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What Is the True Understanding of Causality?

The classical proofs for God’s existence, particularly St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, employ the notion of causality – both efficient and final. In that context, many misunderstandings arise concerning the true metaphysical meaning of the principle of causality.

This article will assume the validity of the metaphysical first principles of non-contradiction and sufficient reason, which were established as true in my previous Strange Notions article on the first principles – and will not be reargued herein. These principles will be employed as instruments with which to explore the genuine meaning of causality.

No modern philosopher has had more impact on the understanding of causality than David Hume. Hume conceived causality as an habitual association of mental impressions, arising largely through constant conjunction of previous experiences – connected through contiguity or temporal succession.1 Since induction alone could never assure the necessity of such associations, he maintained that the “law of causality” cannot be rationally proven. Influenced by Hume, modern science translates causality to a formula, such as “given event A, event B will necessarily and subsequently follow.” Effectively, this becomes a matter of predictability. Since event B can always be interfered with, strict causality can never be assured.

While Thomist metaphysicians would not accept the idealistic implications of Hume’s epistemology, they would agree that finite causes cannot be guaranteed to produce any given effect for much the same reason.

Still, the metaphysical principle of causality starts from the other end: from the effect – and reasons back to the cause. The universally true metaphysical principle of sufficient reason states that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be. Logical division tells us that this reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within that being (extrinsically). If a being is not its own sufficient reason, it necessarily follows that something else, called a “cause,” must be its reason.

Thus, an effect is a being whose sufficient reason is not intrinsic. A cause is an extrinsic sufficient reason. The principle of causality states that every effect necessarily requires a cause. The principle of causality is simply a subset of sufficient reason – that part of it that deals with beings that are not their own sufficient reason, and thus, need a cause. From this, it follows that an Uncaused First Cause, namely God, would have no need for a prior cause, since he would be his own sufficient reason for being.

But what if we have something that partially explains itself? In that case, the formula is elucidated by saying that to the extent that a being does not explain itself, it needs to have an extrinsic reason, or cause, to account for whatever it does not explain of itself. For example, while water’s nature may explain why it is wet, it does not explain why it is hot. Thus, its heat, which is extrinsic to its nature, must be explained by some extrinsic agent, such as a hot stove. In sum, adding both intrinsic reasons to extrinsic reasons, the totality of the being in question must be fully explained (whether all such reasons are fully known or not).

Moreover, just as a reason must be sufficient, a cause must be proportionate to its effect. You cannot have something that is totally dependent, and yet, is adequately explained by a cause that accounts for only part of its effect’s existence.

Thanks to David Hume, we are used to thinking of a cause as something that invariably precedes its effect in temporal sequence, just as we expect that parents come before their children. This leads people to think of the causal regresses in St. Thomas’ Five Ways in terms of a series of causes going back in time. But this is entirely wrong.

The meaning of an effect is measured in terms of its being existentially dependent upon its cause. Simply put, you cannot remove an extrinsic sufficient reason (cause) on which something depends, and still expect the effect to continue to be. St. Thomas affirms this principle many times, as when he says “… with the cessation of the cause, the effect also ceases….”2 Or again, “…removing a cause is to remove that of which it is a cause.”3

Since the logic of this principle flows so immediately from that of sufficient reason, one might think that no confusion could arise as to its use, especially in the proofs for God’s existence. Still, in practice, the principle appears often badly understood, despite its critical role in such demonstrations. Thus, we see endless arguments as to whether causal chains can go back in time to infinity, or whether the world must have had a temporal beginning – all of which are entirely irrelevant to the actual proofs, at least those of Thomas Aquinas.

Thomist metaphysicians usually mark this immediate dependence of effect upon cause by saying that the cause must be simultaneous with its effect. Still, many people remain confused about the proper application of this principle to practical examples.

Consider the following scenario: Someone uses dynamite to remove a tree stump, taking care to leave the scene before the explosion. How does “simultaneity” work here? How does taking away the cause always take away the effect?

First, the dynamiter must light the match to light the fuse. He rubs the match over sandpaper to cause the heat needed to start the reaction between the oxidizing and reducing agents in the head of the match. Sometimes the match does not light because the friction fails to generate enough heat to start the reaction. When the match stops running over the sandpaper (cause), the heat stops (effect). So he tries again. This time the heat causes the chemicals in the head of the match to initiate their mutual causation on each other, resulting in an exothermic reaction of fire. But sometimes the oxidizing and reducing agents are consumed before the carbon in the wood of the match catches fire. The match fizzles out. When the mutual agents were exhausted (cause), the incipient fire ceased (effect).

But, let us assume that the match head fire reaches the kindling point of the wood in the match and the match ignites. What then keeps it burning, since the match head is now exhausted? It is the mutual agency of the carbon in the wood with the oxygen in the air, causing the burning of the match – a process that continues only as long as there is sufficient wood and oxygen to causally interact. Then, the match is put to the end of the fuse. If it ignites, the black powder in the fuse burns with the oxygen in the air as long as there is powder to burn and no longer. If the fuse is exhausted before the dynamite is ignited, it simply goes out and nothing happens. When the cause ceases causing, the effect ceases.

Finally, the dynamite goes off, creating a massive explosion that removes the tree stump. But why does not the explosive force go to infinity? How does the dynamiter know how much dynamite to use? He can in fact calculate the amount of explosive to use in order to cause the desired effect – knowing that for every gram molecular weight of the explosive agents he will almost instantly produce 22.4 liters of gasses, thus creating the powerful, but predictably limited, desired effect. When the cause ceases causing, the effect ceases.

Yet, was not the person who lit the dynamite the true cause of the later explosion? Yes, but in a different order of causation than the physical one that I have described in detail. He is the cause as a moral agent, using intelligence to oversee the entire causal process. His physical causation ended when he put the lighted match to the fuse. But his moral responsibility for the final explosion remains after the explosion itself. He is not physically able to remove the stump with his own muscles, but he can intelligently use the physical forces of nature to do so.

In every moment of this detailed description, the universal causal principle was upheld. Every time the physical cause ceased causing its direct effect ceased being effected.

Proper understanding of exactly what a cause is actually causing proves no exceptions to the causal rule. But I use this complex physical “case study” to show how easily one could make the mistake of thinking that “the cause is gone, but the effect remains.” At every moment, careful understanding will show that present effects are explained solely by present, not past, causes. And yes, the physical remains of the blast are sustained, not by the earlier causes of coming-to-be, but by the physical structure of the resulting wood chips, the ground holding them up, while gravity holds them down, and the rest of operative physical and metaphysical causes presently effecting their continued existence in the manner in which they are.

The universal validity of the principle of simultaneity in causation is derived from the principle of sufficient reason, and so it applies to all being, both material and spiritual. Still, I have offered careful explanation of a physical scenario, since most misunderstandings about causation arise from physical examples in which it appears, superficially, that the cause precedes its effect in time – a mistake apparently made even by Hume.

Still, does not Einstein’s special theory of relativity prove that objective simultaneity is illusory? As philosopher Dr. Edward Feser points out, causation that concerns the same event in the same place – such as removing that tree stump, renders irrelevant an objection based on judgments made by different observers in diverse spatial locations.4

While Thomists usually insist upon “simultaneity” between cause and effect, a more exact expression of the causality principle is that the effect is immediately dependent upon its proper cause, which is a cause directly ordered to a specific effect. “Simultaneity” is a concept properly predicated of things in the physical world, since they exist in time.

This principle applies, not only to the physical world, but to the spiritual world as well, since its universal and transcendental character arises from its nature as a law of existence itself – just like the other metaphysical first principles. Clearly, things that no longer exist or have no immediate impact on the effect, cannot remedy its existential dependency. Only a true and immediately acting proper cause can.

For the above reasons, every effect requires an immediate, proportionate, and proper cause. Such causation is the focus of St. Thomas’ Five Ways.

Notes:

  1. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature ( London: Penguin Books, 1969).
  2. Summa Theologiae I, q. 96, a. 3, ob.3.
  3. Summa Contra Gentiles I, 13.
  4. Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God (Ignatius Press, 2017) 63.
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.

  • StardusytPsyche

    The Thomist asserts a need for a first cause, or first mover in the hierarchical sense, that is, in an ontological sense, an asserted need for a sustaining cause for existence itself.

    The Thomistic view of causality suffers from a number of errors, but for now I will concentrate on the assertion of a call for a first cause in the hierarchical sense. Typical analysis will give examples of macro objects which the Thomist erroneously assigns the titles of "cause" and "effect". From there the assertion is made that this cannot go on to infinity therefore a first cause that must be an unmoved mover which in turn must be god.

    In truth the observation of the structure of macro objects does call for an analytical regress. We call that study physics. And indeed consideration of physics does call for a fundamental physics, presently known as quarks, electrons, neutrinos, photons, the 4 forces, spacetime, etc. Perhaps something more fundamental is the case such as strings or quantum fields. But yes, a fundamental physics is called for, not a first cause or unmoved mover to sustain existence itself.

    Persistence of existence is, by itself, no change. No change calls for no changer. When things don't change then things stay the same. Isn't that tautological statement rather obvious?

    Thus, the Thomistic notion of a first cause fails immediately.

    Oh, but what about all the motion we see all around us? Indeed, things are moving. Motion is necessarily a process over time, a temporal process, which does indeed lead to the great unsolved existential riddle of the ancient origin of not only motion but existence itself. That riddle has never been publicly solved, most certainly not by any Thomist.

    To understand the fundamental error of the Thomist just remember the simple truth that when things don't change they continue as they are. When we observe things to remain the same then things are not changing. Persistence of existence is no change, therefore no changer is called for at all, and thus the Thomistic argument for god fails to even get out of the gate.

    • Rob Abney

      just remember the simple truth that when things don't change they continue as they are

      Can you give an example of "things that don't change"?

      • StardusytPsyche

        Rest mass does not change if the mass is not acted upon.

        Rest mass plus kinetic energy does not change for an object in uniform motion.

        Thus there simply is no call for a hierarchical first cause, or unmoved mover, or unchanged changer since there is no change, and thus no need for a changer.

        • Given relativity, the 4 dimensional spacetime manifold as a whole doesn't change, and there is no real movement in it, and hence there is no need for a prime mover.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Aquinas did not assume that the universe had a beginning. An eternal universe also leads to a prime mover. See: "On the eternity of the world" for details.
            http://www.dhspriory.org/thomas/DeEternitateMundi.htm

          • There's nothing that that proves that point.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Some folks have been saying that an eternal universe obviates the cosmological arguments. I'm simply noting that a) Aristotle, who gave us the Argument from Motion, believed the world was eternal; and
            b) Aquinas, who also used the Argument, assumed for the sake of the argument that the world was eternal. (He believed the universe had a beginning in time, but knew of no way to demonstrate that in philosophy.)

            Hence, the claim that if the universe is eternal, the Prime Mover argument doesn't work is clearly bogus. The argument may not work, but not for this reason.

          • Aristotle thought the universe had an infinite number of moments in its past, but that it moved or flowed from past to present. That's not what eternalism is. On eternalism there is no real movement, so a prime mover is totally irrelevant.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That was Parmenides, and gave us Zeno's Paradoxes. Achilles does not catch the tortoise? Have it your way.

          • I think it's the exact opposite. Presentism gives you these kinds of paradoxes.

          • Phil

            On eternalism there is no real movement.

            Yes, and that is why eternalism is false. In fact, us responding to a comment contradicts eternalism which states that no real change really happens.

            Eternalism leads to the contradiction that everything happens all at once, including contradictory states such as Trump is both president and not president at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way.

            (And I don't know exactly what paradoxes you are speaking of in regards to presentism. It is pretty straight forward in that time is composed of the changing on entities. And what exists is the current state that entities exist in. That will change in the future and has changed in the past, but are not "real" in the strict sense of the word.)

          • Yes, and that is why eternalism is false. In fact, us responding to a comment contradicts eternalism which states that no real change really happens.

            Which indicates you have no real knowledge on the subject. I know this. I've debated eternalism literally for years. I can tell immediately when someone doesn't understand the subject matter. And that's you.

            Eternalism leads to the contradiction that everything happens all at once, including contradictory states such as Trump is both president and not president at the same time, in the same place, and in the same way.

            Wow. You really don't understand eternalism. Stop embarrassing yourself.

            (And I don't know exactly what paradoxes you are speaking of in regards to presentism. It is pretty straight forward in that time is composed of the changing on entities. And what exists is the current state that entities exist in. That will change in the future and has changed in the past, but are not "real" in the strict sense of the word.)

            Well, just read above. You know far less about eternalism than I do about Thomism. Far, far less.

          • Logike

            "On eternalism there is no real movement.
            --Yes, and that is why eternalism is false."

            --You are both mistaken. Eternalism is just the view that all times are equally real. And it is perfectly conceivable that a 3-dimensional object moves from point A at time t1 to point B at time t2, because both times t1 and t2 are real. You guys are thinking of 4-dimensionalism, which is strictly a view about persistence (not time), though it does depend on all times being real. 4-dimensionalism is view is that all objects are temporally extended 4-dimensioinal space time worms, so that only a *part* of an object exists at any given moment in time. And it's true, no object would move or change because each temporal part of that object never changes. Everything is temporally "fixed" so to speak. But this has nothing to do with the reality of future and past. It has everything to do with what one's view of "persistence through time" amounts to.

            "Eternalism leads to the contradiction that everything happens all at once"

            --No it doesn't. The view that all times are equally real doesn't entail that every event happens simultaneously. Distinct events still take place at different times. I suspect what you are tying to say is that eternalism combined with the view of endurantism (3-dimensionalism), the common sense view that an object is 3-dimensional and "moves" through time so that it is 'wholly' present at each time it exists, entails a contradiction. Trenton Merrick's famously makes this argument, and I'm not sure that he is right because it rests on certain questionable assumptions about 3-dimensionalism. I'm not going to address this here because the topic is so complex. My point is just that eternalism alone doesn't entail any contradiction. The issue, again, would depend on what your view of "persistence through change" amounts to.

            Actually, the view of time fraught with contradictions is the A-theory view of time, the view that the future moves into the present to recede into the past forever. Past, present, and future are incompatible properties of the same event, and McTaggart proved this in his seminal article. "The Unreality of Time." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unreality_of_Time

            "Trump is both president and not president at the same time"

            --No view of time entails this that I am aware of. Ever view would say that Trump is president at one time and not president at another time. Change is real for all views of time. It is just described differently depending on the view. For presentism, change would consist of the continual ceasing to be and coming to be of objects and events at every moment in time. Notice, no object or event would *persist through time* at all if presentism is true. For eternalism, change would either consist of something "wholly" gaining and losing properties and parts over time (endurantism/3-dimensionalism) or change would consist of something that had successively different temporal parts at different times (perdurantism/ 4-dimensionalism).

            All perdurantists are eternalists.

            Perdurantists would describe the change of Trump from being not president to becoming president thus: an earlier part of the 4-dimensional Trump space-time worm is not president at an time t1, and a later part of the 4-dimensional Trump space-time worm is president at time t2.

          • Phil

            Hey Logike,

            Thank you for your in-depth explanation.

            So on the view of eternalism you are presenting is it equally real that that Trump is both president and not-president right now?

            In other words, if it is actually true that a change happened, (i.e., Trump becoming president), then this would seem to require that he no longer exists as 'not president'. If one is trying to claim that Trump being president and not-president are equally real right now, there are issues that I am seeing.

            Now, to hold a "presentist" view of time does not lead to a destroying and re-creating of entities at every moment. Aristotle solved that whole issue 2400 years ago with realizing that entities are made of actuality and potency. In every change that happens, something stays the same underneath the entire change. Therefore, new things aren't coming into existence with each change.

          • Logike

            "On eternalism there is no real movement"

            --I'm not sure that's right. You are probably thinking of 4-dimensionalism instead. A 3-dimensional object can still move to different locations at different times if eternalism is true because both times are real, and the object would be 'wholly' present at each time it existed in its trajectory. But it would be true that a 4-dimensional object would never move, since each 4D object is a temporally extended space time worm for which only a *part* of it existed at any given moment in time, and each temporal part together with its properties never changes. Everything is temporally *fixed.*

            Anyway...|

            Eternalism is just the view that all times are equally real, and is to be contrasted with,
            1. Presentism--only present times exist.
            2. Growing block universe--past and present times exist, but future times do not.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternalism_(philosophy_of_time)

            You are right that Phil is wrong: Eternalism does not lead to contradictions. It's not the view that "everything happens at once." This is a bastardized mischaracterization of it.

          • You're correct. It's all a matter of semantics. I mean no real movement in the sense of a thing flowing in a 3D space through time. On the 4D view, it's just a worldtube and "movement" is really the twisting of that worldtube relative to other worldtubes.

            All contradictions with eternalism are only apparent, not actual. They all stem from a misunderstanding of the concept or problems with defining terms.

          • Logike

            For sure.

            Also, I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your comments. I think you are on the right track with many of your objections to certain long-held presuppositions even if you haven't quite articulated something in the way that you'd like to. That's a difficulty for all of us. Keep it up, my friend. ;-)

          • Thanks. When talking with someone like Dr. Bonnette it's so difficult to get him to see the problem I'm pointing out, he's completely oblivious to it. And it makes me think, am I actually the one in error on this? So see the others who've picked up on the problem let's me know it's not just me seeing it.

          • Logike

            You were right that theories have consequences. I think you meant to say "logical consequences." But even if you said this instead, he probably still would not have understood your point. I understand that he was hung up over the idea of "physical consequences." He's right that models don't have physical consequencs. But if they have any semblence of truth, then it's undeniable that they say something about the world, and so, these models would more or less approximate the true nature of things. I think he was just being deliberately obtuse. Men who have some sort of reputation to preserve are usually this way.

          • Scientific theories have physical consequences, and perhaps also logical ones. But I meant physical cones. General relativity for example has a physical consequence: black holes. Way before we saw them with telescopes, they existed in theory. I think model is different from theory. Models are more tentative, theories are more conclusive.

          • Logike

            "Aristotle thought the universe had an infinite number of moments in its past, but that it moved or flowed from past to present."

            --Time "flowing" is just a phenomenological description of our experience of time. And this is important because McTaggart gave his famous successful refutation of the A-Theory view of time, the idea that the future becomes the present and then recedes into the past. He proved that this is impossible because it would entail that one and the same event has contradictory properties, namely, being future, present, and past. This is why philosophers today are almost unanimously B-Theorists about time, the idea that the events on the timeline are objectively ordered by earlier-than/later-than relations. So time has an objective direction on this view, and that's enough to fit Aristotle's view of time into, but no reference is made to time being objectively ordered by "past, present, future."

            Just thought I'd clear that up.

          • I know the Greeks mostly thought time had an eternal past, and never "began" so to speak. And I thought Aristotle rejected the Parmenidian view of time, which would be eternalism. Either way, having an eternal past, and having the block universe of time (regardless of whether the past is infinite or finite) I think throws many problems into Thomism.

            As far as having an objective time line, I think this is incorrect. Most physicists think time doesn't have an intrinsic directionality, but instead, the direction entropy increases is the "future" and decreases is the "past". But there's no reason why entropy increases in any direction or requirement that it is universal.

          • Logike

            "And I thought Aristotle rejected the Parmenidian view of time, which would be eternalism."

            --Remind me of what Parmenides' view of time is. I know that belonging to the same school as Zeno, he thought that motion was impossible in that paradox. But I suspect there are different ways to interpret what he (they) might have meant, and given that, what that means for our more modern articulations of time, motion, and persistence. The Greeks can be difficult, but that's only because they don't quite translate into out modern ways of seeing things.

            "Either way, having an eternal past, and having the block universe of time (regardless of whether the past is infinite or finite) I think throws many problems into Thomism."

            --I agree. And I lament that Howard above couldn't see the fact that this would be a substantive metaphysical (ontological) distinction, regardless of one's commitment to any any particular model.

            "As far as having an objective time line, I think this is incorrect. Most physicists think time doesn't have an intrinsic directionality, but instead, the direction entropy increases is the "future" and decreases is the "past". But there's no reason why entropy increases in any direction or requirement that it is universal."

            --You're right that the laws of physics make no distinction between earlier/later than relations and that the direction of time is incidental. This is pretty common knowledge among physicists. But the question still remains why it is that the cup which falls off the table and breaks on the ground, never, in fact, jumps back up onto the table to be reconstituted again. This is a long topic. All that I can suggest is taking a look a at Time Maudlin's "Philosophy of Science" where he discusses this. He works together with David Albert, a physicist, and they often disagree about the objective reality of time and what it consists of. Good stuff.

          • The Parmenidian view of time is basically what we'd today call eternalism, or the B-theory of time: all moments of time exist. He argued that since being cannot come from non-being, nothing comes into or goes out of existence, and therefore, everything exists. This is over simplified of course, but the basic picture is his ontology is pretty much identical to eternalism.

            As far as the cup falling and breaking vs coming back together, it technically can come back together. It's just that it is so statistically rare given the possible ways matter can arrange itself that you'd have to wait something like a google years 10^100 to ever see that happening. That's 7.2992700729927007299270072992701e+89 times longer than the history of our universe. This is also why we remember the past, and don't remember the future.

            I spoke to David Albert on time and he recommended Maudlin's book saying it was a great read. They're both presentists or lean towards it. I never got my hands on it but from what I've heard so far Maudlin's arguments don't seem plausible to me. Who knows.

          • Michael Murray

            Your posts are also being appreciated over in the exiles hang out

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com.au/

          • Thanks.

        • Phil

          Hey Stardusyt,

          To be a material object is to change in some way. In other words, if an entity is material in some way, it is changing in some way.

          This can be seen by the simple fact that even the fundamental particles that make up every single material entity are constantly in flux (i.e., quarks, electrons, gluons, etc).

          The key to Aquinas' five ways is to finally come to an understanding that a material object, cannot even in principle, explain its own existence.

          It is only God, as the necessary ground of existence, that can explain its own existence (obviously one reason why God is necessarily immaterial).

          • StardusytPsyche

            Phil, "To be a material object is to change in some way"
            --Existent matter has rest mass and kinetic energy, which can be considered together as total mass/energy. This does not necessarily change from moment to moment. To merely persist in existence or to persist in uniform motion is no change in mass/energy. Thus to persist with a constant mass/energy is no change and therefore calls for no changer of any sort, much less god.

            ". In other words, if
            an entity is material in some way, it is changing in some way."
            --Change is necessarily a temporal process. A regress of changes is necessarily a temporal regress, not a hierarchical regress. Thus the observation of change does not call for a first cause in the hierarchical or ontological or sustaining sense.

            In simple terms, everything just keeps bouncing off everything else, as is illustrated by Newton's Cradle here:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JadO3RuOJGU

            "This
            can be seen by the simple fact that even the fundamental particles that
            make up every single material entity are constantly in flux (i.e.,
            quarks, electrons, gluons, etc)."
            --These objects continually change over time by transferring mass/energy between each other. Mass/energy overall is conserved, neither increasing or decreasing. Thus no hierarchical or sustaining cause is called for, as there is no such thing as friction at the level of quarks and electrons.

            "The key to Aquinas' five ways is
            to finally come to an understanding that a material object, cannot even
            in principle, explain its own existence."
            --The First Way is said by theologians of Aquinas to be an argument not for the temporal origins of existence or motion in the distant past, rather a hierarchical or ontological or sustaining cause argument.

            To understand the Five Ways is to realize that they do not call for an explanation of the temporal origins of a material object's existence, rather, the imagined hierarchical first cause.

            To understand the Five Ways is to realize that the hierarchical first cause is imaginary and uncalled for since at base fundamental particles are mutual causal influences upon each other with no net change in mass/energy and thus no call for a changer or sustainer.

          • Phil

            Thus to persist with a constant mass/energy is no change and therefore calls for no changer of any sort, much less god.

            Let's assume that there is a material entity which does not change in any way whatsoever (I would have to investigate the physics as to whether this is actually the case or merely appears to be the case).

            But even assuming that it doesn't change whatsoever, the question of that material entity's continued existence requires an explanation. We ultimately must come to an entity whose very essence is simply To Be, to exist. Because of what a material entity is--a combination of essence and existence--a material entity can never explain its own continued existence. (This is Aquinas' 3rd Way, IIRC.)

            Change is necessarily a temporal process. A regress of changes is necessarily a temporal regress, not a hierarchical regress. Thus the observation of change does not call for a first cause in the hierarchical or ontological or sustaining sense.

            Yes, as I did my metaphysics thesis on the metaphysics of time, it is a subject I enjoy thoroughly! Time is equal to change. In other words, time is a property of changing entities. (Which is why time can "slow-down/speed-up" based upon the rate something changes.)

            But, the key is that there is a difference between simultaneous and instantaneous. The latter is not possible, because the "speed of causality" is finite, i.e., the speed of light. But think about you pulling back that marble to begin that Newton's cradle.

            For that to be possible, simultaneously, there must be a hierarchical level of causes that must be going on for you to do that. E.g., neurons firing in your body, the strong/weak nuclear force, gravitational "force", electromagnetic force, etc. If any of these ceased to exist, you pulling back the marble would not be possible.

            And these things don't go "back in time". It is like a pyramid. If the strong/weak nuclear force towards the bottom of the pyramid disappears, you pulling the marble back at the top crumples to the ground.

            ---
            So to sum up...the 5 ways are actually going "down" the casual chain and not back through time. Much more like a pyramid, rather than like a road one has traversed.

            If you at the top of pyramid exist as you do, the bottom of the pyramid must also exist. This very "bottom of the pyramid", we call "God".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Rest mass is an attribute, not a thing: a material entity. The value of pi does not change either.

          • Phil

            That "explanation" is simply a tautology. When things don't change they remain as they are. If Object O has mass M and O does not change then M persists.

            The theist demands an explanation for this tautology, why, I don't know.

            Just because something wouldn't change, one still hasn't explained why it exists in the first place, and continues to exist. There is nothing about it a material entity that says it needs to necessarily exist as it does. The answer is simply the brute fact that..."It exists". Well, saying that doesn't explain why it exists and continues to exist.

            (Again we are still assuming that it is possible for a material entity to not change, which may not actually be the case.)

            Right, and the continued existence of the most fundamental level of physics is tautological with no sustainer called for.

            We have to remember that physics assumes somethings existence, we are getting into philosophy when we are trying to explain why something exists.

            The big problem you would be coming up against is you are arguing for the "brute fact" existence of things. The problem is this doesn't explain anything and it purely arbitrary and ultimately irrational. Why does the scientist not answer the question, "Why does a black hole exist", with your answer of "Just because, there is no reason why it exists"? That don't answer that way because it doesn't explain anything.

            So to come to some point where we randomly say, "It just does exist" is arbitrary. The Thomist follows reason and logic where it leads and says that God must necessarily exist.

            Aquinas makes the manifestly false assertions that "this everyone understands to be God"

            It would be better to phrase what Aquinas is saying as, "This is what we mean when we say 'God'".

          • The big problem you would be coming up against is you are arguing for the "brute fact" existence of things. The problem is this doesn't explain anything and it purely arbitrary and ultimately irrational.

            Not at all. Reason leads us to brute facts. There is a famous trilemma in philosophy called the Münchhausen trilemma which states there are only three options when providing an explanation or proof of a given situation:

            The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other
            The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum
            The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts

            When explaining something and you go down the line of the explanatory chain you will eventually have to resort on one of these three methods. Either your explanation will be circular, it will require an additional explanation ad infinitum, or it will terminate in an axiom which itself has no further explanation. This is identical to a brute fact, the only one that doesn't lead to absurdity.

            Why does the scientist not answer the question, "Why does a black hole exist", with your answer of "Just because, there is no reason why it exists"? That don't answer that way because it doesn't explain anything.

            That's because we always look for a reason and we have very good reason from the laws of physics that everything in the universe has an explanation. If there was 1 brute fact, it would do nothing to undermine science, reason, math, or logic especially since all of those things are fundamentally built upon axioms that cannot be further explained.

            So to come to some point where we randomly say, "It just does exist" is arbitrary. The Thomist follows reason and logic where it leads and says that God must necessarily exist.

            The Thomist gets off the boat of reason and logic once he says "God is his own sufficient reason for eternally willing A and not B." He too comes to a brute fact when he says "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A."

          • George

            What should these explanations look like, Phil, beyond claiming one's answer is self explanatory?

          • Phil

            What should these explanations look like, Phil, beyond claiming one's answer is self explanatory?

            Either the entity itself can be self-explanatory or it can't be. The A-T reasons that a material entity can't, even in principle, be self-explanatory. While what the A-T calls "God" can be self-explanatory.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Rest mass is not a thing. It is an abstracted attribute of a thing.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Ye Olde Statistician
            "Rest mass is not a thing. It is an abstracted attribute of a thing"
            --Thus that thing does not change in that attribute. To persist moment to moment with the same rest mass is to not change in that respect.

            To change in some other respect, say, the attribute of kinetic energy, is a temporal process. A regress of such changes is thus a temporal regress, not a hierarchical regress.

            No hierarchical changer is called for by attributes that do not change.
            No hierarchical changer is called for by attributes that change temporally.

            Thus there is no call for a hierarchical first mover.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Obviously, if something does not change, it doesn't need a changer. See Newton for details.

            But it is crucial to distinguish between "things" and stuff that isn't thingy, like heaps, or the attributes of things, or doings. In the material order, change is pretty much a given. The thing will age, for example. It may change physical location. And so on. Nothing requires either that everything changes or that anything change in every attribute.

            In the temporal order, a series of changes is most usually one that is accidentally ordered, and Aquinas (knowing nothing of the Big Bang) allowed per Aristotle that such a series might indeed regress indefinitely. (Of course, that does not eliminate a need to explain its existence. If you ask me why a hammer is in my freezer, I explain nothing by replying "We have always kept the hammer in the freezer."

            A series of changers that is ordered essentially is another pair of boots. Such a changer must have a primary changer that is not itself changeable. Otherwise none of the instrumental (secondary) changers would have the power to change things. Hence, it cannot regress without limit. The important thing is that the regression is not temporal.

            I don't know what you mean by "hierarchical" changer.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It's true that there is no need to invoke a changer in order to explain the persistence of existence per se, since persistence by definition refers to continuity rather than change. But if we are going to focus on persistence of existence, that requires a different vector of causal explanation. As far as we can tell, it appears to be completely unnecessary (logically and otherwise) that existence should persist. Doesn't that cry out for explanation?

      • StardusytPsyche

        "As far as we can tell, it appears to be completely unnecessary
        (logically and otherwise) that existence should persist. Doesn't that
        cry out for explanation?"
        --Quite the contrary. It is the end of existence that would cry out for explanation.

        Consider mass X.

        X
        X + X
        2X
        Thus, we started with mass X, then added another mass X, so now we have 2 mass X. Clearly a change has occurred, and indeed, this change cries out for explanation. Where did the second X come from?

        0
        X
        Clearly another change has occurred. First we had nothing, then suddenly we have mass X. Why? Just poof? That is not much of a reason, now is it?

        X
        0
        Again, an obvious change, which cries out for a changer. Where did the mass X go? Why? How did it just disappear? Another poof?

        X
        X
        No change. It just stayed the same, thus no changer called for, no explanation required. When things don't change they remain as they are. When things remain as they are they don't change..

        To ask for an explanation for why X mass remained X mass is to ask for an explanation for the truth of a tautology.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Again, I'm not invoking a changer in this context (and BTW, the OP also was not invoking a changer). I'm invoking a sustainer / continuous creator (in the sense of creatio continua).

          "When things remain as they are they don't change", is indeed a tautology. However, the statement that, "Things remain as they are (in the sense of being preserved in existence from one moment to the next)." is not a tautology. It is a recognition of phenomenon that is nothing short of miraculous.

          X then
          X now

          It is by no means obvious why one should follow from the other.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim (hillclimber) StardusytPsyche • 3 hours ago "Again,
            I'm not invoking a changer in this context .... I'm invoking a sustainer / continuous creator"
            --You are contradicting yourself. A creation is necessarily a change

            Thus, without you stating it as such or perhaps realizing it, your position becomes that when we observe a thing not change the reason is that a changer is continuously changing things to maintain our observation of that thing being unchanged.

            X then
            X now
            "It is by no means obvious why one should follow from the other."
            --Because there is no change, thus there is no call for a changer. How is that miraculous? I would say it would be miraculous if we suddenly observed things popping into or out of existence for no apparent reason.

            Creation is a change that calls for a creator.
            Destruction is a change that call for a destroyer.
            Continued existence is no change that calls for no changer, no creator, and no destroyer.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Creation, in the sense of creatio continua (as I specified) is not fundamentally a matter of change. Even a perfectly static creation (if there were such a thing) would need to be sustained in existence, or equivalently, it would need to be continuously created (you can think of it being continuously re-created in the same changeless state, if you like). If you object to my use of "create" in this way, then let's just use the word "sustain".

            your position becomes that when we observe a thing not change the reason is that a changer is continuously changing things to maintain our observation of that thing being unchanged.

            No, that is not my position, and I cannot see that it is covertly implicit in my position either. Change can only occur once you have "stuff". I am talking about sustaining stuff in existence in the first place, which is (ontically) prior to any changes that might occur with that stuff. If nothing is sustained in existence, there is nothing to undergo change.

            thus there is no call for a changer.

            And again, I am not saying that there is a call for a changer. Again, I am not invoking a changer at all.

            How is that miraculous?

            It is miraculous because there is no natural explanation for it, nor in principle can there be any natural explanation for it. (Unless you have solved Hume's problem of induction?)

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim "Creation, in the sense of creatio continua
            (as I specified) is not fundamentally a matter of change. "
            --Of course it is, if there is nothing, and then there is something that is a change,

            "Even a
            perfectly static creation (if there were such a thing) would need to be
            sustained in existence,"

            --Why? If a thing is perfectly static nothing is changing about it, and thus there is no call for any action upon it.

            "or equivalently, it would need to be
            continuously created"
            --So, for a thing to be perfectly static it must be continuously created? Why would you imagine such a thing?

            your position becomes that when we observe a thing not change the
            reason is that a changer is continuously changing things to maintain our
            observation of that thing being unchanged.
            "No, that is
            not my position, and I cannot see that it is covertly implicit in my
            position either."

            --It is, but you do not yet recognize your own position.

            "Change can only occur once you have "stuff""
            --OK
            ". If
            nothing is sustained in existence, there is nothing to undergo change."
            --Why? How is it you imagine that no change requires a condition of being sustained and then from there change can occur? I think I have characterized your position quite well and you simply have not recognized your position for what it is.

            thus there is no call for a changer.
            "And again, I am not saying that there is a call for a changer. Again, I am not invoking a changer at all."
            --Then you are not arguing from a Thomistic perspective. That's fine, but you seem to have one toe in the Thomistic water and the other toe out.

            How is that miraculous?

            "It is miraculous because there is no natural explanation for it, nor in
            principle can there be any natural explanation for it. "
            --Agreed. There is no explanation for your position at all other than your inadequately considered imaginations.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't claim -- and never have claimed -- to be arguing from a Thomistic perspective. I am not sure if I understand Thomism in enough depth to be comfortable applying that label to myself. However, I do understand Thomistic argument enough to say that not all of Aquinas's five ways invoke the need for a changer. The argument from motion does, and the teleological argument perhaps in some sense does. But the arguments from first cause and from contingency do not. So, when you say that I am necessarily departing from Thomism because I am not invoking a changer, it seems like you don't understand how those arguments work.

            There is no explanation for your position at all other than your inadequately considered imaginations.

            It's not a matter of there being no explanation for my position. It's a matter of having an explanation for the phenomenon that the future has continuity with the past. There is no natural explanation, and there can be no natural explanation for that phenomenon, as Hume and others since him have shown. Since these uncontroversial proofs do not rely on my imagination (or on anyone else's imagination for that matter), I can't see how any failure of my imagination is to blame.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Joe, "There is no natural explanation, and there can be no natural explanation for that phenomenon, as Hume and others since him have shown."
            --The natural explanation is simple: no change requires no changer, no action, and no sustainer.

            When things don't change they remain as they are. Yet you call for an explanation for this tautology. No explanation is called for. No action is required to keep an unchanging thing as it is.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            From where I sit, you are just repeating yourself without acknowledging in any way that I have already addressed these points. This is no longer a genuine conversation, so no hard feelings but I'm going to opt out.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I should also respond to your first point, which lies at the heart of the issue:

            Of course it is, if there is nothing, and then there is something that is a change

            No that is not a change, unless you are working from some very non-standard definition of change. Changes are differences between two points in time (or if you want to be more general, between two points in space-time). But if there were nothing, there would be no time (and no space-time). So, it's not that there was nothing and then there was something, as if that were a transition that occurred over time. It's just that there is something, and there is no natural reason for something, so the existence of something can only be a supernatural act, which we traditionally call "creation". This (ongoing) supernatural act of creation manifestly occurs outside of time (because time itself must be created), and so it does not, in and of itself, involve change.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim (hillclimber)

            "No that is not a change,"
            --Interesting, a transition from 0 to X is not a change, in your view. So I suppose you hold that a transition from X to 0 is also not a change. If so, please do a bank transfer so that your account does not change as it goes from X to 0 and my account does not change as it goes from 0 to X.

            ". This (ongoing) supernatural act"
            --An "act" is a change, so your words are not self consistent.

            "of creation manifestly occurs outside of time (because time itself must be created), "
            --Outside of time? This is another imagined state or place or existence theists often speak of without rationality.

            You imagine something called the supernatural, which you imagine acts without changing anything, and acts outside of time, and creates continuously without changing anything in order to sustain what appears to the rest of us to be something that is unchanged. Apparently this all somehow makes sense to you.

            I have a much simpler and manifest description of the situation. When things don't change they stay the same. When things stay the same they don't change. When an object is unchanged then that object is not acted upon. when an object is not acted upon that object does not change.

            No act is called for to keep an object from changing. No changer is called for, no supernatural is called for, no sustainer is called for, things just stay the same when things are not acted upon and things don't change.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            A transition in time "from 0 to X" is a change. A transition outside of time, from nothing to something, is a change only in an analogical sense, just as God's "act" of creation is an act only in an analogical sense.

            When things don't change they stay the same. When things stay the same they don't change.

            As I've already indicated, I am not contesting the tautological nature of those statements. As I've already indicated, the mystery is that things stay the same, or that there is "uniformity of nature" to put it in the phrasing that is sometimes used when talking about the problem of induction.

            No act is called for to keep an object from changing.

            We don't need to call it an act, but some explanation is called for to explain why there is "uniformity" of nature (to use the phrasing that is taken up here) or "continuity of nature" (to use a phrasing that seems slightly better to me). Nature cannot explain why there is uniformity of nature.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim

            "As I've already indicated, I am not contesting the tautological nature of those statements. "
            --How unfortunate. Your disinterest is leading you away from self evident truth. A tautology is self evidently true.

            "As I've already indicated, the mystery is that things stay the same,"

            --How is that mysterious at all? It would be mysterious if there were such a thing as intrinsic randomness, which would be baffling. The notion of things staying the same absent a change is as obviously necessary as the truth of a tautology.

            " Nature cannot explain why there is uniformity of nature."
            --Why would things just vary randomly all over the place? That would be truly mysterious.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My disinterest? Who said I was disinterested? I wrote that I don't contest the tautological nature of those sentences. In other words, I agree with you that they are tautological statements.

            Why would things just vary randomly all over the place? That would be truly mysterious.

            I'm not trying to argue that some default situation has been overruled by the hand of God. I'm not arguing that the default is randomness. I'm not arguing that the default is nothing. I'm not talking about any default whatsoever. I don't need to invoke a default or a null hypothesis in order to meaningfully ask why things are the way they are. We observe order and continuity, and so it is fair to ask why we observe that. And there can be no satisfactory answer to the question in purely natural terms. So it is mysterious.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim (hillclimber)

            ". We observe order and continuity, and so it is fair to ask why we observe that. And there can be no satisfactory answer to the question in purely natural terms. So it is mysterious."
            --If there were not order then things would just vary from place to place. Why would that be the case? Why can't things naturally be the same from place to place? And what explanatory value does god add? How do you then explain why god is ordered in such a way as to bring order to an otherwise disorderly universe?

            It seems to me you have imagined a non-problem and then imagined a non-answer for it.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There can't be a natural explanation for why there is uniformity / continuity of nature, because natural explanations rely on induction, and inductive reasoning takes uniformity of nature as a baseline supposition. You can't use the premises of an argument to prove the premises of an argument.

            You could just take it as a brute fact that there is uniformity of nature, but to the extent that one seeks a reason for uniformity of nature (*), one seeks in vain in the realm of natural explanations. Recognizing even that fact -- without invoking the concept of "God" or anything like that -- already has explanatory value because it forces the realization that nature is embedded in something that transcends nature. That is the meaning of explanation: it awakens us to higher viewpoints, or ex-planed viewpoints. Whether we then go on to identify that transcendent mystery as "God" in the sense implied by the biblical tradition, and whether that "God" identification has any explanatory value, those are issues that we can bracket for purposes of this conversation. My only point for present purposes is to argue that we are slapped in the face every day with evidence of something, some mystery, that transcends nature.

            (*) You apparently think that the search for such an explanation is an "imagined" problem. I think that not searching for such an explanation amounts to pathological incuriosity. I'm not sure how to resolve our divergence of views on this point. Maybe at the end of the day we have to just leave it at that and part ways.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim, "My only point for present purposes is to argue that we are slapped in the face every day with evidence of something, some mystery, that transcends nature."
            --All that does is move any mystery of nature back a step, only making the problem worse by shifting any unknowns about nature to an imagined unknown such as a god, solving nothing.

            Why is god ordered? Why does god exist? All you have done is transfer questions that apply to something strongly in evidence (nature) to a figment of the human imagination (god).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Moving that mystery "back a step" is actually quite important. Because what becomes clear is that that "step back" takes us outside of the realm of nature. We therefore clarify that there is more to reality than just nature.

            Respectfully, I'm not interested in addressing your questions about "God" at this point. I have not proposed God as a solution to any problem in the context of this conversation. I'm just saying that there is more to reality than nature. That's it. Exactly how God language works is a more advanced topic.

          • George

            You can say it takes us outside the realm of nature. But how do we know there is such an outside?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To the extent that there is a reason for the "uniformity of nature", that reason has to be found outside of nature. That's because "nature", as least as I understand it, is that which can in principle be investigated by natural science. And natural science relies on inductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning relies on the presumption of uniformity of nature. Therefore whatever reason there is for "uniformity of nature" is not, even in principle, investigable through natural science. Therefore that reason, if it exists, lies beyond nature.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This is another imagined state or place or existence theists often speak of without rationality.

            You experience that which is "outside of time" in every moment, if you pay attention. The present moment is not part of the past, not part of the future, and has no duration. It is literally outside of time, or eternal. And yet ... there it is.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim (hillclimber)

            "You experience that which is "outside of time" in every moment, if you pay attention. The present moment is not part of the past, not part of the future, and has no duration."
            --Right, so there is no such thing as "outside of time"

            "It is literally outside of time, or eternal. And yet ... there it is."
            --Where is it?

            The Thomist, and other theists, make a fundamental error, among many others, in their assertion of "the present". The Thomistic notion of "present" or "here and now" ties into the illusion of an essential series. Every series is an "accidental" series.

            A human being, all human beings myself included, for an internal model consisting of recent memories plus imagination of the near future linked to the incoming sensory data stream. This combination model of past, present, and future is perceived as a temporally unified whole experienced as "the present".

            In reality the past is gone and the future has not yet occurred. The theist mistakenly takes the experience of present literally, considering this unified internal model to be equal to a realized external reality. There is not there there.

            Your asserted experience of outside of time is just a human perceptual artifact.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't know how all this stuff about Thomistic accidental series is related to the point I was making. I was talking about conceptions of eternity and the present related to kairos, which conceptions long pre-date Aquinas since. Various notions of "higher" time such as kairos have existed cross-culturally since, well, time out of mind. Our unique focus on secular time is a modern anomaly.

          • StardusytPsyche

            Jim, You seem to have a very active imagination regarding time as well. Somehow an imaginary being can exist in some imaginary state of being somehow outside of chronological time, and this state of time for god is somehow related to our perceptions of the present or ancient notions of kairos.

            You seem to consider rational analysis of time that exposes our perceptions of the present as an internal model containing memories and imagination, and kairos as just a subjective feeling about when to do thing...well moderns are just anomalous. apparently.

            Yes, I prefer to be an "anomaly" relative to ancient subjective notions. Time is a subject of scientific study and has in fact been measured to vary with velocity. The ideas that a god can somehow exist outside of time or that there is a real kairos are just notions of the human imagination.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a transition from 0 to X is not a change, in your view[?]

            0 is not nothing. Consider the difference between a bank account with a zero balance and not having a bank account at all.

          • Richard Morley

            Another quibble that is pointless unless you have some point to make from it(?)

            A transition from no bank account to having one is a change, just as a transition from an account with zero balance to one with £1 in it is a change.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The first commentator equated 0-to-X with nothing-to-X. Not a few people have tried to demonstrate creation ex nihilo by pretending that 0 and nothing are the same thing. But a transition is not a creation. In a transition, there is always something on the left side of the arrow. "Nothing," however, is not a kind of something.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Thanks, this makes some helpful clarifications on Aquinas's arguments.

    The following is not primarily a comment on the OP but more of a reflection on some conversations we have had here in the past on causality.

    When causal relationships are modeled formally (e.g. in Rubin's Causal Model, or in Pearl's Structural Causal Model), the use of counterfactual concepts is very hard to avoid. The causal inference that "X caused Y" is understood as: "ceteris paribus, Y would not have occurred (BTW, it did occur), if X had not been the case (BTW, X was the case)".

    It sounds like, in the context of Aquinas's arguments, the need for counterfactual thinking remains, and it is just that we have to understand the relationship in a specifically immediate sense: "ceteris paribus, Y would not presently be the case (BTW, Y is presently the case) if X were not presently the case (BTW, X is the case)".

    I think part of the disconnect that we tend to see in conversations on this topic stems from the fact that dogmatic empiricists are seemingly obliged to forego belief in ontic causality altogether, both in the immediate "Aquinas" sense and also in the more general sense of indirect causation, because counterfactual scenarios cannot be directly probed empirically.

  • Certainly with these assumptions the following is obtained:

    "From this, it follows that an Uncaused First Cause, namely God, would
    have no need for a prior cause, since he would be his own sufficient
    reason for being."

    But equally, it follows that an uncaused first cause, namely the cosmos, would
    have no need for a prior cause, since it would be its own sufficient
    reason for being.

    I don't see how, even on the assumptions made in the OP, we can determine what elements of reality are uncaused and which are caused.

    • Rob Abney

      But equally, it follows that an uncaused first cause, namely the cosmos, would have no need for a prior cause, since it would be its own sufficient reason for being

      What part of the cosmos are you referring to? I assume that you don't mean everything in the cosmos such as humans, computers, dinosaurs, etc...

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      the cosmos, would have no need for a prior cause, since it would be its own sufficient reason for being.

      The "cosmos" is not a thing, but is a mereological sum of things. The cosmos exists iff at least one physical object exists. Which physical object is the sufficient reason for its own existence?

      • The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe, or no universe, is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

        • Richard Morley

          Also, there are an infinite number of ways for something to exist, but only one way for absolutely nothing to exist.

          So if you entertain the possibility of random, uncaused choices between possibilities, as in God choosing A or B because he just does, some version of something is infinitely more likely than absolutely nothing. ;D

          • And the only two non-arbitrary numbers are zero and infinity. Hence it seems to me that to avoid a brute fact as much as possible, either nothing would have to exist, or everything would. Since it is not the case that nothing exists (which seems like a contradiction in terms) it is likely that everything logically possible does. That means a multiverse of every physically possible configuration of matter infinite times.

          • Richard Morley

            The Principle of Plenitude is indeed one of the other uncomfortable (to some) alleged implications of the full PSR. See also the physicists approach to the uncomfortable (to some) implications of non determinism in classical QM, such as the Many Worlds interpretation of QM.

          • The MW view would seem to be likely if the Principle of Plenitude is indeed correct. If they were both true, we'd have a collaboration with both logical and scientific arrows pointing in the same direction

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Infinity is not a number. (Which of the Cantorian transfinites did you have in mind?)

          • Infinity is a value. And only one of two that are not arbitrary.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Which infinity?

          • The biggest one.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Not possible. It has to be the smaller one.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Which infinity? Aleph-null or Aleph-one or....?

          • They all still have infinity.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So which is it? The two are very different.

          • How does this apply to an infinite number of universes?

          • Richard Morley

            YOS apparently wishes to distinguish between different concepts sometimes referred to as 'numbers'. I don't see that it advances the debate.

            I think the relevant distinction here is that the two relatively non arbitrary choices between multiple otherwise equal possibilities are "none of them" or "all of them".

            This short circuits a rather pointless pedantic quibble about the 'number' of possible ways for 'something' to exist.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I don't know, since you have not specified the sort of infinity you are talking about.

            For that matter, you have not shown that there are an infinite number of universes. It sounds very much like an infinite number of epicycles.

          • My comment is not supposed to show an infinite number of universes, and such a thing, should it exist, may not even apply to the mathematical concepts of infinity types.

          • Richard Morley

            Infinity is not a number.

            It is not a natural number, sure. But it is a cardinal number, and cardinality is surely what is expressed here.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Nothing does not exist. If it did, it would be something.

          • Richard Morley

            :D
            I suspect that one was a tired old chestnut even when Homer used it.

            In any case, even if we accept it as anything other than willful misunderstanding, it would only further undermine that alleged need for God.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's just there in the plain meaning of the words. You cannot treat nothing as if it were a special kind of something. In particular, nothing cannot exist, since if it did it would have existence, which is not nothing.

            Further, you cannot specify that one thing is more likely (even "infinitely" more likely) than another thing without specifying the model from which the likelihood is calculated. There is no such thing as a probability absent a model. Even in ordinary experience, a probability calculated from a normal model may differ drastically from one calculated from a lognormal model, a binomial model, a Poisson, a Weibull, or any of a variety of other models.

          • Richard Morley

            It's just there in the plain meaning of the words.

            Right.

            So it was not intended humorously, nor is it leading to some genuine point, it is just the willful misunderstanding it seems to be? If that is indeed the case, then I terminate my interest.

            In the unlikely event that anyone truly needs this pointed out, the english phrase "nothing exists" does not imply that there is a thing called 'nothing' that exists, anymore than saying that "nobody lives there" implies that somebody called nobody lives there.

            Ironically, if that truly were YOS' first and best response to my somewhat tongue-in-cheek illustration of how this assertion of non-determinism undermines the A-T arguments, then he should in fact take it seriously and believe it.

          • I tend to agree with you, which is why something is the ontological default.

            And I guess that would also mean Lawrence Krauss is at least partially right when he says "nothing is something."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Krauss completely missed the boat. When he wrote that he would regard "nothing" as a particular form of "something," he revealed that he was not going to address the problem the philosophers had posed, but was going to solve something else unrelated.

          • Totally agreed. But still, nothing is something, since even if the philosopher's nothing existed, it would be something.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If nothing is some thing, what kind of thing is it?

            "The philosopher's nothing" (a.k.a. nothing) does not and cannot exist, precisely because if it did exist it would possess an act of existence and would not be nothing. I don't think you understand ex nihilo. How long has it been since you studied Latin?

          • I'm agreeing with you. Which is why existence is the ontological default, not non-existence. And that's why the question of why there is something rather than nothing is a false question.

          • George

            And if it does exist, then it doesn't even conflict with the something.

        • Phil

          The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe, or no universe, is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

          And this begs the question, why does this--"eternal universe" as you call it--exist? It does not exist necessarily. In point of fact, nothing that is material can explain its own existence because of the distinction between essence and existence.

          Only that which essence is equal to its existence (i.e., God), can have complete self-explanatory power contained within its very being. Hence also why God is necessarily immaterial.

          • I used the same logic Dennis did when he said:

            "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A,"

            it's the logical equivalent of saying, "The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did."

            Neither our universe nor God A are necessary. That's the whole point.

          • Phil

            I don't know what Dr. Bonnette was arguing as I don't know where that is, but again, even talking about a "God A" and "God B" is ridiculous. There can only be a single necessary ground of all existence.

            This is not the case when it comes to non-necessary, contingent realities, like our material cosmos. That is why the question, "why does this material cosmos exist" is a rational question, why asking, "why does God exist" is ridiculous once we understand what we are asking.

          • Richard Morley

            And this begs the question, why does this--"eternal universe" as you call it--exist? It does not exist necessarily.

            (emphasis added)

            How do you claim to know this?

          • Phil

            How do you claim to know this?

            Reason, evidence, and logic.

            We look at evidence of the material cosmos itself and when we understand exactly what a material entity is, it becomes very clear that a material entity cannot exist necessarily, even in principle.

          • Richard Morley

            I believe you said that you were not a physicist, so how certain are you that you know 'exactly' what a material entity is, or 'the cosmos' as a whole? For that matter how do you define 'material' - is gravity material, or are the laws of physics or spacetime?

            Most of the perceived problems between physics and philosophy such as QM and logic contradicting eachother come, I think, from misunderstandings, often revolving around each side trying to interpret the others' statements in the worldview of the listener, not the speaker.

          • Phil

            I believe you said that you were not a physicist, so how certain are you that you know 'exactly' what a material entity is, or 'the cosmos' as a whole? For that matter how do you define 'material' - is gravity material, or are the laws of physics or spacetime?

            I say I am not a physicist because I don't know the math behind the physics, but rather focus on the theories themselves. Though physics isn't an area I have studied "professionally", I have done a good amount of amateur study in theoretical physics.

            As I mentioned above, my specialty is much more philosophy of physics. And to do that, one must know a good amount about physics, because philosophy of physics deals with the underlying questions of physics...such as "What is physics?" "Is physics a valid form of truth seeking?" "What is causality?" And many like this. Scientists, including physicists, can end up doing a lot of philosophy in their work. Anytime they interpret data to form a conclusion, they are using philosophy to come to reasonable conclusions.

            Most of the perceived problems between physics and philosophy such as QM and logic contradicting eachother come, I think, from misunderstandings, often revolving around each side trying to interpret the others' statements in the worldview of the listener, not the speaker.

            I agree that there are many times silly debates between scientists and philosophers that is just a matter of people talking past each other. But it has also been the case where a scientist can make a ridiculous philosophical claim (because they aren't good philosophers) and vice-versa.

          • Richard Morley

            Without following the math I am not at all sure that one can claim to understand the theories, especially when it comes to things like those physical models which are not background dependent and have a reasonable chance of describing the universe as a whole, effectively from scratch. Natural language is simply not well adapted to explaining such things.

            You passed over the most important question - how do you define what is 'material'? Are gravity, space time or the laws of physics 'material'?

          • Phil

            You passed over the most important question - how do you define what is 'material'? Are gravity, space time or the laws of physics 'material'?

            I think a pretty good definition would be anything that has the property of space is material.

            If something doesn't have this, it would be reasonable to conclude that it is immaterial.

            Without following the math I am not at all sure that one can claim to understand the theories, especially when it comes to things like those physical models which are not background dependent and have a reasonable chance of describing the universe as a whole, effectively from scratch. Natural language is simply not well adapted to explaining such things.

            The reason I wouldn't agree with this fully is because the math doesn't create reality. The math definitely helps to understand what the theory is saying, but that doesn't mean that a good physicist can't tell you what the math of a theory predicts and says. So as long as you've got good physicists explaining what is going on, one can do some good critical thinking about what is going on. (And not saying that being a physicist itself is a bonus.)

            Again, the math models reality. So the math does not equal material reality.

          • Richard Morley

            The reason I wouldn't agree with this fully is because the math doesn't create reality.

            No, it describes it, or possibly expresses the physical model that is alleged to describe reality in turn, and does it better than natural language does. [To what extent a physical model that 'perfectly' describes the universe necessarily represents reality is a big topic that I beg to cry off, for now at least.]

            So Pythagoras' theorem doesn't 'cause' a right angled triangle in euclidean space to[blablabla] it just describes a presumably underlying reality.

            But I for one can follow the math fairly well, at least for some of the physical models that can cause confusion such as classical QM, if not quantum gravity. And I have found that in the course of 'following the math', after doing my best to understand the natural language summary, my understanding of the actual theory has been massively changed.

            In short, I sincerely doubt that a 'natural language' summary of something like quantum loop gravity gives you a thorough enough understanding to reliably reason soundly about it. Everything about it reeks to me of the kind of subject where such a surface understanding will lead to the kind of misunderstanding that causes squabbles between 'philosophers' espousing the law of contradiction and 'physicists' espousing QM.

          • Phil

            In short, I sincerely doubt that a 'natural language' summary of something like quantum loop gravity gives you a thorough enough understanding to reliably reason soundly about it. Everything about it reeks to me of the kind of subject where such a surface understanding will lead to the kind of misunderstanding that causes squabbles between 'philosophers' espousing the law of contradiction and 'physicists' espousing QM.

            The only thing I disagree with is an argument that if one can't do the math behind the physics, then one is a bad philosopher of physics. I would say that is a fallacious argument. Maybe and or maybe not they will be a good philosopher of physics. One has to read their arguments. One reason for this is philosophy is what support and grounds physics. So a philosophical argument about science can stand or fall on its own, it doesn't rely upon science itself. Science relies upon certain philosophical assumptions. But those assumptions must be proven or disproven using philosophy, not science.

            As I mentioned, doing the actual math behind the physics could definitely help to be a good philosopher of physics. I completely agree. But simply because one doesn't have a PhD in physics doesn't mean one will be a bad philosopher of physics. There are lots of physicists that have been bad philosophers (e.g., Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss) and plenty of philosophers who have done bad science.

          • Richard Morley

            I didn't actually say that "if one can't do the math behind the physics, then one is a bad philosopher of physics", rather that if one can't do, or at least follow, the math then I don't think one can fully understand a lot of the more arcane theories, which unfortunately most definitely includes the ones likely to explain the universe. And trying to philosophise about something you just don't understand is arguably bad philosophy.

            Likewise if you continue in the modern day to not only believe in essences but to take them for granted, i.e. to not even consider the possibility that essentialism is a fallacy, then you might want to be a little kinder about accusing people like Krauss of being 'bad philosophers'.

          • Phil

            In the end, I do think we pretty much are closer to agreeing than not on this. We should focus on the arguments in both science and philosophy and figure out if they are good or not.

            Likewise if you continue in the modern day to not only believe in essences but to take them for granted, i.e. to not even consider the possibility that essentialism is a fallacy, then you might want to be a little kinder about accusing people like Krauss of being 'bad philosophers'.

            In the end, it goes both ways, to assume that some more traditional metaphysics are wrong simply because it is traditional would be bad philosophy.

            I only believe that A-T metaphysics is the most correct metaphysics because of using reason and logic. One ought not assume it is correct, but work to understand the arguments for and against it.

            If someone can argue for a better metaphysics that is more comprehensive, coherent, and consistent than A-T, I'm game! In the end, we seek to be true, not to be right.

          • Richard Morley

            I think a pretty good definition would be anything that has the property of space is material.

            So along the lines of Descartes 'extension as the essence of matter'? (Genuine question - I'll go on, assuming 'yes', but let me know if I am falsely equating your view with a familiar one that just sounds similar)

            Off topic quibble: Personally I would use'spatial' for that , 'spatio-temporal' if we are specifying the inclusion of time, and use 'material' or 'matter' for that which has rest mass or inertia.

            So are gravity, or spacetime itself, or the laws of physics 'material' in your sense and in your view? Why would they not be able to be 'their own sufficient reason' and/or 'necessary' as much as a proposed timeless sentient entity? Especially in the light of proposed models of physics that are not reliant on a space-time background?

            Also, how does having 'the property of space' lead to not being able to be one's 'own sufficient reason' and/or 'necessary'?

          • Phil

            So along the lines of Descartes 'extension as the essence of matter'?

            Ehh, I don't think it would be exactly the way that Descartes understands material, but it probably wouldn't be too far off. I'd have to ponder this more, and read Descartes' "Meditations" again.

            So are gravity, or spacetime itself, or the laws of physics 'material' in your sense and in your view?

            I think it would be most correct to say that space-time, gravity, and "laws of physics" are simply properties of material entities.

            In other words, to say that space-time is a material substance, in and of itself, I do not think would be correct. The same for laws. Most likely the same for gravity but that might be tougher, because we really don't know what gravity is at this point.

            Honestly, physics is simply explaining the built-in natures of material entities and how they interact. So what really exists are the interactions of material entities. Space-time, gravity, and other "laws" simply describe what happens.

            Why would they not be able to be 'their own sufficient reason' and/or 'necessary' as much as a proposed timeless sentient entity? Especially in the light of proposed models of physics that are not reliant on a space-time background?

            Also, how does having 'the property of space' lead to not being able to be one's 'own sufficient reason' and/or 'necessary'?

            This is because material entities are always a metaphysical entity composed of form/matter and essence/existence. A material entity always needs an explanation for why the "matter" is composed in the way it is. If this is the case, then matter--even in principle--could never be perfectly self-explanatory.

            That is why the ground of the material cosmos must be immaterial in its nature.

            Personally I would use'spatial' for that , 'spatio-temporal' if we are specifying the inclusion of time, and use 'material' or 'matter' for that which has rest mass or inertia.

            I have done some interesting reading about how saying what "matter" is from a physics POV is very challenging.

            And to clarify, I am speaking about matter/material from an even more fundamental POV, from the philosophical POV.

            The reason I didn't include "time" is because something could have the property of time, but not the property of space. So it is possible for an immaterial entity to have the property of time.

            So that's why I still think it would be best to say that the property of space defines "material". (Now, it is true that if something has the property of space, it necessarily has the property of time.)

          • George

            Aren't you restating the claim here?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You do realize that Thomas Aquinas, secundum argumenum, assumed that the world had always existed in his proofs, right?

          • Yup, and his arguments still can't off the ground.

          • Phil

            Hey Thinker,

            Yup, and his arguments still can't off the ground.

            Do you believe that there a single reason why none of Aquinas' 5 ways get off the ground, as you say? Or are there different reasons for different ways?

            Just curious about the specific reason why you don't think his ways work.

          • I'm not sure if there's a single reason why all of them fail, there may be, I'd have to refresh myself. But it is definitely the case that there are different reasons that exist for why all of them fail. (The arguments have more than one reason why they fail).

          • Phil

            I gotcha; the reason I ask is I have yet to come across someone (professional philosopher or otherwise) who has been able to bring up serious objections to the 5 ways once they understand what is actually being argued. Most of the time it is a misunderstanding of the arguments or not understanding the Aristotelian metaphysics they are built upon.

            So anyone can say, "they fail", but to actually show that they have serious issues is a whole 'nuther beast.

          • There are plenty of easy ways to show they fail, and many philosophers (and scientists) have shown how the various arguments do. But I'm not sure there's a single silver-bullet refutation of them all, since they each cover different areas.

          • Phil

            There are plenty of easy ways to show they fail, and many philosophers (and scientists) have shown how the various arguments do.

            That is exactly what I'm disputing. There are many that have thought they have refuted one or some of them, but it has ended up that they have either misunderstood the argument or created a straw man.

          • I'm sure that's possible, but it's also possible that many of them have actually refuted the view.

          • Phil

            I'm sure that's possible, but it's also possible that many of them have actually refuted the view.

            Yeah, and that was why I was asking for the main arguments against it that you believe actually offer a good refutation. Apart from offering that, there isn't any evidence and substance behind the claim "they've been refuted".

          • No, you asked if there was a single argument that refuted all 5 of them. I said I was not sure. That's different from what you are talking about now. If you want to debate the 5 ways, we can do so, perhaps on another site, like mine.

          • Phil

            I did originally start with a single, but then I expanded it to ask in what were the specific ways that they you thought they were undermined.

            I would still be curious to hear on what ways that they are undermined since, as I mentioned, I have yet to come across arguments that come close to undermining what is actually being argued in them.

          • Well eternalism undermines the prime mover argument and any of the natural theological arguments that rely on Aristotelian causality or metaphysics. The other ones have other refutations.

          • Phil

            Well eternalism undermines the prime mover argument and any of the natural theological arguments that rely on Aristotelian causality or metaphysics. The other ones have other refutations.

            To show this to be the case, first, one would have to show that eternalism is actually true, which there are good reasons to not believe that it is true. As I mentioned above. You did claim that I knew nothing about eternalism, but didn't explain. If you want to explain why I don't understand eternalism, I'm all ears. But until then, we don't have good reason to believe that eternalism is actually true.

            But let's assume that eternalism actually is true, there could still be debate that that would not fully undermine the 5 ways, because one still has to explain the eternalist material cosmos' existence.

          • Your "good reason" is due to your ignorance. I can certainly demonstrate eternalism is true, but I fear the arguments would go over your head since it relies heavily on knowledge of special relativity, which you don't seem to have.

            On the assumption that eternalism is true, you can't presupposed the PSR as a refutation, because the PSR is undermined by the fact that even if god exists, you still have to resort to a brute fact to explain why god eternally wills our universe and not any other universe.

          • Phil

            I think to assume someone's ignorance is very dangerous, because it assumes one's superiority which leads to pride and blind spots in one's own intellect. (You might be surprised that I have done studies of both general and special relativity because of it going hand in hand with my written thesis on the metaphysics of time.)

            I'm perfectly happy to hear the arguments for an eternalist view of the material cosmos, but in 6 years of professional philosophical studies, it became pretty clear that an eternalist view of the cosmos is simply not true (of course this can change with new arguments, but you'd need to present them).

          • Well, when someone says something like "eternalism is false because it says there's no movement, and there is movement," they clearly do not understand it, because movement on eternalism means something different from how we normally think of it.

            6 years of professional philosophy studies and it's clear it's false. I find that really hard to believe, especially since eternalism is bar far the dominant view among philosophers of physical science, the people who are perhaps the most knowledgeable on the subject.

            As far as debating it, tell me if you understand special relativity. What's your background knowledge on it?

          • Phil

            I believe you did say to Ye Olde Statistician below in your discussion about Parmenides and such that in the eternalism you believe to be true that no real movement happens (I could have misunderstood you of course, which is why you need to explain).

            Can you simply make your argument for what version of eternalism is true and why you think it is true? (Or link to an article/blog post where that has been done?) I can't be persuaded in the truth of eternalism unless you make your argument.

          • There's only one version of eternalism as far as I know. Do you even know what movement is on eternalism? I need to assess your understanding.

          • Phil

            I have studied the classical understanding of eternalism (also sometimes called the "B-theory of time") where all points of "time" are equally real. The past, present, and future are all equally real.

            The problem is, again, right out of the gates: if you as a baby and you as an adult is equally real, then there is a contradiction. Eternalism says that you are both equally real as a baby and adult right now. Which is absurd, of course.

            There are some that try and use relativity to show that eternalism must be true, but the problem is that Aristotle pointed us towards relativity almost 2400 years ago when he said that time is simply change. There is no contradiction between an Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of time and Einstien's theories of relativity. Which was one of my favorite things to study a few years ago!

            People only run into problems with "presentism" when they say that time is a substance in and of itself. Like this "river" that things are flowing in. That is false. Time is simply the changing of entities. When we understand this to be the case, it is perfectly reasonable that time is relative because the rate at which things change can change.

            Time and space are not things in and of themselves. Time and space are properties of material entities.

            Is this what you are referencing in eternalism, or something else?

          • Eternalism says the past, present, and future are all equally real. But it does not say that there is no distinction between you as a baby and you as you exist now as if they're all the same points in spacetime, or occurring simultaneously. That's a major mistake, and one that having studied eternalism you should know better. This is eternalism 101, and indicative you really don't even know the basics.

            On presentism, if one things turns into another, it flows. Plain and simple.

          • Phil

            Eternalism says the past, present, and future are all equally real. But it does not say that there is no distinction between you as a baby and you as you exist now as if they're all the same points in spacetime, or occurring simultaneously.

            I don't think it is that I don't have a decent understanding of eternalism, it is simply that I think your understanding of eternalism is not quite correct or coherent.

            If the past, present, and future are equally real, then how do you defend the belief that there is a distinction between that you as a baby and you as an adult, but also that they are all equally real? In other words, I don't know if this can be held coherently.

          • Believe me it is not the case that my understanding of eternalism is not quite correct or coherent. I know more about eternalism than probably anyone else on the topic. I've written extensively on the topic, perhaps more than any other blogger, or atheist blogger.

            It is you, that clearly doesn't understand eternalism. And your mistake is common of people just learning the concept who haven't gotten it down yet.

            To answer your question it is very simple. When a person is born they exist at a different part of spacetime then when they die. This is akin to two locations being at different points on the globe: they both exist, but not in the same place. You mistakenly interpret "all equally real" as "exist all at the same time." That is your flaw.

          • Phil

            When a person is born they exist at a different part of spacetime then when they die.

            Okay, gotcha. And what separates one part of spacetime from another so that a person isn't both alive and dead at the same time (which would be contradictory and incoherent)?

            In other words, would you argue that all parts of spacetime aren't equally real?

          • And what separates one spacetime from another so that a person isn't both alive and dead at the same time (which would be contradictory and incoherent)?

            Space and time.

            Do you know anything about eternalism? I mean seriously, these are the kinds of questions someone with zero knowledge on the subject would ask. Believe me, there are no contradictions on eternalism.

          • Phil

            I am merely trying to figure out the position you actually hold, so that I am not arguing against a straw man.

            Space and time.

            I think the biggest thing we disagree on is whether space and time are real material things. I don't believe that space and time are real material things, and therefore space and time can't separate anything because they aren't things.

            Going back to Aristotle and continuing on with relativity, space and time are merely properties of material entities. That is why our measurement of space and time will naturally change together. They are tied to real materially existing entities that are changing.

          • Ok, but you said you studied the subject matter for some time, then I see you asking questions only someone with no knowledge would ask. So I'm highly suspicious of your knowledge claim.

            On relativity, spacetime is a material thing. You can deny relativity of course, but then we'd be talking about something else. Aristotle is wrong on physics and metaphysics here. So appealing to him is pointless. Spacetime is the collection of all things and all events into a 4 dimensional manifold.

          • Phil

            Ok, but you said you studied the subject matter for some time, then I see you asking questions only someone with no knowledge would ask. So I'm highly suspicious of your knowledge claim.

            I'm using the "Socratic method". For us to discuss something we need to make sure we are on the same page. So I need to understand your position before I can agree or disagree with it. This helps to avoid straw men. To understand your position I must ask questions.

            On relativity, spacetime is a material thing. You can deny relativity of course, but then we'd be talking about something else.

            For relativity to be true, space-time does not have to be a material substance. I believe relativity is true, but not that space-time is a material substance. Relativity says that space and time is dynamic and intertwined, not that space-time is a material substance in and of itself apart from material objects. In other words, to hold that space-time is a material substance is to say that space-time is something that exists apart from any other material entities.

            What would be your evidence, from both/either philosophy and/or physics, that space-time is a material substance?

            When we see the dynamism of space-time being "warped" it is physical objects being warped themselves, not some material space-time substance that the objects exist in (this would be much closer to Newtons idea of space and time, then Einstein's).

            Aristotle is wrong on physics and metaphysics here.

            To clarify, Aristotle and Newton were at odds when it came to the nature of time, whereas Aristotle is perfectly at home with an Einstienian view of time. This is because Aristotle observed that time was merely change. This means time can "warp" because the rate at which something changes can change.

            Time is not something that exists as some material objects which "flows". Time is simply change.

          • You're getting confused between spacetime and the things in spacetime. Spacetime is not a separate substance that the things in spacetime (like stars and planets) are in. Spacetime is the totality of all things and events in the universe. It is a manifold. But it is not it's own element or substance, like an ether, or something like that. It is made of the same materials the universe is made up of because spacetime is the universe - just at all moments. You cannot have a dynamic and intertwined space and time without spacetime being physical. This means the past, present, and future physically exists. That's what it means to say spacetime exists. To deny that spacetime exists, is to say only the present exists.

          • Phil

            So I am pretty sure I completely agree that "space-time" is not something separate from the totality of all physical things. In other words, there is no separate physical substance that is "space-time" (like you say).

            In other words, I would continue to argue that it would be correct to say that space-time is a property of physical things. There is no separate substance of space or time.

            The key to all this is if we simply realize that time is simply change, then it becomes easy to understand why a person cannot be both dead and alive at the same time. That entity has simply went through a series of changes (i.e., time).

            That the rate of these changes and how they are viewed/experienced is dynamic (i.e., general and special relativity) is pretty uneventful and makes perfect sense.

            So this goes back all the way to Aristotle where he made the point that if something has truly changed, then how it exists now is mutually exclusive to many ways that it has existed.

            To say "the past", is simply to say the way that something/group of things has went through some changes and does not exist as it did in this past series of changes.

          • Ok let's make this as easy as possible by using a visual aid. See the diagram below? At one point you start existing, and at another point you die. All points physically exist. No contradiction between anything. You don't exist and not exist at the same time. You exist and not exist at different times.

            Are we finally clear on this point or do you still not get it?

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e99bffb037df18246403eeac35c66c9b202f7377c22c6d01e30a1ccadf4f4579.png

          • Phil

            I do have a running familiarity with the space-time diagram and world lines, so thank you for posting that! Using the space-time diagram begs the question we are asking which is, what keeps all the points on those world line--those "changes"--from collapsing into a single point? If all points are equally real at every point on the world line, then it all collapses into a single point. A single contradiction.

            ----
            I'll just reiterate that once we realize that time is simply change, and "the past" simply references that past ways that things have existed, then past, present, and future start to make perfect sense.

            The universe objectively does not exist as hot dense "ball" as is theorized right after the big bang. That is a past state of the cosmos and therefore could be said to "be in the past". It makes perfect sense that light from far away events is still reaching us and we are viewing events that happened "in the past". This is because there is no "universal clock" as Newton and others theorized and because of the "cosmic speed limit" of the speed of light.

            The future simply references that things will change and those future states are called "the future", but to say that either the past states or future states exist in the same way as the current way that things exist would be false.

            This is why I would reject the metaphysical belief that past, present, and future events are all equally real. There is a real distinction between past, present, and future states that is not illusory.

          • The universe objectively does not exist as hot dense "ball" as is theorized right after the big bang. That is a past state of the cosmos and therefore could be said to "be in the past".

            It does, in the past direction in spacetime. It doesn't exist as a hot dense ball now, because now is a different part of spacetime than the singularity of the big bang. Just like "here" is a different part of the earth as "over there."

            The future simply references that things will change and those future states are called "the future", but to say that either the past states or future states exist in the same way as the current way that things exist would be false.

            This simply assumes presentism. Saying the past and future exist simply says they physically exist in the locations in spacetime where they do. That does not mean they exist in the same spacetime location as the present.

            Why is this so hard for you to get?

            So do you have an actual objection that makes sense or is this all you got?

          • Phil

            Maybe a better way of putting our discussion is that whether an "A" or "B" theory of time is correct is based upon whether change is real or merely illusory.

            If things do truly go through changes, then their past "states" cannot be as real as their current state. Therefore the past, present, and future cannot be equally real. There must be some distinction in their reality.

          • Wrong. Their past states can certain be as real as their current state. Because on the B theory, what change is is the fact that different parts of spacetime are dissimilar. The state you were in when you were born was that of a baby, and then you got older as your worldtube got closer to the present. But all states physically exist.

            Again, why is this so hard for you to get?

          • Phil

            Would you say that all "parts" of space-time are equally real?

          • I say that all parts of spacetime physically exist, just like all parts of route 66 all exist, but they exist at different areas.

            Don't conflate "equally real" with "existing at the same moment." That was your first mistake.

          • Phil

            Honestly, when it comes down to it, I simply disagree with your metaphysical conclusions based upon special/general relativity.

            I believe that special/general relativity is correct to a very high degree, but that doesn't mean that space-time exists outside mathematical models. Space-time is merely how we model how the material cosmos acts. In this same way, space-time is "like traveling a road" but it isn't actually that.

            In other words, entities don't travel down some "space-time highway". But it a useful analogy.

            In short, I take space-time to be a correct model of the material cosmos, but it seems you take space-time to be some sort of literal entity. I would say, there is no "space-time" out there. There are only objects which act in accordance to the space-time models of general and special relativity.

          • This is because I strongly suspect you don't understand the subject matter.

            The mathematical models wouldn't be what they are if spacetime didn't exist. If the world were Newtonian, we'd have Newtonian physics, not special relativity. And to deny spacetime, you have to assume that all our theories and experiments "just are" such that they make it seem as if spacetime exists -- but don't. This may for you into adopting a brute fact, since there'd be no explanation why this is the case.

            Entities don't travel down a spacetime highway. Entities are the spacetime highway (or more properly, worldtube).

            In order to deny eternalism (B theory), one has to deny one or both of the following. They have to either:

            1. Deny that the speed of light travels at constant speed regardless of the speed of the light source.
            2. Deny that we can accurately measure two non-parallel distances as being of equal length with any physical instrument, such as a ruler or tape measurer, or even sense in any way that they are equal or unequal.

            The denier of eternalism must accept one or both; there is no logical way to deny at least one and still deny eternalism.

          • Phil

            When it comes down to it, I simply think where we disagree is on a proper metaphysics of time. As I've mentioned before, time is simply change. If things do really change, then that means that they go through different "states". We call past states "the past" and future states "the future".

            Time is ultimately not a mathematical entity because as we know there are an infinite amount of mathematical points between 2 other points. (Hence Zeno's paradox.) But we know that changes happen therefore there can't actually be an infinite amount of points to traverse to cross the road. Only mathematically are there an infinite amount of points.

            Though time is not a mathematical entity, we designate it be comparing the change in one thing to the change in another thing. (Again, time is simply change.)

            This all makes a lot of sense when we realize that the mathematics of relativity are not reality itself. Reality is not math, and this makes sense because mathematics and geometry are immaterial abstract objects.

          • Would you say that time requires change, and change requires time? Meaning, that logically, it is impossible to have one without the other? And that to do anything, that requires both change and time?

            I certainly don't think time is a mathematical entity. It is a physical entity.

            I don't derive the reality purely from the mathematics, although, you need to realize that the math can indeed accurately predict physical implications and tell us truth about the physical world. (That doesn't mean reality is math) It's also from the experimental data. Your view is that the mathematics describe physical reality correctly when it comes to all experimental and observable data, but somehow it also doesn't describe physical reality. To me that makes no sense. I just don't think you know what you're talking about.

            I've literally spent years debating this issue, and I know that special and general relativity entail that the past, present, and future physically exist.

            Reality is not math,

            Tell that to the Platonists.

          • David Hardy

            Hello The Thinker,

            I've literally spent years debating this issue

            Out of curiosity, is that how you approach exchanges in this context? A debate where each person presents his or her case in the strongest possible form and seeks to dismantle opposing views? I ask because it would help me in understanding the structure of your responses in this forum.

            -David

          • When you're an atheist commenting on a Christian website, debates are naturally and unavoidably going to arise.

          • David Hardy

            Hello The Thinker,

            Thank you for your response, it is very helpful in understanding your approach to these discussions!

            -David

          • Sample1

            Sorry to jump in but I'm curious what you favor (if any) regarding math:

            1. Platonism
            2. Nominalism
            3. Fictionalism

            Mike, faith-free

          • I'm a nominalist.

          • Phil

            I certainly don't think time is a mathematical entity. It is a physical entity.

            Ahh!! Yes, I knew there was something basic grounding principle that we differed on that led us to different conclusions.

            But as I've been pointing out, it doesn't make much sense to posit a physical substance we call "time" over and above the physical objects themselves. Time is simply a property of changing entities.

            Would you say that time requires change, and change requires time? Meaning, that logically, it is impossible to have one without the other? And that to do anything, that requires both change and time?

            Time simply is metaphysically change. If there is no change, there is no time.

            Your view is that the mathematics describe physical reality correctly when it comes to all experimental and observable data, but somehow it also doesn't describe physical reality. To me that makes no sense.

            They key that you might have missed is the distcintion that mathematics describes and models reality, but it is not reality itself (Platonism is false).

            As I mentioned above, we model the way things exist using mathematics, but an example of thinking that mathematics is reality rather than simply a model of it is in Zeno's paradox.

            The distinction is between describing and being.

            I've literally spent years debating this issue, and I know that special and general relativity entail that the past, present, and future physically exist.

            I'm glad we are out there in the trenches together! As I mentioned before, the metaphysics of time was the topic of a thesis of mine back in my undergrad days. Definitely one of my favorite subjects.

          • But as I've been pointing out, it doesn't make much sense to posit a physical substance we call "time" over and above the physical objects themselves. Time is simply a property of changing entities.

            That's not what I'm doing. There is no substance called "time." By saying time is a physical entity, I'm saying that time is all the series of events, which is physical. Spacetime, is physical, and the "time" part of spacetime is simply all of the events of time laid out in a timescape. Much like how all of space is laid out in a landscape.

            Time simply is metaphysically change. If there is no change, there is no time.

            Depends on what you mean by change. If the whole history of the universe physically existed, spacetime as a whole doesn't change, meaning it doesn't flow. But different parts of spacetime will be different from one another, and that's what we mean by "change" in this context.

            Are you still having difficulty understanding this? I think you do.

            They key that you might have missed is the distcintion that mathematics describes and models reality, but it is not reality itself (Platonism is false).

            Agreed. Numbers have no ontological status.

            As I mentioned above, we model the way things exist using mathematics, but an example of thinking that mathematics is reality rather than simply a model of it is in Zeno's paradox.

            Agreed. Math is not reality. Platonism is false. When I say the math describes reality accurately, I mean the mathematical representations of physical reality, describe a physical reality that is real, like that the past and future physically exist.

            The distinction is between describing and being.

            The math describes something that exists: the past and the future. That is being.

            I'm glad we are out there in the trenches together! As I mentioned before, the metaphysics of time was the topic of a thesis of mine back in my undergrad days. Definitely one of my favorite subjects.

            Awesome. I've been obsessed with the philosophy of time for years now. But how long ago were your undergrad days? It seems to me you've forgotten much of the necessary detail to understand different time theories.

          • Phil

            That's not what I'm doing. There is no substance called "time." By saying time is a physical entity, I'm saying that time is all the series of events, which is physical.

            There we go! Yes, that is exactly what I've been getting at. Time is simply a series of changes (or "events" as you call it).

            This series of changes is very real and if I exist that means I cannot also not exist. To do so would violate the PNC.

            This means that my state as existing is more real than my state as not existing. Therefore, all states of change are not equally existent. And if all states of change are not equally real, then all times are not equally real (since time simply equals change).

          • There we go! Yes, that is exactly what I've been getting at. Time is simply a series of changes (or "events" as you call it).

            Yes but time doesn't flow. Those changes are just a series of static events in a particular order.

            This series of changes is very real and if I exist that means I cannot also not exist. To do so would violate the PNC.

            If by change you mean one thing flowing into the other, then no, that is false because that assumes the A theory of time which is false. If by change you mean there are different parts of an eternal static spacetime, like a static wall that's different colors in different parts, then yes.

            This means that my state as existing is more real than my state as not existing. Therefore, all states of change are not equally existent. And if all states of change are not equally real, then all times are not equally real (since time simply equals change).

            This doesn't entail from your second paragraph because your second paragraph is false. There is no contradiction on eternalism. There is, according to McTaggart on presentism. Presentism (A theory) requires that something have the property of existing and not existing.

          • Phil

            Yes but time doesn't flow. Those changes are just a series of static events in a particular order.

            I think you have a contradiction you are working with here. It seems like you say that change is real, but then you also say that it is static. If something changes, then it necessarily isn't static. Static would equal no change whatsoever.

          • Oh boy, we're right back to where we started, as if you've learned nothing in the past month debating this.

            Get this straight: there are no contradictions on eternalism. None whatsoever. All contradictions are apparent, but not actual when you actually understand the subject matter.

            Here's what we mean by change on eternalism.

            See this stick here below. Notice how the color changes from part to part. But also, notice how the stick as a whole is a static entity. The colors don't flow from one part to the next, they are static where they are, but the color changes along the stick.

            https://xlollypopladyx.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/cherry_rainbow_circus_stick1.png?w=540

            This is what we mean by change being possible, which the universe as a whole is static and unmoving. This is why there is no contradiction. It's all a matter of semantic.

            Now I've spent a month explaining this to you. Do you get it now?

          • Phil

            See this stick here below. Notice how the color changes from part to part. But also, notice how the stick as a whole is a static entity. The colors don't flow from one part to the next, they are static where they are, but the color changes along the stick.

            If we use the stick analogy, then it would be correct to say that the yellow part on the far left could represent the material cosmos when I'm a child and the far right red part could represent the entire material cosmos when I'm an adult, correct?

            What one would be saying is that this entire unchanging, static "stick" exists as equally real, that means that it is equally real that I exist as both a child and an adult right now.

            The reason I don't think eternalism is true is because this is a contradiction and is absurd.

            ---

            What I would say is actually true is that the entire material cosmos, including myself, has went through many changes between me being a child and an adult. These changes are what we call time. I objectively do not exist as a child right now, and therefore myself as a child is less real than myself and a adult.

          • The reason I don't think eternalism is true is because this is a contradiction and is absurd.

            Oh boy.

            What one would be saying is that this entire unchanging, static "stick" exists as equally real, that means that it is equally real that I exist as both a child and an adult right now.

            Um no. The stick is everything, so it can't be equal to anything else. The colors on the stick represent different times. See the image below. All parts (meaning all times) exist. But you only exist in a particular part. You exist as a child in one part, and you exist as an adult in another part.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/afd2f45cfa9cd521405fb95aa9d4991357594aee5c502a85a0b15dd69f5a4824.jpg

            Where you don't exist, you don't exist. To say you exist as a child, is to say that you exist as a child in one part of the block universe, that would not be "now" since "now" is subjectively the same as you saying "here".

            See, no contradiction. You just don't understand the subject matter.

          • Phil

            But you only exist in a particular part. You exist as a child in one part, and you exist as an adult in another part.

            So all parts are not equal and real?

            But haven't you been arguing that all "parts" equally exist, (which is what eternalism "proper" normally holds)? If you now say that I only exist at a particular part, are you now saying that there is actually a distinction between the part where I exist right now and the other parts? This would seem to go against your argument that all parts are exactly equal and real.

            ---
            If we do say that all parts are equally existent, we must conclude I exist equally as a child and adult. That is a contradiction. Since our proposal led us to a conclusion that is a contradiction, we must reject the original proposal that all parts are equally real.

          • All parts physically exist, but they're not equal. You seem totally confused on "equally real" with "equal" as in they are the same. Do you know the difference for this?

            If you now say that I only exist at a particular part, are you now saying that there is actually a distinction between the part where I exist right now and the other parts? This would seem to go against your argument that all parts are exactly equal and real.

            Now saying? That's what I've always been saying. This is akin to saying that Boston exists where it exists, and New York exists where it exists.

            Equally real and equal and real are 2 totally different things.

            If we do say that all parts are equally existent, we must conclude I exist equally as a child and adult. That is a contradiction. Since our proposal led us to a conclusion that is a contradiction, we must reject the original proposal that all parts are equally real.

            No it isn't because the question would be come when you exist as a child and an adult, and it won't be at the same slice of time.

            You are still totally clueless on this.

          • Phil

            No it isn't because the question would be come when you exist as a child and an adult, and it won't be at the same slice of time.

            Are you arguing that all "slices of time" are equally existent?

            If yes, then that means that the slice of time of me as a child is equally existent as the slice of time of me as an adult, which leads to the contradiction of me both equally existing as an adult and child.

            If no (i.e., all slices of time are not equally existent), then eternalism is not true.

          • All slices of time physically exist, just like all slices of bread physically exist, but each slice is different from the other.

            If yes, then that means that the slice of time of me as a child is equally existent as the slice of time of me as an adult, which leads to the contradiction of me both equally existing as an adult and child.

            That's absurd, and indicative that you still after weeks can't get this. This would be like saying sliced bread is a contradiction because the slice on one end is is as equally existent as a slice on the other end.

            If no (i.e., all slices of time are not equally existent), then eternalism is not true.

            Yes, but they do all exist, and there is no contradiction. In fact presentism may have a contradiction, since you would have the property of not existing and existing.

          • Phil

            Maybe another way of putting why I'm not quite sure that what you are proposing is actually coherent is that the answer to what keeps the contradiction of you existing as both a child and an adult is space-time.

            When we discussed what space-time is, you said it isn't an actual material substance, but is the material cosmos itself. (Which I would agree with.)

            But that means that what separates you from existing as both an adult and child is you (since "you" equals space-time).

            But we are trying to explain exactly what separates the child you from the adult you. And you can't do that...because you are you.

          • I'm still struggling to see a contradiction outlined by you here. The difference between you as a child and you as an adult is that each events are in different parts of spacetime. That's why there's no contradiction. "You" are a part of spacetime, and within spacetime. Different parts of spacetime have different events. Your birth and death are in different parts, just like New York and Boston are in different parts of the earth, yet they both exists.

            This is not that hard. You should be able to get this by now.

          • Phil

            When it really comes down to it, if you truly have evidence, and that it is coherent, that I equally exist as a baby, adult, and as dead right now, then there may some merit to a truly eternalist view of time.

            Apart from that, it is pretty clear that not all ways in which is the universe has existed, does exist, and will exist are not equally existent. Therefore some "times" are not as equally real as others.

            Again, as long as we realize that time is simply change, everything kind of falls into place.

          • Right now? When did I ever say you exist as a baby, an adult, and as dead right now? You still can't get over strawman fallacies, can't you?

            Apart from that, it is pretty clear that not all ways in which is the universe has existed, does exist, and will exist are not equally existent. Therefore some "times" are not as equally real as others.

            Pretty clear how? You still demonstrate that you have no clue what spacetime or eternalism even is, so how you can possibly make this claim is absurd.

            Again, as long as we realize that time is simply change, everything kind of falls into place.

            Change that flows or change that is simply a difference between different parts of a static spacetime?

          • Phil

            If I truly don't exist as a baby right now, then an eternalism that states that all states of time are equally existent and real is false.

            I also agree that time doesn't flow, rather things change (remember time is simply change). We perceive change as a "flow of states", which is why we say, "flow of time". So therefore if I don't exist as a baby right now, then me as a baby is less real right now than me as an adult. Therefore, an eternalism that states that all times are equally real is false.

            ----

            When it comes down to it, for the metaphysical view of time called eternalism to be true, one would have to hold that all things are equally real and existent in all states of change. This is what ultimately leads to the downfall of a truly eternalist view of time. Now, one may present a modified view of eternalism, which you would have to clarify if you are doing that.

            Maybe you are presenting a view of time where all "times" (i.e., states of change) are not equally existent?

          • If I truly don't exist as a baby right now, then an eternalism that states that all states of time are equally existent and real is false.

            Not at all, because that just assumes only the present exists, which is to assume (without evidence) that eternalism is false. You exist as a baby in the past and as a dead person in the future, not in the present moment. Just like DC exists to the south of NY and Boston exists to the north, but all 3 places physically exist.

            I also agree that time doesn't flow, rather things change (remember change is time).

            We've been down this road already. To change is to flow. Same thing.

            So therefore if I don't exist as a baby right now, then me as a baby is less real right now than me as an adult. Therefore, an eternalism that states that all time are equally real is false.

            Non-sequitor. No one is saying you exist as a baby right now. You are still completely clueless on the subject matter.

          • When it comes down to it, for the metaphysical view of time called eternalism to be true, one would have to hold that all things are equally real and existent in all states of change. This is what ultimately leads to the downfall of a truly eternalist view of time. Now, one may present a modified view of eternalism, which you would have to clarify if you are doing that.

            How? You haven't shown anything whatsoever that is inconsistent about eternalism. You've done a great job demonstrating your lack of knowledge on the subject matter. A+ on that. There's nothing illogical about the first sentence.

            Image your past never ceases to physically exist, and image that we are far into the heat death of the future. You would have a universe where basically all moments of time physically exists. That is like what eternalism is: all moments of time physically exist. No contradiction.

          • Phil

            Image your past never ceases to physically exist, and image that we are far into the heat death of the future. You would have a universe where basically all moments of time physically exists. That is like what eternalism is: all moments of time physically exist. No contradiction.

            So you would say that I exist as a baby, as an adult, and as dead physically all right now?

            This would seem to contradict what you said here:

            No one is saying you exist as a baby right now.

            ----

            A big issue I have is with the use the analogy of traveling down a road with "traveling through space-time". Traveling down a road is some sort of movement from one point to another. There is a flow in movement. So even in this using of movement through space-time there is this flow from one event to another.
            As you said earlier, if you are at one point on the road, you are not at another point on the road. Therefore, using the analogy I am objectively at point B in the road and not at point A. Therefore point B is more real than point A.

            Now maybe you want to say that I exist at all points in the road equally. But then again, we run into issues of trying to state that I exist equally as a baby, adult, and dead, which seems a pretty clear absurdity.

          • So you would say that I exist as a baby, as an adult, and as dead physically all right now?

            Nope. You exist as a baby in the past, and as an adult now, and as a dead person in the future. But all times physically exist. This is so simple a baby could understand it.

            This would seem to contradict what you said here:

            No one is saying you exist as a baby right now.

            There's no contradiction since I've never said you exist as a baby right now.

            A big issue I have is with the use the analogy of traveling down a road with "traveling through space-time". Traveling down a road is some sort of movement from one point to another. If you are at one point on the road, you are not at another point on the road. Therefore, using the analogy I am objectively at point B in the road and not at point A. Therefore point B is more real than point A.

            A better analogy is a film strip of you travelling down the road. Every point of your journey physically exists from beginning to end. "Now" is as subjective as "here."

            Now maybe you want to say that I exist at all points in the road equally. But then again, we run into issues of trying to state that I exist equally as a baby, adult, and dead, which seems a pretty clear absurdity.

            No not at all. Imagine a film strip documenting your whole life. At one point you're a baby, at another you're an adult, and at another you're dead. The film frames that cover you at all these parts all physically exist, but in different parts. No contradiction. I can't believe you still can't get this.

          • Phil

            Maybe a better way at getting at this is a discussion of change.

            When I change from a baby to an adult, is it me that changed from a baby to an adult, or are me as a baby and me as an adult two separate entities?

            No not at all. Imagine a film strip documenting your whole life. At one point you're a baby, at another you're an adult, and at another you're dead. The film frames that cover you at all these parts all physically exist, but in different parts.

            Yes, and here is the issue, the separate pictures in that film strip are different beings. So are you saying that me as a baby is a totally different being from me as a adult (like the separate pictures in the filmstrip)? So each time something goes through a change a new being comes into existence?

          • When I change from a baby to an adult, is it me that changed from a baby to an adult, or are me as a baby and me as an adult two separate entities?

            Nothing technically changes. You are a worldtube that exists through space and time and on end of the worldtube you're a baby and the other you're and old man. You don't move along the worldtube, you are the worldtube. "Change" refers to the fact that the worldtube is not the same along its existence, just like a film reel doesn't contain the same image in every frame throughout its length. This is clearly too complicated for you.

            Yes, and here is the issue, the separate pictures in that film strip are different beings. So are you saying that me as a baby is a totally different being from me as a adult (like the separate pictures in the filmstrip)? So each time something goes through a change a new being comes into existence?

            Nothing comes into or goes out of existence, that's the whole point. The "you" that exists is the you along every point of the film reel that you exist. Everything that exists is a worldtube.

          • Phil

            Nothing technically changes. You are a worldtube that exists through space and time and on end of the worldtube you're a baby and the other you're and old man. You don't move along the worldtube, you are the worldtube.

            So me as a baby and me as an adult is really just a single existing "worldtube", because I technically don't change as you said, correct? When I go rom a baby to an adult there is no real change?

            So again, if I am this "world-tube" and nothing technically changes so that me as a baby exists and me as an adult exists, therefore I both equally exist as a baby and an adult. That is where I disagree with you as this being rationally coherent.

            ---
            If you were to tell me that you equally exist as a baby and an adult right now, I would look at you and simply use the evidence to say, that claim is false.

          • But you don't exist as a baby and an adult at the same time, which negates an incoherence.

          • Phil

            But you don't exist as a baby and an adult at the same time, which negates an incoherence.

            So then there is a separation between me as an adult and me as a baby, and a change does happen? There is a change from me being at the slice of "baby Phil" space-time rather than the slice of "adult Phil" space-time? Time seems to be just moved to what you are calling "worldtube". So adult part of my worldtube is more real than the baby part of my worldtube.

            Another way of putting it is that I will not actually change into a dead person, but rather I already exist as dead? Or do I not yet exist as dead?

            If no real change happens, as you said above, then I must exist in all my states equally at the same moment. There is no "time" to separate how I exist now from how I existed as a baby. (Even using the past tense doesn't make sense, because you are claiming that me as a baby is equally as real right now.)

          • Wow, I never thought teaching you eternalism would be this hard.

            So then there is a separation between me as an adult and me as a baby, and a change does happen?

            There is separation, it's called spacetime. Spacetime separates the baby and adult you. Change is the difference between the end of the worldtube (which is you) when you're a baby, and the end when you're an adult. But nothing flows into anything else.

            There is a change from me being at the slice of "baby Phil" space-time rather than the slice of "adult Phil" space-time?

            Yes, using change as I've described it above. The two slices are different.

            That seems to beg the question of time actually existing; you are assuming that time exists.

            Not at all. Time simply arises from the fact that not all slices of the universe are the same. No change in the sense of one thing flowing into another is necessary.

            Another way of putting it is that I will not actually change into a dead person, but rather I already exist as dead? Or do I not yet exist as dead?

            At the end of your worldtube you die. But that moment physically exists in spacetime in the future direction from your now.

            If no real change happens, as you said above, then I must exist in all my states equally at the same moment.

            Nope. You're still totally lost on this. Change only means that slice A is different from slice B. If all slices of time were exactly the same, only then would you have a point. But that's not the same.

            There is no "time" to separate how I exist now from how I existed as a baby. (Even using the past tense doesn't make sense, because you are claiming that me as a baby is equally as real right now.)

            Sure there's time to separate how you exist now from how you existed as a baby. "Equally real as right now" doesn't mean the past is right now. It just means the past is as physically real as the present moment, but it exists in the past direction of spacetime. This is not complicated.

            Once you understand this, there's no contradiction. Believe me, you will never find a genuine contradiction about eternalism. I know. I've debated this for years and years and years.

          • Phil

            There is separation, it's called spacetime. Spacetime separates the baby and adult you. Change is the difference between the end of the worldtube (which is you) when you're a baby, and the end when you're an adult.

            So the "slices" of space-time do or do not flow one into the other?

            Does slice A where I'm alive move into slice B where I'm dead? Or can slice B (my death) precede slice A (where I am alive)? Or does it even make sense to talk about "preceding" in what you are talking about? If not, then again, slice A and B would end up collapsing into one and a contradiction is present.

            Change only means that slice A is different from slice B.

            Is my existence as dead equally as real as my existence as alive right now?

          • So the "slices" of space-time do or do not flow one into the other?

            No, they all exist permanently and frozen where they are. Slice A doesn't flow into slice B. And the point where your death is in slice B cannot precede any part of slice A where your death is. The slices are technically all subjective, based on your reference frame. This is common knowledge to anyone familiar with special relativity, so I just cannot believe you once studied this. Nothing collapses into anything else.

            So my question is, why is it so hard for you to get this? Are you slow at learning? Is this too complex for you? What is it?

            Is my existence as dead equally as real as my existence as alive right now?

            Yes, but your death is physically in the future of spacetime, so it is not now, and therefore there is no contradiction because you are not dead and alive at the same time. You are alive in this part of spacetime, and dead in another part.

          • Phil

            Yes, but your death is physically in the future of spacetime, so it is not now, and therefore there is no contradiction because you are not dead and alive at the same time.

            Yes, which means that the future where I am dead is not real right now. Therefore, the future where I am dead is less real than the present where I am alive. Which means, all times are not equally real.

            No, they all exist permanently and frozen where they are. Slice A doesn't flow into slice B.

            (a) All slices of space-time equally exist right now.
            (b) My slice as alive exists right now.
            (c) My slice as dead exists now.
            (d) Therefore I equally exist as both dead and alive.

            If one tries to get out of this contradiction by saying that the "dead slice" doesn't yet exist, then one has admitted that some slices (e.g., future or past slices) are less existent than other slices (e.g., present) , which contradicts eternalism.

            And if there is no "flow" of one slice into another, then they all equally exist at all times, which is where the contradictions start coming up.

            This is common knowledge to anyone familiar with special relativity, so I just cannot believe you once studied this. Nothing collapses into anything else.

            Just to be clear, I have no intrinsic problem with your physics, my problem is with your metaphysics. So though you may be a great physicist, you may not be as polished as a metaphysician.

            I don't pay much attention to using a scientific theory, such as special relativity, to try and prove a certain metaphysical view of time right or wrong because that is like trying to use math to prove that math exists. Science assumes the existence of a coherent metaphysics, so using science to prove a certain metaphysical view is incoherent. One has to use metaphysical arguments to prove or disprove it.

          • Yes, which means that the future where I am dead is not real right now. Therefore, the future where I am dead is less real than the present where I am alive. Which means, all times are not equally real.

            It is real, it's just not real right now. It physically exists in the future of your subjective now. So all times are equally real, by which I mean, physically exist.

            (a) All slices of space-time equally exist right now.
            (b) My slice as alive exists right now.
            (c) My slice as dead exists now.
            (d) Therefore I equally exist as both dead and alive.

            (c) is wrong because the part where you're dead on that slice is not now. That defeats your silly supposed contradiction. How many times do I have to tell you this?

            And if there is no "flow" of one slice into another, then they all equally exist at all times, which is where the contradictions start coming up.

            No they exist next to each other, and each slice is a different "now" a different present moment for someone. No contraction.

            Just to be clear, I have no intrinsic problem with your physics, my problem is with your metaphysics. So though you may be a great physicist, you may not be as polished as a metaphysician.

            I am as equally good at both. Rather, you are neither good at physics nor metaphysics since I've been explaining to you the same easy concept for weeks and you're still as clueless as you were when you started.

            I don't pay much attention to using a scientific theory, such as special relativity, to try and prove a certain metaphysical view of time right or wrong because that is like trying to use math to prove that math exists.

            It's nothing like that at all. SR is backed up by empirical evidence which contradicts the A theory of time. Also, if the A theory was true, the math would have to be different. The thing is you're clueless on the science.

            Science assumes the existence of a coherent metaphysics, so using science to prove a certain metaphysical view is incoherent. One has to use metaphysical arguments to prove or disprove it.

            Not true at all. If a metaphysical view on time, such as the A theory, or presentism, conflicts with known scientific theory and experiment, then it is wrong. Metaphysics literally means after physics. In other words, your metaphysics should follow your physics. If a metaphysical view is in contradiction with physics, it's the metaphysics that needs to change, not the physics. Granted we all have to assume a basic metaphysic such as "I exist" "An external world exists" "My senses are at least sometimes capable of understanding this external world" "Reason and logic are methods to rationally interpret the external world", etc.

            That's totally different from accepting a worldview complete with a theory of time as a metaphysic. That's the mistake you're making. You're confusing basic beliefs with a worldview.

          • Phil

            And to also follow up on causality and change, if changes do not form some sort of "series" that flows from one into the other, this would mean that to say something is the cause of another thing is incoherent, since there is no such thing as a flow from 'before' to 'after'. Everything exists all at once if there is no flow from one state to another. (Which is why the problems of contradictions come up.)

            And so, is it actually me that becomes dead? If so, then I have to cease existing as alive for me to then be dead (since I can't be both dead and alive at the same time). Therefore, a change has happened, and me as alive no longer exists.

            This right there is enough to show that all times are not equally existent. The past and future are less existent than the present. And the range of options for the future are dependent upon the present (why an effect can't precede its cause).

          • Your comment is just an amazing confluence of incoherency.

            And to also follow up on causality and change, if changes do not form some sort of "series" that flows from one into the other, this would mean that to say something is the cause of another thing is incoherent, since there is no such thing as a flow from 'before' to 'after'.

            Causality Is A Useful Word But It Doesn't Really Exist

            Everything exists all at once if there is no flow from one state to another. (Which is why the problems of contradictions come up.)

            Everything exists but not all at once. "Once" refers to a "now." On eternalism, "now" is a slice of the block. There are multiple slices, not one, so you're wrong.

            And so, is it actually me that becomes dead?

            Depends on your theory of identity. Even on presentism, we all know that every 7 years all of your atoms shed and you get knew ones. So are you the same "you" that existed more than 7 years ago considering that person had completely different atoms?

            This right there is enough to show that all times are not equally existent.

            You have no idea what you're talking about.

            The past and future are less existent than the present. And the range of options for the future are dependent upon the present (why an effect can't precede its cause).

            No they all physically exist, just that the future exists in the future and the past in the past. Your view would be like saying Vienna doesn't exist because you aren't there right now. It makes no sense.

          • Phil

            Okay!!

            The reason why I keep asking questions is to get to these deeper assumptions and questions. The reason why we disagree is that we have completely different metaphysics of causality and change, as you revealed above.

            Therefore, before we even can talk about a metaphysics of time, we'd have to get causality and change correct.

            So the reason why I believe you go astray on a metaphysics of time is because you got a metaphysics of causality and change not quite right towards the beginning.

            As it is quoted much, "A small mistake in the beginning turns into a big mistake at the end."

            So unless you are up for discussing the metaphysics of causality and change, we will probably have to leave the discussion of the metaphysics of time for another day.

            ----

            As I mentioned above, I have no problem with your scientific beliefs about relativity. I have a problem with your metaphysical beliefs about time, change, and causality which undergird a proper understanding and interpretation of the physical sciences.

            The physical sciences only help to give us evidence of how things are reacting, moving, and changing, they don't tell us what that means about the nature of those things and what our interpretation of the evidence should be.

          • Therefore, before we even can talk about a metaphysics of time, we'd have to get causality and change correct.

            Causality and change depend on the metaphysics of time. So it's the opposite.

            So the reason why I believe you go astray on a metaphysics of time is because you got a metaphysics of causality and change not quite right towards the beginning.

            I don't. This is just another misunderstanding of yours to me.

            As I mentioned above, I have no problem with your scientific beliefs about relativity. I have a problem with your metaphysical beliefs about time, change, and causality which undergird a proper understanding and interpretation of the physical sciences.

            You do have a problem with relativity, because if you actually understood relativity properly, you'd see that it ruins your metaphysical beliefs about time, change, and causality; they are irreconcilable. I'm not putting the cart before the horse here. You're putting a metaphysical belief about time, change, and causality (~Thomism), and superimposing it above a physical theory which contradicts that view, and you're conflating this metaphysical view with a basic belief. Believing me, I've had this debate before. I've seen what you're doing.

            The physical sciences only help to give us evidence of how things are reacting, moving, and changing, they don't tell us what that means about the nature of those things and what our interpretation of the evidence should be.

            That's not true at all. This can only be said by someone very ignorant not only on the science, but the philosophical entailments of scientific theories.

          • Phil

            We will just have to agree to disagree :-)

            As I mentioned before, metaphysics of time is one of my favorite topics as my undergrad thesis was on it, so it truly has been a pleasure!

          • You're welcome, but it seems that it's been so long you've forgotten most of the pertinent details. You can't start your philosophizing with the assumption that Thomism is true. That has to be arrived at.

          • Phil

            As you say, one ought not start by assuming the truth of something, but come to believe what is most reasonable to believe based upon overall evidence and coherency. That is how I came to believe that A-T metaphysics is the most correct metaphysical view of reality.

            Obviously, you disagree and that's okay. But I won't change my view without evidence that is better than the evidence I have for believing it to be true.

          • You don't have any good evidence A-T metaphysics is true, that's your problem. Your ignorance to science and philosophy is not an argument for the "truth" of AT metaphysics. Now, that may sound harsh, but I'm just stating it bluntly. In our conversation you basically just stating you assume an AT-based view on causality, time, etc, before you deal with physical theories like SR (even though SR directly refutes your AT-based view on causality and time). This is the problem with virtually all Thomists. They assume a metaphysic that is incompatible with physics first, and then they deny the physics because it's incompatible with their assumed metaphysic.

          • Not to complicate this issue, but would it be accurate to say a 'person' is a label that we are able to apply to the sum of worldtubes of the individual particles that comprise that 'person' at any one timeslice? A bit of a twist on a 'person' having a worldtube, with all the particles we are constantly exchanging with our environment..

          • Sure, just like a person is the sum of the atoms making them up.

          • Phil

            Not to complicate this issue, but would it be accurate to say a 'person' is a label that we are able to apply to the sum of worldtubes of the individual particles that comprise that 'person' at any one timeslice? A bit of a twist on a 'person' having a worldtube, with all the particles we are constantly exchanging with our environment..

            This gets tough because if one is not an Aristotelian or Thomist, recognizing and labeling a coherent whole, such as a 'person' or 'tree' is arbitrary.

            Why do we call just what we do a person, and not the other few atoms surrounding it, or the couch he's sitting on, etc? We recognize a unity coming from within that person, or tree, or couch or water molecule, etc.

            Without an explicit view of the existence of natures/forms this can be hard to explain coherently.

          • So I was thinking of Vonnegut's tralfamadorians, who with their 4 dimensional perspective see humans like long centipedes. But on this view of eternalism they would actually see something more like particles like strands of spaghetti who at any timeslice come together to make a person(or anything).

            recognizing and labeling a coherent whole, such as a 'person' or 'tree' is arbitrary.

            It is! the lines are often blurry in way that A/T proponents have difficulty with. However, I'm a strict nominalist; I see a map/territory distinction where we impose the labels on collections of particles for our benefit.

          • Phil

            It is! the lines are often blurry in way that A/T proponents have difficulty with. However, I'm a strict nominalist; I see a map/territory distinction where we impose the labels on collections of particles for our benefit.

            I would say it is a real difficulty for the nominalist because, as you say, the labeling of things becomes arbitrary imposing of label, whereas for someone like an A-T the labeling of things is actually intelligible and reasonable. We call something a tree or person because it actually has the nature of 'tree' or 'person'; so we don't arbitrarily call things persons or tree. (Which is why i hold to an A-T realism over nominalism.

          • At what point in the history of the universe did it become possible for a collection of particles to have the nature of 'person' or 'tree'? What did that event look like? Did a non-person give birth to a person? How do we objectively determine if a collection of particles is a person or not? How do you objectively determine if a plant has the nature of 'tree' or 'bush'? Do you really think there is a sharp distinction there?

          • Phil

            At what point in the history of the universe did it become possible for a collection of particles to have the nature of 'person' or 'tree'? What did that event look like? Did a non-person give birth to a person? How do we objectively determine if a collection of particles is a person or not? How do you objectively determine if a plant has the nature of 'tree' or 'bush'? Do you really think there is a sharp distinction there?

            You are asking the epistemological (how we know) questions, which are quite different from the metaphysical (how things actually exist) questions.

            For example:

            Say you have a gradient of color in front of you that slowly turns from yellow to blue. Can we epistemologically pinpoint an exact point where it turns from yellow to blue? Probably not. Does that metaphysically mean that there is no such thing as color itself? Or that yellow is not different from blue? Of course not. The latter conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premise.

            Simply because it may not be possible for us to ever epistemologically know the exact moment when an animal went from non-human to human does not mean, metaphysically, that there is not a point when it was non-human and a point later that it was human.

            This goes for every single question dealing with the nature/form of things. They metaphysically would exist whether or not we could ever epistemologically pinpoint the exact moment a new form/nature came into being.

          • that's backwards. It's because of the fuzzy edges, especially in biology, that I have to no reason to think the A/T account of natures/essences is correct, or even useful.

          • Phil

            that's backwards. It's because of the fuzzy edges, especially in biology, that I have to no reason to think the A/T account of natures/essences is correct, or even useful.

            Would you be able to explain your comment "that's backwards"?

            Would you say that different colors don't exist because we can't locate the exact moment when one color turns into another?

            ---

            Another example would be, if there is no such thing as natures/forms, then there would be no good reason for why different arrangements of matter act differently. One may respond, "well, it's because they are arranged differently". But that begs the question. Why does differently arranged "stuff" behave differently?

            Ultimately, we must get to the point where we say, it is because of the organizing and unifying principle that comes from within that entity, which in the A-T tradition is called "form" or a things "nature".

          • It’s fairly straightforward given that *both* perdurantism and endurantism help the Theist Trinitarian as per http://disq.us/p/1mlp8yz From another direction, all slices persist and the reality of an H2O molecule forming (...beginning to exist...) is, in the 4D Block of the B Theory of Time, tenselessly actual/real. "Change" (…beginning to exit…) is therein not only *static* but also *perpetual* and is thereby *itself* *un*changing* and we know this because (...per the Perdurantism...) every part of the 4D Block is actual/real – as briefly alluded to in the linked comment. Problems of course arise. Well, for the non Trinitarian.

          • Just as concrete and actual is the slice of the 4D Block that is my actual experience of actually observing the actual H2O molecule actually forming (...actually beginning to exist...). The entirety of that is, like change, not only concrete and actual, but also static, unchanging, and perpetual. Craig comments:

            “...One B-theorist said to me, “If a horse starts to exists at some time t, of course the B-theorist would say that there has to be a cause earlier than t that explains why there is (tenselessly) a horse at t...”

            Again, as per the link http://disq.us/p/1mlp8yz problems arise. Well, for the non Trinitarian.

          • Self-Contradiction: Every slice of the worldtube is real, actual, static, persisting. Except for the slices that aren't. Perdurantism Full Stop eats itself alive – contra the Christian metaphysic which accommodates it beneath its far wider, more robust canopy. Examples of such self-inflicted pain are in William Lane Craig’s “Time and Eternity”, and the absurdities which any Full Stop version of Perdurantism self-inflicts are explored in the section, "The Problem of Intrinsic Change".

          • Phil

            When it comes down to it, I simply disagree that me as a baby is equally real as me as an adult. It isn't an illusion that I have truly changed from a baby to an adult, which means that me as a baby is less real than me as an adult.

            If this is the case, then an eternalism that holds that all states are equally real is false.

          • "I simply disagree" is not an argument. "Equally real" doesn't mean you are a baby and an adult at the same time right now. It means the baby you that existed in the past, still physically exists, in the past. I've told you this 15 times and yet you still are completely clueless.

            If this is the case, then an eternalism that holds that all states are equally real is false.

            You didn't make an actual argument. You basically said:

            P1. I'm too ignorant to understand eternalism despite being told about it for weeks.
            C: Therefore eternalism is false.

            Great "argument."

          • Phil

            (And what is your site by the way??)

          • It's Atheism and the City. Technically, it's linked right in my profile. Here's a link where I review Edward Feser's book that attempts to refute atheism with links to all the chapter reviews, here, and a link to a review of my review by a Thomist here, that clarifies many misconceptions of the initial review.

            If you want to debate Thomism over there, I'd be more than happy to.

          • Richard Morley

            I gotcha; the reason I ask is I have yet to come across someone (professional philosopher or otherwise) who has been able to bring up serious objections to the 5 ways once they understand what is actually being argued.

            This is a near universal quality of debates, especially online. Each side remains convinced that no one has refuted their arguments once they understood them.

            So I suggest not expecting to convince your interlocutor. At best hope to clarify your understanding of their arguments and yours of theirs. Possibly even yours of your own, by subjecting them to hostile analysis.

          • Phil

            And that's why I asking Thinker to explain exactly what are these things that cause them to fail. So them I could address why he thinks they fail. But he would first have to explain why he thinks they fail. To simply say "they fail" means next to nothing.

          • Ye Olde Statistician
          • This begs the question by presuming the A-theory of time. That needs to be justified with argument and evidence. And until doing so the argument's conclusion cannot be demonstrated. That's just one problem of it. And I hope you realize that Aristotelian causality negates free will since all people will necessarily be caused by "something else" that cannot be them.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            all people will necessarily be caused by "something else" that cannot be them.

            They're called "parents."

          • I'm talking about their will. In fact, their every action must be caused by something else. Hence no free will on Thomism.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Volition is one of the powers of the will. It is not a thing. The primary mover of the will is the person.

          • What causes the person to cause the will?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What causes the triangle to have three sides?
            +++
            The will has no cause in the sense you seem to mean: metrical efficient causes in the mechanical sense. Movements of the will are not caused, but they are motivated, which is not the same thing.

            The will is the intellective appetite and as such analogous to the sensory appetites like hunger or pain; aka "emotions." It is in fine an appetite for the products of conception. Since it is impossible to desire something (in any specific sense) that you do not know, you might say that conception by the intellect is (logically) prior to the will.

          • Define the "person" then. And show how it needs no cause.* Can you write a timeline in a free will choice what happens first, second, third....etc.?

            *And I'm not talking about being born. I'm talking about in its free will.

          • Ye Olde Statistician
          • Ray

            Actually it's worse than that. The way the argument is using the PSR actually precludes presentism. Were an eternal unchanging God a sufficient reason for a given time to be actual, rather than any other time, then all times would need to be actual.

            There are three ways out that I can see:

            1) Weaken the PSR so that a sufficient reason for E does not need to be a sufficient condition for E. This seems to be the go to option for Thomists, but it weakens the PSR pretty much to the point of meaninglessness.

            2) Allow the sufficient reason for E to be something that was actual before E, rather than something that is actual at the same time as E. (This is arguably more in line with the common sense notion of cause than the Thomist interpretation.) This removes the need for a God.

            3) Allow the sufficient reason for E to be E itself. (And why not? "E exists" is clearly a sufficient condition for "E exists") This also removes the need for God.

          • I'm not sure I fully follow this but in my debates with Dr. Bonnette on the PSR he seems to take (1) and (3) as his view for why a timeless, unchanging, eternal god happened to will our particular universe eternally, and not any other universe, or no universe, when our universe is not logically necessary. He tries to justify it after the fact by saying god's will is not necessary, but since god willed our universe, it was necessary, which of course is nonsense. And this would be like your (3) and it makes basically a brute fact disguised as a sufficient reason. I can't at all see how this is a sufficient reason compatible with the PSR unless he's redefining it as a weakened PSR that basically makes it meaningless, which fits into your (1).

          • Ray

            Not sure which thing you aren't sure you're fully following, but my main point before was that, if you accept presentism (i.e. that the present is actual, but not any other moment in time), then Van Inwagen's argument can be applied not just to "why is God actualizing this universe and not any other?" but also to "why is God actualizing the present moment in time and not any other?" God's eternal will cannot be a sufficient reason, since it was just as actual when the present was still potential, and when it will be merely potential again.

            This is a very old argument, and it is why Aristotelians up to Averroes only believed that God could act by causing uniform circular motions of the celestial spheres. (I don't think this dodge quite works, at least not if you want the spheres to eventually cause non-uniform motions -- e.g. those on earth, but it at least sounds plausible if you don't think about it too hard.)

            Regarding dodge number 3. I used to see this as sort of a hidden premise in attempted proofs of the PSR. It is trivially true that every fact is a sufficient condition for itself. I would often see people basically prove this trivial version of the PSR (without drawing attention to the fact that it's trivial.) Then they would replace the trivial version of the PSR they had proven with one that claimed that every fact (other than God's existence of course) had not only a sufficient reason, but an external sufficient reason.

          • Ray

            The argument fails already at step 2. Moving things don't have the same quantum wavefunction as stationary things. (Time derivatives may be derived from space derivatives by applying Schroedinger's equation.) Thus a thing's state of motion is entirely determined by what's going on in any given moment in time.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Does time come in moments?

          • StardusytPsyche

            A fascinating question indeed. Is time quantized?

            If not, what is a moment of time? Zero time? How could no time at all be considered as a real time?

            Is a moment the limit as t goes to zero? People used to think of such things as the infinitesimal, but the very notion of an infinitesimal is dubious.

            No answers here, just better formed questions:
            https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-time-quantized-in-othe/

          • Ray

            Does according to the post you linked. If it doesn't, that's another problem.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          That is not a reason. It is simply repeating the assertion.

          • Right, just like it is when Dr. Bonnette said, "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did."

      • Richard Morley

        The "cosmos" is not a thing, but is a mereological sum of things.

        Theoretical physics is doing a good job of unifying more and more aspects of the universe, bringing us arguably closer than ever to the Monists' dream of showing that the universe is one thing of which we perceive only aspects.

        In other words, your claim is an assertion that is not proven to be true.

        Which physical object is the sufficient reason for its own existence?

        You ignore the possibility that each individual member of a set could be caused by another (requiring a causal loop or infinite regress) with the whole set being sufficient cause for its own existence.

        • Also, wouldn't the set of all sets, be a thing itself?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, in fact, it leads to Russell's Paradox.

          • If the cosmos is the sum of all things, and can't be a thing itself, then If the only thing that existed was a person, and that person was the cosmos, are you saying that person would likewise not be a thing?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There is a distinction between X and the set {X}

          • So is the single person universe a thing?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The single person is an ousia, or substance. X≠{X}

            A single person "universe" just is that single person. Though if you rely on your imagination rather than your intellect, you probably imagine a single person floating in a large void. But in that case the universe includes a large void as well as the single person. The large void may have a factor that accounts for its existence; the single person may have a factor that accounts for her existence. But there is no need, Brother Ockham tells us, for a factor that accounts for the single-person-floating-in-a-large-void.

          • But is it a thing? A simple yes or no would do fine.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Not when you are determined to misconstrue it.

            I have little patience with mystics. The only existant in your scenario is the person. The "universe" is a mental construct intended to include that one person.

          • The single person universe, not floating in space, but that person being to totality of all existence, the universe. Is the person a thing in such a case?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Of course, the person is a thing, a substance, an ouisia, possessing a substantial form.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Asking why the cosmos (a Greek word meaning "an arrangement") exists is like asking why the Jupimor -- the set {Jupiter, Morley} exists. A collection of things is not a thing itself.

          • Richard Morley

            You ignore so much in so few words, starting with multiple meaning of the ancient Greek word 'kosmos'. But since etymology is not meaning that, at least, is irrelevant.

            You object to referring to a collection of things as though it is a thing, but use as examples of 'things' Jupiter and Morley, both of which are collections of things.

            And if you think debating why the cosmos exists is pointless, why are you doing it?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          You ignore the possibility that each individual member of a set could be caused by another (requiring a causal loop or infinite regress) with the whole set being sufficient cause for its own existence.

          They really ought to require basic logic in school.

          If A gives existence to B, A must already be actually in existence. (Something that does not exist cannot cause anything.) In which case, B cannot give A existence since it does not (yet) have existence itself.

          • Richard Morley

            They really ought to require basic logic in school.

            Clearly! Also real maths such as graph theory. ;D

            Fortunately, mine did. To help you out:
            Not all causal chains are temporal. If you don't get what I mean by that, spend a little more time reading the A-T apologists. They also lean on that concept.

            Aside from that:
            From a timeless point of view, the whole timeline, including the future, exists. So while effects even potentially preceding their cause in the timeline are a logical nightmare, they are not necessarily a logical impossibility and physics even covers the real possibility of things like closed timelike curves.

            There are ways around the perceived problems, and even classical Christian theologians need them if they want to assert in any meaningful sense the existence of a sentient timeless entity who has knowledge of the entire timeline, and who can and does intervene at multiple points in the timeline.

            Nor do you address my point that the universe might indeed be one thing in the purest sense - one all explaining unified field or similar.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            From a timeless point of view, the whole timeline, including the future, exists.

            Yes, that "timeless point of view" is called "eternity."

            Time is the measure of motion in corruptible [changeable] being, whereas eternity is is the measure of permanent being. Time has a before and after, or as we would say a past and present, while eternity is simultaneously whole, without distinction of past and present. cf. Summa theologiae: Part I, Q10, A. 1 and A. 4.

            Of course, you cannot assert a timeless point of view without allowing the possibility of at least one timeless entity to view it.

            Christian theologians for centuries have taught that for God all moments are present simultaneously.

            for since God's act of understanding, which is His being, is measured by eternity; and since eternity is without succession, comprehending all time, the present glance of God extends over all time, and to all things which exist in any time, as to objects present to Him.
            [Quia, cum intelligere Dei, quod est eius esse, aeternitate mensuretur, quae sine successione existens totum tempus comprehendit, Praesens intuitus Dei fertur in totum tempus, et in omnia quae sunt in quocumque tempore, sicut in subiecta sibi praesentialiter.]
            -- Summa theologiae:
            Part I, Q14, art 9.

            Also, you cannot assert this timelessness without realizing that it now makes no sense to speak of an effect "preceding" its cause in time [or indeed, of any effect succeeding its cause] or indeed of any cause of any effect, reducing physics to pure mathematical symbolism and obviating all scientific laws. Thus, we cannot say that a new species "evolved" from a prior species; only that two species are simply located at different points in the block universe. If a cause lies in the future, makes as much sense to say A evolved toward B as it would to say B evolved from A. But now you are tip-toeing through the minefield of teloi.

            So the block universe would seem to cause more problems for natural science than it would for Thomism. Thomas already described the point of view eight centuries ago.
            +++
            No one rationally asserts that God is sentient. This would require sense organs, and God is deduced to be entirely simple, lacking in parts. In fact, it would require material sense organs; but these are said of God only in a metaphorical sense, as understood by everyone save some atheists and other fundamentalists.

          • Richard Morley

            A 'timeless' eternal spacetime that contains time within itself has no past or future of itself - it just is. Inside there is the appearance of time, but to say more we really would need to specify which physical model we are referring to. Even Einstein's special relativity jettisons the naive intuitive concept of time, especially simultaneity.

            But so what? How is any of this relevant to what I will optimistically call this 'conversation'? You seem to raise objections (e.g. to the possibility of causal loops) for no obvious purpose, and then instantly drop them without even acknowledging the fact.

            Is there any point you are trying to make? Just spewing allegedly arcane jargon and factoids really doesn't advance the debate, but with the best will in the world I can't find any substance to your interjections here.

            Also, you cannot assert this timelessness without realizing that it now makes no sense to speak of an effect "preceding" its cause in time [or indeed, of any effect succeeding its cause] or indeed of any cause of any effect, reducing physics to pure mathematical symbolism and obviating all scientific laws.

            Complete twaddle and demonstrably and obviously false in the face of detailed, explicit, coherent and yet timeless models of physics.

            Thomas already described the point of view eight centuries ago.

            Very crudely compared to modern mathematical equivalents, but otherwise 'sure, so?'

            Likewise early atomists pioneered the first crude ideas that eventually led to modern atomic and subatomic physics. The point is to build on previous insights and speculation, and not to either reject them just for being old nor to worship them and cease all progress.

            No one rationally asserts that God is sentient.

            Agreed! ;)

            But people do assert that God is conscious, aware of us, reacts to us, thinks, acts and so on. If you mean that such words applied to God deserve scare quotes or different terms, I also agree with that.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Even Einstein's special relativity jettisons the naive intuitive concept of time

            Indeed, he jettison's the notion of time and space entirely, calling them 'metaphysical intrusions' into physics. He wrote that

            "[T]here are no objections of principle against the introduction of this hypothesis, by which space and time are deprived of the last trace of objective reality."
            -- "Explanation of the Movement of Mercury's Perihelion on the Basis of the General Theory of Relativity," 1915

            And he declared that "Relativity declares that space and time
            would disappear with matter."

            Thus abandoning Newton's absolute space and time and returning toward medieval metaphysics. You will recall Augustine's dictum that "with the motion of creatures, time began to run its course" and Aquinas' reminder that "time is the measure of motion in changeable being." Without motion [any kind of motion, not only motion of location] there is no time; and without extension there is no space. Matter [or mass-energy, if you like] is therefore prior [in the logical sense] to both space and time; i.e., 'causal.' If matter exists, so do space and time; if matter were to cease to exist, space and time would vanish with it. This is what is called a per se cause and requires that something maintain matter in existence.

            How is any of this relevant to what I will optimistically call this 'conversation'?

            People keep bringing these things up as if they were objections to Aristo-Thomist points rather than supports for them.

            Complete twaddle and demonstrably and obviously false in the face of
            detailed, explicit, coherent and yet timeless models of physics.

            You can't have it both ways. Either effects can precede their causes or not. You cannot cite Minkowski 4-space when objecting to the argument from per se efficient cause and then turn around and ignore it when talking about empiricism.

            Also, nothing is "demonstrably and obviously false" in the face of a model. Models are falsifiable a la Popper. And all are wrong, in George E. P. Box's famous dictum, for the obvious reasons, even if they are useful instrumentally.

            But people do assert that God is conscious, aware of us, reacts to us, thinks, acts and so on.

            "Sentient" means able to sense; i.e., has sense organs, etc. It does not mean 'intelligent.' There is a perfectly good word, viz., "intelligent" that already means that. (Inter-legere=to read between [the lines] is to know things that are not actually sensed.)

            The Late Modern Age is notoriously imprecise in its terminology, I have heard people on the same panel use "sentient," "intelligent," "conscious," and other terms as if they meant the same thing. No wonder their thinking on this matter is so confused.

          • Richard Morley

            Also, nothing is "demonstrably and obviously false" in the face of a model.

            Very sloppy. Of course models can prove or disprove assertions, as anyone familiar with philosophy, maths or science should know.

            Have you never heard of a gedankenexperiment?

            If nothing else it should be clear that a model can prove things about models, as in your claim that timeless models lead to "obviating all scientific laws" or that we cannot say that a new species "evolved" from a prior species. One example of a timeless model of physics that does not do so disproves that assertion, as one example of a model that proves or disproves an assertion disproves your previous assertion.

            Matter [or mass-energy, if you like] is therefore prior [in the logical sense] to both space and time; i.e., 'causal.'

            Well, that solves one conundrum. You are just not familiar with modern theoretical physics.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Also, nothing is "demonstrably and obviously false" in the face of a model.

            Very sloppy. Of course models can prove or disprove assertions, as anyone familiar with philosophy, maths or science should know.

            No, the fact that a model makes correct predictions of stellar motions does not demonstrate that epicycles exist.

            A model can make predictions; but it is the physical world that proves ["tests"] the model. The model can fail, but the physical world cannot. Naturally, you can show that an assertion is incompatible with a model; but that does not prove or disprove the assertion.

            >Have you never heard of a gedankenexperiment?

            Wirklich. Aber ein Gedankenexperiment ist kein Model. Es ist eine mentale Hilfe, um bestimmte Theorien zu illustrieren oder zu denken. Man stellt sich eine einfache, aber unwirkliche Situation vor. Dann fragt man die Konsequenzen dieser Situation, wenn man die Theorie anwendet. Ein Gedankenexperiment ist jedoch kein Experiment im eigentlichen Sinne. Ein Gedankenexperiment ist innerhalb der Theorie gefangen, der empirische Aspekt fehlt.

            But as Einstein noted, if the physical world doesn't go along with the gag, too bad for the Gedanken.

            ***

            If nothing else it should be clear that a model can prove things about models, as in your claim that timeless models lead to "obviating all scientific laws"

            What has been proven? Certainly, you can prove models [i.e., test models] by examining their consequences -- Does it lead to a reductio? Is it internally consistent? Does it require non-measurable variables? Are there too many variables*? Is there multicolinearity? etc. -- but it is reason and reality that are proofing the model, not the model proofing anything.

            (*) "With seven variables one can model any set of data, provided you can play with the coefficients."

            as in your claim ... that we cannot say that a new species "evolved" from a prior species.

            I never said that. Where else would new species come from? They don't simply poof! into existence:

            Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.
            -- Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae

            IOW, new species exist in the potentials of existing species and are actualized by natural powers.

            Matter [or mass-energy, if you like] is therefore prior [in the logical sense] to both space and time; i.e., 'causal.'
            Well, that solves one conundrum. You are just not familiar with modern theoretical physics.

            Or rather Einstein was not.

          • Richard Morley

            No, the fact that a model makes correct predictions of stellar motions does not demonstrate that epicycles exist.

            Grief. One example of a model not proving an assertion does not prove that no model can prove any assertion.

            Ein Gedankenexperiment ist jedoch kein Experiment im eigentlichen Sinne

            Not if you only consider physical experiments to be experiments, but so what? That does not mean that they cannot prove assertions.

            If nothing else it should be clear that a model can prove things about models, as in your claim that timeless models lead to "obviating all scientific laws"

            What has been proven?

            One example of a timeless model that does not obviate all scientific laws, as you claim all timeless models must, disproves your claim.

            as in your claim ... that we cannot say that a new species "evolved" from a prior species.

            I never said that.

            That was a direct quote from you.

            You are just not familiar with modern theoretical physics.

            Or rather Einstein was not.

            He died in 1955, so no.

            You never clarified whether you deny Jesus was God, or just assert that he was not sentient.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            This reply went up two days ago, yet today I received a notice of your comment and now my reply is missing. I don't know why this is so. I will repost the reply, just for the record, trusting that the original reply will not suddenly reappear.
            ***********************************************************************

            nothing is "demonstrably and obviously false" in the face of a model.
            Very sloppy. Of course models can prove or disprove assertions, as anyone familiar with philosophy, maths or science should know.

            No, the fact that a model makes correct predictions of stellar motions does not demonstrate that epicycles exist.

            A model can make predictions; but it is the physical world that proves ["tests"] the model. The model can fail, but the physical world cannot.
            Naturally, you can show that an assertion is incompatible with a model; but that does not prove or disprove the assertion.

            Have you never heard of a gedankenexperiment?

            Ganz natuerlich. Aber ein Gedankenexperiment ist kein Model. Es ist eine mentale Hilfe, um bestimmte Theorien zu illustrieren oder zu denken. Man stellt sich eine einfache, aber unwirkliche Situation vor. Dann fragt man die Konsequenzen dieser Situation, wenn man die Theorie anwendet. Ein Gedankenexperiment ist jedoch kein Experiment im eigentlichen Sinne. Ein Gedankenexperiment ist innerhalb der Theorie gefangen, der empirische Aspekt fehlt.

            But as Einstein noted, if the physical world doesn't go along with the gag, too bad for the Gedanken.
            ***

            If nothing else it should be clear that a model can prove things about models, as in your claim that timeless models lead to "obviating all scientific laws"

            What has been proven? Certainly, you can prove models [i.e., test models] by examining their consequences -- Does it lead to a reductio? But you are testing the model internally, by logic. Is it internally consistent? Does it require non-measurable variables? Are there too many variables*? Is there multicolinearity? etc. -- but it is reason and reality that are proofing the model, not the model proofing anything.

            (*) "With seven variables one can model any set of data, provided you can play with the coefficients."

            as in your claim ... that we cannot say that a new species "evolved" from a prior species.

            I never said that. Where else would new species come from? They don't simply poof! into existence:

            Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.
            -- Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae

            IOW, new species exist in the potentials of existing species and are actualized by natural powers.

            Matter [or mass-energy, if you like] is therefore prior [in the logical sense] to both space and time; i.e., 'causal.'
            Well, that solves one conundrum. You are just not familiar with modern theoretical physics.

            Or rather that Einstein was not:

            "Formerly, people thought that if matter disappeared from the universe, space and time would remain. Relativity declares that space and time would disappear with matter."
            Albert Einstein

          • Richard Morley

            Well, I can still see your original response and my response to that here:
            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/what_is_the_true_understanding_of_causality/#comment-3519032861

            SN's comment threads are quite extensively broken. If you want to help, I imagine they would be glad of more volunteer mods.

          • Richard Morley

            People keep bringing these things up as if they were objections to Aristo-Thomist points rather than supports for them.

            No - you raised objections, and these were answers to them that you then ignore in favour of producing yet another red herring garnished with pointless jargon. But you never seem to reach a relevant point or display deep understanding of the topic behind the jargon.

            For example, you insist that the cosmos "is not a thing" and demand to know which thing is its own sufficient reason. You ignore the point that the universe may indeed be one monolithic thing, and the possibility of an infinite regress, but attack the possibility of a causal loop (while belittling my education), then contradict yourself by asserting that "for God all moments are present simultaneously" and so on.

            "Sentient" means able to sense; i.e., has sense organs, etc. It does not mean 'intelligent.'

            1) English evolves. Accept it, or abandon debates in natural language.
            2) I was in any case using it in the old fashioned sense: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions. God is indeed claimed to be aware of the universe and to respond to temporal events. God, as defined, implies the actual possibility of causal loops.

            Of course, if you want to argue that God is not aware of us, does not respond to sins or prayers, and that Jesus either was not God or also lacked such sentience, go ahead. I'll bring the marshmallows to the auto-da-fé.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            you insist that the cosmos "is not a thing" and demand to know which thing is its own sufficient reason.

            It is no more a thing than a sandpile. It is a heap. The universe exists if any one thing in it exists. Therefore, for the universe to be the sufficient reason for its own existence, some thing in it must be the sufficient reason for its own existence.

            You ignore the point that the universe may indeed be one monolithic thing, and the possibility of an

            infinite regress, but attack the possibility of a causal loop...

            Monolithic it might be, but it seems to lack thinginess.

            then contradict yourself by asserting that "for God all moments are present simultaneously"

            How is this a contradiction. We note only that a) Minkowski 4-space is a mathematical convenience for conducting the tensor analysis so vital to relativity theory (and that there is no necessity for a mathematical convenience to be physically actual. (cf. "epicycles"); and b) that the POV of Minkowski 4-space is identical with that of God as demonstrated by Aquinas and others. Most materialists refuse to countenance anything outside the universe, which means that from a materialist viewpoint 4-spece raises uncomfortable possibilities.

            English evolves. Accept it, or abandon debates in natural language.

            Welche natürliche Sprache?

            But I thought "evolution" is not directed toward "better." It is only change. The change may well be for the worse. Some changes improve precision of speech. Other changes may muddy the waters. The latter is especially the case when colloquial language is used in technical discussions. Why is a maze a simple curve while the figure-8 is complex?

          • A sandpile isn't a 'thing'? As in, it lacks a formal cause?
            Everything except the smallest subatomic particles are 'heaps' in some sense, just the quantity and arrangement changes over time.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Unsure about the particles: Heisenberg claimed they had no objective existence and compared them to Aristotelian potencies. However, a dog is not a heap of subcanine particles that just happen to be assembled momentarily into dogs by the winds of outside forces. Of course, "quantity and arrangement" do for simple inanimate things constitute the form. An atom of sodium and an atom of chlorine are made up of the same parts: protons and electrons, differing only in their number and arrangement. But these forms are precisely what gives them their powers as a gas or a flammable metal under standard conditions.

            [*neutrons may be a fusion of these two].

          • However, a dog is not a heap of subcanine particles that just happen to be assembled momentarily into dogs by the winds of outside forces.

            But the group of organisms we've labelled "dogs" are heaps of subatomic particles that just happen to be assembled momentarily into dogs by the winds of outside forces. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There is a unity to a thing that is lacking in a heap.To have a group of organisms labelled "dog", there must be something "doggish" about them beforehand. Otherwise, why group these organisms and not those? Dogs are not assembled from stray parts; the parts grow from them.

            OTOH, a sand dune consists of grains of sand which have no a priori reason to combine. The jimmymoon, which is a set consisting of {Jimmy S.M, the Moon} likewise has no internal logic. (See the Sunalex, below.)

            That the organs and tissues that comprise a dog should themselves be made of parts is not the issue.

            "The universe is made of things that are objectively delineated, identifiable and countable. What those things are is a question for further investigation. Maybe they are natural things like human beings, horses, nettles, and their like. Maybe they are solid things like human beings, a rock, the Empire State Building and an oak tree. Maybe they are elementary particles such as electrons, photons and fermions. What is important to the Aristotelian is that it is not just linguistic convention that settles what the things are, what they are identical with and how many of them there are, but objective reality settles it.

            The Sunalex, which is the mereological sum of me [Alexander Pruss] and the sun, is not objectively a thing. The reason it is not a thing is that it is two things. Now, of course one wants to retort: In one way the Sunalex is one thing and in another way it is two things. But saying this misses the objectivity involved in identifying the things. If in one way the Sunalex were one and in other two, then because we are looking for the things that are objectively delineated and objectively countable, we would have to have an objective fact of the matter about which of these it really is. When we talk about “that reality, the Sunalex,” are we talking of one thing or two things? Now, given that we must choose, it is evident that on the scientific grounds of what lends itself better to explanatory purposes it will be objectively better to talk of the Sunalex as two things rather than as one. So there already is something we can say about the things. No thing can be a mereological sum of other things. A heap of sand, then, is not a thing, for it is nothing but the mereological sum of the grains of sand. Whether the grains of sand are things or not is a more difficult question.

            In any case, the universe is made up of things. We can use the Greek “ousia” or the Latin “substantia” in place of “thing” if we want our claim to sound as non-trivial as it in fact is. We discover the things and do not create them in the way our minds create the Sunalex."
            Alexander R. Pruss, "Aristotelian Forms and Laws of Nature"
            http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html

          • To have a group of organisms labelled "dog", there must be something "doggish" about them beforehand... Dogs are not assembled from stray parts; the parts grow from them.

            I don't see the value of adding "doggishness", we know where dogs came from, and how they grow- the morphological traits expressing genes that were naturally selected by differential reproductive success. (Or in the case of dogs, quite a bit of artificial selection obviously)

            Otherwise, why group these organisms and not those?

            We can't help but categorize things, it's the way our brains evolved. It's incredibly useful.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            the morphological traits expressing genes that were naturally selected by differential reproductive success.

            Genes do not always express the same morphological traits. And of course, any extant species has been reproductively successful, by definition. Survivors survive.

            I don't see the value of adding "doggishness"

            Makes it easier to talk about it. It's like, given a father and son, one may speak of "fatherhood."

            Otherwise, why group these organisms and not those?We can't help but categorize things

            That would be the categorization gene? But the question is, given that we categorize by our nature as rational animals, why put Rover, Fido, and Spot in the same category but not Tabby? But why lump a Chihuahua in with a Great Dane? Dogs sorta, kinda look alike in many ways, but we started with a recognition of "doggishness," and only then started listing the traits that made them so, and much later the genes. Its easy to come up with a category that includes both dogs and cats.

            Humans share more than half our genomes with flatworms; about 60 per
            cent with fruit flies and chickens; 80 per cent with cows; and 99 per
            cent with chimps. This demonstrates something very important: viz., how little our genes signify.

          • That would be the categorization gene?

            There's interesting work at the intersection of science and philosophy in this area, for example George Lakoff argues the ability to categorize is a consequence of neural networks not having 1-to-1 neuron-to-synaptic connections. The relatively sparse connections between neural ensembles requires a reduction in information, where different inputs can produce the same output. So all sentient organisms categorize- food or not food, predator or prey...

          • Richard Morley

            Therefore, for the universe to be the sufficient reason for its own existence, some thing in it must be the sufficient reason for its own existence.

            As already pointed out, not so. It could be one monolithic thing. It could be an assemblage of things each of which is caused by another in the assemblage.

            Monolithic it might be, but it seems to lack thinginess.

            Underwhelming as logical arguments go. Especially as your last argument that the universe is an assemblage of things, not a thing itself, used examples of 'things' that were themselves assemblages.

            How is this a contradiction.

            It asserts eternalism, specifically that future events are real, that you previously denied. Otherwise how could they be present simultaneously?

            We note only that a) Minkowski 4-space is a mathematical convenience...

            ...that you introduced, presumably in the hope that we would find the jargon impressive. (nope)
            Eternalism, specifically whether or not future events are 'real', is relevant only to one of the options you failed to consider. I don't agree that materialism necessitates rejecting eternalism, or even spacetime, but in any case whether it does or not is irrelevant - unless you are claiming to be a 'materialist' who rejects eternalism on that ground.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Especially as your last argument that the universe is an assemblage of
            things, not a thing itself, used examples of 'things' that were
            themselves assemblages.

            I think I may have said a collection of things, nor an assembly. "Assembly" implies an artifact rather than a natural thing.

            Besides that things have parts does not imply that whatever has "parts" is necessarily a thing. Compare: horses have four legs; but whatever has four legs is not necessarily a horse.

            I don't agree that materialism necessitates rejecting ... spacetime

            Of what material is spacetime made? Last time I looked it was a differential manifold. For that matter, of what material is "3" made?

            [God's omniscience] asserts eternalism, specifically that future events are real, that
            you previously denied. Otherwise how could they be present
            simultaneously?

            If the "block universe" is true, then there are no future events. I simply noted that everything would be simultaneous when viewed by an eternal being, i.e., one outside the universe. But you have to have an eternal being and an "outside" for that, which many do not agree with.

          • Richard Morley

            "Assembly" implies an artifact rather than a natural thing.

            So more pointless linguistic pedantry? By that light, "collection" implies a "collector" and is also an artifact.

            Either way, your examples of 'things' were just as much 'collections' or 'assemblies' or 'heaps'.

            Besides that things have parts does not imply that whatever has "parts" is necessarily a thing.

            Peachy, so we now know one thing that is not your definition of 'thinginess'. Do you really assert that all things have parts?

            You seem to have a problem grasping when an individual example actually proves anything.

            Of what material is spacetime made? Last time I looked it was a differential manifold. For that matter, of what material is "3" made?

            Irrelevant unless, again, you are claiming to be a materialist of a kind that rejects spacetime (and, apparently, '3') entirely - not just saying that we have to think about them differently, but utterly rejecting the concept.

            If the "block universe" is true, then there are no future events.

            I don't have to reject presentism or a growing block universe in order to include eternalism or causal loops among the possibilities worth considering.

            You do have to justify rejecting causal loops (and infinite regress and non temporal causal chains and a monolithic universe) to support your assertion that one 'thing' (undefined term alert) within the universe must be its own reason for the universe as a whole to be its own reason.

            Especially as the assertion of an eternal being to whom "all moments are present simultaneously" implies eternalism.

            I simply noted that everything would be simultaneous when viewed by an eternal being, i.e., one outside the universe. But you have to have an eternal being and an "outside" for that, which many do not agree with.

            A timeless being who sees all the timeline implies eternalism, eternalism does not necessarily imply a timeless being who sees all the timeline. A->B does not mean that B->A.

            Still waiting for you to clarify whether you assert Jesus was not God, or not sentient.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Assemblies are made of things that are put together by an outside force. Such as a sand dune is put together by the wind. The elements in the dune (sand particles) have no natural tendency in themselves to be part of the dune. A dog, otoh is not simply a collection of organs and tissues. Rather, the organs and tissues are parts belonging to the dog. A dog or a tree or a sodium atom have identities that compression waves, sand piles, and Theseus' ship do not.

            This does not seem all that difficult to grasp.

            Consider the collection consisting of Richard Morley and the planet Mars. Call it the Morlemars. Is that one thing or two? To consider it as one thing makes no scientific sense. It is rather a mereological sum of two things. One may ask 'What is the efficient cause of Mars?' and 'What is the efficient cause of Richard Morley?' but it is foolish to ask 'What is the efficient cause of the Morlemars?' (Beyond an arbitrary decision to lump them.) It is not clear how the set {Morley, Mars} would acquire thinginess simply because a whole lot more things were thrown into the brackets with them and we called it a 'universe'.

            A dog is not a collection of atoms in the same sense that a gas cloud it. The atoms in a dog are not individual things: they are subordinated to the organism, organ, or tissue in which they find themselves. For example, one finds nitrogen atoms in the dog; but they do not behave like a gas. In a similar way, the electrons in the shells of an atom do not behave like free electrons but as parts of a whole. The atom has what is nowadays called "emergent properties" that cannot be predicated of the electrons or protons as such.

            My comment that things have parts does not imply that whatever has "parts" is necessarily a thing was simply to illustrate the source of your confusion: taking an accident and confusing it for an essence. That would be like trying to establish a science of "Things that are green," which would lump grass, unripe apples, cobalt, US paper currency, jealousy, and light at wavelengths of roughly 520–570 nm. as a single genus and study them by means of a single method.

            You seem to have a problem grasping when an individual example actually proves anything.

            As perhaps you do in grasping the distinction between a proof and an illustrative example.

            My comment on spacetime and the number three simply illustrates that even the most devoted materialist accepts the existence of non-material objects.

            You do have to justify rejecting causal loops (and infinite
            regress and non temporal causal chains and a monolithic universe) to
            support your assertion that one 'thing' ... within
            the universe must be its own reason for the universe as a whole to be
            its own reason.

            Unclear where you get this from. I only pointed out that a set exists iff at least one member of the set exists. You don't need a reason for the collective's existence, but for each of the elements in it. Thus, to say the universe caused itself is to say that some element caused itself. If it is only a matter of one element causing another -- even if you postulate some sort of outre circular cause running backward in time -- then you are not talking about something being prior to itself.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/12/dreaded-causa-sui.html

          • Richard Morley

            Assemblies are made of things that are put together by an outside force.

            So are collections.

            The elements in the dune (sand particles) have no natural tendency in themselves to be part of the dune.

            So what causes them to come together into dunes, if not nature? Evil pixies?

            A dog or a tree or a sodium atom have identities that compression waves, sand piles, and Theseus' ship do not.

            Not a sailor, I take it.

            It is not clear how the set {Morley, Mars} would acquire thinginess simply because a whole lot more things were thrown into the brackets with them and we called it a 'universe'.

            And yet if we lump together a lot of dunes and rock and so on you are happy to call it 'Mars' and speculate about its efficient cause.

            The atoms in a dog are not individual things: they are subordinated to the organism, organ, or tissue in which they find themselves. For example, one finds nitrogen atoms in the dog; but they do not behave like a gas.

            Most nitrogen atoms don't. Even nitrogen gas is composed of molecules, not individual atoms. This does not prevent them being individual things.

            My comment on spacetime and the number three simply illustrates that even the most devoted materialist accepts the existence of non-material objects.

            Irrelevant then, still is. Unless you are claiming to be such a 'materialist' and this justifies you rejecting eternalism and, for some reason, the number three.

            It is still perfectly possible for a number of 'things' to each be caused by another one, without any of them being caused by anything outside the collection/assembly/heap.

            We are still waiting to hear whether you assert Jesus is not God or not sentient.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Assemblies are made of things that are put together by an outside force.
            So are collections.

            So, pick another metaphor.

            The elements in the dune (sand particles) have no natural tendency in themselves to be part of the dune.

            So what causes them to come together into dunes, if not nature? Evil pixies?

            Something that is not in the nature of the sand particles themselves: for instance, the wind, the topography, etc.

            A dog or a tree or a sodium atom have identities that compression waves, sand piles, and Theseus' ship do not.

            Not a sailor, I take it.

            I take it you've never heard of the paradox of Theseus ship. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus) If you don't like that one, try my Grandfather's Axe. We have kept it for many years. We've replaced the head twice and the handle five times. Does it retain its identity as Grandfather's Axe? A dog, otoh, may shed atoms or gain matter through digestion, and remain good old Rover.

            Even an atom retains some identity through change. Sodium continues to be sodium even if it sheds an electron and becomes a sodium ion. A more complex atom, such as uranium, will by its nature shed matter and eventually become lead. It is still in some sense the same atom. The question of fission -- say a bacterium that splits into two bacteria, is more intriguing: which of the two daughters, if any, is the original? In either case, the atom, the bacterium, the dog, or the tree, have an internal unity that organizes its parts into a whole. A compression wave, such as a traffic knot, which appears to persist as a "thing" despite cars entering and leaving the knot, does not have this sort of internal organization. It is externally organized.

            It is not clear how the set {Morley, Mars} would acquire thinginess simply because a whole lot more things were thrown into the brackets with them and we called it a 'universe'.

            And yet if we lump together a lot of dunes and rock and so on you are happy to call it 'Mars' and speculate about its efficient cause.

            One of the powers of inanimate being is "gravity," which is the power to move toward other masses. By the force of gravity various pieces coalesce and grow by the accumulation of other masses. At least, that's the current theory. But it is the inherent powers of the matter itself that "self-assembles" Mars.

            The atoms in a dog are not individual things: they are subordinated to the organism, organ, or tissue in which they find themselves. For example, one finds nitrogen atoms in the dog; but they do not behave like a gas.

            Most nitrogen atoms don't. Even nitrogen gas is composed of molecules, not individual atoms. This does not prevent them being individual things.

            I've already said that atoms are things (ousia, substantia). The point is that electrons in an atom do not behave as free electrons but as parts of a larger whole.
            [A] "free" electron (one not "bound" within the atom...) is completely controlled by its own mass and electric charge. On its own, it would fall directly into the nucleus, attracted by the strong positive charge. When within the sodium atom, however, no electron can do that. It must occupy a unique energy state in the atom that is occupied by no other. ... When, in a sodium vapor lamp, a sodium atom is energized or excited, it directs its single valence electron to a higher energy state, funneling into it all of the absorbed energy. The electron again does not act on its own. Instead it is controlled by the nature of sodium. It returns to its normal energy state by emitting the yellow light produced by a sodium vapor lamp. Again it is sodium as a natural kind, the nature of sodium, that controls this activity and reactivity. The natural form integrates and stabilizes all eleven electrons within the sodium atom. It causes them to function as an integral and natural whole.

            It is still perfectly possible for a number of 'things' to each be caused by another one, without any of them being caused by anything outside the collection/assembly/heap.

            To cause something to be means to reduce its potentiality for existence to an act of existence. But something that is only potential cannot cause anything whatsoever. It isn't actually there. That is why the kinesis must be delivered by something already actual. A cause cannot give what it does not possess, either formally or eminently. So existence must be given by something already extant. So let us say per your Gedankenexperiment that A causes B to exist and B causes A to exist. But for the first motion to occur, A itself must already exist, in which case it is a contradiction for B to cause A to exist. The fact that something is imaginable does not mean that it is possible.

            We are still waiting to hear whether you assert Jesus is not God or not sentient.

            This seems to matter to you a great deal. Either that or it is a distraction, intended to dilute the conversation.

          • Richard Morley

            So, pick another metaphor.

            I did - you objected to it on grounds that apply equally to the term you are trying to demand I use.

            Something that is not in the nature of the sand particles themselves: for instance, the wind, the topography, etc.

            You don't think their own nature plays a part, or that external factors influence the dog or Mars?

            I take it you've never heard of the paradox of Theseus ship.

            False, and typical of your tendency to trot out things that might just impress a schoolchild as though you think them impressive. Also, clearly not a sailor.

            One of the powers of inanimate being is "gravity," which is the power to move toward other masses. By the force of gravity various pieces coalesce and grow by the accumulation of other masses. At least, that's the current theory. But it is the inherent powers of the matter itself that "self-assembles" Mars.

            Just as true with a sand dune. Vastly more true with the universe.

            Despite your rather shallow attempts to talk down to us, your philosophy of 'thinginess' seems to be as laughably naive as the term you choose for it. You assume, for example, that something true of individual members must be true of the whole.

            On its own, it would fall directly into the nucleus, attracted by the strong positive charge.

            So not a physicist.

            So existence must be given by something already extant.

            So God must equally be 'extant' prior to his own existence to cause himself, according to you. Try studying graph theory, or timeless models and causal chains, or even A-T theorists on this. You are way behind the class here.

            Also, I see that you are back to denying eternalism - so all moments are not as one to God?

            This seems to matter to you a great deal. Either that or it is a distraction, intended to dilute the conversation.

            You have made a number of ridiculous and/or contradictory assertions, and just ignored it when called on them. Pressing you on this especially insulting one, where you called those who assert God might be sentient irrational, is one way to see if you are just being careless or whether your posts are the insincere posturing they sometimes seem.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I did - you objected to it on grounds that apply equally to the term you are trying to demand I use.

            Do you truly see no distinction in the kind of being possessed by dogs and sand dunes?

            You don't think their [sand particles] own nature plays a part [in the formations of sand dunes], or that external factors influence the dog or Mars?

            We had been discussing the nature of causation, not the nature of plays-a-part-in. Sand will not of itself form itself into dunes.

            False, and typical of your tendency to trot out things that might just impress a schoolchild as though you think them impressive. Also, clearly not a sailor.

            That not-a-sailor comment was your only response the first time, so I assumed the reference to the ship of Theseus did not click as an example of a heap vs. a thing. This is often the case with non-responsive comments: one pick some peripheral facet and skips over the main point. There is nothing especially impressive about the example, esp. in the way it is sometimes used; and it is certainly not likely to impress a schoolchild. It was only a handy example of a heap. The parts of a ship have no inborn ["natural"] tendency to form themselves into a ship.
            ***
            One of the powers of inanimate bein g is "gravity," which is the power to move toward other masses. By the force of gravity various pieces coalesce and grow by the accumulation of other masses. At least, that's the current theory. But it is the inherent powers of the matter itself that "self-assembles" Mars.

            Just as true with a sand dune.

            Sand dunes do not form by mutual gravitation.

            Vastly more true with the universe.

            A universe must exist before its parts can mutually attract one another. Gravity may explain the formation of galaxies and the like, but not the existence of the universe.

            your philosophy of 'thinginess' seems to be as laughably naive as the term you choose for it.

            Whenever I use original terms -- in this case, ousia or substantia -- the complaint is no one understands Greek or Latin this days and we should use modern terms. But apparently when modern terms are used to get at the sense of the concept, that is not acceptable, either. Try this:
            http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html (where I first encountered "things" as an Anglo-Saxon equivalent)
            or here:
            https://web.archive.org/web/20041127001607/http://home.comcast.net:80/~icuweb/c02001.htm#9 (where the author uses the more tradtional Latin word "substance.")

            You assume, for example, that something true of individual m embers m ust be true of the whole.

            On the contrary, I am often a lonely voice supporting formal causation.

            On its own, [a free electron] would fall directly into the nucleus, attracted by the strong positive charge.
            So not a physicist.

            No, but Wallace was, and it was his example. See https://web.archive.org/web/20041119092304/http://home.comcast.net:80/~icuweb/c02003.htm#7

            So existence must be given by something already extant.
            So God must equally be 'extant' prior to his own existence to cause himself, according to you.

            Asking what causes Existence itself to exist makes as much sense as asking what illuminate light.

            Also, I see that you are back to denying eternalism - so all moments are not as one to God?

            Well, I'm not prepared to burn General Relativity and the Big Bang on the altar of ancient Greek cycles; but why do you say this? Logical priority does not put a limit on an eternal universe.

            Pressing you on this especially insulting one, where you called those who assert God might be sentient irrational,

            What is sentient irrational? Petunias and puppies are irrational, but puppies are sentient in addition to irrational. Are you claiming that God is more like a puppy dog and less like a petunia?

          • Richard Morley

            Do you truly see no distinction in the kind of being possessed by dogs and sand dunes?

            None relevant to you demanding that I use 'collection' rather than 'assembly'.

            We had been discussing the nature of causation,

            No, you had been denying that the universe could be self caused, and tried to deflect the conversation with this red herring rather than address the points raised.

            Sand will not of itself form itself into dunes.

            It is more prone to doing so than atoms are to forming themselves into dogs. Both involve external influences, the dog more than the dune. Neither is relevant to whether the universe can have a cause, itself or something else.

            A universe must exist before its parts can mutually attract one another.

            Irrelevant to whether or not a universe can be its own cause.

            Gravity may explain the formation of galaxies and the like, but not the existence of the universe.

            Again, so not a physicist.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Do you truly see no distinction in the kind of being possessed by dogs and sand dunes?
            None relevant to you demanding that I use 'collection' rather than 'assembly'.

            So, progress, at any rate. What distinction then do you see?

            We had been discussing the nature of causation,
            No, you had been denying that the universe could be self caused

            Which goes to the nature of causation. X cannot cause X to be since, in order to give existence, X must have existence to give, a priori. "Self-caused" is an oxymoron. What is the "self" that does the causing? If it does not exist, then it is not an actual thing and cannot do diddly-squat. If it does exist, then it already is actual, already "caused."

            Sand will not of itself form itself into dunes.
            It is more prone to doing so than atoms are to forming themselves into dogs.

            Atoms do not form themselves into dogs. They may form themselves into molecules if they bump into one another under agitation. Atoms do have substantial forms, and these forms give them powers. However, dogs, generally are formed by other dogs, via reproduction.

            Both involve external influences, the dog more than the dune.

            "Involve." "Influences." Fairly inchoate terms.

            Neither is relevant to whether the universe can have a cause, itself or something else.

            It is basic logic that does. See above. The remainder goes to the question of whether "universe" needs a cause at all, as the rather smaller universe of the Morleymars does not. The cause of any collection is the existence of at least one thing that comprises the collection.

            A universe must exist before its parts can mutually attract one another.
            Irrelevant to whether or not a universe can be its own cause.

            You had contended IIRC that gravity can explain the existence of the universe. But gravity is described as a particular state of the Ricci tensors due to mass. Mass must exist a priori before gravity can exist. It is more correct to say that the [members of the] universe cause gravity than vice versa.

            Gravity may explain the formation of galaxies and the like, but not the existence of the universe.
            Again, so not a physicist.

            So, you are no logician, then? Gravity is a Doing, not a Thing. That is, it is something a thing does; in this case, distort the field of Ricci tensors.

          • Richard Morley

            What distinction then do you see?

            None relevant to this discussion. How is that hard to grasp?

            Over and over, you seem to realise that you have said something ear-burningly silly, so try to deflect the discussion onto some naive cereal box 'philosophy' snippet sprinkled with poorly understood jargon. Just admit that it doesn't matter whether a group of things is referred to as an assembly, a collection, or whatever and try to explain the relevance of the universe being made up of parts, since you apparently reject and/or do not understand the point about the universe potentially being monolithic.

            "Self-caused" is an oxymoron.

            Then God likewise cannot be his own cause.

            Atoms do not form themselves into dogs.

            Well, only over billions of years as part of a much larger universe. Dogs also can at least in principle replace all of their atoms over time while being 'the same dog'.

            Cereal box stuff, irrelevant to a universe that potentially has no external influences and especially no loss or gain of parts from outside.

            "Involve." "Influences." Fairly inchoate terms.

            Unlike the oh-so-choate 'thinginess', which you have yet to define.

            If you claim not to understand how adding members to a group can take it from allegedly lacking 'thinginess', such as a dune, to having it, such as Mars, then I really believe you. But since you claim that Mars has 'thinginess', whereas its dunes do not, surely you must concede that it occurs. Now, relevance?

            So, you are no logician, then?

            I understand that gravity is indeed used to explain the existence of the Universe.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Just admit that it doesn't matter whether a group of things is referred to as an assembly, a collection, or whatever and try to explain the relevance of
            the universe being made up of parts...

            Over here is a cigar box with marbles. Over there is hard drive. The first is a collection; the latter is an assembly. Now the parts of the hard drive do comprise a collection, esp. if the drive were disassemble or if they came loose and had to be assembled. However, it is the relationship among the parts that make the assembled hard drive a thing, while the marble collection remains simply a heap.

            Since the contention amounts to whether the universe is a thing or a heap is at the heart of matters, I don't see how this is irrelevant.

            "Self-caused" is an oxymoron.
            Then God likewise cannot be his own cause.

            Correct.

            Atoms do not form themselves into dogs.
            over billions of years as part of a much larger universe. Dogs also can at least in principle replace all of their atoms over time while being 'the same dog'.

            As I have been contending. But the formation of the dog is an act of the dog's parents, not of the dog itself, and not of the atoms that temporarily comprise the dog.

            "Involve." "Influences." Fairly inchoate terms.
            Unlike the oh-so-choate 'thinginess', which you have yet to define.

            Try it again. http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/Forms.html Part III.

            since you claim that Mars has 'thinginess', whereas one of its dunes does not, surely you must concede that it occurs.

            Mars is not made up of sand dunes; nor was it built by or from them. Mars possesses an identity as Mars that a dune does not. It has to do with internal structure.

            I understand that gravity is indeed used to explain the existence of the Universe.

            Not coherently, it isn't. There cannot be gravity unless there is mass. And if there is mass, there is already a universe. That is, gravity (whatever that is) is posterior to "the universe," not prior.

          • Richard Morley

            You are free to use whichever word you wish, but to demand that I use one over the other when your objection applies equally to either is plain ridiculous.

            So existence must be given by something already extant.

            (A) That rules out something being uncaused, or caused by a nonexistent 'thing'.
            (B) you likewise rule out causal loops, including the special case of something being its own cause.

            Simple graph theory therefore shows that you are left with an infinite graph or regress of causes:
            1) Start at any point, and trace backwards, from effect to cause.
            2) You can never come to a dead end, as that would imply a node with no cause, contra (A),
            3) You could have a choice of multiple causes, in which case pick at random
            4) You can never come to a node you have already gone over, as that would imply a causal loop, contra (B)
            Conclusion: You go on forever, constantly passing over new 'causes'.

            In such a graph, each element has a cause in another element, but the whole has no cause outside itself. QED - that is what you started off denying before going into a red herring argument apparently cut-and-pasted from poorly understood web pages.

          • Richard Morley

            Try it again. http://alexanderpruss.com/p... Part III.

            I've read that, I'm just trying to establish whether you have understood it, or whether you are just repeating things you have found online without real comprehension. So, can you explain in your own words what you mean by 'thinginess', and more importantly explain how it is relevant to the Universe having a cause or not?

            Time and again your response appears to be a red herring, frequently lifted [nearly] verbatim from online sources, and you are very nonresponsive to explaining what you mean or why it is relevant, or to defending/conceding what seem to be glaring errors. For example, do you claim that Jesus is not God or not sentient, and are all those who do believe he is both not rational?

            So the most parsimonious explanation is that you are just repeating things you don't understand but find impressive. Do please prove me wrong.

          • Richard Morley

            Mars is not made up of sand dunes; nor was it built by or from them.

            It is and was, in part. So it is directly relevant to your failure to understand how adding more elements to the [heap/collection/assembly/group] 'a dune' can lead to something (Mars) with 'thinginess'.

            For that matter, if The Morley were to decamp to Mars to think deep thoughts seated on a dune, that would make the Morleymars a term capable of being usefully discussed. Not to mention, I suspect, making you very happy.

            Mars possesses an identity as Mars that a dune does not. It has to do with internal structure.

            Dunes have structure. They even do things, like moving, singing, burping and calving.

            I understand that gravity is indeed used to explain the existence of the Universe.

            Not coherently, it isn't.

            One who thinks electrons would crash into protons if left to their own devices is not well placed to judge this. The likes of Hawking and Krauss are, and indeed when I say that "I understand that.." I do have some claim to be able to follow the basic theory.

          • Richard Morley

            Whenever I use original terms ...

            You see no middle ground between needless jargon and babytalk? Regardless, the substantive part of that comment was the naivety of your theory of thinginess.

            On the contrary, I am often a lonely voice supporting formal causation.

            As though it is an outdated concept?
            That doesn't change the fact that you do indeed assert that the universe cannot have a property if its parts do not. I never accused you of having a coherent and well stated point of view.

            No, but Wallace was, and it was his example. See https://web.archive.org/web...

            Which Wallace? I don't see the author cited anywhere.
            Regardless, the assertion that a free electron, left to its own devices "would fall directly into the nucleus, attracted by the strong positive charge" is hopelessly ignorant. This is what comes of trying to do physics or philosophy from Google.

          • Richard Morley

            Asking what causes Existence itself to exist makes as much sense as asking what illuminate light.

            You asserted that "existence must be given by something already extant", I'm just pointing out the result of applying that consistently.

            but why do you say this?

            Because you are back to denying eternalism, a point on which you again seem to have no clear position.

            What is sentient irrational?

            Either very poor reading skills, or a deliberate ploy to avoid the argument, in both cases on your part.

            You asserted that no one rationally asserts that God is sentient. So either you assert that Jesus is not God or not sentient, or you assert that your position is not rational.

      • No, I meant the existence of all material reality. Not the configuration of it.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The "universe" just is the existence of all material reality.

          • Sure.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, if'n you don't want to use the standard meaning of terms, you can claim that it is a unified poem: uni-verse. But that becomes absurd.

          • I don't understand your criticism. I use cosmos to include possible multiple other universes. I'm talking about material reality. That which theists claim was created by God.

            This argument relies on a fact that "it" is an effect and must have a cause.

            I am simply noting that this may be otherwise. This universe. The cosmos, whatever may be uncaused. Until we can tell if it is uncaused or not we are jumping to conclusions.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I use cosmos to include possible multiple other universes.

            If you are talking about "multiple other universes" how can you be talking about "material reality"? Show me one of these "other universes." Even some empirical evidence would be useful. Until then you are talking not about "real bodies," but about "ideal bodies," like epicycles, which may help the math work out but which may not possess material existence.

            "Universe" is a perfectly fine word that means "everything that has existence." [From Latin "universum", meaning all things, everyone, etc.] The idea of promoting putative space-time manifolds the the status of "universe" is unnecessary, but the Modern Ages have been notorious for sloppy terminology.

            This argument relies on a fact that "it" is an effect and must have a cause.

            "Aquinas explicitly denies that everything has a cause. He held that “to be caused by another does not appertain to a being inasmuch as it is being; otherwise, every being would be caused by another, so that we should have to proceed to infinity in causes -- an impossibility…” (Summa Contra Gentiles II.52.5). For writers like Aristotle, Plotinus, and Aquinas and other Scholastics, it is not the fact of something’s existence as such, or of its being a thing per se, that raises causal questions about it. It is only some limitation in a thing’s intrinsic intelligibility that does so -- for example, the fact that it has potentials that need actualization, or that it is composed of parts which need to be combined, or that it merely participates in some feature, or that it is contingent in some respect. Hence these writers would never say that “everything has a cause.” What they would say is that every actualization of a potential has a cause." -- Ed Feser

            This universe. The cosmos, whatever[,] may be uncaused

            While some say that belief in God is hard to swallow, belief in an uncaused universe goes down easy. Despite the lack of any evidence.

          • So... this isn't that complicated. Aquinas is talking about an uncaused first cause, which he calls god. This god created some stuff. Call the stuff x. The idea is that x cannot be the reason for its own existence. I am disputing that. I am saying this needs to be demonstrated not just assumed.

      • All of material reality. Why not?

  • Ray

    As philosopher Dr. Edward Feser
    points out, causation that concerns the same event in the same place –
    such as removing that tree stump, renders irrelevant an objection based
    on judgments made by different observers in diverse spatial locations

    If this restriction of the concept of causation to a single time and place is meant, as suggested by the example, as simply restricting our attention to a small but spatially and temporally extended portion of the cosmos, it is a half measure, which is wholly insufficient to wave away the objection from relativity. The causal story told in this post involves many spatially distinct events, and if they are to have any causal influence on one another they must also be temporally distinct. Just because you have trouble perceiving nanosecond scale delays doesn't mean you can ignore them.

    If on the other hand the restriction is literally meant as limiting our discussion to a single point in spacetime, then you end up eliminating not just everything interesting about causality, but anytning whatsoever that can reasonably be referred to as causation. You speak of the principle of sufficient reason. Well, if sufficient reason means sufficient condition, then for object O that exists at time t and position x,y,z, there is a sufficient condition for its existence, and if O exists, it holds namely "O exists." Thus there is a trivial sense in which every object is its own sufficient reason, but I don't think anyone would really call that causation. What physics (since Newton in fact, but I will use modern quantum field theory in my example) tells us is that there is no other sufficient condition that can be given for the existence of O, except those that involve a point other than (x,y,z,t).

    In modern quantum field theory, we partition the information that concerns the point (x,y,z,t) into distinct field observables (one for each possible value of the intrinsic degrees of freedom of each particle species.) The problem is, these all commute, which is to say, the value of one field observable at (x,y,z,t) places no restriction on the value of the other field observables at (x,y,z,t). (Note there are some subtleties here -- you can choose your set of field observables differently, so that the observables from one set don't commute with those in the other set, but calling this lack of independence causation would be like saying that the latitude and longitude of a house are the cause of the house's street adress or vice versa.)
    Apart from the fundamental physical principles that prevent anything that can reasonably be called causation from happening when we restrict our consideration to a single spacetime point, it should be clear that when people give causal stories in real life (e.g. I threw a ball) we're never talking about things that are exactly colocated. (my hand is around the ball, but it is not literally occupying the same space.)

    • You can't reliably expect many Thomists to get science correct. Given relativity, there is no true causation as we normally think of it. There are just a series of events in spacetime that all exist, past, present, and future. There are simply just worldtubes or particles in spacetime and one point on the worldtube doesn't really "cause" a later point on the worldtube to exist. What causality really is would seem to have to be the relationships of intersecting worldtubes as they precede or intertwine with one another in spacetime; they're a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions. At the fundamental level, the word "cause" really should be replaced by the word "explanation" or "relationship."

      And even in the dynamite is spatially distant from the stump and will require time for any information from it to go to the stump.

      • Ray

        I don't really have any problem referring to time-like separated non-commuting observables as having a causal relationship, nor do most physicists. That a fringe group of Catholic philosophers want to hijack a perfectly useful scientific term by ignoring all clarifications of the concept that have happened over the last 700 years seems a poor excuse to abandon the terminology.

        I agree that all valid uses of causal terminology can be reduced to more fundamental physical concepts at least in principle, and therefore whatever can be deductively proven using such terminology, can also be proven without it. (I would most certainly lean towards modus tollens inferences based on the above.) Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to have to do studies on smoking and cancer without using the term "cause."

        • Yes, I'm not at all saying we should jettison the word "cause". It's highly useful in everyday life, but as physicist Brian Greene has said, "Don't confuse language with reality. Human language is far better at capturing human experience than at expressing deep physical laws."

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But isn't it the case that as soon as we move out of the pure sky of mathematics, as soon as we start talking about our models as models of reality, we are necessarily in the domain of language? And therefore, are not concepts like "mass" and "energy" at least as vulnerable (if not more so) to your critique as the concept of "cause"?

          • We have to use language when communicating, but we simply have to recognize that words do not always reflect reality since they were developed at a time when we didn't understand reality not nearly as well as we do now. In other words, many words will have multiple meanings: they will have the every day colloquial meaning, and then they will have the fundamental meaning. The trick is to understand this and be aware of what context they're being used in.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Could you explain what you mean by "the fundamental meaning" of a word?

            I agree that when we dive beneath colloquial usage (and also when we dive beneath modern technical meanings), we will find more fundamental meanings. But those "more fundamental" meanings are precisely the meanings that are more deeply rooted in our history. These fundamental meanings connect us more to our cultural history (or, as you would seem to have it, they connect us more to our age of ignorance), not less.

            For example, we have a colloquial sense of what the words "subject" and "object" mean. And we additionally have technical meanings that we attach to these words and further develop in various disciplines (e.g. philosophy). But if we trace the etymology back we find that underneath these modern colloquial and technical usages, we are ultimately leveraging the very physical metaphor of "throwing" (jacere), however unknowingly.

            Are you suggesting that if our ancestors had access to our modern scientific understanding, they could have found better root metaphors, better ways of anchoring our conceptual knowledge? If so, what are some examples?

          • No, it's the exact opposite. The colloquial meanings are the ones more deeply rooted, the fundamental meanings are not. By fundamental meaning I'm not talking about the root origins of words. I'm talking about taking the concept based on that word (which is its colloquial usage) and finding out in fundamental physics what's really going on.

            To your last paragraph, yes. Our ancestors created words based on their human level experience, but human level experience does not always accurately capture reality. Words and terms like "causality" "movement" "time flows" are all examples.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, so what you are calling "fundamental meaning" might otherwise be called the "intended meaning", or the "intended referent". I won't quibble over the phrasing: I get the idea that there is some referent out there in reality, and our lexicon can only point imperfectly toward that referent. And then, whatever that intended referent is, you want to be able to describe it in terms of fundamental physics. No objections there. (I guess, TBH, I object to the implication that understanding "what's going on" is solely a matter of understanding the fundamental physics, but no need to digress in that direction.)

            Words and terms like "causality" "movement" "time flows" are all examples.

            And "mass" and "energy" are examples as well, right?

          • And "mass" and "energy" are examples as well, right?

            Nope. Not in their scientific definitions.

            I object to the implication that understanding "what's going on" is solely a matter of understanding the fundamental physics, but no need to digress in that direction

            No one said it's solely a matter of physics. I'm just saying physics is the most important game in town, and is certainly above 2300 year old metaphysics.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If we are now talking about scientific definitions, then your objection ("human level experience does not always accurately capture reality") no longer applies. Scientific definitions are abstracted from human-level experience. That abstractive step results in definitions that no longer need reference to visual imagery or direct experience. Just as abstract scientific definitions of mass are no longer rigidly tethered to our experience of tangibility & concreteness, so abstract scientific definitions of causality (see here for an example) are no longer rigidly tethered to our experience of colliding billiard balls and the like.

            I am curious why you think scientific definitions of mass have a fundamental ontic referent, while scientific definitions of causality do not?

          • If we are now talking about scientific definitions, then your objection ("human level experience does not always accurately capture reality") no longer applies.

            Nope. Scientific definitions take into consideration way more and far beyond human level experiences.

            Just as abstract scientific definitions of mass are no longer rigidly tethered to our experience of tangibility & concreteness, so abstract scientific definitions of causality (see here for an example) are no longer rigidly tethered to our experience of colliding billiard balls and the like.

            You're on the right track. I'd imagine that at this point we'd probably agree on a lot and any disagreements would most likely be minor semantic disputes.

            I am curious why you think scientific definitions of mass have a fundamental ontic referent, while scientific definitions of causality do not?

            Who said I did? I could be misunderstanding you here. Care to explain?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I thought you were arguing that "mass" is somehow more real than "causality", and I was trying to figure out why. If you think that "causality" is every bit as real as "mass", then I have indeed misunderstood you and I apologize for wasting your time.

          • The scientific definitions of mass and causality are equally real. If you're comparing the scientific definition of mass to the colloquial definitions of causality, then sure, one is more real than the other.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I could propose a rephrasing of your concluding sentence: Scientific definitions generally refer more successfully (*) to their referents than do their colloquial counterparts. (The reality of the definitions themselves is not at issue; what is at issue is the reality of the target referent.)

            (*) But even this is not quite correct: it depends on how one measures success. Scientific definitions are generally more precise and have more general applicability. But abstraction has a cost, for example: "mass" as defined scientifically is an additional step removed from our experience of mass. We may have some qualitative experience of resistance to acceleration, but no qualia are directly associated with the abstraction F/a. Thus, in some respects we can more successfully refer a person to the referent of "mass" by talking about "what it's like to move a piano" than we can by introducing a scientific definition.

            In any case, I'm glad we both agree that the referent of "causality" is real.

          • I think we're getting more and more confused as this conversation draws on. I've defined causality in my other comments on this post. Look that up for reference.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It was Hume who dynamited the concept of causality and replaced it with correlation.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        The principle of relativity was recognized by Witelo in the Middle Ages and was used by Oresme in dismissing the apparent motion of the heavens as evidence for a stationary Earth. The "series of events" replacement comes from David Hume and (in the House of Submission) al-Ghazali. The latter famously held that fire did not cause the burning of cloth. It was only that the cloth blackened and disintegrated at the same time that fire was present.

        The crossing of worldlines was used by Aristotle as a description of chance events, not of caused events. He (and his followers) recognized both kinds.

        Causation as conceived by the ancients, Arabs, and medievals did not involve "events" but "things" (ouisia, or substantia). They were far more materialistic than Late Moderns and required that a thing have an act of existence before demanding that it have a cause.

        Relativity does not obviate causation. (One usually hears quantum theory assigned to this role.) Not everyone buys into Minkowski 4-space and Zeno's Paradoxes. That a mathematical description can be fitted is no demonstration that the description is physically real. An example is the epicycle, which accounted nicely for the retrograde motions of the superior planets (and other stellar phenomena) without ever having actual physical existence. Similarly, the Normal Distribution is a good model for the heights of adult male Frenchmen (one of its first applications, by Adolphe Quetelet). But that does not mean there is a "small but finite" probability of a Frenchmen seventeen feet tall. The Normal Distribution runs to infinity in both directions. Frenchmen do not. (And there if you like is an example of a pattern impacting on a boundary condition.

        The Minkowski block universe is due to the convenience of Riemannian geometry as a language in which to talk about relativity. However, as a physical object, it assumes it is possible to observe the universe from outside the universe, which would constitute a minor proof of the existence of God.

        "Explanation" may indeed be a better word, as would be "reason." But "relationship" is something different from explanation.

        • I can find nothing about Witelo and the principle of relativity. Can you send some evidence? I know Galileo came up with an early version of relativity in the 1600s, but he was doing science of course and afaik not a Thomist. Regarding al-Ghazali, Islam's metaphysics requires occassionalism, which Thomist comes eerily close to. And Parmenides of course came up with an early version of what we'd today call eternalism back before Socrates.

          Relativity does not obviate causation.

          It all depends on how you define causation of course. If you define it in a way that requires things making other things begin to exist, then yes, it does. If you define it as I did, then it doesn't.

          The Minkowski block universe is due to the convenience of Riemannian geometry as a language in which to talk about relativity. However, as a physical object, it assumes it is possible to observe the universe from outside the universe, which would constitute a minor proof of the existence of God.

          It makes no such assumption. You can't view spacetime outside of it, because you'd have to be outside of space and time, which is impossible. And it can't be a proof for an existence for god since an eternal universe cannot by definition be created. And the Minkowski block universe is not a mathematical concept. The empirical evidence supporting special relativity and general relativity require it. To deny the block universe, you may in fact have to resort to brute facts, ironically, about the nature of special relativity, since certain things about it will be unexplained.

          Relationships are really all that exist. A relationship between A and B, can explain B.

  • There are a number of problems in this post and several rejections one can give to this view. The first mistake begins a few sentences in:

    This article will assume the validity of the metaphysical first principles of non-contradiction and sufficient reason ... The universally true metaphysical principle of sufficient reason states that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be.

    The principle of sufficient reason is false, even if god exists. And this is because the claim that god is his own sufficient reason is not compatible with the PSR. Since god is identical to his will, and his will is not always necessary, a god with a different will is a different god. Since multiple wills are logically possible, multiple gods are logically possible. But we have just one. And saying, "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A," is the logical equivalent of saying, "The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did."

    Since it is not logically necessary for god to have eternally willed A rather than B, or anything else, the principle of sufficient reason requires that it's existence be explained by something contingent (which will lead to either an infinite regress of contingent explanations) or something else that is logically necessary. And since the logically necessary option is not available to the Thomist, the only two realistic options are an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact. See the flow chart below:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7421a9fa0355b67b2d1dd11b20309d3e04d29af045611d89a38135ede7b17e4.png

    Asserting that god's will is free is not only false, but even if it was free, it still wouldn't get Thomists out of the dilemma. His will will either have to be explained by necessity, or something contingent. Since necessity is not an option, you only have contingency, and contingency will lead you to only two options: either an infinite regress of contingent explanations or a brute fact. To avoid denying the principle of sufficient reason the theist must choose the infinite regress option. That is his only available option.

    Logical division tells us that this reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within that being (extrinsically). If a being is not its own sufficient reason, it necessarily follows that something else, called a “cause,” must be its reason.

    The claim "God is his own sufficient reason" can only be true if - and only if - that reason is logically necessary. And since it is not logically necessary that god eternally will A rather than B, and a god with an eternal will A is a different god than one with eternal will B, is a contingent reason.

    So a skeptic of Thomistic causality and first principles can safely reject this claim as it is not even compatible with the Thomist's own conception of god.

    Thus, an effect is a being whose sufficient reason is not intrinsic.

    That would apply to god A. His reason is not intrinsic, since his will is his substance and essence, and his will is not necessary.

    From this, it follows that an Uncaused First Cause, namely God, would have no need for a prior cause, since he would be his own sufficient reason for being.

    A being whose substance is not necessary is a being who cannot be his own sufficient reason for being. That would apply to the god of Thomism. Thomism and its metaphysics falls apart on his insight.

    But what if we have something that partially explains itself? In that case, the formula is elucidated by saying that to the extent that a being does not explain itself, it needs to have an extrinsic reason, or cause, to account for whatever it does not explain of itself. For example, while water’s nature may explain why it is wet, it does not explain why it is hot. Thus, its heat, which is extrinsic to its nature, must be explained by some extrinsic agent, such as a hot stove. In sum, adding both intrinsic reasons to extrinsic reasons, the totality of the being in question must be fully explained (whether all such reasons are fully known or not).

    And that would apply to the god of Thomism, since the will to create this particular and not any other, or no other, is a part of god's nature, and the will to create this particular and not any other, or no other, isn't necessary. To the extent that the god of Thomism has any necessary properties, it only partially explains god. It needs to have an extrinsic reason, or cause, to account for whatever it does not explain of itself. The Thomist would have to show that every aspect of god's nature is logically necessary, and Dr. Bonnette has already admitted that it isn't. Once you do so the logic above applies.

    Thanks to David Hume, we are used to thinking of a cause as something that invariably precedes its effect in temporal sequence, just as we expect that parents come before their children. This leads people to think of the causal regresses in St. Thomas’ Five Ways in terms of a series of causes going back in time. But this is entirely wrong.

    I understand that in Thomism there's the idea of top-down, vertical causation, but once you see that the whole metaphysic can't even support its own proposed solution, this whole idea implodes.

    The meaning of an effect is measured in terms of its being existentially dependent upon its cause. Simply put, you cannot remove an extrinsic sufficient reason (cause) on which something depends, and still expect the effect to continue to be.

    That of course makes no sense on eternalism. How could an eternal universe cease to be? Something that never came into, or goes out of existence cannot cease to exist. To claim your metaphysic shows that the universe is contingent and has no sufficient reason for its being, is to fail to see that your god has the same exact problem.

    In every moment of this detailed description, the universal causal principle was upheld. Every time the physical cause ceased causing its direct effect ceased being effected.

    Fundamentally speaking, there are no causes in the way we traditionally speak of them. There are simply just worldtubes or particles in spacetime and one point on the worldtube doesn't really "cause" a later point on the worldtube to exist. What causality really is would seem to have to be the relationships of intersecting worldtubes as they precede or intertwine with one another in spacetime; they're a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions. At the fundamental level, the word "cause" really should be replaced by the word "explanation" or "relationship."

    That's what science shows. If a metaphysical first principle is in contradiction with what science shows, then the metaphysical first principle is false.

    Also fundamentally, there is no directionality in time, and since the metaphysical first principle of causality here requires the direction of time not only flow, but be intrinsic, that's not something supported by any good evidence.

    Hence the principle is false.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Once again, despite my intention not to re-argue the metaphysical first principles, you have raised the claim that somehow the “logical possibility” that God could have made some other choice for creation than he did as a proof that a brute fact exists, since there is no reason why he would have made this choice rather than that one. And, since the divine simplicity
      implies that God’s very essence is identical to his own choice, this would be
      tantamount to allowing that we would have a God B as opposed to a God A with no reason why one existed rather than the other. Hence a brute fact exists.

      A single brute fact undoes the universal validity of the principle of sufficient reason. Or else, you argue, if there was a necessity that forces that there be only God A with his choice to create this particular world, then God’s creation would be necessary, which contradicts the Christian dogma of free creation.

      Your whole argument is based on pseudo-logic. Notice, it starts with “logical possibility,” not a real or ontological possibility. Logical possibility is the weakest form of possibility, ruling out nothing but self-contradictory claims. As long as the terms of the hypothesis are not evidently self-contradictory, something is claimed to be “logically possible.”

      By this standard the following claim is “logically possible:” The Ringling Brothers Circus will hold an encore performance in the atmosphere of Jupiter on next Christmas Eve.” Nothing in the terms appears evidently self-contradictory, but would you really think any of it is possible? No, because the reality implications are clearly impossible and contradictory – not the terms themselves. The standard of real possibility is not playing with words, but presenting an hypothesis that is metaphysically possible, that is, it could really happen.

      You try to spin a web of seemingly logical terms, like “necessary” and “contingent,” as if they had the same signification and referents in each and
      every case, ignoring ontological complexities, such as how God is necessary
      with respect to his existence, but not necessary with respect to the choice of
      lesser goods than his own goodness. Reality is not just a game of logic, but
      must conform to the real being of the world and of God as they actually exist.

      If you look back at my article on Metaphysical First Principles as well as the first of my comments in the newest order, you will see that the traditional concept of God is entirely coherent. You use the term, “necessary,” in a logically sloppy manner, trying to conflate God’s necessity of existing with an exclusion of freedom, but this was fully explained by me on the First Principles web page in terms of him being necessary with respect to
      existence and the divine names, but not necessary with respect to creation of goods lesser than his own infinite goodness. The distinction between necessary and non-necessary objects of his will pertains solely to a diversity in the objects of his will, not to a composition or contradiction in his own essence. Hence, God is properly conceived as eternally identical to his unchanging free choice to have created this particular world.

      As an eternal free choice to create this world, it becomes suppositionally necessary that he has eternally made this choice and no other, but that supposition in no way inhibits his true freedom. It is merely a matter of noting that, since he did in fact make this choice, it is necessary that this choice is made.

      Since there is one and only one true God whose eternal act of free will is factually identical with his eternal being, it is metaphysically impossible that God could ever have existed in any other manner. That is, the so-called “God B, C, D, or whatever” is not a metaphysical possibility at all – even less so than the Ringling Brothers Circus on Jupiter I described earlier. In fact, to suggest that such an “alternative God” or “alternative choice for God” is a logical possibility is, in fact, a logical impossibility – given the factual existence of the one and only true God with his one and only free act of will – since the supposition of another God contradicts the factual existence of only one possible God, the one who exists in actual fact. His existence as the only true God is not a mere assertion, since it is the product of careful demonstration in the science of metaphysics. I postulate its validity for purposes of this argument.

      You claim, “Since multiple wills are logically possible, multiple gods are logically possible.”

      This is a perfect example of the logical sloppiness of treating God like a logic lesson for beginners. Multiple wills sound “logically possible,” but they are not ontologically possible, since God has de facto and eternally exercised his will in a specific way with respect to the willing of lesser goods than his own goodness. It is a done deal. So, the fact that the “wills” do not contradict each other does not make them all equally related to actual existence. Solely the one that actually exists is real, and therefore, possible. No other act of will is ontologically possible. Since no other will is really possible, the same applies to your “multiple gods.” One will, one true God. No other “Gods” are actually possible. Remove them from your assumptions.

      Moreover, there is no need for a reason why God A exists as opposed to God B, since God B was never possible at all, and you don’t need a special reason to be different than something that does not exist. God is his own reason for existing, and his free will is its own reason for his free choice.

      God being his own sufficient reason for existing does not violate the principle of sufficient reason. The principle merely affirms that there must be a reason, not where it must exist. Metaphysically, God is his own reason for existing because he is the only being in which essence is identical to existence. Hence, he exists necessarily. Again, this is the classical concept of God that you are attacking as allegedly "logically" incoherent.

      Incidentally, how do we know God exists? That is not the proper topic of this web page, but it is the product of the entire subject of metaphysics applying the principle of sufficient reason, among other principles and truths, to the evidence presented by the world in which we live. I strongly suspect that the reason why atheists so vehemently wish to reject the principle of sufficient reason is simply because they realize that, once you grant its validity, it becomes much more difficult to prevent the human mind from being led from the evidence of this world back to the existence of an Ultimate Sufficient Reason for all that exists, namely, the traditional God.

      And it is perfectly kosher to use the PSR to prove God’s existence and properties, since your argument against him here fails if we can use reason to prove that he can exist as is proposed by classical metaphysics. I have shown that his existence is not a brute fact, since it is your logic that has proven false as show above. Hence there was no exception to the PSR and it can be used freely to prove God’s existence.

      Moreover, in intellectual honesty, you should face the fact that once you destroy the principle of sufficient reason in any single instance -- as you falsely claim you have, you can never be sure that it applies anywhere or at any time. You don’t get to pick and choose. The entire order of science and common sense and human thought becomes Alice in Wonderland, since you can never know when anything has a reason or not. No convenient assumptions that it works for just science when you think you need it. It can never be trusted again.

      I made the case for this in my previous OP on first principles, but it needs to be faced squarely by those who would deny it. Never again can the mind ask “why” of anything and be confident that a reason exists. The logic of all mental inferences becomes useless, since reasons need never be given or even expected. And if the real world does not conform to the way the mind works, then we have a name for that: psychosis.

      The price for abandoning the principle of sufficient reason is to abandon reason itself, since the human mind reasons by giving reasons for all its truth claims. No reasons given, no reason to take any claims seriously. No reasons needed, no need or ability to reason. Atheists are literally willing to abandon reason to get rid of God.

      See my original article on the Metaphysical First Principles and first comment as ordered by "newest" mentioned above.

      Leon Bloy was right.

      • StardusytPsyche

        "Notice, it starts with “logical possibility,” not a real or ontological possibility"
        --Indeed.

        This is where the ontological argument breaks down even if one were to grant it was otherwise sound. A mere logical possibility does not necessitate a realizable possibility.

        Thomistic arguments break down for a number of reasons, But even if we put aside the invalid logic and incompleteness of the Five Ways there simply is no call for a hierarchical or ontological first mover, since persistence of existence is no change and thus calls for no changer, and change is necessarily a temporal process calling for a temporal first cause or an infinite regression of temporal causes.

      • You have still utterly failed to grasp the problem you're in. I call on all other commenters to weigh in.

        God could have made some other choice for creation than he did as a proof that a brute fact exists, since there is no reason why he would have made this choice rather than that one.

        Not quite. There is no logically necessary reason why he would have made this choice rather than that one. And using your own logic, a thing's explanation can only be held within its nature (necessary), or dependent on something else (contingent). Since there is no necessary option for you on the table, the explanation can only be contingent, and that will lead you to only two possible options, none of which are favorable to the theist. This is your own logic being spit out back at you

        Your whole argument is based on pseudo-logic.

        No, rather your argument for god is entirely based on pseudo-logic. I'm simply just giving you your same logic that you apply to the universe but showing how it doesn't comply very well with god, and you're telling me it's pseudo logic.

        Notice, it starts with “logical possibility,” not a real or ontological possibility. Logical possibility is the weakest form of possibility, ruling out nothing but self-contradictory claims. As long as the terms of the hypothesis are not evidently self-contradictory, something is claimed to be “logically possible.”

        Not at all. And that's because god B has just as much reason to exist as god A does, and you admit that there is no logically necessary reason why god A does exist, and not god B. This is a huge problem for the Thomist. He argues that only one god exists because only one god can possibly exist logically. You forfeit that claim once you admit there's no logically possible reason for god A to exist rather than god B.

        The standard of real possibility is not playing with words, but presenting an hypothesis that is metaphysically possible, that is, it could really happen.

        The whole presentation of god in Thomism is a play of words. None of its core terms have anything to do with reality. They are mere esoteric word salads that fool people into thinking they mean business. If you can argue after the fact that a non-necessary being has to exist simply because it does (which is exactly what you did when you said, "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did.") then I can argue that a non-necessary universe exists because it does. And if you want to claim that god A has to exist go ahead and make a logical argument proving that.

        You try to spin a web of seemingly logical terms, like “necessary” and “contingent,” as if they had the same signification and referents in each and every case, ignoring ontological complexities, such as how God is necessary with respect to his existence, but not necessary with respect to the choice of lesser goods than his own goodness.

        If there was ever an example of special pleading, you've made that here. Saying "God" is necessary with respect to his existence only at best gets you to the logical necessity of some god existing, it doesn't get you god A rather than god B because you cannot make a case that one is more necessary than the other.

        Reality is not just a game of logic, but must conform to the real being of the world and of God as they actually exist.

        So the Thomist who uses arm chair philosophy to "deduce" god's necessary existence is now telling me that you can't use logic to apply to god. Special pleading.

        If you look back at my article on Metaphysical First Principles as well as the first of my comments in the newest order, you will see that the traditional concept of God is entirely coherent.

        I've already pointed out a number of ways the traditional concept of god is not at all coherent and all you really have as a rebuttal is special pleading and the claim that we can't fully understand god.

        You use the term, “necessary,” in a logically sloppy manner, trying to conflate God’s necessity of existing with an exclusion of freedom, but this was fully explained by me on the First Principles web page in terms of him being necessary with respect to existence and the divine names, but not necessary with respect to creation of goods lesser than his own infinite goodness.

        Which god necessarily exists? God A or god B? Or is it god T? Can you logically prove one over the other? No. So none of your arguments work. I've already refuted all of them using the same logic you use against the atheist. I'm simply just taking the PSR to its logical conclusion. When I show it leads to places you don't like, you employ special pleading.

        For the 10th time, you cannot make the claim that god A necessarily exists and once you admit that you cannot make the claim that god necessarily exists since your own metaphysics requires that god is identical to his will, and that a god with a different eternal will is a different god.

        The distinction between necessary and non-necessary objects of his will pertains solely to a diversity in the objects of his will, not to a composition or contradiction in his own essence. Hence, God is properly conceived as eternally identical to his unchanging free choice to have created this particular world.

        If his essence is his will and vice versa, then a god with a different will has a different essence. Since god's will can contain many possible things that are not logically necessary, many gods could exist. You can't justify one existing because it does. That's circular reasoning. If his essence contains something non-necessary, and you claim god's essence is necessary, then there is a contradiction. No amount of word salads are going to help you here.

        As an eternal free choice to create this world, it becomes suppositionally necessary that he has eternally made this choice and no other, but that supposition in no way inhibits his true freedom. It is merely a matter of noting that, since he did in fact make this choice, it is necessary that this choice is made.

        This is that word salad again. Suppositionally means something that is supposed; assumption; hypothesis. Are you saying that it's assumed? It seems to me that you trying to say that if god wills something, it isn't necessary, but whatever god wills, is necessary. But I'd like to remind you that just because something exists, it doesn't make it necessary. Thomists argue that god is logically necessary: god cannot fail to exist. And they have elaborate arguments that attempt to demonstrate this via pure logic. But you cannot argue that god A has to exist, because it just so happens that god A does. Unless you can terminate in a logically necessary reason, you have to result in an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact.

        A god whose will could not have been different ontologically speaking has no free will. It makes no sense to say a will is "free" if there isn't an actual ontological possibility of it having been different. If all of your choices had zero ontological possibility of being different, you don't have free will.

        Since there is one and only one true God whose eternal act of free will is factually identical with his eternal being, it is metaphysically impossible that God could ever have existed in any other manner.

        But it isn't logically impossible, and once you lose that you lose the ability to prove god A exists is necessary. I can just as easily say our eternal universe exists and that it's metaphysically possible that it could have existed in another manner. And if you say that the universe is contingent and needs a necessary explanation, I will kindly remind you that you don't have a necessary explanation of why god willed this universe, and only leaves you with a contingent one.

        In fact, to suggest that such an “alternative God” or “alternative choice for God” is a logical possibility is, in fact, a logical impossibility – given the factual existence of the one and only true God with his one and only free act of will – since the supposition of another God contradicts the factual existence of only one possible God, the one who exists in actual fact.

        Hold your horses, buddy. I hate to tell you, but it isn't a fact that god exists. If you have to resort to special pleading to make your case, and ignore the same logic you use in other areas when it's inconvenient to you, it shows you have a weak argument. A Logical possibility is simply something that could be the case. God B could have been the eternal god. You can't justify god A after the fact, and claim that god A is necessary because it exists. By that same logic, our eternal universe is necessary because it eternally exists. No god needed.

        Again, your issue here is the PSR. Saying god A is necessary because god A exists is not a sufficient reason. It is a circular reason.

        His existence as the only true God is not a mere assertion, since it is the product of careful demonstration in the science of metaphysics. I postulate its validity for purposes of this argument.

        Um no, When you say, "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did." a you make a circular assertion. That is a brute fact. It doesn't tell me why god A exists and not god B. It just says god A does, and god B doesn't. You have to be blind not to see the glaring hypocrisy here.

        Multiple wills sound “logically possible,” but they are not ontologically possible, since God has de facto and eternally exercised his will in a specific way with respect to the willing of lesser goods than his own goodness. It is a done deal. So, the fact that the “wills” do not contradict each other does not make them all equally related to actual existence. Solely the one that actually exists is real, and therefore, possible. No other act of will is ontologically possible. Since no other will is really possible, the same applies to your “multiple gods.” One will, one true God. No other “Gods” are actually possible. Remove them from your assumptions.

        But logical possibility and necessity are what matters here because your argument for why god has to exist is based entirely on logical necessity through claiming that god necessitates a certain essence that makes it so he cannot fail to exist. Then when I show you that his essence isn't actually necessary, you resort to a kind of justification-after-the-fact by saying god A exists, and so god A is necessary.

        Why don't you just admit that you are special pleading? Admit that you require that logic not apply to your god?

        Moreover, there is no need for a reason why God A exists as opposed to God B, since God B was never possible at all, and you don’t need a special reason to be different than something that does not exist. God is his own reason for existing, and his free will is its own reason for his free choice.

        If the necessity that backs up god A is just as good as the necessity that backs up god B, then you have no other explanation for why god A exists other than god A just does. If I said the Zoroastrian god Mazda exists and therefore no other god was possible, you would immediately object saying Mazda isn't logically necessary. But them you'd be forgetting that neither is god A.

        God being his own sufficient reason for existing does not violate the principle of sufficient reason. The principle merely affirms that there must be a reason, not where it must exist.

        It does, because you only have two options for reasons: necessary or contingent. And since god A is not necessary, you have a brute fact you cannot avoid.

        Metaphysically, God is his own reason for existing because he is the only being in which essence is identical to existence. Hence, he exists necessarily

        You should actually specify god A when you say this because this is what you mean. Now imagine saying this: Metaphysically, God A is his own reason for existing because he is the only being in which essence is identical to existence. Hence, he exists necessarily.

        This would be true for god B just as much: Metaphysically, God B is his own reason for existing because he is the only being in which essence is identical to existence. Hence, he exists necessarily.

        You are still in complete denial here. I guess your job requires that you not understand the problem you're in.

        I strongly suspect that the reason why atheists so vehemently wish to reject the principle of sufficient reason is simply because they realize that, once you grant its validity, it becomes much more difficult to prevent the human mind from being led from the evidence of this world back to the existence of an Ultimate Sufficient Reason for all that exists, namely, the traditional God.

        Not at all. In fact, I've granted the PSR for the sake of argument and applied it to the god of classical theism and that god fails to be explained necessarily.

        And it is perfectly kosher to use the PSR to prove God’s existence and properties, since your argument against him here fails if we can use reason to prove that he can exist as is proposed by classical metaphysics. I have shown that his existence is not a brute fact, since it is your logic that has proven false as show above. Hence there was no exception to the PSR and it can be used freely to prove God’s existence.

        Sorry, but special pleading is not an argument. And your justification for god is after the fact: God A exists, so it necessarily exists, even there is no logically necessary reason why. Something isn't logically necessary just because it exists. Your whole logic fails to support your view.

        Moreover, in intellectual honesty, you should face the fact that once you destroy the principle of sufficient reason in any single instance -- as you falsely claim you have, you can never be sure that it applies anywhere or at any time. You don’t get to pick and choose.

        No because we understand the laws of physics that apply to the universe and they show that things have reasons in the universe, because all things follow the laws of physics, and those laws show patterns in the world.

        Mind you, you also to fail to see that the law of causality as you describe it necessitates determinism, and that free will is false.

        The entire order of science and common sense and human thought becomes Alice in Wonderland, since you can never know when anything has a reason or not. No convenient assumptions that it works for just science when you think you need it. It can never be trusted again.

        You've said this numerous and it's false. You can't say that science becomes impossible to do if one rejects the PSR while at the same time say that science can't answer the fundamental questions. Also, you can't take induction and turn it into a metaphysical principle. Logic doesn't allow that.

        Never again can the mind ask “why” of anything and be confident that a reason exists.

        We have very good reasons to think, due to what we know about physics, that all things in the universe have explanations. But brute facts are unavoidable and no amount of special pleading or word salads will get you out of that. God A doesn't necessarily exist because god A exists. (And also, it isn't a fact that god A exists).

        The logic of all mental inferences becomes useless, since reasons need never be given or even expected.

        Not at all. You're really bad at this. Asking why is perfectly reasonable, since as far as we can tell, all things in the universe have explanations. But every why question will not have one.

        And if the real world does not conform to the way the mind works, then we have a name for that: psychosis.

        There's another name for that, it's called religion. Your view of causality is hopelessly out of line with what causality actually is. That's why one can safely reject Thomism's metaphysics.

        The price for abandoning the principle of sufficient reason is to abandon reason itself, since the human mind reasons by giving reasons for all its truth claims.

        Not at all. Reason actually points to the fact that the PSR is false. The human mind is also very good at making up explanations to quench its thirst for explanation.

        No reasons given, no reason to take any claims seriously. No reasons needed, no need or ability to reason. Atheists are literally willing to abandon reason to get rid of God.

        This is not a serious reason: "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did."

        It's a circular reason. Therefore according to your own logic, there's no reason to take it seriously.

        There's no abandonment of reason by the atheist. Reason in fact tells us that not everything can have a reason. In fact, it's logically impossible given the Münchhausen trilemma, which states there are only three options when providing an explanation or proof of a given situation:

        The circular argument, in which theory and proof support each other
        The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum
        The axiomatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts

        • Dennis Bonnette

          First, what is this about, “I call on all other commenters to weigh?” Is this a call for a high tech lynching of a Thomist? Of Thomists? Of Catholicism? Of the Christian God?

          Yours appears to be an argument by inundation. Your first
          comment was more of the length of an OP itself, instead of the usual comment of a few paragraphs at most, where the commenter makes a point, asks a question, or issues a challenge.

          Instead you offer a carefully worked out diatribe against the possibility of God and/or the principle of sufficient reason – neither of which was the topic of my OP. Yet, it is consistent with something you said on a previous thread, namely, that you had worked out a logical tool with which to defeat Thomism and intended to use it any time you could. Complete with a highly complex schematic using questionably univocal terms, such as “necessary” and “contingent.”

          I must point out that my OP’s never attempted to prove the existence of God, but were narrowly focused on their stated thesis: defense of the first principles or to explain more fully the concept of causality used in the Five Ways. Nor did I attempt to prove that no infinite regress among essential cause is possible, as certain other commenters have assumed. Such would be good subject matter for a separate OP, but was not attempted here.

          My response will not be as long as yours. You have proposed a model in which any God is either a brute fact, or else, lacks freedom. The former appears to be your preferred solution, since it eliminates the universal validity of the principle of sufficient reason.

          I have explained in detail here and in the prior OP how God can be both eternal, unique, and free. But it is not my obligation to prove the existence and nature of God in this OP or the prior one. You have proposed a model attacking any concept of God, claiming that your argument is impregnable.

          My answer to you is to present the concept of the Christian God, a concept of the living God developed over two thousand years by Christian philosophers and theologians. One should expect that such a concept is not easily defeated.

          The Christian understanding of God is that of an eternal
          Infinite Being, who is identical to his own free act of creating this particular world. It is not my obligation to explain and defend every detail of how this is possible, although careful reading of my previous posts do explain how proper understanding of necessity and freedom in God achieves perfect consistency.

          You propose a model of God A and God B in which you
          demand to know how they can be free without having a difference which is simply a brute fact for which no sufficient reason can be offered. This is where you model of “Gods” breaks down, since it is a pure hypothetical, utterly abstracted from the concrete reality of the situation claimed by Christian speculation. That is, the Christian God is understood as an actual reality whose actual choice is an accomplished fact. The fact we must add to your hypothesis is that we now know that God did in fact create this particular world.

          Logical possibilities do not fit this existential fact. Given that God is identical with his own free choice, this means that he is already self-identified with this particular eternal free choice – and that means that no other “free choice” is ontologically possible. Hence, God B, C, D, etc., fails to be a real alternative possibility. Your “logical possibility” is, indeed, like the Ringling Brothers performing on Jupiter – factually
          impossible.

          Your “proof” demands a sufficient reason why God A exists
          and God B does not. Since there is no God B, all that is required is a sufficient reason for God A to exist and your proof goes up in smoke. The Christian concept says that God is his own sufficient reason and that his free will is its own sufficient reason for its choice. There is no need for any “external” sufficient reason here to distinguish God A from the impossible God B. Your alleged proof fails in the face of what is actually claimed about the Christian God.

          In fact, your model does not work for the Christian God
          in any event, whether he chooses to make this world or not. The moment you have a God with the nature of the Christian God, he necessarily has free will and must exercise it with respect to whether to create lesser goods than to simply
          will his own goodness. That free choice is its own eternal sufficient reason for whatever is chosen and thereby automatically excludes any “possible” alternative choice, leaving you in the same situation, with no need for any
          external application of the PSR. In principle, your model fails in the face of Christian speculation about the nature of the actual God.

          I need not even assume that said speculation is true. I am merely asserting that there is a Christian understanding of God which steps completely around the logical claims you have proposed as universally applicable.

          Special pleading? No, because you don’t get to specify the attributes of the Gods in your model – not when a perfectly coherent alternative God is proposed (and can be proven to exist) that destroys the logic of your argument.

          Speaking of special pleading, your insistence that “explanations” or “reasons” can be operative for the purposes of science is a selective pleading needed to preserve your scientistic world view. As I argued at length earlier, this is trying to have your cake and eat it too. You want to destroy the PSR, but then have enough of it left around for another helping when you need it. If you destroy it, it is gone – and reality becomes Wonderland, while the mind becomes psychotically unsure it ever conforms to reality.

          As I said, Leon Bloy was right.

          • BCE

            Dear Dr Bonnette
            I don't see that * The Thinker is actually following the rules of logic.
            you are being generous

            There is no God B, C, D
            if x+y=z z-x=y is the axiom but I use 2+3=5 then 5-2=3
            x may come from the infinite set of all numbers.
            The axiom doesn't change, but once 2 is chosen then 2 is 2 for subsets.
            One does not create a new axiom, or essence
            the law( governing principle) of the equation doesn't change
            there is no God B, C, D, ...
            A choice is not an extraction from the "all"
            *The Thinker may be confused or intentionally manipulating Boolean logic

          • I don't think your examples bear any coherence with the topic being discussed.

          • BCE

            Then I guess you're not familiar with Boole, syllogism, or modal
            which are logic principles applied to math, sets, and reasoned premises
            It applies to math and premise, so just as you can detect a math error, you can detect a flawed conclusion or paradox

          • Yes, and that's how I detected the error with Thomism: using logic correctly without any special pleading and gross assertions.

          • Richard Morley

            First, what is this about, “I call on all other commenters to weigh?”

            See http://dilbert.com/strip/1997-08-17

            My response will not be as long as yours.

            Actually, if you only count original text and not text quoted for context, I believe yours is longer.

            Which, to be fair, does count as not being 'as long' in the strictest sense.

            More to the point, you do not answer my post. Not even the query about what formulation of the PSR you are using, which must surely be relevant?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I knew about the principle of sufficient reason long before I ever heard of Leibniz's version. You can find my Thomistic understanding of it back on the Metaphysical First Principles web page.

            St. Thomas Aquinas did not use the exact formulation of Leibniz, but even Leibniz admitted he did not invent the concept. See the editorial summary on this book:

            https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Aquinas-Principle-Sufficient-Reason/dp/1534982256

          • Richard Morley

            Given that Leibniz coined the phrase, that seems an unfortunate bias in your education.

            But regardless, you still shy away from explicitly stating your version of the PSR, beyond waving at a rather large block of text and implying that it is in there somewhere.

            Did you mean this:

            As to the need for reasons or causes, anyone making a philosophical claim must give reasons for his claim. No one can simply make a claim and expect it to be accepted just because he said it. The question instantly arises, “Why do you make this claim?” The claimant must give reasons for his claim, and the reasons must be adequate–or else, no one will listen to him. In other words, the reasons given for a claim stand as causes of the truth of the claim in the hearer’s mind.

            This only applies to some person making a claim, where you might get away with your argument that God 'must have' 'chosen' to cause this universe because we observe that this universe exists. But then we could discard God from the argument entirely and just say that this universe exists because we observe that it does. This is not what is generally understood by the PSR.

            If we interpret it more in Leibniz' sense of the statement requiring a logical reason why it is true and not just empirical evidence that it is true, you are stuck in the logical quandary already mentioned, leading to a necessary universe.

            You also seem to include the clause that the sufficient reason explain why A is so and not otherwise. (?)

            In sum, adding both intrinsic reasons to extrinsic reasons, the totality of the being in question must be fully explained (whether all such reasons are fully known or not).

            This would surely include explaining why it is the way it is and not otherwise. So again, you seem to be using the full Leibniz PSR when it suits you, but with a somewhat obfuscated get out clause for 'free will', at least in the case of God.

            As I argued deep in the bowels of the combox of your 'Metaphysical Principles' article, the full version of Leibniz' PSR is indeed what we intuitively see as 'self evident'.

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

            We don't just shrug and say that the switch must have free will.

          • Rob Abney

            Richard, I read Leibniz's Monadology looking for your interpretation of the PSR, it's not there. You are correct when you say he ended the phrase with "and not otherwise" but that phrase was restating the principle of non-contradiction. If I am wearing a blue shirt it is obvious that I am not wearing a red shirt. The PSR is used to show that I chose the blue shirt and it canot be a red shirt because it is a blue shirt. You want it to say I chose this blue shirt and here are the exhaustive reasons why I didn't choose a red shirt, a yellow shirt, a green shirt....

          • Richard Morley

            My posts are again vanishing as 'spam', so I'll try posting this in two parts:

            For anyone struggling to follow this interchange, Rob is referring back to a discussion between the two of us in the combox of Dr Bonnette's "Are Metaphysical Principles Universally True?" article, starting with this post:
            https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/#comment-3502064077

            Richard, I read Leibniz's Monadology looking for your interpretation of the PSR, it's not there.

            That is false as anyone can see for themselves. The text is online in many places, both in the original and in translation, for example here:
            https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/leibniz.htm
            Paragraph 32:

            32. And second, the principle of sufficient reason, in virtue of which we believe that no fact can be real or existing and no statement true unless it has a sufficient reason why it should be thus and not otherwise. Most frequently, however, these reasons cannot be known by us.

            This is where the PSR was first formulated under that name. Other philosophers used similar concepts, but Leibniz formulated it clearly and named it.

          • Richard Morley

            You are correct when you say he ended the phrase with "and not otherwise" but that phrase was restating the principle of non-contradiction.

            Now that is a different claim, not that the text is "not there", but that you disagree with my interpretation. Yet again, one who has displayed such hair trigger sensitivity towards perceived insults from others should be a bit more careful in insinuating such things.

            But no, I disagree strongly that the text can be read just to mean that a thing needs a sufficient reason to be, and obviously cannot be otherwise than what it is. It very clearly means that no statement can be true unless it has a sufficient reason why it should be thus and a sufficient reason why it is not otherwise.

            Nor do you address my point that even a truncated version (that "no fact can be real or existing and no statement true unless it has a sufficient reason why it should be thus") can simply be applied to the statement "A is thus and not otherwise" to reach the exact same conclusion. the text "and not otherwise" only clarifies the import of the principle.

          • James Chilton

            Can you imagine any of the theists at Strange Notions becoming atheists, and saying so, after being "converted" by your ingenious arguments?

            I doubt that any minds are changed here - even among the "lurkers" who follow the discussions but seldom if ever participate in them.

          • Richard Morley

            Can you imagine any of the theists at Strange Notions becoming atheists, and saying so, after being "converted" by your ingenious arguments?

            No, in short. Not just here, and not just on the issue of whether or not God exists.

            On topics that are fairly minor to the believer, such as what is likely to be understood by 'the Principle of Sufficient Reason' (without qualification) or whether same sex marriage existed in other cultures, maybe, but not the big stuff.

            At most one hopes to improve the others' understanding of one's own arguments, yours of theirs, or even yours of your own due to having to articulate and defend your beliefs.

          • James Chilton

            For the impartial spectator, it's like watching a boxing match of indefinite duration in which neither contestant can ever land a knockout punch.

            As a rule, religious convictions aren't held purely on intellectual grounds: there's also an emotional investment that's probably impervious to skeptical inquiry.

          • Rob Abney

            O' ye of little faith.

          • Rob Abney

            But no, I disagree strongly that the text can be read just to mean that a thing needs a sufficient reason to be, and obviously cannot be otherwise than what it is. It very clearly means that no statement can be true unless it has a sufficient reason why it should be thus and a sufficient reason why it is not otherwise

            Can you find any support for this that you can reference? You may reply that I should find support for my interpretation also, but I think the support for mine is that no earlier proponents added the last portion of the phrase.

          • Richard Morley

            I have referenced and quoted where Leibniz says that quite explicitly. If you can read that as you claim to do, I don't see what more explicit statement could exist. Especially as he had just formally expressed the principle of [non] contradiction, so it hardly makes sense for him to repeat it in the second of his two fundamental principles.

            I have also pointed out how the truncated version still implies the same conclusion, just not as explicitly.

            I have further pointed out how the full PSR is indeed what we intuitively believe.

          • Rob Abney

            The point of asking for reference to others' interpretations is because you and I interpret it differently.
            If the PSR only means a sufficient reason for some thing's existence and not the addition of a reason why it can't be another thing (other than the principle of non-contradiction); then your next premise has less weight, that the PSR must also explain why all other possibilities were not chosen. (This has been a convoluted thread but I think I have focused here on our main differences, correct me if not).

          • Richard Morley

            Why on earth would someone else's interpretation of what Leibniz wrote be more authoritative than his own very clear and explicit formulation of the PSR, which you continue to insinuate is somehow my interpretation rather than a direct and accurate quote?

            If you can misinterpret that as only applying to something's existence, you will surely interpret any other phrasing in the same way.

            You continue to ignore the point that the full PSR does indeed represent what seems intuitively self evident to us, and the point that the truncated PSR without "and not otherwise" still implies the same thing.

          • Rob Abney

            I should have made it more clear, it was your "interpretation" that wasn't there, or at least I did not find any text of his that supported your interpretation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you look at my reply immediately above, you will see that I offered you a source indicating that Leibniz himself admits that he did not discover the PSR, but that it already existed before him.

            The formulation I frequently use is stated at the beginning of this very same OP in which this thread appears:

            "The universally true metaphysical principle of sufficient reason states
            that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or
            coming-to-be"

            I apologize for referring you back to the prior OP. I knew I had already stated it, but forgot it was in the same OP to which this thread is attached.

          • Richard Morley

            Fair enough, but I stick by my claim that the full version, as formulated and named by Leibniz, is both what we intuitively perceive as 'self evident' and what you appear to be using in practice, most of the time, as shown by the statements of yours that I quoted.

            Again, while I don't disagree that earlier philosophers used similar concepts (even Aquinas reused earlier philosophers ideas) Leibniz named it and formulated it clearly.

          • First, what is this about, “I call on all other commenters to weigh?” Is this a call for a high tech lynching of a Thomist? Of Thomists? Of Catholicism? Of the Christian God?

            Not at all. I just want others to chime to offer 3rd party perspectives to see if they can offer perspective on who is making sense here. I think I am, and you think you are. What do the others think?

            Yours appears to be an argument by inundation.

            If I don't respond to your relevant points I can always be accused of ignoring a pertinent argument you made.

            I must point out that my OP’s never attempted to prove the existence of God, but were narrowly focused on their stated thesis: defense of the first principles or to explain more fully the concept of causality used in the Five Ways.

            I know, and I addressed the causality part, that you basically ignored in my comment. But since everything you post here is built upon your first principles, someone who disagrees with it will have to target your first principles, since everything flows from them. So I can't exactly be blamed from attacking them.

            You have proposed a model in which any God is either a brute fact, or else, lacks freedom.

            No. I have provided a model in which any god is either a brute fact, or has an infinite chain of contingent explanations - given the logic behind the PSR.

            The Christian understanding of God is that of an eternal Infinite Being, who is identical to his own free act of creating this particular world.

            It is those very properties that lead you to the problem you face.

            You propose a model of God A and God B in which you demand to know how they can be free without having a difference which is simply a brute fact for which no sufficient reason can be offered. This is where you model of “Gods” breaks down, since it is a pure hypothetical, utterly abstracted from the concrete reality of the situation claimed by Christian speculation. That is, the Christian God is understood as an actual reality whose actual choice is an accomplished fact. The fact we must add to your hypothesis is that we now know that God did in fact create this particular world.

            The freedom of the will of a being that cannot be ontologically different is only one aspect of the problem you face. It's the aspect that negates "free will" as an explanation for why god "chose" A vs B. It's hard the believe that you actually think a being that has no other possible ontological state of will, or will act, when that will is not logically necessary has freedom of the will.

            In order to demonstrate that the Christian god is an actual reality whose choice is an accomplished fact you first need to make an argument for why a god with an eternal will act to create this universe exists necessarily, and since you've already admitted there is no logically necessary reason why god A exists, you cannot demonstrate that. All you can do is argue after that fact: It is not necessary for god to will our universe, but because our universe exists, it was necessary.

            Do you not see the problem with this logic?

            Logical possibilities do not fit this existential fact. Given that God is identical with his own free choice, this means that he is already self-identified with this particular eternal free choice – and that means that no other “free choice” is ontologically possible. Hence, God B, C, D, etc., fails to be a real alternative possibility. Your “logical possibility” is, indeed, like the Ringling Brothers performing on Jupiter – factually impossible.

            What this demonstrates is that the whole edifice of your metaphysic backing up your god A is flawed. I can just as easily argue that since our eternal universe exists, no other ontological possibility was possible, and that therefore the universe contains its own sufficient reason for existing - no god required. If you claim god is required, but you use the same logic I did for trying to explain why a non-necessary god A exists, you've done nothing to show you have a logical edge over mine, and you've grossly violated Ockham's Razor.

            Your “proof” demands a sufficient reason why God A exists and God B does not. Since there is no God B, all that is required is a sufficient reason for God A to exist and your proof goes up in smoke.

            You don't have a sufficient reason, and thus your rebuttal goes up in smoke. Your "sufficient reason" is: "God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did."

            How you're unable to see the glaring failure on your part to cope with the PSR is beyond me. I assume it's because you're so deep in the hole of Thomism you can't see the light above you anymore.

            The Christian concept says that God is his own sufficient reason and that his free will is its own sufficient reason for its choice.

            I don't care what the Christian concept says I care about what they can demonstrate. And you sir cannot demonstrate - let alone prove - that your god has a sufficient reason for A and not B. Merely stating A is explained because A exists is not a sufficient reason.

            There is no need for any “external” sufficient reason here to distinguish God A from the impossible God B. Your alleged proof fails in the face of what is actually claimed about the Christian God.

            Yes there is, because "God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did" utterly fails as a sufficient reason for why god A exists. What is claimed about the Christian god is just that: a claim. It is not a proof or even a demonstration.

            The moment you have a God with the nature of the Christian God, he necessarily has free will and must exercise it with respect to whether to create lesser goods than to simply will his own goodness.

            Sorry, but until you can logically demonstrate how a being with only one possible ontological state has free will, you have no right to claim such a being "necessarily" has free will. Claiming something isn't showing something.

            In principle, your model fails in the face of Christian speculation about the nature of the actual God.

            Oh so, it is mere speculation that you are banking on?

            I need not even assume that said speculation is true. I am merely asserting that there is a Christian understanding of God which steps completely around the logical claims you have proposed as universally applicable.

            And you are aware that you cannot define a thing into existence, right?

            Special pleading? No, because you don’t get to specify the attributes of the Gods in your model – not when a perfectly coherent alternative God is proposed (and can be proven to exist) that destroys the logic of your argument.

            Oh you can prove god A exists, and god B cannot in a perfectly coherent argument??? Please I've been begging to hear that argument. Where is it?

            Speaking of special pleading, your insistence that “explanations” or “reasons” can be operative for the purposes of science is a selective pleading needed to preserve your scientistic world view. As I argued at length earlier, this is trying to have your cake and eat it too. You want to destroy the PSR, but then have enough of it left around for another helping when you need it. If you destroy it, it is gone – and reality becomes Wonderland, while the mind becomes psychotically unsure it ever conforms to reality.

            And I've already proven that this is false. Denying the PSR does 1 thing: it says not <everything has a sufficient reason. It doesn't get you to Alice in Wonderland, especially not given the fact that we already know of explanations of things. And no there is no selective usage of "causation" as “explanations” or “reasons”. I do not at all think science is the only way to answer things, but if your metaphysics disagrees with known science, it must be false. Thomistic causality is, therefore it is false.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            “It's hard the believe that you actually think a being that has no other possible ontological state of will, or will act, when that will is not logically necessary has freedom of the will.”

            Here is where you are ignoring or unaware of what St. Thomas calls a necessity based on supposition. Given the
            supposition that God has acted a certain way in choosing X, it is necessary that he has chosen X. Since God’s will cannot change, given his eternal nature, no other ontological state of will is any longer possible, or even needed. It is necessary that God have a will, since he possesses intellect and appetite, but it is not necessary that that appetite be fixed upon creating any goods lesser than his own infinite goodness. You are simply missing the metaphysical insights
            here.

            “In order to demonstrate that the Christian god is an actual reality whose choice is an accomplished fact you first need to make an argument for why a god with an eternal will act to create this universe exists necessarily, and since you've already admitted there is no logically necessary reason why god A exists, you cannot demonstrate that. All you can do is argue after that fact: It is not necessary for god to will our
            universe, but because our universe exists, it was necessary.”

            That God exists in necessary, since his essence includes existence. (I don’t expect you to grant this, but this is the reason. Not on topic of my OP’s.) When I say God A is not necessary, I am not saying that his existence is not necessary, but rather that his eternal choice flows from his freedom in relation to the creation of lesser goods. You fail to make some necessary distinctions and this conflates concepts so as to lead to false conclusions.

            “I can just as easily argue that since our eternal universe exists, no other ontological possibility was possible, and that therefore the universe contains its own sufficient reason for
            existing - no god required.”

            As explained above, suppositional necessity applies to the universe. Since it exists, it must exist. But, unlike God, it is not a necessary being with regard to its existence. It is contingent. But showing that is the function of the proofs for God which is not the topic of this OP.

            “I don't care what the Christian concept says I care about what they can demonstrate. And you sir cannot
            demonstrate - let alone prove - that your god has a sufficient reason for A and not B. Merely stating A is explained because A exists is not a sufficient reason.”

            You don’t seem to grasp that the logic of your alleged proof fails if it can be shown merely that it is possible that God is his own sufficient reason both for his existence and for his free choice. Your model requires certain assumptions, for example, that God cannot be his own sufficient reason for both his being and for his own free choice. I don’t have to give the proofs that exist, but are not the topic under consideration.

            “Yes there is, because "God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did" utterly fails as a sufficient reason for why god A exists. What is claimed
            about the Christian god is just that: a claim. It is not a proof or even a demonstration.”

            Again, your logic is defective. The burden of proof rests on your model avoiding any metaphysical assumptions about
            God that conflict with it. The 2000 year history of Christian thought provides precisely such a concept of God. All you are saying is that you don’t accept the proofs for such a God, but that does not make your model work. And the proofs for God are not on topic here.

            As to the logical implications of allowing even a single
            exception to the PSR, I will leave it to the readers to decide whether science can still function effectively when you can never be certain when anything has a reason or not. I dealt extensively with the consequences of denying the PSR in the original OP on First Principles.

            “…if your metaphysics disagrees with known science, it must be false. Thomistic causality is, therefore it is false.”

            This is an amazing overreach for the inherent radical contingency of much of what we think we know through physics, especially in the realm of mathematized theoretical physics.

            It is obvious that you would rather live without the principle of sufficient reason than face its possible implications for the proofs for God’s existence.

            The readers of this OP and thread will have to decide for themselves who is correct here. But to delay the reasoning of the present OP entirely until one of us convinces the other is a waste of time. For my part, I will concentrate on the understandings of causality that proceed from the immanent logic of accepting the principle of sufficient reason as true, as most all human beings do when they demand that things have reasons.

          • Richard Morley

            Given the supposition that God has acted a certain way in choosing X, it is necessary that he has chosen X.

            That is equivocating. The fact that we observe that he has chosen X is nothing like saying that it is 'necessary' in any way that would be 'sufficient reason' in the sense of the PSR for him having done so.

            That God exists in necessary, since his essence includes existence.

            Well, there are proofs such as the cosmological arguments that attempt to show that something like 'God' is logically necessary. But those come up against the simple logical dilemma that either they show that his choice to create this universe is also necessary, contra hyp usually, or they don't, in which case they are not sufficient reason for why God chose to create this universe, and arguably raise issues with his alleged necessity.

            But here you seem to refer more to an ontological proof where you merely assert that God must exist by defining him as such.

            You don’t seem to grasp that the logic of your alleged proof fails if it can be shown merely that it is possible that God is his own sufficient reason both for his existence and for his free choice.

            You in turn don't seem to grasp that God (and his existence and his 'free will') cannot be sufficient reason for more than one possible universe. That even falls within the truncated PSR you seem to favour.

            If God is sufficient reason for universe A existing and none other, he cannot also be sufficient reason for universe A not existing and another universe (or none at all) existing in its place. So either God is not sufficient reason for this universe, or this universe is necessary.

          • You also seem blissfully unaware (as far as I can tell) that the PSR requires determinism, since no truly random inexplicable effects are possible.

            Given the supposition that God has acted a certain way in choosing X, it is necessary that he has chosen X. Since God’s will cannot change, given his eternal nature, no other ontological state of will is any longer possible, or even needed. It is necessary that God have a will, since he possesses intellect and appetite, but it is not necessary that that appetite be fixed upon creating any goods lesser than his own infinite goodness.

            Exactly, because it is not necessary you run into the brute fact problem because the "sufficient reason" that explains why god eternally wills A and not B cannot be a necessary one - meaning it cannot be one explained within itself. It must be contingent. And then you run into the dilemma. Things that are explained in themselves can only be things logically necessary. Since logical necessity is not an option for you, you cannot explain god's will by claiming it's explained within itself. All you have is special pleading to get out of this and it's obvious to anyone honest.

            You are simply missing the metaphysical insights here.

            Not at all, in your very next quote of mine I address that head on.

            When I say God A is not necessary, I am not saying that his existence is not necessary, but rather that his eternal choice flows from his freedom in relation to the creation of lesser goods. You fail to make some necessary distinctions and this conflates concepts so as to lead to false conclusions.

            Again, I don't care what you can merely say, I care what you can show. And again, having no ontological possibility of making another choice negates the possibility of free will. I will not accept your insistent special pleading. You can't argue backwards that god needs to be free in order to be necessary and then claim he is, you must logically demonstrate how a being with no other possible ontological mental states or choices can possibly have libertarian free will.

            As explained above, suppositional necessity applies to the universe. Since it exists, it must exist. But, unlike God, it is not a necessary being with regard to its existence. It is contingent. But showing that is the function of the proofs for God which is not the topic of this OP.

            I've already addressed this. God A is not a necessary being either, but since you claim it exists, it's therefore necessary. That is the same exact logic I'm using, yet your special pleading interferes with your ability to see this.

            You don’t seem to grasp that the logic of your alleged proof fails if it can be shown merely that it is possible that God is his own sufficient reason both for his existence and for his free choice. Your model requires certain assumptions, for example, that God cannot be his own sufficient reason for both his being and for his own free choice. I don’t have to give the proofs that exist, but are not the topic under consideration.

            Oh not at all. I don't assume god can't be his own sufficient reason, I demonstrate that through the logic. Since god's nature is his will act, and his will act to A is not necessary, it entails some of god's nature is not necessary, and therefore you cannot conclude that god is his own sufficient reason, since to do that you'd have to explain how god's nature is necessary. Since it isn't, the possibility of god being his own sufficient reason is not available to you. And since there's no ontological possibility of willing anything different, free will is also not available to you.

            No assumptions on my part. Just logic and reason. You on the other hand are assuming a being with no ontological possibility of willing anything different has free will. That is ridiculous to the point of absurdity.

            Again, your logic is defective. The burden of proof rests on your model avoiding any metaphysical assumptions about God that conflict with it.

            Your rebuttal is defective. I've made no assumptions at all. I've just applied the PSR logic to god's nature as it is on Thomism and taken it to a logical conclusion. What I am not doing is assuming god has free will like you are, I'm actually showing that god's nature cancels that possibility out.

            The 2000 year history of Christian thought provides precisely such a concept of God.

            The age of a thing says nothing about whether it's true or coherent. The geocentric model of the earth was held for 2500 years. Doesn't mean it's true. And throughout most of Christianity's history there was so much dogma surrounding the nature of god, view of its adherents were able to even think about it.

            As to the logical implications of allowing even a single exception to the PSR, I will leave it to the readers to decide whether science can still function effectively when you can never be certain when anything has a reason or not. I dealt extensively with the consequences of denying the PSR in the original OP on First Principles.

            I've refuted all those alleged consequences. You're just unable to think clearly on the subject I think because you've been inside Thomism for so long. You can't bear even the possibility of it being wrong.

            This is an amazing overreach for the inherent radical contingency of much of what we think we know through physics, especially in the realm of mathematized theoretical physics.

            No, it isn't. Math in physics is descriptions of physical reality. If the math is correct, it describes physical reality and that has physical consequences for the world. The physics of SR and GR is radically more trustworthy than Thomistic metaphysics.

            It is obvious that you would rather live without the principle of sufficient reason than face its possible implications for the proofs for God’s existence.

            Not at all. I've applied to PSR to god and shown logically that god cannot be justified using the PSR.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            “Since god's nature is his will act, and his will act to A is not necessary, it entails some of god's nature is not necessary, and therefore you cannot conclude that god is his own sufficient reason, since to do that you'd have to explain how god's nature is necessary. Since it isn't, the possibility of god being his own sufficient reason is not available to you. And since there's no ontological possibility of willing anything different, free will is also not available to you.”

            I am not going to waste my time parsing your whole comment. The above statement is enough to make me realize how little you understand of Thomistic metaphysics.

            Yes, God’s nature is his will act, and his will act is not necessary – but only with respect to certain things, namely, those goods that are less than willing his own goodness. With respect to his own existence and divine properties, such as omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence, infinity, and having a free will, God’s nature is necessary. Thus God’s nature is such that he is his own sufficient reason for being. The only sense in which there is no ontological possibility of him willing anything different is suppositional, that is, given that he has from all eternity freely willed some specific choices with respect to non-necessary goods, that is, those less than his own goodness, he cannot change his mind – which follows from his further necessary property, immutability.

            No wonder you cannot see how God can both be the Necessary Being, and yet be perfectly free with respect to willing non-necessary goods. I fear you are taking the notion of “necessary being”, and thinking that that means that there can be no division with respect to its application to God, as if his being necessary with respect to his existence (which is what Necessary Being means) entails that he is also necessitated in respect to all other things. This is false.

            Remember, too, that these distinctions respecting what is necessary and non-necessary refer to the objects of his will, not the will itself, so that this does not entail any “division” within his own essential being.

            You may also not know that the real meaning of freedom is not freedom of choice, but the ability to choose the good. Thus, souls in heaven are perfectly free, even though they could never choose evil. This is a perfection, not a limitation. Freedom of choice exists respecting lesser goods, which do not necessitate the will. Thus, God’s will is perfectly free with respect to both his necessary and non-necessary choice of objects.

          • I am not going to waste my time parsing your whole comment. The above statement is enough to make me realize how little you understand of Thomistic metaphysics.

            Oh I understand Thomistic metaphysics. You falsely interpret my disagreement with Thomistic metaphysics with a misunderstanding of it. I think Thomistic metaphysics is almost entirely nonsense. And I fully understand that you think god needs certain properties, I'm just showing you how that actually can't be justified.

            Yes, God’s nature is his will act, and his will act is not necessary – but only with respect to certain things, namely, those goods that are less than willing his own goodness. With respect to his own existence and divine properties, such as omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence, infinity, and having a free will, God’s nature is necessary.

            Since free will itself is an incoherent, self contradictory idea, nothing can have free will. And simply asserting free will doesn't make it true, and Thomism's attempts to prove free will utterly fails.

            You can't claim something that is self refuting is a necessary property of anything.

            Thus God’s nature is such that he is his own sufficient reason for being.

            That's a non-sequitor if there ever was one.

            The only sense in which there is no ontological possibility of him willing anything different is suppositional, that is, given that he has from all eternity freely willed some specific choices with respect to non-necessary goods, that is, those less than his own goodness, he cannot change his mind – which follows from his further necessary property, immutability.

            Again, you're asking me to believe that a being whose choice had no ontological possibility of being different - and that isn't logically necessary - has free will. In any other context you would recognize the impossibility of this. Thomism blinds you to logic.

            Your logic is false.

            No wonder you cannot see how God can both be the Necessary Being, and yet be perfectly free with respect to willing non-necessary goods.

            I can't see it because there is no logic or argument backing it up. All Thomists ever produce is word salads where they try to define a thing into existence. The whole thing is pseudo-logic.

            I fear you are taking the notion of “necessary being”, and thinking that that means that there can be no division with respect to its application to God, as if his being necessary with respect to his existence (which is what Necessary Being means) entails that he is also necessitated in respect to all other things. This is false.

            I fear that you won't recognize your special pleading and that this will blind you to seeing the possibility that you could be wrong.

            Remember, too, that these distinctions respecting what is necessary and non-necessary refer to the objects of his will, not the will itself, so that this does not entail any “division” within his own essential being.

            No, will and will act are both non-necessary. I am forced to believe there is an exception to the PSR if you want me to believe god A exists necessarily.

            You may also not know that the real meaning of freedom is not freedom of choice, but the ability to choose the good. Thus, souls in heaven are perfectly free, even though they could never choose evil. This is a perfection, not a limitation. Freedom of choice exists respecting lesser goods, which do not necessitate the will. Thus, God’s will is perfectly free with respect to both his necessary and non-necessary choice of objects.

            Since free will itself is incoherent, that is false. And the rest of your paragraph is a nonsense word salad, backed by nothing coherent or logical. If that's what Thomism requires, it's far too high an intellectual price for me to pay for my sanity.

            You cannot be free if your will is unable to possibly be different than what it is. This is what logic demands.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you make very clear here that you think Thomism is
            total nonsense and elsewhere I recall you dismissing 2300 years of human thought as useless in the face of what you believe to be the findings of modern science, I won’t waste any more energy trying to explain the fallacies of your own attack on the principle of sufficient reason to you.

            But I will keep using it and building metaphysical truths upon it for those who have ears to hear.

            Still, one statement by you leaves me in disbelief. You say, “You cannot be free if your will is unable to possibly be different than what it is.”

            You have made clear that you think free will is pure fiction, but I do not grasp how you can fail, even hypothetically, to
            understand what theists are expressing here. We are not saying that God could not have made a different choice regarding creation, but only that he did make a certain choice and that being eternal and unchangeable, that choice can never be otherwise “after the fact.”

            Is it that you do not understand even the concept of the eternal NOW? That since God is the first cause, nothing can coerce his will in any event? That being an intellectual being, he must have an intellectual appetite, which means a will? That the concept is that his will is “simultaneously” expressed in his eternal existence so that it is both free and unchanging in the same eternal “instant.” And that, being his own sufficient reason for being, his will is its own sufficient reason for its self-determination?

            I know you are an atheist and that you totally reject the
            existence of God, but I do not understand how you cannot even understand the concept of an eternally free choice, which is identical with the very substance of the traditional
            God, but yet cannot change, not because it is not free, but because it is eternally reified in its own choice.

            In any event, I am reminded of someone else who rejected
            free will, Charles Darwin. It is said he once was haunted by the thought that perhaps all that he believed, he believed not because it was true, but because it had survival value.

            There is an inherent paradox between free will and the
            possession of truth. If I am not free, how do I know that what I believe is not believed simply because I am determined to believe it, rather than because it is true?

          • Since you make very clear here that you think Thomism is
            total nonsense and elsewhere I recall you dismissing 2300 years of human thought as useless in the face of what you believe to be the findings of modern science,

            It's not 100% nonsense, but when it makes claims about the nature of physical reality (which it does) it gets it wrong. And that's because you cannot figure out the nature of the physical universe doing armchair philosophy. You need science. And what we know from modern science is simply not compatible with the ontological claims made by Thomism. And that's why hardly any philosophers or scientists take it seriously today.

            I won’t waste any more energy trying to explain the fallacies of your own attack on the principle of sufficient reason to you.

            That's because there are no fallacies. Apparently calling our your special pleading is a "fallacy."

            But I will keep using it and building metaphysical truths upon it for those who have ears to hear.

            I take this as you've completely shut yourself off from any possibility of being wrong.

            We are not saying that God could not have made a different choice regarding creation, but only that he did make a certain choice and that being eternal and unchangeable, that choice can never be otherwise “after the fact.”

            Of course, after the fact, a past even cannot be otherwise. But with god you have a being that is timeless, static, and unchanging. And god's will is likewise timeless, static, and unchanging - since god's substance is identical to his will. So for god, there is no after the fact logic, because there is no concept of "before" or "after" that applies to god by definition, since god is timeless.

            So I'm left with a timeless, static, and unchanging god whose will was and is always A, even though there's no logically necessary reason it has to be A - unlike say, god's goodness (on Thomism), and I'm being told that this is explained by god being his "own sufficient reason" which makes no sense given the conditions. You can't have free will if your will could not be different, and god's will can't be explained within himself since his will is not logically necessary - as that's the necessary condition for something to be explained within itself. That means god's will must have a contingent explanation to it - necessary ones are off the table. And this will force you to the dilemma I've mentioned above. There's no way out of it. You can't repeat the dogma "God is his own sufficient reason". That explains zilch and isn't even coherent.

            Is it that you do not understand even the concept of the eternal NOW? That since God is the first cause, nothing can coerce his will in any event?

            I fully understand that this is what Thomists believe, however, they cannot rationally justify this without making tons of fallacious claims. It is not a matter of merely understanding - as if, if I just understood all of this I'd see it all makes sense. Rather, I understand it, and see the numerous inconsistencies with it.

            That the concept is that his will is “simultaneously” expressed in his eternal existence so that it is both free and unchanging in the same eternal “instant.” And that, being his own sufficient reason for being, his will is its own sufficient reason for its self-determination?

            None of this makes any coherent sense. You can assert it all you want, just like a person with another concept of god, but you both can't make logical sense of it. It's a word salad. Sufficient reasons have to either be necessary or contingent. God's will isn't necessary, so it must be contingent. These are your only two possibilities. You can't claim god is beyond logic.

            I know you are an atheist and that you totally reject the existence of God, but I do not understand how you cannot even understand the concept of an eternally free choice, which is identical with the very substance of the traditional God, but yet cannot change, not because it is not free, but because it is eternally reified in its own choice.

            Because the whole concept of an "eternally free choice" that exists and that is non-necessary is incoherent nonsense.

            There is an inherent paradox between free will and the possession of truth. If I am not free, how do I know that what I believe is not believed simply because I am determined to believe it, rather than because it is true?

            This is a common naive misunderstanding that most people who believe in free will have. It's actually the exact opposite. First, the Thomistic concept of causality denies free will. The Aristotelian principle: Whatever is changed is changed by another, or, in its more traditional formulation, Whatever is moved is moved by another, means that if we "change" when we have a thought or perform an action, then we must be changed by another — according to the Aristotelian principle — meaning, something that is not us. But of course the Aristotelian might say that we have act, in addition to potential, and that our act initiates the course of events when we think or do something. But then whatever is changed is not changed by another, it's changed by us. That's like saying that we can actualize ourselves in a way that is distinct from the potential gooeyness of a rubber ball, or energy state changes of the electron. It also admits that things begin to exist without a cause - a premise most theists reject. The bottom line is that unless you are prepared to jettison libertarian free will, you cannot hold to these popular first-cause principles.

            Second, determinism is the only way beliefs can be reliably true because they can have a causal connection with reality. Libertarianism requires that your beliefs have no cause, otherwise they wouldn't be free, and you cannot by definition have control over something uncaused. Furthermore, something uncaused will have no necessary connection to anything that happened before it, therefore on libertarianism, your beliefs will have no connection to reality, and cannot be trusted. So it's the exact opposite of what you say.

            So oddly enough, you want to promote Aristotelian causality, naive to the fact it necessitates determinism, and yet you want to promote libertarian free will, naive to the fact that it's incompatible with Aristotelian causality, which necessitates determinism.

          • So the underlying argument here is that PSR is incompatible with the notion of "free will", right?

          • Technically no. The PSR isn't compatible with logic (but neither is libertarian free will). That's its big problem.

          • Rob Abney

            Not at all. I just want others to chime to offer 3rd party perspectives to see if they can offer perspective on who is making sense here. I think I am, and you think you are. What do the others think?

            I'll chime in, I think you would get better discussion if you confined your objection to 1-2 points that can be debated rather than responding to every point of disagreement.

      • Richard Morley

        Multiple wills sound “logically possible,” but they are not ontologically possible, since God has de facto and eternally exercised his will in a specific way with respect to the willing of lesser goods than his own goodness. It is a done deal.

        That is asserting a brute fact - God wills this universe and no other just because he does.

        It might help if you spelled out whether you are supporting the full PSR coined by Leibniz or some weaker version.

        If God could really do A or B, that is to say that God's nature and existence could equally imply A or B, clearly God's nature and existence are not sufficient reason for (A and not B) being true. Or (not A and B).

        So saying that 'a single necessary God who causes everything that exists caused this universe and no other' either violates the PSR or implies that the universe is necessary. Which in the case of most Thomist cosmological arguments I have seen violates the starting postulates.

        The entire order of science and common sense and human thought becomes Alice in Wonderland, since you can never know when anything has a reason or not.

        Clearly false if there are instances where we know what the reason is.

        More reasonably: if we don't know what the reason is, we must entertain the possibility that there is none, as you seem to do for why God chooses A rather than B where you assert that he could do either, in some real sense.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          See my reply to The Thinker immediately below this one.

          I do not intend to reply to every comment on this thread, especially since it is curious how so many commenters seem to want to talk everything except the topic of the OP.

          • you said in the OP:

            This article will assume the validity of the metaphysical first principle... of sufficient reason, which [was] established as true in my previous Strange Notions article on the first principles

            When "established as true" is hardly the case. You're building on an unstable foundation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Are you suggesting that I did not give a sufficient reason for my claim, and therefore, it need not be heeded?

          • Ray

            And so what if he is? Asserting the PSR when the principle itself lacks a sufficient reason is impossible on pain of contradiction (which, last I recall, you consider a problem.) I see no problem in denying the PSR when it lacks a sufficient reason.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I was hoping you would see I was being a bit facetious.

            As I said in my last reply to The Thinker below, I think it is time to let the readers decide who is right. For my part, I will assume the validity of the principle that things have reasons, as most all of humanity does. If so, this OP is about what things can and should be said about the principle of causality and how it functions.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            Dr. Bonnette, my comment below is awaiting moderation. I would appreciate if you could read it.

          • Richard Morley

            I do not intend to reply to every comment on this thread, especially
            since it is curious how so many commenters seem to want to talk
            everything except the topic of the OP.

            Yes, sorry about that. But since you don't seem (?) to have reached much of a conclusion to discuss in itself, in the OP, but more to have laid the groundwork of how you use terminology for some later post (??) it seems reasonable to use the combox to continue discussion on the topics of what certainly look like a linked set of articles. (???)

            At the end of the day, I was responding to your comment.

    • Cristina Coimbra

      I am late for this debate concerning the PSR, brute facts and the nature of God. Nonetheless, I shall make some comments about The Thinker's arguments, although I have no intention of starting a new debate: English is not my native language and I don't know whether I can write about such complex issues the way I would (write) in Portuguese. Hopefully, it will be useful for the readers of this thread and, if I am lucky, Dr. Bonnette will read these remarks.

      First of all, I must emphasize this point: I am not going to defend the existence of God or the Thomist metaphysics. This is important, because the Thinker starts challenging the coherence of Thomism but, eventually, he raises new challenges concerning the veracity of its metaphysics. For example, when Dr. Bonnette said that God is His own sufficient reason, and His essence is to exist, someone replied by saying he should demonstrate, not only assert, this thesis. For sure, the simplicity of God's essence can be demonstrated with absolute certainty - but my only point here concerns the antinomy regarding Divine Simplicity and Divine Will.

      The Thinker does not set forth an argument for the existence of Brute Facts. Actually, his argument intends to demonstrate the (logical) contradiction between the Necessary Being and His free will. Since God's Will is His own essence, different desires would entail different essences. But this we don´t concede, because there is but one God. How is that possible? There is but one Divine Essence and, nonetheless, God may freely choose different things. Of course, whatever He wants, He wants from all eternity. However, He might have chosen differently from all eternity. God didn't have to create this universe. In fact, He didn't have to create anything whatsoever. Hence, says The Thinker, there should be many Divine Essences, because there are many objects (lesser goods) that God could freely choose. Desire A gives you God A, Desire B gives you God B and so forth. Ultimately, God would not be necessary: if His choices were not necessary, neither would be His Essence.

      The Thinker is wrong when he identifies God's essence with the acts of God. That's why his argument fails: he assumes a multiplicity of Divine Acts. But, because God is utterly simple, He knows everything in a single and necessary act, namely, the act of knowing Himself. The multiplicity of ideas does not entail a multiplicity of thoughts, because God grasps all reality in a single thought. And, because God is utterly simple, He wants everything He wants in a single and necessary act, namely, the act of willing Himself. Even if God had chosen, from all eternity, other lesser goods, He would have chosen them in the same act - the single and necessary act of willing Himself. The Thinker is wrong because he assumes that God is composed of both necessary and non-necessary acts of will. In God, the Act of Will is necessary, because it is His Essence. But He can choose different things in the same necessary act.

      Strange as it may sound, this idea is coherent, because it applies to us, humans beings, and our own will. A man may want a baby in the free act of having sex - or he may only want an orgasm. A young boy could want to get married to spend all his life with the woman he loves - or he could want her father's money. It's the same free act of marriage. God, in His Omnipotence, could want different things in the same Act of Will.

      Finally, there is a sufficient reason for God's Will: bonum est diffusivum sui. Garrigou-Lagrange remembers us that, as far as the free will is concerned, a sufficient reason is a reason that, by itself, could determine the will - que de suyo la puede determinar, pero no una que de suyo la determine efectivamente, in my Spanish translation.

      The solution to the antinomy can be found in Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, Q. 19, article 2: Whether God wills things apart from Himself.

      Objection 4: "Further, acts of will are multiplied in proportion to the number of their objects. If, therefore, God wills Himself and things apart from Himself, it follows that the act of His will is manifold, and consequently His existence, which is His will. But this is impossible. Therefore God does not will things apart from Himself."

      That's Aquinas' answer: "As the divine intellect is one, as seeing the many only in the one, in the same way the divine will is one and simple, as willing the many only through the one, that is, through its own goodness."

      That's what I have to say. I hope my bad english doesn't compromise the content of this text.

      • The Thinker does not set forth an argument for the existence of Brute Facts.

        I did. Check the hyperlink in my first comment.

        The Thinker is wrong when he identifies God's essence with the acts of God.

        I identify god's essence with his will, not his acts. I do this because it's what Dennis Bonnett himself has said: "his will act is identical with his very substance". And it's also what Aquinas said,

        Hence in every intellectual being there is will, just as in every sensible being there is animal appetite. And so there must be will in God, since there is intellect in Him. And as His intellect is His own existence, so is His will.

        I don't assume a multiplicity of divine acts. I simply take Thomism's own view that god is his will, and agree with Dennis that a god with a different eternal will would be a different god. If each will is a different god, and they're all as equally logically possible, you have multiple gods that are all logically possible. Once you get this, your whole criticism falls apart.

        You can't say god is utterly simple and then also think he's beyond our ability to understand. That would make god more complex than the universe.

        Thinker is wrong because he assumes that God is composed of both necessary and non-necessary acts of will.

        Then Aquinas was wrong.

        God, in His Omnipotence, could want different things in the same Act of Will.

        But only one thing he really wants, and since there's no logically necessary reason why he wants that vs something else, you have a problem with the PSR.

        If, "God wills Himself and things apart from Himself, it follows that the act of His will is manifold, and consequently His existence, which is His will", then I can't be wrong when you thought I said I identified "God's essence with the acts of God."

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Your English is beautiful, Cristina, and so is your exposition of the argument.

        You have nailed the essential understanding of God and how he is the Necessary Being, but also an eternal free choice to create this particular world – without any compromise either of his necessity or his freedom. Moreover, you have found a text in St. Thomas that makes clear that he himself saw the problem raised by The Thinker and others, and directly responds to it.

        You have grasped the essence of the multiple Gods argument and seen its fallacy.

        When this "God A vs. God B" argument is first seen, it seems daunting as an attack on the principle of sufficient reason, since it alleges that something about God entails a brute fact which can only be accepted by denying the PSR.

        What eventually dawns on one is that this argument’s model fails utterly if you happen to have a God that is his own eternal free choice and that, thereby, no other Gods are actually possible. The
        “logical possibility” of multiple Gods is an empty threat if you have a God that happens also to be the Christian God. How peculiar!

        When this is pointed out, the argument suddenly turns into a fierce attack on the very possibility of such a God. God’s necessity precludes his freedom! If he cannot change his mind about creation, it is absurd to say he is free! Having his choice identified with his
        essence means that a different choice makes a different God, and hence, somehow this means that multiple Gods are really possible after all! God cannot really be his own sufficient reason, and his will cannot really be its own sufficient reason for its free choice! You have to prove that this Christian God exists and has all these needed properties, or else, the multiple Gods model must be accepted as true and devastating to the PSR!

        Oh, yes, these intellectual scare tactics can be, and have been, answered -- but that is not the point.

        What slowly becomes evident is that this whole apparently innocuous proposal about the “logical possibility” of multiple Gods, with the attendant demand for a reason why there is one rather than another, is not merely an attack upon the PSR, but also, more deeply, an attack on the very possibility of the God that Christian philosophers and theologians have proposed for some two millennia.

        It is simply an attack on theism.

        The answer to all this is not so hard to understand, once you realize what it is all about.

        Christian thinkers propose -- and yes, offer rigorous proofs of -- what Christians have always believed. God is eternal and has eternally willed to create this world. He did not have to. But he did. And he would never change his mind once he eternally commits himself to it.

        Christian theologians and philosophers understand God as being his own reason for being, perfectly simple, an eternal pure act of love
        who chooses with the whole of his being to love himself and to lovingly and freely create a world he does not need to create – but, on the supposition that he has made this eternal choice, it is a done deal, and reifies the divine will and God's very being in this choice.

        Of course it is possible to confuse the daylights out of people by saying that, if he had made another choice, since his free act is identical with his very essence, he would be another God. And hence, multiple Gods are possible.

        But common sense and Christian insight sees through this logical “magic” for what it is. It is raising a simple contrary-to-fact hypothesis. If God had made another choice, he would not have been another God, but simply the same God who chose differently. There are not two Gods. Just one. He eternally makes a choice and sticks with it. Is that a shock?

        Now the key question: Could God have made another choice? Yes, but on the supposition that he has eternally made this particular choice, no change of will is possible. The “could” here is sneaky. It makes it sound like a choice -- alternative to the one he has already
        eternally made -- is really on the table, when one and only one choice is actually real. The "alternative" choice is now pure fantasy -- and so is the "alternative God" that goes with it.

        It really isn’t all that hard to conceive that God is his own eternal free choice and that there simply is not now and never was another God with a different free choice around. No need to posit a sufficient reason for why “this God” rather than “that God.” There is only one God and he is his own sufficient reason, both for his existence and
        for why he freely chose to create this world -- necessarily willing his own existence and goodness, freely willing non-necessary lesser goods, such as this world.

        And no, we don’t have to prove all this in order to show that the multiple God model is false. The multiple God model is simply making the gratuitous assumption that the Christian God does not and cannot exist. He does. And reason can prove it. But, it need not do so in order to defeat the atheist multiple God model.

        Finally, if the atheists got their wish and did away with both God and the principle of sufficient reason, simple intellectual honesty should make them admit that they have ruined their own world as well. Science really won’t work without the conviction that things must have reasons. You don’t get to pick and choose which things have reasons and which don’t. If you can never be certain when there are reasons, no physical observations can be trusted, since the phenomena observed might have no basis in fact. The mind’s reasoning process could never be trusted, since no reasons for thoughts need ever be present. Worst yet, the entire mental world might not be grounded in the real world. I won’t elaborate, since anyone reading this can make up his own mind as to whether things need reasons or not. The mind demands them. If the world does not, we are all psychotic.

        Thank you for stating the case for the true God more clearly than I could, Cristina.

        God bless you.

        • flan man

          As somebody said above, "For the impartial spectator, it's like watching a boxing match of indefinite duration in which neither contestant can ever land a knockout punch."

          Here's the reason why, "But common sense and Christian insight sees through this logical “magic” for what it is."

          After all the dust settles on "actuality-potentiality-Latin-Latin-Latin-obvious cause of it's own being eternal now" nonsense, both sides walk away convinced they "destroyed" the other side. They've managed to see through the logical "magic" for what it actually is.

          "The “logical possibility” of multiple Gods is an empty threat if you have a God that happens also to be the Christian God. How peculiar!"

          Ain't it, though? You ended up proving the thing you started out to prove with premises that supported the conclusion. How peculiar. But common sense sees through this logical "magic" for what it is.

          • Kshos23

            So let's see what we've got here:

            Complaining about the use of language that one finds too complicated to understand? Check.

            Not being able to see a difference between a logical fallacy and discursive philosophical exposition? Check.

            So far it's looking good for the home team.

          • flan man

            And yet it is the good Dr. Bonnete who is the one dismissing all this logical "magic" with "common sense". He is, of course, dismissing the away team's use of logic as "magic". His logic remains inescapable, of course.

            Straw Man argument? Check.
            I'm not sure who was complaining about language too complicated to understand. I'm pointing out the simple fact that both sides sling around this so-called logical "magic" to no end, and nobody is remotely convinced of the other's position. And the reason is that each side considers their logic sound, and they see through the other side's logical scare quotes "magic".

            How do you know the difference between a logical fallacy and a discursive philosophical exposition? Simple. Your side is the one giving the discursive philosophical exposition, and the other side is using the logical fallacy.

            Thinker has pointed out many times the logical fallacies in Bonnete's argument:
            "Yes, and that's how I detected the error with Thomism: using logic correctly without an special pleading and gross assertions."

            But, you see, common sense and Christian insight just plain sees through this logical "magic" for what it is.

        • What eventually dawns on one is that this argument’s model fails utterly if you happen to have a God that is his own eternal free choice and that, thereby, no other Gods are actually possible. The “logical possibility” of multiple Gods is an empty threat if you have a God that happens also to be the Christian God. How peculiar!

          But nether you, nor anyone else can logically justify that claim, and so it's just a bare assertion. Logic entails that your god can't have free will, nor can it be it's own sufficient reason. You can't get out of a problem by asserting the problem doesn't exist.

          Christian thinkers propose what Christians have always believed. God is eternal and has eternally willed to create this world. He did not have to. But he did. And he would never change his mind once he eternally commits himself to it.

          Yes, they propose they don't prove. Saying he didn't have to, while acknowledging he had no other ontological possibility, is absurd. Imagine someone saying:

          It was ontologically impossibility for OJ Simpson not to kill his ex wife, yet he didn't have to.

          This is why we can't take you seriously.

          It really isn’t all that hard to conceive that God is his own eternal free choice and that there simply is not now and never was another God with a different free choice around. No need to posit a sufficient reason for why “this God” rather than “that God.”

          This is basically you admitting "this" god and not "that" god is a brute fact. Again, this is why we can't take you seriously.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems like you are now arguing against the actuality of anything existing necessarily, is that what you are referring to as bare assertions or brute facts?

          • I don't think anything exists necessarily, and certainly not a god that eternally wills something that isn't necessary. The Thomist like Dr. Bonnette even concedes the latter, but he tries to dance around it by asserting that god is his own sufficient reason. It's a meaningless statement.

            It of course does nothing to remedy the problem, because sufficient reasons according to the PSR can only either be:

            (1) logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself, or
            (2) contingent, meaning, the reason is external

            Dr. Bonnette admits the reason why god eternally willed A and not B is not logically necessary, but then he tries to say it is necessary because it exists. This, he doesn't realize, is tantamount to a brute fact. Once you admit that god eternally willing A and not B is not logically necessary, the PSR demands that it must be contingent. Those are your only two possible choices.

            Dr. Bonnette wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to say it isn't logically necessary, but it's ontologically necessary simply because it exists. By that logic, anything that exists eternally is ontologically necessary, and need not a logically necessary reason. So if our universe is eternal, it's ontologically necessary, and you can't claim that it needs a logically necessary reason, because, according to Dr. Bonnette, neither does god in having eternally willed it.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think anything exists necessarily

            I thought you had been asserting that the universe exists necessarily? If it doesn't exist necessarily is it then contingent?

          • According to the PSR, yes. But I of course reject the PSR, because even with a god you still can't justify our universe's existence without running into a brute fact. For this (and other reasons) it means the PSR is false.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            I think Dr. Bonnette gives you a straightforward answer, Thinker. He said, quote, If God had made another choice, he would not have been another God, but simply the same God who chose differently, end quote. That's why there is no need to posit a sufficient reason for why 'this God' rather than 'that God'.

            I will not write a comment the way I did five days ago. It takes too much time for me to write a text in English. Instead, I will quote some passages in Summa contra gentiles, where St. Thomas deals with this problem.

            Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One, Chapter 75.
            "Thereby it can be shown, however, that in willing Himself God also wills other things."

            "God wills and loves His essence for its own sake. Now, the divine essence cannot be increased or multiplied in itself, as is manifest from what has been said; it can be multiplied solely according to its likeness, which is participated by many. God, therefore, wills the multitude of things in willing and loving His own essence and perfection."

            " Furthermore, in willing Himself God wills all that is in Him. But all things in a certain manner pre-exist in Him through their proper models, as was shown above. God, therefore, in willing Himself likewise wills other things."

            Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One, Chapter 76.

            "From this result it follows that God wills Himself and other things by one act of will."

            "But He does not will things other than Himself except in so far as He wills Himself, as has been proved. It remains, then, that God does not will Himself and other things by different acts of will, but by one and the same act."

            "Moreover, God’s willing is His being, as has been proved. But in God there is only one being. Therefore, there is in Him only one willing."

            "Again, willing belongs to God according as He is intelligent. Therefore, just as by one act He understands Himself and other things, in so far as His essence is the exemplar of all things, so by one act He wills Himself and other things, in so far as His goodness is the likeness of all goodness."

          • I think Dr. Bonnette gives you a straightforward answer, Thinker. He said, quote, If God had made another choice, he would not have been another God, but simply the same God who chose differently, end quote. That's why there is no need to posit a sufficient reason for why 'this God' rather than 'that God'.

            That's impossible, since god is unchanging and eternal, and god is his will, and thus a different will would entail a different god.

            Let's make this simple. Do you agree that sufficient reasons according to the PSR can only either be:

            (1) logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself, or
            (2) contingent, meaning, the reason is external

            Yes or no?

            Oh and by the way, your English is fine :)

          • Dennis Bonnette

            “Do you agree that sufficient reasons according to the PSR can only either be:

            (1) logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself, or

            (2) contingent, meaning, the reason is external

            Yes or no?”

            I had intended not to resume debating with you on this, since my statement to Cristina is sufficient, if read carefully.

            But, your “logical” device above tends to seduce the reader into thinking that this is a valid dichotomy. It is not. It is a false dichotomy. It should not be answered at all.

            If this accurately reflects Leibniz’s formulation of the principle of sufficient reason, it ought not to be forced on the metaphysics of St. Thomas, since it does not logically fit.

            I do not concede that everything which has its reason within itself is “logically necessary.”

            By definition, what is “logically necessary” is an analytic truth that “cannot be otherwise.”

            Hence, you are giving the reader the choice between God being unable to be otherwise than he is (without making any distinction between whether this is a genuinely logical necessity or merely a necessity of supposition), or, admitting that his reason for existence is external, meaning that he is not God.

            As you well know, St. Thomas maintains a distinction between what God wills necessarily and what he wills non-necessarily. God wills necessarily his own existence and divine properties, including his free will, while he wills freely what is non-necessary, namely goods that are lesser than his own divine goodness. He is properly called the Necessary Being solely because his existence cannot not be. It has nothing to do with whether his creation of the world is necessary or not.

            As you know also, St. Thomas clearly states that the only necessity in God with respect to creation is a suppositional necessity. That is, on the supposition that God freely chose to create this world, it is necessary that this world be his one and only eternal non-necessary choice.

            That entails that the proper application of the term “necessary” to God is a bit more complex than you allow it to be in your question above.

            You may not believe that the Christian philosophers and theologians of the last two millennia got it right, but that does not make your logical device above legitimate.

            In plain words, you are playing games with the word, “necessary.”

            Please do not preload the logic of your demand “yes” or “no” questions. Give the reader a chance to avoid a logical “trap” that is in the same great tradition of asking, “When are you going to stop beating your wife?”

            That is another question that should not be answered at all.

          • Richard Morley

            But, your “logical” device above tends to seduce the reader into thinking that this is a valid dichotomy. It is not. It is a false dichotomy. It should not be answered at all.

            It is the same dichotomy you posed:

            The universally true metaphysical principle of sufficient reason states that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be. Logical division tells us that this reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within that being (extrinsically)

            If something is its own sufficient reason for existing, how can it not exist? That is the argument for God that you seem to propose - that because he is his own sufficient reason for existing, he must exist.

            Aside from that, you equivocate (again) over the meaning of 'necessary', which is where you appear to want to have your cake and eat it.

            Asserting that God 'could' have chosen otherwise is identical to the Thinker saying that there are other 'possible Gods' who timelessly choose differently. If they all are their own sufficient reason for existing, then there must, by the PSR, be sufficient reason why only one is actualised.

            Saying that one choice is 'necessarily' actual because "we observe that it is" is the equivocation, slipping in a different meaning of 'necessity' that does not satisfy the PSR.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My division saying that a being’s “reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within
            that being (extrinsically)” is a perfectly legitimate division based on a genuine dichotomy. It is of the form A vs. non-A.

            When the Thinker says, “logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself,” it gives the false appearance of a
            dichotomy, since its predicate says “the reason is within itself,” which appears to be opposed to “the reason is external.”

            But then he identifies the predicate,”the reason is within itself,” with the subject, “logically necessary.” And then, he further conflates “logically necessary” with the assumption that that entails “necessary in all respects.”

            As I said above, God “is properly called the Necessary
            Being solely because his existence cannot not be. It has nothing to do with whether his creation of the world is necessary or not.” Read the rest of my analysis in that same post in full please.

            Thus, the person who says “yes” to the Thinker’s meaning of “logically necessary” has been tricked into affirming not only that God is necessary with respect to his existence, but also with respect to what he freely creates.

            That entails that the Thinker is including in the term “logically necessary” a broader meaning than merely that God is his own sufficient reason – which thereby makes his division a false dichotomy.

            That also is to assume the very point that you and he have been trying to argue for the previous couple weeks on this
            thread, and which I have sufficiently answered in my reply to Cristina Coimbra given above.

            More importantly, it makes the question posed as a simple “yes” or “no” by the Thinker to be based on a false dichotomy and a trick question, just as I stated above.

            As for your rehash of the same “multiple gods” hypothesis so oft repeated here, I stand pat on the explanation I presented in my first supportive reply to Cristina Coimbra given above (newest order of thread).

          • Richard Morley

            The dichotomy is identical to yours, only the terminology varies.

          • But then he identifies the predicate,”the reason is within itself,” with the subject, “logically necessary.” And then, he further conflates “logically necessary” with the assumption that that entails “necessary in all respects.”

            That's what logically necessary means. If god is a logically necessary being, that means god cannot fail to exist. God must exist in all possible worlds because a world without god would entail a contradiction.

            I'm simply using logically necessary in the same exact way you are. It's only when you confront the fact that you can't actually make an argument for why god A must exist, that you're forced to say logically necessary doesn't mean logically necessary.

            Thus, the person who says “yes” to the Thinker’s meaning of “logically necessary” has been tricked into affirming not only that God is necessary with respect to his existence, but also with respect to what he freely creates.

            This is justified because god is his will. His will is his substance, nature, and essence. Thus two different eternal gods with two different eternal wills really are two different gods. It's not the same god with a different will.

            That entails that the Thinker is including in the term “logically necessary” a broader meaning than merely that God is his own sufficient reason – which thereby makes his division a false dichotomy.

            This is no false dichotomy, it's the same one promulgated by every adherent to the PSR. Saying god freely willed A is a non-starter for numerous reasons. The question will then become why did god will A? Any answer will either be out of necessity or contingent. The PSR demands it. And that's exactly what you'd demand of the atheist in asking why the universe exists.

            More importantly, it makes the question posed as a simple “yes” or “no” by the Thinker to be based on a false dichotomy and a trick question, just as I stated above.

            Bottom line is that you're asking us all to believe god's substance and existence are identical to his will, his will isn't logically necessary, but somehow god is logically necessary. There's a hole in your logic there. You can't use suppositional logic and suppose it was necessary after-the-fact, you need an argument positively demonstrating it was necessary.

          • None of your statements are sufficient, because they equivocate, and obfuscate. If this dichotomy is false, then the PSR is false. You can't have exceptions to the PSR.

            It should not be answered at all.

            It should because you're using a double standard and special pleading to make your case because of the fact that even god can't be justified according to the PSR.

            By definition, what is “logically necessary” is an analytic truth that “cannot be otherwise.”

            Which is exactly what the arguments for god's nature - and therefore existence, are: claims that they are logically necessary and cannot be otherwise.

            Hence, you are giving the reader the choice between God being unable to be otherwise than he is (without making any distinction between whether this is a genuinely logical necessity or merely a necessity of supposition), or, admitting that his reason for existence is external, meaning that he is not God.

            Because logic demands this. If god is an exception to logic, then god is illogical. And yes, my logic is correct. Necessity of supposition is nonsense logic. It claims that because something is the case, it's necessary, while acknowledging it isn't logically necessary. This fails to understand what the word necessary means.

            God wills necessarily his own existence and divine properties, including his free will, while he wills freely what is non-necessary, namely goods that are lesser than his own divine goodness.

            As you well know, you can't define something into existence, and you can't assert something is true if it has logical problems. A being that cannot ontologically be or do otherwise cannot have free will. It would make the term "free will" meaningless. And you can't use suppositional necessity as a way of justifying god's "free" will. You can't say god must be free, and then suppose therefore that his frozen choice that could not have been otherwise ontologically, is free. In other words, you can't define god to be free, and then suppose that his frozen will that cannot be different is free.

            Saying god's "existence cannot not be" is to say it is logically impossible that god not exist, all the while you're admitting god is his will, and his will is not logically necessary.

            It has nothing to do with whether his creation of the world is necessary or not.

            It absolutely does. If you cannot make an argument that shows god A has to exist (which you know you can't) you fail to show that god's "existence cannot not be." You simply can't argue after-the-fact and say that because god A exists, it's necessary that god A exist. This uses the term "necessary" in a way completely different from how Thomists like you even use it to mean "cannot not be."

            As you know also, St. Thomas clearly states that the only necessity in God with respect to creation is a suppositional necessity.

            Suppositional necessity is nonsense. If you're assuming that it must be the case because it is the case, I can do that with the universe. If you say that I can't do that because the universe is not logically necessary I will remind you that neither is god A.

            See, you have a double standard here and this exposes your special pleading.

            That entails that the proper application of the term “necessary” to God is a bit more complex than you allow it to be in your question above.

            I'm using it in the same exact context that you use it in when you say god is necessary. You're saying god is logically necessary, and logically impossible to fail to exist. But then when I expose the fact that you don't actually have a logical argument to show why god A must exist, you claim you don't need one because "suppositional necessity," which of course is nonsense.

            You may not believe that the Christian philosophers and theologians of the last two millennia got it right, but that does not make your logical device above legitimate.

            In other words, you're saying your god is immune to logical coherence because you can always drape it in sufficiently vague enough terms that allow you to equivocate and obfuscate yourself out of any problem, when you're really failing to grasp the reality of the problem you're in.

            As Richard Morley pointed out my dichotomy is the same dichotomy you propose I have.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are beginning to repeat the same points to which I have given responses many times. Simply saying that an explanation is "non-sense" does not make it so.

            I will stand pat on my explanation given above to Cristina at the top of the newest order in this thread.

            Let the readers decide.

          • Richard Morley

            I think you are talking past each other on a nuance of semantics.

            AIUI: A God who is his eternal timeless 'free choice' to create this specific universe is distinguishable from, and therefore different from, a God who is his eternal timeless 'free choice' to create a different specific universe or none at all.

            Which leads to all sorts of problems mentioned and paraphrased ad nauseam in this combox and that of Dr Bonnette's previous article.

            Saying that God 'must' have chosen to create this universe because he did is either 1) equivocation (using the same word to mean two different things so as to obscure the truth), or 2) asserting a brute fact, or 3) asserting that this universe is necessary.

          • In other words, special pleading at its finest.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            Richard Morley, I don´t know whether Dr. Bonnette meant it literally, or whether he was using a metonymy. I wrote at length about this in my first comment. God may freely choose different things. But He is not identical to the things He chooses - He is identical to the Act of His will. In the single and necessary act of willing Himself, God wills the universe and everything else. Even if His free choices were, from all eternity, different, the act of will would be the same. If you think there is some problem with this thesis, please read my first comment in this thread.

            Thinker, the reasons for something to exist are either intrinsic or extrinsic. Just as the moon requires a cause for its light, so the essences require a cause for its existence, unless essence is identified to the act of existence. For example, an eagle exists, but a phoenix does not: the reason for this difference is not intrinsic; therefore, there must be an extrinsic reason, namely, a cause. In order to deny this principle, you must affirm there is no difference between an eagle and a phoenix: ultimately, you must identify the existent and the non existent, the possible and the actual.

            Finally, that's why an infinite regress of causes ordered per se is impossible. Just as the light can not be explained by a series of moons, so existence can not be explained by a series of non-existent beings (beings that receive existence).

            That's all, for now.

          • Thinker, the reasons for something to exist are either intrinsic or extrinsic.

            I get that. I fully account for this in my argument. I said sufficient reasons according to the PSR can only either be:

            (1) logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself, or
            (2) contingent, meaning, the reason is external

            (1) is intrinsic, and (2) is extrinsic. But since it is not logically necessary why god eternally willed A and not B, the answer for why this is the case must be extrinsic, since to say it is intrinsic would require it be logically necessary, and everyone has already acknowledge, even Aquinas, that it isn't.

            Furthermore, using your example, god A exists and god B doesn't, yet logically they would both be equally intrinsic. You can't just say "god A does exist and god B doesn't, and that's why god A exists." That's the same as saying "the eagle exists and the phoenix doesn't, and that's why the eagle exists."

            I don't know how many more times I can explain this to you. What you're doing is that you're denying your own principle when it comes to god, and that's special pleading.

            If you want to respond to comment, just answer this:

            Do you agree that sufficient reasons according to the PSR can only either be:

            (1) logically necessary, meaning, the reason is within itself, or
            (2) contingent, meaning, the reason is external

            Yes or no?

          • Richard Morley

            Attempted paraphrase:

            Assume that A is logically 'necessary', by which I mean that A cannot be false (or be different) without leading to logical contradiction. A sufficiently intelligent reasoner can in principle deduce A from the laws of logic and nothing else (even if we ourselves cannot see how), not even relying on the existence of the reasoner. This holds true even if A is the assertion that something exists, such as God.

            Then if A implies B (A->B), B must also be necessary. Likewise if B implies C and D, they must be necessary. A sufficiently intelligent reasoner can in principle deduce A, B, C and D from the laws of logic and nothing else.

            The only way to get from a logically necessary premise (or set of premises) to a conclusion that is not necessary, that could be false or different, is if at least one step violates the PSR, e.g. being of the form 'A could imply B' or 'A implies (one of many possible outcomes including B)'. Where A is the totality of the background facts that justify the truth or falsehood of B. Then B could be true, but does not have to be. But this is asserting a brute fact, or violating the PSR - there is no sufficient reason why B is actually true, as opposed to just being possible.

            A necessary set of premises cannot lead to a non necessary conclusion within the PSR. Only non necessary premises can lead to a non necessary conclusion.

            Therefore a non necessary true fact (such as the universe being actual but not necessary) leads to either:
            1) an infinite regress [or a causal loop] of contingent premises
            2) a brute fact, a violation of the PSR

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This entire analysis, once again, depends on the terms, "logically necessary," and, "necessary," as to their exact denotations, connotations, and referents -- all of which remain subject to proper metaphysical analysis. I have shown in several places that the term, "necessary," requires distinctions be made as to exactly what it refers to. God is necessary with respect to his existence, but not with respect to his eternal free willing of non-necessary lesser goods than his own goodness.

            I stand pat on the first supportive response I gave to Cristina Coimbra at the very top of this thread (newest order). It requires careful reading.

          • Richard Morley

            I was careful to define exactly what I meant by 'logically necessary', and the form of the argument stands on its own, without particular reference to God. So the end result remains true.

            Executive summary: you can't get from a necessarily true first cause to a non necessary dependent without relying on the causal equivalent of a fallacious argument.

            A necessary God cannot lead to a non necessary universe without discarding the PSR. A (partially) non necessary God also lacks sufficient reason for the non necessary aspects, and the necessary aspects can likewise not sufficiently justify the non necessary parts without a similar abandonment of the PSR.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Again, you are using the term, "necessary," without paying attention to its exact usage metaphysically. This is not a mere logical exercise in which the term, "necessary," is used in the same way each time. The primary meaning of necessary in reference to God has to do with the necessity of his existence. But God's relation to the world entails a non-necessary effect. It is spelled out in the post to which I earlier referred you. This is not merely a logical exercise in which you can plug in the word, "necessary," univocally in each instance. Your argument may use is the term, "necessary," univocally, but its use in God's nature is not an all or nothing application, since God necessarily wills his own goodness, but does NOT necessarily will lesser goods. Your problem is with the proper conception of the nature of God.

            The proper metaphysical understanding of God's will in reference to both necessary and non-necessary objects must be taken into account. God is not partially non-necessary, but his will necessarily wills necessary objects, including his own goodness, and freely wills non-necessary objects, such as the world.

            You are trying to define your argument into efficacy by ignoring the exact notion of God that Christian philosophers and theologians have defined for millennia. I do not need to repeat what I wrote to Cristina at the top of this thread. You are simply trying to spin an argument out of logical form alone, whereas this is a metaphysical conception that you simply refuse to accept.

            As Christian philosophy defines God, with great precision, the need for a sufficient reason is met, both for his existence, and for his will. You simply do not accept the metaphysical conception and arguments. That is not at issue here. What is at issue is an attempted proof that God cannot exist, or else, the principle of sufficient reason is not universally true. What is true is that this "multiple gods" model does not work for the Christian God. If you wish to attack the Christian God, you need to try another method.

            And it is not special pleading to point to a conception of God that is supported by the classical philosophical sciences of nature, metaphysics, epistemology, and natural theology. You may want to argue your way through all those philosophical sciences, but I am not simply positing a conception of God that is convenient for the purposes of the argument. This is the one true God that two thousand years of philosophical science supports. You may scoff at the entire philosophical enterprise, but then your own philosophical stance and presuppositions become equally at issue.

            My post to Cristina at the top of this thread is a proper analysis of this supposedly "logical" objection. The real problem isn't the logic, but one's grasp of the metaphysics.

            I know you won't accept this, so I shall simply refer readers back to my supportive response to Cristina at the top of this thread, and let them judge for themselves.

          • Richard Morley

            Again, you are using the term, "necessary," without paying attention to its exact usage metaphysically.

            I was the one using it, you are the one trying to ignore or subvert the very clear definition I gave of how I was using the term.

            This is not a mere logical exercise in which the term, "necessary," is used in the same way each time.

            Yes it is - it is, again, my playpen. It may go against your grain, but that is how clear thinkers use terms. If you want to refer to different concepts you use different terms.

            If your argument requires you to equivocate, that is a strong warning that you are 'bewitching yourself with your own language.'

            We have spelled out and paraphrased our arguments as clearly as humanly possible - the Thinker even drew you a pretty picture! In contrast your argument seems to require masses of turgid prose and equivocation and the assertion that if we disagree with you we just have to read your essay more carefully.

            You never seem to consider the possibility that you should read the other side's argument, let alone actually engage with it beyond repeating your assertions, such as that 'God is necessary yet leads to non necessary results without violating the PSR' despite explanations of why that is not possible.

            God is not partially non-necessary, but his will necessarily wills necessary objects, including his own goodness, and freely wills non-necessary objects, such as the world.

            That is just quibbling about where you draw the lines. If you start with a necessarily true assertion yet come to a conclusion that is not necessarily true, at some point in the causal chain you have violated the PSR.

            What is at issue is an attempted proof that God cannot exist, or else, the principle of sufficient reason is not universally true.

            Nope. God is compatible with the PSR, he just leads to a necessary universe.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Before referring you once again to my earlier statement, let me once more try to explain this, perhaps, more clearly.

            It isn’t a matter of God’s will being partially necessary and partially non-necessary. His will is necessarily ordered toward the good. Since some goods are essential to his being, that necessary ordination makes necessary that he will them, for example, his own existence, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity, and goodness.

            But, since God is already infinitely good, no lesser goods are required to further perfect his being. Hence, with respect to lesser goods, for example, creation of the world, he has no necessary ordination. Hence, the creation of such things in not necessary in order to fulfill the divine perfection.

            Every aspect of the divine will is total freedom, since he is the first cause and nothing could coerce his action. Freedom means the ability to choose the good, not necessarily freedom of choice, which obtains for man in this life. Hence, God’s will toward the necessary goods is perfectly free – as is his will toward lesser goods which he is not necessitated to will (or create).

            Properly understood, there is no conflict between God’s eternal free choice to create this world and the simplicity of his being, since it merely a necessary result of his nature and the distinction between his own necessarily willed goodness and creature’s lack of such a necessary connection to his will.

            Beyond this good faith effort to explain solely this particular aspect of the problem that has been discussed, I have to refer you back to my general statement to Cristina above.

          • Richard Morley

            Again, you claim to be responding to the argument but do not do so.

            1) you appear to be equivocating again by using a sense of 'necessary' quite different from that used in the argument
            2) you are referring to a single specific case, not the general principle. granted, if you could show in one case that A could fully justify B (in the PSR sense) while A was necessary and B was not, that would indeed answer the point raised. But you do not do this.
            3) you equivocate again on the meaning of free will. That God, as defined, cannot be influenced by anything outside his own nature seems clear - there is only him and that which flows from him. But that is a quite different meaning of 'free will' than saying that his 'will' or 'nature' can lead to one of many mutually exclusive, genuinely possible 'choices' and that even in principle there is no reason to justify why he 'chooses' one rather than the other beyond the brute fact assertion that 'that is just his free choice'. Not even in his own nature.

            Again, the argument is:
            If one starts with a logically necessary (as defined) first cause A, to get to a dependent non necessary B requires at least one step where the totality of the preceding (in the causal, not temporal, sense) causes does not fully justify the next step.

            If A is necessary, and B is not, then A cannot be fully sufficient cause for B in the PSR sense of justifying why B is, and is not otherwise. Otherwise B would be deducible from A, and so necessary.

            You presumably agree that we start with a single necessary premise. How do you claim this can lead to a non necessary conclusion without violating the PSR? Not just asserting yet again that it is so, but explaining how you get past the requirement at each step in the causal chain that the next step be fully justified by the preceding steps.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            “ … if you could show in one case that A could fully justify
            B (in the PSR sense) while A was necessary and B was not, that would indeed answer the point raised.”

            God is not a logical inference in which you define him as a
            necessary A (meaning he cannot be otherwise), who somehow violates the PSR by leading to a non-necessary B.

            This is the problem with trying to shove God into a logical
            inference. He is not a given nature that is totally necessary that somehow miraculously gives birth to something non-necessary.

            If you read my explanation above, I show how God is
            necessary with regard to his existence. That is what philosophers have always meant by saying God is the necessary being. Nothing more.

            Not as a conclusion flows from a premise, but as the same
            being who is necessary with respect to his existence, God also is non-necessary with respect to lesser goods – as I clearly explained above.

            You seem to see God as one frozen necessary being that is
            therefore necessary in all respects, somehow being claimed to be non-necessary with respect to his free acts – but there being given no reason for how this happens, thus violating the PSR.

            But I have shown above why this is an essential
            misunderstanding of how God is understood to be necessary. You are attempting a logical inference where it is not appropriate, since God’s freedom does not flow from his necessity like step B from step A. A and B are identical in God and the B does not conflict with the A, since they refer to diverse objects: A, his existence; B, his lack of any need to create lesser goods.

            You demand to know “why” God chooses x vs. y, since that
            requires a reason which necessitates God A, thereby making his creation of this world a non-free act. Yes, God actively chooses between alternative possibilities. That is the difference between his knowledge of “simple intelligence,” that is, his knowledge of all the things he could create, versus, his knowledge of “vision,” that is, his knowledge of that which he actually chooses to create. But the whole point of free will is that, while it knows the nature of the choice itself and the alternatives weighed in making the choice, it is not necessitated as to which alternative it chooses. (Be
            careful here not to let my language appear to put God into time in “making up his mind.” This is all an eternally simultaneous simple act.)

            And yes, the PSR is not violated, since God is his own sufficient reason both for his existence and his pure exercise of free will which is eternally identified with his act of existence. Mysterious? You bet. We are not he. But it is not self-contradictory as you try to demonstrate.

            This again is why all this is not susceptible to simple formal logical manipulation of terms, without understanding the complexity of the actual objects being inspected. This takes a metaphysical analysis of the actual nature of God, whose nature can be discussed properly only after going through the proofs for his existence and their implications. I know we have not done this.

            The difficulty for some of you is that you are trying to rule God out a priori without even getting a full understanding of his nature.

          • Richard Morley

            In your earlier article you asserted that metaphysical principles are universally true. Yet you refuse to discuss the general form of the argument presented, instead defaulting always to specific assertions about God.

            This leads to blunt assertions of what has been argued to be impossible, such as a necessary premise being sole sufficient justification for a non necessary conclusion, or one unique first cause being 'sufficient cause' for multiple potential mutually exclusive conclusions without ever addressing why you (presumably) believe the argument to be false.

            Many of these statements are nonsensical, such as "A and B are identical in God and the B does not conflict with the A, since they refer to diverse objects" which apart from anything else contradicts itself and certainly doesn't seem to be mirroring the A and B used in the argument.

            In short, it looks like obfuscation. Especially when you resort so often to equivocation, as you do again in this response conflating whether or not God 'needs' to create X and whether or God's existence is sufficient reason to deduce X's existence.

            This, in turn, gives the impression that your point of view relies upon equivocation and obfuscation.

            If you truly wish to communicate, try addressing the general argument put forward, not making statements of faith about God.

            Do you, for example, truly assert that a premise can be sole sufficient reason for two contradictory conclusions? Or that a logically necessary premise can be sole sufficient reason for a non necessary conclusion?

          • Richard Morley

            You say that [God] "is not a given nature that is totally necessary that somehow miraculously gives birth to something non-necessary."
            But elsewhere:

            God is not partially non-necessary, but his will necessarily wills necessary objects, including his own goodness, and freely wills non-necessary objects, such as the world.

            (emphasis added)

            There you have it. The first phrase bolded implies that God is wholly necessary, assuming that we can reject him being wholly non necessary. The second implies that he "miraculously gives birth to something non-necessary".

            Also: "..all this is not susceptible to simple formal logical manipulation of terms.."
            Are you implying that logic does not apply to God? Or that the universally applicable metaphysical principles do not apply to God?
            If so, I don't see that we can usefully discuss your point of view.

            The difficulty for some of you is that you are trying to rule God out a priori

            You keep making this claim despite correction. Kindly support it or stop repeating it.

          • Cristina Coimbra

            Dr. Bonnette, thank you for your kind words - in the first response you gave me.

            I would not address the recent argument raised by Richard Morley, because I think it is not the problem we have been discussing. The original challenge was the antinomy with regard to Divine Will and Divine Simplicity and, consequently, the contradiction between God's essence and the PSR.

            This new argument, however, concerns an alleged contradiction between the Principle of Sufficient Reason and Free Will, in general. If free will is logically possible, the PSR can not be universally true; if God's will is the cause of everything, nothing has a sufficient cause.

            I decided to write this last comment to point out that Aquinas himself answered this objection in his book On Evil (De malo).

            De malo, Question VI, On Human Free Choice, Objection 15:

            "If the will is not necessarily moved regarding the objects willed, we need to say it is disposed toward contrary things, since something that need not exist can not-exist. But everything that has potentiality for contrary things is brought into actuality of one of contraries only by an actual being that makes what had potentiality have actuality. And we call what makes something actual the thing's cause. Therefore, if the will definitively wills something, there is necessarily a cause that makes the will itself so will. And, given a cause, we necessarily posit its effect, since if the effect can not exist when the cause is posited, the effect will still need something else to bring potentiality to actuality, and so the first thing was not a sufficient cause. Therefore, the will is necessarily moved to will things."

            Aquinas' answer:

            "Not every cause necessarily brings about an effect even if the cause is sufficient, since the cause can be prevented from sometimes achieving its effect. For example, natural causes produce their effects for the most part but not necessarily, because they are prevented from so doing in few cases. Therefore, the cause that makes the will will something need not necessarily achieve this, since the will itself can present an obstacle, whether by removing the consideration that induces the will to will it or by considering the contrary, namely, that what is presented as good is not good in some respect."

            I think there is nothing left to say. Thank you all, and thank you, Dr. Bonnette.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thank you, Cristina. And God bless you!

          • Richard Morley

            For example, natural causes produce their effects for the most part but not necessarily, because they are prevented from so doing in few cases.

            Nope - if the hindrance to A implying B is external to the initial supposed 'cause' A, that is covered by "A is the totality of the background facts that justify the truth or falsehood of B". If you add in other background factors that interfere with (e.g. prevent) the conclusion B, they should have been included in A, so you have just failed to do so rigorously.

            If the hindrance is internal to A, then you still have A implying some singular conclusion B, just with some factors arguing for and against the final actual conclusion B. You still cannot have A being equally 'full sufficient reason' for two different mutually exclusive conclusions.

            Again, to get from a 'logically necessary' (as defined) premise A to a conclusion B that is not 'logically necessary', that implies that B is not fully deducible from A, and thus A is not 'sufficient reason' - in the sense of the PSR - why B is "thus and not otherwise".

            (The argument that 'other factors' might hinder the conclusion B is even less applicable to God, as he is defined to be the source of all else. So there are no other factors than him and what flows from him.)

          • You more than anyone on this thread totally gets this. What you've outlined at the end is exactly what I did in this logic flow chart of god's eternal frozen will and the PSR.

            It pains me to see the utter failure of the Thomists on this site to recognize this problem. I suspect most will never concede because of the sunk-cost fallacy: They've invested far too much time, emotion, and money into Thomism that to admit it's wrong now is too costly for them.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d83445d63b4aac98f5323aaf2f85cbb35ea665281c00dc65c3031071ddaa75d5.png

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are giving the same old argument to which I give the same response.

            Read my supportive reply to Cristina at the top of this thread.

            The readers can decide for themselves at this point.

          • I've read your response and responded to it. You gave her the same old argument which involves special pleading. But I agree, let's let the readers decide for themselves.

          • BCE

            it would be more proper that God = all
            so if (for a visual understanding I'm just using whole numbers)
            God = all numbers, then so too God = all equations.
            × = all = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.....and y =all 1,2,3,4,56.... and z = 1,2,3,4,5,6......

            For ×+ y=z which number is x? Infinite possibility.
            so x + y =z x can be the 2 in 2(x)+4(y)=6(z)
            or x can be 4 in x+ 6=10
            or x+2=3 now x =1
            all of these are valid and sound
            And at the same time, notice (x )was 4 in one equation but 4 could be ( y) in another equation
            yet if x +2=3 then x is necessarily 1.
            Notice, x has both infinite possibility, and logical conclusion, not one or the other, but both.
            And none are extracted(like a tooth) from the superset (as if once used it's gone)
            and just because I didn't use 5, 5 didn't leave the superset
            the superset didn't changed. Like God, there was no change in the essence of the superset.
            the superset of *all* numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7... remains
            there is no God B, C,D

        • Richard Morley

          Moreover, you have found a text in St. Thomas that makes clear that he himself saw the problem raised by The Thinker and others, and directly responds to it.

          I don't think so. That text seems to refer to God actually willing multiple different things. As long as they are not contradictory, I see no problem with that.

          The problem is with God potentially willing different mutually exclusive things, and only actually willing one, with no sufficient reason for which one but 'that is just what he willed'.

          When this is pointed out, the argument suddenly turns into a fierce attack on the very possibility of such a God.

          No it doesn't, unless you are asserting a God who simultaneously both 'could logically have chosen differently' and 'could not logically have chosen differently'. Otherwise it just offers you the dichotomy of choosing which one you assert.

          God’s necessity precludes his freedom! If he cannot change his mind about creation, it is absurd to say he is free!

          (and on and on)
          Really, cheap mockery? Is that not beneath you?

          • Richard Morley

            God is eternal and has eternally willed to create this world. (BRUTE FACT=>)He did not have to. But he did.(<=BRUTE FACT)

            (obvious highlighting is obvious)

            Could God have made another choice? Yes, ...

            (text interrupted)
            That is what is meant by the assertion of 'multiple (possible) Gods' - the God who chooses A, the one who chooses B and so on. Identical but for that choice.

            ...but on the supposition that he has eternally made this particular choice, no change of will is possible.

            No, it is not about change of will, but whether other choices were genuinely possible. You assert that they were.

            The “could” here is sneaky. It makes it sound like a choice -- alternative to the one he has already
            eternally made -- is really on the table, when one and only one choice is actually real. The "alternative" choice is now pure fantasy -- and so is the "alternative God" that goes with it.

            That is the sneaky bit, on your part, where you equivocate between 'choices' that are 'really on the table' and 'actually real'. That is the point - if many are genuinely possible, but only one particular one is actual, the PSR demands a reason.

            You don’t get to pick and choose which things have reasons and which don’t.

            Quite.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "That is the point - if many are genuinely possible, but only one particular one is actual, the PSR demands a reason."

            There is a reason. It is called God's free will.

            And it would not be a different God, but simply the same God who would have chosen differently. But he did not -- and that is the rest of the story as depicted above in my reply to Cristina.

            We have debated about this extensively elsewhere in this thread. The concept is coherent if you understand the metaphysics. I know you will deny this, but we have been over it many times now.

          • Richard Morley

            It is called God's free will.

            So he chose that way because he chose that way. That is a brute fact.

            To paraphrase, you seem to be asserting that the PSR does not apply to 'free will'. It might help if you would clearly define what you mean by free will, as you have equivocated on that in the past.

            And it would not be a different God, but simply the same God who would have chosen differently.

            That, again, is what is meant by our usage (mine at least, and apparently the Thinker's) of God A or B etc. Note that if they are distinguishable, as they are, they are properly different, especially as being timeless there is no point at which they were truly identical, as with 'identical' twins or two versions of Plato in counterfactual parallel universes.

            But he did not

            Again, brute fact. If you claim that as sufficient cause, you may as well say that the universe exists because it does, end of discussion.

            We have debated about this extensively elsewhere in this thread.

            Where you did not engage with the argument and referred us back to this post.

          • Rob Abney

            So he chose that way because he chose that way. That is a brute fact.

            Is it a brute fact that you chose to write that sentence?

          • Richard Morley

            I could give some reasons, at least, and I would expect there to be sufficient reason even if we don't know them all.

            Why? Are you denying the PSR?

            Or just trying to deflect discussion? If so, why?

          • Rob Abney

            Asking a question for clarification is not deflecting discussion, it's the exact opposite.

            I am trying to understand why you consider God's free choice to be a brute fact but your free choice to be supported by the PSR.
            I see both choices, yours and God's, as being supported by PSR.
            I think you might say that God has no free choice since He is necessary.

          • Kerk Lastnameless

            I've never heard anyone call a person's exercise of their free will a "brute fact." I choose to toss a coin, and I choose to expect the heads to come up. I do it so because I just feel like it. That's an explanation enough.

            Frankly, I suspect much category error is going on in this thread, and the Catholics are not the culprits.

          • 'God' is a closed system, there can be no reasons not found within god for making a choice, making his choices necessary. If you want to say god could have chosen another way, the reason for that choice would also have to be internal to god, but god is allegedly simple and unified in will, so what could those reasons possibly be?
            'Richard Morley' is not a closed system, he's responding to another person, he's using his education, life experience, etc.
            These choices aren't remotely comparable.

          • Rob Abney

            What you would describe as a god is very much reduced and confined from a necessary being with the attributes of omnipotence.

          • Richard Morley

            No - I am saying that asserting that the reason for God's choice is just "he chose that way because he chose that way" is asserting a brute fact. My choices are presumably sufficiently justified by my nature and external influences.

            This is especially true of God who cannot appeal to external influences, as Jimmy points out.

            God's necessity is relevant inasmuch as it implies that his choices are only influenced by his nature and anything that flows that nature, necessary which leads to the universe being necessary.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It appears that you folks have just defined free will out of existence. Kirk above makes the right point. Never has free will been called a brute fact. Free will in God is its own sufficient reason. If you want to define being its own sufficient reason as being a brute fact, then you have a priori ruled out the possibility of anything being its own sufficient reason. That is not my understanding of sufficient reason. Do you suggest Leibniz understood it that way?

            This is most illuminating, since it makes quite clear why you and the Thinker find God impossible. If I thought free will was a brute fact, so would I.

            But, as I recall one of your definitions of a brute fact some time back, it is something that has no reason for being. I did not see that definition ruling out things that were their own sufficient reason for being.

            You have not proven that God does not exist or that he cannot create the world freely. You have merely defined him out of existence and out of free creation.

            That is about as good as Spinoza defining God into existence in his Ethics.

          • Assuming free will is coherent:
            Free will for humans would be something like the ability to select from a range of options based on knowledge, education, experience, reason, etc. It's quite limited- one can only choose from known options using a kludged up monkey brain riddled with cognitive biases. Extensive experiments suggest this is almost an entirely subconscious process that we later justify. There are so many external factors to our choices.

            For a god though, all reasons would be internal. Proclaiming "free will" doesn't explain why a god would choose A or B, just that it can. A god that eternally wills A is a different god from a god that eternally wills B. The PSR demands a reason.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God is not necessitated with respect to goods that are less than his own goodness, e.g., creating the finite world.

            But you are using the PSR as if it not only demands a reason, but a necessitating reason as well. That effectively
            would eliminate free will. Because what God chooses is a good, that is a reason for choosing it, but not a necessitating reason in the case of a good less than his own goodness. The whole concept of free will is that the intellectual agent
            is not necessitated, but still initiates his final choice. The power to do so IS the reason, and a sufficient reason when exercised. In God’s case, this is all the more reasonable, since he is not reduced from potency to act, but is Pure Act – eternally acting freely with respect to his choice.

            You appear not to think any agent can make a free choice, and that any “free choice” must have a reason that
            determines it to one object rather than another. You do not allow the possibility that, when confronted with diverse options, an intellectual being can determine himself to one option rather than another.

            To assert that in the case of God is to assume that which you are attempting to prove – namely, that his free choice is actually not free. Since God is the First Cause, it should be all the more evident that he would determine himself to his freely chosen option. Eternally.

          • Richard Morley

            God is not necessitated with respect to goods that are less than his own goodness, e.g., creating the finite world.

            That is yet again repeating the assertion, not addressing the criticisms leveled at that assertion.

            But you are using the PSR as if it not only demands a reason, but a necessitating reason as well.

            The full PSR does. In his private letters Leibniz even rephrases it as requiring proof for every true assertion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, I am not defending the philosophical position of Gottfried Leibniz, but that of St. Thomas Aquinas.

            Second, of course, every true assertion should be proven. (Logically, a statement can still be true even if not proven as such.) But, what is at issue here is not a question about a true assertion, but about God having a reason for free choice that is his own. Metaphysics asserts that God is his own reason for free acts of his will. It is that statement that requires proof, not the “reason” within God that requires some added reason for its being as it is.

            You are confusing the need to demonstrate the fact of God’s free will with the falsely-alleged need for a cause for his choices. These are two distinct issues.

            The true assertion is that God has a free will which is its own sufficient reason for its own choices. That true assertion demands proof, which is the work of metaphysics and requires analysis of the proof. I am not required to give that proof here. That is the product of the sciences of metaphysics and natural theology. It would be a red herring to raise that issue in this context.

            All that is needed here is to point out that the classical concept of God teaches that he is his own free will and that the exercise of that free act is its own sufficient reason. Being its own sufficient reason is not the same as being a necessitating reason, which would be to add something to the definition of a reason that simply assumes the contradictory to the concept of freedom.

            Again, if you define every reason as being a necessitating reason all you are doing is gratuitously adding to the
            principle of sufficient reason an explicit denial of free will – which it does not contain. You may think such a denial is implicit, but that is another philosophical statement requiring adequate proof. It is not at issue at present.

            As I said above, you are trying to define God’s free will away.

            The "multiple Gods" model can be defeated by the classical Christian understanding of God having a free will. You cannot define God away by imposing on his nature a property conveniently designed to force him into the model's clutches. If you wish to add the property of a necessary creation to God's nature, then do so by offering some other proof than the proposing of a model that assumes what it is trying to prove.

          • Richard Morley

            First, I am not defending the philosophical position of Gottfried Leibniz, but that of St. Thomas Aquinas.

            Really? So can you show me where Thomas Aquinas uses the term 'Principle of Sufficient Reason', let alone defines it? The same point pertains to a lot of your terminology and argument, but the PSR is the phrase you are trying to redefine.

            For that matter, where does St Thomas deny that 'free will', in the second of the two definitions I suggest from what you wrote, implies a 'brute fact'? The attempt to reconcile a necessary god and free will and the PSR and a non necessary universe seems to be entirely your own.

            We should perhaps add 'brute fact' to the list of terms I would love to see you define clearly so as to make your position intelligible.

            Again: If a premise is claimed to be equally capable of 'explaining' why (A and not B) might be true and why (B and not A) might be true, then in reality it does nothing to explain why either one is true rather than the other.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            When you start spending most of your post quibbling over historical definitions and finish with a short reprise of a hypothetically-termed symbolic logic argument, I suspect that the weakness of your position is becoming evident.

            If you notice in my own words that you quote above, I did not refer directly to Leibniz’ “principle of sufficient reason,” but to his “philosophical position.” I am simply making clear that I am not defending the worldview of a particular continental rationalist philosopher, but rather that of the Thomistic tradition.

            The principle of sufficient reason has had many formulations down through the centuries, but the simplest, most intuitive expression is simply that things have reasons. As Merriam-Webster defines “reason,” “a statement or fact that explains why something is the way it is.” It connotes an intelligible ontological foundation. Something that “makes sense” to the mind. Its obvious opposite would be something that makes no sense, something that has no explanation, or no ontological foundation.

            Of course, St. Thomas insisted that things have reasons. And the Thomist tradition is filled with precisely the type of reasoning about this subject that I have been defending. More to the point, if you ask who first realized that things
            must have reasons, it was not Leibniz or St. Thomas. It was Adam. Every human mind asks the “why” of anything it encounters, and looks for more than an answer like, “It just is.” And saying that something is its own sufficient reason is not a mere assertion, if you can prove what you assert. My post to which you reply explains that this is done in the sciences of metaphysics and natural theology (which is not the subject of the present debate).

            The term, "brute fact," is not my term, but comes from the other side of the debate. My understanding is that it is something for which there is no sufficient reason. Otherwise, it would not be used as a method to attempt to defeat the need for reasons. Obviously, I deny that any brute facts exist. Since God's will is its own sufficient reason (as I have explained in more detail many times above), it would not be a "brute fact," nor would God himself be one. See the arguments above.

            Your reversion to a symbolic logic problem is just another try at a model that pays no attention to the actual realities involved. I have offered a coherent, intelligible explanation of how the Christian God defeats the "multiple Gods" model.

            The problem with symbolic logic is that it entails assumptions about its variables that must be correlated to the real world. When I was a computer programmer for Ford Division many decades ago, we used to say that the problem with all this computer logic was: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

            If one fails to address the actual nature of the God to whom he is abstractly assigning symbols, he can make the sort of error that the "multiple Gods" model makes. The post to which you are replying above eliminates the ”garbage.”

          • Richard Morley

            So clear unequivocal definitions and concise coherent arguments are the sign of a weak position, whereas a strong position is typified by obfuscation, equivocation, gaslighting, rambling repetition, misrepresenting the interlocutor's position and, in a pinch, just desperately avoiding the argument? Gotcha.

            Every human mind asks the “why” of anything it encounters, and looks for more than an answer like, “It just is.”

            ..unless you dress up the answer "it just is" as "free will"? You still have not addressed what you mean by 'free will' clearly, despite two definitions of how you have used it being offered ready made for criticism or acquiescence.

            Otherwise, it would not be used as a method to attempt to defeat the need for reasons.

            It is not, nor is that a remotely plausible interpretation of anything I or the Thinker have said.

            Obviously, I deny that any brute facts exist.

            So "that is his choice because that is his choice" is not a brute fact according to you? Something that equally explains either of two exclusive options 'suffices' to explain why one is actual?

            When I was a computer programmer for Ford Division many decades ago, we used to say that the problem with all this computer logic was: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

            Recurrent problem at that time, was it? :|

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You keep missing the point that, if the Christian God actually exists and has exercised his free will in a specific manner, no other “option” is actually possible. Abstractly, yes. Concretely, no. The reality posited (and proven) by Christian philosophers and theologians eliminates all other possibilities as simple contrary-to-fact nothings.

            I can somewhat understand where you are coming from, since you appear to think that since God’s free will is identical with his essence, a different choice would make a different God. We would say that it would simply be the same God, but with a different choice. But, given the fact that God is eternally the choice that he actually is, no alternative choice is ever possible. I am tempted to infer from this that no alternative God is ever possible as well, but that would be to allow the hypothesis of alternative Gods, which is logically
            impossible – given the way the actual God exists and acts.

            Where I think we really differ is that you simply do not believe that the concept of God with a free will is intelligible at all.

            Free will in God would mean a “non-necessitated self-determining act with reference to lesser goods than his own goodness.” The parameters of this definition flow from points made earlier about God necessarily willing his own existence and goodness, but not necessarily willing lesser goods.

            Your demand for a “reason” why God is one way and not another sounds to me like it is a demand for an “external
            reason,” since it would be a “referee” reason determining which of two (or more) Gods exist. I have given you the reason why there isn’t really an “alternative God,” meaning that there is really neither a need nor a possibility of such an “external” reason.

            But, setting that aside for the moment, if God is truly not necessitated with reference to lesser goods, then he has
            only to act with reference to that choice in order to be self determining, or, to put it another way, he has only to determine himself with reference to a given option in order to act in a non-necessary manner – while in no way affecting his status as the Necessary Being, since his existence remains fully necessary. Or, do you intend to say that it is unintelligible to say that God can determine himself? If so, that is another argument than the "multiple Gods" model argument.

            Hence, a non-necessitated self-determining act would eternally exist. This is an intelligible explanation of how God is really his own reason for being a free agent. You will still
            disagree that all this is possible, but I would hope that you could at least begin to understand that this is an explanation, not merely an assertion that God is so because he is so.

            Understanding the “so” entails examination of the metaphysical content of the nature of the being under
            consideration. Getting at that nature requires not merely positing a symbol to represent it, but actually doing the work of proving his existence and the necessary properties that are discovered in that process. In a word, that means
            going through metaphysics and natural theology. And yes, of course, it means operating on the principle that everything must have reasons – either intrinsic or extrinsic – in the process.

          • Richard Morley

            Getting at that nature requires not merely positing a symbol to represent it...

            You keep making disparaging comments about general arguments, despite the fact that your last article was all about how such general metaphysical truths apply universally.

            If it is universally true that any true statement must have a sufficient reason, then this applies even when the statement involves God.
            If it is true that some statement cannot be both true and false about the same subject, that will also hold true if that subject is God.
            If it is true that a statement is true if its sufficient reason is true, which is what 'sufficient' means, that also holds true if the statements involve God. So if a statement's sufficient reason is necessarily true, so is the statement.
            Nor can one reason - God or otherwise - simultaneously be sufficient reason for two contradictory outcomes. And so on, you have ignored many such arguments.

            In short, statements such as 'God is absolutely necessary but is sufficient reason for non necessary statements' remain contradictory no matter how much prose you throw at it.
            You can abandon the PSR and say that God is cause but not sufficient reason, or is somehow contingent but his own sufficient reason, or you can try to invalidate the argument that necessary premises cannot imply non necessary conclusions, but what you cannot coherently do (yet do all the time, as above) is ignore the argument and just repeat your original assertion along with the added assertion that that assertion is coherent and intelligible and so on.

          • Richard Morley

            I'll try to address a few of your specific points without hitting the spam filter:

            You keep missing the point that, if the Christian God actually exists and has exercised his free will in a specific manner, no other “option” is actually possible.

            You again equivocate between a fait accompli choice between different genuine possibilities, and a logically necessary choice.

            Plato, for example, may choose to sit or stand, and once he chooses it is a fait accompli, but to describe his choice as 'necessary' is just willful obfuscation.

            But, given the fact that God is eternally the choice that he actually is, no alternative choice is ever possible.

            Then the choice is necessary. You cannot honestly and coherently assert that the choice is contingent but that no alternative choice is possible.

            Where I think we really differ is that you simply do not believe that the concept of God with a free will is intelligible at all.

            If, by free will, you mean the second of the two definitions I proposed, I don't think it is compatible with the PSR. So choose one.

            Free will in God would mean a “non-necessitated self-determining act with reference to lesser goods than his own goodness.”

            That looks more like your assertions shoehorned into something that looks like a definition.

            I would guess that "self-determining" more or less equates to the first of the two definitions I proposed. Influences external to oneself diminish the degree to which a choice is 'free'. Not relevant to God.

            So the interesting term is “non-necessitated". Does that or does that not mean that there are many genuinely possible outcomes and no reason, even in principle or within God's own nature, why one should be actual rather than any of the others?

            Your demand for a “reason” why God is one way and not another...

            Not me, that is the PSR. And I was quite clear that in my view, God as defined cannot have any external influencing circumstances.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have repeatedly tried to point out that I am not bound by the formulations of the PSR given by Gottfried Leibniz. Within the Thomist tradition, which has its roots in Aristotle, even before St. Thomas, what we call the principle of sufficient reason is simply the principle that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or becoming.

            “Nor can one reason - God or otherwise - simultaneously be sufficient reason for two contradictory outcomes.”

            There is absolutely nothing contradictory about saying that God is a necessary being with respect to the metaphysical necessity of his existence, but that his free acts are not necessitated with respect to a diverse object, namely, the willing of goods lesser than his own divine goodness.

            I think what you miss is that the same sufficient reason, God’s will, wills diverse objects in the same act: necessarily willing his goodness, but non-necessarily willing the world. Both objects of the act are willed by the same act. The distinction is not in the act, but in its object. The act is simple, but its objects differ in that one has the quality of having to be necessarily willed, while the other does not. Thus the same act has diverse, but not contradictory objects.

            Otherwise, the divine goodness would be contradictory to the existence of the world, which it is not.

            This is not mere prose. It is sound metaphysics. All the logical devices in the world cannot make this into a contradiction.

            You are talking about statements. I am talking about being. We are not on the same page.

            If you want to talk about the statement: “God is the necessary being,” the sufficient reason for that statement being true is the metaphysical arguments that support that conclusion.

            You seem to want me to be saying the contradictory statements that “God is a necessary being” and “God is a non-necessary being” at the same time. I am not doing that. God is a necessary being solely with respect to his existence. If that is the meaning of “necessary being,” I cannot simultaneously say that God is non-necessary with respect to the same meaning. But I can say that God’s nature can be non-necessary with respect to certain goods that he need not will.

            “So the interesting term is “non-necessitated". Does that or does that not mean that there are many genuinely possible outcomes and no reason, even in principle or within God's own nature, why one should be actual rather than any of the others?”

            “Non-necessitated” means that God does not have to will any of the lesser goods than his own goodness. It does not mean that there is no reason why one is chosen rather than another. First, God has good reasons to create the world that he has made (even if it does not meet the exact standard of the best of all worlds that Leibniz envisioned!). But that is not the ultimate reason that he chose choice A rather than choice B. (Am I getting closer to your terminology?) The ultimate sufficient reason why he chose A rather than B is because he was free to do so. He was not necessitated by his nature to one rather than the other. And he exercised his choice in a specific manner because he could do so.

            That is why I asked whether you accepted free will. If I choose to rob a bank rather than make a deposit, it is simply a choice that is within my power. To say that I was forced to make this choice would simply be to contradict my power of free choice. God chooses freely to will certain finite goods that his nature does not force him to choose, unlike the willing of his own goodness.

            So, the reason in principle and within his own nature that he “is able” to make this particular choice is because he is free to choose lesser goods. But the reason that his “actually does” make this choice is because he actively chooses this option and none other. The sufficient reason for the free choice is that he has exercised his power to make such a choice and actually did it. If you want a prior cause or some cause outside of himself, then he would not be his own sufficient reason for the choice.

            Because God is identical with his own eternal free choice to make this world, suppositional necessity makes it impossible for him to choose otherwise – what you call a fiat accompli. I have no problem with that. But given that this IS his choice,
            no alternative choice was ever really possible. By “was ever,” I am referring to his eternal state of being. The actual exercise of his “free option” excludes any alternative choice.

            It is not like where we humans have alternative options and then choose one of the options. The fact that God is eternal and Pure Act makes his choice eliminative of all actual
            alternatives, but nonetheless does not lessen the freedom with which he has exercised this act of choosing. One cannot step back and then say, “Other alternative choices were just as possible as the one he chose, and given that God is identical with his free choice, this means that other alternative Gods were just as possible. No, that is where we would say that this would just mean that the same God could have made a different choice, but he did not – making the hypothetical alternatives into merely contrary-to-fact nothings.

            I think what bothers you is how I can say that God is necessary, and yet, that he is contingent is a certain respect – especially when that “respect” is identical to his substance which is necessary. But the necessity of his being is ordered
            to his nature as a free being, meaning that he is eternally his own free choice. And all of him is free, including that by which he necessarily wills his own goodness. That is why the proper definition of freedom is not “freedom of choice between alternatives,” but “freedom to choose the good.” His own infinite goodness necessitates the will of God, since there is no lesser good that would compare favorably to his own goodness. Yet, with respect to lesser goods, necessity is absent – making it part of his necessity that he is necessarily free with respect to willing those lesser goods.

            I concur that a necessary statement can only lead to a necessary statement. But the statement of God’s necessity is a complex one, as I have shown above. The necessity of the antecedent flows into the consequent conclusion, but the same necessity that describes God’s complex relation to the objects of his willing is found both in antecedent and in the consequent conclusion.

          • Richard Morley

            1132 words. Golly. There are easier ways to ignore an argument than drowning it in ink.

            the principle that every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or becoming"

            That is neither the principle of sufficient reason, nor the principle you have defended in the illustrations you have given.
            (For example "anyone making a philosophical claim must give reasons for his claim". Your words, but a terse anthropocentric of the PSR.)
            1)That is more like the principle of universal causation, but restricted to cause of being.
            2)Leibniz coined the phrase. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas used it, let alone defined it.
            3)The meaning is right there in the title:
            Reason, not cause. As Leibniz put it, it applies to every fact or statement. Statements about being are a very limited subset of statements.
            Sufficient reason, not just a reason. If A is sufficient reason for B, then A being true is sufficient to prove B true. So A->B. So A cannot therefore also be sufficient reason for anything that implies 'not B', hence my conclusion that no one premise can be 'sufficient reason' for multiple mutually exclusive alternatives.
            4)This is what reason intuitively demands. If you assert that the exact same total situation, that is including all contributing factors influences and circumstances, can lead to multiple different results with no reason why one is actual over the others, the rational minds rebels. If a light switch 'causes' either one of two bulbs to light, the rational mind wants a reason why one bulb lights rather than the other.

            The emotional mind may demand 'free will' (definition 2) but I personally would prefer to think my 'free will' means 'determined by my nature' not 'fundamentally random and unpredictable'.
            Does that answer whether I 'accept free will' as you mean it?

          • Richard Morley

            Again, you slip often into the same old jargon. If you cannot rephrase your argument without the comfortable old phrasing, that is a warning that the jargon may have become a semantic stop sign.

            Again, you see saw between saying that there is a reason why God created this universe, or that he was totally free to do otherwise, or that no other choice is possible, or that he IS a contingent choice but he is necessary, and so. Equivocation, in other words. This is why clear terminology is important.

            And again, if you "concur that a necessary statement can only lead to a necessary statement" how can you get from a necessary first cause to a non necessary universe, unless at some stage you include a step where the outcome is not fully determined by the total set of causes. Which leads to asserting a brute fact - the outcome is this way, but there is not sufficient reason why.

            And you still equivocate between possibilities that are a priori impossible, so need not be considered, and those that are a priori perfectly possible and so we need a reason why one is actual and not the others, beyond "it just is".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Would you allow that God could self-determine with reference to willing “something” that his nature does not demand?

            Or, do you maintain that God being “necessary” means that he cannot freely self-determine, since his entire being flows from the necessity of his nature?

            Could the necessity of his nature entail that “some options” are not necessary?

            Do you think it is self-contradictory to say that God is a necessary being, and yet, can also be identified with being an eternally self-determined free choice?

            Does your answer to this simply mean that God cannot have a genuinely free will?

            Why must free will mean either “determined by my nature” or “fundamentally random and unpredictable?” Cannot one’s nature determine that one choose freely between intelligently understood reasonable alternatives, as we do every day?
            Do you simply have a problem with free will?

            If genuine free will does exist in God, would its free exercise be a sufficient reason why he made this world, as opposed to some other choice?

            Or, would you maintain that some other reason is still needed to explain why he was not a different God, or the same God, making a different choice?

            If no reason extrinsic to his own free will is needed, then why is not this a sufficient reason as to why God made this world and not chosen some alternative choice?

            235 words. Is this brief enough?

          • Richard Morley

            In general, not just for God: Free will cannot, surely, mean a 'choice' whose result is determined by absolute logical necessity, nor one imposed by external factors. Which leaves only two options, that it is determined by the agent's own nature, or that it is not determined, it is random.

            External or logical factors may constrain the choices, or make some choices more or less likely, but I don't see any other option than randomness or determination by the agents own nature that would meet the common sense meaning of 'free will'.

            Specifically for God, there can be no external influence as all else flows from him. If his nature does not specify which one choice will be made (usual caveats about temporal tenses and a timeless entity) what else is there but blind chance? Unless you posit that 'he' is different from 'his nature'?

            Likewise anything that is 'sufficient reason why [god] made this world, as opposed to some other choice' cannot also be 'sufficient reason why [god] made some other world, as opposed to this one'. You either have a deterministic chain from necessary God to necessary universe, or you assert randomness at some stage.

            There are other problems with calling something 'necessary' when it could have had different qualities, such as having made different choices and so on, but that is where you seem to get confused.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I am no longer confused. Now I see why you reject the Christian God.

            If I thought God did not have free will, then I would be impressed by the “multiple Gods” argument myself. But I am not, because I maintain that God has genuine freedom.

            You wrote, “Which leaves only two options, that it [‘choice’] is determined by the agent's own nature, or that it is not determined, it is random.”

            If that is your understanding, then free will in God appears impossible, since both alternatives appear to rule out true freedom.

            But, I would suggest that the choice is indirectly “determined” by God’s nature in that his nature necessarily “determines” that he has free choice. That was what St. Thomas was
            talking about when he distinguished between those things that God necessarily wills, such as his own existence and goodness, and those things that he non-necessarily wills, such as to create the world. God is neither better nor worse nor changed in himself by freely creating the world. But that belongs to natural theology and metaphysics and is not the topic under consideration.

            It is now evident to me that all this argument about “multiple Gods” has at its root the question of whether or not God is really free. This is why I said near the very top of this thread
            in my reply to Cristina Coimbra that the concept of the Christian God breaks the “multiple Gods” model, because of
            the existence of an eternal free choice on the part of God.

            Because of God’s free will, the “Model A vs. B” becomes a “Model-T.”

            I am willing to stipulate that you do not accept the notion of a free will in God, or, apparently, in anyone else. When you remove the possibility of genuine freedom from the nature
            of the Necessary Being, I have little doubt that your argument probably makes some sense. But that would make the “necessary being” something entirely other than the Christian God – who is the only God that Christians happen to believe
            in.

            The only problem with your “multiple Gods” argument is that the one God that it cannot disprove happens to be the Christian God.

            I shall have to let you have the last word, since it is time for me to move on.

          • Richard Morley

            Well, I am no longer confused.

            This seems not to be the case.

            At the very least you still seem to be confused between what you call the 'many gods argument' and the question of whether a necessary first cause can lead to a non necessary universe while satisfying the PSR. I will skip over the usual assertions that you understand everything about my point of view while I have clearly just failed to follow yours, and the assertions that I deny things I have explicitly accepted as possible such as God or his free will, beyond noting that a good philosopher should be more open to the possibility that his own view is incomplete or wrong.

            We seem to agree that 'free will' is a main issue here, but you never defined what 'free will' is beyond a very obscure phrase that still seems to have been just a vehicle for yet more assertions that God is necessary but does things that are not, without addressing our arguments as to how that asserts a brute fact.

            More specifically the difficulty is about whether 'free will' is compatible with the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which is very close to the debate about whether 'free will' is compatible with determinism. Many philosophers ('compatibilists') argue that it is, and in so doing make a better punt at defining free will than Dr Bonnette has.

          • Richard Morley

            From memory,
            1) Everyone tends to agree that free will requires at the least not being compelled by logical necessity, nor by external factors such as large armed men, or brainwashing, or things like physical addiction where 'the body' compels 'the mind'.
            2) Some take it further, arguing that 'free will' requires things like not just reacting to desires but being consciously intellectually aware of them, and having desires about desires that are then translated into reality. One's reason exerts some control on one's desires, you don't just react to impulse.
            For example, one might desire to binge on chocolate but realise that this gives you spots so one desires to not desire bingeing but to desire one small really good quality chocolate less often. If you can actually do so, that (some say) is 'free will'.
            3) Some argue that this controlling of one's desires should be rationally responsive. So if you just want to not eat something even in the face of evidence that there is nothing wrong with it (see so very many modern fad diets) this might be argued not to be free will. Frankly if this is a result of peer pressure, culture or brainwashing that strikes me as redundant, given (1), but I include it.

            All this is compatible with determinism and the PSR. Taking into account logical constraints and external factors, one's nature, including rationality, determines ones choices.

            The point is to define what you mean, not just keep on using the term repetitively.

          • Richard Morley

            The PSR vs contingent universe argument:
            (1)We assume some, more than one, universes that are logically possible in the sense that they contain no internal contradictions. 'Universe' meaning everything that exists outside of God, so logically only one or none can actually exist. So an omnipotent God could apparently create any one of them, or none.

            (2)We assume a single necessarily existing God, meaning he cannot exist otherwise or not at all. A sufficiently intelligent reasoner could deduce God's existence and nature from the laws of logic and nothing else, not even the reasoner's own existence.

            There can be no external influences on God, unless one counts 'the laws of logic' and we have already accounted for them in eliminating logically impossible universes from consideration. Logic can, in any case, only further restrict the choice.

            Therefore the choice of which universe if any is actual is either fully determined by God's necessary nature or it is not.

            A) If it is, this implies that 'the choice of which universe if any actually exists' is deducible from God's necessary existence and nature, and so from the laws of logic and nothing else, not even the reasoner's own existence.
            B) If it is not, this implies that the final choice is at least partially random, because there are no other things that could determine the choice.

            (A) leads to a necessary universe. The other apparently possible universes are actually not logically possible once one takes into account the necessary nature of God.
            (B) violates what usually meant by the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). It asserts a brute fact.

            So you can have a contingent universe by asserting brute facts, or you can have the PSR. Not both.

          • This is an excellent summary of the argument, anyone who thinks they can defeat this argument should start here. Preferably without using ill-defined jargon.

          • Rob Abney

            God chose "universe A" and he also chose "not universe B,C,D..."

          • Richard Morley

            That is just reasserting that God makes a choice between mutually exclusive possibilities.

            The question is whether there is a 'sufficient reason' why he chooses A rather than "B,C,D..." If there is, the choice is predictable, the PSR is upheld, the choice is necessary.

            If you want to assert that the choice was unpredictable, random, non-necessary, go ahead - but that is not compatible with also claiming that the PSR is upheld.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you have come to believe that everything either arises randomly or else is mechanistically determined, then I think your argument would be correct. But the whole point is that this occludes an entire category of causation, namely personal or intentional causation.

            To say it another way, in addition to these two root metaphors:

            1. Clock (mechanistic causation / impersonal determination)
            2. Dice (random outcome)

            There is a third root metaphor:

            3. Self (personal / intentional determination)

            If you collapse that third ontological category into one of the other two, then yes, there is no free will, and your argument works. However, I would encourage you to consider whether your experience of reality can be better characterized if you expand your binary system and allow for this third category of explanation.

          • Richard Morley

            I never used the term 'mechanistic' - I would certainly argue that any 'choice' between multiple (a priori possible) options is either absolutely determined by something or it is at least partially not determined, i.e. random. Principle of excluded middle.

            Put it this way - even we ourselves cannot do so, if it were possible to know absolutely everything about the entire situation, including personal natures of the agents and their chain of reasoning, right up to the moment the 'choice' is made, would that allow a sufficiently intelligent reasoner to deduce which option would be actual?

            If so, PSR is satisfied, and the choice is deterministic.
            If not, if the only way to see which option becomes actual is to wait and see what the choice is, then it is random. Is that what you mean by 'personal determination'?

            If you want non determinism, fine, but that implies brute facts and no PSR.

            If you want to differentiate between 'mechanistic' and 'personal/intentional' determination, fine - please define your terms clearly and explain why it makes a difference and to what (the PSR??). For that matter, how is a choice determined by God's personal nature not personal? See here for one example of what one might mean by 'personal determination' or 'free will' which is perfectly compatible with determinism.

            (Dice, incidentally, are very Newtonian if you know enough about the starting conditions. You might want to use quantum events such as radioactive decay as an example of allegedly random outcomes. Caveat - see the Many Worlds interpretation)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thank you for characterizing very well the issues that I was trying to raise. I sincerely appreciate it.

            Let me address your last (parenthetical) remark first, as this turns out to be central to my response:

            Yes, I agree that dice are very Newtonian (of course nothing is completely Newtonian, hence your well chosen "very"), in contrast to quantum events that are not predictable even in principle (at least not predictable from the perspective of any created being; we can leave open the question of whether they might be predictable from God's perspective, if God exists). However, I was proposing dice as a metaphor that applies generally to phenomena that we loosely recognize as "random". For a metaphor to be successful it has to refer to something within our experience, and we know the experience of -- in the usual situation where we don't know the initial conditions -- not being able to predict the outcomes of dice. By contrast, "quantum events" are useless as a metaphor, because they refer to something that is not in our direct experience. Hence dice are a metaphor for quantum events, not the other way around, notwithstanding that neither type of outcome is entirely predictable.

            With that understood: how does the metaphor of dice work? Well, the idea is more or less what you hinted at: there is an underlying logic (loosely, the logic of Newtonian mechanics), but in the typical situation that logic is hidden / unrevealed to us (loosely, we don't know the initial conditions). The same principle may apply for quantum events. A valid interpretive stance is to suppose that quantum events (like dice) have a hidden / unrevealed logic that manifests as "randomness" because of our epistemic limitations (limitations that we apparently can't escape even in principle).

            Now the question is whether logic always corresponds to predictability (i.e. predictability from some vantage point, perhaps not a human one). If there is such a thing as real freedom, then not everything is predictable, even in principle. Even God, if he has given us real freedom, cannot predict our choices in time. (Though, by hypothesis, He already knows what we will have decided, from His nunc stans perspective). But the fact that our choices are unpredictable does not entail that they are arbitrary. This is one of the crucial distinctions to make: randomness, properly understood, refers to phenomena, rather than defining an ontological category. Whether one interprets random quantum phenomena as manifestation of arbitrariness (whatever that would mean) or as a manifestation of personal intent is a matter of interpretation (you can guess which way I lean).

            With all that established, here is how I would distinguish between personal and impersonal determination. I conceive of every act of personal determination as an act of "neogenesis", or an act of co-creation with God. Because these acts represent something entirely new in the world, they are not predictable even in principle, which distinguishes them from impersonally determined things, which happen on autopilot. Acts of personal determination must manifest as random phenomena, but again, this does not entail that such acts are arbitrary (only that they are "neogenetive"), and so does not violate the PSR (at least not in its weak form; I'm not even sure if the strong form of the PSR is violated on this understanding).

            ETA: I guess it's pretty clear that the strong form is violated.

          • Richard Morley

            Even God, if he has given us real freedom, cannot predict our choices in time. (Though, by hypothesis, He already knows what we will have decided, from His nunc stans perspective).

            emphasis added

            I'm not quite sure how (or if) the bolded qualifiers prevent the above from being contradictory. Knowing what we will decide is synonymous with predicting our choices.

            I would go further - a timeless God who is aware of us necessarily implies determinism. More generally, so does any timeless 'thing' that encodes that knowledge (the difference between a written statement of a fact and a thinking being knowing that fact.) If it is possible for a timeless thing to encode what I will eat for breakfast, that fact must always, timelessly, be determined.

            Likewise, possibly more obviously, a necessary timeless God who is aware of us implies determinism. If God cannot logically exist otherwise or not at all, so a sufficiently intelligent reasoner could deduce his existence and nature from the laws of logic and nothing else, then that reasoner could likewise deduce what he knows. So all of the past present and future history of the universe would be logically deducible.

            So a timeless God must either be oblivious to the universe, like Aristotle's prime movers, or we must live in a deterministic universe.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks for your well-thought out replies Richard. I'll just pick up a few points for starters, as there is so much to respond to.

            (I was initially able to see four separate comments from you in response to my most recent post. I now only see four, so I'm afraid the other two may have been swallowed by some demonic activity of Disqus? I have disabled email notification so unfortunately I no longer have a record of what you wrote there, but I was able to read quickly and I remember some of the points, which I will try to address.)

            First, let me just devote this comment to establishing how we use the word random, and to confirming my understanding of what you are saying about QM.

            I have room for flexibility in how we use the word "random", but I'll begin by proposing what makes sense to me. Yes, I think it is the flip side of predictability. As with predictability, it depends on ones frame of reference (I am using "frame of reference" loosely, possibly, though not intentionally, at odds with how the phrase might be used formally in physics). A few of the important levels of unpredictability seem to be:

            1. Some phenomena are unpredictable from our current human frame of reference.
            2. Some phenomena will always be unpredictable from any human frame of reference.
            3. Some phenomena, if I understand your comments about QM correctly, are necessarily unpredictable in any frame of reference in which the Law of Noncontradiction holds? I have to confess I hadn't fully appreciated this, and how it implies that this category can't just be collapsed in to my category 2. On the face of it, this implies that for quantum phenomena to be predictable "from God's perspective", God would have to somehow sit above the Law of Noncontradiction, which voluntarism I wouldn't want to countenance. Does that basically characterize the challenge you want to put to me on this point?

            In any case, I am personally inclined to use the word "random" to refer to all of the above, albeit with the understanding that some additional qualification is always necessary ("random from what frame of reference?"), just as some additional qualification is always necessary for "predictability". I am inclined toward this usage, I suspect, because I am a statistician, and when we speak of modeling something as "random", it need only convey practical unpredictability from a very limited frame of reference (my category 1). Otherwise our professional language would become very cumbersome. We could then reserve a special expression like "truly random" for category 3 and maybe category 2. In other words, I am proposing that "random" be used to describe anything for which a typical dice scenario is a good metaphor. But again, I am adaptable on this point.

          • Richard Morley

            Yep, Dingos (or Disqus' spam filter) ate my homework again. SN is apparently chronically short of moderators so it will probably stay eaten.

            I've reposted my main response, in two parts. I don't plan to repost the QM essay, it just illustrated a distinction you seem to get.

            As far as your 3 levels of unpredictability go, I agree that 'random' is somewhat ambiguous, so I tend to prefer other terms, coming from a physicist background, as follows:

            (1) is just ignorance or limitations on our part, if I understand you correctly. I would call this unpredicted (by us) rather than unpredictable or random.

            (2) (if I understand correctly) is genuinely unpredictable, but deterministic. Like the chaotic newtonian system whose result is determined absolutely, but predicting the outcome requires infinitely perfect knowledge of the starting conditions which is impossible for us. This is deterministic, unpredictable except by God, perfectly consonant with the PSR, but not really what I would refer to as random.

            (3) is the one that is breaches the PSR, where it is in principle impossible to know what the outcome will be, even with hypothetical perfect knowledge of the starting conditions. I would call this 'non deterministic' for clarity, but it is what I meant by 'random' previously.

            If choices are only random in senses (1) or (2) the universe is in principle determined absolutely from the starting conditions, which conditions (a.k.a. God) are also presumed to be perfectly defined by pure logic.

            If you have (3), that is what some require for 'free will', but this is not your meaning if I understand correctly. I don't like (3) (so I like the many worlds interpretation) but one must choose between asserting (3) or the PSR.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            One of your evaporated comments asked whether I am pre-committed to the idea of free will. I would say something close to that is true, but I suffer the conceit that in principle I am educable on all matters. To convince me that I don't have free will would be like convincing me that I am not currently wearing a shirt. (For context, I believe that I am currently wearing a shirt.) In principle you could convince me that I am not wearing a shirt, but you would need to demonstrate that multiple independent lines of evidence, all brought together by one or a few very compelling theories, taken together in toto, are inconsistent with my currently having a shirt on. I don't see that anything like that has ever been presented to me with regard to free will. Until that day comes, I am inclined to trust my immediate experience of reality on this point.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You put forward a serious challenge regarding the apparent incompatibility of God's omniscience and our free will. From a theological perspective, this bleeds into related problems of distinguishing grace and nature. (If everything is a preordained "natural" conclusion, what room is there for the free movement of grace?)

            I am certain that I am not the one to look to to resolve one of the thorniest systematic theological issues of all time, and so I'm not going to pretend to know how to address your question. But FWIW, I wonder if it is worth thinking a bit in this vein: you wrote:

            encodes that knowledge

            Here "encoding" is, I think, a way of picturing what it means to know. But we know (e.g. from QM) that we should be wary of "picture thinking" in isolation and should strive to do our "picture thinking" in tension with our conceptual thinking. From a conceptual (not picture based) framework, what does it mean "to know"?

          • Richard Morley

            One of your evaporated comments asked whether I am pre-committed to the idea of free will. I would say something close to that is true, but I suffer the conceit that in principle I am educable on all matters.

            I think the main point here is what do you mean by free will. As I put it in the devoured post:
            "How, for that matter are you defining 'free will' or 'freedom' here? Do you assert that freedom means that even knowing everything that might influence the choice, even the agent's nature and thought process up until that instant, still leaves us with no determination why one of multiple possible choices is chosen over another?"

            encodes that knowledge

            Here "encoding" is, I think, a way of picturing what it means to know.

            It was intended to mean almost the opposite. You also ask:

            From a conceptual (not picture based) framework, what does it mean "to know"?

            To answer both, a book encodes information, but arguably doesn't actually know anything itself, that requires a thinking, conscious entity. Even that is necessary, but not sufficient - a person may memorise information (e.g. in a foreign language, phonetically) without understanding it and so 'knowing' it. Equally, can you 'know' something false, or for which you do not have proof?

            So I would say that 'knowing' requires a rational being that both encodes and understands some piece of 'knowledge'. Add to this the standard philosophical chestnut that 'knowledge' is a truly justified true belief, and we're close enough for this discussion, I think.

            So any timeless thing that encodes information on a given event would imply that that event is determined, even if the timeless thing is not a conscious thinking entity. Just as if Plato were born clutching a USB memory stick containing a detailed history of everything he would say or do, that would imply that his actions were predetermined, even if noone then could read or understand the stick.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Recently I've been trying to learn more about Bernard Lonergan's perspective on some of these issues (mostly via online secondary sources). Here's what he had to say about choice, which captures what I would want to say better than I can myself (bold emphasis mine):

            The free act emerges from, and is conditioned by, created antecedents over which freedom has no direct control. It follows that it is possible for God to manipulate these antecedents and through such manipulation to exercise a control over free acts themselves...Indeed, both above and below, both right and left, the free choice has determinants over which it exercises no control. God directly controls the orientation of the will to ends; indirectly he controls the situations which intellect apprehends and in which will has to choose; indirectly he also controls both the higher determinants of intellectual attitude or mental pattern and the lower determinants of mood and temperament; finally, each choice is free only hic et nunc, for no man can decide today what he is to will tomorrow. There is no end of room for God to work on the free choice without violating it, to govern above its self-governance, to set the stage and guide the reactions and give each character its personal role in the drama of life.
            ...
            It is only in the logico-metaphysical simultaneity of the atemporal present that God's knowledge is infallible, his will irresistible, his action efficacious. He exercises control through the created antecedents - true enough; but that is not the infallible, the irresistible, the efficacious, which has its ground not in the creature but in the uncreated, which has its moment not in time but in the cooperation of eternal uncreated action with created and temporal action. Again, the antecedents per se always incline to the right and good. But the consequent act may be good or it may be sinful: if it is good, all the credit is God's, and the creature is only his instrument; but if it is evil, then inasmuch as it is sin as such, it is a surd...and so in the causal order a first for which the sinner alone is responsible.

            That captures pretty well what I believe. As far as how to reconcile this with God's omniscience, honestly I'm not entirely sure. I think your point about encoding is fair enough.

            ETA: excerpted quote taken from here: http://lonergan.org/online_books/Liddy/ch8.htm

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            On reflection I realized that my latest response might not have been sufficiently direct, given the very specific question that you asked:

            Do you assert that freedom means that even knowing everything that might influence the choice, even the agent's nature and thought process up until that instant, still leaves us with no determination why one of multiple possible choices is chosen over another?"

            I've never had a very precise idea of what I mean, but now that I am pressed I think I would want to assert exactly that proposition. Even I, as the agent responsible for my moral decisions, and as privy to my inner nature as anyone (possibly excepting God), do not seem to be able to predict how I will respond in any given situation, at least not with absolute reliability. So, yes, I think it is inherently unpredictable, and so as a matter of empirical description, the word "random" seems to suit. But again, that which is empirically random is not ontologically arbitrary. I do not think that the "random" manifestations of my will are uncaused. I think that they are caused by my intent in the moment that those decisions are made. And I think that my intent, while conditioned by antecedents, is finally determined by the organic principle of "me". (Which principle is not static; in those decisive moments I am "choosing myself", i.e. what I determine in turn determines me. )

          • Richard Morley

            I've never had a very precise idea of what I mean, but now that I am
            pressed I think I would want to assert exactly that proposition.

            Fair enough. I think you are the first on this discussion to actually say so, but I suspect this is also what Bonnette was not quite coming out and saying.

            To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with saying that your choices are caused but at least somewhat random in the sense (3) that they are not specifically and absolutely determined even by perfect knowledge of you and the universe up until the moment the choice is made. But it is not compatible with the PSR. Like the switch that causes one bulb of many to light, with no reason for which one actually does.

            I will look into this Bernard Lonergan of whom you speak - I doubt I can fully unpack your quote without reading a bit more from him.

            Thank you for an interesting debate.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I suspect that depends on exactly how one formulates the PSR, but I'll leave it to others who care more deeply about the PSR than I do to make that argument if they so choose. Thanks likewise for the debate, which did force me to clarify my thinking somewhat.

            If you are interested in the non-theological side of Lonergan's thinking, there is an online course on his major work Insight here.

          • Richard Morley

            Singling out 'personal' events as having special causal status feels uncomfortably contrived, especially resorting to God to intervene in every act of personal determination. I'm not quite sure what invoking God achieves - God is still not immune to the PSR or law of contradiction and so on. A choice is no more nor less a new thing for his involvement, nor less in need of sufficient reason to avoid being 'arbitrary'. Nor can even God (I claim) be sufficient reason for multiple possible choices - a sufficient reason is by definition sufficient for why the subject is thus and not otherwise.

            Even invoking the big gun, God, surely just puts every act of personal determination on the same footing as God's choice to create (or not) the universe. All the arguments as to why God's choice still faces the dichotomy of PSR vs non-determinism would still apply.

            One might argue that modern science puts other things on a special level, such as quantum or relativistic events, but in reality it is asserted that QM or relativity always hold true, they are just more noticeable in certain circumstances, and they are based on observed departures of reality from our intuition. Again, the hierarchical model of free will appeals to a form of feedback loop, in that one does not just respond to desires, but is aware of having desires and have second order desires about desires. This is more like my concept of self awareness than free will, but at least I see how it might make qualifying agents different from the other animals.

            I don't see where your 'personal determination' gets any such justification for somehow claiming that it 'manifests as random' but is not contradicting the PSR.

            Could you, incidentally, define this 'weak PSR' you reference? Pruss' pared down version, or the principle of universal causation, or something else?

          • Richard Morley

            (Reposted)
            Thank you for the kind words. We obviously disagree, but if either of us can bring our own ideas into focus by trying to explain or defend them to the other, I am delighted - that is one benefit usefully gained from these comboxes.

            ...of course nothing is completely Newtonian...

            You should put that on a T-shirt and hang out at a physics convention. Just for lulz.

            That being said:
            Would I be correct in assuming that you start with the a priori assumption that 'free will' exists and must be the conclusion reached? There is nothing wrong with that as such, but I think it is best spelled out up front - I imagine you can see the difference between:
            a) starting with apparently self evident hypotheses and seeing what conclusions they lead you to
            b) doing the above, looking at the results, adjusting the premises and 'lather, rinse and repeat' until you get the result you are happy with.

            (b) only really shows that the point of view is consistent, it does little to prove it.
            (tbc...)

          • Richard Morley

            How, for that matter are you defining 'free will' or 'freedom' here? Do you assert that freedom means that even knowing everything that might influence the choice, even the agent's nature and thought process up until that instant, still leaves us with no determination why one of multiple possible choices is chosen over another?

            Because that is tantamount to saying that there is no sufficient reason why one is chosen over another, especially if you agree that nothing (even God or 'free will') can be 'sufficient reason' for A and not A. But our natural intuition is that all things have reasons - if a light switch sometimes lights one bulb, sometimes another, we expect a reason why, just calling the switch the 'cause' for one or the other does not satisfy. You apparently reject the idea that quantum events are truly random and expect an underlying 'logic'.

            So, I'm not sure that your conception of 'personal determination' does away with the dichotomy of determinism vs brute fact. At the end of the day, something has to determine which one of multiple choices is 'actual'.
            If that determination is deducible from perfect knowledge of all that comes before, you have determinism and sufficient reason.
            If it is not, if the exact same set of agents and circumstances can lead to multiple outcomes, that implies randomness and a brute fact. Which is, I allege, needed for a necessary God to lead to anything non necessary, whether the universe or 'neogenetive' acts of personal determination.
            ('Unpredictable in principle' and 'random' are surely synonymous?)

          • Rob Abney

            The attempt to reconcile a necessary god and free will and the PSR and a non necessary universe seems to be entirely your own

            Dr. Bonnette has provided great answers, I hope I don't detract from his.
            I spent some time reading from Blessed Duns Scotus recently, he and Aquinas did not agree on all aspects of metaphysics. Scotus supports the PSR in the above sequence with this bit of logic: at the same instance that God willed "A", He also willed "not B,C,D....". That seems to address the notion that there would be multiple Gods.
            Edited after Richard pointed out a typo.

          • Richard Morley

            at the same instance that God willed "X", He also willed "not X"

            That violates the law of contradiction.

          • I think he means god wills [A and not B and not C] simultaneously. I don't see how that helps, Because if it's logically possible for god to will [B and not A and not C] we're back to asking for the reason god eternally wills one set and not another, which entails another logically possible god, which entails a brute fact for this god's will, etc..

          • Rob Abney

            I'm conceding that if it is in the realm of possibility for God to will a,b,c,d... but He wills A and He wills not b,c,d... then it is not logically possible to will b,c,d... because that would violate the principle of non-contradiction.
            Why He chose A is supported by the PSR, He is His own reason. But His reason for choosing as He did can only be speculated on.

          • He wills A and He wills not b,c,d... then it is not logically possible to will b,c,d

            I agree, but it means the universe is necessary, not contingent. Most theists don't want to take that horn

          • Rob Abney

            A free will choice is made of A and not B means it could have been B and not A, so the outcome is contingent (it could have been different).

          • You just said if god wills A then B wasn't logically possible, so how could it have been different?

          • Rob Abney

            If He willed B and willed not A then it would be different.

          • Richard Morley

            No one thing, even God, can be sufficient reason for A and be sufficient reason for not A. That violates the law of contradiction.

          • Rob Abney

            Please explain how that violates the law of contradiction.

          • Richard Morley

            X->A and X->not A
            You don't see a contradiction? X is equally sufficient reason why A is true and why A is false? X can be compatible with both, but not sufficient reason for both.

            To put it another way, if something equally 'explains why' either of two mutually contradictory possibilities is true, it does not in reality explain why either one is true rather than the other.

          • Rob Abney

            Thats right but what about A and not B?

          • Richard Morley

            No one thing, even God, can be sufficient reason for (A and not B)and be sufficient reason for (B and not A). That violates the law of contradiction.

            Clearer?

            You can't say that if A is true he is sufficient reason for A and not B but if B is true he is sufficient reason for B and not A. That just means he is compatible with either, but not sufficient reason for why one is actual rather than the other.

          • Rob Abney

            No one thing, even God, can be sufficient reason for (A and not B)and be sufficient reason for (B and not A). That violates the law of contradiction.

            That is correct.

            You can't say that if A is true he is sufficient reason for A and not B but if B is true he is sufficient reason for B and not A

            If "not B" is true then B cannot be true, it is no longer an option.

          • Richard Morley

            I don't think you understand the proposition.

            Before (causally) the choice is made, was it possible for A or B to be chosen? Were both genuine possibilities? It is easier to imagine for a temporal being, such as Plato choosing to sit or stand, considered in a moment before he makes the choice. But the question can still be asked of a timeless entity such as God, as defined.

            If A is the only logically possible choice, end of discussion. If either could have been chosen, the question is whether there is sufficient reason why one was chosen over the other.

            Saying that once the choice is made, the other is no longer 'possible' is equivocation.

          • Rob Abney

            If either could have been chosen, the question is whether there is sufficient reason why one was chosen over the other.

            Yes , there was a sufficient reason.

          • Richard Morley

            Then that one is necessary.

          • Rob Abney

            Now you are equating a sufficient reason with necessity.

          • Richard Morley

            A sufficient reason is one sufficient to show that the assertion is thus and not otherwise. So if the reason is true, so is the assertion. So saying that there is sufficient reason why the result will be A rather than B, C, D... does mean that A is the only real possibility. That is true.

            If you accept that one thing cannot be sufficient reason for two mutually exclusive possibilities, then given if we have God being sufficient reason for one possibility, he cannot be sufficient reason for the others.

          • Sufficient reasons according to the PSR logic can only be either necessary, or contingent. And that inevitably gets you into trouble. This is why the god can't even satisfy the PSR.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7421a9fa0355b67b2d1dd11b20309d3e04d29af045611d89a38135ede7b17e4.png

            You always have the option of denying the PSR.

          • Richard Morley

            Yes, that is an important point even Dr Bonnette seemed to miss: the argument does not say that God (or free will) is not possible, just that certain assertions being made are not logically compatible, such as (God & PSR & a contingent universe)

          • Yes, and it seems that you've been pressing the Thomists on here strongly on this, and yet they're in perpetual denial, running circles around circles in an effort to deny what uncomfortably entails from the incoherency of their view.

            I have to admit, it's quite entertaining. But what are the best methods that you think can help move the dialogue forward to prevent them from weaseling out of the dilemma? That's something I have to sharpen.

          • Richard Morley

            But what are the best methods that you think can help move the dialogue
            forward to prevent them from weaseling out of the dilemma? That's
            something I have to sharpen.

            I don't think you can. (Forgive me for this) the playa's gonna play, and the hater's gonna hate, and the Thomists are going to go on believing Aquinas.

            Best to settle for understanding their position, clarifying one's own, possibly focusing one's own thoughts better via hostile critique, and if germs planted (on either side) lead someone to realise a faulty argument or thought process, so much the better, but let them take the credit for their advance.

          • Rob Abney

            Your diagram concludes that either a brute fact or an infinite regress of contingent explanations are the only possibilities, but that is exactly how the PSR is used to demonstrate the existence of a necessary being. An infinite regress still requires a necessary being as the reason for its existence. A brute fact means there is no reason for a being's existence which is nonsensical. But a necessary being has to be posited, the necessary being must be pure actuality with no potentialities which means there are no unfulfilled desires. So other "possible" universes other than our particular universe do not have the possibility to exist since the necessary being has to be pure actuality with no potentialities.

          • This diagram actually shows how "God's desire to create our particular universe exists eternally" cannot even be satisfied by the PSR and that means that the god's existence itself is incompatible with the PSR. The easiest conclusion from this is that the PSR itself is false, since nothing can satisfy it. It's nonsensical, since it leads to absurdities.

            If you disagree with the logic on this chart, instead of just complaining about it, why don't you actually show exactly where it goes wrong and show how god is compatible with it. So far neither you nor any of the people on this site have done that.

          • Rob Abney

            instead of just complaining about it

            That's an interesting response, I've engaged with you several times, try to avoid distracting from the discussion with ad hominens.
            I'll number the points that I made earlier if that helps you see the arguments.
            1.Your diagram concludes that either a brute fact or an infinite regress of contingent explanations are the only possibilities, but that is exactly how the PSR is used to demonstrate the existence of a necessary being.
            2. An infinite regress still requires a necessary being as the reason for its existence.
            3. A brute fact means there is no reason for a being's existence which is nonsensical.
            4. But a necessary being has to be posited, the necessary being must be pure actuality with no potentialities which means there are no unfulfilled desires.
            So other "possible" universes other than our particular universe do not have the possibility to exist since the necessary being has to be pure actuality with no potentialities

          • 5. Therefore the universe is necessary

          • That's an interesting response, I've engaged with you several times, try to avoid distracting from the discussion with ad hominens.

            You rarely, if ever, really try to do the hard work of refuting my arguments. Instead you prefer to just make blanket statements that have already been shown false by my arguments. So, one by one:

            1.Your diagram concludes that either a brute fact or an infinite regress of contingent explanations are the only possibilities, but that is exactly how the PSR is used to demonstrate the existence of a necessary being.

            My diagram shows all the logical possibilities entailed given the starting point of the assumption of the PSR, and the fact that god cannot satisfy the PSR shows the PSR is itself false. The PSR does not demonstrate the existence of a necessary being because the specific god who eternally willed our universe is not a necessary being.

            2. An infinite regress still requires a necessary being as the reason for its existence.

            Which is not available for you since god A is not a necessary being.

            3. A brute fact means there is no reason for a being's existence which is nonsensical.

            Actually it's not nonsensical. In fact to explain your god, you only have the choice of an infinite regress or a brute fact as your only 2 logical possibilities.

            4. But a necessary being has to be posited, the necessary being must be pure actuality with no potentialities which means there are no unfulfilled desires.

            Only on the assumption of the PSR which is the very thing that cannot justify god, showing how the PSR itself is nonsense.

            So other "possible" universes other than our particular universe do not have the possibility to exist since the necessary being has to be pure actuality with no potentialities

            But since it is not logically necessary for a god to have eternally willed our universe exist, you don't have justification that this being is logically necessary, since any explanation of it's will (and substance) must necessarily be contingent. Anything else is special pleading, which you know you have to do.

            So anytime you want to make a formal logical argument concluding why the specific god who eternally willed our universe is a necessary being, be my guest.

            If you respond to this comment, that is the first thing I want you to do, instead of responding to my specific rebuttals of your nonsensical points. But of course you know you cant do that. No one can.

          • Rob Abney

            I understand that you have debated this a lot, but I'm still not sure what your opinion is on some of the basics. How do you respond to just these two premises from the OP?
            1.every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be.
            2. this reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within that being (extrinsically).

          • Easy.

            1.every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be.

            God will not be able to satisfy this on the PSR since some of his nature is contingent and it isn't explained by himself. There's nothing in god's nature that explains why he eternally willed this particular universe and not one different.

            2. this reason must be found either within the being in question (intrinsically) or not within that being (extrinsically).

            That dichotomy leads you to the dilemma outlined in my image.

            Look, you can be perpetually ignorant on this if you want. I can explain this 100 times if you want to. I've got plenty of free time.

          • Rob Abney

            1. You are conflating two different arguments, try to stick to one at a time, is a necessary being required?
            2. Your diagram has only two options and it omits the intrinsic reason

            be perpetually ignorant on this if you want

            another ad hominen, nice.

          • 1. You are conflating two different arguments, try to stick to one at a time, is a necessary being required?

            I'm not conflating anything. There are no such things as necessary beings. They are impossible.

            2. Your diagram has only two options and it omits the intrinsic reason

            There is no intrinsic reason. That's the whole point. It's a contingent reason.

            another ad hominen, nice.

            No, just an accurate description. Anytime you want to prove me wrong on anything I say with your own arguments showing how my diagram is wrong with details instead of mere claims, go ahead.

          • Rob Abney

            There are no such things as necessary beings. They are impossible.

            No contingent thing or series of contingent things can explain why any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment; and the only remaining explanation is in terms of a necessary being as its simultaneous cause. (17 of 27 premises for the Rationalist Proof, E. Feser)

          • Actually that's not true. Special relativity tells us why all things persist in existence. There is no necessary being, and necessary beings are not required because the whole of the PSR logic is false. God can't even be shown to be necessary per the PSR which is why the whole thing false apart.

          • Rob Abney

            Special relativity tells us why all things persist in existence.

            Is special relativity contingent or necessary?

          • It's contingent, and it tells us why things persist in existence.

          • Rob Abney

            But what keeps Special Relativity, which is contingent, in existence?

          • It doesn't need one. Do you concede that your claim, "No contingent thing or series of contingent things can explain why any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment;" is false?

          • Rob Abney

            You are either confused or trying to distract from following the direction our discussion has taken. You said Special Relativity is contingent, meaning it is not necessary, but now you are saying that it doesn't need any other thing to keep it in existence which is the definition of a self-explaining necessary entity. Can you clarify?

          • Yes, because the PSR is false. But you made a point that nothing contingent can explain why a thing persists in existence, and I just showed you that is wrong because special relativity is contingent and it explains why everything persists in existence.

            So are you ready to admit you were wrong, or are you going to avoid this and change the subject matter?

          • Rob Abney

            Ok, I'll concede after you explain how SR is contingent and yet needs no cause to exist.

          • Whether or not it needs a cause to exist is irrelevant for me to show you were wrong. You claimed nothing contingent can explain the persistent existence of anything.

            I showed you were wrong because SR does exactly that. So are you going to concede that your original claim was wrong, yes or no?

          • I am not confused about anything here. You said:

            No contingent thing or series of contingent things can explain why any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment

            Special relativity does exactly that. So you were wrong. Whether it needs a cause is irrelevant. Stop trying to change the subject matter away from the fact that you were wrong. Just admit you were wrong and we can move on to the topic of whether SR needs something keeping it in existence.

          • Rob Abney

            This is where clarification is needed.

            you are saying that it doesn't need any other thing to keep it in existence which is the definition of a self-explaining necessary entity.

          • That's irrelevant. You made a claim nothing contingent can explain why any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment, SR does that. You were wrong. Do you acknowledge this?

          • Perdurantism and Endurantism:

            Our Non-Theist friends have a habit of stopping too soon. What can possibly furnish and populate the space beneath all that is the frail conceptual ceilings of a contingent being and yet ascend Jacob's Ladder? Or, to turn it around, what can possibly descend Jacob's Ladder and then populate and furnish the space beneath all that is the frail conceptual ceilings of a contingent being? Neither landing in "endurantism" as in three-dimensionalism nor landing in "perdurantism" as in four-dimensionalism provides a rational terminus of explanation as, either way, both the evidence and reason's demands for lucidity push us to keep going, as does reason's refusal of forced absurdities.

            The self-contradiction of something akin to, "We are necessarily forced into Brute Fact" is exposed as clearly the self-explanatory terminus is not only available but ends in an ontic far too friendly to the Theist and far too damaging to the Non-Theist & Spinoza-esc Pantheist. From another direction, "...I would say that appeals to “brute facts” are incoherent, and that the nature of an ultimate self-explanatory principle can be made intelligible by reference to notions that are well understood and independently motivated..."

            Jacob's Ladder remains.
            a. http://disq.us/p/1mncbql
            b. http://disq.us/p/1mo80tr

          • The Parent of all kiddies is Nothing as in Gravity as in Flux and Vacuum. It's a rolling sea of energy termed Brute Fact and is, on Non-Theism, the wellspring of all ontological possibility. It comes in many costumes but it's the same explanatory terminus there amid a final and opaque absurdity.

          • Richard Morley

            the Rationalist Proof, E. Feser

            Can you unpack that reference for us a bit?
            Is it a book, a page on his website, what?

          • Rob Abney

            Page 162 of Edward Feser's new book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

          • But since god eternally willed A and not B and it is "ontologically impossible" he willed anything else, then it is not free.

          • "He is his own reason" explains nothing. The reason must either be logically necessary, or contingent. That is the dichotomy Thomists give atheists on the explanation for the universe. Same dichotomy applies to your god. Since logical necessity is ruled out, the answer to why god eternally willed A but not b,c,d.., must be contingent or a brute fact.

            The more you Thomists continue to avoid the inevitable the more foolish you look. Sunk-cost fallacy.

          • Rob Abney

            The more you Thomists continue to avoid the inevitable the more foolish you look.

            If you don't want to discuss it anymore that's up to you, no need to start hurling personal insults.

          • Sure, I want you to stop reiterating meaningless talking points like "He is His own reason" and have an adult conversation using logic, reason, and evidence. Can you do that? Can you make a formal logical argument showing how "He is His own reason"?

          • Rob Abney

            Premise 1: we both want to engage in adult discussion
            Premise 2: adult discussion does not involve name calling/personal insults
            Conclusion: Stick with reasoning even if you disagree with the reasoning put forth

          • So you can't make a logical argument demonstrating your point of view?

          • Rob Abney

            You're right! But that was a typo, I intended that when He willed A he also willed not b,c,d,e....
            I'll edit it above.

          • Richard Morley

            It appears that you folks have just defined free will out of existence.

            Well, someone has to explicitly define terms and give clear arguments around here. ;)

            Further, no we have not defined free will out of existence, just shown that what appears to be one definition of free will you use asserts brute facts. Still, on past form I expect you will continue to make this 'accusation'.

            You appear to use two definitions of free will interchangeably. 'Free will' could apparently mean:
            1) acting solely in accord with the agent's own nature (and, possibly, 'the laws of logic'), i.e. with no external influence or coercion
            2) it being genuinely possible for the agent to choose any one of the choices equally, and for there to be no reason even in principle why one was chosen over another, other than that that is what the agent chose.

            (1) is fine with the full PSR, even with a necessary God, but together they imply a necessary universe. And indeed determinism.
            (2) allows you to have an absolutely necessary God and a contingent universe and free will, but asserts brute facts.

            The apparent objection to that last is that 'free will' itself is the 'sufficient reason'. My answer would be that:
            a) this is just slapping the label 'free will' on a brute fact. So if you assert this definition of 'free will', you are the one[s] calling free will a brute fact.
            b) for 'free will' to be a sufficient reason, as per the PSR, for two mutually exclusive possibilities such as (A and not B) or (B and not A) means that 'free will' must be 'sufficient reason' for A and not A simultaneously. Which is contradictory.

            Do you suggest Leibniz understood it that way?

            I'm guessing this is leading to you triumphantly quoting Leibniz supporting God's free will or similar?
            a) I do not worship Leibniz. I am happy to disagree with him if I think he is wrong.
            b) Leibniz' public books express a far more cautious, Vatican friendly philosophy than his private writings. I agree with Russell that one must read the two bodies as two separate but linked philosophical systems. His private writings do quite explicitly affirm a strong PSR and determinism.

            But, as I recall one of your definitions of a brute fact some time back, it is something that has no reason for being.

            I may well have expressed myself poorly somewhere, but while something that has no reason for being is a brute fact, that is not my definition of a brute fact.

        • "...Now the key question: Could God have made another choice? Yes, but on the supposition that he has eternally made this particular choice, no change of will is possible. The “could” here is sneaky. It makes it sound like a choice -- alternative to the one he has already eternally made -- is really on the table, when one and only one choice is actually real. The "alternative" choice is now pure fantasy -- and so is the "alternative God" that goes with it..."

          Well put.

          It's a curious thing...watching our Non-Theist friends attempt the odd move of rationally justifying the move to embrace an absurdity.

        • Dr. Bonnette,

          The Trinity has much to offer: https://www.str.org/node/42694#comment-3534171434

  • Please do not make the mistake of thinking models have no physical consequence, which is what you're doing. The truth is, relativity wouldn't be true if the world wasn't 4 dimensional.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Actually, it is the physical consequences that have models.

  • Einstein and Minkowski were both eternalists. If a model is accurate, it has a physical consequence. Special and General relativity are accurate, therefore they both have a physical consequence. You're a physicist, you should know this.

    And in fact, there are reasons to doubt whether it is true.

    So you send me a mathematical model to show me how mathematical models aren't true?

    One way or another, you are using the term "change" equivocally. Frodo Baggins changes from the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the end even though the words on the paper do not change, and to argue that there is no need for an author to drive the character development forward because the print on the paper does not change is to miss the point.

    I'm well aware of the different usages. But if the entire book of the lord of the rings exists eternally and nothing changes in the sense of flowing from one thing into another, then the book needs no prime mover or creator. Of course books are not a good example, since we know they are not naturally occurring objects.

    At any rate, I stand by my main point: If you use physics in a manner inconsistent with its labeling, you void the warranty.

    Which I'm not doing. Thank you.

  • By physical consequence I mean an ontology that is real. For example, a physical consequence of special relativity is that eternalism is true. It is not merely an abstract mathematical model on paper and in idea only. And if eternalism is true nothing flows - not time, not motion, not anything. If a metaphysic is built off of the notion of time and things flowing, then it is wrong. The world only seems to flow from the human perspective, but only in the same way how the earth seems flat from the human perspective. It's not really the case that it's that way.

    • Phil

      To simply back up what Howard is saying, physics and its models do not create the universe as it exists. We seek to model the universe as it exists with the models. Mathematics describes the universe, but the universe is not reducible to the immaterial numbers and concepts of mathematics and geometry.

      (PS - I am merely a philosopher of physics, and not a physicist like Howard.)

      • No one said the universe is not reducible to the immaterial numbers and concepts of mathematics and geometry.

        • Phil

          No one said the universe is not reducible to the immaterial numbers and concepts of mathematics and geometry.

          I only mentioned that because that's where this heads in the extreme.

          I think your point is more along the lines that we have this model, say relativity. And it seems to explain the physical cosmos extremely well. Well, one thing the mathematics of relativity predicted was black holes. One could say, well, black holes must exist because physics says so!

          But obviously this cannot be the case as relativity doesn't
          "create" black holes. So we had to look for empirical confirmation of that prediction. And lo and behold we found them. But it could have been the case that even though the model of relativity predicted black holes, they didn't actually exist.

          There will always be things that models just simply can't handle well within nature, because well...they are models. They aren't reality itself. Models don't create reality, they...er...model it.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    I'm pretty sure people actually follow these conversations. I for one was curious as to how you were going to respond.

    If I may ask, are you saying that physics is merely descriptive? If I said the speed of light is fixed*, are you saying that we don't know that because we could get later data that suggests the speed of light changes, or are you saying that a fixed speed of light makes good predictions, but that's all? It is just a model that works. Nothing more is implied.

    I read the holographic universe article you linked to. Say we found that if we modeled the universe as a holographic projection we end up with an excellent model that resolves difficulties with our current theories. In this hypothetical, would you say that we don't have reason to believe that the universe actually is a projection, but rather it is a very good model?

    *I've read that this might not be the case, but I'm not a physicist.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Speed of light is not a model. It may be a parameter in a model. Actual measurements of the speed of light have varied, generally depending on the instrumental set up used to capture it. (Generally speaking, no two methods of measurement will produce the same product.)

      The whole business of Popper's "falsifiable" criterion for science is that, yes, one day a more refined or more accurate measurement may produce a different value. Or we may discover, per Magueijo, that it has differed in different eons.

      Regarding different models, any finite set of facts can be modeled in multiple ways. The motion of the heavens was in the early 1600s modeled several ways, among which were the Copernican and the Tychonic. These two models gave exactly the same results, since they are mathematically equivalent (simple change of origin). The last time I asked my cosmologist friend, I was told that Einstein's theory of relativity and Milne's kinematic theory of relativity gave the same results.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Special relativity can be derived by assuming that the speed of light is fixed and that the laws of physics apply in all inertial reference frames. I'm asking, if we find that the model based on the postulates (constant speed of light and laws apply to all inertial reference frames) is highly descriptive, is that reason to believe the speed of light is actually fixed or is it just a lucky postulate that makes a good model?

        • StardusytPsyche

          Ignatius, The speed of light was and is measured to be fixed in a vacuum. If you throw a ball from a moving platform the velocities add, but not so with light. It was a well known problem in that era, how to account for the measured constancy of c irrespective of the motion or the source or the detector. A great insight of Einstein was that time itself varies.

          However, there remain certain mysteries in physics, such as the 2 slit experiment. One idea is of non-local causality, or super luminal causality. So it remains to be seen if c is the hard speed limit it presently seems to be, but experiments have confirmed it again and again.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          We found that the Ptolemaic model was highly descriptive for more than a millennium and a half. That a model is successfully predictive does not mean that the structure of the model actually describes the structure of the thing being modeled. It means that we can use the model for practical purposes until we can't. The Ptolemaic model worked fine for a very long time, until the phases of Venus were discovered. Then, for many purposes, it no longer worked. (We still use Ptolemy to calculate earth orbiting satellites and even trips to the moon, simply because solar, Jovian, and other effects on the orbits are negligible.) Astronomers then abandoned Ptolemy in favor of the Tychonic and/or Ursine models. These lasted until Bradley discovered (1727) by aberration of starlight that the earth was actually in motion. After which (1791) Guglielmini proved that the earth rotated on its axis and Calandrelli reported (1803) and Bessel actually measured (1838) stellar parallax, proving the earth revolved around the sun.

          If one accepts the philosophy of Hume and Popper, no amount of confirmation can demonstrate that a model correctly captures the real physical world. (They called it the "problem of induction." But physicists do no develop models from postulates. Although describable by mathematics, physics does not reduce to mathematics. Models are developed by observation and measurement, and then trying to devise a model that accounts for those measurements without violating other well-accepted models. (Heliocentrism was accepted long before it was empirically proved.) However, any finite set of data can be modeled by innumerable models (theories).

          Moderns are weak on what Galileo called "the work of the intellect", in which one considers all the possible theories that account for the observations and eliminates all but one. See Sherlock Holmes for details. However, Late Moderns are impatient with this, which does not accord well with publishing schedules.

          Then, too, models are always simplifications of reality. The scientist makes assumptions like frictionless planes, pure vacuums, perfectly elastic collisions, ideal gasses, and so on. The extent to which reality departs from these idealizations may affect the validity of the model even without addecting its usefulness. (Recall that the denominator of the Lorenz-Fitzgerald contractions contains the denominator SQRT(1-(v^2/c^2)), hence, at any velocity well short of c, length will not observably change.)

  • StardusytPsyche

    Howard ,
    " although we may be confident that the physics of the future will give the same answers to engineering problems as the physics of the present, it may have a very different view of the most fundamental nature of matter, space, and time, in which case it will likely give different answers when applied to scales that we cannot currently access...
    ...Most of you know that we cannot know the future in detail -- for instance, we cannot know when a given nucleus of C14 will decay."
    --Depends what you mean by "we cannot know". If you mean "at this point in human capabilities we cannot know" or if you mean "we are certain that no future generation will ever be able to devise a means to know"

    I agree with the first interpretation but disagree with the second. Some future generation might identify and quantify an underlying mechanism that at present we are only able to characterize with a probability distribution function.

    " And we don't know what is happening at other places in the present because it takes time for light to reach us!"
    --At present we do no know what is happening elsewhere at present. However, if we have transit time information we can build an after the fact model of of simultaneity, at least to the resolution our technology permits.

    BTW, I often tell theists in other settings things like "essential" versus "accidental" causal series and the notion of potential reducing to act are all obsolete terms and concepts that have no value in a modern discussion of causality.

    Do you have any links to some accessible (introductory or popularization) sites to help me illustrate this? I sometimes link to Against Measurement by J.S.Bell, and one particular article written about Bell's views on local causality, but I have no positive feedback to indicate those links were actually educationally effective.

  • StardusytPsyche

    Howard, Actually I was asking for a bit of help in communicating on line about causality, but I seem to have stepped on the trigger of a land mine, as it were.

    "As for "theists", I've never met one. It is a category used by atheists
    to mean "not atheists","
    T = ~A
    ~T = A
    T = ~~T
    Ok, the first 2 are equivalent statements. Once one is stated no new information is introduced by stating the other. The third statement is arrived at by substitution.

    " the same way Hindus might divide the world into
    Hindus and non-Hindus and Muslims do divide the world into Muslims and
    non-Muslims."
    --Not precisely the same, given that most non-Muslims believe in some sort of god, as do most non-Hindus and most non-(religion X).

    The difference between a theist and an atheist is that one believes in some sort of god(s) and the other has no belief in any god(s).

    " I am
    Catholic"
    --Which makes you a theist because you believe in some sort of god(s). I presume you have met yourself which makes your statement against having met a theist incorrect.

    " and do not feel any special need to defend Buddhism or Hoodoo,
    since I am convinced they are just as wrong as atheism."
    --Ok...

    " I suspect you
    would likewise object to classifying atheism and Hoodoo as just two
    specific members of the set of non-Catholic belief systems,"
    --Not on any logical basis, no. If one wishes to express a catagory of non-Catholics then I as an atheist and person X as a Hoodoo would logically both be members of the non-Catholic set.

    " because you
    would consider that a completely artificial way of dividing belief
    systems."
    --Perhaps a Hoodoo and I would share some ideas such as a non-belief in the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, so we might have some common ground on practical reasons.

    BTW, I often wince a bit at the "one god more" shtick of some atheist figures. It is true that each of you theists are atheistic with respect to all the other asserted gods, so that is a valid point. But 0 is a different sort of thing than 1 of this or 1 of that or 1 of something else.

    It is true that if you only have 1 of this you have 0 of that and 0 of something else, but you still have 1 of some kind of thing. To have 0 of all such things is a fundamentally different situation.

    Thus, there is a fundamental difference between an atheist and a theist. A theist believes in at least 1 sort of god, and an atheist has no belief in any sort of god.

  • StardusytPsyche

    Howard, "That kind of trick might impress the kids in high school, but it won't work with grownups"
    --My my my, this is about children and grownups now.

    "A Muslim would say there are only two kinds of people in the world:
    those who accept the revelation of Allah as given in the Koran, and
    those who don't."
    --Ok, one can divide the world that way if one wishes to.

    "When atheists say they do not believe in any god, they do not mean to
    exclude non-human beings who could do what seems to us impossible;"
    --A space alien life form is not a god by any definition of god I am aware of.

    " If you are unable to see that the differences between Christianity and
    Shinto are as great as the differences between Christianity and Western
    atheism, you are either too ignorant, or too stupid, or too dishonest
    to be worth talking to"
    --A god of any sort is a fundamentally different thing than no god at all. If you do not understand the distinction, well, that is on you.

    " No one should be expected to defend beliefs he does not hold because you want to cut the pie a certain way."
    --You are indeed defensive, but not because of any expectation of mine.

  • StardusytPsyche

    " infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons." Somewhere in that group is you, a non-Catholic, along with the voodoo priestesses and spiritualists"
    --Ok
    You can also place in the class of non-Catholic, the Hindu serial rapists, the Lutheran child molesters, and on an on.

    So what?

  • Kshos23

    A number of very clever people have tried to restore determinism to the universe, but their proposed solutions never agree with experiments better than the standard Copenhagen interpretation of QM

    Are you talking about the DeBroglie-Bohm interpretation? If so, then I think this may be of interest:

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3026/1/bohm.pdf

    Specifically the section on the quantum equillibrium hypothesis.

    This actually ensures that every empirical prediction in Bohmian mechanics will come out exactly the same as in standard quantum mechanics, so both Copenhagen and Bohm can equally account for the empirical observations.

    Of course, the Bohmian interpretation still has to deal with the problem that it violates Lorentz invariance at the Planck level, and Lorentz invariance has been observed in 2009 by the Fermi telescope to hold for photons at near the Planck scale, so there is that.

    But otherwise, ignoring the problems it has with relativity, it accounts for the empirical observations as much as Copenagen does, at least according to the paper.

  • StardusytPsyche

    Howard ,
    "Having said that,"
    --Having said what? I said a lot of things. Could you be more specific?.

    "you're not really an atheist anyhow"
    --I am an atheist because I do not believe in any sort of god.
    You are a theist because you believe in at least 1 sort of god.
    Those words are really not very complicated.

    "if you believe the universe is eternal and necessary, rather than contingent. "
    --I don't know how the universe came to be as it is. Every published proposed solution to this ancient riddle leads to irrationality of some sort.

    ", so you are really a pantheist, though of a "low church" variety."
    --You need to brush up on your internet mind reading skills, they are badly out of order here.

  • I've always found reasoning about the nature of causality to not do nearly as much work as thesis want it to... It should be obvious that we have a "common-sense" understanding of causality that is very helpful for organizing our day-to-day experience (not to mention most human endeavors, including empirical study), but results in a paradoxical conclusion (an infinite regress) when we try apply it in the context of cosmic origins.

    The Thomist solution appears to be postulate the existence of a category of object whose "sufficient reason for being" is intrinsic rather than extrinsic (despite that fact that the idea of an "intrinsic reason" also appears to be paradoxical), and proceed to reason about reality as if this category of object exists in the way that it is described.

    The empiricist solution is to conclude that our understanding of causality is incomplete precisely because of our inability to study the situations where our current model gives us paradoxical outcomes.

    I find the empiricist solution to be much more sensible.

  • George

    Those are "divine" attributes? So what? Define divine.

  • Hope

    Aristotelian notions of causation have been helpful in modern semiotic science. But in the same way that different emergent layers of reality employ analogical notions of entropy (e.g. Boltzman, Shannon & Darwin entropies), so, too, instances of final causation might or might not represent analogues of various teloi (e.g. teleomatic or end-stated, teleonomic or end-purposed & teleodynamic or end-intended).

    In your original discussion of first principles, the fallacy of composition may or may not come into play vis a vis PSC & PSR. Under one scenario, we can conceive of dynamical, emergent, teloi, only. Under the other, we must add primal Telos, about which our conceptions must remain very vague, as our metaphorical references get progressively weaker.

    I gather that you are merely defending the reasonableness of certain metaphysical presuppositions but not that you are denying competing equiplausible interpretations. I wouldn't accept the notion that these competitions could be contested in any robustly probabilistic way, presently. Too many epistemic hurdles need to be jumped, like reconciling gravity & quantum mechanics.