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Theism vs. Skepticism: The COVID-19 Pandemic

In an earlier Strange Notions essay, I addressed the problem of how an all-good God could be compatible with the existence of Hell. While that analysis befits the extreme case, the purpose of the present piece is to address the exact role of responsibility God has in terms of the very real and human tragedy posed by the Covid-19 virus which is presently raging throughout the world.

This piece will not address the most ethical or medically correct methods with which to address this pandemic. Rather, its sole purpose is to understand the role that God plays in allowing, supporting, and/or causing Covid-19’s enormous toll of pain and anguish on mankind.

Classical Theism's Defense of God's Goodness

In defense of God’s goodness, classical theists will point out that God is not a moral agent as mere creatures, such as men and angels are. As Creator, he is free to take back the gift of life he has given to men. Yet, it is also possible that the physical and moral evils we see in the world are caused by the actions of free creatures. Since God has chosen to create creatures with intellectual natures, both angelic and human, such beings are inherently free.1 With freedom comes the possibility of deliberate fault or sin. And thus, what God has created with perfection in the first place may become corrupted by free creatures’ misuse of their freedom. Such theological doctrines as original sin describe how free agents, such as human beings, could introduce real evil into a world originally created by God as good.

Evil that appears in the world may be (1) the result of a free agent’s misuse of freedom in a particular act that results in both his own corruption and evil effects that are of his making, (2) the result of some kind primeval fall by an angelic order of beings that infected the rest of subsequent creation, or (3) the product of a human original sin that perverted the natural goodness of later men and the order of nature itself. Some such scenario could be responsible for such natural physical evils as the Covid-19 pandemic together with all its suffering and death.

But skeptics rightly probe more deeply and ask precisely how God can be the ultimate cause of all things, and yet, claim no moral responsibility for something as horrific as the Covid-19 pandemic?

Thomists typically explain that creatures have genuine secondary causality, whereby their actions are properly their own, even though God sustains them in their execution. Thus, evil is introduced to the world either (1) through chance interactions of secondary causes, or else, (2) through the free agency of either angelic beings or men. In either case, the impression is given that evil’s responsibility is assigned to the secondary causes and not to God himself.

But is this the complete story? Surely, many natural agents appear to act to achieve something good for themselves. For example, a lion, seeking to eat, may interact with a gazelle, seeking to drink at an oasis, in a way much to the disadvantage of the gazelle. And, while neither lion nor gazelle is seeking anything evil, evil accrues to the gazelle as a result of their “chance” interaction. “Chance” events, in Aristotelian philosophy, do not mean events with no causation whatever, but something that  happens outside the natural tendency of a given agent. Thus, while the gazelle goes to the oasis for water, its chance crossing of paths with the lion results in an unwanted outcome, namely, being eaten by the lion.

The bottom line of such causal confluence is that each agent, while acting so as to produce its own natural results (or, what Thomists argue are perfective ends), may well interact with other natural agents so as to produce an outcome outside the natural tendency of one, or both, agents involved.

Similarly, moral evils committed by free primeval angelic spirits and/or first true human beings might have introduced original disorder into creation, thereby explaining resultant cataclysmic physical and moral evils. While God is responsible for creating the perfection of such free agents in the first place, he is viewed neither as responsible for their misuse of freedom nor for the evil effects resulting therefrom.

But, do these typical explanations really entail that God in no way causes the evil we find in creation, especially as witnessed in a malevolent pandemic such as Covid-19? Quite to the contrary, God’s hand remains in every last detail of creation as is clear from the 1913 Catholic Enclycopedia explanation of Divine Providence:

“God preserves the universe in being; He acts in and with every creature in each and all its activities. In spite of sin, which is due to the willful perversion of human liberty, acting with the concurrence, but contrary to the purpose and intention of God and in spite of evil which is the consequence of sin, He directs all, even evil and sin itself, to the final end for which the universe was created.”

God not only causes the very being of all creation, but he keeps every particle of it in existence at all times. Moreover, as it changes and undergoes motion, God is the cause of the very existence of all that comes-to-be as new in finite reality.

This means that, while creatures, acting as secondary causes, are true causes of their own actions, such actions could never take place without God (1) sustaining the being of those agents and (2) also acting as the ultimate cause of every new quality of being that results from their actions.

The Nature and Role of Chance Events

As for chance events explaining evil in the world, many people do not realize that chance has two meanings: (1) an event taking place somehow spontaneously without any real cause, and (2) the classical Aristotelian notion of chance described above as something happening outside the natural tendency or intention of an agent.

Today, many people think of chance events as things happening without any real cause. Specifically, some interpret Heisenberg’s Indeterminacy Principle as meaning that there are subatomic events whose manifestation is not dictated by any actual cause. Other leading physicists, including Schrödinger and Einstein, maintained that this renunciation of deterministic causality was physically incomplete. Far more importantly, this denial of causality at the subatomic level is metaphysically impossible, since that would amount to having being come-to-be from non-being. Metaphysically, if “chance” means something happening without an actual cause, then there are no such “chance events” at all.

The other meaning of chance (described earlier) is philosophically tenable, since it merely refers to something interfering with an agent’s movement toward an expected outcome, whether the agent is intelligent or not. For example, one goes to the bank to make a deposit and accidentally meets a creditor who instead demands the money. Such an encounter of diverse causal orders would be called a chance event, but one whose outcome would in no way escape predictability to someone knowing the paths and intentions of both parties.

Similarly, a rock rolling down a hill encountering another rock that blocks its expected path would also be called a chance event, even though the outcome is perfectly deterministic in nature.

From the above, it should be clear that neither type of event called “chance” escapes the foreknowledge and will of God as described in Divine Providence, since (1) “chance events,” understood as being purely spontaneous or acausal simply do not exist and (2) God knows the tendencies and interactions of all agents. And, since all natural agents conform to the will of God in determining the course of causal events in creation, it is clear that God would be responsible for the course and outcome of all events, whether called “by chance” or not – barring, of course, interference by free creatures.

Still, Why Does God Enable Free Agents to Choose Evil?

Since most authors realize that the world as understood by classical metaphysics would flow deterministically from God if no free agents existed, the central thrust of explanations of evil focuses on the existence of such free beings. If free beings are really free, then it must be possible that they misuse their freedom, and thus, could introduce moral and physical evil into the world. From that initial appearance of free deviation from God’s plan of creation could then be explained the presence of subsequent physical and moral evils, whether they flow directly from evil choices, or, in some hypotheses, even by some sort of temporally antecedent effects anticipated by God’s eternal vision.

Therefore, while God does not directly cause such great evils as the Covid-19 pandemic, his creation of free beings – angelic or human – might explain how such evils come to be without having to blame God himself for consenting to these evils.

As noted earlier, the problem remains that no creature – not even a free one – can perform any act, whether it is viewed as secondary causality or not, without God sustaining its nature and enabling its activity. Thus, while God may not consent to or affirm the freely chosen evil intention of a free agent, he nonetheless sustains the activity of all the physical powers and actions by which an evil deed is performed. He may not will that the evildoer do evil, but he does permit and support all the physical powers by which the evil deed is committed – and even sustains the power of choice of the free agent in committing the evil deed.

I do not intend to argue here whether human freedom is possible, since that is a distinct issue which I have addressed elsewhere. The question at hand is why does God allow and support such evil choices and how is he not therefore responsible for their evil? And this is especially problematic in the case of explaining the connection between evil choices and the appearance of a blind, non-living, demonic virus, such as now plagues humanity.

Various hypotheses have been offered as to how creatures’ free choices might have resulted in evil entering the world. Theologically, Christians consider the possible effects of Lucifer’s rebellion or Adam’s original sin. Like a symphony orchestra whose conductor permits a small section to continue playing off tune, eventually the entire enterprise may go off tune – and, perhaps, there is a similar progressive cascade of moral evil precipitating ever greater physical and moral evils in the created world.

Even without some free creatures’ initial misdeed, perhaps, God created a world in which cosmic and biological evolutionary scenarios entail such “chance” interactions (in the Aristotelian sense described above) that physical evils result, as in the case of the lion surviving by eating a gazelle. In more dramatic terms, might God have planned a world in which earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis would occur -- or even a Covid-19 virus would evolve -- for the greater good of reminding mankind that life is short and he still has need for his Creator?

In fact, this world might actually have been planned by God so as to enhance human freedom by making naturalistic evolution a plausible hypothesis for atheists who prefer not to believe in him!

“Since naturalistic evolutionism is the near-universal refuge of atheism, an evolutionary world becomes a world where persons experience maximum moral freedom, including freedom to deny God’s existence and moral law.”2

God may have many reasons to permit free choices which lead to real physical and moral evils. The principle here is that while an evil means is never permitted to attain a good end, nonetheless it is licit to permit evil to occur so that a good end is attained, provided one does not directly promote the evil means. This is like a father letting his young son smoke a cigar, not because he wishes him to smoke cigars, but because he knows that if the son gets really sick from smoking this cigar, he may learn not to smoke them in the future.

The key here is whether the father has the son’s true interest at heart and, analogously, whether God’s Providence always permits the introduction of evil into creation so as to attain some greater good as a result, for example, by creating conditions conducive to the raising up of the greatest saints, as I have suggested elsewhere:

“Free agents’ greatest qualitative perfection manifests when they choose moral good while self-deceptive evil beckons. Naturalism’s possibility, the unintended side effect of creature’ maximum secondary causality, offers illusory emancipation from moral constraint.”3

Thus, those who resist this atheistic self-deception and accept moral constraint can achieve a higher sanctity than if God’s existence was so manifest as to nearly force puppet-like obedience to the wisdom and justice of his commandments.

Why COVID-19 Does Not Tell Us Whether God Exists

The existence of a global pandemic, such as Covid-19, does not, in itself, determine whether such worldwide suffering and death proves or disproves God’s existence. This fact should be the key take away from this essay.

The key is to understand that an all-good and all-knowing God could have sufficient reason to permit the existence of such a grave evil as Covid-19 -- so that some greater good might be obtained. Why, then, is this not a sufficient explanation of the presence of Covid-19 in the world?

One must first grasp that to the agnostic, atheist, or skeptic the existence of an all-good, all-knowing God may simply not be viewed as a real rational possibility. I say this not to challenge such persons’ individual reasons for their rejection of all proofs for God’s existence. Rather, I am simply pointing out that the reason they see Covid-19 or any other massive form of human suffering as incompatible with the God of classical theism is not so much because of the inherent horror of the evil itself as it is because of the conviction that no God exists whose nature could possibly justify such evils. That is, in their worldview, there simply is no credible proof that an infinitely good and provident God is real. So, how could there be any rational justification for Covid-19 – not to mention Hell?

Conversely, the classical theist, who is convinced that the one, true God exists and that he is all-good and all-wise, can easily conceive that Divine Providence can know and will an end so good as to justify permitting the existence of virtually any evil imaginable. For, theists take seriously the infinity of God in every respect, and hence, would not dare to think that our finite knowledge of the situation can trump the knowledge and benevolence of what God intends.

That is why the question of whether one views Covid-19 or any other great evil as determinative of God’s goodness and power and knowledge depends, not so much on the nature of the finite evil at issue – not even of Hell itself, but upon one’s prior intellectual commitment as to whether or not God actually exists and whether he possesses the infinite perfections and attributes ascribed to him by traditional metaphysics.

In a word, I think that the fundamental distance between the way skeptics and theists look at reality as a whole helps explain why unbelievers see the Covid-19 pandemic as just one more proof that God does not exist, whereas believers understand that an all-loving God is reminding us that life in our modern technological age remains radically contingent and desperately in need of its transcendent Creator.

Notes:

  1. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 6, a. 2, ad. 2.
  2. Dennis Bonnette, Origin of the Human Species – Third Edition (Sapientia Press, 2014), 212.
  3. Ibid., 213.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

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

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  • There is a way too much going on here in order to provide a broad refutation. For the sake of brevity, I will just focus on two main points:

    I. God not being on a Moral Agent (I assume you're following Prof. Brian Davies in his book Reality of God and the Problem of Evil</i, as this seems to be the major strand of theodicy as discussed by Thomists today)

    II. God as purus actus, whose essence and existence are not distinct, the sustainer of the world and every instance of act of being (as shown by Aquinas in his first way).

    I will briefly critique both these ideas. Let's start with the first one. Central to this Thomistic theodicy of God not being a moral agent is the idea the evil has no such positive reality and is instead a privation. With this view God cannot "cause" or be responsible for the evils that occur and is thus resolved of any complicity. I see two problems with this:

    i. The same reasoning implies that no one has any responsibility for evil. Created beings aren't the source of evil either if evil is not able to be caused. I know created beings are nonetheless tainted by evil in a sense that God isn't; in particular, created beings (and their doings) lack qualities they ought to have, but God doesn't lack qualities he ought to have. But if created beings aren't at all causally responsible for their badness or lacks, they likely cannot be morally responsible for their badness or lacks. This is absurd. Most people, Thomists included, think there are many blameworthy creatures.

    ii. Your reply to the evil of Covid-19 (and evil at large) assumes that the problem depends on God's creating or causing evil. But the problem arguably exists just as long as God predicts the "occurrence" (in a sense that doesn't imply positive existence) of evil and does nothing to prevent it. You correctly note this problem as well and offer a few brief survey of reasons (A Plantingian-eque Free Will Defense, etc) that are logically possible, but I don't see anything here that is persuasive. Here is analogy that should help illustrate the point here: We should infer from the fact that a pair of shoes were newly made by a skilled cobbler, that they probably don't have any holes. It would be unreasonable to object to this reasoning on the basis that holes have no positive ontological status, and therefore the cobbler couldn't have *created* a hole. We're not claiming that a skilled cobbler wouldn't *create* holes, we're claiming that a skilled cobbler wouldn't create shoes that have holes.

    On a more practical note of reasoning it's worth noting that most ordinary Catholics would reject the view of God you have. Catholics typically see God as a loving father who presides over and protects his children. The leap from the uncontingent, ground of all being, who is pure actuality and not limited in any way to theology of the incarnation seems to wide to cross.

    Now on to the second issue, regarding God as the sustainer of existence. The main problem here is that your responses presuppose the falsity of existential inertia. (Edward Feser makes a similar mistake in his Existential Inertia and the Five Ways in the ACPQ). Graham Oppy made an excellent point out of this in his debate with Feser, namely that Potentials to remain unchanged do not require distinct actualizers; all they require is the absence of any preventers of the actualization of those potentials. In particular, things that have the potential to go on existing go on existing unless there are preventers – internal or external – that cause those things to cease to exist. Consider the law of inertia, which essentially states that objects with a constant velocity will maintain their rectilinear velocity unless some net force acts upon them. It seems entirely legitimate to use this as a model for metaphysical or existential inertia, whereby the continuation of a thing’s existence need not be explained in terms of a current sustaining cause of it existence, or a concurrent actualization of its potential for existence. If this is true (and I think there are good reasons for it) then we have good reason to doubt the idea of sustaining causation.

    If these two critiques are successful the Classical Theist/Thomistic theodicy of God collapses, and the theist is left with a major problem. I am sympathetic to Richard Swinburne/J.L Mackie's methodology, namely that we take Theism and Atheism to be distinct metaphysical theories/hypotheses about casual reality. We then take the data of COVID-19, and see which worldview can provide a better explanation of this specific data. For the Atheist, while COVID-19 is tragic, it's existence is not a surprise on a Naturalisitic hypothesis of the world. For the Theist however, given the critiques I outlined above, COVID-19 is very surprising on the hypothesis that their is a God who is morally perfect, all-knowing and all powerful. Sure, there could be logically possible reasons as to why a God would allow such a thing to occur, but I don't think they are probable. With this in mind, I think an Atheist is entirely justified in thinking COVID-19 is evidence for Atheism, and something that poses problems for a theistic worldview.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      If this is brevity, I am glad you did not go into detail. I may clarify a couple points, but will be much briefer.

      First, while I mentioned that God is not a moral agent like creatures, I was not explicitly importing Brian Davies' whole thesis. I made clear my meaning here in the next sentence: "As Creator, he is free to take back the gift of life he has given to men." So, I do not address the issues you raise in your first point.

      And, as a Catholic myself, I have no problem with the view of God as a loving father who watches over and protects his children. As I point out in the piece, though, we may not always understand what is necessary to our eternal good as does our omniscient Father.

      As to the second point, yes, I do have problems with the notion of existential inertia, and, in some ways, for the same reason I have problems with Newtonian inertia. See my earlier Strange Notions article here: https://strangenotions.com/how-cosmic-existence-reveals-gods-reality/

      Without penetrating this genuinely deep topic too far, I would point out that the problem with material inertia is that the "law" merely describes inertia, but fails to explain how it is actually possible. That topic I address in another Strange Notions article:
      https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

      As you can see, your second issue, although it would be important if I conceded it in the form your present it, I do not feel is an obstacle to my general thesis in the present piece.

      In any event, I am not trying to demonstrate in this piece every single point I make about the problem of evil and Covid-19, but rather am trying to describe the terrain that theist and skeptical viewpoints diverge upon -- and how that impacts their respective views of Covid-19.

      As to the problem of evil itself, of course, I have yet another piece in which I address it itself: https://strangenotions.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/ And, yes, I also have one dealing with Hell itself: https://strangenotions.com/hell-and-gods-goodness/

      • Thank you for your comments. I will briefly engage with a few of your points.

        If this is brevity, I am glad you did not go into detail. I may clarify a couple points, but will be much briefer.

        Unfortunately I have not been gifted with the acumen and genius of the angelic doctor in being able to be convey substantive information in a concise manner. I am trained in the analytic tradition, and thus I try to be precise, extra detailed and clear, which can spill a bit of ink.

        I was not explicitly importing Brian Davies' whole thesis. I made clear my meaning here in the next sentence:

        Noted. The reason I brought up Davies' is work because the classical theist response to evil has mostly been predicated on his work, and it's still one that is relatively unique when looking at contemporary literature on this subject. Most other theodicies and defenses, such as your reference God's ownership of Life, have been (in my opinion) adequately responded to by contemporary Atheist analytic philosophers. At this point I will have to refer you to the work of a recent convert to Atheism from Eastern Orthodoxy; Prof. Nick Trakakis and his book The God Beyond Belief: In Defense of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil. Prof. Trakakis deals with nearly all attempts to reconcile God and evil, including Davies' solution.

        And, as a Catholic myself, I have no problem with the view of God as a loving father who watches over and protects his children. As I point out in the piece, though, we may not always understand what is necessary to our eternal good as does our omniscient Father.

        When I made this comment, I was simply pointing out the difficulty with reconciling the classical theist description of God and his moral obligations with the popular conception of God as held by most Catholics today. In this time of difficulty many Catholics are praying with the intention that he will be moved by petition and can hopefully empathize with the plight of their suffering. In response to evil, it seems the Classical Theist has to define their God as "wholly other" in order to mitigate the force that suffering has on the truth of theism. The best attempt I have seen at a possible reconciliation is Eleanor Stump's The God of the Bible and the God of the Philosophers but even in that work, there are shortcomings.

        As to the latter portion of your comment. There is a difference in our finite minds not understanding the infinite and maximally great mind of a perfect being (as theistic personalists and most Catholics would agree with) and our finite minds completely being uncomprehending of pure-actuality, that is being itself, devoid of distinction between it's existence and essence and totally beyond our attempts at comprehension. It is this latter view that I feel the majority of Catholics and Christians would reject.

        yes, I do have problems with the notion of existential inertia, and, in some ways, for the same reason I have problems with Newtonian inertia.

        I just want to be clear that I am not offering an objection based on strictly Newtonian grounds. Rather what I want to point out is that we can ground physical changes as resulting from either gravity, differing nuclear forces, and electromagnetism. The objects or particles from which these forces operate bring about every physical change that occurs, either within themselves, or through interaction with other objects or particles. Part of the objection is that all of these cases do not come about from continual action of an external moving agent (per se causes), but from the intrinsic capacities and tendencies modern physics identifies as fundamental forces.

        Without penetrating this genuinely deep topic too far, I would point out that the problem with material inertia is that the "law" merely describes inertia, but fails to explain how it is actually possible.

        I will read/study the link you cited more deeply, but would just like to provide a base response for now, to develop the position of existential inertia a bit further.

        You and I would both agree that there are acts of changing right occurring the present. Lets take Feser's popular example, a cup of coffee going from warm to cold. But this does not by itself entail that the very existence of a substance is concurrently and presently being reduced from potentiality to actuality. What then is the justification for thinking that the substance itself is in the temporal present being moved from potential to actual with respect to its existence and not just with respect to say its temperature? (warm to cool in the case of the coffee). Change is evident to the senses, but a concurrent and temporally present actualization of an item's existence is something that lacks any reasonable empirical evidence.

        The problem is that the existence of such a feature is what the Classical Theist claim against the truth of existential inertia needs in order to succeed. What reason do we have for thinking that the coffee's existence itself is concurrently and presently undergoing a change from potential to actual, rather than the mere temperature of the coffee being changed? I don't see a problem with the coffee's existence not being reduced from potential to actual presently, but was rather only reduced from potential to actual when the coffee was caused to exist at the beginning of its existence and from then until something comes along and causes it to cease to exist, there isn't any causal process which sustains in being, but rather it persists in actual existence in a state of existential inertia as it were.

        Classical Theists seem to presupposes that a being, X's existence in the present needs to be reduced from potentiality to actuality and not just the beginning of its existence -- and it thereby presupposes the falsity of the existential inertia thesis -- and yet this presupposition needs justification. As Prof. Graham Oppy writes "If an argument's success rests on presupposition P (i.e. the argument can only succeed if P is true and justifiably believed), but yet P is not justified, then the argument itself does not succeed unless and until P is justified."

        Also a lot of what I stated above is not my original work, but drawn upon the ideas of Prof. J.H. Sobel, the prior leading defender of Atheist Philosophy. He provides logically articulate critique of Aquinas's proofs on pages 175 to 187 of his magnum opus Logic and Theism

        In any event, I am not trying to demonstrate in this piece every single point I make about the problem of evil and Covid-19, but rather am trying to describe the terrain that theist and skeptical viewpoints diverge upon -- and how that impacts their respective views of Covid-19.

        I am completely sympathetic to what you are trying to accomplish. From my own experience I find that usually Atheists and Classical Theists end up talking past each other because they are operating on completely distinct and separate metaphysical principles that are presupposed in their background knowledge. I think clarification is of utmost important given that skeptical and theistic assumptions on the problem of evil (and COVID-19) specifically come from different positions on the epistemic landscape. As someone sympathetic to the inductivist paradigm of J.L. Mackie and Swinburne, my position on this issue (and I would imagine that of most skeptics in less analytic terms) is simply that when compare the two distinct metaphysical hypotheses of Atheistic Skepticism and Theism, we find that outbreak of COVID-19 is surprising on the latter hypothesis, but the not former. We can show this in Bayesian terms here:

        1. P(C/S) is not low, where (i) C = “outbreak of COVID-19,” (ii) S = “Atheistic Skepticism” and (iii) the probability is epistemic (i.e., reasonable degree of expectation).

        2. P(C/T) is (very) low, where T = "Theism".

        3. Therefore, C supports S.

        Now of course there are issues of prior and posterior probabilities, and other such issue, but the basic point I want to show is that for the Atheist, he sees the probability of COVID-19 given skepticism as not low/high where as he expects the probability of COVID-19 given Theism to be low. (Also I have read Brandon Vogt's article on Bayes Theorem and found it extremely lacking).

        • Jim the Scott

          @skeptic_thinking_power:disqus

          If I may tag in again.

          >At this point I will have to refer you to the work of a recent convert to Atheism from Eastern Orthodoxy; Prof. Nick Trakakis and his book The God Beyond Belief: In Defense of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil. Prof. Trakakis deals with nearly all attempts to reconcile God and evil, including Davies' solution.

          Again the mistake STP keeps making is identifying Davies' solution to the POE as a Theodicy(according to the modern use). It is not a moral justification for an Omnipotent God's (who is said to be unequivocally moral in the same manner a virtual rational creature is moral) inaction in the face of evil.

          It is a deny God is the sort of thing that which you can apply a Theodicy.

          As for Trakakis I have read his work and it is anti-theodicy even back when he was still an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Also he defended Rowe's argument while he was still an Eastern Orthodox so what you claim is astounding? How could he call Davies' work a "Theodicy"? Where does he do it? Because that would be a radical claim and as far as I can tell 2006 is the latest revision of his work.

          Also I tracked down his essay on why he left the Orthodox Church and why he rejects Christianity but I am not seeing him confess Atheism?

          See here:
          https://www.abc.net.au/religion/why-i-am-not-orthodox/10097536

          It his hard not to ignore he is railing against EO bishops hatred of Thomism & EO's anti-intellectualism. He also doubts Christianity and makes vague claims on rejecting the Trinity and Incarnation but nothing in it answering Davies or claiming Davies offers a Theodicy? Also I am skeptical he is an "Atheist" as you claim with all due respect. Perhaps you have mispoken or are not clear?

          Quote"I will then turn in the final part of this article to the even more radical view at which I have arrived recently, where commitment to any institutionalised form of religion, Christian or otherwise, is regarded as incompatible with the pursuit of truth and wisdom. Again, many others - from Russell to the New Atheists - have said likewise. But unlike these secular thinkers, I am not advocating the wholesale rejection of religion. My main target, rather, is only religious traditions and communities with highly developed systems of belief and power, exemplified best (but not solely) in the "big five" religions of the world (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) - these, I contend, threaten to undermine the philosophical life." END QUOTE

          If he has an argument against Davies solution to the POE I would like to hear it. If anything he is moving toward a liberal religious deism not Atheism but I don't see how that answers the Classic Theist solution to the POE?

          Enlighten me if you could. Cheers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Also when I read about his de-conversion to EO I was surprised because he never struck me as a devout Christian? Nothing he wrote in his academic work indicated to me he believed in God?

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            Again the mistake STP keeps making is identifying Davies' solution to the POE as a Theodicy(according to the modern use). Davies is not giving us a moral justification for an Omnipotent God's (who is said to be unequivocally moral in the same manner a virtual rational creature is moral) inaction in the face of evil.

            I corrected my prior mistake in another comment. Just a bit of semantic confusion over terminology. I also briefly responded to the project by pointing out some of Prof. Trakakis and Ben Bavar's critiques of the view, specifically with the issue rational natures and it's reference in obligation to God.

            Also I am skeptical he is an "Atheist" as you claim with all due respect. Perhaps you have mispoken or are not clear?

            My position on this comes from speaking with others who have had correspondence with him, as well as a recent blog post from John W. Loftus who cites Trakaki's review of his recent work:

            "Hi John, I'm currently reading your book Unapologetic book and thoroughly enjoying it. Suffice it to say that I am in wholehearted agreement with you. I actually find it very sad to see a discipline (the philosophy of religion) I have cherished for many years being debased and distorted by so-called Christian philosophers. Like you, I have now finally and happily found my place in the atheist community.

            I seem to be moving towards a strange kind of atheism, whereby (i) the personal theistic conception of God is rejected as incoherent, but (ii) even if it turned out that I was wrong and there is such a God after all, I still think that such a God should be rejected, in Ivan Karamazov style: “no thanks, you can have your ticket back”.

            I’m slowly making my way through your "Unapologetic book", it’s quite fascinating, loving the Nietzschean hammer style."

            https://www.debunking-christianity.com/2019/09/dr-nick-trakakis-recommends-my-book.html

            Note, I don't endorse Prof. Trakakis positive review of Loftus' work, as I have several disagreements with Loftus and don't think he is a particularly strong advocate for philosophical Atheism (as compared to many other analytic philosophers). However, I do think the citation above will suffice to demonstrate the earlier claims I referenced regarding Prof. Trakakis' shift in views.

          • Jim the Scott

            Dam blog ate yer reply & marked it as spam and now I can't read the rest and it was getting good!

            @Brandon!
            Somebody E-mail Brandon! I am sooo pissed the first really challenging Atheist we had here who knows philosophy (no offense to Fucino or Nickols or Greene but this guy is good) and the fuuu..fudging blog has to eat his post! Oy!!!!!

            You know STP because this idiot blog eats super long posts (i've been a victim too) you need to narrow it down. Really dude.

            Damn it!

            > However, I do think the citation above will suffice to demonstrate the earlier claims I referenced regarding Prof. Trakakis' shift in views.

            Well I know he lost his faith in Orthodoxy and I read he embraces methodological atheism in philosophy but I would be surprised if he wasn't anti-theodicy. But I guess this is a recent thing?

            Of course "Atheist" is an equivocal term. It can run the range between Strong vs weak vs Agnostic vs secular and even Deists can find a home in their ranks on the fringe. Still analytic eh?

            Cheers.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            I think he is still "anti-theodicy" in a sense that he don't take Davies' project to be part of the program of theodicy, but nonetheless, with this recent work in The God Beyond Belief and his collaboration with James Sterba, he nonetheless believes that Daveis' project isn't successful, which is why I cited his earlier work.

            "Of course "Atheist" is an equivocal term."

            I reject the popular attempts to characterize Atheism as a "lack of belief" (stemming from Flew and his misguided paper The Presumption of Atheism). I believe Atheists need to provide justification for their views, and shouldn't hide behind attempts to burden shift on to theists. My views on how we should define Atheism are as with how Graham Oppy defines it, as an affirmative belief based on rational/epistemic credences:

            belief is something like a matter of degree. For any given claim–or proposition, or statement, or the like–an agent gives a certain credence to that claim. Some philosophers think that credences are associate with precise probabilities, or perhaps with precise probabilistic intervals. To a first degree of approximation, given this way of thinking about beliefs, we can say something like the following: atheists give credence above 0.5 to the claim that there are no gods; theists give credence below 0.5 to the claim that there are no gods; agnostics give credence exactly 0.5 to the claim that there are no gods; and innocents have no credence for the claim that there are no gods. This is only a first approximation. Someone whose credence for the claim that there are no gods is the interval [0.4, 0.6] is plausibly an agnostic.

            I would assume Prof. Trakakis, like most analytic philosophers, would probably see Atheism as I described above.

          • Jim the Scott

            Hey STP good to see you back.

            >I think he is still "anti-theodicy" in a sense that he don't take Davies' project to be part of the program of theodicy, but nonetheless, with this recent work in The God Beyond Belief and his collaboration with James Sterba, he nonetheless believes that Daveis' project isn't successful, which is why I cited his earlier work.

            One would assume it is an updating of his work I take it? However the only relevant part would be his answer to Davies since Davies himself offers rebuttals to various Theodicies and draws from Rowe. I am not interested in his refutation of gods I already deny. Anyway I wish yer original post wasn't eaten by the blog. It had some interesting stuff. The analogy stuff that was lost takes me back.....

            >To a first degree of approximation, given this way of thinking about beliefs, we can say something like the following: atheists give credence above 0.5 to the claim that there are no gods;

            Sounds like Theistic Personalism again? Are you sure he is against Classic Theism? God is not a probability question and God is not obligated to make any world & He could have aways made a better one & as long as it participates in His Being there is no world so bad God should refrain from making it . There really is no such thing as the best of all possible worlds. Another failed assumption of Theodicy.

          • Jim the Scott

            ps: Feser has a new post on Presentism and Analogical language. You can have first crack at it. I have to go out shopping with the Wife. I'll read it when I get back and I might take a crak at young Joe's video. But I am not hopeful it will offer any meaningful criticism. That boy needs to brush up on his skills. Still me gut tells me he might want to unlike some of the locals around here (present company and Fucino, Greene, Adams and Grimlock excluded).

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/05/presentism-and-analogical-language.html

        • Dennis Bonnette

          What happened to our brevity? :) I must tell you that I have two problems that force me to be both succinct and weak on documentation. My personal situation is such that I have little free time for this and having retired some 17 years ago, I have no present access to a library and my personal library is largely inaccessible. Thus, frankly, I am left to what my 81 year old progressively senile mind can remember. So, don't expect top scholarship from me. All this is why, for example, I really cannot check out Trakakis's book. Sorry.

          One further point on me. Somewhere they saw fit to say my doctorate has a minor in symbolic logic. But I still am unenthusiastic insistence on formal expression. From what I can tell, any approach you take still has metaphysical assumptions "behind the curtains" -- and I wind up just having to do the work of penetrating back through it to what it is really saying anyway.

          As to the probabilities of Covid-19 in terms of atheism and theism, I would expect atheism to have no problems since a blindly evolving world can produce anything and I don't see much basis for moral judgments there anyway. Should the theist be scandalized by the virus? Not if the bases for his conviction that God is and is all good are secure. Rather, it becomes more of a mystery, like the Trinity -- unexpected, but not irrational.

          Now to the meat. You wrote: "From my own experience I find that usually Atheists and Classical Theists end up talking past each other because they are operating on completely distinct and separate metaphysical principles that are presupposed in their background knowledge."

          That is one of the most honest and insightful statements I have ever read. It encourages me to invite you to discuss with me our central differences with a hope of actually getting somewhere. But I fear this is already getting long!

          Let me just quote briefly from atheist turned Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain on the distinction between logic and metaphysics. In his A Preface to Metaphysics, sounding like he is referring to the analytical tradition, he writes about those who "maintain that this being as such is a mere word ... whose value is purely logical, not ontological."

          "According to them the metaphysician has fallen victim to human language whereas in fact he passes through and beyond language to attain its intellectual source, superior to any uttered word. We must ... distinguish carefully being which is the object of metaphysics ... from being as studied by logic."

          To quickly hint where I am going, see again this piece: https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

          The notion of existential inertia is critical to our differences. But this is far too long already. My article above on "new existence" may quickly hint at my direction. Later, okay?

          • Jim the Scott

            @skeptic_thinking_power:disqus

            ""From my own experience I find that usually Atheists and Classical Theists end up talking past each other because they are operating on completely distinct and separate metaphysical principles that are presupposed in their background knowledge."

            I second Dr. B's sentiments. That is a beautiful statement.

            Which is why even thought I disagree with you I respect yer attempts here. They are not boring. I can offer no higher praise.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            So, don't expect top scholarship from me. All this is why, for example, I really cannot check out Trakakis's book. Sorry.

            No apologies needed Prof. Bonnette. I appreciate your willingness to dialogue and engaging with those of opposing views, even if the majority simply don't understand the basic assumptions of classical theism, namely act/potency metaphysics, God as the un-contingent, purely actual, ground of being itself, rather than as a being/person. I will note that I have a PDF of Prof. Trakakis' work and would be happy to send it to you by email or some other medium if you're interested.

            From what I can tell, any approach you take still has metaphysical assumptions "behind the curtains" -- and I wind up just having to do the work of penetrating back through it to what it is really saying anyway.

            I strongly sympathize with this approach and that is why my affinities lie with the analytic tradition and its emphases on clarity, rigor and conceptual understanding. With any exchanges of worldviews, I think it's important that all metaphysical assumptions be examined and be discussed, and I think the recent dialogues between Prof. Graham Oppy and Prof. Edward Feser. In fact, I was pleased to see Prof. Feser walk back from his claim about the "real debate not being between Atheism and Theism, but rather theists of different stripes" in his exchange with Oppy, and admitting further that his view has assumptions that reasonable people may disagree with.

            Should the theist be scandalized by the virus? Not if the bases for his conviction that God is and is all good are secure. Rather, it becomes more of a mystery, like the Trinity -- unexpected, but not irrational.

            For the moment, I will bracket the claim about not expecting moral judgements on Atheism, given our already extended discussion. Perhaps I am different than most, but I am not at all claiming that emergence of COVID-19 leaves a theist in a position of irrationality. I firmly believe that despite my very high epistemic confidence in Atheism, that the classical theist position is a formidable, fruitful, and deeply intellectually respectable research program that is worth philosophical reflection and study. I hardly expect the Thomist/Classical theist tradition which has survived centuries of challenges to suddenly be decisively refuted by COVID-19. Rather, what I am simply postulating, is that from a Bayesian/Abductive approach, COVID-19 is a piece of data that does provide evidence for Atheism over Theism in a cumulative approach. Sure, the classical theist has expectations for why this occurs (though I am skeptical of their success), but prima-face and in terms of explanatory virtues, the Atheist is at least in epistemically superior position in regards to the outbreak of COVID-19 at least relation to the classical theist.

            "That is one of the most honest and insightful statements I have ever read. It encourages me to invite you to discuss with me our central differences with a hope of actually getting somewhere."

            I appreciate the comment, and return the sentiment. However to those who study philosophy, especially philosophy of religion, this is not a noteworthy statement, but rather what should be a very clear observation. The recent debate between Prof. Graham Oppy and Prof. Feser was an excellent demonstration of this. It was an insightful discussion, but at the same time, their different metaphysical assumptions did cause some confusion and circularity. At a more local level, it's clear watching debates between Classical Theists and Atheists, that most aren't even operating on the same metaphysical level. Most Atheists (and I would argue most Christians today as I explained in my other comments) view God in squarely theistic personalist terms, as a sort of high-powered being with the divine attributes. There is simply no comprehension of the classical theist conception of God that is purely actual, radically simple and is the explanation for the metaphysically necessity of reality as a whole. Add in the other core assumptions of classical theism as I mentioned above, it's no wonder we see the poor dialectic that is ubiquitously present.

            While I appreciate your invitation to dialogue, as I explained before, my general apathy for this forum, coupled with my comments being unfortunately deleted, as well as my other responsibilities will prevent me from engaging more than I usually would.

            "Let me just quote briefly from atheist turned Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain on the distinction between logic and metaphysics."

            Most of my reading within the neo-scholastic tradition has come from the Arch-Neo-scholastic "Sacred Monster" of Thomism Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, but from what I have read of Maritain, I do find his insights worth studying. I am sympathetic to the Thomistic notion that contra analytic philosophy and it's focus on epistemology as the first, metaphysics and the philosophy of being, should be our first object of study. Thankfully most contemporary atheist analytic philosophers have moved away from the radical empiricism/scientisim that plagued the early 1940s, and our moving towards a greater focus on metaphysics.

            'When you say "existential inertia," it seems to mean that qualities can be changed, while the existence continues, since it remains true that the subject exists throughout."

            The way I am understanding it as saying that necessarily, concrete objects (i) persist in existence (once in existence) without requiring a continuously concurrent sustaining cause of their existence and (ii) cease to exist only if caused to do so. I will also briefly post another comment I made on a similar thread related to this:

            One may argue that it is in virtue of the natures or essence of things to persist in existence until acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist. This is how Feser, for instance, takes radioactive decay to be compatible with the PSR and causal principles. There is no particular event or occurrence in virtue of which a given atom of a radioactive isotope decays after a given amount of time T. Rather, the objective tendency for such an atom derives from, is grounded in, or is true in virtue of the very nature of the radioactive isotope in question. The quantitative probability of decaying within after T, then, is simply a reflection of and is grounded in the very nature of the isotope qua the isotope it is — it is its objective tendency or characteristic behavior to do so. Similarly, perhaps it is the objective tendency or characteristic behavior of the natures of substances qua substances, once in existence, to persist in existence unless acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist.

            A further note, it doesn't follow from the fact that X doesn't have existence as part of its essence that X needs to be *given* existence. It could be, a skeptic may hold, that X simply exists even though existence isn't part of its nature and that its existence isn't "imparted" to it in any way.

            That is because the concept of being includes both essence and existence together (somewhat confusedly at first). So that any change in essence (qualities) entails a real change in existence.

            I think there are reasons to doubt that the existence of things is distinct from their essence. It seems that physical substance is unique: there is only one type of "stuff" that exists, and it's "material stuff". There aren't two different types of "material stuff", one could just suppose that there is an everywhere permeating physical field which gives rise to all the various particles, which are all nonetheless part of the unique, singular substance known as "physical stuff". The claim that matter in and of itself has the potential for non-existence, or is contingent, or needs a cause, is almost always unsubstantiated, even by professional philosophers. Additionally, the arguments from essence and existence to God usually rest on an implicit denial of brute facts, which presupposes the PSR. Even if granted the distinction between matter itself and its essence and existence, it wouldn't follow latter needs existence imparted to it. It could "just exist", in the first place, and that would be the end of the story. If the PSR is false, then the argument crumbles. The same holds true for the Aristotelian argument, in which case it seems that such arguments have no force unless arguments for the PSR have force, in which case they're reducible to arguments for the PSR.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Please forgive a much briefer response, even though I have read carefully your thoughtful statement. Did you realize you have almost 1400 words here? This could easily qualify for an essay for Strange Notions by itself! And I do think that the editor is open to publishing pieces from the skeptical perspective as well as the theist one. You mention comments being deleted. Could they have been too long to fit somehow? I have no idea.

            I appreciate your offer of Trakakis's work, but frankly, given my present personal situation, I just don't have any more time to read extensively -- even though I realize the damage that does to any scholarly endeavors.

            I concede that the existence of grave evil in the world is more of a problem for theism than for atheism, but that is hardly to be unexpected -- especially given that atheism really has no need to explain it at all, except in terms of validating a meaning for evil itself.

            I guess I have never really given the theistic personalist perspective much thought, since my entire education seemed to blend Catholic belief in a very human Redeemer and human saints with, at the same time, a systematic education in Thomistic philosophy whose metaphysical underpinnings were always expected to coorelate with the personal details of my religion. I see great mystery in the metaphysical nature of God in relation to the world, but nothing really irrational in how the abstract and the concrete expressions of my religion interact. I expect mysteries to be mysterious, but not irrational -- precisely as in the case of the Trinity.

            I am pleased to see that some in the analytic tradition are more directly engaging Thomists on their own turf, even when it challenges what appear to be basic presuppositions that are held -- perhaps by both sides.

            Finally, I think the topic of "existential inertia" is fascinating. It is new to me. I realized, of course, that materialism has forever held that the cosmos "just is" and is explained by the fact that it always has been. But, this notion that once things exist, there is no need to explain a further cause of their existence, of course, flies directly in the face of the most "sacred" of Thomist and Christian claims that God must underlie the existence of all finite things -- that he must hold them in existence, lest they fall back into nothingness. The newness of existential inertia lies in challenging the metaphysics underlying that view and adding the "shocking" suggestion that, not only do things naturally persist, but we now need a cause to destroy them in order to get rid of them!

            I shall need some time to evaluate this very old, yet newly defended, claim about the persistence of the world and the things in it. This topic I guess we must reserve to a later time.

            But we MUST be briefer in these comments -- I HOPE!

          • VicqRuiz

            Most Atheists (and I would argue most Christians today as I explained in my other comments) view God in squarely theistic personalist terms, as a sort of high-powered being with the divine attributes.

            Correctly said, but in view of the human predilection for pattern-finding and coincidence-denying, it seems inevitable to me that Christians will seek to tease out, from confusing and contradictory history, divine motives and a divine plan. Doing that is certainly, to some extent, anthropomorphization.

            And of course atheists will use that same confusion and contradiction as evidence of no motives, no plan whatever.

            The closer that Christians get to using those three little words which are often hard to say - "we don't know" - as the response to any inexplicable evil, the more congenial I find their views.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you will forgive me intervening here, I must point out that you are assuming that Christians must share your agnosticism about the total situation.

            From the Christian perspective, both reason and revelation demonstrate that God is all good and that, therefore, some perfectly good reasons must support whatever God has providentially ordained to take place in creation. In fact, our inability to determine exactly what God is up to proves nothing, since we are not the all-knowing, all-good Creator.

            And, of course, we also do not share the theistic personalist view that is cited from STP's comment.

          • VicqRuiz

            One problem is that we don't have distinctions in English between words like "good" and "loving", with the connotations they carry when describing human motives and actions, and those same words when applied to God's very different motives and actions.

            I don't know any Christian who does not agree that God's goodness is very different from human goodness, and yet the use of that same word steers us in the direction of anthropomophism, as STP suggests.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Having written on the anthropomorphism found in ape-language studies, the last thing I want to fall into is that fallacy.

            But, I really don't think one must do so to understand how God can be both good and loving in an objective sense without, at the same time, falling into the anthropomorphic trap.

            I really have not thought about some of this for a while and fear I may fail to give it the necessary precision. Still, basically, the good in Thomism is a transcendental equivalent to being, but from the point of view of the will. Since a thing is good insofar as it exists, for St. Thomas, God, as pure existence is pure goodness. And, to love, is simply to intend the good.

            Does this so sterilize the notions of goodness and love as to render them somehow "inhuman?" I see no problems here.

            A creature's ontological goodness is measured by the existential perfections accorded to its nature and its individual goodness is measured by how well it fulfills that nature. Thus, a horse is good in that it can run, but suffers physical evil when it is lame.

            Since God wills that all things be in accordance with the natures he gives them, their perfection and goodness are measured by living up to that nature. In man, that means that he wills that we live well according to our natures with both physical health and moral goodness. The last is measured in us by our human nature in the ethical science of natural law.

            I don't know how much more God can love us than that he wills the fullness of our being in terms of our natures, both physically and morally.

            This is not anthropomorphic, since its objectivity is grounded in God himself, while our subjective experience of his love is that he wills that we are as perfect in being as we should be according to our human natures. What more could we want?

            The fact that we fail to live up to our natures by freely sinning is our fault, not God's. A careful examination of natural law shows that the "rules" are really designed only to perfect and protect man and society from our own evil choices.

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm familiar with Aquinas' concept of ontological goodness. And as I am sure you're aware, an atheist can easily parody it. "Kim Il-sung was a dictator. But he superbly fulfilled his dictatorial nature by establishing total control over his society and a hereditary dynasty that has lasted seventy years. Is this not then goodness?"

            But in order to defuse such a parody it's necessary to have a standard whereby someone who superbly fulfills his nature as a teacher or a musician or an artisan is preferred in God's eyes to someone who fulfills his nature as a murdering autocrat. And yet the latter seem more often than not to prosper.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The objective measure of right human actions under natural law is human nature adequately considered.

            That is the purpose of what we call "special" ethics, wherein various kinds of human acts are adjudged in light of what is proper to human nature adequately considered.

            The key lies in understanding those last two qualifying words.

            It violates human nature to deny the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property in the manner of a vicious, arrogant, and self-centered dictator. Such behavior violates the dictator's own nature since he is acting most irrationally toward his fellow man in light of the rights they possess before God.

            Also, for example, it is a noble calling to be a musician -- unless one is singing dirty lyrics.

    • Rob Abney

      "things that have the potential to go on existing go on existing unless there are preventers – internal or external – that cause those things to cease to exist."
      Can you explain how such a thing exists if it only has the potential to exist? Or explain what it means for a thing to have the potential to go on existing?

      • I think it's best that I simply reference Prof. Graham Oppy's exposition on this issue in his exchange with Prof. Ed Feser. He does a better job of explaining it than I ever could.

        In the context of their discussion, they are referencing the potency of hypothetical chair, as an example to illustrate these concepts.

        Oppy states:

        "Think about at a particular time, the chair at T and T+1. At a certain time, the chair has the potential to be red at T, I think so long as nothing else happens, the chair will be red at T+1, that potential will be realized. In the absence of anything, it will just go from being red at T to red at T+1 and we don’t require something to realize that potential, it just have to be the case is what doesn't happen is someone throws a paintball at it so it becomes blue, or what have you. That would realize different potentials like it’s potential to be blue, which could be realized if that were to happen.

        But given that it is already red, it’s potential to be red at T+1, doesn’t require anything to actualize the potential. That is the thought, maybe the way the principles stated is that it is poorly formulate, but that is how it is supposed to work. That’s what I was trying to get the principle to capture. You are saying for this potential to be red to be actualized at the next moment, there has got to be something already actual that actualizes that potential. I don’t see the need for that."

        You can find the full exchange here:

        https://youtu.be/XoVDutpB4Cw

        • Jim the Scott

          @rob_abney:disqus

          If I may interject. Feser responds around 33.20.

          There are two ways you can go here.

          Cambridge Change/properties. This is Oppy's mistake (one of many) and William Lane Craig makes that mistake too.

          Jump on down to the 17th or 18th paragraph. Or use yer browser's seach function keyword "Cambridge".

          https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

          This has nothing to do with real change which is subject to the act/potency distinction. If Plato grows two inches taller than Socrates & Socrates don't grow at all there is a "change" in Socrates' height in reference to Plato but that doesn't mean Socrates himself has had a change in height. A red chair that is red at T1 & is found to be red at T2 has not undergone a change in color so it's potential to be unchanged in color need not be actualized because no real change in color takes place between T1 & T2 other than change in time. Yes Aristotle is not Heraclides and even thought he proves change is real that does not deny stasis is real too.

          Also Existential inertia only applies to top down essential causal series not accident causal ones. Add too that Feser and the Thomistic Tradition rejects Divine Occationalism because we argue that secondary causes are real.

          It is the object that has acquired the power in Act of the accident of being red causing the redness from T1 to T2 so the redness is in effect not uncaused from T1 to T2. Accidents are not really substances but adhere in substances which cause their existence and thus existential inertia does not apply to them. It applies to being.

          Of course something is either a being that is being actualize by something already in act or is pure act itself which we take to be God.

          Anyway those are my thoughts and I appreciate STP input and Oppy's challanges.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            > Feser responds around 33.20.

            I find this response unpersuasive. Feser responds by saying that Oppy's argument would be circular: to have any power in the first place, a thing must already exist. So, you can't appeal to its power of existential inertia to explain its existence.

            However it sounds like Feser is confusing "explaining a thing's existence/why a thing exists right now" with "explaining why a thing continues to exist/exists at later time". It could be that a simple object (A) exists now, (B) has powers right now because it exists now, and (C) will exist at a later time because it has the power of existential inertia. And none of this is circular since the power of existential inertia isn't being invoked to explain why the object exists *now*, but only why it exists *at a later time*.

            Oppy seemed to endorse the following view:

            (1) b is essentially F if and only if it is necessary that if b exists, then b is F.

            It follows from (1) that everything essentially exists. Take me, for example. It is necessary that if I exist, then I exist. But then it follows from that together with (1) that I essentially exist. Feser obviously rejects (1). But it isn't an argument against (1) that it is possible that I don't exist. Someone who accepts (1) can agree to that. Oppy pointed that out, and I'm not sure Feser understood his point.

            This has nothing to do with real change which is subject to the act/potency distinction.

            Imagine a physical universe with no beginning, containing an object whose existence has no beginning. Suppose that the object's intrinsic and extrinsic properties are the same at every moment it exists. Thomists will want to say that, at every moment, something is actualizing the object's potential for existence. But this is where the idea that change just is the actualization of potential breaks down, because the object doesn't seem to be changing at all. Its properties are always the same. It doesn't even undergo a change from a state of not existing to a state of existing, because it always exists.

            And even if it had begun to exist, there would be times at which it wasn't changing from a state of nonexistence to one of existence, and yet its potential for existence was being actualized. Indeed, if we take into consideration the actualizers of this object's potential(s) for existence at all moments at which it exists, what they are doing (insofar as they determine the object's properties) is ensuring that the object *doesn't* change, not changing the object. So I don't think all actualization of potential involves change, although all change may involve the actualization of potential.

            Also Existential inertia only applies to top down essential causal series not accident causal ones.

            I don't see how this distinction supports your point given that Aquinas' 5 proofs (and sustaining causality as a whole) is dependent on essentially ordered series. We can take the idea of existential inertia to be representative of the following idea. Basically we can think of an item X that has to meet two specific requires. First, once it is in persistence, it has to continue to persist in existence without requiring a continuously concurrent sustaining cause of their existence. Second, it will cease to exist only if caused to do so. One way we can give an account of this is through positing that for every item or being X and times T-I and t (where T-I is immediately temporally prior to T), the existence of X-at-T is explained by the conjunction of two specific properties. First the state and existence of T-at-T-I. Second the absence of any sufficiently causally destructive factors acting on X-at-T-I and through T. Given this, it would provide a problem for a lot Feser/Aquinas' proofs.

            I will refer this video here for more information:

            https://youtu.be/8vBp0CLnniA

            Accidents are not really substances but adhere in substances which cause their existence and thus existential inertia does not apply to them. It applies to being.

            Let me take a different approach in responding to this. Consider the universe at T-0 (the initial singularity). It has the potential to expand. But there is nothing that actualizes that potential; all it takes for the universe to expand from T-0 is that there is nothing that prevents the expansion. Since there has been nothing to prevent the expansion, the universe has gone on expanding ever since. (Here, I assume -- or perhaps pretend -- that causal reality is exhausted by our big bang universe.)

            At a given moment, a thing that exists has the potential to exist at future moments. If it existed at earlier moments, then it had the potential to exist now. But it is not the case that there is now a concurrent actualization of the thing's potential to exist. On the contrary, if the thing previously had a potential to exist now, and if nothing prevented the actualization of that potential, then that thing exists now (and that's all it takes for that thing to exist now).

            Feser thinks that essence precedes existence: non-existent things have potentials to exist. I think that's wrong. It's not that existence precedes essence; it's rather that neither precedes the other. Contra other philosophers, there are no bare necessities. All potentialities are potentialities of existing things; all potentialities of existing things are potentialities to transition -- or to be transitioned -- to new states. Where things are transitioned to new states, there is something else that brings about the transition. Where things transition without being transitioned, then there is nothing else that brings about the transition (as in the case of the expansion of the universe mentioned above).

            Oppy discusses these points further in this video here:

            https://youtu.be/mkp1QABbXnI

          • Jim the Scott

            I copied paste yer post so the Blog doesn't screw us again. Thank God. ;-)

            >I find this response unpersuasive. Feser responds by saying that Oppy's argument would be circular: to have any power in the first place, a thing must already exist. So, you can't appeal to its power of existential inertia to explain its existence.

            Well he is right and I submit neither if you have a real answer. So we will disagree.

            >However it sounds like Feser is confusing "explaining a thing's existence/why a thing exists right now" with "explaining why a thing continues to exist/exists at later time".

            You got that backwards. Feser is doing the former & the later is kind of not relevant to the validity act/potency distinction because all you are showing is a change in time. My objections revolving around Cambridge change applies.

            >(1) b is essentially F if and only if it is necessary that if b exists, then b is F.
            It follows from (1) that everything essentially exists. Take me, for example. It is necessary that if I exist, then I exist. But then it follows from that together with (1) that I essentially exist. Feser obviously rejects (1). But it isn't an argument against (1) that it is possible that I don't exist. Someone who accepts (1) can agree to that. Oppy pointed that out, and I'm not sure Feser understood his point.

            I understand it & I think Feser does too but it is not relevant. The only change happening is time is changing not the object. Why does the object exist here and now or at any time is not answered?

            Oppy is giving me Circular reasoning & I think he is missing the point. He and you are IMHO “answering” the first way by ignoring it’s argument. (Not on purpose I believe) Feser is right. A thing moving threw time unchanged in its accidents remains unchanged and the only thing changing in Oppy’s example is time not the thing. The potential for something to stay unchanged is an example of Cambridge change not real change so has nothing to do with existential inertia. It doesn't require actualizing since no real change is taking place. Ergo it is not an example of existential inertia for a chair to be red at T and T1. Properties of the Chair is causing the redness and that is top down not accidential.

            Again the Chair is red because of top down casualty and we each have to go down the vertical causal line etc and Oppy bless him provides no example of existential inertia of the thing existing uncaused here and now. This is true regardless of one’s view of time. That Cambridge change is dogging both of ya.
            Plato can grow 2 inches taller than Socrates but Socrates needs nothing to actualize him not growing as he is not changing.

            >Imagine a physical universe with no beginning,

            Which is Hume’s error I would rather conceive than imagine as he conflates the two and it is why Ascombe said he was a brilliant sophist & why the whole Atheist objection to Causality is a mess. But I can conceive of a Universe without a formal beginning being an accidental causal series going on forever from forever. But why does it exist now?

            >containing an object whose existence has no beginning. Suppose that the object's intrinsic and extrinsic properties etc etc etc
            This begs question even if there are no gods. I can conceived of something having no beginning but if it is composite than it needs a cause here and now. You seem like Oppy to be wanting to argue the Kalam with us not the First Way?

            >I don't see how this distinction supports your point given that Aquinas' 5 proofs (and sustaining causality as a whole) is dependent on essentially ordered series.

            Because yer example of a chair being red at T and being Red at T1 is an accidentally ordered series not an essential one. It is that simple and that is where you and Oppy go wrong. Thomists all believe you can have an infinite accidental series.

            > We can take the idea of existential inertia to be representative of the following idea etc, etc etc etc (edited for brevity but I read it)

            Yeh that is wrong. You are showing an object that doesn’t change and merely showing changing time so at best you are giving me an example of Cambridge change. Plato grows two inches tailer than Socrates etc and Socrates height ratio towards Plato has “changed” but that is not real change.

            Metaphysically time is a measure of change but a change in time doesn’t mean a change in substance of the thing in time nor does it change the fact the accident instansiate in the substance.. The inertia means nothing needs to cause it to exist here and now and the object the accident/property is substantiated in causes the accident to exist but the object itself still needs a cause to exist here and now even if the object is by nature in stasis.
            Here and now. You are not really addressing that. You are coming up with creative ways to avoid it IMHO but I don't doubt yer good will. I blame out unstated metaphysical assumptions for the confusion between us as you said in yer first post.

            >Let me take a different approach in responding to this. Consider the universe at T-0 (the initial singularity). It has the potential to expand. But there is nothing that actualizes that potential;

            So all you are showing me is an unchanged singularity that needs an explanation as to why it exists at any given point in time and given it’s nature it is clearly composite since it contains everything in our physical universe. Space-Time, Matter and Energy so it cannot be simple. So by itself it is explained by the first way.
            Again with the Cambridge change vs real change. Examples of Cambridge change don’t need to be actualized as they are not examples of real change.

            So I am unconvinced as well but it was a good effort on yer part. Well done.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            Part I

            Well he is right and I submit neither if you have a real answer. So we will disagree.

            Except we do have an answer. Firstly it is crucial to point out that primitive/bottom level features of our casual reality are neither analyzable into nor obtain in virtue of more fundamental/basic facts at the metaphysical ground-bottom. In response to your general concerns I think it's important to point that even if a specific bottom level fact as I have presented here lacks explanation, that would not by itself invalidate an explanation of persistence in terms of existential inertia. From a general understanding of explanations and necessity, it is typically not a condition on legitimate and metaphysically deeps explanations that a deeper explanation for every statement in the prior explanation always be ready to hand, or even that it exist at all. Merely from the fact that something does not obtain in virtue of any deeper facts, it doesn’t follow that it is utterly devoid of explanation, since (plausibly) some things are explained in virtue of the metaphysical necessity of their obtaining.

            Let me illustrate why I am unsatisfied with your/Feser's objections in response to existential inertia, as well as my issues with sustaining causes as present in the first 3 ways. Let's use the example I used earlier in the thread and that Feser uses in Five Proofs specifically the coffee cup. Feser argued that coffee is kept in existence by its constituent molecules, which in turn are maintained in existence by atoms, which are held together by subatomic particles. But this is not a hierarchical causal chain because the subatomic particles are not distinct from the coffee: rather, they comprise the coffee. There is yet to be identified anything distinct from the coffee that causes, or sustains, or actualizes its current existence. The same can be said of particles, such as electrons.

            Even granting (which I'm unwilling to do, but this is for the sake of argument) that such causes can be considered sustaining causes. We can trace essentially ordered causal series with regard to causes of existence, say, as follows: me, caused by my organ systems, caused by my organs, caused by my tissue, caused by my cells, caused by the molecular machinery of proteins and carbohydrates and lipids, each of which caused by atoms and atomic bonds, each of which caused by protons and neutrons and physical forces, each caused by quarks, in turn caused by (let's suppose) strings. Even granting such a conception of sustaining causation, why not suppose the terminus of this per se causal chain is "strings"? What's required is an unactualized actualizer. The mere presence of an unactualized actualizer doesn't get one to *pure* actuality. All it gets us to is "something which actualizer the potential for other things to exist, but itself is not actualized to exist."

            But notice "is not actualized to exist" is entirely compatible, it seems, with having the potential for non-existence. All we need posit is that this thing exists, but it nonetheless has the potential for non-existence. Of course, that potential is not realized. But it seems we cannot rule it out.

            Feser writes "this cause doesn't have any potential for existence that needs to be actualized in the first place."

            (Five Proofs, page 27)

            But notice "needing to be actualized" is utterly different from "can be actualized, but does not in fact happen to be actualized." So it seems without any way to rule out the latter scenario, one cannot even get "purely actual with respect to existence." It's a whole other story how one traverses the gap between "purely actual with respect to its existence, and purely actual simpliciter with respect to everything."

            Feser is doing the former & the later is kind of not relevant to the validity act/potency distinction because all you are showing is a change in time. My objections revolving around Cambridge change applies

            And my objections are against the idea that there are such things as sustaining causes. I don't see how appealing to Cambridge changes applies here, and I would encourage you to watch the other video I linked from Oppy where he deals with this objection. Feser in the chair example is appealing to when such things began to exist, not their persistence or sustenance in existence. The place from where I came was my mother's womb. I've existed ever since then. My mother's womb doesn't sustain me in existence; it was merely a temporally prior condition that was the efficient, beginning cause of my existence. Its causal activity, however, is not sustaining me in existence at present. Similarly, as Oppy points out regarding the chair it is just the prior conditions which led to the beginning of the existence of the particles which compose it. That is not an identification of something which sustains those particles or fluctuations in existence after they have already begun to exist.

            Aquinas explicitly writes in most of his causal proofs for God's existence "in the sensible world we find an order of efficient causes" or "we observe a chain of motion". Such claims form the basis of his proof, since without the observation of a chain of efficient causality (of motion, or what have you), the sense experience data which forms the basis/beginning of the rest of the proof simply isn't available because it isn't actually observed. The claim that there is, indeed, a chain of efficient causation or motion then becomes wholly unjustified. We certainly see linear chains, but per se, essentially ordered chains is what he attempts to say we observe. Yet, we don't observe sustaining causes of existence, and thus the premise that such chains exist is unjustified. Thus, it undercuts the justification for the assumption that such chains even exist in the first place, which thereby undercuts the entire argument for God's existence.

            Why does the object exist here and now or at any time is not answered?

            See my above points in regards to existential inertia. The component of an object X at T can seemingly easily be explained by the temporally prior state and existence of X, or the components of X, in conjunction with the absence of sufficiently destructive causal factors operative.

            Oppy is giving me Circular reasoning & I think he is missing the point. He and you are IMHO “answering” the first way by ignoring it’s argument. (Not on purpose I believe) Feser is right.

            I respectfully disagree. Oppy (and myself) in this thread are responding to the proof by pointing sufficient undercutting defeaters that should allow us to cast doubt on the efficacy of the argument. I am pointing reasonable objections for why we can doubt the existence of sustaining co-current causes. It would be better to simplify with H2O (Which is an example I have seen Feser use on his blog before). What is the sustaining cause of H2O? It won't do to only say hydrogen, since hydrogen alone is not sustaining the molecule as a whole in existence. The hydrogen's causal activity alone has nothing to do with sustaining the oxygen in being, for instance. So it can't be hydrogen alone. For the same reason, it cannot be oxygen alone, for the oxygen itself doesn't sustain the hydrogen atoms in being, and thus couldn't sustain the H2O in being ether. We are thus forced to say it's the plurality of the hydrogens and oxygen. But the H2O just is the plurality of two hydrogens and one oxygen. Water isn't something "over and above" the two hydrogens together with one oxygen. Thus, water just is identical to the sum of, say, oxygen, two hydrogens, and some shared electrons between them. And in that case, water just is identical to the plurality of its parts. And so to say the plurality of its parts sustain the water in being is just to say the water sustains the water in being, which is either tautologous or incoherent. We ostensibly cannot identify something wholly external to the water (i.e. something not identical to the water, and something which isn't a proper part of the water, since

            (a) a proper part cannot sustain a whole in being since there are other proper parts of which the whole is composed.

            (b) if we say that a chain consists of sustaining causes where by sustaining causes we allow a sustaining cause to be a proper part, then we face the absurd claim that the terminator of the series could be a proper part of that which is being sustained, but God isn't a proper part of something else.

          • Jim the Scott

            So many mistakes but it is a heroic try. I respect that. (I hope the blog doesn't eat my reply but I saved it)

            >Except we do have an answer. Firstly it is crucial to point out that primitive/bottom level features of our casual reality are neither analyzable into nor obtain in virtue of more fundamental/basic facts at the metaphysical ground-bottom. In response to your general concerns I think it's important to point that even if a specific bottom level fact as I have presented here lacks explanation, that would not by itself invalidate an explanation of persistence in terms of existential inertia. From a general understanding of explanations and necessity, it is typically not a condition on legitimate and metaphysically deeps explanations that a deeper explanation for every statement in the prior explanation always be ready to hand, or even that it exist at all. Merely from the fact that something does not obtain in virtue of any deeper facts, it doesn’t follow that it is utterly devoid of explanation, since (plausibly) some things are explained in virtue of the metaphysical necessity of their obtaining.

            I reply: Well I can’t directly analyze wither let us say one googolplex plus one is greater than a mere googolplex because that number is so absurdly huge I cannot as a matter of practicality “disprove” the claims of a Mathematical irrationalist who wants to claim certain absurdly high numbers have mysterious properties that make them immune
            to normal mathematical axioms. This is argument by special pleading and it doesn’t move me. An essential series needs a first cause. If a top down series is somehow infinite then it is really an accidental series and would still need a cause to exist outside of it to be. That really can’t be avoided.

            >Let me illustrate why I am unsatisfied with your/Feser's objections in response to existential inertia, as well as my issues with sustaining causes as present in the first 3 ways. Let's use the example I used earlier in the thread and that Feser uses in Five Proofs specifically the coffee cup. Feser argued that coffee is kept in existence by its constituent molecules, which in turn are maintained in existence by atoms, which are held together by subatomic particles. But this is not a hierarchical causal chain because the subatomic particles are not distinct from the coffee: rather, they comprise the coffee. There is yet to be identified anything distinct from the coffee that causes, or sustains, or actualizes its current existence. The same can be said of particles, such as electrons.

            Fallacy of composition you might as well claim this 200 foot building is made of 10 inch bricks therefore it must be 10 inches tall. The fact the building is composite implies it must rely at the bottom to something absolutely physically and metaphysically simple to cause it to be ultimately..

            >Even granting (which I'm unwilling to do, but this is for the sake of argument) that such causes can be considered sustaining causes.

            Which causes? Formal Causes vs efficient ones? Material ones? Final ones? I wish to know so you don’t equivocate.

            >We can trace essentially ordered causal series with regard to causes of existence, say, as follows: me, caused by my organ systems, caused by my organs, caused by my tissue, caused by my cells, caused by the molecular machinery of proteins and carbohydrates and lipids, each of which caused by atoms and atomic bonds, each of which caused by protons and neutrons and physical forces, each caused by quarks, in turn caused by (let's suppose) strings. Even granting such a conception of sustaining causation, why not suppose the terminus of this per se causal chain is "strings"?

            How are strings pure act? How is their existence identical to their essence? As I have heard string theory explained they clearly have form and are thus composite even if we don’t know what makes them up and when the physical world effectively terminates to the non-physical. Also yer argument presupposes this is known by Empirical investigation alone. In principle empiricism will hit a wall and nothing can go beyond it. Just as we will get tired of counting to a googolplex or the universe will have been long dead Quadrillions of times its lifespan and we won’t get there but the shortcut applying the math axioms is valid and I don't have to waste my time in the void counting long after the heat death of the universe. What is composite needs something simple at the bottom.

            >What's required is an unactualized actualizer. The mere presence of an unactualized actualizer doesn't get one to *pure* actuality.

            This statement is absurd? I think you misspoke here? That is like saying 0+1 doesn’t get us to one. By definition is does & an unactualized actualizer is pure act. By definition. It is like telling me my name is Jim not James well it is both. BTW can we drop the term “pure actuality” as that is actually a slang term for pure act not the correct technical term?

            >All it gets us to is "something which actualizer the potential for other things to exist, but itself is not actualized to exist."

            Yeh pure act. This reminds me of an Atheist named One Brow I once disputed with. You are making his mistake. I likened an essential series to a caboose which can’t be pulled by an infinite series of boxcars but needs to terminate in a locomotive. He than proposed we
            Could fit mini motors on each boxcar and it would pull the caboose the giving an example of an essential series that is infinite. I pointed if he does that he is merely turning the boxcars into locomotives and not solving the problem. You are doing the same.

            >But notice "is not actualized to exist" is entirely compatible, it seems, with having the potential for non-existence.

            No that is incoherent. Existence by definition cannot not exist without contradiction and incoherent. Otherwise how is it existence? This is as one Feser Fanboyz said recently a product of the disease of reductive/Nominalist thinking. Thomists don’t really buy the theistic personalist Semi-scientific theism argument/question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” It is an absurd question. In principle there cannot really be absolute nothing.

            >But notice "needing to be actualized" is utterly different from "can be actualized, but does not in fact happen to be actualized." So it seems without any way to rule out the latter scenario, one cannot even get "purely actual with respect to existence." It's a whole other story how one traverses the gap between "purely actual with respect to its existence, and purely actual simpliciter with respect to everything."

            M'eh? Nominalists? What can you do with them? You are equivocating and I cannot see you are giving me a coherent objection?

            >Feser is doing the former & the later is kind of not relevant to the validity act/potency distinction because all you are showing is a change in time. My objections revolving around Cambridge change applies

            No he is not and Cambridge change applies because Oppy’s examples are not examples of real change.

            >And my objections are against the idea that there are such things as sustaining causes.

            Yes and you are not really giving me a concrete example of existential inertia. At best you are giving me an existential inertia of the gaps. We can’t get to the physical limits of reality and if we could how would we know we are there by physical means alone? We can't in principle. We can’t count to a googolplex either on the practical level. So we reason and use valid philosophy.

            >I don't see how appealing to Cambridge changes applies here.

            He is not giving me any examples of real change. That simple.

            >1, and I would encourage you to watch the other video I linked from Oppy where he deals with this objection. Feser in the chair example is appealing to when such things began to exist, not their persistence or sustenance in existence. The place from where I came was my mother's womb. I've existed ever since then. My mother's womb doesn't sustain me in existence;

            You and he are persistently confusing accidental change with essential & accidental and essential causal series. Father begs a Son who doth bets another son is a classic Thomistic example of an accidental causal series and all Thomist believe can have no formal beginning or end and be infinite.

            >it was merely a temporally prior condition that was the efficient, beginning cause of my existence. Its causal activity, however, is not sustaining me in existence at present. Similarly, as Oppy points out regarding the chair it is just the prior conditions which led to the beginning of the existence of the particles which compose it. That is not an identification of something which sustains those particles or fluctuations in existence after they have already begun to exist.
            Aquinas explicitly writes in most of his causal proofs for God's existence "in the sensible world we find an order of efficient causes" or "we observe a chain of motion". Such claims form the basis of his proof, since without the observation of a chain of efficient causality (of motion, or what have you), the sense experience data which forms the basis/beginning of the rest of the proof simply isn't available because it isn't actually observed. The claim that there is, indeed, a chain of efficient causation or motion then becomes wholly unjustified. We certainly see linear chains, but per se, essentially ordered chains is what he attempts to say we observe. Yet, we don't observe sustaining causes of existence, and thus the premise that such chains exist is unjustified. Thus, it undercuts the justification for the assumption that such chains even exist in the first place, which thereby undercuts the entire argument for God's existence.

            No you are making the category mistake of confusing a quantitative investigation with a qualitative one so this response is invalid and doesn’t answer the issue.

            >Why does the object exist here and now or at any time is not answered?

            See my above points in regards to existential inertia. The component of an object X at T can seemingly easily be explained by the temporally prior state and existence of X, or the components of X, in conjunction with the absence of sufficiently destructive causal factors operative.

            Oppy is giving me Circular reasoning & I think he is missing the point. He and you are IMHO “answering” the first way by ignoring it’s argument. (Not on purpose I believe) Feser is right.

            >I respectfully disagree. Oppy (and myself) in this thread are responding to the proof by pointing sufficient undercutting defeaters that should allow us to cast doubt on the efficacy of the argument.
            I am pointing reasonable objections for why we can doubt the existence of sustaining co-current causes.

            You are making a lot of mistakes and all I can do is point them out. I can’t convince you against yer will but it was a good try but I am unconvinced I find yer attempted defeater incoherent and flawed.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            Part II

            But I can conceive of a Universe without a formal beginning being an accidental causal series going on forever from forever. But why does it exist now?

            This is a question that is more in-line with Leibnizian Contingency Arguments. Since we already are covering many topics with our discussion on the First Way, for now I can only refer you to Oppy's views on the subject with are mostly in-line with mine:

            https://philarchive.org/archive/OPPUNC

            You seem like Oppy to be wanting to argue the Kalam with us not the First Way?

            I don't see how you can interpret this from my responses? I know most online Atheists confused the First Way with the Kalam due to the inability to understand the difference between accidentally ordered casual series and an essentially ordered series, but if you go through my comments here, and some of the prior comments I made, I specifically have been making objections to the idea of sustaining causes, which is what an essentially ordered series is based on. I also cited some of the examples Feser has been using as well. If you think I am wrong on this, I would appreciate a correction, but in my view, I do think I (and Oppy) to be directly attacking the metaphysical assumptions that are pertinent to First Way, namely sustaining concurrent causes.

            .... is an accidentally ordered series not an essential one. It is that simple and that is where you and Oppy go wrong. Thomists all believe you can have an infinite accidental series.

            Thank you for the clarification, but I don't see how this supports your point. As you know an accidentally ordered series won't get you to a purely actual actualizer, since an accidentally ordered series can have existence non-derivatively, meaning a first cause in the past could merely be causing a finite (with regard to time) universe while the universe'a material is pre-existent. Prof. Felipe Leon points out that even under the Kalam (which I recognize you are not arguing, see my above response), the principle of material causality rules out creation ex nihilo, since everything with an originating or sustaining cause of its existence has a material cause of its existence. Prof. Paul Draper points out we only experience things beginning to exist within time, not with time itself. Plus, in an accidentally ordered series, nothing rules out multiple first causes, and this is even supported by observations of causally isolated (when traced back) portions of the universe.

            "Here and now. You are not really addressing that. You are coming up with creative ways to avoid it IMHO but I don't doubt yer good will. I blame out unstated metaphysical assumptions for the confusion between us as you said in yer first post."

            I once again will have to contest this, as (in my view) I believe I have provided reasonable explanations to demonstrate explanatory power within existential inertia. I will refer you to some of the other comments in this thread, where I expand on this. For now I can note that one may argue that it is in virtue of the natures or essence of things to persist in existence until acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist. This is how Feser, for instance, takes radioactive decay to be compatible with the PSR and causal principles. There is no particular event or occurrence in virtue of which a given atom of a radioactive isotope decays after a given amount of time T. Rather, the objective tendency for such an atom derives from, is grounded in, or is true in virtue of the very nature of the radioactive isotope in question. The quantitative probability of decaying within after T, then, is simply a reflection of and is grounded in the very nature of the isotope qua the isotope it is — it is its objective tendency or characteristic behavior to do so. Similarly, perhaps it is the objective tendency or characteristic behavior of the natures of substances qua substances, once in existence, to persist in existence unless acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist.

            As to your latter point, I do agree that we both have unstated metaphysical assumptions in this area, so do forgive me if I am I misinterpret or mis-characterize something. Thank you for your patience for clarifications in well. I will note for background, I place myself firmly in the skeptical analytic tradition with J.L. Mackie, J.H. Sobel and Graham Oppy. While I am most familiar with analytic and Neo-scholastic Thomism, I do recognize there are branches such as Existential Thomism with Gilson and Prof. John F. Knasas today, as well well as transcendental Thomism. I am not familiar with these latter traditions, so if you are a proponent of their views, I do apologize for my misunderstandings.

            So all you are showing me is an unchanged singularity that needs an explanation as to why it exists at any given point in time and given it’s nature it is clearly composite since it contains everything in our physical universe.

            This gets into a whole different discussion about Naturalist explanations of reality as a whole. While I believe I have provided significant philosophical defeaters to the First Way, I can briefly provide some insights on my views in regards ultimately Naturalistic explanations. On the power theory of modality, we can explain necessary truths by
            appealing to powers, or more precisely lack of powers, instead of internal Now let us consider the proposition "the initial segment/singularity exists". Was or is there anything having a power to bring about the falsity of this proposition, or a power to bring about something having a power to bring about the falsity of it and so on No, because (i) a thing can be prevented from ever coming into existence only by things existing before it, and (ii) there was, by definition, nothing existing before the initial segment. Therefore according to
            the power theory of modality, "the initial segment/singularity exists" is necessarily true. Furthermore, since it is also the case that the object in question, namely the initial segment/singularity, cannot fail to exist, we get not only a de dicto necessity but also a de re necessity, namely that the initial segment necessarily exists. Thus we have a metaphysical reason why the initial segment has necessary existence.

            So I am unconvinced as well but it was a good effort on yer part. Well done.

            I appreciate your comments. Though, I do believe we are going to be an impasse here, as in my view, I do believe I have provided persuasive philosophical defeaters in the face of sustaining concurrent causes, and thus have shown Davies' thesis and the first way it is built on to be untenable, and you of course, disagree. However, I don't believe there are such things as clear-cut refutations in philosophy,and I can also recognize that individuals of good will, who are reasonable and ration can disagree with me as with this case here. At the very least, I can hope to least demonstrate the reasonableness and rationality of skeptical philosophy of religion in responding to Thomism/Davies/First Way. Unfortunately due to the restrictions on my comments, my general apathy in dealing with Strange Notions, and other such responsibilities, I don't know how much I will be able to pursue future discussions here, but I do once again express my gratitude for your participation in the discussions thus far and apologize for any instances where I may have misunderstood or characterized your points.

          • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

            Part II

            But I can conceive of a Universe without a formal beginning being an accidental causal series going on forever from forever. But why does it exist now?

            This is a question that is more in-line with Leibnizian Contingency Arguments. Since we already are covering many topics with our discussion on the First Way, for now I can only refer you to Oppy's views on the subject with are mostly in-line with mine:

            https://philarchive.org/archive/OPPUNC

            You seem like Oppy to be wanting to argue the Kalam with us not the First Way?

            I don't see how you can interpret this from my responses? I know most online Atheists confused the First Way with the Kalam due to the inability to understand the difference between accidentally ordered casual series and an essentially ordered series, but if you go through my comments here, and some of the prior comments I made, I specifically have been making objections to the idea of sustaining causes, which is what an essentially ordered series is based on. I also cited some of the examples Feser has been using as well. If you think I am wrong on this, I would appreciate a correction, but in my view, I do think I (and Oppy) to be directly attacking the metaphysical assumptions that are pertinent to First Way, namely sustaining concurrent causes.

            .... is an accidentally ordered series not an essential one. It is that simple and that is where you and Oppy go wrong. Thomists all believe you can have an infinite accidental series.

            Thank you for the clarification, but I don't see how this supports your point. As you know an accidentally ordered series won't get you to a purely actual actualizer, since an accidentally ordered series can have existence non-derivatively, meaning a first cause in the past could merely be causing a finite (with regard to time) universe while the universe'a material is pre-existent. Prof. Felipe Leon points out that even under the Kalam (which I recognize you are not arguing, see my above response), the principle of material causality rules out creation ex nihilo, since everything with an originating or sustaining cause of its existence has a material cause of its existence. Prof. Paul Draper points out we only experience things beginning to exist within time, not with time itself. Plus, in an accidentally ordered series, nothing rules out multiple first causes, and this is even supported by observations of causally isolated (when traced back) portions of the universe.

            "Here and now. You are not really addressing that. You are coming up with creative ways to avoid it IMHO but I don't doubt yer good will. I blame out unstated metaphysical assumptions for the confusion between us as you said in yer first post."

            I once again will have to contest this, as (in my view) I believe I have provided reasonable explanations to demonstrate explanatory power within existential inertia. I will refer you to some of the other comments in this thread, where I expand on this. For now I can note that one may argue that it is in virtue of the natures or essence of things to persist in existence until acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist. This is how Feser, for instance, takes radioactive decay to be compatible with the PSR and causal principles. There is no particular event or occurrence in virtue of which a given atom of a radioactive isotope decays after a given amount of time T. Rather, the objective tendency for such an atom derives from, is grounded in, or is true in virtue of the very nature of the radioactive isotope in question. The quantitative probability of decaying within after T, then, is simply a reflection of and is grounded in the very nature of the isotope qua the isotope it is — it is its objective tendency or characteristic behavior to do so. Similarly, perhaps it is the objective tendency or characteristic behavior of the natures of substances qua substances, once in existence, to persist in existence unless acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist.

            As to your latter point, I do agree that we both have unstated metaphysical assumptions in this area, so do forgive me if I am I misinterpret or mis-characterize something. Thank you for your patience for clarifications in well. I will note for background, I place myself firmly in the skeptical analytic tradition with J.L. Mackie, J.H. Sobel and Graham Oppy. While I am most familiar with analytic and Neo-scholastic Thomism, I do recognize there are branches such as Existential Thomism with Gilson and Prof. John F. Knasas today, as well well as transcendental Thomism. I am not familiar with these latter traditions, so if you are a proponent of their views, I do apologize for my misunderstandings.

            So all you are showing me is an unchanged singularity that needs an explanation as to why it exists at any given point in time and given it’s nature it is clearly composite since it contains everything in our physical universe.

            This gets into a whole different discussion about Naturalist explanations of reality as a whole. While I believe I have provided significant philosophical defeaters to the First Way, I can briefly provide some insights on my views in regards ultimately Naturalistic explanations. On the power theory of modality, we can explain necessary truths by
            appealing to powers, or more precisely lack of powers, instead of internal Now let us consider the proposition "the initial segment/singularity exists". Was or is there anything having a power to bring about the falsity of this proposition, or a power to bring about something having a power to bring about the falsity of it and so on No, because (i) a thing can be prevented from ever coming into existence only by things existing before it, and (ii) there was, by definition, nothing existing before the initial segment. Therefore according to
            the power theory of modality, "the initial segment/singularity exists" is necessarily true. Furthermore, since it is also the case that the object in question, namely the initial segment/singularity, cannot fail to exist, we get not only a de dicto necessity but also a de re necessity, namely that the initial segment necessarily exists. Thus we have a metaphysical reason why the initial segment has necessary existence.

            So I am unconvinced as well but it was a good effort on yer part. Well done.

            I appreciate your comments. Though, I do believe we are going to be an impasse here, as in my view, I do believe I have provided persuasive philosophical defeaters in the face of sustaining concurrent causes, and thus have shown Davies' thesis and the first way it is built on to be untenable, and you of course, disagree. However, I don't believe there are such things as clear-cut refutations in philosophy,and I can also recognize that individuals of good will, who are reasonable and ration can disagree with me as with this case here. At the very least, I can hope to least demonstrate the reasonableness and rationality of skeptical philosophy of religion in responding to Thomism/Davies/First Way. Unfortunately due to the restrictions on my comments, my general apathy in dealing with Strange Notions, and other such responsibilities, I don't know how much I will be able to pursue future discussions here, but I do once again express my gratitude for your participation in the discussions thus far and apologize for any instances where I may have misunderstood or characterized your points.

          • Jim the Scott

            Part II response
            >This is a question that is more in-line with Leibnizian Contingency Arguments. Since we already are covering many topics with our discussion on the First Way, for now I can only refer you to Oppy's views on the subject with are mostly in-line with mine:
            https://philarchive.org/arc...

            Thanks bro. You are the best.

            >I don't see how you can interpret this from my responses?

            I think it is as you say we are talking past each other.

            >I know most online Atheists confused the First Way with the Kalam due to the inability to understand the difference between accidentally ordered casual series and an essentially ordered series, but if you go through my comments here, and some of the prior comments I made, I specifically have been making objections to the idea of sustaining causes, which is what an essentially ordered series is based on.

            But I don't think you succeeded. More soon....

            > I also cited some of the examples Feser has been using as well.

            The trouble with his analogies is some people don't treat them like analogies but like unequivocal discriptions. It is the bane of our Moderate Realistic descriptive language.

            > If you think I am wrong on this, I would appreciate a correction, but in my view, I do think I (and Oppy) to be directly attacking the metaphysical assumptions that are pertinent to First Way, namely sustaining concurrent causes.

            I don’t deny that is yer good intention but I am having trouble seeing yer counter examples as true examples of essential series. They all look like modified accidental series? It’s One Brow and his boxcars with motors on them solution.

            .>Thank you for the clarification, but I don't see how this supports your point. As you know an accidentally ordered series won't get you to a purely actual actualizer, since an accidentally ordered series can have existence non-derivatively, meaning a first cause in the past could merely be causing a finite (with regard to time) universe while the universe'a material is pre-existent. Prof. Felipe Leon points out that even under the Kalam (which I recognize you are not arguing, see my above response), the principle of material causality rules out creation ex nihilo, since everything with an originating or sustaining cause of its existence has a material cause of its existence. Prof. Paul Draper points out we only experience things beginning to exist within time, not with time itself. Plus, in an accidentally ordered series, nothing rules out multiple first causes, and this is even supported by observations of causally isolated (when traced back) portions of the universe.

            Then Aquinas correctly predicted you cannot in principle prove the Universe or creation in general had a formal beginning using science or philosophy which is my starting point and Aquinas’. The examples you give me seem to be all accidental series. In terms of scientific investigation Science will hit a wall and even then it cannot rule out behind that wall is another hidden physical natural cause but in principle with the essential series it musts terminate at pure act.

            >I once again will have to contest this, as (in my view) I believe I have provided reasonable explanations to demonstrate explanatory power within existential inertia.

            It reads like a gap argument. The String is the terminus? Well it might be the physical one we can’t go beyond and in principle behind it might be another hidden physical principle but it must terminate in pure act which has no physical or metaphysical composition. A googolplex plus one must be higher than one even if it is impossible to count that high.

            I will skip a bit for brevity. I hope you don't mind. But I want to get to the nub.

            >Similarly, perhaps it is the objective tendency or characteristic behavior of the natures of substances qua substances, once in existence, to persist in existence unless acted upon by some external entity which causes them to cease to exist.

            Except I don’t think the question “Why there is something rather than nothing?” is a valid question. It treats nothing as the default that requires “Something” to fight against it. This is a mistake (like the Paley types make with Evolution vs the common sense of Final Cauality) the metaphysically Mechanistic oriented Theists make and it is nonsense. Existence is the default not non-existence. Thus Existence Itself at the bottom of all other thing with being and essence must be physically and metaphysically simple which makes it Pure Act and we take that to be God. It is that simple. Non-existence is not the default. Existence Itself is its own explanation as to why it exists so the PSR is satisfied. God cannot be his own cause but He is His own reason to be.

            I am going to skip some more to yer kind words if you don’t mind for brevity.

            >I appreciate your comments. Though, I do believe we are going to be an impasse here, as in my view, I do believe I have provided persuasive philosophical defeaters in the face of sustaining concurrent causes, and thus have shown Davies' thesis and the first way it is built on to be untenable, and you of course, disagree. However, I don't believe there are such things as clear-cut refutations in philosophy,and I can also recognize that individuals of good will, who are reasonable and ration can disagree with me as with this case here. At the very least, I can hope to least demonstrate the reasonableness and rationality of skeptical philosophy of religion in responding to Thomism/Davies/First Way. Unfortunately due to the restrictions on my comments, my general apathy in dealing with Strange Notions, and other such responsibilities, I don't know how much I will be able to pursue future discussions here, but I do once again express my gratitude for your participation in the discussions thus far and apologize for any instances where I may have misunderstood or characterized your points.

            No problem. Same with me. The pleasure sir was all mine. You are a stand up guy and you have been a great challenge. I feel like brain broke a sweat. Nice.....

            Cheers.

            PS if the Blog eats any of our posts I am gonna take it up with Brandon. I promise to be very nice about because that would be charitable and I don't want to be banned.

            :D

          • Ficino

            Thus Existence Itself at the bottom of all other thing with being and essence must be physically and metaphysically simple which makes it Pure Act and we take that to be God. It is that simple. Non-existence is not the default. Existence Itself is its own explanation as to why it exists

            I have puzzled over Aquinas' frequent quotation from the Book Of/About Causes: "the first of created things is being (esse)." Usually he says that created things participate in being, or that an act of being is given to them. What do you think he supposes is meant by being's being the first of created things?

          • Jim the Scott

            If God creates something by definition it is "a being" that is distinct from its essence. It partakes of being ergo it exists after the fashion of a created thing. That is if I interpret what you just quoted literally based on what I already know. I recommend you ask the professionals if you want a more firm answer. (Feser or Dr. B).

            Cheers.

          • Ficino

            Having just finished Aquinas' commentary on the De Anima, I think I'll start working through his commentary on the Book of Causes. I understand that that work has neo-Platonic influences and shows affinities with Proclus, so it will be interesting to see what the saint does with it.

          • Jim the Scott

            Double Cheers.

          • Ficino

            I have puzzled over Aquinas' frequent quotation from the Book Of/About Causes: "the first of created things is being (esse)." Usually he says that created things participate in being, or that an act of being is given to them. What do you think he supposes is meant by being's being the first of created things?

            In answer to my own above: By the time Aquinas gets to lectio 4, he is talking about the second neo-Platonic hypostasis. So the "being" (esse) of created things in this lectio is that of the separated intelligences, which are below the One that in neo-Platonism is beyond being.

          • Ficino

            This has nothing to do with real change which is subject to the act/potency distinction... A red chair that is red at T1 & is found to be red at T2 has not undergone a change in color so it's potential to be unchanged in color need not be actualized because no real change in color takes place between T1 & T2 other than change in time.

            It's not clear how you're treating Cambridge changes and temporal changes within A-T. In an earlier article, Dr. Bonnette said that time is one of the axes on which things are reduced from potential being to actual being:

            "Change may be merely a difference in position, size, shape, quality, relation, time [my bolding], quantity, and so forth. Still, even trivial change, be it submicroscopic or merely imaginary, entails “new existence.” “New existence” is any existential perfection or reality at all which comes into being and was not there before."

            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            Wouldn't the chair's potential to be red at time T2 need to be actualized, so that at T2 the being of its color is actually red? If I was wrong to think that Dr. Bonnette meant that something that was F at time T is new with respect to time if it's F at time T + n, I'd like to know that. I thought Dr. Bonnette would want an actualizer other than the chair to get the chair to be actually red at T2. Otherwise, we get newnesses, of which God is not the first cause.

            My understanding of a Cambridge change is that it is a function of a relation between B and A, in which A undergoes a proper change and B does not - as when the dog walks around the chair, so that the chair without moving was on the left of the dog but now is on the right of the dog. But if we're considering the being of the chair as colored (or of its surface), without considering some other substance related to the chair, is the chair when it "reaches" time T2 in act w/ respect to its potency to be a red chair at time T2?

          • Jim the Scott

            >It's not clear how you're treating Cambridge changes and temporal changes within A-T.

            Well I read the chapter on Time in Feser's new book ARISTOTLE's REVENGE.
            It should be obvious that change is concurrent with time and time presupposes change but it is not time causing the change.

            In an earlier article, Dr. Bonnette said that time is one of the axes on which things are reduced from potential being to actual being:

            >"Change may be merely a difference in position, size, shape, quality, relation, time [my bolding], quantity, and so forth. Still, even trivial change, be it submicroscopic or merely imaginary, entails “new existence.” “New existence” is any existential perfection or reality at all which comes into being and was not there before."

            I retort from ARISTOTLE's REVENGE.

            Though time presupposes change, it is not identical with change, as is evident from the fact that change can have features that time does not (Bittle 1941, p. 204; Phillips 1950, p. 119). Local motion, for example, can be vibratory or rotational, but it makes no sense to attribute such characteristics to time. A movement can speed up, slow down, cease temporarily and then start up again, with time continuing to pass at the same rate. A change can be reversed without time reversing. For example, when I walk from one side of a room to the other and back again, or when my skin turns red from a sunburn and then returns to its normal color, I don’t thereby go from time t1 to time t2 and then back to t1.

            Feser, Edward. Aristotle’s Revenge . EDITIONES SCHOLASTICAE. Kindle Edition.

            I further quote:

            "Time, again, is the measure of change with respect to succession. If I say that a banana both turned brown and began to smell bad, I have numbered the changes it underwent at two. But I have not thereby numbered time, as I would be if I said that the banana first turned brown and then began to smell bad after a further two days. Just as time cannot be identified with change, though, neither can it be identified with succession (Phillips 1950, p. 119). Numbers succeed one another, but not temporally. Los Angeles is north of San Diego and south of San Francisco, but this is a matter of spatial rather than temporal succession.

            Feser, Edward. Aristotle’s Revenge . EDITIONES SCHOLASTICAE. Kindle Edition.

            I don't see the contradiction? They seem to be discussing two different things?

            >Wouldn't the chair's potential to be red at time T2 need to be actualized, so that at T2 the being of its color is actually red?

            Absolutely not since it is not really changing color. This is clearly Cambridge Change not real change. If Plato grows 2 inches taller than Socrates we can say Socrates' height ratio has "changed" in respect to Plato but Socrates hasn't grown. This argument from Oppy is clever Sophistry (not that I am accusing him of doing that on purpose) but it is not a valid example of existential inertia. He is merely giving elaborate examples of Cambridge change. Nothing more.

            >If I was wrong to think that Dr. Bonnette meant that something that was F at time T is new with respect to time if it's F at time T + n, I'd like to know that.

            Except Dr. B is clearly taking about examples of real change not Cambridge change. Changes in a thing's "position, size, shape, quality, relation, time [my bolding], quantity, and so forth. Still, even trivial change, be it submicroscopic or merely imaginary, " but none of those examples are of Cambridge change. At best the only change for the red chair is time which is certainly real in the sense time cannot go backwards to stop.

            Real change creates a new existence.

            > I thought Dr. Bonnette would want an actualizer other than the chair to get the chair to be actually red at T2. Otherwise, we get newnesses, of which God is not the first cause.

            I really don't see how that follows?

            >My understanding of a Cambridge change is that it is a function of a relation between B and A, in which A undergoes a proper change and B does not - as when the dog walks around the chair, so that the chair without moving was on the left of the dog but now is on the right of the dog.

            Or a Red Chair at T is still Red at T1 and T2 and the only change here is time not the chair. The Chair is B and Time is A.

            >But if we're considering the being of the chair as colored (or of its surface), without considering some other substance related to the chair, is the chair when it "reaches" time T2 in act w/ respect to its potency to be a red chair at time T2?

            Well unless during that time you throw a paint ball at it then no potency is being made act in respect to color other than the flow of time and Aristotelians can have a metaphysical definition of time distinct from other definition found in physics or Einstein etc......

            Just like "movement" is some potency reduced to act by something already in act vs "He moved! I saw him move" regardless of how you model physical movement in physics.

            Time is an interesting subject here and at the end of am indifferent to its modelings as long as it is moderate realism of some sort.

          • Ficino

            OK, thanks. I haven't read Aristotle's Revenge, though I have read a lot of Feser's other stuff (don't remember if he talks about Cambridge changes elsewhere). The Wikipedia definition of Cambridge change seems to put the cart before the horse; as I understand it, it's not a CC because of time T2's showing x is not F when at T, x was F, but because y is ~F at T and is F at T2, and y is in relation to x at both times. We're saying the same thing, I think.

          • Jim the Scott

            Cheers.

          • Jim the Scott

            additionally:

            Dr B says in his essay

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

            Sounds like real change not Cambridge change to me? He and Feser are on the same page relatively speaking. Granted not all Thomist across the board or across the different schools believe the same thing and as far as I can tell Dr. B and Feser are relatively in the Traditional School of Thomism.

            But even within the schools there are minor variations. It is not all uniform dogma...

            Anyway Dr. B is discussing where the change initially comes from and that we take to be God.

      • Jim the Scott

        @dennisbonnette:disqus

        At 142:59 Feser answers specifically answers Oppy'a the chair at T and T+1etc

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-80lQOlNOs&ab_channel=CapturingChristianity

    • Jim the Scott

      I am the Davies fanboyz so I will take this on. This response contains a major flaw or two(but I salute the heroic effort and attempt to formulate a philosophical defeater & not waste my time with a recycled anti-ID non-starter argument. THANK YOU!).

      If God is not a moral agent then the term "theodicy"doesn't apply at all and in principle cannot apply. In the modern sense a Theodicy is a moral justification for an omnipotent divine being's (who is conceived as a being who is unequivocally moral as compared to a virtuous rational creature being moral) inaction in the face of evil or allowance of it to exist. Anybody who reads Davies closely would know this as he repeats this often enough.

      If God is not a moral agent then God doesn't need a theodicy. To call Davies response or solution to the problem of evil a "Theodicy" is a fallacy of equivocation & confusing of his terms. It is a solution to the POE but the solution is not a theodicy in the modern sense in which it is used.

      (granted there is some confusion because the term "theodicy" in classic Thomism merely refers to the philosophical justification for belief in God's existence. It has nothing to do with God being a moral agent or morally justifying God in the face of POE. Davies addresses the later meaning which came about post enlightenment. This is a mistake Stephen Law once made with me before he kicked me out of his comments box....that was so entertaining).

      It is like if you somehow came up with an air tight refutation of let us say the Kalam Cosmological argument then turned triumphantly to a Pantheist and said "Well?". Well I predict he would not be impressed since the Kalam only applies a Creator God and a Pantheistic God is not a creator but is what we take the creation to be. So that is a category mistake.

      God created us as moral beings so we have a duty and obligation to our nature to be moral and it is perfectly reasonable for God to demand morals from us & by nature it is of itself needed for our own good and we cannot return the favor to Him. I mean a landlord can in principle demand rent from a tenant but it is absurd to say a landlord must pay a tenant rent. If that happens then how is he a landlord(which has nothing to do with him offering rebates or refunds so don't equivocate. I won't have it.)?

      >On a more practical note of reasoning it's worth noting that most ordinary Catholics would reject the view of God you have. Catholics typically see God as a loving father who presides over and protects his children.

      The spiritually immature and uneducated believe a lot of wrong things. Some young Atheists who think themselves scientists I've argued with in the past actually thought the Big Bang is a literal explosion somewhere in infinite space and that the point of that explosion was "the center". I think they where reading the same GoldKey Star Trek comics I read as a child. In short no that is not it at all......

      Saints in their spiritual writings are all implicitly or explicitly convinced that by nature they have absolutely no right to demand anything of Deity but God has an absolute right to demand of us. I hope to by grace obtain their level if not in this life then in Purgatory. Thus one doesn't take God's loving Fatherhood to be unequivocally the same as the fatherhood of one's male parent which is the obvious essential flaw to yer whole critique and largely invalidates it IMHO. That is you are making unequivocal comparisons between God and creatures not analogous ones. Yer not even making ones Dun Scotus would approve of...but Thomist are rather strict on this.

      >The leap from the uncontingent, ground of all being, who is pure actuality and not limited in any way to theology of the incarnation seems to wide to cross.

      Only to the intellectually limited who try to conceive of it in strictly materialistic terms and not by the terms of Apophatic theology which is the sole criteria to understand it. Anything outside of this is not Catholic and I will not even consider such an argument as you would be arguing against something other than my God and I don't care about yer refutation of a "god" neither of us believes in.

      Finally as a note to why yer criticism of Davies fails I offer the following analogy. Christian Theodicist are having a thermal nuclear war with Atheists that they are trying to win. Davies and Classic Theists are the WHOPPER computer who correctly concludes in Nuclear War the only winning move is not to play. But I date myself with the WARGAMES reference.

      Cheers.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Why do you believe that a being that is 'amoral' created beings to be 'moral'?

        • Jim the Scott

          So long.

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            My question has nothing to do with why God does x or y, but why do you believe there's a God at all? You seriously find the question of why you believe what you believe stupid? Why? Is it stupid to believe in a God? Do you have a stupid reason for believing in a God? If not, then tell me why you do believe.

            You are making the Atheists here with sensible and legitimately challenging questions look bad.

            Is it sensible to believe in a God? If so, then why? My questions do appear to be legitimately challenging because you are unable or unwilling to answer them. Are your beliefs reasonable? If not, then we are truly done. If your beliefs are reasonable then give me the reasons why you hold them.

          • Jim the Scott

            *Yawn!*

        • Jim the Scott

          Yawn..

        • Jim the Scott

          Alright let me be serious now. Could you please go away? Because I think yer constant spamming is causing the blog spam filter to kick in. Skeptical Thinking Power's post was eaten and it was pretty good!! Way better than the nonsense you and yer little friends have been posting. I want to engage a challenging Atheist.

          If he kicks my ass I can learn from that to make better arguments. That is not gonna happen between us. You don't know anything about philosophy that is at all interesting.

          So please step aside for yer betters.

          Ka'ay? Because if you don't you sabotage some real Atheists trying to drop some knowledge.

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Because I think yer constant spamming is causing the blog spam filter to kick in.

            Yet you are replying to all my comments with "What?".

            I want to engage a challenging Atheist.

            You are. And he posed a challenging question to you that you simply cannot or will not answer. And that question is: "Why do you believe Thomism is true?"

            If he kicks my ass I can learn from that to make better arguments.

            So he is and it's hurting you that one simple question can destroy your foundation for Thomism.

            That is not gonna happen between us.

            Because you keep running away from simple questions.

            You don't know anything about philosophy that is at all interesting.

            I know simple questions are threatening to you.

          • Jim the Scott

            What?

      • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

        Thank you for the response.

        > To call Davies response or solution to the problem of evil a "Theodicy" is a fallacy of equivocation & confusing of his terms. It is a solution to the POE but the solution is not a theodicy in the modern sense in which it is used.

        My apologies. I believe you are correct on this matter. I am mostly within the analytic tradition of philosophy of religion and in this context I follow Plantinga, Lewis and Mackie in defining theodicy as any broad attempt from a theist perspective to respond to the problem of evil. When characterizing Davies' project as a theodicy, I was only doing so in categorizing it as a general project on the POE, not stating anything regarding it's specific content. However, in analytic philosopher, precision and clarity of language is valued, so I once again apologize for my sloppiness.

        God created us as moral beings so we have a duty and obligation to our nature to be moral and it is perfectly reasonable for God to demand morals from us & by nature it is of itself needed for our own good and we cannot return the favor to Him.

        I will take my cue from Nick Trakakis and Ben Bavar and draw upon some of their critiques with regards to Davies' view. You can find a lot of this originally in Trakakis' book "The God Beyond Belief", which I referenced in another comment and from Ben Bavar's work within Real Atheology.

        The problem with this view of God creating us with distinct natures is that it leads to tension with God's own conception of goodness (as Davies' understands it). I am sure you and Davies' would agree that it would be wrong for God to input a moral law in our nature that applies to all moral beings and then command that we act against it (an instruction to perhaps torture innocent children for example). If this is true, then would it not be wrong for God to create a law in our nature that applies to all moral beings and command us not to act against it, while at the same time regularly acting against the law himself in his dealings with us?

        Now of course, the classical Thomist response would state that the natural law only applies to beings in virtue of their belonging to a certain kind or kinds and God does not belong to any kind of being, and so natural law does not apply to him. But I (and both Trakakis and Bavar) find this response unsatisfactory because if God is said to be rational, then it is in virtue of his being rational that the same (moral) natural law applies to God as to ourselves.

        The spiritually immature and uneducated believe a lot of wrong things.

        I am not going to deny the content of your message. I even second the subsequent comments, specifically that most "New" Atheists, or those who belong to the online skeptic community are philosophically inept and usually don't know what they are talking about when engaging with philosophically trained Christians. A classic example is the debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig at Biola, where Hitchen's simply was not able enough to deal with Prof. Craig's robust philosophical defenses and arguments. This of course, is sadly to be expected in a lot of cases. However, the fact that most Catholics today don't have a "right" view of God is something that is surprising. It seems that the majority of Catholics today would fall under the purview of "spiritually immature and uneducated" and it's worth nothing that this problem has been an issue since the beginning of Christianity.

        One can simply look at Origen and his work Contra Celsum. In it, Origen is countering the writings of Celsus, a pagan philosopher, and controversialist who had written a scathing attack on Christianity in his treatise The True Word. Origen responds to Celsus's accusation that Christians denigrate reason and education in favor of faith by arguing that, while Christians do believe things on the basis of faith, this faith can be rationally justified; however, because few people are interested in the philosophical justification behind the religion, it is not normally taught, except to the wise.

        The fact that within Christianity only a select few have been able to have a concrete understanding and philosophically cogent understanding of God is something should warrant some more explanation. While I appreciate popular attempts like Bishop Barron's "New Evangelization" I don't see the issue resolving itself anytime soon.

        Thus one doesn't take God's loving Fatherhood to be unequivocally the same as the fatherhood of one's male parent which is the obvious essential flaw to yer whole critique and largely invalidates it IMHO. That is you are making unequivocal comparisons between God and creatures not analogous ones.

        I think one can push back against this by offering some critiques of the Thomistic theory of analogical predication (which I assume had it's early origins from the via negativa as developed by Pseudo-Dionysius and the Divine Names). I think there are some good critiques of the notion of intrinsically analogous concepts. Generally, if we want to have some similarity in meaning this would mean we would have to require at least partial sameness in meaning and hence an element of univocity in the terms we use to describe God and Human beings.

        Given this, it seems that (as Prof. Gary Gutting suggests) there is can be no intrinsically analogical terms, because any proposed examples of such terms can always be analyzed in such a way that their meaning is partly univocal and partly equivocal, so that the appearance of irreducible analogy is eliminated. The problem then becomes that either the terms used of God and of creatures are least partly univocal, so that there is enough commonality of meaning to constitute them as related in meaning, or they are not, in which case they share no common meaning are thus purely equivocal.

        Prof. Gutting then notes that this presents a dilemma for anyone who wants to utilize the Thomistic theory of analogical predication. Either our knowledge of God must be accounted for in some way other than merely by means of His relations to creatures and we are owed some account of how direct knowledge of such an allegedly transcendent being is possible. Or religious language is clearly meaningless, since the common terms we apply to God on the one hand and creatures on the other turn out to be homonymous.

        A lot of the above is drawn from Prof. Gutting's excellent work Religious Belief and Religious Skepticism, which I would highly recommend.

        Only to the intellectually limited who try to conceive of it in strictly materialistic terms and not by the terms of Apophatic theology which is the sole criteria to understand it.

        It is worth noting that whether there is point of commonality between creaturely actions or properties and Divine ones is something classical theists give different answers to. Thomas and Davies will want to claim that any commonality is analogical, yet many classical theists deny and challenge this. Take for example the Five Ways, which show that we can make assumptions of God's attributes. Despite what Davies' likes to imply these are not negative attributes though in a common sense way they differ from those of creatures, however creatures do so between themselves e.g. the difference between a human and angel’s mode of knowing (one can argue this is analogical and argue well but it is still not a negative attribute).

        Christian Theodicist are having a thermal nuclear war with Atheists that they are trying to win. Davies and Classic Theists are the WHOPPER computer who correctly concludes in Nuclear War the only winning move is not to play.

        The problem with this view is that it still doesn't really answer the charges of the Atheist. My methodology/epistemology in the philosophy of religion is heavily influenced by Richard Swinburne and J.L. Mackie, mainly the utilization of Bayesian/abductive/inductive reasoning. A Bayesian analysis of Davies' response to the POE shows reveals some significant weakness. Generally when looking at a specific hypothesis and its relation to a given piece of data (in this case Davies' view of God and COVID-19) we can analyze this through the application of assigning relevant prior and posterior probabilities. The prior probability refers to the probability of a given hypothesis before a specific piece of evidence is taken into account. The posterior probability refers to a hypotheses' probability given a relevant piece of data. What a Davies' response does regarding the POE is raise the posterior probability, at the cost of lowering the prior probability immensely. While Davies' view may provide an explanation for evil, it does so by defining God as wholly other and radically different from other standard conceptions of God. So sure, a Davies' inspired Thomist can refuse to engage in the standard discourse around the POE, however this comes with consequences that lower the probability of their hypotheses, as compared with Naturalism/Atheism. Also, I believe that many of the arguments that Thomists provide to demonstrate their purus actus conception of God are unpersuasive, which is perhaps the most important critique.

        • Jim the Scott

          No problem with yer mistakes on Davies. It makes you more credible to own them & I don't hold it against you. Davies is from the school of Analytic School of Thomism while Feser and Dr. B are more the Traditional School. I lean towards that myself as an amateur. Also I am told by Feser Davies attempts to harmonize Aquinas’s doctrine of being with Frege’s understanding of existence.

          >The problem with this view of God creating us with distinct natures is that it leads to tension with God's own conception of goodness (as Davies' understands it).

          Davies like all Thomist of any school believes that God is not required to create at all. God does not have to make any specific world and God could have always made a better world than any world he would choose to make? So I don't know where this comes from? God has a conception? That sounds rather anthropomorphic for either Davies or Thrakakis?
          God knows Himself and Wills His own goodness and that is all.

          >I am sure you and Davies' would agree that it would be wrong for God to input a moral law in our nature that applies to all moral beings and then command that we act against it (an instruction to perhaps torture innocent children for example).

          Naturally.

          > If this is true, then would it not be wrong for God to create a law in our nature that applies to all moral beings and command us not to act against it, while at the same time regularly acting against the law himself in his dealings with us?

          There is no unequivocal comparison here? God could command us to slay the Canaanite children since all life belongs to God and only He can take it or authorize its taking but God could not command us to sodomize the children to death. So that is yer first mistake. God cannot command us to do what is intrinsically evil in an of itself. He cannot command us to torture the innocent.

          >Now of course, the classical Thomist response would state that the natural law only applies to beings in virtue of their belonging to a certain kind or kinds and God does not belong to any kind of being, and so natural law does not apply to him.

          Except that Thomists in general and Davies has said specifically in passing God could not order us to rape children to death or torture babies. So I don't think you will find any school of Thomist not just the analytics who would claim God directly violates natural law.

          > But I (and both Trakakis and Bavar) find this response unsatisfactory because if God is said to be rational, then it is in virtue of his being rational that the same (moral) natural law applies to God as to ourselves.

          Which at best would mean God cannot will to attack his own divine nature or command what is intrinsically evil be done by rational creatures. God according to Davies can be said to be the formal cause of evil but never the direct. Also I wonder if you are making the mistake of making unequivocal comparisons between God and Creatures? Davies and all Thomist argue that in comparing God to creatures. The Creatures are something like God but God is nothing like His creatures. A statue of General Lee is something like Lee but Lee is nothing like a statue.

          I see this as a way to redefine God as a moral agent unequivocally like his rational creature and that is a straw man as an answer.
          What is futile about this is something an Atheist on a message board told he fellows. He said you cannot argue with a Theistic Evolutionist by trying to persuade him Genesis must be taken literally. Because you are forced to put on the hat of a Fundamentalist Christian apologist. Convince him that type of god exists before you turn around and attempt to undermine it with scientific polemics against young earth creationism. It is kind of a waste of time getting me to believe any Moral Agent "god" exists. Toward such a being all Thomists are Atheists.

          End of part One.

    • Jim the Scott

      PS: while I am at it.

      >Potentials to remain unchanged do not require distinct actualizers;

      *Cough! Cambridge Change/properties alert! *Cough! No I am not sick. The air is dry and I am wearing a mask.

      :D

      It is not just Atheist critics of Thomism who fail to make this distinction. William Lane Craig did it too with Feser as well.

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

      • Skeptic_Thinking_Power

        I would highly recommend this video here which deals with this subject:

        https://youtu.be/watXa8KXJIE

        • Jim the Scott

          STP.

          I don't want to sound like too much of a snob but this kid is an ungrad and I need to read a professional at my age. I may be an amateur myself but I am one with 30 years of knowledge ahead of this boy. I went to the channel and found a link to young master Joe Schmit's blog and found a written criticism of Classic Theism which I prefer to deal with as it allows me to answer directly written text.

          found here.
          https://majestyofreason.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/a-plethora-of-prima-facie-problems-for-classical-theism/

          I already found several really really big mistakes. I will cite one. His objections to Divine Simplicity and the Trinity. Yikes! To his credit he gives the correct textbook definition of DS as understood by Catholics but he makes the grave mistake of failing. to realize although DS excludes any real physical or metaphysical distinctions in the Divine Essence it doesn't there by exclude all real distinctions such as Mysterious Ones in said essence. After all it is called the doctrine of the Mystery of the Trinity. Also he is taking the term "Person" much too unequivocally. A divine person is a Subsisting Divine Relation not a divine attribute (or unequivocal to a human person) which is the only way his objection could even in principle make sense. A DR would operate the divine essence and subsist in the divine essence & be really distinct in a mysterious way from its opposing DR but a divine relation is not a divine attribute. A divine relation is a real relation as such it has an opposing relationship to make it real. Like I can't call myself a Father unless I really did have children in some real sense. You cannot in principle have one divine relation in the essence at minimum you need two but we only can know how many divine relations exist by divine revelation only and not by any natural theology.

          Anyway If you look at his formal argument (1) is ill defined & incorrect. He doesn't specify the nature of the real distinction or even that it is a real distinction. Even between the divine attributes there are logical and notional distinctions. Which is why we say the DS doesn't mean God condemns with his Mercy but forgives with his Wraith. It is not like there are no "distinctions" at all. (2) Since he fails to identify the nature of the real distinction between the divine relations he fails to understand how they are really distinct and really identical. Both are God but one person is not the other to put it simplistically but correctly (3) Doesn't follow since they are identical in essence but distinct one to the other within the essence as real relations. (4) Since they possess the one divine essence they do have all the divine attributes but their divine relations are what is distinct. The Father is not the Son who is not the Father and neither are the Spirit who is not the Father or Son.

          Also I could kvetch about the glaring mistakes he makes about the incarnation.
          I will say this positively about his essay. He is respectful and is trying to take the subject seriously but he doesn't have the knowledge as of yet to be competent. Give him another 10 years. I am old and cynical and I can't read something I have to spend time correcting before I can "refute" it.

          But the lad is sincere and trying to make an honest effort. That is obvious.
          But when yer entire four point argument is just factually wrong.......send him back to the drawing board.

          PS I might listen to the video but I don't hold out much hope it can make any meaningful arguments. I prefer to read but I do confess my hypocrisy. I make others watch videos when I don't feel like typing a long arse response. So I don't hold this against you either my friend. ;-)

          Respects! And Peace be with you.

    • Jim the Scott

      @dennisbonnette:disqus
      Like my Boarder Scot ancestors I sometimes like to steal things. Where as they stole sheep I steal responses. My latest raid comes from a fellow named Daniel from over at Feser blog in wake of his discussion with Oppy. I think he gets to the nub of it. I reproduce his words here with edited.

      I am tagging in Dr. B too.

      Oppy is specifically criticizing Ed's Aristotelian Proof and even more specifically, his formal rendering of that proof in steps 4 to 7.

      These are:

      4-No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
      5. So, any change is caused by something already actual.
      6.The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
      7. The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S's potential for existence.

      So in the discussion, they are arguing about point 4-No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).

      Oppy is claiming in his article that this is not true. His counter claim is that A thing that has a potential to remain unchanged need not have a cause. It merely needs to remain un-interfered with.

      Ed's counter point is simple - this is just another way of saying that a thing's potential will remain un-actualized unless something actual, actualizes it [which I would interject is Cambridge Change not real change if the chair stays red]- or to put it in Oppy's words, something interferes with it. Ergo, point 4 is not challenged.

      Oppy then retorts that any move from T to T2 must involve change[which I would interject is just a change in time not the thing]. And the case he has specifically in mind is a change to the universe as a whole. He believes the universe does not need an external changer. Lots of stuff just carries on because they are unchanging. And there is a second category of stuff that is changing - where he admits that this is the place where there are things that causing other things to change. He claims that Ed's position is that there is something outside of the universe required to explain change.

      Note that Oppy has suddenly changed the topic from act and potency to change. He is no longer talking about the principle of causality in Ed's point 4. And Ed calls him on it.

      Oppy - Go back to the case of the chair. Think about at a particular time. Lets pretend we have discrete moments where you have T and T+1. So, at a certain time, the chair has the potential to be red at T+1. Do we need ... I think that so long as nothing else happens, the chair will be red at T+1. That potential will be realized. Unless there is something... unless... in the absens of anything... right... any other factors, it will go on being red from T to being red at T+1. And we don't require something to realize that potential.

      What Oppy appears to miss here, and what Ed tries to point out, is that the act potency discussion is not merely about time from T to T1, but also about all the layers of act and potency required to be in place for a thing to remain unchanged from T to T1. Eg. the molecular structure of the chair, the laws of physics, etc.etc... all have to be actual for the chair's potential to remain unchanged to be realized in actuality. And those hierarchical layers of regress, each layer of which much be actualized, within T and T1, are all part of this explanation.

      After Ed explains all of this, Oppy makes the following concession:

      Maybe that principle, now that I've stated it that way is similarly subject to charges of being the same as what you say, but I'm not sure.

      1:51 - Oppy responds to Ed in this way Taking what you said, so we have got the redness being constituted by something else - lets run with the argument with the something else. Now you might say OK but that in turn is constituted by something further, .... does that sort of constitution form an infinite regress? I assume not so it is going to bottom out. Now the only thing that is going on here that is preventing me from pointing to the level at which it bottoms out is my ignorance about the ultimate physical level - whatever it is. But I would just point to that. And now we run the argument and you can't make the same reply because you can't say that physical level is constituted by some lower level because there isn't one. Right - so either we are going to infinite regress or I am going to have something to point to even though I can't do it because physics isn't in a state that enables me to do that.

      As I mentioned before, everything that he says here is in agreement with Ed's premise 4. Where they would clearly disagree about, and where they unfortunately ran out of time, is how to characterize that bottom level. Oppy says it is some physical thing and only physics can provide answers about it - maybe simples, maybe quantum fields, etc...but no need to look further than that. Ed would clearly disagree and point to the need for a purely actual actualizer to explain this most bottom physical layer of reality and appeal to metaphysical categories that Oppy has rejected, but did not have time to get into details about.

      But both of them, I think would agree that whatever that bottom layer is, it would be the sustaining cause of the universe.END QUOTING Daniel.

      You can read the rest here.
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2020/02/discussion-with-graham-oppy.html?showComment=1581215052490#c2530695823364267720

      PS I hope Daniel doesn't mind me ripping him off? But it is in a good cause and it is better than me taking his Sheep like we did in the old times.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me, despite all of the above, that in Catholicism or any religion that believes in an all-good creator who intervenes in some instances but not others to prevent evil, there will always be questions as to why God does not intervene in particular cases. Whether or not God is a "moral agent," there will always be horrendous tragedies that occur that raise in people's minds the question, "If there is an all-good, omnipotent God who could have prevented this, why didn't he?"

    For some (although not me) the answer will be that an all-good, omnipotent being would not have stood by and let such an evil occur. To people who feel that way, it seems to me all the philosophy in the world will not answer the question. The only "answer" is that even the Catholic Church has no explanation for most particular instances where God's help is requested and not given. The Catholic Church has no explanation why God is allowing the current pandemic even as millions are praying to God to bring an end to it.

    In terms I think have been used by others here, I believe what I am saying is that even for those who claim the problem of evil has been successfully dealt with, the mystery of evil still remains.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "The only "answer" is that even the Catholic Church has no explanation for most particular instances where God's help is requested and not given."

      Yet, a very Catholic explanation of what you describe already does exist in the history of the Church and in the faith of many devout Catholics. I am sure you know it yourself. It is inscribed in French on the side of the casket of St. Bernadette Soubirous where her mortal remains lie for public view in Nevers, France.

      The words are what St. Bernadette reported that the Blessed Virgin said to her when she appeared to her at Lourdes in 1858: "I do not promise you happiness in this life, but in the next."

      Of course, the words were addressed to Bernadette, personally, and not to the whole world. But it does give an insight that Catholics should remember when prayers appear not to be answered.

    • Jim the Scott

      David NickoIs - I am happy somebody actually listens to me. Somebody who has the mental fortitude to chew the meat and spit the bone of my jackass prattling. You made my day and I defer to Dr. B and St Bernadette.

      OTOH I might add since there is a mystery of evil there is also a mystery of good. Why create rational beings and offer eternal life and redemption in the first place to them?

      God doesn't need to do it to be All Good yet why offer this charity? Perhaps the joy comes in contemplating the mystery?

      I gave up the Molinist solution to grace and free will in part because Lagrange said for Thomists it is a mystery to ponder not a puzzel to solve and that is elegant and beautiful to me. The Transcendent is All.

  • God Hates Faith

    "In more dramatic terms, might God have planned a world in which earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis would occur -- or even a Covid-19 virus would evolve -- for the greater good of reminding mankind that life is short and he still has need for his Creator?"

    Assuming there is a greater good from natural disasters is a post hoc rationalization. But even if I assume such a premise, the conclusion doesn't necessarily follow that THIS exact level of suffering is necessary to achieve the greater good. When a child suffers and dies from a natural disaster (no free will involved), there is zero reason to assume that whatever "good" that might come of it couldn't have come from something that causes less suffering to the child.

    So, one must make two giant assumptions to maintain this myth: (1) greater good always comes from suffering; (2) this exact amount of suffering was necessary for this particular greater good. However, when the humans mind wants to rationalize something, no matter how irrational, it can.

    The biggest problem in monotheism has been to justify suffering. One must either believe in trickster type deity, like Loki, or make irrational assumptions without any evidence.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "If this god wanted greater good, and he is all-powerful, why can't he just do it without suffering!?! Can this god only create "good" this way?
      To assume that this god HAD to make it the world this way, is either a limit to his power, or is yet another unsupported assumption."

      As I said at the end of the OP, how one looks at evil in the world depends on one's more basic metaphysical viewpoint. You think God's existence, power, wisdom, and goodness are mere theist assumptions.

      But to the theist, God's existence and attributes are truths that can be known by unaided reason. He cannot help the fact that skeptics do not know that.

      Given the theist perspective, I have already answered your objection elsewhere:

      "Since God is infinitely good and powerful, it necessarily follows that any evil that God permits in this world must have a greater good that results from it. Being infinitely powerful and knowing all future events, God’s goodness could not permit that evil should occur unless greater good is foreseen to ensue from it.4 The fact that we cannot conceive of such a greater good in many cases does not demonstrate that God is evil, but rather that our finite minds cannot understand the inscrutable nature of God’s providential plans.5"
      https://strangenotions.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/

      To the classical theist, what you call " a TON of irrational assumptions without any evidence" is simply a matter of what the philosophical sciences of metaphysics and natural theology have already apodictically proven.

      You really have not added one iota of insight to what I already clearly stated in the last paragraph of my essay above.

      • God Hates Faith

        But to the theist, God's existence and attributes are truths that can be known by unaided reason.

        You can't define the attributes of a deity into existence. Your "unaided reason" is based on assumptions. LOTS of them.

        You really have not added one iota of insight to what I already clearly stated in the last paragraph of my essay above.

        Maybe not to you. But to some, they don't realize how many giant assumptions one has to make to believe in your conclusion. They may not realize that there is no evidence, to support your conclusion, only tautologies.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Of course, all you see is assumptions, since you do not know the substance of the philosophical sciences of metaphysics and natural theology. Every step in them that you do not understand look like assumptions to you.

          I really cannot help what you do not know.

          • God Hates Faith

            Actually I do know those things. I was a theist most of my life until a few years ago.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So, are you now an atheist or an agnostic? I can understand one coming to doubt God's existence for many personal reasons or because of exposure to erroneous philosophies.
            But to actually make the leap to the conclusion that God does not exist requires accepting as true some principle or logical move that is false or invalid, and thus requires an act of the will that is not justified by the evidence.

            By the way, you say you do know those things. Since I mentioned knowing the substance of metaphysics and natural theology, does that mean you actually have taken such courses at the college level? And I do not mean some mere history of philosophy course that includes reference to such thinkers as Aquinas, but rather have you had an actual systematic presentation of the sciences themselves?

          • God Hates Faith

            I am an agnostic atheist (I do not believe in a deity, but do not claim to know there are not deities).

            But to actually make the leap to the conclusion that God does not exist requires accepting as true some principle or logical move that is false or invalid

            That depends on how you define God, and how you define knowledge. One could argue that you cannot know there isn't a god eating penguin.

            Theology has been a life long interest. I have done a lot of reading on my own. I have taken some classes in theology as undergrad, but went to law school for my formal education.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I am an agnostic atheist (I do not believe in a deity, but do not claim to know there are not deities)."

            That is a little confusing to me. Usually, an agnostic is defined as one who does not know that there is a God, while the atheist is one who knows that there is not a God. So, your usage appears self-contradictory. On the other hand, if you simply mean you have no personal belief in a diety, but make no claim that God does not exist, I would say that you are simply an agnostic, but not an atheist.

            As to how you define God, it is chic today for agnostics to say they do not believe in "a god," as if all definitions were on the same level. But, if you study the history of philosophy in the last two millennia, you will find that all the major philosophers who claim to be atheists are rejecting the God of classical theism. Even those, such as Spinoza, who still claim to accept God, but are pantheistic as in his case, will clearly say that they reject God and define him in classical terms as the same God accepted by Christianity, but without any revealed attributes, such as the Trinity.

            "Theology has been a life long interest." The rational demonstrations of God do not belong to theology, but to philosophy. "Theology" conventionally refers to revealed theology, which is really supernatural religion. There is a philosophical science called natural theology, but that is not what virtually all thinkers call theology. The real question I was asking about pertained to specifically philosophical sciences.

            I do sincerely appreciate your explaining your personal positions and background.

          • God Hates Faith

            In my experience, there are as many definitions of "god" as there are believers. I understand the definition of classical theism, but even then there are numerous interpretations.

            I understand your definition of theology, but I meant it in a much more general sense. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theology

            The real question I was asking about pertained to specifically philosophical sciences.

            Again, some formal education in undergrad. Mainly studied on my own.

            On the other hand, if you simply mean you have no personal belief in a diety, but make no claim that God does not exist, I would say that you are simply an agnostic, but not an atheist.

            The common definition today is that "gnostic" and "agnostic" refers to knowledge; while "theism" and "atheism" refers to belief. So, one can not believe, but not claim knowledge. Here is nice chart I stole from the internet, that is commonly used...

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0b9c61a223cee89b7e6386981e6319944c3cd48f8ba171da4290aad992b84030.png

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There really is no need for us to get too concerned about whose definitions we are using.

            That said, though, I would hope to explain some points about the history of this terminology. First, if you talk about the meaning of God in Western Philosophy, there absolutely is a well-defined meaning, which is evinced by the fact that major philosophers have virtually unanimously referred the same understanding for the term, "God." It is exclusively monotheistic and defines a purely spiritual all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing Creator of all finite beings.

            For that same reason, historically universities have distinguished between theology and philosophy departments, with the major distinction understood between those sciences dependent on some form of divine revelation in the former as opposed to those sciences dependent on natural reason alone in the latter. In fact, all the particular natural sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, were for many centuries considered as subdivisions of the philosophy of nature. This is the explanation of the origin of the doctor of philosophy degree, which to this day covers everything from all the natural sciences to all the various humanities. The Ph,D. simply means a "teacher" of philosophy, which is essentially the same meaning of the M.A. or M.S. degrees, which initially referred to one being a teacher.

            Following the rise of Protestantism, universities became more secular. Therefore, their faculties, which formerly were centered on those of theology, tended to replace theology with philosophy as the "master science," leading to the evolution of the modern Ph.D. degree as the highest degree offered.

            Traditionally, the term "atheist" was reserved to those positively denying God's existence, whereas "agnostic" referred to those who were unsure about God's existence, and possibly everything else as well. "Agnosticism" is understood as epistemological position, since it refers to one's state of knowledge, whereas "atheism" refers to an ontological position taken opposed to belief in God.

            But, I can now understand, from your chart above, how and why you described yourself as an agnostic atheist.

          • God Hates Faith

            Thanks for that explanation.

      • VicqRuiz

        it necessarily follows that any evil that God permits in this world must have a greater good that results from it. Being infinitely powerful and knowing all future events, God’s goodness could not permit that evil should occur unless greater good is foreseen to ensue from it

        Assuming that you are correct here, in what way (if any) would it be wrong to say that God chooses what to permit and what not to permit in order to result in "the greatest good for the greatest number" ?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          God can do or make anything. But a contradiction in terms or being is not a genuine "thing," as in the case of the square circle.

          Similarly, would you be the unique person that you are if you appeared an another universe with different parents and so forth? That is why there is an antecedent necessity for some things and events, such that unless A occurs, B cannot occur.

          So it is that, if God wills the good of your eternal existence in heaven, it may be necessary that your unique parents exist -- even though one of them gets the death penalty for freely being a serial killer! (Fictitious example, I hope!) Thus God necessarily permits antecedent freely chosen evils which are necessary so that the good of your successful existence can take place.

          Applied to the cosmos as a whole and all the billions of persons found in this unique creation, many evils may be necessarily permitted so that divine providence can ordain that the greater good intended by this unique creation can come to pass. And, of course, he is perfectly free as to which universe he chooses to create.

          Unless we are God ourselves, we cannot second guess the ultimate reasons for the free choice God made in creating this universe of creatures and the ultimate good that it entails. I cover some of this kind of analysis in the epilogue to my book, Origin of the Human Species - Third Edition, 212-213.

  • God Hates Faith
    • Dennis Bonnette

      Your comment here does not address the specific question as to why skeptics and theists interpret Covid-19's evil so diversely. You are merely raising once again the traditional problem of evil which I have addressed elsewhere.

      This chart looks like simple alternatives, but many of these choices are not simple at all. For example, the assertion that God could have created a universe with free will, but no evil, entails some very complex assumptions and consequences. Frankly, I have already treated these objections in those other essays that detail the complex interconnections of these overly-simplistic alternatives. I suggest you reread them and then explain how your chart covers every detail I treat in the following articles on Strange Notions:

      https://strangenotions.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/

      https://strangenotions.com/hell-and-gods-goodness/

      • Jim the Scott

        Also it all presupposes a God who is a moral agent in the unequivocal way a virtuous rational creature is a moral agent.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Why presuppose a God at all?

          • Jim the Scott

            What?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Why presuppose a God at all?

          • Jim the Scott

            Why?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Exactly. Why?

          • Jim the Scott

            Where?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Where?

            do you believe God exists and why do you believe it exists anywhere?

          • Jim the Scott

            Why?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Exactly. Are you convinced that Thomism is true? If so, why?

          • Ficino

            As far as I've gotten, I think the theory of Act-Potency is the make or break point. Is it true, that some x cannot become F, unless it is brought to be F by some y that is already F?

          • Jim the Scott

            >I think the theory of Act-Potency is the make or break point.....

            Yes you are correct. Thought the rest of that sentience I can't make heads or tails of what it means?

            But some people don't want to answer the important questions. They are addicted to trivialities.

          • Ficino

            the rest of that sentience I can't make heads or tails of what it means?

            I was trying rephrase the PPC, as an application of the Act-Potency distinction.

          • Jim the Scott

            K'ay..thanks guy. Cheers.

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            What convinced you that the theory of Act-Potency is valid?

          • Ficino

            I am not so convinced.

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Sorry, I thought you were a Thomist.

          • Jim the Scott

            Who?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            You.

          • Jim the Scott

            What?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            You.

          • Jim the Scott

            Where?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            You don't know where you are either? lol

          • Jim the Scott

            What?

          • I Came To Bring The Paine
          • Jim the Scott

            What?

          • I don't know how you put up with JtS.

      • God Hates Faith

        For example, the assertion that God could have created a universe with free will, but no evil, entails some very complex assumptions and consequences.

        Its ironic that your counter-argument is that MY conclusion is based on complex assumptions...

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I did not expect my essay to be accepted by those who do not understand and accept the philosophical sciences of metaphysics and natural theology.

          The point of the essay is to lay out the outline of the position of the classical theist, not to demonstrate each and every step in the sciences supporting it. That is the work of several university courses. That is also why all you see is assumptions here. But I was not trying to give the reader all the underlying science -- merely an outline of the reasoning made by theists.

          Just like I included near the end the position of the skeptics, whose underlying arguments I also deliberately did not judge. Here is what I said of your position:

          "One must first grasp that to the agnostic, atheist, or skeptic the existence of an all-good, all-knowing God may simply not be viewed as a real rational possibility. I say this not to challenge such persons’ individual reasons for their rejection of all proofs for God’s existence. "

          • God Hates Faith

            But I was not trying to give the reader all the underlying science -- merely an outline of the reasoning made by theists.

            I understand you were preaching to the choir, but I thought I was allowed to discuss and challenge your reasoning. If you want the comment section to simply be an echo chamber, then my apologies.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not think it was preaching to the choir to conclude that one's take on Covid-19 depended on where one was coming from philosophically.

            Unlike the expected reacting of skeptics to such evil news, the theistic acceptance of its role takes some explaining -- even if the outline of explanations full foundation could not possibly be proven and defended in such a short essay.

            My main conclusion was that you cannot use Covid-19 either to prove or disprove God, but rather that your "take" on it depends on your general philosophical stance.

          • God Hates Faith

            I understand your position. But I was challenging your position. However, if you don't wish any challenge of your justification, then I won't.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are most welcome to challenge my philosophical positions on anything. My only point was that this particular piece was not aimed at defending the opposing positions as much as just trying to show that their reading of Covid-19 was really a product of their a priori positions.

            But if you want to examine a more complete defense of God's existence and goodness in spite of the reality of evil, I have two prior essays devoted directly on that topic -- one dealing with how to approach the problem of evil in general and the other dealing with the special question of Hell.

          • VicqRuiz

            I did not expect my essay to be accepted by those who do not understand and accept the philosophical sciences of metaphysics and natural theology.

            That's a revealing comment, Dr. Bonnette. And with all due respect to you, this site is held out to be a "central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists", not an online graduate seminar in theology or philosophy. There are no scholastic prerequisites for participation here, only a reasonable degree of civility.

            In my time I have met and talked with quite a few Christians whom we would both probably characterize as "not well educated". They believe because their parents believed, because their culture believed, because they had what they are certain was a spiritual experience.

            They "just believe" without any particular grounding in the deeper theological principles of their faith. And I accept that without objection.

            I do not insist they read and refute Spinoza or Hume or Comte or Russell before speaking up in defense of their faith. However, I find that when the roles are reversed the same courtesy is not always granted to those who "just do not believe".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I should not have said that I did not accept my essay to be accepted, since in fact its point was to show that one's interpretation of the Covid-19 virus was conditioned by his prior intellectual commitments. That is why I cited my own wording from the essay:

            "One must first grasp that to the agnostic, atheist, or skeptic the existence of an all-good, all-knowing God may simply not be viewed as a real rational possibility. I say this not to challenge such persons’ individual reasons for their rejection of all proofs for God’s existence. " DB

            I was not challenging either position in the essay as much as trying to point to the fact that our divergent worldviews conditioned how we read the virus's meaning to us.

            My reference to metaphysics and natural theology pertained to the intellectual underpinnings of the theistic position. I did not give the atheistic or agnostic underpinnings, but notice that I did say I was not challenging "such persons' individual reasons for their rejection of all proofs for God's existence."

            So, I recognized the existence of intellectual arguments on both sides of the fence: theist and agnostic or atheist.

            Of course, both Christians and atheists have members who are not scholarly specialists, just as the also have experts in philosophy and other relevant sciences.

            I don't expect that everyone will want to get into the complexities of philosophical debate on this web site. Nonetheless, you WILL find plenty of skeptics who do not hesitate to do so, including sharp intellectual critiques of Thomism. So, I would say it is fair game from both sides, which is precisely the kind of intellectual dialogue this site encourages. But that still does not forbid less scholarly exchanges as well.

            Still, what is one to do with the Catholic doctrine that says things like "the existence of God can be known by the light of unaided natural reason?" I don't know how either believers or skeptics can address such a doctrine without getting into the technical issues found in metaphysics and natural theology.

            Still, despite the intellectual battles we see here, it is obvious that people are free to believe or not. In fact, in some cases, you will find people saying that they simply do not share the same starting points -- and thus choose to disagree, hopefully, without being disagreeable.

          • VicqRuiz

            Still, what is one to do with the Catholic doctrine that says things like "the existence of God can be known by the light of unaided natural reason?"

            I suppose it depends on what one means by "unaided". I would interpret that to mean that a person of average intelligence and average educational level would possess the competence. You may disagree, and yes, we can agree on that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I believe "unaided" simply means without the aid of supernatural revelation. That is, by the natural reasoning process. I am not sure, but I do think a later clarification after 1900 indicated it was by reasoning from effects back to cause. I am sure the Council Fathers did not mean every Catholic had to be able to do this, but the dogma merely requires that a Catholic believe it can be done. Clearly, persons of average educational level probably could not fully do the Five Ways! But it means that some people can do it.

            The Council Fathers did even consider using the language of "it could be proven," but rejected it, since people of good will might well not understand such reasoning through no fault of their own. Gabriel Marcel did work on this and properly insisted that, just because one could not assent to such a proof, this did not indicate any presence of bad faith on his part.

            But there can be many reasons for people personally believing in God that rest on a rational basis, such as the conviction that the reality of an objective moral law requires a diving lawgiver, or, perhaps, this or that or the multitude of miracles the Church has provided down through history.

            The Church is well aware that we human beings come in a wide variety of individuals and believes that God can penetrate the hearts and minds of all of us in one way or another. It need not be by scholarly effort alone, since we don't get to heaven through intelligence, but through virtue and grace.

          • Ficino

            the reality of an objective moral law requires a diving lawgiver

            So it's been Poseidon all this time we should have been heeding!

            Sorry, couldn't resist. Carry on, gents.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Good catch! Should have known something was fishy there.

            That's what I get for not rereading my brilliance. :)

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm an agnostic/deist, not an atheist. I no longer use the latter term for myself because in today's USA, "atheism" has come to be almost exclusively identified with a rigidly materialistic determinism and with authoritarian socialism, and I decline to associate myself with either. I am personally a right-libertarian with a strong belief in free will.

            I tell you this as background for my admission that I find the moral argument for God to be far and away the most plausible one, and that I prefer to live in a society where objective morality rather than societal/peer pressure establishes the standard of conduct. No doubt you are aware of Mill's famous comment that "If all mankind minus one .....", and I hold that idea dear to my heart.

            Nonetheless I remain an agnostic/deist because after years of listening, reading and thinking, I find that I am unable to accept the God of the Old and New Testaments as the source of that morality. You might suggest in response that I am presuming to judge God by my own standards, and to that I reply "Yes. Yes, I would agree that is precisely what I am doing."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now you raise some extremely points that I appreciate you explaining.

            "I am personally a right-libertarian with a strong belief in free will."

            If you take free will seriously, it seems to me you cannot hold, as you point out yourself, a "rigidly materialistic determinism."

            I often begin an ethics class by focusing on free will. Since students today usually have no "context" for ethics from metaphysics or philosophical psychology, I use free will as a point of departure to try to frame that context through another line of reasoning. It goes something like this:

            If you accept free will, you cannot really be a materialist, since materialism is inherently deterministic. Subatomic particles have no choice about their behavior. The only people who dispute this are usually people giving the Copenhagen interpretation to the Uncertainty Principle. But that is based of a failure to grasp that the indeterminacy is epistemological, not ontological. So, real materialism implies no free will.

            But, if free will is neither material nor dependent on matter, it must be spiritual. So, where does it come from? Unless you think your spirit is eternal, it had to have a beginning. But unlike material things, spirit cannot come from prior matter. This means for it to begin to be is for it to be created ex nihilo et utens nihilo, that is, from nothing.

            But to create from nothing requires infinite power. Infinite power cannot reside in a finite being. So, an infinite being must exist. And there we have God.

            Just for a starter. Does any of this make sense to you?

          • VicqRuiz

            As of now, there is no knowledge, nor any way to attain knowledge, about what if any physical conditions existed prior to the big bang. Given that, the hypothesis of an ex nihilo creator is as tenable as any other.

            I've certainly granted as much in many past discussions with theists and non-theists.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But I was not focusing on a creator of the physical universe. Rather, I am pointing to the need for a creator of your spiritual soul of which your free will is part. Since nothing can give what it does not have, this creator would have to not only be spiritual, but also personal, since your free will is a component of your personhood.

            Moreover, does not your possible deism say that this deistic God would cause the world and then have nothing further to do with it? But, if it is creating new spiritual souls all the time that men are born, does not that involve a deistic God in greater intimacy with his creation than mere deism would allow?

          • VicqRuiz

            Did all aspects of my personhood come to me as an individual from the creator?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Everything in every creature ultimately comes from God as the source of all limited beings. But some things have been influenced through the action of secondary causes. Thus, your soul and spiritual faculties of intellect and will come directly from God, but you body comes to be through the material causality of your parents, who may have given you a possible genetic defect that is produced directly from a secondary cause, even though God sustains that secondary cause in existence and activity.

            In practice, that means when you pick up a cup of coffee, you could not do it without God sustaining your existence and your physical causality over the cup -- but it is YOU who is picking up the cup. Is it really surprising that metaphysics gets a bit complex?

          • Ficino

            But I was not focusing on a creator of the physical universe. Rather, I am pointing to the need for a creator of your spiritual soul of which your free will is part.

            Jumping in.

            1. Are not humans, in A-T, constituents of the physical universe? So what you say about the human soul falls into an account of the physical universe.
            2. Stepping away from A-T assumptions, it needs to be established that the predicate, "spiritual", applies to some things in nature. It is not clear how we know that something in nature is "spiritual." And if the spiritual thing is outside nature, then it needs to be established that its properties are possessed by humans, who are acc to A-T in "nature."
            3. The biggie is how the creature's will makes decisions, or acts of moral choice, or whatever we call "prohaireseis," autonomously from the causality of the first cause, given that in A-T, the first cause is the cause of every series of causes ordered per se. Since acts of the will are caused, it follows that they are in some way the effects of the causal power of the first cause, since no subordinate cause is FIRST cause of its own effects. It does not help to say that the virtue of the first cause operates upon the creature according to the mode of existence of the creature, since it begs the question to assert that the rational creature has free will - that is precisely the point in question.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You can jump in, but my style of answer to VicqRiiz was designed to be at the level he seemed to want much earlier:

            "And with all due respect to you, this site is held out to be a "central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists", not an online graduate seminar in theology or philosophy."

            So, I am deliberately not trying to cross all my scholarly "t's" in my reply to him. That is why I am speaking very broadly without trying to define terms as tightly as you and I often do.

            That said, I was taking his own strong support for free will as a premise and a given for all my other comments. That is why I suggested the will is free, while matter is usually read as deterministic. And it is spiritual because, being free, it cannot be like matter which is deterministic.

            I am well aware of all the kinds of objections you make in point three, but made no attempt whatever to address them, since VicqRiz himself appears not to doubt the reality of his free will -- and I am merely expressing the consequences that might be entailed in his position.

            If you really want to explore the free will debate, I did say a bit about it some time back on Strange Notions:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-human-free-will-harmonizes-with-sufficient-reason/

            As to your final off-topic point, I confess that I am neither a scripture scholar nor theologian, and so, I generally leave such discussions to others.

          • Mark

            " but one is well led to wonder why the organization that seems to support the existing power structures in most contexts is the institution through which a God of absolute and objective morality supposedly works."

            Please don't take offense to this Ficino, but it seems like arm chair quarterbacking. Reviewing history and making oversimplified judgements on Catholic political alignment. I wouldn't, and I'm sure you wouldn't want to have to make the choice to ambiguously support fascism in order to oppose Communism. Using the political moves that are the lesser of two evils for the spiritual welfare of 20 million Catholic Germans is easy to second guess. At least in fascism God exists. Many Catholic Americans are faced with similar political moral dilemmas when having to choose between a morally bankrupt (pseudo)pro-life President that will put conservative judges on the SCOTUS and a potentially openly (pseudo)Catholic presidential candidate that believes abortion isn't intrinsically evil and will put liberal judges on the SCOTUS. There isn't a right choice but to remain ambiguously supportive of the lesser of the two evils.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This somewhat reminds me of a man I met at the 1969 Wanderer Forum who was still under sentence of death in exile from the then Communist Czechoslovakian government. His father had been shot to death by the Nazis, but, when asked who was worse -- the Nazis or the Communists, he immediately said the Communists were worse.

            He pointed out that there was at least some degree of economic freedom under the Nazis and that the Nazis only told clergy what they could not say from the pulpit, whereas the Communists told them everything they must say from the pulpit.

            That is why, while both regimes were intrinsically evil, he preferred what he considered to be the lesser of the two evils, Nazism.

            Lest anyone get confused, I am not saying it is morally right to choose an intrinsic evil to avoid a greater one, for example, to murder one man to prevent the murder of many. But, in political matters, one may support the less evil option, when no other realistic possibility exists. For example, legislators are permitted by even the Catholic Church to support an abortion bill that protects more unborn life, when the only alternative may be an existing law that allows even more abortions.

          • David Nickol

            But, in political matters, one may support the less evil option, when no other realistic possibility exists.

            Would you say that voters this coming November have no choice but to vote for either Trump or Biden? I used to spend a lot of time on a conservative-leaning Catholic lawyers' website, and in the 2016 presidential election some very conservative, very committed pro-life advocates who normally would have voted Republican made it clear that they were voting for neither Clinton nor Trump.

          • Ficino

            Leah Libresco Sargent apparently supports the American Solidarity Party.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That is a good question. You may be surprised to learn that I was active in the Never Trump wing of the Republican Party prior to the Cleveland convention and even with the group with Senator Mike Lee who was very actively opposing Trump in the convention itself. So I really faced the very situation you describe myself.

            The problem is that politics is the art of the possible, not the ideal. It sounds morally "clean," like Pilate washing his hands, to say I will support neither major candidate. But either Trump or Clinton was going to be elected. And refusing to vote amounts to voting for the candidate you least prefer, since otherwise you would add your votes to the one you consider the least worst alternative.

            That being the case, it appears that one must choose one of the only two possible winners, since even sitting out the outcome is effectively to vote for the one you like least.

            While the pro-life position should normally be paramount to a Catholic voter, one might conceive a deeper issue. Senator Jim Buckley pointed this out many years ago when he considered what if you have a pro-abortion candidate on one side, but such a pacifist on the other side that he would most probably lose the lives of the entire nation? Then, which would be the more pro-life position?

            That is why there are prudential judgments required in a political situation. What did I do in the end? I supported Trump, even though I suspected he was a Democrat liberal in disguise. Of Hillary, I was certain.
            Much to my amazement, of course, Trump won, and also much to both my amazement and delight, Trump proved loyal to his conservative base -- for whatever reasons he may have personally. Thus we now have two clearly strict constsructionists added to SCOTUS and a president who just called for opening up the churches, since many governors still keep the abortion clinics open while closing the churches.

            But, in politics, sound ethical principles must still be wed to sound prudential judgments. That is why good men can disagree.

          • BTS

            ...having to choose between a morally bankrupt (pseudo)pro-life President that will put conservative judges on the SCOTUS and a openly (pseudo)Catholic presidential candidate that believes abortion isn't intrinsically evil and will put liberal judges on the SCOTUS.

            But that's not the real choice put before us, is it, Mark (And Dennis) ? It's NOT a choice (as you pose it) between two mostly similar versions of America, where in one, the conservatives win the day and abortion becomes illegal and the right-wingers smoke cigars and celebrate their victory and life goes on with nary a blip in the matrix. Oh no, I guarantee you, in time, conservatives will rue the day they sold their souls and supported Trump, who is chaos incarnate.

            Apparently the end justifies the means now in Catholic morality?
            It's all worth it if we get some justices on the courts who will pander to America's uneducated masses just panting away for a theocracy.

            America is founded on separation of Church and State! It's the only way to go. You'll see that (I hope) when some day your party is not the ruling party but yet still treats the minority with dignity and respect.

            It is disgusting and abhorrent to me to see any Christians even remotely considering voting for that monster. Biden is no great choice, and I have no idea if he's got the stuff to be a good president, but if we elect Trump again it is game over for democracy.

            The REAL choice is between a nation destroying sociopathic president, a political and moral wrecking ball, vs. a fairly vanilla democrat.

            Trump is a horrific destructive force for evil.
            He is a destroyer of nations, of truth, of reason, of science, of lives, of the environment, of checks and balances, of respect, dignity of the office, political compromises, rule of law, human rights, etc. etc. etc. He can't even read a one page summary of any issue. He is functionally illterate! Mattis called him a f-bleeping moron! He ignores subpoenas, fires people for illegal or unethical reasons, commits crimes on live TV, tells thousands of lies, changes his mind on a whim, (not on data), sinks our political discourse to a level to whatever is below cesspool, and has likely committed scores of sex crimes.

            That narcissistic bag of sewage masqerading as a POTUS is not, in any universe, or any imaginable universe, the lesser of two evils. There won't be an America when he's done, if he gets elected again. There will be a fascist kleptocracy the likes of which the world has never known.

            The abortion issue should be the least of everyone's worries right now. It should be shelved and argued about later while we remove and recover from an existential threat to democracy itself.

            I don't see you fretting over the millions of dead and displaced because of George Bush's illegal, immoral and unconscionable war. Or do only American lives count? or only American babies? The Republicans have just as much or more war mongering blood on their hands as the democrats do for abortion.

            Have you been paying attention at all? Have you read about the many crimes he has committed, right there on live TV? Daily? There's literally new crimes, DAILY!

            He's corrupted the justice department, emptied the state department, and put the most incompetent people in charge of key agencies such as the EPA.

            He makes me sick.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Am I to understand from this that you are thinking about possibly not voting for Mr. Trump?

          • Rob Abney

            Your feelings toward Trump are similar to how we feel about abortion, but you employ the clever ploy that we shouldn’t discuss abortion because Trump is bad, of course it’s obvious that if you remove Trump then your side will be able to continue providing abortions and say that’s an issue we shouldn’t discuss.

          • BTS

            I replied and it was marked as spam. Took me an hour to write. Sigh.

          • Jim the Scott

            If God does not exist then Abortion is that much more horrible. As I once read on a Prolife Site run by "godless prolifers" if this life is all you get and there is no afterlife then when you abort somebody you deny them the opportunity to enjoy and have a shot at enjoying existence.

            Since non-existence is our end anyway you inflict that on aborted children right out of the gate when you slay them in the womb. That is a pretty sick thing to do to somebody.

            If I had to choose between the mega Jerk who lets me experience existence vs the "nice guy" who wants to deny it too me. Well I know who I would choose. An arsehole who saves me is to be preferred to the nice guy who lets me die while smelling my wife's hair.

            BTW what does politics have to do with anything? I know Catholics some of whom are Latin Mass only Traditionalists as well a liberals who hate or dislike Trump and I know Atheists who are warm to him (David Ruben, Sargon of Akad anybody). Politics is tedious.

            What does that have to do with yer incoherent neo-fundamentalist Positivist version of non-belief vs our near impregnable rational philosophical Classic Theism?

            I would listen to Sargon's politics over Mark Shea's any day of the week. Has nothing to do with God. Stick to the subject.

          • David Nickol

            If God does not exist then Abortion is that much more horrible.

            It's my understanding that theists (including you) believe that if God did not exist, existence would be completely meaningless, and there would be no right or wrong. So how is it possible for you to make an argument against abortion in a hypothetical Godless, absurd, and meaningless reality?

          • Jim the Scott

            >It's my understanding that theists (including you) believe that if God did not exist, existence would be completely meaningless, and there would be no right or wrong.

            Some Atheists disagree and given their premises that you can have right and wrong in a godless universe the argument kind of makes sense. Of course it isn't my argument. I lifted it from a Prolife Atheist website. If you google godless prolifers you might find the original.

            >So how is it possible for you to make an argument against abortion in a hypothetical Godless, absurd, and meaningless reality?

            It isn't my argument. I stole it from the Prolife Atheists and assuming you agree with them it is possible to have right and wrong in a godless universe one can move on from there.

          • Jim the Scott

            Of course I have read Prolife Atheist websites and Leftist Atheist Websites and Libertarians for life and Leftout another left wing Prolife website. But the Atheist Prolifers and the Gay Prolifers are my favorite non-traditional Prolifers.

            The gays pro lifers have a lovely article on their website I recall back in the day decades ago of two dudes who are obvious in a relationship sitting home and watching Star Trek. One asks "Why are there no gays in Star Trek?" (and this is all pre JJ Abrams) His boyfriend responds "Well it is likely they where all killed off by Abortion". He then talks about how gayness having a genetic origin might lead some people to screen for gayness and people detecting a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality might opt to abort gay children. Thus in the future no more gays. Gay bashing can begin in the womb.

            Well it was a cute article. I don't think the author meant it to be literal and I don't think you can screen out homosexuality genetically. Also I am skeptical it is genetic but it gave food for thought. I could never sanction the murder of an unborn child. That is repulsive and I don't care if you can prove genetically he or she will turn out to be gay. Who cares? Made in God 's Image is absolute.

          • VicqRuiz

            if it is creating new spiritual souls all the time that men are born, does not that involve a deistic God in greater intimacy with his creation than mere deism would allow?

            Possibly, but that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion reached by Christian theism.

            The propensity to the objectively good seems to have been baked into our species following the well known bell curve, with a few truly virtous on one end, a few sociopaths on the other, and the vast majority of us operating in the mixed middle.

            This is one argument for the biological origin of morality which I think has some validity, as it follows the same pattern we see in height, longevity, ability to hit a baseball, and all the other physical attributes of the human.

            Now a creator who is intimately involved in the formation of each soul would not purposely create sociopaths unless the creator himself was one. I prefer to think that our supposed creator is allowing varying degrees of good and evil to work their way through humanity either as a disinterested observer, or for reasons which are ineffable in the truest sense of the word. Both alternatives appear to me as the functional equivalent of deism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "if it is creating new spiritual souls all the time that men are born, does not that involve a deistic God in greater intimacy with his creation than mere deism would allow?"

            My use of the word, "intimacy," misled you. More precisely, I should have said merely "interaction."

            Deism usually means that God creates the world and then has no more to do with it. Thus, the notion of God intervening to create each new individual soul would seem alien to classical deism. That is all I meant to imply.

            "The propensity to the objectively good seems to have been baked into our species following the well known bell curve, with a few truly virtous on one end, a few sociopaths on the other, and the vast majority of us operating in the mixed middle."

            The problem with your reference to what is "objectively good" is that it presupposes its own objectivity! What makes an act morally good? Subjective intentions? But we can do evil through ignorance. The classical notion of "objective" morality entails that there is something about the acts themselves that make them good or evil.

            Simply doing what will produce good results would allow one to kill a million innocent people if somehow it benefited mankind in the long run. That is why natural law morality maintains that God gives us objective morality by insisting we conform to the nature he has given us. For example, since we are rational animals, for us to intentionally ignore all reason in our actions would violate our nature, and thereby, God's intention in creating us.

            In other words, objective morality implies some standard built into the order of things, not merely what most people do. If what most people do were the standard, then lack of charity would be virtuous!

            It gets more complicated than this, but this is a start. No, God does not directly create sociopaths. But, he does make man with free will which he can use to break the natural moral law with. Some people also are mentally deranged and do things objectively evil, but without moral responsibility since their actions were not rationally deliberate. Ethics is a very complex science.

  • Jim the Scott

    Here is a repost of something I wrote: I should Note a Classic Theistic Concept of God needs a Theodicy like a Fish needs a Bicycle.

    From a Theistic point of view “in a sense” the Eutheryphro dilemma is true. In a sense it is “impossible” for God to be “all Good” and or “All Powerful” if God really exists and evil exists as well(or at least maybe half of that is true). All theists approach the problem by taking on one of the horns of the dilemma.

    Theistic Personalists who rely on Theodicies take on the “All Powerful” horn by adopting the Classic Theistic Thomistic version of Divine Omnipotence which tells us God cannot make contradictions true. You might protest “Can’t God do anything?” to which we would reply “Yes but a contradiction doesn’t describe anything. It describes nothing and adds new meaning to the phrase ‘There is Nothing God cannot do.’.” Someone might hold Descartes Irrationalist view of Omnipotence that God can make contradictions true which would solve the problem of evil. Specifically if God can make contradictions true He can make the seeming contradiction of the simultaneous existence of an Omnipotent/Omni-benevolent Deity & Evil both True. Of course this leads to the break down in all rational categories by abandoning the principle of non-contradiction so it is nonsense.
    Anyway given God cannot make contradictions true the Theodicy loving Theistic Personalist tries to argue there are some goods God can only give if He temporarily tolerates evil. Plantinga largely solved the logical problem of Evil with this line of thought but then Rowe counter punched with the evidentalist problem of evil by arguing that there exists in the world seemingly gratuitous evil that gives no opportunity to give people any good. Fr. Brian Davies cuts down all leading theodicies in this work THE REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.

    Which leads to Classic Theism's solution (see Davies) which grabs the other horn of the dilemma specifically God being “All Good”. God is All Good but God is not morally good. Or more specifically God is not a moral agent. Or even more specifically God is not a moral agent unequivocally comparable to a virtuous human moral agent & or virtuous rational creature. God given His nature has no obligations to His creatures so He cannot be morally condemned for not giving them what He "owes them". God is All Good because He is Metaphysically Good and Ontologically Good or Goodness Itself and the source of goodness in all things. But God is not a moral agent as we are moral agents.
    Indeed to say Classic Theistic God is not good for not immediately stopping the Holocaust makes about as much sense as saying Plato's Form of the Good is not really good since It too didn't stop the Holocaust(which is actually saying the same thing but I digress....). Which is absurd.

    Theodicies as they are understood post enlightenment, are predicated on the idea God is a moral agent and they try to morally justify God’s inaction in the face of evil. The Classic Theist presumes God is not obligated to stop any evil in the first place and thus is not immoral for not doing so. Morality simply doesn't apply to him. All of God’s good actions toward His creatures in Classic Theism are Gratuitous and as such they are not owed to them. So God can be praised for his Divine Charity but God cannot be condemned for not following His obligations. He simply has none to His Creatures only to Himself.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Are you convinced that Classical Theism is true?

      • Jim the Scott

        *Yawn.*

  • Ficino

    I think in the last month, SN has risen to actualize many of the potencies that made up its nature - heh heh. I mean, the connection among Catholics and atheists and others "in between," who all share a human nature but whose first principles differ. I don't know whether there could ever be a Catholic-atheist coalition of lovers of truth, which would see to help change in common the public discourse that so often darkens these dark days of our point in history. But it's something to try to imagine such a coalition. Probably it would break apart once disputes about fetuses got going. But maybe, something like "The Children of the PNC"? I can't think that people who are drawn to philosophy could ever deny the value of the examined life, or could ever seek to silence attempts at argument with shouts of "Fake News!"

    Two people known to me just published a biography of Dorothy Day. Is there any ground of moral sensibility in our civilization's past, that can unite us to push for a common good? I actually don't know. I am afraid that it may come down to, whose side is the stronger. But do the "sides" need to be ultimately constituitive?

    • Jim the Scott

      >I think in the last month, SN has risen to actualize many of the potencies that made up its nature - heh heh.

      Let us just hope that is not an example of Cambridge change otherwise it wouldn't be worth much. ;-)

      Anyway good post.

  • Jim the Scott

    Here is another quote from Nick Trakakis regarding the claim he has become an "Atheist" and refutes Brian Davies' solution to the problem of Evil.

    An Essay of his and a response to the EO Priest I cited bellow who offered criticism of his de-conversion.

    Hatful of Hollow: Christian Philosophy's Dogmatic Slumber

    https://www.abc.net.au/religion/hatful-of-hollow-christian-philosophys-dogmatic-slumber/10096884

    QuoteSo, allow me to make it explicit here, although I thought it was too obvious to need stating: my critique of the Orthodox Church is not contingent upon my work on the problem of evil. To show that the two are logically distinct one need only point to the fact that there are Christian thinkers, some of whom are Orthodox, who wholly endorse the approach I take to the problem of evil. This approach I have called "anti-theodicy," and it has many followers from within the Christian tradition - including David Bentley Hart, Terrence Tilley, Brian Davies, David Burrell and Katsos's own doctoral supervisor, Rowan Williams.

    Indeed, a persistent refrain in the writings of these anti-theodicists is that a faithful approach to the sources of Christian theology - specifically, one that recovers the classical theistic conception of divinity prevalent in, for example, the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Gregory of Nyssa - would enable a more insightful understanding of God's relationship to evil and suffering than is common in contemporary philosophy of religion.

    <bAs this indicates, anti-theodicy is a position that can be - and, indeed, often has been - developed from within a traditional Christian framework. Why, then, does Katsos hold that my work on the problem of evil is something that has enabled, or paved the way towards, a rejection of Christianity??

    Perhaps he has been misled by my recent attempts to develop an idealist form of theism, much indebted to the British idealists F.H. Bradley and T.H. Green, as a way of thinking about the ultimate divine reality in anti-theodical terms. But even if Bradley and Green repudiated creedal Christianity, it is far from clear that the metaphysics of idealism is logically incompatible with Orthodox Christianity - indeed, Bishop Berkeley managed to combine the two just fine. More recently, the Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart, in his brilliant volume The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss , has sought to reclaim the metaphysics of monism and idealism as the only viable framework within which the notions of being, consciousness and bliss can properly be accommodated.

    So, anti-theodicy, whether developed along idealist lines or not, is available to Christian and non-Christian alike. END QUOTE

    Well I never thought I would say Amen to an "Atheist" but Amen. Mind you his rejection of organized religion is un original. 1571 called Prof Trakakis Luther wants his Protestantism back and 1553 called as well Michael Servetus wants his Unitarianism back......

    But it is as I said Classic Theists need a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

    • Ficino

      I didn't know of Katsos. Interesting.

      This of Katsos reminds me of the disputes here on SN a while back about Bertrand Russell's opinion that Aquinas didn't display what he (BR) considered to be the true philosophic spirit:

      What I was particularly concerned to attack in my original article was the "dogmatic slumber" of contemporary Christian philosophers who often approach their field of research with a complacent attitude towards traditional (Nicene) Christianity, so that even when they subject Christian beliefs to critical scrutiny the impression given (if not the reality) is that they have made up their minds before their "inquiry" has begun. What I find troubling, then, is the absence of deep and searching questioning that does not predetermine the outcome in advance.

      • Jim the Scott

        Wither this is the "true" philosophical spirit or not I know not or care not?

        Natural theology will bring us to Classic Theism but you cannot use natural theology to prove God is a Trinity. Thought the Trinity and the Incarnation can be harmonized with it quite easily. There are other avenues of religious apologetics for that but myself I specialize in the area of natural theology.

        But bitching about wither you think someone should be "unbiased" & or not "predetermined" is meaningless. Either my argument is valid or it is not and if it is not what is the philosophical defeater for it? If anything I would flip the script on him. It is just a means to avoid potentially uncomfortable theistic questions.

        Elsewhere I note Tharakis is claimed to have adopted "methodological atheism" in doing his philosophy. Which seems to be the opposite "error" to the one complained about above. So he can predetermine the outcome in advance but I can't? BS! Of course I have no problem him adopting "methodological Atheism" in philosophy(Flew did it and still Conway's work persuaded him to become a "Classic Deist" from Atheism) but he still has to make an argument. In the end we must focus on the argument itself.

        Cheers.

        PS if I seem surly & bitter (more so than usual) it is not you it is this stupid blog eating STP challenging post while I was responding to it piecemeal! Oy vey! It is a good thing I don't believe God is a moral agent unequivocally compatible to a human moral agent who owes me anything!! Otherwise I might add that evil to Rowe's list of evidences and crow like the rest of the Theodicy loving Theistic Personalist idolators "Why would a just God erase the good skeptical arguments of STP and leave GHF and or Paine's brain dead simple minded crap?".

        But I know know it is unreasonable to make that complaint given God's Classic nature. Cheers again!

  • Jim the Scott

    Some Brian Davies. He pounds a few Theodicies (real ones not STP's equivocal understanding that all solutions to the POE are "theodicies")

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVlWyHRQLDg&ab_channel=SaintMary%27sCollege

  • Jim the Scott

    @s@skeptic_thinking_power:disqus

    Part two reply to Septical thinker. This is some BS the stupid blog marked him as spam! BRANDON!!!!!! It was getting good too.

    > I even second the subsequent comments, specifically that most "New" Atheists, or those who belong to the online skeptic community are philosophically inept and usually don't know what they are talking about when engaging with philosophically trained Christians. etc..........

    You just made a friend for life and if you could speak to Paine or MR or GHF & that lot I would appreciate it. You don't have too but it wouldn't hurt.

    >However, the fact that most Catholics today don't have a "right" view of God is something that is surprising. It seems that the majority of Catholics today would fall under the purview of "spiritually immature and uneducated" and it's worth nothing that this problem has been an issue since the beginning of Christianity.

    Yep. But fortunately Catholics as a matter of doctrine believe God doesn't hold invincible ignorance against us as sin only culpable ignorance and if I believe Pius IX only God

    knows who is who.

    >The fact that within Christianity only a select few have been able to have a concrete understanding and philosophically cogent understanding of God is something should warrant some more explanation.

    Which would only be a problem for heretical sects that deny invincible ignorance or that deny the invincibly ignorant who follow the Light God might give them extra-ordinarily can be saved. Pius IX correctly pointed out you cannot use the existence of such to justify not preaching the Gospel because you can't know who is Invincibly Ignorant and saved among the non--believers and you must help the II who don't follow the light God gives them and the culpably ignorant in general. You can't know who is who so preach to them all or try too and let God sort 'em out.

    >The fact that within Christianity only a select few have been able to have a concrete understanding and philosophically cogent understanding of God is something should warrant some more explanation.

    Not really God is not obligated to have a world where the majority understands the faith. It seems to me it is on we who know to teach those who don'. You sir are a rare find. Most of the Atheists I deal with are idiot Gnus. Should you give up the effort to make a strong case against Classic theism just because the Rabble can't get past anti-YEC polemics?

    Sorry but in principle Rowe argument presuppose a God who has obligations to us. I don't believe that God exists at all. No Moral Agent God who is unequivocally moral like we are exists. Now I am the Atheist and you are the Theistic apologist trying to convert me before you de-convert me. Good luck with that my friend.

    >I think one can push back against this by offering some critiques of the Thomistic theory of analogical predication (which I assume had it's early origins from the via negativa as developed by Pseudo-Dionysius and the Divine Names). Etc//

    Yes I went threw this with a guy over at Feser's blog years and years ago but I lost interest. It is the idea you can't really have analogical comparisons between God and Creatures just unequivocal and or equivocal ultimately. There are Thomists who take different views on the meaning of analogy in Aquinas. One wonders if it's the product of the errors of the analytic schools?
    But it seems to me a Feser once said analogy allows us to have a common referent between the things compared. I can say God is intelligent meaning he has knowledge but HOW he knows I really couldn't say? Also there is the divine incomprehensibility. We have to rely solely on creatures and creation for our knowledge of and know it is alway going to be imperfect so I don't see the problem? I mean if I can comprehend it fully it is not worth my worship? I can honestly say fuuu...fudge God if he is is comprehensible. Sorry but Classic Theism demand a apropotic theology. We can know stuff about God but not God as God. We can reason via philosophy God exists and He somehow "knows" but we cannot know how He knows.

    One gets the impression you are trying to fight classic theism by lulling us into redefining him into a theistic personalist deity who is more comprehensible and given to unequivocal comparison. Yeh I don't think that works. It is a good try thought but it is kind of a repeat of the last 700 years.

  • Jim the Scott

    I mean STP awesome challenging post...giving us a real fight for once..is eaten and that clown shoes I came to bring the Paine's goofy troll nonsense is still here.

    Good thing I don't believe God is a moral agent yada yada..etc. Otherwise Rowe could add this to his evidentalist list.

  • Jim the Scott

    I don't buy all of STP defeaters but he has raised the collective IQ of this blog for Atheists and Theists alike by an order of magnitude.

    Dr. B and Fucino after all (with Mike Flynn and Greene or Adams or Rob or Mark) can't do all the heavy lifting. Sorry to those I left out of that by mistake and as for the rest of ya. Hit the books! Get good scrubs!

  • Jim the Scott

    The bottom line is the reason STP and or Oppy's critique of the Act/potency theory and attempted defense of existential inertia falls flat is because they are not giving us examples of real change but only of Cambridge change. Plato grows 2 inches taller than Socrates thereby Socrates height ratio in reference to Plato has "changed" but of course it was was Plato doing the real changing while Socrates only undergoes Cambridge change.

    The act/potency theory gives the metaphysical description of real change but it does not apply to Stasis. Stasis as shown by Parmenides is shown by the argument ex nihilo nihil fit/ "From nothing nothing comes". Thus to speak of a red chair at T's "potential" to stay Red at T1 "needing to be made actual by something already in act" is incoherent and meaningless.

    The foundation of a building keeps it standing from let us say T to T1 it is the act at the bottom of the essential series that keeps the building standing. Of course metaphysically you can keep going down the line but where it terminates we may never discover however we can and must rationally infer that it does.

    Just as we cannot conceive of a Paint brush painting by itself just because it has an infinitely long handle it still needs an Artists hand. A past eternal creation with no formal beginning. No formal creation event still needs the uncaused Causal Bottom to making anything composite exist here and now. All the examples of Cambridge change in the world doesn't overthrow that or make metaphysical brute facts coherent.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      In fact, I am not sure it is really coherent to speak of "only a change in time."

      Since Aristotle defines time as the measure of motion in relation to before and after, how can you have change in time without presupposing actual motion?

      But motion entails real change or coming-to-be in something.

      • Jim the Scott

        Well I was speakings of time in term of the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole as we subjectively experience it. Which is apparently how our critics are speaking of it as opposed to the idea time is a measure of change with respect to succession which is Aristotle's metaphysical description of time.

        One sometimes has to stoop to speaking their language & risk equivocation to make a point.

        The only observable change I can see in regards to a red chair staying red at T to T1 to T2 is the change on the clock. We cannot see the chair change color ergo there is no change and since there is no change one does not need the potential to "not change" to be actualized continuously by something already in act since the act/potency distinction only applies to real change not to "not change". A red chair staying red is not an example of real change. Ergo Oppy's criticism is worthless at the core.

        In regards to time there is a controversy over wither or not something experiencing stasis over a duration is really experiencing time.

        Quote "Each of the components of this characterization of time calls for elaboration. First, the claim that time presupposes change is controversial. For example, Sydney Shoemaker (1969) suggests that we can conceive of a world in which the inhabitants of three regions A, B, and C each occasionally observe the other regions go into a “frozen” or unchanging state for a period of a year. Given that each region is observed by the inhabitants of the others to do so according to a regular pattern (every three, four, and five years respectively) they would have reason to conclude that every sixty years the regions must all be “freezing” together, and thus that in their world no change is occurring for a year’s time. Hence (it is argued) it is possible for time to exist without change. But even leaving aside the tendentious assumption that we can deduce what is really possible from what is conceivable, this argument fails for reasons noted by Lowe (2002, pp. 247-49). For one thing, it reasons from the claim that the inhabitants of Shoemaker’s imagined world would have evidence for time without change to the conclusion that it is possible for there to be time without change. But this gets things the wrong way around, for we first have to know that something really is possible before we can know that there might be evidence for it. For another thing, if we suppose that A, B, and C really are all frozen or unchanging, then it becomes utterly mysterious what causes Shoemaker’s world ever to become unfrozen, or unfrozen after exactly a year’s time rather than at some earlier or later time. Though time presupposes change, it is not identical with change, as is evident from the fact that change can have features that time does not (Bittle 1941, p. 204; Phillips 1950, p. 119).

        Feser, Edward. Aristotle’s Revenge . EDITIONES SCHOLASTICAE. Kindle Edition.

        But the bottom line is Oppy's criticism is only an example of Cambridge change and not Thomist I have ever heard of not even from the Existential School says the act/potency distinction somehow applies to "not change".

        Cheers boss.

        • Ficino

          Oppy wasn't talking about local change per accidens, was he?

        • Ficino

          But the bottom line is Oppy's criticism is only an example of Cambridge change and not Thomist I have ever heard of not even from the Existential School says the act/potency distinction somehow applies to "not change".

          I've been trying to see how remarks about Cambridge change are relevant to the dispute over Existential Inertia vs. DDC. According to Feser, a created thing's being is not actualized only when it is undergoing change, but at every moment of its existence. At every moment, its being is actualized by virtue of God's sustaining it in existence or, put another way, His granting it an act of existence.

          "... we need to know, not only how such [i.e. material] substances came into existence, but what keeps them in
          existence. For as compounds of act and potency, they cannot possibly account for themselves, but require something outside them to actualize them at every moment."

          https://faculty.fordham.edu/klima/SMLM/PSMLM10/PSMLM10.pdf

          Oppy and STP contest the ancient doctrine of Divine Conservation as it is articulated by Feser above. Neither guy is tripping up over a confusion between Cambridge change and change in a substance's essence or its per se accidents. The DDC applies both to things that are undergoing change in their being and to things that are not undergoing change in their being - because it seeks to give a reason for their persistence in being, whether changed or not. STP and Oppy were giving examples of things persisting in existence. That is all, as far as I can make out from what they wrote. It's irrelevant what kind of change the thing is or is not undergoing; its persistence in existence is the locus of dispute, no?

  • BTS

    Trying to think this through...if Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would be no moral evil in the world. Right? But could there still be natural evil in the world? Could Adam be strolling through the garden of eden and be grievously injured by a falling tree branch?

    • Jim the Scott

      This is mildly interesting I'll answer it.

      Humans in their state of original innocence would not have likely been subject to natural evils by Divine Providence. So Adam would never get hit by a tree. OTOH if they where then given their state of Grace they wouldn't have bitched about it. Who gives two s#@t's about physical pain if you can see the Beatific Vision? I felt great back in the day when I passed my final physical test at bootcamp. Even thought I was tired and felt pain all over I really felt good about passing and being praised in front of the whole company for my perseverance by the CC yeh that was great. How much more the beatific vision and the Infinite Beatitude.

      Animals would be subject to natural evils but in my view most objections to animal suffering are hopelessly tainted with the anthropomorphic fallacy.

      Let us face it. Thomas Nagel was right. We don't know what it is like to be a Bat so who give a hoot about Rowe's stupid faun? Turn the faun into a wee little girl then that pulls at my heart strings.

      So I have a right to be skeptical Rowe's faun's suffering is any more meaningful that the Planet Jupiter's "suffering" when it gets hit by Comets.

  • BTS

    The fact that so many Christians eagerly and boisterously support the the Dumpster Fire at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is way more perplexing to me than why god allows diseases.

    • Rob Abney

      You’re looking for gods in the wrong place.

      • BTS

        I'm looking at millions and millions of Christians for evidence they truly believe the gospel message and not seeing such evidence. This doesn't prove anything. Just an eyebrow-raising observation.

        Edit: The ironic thing about current events is that both liberal and conservative Christians are looking at the same evidence and shaking their heads in disbelief that so many people would interpret the gospel so differently, leading to such polar opposite behaviors. That says a lot.

        • Rob Abney

          What is THE gospel message that we’re not following?

          • BTS

            What is THE gospel message that we’re not following?

            Please first define the "we."

          • Jim the Scott

            >Please first define the "we."

            I see. Like Pain and MR yer not really serious....

            K'ay.

          • Rob Abney

            We are Christians who agree with many on the political left that all life is sacred but our concern for every single life includes the unborn not just those at risk of dying from corona virus.

          • BTS

            That sounds good to me, especially if every woman everywhere were to have world-class healthcare and support for every pregnancy, paid maternity leave, extended paternity leave, top notch education for all children, a safe environment, healthy foods, clean water, chemical free surroundings...let's do that, shall we? Let's do that in November.

            FYI I don't do online abortion discussions, they go nowhere fast. I am not a fan of abortion, but I feel neither side represents my very complex, nuanced views.

          • Rob Abney

            Your nuanced view is that unless there is a perfect world for infants to be born into then it's acceptable to kill many of them?
            While at the same time you are unwilling for anyone to die of coronavirus, even if we have to sacrifice healthcare and education and a healthy economy that could support maternity benefits?
            Good luck on finding your November god!

          • BTS

            You don't listen well. I have specifically NOT told you anything at all about my views on abortion. I don't discuss that topic on the internet as it leads to inflammatory rhetoric of all kinds.

          • Rob Abney

            Though you are fooling yourself that you can find what you are looking for from politicians, it does appear that you have a desire for perfect justice or goodness. You would never be satisfied with justice that is just okay, right? Have you considered why/how you are aware that there is perfect justice?

        • Jim the Scott

          This is a nebulous standard. Also how do you measure this obviously subjective ill defined standard? Are you put off by Christians of the same religion and orthodox disposition having different political views? Politics is not doctrine.

    • God Hates Faith

      Dumpster Fire!?! How could you say such a thing!? That is completely disrespectful and an insult...to dumpster fires : )

  • Ficino

    I posted something about Cambridge change and STP's and Oppy's arguments, but then I realized I should see Oppy's paper before trying to nail down any responses. Does anyone have access to Oppy's "On stage one of Feser's ‘Aristotelian proof’"? Feser's website only gives a link to Cambridge UP's site, not to Oppy's paper itself, and the paper isn't in one of the regular print issues of Religious Studies - it seems to have been published instead in electronic form, from what I gather.

  • Rob Abney

    You’ve previously established that you are anti-Trump, I don’t doubt that. What you are not admitting to is being anti-life. I base this appraisal on your secretive position, a position that should be concealed if it is a position that advocates for some abortions. And it is an either/or position, you are either against all abortions or you are for abortion even if you prefer a small number.
    Since you have abandoned your Catholic faith then you won’t mind that my position is supported by my Catholic faith but not solely based on it, rather it is a position based on a first principle of humanity, the innocent should never be intentionally killed. I believe that is a position that President Trump holds but many other politicians do not.
    But I’m not concerned about your voting preferences, I am concerned that you are convinced that the other issues you cite take precedence over the extermination of a life.

    • David Nickol

      I believe that is a position that President Trump holds but many other politicians do not.

      On May 18, 2019, Trump tweeted (in part) as follows:

      As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan. . . .

      So by your definition, your hero Trump is "anti-life," since, again by your definition, "You are either against all abortions or you are for abortion even if you prefer a small number."

      The terms pro-life and pro-choice are regrettable enough, but calling someone who doesn't disapprove of abortion in every case "anti-life" is a ludicrous slander.

      • Rob Abney

        How can a slander be ludicrous?
        Trump’s tweeted exceptions would in fact disqualify him from my own personally defined zero tolerance anti-life position but his actions speak more clearly about his position on abortion, his Supreme Court nominees most likely do not have those exceptions.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Besides, natural law permits one to support a law that allows some abortions when the only politically possible alternative is a law that allows more abortions. That applies to lawmakers as well as to voters. One must still defend innocent human life without exceptions to the extent it is possible.

          • David Nickol

            Are you claiming that natural law dictates how voters or legislators must vote in a secular, pluralistic democracy?

            I believe you have implied that you support Trump because he will appoint "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court. As I understand it, the strict constructionists view is that Roe v Wade was wrongly decided because the Constitution is silent on abortion. Therefore, the position of Trump is that the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v Wade and let the individual states either ban or permit abortion (as was the case before Roe). "Pro-life" justices on the Supreme Court may abhor abortion, but it will not be up to them to ban it. Rob Abney seems to have some kind of false hope along with a misunderstanding of the issues involved.

            There is some hope among pro-lifers that the 14th Amendment could be used to ban abortion if the word "person" is construed to apply to an unborn individual. But that (at least according to Scalia) would be to reinterpret the 14th Amendment to mean something its authors didn't intend.

            From what I know of conservative legal opinion, it is the job of a Supreme Court judge (for any other judge) to follow the law, not to attempt to implement his or her own personal beliefs. So it would be just as wrong for a conservative justice to invent a rationale to impose a constitutional ban on abortion as it was (in conservative thought) for liberal justices to claim to discover a right to abortion in the Constitution that isn't really there.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Are you claiming that natural law dictates how voters or legislators must vote in a secular, pluralistic democracy?"

            The whole point of natural law ethics is that it establishes the norms of human behavior in all matters, including political actions. While it tells us that we must always act so as to promote and defend innocent human life, the practical decisions to be made in society are, as in all matters, governed by the prudential application of universal principles.

            Thus, when confronted by two alternatives, neither of which fully supports this basic norm of being pro-life, one must follow prudence and choose the one that most fully achieves the common good. This is merely an application of the principle of double effect.

            I generally agree with your reading of what the Supreme Court must do with Roe v. Wade. Strict constructionists do not invent the law, but read the Constitution as it is written and attempt to apply it to present circumstances, but always while being faithful to its original intent. As in all such matters, there is room for legitimate disagreements.

            Reversing Roe entails merely what you describe. Could the High Court made a decision protecting unborn human beings? I would certainly not argue with Justice Scalia's reading of the 14th Amendment.

            But, is there anything in the Constitution that might support the pro-life cause? There might be. See this from the Preamble (which courts can use to decide cases if they wish in some instances):

            " We the People of the United States, in Order to ... secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

            Since our unborn children living in the wombs of their mothers are objectively part of "our Posterity," it may be argued that Constitutional protections must extend to them as well as the rest of the human beings in America.

            I do not hold my breath for such an argument to prevail, but I do think it is logically part of what the Justices should legitimately consider in fulfilling their role to interpret all the laws of the nation.

        • David Nickol

          What do you mean by anti-life? If you mean something like "pro-abortion," then say so. Abortion isn't the only "life issue." You often come across (to use the old cliche) as someone who believes that life begins at conception and ends at birth.

          For Catholics who think Trump is some kind of pro-life, pro-religion hero, imagine what his views are regarding Catholic Social Teaching and the "preferential option for the poor."

          • Rob Abney

            I agree that abortion isn’t the only “life issue” but it is the most fundamental life issue. Once you convince yourself that it’s acceptable to kill an innocent defenseless person to solve a difficult situation then it becomes much easier to support killing other persons who are not as innocent. You can try to portray the pro-life position as ending at birth because that’s been a successful tactic for the abortion supporters, but it’s not true. We are in a war, babies and children are the targets, deflecting from that issue by suggesting that care for the poor is the same as protecting those innocent lives makes the battle much more difficult.

          • David Nickol

            Mother Teresa said the following:
            “The greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing,” Mother Teresa said. “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell people not to kill one another?”

          • David Nickol

            Of course, I think Mother Teresa was wrong. It may even be an empirical matter. One would have to assess how attitudes toward abortion correlate with other attitudes toward life issues. I think we can probably assume that, politically, "pro-lifers" tend to favor capital punishment. Are "pro-lifers" actually less likely to support wars and other forms of violence? Do "pro-lifers" care more than others that in a ranking of the 36 OECD countries, the US ranks very poorly (33rd) for infant mortality? My guess is that "pro-lifers" are more likely to oppose assisted suicide. But what I have touched on here are only a few issues that it seems to me would be involved in the "seamless garment" approach to being truly "pro-life."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You usually are excellent at noting critical distinctions as well as the actual Catholic doctrine in many matters.

            But here you seem to miss the most critical distinction of all.

            Murder is the deliberate taking of innocent human life.

            Human life in the womb is clearly innocent.

            Capital punishment and just warfare is designed to deal with those whose actions against society or the nation are clearly not innocent.

            The so-called "seamless garment" thesis put forth, even by certain Catholic leaders, obviously fails to grasp that the pro-life cause is perfectly consistent in opposing the deliberate taking of innocent human life.

            If no human life could ever be licitly taken, one could not defend himself against someone attacking him with deadly force -- even if slaying the attacker were required to survive.

          • David Nickol

            If no human life could ever be licitly taken, one could not defend himself against someone attacking him with deadly force -- even if slaying the attacker were required to survive.

            Woah! Unless I am very much mistaken, intentional killing in self-defense is already prohibited. The Catechism says the following:

            2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

            Just as an act that will result in the foreseen but unintended death of a fetus (say as in a salpingectomy for an ectopic pregnancy, or in the removal of a diseased uterus of a pregnant woman) is not a direct abortion, so delivering a lethal blow in self-defense is not deliberate killing.

            As I understand it, it's permissible in, say, a gun battle to use lethal force to defend one's own life or the life of others, and no ordinary mortal is expected to try to shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand as is sometimes done in cowboy movies. But in shooting to disable, doing so with the intention or hope of killing the assailants deliberate killing and is prohibited. So a "seamless garment" approach would not lead to the loss of a right to self-defense.

            Protecting the lives of only the "innocent" is not enough. For example, see the revision to the Catechism of 2/8/2018:

            2267 Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

            Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

            Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "If no human life could ever be licitly taken, one could not defend himself against someone attacking him with deadly force -- even if slaying the attacker were required to survive."

            Perhaps I could have worded that even more clearly, but I did not address the intention of the defense. I quite agree with your analysis and with the application of double effect which I have taught myself for decades in ethics classes.

            Still, while one may not intend the death of the attacker, one is permitted to do what is needed to survive -- even if that entails the total removal of the threat by an action that simultaneously entails the death of the attacker. I think we are actually on the same page here.

            As to the death penalty, I realize that the Magisterium is insisting on the eradication of it in practice. But notice that the wording says that its use is today "inadmissable," NOT that it is "intrinsically evil," as is the case with abortion. A major reason for that distinction is that the Church has for many centuries insisted that the death penalty is itself licit, and, in fact, if you read the passages right after the listing of the Ten Commandments, you will find a number of offenses for which the penalty is death -- right in Scripture!

            What the Church seems to be doing today is to say that in the present circumstances of an advanced society, the death penalty is no longer needed. It is not a universal condemnation of execution as intrinsically evil, but the application of what is imposed as a universal prudential judgment that every Catholic should follow. There a subtle, but important difference here.

            Moreover, the principle of just war is also at stake here, since total refusal to defend the lives of a nation would abdicate the first responsibility of any government, namely, to protect the lives of its citizens. And in warfare, direct actions killing the enemy are a necessary part of the process -- perhaps not to be directly intended, but in the double effect licit intention to remove hostile attackers.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I was privileged actually to see and hear Mother Teresa say essentially those very words just about forty feet from me at a Niagara University graduation several decades ago.

            "However, for the most part the pro-life movement does accept that a mother can kill even her own child."

            Not so. No pro-lifers I know would ever approve of a mother killing her unborn child by abortion. There are two reasons that pro-lifers usually do not include punishments for women who seek abortions:

            First, politics is the art of the possible. Given that most people oppose abortion except in the three "hard cases" (life of mother, rape, incest), political support for restricting the present no-restrictions laws would most easily enact laws that would eliminate the vast majority of abortions, provided they retain those exceptions. One need not favor the exceptions to realize that the most immediate relief from the present slaughter of the unborn would take the form of such legislation. Certainly, placing legal sanctions on the women getting abortions would also be a political "bridge to far" to ask society to enact under present circumstances.

            Second, while the doctors involved and the men who impregnated the women are usually acting without great psychological burdens, the pregnant woman often is.

            The morality and responsibility of any act is conditioned by such factors as passion, fear, confusion, pressure from others, ignorance of the nature of the act, and so forth, may mitigate or even eliminate the moral responsibility of the women who get abortions.

            I am not saying that the law should be silent on the evil of having an abortion, but this is the reason that pro-lifers do not insist on legal sanctions on the woman involved as they do on the money-making abortionists and those who assist or even force abortions to take place.

            These prudential considerations combined with the traditional natural law principles governing moral responsibility for one's actions explain how pro-lifers can take the positions they do trying to protect innocent unborn human life. This in no way constitutes hypocrisy on their part,

            Pro-lifers certainly do not approve of the callous attitude that some women exhibit in demanding the "right" to murder their own unborn children. But, the actual conditions in which abortion takes place in present society does not allow a way to single out those who callously disregard the value of human life from those who are often psychological or even forced victims of circumstances not of their own making.

            God alone knows the extent of our personal responsibility for our individual acts.

          • Rob Abney

            I think that we should treat abortion as a public health issue, like the corona virus. Everyone should acknowledge that abortion is murder, the intentional termination of an innocent life and that we will do whatever is needed to "not lose one life". Then we should broadcast the potential number of abortions per day versus the actual number of abortions per day. Then the media and the public should publish all the possible methods available to keep the abortion from happening, If abortions continue to occur then governors should feel obligated to restrict our rights until we have this public health issue controlled.

          • David Nickol

            If it would end abortion in the United States, would you favor charging women who procures abortions with murder and punishing them accordingly?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Objectively, the deliberate taking of any innocent human life constitutes a gravely immoral act. This fact should be recognized in law.

            Still, to be just the law must take into account many complex factors that affect moral culpability. That is why, even in the case of what presently constitute the illegal taking of a human life, we make several distinctions. We distinguish first degree murder as being deliberate and intended killing. We recognize intended, but less deliberated taking of a life as second degree murder. Then we have manslaughter, where death is not intended, but due to reckless negligence.

            Moreover, we take into account the concrete circumstances that may lessen or aggravate the crime, such as drunkenness, insanity, coercion, and so forth.

            Since many women are young and immature, are under social pressure, or even threat of force, and so forth, that is why treating the mother's behavior as criminal may not be appropriate in many cases. That is why it is possible that a law may merely condemn the act, but not attach a criminal punishment. Or it may do so, but with great care to respect the various factors which may lessen responsibility for her action.

            While politics is the art of the possible, establishing punishment for what is objectively a serious crime may still require great prudence in the case of the woman who is carrying her child. It may still be prudent not to punish the act at all, while keeping the condemnation on the act itself in law. After all, there are places where prostitution is illegal in law, but the law is never enforced. Society feels the need to state the law, but prudence prevents it from attaching a penalty for breaking that same law.

            That is why in an ideal world it may still be just and right not to place a severe penalty of the woman who has the abortion, especially as compared to the serial abortionist who is doing the crime for the sake of sheer profit.

          • Jim the Scott

            As far as I know it has never been the practice to arrest or condemn a woman who allows her baby to be aborted but to arrest or condemn the abortionist. Pro Aborts have a fantasy that prolifers would one day if we succeed in banning abortion punish the women who have the abortions because it serves as a great propaganda tool. Indeed there is a whole body of pro abort futuristic dystopian fiction where woman in a future Fundamentalist Christian Police State who abort their babies are tried and executed by the state.

            Often these women are rape victims or victims of incest or have health problem yada yada yada and some evil dictator who is a combination of President Snow/Jerry Falwell/Hitler/ & who is alway a born again Christian runs the show from behind the scenes. From the HANDMAIDEN's TALE (which from a purely literally perspective is a badly written book) to Unwind or Red Clocks. Fun bits of pro abort propoganda.

            Baby killing as a heroic act of rebellion against the state? That is a laugh when you contemplate police states like China have forced abortions.

          • David Nickol

            Objectively, the deliberate taking of any innocent human life constitutes a gravely immoral act. This fact should be recognized in law.

            You seem to be obsessed by the supposed innocence of the unborn. What do you mean by innocent? If I somehow make my way into a maximum-security prison with a machine gun and fatally shoot all the inmates on death row, that is still murder, and in fact (unless I am very much mistaken) the prisoners on death row for the most heinous crimes would count as "innocent."

            Cathleen Kaveny says the following in Ethics at the Edges of Law: Christian Moralists and American Legal Thought:

            We protect human beings—even human beings in the womb—not because they are entirely innocent of sin. We protect them because they are made in the image and likeness of God, despite their sinfulness. We see the same imago Dei in an unborn baby and the juvenile delinquent she will become fifteen years later. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not mesmerized by cuteness.

            If an unborn child matters not because she is a symbol of humanity, but because she is a particular human being, we need to ensure that she is cared for after she is born. To do that, we must care for her mother too: a woman’s educational level is one of the most powerful predictors of the welfare of her children. . .

            Opposition to abortion motivated solely by the perceived blamelessness of the unborn betrays Christian anthropology and fractures the Catholic social tradition. When such opposition is animated by commitment to protect the imago Dei in each person, however Catholics preserve both the church’s anthropological vision and unified social teachings. Anti-abortionists would thus do well to nuance the justification of their position. [Boldface added]

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "You seem to be obsessed by the supposed innocence of the unborn. What do you mean by innocent? If I somehow make my way into a maximum-security prison with a machine gun and fatally shoot all the inmates on death row, that is still murder, and in fact (unless I am very much mistaken) the prisoners on death row for the most heinous crimes would count as "innocent.""

            While there may be more to it than this, the most clear meaning of "innocent" lies in the sense that the victim of the act is not himself attacking anyone else. Unborn babies do nothing but sit there. They are not actively attacking anyone. In that most fundamental sense, they are innocent, and thus, do not deserve to be killed.

            As for the inmates on death row, they may be put to death according to traditional death penalty norms because their actions have so violated societal rules as to constitute a grave attack upon society, against which society has the right to defend itself by the strongest of sanctions, namely, total removal from society, which is ultimately possible only by death.

            You will notice that I am applying the principle of double effect here to justify "warding off" the attack by some offending person or persons, as in the case of the individual death penalty or of just warfare.

            The reason you cannot shoot the inmates on death row is that you are not the authorized agent that society has determined to carry out the death sentence. It is not their innocence that protects these criminals, but merely the fact that we have laws determining how the death penalty is to be administered, and acting as a vigilante does not fall under such permission. Thus the shooter might not be tried for murder as such, but for mayhem in a prison!

            "Opposition to abortion motivated solely by the perceived blamelessness of the unborn betrays Christian anthropology and fractures the Catholic social tradition. "

            This all smacks more of a theological claim, whereas I am a philosopher. The basic natural law principles are what I am presenting. Note that even this citation does not object to the notion of "blamelessness" as such, but only to it being the sole motivation for opposition to abortion.

            In my opinion, the author cited may be adding something to the analysis based on innocence, but this does not sidestep the fact that the question of innocence is the central criteria at issue.

            Even if you confuse the natural law teaching by introducing Pope Francis's doctrine that the death penalty is today "inadmissible," this does not sidestep two salient points: (1) even the Pope does not say the death penalty is intrinsically evil, since he cannot because of the Church's long tradition supporting its use as well as its clear approval even in the texts right after the Ten Commandments are given, and (2) just war theory can only be understood in terms of the natural right of one nation to defend itself against the unjust attack by another nation, since the attacking nation is not "innocent" because of its aggressive actions.

          • David Nickol

            That is why in an ideal world it may still be just and right not to place a severe penalty of the woman who has the abortion, especially as compared to the serial abortionist who is doing the crime for the sake of sheer profit.

            If there are penalties, they need not be severe. As I have previously said, I once proposed (in another forum) the idea of mandatory counseling for a woman who has a first abortion, with an increasing penalty for the second, third, fourth, fifth . . . . The so-called pro-lifers howled. No one seems more intent on preserving the legal right for women to have abortions than pro-lifers!

            Although it may be difficult for you to imagine, many doctors who perform abortions are not doing it "for sheer profit." They honestly believe they are helping their patients. You may strongly disagree with them, but that doesn't automatically make them amoral greedy killers for hire.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think you must first decide the morality and legality of abortion itself. Since it is the direct and deliberate taking of an innocent human life, it is gravely immoral and, for that reason, should be declared illegal with appropriate sanctions determined by law to enforce legislation outlawing the act itself.

            How you establish the sanctions for each class of persons involved in committing the abortion is a matter of prudential judgment. Thus, I quite agree that one must judge each party's participation in the act according to standard norms of responsibility. That is why, generally speaking, the law should be more understanding of the woman's possibly vulnerable position as opposed to the professionals or biological fathers who generally are deemed more free and thus more responsible for their actions.

            That said, I am in no way opposed to reasonable application of the law, even following some of the criteria and suggestions you propose.

          • Rob Abney

            That’s a strange proposition, you’re looking for a utilitarian trade off, babies vs. mothers but I’m more in favor of babies and their mothers vs. those who advocate for killing the innocent.

          • David Nickol

            I should have anticipated you would be evasive.

            Implicit in the scenario I outlined is the assumption that the threat of prosecution would be an effective deterrent to women procuring abortions. I began, "If it would end abortion in the United States . . . ." Apparently you would prefer the continued widespread seeking of abortion by mothers "to kill even their own children" rather than see a small number of mothers who successfully killed their own children legally held responsible. (Which, by the way, need not be imprisonment, but could be some kind of counseling.)

            I do not understand why those who claim to agree with the words I quoted from Mother Teresa are so dead set in favor of guaranteeing a woman's freedom to procure abortions.

          • Rob Abney

            I’ll be glad to play your game if you are looking for a solution, but based on your comments you are not.
            Do you even have any agreement with the premise that intentional killing of an innocent human is unjust?

          • Alexandra

            You were alive when abortions were illegal. What happened to women who procured illegal abortions back then?

          • David Nickol

            In pre-Roe times, women were almost never put in legal jeopardy for procuring abortions. And I am not saying that, even if Roe is overturned, they will be. But two things are very different now than they were pre-Roe.

            First, the criminalization of abortion was to a significant extent based on the idea of protecting women from a dangerous medical procedure. Now, abortions are safer than carrying a baby to term and giving birth. (That is sometimes taken to be a misleading and inflammatory statement, so perhaps we can just say that abortion is considered to be a very safe procedure.)

            Second, as a result of the "pro-life" movement, abortion is more and more considered to be homicide. Legally, in pre-Roe times, abortion was never outlawed or prosecuted as homicide, because fetuses (especially before "quickening") were not legally persons. So there is no going back to pre-Roe times. The "fetal personhood" movement continues to progress.

            So, as I said, there is no going back to life pre-Roe and law prior to the "pro-life" movement, And to quote from Mother Teresa again . . . .

            But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

            One of the most revered Catholics, now a saint, called abortion the murder by the mother of her own children. Murder. And she said if we accept that, how can we tell other people not to kill. Now, I don't agree with Mother Teresa, but if I did, she clearly saying that permission for abortion is in effect permission for any and all killing. If that is the case, how can "pro-lifers" justify explicitly exempting mothers—the murderers—from all liability when they have an abortion? And as I have noted before, when I imagine what might reasonably be laws "punishing" women for abortion, I do not necessarily think of punishing them as murderers. I have mentioned legal requirements like mandatory counseling. But pro-lifers generally balk at the suggestion of any legal liability no matter how minor for a woman who "murders" her own children.

            Tangential Addition

            Verify this for yourself. I found this tidbit on EWTN under the heading of Abortion and the Catholic Church:

            Furthermore, because the fetus has a soul, it must be baptized in order to remove original sin. Catholics therefore believe that not only is abortion murder, but it also condemns the unborn person to Hell.

            It is certainly not Catholic teaching as I understand it, but there it is, from EWTN.

          • OMG

            I'll let Alexandra answer the bulk of your argument.

            I wish only to clarify something about the "Tangential Addition". The sentence apparently is found in a book authored by Michael Carrera (www.amazon.com/Sex-Facts-Acts-Your-Feelings/dp/0855333464).

            At the site you cite, the sentence is one of many in a list of statements in the category: TYPICAL PRO-ABORTION LIES REGARDING CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHING ON ABORTION. IOW, it is clearly not Church teaching, and EWTN and ALL list it as a warning about lies of such ilk. As Jesus taught in 30-33 AD, Jesus Christ is the judge of souls, and that has been the Church's perennial teaching.

          • David Nickol

            Thank you for the correction. I found the EWTN page I quoted from a confusing jumble. As I said of the passage I quoted, "It is certainly not Catholic teaching as I understand it . . . " But I regret the error of attributing it as if it were a statement by EWTN rather than a statement EWTN was labeling as false. Apologies!

          • Jim the Scott

            Good grief Nickols? Did you even read yer own link? I will take a break from the fear I am experiencing right now watching my city burn down to smack down this quite disappointing post you have given me. Geez Man are ye taking pointers from Michael or GHF now?....Oy Vey! I really expect better from you (and usually get it until now. What are ye nor feeling well?)

            BTW as I was typing this I noticed OMG beat me to the punch.

            Quote"Michael Carrera's quote in Figure 43-1 is particularly significant. He calls himself 'Catholic,' yet makes at least nine major doctrinal errors in his short one-paragraph quote. In fact, this self-proclaimed "expert" does not make a single correct statement in this widely-circulated passage.

            It is frightening to realize that uninformed people look to trash like this for clarification of the official teachings of the Catholic Church!"END QUOTE.

            This claim by this Carrera person(unbaptized children go to Hell) is just wrong and the document you cite in the link makes the case that the Catholic Church historically has never condoned abortion even before She formally taught ensoulment happens at conception.

            No pro-lifers have any appetite to punish pregnant women who procure abortions. Anybody who did we would slam them harder than Gosnell himself(that dirty monster) and denounce them to the Heavens.

            There is no intrinsic moral reason to do so given the extenuating circumstances of being pregnant & the principles of moral dogma of crime and punishment and general principles of justice. It is all vary obvious.

            >If that is the case, how can "pro-lifers" justify explicitly exempting mothers—the murderers—from all liability when they have an abortion?

            So you really want to sit there with a straight face and tell Catholics we don't believe in extenuating circumstances? We can and may a priori treat a pregnant women as a person in grave distress who in those circumstances is not in her right mind when she seeks an abortion. We can treat her as a victim being exploited by an abortionist. Which she is, also if I may wax antidotal. I used to work in a fast food restaurant with this chubby young woman when I was about 19. It turned out she wasn't chubby she was pregnant and she simply ignored it & concealed it.. She went into the bathroom of a drugstore one day. Gave birth to a baby girl and slit her throat with a razor and stuffed the body in a paper bag. She was arrested and charged with homocide but the DA let her plead insanity.

            She was sent to an institution. Courts know under those circumstances she is under distress and not responsible.
            So why should we presume a woman who seeks an abortion is different? If one particular one in is unique & rare circumstance well the burden of proof is on the prosecutor. Good luck with that.

          • David Nickol

            There is no intrinsic moral reason to do so given the extenuating circumstances of being pregnant & the principles of moral dogma of crime and punishment and general principles of justice. It is all vary obvious.

            So is your message to women with unwanted pregnancies to go ahead and have abortions? What about excommunication for Catholic women? Should a Catholic woman who has an abortion not bother to go to confession, since "extenuating circumstances" relieve her of responsibility for her offense?

            What world are you living in, where every woman who has an abortion is blameless because of "extenuating circumstances." Is aborting one's child some kind of self-forgiving sin? Are you aware that by the end of their childbearing years, 24% of women will have had at least one abortion? Or that half of women who procure an abortion in any given year will have had one or more previous abortions?

            I am reminded of one of my favorite jokes. Two social workers are walking along the street and come upon a man who has been badly beaten and robbed. They both look down at the semi-conscious, bleeding victim, and one says to the other, "Boy, whoever did that really needs help!"

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not too clear where you personally stand on this issue, but it might help to clarify things by noting three distinct ways to consider this difficult topic:

            First, from the standpoint of natural law ethics, abortion is clearly the deliberate direct taking of an innocent human life and, therefore, gravely immoral. Yes, it meets the definition of homicide or murder. It is never permitted for any reason whatever.

            Of course, this does not include those actions whereby the abortion is not directly intended, but is the unwanted side effect of a perfectly licit action. Following the established principle of double effect, this would include such cases as removal of a cancerous womb, where the life-saving removal of the cancer is the directly intended action, but the loss of the baby's life is an unwanted side effect.

            Second, there is the legal question of abortion. Society ought to ban any and all direct taking of innocent human life, since the first obligation of any society is to protect the lives of its members and human life does begin in the womb. But exactly how laws should be drawn up to safeguard pre-born human life is a matter of prudential judgment. This is why legitimate disagreement can occur about what sanctions to apply to those who are directly involved in procuring or doing an abortion.

            Pro-life groups may hesitate to advocate punishment of the woman involved, not because she does not deserve such punishment in some cases, but because many times she is not fully responsible due to simple ignorance or psychological factors. Also, pro-life groups may not wish to appear to be directly attacking the women involved because, like in the case of permitting "exceptions" for the three "hard cases" of rape, incest, or life of the mother, simply because political pragmatism argues that legislation designed to prevent almost all abortions is more likely to avoid opposition by not including such controversial issues.

            Third, as to the Catholic Church excommunicating the women involved, like any other sin, lifting of the penalties and absolution are today easily obtained merely through repentance and seeking relief through the sacrament of Confession. I think I have heard that even a confessor today can absolve without consulting his bishop.

            Keeping these three very distinct aspects of abortion separated may help us to understand this complex topic and why traditional moral law is absolute, but can still be applied under today's actual social conditions with reason and mercy as required. This does not compromise the moral principle, since all who know the law are bound by it in conscience.

          • David Nickol

            I have o particular problem with anything you say here. I do have a problem with statements like this:

            So you really want to sit there with a straight face and tell Catholics we don't believe in extenuating circumstances? We can and may a priori treat a pregnant women as a person in grave distress who in those circumstances is not in her right mind when she seeks an abortion. We can treat her as a victim being exploited by an abortionist.

            I don't see how such a statement can be reconciled with the statement I keep quoting from Mother Teresa referring to abortion as mothers murdering their own children. As it so happens, I have known only one woman whom I know to have procured an abortion. She was in her right mind. She was young and married and both she and her family (who had medical connections and arranged for the abortion) felt she and her husband were not ready to have a child. The decision to abort was not made in panic, and while the woman was not thrilled to be having an abortion, she was certainly not distraught or in any way pressured by her family (who was in a position to provide generous financial support if she had chosen to keep the baby).

            It is frankly an insult to women in general to claim that all women faced with an unwanted pregnancy who choose abortion are in "grave distress" and "not in their right mind."

            I personally have quite serious doubts that abortion constitutes murder to the extent that I would not advocate punishment for abortion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "So you really want to sit there with a straight face and tell Catholics we don't believe in extenuating circumstances? We can and may a priori treat a pregnant women as a person in grave distress who in those circumstances is not in her right mind when she seeks an abortion. We can treat her as a victim being exploited by an abortionist."

            Since I upvoted the lengthy comment containing the above, you want to know if I "honestly agree with it."

            I think you overestimate the meaning of an upvote, especially since it ultimately means whatever the person wants it to mean!

            But one definition I just found says this: An "upvote is defined by the lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries as (in an online context) register approval of or agreement with (a post or poster)...."

            As I said this is a lengthy comment that I upvoted. I can give general approval without signing off on every single word of someone else's comment. In fact, sometimes when someone ends a conversation, my final act is to upvote his final comment, just to let him know I accept his decision to stop.

            But in the instant case, there are two "cans" and one "may" and no "musts," so one can read it as simply meaning that it is permitted to give a woman's decision to abort in this lenient fashion when "circumstances" warrant. I don't think that statement must be read in the universally mandatory fashion you imply.

            As for Mother Teresa saying that abortion constitutes "mothers murdering their own children," well, from the standpoint of absolutely correct ethical description, that is exactly what it is, since it is an act by which a woman directly takes the life of her own innocent child. Where is this definition wrong?

            I know. It is not the denotation that bothers you, but the connotation of that phrasing. But Mother Teresa's central point is if a mother can take the life of her own child while that child is in her absolute care and protection in her own womb, then where would any other life on this planet be more safe? And if we can destroy life there, we can clearly destroy it anywhere else we wish. She puts it in stark terms, but that does not mean that she intends to condemn the woman, but rather to underline the danger to children of being in the "safety" of the womb.

            And you cannot conflate her statement with the first cited statement, since they were made by two different people aiming at two different purposes. Mother Teresa is highlighting the danger to the unborn child. The first statement cited is highlighting the possibility that the woman doing this act may not be psychologically responsible for its objectively evil nature. These are apples and oranges.

            "I personally have quite serious doubts that abortion constitutes murder to the extent that I would not advocate punishment for abortion."

            While abortion does meet the definition of homicide, prudence requires that any punishment should be in accord with the extent of responsibility had by those involved.

            In the case you cite personally, it is possible that the woman would be excused largely because she is simply ignorant of the nature of the act, since you say that she "felt she and her husband were not ready to have a child."

            Since, objectively, they already did have a living child in her womb, it appears they may not have realized the truth of what they were intending to do.

            That may have something to do with Planned Parenthood's strong objections to having a pregnant woman see a sonogram of her unborn child in the womb before having an abortion.

          • David Nickol

            But in the instant case, there are two "cans" and one "may" and no "musts," so one can read it as simply meaning that it is permitted to give a woman's decision to abort in this lenient fashion when "circumstances" warrant. I don't think that statement must be read in the universally mandatory fashion you imply.

            I read the statement about not punishing women who procure abortions as a universal statement to mean that all women who procure abortions may reasonably be assumed to have been "out of their heads" and not legally or morally responsible. I read the statement in the light of the following other statement:

            No pro-lifers have any appetite to punish pregnant women who procure abortions. Anybody who did we would slam them harder than Gosnell himself(that dirty monster) and denounce them to the Heavens.

            There is no intrinsic moral reason to do so given the extenuating circumstances of being pregnant & the principles of moral dogma of crime and punishment and general principles of justice. It is all vary obvious.

            As I have stated, I fully understand rejecting the idea of punishing women who procure abortions as a pragmatic political approach. But surely if abortion is murder, it is not at all morally unthinkable to punish a woman for it.

            In the case you cite personally, it is possible that the woman would be excused largely because she is simply ignorant of the nature of the act, since you say that she "felt she and her husband were not ready to have a child."

            Word games. My meaning was that she and her husband were not ready to raise a child, nor was she willing to complete her pregnancy and give the child up for adoption.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I pointed out earlier, an upvote does not mean I own everything a comment says,

            Surely, you do not want to penalize someone for affirming the need for mercy and understanding in the difficult situations that most women face when they contemplate an abortion or even have one. The fact that some do so coolly and deliberately does not mean that they necessarily possess "criminal intent" -- given the pro-abortion culture in which we live and the inverted values this represents. This again is a reason not to judge everyone involved in an abortion over-harshly. Still, you can understand why pro-life laws would aim to focus on others involved rather than the woman.

            One must distinguish between (1) the great objective evil that abortion and (2) the personal responsibility of those involved in it. The need for some strong laws to protect innocent unborn human life is underlined by the atrocities of some like Gosnell.

            I think my prior comment covered most of the relevant distinctions.

          • David Nickol

            The need for some strong laws to protect innocent unborn human life is underlined by the atrocities of some like Gosnell.

            He was indeed a monster, but what he did was against the law. It was a failure of the medical and legal system that he got away with it so long. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life plus 30 years.

            There has been a lot of sympathy expressed here for women who are distressed to find themselves pregnant, but what does the political pro-life movement offer women in such distress? I know that there are many pro-lifers involved in charities that offer help to women with unplanned pregnancies, but what does the political pro-life movement offer? What is Trump's plan to help women desperate enough to contemplate abortion?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You mention here the concept of "unplanned pregnancies." It is not on topic for your comment, but it compares in my mind with the concept of "planned parenthood." The whole concept that man has complete and utter control over what is basically God's plan for the procreation of the human race through natural marriage and rational love between man and woman -- allowing in large measure for nature to take its course -- seems to have been replaced by a notion that man controls everything in nature and God's providence is an archaic and irrelevant notion. We control everything -- at least until Covid-19 came along. Just noticing.

            As for your comment's actual point, you probably know better than I just how much actual help to women in crisis is presently available. But regardless of what the pro-life movement may actually be doing (and that assuming it is somehow its actual responsibility), we must never forget the old, but still true, truism: two wrongs don't make a right.

          • OMG

            Scott's comment argued for extenuating circumstances, one of which was: We can and may a priori treat a pregnant women as a person in grave distress who in those circumstances is not in her right mind when she seeks an abortion.

            Scott's statement did not say that all women in unwanted pregnancies are not in their right mind. It seemed to me that Scott argued for leniency toward women. Speaking man-to-man, his speech was not PC, but did his words really reflect a misogynistic ogre beating upon all young ladies so over-stressed?

            Legalized abortion has been our bane for close to 50 years, during which time many other social changes have occurred (some as effects of this legality). Why should a caring person not view the many women in our culture today as not in a right 'frame' of mind when today's customs, laws, medical science, and yes, failures of family and church all too often point to paths of 'quick and easy' answers to many poor unmarried women in circumstances which appear to them as insurmountable?

            It would be an ogre, indeed, who could not allow these women leniency and excuse. Their own moral qualms may be heightened and confused as their years roll by, as a future husband, another child, economic support, laws, church, and culture may grant new perspective on the moral heinousness of abortion.

            I have no doubt that Mother Therese herself would argue that love is needed to stop a sin.

          • David Nickol

            Scott's statement did not say that all women in unwanted pregnancies are not in their right mind.

            Why don't we just ask Jim the Scott? My understanding of what he is saying is that an unwanted pregnancy always puts a woman in such a position that if she chooses abortion, she should not be held legally responsible. And, for that matter, she should not be held morally responsible (at least morally responsible for murder) because, by the very fact of having an unwanted pregnancy, she is in a state where she is not fully responsible for her decisions.

            On whether each woman who has an abortion is the "second victim" of it, he has answered yes, with this qualification:

            Unless you can produce a mature women who gets herself pregnant on purpose repeatedly so she can have an abortion and sell the fetal parts because she is in on some criminal scheme I am going with the second victim.

            Speaking man-to-man, his speech was not PC, but did his words really reflect a misogynistic ogre beating upon all young ladies so over-stressed?

            I maintain that his position is insulting to women because he asserts that no woman with an unwanted pregnancy is capable of making a decision to have an abortion for which she can be held fully responsible. He says:

            Because they are not just women. They are pregnant women and that is a whole new level of crazy from ordinary women. I know I have been a father three times and yikes!

            It would be interesting to hear what a woman's view of that statement is! I have known and worked with many pregnant women—including one who had an abortion—and I failed to see any craziness.

            It would be an ogre, indeed, who could not allow these women leniency and excuse.

            Of course, the one thing all of the "bleeding heart" pro-lifers here do not want to allow such women is an abortion! Or, for that matter, access to birth control to prevent future pregnancies. Now, the following is a Catholic teaching I wholeheartedly endorse:

            23. On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption - a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

            But the pro-life movement tends to be politically conservative, and the above is not on the agenda for conservative pro-lifers. Can this who support Donald Trump imagine him reading that from a teleprompter?

          • OMG

            Let's agree to disagree on Scott's intentions. His words are based on his experience with his wife in three pregnancies. I hazard that plenty of husbands undoubtedly would share his characterization of wives in the state. My family's pregnancies called to mind Kafka's Metamorphosis, a tome which scared me.

            Meanwhile, the Vatican document you cite is based on longstanding Catholic teaching on social justice. I've included an extensive selection from the CCC. The basic principle derives from the idea of each man's transcendental dignity. When we do not respect and protect the most vulnerable and defenseless, the likelihood of exploitation and force is great.

            A glance at any recent news demonstrates a failure of charity. Today the police in Buffalo pushed a clearly innocent 75-year-old man walking toward them on the sidewalk; he fell and blood soon began to flow from his ear. No one stooped to him. In the past few months, Gov. Cuomo ordered the elderly with COVID be placed in nursing homes. During quarantine, abortion clinics remained open as 'essential' businesses.

            PART THREE
            LIFE IN CHRIST
            SECTION ONE
            MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
            CHAPTER TWO
            THE HUMAN COMMUNION
            ARTICLE 3
            SOCIAL JUSTICE
            1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
            I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
            1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

            What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
            1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
            1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.
            1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."38
            1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.39 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.
            II. EQUALITY AND DIFFERENCES AMONG MEN
            LIFE IN CHRIST
            SECTION ONE
            MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
            CHAPTER TWO
            THE HUMAN COMMUNION
            ARTICLE 3
            SOCIAL JUSTICE
            1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
            I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
            1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

            What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
            1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
            1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.
            1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."38
            1933 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.39 Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.

          • Mark

            so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person.

            I wholeheartedly deny an intrauterine hypertonic saline injection is welcoming to a child.

          • David Nickol

            This is your response to my endorsement of part of Catholic teaching? I really don't see the point.

            You sound angry.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather you endorse none of it. Close only counts in horseshoes my friend.

          • Mark

            Wholeheartedly for me doesn't mean a partial endorsement. The first place a child is welcomed into this world is always and everywhere the mother's womb. A welcome worthy of a person, in natural moral reason, starts before birth. So I see an obvious disconnect with a wholehearted commitment to the welfare of children per Catholic teaching. If you're pro-choice, you're committed to the idea that merely being
            human is not itself a reason to ascribe a right to life. If you're
            Catholic you are. Additionally, my point was, given an uncountable number of unreported saline induced abortions resulting in unreported live births, it's not even a commitment to post-partum welfare to be pro-choice if you believe it is a mother's right to condone and ensure termination of life post-partum via the abortionist preferred methodology. Those children feel pain, are alive post-partum, and may even be viable. They are welcomed with medically supervised extra-uterine euthanasia because the pro-choice commitment is to the choice even if it includes infanticide. Infanticide is really not immoral by any gradient person pro-choice criteria. So, I'm sorry Dave, I don't see an endorsement here of a Catholic moral truth.

          • David Nickol

            I disagree with your reading of paragraph 23 of the Declaration on Procured Abortion. Certainly the document and the clear teaching of the Catholic Church reflect the Catechism:

            2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

            But that doesn't mean every statement of Catholic teaching is about the unborn! Collapse the paragraph in question, and you get," [I]t is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux . . . . so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion." If this were about the unborn, surely there would be mention of something specifically about things such as prenatal care. The phrase "every child coming into this world" seems to me clearly to be about birth, not conception. We do not welcome a child into the world at conception. We welcome it at birth.

            They are welcomed with medically supervised extra-uterine euthanasia because the pro-choice commitment is to the choice even if it includes infanticide.

            To deliberately kill any living child, whether born naturally or by induced abortion is homicide and is (and always has been) illegal. I certainly support the law in this regard.

            So, I'm sorry Dave, I don't see any endorsement here of a Catholic moral truth . . . .

            I support the idea of the legal system being used to attempt to make this a society in which, for every pregnant woman, "there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion." It seems to me that many in the political "pro-life" movement do not.

          • Rob Abney

            "The phrase "every child coming into this world" seems to me clearly to be about birth, not conception. We do not welcome a child into the world at conception. We welcome it at birth"

            Although you make it a point to be very precise in your reading of the catechism, it seems that you have arbitrarily chosen a moment in development that cannot be supported as the time when Catholics welcome babies into the world. What criteria do you propose should be used to welcome a baby? It seems like your criteria is passage through the birth canal.

          • David Nickol

            What criteria do you propose should be used to welcome a baby? It seems like your criteria is passage through the birth canal.

            First, try Googling the phrase "welcome a child to the world." You'll find what you get is not about welcoming the conception of a child, but welcoming the birth of a baby.

            You seem to imply that birth is of hardly any significance, a mere traveling of one or two feet from point A to point B. Of course, that's not true at all. It's rare for even your mother to remember your conception, but your day of birth is a key milestone. What do you, your family, and your friends celebrate—your conception or your birthday? Being conceived in the United States counts for nothing, but being born here makes a person a citizen.

            Although it might be argued that the Incarnation is the most momentous instant in Christianity, nevertheless Christmas is more elaborately celebrated.

            I probably shouldn't admit this, but I recently completed watching 15 season (331 episodes!) of ER, and many if not most of the most dramatic episodes involved the birth of a baby. Birth is far more than a baby traveling down the birth canal—both physically and emotionally.

          • David Nickol

            By the way, what textual evidence can you adduce to argue that in the Declaration on Procured Abortion, the paragraph I quoted is talking about conception or pregnancy rather than birth when it says ". . . so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person"?

          • Rob Abney

            Did you ever talk to your mother about your conception!?
            But if you determine objective criteria such as when life begins, which is when a child who did not previously exist does now exist and should be welcomed to the world, by using google and TV drama then you are in good company, you and Anthony Kennedy think alike.

          • OMG

            Many non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Two Jewish families, two Hindu families, and two families of mixed Christian/Hindu/Buddhist families (together with four nominal Christian families) reside on my cul-de-sac. In Christmas season, everyone but one decorates with outdoor lights or yard displays of secular themes (Rudolph, stars,). Many exchange gifts, and one Hindu puts up a tree. (In India, many Hindus include Jesus in their pantheon so that all bases have been covered. )

            The RCC has celebrated the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) since time immemorial. It is based on Luke's account of the conception of Jesus by the angel appearing to Mary to announce that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and she would conceive. Although Catholics are not obligated to attend Mass on this day, many do. Then, of course, we do have a day of obligation to attend Mass every December 8. This day commemorates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. Catholics also revere the Visitation, a day when Mary greets her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Both women are pregnant, Elizabeth in her old age, about 6 months pregnant, and Mary newly so. Elizabeth, without being told, knows that Mary is "Mother of my Lord" when the child in her womb leaps at Mary's approach.

            Whether individual Christians do or don't consider our own or our children's date of conception (which cannot be decided with 100% certainty in any event if natural sexual relations led to the conception) is not the point since some (not sure of the number--10-20%) of conceptions end in natural miscarriage, and it is the physical sight and the demands of the crying babe which, after the physical labor, is cause for rejoicing in the gift of a child. Next, there would be no child if there were no conception. The conception is, what Dr. B. may help here, a first cause?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, conception is certainly not the kind of first cause among proper causes acting here and now that we find in the proofs for God in St. Thomas's Five Ways.

            But it is the beginning of human life such that sperm, ovum, and God infusing the human spiritual soul at that singular moment in time initiate the organism that will continue to exist and develop all the way to the moment of birth, unless something such as spontaneous or direct abortion intervenes.

            I have heard that the Chinese traditionally celebrate one's time of beginning as nine months prior to birth.

          • BTS

            I support the idea of the legal system being used to attempt to make this a society in which, for every pregnant woman, "there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion." It seems to me that many in the political "pro-life" movement do not.

            Yes.

          • Mark

            To deliberately kill any living child, whether born naturally or by induced abortion is homicide and is (and always has been) illegal. I certainly support the law in this regard.

            Dave I don't think you're disingenuous, so I can only see this is naive about what happens in abortion clinics. There is no medical commitment to surviving children. There is no commitment to reporting its occurrence. There is a commitment to the end of life. Given a conservative estimate of its occurrence ( I believe it happens daily in any PP clinic) and the frequency of conviction of providers who violate the 2002 act it is rather absurd to maintain pro-choice lobby support the law in any regard. Denton TX, former abortion clinic workers:

            https://youtu.be/9fhyJItGPko

            I don't think this is the "welcome worthy of a person".

          • David Nickol

            Dave I don't think you're disingenuous, so I can only see this is naive about what happens in abortion clinics.

            I am becoming increasingly troubled by the personalization of this discussion. Another example:

            But if you determine objective criteria such as when life begins, which is when a child who did not previously exist does now exist and should be welcomed to the world, by using google and TV drama then you are in good company, you and Anthony Kennedy think alike.

            And of course, Jim the Scott is "disappointed" in me.

            The issue that I have been trying to discuss (after delving into why pro-lifers are so sympathetic to defend "mothers who kill—murder—their own children") is the simple matter of what the CDF Declaration on Procured Abortion means in paragraph 23 when it talks about making it possible to "give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person." Does it mean every child born, or every child conceived? My contention, met with such fervid resistance here, its that since the paragraph is saying that a "whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion," the phrase about welcoming "every child coming into this world" refers to children being born.

          • Mark

            I noted your contention about Catholic pro-lifers who don't support pro-child legislative efforts. The fervid resistance you met might be a result of questioning the ethical consistency of Catholics who are and have been the greatest advocate of marginalized children in the history of humanity. There isn't even a close second. Per my response in the subject mater of infanticide; Catholicism is the reason it is considered morally licit and She has been consistent with this teaching since Christ when it was a social norm.

            My contention was the often glossed over illogical and glaringly obvious moral inconsistency of the left. Every day in the US an unknown number of children are born alive in abortion clinics with saline burns and are put in a bag or on a shelf to allow to "die naturally" or "more humanely" to physically euthanize a child that obviously is in pain. How we treat a neonate found alive in an abortion clinic and how we treat a neonate found alive outside an abortion clinic are not the same. To my knowledge, no licensed health care practitioner since Roe v, outside of Gosnell, has been held legally accountable to medical ethical requirements of post-partum care. Therefore it is a logical contradiction to claim to be pro-abortion after 22 weeks (viability) and post-partum pro-child. It really is nonsense. It is a fundamental logical and ethical inconsistency. At least doctors like the bioethicist Jacob Appel, who defend infanticide (post-birth abortion), are logically consistent because neonates lack utilitarian personhood. My point is it is much more outlandish to promote secular sanctioned infanticide and child welfare at the same time with any moral authority. Catholics that don't support secular child welfare measures do so out of indifference to the secular authority, not because they are indifferent to child welfare.

          • David Nickol

            I noted your contention about Catholic pro-lifers who don't support pro-child legislative efforts.

            That's odd, because to the best of my knowledge (and I have tried to scan previous messages on this topic), I have not specified Catholic pro-lifers. My contentions have been about political pro-lifers. I am aware that there are many Catholics who oppose abortion who would support legislation to benefit children and who could endorse paragraph 23 of the Declaration on Procured Abortion.

            Every day in the US an unknown number of children are born alive in abortion clinics with saline burns . . . .

            You have no proof. In fact, you have no evidence all.

          • Mark

            I have not specified Catholic pro-lifers.

            Excuse me for assuming quoting the Catechism or Papal encyclicals on a Catholic site would be specified for a Catholic audience.

            In fact, you have no evidence at all.

            No evidence at all? I can see I'm dialoguing with a PP defense attorney. I won't wast any more of your time Dave.

          • David Nickol

            No evidence at all?

            No evidence that, as you claimed, "every day in the US an unknown number of children are born alive in abortion clinics with saline burns." I

            f you have evidence, I would be glad to see it.

            I can see I'm dialoguing with a PP defense attorney.

            Another remark personalizing things. I Planned Parenthood breaks the law, e.g., by directly killing born alive infants, then those who do so are guilty of homicide and should be brought to justice.

            It is extremely ironic that this rather rancorous debate was brought about by my quoting, with approval, paragraph 23 of the CDF document Declaration on Procured Abortion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have long thought that you are to be commended for researching and citing the actual documents and doctrines of the Church -- whether you quote them favorably or not.

          • David Nickol

            I can see I'm dialoguing with a PP defense attorney.

            From this site's Commenting Rules and Tips:

            4. Critique ideas, not people.

            The rhetorical assault known as ad hominem, Latin for "to the person," is one of the most common fallacies online. Instead of engaging actual arguments, the culprit criticizes, insults, belittles, judges, or mocks the person making the argument. He blasts the opponent's character, intelligence, education, background, motivations, or sometimes all of the above. Attacking persons is fallacious and uncharitable and will not be permitted here. If you are wondering why your comment was flagged or deleted, consider whether it was ad hominem. (Comments that are vulgar, mocking, or insubstantial will be deleted, too.)

          • Mark

            Critique ideas, not people. For example:

            You sound angry

            I got it Dave. Thanks.

          • David Nickol

            I am bowing out.

            I do want to make it clear that this all began when I quoted, approvingly, paragraph 23 from the Declaration on Procured Abortion, and you (and Rob Abney) rejected my approval because you argued that "welcoming a child into the world" referred to conception, not birth. Then you introduced the topic of saline abortions and also posted a pro-life propaganda video. From my point of view, you have derailed the discussion of the Declaration on Procured Abortion to a pointless discussion on abortion techniques and their use and possibly abuse. We could have had a dialogue about how Catholics and people of other religions (or no religion) can find common ground even about Catholic teaching. But we didn't.

            I still maintain people of goodwill, whether they oppose abortion or support it, can find common ground in paragraph 23 of DOPA by trying through government to reform society to reduce or eliminate conditions (such as poverty) that lead women to choose abortion. And I still maintain that is not the goal of the political pro-life movement. But for some reason that offends you.

            Over and out.

          • BTS

            And...there it is.
            I was watching this conversation and it ended exactly how I thought it would.

          • OMG

            The number is truly unknown, so your statement is indeed very true. (Every day in the US an unknown number of children are born alive in abortion clinics with saline burns and are put in a bag or on a shelf...)

            Do you know the LifeNews site? They have stats and testimony from doctors who've performed abortions and from nurses who've had post-abortive babies brought into their NICUs.

          • Mark

            Doing rough math: The most recent CDC study that differentiated types of abortions procured was 2007 when instillation abortion was utilized at .5% of the abortions reported. If 1-1.2 million abortions are procured (Guttmacher) per year in the US, estimates would be 5-6k of these types of abortions are performed annually. "Success rates" of intrauteraine injections are measured by complete expulsion of the fetal and placental material within a prescribed time, usually 48 hours. Some abortions induce iatrogenic fetal death when medication is used in the instillation, but it's not required and more expensive. When it is not used feticide is not ensured pre-delivery unless it is done intrauterine or intravaginally during the D&E process. PGE's are typically used to soften the cervix for expedite the D & E sometimes effective to the point where the dilation is unnecessary and evacuation occurs mostly unassisted. Here's the definition of a life birth according to the CDC and WHO:

            ‘‘Live Birth’’ means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of human conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which, after such expulsion or extraction, breathes,or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. Heartbeats are to be distinguished from transient cardiac contractions; respirations are to be distinguished from fleeting respiratory efforts or gasps.

            I think it is rather mute to argue whether or not the fetus/child is evaluated by the abortionist to see if it has a heartbeat or voluntary muscle contraction and should be considered a live birth. It is unwanted, therefore no medical intervention required. I'm certainly unaware of any provider guidelines for medical intervention to aborted fetuses. It's all rather look away stuff, but it would be beyond conservative to think 1% of the .5% of abortions result in a fetus with a heartbeat, pulsing umbilical, or voluntary muscle contractions. And that would be roughly 5-600 babies per year born alive in an abortion clinic from instillation abortion procedures. The bottom line is unwanted live birth is still not a person, but it's illogical to rationalize how without utilitarian infanticide.

          • OMG

            You've offered a solid analysis.

            One web video has ?Jim Maren? of LifeSite interviewing Jill Stanek. He noted that saline instillation is the method often chosen when harvesting of fetal body parts--specifically the heart--is wanted since saline tends to more frequently deliver a living fetus. Stanek has many articles or videos of nurses and doctors testifying to their personal knowledge of post-abortive born-alive babies. Their accounts are truly heart-rending and, as you say, all rather look away stuff. But truth is true.

          • David Nickol

            Dave I don't think you're disingenuous, so I can only see this is naive about what happens in abortion clinics.

            I did not venture any option or information about what happens in abortion clinics. I simply said that to directly kill a a born-alive infant, no matter if it is the product of a miscarriage or an abortion, is illegal. It is illegal not because of any recent special legislation, but by American law and the common law. A born-alive infant is a person under the law. Period. I did extensive research on this issue years ago, and my congressman at the time—Nadler, as pro-choice as they come—flatly stated that there was no question a born-alive infant was protected under law. He referred to the 2002 bike as a "belt and suspenders" approach, since it outlawed something unquestionably already illegal.

            I have no way to evaluate the veracity of the women in the video. They see awfully at ease relating the ghastly events they apparently willingly participated in, claiming they didn't know it was illegal to twist off a baby's head or jab an instrument through the soft spot in a baby's head. Setting aside the legality of it all, how did they keep down their lunch or sleep at night? (If their testimony is truthful.)

            Note there is an article form a Houston newspaper saying the doctor in question was "cleared of late-term abortion claims."

            You say that "it is rather absurd to maintain pro-choice lobby support the law in any regard." The enforcement of homicide laws is not up to the "pro-choice lobby." It is up to state and local authorities.

            .

          • David Nickol

            The more I research the above video and the people who made it, the less credible it is. It's seven years old, and a lot has happened since then. Did you make any effort to verify the information in the video? Or do you just accept at face value any anti-abortion propaganda you run across? Even some unquestionably dedicated pro-life advocates have questioned some of the tactics of some pro-life activists. Remember the fascinating debate between some of the Catholic heavy-hitters involving the deceptions used in obtaining some "sting" videos.

          • Mark

            What's to verify. You have testimony. You can accept or deny it. There is no evidence released from grand jury sequestration, no medical records to review without privacy violation. These women likely all violated non-disclosure agreements with their employer. Open records laws allow us to see abortion industry negligence, but names are withheld.

          • David Nickol

            What's to verify. You have testimony. You can accept or deny it.

            From the Houston Chronicle, December 20, 2013:

            Houston doctor cleared in late-term abortion scandal

            A Harris County grand jury on Friday declined to indict a Houston doctor accused by an anti-abortion group earlier this year of performing late-term abortions.

            Dr. Douglas Karpen was "no-billed" by a grand jury after a months-long investigation by Harris County authorities and the Texas Department of State Health Services, said Karpen's attorney Chip Lewis.

            The grand jury's decision effectively clears Karpen of any wrongdoing.

            The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue issued a report in May saying three former employees of Karpen's Houston clinic had relayed accounts of fetuses that had been illegally aborted. The report also claimed the employees provided grisly photographs.

            Operation Rescue released its findings on Karpen just days after Philadelphia physician Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder in the deaths of three infants who had been born alive. The group's report led Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to release a statement demanding an investigation.

            That is certainly enough to raise doubts about the Operation Rescue (or Life Dynamics?) video.

          • David Nickol

            A welcome worthy of a person, in natural moral reason, starts before birth.

            But the question is what it means in context in paragraph 23 of the Declaration on Procured Abortion.

          • OMG

            Let's agree to disagree on Scott's intentions. His words are based on his experience with his wife in three pregnancies. I hazard that plenty of husbands undoubtedly would share his characterization of wives in the state. My family's pregnancies called to mind Kafka's Metamorphosis, a tome which scared me.

            Meanwhile, the Vatican document you cite is based on longstanding Catholic teaching on social justice. I've included an extensive selection from the CCC. The basic principle derives from the idea of each man's transcendental dignity. When we do not respect and protect the most vulnerable and defenseless, the likelihood of exploitation and force is great.

            A glance at any recent news demonstrates a failure of charity. Today the police in Buffalo pushed a clearly innocent 75-year-old man walking toward them on the sidewalk; he fell and blood soon began to flow from his ear. No one stooped to him. In the past few months, Gov. Cuomo ordered the elderly with COVID be placed in nursing homes. During quarantine, abortion clinics remained open as 'essential' businesses.

            PART THREE
            LIFE IN CHRIST
            SECTION ONE
            MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
            CHAPTER TWO
            THE HUMAN COMMUNION
            ARTICLE 3
            SOCIAL JUSTICE
            1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
            I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
            1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
            What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
            1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
            1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

          • OMG

            Let's agree to disagree on Scott's intentions. His words are based on his experience with his wife in three pregnancies. I hazard that plenty of husbands undoubtedly would share his characterization of wives in the state. My family's pregnancies called to mind Kafka's Metamorphosis, a tome which scared me.

            Meanwhile, the Vatican document you cite is based on longstanding Catholic teaching on social justice. I've included an extensive selection from the CCC. (This is my third attempt; evidently Discus detects as spam those comments with too much imported material. ) The basic principle of social justice derives from the idea of each man's transcendental dignity. When we do not respect and protect the most vulnerable and defenseless, the likelihood of exploitation and force is great.

            A glance at any recent news demonstrates a failure of charity. Today the police in Buffalo pushed a clearly innocent 75-year-old man walking toward them on the sidewalk; he fell and blood soon began to flow from his ear. No one stooped to him. In the past few months, Gov. Cuomo ordered the elderly with COVID be placed in nursing homes. During quarantine, abortion clinics remained open as 'essential' businesses.

            The pro-life view has traditionally been that protection of innocent and vulnerable life is fundamentally essential to any practice of Catholic social justice. Without life, no other right can be conceived. St. Mother Teresa’s comments reflect such thinking.

            PART THREE – Section One, Chapter Two, Article 3, 1928 ff:
            - Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.

            I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON - Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him. What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.

            -Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

            - Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

          • David Nickol

            A glance at any recent news demonstrates a failure of charity.

            You'll get no argument from me there. There has no doubt been a lack of charity since the human race began.

            In the past few months, Gov. Cuomo ordered the elderly with COVID be placed in nursing homes.

            That is not accurate (see here). On March 25, Cuomo issued a rule that nursing homes could not refuse to take Covid-19 patients. On May 10 he rescinded that rule.

          • OMG

            Let's agree to disagree on Scott's intentions. His words are based on his experience with his wife in three pregnancies. I hazard that plenty of husbands undoubtedly would share his characterization of wives in the state. My family's pregnancies called to mind Kafka's Metamorphosis, a tome which scared me.

            Meanwhile, the Vatican document you cite is based on longstanding Catholic teaching on social justice. I've referenced an extensive selection from the CCC. (This is my fourth attempt; evidently Discus detects as spam those comments with too much imported material. ) The basic principle of social justice derives from the idea of each man's transcendental dignity. When we do not respect and protect the most vulnerable and defenseless, the likelihood of exploitation and force is great.

            A glance at any recent news demonstrates a failure of charity. Today the police in Buffalo pushed a clearly innocent 75-year-old man walking toward them on the sidewalk; he fell and blood soon began to flow from his ear. No one stooped to him. In the past few months, Gov. Cuomo ordered the elderly with COVID be placed in nursing homes.**David corrects this statement to be true when re-written as he suggests.**During quarantine, abortion clinics remained open as 'essential' businesses.

            The pro-life view has traditionally been that protection of innocent and vulnerable life is fundamentally essential to any practice of Catholic social justice. Without life, no other right can be conceived. St. Mother Teresa’s comments reflect such teaching.

            See PART THREE – Section One, Chapter Two, Article 3, 1928 ff:

          • Jim the Scott

            @EamusCatuli0771108:disqus

            Interesting Dave, you wish to give yer own spin on my words without my input? Again I am disappointed.

            >Why don't we just ask Jim the Scott? My understanding of what he is saying is that an unwanted pregnancy always puts a woman in such a position that if she chooses abortion, she should not be held legally responsible.

            And why not? In the past it was always so to show such mercy. Why change it? Do you wish to hurt women?

            >And, for that matter, she should not be held morally responsible (at least morally responsible for murder) because, by the very fact of having an unwanted pregnancy, she is in a state where she is not fully responsible for her decisions.

            I defy you to show me where I said that? After all I fully endorse the automatic excommunication. Granted it is for God alone to judge her soul but the Church should presume she committed mortal sin. But that doesn't mean the state has to extract its pound of flesh. She is still being held morally responsible.

            >On whether each woman who has an abortion is the "second victim" of it, he has answered yes, with this qualification: etc etc

            Which shows I don't condone withholding civil punishment from the truly malignant. Even women. If you are a threat to society then you are a threat & Law and Order must deal with you.

            >I maintain that his position is insulting to women because he asserts that no woman with an unwanted pregnancy is capable of making a decision to have an abortion for which she can be held fully responsible.

            Rather I condone we presume it unless we have evidence to the contrary. Why do you object to mercy? Well I can think of one reason. It feeds a Pro Abort narrative of the heartless pro lifer who wants to enslave women with pregnancy. Sorry to disappoint you.

            I gave you an extreme example of some foul tart who wants to get rich breeding her own children for parts & money. That proves I do hold women responsible. I just make a distinction between the victims vs the wicked. How is that hard?

            >It would be interesting to hear what a woman's view of that statement is! etc...etc...

            If she is pro life she might appreciate my sense of humor and offer a rejoinder cruelly zinging men & myself(secretly ladies like a bad boy) If she is some boring third wave feminist pro abort I won't care what she says and I will simply blow her off by telling her to make me a sandwich.

            >I have known and worked with many pregnant women—including one who had an abortion—and I failed to see any craziness.....

            Try living with them and then get back to me.

            >Of course, the one thing all of the "bleeding heart" pro-lifers here do not want to allow such women is an abortion!

            Well baby killing is sick. So it should not be allowed. Why is this hard? You don't kill babies and you don't kick puppies.

            > Or, for that matter, access to birth control to prevent future pregnancies.

            Rather if you are the sort who doesn't believe in fornicating then you wouldn't need birth control. If I was gonna rob a bank I likely would wear a bullet proof vest & that would be common sense but it wouldn't make it any more moral. The Catholic Church condemns stealing & she doesn't need to give advice to criminals on how to do their nefarious acts more successfully with less adverse consequences. If you want to rob the place where you work and not take off yer name tag first before you put on a mask you can be on an episode of the world's dumbest criminals. If you want to fornicate without a rubber...well the Church is not required to help you be a better mortal sinner. That is on you.

            > Now, the following is a Catholic teaching I wholeheartedly endorse: etc

            Me too.

            >But the pro-life movement tends to be politically conservative, and the above is not on the agenda for conservative pro-lifers.

            Screw conservatives. If I could promote pro life and really get rid of abortion by throwing them under the bus I would do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I am the one who referenced Atheist Pro Lifers and Gay Pro Lifers. Love those guys.

            >Can those who support Donald Trump imagine him saying that in a pro-life speech?

            I love Trump but I would throw him over if I truly believed it would help the pro life movement(I don't. He has been awesome). In politics I don't believe in kindness or mercy. I believe only in raw naked victory. Of course in my Prudent judgement I think Trump is now very good for pro lifers. Others can disagree. Politics is not religious dogma & I refuse to treat it as such and I have little patence with those who do.

          • OMG

            Bravo.

          • David Nickol

            From the "About" page of this website:

            But StrangeNotions.com is different. Our goal is not to defeat anyone, embarrass them, or assault their character. Our goal is only the Truth, and to pursue it through fruitful discussion. Like Socrates, like Jesus, we embrace healthy dialogue as the path to Truth, even and especially with people we disagree with. That's why the comboxes at Strange Notions are so central and important.

            If Catholics are wrong about God, then we hope our critics can correct us so that we will no longer be ignorant. We hope atheists will be open to the same kind of correction. The goal here isn't to win an argument, but to help each other find the Truth.

            What I have been doing in my last several comments is to try to understand how "pro-lifers" can, on the one hand, proclaim abortion to be murder, and on the other, be so quick to defend "mothers who kill—murder—even their own children" (Saint Teresa of Calcutta). I am not advocating the punishment of women who procure abortions. I am trying to figure out how "pro-lifers" can accuse 1 in 4 Americans of being murderers, and then rush to their defense is someone suggests they ought to be held legally (and morally) responsible. It is not a crazy or evil or "anti-God" question, but I think there has been a circling of the wagons here against (with some exceptions) having the kind of discussion Strange Notions was created to foster.

          • OMG

            The truth is that Scott's defense was reasonable, complete, and authentic. He corrected a misrepresentation of his position. I applauded his performance. He set the record straight with bold skill, and I applaud his efforts. My comment was not intended to defeat, embarrass, or assault anyone's character.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you will permit me to try to offer the kind of counterpoint you correctly observe this site should promote, let me say this. I see your point. But I think it can be answered without disparaging anyone.

            Speaking strictly and objectively, abortion is murder. It is the direct and deliberate taking of an innocent human life.

            St. Teresa was therefore absolutely correct in describing it in terms of mothers killing -- murdering -- their own children.

            But I think it worth enquiring, does she anywhere herself demand or approve the punishing of those women who murder their own children? I doubt it. But even if she did, that would not prove that the pro-life position is inherently inconsistent.

            The reason I say this is because, while the objective nature of abortion is inherently murderous, that does not necessarily mean that those who directly participate in an abortion must have murderous intent.

            That is where simple ignorance, coercion, blind fear, misconception of ethics and other extenuating factors may diminish or negate the moral responsibility of those involved, especially the pregnant woman.

            Why do you think Planned Parenthood is so opposed to laws requiring that a woman be shown a sonogram of what is actually in her womb before an abortion? Could it be that they are afraid that she might change her mind when confronted with clear evidence of the humanity of her fetus? Their stance underlines the fact that many women do not know that they are actually taking a human life when they have an abortion. Sonograms do change the minds of many women.

            So, if you ask how pro-lifers can condemn abortion as murder, but still not demand punishment for the mother herself, the answer lies in the distinction between (1) the objectively murderous nature of abortion in itself, and (2) the fact that those participating in an abortion may not themselves be acting with murderous intent for many possible reasons.

            This does not excuse society from its obligation to do all it reasonably can to protect the lives of children in the womb. But it does mean that the sanctions applied to abortion need not treat all those who participate in one as actual murderers, since there are many modifiers of responsibility that can and must licitly be applied here. Application of these criteria of responsibility for human acts may show that many of those participating in abortions, especially the pregnant women, may not be acting out of murderous intent.

          • BTS

            Speaking man-to-man, his speech was not PC, but did his words really reflect a misogynistic ogre beating upon all young ladies so over-stressed?

            His views reflect an outdated victorian sensibility that women are fragile, hysterical, unreliable and irrational.

          • Jim the Scott

            So you are equivocating here & doing a little bait and switch to boot? Why do you think you can get away with that with moi? Pluez! You are persuading me you are not arguing in good faith when you pull crap like this. Also do note others see it. Like OMG in pointing out yer phony claims regarding unbaptized children and Hell.

            Who the heck are you sir? Are you really David Nickols or did Michael or some other low brow Gnu hijack his account and I am talking to that person? Geez! So disappointing....

            Are we talking civil penalties or excommunication? Because I was talking about the propriety of civil penalties and I got the strong impression you where too? Now you have switched it up to excommunication? Make up yer mind.

            Automatic Excommunication for committing certain gravely evil acts publicly is by nature and design a medicinal act on the part of the Church. To mortally sin you need three things-grave act, sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. The last two are aways in doubt but because of the severity of the first in the case of abortion we can impose automatic excommunication even on a women in crisis to entice her to turn and go to confession where she can receive the wise council of a hopefully wise Priest who can turn her heart back to God. Because it is better if you are in doubt as too if you are in mortal sin to confess and be wrong then not to confess and be wrong.

            Or is this about some mythology you intend to spread that because somebody is excommunicated that means the Church has in effect sentenced them to Hell rather than warned them they are in danger of it?

            Because given low quality of yer bad arguments to date that is what I am thinking you mean here? So it that what you imagine? An excommunication sentence means the Church assumes for Herself the powers of God as to displace Him from His Throne. Well Bull...B4arbara Streisand that is nor happening laddie.

            So no matter how you do yer sophistry here Dave the message "Go ahead and do yer abortions" is not one of them because we should in civil law presume a pregnant women is a victim not a perp like the professional abbortionist and the penalty for excommunication should also remain.

            It is not either/or.

            So in short, wrong.

          • David Nickol

            Are you really David Nickols . . . .

            No, as a matter of fact, I am not. I am David Nickol.

          • Jim the Scott

            I knew something was afoot....

          • David Nickol

            Like OMG in pointing out yer phony claims regarding unbaptized children and Hell.

            I made no claim, phony or otherwise. I pointed to what I mistakenly thought was a claim on EWTN and explicitly stated that it wasn't Catholic teaching as I understood it. I mistakenly thought EWTN was quoting the statement approvingly, when in fact it was quoting the statement as an example of erroneous depictions of Catholic thought. When OMG pointed out my mistake, I thanked him, acknowledged the error, and apologized. Try being honest enough to credit that instead of engaging in personal attacks against me.

            As for equivocating, let me clarify. While I understand the practicalities of pro-life politics, and consequently understand why pro-lifers avoid talk of legally punishing women for abortion, I do not understand what I perceive to be among pro-lifers a tendency to claim women who procure abortions are never personally, morally responsible for their actions. They are to be seen as "second victims." Now, I have no doubt that for many women an unwanted pregnancy is a near catastrophe and they may be driven to actions that they would have never imagined of themselves. But to maintain this is true of all women is nonsense.

          • Jim the Scott

            I am just disappointed because I am getting the feeling yer just phoning it in...normally you are more of a challenge. It is actually a backhanded compliment....for me.

            > I do not understand what I perceive to be among pro-lifers a tendency to claim women who procure abortions are never personally, morally responsible for their actions.

            Because they are not just women. They are pregnant women and that is a whole new level of crazy from ordinary women. I know I have been a father three times and yikes!

            >Now, I have no doubt that for many women an unwanted pregnancy is a near catastrophe and they may be driven to actions that they would have never imagined of themselves. But to maintain this is true of all women is nonsense.

            Unless you can produce a mature women who gets herself pregnant on purpose repeatedly so she can have an abortion and sell the fetal parts because she is in on some criminal scheme I am going with the second victim.

          • Mark

            "Now, abortions are safer than carrying a baby to term and giving birth." It's an understatement to suggest that is a misleading and inflammatory. There is no way on earth one can rely on accurate reporting of death related complications of abortifacients and abortions. Here is a link from the Guttmacher dog and pony show; you don't need a medical degree to see the scathing holes in the most rose colored lenses of reporting.

            https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/abortion-reporting-requirements#

            After reading this simply ask yourself: What percentage of morbidity or co-morbidity are actually being reported to the CDC when only 27 states require any type of complications to be reported (including 3 of the 4 most populous states) and only the abortion providers are required to report these (who don't typically treat the complications)? Why make such a claim, rather than political motivation. What is true is that reporting of complications of abortions and abortifacients is a passive process that is met with significant resistance at both the provider level and state level. The tail is wagging the dog.

          • David Nickol

            Do you have any actual data to indicate that abortion is not a safe procedure? Or are you just saying there are no trustworthy studies or authorities?

          • Mark

            I'm saying there is no trustworthy data. Abortion is a relatively safe procedure. Childbearing and childbirth is also relatively safe and in cases of cancer can even be said to be protective of the mother health. We know the exact data on the later and we have spotty data on the former. Comparing the two therefore is sophistry to say one is "safer" than the other. Most importantly, when a medical procedure causes mental distress or suicide, it is typically listed as a side effect. Abortion and abortifacients are not because it is political issue. I can know the prevalence of post-partum depression and suicide, I cannot know the prevalence of post-abortion depression and suicide. Those studies that have tried to compare morbidity and mortality of the two groups are not kind to the "abortion is safer" line of thinking.

    • BTS

      Rob, I am beginning to think you are being willfully obtuse. Please convince me otherwise.

      You didn't address any of my points; rather, you just oversimplified the issue and claimed it is an either/or dilemma, which it is most definitely not, and laid out a thinly disguised ad hominem where you attacked me for not having faith, as if that in and of itself is a sin.

      Please address the issue of the Republican war mongering. Are deaths caused by war less valuable than deaths caused by abortion? I'm pretty sure George Bush and the neocons are directly responsible for the deaths of millions. Causing a blatantly unjust war (as the second Iraq war was, clearly, as measured by just war theory) is just as bad as killing the unborn.

      Please address the issue that even if Roe gets overturned, you still won't get what you want. You'll just have a mess of young women crossing state lines.

      Please address the vast wealth of organized religion that could mitigate poverty in America and reduce abortions in a short time if that wealth were to be liquidated.

      Please address my point about what the true goal of the prolife movement is...Is it reduce abortions, but only count success if abortions are decreased by fiat? or would success in drastically reducing abortions by providing comprehensive health care also count?

      What if...the Catholic Church would sell every last asset, as Jesus supposedly taught, and give all of the money to Catholic Charities (billions and billions of dollars) to help support, feed, clothe, and educate pregnant woman in crisis the world over. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Christians "putting their money where their mouth is," so to speak.

      At BEST, I'd think you'd take the tack that the catholic voter faces the straits of Scylla and Charibdys when headed to the booth...but yet, from my point of view, not really. One party only pretends to be prolife while attacking health care, education, and women's issues, just to name a few things. The other party has a better record on just about every other issue than abortion. It's not either/or. It's just not. A true pro-life ethic would be cradle to grave and one party bails out of the picture right around "cradle." So it's not simple; nuance exists here, and a reasonable person faces a complex decision on whom to support.

      Since you have abandoned your Catholic faith

      Those are your words, charged ones indeed. My words would be that I am doing exactly what god, if he exists, desires: searching for the truth and refusing to accept bad explanations or unproven religious authority. I would say I am putting the Catholic faith into the crucible.

      the innocent should never be intentionally killed.

      Then how do you explain all of the genocide, including infants, in the OT? How many genocides did the OT god orchestrate or command? Hmmm....it's a very long list.

      I believe that is a position that President Trump holds but many other politicians do not.

      Um...this is one of the most laughably untruthful claims I have ever seen on Strange Notions. I can't even pretend to be charitable on this one and I won't even make an attempt to actually believe you genuinely think that is true.

      I am concerned that you are convinced that the other issues you cite take precedence over the extermination of a life.

      This is really the crux of the matter, isn't it? In my ideal world there'd be no abortions. There'd also no poverty, murder, war, genocide or terrorism. You think you have moral high ground because the republicans disguise their anti-life tactics but still espouse a philosophy and strategy of
      a) murdering lots of brown foreigners through the direct aggression of war and terrible foreign policy
      b) murdering people slowly through detrimental health care, environmental, economic, education and humanitarian policies.

      There's also the question of how much one person can do to solve a problem, and which strategy they take. Hypothetically, if two people both generally have a negative view of abortion but person A spends his life donating to adoption agencies and volunteering at adoption agencies for inner city children, and person B spends his life working to make abortion illegal, who did the more important work? Who's judgment is that to make? Isn't that just a difference in strategy?

      And so if Person A votes in accordance with beliefs that a human services strategy is the best strategy to prevent abortions, and Person B votes in accordance with his belief that legal recourse is the best way to prevent abortion, who is the better person? Who gets to judge that?

      What if person A's direct intervention and life's work results in the successful adoption of many children who would have otherwise been aborted?

      • Rob Abney

        Don’t write so many points because they’re not the issue. You’ve already established your political position.
        But you evaded the subject of abortion by saying that it’s too contentious of an issue to discuss then you list many contentious political issues. All I’m trying to do is to recruit you to fight in the war against children, to leave the side that would allow their persecution. Then your concern for women and victims of unjust aggression will be more consistent.

        • BTS

          I'm not sure why you engage in the forums if you are not willing to engage the arguments put forth.

          I am interested in other people's feedback on my arguments so I welcome replies on this topic from any of the usual suspects.

  • Michael Murray

    all-loving God is reminding us that life in our modern technological age remains radically contingent and desperately in need of its transcendent Creator.

    Surely He could have just rearranged the stars in the night sky to spell out "Don't forget about Me ?" But no He decided to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

    • Rob Abney

      “He decided to kill hundreds of thousands of people.”
      Yes, year after year after year... What’s your point? No one should die?

      • Michael Murray

        I'd rather He found a way of reminding us of our need for Him that didn't involved adding additional deaths.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          There are no additional deaths. We only die once. :)

          • Michael Murray

            [Deleted]

          • Jim the Scott

            I must say yer passive aggressive tendencies are well honed but you would think by now you would learn to make a good argument?

            I wish Skeptical Thinking Person would come back....

            But we still have Ficino, Greene and even Nickols can make a good argument. Don't know what to do with you Mike.

    • Rob Abney

      "I'd forgotten what a waste of time it is posting anything here."
      It is a waste of time if you simply want to display your anger with God, if you want to discuss how you can know Him better it will take some effort to overcome your obstacles to belief.

      • David Nickol

        This site was set up as a place for dialog between Catholics and atheists, not as a place for atheist to seek conversion to theism. Don't be patronizing. How would you react if atheists here urged you to overcome your obstacles to disbelief?

        • Rob Abney

          Are you serious?! Atheists here urge us to overcome our obstacles to disbelief everyday. Do you think Murray's comment that God should write in the sky is a serious attempt at dialogue? It's not.
          I'm curious what you think the purpose of dialogue is, I think it is for discovery of truth.

  • Joseph Noonan

    "In defense of God’s goodness, classical theists will point out that God
    is not a moral agent as mere creatures, such as men and angels are."
    Then God is not all-good. To be all-good, you have to be a moral agent.

  • Joseph Noonan

    "Specifically, some interpret Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as meaning that there are subatomic events whose manifestation is not
    dictated by any actual cause."
    It isn't just "some" who interpret it this way, and it isn't just Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The entire theory of quantum mechanics points to indeterminism, and nearly all interpretations are indesterministic. And by "indeterministic", I don't mean that they merely neglect to specify what the causes of quantum-scale events are. These inerpretations specifically entail that there are no causes at all of these events.

    "Other leading physicists, including
    Schrödinger and Einstein, maintained that this renunciation of
    deterministic causality was physically incomplete."
    I notice that both examples you give are physicists who were around in the early days of quantum mechanics before the theory was complete. I wonder what will happen if you ask modern physicists.

    "Far more importantly,
    this denial of causality at the subatomic level is metaphysically
    impossible, since that would amount to having being come-to-be from
    non-being."
    You seem to be conflating material and efficient causation here. Quantum mechanics entails that particles can come into existence without a cause, but they don't come into existence from nothing - they are created from the energy of the vacuum or from other particles that decayed. Also, you can't refute a theory of physics by claiming that it's metaphysically impossible unless you have a better justification for this metaphysical impossible than, "It doesn't fit my intuitions." You haven't given any reason beyond intuition to think that everything has to have a cause in this article, and indeed, no reason for such a claim can be given - there is no logical reason why everything must have a cause, since events happening for no reason is perfectly logically consistent, and there is no evidential reason, since the evidence against such a principle is exactly what you are trying to use your metaphysical concerns to outweigh! I'll trust the weight of experimental evidence over intuitions that can't be justified any day.

    "Metaphysically, if 'chance' means something happening without
    an actual cause, then there are no such 'chance events' at all." So much for libertarian free will.