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How “New Existence” Implies God

“Why new existence?” What kind of a question is that? Does it really mean anything? We know that motion or change is real and that everything in motion is moved by another. Moreover, a new paper defends the common sense Aristotelian understanding of motion and time while simultaneously definitively refuting certain misinterpretations of modern physics. But what does all that have to do with “new existence?”

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Being a finite or limited being means to exist here and now with certain qualities of being—and no others. Substantial beings exist in themselves, while accidental beings exist only in another and are merely qualities of a substance or, perhaps, of another accident. Thus, being limited means being just what a thing is and no more at a given point in time. That is, every limited being is a substance of a certain specific type, having particular accidental qualities that determine and restrict its way of existing down to the last detail—with certain existential qualities or perfections – and without all other possible ones.

Every being in the cosmos, and the cosmos itself, is a finite entity (or cosmic multitude of entities). The cosmos is a collection of finite bodies. All of them exist in a finite mode of existence (even if only as energy fields or quanta). And even though they may exhibit great states of momentum and velocity, at any given instant in time, they occupy only the exact position they have and not a future one. They are limited in existence at that time to where they are and what they are, while they lack whatever existential perfections they will manifest newly at the next moment. It really does not matter how a “moment” is defined, as long as one realizes that they manifest certain qualities of existence that they have, but simultaneously lack others that they do not yet possess. Nor does it matter which body is actually in motion relative to any other, just as long as change of position entails some real existential difference on the part of one or the other body or bodies.

If every being were truly finite, change would be impossible. Every finite being is limited solely to the existential perfections it possesses here and now. The totality of all cosmic existence, even finite spirits if there be such, is limited to being what it is and no more. So, how can change or becoming take place?

For argument's sake, let us assume that all change is merely accidental (in the Aristotelian sense); nothing changes substantially. Change may be merely a difference in position, size, shape, quality, relation, time, quantity, and so forth. Still, even trivial change, be it submicroscopic or merely imaginary, entails “new existence.” “New existence” is any existential perfection or reality at all which comes into being and was not there before. “Potential existence” is not “new existence,” since potency is only what is able to be, not what actually is. For example, saying one appears to be “potentially” intelligent is rightly not taken as a complement.

Assuming an atomic world in which change means merely change of position, whence comes the newness entailed in the new positions? (This will work even in a non-mechanistic universe, since changes in energy states or quanta are real.) The key insight is this: For change, becoming, or progress to occur, new existence must be posited. Where does it come from? How do you get the new from the old, the after from the before? Is there a real difference between them or not? If not, then all change, becoming, progress, or evolution is mere illusion. (But even an illusion is real as an illusion!)

If change is real, where does it come from? The old, precisely as such, is old because it lacks the existential differences that differentiate it from the new. Neither inertia nor gravity, nor any other physical force or phenomena explains this new reality. These laws merely describe how the world works, not why it is so. What is the metaphysical explanation? This is as simple as Parmenides’ first insights into being. Non-being does not beget being. All finite reality is limited to being what it is in every least detail. If anything truly new comes to be (even by the least change of position, energy level, or any other physical or spiritual quality we might envision), where does the newness come from? Merely rearranging the old does not explain the new existential distinction of the rearrangement itself. And what is rearranged has new properties in virtue of the new arrangement itself. If all finite reality is thus restricted to the “before,” whence comes the “after?”

This is also why it is critical to understand that Newton’s laws of inertia and momentum, while they describe bodies’ behavior, explain absolutely nothing metaphysically – as I have shown in a previous Strange Notions article. Even proclaimed physical “explanations,” such as general relativity’s curvature of space around masses, may give a seemingly deeper understanding in terms of related phenomena, but do not explain the existential origin of the new qualities or perfections manifested by the coming-to-be of new space-time locations and their attendant novel properties, such as greater gravitational attraction or time dilation or length contraction.

But newness does occur. Change, progress, evolution, and becoming are real. Hence, some adequate cause or reason for new existence must be posited—since whatever is in motion is moved by another. Still, the old, finite reality is old and finite precisely because it does not contain what is discovered in the new reality or new existence that is manifested in the “after” state of things.

Considering the universe as a whole, the concept of a limited cosmos in a process of evolutionary becoming and yet existing solely by itself constitutes a contradiction in terms. Because it is constantly becoming or changing, it needs to acquire new states of reality; but because it is limited in every aspect to its present exact limited state of being, it has no source from which to obtain those new states. By definition, the new cannot come from the old, or else, it isn’t really new. Yet, even changes allegedly explained by inertial motion, as seen above, entail new states of being, which then cannot be explained by the old state of the cosmos.

Thus, a purely physical universe in which motion exists is something that cannot be explained in terms of itself alone. Something else must be posited. But all physical reality has already been included in the cosmos (or even multiverse!). So, the “something else” must be non-physical—something entirely outside the finite, physical universe itself.

Moreover, this non-physical entity (or entities) must explain all that comes-to-be in the physical world, since the entire cosmos is lacking in those new qualities that arise through ongoing motion or change. Thus, neither can one finite part of the cosmos adequately account for its own motion nor can one finite part adequately account for motion of yet another finite part. Finally, the role played by this non-physical source of all that comes to be is that of a cause in relation to the effect produced, which effect is all the new aspects of existence that manifest in the world through change.

Nor does this analysis apply merely to the physical world itself. It applies to all finite things, whether they are physical or not—since the same logic applies to any limited being or beings. Such limited or finite reality cannot explain any changes at all, since it cannot give to itself or to another that which it lacks, namely, new modes of existence in any form.

If finite things cannot account for the continued newness that we experience in the cosmos, then something else must. That something else must serve as a "universal donor" of new existence. Since we have already considered every possible finite being in the finite cosmos (and even outside it) as incapable of producing "new existence," whatever causes new existence must, by definition, not be either physical or even finite.

If it is not finite, then there cannot be two such infinite beings that cause change in the cosmos. Were there two such beings, something would have to differentiate the one from the other, or else, as Leibniz points out, the “two” would be one thing. Were either one to possess any quality of differentiation the other lacked, then the one lacking it would not be infinite, but finite.

Hence, there must exist but a single Infinite Being that serves as the only adequate explanation and source of all the new existential perfections or qualities that are continually manifested in our ever-changing universe, or even any world of finite spiritual things. Nothing is new under the Sun. What is new is new in reference to all previously existing finite beings, but is not new in reference to the Infinite Being, since that Being already contains every possible perfection or quality of existence in virtue of being infinite. Such a Being cannot itself be subject to change, or else, it would gain existential qualities it previously lacked, and thus, could not have been infinite in the first place.

Without attempting the lengthy formal demonstrations proper to natural theology, I would simply suggest that the discovery of a single Infinite Being that is responsible for all that is ever-new in finite reality is a good candidate for the classical conception of what men call God—especially since this Being is the cause of the very existence of all that is new.

This "insight based on new-existence" has the distinct advantage that it leads at once to God’s existence – without need to consider intermediate causes or possible infinite regressions among essentially ordered intermediate causes. Still, the preceding argument is not intended as a formal proof for God's existence, but rather as a reflection on a question that finds no rational satisfaction short of conceding an Infinite Being’s existence.

Any formal proof for God's existence requires an extensive number of principles that must be defended or proven before any demonstration can begin. These include metaphysical first principles, such as, non-contradiction, sufficient reason, causality, and finality. Also presumed must be epistemological claims such as realism, objectivity of truth, general methodological principles such as the legitimacy of reason proceeding from the finite to the infinite, the legitimacy of the analogy of being, the validity of an analogous middle term in any such demonstration, and a number of other things far too extensive to deal with here. Perhaps, the best expression of such matters is found in Vol. I of God, His Existence and His Nature by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, where the eminent Thomist spends fully two-thirds of that volume laying down and rigorously defending the logical, metaphysical, and epistemological presuppositions of St. Thomas' Five Ways.

Rather, what I have offered here is merely a mental exercise in which I examine all the logical implications of trying to answer a simple question that proves to have immense metaphysical implications: “Why new existence?”

Relentlessly pursuing the force of this simple question leads the mind inexorably toward an Ultimate Source for all the new aspects of reality that are ever appearing in this dynamic, evolving, ever-changing cosmos. Its force rests in relentlessly confronting the foundational problem entailed in asking, "Where does new existence come from?"

Atheistic evolutionary naturalism is ultimate irrationality, since an unaided evolving finite cosmos refutes itself: it would continuously have to be giving to itself those existential qualities that it lacks. This is why some atheists cannot even accept the reality of motion or becoming or change in the cosmos. The moment you do so, you must also logically accept the existence of an Infinite Wellspring of new existential perfections—the God of Abraham and Moses, “...in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

One may be tempted to embrace various "systems" that simply posit pure becoming, like some form of “process philosophy.” Such claims of “self-actualization” affirm that something can lack a quality, and yet, be in such “act” as to give it to itself. That also entails giving to itself what it does not have—a direct violation of the most basic principle that non-being cannot beget being, or, that you cannot get something from nothing.

This foregoing exploration of “how new existence implies God” is simply a variation on the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas as found in his Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3. Elsewhere I have published it fully developed as a formal philosophical demonstration.

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.

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  • Rob Abney

    discovery of a single Infinite Being that is responsible for all that is ever-new in finite reality is a good candidate for the classical conception of what men call God—especially since this Being is the cause of the very existence of all that is new.

    Great article! This "universal donor" is definitely a great candidate for the One that we should all rightfully worship.

  • Jim the Scott

    On the Reality of Temporal Succession
    http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

    The above article linked too in this OP is worth a read written by a man who learned Physics at MIT.

    1) First it shows rather conclusively that choosing between "Presentism" vs "Eternalism" is a false choice.

    2) It also shows the definition of "Presentism" commonly used around here need not refer to the existence of an Absolute Present. In other words there is no reason why we cannot believe the Present in any Frame of Reference is in fact real within that light cone. Different Reference Frames by definition and by the laws of Physics are not causally connected thus they don't really require a privileged reference frame to be real and show real change.

    3) Special Relativity does not scientifically prove Eternalism or refute Presentism and the philosophical case for Eternalism is flawed.

    4) A Theory and B Theory time do not technically correspond to Presentism and Eternalism the later which are ill defined concepts of Time.

    5) The "scientific" case for Eternalism via Special Relativity suffers from a terminal case of "empirical incoherence".

    It was a joy reading an actual competent physicist discuss these matters both scientifically and philosophically (without confusing the two) after having listened to the incompetent ranting of a deranged sophist wannabe.

    Well done!

    • Joseph McConnell

      On a related note and relevant to discussions on recent posts, another excellent article by Edward Feser on mathematics and abstraction

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/david-foster-wallace-on-abstraction.html

      Despite The Thinker's intellect confusions between philosophy and science, his overestimating his own scientific understanding and his odd view that graphical representations of mathematical formulae must represent reality, he's helped sharpen my own thoughts. Probably not in the way he intended though.

      • Jim the Scott

        Thanks for the heads up.

  • Phil

    Dr. Bonnette,

    I don't know what influence you had on the latest essay being written by Daniel Castellano, but thank you!

    It helped so much to deepen my understanding of the finer points of special relativity and really makes clear the mistakes that The Thinker was making in his thinking. So thank you!

  • "Merely rearranging the old does not explain the new existential distinction of the rearrangement itself."

    Sure it does, it's exactly what it does. Where does change come from? From the fact of a different arrangements of material.

    "Considering the universe as a whole, the concept of a limited cosmos in a process of evolutionary becoming and yet existing solely by itself constitutes a contradiction in terms."

    No it isn't . None of those terms contradict each other .

    "Because it is constantly becoming or changing, it needs to acquire new states of reality; but because it is limited in every aspect to its present exact limited state of being, it has no source from which to obtain those new states"

    Sure it does. The source of the change is its own nature. You don't need infinity to hammer a nail.

    • Jim the Scott

      Your response here is more naysaying then counter argument. Is that on purpose?

      >Sure it does, it's exactly what it does. Where does change come from? From the fact of a different arrangements of material.

      That is a tautology. It's change has come from the fact that it has changed? It doesn't provide formal explanation why something changes. The only rational philosophical explanation is whatever is changed is changed by another.

      >No it isn't . None of those terms contradict each other .

      I don't think the "terms" are the issue here?

      >Sure it does. The source of the change is its own nature. You don't need infinity to hammer a nail.

      It's own nature is the source of change? So a nail can hammer itself into a board?

      This too you is not a contradiction?

      K'ay?

      I think you missed the point Brian?

      • I mean he just states these premises that are by no means obvious, quitr the contrary .

        I'm saying the rearrangement of material is precisely the explanation of its change. You can't just point to an explanation and then just assert it isn't the explanation .

        I don't know. I can barely follow what he thinks he's saying.

        Maybe I'm missing something. He seems to be saying that rearrangement of object doesn't explain why they are rearranged .if not what is he saying?

        No I don't agree whatever is changed is changed by another or changes itself.

        He said it was a conflict in terms.

        No a nail doesn't nail itself, but by all accounts the universe is changing on its own .

        Oh by all means if you think you've grasped the point explain it to me. I have little clue what he thinks he is arguing for other than you need something infinite and non material for anything material to exist or change. I have no idea from this piece why this is reasonable to conclude .

        For example both observation and intuition tell me that motion only occurs when there is at least at least a material cause .

        • Jim the Scott

          >I mean he just states these premises that are by no means obvious, quitr the contrary .

          He has only been laying out the premises in the many OP's he's already published here.

          >I'm saying the rearrangement of material is precisely the explanation of its change. You can't just point to an explanation and then just assert it isn't the explanation .

          No you are merely stating a tautology. Is there a change or not? Is there any difference between the before and the after? If not, then nothing happened. If yes, then where did the difference come from?

          >I don't know. I can barely follow what he thinks he's saying.

          "I don't know" is a statement I respect & one I cannot argue with. I do like people who admit that up front their lack of knowing rather then fake like other thoughtless persons are prone to do.

          >Maybe I'm missing something. He seems to be saying that rearrangement of object doesn't explain why they are rearranged .if not what is he saying?

          No he is taking about change on the fundamental metaphysical level & yes you are missing something but you own it and I respect that.

          >No I don't agree whatever is changed is changed by another or changes itself.

          Very well but that is only coherent if you deny change is real or that things are real.

          >He said it was a conflict in terms.
          No a nail doesn't nail itself, but by all accounts the universe is changing on its own .

          But clearly it is not actualizing it's own potential to change on the fundamental level. That is impossible. Like having a Caboose being pulled by an infinite series of box cars or a light fixture being held by a rope going all the way up not terminating in a ceiling.

          >Oh by all means if you think you've grasped the point explain it to me. I have little clue what he thinks he is arguing for other than you need something infinite and non material for anything material to exist or change. I have no idea from this piece why this is reasonable to conclude .

          Well it goes to show you need to learn more philosophy.

          >For example both observation and intuition tell me that motion only occurs when there is at least at least a material cause...

          Which only adds credence to the claim "whatever is moved is moved by another since we don't have anything being moved/changed by itself.

          • Which only adds credence to the claim "whatever is moved is moved by another since we don't have anything being moved/changed by itself.

            How are plants able to grow, fish able to swim, and dogs able to walk? Do they not do so by themselves?

          • Jim the Scott

            The key is that nothing can reduce itself directly from potency to act, since it cannot give to itself that which it lacks. But an animal can move itself indirectly. Without legs, it could not move at all locally. But the body can move its legs. In turn, the legs can move the body. Even so, the animal does not move unless it is moved to move itself as described by final causality. Still, the OP argues that the animal could not move at all unless some extrinsic cause gave to it the perfections that it acquires through its motion.

            Brushing up on the original article might help for a detailed explanations of this.

            https://strangenotions.com/whatever-is-moved-is-moved-by-another/

          • From Summa Contra Gentiles, I, c. 13. Interesting . . . .

            In the second way, Aristotle proves the proposition by induction [Physics VIII, 4]. Whatever is moved by accident is not moved by itself, since it is moved upon the motion of another. So, too, as is evident, what is moved by violence is not moved by itself. Nor are those beings moved by themselves that are moved by their nature as being moved from within; such is the case with animals, which evidently are moved by the soul. Nor, again, is this true of those beings, such as heavy and light bodies, which are moved through nature. For such beings are moved by the generating cause and the cause removing impediments. Now, whatever is moved is moved through itself or by accident. If it is moved through itself, then it is moved either violently or by nature; if by nature, then either through itself, as the animal, or not through itself, as heavy and light bodies. Therefore, everything that is moved is moved by another. [boldface added]

          • Jim the Scott

            What is interesting is that quote you just gave has been cited before here in article by Stacy A. Trasancos She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

            "Everything that is moved is moved by another. Proved in three ways:"

            And that citation from the Summa is referenced by her as the second way she proves that proposition.

            Unmoved Mover for Unmoved Doubters
            https://strangenotions.com/unmoved-doubters/

            Hey your posted there 5 years ago?
            https://strangenotions.com/unmoved-doubters/#comment-891090252

            Sub-conscience memory?

            Mike Flynn as per his great knowledge of science had something to say here too.

            https://strangenotions.com/unmoved-doubters/#comment-1499071476

            https://strangenotions.com/unmoved-doubters/#comment-1499080109

            As too the souls of animals that tangent doesn't interest me.
            But maybe this will enlighten you on Aquinas views on Souls animal or human.

            https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aquinas/#BodSou

          • "No you are merely stating a tautology."

            I just don't see it. If I rearrange a chess board and someone asks what changed, a I say the pieces are rearranged, have I not answered the question?

            No I don't think I'm missing something I think you're both looking at the emperor s now clothes.

            I don't think I do need to learn a lot more philosophy. I think he's talking nonsense. We know Dr Bonnette is disingenuous and I am calling BS on his glib certainty on open metaphysical questions.

            "Which only adds credence to the claim "whatever is moved is moved by another since we don't have anything being moved/changed by itself."

            As well as the claim nothing immaterial could bring anything material into existence.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I just don't see it. If I rearrange a chess board and someone asks what changed, a I say the pieces are rearranged, have I not answered the question?

            I suspect that many materialists really cannot think in terms of being. Rearranging chess pieces needs a mover to rearrange them, but that is not what they are primarily missing. They are not thinking in terms of existence. That is why they see nothing new when you just rearrange the same old matter. What we see is that new aspects of reality are present in the after, or else, you would still be stuck in the before. Those new aspects entail different relative positions in space, but also different properties as a result. What precisely? One might have to examine every change in physical forces, including changes in mass attractions caused by changes in relative position. On a grand scale, the entire cosmos evolves to new explosively different states of matter, from quasars to black holes to time warps to final entropy. If nothing new occurred, the cosmos would freeze in place in the present moment forever. Moreover, evolution could never have happened, with new forms of life emerging to higher and higher levels of consciousness and self-reflection. Materialists lack imagination. They forever proclaim the newness of a progressive evolution, but then want to deny that anything real came to be that was not there before. The horns of the dilemma is do you think change produces something new ... or not. If new, then explain it. If not, change never happened.

            By the way, how is Dr. B disingenuous? Is it because he assign causes to present effects, but then refuse to name them? Some of you lot claim this of all Thomists. What you really want is for us to name the antecedent physical events that you think are causes, and we cannot do so.

            >No I don't think I'm missing something I think you're both looking at the emperor s now clothes.

            If Einstein is explaining relativity to first graders, what will determine the level of their understanding? Einstein's knowledge? Or, the first graders' capacity to understand?

            I guess you lack the back round understanding of the metaphysical conception of change & the philosophical analysis of being?

            >I don't think I do need to learn a lot more philosophy.

            That is self evidently false based on your response.

            >I think he's talking nonsense. We know Dr Bonnette is disingenuous and I am calling BS on his glib certainty on open metaphysical questions.

            This is a response that is unworthy of you & is on the level of the Young Earth Creationist crying nonsense just because he doesn't understand natural selection and can't comprehend evolution unless someone shows him some animal giving birth to an offspring that is a different species. Both of you got to hit the books and open your minds.

            Also with all due respect your glib kneejerk skepticism for it's own sake is hardly helpful.

            >As well as the claim nothing immaterial could bring anything material into existence.

            Who is claiming that? Are you referring too "from nothing, nothing comes" but nothing is only "immaterial" in the equivocal sense it lacks any being at all including the material or spiritual or metaphysical being?

          • If Einstein is explaining relativity to first graders, what will determine the level of their understanding? Einstein's knowledge? Or, the first graders' capacity to understand?

            Neither, I would say, but rather how Einstein attempted to convey his theory so that first graders could understand it. And even if Einstein failed to couch his theory in terms that a first grader could understand, nevertheless the first grader would have (today, in any case) a reasonable expectation that if he or she spent, say, the next twelve or so years studying mathematics and physics, Einstein's theory would be comprehensible. Because any reasonable authority figure in the sciences would assure the student that continued study would lead to a deep knowledge of relativity. But the same is not true of Thomism.

            When he or she gets to college, the student can ask physics professors whether it is true that E = mc^2. However, he or she cannot ask the faculty of the philosophy department whether it is true that "nothing can reduce itself directly from potency to act." In fact, the fact that plants can grow, animals can move, and raindrops can fall all seem to be cases in which a "mover" is not required.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Neither, I would say, but rather how Einstein attempted to convey his theory so that first graders could understand it.
            >And even if Einstein failed to couch his theory in terms that a first grader could understand, nevertheless the first grader would have (today, in any case) a reasonable expectation that if he or she spent, say, the next twelve or so years studying mathematics and physics, Einstein's theory would be comprehensible.

            But if after twelve years they failed to understand it does that make it false? This is all wonderfully vague like most of your commentary thus far.

            > Because any reasonable authority figure in the sciences would assure the student that continued study would lead to a deep knowledge of relativity. But the same is not true of Thomism.

            But are you a student studying Thomism or just glancing at passing proof texts and professing ignorance as to their meaning and pronouncing it "Emperor's New Cloths like your friend Green"?

            Because Young Earth Creationists do the same with Evolution.

            >When he or she gets to college, the student can ask physics professors whether it is true that E = mc^2. However, he or she cannot ask the faculty of the philosophy department whether it is true that "nothing can reduce itself directly from potency to act."

            Why not? Depends on the philosophy department and it depends if the Philosopher is a Scholastic or not.

            >In fact, the fact that plants can grow, animals can move, and raindrops can fall all seem to be cases in which a "mover" is not required.

            Again this is like listening to the Creationist say "the fact animals only give birth to their own kind and never something that is not their kind shows Evolution is not required".

            Silly line of non-reasoning.

            This is just you making a mere assertion without argument or reason followed by a dismissal. You do it often David and it never impresses. In deed it seems you have been doing that for five years?

          • Rob Abney

            Or when the kid reaches college age he may complain that he’s been so indoctrinated with materialistic brainwashing that he doesn’t know if he can ever think in any other way.

          • It is not necessary to be indoctrinated as a materialist to believe in relativity. Haven't you been reading all the protestations here on SN that there is no conflict between religion and science? I have no complaints about my Catholic education when it came to science. I got an excellent science and math education in my Catholic high school.

          • Rob Abney

            Did you have any philosophy classes?

          • Do high schools offer philosophy courses? Mine certainly didn't. We had religion classes five days a week, freshman through senior years. They covered all aspects of Catholicism. (That was in addition, of course, to the eight years of Baltimore Catechism classes in elementary school.) I am sure we covered Aquinas in some form or another, although I have no specific memories. I took a few philosophy courses in college (Ohio State University), including a course on existentialism.

          • George

            "This is a response that is unworthy of you & is on the level of the Young Earth Creationist crying nonsense just because he doesn't understand natural selection and can't comprehend evolution unless someone shows him some animal giving birth to an offspring that is a different species. Both of you got to hit the books and open your minds."

            What are the similarities between evolution and your metaphysics?

          • Jim the Scott

            >What are the similarities between evolution and your metaphysics?

            That is either an overly broad question or just a plain goofy one. It's literally like asking what are the similarities between natural selection and modal reasoning?

            Or the similarities between punctuated equilibrium and conceptional analysis?

            Or instead of comparing biology and philosophy if we compare physics with math your question is the same as asking what are the similarities between the Strong Nuclear Force and mathematical axioms?

            Are you still in junior High son?

          • George

            You seem to be saying certain skeptical critics are acting like YECers. I want to explore that. You give an example of YECs straw-manning evolution, I get that. The more comparisons we can draw between a YEC's approach to evolution, and mine and other critics approach to immaterial forms/potency-and-act etc, I think that's all the better for the point you want to make.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You seem to be saying certain skeptical critics are acting like YECers. I want to explore that. You give an example of YECs straw-manning evolution, I get that.

            Both plead their ignorance & try to justify it that is the comparison.

            >The more comparisons we can draw between a YEC's approach to evolution, and mine.

            I am a Theistic Evolutionist so I couldn't give a rat's behind for YEC. The YEC is ignorant of Science and the modern New Atheist is ignorant of Philosophy.
            Thus the YEC makes crapy arguments for Theism and crapy polemics against Atheism. In a like manner the New Atheist in turn makes crapy polemics against Theism and cannot justify any positive belief system they might hold(i.e. materialism, naturalism, skepticism etc).

            Both are fighting unarmed and blind folded.

            >and other critics approach to immaterial forms/potency-and-act etc, I think that's all the better for the point you want to make.

            I've already done that to death. Keep watching for more.

          • Jim the Scott

            OTOH maybe the snark was harsh?

            >What are the similarities between evolution and your metaphysics?

            Ask a simple question; both are aspects of a particular science. One is from the science of biology the other the science of philosophy.

            Of course I am using the term "science" rather broadly. I prefer to use it specifically and exclusively to refer to quantitative investigation of physical phenomena via experimentation and observation of said phenomena.

            But it is an equivocal term after all.

          • George

            So correct me if I've got this wrong. For the past few years, I've looked at it this way: Science is *a* philosophy, a *type* of philosophy.

          • Jim the Scott

            Ok I'll correct you.

            In classic times Philosophy would be called a "science" which is a body or species of learning. What we called "science" now would have been called "natural philosophy" or "practical philosophy" back in classic times. Specifically the "science" of qualitative investigation of physical phenomena by observation and experimentation.

            Today in our modern conventions we distinguish between Philosophy and Science the later today would have been called "natural or practical" philosophy back then.

  • Rob Abney

    Tommy, your high school classmates must really admire your cleverness. Do your teachers ever ask you to show your work?

    • Jim the Scott

      This reminds me of Tommy & his pals.

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/to-louse.html#more

      Quote"Skeptic: Science is BS. Physicists believe in these things called “quarks,” which are little flavored particles that spin around and work like magic charms. Their evidence is that they read about them in a James Joyce novel. Some of them think the universe is made up of tiny shoelaces tied together, though they admit that they have no evidence for this and have to take it on faith. Einstein said morality is all relative – which is why he stole his ideas from this guy who worked in a patent office, and why Richard Feynman stole atomic secrets during WWII. Meanwhile, the chemists contradict the physicists and believe instead in little colored balls held together by sticks. Biologists believe monkeys can give birth to human beings. What a bunch of crap! It’s child abuse to teach kids about this stuff in schools.

      Scientist: Are you joking? If not, I suggest that you actually read some science before criticizing it.

      Skeptic: I’ve already read a lot about it, in blog comboxes like this one. And why should I waste my time reading anything else? I already know it’s all BS! Didn’t you hear the examples I just gave?

      Scientist: No, you’re missing my point. You’ve completely distorted what scientists actually say. It’s not remotely as silly as you think it is. In fact it’s not silly at all. But you need to actually read the stuff to see that.

      Skeptic: So you deny that physicists believe in quarks? What flavor are your quarks, chocolate or vanilla? Do you deny that they think we came from monkeys? Which monkey was your mother?

      Scientist: No one says that monkeys gave birth to humans. That’s a ridiculous caricature. And of course I don’t deny that physicists believe in quarks, but you’re badly misunderstanding what they mean when they attribute “flavor” to them. They don’t mean that literally…

      Skeptic: Oh so it’s just empty verbiage, then. See, you’re just proving my point for me.

      Scientist: No, it’s not empty verbiage. It’s technical terminology.

      Skeptic: I see, like magic spells. That’s why they talk about “charm.” Really, you’re just digging the hole deeper.

      Scientist: Actually, it’s you who is digging your own hole deeper. That’s not what they mean by “charm.” If you knew anything at all about physics, you’d realize that.

      Skeptic: See, every time I debate people like you, you always whine about how everyone misunderstands what you mean. You always say “Go read this shelf of books and come back when you know what you’re talking about.” It’s like one of the naked emperor’s sycophants telling the kid who sees that he’s naked that he needs to read the learned works of Count Roderigo concerning the fine leather of the emperor’s boots, etc.

      Scientist: What a ridiculous analogy. You’re just begging the question. Whether science is really comparable to the naked emperor is precisely what’s at issue.

      Skeptic: OK, I’ll bite. Explain it to me, then. Prove to me here and now in this combox that science is worth my time, as opposed to being the tissue of superstition, lies, and bigotry that I already know it to be. And don’t get long-winded like you people tend to do, or start throwing around references to this scientist I should know about or that book I should have read.

      Scientist: What is this, an invitation to the Star Chamber? How am I supposed to explain fields as complex as quantum physics, or evolutionary biology, or chemistry to the satisfaction of someone as hostile to them as you are in a combox comment, or even a blog post or series of blog posts? Besides, there are so many things wrong with what you’ve said I don’t even know where to begin! And if I keep it short, you’ll tell me that I’m dodging whatever issue I don’t address, while if I respond at greater length you’ll tell me I’m a windbag. I can’t win! But why are you wasting time in a combox anyway? Why don’t you just read the work of some actual scientists? It’s right there in the library or bookstore if you really want to understand it.

      Skeptic: I knew it. You won’t defend yourself because you know you can’t. But then, arguing with people like you just gives you credibility. That’s why you uneducated, irrational fanatical bigots need to be shouted down by reasonable, open-minded, well-read, tolerant people like me. Science is BS, and you know it. It’s just so obvious. So why don’t you go back to eating your tasty flavored quarks and tying your vibrating 11-dimensional shoestrings over at your Uncle Monkey’s house, OK? I’ll be here in the reality-based community reading my copy of The Science Delusion."

      Naturally, a Dawkins or Myers would be appalled at our Skeptic. And rightly so. But replace terms like “science,” “physicists,” “quarks,” etc. with terms like “theism,” “philosophers,” “God,”[I would personally add philosophy, Thomism, Act/potency, metaphysics] etc. and you’ve suddenly got in our Skeptic a typical Dawkins or Myers fan – indeed, you’ve got someone pretty much indistinguishable from Dawkins or Myers themselves.

      Don’t expect the scales to fall from their eyes anytime soon, though. It is hard enough for anyone to say “I was wrong.” But the New Atheist has to say much more than that. To admit his errors really amounts to saying “I am exactly the sort of person that I have loudly, publicly, and repeatedly denounced and ridiculed, and the hating of whom gives me my sense of identity and self-worth.” That requires a nearly superhuman degree of honesty and courage."END QUOTE

      There are rational & philosophically informed Atheists. It's just there are not that many of them.

      • There are rational & philosophically informed Atheists. It's just there are not that many of them.

        Relatively speaking, the same is true of theists. Since there are so many more theists than atheists, the rational and philosophically informed ones are easier to notice if you know where to look for them.

        • Jim the Scott

          That is a valid point. I'll give you that.

          I just wish he the rational and philosophically informed Atheists where also the popular ones.

          It would be a more productive dialog if the Jack Smarts, Lee Smolins and Negals of the world lead the Charge then Dawkins, Meyers and Coyne's.

          • It would be a more productive dialog if the Jack Smarts, Lee Smolins and Negals of the world lead the Charge then Dawkins, Meyers and Coyne's.

            I don't blame everything on the media, but it is usually their decision who gets most of the public's attention.

        • Jim the Scott

          PS and I do lament the popularity of intellectually stunted versions of Theism.

          • It's not a good time to be a well-informed intellectual on either side of this debate.

  • Moreover, a new paper defends the common sense Aristotelian understanding of motion and time while simultaneously definitively refuting certain misinterpretations of modern physics.

    I don’t have time right now to read Castellano’s paper closely enough to see what it implies or refutes. However, I think the following comment tells me what I need to know:

    Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Being a finite or limited being means to exist here and now with certain qualities of being—and no others. Substantial beings exist in themselves, while accidental beings exist only in another and are merely qualities of a substance or, perhaps, of another accident. Thus, being limited means being just what a thing is and no more at a given point in time. That is, every limited being is a substance of a certain specific type, having particular accidental qualities that determine and restrict its way of existing down to the last detail—with certain existential qualities or perfections – and without all other possible ones.

    That all clearly presupposes Aristotelian metaphysics, and it has been my observation that according to Aristotelians, no possible empirical observation can be inconsistent with Aristotelian metaphysics. Thus, a claim that any development or discovery in modern physics confirms something Aristotle said is meaningless.

    The only interpretation I have of modern physics that is relevant to this discussion is that modern physics is consistent with philosophical naturalism. I could be mistaken, of course, but this cannot be proved with an argument that presupposes Aristotelian metaphysics. It can only be proved by demonstrating an inconsistency between modern physics and philosophical naturalism, where the demonstration does not rest on any Aristotelian assumptions.

    • Jim the Scott

      >I don’t have time right now to read Castellano’s paper closely enough to see what it implies or refutes. However, I think the following comment tells me what I need to know:

      **Eye roll!**

      "I don't have time to actually examine all the data & arguments available to me but I can just declare this part a total summery of arguments I have not by my own admission examined and ad hoic declare it "what I need to know"?

      I would curse up a storm right now if Brandon let me. But I need to watch my blood pressure & I am too mean.

      Based on what you just said I will not only take it with a grain of salt but with a whole salt mine.

      >That all clearly presupposes Aristotelian metaphysics,

      Duh! Because the premises of AT have been argued for over a half a dozen papers and dozens and dozens of others over the years.

      Just pointing out, if I am writing a scientific commentary on Evolution or in the context of the philosophy of science or philosophy of nature I don't really have to waste time proving evolution true or not. I can assume it for purposes of the paper. Thus tedious low brow Young Earth Creationist who might chime in complaining "You haven't proved evolution true you just presuppose it" are being a bunch of....well I don't think Brandon wants me to curse.

      > and it has been my observation that according to Aristotelians, no possible empirical observation can be inconsistent with Aristotelian metaphysics.

      Empirical Science by definition deals with quantitative measurements of physical phenomena via experimentation. How can that method be applied to ontology or the study of being qua being? It can't. That makes about as much sense as declaring that since Physics relies on Math one can calculate the physical force of the number 3 slamming into the number 8. Tis silly.

      Conflating science with philosophy and physics with metaphysics is the fallacy of equivocation and a clear category mistake. One does not have to believe in any gods to see that is bat...uh...poop insane,

      Just putting that out there.

      > Thus, a claim that any development or discovery in modern physics confirms something Aristotle said is meaningless.

      Actually the issue is more profound then that. One has to presuppose real change in order to do empirical science. Anti-realists have a philosophical and logical problem. They have to rely on scientific experiments that presuppose observable change to prove some physical phenomena true which they interpret as showing change actually isn't real. That is a contradiction and it is incoherent.

      To quote Feser quoting Healey "[he] goes on to note that those who would deny change in the name of physical theory are essentially treating it the way Galileo, Locke, and other early moderns treated color, viz. as a sec- ondary quality. Just as, for the Lockean, color is just the tendency of an object to produce in us sensations that do not resemble anything really there in the object itself, so too do those who would deny change in the name of physical theory essentially treat it as an aspect of experience that does not correspond to the objective physical real- ity that causes the experience. Yet if such a picture is to avoid empirical incoherence, it “cannot establish this experience as wholly illusory” (Healey 2002, p. 312), for if the scientist’s experience of change is wholly illusory then so too is the evidential base of the theory that leads him to deny that it is wholly illusory."END QUOTE

      >The only interpretation I have of modern physics that is relevant to this discussion is that modern physics is consistent with philosophical naturalism.

      Well Lee Smolin is clearly a naturalist and he believes time is real and change is real.

      But naturalism and other philosophies must be dealt with philosophically not based on some warmed over Positivism/scientism nonsense.

      Science has no place there anymore then a chemistry kit lets you measure the red shifting of galaxies.

      >I could be mistaken, of course, but this cannot be proved with an argument that presupposes Aristotelian metaphysics. It can only be proved by demonstrating an inconsistency between modern physics and philosophical naturalism, where the demonstration does not rest on any Aristotelian assumptions.

      Rather you have to get away from science and into philosophy & underlying metaphysics. I read some of the past comments by Thoughtless going back months to justify his SR =eternalism nonsense. Mike Flynn who has forgotten more science then Thioughtless ever learned pointed out how motion can be modeled using ellipses as opposed to a block universe, Or something to that effect. It doesn't prove reality is ontologically elliptical.

      PS I suggest you real the paper.

      • **Eye roll!**

        I didn’t say I wasn’t going to read it. I skimmed it enough to know that I could not respond intelligibly without spending a lot of time with it, and when I posted yesterday it was getting close to time for me go to work. Then it turned out I had to work a 12-hour shift, and I got home about an hour ago dead tired. I’m very sleep-deprived but cannot go to bed soon because I have to do some shopping that will not wait another day and the grocery store won’t open for another hour and a half.

        I would curse up a storm right now if Brandon let me. But I need to watch my blood pressure & I am too mean.

        Calm down. I assure you that my attitude toward religion is not analogous Feser’s skeptic’s attitude toward science.

        Because the premises of AT have been argued for over a half a dozen papers and dozens and dozens of others over the years.

        And I have tried to get familiar with those arguments. For various reasons, it seemed like I didn’t have to do until I found this forum. Then, having discovered it that I did need to, I figured I would start with Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition. I got a copy about a year ago and recorded my thoughts in an essay while I read it. Having completed a rough draft of around 70 pages, I read it again while revising the essay. I posted the result on my website just a few days ago: http://dougshaver.net/philosophy/metaphysics/Last%20Superstition.pdf.

        Empirical Science by definition deals with quantitative measurements of physical phenomena via experimentation. How can that method be applied to ontology or the study of being qua being? It can't.

        That does not look like a problem for my worldview. I’m an empiricist. A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant, so far as I can determine. If a universe in which being qua being means something is indistinguishable from a universe in which it is meaningless, then it might as well be meaningless for all the logical difference it makes.

        One has to presuppose real change in order to do empirical science.

        I’m not disputing the need for presuppositions. I’m just claiming that my presuppositions are more parsimonious than Aristotle’s. Maybe they really aren’t, but I have not yet discovered a good metric for parsimony. At least for the time being, then, all I have to go on is my intuition, and my intuition says I’m assuming a lot less than Aristotle was assuming.

        Anti-realists have a philosophical and logical problem. They have to rely on scientific experiments that presuppose observable change

        No, it’s not a presupposition, it’s an inference. What we presuppose is that our sensory data are approximately accurate. Given that assumption, when we observe a world that is never the same from one moment to the next, we infer the existence of change. Or rather, we apply that label, “change,” to certain things we observe so as to distinguish them other phenomena that are always the same every time we observe them.

        Well Lee Smolin is clearly a naturalist and he believes time is real and change is real.

        I’m not disputing the existence of change. I have not yet, in this forum, had anything to say about the ontological status of time.

        But naturalism and other philosophies must be dealt with philosophically not based on some warmed over Positivism/scientism nonsense.

        You may characterize my defense of naturalism as warmed-over nonsense of whatever kind you wish. In my judgment, it is as philosophical rigorous as it needs to be. I have not been a naturalist for my entire life, but every argument I have found against it has sooner or later turned out, on close enough examination, to lack cogency.

        • Rob Abney

          And I have tried to get familiar with those arguments. For various reasons, it seemed like I didn’t have to do until I found this forum. Then, having discovered it that I did need to, I figured I would start with Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition. I got a copy about a year ago and recorded my thoughts in an essay while I read it. Having completed a rough draft of around 70 pages, I read it again while revising the essay. I posted the result on my website just a few days ago: http://dougshaver.net/philo....

          I like the introduction to your essay, I'll try to read more of it soon.

        • Jim the Scott

          >I didn’t say I wasn’t going to read it.

          That shows promise.

          >And I have tried to get familiar with those arguments. For various reasons, it seemed like I didn’t have to do until I found this forum. Then, having discovered it that I did need to, I figured I would start with Ed Feser’s The Last Superstition. I got a copy about a year ago and recorded my thoughts in an essay while I read it. Having completed a rough draft of around 70 pages,

          Impressive. Till now you seemed to me to be quiet about the whole issue.

          >That does not look like a problem for my worldview. I’m an empiricist. A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant, so far as I can determine.

          Except that very empiricist metaphysical position you hold is by it's own standard is irrelevant.

          Thus philosophically you worldview is already hopelessly incoherent.

          >f a universe in which being qua being means something is indistinguishable from a universe in which it is meaningless, then it might as well be meaningless for all the logical difference it makes.

          Except empiricism is not the standard by which you investigate being qua being. Again that is like trying to use a particle accelerator to prove or disprove natural selection. You are giving me Scientism Doug and even A.G Flew at the height of his Atheism in the 50's abandoned it as hopelessly incoherent,

          >’m not disputing the need for presuppositions. I’m just claiming that my presuppositions are more parsimonious than Aristotle’s.

          Actually yours seem self referential.

          > Maybe they really aren’t, but I have not yet discovered a good metric for parsimony. At least for the time being, then, all I have to go on is my intuition, and my intuition says I’m assuming a lot less than Aristotle was assuming.

          I am not sure why that is a goal for you?

          >No, it’s not a presupposition, it’s an inference. What we presuppose is that our sensory data are approximately accurate. Given that assumption, when we observe a world that is never the same from one moment to the next, we infer the existence of change. Or rather, we apply that label, “change,” to certain things we observe so as to distinguish them other phenomena that are always the same every time we observe them.

          It's incoherent is what it is and therefore false or it's special pleading treating the process by which I obtain data as real then irrationally inferring there is no reality. Somehow believing a Jew can come back from the dead doesn't seem all that silly by comparison.

          >I’m not disputing the existence of change. I have not yet, in this forum, had anything to say about the ontological status of time.

          Awesome!

          >You may characterize my defense of naturalism as warmed-over nonsense of whatever kind you wish. In my judgment, it is as philosophical rigorous as it needs to be

          It's problem is obvious. It is clearly irrelevant by it's own standards. If you use philosophy sans empiricism to prove it then why can't you use philosophy sans empiricism to prove the existence of God or know AT metaphysics is true?

          I will say this in praise of you. At least you own your Scientism.

          • Till now you seemed to me to be quiet about the whole issue.

            Besides some frequent procrastination, there’s a reason it took me almost a year to write the essay. It took a lot of thinking.

            Thus philosophically you worldview is already hopelessly incoherent.

            That’s what Feser was arguing, among other things. My response is part of the essay.

            Except empiricism is not the standard by which you investigate being qua being.

            I said “meaningless for all the logical difference it makes,” not “for all the empirical difference it makes.”

            Actually yours seem self referential.

            You’ll have to show me how they are that.

            I am not sure why that is a goal for you?

            You’re not sure why I believe in using Occam’s razor?

            It's incoherent is what it is and therefore false or it's special pleading treating the process by which I obtain data as real then irrationally inferring there is no reality.

            When did I claim to infer that there is no reality?

            You may characterize my defense of naturalism as warmed-over nonsense of whatever kind you wish. In my judgment, it is as philosophical rigorous as it needs to be

            It's problem is obvious.

            Obvious to you, maybe.

            If you use philosophy sans empiricism to prove it then why can't you use philosophy sans empiricism to prove the existence of God or know AT metaphysics is true?

            I don’t recall having made any claim to have proved naturalism. My intuition says its true, and that is reason enough for me to accept it until somebody shows me a good reason not to. No Aristotelian has done that yet. You can all keep trying, but I hope you’ll start by responding to my critique of The Last Superstition.

            I will say this in praise of you. At least you own your Scientism.

            Whether I own it depends on what you are calling scientism. I discuss the issue briefly in this essay: http://www.dougshaver.net/philosophy/science/six_signs_of_scientism.html.

          • Jim the Scott

            I see you are debating/ having a dialog with Phil.

            I'll give you my response to your post and paper about "Scientism" later tonight because I don't want to dog pile. But I will be watching your discussion with him.

            Cheers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Briefly (well maybe that is not true) since Phil seems to have the rest of my concerns well in hand.

            >Whether I own it depends on what you are calling scientism. I discuss the issue briefly in this essay:

            http://www.dougshaver.net/philosophy/science/six_signs_of_scientism.html

            It doesn't really deal with scientism at all it kind of dodges the problem IMHO. Same with your 70 page essay(in respect to scientism) it only mentions Scientism like three times and for the most part avoids confronting the problem.

            First the Definition.

            Quote"[the]scientistic or naturalist position that science alone plausibly gives us objective knowledge, and that any metaphysics worthy of consideration can only be that which is implicit in science (Ladyman, Ross, Spurrett and Collier 2007; Rosenberg 2011)........ scientism is self-defeating, and can avoid being self- defeating only at the cost of becoming trivial and uninteresting.....The claim that “the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything” (Rosenberg 2011, p. 6) is not itself a scientific claim, not something that can be established using scientific methods. Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically......Here we come to the second horn of the dilemma facing scientism. Its advocate may now insist: If philosophy has this status, it must really be a part of science, since (he continues to maintain, digging in his heels) all rational inquiry is scientific inquiry. The trouble now is that scientism becomes completely trivial, arbitrarily redefining “science” so that it includes anything that could be put forward as evidence against scientism. Worse, this move makes scientism consistent with views that are supposed to be incompatible with it."END QUOTE Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction by Ed Feser pg 10-13.

            According your essay "the word has become, more often than not, simply a way of denigrating science out of hand. To many minds, if you raise a scientific objection to any proposition, then you're guilty of scientism, and to these minds, whatever scientism is, it is by definition A Bad Thing. But she thinks the scientism objection can be justified in some cases if it is properly defined. She suggests six indicators of a properly objectionable scientism. I think that in each case, the objection is not really sustainable."END QUOTE

            That is a red herring. Attacking Scientism is not the same as attacking science or the proper use of science to answer legitimately scientific questions. It in fact is the absurd philosophical view "science alone plausibly gives us objective knowledge, and that any metaphysics worthy of consideration can only be that which is implicit in science" and pointing that out does not mean science is not a legitimate method of inquirey in regards to it's preview.

            If I tell a physicist he can't use a Particle Accelerator to prove or disprove that natural selection changes species over time that is not an attack on Physics. If I tell a paleontologist he can't dig up a Higgs Bosen particle in the fossil record that is not an attack on his discipline either. They are category mistakes.

            Conflating science with philosophy is in a similar matter a category mistake.

            Of course you essay remind me that as a linguistic convention I prefer the term "Positivism" over "Scientism" because of this tendency to equate attacking Scientism with attacking science.

            You said of Feser " I assure you that my attitude toward religion is not analogous Feser’s skeptic’s attitude toward science."

            The only "skepticism" Feser has ever expressed toward science is the tendency to conflate it with philosophy. That no more being "skeptical" of science then I would or could rationally be called "skeptical" of using a chemistry set to measure the Doppler Effect.

            To claim Feser is in anyway "skeptical" of science is silly.

            Cheers.

            PS you can have the last word because I don't want to pile on.

          • PS you can have the last word because I don't want to pile on.

            I appreciate the sportsmanship. If I start to feel piled on, I’ll say something. For now, I’m doing fine.

            It doesn't really deal with scientism at all it kind of dodges the problem IMHO.

            If scientism by definition is an inappropriate use of science, then inappropriateness is the problem. You have not proved that a particular use of science is inappropriate if all you have said is “That is scientism.”

            First the Definition.

            When you accuse me of scientism, the only definition that matters is yours: whatever meaning you intend the word to convey. Whatever meaning that is, it either does or does contain the notion that I am using science inappropriately, and if it does, then it’s up to you to demonstrate the inappropriateness. If it does not, the I don’t know what the problem is supposed to be.

            Attacking Scientism is not the same as attacking science or the proper use of science to answer legitimately scientific questions.

            It’s not supposed to be. I get that.

            To claim Feser is in anyway "skeptical" of science is silly.

            I didn’t make that claim. I was referring to one of the characters in his dialogue.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I appreciate the sportsmanship. If I start to feel piled on, I’ll say something. For now, I’m doing fine

            Very well.

            >If scientism by definition is an inappropriate use of science, then inappropriateness is the problem.

            No, scientism is the view "science alone plausibly gives us objective knowledge, and that any metaphysics worthy of consideration can only be that which is implicit in science (Ladyman, Ross, Spurrett and Collier 2007; Rosenberg 2011)". Specific definitions are important. Scientism is a category mistake. Saying it is merely "inapproprioate" sort of down plays the actual rational problems associated with it as if mere social convention dictates it's wrong to try to use a LHC to explore the natural selection of species or wrong to try to dig up a Higgs Bosen.

            >You have not proved that a particular use of science is inappropriate if all you have said is “That is scientism.”

            Forgive me Doug but this seems like merely shifting the burden of proof for it's own sake. This is a mere rhetorical device not argument or dialog.

            If you want to claim "A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant" then you are going to have to explain to me how this very philosophical concept of yours isn't by it's own standard irrelevant?

            Trying to get me to "prove" first this is a species of Scientism is justt some rhetorical mischief to avoid the problem.

            It seems obvious to me it is a species of Scientism but it is still incoherent regardless if you dispute the definition or not.

          • scientism is the view "science alone plausibly gives us objective knowledge, and that any metaphysics worthy of consideration can only be that which is implicit in science (Ladyman, Ross, Spurrett and Collier 2007; Rosenberg 2011)".

            That is not how I would represent my view of science. It's not far off, but I can't say I agree with it, as worded.

            >You have not proved that a particular use of science is inappropriate if all you have said is “That is scientism.”

            Forgive me Doug but this seems like merely shifting the burden of proof for it's own sake.

            If it's your accusation, it's not up to me to disprove it.

            If you want to claim "A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant" then you are going to have to explain to me how this very philosophical concept of yours isn't by it's own standard irrelevant?

            It's an epistemological statement, so it needs to be judged by epistemological standards, not by metaphysical criteria.

          • Jim the Scott

            >That is not how I would represent my view of science. It's not far off, but I can't say I agree with it, as worded.

            Don't equate "your view of science" with Scientism. Science and Scientism are not alike. If you are professing to believe in a version of scientism then that would be your philosophy not your science.

            >It's an epistemological statement, so it needs to be judged by epistemological standards, not by metaphysical criteria.

            It's philosophy and philosophy examines both metaphysics and theories of knowledge.

            As an epistemological statement it is still clearly incoherent since it cannot stand the test of itself.

          • Don't equate "your view of science" with Scientism.

            I have not said I do.

            Science and Scientism are not alike.

            I have not said they are.

            philosophy examines both metaphysics and theories of knowledge.

            Of course, but that doesn't make metaphysics and epistemology the same thing.

            As an epistemological statement it is still clearly incoherent since it cannot stand the test of itself.

            Not I'm just not understanding you. Would you please give me an example of an epistemological statement to which this objection would not apply?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Not I'm just not understanding you. Would you please give me an example of an epistemological statement to which this objection would not apply?

            Now I don't understand you?

          • I don't know what you mean by an epistemological statement having a test of itself. It would help me understand if you would provide an example of an epistemological statement that does successfully test itself. That would give me some idea of what it means for an epistemological statement to be unable to stand the test of itself.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I don't know what you mean by an epistemological statement having a test of itself.

            You wrote ""A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant".

            That very epistemological statement above cannot be falsified by observation ergo it is irrelevant by it's own standards. It fails it's own test.

            An epistemological statement would have to be argued by sound philosophy not mere observation alone.

            The thing is Doug you want to dismiss all philosophical arguments for the existence of God because they don't involved empirical verification in the strict scientific manner.

            But your own standard can't meet that criteria of "observable verification" thus it must be false by it's own standard.

            If you try to argue for it via philosophical argument (& let us say you do and are successful) then you can know this principle to be true via philosophy but not observation alone. Which is still a contradiction.

            Since you would have to modify your principle to say "A metaphysics that can’t be falsified by observation is just irrelevant(except this one)." which is clearly special pleading and would automatically invalidate your argument.

            Or you could just abandon scientism and admit God is a Philosophical question and try to come up with legitimate philosophical defeaters for the various arguments rather then ride this dead end scientism trail?

          • That very epistemological statement above cannot be falsified by observation ergo it is irrelevant by it's own standards. It fails it's own test.

            Being an epistemological statement does not make it a statement about epistemology. I have not said anything about all statements having to be verifiable by observation. I am claiming that statements purporting to be about reality have to be verifiable or else they are epistemologically irrelevant. But epistemology is not itself about reality. It is about how we know anything about reality.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Being an epistemological statement does not make it a statement about epistemology.

            Being a statement "relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion." does not make it a statement about "the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion."?

            That is just irrational.

            >I have not said anything about all statements having to be verifiable by observation.

            The issue is statements such as "is there or is there not a God" must they be verifiable by observation or not?

            Or are they verified by sound philosophical argument?

            You are dodging the issue.

            > I am claiming that statements purporting to be about reality have to be verifiable or else they are epistemologically irrelevant.

            Except the above is clearly "a statement purporting to be about reality" & it's fate by it's own standards is obvious.

            >But epistemology is not itself about reality. It is about how we know anything about reality.

            Except this "theory of knowledge" of knowledge of yours is clearly self referential and contradictory. At best it can be trivial.

            A.G. Flew at the Height of his Atheism abandoned it for a reason.

            Scientism/Positivism is a dead end Doug. Even if there are no gods.

          • Being a statement "relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion." does not make it a statement about "the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion."?

            You can proof-text all the authorities you wish. It won't make the statement "A is about B" equivalent to "A is B."

            You are dodging the issue.

            I'm disagreeing with you about what the issue is.

            Except this "theory of knowledge" of knowledge of yours is clearly self referential and contradictory.

            I can do nothing about whether anything does or doesn't seem clear to you.

            A.G. Flew at the Height of his Atheism abandoned it for a reason.

            Of course he had a reason. It just wasn't a good one.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You can proof-text all the authorities you wish. It won't make the statement "A is about B" equivalent to "A is B."

            I think you are confusing the issues. I am not saying it is intentional, just to be clear, but here we are then.

            >I'm disagreeing with you about what the issue is.

            If you say so.

            >I can do nothing about whether anything does or doesn't seem clear to you.

            And vice versa. On that we can agree.

            >Of course he had a reason. It just wasn't a good one.

            The reason was it was incoherent and self-refuting. Why is that not a good reason? It seems one can be an Atheist without Scientism and Flew was one for more then a half a century after that.

            You really are better off ditching it but too each his own.

          • The reason was it was incoherent and self-refuting.

            Did he say that? Have you got a quotation in his own words?

          • Jim the Scott

            I seem to remember Feser making that claim(I think it was Feser. Possibly in THE LAST SUPERSTITION) .

            I don't have the precise quote but in his criticism of Scientism on page 284 of his Five Proofs book he cites Flew's "David Hume: An Equity Concerning Human Understanding " in his on going polemic.

    • Phil

      That all clearly presupposes Aristotelian metaphysics, and it has been my observation that according to Aristotelians, no possible empirical observation can be inconsistent with Aristotelian metaphysics.

      Well, this could be in part because A-T metaphysics starts with observations of the empirical world and asks the question, "What needs to be true from a metaphysical POV for the material cosmos to exist as it does?"

      If the metaphysics that were proposed did contradict empirical observation, it wouldn't be a good metaphysics!

      So it is to the credit of A-T metaphysics that it is so harmonious with empirical observation.

      The other mistake underlying this question is a proposal that a metaphysics could be "falsified" as we seek to do with scientific theories. Metaphysical proposals aren't falsified in this way because they aren't scientific theories. They are much more fundamental and primary than this. Science relies upon metaphysical theories ultimately. One has to use metaphysical argument to disprove a metaphysical proposal.

      • this could be in part because A-T metaphysics starts with observations of the empirical world and asks the question, "What needs to be true from a metaphysical POV for the material cosmos to exist as it does?"

        There is an infinity of possible explanations that would explain any set of observations made at one point in history (e.g. during Aristotle's lifetime).

        So it is to the credit of A-T metaphysics that it is perfectly harmonious with empirical observation.

        If, by design, it would be harmonious with any possible empirical observation, then its explanatory power is nil, because it is ex hypothesi untestable. You will say that untestability is irrelevant because it is metaphysics and not science, but how you label it is beside the point. If it can't be tested, then whatever you call it, in my worldview it is epistemologically useless.

        • Phil

          If, by design, it would be harmonious with any possible empirical observation, then its explanatory power is nil, because it is ex hypothesi untestable. You will say that untestability is irrelevant because it is metaphysics and not science, but how you label it is beside the point. If it can't be tested, then whatever you call it, in my worldview it is epistemologically useless.

          The mistake underlying this is a proposal that a metaphysics could be "falsified" in the same exact way that we aim to do with scientific theories. Metaphysical proposals aren't falsified in this way because they aren't scientific theories. They are much more fundamental and primary than scientific theories. Science ultimately rests upon metaphysical theories. One then has to use metaphysical argument to disprove or prove a metaphysical proposal.

          Now this doesn't mean that metaphysical proposals can't be shown to be false. There are plenty of metaphysical proposals that could be shown to not be harmonious with empirical observation.

          For example, a metaphysics that says that science is impossible is shown to be false by the one who does successful science.

          • They are much more fundamental and primary than scientific theories.

            Whatever. If they're untestable, then I see no reason to even care whether they're true, because I don't know what it would even mean for them to be either true or false.

            Science ultimately rests upon metaphysical theories.

            Maybe so, but if you're claiming that they're Aristotle's theories, then I respectfully disagree.

            There are plenty of metaphysical proposals that could be shown to not be harmonious with empirical observation.

            Are we discussing any of them? I thought Aristotle's were the ones on the table.

          • Phil

            Whatever. If they're untestable, then I see no reason to even care whether they're true, because I don't know what it would even mean for them to be either true or false.

            2 things:

            1) What is your definition of something being "testable"?

            2) You are proposing a metaphysical view right here which would be something along the lines of:
            "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about".

            So the question is, is this view you are proposing testable? I would say it is not and therefore the view you are proposing is at worst, self-refuting, and at best, irrelevant.

            Are we discussing any of them? I thought Aristotle's were the ones on the table.

            Of course there have been plenty of metaphysical views of several thousand years that can by shown to be less or more harmonious with how reality exists. I choose to believe that is the most consistent, coherent, and comprehensive. Which is why I believe that the A-T is the true metaphysical description of reality we have right now.

          • 1) What is your definition of something being "testable"?

            A proposition is testable if there is some specifiable method of distinguishing between a universe in which it is true from a universe in which it is false.

            2) You are prosing a metaphysical view right here

            I'm not denying having a metaphysical view.

            which would be something along the lines of:
            "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about".

            If you say that that is a metaphysical view, I'll take your word for it, for now.

            So the question is, is this view you are proposing testable?

            Sure. Someone could show me a good reason why I should care.

          • Phil

            A proposition is testable if there is some specifiable method of distinguishing between a universe in which it is true from a universe in which it is false.

            If the universe didn't exist as it does right now in many different ways, then A-T metaphysics would not be true. Pretty straight forward.

            Sure. Someone could show me a good reason why I should care.

            What is your testable method of distinguishing between a universe in which it is true from a universe in which it is false of whether "you a have good reason why you should care"?

          • If the universe didn't exist as it does right now in many different ways, then A-T metaphysics would not be true.

            I said "specifiable" for a reason.

            What is your testable method of distinguishing between a universe in which it is true from a universe in which it is false of whether "you a have good reason why you should care"?

            Any kind of observation.

          • Phil

            Any kind of observation.

            Okay, and what would be a testable observation to show that your belief that "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about" is true?

          • and what would be a testable observation to show that your belief that "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about" is true?

            I've already answered that: "Someone could show me a good reason why I should care." Did you think that by "observation" I meant only "visual perception"?

          • Phil

            I've already answered that: "Someone could show me a good reason why I should care."

            And how do you test what a good reason is for you to care or not? How do you tell the difference between a good reason and a bad reason?

          • How do you tell the difference between a good reason and a bad reason?

            Good reasons are logically cogent. Bad ones are not.

          • Phil

            Good reasons are logically cogent. Bad ones are not

            Okay, so you have said that a testable observation is one that has good reasons and good reasons are those that are logically coherent. Therefore a testable observation is equal to good reasons that are logically coherent.

            A-T metaphysics is logically coherent therefore, so on your definition it is testable. Which this contradicts your original claim that it is not testable.

          • Okay, so you have said that a testable observation is one that has good reasons and good reasons are those that are logically coherent.

            No, that is not what I said.

            A-T metaphysics is logically coherent therefore, so on your definition it is testable. Which this contradicts your original claim that it is not testable.

            It was not my claim. It was the claim of an Aristotelian whose work I was reading. I was just taking his word for it.

          • Phil

            No, that is not what I said.

            You need to explain because I asked what a testable observation was and you responded in this comment:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/#comment-3744028771

            "Someone could show me a good reason why I should care"

            I then asked, what is a good reason, and you responded:

            "Good reasons are logically cogent. Bad ones are not."

            -----

            So if we put your two responses together you have said that a testable observation is someone showing you a logically coherent reason.

            Can you clarify if this is not what you meant to say?

          • So if we put your two responses together . . . .

            If we do that, and include the relevant context, we get:

            Someone could show me a logically coherent reason why I should care whether an untestable statement is true or false, where "untestable" means that a universe in which it is true is indistinguishable from a universe in which it is false.

            A universe in which somebody can show me such a reason is obviously distinguishable from a universe in which nobody can.

          • Phil

            Okay, so this is your definition of testable:

            A universe in which somebody can show me such a reason is obviously distinguishable from a universe in which nobody can.

            If you compared a universe where A-T metaphysics was true and a universe where A-T metaphysics was false, one could tell the difference.

            So therefore, A-T metaphysics is testable on your definition.

            A universe in which somebody can show me such a reason is obviously distinguishable from a universe in which nobody can.

            Your problem is that I can give you a reason (i.e., a coherent logical proof) for any belief you wanted. But that wouldn't make it true. The conclusion of a logical proof is only true if the premises are true and you show the premises are true via induction.

            Because of this, a universe where someone could give you logical reasons would not be distinguishing from where where they couldn't. The only way to tell the difference is use induction and experience of the external world.

          • I can give you a reason (i.e., a coherent logical proof) for any belief you wanted. But that wouldn't make it true.

            I didn't say it would.

          • Phil

            And as I said above, if you compared a universe where A-T metaphysics was true and a universe where A-T metaphysics was false, one could tell the difference.

            So therefore, A-T metaphysics is testable on your definition.

          • So, the people who are saying that no empirical observation would be inconsistent with A-T are mistaken?

          • Phil

            So, the people who are saying that no empirical observation would be inconsistent with A-T are mistaken?

            Let me say it this way: If special relativity is true, then there can be no observation made in this universe that is inconsistent with special relativity. Correct?

            In the same way, if A-T metaphysics is true, then there can be no observation made in this universe that is inconsistent with A-T metaphysics.

            (Of course a different universe where either special relativity or A-T metaphysics wasn't true would look very different than one where it was.)

          • Let me say it this way: If special relativity is true, then there can be no observation made in this universe that is inconsistent with special relativity. Correct?

            Correct. However, to prove "If A then B" is not to prove A, regardless of whether B is actually true. More to the issue: Physicists can specify any number of observations that would be inconsistent with special relativity. If any of those observations was actually made with consistent repeatability, then the theory in its current form would be falsified and would have to be revised. That is what makes the theory falsifiable. The scientific community's confidence that no such observation will ever be made is beside the point.

            In the same way, if A-T metaphysics is true, then there can be no observation made in this universe that is inconsistent with A-T metaphysics.

            The issue whether the observation can be specified: Can someone say for some X, "If we were to observe X, then that would be inconsistent with A-T metaphysics"? It doesn't matter if they would also say, "But of course we can sure that no one ever will observe X."

          • Phil

            "If we were to observe X, then that would be inconsistent with A-T metaphysics"?

            Sure, if one ran an experiment with absolutely no variables changing and one got different outcomes, then A-T metaphysics would be false.

          • Sure, if one ran an experiment with absolutely no variables changing and one got different outcomes, then A-T metaphysics would be false.

            Can you suggest an outcome that we might be looking for?

          • Phil

            Can you suggest an outcome that we might be looking for?

            If no variables whatsoever change, then the same "experiment" will always produce the same effects.

          • If no variables whatsoever change, then the same "experiment" will always produce the same effects.

            I guess I should have been more specific. Let's try this: Can you describe, with some specificity, an outcome that either will or will not be observed depending on whether A-T metaphysics is true or false?

          • Phil

            Sorry, I wanted to clarify that I was wrong in my example about water boiling and such.

            If something like that happened, in A-T metaphysics that would point to the fact that it was something about the nature of the thing in question that was causing different outcomes rather than it being brought about from something outside itself.

            We'd be speaking about formal causation rathe than efficient causation.

          • If something like that happened, in A-T metaphysics that would point to the fact that it was something about the nature of the thing in question that was causing different outcomes rather than it being brought about from something outside itself.

            Is there any imaginable empirical observation for which that would not be the case?

          • Phil

            Not in the physical universe we inhabit that I can think of. This is why dualism or materialism fail, because they can't account for certain phenomenon while A-T can.

            And I should have been more aware of this as I know that investigating a metaphysical theory like materialism or is much different from physics or biology.

          • Not in the physical universe we inhabit that I can think of.

            For the sake of this discussion, I'm not denying that the actual universe, i.e. the one we inhabit, is consistent with A-T. My point is that A-T is unfalsifiable if we cannot even imagine a universe in which nothing would be inconsistent with A-T.

            This is why dualism or materialism fail, because they can't account for certain phenomenon while A-T can.

            That is the point on which our disagreement actually rests. I'm not interested in trying to prove that A-T is unfalsifiable. I wish to defend my belief that naturalism, although it is falsifiable, has not been falsified.

          • Phil

            My point is that A-T is unfalsifiable if we cannot even imagine a universe in which nothing would be inconsistent with A-T.

            Let's assume for the sake of argument that A-T is unfalsifiable in the traditional way assumed by the physical sciences.

            Would you say this statement is true: "All things that are true knowledge must be falsifiable"?

          • Would you say this statement is true: "All things that are true knowledge must be falsifiable"?

            It depends on how you define true knowledge. As I define it, there a few things we know that seem to me to be unfalsifiable.

          • Phil

            As I define it, there a few things we know that seem to me to be unfalsifiable.

            So this right away makes it clear to us that simply because something isn't falsifiable doesn't mean we can't have good reason to believe it is true.

          • Right. Unfalsifiability by itself doesn't mean we can't have a good reason. But neither does it mean we don't need a good reason.

          • Phil

            I concur.

          • A logical proof is only valid if the premises are valid

            That isn't how logicians define logical validity.

          • Phil

            That isn't how logicians define logical validity.

            I'm sorry, that was a typo. What it should say is:
            A valid logical conclusion is only true if the premises are true. Validity and actually being true are two very different things.

            Someone can give you a valid logical proof for any conclusion, but that doesn't make it actually true.

            This means that a universe where someone gave you a logical proof for your belief that "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about" is true need not look any different from one in which it was false.

            Therefore, on your definition your belief that "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about" is itself untestable".

            It is self-refuting.

          • I'm sorry, that was a typo. What it should say is:
            A valid logical conclusion is only true if the premises are true. Validity and actually being true are two very different things.

            You're still not in step with logicians' usage. Validity is a property of entire arguments, not their constituents. Conclusions are true or false, not valid or invalid.

            Someone can give you a valid logical proof for any conclusion, but that doesn't make it actually true.

            Correct. A valid argument does not, just by being valid, prove that its conclusion is true.

            This means that a universe where someone gave you a logical proof for your belief that "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about" is true need not look any different from one in which it was false.

            I wasn't talking about a proof for my belief. I was talking about a proof that my belief was false. You asked: "what would be a testable observation to show that your belief that 'Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about' is true?" I replied: "Someone could show me a good reason why I should care."

          • Phil

            "what would be a testable observation to show that your belief that 'Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about' is true?"

            My point is that your belief "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about' is true" is itself not a testable belief on your own definition of testability. Therefore, it is a self-refuting belief.

            You're still not in step with logicians' usage. Validity is a property of entire arguments, not their constituents. Conclusions are true or false, not valid or invalid.

            This is what I'm saying. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

          • My point is that your belief "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about' is true" is itself not a testable belief on your own definition of testability.

            And my point is that if there could be an argument against it, then it is testable, notwithstanding the persistence of your denial.

          • Phil

            And my point is that if there could be an argument against it, then it is testable, notwithstanding the persistence of your denial.

            So for something to be "testable" an argument must simply be able to made against something?

            This would make everything testable, as one can make an argument for or against anything.

            Or do you want to further clarify your definition of "testable"?

          • This would make everything testable, as one can make an argument for or against anything.

            The kind of test we need depends on the proposition at issue. The proposition we're discussing has to do with what I should care about. The only test that could have any relevance would be whether anyone could give me a good argument for caring.

          • Phil

            The kind of test we need depends on the proposition at issue. The proposition we're discussing has to do with what I should care about. The only test that could have any relevance would be whether anyone could give me a good argument for caring.

            And how do you figure out what kind of "test" is appropriate for each proposition?

          • And how do you figure out what kind of "test" is appropriate for each proposition?

            By the exercise of reason. You think of an observation that would be inconsistent with proposition's being true, and you use logic to demonstrate its inconsistency.

          • 2) You are prosing a metaphysical view right here which would be something along the lines of:
            "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about".

            I would call this basic epistemology, rather than metaphysics.

          • Jim the Scott

            That is philosophy and it is related to metaphysics.

            Making a basic claim about Being/Reality/Existence qua Being/etc/etc is metaphysics.

            Claims like "Matter & energy are all that exist" or "nature is all that exists" or "Whatever is untestable is irrelevant and ought not be cared about."

            Also if you want to redefine it as epistemology it is still an incoherent epistemology.

          • Phil

            I would call this basic epistemology, rather than metaphysics.

            What branch of philosophy is most relevant to that belief does not matter to mine and Doug's conversation. What matters is that it is a philosophical statement.

          • Science ultimately rests upon metaphysical theories

            No, science rests on a very limited set of a basal assumptions. The assumptions of science are all pragmatic; that is, science uses, and continues to use, these assumptions because they produce useful results.

          • Jim the Scott

            Those "basal assumptions" of science come from metaphysics.

            How do you not know that? Weird......

          • Phil

            No, science rests on a very limited set of a basal assumptions

            Yes, and those assumptions are philosophical in nature. For example...the nature of causality, whether the material cosmos is intelligible and can be known, whether the human mind can come to know truth...etc.

            Science can't show that it is reasonable to believe in these things. These are things to be shown philosophically.

          • Science can't show that it is reasonable to believe in these things.

            So what if science can't show these to be reasonable. Science also can't show me that reality exists. At the end of the day, we need basal assumptions in order to build an epistemology.

          • Phil

            So what if science can't show these to be reasonable. Science also can't show me that reality exists.

            The point of discussion on here is to work towards truth together.

            I was simply pointing out above that philosophy, and metaphysics especially, undergirds the physical sciences. If one throws out metaphysics, for whatever reasons, one necessarily is cutting off the branch that the physical science are sitting upon and undermining their coherency and rationality.

          • I was simply pointing out above that philosophy, and metaphysics especially, undergirds the physical sciences.

            And I was pointing out that it's not metaphysics, but rather basal assumptions, that undergirds science.

            If one throws out metaphysics, for whatever reasons, one necessarily is cutting off the branch that the physical science are sitting upon and undermining their coherency and rationality.

            No, I can throw out metaphysics and continue to make the same basal assumptions and science continues. I can also accept those assumptions for purely pragmatic reasons. Metaphysics is simply not necessary to do science.

          • Phil

            No, I can throw out metaphysics and continue to make the same basal assumptions and science continues.

            Yes, but if I ask you if what you are doing (science) is rationally justified, your answer would be, "I don't know", unless you then go and do good metaphysics.

            So if you want to justify the rationality of science, you better not throw out philosophy. :)

          • You seem to have trouble with the idea of pragmatism. The fact that I get useful results out of science is sufficient justification for my assumptions.

            And I'm not talking about throwing away all of philosophy, rather I'm saying I chuck out "metaphysics", since it doesn't appear to be useful.

          • Phil

            You seem to have trouble with the idea of pragmatism.

            Not at all. A few things on it:

            1) Is your belief in pragmatism rational and justified? Pragmatism is itself a philosophical belief that needs to be justified. It says that one ought to assess the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

            1a) So, the first question is, is pragmatism rational to hold?

            1b) Secondly, it has a deeper question of what does it mean for something to be a success or to be good? One needs to define that first.

            1c) Further, let's assume one sees the physical sciences as "successful", if they aren't rational then there is no connection between rationality and what one ought to do. If the physical sciences are irrational, then irrational and false beliefs may be what one ought to pragmatically believe. (Which leads again to...is pragmatism rational?)

            ----

            2) If you are simply using "pragmatism" in the non-technical way, then it would mean dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

            2a) The issue then becomes, what does it mean to deal with things in a sensible and realistic way? How do you tell when you are being practical?

            In short, there is no way out of the philosophical/metaphysical realm because it truly undergirds everything.

          • was simply pointing out above that philosophy, and metaphysics especially, undergirds the physical sciences.

            A particular philosophy might undergird the sciences. Philosophy as such doesn't undergird anything.

          • Phil

            You must have misunderstood me, as that was what I was pointing out. If you throw out philosophy, you throw out the rational justification for the physical sciences.

            In that way, philosophy is the branch on which the physical sciences ultimately sit upon.

          • I'm not throwing out philosophy. I'm throwing out a piece of it: Aristotle's metaphysics. So far as I have been able to determine, philosophy works just fine without it, and I don't agree that it is, or ever was, the only rational justification for the physical sciences.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I suspect that the problem that most atheistic materialists or naturalists have with my article is that they think of change in purely materialist terms that are formally abstracted from physical reality. It seems that many materialists think that a mere rearrangement of particles “explains” change in the cosmos.

    To atheists, there is no credible conception of a Being that contains all possible perfections of existence. To them, the cosmos is fully self-contained and self-explained -- with no external source of new manifestations of existence either needed or even possible! Hence, any and all change must entail merely rearrangement of what already exists -- while the rearrangement itself adds nothing really new to what is already there. Their understanding of reality is forever circumscribed by belief in a finite universe standing in splendid ontological isolation.

    But to theists, God’s infinity is seen clearly to embrace all possible qualities of existence. They see as reasonable that the addition of even the least new reality to a totally finite cosmos must actually come from that Universal Donor to which this "new aspect" is not new at all, but simply a perfection of existence already pre-eminently contained within his infinity of perfections – a perfection that he can effortlessly confer on finite things.

    Yes, faith can be blind. But incredulity can also cause a kind of blindness to rational illumination – preventing atheists from understanding that even the very least cosmic change demands an infinitely perfect Extrinsic Cause to account for it.

    My article hinges on realizing that even the least physical change entails the
    production of a reality that is not contained in any previous state of things, and thus, cannot be explained by them.

    Consider even the smallest movement of the least subatomic particle. As materialists would conceive it, it is merely the same exact particle, just shifted in position slightly: nothing really new here – simply a reality that was already there, slightly altered in spacetime.

    And yet, from the standpoint of understanding being as such (which materialists tend to ignore, preferring merely to describe the formal qualities of matter), there actually is a new bit of reality to explain.

    Looked at as a new expression of being that never actually existed before in that exact way, even the smallest change of position entails that some real quality or perfection of existence appears that is different from all that existed in the immediately “before” state of things -- or else, the change would not be real!

    As my article points out, even “what is rearranged has new properties in virtue of the new arrangement itself.”

    The appearance of any genuinely novel perfection or quality of being cannot be explained either by cosmic totality or a subset of discrete individuals of all immediately previous reality, since that sum total previous reality simply did not actually contain it at all -- and something cannot give what it does not actually have.

    If atheistic materialists could only open their minds to the very possibility of God with his infinite perfections of existence, then it might be easier for them to grasp the radical inadequacy of a purely finite universe composed of finite things as an allegedly adequate explanation of an ever-evolving and expanding cosmos that at every instant manifests nearly infinite new facets of existence. Something above and beyond what this radically limited cosmos possesses at a given moment is clearly needed – and the theist can more readily conceive of how it could be supplied.

    No wonder St. Anselm of Canterbury declared: Credo ut intelligam, “I believe so that I may understand!”

    This in no way legitimizes fideism. Still, once faith illuminates understanding, pure reason can then solve previously vexing intellectual conundrums.

    • To atheists, there is no credible conception of a Being that contains all possible perfections of existence

      I don't even know what this means, so I don't know how I can have a concept of it. This statement just smacks of word salad to me.

      • Phil

        I don't even know what this means, so I don't know how I can have a concept of it.

        You should study Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics. That would help you to understand what it means. Some of my favorites to get you started:

        -https://www.amazon.com/One-Many-Contemporary-Thomistic-Metaphysics/dp/0268037078

        -https://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517860071&sr=1-1&keywords=scholastic+metaphysics+a+contemporary+introduction

        -https://www.amazon.com/New-Proofs-Existence-God-Contributions/dp/0802863833/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517860175&sr=1-1&keywords=new+proofs+for+the+existence+of+god

      • Rob Abney

        I don't even know what this means

        Fortunately for you, you have a professor of philosophy writing OP's, making comments, and clarifying difficult positions. You'll enjoy the salad if you try it!

    • My article hinges on realizing that even the least physical change entails the production of a reality that is not contained in any previous state of things, and thus, cannot be explained by them.

      You call it a realization. To me it looks like an assumption.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        An assumption is something "taken up" without evidence.

        Here it is evident that there is a difference in reality between the "before" and "after" of a change, or else, no change occurred at all. But change is real, and therefore the "after" must contain some reality that was not in the "before."

        That reality which suddenly newly appears demands a rational explanation, or else all reasoning about anything is pointless.

        This is hardly what we mean by an "assumption."

        • An assumption is something "taken up" without evidence.

          The "taking up" sense appears to have been its original meaning in English. Etymology is not binding on current usage, though.

          Here it is evident that there is a difference in reality between the "before" and "after" of a change, or else, no change occurred at all.

          I don't know why I have to keep saying this, but I am not disputing the existence of change.

          That reality which suddenly newly appears demands a rational explanation, or else all reasoning about anything is pointless.

          A naturalistic explanation is not irrational just because Aristotelians say it is.

          This is hardly what we mean by an "assumption."

          I'm not sure who that "we" is, but we'll just be talking past each other as long as you don't mean what I mean.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            All right. So you are simply saying what my argument addressed in the first place. The naturalistic explanation appears to be that mere rearrangement of physical material explains the change in the cosmos.

            My argument aims precisely at this claim and points out that what already exists -- even with descriptive "laws," such as inertia -- fails to account for change.

            I presented the argument fully in the OP. If you fail to be convinced, I think you are failing to follow the logic of my proof in the OP with sufficient care. But I cannot do more for you.

          • The naturalistic explanation appears to be that mere rearrangement of physical material explains the change in the cosmos.

            That is not what I am saying. That is how you interpret what I am saying.

            I presented the argument fully in the OP. If you fail to be convinced, I think you are failing to follow the logic of my proof in the OP with sufficient care.

            I have shown why I am not convinced, and did that by presenting a counterargument. My counterargument states certain premises and the reasoning by which I infer my conclusion. You may dispute any of the premises and explain why, or you may identify a fallacy in the reasoning by which I infer the conclusion from the premises.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You tell me you do not accept my very conventional definition of "assumption." But, you fail to give me yours.

            You tell my you have offered the naturalistic counterargument, but all I can find in this part of the thread is this:

            "A naturalistic explanation is not irrational just because Aristotelians say it is."

            I presume you have a genuine counterargument somewhere with the premises and logic you want me to understand?

          • You tell me you do not accept my very conventional definition of "assumption." But, you fail to give me yours.

            In the context of argumentation, an assumption is any premise offered without proof and with the affirmation, either explicit or implied, that no proof is necessary.

            I presume you have a genuine counterargument somewhere with the premises and logic you want me to understand?

            It's in my website article responding to Feser's book. I thought I'd said something similar somewhere in this forum within the past few weeks, but to briefly recap:

            An explanation is rational if it logically follows from the assumptions on which it is based, and if those assumptions do not themselves entail any contradiction. Aristotelians have failed to demonstrate that any contradiction follows from the assumptions on which naturalism is based. Since a contradiction does not exist just because someone says it exists, it follows that a naturalistic explanation is not irrational just because Aristotelians say it is.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My argument in my paper is not an assumption, precisely as you define the term, since it demonstrates the contradiction in the naturalism whose premises you assume.

            As long as you admit change in the world (as you do), for new reality to appear entails that the "before" of the cosmos is really different than its "after." That means that, if all that exists is the finite natural world, then it must both lack the qualities it later acquires, and yet, must possess those same qualities in order to account for giving them to itself -- which is a contradiction in terms.

            This entails no specific "Aristotelian" philosophical doctrines -- just the common sense principles that contradictions are not permissible and that real differences need reasons. That is, unless you wish to accept the absurdity that things don't always need reasons -- in which case, your naturalism enters the domain of the irrational, which is a world in which not everything has a reason. ("Rational" and "reason" are from the same etymological root.)

          • My argument in my paper is not an assumption

            I did not, and would not, say it was. No argument is an assumption, but every argument has premises. A premise for which no proof is offered is an assumption. The difference between an argument and an assumption is the difference between a whole and its parts.

            This entails no specific "Aristotelian" philosophical doctrines -- just the common sense principles that contradictions are not permissible and that real differences need reasons.

            Intriguing that you thought the scare quotes were necessary. And I'm not denying the need for reasons. I'm just disagreeing with Aristotle about what those reasons have to be.

            That is, unless you wish to accept the absurdity that things don't always need reasons

            I'm not going to look for a reason for something I don't think is real. As for things that are real, I don't care whether they need a reason. As a normal human being, I have a curiosity that compels me to look for a reason and to suppose, whenever I can't find one, that it's way more likely because of my cognitive limitations than because there isn't any.

            "Rational" and "reason" are from the same etymological root.

            Yeah, I know. I also know that common etymology does not imply common meaning.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Okay. Since I am objectively certain that change is real, I will just have to stand on the logic of my argument.

          • Since I am objectively certain that change is real . . . .

            You keep saying that as if I were denying it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are correct, of course --- I did say above that you acknowledge the reality of change.

            My argument still stands as presented in the OP and above in this thread.

          • The cogency of your argument is one about which, in my judgment, reasonable people can disagree. My claim is not the Aristotle could not have been right. It is that I do no violence to the proper exercise of reason if I think he was mistaken.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Many years ago, I met with the major French existentialist, Gabriel Marcel. He made the point in his writings that the fact that someone does not accept a proof for God's existence does not necessarily mean that he is guilty of "bad faith."

            The Catholic dogma (Denz. 1806) says that the existence of God can be known by the light of unaided reason. It does not say that it can be "proven." Proving to another, as Marcel points out, means, in essence, bringing another around to the point at which he can see the reality of your argument from within your own perspective.

            Such is not always possible. It might be like trying to explain the inner workings of Wall Street to a peasant in the outback of Outer Mongolia. Not the fault of anyone. Just not existentially possible.

            Therefore, I shall leave it at that. I am certain that my argument is objectively correct. And I hope that someday you might see it as such also. But I will make no adverse personal judgment about your sincerity in the process about what you understand to be true at the present time.

          • But I will make no adverse personal judgment about your sincerity in the process about what you understand to be true at the present time.

            Reciprocated. I very much appreciate your civility.

  • Why must this thing be a Being, if that means a mind? Moreover, why your god in particular here?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      My paper states that " the preceding argument is not intended as a formal proof for God's existence, but rather as a reflection on a question that finds no rational satisfaction short of conceding an Infinite Being’s existence."

      What you are looking for requires a more complete explanation in terms of natural theology. That was not the point of the OP.

    • Rob Abney

      If the OP's universal donor is a valid conclusion based on this argument, then it would have to be a mind. A mind is the most complex and most capable actuality known, and this universal donor would have to be the most capable mind we could ever know.

      • George

        But I thought it was divinely simple.

        • Rob Abney

          True. Do you want me to explain divine simplicity for you?

          • George

            Sure.

          • Rob Abney

            His essence is His existence, it cannot be any more simple.

          • George

            You're saying it's a mind, and its essence is its existence? So do you need to further justify that? How would we know if you were wrong?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You asked Rob Abney a question and he answered it. You asked him to explain the divine simplicity and he did so.

            Now you are asking a very different question, namely, how do you prove the divine simplicity is true.

            That is a very different task, and one that I could probably not do adequately in an entire OP on this web site. Especially so, because the fact that God's essence is identical to his act of existence requires a purely metaphysical demonstration with a number of required steps that some people would have difficulty following. This is virtually certain with regard to people with little or no philosophical education, and especially so for those not familiar with Thomistic metaphysics.

            This does not mean that the arguments required are what skeptics call "word salads," but simply that such proofs would go over their heads, just like advanced proofs in math would go over the heads of mathematical novices, or, advanced physics explanations of relativity or quantum mechanics would go over the heads of those not familiar with advanced physics.

            What many people do not realize is that the philosophical sciences are just as demonstrative and rigorous as people readily believe and respect about the natural sciences.

            Natural science simply has a better public relations department.

          • George

            This reminds me of something David Nickol said few years ago. Even a novice can point out an error in an expert's equations. Say the expert walks through the steps and says he's carrying a number over. If you're both seeing where the number should go, and it's a different value than what the expert says, it doesn't matter even if the novice is a child, the error is there.

            Can we use math in Catholic metaphysics? Is that what the experts have at their disposal? I'll wait for clarification.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, there is no such thing, in principle, as "Catholic metaphysics." Since Catholicism is based on religious revelation and metaphysics is a purely rational philosophical science, such a "combination" is not coherent. Still, Catholics can be metaphysicians, and metaphysics can demonstrate truths that are supportive of and compatible with Catholic teaching. As has long been observed, it is the same God who is the Author of revelation and the Creator of human reason.

            As to whether math can be used in metaphysics, I have reservations, since math is the second level of abstraction, which abstractly conceives the quantitative aspects of matter, whereas metaphysics is the "third level," based on a negative judgment of separation from matter.

            Still, any person, using pure reason combined with a basic understanding of the first principles of being, might well detect an error in metaphysical reasoning -- if there be such. Given that multiple diverse metaphysical systems inherently contradict each other on some points, such error must exist and be subject to discovery.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm sure that you could notice an error in the metaphysical explanation of reality if someone walks you through it step by step, and you know the definition of all the terms being used. For instance you would need to know that divine simplicity means that there is no composition or else you would say that the "expert" was making an error when he described God as the most complex being even though He is divinely simple.

      • I don't see that in the post however. Nor is there a warrant for the claim that it would be the God of the Bible. It could as well be any disinterested deist god, from all the post shows (even if you accept the conclusion). Further, it is unclear to me how such a mind could simply exist on its own with no cause.

        • Jim the Scott

          >Nor is there a warrant for Dr. Bonnette claiming it would be the God of the Bible.

          The argument's end is to prove the existence of God via natural theology not prove any specific revealed theology if any true. Dr. B no where claims this argument or natural theology in general specifically proves this is the God of the Bible.

          Aristotle was obvious neither a Christian nor a Jew. Dr. B has said that before.

          > Further, it is unclear to me how such a mind could simply exist on its own with no cause.

          Well everything may have a reason but not everything has a cause. It is kind of impossible for everything to have a cause ergo there must be at least one uncaused cause.

          • He says it leads to the "God of Abraham" etc. specifically near the end. I'm aware of Aristotle.

            What is the difference? A complex mind seems to me less plausible as the uncaused cause.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This is departing slightly from the OP, but ...

            If there is a source of all being, then that is also the source of mentality and personality. And so that source must be *at least* mental, and *at least* personal. That source might in some sense be *more* than mental and *more* than personal. But the traditional way of talking about it is to instead say that the source is paradigmatically personal and mental, whereas as we finite beings are only incompletely personal and mental.

            Also, if there is a source of all being, then it makes no sense to ask if that particular source of all being is the source of all being referred to in the Bible. There can be only one source of all being, so to the extent that the Bible is referring to a source of all being, well that's the one. (Similarly, where religious texts from other traditions are referring to a source of all being, they likewise must be referring to the one same source of all being; different traditions may make different claims about the nature of that source, but those are different claims about the same referent, not different referents.)

          • No, it would be a fallacy of composition to say that the source of all being must have the same attributes as the rest. It might be the case, but it isn't necessarily.

            I'm not speaking about just the "source of all being" in regards to the Bible. God there is talked about as far more than just the source all being. Also there has been no demonstration that just one exists. In fact I recall reading that Aristotle held there were multiple prime movers. So they might indeed be referring to a different entity, even if they share the same alleged attribute. My claim in any case was that God might lack certain other attributes given to him by theists, aside from this primary one.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You've made three different points in there, and I'll only attempt to respond to one (or maybe about 1.5) .

            God [in the Bible] is talked about as far more than just the source all being.

            Just to precise that a little bit, I think what you mean is that far more is said about God in the Bible about God than merely that he is the source of all being, right? (Not intending to nitpick, but it wouldn't make sense to say that God is more than the source of all being, because nothing can be more than the source of all being.) Given that slight reformulation of your statement, I would agree. But again, that is just to say that many claims are being made about the source of all being. So far as I know, Biblical authors and editors all intended to write in the tradition of Genesis, and intended to speak about [whatever it is that Genesis is speaking about]. And in Genesis, I think it is clear that what is being referred to is whatever has created all that is, i.e. whatever is the source of all being.

            With regard to my "fallacy of composition", I think you are suggesting that there could be a plausible reductionist way to account for mind, right? I won't attempt to address that, but there are some interesting points made about that in this series of interviews (actually one long interview split into multiple vids) of David Bentley Hart.

          • Yes. God in the Bible is given more attributes than simply the source of all being (though he is that as well).

            There could be. All of the neurological evidence I know indicates that the mind is, if not identical to the brain, then very much dependent on or very interlinked with it. God however is said to be an incorporeal being. Regardless though the point is simply that the whole can sometimes be greater than the sum of its parts. So then your argument seemed to be something like "Atoms must be alive, or else no life form could ever be composed of them".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No, my argument is that

            1. Some things that are composed of atoms are alive.
            2. Atoms are not alive.
            3. Therefore, whatever it is that makes a thing alive, it is not merely the atoms. To state it a little more strongly, my conclusion is that "livingness" is not reducible to physical properties.

            God however is said to be an incorporeal being.

            That's a traditional way of talking about God, but in a more modern way of speaking it would be more correct to say that God is "transmaterial", rather than "immaterial" / "incorporeal".

            God lacks corporality / materiality only to extent that "materiality" and "potentiality" are understood to be the same thing (which, as I understand it, is more or less the Aristotelian understanding of "matter"). God lacks potential, because potential itself is a sort of deficit, and God lacks deficits. If, on the other hand, one understands "matter" in the now more or less colloquial sense of "that stuff that perdures through change", then God has that in spades. God is infinitely perduring, and so is super-material, if materiality is understood in that way. Alternatively, if one understands "materiality" and "tangibility" to be interchangeable then, again, God has that in spades. Whenever we perceive anything by touch, we are perceiving a manifestation of God.

          • That was probably a poor example. So to put it another way: atoms are not wet, yet water is composed of them and wet even so. Unless you think that requires something else to why. If so I fail to see why.

            I don't know what all of that means, but surely God has no brain.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess it seems to me that any time the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (including in your wet water example), that requires some explanation other than the parts. That seems to me to be the very meaning of the phrase: the whole is not explicable merely in terms of its components. The additional explanation may be provided by the joint configuration of the parts, a.k.a. the form. But even that is only a proximate explanation, and if you follow that line of reasoning, it seems to me that it directs you toward some ultimate wellspring of all intelligible form. And if that is true then it makes some sense to me to call that ultimate wellspring an "intelligence".

            I agree that God has no brain. But I see no good reason to believe that brains are what cause minds to exist. It seems to be a safer inference to simply suppose that complex material structures like brains are necessary in order for minds to become manifest. And analogously, I think something similar is true of God, i.e. material creation is that through which God becomes manifest (or that through which God is revealed, to say it in another way).

          • Why does it? I took the meaning of the phrase as different, meaning it can give rise to things greater than itself with no outside help.

            The fact that brain damage destroys such mental functions as we observe seems like a good reason. In any case, how can it be that God needs material creation for manifesting his own mind, when he surely needs his intelligence for creating matter to begin with?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I would not propose that "outside help" is the right way to think about it. I would find it very awkward, for example, to claim that the form of liquid water provides "outside help" to make liquid water wet. The form is just intrinsic to liquid water. It's what makes liquid water liquid what it is. What it is is not reducible to the component atoms, but that doesn't mean that there is something "outside" or "extra". It means that there is something other than just the components that is intrinsic to the whole.

            It's just a matter of what it means to explain something. If the parts don't entirely explain the whole (which is the case when "the whole is the greater than the sum of its parts"), then ... the parts don't entirely explain the whole! In which case, some additional explanation is needed.

            The fact that brain damage destroys such mental functions as we observe seems like a good reason.

            Not to me it doesn't. If lose my internet connectivity, then I can no longer express my intentions in a way that you will perceive. It doesn't follow from that that I no longer have intentions.

            how can it be that God needs material creation for manifesting his own mind, when he surely needs his intelligence for creating matter to begin with?

            When I talk about a "manifestation of a mind", I am not talking about what creates a mind or makes it real. I am talking about that which expresses what was already latent in mind. So yes, I am proposing that the creation of matter is a manifestation of God's mind, but that doesn't mean that God's mind only become real with the arrival of matter. Similarly, I don't see any reason to think that our minds only become real with the arrival of our brains. It's just that our minds can only become expressed in detectable ways with the arrival of our brains. Or so it is in my conception, at least.

          • Okay. I'm not sure how to put it. Nor is it clear to me why the matter is not sufficient. It was also probably a mistake to use that idiom, as I think that the parts do explain. Or at least I have yet to see anything which shows they can't.

            That assumes there is a mind apart from the brain (i.e. the Internet user), but that's the point at issue. In any case, even assuming that your analogy itself shows that the mind still needs to have a brain.

            I guess it wasn't clear to me what you thought previously. The fact of minds without brains remains unknown to me however.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Fair enough. Let me just clarify one more thing about my position and then I'm happy to let you close out.

            I might have given the impression that I believe in Cartesian-esque ethereal minds that are just out there floating around in a detached state and and then finally find a home when there is a brain around to inhabit. So, to clarify, that is not how I imagine things.

            What I believe is more along these lines: my intentionality must have come from somewhere. I imagine that it has been there from the beginning (i.e. from the Big Bang), in some latent sense. My intentionality has always been there, latently, in the structure (not in the matter) of the universe. But that structure only found its full material expression when yours truly came on the scene. It is in that sense that I believe that my mind preceded and gave rise to my brain, whereas I find the reverse idea, that of my purely material brain giving rise to my mental existence, completely implausible. I know many smart people are trying to show otherwise, but I just don't see how the physical can give rise to the mental.

          • Sure. I'm sorry, my comment got us sidetracked.

            I didn't think you did, as I'm already aware of the hylomorphist view. There are some questions I have about that still, but if you're going then I'll save them.

            I think personally it's plausible that it's emergent, evolved from the most basic sensations until we find ourselves here. However this is still a huge topic, and reasonable minds can disagree.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems that you are getting good answers to your questions, you seem to be open-minded about this subject.

            the point is simply that the whole can sometimes be greater than the sum of its parts

            I would respond to this by clarifying that the whole cannot give to its parts anything that it does not possess.
            The ultimate donor has the attributes that all men would assign to God, if He didn't have these attributes He could not donate them to creation. There cannot be more than one of these perfect Beings because that would entail that one has attributes that another lacked.

          • Thanks.

            Let me try to explain. God does not have color, yet creates light that is responsible for it even so. Similarly, things can have properties in that they lack apart.

            Nothing in creation is all-powerful, all-wise, etc. Conversely, things in creation do have attributes he lacks, for instance frailty. So how does God impart those things? How is it a perfect being can create something imperfect?

            Why would multiple perfect beings entail that?

          • Rob Abney

            God does not have color, yet creates light that is responsible for it even so

            I'm not well versed in this but I believe that pure light possesses all color, so I would say yes He does have color, He has all color.

            things in creation do have attributes he lacks, for instance frailty. So how does God impart those things? How is it a perfect being can create something imperfect?

            Comparing imperfection to perfection is like comparing a part to the whole.

            For there to be, lets say two, perfect beings then one would have something that the other lacked in order to differentiate the two, so the one that lacked an attribute would not be perfect.

          • I don't know much about it either, so that is probably another poor example. So, third try... God would be beyond time and space, so he lacks a physical form. Yet he creates them.

            They could be distinguished by attributes that did not have to do with their perfection.

          • Rob Abney

            Reply to objection about physical form: More difficult to explain but...., He creates beings with natures, as stated before, but He does not create the imperfections in their nature such as material beings being dependent upon matter. The more perfect existence would be immaterial existence without the need for matter - Angels.
            Reply to objection about perfection: A perfect being does not have attributes that are not perfect.

          • How is it God didn't create our imperfections? That makes no sense if he created everything.

            All right, if you say so. We could imagine less than fully perfect beings, in that case. Being able to imagine a perfect being just does not make it so.

          • Rob Abney

            how is it God didn't create our imperfections? That makes no sense if he created everything.

            When you create a doughnut do you create the doughnut hole? No.

            right, if you say so. We could imagine less than fully perfect beings, in that case. Being able to imagine a perfect being just does not make it so.

            We weren't discussing imagining though.
            I do appreciate your philosophical approach, as you try to draw distinctions. I hope you note that there are valid answers even if you don't agree with them.

          • Jim the Scott

            I must say this in praise of Michael's questions. He seems to be taking this on philosophically and not scientifically.

            Which is like studying evolution by comparing like genetic material on one species with like genetic material in different but related species...WHICH IS HOW YOU DO IT.

            I am pleased. :D

            PS because the category mistake of the Scientism crowd are getting old.

          • Actually you do have to create it. Where else would the "hole" in us come from but God?

            What my point was is imagining that God is perfect in every way does not mean any actual deities must be. I do try to be precise, thanks. Respectfully though I don't agree with these answers precisely because they seem invalid.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Actually you do have to create it. Where else would the "hole" in us come from but God?

            The "hole" is a privation, an absence of something otherwise known as "nothing". How can you create "nothing" literally?

            There is nothing to create.

            >What my point was is imagining that God is perfect in every way does not mean any actual deities must be.

            I sense you are equivocating between Classic Theism and Theistic Personalism.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

            > I do try to be precise, thanks. Respectfully though I don't agree with these answers precisely because they seem invalid.

            You are a making a good effort. Well done.

          • I don't think that "nothing" literally can exist. Moreover, how could an absence of God exist, when he is all-present?

            I'm not sure of the distinction, so any equivocation was unintended. The link you pointed me to no longer exists it seems though.

            Thanks again.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I don't think that "nothing" literally can exist.

            In the notional sense it exists. An absence of something certainly literally exists but it doesn't really substantially exist as nothing is not a substance.

            >Moreover, how could an absence of God exist, when he is all-present?

            It doesn't really follow an absence of Donut = an absence of God.

            >I'm not sure of the distinction, so any equivocation was unintended. The link you pointed me to no longer exists it seems though.

            >Thanks again.

            Fixed it.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

          • If you mean as a concept, then yes it exists. Even then though I'm not sure we can really conceive of literally "nothing". At least I can't. I believe we agree here, as the absence of one thing is something else.

            It was your analogy, though I'd agree they are not really alike. I believe it's impossible for God to be absent, at least as usually conceived of.

            Thanks. I read a different link of his responding to Craig which went into the differences as well. My initial feeling is that it's easier to reconcile theistic personalism with the Incarnation though. Naturally, this may simply be ignorance on my part.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not sure we can really conceive of literally "nothing". At least I can't. I believe we agree here, as the absence of one thing is something else.

            It's not hard, take everything and subject it from itself. I can certainly conceive of an absence of donut in the hole just expand that.

            If something a composite of things to take away one of those things turns it into something else. But take it all away you have nothing. I don't see how that is hard? It seems obvious? I hope this helps.

            >It was your analogy, though I'd agree they are not really alike. I believe it's impossible for God to be absent, at least as usually conceived of.

            Well God by definition cannot be but he can create things and because they lack some things they are by definition imperfect compared to him.

            >1Thanks. I read a different link of his responding to Craig which went into the differences as well. My initial feeling is that it's easier to reconcile theistic personalism with the Incarnation though. Naturally, this may simply be ignorance on my part.

            I always thought the Trinity makes no sense under Theistic Personalism and I don't see how the incarnation can make any sense under Theistic Personalism?

            But let's not put too much on our plate for now.

            Cheers.

          • Well, perhaps it hinges upon the meaning of "nothing". A hole in a donut is not really nothing, it's just an empty void in the middle. There is still air inside, for instance. When trying to imagine "nothing" it always turns out to be blackness, which is still something.

            Well what I mean is how would it be God can be absent from anything, given that he's omnipresent? As for imperfection, it's not so much the creating imperfect things but doing that and then putting responsibility on them for it.

            See, from what I've gathered Theistic Personalism says that God is a person, Classical Theism doesn't. Going from one person to another seems easier. However as you say this is getting into another topic entirely.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Well, perhaps it hinges upon the meaning of "nothing". A hole in a donut is not really nothing, it's just an empty void in the middle.

            The "nothing" here in reference to the hole signifies the "absence of donut".

            > There is still air inside, for instance. When trying to imagine "nothing" it always turns out to be blackness, which is still something.

            One wonders if you are making Hume's mistake of conflating "imagination" with intellective conception?

            In which case I can intellectually abstract the blackness away as well & intellectively conceive of an absence of everything. I cannot "imagine" nothing (i.e where even the blackness is not their either) anymore then I can imagine a googleplex +1 > googleplex. A number which is too large even to write out the zeros for the numerical symbol in a hundred trillion times the theoretical lifespan of the Cosmos(which less it's actual size) is beyond my imagination but I can via the logic of mathematical axioms and abstraction conceive of a googleplex being less then a googleplex plus one. But because I cannot imagine it doesn't mean I can't conceive it.

            >Well what I mean is how would it be God can be absent from anything, given that he's omnipresent?

            He is not absent from things that are real like actual perfections. By definition "nothing" = no-thing so there is nothing for God to be absent from. That seems obvious at least to moi.

            >As for imperfection, it's not so much the creating imperfect things but doing that and then putting responsibility on them for it.

            Well in terms of the moral requirements God puts on creatures that is due to their natures. God is not obligated to eat, He doesn't need too because of His nature, but we are and if we do not we starve to death. As we are creatures we have obligations to God and each other & ourselves. God has no obligations to anyone but Himself and His own Nature. See the work of Brian Davies for details.

            >See, from what I've gathered Theistic Personalism says that God is a person, Classical Theism doesn't.

            Rather in Theistic Personalism, God is a Person like we are only more Uber. Or to put it in classic terms. God is a Person unequivocally comparable to created human persons. In Thomism you cannot in principle make unequivocal comparisons between God and creatures. In Classic Theism God is "personal" in that He has an intellect and will analogously compared to us. This predication of personal applies to the whole Godhead and Divine Essence. It does not refer to the subsisting divine relations(persons) in the Trinity. The term "person" has a different meaning in that case.

            > Going from one person to another seems easier. However as you say this is getting into another topic entirely.

            I am not sure what you mean here but we will stick a pin in it and maybe in the future we will get back too it.

          • Okay, but my point was that such a "nothing" is itself something-air, in your analogy.

            Perhaps so. I don't know how to conceive of that.

            Right, that was my point. Actual imperfections etc. God can't be absent from.

            Sure, but he is the creator of our natures, and the manifold imperfections thereof. That is the issue.

            The exact difference is still not entirely clear to me. How do the persons of the Trinity differ?

            Well, if God is a more similar person to us on Theistic Personalism it seems easier to see how the Incarnation occurs. Pin it though, sure.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Okay, but my point was that such a "nothing" is itself something-air, in your analogy.

            Which is why they are analogies not unequivocal examples. They are not totally literal.

            >Perhaps so. I don't know how to conceive of that.

            Once you learn the distinctions between using intellect vs imagination you will.

            >Sure, but he is the creator of our natures, and the manifold imperfections thereof. That is the issue.

            Well there is "imperfection" in terms of being "lesser" vs "imperfection" in terms of evil "lacking what it was meant to have to full-fill it's nature".

            God is not the direct creator of evil thought as Brian Davies points out He is the formal creator of evil by creating material things which by nature must compete with other material things for their perfections (lions eating lambs , massive stellar objects ) and moral agents who can choose to violate moral and natural law.

            The "imperfection" of creatures comes from the fact God can only create something whose essence and being are completely distinct and thus by definition would only reflect God's perfections in a lesser way and not be absolutely perfect like Him. God cannot by definition create another God since part of the nature & perfection of God is to be completely uncreated and creating something uncreated is a contradiction. God can do anything but a created uncreated thing doesn't describe anything. It describes nothing which adds new meaning to the phrase "there is nothing God CANNOT do".

            >The exact difference is still not entirely clear to me. How do the persons of the Trinity differ?

            The persons of the Trinity are God revealing to us via divine revelation (since it is beyond our rational powers to discover it for ourselves) that subsisting in the Divine Nature are Opposing Real Distinctions of some mysterious kind. These real distinctions are relational in nature and really distinct in that one is not the other in some mysterious sense. We know there is no real physical or metaphysical distinctions between them because of the divine simplicity but they are mysteriously distinct in some inconceivable way.

            Analogies of a Mind as related to a Thought and the Love between them are sometime used by the Church Fathers but don't take them hyper literally.

            >Well, if God is a more similar person to us on Theistic Personalism it seems easier to see how the Incarnation occurs. Pin it though, sure.

            I need my God to be inconceivable otherwise I become an idolator. We are putting the pin.

            BTW I enjoy your questions. You are attempting a philosophical analysis.

            Well done.

            Would that the rest of the persons over at EN did that instead of forcing AT onto their Scientism Procrustean Bed because they are too lazy to abandon their non-starter Intelligent Design polemics?

            They should save it for the Uncommon Decent crowd.

            Cheers man.

          • Fine, but an absence of one thing always seems to be something else, however we put it.

            Perhaps so.

            We are obviously lesser, and the latter assumes that something's nature would be necessarily good.

            I'm not clear on the distinction, though in either case he does create evil. As for creating something like him, maybe so, but why then create anything at all? He is after already perfect, without any conceivable need.

            Mystery seems to be the only answer on this, which doesn't fall into what they call heresy anyway. So that will likely be all I'm getting on the issue. That isn't meant as a criticism-just an observation.

            Thanks, I do try to, though the more I learn of philosophy (perhaps inevitably) the less knowledge I appear to have. That's frustrating at times.

            What is EN? I am glad to see that Feser and most AT proponents apparently reject Intelligent Design though.

          • Jim the Scott

            Briefly.

            Estranged Notions an Atheist blog which comments on this one. IMHO the lot of them have Scientism up the wazzo. Of course full discloser I deliberately slagged them off to get banned. I am not always a nice person. It's a failing of mine. One of many.

            >Thanks, I do try to, though the more I learn of philosophy (perhaps inevitably) the less knowledge I appear to have.

            Then you are doing it right. Socrates would be proud.

            >why then create anything at all? He is after already perfect, without any conceivable need.

            Gratuitous Goodness on the part of God is why. God does not need to create and Aquinas showed God could have made a better world then this and if He did create such a world He could still create an even better one. But no world God could create is so good that God is obligated to create it and no world so bad that as long as it participates in being God should refrain from creating it.

            Cheers.

          • Oh yes, of course, I know the site well. I haven't really seen them get into that thus far but it is sadly common among atheists. You may be pleased to hear I also wholly oppose scientism and have criticized atheists expressing that view. I try to be nice, but it's hard sometimes. Of course, offense is often taken even when you are in any case.

            I hope so, although my views tend in other directions.

            I don't why he wouldn't create a better one than this, even if it weren't so bad.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are a better person then me.

            Cheers.

          • Thanks, though you don't seem too bad yourself.

          • Rob Abney

            What my point was is imagining that God is perfect in every way does not mean any actual deities must be.

            The metaphysical claims that are required to lead to a better understanding of God do not stand alone. Each one points toward a conclusion of an attribute that is a first of its kind, or a final of its kind, or an infinite existence, and so on. But these claims have to ultimately be considered together to make the claim of God, and those claims can only all be legitimate if a perfect being is the valid conclusion. So, keep questioning but know that there are many arguments that have to be considered.

            . Respectfully though I don't agree with these answers precisely because they seem invalid.

            And they will "seem" invalid unless you dive much deeper, then you can determine objectively.

          • So you're saying it's impossible to imagine a deity who only has some but not all the attributes God is usually ascribed? Where are the arguments you refer to?

            Maybe so, but they could also still seem invalid then.

          • Rob Abney

            Its not impossible to imagine one, its been imagined by people since the beginning of time but it is impossible to have any credibility or validity if all attributes don't support each other.
            If you want to read what Thomas Aquinas wrote for beginners, read this section titled One God, http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1.htm
            You may conclude that what you study is invalid but you'll know why you came to that conclusion.

          • How must they support each other? If we take the Zoroastrian idea of two equally powerful gods, one entirely good, the other entirely evil, where is the problem?

            Thanks for the link.

          • Rob Abney

            I intended to mean that the separate arguments must be in harmony without contradictions.
            I cannot really understand how there could be equal gods, one good and one evil; because I consider evil an absence of good and the opposing statement that good is the absence of evil is not the opposite due to the initial definition. Good is the standard that nearly all men aim for not evil.

          • Okay.

            Well, they have a different view of evil here. To them, evil isn't merely an absence of good but something in itself. I admit that the privation view doesn't really make much sense to me.

          • Rob Abney

            Try to list some properties of evil, you will end up with privations of good. Sickness is a privation of health, death a privation of life, and so on.....
            Maybe it doesn't make sense because we are accustomed to addressing evil as something to be stopped, we should actually address it with more good.

          • I think sickness etc. are things in themselves rather than just privations, though I've got no quarrel with the idea of doing more good. However, this doesn't seem incompatible with stopping evil either.

          • Rob Abney

            Go ahead and list some properties to describe sickness, try to list only the ones that do not simply contradict health.

          • I don't deny that they contradict health, but that's more than simply an absence.

          • Rob Abney

            but that's more than simply an absence

            You may be right, what properties do you have in mind?

          • Well it depends. Sickness usually involves being infected with something, or having a mental condition. A better example to illustrate that absence isn't sufficient is pleasure and pain. You might describe pain as simply the absence of pleasure. In fact, however, it is possible to experience neither. Or both at once-masochists do.

          • Sample1

            Is a square merely the absence of a triangle?

            Mike

          • Good example.

          • Sample1

            You can take that “logic” anywhere. A pickle is the absence of a skyscraper, etc.

            It’s not unlike apophatic theology or using descriptions to say what something (a deity) is not.

            Doesn’t really float my boat but it’s appealing to some.

            Mike

          • As I recall, some of the same theologians also advocate apophatic theology.

          • Jim the Scott

            Hush the grown ups are talking.

          • Jim the Scott

            >A better example to illustrate that absence isn't sufficient is pleasure and pain.

            Pain isn't really sickness. Pain is the sensation creatures who have evolved nerve systems experience when they are being damaged.

            Indeed if you can't feel pain when you are sick then that is proof of further sickness as it show your nerve system is likely damaged.

            You really can't inflict pain without inflicting damage which is to inflict privation on some living thing with the capacity to feel.

          • I know, I'm using it as a better example. However most illness does cause pain.

            I agree, but the point remains that pain and damage are things in themselves also, rather than merely privations.

          • Jim the Scott

            But pain pretty much only significant in terms of being damaged. It has no meaning apart from that. Both pain and pleasure are intense sensations but that fine distinction separates them.

            Unless I am being damaged & having privations inflicted on me I am not in pain.

          • I assume with "damage" you mean something tangible like a cut or bruise etc. Yet mental illness does not have such signs, and can cause an intense pain to the sufferer. The point is that whatever damage exists isn't merely a privation. It is a thing in itself also.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I assume with "damage" you mean something tangible like a cut or bruise etc. Yet mental illness does not have such signs,

            Mental illness wither physical or mental or both is a privation of a properly working mind and proper expression of the emotions.

            >and can cause an intense pain to the sufferer.

            Which is good in so far as it warns them that something is off.

            >The point is that whatever damage exists isn't merely a privation. It is a thing in itself also.

            But it is still a privation of health an absence of how a thing should be and thus it is a privation thus metaphysically a material evil.

            I am not sure what the significance of considering it as a thing in itself is to you?

            Cheers.

          • It can be described as both.

            Perhaps, though the pain can be so intense it causes suicide, and most such illnesses have no cures.

            The significance being that it's not merely a privation. So the privation theory of evil seems implausible to me.

          • Jim the Scott

            >It can be described as both.

            Agreed.

            >Perhaps, though the pain can be so intense it causes suicide, and most such illnesses have no cures.

            Well it is the messenger of damage not the cure. The intellect has to address a cure.

            >The significance being that it's not merely a privation. So the privation theory of evil seems implausible to me.

            The fact it is a privation makes it evil that it might be considered as a thing in itself doesn't change it's privation status. If it wasn't a privation it would not be evil.

          • Well, as you've agreed it can be described as both, I don't think the definition of evil can be solely privation.

          • Jim the Scott

            On the basic metaphysical level that is what evil is a privation or an absence.

            What "evil" exists that is not a privation? I can think of none.

          • I don't think that is the full description. Rather, it's also a thing in itself, not simply a privation. All the examples we've talked of can be described that way, as you agreed.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Rather, it's also a thing in itself, not simply a privation.

            I am not sure what that means? A hole in the donut which is an absence of donut is a thing in itself but it is not a hole if it is not an absence of something.

            > All the examples we've discussed can be described that way, as you agreed.

            I am not sure I understand you here but I'll get there?

          • Well yes, but my other examples laid this out more (e.g. pleasure vs. pain).

            Look back a few comments.

          • Jim the Scott

            I read them but I will give them a second look until Phil or Rob jump in.

          • All right.

          • Jim the Scott

            I think David Nickol's latest replies here might be what you have in mind?

          • I'm not sure. Where are they?

          • Jim the Scott
          • Thanks. I take it you would view his example as a necessary evil (if that's the term you'd use)?

            Why is just having being good however?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Thanks. I take it you would view his example as a necessary evil (if that's the term you'd use)?

            Not really rather it is part of the goodness of God to allow evil so as to bring good out of it.

            OTOH?
            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/probevil.html

            >Why is just having being good however?

            Maybe this will help?
            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Questions/goodevil.html

            Or this?

            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1005.htm

            Cheers.

          • That seems like the same thing.

            Again thanks for your links. However the first is getting into the problem of evil, which is another huge topic. In the second it basically restated what you've already told me. I don't understand much of what Aquinas says.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well give time and study you will.

          • We'll see. Anyway what do you recommend to study? Feser's Aquinas?

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes and anything by Brian Davies especially An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Thinking About God & "'Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil Taylor Marshall is helpful too.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well it is a thing in so far as a "hole" or "nothing" is a "thing". In the equivocal sense of course.

          • I went into this before, so yeah, it is a thing.

          • Jim the Scott

            It's a thing but it isn't really a being. ;-) Evil is a privation of being.

            ( I guess we should get more technical)

          • I'm not sure-if by "being" you mean "existence" then yes, evil exists on its own. Such as certain bacteria and viruses that cause sickness, returning to that example.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not sure-if by "being" you mean "existence" then yes, evil exists on its own.

            Not really on it's own. The hole in the donut exist but not without the donut. Evil exists as a privation in being but it
            cannot exist apart from being.

            Or better yet the missing leg of a four legged animal "exists" as an absent leg. But it doesn't exist that way apart from a four legged animal loosing the leg.

            > Such as certain bacteria and viruses that cause sickness, returning to that example.

            They are not evil per say. Their evil is accidental. They are beings who compete with other beings for their own perfection. Like Lions eating Lambs etc/

          • Those examples make some sense, but many evils don't fit into such analogies.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "accidental". That it's a side effect of some other goal? Maybe so, but it also seems to be unavoidable, e.g. a lion can't live without eating other animals.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Those examples make some sense, but many evils don't fit into such analogies.

            Then I would use different analogies.

            >I'm not sure what you mean by "accidental".

            They cause evil to us but they are not evil in essence.

            > That it's a side effect of some other goal? Maybe so, but it also seems to be unavoidable, e.g. a lion can't live without eating other animals.

            Well God could have always made a better world but he made this one and as long as it participates in the divine goodness there is no reason why God should not create it.

            Maybe this will help.

            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

          • Like what?

            All right.

            I'm still unclear what it means to "participate in divine goodness".

          • Jim the Scott

            >Like what?

            You tell me you are the guy who thinks "many evils don't fit into such analogies".

            Or not. It's cool.

            >I'm still unclear what it means to "participate in divine goodness".

            Same thing as participate in the divine being. That is receiving being or existence from God.

          • I did give some examples.

            Well, the mere fact of having being still doesn't seem inherently good.

          • Jim the Scott

            How can having existence/being not be good? It is good in itself and the prerequisite of obtaining further good.

          • Sample1

            To your question, philosopher David Benatar may be of interest to you. His Waking Up interview with neuroscientist/author Sam Harris about anti-natalism was interesting. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting too, so long as you enter with an open mind.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Repackaged nihilism is boring & hardly a sound metaphysical explanation of either existence or the good. It's just some idiot's subjective feelings of ennui. Also as the Father of three autistic children arrogant human garbage who imply my children's lives are nothing more then what the Nazis themselves called "Lebensunwertes Leben" offends me deeply. Such people can f*** off for all I care.

            Anti-natalism indeed! That is pretty sick.

          • Rob Abney

            Here is a quote that gives an indication of this philosopher’s philosophy: “For an existing person, the presence of bad things is bad and the presence of good things is good,” Benatar explained. “But compare that with a scenario in which that person never existed—then, the absence of the bad would be good, but the absence of the good wouldn’t be bad, because there’d be nobody to be deprived of those good things.” This asymmetry “completely stacks the deck against existence,” he continued, because it suggests that “all the unpleasantness and all the misery and all the suffering could be over, without any real cost.”
            The first question that I would need clarified is: does the presence of bad things lose its badness if the person didn’t exist? It seems like he considers bad things to be relatively bad rather than objectively bad.

          • Why is it inherently good though?

          • Jim the Scott

            Well you do need to exist in order to receive good. What non-existent thing can receive a good? So logically having being must be inherently good.

          • We'll yes, you do need to exist for that, but it doesn't make existence itself inherently good. After all, to exist entails experiencing a lot of bad things too.

          • Jim the Scott

            Except the non-existent don't experience ANYTHING good or ill and since they are by definition non-existence thus categories like good and bad can't be applied to them.

            You need to be in it too win it.

            Even if mere existence was all you had that would be a good in and of itself.

            If I believe Meister Eckhart (& I do) even the damned suffering in Hell after a long period of time would come to realize & take delight in merely being(if only because it will be the only good they have left) as their sole consolation.

            Objectively speaking to exist is good in and of itself.

          • I suppose so.

            I'm not at all sure that mere existence is good in and of itself.

            Claiming that people in hell would be glad to exist is deeply implausible to me too.

            You haven't shown this is objectively true.

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't know how I would prove that(& I don't want to damn myself just to find out. It's not worth it) ? It seems reasonable and speaking for myself I find the thought of non-existence more horrible then mere Hell. Frank Sheed once opined that if given the opportunity for the Damned to choose annihilation over their current state he reasoned they would not choose annihilation. Given that Hell is the final cause of disordered self-love placed above love of God and others having given up so much for this disordered self love it would seem the damned soul would want to hold on too the self at all costs.

            Annihilation would be the ultimate loss of self. It's not mere dreamless sleep since even doing that requires to exist to do it. It strike me as a total loss of everything. It' s worst then Hell IMHO.

          • That's fair. I, however, find it deeply implausible that most would choose eternal torment over annihilation, given those two options. Even if it's a result of "disordered self-love" (I'm not sure what that means) people will kill themselves now in great pain. How much more would they want death in such a state as that?

            Yes, of course. I fail to see how it would be worse than hell, however. As for annihilation, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I did not exist for eons before my conception. It did not give me any trouble that I am aware of. So the idea of annihilation at some point in the future equally does not trouble me either.

          • Jim the Scott

            >That's fair. I, however, find it deeply implausible that most would choose eternal torment over annihilation, given those two options.

            A soul would choose not to suffer and any "choice" made by a living person to kill themselves rather then be tortured horribly is really a choice to escape suffering not so much a choice to die per say.

            The thing is based on other theology and philosophy I am compelled to believe Hell and Heaven afford a soul a level of charity we don't have in this world. A soul in Hell would realize perfectly that a cessation of existence would be giving up what little good they have left and not really an escape from suffering. Also the human soul is made to be immortal. To render it mortal does violence to it contrary to it's nature and is in fact I would say worst then the eternal suffering.

            In our present world I must confess even I with my religious beliefs against suicide might be tempted to kill myself to escape horrible torture but my mind doesn't have the clarity Heaven and Hell affords a soul in this world.

            >Yes, of course. I fail to see how it would be worse than hell, however. As for annihilation, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I did not exist for eons before my conception. It did not give me any trouble that I am aware of. So the idea of annihilation at some point in the future equally does not trouble me either.

            The fallacy in Mark Twain's reasoning is before you existed there wasn't really a "you" to not mind not existing. Once the Gennie is uncorked and you exist that is kind of different then never having existed. So now that you exist with clarity you would in fact find non-existence when it is your nature to always exist unpalatable.

            Cheers.

          • Well that's my point: they would choose not to suffer. The suicide example was to note some people would rather die suffer, so how much more would a damned soul prefer that they cease to exist?

            I fail to see why that would be the case, without more information. Tell me though, is it your view that our souls have existed forever?

            Of course, but that is the point: at a future point if you don't exist there won't be a "you" to mind then either. I am far from convinced that any immortal being wouldn't want to not exist.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Well that's my point: they would choose not to suffer. The suicide example was to note some people would rather die suffer, so how much more would a damned soul prefer that they cease to exist?

            It is not so much that they would rather die but that they believe erroneously at the time death is the only way to escape suffering & they may not contemplate the full consequences of it. In most cases they are under duress and can't always make an informed choice. A soul isn't really in the same boat. They are suffering but they can still think clearly and since intellect moves the will & precedes it and intellect seeks the good they could not help but conclude non-existence as a means to escape their just suffering is not good.

            >I fail to see why that would be the case, without more information. Tell me though, is it your view that our souls have existed forever?

            No I am Catholic not a Mormon. ;-)

            >Of course, but that is the point: at a future point if you don't exist there won't be a "you" to mind then either.

            Except that “you” would mind having that done to them and experience the existential horror of total loss of being.

            >I am far from convinced that any immortal being wouldn't want to not exist.

            Things prefer their own nature. If it is their nature to be immortal then they will cling to that.

            PS: Maybe I should have said Hindu not Mormon? The later only believe souls are created before conception and exist in a special heaven.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not so sure one can say that the Hindu soul has existed forever either. The Hindu theory of creation suggests that creation begins when the individual souls become separated from the undifferentiated One. Perhaps, the safest thing to say is simply that you are a Catholic. Period. :)

          • Jim the Scott

            That is likely more accurate. Thank Dr. B.

          • Sure, but they believe that because it would be an end to the suffering. If people living do, I don't see why damned souls wouldn't. They are in the ultimate suffering, so why would that not cloud the intellect?

            Okay, just curious. Why then are they immortal?

            Having that done to who? Not everyone views loss of being as a horror, you know.

            If you say so.

            I don't know the details of their views.

          • Jim the Scott

            > They are in the ultimate suffering, so why would that not cloud the intellect?

            I say they are in the maximum suffering. The ultimate would be too horrible.

            >Okay, just curious. Why then are they immortal?

            God made the human soul immortal for whatever reason God makes anything the way he makes it.

            Cheers.

          • Okay. What would be the ultimate?

            Right. So no idea why specifically?

          • Jim the Scott

            I think losing existence would be.

            Of course I realize you don't agree with that but there we are....

            >Right. So no idea why specifically?

            There are some things that are true mysteries. A mystery is not just something we don't know but something in principle we cannot know.

            Like why make this world and not some other world?

            Don't know and cannot know.

          • I guess we have to leave it there then.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just a little clarification, if I may.

            To "participate" is to receive as it were a part of something. From pars meaning part and cipere meaning to receive.

            All creatures get their existential perfections from God, who is infinite existential perfection. Thus all creatures inherently "participate in the divine goodness."

            The "good" is being insofar as it is desirable. Thus, God who is infinite being is also infinite goodness.

          • Okay. I'm not sure what our existential perfections are though, nor of the good as being that is desirable.

          • When you have predation and prey, what is "evil" for the prey is good for the predator. How can something be both good and evil?

            I have never been "into" drugs. I've been sedated any number of times for various medical procedures. Only once did I experience real drug-induced euphoria, but it was awesome. As I was being wheeled into the operating room, a doctor asked me how I felt, and I said, "Won . . . der . . . ful!" In the sense that I am now not feeling that level of pleasure, I am suffering from a privation. I don't experience it as evil, however.

          • Jim the Scott

            >When you have predation and prey, what is "evil" for the prey is good for the predator. How can something be both good and evil?

            What? Didn't you just now explained how? Cause you clearly answered your own question correctly I might add.

            >I have never been "into" drugs. I've been sedated any number of times for various medical procedures. Only once did I experience real drug-induced euphoria, but it was awesome. As I was being wheeled into the operating room, a doctor asked me how I felt, and I said, "Won . . . der . . . ful!"

            Well lucky you when I woke up from my hernia operation I felt nauseous from the pain killers.

            > In the sense that I am now not feeling that level of pleasure, I am suffering from a privation.

            Privation is lacking something a thing should have for it to exist as the thing that it is...

            Not being buzzed right now assuming you haver no medical need to be isn't really a privation.

            > I don't experience it as evil, however.

            We are talking about evil as it is metaphysically modeled.

            It's not really an evil you are not high right now.

          • But it is still a privation of health an absence of how a thing should be and thus it is a privation thus metaphysically a material evil.

            When I was undergoing physical therapy for my "sports injury" (frozen shoulder), I witnessed a number of patients receiving what was obviously intensely painful therapy following knee surgery. The physical therapists, with the cooperation of the patients, would exert great pressure to bend the knees so that the full range of motion would be restored. The patients had to submit to experiencing as much pain as they could bear to let the therapist continue the pressure. Sometimes it brought tears to their eyes. I don't see this as some kind of privation, since it is done for the purpose of recovery, not damage.

            Also, body builders and others who "work out" have the familiar saying, "No pain no gain." It is difficult to see this as pain from "damage." (Building muscle, as I understand it, is actually a process of a certain amount of damage followed by a repair process that makes the muscle stronger. But if the "damage" is necessary to build muscle, why should it be considered evil?

            If pain serves as a warning signal to take care of something that is wrong, doesn't that mean it can be a good thing? If so, can evil things be good?

            Are forest fires material evils? They certainly can be for people who build their homes in wooded areas, and yet we know that burning and regrowth is normal and healthy for forests. In fact, the seeds of some plants actually require fire in order to unseal them and allow them to grow.

          • Jim the Scott

            >When I was undergoing physical therapy for my "sports injury" (frozen shoulder), I witnessed a number of patients receiving what was obviously intensely painful therapy following knee surgery. The physical therapists, with the cooperation of the patients, would exert great pressure to bend the knees so that the full range of motion would be restored. The patients had to submit to experiencing as much pain as they could bear to let the therapist continue the pressure. Sometimes it brought tears to their eyes. I don't see this as some kind of privation, since it is done for the purpose of recovery, not damage.

            Pain is not privation nor is it evil in essence per say. It can be evil via accidents such as when inflicted via torture or crime or unfortunate circumstances. In the former it's true end is being abused to evil purpose. In the later if you suffer some material evil it is doing it's job informing you that you are damaged.

            I guess this is the confusion here?

            >Also, body builders and others who "work out" have the familiar saying, "No pain no gain." It is difficult to see this as pain from "damage." (Building muscle, as I understand it, is actually a process of a certain amount of damage followed by a repair process that makes the muscle stronger.
            But if the "damage" is necessary to build muscle, why should it be considered evil?

            It is evil for the individual cells that have to die but it is good for the muscle as a whole. No question.

            >If pain serves as a warning signal to take care of something that is wrong, doesn't that mean it can be a good thing?

            Yes I see the confusion here. Privation of a thing's perfection is evil in essence. Pain is not in and of itself evil.

            > If so, can evil things be good?

            Well Satan is evil by virtue of His rebellion against God but as far as He has being he is good according to the last Thomist book I read. So in a sense yes.
            There really isn't such a thing as "pure evil" at least not metaphysically.

            Things or rather beings aren't evil since to have being is good. Privation of being is evil.

            >Are forest fires material evils?

            They are evil for the forest but good for the oxidizing process of the fire.

            >They certainly can be for people who build their homes in wooded areas, and yet we know that burning and regrowth is normal and healthy for forests. In fact, the seeds of some plants actually require fire in order to unseal them and allow them to grow.

            Well God created a material universe and it is the nature of material things to compete with other material things for their own perfection. Lions eating lambs. People burning down forests etc/

            Well this is all very Thomistic for a bunch of people who profess skepticism of the utility of Thomism? I am pleased.

            Are you taking my advise and hitting the books. Because if so then well done.

          • Rob Abney

            I would not describe pain as the absence of pleasure, I would call pain the absence of normal sensation or the absence of normal emotional stability. I would call pleasure a heightened sense of sensation physically and/or mentally.
            It seems that you are resisting this way of seeing the world for some reason, even though you cannot show why privations are really positive things rather than absences. Why do you think you want to frame the world this way?
            edited: first sentence, changed of to not

          • I disagree, pain is itself a sensation. As noted before, you can feel neither, or both at once too.

            I have attempted to show the flaws here in the probation view, whether or not that convinced you. My only reason for opposing this has been that it doesn't seem true.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I disagree, pain is itself a sensation. As noted before, you can feel neither, or both at once too.

            I think there is some equivocation going on here? Is Rob speaking of pain in the existential sense or in the neurological? Seems to me he is talking about it existentially and you are responding via the neurological.

            Of course the sensation of pain tells us we are being damaged and that normal feeling is out of wack.

            >I have attempted to show the flaws here in the probation view, whether or not that convinced you. My only reason for opposing this has been that it doesn't seem true.

            It was a valiant try but IMHO your objections are either too obscure or non-starters.

            Of course the issue is evil is a privation not that pain is a privation and equivocating causes confusion.

          • I don't know, maybe.

            Why?

            Pain isn't evil?

          • Jim the Scott

            >Pain isn't evil?

            I don't see how it can be essentially? If you didn't feel pain and someone set you on fire that would be bad. You would burn the death before you stopped, dropped and rolled.

            Inflicting it for no good reason is evil.

          • That's where I'd say "necessary evil". It's better not to be hurt.

          • Jim the Scott

            I would accept "necessary" but only in an equivocal sense.

          • Rob Abney

            "It doesn't seem true" That is a very good reason for questioning this view, hopefully you'll find a conclusion that is rationally based.

            Pain nor pleasure are sensations, both are the person's interpretation of sensations.

          • Great, and let's hope.

            What sensations do they interpret?

          • Rob Abney

            What sensations do they interpret?

            For a person to experience pain they have to interpret their own sensations from their sensory system or they can interpret situations that cause mental pain such as anxiety or depression. Pain is not objective it is subjective.

          • Well, it seems to be a bit of both. Certain things cause pain however our mind responds.

          • It seems that you are resisting this way of seeing the world for some reason, even though you cannot show why privations are really positive things rather than absences. Why do you think you want to frame the world this way?

            Michael is on very solid ground in not accepting that pain is a privation. Here is an excerpt from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry The Concept of Evil (boldface added):

            An even more significant problem is that the privation theory seems to fail as a theory of evil since it doesn't seem to be able to account for certain paradigmatic evils. For instance, it seems that we cannot equate the evil of pain with the privation of pleasure or some other feeling. Pain is a distinct phenomenological experience which is positively bad and not merely not good. Similarly, a sadistic torturer is not just not as good as she could be. She is not simply lacking in kindness or compassion. She desires her victims' suffering for pleasure. These are qualities she has, not qualities she lacks, and they are positively bad and not merely lacking in goodness . . . .

          • Rob Abney

            Who writes these entries for the SEP? Is it like wikipedia?

            The author notes that the privation theory doesn't work when considering the evil of pain, and then the author defines pain as a positive bad. Yet the author also notes that pain is a "phenomenological experience", which means that it may or may not be experienced as bad, and you yourself alluded to physical therapy pain as being a positive pain. (Although I'm curious how a frozen shoulder can be called a sports injury).
            In other words, privation is the lack of a good that is inherent in a thing's nature and can be called evil since it is against nature. But pain is not necessarily evil, so to discount the theory of privation by claiming that some pain is evil is not a sound argument since the premise doesn't hold.

          • So your argument is that evil is always a deprivation, but pain is not an evil?

          • Rob Abney

            Pain is not always an evil, it can be a good as it helps to preserve the normal functioning of an organism. Pain is subjective and phenomenological, (any PT will tell you that some patients handle pain much better than others). Pain is an indicator that there is a deprivation of health, it never just exists on its own it accompanies a health privation. Pain is not a "positive bad" as described by SEP.

          • So do you think that there is anything that is always a material or physical evil? The rainstorm that ruins my picnic can be essential to the success of the local farmers' crops. Every now and then you hear someone who has had a serious accident or has suffered from a horrible disease (for example, cancer) will say it's the best thing that ever happened to them.

            I wonder if it is not a mistake to try to extend the deprivation theory of moral evils to cover material/physical evils. In moral philosophy, there are certain things that are always evil. It is not clear to me, if pain is not a material/physical evil, exactly what would be.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Who writes these entries for the SEP? Is it like wikipedia?

            Experts and academics. No it is not like Wikipedia.

            edit: It seems this article was written by Todd Calder. Googling the name it name it looks like he is an assist prof at St Marys Univ with publications on evil.

            Regardless the privation theory of evil does not solve the PoE.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather it absolutely solves the problem of evil and this goofy non-argument "argument" that the reality of pain "refutes" it is incoherent at best.

            That seems obvious.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You clearly don't understand the pain argument if you are going to label it as a non-argument.

          • Jim the Scott

            I do understand it and I reject it as bogus.

            As someone has said to me & I steal liberally from him....

            Quote"Pain is essentially a good, since it tells an organism to avoid a danger to its life. Hence, a gazelle being bitten by a lion knows to run faster, and to struggle more strongly as the pain is worse. The suffering can be an evil experience when the mechanism does no good, but you cannot have the defense mechanism without it hurting even when no greater good is had. Of course, all suffering in man is at a different level, since it can be for his eternal spiritual good. The real problem of evil is greatest in the animal kingdom, but lacking intellect, animals do not experience suffering as do we who understand what is going wrong! But this belongs to the more complex subject, the problem of evil. You can only understand good and evil in reference to a given nature. What fulfills the nature is good; what deviates from it is evil -- but can often be justified by the principle of double effect. Thus, the pain of getting a tooth pulled is permitted, but not willed, in order to restore health to the body.......

            ..........Pain is evil insofar as suffering disturbs the peace or pleasure proper to a healthy individual. But Pain is the lack of the due perfection of tranquility or pleasure that is proper to the normal healthy of an organism. Pain is very real, though. It enables an organism to take action to defend its life. The degrees of pain are needed so that a lion cub can tell the difference between the playful "bite" of a sibling and the "death hold" of an dangerous opponent. As pain is worse we seek more effective medical aid. So, pain is good in serving an important role in preserving the life of an organism. Remember, human suffering has a role to play in eternal salvation, unlike that of a dumb animal."END QUOTE

            Anyway the argument is an appeal to sentiment or the subjective and doesn't bother to offer an alternate metaphysical description of evil.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Pain is essentially a good, since it tells an organism to avoid a danger to its life.

            How would mental pain that ends in suicide fall into this paradigm of yours?

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't understand how an adverse consequence of having pain inflicted on you wither physical or mental makes it not a privation nor changes it's intrinsic goodness in and of itself?

            Food is good in and of itself. It doesn't cease to be such if you overeat yourself to death.

          • Jim the Scott

            @Rob Abney

            You know what Iggy? I think you might be confusing the Problem of Evil with the Mystery of Evil.

            Yeh I would bet really money if I had any on that.......

          • Rob Abney

            Experts and academics

            Based upon your edit he must be in the second category.

            Regardless the privation theory of evil does not solve the PoE.

            That wasn't the intent of the discussion but it can be discussed if you want to contribute some thoughts on it. Today is Ash Wednesday so it is an appropriate subject: is it a privation if our bodies return to ashes?

          • Jim the Scott

            @ignatiusreilly1:disqus y
            @twitter-1325432946:disqus

            >One problem with the privation theory's solution to the problem of evil is that it provides only a partial solution to the problem of evil since even if God creates no evil we must still explain why God allows privation evils to exist (See Calder 2007a; Kane 1980).

            That is a meaningless question. One might as well ask why God creates this world over that world? Why did He in his Providence give us a yellow sun and not a blue one? It is not answerable. Asking why any particular evil is allowed to exist is like asking why create world A and not world Not A.?

            Also this seems to presuppose the “Best of all Possible Worlds” view which Thomists pretty much reject.
            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

            >An even more significant problem is that the privation theory seems to fail as a theory of evil since it doesn't seem to be able to account for certain paradigmatic evils. For instance, it seems that we cannot equate the evil of pain with the privation of pleasure or some other feeling.

            Pain is good in itself because it warns us we are being damaged. If we are not being damaged then we feel no pain. The damage which is the infliction of privation is the evil of pain.

            >Pain is a distinct phenomenological experience which is positively bad and not merely not good.

            Which has the good end to warn us we are being diminished & having privation inflicted on us by some external agent.

            > Similarly, a sadistic torturer is not just not as good as she could be. She is not simply lacking in kindness or compassion. She desires her victims' suffering for pleasure.

            Actually she desires a positive good in a disordered way & exercises it as such because of a privation in moral foundation. Specifically power over others and things. But where it not for her privation of moral goodness or privation of self control over dark impulses she would not be a sadistic torturer damaging people as an end in itself.

            >These are qualities she has, not qualities she lacks, and they are positively bad and not merely lacking in goodness (Calder 2007a; Kane 1980. See Anglin and Goetz 1982 for a reply to these objections).

            A desire for power is not evil in itself. Since a good person might use power for a good end. But clearly the lack of good qualities empathy, compassion, and moral goodness are only “positive” in the sense that a hole in a donut is a positive lack of donut.
            So this begs the question.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is a meaningless question.

            Not at all.

            It is not answerable.

            Which doesn't make the question meaningless.

            Also this seems to presuppose the “Best of all Possible Worlds” view which Thomists pretty much reject.

            It doesn't. It simply asks the question why does God allow the privation of good to exist. Since you are always exhorting atheists to read more books, I'm surprised you can't find better sources.

            Pain is good in itself because it warns us we are being damaged. If we are not being damaged then we feel no pain. The damage which is the infliction of privation is the evil of pain.

            While pain can have the benefit of warning us that something is wrong, I would not categorize all pain as simply a warning that something is wrong. If someone is in mental pain, that pain is not a warning, but it is the source of what is wrong.

          • Jim the Scott

            @Rob Abney

            Yep I called it! You are equating the problem of evil with the mystery of evil.

            > It simply asks the question why does God allow the privation of good to exist.

            It can no more be answered then Why make a Yellow sun for our world and not a blue one(also if you make some idiot argument how the radiation of a blue sun is not compatible with our kind of life I will just come back at you asking Why not create life that depends on a blue sun and make us that way etc so don't try anything clever)?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Based upon your edit he must be in the second category.

            Well played.

            That wasn't the intent of the discussion but it can be discussed if you want to contribute some thoughts on it.

            The motivation behind privation theory is PoE. It doesn't solve the question, because there is a follow up question: why does God allow privation of good?

            The reason pain is used as an objection to the privation of evil theory is that pain is a positive experience. Pain isn't just the absence of pleasure or the absence of some other good. It is a real and positive experience. Take depression. It isn't just an absence of happiness. It is a positive sadness.

            Today is Ash Wednesday so it is an appropriate subject: is it a privation if our bodies return to ashes?</blockquote.

            I'm not sure what you are asking. Is it a privation of what?

          • Jim the Scott

            @Rob Abney

            @Rob Abney

            >The motivation behind privation theory is PoE. It doesn't solve the question, because there is a follow up question: why does God allow privation of good?

            I hate to break it too you Iggy but there is no such thing as a one size fits all version of the PoE.
            The question of the PoE is not just one problem and not all versions of the PoE have the same metaphysical assumptions and as such some versions are non-starter objections to different Theistic views such as Theistic Personalism which conceives of God as a Moral Agent( unequivocally comparable to a human moral agent) who is morally perfect vs Classic Theism where at best God is “morally good” in so far as God is the Moral Law Itself and the metaphysical source of the goodness in morality. But said view of God renders it absurd and incoherent to conceive of God as a moral agent(etc). Also asking why this world with this degree or amount of privations and or a certain specific set of privations is about as meaningful as asking why create a world with a yellow sun.

            Also Classic Theists don’t hold to the “Best of All Possible Worlds” view.

            Tell you what Iggy go read Brian Davies then get back too us.

            >. The reason pain is used as an objection to the privation of evil theory is that pain is a positive experience. Pain isn't just the absence of pleasure or the absence of some other good. It is a real and positive experience. Take depression. It isn't just an absence of happiness. It is a positive sadness.

            That it is a positive experience is what gives it it’s utility. Of course I already explained this,

          • Rob Abney

            why does God allow privation of good?

            I can talk about "how" God allows a privation of good by pointing you to the Summa, Question 49, Article 1, as one way. But to discuss "why" it is allowed would require you to agree that there are formal and final causes in addition to material and efficient causes. But I think you have left that sort of framework behind. If you reach back to your former way of seeing the world you would recall that the final cause for us all is to obtain the beatific vision, can privations and pain help us do that, I would say resoundingly yes.

            I agree that pain is a positive experience, but it often indicates a privation of health. I don't consider depression to be an absence of happiness but it is an absence of brain chemistry balance. Why would God allow a defect in brain chemistry? Of the many reasons, one might be so that the depressed person discovers a humility that leads to God, or so that he is an instrument used to attract another to perform works of mercy.

            The better question is, why would God not allow privations of good?

          • Jim the Scott

            I think Iggy is confusing the Problem of Evil with the Mystery of Evil.

          • Jim the Scott

            Brian Davies "The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil" merits a read. Put it on your list. Evil is by definition privation. A lack of what should be there in something.

            But many Atheists polemic Theistic Personalist "deities" who are moral agents. God in the Classic Sense is not a moral agent and can't coherently be conceived of as such.

            Many polemics used against a Theistic Personalist view of God are non-starter objection for the classic theist.

          • I seem to recall that being referenced somewhere. We'll see about the privation view. I generally take an ethical hedonist stance, so for me happiness and suffering are both very real.

            It's true most don't seem too familiar with Classical Theism. Yet that may be because it's less popular among modern theologians, or just being harder to understand. I'm just not clear on how a God which isn't a moral agent, a person at all, can be reconciled with Christianity.

          • Jim the Scott

            > I'm just not clear on how a God which isn't a moral agent, a person at all, can be reconciled with Christianity.

            Actually as Davies shows in His work historical Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) all held God is not a moral agent (unequivocally comparable to a human moral agent thought we could Call God the Moral Law Itself) & not a person like we are only more uber.

            Anyone immersed in the writings of St Maximos the Confessor, the Philokalia or reads Pseudo St. Denis or Augustine or Philo etc.... will know this. Theistic Personalism is a post enlightenment novelty.

            Indeed among modern and liberal Theologians only Paul Tillich comes close to rediscovering the Classic view by accident.

            Cheers.

          • Okay, maybe so. I am no doubt influenced by the modern views, and I've never read any of those.

            I heard about Tillich's views, but previously didn't realize they were closer to Classical Theism. However apparently he was held to have veered into pantheism, or nearly.

          • Jim the Scott

            >However apparently he was held to have veered into pantheism, or nearly.

            I've heard that Charge made against Aquinas for calling God "subsistent being itself".

            Also like Tillich he used he phrase "'In a sense God doesn't exist' in that existing things have a distinct essence and being and in God there is no real distinction between His essence and being ergo God does not exist like we do".

            (I paraphrase from memory)

            Tillich said "'God does not exist' He is beyond Existence and Essence and thus to claim God "exists" is to deny Him."

            He was spot on there if you ask me.

            Cheers I am going to watch a movie. Peace out.

          • Well so long as they held that God wasn't actually identical with the universe, I don't know where the idea comes from. I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty certain they didn't. At least for Thomists, from what little I'm already learning it's implausible to think they would.

            Perhaps this terminology confused opponents (as it does me), though that's no excuse for rushing to hasty conclusions.

            Sure, have fun.

          • Jim the Scott

            "Ground of All Being" or with Aquinas "Being Itself" in the minds of some is the same as saying "He is all beings". That is not true. Of course God in the classic sense is intimately connected to His creation causing it "to be"/exist from moment to moment and is present to all things so it comes close to the edge of Pantheism just like it does with Atheism.

            Which is one of many reasons I find is aesthetically awesome and intellectually elegant.

          • Very odd. I as an atheist and no theologican don't see why it would be conflated. Now though I'm curious how it comes to the edge of atheism.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well God does not exist the way we do. So if we predicate God relative to the way we exist (i.e. being things with a really distinct essence and being) then God does "not exist". In a sense.

            OTOH I am personally a strong Atheist toward believing in any sort of Theistic Personalist so called "god". Russell's teapot suffices in justifying my disbelief in them.

            Cheers.

          • I see that it could be confusing. Even so, "doesn't exist like we do" isn't the same as doesn't exist at all.

          • Jim the Scott

            Correct.

          • Jim the Scott

            >He says it leads to the "God of Abraham" etc. specifically near the end. I'm aware of Aristotle.

            Well the Big Bang "leads" to Evolution but that doesn't mean a specific theory of Cosmology directly proves a specific theory of biology. They are related but proving one doesn't directly prove the other. That is obvious.

            >What is the difference?

            The phrase "leads to" is not absolutely equivalent to "directly proves".

            Of course before you make the case for the God of Abraham specifically, you kinda have to start first with making the case for God generally.

            You need to take basic math before getting into Calculus.

            >A complex mind seems to me less plausible as the uncaused cause.

            Well I'll let Rob explain what he means by "complex mind" and how the Uncaused Cause is the Divine Mind.

          • Then he is getting ahead of himself saying it leads to the God of Abraham. I'm probably just making too much of that though. Perhaps a better phrasing is "I will show how this leads to the God of Abraham".

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm probably just making too much of that though.

            Yep.

            Peace.

  • This conception of God at work in his creationism strikes me as an extreme opposite of deism. Instead of making a clockwork universe that runs on its own, the view in the OP (as best I understand it, which is admittedly not very well) has direct intervention by God constantly at all levels from the cosmos as a whole down to the orbit of every single electron and even further.

    I was taught from the earliest grades (through memorized catechism questions and answers) that "God is the Supreme Being, infinitely perfect, who made all things and keeps them in existence." To put it in elementary-school terms, if God stops thinking about his creation, it winks out of existence.

    But as envisioned by the OP (it seems to me), God must intervene directly for anything to even move a Plank length. Of course, virtually everything in the entire universe is moving in some way or another, and most things are moving in many complex ways. Electrons are in orbit around nuclei; molecules are always in motion (heat); some molecules in our bodies may course through our bloodstreams; the molecules or our hands move as we move our fingers to type; the molecules in our bodies move when we walk; they move when we ride in a car or airplane; they move with the rotation of the earth and the orbiting of the earth around the sun and the rotation of the Milky Wayand the expansion of the universe itself, and so on, and so on. As I read (or misread?) the OP, every single instance of movement is by a direct act of God.

    Of course, God is infinite, and so all of these billions and billions and billions of mini-interventions don't even register on his Activity Monitor. But doesn't this imply there are no laws of nature? The rate of acceleration of a falling object in Earth's gravity is not really 32 feet per second per second. That is just how God chooses to move accelerating objects most of the time (unless he works a miracle). And the speeding stray bullet that hits the child who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time isn't following laws of physics. It's being guided from microsecond to microsecond along a path directly determined by God.

    This view (as I understand it) doesn't explain the destruction in the path of a tornado by allowing us to believe that God, for reasons we don't understand, declined to intervene. Instead it presents us with a God who is, second by second, moving every atom and molecule and particle exactly the way he wants them to go by direct intervention on every level from the electrons that make up the lightning to the houses that whirl around in the air.

    As an agnostic, I am not sure whether or not God exists, but it seems to me it would be well within the power of an omniscient and omnipotent being to create a physical universe in which matter behaved according to laws of nature, with objects from the subatomic to the galactic that could actually move without divine intervention. A contingent universe is one thing, but a universe in which a God has to in effect work a miracle (by directly intervening) for every electron in orbit seems very strange to me.

    • I was under the impression the Thomists rejected occasionalism, in which God must constantly keep things going as you say. They say that he causes all things to exist of course, but need not sustain them at every moment. I believe this is called secondary causation. Perhaps you have misread the OP, or not all Thomists take the same view. I believe it is the latter however as Catholic philosophers I'm familiar make much about occasionalism being wrong. On the other hand it seems a fine distinction.

      • Jim the Scott

        @twitter-1325432946:disqus

        You both need to learn the concept of Divine premotion.

        It's better then occationalism which kind of sucks.

        https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieaUQwYWtxaF9kMzQ/view

        >They say that he causes all things to exist of course, but need not sustain them at every moment.

        That is technically incorrect. Thomists reject the concept of existential inertia(ie. God creates but what He creates sustains it's own existence hereafter).

        See Feser's book Neo-Scholastic Essays.

        • I vote for an SN article exclusively focused on "existential inertia" and the Thomist alternative. I'd also be really interested in how the different of stance might manifest empirically. David Braine also argues against existential inertia:

              (b) The mythology of inertia, akin to the mythology of fate
          It is possible to confuse methodological questions with metaphysical questions. In Aristotelian physics it was the movement of something from place A to place B that needed to be explained, i.e. change of place as such. By contrast, in Newtonian physics this does not need explanation in terms of special active powers and their exercise, but what needs such explanation, in terms of special active powers and their exercise, i.e. forces, is change of velocity, not mere change of place.    Correspondingly, it has come to be supposed that things just continuing to exist does not need explanation, but only changes in the way that things go on. However, this represents a point of methodology rather than metaphysics, a view as to the ways in which different things are to be explained, rather than as to whether or not explanation as such is needed or to be asked for. Upon examination it turns out that even the continuing of things, in the absence of external force without change of velocity, i.e. this constancy as much as any other, and indeed any constancy in the realm of the temporal, calls for explanation. An explanation has been sought for it even by scientists within science, the law of inertia, as it is called, being explained within different cosmological theories in terms of interrelation with some of the most general cosmological features of the Universe. But whatever goes on in science, i.e. so-called empirical science, it remains that, absolutely speaking, the continuance of things in existence is, if time is real, in need of explanation, if any beginning of existence out of nothing is in need of explanation: it is as much in need of explanation as the continuance of anything else, whether this be an intra-or extra-scientific need.    Wittgenstein remarks in the Tractatus:

          The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena. (6.371.)

          Thus people today stop at the laws of nature, treating them as something inviolable, just as God and Fate were treated in past ages.

          And in fact both are right and both wrong: though the view of the ancients is clearer in so far as they have a clear and acknowledged terminus, while the modern system tries to make it look as if everything were explained. (6.372.)

          I am arguing that he is absolutely right that the continuance in application of the so-called laws of nature provides a purely illusory ultimate explanation of natural phenomena. Even physicists, Newton and Mach being succeeded by modern cosmologists, sometimes seek some explanation within physics of such laws as those of inertia and gravitation. But the validity of any explanation they offer will still presuppose the continuance of nature as such, or will do so if time is real in the sense to be explored later. (The Reality of Time and the Existence of God: The Project of Proving God's Existence, 14–15)

          • Jim the Scott

            That would be nice.

            I second this!

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Someone is getting apples and oranges confused here.

        Occasionalism is a post-Cartesian Rationalist theory designed to explain how the Cartesian mind and body can affect one another, despite being separate and distinct substances. The theory is that God pre-coordinates mind and body so that any movement in the one "occasions," but does not cause, a change in the other.

        The Thomistic doctrine of continued creation is a totally different concept. It has NOTHING to do with occasionalism. It means that once God creates anything, He must continue creating it, or it would fall back into nothingness. This continued creation is called "conservation," that is conservation in being.

        • I'm not confusing them-I said they were different.

    • Rob Abney

      every single instance of movement is by a direct act of God

      David, you had a very good education but some concepts require more detail after elementary school, and it doesn't seem like Ohio State added to your understanding! ;)
      The paper that Jim the Scott referred to provides the answer. But I would summarize it metaphysically by paraphrasing the St. Francis prayer, "make me an instrument of your peace", in other words, God uses secondary causes as instruments to produce their effects.

      A contingent universe is one thing, but a universe in which a God has to in effect work a miracle (by directly intervening) for every electron in orbit seems very strange to me.

      Does it seem strange to you that there is a difference between before and after? How does the "after" obtain what it did not have in the "before"?

      • Does it seem strange to you that there is a difference between before and after? How does the "after" obtain what it did not have in the "before"?

        Not in the least! What seems strange to me (although I neither affirm nor deny it) is the idea of a being who exists outside of time.

        By the way, although I did not know the term "divine premotion,"my lengthy message above seems to be right on target in identifying what you and other Thomists are saying here. Nothing moves—not an apple falling from a tree nor planets orbiting a star—without God directly "intervening" to move them. In essence, every instance of motion or any other change is a miracle, requiring the direct intervention of God. It is just that in causing movement or change, God follows self-imposed guidelines that we (mistakenly?) think of as the laws of nature. It is no less a direct act of God for an acorn to grow into an oak tree than it would be for an oak tree to "ungrow" back into an acorn. It's just that when God is making things happen, he almost always makes the acorns grow into oaks. But it is an "intervention" in the physical world nonetheless.

        It seems one very short step removed from a belief that the universe really exists only in the mind of God.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The concept of "premotion" does not appear in this topic, but rather belongs to an entirely different area of Thomistic philosophy pertaining to free will.

          "Nothing moves—not an apple falling from a tree nor planets orbiting a star—without God directly "intervening" to move them. In essence, every instance of motion or any other change is a miracle, requiring the direct intervention of God."

          I am not trying to prove the following doctrine, but merely want to explain that Thomistic philosophy does not make creatures into mere divine puppets. Rob was right before in referring to creatures as exhibiting "secondary causality." Creatures are true causes of their actions and effects.

          God does create all things and, having done so, must continue to create them, or else, they would fall back into nothingness as it were. This continued creation is called "conservation." Thus, God creates and conserves creatures in being. None of this is a miracle, since it is not outside the normal order of nature.

          God creates creatures with natures, which is the first principle of their operations. It is true that no creature can act, any more than can it exist, without God sustaining it in its operations. But -- and this is the key -- it is the creature which acts, not God. Thus, when I raise my own arm, while I cannot do it were not God to sustain my existence and also cause the new states of being exhibited by my arm raising, it is MY arm that is raising and doing so through physical motive powers which belong to ME. If my act were a free act, then God would be working through me to produce this motion, but as a product of MY free act -- not HIS.

          What many do not grasp is the biblical truth: "For in Him we live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28. This is not to derogate from the creature, since to derogate from the creature is to derogate from the Creator who makes it.

          The doctrine is more subtle than most realize. God creates and sustains all of creation. But, every creature moves and has its being from God without meaning that these actions are God's. They belong to the creature because they take place in and through that creature's nature, even though the creature could neither be nor act without God sustaining every iota of its being.

          • Thanks for the explanation. I would point out, though, that it was Jim the Scott who introduced divine premotion into the discussion. Apparently it was somewhat of a red herring.

        • What seems strange to me (although I neither affirm nor deny it) is the idea of a being who exists outside of time.

          Agreed, but it's not just existing outside of time. The mind they're talking about is also outside of space, is non-material, and able to make reality to things that things inside of reality cannot do. I don't know about you, but these concepts are so alien that I don't know how you can justify them from just thinking really hard about stuff.

          It also seems to me that these kind of ideas are what happens when philosophy is allowed to run without any form of empiricism to verify the conclusion(s) they reach.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I don't know about you, but these concepts are so alien that I don't know how you can justify them from just thinking really hard about stuff.

            Atheism-The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.

            So..that somehow makes more sense? Sure pal.

            >It also seems to me that these kind of ideas are what happens when philosophy is allowed to run without any form of empiricism to verify the conclusion(s) they reach.

            Except AT Metaphysics doesn't exclude all empiricism.

            " nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses."

            Scientism is intellectually inferior.

            http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/

          • Atheism-The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned
            into dinosaurs.

            If that was anything close to what I believed, I would agree with you.

            Goodbye Jim. I'm done with you!

          • Jim the Scott

            I answered a superficial criticism on your part with one of my own.

            That you can dish it out and not take it is hardly my problem.

          • BCE

            Existing outside of time should not be entirely unimaginable.

            Take a piece of paper, place a single dot on it. Image the paper has no edge. Tell me, by looking at it what time is it?
            (do you wish to tell scientists there was no Singularity before the big bang?)

            Imagine . . . . . or ______
            Image the negative space. Negative space is immaterial.
            (do you mean to say it has no purpose or consequence? )

          • It is not all that difficult for me to imagine that I can imagine something outside of time. It is imagining a mind knowing and acting outside of time.

          • Existing outside of time should not be entirely unimaginable.

            Maybe, but how exactly is something outside of time supposed to be able to do anything?

            Take a piece of paper, place a single dot on it. Image the paper has no edge. Tell me, by looking at it what time is it?

            Insufficient information provided. The fact that I cannot discern the time from a piece of paper, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist at a point in time. Everything that we know exists does so inside of our 4D space-time. To talk about something existing outside of all possible space-time (including alternate space-times) is to talk about something I cannot understand.

            do you wish to tell scientists there was no Singularity before the big bang?

            First, "before the big bang" may not even be a coherent concept. It may be like asking "what's north of the north pole?"
            And second, we don't know that the big bang was an emergence from a singularity. we have no way to model what the universe looked like before the Planck time, so it's possible the universe didn't "start" as a singularity.

            I won't tell scientists that there was no singularity, but most cosmologists won't tell you that there was either. We simply don't really know.

            Image the negative space. Negative space is immaterial.

            Please define what you mean by "negative space". If it's immaterial, the only immaterial things I know of are concepts and abstractions, and unless you're a Platonist, those things don't exist in any objective sense.

            (do you mean to say it has no purpose or consequence? )

            Don't actually know what you're talking about.

          • BCE

            You said... these concepts are so alien
            I wasn't asking if you believed in Cosmic Inflation from a Singularity
            The analogy was the piece of paper was not paper but nothing and the dot, was a singularity with no other point, no vectors ,(before cosmic inflation) or when there was no time.
            I'm not asking for agreement, I was questioning your lack of imagination of "outside of time" or "outside of space" because they're such "alien"concepts to you.

          • I wasn't asking if you believed in Cosmic Inflation from a Singularity

            Yes, I accept cosmic inflation because it's currently the consensus of working cosmologists to explain the empirical observations we make.

            ...or when there was no time.

            There was never a time when there was no time. The idea is simply a contradiction.

            I was questioning your lack of imagination of "outside of time" or "outside of space" because they're such "alien"concepts to you.

            We don't know that anything can exist "outside of time" or "outside of space". What does it even mean to talk about something existing outside of time, let alone being able to do things? Your concept is either incoherent, or possibly not sufficiently thought through.

          • I am not sure what point you are trying to make, but as I understand the idea of the big bang starting with a singularity, the singularity was the only thing that existed. So a dot on an infinite piece of paper is not an apt analogy. It implies that the singularity had a location and could be viewed from outside itself. It was neither inside space nor outside space. It was all there was. The big bang was not a matter of a singularity expanding into empty space.

            Yes, of course it is difficult if not impossible to imagine such things, if by imagine is meant "form a mental picture of."

          • BCE

            No that was my point, no location
            the mental picture was of a dot, with no relationship to anything
            The paper meant nothing

          • Rob Abney

            Can you describe an empirical approach that would prove that the principle of non-contradiction is true or false?

        • Rob Abney

          You agree that the “after” needs something that wasn't there “before”, so how do you account for what would be the cause of that?

          • This reminds me a bit of Zeno's Paradox. If Achilles gives the Tortoise a head start in a race, Achilles can allegedly never catch up, because he first has to make up half the distance of the head start, then half the distance remaining between himself and the Tortoise, then half that distance, and so on. But everyone knows from experience that a fast enough runner can catch up to a slow runner who is given a head start.

            Coming up with a metaphysical argument that there can be no movement without God's direct intervention will of course lead to the conclusion that God must intervene to make every movement possible.

            As someone remarked to me, it seem like an inefficient way to create a universe. Nothing works without divine intervention at every point.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I said this in a comment down the thread:

            "God does create all things and, having done so, must continue to create them, or else, they would fall back into nothingness as it were. This continued creation is called "conservation." Thus, God creates and conserves creatures in being. None of this is a miracle, since it is not outside the normal order of nature."

            If God is the Creator, does it surprise you that He continues to create his creation so that it can continue to exist? As St. Thomas points out, "When the cause ceases causing the effect ceases." Finite reality would cease to be without God's continued creation.

            As I pointed out in that subsequent comment, creatures are not mere puppets of God. He creates finite natures and then sustains those natures in their proper operations. God sustains them, BUT the actions are THEIRS. I may need God's existential support to exist and to raise my arm, but it is MY arm that is raised, not GOD'S.

            So, then, why is it so surprising that God would act as source of the new existential perfections that change introduces into the cosmos? All things still function according to their natures, and their actions belong to them, not God. All the OP points out is that God must play a continuing role in the production of new being through change, not that this intervention is any more extraordinary or miraculous than is his initial creation of all things and their ongoing creation through time.

            My proof through "new existence" is simply a somewhat novel way of detecting the need for God's ongoing presence and continued creative assistance to creatures in his ever-changing universe.

          • Rob Abney

            Coming up with a metaphysical argument that there can be no movement without God's direct intervention will of course lead to the conclusion that God must intervene to make every movement possible

            You seem to feel that you have been fooled by a clever argument. But it is all explained specifically in the OP, all the premises laid out publicly to be validated or invalidated. The conclusion is that there must be something that causes the effects that didn't previously exist, that all men call this God is an extension of the conclusion. You dont seem to like the conclusion and especially not the extension.

          • You seem to feel that you have been fooled by a clever argument.

            Not so much fooled by a clever argument, but rather presented with an argument in a particular system of thought that is alien to me by someone who is not only an expert in that system of thought, but as far as I can tell, is making some original arguments that are probably in need of evaluation by other Thomists.

            I think very few of us here have the expertise in metaphysics to argue with a Bonnette or a Feser. Also, one gets the impression that those who argue in Thomast terms here are are primarily beholden to Feser for their understanding of Thomism. I have read a bit of Feser, and he is clearly a brilliant man. But he is only one man.

            I do think it's an important question how to evaluate metaphysical claims, especially when those claims come from a particular "school" one is unfamiliar with. But it's a question I am still grappling with. I don't think the answer is necessarily to try to become an expert in Thomist thought. I think when it comes to empirical matters (science), to be a credible objector to the scientific consensus on a given topic (say, evolution), it is necessary to be an expert on it first. But in philosophy, there is no consensus that one can rely on.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you for a kind word about my knowledge of metaphysics, but I am simply a run-of-the-mill Thomistic philosopher with a good bit of teaching experience.

            On the other hand, you are right. Dr. Edward Feser is a brilliant scholar. What is sometimes forgotten about him is that he spent many years as a well-versed non-theist with depth in both history of philosophy and analytic philosophy -- before being driven by intellectual honesty into theism, Thomism, and the Catholic Church. He became a theist only when it was no longer possible for him to evade that conclusion.

            As for my present OP, you don't have to be a Thomist to grasp its essential insight. All that is needed is recognition that change is real, that things need reasons, that if they cannot explain themselves, then something else is needed -- and a little common sense. The mystery of change in the cosmos takes but a little reflection to realize that the finite universe itself needs something beyond itself to explain its continual becoming.

            As for the later steps in my OP leading to what sounds a lot like the classical conception of God, I will readily admit that some basic metaphysical insights may be helpful. But that further extension of the argument is not needed in order to grasp the basic "insight" that the OP is essentially about, namely, that the finite physical universe of materialism simply fails to explain itself -- and that common sense alone requires positing the existence of some force or cause beyond the cosmos itself alone in order to explain its continual evolution and dynamic changes.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think this OP is novel or controversial, although it is presented in an accessible way by Dr. Bonnette and made even more accessible by his willingness to engage in the comboxes.
            Here is an explanation from the more than 100 years old Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06614a.htm

  • Rob Abney

    The adults left the room and Little Tommy left a message on the chalkboard!

    • Jim the Scott

      He is a mercifly less verbose version of Thoughtless.

    • I don't expect this kind of remark from someone who touts the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

      • Jim the Scott

        You do realize St. Paul called his opponents "stupid" and even joked about them accidentally cutting off their manhood?

        Just saying......

      • Rob Abney

        I was touting the metaphysical implications of St. Francis not his pastoral approach.

  • Indeed.

  • Rob Abney

    True!

  • Jim the Scott

    Metaphysics equated & confused with physics is called scientism.

    Metaphysics properly distinguished from physics is called avoiding category mistakes.

  • I'm rather late to this, but I'd like to know whether the theology of the OP allows for this:

    God came from Teman,
        and the Holy One from Mount Paran.   Selah
    His splendor covered the heavens,
        and the earth was full of his praise.
    His brightness was like the light;
        rays flashed from his hand;
        and there he veiled his power.
    Before him went pestilence,
        and plague followed at his heels.
    (Habakkuk 3:3–5)

    What does it mean for God to "veil his power"? I am tempted to say that it is when he stops creating. But the OP has no room for a temporary cessation of "new existence" because any change whatsoever (e.g. particle moves from here to there) constitutes "new existence". Contrast this to God desiring an open system whereby he can be gracious, merciful, and loving to creation, but creation sometimes telling him to leave and him reluctantly obliging after a bunch of attempts to reason with it. The result would then be a closed system, where entropy is always increasing (minus the transient fluctuations). This would be a system run by conservation laws. The rule would be lex talionis or worse, not grace and mercy.

    My understanding of God is that he wants to give us many excellent things, as well as himself. A marriage made merely of things is a sham, but a marriage with no things doesn't work for embodied beings. God also wants us to give many excellent things to others and creation—there is no other way to faithfully imitate Jesus Christ. So what happens when we become stingy? How does God teach us that this is wrong, that this is not how creation was designed to operate? Well, after reasoning with us, the last resort is for God to treat us as we treat others so that we learn, first-hand, what it is like. Atheists demand empirical evidence; this is the ultimate in empirical evidence.

    In all this I'm riffing on John Milbank's "creation as gift" theme; this can be set over against Christian Rationalism turned Deism turned atheism, where there is a tremendous "given", often called "Reason"—often with capital 'R'. There is a way to have a closed understanding of "Reason" such that one becomes incurvatus in se: turned in on oneself. Suppose that God actually gave each of us an [overlapping but also unique] sliver of true "Reason", perhaps via "a piece of the Logos". We can agree on basic logic, but that is but the beginning—mathematics itself has no upper bound of complexity and beauty (thanks, Gödel!) and there is no single, determinate scientific method (thanks, Feyerabend!). If we close ourselves to any understanding of Reason which would extend ours in unprovably correct ways (or God forbid, correct errors), then we will try and interpret every other person's Reason as if it were an incomplete/​distorted/​barnacled version of our own. We will thereby close ourselves to the vast majority of creation. That makes God sad.

    So, how does God show us that there's tremendously more awesome and beauty and goodness than we've explored? Well, ideally he could just show us. But if we have so blinded ourselves to anything other than our small (effective, cool, amazing, but still small) ways of understanding reality, we can become blind to anything which is Other. (scientific support) In that event, what can God do other than remove his presence and let us see how pitiful we are when we try and do everything with what we've been given so far our autonomous awesomeness? Once we "feel" our problems strongly enough, God can do this:

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

    (We can always repent earlier, like Nineveh.) I worry that the OP doesn't allow for God to withdraw his presence, and thus none of what I've said here can really make sense on its reasoning. Maybe I'm just missing something.

    • Jim the Scott

      Argument from inundation. I get that from Fundamentalist anti-Catholics all the time. You could have simplified this long winded post you know?

      What are you asking here? Do you want an exegesis of Scripture? Are you asking a question of philosophical theology? Catholic Bible interpretation?

      Or are you forgetting Catholics don't always interpret the Bible hyper-literally nor do we hold Martin Luther's false belief Holy Writ is written perspicaciously?

      So if you quote us a verse in psalms that speaks of God "enfolding us in his wings" that means God is not divinely simple and literally has flying appendages like a giant Cosmic Chicken?

      What is up?

      • You could have simplified this long winded post you know?

        Yep, Mark Twain and the shorter letter with more time thing.

        What are you asking here?

        Do Catholics understand God as ever withdrawing his presence? Habakkuk talks about "veiled his power", David prays that God not take his Spirit from him [David], there are plenty of bits about God turning his face away and refusing to be inquired of by Israel, etc. This shows up in the NT as well, such as the double-minded man not receiving wisdom from God in James, the "strong delusion" God sends in 2 Thess 2, and God giving people up to pathetic finiteness in Romans 1:24–25.

        You may answer however you'd like, including via quickly judging me and putting me in a box. Although I'd prefer you not do that, that instead you would practice 2 Corinthians 5:16–17.

        Or are you forgetting Catholics don't always interpret the Bible hyper-literally nor do we hold Martin Luther's false belief Holy Writ is written perspicaciously?

        All I expect is that scripture ought to be able to question us, to show us that we might not be right. If it loses that power, then it because a tool of legitimation and nothing more. Exactly how this works is something I'll leave completely open. BTW, I have sympathies for Catholic responses to Protestant's sola scriptura; the idea that it is logically possible to interpret scripture without some kind of tradition is nonsense. Instead, we can ask whether tradition (Tradition?) can get sick and be in need of serious help—primarily from God, perhaps with humans as coworkers. One could consult Alasdair MacIntyre's work on tradition for this.

        So if you quote us a verse in psalms that speaks of God "enfolding us in his wings" that means God is not divinely simple and literally has flying appendages like a giant Cosmic Chicken?

        I would like you to swear in the name of Jesus Christ, son of God crucified by evil humankind and raised bodily on the the third day by God, that this honored God. See also Romans 12:10. If you are not comfortable so-swearing, please explain why.

        • Jim the Scott

          More argument by inundation. Let me be blunt. I am not playing with you the stupid game Thoughtless(Thinker) likes to play where you throw out a ton of objections & tangents to wear your opponent out. That doesn't really make the case against Theism(or Atheism if a believer did it too an Atheist) it just shows cowardice and a lack of wanting a real answer. It shows a lack of good faith. So I will pick one thing from your blather to answer as I fancy it. If you don't like it too bad. Pick what you think is the hardest question for me to answer & lead with it on your own time or stop boring me.

          >Do Catholics understand God as ever withdrawing his presence?

          So you basically don't understand what it is to "withdraw his presence"?

          Does it mean God withdraws to the point of ceasing to cause a being to exist by withdrawing the grace of existence from said being? Obviously not . Does it mean God withdraws other graces or a being's subjective but real experience of His presence?

          Sure why not? "Withdraw his presence" is no more hyper-literal then "cutting off" your right hand or enfolding in His wings. Geez Scratch an Atheist find a fundamentalist.

          "veiled his power" well a veil hides a person's face so God is hiding his power and presence from those He wishes to punish. Why is that a big deal?

          The rest of your blather I will ignore unless you want to pick out what you think is the hardest bit? Also I won't swear at the behest of an infidel as a matter of principle.

          • Does it mean God withdraws to the point of ceasing to cause a being to exist by withdrawing the grace of existence from said being? Obviously not . Does it mean God withdraws other graces or a being's subjective but real experience of His presence?

            I did ask Dr. Bonnette about something similar; he referred me to an article of his, which I will excerpt:

                Calling motion a “state” does not render it static. Nor does it lessen the truth that such motion entails the continuous reduction of potency to act -- which reduction, as Aquinas observes, requires a cause because “...nothing can be reduced (from potency) to act except by some being in act.”(18) Maritain’s alteration of “Everything which moves is moved by another,” so as to apply only to changes in states of motion or rest, is quite unnecessary. Even the constant state of motion that is described by the principle of inertia requires a continuous extrinsic cause of such motion.(19) (A Variation on the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas - Part 1)

            My thought back then was God withdrawing his power to create anew would be akin to letting inertia take its course. Instead of a world of agape and grace and mercy, it would be a closed system of conserved laws, increasing entropy, and inertia. The term "block universe" is sometimes used to denote the lack of a key kind of change.

            The present article seems to indicate that God is always creating anew. That confuses me; why is that required to merely sustain existence?

            JtS: So if you quote us a verse in psalms that speaks of God "enfolding us in his wings" that means God is not divinely simple and literally has flying appendages like a giant Cosmic Chicken?

            LB: I would like you to swear in the name of Jesus Christ, son of God crucified by evil humankind and raised bodily on the the third day by God, that this honored God. See also Romans 12:10. If you are not comfortable so-swearing, please explain why.

            JtS: Also I won't swear at the behest of an infidel as a matter of principle.

            Ahh, so you are rather confident I am not a follower of Jesus?

          • Jim the Scott

            >My thought back then was God withdrawing his power to create anew would be akin to letting inertia take its course.

            So you assume Existential Inertia is true? I don't think it is and Feser wrote an article on the matter BUT it is no longer available for free online. You would have to read it in his book Neo-scholastic essays. Ah well then.
            Maybe this will help.
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/cosmological-argument-roundup.html#more

            There is no reason why we can't believe physical inertia to be true and existential inertia not to be true. Physical Inertia as a state can be seen as a property God causes existent objects to have when they are put into a state of momentum. God causes the object to exist with the property of inertia. If God withdraws being from something then it no longer exists regardless if it is in a state of momentum or not.

            > The term "block universe" is sometimes used to denote the lack of a key kind of change.

            This MIT graduate in physics has something to say about that. It is at the beginning of this very Article.

            http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

            > The present article seems to indicate that God is always creating anew. That confuses me; why is that required to merely sustain existence?

            That is the natural conclusion to the first way(consult the Feser link). The first way is not some Kalam argument that presupposes a formal beginning. Indeed it postulates for purpose of argument a past eternal universe and explains how such a universe would need a First Cause to cause it to be here and now. The Universe is not a thing but a collection of things. They need a first cause to be here and now.

            Have you not been following the first way/cause argument at all?

            >Ahh, so you are rather confident I am not a follower of Jesus?

            If you are a believer then speak plainly and own it. Playing games pisses me off(unless I do it then it’s ok because I am so funny). I will speak plainly.

            I am a cantankerous, cynical, and bitter old cuss and I have likely violated the noble principles in Dr. Cross’ latest piece.
            https://strangenotions.com/speaking-the-truth-in-the-beauty-of-love/

            But I am a believer in Jesus according to the Catholic Faith & a vile sinner.

            See it is not hard.

            Now continue to ask sensible questions like Michael or smeg off.

          • Have you not been following the first way/cause argument at all?

            I have difficult understanding it because it seems so ridiculously abstract. For example, I haven't found a single way it helps us do better science. Nor how it helps us better love our neighbors or brothers or sisters. 1 John teaches that if you don't love your brothers and sisters, you don't love God. I'm a very pragmatic person, although I have learned to breathe in the rarefied air of abstractions for brief periods of time.

            I continue to be confused, because it seems that God actively creating new things in the world is a very different kind of causation than God sustaining the world as it is. They seem categorically different, to me. Furthermore, I suspect that the difference shows up in the comparison of the block universe to the growing block universe. But you don't seem to be willing to take this difference seriously.

            If you are a believer then speak plainly and own it.

            Were I to apply this standard to A/T metaphysics, I would conclude that a great number of A/T philosophers are not Christians.

            Playing games pisses me off(unless I do it then it’s ok because I am so funny).

            While I may be under the noetic effects of sin, I profess openly that I never intended to play any games with any of my comments on this page. If you claim to have greater insight into my intentions than I do, why do you think that?

            But I am a believer in Jesus according to the Catholic Faith & a vile sinner.

            I believe the Holy Spirit has sufficient power to help you speak the truth in love. Do you?

          • Rob Abney

            I haven't found a single way it helps us do better science.

            It helps us do science by explaining the origins of and the sustaining mechanism of the order of the cosmos. Otherwise we could decide that every cause is a first cause.

            Nor how it helps us better love our neighbors or brothers or sisters

            One way is by helping us to understand our humility in the face of the great power of God, that we are all equally dependent upon Him.

          • It helps us do science by explaining the origins of and the sustaining mechanism of the order of the cosmos. Otherwise we could decide that every cause is a first cause.

            I'm not sure how the first sentence shows up in actual scientific work—do you have any pointers? As to the second, I would suspect that the problem is actually that scientists infer no first causes, other than maybe vacuum fluctuations and the like. Most science I'm aware of seems more dependent on perpetual efficient causes. That's where I would suspect that "new creation" or "new existence" could come into play. But I don't know how it would, such that that would enable better science. I do have one suspicion: that we know very little about open systems. If God loving his creation and treating it with grace and mercy is better thought of as an open system than where everything is conserved (including consequences of sin), there's a lot we might be able to better understand.

            One way is by helping us to understand our humility in the face of the great power of God, that we are all equally dependent upon Him.

            I would need to see evidence that this generates more true, teachable humility than available alternatives (Christian and non-).

          • Rob Abney

            For science to be repeatable we need to know the metaphysical foundation. Scientists can do “everyday” science without ever considering the metaphysical basis because order has been established.

            There are many ways to discover humility but there has to be some mechanism to demonstrate that you as a human are not the center of the universe. I’d be ok interested to know what better alternatives that you see available.

          • For science to be repeatable we need to know the metaphysical foundation. Scientists can do “everyday” science without ever considering the metaphysical basis because order has been established.

            Sure, but I'm interested in more than “everyday” science. Let's shoot for scientific revolutions, Kuhn-style and beyond. Can A/T metaphysics help guide us toward those, more effectively than what scientists are doing now?

            There are many ways to discover humility but there has to be some mechanism to demonstrate that you as a human are not the center of the universe. I’d be ok interested to know what better alternatives that you see available.

            I got really bored with being the center of the universe. It's a really, really small universe when you do that. I'd say this is more about opening oneself up to the Other (that includes God—without God, I think you ultimately become closed to all Other; maybe Augustine was on to something similar with his incurvatus in se?) than recognizing the First Mover.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You might prefer the approach of Gabriel Marcel, who reversed Jean-Paul Sartre's, "Hell is other people," into an existential philosophy of interpersonal communion. For Marcel, I am not aware of others because of how they interfere with me (Sartre), but because I can enter into a communion of love with them. He is acutely aware of the "other" as the object of one's love and communion. He even argues to God's existence as a necessary transcendent "Other," beckoning to interpersonal communion in its idealized foundation. I am not saying that this meets the test of A-T metaphysical rigor, but it is a different way of approaching our fellow men and our relationship with God.

            I have met Gabriel Marcel myself and he was as sweet and personable and humble and sincere as his philosophy implied we all should be -- just as Sartre was unfortunately reputed to equally personify his version of existentialism.

          • Thanks! Marcel seems pretty relevant to my interests actually, and may slot in interestingly with Alistair McFadyen, John Milbank, and Jacques Ellul. I suppose that the Other really can be threatening or infuriating, if you aren't secure in yourself. And perhaps the only way to be truly secure in yourself is to be "rooted and grounded in love" (noting "We love because he first loved us."). Now, I definitely see one way Marcel is relevant to the OP:

            For Marcel, to exist only as body is to exist problematically. To exist existentially is to exist as a thinking, emotive, being, dependent upon the human creative impulse. He believed that, “As soon as there is creation, we are in the realm of being,” and also that, “There is no sense using the word ‘being’ except where creation is in view,” (PGM xiii). (IEP: Gabriel Marcel)

            My original question, though, gets at a situation where there is no [new] creation. What I'm really trying to do is make a division between successive states of existence which scientists explain via "inertia", and successive states of existence which were not totally determined by previous physical state, which instead had creative input, from God and/or human. Does that make sense?

             
            P.S. Marcel apparently disagrees with Aquinas in some major ways, per Gabriel Marcel's critique of the Thomist proofs for God's existence (Marquette University). I'm not sure how connected you meant Marcel to be to the topic at hand, so maybe consider this a notice for others.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It was urged that we have to drop the words "nature," "natural," that we should be content to speak with Scripture and the Fathers of God's grace and man's sinfulness. Now I have no doubt that such words as "nature" and "natural"...can be abused. But I also have no doubt that if we are not only going to speak about God's grace and man's sinfulness but also we are going to say what precisely we mean by such speaking, then we are going to have to find some third term over and above grace and sin.

            -- Bernard Lonergan
            http://lonergan.org/online_books/Liddy/ch8.htm

          • Heh, I just got keyed into Lonergan via George Lindbeck (The Nature of Doctrine). The most poignant way I've been exposed to the Creature–creature distinction as of late has been via John Milbank in his The Word Made Strange: Theology, Language, Culture (1997). It's not easy reading, but a few basic points seem readily extractable:

            (1) Reasoning from finitude (our current abilities) to infinitude (what could possibly be the case) is almost necessarily error-prone. Kant did not realize this and as a result, built a kind of "philosophical canopy" which we must learn to see and then pierce[1].

            (2) Modernity's pretense of "grounding of the good in a given, self-transcending rational nature" was always false. Aquinas didn't buy it and neither should we—unless we wish to include sin without said "rational nature" and call it "good". What is actually the case is that none of us is secular: "To start to specify what is humanly common to us is already to enter into theological discourse …" (15)

            (3) When it comes to traditions (secularism and political liberalism are traditions), "the normative sense of ‘where it is going’ is indissociable from, is in fact the same thing as, conjecture about how things ultimately are how they exist in such a fashion as to render this tradition valuable and truthful." (28)

            To abolish the terms 'nature' and 'natural' actually distorts our understanding of creation and Creator! What might be dangerous with the words 'nature' and 'natural' is that they suggest a causal monism these days—there are no true individuals who are in any important sense distinct from each other. If it's really the same causal powers (e.g. laws of nature) operating in everyone, then the "accident" of your particular make-up is exactly that—an accident. You aren't an instrument God wishes to develop and finely tune for a glorious part in a majestic creationly symphony. Instead, you're just one of many individuals contending to maximize your 'private good' while not obstructing anyone else's attempts to maximize his/her 'private good'—at least, not obstructing too much. (Even though I'm an engineer, I am usually drawn to a musical metaphor instead of some sort of engineering metaphor when surmising about the final telos of creation.)

             
            [1] Josef Pieper taught me the term "pierce the canopy"; an extended excerpt is I think merited:

                The closeness of this connection is so real that when ever one member of the system is denied, the others cannot thrive: the result is that in a world of total work, all the various forms and methods of transcendence must themselves become sterile (or, rather, would have to become sterile, if it were possible to destroy human nature completely); where religion is not allowed to grow, where the arts can find no place, where the disturbances of love and death lose their depth and become banal – there too, philosophy and philosophizing cannot survive. But worse than the mere extinguishing or silencing is the distortion into false forms of the original; there are such pseudo-realizations of those basic experiences, which only appear to pierce the canopy. There is a way to pray, in which “this” world is not transcended, in which, instead, one attempts to incorporate the divine as a functioning component of the work-a-day machinery of purposes. Religion can be perverted into magic so that instead of self-dedication to God, it becomes the attempt to gain power over the divine and make it subservient to one’s own will; prayer can become a technique for continuing to live life “under the canopy.” And further: love can be narrowed so that the powers of self-giving become subservient to the goals of the confined ego, goals which arise from an anxious self-defense against the disturbances of the larger, deeper, world, which only the truly loving person can enter. There are pseudo-forms of art, a false poetry, which, instead of breaking through the roof over the work-a-day world, resigns itself, so to speak, to painting decorations on the interior surface of the dome, and puts itself more or less obviously to the service of the working world as private or public “fashion poetry”; such “poetry” never seems to transcend, not even once (and it is clear, that genuine philosophizing has more in common with the exact, special sciences than with such pseudo-poetry!).
                Finally, there is a pseudo-philosophy, whose essential character is precisely that it does not transcend the working world. In a dialogue of Plato, Socrates asks the sophist Protagoras just what he teaches the youth who flock to see him? And the answer is, “I teach them good planning, both in their own affairs, such as how one should best manage his own household, and in public affairs, how one can best speak and act in the city-state.”[5] That is the classic program of “Philosophy as Professional Training” – a seeming philosophy only, with no transcendence.
                But even worse still, of course, is that all these pseudo-forms work together, not only in failing to transcend the world, but in more and more surely succeeding in closing off the world “under the canopy”: they seal off humanity all the more within the world of work. All these deceptive forms, and especially such seeming-philosophy, are something much worse, something much more hopeless, than the naive self-closing of the worldly man against what is not of daily-life. Someone who is merely naively confined to the work-a-day may one day nevertheless be touched by the disturbing power that lies hidden in a true philosophical question, or in some poem; but a sophist, a pseudo-philosopher, will never be “disturbed.” (Leisure: The Basis of Culture, 88–90)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            With all that being said, I don't see this distinction as invalidating Dr. Bonnette's line of reasoning. The motor behind the continued "inertial" operation of nature is, and can only be, supernatural, or so it seems to me. I can't see how inertia could possibly explain why we continue to have inertia :-)

          • That's fine; I just dumped a long excerpt from David Braine's very A/T The Reality of Time and the Existence of God on @Jimthescott:disqus which also pushes in this direction.

            What I'm still looking for, though, is a distinction which respects something truly profound happening between verses 4 and 5:

            3 God came from Teman,
                and the Holy One from Mount Paran.   Selah
            His splendor covered the heavens,
                and the earth was full of his praise.
            4 His brightness was like the light;
                rays flashed from his hand;
                and there he veiled his power.
            5 Before him went pestilence,
                and plague followed at his heels.
            (Habakkuk 3:3–5)

            Another way I think the same distinction is addressed is via Michael Tooley between a "static" and "dynamic" conceptions of the world.[1] Another is to consider Claude Tresmontant's treatment of creatio ex nihilo in A Study of Hebrew Thought. He asks "How can anything be added to what is?" and argues that this was unacceptable to the ancient Greeks. Any move from the One to the many is a fall. Creation cannot help but be grotesque. "The multitude of living beings represented only something negative, something like a catastrophe." (5) He continues:

                Not so to the Hebrew. To him the multitude of beings is the result of an eminently positive act, a creation, an excellent creation. Indeed the Creator Himself at every step in the genesis of the many, sees that all this is “very good.” Fertility is a blessing, to multiply is to be blessed, for God orders: “Increase, multiply and cover the earth.” And the great number of creatures, innumerable as sand and stars, reveal the power, the inexhaustible fruitfulness of the Creator.
                Later on we shall see that biblical metaphysics is characterized by the absence of the negative concept of matter. One consequence of this fact is of interest to us now. To Plato and to the Neo-Platonic tradition the One is separated from himself, undone in multiplicity by what they term “chōra.” With Aristotle, Plato’s “chōra” is identified with “matter,” the principle of individuation. Therefore a negative principle is responsible for the multiplicity of beings.
                Biblical metaphysics, by avoiding this negative principle, is able to look upon the genesis of all beings as a positive act, in itself desirable because it is excellent. Individuation, therefore, is no longer to be explained through the intervention of “matter.” The explanation lies in the creative act itself, which wills the existence of this or that particular being. There is an entirely new meaning to the relations of the one and the many. (A Study of Hebrew Thought, 5–6)

            If A/T metaphysics cannot somehow articulate a key difference between a world where God is acting ex nihilo and where he is merely sustaining it … "inertially", then I want to suggest that either there is a serious problem with A/T metaphysics, or more work needs to be done. Does that make sense? Jesus could not do miracles in every town—some were closed to creatio ex nihilo. Can A/T metaphysics solidly account for that?

             
            [1] Here's Michael Tooley; I found his book via WP: Growing block universe:

                To sum up, then, the difference between a static conception of the world and a dynamic one comes to this. According to a static conception, what states of affairs there are does not depend upon what time it is. Change, consequently, cannot be a matter of a change, over time, in what states of affairs exist. It must be a matter simply of the possession, by an object or by the world as a whole, of different intrinsic properties at different times.
                According to a dynamic conception of the world, by contrast, what states of affairs exist does depend upon what time it is. As a consequence, the totality of monadic states of affairs which exist as of one time, and which involve a given object, may differ from the totality that exists as of some other time, and it is precisely such a difference that constitutes change in an object, rather than merely the possession by an object of different properties at different times. Similarly, change in the world as a whole is a matter of a difference in the totality of states of affairs that exist as of different times, and not merely a matter of the possession of different properties by different temporal slices of the world. (Time, Tense, and Causation, 16)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yeah, I don't really know what A/T metaphysics has to say about all that, but yeah, the question makes sense. (You might distinguish even more finely with the empty-tomb-ish concept of creatio ex vetere.)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do not wish to attempt any scripture scholarship here, but let me be clear about the metaphysics.

            While this needs explication for each of its components, God is effectively creating ex nihilo when (1) he creates the world ex nihilo at the beginning of time, (2) when he continues to create it after its initial creation in time (conservation), and (3) when he creates the "new existence" manifested by any positive changes, however slight, in the continually existing world.

          • Does A/T metaphysics make some sort of important distinction between (2) conservation and (3) new existence? If so, I would like to learn more about it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            A/T metaphysics speaks of conservation in existence as meaning that God must continue to sustain in existence that which already exists, or else it would cease to be. I am not sure I want to hang the "new existence" phrase on A/T metaphysics in general, since it is my own expression as I define it. But other Thomists certainly us the concept in every proof for God's existence according to St. Thomas' First Way in the Summa Theologiae I, a. 2, q. 3, corpus, that is, the proof from motion. That is why my article from which the OP is redacted and which is linked in the references is entitled "A variation on the First Way of St. Thomas Aquinas."

            While God must conserve what already exists in existence, lest it fall back into nothingness, he must also cause the coming-to-be of all that newly appears in creation. So, God is constantly, not only continuing to create the existence of that which already is, but also must constantly be creating the "new existence" of that which newly appears in his created world -- either new substantial beings or mere accidental modifications of that which already exists, but has changed in some manner so as to manifest new perfections of existence.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am pressed for time, since I have a class coming up in a couple hours. So, this may not be precisely put -- but what the OP is saying is that inertial states explain nothing. They merely describe what happens. Explaining any new modes of reality at all essentially means that God must create whatever is novel in change. I.e., the body itself remains, but is still being conserved in existence by God's creative act, while the new position of that same body entails novel aspects of existence, which, essentially, require that God is creating those novel aspects as it were ex nihilo! I know we usually do not use the term "ex nihilo" in such contexts, but, with regard to what is truly novel, since what is novel was non-being previously, the power to create that novel esse or act of existence is essentially the same as that required to make substantial existence in what is conventionally call a creative act, as in the beginning of the world itself.

            As for Gabriel Marcel, I met him at Loyola of the South in or about 1965. I personally asked him whether he had studied St. Thomas in any depth. He replied that, following his conversion, he did so for about six months, but then decided it was too difficult for him! Please do NOT take this at face value. I am morally certain that this was simply his humility on display, not any intellectual ineptitude. None the less, the one weakness in his existential proofs for God as the Transcendent Other appears to be a lack of metaphysical underpinning for the move. That is, you need some sort of objective causal argument to make the proper conclusion.

          • Thanks for your time, and the note about Marcel & Aquinas.

            At this point I think I can only reiterate my desire for a blog post on SN dedicated exclusively to "inertia"—where we are restricted to closed systems with perfect conservation of all relevant quantities. (For the pedants: CPT symmetry.) What is God doing when he's merely keeping things going, inertially? For a stretch question—because I know philosophy can take a while to become relevant scientifically—I'd like to know how failure to come to terms with A/T metaphysics might be harming science. Maybe there aren't any answers yet to my stretch question which are specific enough for engagement by non A/T experts?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Maybe I do not grasp what you are saying here, since I thought the present OP on "new existence" did precisely what you are asking. For God to be "merely keeping things going, inertially" requires for him to be constantly providing new qualities or perfections of existence. Any change whatever requires that something new be posited in being, and that needs a direct, immediate extrinsic sufficient reason which is an efficient cause. It isn't like God just says, here's the rule: now go obey it. Obeying the rule that a body in motion must stay in motion entails constant new actualization of potency, and that "new act" must come from some extrinsic cause, since it is "new" precisely because it was not there in the "old" state of affairs or positions of the bodies in question.

            What am I missing here?

          • Think of the difference between God enforcing the laws of nature and nothing more, and God extending grace and mercy to creation. That's a pretty big difference, right? If so, can A/T tell us some interesting things about that difference?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just posted a reply to you that pretty much addresses that question. "Enforcing the laws of nature" is not a matter of just sitting there and demanding nature to obey. Rather, it entails conserving that which already exists in being, as well as creating new the added qualities that result from change of what was already existing (that which he is conserving in existence). Grace and mercy are simply among those things which must either be conserved or creatively added to what is already in existence. Whether being is in the natural or supernatural order, the metaphysical requirements are the same, since the principles of being are transcendentally valid and applicable.

          • So I read your other reply and I'm afraid I still see a distinction that you seem to be glossing over. But perhaps I can latch onto two phrases you just used here:

                 (I) "conserved"
                (II) "creatively added to"

            Can you see a big difference between those two things? Perhaps I can get at it a different way. Sometimes I'm in a group of Christians discussing theology and there's an older, wiser Christian who mostly stays silent. He or she generally lets the conversation continue on the current trajectory, but once in a while will poke it so that the rest of us are careful to confront some difficulty, or to keep us from getting too far off in the weeds. Do you think God ever interacts with us in these two modes—sometimes letting us do our thing, sometimes speaking to us to try to get us to alter course?

            What I'm getting at is that there are multiple moral agents in play, with each agent sometimes acting and sometimes only watching. (There have to be multiple moral agents, else God is the author of sin, whether directly or conspiratorially.) We can equate 'nature' to 'creation', that is all of the created moral agents and everything else. The idea would then be that God sometimes just lets all the agents do their thing without intervening (he can surely sustain them doing their thing), and sometimes he pipes up. That piping up can take many forms—verbal, dream, emotional, miracle, etc. But sometimes he doesn't pipe up; maybe that's to let us respond of our own accord, and maybe that's because we're headed in a very evil direction (e.g. Ezek 20:3).

            If A/T metaphysics doesn't make a sufficiently interesting distinction between when God is silent and when God is talking, that might be a problem. If you cannot see what I'm driving at by now, I should probably give up and maybe try again if someone else pipes up or at a later point after I've interacted with the matter more (hopefully with others).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Conservation means merely that God continues in existence that which already exists. But the adding to is required when change occurs, since were God merely to conserve in being that which already is, the cosmos would metaphysically "screech" to a halt. Since change is real, God's creations of "esse" must extend, not only to what already is, but to anything that newly appears on the finite scene -- either in substance or accident.

            Your analogy to the order of revelation and inspiration is similar in that once God has spoken through revelation, he allows his creatures to implement his teachings -- intervening, perhaps, in some miraculous manner as history warrants. But that presupposes the continued existence of the world and its creatures. At a metaphysical level, the world can never step outside God's creative "interference," or else it would instantly (1) cease to be, or, (2) cease to become. Conservation is (1) the former; "new existence" is (2) the latter.

            The problem is that natural scientists and much of mankind have come to think that once the world is here, it will automatically continue to exist -- and once it is in motion, it will continue to change -- all without any further divine "interference." The science of metaphysics looks more closely at what is going on and discovers that without God's continuous creative activity, the world would neither continue to exist nor continue to change, since all aspects of reality immediately derive their existence directly from God, and, without that constant creative causality coming from God, the effects would cease -- the world itself, and its becoming, would both vanish in an instant.

          • It helps us do science by explaining the origins of and the sustaining mechanism of the order of the cosmos. Otherwise we could decide that every cause is a first cause.

            It does no such thing because physics isn't clear on whether there is an absolute origin, and physics has already shown there doesn't need a sustaining mechanism keeping the universe afloat. The idea that the universe needs a constant sustainer is a metaphysical idea that is currently outdated and antiquated.

          • Jim the Scott

            Dude are you a Catholic Christian? Atheist? Protestant? Catholic? Skeptic? Deist?

            I need to know who I am talking too otherwise I just talk to the air.

            How else am I going to tailor my responses?

          • I am a non-denominational Protestant who thinks that Catholics have figured out a lot of things where Protestants are being stupid, but that Protestants may not be worse than Catholics on all fronts when it comes to understanding God and how to love neighbor.

            I am frustrated with the poor representation of Christians in science whose Christianity is crucial for doing excellent science. Contrast this to the following:

            As of 2017, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 892 individuals, of whom 201 or 22.5% were Jews, although the total Jewish population comprises less than 0.2% of the world's population. This means the percentage of Jewish Nobel laureates is at least 112.5 times or 11,250% above average. (WP: List of Jewish Nobel laureates)

            I suspect the reason that Christians these days don't "stand out" is partially due to some deep failure in understanding how God built creation. Maybe it's also due to failure to act like Christ toward neighbor—maybe God designed reality to rate-limit scientific progress as long as we don't love our neighbors nearly as much as we love ourselves. I do believe God has treasure after treasure for us to unearth in our exploration of how he did what he did.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            A sincere "thank you" to you for a forthright statement of faith and principle. If we all pursue the truth honestly and passionately, we will all be much the better for it. Since Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

          • Jim the Scott

            That is helpful. Thank you for being candid.

  • Mark Brewster

    Wow.

    My avatar depicts my opinion on how rational beings could consider this anything but masturbatory. The concept that any change in the composition of reality creates a new reality is no different from the unfalsifiable claim that observation of a proton changes the proton's existence.

    "New existence" needs no transcendence, merely a recognition of the motive force behind life itself. Blind, unintelligent, unguided, channeled only by the survival need of the living entity, it merely IS.

  • Nova Conceptum

    We know that motion or change is real and that everything in motion is moved by another.

    "We" know nothing of the sort, unless you choose to exclude at least me from we.

    Being a finite or limited being means to exist here and now with certain qualities of being—and no others

    Qualities are irrelevant to material being. This is expressed in various ways, perhaps the most famous is E=mc^2. In changing form between energy and matter no material being changes, rather, the existential being of material remains constant.

    Consider a new $100 bill, with its unique serial number, fibers, and embedded features. I can fold it, put it in my pocket, and it still exists. No new $100 bill has come into existence or passed from existence. Its form has changed, its location has changed, it's existence has not changed.

    It would be very surprising indeed if in the process of handling bills they would somehow pass out of existence, or come into existence.

    One is free, of course, to create whatever definitions of words one wishes. So, by definition, that which nearly all recognize as different aspects of material, its existential being versus its form, can be linguistically rolled into one term of existence. Having made that definition one can then say a change of form is a change of existence. While this article demonstrates that linguistic possibility, it also demonstrates that only obfuscation of no positive analytical value results.

    I am reminded of Lawrence Krauss, who famously defined something as nothing, then declared that he could show that something can come from nothing. When atheist and theist alike called foul on this transparent equivocation his defense was his open redefinition. I found that defense unsatisfactory and I still cry foul on equivocation by obfuscating redefinition.

    They are limited in existence at that time to where they are and what they are, while they lack whatever existential perfections they will manifest newly at the next moment.

    Material always manifests the same existential being because material is conserved and never changes in its existential aspect.

    This rational assertion is evidenced inductively by the fact that no new material existence has ever been observed and no disappearance of material existence has ever been observed so observed reality comports without known exception to the rational conception that material never changes in its existential aspect.

    as long as one realizes that they manifest certain qualities of existence that they have, but simultaneously lack others that they do not yet possess

    Qualities of existence are descriptors of the ways material interacts with other material and in no way impact the existential being of material, which is constant, by rationality and by unrefuted observation.

    Every finite being is limited solely to the existential perfections it possesses here and now.

    Perfection is an archaic term that has no useful place in describing the existence of material.

    Neither inertia nor gravity, nor any other physical force or phenomena explains this new reality. These laws merely describe how the world works, not why it is so. What is the metaphysical explanation?

    Indeed, science is descriptive lacking in an ultimate explanation as to why material interacts and progresses as it does. As unsatisfying as that may be that is the current state of human affairs and there seems little hope the ultimate why questions will ever be answered.

    It may be tempting for some to introduce an additional unknown and feel a sense of satisfaction at having answered the unanswerable, but in truth one has merely substituted the indescribable for the describable thus making negative explanatory progress.

    Thus, a purely physical universe in which motion exists is something that cannot be explained in terms of itself alone. Something else must be posited.

    That only pushes the problem back a step and now we are bound to ask what explains this imagined realm of the immaterial, but now our task is immeasurably more difficult, given that the immaterial has never been observed and we know nothing of how it works and are incapable of formulating any descriptors of it at all to account for how it interacts with itself and with material.

    Much simpler and realistic is to consider material as the necessary being with aspects of its progressions remaining undiscovered. We have then the capability to make real progress of learning.

    Atheistic evolutionary naturalism is ultimate irrationality, since an unaided evolving finite cosmos refutes itself: it would continuously have to be giving to itself those existential qualities that it lacks.

    Material already has the conserved aspect of existential being and already has the qualities of interactions and progressions needed for material to progress as it does. Nothing more is required or called for, although it is an open and exciting question as to how many layers of material organization are, in fact, the case.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Obviously, you don't like my calling changes in material things, "new existence."

      For you, since matter continues to exist, there really never is any "new existence" to explain -- coming or going.

      What you are talking about is what philosophers call "substantial being," which is not the same as "accidental being." When a thing undergoes accidental change, it does not cease to be or come into being. But it still changes.

      Since the word, "existence," seems so bothersome to you, I can do without it.

      Let us just say that a changing cosmos, bodies in motion from place to place, stars exploding, folks being born -- all of these are changes in reality that make differences in properties, attributes, positions, and so forth. These differences need to be explained. If there are no real differences, then the cosmos grinds to a halt and nothing is ever really new. That is why newness needs to be explained.

      What you seem to be saying is the standard ancient materialist claim that, since matter is always there, nothing is really new and nothing really changes.

      But this flies in the face of the need for explanations of differences between the before and after of changes. If there is a difference, we need to explain why. If there is no difference, then, as Parmenides claimed, all change is merely an illusion.

      You don't need to speak in terms of "existence" to realize that a changing, progressing, evolving universe needs some explanation of the new properties it manifests that were not there before.

      I realize that the materialist refuge is to say it is all matter in motion, and the motion just keeps going because of inertia (which is just another way to say that the motion just keeps going! Some explanation!).

      What my proof above demands is a careful rational analysis of why and how change can occur in the cosmos -- even for bodies in constant motion in a void.

      And you cannot define change away merely by declaring that "accidental existence" isn't real.

      I can only ask that readers to take a careful reread of the OP itself, and then, see whether your explanation really solves anything.

      Those who defend the existence of spiritual being are often accused of some sort of blind faith for accepting an immaterial cause for the material world.

      But to me nothing would take a greater act of blind faith than to say that the material world has existed from all eternity in some form or other -- and there is absolutely no reason for it other than that it is a "brute fact" we have to accept.

      And this usually comes from the same worshipers of natural science who demand empirical verification for every claim and who constantly tell us that they have the only rational explanations for everything.

      • Nova Conceptum

        Form changes. No new material comes into being or passes from being, but the arrangement of material changes. Science describes the ways material changes.

        There are no explanations published anywhere that solve the ultimate why questions. That may be unsatisfying, but that is a part of the human condition.

        The assertion of the immaterial makes negative explanatory progress, because we must immediately ask all the same questions, why does the immaterial exist as opposed to absolutely nothing at all? How and why does the immaterial interact with other immaterial? How and why does immaterial push, in some sense, on material to move it? Can material push back on immaterial, or is this some sort of a one way push, and how would a one way push be coherent? If the immaterial interacts so strongly with material why can't we measure or detect it? What are the formulations for how and why immaterial manifests, progresses, interacts with itself, and interacts with material?

        Not only does the assertion of immaterial solve no questions, it adds questions, we cannot even begin to investigate, much less fundamentally explain.

        The assertion of immaterial is unevidenced speculation of negative explanatory value.

        Evidence and logic call for eternal material existence.

        Material exists.

        Material cannot come into being.

        Material cannot cease to be.

        Therefore material has always existed and will always exist.

        One may deny those premises as being only inductively shown based on our potentially false senses, and therefore not absolutely certain, granted. The human condition offers very little absolute certainty, though we may crave it, in general, it is not available to us.

        I give Aquinas a great deal of credit for beginning his First Way with the words, "more manifest, and evident to our senses".

        It is manifest and evident to our senses that material is eternal.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You are so committed to materialism that you are not following the logic of the argument I have posed in the thread and more completely in the OP.

          You say that the form of matter changes, but existence does not.

          That does not address the fact that changes in form of matter are real and demand an explanation. If the after of a change is really different than the before, you have to provide some explanation as to why. You simply refuse to do so and claim that existence is still the same because matter remains.

          It is irrational not to explain the difference. The reasoning of my article shows that the only possible explanation is that there is more than matter operating in the cosmos. Since the old state of the cosmos does not contain the real differences found in the new state of the cosmos, there must be some cause of the newness that was not in the cosmos in its prior state.

          You simply will not let your mind follow the reasoning since it implies the existence of something immaterial.

          You find the immaterial incomprehensible. If I was so committed to materialism as you are, so might I. But the immaterial can solve some problems you refuse to face.

          Unlike the material world, God's existence is coherent by itself. Material reality cannot explain itself, as my argument proves. But God is the infinite being whose act of existence is identical with his very essence. Hence he needs no explanation outside himself, whereas the material world does.

          You think that the spiritual world discovered by metaphysicians can explain nothing about the physical world, including how it can "push" physical things around. Well, it does not operate by pushing things, but by creating them and sustaining them in existence, and by sustaining the very physical natures that you study in physics.

          God is the ultimate explanation you so ardently try to avoid, thereby leaving your mind forever without a complete answer.

          The truth is that, not only are there many phenomena that the physical world cannot explain, but a complete metaphysics has already been worked out for more than two thousand years that explains not only the physical world and its operations, but also can give a coherent explanation of how spiritual entities can function.

          The door to opening one's mind about the need for spiritual causes is the realization that the physical world makes no sense by itself. I have given only one argument to that end in the OP. There are others, some of which I gave in other articles on this site, such as the simplicity of sense perception and the intellect's ability to form universal concepts. See the latter half of my article on the immortality of the human soul on this site.

          Materialists simply ignore the logic of these arguments because they do not fit into their preconceived materialistic mental limitations.

          • Nova Conceptum

            changes in form of matter are real and demand an explanation.

            Granted, indeed. Unfortunately no such explanations are available. Such is the human condition, limited to descriptions and models of continually improving depth and breadth, never able to explain the ultimate why questions.

            there must be some cause of the newness that was not in the cosmos in its prior state

            Material manifestly has properties. Those properties of material interaction are aspects of material in the present that are fully sufficient to yield the changes in arrangements of material that progress temporally.

            No ultimate explanation as to why material has these properties is available,

            It has not been shown that material cannot be the necessary being.

            (God's) existence is identical with his very essence

            William Lane Craig considers that assertion unintelligible, and I rather agree.

            (immaterial) does not operate by pushing things, but by creating them and sustaining them in existence, and by sustaining the very physical natures that you study in physics

            How? What formulation can be provided for this process? Why is there in existence this immaterial with this power, as opposed to absolutely nothing at all, or immaterial incapable of creating material? Where does immaterial get the stuff it needs to create material, out of absolutely nothing?

            What is the functional difference between creation of material and sustaining the existence of material? How do these distinct processes operate? What is the transfer function, if not a push, at the interface between the immaterial and the material? Why does immaterial have these particular properties as opposed to any other of an arbitrarily large number of imaginable alternative properties of immaterial?

            Material does change itself after all, on this view of being sustained in existence by immaterial. Absent immaterial's action upon material it seems in this view that material would change itself from something to absolutely nothing at all.

            Materialists simply ignore the logic of these arguments

            Rather, in some instances the logic is found to have flaws, and in other instances following the logic to further implications only leads to greater unanswerable calls for explanations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From your description it appears that, unless the immaterial has the properties of the material, you simply rule it out of existence.

            You trust reason in all your scientific investigations, but when sound principles lead to conclusions involving immaterial entities, you simply rule it out of order.

            In the material universe, you demand reasons for all phenomena, but the moment the reasons appear to be immaterial, you abandon strict reasoning and declare such conclusions out of bounds.

            You demand that every meaningful statement be empirically verified, but that logic does not apply to this demand itself.

            And you still are ignoring the arguments I offer in the SN article on the immortality of the soul which show that material entities simply cannot comport with the way the senses grasp the wholeness of extended images or the way the mind forms universal concepts.
            https://strangenotions.com/how-we-know-the-human-soul-is-immortal/

            And, as I correctly noted earlier, you insist that good science give reasons for every claim, but when it comes to asking why the cosmos itself has existed from all eternity with certain physical properties that govern structured behavior, you punt -- just saying we have to accept the fact that it is a brute fact with no explanation.

            Such a position is an abdication of reason in its ultimate application.

            To me, all this does not sound like a very scientific approach to reality.

          • Nova Conceptum

            immaterial ... you simply rule it out of existence.

            I can't rule out Russell's teapot or immaterial. Ruling out unevidenced speculations would require me to prove the universal negative, and that I am unable to do, being a mere man.

            You trust reason in all your scientific investigations

            Trust, like faith, is irrelevant to materialism. All is provisional, except I am absolutely certain I exist in some form, and therefore I am absolutely certain there is an existence as opposed to absolutely nothing at all.

            you insist that good science give reasons for every claim,

            Reasons in the descriptive sense, that can be modeled and verified observationally without violating existing provisionally accepted models, unless great evidence can be produced to show existing models are in error in some way.

            you punt -- just saying we have to accept the fact that it is a brute fact with no explanation.

            The ultimate why explanations simply are not available to we mere mortals, at least for now, I suspect forever, but perhaps in the distant future intelligence will advance sufficiently to actually answer the ultimate why explanation questions. At this point humanity is so hopelessly primitive in that regard that there is virtually zero prospect of such answers coming to be published in my lifetime.

            To me, all this does not sound like a very scientific approach to reality.

            Science presently finds no evidence for or necessity of immaterial that I am aware of.

            And you still are ignoring the arguments I offer in the SN article on the immortality of the soul

            Not so much ignoring as pacing my responses. You have been gracious enough to spend some significant time to engage with me on subjects I find interesting and on which we strongly disagree. I prefer to read the links you provide, consider them, do some relevant searches, and post more measured responses that keep the rational content high and the potential incivility at an absolute minimum.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I can see that you have built a virtual epistemological wall around your materialism, cushioned with an ultimate safety valve claim that all such knowledge is most certainly provisional at best.

            There was a time when, although I had religious commitments, I could not see how to defeat materialism myself. Yet, over time I began to discover certain "leaks in the dike" -- one by one -- where it just did not quite work.

            I mentioned a couple of them to you earlier. But I just remembered the one I put up as my very first article on Strange Notions -- one that shows an epistemological trap that scientific materialism springs on itself, and one no one on this site has ever directly refuted.

            It is based on the fact that natural science assumes that it is studying the real world around us, and yet its necessary epistemological inference is that we have no direct way of ever knowing that world. It strikes at the heart of the principle of empirical verification. But best you read it for yourself:
            https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/

            If you follow the reasoning carefully, you will see that materialism contradicts its own starting point, epistemological realism -- and that this contradiction is a direct product of your philosophy of materialism. Worse yet, it turns out that the only way out of this contradiction is to abandon the philosophy of materialism.

            I hope you find this article illuminating. This and other inherent self-contradictions in materialism force me to approach philosophy with a mental attitude open to the reality of non-material entities.

          • Nova Conceptum

            I don't have that nightmare, I don't know who does, for example in Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould he is clearly not having any such nightmare either.

            That was 25 years ago, the views expressed were mainstream and ordinary among scientists even then: (scientific) “fact” does not mean "absolute certainty."

            Explanation of the actual scientific materialist view can be found in my new post at the above link you provided.
            http://disq.us/p/22rijzv

          • Dennis Bonnette

            And my reply this comment is posted there as well.