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Understanding the Mysterious Fifth Way to God’s Existence

The fifth way is taken from the governance of things. For we see that things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for an end, which is apparent from this: that always, or more frequently, they act in the same way, so as to obtain that which is best. Hence it is plain that they achieve their end, not by chance, but from intention. However, those things which do not have knowledge do not tend toward an end unless directed by something with knowledge and intelligence -- as the arrow [is directed by] the archer. Therefore, there exists some intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to an end: and this we call God.
 
Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c.  (Leonine edition, translation mine)

The Quinta Via's Setting

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote his five ways to God’s existence in the very first pages of his Summa Theologiae (1265-1274), the finest, most mature synthesis of his philosophical and theological thought – a work designed both for educated laity and seminarians. Since God’s existence is the foundation on which logically rests the entirety of his multiple volume masterpiece, giving but a short paragraph’s treatment to each “way” clearly signifies that no complete scholarly demonstration was ever intended. Rather, the “ways” are merely short summaries of St. Thomas’ take on classical arguments his students already knew well.

Hence, expecting fully developed philosophical proofs in the five ways is a major error.

Crucially, the quinta via (fifth way) is not an argument from design, like that of William Paley (1743-1805), who reasoned from extrinsic finality that, like a watch, the world exhibits deliberate design because of perfect coordination of its parts. Rather, St. Thomas argues from intrinsic finality that all natural bodies lacking knowledge act for an end, thereby revealing that they are moved by an intelligent agent, whom we call God.

St. Thomas maintains that natural bodies act for an end “so as to obtain that which is best” because they are moved by natural appetite. Since he maintains (1) that natural appetite seeks what is fitting to a thing and (2) that what is fitting to a thing perfects it, it follows that natural bodies are acting for “that which is best.”1 Nonetheless, maintaining that natural bodies attain “that which is best” is not essential to his argument, since, as will be shown, it is rationally demonstrable that natural bodies attaining merely definite ends require an intelligent director.

Every Agent Must Act for an End

Central to the quinta via is the principle of final causality, which entails two distinct claims, namely, (1) that every agent must act for an end, and (2) that there must be pre-existing intellectual knowledge of the end. This latter claim is the most mysterious one made by Thomistic metaphysicians regarding the fifth way – a claim without which the argument fails to attain any significant traction. Conversely, successful defense of both aspects of final causality proves why it cannot be “explained” as just some form of efficient causality.

An agent is anything that does something, produces an effect. It matters not whether agents are considered macroscopic wholes, like an animal, or just subatomic particles regulated by physical laws. Either way, things appear to act regularly the same way, unless something impedes their action. An example would be classification of chemical elements according to behavior. Were these not consistent in activity, natural science would become unintelligible chaos. Nonetheless, regularity of behavior is not essential to prove the need for an intelligent director. Merely showing that every agent must act for a definite end suffices.

That every agent must act for an end is demonstrable through the principle of sufficient reason. Since agents of a given nature always tend to a certain result or end, there must be a sufficient reason for such regularity. Yet, even were the end not attained regularly, a sufficient reason would still be needed to explain why a certain definite end is achieved as opposed to any other.

The Angelic Doctor explains the role of intention in agents moving toward an end in his Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 1, a. 2, c:

“But an agent does not move except from an intention to an end. For if the agent were not determined to a certain effect, it would not do this rather than that: therefore, in order that it produce a determinate effect, it is necessary that it be determined to a certain one, which has the nature [rationem] of an end. This determination, as in the rational nature, would be the “rational appetite,” which is called the will; so, in other things, it would be through natural inclination, which is called the "natural appetite."2

If an agent were totally indifferent to multiple possible effects, no sufficient reason would explain why a specific outcome occurs, making production of a definite effect impossible.  But every agent produces a definite effect. Hence, every agent must act toward a definite end.3

Because St. Thomas views chance as an event happening outside the intention (even understood as natural appetite) of an agent, he maintains that chance presupposes intention to an end. Thus, he sees chance as no threat to final causality.4

Moreover, if a reason determines why a specific end comes to be, it must act on the agent from the inception of its agency.

The text cited above refers to things with rational natures. It also refers to “other things,” wherein a determination ”to a certain effect“ is caused by their “natural inclination, which is called the ‘natural appetite.’”5

Here St. Thomas maintains that non-knowing agents cannot act solely by themselves so as to attain a determinate end: “But those things that lack reason tend to an end by natural inclination, as if moved by another and not by themselves: since they do not know the nature of an end [as an end], and thus, they are able to ordain nothing to an end, but can be ordained to an end solely by another.”6

Things lacking reason cannot explain how they attain their ends through their own causality alone, “since they do not know the nature of an end [as an end], and thus, they are able to ordain nothing to an end.” This last clause logically implies that the property of being able to ordain anything to an end necessarily implies the ability to “know the nature of an end [as an end].” Thus, irrational agents must tend to an end “as directed or led by another”, whom St. Thomas maintains is God himself.7

There Must Be Intellectual Knowledge of the End

The most mysterious part of final causality is this claim that even non-knowing agents must be directed to their ends by some intellectual agent. St. Thomas makes this evident when he says that nothing can ordain anything to an end, unless it can “know the nature of an end [as an end].”

This text is critical, since it shows that St. Thomas insists on there being intellectual knowledge of the end, not because of “regularity” in attaining an end, but simply because of the need to know the nature of an end as an endfor to know the end as an end is to know it abstractly, which entails intellectual apprehension.

The dictum that what is first in the order of intention is last in the order of execution8 means, not that the end exists in extramental reality before it is caused by the efficient cause, but rather that the end exists as intellectually known before the agency of the efficient cause can take place. Paradoxically expressed, “the end must exist before it exists.” But “existence” must be understood in two senses: (1) in extramental reality, and (2) in intramental reality, that is, as known by an intellect. It is in the latter sense that the end is the first of all causes, the cause of all causes.

Thus, the proper meaning of “the end exists before it exists” is that the end must exist intramentally before it can exist extramentally.

As will be shown below, this explanation applies even to non-knowing natural bodies.

Philosopher Jacques Maritain, a leading contemporary Thomist, argues that final causality entails intellectual knowledge of the end. In his Preface to Metaphysics, Maritain points to the “relation of the agent to its action, an action distinct from itself.”9 He considers hydrogen and oxygen which are determined to interact so as to produce water, which manifests a real relation of their essence to making water. “To be determined to a term presupposes an ordination, a relation to that term.”10 The term, in the case of hydrogen and oxygen, is the effect of their union, namely, dihydrogen oxide or water. So, the relation entails (1) the hydrogen and oxygen as separate elements, and (2) the product of their union: water. Maritain then follows the logic to its inexorable conclusion:

“… How can there be a relation, an ordination between two things which do not exist in any fashion, or between a thing that exists and a thing which does not? For a relation or ordination to exist between two terms both terms must exist. Therefore an effect of an action must somehow exist if the agent is to be determined, ordained or inclined toward it. What does this mean? It means that the action or effect must exist before it is produced or realized.
 
But how in the name of heaven is this possible? Only if the action or effect exists as present in thought, with the existence of knowledge. Only in this way can it exist – in thought – before it exists in reality.”11

Maritain summarizes his demonstration, tying its force back to the principle of sufficient reason:

“We see, therefore, that the sufficient reason for an agent’s action, that which determines it to a particular action or effect rather than any other is the effect, the action itself – not as produced and accomplished, but as that which is to be produced, accomplished and therefore as preconceived by a thought, so as to preordain the agent to that action.”12

From this preeminent metaphysician’s proof, it is evident why St. Thomas insists that things lacking reason cannot explain how they attain their ends through their own causality alone, “since they do not know the nature of an end [as an end], and thus, they are able to ordain nothing to an end.”13

Therefore, the complete principle of final causality – a universal metaphysical principle applicable to all agents, intellectual or not – is as follows: Every agent must act for a determinate end, and that end must be intellectually known prior to the agent’s action that produces the end in reality.

Nor need this intellectual knowledge of the end be had exclusively in the case of rational creatures, such as human beings. For, as St. Thomas points out, such intellectual knowledge must also obtain in the case of things lacking knowledge, such as natural bodies. In this latter case, he tells us that the intellectual knowledge is had by God, who directs all things to their proper ends by means of the divine governance. Such is the line of reasoning put forth in the quinta via.

One of Many Intelligent Governors?

Regardless of whether one views “natural bodies” as subatomic entities or as the macroscopic wholes that common sense affirms, the vast majority of such agents lack rational natures. This logically entails that one or more intelligent causes must direct or govern such natural bodies to their proper ends. Since the quinta via is actually an argument from governance of the world, the ultimate question is whether or not all this directed agency must be ascribed to a single intelligent being “by whom all natural things are directed to an end.”14

St. Thomas makes no explicit attempt to prove that there is but a single intelligent governor of all natural bodies in the fifth way. He merely asserts it. Still, later in the Summa Theologiae, he does give an argument for the unicity of God based on (1) the evident unity of the cosmos and (2) the principle that “things that are diverse do not come together in one order unless they are so ordered by one being.”15

Deeper Metaphysics

When a natural body is moved by its “natural appetite” to a certain end, the end may be conceived as anything broadly in keeping with the activities of that agent’s nature. A rock rolling down a hill might be thought to fulfill its end merely by reaching any lower level. But, following Maritain’s reasoning, it is not just some “broadly conceived end” that constitutes the pre-known terminus. Rather, it must be the “exact end as actually achieved” that is pre-known, since that unique reality is one of the two terms involved in the action.

As Maritain observes, “For a relation or ordination to exist between two terms both terms must exist.”16 But the agent’s action or effect does not exist in some “broad way,” since what actually comes to be cannot be a “generalized” end, but some real entity, complete down to its least unique existential content.

Again, the sufficient reason for a given end being reached cannot be merely a reason for some abstract, broadly-defined terminus ad quem. Rather, it must be a unique reason for the concrete existential conditions of what actually comes to be. Just as when one aims to graduate from college, he does not achieve this end abstractly, but rather with a concrete, unique set of courses and grades. So, too, the end “foreknown” by the intelligent director of non-knowing agents must be foreknown in its unique existential details, not merely as some “broadly conceived end.”

Among beings who do not qualify as such an intelligent director are human beings, whose knowledge of the end is limited to “broadly conceived ends” – since our inherent epistemic limits preclude perfect knowledge of anything, much less ahead of time.

Indeed, what kind of mind can possess such perfect knowledge of anything down to its least existential detail, its intrinsic metaphysical composition? And do so even before the thing effected comes into being? Such knowledge, not only exceeds the boundaries of all material technology, but, perhaps as well, that of any finite knower bound by the restrictions of temporal existence.

Does not this kind of knowledge of the actually achieved ends of all finite agents hint at the existence of an intelligent governor who transcends the limits of time and space? Could this be how the fifth way leads ultimately to a single Intelligent Governor of all finite agents, who is God?

The Fifth Way's Explicit Claims

Maritain employs an example of a chemical reaction that appears to have universal regularity. But the force of Maritain’s reasoning for the need for an intelligent director to an end applies even if no universal laws of nature exist and every conceivable agent has a unique end. Despite the fifth way’s statement about “natural bodies” acting “always … in the same way,” that claim of regularity is not essential to its argument. What is essential is the need, as Maritain puts it, for the end to be “preconceived by a thought, so as to preordain the agent to that action.”17 That is why St. Thomas points out elsewhere that there is a need to “know the nature of an end as an end.”18

The fifth way’s argument actually advances just two essential claims:

(1) “Things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for a [definite] end.”

(2) “Those things which do not have knowledge do not tend toward an end unless directed by something with knowledge and intelligence.”

Both claims have been demonstrated above, employing texts from St. Thomas as well as added arguments, such as Maritain’s. St. Thomas concludes from these premises: “There exists some intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to an end.”

Skeptics will see mention of regularity in the behavior of natural bodies as a faulty overgeneralization from particulars, since the claim that all natural bodies “act in the same way, so as to attain that which is best” fails to be proven. Yet, St. Thomas’ mention of regularity in nature underlines the seeming universal governance by God of the whole world as known by both common sense – and also by natural science, since science necessarily operates by presuming the regularity of all cosmic phenomena.

As I have shown above, the fifth way has more fertile implications than its explicit claims appear to indicate.

Notes:

  1. Contra Gentes, III, c. 3.
  2. Leonine edition, translation mine.
  3. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 44, a. 4; I-II, q. 1, a. 2, c; Contra Gentes, III, c. 2.
  4. Dennis Bonnette, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff: The Hague, 1972) 162-167.
  5. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 1, a. 2, c.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, a. 1, ad 1.
  9. Jacques Maritain, Preface to Metaphysics (London: Sheed and Ward, 1945) 117.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., 117-118.
  12. Ibid., 119.
  13. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 1, a. 2, c.
  14. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c.
  15. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 11, a. 3, c.
  16. Maritain, Preface to Metaphysics, 117-118.
  17. Ibid., 119.
  18. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 1, a. 2, c.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

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

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

  • Craig Roberts

    Thank you Doctor B. for illuminating these compelling arguments for the existence of God. If I was an atheist I would run.

    • David Nickol

      Why would you, or anyone, say such a thing? It seems to me it amounts to anti-atheist bigotry.

      I think we have discussed before atheists who want there to be no God, but surely not all atheists fall into that category. It seems to me quite plausible that many atheists would welcome "compelling arguments for the existence of God." You seem to imply that atheists are really theists who don't want to admit there is a God and are therefore fearful of arguments that would put them in danger of having to admit to themselves that they are falsely posing as atheists. In other words, atheist are self-deluded individuals who lack intellectual integrity.

      I self-identify as an agnostic, and speaking just for myself, I find it a frustrating and sometimes excruciating experience trying to decide what from my religious education (twelve years of Catholic school) is credible and what isn't.

      In the About section of this site, we find the following:

      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.

      The assumption of the founder(s) of this site is that Catholics, people of other religions, agnostics, atheists, and others can respect one another and engage in dialogue in good will. Those who are not theist do not come here to be denigrated and subjected to theist triumphalism.

      If I was an atheist I would run.

      You mean, "If I were an atheist, I would run." The subjunctive mood is used for hypothetical statements contrary to fact.

      • Craig Roberts

        It was not my intention to insult anyone. I simply wanted to thank the author for an interesting article. I love atheists. Without them I would have no one to carry on an objective argument about the meaning of life. I respect the viewpoint that there is no God and try to wrap my mind around how and why God hides from so many people. But often times my co-religionists are so blinded by prejudice that they are completely unable to provide any sort of objective thoughts on the matter. Things that should be obvious to everyone get tossed out the window once "faith" comes into play.

        So thank you for your input. It can be quite agonizing to try to discern the difference between "faith" and superstition, and fantasy vs. reality. Especially when the people you're consulting with seem to have such a tenuous grip on reality. It seems clear to me that "faith" makes many people impervious to considering other viewpoints. They claim their faith makes them more compassionate towards others but all they have is contempt or pity for anybody that does not subscribe to their worldview.

        When I am trying to sort through the obvious contradictions about a God that I've been told can't contradict himself I remember that just because something is not credible, and is in fact incredible, that doesn't mean it's necessarily unreal or untrue.

        • David Nickol

          I love atheists. Without them I would have no one to carry on an objective argument about the meaning of life.

          Thanks for your response, which I appreciate.

          I have told the following story before, but unfortunately it is from memory. I have tried numerous times to track it down, but to no avail.

          In a village somewhere, the village atheist and a rabbi get together nearly every day and argue about the existence of God for hours. After years of this, the rabbi's wife lost her patience and said, "This is ridiculous! You've been arguing for years and neither of you has budged. This is never going to amount to anything. Please, please just stop!" But they both turned on her and objected to her admonishment, because they both passionately believed in the importance of the question.

          This site has a list of recommended books, and there is one by Michael Novak called No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers that I keep hoping to get around to reading. (I just found this interesting short video.) The title appeals to me very much, since whether I am in believer mode, or agnostic mode, or atheist mode, I think that no one sees God, and I am highly suspicious of people who seem to maintain that what they believe should be blindingly obvious to everyone else.

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks for the very interesting response. It's a very valuable trait to be able to "switch modes" to see things from alternative viewpoints. The irony of being a "believer" is that you can't really search for something in earnest if you are confident that you already possess it. If you are agnostic you can sincerely search, but if you're Christian, atheist, Buddhist, whatever, you've pretty much decided where you come down on the question and are no longer in open minded search mode.

            In the gospels we are told to search but when you talk to most Christians they clearly are committed to sticking to their belief system no matter how ridiculous it gets. They pray novenas like they are voodoo and consult their guardian angels like imaginary friends. And if you dare to point out the absurdity of the idea that they are able to perform white magic or have supernatural protection from unseen entities they will simply say, "That's what the Bible and the Church tells me so I believe it. If you don't you're not a Christian!"

            Wouldn't it be weird if they got to heaven and God told them that He gave them a marvelous brain and freewill so they could make up their own minds instead of having to rely on others to tell them how to think.

          • Rob Abney

            Craig, what do you have against people praying, either novenas or to angels or just for wisdom (searching)?

          • Craig Roberts

            It's the fact that so many Christians (and Catholics in particular) take these things to such ridiculous extremes that it crosses the line into superstition. If you wear a miraculous medal because of your devotion to the Blessed Mother that's fine. But for many Catholics it's no different than wearing a lucky rabbit's foot. If they actually believe that their guardian angel has some sort of responsibility for making sure they don't get into a car accident they are obviously deluded.

            These people turn their Christianity into a type of voodoo. And when a non-believer observes this they naturally think that Christians are kooks. Unfortunately, in some cases the non-believer can't come to faith because the examples of what the "faith" entails, set by superstitious Christians, is too far afield from their everyday experience to be reconciled in their minds and hearts.

            Your thoughts?

          • Rob Abney

            My thoughts, the issue you are concerned with can best be addressed on an individual basis. The Catholic saying a novena in a superstitious manner would benefit from a fellow Catholic discussing the possible effects of prayers. The non-believer would benefit from discussing with you why you are wearing a miraculous medal or saying a prayer in public.
            Religious practices may seem like voodoo to anyone who doesn't understand the rationale, but those who know the rationale should share it with those who question it. Great evangelization tools are simple such as the miraculous medal, or making the sign of the cross, or saying grace before a meal in public.
            Pax.

          • Craig Roberts

            If our heartfelt motives are to love and worship the true and living God, then there is no problem with any of these exercises. But the fact remains that many Christians only pray to get something. It might be health, or good fortune, or protection from the devil, for themselves or others but the common denominator is that they are all self-centered motives.

            This turns Christianity into a cosmic extortion racket. God will grant special treatment as long we perform some act. But true love requires that we seek nothing in return except the good of the other.

          • Rob Abney

            I like petitionary prayers, when I ask God for something that only He can provide then I am worshipping Him and obeying Him, how can that be self-centered?

          • Craig Roberts

            That's great Rob. I do the same thing everyday. Just don't tell an atheist that if they want something all they have to do is ask God in prayer. We both know that it doesn't work that way. Obviously it's somehow for our own good that God doesn't dole out miracles every time we snap our fingers at Him, but it's just another one of those mysterious areas that require faith. If we could explain it, no faith would be required. Luckily we don't have to completely understand something to love it. Pax!

    • Michael Murray

      If I was an atheist I would run.

      Ironic then that atheists had so much fun here that the only way of getting rid of them was to ban 90% of them.

      • Craig Roberts

        Atheism and Christianity both require an echo chamber to exist. People band together to affirm their beliefs. Without an audience all ideas die out. Think of it as ideological Darwinism.

      • Craig Roberts

        This site is better for having atheists to provide alternative worldviews than the Catholic echo chambers that ban believers for daring to express ideas that are heterodox. Creativity is heresy in some Catholic circles.

      • Jim the Scott

        By "fun" you mean act like jackarses, strawman arguments and cry like little girls when other persons ( ;-) ) are jackarses back to them?

        BTW Michael if you think you have good response or critique of the fifth way then let's hear it then? I doubt you will be banned for it. Or you could run. Either way please yourself.

  • Jim the Scott

    All arguments one uses against Paley's design view are non-starter objections to the fifth way.

  • I don't understand why we are using the term "end" for the effects of non-sentient entities. It seems you are smuggling in a mental intention or desire. If we call the motion of an electron it's "end" does this not presuppose an intellect?

    If it doesn't, but rather you mean an end is the result of an act that does not necessarily presuppose a mental intention, but is the result of a natural order, even leaving it open that the causal chain if this order may terminate in a mental intention, by what warrant van can you say there is a "need to know the nature of an end as an end"?

    What necessitates this need to characterize these "ends" as objectively abstract as ends or effects for that matter? Most "ends" seem to me to be effects, not ends .It is only when sapient individuals identify some mental aspect to causation that we call them ends.

    I don't think the PSR assists, because it doesn't mandate reasons must be mental or intellectual. Does it?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      When an agent goes into act by either producing its own action or some effect distinct from itself, there must be a sufficient reason accounting for this occurrence. Classical philosophers call both "ends." If you look at the example that Maritain gives of hydrogen and oxygen producing water, this is an instance of a purely physical result which he describes in terms of final causality, but which also requires the presence of intellect. That is precisely the implication of his argument, which appears to involve purely physical causation. That is the whole point central to this metaphysical analysis. You cannot have any action of an agent that does not entail intellect -- if not on the part of some natural body lacking intellect, then on the part of some intellect distinct from that natural body that explains the finality of the natural body.

      Yes, this takes some reasoning apart from the standard assumptions of natural science, because this is not natural science, but the science of metaphysics.

      • >When an agent goes into act by either producing its own action or some effect distinct from itself, there must be a sufficient reason accounting for this occurrence. Classical philosophers call both "ends."

        So the "act" and "effect" are "ends"? Why would we use these terms?

        >hydrogen and oxygen producing water, this is an instance of a purely physical result which he describes in terms of final causality, but which also requires the presence of intellect.

        This is what I don't understand, two hydro atoms binding with one oxygen doesn't at all require an intellect it requires the material and the forces involved, where is the intellect?

        I have a hard time following the Maritain quotes, as I'm not sure what is meant by "terms" and "ordination".

        >You cannot have any action of an agent that does not entail intellect -- if not on the part of some natural body lacking intellect, then on the part of some intellect distinct from that natural body that explains the finality of the natural body.

        Can you rephrase this? I don't understand. It seems the act of oxygen and hydrogen to make water is exactly an action that doesn't require intellect. If instead you mean the chemistry or physics entail intellecti again I am not seeing why.

        I get that this is central to the metaphysics which is why I am trying to understand it.

        Please help me with this reasoning and if possible define the words you are using. L

        • Dennis Bonnette

          @Jordon Phillips

          You and Jordon Phillips are asking precisely the right question: How can one make any sense out of claiming that, say, a hydrogen ion combining with an oxygen ion to make water requires -- despite being purely physical states, somehow, the presence of intellect?

          I know one can dance around a lot of other "stuff" on the fifth way, questions about meaning and historical use of terms, and so forth. But that is all largely irrelevant compared to the single key question or insight at issue here. Frankly, I know other easier ways to get to God, especially through the lens of the first way or even the third way. But, since the fifth way is "on the table" here, let us try to focus on its central claim.

          I say, "central claim," since if it is correct, the far more mysterious implications I describe as "deeper metaphysics" must logically follow. But if there is no need for there to be any presence of intellect in order to explain basic physical causality, then there is really not much to the fifth way, since all that is left is the claim that every agent acts for an end.

          It does not matter the exact terms we use here. So that we not get confused, whether you say "end" or "goal" or "effect" or "action" does not really matter as long as you have an agent, that is, something that does something. Let's restrict our consideration to what looks like a purely physical agent, like the hydrogen or oxygen only.

          What is at issue here is that the, let's say, hydrogen does something. It goes from not being combined with oxygen to being combined with it. Let's say that is its "action."

          Now, Maritain is simply saying there is a difference between the hydrogen before its "action" and after its action. That means there are two terms or states of reality involved here. We focus on the "before." But the before is ordered to the after. That is where "every agent must act for an end" comes in. That is, what is going to happen is not totally random, indeterminate, "fuzzy" reality. What is going to happen is "aimed" at combining with the oxygen. That is, there must be a sufficient reason why it combines precisely as it does with the oxygen as opposed to any other possible physical outcome, or else, no particular outcome would or could occur. Otherwise, we must deny the Thomistic form of the PSR.

          But what does it mean to say that it is "aimed" at this particular outcome? If that "state of reality" (sufficient reason for getting to this particular result) were not actually acting on the hydrogen as it begins to act, it would not be a real tendency toward that end.

          It is not sufficient to say that merely force itself gets it to its result, since you must add to "force" a real tendency or orientation toward this particular result you actually attain. That is "finality" at work.

          That is where Maritain points out that we are then recognizing two real terms to this situation. The "before" term, which as such is not the "after," and the "after" term, which does not yet exist in reality.

          But how, he asks, can the "after" have any reality to it if it has no existence at all? Now, the key here is to realize that you cannot have a real relation between two terms without both terms existing in some manner.

          Thus, if the "end term," the "result," the "action," must, since it is one of the two term absolutely needed in order to understand the intelligibility of what is going on here, exist in some manner -- and since it does not exist in extramental reality before the "after" comes to be as real -- there is no alternative but to ascribe to the "after" the only other kind of existence anything can have: intramental reality.

          That is, the end term (the state of reality which comes to be as the "after") must exist in a mind, since it does not yet exist outside a mind before the end is produced, and yet, it must exist in some manner in order to actually influence the coming to be of the action or effect -- and we know it MUST actually influence the coming to be of the effect or action, since there must be a really existing and acting sufficient reason why this particular effect or action comes to be as oppose to any other.

          No, this is not natural scientific reasoning, but it is still tight, necessary reasoning -- not unlike the careful reasoning a good scientist engages in when trying to sort out a perplexing scientific experiment's real meaning.

          • >What is going to happen is "aimed" at combining with the oxygen

            This is where you lose me. Because an oxygen atom doesn't seem aimed at all, it is bonded to another atom of oxygen, or in some other compound. If no chemical process is initiated, it will remain so. This is like saying an arrow in a quiver is aimed at an apple because someone could pick it up put it in a bow and aim it.

            >That is, there must be a sufficient reason why it combines precisely as it does with the oxygen as opposed to any other possible physical outcome, or else, no particular outcome would or could occur.

            Sure, but these would be the structure of the atom, down to the quarks, or whatever fundamental particles are, and the forces of nature. No intellect there that I'm aware of. Indeed the only intellect we know of, arises only on a much more macroscopic level.

            >But how, he asks, can the "after" have any reality to it if it has no existence at all?

            Well it depends on the observer's location and velocity in four dimensions dimensions. If we are more or less at the same time, in the "before" the after is conceptual, it doesn't exist in reality itself, and may never. There is an observer that has an idea that the after is possible, probable, or even inevitable, but the after itself does not exist.

            >That is, the end term (the state of reality which comes to be as the "after") must exist in a mind,

            It must? Isn't it more accurate to say the present state exists, (or befire) and at the time of before, minds may conceive of an after, indeed many minds may conceive of many different afters. But if no mind conceived of any of this, the atoms still exist, and may still change into one of the afters, or not. What is impossible in this description?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >What is going to happen is "aimed" at combining with the oxygen DB

            >This is where you lose me. Because an oxygen atom doesn't seem aimed at all, it is bonded to another atom of oxygen, or in some other compound. If no chemical process is initiated, it will remain so. This is like saying an arrow in a quiver is aimed at an apple because someone could pick it up put it in a bow and aim it. BGA

            I can see why get lost. You are thinking of the oxygen atom as being the recipient of some other agent's action -- in which case, you should be thinking about the other agent's action toward an end.

            In reality, if you read my comment very carefully, you will see that it applies to every possible agent doing anything in any possible context. That is why it is a philosophical analysis, not a scientific one.

            Beyond that, I fear you have simply not followed the argument at all. You seem to be looking for intellect on the part of human beings looking at the atomic world and its activities, whereas I am analyzing the atomic actions themselves and applying the principle of sufficient reason to their behavior and what that logically entails.

            I can only suggest that you reread my comment -- while attempting to prescind from your preconceived expectations.

          • >You are thinking of the oxygen atom as being the recipient of some other agent's action

            I'm not, asking if that is what you mean, because to me, that is what the word "aimed" implies. It implies an intellect has manipulated an object so that it is oriented to a target. If it is not what you mean, then I think a better word would be "capability".

            >In reality, if you read my comment very carefully, you will see that it applies to every possible agent doing anything in any possible context.

            This is indeed what I understand you to imply, which is what the arrow analogy is meant to draw out. It makes really no sense to say an arrow in quiver is "aimed" at a target, compared to one in a bow pointed at the target. Both are capable of hitting the target, irrespective of orientation, if other forces act on them. But only the one in the bow is aimed. So I take it by "aimed" you mean objects that are capable of some effects. Not necessarily directed, or oriented.

            If by "aimed" you mean capabilities we can move on, but if you mean that the fact that all material reality is capable of causing effects, means necessarily that there must be an intellect, you will need to justify that. If you mean something else please define it .

            >Beyond that, I fear you have simply not followed the argument at all.

            Sorry for being so dense.

            >You seem to be looking for intellect on the part of human beings

            I'm aware of no other intellect, other than AI, since this argument is meant to show there is some other intellect I won't presume it in the middle of the argument.

            >whereas I am analyzing the atomic actions themselves and applying the principle of sufficient reason to their behavior and what that logically entails.

            But you are explaining an argument for the nature of that sufficient reason as mental. Why can't the sufficient reason for the order of the cosmos be non-mental. It seems to me it is just because you are using words like "aimed" and "ordained" which imply an aimer or ordainer.

            I have read your comments carefully. I'm afraid my critique remains unanswered. Particularly my comments about the "before" and "after", that during the before, the after doesn't exist. So of course the only sense the after can exist in the before, is if a mind conceives of it. But this by no means implies that if no one is paying attention the before isn't in its state and one of a multitude of future states later occur. This seems rather fatal to the argument.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            These remarks are not a substitute for following the argument in the detail I already gave above. Still, perhaps, some added highlights here will help.

            I deliberately used many different words to represent certain concepts so that we would not get obsessed with a single, easily misunderstood, word. The word, "aimed." has no magic about it. It is just a way of explaining what the first part of the principle of finality entails. If every agent must have a sufficient reason why a particular outcome occurs, then that is what I mean by saying every agent is "aimed" at a specific effect or action. Just apply sufficient reason to the outcome. There must be a sufficient reason, and that is not a mere figment of the mind, but a real existential state of affairs which accounts for this particular outcome coming to be as opposed to all other possible outcomes.

            "Aimed" may have the connotation of a human aiming an arrow at a target, but I am not restricting it to that meaning. If there is really a sufficient reason why a particular outcome occurs, then that reason is what does the "aiming." I do not presuppose that that alone implies the presence of intellect. Intellect becomes evident in the second stage of the argument. "Aimed" merely means that there is some real reason (cause?) why a certain effect is produced. You may be assuming that the reason or cause is merely the physical forces already in existence. This argument does not deny those forces. What it does is to insist that those forces include real causal agency specifically heading in the direction of a particular outcome.

            The second stage of the argument comes from realizing that the end result is not a mere potency. You seem to read it as such. The "after" is not a mere possibility that existed before it comes to be. It is the real state of affairs that the agent is "aimed" at. That means that a sufficient reason for this particular result is existing and operating in and on the agent when it begins and continues its causal activity. That was what is evident from the first part of the argument.

            But if there is real causation at work in the agent which will account for this and only this particular outcome, then this establishes a real relation between the before and the after, in which the after is not mere possibility, but also that which the agent is really being "aimed" at. (No intellect presupposed here, just a sufficient reason for a particular outcome.)

            The key is that once you realize that the agency is really acting toward a specific outcome -- an outcome that is not mere possibility, but a state of reality that the agent is actively moving and determined toward , that outcome then has some real influence on its coming to be as opposed to any other possible outcome. But how can something which does not yet exist in reality affect or influence the real causal agency of the agent to move toward its specific realization? That is Maritain's question.

            That is why the final step is needed. If the end as realized does not yet exist, and yet it somehow actually influences the agent in the production of itself, the only other way in which it could exist is in the intentional order, that is, in a mind.

            Again, I suggest you go back over both Maritain's and my more detailed explanations of this two step proof that some intellectual apprehension by something must exist in order to get a full explanation of how agents produce their effects or even their own actions.

          • >If every agent must have a sufficient reason why a particular outcome occurs, then that is what I mean by saying every agent is "aimed" at a specific effect or action. Just apply sufficient reason to the outcome.

            Got it.

            >What it does is to insist that those forces include real causal agency specifically heading in the direction of a particular outcome.

            Sure, you need the agent, the forces, but also the environment, oxygen doesn't always bind with hydrogen to make water, it can bind with other elements or itself.

            >You seem to read it as such. The "after" is not a mere possibility that existed before it comes to be. It is the real state of affairs that the agent is "aimed" at.

            I see, noni don't think this follows. before the outcome, the outcome is not a real state of affairs, it is a potential state of affairs. It is a real state of affairs that the outcome is a potency, but how can you say the outcome is a real state of affairs before it is actualized? Unless you accept a B theory of time...

            >the agent is actively moving and determined toward , that outcome then has some real influence on its coming to be as opposed to any other possible outcome

            No I don't see that at all. I don't see why the fact that x causes y and could only cause y means x is influenced by y. L

            >Again, I suggest you go back over both Maritain's and my more detailed explanations of this two step proof that some intellectual apprehension by something must exist in order to get a full explanation of how agents produce their effects or even their own actions.

            Ok, I don't deny it is determine y will occur, before x causes y, but I have yet to hear why that is an intellect. It seems to me the forces of nature and material reality are sufficient reason.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are arguing your case well here. But we need to engage the question more closely.

            >"Ok, I don't deny it is determine y will occur, before x causes y, but I have yet to hear why that is an intellect. It seems to me the forces of nature and material reality are sufficient reason." BGA

            I understand the claim that material forces can explain fully what comes to be when an agent acts. And, perhaps, part of the dispute is that it sounds like the metaphysician is inventing new and unneeded causes over and above those "material forces" through his insisting that final causality and intellectual intention are present at the same time.

            This is not a matter of adding a new cause that was not already present. It is a matter of detecting a causal aspect that was already present and which is not explained purely in terms of what already physically exists in the "before."

            >"... before the outcome, the outcome is not a real state of affairs, it is a potential state of affairs. It is a real state of affairs that the outcome is a potency, but how can you say the outcome is a real state of affairs before it is actualized?" BGA

            I do not say that the outcome is a real extramental state of affairs before it is actualized. But neither is it pure potency. If it were pure potency, then any of many possible outcomes could be realized. The fact is that the "before" is determined to produce this particular "after," and no other.

            And here is where I think we come close to each other, but still remain apart. You think that the sum total of the physical conditions, including the agent, the environment, the presence of oxygen, etc., determine the outcome -- not just the agent. That is true, and it falls under the topic of chance in the Aristotelian sense, which means something happens outside the intention (natural appetite) of an agent. Yet, that notion of chance itself presupposes intention on the part of the agent, an agent that would act in a manner consistent with its nature unless some other agent interferes with it and produces what Aristotle calls a "chance" occurrence, perhaps one outside the intention of any of multiple agents involved.

            Frankly, that is a side issue, which Maritain discusses at length in his Preface to Metaphysics.

            But the key and relevant insight is that even the entire combination of interacting agents are determined by their natures to act toward specific ends. When they then interact the end achieved may be outside the intention of any the agents involved. This is why Aristotle says that, in a certain sense, chance events have no cause, since there is no specific nature responsible for the final effect.

            But what remains true is that, in order to act at all, a single agent or a group of co-acting agents, is ordered to or tending to a specific outcome with a real force, not blindly moving, but ordered to, tending to, a certain end state of affairs.

            Maritain is simply pointing out that this "tendency to an end" cannot be a real influence on the agents involved unless it is real enough to exert a real causal influence on the agent-orientation-to-an-end, which is expressed in the total causal process taking place. But none of this is intelligible unless the end-as-actually-achieved plays a real role in that causal process. The reason is that the end as achieved is the terminus ad quem of the process, and, as such, cannot influence the causal orientation of all the agents involved unless it is real enough to do so.

            But that "end to which" the causal act is tending is one of two terms, the before and after, both of which must exist in some way for the process to have really two terms. Since the end to which does not exist in the before in extramental reality, and since it must exist in some way in order to influence the causal tendency, the only remaining way it can exist is in the mental order -- even though all the physical causes at work do not appear to include an intelligent agent, such as a human being.

            The end to be achieved is that toward which the causal forces of the "before" must actually be tending in order for the end itself to be achieved. I do not deny that we can even "see" where the causal forces seem to be heading. The real problem is that for causal forces to be "heading" somewhere at all, that "somewhere" cannot be pure possibility, since pure possibility is simply non-being, nothing at all. And an agent heading toward nothing at all cannot get to "something definite," which every agent must act toward, as shown earlier.

            Rather, since the agent(s) acts toward something definite (and, in fact, unique), that end to be attained must not be nothing at all, but something -- not as extramentally real as yet, but as an intramentally real end that in some way really influences the attainment of that same end in reality.

            To reverse Maritain's question, if there is no real relation between the before and after of the action, how can the before be causally tending toward an end that does not exist in any way at all? Once you grant the end any existence at all, the only way to make sense of it is to realize that the end must exist in a mind before it is produced in extramental reality.

          • >But none of this is intelligible unless the end-as-actually-achieved plays a real role in that causal process

            Sure it is, there exists material, this material is subject to forces that operate according to an unchanging order. Every act performed by an agent is determined by thus order. At any time, all of the relevant circumstances at that time influence and determine every act and outcome, they are the total sum of influences on the act that fully explain why the outcome does and will occur. Nothing from the future can influence the outcome.

            What is unintelligible about that?

            >that "somewhere" cannot be pure possibility, since pure possibility is simply non-being, nothing at all.

            Sure, it isn't pure possibility, it's just normal possibility. (I would say it doesn't itself have being, it's actually just a thought that observers can conceive of, and doesn't really exist.) But I could say for the sake ofof argume, itl exists in the sense that it is a fact that at time before this is a possible or even determined outcome .

            >not as extramentally real as yet, but as an intramentally real end that in some way really influences the attainment of that same end in reality

            Sorry, I still don't see why it or how it influences.

            >To reverse Maritain's question, if there is no real relation between the before and after of the action,

            But there is a real relationship, after. After it is clear that the before caused the after. In the before there is no relationship because it after doesn't exist.

            >how can the before be causally tending toward an end that does not exist in any way at all?

            By the order of the universe and the state of affairs in the before.

            >Once you grant the end any existence at all, the only way to make sense of it is to realize that the end must exist in a mind before it is produced in extramental reality.

            No. Even on a b theory of time there is no need for a mind to explain reality.

            I really am trying, thanks for your patience .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >“… there exists material, this material is subject to forces that operate according to an unchanging order. Every act performed by an agent is determined by this order. At any time, all of the relevant circumstances at that time influence and determine every act and outcome, they are the total sum of influences on the act that fully explain why the outcome does and will occur. Nothing from the future can influence the outcome.
            “What is unintelligible about that?” BGA

            This is simply an undefended restatement of the standard materialist thesis. All the forces found in nature are claimed to determine future events. But the “forces” are precisely what are in dispute. Materialists reduce them to material and efficient causes, while denying the existence of formal and final causes. But this is a philosophical, not merely scientific, assertion, one which requires philosophical analysis.

            This also simply ignores the argument I have proposed and does not refute it. The argument we have focused on regards exclusively non-knowing agents. You are ignoring the two-stage argument I offered.

            >”that "somewhere" cannot be pure possibility, since pure possibility is simply non-being, nothing at all.” DB

            >”Sure, it isn't pure possibility, it's just normal possibility. (I would say it doesn't itself have being, it's actually just a thought that observers can conceive of, and doesn't really exist.) But I could say for the sake of argument, it exists in the sense that it is a fact that at time before this is a possible or even determined outcome.” BGA

            Not only is this “possibility” more than “just a thought” of observers, but it is the term that causal activity of the agent actually is ordered toward. Otherwise, nothing determinate would happen.

            A “mere possibility” has no causal agency actively moving to produce it. Nor does “mere possibility” acknowledge the absolute specificity of this outcome, since the end achieved is never some abstract, general end, but always an absolutely determined, existentially unique reality.

            Rather than explaining all outcomes by mere material causes, materialism is actually “bootlegging” final causality into the efficient cause. Of course, the natural agent is determined to its end, but not in virtue of its being an efficient cause – rather, in virtue of the presence of final causality.

            What the natural agent in its “before” state cannot explain is how it can be ordered to an “after” state, when the “after” state does not yet exist. As Maritain points out, being “ordered to” something entails two terms, (1) that “before” state which is so ordered, and (2) the reality, in some sense, of the “after” state which is the “term to which” of the “before” state.

            If the "after" term is in no sense real, then it cannot play any role in the ordering of the “before” state to itself. But the “before” state needs the “after” state in order to render intelligible its order toward said “after” state. That is why pure efficient causality without real final causality is unintelligible.

            >”But there is a real relationship, after. After it is clear that the before caused the after. In the before there is no relationship because it after doesn't exist.” BGA

            I have just shown above that the intelligibility of real causation toward an end requires a real relationship of ordination to the end. If the end in absolutely no way exists, the ordination cannot exist, and thus, what we observe – that is, agents actually reaching ends – would be impossible.

            The problem is that to the materialist mind a cosmos in which all outcomes are the “forced” result of blind atomic forces appears fully intelligible. But such causality entails a real “ordination” to real ends. Now the materialist suspects metaphysicians of assuming that an “ordination” requires an Orderer ala the extrinsic finality of a William Paley. But that is not the case.

            The word, “ordination,” simply means that there must be a real causal impulse toward some definite, determinate, existentially-unique end. It means that such a causal directedness (not assuming a Director) makes no sense unless the end-to-actually-be-achieved is part of the intelligibility of the agent’s causality.

            In other words, truly “blind” causation could not "see" where to go! And thus, could and would go nowhere. For to "see" where to go really means to have an ordination to an end, which entails a real relation to the end.

            On the contrary, the fact that nature works by constantly producing new states of reality through time itself evinces that causality is not blind at all, but truly bears a relationship to that which comes to be before it comes to be.

            This is possible, not because non-knowing natural agents actually know the ends of their actions, but because some other intellect must exist which foreknows and somehow fore-directs non-knowing agents to their ends.

          • >But this is a philosophical, not merely scientific, assertion, one which requires philosophical analysis

            I'm not saying here that it is justified, just that it's intelligible. Do you disagree?

            >but it is the term that causal activity of the agent actually is ordered toward

            No, I don't think you can say that. You need more than a Hydrogen atom to have something ordered towards water. Also if you are going to include free-thinking agents, at any time To, they are not ordered towards any end, if you believe they have the ability to change mind until they act.

            >materialism is actually “bootlegging” final causality into the efficient cause.

            No, at least in my view, it would state final causality needs no efficient cause. (If by efficient you mean sentient)

            >What the natural agent in its “before” state cannot explain is how it can be ordered to an “after” state, when the “after” state does not yet exist.

            Of course not, we explain events after, not before. Before, the natural world, the circumstances of the agent, explain why a number of outcomes are possible and which are probable.

            >and (2) the reality, in some sense, of the “after” state which is the “term to which” of the “before” state.

            In the before, the after is not real, it does not exist, and may not.

            >But the “before” state needs the “after” state in order to render intelligible its order toward said “after” state.

            I really think this is where the argument breaks down. You keep saying this, and trying to explain, but I'm just not seeing how this is justified, or even possible.

            >The problem is that to the materialist mind a cosmos in which all outcomes are the “forced” result of blind atomic forces appears fully intelligible.

            Not to me.

            >In other words, truly “blind” causation could not "see" where to go!

            Sure, but a blind cause doesn't need to see where it is going for the end to be determined. This is what we observer in the vast majority of cause and effect. A blind driver may have no idea they are about to go off a cliff, neither does the car or the force of gravity. But this end is certain even if no mind has "seen" the end.

            Thanks for your patience and effort with me .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Somewhere here you have totally lost sight of the need for a sufficient reason why the "before" state is ordered to what actually comes to be as a result of causality that flows forth from the "before" state.

            Unless that sufficient reason includes a real existential reason for that particular result occurring, it is not actually "sufficient."

            That is why I gave the metaphor of a cause being "blind" and unable to "see" where it is going. You fell into the metaphor without carefully understanding my literal explanation for its meaning which immediately followed it, to wit:

            "In other words, truly “blind” causation could not "see" where to go! And thus, could and would go nowhere. For to "see" where to go really means to have an ordination to an end, which entails a real relation to the end." (italics now added)

            Once again, if there is "a real relation to the end," the end must exist in some manner -- if not extramentally, then intramentally -- as the logic absolutely requires.

          • >Somewhere here you have totally lost sight of the need for a sufficient reason why the "before" state is ordered to what actually comes to be as a result of causality that flows forth from the "before" state.

            No, I'm keeping that in mind.

            >Unless that sufficient reason includes a real existential reason for that particular result occurring, it is not actually "sufficient."

            But it does in the circumstances you describe. If you are then asking for what the sufficient reasons for all matter and natural laws are, I can't help you. I'm not convinced there is one or the PSR is true. But isn't that a different one of the ways?

            >You fell into the metaphor without carefully understanding my literal explanation for its meaning which immediately followed it, to wit:

            Sure but do you not understand how your framing of causation presupposes an intellect? End of the day either there are non-intellectual laws, forces matter, even immaterial things like math that are ordered. Either that order is due to an intellect or it isn't. I still fail to see how it being non-intellectual is ruled out.

            I really don't see what this argument is doing other than seeing causation and how the same result always obtains from the same circumstances and making the unjustified leap that the only way such a state of affairs could be, is that there is an intellect at the origin.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"I really don't see what this argument is doing other than seeing causation and how the same result always obtains from the same circumstances and making the unjustified leap that the only way such a state of affairs could be, is that there is an intellect at the origin." BGA

            I am afraid this shows you really have not been following my argument, since I deliberately prescinded from claiming that "the same result always obtains from the same circumstances and making the unjustified leap that the only way such a state of affairs could be, is that there is an intellect at the origin."

            Here is the proof cited from my OP: " ... St. Thomas insists on there being intellectual knowledge of the end, not because of “regularity” in attaining an end, but simply because of the need to know the nature of an end as an end – for to know the end as an end is to know it abstractly, which entails intellectual apprehension."

            As you can see, my argument is not based on "regularity," or, as you put it, having "the same result always obtain from the same circumstances...."

            How can you reject my basic argument when you clearly do not understand it?

            Edit: Here is another proof from my article that my argument is not based on regularity or obtaining "the same result always," as you assume: "Nonetheless, regularity of behavior is not essential to prove the need for an intelligent director. Merely showing that every agent must act for a definite end suffices."

            For some reason, Disqus will not allow a reply to BGA's comment below, but I think we have reached the end of this discussion anyway. So, this will have to suffice.

          • >How can you reject my basic argument when you clearly do not understand it?

            I am afraid this shows you really have not been following my comments.

  • Ficino

    In A Preface to Metaphysics, on which Dr. Bonnette draws in this article, the French Thomist, Jacques Maritain, wrote, "esse is an act, a perfection, indeed the final perfection, a splendid flower in which objects affirm themselves. Moreover, the formula also means 'being is not non-being.' And this also, far from being tautologous, is pregnant with meaning. Being is being, it is not so simple as you might suppose, it is being, it possesses resources and mysteries. The principle of identity affirms the affluence, the luxury of being" (p. 94).

    I suspect that attempts to dissect the Fifth Way in depth are going to end up at or near a place of decision about expressions like those above. Those who do not affirm that existence is a perfection/predicate are going to think they have uncovered difficulties as they proceed with the dissection -- difficulties that at bottom will not be seen as difficulties by many classical theists. The latter may find themselves saying that the former group simply fail to understand Aquinas/the philosophy of Being.

    I am up for rolling up my sleeves on this, but I foresee an incompatibility of approach that may not be bridgeable.

    • Thanks Ficino, the main problem I'm having with this argument is why anyone would infer that an effect influences a cause. I don't see what is problematic about a naturalistic universe and laws and forces that simply operate consistently.

      • Ben Champagne

        What are those 'laws and forces' that actually attain an outcome? How can 'they' exist at all?

        • David Nickol

          What are those 'laws and forces' that actually attain an outcome? How can 'they' exist at all?

          FWIW, it seems to me that laws of nature don't actually exist. What we think of as the laws of nature are human formulations (e.g., Newton's three laws, Boyle's law, Ohm's law).

          • Ben Champagne

            Surely some aspect attains within the objects themselves. It seems problematic to suggest otherwise, seeing as such ascriptions are in themselves explanations of such aspects, without which, any formulation becomes arbitrary.

          • I agree with David, l when I replied that I don't know how they can exist, I mean not only that info not know their origin, I'm not sure I'd say they have independent existence .

            They appear to be facts of our current universe, they have not always been distinct from one another. They are conceptual models of patterns we observe.

            In other words they are the explanations. They are sufficient reasons of physical events. But as I noted earlier their ultimate origin is unknown. We have a conjecture of a grand unified theory, string theory. But these would just push the origin question back a step.

            However, this ignorance is no warrant to insist they have an origin, or to apply a label to the presumed origin "god", which we just define as being it's own explanation and an intellect.

          • Ben Champagne

            I don't know how you skip the step to go straight to God here, but that is actually irrelevant to the point. Calling them 'explanations, sufficient reasons of physical events, facts of our current universe, or conceptual models of patterns', still leaves the attainment unchallenged. There is no good metric you could seemingly propose intrinsic or extrinsic to deny such attainment, as we make such 'human concepts or formulations' on the very observation of such attainment. In other words, saying the thing itself doesn't exist, we merely observe the thing, seems rather contradictory.

          • >still leaves the attainment unchallenged.

            What do you mean by challenging attainment?

            I don't think I ever said "thing itself doesn't exist, we merely observe the thing"

        • >What are those 'laws and forces' that actually attain an outcome?

          Thermodynamics, gravity, electromagnetism.

          >How can 'they' exist at all?

          I don't know .

  • Jordan Phillips

    I might have missed this in the article, but I can't answer the following question in my head. What's the evidence that non-rational objects (particles for example) need to have a rational design behind it?

    I am kind of looking at this through an evolutionary lens, in that, if things existed that didn't work towards and end, they would come out of existence at some point. So it makes sense that the universe is ordered towards ends as it is. I'm just wondering, how what the evidence that there has to be a rational mind behind it.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I was going to just refer you to my reply to Brian Green Adams below, since you both raise essentially the same issue. But, given how important this question is and given the lack of space to explain it more fully in the OP, I am reposting my reply to BGA here so you and others can see it.

      You both are asking precisely the right question: How can one make any sense out of claiming that, say, a hydrogen ion combining with an oxygen ion to make water requires -- despite being purely physical states, somehow, the presence of intellect?

      I know one can dance around a lot of other "stuff" on the fifth way, questions about meaning and historical use of terms, and so forth. But that is all largely irrelevant compared to the single key question or insight at issue here. Frankly, I know other easier ways to get to God, especially through the lens of the first way or even the third way. But, since the fifth way is "on the table" here, let us try to focus on its central claim.

      I say, "central claim," since if it is correct, the far more mysterious implications I describe as "deeper metaphysics" must logically follow. But if there is no need for there to be any presence of intellect in order to explain basic physical causality, then there is really not much to the fifth way, since all that is left is the claim that every agent acts for an end.

      It does not matter the exact terms we use here. So that we not get confused, whether you say "end" or "goal" or "effect" or "action" does not really matter as long as you have an agent, that is, something that does something. Let's restrict our consideration to what looks like a purely physical agent, like the hydrogen or oxygen only.

      What is at issue here is that the, let's say, hydrogen does something. It goes from not being combined with oxygen to being combined with it. Let's say that is its "action."

      Now, Maritain is simply saying there is a difference between the hydrogen before its "action" and after its action. That means there are two terms or states of reality involved here. We focus on the "before." But the before is ordered to the after. That is where "every agent must act for an end" comes in. That is, what is going to happen is not totally random, indeterminate, "fuzzy" reality. What is going to happen is "aimed" at combining with the oxygen. That is, there must be a sufficient reason why it combines precisely as it does with the oxygen as opposed to any other possible physical outcome, or else, no particular outcome would or could occur. Otherwise, we must deny the Thomistic form of the PSR.

      But what does it mean to say that it is "aimed" at this particular outcome? If that "state of reality" (sufficient reason for getting to this particular result) were not actually acting on the hydrogen as it begins to act, it would not be a real tendency toward that end.

      It is not sufficient to say that merely force itself gets it to its result, since you must add to "force" a real tendency or orientation toward this particular result you actually attain. That is the "finality" at work.

      That is where Maritain points out that we are then recognizing two real terms to this situation. The "before" term, which as such is not the "after," and the "after" term, which does not yet exist in reality.

      But how, he asks, can the "after" have any reality to it if it has no existence at all? Now, the key here is to realize that you cannot have a real relation between two terms without both terms existing in some manner.

      Thus, if the "end term," the "result," the "action," must, since it is one of the two term absolutely needed in order to understand the intelligibility of what is going on here, exist in some manner -- and since it does not exist in extramental reality before the "after" comes to be as real -- there is no alternative but to ascribe to the "after" the only other kind of existence anything can have: intramental reality.

      That is, the end term (the state of reality which comes to be as the "after") must exist in a mind, since it does not yet exist outside a mind before the end is produced, and yet, it must exist in some manner in order to actually influence the coming to be of the action or effect -- and we know it MUST actually influence the coming to be of the effect or action, since there must be a really existing and acting sufficient reason why this particular effect or action comes to be as oppose to any other.

      No, this is not natural scientific reasoning, but it is still tight, necessary reasoning -- not unlike the careful reasoning a good scientist engages in when trying to sort out a perplexing scientific experiment's real meaning.

    • Craig Roberts

      The word evolutionary implies that there is some goal that things are progressing towards. What is that goal? If life exists to perpetuate life than "evolution" points towards eternal life. For non-rational objects to "evolve" they must move towards something. If entropy were the order of the day no evolution (for life or non-rational objects) would be possible and we wouldn't exist.

      • Jordan Phillips

        I agree with you that evolution would be one of these goal directed processes. I'm just having trouble understanding why a rational mind necessarily is behind goal directed processes.

        • Craig Roberts

          Thanks for the response. The good Doctor I'm sure can provide a much more philosophically rigorous answer but the way I see it is that an irrational mind couldn't provide a direction. Direction implies a director that posses a goal.

          You could (theoretically) have an evil "God" that directed everything to an awful goal (how we could judge it to be "awful" without our own moral compass, I'm not sure) but it would still have to have a goal to be pointed towards, rationally. You could also have an inscrutable God that never divulged what his goals were to mere mortals. But he would still have his own secret agenda

          What you can't have is a crazy (irrational) "God" though because their would be no direction. Direction implies a rational goal. Even if the goal is a complete mystery to mankind.

          The atheist will claim that no "direction" is necessary but philosophically this points to non-existence. So if we can't at least agree that we (and everything else) exist, we have no basis for any understanding at all.

          In short, the fact that we are even puzzling over these questions points to our existence and "evolution" towards, or direction to, some sort of end. We can debate what the "ends" may be, but we can't claim they don't exist without denying that we exist.

          • Sample1

            For sake of argument let’s concede your claim that biological evolution is directed toward goals. Let’s even concede that your Abrahamic god is responsible for that direction! Remember, this is a concession from me, I don’t actually believe it, but it is what you truly believe, yes?

            If your answer is yes, I have some questions. The questions will depend on how well you understand biological evolution. For instance, are you aware that biological evolution, (the steps of changes throughout our species’ existence from say, once walking on all fours to bipedalism) results in conditions that leaves human beings susceptible to disease?

            Wouldn’t it be logical to say, therefore, that the Abrahamic god, who directs evolution, by your claim, also includes biological diseases as a goal? Or, to look at those ramifications in a more contemporary way, is it logical to conclude that those with debilitating lower back pain are reaping the goal of Abrahamic god-driven evolution? After all, bipeds do take on spinal pressures that are more susceptible to physical problems than quadrupeds.

            Now I just picked one scenario, the list of biological problems stemming from the process of evolution is, for all practical purposes, countless. If your claim is correct, how do you reconcile pain and suffering resulting from so-called evolutionary goals directed by the Abrahamic god?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You make a good case against the theory of intelligent design, but the OP is based upon intrinsic finality. You note imperfections in man so it seems that you acknowledge that a more perfect end is the actual aim.

          • Craig Roberts

            Personally I don't think the "Abrahamic God" is interested in alleviating our suffering. Suffering motivates. If we didn't suffer most of us would be content with sitting around waiting to die. Try to imagine a world where there was no pain and suffering. There could be no competition, no concern, no compassion, and no camaraderie born from the struggle of trying to survive. Suffering binds us together.

            Besides that, without suffering you would have no sadness. And everybody knows that sad songs are the best. Don't you agree?

          • Sample1

            On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you with that belief? That your god isn’t interested in alleviating pain and suffering? 10 corresponding to certainty.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Hah! 11 no doubt. I'm not a deist. Or Jewish, or any other "Abrahamic God" religionist that is not Christian. Jesus asked, begged, his "Abrahamic God" whom he referred to as "Abba" (the Aramaic of Dada) to spare him from the most excruciating suffering on the cross and the AG said, "Nope."

            So I'm quite confident that taking away short term suffering is not on the top of God's priorities. I have much less confidence that the "God" that is portrayed by religion even exists.

          • Sample1

            11, great. Tell me about the pain and suffering in heaven.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Seriously? Well ok. Obviously it's exquisite. It is the suffering of those so in love that they mourn their inability to do justice with words their gratitude and awe for knowing the one that they adore.

            It's the pain of realizing that eternity is not long enough to properly sing the praises of the one that called you out of nothing.

            It's the regret and anguish of the soul that has been forgiven, mixed with the joy of having been forgiven.

          • Sample1

            Try to imagine a world where there was no pain and suffering. There could be no competition, no concern, no compassion, and no camaraderie born from the struggle of trying to survive. Suffering binds us together.

            No need for me to imagine, you’ve already described one.

            ...it’s exquisite

            Your god created a heavenly realm qualitatively superior than the one where
            pain and suffering is operationalized through biological evolution.

            Is that a display of love in your opinion? I’m assuming you’ve experienced love, it’s ok if you haven’t but if not I’d like to know that.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks for the reply! Technically, my God created everything. The good places the bad places and everywhere in between. When we try to imagine a "heavenly realm" that is "superior" to the one with all the disease, disco, death, and drama we inevitably get a place that any feeling rational sentient person would have to find...boring.

            Boredom is its own sort of suffering and so we're sort of stuck. There must be something more important than our temporal travails going on to make this whole ride worth our while. But if we focus on suffering we simply get distracted and fall into self-pity. Even if we are focusing on everybody else's pain it still leads us to feel sorry for ourselves for being caught up in the same cruel existence.

            I guess that creating a place where every tear will be wiped away is a display of love. But it's also a display of mercy and justice. The suffering will be alleviated, compensated, and rewarded.

            Regarding love I think you might agree that there is an element of madness to it. The things we are told that are most precious and necessary to live a good life, freewill and right reason, get severely impaired by the intense feeling of love. Nobody really chooses to fall in love. That's why it's called "falling". And when they do it's often contrary to all of our natural reasoning. Love is at least a little crazy.

            And finally...speaking of crazy...we have the God of the Bible. Not just one weirdo talking to himself but three distinct persons going on and on about "there is only one God!" Not sure how that works. "Thou shalt not kill....I mean, don't forget to kill them all!" A bit harsh...not to mention contradictory.

            And speaking of displays...a bloody cross? Hmmm...not exactly a bouquet of flowers. A "Heavenly Father" that abandons His only son while he is suffering and dying?

            So I see where you're coming from. Seems like a loving Father could do better. It is my belief that He will.

          • Sample1

            Boredom is its own sort of suffering and so we're sort of stuck. There must be something more important than our temporal travails going on to make this whole ride worth our while. But if we focus on suffering we simply get distracted and fall into self-pity. Even if we are focusing on everybody else's pain it still leads us to feel sorry for ourselves for being caught up in the same cruel existence.

            Is that what you think? I do meet believers, quite a few, who say things like that, that they essentially can’t wait to be done with this world. It always surprises me. Especially when I see believers who aren’t indigent or without support. In a certain sense it means they aren’t happy with what they have been given: existence. It’s also telling in that they are essentially proclaiming that their religion isn’t providing them with satisfactory skills to cope or be happy in this life. They have committed suicide in all but action. They are walking dead.

            It also frustrates me. For them religion is a poor drug, it dulls them to the now, to what can be done now by only focusing on chasing the dragon after death. That’s the hit they need, and until they get it all else is grey and mere chores.

            It’s terribly sad really. I do hope you find meaning and joy and wonder in this life now. If religion isn’t helping you experience that, you may want to consider different skills to access that.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks for the concern but I think you might have missed my point. You asked about the heavenly realm, not the here and now. It was my point that despite all the suffering in this world it's actually the most exciting and hopeful place we can imagine. It's the impossible imaginary heaven with its total lack of tension that seems like it would be boring.

            Self-pity does infect many believers. Sometimes they find solace in religion, sometimes not so much. If you talk to enough of them though you'll find that some experience an intense joy when they contemplate their existence and the implications. They get so overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for their life that they forget about all the horrible possibilities and terrible tragedies that might befall them. Although they haven't actually "solved" the problem of suffering, they do seem to have at least dismissed it (at least temporarily) from the top of their to do list.

            I think most people at some time in their lives feel compelled to express that gratitude to whoever or whatever is responsible for giving them existence. Some people are content to say something in silence to themselves. Others might call and thank their parents. Some think that means it's time to party and reach for a beer. Others feel the need to take part in some communal ritual that is designed specifically to try to contact and thank God.

            Having said that, I like to keep an open mind. If you have suggestions for fun things to do on this earth I'd like to try them. But sex and drugs and rock and roll can only get you so far before you start staring into an early grave. It's interesting that you described religion as a poor drug. I think self-pity and boredom are what drive people to take drugs, but now that you mention it, it probably also motivates some of them to go to Church.

          • Sample1

            It seems to me the ideas about heaven correlate to geography and culture for any given century. If a comparable Holy book was compiled today, perhaps heaven wouldn’t be described as streets of gold with mansions but rather tiny homes with small carbon footprints. And so forth.

            I don’t mean to imply that all people of faith are drug users or have mentally committed suicide. There are plenty of functioning believers who fill their lives with meaning and do wonderful things being motivated by their religion. I just don’t see anything miraculous or supernatural about it. Additionally, I don’t think it’s a necessary activity (religion) for making a life full and meaningful.

            I have a friend who is an Army chaplain. He once did a lot of drugs and alcohol when young. Was never my thing. Guess I was lucky. In college he became a born again Christian type and turned his life around. He’s had a “classic” American Dream kind of life. He is now going through a divorce and who knows what kind of custody he will get with his son. He’s going through a religious crisis thinking he was walking with Jesus but now Jesus has gone bye-bye. It’s terrible to see the existential sadness he is experiencing because of what he thinks is there: a god who isn’t behaving like he once thought he did. For him, rock and roll and drugs didn’t get him far. And neither did Jesus. He knows I’m an atheist and has been asking good questions about different world views lately.

            I don’t know you well enough to suggest activities but thanks for asking. I think interacting with people is important. We are a social species and I believe it’s good to hear different points of view and flex the brain from time to time.

            Good luck!

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks Mike. I guess the best way to avert some sort of eventual "religious crises" is to have no religion. But then again you have risk and reward. Nothing lost nothing gained. It is better to have loved and...blah blah blah...you get the picture. Some Christians believe that there is a social element to the salvation of our species. If Jesus is really your pal, why wouldn't he allow you to invite an atheist friend to his party at the end of world?

          • Sample1

            The CC catechism officially terms atheism a sin. Maybe at one point Catholicism could have evolved like cultural Judaism or Buddhism welcoming atheists. It’s too late for that now. It could also be said it is the CC that squandered the opportunity to have risk and reward, nothing lost nothing gained blah blah blah.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Of course atheism is a sin. All that means is that you have something to be forgiven for...just like everybody.

          • Sample1

            I’m glad you bring this up. Perhaps you were nudged to do that by that little sense of reason within you, egging you on! /s

            Sin is a religious concept with unique characteristics for classical Christians. It’s not a concept I find reasonable nor evidential in reality. But I do know about it considering the dominant religion in my culture is Christianity of some flavor or another.

            I’ve been lurking on another site that uses Disqus. The channel is Love Joy Feminism. The article is Raised My Children Without Sin. The article is enjoyable, educational (flex that brain) but the comments even more so. Particularly those who discuss why they think Paul wrecked Aristotle’s simple concept of missing the mark. Here is a snippet from the article. If it’s whets your appetite for more, visit the link below.

            My children know about bad. They know about evil. Sin, though, is something different. Sin is a transgression of divine law. My children have never believed in divine law. They have never been exposed to the concept. I don’t believe in it myself. That day, I struggled to explain to my daughter why anyone would believe that whether one’s actions transgress divine law matters more than whether one’s actions cause another harm.

            Perhaps we can talk more after you flex a bit on their comments. I found them beautifully expressed.

            Mike
            https://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2019/01/raised-my-children-without-sin.html

          • Craig Roberts

            I'll have to check it out. Cribbing from what you've quoted though I'm already starting to get the gist. The problem with "sin" (and the ignorance is evident in the title) is that nobody agrees on the meaning of the word but everybody wants to opine on it.

            Just because you don't believe in something (I think you'll agree) doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. But to turn around and say, "This thing that I believe is not real, and doesn't actually exist, is like this." is an obvious contradiction.

            To say, "Sin is (insert profound definition here) and then say, "I don't believe in it myself" is no different than saying, "I don't believe in elves but I know they have pointy ears!"

          • Sample1

            I don’t see it as a contradiction. One can describe the concepts that other people believe in without believing them themselves.

            You don’t believe in Soviet communism, does that mean you can’t describe it? Am I missing something?

            Mike
            Edit to ask question.

          • Craig Roberts

            Ok. Are dragons good or evil? If you believe in dragons you might have on opinion on the matter. But if you admit that you don't, and are actually firmly convinced that dragons are NOT real, than the only rational response is, "Dragons are anything you want them to be because in reality they don't exist!"

          • Sample1

            That’s easy. Describe and define what is meant by dragon and then I can have an opinion on that. I can talk about leprechauns as they are culturally used while knowing there is no evidence for their existence.

            Likewise with sin.

            I’m not sure why this is difficult. What does become difficult is when an explanation is easy-to-vary. In that case yes, someone who wants to defend against what they think are mistakes about an easy-to-vary explanation can do so forever.

            Is sin an easy-to-vary explanation? The article begins to define sin as a transgression against divine law. Is that an unreasonable position?

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            The best definition of a dragon starts with, "An imaginary creature..."

            Culturally it doesn't matter. Chinese dragons might be good luck. St. George's dragon could be the devil himself.

            The point is, if you admit that you don't believe in divine law, then you can't say, divine law forbids sin. Who are you to say? You already confessed that you think it only exists in our imaginations and therefore is infinitely malleable.

          • Sample1

            I think the confusion is that your point is missing this: one can say what others say about divine law. Others who are believers.

            That’s all they are doing.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            True. When one points to "others" as a group it is easy to find fault. The problem is (and I alluded to this before) that when we use the term "believers" we are talking about a group of individuals that, by and large, tend not to agree with each other. The main thing that Christians agree on is that them other so called "Christians" are doing it wrong.

            But all that proves is that you can't draw a clear picture from a group that doesn't have a clear consensus.

          • Sample1

            Hold on. All I’m saying is what is it that you find difficult when someone else cuts and pastes your definition of sin or a definition from a catechism or bible about sin and simply says, this is the Catholic definition of sin?

            You seem to be saying there is a firewall there because that someone doesn’t literally believe in the cut and paste definition. And therefore such an action is fair reason enough to not visit.

            I’m really not following you. Again, you likely don’t believe in Soviet Communism or if you want to bring up dragons, you don’t believe in them either. But if you have a definition by believers of dragons or communism, you are unable to describe that definition?

            Doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not talking about concepts without meaningful definitions like say, dark energy. There is no definition of what dark energy actually is. Is that what you are implying about sin? It’s undefined? I didn’t get that impression from you.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Soviet Communism is (obviously) a real thing. Me not believing in it is saying that I don't believe it works or is beneficial. Not that it doesn't exist.

            If you read the Bible (and frankly I wouldn't blame you if you didn't) you will find that "sin" is a moving target. One second it's "Thou shalt not kill" the next it's "Shame on you for NOT killing all of them!" Jesus was excoriated for fraternizing with sinners. As if it was a sin to hang out with them.

            So if the original inventers of the concept of sin can't agree on what exactly sin is, how can we think we have a good definition on hand?

          • Sample1

            Are you claiming the Catholic Church does not have a good definition of sin? There seems to be only a few available responses, maybe more. Which number is it for you?

            1. No
            2. Not sure
            3. Yes
            4. I don’t understand the question.
            5. ___________

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Way to put me on the spot. The fact is the Catholic Church has all kinds of definitions for sin...they just don't have one clear one. They also have multiple definitions for "holy" and not one of them can accurately convey what "holy" actually means. Instead of going through more examples let's just concede that Catholic Church does NOT have a satisfying definition of "God". If it did we wouldn't be having this conversation.

            But lacking clear definitions does not mean that the things they are attempting to define do not exist. It just means that words con only go so far in conveying things that really need to be experienced to be appreciated.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the reply. You don’t have to worry about being put on the spot by me. What I will predict, based on prior behavior seen here, is that you won’t be corrected by the many Catholics who disagree with you, let alone Vogt/Barron themselves. It’s a phenomenon that happens in some atheist forums too. Tribalism. Never correct someone who is essentially a member of your tribe, even if mistaken. It ruins the appearance of solidarity.

            It’s unfortunate such a behavior exists but it’s a human behavior and can be understood. One of the great pleasures in life, imho, is to have a once strongly held position overturned by evidence and reason. Why? Because I should think it a virtue to believe as few false things as possible and as many correct things as possible. To believe responsibly.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Too true. As far as tribes go Catholics do tend to be a forgiving bunch. But although I might not be corrected, I ultimately will be dismissed as just another so-called "catholic" that is wondering why guardian angels are doing such a shoddy job.

            I seek out those with alternative views to test my beliefs. Not to affirm them or to convert others. If our God is half as great as we claim He is, He can defend Himself.

            Responsibility? The ability to respond? I believe in that too.

          • Sample1

            Ok, I am going to have to move on. We aren’t reaching an understanding of each other and for me it’s not important that we do for this.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Some things cannot be understood unless they are experienced.

          • Sample1

            I perceived earlier that that was what you were getting at. Thanks for saying it. If that’s the case, how can you possibly claim an open mind is important to you if you are unwilling to consider the thoughts of others about sin?

            I’m loathe to consider what you may be implying. That a truly open mind is one that is shaped by Catholicism. That would be harmful cultish rationalizing.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I would love to consider whatever thoughts anybody has about the subject of sin. All that I ask is that you actually believe we are discussing something that is real. If you don't believe in sin then I don't trust you are able to take it seriously and probably haven't suffered enough from the experience of sin to know what you are talking about.

          • Sample1

            What is your definition of sin or experiences that describe sin? You don’t seem to have a handle on it yourself from our discussion. I can’t possibly say I believe or don’t believe in something that you yourself won’t or are unable to define. And it’s not fair for you to lay such a burden on me.

            I wouldn’t do that to you. I wouldn’t say, “hey, you don’t believe that no gods existing is possibly true therefore I don’t trust you to talk about it.”

            All we have is conversation. Make your claim about what sin is and support it. Then we can go from there as to what my opinion about it is.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            You got me. I can't define 'sin'. From what I understand it's something bad that I was born with. So much for freewill, eh? If it really is (like I've been told) those things that bother your conscious, then I have about as much hope of avoiding sin as I do of avoiding sleep.

            I'm sorry if it seems unfair to try to talk about things that l can't define. But most of the things I really care about I couldn't nail down in words. I appreciate you indulging in my attempts though.

            Good night Mike. Hope you have thoughts for me to mull over in the morning. Maybe we could discuss the awesomeness or stupidity of super bowl sunday (notice I didn't capitalize it? BLASPHEMY!)

          • Sample1

            Not trying to “get you”. Trying to understand you and perhaps help you understand yourself with enough flexibility in the conversation where you can teach me too. Not having an answer is ok in my book.

            Goodnight. I don’t watch football. It’s ridiculous. /s

            Mike

          • igor

            If sin is defined as violating the rules of a particular God, then if there are multiple sets of such rules (plus multiple Gods) where there is not complete overlap between any two such sets of rules, it may be the case that a person who follows one set of rules violates a rule from another set. So is this a sin? Maybe according to a follower of that set of rules, but not to a person who follows a set of rules that does not include this sin. So that would be a case of whose God, whose rules, whose sin and how each different beilef interacts with each set of rules and sins.

            So I guess that a believer might say that "sin is the violation of these rules of my God. Any other claims of sin that differ from mine are wrong."

          • David Nickol

            I would love to consider whatever thoughts anybody has about the subject of sin.

            You might try the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Are you a Catholic?)

            II. THE DEFINITION OF SIN

            1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."

            1850 Sin is an offense against God: "Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight." Sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods," knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus "love of oneself even to contempt of God." In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.

            1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.

          • Craig Roberts

            Oh and the idea that minds "shaped by Catholicism" are somehow inferior, or closed-minded, sounds a bit ...uh...bigoted. Everyone that has experience with Catholics knows that despite all of their shortcomings, they still come in all shapes and sizes. Like all tribes they have their good ones and their bad even if others can't tell the difference.

          • Sample1

            I agree. That would be a terribly mind shackling position to find oneself in. I’m somewhat reassured that you agree that anyone who believes that a truly open mind must be a Catholic mind is grotesquely problematic.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Jesus was executed for blaspheme. Blaspheme is simply the denial of God. Which is atheism. Hmmm...

          • Sample1

            Atheism is lacking a belief in God. Jesus, if he existed, didn’t lack belief that God existed. I can’t deny something I don’t believe exists. Please be careful when defining what I do not believe. It’s sloppy and these are fairly important definitions to get right if conversation is desired.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I didn't say that Jesus was guilty. That was just the charge against him. And if God or man was to charge you of the same thing you would have something in common. Christians spend all this time and energy trying to be like Jesus and you manage to be like him without even trying.

          • Sample1

            I’ll accept your sentiment because I believe it comes from a good place, so thanks.

            However, the Jesus that is described by anonymous authors via copies of copies of transcripts is a mixed bag. Some decent moral concepts to be found there (can also be found elsewhere) but also some crappy ones. It’s considered a compliment to be compared to Jesus but it’s a compliment due to selective cultural pressures. I for one would not like to be like Jesus on a number of issues!

            I don’t think he was a particularly reasonable thinker (he believed the preposterous Noah’s ark story) and he’s ok with slavery, certainly not against it. He is Yahweh too remember. Nowhere does the Bible condemn slavery, in fact it is endorsed with very specific rules about owning people as property.

            No thanks!

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I can't disagree that the Jesus that we hear about is often ...er...how should I put it? ...not exactly the type of person you would want to emulate.

            What should be remembered though is that he was obviously radically different from what most everyone thought he was or would be. If it is a sin to not understand who Jesus was and what he stood for then we're all guilty. His own apostles got him wrong. The gospels were all written with the benefit of hindsight. So what chance do people that have never met him, never heard him first hand, and are two thousand years removed from him have?

          • Sample1

            A lot to unpack here but don’t want to bog down the fluid conversation we are having too much.

            So I’ll put it this way. The figure of Jesus and the Christian ethos later developed around him, is very much like the Beatles. Both were once relatively obscure who later found themselves at the right time and place to explode. For the Beatles it was America/the 60s/TV. For Jesus it was Emperor Constantine/State power.

            The Beatles are at the doorstep to musical immortality as Jesus is to cultural immortality. But one can have a meaningful existence with Radiohead or any other band and one can also have a meaningful existence through contemporary philosophy.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            Jesus was executed for blaspheme. Blaspheme is simply the denial of God. Which is atheism. Hmmm...

            Jesus was executed by the Romans. The Romans didn't crucify people for blasphemy.

            Blaspheme is simply the denial of God. Which is atheism. Hmmm...

            Blasphemy is not the denial of God. It is not atheism. Here is the entry for blasphemy atheism in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged (Online) Dictionary.

            1 : irreverence toward God

            <the crime of blasphemy in 17th century England was the crime of dissenting from whatever was the current religious dogma — T. C. Clark>

            a Jewish law (1) : the cursing or reviling of God or the king (2) : the pronouncing of the forbidden name of God — compare tetragrammaton

            b (1) : indignity offered to God in speaking, writing, or signs

            <blasphemy … is now an offense against the common law — R. C. Mortimer>

            (2) : the act of claiming the attributes or prerogatives of deity

            <for a mere man to suggest that he was both messiah and divine could only be viewed … as blasphemy — John Bright †1889>

            2: irreverence toward something considered sacred or held in high regard

            <an outraged House of Commons officer sourly viewing the breach of precedent, muttered: “This is blasphemy” — Time>

            Edited: Blasphemy, not atheism.

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks David but you need to read the passion narratives. The Romans executed Jesus at the behest of the Jewish leaders for blaspheme. The fact that the Romans didn't give a hoot about the Jewish charges are clearly shown by Pilot's washing of his hands and the writing that he ordered be put on Jesus's cross.

            And by the way, the definitions you site for blasphemy perfectly reflect atheism.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks David but you need to read the passion narratives.

            Do you imagine that I haven't???

          • Craig Roberts

            Not to be insulting but if that's how you remember them then yes.

            As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him." -John 19:6

          • David Nickol

            What relevance does John 19:6 have here? Jesus was executed by the Romans. Pilate rules on behalf of Rome, and yet he says, "I find no guilt in him."

            Now, if you had quoted the next verse, you would have had the beginnings of a case for blasphemy:

            The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”

            Yes, some of the claims of Jesus would have struck the Jews as blasphemous, but you were trying to make the case that blasphemy and atheism were the same thing (which you have now somewhat backed away from). How in the world "making himself the Son of God" could have been considered atheistic I am unable to fathom. Any of the claims of Jesus that were considered blasphemous assumed rather than denied the existence of God, so equating alleged blasphemy by Jesus with atheism is just plain wrong.

            I stand by my statement that the Romans did not execute Jews for blasphemy. Why exactly the Romans crucified Jesus is a difficult question with no easy answers. If the Romans were somehow pressured to execute Jesus by Jewish authorities, then his execution was a political matter, not a punishment by the Romans for blasphemy.

            It is a mistake (from my point of view and probably that of most biblical scholars) to take the Gospel accounts at face value. The Romans executed Jesus, and yet the Gospels go to great length to blame it on the Jews. Pilate is known to have been a particularly ruthless ruler. The Gospels bend over backwards to relieve him of responsibility for executing Jesus. Pilate in the Greek Orthodox and Coptic Churches was made a saint!

            So, in sum, Jesus is depicted in the Gospels of having been accused by certain Jews of blasphemy, but none of his actions considered as blasphemous could by any stretch of the imagination be considered atheistic. And whatever was in the minds of the Romans who executed Jesus, it wasn't their intent to punish him for blasphemy. Whatever threat Jesus was perceived to have posed would have been political.

          • Sample1

            Blasphemy is not the denial of God. It is not atheism. Here is the entry for atheism in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged (Online) Dictionary. -David Nickol

            No, David Nickol made a mistake. The entry is not for the definition of atheism as he says, but rather blasphemy.

            But I’m glad for the error for it exposed a remarkable bias in yourself regarding atheism in that you deemed blasphemy as a perfect reflection of atheism. One that I’m afraid will not go away as it was obviously there before the definition for blasphemy not atheism was provided.

            From Merriam-Webster:

            Definition of atheism
            1a : a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods
            b : a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods
            2 archaic : godlessness especially in conduct : UNGODLINESS, WICKEDNESS

            You can either celebrate being corrected Craig and adjust your understanding accordingly or rationalize your mistake so as to retain your bias. Your choice.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks for the opportunity for me to adjust my understanding but you are going to have to explain the difference a little more clearly.

            Atheism is a denial of God's existence.

            Blasphemy is a denial of God's importance.

            They seem sort of ...er..."co-terminal" to me.

            We also could think of blasphemy as "an insult to God." Well what could be more insulting to someone than to deny that they even exist? It might even be unintentional, but an unintentional insult is an insult none the less.

            I'm not saying that they are synonymous, just that they inevitably overlap.

          • David Nickol

            Well what could be more insulting to someone than to deny that they even exist?

            Do you think that God takes offense at the unbelief of sincere atheists?

          • Sample1

            I haven’t thought it through but just superficially, given what attributes believers claim for their god, such as prudence, I would hedge a bet that god cannot feel insulted though his followers can perform actions that look insulting to them.

            It’s all a moot point for the atheist.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            @davidnickol:disqus

            In fact, it gets kinda creepy bizarre if we go a little further with this. If a real person claims to love me, but I don’t know that person (say I’m a celebrity or distant relative, acquaintance...whatever, obviously not loving them) and I do something, anything in my private life that doesn’t include the stalker, and that insults that person in love with me, am I culpable for the insult in any meaningful way?

            It is the same with god. Believers say he loves me. I don’t believe he exists. I carry on with my life not loving this supposed god back, I’m the celebrity or stranger...whatever. Supposedly that god can feel insulted by my behavior? Sounds like a creepy stalker who isn’t a good thinker.

            Again, it’s all moot for the atheist. What we have to be careful of is insulting the followers. Some take disproportionate actions against mere words going so far to create blasphemy laws with real punishments in this life.

            But what do I know? Craig has already told me that he won’t trust people who don’t believe certain things that are real in his eyes. Which makes me wonder, if many believers think like he does, and don’t trust, is this entire SN project a ruse?

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Good question. Probably not. If he had a problem with it you think He would do something about it. Some Christians think that it is their job to fight God's wars. I think God can defend Himself.

            That really doesn't change the discussion about definitions though. Atheism is blasphemy even if God doesn't take offense. It's simple semantics.

          • Sample1

            Atheism and blasphemy are two different words with different definitions. If you want to say that they are coterminous that’s on you. I don’t honestly care as I lack belief in your god so whether you feel it is blasphemy or that it insults your god personally, well, that’s only going to have meaning for someone who thinks there is a god to be blasphemed against or insulted so it becomes a moot point for the atheist.

            If I say you insult and deny Santa Claus by leaving asparagus instead of cookies for him would that have any significance for you?

            If you don’t have any belief in Santa Claus you’re not going to be concerned with any objection his believers may claim about how your actions affect him because it doesn’t make any sense considering you don’t believe Santa exists in the first place. One may be concerned with the behavior that results from real people who are insulted by your lack of belief, but certainly not with the Santa man.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • David Nickol

            No, David Nickol made a mistake. The entry is not for the definition of atheism as he says, but rather blasphemy.

            Yes! Thanks. I fixed it.

          • Craig Roberts

            In a word, it's weird.

          • VicqRuiz

            (comment deleted, another poster beat me to it)

          • Craig Roberts

            Oh and thanks for the concessions. It shows that you have an open mind and are at least willing to try to understand other points of view.

          • VicqRuiz

            What you can't have is a crazy (irrational) "God" though because their would be no direction. Direction implies a rational goal. Even if the goal is a complete mystery to mankind.

            There may be issues of scale though.

            I could have three main goals today: Finish a project at work, buy a new pair of sneakers, and show my daughter how to adjust the handbrakes on her bike. But running underneath those goals are a myriad of activities which are effectively random and which I make no effort to plan. Whether to go down the stairs leading with my left or right foot, whether I have a ginger ale or club soda with my lunch, whether I start with showing my girl the front brake or the rear.

            In much the same way, I can envision a God who is concerned with events on a galactic or cosmic scale, but who finds the individual comings and goings of humans to be below his threshold of attention.

          • Craig Roberts

            I think you're on to something but God can't have a "threshold of attention". He may choose not to act on things but being omniscient means he is incapable of being unaware of anything.

      • Sample1

        The word evolutionary implies that there is some goal that things are progressing towards.

        It implies nothing of the sort for biologists. Goal is expressly not a helpful or explanatory word for evolution. To use a theological analogy, it is a central dogma to understanding evolution.

        What is that goal? If life exists to perpetuate life than "evolution" points towards eternal life.

        No goal exists. A process occurs or does not occur. Evolution exists in the present. Humans incorrectly layer on other meanings like future or pointing or goal. The process of evolution does not occur in the past or in the future. To use a physical analogy, a flame burns when conditions are conducive to burning. When those conditions are not met, there is no flame. Not now, not in the past nor in the future. Evolution is very good at extinction.

        For non-rational objects to "evolve" they must move towards something

        This is another layering of human meaning upon evolution that is simply not required for the theory. I’m not aware of any evidence that photons or protons evolve (or even decay).

        If entropy were the order of the day no evolution (for life or non-rational objects) would be possible and we wouldn't exist.

        Not even wrong. Entropy is in evidence. Evolution is in evidence. Entropy is, in fact, required for ordered complexity to occur. The first moment in time was low entropy, without life. The deep future will have high entropy and no life will exist (atoms will be infinitely separated). Only in between these epochs, where we are now, can complexity arise, where life is possible. I refer you to Sean Carroll’s coffee and cream analogy. Coffee is low entropy (homogenous/simple). Cream is low entropy (homogenous/simple). Mix the two together and entropy increases. It is the swirling mixture where the tendrils of cream and coffee are mingling that is analogous to complexity arising from simplicity.

        In that complexity is where life has opportunity.

        Mike

        • Craig Roberts

          You're obviously well versed in the arguments and I appreciate the science lesson but there are some underlying assumptions that I find confusing.

          "This is another layering of human meaning upon evolution that is simply not required for the theory."

          How can a "meaning" be other than human? The conceit that we have access to "meaning" that is outside of our own human limitations sounds like...religion.

          Interesting term; "ordered complexity". I assume that it is used to make an atheist argument but I think "order" implies something more than random process. If not, ordered by what? Entropy can't "order" complexity. How can there be "order" if there is nothing to order by or towards? What does the word "order" even mean if the universe is not ordered to something?

          • flan man

            "This is another layering of human meaning upon evolution that is simply not required for the theory."

            How can a "meaning" be other than human? The conceit that we have access to "meaning" that is outside of our own human limitations sounds like...religion.

            No, he means that humans impose an idea like "order towards something" on things that don't have it. Similar to the way we see faces in wood grain. There's no actual face there, but our minds are so tuned to seeing human faces that we layer on a human meaning. We see a face there. But there is no face.

            Organisms evolve. Not "towards" something, they just change in response to things like environmental pressures. We can trace the development of organisms from one type to another, like dinosaurs to birds. The "human meaning" is the human tendency to draw lines from a to b and to think it was meant to be that way. People will say things like "birds evolved from dinosaurs", and this leads them to think that it was destined to do so, that dinosaurs "were evolving towards birds". But they weren't. They could have evolved any number of different ways. They went the way they went. It wasn't inevitable. Just because we can work backwards and trace a line from a to b doesn't mean that b was the goal of a.

            "A process occurs or does not occur. Evolution exists in the present. Humans incorrectly layer on other meanings like future or pointing or goal."

            Evolution does not see past tomorrow and plan towards a goal.

            The relationship of order and complexity are interesting and complex topics. You can look up any number of answers on this on the internet:
            https://medium.com/@marktraphagen/entropy-and-complexity-the-surprising-paradox-behind-our-universe-60f11409da9b
            https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a23345/entropy-complexity/

            "What does the word "order" even mean if the universe is not ordered to something?" I honestly don't even get this line of thinking, but we're on different sides of the fence. Order means "the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method." There are different degrees of order. Like most things, there aren't exact black lines between order and non-order, they shade into each other, with the extreme ends of both being the easiest to define. We don't need some "perfectly ordered thing to "order" towards to understand the difference.

          • Rob Abney

            It is important at first to make a distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic finality. You are describing extrinsic finality.
            Here's an explanation: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14474a.htm

          • flan man

            And likewise, it is important to make a distinction between a direction and a goal.

            It is important at first to make a distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic finality. The former consists in realizing an end which is outside of the being that realizes it

            "Intrinsic finality consists in the fact that every being has within itself a natural tendency whereby its activity is directed towards the perfection of its own nature."

            This is where we part ways, mostly because of vague terms like the "perfection of its own nature" and not agreeing that there is an end which is outside of the being that realizes it. And not agreeing that there is a distinction between the two.

            We will never agree, and this is why the same arguments will occur over and over again here. We, on this side of the fence, think phrases like "perfection of its own nature" are meaninglessly vague.

            It's an impasse. It can't be got around. There is no common ground. It's fun to jump in here now and then, but then I realize it's mostly arguing about whether things evolve "to" something or "towards" something. It's arguing over whether things have "thing-ness" or not, and then I realize it's all kind of a word game.

          • Rob Abney

            True, we can't agree if you claim there is only extrinsic finality.
            Its not a word game, it is communication relying on more precise definitions so that we can communicate.

          • Craig Roberts

            Thank you for the compelling response. Please allow me the luxury of addressing my ...er...concerns (?) ...confusions one at a time for clarity.

            Even if humans do see faces in wood grain, it does not mean that humans have access to alien objectivity that lets them say, "Check out that stupid human, he thinks there is a face in the wood. Hee hee!" And who is it exactly that realizes that the wood grain is not in fact a face? If he is not a human than how do we presume to know what "humans" think with some sort of distance or objectivity that humans don't see?

            To describe anything as "human" belies a fundamental separation between natural and ...er...something else. THAT sounds like religion.

          • Craig Roberts

            "Organisms evolve. Not "towards" something, they just change in response to things like environmental pressures."

            Another interesting phrase: "Organisms evolve." As if evolution had some sort of will or intelligence. If they "evolve" in response to environmental pressures than (obviously!) they are "evolving" towards (or against) the pressures that are environmental. That gives them a goal. To relieve the pressures of the environment seems a worthy goal. Why this should be considered goalless... I would like to know.

          • Craig Roberts

            You appear to be making the theist argument against atheism when you say, " Order means the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method." Saint Thomas Aquinas might claim that because the "sequence, pattern, or method" is in fact particular that we come to the realization that the truth is not subjective. He might say "bravo!" but I don't know. The fact remains that if order must comply with something or anything that is particular it cannot be arbitrary, random, or meaningless.

            I'm looking forward to your rebuttal.

          • Sample1

            I’m not well versed. Just average. Well versed people write books.

            How can a "meaning" be other than human?

            Precisely. That is the point. To label something meaningful explicitly implies it is meaningful for humans. Evolution doesn’t care about what is meaningful to humans. It’s just a process.

            Human beings are living, breathing bias creating machines. Being aware of this is paramount if understanding the reality of any given phenomena qua phenomena, is something desired.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            As a (presumably) human...can you realize the absurdity of claiming to understand something (evolution in this case) that is presumably beyond human comprehension? THAT is religion. Religion = Claiming a knowledge that transcends "human" knowledge.

          • Sample1

            Well, I think I understand your point but if you are saying we can’t understand anything in principle then such a statement itself is hoisted by its own petard.

            At some level we have to interact with existence. And there are all kinds of ways to do that. Paranoid schizophrenics have interactions with reality that are seen as problematic for neurotypicals. At some point in our lives we enter into a relationship with existence and how we define that relationship is up to us. My relationship to nature allows for understanding evolution at a certain level. Then there is the quagmire or realizing that humans are nature too. But I won’t go there today.

            I’m not sure if nature can be understood as it really is. Or even if it makes sense to say something is really known as it is. I’ve said before that I don’t think nature uses math or science. Nature does nature, it’s doesn't need models of itself. But we make models via math and science that purports to better explain how nature seems to work. Is that the right thing to do? Well, that depends on what you value. If you value hard-to-vary explanations then yes, scientific modeling is right. If you value something else more, like theological models, then that’s right for you. Human behavior dances along those lines of demarcation. I’m not in any position to apologize for the successes of naturalistic models over theological ones. It’s hard to refute that our species is growing away from unscientific claims for any given phenomena. If theological modeling is your endeavor, that’s your burden. Perhaps it can be met someday. Until then...

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I find it hard to refute your reasoning. It appears to transcend the thumbs up thumbs down of logical ordinary debate. Well done. I look forward to the day our paths converge. Until then...thank you for expanding my experience.

  • Ficino

    Dr. Bonnette, you propose that it is not essential for the Fifth that Aquinas hold that natural things act always or for the most part "for the sake of that which is best." You also say that it is not essential to hold that natural things like chemical elements maintain "regularity of behavior." You say that it suffices only to show that a given natural thing attains a definite end (italics yours). If I understand you correctly above, you extend this property of attaining definite or determinate ends to subatomic particles.

    Are there cases where a natural thing does not attain a definite end?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Every agent must act for a definite end, because there is no such thing as actually existing "indefinite" being.

      • Ficino

        Thanks. I asked, though, whether there are cases where a natural thing does not attain a definite end, not whether it merely acts for a definite end. For example, above you speak of natural agents "attaining definite ends" and later say,

        a sufficient reason would still be needed to explain why a certain definite end is achieved [my italics] as opposed to any other

        .

        Would you want to say that all natural things aim at a definite end that is identical with actualizing their substantial form, and that all natural things attain some definite end, though some of them do not attain the end that is identical to actualization of their substantial form?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          My real focus in writing the article was not to attempt a total historical and text-critical analysis of the Fifth Way, but simply to analyse certain of its essential claims. As you can see, I did not insist that this was a complete proof for God anyway, since, inter alia, there is no proof that there is only a single intelligent governor within the Way itself.

          The real "mystery" I was interested in examining is the claim that intellect is involved somehow even when non-knowing natural bodies act for an end.

          But to respond to your last paragraph, this gets to be a rather complex discussion if you start trying to determine exactly what end each natural body aims at and attains. Please see the first three paragraphs of my section entitled "Deeper Metaphysics" in the article.

          Given that natural agents invariable interact with other such agents, the entire Aristotelian notion of "chance" becomes relevant. Perhaps, the most important thing to remember in this context is that chance always presupposes finality for both Aristotle and St. Thomas, since a chance event is something happening outside the intention (natural appetite) of an agent. Thus, clearly, what agents aim at is not always the "definite end," which is the ultimate outcome of some causal action or interaction.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I think I would refer you to the first paragraph of my article above, where I point out, regarding all Five Ways, that " no complete scholarly demonstration was ever intended."

    If that is the case, looking for question begging is of limited relevance.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Without trying to sort out how a proof works that I just noted was never intended as a complete scholarly demonstration, I would completely agree that St. Thomas was far too astute a thinker as to assume what he was trying to prove, especially in so evident a context as this one.

  • Sample1

    Sin is primarily a religious term. It may be a word used colloquially among non religious people to refer to evil deeds but religions patented it. Each of the eight or so major religions correlate the word with, as you say, a human action not in line with the respective deity’s will.

    As an apolytheist and atheist, it’s not a word that has any relevant meaning for my existence except insofar as to academically understand how theists and polytheists might employ their patent on others who are not of their beliefs (attempts at contraception and blasphemy laws with state punishments).

    Calling me a sinner (because atheism is a sin in Catholicism) is a bit like racism in theory. They don’t sanction the physical persecution of atheists anymore (though the threat of after death torture remains) but I do believe the attitude is uncivilized with an existing latent potential for harm. Many racists, for instance, do not physically persecute people of color anymore (though that still happens) but the attitude of racism is uncivilized. It’s like a tumor on a path to malignancy, a latent potential harm. The sin patent, like racism, is obsolete technology.

    The odd belief that, because I don’t find the concept of sin relevant for my life, therefore means I don’t know how to differentiate between right and wrong or know what evil looks like is a belief surprisingly held by theists and polytheists. That isn’t too surprising though considering many theists and polytheists also believe that without metaphysical divine so-called moral groundings, there is nothing stopping the atheist from raping and pillaging. A belief without evidence or sound reasoning. Last I checked atheists might be in their heavens so, well, some progress (after only a couple thousand years!) is being made there. You’ll have to turn up your speaker to maximum to hear the few shouts of hooray.

    Sin is a central theme for Christianity, so ground zero in importance that Catholicism cannot exist recognizably without it. That Craig was unable to come up with a definition is interesting to me. Is his silence consciousness of guilt? I don’t know. For now I’ll have to accept that it’s just difficult given his “moving target” explanation. Then again my eyebrows raised when I learned he was a Catholic, something I didn’t expect. In fact, I thought for sure the doctrine of so-called original sin would at least be raised. But it’s sometimes unwise to enter a discussion with expectations.

    Mike, not a sinner for the simple reason that I don’t believe in gods. No evidence for gods therefore religious patents don’t warrant their labels upon me.

    Edit done.

    • Rob Abney

      I agree that the term is mostly used with religious connotations and that is unfortunate.
      But sin can only be defined religiously after it is understood philosophically.
      You can only understand sin if you understand the formal and final causes of human nature.
      "Sin has for its cause the free-will defectively electing some mutable good in place of the eternal good, God, and thus deviating from its true last end."
      Sin can be described as "missing the mark", the mark being the final end.
      The OP describes non-intelligent beings having an end, and for the most part the non-intelligent beings do not miss the mark.
      But beings with intellect can miss the mark, one way is by not knowing what the highest final end is. Knowing the highest final end brings in religion.

    • Mark

      The odd belief that, because I don’t find the concept of sin relevant or my life, therefore means I don’t know how to differentiate between right and wrong or know what evil looks like

      How do you differentiate between right and wrong? You make a lot of assertions in this, but the one I find most interesting is it seems you have a "sound reasoning" with "evidence" way of defining evil versus the theists. So I'm mostly interested in this evidence and how every human can follow your objective evidence based understanding of evil to avoid it without the "obsolete technology" of religion and its patents.

      Sin is a central theme for Christianinty

      Indirectly yes, insofar that sin/evil is the privation of love/pure goodness. Evil cannot exist without good/love. Good/Love can exist without evil. Love is the central theme for Christianity. Ground zero is love God, love neighbor. If you want to say Catholicism can't exist without pure love/goodness I agree.

      • Sample1

        One way I could do that is to hop in a time machine and rematerialize in the 7th BCE during the time when Deuteronomy was written with a soot and olive oil mixture. If I wanted to know if it was right to kill a lying bride I could find this law:

        20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

        This law comes directly from the greatest book ever written, by the Master of the Universe. Just think about that. The evidence was the living tradition of my ancestors who stretch back to those who spoke with Yahweh himself.

        Or, if I wanted to find out how to behave when my life is the property of another I could look to the New Testament, the greatest book ever written (the OT lays out how I could be legally owned as property):

        5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your [a]masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not [b]by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the [c]heart. 7 With good will [d]render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

        One thing should be perfectly clear. The Bible is precisely where I would not turn to for moral guidance about virginity and slavery even if there was evidence that is came from YahwehJesus.

        So where do we find better morality through reason and evidence? Go to a bookstore and there are shelves of ideas to live a moral life. Of course, they won’t be the best books ever written as the ones by God are, but perhaps that’s a good thing.

        Mike

        • Mark

          Go to a bookstore and there are shelves of ideas to live a moral life.

          Here's one from a well known 20th century moralist:

          The Party cannot be neutral towards religious prejudices and it will continue to carry on propaganda against these prejudices because this is one of the best
          means of undermining the influence of the reactionary clergy who support the exploiting classes and who preach submission to these classes. The Party cannot be neutral towards the bearers of religious prejudices, towards the reactionary clergy who poison the minds of the toiling masses. Have we suppressed the reactionary clergy? Yes, we have. The unfortunate thing is that it has not been completely liquidated. Anti-religious propaganda is a means by which the complete liquidation of the reactionary clergy must be brought about. Cases occur when certain members of the Party hamper the complete development of anti-religious propaganda. If such members are expelled it is a good thing because there is no room for such "Communists" in the ranks of our Party. J Stalin Pravda Sept 15, 1927.

          I did that just so you can see how ad hoc sophistry isn't helpful in dialogue. I can, as a Catholic, clearly define evil, moral theology, and I have an objective authority if there is a God. Charitably asking an atheist moral grounding they assert they have isn't back handed; I'm really trying to understand morality outside of my paradigm. You played victim then used the opportunities to lash out on your interlocutor.

          • Sample1

            No, I’m glad you did quote something you don’t agree with.

            You do the same thing with the greatest book ever written, the Bible. You bring your morality to the Bible. That’s exactly how you are able to disagree with owning people as property, despite an objective standard bearer such as YahwehJesus. Or wait, do you think it is moral to own people as property? Sorry if you don’t like that question but it comes from your God in the greatest book ever written. It has to be asked.

            I'm really trying to understand morality outside of my paradigm.

            Why?

            I never claimed to have a moral grounding. That’s what you claim to have. If you want to understand others about, well, anything, it’s not unhelpful to suspend bias. For instance, I’m researching anti-foundationalism. Perhaps you’d be interested in that. The focus is more on explanations and principles in concert with the philosophy of fallibilism rather than what you know as grounding by a god.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            You do the same thing with the greatest book ever written, the Bible. You bring your morality to the Bible.

            No, I don't. Where did I proof text from the Bible to confirm my morality? Where did I reference morality is derived from book? (you did) Where did you see me take my preconceived morality and bias confirm or deny it with proof text from the Bible? (you did) These are all your strawmen activities. I'm Catholic and as such don't believe in your authority to interpret the Bible. You're unequivocally unqualified to claim the valid interpretation of the Bible. (as am I) There is no perspicuity of scripture for Catholics. It seems you have no interest in answering my sincere question or you have no real answer which is fine. As such you may have the last word Mike as I'm finding the dialogue unfruitful.

          • Sample1

            You’re right. I assumed a few things about you, incorrectly. I’m sorry about that.

            What this brief exchange has demonstrated, from my POV, is behavior modification in action. You said things I thought showed bias, and presented problems, and I said things that you had problems with.

            If we choose to we can modify our exchanges to suit the other’s needs.

            This is, for me, how morality works. We exchange ideas with each other in a conversation, using each other for self correcting when needed.

            No greatest book, no god. Of course you might disagree.

            It seems you have no interest in answering my sincere question

            So you say. Did you not take seriously my recommendation looking for other books about morality? I mentioned anti-foundationalism, fallibilism and how explanations and principles are how I approach the topic of morality.

            When are you going to answer a few of my questions? I’ll condense them: you claim to have a moral grounding if there is a god and I must ask what on earth is condoning people being owned as property doing in the greatest book ever written? Do you think owning people as property is moral? I have to ask this because some Christians seem to think so. I’m a little perplexed why that question won’t be answered.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            Okay Mike, I'm willing to concede my first question seemed uncharitable as it wove many of your expectations of theism into the your assertion about a knowledge of evil. It helped this morning to read your dialogue with Craig to put it into perspective. For that I apologize.

            I will answer you question as a gesture of goodwill. I don't condone owning people. Yes some Christians, mostly historically, seem to believe it to be moral and used the proof text you supplied as evidence. When the Bible conflicts with the teaching of Christianity I subjugate myself to the Magisterial teaching as opposed to those that endorse slavery. The Magisterial teaching slavery is a grave moral wrong. I concede there are Catholics and churchmen who do not consult the teaching office of the Church on such questions. I'm not one of them. One of my favorite saints is Josephine Bahkita. I also think that is a red herring question, so I'd ask to go back to my original question rewritten more charitably. If you wish to answer it great, if not, I apologize for not letting you have the last word as promised.

            How do you reconcile being a fallibilist with a belief in evil? It might be helpful for you to define evil for me if it is opposed to the Catholic teaching of a privation of agape.

          • Sample1

            I’m bringing up owning people as property for a reason rather than a red herring. It goes to how many think about morality. One can ask themselves, was owning people ever moral? It’s a challenging question for people of the book to answer, in my experience. It seems to be hard because there it is, right in both divine testaments, condoned if not meticulously proscribed. I’ve read many kinds of Christian and Jewish explanations about slavery in scriptures. The Jewish ones are interesting, usually describing the cultures of the times and taking a rigorous approach to distinguish all the nuanced aspects of divine law. But for me the mystery remains: would the Bible be a better book if the moral teachings on slavery were condemned by Yahweh/Jesus? Seems the answer is yes.

            When I think about morality and immorality there are going to be situations where the lack of knowledge is what makes the difference between them. Perhaps not all situations, but I think that lack of knowledge could resolve the issues we see in the divine testaments. Of course Yahweh/Jesus doesn’t lack knowledge as the claims go, so this lack of knowledge is how people lack knowledge and what can result from that.

            A fallibilist is someone who holds that any claim of knowledge could be wrong. Even their own claim about fallibilism, so very quickly it looks like fallibilism itself is problematic! There are different ways fallibilism is defined with a slew of philosophical positions to address that. But the basic premise seems reasonable to me. Could I be wrong? Yes. Am I wrong to say owning people is immoral? Well, if that’s wrong I wouldn’t want to be right. Anti-foundational thinking is also part of my worldview. That is to say I don’t look so much for absolute foundations as I do fundamentals with good explanations and principles. There are some physicists who take this approach looking not for a unification of laws as being an absolute foundation to reality but rather to look for a principle that explains them. Is there a single principle? Nobody knows. But acquiring knowledge through reason, and broadly the principles of the scientific method, is the perceived path to attempt a try.

            What we call evil can also be described as lacking knowledge. Hitler was evil. Did he lack knowledge as to why his actions would otherwise be called evil? We’d have to start with the claim that he was not psychotic. After all, we do tend to ascribe a different set of values to psychotics in the same way we don’t call someone with a brain tumor that causes violence evil. We tend to see them as victims of biology. Our laws reflect that in sentencing. If Hitler did not know that Jews were no different in personhood than his Arians, and was never able to discern that difference because of lacking access to knowledge would we still call him evil? Granted, that’s a lot of speculation requiring facets of ignorance on Hitler’s part, if he wasn’t psychotic, that seems implausible. But what if we give the same ignorance to Hitler that the North Sentinel Island tribe has? Remember, that was the remote tribe who killed a Christian missionary recently. Are they evil? That’s a rhetorical question.

            Lacking knowledge is going to be part of any understanding when it comes to the question of evil for me. How we obtain knowledge and what do we mean by knowledge, is all part of that understanding. I’m going to say that in biblical times the acquisition of what they thought as knowledge was different to how many people think of knowledge acquisition today. From a historical perspective I can understand why biblical people behaved in ways that today would be considered immoral. But from a believer’s point of view, with a God who does not lack knowledge, it’s frankly weird that slavery was not condemned. But maybe I’m missing something.

            I’m going to stop here and see where this leads. I’ve tried to begin an answer to your question. Hope it’s satisfactory for now.

            Mike
            Edit done: spelling/grammar.

          • Mark

            Thanks Mike. A lot to digest. Slavery is rabbit hole I'd prefer to not go down. Chattel vs servitude. Just vs unjust etc. Slavery has many definitions and meanings. You could argue nuns being coerced to perform sexual acts by their priest (the most recent of my faith's pie-in-the-face admonitions) is sex slavery and I have no problems with that definition. My grandfather was in charge of German POWs that were enslaved (forced to work for free) in agricultural work in Algona Iowa to meet war labor demands. I have no problem with that definition either. In the first century in the Roman empire slavery was as normative as bath houses. So hypothetically I'm not sure how well the 21st century attitude towards slavery would be met had Jesus taught our version of anti-slavery. I'd bet He would be killed instantly by the Romans, but that's just my guess. And that really would not fit the narrative of how He revealed himself God. I don't think Strange Notions has had an article on slavery and the RCC but it should. I'd just mention a few things you may find interesting. It wasn't uncommon to have slaves who were ordained priests in the early church. Pope Callistus I (218-22) was a former slave as was St. Patrick, St. Bahkita, and many others. Admittedly, again, many prominent Catholics were involved with chattel slavery in defiance of the Magesterial teachings. It's pie-in-the-face; but I'm also a sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness, just ask my wife.

            Second, I have to credit you with defending Hitler. That was unexpected. As a Catholic, I believe in the final judgment of a man's soul is God's alone. Where a specific person's immortal soul is headed after death is a question no man can answer. So when somebody says to me, "Even Hitler"? I have to concede yes. Heroic acts of mercy (why I love St. Bahkita) exist, I wasn't there in the bunker before Hitler took his last breath, and that question is above my pay grade. So we are strange bedfellows in that regard.

            A couple more questions if you would.

            Anti-foundational thinking is also part of my worldview. That is to say I don’t look so much for absolute foundations as I do fundamentals with good explanations and principles.

            Could you explain what you mean by absolute foundations and fundamentals?

            What we call evil can also be described as lacking knowledge

            By we do we mean fallibilist? And by lacking knowledge what do you mean? I have a mentally handicapped family member who is not what I think you would probably define as evil. He lacks knowledge but he doesn't put Jews in death camps nor force nuns to have sex with him. I need a bit to stew on your evil bit Mike and some clarifications would help and buy me some time.

          • Sample1

            Ok, you said you didn’t want to talk about slavery but then you did just that! I’m not going to give you an ultimatum in some form of gotcha scenario. If you could answer that slavery was and is morally wrong you would have done so by now. There is such a thing as blunting one’s point. I don’t want to do that.

            But you did ask me to describe how I think about morality and the way I want to approach it involves calling slavery owning people as property and how evil can be called a correlation to knowledge or lacking knowledge.

            Descartes had some retrospectively odd ideas about non-human animals (NHA) and their relationship to pain. In short, there wasn’t one. Without going into too much detail, he claimed that NHA didn’t have souls, could not reason and therefore did not feel pain. He described what looked like aversion to painful stimuli as not pain, but rather confusing sensations as NHA are unable to reason states of pain.

            Today we think differently. NHA with nervous systems are sensitive to pain. They are not natural robots as Descartes described them: automatons without the ability to feel pain. This understanding that we have about NHA pain is knowledge that Descartes did not have (as far as I know).

            If Descartes was seen doing what today we would call painful abuse of NHA, would we also call Descartes immoral? Hold that thought.

            Likewise, those Israelites who claimed long ago to receive divine instructions on how to own other human beings as property, were they immoral? An argument could be made that they lacked the knowledge we have since obtained about our species afterall. Knowledge that includes people who look different to us are still the same species as us. And so forth.

            Catholics here claim that their god is omniscient, this god does not lack knowledge. Today we would hold Descartes and the ancient Israelites to different standards about pain and owning others as property. We have laws that prohibit animal abuse and slavery.

            But does this work when applied to the Catholic god (who is claimed to be the same god as Yahweh)? Something is very wrong. I hope you see that. But there is hope.

            Through knowledge, gained by the relevant disciplines like sociology, history, science, one can formulate reasons why people in the past behaved in ways that today would be called immoral. Even delving deeply into evolutionary reasons why altruism would not generally be extended to those outside one’s tribe.

            Lacking knowledge can be the cause of what others might call immoral or evil behavior. Descartes, etc.

            I hope this helps you understand why I’m talking about knowledge or the lack of, and how it may be involved with what we call evil or immoral.

            An example of an absolute foundation is the Catholic god. It’s claimed by many here that morality must be grounded in that god for it to be, looking for the right word, coherent. Without that absolute foundation, morality is an imperfect concept many claim. I don’t accept this rationale. For whatever reason there are divine laws in the Bible proscribing, in detail, owning people as property and zero laws condemning it.

            Immoral or evil behavior can stem from lacking knowledge about the natural world. That’s my position.

            I’ve already explained briefly the philosophy of fallibilism. Most scientists are tacit fallibilists. No theory is claimed to be perfect or immutable: it can be modified if new knowledge is discovered. We proportion our trust in a theory or hypothesis based on evidence with some positions having more evidence than others. The theory of gravity is hard-to-vary, so is evolution. There are many different tweaks about fallibilism that you can discover by reading, for instance, about Karl Popper or W.V.Quine or David Deutsch. Plenty of others too. I previously described how I use it.

            We all lack knowledge, even your brother. But as a society we benefit from the aggregate contributions of all who seek knowledge through reason and as mentioned previously, the scientific method and broadly the tools of the Enlightenment.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            I'm Catholic and as such don't believe in your authority to interpret the Bible. You're unequivocally unqualified to claim the valid interpretation of the Bible. (as am I) There is no perspicuity of scripture for Catholics.

            Certainly there has to be a middle ground between an extreme interpretation of the Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture and an extreme Catholic view that only the Catholic Church is permitted to say what scripture means. That is, disbelief in the Protestant doctrine of perspicuity (that is, clarity) does not imply that all of scripture is so unclear that only the Catholic Church is capable of explaining what it means.

            I don't think it would be fair to say that Sample1/Mike is "unequivocally unqualified to claim" any valid interpretations of anything in the Bible. And I think it is a perfectly valid point that almost all Christians (not just Catholics) accept, say, the Decalogue as a divinely granted moral code while completely ignoring other commands of God in the same books (Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

          • Mark

            Okay any interpretation he has is valid if it isn't contra the valid interpretation of the Magisterium. David you mention the Decalogue. Interestingly as you probably know it is interpreted differently and numbered differently by protestant Christians , Jews, and the RCC. A Calvinist protestant will tell you to follow the Decalogue because it is the plainly written (perspicuous) word of God, then go on to explain to you what each of their differently enumerated commandments means. Starting with the first/second commandment, they might point out how statues and other sacramentals are Catholic idol worship. Catholics see the Decalogue as not only Scripture but also part of Sacred Tradition and also (as it relates to your comment) a demonstration of natural law. Natural law assumes the moral code of the Decalogue is written on all our hearts regardless of race, class, culture or religion; and why we can declare "We hold these truths to be self evident" as Americans. There are few people that would argue against the Pentateuch's influence on Western law. Prohibition of perjury, murder, and theft are in probably every Western civilization legal code as is normative law such as adultery and respect for parents. Point being there is a deeper level of understanding of the moral code of the Decalogue that is reflective of the insistence a Catholic has on the relationship between faith and reason and an adherence to natural law that is a much different understanding of the same moral code by Protestants (or atheist). When they happen to arrive at the same point (i.e. don't kill your wife) they didn't take the same route, the same mode of transport, nor adhere to the same rules. When they don't arrive at the same point (i.e. don't kill your unborn child) it seems obvious. When I teach this concept to converts to Catholicism I analogize (imperfect I admit) a judge in the courtroom to the Magisterium for Catholics. Protestant's (and honestly many Catholics) personal interpretation of the Bible is their judge. Atheists are not held to a belief in either court system. So no, I don't agree with the generalized statement:

            I think it is a perfectly valid point that almost all Christians (not just Catholics) accept, say, the Decalogue as a divinely granted moral code while completely ignoring other commands of God in the same books (Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

            I think there is plenty of ignoring of any and all of the Bible. I think it is a perfectly valid point that without recognizing an objective authority we can ask to validate or reject our interpretation of moral code to solve conflict (you can't ask the Constitution or the Bible or a scholarly article) Christians, Catholics, or atheists easily fall into moral relativism.

            Edit: spacing

          • David Nickol

            Protestants (or atheist). When they happen to arrive at the same point (i.e. don't kill your wife) they didn't take the same route, the same mode of transport, nor adhere to the same rules.

            You seem to be saying that only Catholics—by reason of some rather high-level Catholic theologizing probably undeveloped for a good thousand years after the beginning of the Church—can "really" obey the commandments. On the contrary, I say that any Christian who observes the command against adultery because it is prohibited by the Decalogue, is obeying one of the Ten Commands.

            Catholics see the Decalogue as not only Scripture but also part of Sacred Tradition and also (as it relates to your comment) a demonstration of natural law.

            I would refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 74 to 83 (or so) for a correct understanding of "Sacred Tradition." Scripture and Tradition in Catholic thought refer to revelation derived from the life, teachings, and death of Jesus and the understanding of such by the Apostles and the evangelists. Scripture is what was written down (under divine inspiration) from this era, and Tradition is what was passed on by other means. I don't think "Decalogue" and "Sacred Tradition" belong in the same sentence.

          • Mark

            Scripture is part of Sacred Tradition David. The Decalogue is part of Sacred Scripture which is a part of Sacred Tradition. I'd refer you to Vatican II Dei Verbum Chapter II:

            The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).

            Edit: spacing

          • David Nickol

            Did you read the paragraphs of the Catechism I referred you to? I don't know what else could make it clearer. As for Dei Verbum, I think you are misreading it. For example, take this passage:

            Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood . . . .

            This does not mean scripture is part of tradition. It means that it is through tradition that we know which writings are canonical. We can't know which books of scripture are canonical, since canonical books of scripture do not contain statements that they are canonical. The canon is known by tradition.

            Continue reading Dei Verbum past the part you quote, and you will find the following:

            Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence. [Boldface added]

            It is impossible to read that passage without concluding that sacred tradition (or Tradition with a capital T) and scripture are two different sources of Divine Revelation. In Catholic thought, Scripture is not included within Sacred Tradition. Scripture is one way Catholics receive Divine Revelation, and Sacred Tradition is the other way. For example, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary has not support in Scripture, but it is considered to have been passed on as Tradition.

          • Mark

            Okay from paragraph 113 of the Catechism:

            113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records,for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church"

            I think I'm done with the word play here. I stand by my points which even if you're nitpicking of the relationship of Scripture and Tradition as being two separate and distinct sources of revelation was true then what I wrote was written in such a way that are not contrary to your original objection:

            Scripture is what was written down (under divine inspiration) from this era, and Tradition is what was passed on by other means. I don't think "Decalogue" and "Sacred Tradition" belong in the same sentence

            Reread the CCC and DV Ch II quotes and tell me the Decalogue (which is Scripture) and Tradition don't belong in the same sentence.

            I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish with the objection, but it only serves to further the point of the need for an objective authority to explain what is clearly not perspicuous.

          • David Nickol

            To put it bluntly, you (and Rob Abney, if his upvote means he agrees that Scripture is a part of Sacred Tradition) are wrong. The boldface in the following quote from the Catechism is in the original.

            II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRADITION AND SACRED SCRIPTURE

            One common source. . .

            80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age"

            . . . two distinct modes of transmission

            81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

            "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

            82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

            The relationship between Tradition and Sacred Scripture: One common source, two distinct modes of transmission. Tradition is not Scripture, and Scripture is not Tradition. This is not "word play." It is about as plain a statement as can be made, and it undoubtedly reflects authentic Catholic teaching.

          • Mark

            So I replied early in the morning and I may have been sleep crazy. I can see the word play thing and nitpick think was uncharitable. Please accept my apologizes David. From the next part of the CCC:

            83 The Tradition here in question comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. The first generation of Christians did not yet have a written New Testament, and the New Testament itself demonstrates the process of living Tradition.</blockquote

            When I said that "Scripture is a part of Tradition" I was not denying two mode transmission of Sacred Revelation. I was pointing out that the Living Tradition started at Pentecost and the living Sacred Scripture flows from the Living Tradition. Jesus never commanded the Scriptures to be written or put into canon. I agree Tradition is not Scripture and Scripture is not Tradition, except that they overlap often and when they do they are the same Revelation but different mode/sources. But Scripture doesn't exist without the Living Tradition and the Living Tradition existed without Scripture. That's what I meant by "Scripture is a part of Tradition". I think we may have been talking past each other. So if you look back to what you had a problem with you said:

            Scripture is what was written down (under divine inspiration) from this era, and Tradition is what was passed on by other means.

            I viewed that as a misinterpretation/misrepresentation of history, Scripture, and the Living Tradition. Again, sorry for my demeanor David.

          • Craig Roberts

            "There is no perspicuity of scripture for Catholics."

            Then what good is Catholicism? That sounds like the Protestant stereotype of Catholics as mindless drones that can't read, think, and fruitfully reflect on the Bible for themselves.

          • Mark

            No offense Craig, but "What good is the doctrine of perspicuity of scripture" in this situation might be a better question. As you can see I avoid having to debate the clear meaning of Scripture with an atheists. Feel free as Mike I'm sure is well versed in the many Scriptural conflicts he'd love you to fruitfully reflect upon. I find it ad nauseam.

          • Craig Roberts

            Makes sense. If someone admits they don't believe Scripture is true then they have exposed a bias that makes them incapable of gleaning fruitful insights from it.

            I do find that getting an alternative viewpoint, even if it is somewhat...how shall we say...illegitimate, still provides a sort of "ballast" against our own natural bias as Christians.

            The Scriptures can be very strange at times. Pouring over them and consulting other believers is no guarantee that we can get them right. ""You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" -John 5:39

            May God grant you the insight to find the Truth that the Scriptures promise.

        • igor

          And if I wanted to find out how to deal with fighting, I could look to the Old Testament, the greatest book ever written:

          Deut25:11 If men, a man and his brother, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals,

          Deut25:12 then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity.

          • Sample1

            I’ve been here long enough to know that bannings can occur without warnings or applied disproportionately. Bringing up controversial scriptural passages might effect a banning. But in this context, of describing morality and immorality it seems perfectly legitimate. To describe what one would not do, even if it is allowed in yes, the greatest book ever written, is a fair way to demonstrate one’s own morality. I mean how can the Bible be off limits in quoting it?

            In fact, why should there be any divine instructions in the greatest book ever written that can be construed as immoral? Certainly believers claim their moral grounding comes from this author, eh?

            I’ve been trying to think of how I may have responded when I was a Catholic (I defected to atheism less than a decade ago). It’s getting harder to get into the mindset I once had and I have to say that the owning people as property scriptures rarely (if ever) came up. I’m not sure if they are included in the rotating A, B, C liturgical readings. I know I never heard the more risqué Ezekiel 23:20 sections in the public liturgy!

            Were you ever Catholic, Igor? Off the cuff, back in the day, I probably would have rationalized the owning people as property scriptures as a mystery that couldn’t be fully understood in this life. Perhaps interestingly, the Bible was not a huge factor in finding atheism. Maybe if I had been exposed to those passages earlier, it would have been.

            Mike

          • igor

            Thanks for the "warning". No, I have never been a theist of any sort, although in the 50's I (as a child) was forced to attend a Protestant church.

    • Craig Roberts

      Silence??? HAH! I'm seldom accused of being too quiet! I just haven't been keeping up with the comments lately.

      There is a paradox involved with defining "sin" in that if an agreed upon informal definition of sin is: things that piss God off then you must assume that:

      a) You believe in God.

      b) You know what He wants.

      Even the more formal definitions provided by David Nichols that come from the Catholic catechisms presume these things. So if either precondition a, or b, are false, how can you consciously commit a sin?

      If you doubt that sin is a moving target just compare things that were considered "sin" in the Old Testament with the New Testament and with modern sensibilities. Everybody agreed in the OT that eating swine (or any unclean animal) was a super sin. The NT did away with all that but introduced a whole host of other "sins" that are even harder to define and adhere to. Yeah we're supposed to "love our neighbor" but what does that entail? And nowadays we have the Pope telling us that things like failing to recycle are obviously sins. Obvious??!! To who?

      When Catholics deny the slippery nature of "sin" they get rightly laughed off. And don't even get me started on the grand daddy of all sins, the one everyone in the world is guilty of but only two people actually committed: original sin.

    • Craig Roberts

      The racism analogy really doesn't work because, thanks to the concept of original sin, everybody in Christian theology is considered to be a "sinner".

      (Except Jesus, of course. Oh...and his Mother. I can see peoples eyes rolling. Can't say I blame them but there you have it.)

      While there certainly may be prejudiced involved, the real distinction (for Christians) is between then unrepentant sinner and the saved. And of course nobody can agree on who is "saved" and who is not.

    • Craig Roberts

      "Sin is a central theme for Christianity, so ground zero in importance that Catholicism cannot exist recognizably without it."

      You got that right. Without sin there is no need for salvation and no need for a savior.

      • Sample1

        Last I checked, you weren’t able to define sin. Feel free to and we can discuss.

        Mike

        • Craig Roberts

          Pfft! If you can't discuss undefinable things then fine...I won't waste your time.

          Define poetry. Define art. Define faith. Define love. Define the taste of an orange. Define taste. You can't. All these things mean different things to different people. No dictionary definition is sufficient to make up for a lack of common understanding gained through experience.

          You can't define what atheism is, you can only talk about what it is not. Aaaaaand yet you're always talking about that.

          • Sample1

            All these things mean different things to different people.

            Like morality?

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Perfect example. Even if we could agree that the definition is: "The right thing to do in a particular situation." Nobody (including Catholics) could agree on what that would be.

            For example: Many Catholics believe it was "immoral" to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What the "moral" alternative was they can't say.

          • Sample1

            Good points. I’ve laid out my understanding of what sin is, essentially anything that goes against divine law. In other words it involves human behavior and what they claim as an understanding of divine law.

            Tornadoes aren’t sinful nor are lions killing warthogs under this rationale. But I could be wrong, I’ll have to recheck if there are any scriptures that claim or suggest that non humans can transgress divine law and therefore be sinful.

            Mike

        • Craig Roberts

          As Mark pointed out, atheists have no way to define "good" and "bad". That doesn't stop them.

          • David Nickol

            As Mark pointed out, atheists have no way to define "good" and "bad".

            Did Mark really say that? Where? I think he's more knowledgeable than that. It simply isn't true.

          • Craig Roberts

            As Mark so eloquently stated: "How do you differentiate between right and wrong? You make a lot of assertions in this, but the one I find most interesting is it seems you have a "sound reasoning" with "evidence" way of defining evil versus the theists. So I'm mostly interested in this evidence and how every human can follow your objective evidence based understanding of evil to avoid it without the "obsolete technology" of religion and its patents."

            Thank you Mark. Very well said.

          • David Nickol

            If I were Mark, I would object to your mischaracterization of what he said. He is in discussion with one self-identified atheist, and based on his questions and challenges, one may certainly suspect that Mark believes he has "cornered" Sample1. But Mark certainly does not assert that (all) "atheists have no way to define 'good' and 'bad'."

            There are indeed atheists moral philosophers (Peter Singer being perhaps the most famous) and there are atheists who believe in Natural Law theory. It may be your opinion that atheists have no way to define moral good and moral evil, but it is not a "philosophical fact" (if there is such a thing).

          • Sample1

            Sometimes one has to get into a corner to evaluate the door being offered.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Here is one way SInger defines morality: Singer included a defense of the abortion (and even early infanticide) in his 1994 book, Rethinking Life and Death. He challenges the idea that parents who do not want to raise a child are morally required to. He is, as you can imagine, a serious advocate for overcoming the "taboo" of thinking we must keep all fetuses (and even the newly born) alive. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-love-wisdom/201111/philosopher-peter-singer-ethical-theory-and-down-syndrome

          • David Nickol

            The question under discussion is whether it is true that "atheists have no way to define 'good' and 'bad'." It is irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion whether every atheist moral philosopher arrives at the same conclusions as the Catholic Church on every point of morality.

            When you quote verbatim from a source, please put the passage in quotation marks or make it a block quote.

          • Rob Abney

            Infanticide is considered morally evil by many more people other than the Catholic Church, in fact it is nearly unanimously agreed upon. So this does contradict your assertion that Singer can validly claim to know what is good.

          • David Nickol

            So this does contradict your assertion that Singer can validly claim to know what is good.

            Peter Singer is not the issue here, although I understand why you want to focus on him. Some of his views are very disconcerting. But I could offer Pope Paul VI as an example and say billions of people disagree with Humanae Vitae. Would it then be a reasonable conclusion that Pope Paul V was unable to tell right from wrong?

            Even what is right and what is wrong is objective, it is nevertheless the case that not all moral philosophers even within the same schools of thought are going to be unanimous in their conclusions. Some Catholics oppose capital punishment, and others believe it is just and good to employ it.

            I'm not going to continue discussing Peter Singer. The question at hand is whether atheists are incapable of being moral philosophers since (allegedly) all moral philosophizing requires belief in God. I consider that to be false.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry but infanticide doesn't equate to contraception or even capital punishment and I'm not making a case that infanticide is wrong because everyone says so, but rather that everyone says so because it is recognized as objectively wrong.

            You are correct that I believe a belief in God is required to reach correct moral decisions ultimately. Are there other atheists moral philosophers to consider?

          • David Nickol

            but rather that everyone says so because it is recognized as objectively wrong.

            But "everyone" doesn't say so. I have read a bit of Peter Singer on these topics, and while I can't say I agree with him, his position is well thought out and well reasoned. You can't claim he is wrong or "objectively wrong" by claiming everybody says so. That is not how moral philosophy works. You have to confront his arguments, although there would be little point in trying to do it here on SN.

            You can't claim a moral philosopher is not a moral philosopher because you disagree with him on certain issues.

            Are there other atheists moral philosophers to consider?

            Of course there are. See here or here. Simon Blackburn, author of the popular book Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics is an atheist. Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and the author of a number of popular and scholarly philosophy books describes himself as a Catholic and an agnostic.

          • Rob Abney

            Are you serious or just trying to win the argument? Infanticide cannot be considered good just because the position is well thought out and well reasoned. Infanticide is self-evidently evil. Do you realize that he is advocating the killing of born babies?

          • David Nickol

            Are you serious or just trying to win the argument?

            What is the argument?

            I am not arguing that infanticide is morally good. I am arguing that there are atheist moral philosophers who believe in moral good and moral evil and present reasoned arguments about such issues. Peter Singer or Bertrand Russell may be (or have been) wrong in many of their arguments, but that doesn't mean they are (or were) not philosophers.

            Do you realize that he is advocating the killing of born babies?

            No he isn't. If I have an argument with a pacifist and I argue in favor of just war theory, that does not mean I am advocating war.

          • Rob Abney

            David, an atheist moral philosopher will have to ground his reasoning on arbitrary self-chosen foundations. For Singer that foundation is a description of a person's ability to desire the future or simply the parents' choice. A theistic moral philosopher's grounding is God via the eternal law via the natural law.
            This is from SInger's own webpage

            I use the term "person" to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to her or his parents.

            Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, but only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support — which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection — but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.

            https://petersinger.info/faq/

          • David Nickol

            David, an atheist moral philosopher will have to ground his reasoning on arbitrary self-chosen foundations.

            I don't know what is "arbitrary" about using self-consciousness and awareness of future as criteria. Of course, from your viewpoint, any criteria other than those involving God's laws will be arbitrary. Your criticism of atheist moral philosophers is not that they cannot make coherent, reasoned arguments about good and bad, right and wrong. Your criticism is that they are atheists. I rather suspect that you would say that not only can there be no such thing as an atheist moral philosopher, but there can be no such thing as an atheist philosopher, because you believe all meanings depend on God.

            As I have said before, I am not interested in discussing Peter Singer's views here. However, Peter Singer is an atheist and a moral philosopher. He does indeed have a way of distinguishing between right and wrong. You just disagree with him. That's your privilege. But if he were as easy to dismiss out of hand as you do, how come he is a professor of philosophy at Princeton and you are not? :-)

          • Rob Abney

            Why are you still defending a proponent of infanticide? And now using an argument from authority (Princeton surely knows objective morality?!) to support the relativism position?
            If Singer were using this definition only to support abortion then it would be a discussion worth having (although his definition would still be wrong) but he is applying the definition to persons that are already born.
            I don't expect that you will answer this but, do you agree with his reasoning, because it seems as though you do.

            “Your man has been accustomed ever since he was a boy to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together in his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false,’ but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical,’ ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary."

            CS Lewis

          • David Nickol

            I don't expect that you will answer this but, do you agree with his reasoning, because it seems as though you do.

            To quote myself in a response to you from a few days ago that you seem to have overlooked, "I have read a bit of Peter Singer on these topics, and while I can't say I agree with him, his position is well thought out and well reasoned." My whole point, which you seem to have difficulty understanding, is that Peter Singer and many other atheist moral philosophers do claim to make moral arguments that are true, not just arbitrary judgments or matters of opinion. In other words, Peter Singer and many other atheist moral philosophers are moral realists.

            And now using an argument from authority (Princeton surely knows objective morality?!) to support the relativism position?

            One problem I see among some Catholics is a lack of understanding as to what constitutes moral relativism. The problem possibly can be traced back to Pope Benedict XVI saying something about "the dictatorship of relativism." To some Catholics, those who arrive at different moral conclusions than the Magisterium are automatically guilty of "moral relativism." Anyone who disagrees with "Catholic morality" is branded a moral relativist. Here is an attempt to accurately characterize moral relativism briefly:

            . . . .it is possible to articulate a position that most who call themselves moral relativists would endorse.

            1. Moral judgments are true or false and actions are right or wrong only relative to some particular standpoint (usually the moral framework of a specific community).

            2. No standpoint can be proved objectively superior to any other.

            This does not apply to Peter Singer. Here is a passage from Singer's book The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty.

            . . . Perhaps the most fundamental objection comes from Kathryn, a Glenview student who believes we shouldn't judge people who refuse to give:

            There is no black and white universal code for everyone. It is better to accept that everyone has a different view on this issue, and all people are entitled to follow their own beliefs.

            Kathryn leaves it to the individual to determine his or her moral obligation to the poor. But while circumstances do make a difference and we should avoid being too black-and-white in our judgments, this doesn't mean that we should accept that everyone is entitled to follow his or her own beliefs. That is moral relativism, a position that many find attractive only until they are faced with someone who is doing something, really, really wrong. If we see a person holding a cat's paw on an electric grill that is gradually heating up, and when we vigorously object he says, "But it's fun, see how the cat squeals," we don't just say, "Oh, well, you are entitled to follow your own beliefs," and leave him alone. We can and do try to stop people who are cruel to animals, just as we stop rapists, racists, and terrorists. I am not saying that failing to give is like committing these acts of violence, but if we reject moral relativism in some situations, then we should reject it everywhere.

            So the answer is, no, I don't agree with Singer's judgments that newborns are not yet persons. Even were I to dismiss the idea of a spiritual soul (about which I am agnostic), I would say personhood begins somewhere relatively early in pregnancy. But I am more than willing to defend Singer as a serious, thoughtful philosopher. And that is why I mentioned his position at Princeton. Being a philosophy professor at Princeton certainly doesn't guarantee that a person's philosophical opinions are correct. However, it is a pretty good indicator that he or she is to be taken seriously as a philosopher, as would holding a position at Notre Dame or some other reputable university.

          • igor

            You say that "I would say personhood begins somewhere relatively early in pregnancy".

            Is this your opinion or is a position arrived at by an empirical process or a philosophical process or some other process?

            If "relatively early" cannot be specified exactly, then where is the boundary?

            How do you defend "relatively early" against somebody else who would say "a bit later than relatively early"?

            Hopefully my point is apparent - without a specific time durimg pregnancy, whose opinion prevails, or is it "anything goes"?

          • David Nickol

            You say that "I would say personhood begins somewhere relatively early in pregnancy".

            No, what I said was, "Even were I to dismiss the idea of a spiritual soul (about which I am agnostic), I would say personhood begins somewhere relatively early in pregnancy." My intention was to make it clear that I did not agree with with Peter Singer in placing the earliest beginnings of human personhood at some point after birth. My intention was not to take any position in a debate on abortion as to when human life begins.

            Hopefully my point is apparent - without a specific time durimg pregnancy, whose opinion prevails, or is it "anything goes"?

            I believe I understand "where you're coming from" (as we say), but I don't feel compelled to take a stand on exactly when human life begins when—from my point of view—that is not what has been at issue during the whole discussion I have been participating in. I have been disputing the statement "atheists have no way to define 'good' and 'bad." I believe that is incorrect.

            Thankfully, I hold no position of responsibility when it comes to the abortion debate, so I don't feel compelled to express (or even formulate) an opinion on when human life begins and when (if ever) it is licit to terminate the life of a human organism on the grounds that human life is not yet (or not still) present.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems as though Singer, and maybe you also, have an incomplete definition of human persons, here's a more complete definition from Charles Camosy.

            Human persons remain kinds of things that subsist over time whether (1) we are currently expressing specific traits like rationality and self-awareness, or (2) those traits are currently unexpressed or frustrated as a result of disease, immaturity, intoxication, unconsciousness, brain injury, and so on.

            The key difference, that no atheist will support, is the subsistence over time. That is the difference between humans and other animals, a rational soul. But an atheist could at least support (2) even if he didn't support subsistence over time.

          • David Nickol

            I am afraid I can make no sense of your comments above, even though they seem to have merited an upvote from Dr. Bonnette.

            I don't see the Charles Camosy quote as a "definition of human persons," whether or not it be a true statement. You refer to a "key difference," but you don't say what it is a difference from. What is it that "no atheist will support"—subsistence over time or a rational soul? I agree that atheists will not accept the idea a (spiritual) rational soul, yet it seems you are claiming atheists would not accept something having to do with subsistence over time.

            Then, most puzzling, you say,

            But an atheist could at least support (2) even if he didn't support subsistence over time.

            What is puzzling is that (2) clearly includes the concept of subsistence over time. I can read Camosy's statement no other way than to mean rationality and self-awareness subsist over time whether "those traits are currently unexpressed or frustrated as a result of disease, immaturity, intoxication, unconsciousness, brain injury, and so on." So what can you possibly mean by saying "an atheist could at least support (2) even if he didn't support subsistence over time"? I don't even have a guess as to what you could possibly mean.

          • David Nickol

            I can't help but be very amused that you quote Charles Camosy here when earlier you asked me, "Why are you still defending a proponent of infanticide?" I am somewhat familiar with Camosy and even used to occasionally participate in exchanges with him and others on his Catholic Moral Theology Blog. I admire his approach, and I even bought a copy of one of his books titled Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization. Here is the book information from Amazon:

            Interaction between Peter Singer and Christian ethics, to the extent that it has happened at all, has been unproductive and often antagonistic. Singer sees himself as leading a 'Copernican Revolution' against a sanctity of life ethic, while many Christians associate his work with a 'culture of death.' Charles Camosy shows that this polarized understanding of the two positions is a mistake. While their conclusions about abortion and euthanasia may differ, there is surprising overlap in Christian and Singerite arguments, and disagreements are interesting and fruitful. Furthermore, it turns out that Christians and Singerites can even make common cause, for instance in matters such as global poverty and the dignity of non-human animals. Peter Singer and Christian ethics are far closer than almost anyone has imagined, and this book is valuable to those who are interested in fresh thinking about the relationship between religious and secular ethics.[Boldface added]

            It seems that Camosy is not nearly as hostile to Peter Singer as you are. Perhaps there are good reasons why. Maybe you could benefit from going "beyond polarization."

          • Sample1

            I’m guessing you’ve read this. https://newrepublic.com/article/64674/the-stupidity-dignity

            If you haven’t, you’ll probably find it a good use of your time to do so. The mess that is the word dignity as opposed to autonomy.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I agree that dignity is not a strong argument.

          • Rob Abney

            Carmosy is not polarizing, he just uses rational argument, even on disgusting subjects. https://jme.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/144856/field_highwire_adjunct_files/0/Carmosy.docx
            I try to also, I'm not sure why you are saying I am hostile to Singer, I just do not like his incomplete reasoning and where it leads him.

          • David Nickol

            Carmosy [sic] is not polarizing, he just uses rational argument . . . .

            It is difficult to believe you actually read what I wrote before you wrote the above response, in which you didn't even spell Charles Camosy's name correctly.

            I did not say or imply Camosy was polarizing. Just the opposite. You notice I referred to his book about Singer, the subtitle of which is Beyond Polarization. My suggestion was that you could learn from Camosy not to react with knee-jerk responses.

            You quoted a snippet from one of Camosy's papers in response to my mention of Peter Singer. The topic under discussion was not infanticide or even the definition of human personhood. It was whether or not atheist philosophers can meaningfully discuss and define good and evil. Many can and do. It is clear Charles Camosy takes Peter Singer seriously, and yet you tried to use a quote from Camosy to help you justify Singer out of hand. You wanted to hijack the discussion to talk about how indefensible Peter Singer is—not Peter Singer's position on when life begins, but Peter Singer himself. In the process you brought up moral relativism, which you apparently don't understand.

            This has been a very unproductive exchange, and I do not wish to continue it. I will think long and hard before responding to any of your comments in the future.

          • Rob Abney

            Let me try one more time to make my point more clear. Singer is an example of a moral philosopher who is an atheist, and his philosophy is unable to correctly distinguish good from evil. He has written that infanticide is acceptable, it is not, it is evil.
            The other comments were just attempts to show how his definitions are incomplete. I wasn't hijacking the thread, I enjoy commenting back and forth with you. I would find it interesting to hear Singer's position on Aquinas' fifth way.
            Edit to add: I would also be interested in your position on the fifth way.

          • David Nickol

            If two different schools of moral philosophy don't agree on every major point, how do you decide which one is right? Or is it possible there is no single theory of morality we should depend on to solve all moral problems. Even Catholic morality has changed in many respects over the centuries.

            How do you determine a theory of right and wrong in the first place? Do you make a list of everything you consider wrong and then make up a theoretical framework based on that?? Or do you work out a theoretical framework based on abstractions and then use it to judge whether various acts are right or wrong? (This reminds me of something I once read about how some anthropologists try to define marriage. They look at all the relationships from various cultures that they judge to be "marriage-like," and then try to come up with a set of rules that covers all "marriage-like" relationships and excludes others. It seems less than ideal, but what is the alternative?)

            I would also be interested in your position on the fifth way.

            It's my feeling that, fine a job as Dr. Bonnette does in explaining it (and other Thomist arguments), it would take hours of study of the OP plus a search for other takes on the Fifth Way. I am not well versed enough with Thomist thought to just read the OP and offer an instant analysis. I think very few who comment here (Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, etc.) have studied Aquinas plus this particular proof well enough to have a truly informed opinion. It seems to me too specialized for the kind of discussions we had in earlier days on Strange Notions. About the best I could hope to do is spend a few hours on the whole thing and then raise some questions (which I may possibly do).

            Just one word about Singer and "infanticide" and then I am not going to argue it again. I don't agree with Singer, but it is not as if he says it's morally acceptable to kill newborn babies for whatever reason. He is talking about very specific circumstances in which Catholic morality might very well say it is morally acceptable to withhold life-prolonging treatment and let a newborn die. The "infanticide" he is accused of "advocating" is very similar to what may or may not be done in difficult end-of-life situations. Catholic moral theology does not always insist that life must be prolonged at all costs. Catholic medical ethics does not require a newborn that has no chance of surviving to be put on life support and kept alive as long as possible. I think people who don't know Catholic medical ethics may be surprised that it does not require prolonging life whenever possible. The difference between what Singer finds acceptable and what Catholic medical ethics permits is that the latter never permits direct killing, and in though cases, Singer would. But in many of those tough cases, Catholic medical ethics would have no problem with "indirect" killing—withholding treatment (including "pulling the plug") and letting someone die whose life could be prolonged.

            I shall refrain here from bringing up God's commands to the Israelites to kill all the Amalekite men women and children.

          • Rob Abney

            I am not well versed enough with Thomist thought

            If you expect to be able to make judgements about right and wrong and good and evil then you must rectify this deficiency!

            How do you determine a theory of right and wrong in the first place?

            You start with the most basic universal facts such as: man is aimed at a natural end, that natural end is the greatest good for man who is a rational being. And man is a social being and can only achieve the greatest good with other humans.
            You are not correct about SInger again. What do you think he considers the greatest good? It seems to be the dignity of the parents in the case of infanticide.

            The difference between what Singer finds acceptable and what Catholic medical ethics permits is that the latter never permits direct killing, and in though (sic) cases, Singer would

            That's a big difference!

          • Sample1

            Even if that is true, does that lack of knowledge mean that good and bad as defined by faith is therefore factual?

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            Phuu...I don't know. As I've pointed out earlier, if you don't know what God wants then it seems impossible to sin.

            The definitions of sin require a "consciousness" that God will disapprove. But if anyone had this knowledge and were aware of the consequences, they would not sin.

            So we are left with the very unsatisfactory answer: only God knows.

            Perhaps this is a prerequisite for freedom. If we "knew" what to do (according to God) we would be compelled to do it. But if we are ignorant, we are free to fail.

            Maybe God wants us to be free. Maybe He's willing to forgive us when we f up?

    • Craig Roberts

      The problem with "sin" is that, even in secular society, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. And God is the law.

      • Sample1

        Secular law does not need the term sin to mete out justice.

        Mike

        • Craig Roberts

          The word "law" and "sin" are much like the words "atheist" and "blasphemy". They intersect.

          • Sample1

            They’re also words that depend for their existence on a religious framework. If the word theism did not exist, the word atheism would not exist, generally speaking. The concept of not believing in gods or the supernatural would still be available for use in circumstances like animism which may or may not preclude theism, but it would probably have surfaced as a different word than atheism. I’m not aware of any word that doesn’t have some kind of relationship to other words. Likewise with beliefs.

            To say atheism is a word that is defined as not having something doesn’t mean it is without a definition or without meaning or that one can’t talk about it without being oxymoronic. The word atheism is in relationship to the word theism. That’s how our language works. Maybe there once was a people who claimed to have a metaphysical framework to decry both words as being nonsensical to them. Who knows.

            Apophatic or negative theology operates similarly, a type of explanation about the Catholic god used in the Eastern and Western traditions. God is not this or god is not that. They are claims that say what god is not.

            I get that you think certain words intersect. That’s because you have a different understanding of some aspects of reality than I do.

            Mike

          • igor

            It is unfortunate that we drew the short straw and exist in a Possible World where Christianity exists.

            There may be some comfort in the knowledge that there are Possible Worlds where Adam and Eve never existed and where Jesus never existed.

            So in such Possible Worlds there may be a whole different concept of sin plus a different set of rules.

          • Sample1

            Ha, when different religious beliefs dominate whole nations, each becomes a different world unto themselves.

            For whatever reason I was thinking about atoms the other day. How every human has at least some of the atoms of long dead humans incorporated into their own 21st century bodies. That made me think of Catholicism’s and the Orthodox’s communion of saints construction. Some in the atheist community recognize the absence of such traditions. Traditions that human beings, for good reasons or not, make folks happy.

            So as I was walking in the woods I thought to myself about all the people who had died throughout time and how with them, their memories, accomplishments and ideas were lost and, relevantly, not remembered. I thought about them abstractly as existing within my own body, their atoms that is.

            Someday you and I will die and our bodies will disassemble, eventually to atoms. Maybe in the future someone else walking in the woods will have some of our atoms within them and they will pause to realize this and appreciate something about it. Is it selfish for me to smile at that? In that way atheists can mimic the communion of saints, only no supernatural beliefs required. Just reality.

            What do you think?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I wonder how you are able to make reference to "my body" and "our atoms". What is there that gives this uniqueness to all of the shared atoms?

          • Sample1

            It’s a bit of poetic naturalism Rob. Igor understands.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            You exchange atoms with the environment constantly, you grow and age daily, yet we still call you "you". Your identity is your essence plus your material atoms, the atoms change the essence doesn't. That is much more objective than just a convenient way to poetically refer to you.
            Or you can go with the philosophy of Igor.

          • Sample1

            Dude. Go bless yourself.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks, sorry for pointing out the defects in your position.

          • Sample1

            Now you’re sounding like Jim The Scott!

            Mike

          • igor

            Biologically "you" are your current collection of atoms/molecules (as contained in your current cells plus your biome).

            Your "essence" is your life experience that has come about from your DNA plus your lived interaction with material/physical existence, plus your imagination.

          • Sample1

            While I agree that is one way to describe you, let’s play a bit with this. One could also say chemically, you are a current collection of elemental bonds. Or: physically, you are a wavefunction including entangled states.

            I’m not sure how to define essence analogously. If I say the above describes you, in theory, those states might produce identical essences. I’m not sure that’s correct though as I seem to recall QM probability is going to cause problems. I think the evidence supports that there are feasibly no two essences that can both be said to be you. I know Sam Harris and Brian Greene touched on this recently.

            But colloquially, one’s essence is just a state in which a descriptor already presupposed to define you, if lacking, would not be you. That gets many people through their day. I get it.

            In short, I’m not sure what to make of the word essence outside the bubble of philosophy. Because fallibilism will allow for alternative reasoned possibilities, essence described philosophically doesn’t seem sufficiently explained. In other words, I don’t find philosophers saying essence is provisionally X. It’s just X definitionally, natural supporting evidence is helpful but not necessary.

            When a proposed worldview flirts with definitional certainty rather than knowledge obtained via reason supported with evidence, the barn door is open to unreliability in a way that is less protected otherwise. Discovery of what is true will be accidental, if at all. And that’s not sexy.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            It’s just X definitionally, natural supporting evidence is helpful but not necessary.

            St. Thomas agrees (I, Q. iii, a. 3), the essence of a thing is that which is expressed by its definition.

          • Sample1

            That’s fine for Thomism.

            There is a common bumper sticker locally that says, “commercial fishing helps you live better.” It’s a tongue in cheek maxim simply correlating jobs with taxation which means more services for people generally. Another sticker says, “Moose: 10,000 wolves can’t be wrong.” I can’t ask wolves anything so...

            Mere definitional existence is poor for those interested in hard-to-vary explanations which is the engine of discovery that makes your life better.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Can you define “definitional existence” please?

          • Sample1

            Sure. Any concept defined as real but without evidence. Or, “saying it makes it so.” Abstractions.

            That’s fine for philosophy, it’s probably the only field that puts bread and butter on the table via books and lectures, professorships without having to correlate claims to concrete reality. There are other fields that only think for a living, but success is going to be correlated to tangible evidence. If you’re a theoretician in the sciences and not producing something for the engineers, your next meal might be out of a brown paper bag if you don’t have tenure!

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            In other words, the only kind of knowledge worth its salt is that which is empirically verifiable by the experimental method?

            Would you care to empirically verify that claim?

            Is your response then, "because it works and produces empirical results." For then, the question is how do you know that the only knowledge worth its salt is that which "works and produces empirical results?"

            Can you prove that claim empirically? Can you prove that judging knowledge solely by whether it works and produces empirical results includes all possible truths? Or, only the ones you care about?

            That is to say, is all this simply a statement of your personal bias?

          • Sample1

            Depends on what you mean by worth its salt.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette
          • Sample1

            Dennis, I knew the etymology of the idiom but no fault to you for not knowing that. My reply would depend on what you find of value, what is worth its salt. The specifics.

            But I am familiar with them so little need to explain. We value modes of knowledge acquisition differently. It happens! I value hard-to-vary explanations, in the Deutschian sense, more than explanations that don’t meet that framework. I was going to say rigor, but that would imply your metaphysics isn’t rigorous, it is. I also happen to think it’s wrong but you knew that. :-)

            What is your short answer to an opinion about Correct Universal Ethics? I’m chatting with another elsewhere in Disqus, a proponent of CUE.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            And I knew that you knew the meaning of "worth its salt." :-)

            Short answer for correct universal ethics: natural law ethics (of course!) .

          • Rob Abney

            I would consider definitional existence to be equivalent to essence.
            Existence is “that a thing is”, it needs no definition. But essence is “what a thing is” so it needs a definition to distinguish it from other things that exist.
            It has evidence, it is the fact that you know you are one thing and a tree is another thing even though atomically you both are very similar.

          • Sample1

            Ok. But had Aquinas awoken more frequently in the presence of angels, meaning had he been tempted by women more frequently he would have had more angels visiting him to keep the prostitutes away (this is the legend), perhaps he would have thought about essence differently.

            Maybe he would have thought more deeply and claimed that there is a metaphysical partner to essence: the messence. In this rationale each thing had two components: a thing has a natural essence understood to man and also a mysterious essence only known in fullness to his god.

            And if he wrote that, 800yrs ago, you would be arguing for messences today. You know that’s true.

            The problem here is that there is no way to internally tell when a metaphysics like Thomism is wrong without tautology appearing. Evidence is the razor between hard-to-vary explanations and easy-to-vary explanations.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            I would be supportive of messence if it could be rationally supported or if it was part of revelation. Aquinas supports essence rationally in this small book https://dhspriory.org/thomas/english/DeEnte&Essentia.htm and other places.
            You are the evidence!

          • Sample1

            Easy-to-vary explanations often find welcoming homes in logical and relevatory habitats.

            Let’s skip religion for a moment. Medical quackery and conspiracy thinking is often based on the easy-to-vary framework. Healing claims (snake oil) can be logical within a specialized construct too. Easy to vary explanations typically lack evidence from observation and experiment.

            It’s one thing to decry hard-to-vary explanations as so called scientism but if your bedfellows are others with easy-to-vary explanations it might be a good idea to make sure one’s own model isn’t contributing to the thinking you might call snake oil elsewhere.

            I’ll check out the link later. For selfish reasons.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I agree with all you say, but you haven't demonstrated that essence is easy-to-vary, in fact it is so universal that I don't think you can.

          • Sample1

            You’re right, apart from the messences example, I haven’t technically shown how or why I think Thomism is easy-to-vary.

            The Deutsch framework, as I understand it, is typically used for explanations of natural phenomena. Ancient cultures who had less knowledge about the world didn’t lack for explanations for their experiences. Poor, easy-to-vary explanations were a dime a dozen; I’m sure you and I could agree about that.

            But Thomist metaphysics addresses so-called immaterial phenomena. I’m not familiar enough with how Thomism developed and how it has been worked tighter over the centuries. To find easy-to-vary criteria I’d have to research his challenges of not only his time but of the last many centuries. Also, because Thomism doesn’t explain the natural from the supernatural in any naturally (physical) discernible way, it’s probably not on the radar of anyone who might be more interested in how physical, rather than immaterial realty is described. I think it’s no coincidence that some Thomists avoid Aristotle’s physics, which is considered a failed hypothesis by scientists. I think that’s a good strategy but it also might, might be an example of easily varying the explanations. I can imagine if Aristotle’s physics was accepted as good science, Thomists would be that much beefier in their claims.

            Being qua being as a claim, however, does not affect anyone’s life (apart from Thomistic arguments for Thomists) if they don’t know about it. There is no new tech based on the immateriality of, well, anything. It’s a kind of mental tech for sure. But that’s a hobby-like endeavor, if I’m going being kind. I’d rather learn lawn bowling, and I currently have zero interest in lawn bowling.

            But this is all just speculation. I’ll think about it. Thanks.

            Mike
            Edit done now.

          • Sample1

            Because there is no corollary in science to metaphysical essences, you may be right. But I don’t know, still learning.

            It’s not like science is in the business of offering better counter-examples to ghosts (no offense) aside from reasons why human minds are evolutionarily susceptible to poor reasoning. But some ideas are surfacing as I chill in my car. Mostly methodology comparisons. Even if it fails the easy-to-vary approach, there is a glaring problem for me as a fallibilist (and scientists generally). If it’s dogma, certainty, it’s not attractive. 100% certainty is almost surredly a non starter. One way to get the world interested in Thomism is to make it conjecturable with the ability, in theory, to be falsified. While toning down perceived attachments to Aristotle is smart, it may come with a new problem. If Aristotle isn’t in the mix, scientifically literate people will have even less reasons to be interested (perhaps).

            I honestly don’t understand why anyone claiming Thomism to be true would work to avoid falsifiability or call it out of bounds. Does this god want to be discovered or not?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course Thomism is falsifiable.

            Just show the reasoning is incorrect.

          • Sample1

            Ha, well that is not going to be done by me. I thought @Ficino:disqus was keyed in on some problems.

            I have two observations though: what could be hypothetical negative consequences if falsifiability was demonstrated?

            Second, and you might decide it’s in the “not even wrong” category, but I’m growing skeptical of foundational claims, even some of the first principles strike me as attackable. Explanations are my interest. With an explanation, the subject is displayed coherently and we don’t have to look further. We don’t have to ask why an explanation exists, not to my ears. The explanation may be more of a principle than a foundation in that a principle isn’t a thing, per se. And I’m not sure our species’ traditional want of hierarchical ordering, with foundational ideas at bedrock is the only necessary way to meaningfully understand a phenomenon.

            We talked briefly about this before. I’m still thinking about it between life.

            Just 02.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            An explanation does not fully explain anything until and unless it is grounded some bedrock foundation. If you don't know how to attain any bedrock, it seems you are just letting yourself be satisfied with something that is ultimately simply accepted without real proof.

            That is why Aristotelian science insists on certain (sure) knowledge through causes, that is, conclusions that flow validly from premises that are either demonstrated by prior premises or resolve to either immediately known sense experience or self-evident principles. No infinite regress in demonstrations is acceptable, since then ultimately nothing would ever be proven.

            You may not think all this is possible, but the only alternative appears to be your "explanations," which really ultimately explain nothing. They resolve to no more than "just so" stories accepted by convention or blind faith.

          • Sample1

            An explanation does not fully explain anything until and unless it is grounded some bedrock foundation. If you don't know how to attain any bedrock, it seems you are just letting yourself be satisfied with something that is ultimately simply accepted without real proof.

            Seems presumptive to assume naturalistic bedrocks exist. There are only ideas of what that may be: equations for some. Maybe they do, maybe not. Or maybe it’s the wrong question. We don’t have examples of metaphysical bedrocks in nature. Just ideas formed into syllogisms or conjectures with vague definitions. God is notoriously vague.

            Explanations based on evidence are the cash money of naturalism. And religious metaphysics is seemingly turning away from any real world tangibility. Aristotle did not go that far, he tried to keep it grounded in nature. Aquinas truly took it to the clouds. Maybe that works for you but not others.

            It’s not necessarily problematic to have ideas without evidence. But we see what happens when ideas without evidence are operationalized in nature: conspiracy theories, flat earth movements, medical quacks, etc. Metaphysics probably escapes that because they have ideas without tangible consequences in nature. Unless one argues the very method is problematic because it has the potential to shape minds that are susceptible to behaviors that don’t comport to evidence in the real world. Like medical quackery. Some “modalities” like homeopathy for instance are ideas only. Zero evidence and the ideas, if true, would mean everything we know about physics is wrong. Remember that, for anyone reading, the next time you see a box of tablets with irrelevant ingredients, in the check out isle promising relief from the common cold. “But the words on the box make claims, it might be right!” Well, no. And those boxes are there because of political histories stemming from politicians, not scientists, who 1. have quackery susceptible minds; 2. have jobs/industries in their home states to protect; 3. made laws to subsume neutraceuticals into the existing cosmetic allowances bypassing the FDA.

            I only mention this because medical quackery can find justifications in ideas but not real world evidence. And so can metaphysics. Very similar modes of belief. Just because metaphysics is centuries old or ornate in formulations, isn’t evidence for what goes on in reality.

            Explanations are neither fundamental nor need to be metaphysical bedrock nor is it known that they must be “ultimate” descriptions. They just are descriptions of what comes through the senses and what doesn’t come through the senses. The latter obviously meaning experiments that describe what we cannot directly sense without them. Like nuclear furnaces in stars, etc.

            I’m of the position that I’ve no right to tell nature how she must be. If there are explanations that will be forever beyond our capabilities to reach, then that’s just the way it might be. Until then, there is plenty allowed to us through nature that can be explained. That isn’t satisfying for the metaphysician. And metaphysics isn’t satisfactory for others. So here we are.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you don't think the world of metaphysics can give you any bedrock certitude and that we need some predicted evidence to verify any metaphysical claim, let me give you a simple example that seems to violate both of your claims.

            Consider the principle of non-contradiction. Something cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. Do we know this with certitude? Yes. Do we know it through using natural science? No. Can it be verified by making a prediction and seeing if it comes true? Not beyond what it itself says.

            No natural scientist or positivist can explain where we get this principle from in view of their own methods or epistemology. Is it merely an assumption? No. Assumptions are merely "taken up" without evidence, and thus would hardly provide the kind of universal certitude provided by this first, absolutely certain truth.

            This is a basic metaphysical principle. It is not merely a logical axiom, since you cannot even affirm the axiom without presuming its truth, that is, that what you affirm is not simultaneously denied.

            The metaphysician claims it is known immediately upon the first experience of reality and first intuition of the concept of being. No matter. The point is that it is presupposed by every act of intellect, including the judgment, the affirmation of any concept, and reasoning.

            I submit that we have a form of knowledge, a philosophical science, that just does not play by the rules you have laid out in your comment above.

          • Sample1

            Do we know this with certitude? Yes.

            How are you going to verify the axioms? I’m going somewhere with this depending on your reply.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You cannot even enunciate or postulate an axiom without presupposing that what you affirm is affirmed and is not denied.

            And when you verify an axiom you must either affirm that it is verified or that it is not.

            You cannot think a thought without presupposing the principle.

            You cannot even doubt it without affirming that you doubt it.

            You cannot even say "maybe" without affirming that it is the case that it may be.

            You cannot even say you are not sure without affirming that you are not sure and denying that you are sure.

            You cannot wonder about it without affirming that you wonder.

            This principle is so "under our noses" that it gets universally overlooked and taken for granted.

            It is the greatest of embarrassment to those who think that we have no metaphysical knowledge and that all meaningful knowledge must be empirically verified.

          • Sample1

            All I asked was if you could verify those axioms. Of course I know you cannot. Paraconsistent Logic is interested in tackling those axioms. I instinctively wish them success. Do you or does your first thought go straight to a hope for failure?

            But what I’m getting at is even if the axioms cannot be verified, it doesn’t make them useless. I’m sure you agree. But as a fallibilist, I will not agree that certitude in axioms means it must be some kind of irreducible bedrock. Calling them explanations is enough for me with the position that the axioms might be a wrong way to describe reality. But, until then, we carry on using them. What I won’t do is use axioms that describe physical reality and springboard that proportioned confidence to relgious metaphysics which does not produce the same axiomatical results which can be verified naturally.

            Are there any axioms that cannot be assumed into a metaphysics? In naturalism we are cautious with axioms that have results stemming from them that disagree with observation.

            And the underlying presumptive axiom to all of this is that the human mind is sufficient to make sense, in principle if not in practice, of explaining reality as it is. We have to assume that to get off the ground but could we be wrong? It would take a different intelligence to know, one that would have to have the tools to bring us to their level of understanding. They’d have to know our abilities for that transition.

            Is that what Thomism is trying to do?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What I am saying is that the human mind not only sees being as it is, but that it sees that it sees it as such. That is why we really have no doubts about the principle of non-contradiction. We see directly and without doubt that being is, non-being is not. It is not as if some alien intelligence is going to come up with a different way of going at this, since we already know this basic law of being and any "mind" that comes up with a different formulation is either a non-entity or psychotic.

            Moreover, my point above is that there are simply no "moves" one can make in dealing with any axioms or their empirical verification which do not also presume the PNC, making it (1) a trump card over any and all judgments, and (2) a principle which, because it is the most basic law of being, is actually a universal metaphysical principle, which is unlike all scientific theories and laws, which inherently entail a certain degree of probability and contingency.

            When you think that scientific knowledge is the only worthy type of knowledge, it becomes necessary to overlook the fact that empirical verification is the Achilles heel that embeds a certain lack of absolute certitude in its findings. For it is always possible that the next attempt at verification will falsify the present "law."

            What appears to you as a weakness in metaphysics is actually its greatest strength, namely, that its universal certitude guarantees that it can never be empirically invalidated! It CAN be proven wrong, simply by applying the same universal first principles of being and reason to show some error in the process of reasoning leading to a metaphysical claim, such as pantheism, which identifies the world with God.

            Nor is it true to say that metaphysics is not empirically grounded, since it begins with sense experience from which the initial concept of being is obtained. Its validity rests on using reason correctly to reach transcendent inferences. The mere fact that one does not personally know how to do it does not prove it cannot be done. One has to remember that careful reasoning is also done in natural science with great success, but it is the inherent contingency of the data that can undermine a valid inference when the data proves inaccurate or incomplete.

            Philosophy does derive more than just the initial given of "being" as data on which reason can work. It can formulate from the concept of being other derivative first principles, such as sufficient reason, causality, finality, and so forth. Applying these to empirical data, such as the immediately evident fact of motion in the physical world, can be used to infer transcendent realities, such as an Unmoved First Mover. This conclusion cannot be empirically invalidated for the simple reason that the universal principles of being and reasoning leading to the conclusion happen to be valid.

          • Ficino

            I can't reply to both Mike and Dr. B at once!

            This thread started with Dr. Bonnette's thoughts about the Fifth Way. Now we're debating whether Thomism as a system is true? And then Dr. B defends Aristotelian science. And not all of Aristotelian science is identical to all of Thomism: e.g. Aquinas defends analogical predication of names of God and constructs demonstrations, in which terms are not predicated univocally, as though they are valid deductive systems. That goes against Aristotle's restriction of predication in a valid deductive system to univocal predication.

            I suspect that the disagreements over metaphysical questions between dogmatists and skeptics will continue for centuries, as they have preceded us for centuries. I don't know whether the results of "immediately known sense experiences" as those results were employed in A-T are in fact secure results. I am told that our senses only present representations of reality. And who are the jury to rule on what list of self-evident propositions counts as the true list?

            Peter van Inwagen is skeptical of the claims of any one metaphysical system to be the true system. How, for example, is neo-Platonism to be falsified in a strong sense?

            I think there are discontinuities in what I've encountered in Aquinas' system. And that system was controversial even in his own time, as we all know. As far as I can see, a logic that treats existence as a perfection and that can draw particular conclusions from universal premises is off-base. So I'm skeptical of a system that makes use of it. But I don't have at hand what I think is a true metaphysical system to recommend.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I realize that getting too much "into the weeds" of metaphysical science may be a practical impossibility on a thread such as this.

            And I am well aware that some fifteen centuries separate Aristotle and Aquinas, so that it would be absurd to expect
            their understanding of philosophical science to be exactly the same. Certainly the concept of analogy had a history of various commentators, including the likes of the Pseudo-Dionysius, Alfarabi, Avicenna, Grosseteste, Alexander of Hales, and others, impacting its development before Aquinas employed his analogy of being as a legitimate middle term in proofs for God's existence and in explaining the relation of various qualities in God and in creatures.

            As to contemporary scientific criticisms of immediate sense experience as a starting point for philosophy, we must recall that all scientific developments ultimately presuppose the very experiences they intend finally to judge.

            It is, of course, not logic, but metaphysics that discusses the act of existence as the ultimate instance of perfection as found in God Himself, wherein infinite perfection is found in the sole instance in which essence is identical to existence.

            Moreover, it seems to me that the whole point of universal first principles, such as that every contingent thing requires a cause, is that they necessarily permit particular applications or conclusions -- for example, that this thing being contingent requires that it has a cause.

            The only answer to skepticism for any human being seems to be to work out one's own path to truths that he no longer has reason to doubt. Failing to find such truths, of course, leaves one perpetually in skepticism.

            Edit: As should be evident on reading above, some parts of my text are simply missing -- and Disqus will not permit me to add them back. So, the reader will have to guess what I intended to say!

          • Sample1

            Sorry to drag you into this. I knew better. Comboxes have their limitations and are not replacements for formal education.

            That said, what do you think of my conjecture that religious metaphysics is purposely evolving away from describing nature so as to insulate itself? Would Aristotle be mortified? He was damn near every bit a proto-biologist as a proto-physicist. Fields today that are not required for metaphysics.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Ficino

            A short answer to your first question is, yes. But that leaves unsaid many distinctions and clarifications. I would not say that the aim of metaphysics is "to describe nature" as such. Contemporary metaphysics deals more with the big concepts that we bring to descriptions of nature. In the spirit of the aim of SN, though, looking from metaphysics over at theology, I'll note that not all Catholic theology in recent decades has been Thomistic. For example, there is a strain of Catholic theology founded on pragmatism. And Teilhard de Chardin used to be very influential because he sort of tried to be "open to" discoveries from science. You hardly ever hear of him anymore.

            As to Ari, I can't speak to "mortified," lol. But, thinking of that Bertrand Russell on Aquinas thread, I'd say that Aristotle displayed a spirit of seeking to increase his knowledge about the world for the sake of that knowledge. And he had a willingness to submit theory (in a loose sense) to fact: "One should examine things that were previously said by reference to actions and [manner of] life, and accept them if they accord with facts/deeds [ἔργοις], but if they are discordant, consider them [mere] words/arguments" (Nicomachean Ethics X.8, 1179a20-22).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That was a central point of my video: "Atheistic Materialism: Does Richard Dawkins Exist?"

          • igor

            Yes, the issue of "some atoms" from long-deceased people may pose a problem for physical resurrection if that is meant to be the exact same atoms/molecules in the body (and its biome) as when the people died.

            But I am confident in saying that in each of our bodies (and associated biome) there are "atoms" and molecules from very many desceased creatures. It may even be the case that some of my biome was resident in somedody else (or another creature. You may have some "atoms" from the body of Moses or of Paul or some other biblical hero. Such is life.

          • Craig Roberts

            Well said. You have a deep sense of meaning and a gift for expressing it in words. It is precisely because your understanding is 'different' that I seek to understand you. I don't have much use for an understanding which I already possess.

            But a "belief in no belief" is still a belief. Like the corny old Rush song says, "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice."

            Although I would very much like to show you my God in some way that goes beyond words so that you too could gape in amazement and attempt to explore the infinite implications of His being He seems content that, for now at least, you stay grounded in a more prosaic reality.

            The problem I have with atheism (I should say one of the problems) is that it assumes that a "different understanding of some aspects of reality" is wrong. You appear to be able to accept the fact without the implicit acrimony.

            Ironically, religion also implies that there is one right way and one wrong way to do reality and the wrong way leads to everlasting torment. (Insert frowny face here.) I would prefer to try them all and decide for myself regardless of the consequences. So I thank my God that He has created alternative viewpoints to compare my viewpoint with and ask that he expand my conscious to see then all simultaneously without punishment.

          • Craig Roberts

            I should have said, " ...MY religion implies..." I realize that other religions may have alternative views.

  • Vincent Torley

    Hi Dr. Bonnette,

    It seems to me that the assumption underlying your post is that there are things lacking intelligence that exhibit behavior which is (a) future-directed and (b) irreducible. I question this assumption in an online article I wrote a few years ago in response to Dr. Edward Feser, titled: Feser's Fifth: Why his up-to-date version of Aquinas' Fifth Way fails as a proof, and how to make it work. See in particular this section, especially Problem Number One. Cheers.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Hi Dr. Torley,

      You make an excellent point in noting that even in causes secundum fieri, which are treated in the First Way, the cause must be simultaneous with its effect. I have long been aware of this necessity since I realized that it is the key to proving the impossibility of infinite regress in the First Way, as I show in my book, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, which dates back to 1972.

      As I noted in the first paragraph in my article, these Five Ways could not have been intended by St. Thomas to be complete formal arguments to God’s existence. In that sense, they invite formal completion – even “repair” if need be – in order to achieve their purpose. Thus, I appreciate that you have offered precisely such an alternative completion of the purpose of the Fifth Way in your own writings.

      Still, please note that my present piece does not rely on the premise that natural bodies are future oriented in virtue of the fact “that always, or more frequently, they act in the same way, so as to obtain that which is best.”

      Rather, I merely maintain that every agent must act for a definite end.

      While I am well aware that even causes of coming-to-be must be simultaneous with their effects, still, some form of causation must be oriented toward the production of a future definite end, or else, how could this be said to be a causal process of coming-to-be? How can coming-to-be not entail some element of future states of being, which require a sufficient reason explaining why the process results in a particular outcome, regardless of the nature of the cause or causes that act or interact to produce it?

      That is to say, how can there be a sufficient reason why the future comes to be in the exact way that it does unless there is some sort of “future orientation” in the sufficient reason itself – even without attempting to delineate its exact nature? Hence, the rest of my article, including part of Jacques Maritain’s argument.

      There may be more than one way to support St. Thomas’ purpose in the Fifth Way, especially since it clearly is not complete in itself.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    The famous French existentialist, Gabriel Marcel, whom I met in New Orleans more than half a century ago, tells us that the inability of someone to grasp the truth of an argument may not be a sign of "bad faith," as we are often tempted to think.

    He notes that in attempting to get someone to see the force of an argument, we are trying to bring the other person around to the point of seeing things just as we do -- which may not be possible. Consider trying to explain the workings of Wall Street to a peasant from Outer Mongolia, and needing to do it in a short period of time. Through no fault of his own, the peasant may not be able to grasp what you are talking about.

    That is why Vatican Council I was careful not to define that the existence of God could be proven through unaided reason, but only that it could be known that way. (Denz. 1806.) The Council Fathers recognized that it is one thing for scholars and others to understand such a proof for themselves, but quite another to insist that just presenting the proof to an unbeliever would somehow "force" him to accept its conclusion -- or that his inability to accept it is a sign of "bad faith" on his part.

    I am not wise enough to be able to tell you what to do with your friend. I had a friend in college who gave me atheist arguments for two full years, before he told me one night that sometime he would tell me why he REALLY was an atheist! (He never did.)

    God alone knows the sincerity and illuminations within any given human soul. That is why we are told to pray for others.

  • Craig Roberts

    I don't know. What words have you got?

    • Sample1

      See video above and reflect on my question.

      Mike

  • Ficino

    If everything we see in nature seems to reach an end state that preserves that thing, and if this end state seems to be reached always or for the most part by all members of a kind, then one might think that an intelligence is directing all these things' operations. But, Dr. B, you say in your "repair" of the Fifth that the requirements, "always or for the most part" and "attain that which is best" are not essential. In your repair, then, it seems that any operation whatsoever is directed toward an end, whether or not that end is good for the thing, and whether or not that end is typical for the species. As a result, "determinate" does not seem to do work beyond labeling, i.e. marking one end as different from other possible ends. Under this repair, there is no end that is not determinate, for whatever is not determinate is unidentifiable.

    So what is left over to require us to attribute intelligence to the director? To use a crude picture, the above seems like the case of a traveler, who, when asked, "How do you know you reached the end of your journey?" replies, "because this is the point I've gotten to."

    I have, then, two worries about this "repair." First, it seems to collapse the Fifth into something like the First Way +. Vincent Torley seems to recognize this problem when he suggested a repair that appealed to the notion of what in Thomism is posited as necessary for any instance of becoming to occur.

    The second worry is, Dr. B's repair seems to inoculate what's left of the Fifth against any possibility that there can be disconfirming instances. What case of a natural thing's operation isn't a case where some outcome is reached, even if the outcome is stasis? On a literal reading of Aquinas' Fifth, a skeptic might say, "well, here are some cases where natural things operate but fail to actualize their natural ends." Then one can consider whether the cases in fact disconfirm the claim. But the repair seems to rule out in principle any disconfirming instances. Thus, the truth of the conclusion seems impervious to testing or evaluation.

    Someone may reply, "but even the repaired Fifth is not a scientific hypothesis. It's an argument that demonstrates a necessary metaphysical truth. You don't look for empirical verification or falsification of metaphysical truths - that's to look for oranges when you're supposed to be looking for apples."

    If my anticipation of a reply is not misconceived, then it seems to me we are dealing with an interconnected web of notions expressed in propositions that may be mutually consistent, but without our knowing whether the web matches reality. It's one thing to assert that, whatever a natural thing does, it's directed by God. Thomas goes beyond that to argue that our observation of reality compels that conclusion. On the repair, I'm having trouble seeing a connection, other than as a link of definitions, between nature, the sphere from which St. Thomas began, and the conclusion. If it's not clear that an effect is good for the agent or is typical for it, it's not clear that the thing is directed to that end by an intelligent director.

    Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain say that to deny the conclusion of the Fifth denies the PSR, which in turn denies the principle of identity and annihilates thought. I'm only seeing such denial as denying certain definitions that have to do with the end states reached by agents. And this gets back to treating existence as a perfection.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      As I recall, St. Bonaventure maintained that there were as many proofs for God as the number of creatures themselves, since, if you traced the causal roots of every creature to its ultimate source, you would in every case wind up at God himself.

      In saying one might “repair” the Fifth Way, I did not mean to suggest that it was defective in general, but rather that it gave food for thought in several directions. Some directions might entail merely development and fulfillment; others, indeed, might entail repair of some point.

      Nor did I wish to maintain that one could not develop a version of the Fifth Way based on the universal tendencies of natures found in all creatures, which do act the same way so as to attain what is best, but which, as St. Thomas, says elsewhere, fail in a few instances because of something impeding them. I simply did not judge that task necessary for the present and, instead, moved the argument in a different direction.

      But you are quite right is saying that I build a case for an intelligent governor simply based on the fact that every agent must act for some definite end – as uninspiring as you seem to find that end to be.

      It is also true that Maritain, in proposing his analysis of the need for intellect in final causality, accepted the conventional reading that the determination which was the ground of a natural agent’s action “is identical with the agent’s essence, the first principle of its operations.” (Preface, 117.)

      But it is further true that in putting forth his central metaphysical insight, any reference to natural bodies’ essence or nature was not included:

      “We see, therefore, that the sufficient reason for an agent’s action, that which determines it to a particular action or effect rather than any other is the effect, the action itself – not as produced and accomplished, but as that which is to be produced, accomplished and therefore as preconceived by a thought, so as to preordain the agent to that action.” (Preface, 119)

      Even though I would be the first to admit that I am more intellectually “at home” in the First Way, that does not prevent me from seeing that Maritain’s finality argument, even as I attempt to present it in the OP and in my extensive discussion with Brian Green Adams, works just as well with any definite action or effect as it does when applied to universal essences of natural bodies, as is generally done.

      Nor does it surprise me that this handling of elements of the Fifth Way seems to reflect some aspects of the First Way, since, if this intelligent governor we are dealing with happens to be the same being as the Unmoved First Mover, it is entirely possible that his ontologically same causal efficacy is expressed in a manner which we perceive under diverse modes of apprehension because we are approaching the same causal reality in diverse ways. These are, after all, different ways to God.

      I will readily confess that this is a metaphysical argument, and metaphysical arguments have strange ways of reducing to principles such as sufficient reason, non-contradiction, and identity, which are themselves founded in the initial concept of being. There are those who will never be comfortable with metaphysics, no matter how carefully reasoned its arguments or solid its premises. But real natural bodies do reach real natural end states, which, whether they represent perfections or not, require rational explanation as to how all this is possible.

      As Gabriel Marcel has pointed out, convincing another of the truth of one’s argument entails getting him to see reality from the same perspective as one’s self. This, even without anyone acting in bad faith, is not always possible.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Your second to last paragraph hits the nail on the head.

    Of course, St. Thomas knew that God's existence can be known by unaided natural reason and that multiple arguments could be educed to accomplish that task. It simply was not his intent to provide such complete arguments in the Five Ways.

    Nonetheless, one can construct arguments leading to God as the Governor of all natures by examining the data given in the Fifth Way. If such arguments can be constructed, they need not inherently presuppose their conclusion. The fact that one already believes the conclusion of a demonstration from faith or other arguments does not mean that the demonstration itself must be circular. If the conclusion flows from the premises, and if the premises are true, the conclusion is true -- regardless of however else one may have knowledge of it.

  • Jim the Scott

    "Snell's Law falsifies Thomism" is about as intelligent a statement as saying "the 2nd Law of Thermal Dynamics falsifies Evolution". Both statements are goofy and show a profound ignorance and lack of learning. Both make the same category mistake. They both confuse and conflate science with metaphysics & Philosophy.

    The only difference is the Young Earth Creationist misuses a law of physics and treats it like a metaphysical principle (which is 100% wrong even if there are no gods) & the Gnu Atheist genius treats metaphysical principles like discriptions of physics.

    I am convinced both Young Earth Creationists and Gnu'Atheist who are into dogmatic scientism are intellectually inferior. Give me rational philosophically compotent Atheists or Theists any day of the week.

    But alas against stupidy even the gods themselves contend in vain.

  • Jim the Scott

    All Gnu's make the same mistake. Fifth Way=Paley's design, use standard polemics agaist Paley's weak design argument. When challenged as to them being non-starter objections ignore the difference and pretend they are in essence the same. Rinse repeat.

  • Jim the Scott

    Does anyone here have an actual philosophical argument against the fifth way? Anyone? Someone who would actually try to formulate an actual philosophical defeater? Or are we going to keep getting lame servings of contra-Paely Polemical non-starters & scientism based objections?

    Tedious.......

  • Hi y'all, I have a little more time these days, so I'm back. I was thinking of trying a new tack in an attempt to move toward agreement rather than, as usually happens, further and further away from it. Here's the idea:

    We've probably all noticed how disagreements pile up the more someone writes. This often motivates one to write a longform explanation of the disagreements. The response to the response can be even longer, and things spiral out of control.

    I'm curious to see if that kind of problem can be evaded by an uncommon method. Instead of trying to get first to "the heart of the matter" (where we disagree about what that heart is! and how to get there!), I'll start through the article until I reach the *first* noteworthy point of disagreement, which is quite likely to not be the most significant in anyone's estimation. I'll try to address just that point and as little beyond it as possible. The idea is to only move on to the next point *after* reaching some manner of agreement on the preceding points.

    Should any of y'all like to respond with your thoughts, I'd *encourage* you to try the same method. If we're both using the same method, it will be a clearer test of how useful or not the method is. (Obviously you aren't *required* to the use the same method, but while I'm testing this method, I'll try to consistently respond using it.)

    I'll link to this comment by way of explaining short subsequent comments following the method.

  • (I'm testing this method for trying to reach agreement: http://disq.us/p/1zoxyg5 )

    Since he maintains (1) that natural appetite seeks what is fitting to a thing and (2) that what is fitting to a thing perfects it, it follows that natural bodies are acting for “that which is best.”

    Rather, it follows that he maintains the conclusion. With an additional premise that he is correct, the conclusion also follows.

    Agreed so far?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      When you are several hundred words over the normal word limit for these pieces, it should be understood that sometimes you allow the reader to infer the obvious. It should be obvious that this is St. Thomas' reasoning and inference. One remains perfectly free to challenge the premises.

      • Hm, the above reply avoids either explicitly agreeing or disagreeing. The purpose of the method I'm testing is to see if it's possible to reach agreement. So far it's not looking promising.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Perhaps, it would clarify better if I explained that the text I cited from St. Thomas was cited merely to show that part of his argument. I was not trying to defend it as such. But I would point out that I had noted above that "no complete scholarly demonstration was ever intended" by St. Thomas in the Five Ways. Therefore, I am sure that he makes statements here that are not fully supported in the Fifth Way itself. But we should realize that there may well be other places in his writing where he has defended such statements. Thus, the absence of a full defense by him in the text does not necessarily mean that he has no philosophical proof of the truth of a given claim.

          Nonetheless, having merely cited his argument about natural bodies seeking what is best, I then deliberately set aside that part of his argument when I say that "maintaining that natural bodies attain “that which is best” is not essential to his argument." Then I suggest that attaining that which is best is not essential because the mere seeking of definite ends will suffice.

  • Ficino

    The fifth way’s argument actually advances just two essential claims:

    (1) “Things which lack knowledge, such as natural bodies, act for a [definite] end.”

    (2) “Those things which do not have knowledge do not tend toward an end unless directed by something with knowledge and intelligence.”

    Both claims have been demonstrated above, employing texts from St. Thomas as well as added arguments, such as Maritain’s. St. Thomas concludes from these premises: “There exists some intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to an end.”

    Dr. Bonnette above suggests that the argument advances two claims. There are of course more than two premises. As I recall, Dr. Bonnette declined to standardize/regiment the argument to reflect his modifications. As I understand them, we might strip the core of the argument to something like this:

    1. for all X, if X is a natural thing [presumes Thomas' usual sense of this term], X performs operations.
    2. for all X, if X is an operation and X is performed by a natural thing, X will attain a determinate end.
    3. for all X, if X is a determinate end, X is in an order.
    4. for all X, if X is in an order, X is ordered by intelligence.
    5. for all X, if X is an operation and X is performed by a natural thing, X is ordered by intelligence.
    Therefore, there exists an ordering intelligence.

    Dispute may be admitted about exactly how to state the premises. It seems clear to me, however, that the defense of the two claims deemed essential by Dr. Bonnette argues from universal premises about all natural things and their operations. I conclude this both from Dr. Bonnette's OP and from his subsequent clarifications, in which he held that the operations of every natural agent without exception attain a determinate end. It was in principle impossible that the operations of any natural agent not attain a determinate end. So attaining a determinate end is part of the controlling concept, "natural agent."

    But to deduce from universal premises that a particular exists is the Existential Fallacy. Try substituting "leprechauns" in an argument, all of whose premises are universal. It doesn't follow that a leprechaun exists, whatever relations obtain among universal affirmatives about leprechauns.

    So I am not seeing the conclusion as following from the premises on modern logic. And it would be highly questionable to insist that we return to the Aristotelian syllogism and the square of opposition.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      >"3. for all X, if X is a determinate end, X is in an order.
      4. for all X, if X is in an order, X is ordered by intelligence."

      I hope this is not too simplistic a reply, but the above does not appear to me to be quite the same as Maritain's argument. He does not speak about merely being "in an order." What he does argue, and what I cite, is this:

      “… How can there be a relation, an ordination between two things which do not exist in any fashion, or between a thing that exists and a thing which does not? For a relation or ordination to exist between two terms both terms must exist. Therefore an effect of an action must somehow exist if the agent is to be determined, ordained or inclined toward it. What does this mean? It means that the action or effect must exist before it is produced or realized." (Preface to Metaphysics, 117-118.)

      This is not an argument from being "in an order," but from a relation between two things, one of which can only exist in the intentional (mental) order, since it does not yet exist in extramental reality. So, I don't see how your premises are quite the same as the ones posed by Maritain's argument.

      >"But to deduce from universal premises that a particular exists is the Existential Fallacy."

      While conclusions about leprechauns drawn from universal premises tell us nothing about real leprechauns, Aristotle had a major aversion to empty classes. That is why his logic simply ignores them. But natural bodies are arguably not empty classes, since some of them really do appear to exist.

      Merely having some real natural bodies being agents either of their own actions or of their actions on effects is sufficient to show that a real relation must exist between the agents involved and their actions or effects, and hence, that real intentional (mental) knowledge of those ends must exist -- following Maritain's argument.

      Living as we do in a real cosmos where much activity and agency appears to be taking place throughout its nearly limitless space-time extent, the logic of the argument argues that a lot of real intellectual knowledge of ends not yet achieved must exist -- assuming the rest of the argument holds. Hence, unlike leprechauns, at least one intellect must exist to know the ends of these agencies before said ends exist extramentally.

      • Ficino

        Dr. Bonnette, as I was trying to suggest a standardized form of your revision of the Fifth via Maritain, I put in "is in an order" as a way to represent your (pl.) move to "is X'd by intelligence" - where X'd might have stood for some other verb. I used "in an order" because that's Thomas' language in the Fifth, sc. "Ergo est aliquid intelligens, a quo omnes res naturales ordinantur ad finem". I also might think that if Maritain says that "a relation or ordination can exist between two terms" in his argument, that we have an ordo. But I'm fine with some other language. I am not even sure that my premises 3 and 4 couldn't be collapsed into one, i.e. "all determinate ends are chosen/governed by intelligence." But to jump straight to that premise seemed precipitous.

        As I see it, though, precise standardization of Maritain's argument is not what matters. Are all the premises universal affirmatives? It appears to me that they are. The question, then, is whether the Existential Fallacy is committed, since the existence of a particular, a governing intelligence, is deduced from universal premises. On my understanding of modern logic, yes it is a fallacy.

        Therefore I don't think it matters that the Aristotelian syllogistic and its journey through later tradition (Porphyry et al.) allows moves that are excluded on Boolean or Fregean logic. If Thomism today requires us to jettison standard modern logic and return to the Aristotelian syllogistic, I think that will be too high a price for many to pay. But perhaps you are not suggesting this.

        On the other hand, if the revised Fifth is to begin from a premise that some natural things' operations are directed by an intelligence, then the conclusion is unwarranted, for it rests on a universal affirmative, that all natural things etc. But there are no premises to demonstrate this universal affirmative from particular instances. In addition, I don't think the God of providence can be the governor of only some natural things' operations, with it left open whether other natural things operate independently of God's governance. So I don't think that this -

        Merely having some real natural bodies being agents either of their own actions or of their actions on effects is sufficient to show that a real relation must exist between the agents involved and their actions or effects, and hence, that real intentional (mental) knowledge of those ends must exist -- following Maritain's argument.

        -
        captures what Aquinas aims to accomplish in the Fifth. It's compatible with speculations about a finite, struggling god, and I don't know how many participants of SN believe in that sort of god.

        I also do not follow Maritain if he means that a real relation obtains between a natural agent and its as-yet-unattained effect conceived in a mind. Cf. De Veritate 2.2 ad 3: a real relation requires distinction of things, but for a relation only of reason, a distinction of reason (rationis) in similar things suffices.
        De Potentia 7.11 co: a real relation consists in the ordering of thing to thing, and a relation of reason consists in the ordering of concepts (“in ordine intellectuum”). That can be the order of a concept to a thing or order of concept to concept.
        The relation described by Maritain seems to be a relation of reason, not a real relation. But that's not be a problem if we allow that the final cause is only explanatory and not productive.

        It's by its form that in the natural agent effective power, virtus effectiva, preexists the effect, ST 1a 5.4 co. In the form of a natural agent is the similitude of the end, and the type of which the similitude is a copy is in the generator, as in the generating fire or olive tree, SCG III.2.6. In an artisan, of course, the similitude of the end is in the mind (ST 1a 15.1 co), but that dictum establishes that the end does pre-exist as a similitude - in the natural thing's form or in a rational agent. I know I already said this, but to me as to Vincent Torley it seems that on Aristotelian principles, in the form of the natural thing we have a sufficient answer to the “where is the final cause?” question. Since recent defenses of the Fifth rely on the answer's being "only in a mind," it seems to me that those defenses (Maritain, Feser, Clarke and others) do not succeed in getting from "they arrive by inclination (ex intentione) at an end" to "because they are directed by a mind". They are directed in line with their form. The final cause explains as we look retrospectively back from the attained result.

        If one asks, but why do they have the form they have and not some other form? one might answer, "because otherwise they would be other things and not what they are." If that's not a satisfactory answer, then I think we're getting out of the Fifth into a PSR or other kind of argument. But I said that already, too.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          >“… in his argument, ... we have an ordo.”

          Yes, we do have an “ordo,” but an “order” is merely any arrangement of many things into a unity according to some principle. That is not the point of Maritain’s argument.

          It is important to remember the first paragraph in my article, where I warn that “expecting fully developed philosophical proofs in the five ways is a major error.”

          While St. Thomas clearly states that things lacking knowledge must be directed to an end by something with knowledge and intelligence, any proof of that claim is simply not included in St. Thomas' argument. And that is why Maritain must make his argument in support of St. Thomas’ claim.

          Maritain’s argument is not based on an “order,” but on a relation between the agent and its action or effect. The relation is a real relation because a both terms are in the real order. It is not merely a relation of reason, because neither term of the relation is a mere concept. The agent is real and that which comes to be as a result of that agency is real, even though the latter is not real at the time before the agent acts.

          I won’t repeat the whole of the argument, but essentially it is that an agent needs a sufficient reason to produce a definite end and, unless the end as achieved is real, it cannot even begin to act toward that end. Even though the end as known can exist only in an intellect, that real existential state of being toward which the agent must act is in the real order. Thus, the relation between the terms is a real relation, not merely a relation of reason.

          Your entire concern about whether the argument reaches to a single governor is not what I addressed in my article, as you can see from reading it. My main point was to show that natural bodies acting toward ends require the presence of intellect. The rest of the proof might need later development.

          Thus, when I said that at least there must be some natural agents acting toward an end, I was not precluding that all natural agents must act for an end, but merely saying the some such agents exist. This is just like saying that of the class of objects known as crows is not an empty class, but some crows do exist. It remains possible that all things are crows. But the argument merely requires that some crows or, in this case, natural bodies acting for an end, exist.

          The reason I put it that way is that some skeptics might deny that there exist any natural objects at all which have natures that are ordered to given ends. They would deny that there exists any form in a natural agent. And this is the problem with saying that the “explanation” of the end achieved lies in the nature or form of the agent. Some would argue that “natures” do not exist – especially at the macroscopic level.

          That is also why I addressed my take on the argument to any agent acting for a definite end, regardless of the nature of the agent.

          Moreover, natures merely assure that an agent acts within the limits of that nature. Thus being a bird assures that its locomotion is by flight. But this does not dictate the precise motion of the wings at a given time nor the direction of the flight. Yet, the end as actually achieved must be that existentially exacting. That is why I pointed out in my article that a broadly defined end does not equate to the end as actually achieved.

          Finally, I did not try to determine whether there are many or a single intelligence directing all natural agents to their ends, but merely defended the crucial claim that intellect is presupposed for any agent seeking an end.

          As I said, these are not intended to be fully developed proofs. But that does not preclude Thomistic philosophers from using these insights to construct philosophically complete proofs.

          • Ficino

            Yes, we do have an “ordo,” but an “order” is merely any arrangement of many things into a unity according to some principle. That is not the point of Maritain’s argument.

            I'm not sure what the issue is about my use of "in an order" when I tried to standardize what I took to be Maritain's argument. I allowed that there might be a better term. Maritain does, however, say that the relation between agent and effect is an ordered relation (114ff, esp. 117-118, which you also quoted): “How can there be a relation, an ordination between two things... for a relation or ordination to exist between two terms..." I never said that Maritain's point was to establish an ordering. Anyway, I shall not say more about ordering now.

            The relation [between agent and its as-yet unattained effect] is a real relation because both terms are in the real order. It is not merely a relation of reason, because neither term of the relation is a mere concept. The agent is real and that which comes to be as a result of that agency is real, even though the latter is not real at the time before the agent acts.

            Something that is not real at time t but is a thought is not a term in a real relation, according to passages I cited from Aquinas. What you describe is a relation of reason, not a real relation. Maritain himself says of the end in the intellect but not yet attained in reality, “Only in this way can it exist—in thought, in knowledge—before it exists in reality [my bolding].” Congruent with what I wrote in my last post is Earl Muller, S.J. “Real Relations and the Divine: Issues in Thomas’s Understanding of God’s Relation to the World.” Theological Studies 56 (1995) 673-695 at 675: in a real relation, all three formal elements [viz. subject, term, and foundation or ground] are real. If any of these elements is not real, it’s a relation of reason. All relations have the same intelligibility, but only real relations have esse. A relation of reason is caused by and depends for its existence on the activity of some mind. A real relation is caused by and depends for its existence on some real extra-mental foundation in the subject of the relation.

            Compare similarly Gilles Emery, O.P., “Ad aliquid: Relation in the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas,” in Philosophy in Systematic Theology, ed. Matthew L. Lamb (Washington 2016) 175-201 at 185: “Several conditions are required for two things to have a real relation. It is necessary, first, that the two terms in relation be real (quod utrumque sit ens); second, that the two terms be really distinct; third, that they belong to a “same order” [my bolding]; fourth, that the relation results from a foundation which causes it to be in the subject.” The relation between an agent and a thought of the as-yet- unattained end of its operation does not satisfy all these conditions. You yourself distinguished between two orders of existence, “the intentional (mental) order” and “extramental reality.” It follows that a relation between something in the intentional order and something in extramental reality is a relation of reason, not a real relation.

            As far as I can see, Maritain’s argument that the relation of agent to a thought of an unattained end is a real relation boils down to this: “the action of objects would be unintelligible if they did not depend upon a thought,” therefore they do depend upon a thought (p. 118). That does not establish that the relation is a real relation.

            As shown by passages I cited previously, the closest we get to a "real" unattained end state is the "similitudo" of the end in the natural thing's form. That's the answer to the "where is the final cause" question. To answer why an acorn germinates into an oak sapling, which becomes an oak tree, it's sufficient to appeal to prior states. We can talk about natural things as seeking or desiring their own goods, but those verbs are metaphor.

            We need not accept Maritain's contention that all agency becomes unintelligible in nature without our positing a mind. Scientists can in principle account for why a boulder cast out of an exploding volcano hits one spot on the ground and not another spot if they know all the data about the prior efficient and material causes. We talk about blind forces—or, let’s say, natural agents acting “vi effectiva”—all the time. We say they're "blind" because we don't think a prior plan has been carried out. From an A-T POV, as I suggested previously, we have what we need if we appeal to form, matter and efficient causality to explain why a given result occurred in nature. Beyond prior conditions, there is no residue to be explained. As a relation of reason, causal ordination in final causality helps explain some effects retrospectively, but it hasn't been demonstrated that a thought in a mind is needed prospectively for natural agents to operate. An assertion that “it would be unintelligible otherwise” is highly contentious. I'd rather not multiply entities unnecessarily.
            --------------------------
            ETA:

            Your entire concern about whether the argument reaches to a single governor is not what I addressed in my article, as you can see from reading it.

            I don't remember voicing that concern. I thought we agreed that the Fifth as written by St. Thomas does not succeed in establishing that there is but a single intelligence governing natural agents' operations. I tried to standardize the Maritain-style revision of the Fifth as concluding that "Therefore, there exists an ordering intelligence." But I simply wrote "exists an" as a translation of "∃x" or "∃(x)".
            ------------------------
            I think a sticky point, btw, is the ambiguity of "determinate." More than one sense is concealed there.

            If someone wants to argue for God's existence from necessary being or from the PSR, it seems to me more economical just to go for that rather than try to get to those principles from teleology/final causality.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I would be the first to agree with you that I would prefer to start with the First and Second Ways to prove God’s existence, and that was the main focus of my book on the Five Ways. The Fifth Way possesses greater ambiguities.

            What is really relevant in the Fifth Way is not the nature of the relation between the agent and the end, but the fact that there really must be some type of relation. As I look back at my OP, I notice that I did not make such a point of this being a “real” relation as I do in my remarks in the combox.

            Maritain insists that “for a relation or ordination to exist between two terms both terms must exist.” (Preface, 117-118.) But he does not name the type of relation. Still, even if he does not name it a “real” relation, he does correctly insist that “both terms must exist.” The real question is what is the order or orders of existence involved.

            Even more central is whether there is proof of the claim by St. Thomas that “those things which do not have knowledge do not tend toward an end unless directed by something with knowledge and intelligence….” S.T., I, 2, 3c.

            Pere Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange makes the same case as Maritain in a slightly different way: “This major is often proved by saying that the end which determines the tendency and the means, is none other than the effect to be realized at some future time. But a future effect is a mere possibility, which, in order to determine its own causes, must be real and present in some way, and such a presence is possible only in a being cognizant of itself.” God: His Existence and His nature, I, 367.

            (Lagrange goes on to point out that beasts’ self-cognition does not suffice because it would not be knowledge of the nature of the end as such, which requires intellect.)

            Notice that he uses my same observation that the end will exist in reality only “at some future time,” and yet, like myself, affirms that the end “must be real and present” in some way. If one wants to call this relation between the agent and the end merely a relation of reason, so be it – but the key is that it is somehow really in relation to the agent before it acts.

            I just noticed that Jeremy Klein has posted to you a comment on this area that includes a similar argument for an intelligence being necessary to fully explain agents acting for ends.

            The more significant question you raise is whether it does not suffice – to explain the end being achieved – merely to account for it through the matter, form, and efficient causes.

            Your proposal of form, matter, and efficient cause as explanatory of natural bodies appears very outside of the mainstream claims of naturalistic scientists who abolish both form and final causes. For to keep substantial form, one must claim that macroscopic bodies composed of trillions of atoms constitute but a single substance – a view rejected by most materialistic scientists. On the other hand, the traditional metaphysics that insists on substantial unities above the atomic level comports with the recognition of final causes as natural companions of formal causality.

            So, I guess I have to ask you exactly what you mean by the form that is somehow explanatory of the final result of agency. Is it the substantial form of St. Thomas? Or, are you merely affirming some sort of material accidental unity, say common DNA throughout an organism?

            Are you proposing a materialist …. or a semi-Thomistic metaphysics?

          • Ficino

            For to keep substantial form, one must claim that macroscopic bodies composed of trillions of atoms constitute but a single substance – a view rejected by most materialistic scientists... are you merely affirming some sort of material accidental unity, say common DNA throughout an organism?

            Yes, naturalism makes more sense to me than do more speculative metaphysical approaches.

            On the question of single substances, it's interesting that W. Norris Clarke, from whose book Jeremy Klein has summarized the argument from final causality, maintains that in a complex being, one substantial form controls many subordinate forms - he does not give a simple "form--prime matter" analysis but posits many forms of body parts, elements, etc. in the natural thing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That was what I suspected. Logically, from your naturalistic position, efficient and material causes are real, but formal and final ones are not. That is also why I had doubts about your grouping form in with matter and efficient cause when you said that these three causes had explanatory power with respect to the agent reaching an end or goal.

            So, for you, form, substantial form, is not real: form as a substantially unifying principle that explains why a material substance is a single thing of a certain substantial nature throughout every atom and molecule that belongs to a living body. (Some things are in the body, but not part of the body, for example the acid in our stomachs and the urine in our bladders.)

            Thus, your naturalistic position is reduced to explaining all that comes to be in the cosmos merely in terms of the efficient and material causes, which is the position apparently held by most scientific materialists today.

            I suspect that there is a tendency among those who reduce all causality to just matter and the efficient cause to think that as long as physical agents can produce definite effects, efficient causality is totally responsible for the effect produced.

            But that is to confuse efficient causality with the entire physical agency taking place.

            In truth, a physical agent exhibits both efficient causality and final causality, and the latter is not reducible to the former. For, efficient causality explains why some effect is produced, whereas final causality explains why it is this specific effect as opposed to any other. Of course, both diverse sufficient reasons are present as extrinsic reasons for the actions of a physical agent -- and to attempt to reduce all the agent's causality to just efficient causality is to confuse the whole with what is merely a part of its totality.

            Final causality operates in accordance with the kind of perfections allowed by the formal cause which specifies what kind of thing the physical agent is, but the formal cause itself is, in a certain sense, static. It is there even when the agent is not acting for an end. For the agent to begin to act for a definite end there must be a sufficient reason why this particular end is tended toward and this reason must be operative from the very beginning of motion, or else, nothing definite could be accomplished.

            Thus, the physical agent is not identical to any subset of the various sufficient reasons which distinguish the various ways in which it exists and acts. Therefore, merely pointing to the physical agent as the total explanation of the results which it produces is to confuse the total process with the various intelligible reasons that must be present in order to explain it. Final causality is an unique principle that must be present in order to explain aspects of the total causal process which are not explained by matter, efficient causality, or even substantial form.

            Now I have already made the case for the reality of final causes, which you reject in favor of the other three causes (of which you really mean there are only two). This means that through just efficient and material causes you maintain it is possible to explain how any agent can reach the end as it is actually attained. I have just shown why these limited aspects of the physical agent's action explain only a part of what is actually taking place, and thus, why such a position as you propose is not rationally tenable.

          • Ficino

            Not all naturalists reduce all explanatory factors to a thing's tiniest parts. Many naturalists take into account things' typical structures. I suspect that difficulties over terminology will come up in an attempt to frame a given naturalist's explanatory account as though it deploys material and efficient causes in the sense that those terms have in A-T accounts. And I suspect that disagreements between naturalists of various stripes and A-T metaphysicians will continue for a long time.

            As for attempts made over the last century (maybe earlier, too, I don't know) to strengthen the Fifth, I do not buy this reasoning - making some allowance for differences in how to word it:
            "if the end is a final cause, the end/final cause has causal efficacy;
            if the end has causal efficacy, it exists prior to the agent's operation;
            the only place the end can pre-exist the operation is in a mind;
            therefore the end pre-exists in a mind;
            therefore a mind governs natural operations."

            For reasons I've outlined previously, I don't think this attempt to solve the problem of backwards causation succeeds.

            The reason why I said that the form has "effective power" in A-T is because Aquinas says so, ST 1a 5.4 co. On the other hand, I haven't seen him say that the final cause or end has "virtus effectiva" or equivalent, as Feser et al say that it does. If Aquinas himself made that claim, I would be grateful for references if you have them at hand.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"Not all naturalists reduce all explanatory factors to a thing's tiniest parts. Many naturalists take into account things' typical structures."

            The real question is whether or not macroscopic entities constitute substantial unities. That is what I addressed in this article:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-we-know-the-human-soul-is-immortal/

            The question of "retrospective causal efficacy" of the final cause reduces, in my judgment, to assessing the intelligibility of there having to be a sufficient reason why an agent tends to achieve a given end and why it does so from the very beginning of its motion. Absent any relation to the end as actually achieved, I do not see how one can maintain the reality of a needed sufficient reason.

            The only alternative to the final cause posed by naturalism appears to appeal to the efficient causality of the natural agent. But, as I explain above, efficient causality alone can explain why something is produced, but not the intelligibility of why that something must tend to a given end.

            That "other" aspect requires a real causal influence "pointing" toward something that does not yet exist, but which really will exist in the future. When you get to the "future point," you can look back and say that the natural agent's former state is the explanation. But the problem is that when you examine the "explanation," you find that was was needed was a causal influence aimed at producing the now "present" state.

            This makes the reality of the present, looking back at its past, intelligible only if a real causal influence in the past was operative and moving the agent to the present state. Since now, the formerly future, now present state, is an actual reality, so must have been the causal influence oriented to the now present state's production.

            Hence, the tendency to the end is grounded in a real causal influence that belongs not to mere production, but also to really moving toward the end before the end is actually achieved.

            I think this line of reasoning gets closer to explaining why the end must exist intentionally before it does so extramentally, since when you focus on the end as actually achieved, it is no longer just a mere possibility, but a reality that can only be explained by a sufficient reason in the past that was actually aimed at its fruition.

            I have no text presently at hand where St. Thomas claims such "retrospective power" for the final cause, but I think the inferences made by Thomists today are supported by St. Thomas' claim that there must be some intellect present to account for natural bodies that lack knowledge reaching their ends.

            Edit: Distinction: While the final causality present in the natural agent is retrospectively discerned, it exists and operates prospectively in the natural agent at the point at which it begins its agency.

  • Ficino

    Hello Jeremy, I saw your earlier post. I was going to reply, but then it disappeared, as you say.

    As to continuing discussion with im-skeptical, I think it depends on whether you find you are being challenged or are learning anything from what he writes. I don't think you are going to convince him to change his views! In the Gorgias, Socrates exclaims over how valuable it is that he came across Callicles, who seems not to dissemble and whose views are so opposed to his own that Callicles can be a test-stone. On the other hand, obviously many blogs and discussion sites can attract outright trolls or people who, though they make some points, seem mainly interested in playing the provocateur. Or they so often misconstrue, misread, or otherwise get things wrong that it becomes too much of a job to sift the wheat from the chaff. I don't think im-skeptical is simply playing the provocateur, but my acquaintance with him is limited to his own blog and Dr. Cundy's. Perhaps for now, you're not going to be well served by continuing to discuss with im-skeptical, if it's reached the point where the posts are mostly repetitive.

    As for whether the Fifth is circular, I think the first question is, what do we mean by "the Fifth Way"? Perhaps it's best to restrict that designation to the relevant passage in ST 1a 2.3, since Aquinas himself proposed slightly different arguments from governance elsewhere, and later Thomists have introduced modifications and "repairs," as Dr. Bonnette says in his OP and subsequent comments. I think many are agreed that the Fifth as written in ST 1a does not go through. So, before I express a view on whether what you call the Fifth Way is circular, can you delimit a particular argument from governance that we can discuss? I am guessing that you are not thinking of the text as it stands in ST 1a.

  • Ficino

    Hi Jeremy, I often write walls of text, too. Since it will take me a while to digest yours and then to reply, I'll just ask for now whether you read my last on Skeptic Zone, Feb. 11. You did of course see and respond there to my first reply after you quoted from Clarke. As well, you may want to look at the recent exchanges between Dr. Bonnette and me on here, if you haven't done so. Some of my views will be apparent from those posts. In the meantime, I'll work on a fuller answer to what you transmit from Clarke and to your comments on same.

    ETA: I also wrote a series on Aquinas' Fifth Way on A Tippling Philosopher. I've done a lot of further study since then, but I haven't come to substantially different conclusions. The last of the series is here, with links to earlier installments:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2019/01/15/deconstructing-aquinas-fifth-way-sup-optimal-nature/

    Cheers, F

  • Ficino

    Jeremy, now I can't find your long post with citations/summaries from Clarke. I do see something marked as spam. Did Disqus flag or eat your Clarke post?

    About what btw were you hoping for a straightforward answer? Was it, whether I think the Fifth Way is circular? That's why I asked if you could specify which argument from governance you have in mind. I was going to go back and tackle the Clarke but as I said, can't find it now.

    As for the Fifth as it stands in the ST, I think there are question-begging steps in it, but I would not say that the conclusion is contained in the first premise, so no, I'm not prepared to say the whole argument is circular. I think Aquinas first tries to establish that there is final causality in nature, and then at a subsequent stage of the arg he tries to establish that final causality entails an intelligent governor.

  • Ficino

    Hello Jeremy, I have reread your summaries of Clarke as well as the relevant chapter in Clarke's book. I agree that Clarke's arguments on pp. 200-207 largely dovetail with those presented by other Thomists over the last century.

    I wind up at the same place as before. Without repeating things, I'll just say I don't think the argument is one big circular argument. But I don't find it convincing. I think final causality is best seen as a feature of many of our explanations after the fact. But present and past conditions, if they are known, are sufficient to explain the production of a given effect. I see no reason to accept statements like this: "no action can begin and effect be produced until the final cause of the action is determined" (p. 203). So I don't accept the premise that the final cause or end must "in some way" pre-exist the operation of a natural thing. And I suspect that an unnoticed equivocation lies in the way qualifiers like "determinate" are used, since its sense ranges from "identifiable" to "planned beforehand."

  • Michael Murray

    This is probably not going to help but many people prefer to interpret atheism as a lack of belief in (the existence of) gods rather than a belief in the non-existence of gods.

    • Sample1

      Correct. It probably isn’t going to help. So instead we discuss why it doesn’t help. Then we meta discuss that.

      Meta culpa.

      Mike

  • Ficino

    Hello Jeremy, I am not assaying to answer for Dr. Bonnette, and the following in fact answers a different question from yours, but ... you may find this interesting:
    Mark F. Johnson, "Why Five Ways?" Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 65 (1992): 107-121

    Johnson discusses how he thinks Aquinas stratified the five arguments together into a whole, in which each "way" builds on the previous, so that the Five Ways together look at the question of God's existence from perspectives that themselves are ranked. "The intention of Thomas is best brought out by a reading of the Five Ways in their entirety and in their context. When we do that, we see that Thomas intends for all the arguments to be compelling for all readers ... Each of the Five Ways starts with a particular effect, under whose formality it attains to a corresponding first cause, which is then and only then called 'God.' Having done all that, we are not just left with five, repeated claims of 'God exists.' Rather, we possess five different enunciations which, while all including God's existence in them, are such as to be later used as formally distinct premises in arguments that attain to the various divine attributes in accordance with their own demonstrative capacity." ~ Johnson pp. 109, 115

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Ficino below cites an excellent comment by Mark Johnson and I would agree with most of it. If you read my first paragraph in the OP, though, you will see that I am not quite so enthusiastic about St. Thomas ever intending these to be complete proofs for reasons stated above. Most of his students probably had already studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and so, he was not writing for philosophical beginners.

    As to ranking the Five Ways, just looking at them makes it rather evident that the most detailed exposition is in the First Way, which he tells us begins with a datum that is "most certain and evident to the senses," motion. So that appears to be the most rigorously presented of the ways -- quickly "backed up" by the Second Way from causality. Both address explicitly the problem of infinite regress, which the Third Way simply adopts for itself.

    But one could write a book on the Five Ways, as in fact I have done. That makes it hard for me to comment on them, since I am tempted to open up too many aspects for a brief answer to your question.

    The Third Way is most difficult and simply does not seem to work as it stands. One problem is that the Latin manuscript used by most translators is itself in error, leading to a complete non sequitor in its logic. Most readers simply substitute their own version of an argument from the possible to the Necessary Being.

    The Fourth Way, like all the others, presupposes a ton of metaphysical presuppositions, and even makes strange statements to our ears, like saying that fire is the hottest of all things. Still, reworked in its metaphysical content, I find it one of the most satisfying arguments -- but, you have to read it conjointly with the argument in the De Ente et Essentia..

    As I indicate above, the Fifth Way seems most incomplete and in need of shoring up with other matter.

    I am not trying to undermine the Five Ways, but we have to understand what St. Thomas was doing there and how much material from other of his writings needs to be consulted in order to understand fully the force of the arguments he so briefly outlines in the Five Ways.

    My greatest concern is that those who read and criticize the Five Ways do so while holding them strictly to the wording of the ways themselves -- and then reject them as invalid or simply false. They need to be read as guidelines of argumentation that are able to be buttressed by the rest of St. Thomas's metaphysics -- so as to become a definitive proof or set of proofs.

    Also note that he merely gives a nominal definition of God at the end of each way, saying that this is what all men call God. Only later does he fill out the ontological content of the conclusions with other arguments by which he finally shows that in each case this is the God of Christian tradition.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    If you are referring to my Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence, I really hope you do get it through a library -- since the Amazon price runs upwards of one hundred dollars. Even I would not pay that much for it! Of course, my other book is much less expensive -- but I think you are referring to the one on God's proofs.

    Warning: It does not analyse the proofs with intent to test their validity, but rather is examining the function of the principle, "The per accidens necessarily implies the per se," in each of several contexts, of which the Five Ways is the main area in which it is tested.

  • Ficino

    Just throwing this out off the top of my head: I remember reading Wm. Lane Craig (I know, I know...) saying that Aquinas in most parts of his system needs an A theory of time, but that some of his arguments would do better on a B theory. I can't remember where I saw Craig write this. Maybe it was here:

    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/divine-eternity/god-and-real-time/

  • Dennis Bonnette

    That is an incredibly lengthy and complex blog. Actually very impressive. Too much of a load for me to handle presently.

    Still, I notice that many such skeptics know some math, physics, and formal logic -- but they may be short on metaphysical insight. I suspect the reason is that they are essentially scientific materialists, which makes it hard for them to grasp really spiritual insights.

    I did not read his entire blog, but the following sentences caught my eye:

    "So one can easily grant the Thomist the claim that God’s eternal will never changes, but this does nothing to assuage the problem. God still has to wait to sustain future moments of time, and God still has to wait to perform certain actions until those future moments become present. This is not something that a timeless God can do. A timeless God cannot wait to perform actions. A timeless God cannot wait to be present to, and sustain, yet-to-exist moments of time."

    Perhaps he says something elsewhere that could correct my impression, but it seems to me that here he is unintentionally inserting the "timeless" God into time.

    If God has to "wait to sustain future moments in time" and "wait to perform certain actions until those future moments become present," then he may be timeless in that he is unchanging and without beginning or end, but I don't think the author grasps the full meaning of God being "eternal."

    Eternity means the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life. We have trouble grasping how the eternal "now" occurs, and so, we say God "simultaneously" has infinite life. That word means "all at the same time," so even we have trouble expressing God's eternity without including a very misleading predicate.

    But since God experiences his creation "all at the same time," his being outside of time does NOT have him looking at time going by and waiting to learn things or act on them. God does not wait for anything.

    Time and space are limitations of creatures, not God. The author's misconception of the divine eternity probably permeates and undermines his entire blog's thesis.

    But, as I said, I have not read the whole blog.

    My article on eternity in God might be of interest:
    https://strangenotions.com/god-eternity-free-will-and-the-world/

    Do not hesitate to contact me again if I may be of help.

    Edit: Here is the article you really must read if you want to understand how the reality of temporal succession can be defended without being forced into accepting either the A-theory OR B-theory of time:

    http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal2.htm

  • Dennis Bonnette

    You may have some difficulties in defining precisely the point of departure of the Second Way. The logic works beautifully once you get the proof off the ground. But beware of that first step, where you must define precisely what it is that is the final effect and series of effects that are being described. Remember that all must exist and act simultaneously. The First Way is far more evident and easier in this regard. Good luck.

  • The law of Logic dictates: “Only intelligence is able to create intelligence.” There are the laws of conservation of energy and mass, and countless frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, to confirm the Creation and the intelligent Creator.