable, and so on. It is also an area where what one assumes to be two separate topics may turn out to be two facets of the same thing.

            So: I'm happy to discuss (most of) these, but first, to clarify, my initial question was about why one case where logic failed would lead one to abandon the use of logic altogether. That is simplified, and there is ample wiggle room for what exactly failed just once and what is being abandoned, but I just want to be clear that it seems to me that you are not talking about that but about a different (related) issue.

            My position: A rule that is known to be false, Newtonian mechanics for example, can still be very very useful. You just look for 'more true' replacements while still using the old one, and indeed we still use Newton because in many applications it is almost as accurate as the 'better' models, and far more practical.

            I am not arguing that something actually exists that has no cause, just trying to understand the conclusions some seem to draw from the hypothetical possibility.

          • Richard Morley

            As far as the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) goes, I am very much in favour of it. However I would argue that one has to explicitly define the PSR, specifically what one means by 'thing' and 'reason', or whatever terms are used, and what it refers to.

            Different people have very different ideas that they refer to as 'the PSR'. One point of contention here is whether a 'sufficient reason' can potentially justify any one of multiple possible alternatives, or if it must explain why things are 'thus and not otherwise' as Leibniz says. As I say here I favour Leibniz' version, which applies to any true statement and where 'sufficient' means just that. But I recognise that that leads to infinite regress, and determinism, which I don't mind so much. So I could reluctantly concede that some very basic axioms are accepted entirely without reason beyond 'it just is', such as the basic laws of logic.

            It is also worth distinguishing what the PSR itself says, and what possibly more limited aspect one is talking about. To illustrate: it is possible to define the PSR as applying to all statements while only discussing statements that some thing exists.

          • Richard Morley

            'Contingency' is another concept that can need careful definition. One being that a statement is 'contingent' if there are possible worlds in which it is true and possible worlds in which it is false.

            If you have the strength to wade through the combox discussion of "What is the True Understanding of Causality" you will see a lot of discussion on whether a necessary God can lead to a contingent universe without violating the PSR. If the universe is not contingent, the problem disappears. I think, I'm not entirely clear on your precise argument.

            I would just remark on the Many World's interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. In this, every possible outcome of a QM event occurs, just (possibly) in a separate 'universe' or wavefunction that no longer interacts with the other possible outcomes. So each 'exists' as seen from its own point of view while the others do not. Extend this to the 'creation' of the universe itself, and you have every universe possible existing, even including in a sense the null hypothesis of no universe.

            Actuality may be contingent, but possibility is not. By which I mean that while it may be 'contingent' (possibly true or false) that there is a tree in the quad ('quad'='courtyard' for non English speakers), whether or not it is possible for there to be a tree in a quad is not contingent. It can be deduced logically from adequate definitions of 'tree' and 'quad'. So if, fundamentally, 'existing' is actually the same as 'being possible to exist', then arguably the problem disappears. (Obvious hypothesis thrown out for hostile analysis)

          • On your first paragraph, yes if PSR is wrong, it is wrong.

            Again you seem to think that if not all things need a reason for existence, that this makes us incapable of applying logic, making observations, and so on. I fail to see why.

            I don't know if PSR is true or not. I can't think of how to confirm it if it were true. if it is false I don't see why that means I can't say that if you want to convince me of something you should provide reasons.

            Sorry. I may be too dim but I don't follow your argument here.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            In the case of logic, if you don't need reasons for your conclusions, why bother having premises? And why would it make any difference whether the form or matter of the reasoning is valid or true?

            If there needs be no reason for observed phenomena, what is the point of making the observations? The phenomena observed might have no explanation at all, in which case, what is the point of making the observations? Moreover, the real reason we make observations of phenomena is because we know that the phenomena do reveal something about reality and that we can therefore make inferences. All of this presumes that reasons are operative from phenomena to reality and from the mind to reality.

            That is why I said it is a thought experiment. You have to think out all the implications of really denying that things have reasons, or even that they might lack reasons.

          • That is why I said it is a thought experiment. You have to think out all the implications of really denying that things have reasons, or even that they might lack reasons.

            I do not deny that things have reasons. I deny that I am compelled to assume that all things have reasons. You assert that, among the consequences of that denial, “Science would be impossible.” If that were so, then I would contradict myself if I affirmed both “I don’t need to assume that all things have reasons” and “Science is possible.” But I don’t see a contradiction, and I have yet to see you or anyone else demonstrate why those two statements cannot both be true. I have seen it alleged, but never proved.

          • You might replace Dr. Bonnett's "Science would be impossible" with "Science would fizzle" or, to be more explicit, "Scientific discovery would approach an asymptote". My guess is he thinks scientists have by and large accepted the PSR in their work, not letting exceptions exist in their area of expertise. Were we to discard the PSR, this discarding would be gradual, as the population shifts from thinking and acting one way to thinking and acting another.

            Perhaps the area of science most willing to reject the PSR in its domain is theoretical physics. We accept statistical models and seem to have largely given up on drilling deeper. (Many attempts at drilling have failed; if we trust in the principle of induction…) And so we make one of the choices David Bohm presented:

                The assumption that any particular kind of fluctuations are arbitrary and lawless relative to all possible contexts, like the similar assumption that there exists an absolute and final determinate law, is therefore evidently not capable of being based on any experimental or theoretical developments arising out of specific scientific problems, but it is instead a purely philosophical assumption. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, 44)

            But if we choose to no longer drill deeper, there is still plenty of mop-up work to do; science could continue for quite some time. Likewise, if pure mathematicians were to stop doing pure mathematics with no current application, the results might only be really felt fifty or a hundred years from now.

            By the way, if we do make the choice to no longer drill deeper, we will eventually forget that at one point, we thought we could drill deeper. It'll become an historical curiosity. Along with Sean Carroll, we'll say that "… I'm thinking that the quantum state is the physical thing; there's no sort of hidden variable underneath." (Fluctuations in de Sitter Space, 18:14) Because alternative views take a tremendous amount of work to be viable enough for a scientific revolution, as long as we express significant doubt that there is a deeper layer to drill to, we won't put in the requisite effort. Efforts to drill will look silly and be mocked.

          • My guess is he thinks scientists have by and large accepted the PSR in their work, not letting exceptions exist in their area of expertise.

            I suspect they have. The PSR is, at least to Western minds, intuitively compelling. All I'm disputing is the claim that the scientific enterprise depends on the assumption of its truth.

            But if we choose to no longer drill deeper . . . .

            Why would we? My declining to assume that all X is Y does not commit me to assume the existence of any X that is not Y.

          • How is it not tautologous that to the extent that the scientific enterprise is ok with not looking for reasons, it will stop progressing?

          • I have said nothing about anybody being OK with not looking for reasons. I'm talking about a willingness to answer in the affirmative when asked, "Is it possible that what you're looking for does not exist?"

          • But to the extent that you believe it is probable that there is no reason is the extent that you won't undertake the often grueling effort to see what reason might exist. I know it's in vogue to allow for the "possibility" that anything obtains, but if it isn't detectable in behavior, I'm inclined to discount the assertion. And yet, to the extent that it shows up in behavior is the extent that the scientific endeavor is damaged. Or have I somehow erred?

          • But to the extent that you believe it is probable that there is no reason is the extent that you won't undertake the often grueling effort to see what reason might exist.

            That is a good point, but I have made no mention of probability yet. Since you bring it up, I guess it’s time for some mentioning.

            Since coming to this forum, I’ve done a lot more reading about the PSR than I had before, and one thing I’ve learned is that its defenders don’t all agree on exactly what they’re defending. Some of them do, however, claim that it is a necessary truth, in which case, by definition, they say that the probability of any phenomenon’s having no reason is exactly zero. In most contexts, when I say I reject the PSR, I claim no more than that I think the probability is not zero. Whether I will think it’s a waste of effort to look for a reason will depend on how far from zero I think it is. I know there is a nonzero probability that I can become a millionaire by buying a lottery ticket. Even so, I don’t buy lottery tickets, notwithstanding how much I wish I were a millionaire.

            I know it's in vogue to allow for the "possibility" that anything obtains, but if it isn't detectable in behavior, I'm inclined to discount the assertion. And yet, to the extent that it shows up in behavior is the extent that the scientific endeavor is damaged.

            As far as my behavior is concerned, I might as well believe that I have a zero chance of winning the lottery, but you would not be justified in discounting my claim to believe that, if I bought a ticket, I would have a nonzero chance of winning.

            I sympathize with your disdain for the anything-is-possible intellectual fad, and you’re right to point out that nobody acts as if they really believe it. But possibility can be a mighty slippery notion. On top of that, our linguistic conventions did not evolve to facilitate the maintenance of logical rigor in ordinary conversation.

            I obviously don’t believe that the PSR is a necessary truth. Otherwise, I’d be contradicting myself when I say we don’t have to assume the PSR. And so, on my worldview, if the PSR is true, it is contingently true. Do I think it is true? No, I don’t. Do I then think it is false? No, I don’t think that, either. I see no reason to commit myself either way. And, to the point of this discussion: I see no reason why the scientific community has to commit itself one way or the other.

            The scientific community is a human community, and it is human nature to seek reasons. We’re always asking “Why?” and we are powerfully disinclined to accept “There is no reason” for an answer. For most of us, even the answer “There is a reason, but we cannot know it” is very dissatisfying. We instead take our inspiration from David Hilbert’s epitaph, which is from a speech he gave in 1930: “We must know — we will know!”

            Reality, of course, is indifferent to our determinations and dissatisfactions, but my point is that it is those very determinations and dissatisfactions, deeply embedded in human nature, that drive the scientific enterprise. That enterprise will continue as long as some community, somewhere in the world, is prepared to support it, and sometimes even in communities that won’t support it.

          • I confess I don't really know what to do with a lot of the "necessary truths" which are bandied about. What I do know is that life is chock full of self-fulfilling prophecies. You really can believe some things into existence, and failure of sufficient belief can prevent those things from coming into existence. But you cannot believe just anything into existence. So how do you reach out into the unknown with sufficient confidence that your blood, sweat, and tears will not be in vain? Or do we foster a culture where most people just don't risk all that much? Perhaps we'll foster a culture of so much fear that certain speakers will cause inordinate emotional harm if they're allowed to speak on a campus.

            I don't know how it would matter if a scientist believes that the PSR is necessary in his/her field; I suspect it is sufficient that [s]he believes the PSR—or even acts as if it were true. Perhaps Dr. Bonnette could craft a logical argument for the importance of the 'necessary' qualifier—I have an intuition that one could make some progress in that direction—but in the meantime, all that really matters is a de facto commitment to the PSR.

            Perhaps what Dr. Bonnette is worried about is an increasing willingness to not drill further, to not keep asking "Why?" That doesn't have to be measurably occurring among scientists; if enough of the populace in countries where scientific funding is decided democratically tend in that direction, we have a problem. It doesn't need to start out as a global skepticism of gaining much more knowledge, either; it can start out in a few places and spread. I myself suspect that a large proportion of our political problems today stem from a refusal to look candidly into human nature, to see what's there instead of what we want to see. I suspect the worry of folks like Dr. Bonnette is that the anti-reasoning impulse is growing in ways that will show up calamitously to many—sort of like Donald Trump and Brexit were completely unexpected by many.

          • Perhaps what Dr. Bonnette is worried about is an increasing willingness to not drill further, to not keep asking "Why?"

            I sure worry about it, but I don’t think it has anything to do with what people think about the PSR. They can think everything has an answer while also thinking that we’re better off not knowing some of those answers.

            I myself suspect that a large proportion of our political problems today stem from a refusal to look candidly into human nature, to see what's there instead of what we want to see.

            On that point, you and I are very much in agreement.

            I suspect the worry of folks like Dr. Bonnette is that the anti-reasoning impulse is growing in ways that will show up calamitously to many—sort of like Donald Trump and Brexit were completely unexpected by many.

            I think the anti-reasoning impulse is prevalent and has much to do with how we got into the current political mess. I don’t think, though, that those of us who wish to promote reason are logically obliged to also promote the PSR.

            I confess I don't really know what to do with a lot of the "necessary truths" which are bandied about.

            The only sense I can make of the concept is this: A statement is necessarily true if and only if its negation either affirms or entails a contradiction. Otherwise, the statement is either contingently true or contingently false. Any other formulation, in my judgment, is at some level just question-begging.

          • LB: Perhaps what Dr. Bonnette is worried about is an increasing willingness to not drill further, to not keep asking "Why?"

            DS: I sure worry about it, but I don’t think it has anything to do with what people think about the PSR. They can think everything has an answer while also thinking that we’re better off not knowing some of those answers.

            Holding to the PSR (at least in one's domain of study, at least in a de facto fashion) would be a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.

            LB: I myself suspect that a large proportion of our political problems today stem from a refusal to look candidly into human nature, to see what's there instead of what we want to see.

            DS: On that point, you and I are very much in agreement.

            Huh, I'm not sure I knew this.

            I don’t think, though, that those of us who wish to promote reason are logically obliged to also promote the PSR.

            Ok, and then I would ask what happens where you deny the PSR's application—where you allow anything more than an irrelevant, remote possibility that there exists no explanation.

            The only sense I can make of the concept is this: A statement is necessarily true if and only if its negation either affirms or entails a contradiction.

            There is also a genealogical necessity, although there will be ambiguity between what was necessary and what was merely sufficient. If I assert, "It is wrong everywhere and always for humans to think this way.", and the result is that for all possible trajectories, had humans obeyed that they would never have achieved modern science, we could posit that it is necessary that humans thought that at least one time, and perhaps somehow, always.

          • I don’t think, though, that those of us who wish to promote reason are logically obliged to also promote the PSR.

            Ok, and then I would ask what happens where you deny the PSR's application—where you allow anything more than an irrelevant, remote possibility that there exists no explanation.

            What happens in that case is that I am obliged to explain, with a valid argument from undisputed premises, exactly why I believe there is a relevant and significant possibility of there being no explanation for whatever particular phenomenon we’re talking about. I have yet to hear of any phenomenon for which I would be even tempted to produce such an argument — and that includes the existence of the universe.

          • In that case, it sounds like you have never been tempted to deviate from the behavior of one who accepts the PSR. I wonder how you could be given sufficient reason to think that the principle of sufficient reason is false. :-D

          • it sounds like you have never been tempted to deviate from the behavior of one who accepts the PSR.

            The only time I need to is when someone uses it explicitly as a premise in an argument. So far as I've noticed up to now, the only people who do that are apologists for certain varieties of Christianity.

            I wonder how you could be given sufficient reason to think that the principle of sufficient reason is false.

            I can't think of anything specific, but then I haven't tried, because I don't need to prove it false. It suffices for my epistemology that I'm not obliged to think it's true. If there is a proof, I'm guessing it would be a proof by contradiction.

          • The only sense I can make of the concept is this: A statement is necessarily true if and only if its negation either affirms or entails a contradiction.

            There is also a genealogical necessity

            When philosophers talk about necessary truth, as I understand the literature, that is not the kind of necessity they have in mind.

            If I assert, "It is wrong everywhere and always for humans to think this way.", and the result is that for all possible trajectories, had humans obeyed that they would never have achieved modern science, we could posit that it is necessary that humans thought that at least one time, and perhaps somehow, always.

            That would be a practical necessity, something we have to do in order to achieve a certain end. When philosophers talk about necessary truths (if I’m understanding them correctly), they mean, in the most generic sense, statements that cannot be false, i.e. things we can believe without even a hypothetical possibility of error. It seems to me that the only statements so characterizable are those whose negations are contradictory. The statement “Modern science was never achieved” contradicts historical fact but is not itself a contradiction.

          • When philosophers talk about necessary truth, as I understand the literature, that is not the kind of necessity they have in mind.

            As I said two replies earlier, "I confess I don't really know what to do with a lot of the "necessary truths" which are bandied about." If the matter does not robustly touch down on practical reality, I have a hard time knowing what terms even mean. I can manipulate abstract symbols according to formal rules if I have to, but then we're no longer talking about reality. This is one reason I pressed Dr. Bonnette on how "intellectual suicide" from denying the PSR would play out/​has played out.

            The statement “Modern science was never achieved” contradicts historical fact but is not itself a contradiction.

            If you cannot properly describe "modern science" because you have denied a necessary condition for it, then you don't have a contradiction, but neither do you have an assertion.

          • As I said two replies earlier, "I confess I don't really know what to do with a lot of the "necessary truths" which are bandied about."

            I had occasion a couple of posts ago to note that some defenders of the PSR claim that it is a necessary truth. All I've been trying to do since then is explain why I disagree with them.

            If the matter does not robustly touch down on practical reality, I have a hard time knowing what terms even mean.

            The only thing that matters is what your interlocutors mean, assuming that you're interested in communicating with them. If you're not sure what your interlocutors mean, you ask them for clarification. If they won't provide sufficient clarification, then it becomes their problem, not yours.

            I can manipulate abstract symbols according to formal rules if I have to, but then we're no longer talking about reality.

            We can't talk about reality without using the abstract symbols commonly referred to as "words."

            If you cannot properly describe "modern science" because you have denied a necessary condition for it, then you don't have a contradiction, but neither do you have an assertion.

            I have not attempted to describe modern science because I've been assuming that you and mean the same thing when we talk about it. You can challenge that assumption if you think it's unwarranted.

          • The only thing that matters is what your interlocutors mean, assuming that you're interested in communicating with them.

            The genealogical integrity of what they mean or the lack thereof also matters.

            We can't talk about reality without using the abstract symbols commonly referred to as "words."

            And yet, we don't solely use words "according to formal rules". This would appear to be a red herring.

          • TheNuszAbides

            our linguistic conventions did not evolve to facilitate the maintenance of logical rigor in ordinary conversation.

            now that is worth memorizing as a sort of mantra. i am borrowing it immediately.

          • No I get if you want to make a cogent argument you need premises. But that is not what PSR says. Is it? It says there is some kind of cogent argument underlying the existence of all things.

            I know this may sound not picky but your rhetorical question of "why bother" seems to move this more in a direction of my psychology rather than some metaphysical truth. Certainly I may bother because I have a limited understanding of the universe and in the form such as it is now, I observe cause and effect, chronological time, and so on, so in arguing with others we establish rules that seem to fit. this doesn't mean we have foreclosed arbitrary or random events. In fact we acknowledge them in our daily lives.

            Even if our daily experience of randomness is not random, surely we can accept a cosmos in which there are reasons for some events and others are arbitrary?

            Certainly if we are considering things like causation in a framework absent time and space or where these variables are infinite, we can be excused for suggesting these fundamental principles or our understanding of them may be myopic or wrong

            You keep switching from PSR "there needs to be a reason for all phenomena" to a straw man of "If there needs be no reason for observed phenomena"

            We observe phenomena and try and make predictions in circumstances where we believe we can make predictions. Doinf so is not an evidence that all phenomena have a reason. Though I grant you inductively this follows but when we observe situations where the context for this induction breaks down, on a quantum level for example, we can be warranted in questioning this inference.

            Not to mention that we seem to clearly have a cognitive bias to see more patterns to assume reasons more than we find examining phenomena with critical thinking. PSR belief may very well be an artifact of this evolved bias.

            Yes we presume reasons, but our presumption does not imply there are reasons.

            You misrepresent PSR again in your last sentence. Surely you can recognize the difference between denying anything has reasons and denying all things have reasons?

          • Ok say the cosmos has no reason for its existence. So what? What's the problem?

            I don't see something such a fact doing anything to my thoughts, inferences, or scientific inquiry.

            There are plenty of ways reality could be if it were designed, which are ridiculously improbable (for all we know) if reality were not designed. What you believe determines what you think could plausibly exist. That determines your actions and if part of our duty is to bring most excellent realities into existence, failure to believe means failure to act with perseverance.

            One way to understand God's apparent absence from the Western world (I hear plenty of accounts that those in the "Global South" who are not among the intellectual elite do think they experience God acting) is that we told him we could do it better than him. Being more interested in us believing for good reasons than on authority(!), he is giving us the chance to create awesome. If we fail for long enough he'll come through as he always has, but he allows for a lot of failure (e.g. 400 years for the iniquity of the Amorites to be complete).

            But if you've drunk the methodological individualism Kool-Aid, then maybe God has nothing [further] to give you that you want. And we have by and large drunk that Kool-Aid. Perhaps this was partly because previous forms of 'common good' were small and oppressive—humans do like to rebound from one extreme to the other. If we believe that facts are divorced from values—and we by and large do—then God presenting 'evidence' of his existence would be nigh useless. He can say "There is a better way!" and do all sorts of miracles and it would be 100% irrelevant, except to those who merely want to gain more power over nature and people. It is doubtful that humans' greatest need at this juncture is increased power over nature and people.

            What you believe actually matters. Failing to realize how all the threads of thought connect is a component of "intellectual suicide".

          • I don't see the relevance of this comment to the issue.

            You seem to be responsible to a divine hiddenness argument

            The issue here is, if PSR is false, does this impair our ability to make inferences or use logic. I don't this it does.

            I don't know if it does, I don't have a position on it. I do have position that until we can understand if it is true or not we should keep all options open.

          • You claimed that the cosmos having no reason for its existence doesn't bear on your "thoughts, inferences, or scientific inquiry"; I argued that it does. It closes off options as being too implausible to consider.

          • I was saying I don't see how it impairs my ability to make inferences etc. if the universe had no reason for its existence, which is what I understand to be Dr Bonnettes point.

            I don't see anything related to that issue.

          • It closes you off to possibilities. How is that not relevant?

          • What position is it that you think I have taken and what possibilities do you think I have closed off?

          • This is the position you've taken which I say closes off possibilities:

            BGA: Ok say the cosmos has no reason for its existence. So what? What's the problem?

            I don't see something such a fact doing anything to my thoughts, inferences, or scientific inquiry.

            I thought the following was sufficient to hint at what kinds of realities you've closed off:

            LB: There are plenty of ways reality could be if it were designed, which are ridiculously improbable (for all we know) if reality were not designed. What you believe determines what you think could plausibly exist. That determines your actions and if part of our duty is to bring most excellent realities into existence, failure to believe means failure to act with perseverance.

            You can easily understand the underlined in the light of scientists who lose confidence that their blood, sweat, and tears will lead to something good. What would happen if enough lose confidence? Scientific progress would taper off. The same is true for democracy. Nations really do lose the will to survive.

            Perhaps it would help to distinguish between perception and action. You may be focused mostly on the former and it's my guess that philosophy tends to focus much too much on the former. Perhaps that is why the measurement problem took so many by surprise. But we have to act in reality in order to further explore it, and what we believe—or refuse to believe—will determine what we can and cannot explore.

            Here's an example of how this would work out. A common trope in literature is what people choose to do when face with a moral decision which will either never be made known (so why make the hard choice?) or will doom the chooser to death. If we believe that reality in no way tracks what we do (cf. 1 Cor 15:58), we will act differently. You can see a simple version of this today with those who deny or don't care about climate change: they just aren't sufficiently interested in how their actions will resonate through time. How you believe on these matters powerfully shapes the future. Scientific inquiry tends not to do so well when civilizations crumble.

          • I was saying I don't see how it impairs my ability to make inferences etc. if the universe had no reason for its existence, which is what I understand to be Dr Bonnettes point.

            It closes you off to possibilities.

            Brian will speak for himself, but it doesn't have to close me off. As long as I think it possible that I'm mistaken, I can believe that the universe has no reason while remaining open to the possibility that it does have a reason.

          • Someone who does not believe there is more than a small possibility that science is possible is not going to be one of the people making science actual. Likewise for other potentials for excellence. Being open merely in theory to whatever is pretty meaningless.

          • Someone who does not believe there is more than a small possibility that science is possible is not going to be one of the people making science actual.

            I don't see how that relates to my claim that one can do science without presupposing the PSR.

          • I just dealt with the aspect of "necessary truths". If a scientist's actions are fully compatible with him/her believing the PSR in the domain being theorized about and/or experimented upon, then I'm not sure what the difference is between presupposing it or merely acting (quite persistently) as if it were true.

    • You make the mistake that scientists are attempting to establish physical truth. This is not the case. Science creates models to understand observations. Whether any of this is "true" is a matter for philosophy.

      Philosophy of science does base itself on some assumptions but an A-theory of time is not one of them. B-theory of time seems to work fine in some theories. The fact that you acknowledge the live debate as you do that PSR is controversial among philosophers, should caution you to wean down your rhetoric of claiming intellectual suicide for those who disagree with you.

      I think you have misrepresented some of the science here as well. Relativity does not say that causation is false. It does acknowledge that the order of events depends sometimes on the observer. But causation is maintained by way of the space/time interval. Or at least that's what PBS Spacetime told me.

      • You make the mistake that scientists are attempting to establish physical truth. This is not the case. Science creates models to understand observations. Whether any of this is "true" is a matter for philosophy.

        In that case, why did Galileo insist that heliocentrism was 'physically real' instead of merely arguing that it 'saved the appearances'? Had he done the latter, he would not have been put under house arrest and he might never have been put on trial in the first place.

        • who knows. But are you disputing what I said about science and truth?

          • Yes, I'm disputing it. Galileo did precisely what you say scientists don't do.

          • So you think science is about finding truth? Absolute truth, not just making inductive inferences from observation?

            I mean this seems rather silly. No scientific conclusions claims absolute truth does it?

          • I'm not sure what this 'absolute truth' thing is you're talking about. I am sure that Galileo was persecuted for insisting that he was investigating what was 'physically real' instead of merely providing hypotheses which 'saved the appearances'. You might also note that Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was never banned, only withdrawn pending slight clarifications—that his heliocentrism was merely a hypothesis.

          • I'll forgive Galileo for being naively uninformed about the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism, and I don't think the distinction was particularly relevant to him. Suppose you ask a scientific realist and an anti-realist "what is an electron".

            The Realist Answer:
            "Electrons are objects with properties A, B, and C, whose existence and properties were inferred from experimental observations X, Y, and Z."

            Anti-realist Answer:
            "Electrons are theoretical objects which are postulated to exist and to have properties A, B, and C in order to explain experimental observations X, Y, and Z."

            For most practical purposes, these answers are indistinguishable. In fact, the reason why we're drawing the distinction now is because we're engaged in a debate with someone asserting that the scientific enterprise is only coherent in a universe with Thomist metaphysics.

          • I'll forgive Galileo for being naively uninformed about the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism, and I don't think the distinction was particularly relevant to him.

            If the distinction weren't particularly relevant to Galileo, why did he insist that his theory was 'physically real' instead of that it merely 'saved the appearances'? He was willing to undergo a lot of suffering to affirm 'physically real'.

          • It wasn't the same distinction. Contemporary scientific anti-realists are making a fundamental, "in-principle" claim about the limits of empiricism. Galileo, meanwhile was trying to make a claim specifically about how the Copernican model ought to be interpreted.

            It's helpful to remember that, when it was first developed, the Copernican model was framed as a practical tool to help predict the position of the planets, and NOT an approximation of physical reality. This was in no small part because it postulated things that were thought to be directly contradicted by our day-to-day experience (e.g. our inability to feel the motion of the earth). Galileo did a huge amount of work to demonstrate that the Copernican model wasn't actually contradicted by our day-to-day experiences-- hence why he would insist that it reflected reality.

          • I'm having a hard time interpreting what you've written so far as anything other than a rejection of Brian's stance:

            BGA: You make the mistake that scientists are attempting to establish physical truth. This is not the case. Science creates models to understand observations. Whether any of this is "true" is a matter for philosophy.

            Do you think you're 100% in agreement with him?

      • In the previous SN article, you said:

        BGA: With Galileo we see an attempt to clash science with theology …

        Here, you have said:

        BGA: You make the mistake that scientists are attempting to establish physical truth. This is not the case. Science creates models to understand observations. Whether any of this is "true" is a matter for philosophy.

        Given that the Galileo affair was all about Galileo insisting that his theory was 'physically real', on your reasoning it would appear that either:

             (1) There was zero clash between science and theology, or:
             (2) Galileo was trying to pass theology off as science, thereby creating the clash.

        However, I am rather certain that anyone reading your claim about a clash would believe you were communicating a very different thing:

             (3) Galileo was trying to do science and theology clashed with this.

        Important here is that as long as Galileo was willing to treat his science as a 'hypothesis', as 'saving the appearances', the RCC would have no problem.

         
        Have I missed something?

        • I think there was a clash between Galileo's findings and catholic dogma. The point I was making at that the event of the clash between Galileo and the church meant that early enquirers into the natural diverged from trying to harmonize science and theology. It grew more into its own practice after this. I think it was probably quite influential to n Kepler who really got the empirical revolution going for example when he stopped trying to fit planetary motion into the Platonic solids and started letting the evidence lead where it would.

          No I don't think Galileo was making only a hypothesis but that this had been confirmed by empirical observation.

          • I think there was a clash between Galileo's findings and catholic dogma.

            But according to your definition, there was zero clash in the scientific domain. The RCC, in requiring Galileo to assert his discovery as merely a 'hypothesis', was merely requiring him to not tread on religious ground—on what is 'physically real'.

            No I don't think Galileo was making only a hypothesis but that this had been confirmed by empirical observation.

            You're conflating a 17th century definition of 'hypothesis' and a 21st century definition. That's why I added the term 'saving the appearances', which explicitly references observation. For a hypothesis to save the appearances is for it to match up to observation. The RCC was happy for Galileo to present a different way of saving the appearances.

          • The issue I commented on was whether science today is trying to discover truth.

            Are you saying it is?

          • Galileo thought he was discovering truth. He insisted he was discovering truth. Whether I think he was is irrelevant; I'm operating off of two assertions of yours.

          • cool.

          • So according to your definition of 'science', Galileo was not "doing science" when he claimed that his theory was 'physically real'. He was doing something else … maybe religion?

          • No Galileo was not doing science in the context of my comment above, which is modern science that Dr Bonnette is discussing in this. What Galileo was doing was probably better described as natural philosophy, transitioning into what would eventually become modern science with its own philosophical framework that is very much about developing models that accurately explain observation, but do not engage in questions of truth.

            My point in the other thread was about how the clash with the church helped drive science more into the empirical and practical realm. Or at least establish some demarcation, "you let us get on with the adding up and we'll leave the eternal verities to you philosophers" to misquote my namesake.

          • So according to you, theology clashed with the part of pre-science that didn't turn into science. Perhaps you can understand how I got a very different message from "With Galileo we see an attempt to clash science with theology".

          • Yeah I can see that. But your real problem is that you are dealing with two separate comments in different contexts. Rather that discuss the points I am making in those comments you have identified a different use of the word science on both.

            In this thread I am talking about philosophy of science as opposed to the methods of science all in the contemporary context. In the other thread I am discussing the history and development of scientific enquiry in the Middle Ages.

            In this thread I am saying that it is a mistake to think that modern scientists are looking for absolute truth, rather they are building models and reaching conclusions based on a number of assumptions. I think it is fair to say that any current scientist might use words like true in describing discoveries. But if pressed would acknowledge the assumptions and should be welcoming of better investigations that disprove all their work.

            In the other I am saying that we see early enquiry into the natural world was very intertwined with religious and theological enquiry. In fairness pretty much all non practical enquiry was. in the late Middle Ages for all kinds of reasons this connection was fraying. the clash between Galileo and the church, was a warning to emerging scientists. It was a well known story in which a proto-scientist was had to recant a discovery that turned out to be true. The message to catholic countries, irrespective of what really happened, was that: even when you are right the church may threaten your life.

            We then see discoveries peter out in Italy and Catholic countries. For example. If you are Kepler and you accept heliocentricism and want to understand planetary motion. You are not going to approach the Catholic Church for funding or pick up a post teaching in Rome are you?

            the point was simply that this episode was a catalyst for demarcation.

            Now to bring it all together. A demarcation that has envoked different parameters on various disciplines of enquiry, such as that of science and philosophy. This demarcation is by no means absolute. Scientists need a philosophical framework by which to work and interpret their results. This is, that they make metaphysical assumptions such as the material world exists and we can make inferences from our observations. But one of those philosophical assumptions is not, that when a theory becomes widely accepted by thousands of observations that it is philosophically true. And we see this played out in the problems of harmonizing quantum theory and relativity. Scientists know something here doesn't add up and that if these can be harmonized some of one of these theories is wrong in some way. So we have scientists acknowledging the weakness and contingency of their conclusions. And they know this darn well because they learn how time and again well established theory was turned on its head, such as there being a privileged reference frame in the universe.

          • the clash between Galileo and the church, was a warning to emerging scientists. It was a well known story in which a proto-scientist was had to recant a discovery that turned out to be true. The message to catholic countries, irrespective of what really happened, was that: even when you are right the church may threaten your life.

            I see, so any scientist who (i) refrained from insulting one of the most powerful people in the world; and (ii) refrained from asserting that his/her theories were 'physically real', was in mortal danger?

            We then see discoveries peter out in Italy and Catholic countries. For example. If you are Kepler and you accept heliocentricism and want to understand planetary motion. You are not going to approach the Catholic Church for funding or pick up a post teaching in Rome are you?

            The RCC encouraged Copernicus and was happy for his works to remain in print with the 'saves the appearances' qualifier.

            the point was simply that this episode was a catalyst for demarcation.

            I've never come across this idea, not in talking to scientists or philosophers of science and not in reading what either has written. The closest I've seen is that science was shorn of teleology and the primary/​secondary quality distinction. WP: Instrumentalism asserts that it started in the 20th century. So … are you being incredibly anachronistic, here?

          • I don't know about that. The point making in that other thread was the message to emerging scientists was that the things you discover by empirical means can he you killed by the Catholic Church.

            Ok i get what you're saying with Copernicus. If what is meant by saves the appearances that this allows us to make our calendar but I'm not saying the earth revolves around the sun. Sure Galileo was saying his observations actually made him conclude heliocentracism was what was actually happening. In this sense he meant this is true. But this is "truth" in an empirical sense. Not the philosophical sense that Bonnette is using.

            Well you've come across the idea now. I believe I got it from Ascent of Man. But that was more about how in its wake we stop seeing advances in science come from catholic countries. I think there was a chilling effect.

          • I'm afraid I don't see a difference between your ""truth" in an empirical sense" and your "physical truth". I don't see why I shouldn't equate Galileo's 'physically real' with "physical truth".

            I would want to see actual data that the RCC had, on average, a chilling effect on science. Perhaps a gander at WP: Conflict thesis is in order.

          • A philosophical truth would be an objective truth something that is absolutely the case. A fact.

            An empirical "truth" is a statement contingent on certain assumptions. For scientist these are always that problems of sollopsism and induction are not problems and that their observations are not mistaken.

            I think Copernicus was not doing either of these but rather saying he had come up with a fiction to help make better calendars etc. but that he wasn't saying any of this was really happening or true. (My guess is that he did think it was really happening but needed this caveat to avoid a clash with the church, I heard somewhere that early thinkers would often place similar caveats.)

            As for data on chilling effect I would like this too. One thing we can look at is who and where the ground-breaking discoveries were made before and after Galileo, discoveries that might challenge catholic theology

          • It seems that Galileo would say his observations of the phases of Venus were objectively true, absolutely the case, facts. Today, I wouldn't be surprised if many who assert that "evolution is a fact" mean it in the strongest sense.

            Now, maybe what is really going on is that these "philosophical truths" aren't supposed to impact the ordering of society (at least, not in ways that violate the separation of church and state)—only empirical truths get that privilege. It would have been exactly the opposite in 1600s Europe: only truths taught by the Church were supposed to shape society.

            I haven't researched enough to see what Copernicus thought but was unwilling to make available to RCC censors; what I do know is that his model was scientifically inferior to the Ptolemaic model, when judged by knowledge of his time. The phases of Venus had not yet been observed. Copernicus needed more epicycles and the Sun wasn't at the exact center.

            Until you can actually produce evidence that the RCC had an overall chilling effect on scientific innovation, why advance the idea, especially given the scholarly consensus reported at WP: Conflict thesis?

          • Yes. When people say today speak of truth, real, fact, they are not usually using these words as I defined them or in this context.

            If we are talking about philosophical truths these will affect what they affect. There is no issue of supposed or privilege. The facts are what they are. Whether we know the facts is another question.

            I advanced it because I wanted to chat about my thoughts and speculate in a forum designed to foment dialogue. I think that's a fine reason.

          • It was not clear you were merely speculating.

          • Ok, when I say "I think" and am talking about a change in attitudes hundreds of years ago without pointing any evidence, you can assume I am speculating.

    • daniel

      Well, one problem is that the article does come across in the manner you state is not its function. And you do it a bit again here, to wit;

      "First, I am not proposing that everything St. Thomas ever said is true, nor that Thomism can decide between strictly empirical scientific theories.

      "What I am saying is that certain basic Thomistic positions, such as epistemological realism and the first principles, including that things have reasons, are true and that scientists actually must follow them in the search for physical truths."

      Despite the opening qualifier on this point, let me say that if I had a nickel for every academic who proposed the importance of their favorite thinker was such that if a particular group did not follow it then it would collapse then, well, yes, I'd be rich.

      I'm thinking in particular of Susanne Langer's gushing over _Prinicipia Mathematica_ which I understand no more than I understand Aquinas, but certainly respect the series of symbolic logic that follows through the work via Langer's recommendation.

      Anyway, as far as I'm concerned this is an excellent article for anyone doubting Thomas' importance (pun intended!) and I'm assuming that this has been published elsewhere having undergone peer-review. It's great food for thought for those of us tired of pop culture (where's Horkheimer when you need him?).

      Always nice to have qualified people discuss these serious issues on Disqus.

      And no question to me that Aquinas proposed a sturdy realism but the next question is whether this had any influence *directly* upon the eventual formation of science.

    • flan man

      "First, I am not proposing that everything St. Thomas ever said is true"

      I would hope not. I find it interesting that "Thomism" has kind of come to mean a subset of what Thomas wrote. I don't see many Thomists discussing Aquinas's theories of whether semen is produced from surplus food these days. Or whether the active force is in the semen or whether semen proceeds from the active force as opposed to an organ. Or whether female sexual organs will remain at the Resurrection. Not a lot of think pieces on his theory of celestial bodies possessing souls and intelligence anymore. And yet he provides much philosophy in support of all of these.

      Why is this discounted? Why is it that pretty much anything Aquinas wrote concerning biology and physics sounds patently ridiculous these days? How could he be so drastically wrong about things of this world, and yet at the same time figure out the whole nature of creation and God? Could it be, just maybe, that those things aren't empirically provable, and that's the only thing that saves them from joining the theories of planets having souls and separate intelligences that move in their orbits by love and desire for the unmoved separate intelligence in the dustbin of history?

      • Rob Abney

        Could you provide a reference?

        • flan man

          http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1118.htm

          Reply to Objection 4. In perfect animals, generated by coition, the active force is in the semen of the male, as the Philosopher says (De Gener. Animal. ii, 3); but the foetal matter is provided by the female. In this matter, the vegetative soul exists from the very beginning, not as to the second act, but as to the first act, as the sensitive soul is in one who sleeps. But as soon as it begins to attract nourishment, then it already operates in act. This matter therefore is transmuted by the power which is in the semen of the male, until it is actually informed by the sensitive soul; not as though the force itself which was in the semen becomes the sensitive soul; for thus, indeed, the generator and generated would be identical; moreover, this would be more like nourishment and growth than generation, as the Philosopher says. And after the sensitive soul, by the power of the active principle in the semen, has been produced in one of the principal parts of the thing generated, then it is that the sensitive soul of the offspring begins to work towards the perfection of its own body, by nourishment and growth. As to the active power which was in the semen, it ceases to exist, when the semen is dissolved and the (vital) spirit thereof vanishes. Nor is there anything unreasonable in this, because this force is not the principal but the instrumental agent; and the movement of an instrument ceases when once the effect has been produced.

          The rest can be found by searching or actually reading anything Thomas wrote. There are acres of this nonsense about sensitive souls responding to perfection. Actually read what Aquinas wrote and get back to me. If you have to ask for quotes, you haven't read it

          • Rob Abney

            You ridicule his answer without saying what your objections are. Can you provide objections? How would you answer this question:
            Article 1. Whether the sensitive soul is transmitted with the semen?

    • they appear unfamiliar with the very different Aristotelian-Thomistic use of abstraction and judgment in forming universal first principles.

      Which is in part based on induction. If you or anyone here on this site can make a formal logical argument demonstrating the law of causality is true without an appeal to induction, I'd love to see it.

      Third, any attempt to deny these basic truths results in intellectual suicide. The extensive reductio ad absurdum in the OP -- and intellectual honesty (with no special pleading) -- reveal “sufficient reason’s” universal and necessary role in every intellectual inference dealing with reality.

      This has been repeatedly shown by me and others on this site to be false.

      For example, though it cannot itself be empirically verified, every scientist must accept as true that observed phenomena actually reveal the nature of whatever might be the reason behind the phenomena – or science is impossible.

      Sure, but that doesn't rely on accepting the PSR, and that's your gigantic flaw. I can say there is one brute fact of existence, and everything in the universe has an explanation. Nothing about that will negate my ability to do science, especially since most Thomists claim science cannot answer the question of existence.

      Since these basic truths are presupposed by every scientific investigation, it is unnecessary to debate whether any of them are violated by “controversial” modern physics’ claims. It is a priori impossible that any experiment can actually disprove any tenet that was logically presupposed by the scientific method itself.

      They aren't pressupposed. That's the point. There is no law of causality in physics, nor is there the PSR (as I've shown above). Nothing in science requires those two things, in fact, physics refutes the law of causality. The two are incompatible.

      Finally, regarding the so-called “B-theory” of time and “eternalism,” Despite loud “scientific” demands by some for its acceptance, the very fact that it is still today hotly debated among both physicists and philosophers is sufficient evidence that its scientific foundations are not incontrovertible. For the ongoing debate, see: https://www.quantamagazine....

      This is a fallacious argument. Saying there is debate among physicists and then concluding that it is not justified can be used for anything. There is plenty of debate among Christians on various things. Therefore there is no justification for many aspects of Christian belief. You would never accept that as a legit argument.

      The truth is that the B-theory deniers are a minority among physicists and philosophers. Most of their arguments (if not all) are not really scientific, they just take the flow of time as fundamental and then try to reason from there. Lee Smolin's book trying to argue against the B-theory has been heavily criticized for its lackluster arguments.

      The irony is this. In order to deny the B-theory you might have to accept brute facts. In their paper on Presentism and Relativity, philosopher Yuri Balashov, and scientist Michel Janssen argue:

      Einstein made it in the opening paragraph of the 1905 paper with the help of his famous magnet-conductor example: for the current measured in the conductor only the relative motion of magnet and conductor matters, but in Lorentz’s theory the case with the magnet at rest is very different from the case with the conductor at rest. No matter how the argument is made, the point is that there are brute facts in the neo-Lorentzian interpretation that are explained in the space-time interpretation. As Craig (p. 101) writes (in a different context): “if what is simply a brute fact in one theory can be given an explanation in another theory, then we have an increase in intelligibility that counts in favor of the second theory.” We just presented such an argument in the case of the space-time interpretation versus the neo-Lorentzian interpretation.

      So Dr Bonnette, if you really want to demonstrate that the B-theory is false or not supported, you're going to have to actually make an argument with evidence that it is the case. Simply pointing to debate among physicists means nothing, because an atheist can point to a debate between Christians on every major and minor doctrine of theology or metaphysics.

      Also, Here's What You Have To Believe In Order To Deny Eternalism. In order to deny eternalism, one has to deny one or both of the following. They have to either:

      (1) Deny that the speed of light travels at constant speed regardless of the speed of the light source.
      (2) Deny that we can accurately measure two non-parallel distances as being of equal length with any physical instrument, such as a ruler or tape measurer, or even sense in any way that they are equal or unequal.

      And that forces you to deny the basics of special relativity or basic sensory experience for no reason.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Because you are employing your usual “argument by inundation” debating method, I will reply to only one major point in your comment.

        I realize that you know more physics than I do, since you have told me so several times. The only problem is that it appears to me that some of what you know simply isn’t so.

        Since I am not a professional physicist, I could, of course, be wrong, but here is my own understanding of how relativity of simultaneity works in special relativity and its implications for the “B theory of time” and “eternalism.”

        Relativity of simultaneity occurs solely between events that are spatially distant. In a causal event, since there is no action at a distance, the causing forces/particles must directly influence other physical entities. This is not a mere "event," as conceived by physicists, but an actual action by one physical entity upon another. It really happens in the physical world. As such, there is a real before and after to it occurring. Regardless of any reference frame anywhere else in the cosmos, that before and after will maintain its temporal sequence, and so a real past and real future are established for that causal incident.

        The simultaneity of that occurrence to other "events" throughout the cosmos may be relative and not absolute, but the sequence of "events"
        in that particular causal occurrence is real and ordered such that it has the
        same before and same after to any observer anywhere in the universe.

        And since all causation in the cosmos has the same nature, there are real pasts and futures for all events in the cosmos, even though we may not be able to arrange them so as to determine the relative simultaneity of them to each other.

        This means that the whole cosmos does have sequences of past to future occurring for all local causation and that is the only way causality occurs anyway. This means that in each local place the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, so saying that all events equally exist is impossible.

        This means “eternalism” is absurd.

        As I said, I am sure you will tell me that my understanding is incorrect. You may well even offer me some very impressive formulae and complex physical concepts that will be assured to intimidate my limited background in the subject matter. One friend of mine calls this “intellectual bullying” – but it is usually quite effective.

        All I can say is that the above is my understanding of the implications of special relativity for simultaneity in the cosmos. And I find it credible.

        I do not find your absurd denial of change credible.

        If you do not accept the above explanation, I cannot help that. But, speaking from the perspective of what is, in fact, my own field of competence, that is, philosophy, I reiterate my earlier statement that any denial of change in the common sense meaning of the term constitutes philosophical malpractice, since change is an immediate given of experience and good philosophers cannot ignore such immediate evidence. Even if it is all an illusion, it is still real as such and demands adequate philosophical explanation.

        And do not try to compare the experience of change to the experience of free will, since the question is not whether motion is no more certain than free will, but rather whether free will is as experientially certain as change.

        If “B theory of time” necessarily implies the absurd denial of change, then, since change is real, “B theory” itself must be false. If P implies Q, and Q is false, then P is false.

        Any sane philosophy of science insists that speculations arising from a scientific theory which contradict the most immediate certitudes of human experience must be false. Moreover, I have demonstrated and documented in the OP the inherent logical weaknesses of the scientific method – weaknesses that absolutely prevent any proclamations of universal certitude. You simply cannot use a second order of knowledge probability to contradict a first order of knowledge certitude.

        You are welcome to continue to believe in this “B theory” absurdity, but I freely choose not to join you. If you really believe in your absurd hypothesis of eternalism, you should realize that, on your own hypothesis, I am eternally determined to take this position against eternalism – and so, you should not waste your time trying to change my mind.

        Oh, yes, since I freely choose not to respond to you further on this matter, you may have the usual last word.

        • Since I am not a professional physicist, I could, of course, be wrong,

          I'm glad you at least acknowledge this. Are you at least as willing to learn in order to see if you're incorrect on your views? Judging from your last sentence the answer is no.

          This means “eternalism” is absurd.

          This argument against eternalism is absurd. I will break it down:

          Relativity of simultaneity occurs solely between events that are spatially distant.

          This is correct! Unfortunately it's mostly downhill from here.

          In a causal event, since there is no action at a distance, the causing forces/particles must directly influence other physical entities. This is not a mere "event," as conceived by physicists, but an actual action by one physical entity upon another.

          It really means the worldlines/tubes of one thing and another thing touch each other or interact. That's what causality is.

          As such, there is a real before and after to it occurring. Regardless of any reference frame anywhere else in the cosmos, that before and after will maintain its temporal sequence, and so a real past and real future are established for that causal incident.

          For time-like separated events, all reference frames will agree on the direction of causality. None of this of course can establish your conclusion that “eternalism” is absurd.

          The simultaneity of that occurrence to other "events" throughout the cosmos may be relative and not absolute, but the sequence of "events" in that particular causal occurrence is real and ordered such that it has the same before and same after to any observer anywhere in the universe.

          Once you concede (or acknowledge) and any two simultaneous events in one reference frame aren't in another reference frame, as the first part of your first does, you forfeit presentism. It's that simple. Presentism requires truly simultaneous events to be ontologically simultaneous in all frames.

          Two simultaneous events in one frame that are not simultaneous in another cannot be said to have the same ordering from those other frames. A can be before B in one frame, and A can be after B in another. Or they can be simultaneous in one frame.

          And since all causation in the cosmos has the same nature, there are real pasts and futures for all events in the cosmos, even though we may not be able to arrange them so as to determine the relative simultaneity of them to each other.

          This makes no sense. If you concede there's a relativity of simultaneity, then there can't be "real" past and futures for all events in the cosmos. There can only be relative past and futures for all events in the cosmos. Once you have that, you have eternalism. So Dr Bonnette, you expose your ignorance quite strikingly when you say this non-sequitor.

          And causation in relativity means interacting worldtubes or fields that are past, present, and future existent.

          This means that the whole cosmos does have sequences of past to future occurring for all local causation and that is the only way causality occurs anyway.

          There are strong experiments against local realism that make it very hard to uphold, though not completely impossible: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-probability-quantum-world-local-realism.html

          But that's a side note. The possibility of one way causality does not in any way negate eternalism and that you think it does shows your ignorance on the topic. Can you explain exactly why you think eternalism relies on two way causation and cannot survive on one way causation?

          This means that in each local place the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, so saying that all events equally exist is impossible.

          This betrays another example of your ignorance here. How you can acknowledge the relativity of simultaneity and still try to say that only the present exists is beyond incoherent.

          Now, I understand that this subject matter is complex and very non-intuitive, and so most people get this wrong. So I'm not saying you're stupid. But it is abundantly clear you don't understand the subject matter enough to know what you're talking about here.

          One friend of mine calls this “intellectual bullying” – but it is usually quite effective.

          Does it ever - could it ever change your mind?

          All I can say is that the above is my understanding of the implications of special relativity for simultaneity in the cosmos. And I find it credible.

          That's only because you lack understanding about the subject matter.

          I do not find your absurd denial of change credible.

          It's because we define change differently. You define it as time flowing, where one thing becomes another thing. I define change as the block universe having different parts while all parts statically exist, much like a film reel of movie.

          But, speaking from the perspective of what is, in fact, my own field of competence, that is, philosophy, I reiterate my earlier statement that any denial of change in the common sense meaning of the term constitutes philosophical malpractice, since change is an immediate given of experience and good philosophers cannot ignore such immediate evidence.

          Hardly. So change is an immediate given of experience and good philosophers cannot ignore such immediate evidence, according to you. The question is, if eternalism was true, would you expect living in it would be like consciously?

          Well we have scientific answers to that actually:

          Physicist Gene Tracy gives us some insight, from his article in Aeon, A Science Without Time:

          It’s possible that our experience of the flow of time is like our experience of colour. A physicist would say that colour does not exist as an inherent property of the world. Light has a variety of wavelengths, but they have no inherent property of ‘colour’. The things in the world absorb and emit and scatter photons, granules of light, of various wavelengths. It is only when our eyes intersect a tiny part of that sea of radiation, and our brain gets to work on it, that ‘colour’ emerges. It is an internal experience, a naming process, an activity of our brain trying to puzzle things out.

          So the flow of time might be a story our brain creates, trying to make sense of chaos. In a 2013 paper, the physicists Leonard Mlodinow of Caltech and Todd Brun of the University of Southern California go even further and argue that any physical thing that has the characteristics of a memory will tend to align itself with the thermodynamic arrow of time, which in turn is defined by the behaviour of extremely large numbers of particles. According to this theory, it is no puzzle that we remember the past but not the future, even though the microscopic laws of nature are the same going forward or backward in time, and the past and future both exist. The nature of large systems is to progress toward increasing entropy – a measure of disorder, commonly experienced as the tendency of hot or cold objects to come into equilibrium with their surroundings. Increasing entropy means that a memory of the past is dynamically stable, whereas a memory of the future is unstable.

          In this interpretation, we are unable to see the future not because it is impossible to do so, but because it is as unlikely as seeing a broken window heal itself, or as a tepid cup of tea taking energy from the atoms of the surrounding room and spontaneously beginning to boil. It is statistically extremely, extremely unlikely.

          Even if it is all an illusion, it is still real as such and demands adequate philosophical explanation.

          Illusions are by definition not real. Saying the illusion is real is not saying what the illusion is about is real.

          And do not try to compare the experience of change to the experience of free will, since the question is not whether motion is no more certain than free will, but rather whether free will is as experientially certain as change.

          That's not really making a distinction. If something is experientially certain, it cannot be an illusion. Neither free will nor time flowing are real, but illusions. Free will is not even logically sound as a concept so it can't be real.

          You'd have to explain what you'd experience if you didn't have free will, or if eternalism was true, and then show how it's different from what you actually experience.

          If “B theory of time” necessarily implies the absurd denial of change, then, since change is real, “B theory” itself must be false. If P implies Q, and Q is false, then P is false.

          I always notice that the only argument ever given against eternalism is the claim that we experience time flow. It's the same thing with free will - "It seems real to me!"

          You haven't established that change is real, so your argument is flawed. And of course this denies all the science and experiments supporting the B theory, which you'd still have to explain away in order to make such an argument as yours plausible.

          Any sane philosophy of science insists that speculations arising from a scientific theory which contradict the most immediate certitudes of human experience must be false.

          But we have scientific explanations of why we mistakenly think time flows, and in order to deny eternalism you actually have to deny your senses in terms of either the measurement of the speed of light as constant, or our ability to measure perpendicular distance accurately.

          In other words, the denial of eternalism forces you to do the very thing you think the acceptance of it does. See here: Here's What You Have To Believe In Order To Deny Eternalism

          Furthermore, eternalism is the dominant position of philosophers of science who know this subject matter the best.

          Moreover, I have demonstrated and documented in the OP the inherent logical weaknesses of the scientific method – weaknesses that absolutely prevent any proclamations of universal certitude. You simply cannot use a second order of knowledge probability to contradict a first order of knowledge certitude.

          Um, sorry, but that's nonsense. If your first order metaphysical claim contradicts well established science, the first order metaphysical claim is false. It's that simple. We know this because the history of science is a history of showing us how our intuitions of how the world works are continuously wrong. That's why we got evolution wrong for so many years.

          You are welcome to continue to believe in this “B theory” absurdity, but I freely choose not to join you.

          If only you had greater knowledge of the subject matter you'd realize how absurd this claim is. But I suspect given your religious commitments you'd still believe what you want on faith.

          If you really believe in your absurd hypothesis of eternalism, you should realize that, on your own hypothesis, I am eternally determined to take this position against eternalism – and so, you should not waste your time trying to change my mind.

          Wrong again: "If Determinism Were True There'd Be No Reason To Try And Convince Anyone Of Anything"

          Oh, yes, since I freely choose not to respond to you further on this matter, you may have the usual last word.

          I'd actually prefer that you engage and actually be open to change your mind. You seem to be hard bend on your first principles and completely unwilling to consider they might be incorrect.

  • If you reject the fundamental principles of logic embodied in Thomism, then you are beyond reason.

  • Not at all. Tommyism, on the other hand ....

  • No doubt.

  • I do not feel the need to prove the law of non-contradiction. It is irrefutably true. If an experiment seems to contradict it, the experiment needs to be re-evaluated.

  • Logic does indeed describe the nature of reality, so if you want to call it descriptive, that is okay by me.

    No, you ask me to prove Thomism. I might just as well try banging my head against a wall. I do not seek to prove every element of Thomism (even the Catholic Church does not accept everything Thomas said as gospel truth). However, to the extent that we can know anything at all, we can know that the laws of logic to which I have referred and which this article defends are true. If you reject the absolute truth of those laws (upon which reasoning and science depend), then no possible logical argument can convince you of their truth.

    • However, to the extent that we can know anything at all, we can know that the laws of logic to which I have referred and which this article defends are true.

      The laws of logic which you refer to are true because they are effectively tautologies [based on a set of axioms]. One should also note that there are paraconsistent logic systems that allow for contradictions.

      For reference:
      Law of identity: Ɐ P : P=P
      Law of non-contradiction: ¬(P Λ ¬ P)
      Law of excluded middle: P V ¬ P

      Edited to use mathematical symbols, and add some clarity.

      • "The laws of logic which you refer to are true". Yes.

        "[T]here are paraconsistent logic systems that allow for contradictions." Interesting stuff, I concede, but it can be rejected on the simple basis that it contradicts the law of non-contradiction.

      • Unless you think reality is inconsistent, paraconsistent logic has entirely to do with our faulty (but hopefully ever-improving) understanding of reality, not the nature of reality.

    • If you reject the absolute truth...

      Yes, I reject absolute truth because it's useless. Truth is simply a label that we put on propositions, and I don't need "absolutely true" when I already have "true."

      Even the statement "absolute truth does not exist" is only a true statement, and doesn't give rise to any contradictions, contrary to what you probably believe.

      • Yes, it does.

      • I live in San Francisco, where I can see and smell the smoke from the horrible forest fires which have claimed over a dozen lives [that we know of]. When neighbors called each other and yelled "Fire!", the truth of their words seems rather more than "simply a label that we put on propositions". Rather, the ability to distinguish between what is true and false is here required to continue existing.

        But perhaps what you're saying is that there can be no norms, external to yourself, which have any sort of binding force on you? When people assert the existence of 'absolute truth', not infrequently it seems they also believe such norms exist. One is tempted to see the former as a cipher for the latter.

        • The very first thing we need to do is recognize that there are goals to this endeavor, and that our goals have huge impact on how we define our epistemology. Is our goal to try an get as best a handle on objective reality that we can? Is our goal to follow the Bible? Is our goal simply to make ourselves feel good?

          Then we have to define what truth is. For instance, is truth a simple binary enumeration {False, True}, or is it something more complex? Then then we can start to define some axioms, which essentially define a truth assignment function, that we can use to determine how to label propositions. We also have to consider things like the analytic-synthetic distinction, because the axioms for one class of propositions may look entirely different from another class of propositions, and our goals may not even be the same for each class.

          Now, it's important to say that no set of axioms is more correct than any other set of axioms, but some are definitely more useful than others for achieving whatever goals we have. This very framework, from defining truth, to defining how we determine truth, is often ignored, and we assume we're starting on the same page. Often we're not (definitely true between YEC's and atheists), and it looks like one is trying to play bridge while the other is playing hearts.

          Ultimately, no epistemic system is universally binding. This means that nobody is forced to label any proposition as "true" unless they accept the axioms that make it true. Whatever system you choose, I can choose an alternate system and get different results, in order to achieve my desired goals.

          If you think there is absolute truth, tell me your axioms, and why you think I must accept them.

          • Your use of "objective reality" is probably closest to what I would describe as "absolute truth". Surely you believe there is one objective reality and that it is rational (e.g. free from true contradiction). I'm guessing we differ on whether "objective reality" is value-free or value-laden. On the former, there is only truth-value of perception; on the latter, there can also be truth-value of action. This in turn impacts what goals one can have.

            I do appreciate your relativizing truth to goal; I think there's something very important there and I find that ignoring the issue often leads to one party trying to surreptitiously impose its goal on the other. For example, if there is no truth in matters of value, all that remains is pure power. Some people appear to wish all interpersonal action to be purely based on power; an epistemology which doesn't allow truth into that realm serves their goals quite well. Those people appear to have been very successful in the West, so much so that their epistemology seems taken for granted by many.

  • Pueblo Southwest

    One point alluded to but not expounded upon is that Thomism fully understands the concept of nothing and that there is only one way to transmute it into something. Hawking and the modernists seem to still be stuck in the concept of nothing as being like empty space. They can not free themselves from the materialism of dimension as a source. To do so would force them to accept a divine origin. Yes, Thomism is not only relevant but provides a real basis for our understanding the universe.

    • Richard Morley

      Hawking and the modernists seem to still be stuck in the concept of nothing as being like empty space.

      Are you basing that judgment on their peer-reviewed mathematically defined theories, or on popular science interpretations? If the former, could you elaborate?

      • Pueblo Southwest

        Primarily on their own comments during brief interviews on "science" programs. They claim to have postulated alternative theories for the origin of the universe to include self generation. One, forget who, even proposed a universe with seventeen dimensions. Said he came upon it when doing mathematical proposition of the origin of the present universe. In all the interviews they do state the science behind their concepts is quite complex and not suitable for a brief explanation. So much for Ockham's razor.

        • Richard Morley

          Primarily on their own comments during brief interviews on "science" programs.

          Then I respectfully suggest that that is the problem. It is a complex subject, and if they were not being specifically asked about the difference between an empty patch of spacetime and the origin of spacetime itself, then some ambiguity is normal. Even if they were. Natural language is not well suited for this.

          Look at the actual published mathematical quantum gravity papers, say, and the picture is quite different.

          Occam's razor is about eliminating unnecessary entities, so anything that eliminates the need to hypothesise an omnipotent timeless (insert list of problematic qualities) God is favored by the razor.

  • Logic is descriptive, not prescriptive .

    It can be either or both, depending on context. We must use it, and we do use it, because it is necessary. Without logic, nothing we say could mean anything.

  • Richard Morley

    "Physicists loathe being told that they are doing metaphysics – even more so, that they are doing metaphysics badly."
    All in my opinion:

    Both physics and metaphysics now deal with topics such as time and space. Neither has priority over the other, neither can tell the other 'this is my magisterium, stop overlapping'. If anything we are coming back to the time when physics and philosophy were part of the same subject. A physicist can be a good metaphysicist, and vice versa. Or bad, naturally.

    The potential point of differentiation, to my mind, is that in physics:
    The terms should be defined and the argument laid out with mathematical rigour, not just prose open to interpretation.
    Assertions are backed up by and tested against the physical evidence, and ideally make mathematically rigorous predictions that can be subject to further testing.
    (Thus far I would expect a good metaphysicist to agree)
    But what happens when the evidence contradicts the conclusions of the philosophy or physics? In physics, the model is assumed to be wrong, even if that challenges fondly held premises. That doesn't prevent suspicious scrutiny of the experiment, or continued use of the model until a better one is found, but that is the assumption. Many here seem to feel that the evidence should be discarded, however well supported.

    • Richard Morley

      Physicists don't just accept issues such as nonlocality or nondeterminism in QM. They have looked very hard at them, arguably harder than philosophers. One critical point is that they know that issues such as nonlocality and nondeterminism are linked - you can get rid of one or the other, but getting rid of both at once is the problem. So you can't just say that in this context you get rid of one problem, and in this other context you get rid of the other, so everything is fine forever.

      Fans of 'The Big Bang Theory' (TV) may recall Howard's mother trying on a dress - when her front got in her back popped out and when her back got in her front popped out. You have to get both in at once to say you have resolved the problem.

      I suppose the question relevant to the title of the OP might be how wedded 'Thomism' actually is to determinism or locality.

  • Rob Abney

    Again, you ridicule his answers without saying what your objections are. Can you provide objections?
    How would you answer any of these questions:
    Whether the sensitive soul is transmitted with the semen?
    What is the sex and age of the risen?
    Whether the woman should have been made in the first production of things?
    Or provide objections to the other points you made.
    So far it appears to me that you have no objections only that it strikes you as peculiar.

    • The problem is that these are not the terms or concepts that people today use when discussing the first stages human development. The fact that experts in the relevant fields don't talk about active power, vital spirits, and sensitive souls is a good reason to believe that these concepts are not useful for understanding the field in question. It's the same reason you'd be right to dismiss essays detailing density and viscosity of the aether if you're trying to have a conversation about the nature of light.

      Of course, it's worth pointing out that a few wild beliefs doesn't necessarily discredit an person's entire corpus. We still teach our students "newtonian mechanics" after all, despite some of Newton's more out-there. But yes

      • Rob Abney

        The problem is that these are not the terms or concepts that people today use when discussing the first stages human development.

        I'm assuming these were relevant terms in the 12th century.

        The fact that experts in the relevant fields don't talk about active power, vital spirits, and sensitive souls is a good reason to believe that these concepts are not useful for understanding the field in question

        The field in question is theology.
        Aquinas' discussion of theology has not been replaced with a new theory even if some of the descriptions of the mechanics could be updated. But even if we have a much better idea of the actual process of fertilization is there a better answer concerning when the soul is present?

        • Back in Aquinas's day, everything was theology, and I don't think he would have recognized the distinction between the "actual process of fertilization" and the questions about the sensitive spirit. The reason why we have different fields is because most of the new/useful frameworks for understanding the world are really difficult to synthesize with theology with anything that resembles intellectual rigor.

          • Rob Abney

            most of the new/useful frameworks for understanding the world are really difficult to synthesize with theology with anything that resembles intellectual rigor.

            Yes, it's very difficult to demonstrate intellectual rigor when basic metaphysical principles are dismissed. This argument, as I recall, is based upon how man generates a new soul/living being without giving something that he doesn't have to give or giving up part of what he does possess. It is not really that concerned with semen, but it is concerned with such seemingly simple principles as parts be less than wholes.

  • VicqRuiz

    Once again, an extended discussion of whether or not there is some sort of impersonal cosmic first cause out there.

    That is something I'd be willing to posit as true, if I could hear a little more about specifically Christian, and more specifically Catholic, concepts. SN is not held out as "a place for dialog between atheists and deists" after all.

    For example, how about an article on this subject ??

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal-burke-venerates-relic-of-the-head-of-st.-thomas-more

    • Rob Abney

      If the clothes, the kerchiefs (Acts 19:12), if the shadow of the saints (Acts 5:15), before they departed from this life, banished diseases and restored strength, who will have the hardihood to deny that God wonderfully works the same by the sacred ashes, the bones, and other relics of the saints? This is the lesson we have to learn from that dead body which, having been accidentally let down into the sepulchre of Eliseus, "when it had touched the bones of the Prophet, instantly came to life" (2 Kings 13:21, and cf. Sirach 48:14)
      From the Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12734a.htm

      • VicqRuiz

        It's the unique blend of rarefied scholarship and primordial ritual which is what makes Catholicism so endlessly fascinating.

        • Rob Abney

          To believe in the power of Christian relics does require one to believe in God, to believe that Jesus Christ is God, and to believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic church. Otherwise the belief is superstitious.
          Catholics aren't the only ones who venerate relics, but Catholics have the most valid reasoning for doing so.

          • VicqRuiz

            It does seem sort of a slippery slope, Rob.

            I've been on the wavering border between soft atheism/agmosticism/deism all my life.

            One reason I have never dipped even a toe into Christian theism is the pathway that leads from making that decsion is on the slope from

            (a) on the Protestant side, into predestination, or into creationism, or into dispensationalism

            (b) on the Catholic side, into endless busy-work rituals and into "venerating" a five hundred year old decapitated head.

            Mind you, when it comes to architecture and music, you Catholics have by far the best of it. Until the mid 20th century when you decided to start "modernizing".

          • Rob Abney

            You call it a slippery slope, I call it a progressive understanding of the power of God. I would recommend that you not consider any of those sorts of practices and rituals if you have not convinced yourself that God exists.
            I'm still praying for you as I said I would, that only makes sense if I trust in that same power of God.

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm still praying for you

            I respect that, and thank you for your concern.

          • Phil

            (b) on the Catholic side, into endless busy-work rituals and into "venerating" a five hundred year old decapitated head.

            Don't do that then! :) There is nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that says you need to have these devotions as a focus for you!

            If I had to boil down Catholicism I'd give three points:
            (1) Growing in love, joy, and peace by helping to bring about a personal relationship with God through the Person of Jesus, most primarily in consuming the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass and in times of personal prayer.
            (2) Strengthening of one's relationship with God through relationship with others.
            (3) Strengthening of the relationship with God through forgiveness and healing found in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

          • Richard Morley

            To believe in the power of Christian relics does require one to believe in God, to believe that Jesus Christ is God, and to believe that Jesus Christ established the Catholic church. Otherwise the belief is superstitious.

            Unless, of course, that power manifests in an observable manner, and continues to do so when observed by those who are not devout believers.

            But this is getting way off topic.

  • Sample1

    Of what utility, promise or benefit does the author’s philosophy provide the one who accepts it?

    Metaphysical rewards? I honestly have no clue except whatever it is, I’m convinced Bonnette would not call it trivial.

    Anyone?

    Mike, free thinker

    • Yeah, I don't really know. I guess Dr Bonette finds that some of the discoveries of modern physics raise difficult questions about the apologetics he relies on to justify his belief in the God of Catholicism.

      Funny I was listening to an interview with the author a new biography of Da Vinci. He noted that what was interesting and new with Leonardo was his move to empiricism rather than relying on received wisdom from scholastics, I.e. Thomism.

      I think there is a danger of reverting to this here. Calling certain principles of metaphysics inviolable because they are intuitive and cautioning scientists to amend theories to maintain them.

      So I guess the utility is that if you doubt god because of what you see on Nova, you can rest easy because they must be wrong to the extent they challenge Thomism.

    • Phil

      Hey Mike,

      The purpose of any philosophy (including one's metaphysics) is to come to the truth of reality. So some have claimed that an Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy/metaphysics cannot be a true description of reality because modern physics undermines it. The purpose of Dr. Bonnette's article was to argue that this is not the case.

      • Sample1

        Let me try to ask a different way. I can well describe to you the benefits of hyperbaric treatment for decompression sickness. If you are a diver or plan to become one, that information will be beneficial to your understanding of minimizing medical risks while SCUBA diving.

        But let’s say you aren’t a diver. The information may be fun to learn (you’d learn about Boyle’s Law for instance) and it will address a segment of reality but if you choose not not learn about it will your everyday experiences be negatively affected in any appreciable way?

        Mike

        • Phil

          I guess my question would be, would you say the truth of reality is useful? Is coming to know the truth of reality a good thing?

          If so, then that would answer why we do philosophy, and specifically metaphysics like the above article.

          • Sample1

            Thinking of Jeopardy™ in reverse, what correct answer would get me $100 for the question, “Would you say the truth of reality is useful?”

            Mike

          • Phil

            So if the truth is useful then anything that is trying to help us get closer to the truth of reality (such as the above article) could be useful.

          • Sample1

            What I don’t understand is how it is useful for me. In the same way, I suspect learning about diving tables isn’t useful for you.

            Would you agree mistakes can get one closer to the truth as well?

            Mike

          • Phil

            What I don’t understand is how it is useful for me. In the same way, I suspect learning about diving tables isn’t useful for you.

            Sure, why wouldn't learning about diving tables be good and useful for me? I'm all about learning about new things for the sake of learning about the truth of reality.

            And remember, just because one doesn't think something is useful doesn't mean it actually isn't useful.

            Would you agree mistakes can get one closer to the truth as well?</blockquote.

            Sure, and that assumes that it is good and useful to be trying to move closer to the truth in the first place.

          • Sample1

            I respect your openness to learning anything.

            Mike

        • Rob Abney

          I can enter a destination into my iPhone and get step by step directions, I never have to look at the map in overview mode and don't really have to even consider what the territory I'm traveling through really looks like, my everyday experiences will be negligibly affected. Nonetheless, the territory really exists. And I can make better decisions by knowing more about the reality of the territory; if I actually know the reality of the territory I might be able to avoid construction and traffic jams and be able to travel a more scenic route.

          • Sample1

            I’d like to keep this discussion between myself and Phil for now.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe you can get his private email or phone number, but its a public forum on the world wide web and I feel obligated to correct errors that I see.

    • Rob Abney

      Of what utility, promise or benefit does the author’s philosophy provide the one who accepts it?
      Anyone?

      This is a great question. Ultimately it points to the foundation for knowing the most-difficult-to-know subjects. The most-difficult-to-know subjects require a thorough understanding of the most basic areas of knowledge, without that basic understanding then a small error will result in a completely erroneous understanding of subjects that require deep investigation.

      Metaphysical truths are basic because they are universal, they must be applicable to every situation, if it is not universally applicable then it is just a characteristic of a particular situation and not useful for gaining further knowledge.
      Boyle’s law is a universally applicable physical law. SCUBA application is a particular instance of the universal but so is breathing, filling syringes, and inflating tires.
      I don’t need to know all of the particular applications of Boyle’s law to get through life, I don’t even need to know the universal application of it but if I do understand it then I’ll understand reality better. If Boyle’s law is rejected as universally applicable then a “unique” explanation must be formulated for particular events, and then we’ll have difficulty supporting the more-difficult-to know subjects such as the effects of anesthesia for instance. I don’t have to know those difficult subjects but I need for some people to know them, in this case I hope my anesthesiologist knows them.

      Universal laws and principles bring order to the world, make the world knowable, and give us the best opportunity to know the most-difficult-to-know subjects; in the case of metaphysics that subject is ultimately God. Any misunderstanding of the metaphysical truths leads to the inability to determine the characteristics of God. Again, I don’t need to know all of these metaphysical truths myself but I need someone to know them such as those who are tasked to teach us what we need to know to trust in the reality of God.

  • Oh, yeah. I always go to Thomas Aquinas when I want a critique of the latest physics.

    • Rob Abney

      What would you do if the latest findings violated the principle of non-contradiction?

      • I always follow the scientific consensus, where it exists.

        • Rob Abney

          So, no contradiction. But you do understand that physics, even the latest physics cannot violate the metaphysical principle of non-contradiction, so you don't need to go to aquinas but you might need to consider metaphysics.

          • I've never found much of use in metaphysics. Or philosophy for that matter. But perhaps I've just missed the good stuff. Have we learned anything useful from metaphysics?

  • Sample1

    Yeah, Dr. Bonnette is wrong. Uniform motion at a fundamental level, physics tells us, is the default reality. No prime mover needed.

    Game over Aquinas and Aristotle, though in your day and age with your rationale you once made sense. No longer.

    Mike

    • Rob Abney

      Dr. Bonnette supported his position with about 2500 words but you are able to refute it by simply invoking the authority of physics. No reasoning required when we bend the knee to physics!

  • Joey Hene

    "Even if change were merely an illusion, as Parmenides claimed, it is real as an illusion", sir, that isn't Thomism. Thomism explicitly states change is a REAL feature of REALITY, not an illusion, if it was, there would be no debate between Aristotle and Parmenides in the first place.

  • Joey Hene

    If change is an illusion, Aquinas was wrong, the whole first way is wrong. There's no way around this, unless you can salvage act and potency in light of general and special relativity.

  • Tom More

    You guys have an excellent site here. Many thanks.

  • Tom More

    Without the broad picture of existence painted so exquisitely by Thomism how do people last ten minutes without going crazy. Final cause.. formal cause.. how we are formed for ends and purposes ... like all of life. How do people manage to miss this blazing light. Thanks Prof. Bonnette.

  • Phil

    However, if I could just get a word from you- I would like to be able to convince my interlocutor of PSR and final causality, but it seems impossible for me to do; he firmly claims that quantum mechanics gets rid of both, and I don't see him stopping that any time soon. Are there times where it's just not worth continuing the conversation?

    Absolutely; I will on occasions say, "Then we shall agree to disagree" when we have clearly reached the point of impasse. Nothing wrong with that and can be very healthy.

    I would ask him to explain specifically what about QM gets rid of the PSR and final causality.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I think you will find all your questions answered here:
    http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

    Thinker does not know as much physics as he claims.

  • Phil

    You said that your interpretation of SR doesn't confirm or deny solipsism or eternalism. Does this mean that both of these perspectives aren't inherently opposed to A-T?

    No, there are plenty of things in A-T that would make solipsism or eternalism in its traditional form hard to hold.

    I was simply claiming that from just using SR, it neither affirms nor denies either of those 2.

    And, on a tangential note, how do you feel about Feser's preference towards presentism? Are you sympathetic towards it? Or, do you think that the answer has to be something other than presentism and eternalism?

    I'm going to have to read in more detail what Feser means by "presentism". I pre-ordered his new book where he should talk about that.

    I think the traditional definition of presentism or eternalism is hard to hold. So my view right now is that presentism and eternalism are just not well defined terms.