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St. Anselm’s God

St. Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence often gets a bad rap, not just from atheists but even from many Catholics. For one thing, it can be a difficult argument to understand. Though its premises are rather simple, something about it makes us think we are being tricked. For another thing, we know that eminent authorities like St. Thomas Aquinas have expressed their discontent with the argument.

Nonetheless, I think it is wrong to discard the argument without a second thought. Indeed, I think there is still much of value to be gleaned from it. For simplicity’s sake, here’s a basic sketch of the argument:

  1. God is the greatest conceivable thing.
  2. But if something is only in the mind and not in reality, then a greater thing can be conceived.
  3. So, God cannot only be in the mind.
  4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

In short, the very idea of God necessitates his existence. Thus, the Psalmist is right when he writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Whether or not this is a perfect representation of Anselm’s argument, it should serve our purposes today.

I would like to set aside for now the objections against it as an argument for God’s existence, not because it’s not an important question. It is indeed a very important question! But before defending the argument, we have to understand better what Anselm was saying. In fact, unbelievers who point out what they believe to be its weaknesses tend to miss Anselm’s meaning, and thus end up “defeating” a straw man. Engaging in an argument without clarifying meanings is never a good idea.

Christian apologists have long been frustrated to deal with popular skeptics railing against God as something other than what he truly is. Comparisons of God to the tooth fairy or Santa Claus are often flippantly made, particularly among the New Atheist types. Pathetic as such caricatures are, they betray a conception among non-believers that God is a finite creature. But for St. Anselm, that is precisely what God is not.

In an age when religious indifference is rampant and serious contemplation of spiritual things is scarce, St. Anselm’s argument is valuable because it takes on the form of a spiritual exercise.

In reality, God is not a thing at allthings in the sense of “beings in the world” have limitations. They can always be imagined to be greater in some way. But as Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “God cannot be a thing, an existent among others. It is not possible that God and the universe should add up to make two.”

What he means is that God’s mode of existence is completely different than everything else. Indeed, God is the creator of everything, and keeps it in being every moment it exists. This is the kind of God St. Anselm has in mind when he imagines “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”

The Anselmian proof invites us to do away with the caricatures—a challenger cannot even begin to refute the proof until he seriously entertains the notion of God presented by Anselm. From that starting point, then, all lesser kinds of “divinities”—from Zeus to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—are necessarily ruled out. We must ask the question soberly: what is the greatest conceivable thing? It is certainly not a beast composed of pasta.

There is more than one way to approach the question. We can think about God as unrestricted existence—that is, existence itself. Or in Aristotelian terms, we can think about God as being pure act and no potency—which just means that God is utterly perfect and lacks all possibility of further perfection. Technically (and as St. Thomas affirmed), to think of God as existence itself is probably the best way to think about “what” God is.

But there is another way to think about what it means for God to be, as Anselm put it, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Let’s think about this in concrete terms. What is greater—a God who loves everyone who loves him back, or a God who loves everyone unconditionally? Clearly the latter, for his love is perfect. Now, such “negative theology” can help us understand what God isn’t, but it proves nothing about whether such a thing exists. Still, it can help to clarify the nature of the thing considered—the first step of serious argumentation.

In his influential book, The God of Faith and Reason, philosopher Robert Sokolowski considers another contrast, one that sheds light on St. Anselm’s meaning of God. The first “god” Sokolowski asks us to consider is one who becomes greater as the result of his creation. In this first case, “god + the world” is greater than the god alone. He contrasts this version with another in which God is so great that his creation adds nothing to his perfection. In the latter case, “God + the world” is not greater than God alone. And clearly, argues Sokolowski, this latter God is a greater conception of God than the former. Indeed, no greater God could be conceived. And there are important implications that follow from this.

One implication is that if God creates but gains nothing for himself by doing so, then it follows that God’s act of creation is completely gratuitous and unsolicited. We—the created—have everything to gain by virtue of the gift of our existence.

So, aside from what it contributes to the debate about God’s existence, St. Anselm’s ontological proof helps us to re-establish who God is and what it means for us to exist. It gets us thinking about the big questions again, for we have been created for our own good by a God who is unlimited in perfection. Our lives, then, should be lived in a way that reflects uncompromising gratitude, humility, and trust in God.

If St. Anselm’s argument fails as a proof for God’s existence, it nonetheless does great service in establishing a firm starting point for determining what it is we are trying to prove in the first place. Moreover, it compels us to think seriously about whether such a grand contention could be true.

Matt Nelson

Written by

Matt holds a B.Ed from the University of Regina and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto, Canada. After several years of skepticism, he returned to the Catholic Church in 2010. Now alongside his chiropractic practice, Matt is a speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries and Religious Education Coordinator at Christ the King Parish. He currently resides in Shaunavon, SK, with his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Anna. Follow Matt through his blog at ReasonableCatholic.com.

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  • Scott Lynch

    Yes I have always thought Anselm’s argument failed, but also framed the question very well for Cosmological Arguments. The Ontological Argument soundly proves that if God (properly conceived) exists, then He must exist. And if God (properly conceived) does not exist, then he cannot exist. There is no room for a possibly existing God.

    • Philip Rand

      Scott Lynch

      Anselm’s ontological argument is valid and can be seen to be sound; unlike any argument put forth by Aquinas.

    • Jim the Scott

      Thomist in general reject the Ontological Argument. It is based on the Platonic-Augustinian philosophical tradition and we are Aristotelians threw and threw.

      Ed Feser explains it all for us. Cheers friend.

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/11/anselms-ontological-argument.html

      • Ficino

        Just ruminating here: would a neo-Platonist perhaps reject the second premise? For them, the One is beyond being (cf. Republic 509c). "Das seiende Eine," the One that exists, is subordinated to the One that is beyond being. Reality presumably = being. So as pure unity, the One to which Being is not, is more perfect than the One to which being is added. In fact it is the highest metaphysical principle. It is absolutely transcendent; not having being, it is „überseiend“, above being. "Das seiende Eine" is NOT the highest principle in neo-Platonism. With the falsity of the second premise falls the Ontological Argument, on this version of neo-Platonism. ??

        • Jim the Scott

          I don't know? But a follower of Aquinas would. It could be part of the reason why a scholastic would reject premise 2 and that would be rooted in the divine incomprehensiblity.

          • Ficino

            OK. That's a different reason for rejecting premise 2 from what I think the neo-platonist would say. I don't know whether Feser's article, which you linked above, goes deep enough into Platonism. What we learn from Aristotle and Theophrastus is that in Plato's so-called unwritten doctrines, the ruling principles, ontologically superior to the Forms, were the One and the Indefinite Dyad. The One is not a form. So what one can say about essences doesn't apply to the One. It is a principle, not an essence.

            I know two neo-Platonists. They put forth some interesting and challenging arguments. But of course, I'm just an old materialist...

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you are "just an old materialist...," try explaining this one:

            https://www.hprweb.com/2020/06/materialisms-unnoticed-achilles-heel/

          • Ficino

            Probably the most operative word in what I wrote is "old"! I've said elsewhere on here that so far, I accept that abstract objects exist, so I have a messy ontology. I don't accord them causal powers, but as I said to Johannes, I think some abstract objects serve as limiting conditions, like the relation of identity. But i haven't worked out all this, and I don't think I can expand my forays into modern ontology widely.

            I don't see reason to posit "spiritual" entities in the Thomist sense, which do have causal powers. I've never been compelled by the argument that "a concept is not material, so there must be an immaterial faculty, distinct somehow from the brain of the human, that operates on concepts."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            With all due respect, the only thing your reply clearly shows is that you did NOT even take a good look at the article to which I gave you a link above.

            That article does NOT focus on the mind's ability to form universal concepts. It does NOT focus on proving the spirituality of the human soul.

            It merely shows you that old fashioned materialism simply cannot fully explain even animal sense cognition. I give you a very detailed proof of that claim in the article.

            You really should take the time to take a good look at it, since it shows that even a literal dumb bunny does things that no materialist can explain.

          • Ficino

            No, I haven't looked at the article yet. I was replying to arguments I've seen elsewhere. I shall get to the article in due course.

          • Ficino

            Follow-up: I have now read your June article.

            That is, an immaterial effect requires an immaterial cause. Something must exist which is immaterial in order to account for the immaterial aspect of sense experience, namely, its ability to unify the sense object so as to apprehend it as a whole. Once again, it is critical to recall that “immaterial” need not mean “spiritual” in this context.

            The above is closer than I expected to what I said earlier that I don't accept about the faculty that operates upon concepts. You are arguing that there is also an immaterial sensory faculty, which must be immaterial because the apprehension of the sensed object as a whole is not material, though the senses object is material. Correct? Seems to me there is a similar line of thought.

            If a non-human animal's sensory faculties are not "spiritual," why do they not need to be spiritual? is it because you restrict "spiritual" to intellects, which can be separated from body, unlike the cognitive capacities of animals? What description is left for an immaterial faculty that isn't spiritual? If it doesn't have a body or operate by means of a body but also isn't spiritual, what is it?

            Do you understand Aquinas to teach that phantasia is the effect of the operation of an organ inside the brain, which organ is different from the several immediate organs of each of the five senses? Cf. In IV Sent 40.1.1 ad 3, In IV Meta l. 14 C693, In III DA l. 13 C793. If you agree that Aquinas so teaches, does that affect what you write about the unified perception's being the operation of an immaterial faculty? [I take it we will agree that Aquinas holds that neither possible nor active intellect operates through a bodily organ.]

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think that a careful reading of my article will put the reader into a domain that neither strict materialism nor Cartesian dualism will explain. The following distinction is key:

            "Sense experience is immaterial because it is not extended and located in space. That is to distinguish its immateriality from the claims of physicalism or materialism, which maintains that every real thing must be extended and located in space. This immateriality is not to be confused with ascribing a spiritual nature to something, which means, not only that something is not itself extended and located in space, but also that that something is not even dependent on anything physical (that is, extended and located in space)."

            What my argument demonstrates is that the act of perceiving the whole of a sense object cannot itself be extended in space. Yet, it also cannot exist except as dependent upon physical organs which are themselves extended in space.

            But the paragraphs following the subsection entitled, "Some Physical Dependence, but Not Itself Physical," are critical to grasping the exact ontological status of such acts of perception.

            Even though they cannot exist unless the organs exist, they nonetheless possess the quality of not themselves being extended in space, and thus, the material organs by themselves cannot possibly fully explain their existence and function.

            Since neither materialism nor Cartesian dualism can explain the status of such "intermediary" entities, I explain in the article that the only remaining possibility is some form of hylemorphic explanation.

            This entire topic falls under the Thomistic doctrine of the "simplicity" of sense perception, which is standard philosophical psychology, but which gets generally ignored in the debate between gross materialism and Thomistic intellectualism.

            But it is a key failure on the part of materialism in that it simply cannot be explained by any standard physical model.

            As I said, the mystery is that it is something that any literal dumb bunny (yes, I mean a rabbit) can do, but which materialists simply cannot explain.

            The proofs for the spirituality of the intellect based on things like formation of the universal concept are totally irrelevant to the unavoidable conclusion of this sensory analysis.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Do you understand Aquinas to teach that phantasia is the effect of the operation of an organ inside the brain, which organ is different from the several immediate organs of each of the five senses?"

            I am sorry that in giving my reply below this one, I failed to address directly your question here.

            Strictly speaking, the point is that no organic sense faculties are the product of solely a material organ, since St. Thomas always is presupposing the hylemorphic doctrine in which all operations are the product of the entire organic entity -- form as well as matter. Speaking as if a sense's complete operation were explained entirely by the material organ qua material is simply not the full hylemorphic explanation.

            In fact, the simplicity of operation of the various sense faculties applies not only to the imagination, but also to each of the five senses in its own way. It is just that I use the sense of sight as the primary example in my article, since we can most easily imagine how it works in terms of seeing an external object as a whole. Fact is that we also "see" the whole of an image when we imagine something as being visible. It gets more complex when we explain simplicity in the acts of perception of each of the other four senses, but the general argument still works.

            We simply cannot apprehend a visible object as a whole without unifying it in such fashion that no materially extended "receiver" can do. See the article.

          • Dr. Bonnette ~~ A possible Syllogism logically compelled from Anselm's God:

            Premise: Further down in this thread Andrew comments:

            He calls God the "something the greater than which cannot be conceived" but the whole discussion about what is 'greater' than what is intrinsically a subjective notion. Deciding what is and is not a flaw is a value judgment and one cannot simply presuppose that one's value judgments are universal.

            Premise: That sort of Deflationary Truth Value is an option. However, the very notion embedded in the semantic intent when we say things like Greater / Better / More-Precise and so on will either fall into this or that reductio-ad-absurdum or else carry us into Objectivism ((either Realism or Antirealism will due for Objectivism)).

            Premise: In an odd way Anselm forced that divergence all those centuries ago. We find (there) that we are compelled into Being Itself as Goodness Itself as Reason Itself as Logic Itself as Absolute Consciousness Itself ((...and so on...)). Else reductio.

            Premise: And so the choice between the Eliminativist's terminus wrt Mind and the Theist's terminus wrt Mind seems to be an inevitable point of divergence forced by Anselm's God.

            Conclusion: IF truth value exists in our own semantic intent of GREAT / BETTER / MORE-PRECISE ((Etc.)) well THEN we must run as fast as we can from that and throw away ((eventually)) all such semantic intent and deny any "degree" of any such Truth Value ((...because there is no "degree" of Being nor "degree" of Non-Being as both are metaphysical absurdities...)) OR ELSE we must End in an Explanatory Terminus that Looks & Sounds very much like the Christian God.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am perfectly willing to accept the conclusion of your last line! :)

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            You should look at Johannes Hui's Unconditional Entity Argument. It is most interesting.

            His argument when analysed is not valid nor sound.

            However, this result is quite interesting because the trajectory of the result is that both Naturalism & Thomism arguments are not valid nor sound.

            For example both the Naturalist & the Thomist argument hinges on this proposition:

            The form of the world through the senses dictates that of the world.

            In Hui's argument form -> Unconditional Entity

            This explains the immense exposition and jargon used in any type of Thomistic analysis, for example.

          • Links please :-}

            (((Nature is unconditional as in Eternalism/4D Block etc. or in another sense?)))

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            Eternalisim/4D Block, etc. are delimited conditions.... think non-delimited unconditional entity as in an entity that has no boundary conditions (which clearly is a paradox all ready).

            SEE: http://disq.us/p/2aqdxx7

          • What is your approach to J.H.'s syllogisms when it comes to Being Itself and non/de/limited and con/un/conditioned and so on?

          • Philip Rand

            He has given himself an inference free-ride ticket...this is the illusion of Naturalism & Thomism; they are bewitched by words.

          • Well. Ok but I’m not familiar with his argument. I guess my question is if there seems to be a valid argument there that you want to use ((for or against something))?

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            No. His argument is a contradiction and clearly not valid, but it does highlight the anomaly in Thomism overtly. It is the error inherent within Thomism that makes Thomists become fixated on Thomism rather than the truth, i.e. the error is a fixation. The Epistle of Galatians higlights this error fixation lifestyle and The Epistle of Jude gives the destination of such a fixation, i.e. Cain, Balaam, Korah.

            I am interested in the data not the argument.

          • Okay thank you. What is the error with respect to Being Itself that you refer to? Again I'm not familiar with J.H.'s whole syllogism.

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            Interesting dialectic behaviour/conversation: Posture

            Submissive credulity. Sceptical. Argumentative.

            You have been trained...

          • Sorry but J.H.'s posts are long and I don't want to spend time figuring out all of the nuance. However, if there's something with respect to Being Itself as per generic Thomism that you find to be incoherent ((or self-negating? or what?)) then you can specify that. Perhaps you hoped to have this Mapped out according to J.H.'s syllogisms and they do look interesting but to actually figure them out and wield THEM handily in any semblance of real time is, well, you can ask and I can refuse.

            Agree?

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            I just gave you a syllogism defining a "form" of Being Itself. Interesting, that you missed it... very interesting....

          • What syllogism? J.H.'s is all you've given me. And? I just told you that J.H.'s posts are long and I don't want to spend time figuring out all of the nuance. Perhaps you hoped to have this Mapped out according to J.H.'s syllogisms and they do look interesting but to actually figure them out and wield THEM handily in any semblance of real time is, well, you can ask and I can refuse. Shall I treat you the same and give you new material and then call you dishonest or stupid if you decline a request of mine to have nuanced discussions about all of it?

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            Interesting...

            Off-course, one can discuss what one sees on a map; this is error fixation, a negative feedback loop leading to slander.

            One cannot discuss what one cannot observe; the syllogism as you have confessed.

            Being-itself is cancelled out...

          • Please clarify what I confessed. Do you mean the fact that I did not read J.H.'s content and even told you as much? Well then you have your confession. BTW when you Google J.H. he has multiple posts over at Ed Feser's comment sections too. There is even more there than here and it all looks intriguing. Perhaps you should Google "TLDR" as I have now for the third time made the observation that while J.H.'s content looks interesting it is nonetheless a simple case of TLDR, which stands for "Too Long Didn't Read". Hence you are Air-Boxing at the moment.

          • Additionally, I meant to ask you, does J.H. have any content formalized somewhere? Time permitting it would be interesting to look at some day. So far all we've arrived at is my reply at https://strangenotions.com/st-anselms-god/#comment-5008677636

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            Johannes Hui's content is long in exposition. Long exposition is ALWAYS a "sign" of a incoherency that can be measured accurately using Zipf's Law.

            Just take one of his posts concerning his theory and analyse it using Zipf's Law (it won't take long); the degree the post diverges from the constant in Zipf's Law the degree of incoherency in the comment.

            I have done this analysis to Feser & Bonnette's post topics.... According to Zipf's Law the conclusion is that Thomism is incoherent (scientifically).

          • And also the other:

          • Philip Rand

            scblhrm

            The Johannes Hui Unconditioned Entity Argument is trivial to observe it is not valid nor sound.

            I did the analysis here (you just have to look at my posts to him)... the analysis is short because the argument is a contradiction. If you had been that interested you would have seen the rejoinder.

            However,I wanted you to use your own "model" to "value" his argument. Your system appears to mirror his own.

            The Zipf Law result explains why you can't find the time to read his argument; you don't read it, i.e. to quote you:

            Sorry but J.H.'s posts are long and I don't want to spend time figuring out all of the nuance

            is because the argument is incoherent... and that is your intuition; Zipf Law simply generalises the "measurement" that creates the phenomenal output of his argument, i.e. a "value" to the degree of incoherence.

            But, it is interesting, very interesting that... that the negative feedback that you give does indeed end up in slander.... very interesting.... the result is deterministic.... again, error fixation is the cause...

            Yes, we are done, error fixation always leads to a zero-sum result!

            This is the reason your concept of mutual understanding is unreasonable.

            Thanks for the data.

          • What is my intuition? That J.H. is mistaken? How can I have any intuition about something I've not unpacked yet?

            Why haven't I read it yet? Because I intuit that it's incoherent? How can I have any intuition about something I've not unpacked yet?

            Didn't I say it looks intriguing? Why do you claim I'm a liar about that?

            Read your analysis? Why? How can I understand your analysis of something I didn't read yet? Can you explain THAT to me? Think about what you just said: "Don't read X. Just read my analysis of X and you'll see". That's asinine.

            And you didn't answer my question: why ask me to read it in the first place when "Long" is enough to discount it?

            Lastly, please address why you are calling me a liar.

          • You say my intuition is what? That J.H. is mistaken? How can I have any intuition about something I've not unpacked yet?

            You also commented that I have not read J.H.'s content yet because I feel that it is incoherent. Why do you say that? How can I have any intuition about something I've not read yet?

            I said it looks intriguing. Do you claim that I was not telling the truth when I said that?

            You ask me to read your analysis of J.H. even though I've not read J.H. But how can I understand your analysis of something I didn't read yet? Can you explain that to me?

            Think about what you just said: "Don't read X. Just read my analysis of X and you'll see". How is that a rational way for me to come to understand J.H. when reading his content would add to my understanding too?

            And you didn't answer my question: why ask me to read it in the first place when "Long" is enough to discount it?

            Lastly: I said J.H.'s content looks intriguing. Please address if your claim is that I was not telling the truth when I said that.

          • Ficino

            I can't speak for Daniel Dennett or someone. I don't accept that "to be is to be material." As I've said before, so far I accept that if we can quantify truly over variables when their values are abstract objects, then I accept that the abstract objects exist, even if only as semantic entities with no causal powers. I think it's false that we can say something true of a sentence form if the sentence form doesn't exist. As I've said, I haven't worked through all of this, since I'm not prepared to be a full-blown Platonist.

            I am not prepared to endorse your argument in your June 5 article:
            1. we aren't authorized to say that the perceiving animal simply "grasps the object as a whole." As far as I know, this is false. The perceiver filters what is perceived. Refresh your memory of Kant and Schopenhauer. I don't accept that "the whole" is perceived, and you want to have your cake and eat it too when you say

            Nor do I even necessarily mean even the whole of the side of an object facing me. It suffices that merely some extended patch of color be seen, since that which is not extended at all could not be seen at all. When we see any extended surface, we see all its parts at once — and that is to experience a “whole.”

            If we only perceive aspects of the thing, you can't say we perceive "the whole."
            2. You seem to be reformulating the argument from the qualia. I haven't worked on that in depth. I've supposed it's sufficient to be a property dualist.
            3.

            Sense experience is immaterial because it is not extended and located in space.

            There are a lot of operations performed by bodies. I don't consider the operations, or internal effects of the operations, themselves to be bodies. Even in the case of locomotion, the body is extended in this defined space, then in that one, but the motion is not the body. The motion is an actuality of the body. So I don't think it's a big deal to point out that the qualia aren't brain or nerve cells. They're a different category of property.

            So I don't know the "Giants" of Plato's criticism, who maintain that nothing can exist if it is not a body.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am certainly not a Platonist and the problem I propose in my article is not a problem of logical expression, but rather the actual immediately-known sense experience. Nor do we escape the argument I pose by retreating to assumed "subjective forms" that condition consciousness ala Kant.

            The only way to "get" the force of the argument is to go through it step by step, since I explain a lot of possible misunderstandings as I proceed.

            "If we only perceive aspects of the thing, you can't say we perceive "the whole." "

            This is where I think you are having a problem understanding what I mean by a "whole." It does not mean grasping somethings essence, or doing an MRI of every least physical aspect of it. Nor does it matter what "aspect" you consider as long as it is something physical.

            That is because basically I am saying anything you experience through your senses (especially sight) is somehow extended in space, meaning it has parts outside of parts. But the subjective experience has to unify that experience, or else you really do not experience anything at all. That is why TV screens do not "see" the image that is on them!

            That is why I use an example like a TV image which is composed of thousands of discrete pixels, which in themselves know nothing at all. But a living dog looking at an image on a screen sees the top and bottom all at once.

            It does not matter whether or not he recognizes it as an image of another dog. The key insight is that nothing is experienced at all unless somehow the subjective experience unifies the top and bottom, left and right sides, of the object sensed. That is why a very detailed and slow reading of my argument is essential.

            I am not reformulating anything, since the modern notion of qualia is merely a rehash of the subjective sense experience that the ancients knew well and better understood long ago.

            "So I don't think it's a big deal to point out that the qualia aren't brain or nerve cells. They're a different category of property."

            Here is where my distinction between physical things, merely immaterial things, and spiritual things becomes crucial.

            Genuine materialism maintains that whatever is real is either material as extended in space (time) or else must depend on what is so extended. But that is why my article explains how "emergent" properties are not fully explained by the material universe qua material.

            In a nutshell, what is extended in space simply cannot explain what is not extended in space, and so, the latter cannot be fully explained as coming from (emerging from) the former. I treat that explicitly in my essay.

            As for the property called "motion," that is a metaphysical can of worms in its own right. Notwithstanding, whatever is in motion in a purely material ontology is itself extended in space, and so, cannot really explain what is itself not extended in space. The problem with motion is that it is the coming to be of new qualities of being that did not exist before the change. That entails the "fight" over the prima via, which is a very different alley to chase down! I refer to my other SN article here: https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            The devil in this analysis is in the details, and hand waving with general terms simply does not account for the phenomena to be explained, namely, how can what is sensed as an object physically extended in space, be subjectively experienced in a really unified manner -- if one assumes that the "receiving end" of the subjective experience it itself physically extended in space -- so that one part must represent one part and nothing grasps the whole as such?

            Dragging in a different philosophical map simply does not answer the essential problem I describe in my essay. That is why it takes so many words to try to make sure the reader does not miss the point. Yet, it seems you have missed a central element of the argument, since you do not appear to grasp what I mean by "sensing the whole."

          • Ficino

            Have you considered sending your article to a journal like Mind?

            In your article, you defined your target, materialism, this way:

            Materialism goes under many names, for example, physicalism, scientific materialism, metaphysical materialism, and atomism. What they all have in common is the insistence that all that is real is solely physical or material things. For the purposes of this paper, what is physical or material shall be understood to mean that which is extended and located in space, and has parts outside of parts.

            But in your last comment, you expanded your definition to this:

            Genuine materialism maintains that whatever is real is either material as extended in space (time) or else must depend on what is so extended.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "But in your last comment, you expanded your definition to this:" F

            "Genuine materialism maintains that whatever is real is either material as extended in space (time) or else must depend on what is so extended." DB

            Good catch! Materialism does come is a nuanced form in the hands of "emergentists," such as the Marxists. That is why the latter part of my article addresses that claim and points out that getting non-extended "physical" reality out of extended physical reality is like getting a rabbit out of a hat, or getting being from non-being. The essay handles this method of attempting to evade its argument.

            As to sending this piece to a peer reviewed journal, such as Mind, I really gave it no thought. I am well past the time I need to publish or perish and too old to have the patience for the peer review process. My Espiritu article took something like two years to get into print as they went through three sequential reviewers.

            I grant that you are a professional classicist and are more familiar with semantical usage than am I. But this is not a matter of mere usage of terms. I am sure you wish I would be more precise and consistent in such usage. Still, that in no way defeats the reality of the argument.

            The problem for materialists in any form is that we experience sense objects as a whole, that is, as something extended in space, but in a unified manner. Physical objects are extended, meaning they have parts outside of parts, but they are not in themselves unified. Yet, we experience them as something apprehended as a whole, that is, as one. I am sorry if I cannot express this with the clarity and precision you seem to demand, but that does NOT mean what I say is either meaningless or false!

            Think of that example of the image on a TV screen, where the pixels that make it up are discrete and physically separate. But a sensing organism, even a rabbit, sees the whole image in a single act of experience -- something which simply does not and cannot exist on the TV screen itself.

            All the semantics in the world cannot avoid the problem. And yes, you might have to think about it a bit before its force becomes unavoidable. For my imprecision in presenting the argument, I apologize. But I do not apologize for the argument itself, since it is clearly valid ontologically.

            And it is grounded in our immediate experience, since we perceive extended objects in a single, unified act whereby we simultaneously and in one act grasp the multiplicity and extension of the parts of the physical object. So, all the secondary logical theories, which deal with the order of second intentions or concepts, cannot touch it.

            Finally, you have another good catch in my last reply (which was not in the article itself), when I made reference to ":the subjective sense experience that the ancients knew well and better understood long ago."

            As I conceded, you are a good classicist. My mistake. By "ancients," I was not thinking of your Greek or Roman sources, but merely should have used the term "scholastic" instead, since the medieval scholastics were well aware of the reality and importance of the contents of subjective consciousness.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Well put. Another way of saying it is that, if God is possible, then he must be actual. But to prove he is possible, you must prove he is actual.

  • God Hates Faith

    As usual, "proofs" for gods are simply an exercise in semantics trying to define something into existence.

    In the latter case, “God + the world” is not greater than God alone.

    One implication is that if God creates but gains nothing for himself by doing so, then it follows that God’s act of creation is completely gratuitous and unsolicited.

    If this deity created everything and gained nothing from it, then there is no way to know why this god created everything. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he killed himself to create the universe. Saying "it was gratuitous" doesn't add anything of value to "why".

    If I create a character in a book, I could claim I was doing it out of gratuity, but that doesn't explain the "why". Perhaps I enjoy writing. If I enjoy something, then I have gained something. So me + creating a character = greater me.

    Of course a counter argument could be that simply because god enjoys creating doesn't mean he is greater because of it. But then we have to define greatest as not including joy. Semantics.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "As usual, "proofs" for gods are simply an exercise in semantics trying to define something into existence."

      This is precisely why St. Thomas's Five Ways are not a priori arguments, but a posteriori ones. That is, they always start with something real, given in sensation -- precisely not from a mere definition of God. In fact, they conclude merely to a nominal definition of God: "... that which all men call God." That, for example, the uncaused first cause is actually the God of revelation is not demonstrated until later in his text.

      Since God already contains all possible perfections of existence, his creatures add nothing to the perfection of reality. He is free to create because there is no necessity in his will beyond his own happiness, perfection, and existence. Lesser things are purely optional. In creating, he manifests his glory, but he need not do so, since his glory is already infinite. But creation is a gift to his creatures, which does them good in the process. And he freely chooses to give that gift to creatures, which, since they do not a priori exist, have no prior claim on his choice to create them.

      Is this mysterious? Of course. We are mere creatures. According to his own revelation, God's ways are inscrutable. That means they are beyond our full comprehension. Are they incoherent or self-contradictory? Of course not, since God does exist and whatever he actually does must be possible, which means it cannot be self-contradictory. It is the work of reason (philosophy) to show why no contradictions are entailed. Still, unless an actual contradiction can be demonstrated, the presumption must be that none exist -- since being cannot contradict itself, and God is Absolute Being.

      • God Hates Faith

        That, for example, the uncaused first cause is actually the God of revelation...

        God of the gaps fallacy.

        Also, you seem to be shifting the conversation from the OP to Aquinas.

        Since God already contains all possible perfections of existence...

        A priori argument.

        Is this mysterious? Of course. We are mere creatures. According to his own revelation, God's ways are inscrutable.

        So, since we don't know "why" we can't claim it is coherent. All we can claim is "I don't know". Since we don't know, its equally possible that this deity killed himself to create the universe.

        Are they incoherent or self-contradictory? Of course not, since God does exist and whatever he actually does must be possible, which means it cannot be self-contradictory.

        A prioroi argument.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          There is no "god of the gaps fallacies" or "a priori" reasoning employed in what I am saying, since I am simply laying out the way that the Thomistic arguments proceed. All your objections rest on a failure to understand how the proofs work and how St. Thomas first shows that some ultimate cause stands behind the existence of all creatures, and then, the logical inferences which flow from that discovery.

          Unless you know how the arguments work, you really do not even know how to begin to attack them. It appears you do not.

          Just to spell out my point about God's coherence, since God is Being itself, there is no way possible for him or any of his attributes to contradict his own being. Again, none of this is a priori reasoning. First you start with the things of this world, and then you reason to God's existence and nature therefrom.

          Those who think they find contradictions in God do so invariably because of defective knowledge of natural theology. I don't say that from a priori reasoning, but from having worked through the a posteriori reasoning that leads to a God whose essential attributes are entirely compatible if you understand them properly.

          • God Hates Faith

            There is no "god of the gaps fallacies" or "a priori" reasoning employed in what I am saying...

            Well, since you say so, I guess that is a rebuttal...

            All your objections rest on a failure to understand how the proofs work and how St. Thomas first shows that some ultimate cause...

            I understand Aquinas' arguments. I understand how proofs work. I also understand that his premises are a priori reasoning.

            since God is Being itself...

            A priori assumption.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you understood the Five Ways, you would know that the premises are not based on a priori reasoning but a posteriori reasoning. Each way starts from some datum given in sensation, such as things in motion.

            Yes, the proofs also use some immediately-evident first principles, but even those are taken from judgments of immediate experience.

            In fact, in the articles just before the Five Ways, St. Thomas takes care to show that the existence of God is not self-evident, "... but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature -- namely, by his effects. See Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 1, c.

          • God Hates Faith

            Clearly you want to hijack this thread from St. Anselm’s ontological argument, and focus on another topic. So, feel free to explicitly state Aquinas' argument...

            Each way starts from some datum given in sensation, such as things in motion.

            Based on motion we can infer nothing. Aquinas didn't know about quantum physics.

            Yes, the proofs also use some immediately-evident first principles, but even those are taken from judgments of immediate experience.

            Aquinas makes huge assumptions based on limited evidence. Eric the God Eating Penguin makes the same fallacies.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Glad you acknowledge that Eric entails fallacies.

            Since I already wrote one book explaining the Five Ways of St. Thomas, I don't intend to do it all again on this thread.

          • God Hates Faith

            Eric contains the same fallacies as your deity.

          • God Hates Faith

            Want another proof? Eric the God Eating Penguin...

            https://ericthegodeatingpenguin.com/

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Eric cannot exist because reason tells us that God DOES exist.

          • God Hates Faith

            Nope. Reason tells us Eric the God Eating Penguin exists. Therefore a god cannot exist by definition.

          • When a Non-Theist or Theist states that the "process" which they've already gone through is something akin to "I don't say that from a priori reasoning, but from having worked through the a posteriori reasoning that leads to...conclusion..." then there's no reason to talk to them "as if" they are speaking prior to having gone through that process.

            To assign Question Begging or the a priori one must point to an assumption of a conclusion from the get-go (Etc.). Why? Because of the process of reasoning from A to B to C to Etc. is what was already undertaken.

            We awake in the midst of "reality" as Neonates and Mind||Perception||Reason||Experience all begin their long journey outward ((so to speak)).Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward. There are no assumed conclusions. There's ONLY the perceived world of motion/change/self/other and so on. It is that and the first person experience of Mind||Perception||Reason ((and so on)) and that is the Gateway or the Start.

            That holds for ANY well mapped metaphysic regardless if Non-Theist or Theist.

            It's better to unpack the long line of premises/observations leading up to the conclusion of, say, "The Necessary Being" than to blurt out "Oh you're just assuming God from the start!"

            Why? Well because that claim reveals ignorance for one thing and for another thing it isn't helpful with respect to furthering mutual understanding.

          • God Hates Faith

            I asked Dr. Bonnette how he arrived at his conclusion. He was free to explain why it wasn't a priori reasoning. He declined to do so. He simply declared it wasn't a priori, but didn't elaborate on his epistemology other than appealing to another text, which he didn't explain.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You do not seem to grasp that you are asking me to do the whole project of presenting St. Thomas's Five Ways from scratch. You might as well ask me to explain the whole of philosophy to you.

            The very fact that in that context you say of St. Thomas, " I also understand that his premises are a priori reasoning," tells me I would have to literally explain everything to you from the ground up.

            I tried to explain why I did not pursue the dialogue further, since I have already published an entire book on Aquinas's proofs for God's existence -- and that I really don't have the time to explain it all over again on this thread.

            The book's title is (Guess what?) Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff: The Hague, 1972). Since it sells for over one-hundred dollars on the web in PoD form today, you might do better to check out a library.

            But I really do not think you understand the proofs -- or you would not be saying curious things, like "... his premises are a priori reasoning."

          • God Hates Faith

            I find it amusing that whenever I get into a discussion with you, you refer to something you have perviously written, as if that is a rebuttal to my argument.

            Aquinas' epistemology is built on a priori reasoning, and from there, he tries to use a posteriori reasoning (rationalization) to justify the conclusions he started with.

            Feel free to disgree. But there is no point wasting my time saying "you are wrong, because of something I previously wrote".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Aquinas' epistemology is built on a priori reasoning"

            How do I tell you that this is dead wrong without referring you to something either I have written or someone else has written that explains what Aquinas actually does in his epistemological methodology?

            It is a standard dictum of all Aristotelian and Thomistic scholars that all knowledge begins in sensation. From that starting point all argumentation proceeds. What else do you mean by the term, "a posteriori?"

          • God Hates Faith

            You can refer to it if you explicitly state the actual argument, not just reference it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I just pointed out above, ALL Thomistic arguments begin ultimately with sense experience and are, therefore, a posteriori ultimately. What may confuse you is that once you use an a posteriori argument to prove something concerning God's existence and nature, THEN, you can use the definitions of what has been demonstrated a posteriori in order to make deductive arguments which appear a priori from a limited point of view.

            Thus, once you prove that God is the only being in which essence and existence are identical, then you can deduce the real distinction between those principles in any other being. But the proof that they are identical in God must first be done a posteriori.

          • God Hates Faith

            As I just pointed out above, ALL Thomistic arguments begin ultimately with sense experience and are, therefore, a posteriori ultimately.

            So, what is this ultimate or first a posteriori reason? Every time I ask for it, what you provide looks to me like an a priori justification. All you have provided is an uncaused/ultimate cause. That is a priori because we have no sense experience of such a thing even today! We can't even verify if the Big Bang is a causal event, given quantum mechanics.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Do you not understand that if one starts with a datum from sense experience and then argues back, looking for explanations of that datum, until one reaches what is inferred to be a First Cause Uncaused -- do you not understand that that is by definition what is called an a posteriori argument?

            I don't care whether you think the logic of the argument is valid or not. I am talking about the nature of the argument, not its validity. Did you ever study any logic?

          • God Hates Faith

            I see my error now. Mea culpa. You are referring to inductive reasoning. He uses sense experience and works backward to a priori "knowledge". That was much more helpful than simply referring to your previous work.

            Obviously I still have problems with his inductive reasoning as an epistemology and his ultimate a priori conclusion.

            The same fallacious reasoning can justify the existence of Eric the God Eating Penguin.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            How on earth do you think he reaches an "ultimate a priori conclusion" through a posteriori argumentation?

            Where did you say you studied logic?

          • Dr. Bonnette it seems GHF may be making the case that there are no such things as a posteriori arguments:

            Me: Isn't it the case that we awake in the midst of "reality" as Neonates and Mind // Perception // Reason // Experience all begin their long journey outward ((so to speak)).Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward. There are no assumed conclusions.

            GHF: "I don't see how we can have an epistemology that isn't built on at least some axioms (for example the axiom that our perception and/or experience is giving us reliable data on reality)."

            Me: So you really mean to say — and should have said from the get-go — that there are no such things as a posteriori arguments. Correct?

            Perhaps GHF can clarify but so far it seems the Neonate/Natural-Theology starting point is rejected. If so then GHF is in fact arguing that ALL arguments are ipso facto a priori.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear you are dead right!

          • God Hates Faith

            For example, the conclusion that "god is the pinnacle of perfection" is an a priori conclusion, because we have no experience of that conclusion.

            To use my prior example, "God can't exist because of Eric The God-Eating Magic Penguin" would be an example of an a priori conclusion.

          • Wrong.
            You DO experience Logic.
            You DO experience Being.
            You DO experience Reason.

            You DO NOT experience Reductio Ad Absurdum because Metaphysical Absurdities sum to Non-Being ((...non-real since they cannot exist, not even in principle...)).

            THEREFORE you are left with the following:
            https://randalrauser.com/2018/09/does-christianity-need-the-homoousion/#comment-4117374727

            Refresh if needed to land on the comment shown in attachment ~ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7bb96a20f40450c82e8390c6c6f3b41d9c3a5b6458021314c64bc2f54f1960fb.jpg

          • God Hates Faith

            You DO experience Reason.

            Wait, are you denying a priori as an epistemology? A priori justification is not based on experience. If you are claiming reason is an experience, then by definition a priori justification wouldn't exist.

            "A priori: knowledge, justifications, or arguments that exist independently from experience. Examples include mathematics (e.g. 3 + 2 = 5); tautologies (e.g. "all bachelors are unmarried"); and deduction from pure reason (e.g., ontological proofs)." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_priori_and_a_posteriori

            You DO NOT experience Reductio Ad Absurdum because Metaphysical Absurdities sum to Non-Being ((...non-real since they cannot exist, not even in principle...)).

            To say one "experiences" thinking, but does not experience absurdities, is an odd definition of "experience".

            If I can't experience absurdities, then I can't experience your deity. Your deity can't exist in principle because if he did exist, Eric would eat him.

          • Three basic items:

            1. You left out the implications of the linked quote. "IF" there is ONLY "Logical Lucidity" or else "Reductio" and that quotes "Retorsion" forces it, "THEN" you arrive at Being Itself as Reason Itself as Logic Itself as Mind Itself as "GOD" and so on as per that quote's content. That observation is raised to show that Experience is not "wholly foreign" to the interface of ((and therefore Knowledge in/of)) Man||God.

            2. Logical Impossibilities cannot "exist" and so cannot be "tasted/experienced". That refers to "Non-Being". Don't conflate Non-Being for Privation/Lack ((...Being Minus Something...a Deficiency of Being...)) which can be and is tasted/experienced.

            3. BOTH A/Priori/Posteriori exist but what isn't clear is whether or not YOU believe that or agree with that. So far you have Thomism as ALL A PRIORI and so you need to stop avoiding that as per https://strangenotions.com/st-anselms-god/#comment-5007552007

          • God Hates Faith

            1. I have no idea what you are saying. Are you trying to justifypantheism?

            2. So, ideas don't exist (since they cannot be tasted/experienced)?

            3. That isn't what i said. Please stop trying to put words in my mouth.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Okay. So now it is evident that you think that any conclusion of which we have no experience is automatically what you call a priori.

            Check out the meaning of a priori on the internet.

            One definition given is this: "relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience."

            It is clear that what you are doing is following the part that says "knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction," but are missing the hugely important last words, "rather than from observation or experience."

            What you are totally missing is that all Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy starts with data taken from sense experience. All arguments begin from sense "observation or experience,' and hence are, by definition, NOT a priori!

            If you would properly apply the definitions for a priori and a posteriori, you would realize that the conclusion that "God is the pinnacle of perfection" is not known a priori, since it is the conclusion of a process of reasoning in natural theology that proceeds from, starts from, sense experience. For example, the First Way of St. Thomas begins with the sense experience of things in motion and from that reasons to God as the First Mover Unmoved.

            You may disagree with the reasoning and the conclusion, but that does not change the essential character of the argument, which is clearly a posteriori, NOT a priori, as you erroneously assume.

          • Okay. If "Giving Definitions" equated to "Giving Arguments" then I'd agree.

          • If "Giving Definitions" equated to "Giving Arguments" then I'd agree. Hence Dr. Bonnette's distinction between those two:

            You do not seem to grasp that you are asking me to do the whole project of presenting St. Thomas's Five Ways from scratch. You might as well ask me to explain the whole of philosophy to you.

            There really is a difference between answering a question with a few definitions ((on the one hand)) vs. laying out an argument ((on the other hand)).

          • God Hates Faith

            Claiming someone is wrong without explaining why is not helpful, and not a good way to have a discussion. Its also hiding behind a definition.

            That would be like me saying to you, "you are wrong, because of science." If you asked what part of science shows I am wrong, and I simply say "its too much to explain", then I am not really having a discussion, I am hiding behind a definition.

          • Arguments exist. The problem is that you insisted that there were none. You insisted it's all a priori.

            That's the problem. You're dishonest because with 33K Comments you know better. Or do you DENY the following:

            We awake in the midst of "reality" as Neonates and Mind||Perception||Reason||Experience all begin their long journey outward ((so to speak)).Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward. There are no assumed conclusions.

            ??

          • God Hates Faith

            I am not asserting there are no arguments, I was asserting he was referring to an argument without explicitly stating what the argument was. He referred to the Five Ways arguments, but didn't say what those were. That would be like me refering to "science" as the answer, and not explicitly stating the argument from science.

          • You didn’t say it’s all a priori? Again do you DENY the following or not? You’re persistent now in your dishonesty. Is the following accurate?

            ***We awake in the midst of "reality" as Neonates and Mind // Perception // Reason // Experience all begin their long journey outward ((so to speak)).Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward. There are no assumed conclusions.***

            ??

          • God Hates Faith

            Allow me to clarify. The reasoning ultimately rests on assumption/axioms, prior to experience (i.e. a prime mover).

            Is the following accurate?

            That comment is not mine. But I don't see how we can have an epistemology that isn't built on at least some axioms (for example the axiom that our perception and/or experience is giving us reliable data on reality).

          • A. Shall I post a picture of two ((there were more)) times you just blurted out “A PRIORI!!” as described earlier?

            B. Also — is the following accurate?

            ***We awake in the midst of "reality" as Neonates and Mind // Perception // Reason // Experience all begin their long journey outward ((so to speak)).Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward. There are no assumed conclusions.***

            ??

          • God Hates Faith

            (A) If you are not going to allow me to clarify what I mean, then there is no point in having a conversation. If you have a question about my claification, feel free to ask.

            (B) I already responded to this. If my response is unclear, please state why it is unclear, rather than simply repeating the question.

          • And? So you really mean to say — and should have said from the get-go — that there are no such things as a posteriori arguments.

            Correct?

          • God Hates Faith

            No. Inductive arguments are a thing.

            But if someone says "Eric the God Eating Penguin" is a necessary being, that sounds like an assumption. If I said I derived that conclusion using inductive reasoning, then you might want to know that line of reasoning (which is what I was asking from Dr. Bonnette, but he simply referred me to a book he wrote).

          • Poor'ol Dr. Bonnette didn't type the 1.8 million words in the Summa Theologiae but NONETHELESS we can agree that A Posteriori arguments are possible then?

            I'm assuming your reply is "Yes".

            If that is the case then what is the problem with the fact that Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward? Does THAT starting point "Qualify"? Does it "Disqualify"?

            Or is it ONLY that poor'ol Dr. B. didn't hand-type the Summa Theologiae here in this thread as per the attached picture ~~ https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/04ab205bd7e4b07ee259f95bb410f657fc49debfdc8d5df5d68fbfb632c32da1.jpg

          • God Hates Faith

            Poor'ol Dr. Bonnette didn't type the 1.8 million words in the Summa Theologiae...

            That is extremely disegenious. There are many short summaries of Aquinas argument one can find in a quick googlel search. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ways_(Aquinas)
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=TgisehuGOyY

            Surely Dr. Bonnette is intelligent enough to be able to summarize or do a google search.

            Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward? Does THAT starting point "Qualify"? Does it "Disqualify"?

            First, inductive reasoning as an epistemology has many drawback. Second, the specific reasoning Aquinas used in the Five Ways is not sound. This is where I was expecting the conversation to go, but Dr. Bonnette decided not to explicitly state the arguments (and I don't like to rebut an argument until it is explicitly made).

            Our conversation would be like Dr. Bonnettte claiming I am wrong because of "science"; and when I ask for more details of what he means, you jump into the conversation and ask whether I believe science is a real method. Of course science and inductive reasoning are a thing.

          • Sure there are but I'm only using that to clarify that we have "that" 1.8 million word whatchamacallit and that it "begins" at the key part of Neonate/Natural Theology.... which-ish you are still-ish avoiding-ish. So here's that part again:

            If it is true that a posteriori arguments CAN/DO exist then what is the problem with the fact that Natural Theology and Neonates both start at perception and experience and then build outward?

            Does THAT starting point "Qualify"?
            Does it "Disqualify"?

            ??

          • God Hates Faith

            Does THAT starting point "Qualify"?
            Does it "Disqualify"?

            Did you read my entire reply (below the link)?

            If not, then please do so. If you did, then I am not sure I understand your question, since I have attempted to respond several times, and you keep repeating yourself.

          • You did NOT address starting at perception and experience as we find in the Neonate and in Natural Theology.

            Does starting THERE qualify or not?

          • God Hates Faith

            What do you mean by "qualify"?

            As I already stated (which you ignored, like most of my comments), inductive reasoning as an epistemology has many drawbacks. One can use inductive reasoning based on experience to justify belief in ANYTHING. Also, using "perception and experience" as a starting point requires the prior axiom that our perception and experiences are reliable.

            I have consistenly tried to respond to your comments, but you ingore my comments. It almost seems like you are trying to talk past me.

          • Do a posteriori arguments exist or not? The question is not which is better or if there are drawbacks. The question so far is if you even believe that A-Post exist at all.

            Do they?
            IF SO then is starting at the Neonate's perception/experience and working outward a valid starting point for an a posteriori path or not?

            If you don't believe a posteriori arguments can exist in the first place then just say so. Otherwise I plan to camp out on Neonate||Acceptable-Starting-Point until you address it.

  • Ficino

    So a chiropractor understands philosophy and Being better than, say, Immanuel Kant. I'm convinced! /s

    • Rob Abney

      So a chiropractor understands philosophy and Being better than, say, Immanuel Kant. I'm convinced! /s

      “The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue)[1] is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. In other words, a claim is ignored in favor of attacking or championing its source“ wikip

      • Ficino

        Wow, just like with Simon the Cobbler! Got it!!

        • Rob Abney

          Simon the Shoemaker (Greek: Σίμων Ἀθηναῖος, σκυτοτόμος; fl. c. late 5th century BC) was an associate of Socrates, and a 'working-philosopher'.

          • Ficino

            Good job cutting and pasting from somewhere on the internet.

            I appended /s to my original.

            If one of you guys thinks you can demonstrate that the Ontological Argument, either Anselm's version or a later one, is sound, then have at it.

          • Rob Abney

            Does the /s indicate that you actually believe that one’s profession determines whether he can engage in philosophy or not or vice versa?

          • Ficino

            Rob, we've interacted on here for, what, at least two years now? So I think you can answer your own question. What I wrote at the top, btw, was not an instance of the genetic fallacy. If you think it was, then unfortunately, you are confused about fallacies.

          • Rob Abney

            Actually I prefer your comments when they are direct rather than innuendo, it’s easier then to see your small errors, but it’s easy for you to defend misdirected comments.
            What fallacy did you commit if not the genetic fallacy?

          • Ficino

            I did not commit any fallacy.

            Had I committed the genetic fallacy, I would have stated that because Nelson was trained as a chiropractor, therefore he errs about the Ontological Arg. I did not say that Nelson errs BECAUSE he is a trained chiropractor. Through sarcasm I sought to cast doubt on Nelson's reliability about the Ont Arg. That is a different move; it is rhetorical not logical.

            If you have spotted small errors of mine, I will be grateful to know what they are.

          • Rob Abney

            I’m sure that you didn’t intend to commit a fallacy but an objective reading of your initial comment clearly shows that you did despite your explanation of your intent.
            This could be considered one of the small errors, assuming nominalism based on subjective definitions.

          • Ficino

            It's on you to show where I said in my initial comment that Nelson 1) affirmed a falsehood and/or 2) affirmed it BECAUSE he was trained as a chiropractor. Please copy and paste my exact words in which I claimed 1) and/or 2).

            I don't know what you are talking about re nominalism.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino,

            How about this unique ontological proof which I designed around half hour ago:

            Step 1: An entity whose existence is not conditional on any condition would be something whose existence could not be affected by the presence or absence of any condition. The concept of such an entity is coherent (no intrinsic contradiction involved). Let’s call such an entity an Unconditioned Entity.

            Step 2: Among all hypothetical rationally possible worlds is an one-entity world. In such an one-entity world, no conditioned entity can exist because every conditioned entity would be conditional on at least another entity in order to exist but there is no other entity for it to be conditioned on in an one-entity world. So the one entity in an one-entity world must logically be an Unconditioned Entity. So an Unconditioned Entity exists in an one-entity world.

            Step 3: The difference between the one-entity world and the actual world lies in the absence or presence of different kinds of conditions. If an Unconditioned Entity does not exist in the actual world even though it exists in an one-entity world, then it means the presence or absence of some condition in the actual world has prevented the existence of an Unconditioned Entity. This contradicts what has been established in Step 1: an Unconditioned Entity’s existence cannot be affected by the presence or absence of any condition. Hence by the logical necessity of Modus Tollens, an Unconditioned Entity exists in our actual world.

            Modus Tollens:
            If no-UE, then UE affected by conditions.
            UE affected by conditions is false.
            Therefore no-UE is false. (ie UE exists.)

            If the above is sound, then by analysing the nature of an Unconditioned Entity, we would arrive at the further conclusion that there is one and only one such entity, and everything else is conditional upon this Unconditioned Entity.

          • God Hates Faith

            Hi Johannes!

            Here are my thoughts about your proof.

            Step 1: A priori assumption about this fictional entity being unconditional.

            An entity whose existence is not conditional on any condition would be something whose existence could not be affected by the presence or absence of any condition.

            Why couldn't an entity existence not be conditional, but that entity still be affected by some conditions? For example, someone stranded on an island, without an ability to leave and no communication, cannot threaten my existence. But, perhaps me knowing that person is on that island affects me emotionally. So, my existence is not conditional by this stranded person, but I can still be affected by this condition.

            Also, the term "condition" is undefined.

            Step 2:

            Among all hypothetical rationally possible worlds is an one-entity world.

            Why are we assuming a OEW is rational? I am happy to engage in an intellectual exercise of such a OEW, but if we want to declare such a world is also "rational" that requires further assumptions, definitions, and/or demonstration.

            In such an one-entity world, no conditioned entity can exist...

            That doesn't logically follow. Couldn't the entity be conditioned on the one-entity world (OEW)? For example, what if this entity ceases to exist if were affected by anything outside this one entity world. Therefore, this OEW is protecting it. Therefore, the entity is conditional (on its OEW).

            Step 3:

            The difference between the one-entity world and the actual world lies in the absence or presence of different kinds of conditions.

            A OEW is defined as having one entity, not as having no condititions (other than having only one entity). If you want to have this new fictional world, then it need to be a one entity world AND a no condition world.

            then it means the presence or absence of some condition in the actual world has prevented the existence of an Unconditioned Entity.

            See my resonse to step 1. A UE does not mean it cannot be affected conditions.

            Hence by the logical necessity of Modus Tollens, an Unconditioned Entity exists in our actual world.

            How was Step 2 necessary for your proof? Why not just claim in Step 1 that there exists an UE that cannot be affected by any condition (outside itself), and this UE lives in our world.

            then by analysing the nature of an Unconditioned Entity, we would arrive at the further conclusion that there is one and only one such entity,

            Not sure how you made that giant leap. Even if we assume an UE exists, why can't there be more than one?

            and everything else is conditional upon this Unconditioned Entity.

            Again, even if we assume an UE exists, you need additional premesis to conclude that everything (or anything) is conditional upon this UE. Maybe this UE lives in its OEW, and can't interact with any other world.

          • Ficino

            Just briefly adding to GHF:
            1. you start out with a premise "If the UE exists, then" certain consequences hold. It is fallacious to conclude by affirming those consequences that the UE exists. You are not entitled to affirm the consequent. That's a fallacy.
            2. Your world populated by nothing other than the UE is not a possible world because certain abstract objects that exist in all possible worlds are absent from your postulated world: e.g. the relation of identity. If there is nothing but the UE in this world, then there are no relations. But everything is in an identity relation to itself. Therefore there is at least one relation in every possible world. Therefore yours is not a possible world.
            3. In any case, you also seem to need the laws of logic to govern your postulated world. So your postulated world as it does work in your argument contains objects other than the UE. So it is not populated only by the UE, contrary to what you claim of it.
            You might want to deny that abstract objects are entities. In that case you will affirm nominalism. I don't think you want to be a nominalist.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, you said I committed the fallacy of “affirming the consequent”. This is false because:

            The fallacy of “Affirming the Consequent“ is of this form:
            P1: If X, then Y
            P2: Y is true
            Conclusion: Therefore X is true.

            My logic structure is not the above, but instead is the logically valid structure called “Denying the Consequence” (Modus Tollens):
            P1: If X, then Y
            P2: Y is false
            Conclusion: Therefore X is false.

            Let X = No-UE, Y = “UE affected by conditions”
            P1: If No-UE, then UE affected by conditions
            P2: But “UE affected by conditions” is false
            Conclusion: Therefore “No-UE” is false.

            As for your points 2 & 3: My “entity” refers to non-abstract entities. I do not include abstractions because abstractions are casually inert.

          • Ficino

            Your argument as I understand it boils down to "If the UE doesn't exist, that's because the presence or absence of a condition prevents it; but by definition the presence or absence of a condition doesn't prevent the UE; therefore the UE exists."

            You haven't given reasons that logically compel us to adopt your antecedent hypotheticals as true. We don't know that there can't be other reasons for the UE's not existing. As GHF said, you might just as well lay it down in the beginning that the UE exists necessarily.

            I'm not an expert on relations, but I have read that arguments have been made that relations set conditions. They force whatever lies within a domain to conform to the parameters of the relation; 3 can't be equal to 1 + 2 if 3 will not be 3 or if 1 and 2 are not 1 and 2. Dr. B and I have talked about the principle of identity as a or the fundamental metaphysical principle. Is your UE identical with itself? Can it be not identical with itself? If the latter, it is violating the principle of identity. The identity relation sets a condition, and the condition is not identical to the entity. That's why I reject your claim that there is a possible world in which is located the UE and nothing else. I don't see reason to suppose that there exists anything that is subject to no conditions, And I doubt that the notion of some entity that can be absent from all conditions is coherent.

            As I've said before, I think "conditions" may be too vague for you to get sufficient traction.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino,

            Would you agree that if the premise “UE exists in an one-entity world” is true, then the conclusion that UE exists in our actual world would be correct?

            If so, then the key dispute is only whether or not “UE exists in an one-entity world” is true (or at least likely true).

            By the way, the accurate way to summarize my 3-step reasoning should instead be: “In an one-entity world, the one entity can only be an UE because the existence of any conditioned entity is conditional on at least a 2nd entity but there is no 2nd entity over there. If UE does not exist in our actual world then it means the conditions in our actual world have prevented UE to exist, which would contradict the nature of UE. Therefore, UE exists in our actual world, in the same way UE exists in an one-entity world.”

            Note:

            (a) In my 3-step reasoning, I am using “entity” to refer to non-abstract entity, and not to any abstractions (ideas such as logic, relations etc).

            (b) Abstractions (referring to both the action of abstracting and the abstract ideas such as “triangularity”, and “never-ending series”) can exist only when there exists a non-abstract entity in the first place to do the thinking, and abstract ideas (eg “triangularity”, “principles of logic”, “laws & relations”, “why?”, “how?”, “infinite quantity”) exists only in a non-abstract mind (as a representation of existing entities and their attributes/behaviour). So the EXISTENCE of abstractions is conditional on the EXISTENCE of a non-abstract entity instead of the other way round. The other way round would be putting the cart before the horse. This does not mean nominalism is true; when we further consider the nuances carefully (not mentioned so far), we can see that this position can fall into a type of realism.

            Below is why by logical necessity, an UE exists in a one-entity world

            As long as there is no logical contradiction in the idea of “a world with only one non-abstract entity”, then such a world is inside the set of all logically possible world. (possible world semantics)

            Since such an one-entity world (OEW) is logically possible, then one non-abstract entity exists in that world.

            That non-abstract entity’s ability to exist is either conditioned or not conditioned by some non-abstract conditions. (Abstractions are causally-inert and are merely representations of the nature of an entity or entities and hence do not affect an entity’s ability to exist. Hence only non-abstract entities are relevant). If that non-abstract entity is conditioned, it cannot exist in that OEW because no other entity exists for it to be conditioned on. Hence by logical necessity it is unconditioned. Therefore by logical necessity, an Unconditioned Entity exists in that OEW.

            (I focus on the above issues first. When the above issues are settled then we can look at why from Step 3’s conclusion we can then further discover that there is only one UE, and it is the one responsible for enabling us to exist right now, at every moment, similar to how our image perceived “in” the mirror is continuously enabled by us to exist.)

            What is “Condition”: A non-abstract entity WITHOUT WHICH something else cannot exist. Conditions do not need to be efficient causes. For example: The presence of a functioning mirror is a condition for your mirror image to exist.

          • Ficino

            Johannes, I'm sorry, but i can't devote more time to your argument. I suggest you propose it on a philosophy board such as The Philosophy Forum. Or even over on Feser's blog, where someone might give you some pointed feedback. I don't accept one of the presuppositions behind your first premise, sc. that the notion of a one-entity world is coherent. A "world," or κόμσος or 'mundus,' is a system of things so by definition a world cannot be populated by only one entity, let alone an entity on which no conditions apply. in classical theism, before God created the "world," there was not a world.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, There is only one criterion to evaluate whether an idea/scenario is LOGICALLY possible (ie coherent): it is to see whether it violates the principle of non-contradiction.

            Your objection against my hypothetical scenario of an one-entity world being one member among the set of all LOGICALLY possible worlds is invalid because your objection did not show any intrinsic contradiction in a hypothetical reality where only one non-abstract entity exists.

            In philosophy, a logically possible world is simply the way reality could logically have been. As long as any conceived hypothetical reality/scenario does not violate the principle of non-contradiction, it automatically qualifies as being LOGICALLY possible (ie coherent).

            So the only valid objection against an one-entity world being logically possible is an objection that shows the intrinsic contradiction of the idea of an one-entity world. The word “world” in the context of the philosophical use of “logically possible world” refers to any logically possible conceived reality, whether hypothetical or not. Unless you or anyone can show there is a violation of the principle of non-contradiction in the hypothetical reality of an one non-abstract entity reality (ie one-entity world), such a hypothetical scenario qualifies as a logically possible scenario (ie coherent).

            There is only one criterion to evaluate whether an idea/scenario is logically possible (ie coherent): it is to see whether it violates the principle of non-contradiction.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            The structure of your argument:

            1/ If X, then Y
            2/ Y is false
            C/ Therefore X is false

            The argument structure is: (p -> (p -> q)) & ¬q

            Effectively, it is Non-Cause as Cause.

            This is an obvious contradiction. You use this contradiction to create an inference free-ticket ride to prove your Unconditioned Entity:

            1/ From Y you can infer (Y -> X)
            2/ From (Y -> X) you can infer X
            C/ Therefore, from Y you can infer X

            The contradiction reveals that the Unconditioned Entity is unproveable. Should the Unconditioned Entity be proved, it is a contradiction to the logic of the Unconditioned Entity Argument itself.

            So, simply by trying to "prove" the existence of the Unconditioned Entity, you are contradicting your own thesis.

            So, you are lost-in-the-woods.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            You and Ficino really can't see it! It is so trivial...

            By definition an unconditional entity must be unproveable, i.e. no conditions, non-delimited.

            Therefore, if an unconditional entity can be proved it has conditions and is a delimited entity.

            The Anselm argument does not suffer from your paradox.

          • Johannes Hui

            Hi Ficino, u made a major error in logic-form when u described (wrongly) my overall logic-form of Modus Ponens as: “... ‘If there is a EU [sic], then certain things would follow (doesn't matter if negative propositions are among these); but these things would follow; therefore UE’ aligns with the structure of an affirmation of the consequent.”

            My overall logic form is actually affirmation of the antecedent (Modus Ponens), not affirmation of the consequent!!!

            The overall logic-form in my 3-step a-priori reasoning has in fact been:
            “If UE is a logical concept, then UE exists.
            UE is indeed a logical concept, therefore UE exists.”

            My step 1 was used to establish the antecedent.
            (UE has no logical contradiction, so it is not logically impossible, and thus it is a logical concept.)

            My step 2 was used to show that UE being a logical concept would then entail that UE exists in the scenario of an one-entity reality (while others like to use more general concept of “some possible worlds” - in modal philosophy, when a non-abstract entity is a logically possible concept, that means “it exists in some possible worlds”).

            My step 3 was used to show how UE existing in an one-entity reality would entail it also exists now in the actual world.

            My logic-form is the valid Modus Ponens. Hence to defeat my 3-step reasoning, one would need to show that UE is logically impossible concept (similar to a circular square being a logically impossible concept).

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Your argument is not at all similar to:

            1/ "a circular square being a logically impossible concept"

            Can't you see this?

            Your argument is:

            2/ "UE always occurs after OER"

            In the first proposition there is no difference between the necessary connection and the constant conjunction, it is not casual, it is rather an impossible concept.

            Your argument sets up a casual law, i.e.

            B always occurs after A.

            So, it is NOT SIMILAR AT ALL!!!!!!

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Your structure:
            1/ If X, then Y
            2/ Y is false
            C/ Therefore X is false

            Is in effect the classical Non-Cause as Cause.

            If the truth of X leads to an impossibility, the truth of X is false. This is Modus Tollens.

            But along the way in the argument from X to an impossibility, you make a further assumption Y, this means the conclusion that X is false is invalid and must be replaced by:

            Either X is false OR Y is false.

            You can't have both X and Y false because then there is no material implication.

          • Philip Rand

            Johannes Hui

            Approach the model scientifically not philosophically.

            The question you should first ask is:

            Is the world mind-dependent or mind-independent?

            This scientific question is related to the Anselm argument.

            HEADS UP
            Atheists/Pagans will definitely table that the world is mind-independent; this is the defeater for their position that you can use because it leads to:
            (p -> (p->q)) & ¬q

    • Mark

      Here is the curriculum breakdown of the four years at CMCC which includes philosophy and medical ethics:

      https://www.cmcc.ca/admissions/curriculum-by-year

      When was it required to have a PhD in Philosophy to have a valid argument about philosophy? So I should reject your argument with Dr. B on whether or existence is a first or second order predicate because he has a PhD. Got it.

      • Ficino

        So I should reject your argument with Dr. B on whether or not existence is a first or second order predicate because he has a PhD.

        The above is to no point. Whether or not Dr. B has a Ph.D. is not a fact relevant to the soundness of any of my arguments. What you should have done is to indicate, 1), that you were speaking with snark, as I did, and/or 2), make a case that my academic background supports antecedent doubt about the soundness of my own arguments. But that you failed to do, and too late now.

        • Mark

          I'll ask for forgiveness F(u)icino. I'm still learning and as such did not know the /s was meant to indicate sarcasm. I'm much more fluent in verbal communication than blog. I'll take the pie in my face to everyone's delight.

          As for your academic background, you are a nominalist and as such any academic accolades should be treated as though they are only propositional true but not true in the real sense as an essentialist like Dr. B's are. /s

          • Ficino

            Ok, thanks M(u)ark, understood. As to your last paragraph, I don't think any Thomist would deny that academic accolades are only beings of reason, but perhaps some Thomist somewhere thinks that an academic degree is a being that has a real essence in nature. In any case, carry on.

          • Mark

            Whether or not Dr. B has a Ph.D. is not a fact relevant to the soundness of any of my arguments

            Whether or not Dr. Nelson has a Doctorate of Chiropractic is not a fact relevant to the soundness of any of his arguments either. But you seem to dismiss him as though his professional credentials are a signal of a lack of academic value. I'm not sure if that was your intention, but that is how it came across to me. If so, it was a back handed ad hominem aimed an author and professional for which someone of your acumen should be above. If that wasn't your intention you might choose your /s more carefully as it seems to have missed the mark.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Truth is truth, no matter who has it. And a Ph.D. in philosophy can be totally in error, while the guy who shines shoes can be right.

  • Aquinas famously expressed his opinion of Anselm's argument in his Summa:

    Perhaps not everyone who hears this word “God” understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word “God” is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.

    Question 2, Article 1, Reply to Objection 2, in the Summa Theologica

    He was not a fan.

    ----

    This idea that the Ontological Argument is still useful because it helps us frame the question is dubious to me. For starters, Anselm's conception of God seems to me to beg the question (even before we get to the part when he attempts to define God as something which necessarily exists.) He calls God the "something the greater than which cannot be conceived" but the whole discussion about what is 'greater' than what is intrinsically a subjective notion. Deciding what is and is not a flaw is a value judgment and one cannot simply presuppose that one's value judgments are universal.

    (Yes, I'm aware of the typical Scholastic argument that perfection is defined in terms of purpose and that God, by creating things, gives things their purpose, the argument is still circular.)

    In other words, who's to say whether nonexistence is really a flaw that make God no longer "something the greater than which cannot be conceived?" Who's to say whether finitude is a flaw either? God's being the greatest thing conceivable doesn't necessitate any of these traits and which traits one decides to attribute to God following this logic would depend and the personal opinions and tastes of the person being queried.

  • Johannes Hui

    Here are my drafts of one a-priori proof and one a-posteriori proof that an Unconditioned Entity exists (ie at least one UE exists).

    My a-priori 3-step reasoning:

    1. The concepts of One-Entity Reality (OER) and a non-abstract Unconditioned Entity (UE) are both not logically impossible and hence they are both logically possible realities (ie logically coherent realities).

    2. The non-abstract entity in an One-Entity Reality would be an non-abstract Unconditioned Entity because any conditioned entity cannot exist in an OER because there is no second entity in OER. So an UE exists in the scenario of OER.

    3. The actual reality differs from OER only in terms of the kinds of conditions and so if UE does not exist in our actual reality then it means the conditions in our actual world prevented UE from existing. This contradicts the logically coherent concept of UE. So the only logical option left is: UE exists in our actual world just as it exists in an one-entity reality. This conclusion is false only if the concept of UE or OER are logically impossible (ie if UE or OER is an intrinsic contradiction).

    My a-posteriori 3-step reasoning

    1. You physical existence is CONTINUOUSLY conditioned on the fulfillment of many conditions in various series of conditions (eg air > oxygen molecules > atoms > .... )

    2. A series of non-abstract conditions is either a never-ending series or a series with an ending. It is impossible to fulfill the conditions of a never-ending series as it would be a never-ending task. Since you physically exists now, the conditions for your existence have been fulfilled and hence such a series has an ending with a last non-abstract condition (ie a last entity exists in such a series).

    3. The last entity’s ability to exist is either conditioned or not conditioned on some other non-abstract condition. If it is conditioned then the last entity does not exist since there is nothing after it for it to depend on for existence. But the last entity exists so the only logical option left is that the last entity is not conditioned (ie unconditioned) on any other non-abstract condition. Therefore an Unconditioned Entity exists in every such a series in order for you to physically exist now.

    • Philip Rand

      Johannes Hui

      A truth table for -> shows that both conjuncts OER & UE are indeterminate, i.e. a value of 1/2.

      Therefore, it is indeterminate whether an UE exists in such a series.