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General Category => General Comments => Topic started by: JoshuaD on December 03, 2021, 06:37:57 PM

Title: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 03, 2021, 06:37:57 PM
1. The universe exists and is intelligible. That is to say, things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist. Things don't pop in and out of existence for no reason.

2. If this weren't true, science and philosophy wouldn't function, and we wouldn't be able to trust our cognitive and sensitive faculties. But science and philosophy do fuction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

Because the universe is intelligible, there is no third alternative. A thing's existence cannot be explained by nothing.

4. We see contingent things all around us and we ourselves are contingent things.

5. To explain why a contingent thing exists completely, we cannot cite only other contingent things, because that explanation would not be complete. The question would remain: "What causes that other thing to exist?" For example, if I were to say "I exist because of the molecules and particles of my body," that would be true, but incomplete. I also need to explain why the molecules and particles in my body exist, and why the subatomic particle exist, and so on and so forth.

6. Given that, as a matter of reason, there are only two possible explanations for why a contingent thing exists:
  a. At the root of the chain of contingent causes, there is something which necessarily exists and gives existence to the entire chain, or
  b. The chain is an infinite regression of contingent things causing other contingent things, ad infinitum.

7. But an infinite regression is nonsensical; it doesn't actually explain anything. We set out asking "why do I exist, right here, in this moment?" If we try to explain that with an infinite regression, nothing is explained. The whole chain continues to lack any real explanation, no matter how long the chain is.

8. Therefore, the only sensible explanation for the fact of the existence of contingent things in this moment is to recognize that there is a thing which necessarily exists, which sustains all things in being from moment to moment. To be sure, our existence can be (and is) contingent upon other contingent things, but ultimately that chain of causation -- right here in this moment -- must terminate with a thing whose existence is necessary and therefore requires no further explanation. Its nature is to exist.

From there, with similar and smaller chains of reasoning (which I'm glad to write up if someone's interested, I don't want to write a book right now in the first post) we can show that this thing which necessarily exists is: singular, purely actual, absolutely simple and non-composite, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.

That is to say, this thing which necessarily exists and sustains all contingent things in being is God.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: fizz on December 04, 2021, 07:38:04 AM
Essentially you are re-purposing the Aristotelian concept of the prime mover, via some adaptations to christian theology from Tommaso d'Aquino and Cartesio.

<shrug> to everyone their own, I guess.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 04, 2021, 09:44:47 AM
JoshuaD,

What sort of feedback are you looking at with this progression? Do you want critique of the connective tissue (i.e. the individual points of logic), or more a conversation about the general tenor of the argument, like what it sort of implies?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: LetterRip on December 04, 2021, 03:18:40 PM
It is illogical to have an eternal universe without cause, therefore we posit an all powerful and all knowing eternal being without cause, to cause the universe.

May I suggest you google Occam's Razor.... usually it is covered in Intro to Philosophy courses, but perhaps you were absent that day.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 04, 2021, 06:31:55 PM
JoshuaD,

What sort of feedback are you looking at with this progression? Do you want critique of the connective tissue (i.e. the individual points of logic), or more a conversation about the general tenor of the argument, like what it sort of implies?

I'm open to anything. I've been studying this stuff over the past year or two, I find the arguments convincing, and I'm looking for any conversations around it. I wrote this short summary up for a friend and thought it would be a good idea to cross-post it here.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 04, 2021, 07:51:43 PM
It is illogical to have an eternal universe without cause, therefore we posit an all powerful and all knowing eternal being without cause, to cause the universe.

May I suggest you google Occam's Razor.... usually it is covered in Intro to Philosophy courses, but perhaps you were absent that day.

Yes, something must be the original cause. If you assert that the Universe itself is the uncaused-cause, then the universe will take on a number of the other divine attributes as a matter of reason, and you aren't left with Atheism, but rather Pantheism. I don't find this argument as compelling, but if you'd like to make it, I'd be glad to read it, think about it, and respond.

But, that being said, you should read my argument more carefully. I am not making an argument for historical cause, but rather an explanation for the existence of things right here in this moment.

Were you perhaps absent the day they taught careful reading comprehension?  :P
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 04, 2021, 08:17:50 PM
Essentially you are re-purposing the Aristotelian concept of the prime mover, via some adaptations to christian theology from Tommaso d'Aquino and Cartesio.

<shrug> to everyone their own, I guess.

Yes, this argument is a modern and bare bones version of what those people argued.

Identification and a shrug aren't a refutation or a response. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 04, 2021, 11:18:28 PM
It is illogical to have an eternal universe without cause, therefore we posit an all powerful and all knowing eternal being without cause, to cause the universe.

May I suggest you google Occam's Razor.... usually it is covered in Intro to Philosophy courses, but perhaps you were absent that day.

Cheeky responses aside, Occam's Razor isn't a philosophical principle, it's just a recognition of a tendency towards simplicity. It doesn't suggest that the theistic arguments that do talk about an historical chain of causation are wrong. If you think these arguments break that easy, you haven't looked at them with any seriousness.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: fizz on December 05, 2021, 05:31:08 AM
Identification and a shrug aren't a refutation or a response.

What I meant is, those arguments are from thousands of years to centuries old, have been argued extensively by a lot of philosophers that had a lot of time and experience at their disposal, and did not convince anyone that was not already sure of the existence of a god in the first place and was searching for a justification of what they already "knew" (also considering that for a whole lot of time, arguing the contrary would have earned you a direct trip to check if an afterlife do really exists or not... and I'm not even talking exclusively about the christian church: impiety was a capital crime in the ancient Greece too).

They are not solid arguments, simply.

The very first problem is that the universe is your argument that the universe is intelligible, where you merge the idea that we, limited humans, can make limited predictions about what will happen in determinate circumstances and "write down" some of the rules (idea with a good track record) with the idea that these rules must be entirely within the scope of the human mind.
It is a working *assumption* for science, because as you rightly point out not assuming it would mean throwing our hands up in surrender, and it paid off in many ways, but it's still an assumption and an hope, not a guarantee... it will work till it will work.

Also, about the things that pop in and out of existence, check virtual particles... one of the theories about the origin of the universe is that it's a vacuum fluctuation, by the way... don't have an idea if that will turn to be the case or not, but it's out there.

The main problem is arguing that an infinite regression is nonsensical: why should it be?
While difficult to parse for our normal mind, infinites pop up constantly in any attempts to deal with the above mentioned rules of the universe and the related math. It's one of the great uplifting stories of human intellect achievements  reading about the mathematicians that dealt with the concept... read about Cantor and Godel... and it's not a coincidence that those mathematicians are posterior to the philosophers that felt the need of having a prime cause.

Also, talking about a chain of cause and effects is related to establishing an arrow of time, and time we know quite well by now thanks to relativity how unreliable of a concept to take as an absolute. For example, nothing preclude having a closed causal loop, we don't observe them commonly but they would not be really so exotic.

And apart for relativity, in quantum mechanics, we have the problem that cause and effect are a bit fuzzy... they tend to be more probabilistic things, like the virtual particles and the vacuum fluctuations things I named earlier.

Moreover, once once you introduce the idea of a causeless cause, why there should be only one of them? Why not many? if there is the possibility of one, there could be another one, and another one... no guarantees...

When you then say that "with similar and smaller chain of reasoning" you can then say that any causeless cause must have the attributes you said it have, well, I know the similar arguments that Descartes made, and Tommaso d'Aquino did... if you have no new arguments, I remember reading theirs and seeing there too the same problems... an absolute effort to bend things so that what was the accepted doctrine (omnipotent, omniscient, all good etc. etc. god) turned out to be the consequence, and a lot of instances where I thought "well, you say that does imply that, I don't think so".

If you want to read a "traditional" philosopher arguing a lot using verbal logic about why those arguments did not work, approach Immanuel Kant, he was still close enough to the older philosophers style to be not too upsetting, but already can show you some of the problems in their thinking in a similar language.

Also, just for at least some of those points, I invite you to read a bit about the theodicy problem, especially related to innocent suffering (small child suffering of bone cancer, or even a gazelle slowly dying with her trachea crushed by a lion): reading most of the proposed solutions to that is a bit like seeing an uncomfortable person twisting themselves in a pretzel trying to find a justification till they yell "squirrel! (mistery of faith!)".
(just as a fun aside, I remembered this old comic being a quite funny but proper explanation of the concept: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2011-06-30)

Really, the great advance that science have made compared to old style philosophy, is recognizing that our minds are quite apt at making bad reasoning sound convincing of what we want to believe true no matter how intelligent we are, and so introducing those few ground rules as error correction methods.
1. Start from actual observations of the world
2. Make all the theories you want, but only if they can pass this test: use those theories to make a *testable* prediction of something that is not already included in the theory itself
3. Let other informed peers take your theories, observations and predictions and let them try to criticize the theory, and try to reproduce the observations.
4. Until your predictions are verified by your peers, know that at best your theory will be taken with quite a bit pinch of salt
5. Remember that every theory will always be taken as provisionally valid only until new theories and observation will better approximate reality: a theory can only ever be proven false, never true.
5.a (if you did a good job with predictions, take solace in that even "false" theories can still be useful, as new theories will mostly work better on edge cases, i.e. classical newtonian mechanics vs relativity and quantum mechanics)
6. as a corollary of what said before, do not deal with theories you can't test in any way as anything more than as an idle exercise, because as already stated multiple times, human minds are really really good at self deception no matter their intelligence, human language is imperfect, and it's really really easy to slip an unproven assumption and prejudice we have in what looks to us an impeccable logical chain of reasoning but it really is not. And people that follow that same assumption will all nod in agreement and perpetuate the error.













Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 06, 2021, 12:30:31 AM
What I meant is, those arguments are from thousands of years to centuries old, have been argued extensively by a lot of philosophers that had a lot of time and experience at their disposal.

My basic contention is that, regarding these questions, philosophy went off the rails with Descartes. He brought us into the theatre of the mind, and in doing so laid the groundwork for the clever but ultimately defeated and false conclusions of Hume and Nietzsche.

and did not convince anyone that was not already sure of the existence of a god in the first place and was searching for a justification of what they already "knew"....They are not solid arguments, simply.

Hi friend, my name is Josh. I was an agnostic Buddhist for many years, and these arguments convinced me. They are much stronger than you are giving them credit for. I was certain that agnosticism was the true thing, and these arguments slowly knocked me out of my socks.

The very first problem is that the universe is your argument that the universe is intelligible, where you merge the idea that we, limited humans, can make limited predictions about what will happen in determinate circumstances and "write down" some of the rules (idea with a good track record) with the idea that these rules must be entirely within the scope of the human mind.

You misunderstand the assertion. I am not saying that we are able to know everything, or even know every physical thing. I am only saying that the principle of sufficient reason (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_sufficient_reason) holds.

Also, about the things that pop in and out of existence, check virtual particles... one of the theories about the origin of the universe is that it's a vacuum fluctuation, by the way... don't have an idea if that will turn to be the case or not, but it's out there.

Quantum particles have reasons for what they do. There is a cause.  As a result, scientists are in the process of mapping what those reasons are. If there weren't reasons, then we couldn't do science. But we can do science. Quantum mechanics does not run contradictory to these theist arguments.

The main problem is arguing that an infinite regression is nonsensical: why should it be?

Because two mirrors facing each other will reflect back and forth infinitely, but the image of a face never appears between them unless there is a face somewhere between them. Similarly, an infinite chain of cause and effect that never roots in a causeless-cause of existence doesn't account for existence. The first domino has to fall of its own accord, or none of the infinite chain of dominoes can fall.

While difficult to parse for our normal mind, infinites pop up constantly in any attempts to deal with the above mentioned rules of the universe and the related math. It's one of the great uplifting stories of human intellect achievements  reading about the mathematicians that dealt with the concept... read about Cantor and Godel... and it's not a coincidence that those mathematicians are posterior to the philosophers that felt the need of having a prime cause.

Godel was a Christian. Specifically Theistc, not pantheistc, and following in the line of Leibniz (who made the sort of argument I have made here). link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_G%C3%B6del#Religious_views). Cantor was also a Christian. link (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Cantor#Philosophy,_religion,_literature_and_Cantor's_mathematics).

These people don't agree with you about the implications of their mathematical theories. You'll have to sustain your case with an actual line of reasoning if you'd like to suggest that advanced mathematics negates the claims of theistic metaphysics. It seems unlikely to me; the nature of math precludes it from making metaphysical claims.

Also, talking about a chain of cause and effects is related to establishing an arrow of time, and time we know quite well by now thanks to relativity how unreliable of a concept to take as an absolute. For example, nothing preclude having a closed causal loop, we don't observe them commonly but they would not be really so exotic.

You didn't read my argument carefully enough. I did not make a case for a regression towards a first cause in the past. I made the case for a first cause of existence right here in this moment. At this particular moment, why do I exist?  I don't necessarily exist. My potential to exist in this moment must be actualized, in this moment, by something which has existence necessarily. Reality cannot rest upon the the past, because the past no longer exists. All of the things which exist contingently must rest upon something right now in this moment which necessarily exists.

And apart for relativity, in quantum mechanics, we have the problem that cause and effect are a bit fuzzy... they tend to be more probabilistic things, like the virtual particles and the vacuum fluctuations things I named earlier.

As I mentioned earlier, this isn't a problem for the metaphysics I'm describing.

Moreover, once once you introduce the idea of a causeless cause, why there should be only one of them? Why not many? if there is the possibility of one, there could be another one, and another one... no guarantees...

This is a good question!

The causeless cause must be purely actual -- possessing no potentiality -- otherwise it would not be a causeless cause. For there to be more than one purely actual thing, there would have to be some differentiating feature between the two; something that one of them has and the other lacks. But something which is purely actual cannot be lacking in this way, because to be lacking something it could possess is to have an unactualized potential.

So there must be only one causeless cause.

Saying that there are two is sort of like saying there are two number sevens. It doesn't make sense; either the thing pointed at is seven with all of its properties, or it is not. There can't be two unique things that are exactly the number seven, because there is nothing to differentiate them.

When you then say that "with similar and smaller chain of reasoning" you can then say that any causeless cause must have the attributes you said it have, well, I know the similar arguments that Descartes made, and Tommaso d'Aquino did... if you have no new arguments, I remember reading theirs and seeing there too the same problems... an absolute effort to bend things so that what was the accepted doctrine (omnipotent, omniscient, all good etc. etc. god) turned out to be the consequence, and a lot of instances where I thought "well, you say that does imply that, I don't think so".

I came into these arguments very neutrally, and I found them convincing. Please keep in mind that I, and many theist philosophers, think that Descartes' ideas started the cart off the path. St. Thomas's arguments seems sound to me.

If you want to read a "traditional" philosopher arguing a lot using verbal logic about why those arguments did not work, approach Immanuel Kant, he was still close enough to the older philosophers style to be not too upsetting, but already can show you some of the problems in their thinking in a similar language.

Are you able to express his arguments? I'd read them if so. If not, I intend to get to him at some point in the future, but I can't go read him in the next 24 hours and give you a response.

Also, just for at least some of those points, I invite you to read a bit about the theodicy problem, especially related to innocent suffering (small child suffering of bone cancer, or even a gazelle slowly dying with her trachea crushed by a lion): reading most of the proposed solutions to that is a bit like seeing an uncomfortable person twisting themselves in a pretzel trying to find a justification till they yell "squirrel! (mistery of faith!)".
(just as a fun aside, I remembered this old comic being a quite funny but proper explanation of the concept: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2011-06-30)

I don't find the problem of evil to be a hurdle to theism. Why do you?

Really, the great advance that science have made compared to old style philosophy, is recognizing that our minds are quite apt at making bad reasoning sound convincing of what we want to believe true no matter how intelligent we are, and so introducing those few ground rules as error correction methods.
1. Start from actual observations of the world
2. Make all the theories you want, but only if they can pass this test: use those theories to make a *testable* prediction of something that is not already included in the theory itself
3. Let other informed peers take your theories, observations and predictions and let them try to criticize the theory, and try to reproduce the observations.
4. Until your predictions are verified by your peers, know that at best your theory will be taken with quite a bit pinch of salt
5. Remember that every theory will always be taken as provisionally valid only until new theories and observation will better approximate reality: a theory can only ever be proven false, never true.
5.a (if you did a good job with predictions, take solace in that even "false" theories can still be useful, as new theories will mostly work better on edge cases, i.e. classical newtonian mechanics vs relativity and quantum mechanics)
6. as a corollary of what said before, do not deal with theories you can't test in any way as anything more than as an idle exercise, because as already stated multiple times, human minds are really really good at self deception no matter their intelligence, human language is imperfect, and it's really really easy to slip an unproven assumption and prejudice we have in what looks to us an impeccable logical chain of reasoning but it really is not. And people that follow that same assumption will all nod in agreement and perpetuate the error.

Yeah, science is a great way to form and distill theories about the physical world of things. Science doesn't assert a materialist metaphysics, nor does it remove the need for metaphysics. Science does not answer the question "Why do I exist right now?".  It can map the chain of cause down through our body, cells, molecules, atoms, particles, and likely further in the future. But either it will end at a scientific discovery an uncaused-cause, or its answer will be incomplete. (Note: the uncaused-cause is necessarily non-materialistic, so it seems to be the case that science will run out of gas before it gets there).

Science can't account for everything in our realm of experience. Among other things, it cannot account for free will, the moral law, the existence of the numbers, and qualia. It also doesn't provide anything in the realm of a complete explanation for the existence of reality. It does its job well, but its job is far more narrow than our experiences, the questions we can ask, and the things we can know to be true.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on December 06, 2021, 10:31:18 AM
I'm never sure sure what people mean when the us the word god, God, G_d
I think most people assume they know what they and others mean by the word. Its only been recently that I think I know what I mean but words get in the way.

Hollywood seems to assume that those who contemplate God are referring to a Santa Class like being I assume to simplify most of the story lines. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on December 06, 2021, 12:18:43 PM
1. The universe exists and is intelligible. That is to say, things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist. Things don't pop in and out of existence for no reason.
...

Quantum mechanics kind of disagrees. At the smallest scale particles and their opposite pop into and out of existence all the time. They just annihilate each other shortly after. Relativity and quantum mechanics are strange physical laws. We "understand" them mathematically. Some of the consequences of each are hard to reconcile with our observed reality. There is a somewhat intuitive way to view general relativity as curved space. The practical interpretation of quantum mechanics has been debated by physicists and philosophers for the last 100 years. So looking at Descartes "demon" for an argument of how understandable the universe is a bit outdated to our current understanding of physics.

The universe if vast and complex. We don't understand dark matter or the weird "antigravitational" force (dark energy) that seems to act at long distance to on average push the universe apart.

If the basis of your argument is that the universe is "understandable" then you over estimate our current understanding of the universe other than it is not purely random with physical laws always changing. We assume physical constants are constant and the same everywhere in the universe because to assume otherwise leads to 1,000,000 different physical interpretations events that we can't begin to understand. But who is to say the speed of light at the birth of the universe is the same as it is today. And why is there a universal speed limit to how fast things can move? We have made great strides in understanding the universe, but you underestimate its great mysteries if you think it is completely understandable.

https://xkcd.com/1489/ (https://xkcd.com/1489/)

Make sure to read the mouseover text there. Of the 4 fundamental forces we understand gravity the least at a basic level.

So without going super in depth in the rest of your analysis. If the first axiom is that the universe is completely understandable then you are vastly overestimating our understanding of the universe beyond a way to observe and predict the phenomenon we have mathematical descriptions of. But if you ask the questions why and how those things work you'll end up in a long conversation that ends with physicist shrugging and saying "because that's the way it works." Even the question of why inertial and gravitational mass are equivalent is really hard to grasp if you think about it too much.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Wayward Son on December 06, 2021, 02:04:31 PM
Quote
1. The universe exists and is intelligible. That is to say, things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist. Things don't pop in and out of existence for no reason.

I think there is an unspoken assumption that, if there is a reason for something, there must be an intelligence that created that reason.

There is a reason why two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom form water, but it does not imply that there was an intelligence that decreed it would be so.

The universe in intelligible because it is consistent.  It follows rules.  These rules can be discerned.

But just because there are rules does not mean someone created the rules.  It could be the effect of a natural process that had not intelligence or goal in mind.  It is simply is.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 06, 2021, 03:52:44 PM
I'm never sure sure what people mean when the us the word god, God, G_d
I think most people assume they know what they and others mean by the word. Its only been recently that I think I know what I mean but words get in the way.

Hollywood seems to assume that those who contemplate God are referring to a Santa Class like being I assume to simplify most of the story lines.

I have used the word in a rigorously defined way in this post. I am talking about the properties of God we can know through natural reason: God necessarily exists, is the uncaused-cause, the unmoving mover, his existence is his essence, is singular, purely actual, absolutely simple and non-composite, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.

Naturally, much of God remains a mystery beyond these properties, but this is the thing I am talking about when I use the word God.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 06, 2021, 03:54:09 PM
Wayward and Yossarian: I'll respond to your posts a bit later, I am at work now and need a little more time than I have right now to respond to them fully.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: NobleHunter on December 06, 2021, 04:26:02 PM
I feel like this is too simple to work but:

The Laws of Conservation of Mass or Energy states that neither mass nor energy can be either created or destroyed.

For something to exist, it is contingent upon the presence of matter or energy to exist.

Therefore, what exists has always existed in some form. It is in the nature of things to exist since anything which exists cannot cease to exist nor can something which does not exist come into existence.

That existing things appear to be contingent is not due to their existence relying on an external cause but that their organization and current state are contingent upon external causes. The matter that makes up a person has always existed, in one form or another, even if that person has not. Which only moves the question to a chain of contingent organization but organization (by which I mean matter or energy assuming qualities based on differentiation and combination from other types of matter) seems to be a property of existence. Existence organizes itself because it is in the nature of existence to do so.

Therefore, there is no singular thing which alone exists necessarily and gives existence to every other thing.

Tl;dr: Everything qualifies for OP's item 3b, item 4 is the mistake of assuming that because a thing's current state is contingent, the thing's existence is contingent, items 5-8 are therefore dismissed as relying upon an incorrect premise.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 06, 2021, 05:25:11 PM
I haven't had time to post on this topic due to my life being upside down, so I'll try to get to it asap. But just an advisory to many of you on the term "cause", there's a discrepancy between how JoshuaD is using the term versus how all of you are. He's not talking about how things evolve over time or even how they started in a chronological sense. He's talking about the backdrop that permits existence to exist in the first place, which is an eternal thing; think of it analogously to a TV screen: the images on the screen need a cause to allow them to exist. And this doesn't just mean you need to determine when the circuit went on and how the circuitry works and all that, but it means you need to define how they are able to exist (in this case, due to a medium called a screen and energy providing for its operation) and how they persist (the continual existence of the TV and its power source). It's not a chronological question but rather about how it could be that images exist on a screen at all. What permits this? In terms of our universe, the metaphysical question is more like "what is spacetime and what props it up so that it can persist and allow for matter and life to exist" in contrast to a more order/sequence type question like "how did the current arrangement of matter come into its configuration".
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: TheDrake on December 06, 2021, 05:41:17 PM
Highly recommend Heinlein's delightful story, which luckily exists in PDF form, By His Bootstraps (https://www.scasd.org/cms/lib5/PA01000006/Centricity/Domain/1252/byhisbootstraps.pdf)

Plenty of room to avoid the *need* for pedantic cause and effect. In fact, even Hawking talked about cause and effect being a perception based on entropy more than a fixed direction. The short run series "Devs" also has some fun things to say about cause, effect, and free will.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 06, 2021, 09:52:33 PM
Quantum mechanics kind of disagrees. At the smallest scale particles and their opposite pop into and out of existence all the time. They just annihilate each other shortly after. Relativity and quantum mechanics are strange physical laws. We "understand" them mathematically. Some of the consequences of each are hard to reconcile with our observed reality. There is a somewhat intuitive way to view general relativity as curved space. The practical interpretation of quantum mechanics has been debated by physicists and philosophers for the last 100 years. So looking at Descartes "demon" for an argument of how understandable the universe is a bit outdated to our current understanding of physics.

Quantum Mechanics is still under development, and the Broglie-Bohm hidden variable interpretation allows for quantum mechanics to be deterministic.

But it doesn't matter. The sort of causality I am describing here does not entail determinism. A cause only needs to make an effect intelligible, it does not need to do so deterministically. Quantum mechanics shows us that the quantum world is intelligible.

The universe if vast and complex. We don't understand dark matter or the weird "antigravitational" force (dark energy) that seems to act at long distance to on average push the universe apart.

Yes.

If the basis of your argument is that the universe is "understandable"

That is not the basis of my argument. The first statement can be instead written as "The principle of sufficient reason (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_sufficient_reason) is true."

but you underestimate its great mysteries if you think it is completely understandable.

I do not think the universe or reality is completely understandable by any human's mind. I firmly think the opposite. I think it is our nature to be limited creatures with limited intellects.

https://xkcd.com/1489/
Make sure to read the mouseover text there. Of the 4 fundamental forces we understand gravity the least at a basic level.

lol, I love XKCD. However, I am making the opposite argument than that you imagine.

But if you ask the questions why and how those things work you'll end up in a long conversation that ends with physicist shrugging and saying "because that's the way it works.".

Yeah, because eventually the questions go beyond the realm of science and into the realm of metaphysics.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 06, 2021, 10:01:06 PM
I think there is an unspoken assumption that, if there is a reason for something, there must be an intelligence that created that reason.

No, this is a not an assumption. I think we can conclude that God has intelligence, but we don't start there or assume it. 

There is a reason why two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom form water, but it does not imply that there was an intelligence that decreed it would be so. The universe in intelligible because it is consistent.  It follows rules.  These rules can be discerned.

But just because there are rules does not mean someone created the rules.  It could be the effect of a natural process that had not intelligence or goal in mind.  It is simply is.

So you agree with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of my original post, but disagree with me beyond that and instead assert that the universe itself is the causeless cause?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on December 07, 2021, 10:14:20 AM
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Highly recommend Heinlein's delightful story, which luckily exists in PDF form, By His Bootstraps
Thanks for sharing - I enjoyed that
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Wayward Son on December 07, 2021, 12:19:05 PM
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So you agree with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of my original post, but disagree with me beyond that and instead assert that the universe itself is the causeless cause?

I think so.  Re-reading your propositions, I have no major quarrel with any of them.  (Reserving the right for minor quibbles if I come up with any. :) )

I'm not sure the universe is necessarily "the causeless cause."  There very well may be something that caused the universe to be.  (In modern terms, "what caused the Big Band?") But then that brings into question what caused that cause.  Eventually, we will come to a point where we have to assume that something simply exists without a cause, unless it is literally "turtles all the way down." :)

However, I see no reason to assume (or way to prove) that this "causeless cause" must be intelligent, omnipotent, etc.  I can see it as neutral and mindless as physics and nature--that everything we see about us is simply a happy coincidence (or the result of every possibility happening, which takes out chance and probability).

I look forward to seeing your reasoning for intelligence in the "causeless cause."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 07, 2021, 12:46:27 PM
In modern terms, "what caused the Big Band?"

From Wiki:

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Before 1910, social dance in America was dominated by steps such as the waltz and polka. As jazz migrated from its New Orleans origin to Chicago and New York City, energetic, suggestive dances traveled with it. During the next decades, ballrooms filled with people doing the jitterbug and Lindy Hop. The dance duo Vernon and Irene Castle popularized the foxtrot while accompanied by the Europe Society Orchestra led by James Reese Europe.

One of the first bands to accompany the new rhythms was led by a drummer, Art Hickman, in San Francisco in 1916. Hickman's arranger, Ferde Grofé, wrote arrangements in which he divided the jazz orchestra into sections that combined in various ways. This intermingling of sections became a defining characteristic of big bands. In 1919, Paul Whiteman hired Grofé to use similar techniques for his band. Whiteman was educated in classical music, and he called his new band's music symphonic jazz. The methods of dance bands marked a step away from New Orleans jazz. With the exception of Jelly Roll Morton, who continued playing in the New Orleans style, bandleaders paid attention to the demand for dance music and created their own big bands.[3] They incorporated elements of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, ragtime, and vaudeville.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Wayward Son on December 07, 2021, 05:39:20 PM
Thanks, Fenring.  I always wondered...  ;D
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: DJQuag on December 08, 2021, 07:48:40 PM
This all seems to have an anthromorphical bias behind it.

We exist, therefore we must be special. That's the idea. And yet, we have no idea just how large the universe actually is. The biggest telescopes and best technology can only show things that are close enough to share their light with us, within the last few billion years. We don't know how big the universe is, and literally can not know. For all we know, it could be an infinitely big place, with us and our observed "universe" taking up one very small part.

That may be getting off topic, I guess. If you roll enough dice you'll get whatever result you want. In this case, it's animals in the ape classification looking into the sky and wondering what the meaning of "is," is. Those animals are inclined to think that because they're "special," the universe itself must have been crafted to their own specific needs.

You say it's God. I say in an unlimited uni(or multi)verse with unlimited attempts at least one of them will give us our current world, and we don't need to fall to our knees and open our mouths because of that.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on December 09, 2021, 01:33:07 PM
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You say it's God. I say in an unlimited uni(or multi)verse with unlimited attempts at least one of them will give us our current world, and we don't need to fall to our knees and open our mouths because of that.

I don't want to derail the thread
How are you using the word God here. A some one or being to be worshiped?
Personally unlimited uni(or multi)verse sounds pretty awesome and I might fall to my knees in wonder if I was able to experience it as such

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: TheDrake on December 09, 2021, 02:11:48 PM
If God is an intelligent and omniscient designer, he isn't very good at it or he's just mean. Just look at eyesight, often quoted as intelligent design. One that left out infrared, night vision, higher resolution, and reliability.

Very well suited to conditions of a million years ago, when they evolved, completely broken and inadequate for the needs of today's humans. Adding omnipotence, this could be fixed any time in short order

But really the best counter arguments to this God postulation are conveniently assembled by hawking.

https://www.themarginalian.org/2019/07/17/stephen-hawking-brief-answers-to-the-big-questions/
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 09, 2021, 02:46:56 PM
I look forward to seeing your reasoning for intelligence in the "causeless cause."

I'm working on it for you now. I'll have it sometime in the next few days. I'd like to get it out clear and clean, so it might take me a little while.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 09, 2021, 02:51:51 PM
If God is an intelligent and omniscient designer, he isn't very good at it or he's just mean. Just look at eyesight, often quoted as intelligent design. One that left out infrared, night vision, higher resolution, and reliability.

Very well suited to conditions of a million years ago, when they evolved, completely broken and inadequate for the needs of today's humans. Adding omnipotence, this could be fixed any time in short order

But really the best counter arguments to this God postulation are conveniently assembled by hawking.

https://www.themarginalian.org/2019/07/17/stephen-hawking-brief-answers-to-the-big-questions/

If we had those powers, we'd then be complaining how we didn't have IQs 50 points higher or the ability to fly, or our dependence on oxygen, or our limited age, or our fleshly bodies, or any of the other limitations human beings face.

Our nature is to be limited. We are dumb, made of flesh, and with limited senses. I don't think it is evil or mean of God to make creation and to make beings lesser than himself.  The nature of this complaint is that it is true for every single created being, because we are all less than God.I don't think it's a fair criticism.

I also reject the assertion that our senses are inadequate for today's humans. Inadequate for what end? Our senses and minds are sufficient for us to be good and live good lives, and that is all we need.


Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 09, 2021, 02:52:58 PM
This all seems to have an anthromorphical bias behind it.

Why do you think that? I see nothing of the sort in my original post.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on December 09, 2021, 03:24:51 PM
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If God is an intelligent and omniscient designer, he isn't very good at it or he's just mean
Every beginning story I have come across involves the birth of ego consciousness brought about via a confrontation with the problem of opposites the birth of duality 
It is only within duality that God is associated with a judgment of good and being mean which says nothing of G_d

Life is as it is and must be.
J Campbell suggested that THE question behind the hero journey, and reflected in the various wisdom teachings, Is - How to respond to Life as it Is? Life's wonder and horror? Life devouring life for life... birth, death, renewal the reality of every breathe we take. I was taught to answer with a No we can fix it by following the rules. That hasn't worked out so well.  I think the better answer is a YES
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: TheDrake on December 09, 2021, 03:33:26 PM
If God is an intelligent and omniscient designer, he isn't very good at it or he's just mean. Just look at eyesight, often quoted as intelligent design. One that left out infrared, night vision, higher resolution, and reliability.

Very well suited to conditions of a million years ago, when they evolved, completely broken and inadequate for the needs of today's humans. Adding omnipotence, this could be fixed any time in short order

But really the best counter arguments to this God postulation are conveniently assembled by hawking.

https://www.themarginalian.org/2019/07/17/stephen-hawking-brief-answers-to-the-big-questions/

If we had those powers, we'd then be complaining how we didn't have IQs 50 points higher or the ability to fly, or our dependence on oxygen, or our limited age, or our fleshly bodies, or any of the other limitations human beings face.

Our nature is to be limited. We are dumb, made of flesh, and with limited senses. I don't think it is evil or mean of God to make creation and to make beings lesser than himself.  The nature of this complaint is that it is true for every single created being, because we are all less than God.I don't think it's a fair criticism.

I also reject the assertion that our senses are inadequate for today's humans. Inadequate for what end? Our senses and minds are sufficient for us to be good and live good lives, and that is all we need.

How many people get severe burns because we can't tell if a door is hot? As a person involved in design, we are always trying to improve the design - only limited by technology, time, expense, or some other factor. A supreme being would deliberately be crippling his creations for what purpose - personal amusement? But you've already heard and rejected all of these arguments - like what is that appendix doing there?

That wasn't the thrust of your original argument, but got introduced when you stipulated the qualities of God. That this entity is good, omniscient, and omnipotent is rather hard to support.

To the original point, nothing has to have caused the universe mathematically, it can just pop into existence. Common sense arguments break down and fail in the contemplation of singularities and the absence of time itself.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Wayward Son on December 09, 2021, 03:57:46 PM
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To the original point, nothing has to have caused the universe mathematically, it can just pop into existence. Common sense arguments break down and fail in the contemplation of singularities and the absence of time itself.

Perhaps, but...what caused the mathematics to work? ;)

We as humans will always look for a cause, a reason that something happened.  Then we will look for the reason for that reason.  And so on, turtles all the way down. :)

Which made me think: does God live in a universe?  He is outside our universe, of course, since He created it.  But does He have His own?  Are there things around God that are not God?  If so, where did His universe come from?  If not, can intelligence exist alone?  Can a universe be intelligent, when It has only Itself?  What is there to be intelligent about? ;)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: TheDrake on December 09, 2021, 04:22:56 PM
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Imagine a river, flowing down a mountainside. What caused the river? Well, perhaps the rain that fell earlier in the mountains. But then, what caused the rain? A good answer would be the Sun, that shone down on the ocean and lifted water vapour up into the sky and made clouds. Okay, so what caused the Sun to shine? Well, if we look inside we see the process known as fusion, in which hydrogen atoms join to form helium, releasing vast quantities of energy in the process. So far so good. Where does the hydrogen come from? Answer: the Big Bang. But here’s the crucial bit. The laws of nature itself tell us that not only could the universe have popped into existence without any assistance, like a proton, and have required nothing in terms of energy, but also that it is possible that nothing caused the Big Bang. Nothing.

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Something very wonderful happened to time at the instant of the Big Bang. Time itself began.

To understand this mind-boggling idea, consider a black hole floating in space. A typical black hole is a star so massive that it has collapsed in on itself. It’s so massive that not even light can escape its gravity, which is why it’s almost perfectly black. It’s gravitational pull is so powerful, it warps and distorts not only light but also time. To see how, imagine a clock is being sucked into it. As the clock gets closer and closer to the black hole, it begins to get slower and slower. Time itself begins to slow down. Now imagine the clock as it enters the black hole — well, assuming of course that it could withstand the extreme gravitational forces– it would actually stop. It stops not because it is broken, but because inside the black hole time itself doesn’t exist. And that’s exactly what happened at the start of the universe.

[…]

As we travel back in time towards the moment of the Big Bang, the universe gets smaller and smaller and smaller, until it finally comes to a point where the whole universe is a space so small that it is in effect a single infinitesimally small, infinitesimally dense black hole. And just as with modern-day black holes, floating around in space, the laws of nature dictate something quite extraordinary. They tell us that here too time itself must come to a stop. You can’t get to a time before the Big Bang because there was no time before the Big Bang. We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.

We just don't have a mechanism to comprehend the absence of time, since we require time and entropy to even form thoughts.

We believe in nothing, Lebowski!
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on December 09, 2021, 04:38:41 PM
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Which made me think: does God live in a universe?  He is outside our universe, of course, since He created it.  But does He have His own?  Are there things around God that are not God?  If so, where did His universe come from?  If not, can intelligence exist alone?  Can a universe be intelligent, when It has only Itself?  What is there to be intelligent about?

The Kabbalah deal with some of these questions. 3 of the sefirot taking place before the big band with G_d removes it self to create space so that it can fill it.  I likely screwed that up :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Ephrem Moseley on December 15, 2021, 07:08:43 AM
No no no.

Simulation Argument plus optimism equals God.

simple as that

welcome to my Heaven, gentlemen
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 15, 2021, 03:17:44 PM
Ok, I finally have a few minutes so I'll take a stab at addressing the main issues in the causeless cause argument (this version of it). Fundamentally there are a ton of hidden premises baked into any abstract argument like this - I call it abstract because almost by definition it's not an empirical deduction based on observations, but an argument from axioms only. So we must look at these axioms in order to see not only whether the conclusions follow, but why these axioms should be accepted in the first place. Otherwise we have two possible situations:

1) The axioms are reasonable, but ultimately inaccurate, and so the theory is consistent but also false.
2) The axioms are unreasonable, or undefined, in which case the syllogism becomes immediately suspect.

Part of the issues raised starting in the late 19th century is that language is a barrier that needs crossing before we can be certain what we're saying. It's not enough to use a term, but it has to be clear that person A and person B not only *think* they mean the same thing by it, but in fact DO mean the same thing by it; and moreover, that they are both not merely inventing something that is merely a figment of their imaginations. I think Plato and the Peripatetics anticipated the major issues involved in tackling the definition of a term. You can have a dialogue like the Republic ostensibly about trying to define "justice", but in reality it ends up being a discourse on how problematic it is to even frame an attempt on the definition.

So let's start with a few of the axioms that are stated overtly in the above schema:

1. The universe exists and is intelligible. That is to say, things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist. Things don't pop in and out of existence for no reason.

Clause 1 "the universe exists and is intelligible" is the axiom here; "things exist and we can see..." is apparently an explanation, or elaboration, of what this axiom is supposed to mean. But the problem arises inevitably: how to define a tricky axiom without resort to terms that require even more definitional apparatus than the axiom does. One huge example of this becomes immediately apparent: what does it mean to say that "we can see" that "there are reasons for why things exist"? Who is this "we"? Is this really an axiom with a baked in principle that the following applies to everyone by definition? And that thing that "we" can see is that there are "reasons" for why things exist. I can explain trivially why this is too much to bite off: I personally couldn't even agree that "I see that there are reasons for why things exist." In fact I have no knowledge at all about why things exist. To use Hume's argument, the only reason I can even say they exist at all is through experience; it just so happens this is how it always was when I was young, and still appears to be now; but nothing in this suggests either a law or an explanation; just the mere fact itself that these things are there and continue to be there each day. This is a huge issue, because there is a potential limitation built-in to things about what I can say about them sight unseen. Pure reason cannot tell me why things exist, even though empirical experience can make me used to the fact that they do. Before I spend an eon taking on axiom 1, let's move on for a moment.

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2. If this weren't true, science and philosophy wouldn't function, and we wouldn't be able to trust our cognitive and sensitive faculties. But science and philosophy do fuction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

The axiom is here is that science and philosophy do function; and from this we can gather some corollaries. But what does it mean to say they do function? Now if we're being informal we can say that the reasoning process seems to bear fruits; that much we can agree on. Engineering models work, and so forth. But it's not enough to say they work; this axiom requires that they work specifically in such a manner that axiom 1 is justified. Axiom 1 says that we know the reasons why things exist; and so for axiom 2 to support axiom 1, it requires that science and philosophy work because we know why things exist. But this is in fact not necessarily true. It is entirely possible for things to work for reasons we do not understand at all. Animals, just by comparison, have instincts that generate productive impulses. For examples, beavers can build dams; but this does not mean they understand why dams work, or even that they work. They just do the thing they're programmed to do because it's their heuristic and it keeps their species going. A sort of selection process got them here (if we believe the Darwinian story) but certainly not a chain of reasoning. Why should be assume our logic and scientific success is a result of 'true understanding' as opposed to just a series of heuristics that get results but for reasons we know not why? Whis "why" is the connective tissue between axiom 1 and axiom 2. Without it, we can't really say we 'know' why things exist, and we would be restricted into saying, as in the pragmatic school, we can get things to work in certain ways and our unstanding stops around there.

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3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

I was being specific about term use before to illustrate a point, which becomes absolutely central here in axiom 3. To my satisfaction, we have not yet established that we do have the capacity to explain why anything exists, but nevertheless we are trying to trackle the problem of assigning reasons for that existence. I understand the desire to ask how things can be, but as with Aristotle, I find it highly problematic to assume we have all the possibilities at hand to list them exahustively (and the Aristotealian reasoning breaks down if you can show the lists are not exhaustive, because often it is really quite essentially that they are airtight and allow for no other possibilities). In this case two possibilities are offered. I can't say what I think of them because I don't know how "causing" works as axiom 3 seems to employ the term. Without knowing the mechanics of "causing" it's hard to me to agree that these are the only two possibities. In fact it's hard for me to even agree that these two listed are possibilities. For instance, what does (b) mean, in clear an definable terms? How can a thing's existence be explained in the 'nature of the thing itself'? Without an example of this it's hard to see how this clause is definable. Like, what does it really mean, and how can we know that we are not just using words improperly?

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4. We see contingent things all around us and we ourselves are contingent things.

I think if I'm tracking the chain of arguments, axiom 4 is really foundational for axiom 3, rather than the other way around. It seems that the working definition of 'thing whose cause is in its own nature' must begin with a statement of what that is not, which is to say, all the stuff and creatures we see every day. So in order to put forward a definition of a self-causing thing, we need to first define what a contingent thing is, since these we actually see (according to the argument). But here is a funny, if unintuitive question: how do we actually know that all of this stuff is contingent? Contingent on what, and in what manner? Certainly we could suppose that nothing comes from nothing (another, major, axiom), and so if there is something then therefore it came from or is supported by something else (the contingency). But that supposition seems to also suffer from a definitional problem, again, of what it means to say something 'causes' these things. And I'm being quite honest when I say I don't know what this term means. I am very familiar with this type of argument, btw, but what I see in them is they always take for granted certain things as being obvious which I think are not obvious at all. In fact, they are devilishly tricky because we want to feel like they don't require explanation. But this is a formal argument, and must be mathematically tight. We can't make use of "well everyone knows X" type assumptions.

The remaining axioms all essentially rest on axioms 1-4 being agreed upon, so I can stop here for the moment. Obviously if we had a clear and consistent definition of "contingent" and "self-caused", and moreover knew these were in fact 'real things' and not just made-up terms, it wouldn't be very hard to show how the objects in our world obviously require this contingency to rest on something. Whether that 'something' must be omniscient, etc, is IMO a totally other paper topic. I've seen proofs of the existence of God before, and typically they are very careful to avoid making any sort of statements about that God which are just re-interations of an extent faith system. So they define God merely as "that thing we are talking about which is an uncaused cause", and insist they are not necessarily talking about the God of any particular faith. Obviously they actually are, but the argument itself is not, which is the point.

These types of approaches are really tempting, but always require we make positive assertions that are IMO above our mental pay grade. We don't necessarily have the apparatus to define causes all the way to the bottom, nor to understand what it could even mean to say a thing self-causes (or doesn't). Actually in Catholicism that's one of the mysteries (the trinity, essentially), which is to say, it's a thing that should be pondered but never explained because it can't be explained by us (according to that faith system). So ironically it's often an atheistic notion that all things are explainable, whereas some faith systems maintain that human knowledge has limits and our reasoning cannot breach certain boundaries. Just for instance, Buddhism and Catholicism are completely incompatible on this particular point, since Buddhism suggests we can attain perfect true knowledge, whereas Catholicism says that this is impossible.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on December 16, 2021, 02:30:22 PM
Quantum mechanics kind of disagrees. At the smallest scale particles and their opposite pop into and out of existence all the time. They just annihilate each other shortly after. Relativity and quantum mechanics are strange physical laws. We "understand" them mathematically. Some of the consequences of each are hard to reconcile with our observed reality. There is a somewhat intuitive way to view general relativity as curved space. The practical interpretation of quantum mechanics has been debated by physicists and philosophers for the last 100 years. So looking at Descartes "demon" for an argument of how understandable the universe is a bit outdated to our current understanding of physics.

Quantum Mechanics is still under development, and the Broglie-Bohm hidden variable interpretation allows for quantum mechanics to be deterministic.

But it doesn't matter. The sort of causality I am describing here does not entail determinism. A cause only needs to make an effect intelligible, it does not need to do so deterministically. Quantum mechanics shows us that the quantum world is intelligible.

...
Long delay in my response as well.

By intelligible you simply mean not completely random? A universe that had completely random and changing physical laws wouldn't be stable enough for life to ever form. So if such a universe existed there would be no creatures who ever moved far enough along the evolutionary chain to question their existence and the nature of the universe.

But at a fundamental level I have a question about your logic chain.
1) The universe can't just exist (in its intelligible state)
2) Some other stuff ... therefore there is a creator of said universe.

At the end of the whole chain (assuming I agree with all the premises and logic for a minute) I have the question. Where did this being with powers beyond anything we've observed come from? How did God come into existence? Was God created by a previous entity? God's origination from nothing seems as problematic logically as the universe being born from a big bang/nothing. How can an entity/intelligence outside of our universe have the power and capability to create everything in existence? Is it a Scott Adam's argument that the universe is God's debris?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 16, 2021, 03:07:42 PM
Where did this being with powers beyond anything we've observed come from?

Not sure if you had the will the wade through my wall of text just above, but I think this may be a similiar question to mine when I mentioned requiring a serious definition for "self-caused", which is one of two class of ways things can exist according to the chain of reasoning (the other of which is contingent things, 'caused' by something else). I need to know what "caused" means, formally speaking.

I think you would find it difficult to even frame a question about 'where' God came from, since according to at minimum the Christian schema of God, God exists outside of time...so there is no "before". So 'caused' in this sense isn't an issue of chronological sequence, i.e. investigating what came 'before' in a chain of occurances. It's more a question of what in the world "uncaused cause" means in the first place IMO.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: TheDrake on December 18, 2021, 04:31:20 PM
Divine proof: the banana


https://www.reddit.com/r/facepalm/comments/rjclqe/the_banana_is_the_atheists_nightmare/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Ephrem Moseley on December 19, 2021, 02:19:52 AM
distraction?

okay then

"No no no.

Simulation Argument plus optimism equals God.

simple as that

welcome to my Heaven, gentlemen"

Bueller?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 21, 2021, 03:22:39 PM
Ahhhhh.  The old debate.  The only debate.  High philosophy here.  I feel that Ornery still does not have the sophistication and background education to give this debate justice, but when has that every stopped anybody? 

Anyways Josh,  I feel that your central argument lends a great deal to later scholastic, Neo-Thomist, Neo-Aristotelean arguments.  I don't know if you came up with it all on your own, but what you are describing has best been laid out by Prof Edward Feser in his books The Last Superstition and Five Proofs For the Existence of God.  William Lane Craig uses a slightly different breakdown of the cosmological argument, and even Mortimer Adler discussed a similar argument in his book How to Think About God.  If you havn't read any of these individuals, I would give them all a try, with Feser being first, though The Last Superstition is very polemistic.

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Therefore, the only sensible explanation for the fact of the existence of contingent things in this moment is to recognize that there is a thing which necessarily exists, which sustains all things in being from moment to moment.

The crux of the argument here, which I imagine most people have missed, is that something is necessary to cause not only the beginning of causality, but something is necessary to support causality and existence right here and right now.  That is to say, that God would not just be a spark, but a pillar, that supports and maintains existence and causality throughout time. 

The most cogent counter to this argument that I have read is that of Mortimer Adler, who poses the question as to why existential momentum could not be assumed to exist.  IE, in the same way a body in motion tends to stay in motion, that a universe that exists tends to stay existing, without any external support. 

The second thing I would mention as a critique of the argument is that I have never heard of anyone being convinced by it as a starting point.  I have heard of people being convinced by the argument at the end of the journey, but not at the beginning of a journey to seek God.   

It is my experience that God, if it exists, is both extremely eminent and yet extremely hidden.  A theist will explain that evidence for the existence of a supernatural creator is all around us at all times, while an atheist will say that there is no evidence, certainly no proof, at all.  While this may make me something of a Fideist, and is somewhat heretical from a Scholastic point of view, I tend to believe that sans divine revelation, an individual must be looking with an open heart and open mind to find God.  Some people just don't have that, and logical arguments are not going to sway them.  The search for God starts with something personal, usually something sensed as missing from a purely materialistic explanation of the universe.  Some atheists on the other hand seem to start with the concept of the existence of a supernatural and omniscient and ever-present creator to be offensive to their senses of justice, privacy, and materialistic view of the universe.  The Christian concept of God can offend them even more, depending on the sophistication of the concept. 

Regardless, I think that finding God begins and ends in the heart, not in the mind. 


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Letterrip:May I suggest you google Occam's Razor.... usually it is covered in Intro to Philosophy courses, but perhaps you were absent that day.

Pretty rude.  But that's kinda calling the kettle black.  William of Ockham was a Franciscan monk and Scholastic rebel.  I don't believe for one second that he would agree with your view of his philosophy, or of Bertrand Russell's use of it.  But he did believe that reason could not prove the existence of God, and that the only proof could come by revelation.  He had some rather weird concepts for a Scholastic.  But I imagine that one could argue that the theory of a supernatural being creating a material universe ex nihilo requires less variables than a material universe coming into being ex nihilo by itself.  It would be like a criminal arguing that Ockham's Razor supports the theory that the 10,000 boxes of shaving razors in his garage just appeared from nothing rather than from him stealing them, because the idea of the razors just appearing from nothing requires less variables. 

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They are not solid arguments, simply.

Hmmmm.  Then why are they still around? 

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Hollywood seems to assume that those who contemplate God are referring to a Santa Class like being I assume to simplify most of the story lines.

I think this is a general caricature of Theism as a whole, though there is plenty of historical evidence of that kind of simplistic view, and there are still plenty of people whose view of their God is highly personable.  But it's a scale really, with Santa at one end and something completely unknowable and unexplainable yet eminent and necessary at the other.   

As I read though many responses, I'm struck again at how a little knowledge and a little philosophy is generally dangerous.  The concept of the existence or non-existence of God is a highly technical debate when you get into philosophy, and encompasses a whole bunch of branches.  Metaphysics, epistemology, logic, cosmology, and natural theology.  It's a highly technical subject that ends up dealing with the fundamental background of existence and the debating of it on a philosophical level is complex to say the least. It should probably be left to professionals. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on December 21, 2021, 05:12:09 PM
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I don't know if you came up with it all on your own, but what you are describing has best been laid out by Prof Edward Feser in his books The Last Superstition and Five Proofs For the Existence of God. William Lane Craig uses a slightly different breakdown of the cosmological argument, and even Mortimer Adler discussed a similar argument in his book How to Think About God.  If you havn't read any of these individuals, I would give them all a try, with Feser being first, though The Last Superstition is very polemistic. 

I definitely did not come up with this on my own, I'm nowhere near that bright. I am currently reading that exact book by Feser and am trying to gain full comprehension and mastery of the arguments he has modernized. The argument I made at the beginning of this thread is a very simple version of the fifth proof in that book, which I wrote up for a friend on discord and then re-posted here. I didn't intend to give the impression that this was my construction and I don't think anyone took it that way, but apologies if that wasn't clear.

I like WLC a lot as well. I haven't read or heard Mortimer Adler yet, but I will check him out.  Thanks for his name.

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The crux of the argument here, which I imagine most people have missed, is that something is necessary to cause not only the beginning of causality, but something is necessary to support causality and existence right here and right now.  That is to say, that God would not just be a spark, but a pillar, that supports and maintains existence and causality throughout time. 

Yes. A few people missed this point and it's a key point. Fenring also pointed this out.

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The most cogent counter to this argument that I have read is that of Mortimer Adler, who poses the question as to why existential momentum could not be assumed to exist.  IE, in the same way a body in motion tends to stay in motion, that a universe that exists tends to stay existing, without any external support. 

Yeah, existential inertia is the best argument I have come across that is contrary to these arguments but I don't find it compelling.

Question: why does this thing exist?
Answer: Because the thing existed previously, and in that previous time-slice, it had this property of existential inertia.

The problem I see with existential inertia is that neither the property nor the thing exist at timeslice T, they only existed at timeslice T-1.  In order for the thing to exist, something which exists must give them existence. The thing itself cannot do that, and the property resides in the existence of the thing. It looks like an incoherent bootstrapping to me.


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It is my experience that God, if it exists, is both extremely eminent and yet extremely hidden.  A theist will explain that evidence for the existence of a supernatural creator is all around us at all times, while an atheist will say that there is no evidence, certainly no proof, at all.  While this may make me something of a Fideist, and is somewhat heretical from a Scholastic point of view, I tend to believe that sans divine revelation, an individual must be looking with an open heart and open mind to find God. 

I agree that we need an open mind to find any truth. This stuff isn't chess -- when you make a bad move, you don't instantly lose. Most people can and do spend a lifetime holding false beliefs and truths. A certain amount of sincere openness is essential for any growth.

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Some people just don't have that, and logical arguments are not going to sway them.  The search for God starts with something personal, usually something sensed as missing from a purely materialistic explanation of the universe.

Yeah. People have free will and reason is not a bludgeon. People can ignore it if they want. That being said, give me an open-minded atheist and it's pretty easy to start stacking up all of the immediate experiences which cannot be accounted for through materialism alone.  Most people just haven't thought it all the way through.

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Some atheists on the other hand seem to start with the concept of the existence of a supernatural and omniscient and ever-present creator to be offensive to their senses of justice, privacy, and materialistic view of the universe.  The Christian concept of God can offend them even more, depending on the sophistication of the concept. 

Yeah, there is a real allergy in atheists to look at these arguments. Most of them will just scoff at them, strawmen them, or dance around them. Some people (Graham Oppie, for example) will grab them head on and try to engage, but in my experience, a lot of people refuse to even comprehend them. They sort of short-circuit very quickly.

I have tried to develop the habit of being able to fully comprehend and entertain an idea as it is before dismissing it. It's not always easy though.

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As I read though many responses, I'm struck again at how a little knowledge and a little philosophy is generally dangerous.  The concept of the existence or non-existence of God is a highly technical debate when you get into philosophy, and encompasses a whole bunch of branches.  Metaphysics, epistemology, logic, cosmology, and natural theology.  It's a highly technical subject that ends up dealing with the fundamental background of existence and the debating of it on a philosophical level is complex to say the least. It should probably be left to professionals.

I agree with a lot of your post, but I strongly disagree with this last paragraph.

Philosophy is hard and we should have a certain amount of humility when we deal with it, in recognition of the fact that literally every named philosopher I disagree with could run circles around me with their mental acuity.

At the same time, we shouldn't surrender our reason to "professionals". We should adopt the proper humility and then use the virtues that we have to do our best to understand our experiences. For some people, that will entail more mundane faith -- believing what other people tell them -- while for others it will entail more critical analysis. 

Metaphysics is hard and it's big, but it's ultimately comprehensible.  I think we'd be a lot better off if people took the time to try to understand it and, for example, stopped assuming that a materialist metaphysics was a necessary conclusion of science, or if they took the time to recognize all of the intellectual consequences of a skeptical metaphysics ala Hume.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 21, 2021, 05:34:36 PM
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That being said, give me an open-minded atheist and it's pretty easy to start stacking up all of the immediate experiences which cannot be accounted for through materialism alone.

Oh, materialism is easy.  Unless you're Tom Davidson.  He really should be here to give his side of the matter.  But IMO a good mathematician should be able to put up a stern defense against strict materialism.  And it's a start on material atheism, but it is one thing to say that things like the square root of negative one exists, and another to say that the universe was created by something that was uncreated that is a consciousness without matter. 

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Yeah, there is a real allergy in atheists to look at these arguments. Most of them will just scoff at them, strawmen them, or dance around them. Some people (Graham Oppie, for example) will grab them head on and try to engage, but in my experience, a lot of people refuse to even comprehend them. They sort of short-circuit very quickly.

I have tried to develop the habit of being able to fully comprehend and entertain an idea as it is before dismissing it. It's not always easy though.

All people are primarily emotional thinkers and post hoc reasoners.  It's easy to try and not be an emotional thinker, but it's usually being done after we have already formed an opinion.  I remember some story being presented, I think by David Hait, about how individuals with brain damage that effected their emotions, left them less emotional, turned them into highly unethical people or made them unable to make decisions at all.  I can't remember.

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At the same time, we shouldn't surrender our reason to "professionals". We should adopt the proper humility and then use the virtues that we have to do our best to understand our experiences. For some people, that will entail more mundane faith -- believing what other people tell them -- while for others it will entail more critical analysis.

I think the proper humility in this case is reading a whole bunch of philosophy before attempting to grapple with these ideas.  It's easy to read one or two books, or some internet forum threads, and think you have a grasp on something that is very complex.  This goes double when suddenly you're throwing around theoretical physics in it as well.  I don't mean for this to be a requirement for a person's personal search for God, but it should be a requirement before debating the issue philosophically. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: LetterRip on December 21, 2021, 07:36:54 PM
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Letterrip:May I suggest you google Occam's Razor.... usually it is covered in Intro to Philosophy courses, but perhaps you were absent that day.

Pretty rude.  But that's kinda calling the kettle black.  William of Ockham was a Franciscan monk and Scholastic rebel.  I don't believe for one second that he would agree with your view of his philosophy, or of Bertrand Russell's use of it.  But he did believe that reason could not prove the existence of God, and that the only proof could come by revelation.

He states a premise - the Universe isn't eternal, ergo it must be caused.  He then concludes that the cause is "God".  Even if we grant the premise, there is no reason to posit God, almost any of an infinity of explanations is simpler than God.   There is no rational reason or line of reasoning that leads to positing God from the given premises.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 21, 2021, 08:07:54 PM
He states a premise - the Universe isn't eternal, ergo it must be caused.  He then concludes that the cause is "God".  Even if we grant the premise, there is no reason to posit God, almost any of an infinity of explanations is simpler than God.   There is no rational reason or line of reasoning that leads to positing God from the given premises.

That's because you're reading too much into the word "God".  You have your own strawman vision of what Josh is talking about.  Santa Claus or an old white man with a beard sitting on a cloud like Zeus or maybe George Burns or Morgan Freeman. 

Josh makes no description or definition of what he is referring to as "God", other than that if the universe was "caused", it would have to be caused by something outside the universe that is not restrained by the rules of the universe.  It could be a supernatural fart or a virtual particle.  Josh doesn't define it other than it must be uncreated and hence eternal and hence unmaterial in order for it to be outside of the universe.  And yes, positing a God is infinitely simpler than positing that a material universe came into being ex nihilo by itself.  Otherwise cave-men and Sumerians would have been worshipping virtual particles rather than wind gods.  But Ockham's Razor is BS anyways when it comes to philosophy though sometimes useful in science. 

If indeed the universe was "caused", it would have to be caused by something outside itself.  It's either that or it is eternal.  This is simply the material vision of the universe and does not approach the metaphysical structure of reality, natural or supernatural, nor the inherent non-material foundation of the material universe. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 21, 2021, 08:44:30 PM
But Ockham's Razor is BS anyways when it comes to philosophy though sometimes useful in science. 

I have to go back and say that I do actually find Ockham's Razor to be very useful when dealing with human action, interaction, and motivation.  Though applied this way it is possibly more accurately described as Hanlon's Razor, or Heinlein's Razor, or whatever. 

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: LetterRip on December 21, 2021, 08:47:30 PM
That's because you're reading too much into the word "God".  You have your own strawman vision of what Josh is talking about.  Santa Claus or an old white man with a beard sitting on a cloud like Zeus or maybe George Burns or Morgan Freeman. 

Josh makes no description or definition of what he is referring to as "God", other than that if the universe was "caused", it would have to be caused by something outside the universe that is not restrained by the rules of the universe.  It could be a supernatural fart or a virtual particle.

He makes clear by God that he means the 'all powerful and all knowing' being as typical of the Christian view of God.

Here is his own definition,

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God necessarily exists, is the uncaused-cause, the unmoving mover, his existence is his essence, is singular, purely actual, absolutely simple and non-composite, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.

  If by 'God' he would allow it to be something as simple as a virtual particle, a usage of the word that is in no way shape or form the usage of the word in any other context, then sure - if we accept the premise of the Universe being created, then a virtual particle or other simple 'God' could be the 'cause'.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on December 21, 2021, 09:01:55 PM
He makes clear by God that he means the 'all powerful and all knowing' being as typical of the Christian view of God.

That's why this type of definition of God is typically out of bounds for arguments of this type. The proof by syllogism argument must define God simply as 'that thing which the syllogism rests on' and leave it at that. I think a separate argument is require to try to link that thing called 'God' to the claims made by a particular religion.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 21, 2021, 09:18:28 PM
He makes clear by God that he means the 'all powerful and all knowing' being as typical of the Christian view of God.

Hmmmm.  Yes and no.  Christians have generally different views on the "personhood" of God, though I don't think his definition goes that far into it.  It also stands to point out that this is generally the same set of attributes Jews and Muslims give God, so it's not exclusively a Christian view. 

Existence as essence, singular, purely actual, absolutely simple and non-composite, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal all go with the territory of being a non material supernatural cause of the Universe, existing before and after it outside of time, space, and matter.  Perfection is a matter of conjecture depending on your view of perfection.  Omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient are extrapolations that go beyond the initial premise and you're free to attack them but that's a different goalpost and different chapters of Summa

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  If by 'God' he would allow it to be something as simple as a virtual particle, a usage of the word that is in no way shape or form the usage of the word in any other context, then sure - if we accept the premise of the Universe being created, then a virtual particle or other simple 'God' could be the 'cause'.

Yes.  That is the crux of the cosmological argument.  It's not nearly as dangerous or nefarious as you have been led to believe it is.  But it IS an attack on hard materialist atheism and kinda confuses hard science people. 

But the simple cosmological argument is still pretty weak.  The next thing to look at is not whether this creator thing or particle or supernatural fart was necessary to create the universe, but whether the universe needs something supernatural to keep it in existence.  This is the deeper argument that usually gets passed over and it tough to wrap your head around.  Then you can also deep dive and listen to the arguments that being a creator and sustainer of the universe by it's nature makes such a particle or supernatural fart an intelligent, all knowing, all good, and all powerful particle or fart.  You go through all of that and you're still not at Jesus.  You're simply at Thomas Jefferson. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: NobleHunter on December 21, 2021, 09:46:18 PM
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The crux of the argument here, which I imagine most people have missed, is that something is necessary to cause not only the beginning of causality, but something is necessary to support causality and existence right here and right now.  That is to say, that God would not just be a spark, but a pillar, that supports and maintains existence and causality throughout time. 

But why? It seems far more elegant to me that causality and existence are simply properties of space-time or the universe. I don't see why we should posit that there's something else providing these missing qualities. Then once you've suggested the "something else" I don't see how you avoid having turtles all the way down. If reality isn't self supporting why is this other thing self supporting? (Yes, I'm sure I could read Adler but I don't have the brain for a philosophy text right now.)

Also, JoshuaD hasn't yet explained how we go from "God as a turtle" to "God with interesting qualities." So I don't think it's fair to attack his conclusions on the existence of God by arguing that it would be a very boring God.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: alai on December 22, 2021, 03:41:28 AM
The next thing to look at is not whether this creator thing or particle or supernatural fart was necessary to create the universe, but whether the universe needs something supernatural to keep it in existence.
I can see why that might be a subsequent thing, but why on earth the next one?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Grant on December 22, 2021, 10:28:26 AM

But why? It seems far more elegant to me that causality and existence are simply properties of space-time or the universe.

The answers to these questions are highly metaphysical in nature.  I don't have the materials right here in front of me and even if I did, I'll admit that the subject is difficult for me to wrap my head around.  But the basic premise is that all matter is composite in nature, not just materially or energetically, but metaphysically. It deals with what matter and energy are beyond just physical laws and deals with actuality and potentiality and then breaks down causality into component parts. 

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Then once you've suggested the "something else" I don't see how you avoid having turtles all the way down. If reality isn't self supporting why is this other thing self supporting? (Yes, I'm sure I could read Adler but I don't have the brain for a philosophy text right now.)

I never understood the turtles counter argument because it seems to me that it actually supports the concept that eventually you have to have a magical flying turtle somewhere to support all the other turtles.  The answer seems to be that some aspects of reality such as matter and energy are subject to change, between potentiality and actuality, but somewhere whatever that is supporting it's existence, whether it is inherent or external, must not be subject to change.  There must be something eternal and unchanging that supports existence, and since matter and energy are temporal and subject to change, it cannot be matter or energy.  It's a deep subject and quite frankly is generally beyond me.  You have to sit down and think about these subjects for a long long time I think to begin to grasp it's meaning and argument. 

I don't think Adler really gets very deep into the subject.  He writes for lay persons which makes his writing easily accessible, but because of it I don't think he gets really deep into the metaphysical problems which are hard to wrap your head around.  Honestly I havn't read his book in 10+ years.  I think you'd have better luck reading Feser and the debates he gets into with other metaphysicist philosophers. 

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Also, JoshuaD hasn't yet explained how we go from "God as a turtle" to "God with interesting qualities." So I don't think it's fair to attack his conclusions on the existence of God by arguing that it would be a very boring God.

Ehhh.  That's a whole other argument.  It gets back into Aristotelean and Scholastic metaphysics of causality.  The straight Scholastic answer is that the common definitions of "goodness" don't really apply when it comes to God, and the picture it paints is indeed something of a boring God, which is why many other denominations of Christians abandoned scholasticism in favor of a more personal God that more approaches Zeus sitting on a cloud.  This is why Craig sticks with the simple cosmological argument rather than the existential argument.  There are similarities but they are fundamentally different because of how you end up describing God and goodness.  Suffice to say you can debate these things for all eternity and Protestant Christians are just going to accuse you of debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  This is why personal revelation has a much larger place within Protestant theology than Catholic theology. 


Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: alai on December 22, 2021, 10:23:10 PM
Our senses and minds are sufficient for us to be good and live good lives, and that is all we need.
Jury's at best still out on that.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: alai on December 22, 2021, 10:51:54 PM
He makes clear by God that he means the 'all powerful and all knowing' being as typical of the Christian view of God.
Yes, but that appears not as the Theistic Entity he claims to have demonstrated to necessarily exist by means of the cosmological argument.  That's not to this point allegedly necessitated by that to be the Christian god, or even (say) the Neoplatonists' The One.  It might just be the Deity -- I was tempted to say the Jeffersonian Deity, but that'd be a bluff-your-way-in-deism guess on my part, and one I might well be called on, so I'd better not.  The promised second lemma will presumably be intended to get us into that latter sort of area.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: DJQuag on December 31, 2021, 10:15:22 AM
He makes clear by God that he means the 'all powerful and all knowing' being as typical of the Christian view of God.
Yes, but that appears not as the Theistic Entity he claims to have demonstrated to necessarily exist by means of the cosmological argument.  That's not to this point allegedly necessitated by that to be the Christian god, or even (say) the Neoplatonists' The One.  It might just be the Deity -- I was tempted to say the Jeffersonian Deity, but that'd be a bluff-your-way-in-deism guess on my part, and one I might well be called on, so I'd better not.  The promised second lemma will presumably be intended to get us into that latter sort of area.

You have to remember, JoshuaD believes and argues for Catholic Christian beliefs at every turn. To an outside observer, he is a Catholic Christian. He just won't admit it. He's one of those annoying, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" people.

Take that into account and ignore his claims and everything he writes becomes a lot easier to understand.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: alai on December 31, 2021, 11:32:19 AM
You have to remember, JoshuaD believes and argues for Catholic Christian beliefs at every turn. To an outside observer, he is a Catholic Christian. He just won't admit it. He's one of those annoying, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" people.

Take that into account and ignore his claims and everything he writes becomes a lot easier to understand.
I live in a country famously fairly packed with Catholics, so the belief system is pretty familiar to me, especially in terms of how it impinges on public life.  Archbishops based in the UK thundering across the border about how people should vote on referendums in the Republic, and so on.  But I was trying hard to bite my tongue on that in this thread, as it inevitably turns Bulveristic almost immediately, doubly so if one is arguing with someone about their own belefs.  But if I were to so indulge, the religious-politics come across as rather more US Evangelical Right to me.

To try to drag it back on topic, I suppose where I was going was, to expand on the "shrug and identification" thing, how does JoshuaD feel his version of this argument relate to other presentations of it?  Is he seeking to spline several together, to make them stronger or better according to some criteria?  Or indeed to jump it from a deist to a theist argument, specifically?  Cos thus far, I'm not seeing it.  It reads like "standard arguments mixed and matched to make less clear".  (Full disclosure, I'm not intimately familiar with the topic, so maybe I'm going by cliffs-notes simplifications, rather than the originals in their full opacity.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Ephrem Moseley on January 17, 2022, 11:36:54 PM
distraction?

okay then

"No no no.

Simulation Argument plus optimism equals God.

simple as that

welcome to my Heaven, gentlemen"

Bueller?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: NobleHunter on May 25, 2022, 10:23:35 AM
Counterpoint:

https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/proof-2 (https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/proof-2)

It feels particularly on point given yesterday.

(NB I'm presenting this with as much seriousness as the artistic style warrants)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 04, 2022, 01:50:51 PM
So this thread almost drove me to re-register a couple weeks after you first posted it, Joshua, because it touched on a major theme of my studies in college and I got the impression that you sincerely wanted some discussion about it. Is that still true?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 05, 2022, 03:30:33 AM
Welcome back Tom. Yeah, I just finished up school and I'm settled in with my second son. I would enjoy revisiting this topic.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 05, 2022, 12:58:43 PM
My first question is: what attributes do you believe necessarily accrue to an entity or object with necessary existence? You posit that "the Universe" as a necessary entity ultimately describes pantheism -- but why? What is necessary beyond existence to an entity that is only defined as something which necessarily exists?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 08, 2022, 02:47:07 AM
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JoshuaD (responding to LetterRip, on page 1): Yes, something must be the original cause. If you assert that the Universe itself is the uncaused-cause, then the universe will take on a number of the other divine attributes as a matter of reason, and you aren't left with Atheism, but rather Pantheism. I don't find this argument as compelling, but if you'd like to make it, I'd be glad to read it, think about it, and respond.

Tom: My first question is: what attributes do you believe necessarily accrue to an entity or object with necessary existence?

Philosophy tells us that God exists and is: necessary, fully actual (i.e. possessing no passive potentiality), immaterial, incorporeal, singular, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, omnipotent, fully good, perfect, intelligent, and omniscient.

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You posit that "the Universe" as a necessary entity ultimately describes pantheism -- but why?

Definitionally. While Pantheism is a broad term, I understand it to be the idea that the Universe is identical to God:

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Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/)

At its most general, pantheism may be understood positively as the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe.

I don't think the position that "the universe itself is a sufficient explanation of reality" can be held, for a number of reasons: the big bang suggests that space-time had a definite starting point; the universe has passive potentiality and that which necessarily exists is also fully actual; a materialist attempt to provide the final explanation for the things we see does not account for the universals such as the numbers, forms, and logic, nor can it account for our subjective experience, the intellect, or free will.

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What is necessary beyond existence to an entity that is only defined as something which necessarily exists?

I am not defining God as that which necessarily exists. Instead, the argument on the first page first accepts the principle of sufficient reason, observes that the things around us exist contingently, and concludes that there must be something which exists necessarily.

Through similar lines of reasoning we can conclude the other divine properties listed above, and we can see that they all belong to same singular God.

I'd be glad to expand on any of the particular points above but I don't want to write a book out of the gate. I prefer a conversation and I think you do too.

-----

My question for you: as it relates to the question of God, what do you believe and why?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 09:53:22 AM
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Philosophy tells us that God exists and is: necessary, fully actual (i.e. possessing no passive potentiality), immaterial, incorporeal, singular, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, omnipotent, fully good, perfect, intelligent, and omniscient.
I dispute this in almost its entirety, unless you meant to preface the whole paragraph with the word "bad" and just forgot. I've made quite an extensive study of philosophy, frankly, and have yet to see a convincing argument for anything beyond "necessary," and even then persistence is only necessary if persistence is axiomatic.

---------

For my part, I don't believe anything like a capital-G God exists. Nor do I believe there is any need to impute to the physical mechanism(s) by which the universe (here simplified to "observable reality") appears to persist from moment to moment within our personal consciousness anything like intent or goodness.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 03:09:16 PM
For my part, I don't believe anything like a capital-G God exists. Nor do I believe there is any need to impute to the physical mechanism(s) by which the universe (here simplified to "observable reality") appears to persist from moment to moment within our personal consciousness anything like intent or goodness.

The problem with definitive statements (in either direction) about the substrate behind the physical universe is that (a) it is untestable (damning materialist accounts more than religious ones since the former claim their beliefs are based on science) and (b) they are usually explained using within-the-box terms rather than out-of-box terms. Buddhists at least seem to recognize that an account of physical reality requires recourse to a more fundamental 'substance' in which reality can sit, and their view in simplified terms is that mind is a more fundamental reality than matter. To even inspect this view semantically requires a very clear and mutually understood of what "mind" is supposed to mean in this context. To the extent that the Judeo-Christian views also impute a greater mind behind matter (Judaism through Kabbalah, among other methods, and Christianity through its account of the trinity) this, too, requires great explication prior to a discussion about it being possible.

It should be evident to serious thinkers that if by "mind" one uses a concept like of the old man in the sky then any further progress on the topic would be impossible. Even staunch materialists would do well to at minimum entertain the notion that physically manifested phenomena could in fact be epiphenomena rather than a basic truth. Even some people interpreting QM wonder whether "observer" might mean an actual existing being with a mind. It is at minimum a conceivable structure of reality, wherein "wave function collapse" involves human observation, rather than collision with inanimate matter. I've read other accounts discounting that "observer" is an actual living observer, but afaik there is currently no accepted solution to this. The place of consciousness is therefore an enormous question mark even in the hard sciences: what it is, how it comes about, and what effect(s) it has on reality. We don't know any of this, and at this point in time any articles I've read suggesting 'explanations' of what consciousness is have been quite honestly laughable, akin to the early 20th CE claims that physics had essentially been completely solved.

Once we know we are faced with a causation-direction problem involving consciousness, it seems to me lots of stuff is still on the table, even in a materialist metaphysics. I personally think the case for a materialist metaphysics is itself very weak, but I don't even need to assume that to make my case here.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 03:23:53 PM
My own operating theory, which still has quite a bit of observational evidence necessary before I'd be willing to posit it as a belief, is that the universe persists through tri-state memristors (and consciousness itself is maintained by trinary memristor-like structures between axons.) But I'm more likely to be wrong about that than to be right.

 The idea that the reason the universe persists is that an all-knowing, omnipotent, omnibenevolent sentient being is keeping it around is, I submit, far more complicated than necessary and moreover directly conflicts with other observable conditions.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 03:38:48 PM
That's all fine, and it will be fun (in a manner of speaking) to play around with such imaginings over the eons. What I'm talking about is, given the vast amount of total unknowns presented before us, it seems bizarre to dismiss certain claims out of hand if one is simultaneously claiming to base beliefs on what science has presented (you haven't done so now, but this is a standard claim). If one is going on empirical findings alone one should apparently stick with being agnostic and saying maybe, maybe not. It's a 'safe' and prudent position that leaves all directions open to new findings. It's when I hear people say they're pretty sure X does not exist that I scratch my head and wonder what finding that's based on.

Now a more interesting question you might ask - within the confines of your current theory, or any other - is what it would take for it to become an approximation of the same thing religious people claim. The difficult is always in the language, so my advice for a maximally open mind would be to ignore how people state their claims and instead to wonder what those claims would actually be like if one ignored the taxonomy and thought of it as real systems. So take a memristor concept, and now push that further into scifi territory where the "memory" capacity was more than just storage but began to have strange emergent properties. And push that further than imagine what it would mean for spacetime to subsist on a fundamental system that has mental functions (like memory, but perhaps other features) as physical realities within it. How far can you go before these claims actually become, if not identical, at least within the same linguistic game that religions play. What, after all, is God supposed to actually be if He's not a man in the sky? Good luck unpacking that! Just imagine a scenario where, in a million years, a scientific explanation becomes identical with a 12th century religious claim; imagine throwing one's arms up in frustration, saying "why you all of you have to frame your definition so poorly?!" or maybe "well you just got lucky, you didn't really know you were right." Or other such critiques. Language and what it means in terms of real physical systems is a big deal.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 03:58:17 PM
Just to be clear: it is not agnostic to say "maybe, maybe not." If you think there is no evidence in favor of a sentient god, you are an atheist. An agnostic is not someone who's willing to believe in a god if presented with evidence, but instead someone who believes that the existence of a god is fundamentally unknowable. I would argue that gods as described in the Judeo-Christian tradition are not compatible with most forms of agnosticism.

I'm perfectly open to the idea that there may be underlying sapient models built into the universe. But I don't think there's any argument for their existence; nothing we see requires or even supports such a claim. To get from "sure, we MAY be heads hooked up to computers in a network simulation" to "and it is because the creatures running this simulation do not want you to eat babies that eating babies is forbidden" is insupportable.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 04:27:37 PM
I'm perfectly open to the idea that there may be underlying sapient models built into the universe. But I don't think there's any argument for their existence; nothing we see requires or even supports such a claim.

My general point is that we don't see much now. I consider physics, electronics, and cosmology to all be essentially still in their infancy. If my toddler tells me a theory of everything that's ok, he has a perspective that would be based on his limited inspection of life. I would nod and wait till he learns more before being harsh on any simplistic ideas he has. I see us all as being toddlers right now. So fundamentally I don't take seriously scientific claims about what can or can't be. Some things we have no evidence of - and fine, no need to impute them scientifically until we do (if we do). Doesn't mean they don't exist, and there is no reason to believe that our current level of knowledge is sufficient to even understand how to frame the question, let alone answer it. People like to always claim they know more than they do; this is true in any field, especially ones with prestige or money involved. That's a conflict of interest right there. Objectively speaking I'd say we keep working at it and leave theological questions to theologians. Speculations without basis seem to me to have no value to us right now, and if that means science doesn't have to admit to evidence of religious claims, then great: let scientists do science and religions discuss the aspects of life that many people do feel impact them directly. If these domains converge eventually then great too. But I see no real case that science has something to say right now about religion. One of the most embarrassing things I sometimes hear the odd physicist say is that we are already certain of what can and can't exist, so that certain domains can be declared out of bounds. For instance I've even heard notable physicists argue that it's impossible that there are important types of particles out there that we have no idea about. Hahaha! To even put such a thing on the record would be a shame for the ages...that is if anyone was ever held to things they say. Certainly in economics they aren't...
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 08, 2022, 05:28:12 PM
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Philosophy tells us that God exists and is: necessary, fully actual (i.e. possessing no passive potentiality), immaterial, incorporeal, singular, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, omnipotent, fully good, perfect, intelligent, and omniscient.
I dispute this in almost its entirety, unless you meant to preface the whole paragraph with the word "bad" and just forgot. I've made quite an extensive study of philosophy, frankly, and have yet to see a convincing argument for anything beyond "necessary," and even then persistence is only necessary if persistence is axiomatic.

I'm not sure how you'd like for me to respond to this. I think classical theism is the most compelling philosophy I've seen. I was a hard-agnostic Buddhist for about as long as you've known me, and these arguments moved me to monotheism. 

Do I understand you correctly? That you agree with the argument in the first post, that the Principle of Sufficient Reason holds (and combined with our observation of contingent things) argues that there must be something which necessarily exists? And that you reject the other divine properties I listed? If so, we can begin with those. I'll write something up for you later tonight.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 08, 2022, 05:34:08 PM
Just to be clear: it is not agnostic to say "maybe, maybe not." If you think there is no evidence in favor of a sentient god, you are an atheist. An agnostic is not someone who's willing to believe in a god if presented with evidence, but instead someone who believes that the existence of a god is fundamentally unknowable.
Yes.
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I would argue that gods as described in the Judeo-Christian tradition are not compatible with most forms of agnosticism.
Yes.
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I'm perfectly open to the idea that there may be underlying sapient models built into the universe. But I don't think there's any argument for their existence; nothing we see requires or even supports such a claim. To get from "sure, we MAY be heads hooked up to computers in a network simulation" to "and it is because the creatures running this simulation do not want you to eat babies that eating babies is forbidden" is insupportable.

Simulation theory is boring. I don't think we are in a simulation, but if we were, or if we were in 30 nested simulations, it wouldn't change my arguments at all.

My own operating theory, which still has quite a bit of observational evidence necessary before I'd be willing to posit it as a belief, is that the universe persists through tri-state memristors (and consciousness itself is maintained by trinary memristor-like structures between axons.) But I'm more likely to be wrong about that than to be right.

What exactly do you mean by this? I'd like to respond but I want to be sure I understand you first.

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The idea that the reason the universe persists is that an all-knowing, omnipotent, omnibenevolent sentient being is keeping it around is, I submit, far more complicated than necessary and moreover directly conflicts with other observable conditions.

I think classical theism offers the best account for the conditions we observe and the alternative theories either fall into a stupor of hyper-skepticalism, are incoherent, or fail to account for the full range of our observations and experiences.

I'll make my argument for those divine attributes in a bit and you can tell me why you think those arguments don't hold, and we can go from there.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 08, 2022, 05:38:05 PM
From our conversations from about ten years ago I remember you as a determinist and a materialist. Am I remembering correctly and, if so, is that still a good description of your views?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 05:56:51 PM
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there is no reason to believe that our current level of knowledge is sufficient to even understand how to frame the question, let alone answer it
If you believe that human knowledge will never be sufficient to answer the question, then you are truly agnostic. I would argue, however, that the question of "does a Christian-like God exist" is no more unanswerable than "do unicorns live in Edinburgh," suffering only from vagueness by comparison.

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I'm a materialist, and a determinist in the sense that I think everything that happens would be predictable given perfect knowledge of all variables.

(What I mean by the memristor thing is that I think there's a solid argument that the universe actually ceases to physically exist between tiny segments of time, but that it is recreated immediately -- as in, the next smallest possible unit of time later, insofar as "later" is a communicable concept in that scenario -- from cloud state. That helps to explain a lot of the weirder math involved in multiverse/string theory without getting too complicated. A similar approach to memristor-based internal consciousness might explain the persistence of self-identity.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 05:57:11 PM
Just to be clear: it is not agnostic to say "maybe, maybe not." If you think there is no evidence in favor of a sentient god, you are an atheist. An agnostic is not someone who's willing to believe in a god if presented with evidence, but instead someone who believes that the existence of a god is fundamentally unknowable.
Yes.

For the record, here's the first Google result for "agnostic":

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a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

I was using the term in the bolded sense. More specifically, the literal use of the root "lacking knowledge", a-gnosis. So I meant those who claim to lack knowledge enough to say something definitive. Ironically the unbolded section of the above definition is directly contradictory to the bolded version, since claiming something specific (even that X is not knowable) itself requires a strong basis in knowledge to back up the claim. I was therefore obviously not implying this version of it.

And Joshua, per your last question to Tom about whether the necessary cause may or may not be 'divine', this is where the "mathematical proof of God" propositions tend to go off the rails, because the argument itself seems to be able to afford only "something is necessary and uncaused", whereas the people putting on such presentations (I've read of many, seen one in person) tend to have the motive to prove their religious beliefs through this demonstration, and so at the very end of the argument say they have "proved the existence of God" which the audience (correctly) perceives as meaning the Christian God. It would require a totally other demonstration, if one exists, to connect the "it" at the end of this argument to God proper.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 06:02:27 PM
Fenring, I'm actively hostile to the wimpy version of "agnostic," not only because it would deeply offend the original self-described Agnostics but because it's used by people who're actually atheists but for whatever reason don't have the wherewithal to admit it to themselves. It's especially irritating when used to mean "people who don't think there's sufficient evidence of a god and thus aren't sure whether or not to believe," because that implies that people calling themselves atheists would for whatever reason still refuse to believe if given good evidence of god(s).

No one calls themselves agnostic on the subject of leprechauns, because there isn't a social stigma associated with being "egotistical" enough to admit that, no, you don't have any reason to think leprechauns exist and therefore, like a rational person, don't think leprechauns exist.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 06:08:02 PM
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there is no reason to believe that our current level of knowledge is sufficient to even understand how to frame the question, let alone answer it
If you believe that human knowledge will never be sufficient to answer the question, then you are truly agnostic. I would argue, however, that the question of "does a Christian-like God exist" is no more unanswerable than "do unicorns live in Edinburgh," suffering only from vagueness by comparison.

Fwiw I liked your previous version of the post before the edit, which left the statement about something knowable being (eventually) knowable. If you'll check again, you'll see I didn't actually say we cannot know these things, but that at present we cannot know them. It's not a question of the genre of knowledge, but the level of it IMO. As it happens I actually do think we will eventually come to the point where science and religion converge, which is just a way of saying we will be able to approach the big questions from a place of accurate understanding rather than a priori logic. My estimation is that this won't happen for...a long time. Until then we will have to settle for having non-overlapping domains of inquiry.

Just by way of analogy, if you inspect the various hard sciences, you will not only see divisions of labor but in fact divisions of type in the manner in which physical nature is studied. Even within a field such as physics there are totally different approaches and areas of study. Obviously all scientific fields must be studying the same thing, or else there would be multiple realities. Assuming there are not, all these areas of study differ in level of analysis (atomic, molecular, systemic (like biological or environmental), and so forth) and in mode of analysis (how does this thing work, why does this thing work, how do the parts operate, can we model it mathematically, etc). So practically speaking most of the scientific fields are totally different fields with no connection to each other. A marine biologist would do about as well trying to read a paper on string theory as they would do try to read ancient Sumerian. On the 'daily work' level they just focus on their task, although some projects are obviously multi-disciplinary. Eventually we have to suppose that all sciences will merge into one topic, once the fundaments of all of them can be connected to each other on every level of analysis. But that won't happen for a very, very long time. My supposition is just that 'religious' topics will mark an even later development of merging the sciences with the rest of life, if you will.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 06:19:27 PM
Hm. That interesting, in that I almost completely disagree: I don't think science will ever be able to answer the questions that ultimately rely on societal conditioning and appeals to religious epistemologies, like "what makes a good person" or "can this wafer of bread, despite all its observable properties, also in a very real way -- the most real way -- be someone else's body". I don't think there's a mechanism by which those questions can ever be definitively answered without significantly revising the definition of "definitively."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 07:23:46 PM
Fenring, I'm actively hostile to the wimpy version of "agnostic," not only because it would deeply offend the original self-described Agnostics but because it's used by people who're actually atheists but for whatever reason don't have the wherewithal to admit it to themselves.

I'll note that you are equating a weak claim with being a wimpy claim, but I see no good reason to cast aspersions on making a weak claim. I would rather someone make a weak claim if they in fact lack the necessary knowledge to make a strong one. In fact, it would be absolutely terrific if most foolish and ignorant people had the humility to restrict themselves to weak claims. After all, it is perfectly respectable to admit you don't know something. Not nearly as respectable is to claim you definitely know something when that body of knowledge is beyond you. Maybe it's the fault of the 19th century British academy, I'm not really sure, but somewhere along the line it became disgraceful to admit you were ignorant about something in the field in which you're supposed to be an expert. Good luck getting funding or tenure on the thesis that "sorry, this topic is beyond us at the moment but I'll try anyhow." It's the old Aristotle mistake of thinking your current level of knowledge must be good enough to solve the most complicated problems.

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It's especially irritating when used to mean "people who don't think there's sufficient evidence of a god and thus aren't sure whether or not to believe," because that implies that people calling themselves atheists would for whatever reason still refuse to believe if given good evidence of god(s)

Funny you should say that, because I am convinced that many people in fact would refuse to believe in God even if there was direct and irrefutable evidence of it. The Old Testament largely covers this theme, which is that even if 'someone stronger than us' was accepted irrefutably many or even most people would refuse to bow down to it properly, which in turn means they refuse to believe that it really means and instead make it mean something else (most commonly bowing to idols, or in secular terms, doing anything other than the right thing because you are stubborn, vain, and rebellious). Even if you take the Bible to be a metaphor I think it's an apt one, as this seems to me to describe human choices quite well.

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No one calls themselves agnostic on the subject of leprechauns, because there isn't a social stigma associated with being "egotistical" enough to admit that, no, you don't have any reason to think leprechauns exist and therefore, like a rational person, don't think leprechauns exist.

True, and the reason why we don't have leprechaun agnostics is because no one cares about leprechauns. If you are thinking of the psychology of it, your argument actually turns on itself since you might want to take seriously the fact that many people take something seriously. The herd mentality is often impugned unfairly, because sheep and other herd animals have good reason to follow each other even lacking direct evidence of the reason: the likelihood that a given sheep will personally encounter the reason to leave the area, AND the chance a given sheep will react properly to that threat, make it far more advantageous for the herd to at minimum take it seriously when they see a large group reacting to something. It is not only strategic but also a question of the limitations of individual experience: being unique means you bring a special perspective, but also means you lack all other (often necessary) perspectives. I'm not making a conclusive point here, but merely an observation: it should be expected to be worth inspection when many people are concerned about a specific thing. That fact alone does give it more weight than a thing no one is paying attention to.

Hm. That interesting, in that I almost completely disagree: I don't think science will ever be able to answer the questions that ultimately rely on societal conditioning and appeals to religious epistemologies, like "what makes a good person" or "can this wafer of bread, despite all its observable properties, also in a very real way -- the most real way -- be someone else's body". I don't think there's a mechanism by which those questions can ever be definitively answered without significantly revising the definition of "definitively."

It's proper you should disagree, since I haven't mentioned the reason I think science and religion should converge. I think it because I do think there is a God, and some necessary conclusions follow from this; one of these is that if God interacts with the world then there must be some mechanism by which this happens. It doesn't have to be physical, but it does have to be something. As long as I have this as an axiom it seems to me reasonable to assume that this connection can eventually be understood, since it is real. Two different domains connect, so the connection must have properties such that it can interact with both domains. But I get there because I have a presupposition that there's a God; I don't get to God from the assumption that science can get us to God. I work toward the middle from both ends. If you deny one of these ends exists, then you definitely cannot agree with me that science can get there; there would be no "there" to get to. Agreeing with me would basically be tantamount to agreeing that there is a God (or at least a religious epistemic domain). 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 07:58:28 PM
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Funny you should say that, because I am convinced that many people in fact would refuse to believe in God even if there was direct and irrefutable evidence of it.
I'm not. I think many people might refuse to bow to a god even if that god's existence were proved, but that's a different matter altogether. The sort of person who'd deny the existence of a god in the fact of irrefutable evidence is the sort of person who'd look at the new car you just purchased and, having been given a ride in your car, insist "sure, it looks and behaves like a car, but I'm pretty sure it's actually a cactus." The word we use for that is "insane" (or at best "irrational.")

Except, of course, when it comes to "sensitive" beliefs. You can insist that you own an invisible car all you want, even though no one can prove you have a car, and the fact that you care deeply about your invisible car is apparently evidence in favor of its existence. If only all those people committed to asylums for (hypothetically) insisting that they were Napoleon actually really wanted to be Napoleon....

I'm sure there was an evolutionary advantage to religious epistemologies, and am perfectly content to posit that the persistence of those epistemologies is wholly explained by the advantages conferred by in-group cohesion. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 08:02:17 PM
(What I mean by the memristor thing is that I think there's a solid argument that the universe actually ceases to physically exist between tiny segments of time, but that it is recreated immediately -- as in, the next smallest possible unit of time later, insofar as "later" is a communicable concept in that scenario -- from cloud state. That helps to explain a lot of the weirder math involved in multiverse/string theory without getting too complicated. A similar approach to memristor-based internal consciousness might explain the persistence of self-identity.)

Just saw this edit now, so I thought I'd throw in that there's an esoteric theory (some kind of unnamed Hermetic belief system I've come across now and then) that also posits a cloud storage system from which everything ranging from memory, to persistence, and even physical distance can be traced. The theory can be found in Dan Simmons' Hyperion series, but I have seen it elsewhere and have no doubt that it is an actual and old conceptualization of reality that Simmons did not make up but merely examines. Where it ever came from I don't know, but there's at least a decent chance it goes back quite a ways.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 08:07:09 PM
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Funny you should say that, because I am convinced that many people in fact would refuse to believe in God even if there was direct and irrefutable evidence of it.
I'm not. I think many people might refuse to bow to a god even if that god's existence were proved, but that's a different matter altogether. The sort of person who'd deny the existence of a god in the fact of irrefutable evidence is the sort of person who'd look at the new car you just purchased and, having been given a ride in your car, insist "sure, it looks and behaves like a car, but I'm pretty sure it's actually a cactus." The word we use for that is "insane" (or at best "irrational.")

Your position would be have fairly typical maybe 30 years ago. But given what we have observed in the last 10-15 years I'm surprised that you think people will agree to designate the correct interpretation to a piece of information. Sure, there may be "irrefutable proof" of something, but how that presents is as a datum, or an experience, or an encounter. And guess what? People will absolutely find a way to interpret it in any way they can, other than in a way that demands personal sacrifice and responsibility. In fact, even putting aside the personal conflict of interest (having to choose between bowing down, and continuing to think they are the thing to bow down to) the mere existence of tribal turf war should show clearly enough that so long as "they" claim something means X "we" will have to insist it cannot possibly mean X. Like hell people will agree it's God and bow to Him.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 08, 2022, 08:12:22 PM
Yeah, that's actually something that started out as a philosophical concept and then found new legs in the '80s because it actually makes sense of a lot of higher-order physics. The idea that the observable universe is in fact a cloud of bits has been bouncing around for as long as we've been alive, and actually one of the underlying reasons that so many real scientists genuinely believe the "simulation" theory. I don't think we're a simulated reality, but I do think that considering the physical world to consist of the intersections of information is a bit intriguing.

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Even Crunch will admit that the federal government exists. He might see it as illegitimate, or corrupted, or even actively evil, but he doesn't doubt its existence. I can absolutely imagine a scenario where I, confronted with the creator of the universe, would conclude that that creator is evil -- that, even though I'd be doomed to fail, I'd have to oppose that entity to satisfy my own sense of morality. But I cannot imagine a scenario where I, confronted with clear evidence of god, would deny that god's existence. This is why every non-believer to whom I've ever spoken finds C.S. Lewis' dwarves (in The Last Battle) to be a laughably terrible allegory; he genuinely, as he was writing them, did not understand (or, perhaps, just did not deign to portray) the core issue.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 08, 2022, 08:23:04 PM
I can absolutely imagine a scenario where I, confronted with the creator of the universe, would conclude that that creator is evil -- that, even though I'd be doomed to fail, I'd have to oppose that entity to satisfy my own sense of morality. But I cannot imagine a scenario where I, confronted with clear evidence of god, would deny that god's existence.

Actually there's a great example on hand of a belief system that accepts the Judeo-Christian observations but denies their interpretation of them: Gnosticism. Without getting into the weeds too much the gist of the various strains of Gnosticism is that there is a being such as the OT describes, but the trick is that this is not God but rather a demon (called the Demiurge) trying to trap you. So they acknowledge the phenomenon (a deity lording over Adam and Eve in Eden, if you will) but deny it means what Jews and Christians say it means. The thing about definitions is funny: in the Jewish parlance, you are either worshipping God, or you are worshipping not-God. There is no third option; anything as an object of worship other than God is wrong, and additionally it is not possible to not worship. So a claim like "well I did acknowledge it was a deity, I just didn't agree that this deity was God" would be actually equivalent to refusing to acknowledge God. That's the 1st commandment in a nutshell. Not this Gnosticism is the only possible manner in which one could refuse to acknowledge what is plainly right in front of you, but it's a good example given our current political climate (i.e. interpreting information/experience in a self-serving manner).
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 09, 2022, 03:24:37 AM
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Tom said: I'm a materialist, and a determinist in the sense that I think everything that happens would be predictable given perfect knowledge of all variables.

This is my big problem with materialism: a philosophy which begins with the beneign scientific impulse of "we can understand reality by believing what we experience" ends with the dogmatic statement "we must reject our experience in service to our model of the world."

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Tom said: (What I mean by the memristor thing is that I think there's a solid argument that the universe actually ceases to physically exist between tiny segments of time, but that it is recreated immediately -- as in, the next smallest possible unit of time later, insofar as "later" is a communicable concept in that scenario -- from cloud state. That helps to explain a lot of the weirder math involved in multiverse/string theory without getting too complicated. A similar approach to memristor-based internal consciousness might explain the persistence of self-identity.)

That's fine, whether or not it's an accurate physical description or not, it's not the ultimate explanation pointed at in my first post: these things you describe are not self-explanatory. They are contingent processes which need explanation. There must be _reasons_ why reality is recreated immediately every moment (I am a little amused that the langauge you chose literally suggests a creator).

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Fenring said:And Joshua, per your last question to Tom about whether the necessary cause may or may not be 'divine', this is where the "mathematical proof of God" propositions tend to go off the rails

I'm not offering a mathematical proof of God. I don't know what that would be.

The fact that the numbers, propositions, and other universals exist and would seem to have meaning and persist even if we weren't here to think them does suggest that there is a divine intelligence which thinks them.

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Fenring said:because the argument itself seems to be able to afford only "something is necessary and uncaused", whereas the people putting on such presentations (I've read of many, seen one in person) tend to have the motive to prove their religious beliefs through this demonstration, and so at the very end of the argument say they have "proved the existence of God" which the audience (correctly) perceives as meaning the Christian God. It would require a totally other demonstration, if one exists, to connect the "it" at the end of this argument to God proper.

I agree; these arguments show that God exists and has certain properties, but they stop short of the full claims of religions based on scripture and tradition. For example, these arguments  do not show that Jesus died and rose from the dead. That is an historical claim based on historical documents and traditioon; philosophy tells us that this is a fantastic but possible claim, but philosophy cannot tell us that it is true.

If you sit on a beach and think really hard, you could rediscover calculus. There is no amount of thinking that can tell you what my birthday is or whether Jesus rose from the dead. That is because these are historical claims not philosophical claims.

These arguments refute pantheism, polytheism, and atheism, but they stop there. You need different tools to continue into the various monotheistic religions to determine which (if any) are true.

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Tom said: I don't think science will ever be able to answer the questions that ultimately rely on societal conditioning and appeals to religious epistemologies, like "what makes a good person" or "can this wafer of bread, despite all its observable properties, also in a very real way -- the most real way -- be someone else's body".

We agree; these questions are outside of the scope of the physical sciences. These questions are metaphysical.

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Tom said: I can absolutely imagine a scenario where I, confronted with the creator of the universe, would conclude that that creator is evil -- that, even though I'd be doomed to fail, I'd have to oppose that entity to satisfy my own sense of morality


“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 09, 2022, 04:34:39 AM
Necessary
The first post in this thread outlines an argument for why there must be something which necessarily exists, which is existence itself.

Fully Actual
We see things changing around us all the time. But what is change? Change is the transition from potentiality to actuality; that is to say, change is just the actualization of potential.

So when we see change around us, we are seeing potential being actualized. A ball is sitting still, my child kicks it, and the ball goes from potentially in motion to actually in motion.

Potential does not actualize itself. In order for potential to be actualized, something which itself is actual must do the actualization. If this were not the case, logs would burst into flame without any actual reason, balls would fly through the air unbidden, etc., and this is not our experience of the world.

A thing cannot be actual and potential in the same respect: for example, while a thing can be actually hot and potentially cold, that thing cannot be actually hot and potentially hot. (To be sure, something can be potentially more hot, but that is not contrary to my point here).

Given the foregoing, we see that a thing cannot be its own actualizer: potential must be actualized by something actual and a thing cannot have potentiality and actuality in the same respect.

So a thing must be actualized by some other thing. If that other thing has also been actualized, there similarly needs to be another thing prior to that, and so on and so forth.

There are only two possibilities: either there is a thing which itself is fully actual and begins the chain of actualization, or the chain of actualization is infinitely long.

But an infinitely chain of actualization makes no sense. There must be an origin which provides actuality to the entire chain or none of the chain can have actuality. As an example, mirrors reflecting back and forth infinitely will never generate the image of a face unless there is an original image of a face. An infinite chain of contingencies does not make an actuality.

So there must be something which is fully actual, which provides actualization of all potential to all other things, including (but not limited to) the potential to exist.

We can see that this thing which is fully actual is also the thing which necessarily exists: existince in contingent things is simply an actualized potential. That which necessarily exists is that which is fully actual, which is actualizating the potential for all other contingent things to exist, in every moment, moment-to-moment.

Immutable
To be mutable means to be capable of being changed. To be changed is to have some potential which is actualized. But that which is necessary and fully actual has no potentiality. So that which is necessary and fully acutal must also be immutable.

Immaterial
Matter is the potential to take on form. Matter is, by its nature, changing and full of potential. But that which is necessary, fully actual, and immutable cannot have any potential. So that thing must also be immaterial.

Incorporeal
To be corporeal is to have a body and a body is made of matter. That which is necessary, fully actual, immutable, and immaterial canot be made of matter. So it must also be incorporeal.

Let's start applying the label "God" to this thing which is necessary, fully actual, immutable, immaterial, and incorporeal, because it's becoming cumbersome to type all of those out.

Eternal
To be not-eternal is to be ephemeral, temporal, or transient. In other words, the opposite of eternal is to have the potential to change or to have the potential to cease to exist. We have shown that God cannot change and God necessarily exists, that is to say, God does not possess any potentiality at all, not even the potentiality to cease to exist. God necessarily exists, so God is eternal.

Omnipotent
Potency is the ability to cause change, that is to say, potency is the ability to actualize potential. As we saw above, being fully actual, God is the source of all change, so God is all-potent, or omnipotent.

It's worth noting that creatures like you and I have potency, but we have that power in a derived way. Our potency ultimately is derived second-hand from God's power, because we rely upon God for our existence.

Singular In order for there to be two or more of a certain type of a thing, it is necessary that there be some distinguishing feature between those different things. If there is no distinguishing feature, then there cannot be two things; it is the distinguishing feature which makes there be two things. 

In physical objects, matter provides the distinguishing feature of things which share a nature. Despite that we share in human nature, we are made of different matter and so we are distinct creatures. In incorporeal objects, difference in the nature of a thing are the only things which can distinguish that thing from another thing.

For example, there is only one number seven. There cannot be two number sevens because there would be no way to distinguish between the two of them; the number seven has a set of properties and those properties are the number seven. Anything which has that nature is the number seven, and there cannot be another thing which is separate from seven and at the same time identical to seven.

In the same way, there cannot be two things which are fully actual, because there would need to be some distinguishing feature, and a distinguishing feature would represent some unactualized potential, meaning that one of the two things are not fully actual. Therefore, that which is fully actual, necessarily exists, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, eternal, omnipotent, must also be singular. That is to say, God must be singular.

----

I'll write up intelligent, omnscient, simple, non-composite, perfect and fully good later on. It's getting a bit late for me now. In either case, this should provide Tom with plenty to respond to, as this arguments suggest that which necessarily exists has these other properties as well, while he seems to think necessary existence is all that can be known about this thing.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 09, 2022, 09:46:59 AM
Oh, man. You've been reading too much Catholic apologia.
I suppose I should start by saying there's a reason that most academic philosophers consider Catholic apologia in specific to be its own branch of philosophy, much like Rand's utilitarianism: you can't get there from first principles and it doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but its adherents will never admit it. But I'll do my best to address these in a neutral way.

Reasons vs. Causes
First off, before I get into your specific bullet points, here's a big one, and it's challenging something that you seem to be taking as axiomatic: things don't actually need reasons. They need causes (or, at least, everything except a hypothetical Prime Mover(s) require(s) causes), but those causes don't have to satisfy any requirement for rationality. You may as well look at the universe and ask, "Why do electrons exist?" That's a fundamentally unanswerable question. They do exist (assuming you believe they do; there are certainly theories out there that say they don't), and they certainly fulfill functions, but do they exist in order to fulfill those functions? Would some other mechanism fulfill their function(s) if they did not exist? Would those functions go unfulfilled? Obviously, down this path lies both versions of the Anthropic Principle: we live in a universe where electrons exist, but it perhaps arrogates too much to our importance to assert that electrons exist so that we might live. Effects do not happen without causes, but it is entirely possible for something to be caused without a reason. That's not to say that no things have reasons -- we can assert, for example, that elephants have trunks because it granted some early proto-elephant a biological advantage -- but it is a very common mistake to insist that everything must have one.

Fully Actual
This one always irritates me, not least because it's so firmly rooted in Anselm and Anselm is so incredibly stupid. It's also used as the bedrock for pretty much every other item of traditional apology, which is mind-numbingly frustrating because it's such a foolish idea if you don't just swallow it as a premise. The version you're using here has benefited from a thousand years of Catholic refinement on his original propositions, but the same problems apply. I'll address what I consider the big ones:

1) First off, it is not necessary for anything to be fully actualized. This is just the Prime Mover argument all over again, except for individual qualia (which don't actually exist, BTW.) But the hypothetical entity which sustains all of existence does not need to have also been the first thing that, by existing, makes it possible for other things to become hot. Heck, Plato actually argued for a metaphysical universe in which all of his Platonic qualia eternally existed in a type of stasis, so that every hot thing shared in the properties of Platonic hotness, without which (he asserted) nothing hot could exist. But of course he did not insist that the Platonically hot thing was also the Platonically intelligent thing, or the Platonically flat thing. The idea of "actualized" potential is important to Catholics in specific because of some vagaries of their dogma that are nonsensical without it, but there's certainly no philosophical requirement for something to be actualized into hotness. Things can be heated, but surely the background radiation of the universe -- which we have reason to believe came into existence already incredibly hot -- can heat things just fine without needing to make them accept the spirit of heat.

2) Secondly, how you define the qualia that can be actualized here is pretty important. You'll notice that whatever apologist you're working from here has added the caveat, not present in Anselm's original, that contradictory qualia cannot be actualized. This exists because one of the more potent arguments against Anselm back in the old days was that if God had to somehow embody every quality, He also had to embody the most evil of things as well. The convenient response was, "but He already is the most good, so therefore He can't be the most evil!" Obviously this falls down if you're trying to deal with physical attributes: if God is fully-actualized hot, does that mean that cold is simply the absence of hot? That's fair, sure -- but is "healthy" the absence of "poisoned?" If God is fully-actualized Italian, does that mean that Norwegian is simply the absence of Italian? But once you start thinking that way, and realizing how critical it is to identify what qualia you care about, you realize that "actualization" is actually a completely unnecessary mental exercise. (I'll get to that in #4).

3) Thirdly, being the Prime Actualizer does not actually mean you have to be Fully Actualized. There is nothing stopping a hypothetical Prime Actualizer from actualizing everything else but not having any properties of its own to actualize.

4) Once you realize this, it becomes extremely easy to recognize how Anselm is lazily arguing from his own conclusion. The classic "God must exist because I am defining God as the entity embodying the best of all possible attributes, and the best form of existence is existing" falls apart immediately. This isn't just because it's entirely possible to define an entity that does not exist -- "a unicorn is the best possible animal, and to be the best possible it has to exist, so therefore unicorns must exist" -- but also because Anselm is presuming that indeed existence is better than non-existence, despite not actually rigorously proving this to be true. Perhaps the best possible form of existence is Imaginary; after all, one can imagine an omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity, which is a far better form than could possibly actually exist, so perhaps that's the superior form?

Immutable
This is an interesting one, because it's clearly wholly dependent on the idea that the Prime Actualizer must also be Fully Actual in all its qualia. Leaving aside my complete rejection of this assertion, let's examine what that means. We see several times in the Bible descriptions of God becoming angry. Assuming that these descriptions are true, moods cannot be actualizable qualia; otherwise, God could never be any angrier or happier or more tired than He is at all times. But let's assume that the Bible's descriptions of God are tainted by the flaws of the humans doing the writing, or that God is perhaps just roleplaying emotions at times to make some point.

But let's not work backwards from the Biblical God. Let's instead try to figure out why the property of the universe that causes the universe to continue existing must also be unchangeable. Best argument I can come up with is that the only property we're confident must be possessed by this hypothetical mechanism is whatever enables the continued existence of the universe. Given this, unless there are other properties possessed by this mechanism that we have not successfully rationalized (and I'm going to point out that we have not successfully argued on behalf of Fully Actual yet), the observed continued existence of the universe means that that property of this mechanism must not have perceptibly changed. So, sure, let's grant "immutable" here, because if it did change, the universe would stop existing.

Immaterial
Again, we're not granting "fully actual," so this goes away immediately. But even still, why would it be the case that something material be "potential" in a way that a "fully actualized" entity could not be? Surely being material is better than being immaterial? No one would say that an immaterial, invisible unicorn is more actual than a material, visible unicorn.

Obviously the real problem here is that a material being is capable of being acted upon, and Catholics absolutely hate that idea. (For one thing, it screws with the assertion of Immutability.) Leaving aside the question of whether there's Biblical support for people successfully changing the Judeo-Christian God's behavior, let's question whether something that has a material form necessarily must be acted upon by outside forces. If our Prime Mover is actually, say, a brane from some versions of string theory, the only influence on that brane is going to be other branes "bumping" into it outside space-time. It has a material existence, but literally nothing in our material universe can change it. Does that suffice?

Incorporeal
The distinction between immaterial and incorporeal is literally only important to Catholics, and oddly is really important to them. It's also the source of some of their biggest heresies, because it's used as evidence that Jesus could not have been fully God. Interestingly, refusing to acknowledge this paradox as a paradox was also historically punished as a heresy; for hundreds of years, Catholic scholars could be excommunicated for not agreeing that this didn't make any sense. But let's agree that to anyone else, it's a stupid distinction.

Eternal
So the terms under which we've granted "immutable" and "immaterial" do not in fact guarantee the continued existence of our hypothetical Prime Persister. Even our multi-universal brane might get swallowed by another brane, at which point our entire universe would either collapse into (ironically) a timelessly eternal stasis, or simply end entirely. So "as eternal as the universe, barring its replacement by something else performing the same function" is probably the best we can do.

Omnipotent
This one is frankly ludicrous, because it's transparently being used as a rhetorical trap. "Omnipotent" here is meant as "the only entity we've logically proven is able to produce any change in anything, because we've declared that this is the nature of actualization and posited it as the only thing capable of initially actualizing something." And if we were to grant "Fully Actual," sure, that might follow. But of course when people talk about an "omnipotent god," they're not actually talking about a god who, by existing, makes it possible for me to both create and solve a jigsaw puzzle; they're talking about a god who can knock sparrows out of the sky with a thought and summon zombies to lift rocks that he/she may or may not have already created to be too large to lift. The entire reason this section exists is so that apologists can play rhetorical tricks down the line, and it's honestly a bit rude of them.

Singular
There are two branes, the vibration between each of which sustains the existence of our universe. Fourteenth-dimensional observers call one of them "Ultra-A", and the other one "Ultra-B". They don't know which is which, not least because there definitionally can be no distinguishing features or positioning or anything that would let someone reliably make a distinction, but they sometimes like to write stories in which the two branes are in love but cannot be together because they don't want to accidentally destroy the universe they didn't really intend to make in the first place. In these stories, the authors impute to "Ultra-A" a slightly supercilious British accent, but of course that's fictional.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: jc44 on June 09, 2022, 11:41:40 AM
Singular
There are two branes, the vibration between each of which sustains the existence of our universe. Fourteenth-dimensional observers call one of them "Ultra-A", and the other one "Ultra-B". They don't know which is which, not least because there definitionally can be no distinguishing features or positioning or anything that would let someone reliably make a distinction, but they sometimes like to write stories in which the two branes are in love but cannot be together because they don't want to accidentally destroy the universe they didn't really intend to make in the first place. In these stories, the authors impute to "Ultra-A" a slightly supercilious British accent, but of course that's fictional.
Thank you - that bit made my day :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: LetterRip on June 09, 2022, 01:49:40 PM
Daughter graduating and getting ready to go off to college is giving you way too much time on your hands :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 12, 2022, 03:13:31 AM
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Tom said: Oh, man. You've been reading too much Catholic apologia.

Perhaps you haven't been reading enough. I see in classical theism a carefully-wrought castle that goes up to the clouds, full of truth, hope, and beauty. In all of the competing philosophies I only see a pile of rubble smoldering on the ground, full of defeat, despair, and ugliness. There is nothing more dehumanizing than determinism, which rejects the most essential aspect of humanity given to us with love: free will.

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Tom said: I suppose I should start by saying there's a reason that most academic philosophers consider Catholic apologia in specific to be its own branch of philosophy, much like Rand's utilitarianism: you can't get there from first principles and it doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but its adherents will never admit it. But I'll do my best to address these in a neutral way.

Regarding your first comment about what some modern philosophers think of classical theism, I will just point out that the half-cooked theory you put forward regarding memristor's has a philosophical shelf life of about five minutes and is so deeply uncompelling that you yourself aren't even willing to commit to it. I care absolutely nothing about what modern academia says or thinks; modern academia is full of immoral mid-wits chasing justification for their failings and rejecting the existence of truth.

The other two theories you put forward, determinism and materialism, try to solve the failures in their models by pretending anything which doesn't fit into the model simply doesn't exist, despite the immediate and ever-present evidence to the contrary. Free will? Doesn't exist! (Nevermind that you _really_ seem to experience it). Consciousness? Don't look behind that curtain. Instead, look over here, we have formulas that can describe the motion of billiard balls! If we can do that, trust us, we could predict what you'll have for breakfast in a year. Even though we can't even unify chemistry and physics. We could predict every detail of your life and every choice you ever might make.

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Tom said: First off, before I get into your specific bullet points, here's a big one, and it's challenging something that you seem to be taking as axiomatic: things don't actually need reasons. They need causes (or, at least, everything except a hypothetical Prime Mover(s) require(s) causes), but those causes don't have to satisfy any requirement for rationality....[Electrons] do exist (assuming you believe they do; there are certainly theories out there that say they don't), and they certainly fulfill functions, but do they exist in order to fulfill those functions?

I think there is value and truth in teleology, but the arguments I've made here don't invoke it. I am appealing to the principle of sufficient reason (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_sufficient_reason) here and using the word reason in that sense.

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Tom said: (Fully Actual) it is not necessary for anything to be fully actualized.

Sure it is. If God were not fully actual, what would act upon him to actualize his potentials?

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Tom said: (Fully Actual) This is just the Prime Mover argument all over again, except for individual qualia (which don't actually exist, BTW.)

They sure seem to exist. Why do you say they don't?

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Tom said:  Heck, Plato actually argued for a metaphysical universe in which all of his Platonic qualia eternally existed in a type of stasis, so that every hot thing shared in the properties of Platonic hotness, without which (he asserted) nothing hot could exist. But of course he did not insist that the Platonically hot thing was also the Platonically intelligent thing, or the Platonically flat thing.

Yes, Plato believed in a realm of forms. I think Plato is wrong about that. I think moderate realism is much more compelling philosophy. Do you think Plato's right? If so, we can talk about it. If not, I don't see much value in invoking a random philosophy from the nearly-infinite pool of philosophies. Tell me what you think and I'll respond to that.

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Tom said: Things can be heated, but surely the background radiation of the universe -- which we have reason to believe came into existence already incredibly hot -- can heat things just fine without needing to make them accept the spirit of heat.

There are two problems here. The first is that without actualization of potential, how do things change? Change is the actualization of potential. You can hand wave that away but it's not going anywhere.

The second is that the heat of the early universe does not necessarily exist. Therefore, appealing to it as a fundamental source of heat is not a complete answer. The question remains "Why was the early universe hot?" You're missing the main thrust of my argument with this response.

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Tom said: Secondly, how you define the qualia that can be actualized here is pretty important. You'll notice that whatever apologist you're working from here has added the caveat, not present in Anselm's original, that contradictory qualia cannot be actualized. This exists because one of the more potent arguments against Anselm back in the old days was that if God had to somehow embody every quality, He also had to embody the most evil of things as well. The convenient response was, "but He already is the most good, so therefore He can't be the most evil!" Obviously this falls down if you're trying to deal with physical attributes: if God is fully-actualized hot, does that mean that cold is simply the absence of hot? That's fair, sure -- but is "healthy" the absence of "poisoned?" If God is fully-actualized Italian, does that mean that Norwegian is simply the absence of Italian? But once you start thinking that way, and realizing how critical it is to identify what qualia you care about, you realize that "actualization" is actually a completely unnecessary mental exercise. (I'll get to that in #4).

I agree, God is not actually hot or actually cold. God doesn't possess hotness formally, he possesses it eminently. God doesn't have to "embody" every quality that might be actualized. As I mentioned above, God is immaterial and yet he created the material universe. He clearly can't be immaterial and "embody" material. 

An effect must be in a cause in one of three ways: formally, virtually, or eminently. Fire possesses heat formally. But when a cobbler makes a shoe, he doesn't himself formally possess "shoeness" -- he isn't a shoe -- but instead he possess the form of a shoe eminently; he holds the form in his mind and is able to actualize it in matter. A thing cannot be a shoe and a person at the same time, but still a person can have the power to actualize a shoe from the potential in matter. Analogically, God cannot be hot and cold at the same time, but God has the power to actualize heat or actualize coldness.

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Tom said: Thirdly, being the Prime Actualizer does not actually mean you have to be Fully Actualized. There is nothing stopping a hypothetical Prime Actualizer from actualizing everything else but not having any properties of its own to actualize.

God is not fully actual in the sense that he is actually every quality something might have. He is fully actual in the sense that he has no potential to be changed.

I agree with your second point: God is perfectly simple, so he doesn't have unique properties. He doesn't have any properties. He is. All of the properties I listed individually are the same one thing in God, not separate things.

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Tom said: Once you realize this, it becomes extremely easy to recognize how Anselm is lazily arguing from his own conclusion. The classic "God must exist because I am defining God as the entity embodying the best of all possible attributes, and the best form of existence is existing"

I don't find the ontological argument for God's existence compelling (whether Anselm's, Descartes, or any other modern rendition) and I have not invoked it here.

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Tom said: (Immutable) Leaving aside my complete rejection of this assertion, let's examine what that means. We see several times in the Bible descriptions of God becoming angry. Assuming that these descriptions are true, moods cannot be actualizable qualia; otherwise, God could never be any angrier or happier or more tired than He is at all times. But let's assume that the Bible's descriptions of God are tainted by the flaws of the humans doing the writing, or that God is perhaps just roleplaying emotions at times to make some point.

God possesses no passive potentiality but he does possess active potentiality. Said another way, God cannot be changed but God can act. So God does become angry, but in a way that is only analogical to the way humans become angry. Anger changes us; it does not change God. God is simple; his anger is his love.

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Tom said: Surely being material is better than being immaterial?

No. Better means moving closer to perfect. Perfection is the actualization of all of the potentials proper to a thing. So it is better for birds to have beaks but it is not better for humans to have beaks. Similarly, it is better for animals to be material, because that is their nature, but it's not better for God to be material. Actuality is better than potentiality, and matter is the principle of potentiality, so immateriality is better than materiality. Not to mention, a material God is a contradiction for the reasons articulated above (just like a triangle with four sides is a contradiction).

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Tom said: (Immaterial) Leaving aside the question of whether there's Biblical support for people successfully changing the Judeo-Christian God's behavior, let's question whether something that has a material form necessarily must be acted upon by outside forces. If our Prime Mover is actually, say, a brane from some versions of string theory, the only influence on that brane is going to be other branes "bumping" into it outside space-time. It has a material existence, but literally nothing in our material universe can change it. Does that suffice?

No, of course not. As above, this is missing the point entirely. I'm not talking about the relative prime cause in only our local universe in some larger multiverse. I'm talking about the absolute prime cause of all of it, no matter how big and strange all of it might be.

If your theory of higher-dimensional branes colliding in higher dimensional spaces creating many many big bangs all isolated from one another is true, that would be no more interesting to what I am articulating than the existence of atoms. The chain of causation described in my first post (and in the long post above) may be very long and very strange; it may pass through all sorts of dimensions and all sorts of strange modulations; it doesn't change the fundamental feature of a contingent chain of existence or a contingent chain of actualization: there must be a most fundamental thing which necessarily exists and is fully actual.

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Tom said: (Eternal) Even our multi-universal brane might get swallowed by another brane, at which point our entire universe would either collapse into (ironically) a timelessly eternal stasis, or simply end entirely. So "as eternal as the universe, barring its replacement by something else performing the same function" is probably the best we can do.

Again, if you can imagine it being swallowed by some other thing, then you are not imagining the God I am pointing at. He is more fundamental than that. He is most fundamental. He is the cause of all things swallowing all other things. He is the most fundamental explanation for it all. If you hold up some thing, label it God, and say "Well this could have been caused by some higher-dimensional thing", then you are not using the word God in the same sense that I am. Or if you leave the label off and point at some thing which has some more fundamental cause, you are not pointing at the thing I am pointing at when I say God.

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Tom said: (Omnipotent) This one is frankly ludicrous, because it's transparently being used as a rhetorical trap. "Omnipotent" here is meant as "the only entity we've logically proven is able to produce any change in anything, because we've declared that this is the nature of actualization and posited it as the only thing capable of initially actualizing something." And if we were to grant "Fully Actual," sure, that might follow. But of course when people talk about an "omnipotent god," they're not actually talking about a god who, by existing, makes it possible for me to both create and solve a jigsaw puzzle; they're talking about a god who can knock sparrows out of the sky with a thought and summon zombies to lift rocks that he/she may or may not have already created to be too large to lift. The entire reason this section exists is so that apologists can play rhetorical tricks down the line, and it's honestly a bit rude of them.

God cannot do the impossible. As I mentioned above, God necessarily exists. That means he can't cease to exist. He similarly cannot make one and one equal two or make a triangle with four sides or make a rock so heavy he cannot lift. These things are impossible and God cannot do them, because they're impossible. They're just nonsense; they're phrases devoid of any real meaning. There is no meaning in saying "a four sided triangle" or "a rock so heavy God can't lift it".

God, who created everything from nothing and sustains all of reality in being from moment to moment, can certainly cause the dead to come back to life or cause a sparrow to fall from the sky. God draws that sparrow every moment; he decides to allow it to fly but he could also decide to make it fall. Just because God often chooses to act in a a predictable (albeit fantastic) way doesn't mean that he always must.

GK Chesterton outlines the distinction between necessary truths and simple repetitions well in Orthodoxy. I will quote a few paragraphs of that in the following post.

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Tom said: There are two branes, the vibration between each of which sustains the existence of our universe. Fourteenth-dimensional observers call one of them "Ultra-A", and the other one "Ultra-B". They don't know which is which, not least because there definitionally can be no distinguishing features or positioning or anything that would let someone reliably make a distinction, but they sometimes like to write stories in which the two branes are in love but cannot be together because they don't want to accidentally destroy the universe they didn't really intend to make in the first place. In these stories, the authors impute to "Ultra-A" a slightly supercilious British accent, but of course that's fictional.

1. If there is nothing to distinguish the two branes at all -- if they aren't made of matter and if they are identical in every way -- then there aren't two branes. Simply insisting that there are two despite this principle is the same as saying "Fourth dimensional observers hold a four-sided triangle in their hands". It's a nonsense sentence.

2. Putting that aside, if our local universe is created by the vibration between these two things, then the question of "Why are there two things? Where did they come from?"

3. ??? ::)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 12, 2022, 03:14:03 AM
Quote from: GK Chesterton
Orthodoxy (excerpt):  It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) NECESSARY that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened— dawn and death and so on—as if THEY were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot IMAGINE two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton's nose, Newton's nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.

Here is the peculiar perfection of tone and truth in the nursery tales. The man of science says, "Cut the stalk, and the apple will fall"; but he says it calmly, as if the one idea really led up to the other. The witch in the fairy tale says, "Blow the horn, and the ogre's castle will fall"; but she does not say it as if it were something in which the effect obviously arose out of the cause. Doubtless she has given the advice to many champions, and has seen many castles fall, but she does not lose either her wonder or her reason. She does not muddle her head until it imagines a necessary mental connection between a horn and a falling tower. But the scientific men do muddle their heads, until they imagine a necessary mental connection between an apple leaving the tree and an apple reaching the ground. They do really talk as if they had found not only a set of marvellous facts, but a truth connecting those facts. They do talk as if the connection of two strange things physically connected them philosophically. They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing. Two black riddles make a white answer.

In fairyland we avoid the word "law"; but in the land of science they are singularly fond of it. Thus they will call some interesting conjecture about how forgotten folks pronounced the alphabet, Grimm's Law. But Grimm's Law is far less intellectual than Grimm's Fairy Tales. The tales are, at any rate, certainly tales; while the law is not a law. A law implies that we know the nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As IDEAS, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the "Laws of Nature." When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o'clock. We must answer that it is MAGIC. It is not a "law," for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, "law," "necessity," "order," "tendency," and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment." They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a MAGIC tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 12, 2022, 01:37:35 PM
Before we continue, can you describe to me what something that has unactualized potential might look like, for want of having that potential unactualized by your hypothetical god?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 12, 2022, 11:09:28 PM
A ball sitting on the ground has the potential to move through the air, but it is currently sitting still.

A piece of lumber as the potential to be formed into a table, but it is currently a piece of lumber.

We have actually made two children, and we can potentially make more.

The cup on my desk has the potential to fall to the floor, but it is actually held 3' above the floor by my desk.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 12, 2022, 11:46:22 PM
Joshua, wouldn't unactualized potential just be equivalent to saying the thing exists in time and thus is subject to changes that occur chronologically? Enumerating all the things that can happen would be an infinite list. And something with no unactualized potential would be something outside of time, i.e. not subject to change. That is more of a sci-fi way than Aristotle would ever use, but it seems to me that saying a ball can 'potentially roll' isn't really saying something about its properties per se (as if to say it contains within it this potential but more a mere example of the fact that it is subject to innumerable possible changes as a result of interactions. Certainly in physics the term "potential" means something very different from this, e.g. potential energy, which implies a current actual set of forces in play, rather than a conceivable future of the object.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 13, 2022, 02:58:57 AM
I do not understand, from your examples, why a ball cannot roll without a chain of forces going back to the creation of the universe. What is your Prime Actualizer doing for this ball that present conditions are unable to do?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 13, 2022, 11:04:28 AM
BTW, I want to assure you that I intend to discuss the rest of what you've posted, but I think it's really important that we both have a shared understanding of what you're calling an "actualized potential" and why you believe all such actualization has to derive from a Prime Mover. So many (truly old-school) Catholic assumptions hang on this that I don't want to proceed without being sure that I know what you're meaning by the concept. I've assumed you're not going all the way back to Aristotle on this one, but you're clearly not channeling Leibniz either -- and the more you talk, the more I think you really are going all classically Greek. I just want to nail that down.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 13, 2022, 11:34:01 AM
I've assumed you're not going all the way back to Aristotle on this one, but you're clearly not channeling Leibniz either -- and the more you talk, the more I think you really are going all classically Greek. I just want to nail that down.

My assumption has been that it's Aristotle via Aquinas, but please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 13, 2022, 11:57:20 AM
I suspect you're right. But I didn't want to bias anything by prematurely harping on what I think of Aquinas, or assuming despite everything that we really were just diving into the Five Proofs. (That Joshua essentially called our attention to the Cosmological Argument sort of made it harder to pretend otherwise, but he keeps saying "classical theology" as if he's trying to make a distinction between his approach and Catholicism, and I'd like to respect that since he's made it clear that's what he'd prefer.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 15, 2022, 01:51:11 AM
Joshua, wouldn't unactualized potential just be equivalent to saying the thing exists in time and thus is subject to changes that occur chronologically? Enumerating all the things that can happen would be an infinite list. And something with no unactualized potential would be something outside of time, i.e. not subject to change. That is more of a sci-fi way than Aristotle would ever use, but it seems to me that saying a ball can 'potentially roll' isn't really saying something about its properties per se (as if to say it contains within it this potential but more a mere example of the fact that it is subject to innumerable possible changes as a result of interactions. Certainly in physics the term "potential" means something very different from this, e.g. potential energy, which implies a current actual set of forces in play, rather than a conceivable future of the object.

No, potential is real. We can see this in two ways: firstly, something cannot come from nothing. If potential doesn't have existence, then either change cannot happen or there cannot be actual things (just flux). Secondly, potential is limited. I can do a long list of things but I can't do anything at all. That limit is because there are some potentialities in me but not others.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 15, 2022, 01:56:20 AM
I do not understand, from your examples, why a ball cannot roll without a chain of forces going back to the creation of the universe. What is your Prime Actualizer doing for this ball that present conditions are unable to do?

A ball cannot roll without a preceding cause, and the prime mover is the first cause of motion. Things don't happen for no reason; as we discussed, there are reasons for why things happen, and so there must be a first reason.

In addition, a ball's nature is not to necessarily exist, so a ball does not exist, right here in this moment, without causes for its existence. God, who is fully actual, sustains the ball in existence, right here in this moment. That is to say, God actualizes the ball's potential to exist every moment. Just like my desk actualizes my cup's potential to sit three feet above the ground every moment.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 15, 2022, 02:12:29 AM
BTW, I want to assure you that I intend to discuss the rest of what you've posted.

I don't mind. It'd be easier to talk with you if you put some additional pieces on the board, but I'm OK with putting mine out first. That's really the purpose of this thread for me; I want to sharpen my understanding of these ideas and play with them. I'm glad to share the things that I've found with anyone who's interested, but that's sort of a secondary benefit for me. I've long since given up trying to change people's mind here.

but I think it's really important that we both have a shared understanding of what you're calling an "actualized potential" and why you believe all such actualization has to derive from a Prime Mover.

Potential cannot actualize itself. That's the most simple answer to this question.

So many (truly old-school) Catholic assumptions hang on this that I don't want to proceed without being sure that I know what you're meaning by the concept. 

I'm not trying to defend the validity of theology or Catholic theology specifically in this thread. I have been careful to stay firmly on the side of philosophy, which shows us a God which is a subset of the Catholic understanding of God. The Catholics believe in things like the Trinity and Incarnation through divine revelation, but that stuff is not accessible through natural philosophy. I'm not going near any of that.

I've assumed you're not going all the way back to Aristotle on this one

For the prime mover, I am going back to Aristotle and the first of Aquinas's five ways. Their arguments were expanded by Feser to talk about a hierarchical series of actualization of potential of existence, right here in this moment, and I think that's a good argument. But to my mind, it is a parallel argument. I am also convinced by Aquinas's first way which is essentially Aristotle's unmoving mover.

but you're clearly not channeling Leibniz either -- and the more you talk, the more I think you really are going all classically Greek. I just want to nail that down.

I haven't read Leibniz. Feser indicated that the argument outlined on the first page, for something which necessarily exists from the principle of sufficient reason, was derived from Liebniz's work, but I haven't read Liebniz to be able to confirm that myself.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 02:15:07 AM
Joshua, wouldn't unactualized potential just be equivalent to saying the thing exists in time and thus is subject to changes that occur chronologically? Enumerating all the things that can happen would be an infinite list. And something with no unactualized potential would be something outside of time, i.e. not subject to change. That is more of a sci-fi way than Aristotle would ever use, but it seems to me that saying a ball can 'potentially roll' isn't really saying something about its properties per se (as if to say it contains within it this potential but more a mere example of the fact that it is subject to innumerable possible changes as a result of interactions. Certainly in physics the term "potential" means something very different from this, e.g. potential energy, which implies a current actual set of forces in play, rather than a conceivable future of the object.

No, potential is real. We can see this in two ways: firstly, something cannot come from nothing. If potential doesn't have existence, then either change cannot happen or there cannot be actual things (just flux).

When you say that potential has existence, do you mean merely that an object is capable of the potential effect? For instance, that a ball nearby to an incline is capable of being pushed down it by some impact? Or do you mean that there is some actual force within the ball 'ready' (or something like that) to fall down the incline, and that an incidental force impacting on it merely activates this present potential?

I will remark again that in physics we call energy potential when there is already a force acting upon a body. For instance if I lift a ball into the air, letting go of the ball will cause it to fall because of its 'potential energy' caused by the gravitation already present that I was temporarily offsetting with my hand. We would not suggest, however, that the ball had within it this energy to fall, and so it "having" potential energy is really just a mathematical shorthand for evaluating the quantity of gravitational force acting on the ball as I hold it in the air. Really it's the gravity field we are assigning this energy (treating it for the sake of argument as a force rather than as curved space). The ball's mass will be a relevant factor, but that mass is not the potential energy itself.

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Secondly, potential is limited. I can do a long list of things but I can't do anything at all. That limit is because there are some potentialities in me but not others.

Right, I think I got this part. The question is what is literally meant by unactualized potential. In other words, what is the actual force or phenomenon these words are meant to call upon. The fact of the above ball's range of motion being limited by certain factors should not ipso facto suggest that it also possesses some particular energy or power. That's why I asked whether unactualized potential was just a way of describing the range of possible eventualities. As a side point, the issue of potentialities is itself quite a murky one, since it is difficult to call almost anything impossible, even in science. We can assign zero probability to it, but strictly speaking that doesn't make it impossible. So while a ball sitting on a table seems to have its likeliest range of motion limited to either rolling along the table, or perhaps being knocked around by the table itself if the table moves, we can't really rule out it suddenly starting to float since some totally unforeseen force may yet act on it. In fact we can't even rule out that it may spontaneously turn into a tetrahedron, since again a strange force could suddenly act on it, like a magnetic field. And when we bring God into the mix, well in that case any object can have any future. At that point the limitations would seem to be definitional rather than chronological. For instance we would still have the limitation that a sphere would be a sphere rather than a tetrahedron while it is a sphere. But what happens to that sphere from one moment to the next would seem to be quite open-ended, with a great difficulty placed on ruling out all sorts of strange eventualities even if we might assign to most of them an infinitesimal probability.

So I'm trying to understand exactly what you mean by the term.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 15, 2022, 02:18:48 AM
I suspect you're right. But I didn't want to bias anything by prematurely harping on what I think of Aquinas, or assuming despite everything that we really were just diving into the Five Proofs. (That Joshua essentially called our attention to the Cosmological Argument sort of made it harder to pretend otherwise, but he keeps saying "classical theology" as if he's trying to make a distinction between his approach and Catholicism, and I'd like to respect that since he's made it clear that's what he'd prefer.)

I think the arguments summarized here point to the existence of a single God who is actively sustaining the world in existence, who created matter and all immaterial things from nothing, who holds the forms and universals in his mind, and has the other properties I listed.

The reason I am drawing a firm distinction from Catholicism is that I don't want to bring theology into the mix. I think the God pointed at by these arguments is compatible with (i.e. is a subset of) the God of the three major Abrahamic religions but I'm not trying to talk about Jesus or Muhammad.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 15, 2022, 02:37:49 AM
So I'm trying to understand exactly what you mean by the term [potential].... For instance, that a ball nearby to an incline is capable of being pushed down it by some impact?

Yes.

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Or do you mean that there is some actual force within the ball 'ready' (or something like that) to fall down the incline, and that an incidental force impacting on it merely activates this present potential?

I wouldn't call it a force. It's not necessarily a physical mechanism like magnetism.

The question is what is literally meant by unactualized potential. In other words, what is the actual force or phenomenon these words are meant to call upon.

It is potential. That's what it is, the possibility to be changed. It's not a shorthand for some more fundamental force or phenomenon, it is fundamental. It (of course) comes from God.

The things we see around us are actual. Potential exists, but not in the way that actuality exists. I actually am alive but I am potentially dead. I am not potentially a bird. (My matter is potentially part of a bird).

That's why I asked whether unactualized potential was just a way of describing the range of possible eventualities.

I think this can be a fine way of putting it, depending on exactly how you're using those words.

As a side point, the issue of potentialities is itself quite a murky one, since it is difficult to call almost anything impossible, even in science. We can assign zero probability to it, but strictly speaking that doesn't make it impossible. So while a ball sitting on a table seems to have its likeliest range of motion limited to either rolling along the table, or perhaps being knocked around by the table itself if the table moves, we can't really rule out it suddenly starting to float since some totally unforeseen force may yet act on it.

The difficulty in mapping something doesn't mean we can't understand it in principle. I am not working in a scientific framework in this thread and trying to impose one on metaphysics makes about as much sense as trying to impose mathematical rigor on science (it doesn't make any sense).

If there are conditions where the ball can float, then yes, the ball has the potential to float. If there are not any conditions where the ball can do X, then the ball does not have the potential to do X.

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In fact we can't even rule out that it may spontaneously turn into a tetrahedron, since again a strange force could suddenly act on it, like a magnetic field.

No, I think we can rule that one out. But it doesn't matter. Whether we happen to be right or wrong when we make a claim about whether a particular potential exists, it doesn't change the fundamental principle of what potential is.

Quote
And when we bring God into the mix, well in that case any object can have any future. At that point the limitations would seem to be definitional rather than chronological. For instance we would still have the limitation that a sphere would be a sphere rather than a tetrahedron while it is a sphere. But what happens to that sphere from one moment to the next would seem to be quite open-ended, with a great difficulty placed on ruling out all sorts of strange eventualities even if we might assign to most of them an infinitesimal probability.

Yes, matter is a principle of potential and so material things are rife with potential. That being said, I do not believe living things are purely material, so at some point if you change our matter enough you kill us. You can then form the matter into new and interesting things, but you haven't reformed the person, you've only reformed the person's matter.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 04:03:09 AM
It is potential. That's what it is, the possibility to be changed. It's not a shorthand for some more fundamental force or phenomenon, it is fundamental. It (of course) comes from God.

The things we see around us are actual. Potential exists, but not in the way that actuality exists. I actually am alive but I am potentially dead. I am not potentially a bird. (My matter is potentially part of a bird).

I think I am starting to see more clearly what you mean. I thought you were referring to potential pathways within time, and time as a sort of continuum that goes on with things occurring within it. But now that I put this comment of yours together with your OP and how it's about the persistence of reality itself being caused by the Prime Mover, it seems evident to me that potential should properly be understood in this sense as being afforded another moment where change is possible. It's the fact of it being contingent that gives it this potential, since without being sustained one moment to the next (we might assume, I supposed, that time is quantized and that there are discreet moments) there would be no potential, i.e. no other state an object could be in. So it's not so much about the details, or species of event - that a ball might be impacted and roll off a table - but about the genus of this type of event, that change itself is only possible because potential is given to it contingently by the Prime Mover.

Is this closer to how you are thinking of it?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 15, 2022, 11:17:00 AM
Quote
all cannot roll without a preceding cause...
Except that we know this to be untrue. Specifically, a ball that is rolling will keep rolling, and a ball that is not rolling must be caused to roll. More importantly, no motion happens except relative to other frames of reference, meaning that a ball which is rolling can also be described as a universe that is rolling around a ball. These are actually known physical properties of the universe.

But now I'd like to talk about what you're calling "necessary."

Why is it not in a ball's nature to necessarily exist once it has been made by processes which would, when completed, create a ball? If that ball were not somehow persisted, would it pop out of existence once it was created? If so, why? Also: if a ball is set on a ramp, what needs to actualize its potential to roll? Would not the observed physical laws of the universe suffice to start it rolling? Why is it necessary to posit a philosophical cause for a physical law, especially when both your physical "causes" are just defined as exceptions to the law (e.g. "nothing can come from nothing, except this one thing" and "nothing can make something else move without already moving, except for this one thing.")

For my part, I consider the idea that something needs to move to produce motion to have been thoroughly invalidated by what we now understand about the nature of motion, which in Aristotle's defense isn't something he could have possibly understood at the time. To him, motion was a fundamental PROPERTY and not a by-product of changing frames of reference, and could stand in for change in general.

What I'm trying to understand is why you think a ball dropped off the edge of a crane would not fall without an entity to ensure that it would. At what point in that chain of causation is the input of a god necessary?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 11:32:50 AM
At what point in that chain of causation is the input of a god necessary?

I think the argument being made is that it is the chain itself that is eternally caused by the Prime Mover. Or more specifically, that the laws of science such as you know them are not actually laws (as the earlier Chesterton quote puts it) but rather an attribute intentionally offered in the present tense and at all times, whose effect only appears to be laws of science that 'have a will of their own'.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 15, 2022, 11:41:40 AM
And that's fine, if that's where he's going with it, but the obvious question is: why would that be remotely necessary? I mean, Aristotle thought something needed to be the first thing to move because he didn't know how motion worked; given his assumptions, it makes perfect sense. But we now know that movement is essentially "caused" by fields generated by the physical properties of existing objects, meaning that just having two objects pop into existence is going to lead to movement. There's no need in that framework to posit a "mover," which means that it's neither simple nor necessary.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 12:08:25 PM
And that's fine, if that's where he's going with it, but the obvious question is: why would that be remotely necessary? I mean, Aristotle thought something needed to be the first thing to move because he didn't know how motion worked; given his assumptions, it makes perfect sense. But we now know that movement is essentially "caused" by fields generated by the physical properties of existing objects, meaning that just having two objects pop into existence is going to lead to movement. There's no need in that framework to posit a "mover," which means that it's neither simple nor necessary.

But he's not talking about how forces work, he's talking about the allowance such that matter is amenable to being affected by forces.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 15, 2022, 12:09:47 PM
Why can't that just be a property of matter? Is there any matter we've ever observed that isn't affected by force?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 12:21:29 PM
Why can't that just be a property of matter? Is there any matter we've ever observed that isn't affected by force?

That's a bit of a circular argument, since if there is a God you obviously would never observe such a thing since God would imbue all of creation with its sustained ability to change. In other words if you observed it then ipso facto it has been given this property (either by God or by its nature). To suggest that this implies it has not given by God is just begging the question since in both cases the observation would be the same. Bear in mind I'm trying to understand Joshua's position; I am not personally making this case.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 15, 2022, 12:24:35 PM
Why can't that just be a property of matter? Is there any matter we've ever observed that isn't affected by force?

Dark matter? Maybe? If we ever figure out what that stuff is and what its potential interactions with forces are.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 15, 2022, 12:26:50 PM
Quote
That's a bit of a circular argument...
But Joshua is literally attempting to make this argument by necessity: that in order for a force to affect matter, a god has to intervene. But an equally good explanation, as far as I can tell, is that one of the properties of matter is that it can be affected by forces -- or perhaps even that the definition of a force is something that can affect matter.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 12:40:18 PM
Dark matter? Maybe? If we ever figure out what that stuff is and what its potential interactions with forces are.

Personally I think dark matter will end up just being an accounting mistake, but never mind that...
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 12:48:17 PM
Quote
That's a bit of a circular argument...
But Joshua is literally attempting to make this argument by necessity: that in order for a force to affect matter, a god has to intervene. But an equally good explanation, as far as I can tell, is that one of the properties of matter is that it can be affected by forces -- or perhaps even that the definition of a force is something that can affect matter.

The issue is whether the necessity can be shown. Actually that's the whole issue. Otherwise it becomes merely one of a list of possibilities, none of which (at present) we have access to. That's why it's fundamentally a metaphysical question rather than a science question. But a scientific type of investigation of this topic may still be needed (and personally I like cross-disciplinary projects). For instance if you stick to the material realm for your hypotheses, there will seemingly always be more "why's" the further down you go. Matter has this property - why? Because spacetime is a certain way - why? Because the forces are arranged this way - why? And even the forces such as we know them are not immutable, since in scenarios such as within a black hole or at the big bang we cannot even be sure they are applicable. C is the speed constant of the universe - why? So somewhere down the line you hit a wall, or if you get one level deeper on the issue you still have a why. The Prime Mover argument seems to (a) not tolerate a turtles all the way down conclusion (an infinite regress), and (b) not accept that all of this is a coincidence with no meaning. I suppose it also doesn't accept the possibility of circular causation, which is personally my preferred underdog if we are excluding religious explanations. And as I mentioned earlier, if there is any validity to any religious story then on some level the physical must connect in some way shape or form to the divine. Simmons' Hyperion, just to reference it again, entertains the idea of retroactive/non-linear causality, to the point where even God can be caused in a temporal sense while yet being eternal in a cosmic sense. There's a lot of complicated kinds of theories we could entertain.

So yes, the issue is whether it can be shown that one particular explanation is actually necessary.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 15, 2022, 01:06:30 PM
Dark matter? Maybe? If we ever figure out what that stuff is and what its potential interactions with forces are.

Personally I think dark matter will end up just being an accounting mistake, but never mind that...

If the estimated matter to dark matter ratio (6 dark matter to 1 regular matter) were reversed I would agree. But the evidence for extra gravity coming from a distribution of "stuff" we can't see is pretty vast at this point. The universe is big with a lot of stuff, but that's one massive accounting error.

Crazier but more plausible idea: It could be a misunderstanding how gravity spreads out over huge distances. Maybe the inverse square law is great until something on the order of a couple hundred light years but past that distance gravity doesn't spread out on the surface of a sphere but somehow follows a different contour. Or some other reinterpretation of how gravity works. Or even crazier ideas from the quantum world. Or the regular dark matter idea that there is some particle that emits gravity but doesn't like playing with the other forces.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 02:15:14 PM
If the estimated matter to dark matter ratio (6 dark matter to 1 regular matter) were reversed I would agree. But the evidence for extra gravity coming from a distribution of "stuff" we can't see is pretty vast at this point. The universe is big with a lot of stuff, but that's one massive accounting error.

One thing not being accounted for is spacetime itself. What is it? It can't be actually nothing, even though aether theory was discarded in the early 20th century. The accelerating expansion of the universe requires an explanation, and thus far none is even being entertained as a mainstream idea. Part of the behavior of macro systems (galactic or supercluster level) is going to ride on the nature of the medium the matter inhabits. But that's just one theory. It can have to do with entanglement; it can have to do with quantum effects we haven't measured yet; it can have to do with the vacuum catastrophe. It can be anything really.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 15, 2022, 02:24:38 PM
If the estimated matter to dark matter ratio (6 dark matter to 1 regular matter) were reversed I would agree. But the evidence for extra gravity coming from a distribution of "stuff" we can't see is pretty vast at this point. The universe is big with a lot of stuff, but that's one massive accounting error.

One thing not being accounted for is spacetime itself. What is it? It can't be actually nothing, even though aether theory was discarded in the early 20th century. The accelerating expansion of the universe requires an explanation, and thus far none is even being entertained as a mainstream idea. Part of the behavior of macro systems (galactic or supercluster level) is going to ride on the nature of the medium the matter inhabits. But that's just one theory. It can have to do with entanglement; it can have to do with quantum effects we haven't measured yet; it can have to do with the vacuum catastrophe. It can be anything really.

I agree it can be almost anything. But it has to be something or requires another GR level breakthrough of physical understanding. I guess none of those were what I thought you meant when you said accounting error.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 15, 2022, 02:26:32 PM
I agree it can be almost anything. But it has to be something or requires another GR level breakthrough of physical understanding. I guess none of those were what I thought you meant when you said accounting error.

Yeah I didn't mean mismeasurement, I meant literally not accounting for things happening that are not well understood.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: cherrypoptart on June 16, 2022, 11:37:35 AM
"The accelerating expansion of the universe requires an explanation, and thus far none is even being entertained as a mainstream idea."

My theory is it's accelerating because of gravity.

The pre-big bang singularity was a black hole that contained all of the matter in our universe. It had an event horizon and outside that event horizon was matter going on about its business, without a care in the world, the same way matter in our universe goes about its business every day as long as it's beyond any black hole's even horizon.

So that matter, which is so much greater in volume than what's in our universe, has its force of gravity acting on us, everywhere, all the time, pretty much a constant though there are minor fluctuations in distribution as the matter outside our universe moves around just as it does inside.

Since the force of gravity between two objects increases at a greater than linear rate the closer they get to each other, as the outer perimeter of our universe approaches the inner boundary of the outerverse, multiverse, omniverse, megaverse, or whatever you want to call it, naturally both groups of matter will accelerate their approach to one another until they collide, intermingle, and we again join with the matter outside of universe in eventual equilibrium. As long as we avoid getting sucked into another pre-big bang singularity. It's said that there is a star going super-nova every two seconds in our universe. In the outerverse, there may be a pre-big bang singularity (PBBS, I pronounce it PiBBS) reaching critical mass and temperature and exploding into a new universe every two seconds as well, kind of a universal, or omniversal as it were, constant. Those are the heartbeats of God.

What we see, all that we'll ever see or know, is the tiniest fraction of all that's out there. We're less than frogs looking up out of a well. All the matter in our universe is to all the matter in the outerverse as a neutrino is in mass to the PiBBS that birthed us.

One thing that I'll mention about proving God, as nice as it would be if we could, is that it kind of misses the whole point of faith.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 16, 2022, 12:31:55 PM
My theory is it's accelerating because of gravity.

The issue is that if there were discrete mega-singularities outside of the observable universe (a) the expansion would not be uniform, but rather greater nearer to those, and (b) at this distance the effects would still be both weak and slow. In other words, I think it would be quite easy to observe whether acceleration was at a constant rate across different parts of space.

I suppose if you wanted to go the 'mega-gravity' route you could suppose that outside the boundary of the observable universe is a completely concentrated infinite zone filled with energy, all around the universe, pulling the universe outwards toward it. You could get into a whole sci-fi thought experiment about that!
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Wayward Son on June 17, 2022, 06:18:56 PM
If the estimated matter to dark matter ratio (6 dark matter to 1 regular matter) were reversed I would agree. But the evidence for extra gravity coming from a distribution of "stuff" we can't see is pretty vast at this point. The universe is big with a lot of stuff, but that's one massive accounting error.

One thing not being accounted for is spacetime itself. What is it? It can't be actually nothing, even though aether theory was discarded in the early 20th century. The accelerating expansion of the universe requires an explanation, and thus far none is even being entertained as a mainstream idea. Part of the behavior of macro systems (galactic or supercluster level) is going to ride on the nature of the medium the matter inhabits. But that's just one theory. It can have to do with entanglement; it can have to do with quantum effects we haven't measured yet; it can have to do with the vacuum catastrophe. It can be anything really.

You have to remember that the aether was the supposed medium that light travelled through, like water is the medium that ocean waves travel through.

And that the Michelson-Morley experiment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelson%E2%80%93Morley_experiment) was very accurate--more accurate than any measuring device at the time.  Because it didn't actually measure anything, but rather the difference between the distances that light had to travel, as measured by the frequency of the light itself.

The fact that it has been measured repeatedly, with greater accuracy over time, to levels most other experiments only dream of, and is only of the bases of General Relativity, means that it is very, very unlikely it is there. :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 17, 2022, 07:03:36 PM
The fact that it has been measured repeatedly, with greater accuracy over time, to levels most other experiments only dream of, and is only of the bases of General Relativity, means that it is very, very unlikely it is there. :)

All that means is that spacetime/aether doesn't refract light. That doesn't say anything about other properties it may or may not have. One thing is certain, that "space" cannot actually be nothing since things cannot exist in nothing. You need some sort of backdrop, be it a 'display screen' or whatever you want to call it, within which physics operates. The reason they thought of it as a medium like water or gas is because of idea that waves always propagate through some medium. But I think it's more fundamental to suggest that anything requires something to exist in. You can't have laws of physics in nothingness with no deeper substance; there would be no substrate within which the laws themselves could even exist.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 17, 2022, 07:15:44 PM
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You can't have laws of physics in nothingness with no deeper substance
I'm not sure that this is true. Without evidence either way, I think all we can really say is that we have never observed nothingness, and might not actually be able to observe it. I can't think of an authoritative reason why an atom of hydrogen, for example, might not be able to exist in nothingness, but I can think of lots of reasons why it would be very difficult to maintain nothingness -- especially if spacetime is really as reliant on field dynamics as some physicists believe.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 17, 2022, 08:07:55 PM
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You can't have laws of physics in nothingness with no deeper substance
I'm not sure that this is true. Without evidence either way, I think all we can really say is that we have never observed nothingness, and might not actually be able to observe it. I can't think of an authoritative reason why an atom of hydrogen, for example, might not be able to exist in nothingness, but I can think of lots of reasons why it would be very difficult to maintain nothingness -- especially if spacetime is really as reliant on field dynamics as some physicists believe.

Just bear in mind that I don't mean emptiness, which is a lack of some particular substance within a spatial dimension; for instance a lack of solid matter in a gaseous atmosphere can in some sense be called "empty", i.e. bereft of solidity. Of course it isn't empty, it's full of air (and of quantum fluctuations, etc etc). The vacuum catastrophe itself suggests that something very significant is going on in 'empty' space, even that devoid of the 4-5 states of matter. We could also ask 'where' quantum fluctuations come from. From nowhere? Where is nowhere? These are all very hard questions. Until they're answered (and this is my point) it seems silly to think of space itself as being nothing. Clearly something is going on in there, coming from somewhere or some cause. So we can easily think of 'space' as being empty in the casual sense, but for it to be nothing would imply there is zero, ziltch, nothing there. If spacetime can bend then something is bending. You cannot bend nothing.

So this is one reason an argument such as Joshua presents is appealing. Not necessarily appealing if you don't agree with its logic, but appealing in the sense that it's approaching the topic in the right spirit, suggesting that "things just are" is a philosophical copout. We may not be able to get at the answer, maybe not now, maybe not ever, but it doesn't stop the question being really important. To even define a concept like "nothing" would require sophisticated language, making up terms like Heidegger and others have done due to lack of adequate descriptors. As to whether laws must be held somewhere, I see that as being a sort of truism: laws are just our explanation of the pattern of things, but the pattern itself has to be caused by something, either a structure, a code, or something else. This code must be embedded somewhere; a structure exist in some capacity (whereas nothing by definition is a non-existence); I am not even sure it's possible to conceive of "laws" as being part of nothing or existing nowhere; it's really a contradiction. If there is some topography, some contour, such that laws of physics are the epiphenomena of matter and energy just sliding along the detailing of this topography, even then the topography must exist! It can't be nothing, otherwise there is no topography. You get the idea.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 17, 2022, 10:00:50 PM
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"things just are" is a philosophical copout
While I'm not a huge fan, I have to admit that I personally consider "things just are" -- or the expanded and more accurate version, which is "we don't know the reason or even if there is a reason" -- to be less of a copout than "a god did it."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 18, 2022, 12:33:29 AM
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"things just are" is a philosophical copout
While I'm not a huge fan, I have to admit that I personally consider "things just are" -- or the expanded and more accurate version, which is "we don't know the reason or even if there is a reason" -- to be less of a copout than "a god did it."

Well I'm personally not the advocate for the proof of God as a useful explanation of natural laws. But I don't think Joshua is either; he's after a different issue, which is the issue of how anything could be at all, including ordered laws but not restricted to that. What I do think is that the awe and wonder at the majesty of what exists should be enough to warrant thinking that the answer must be something incredible, something that answers everything. God fits the bill but in the abstract there could be other explanations. There's a problem with language, though: what does "God" mean? It's hard to dismiss the term when it might be isomorphic with some non-religious sounding explanation. The fact that religious ideas are couched in religious language causes a lot of confusion. Christians say you should praise God: but what it in secular terms there's a non-religious way to call the source of everything: well wouldn't you want to offer praises to that thing, to say how amazing it is? Worship and thanksgiving can take many forms. I'm not preaching, but just suggesting that it's too easy to say there's a disagreement when two different languages are being spoken.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 18, 2022, 03:49:48 AM
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Except that we know this to be untrue. Specifically, a ball that is rolling will keep rolling, and a ball that is not rolling must be caused to roll. More importantly, no motion happens except relative to other frames of reference, meaning that a ball which is rolling can also be described as a universe that is rolling around a ball. These are actually known physical properties of the universe.

Whether the ball rolls or the universe rolls around the ball, the motion requires explanation. There is a reason that is happening (that's why science works).

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Why is it not in a ball's nature to necessarily exist once it has been made by processes which would, when completed, create a ball?

Because the past doesn't exist anymore and the ball doesn't necessarily exist. We need to explain why the ball exists, right here, in this moment. The past cannot be an explanation, because the past doesn't have existence.

You can try to say the ball has a property, something like "this object persists in existence until something causes it to cease." The problem with that structure is the ball's existence depends on the property and the property's existence depends on the ball. It is a circular dependency; it doesn't rest upon anything.

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Also: if a ball is set on a ramp, what needs to actualize its potential to roll? Would not the observed physical laws of the universe suffice to start it rolling?

The ramp, the ball's nature, the gravity well, and the person who set the ball on the ramp all are the immediate actualizers of the ball's potential to roll. 

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Why is it necessary to posit a philosophical cause for a physical law, especially when both your physical "causes" are just defined as exceptions to the law (e.g. "nothing can come from nothing, except this one thing" and "nothing can make something else move without already moving, except for this one thing.")

God doesn't "come from nothing". That's the whole point. He didn't come from anywhere. He necessarily exists. To come from somewhere implies a contingent existence (and would naturally require an explanation).  The point of the arguments is that seeing a thing that exists and a chain of contingencies causing it to exist require a first thing in the chain which is not contingent.

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For my part, I consider the idea that something needs to move to produce motion to have been thoroughly invalidated by what we now understand about the nature of motion, which in Aristotle's defense isn't something he could have possibly understood at the time. To him, motion was a fundamental PROPERTY and not a by-product of changing frames of reference, and could stand in for change in general.

The laws of nature require explanation. The point Aristotle, Aquinas, and others are making is not negated by any scientific discovery.

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What I'm trying to understand is why you think a ball dropped off the edge of a crane would not fall without an entity to ensure that it would. At what point in that chain of causation is the input of a god necessary?

I am not saying that the direct cause of the ball falling is God. You and I agree about the proximate causes for a ball falling. The point is that those things must be explained as well, and their explanations explained, and so on.





Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 18, 2022, 03:53:14 AM
And that's fine, if that's where he's going with it, but the obvious question is: why would that be remotely necessary? I mean, Aristotle thought something needed to be the first thing to move because he didn't know how motion worked; given his assumptions, it makes perfect sense. But we now know that movement is essentially "caused" by fields generated by the physical properties of existing objects, meaning that just having two objects pop into existence is going to lead to movement. There's no need in that framework to posit a "mover," which means that it's neither simple nor necessary.

I think you might be conflating the independent arguments I've made. They use parallel structures and they ultimately point at the same thing, so it is an understandable confusion.

I think Aristotle's argument about an unmoving mover is sound as far as it goes. I did not use it in my first post because I think the argument for something which necessarily exists is more compelling in an intuitive sense, and it doesn't talk about a linear chain of causation but rather a hierarchical chain. That is to say, it doesn't reach back into time, but looks at this single time slice in isolation.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 18, 2022, 03:55:59 AM
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That's a bit of a circular argument...
But Joshua is literally attempting to make this argument by necessity: that in order for a force to affect matter, a god has to intervene. But an equally good explanation, as far as I can tell, is that one of the properties of matter is that it can be affected by forces -- or perhaps even that the definition of a force is something that can affect matter.

No, that's not my argument. God is the fundamental source of existence. He gives existence to all other things. His act allows all of us to act, but he allows us to act. We have intermediary authority to do things, and while our authority ultimately derives from God's, it is also something we actually exercise. God isn't puppeteering everything. Similarly, God gave things (like electrons and atoms) natures and those things move in accordance with their nature. God is the ultimate source, but the electron's nature is the proximate cause.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 18, 2022, 03:59:20 AM
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That's a bit of a circular argument...
But Joshua is literally attempting to make this argument by necessity: that in order for a force to affect matter, a god has to intervene. But an equally good explanation, as far as I can tell, is that one of the properties of matter is that it can be affected by forces -- or perhaps even that the definition of a force is something that can affect matter.

The issue is whether the necessity can be shown. Actually that's the whole issue. Otherwise it becomes merely one of a list of possibilities, none of which (at present) we have access to. That's why it's fundamentally a metaphysical question rather than a science question. But a scientific type of investigation of this topic may still be needed (and personally I like cross-disciplinary projects). For instance if you stick to the material realm for your hypotheses, there will seemingly always be more "why's" the further down you go. Matter has this property - why? Because spacetime is a certain way - why? Because the forces are arranged this way - why? And even the forces such as we know them are not immutable, since in scenarios such as within a black hole or at the big bang we cannot even be sure they are applicable. C is the speed constant of the universe - why? So somewhere down the line you hit a wall, or if you get one level deeper on the issue you still have a why. The Prime Mover argument seems to (a) not tolerate a turtles all the way down conclusion (an infinite regress), and (b) not accept that all of this is a coincidence with no meaning. I suppose it also doesn't accept the possibility of circular causation, which is personally my preferred underdog if we are excluding religious explanations.

Yes, this is what I'm saying.

A circular causation doesn't make any sense: Hey Josh, where did this textbook get its text from? -- I copied it from Bob. Hey Bob, where did this textbook get its contents from? -- I copied it from Josh.  It's nonsense.

So yes, the issue is whether it can be shown that one particular explanation is actually necessary.

Of course we can't map the entire chain and of course the thing which necessarily exists is strange and alien to us. But the existence of contingent things shows us there must be something which necessarily exists. Nothing else makes sense.

Then we can continue with similar arguments (outlined in short above) to show other properties, and it starts becoming clear this thing we discovered is the God of the monotheistic religions.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 18, 2022, 04:06:30 AM
Well I'm personally not the advocate for the proof of God as a useful explanation of natural laws. But I don't think Joshua is either; he's after a different issue, which is the issue of how anything could be at all, including ordered laws but not restricted to that. What I do think is that the awe and wonder at the majesty of what exists should be enough to warrant thinking that the answer must be something incredible, something that answers everything. God fits the bill but in the abstract there could be other explanations.

I don't think this is true. I think the thing that I've described is the only reasonable explanation.There are philosophies which doubt our ability to reason or the intelligibility of our universe and they're coherent (just shriveled). If you accept that our universe makes sense and you accept the validity of the syllogism, it seems clear to me that the God I described is the only sensical explanation. Everything else either stops short or goes astray in its reasoning.


There's a problem with language, though: what does "God" mean? It's hard to dismiss the term when it might be isomorphic with some non-religious sounding explanation.

I have been very explicit what I mean by that term: the thing which can be described by the properties I listed. There is no language problem here. I'm not invoking scriptures or Allah or the Trinity or Jesus or Yahweh.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 18, 2022, 09:53:24 AM
I missed your explanation for what I was asking, so I'll reword it:

A ball weighs 22 pounds. It is on the top of a slope relative to a larger mass.
Why, without the attentions of your hypothetical god, will that ball not roll down that slope as soon as it can?

Does it pop out of existence? If so, what makes it pop out of existence? You assert that "the past doesn't exist anymore" -- but what does this actually mean?
Does it lose its mass when no one is paying attention? If so, why?
Does potential energy cease to exist when God is not looking, so that the ball's relative location is irrelevant?
Is it just that, at some early point in the existence of the universe, we're asserting that some entity must have done something in order for everything else to be possible? If so, let's just assume that entity was destroyed shortly thereafter. If not, why not?

Which of the natural properties of the ball and the relativistic framework in which it exists require that some mechanism persist them? What evidence do we have that these properties require external persistence?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 20, 2022, 01:44:52 PM
I don't think this is true. I think the thing that I've described is the only reasonable explanation.There are philosophies which doubt our ability to reason or the intelligibility of our universe and they're coherent (just shriveled). If you accept that our universe makes sense and you accept the validity of the syllogism, it seems clear to me that the God I described is the only sensical explanation. Everything else either stops short or goes astray in its reasoning.

I think that if we insist that things require a cause in order to exist then it seems inescapable - indeed it is merely a reiteration of the axiom - to argue that there must be something deeper behind what we see. What I think is not obviously a given is that this cause should be called God, or a god. Insofar as it's something greater than us, supporting reality as we know it, we might call it a god in a pantheistic sense, but what your OP describes seems to indicate a thinking agent, one with will and intent. And I think that is the thing Tom is referring to when he asks how you can show it's a necessary conclusion. He doesn't precisely seem opposed to positing that something is behind reality as we observe it, but he seems to question why we need to call it God and attribute to it qualities such as omniscient, perfect, and so forth.

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There's a problem with language, though: what does "God" mean? It's hard to dismiss the term when it might be isomorphic with some non-religious sounding explanation.

I have been very explicit what I mean by that term: the thing which can be described by the properties I listed. There is no language problem here. I'm not invoking scriptures or Allah or the Trinity or Jesus or Yahweh.

This comment was directed more to Tom than to you, since I think a primary objection an atheist (or non-theist) is going to have to any proposition involving God is the term "God", and any obvious religious baggage that comes along with that. I don't think most people have a priori objections to the notion that some great force is at work, or that this force exists eternally (i.e. undergirds physics). If you even couched it in Buddhist language, suggesting that the property of "mind" exists underneath physics, people might not generally even have a kneejerk reaction to reject this out of hand. There is a certain grouping of specific terms that I think will be considered unacceptable out of the gate. That's why I would always stress that there can be more than one way to describe something, both of which can sound very different but might not be all that different.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 21, 2022, 01:50:14 AM
A ball weighs 22 pounds. It is on the top of a slope relative to a larger mass.
Why, without the attentions of your hypothetical god, will that ball not roll down that slope as soon as it can?

God is not the proximate cause of the ball falling; I reject occasionalism. That is to say, you and I agree about the proximate causes of the ball falling: the earth, the ball's nature, the slope, etc.

However, those things all have contingent existence. They do not exist necessarily and that means their existence must be explained by something external. As demonstrated in the first post, God is the bedrock of existence -- right here in this moment -- upon which the existence of all other things is rooted.

Does it pop out of existence? If so, what makes it pop out of existence?
...
Does it lose its mass when no one is paying attention? If so, why? Does potential energy cease to exist when God is not looking, so that the ball's relative location is irrelevant?

Things don't exist without a fundamental cause for their existence. If that fundamental cause stopped providing existence, then they would stop existing. If the floor stopped supporting my table, my table would fall. If God stopped supporting things in existence, things would stop existing.

You assert that "the past doesn't exist anymore" -- but what does this actually mean?

I don't know a more simple way to explain it: the current moment has existence; the future does not have existence; the past does not have existence. Now has existence. The future will have existence. The past did have existence.

Is it just that, at some early point in the existence of the universe, we're asserting that some entity must have done something in order for everything else to be possible? If so, let's just assume that entity was destroyed shortly thereafter. If not, why not?

You're jumping from proof to proof. Aristotle's first mover argument shows there must be a first mover. The argument from the principle of sufficient reason in the first post shows that there must be something which necessarily exists. The argument for the fully actual actualizer on this page shows that there must be something which is fully actual. The argument for singular on this page shows that these arguments all point at the same God.

Which of the natural properties of the ball and the relativistic framework in which it exists require that some mechanism persist them? What evidence do we have that these properties require external persistence?

The principle of sufficient reason. "Why does this ball exist, right now?" is a question which has an intelligible answer. As I outlined above, the fact that it existed in the past is not a sufficient explanation for why it exists now; the past does not have existence now to impart to the ball now
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 21, 2022, 03:06:03 AM
I think that if we insist that things require a cause in order to exist then it seems inescapable - indeed it is merely a reiteration of the axiom - to argue that there must be something deeper behind what we see. What I think is not obviously a given is that this cause should be called God, or a god.

I kind of agree with your point, but I think your point misses the point.

I agree that it doesn't makes sense to call that which necessarily exists "God". Even acknowledging that the term God is overloaded, as it is commonly used it has much more meaning than "subsistence itself".

But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular. That is to say, all of these properties are actually just one thing, and that thing is God's existence, which is God's essence.

I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

This comment was directed more to Tom than to you, since I think a primary objection an atheist (or non-theist) is going to have to any proposition involving God is the term "God", and any obvious religious baggage that comes along with that. I don't think most people have a priori objections to the notion that some great force is at work, or that this force exists eternally (i.e. undergirds physics). If you even couched it in Buddhist language, suggesting that the property of "mind" exists underneath physics, people might not generally even have a kneejerk reaction to reject this out of hand. There is a certain grouping of specific terms that I think will be considered unacceptable out of the gate. That's why I would always stress that there can be more than one way to describe something, both of which can sound very different but might not be all that different.

I really don't care if people have pre-programmed knee-jerk reactions against these ideas. That's for them to deal with. I won't make my words less clear or obfuscate their origin as some sort of sly sales pitch. I learned this stuff from Aristotle and Catholics, and a bit from a Shi'i Muslim friend-+. I won't pretend to cast it into a Buddhist frame. That would be a disservice to the Catholics, to the Buddhists, to the person I'm sharing the ideas with, and to myself.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 21, 2022, 03:07:20 AM
Quote from: Tom
Is it just that, at some early point in the existence of the universe, we're asserting that some entity must have done something in order for everything else to be possible? If so, let's just assume that entity was destroyed shortly thereafter. If not, why not?

Because God is fully actual, which means he has no potential, which means he does not have the potential to be destroyed (or to destroy himself).

Or, if you reject the property of fully actual (you'll have to articulate why so we can talk about it) then we have shown that God necessarily exists, and that which necessarily exists cannot cease to exist.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 08:51:43 AM
Can you explain why something that once necessarily existed needs to continue to exist?
Remember how you're defining "necessary." (Remember, we've only granted that "necessary" is a property because we conceded that, at present, reason cannot accept why a thing might exist with no apparent cause, so therefore there must have once existed something that enables other things to exist, even if we don't understand it. And then we're doing Aristotle a favor and allowing a single exception, a thing that once existed no matter what, so that it didn't need something else to help it exist. That's the entirety of the concept as required.)

Or, more importantly, consider how you're defining the word "exists." Let's look at this sentence of yours:

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As I outlined above, the fact that it existed in the past is not a sufficient explanation for why it exists now...

You didn't outline this. You asserted this.
Why can existence simply not be a persistent property of matter? Why, once something exists, can it not simply continue to exist?

You're getting lost in the weeds regarding philosophical "existence" when there's no reason whatsoever to resort to metaphysics. Aristotle had to go this route because he literally didn't understand how the universe worked. We don't need to placidly accept his terminology and blue-sky theorizing any more than we need to accept a medical theory of five humors.

--------------

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But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular.
This, by the way, is completely Catholic bull*censored*. You should know better than this.
Heck, even in your second pass at omnipotence, you fell down the same (Catholic) rhetorical trap.. There is no logical argument for "can do anything possible" that derives from "makes things possible."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 09:26:31 AM
Quote from: Tom
Is it just that, at some early point in the existence of the universe, we're asserting that some entity must have done something in order for everything else to be possible? If so, let's just assume that entity was destroyed shortly thereafter. If not, why not?

Because God is fully actual, which means he has no potential, which means he does not have the potential to be destroyed (or to destroy himself).

Or, if you reject the property of fully actual (you'll have to articulate why so we can talk about it) then we have shown that God necessarily exists, and that which necessarily exists cannot cease to exist.

He's asking how you can be sure the Unmoved Mover is still around. Why is it not possible for the Unmoved Mover to have set everything in motion initially, including the property of continuing the exist over time, and then quit?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 10:00:46 AM
Since Joshua was getting concerned about my willingness to lump the argument from necessity in with the other near-identical "everything needs a cause except this one thing" arguments, I should point out that I'm specifically speaking here about the argument from efficient cause and not the argument from necessity. (I much prefer Kant and Hume's takedown of necessity.) I'm not even going to touch the argument from motion with this because I think that's fundamentally flawed due to Aristotle's ignorance of physics; it's not necessary to rebut a Prime Mover concept because a Prime Mover is definitionally unnecessary based on how we now know motion to work.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 21, 2022, 10:03:32 AM
Quote from: Tom
Is it just that, at some early point in the existence of the universe, we're asserting that some entity must have done something in order for everything else to be possible? If so, let's just assume that entity was destroyed shortly thereafter. If not, why not?

Because God is fully actual, which means he has no potential, which means he does not have the potential to be destroyed (or to destroy himself).

Or, if you reject the property of fully actual (you'll have to articulate why so we can talk about it) then we have shown that God necessarily exists, and that which necessarily exists cannot cease to exist.

Sorry to cut through your artful philosophical language. But want to see if I can grasp your key concept here. Stuff exists, because stuff doesn't come from nowhere, stuff came from "God." Where did "God" come from or is "God" simply the property of the existence of the universe? Your getting pretty close to the tautology and reduction of the nature of "God" that by "God" you are only asserting the creation and continued existence of the universe.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 10:05:54 AM
it's not necessary to rebut a Prime Mover concept because a Prime Mover is definitionally unnecessary based on how we now know motion to work.

We only have an idea of the quanta in kinetic energy, we definitely don't know how motion works. And even if we grant conservation of energy, that still doesn't answer where energy came from. One of the big physics questions is why there's more matter than antimatter in the universe. If you wanted to posit net zero (that the universe is one big quantum fluctuation) you'd need to show that there isn't an asymmetry. So this still requires (philosophically) asking how anything came to be in motion in the first place.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 10:16:18 AM
Motion didn't need to come to be. It is an emergent property of matter. If things exist, they move relative to each other.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 10:18:20 AM
Motion didn't need to come to be. It is an emergent property of matter. If things exist, they move relative to each other.

Move how? In relation to what? In what medium? It all requires some kind of answer, even if you don't want to call it motion. You can call it the Prime Force if you want to summarize the various forces rather than focus on relative motion. The argument, such as it is, is fundamentally the same.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 10:26:16 AM
If matter exists, it produces force. We currently believe this to be due to tension it creates in space-time. In this sense it's like Kant's argument about a heavy object placed on a cushion: the divot produced in the cushion by the object is caused by the properties of the object itself. According to current theory, matter and energy are expressions of the same form; their mere existence warps reality based on the interaction of certain fundamental forces (which are postulated to exist with varying degrees of proof). If you start with an empty universe and put two balls into it somehow, those two balls will start accelerating towards each other without having ever been "pushed" or "started."

This doesn't solve the argument from necessity or the argument from efficient cause, of course. Why do the balls exist? Why do they continue to exist? How did they get there? But it renders completely unnecessary the argument from motion, because motion is an emergent property of existence.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 10:49:37 AM
You know, I just realized I also haven't stated here one of my big gripes about Aquinas' version of "necessity": namely, his insistence that things cease to exist. When you pop a balloon, it doesn't cease to exist any more than melting ice does; it has become something else. When you burn a log, it transforms, but it persists. 

Aquinas believed that something else "necessary" had to exist because in an infinite universe containing a finite number of finite things that all presumably have causes and endings, he felt it unlikely that we would exist at a point where things could be observed to exist unless something else had to exist. But our current model suggests that the universe sprang into existence containing all the matter and energy it has now, and has just been changing the shape of those things for billions of years since. No new Lego is being made; we're just moving bricks around.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 12:02:49 PM
But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular. That is to say, all of these properties are actually just one thing, and that thing is God's existence, which is God's essence.

The problem is that defining each of these terms would require so extensive a treatment that they surely cannot just be thrown into a list that's meant to be self-evident. What is "intelligent"? What is "omnipotent"? What is "perfect"? What is "good", no less "fully good"? And I don't just mean what sort of being do you think would have these, I mean what do the terms refer to in reality - do they refer to anything? Do the definitions require parameters, context, a particular undergirding as backdrop to them? These are really hard questions, and it's hard to agree that whatever causes physics to exist has these attributes unless we know exactly what they mean. This is no trivial definitional quibble; it is an issue of whether we are even properly equipped to frame the question.

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I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

If using that term creates confusion rather than understanding then it might be fair but it's not useful. Surely a main purpose to formulating such debates is to get through to people who initially disagree?

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I really don't care if people have pre-programmed knee-jerk reactions against these ideas. That's for them to deal with. I won't make my words less clear or obfuscate their origin as some sort of sly sales pitch. I learned this stuff from Aristotle and Catholics, and a bit from a Shi'i Muslim friend-+. I won't pretend to cast it into a Buddhist frame. That would be a disservice to the Catholics, to the Buddhists, to the person I'm sharing the ideas with, and to myself.

Well the question is what your objective is. If it's to create ecumenical or cross-disciplinary bridges, then you won't be able to only use your own terms and expect others to just adopt them. What's more, if you see your task as being evangelism, then the priority would be to attract the interest of people who don't share your philosophical language or terms. This would especially be true for those who have a distinct animus against the religious terms, balk at the word "God", and will reject out of hand anything that looks like a backdoor argument toward religion. As an evangelist, that's not just for them to deal with, it's for you to deal with (if you see that as your mission).
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 12:18:09 PM
If matter exists, it produces force.

Well we don't know it produces it. We know it conveys it. We know mass  exudes gravitation, but we don't know whether the gravitation comes from the mass; maybe it comes from a field that interacts with mass. Maybe it comes from entanglement or micro-wormholes. We can't really say anything about it.

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This doesn't solve the argument from necessity or the argument from efficient cause, of course. Why do the balls exist? Why do they continue to exist? How did they get there? But it renders completely unnecessary the argument from motion, because motion is an emergent property of existence.

IMO these three arguments are almost identical. In fact I have a hunch that if I really wanted to I could reduce them all to a predicate calculus where I could show that they are in fact identical. Necessity is about things existing or not; but as we can easily observe (and as you said) things don't cease to exist, they transform; and their parts therefore are in motion, loosely speaking. Efficient cause is about things requiring causes, which ends up being about the same thing: stuff is happening and it requires an explanation. The first asks why there is anything (or what the implications are that there are things) and the other asks how anything could have been caused (or what the implications are that there are changes in things, which is perhaps the same question as asking why there are things). The Prime Mover argument seems to me essentially the same as these, just focusing on the active/intelligent aspect of it rather than looking for an undefined 'cause'. But I really think that even the former arguments (the Aquinas versions) cannot tolerate this 'cause' being just some other mechanical, if eternal, fact. I think proponents of these arguments would not use the arguments if they only showed some unintelligent physical eternal underpinning.

So based on that I would call all three arguments identical. What you are asking is how anything came to be, since things don't cause themselves and since they persist, etc etc. What I mentioned to Joshua is that I don't see how you can ever get from saying "something" caused it to saying it was an intelligence with agency and intent. I am not invalidating the question, since it is a good question; but I am skeptical of the validity of the necessity of the answer. It is a good answer, but I can't see it as logically necessary given the premises.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 03:16:59 PM
I should say that while I'm perfectly happy conflating most of the "things need a cause, except for this one thing, which IS the cause" arguments, there's a reason Joshua has resisted doing it -- and a reason Aquinas called them out separately. (This logic is also very important to the "singular" claim, too.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 03:32:21 PM
I should say that while I'm perfectly happy conflating most of the "things need a cause, except for this one thing, which IS the cause" arguments, there's a reason Joshua has resisted doing it -- and a reason Aquinas called them out separately. (This logic is also very important to the "singular" claim, too.)

What do you think the reason is?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 21, 2022, 04:12:37 PM
In order to make some of the higher-order claims hung upon Aquinas' Five Proofs, Catholic apologists have historically attempted (with varying degrees of intellectual honesty) to derive other properties from necessity, causation, and motion, and even to assume certain traits from what they thought might be required of a being that was the only such being to incorporate all three. It's a whole, um, THANG. I wasn't joking or exaggerating earlier when I compared Catholic apology to Randian utilitarianism from the POV of a philosophy student; they're very, very similar in function and methods of instruction.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 21, 2022, 04:30:06 PM
In order to make some of the higher-order claims hung upon Aquinas' Five Proofs, Catholic apologists have historically attempted (with varying degrees of intellectual honesty) to derive other properties from necessity, causation, and motion, and even to assume certain traits from what they thought might be required of a being that was the only such being to incorporate all three. It's a whole, um, THANG. I wasn't joking or exaggerating earlier when I compared Catholic apology to Randian utilitarianism from the POV of a philosophy student; they're very, very similar in function and methods of instruction.

I'm not 100% sure why those two are similar (I've studied both a lot) but I should add in that while some Catholics specialize in Aquinas I don't think "apology" as a topic should be equated with scholasticism and with Aquinas in particular.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 01:52:57 AM
Can you explain why something that once necessarily existed needs to continue to exist?

Remember how you're defining "necessary." (Remember, we've only granted that "necessary" is a property because we conceded that, at present, reason cannot accept why a thing might exist with no apparent cause, so therefore there must have once existed something that enables other things to exist, even if we don't understand it. And then we're doing Aristotle a favor and allowing a single exception, a thing that once existed no matter what, so that it didn't need something else to help it exist. That's the entirety of the concept as required.)

If something can cease to exist, that means it exists due to causes.

Quote from: Tom
Or, more importantly, consider how you're defining the word "exists." Let's look at this sentence of yours:

Quote from: JoshuaD
As I outlined above, the fact that it existed in the past is not a sufficient explanation for why it exists now...

You didn't outline this. You asserted this.
Why can existence simply not be a persistent property of matter? Why, once something exists, can it not simply continue to exist?

I did outline it. (http://www.ornery.org/forum/index.php/topic,1106.msg62058.html#msg62058) I am not going to write a book on each concept, but I'm glad to go deeper on whatever you'd like. 

The ball's existence cannot be rooted in a property of the ball because the property's existence depends on ball's. A ball cannot have the property of being red unless the ball exists.So what you've setup is a circular cause: in order for the property to exist, the ball must exist. And in order for the ball to exist, the property must exist.

A circular property makes no sense. As I said elsewhere in this thread, if you asked me where I got a book and I said "I copied it from Bob", and then you asked Bob where he got a book and he said "I copied it from Josh", you'd be naturally frustrated that what we're saying doesn't make any sense. One of us would have gotten to get the book from some external thing or generated it ourselves, we can't both have just copied it from one another and somehow caused a book to spontaneously generate.

You're getting lost in the weeds regarding philosophical "existence" when there's no reason whatsoever to resort to metaphysics. Aristotle had to go this route because he literally didn't understand how the universe worked. We don't need to placidly accept his terminology and blue-sky theorizing any more than we need to accept a medical theory of five humors.

I think the philosophy I am describing offers the best and most comprehensive model for our experiences. Any competing philosophy rejects some part of reality in order to try to make reality fit the model or, at best, retreats in a huff of hyper-skepticalism and rejects that we can know much of anything at all (including science).

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author=Tom]
Quote from: JoshuaD
But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular.
This, by the way, is completely Catholic bull*censored*. You should know better than this.
Heck, even in your second pass at omnipotence, you fell down the same (Catholic) rhetorical trap.. There is no logical argument for "can do anything possible" that derives from "makes things possible."

As outlined in the first post, all things depend on God at every single moment for their being. Action follows being; that is to say, a thing cannot go beyond its nature. If a thing depends on God for its existence, any power it has similarly derives from God. All power of created things is derived from God. In addition, as all created things depend on God for their existence, there is nothing that exists which is outside of the range of his power. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 01:59:35 AM
Since Joshua was getting concerned about my willingness to lump the argument from necessity in with the other near-identical "everything needs a cause except this one thing" arguments ...

This is not an accurate summary of what was outlined in the first post.

Quote from: First Post
3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

Because the universe is intelligible, there is no third alternative. A thing's existence cannot be explained by nothing.


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I should point out that I'm specifically speaking here about the argument from efficient cause and not the argument from necessity. (I much prefer Kant and Hume's takedown of necessity.) I'm not even going to touch the argument from motion with this because I think that's fundamentally flawed due to Aristotle's ignorance of physics; it's not necessary to rebut a Prime Mover concept because a Prime Mover is definitionally unnecessary based on how we now know motion to work.

It should be noted that while I think Aristotle's prime mover is a fine line of reasoning, I have not used it here. The argument for the existence of something which is fully actual is similar to Aristotle's prime mover argument, but it is not the same thing and isn't subject to the objections you've made here.

I've intentionally kept the arguments I'm making narrow to avoid sprawl. If you want to bring in other arguments just to hold them up and then swing your punches, you can do that, but it's a form of filibuster.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 02:15:16 AM
Sorry to cut through your artful philosophical language. But want to see if I can grasp your key concept here. Stuff exists, because stuff doesn't come from nowhere, stuff came from "God." Where did "God" come from or is "God" simply the property of the existence of the universe? Your getting pretty close to the tautology and reduction of the nature of "God" that by "God" you are only asserting the creation and continued existence of the universe.

No apology necessary. It's good to understand things directly and not let unfamiliar language obfuscate the ideas. You missed a few key points in the argument, so let me try to restate it in the same language you used:

1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.
2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.
3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.
6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 02:27:39 AM
You know, I just realized I also haven't stated here one of my big gripes about Aquinas' version of "necessity": namely, his insistence that things cease to exist. When you pop a balloon, it doesn't cease to exist any more than melting ice does; it has become something else. When you burn a log, it transforms, but it persists. 

Aquinas believed that something else "necessary" had to exist because in an infinite universe containing a finite number of finite things that all presumably have causes and endings, he felt it unlikely that we would exist at a point where things could be observed to exist unless something else had to exist. But our current model suggests that the universe sprang into existence containing all the matter and energy it has now, and has just been changing the shape of those things for billions of years since. No new Lego is being made; we're just moving bricks around.

1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter. You seem to agree with modern science that the Universe sprung into existence at some past moment (which means you disagree with centuries of scientists who so vehemently argued that the universe was eternal). Why did that happen?

2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).

Perhaps b and c are surmountable; while it really does appear that we have free will and morality is real, it is possible that they are simply illusory. However, that's a very high philosophical cost to pay, and your neutered philosophy offers nothing in exchange; it is not more coherent and it is not more comprehensive.

Finally, as I mentioned once before, the idea that physics can provide a model for all of reality, including human consciousness, is laughable claim of dogmatism and faith. Sure, physics is great at modeling skyscrapers and billiard balls, but it can't even model basic chemical reactions -- physics and chemistry are not even unified disciplines, let alone biology and so forth.

The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 02:29:46 AM
Fenring: Before I respond to you point-by-point, can I ask you why you are taking up the other side of this argument? I know you to be Catholic, which means you must believe the things I am saying to be true. What is your point and motivation?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 22, 2022, 02:34:54 AM
But that's not the only divine property we can know through reason, and it's not the only one I mentioned in my first post. We can also discover the properties of fully actual, non-composite, simple, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient, and most important to your point, singular. That is to say, all of these properties are actually just one thing, and that thing is God's existence, which is God's essence.

The problem is that defining each of these terms would require so extensive a treatment that they surely cannot just be thrown into a list that's meant to be self-evident. What is "intelligent"? What is "omnipotent"? What is "perfect"? What is "good", no less "fully good"? And I don't just mean what sort of being do you think would have these, I mean what do the terms refer to in reality - do they refer to anything? Do the definitions require parameters, context, a particular undergirding as backdrop to them? These are really hard questions, and it's hard to agree that whatever causes physics to exist has these attributes unless we know exactly what they mean. This is no trivial definitional quibble; it is an issue of whether we are even properly equipped to frame the question.

They're not self-evident, but we can only cover so much ground at one time in this thread. Tom is still very much stuck on necessary and fully actual.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

If using that term creates confusion rather than understanding then it might be fair but it's not useful. Surely a main purpose to formulating such debates is to get through to people who initially disagree?

I think it is the least confusing term, so I am using it. I don't think it is wise to keep appending things to the list of attributes and referring to the thing with that list: "that which necessarily exists, is fully actual, is perfectly simple, is eternal, is omnipotent, has intellect, is omniscient, is perfect, and is fully good". God does perfectly fine. No one here is confused by what I mean when I say God. No one I have ever met in having these conversations is confused. And if they are, they can quickly say "Wait, do you mean Jesus?" and I can respond to that in a sentence or two.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
I really don't care if people have pre-programmed knee-jerk reactions against these ideas. That's for them to deal with. I won't make my words less clear or obfuscate their origin as some sort of sly sales pitch. I learned this stuff from Aristotle and Catholics, and a bit from a Shi'i Muslim friend-+. I won't pretend to cast it into a Buddhist frame. That would be a disservice to the Catholics, to the Buddhists, to the person I'm sharing the ideas with, and to myself.

Well the question is what your objective is. If it's to create ecumenical or cross-disciplinary bridges, then you won't be able to only use your own terms and expect others to just adopt them. What's more, if you see your task as being evangelism, then the priority would be to attract the interest of people who don't share your philosophical language or terms. This would especially be true for those who have a distinct animus against the religious terms, balk at the word "God", and will reject out of hand anything that looks like a backdoor argument toward religion. As an evangelist, that's not just for them to deal with, it's for you to deal with (if you see that as your mission).

I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling. Yes, there is a bit of a language barrier. No, I don't think the ideas or discussion are served by providing the "JoshuaD translation layer" and creating an entirely new vocabulary parallel to the standard vocabulary. I don't mind explaining the ideas in simple language as far as the idea permits, but ultimately, the philosophical concepts need to be understood and the best way to understand them is with the old labels.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 22, 2022, 10:00:46 AM
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If something can cease to exist, that means it exists due to causes.
Why? Do you see no distinction between a cause and a LACK of a cause? Are you suggesting, for example, that God could not choose to die? The Big Bang itself, one of the most popular "uncaused causes," is not still ongoing in the classic sense (depending on your theory); things exploded, and we're living in the result. Your uncaused cause could absolutely stop due to an uncaused anti-cause. Again: your uncaused cause is not only an exception but derives its entire conceptual framework from being that exception. Why can't it stop existing, again?

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One of us would have gotten to get the book from some external thing or generated it ourselves...
It's worth noting that circular causation is not necessarily paradoxical from a physics standpoint. But, more importantly, your question is not "who wrote this book" but rather "where did the molecules to create this planet that led to the evolution of this person who then made this ball come from?" The ball is red because it was made with things that express the color red. Those things exist because, since the literal dawn of time, there have been mechanisms in place that generated them. At what point does a "god" need to enable redness? If it's JUST the dawn of time, and He hasn't done anything for us since, why does He still need to be around?

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1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter....Why did that happen?
Why? Or how? Either way, who knows? Something happened.
Note that this is the EXACT SAME as your answer, except that I'm not trying to prove that the something in question is sapient, eternal, and infinitely good, because I'm not arguing from my conclusion.

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2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
Nah. Persistent consciousness could just be a matter of writable biological memory being stored in a way that's more efficient than we've considered before, interacting with multiple inline subroutines. I'm currently intrigued by the recent discovery that our nerve cells appear to act as three-state memristors, but that's just one possibility and not one that I'm married to.

The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face. After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion? Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

So if God knows what you're going to do, is morality fictional? If I know my son well enough to know that, given the choice, he will always take a candy bar put in front of him, is it immoral of me to cast him out of a Garden for doing so? To my mind, morality is a cultural construct that says, "this entity is functioning in a way we are willing to tolerate." A malfunctioning entity -- one who behaves incorrectly -- is considered to be behaving immorally.

Note that this is not a particularly high cost to pay, philosophically -- or, rather, not a uniquely high cost. Because outside of the realm of religious apology, most philosophers have been reckoning with what it means to be "moral" in a universe where our choices are constrained by biology and environment for a long, long time. Heck, once you get rid of the idea of an absolute external moral arbiter who can tell you what is good -- who can, for example, insist that wiping out all but one family on the entire Earth is the morally correct thing to do -- then you open up massive philosophical questions like "is it wrong to oppose your creator based on your limited understanding of the appropriateness of their actions?"

I recognize that any answers that come from this sort of question are going to be harder and less comforting answers than "God did it; this is what God wants; and God is infinitely good and we should do what He wants." It is because some people will only be satisfied with simple, comforting answers that simple theologies are still enormously popular. But "this has to be true because it is what I find most comforting" doesn't even pass Socratic argument.

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The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.
I wholly and completely reject this claim, except insofar as the word "categorically" implies that we're perfectly capable of defining nonsensical categories. (After all, beavers are occasionally fish.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 22, 2022, 10:37:37 AM
Sorry to cut through your artful philosophical language. But want to see if I can grasp your key concept here. Stuff exists, because stuff doesn't come from nowhere, stuff came from "God." Where did "God" come from or is "God" simply the property of the existence of the universe? Your getting pretty close to the tautology and reduction of the nature of "God" that by "God" you are only asserting the creation and continued existence of the universe.

No apology necessary. It's good to understand things directly and not let unfamiliar language obfuscate the ideas. You missed a few key points in the argument, so let me try to restate it in the same language you used:

1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.

If stuff didn't exist we wouldn't be around to question its existence or not. The only universe in which we can ask questions is a universe that exists, I don't see the necessity for a God to make such things exist.

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2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.

Science requires consistency. We ascribe laws or reasons to that consistency based on our understanding of the processes at the time. Its why our understanding of orbits (gravity) has changed from ancient times to Newton to Einstein. Based on the current open questions in physics its likely to change again, either soon or maybe in another 400 years. But consistency is the key here not reasons. Consistency can be a property of reality that doesn't require a creator, which the more loaded term reasons implies intent.

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3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.

Best scientific argument for stuff is the big bang. Somehow there was a lot of matter/anti-matter/energy that was and somehow the matter/anti-matter wasn't quite in symmetry. Matter was greater than anti-matter by about 1 part per billion. Hence a matter universe. Do we know the reason for the big bang, not really. Are we the event horizon of a 4d black hole, maybe. Are we part of some infinite multiverse, possibly. Are we one of many universe bubbles that pops into existence and ours just happened to have the right properties to exist for quite a while. Big bang/God. I see no argument for intelligence there either way something just existed/happened and we're living in the after effects.

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6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).

Still at its root you come back to stuff exists. Why is there a universe instead of complete nothingness and no time or space or God or anything? We'll probably never be able to fully answer that. Saying I don't know why things exist or that things are consistent (post big bang) doesn't mean that there was some intelligent all powerful entity ("God") that somehow had the power and energy to instantly create the entire universe.

If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 22, 2022, 12:33:09 PM
Fenring: Before I respond to you point-by-point, can I ask you why you are taking up the other side of this argument?

Hm, hm. To me there is only one side to any argument: seeing to its logical fortitude and pointing out flaws. There is no conclusion so good that I'll overlook a bad argument, and no conclusion so bad that I'll ignore its good arguments. To me the great debilitator is the lack of real communication, so establishing that is primary for me over and above hoping someone will agree with my conclusions.

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I know you to be Catholic, which means you must believe the things I am saying to be true. What is your point and motivation?

That's a tricky point, isn't it? I can agree with a conclusion and disagree with a chain of reasoning, correct? And what's even trickier, is if a conclusion is framed within its chain of reasoning then I actually have to disagree with both if one is problematic. That's the issue with language: you could just say God is responsible for everything as an axiom, and I'd say sure. But if you frame it as being because all things need causes then it follows that God is responsible for everthing that's a totally different proposition, and I wouldn't accept it unless it was ironclad, which I don't believe it is. There's a difference between a good argument, and a necessary argument, as I mentioned earlier. It's not dumb to suppose that God (or a god) could have done all this; but it's also not dumb to suppose it could be something else. As long as we're sticking to paper arguments one must not be stuck struggling to prove a conclusion we already believe is true. It is not true that because something is right that we can prove it, and certainly not trivially. Incompleteness theorem already shows that in principle not all true propositions can be proven. Having a belief as a starting point, and trying to work it backward to reach all the necessary premises to reach it, is going to have problems, not the least of which is we are mixing up types of proposition. If I were to say "I believe in God" that is not a proposition in the form of a paper argument, but rather a combination of life experience, moments of revelation, identification of patterns, knowing what stirs people's souls and what does not, and indeed, also science knowledge and pure logic. All of this combined is what I would call "reason", and any derivation of how a belief is reached would have to include all of these types of experience. Paper logic alone is not a lived experience, and is not God, so in terms of, shall we say, fealty, I think we are only required to be on the side of truth insofar as it accords with life itself. A paper argument can be flawed in so many ways, the greatest of which is failure to accord with actual reality and with life. How can we know that the words employed in such an argument really match something in reality, or accord with some real thing and aren't just wordplay? That's what I was getting at earlier, and why resting on such arguments as important proofs is risky. They are interesting, yes; worth takling about, for sure; can teach us how to think, definitely. But imagine how bad it would be to be shackled to a line of reasoning: imagine if one day you realize it's bad reasoning - does that mean your faith is shaken? So the reasoning must work on its own grounds, not because you need it to be true. As it happens I think many of Aquinas' arguments (similar to your OP) are deeply problematic, but that fact is not deeply problematic to me. He was just one thinker. That said I'm not an Aquinas expert, and I only based this off reading around 200 pgs of the Summa, so this is not some final expert conclusion on my part. But I could easily go over any major section and point out serious problems, many of which have to do with the types of analogies the Ancients used to prove conclusions. Just as a tiny example, the Greeks loved to employ opposites in arguments; e.g. light is the opposite of dark, heat is the opposite of cold. But these are physically incorrect ways to understand light and heat, and so the analogies are useless. Heat is not the opposite of cold. In fact it would be hard to find opposites of any kind in nature. Maybe spin direction, maybe electric charge. Even those may not really be opposites if we understood them more deeply. You get the idea.

The trouble Tom has, I think, with Catholic theology and logic, is that it unfortunately ends up being trouble to try to take a broad position and argue against it. For instance if he takes issue with Aquinas, which in fact I do as well, that doesn't really speak to 'Church theology' since that would be like disagreeing with Descartes and saying that 'Western philosophy' is flawed. He's just one guy, who does exist within a context and tradition, but nevertheless he's one guy. The difficulty is that most philosophy in the last 2,000 years in the Western world exists within the Church, and that just means it's a ton of work to sift through all the thinkers involved to see who makes great arguments and who doesn't. I like that you decided to try to make the argument in the OP your own since it's better to understand the moving pieces and construct your own argument, rather than resting on the authority of one thinker.

Sorry to have taken so long to answer a simple question, but you see how weak words are? I can work with people in an arts setting and identify when their eyes light up, when something deep and important is touched through our work; I can see when weight is lifted from people's minds, when meaning fills up something they previously was just an abstraction to them. I can see "whoa!" moments and moments where pieces of life get put together and fit somehow. And it is true as well that for some few people paper arguments can do this do: mathematicians can find revelation in pure reason for sure. So that is also part of it. But even they know that what they've discovered is only a little piece of the puzzle, carving out a tiny corner of the wondrous total. For a paper argument to employ terms like "good" and "intelligent", and indeed, even "fully actual", requires that we really can see what those might be in reality. That's no small task!
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 22, 2022, 01:20:58 PM
Since I went on far too long in my last response I'll try to be super-brief this time, and instead mostly quote another source:

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Quote from: JoshuaD
I think it's a fair use of language to call that God. It is a subset of the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish conception God.

If using that term creates confusion rather than understanding then it might be fair but it's not useful. Surely a main purpose to formulating such debates is to get through to people who initially disagree?

No one here is confused by what I mean when I say God. No one I have ever met in having these conversations is confused. And if they are, they can quickly say "Wait, do you mean Jesus?" and I can respond to that in a sentence or two.

It's strange you should say this, since I personally think much of the lack of understanding between religious people and atheists rests in a miscommunication about what "God" is supposed to mean. Just how many people think Jews and Christians are talking about the Man in the Sky? In fact, just how many Jews and Christians think so too? "I AM THAT AM" is so much to unpack...anyhow, I think there's plenty of room for confusion, especially when what your OP is presenting is not identical with Jesus/God. You do believe they're identical, but the argument does not claim they're identical. That alone is confusing.


Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.

Here's a link to a page from the Catechism:

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20071203_nota-evangelizzazione_en.html

Some excerpts:

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2. The term evangelization has a very rich meaning.[4] In the broad sense, it sums up the Church’s entire mission: her whole life consists in accomplishing the traditio Evangelii, the proclamation and handing on of the Gospel, which is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16) and which, in the final essence, is identified with Jesus Christ himself (cf. 1 Cor 1:24).

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8. Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others. Indeed, the heart of another person can only be approached in freedom, in love and in dialogue, in such a manner that the word which is spoken is not simply offered, but also truly witnessed in the hearts of those to whom it is addressed. This requires taking into account the hopes, sufferings and concrete situations of those with whom one is in dialogue.

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Thus one understands the urgency of Christ’s invitation to evangelization and why it is that the mission entrusted by the Lord to the Apostles involves all the baptized.

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In any case, it needs to be remembered that, in transmitting the Gospel, word and witness of life go together.

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IV. Some ecumenical implications

12. From its beginnings, the ecumenical movement has been closely connected with evangelization. Unity, in fact, is the seal of the credibility of missionary activity and so the Second Vatican Council noted with regret that the scandal of division “damages the most sacred cause of preaching”.[43] Jesus himself, on the night before his death, prayed “that they all may be one.. so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).

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Different dimensions of the work of ecumenism can be distinguished: above all, there is listening, as a fundamental condition for any dialogue, then, theological discussion, in which, by seeking to understand the beliefs, traditions and convictions of others, agreement can be found, at times hidden under disagreement. Inseparably united with this is another essential dimension of the ecumenical commitment: witness and proclamation of elements which are not particular traditions or theological subtleties, but which belong rather to the Tradition of the faith itself.

Just food for thought. I'm not accustomed to linking religious sources since I try here to focus on the arguments themselves, but since you asked me a direct question I think it's a propos to at least make a sideline into the meta-argument (inspecting the nature and purpose of the argument itself).
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 22, 2022, 02:23:46 PM
The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face. After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion? Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

I spent a lot of time reply to Joshua and I don't want to bog the thread down. But lest it appear that I'm only arguing against his position, I'll note that this particular issue is well-worne territory, i.e. how can God know the future unless it's deterministic. You can take my word for it, or maybe we can go down this path if you like, but there isn't really any problem with free will being an actual thing and God knowing what happens. Mainly this is due to God being outside of time, not due to Him being able to 'guess' what we will do next as if He was stuck in chronology as we are. So internal consistency doesn't demand we assert that there is no free will if we want to also assert that God is omniscient. It does, however, require us to be very careful about what we mean by free will. You are certainly right that it must be sharply constrained. The question is whether it is totally constrained; if it is then there is no free will, only an illusionary epiphenomenon. So putting foward free will is an enormous claim, one that cannot be trivially dismissed since defining it is in itself a task and a half.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 22, 2022, 02:53:13 PM
*sigh* To be fair, ALL of this is old ground for me, Fenring. I wasn't exaggerating about having studied it extensively in college. I'm merely pointing out that asserting that "free will" is an illusion in a deterministic universe is dependent entirely on what you consider "free," and obviously cannot preclude decisions that are predictable when given perfect information. The idea that determinism invalidates "free will" is a linguistic exercise, not a philosophical one.

To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

I'm personally fine with dismissing the question of "free will" as trivial when discussing the necessity of god(s) for the same reason that I'm fine with dismissing the question of a singular self: both will and selfhood are at the bare minimum convenient if not wholly necessary fictions. We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage. When someone commits rape or assault, we don't sentence their endocrine system or blood sugars. We will sometimes consider those factors to have clouded their "judgment," but still consider them at best to be ameliorating factors in a decision made by an independent entity -- simply because any conceivable alternative is currently too complex for us to contemplate.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 22, 2022, 03:12:49 PM
To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

It would have to mean that, yes. But the "totally constrained" clause implies that you don't necessarily have a totally open range of options. These can be constrained by physical realities, or by your own prior choices. This latter type especially is what I would focus on. And I don't mean the physical realities of your past choices, but the moral realities of your past choices. Note that if we are nothing but chemicals then these are identical. So a required premise is that there is more to us in some way than our physical bodies. This can include non-local memory, or group consciousness, or whatever you like. Also note that in-the-moment decision is not necessary the only thing on the table. For instance it's conceivable that in a given instant our will is not free, but that when contemplating our future self we can 'wish' (or pray for) our actions to be a certain way, and this can dictate what does or doesn't happen. One take on the Catholic idea of the final judgement, for instance, is a funny situation: you get a 'choice', except that your ability to choose yes is not totally free but rather is governed by your spiritual habits (or lack thereof) leading up to your death. So it may be the case that this 'choice' is in fact an amalgamation of your previous choices; temporally the choice is not co-incident with the action taken. It's just easier to imagine this in the case of the final judgement.

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We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage.

As it happens Catholics do not believe that we are singular entities driven by our own volition, so at least we can cross that off our list :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 22, 2022, 03:21:02 PM
FWIW, I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises. If you believe that we have unconstrained "free will" because we can make decisions contingent upon the state of a hypothetical "soul," but recognize that the "soul" is itself an unverifiable claim (at least presently), I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all. Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 22, 2022, 03:49:16 PM
I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises.

I would add a quibble to this, which is that I do think many of these things can be verified or affirmed on a personal level, but cannot be proven to a third party. We'd have to get into the topic of spiritual discernment and related topics, and how these experiences are more or less non-transferrable to an arbitrary reader or psych study.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:06:28 AM
Do you see no distinction between a cause and a LACK of a cause? Are you suggesting, for example, that God could not choose to die?

Yes. That is what necessary means. God exists necessarily. God cannot choose to cease to exist. It's a nonsensical sentence. A square cannot have three sides. God cannot cease to exist. God is existence. Existence exists; existence cannot become non-existence.

The Big Bang itself, one of the most popular "uncaused causes," is not still ongoing in the classic sense (depending on your theory); things exploded, and we're living in the result. Your uncaused cause could absolutely stop due to an uncaused anti-cause. Again: your uncaused cause is not only an exception but derives its entire conceptual framework from being that exception. Why can't it stop existing, again?

The big bang wasn't an uncaused cause. The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened. God didn't happen; he never started; he isn't in time; he cannot end; he has no parts; he is perfectly simple; he possesses no potential.

You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.  This whole post of yours demonstrates that.

It's worth noting that circular causation is not necessarily paradoxical from a physics standpoint. But, more importantly, your question is not "who wrote this book" but rather "where did the molecules to create this planet that led to the evolution of this person who then made this ball come from?" The ball is red because it was made with things that express the color red. Those things exist because, since the literal dawn of time, there have been mechanisms in place that generated them. At what point does a "god" need to enable redness? If it's JUST the dawn of time, and He hasn't done anything for us since, why does He still need to be around?

Something must have caused time to dawn. In addition, all of the things we see have conditioned existences. They exist due to causes. Without a primary cause of existence, right here in this moment, they cannot exist.

A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view, for the reasons I've explained. Two mirrors reflecting back and forth do not create the image of a man.

Quote from: JoshuaD
1. If you reject that humans are more than their constituent parts, then you still need to provide an accounting for the existence of matter....Why did that happen?
Why? Or how? Either way, who knows? Something happened.
Note that this is the EXACT SAME as your answer, except that I'm not trying to prove that the something in question is sapient, eternal, and infinitely good, because I'm not arguing from my conclusion.

Yes, we often cannot know all of the steps of causation, but we can know that there must be a cause (or set of causes) for why matter exists. You agree that it doesn't exist necessarily, because it did not exist at some point. So there must be a cause for its existence, both historically and right here in this time-slice.

Quote from: JoshuaD
2. If you assert that humans are nothing more than the matter in their bodies and that that matter operates according to the laws of physics and nothing more, there are numerous problems with this view:
 a. You cannot begin to give any sort of account of consciousness.
 b. You have to reject free will (or redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
 c. In rejecting free will, you have to reject morality (or, again, redefine it in such a way to reject its essential meaning).
Nah. Persistent consciousness could just be a matter of writable biological memory being stored in a way that's more efficient than we've considered before, interacting with multiple inline subroutines. I'm currently intrigued by the recent discovery that our nerve cells appear to act as three-state memristors, but that's just one possibility and not one that I'm married to.

This is just made up nonsense that has a shelf-life of 10 years. People accuse theists of arguing for "God of the cracks". But that's what you've got here; materialism of the cracks. You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be. That is faith or dogmatism or both.

The claim that the "essential meaning" of free will requires that people have the ability to make fully random choices, choices uninfluenced by their biology and their environment, is false on its face.

Not random. Not strictly caused by the prior moment. Free will, guided by the intellect, but actually free to choose. Not random. Not cause-and-effect. A third thing which is neither of those things. Present in God and given to us by God.

After all, even the most Catholic among us would not suggest that their God does not know what they're going to choose; He is not surprised by anyone's choice. Does this mean that their freedom is an illusion?

God knows what we will choose because he does not exist in time with us. I had free will yesterday and I chose to watch a movie. The fact that I now know what I chose does not change the fact that I chose freely. I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.

Or do we agree that "free will" means that the aggregated entity we consider a "person" is able to choose from a number of options, but that this choice is sharply constrained by physical factors and will, given the same inputs and the same circumstances, be expected to generate a predictable result?

Free will is not completely free, it is constrained. I am an adult human man. I cannot choose to become a car or a woman or a child. I cannot choose to live forever. I cannot choose to sprout wings and fly. I can choose whether to go lie down or stay on the internet writing this post. And that choice is actually free: it is not dictated by the prior state of the universe, nor is it random. It is free choice. Choice is a fundamental aspect of reality.

So if God knows what you're going to do, is morality fictional?


No. we truly make choices freely and our choices have real consequences in reality. The fact that God knows how the story ends doesn't mean that we're not writing it.

If I know my son well enough to know that, given the choice, he will always take a candy bar put in front of him, is it immoral of me to cast him out of a Garden for doing so?

No you don't. People's wills are not fully fixed while they are alive. I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.

To my mind, morality is a cultural construct that says, "this entity is functioning in a way we are willing to tolerate." A malfunctioning entity -- one who behaves incorrectly -- is considered to be behaving immorally.

This is refreshingly honest: you admit that you believe morality is just whatever Tom wants. You don't believe morality is not some appeal to a some principle, it's just power and violence. And you hope to win to get your way.

Note that this is not a particularly high cost to pay, philosophically -- or, rather, not a uniquely high cost. Because outside of the realm of religious apology, most philosophers have been reckoning with what it means to be "moral" in a universe where our choices are constrained by biology and environment for a long, long time. Heck, once you get rid of the idea of an absolute external moral arbiter who can tell you what is good -- who can, for example, insist that wiping out all but one family on the entire Earth is the morally correct thing to do -- then you open up massive philosophical questions like "is it wrong to oppose your creator based on your limited understanding of the appropriateness of their actions?"

The philosophers who are trying to cast morality and will in a determinist or materialist or compatabilist frame are chasing an idiotic idea. They might be really bright individuals, but their ideas are deeply stupid.


I recognize that any answers that come from this sort of question are going to be harder and less comforting answers than "God did it; this is what God wants; and God is infinitely good and we should do what He wants." It is because some people will only be satisfied with simple, comforting answers that simple theologies are still enormously popular. But "this has to be true because it is what I find most comforting" doesn't even pass Socratic argument.

I found Buddhism comfortable. I find Catholicism less comfortable. I am not here because I find the idea of eternal damnation or carrying a cross comforting. I have moved here because its ideas are more compelling.

Quote from: Tom
Quote from: JoshuaD
The best and most accurate model of reality acknowledges that living things are categorically different than non-living things, and that humans, with our rational minds and wills, are categorically different than the other creatures on earth.
I wholly and completely reject this claim, except insofar as the word "categorically" implies that we're perfectly capable of defining nonsensical categories. (After all, beavers are occasionally fish.)

You can verbally reject it, but you don't actually reject it. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a woman is raped than when a stone is smashed. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a cow is slowly cut to pieces than when a tree is slowly cut to pieces.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:17:47 AM
Quote from: JoshuaD
1.There are reason for why things happen and why stuff exists.

If stuff didn't exist we wouldn't be around to question its existence or not. The only universe in which we can ask questions is a universe that exists, I don't see the necessity for a God to make such things exist.

Forget God for a moment. Let's just talk about whether something must necessarily exists. Stuff exists; given the line of reasoning I provided, that means something has to necessarily exist, right?

Quote from: JoshuaD
2. If there were not reasons, then science and philosophy wouldn't work. But they do work.
Science requires consistency. We ascribe laws or reasons to that consistency based on our understanding of the processes at the time. Its why our understanding of orbits (gravity) has changed from ancient times to Newton to Einstein. Based on the current open questions in physics its likely to change again, either soon or maybe in another 400 years. But consistency is the key here not reasons. Consistency can be a property of reality that doesn't require a creator, which the more loaded term reasons implies intent.

Why do things behave consistently?

Quote from: JoshuaD
3. As a matter of logic, either the reasons for stuff is found:
  a. in some other stuff
  b. in the thing itself, that is to say, the thing is self-explaining.
4. Stuff exists. That requires explanation, because stuff isn't self-explaining.
5. The existence of all of the stuff we see can be explained by external causes (as in 3a) but, of course, then those other things all also require explanation.

Best scientific argument for stuff is the big bang. Somehow there was a lot of matter/anti-matter/energy that was and somehow the matter/anti-matter wasn't quite in symmetry. Matter was greater than anti-matter by about 1 part per billion. Hence a matter universe. Do we know the reason for the big bang, not really. Are we the event horizon of a 4d black hole, maybe. Are we part of some infinite multiverse, possibly. Are we one of many universe bubbles that pops into existence and ours just happened to have the right properties to exist for quite a while. Big bang/God. I see no argument for intelligence there either way something just existed/happened and we're living in the after effects.

you're missing the forest for the trees. Why did the big bang happen? Whatever caused that, why did that that thing happen? And why did that next thing happen? And so on and so forth. Either you have to say its an infinite chain or you have to say it starts with something that didn't "happen", but just is.

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6. Either there's an infinite chain of causes for existence like that, or it terminates in something that has the property imagined in 3b.
7. An infinite chain of contingent causes doesn't make any sense; I can't copy a textbook infinitely without there being an original textbook that provides the text to be copied.
8. Therefore, there must be at least one thing which is self-explaining, and which provides existence to all of the other stuff we see (either directly or through a chain of things).

Still at its root you come back to stuff exists. Why is there a universe instead of complete nothingness and no time or space or God or anything? We'll probably never be able to fully answer that. Saying I don't know why things exist or that things are consistent (post big bang) doesn't mean that there was some intelligent all powerful entity ("God") that somehow had the power and energy to instantly create the entire universe.

You misunderstand me. I am not saying that we can map the entire chain. I am saying that we can do a meta-analysis of what the chain of causation must look like.

If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.

We could debate that, but if we can't even agree that God is necessary and fully actual, there's no point talking about why I believe he has intellect, will, perfection, or goodness.

The rest of your stuff here has nothing to do with anything. We don't live in the center of the galaxy; we live on earth, and earth is perfectly hospitable to us. The fact that the universe is physically big doesn't change anything about how human nature is special.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:20:13 AM
Hm, hm. To me there is only one side to any argument: seeing to its logical fortitude and pointing out flaws. There is no conclusion so good that I'll overlook a bad argument, and no conclusion so bad that I'll ignore its good arguments. To me the great debilitator is the lack of real communication, so establishing that is primary for me over and above hoping someone will agree with my conclusions.

In a sentence or two, which part of my first post do you disagree with and why? If there is no disagreement there, jump forward to the post where I have bolded headings for a handful of the divine properties; in a sentence or two, which is the first point you disagree with there and why?

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:31:15 AM
FWIW, I've always been absolutely fine with spiritual claims that are conscious of their unverifiable premises. If you believe that we have unconstrained "free will" because we can make decisions contingent upon the state of a hypothetical "soul," but recognize that the "soul" is itself an unverifiable claim (at least presently), I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all. Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."

The existence and immateriality of the soul is knowable through reason.The soul is our essence and that which makes us alive. Life cannot be explained in matter alone because matter is not necessarily alive. Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.

I'm okay with that in the same way that I'm okay with the claim that undergoing transubstantiation turns some wine and a wafer into the literal body of Christ in a very real and absolute way without physically changing it at all.

This was a surprising comment. Do you agree that there are true things which are not verifiable through the scientific process?

Where I start having difficulties is when people start making follow-up claims based on those claims, without first making sure that everyone else impacted is on board with all the original premises -- or when they argue from their conclusion, saying things like "we must have a soul, because I'm uncomfortable thinking that I don't have unconstrained free will."

You don't actually have a problem with this in principle. I disagree with a number of your political views which are not rooted in demonstrable beliefs (in fact, I think many of your beliefs are contradicted by demonstration and reason). Despite that, you have no problem using the apparatus of the state to enforce your views on me.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:39:21 AM
*sigh* To be fair, ALL of this is old ground for me, Fenring. I wasn't exaggerating about having studied it extensively in college. I'm merely pointing out that asserting that "free will" is an illusion in a deterministic universe is dependent entirely on what you consider "free," and obviously cannot preclude decisions that are predictable when given perfect information. The idea that determinism invalidates "free will" is a linguistic exercise, not a philosophical one.

We all studied lots of things in college; that doesn't make our studies comprehensive. You may have studied classical theism in college, but (as I pointed out above) you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the arguments. You can choose to disagree with them all you want and that's fine, but you're not even disagreeing with what is believed by the classical theists; you're disagreeing with a misrepresentation of them.

To that point, apropos of your assertion: I don't really comprehend what it might mean to not be "totally constrained" in this context. Does it mean that, given exactly the same circumstances, you will not always make the same choice? If you would choose differently, why would you choose differently?

Yes, given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable. We would choose differently because we have free will, which was given to us by God, who also possesses free will.

I'm personally fine with dismissing the question of "free will" as trivial when discussing the necessity of god(s) for the same reason that I'm fine with dismissing the question of a singular self: both will and selfhood are at the bare minimum convenient if not wholly necessary fictions. We pretend we are singular entities possessed of singular purpose and driven by our own volition because it is useful for us to believe that in most scenarios. It's almost certainly an evolutionary advantage, and it simplifies a lot of cultural baggage. When someone commits rape or assault, we don't sentence their endocrine system or blood sugars. We will sometimes consider those factors to have clouded their "judgment," but still consider them at best to be ameliorating factors in a decision made by an independent entity -- simply because any conceivable alternative is currently too complex for us to contemplate.

It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.

In a determinist system, nothing is chosen. The man commits murder because the first moment of time dictates that he must. The prosecutor is over-agressive in his sentencing because the first moment of time dictates it. Nothing is useful because nothing can be done differently; in determinism everything happen exactly as it was dictated from the first moment. No decision is made by an independent entity and no factors actually inform that entity; that entity is dependent on the first moment of time just like the criminal was, and his acts are forced like every action ever has been.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 23, 2022, 03:44:13 AM
Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.
Here's a link to a page from the Catechism...

I was tired when I wrote that last bit to you, so I was a bit more cheeky and less to the point than I intended. My main point is that I disagree with your analysis on what is the most effective form of communication. We could talk about that if you wanted, but I don't want to intermix it with the conversation on God. You're kinda jumping around a bunch: telling me how best to express my arguments (which you don't agree with); telling me what Tom thinks; telling Tom what I think; and so on. I'd mostly prefer just to talk about the thing directly: what do you think of the argument I made, and why?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 23, 2022, 09:59:59 AM
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The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened.
Citation needed.

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You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.
No, I am. I am trying to explain to you why the thing you are describing is not the only possibility that fulfills the (very simple) requirement of causing the universe to exist.

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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

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You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be.
I can reproducibly demonstrate that matter and energy exist and behave in predictable ways. Moreover, we have a clear pattern throughout history of looking at things that we once had to relegate to an unknown spirit or supernatural entity and eventually discovering materialistic causes for them. There is, quite frankly, far more reason to believe that we will find materialistic causes for everything in the universe than to assume that we will discover supernatural causes for the deaths of sparrows.

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I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.
Can you clarify a point of dogma for me? Are you saying that the only reason God knows what will happen is that He exists outside of time? That His omniscience is a consequence of His timelessness, and nothing else?

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I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.
I agree; I can absolutely imagine such circumstances. And, again, if I knew all those circumstances and knew my son well enough, his decision would be perfectly predictable.

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This is refreshingly honest: you admit that you believe morality is just whatever Tom wants. You don't believe morality is not some appeal to a some principle, it's just power and violence.
That piece of dribble, by contrast, strikes me as disappointingly dishonest -- to the point that, frankly, I am forced to assume that you were absolutely rubbish at being a Buddhist.

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You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a woman is raped than when a stone is smashed. You recognize that something categorically worse happened when a cow is slowly cut to pieces than when a tree is slowly cut to pieces.
I think sapience is a valuable trait. I do not believe that humans are the only creatures capable of sapience. I also believe, on a personal level, that harm is axiomatically bad, and it is possible from this axiom to conclude that causing someone or something to experience harm is definitionally worse than causing harm which cannot be experienced.

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Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.
As long as you're citing this as a matter of faith rather than any sort of logically inevitable conclusion, more power to you. But if you're going to insist that it's logically inevitable, you're stuck down in the apologia gutter with the rest of the crap philosophers.

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Do you agree that there are true things which are not verifiable through the scientific process?
Probably fewer than you do, but sure. One-time events with no downstream effects aren't going to be verifiable, for example.

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given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable
Why do you think so?

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It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.
*points up to the whole "convenient fiction" bit*
Free will is a convenient narrative. We pretend that we are singular beings with singular decision-making ability, and interact with each other and the world as if this were true. It is absolutely not necessary that it be true, however.

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In a determinist system, nothing is chosen.
You are defining "choice" incorrectly in this scenario. We choose as much as it is possible for anything to choose. As variables change, our choices change. Whether or not we control those variables personally is completely irrelevant; we make choices based on our understanding of those variables, and we pretend that such choices are in fact open. As you point out, I could present my son with a chocolate bar and create a scenario in which his decision to take the bar will, he believes, lead inexorably to my death. I could also raise my son in a way that ensures that he considers my death to be a benefit. These factors will influence his choice, and will do so in predictable ways.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 23, 2022, 10:28:32 AM
Quote from: JoshuaD
I'm no ecumenist and I'm no evangelist. I am trying to talk about ideas that I find compelling.
Here's a link to a page from the Catechism...

I was tired when I wrote that last bit to you, so I was a bit more cheeky and less to the point than I intended.

Ok. But what I quoted is a really big deal, even if it's a meta-point. In Acts, the apostles spoke everyone else's language to evangelize, rather than expecting others to learn theirs.

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I'd mostly prefer just to talk about the thing directly: what do you think of the argument I made, and why?

I would say that my primary reaction to the type of syllogism presented in OP can be found in my Dec 15, 2021 post where I initially responded at length. Not wanting to belabor the point or be excessive about it, I've chosen to spend the rest of the threat trying to help avoid miscommunication between posters, since as I think has been amply demonstrated, it's very difficult to actually debate the same points rather than have people talk past each other. The concept of "necessarily exists" (aka fully actual), for instance, seems to be stumping people, and I think there's a reason for that. If you wanted my objection in a sentence, it's that language is a barrier too big to ignore in trying to get at truths. You can't just make a proposition using language and expect that its meaning is self-evident or even coherent. Socrates/Plato showed quite well that "obvious" statements are not obvious at all. I would have reacted differently if the thread topic was something like "a decent argument supporting why there might be a God". That might sound like a weaksauce proposition, but on the other hand presenting a proof (which is fundamentally what your OP is) requires every single clause to be ironclad, entirely understandable on its own terms, and able to support subsequent predicate manipulations. If we're going to start with a claim like “we can see that there are reasons for why things exist” then I think we have to stop the locomotive right away because this is a very loaded claim, required unpacking and proof of its own. I’m not being pedantic; this is a required step in a proof where the claim being made is that the conclusion is necessary. And this is not an attack against brevity: if you did try to unpack that claim alone I believe you would not be able to reach an end to it in any amount of time. This is the key: if you had merely suggested that it would make sense to suppose a God does all this, that would be a very different proposition than saying it’s an unavoidable conclusion. Even a claim like “an infinite regression is nonsensical” seems to me a deeply problematic one. Why is it nonsensical? I can see how it’s undesirable, but that's an aesthetic objection rather than a factual one. I see no self-evident reason why an infinite regress must be discarded out of hand, so in each step of your proof, rather than the subsequent claims resting on an initial axiom, every claim seems to simply be a new axiom, which I have observed is a general issue with this type of proof. I hope you see what I mean by all this, that to act as foundation a line must really be solid. And it’s difficult to make a solid statement - much harder than one expects. An Ancient Greek-style pyramid-argument (or ladder argument), where each line builds a higher tower based on the last line, any time *any* line has the slightest issue the entire ladder doesn’t work. That’s the problem with this type of argument. I’ve seen large book-sized texts that were constructed in a ladder-approach, and in the very first sentence found the initial axiom to be problematic, and then – BOOM, the entire book is invalid based just on that. All subsequent arguments don’t matter if the first fails (or the second, etc).

So the language matters a great deal; not just word choice but the very question of whether your concepts and terms actually point to something real, on a 1-to-1 basis with no foggy or muddy messiness. How do you show a term points to something real? That’s hard enough! Let’s say a person was standing right in front of you, and I was trying to demonstrate to you that my statement “there’s a person near you” was pointing to a reality. I could try a few tactics: I could suggest you touch the person; or I could suggest you talk to the person; or I could suggest you try to pretend they’re not there and walk thought them. And I might have to do other things like explain what “near” means and define measurement.

Or take a syllogism that sounds simple:
-All people who are rained on get wet.
-It is raining on you.
-Therefore you are wet.

Well we actually can’t accept these propositions, can we? Are we actually sure we know what “raining” means? Is that any liquid coming from above? Or just water coming from rainclouds? What if it’s a drizzle where the droplets are far apart from each other? If a person in a drizzle doesn’t happen to have been hit by a droplet yet, does it count as being rained on? And what if the person in question has an umbrella, or a dry suit? And what is wet? Lots of water on you, a bit of water on you? Since we are made mostly of moisture, could it not be argued that even when it’s not raining there is moisture on your skin? Does that not mean that the conclusion might be misleading if you’re ‘wet’ due to causes not outlined in lines 1+2? And so on and so on. The physical realities of the situation can be far more complex than the propositions allow for, therefore this type of syllogism is really a non-starter if you’re making a reality-claim with it. If you’re just using it to explain how to use a predicate calculus then that’s different.

Do you see what I mean?
 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 23, 2022, 10:32:14 AM
As a more direct (if facetious) example of what Fenring is talking about:

Why, given the assumptions you've made about the universe, could it not have been farted out by a psychedelic goat existing outside of Time, who then promptly died? This literally meets all the requirements for necessity that have been put forward, provided that one of the properties of the farted-out matter is "exists until caused to not exist."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on June 23, 2022, 10:32:20 AM
...
If I were to concede (for the sake of a different argument) of such an entity. We can also debate the "goodness" of your God. I see no reason why we think such an entity would care about biological life more than they would care about the supermassive blackhole at the center of galaxies. Most (roughly 2/3rds) of the milky way is hostile to biological life. Too many supernovas nearby, not enough heavy elements, too close to the center of the galaxy. The universe as a whole, counting the space between galaxies is extraordinarily hostile to biological life. At the very best such an entity ("God") thinks of biological life as an afterthought or curiosity to their grand structure of creation. Looking out at the universe and the scarcity of intelligent life, no SETI signals, no signs of multi star civilizations. Biological life absolutely isn't the purpose of creation. Maybe a complete afterthought if anything.

We could debate that, but if we can't even agree that God is necessary and fully actual, there's no point talking about why I believe he has intellect, will, perfection, or goodness.

The rest of your stuff here has nothing to do with anything. We don't live in the center of the galaxy; we live on earth, and earth is perfectly hospitable to us. The fact that the universe is physically big doesn't change anything about how human nature is special.

Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds? And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life? Why not other little pockets of humanity scattered throughout the cosmos? Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity. Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design. If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 02:49:58 AM
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Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds?

Yes. It is much worse to kill your neighbor than it is to kill your neighbor's dog. Human's rational minds makes us more special and valuable than animals. Rationality isn't necessarily exclusive to humans, although it appears that way on earth.

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And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life?

The earth is pretty comfy. We live here, not in space.

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Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity.

I think you imagine it was work for God to create the cosmos; that it would have been less labor to build something less large. That's not the case.

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Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design.

It doesn't appear that way to me at all.

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If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

Yeah, and the earth could be an infinite plane. Or we could all have 10 higher IQ points. Or we could breath underwater. Or cheetahs could run 10 MPH faster.

It is the case that God made limited creatures that are less perfect than him. That is fitting and isn't an argument against his existence.

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I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.

None of the theories that remove time from physical equations have made much headway, and none of them can account for our subjective experience of moving through time.

Given our knowledge of the big bang, it seems much more scientific and reasonable to believe the universe had a beginning. In addition, there are real problems with positing that something which is complex has always existed; when two things are put together the question naturally is begged: why are those things put together? God is perfectly simple; his essence is his existence; so his existence doesn't beg this question.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:12:34 AM
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The fact that it happened means that there must be reasons for why it happened.
Citation needed.

We're starting to loop and I don't have any sense that you've fully comprehended the arguments I've presented. The citation here is the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which I've named and defended previously in the thread.

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You aren't fully understanding the thing I am describing.
No, I am. I am trying to explain to you why the thing you are describing is not the only possibility that fulfills the (very simple) requirement of causing the universe to exist.

You are missing one of the main thrusts of these arguments: I am not just talking about an historical cause for the existence of the universe. I am talking about the cause for existence right here in this moment. I have presented arguments why "it existed previously" is not a sufficient explanation for its existence now. You haven't responded substantively to this point, to the argument from necessity, to the argument from potential, or to many of the other point's I've made.  (Note: blustering scoffs do not constitute a response).

Most importantly, the responses you have provided continue to demonstrate a misunderstanding of the arguments I'm presenting.

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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

It is not an axiomatic statement; I have provided reasoning for why this is the case. I provided the example of the copied textbook and the mirrors. In both cases, I have illustrated how a circular dependency doesn't cause anything.

In formal logic (P -> Q) and (Q -> P) does not exclude ~(P and Q).  P and Q can be either true or false and satisfy this relationship. If domino A causes domino B to fall, and domino B causes domino A to fall, something else still needs to cause one of them to fall in order for either or them to fall.

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You are demonstrating a dogmatic faith in materialism. Although there is no compelling reason to believe that consciousness can be approached by the physical sciences, you state your belief that it can be.
I can reproducibly demonstrate that matter and energy exist and behave in predictable ways. Moreover, we have a clear pattern throughout history of looking at things that we once had to relegate to an unknown spirit or supernatural entity and eventually discovering materialistic causes for them. There is, quite frankly, far more reason to believe that we will find materialistic causes for everything in the universe than to assume that we will discover supernatural causes for the deaths of sparrows.

There are plenty of good reasons to believe the universe has a great deal of settled order. There is no good reason to believe the universe is deterministic and materialistic, and plenty of reasons to reject those views, the foremost of which is that they are philosophies that are unable to account for the full range of experience.

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I truly have free will, and since God is not in time with us, he knows how I will exercise it.
Can you clarify a point of dogma for me? Are you saying that the only reason God knows what will happen is that He exists outside of time? That His omniscience is a consequence of His timelessness, and nothing else?

No I don't think I would say say that. It is one way of understanding it but I don't think it is the full story.

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I am certain there are circumstances under which your son would not take the candy bar. For example, if he knew doing so would kill you, or kill him, he would choose not to take it, because he comprehends a higher good than getting the candy bar.
I agree; I can absolutely imagine such circumstances. And, again, if I knew all those circumstances and knew my son well enough, his decision would be perfectly predictable.

Again, this is just a dogmatic belief you have. There is no evidence to support that we can perfectly predict human behavior with the physical sciences.  The physical sciences aren't even one science, and there are compelling reasons to think that things like physics and chemistry are not able to be united, let alone biology.

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Something makes us different than rocks and that thing is the immaterial soul.
As long as you're citing this as a matter of faith rather than any sort of logically inevitable conclusion, more power to you..

It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of reason. If matter was able to be the first principle of our life, then matter would necessarily be alive. But matter is often not alive, so the first principle of our life must be something beyond our physical bodies, it must be something immaterial.

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given the exact same circumstances, humans possess the power to choose between alternatives and their choices are not fully predictable
Why do you think so?

It is my apparent experience; I need a reason to reject what apparently is. In addition, belief in free will (as I mean the term) provides for the most comprehensive model of reality, where the philosophies which reject free will provide much less complete and coherent models of reality.

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It's worth noting that when you want to reject the existence of free will you still talk in a way that assumes it one step back.
*points up to the whole "convenient fiction" bit* Free will is a convenient narrative. We pretend that we are singular beings with singular decision-making ability, and interact with each other and the world as if this were true. It is absolutely not necessary that it be true, however.

I agree it is not necessarily true (as far as we can reason). In the same way, particle physics is not necessarily true.

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In a determinist system, nothing is chosen.
You are defining "choice" incorrectly in this scenario. We choose as much as it is possible for anything to choose. As variables change, our choices change. Whether or not we control those variables personally is completely irrelevant; we make choices based on our understanding of those variables, and we pretend that such choices are in fact open. As you point out, I could present my son with a chocolate bar and create a scenario in which his decision to take the bar will, he believes, lead inexorably to my death. I could also raise my son in a way that ensures that he considers my death to be a benefit. These factors will influence his choice, and will do so in predictable ways.

I am familiar with the compatabilists' definition games and that's all they are. There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:15:16 AM
@Fenring: Whenever I read your posts I think of this excerpt:

Quote from: GK Chesterton
It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:17:33 AM
Quote from: Fenring
I would say that my primary reaction to the type of syllogism presented in OP can be found in my Dec 15, 2021...

Quote from: Fenring, Dec 15, 2021
Clause 1 "the universe exists and is intelligible" is the axiom here; "things exist and we can see..." is apparently an explanation, or elaboration, of what this axiom is supposed to mean. But the problem arises inevitably: how to define a tricky axiom without resort to terms that require even more definitional apparatus than the axiom does. One huge example of this becomes immediately apparent: what does it mean to say that "we can see" that "there are reasons for why things exist"? Who is this "we"? Is this really an axiom with a baked in principle that the following applies to everyone by definition? And that thing that "we" can see is that there are "reasons" for why things exist. I can explain trivially why this is too much to bite off: I personally couldn't even agree that "I see that there are reasons for why things exist." In fact I have no knowledge at all about why things exist. To use Hume's argument, the only reason I can even say they exist at all is through experience; it just so happens this is how it always was when I was young, and still appears to be now; but nothing in this suggests either a law or an explanation; just the mere fact itself that these things are there and continue to be there each day. This is a huge issue, because there is a potential limitation built-in to things about what I can say about them sight unseen. Pure reason cannot tell me why things exist, even though empirical experience can make me used to the fact that they do. Before I spend an eon taking on axiom 1, let's move on for a moment.

Either you think the principle of sufficient reason holds or you don't. Let's not move on from that. Let's stay right here. Do you think it holds or not? If not, why not?

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:22:04 AM
Quote from: Fenring
That might sound like a weaksauce proposition, but on the other hand presenting a proof (which is fundamentally what your OP is) requires every single clause to be ironclad, entirely understandable on its own terms, and able to support subsequent predicate manipulation

Yes, I think the original line of reasoning is solid in that way. I think by looking at reality around us, we can see that there is something which exists necessarily.

To be sure, there are some assumptions baked in. I am rejecting belief in the Cartesian demon who deceives our senses; I do not accept his restriction to the theater of the mind; i think our senses are a source of truth. I am similarly rejecting Hume's rejection of the syllogism and his school of hyper-skepticalism.

I'd be OK if someone wanted to pick up those philosophies and talk about it. I have reasons why I reject those things and I think they are compelling reasons, but I do not think they are rejected as a matter of course; I think both Descartes and Hume were brilliant and their ideas are worthy of consideration. I considered them and concluded they were wrong, but I don't think they are wrong in the same way that 2+2=5 is wrong.

Similarly, in my later posts I rely upon the philosophical conclusions of men like Aristotle and Aquinas, but I'm open to talking about why I think they have the most compelling ideas. I'm not setting them up as axiomatic, but I'm also not trying to write a book defending every step. If you find something questionable, question it and we can talk about it.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:25:20 AM
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Even a claim like “an infinite regression is nonsensical” seems to me a deeply problematic one. Why is it nonsensical? I can see how it’s undesirable, but that's an aesthetic objection rather than a factual one.

I have provided two examples of how an infinite regression of explanation, especially here in this moment, makes no sense. I have not appealed to aesthetics. You can think about what I said and either refute it or distinguish from it. You can't just shrug at them and put the ball back in my court.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:27:06 AM
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I see no self-evident reason why an infinite regress must be discarded out of hand, so in each step of your proof, rather than the subsequent claims resting on an initial axiom, every claim seems to simply be a new axiom, which I have observed is a general issue with this type of proof.

Yes, this arguments requires that you think. They're not axioms. They are statements in reason. Think about them, see if they make sense, and if they don't make sense to you feel free to express why and we can have a conversation. This meta-retreat from reason is deeply confusing to me. Put on your thinking cap friend.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 27, 2022, 03:33:15 AM
Quote from: Fenring
Or take a syllogism that sounds simple:
-All people who are rained on get wet.
-It is raining on you.
-Therefore you are wet.

Well we actually can’t accept these propositions, can we? Are we actually sure we know what “raining” means? Is that any liquid coming from above? Or just water coming from rainclouds? What if it’s a drizzle where the droplets are far apart from each other? If a person in a drizzle doesn’t happen to have been hit by a droplet yet, does it count as being rained on? And what if the person in question has an umbrella, or a dry suit? And what is wet? Lots of water on you, a bit of water on you? Since we are made mostly of moisture, could it not be argued that even when it’s not raining there is moisture on your skin? Does that not mean that the conclusion might be misleading if you’re ‘wet’ due to causes not outlined in lines 1+2? And so on and so on. The physical realities of the situation can be far more complex than the propositions allow for, therefore this type of syllogism is really a non-starter if you’re making a reality-claim with it. If you’re just using it to explain how to use a predicate calculus then that’s different.

Do you see what I mean?

No, this is mental masturbation. The syllogism holds as far as it goes. Rain makes people wet. If you get rained on, you will get wet. Is it absolute? No. If I have a raincoat on, I will get wet in a different way than if I were naked. 

But nothing about the recognition of nuance undermines the value of the syllogism or the truth statements.

Perhaps you could say all humans are "wet" because they are made of water, but you would not be using the word "wet" in the same way it is used when someone talks about humans being rained upon. You would be using the word "wet" analogically, not univocally.  Your example wouldn't have any meaning in the original context.

It's really not controversial at all to say that rain makes us wet. If you can't see that you are very deeply lost in the sauce.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 08:59:20 AM
Joshua, can you explain why my farting goat hypothesis -- namely, that the universe was created by an extradimensional goat living outside our timestream who farted it out and then promptly died -- does not satisfy your requirements? Assuming again that persistence is a property of matter, or that non-existence is not in fact a default (which is personally something that I use in my own (stricter, IMO) formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which asserts that there must be a reason for something's non-existence as well)?

I ask because your arguments seem to rely heavily on regressing chains but you keep insisting that they actually rely on active maintenance of in-the-moment persistence -- and yet I completely fail to understand why they cannot be satisfied simply by persistence as a default state.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 09:16:20 AM
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There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.
I want to address this because I think it elides over a great deal of the complexity in this question.

First off, the ancients once imputed -- as some modern religions still do -- choice and agency to rocks and mountains. They would look at the sea sinking a ship and see in it hostility and volition. Later on, this volition was assigned first to animating spirits, and then to gods who oversaw certain "domains" of nature. This is because sometimes acts of nature certainly appear to be intentional, and/or we find it convenient and comforting to assign narrative and motive to them.

Secondly, living intelligence is itself a sliding scale. Slime molds grow through a maze towards a nutrient source with what appears to be a great deal of spatial intelligence; they do not send out feelers down "dead ends" for very long at all, implying that somehow they're able to comprehend the shape of a maze and can -- even without sending exploratory runners down each dead end -- understand that sometimes the most direct path between two points is unavailable. Certain species of flatworms are so predictable in their movement towards light that you can build elementary computers based on flatworm movement; it's completely instinctual to them. We understand the neurological systems of flies well enough that we can hook up remote controls to them and pilot them around a room. And viruses, of course, are so completely programmed, so lacking in any situational processing power, that scientists actually debate whether they should be considered "alive" or just a really complicated series of physio-chemical processes. Is it possible for a chimpanzee to be sapient? Or a dolphin? Mary Robinette Kowal has a cat who communicates with her using vocal buttons and appears to have a vocabulary of around 50 words. It's not any smarter or communicative than a toddler, but it appears to be as smart and communicative as a toddler. Is it intelligent in the same categorical way that a human is?

Thirdly, there's the question of -- if "life" or "intelligence" are properties bestowed upon a creature and not simply descriptions of phenomena -- when these properties are bestowed. Has a dog been given intelligence? Has a virus been given life? At what point in an embryo's lifecycle is "intelligence" inserted into it, and it becomes a creature capable of making magical choices? You had previously asserted that the hostility of the universe to our kind of life -- to our obvious inferiority to God relative to our ability to occupy the enormity of the universe He created -- could not be interpreted as a failure of God's power or character. But I would assert that a valid example of the Problem of Evil is the fact that the vast majority of embryos die well before birth or very shortly thereafter, and if they are in fact being bestowed with sapience by God immediately before their deaths, that does create a moral quandary.

Finally, let's consider the possibility of a self-programming computer. Such a computer will never make a decision that is not perfectly predictable and supported by its hardware. But it will absolutely work in ways that its original designers did not anticipate and might not immediately understand. At what point is this "intelligence?" This is especially relevant because this is what I'm asserting living beings do, and how we think: we make choices that are perfectly predictable and supported by our hardware, but are also capable of rewriting our "code" and even changing our hardware to make new paths possible.

The idea that a "choice" must somehow not be the consequence of one's nature and environment is, I submit, a wholly artificial and frankly immature -- almost petulant -- requirement.


Edited to add:
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It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of reason. If matter was able to be the first principle of our life, then matter would necessarily be alive.
I also wanted to note that the above quote supplies almost the distilled essence of why I think almost all metaphysics is useless wankery.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on June 27, 2022, 11:40:30 AM
Always felt that metaphysics ought to be held lightly as eventually discussions intended to prove something end up tripping over the problem of language and ending in the absurd and or silence.
 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 12:20:19 PM
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A circular fundamental causation of existence or actualization is paradoxical from any point of view...
This is not, I'm afraid, true. You are accepting this as something axiomatic and proceeding from that premise.

It is not an axiomatic statement; I have provided reasoning for why this is the case. I provided the example of the copied textbook and the mirrors. In both cases, I have illustrated how a circular dependency doesn't cause anything.

In formal logic (P -> Q) and (Q -> P) does not exclude ~(P and Q).  P and Q can be either true or false and satisfy this relationship. If domino A causes domino B to fall, and domino B causes domino A to fall, something else still needs to cause one of them to fall in order for either or them to fall.

It's worth noting simply that your analogy doesn't work, and this is why Tom (and I) don't accept that you've proven why circular causality can't work. Two dominos falling is a very bad way to envision what circular causality would entail. One thing is for sure: it requires that time be able to function in non-linear ways, and/or space be something whose physical limitations are not really limitations if you have the right know-how. It's worth noting, by the way, that Catholic teaching seems to require us to accept non-linear causality (which is not quite identical with circular causality), since afaik it's canonically accepted that you can pray for people in the past, present, or future, and that this works.

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Again, this is just a dogmatic belief you have. There is no evidence to support that we can perfectly predict human behavior with the physical sciences.

This point, is, I think, almost tautologically true (in a good way) since if we could prove perfect deterministic causalisty it would mean mastery of space and time, which certainly we have not achieved. Until we can prove this is at least possible in theory, whether or not it's possible in practice, I see no grounds to assert that all outcomes can be determined in advance. It is a plausible theory, but literally cannot be more at present.

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I am familiar with the compatabilists' definition games and that's all they are. There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.

I fully agree with Joshua about this point: either things are fully determined from initial conditions or they are not. if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all. What would distinguish us from rocks is level of complexity and nothing more. "Choice" would just be a more sophisticated whirlpool in a stream. Take this passage from Wiki about compatibilism:

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Compatibilists often define an instance of "free will" as one in which the agent had the freedom to act according to their own motivation. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said: "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills."[14] In other words, although an agent may often be free to act according to a motive, the nature of that motive is determined. This definition of free will does not rely on the truth or falsity of causal determinism.[2] This view also makes free will close to autonomy, the ability to live according to one's own rules, as opposed to being submitted to external domination.

I'm sure there are other formulations of free will, but in this one it's merely defined as a choice made that is not constrained by exterior human coersion. But this is a typical case of the humanities not being in touch with the sciences: they are mixing up levels of analysis, in one case physical determinism, in another, the everyday experience of people making you do things against your will. But this is just mixing up apples and oranges. Why should human 'interference' in your choice be counted as any different from a lion eating you or the wind knocking you down? Or for that matter, the mere fact of gravity coercing you to not to be able to fly?

A more cogent argument, and one I have heard often, is that your choice is just an illusion, something you have to feel but that doesn't represent a physical reality. That is possible, but what is not possible is that your feeling of choosing should somehow exist in a separate physics than billiard balls do. At least, it's not possible from a materialist/determinist standpoint. It is in fact totally possible to envision a universe where our choice really does operate in a different physics than billard balls, but that's not the proposition compatibilism makes.

I will remark, though, that it's interesting that we tend to find the materialist argument coming from left-wing thinkers, and that the left also tends to view human choice as being environmentally determined in a social sense; whereas the right is more prone to bootstrap arguments and viewing choice as existing independently for each person. And the metaphysics seems also divided left/right in the same way: choice is an illusion and everything is determined by starting environmental conditions, whereas conservative philosophers seem much more amenable to blaming a bad choice on the person's free will rather than on external constraints. It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 12:23:42 PM
Quote
if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible." 

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It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.
I actually suspect -- trying to be fair to everyone, here -- that the opposite is true, and something like "conservative" or "liberal" thought emerges as a consequence of one's relationship to "blame."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 12:27:01 PM
@Fenring: Whenever I read your posts I think of this excerpt:

I'm a Chesterton fan, so I'm ok with throwing him at me. In my case I think you may misunderstand. In academia I believe it's standard to use impenetrable terms because they are impenetrable. Call this a kind of job security. In my case I actually pick words carefully. IMO we have English as an advantage since it appears to be the supreme technical language, maybe co-owning that title with German. We have so many words that have nuanced differences, and I try to make full use of that. I guess you have to take my word that if I changed my posts to use different words I would be doing worse at communicating what I want to. It's a bit ironic, though, you saying my posts are too verbose when my basis thesis in this thread is that words are the problem! You might consider reading the Chesterton quote in reverse, and supposing that if someone says "degenerate" they might means something very specific that "damn" would not communicate. "Damn" might be a more generally useful word, but not in all contexts. That's why we have a separate word for each. What Chesterton is talking about is using longer words only to appear smart in a journalistic sense. He is not actually saying that philosophical texts need to contain only monosyllabic words.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: NobleHunter on June 27, 2022, 12:33:12 PM
I keep checking this thread in hopes that I will determine which of the following is true:
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 12:35:44 PM
Metaphysics, everybody! :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 12:38:27 PM
No, this is mental masturbation. The syllogism holds as far as it goes. Rain makes people wet. If you get rained on, you will get wet. Is it absolute? No. If I have a raincoat on, I will get wet in a different way than if I were naked. 

But nothing about the recognition of nuance undermines the value of the syllogism or the truth statements.

I've bolded and underlined the important takeaway: the syllogism holds as far as it goes, and it is not absolute. So it might be roughly suitable for sometimes figuring out whether someone is wet from rain. It might confuse us if, concurrent with the rainfall, there was a leaky city pipe that expoded up from the ground; or if someone nearby splashed that person with a non-H2O liquid. Now we have a scenario where not only does "wet" get complicated, but the causality of the wetness becomes almost impossible to trace. But the point is that you would not want to take this simple syllogism and start building a castle of logic upon it as if it was so unassailable that, as Aquinas did, we could count it as being so certainly true that we can make a string of positive deductions from it. Note that there is no such thing as "the exception which proves the rule": if a syllogism can be shown to be false in even a single instance, logically speaking we have to reject it as being solid. Scientifically it may be 'good enough' until replaced by a better piece of induction, in the sense Kuhn meant it. You can make use of the above syllogism to test for wetness until you find a better model, but a guy working in a lab would have to know that this is a pragmatic use and not representative of it being an immutable law of the universe. For your OP to work each proposition has to be an immutable law of the universe, no exceptions, no chance of the words being muddy or lacking a clear meaning.

It's not that my syllogism is useless, it's just that we can't accept it as being ironclad. Whereas in a mathematical/logical proof the propositions cannot be muddy. I'm not sure you're really taking seriously how much of a problem language is in these matters.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 01:00:41 PM
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if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible."

Sure, that falls under "deterministic with randomness", one of the usual categories. It means there is no free will but also that you cannot make positive predictions due to the random element. So human choice may come out in unexpected ways, due to a combination of complexity, lack of information, and random effects. This also renders free will as being an illusion, even though it's even harder to predict than we thought. Note that a determinist argument doesn't actually require showing you can predict the future; in fact Kierkegaard presented a soft proof of the fact that even if the material universe is fixed and determined you couldn't predict it anyhow since you'd need more info than the universe contains to do so (you would need a God POV). So predictability is not really the core of the material determinist position, since by definition it can't be done.

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It sometimes seems as if both sides are already fixed in their conclusion, and try to retroactively find arguments that will support their pre-established conclusions.
I actually suspect -- trying to be fair to everyone, here -- that the opposite is true, and something like "conservative" or "liberal" thought emerges as a consequence of one's relationship to "blame."

Yeah this is a big topic getting into neuroscience and biology. I'm not expert enough to offer a positive opinion on it, but I've heard arguments of various sorts on the topic. Jordan Peterson has at times compared morality to an immune response to potental threats. It's all very interesting, but we're only getting started on it. I'm talking more on a conversational level, that even within particular arguments people are set on a position (such as you are in feeling that choices are constrained purely by material effects) that is assumed without proof; and likewise with right-wing people who insist that each person has the freedom to choose. Blame can come into it, sure, and it would be a cool side-discussion to see where that fits into it. It seems to me that blame can't be the end of it, since positive assertions are also made: like a person succeeds at something, and can pick how to interpret that:

-I did that. ME!!!
-I was only enabled by others/environment.
-I was lucky.
-etc

This is a similar (not quite opposite) scenario where we're looking for how to interpret a result and trace whether or how human choice played into that.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 01:05:22 PM
Metaphysics, everybody! :)

I know a lot of people are down on metaphysics. Nietzsche said he was. It's worth pointing out that since it's a potentially airy-fairy arena we do need to figure out where the boundaries are of this field. Unlike Aristotle, we can't just metaphysik ourselves into understanding how procreation works (On the Generation of Animals, for those curious). I don't agree that it has been reduced to nothing by science: in fact figuring out exactly how it has been constrained and how it has not been constrained by science is itself probably part of the relevant field of metaphysics. Even if in a million years we could determine that the only function left of metaphysics would be to determine that it has no other function than this one, that one would still be valuable!
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 01:45:06 PM
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if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all
I'm not sure I'm willing to concede this. On a quantum level, for example, it appears that at least some elements of the universe are ontologically random. This doesn't mean that we couldn't perfectly predict the results of a decision tree as determined by its environment, but it does mean that it may be impossible to perfectly predict the environment in which that decision is made. I'm fine with calling that "as deterministic as possible." 

Tom, I just realized I may have crossed wires on this point in my last response: I think maybe you were just saying that if there is a random element then things at the start of the universe would not determine alone the end condition down the line. That part is ok, now that I see what I think you meant. By saying "if they are not fully determined then they are not determined at all" I was still in the free will argument, in that we have a complex billiard ball situation where we are fully constrained by the physical realities, even if randomness affected the starting conditions at the moment of a choice. So the 'choice' would be fully determined based on the starting conditions, even though the starting conditions here were not themselves fully determined as of the big bang. The question is whether there is any escaping the billard balls, regardless of whether they were always there or popped into existence randomly. Is it possible that randomness is not random, or that God can use the quantum unknown to His purposes? Is it possible that, in addition to randomness, there is another X-factor just as powerful? Is it possible that there is a second system in play, call it the 'divine system', that allows us to escape the billard balls and do something totally out of sync with how they push us? These would be the questions to answer. If we are stuck in a pinball machine, however complex and random, then free will is not free but just complex and unknowable.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 01:49:38 PM
Will the last philosopher of metaphysics turn off the universe on his way out, please?

---------

And,  yeah, your response just now (that I nearly posted on top of) is entirely correct; I was talking more about perfect deterministic chains, as you deduced.

My own position is that there's no reason to believe that there's anything but matter and energy in the universe, so assuming a spiritual dimension without any evidence in favor of it in order to make sense of concepts like free will unnecessarily adds complexity. But I'm certainly willing to accept the possibility that there's some dimension of Soul and Essence that somehow informs our own, or that we're all just programmed heads in jars, or any of the other theoretical explanations of selfhood. I just don't think there's a need for them, because certainly nothing I think is so complicated that I need another universe to explain it.

I suppose I'm definitionally agnostic on the subject of free will; I think we'll never be able to tell whether our will is "free" enough to satisfy some people, but that it doesn't matter in the slightest because we pretend that we have free will in the same way we pretend that we're singular entities. As I noted earlier, no one arrests somebody's endocrine system, even if that endocrine system is directly responsible for the crime they committed in a way the rest of their body or mind is not. It's simply not possible for us to divorce that system from the rest of the entity in a practical way. That said, we might well treat that malfunctioning entity's endocrine system with drugs or therapies in hopes that the entity stops malfunctioning overall -- which is perfectly consistent with the way we would treat a machine with a broken part. The difference between trying to find a way to fix someone's endocrine system and just jailing them for life is the difference between buying a replacement motor for a blender and throwing the blender away. Where this gets confusing with sapient beings is that they're self-programming; if I've coded my brain over a lifetime of stimulus in a way that causes me to malfunction, you'd somehow need to re-code my brain to fix me.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 02:02:44 PM
I'm certainly willing to accept the possibility that there's some dimension of Soul and Essence that somehow informs our own[...]
I just don't think there's a need for them, because certainly nothing I think is so complicated that I need another universe to explain it.

The question is whether anything subjectively changes the more you believe in free will. If it does, then there is something true about it, even if it's hard to state what. What's more, imagine a situation where your outcome was governed mostly by choice rather than circumstance: you would need a whole different calculus to assess whether you are better or worse off. The religious claim is troubling: don't believe it and indeed you get nothing; believe it more and things start to show as patterns more. Is that due to faulty logic, or a real experience? Pray for real and you get results, but study it cynically and you don't. That's an annoying proposition: the fact that it's rendered objectively untestable is not actually an argument against it. But it's subjectively testable, so long as you're not using it as a test. Actually this is super-annoying: you need to be committed to a thing you believe you have no reason to commit to, and to find your answer once you stop trying to find an answer; and you need to do this for a reason other than trying to prove it right or wrong. If the system was rigged like this then indeed it would be frustrating for people on the fence or anti.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 02:24:57 PM
Well, yes. Inarguably, if that scenario were true, then an omnipotent God would also be an evil one.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 02:41:28 PM
Well, yes. Inarguably, if that scenario were true, then an omnipotent God would also be an evil one.

No, sir; it would merely be annoying if your goal in life was to not have anyone tell you they know better than you. There is nothing evil in suggesting that faith and good intent are required in order to get the best conclusion. We all have faith in something or other; we can't think without it. We need axioms, worldview, heuristics. I also think there are many roads to Rome, so the language employed isn't the end-all. Maybe the sticking point for many is the apparent conflict between free will and being told there is essentially only one right answer. How free is that? That's a different discussion! That requires us to define what free will is, which is sort of the issue I raised above. What are we even talking about? And that goes back to Joshua's OP: what are we even talking about? The fine details matter. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 02:45:36 PM
If a god has a plan for his people but obscures access to that plan through a mechanism that is absolutely indistinguishable from brainwashing for no reason other than his desire to do so, and then provides disincentives to deviate from his plan in the form of eternal second-class status (let along punishment), I have no qualms about calling such an entity evil.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 03:06:33 PM
Either you think the principle of sufficient reason holds or you don't. Let's not move on from that. Let's stay right here. Do you think it holds or not? If not, why not?

I sort of skipped over this earlier to think about how to answer. It's a really loaded question. We'd need to define which version of it you mean, specified by which philosopher (Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz). The specifics matter. To be honest I've never read Spinoza although I have a friend whose expertise is partially in Spinoza. I've read one Leibniz book. So this isn't my best area in terms of being a historian of these ideas. If you asked me offhand whether I think there are things that literally have no explanation, i.e. whether the universe fundamentally doesn't make sense, I'd say no. I think everything makes sense on some level. The question is what level. Some phenomenon in nature - could it involve randomness? Could it involve God's interference? Maybe something else? My answer is: maybe? I have theories about what God does and doesn't do. But they're not axioms I would insist are true.

I don't know if all things are ultimately intelligible to us, even if they do have a final explanation. You end up with Kierkegaard's problem if you want to assert that we can actually say things all have understandable causes: you need God's level of information to see if this is true or not. We can act as if this is true, and that can be very useful. That's different from asserting it as dogma.

So we get back to the language thing: are we in a position to be able to frame things well enough to find solid ground? I would say no; or not yet maybe. Our words are not good enough to act as stand-ins for real explanations of really deep things. We do seem to be able to think well about some stuff, but how often are we fooling ourselves? To know whether we're thinking clearly about something we may need to know what thought is; when I come up with an idea, what am I really doing? And are the words I write down able to even contain my idea? We may run into an epistemology problem here too.

I have to admit that my current position is that more or less everyone between Plato and Nietzsche were failing to recognize the severity of how to frame and go after problems in philosophy. Nietzsche had a big problem with metaphysics, and for a good reason. Plato knew that you can't just throw words around as if you know what they mean. It took the entire 20th century for people to start to realize how serious these problems are. I still don't think they're caught up to Nietzsche, if you want my opinion.

So does the PSR hold? My best short answer is: yes, but not in any way we can utilize to our ends. Even if there are explanations for everything, we cannot know them or make use of them in formal argument, nor can we assert what type of explanations things might take, nor can we use analogies we are familiar with to try to edge our way sideways into making this like something we already know. The analogy game is a dead-end avenue to understanding things that are obviously beyond us (at least for now).

I'm not sure if this answer was helpful to our discussion...
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 03:12:19 PM
If a god has a plan for his people but obscures access to that plan through a mechanism that is absolutely indistinguishable from brainwashing for no reason other than his desire to do so

Who says He obscured access? Maybe we did. That's the Judeo-Christian claim, anyhow, that we made our own bed and that lying in it may suck for a number of reasons. The long and short of free will in this context is that rather than being a sort of toy to play with, it's a gigantic responsibility that can have dire consquences through its misuse. I think where the good/evil argument might come into it is what we think of the prospect of granting the powers of co-creation to finite beings. I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god. So the Eden scenario would have to be plumbed out more to assess this.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 27, 2022, 03:32:01 PM
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I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god.
It is only through an omnipotent god's inaction that we could ever be dumb children (depending of course on your definition of "omnipotent." If it's just "causes all things to happen" instead of "can do all things that are possible," obviously that sort of omnipotence is functionally useless.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 27, 2022, 03:40:22 PM
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I can see someone thinking it 'evil' to give a dumb child the powers of a god.
It is only through an omnipotent god's inaction that we could ever be dumb children (depending of course on your definition of "omnipotent." If it's just "causes all things to happen" instead of "can do all things that are possible," obviously that sort of omnipotence is functionally useless.)

I'm not saying humans were dumb, I said I could see someone seeing it that way. By being finite we would necessarily be less intelligent than God, obviously. The question is whether we were sufficiently intelligent to choose correctly, which is all we would need to be. Either way, "choice" means nothing if there's no chance and no way to choose wrongly. What kind of goof-off would choose wrongly, if given sufficient information to choose rightly? That is actually a deep matter to explore. We do assert that a person will still sometimes choose wrong even if given 100% of the necessary information of what is right (or best). This is actually a claim that flies in the face of Socrates' thinking, where every bad choice is due purely to error. Everyday life seems to contradict Socrates' thesis.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 02:46:09 AM
Joshua, can you explain why my farting goat hypothesis -- namely, that the universe was created by an extradimensional goat living outside our timestream who farted it out and then promptly died -- does not satisfy your requirements? Assuming again that persistence is a property of matter, or that non-existence is not in fact a default (which is personally something that I use in my own (stricter, IMO) formulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which asserts that there must be a reason for something's non-existence as well)?

I ask because your arguments seem to rely heavily on regressing chains but you keep insisting that they actually rely on active maintenance of in-the-moment persistence -- and yet I completely fail to understand why they cannot be satisfied simply by persistence as a default state.

I thought that was just a joke. Your hypothesis doesn't work for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1. Something which necessarily exists cannot cease to exist. If there are conditions under which it can cease to exist, then it is not the thing that necessarily exists from the proof in the first post; it doesn't fulfill the logic. Your goat is one of the contingent things named in my first post, and its existence still must ultimately be explained by something which necessarily exists.

2. As you acknowledge in your second paragraph, we need to explain why things persist. Your proposed property of persistence is not a sensible explanation.  Properties do not exist independent of things. In order for a property to have existence, it must be in a thing which has existence. That is to say, properties can only have existence in the context of a thing which has existence. If you posit a property of persistence, you create a circular cause of existence: the property's existence depends on the thing's existence, and the thing's existence depends on the property's existence. A circular cause of existence doesn't explain existence. P implies Q and Q implies P is not logically equivalent to P and Q. It is equivalent to (P and Q) or (`P and `Q).

3. The nature (or essence) of things is independent from their existence. We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing. It seems difficult to recognize this and then suggest that things have a nature of persistence in existence.


Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:16:20 AM
Quote from: JoshuaD
There is no choice in the laws of physics. You don't talk about a rock "choosing" to fall from the mountain. It falls as a matter of necessity. In the same way, in the determinist model, humans don't choose; they act as a matter of necessity.

If human action is fully governed by the laws of physics, the human is no different than the rock; the human does what he does as a matter of necessity. The fact that the human's movements are more complex than the rock's doesn't suddenly introduce choice into the equation. In deterministic materialism, there is no fundamental difference between rocks and human, and neither rocks nor humans choose their acts.
I want to address this because I think it elides over a great deal of the complexity in this question.

First off, the ancients once imputed -- as some modern religions still do -- choice and agency to rocks and mountains. They would look at the sea sinking a ship and see in it hostility and volition. Later on, this volition was assigned first to animating spirits, and then to gods who oversaw certain "domains" of nature. This is because sometimes acts of nature certainly appear to be intentional, and/or we find it convenient and comforting to assign narrative and motive to them.

Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion. If not, as I mentioned back on page 2 or 3, I don't see the value of talking about those arguments. I will openly posit that for virtually every view I am suggesting as true here, there was some philosopher who thought the opposite thing. If you told me how electricity worked and said, vaguely, "well, there were people in the 1000's who didn't believe in electricity and people in the 1800's who thought it worked entirely differently" you'd recognize that was just rhetorical noise. In the same way, invoking some philosophy you don't subscribe to seems to me to be rhetorical noise.

Secondly, living intelligence is itself a sliding scale.

No it's not. Humans are a category different than the other animals of the earth.* Within the animal world, there is a sliding scale; dogs are smarter than cats and cats are smarter than mice and mice are smarter than ants, and so on. But a human possesses rationality,


*It is possible, albeit very unlikely, that an animal like an octopus actually possesses rationality. If that were shown to be true, it wouldn't undermine my point here. Rationality is categorically different thing than an animal's powers of sense, judgement, memory, etc. Humans possess an intellect, a will, and the ability to understand abstractly. A dog cannot comprehend justice or beauty or truth abstractly, while a human can.

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Is it possible for a chimpanzee to be sapient? Or a dolphin?

No, all of the evidence we have when studying these animals is that they do not possess rational minds.

That being said, if it turns out that there are other rational animals on earth, then great. It's not a problem to these arguments I'm making if there are other rational animals in the world or the universe.

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Mary Robinette Kowal has a cat who communicates with her using vocal buttons and appears to have a vocabulary of around 50 words. It's not any smarter or communicative than a toddler, but it appears to be as smart and communicative as a toddler. Is it intelligent in the same categorical way that a human is?

No. I have a toddler and although he can speak less than 50 words, his intelligence is a much greater than than the intelligence of a dog or a cat, even a very bright dog or cat.  He doesn't know things yet, but his ability to think and understand is already showing through.

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Thirdly, there's the question of -- if "life" or "intelligence" are properties bestowed upon a creature and not simply descriptions of phenomena -- when these properties are bestowed. Has a dog been given intelligence? Has a virus been given life? At what point in an embryo's lifecycle is "intelligence" inserted into it, and it becomes a creature capable of making magical choices?

It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception. Whenever life begins, the child's nature is to be an intelligent thing. It may not exercise that power, just like it might not be able to exercise its power of sight yet, but it is still the sort of thing which sees. A dog's nature is not to be intelligent; it has certain estimative powers and memory and the like, but its intellect is not rational in nature.

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You had previously asserted that the hostility of the universe to our kind of life -- to our obvious inferiority to God relative to our ability to occupy the enormity of the universe He created -- could not be interpreted as a failure of God's power or character. But I would assert that a valid example of the Problem of Evil is the fact that the vast majority of embryos die well before birth or very shortly thereafter, and if they are in fact being bestowed with sapience by God immediately before their deaths, that does create a moral quandary.

We are jumping around a lot now.  I did not intend to drag this thread into theology or the problem of evil, especially given that we can't even yet agree about the principle of sufficient reason. I don't mind talking about any one of these things, but by jumping around so much, we're not really talking about anything.

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Finally, let's consider the possibility of a self-programming computer. Such a computer will never make a decision that is not perfectly predictable and supported by its hardware. But it will absolutely work in ways that its original designers did not anticipate and might not immediately understand. At what point is this "intelligence?" This is especially relevant because this is what I'm asserting living beings do, and how we think: we make choices that are perfectly predictable and supported by our hardware, but are also capable of rewriting our "code" and even changing our hardware to make new paths possible.

A self-programming computer is perfectly predictable and this is obviously true: you can a duplicate of it, give it the same set of inputs, and get the same results. A self-programming computer doesn't have free will or intelligence. In addition, adding randomness as an input somewhere won't change that fundamental property.

The Chinese room problem firmly shows that a computer cannot possess consciousness, and I would not call a computer intelligent in the way that I call humans intelligent.

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The idea that a "choice" must somehow not be the consequence of one's nature and environment is, I submit, a wholly artificial and frankly immature -- almost petulant -- requirement.

You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience. The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail, often refusing to even have the courage of their own beliefs (as you did earlier in the thread, and as Hume famously did when he acknowledged he could not live in line with the extreme-skeptic philosophy he professed).

Quote from: Tom
Edited to add:
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It's not a matter of faith, it's a matter of reason. If matter was able to be the first principle of our life, then matter would necessarily be alive.
I also wanted to note that the above quote supplies almost the distilled essence of why I think almost all metaphysics is useless wankery.

Why?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:19:23 AM
I'm a Chesterton fan, so I'm ok with throwing him at me. In my case I think you may misunderstand. In academia I believe it's standard to use impenetrable terms because they are impenetrable. Call this a kind of job security. In my case I actually pick words carefully. IMO we have English as an advantage since it appears to be the supreme technical language, maybe co-owning that title with German. We have so many words that have nuanced differences, and I try to make full use of that. I guess you have to take my word that if I changed my posts to use different words I would be doing worse at communicating what I want to. It's a bit ironic, though, you saying my posts are too verbose when my basis thesis in this thread is that words are the problem! You might consider reading the Chesterton quote in reverse, and supposing that if someone says "degenerate" they might means something very specific that "damn" would not communicate. "Damn" might be a more generally useful word, but not in all contexts. That's why we have a separate word for each. What Chesterton is talking about is using longer words only to appear smart in a journalistic sense. He is not actually saying that philosophical texts need to contain only monosyllabic words.

I don't have a problem with a large vocabulary, I have a problem with large posts. With that quote I am nudging you, as a friend, to consider writing a bit more succinctly.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:21:18 AM
I keep checking this thread in hopes that I will determine which of the following is true:
  • I have completely missed something
  • I have not missed it but I failed to understand it, whether from insufficient attention or its complex or abstract
  • We're in "imagine a perfectly spherical, frictionless mass" territory and at least one person doesn't realize it

It is option 1; you are missing something. Our education system has clouded our ability to think clearly and confidently. The principle of sufficient reason really does imply theism, and the principle of sufficient reason would be unobjectionable in any context other than in one where someone desperately wants to resist the conclusion of theism. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:25:32 AM
No, this is mental masturbation. The syllogism holds as far as it goes. Rain makes people wet. If you get rained on, you will get wet. Is it absolute? No. If I have a raincoat on, I will get wet in a different way than if I were naked. 

But nothing about the recognition of nuance undermines the value of the syllogism or the truth statements.

I've bolded and underlined the important takeaway: the syllogism holds as far as it goes, and it is not absolute. So it might be roughly suitable for sometimes figuring out whether someone is wet from rain. It might confuse us if, concurrent with the rainfall, there was a leaky city pipe that expoded up from the ground; or if someone nearby splashed that person with a non-H2O liquid. Now we have a scenario where not only does "wet" get complicated, but the causality of the wetness becomes almost impossible to trace. But the point is that you would not want to take this simple syllogism and start building a castle of logic upon it as if it was so unassailable that, as Aquinas did, we could count it as being so certainly true that we can make a string of positive deductions from it. Note that there is no such thing as "the exception which proves the rule": if a syllogism can be shown to be false in even a single instance, logically speaking we have to reject it as being solid. Scientifically it may be 'good enough' until replaced by a better piece of induction, in the sense Kuhn meant it. You can make use of the above syllogism to test for wetness until you find a better model, but a guy working in a lab would have to know that this is a pragmatic use and not representative of it being an immutable law of the universe. For your OP to work each proposition has to be an immutable law of the universe, no exceptions, no chance of the words being muddy or lacking a clear meaning.

It's not that my syllogism is useless, it's just that we can't accept it as being ironclad. Whereas in a mathematical/logical proof the propositions cannot be muddy. I'm not sure you're really taking seriously how much of a problem language is in these matters.

Aquinas did not depend on the syllogism anymore than the modern scientist does. The scientist performs his experiments, makes his measurements, and finally, using a syllogism draws a general conclusion. It is no different with Aquinas. You are misrepresenting Aquinas's philosophy and then criticizing your misrepresentation. But I'm not here to defend everything Aquinas wrote; I am not equipped for that monumental task.

I have put forward an argument for the existence of God. It has a discrete number of steps. Instead of pointing generally at the thing and making a meta-criticism about the sort of reasoning it uses, please point to the first specific step which you believe fails and let's talk about it.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:52:14 AM
What Chesterton is talking about is using longer words only to appear smart in a journalistic sense.

That is not what he's saying in this quote, by the way. You should read the full context. He is very much criticizing the use of vague words as a poor substitute for concrete thought. link (https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/130/pg130.html).  It's the first paragraph in Chapter VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy.

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It is customary to complain of the bustle and strenuousness of our epoch. But in truth the chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle. Take one quite external case; the streets are noisy with taxicabs and motorcars; but this is not due to human activity but to human repose. There would be less bustle if there were more activity, if people were simply walking about. Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous. And this which is true of the apparent physical bustle is true also of the apparent bustle of the intellect. Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on June 30, 2022, 03:59:43 AM
It's worth noting simply that your analogy doesn't work, and this is why Tom (and I) don't accept that you've proven why circular causality can't work. Two dominos falling is a very bad way to envision what circular causality would entail. One thing is for sure: it requires that time be able to function in non-linear ways, and/or space be something whose physical limitations are not really limitations if you have the right know-how.

In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

It's worth noting, by the way, that Catholic teaching seems to require us to accept non-linear causality (which is not quite identical with circular causality), since afaik it's canonically accepted that you can pray for people in the past, present, or future, and that this works

It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here (https://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q25_A4.html) and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on June 30, 2022, 09:45:09 AM
The farting goat example was not a joke, although it was deliberately ridiculous. That said, I specifically did not ask you to tell me the ways in which it failed to meet certain metaphysical descriptors, because I intentionally framed the question in a way to not require the use of linguistic puffery like 'necessary;" as generally happens when people mix metaphysics with logic (and then try to use the result to invent reasons for observed physical reality), you're confusing one with the other. Let us imagine for a moment that an entity lacking all the attributes of an entity that you consider "necessary" is not in fact required for the universe to exist. What is our hypothetical goat lacking that would not produce a universe indistinguishable from our own?

We run into similar problems when you assert that a physical property is dependent on the existence of an object to exist, as opposed to simply being an emergent descriptor of a necessary condition. (Again, qualia don't exist.) If I say "diamonds are hard," and go on to define exactly what I mean by that -- the density and strength of a diamond, and how much compression per square centimeter it might resist, etc. -- then that remains true even if diamonds don't exist, and I'm just positing that certain forms of carbon, compressed and heated in certain scenarios, might form a material that, based on my conclusions regarding its theoretical composition, would have certain properties. The concept of "hardness" exists whether or not diamonds do. Scientists actually do this all the time, speculating on the properties of an undiscovered or as yet unsynthesized material prior to observing it or even confirming its possible existence. This is, again, because qualia do not exist, and physical "properties" in the real world are just descriptions of how types of matter express interaction with physical law in predictable ways. If you'd prefer to get away from the word "property" because it contains too much baggage, and would prefer to untether the concept of "persistence" from the thing that's persisting, you can reframe the assertion this way: "it is a fundamental physical law of the universe that, once matter or energy exists, it continues to exist." If it helps, it should be noted that this formulation is completely compliant with a strict reading of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Anyway, to get past the terminology, I submit to you that the requirements we're really looking for are as follows:

PREMISE: the Universe is theoretically comprehensible, even if we do not comprehend all of it, and does not admit logical impossibilities
THEREFORE: all things that happen, stop happening, or do not happen do so for a proximate cause/reason
PREMISE: the Universe has not always existed in its current form
THEREFORE: something happened to produce the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: the thing that happened could not have had a proximate cause that depends on the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: either Premise #1 is wrong, Premise #2 is wrong, or something is able to cause an effect in this Universe without first being caused by something else in this Universe
PREMISE: things appear to persist once they exist (and, in fact, we have never observed something ceasing to exist)
THEREFORE: either things do not really persist; things are made to persist; or it is the default nature of things to persist once they exist, and they must be made to cease existing

Would you agree that these are less loaded (and less fraught) restatements of the primary claims?

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We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing.
Here's the problem with that logic: Describe to a child the nature of the Christian God. Now describe to a child the nature of Zeus. Now describe to a child the nature of dark matter. Can he tell you which exists? If not, does that mean that they are all contingent things, or does that mean that you failed to include in your description of "nature" the line "and this one DEFINITELY exists, so be sure to remember to say so when I ask?"

Of course, the real problem here is the use of "thing" to describe a "concept." I'd argue that of all our talk about categorical differences, the difference between a thing and an idea is the most "categorical" of them all.

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Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion.
I mention animism only because your assertion that we don't talk about rocks "choosing" to fall from mountains is false on its face. We do still impute agency to objects, both as symbolic narrative and literal religious belief. It is not at all the case that we as humans are able to make easy, clear distinctions between a sapient being's "choice" and the falling of sufficiently complicated dominos. You may have observed that we as a species anthropomorphize anything; put googly eyes on a trash bin and suddenly it appears to have emotions. We feel sorry for the Mars landers and program them to sing themselves "Happy Birthday"; we pity the Voyager space probe as it fails, even as we upload code that allows it to detect its own failures for the first time -- and although we know rationally that we aren't creating a neurotic computer, we still feel a little bit bad about letting it know how often it's screwing up. Empathy is coded into most human brains at a very low level, so functional people project ourselves onto and consequently empathize with everything.

This makes conclusive statements about "rationality" very difficult, because it certainly appears to us that many animals are capable of making emotionally complex, rational decisions. We know that quite a few species are self-aware, have persistent memories, and can create narrative justifications for their own behavior. As you point out, none of your assumptions so far rely on the uniqueness of human rationality, but I'm going to make the argument that what we consider that to be is itself just a form of narrative. Can we justify our actions to ourselves and others? Then we're "rational."

This is why I'm a little baffled by the assertion that I don't have the courage of my own convictions. Given that I believe selfhood and free will to both be convenient fictions, how should I live? What should I do differently, if I sincerely believed that I'm a bunch of subroutines steered by a couple competing processes reacting to complicated stimuli? Should you treat people differently if you believed this of them -- and if so, why? I mean, we already say things like, "I'm sorry I snapped at you; my blood sugar was low" -- recognizing that our concept of self can hold the responsibility for our actions, but that the failure of various subroutines can be considered exculpatory.

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It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception.
I'm a little confused by what you're considering "the best science." I also think metaphysics is tripping you up, here; by asserting that a clump of human cells are by nature intelligent because some such cells, in certain situations, might turn into an intelligent human, you're falling into Platonism. And, yeah, that's going to drag you into the Problem of Evil. I only mentioned it because you rather unfairly slapped yossarian down, but certainly positing that all human cells should be considered to carry a God-given property of "intelligence" in a way a dog's cells would not exposes you to a whole bunch of such problems.

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The Chinese room problem firmly shows that a computer cannot possess consciousness...
Firmly? Are you under the impression that the Chinese Room Argument is considered authoritative? Or even that its definition of "consciousness" is generally accepted?

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You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience.
You believe you experience unbounded choice? On what basis?

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The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail...
I'm honestly very curious -- although this a digression -- to hear how one might recognize a "successful" philosophy.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 30, 2022, 07:35:29 PM
I don't have a problem with a large vocabulary, I have a problem with large posts. With that quote I am nudging you, as a friend, to consider writing a bit more succinctly.

!
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on June 30, 2022, 07:46:39 PM
That is not what he's saying in this quote, by the way. You should read the full context. He is very much criticizing the use of vague words as a poor substitute for concrete thought. link (https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/130/pg130.html).  It's the first paragraph in Chapter VIII The Romance of Orthodoxy.

I've read Orthodoxy several times. One thing to keep in mind with Chesterton is he himself is a journalist, so he's often in the habit (stylistically) of writing in his famous 'paradoxical' prose with quite cute structure to his statements. He's a journalist first, not a logician or philosopher; and although I like and relate to much of what he says in Orthodoxy, he's not exactly aiming for precision or completion in his assertions. He makes them, but rarely backs them up. That's ok; but it forces one to draw one's own conclusions. In the quote you provided I don't think he's talking about literal laziness since it would be quite remarkable to imply that intellectuals and academics are trying to avoid labor. My poly-sci professor friend jokingly calls himself an intellectual laborer, likening most academic work to mental work in a field. It's pretty much the opposite of laziness. So I surmise that Chesterton is referring to something a bit deeper, like style standing in place of bold views of life, and so forth. Hence: he's talking about people using pretentious sentences to sound smart when it fact that's not what makes someone smart. I never heard him accuse anyone of writing a long response to a question...

But joking aside, per your suggestion that I should be brief in my answers, I admit fully that I have always chosen clarity over readability. I intentionally give up making short and pithy statements, in order to (hopefully) increase the chance that what's being said is understood. In a forum (and world) where most people talk past each other, it's a price I pay gladly. If I was a journalist this would be a major writing fault, and if I was writing a book I would have a very different objective in my style. But here I hope to get people seeing the same thing before agreeing or disagreeing about it. So let me offer you the reverse advice: perhaps it's the short and simple syllogism that leaves too much vague and unclear, that requires a lengthy treatment. I don't think a proposition such as your OP offers can really be dissected adequately in space short of a book, to be honest. So we try to be quicker than that here, but it's really hard to know we aren't just blowing wind at each other. That's what I want to work through - do we really mean the same things, and see the same issues. Look how long it's taking for you and Tom to agree on the actual requirements of the argument, no less whether your version of it holds water? And that's not a bad thing; it should require a lot of back and forth.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 01, 2022, 10:25:41 AM
In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

I know. But if your reasoning isn't up to knowing all the mysteries of the finite, how can it be up to figuring out how the infinite works? As I've mentioned, I don't even disagree in the slightest that the idea of the divine propping up present reality makes sense. My only issue is whether you can present it as an indisputable fact. The issue about non-linear causality was only to address the part of the argument that included finite causes of events, since you were talking about what allows balls to roll and so forth. If you eliminate that issue and are now strictly talking about the property of sustaining reality then perhaps that argument isn't useful, no. But then I would also argue that most of the reasoning process in OP is a bit misleading. I know that you are always talking about why things exist at all, yet the language inescapably refers to the "why" of things, which can't help but be chronological. I'll give a few examples of this:

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things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist

This line was one of my biggest problems with the syllogism, first and foremost because I don't agree that "we can see that there are reasonings for why things exist." We may guess such, but we don't see it. It's not an observation but rather a model. Regardless, what we do see is our interpretation of a chain of causation: this thing happened because that thing happened. So what you are referring to here isn't mathematical theorems, but real-life inference that things cause other things. We most certainly do not see the infinite propping up of existence; if we did you could just state that as an axiom and it would be your full argument. Therefore your argument needs to fundamentally rely on our attempts at interpretation of chronological facts. Now we do mathematics as well, which are (we propose) purely theoretical, and this does seem to work; we can see this especially since it's borne out in engineering. So on a practical level we do have a way to test whether our logic works or is full of hot air. But more on this in the next point:

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But science and philosophy do fu[n]ction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

To the extent that they function it's because we put them to practical purpose. Sometimes our reasoning process is wrong, and this gets winnowed out eventually in practical failure. Sometimes our logic is valid and the results show that. But it's always been bad to trust out reasoning process with no test, because we could be totally wrong and not know it. Plenty of people thought epicycles made total sense to explain orbits. Well maybe they did, but it was wrong anyhow. Good abstraction (well, arguable) but factually incorrect. How can we assert any abstraction is definitely correct if it's not testable? When we're talking about an abstraction that is literally not about the mechanics of physical reality we don't have any other examples of philosophy "working" in this sense. So how can we assert that our ability to learn about reality translates into knowledge of the infinite? We don't have any other tested knowledge of the infinite to show that this reasoning process is reliable. Now I'm not saying we can't think about it, or even that we can't think about it in very interesting ways. But we have no basis to say that we *know* we can do it correctly. And in this case it could be epicycles and we'd never know it because there's no empirical system to show us our error.

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3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

Here we have another issue with chronological language and thinking: we see a thing and ask why it "exists". But things are not really things, as Tom pointed out: matter is always transitioning, even if slowly. So we can only really ask why reality exists, not discreet things. But we don't actually see reality: we see things in their moment to moment changings. We see chronology, or at least we apparently do. It is already a difficult philosophical topic to address how we know there is continuity in a thing between one moment and the next. But it's worse when we consider that our entire observational and thinking apparatus is geared toward swimming in the current, if you will. We don't see still water, but movement. So it is very hard if you look at all scales at once to say we see why individual things exist. As I mentioned, we'd have to say we see that existence exists. Its apparent persistence is that makes you ask what force causes it to persist, but I would argue that this black hole in our knowledge of the finite makes it very hard to even say what it is we are seeing: is physical space and distance an illusion: are we living on a 2D surface in a holographic reality? And yes, even that reality would perhaps need a cause, but my point is that if we are basing our premises on our viewing of everyday reality and saying that our knowledge of it 'works' and 'makes sense' our arguments will always be grounded in our everyday kind of thinking, and so will our framing of the question.

All this to say - framing the language of the question is really, really hard. I know you want short posts from me but there's literally no way to illustrate these points in a shorter time. Frankly I've done them a disservice by writing them so briefly.

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It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here (https://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q25_A4.html) and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.

This point I can actually show pretty trivially: if God exists out of time, and if God materially affects reality at various points in time, then God not only sees all of reality as one, but with knowledge of that one communes with and adds to the system throughout. When seen this way, it would actually be a contradiction to say God could not observe a prayer from the future and answer it in the past, because it would imply that he didn't know the future when interacting with the past, which we know is not true. Of course He could, He is in communion with the whole thing at once. I could give a lot more, but this is a short version. As for canon, I agree it doesn't necessarily agree you can 'change' the past, but it does say you can change the future (not the present, the future).
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 04:57:17 AM
The farting goat example was not a joke, although it was deliberately ridiculous. That said, I specifically did not ask you to tell me the ways in which it failed to meet certain metaphysical descriptors, because I intentionally framed the question in a way to not require the use of linguistic puffery like 'necessary;" as generally happens when people mix metaphysics with logic (and then try to use the result to invent reasons for observed physical reality), you're confusing one with the other. Let us imagine for a moment that an entity lacking all the attributes of an entity that you consider "necessary" is not in fact required for the universe to exist. What is our hypothetical goat lacking that would not produce a universe indistinguishable from our own?

I've given compelling reasons why Tom's Goat is not a sufficient or final explanation of why the Universe exists. Calling it linguistic puffery does not constitute a response.

To summarize my longer post above, Tom's Goat lacks:
* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
* The power to sustain the universe it created in existence. In this moment, Tom's Goat no longer exists; a thing which doesn't exist cannot be an explanation for why I exist in this timeslice. It can be an historical cause, but that is not a complete explanation. As you acknowledge, you would need something like the sustaining property you posited, and I've shown you why that property doesn't make any sense.

We run into similar problems when you assert that a physical property is dependent on the existence of an object to exist, as opposed to simply being an emergent descriptor of a necessary condition. (Again, qualia don't exist.) If I say "diamonds are hard," and go on to define exactly what I mean by that -- the density and strength of a diamond, and how much compression per square centimeter it might resist, etc. -- then that remains true even if diamonds don't exist, and I'm just positing that certain forms of carbon, compressed and heated in certain scenarios, might form a material that, based on my conclusions regarding its theoretical composition, would have certain properties. The concept of "hardness" exists whether or not diamonds do. Scientists actually do this all the time, speculating on the properties of an undiscovered or as yet unsynthesized material prior to observing it or even confirming its possible existence. This is, again, because qualia do not exist, and physical "properties" in the real world are just descriptions of how types of matter express interaction with physical law in predictable ways. If you'd prefer to get away from the word "property" because it contains too much baggage, and would prefer to untether the concept of "persistence" from the thing that's persisting, you can reframe the assertion this way: "it is a fundamental physical law of the universe that, once matter or energy exists, it continues to exist." If it helps, it should be noted that this formulation is completely compliant with a strict reading of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property. The whole point of the PSR is that it rejects bruteness; just asserting a brute fact a few layers deep doesn't explain anything and is a betrayal of the PSR.


Anyway, to get past the terminology, I submit to you that the requirements we're really looking for are as follows:

PREMISE: the Universe is theoretically comprehensible, even if we do not comprehend all of it, and does not admit logical impossibilities
THEREFORE: all things that happen, stop happening, or do not happen do so for a proximate cause/reason
PREMISE: the Universe has not always existed in its current form
THEREFORE: something happened to produce the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: the thing that happened could not have had a proximate cause that depends on the Universe in its current form
THEREFORE: either Premise #1 is wrong, Premise #2 is wrong, or something is able to cause an effect in this Universe without first being caused by something else in this Universe
PREMISE: things appear to persist once they exist (and, in fact, we have never observed something ceasing to exist)
THEREFORE: either things do not really persist; things are made to persist; or it is the default nature of things to persist once they exist, and they must be made to cease existing

Would you agree that these are less loaded (and less fraught) restatements of the primary claims?

No, I do not think line two holds, for the reasons I've outlined in this thread. Existence and non-existence don't have the equality you are setting up here.

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We can see this by describing to a child the nature of an elephant, a dinosaur, and a unicorn. If you then asked the child which one exists, which one did exist, and which one never existed, he couldn't tell you. That is because in all contingent things existence is something that is added to the essence of the thing.
Here's the problem with that logic: Describe to a child the nature of the Christian God. Now describe to a child the nature of Zeus. Now describe to a child the nature of dark matter. Can he tell you which exists? If not, does that mean that they are all contingent things, or does that mean that you failed to include in your description of "nature" the line "and this one DEFINITELY exists, so be sure to remember to say so when I ask?"

If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence. As I outlined a few times above, if God's existence was distinct from his essence, he would not satisfy the PSR; something would have had to given existence to his essence.

If a child could understand the essence of Zeus, he would not be able to know whether Zeus exists. Perhaps demigods do exist, perhaps they don't. Nothing about their essence tells us which it is. It is similarly the case with dark matter.

Of course, the real problem here is the use of "thing" to describe a "concept." I'd argue that of all our talk about categorical differences, the difference between a thing and an idea is the most "categorical" of them all.

A thing has existence; it has being. A concept does not have existence in that way. They are different.

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Rocks don't have agency, regardless of what some ancient person might have thought. If you want to take the contrary position rather than just pointing out that someone else once thought it, we can have that discussion.
I mention animism only because your assertion that we don't talk about rocks "choosing" to fall from mountains is false on its face. We do still impute agency to objects, both as symbolic narrative and literal religious belief.

Once again, if you'd like to pick up animism and defend it, we can talk about why its a terrible idea. If you just want to bring it up as a vague "someone somewhere disagrees with you", I don't get the point. Someone somewhere disagrees with virtually everything anyone has ever said.

It is not at all the case that we as humans are able to make easy, clear distinctions between a sapient being's "choice" and the falling of sufficiently complicated dominos.

Yes we are. Dominoes don't act anything like humans. They don't act like animals. They don't even act like plants. Dominoes act like dominoes, which is similar to all other inanimate things. Living things act entirely differently.


it certainly appears to us that many animals are capable of making emotionally complex, rational decisions. We know that quite a few species are self-aware, have persistent memories, and can create narrative justifications for their own behavior. As you point out, none of your assumptions so far rely on the uniqueness of human rationality, but I'm going to make the argument that what we consider that to be is itself just a form of narrative. Can we justify our actions to ourselves and others? Then we're "rational."

That is not what I mean when I use the word rational. To be rational is to have the power to know and the power of will.

Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot. Humans have free will while animals choose through instinct alone. Rationality is those powers: the intellect and the will.

This is why I'm a little baffled by the assertion that I don't have the courage of my own convictions.

I was referencing your memristor's comment a few pages back.


Given that I believe selfhood and free will to both be convenient fictions, how should I live? What should I do differently, if I sincerely believed that I'm a bunch of subroutines steered by a couple competing processes reacting to complicated stimuli? Should you treat people differently if you believed this of them -- and if so, why? I mean, we already say things like, "I'm sorry I snapped at you; my blood sugar was low" -- recognizing that our concept of self can hold the responsibility for our actions, but that the failure of various subroutines can be considered exculpatory.

If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must". You must live exactly how you must live, which was dictated by the first moment of the Universe. There is no meaning to the word "should" outside of the context of free choice. There is only the cold iron of "must".

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It is the unborn child's nature to be human from the first moment of life, which the best science tells us is the moment of conception.
I'm a little confused by what you're considering "the best science." I also think metaphysics is tripping you up, here; by asserting that a clump of human cells are by nature intelligent because some such cells, in certain situations, might turn into an intelligent human, you're falling into Platonism. And, yeah, that's going to drag you into the Problem of Evil. I only mentioned it because you rather unfairly slapped yossarian down, but certainly positing that all human cells should be considered to carry a God-given property of "intelligence" in a way a dog's cells would not exposes you to a whole bunch of such problems.

Science tell us that the unborn child has life independent from its mother's life, and that it has unique human DNA. Of course, the child is highly dependent, like us all, on its environment. That is not what I mean by independent.

The child's nature is to think. When a person is in a coma and ceases to think or be conscious, their nature doesn't change. They don't suddenly become just a clump of cells in the shape of a 40 year old body. They remain a person, even though they aren't currently conscious. We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.

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You can think whatever you'd like. Free choice is the immediate reality we all experience and, upon reflection, is the best-fit explanation for what we experience.
You believe you experience unbounded choice? On what basis?

No. I believe we experience bounded choice. On the basis that it is what I experience. I put two coins on the table in front of me and I truly can pick either. I can choose to try to have another child or not. I can choose to go to sleep now or wait an hour. That is the immediate and most obvious experience every person has. You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified. Your hovel of a philosophy of materialism and determinism does not offer any justification; it just offers despair and nihilism.

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The philosophies which permit choice in their model flourish and succeed while the philosophers who attempt to reject choice fall flat and fail...
I'm honestly very curious -- although this a digression -- to hear how one might recognize a "successful" philosophy.

A philosophy is successful insofar as it is true or is a good approximation of the truth. It is successful when it models the full range of human experience in a coherent way and enables you to think and understand reality better.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 05:19:27 AM
In my first post I am talking about a hierarchical series of causes (i.e. right here in this moment) so talking about time-travel isn't responsive. Posit whatever scifi you want about the arrow of time; I am talking about right here in this single timeslice.

I know. But if your reasoning isn't up to knowing all the mysteries of the finite, how can it be up to figuring out how the infinite works?

I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

As I've mentioned, I don't even disagree in the slightest that the idea of the divine propping up present reality makes sense. My only issue is whether you can present it as an indisputable fact.

I think it is disputable; everyone disputes everything. I am here to talk about those disputes. I think the argument on the first page is a compelling proof; I am not using the word proof in the sense that mathematicians use it in the context of math. I am using it in the sense that philosophers use it in the context of philosophy.

I think the argument should convince someone to take a serious look at monotheism.  I don't think my 30-line summary represents an iron-clad thing; I think it is a summary of a proof. There are plenty of things to talk about in the gaps, and I'm here glad to talk about them.

But then I would also argue that most of the reasoning process in OP is a bit misleading. I know that you are always talking about why things exist at all, yet the language inescapably refers to the "why" of things, which can't help but be chronological. I'll give a few examples of this:
Quote from: JoshuaD
things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist

This line was one of my biggest problems with the syllogism...

As I have mentioned, that line is invoking the Principle of Sufficient Reason; nothing less and nothing more. Do you dispute the PSR?

Quote from: JoshuaD
But science and philosophy do fu[n]ction, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality.

To the extent that they function it's because we put them to practical purpose. Sometimes our reasoning process is wrong, and this gets winnowed out eventually in practical failure. Sometimes our logic is valid and the results show that. But it's always been bad to trust out reasoning process with no test, because we could be totally wrong and not know it. Plenty of people thought epicycles made total sense to explain orbits. Well maybe they did, but it was wrong anyhow. Good abstraction (well, arguable) but factually incorrect. How can we assert any abstraction is definitely correct if it's not testable? When we're talking about an abstraction that is literally not about the mechanics of physical reality we don't have any other examples of philosophy "working" in this sense. So how can we assert that our ability to learn about reality translates into knowledge of the infinite? We don't have any other tested knowledge of the infinite to show that this reasoning process is reliable. Now I'm not saying we can't think about it, or even that we can't think about it in very interesting ways. But we have no basis to say that we *know* we can do it correctly. And in this case it could be epicycles and we'd never know it because there's no empirical system to show us our error.

That line is a short defense of the principle of sufficient reason and your response misses my point. Whether or not a particular explanation we come up with is accurate or not, that process of trying to explain things indicates there is an explanation. Philosophy and science rely upon the PSR, and their successes argue that the PSR is true.

Quote from: JoshuaD
3. The explanation of the existence of any thing is found either:
  a. In an external cause (in which case, the thing's existence is contingent upon that external cause), or
  b. In the nature of the thing itself (in which case, that thing necessarily exists).

Here we have another issue with chronological language and thinking: we see a thing and ask why it "exists". But things are not really things, as Tom pointed out: matter is always transitioning, even if slowly. So we can only really ask why reality exists, not discreet things.

No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist. We were born, we will live for some time, and we will die. Our names aren't just labels we put on a little tiny portion of a river of ever-changing matter; we are real.

But we don't actually see reality: we see things in their moment to moment changings. We see chronology, or at least we apparently do. It is already a difficult philosophical topic to address how we know there is continuity in a thing between one moment and the next. But it's worse when we consider that our entire observational and thinking apparatus is geared toward swimming in the current, if you will. We don't see still water, but movement. So it is very hard if you look at all scales at once to say we see why individual things exist. As I mentioned, we'd have to say we see that existence exists. Its apparent persistence is that makes you ask what force causes it to persist, but I would argue that this black hole in our knowledge of the finite makes it very hard to even say what it is we are seeing: is physical space and distance an illusion: are we living on a 2D surface in a holographic reality? And yes, even that reality would perhaps need a cause, but my point is that if we are basing our premises on our viewing of everyday reality and saying that our knowledge of it 'works' and 'makes sense' our arguments will always be grounded in our everyday kind of thinking, and so will our framing of the question.

All this to say - framing the language of the question is really, really hard. I know you want short posts from me but there's literally no way to illustrate these points in a shorter time. Frankly I've done them a disservice by writing them so briefly.

I appreciate the effort, and I feel bad that I've come after you in a few places lately. You just happened to hit my two most common frustrations in long-form discussions like this.

We do actually see reality. We don't see it fully, but we do see it. Our senses are not possessed by tricky demons. Go outside and bury your hands in the cool dirt; that really is dirt, and it really is real.

The fact that reality is complex doesn't undermine the argument I presented in the first post.

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It is certainly not canon that our prayer can affect the past. The Church is silent on this question. While people are permitted to pray for anything they'd like, the Church does not affirm or deny that it can be effective. Interestingly, Aquinas talks about this question here (https://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q25_A4.html) and rejects the possibility of God changing the past as he believes it would create a contradiction.

This point I can actually show pretty trivially: if God exists out of time, and if God materially affects reality at various points in time, then God not only sees all of reality as one, but with knowledge of that one communes with and adds to the system throughout. When seen this way, it would actually be a contradiction to say God could not observe a prayer from the future and answer it in the past, because it would imply that he didn't know the future when interacting with the past, which we know is not true. Of course He could, He is in communion with the whole thing at once. I could give a lot more, but this is a short version. As for canon, I agree it doesn't necessarily agree you can 'change' the past, but it does say you can change the future (not the present, the future).

:shrug:. I don't have a horse in this race. The only point I am making is that you were wrong when you said this "since afaik it's canonically accepted that you can pray for people in the past, present, or future, and that this works".

It is it not canonically accepted. The Church is silent on the question.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 05, 2022, 09:36:07 AM
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* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
Where did your hypothetical God come from? From the perspective of this universe, that goat has always existed. Maybe it was born of another goat in another universe; that's not knowable, and -- more importantly -- it doesn't matter. Remember, we're looking for an explanation that satisfies all your requirements, and nowhere in your requirements do you demand an explanation for things that exist outside of our timestream. In fact, your alternate hypothesis absolutely relies on such a thing, with no further explanation posited.

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As you acknowledge, you would need something like the sustaining property you posited, and I've shown you why that property doesn't make any sense.
No, you haven't. Go ahead and give it another shot, if you'd like. I've acknowledged the need for some explanation of persistence, and have asserted that existence can simply be a property of matter -- that, in fact, a strict reading of the PSR mandates the persistence of things that exist, unless they are given a reason to cease existing. Feel free to prove otherwise, but don't waste our time by pretending that metaphysical "properties" somehow need to attach to physical objects before they can exist as concepts. That sort of linguistic laziness doesn't have any place in an argument attempting to refine a philosophy that models reality.

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It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property.
Nope. This fundamentally misunderstands the PSR. Otherwise anything we could not explain but which almost certainly has an explanation -- like, say, solar weather -- would violate it.

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Existence and non-existence don't have the equality you are setting up here.
Why is non-existence a default, again?

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If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence.
Can you explain how that differs functionally from what I said -- namely, that a child would only "know" this because, in your description of God, you also said, "Oh, yeah, and this God also definitely exists, because that's how we're defining this hypothetical?" This is not a valid argument, I'm afraid. There is absolutely nothing preventing someone from asserting that the essence of Zeus is that he's real and responsible for all the humans on this planet, and thus necessarily exists. A child would have absolutely no way of telling which assertion is true. (This is partly because no evidence for Zeus or God actually exists, and thus any such claims are untestable.) Here I'm just pointing out the weakness of this rhetorical thrust, of course; I don't particularly care what a child would say, but think it's important to note that "existence" is only part of a given god's "essence" if someone defines the god that way -- at which point the whole thing becomes pointlessly circular.

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Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot.
Since this is an unprovable assertion, let's put it to bed and stop using it as an argument. I simply reject it, and argue that you cannot support your claim. Robots can move, remember, estimate, and perceive, and can even be made to "imagine" depending on your definition. Animals can in fact judge and reason, and some have demonstrated knowledge of what you're calling "universals" here. The lines are far, far fuzzier than you're asserting.

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If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must".
Sure. But you've dodged my question. If I sincerely believed in a deterministic universe -- and, let me reiterate, I do -- how should I live? How must I live? What would someone who sincerely believed do differently that someone who lacked the courage of his convictions would not?

I argue that there is no observable difference between life in a universe where you can choose "freely" between two coins and a universe where you're going to inevitably pick one of those two coins.

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We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.
You recognize that the current primary medical standard for death is in fact brain death, right? Someone merely in a coma is not brain dead -- but a clump of cells that has not yet developed EEG activity, or an adult who registers as fully brain-dead, is not considered alive.

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You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified.
Not only do I believe that the cost is not particularly high, but I also believe I have justified that cost in my earlier post. What part do you dispute? I do not, for example, believe that I am particularly saddled with despair. Neither am I a nihilist. Perhaps the issue is that you, personally, find existence lacking without a properly comforting story?

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A philosophy is successful insofar as it is true or is a good approximation of the truth. It is successful when it models the full range of human experience in a coherent way and enables you to think and understand reality better.
So I need to observe two things, here: 1) by your own definition, the popularity of a philosophy is not evidence of its success; 2) even if a philosophy leads to despair, by your definition that philosophy is more successful if it correctly models reality. Do you still agree with your definition?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 05, 2022, 01:21:44 PM
I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

Are you suggesting that the god (or necessary cause) behind all things may be fininite in its nature? If that were so then it would especially wrought to call that thing God, I think.

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As I have mentioned, that line is invoking the Principle of Sufficient Reason; nothing less and nothing more. Do you dispute the PSR?

You can see my answer to this earlier on this page. We can take this Wiki summary of differing versions of PSR as a reference point:

The principle has a variety of expressions, all of which are perhaps best summarized by the following:

For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists.
For every event E, if E occurs, then there is a sufficient explanation for why E occurs.
For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true.


We could perhaps quibble about whether there's a better way to state it, but I'll address this version. The long and short of it is that things happen for reasons, and cannot lack a cause. This is an axiom since I don't know how we can demonstrate it, but I do happen to agree that we should assume that reasons exist for things. However nowhere in this set of proposition does it say that for every sufficient explanation that exists, human beings in the current era can discover and understand that explanation. And that's taking the three clauses at face value. It is perfectly consistent with this PSR to say that there are reasons, and that these reasons are currently beyond us; and also to say that the reasons are not knowable to us ever. It's Aristotle's conceit that not only are all things intelligible, but additionally that just using pen and ink he could figure them all out quickly.

Now I could also go into language issues with this type of clause. As we've covered previously, when we say "why X exists", does this refer to the mere fact of existence as a whole (e.g. "why is there anything?"), or rather does it inquire about the causal circumstance leading a particular phenomenon (or being) into its current state (e.g. "how did that chair come to exist?"). The former we have been discussing, but I would suggest that this is probably not the primary purpose of clause 1 since it's referring to X, implying X will be substituted by all number of things. If all it meant was existence itself then the clause being formulated this way would be misleading. I think clause 1 maybe is meant to be more scientific than metaphysical: it is suggesting that we can figure out why things are the way they are. And in that case we need to define what things are in great detail and can't just rest on our language laurels and assume the statement is self-evident. Further, if we are looking rationally at natural causes, it becomes troublesome to ask "why" about anything; natural philosophy seems to show time and again that we figure out how and what, but not why. We can perhaps say what happens when protons and electrons interact; but none of this tells us why there are protons and electrons. Maybe at some point physics will get us there, but right now we don't really tackle 'why'. So in clause 1 "why" either means "explain how and of what something is constituted" or else it is asking for first reasons, which we don't have, in which case clause 1 is really suspect. How can we ever prove we have found a metaphysical 'why' for something?

Clause 2 seems to ask more process-oriented issues; how things move and transition. Maybe we can derive rules about this. But our induction-deduction system is a self-contained system which doesn't reference exterior truths if there are any. It's a model of function, where the model is called 'laws'. And again, unless clause 2 is really only asking "why does anything happen" (i.e. "God does it") then it would seem to involve what we now call scientific thinking. But that type of induction-deduction is empirical, not metaphysical.

For clause 3 we run into a possible translation issue: as I haven't read Spinoza at all, or Leibnitz in German(?), I can't be sure if this clause means mathematical propositions or empirical modelling propositions. These are very different and have different standards of evidence. Saying that a "proposition", if true, will have a reason for being true, means something very different if it's a theorem versus a current model of physical motion. If it's a theorem then part of the reason is wrapped up in the axioms of the math system, and part if it has to do with how humans think (i.e. its statement is partially a restatement, or reiteration, of how we think). If we're talking about a physical model then its truth-content would be found in accuracy and repeatability. However in this case we wouldn't really assert "truth" to its findings, but rather a pragmatic statement that it seems to work.

Personally I have a problem with how these 3 clauses are formulated. I think even their phrasing suggests a weak understanding of reality is constituted. I don't have a problem with saying things have reasons, but do have a problem with being too cocksure that we can just spell out how things work or why they work. That "why" is a huge problem. And I would suggest that if we are divorcing the mechanics of physical reality (i.e. what science investigates) from what these clauses are for then my best guess would be that we're actually diverging from what the philosophers using PSR thought it meant. I don't think a medieval thinker would have necessarily distinguished between natural science and metaphysics. But we need to.
 
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That line is a short defense of the principle of sufficient reason and your response misses my point. Whether or not a particular explanation we come up with is accurate or not, that process of trying to explain things indicates there is an explanation. Philosophy and science rely upon the PSR, and their successes argue that the PSR is true.

I don't think you understand my point: a wrong statement about PSR (or one based on it) will never be subject to disproof since it's just an axiom. Some aspects of philosophy in the past have been shuffled over into science: those are subject to winnowing since we can be proven wrong. Those areas still remaining in metaphysics are not subject to our wrongness being shoved in our faces by practical results. Therefore we don't have any grounds to say that 'success' in philosophy shows that PSR holds. As Tom and I have mentioned, I don't even know what "successes in philosophy" would look like, no less that they argue that PSR is true. Even if philosophy has successes, maybe they suggest something else is true rather than PSR? PSR is just an attempt to explicate how we can accomplish things. Maybe it's not the right explanation.

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No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist.

I'm not sure you realize how fraught this area of philosophy is. Just to show continuity of a person alone (in physical terms) would be a major piece of work. You could do your life's work on it. As for thing, no; the understanding most Ancients had about things is demonstrably wrong. Heraclitus was an interesting case of an out-of-box thinker, but most people seemed to take it for granted that words and things were simple. A chair is not just a chair, a lot is going on there. The details matter. But it does seem to retain shape over time: how does it do this, and for how long? If a chair can exist for a few thousand years before it disintegrates, does the timescale of 1 year somehow show that it's not a flow of changing matter, since over millions of years that chair will assuredly not be a chair anymore? And if timescale matters, then what we're talking about is rate of flow, rather than static existence. No one prior to recent times knew that (other than Heraclitus, of course!), but it directly affects what "thing" means in a formal sense.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on July 05, 2022, 01:30:32 PM
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I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.

None of the theories that remove time from physical equations have made much headway, and none of them can account for our subjective experience of moving through time.

Given our knowledge of the big bang, it seems much more scientific and reasonable to believe the universe had a beginning. In addition, there are real problems with positing that something which is complex has always existed; when two things are put together the question naturally is begged: why are those things put together? God is perfectly simple; his essence is his existence; so his existence doesn't beg this question.

Why can you ascribe this perfect simplicity with God and not the matter/energy of the universe? The matter/energy of the universe exists. I know it exists because we live in this universe. I don't know about God's existence or essence because God doesn't exist (to an observer) within our universe.

A God absolutely begs the question of how? where? what? why? Just as the existence of the universe begs those questions. You're just abstracting up one layer, saying God did it all like that actually answers any of those fundamental questions.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on July 05, 2022, 01:39:30 PM
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Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds?

Yes. It is much worse to kill your neighbor than it is to kill your neighbor's dog. Human's rational minds makes us more special and valuable than animals. Rationality isn't necessarily exclusive to humans, although it appears that way on earth.
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Define what you mean by rationality here. Other animals problem solve, communicate, form relationships, and have emotions. We do it with a slightly greater degree of complexity. What's the essential uniqueness of humans? That we do all of these with a larger degree of complexity than our ape cousins?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: yossarian22c on July 05, 2022, 01:53:36 PM
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And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life?

The earth is pretty comfy. We live here, not in space.

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Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity.

I think you imagine it was work for God to create the cosmos; that it would have been less labor to build something less large. That's not the case.

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Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design.

It doesn't appear that way to me at all.

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If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

Yeah, and the earth could be an infinite plane. Or we could all have 10 higher IQ points. Or we could breath underwater. Or cheetahs could run 10 MPH faster.

It is the case that God made limited creatures that are less perfect than him. That is fitting and isn't an argument against his existence.
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I'm not making an argument about should human's have been designed better. I'm making the argument that the cosmos are mostly hostile to biological life of any kind. And very, very, minor tweaks to physical laws could make dwarf stars that last trillions instead of billions of years an ideal place for biological life. And with only slight variances in Venus and Mars they could be hospitable for life as well. So did "God" design the universe for life to be exceedingly rare? If so, why? You've posited that human rationality is one of the special purposes of creation. If so why not a cosmos that is hospitable to life. Why not a society on Mars we could debate meta-physics with? If you're going with both grand design and humans/rational beings are special then why will humans exist for such a small portion of the length of time of the cosmos? Absent colonizing other stars we have at best (assuming we don't kill each other off first) a couple billion years before the Earth isn't so nice any more. So all time/space and everything exists for rational life to float around an average star for a short period of time in the grand scheme? What's the simple explanation for that? More space and time are easy to create so God said why not?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 05, 2022, 03:53:08 PM
Btw, sorry Joshua that I had to write another long response. I tried editing it down...but not sure how to cut more of it without failing to say what I wanted to say...
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 04:51:37 PM
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* Finality in its explanation -- the question remains, "where did Tom's Goat come from?"
Where did your hypothetical God come from?

This is why I am telling you that you aren't understanding the thing I'm saying. God didn't come from anywhere. He necessarily exists. If he came from somewhere, then there would be a cause for that, and then he wouldn't be the thing I am pointing at. It might be a celestial farting goat or it might be Zeus, but he wouldn't be God. And the existence of those things -- if they did exist -- would argue for the existence of the God I am pointing at just as much as the flower in my garden argues for the existence of God.

From the perspective of this universe, that goat has always existed. Maybe it was born of another goat in another universe; that's not knowable, and -- more importantly -- it doesn't matter. Remember, we're looking for an explanation that satisfies all your requirements, and nowhere in your requirements do you demand an explanation for things that exist outside of our timestream. In fact, your alternate hypothesis absolutely relies on such a thing, with no further explanation posited.

The thing I am talking about is not limited to "our timestream". If the goat was born, it does not satisfy the requirements for the argument of the first post, because it doesn't necessarily exist. I don't want to keep going around on this point.

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It is compliant with the PSR, but you then need to then explain why the universe has that property. The whole point of the PSR is that it rejects bruteness; just asserting a brute fact a few layers deep doesn't explain anything and is a betrayal of the PSR.
Nope. This fundamentally misunderstands the PSR. Otherwise anything we could not explain but which almost certainly has an explanation -- like, say, solar weather -- would violate it.

I am not saying we need to know the explanation, I'm saying that there has to be one. Your proposed law of nature is just a brute assertion. Nothing about it is coherent; the nature of it is that it requires further explanation, but you refuse to explain it further.

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If a child could understand the essence of the Christian God, the child would know that God exists, because God's existence is his essence.
Can you explain how that differs functionally from what I said -- namely, that a child would only "know" this because, in your description of God, you also said, "Oh, yeah, and this God also definitely exists, because that's how we're defining this hypothetical?" This is not a valid argument, I'm afraid. There is absolutely nothing preventing someone from asserting that the essence of Zeus is that he's real and responsible for all the humans on this planet, and thus necessarily exists. A child would have absolutely no way of telling which assertion is true. (This is partly because no evidence for Zeus or God actually exists, and thus any such claims are untestable.) Here I'm just pointing out the weakness of this rhetorical thrust, of course; I don't particularly care what a child would say, but think it's important to note that "existence" is only part of a given god's "essence" if someone defines the god that way -- at which point the whole thing becomes pointlessly circular.

It's not circular. We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us. Through seeing that and with reason we can see that there must be something whose essence is its existence, which is perfectly simple, and which causes all other things to be compound in that way.


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Animals have lots of powers: they can move, remember, imagine, estimate, perceive, and so on. Humans can have knowledge of universals and can judge and reason in a way that animals cannot.
Since this is an unprovable assertion, let's put it to bed and stop using it as an argument. I simply reject it, and argue that you cannot support your claim. Robots can move, remember, estimate, and perceive, and can even be made to "imagine" depending on your definition. Animals can in fact judge and reason, and some have demonstrated knowledge of what you're calling "universals" here. The lines are far, far fuzzier than you're asserting.

Yeah, this is why your philosophy fails. It "simply rejects" plenty of obvious and immediate truths. And often only when it is convenient to do so. Of course humans are categorically different than animals: look at every single legal system ever created and every single functioning society. They are successful because they rely upon this obvious truth in this constitution.

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If selfhood and will are fictions, there is no "should". There is only "must".
Sure. But you've dodged my question. If I sincerely believed in a deterministic universe -- and, let me reiterate, I do -- how should I live? How must I live? What would someone who sincerely believed do differently that someone who lacked the courage of his convictions would not?

You would live as the big-bang (or Tom's Goat, or a necessitarianist God) requires. There would be no morality to your actions because there is no choice. You just do whatever it is you have to do, like a puppet on a string.

I argue that there is no observable difference between life in a universe where you can choose "freely" between two coins and a universe where you're going to inevitably pick one of those two coins.

1. Humans seem to make choices. Things seem to move according to laws of nature. Even complex things like computers.
2. Your philosophy cannot account for consciousness. This is the most immediate and obvious experience we all have, and your materialist deterministic philosophy just sweeps it under the rug with some techno-babble and a dogmatic assertion about material.

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We can no more justly kill the unborn child than we can kill the 40 year old man in the coma.
You recognize that the current primary medical standard for death is in fact brain death, right? Someone merely in a coma is not brain dead -- but a clump of cells that has not yet developed EEG activity, or an adult who registers as fully brain-dead, is not considered alive.

Let me count all of the ways I care zero about what the "current medical standard" is. Black people were once animals according to the "current medical standard". Men can mutilate their bodies and become women according to the "current medical standard". Slicing up the brain was once a good idea according to the "current medical standard".

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You can deny it, but the philosophical cost is high, and that cost needs to be justified.
Not only do I believe that the cost is not particularly high, but I also believe I have justified that cost in my earlier post. What part do you dispute?

You haven't offered a compelling reason for why we should contort reality and human experience, and ignore subjective experience and reject the realness of morality, in favor of a materialist, deterministic system. You just shrug and say "yeah, we should do that."

I do not, for example, believe that I am particularly saddled with despair. Neither am I a nihilist. Perhaps the issue is that you, personally, find existence lacking without a properly comforting story?

You don't live coherently with your philosophy. You were born into a Christian culture and you take for granted Christian moral beliefs without any proper philosophical support for them. We see the crumbling of the old order every day; you might be able to hold onto some of its assertions as brute beliefs, but the philosophy doesn't support them, and society will follow the philosophy not Tom's personal biases.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 05, 2022, 04:57:25 PM
Before we go any further: why does your hypothetical god need to be necessary in a way that my hypothetical goat does not? I ask because the requirement of "necessity" in the way you mean it is, I submit, thoroughly optional.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: NobleHunter on July 05, 2022, 05:15:42 PM
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We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us.

Can you provide an example? And particularly how such things cease to exist?

ETA: Also, once you become wedded to the idea that humans are uniquely special, it is a very small step to decide that some humans are more special than others.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:04:22 PM
I have not referenced the infinite in my posts aside the obvious assertion that an infinite series of contingencies does not create an actuality.

Are you suggesting that the god (or necessary cause) behind all things may be fininite in its nature? If that were so then it would especially wrought to call that thing God, I think.

Good point. God is infinite. I didn't rely on God's non-finite nature in my arguments, but they do ultimately point at something which is not finite.

Quote from: Fenring
he long and short of it is that things happen for reasons, and cannot lack a cause. This is an axiom since I don't know how we can demonstrate it, but I do happen to agree that we should assume that reasons exist for things

No, it's not an axiom simply because it's not strictly demonstrable in some framework you require. I believe in teh PSR for reasons; not as a blind assertion of faith. You could say that my belief in the senses to be a source of truth is sort of an axiom. The PSR is a bit further down the line than that.

These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I believe the PSR is true. Here are a few ways I would render it:

* "Everything which is has a sufficient reason for existing"
* "Everything is intelligible"
* "There is a sufficient reason or adequate necessary objective explanation for the beingo f wahtever is and for all attributes of any being.".

I copped these from Edward Feser, who in turn copped them from Garrigou-Lagrange and Wuellner.

The nice thing about my expression here is that, although I don't immediately anticipate and respond to every counter argument that someone might levy against me, I am telling you loud and clear exactly what I mean.

Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a signle word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

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No, things really exist, we are not just a flow of constantly changing matter. You really exist. I really exist.
I'm not sure you realize how fraught this area of philosophy is.

Lol. I am aware of many of the arguments that many people have made, and I am aware that there are people who disagree with me. Those people are wrong; the views I am articulating are right. I don't feel the need to constantly articulate ideas I disagree with. If you'd like to pick up one of those ideas and run with it, go ahead. I'll dance with you. If not, I'm comfortable leaving them in the dustbin where they belong. I don't talk about how 2+2 _doesnt_ equal 5 6 7 8 or 9 or 10 or 2 or apple. I just say 2+2=4, and if you want to offer a specific different alternative as truth, we can talk about why I think it's wrong.

Just to show continuity of a person alone (in physical terms) would be a major piece of work. You could do your life's work on it.

Here's the cool part: really smart people already did! I could never have created a computer all by myself, but now that other people have done the work, I can recognize that technology X is better constructed than technology Y.

It is the same with philosophy. I don't need to dedicate my life to developing my own unique ideas. My job is to get a good sense of what the other people are saying, where they start from and where they end, and then see which one is true. It is a lot easier to determine the truth of two philosophical propositions than it is to create them yourself.

As for thing, no; the understanding most Ancients had about things is demonstrably wrong.

Yes. I am not holding with "most ancients". I am holding with the basic ideas of metaphysical "things" that Aristotle put forward, moderate realism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moderate_realism).

Heraclitus was an interesting case of an out-of-box thinker, but most people seemed to take it for granted that words and things were simple. A chair is not just a chair, a lot is going on there. The details matter. But it does seem to retain shape over time: how does it do this, and for how long? If a chair can exist for a few thousand years before it disintegrates, does the timescale of 1 year somehow show that it's not a flow of changing matter, since over millions of years that chair will assuredly not be a chair anymore? And if timescale matters, then what we're talking about is rate of flow, rather than static existence. No one prior to recent times knew that (other than Heraclitus, of course!), but it directly affects what "thing" means in a formal sense.

Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:16:28 PM
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I'll may get back to the other stuff later. But I think we're going to just talk in circles. I concede stuff is. At that level of meta physics you need to start asking what time is. There are explanations of GR that remove time (see Godel). So maybe there is no before, no after. That before/after and time are just human's imperfect perception of reality. Things always were and always will be. Either way: the universe just was or "god" just was. I don't find the latter any logical than the former.

None of the theories that remove time from physical equations have made much headway, and none of them can account for our subjective experience of moving through time.

Given our knowledge of the big bang, it seems much more scientific and reasonable to believe the universe had a beginning. In addition, there are real problems with positing that something which is complex has always existed; when two things are put together the question naturally is begged: why are those things put together? God is perfectly simple; his essence is his existence; so his existence doesn't beg this question.

Why can you ascribe this perfect simplicity with God and not the matter/energy of the universe? The matter/energy of the universe exists. I know it exists because we live in this universe. I don't know about God's existence or essence because God doesn't exist (to an observer) within our universe.

Yeah. The main reason is that matter and the Universe is complex; it is not simple. The Universe has all sorts of parts, like atoms and electrons and trees and stars, and those parts all have internal complexities. The fundamental elements aren't simple, we've found they're comprised of particles. And the particles of the most popular particle theory today also aren't simple, there is a multitude of them and they have different properties.

A God absolutely begs the question of how? where? what? why? Just as the existence of the universe begs those questions. You're just abstracting up one layer, saying God did it all like that actually answers any of those fundamental questions.

No, if I were doing that I would completely agree with your argument. That is how Tom is understanding me (and why he thinks his Goat analogy is interesting when it is not).

I am saying that, as a matter of pure logic, there are only three ways a thing can exist:

(1) It is caused by something extrinsic, meaning that its existence is contingent.
(2) Its cause is entirely within itself, meaning that its existence is necessary.
(3) It was not caused; it is a brute fact.

The Principle of Sufficient reason rejects the possibility of (3). We all agree that things that have the shape of (1) are all around us.

I am saying that because of the foregoing -- because we see (1) and we reject (3) -- there must be something which fulfills (2).

In very short summary, I say that because the contingent things around us depend on some external cause. And those causes in turn depend on external causes. There is either an infinite chain of causation or the chain of causation begins with something which fulfills (2).  An infinite chain of contingencies does not create an actuality for all all of the reasons I've outlined here. Therefore, something which fulfills (2) must exist.

There is certainly a lot of mystery around that line of reasoning; we don't know the full chain of causation between us and God. We don't know God's internal states. But we can know some things about him.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:19:04 PM
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Human nature and life is special. Is human nature that much more special than other highly intelligent mammals or birds?

Yes. It is much worse to kill your neighbor than it is to kill your neighbor's dog. Human's rational minds makes us more special and valuable than animals. Rationality isn't necessarily exclusive to humans, although it appears that way on earth.
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Define what you mean by rationality here. Other animals problem solve, communicate, form relationships, and have emotions. We do it with a slightly greater degree of complexity. What's the essential uniqueness of humans? That we do all of these with a larger degree of complexity than our ape cousins?

Yeah. The intellect and the will. The ability to know universals (goodness as goodness, justice as justice, beauty as beauty, numbers abstractly, etc.) and the ability to truly choose between alternatives. Animals choose through instinct; humans choose based on reason.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:22:37 PM
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And if this special nature is a goal of creation, why is so much of the universe absolutely hostile to biological life?

The earth is pretty comfy. We live here, not in space.

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Why not a Mars that is twice as massive that kept a magnetic field and atmosphere that is hospitable to biological life? Why not a Venus that started with a thinner atmosphere that could be cool enough to support life? This stuff is relevant. If your argument is that an all powerful deity created the universe with the purpose of the specialty of human nature in mind. They did a lot of creating for one tiny pocket of humanity.

I think you imagine it was work for God to create the cosmos; that it would have been less labor to build something less large. That's not the case.

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Looking at the universe as a giant experiment, grand design, whatever you wish to call it, biological life is absolutely an afterthought in such a design.

It doesn't appear that way to me at all.

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If you wanted better conditions for life, you would subtlety tweak the laws of physics so that red dwarf stars that burn for trillions of years would be more magnetically stable so they wouldn't occasionally irradiate everything around them. All of this is relevant if you want to look out at the vastness of the cosmos and claim there is a creator who thinks biological life is special. Even within the vastness of our own solar system biological life seems very rare. With very minor tweaks in the formation of our solar system there could be 3 habitable planets. Venus is at the very close end of a possible habitable zone and Mars is on the other side. Small tweaks the right aspects of their mass, core, atmosphere and composition could make both conducive to life.

Yeah, and the earth could be an infinite plane. Or we could all have 10 higher IQ points. Or we could breath underwater. Or cheetahs could run 10 MPH faster.

It is the case that God made limited creatures that are less perfect than him. That is fitting and isn't an argument against his existence.
...

I'm not making an argument about should human's have been designed better. I'm making the argument that the cosmos are mostly hostile to biological life of any kind. And very, very, minor tweaks to physical laws could make dwarf stars that last trillions instead of billions of years an ideal place for biological life. And with only slight variances in Venus and Mars they could be hospitable for life as well. So did "God" design the universe for life to be exceedingly rare? If so, why? You've posited that human rationality is one of the special purposes of creation. If so why not a cosmos that is hospitable to life. Why not a society on Mars we could debate meta-physics with? If you're going with both grand design and humans/rational beings are special then why will humans exist for such a small portion of the length of time of the cosmos? Absent colonizing other stars we have at best (assuming we don't kill each other off first) a couple billion years before the Earth isn't so nice any more. So all time/space and everything exists for rational life to float around an average star for a short period of time in the grand scheme? What's the simple explanation for that? More space and time are easy to create so God said why not?

You're saying that you think the Universe could have been designed better. I'm saying that it can always seems that way. Perhaps apples could be a little sweeter, perhaps the air could be a little more climate. Perhaps the planet could be a little larger or the air a little more fresh. There is no limit to that chain of reasoning; there is no Universe you could look at and say "OK yeah, this one is perfect." So the fact that you don't look at this one and think it's perfect doesn't really change anything.

The basic problem is you are accepting the wrong values for judging whether the Universe is good. What is good?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:23:08 PM
Before we go any further: why does your hypothetical god need to be necessary in a way that my hypothetical goat does not? I ask because the requirement of "necessity" in the way you mean it is, I submit, thoroughly optional.

See my response a few posts above to yossarian.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 05, 2022, 06:26:29 PM
That doesn't explain why the god that created this universe needs to be necessary (as you define necessary). Why, again, could the creator of this universe not have been a farting goat that may or may not have been caused by something external to this universe?

Remember, we're only dealing with requirements for this universe because there is no -- and cannot be -- logical continuity across universes, since time is meaningless without space.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:29:21 PM
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We see things which have essences which are distinct from their existences all around us.

Can you provide an example? And particularly how such things cease to exist?

Sure. Humans have an essence which is distinct from their existence.

ETA: Also, once you become wedded to the idea that humans are uniquely special, it is a very small step to decide that some humans are more special than others.

Falsehood is always close to truth. Any truth can be slightly misrepresented to create a falsehood.  Recognizing that humans are special to God doesn't lead to an endorsement of slavery or some such thing.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 05, 2022, 06:29:58 PM
That doesn't explain why the god that created this universe needs to be necessary (as you define necessary). Why, again, could the creator of this universe not have been a farting goat that may or may not have been caused by something external to this universe?

Remember, we're only dealing with requirements for this universe because there is no -- and cannot be -- logical continuity across universes, since time is meaningless without space.

You're taking too local a view of the word "universe". You're imagining we're in a universe that's nested inside of some other universe. I'm saying the whole thing. All of it.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 05, 2022, 07:09:50 PM
We can make no speculations based on observation regarding anything other than our local universe. This means that everything you're claiming as a deduction -- like, say, necessity -- is in fact just something you're asserting as an axiom. (Just as one example: it is almost certainly the case, based on our understanding of both physics and mathematics, that time is non-linear outside of our observable dimensions. This plays silly buggers with any reliance on traditional causality; as a silly example, the goat that birthed our universe while standing outside it could have been caused by the death-throes of the goat our universe will eventually produce -- and there is no reason to believe this to be impossible, beyond the stubborn insistence that what we see in our local universe is the only way things can be.) Are you willing to concede that you're basing your logic on axiomatic assumptions?

(I get confused by your "necessity" claim, by the way, because you're actually making an argument from first cause here rather than the classical argument from necessity. This routinely trips me up, because you're not using "necessity" the same way that, say, Aristotle used the term, or Aquinas applied it.)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 05, 2022, 08:39:53 PM
These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I don't have 'beliefs' about PSR, I have analysis of it, which includes the language of it. That's the problem: having a belief about complex issues plagues America right now. We don't need beliefs about them, we need thinking about them. You are getting my analysis, which is much more valuable (to me) than some belief I may have picked up in elementary school. My instincts matter too, but those do fuel my thinking as well.

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Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

What Fenring thinks is that the propositions of PSR were probably originally meant to be much closer to what we'd now call scientific reasoning. If that's true - and I would entertain dispute on this point - then rejecting the empirical way of looking at things would be counter to the purpose of PSR. I think that there is order in nature, and yes, that this order is due to having been ordered. But I also think that how you're looking at PSR has most likely been impacted by the shunting out of the sciences from the philosophy department over the centuries. I think aspects of reason point toward God; I would be very hesitant to say that it is easy to show that God must exist. I do think God exists, but I also don't think I can show it to a third party unless they are willing to go through some personal stuff.

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It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a signle word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

I have a hunch it's not an entirely coherent proposition, so I'm unwilling to say it's not true. But I can't endorse it, either. I think it does questionable things with language, putting things we don't grasp into neat categories.

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Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.

This is surely an axiomatic statement, no? I don't see how you can 'observe' that souls are the thing providing clear continuity to living things, which works separately from unliving things. Actually a good friend of mine did his dissertation on the soul, and I really need to pick his brain one day about this. I don't actually know what most people mean when they refer to the "soul" (yes, funny thing for a Catholic to say). But I am speaking formally when I say this. Someone once asked me if I believe in "love", and I admitted that I had no idea what he meant, and he got upset, as if I was trolling him. This kind of thing happens a lot to me...call it a weird pattern :p   But I've never been able to just assume I understand something that everyone else says they obviously do.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 07, 2022, 02:49:33 AM
We can make no speculations based on observation regarding anything other than our local universe.

...

(Just as one example: it is almost certainly the case, based on our understanding of both physics and mathematics, that time is non-linear outside of our observable dimensions. This plays silly buggers with any reliance on traditional causality; as a silly example, the goat that birthed our universe while standing outside it could have been caused by the death-throes of the goat our universe will eventually produce -- and there is no reason to believe this to be impossible, beyond the stubborn insistence that what we see in our local universe is the only way things can be.)

Could you get in a lane on this? Can we make speculations or can't we?

This means that everything you're claiming as a deduction -- like, say, necessity -- is in fact just something you're asserting as an axiom....Are you willing to concede that you're basing your logic on axiomatic assumptions?

Sort of, but certainly not the places you keep pointing at. My confidence in the senses and their ability to tell us truth about reality is something like an axiom. My belief that the syllogism is a valuable tool is something like an axiom. Descrates rejects the first and Hume rejects both, and their ideas are reasonable (albeit wrong).

(I get confused by your "necessity" claim, by the way, because you're actually making an argument from first cause here rather than the classical argument from necessity. This routinely trips me up, because you're not using "necessity" the same way that, say, Aristotle used the term, or Aquinas applied it.)

Aquinas's third way (https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm#article2) uses necessary in the same way that I am using it here. (Additional link with commentary (https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10733a.htm)).
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 07, 2022, 03:11:51 AM
These four paragraphs about the PSR are an example, by the way, of my frustration with your writing style. I don't see a sentence which represents your beliefs as they relate to the PSR; it just kind of swirls and swirls.

I don't have 'beliefs' about PSR, I have analysis of it, which includes the language of it. That's the problem: having a belief about complex issues plagues America right now. We don't need beliefs about them, we need thinking about them. You are getting my analysis, which is much more valuable (to me) than some belief I may have picked up in elementary school. My instincts matter too, but those do fuel my thinking as well.

Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Can you tell me clearly what you mean? I read your paragrahs a few times, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I just kinda see a haze of swirling confusion, doubt, and concerns. I don't see a single clear idea where I can say "this is what Fenring thinks".

What Fenring thinks is that the propositions of PSR were probably originally meant to be much closer to what we'd now call scientific reasoning. If that's true - and I would entertain dispute on this point - then rejecting the empirical way of looking at things would be counter to the purpose of PSR. I think that there is order in nature, and yes, that this order is due to having been ordered. But I also think that how you're looking at PSR has most likely been impacted by the shunting out of the sciences from the philosophy department over the centuries. I think aspects of reason point toward God; I would be very hesitant to say that it is easy to show that God must exist. I do think God exists, but I also don't think I can show it to a third party unless they are willing to go through some personal stuff.

I'm not interested in the flux of your intellectual process, I'm interested in the conclusion and you don't seem to have one. The PSR is a pretty straightforward assertion. There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
It doesn't need to be short, but that's usually a good sign. It does need to be clear and distinct. Maybe start with a single word: yes or no, do you think the PSR (as I rendered it above) holds true?

I have a hunch it's not an entirely coherent proposition, so I'm unwilling to say it's not true. But I can't endorse it, either. I think it does questionable things with language, putting things we don't grasp into neat categories.

I have lots of hunches; hunches are not analysis or conclusions. In this thread, you've written 30 (300?) paragraphs in the vague direction of maybe kinda-sort rejecting the PSR or at least not putting too much weight on it; maybe we can flirt with it a little, but we can't actually rely on it.

I don't have any interest in that. I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy. I thought about the PSR and I'm comfortable putting weight on it. If you aren't (but you're also not willing to outright reject it). maybe think that through. Think it through all the way and come to a conclusion. If you want to bat the PSR back and forth to develop your thoughts, we can do that. But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Chairness is not like humanness, because chairs do not have souls. The souls is the thing which provides clear continuity in living things.

This is surely an axiomatic statement, no? I don't see how you can 'observe' that souls are the thing providing clear continuity to living things, which works separately from unliving things. Actually a good friend of mine did his dissertation on the soul, and I really need to pick his brain one day about this. I don't actually know what most people mean when they refer to the "soul" (yes, funny thing for a Catholic to say). But I am speaking formally when I say this. Someone once asked me if I believe in "love", and I admitted that I had no idea what he meant, and he got upset, as if I was trolling him. This kind of thing happens a lot to me...call it a weird pattern :p   But I've never been able to just assume I understand something that everyone else says they obviously do.

Lol, no. It's not an axiomatic statement. As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul. The other properties of the soul that you are familiar with can be shown later, but I'm not asserting them here. I'm just putting a label on a thing which is implied by the existence of living things.

I recognize some people (Tom here, for example) embrace physicalist reductionism and reject that there is a categorical difference between the living and non-living and therefore reject the existence of the soul. That's fine. I look at the world, our scientific knowledge, and the philosophy which follows from that belief, and I'm sure he's wrong. A tree is categorically different than a rock. We can see that intuitively with our observation, and analysis supports that belief. 

The vast majority of science is predicated on that observation, and physicalist reductionism looks specious (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEA_zf7u6es); we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology. Those who assume PR are asserting it as an axiomatic belief contrary to our best understanding of science.

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 07, 2022, 08:58:55 AM
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Can we make speculations or can't we?
You're being cute, here, but my point is clear: nothing we posit about another universe need be bound by laws we have observed in this one, including assumptions regarding the linearity of time. Saying that you're applying your rules to a metaverse creates a lot of problems for you, from things suddenly no longer being a posteriori but also falling afoul of petitio principii in a way they did not when you posited an entity potentially outside of time.

If you're making Aristotle's argument from necessity, by the way, you'll first need to demonstrate that things stop existing in such a way that there could be nothing in the universe. This contracts observed reality.

-----------

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I thought about the PSR and I'm comfortable putting weight on it.
To be fair, you can't possibly have thought about it too much. :)

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We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things.
More metaphysics! *shudder*

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we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology.
I'm a little curious about your application of claims, here. Are you saying that all forms of science must be unified before we can assert that the supernatural does not exist? (Also, are you saying that chemistry is not physics? I know several chemists and several physicists who would be surprised by that assertion.)

--------

Oh, hey, one more question: to you, what makes a tree categorically different from a rock is not what you're calling its soul, right? Because you're openly dismissive of animism. What does make a tree categorically different from a rock?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 07, 2022, 11:38:55 AM
Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Do you mean I must immediately arrive at a final answer to what I see as a complicated problem - how language actually pertains to reality? I think working at it is a pretty good plan, I don't feel bad about about not providing a yes/no answer.

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Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Religious people have a (well-deserved) reputation for saying they know all the answers to everything, so I don't think I'm being evasive to decline to make final judgements on areas that are contentious. I can name plenty of things I'd rest my hat on; the fact that PSR (as stated) isn't one of them can hardly make me squeemish about making declarations! If you knew me better you'd realize how funny it is to attribute Chesterton's quote to me  :)

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The PSR is a pretty straightforward assertion.

That's the point I'm disputing. Don't you see that?

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There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

This is a false dilemma/trilemma. Suppose I offered you this proposition:

For all fish sandwich landgruben.
Landgruben sned durfel mintel.
Therefore mintel!

And suppose I demanded you tell me whether you agree or disagree with this proposition (or possibly "don't know"). You would obviously not agree. But you would also be hard-pressed to say you disagree; on what basis could you claim to disagree since you are not even sure it's an actual proposition? Even "don't know" is misleading, since it also implies the proposition is coherent but you don't know whether it holds. All three answers give credence to it that I'm not willing to give to PSR. PSR may be as nonsensical as my proposition above. That is my point. If PSR is not a real proposition then I would just reject it as bad language, rather disagree with it on the merits of its logic.

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I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy.

Heh, I wish that was my problem in life  :P

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But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Well I already did state quite clearly my problems with the first rung, in my first long post on pg 1 of the thread. I don't really think you ever substantively addressed those objections. The most notable of them is that I disagree flatly with the assertion that we can see that there are reasons why things exist. Even as an axiom I would reject it; but as an observation about life I don't think almost anyone would say they can see the reasons why things exist.

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As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul.

You really don't think this is an axiomatic statement? While I do agree that life is unique from non-life in an important way, I could create a coherent case for this not being the case if I had to argue that position. It's not a stupid position. I used to entertain this type of position myself, resting the difference on complexity and structure (not entirely dissimilar to what LR and Tom have said). I changed my mind, but I can't prove to a third party that my new position is right. My life experience led me to where I am now, but I can't communicate that to someone through argument.

Let's keep in mind that I do agree that the universe is intelligible and that we can find out the reasons for many things. However I think this is a working axiom; I don't really have a basis to say that I can prove this. It's a combination of pragmatic philosophy with moral realism: there is a truth, but our attempts to get at it will consist of carving out better and better models. This is different from bona fide pragmatism, which says there is in fact no objective truth, but merely the artifacts of our processes.

I didn't want to get into the weeds of my own beliefs, but if we need to go there so you can understand a bit more why a simple metaphysics is a problem: suppose Catholicism is right about everything. Let's just assert that as a hypothesis. It would have to mean two things: (1) Creation is meant to be ordered and intelligible, and (2) Reality consists of Creation + spirits + God + maybe other created stuff like spirits that we don't know about. (1) already causes us a problem, since if reality is fallen what does that mean about how ordered Creation is now? (2) gives us a problem with mechanics: how can we make claims about properties the spirit realm has if we can't directly observe it? Sure, we can hope that spirits operate on intelligible and ordered principles, we can even have faith in it; but how can we say what we observe within Creation tells us something about how spirits work? You can't get from the one to the other. And if reality consists of more than just Creation, what good is it to merely observe Creation and say this tells us how things work outside of Creation?

So even if we assert all Catholic teaching as a premise I still think we have a problem using PSR to tell us something about how everything must be set up. Our observations pretty much stop at fallen reality within this system. I would say this is a pretty weak basis upon which to make claims about what must be. It does not, however, stop us saying how we believe things to be, which I am happy to do.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 08, 2022, 01:47:55 AM
Quote
Can we make speculations or can't we?
You're being cute, here, but my point is clear: nothing we posit about another universe need be bound by laws we have observed in this one, including assumptions regarding the linearity of time. Saying that you're applying your rules to a metaverse creates a lot of problems for you, from things suddenly no longer being a posteriori but also falling afoul of petitio principii in a way they did not when you posited an entity potentially outside of time.

You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

If you're making Aristotle's argument from necessity, by the way, you'll first need to demonstrate that things stop existing in such a way that there could be nothing in the universe. This contracts observed reality.

I'm making the arguments I've made. Aristotle's great but people have improved his work.

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we haven't been able to reduce the science of chemistry to physics, let alone biology.
I'm a little curious about your application of claims, here. Are you saying that all forms of science must be unified before we can assert that the supernatural does not exist? (Also, are you saying that chemistry is not physics? I know several chemists and several physicists who would be surprised by that assertion.)

Did you watch the 9 minute video I linked to explaining that assertion?

Oh, hey, one more question: to you, what makes a tree categorically different from a rock is not what you're calling its soul, right? Because you're openly dismissive of animism. What does make a tree categorically different from a rock?

A tree has a vegetative soul. It's a living thing. Something must be the first principle of its life.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 08, 2022, 02:09:17 AM
Yeah, you have analysis, but you don't have an analysis. We set out to make a pencil and you're holding up shavings.

Do you mean I must immediately arrive at a final answer to what I see as a complicated problem - how language actually pertains to reality? I think working at it is a pretty good plan, I don't feel bad about about not providing a yes/no answer.

I think if you don't have an answer to the question you should think on it and come to an answer there.

Quote
Another Chesterton quote comes to mind: "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

Religious people have a (well-deserved) reputation for saying they know all the answers to everything, so I don't think I'm being evasive to decline to make final judgements on areas that are contentious. I can name plenty of things I'd rest my hat on; the fact that PSR (as stated) isn't one of them can hardly make me squeemish about making declarations! If you knew me better you'd realize how funny it is to attribute Chesterton's quote to me  :)

Modern philosophers spend their lives asserting there is no truth and they know nothing.  I'm good on that. We can know things. We can't know everything, but we can know that the rock in our hand exists. We can know that a dog is fundamentally different than a rock.

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There are just three categories of responses:  yes, no, or I don't know. There can be some nuance in those categories, but that's really all there is. Right now, you seem to me to be in the "I don't know" category.

This is a false dilemma/trilemma. Suppose I offered you this proposition:

For all fish sandwich landgruben.
Landgruben sned durfel mintel.
Therefore mintel!

And suppose I demanded you tell me whether you agree or disagree with this proposition (or possibly "don't know"). You would obviously not agree. But you would also be hard-pressed to say you disagree; on what basis could you claim to disagree since you are not even sure it's an actual proposition? Even "don't know" is misleading, since it also implies the proposition is coherent but you don't know whether it holds. All three answers give credence to it that I'm not willing to give to PSR. PSR may be as nonsensical as my proposition above. That is my point. If PSR is not a real proposition then I would just reject it as bad language, rather disagree with it on the merits of its logic.

Sure. For me, nonsense statements fall under the category of "no", but if you want to put them in a separate category I have no objection to that.

"A triangle with four sides" is a nonsense statement.
"A rock so big God can't lift it" is a nonsense statement.

Why do you think the PSR is a nonsense statement?

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I don't care if a firm assertion makes you feel queasy.
Heh, I wish that was my problem in life  :P

What things, aside from mathematics and science, do you believe firmly and not through faith? What philosophical convictions do you have?


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But if you're stuck there, let's stay there. It's step one of the proof on page one; of course you're going to be uncomfortable climbing to the top of that ladder if you haven't actually inspected the first rung.

Well I already did state quite clearly my problems with the first rung, in my first long post on pg 1 of the thread. I don't really think you ever substantively addressed those objections. The most notable of them is that I disagree flatly with the assertion that we can see that there are reasons why things exist. Even as an axiom I would reject it; but as an observation about life I don't think almost anyone would say they can see the reasons why things exist.

I understood your objection there to be regarding the casual language I used in the explanation I wrote up for my non-philosophical friend. What exactly is your concern with the more rigorous definition of the PSR I provided above? I'm still not clear on what you're saying. You seem to be vaguely rejecting it for something having to maybe with it being an incoherent sentence and idea. Is that right? If so, why is it incoherent?  Where specifically is the problem you see?

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As I observe the world, it seems really clear there are living things and non-living things. We can start by defining the soul as simply "the first principle of life", that is to say, the thing that makes living things different than non-living things. Whatever the cause of that difference is, we start by calling it the soul.

You really don't think this is an axiomatic statement?

No. I think it for reasons: living things are different than non-living things and there must be some cause for why that is the case. Let's label that thing, whatever it is, "the soul" and keep investigating.

While I do agree that life is unique from non-life in an important way, I could create a coherent case for this not being the case if I had to argue that position. It's not a stupid position. I used to entertain this type of position myself, resting the difference on complexity and structure (not entirely dissimilar to what LR and Tom have said). I changed my mind, but I can't prove to a third party that my new position is right. My life experience led me to where I am now, but I can't communicate that to someone through argument.

No you couldn't. Two contrary ideas can't both be true. One is true and coherent, the other is false and incoherent. Just because someone wrote a book defending an argument doesn't mean we must always doubt ourselves anytime we think the opposite thing. One can argue that rocks and humans have the same basic nature. One can argue all sorts of things.

It seems like you have an instinctive retreat to the hyper-skepticalism of Hume, but with an glaring exception for the explorations of modern science. You seem to believe symbolic manipulations are true as far as they go, but mapping some logical thing onto the real world is basically impossible (except when a scientist does it). You seem to think that we can't know anything at all from our senses (unless we're in a scientific lab). We can kinda sorta maybe know a little, but we have to always treat it with an extreme doubt and skepticism (unless we're reading a scientific journal). Do I have your basic frame right?

Let's keep in mind that I do agree that the universe is intelligible...

No, you don't seem to. "Things are intelligible" is another expression of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The alternative to intelligibility is brute facts; things just happening with no intelligibility and no reason. To be intelligible is mean that there are reasons. To say that there are reasons for things is to reject bruteness and embrace the PSR. You can have doubts about the universality of the PSR, but if so, you are stuck with bruteness. There is no middle ground.


I didn't want to get into the weeds of my own beliefs, but if we need to go there so you can understand a bit more why a simple metaphysics is a problem: suppose Catholicism is right about everything. Let's just assert that as a hypothesis. It would have to mean two things: (1) Creation is meant to be ordered and intelligible, and (2) Reality consists of Creation + spirits + God + maybe other created stuff like spirits that we don't know about. (1) already causes us a problem, since if reality is fallen what does that mean about how ordered Creation is now? (2) gives us a problem with mechanics: how can we make claims about properties the spirit realm has if we can't directly observe it? Sure, we can hope that spirits operate on intelligible and ordered principles, we can even have faith in it; but how can we say what we observe within Creation tells us something about how spirits work? You can't get from the one to the other. And if reality consists of more than just Creation, what good is it to merely observe Creation and say this tells us how things work outside of Creation?

So even if we assert all Catholic teaching as a premise I still think we have a problem using PSR to tell us something about how everything must be set up. Our observations pretty much stop at fallen reality within this system. I would say this is a pretty weak basis upon which to make claims about what must be. It does not, however, stop us saying how we believe things to be, which I am happy to do.

I don't think (and I have not argued) that the PSR tells us how everything is setup. I say that the PSR along with the existence of contingent things implies that God exists. We're not going to get to the Catholic ideas of angels or Satan or Mary or Jesus or the parting of the red sea through the PSR. I'm not saying that the PSR implies Catholicism. The God that we can discover through reason and philosophy is compatible with Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, some Islam, some other Christianities, and some Judaism.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 08, 2022, 02:29:33 AM
You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

Sorry to intrude again on your comments to Tom, but I do want to mention something I highlighted once but want to emphasize: you've said you don't want this to be about chronological causes but rather a single current cause of reality existing. But as I mentioned before a lot of the language you used is bound up in chronological considerations. Aquinas' 2nd and 3rd ways are both at least in part talking about a chronological chain of causation: in the 2nd way he refers to efficient causes of things, and how infinities are impossible; but this could only be true if he's talking about materially subsequent events. If he was talking about the single cause of everything existing there would be no chain of efficient causes, no middle term, nothing; just God and all the things He - in one efficient cause - wills to exist. So that argument surely must actually be about linear time and how it can traced back to its Creator. It may also be about the direct God-us cause, but can't be just about that. And his 3rd way is more or less strictly a linear-time argument about how things must have gone before, and this proving there's a God (the Parmenides 'nothing comes from nothing' argument). The 4th and 5th ways don't help us in this regard since they're on about something else, while the 1st is indeed on about chronology but you've specifically said you are not talking about the Prime Mover argument so we can drop that one. My point is just to say that both of Aquinas' relevant arguments that lend themselves to your version of it at all include linear chronology in them. So yours would be different in that you're only talking about propping up existence rather than finding a chain of causation. I think this departs from what the older versions (such as Aquinas) saw as the schema in the arguments. If you want to drop that aspect of it then fine, but then what does our science and philosophy from step 1 on pg 1 actually tell us of use about what props everything up right now?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 08, 2022, 02:48:17 AM
You keep missing a key point of the first argument. It is not an argument backwards through time; it is an argument right here in this moment. Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.

Sorry to intrude again on your comments to Tom, but I do want to mention something I highlighted once but want to emphasize: you've said you don't want this to be about chronological causes but rather a single current cause of reality existing. But as I mentioned before a lot of the language you used is bound up in chronological considerations. Aquinas' 2nd and 3rd ways are both at least in part talking about a chronological chain of causation: in the 2nd way he refers to efficient causes of things, and how infinities are impossible; but this could only be true if he's talking about materially subsequent events. If he was talking about the single cause of everything existing there would be no chain of efficient causes, no middle term, nothing; just God and all the things He - in one efficient cause - wills to exist. So that argument surely must actually be about linear time and how it can traced back to its Creator. It may also be about the direct God-us cause, but can't be just about that. And his 3rd way is more or less strictly a linear-time argument about how things must have gone before, and this proving there's a God (the Parmenides 'nothing comes from nothing' argument). The 4th and 5th ways don't help us in this regard since they're on about something else, while the 1st is indeed on about chronology but you've specifically said you are not talking about the Prime Mover argument so we can drop that one. My point is just to say that both of Aquinas' relevant arguments that lend themselves to your version of it at all include linear chronology in them. So yours would be different in that you're only talking about propping up existence rather than finding a chain of causation. I think this departs from what the older versions (such as Aquinas) saw as the schema in the arguments. If you want to drop that aspect of it then fine, but then what does our science and philosophy from step 1 on pg 1 actually tell us of use about what props everything up right now?

Which of the arguments that I have expressed here rely on an historical chain of causation?  I don't believe I have made those arguments.

I'm not here to defend every argument made by every Catholic. I'm not equipped for the job. I'm here to defend the arguments I've made and I find compelling.

I do think the arguments which rely on chronology hold, but I don't want to debate sci-fi with you and Tom, and I find it easiest to sidestep that whole mess by talking about a hierarchical chain of causation rather than an historical one.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 08, 2022, 03:29:50 AM
I do think the arguments which rely on chronology hold, but I don't want to debate sci-fi with you and Tom, and I find it easiest to sidestep that whole mess by talking about a hierarchical chain of causation rather than an historical one.

Hierarchical in what sense? It seems to me that if you're only talking about God propping up reality, as I mentioned above there is no hierarchy or order of efficient causes. God wills it, and we persist. But your argument uses elements from Aquinas' formats which are talking about chronology, such as saying contingent things require causes, but cannot cause each other to infinity, and so forth. You're ruling out infinite regress and time loops because you want to trace that chain to a final destination; but a final destination doesn't exist in the God--> us supports us with His will direct argument. You don't need intermediary causes to even have to worry about excluding infinite regress. But what evidence in science and philosophy give us the information needed to say God supports us all right here and now in this moment? What successes have we had that can demonstrate we can deduce this type of result?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 08, 2022, 08:44:27 AM
Quote
Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.
Leaving aside that this is definitely not Aristotle's use of "necessary," why do you believe this is the case? Why could all the contingent things not be contingent upon something that made them exist at the beginning of the universe, and not since then?

I ask this because in abandoning chronological chains, you actually abandon the core of Aquinas (and, incidentally, the utility of the PSR to your argument.) The idea that things need an active, intentional underpinning from a non-underpinned entity to exist right now is, I submit, an a priori axiom and not defensible by observation or conclusion.

I'm afraid that I found the video you linked to be empty Catholic pontificating (heh). It was like watching Jordan Peterson; the guy's very confident of his thought, but doesn't seem aware of the fragility of his claims and consequently is preaching to the choir and hoping to snare the un-critical. Which part of it did you find valuable to your own argument?

Quote
Something must be the first principle of its life.
Why?
Leaving aside my extreme dislike of "principles" of this sort, it's worth observing that one of my friends is very close -- probably within three years -- to creating lab-made bacteriological life. Are you asserting that at the moment he does so, that emergent bacteria will acquire a "bacteriological soul" in the way your tree has a hypothetical "vegetable soul?" Which of the chemical reactions that led to the bacteria imparted a soul to it?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 08, 2022, 09:00:31 AM
I missed the edit window, so I'm just popping in here to mention that I'm willing to discuss the video and the horrific abuse of the word "intuition" the speaker commits in it, but I'd much rather see you answer a few of my open questions first. You've ignored or dodged quite a few of them, and I think some of them are fairly important.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 08, 2022, 02:37:06 PM
It was like watching Jordan Peterson

Dude.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 08, 2022, 04:17:39 PM
It was like watching Jordan Peterson

At no point did the brother say "bucko", "it's not obvious to me that...", or break down crying. Not a fair analogy.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 08, 2022, 04:18:23 PM
I'll be on for real tonight or sometime soon to respond fully. Just having some fun with that comment.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 09, 2022, 02:59:55 AM
Quote
Something here in this moment must necessarily exist and be imparting existing to all other contingent things.
Leaving aside that this is definitely not Aristotle's use of "necessary," why do you believe this is the case? Why could all the contingent things not be contingent upon something that made them exist at the beginning of the universe, and not since then?

I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself: I am not making Aristotle's argument of an unmoving mover here. I do think those arguments are fine, but I am not making or defending them.

I ask this because in abandoning chronological chains, you actually abandon the core of Aquinas

I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself: I am not making Aquinas's argument here. I do think those arguments are fine, but I am not making or defending them.

Incidentally, nothing I've said is contrary to Aquinas's arguments. You don't seem to actually understand what I've put forward or what he's put forward, so it's not surprising that you think they are contradictory, but I expect Aquinas would be fine with everything I've said here.

(and, incidentally, the utility of the PSR to your argument.)

No. Things need a reason for why they exist here in this moment. That is an appeal to the PSR. You recognize this, because you put forward an argument for a property of persistence as an explanation of why things exist here in this moment.

The idea that things need an active, intentional underpinning from a non-underpinned entity to exist right now is, I submit, an a priori axiom and not defensible by observation or conclusion.

Yeah, either things exist right now due to reasons or their existence is (or relies upon) a brute fact. I reject bruteness and embrace the PSR, not as an axiom, but for the reasons I've presented.

I'm afraid that I found the video you linked to be empty Catholic pontificating (heh). It was like watching Jordan Peterson; the guy's very confident of his thought, but doesn't seem aware of the fragility of his claims and consequently is preaching to the choir and hoping to snare the un-critical. Which part of it did you find valuable to your own argument?

The part where he talks about how scientists cannot describe biology in purely chemical terms, nor can they describe chemistry in purely physical terms. You are implicitly (or explicitly?) embraced the idea that all science is reducible to physics. I am arguing that doing so is just a tenant of faith you have, a dogmatic view you brandy about, contrary to our best science.

Quote from: JoshuaD
Something must be the first principle of its life.
Why?

Because things being animate requires a reason. Matter is not necessarily alive. If living things are distinct from non-living things, then there must be a cause for why that is.

Leaving aside my extreme dislike of "principles" of this sort,

You've invoked your personal distaste multiple times in this thread. Why should anyone on earth care what Tom finds distasteful? Of course you find it distasteful; these ideas attack your strong faith in materialism. The fact that you find them distasteful doesn't make them untrue.

it's worth observing that one of my friends is very close -- probably within three years -- to creating lab-made bacteriological life. Are you asserting that at the moment he does so, that emergent bacteria will acquire a "bacteriological soul" in the way your tree has a hypothetical "vegetable soul?" Which of the chemical reactions that led to the bacteria imparted a soul to it?

Humans create life all the time. Whenever we procreate we create a life. We do so formally. I don't know whether we can create life from scratch in a laboratory. If we can, great. We would then also possess the power to create life eminently. Bacteria is typically understood to have a vegetative soul because it has the powers of nutrition, augmentation, and generation, but does not have senses in the way that animals do.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 09, 2022, 03:05:38 AM
I missed the edit window, so I'm just popping in here to mention that I'm willing to discuss the video and the horrific abuse of the word "intuition" the speaker commits in it, but I'd much rather see you answer a few of my open questions first. You've ignored or dodged quite a few of them, and I think some of them are fairly important.

O_O. I've been doing my best to hit back every ball you and Fenring send my way. If I missed one in the waves of questions and misunderstandings, please highlight it and I'll respond. I have ignored the places where you've offered insults instead of arguments. I don't mind the insults, but I don't have any interest in responding to them.

I'm not trying to get dragged into the weeds defending every argument made by any Catholic ever, nor am I trying to get sidetracked into things like the problem of evil (which deserve their own thread) but I believe I have responded to everything relating to my actual posts.

On the other hand, you've been picking and choosing responses as you please, dismissing things because you find them distasteful, and simply waving away arguments you don't want to deal with. You still haven't put forward a complete competing idea or even fully expressed your ideas. You dismiss metaphysics outright without recognizing that any belief system is going to come accompanied with a metaphysical system of some sort or another.

Through these last 4 pages, you've failed to demonstrate a true comprehension of the argument I've been putting forward. I've constantly had to correct misrepresentations of my views in your expression of them, and then you continue to persist in holding those misrepresentations.

Please, if you feel I haven't responded to any point you've made, highlight it and I will respond.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 09, 2022, 03:29:02 AM
I do think the arguments which rely on chronology hold, but I don't want to debate sci-fi with you and Tom, and I find it easiest to sidestep that whole mess by talking about a hierarchical chain of causation rather than an historical one.

Hierarchical in what sense?

Hierarchical in the sense that it is all happening right here in this moment, as I outlined in my original post: "if I were to say "I exist because of the molecules and particles of my body," that would be true, but incomplete. I also need to explain why the molecules and particles in my body exist, and why the subatomic particle exist, and so on and so forth."

But your argument uses elements from Aquinas' formats which are talking about chronology, such as saying contingent things require causes, but cannot cause each other to infinity, and so forth.

Where have I invoked chronology? I don't think I have. I have spent a lot of time responding to people who invoke time, but I consistently reject that frame for my argument.

It seems to me that if you're only talking about God propping up reality, as I mentioned above there is no hierarchy or order of efficient causes. God wills it, and we persist.
...

You're ruling out infinite regress and time loops because you want to trace that chain to a final destination; but a final destination doesn't exist in the God--> us supports us with His will direct argument. You don't need intermediary causes to even have to worry about excluding infinite regress.

Yeah, I don't think God is the proximate cause for the flow of my blood. God is the ultimate cause, in that he causes all things to be in existence, but my heart is the proximate cause. I don't think it's accurate to reject all intermediary causes as illusory.

But what evidence in science and philosophy give us the information needed to say God supports us all right here and now in this moment? What successes have we had that can demonstrate we can deduce this type of result?

The argument I presented on the first page: contingent things exist in this moment and the PSR is true, therefore something which necessarily exists must be the cause of existence in this moment.



Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 09, 2022, 11:35:46 AM
Quote
If I missed one...
You missed several. You missed, in fact, nearly all. Just as a really facile example: in the very first paragraph of your latest reply to me, you replied to this comment with a digression about Aristotle:

Quote
Leaving aside that this is definitely not Aristotle's use of "necessary," why do you believe this is the case? Why could all the contingent things not be contingent upon something that made them exist at the beginning of the universe, and not since then?

There is one central, even arguably fundamental question in that paragraph, and you decided instead to comment exclusively on the bit I said I was leaving aside. :) You have done this amazingly often.

Quote
Bacteria is typically understood to have a vegetative soul...
While I'm more than willing to wait for you to catch up with your answers before continuing, I think it's necessary to comment on how outrageously funny I found this particular assertion.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 09, 2022, 11:44:32 AM
Hierarchical in the sense that it is all happening right here in this moment, as I outlined in my original post: "if I were to say "I exist because of the molecules and particles of my body," that would be true, but incomplete. I also need to explain why the molecules and particles in my body exist, and why the subatomic particle exist, and so on and so forth."

Yeah but the fact of things existing right now, in this moment, is not a hierarchy: there is no intermediate cause between God willing something to persist and it persisting. So explaining why your blood flows chronologically requires intermediary causes, since God created everything, God causes things to persist, and since they work according to laws they do specific things. But take away chronology and there is no intermediate step, hence no hierarchy. And you have said you are only talking about persistence itself. The reason my blood exists right now in this moment is not because subatomic particles exist; those are not in any way the cause of my persistence since they are as dependent as the rest of everything for existing (according to the argument).

Quote
Where have I invoked chronology?

Your argument's first clause is based on the fact that we can see why things exist, which surely must be about how things are working in time. If it's not then I actually don't know what it would be trying to say - that we can see in the instantaneous moment of time why they are made to persist? No, it sounds to me pretty clearly that we see that things work according to a certain logic, which is a chronological consideration. Likewise, your clause about science (and philosophy) working is strictly a chronological affair since science says nothing about why things persist in this moment.

And if our courage to say we can have success in understanding things comes from our observations and learning about how things work, that category of understanding (chronological) does not lend us credence to then make statements about why things persist across time. It's not part of what we are observing. Philosophy, on the other hand, does offer metaphysical speculations, so we could still include that and eliminate science as mattering from your argument. However part of your argument stipulates that we have had successes in philosophy which demonstrate that we can trust its intuitions, and I've already asked what an example might be of a success in philosophy such as would lend us any credibility in knowing we can say things about why things persist in this moment.

Quote
Yeah, I don't think God is the proximate cause for the flow of my blood. God is the ultimate cause, in that he causes all things to be in existence, but my heart is the proximate cause. I don't think it's accurate to reject all intermediary causes as illusory.

I didn't, your argument does if we are only talking about why things persist right now. You're mixing up the hierarchy of proximate causes in chronology with a hierarchy of why things persist, the latter of which doesn't have a hierarchy since God willing it is the only cause (according to the argument).

Quote
But what evidence in science and philosophy give us the information needed to say God supports us all right here and now in this moment? What successes have we had that can demonstrate we can deduce this type of result?

The argument I presented on the first page: contingent things exist in this moment and the PSR is true, therefore something which necessarily exists must be the cause of existence in this moment.

Heh, you can't cite the argument you're making as an example of a success in philosophy that should make us trust philosophical statements. I am asking upon which firmament previously established in philosophy do we have a good basis for having observations or solid statements about why things persist right now in this moment. As Tom is, I'm asking in what possible way a statement about things persisting can be anything but an axiom.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 10, 2022, 04:29:08 AM
Quote
If I missed one...
You missed several. You missed, in fact, nearly all.

Feel free to ping them, I'm happy to respond to anything that's near the topic I started.

Quote from: Tom
Just as a really facile example: in the very first paragraph of your latest reply to me, you replied to this comment with a digression about Aristotle:

Quote from: Tom, previously
Leaving aside that this is definitely not Aristotle's use of "necessary," why do you believe this is the case? Why could all the contingent things not be contingent upon something that made them exist at the beginning of the universe, and not since then?

I've answered this a few times.

As I have mentioned and as you have implicitly accepted (with your proposed property of persistence) the existence of things at this moment requires an explanation and history is not a sufficient explanation. History does not exist in this moment, so something must be the cause of existence here in this moment.

To address this problem, you proposed a property of persistence. I replied with two counter points:
1. If the property in intrinsic to the thing, then this is a nonsensical circular boot-strapping: the thing's existence depends on the property and the property's existence depends on the thing. A mutual dependency like this cannot cause existence (because P->Q and Q->P is satisfied by `P and `Q). 

2. If the property is extrinsic to the thing, then (pursuant to the PSR) the property's existence requires an explanation. If you assert that property as a brute fact, it's essentially no different than asserting the thing's existence as a brute fact.

So the ball's still in your court on that point. I don't mind too much repeating what's been said, but I do feel like we're entering unintentional filibuster territory. We're six pages deep and I still don't have any sense that you truly comprehend the arguments I'm making. I'm confident I can express your ideas in a way where you'd read it and say "Yeah, that's my thing." And I am similarly confident that you can't express the ideas I've put forward. Naturally, you don't have to agree with them, but if we're going to argue the point, it would be a good start to actually comprehend them.

Quote from: Tom
Quote from: JoshuaD
Bacteria is typically understood to have a vegetative soul...
While I'm more than willing to wait for you to catch up with your answers before continuing, I think it's necessary to comment on how outrageously funny I found this particular assertion.

Yeah. These offhand comments of yours illustrate how void of value your philosophy is. You dismiss things because they're funny or they cause you to shudder or you hate them. Often when you run into a view that is contrary to the obviously flawed materialism that you subscribe to, you don't refute it with reason, you respond to it with emotion.

Bacteria does essentially the same thing plants do: it self-nourishes, it grows, and it multiplies. It doesn't seem to have sensitive powers like animals do. If you wanted to make an argument that bacteria is more like a very limited animal than like a plant, that would be fine. Maybe you could even make that case (I think you're fighting uphill, but to illustrate a point I'll posit you could); that wouldn't be a refutation of the framework, it would just be a correction to a particular categorization.

---

Feel free to ping anything else you feel like I've failed to respond to. I'd be glad to hit anything you feel has been missed.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 10, 2022, 04:45:56 AM
Hierarchical in the sense that it is all happening right here in this moment, as I outlined in my original post: "if I were to say "I exist because of the molecules and particles of my body," that would be true, but incomplete. I also need to explain why the molecules and particles in my body exist, and why the subatomic particle exist, and so on and so forth."

Yeah but the fact of things existing right now, in this moment, is not a hierarchy: there is no intermediate cause between God willing something to persist and it persisting. So explaining why your blood flows chronologically requires intermediary causes, since God created everything, God causes things to persist, and since they work according to laws they do specific things. But take away chronology and there is no intermediate step, hence no hierarchy. And you have said you are only talking about persistence itself. The reason my blood exists right now in this moment is not because subatomic particles exist; those are not in any way the cause of my persistence since they are as dependent as the rest of everything for existing (according to the argument).


No, I don't think that's accurate. God is the fundamental cause of my existence at this moment, but a proximate cause of my existence is the cells in my body or the molecules in my cells, which is caused by the atoms in those molecules, which is caused by the particles in those atoms, which are caused by <whatever>. And so on. At the root of that chain of causation, right here in this moment, there must be something which necessarily exists, because all of those other things have contingent existence.


Your argument's first clause is based on the fact that we can see why things exist, which surely must be about how things are working in time.

No. Not necessarily. We can talk about historical causes and those are valid. We can also talk about hierarchical causes.

For example, why does my keyboard sit on my desk rather than fall to the floor?

We can talk about the history of the keyboard: the gathering of the raw materials, the forming of them into a keyboard, their packaging, the delivery drivers, the store, my purchase, its unpacking, and me plugging it in to my computer and putting it on my desk.

But none of that has anything to do with why it sits 3 feet above the ground rather than falling to the floor. All of the causation of that is happening right here in this moment. The keyboard rests on my desk, which rests on the carpet, which rests upon the floor boards, which rest upon the floor beams, and so on. The cause for its sitting 3 feet above the ground is hierarchical, not historical.

Similarly, our existence must rest upon something, here in this moment. The past no longer exists; something which does not exist cannot give existence to something now. It could have been an historical cause, but it cannot actualize existence here in this moment.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Quote from: Fenring
But what evidence in science and philosophy give us the information needed to say God supports us all right here and now in this moment? What successes have we had that can demonstrate we can deduce this type of result?

The argument I presented on the first page: contingent things exist in this moment and the PSR is true, therefore something which necessarily exists must be the cause of existence in this moment.

Heh, you can't cite the argument you're making as an example of a success in philosophy that should make us trust philosophical statements. I am asking upon which firmament previously established in philosophy do we have a good basis for having observations or solid statements about why things persist right now in this moment. As Tom is, I'm asking in what possible way a statement about things persisting can be anything but an axiom.

I don't get your objection. You seem to want me to offer a parallel argument because the one on the first page is not enough. While I think that request is kind of silly, I would point out that the argument for God being fully actual that I provided a few pages back is a completely parallel argument, as is the argument for God's intellect from the universals, as is the argument for God being non-composite. These four all start from observing something obvious about reality around us, and conclude a particular property of God. Then, upon reflection, wen can see that they're all pointing at the same God.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 10, 2022, 09:03:55 AM
Quote
A mutual dependency like this cannot cause existence
Can you explain why you're concerned about the cause of existence when I'm talking about a property that mandates existence? Again, I am simply proposing that once things exist, they continue to exist until made to not exist. This is far more descriptive of observable reality.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 10, 2022, 11:59:15 PM
Quote
A mutual dependency like this cannot cause existence
Can you explain why you're concerned about the cause of existence when I'm talking about a property that mandates existence? Again, I am simply proposing that once things exist, they continue to exist until made to not exist. This is far more descriptive of observable reality.

What? The property is your proposed cause of existence of things. That's what we're talking about. Why do thing's exist?

You can substitute "reason" for "cause" if you'd like; I mean them in the same sense here.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 11, 2022, 12:10:28 AM
No. The property is my proposed cause of the persistence of things.
Things can exist for whatever separate reason we want to propose -- but they persist because, once they exist, they need to be made to not exist.
Fair?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 11, 2022, 02:03:21 AM
To say that something persists is to say it persists in existence. You are also answering the question of "why does this thing exist?"

There is a cup. It exists. You're saying that it exists right now because it existed previously and there is (or the cup has) a property of persistence. I have responded a few posts back about why that property is nonsensical if you try to assert that it's intrinsic to the cup, and not a final explanation if you try to assert that it is extrinisic to the cup.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 11, 2022, 07:56:43 AM
I think it was pretty clear that I found that previous "explanation" nonsensical (as you had tied yourself into knots with a Greek understanding of "properties" that had no actual basis in reality.) Want to try to explain again why you think persistence cannot be a property of matter? Note that, by a strict reading of the PSR, you are actually required to supply a reason for things to stop existing.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 11, 2022, 11:28:53 AM
Joshua, in your last reply to me you're mixing up Aristotle's four causes. I know you haven't mentioned Aristotle, but you're using his language, so we have to keep consistent with that language. Just so I'm clear - there is no contemporary use of the word "cause" in the way you're using it, as the term does not mean what you're using it to mean. That's ok, we can use Aristotle's meaning so long as we're clear and consistent in that usage.

God is the fundamental cause of my existence at this moment

Since your premise is that non-existence is the default and it requires an active move by God to keep things persistent, this would be an efficient cause of things keeping as they are. This is a consideration of change or potential change, with that change (or lack thereof) being controlled by God.

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but a proximate cause of my existence is the cells in my body or the molecules in my cells, which is caused by the atoms in those molecules, which is caused by the particles in those atoms, which are caused by <whatever>. And so on.

No, the material that makes up your body is not a proximate cause of your existence, it is the material cause of your body. And their structure is the formal cause of why you are the way you are. A proximate cause (a modern term) is an event closely related to another event that is related to a change in circumstances, i.e. one event affects another. This would fall under efficient cause, which is not what the material making up your body is.

Now you have refrained from addressing this type of issue, but if you wanted to look at subatomic physics and argue that everything is in motion within you, thus there could be a breakdown between formal + material causes and efficient causes for things happening, then I could accept that. But you are equivocating with the word "cause" and using it in all sorts of different ways within the same proposition. My cells are not the "cause" of my existence in the same way that God "causes" me to continue existing; they are categorically different. And again, this all requires us to accept the use of translations of antiquated language (which by the way I don't accept, but which I'll go along with to follow an argument) and disregard the fairly obvious fact that if you said to anyone today that the atoms making up your body are the "cause" of your existence they would just look at your funny unless they worked in a classics department. How could my cells and atoms by the "cause" of me when they ARE me? I'm not interested in pursuing that argument, but just illustrating how much we must already bend in using old language. Let's actually use that language as intended!

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At the root of that chain of causation, right here in this moment, there must be something which necessarily exists, because all of those other things have contingent existence.

As I just mentioned, this backtraced chain of causation of why I exist in this moment does not work:

Me <-- my cells <-- my atoms <-- etc etc <-- God

My cells and atoms play no part, according to your argument, in allowing me to persist from moment to moment, since they do not intrinsically contain the property of persistence. Therefore they are not a cause of me ceasing to vanish. God would be the agent causing both them me to continue to persist, simultaneously. There is no chain of causation there, just one single causation keeping the entire boat afloat. The only way a reference to my body's structure matters is if you're looking to find out why I stay alive and don't die over time, which cannot be part of the argument since you are not talking about how things change over time.

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Your argument's first clause is based on the fact that we can see why things exist, which surely must be about how things are working in time.

No. Not necessarily. We can talk about historical causes and those are valid. We can also talk about hierarchical causes.

Historical causes are about rate of change over time; it's physics and motion. You have ruled this out as being part of what you're talking about.

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For example, why does my keyboard sit on my desk rather than fall to the floor?

Due to the effects over time of electromagnetism, which has nothing to do with why the desk, the floor, and electromagnetism continue to persist over time rather than just vanish. These chronological phenomena (so-called laws of nature) have nothing to do with persistence, which you yourself have insisted on since physical nature itself cannot contain persistence as a property. Therefore any goings-on of nature cannot explain persistence.

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We can talk about the history of the keyboard: the gathering of the raw materials, the forming of them into a keyboard, their packaging, the delivery drivers, the store, my purchase, its unpacking, and me plugging it in to my computer and putting it on my desk.

Same objection as above.

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But none of that has anything to do with why it sits 3 feet above the ground rather than falling to the floor. All of the causation of that is happening right here in this moment. The keyboard rests on my desk, which rests on the carpet, which rests upon the floor boards, which rest upon the floor beams, and so on. The cause for its sitting 3 feet above the ground is hierarchical, not historical.

This is wrong on every level. No natural effects are instantaneous, they occur over time, usually mediated by the speed of light. E/M replusing effects occur with a certain force over time; gravity functions at a certain strength over time, transmitted at the speed of light; all of this has to do with how things change over time. None of it is a static situation that 'just is'. Now if you want to call the laws of nature 'hierarchical' and define "hierarchical" as simply being synonymous with forces that categorically affect all matter and energy, I guess that would be ok. But you do understand that the laws of nature are only measurements of how things change over time, right? They are literally not anything else. Now you might think that something like a proton's mass is unchanging over time, but even this isn't clear. We don't know whether the proton mass is absolutely fixed, nor can we just 'see' its mass; but rather we can only speak of its mass via experiments that measure change over time. So the reality of mass is nested with the reality of active measurements, which in turn are a function of change over time. So you can call natural laws hierarchical if you like, but those are not a hierarchy in the sense of 'existing' within an instant of time as some kind of tower standing about material reality and heading toward God. They only exist vis a vis measurements of change over time. If you are eliminating chronology then you are eliminating them as well.

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Similarly, our existence must rest upon something, here in this moment. The past no longer exists; something which does not exist cannot give existence to something now. It could have been an historical cause, but it cannot actualize existence here in this moment.

I understand this has been your position, but you can't fall back on the laws of nature to explain our existence either. Unless you are suggesting that persistence over time is actually a law of nature? But that's what Tom has been suggesting and you've rejected it. If persistence has no part of the physical laws then those are of no help to us to explain why things persist.

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I don't get your objection. You seem to want me to offer a parallel argument because the one on the first page is not enough. While I think that request is kind of silly, I would point out that the argument for God being fully actual that I provided a few pages back is a completely parallel argument, as is the argument for God's intellect from the universals, as is the argument for God being non-composite. These four all start from observing something obvious about reality around us, and conclude a particular property of God. Then, upon reflection, wen can see that they're all pointing at the same God.

Just so I'm clear, are you citing these theological propositions as being the basis of your statement in clause #2 that science and philosophy do function? Note again, my objection is that your statement that we can trust science and philosophy is meant to support the proposition that God props up existence in this moment, which doesn't seem to make sense unless one or both fields have provided for us solid evidence that we can make strong statements like this. So are you limiting this solid evidence to the theological propositions you just named (about the attributes of God), or are there other domains of philosophy that have shown us success that should give us confidence in making statements about how existence is propped up?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 23, 2022, 04:49:01 AM
I think it was pretty clear that I found that previous "explanation" nonsensical (as you had tied yourself into knots with a Greek understanding of "properties" that had no actual basis in reality.) Want to try to explain again why you think persistence cannot be a property of matter? Note that, by a strict reading of the PSR, you are actually required to supply a reason for things to stop existing.

I have explained it already, a few times, and you haven't responded to that explanation.  Here it is quoted again:

"1. If the property in intrinsic to the thing, then this is a nonsensical circular boot-strapping: the thing's existence depends on the property and the property's existence depends on the thing. A mutual dependency like this cannot cause existence (because P->Q and Q->P is satisfied by `P and `Q).

2. If the property is extrinsic to the thing, then (pursuant to the PSR) the property's existence requires an explanation. If you assert that property as a brute fact, it's essentially no different than asserting the thing's existence as a brute fact. "
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 23, 2022, 05:30:40 AM
Joshua, in your last reply to me you're mixing up Aristotle's four causes. I know you haven't mentioned Aristotle, but you're using his language, so we have to keep consistent with that language. Just so I'm clear - there is no contemporary use of the word "cause" in the way you're using it, as the term does not mean what you're using it to mean. That's ok, we can use Aristotle's meaning so long as we're clear and consistent in that usage.

I'm not. If you'd like, quote the part that confuses you and I'd be glad to clarify.


God is the fundamental cause of my existence at this moment

Since your premise is that non-existence is the default and it requires an active move by God to keep things persistent, this would be an efficient cause of things keeping as they are. This is a consideration of change or potential change, with that change (or lack thereof) being controlled by God.

And?

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but a proximate cause of my existence is the cells in my body or the molecules in my cells, which is caused by the atoms in those molecules, which is caused by the particles in those atoms, which are caused by <whatever>. And so on.

No, the material that makes up your body is not a proximate cause of your existence, it is the material cause of your body. And their structure is the formal cause of why you are the way you are. A proximate cause (a modern term) is an event closely related to another event that is related to a change in circumstances, i.e. one event affects another. This would fall under efficient cause, which is not what the material making up your body is.

I am using the word "proximate" here as opposed to "ultimate" or "most fundamental". This is a common usage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proximate_and_ultimate_causation). If you prefer the phrase "immediate cause" we can use that instead. You had previously asserted that a chain of causation of existence was an unnecessary structure because God causes everything, and I am rejecting that. God does ultimately cause everything, but he is not the immediate cause of everything.

Now you have refrained from addressing this type of issue, but if you wanted to look at subatomic physics and argue that everything is in motion within you, thus there could be a breakdown between formal + material causes and efficient causes for things happening, then I could accept that.

I have avoided the science-fiction of time-travel and time-loops and farting-goats that you and Tom want to make up and then use as counterarguments because they are science fiction. In addition, they are all categorically uninteresting and fail to address the fundamental point of the argument on page one.

But you are equivocating with the word "cause" and using it in all sorts of different ways within the same proposition. My cells are not the "cause" of my existence in the same way that God "causes" me to continue existing; they are categorically different.

I do not think that is an equivocation. My existence at this moment relies upon, among other things, the existence of my constituent parts. The existence of my constituent parts relies upon the existence of their parts, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, all of that must rest upon something which necessarily exists, or the entire chain doesn't exist.

And again, this all requires us to accept the use of translations of antiquated language (which by the way I don't accept, but which I'll go along with to follow an argument)

What do you mean by antiquated language? I think you mean antiquated ideas. And calling something antiquated isn't a response at all.

... and disregard the fairly obvious fact that if you said to anyone today that the atoms making up your body are the "cause" of your existence they would just look at your funny unless they worked in a classics department. How could my cells and atoms by the "cause" of me when they ARE me? I'm not interested in pursuing that argument, but just illustrating how much we must already bend in using old language. Let's actually use that language as intended!

Yes, modern people educated by our science-only education system need an education on how to think and how to use words. I don't care that they might look at me funny. Why would I care about that at all? How do you imagine this is an argument?

If a quantum physicist started talking about quantum mechanics at a highly technical level, I would look at him funny. That wouldn't mean that he was wrong or using words wrong; it would mean that I didn't understand his discipline.

Quote from: JoshuaD
At the root of that chain of causation, right here in this moment, there must be something which necessarily exists, because all of those other things have contingent existence.
As I just mentioned, this backtraced chain of causation of why I exist in this moment does not work:

Me <-- my cells <-- my atoms <-- etc etc <-- God

My cells and atoms play no part, according to your argument, in allowing me to persist from moment to moment, since they do not intrinsically contain the property of persistence. Therefore they are not a cause of me ceasing to vanish. God would be the agent causing both them me to continue to persist, simultaneously. There is no chain of causation there, just one single causation keeping the entire boat afloat. The only way a reference to my body's structure matters is if you're looking to find out why I stay alive and don't die over time, which cannot be part of the argument since you are not talking about how things change over time.

You seem to understand cause to be strictly regarding change-over-time. That is not how I am using the term nor how those who translated Aristotle used the term. If that's a source of confusion for you, I'm sorry, but you'll just have to get used to it. It is a relatively common usage.

Historical causes are about rate of change over time; it's physics and motion. You have ruled this out as being part of what you're talking about.

Yes, I have avoided talking about historical causes in this thread. I think the lines of reasoning which work historical causes are valid, but I have not employed those lines of reasoning.


Quote from: JoshuaD
For example, why does my keyboard sit on my desk rather than fall to the floor?
Due to the effects over time of electromagnetism, which has nothing to do with why the desk, the floor, and electromagnetism continue to persist over time rather than just vanish. These chronological phenomena (so-called laws of nature) have nothing to do with persistence, which you yourself have insisted on since physical nature itself cannot contain persistence as a property. Therefore any goings-on of nature cannot explain persistence.

The past doesn't exist. The past cannot be the reason why my keyboard doesn't fall. Something here in this moment must be the cause.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
We can talk about the history of the keyboard: the gathering of the raw materials, the forming of them into a keyboard, their packaging, the delivery drivers, the store, my purchase, its unpacking, and me plugging it in to my computer and putting it on my desk.

Same objection as above.

Lol, what? Are you just blindly objecting to anything I say now? What is possibly objectionable about what I said in this quote? We can't talk about raw materials? We can't talk about delivery drivers?

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
But none of that has anything to do with why it sits 3 feet above the ground rather than falling to the floor. All of the causation of that is happening right here in this moment. The keyboard rests on my desk, which rests on the carpet, which rests upon the floor boards, which rest upon the floor beams, and so on. The cause for its sitting 3 feet above the ground is hierarchical, not historical.

This is wrong on every level. No natural effects are instantaneous, they occur over time, usually mediated by the speed of light. E/M replusing effects occur with a certain force over time; gravity functions at a certain strength over time, transmitted at the speed of light; all of this has to do with how things change over time. None of it is a static situation that 'just is'. Now if you want to call the laws of nature 'hierarchical' and define "hierarchical" as simply being synonymous with forces that categorically affect all matter and energy, I guess that would be ok. But you do understand that the laws of nature are only measurements of how things change over time, right? They are literally not anything else. Now you might think that something like a proton's mass is unchanging over time, but even this isn't clear. We don't know whether the proton mass is absolutely fixed, nor can we just 'see' its mass; but rather we can only speak of its mass via experiments that measure change over time. So the reality of mass is nested with the reality of active measurements, which in turn are a function of change over time. So you can call natural laws hierarchical if you like, but those are not a hierarchy in the sense of 'existing' within an instant of time as some kind of tower standing about material reality and heading toward God. They only exist vis a vis measurements of change over time. If you are eliminating chronology then you are eliminating them as well.

I am not making an appeal to the models of physics. Nothing I've said here is contrary to physics, but I'm also not appealing to physics. Indicating that a physical model, known to be incomplete and flawed and only a first-order approximation, doesn't map exactly the same way as what I'm saying on the metaphysical level is non-responsive. You're missing the point entirely. You are losing the forest for the trees.


Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
Similarly, our existence must rest upon something, here in this moment. The past no longer exists; something which does not exist cannot give existence to something now. It could have been an historical cause, but it cannot actualize existence here in this moment.

I understand this has been your position, but you can't fall back on the laws of nature to explain our existence either. Unless you are suggesting that persistence over time is actually a law of nature? But that's what Tom has been suggesting and you've rejected it. If persistence has no part of the physical laws then those are of no help to us to explain why things persist.

I am not rejecting that things persist over time. So sure, persistence over time is a law of nature. But that law of nature is not a brute fact. There must be a reason for it; the existence of things and the existence of that property or tendency is not a sufficient explanation for why things exist.

Quote from: Fenring
Quote from: JoshuaD
I don't get your objection. You seem to want me to offer a parallel argument because the one on the first page is not enough. While I think that request is kind of silly, I would point out that the argument for God being fully actual that I provided a few pages back is a completely parallel argument, as is the argument for God's intellect from the universals, as is the argument for God being non-composite. These four all start from observing something obvious about reality around us, and conclude a particular property of God. Then, upon reflection, wen can see that they're all pointing at the same God.

Just so I'm clear, are you citing these theological propositions as being the basis of your statement in clause #2 that science and philosophy do function? Note again, my objection is that your statement that we can trust science and philosophy is meant to support the proposition that God props up existence in this moment, which doesn't seem to make sense unless one or both fields have provided for us solid evidence that we can make strong statements like this. So are you limiting this solid evidence to the theological propositions you just named (about the attributes of God), or are there other domains of philosophy that have shown us success that should give us confidence in making statements about how existence is propped up?

No. I was clear how I used those philosophical (not theological) arguments; each one points to a different property of God that we can know through reason.

My point in clause 2 is that a rejection of the PSR is a rejection of the validity of science and philosophy, because they both rest upon the PSR. 
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 23, 2022, 09:54:07 AM
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If the property is extrinsic to the thing, then (pursuant to the PSR) the property's existence requires an explanation.
And a perfectly fine explanation, per the PSR, is "that's the way matter works, for some perfectly good reason we don't know." It's not a "brute fact." Note that this is actually how we have observed matter (and energy) to behave. We don't know what causes cancer, but asserting the existence of cancer doesn't violate the PSR, either. Lots of physicists have suggested all kinds of reasons why, in practice, matter and energy are preserved; it is an entire field of study.

Let me again emphasize this point: we know that things do not spontaneously stop existing. This directly assaults the entire need for an "uncaused cause," as the whole point of an unbroken chain of causation was that, in a universe where things stop existing and by and large only arise from other things, it would be unlikely for things to be observed to exist unless some existing thing persisted. Absent the need to explain how to deal with non-existence -- and let me remind you that a strict reading of the PSR demands that things have a reason to stop existing, which you have not provided (and which contradicts observed reality) -- an uncaused cause is irrelevant.

Things, once they exist, keep existing. This is a truer law than "things stop existing." If you want to insist that it is a "brute fact" because we do not yet understand the reason for the preservation of energy (beyond the obvious mathematic implications), that's fine -- as long as we then agree that "things stop existing" is not only "brute" but in fact a "brute falsehood." ;) The whole reason "things stop existing" is included as the bedrock of one of the original Five Ways is that learned men of the time legitimately misunderstood what "things" were. Now that we know better, you actually have to assert it as an axiom that contradicts observed reality in order to then argue that the reason observed reality differs from what the axiom would suggest is a hypothetical god.

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I have avoided the science-fiction of time-travel and time-loops and farting-goats that you and Tom want to make up and then use as counterarguments because they are science fiction.
Allow me to suggest that the difference between one of these possibilities and the possibility of Aquinas' God is that one of them is science. ;)

Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 23, 2022, 11:11:58 AM
I realized I should also note that I chose the "farting goat" hypothesis because it is a) ridiculous; and b) still meets all the presented criteria for the creation of the universe without being the Christian God -- the point being, of course, that there's a huge gulf between "extraplanar reason for time progressing in this universe" and "omnipotent, omnibenevolent sapient spirit obsessed with blood sacrifice."
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 23, 2022, 05:15:59 PM
Joshua,

I'll make sure I'm being clear by saying this again: your problem thoughout the argument, and in these recent rebuttals, is always the language. You keep saying I am too (I guess) modern to understand the ideas you're putting forward. But you are way too far ahead of where we're at for that to be a concern. If you want to say that a philosophical statement should be accepted by someone else, which is literally the only reason to put forward a proof, then your #1, #2, and #3 priorities should be to establish common language and communication standards with your audience or interlocutor. If someone is saying there's a disagreement about word meaning, and you insist there isn't, there is already a disagreement about word meaning! If I tell you that you are using the letters C-A-U-S-E to point in all sorts of different directions, and you tell me I just don't know what you're talking about, we have already established what the particular arena of the debate should be: to nail down the meanings of the words so that we can finally move on to discussing whether the concepts you want to outline are in fact true. But we can't even establish truth-function in non-propositions that don't even have clear semantic meanings. I pointed out in a detailed way the ways in which "cause" were used in Aristotle (which is historically the only context I'm aware of in which that word can connote definitions of structure [e.g. 'I am made up of cells therefore my cells are the cause of me']) but you seem to have ignored the specifics, re: material cause, formal cause, etc. Without such restriction on what the word "cause" means, then, yes, it's a constant equivocation scenario.

This is just one example, of which there are may here, of where language disagreement makes it difficult to get to the point where we can discuss the truth merits of a proposition. You asked me why I have a problem with PSR, and I mentioned a few issues, but perhaps primarily that I'm not even sure it's a coherent proposition. So far I have not seen any evidence that you have understood what I mean by that, because you seem to be very quick to dismiss my concern and to still insist that I should be able to pick a side and say whether I agree with it or not. But you can neither agree nor disagree with a non-proposition, something that is just a jumble of sounds with no real meaning.

I will submit, though, that in addition to the fact that we have discrepancies in word usage amongst us, there is also the issue which you did allude to earlier, that we are inevitably jumping around. For instance it's admittedly hard to keep every single point in its proper place, such as this one for instance:

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Just so I'm clear, are you citing these theological propositions as being the basis of your statement in clause #2 that science and philosophy do function? Note again, my objection is that your statement that we can trust science and philosophy is meant to support the proposition that God props up existence in this moment, which doesn't seem to make sense unless one or both fields have provided for us solid evidence that we can make strong statements like this. So are you limiting this solid evidence to the theological propositions you just named (about the attributes of God), or are there other domains of philosophy that have shown us success that should give us confidence in making statements about how existence is propped up?

No. I was clear how I used those philosophical (not theological) arguments; each one points to a different property of God that we can know through reason.

It may not have been as evident as it ideally would that this comment of mine, which you replied to, was directly and solely a matter of investigating your claim on pg 1 that since science and philosophy do work that we can trust remarks made about how creation is kept afloat moment to moment. Your only defense of that claim so far was citing the different aspects of God, and I was asking whether there was more backup or whether that's it. Putting aside any further answer to this question, you thought (it would seem) that I was accusing the theological/philosophical aspects of God of being in the wrong category for our discuss (theology, rather than philosophy). But that's not actually what I asked. Again, this can perhaps be hard to track if we're dealing with different line items in random order.

I 've got to run out now, but one last word for now:

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The past doesn't exist. The past cannot be the reason why my keyboard doesn't fall. Something here in this moment must be the cause.

This may be language-related, or perhaps it's a philosophical point to debate, but my point about your resorting to chronology without intending to (I would argue you actually cannot get away from it no matter what you would try) is that even your phrase "in this moment" is most likely an incoherent phrase that doesn't point to a real thing. Nothing I'm aware of gives us the right to assert that there is a such thing as a "moment" (a slice in time that's neither future nor past), nor that we can specify something can be immediate without being a part of the past. Just by thinking something you are already referencing something already behind you. There is no 'now' now, to coin a phrase. I guess that would put Dark Helmet in a difficult position. And nothing I'm aware of in physics permits for talking about zero-time moments. Everything in nature seems to operate on finite lag. I hope you can see why this makes it a problem to claim that any scenario can be divorced from chronology.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Ephrem Moseley on July 23, 2022, 05:41:34 PM
Hi. I know that (the Abrahamic) God exists. Anyone else?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: wmLambert on July 23, 2022, 08:56:18 PM
Joshua, way back in your initial post you made two statements:
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1. The universe exists and is intelligible. That is to say, things exist and we can see that there are reasons for why things exist. Things don't pop in and out of existence for no reason.

2. If this weren't true, science and philosophy wouldn't function, and we wouldn't be able to trust our cognitive and sensitive faculties. But science and philosophy do function, and we can use reason and our senses to learn about reality...

I'm not sure in the following pages whether you addressed this any better, but until Judaism and Christianity arrived, the entire world assumed the existence of God or gods, who were outside the need of consistency. They were not restrained by any physical laws of the universe and seemed to behave idiosyncratically. They could do whatever amused them, and Mankind had to just accept the results without understanding why or how occurrences happened as they did. The God of Moses was one of the first to be patriarchal - as most godheads were all matriarchal based on creating life. It took Christianity to establish a religion in which there were understandable physical laws f the universe, created in a way in which Mankind could study them and learn how they worked, in order to better understand Creation and revere the maker.

As far as we have grown, that basic dichotomy is still the basis of modern belief. It is confusing to see so many different things that could not have evolved independently which can only exist synergistically with other things. Most Biblical scholars believe the evolution of species is a one-dimensional genetic winnowing, in which all possible evolutionary goals must already be in the original genome, and evolution comes from positing one genetic trait and losing others. Nothing new under the sun, just latent genetics coming to the fore. Time, energy, and all physicality exist in the same equation.neh?
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 23, 2022, 09:42:50 PM
I just wanted to throw in once more than I'm trying to gang up on you, Joshua, if it may appear to be the case. I'm not joining up with Tom to oppose arguments for God, or anything like that. As you know I agree with some of your views on the cause of all things, and so all of my objections above need to be understood as me going after a particular line of argument, not against your core beliefs. I hope that distinction is clear :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 23, 2022, 11:24:21 PM
Err, that's a bad typo (Ornerymod can edit it and delete this post if that's simpler). I'm *NOT* trying to gang up on you.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 24, 2022, 12:00:58 AM
Hahaha, by total coincidence (I hope) the top suggested video for me on Youtube just now was this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwzN5YwMzv0&ab_channel=SabineHossenfelder

Check it out if you want to see how mired in difficulty the word "now" is, purely on a mechanical level. But it's worse! Assuming you've watched the video before reading on, you may find a few issues with Einstein's assumptions in how he defines "now", one of which should be obvious given what I just mentioned above: how can you establish "now" using mirrors and photons without making observations about the activity of those photons...in time? Einstein describes the thought experiment in such a way as to act as a zero-time-lag moment where the impact and calculation are instantaneous, but since by definition of relativity nothing is instantaneous he actually presupposes assumption #5, that there is a such thing as a a 'moment' (see where I'm going with this?) where you can determine "now" to be. And I'll remind you that it's theoretically difficult enough to define "now" even on a freeze-framed graph in a thought experiment, no less to assert that it in fact exists and can be examined as being a 'frame' in which something like electromagnetism (e.g. that force which keeps the laptop on the table) can be 'in operation'. Another problem with the thought experiment, just to name one more, is that Einstein is defining "now" in a manner that is not entirely useful philosophically speaking. It ends up being a sort of reference point establishing a nexus point between separate locations, which treats time more like a physical dimension that can be bisected than as a moment in which 'the present' occurs, phenomenologically speaking. That's in keeping with relativity, but it ends up being a mathematical treatment rather than an answer about whether we can ever speak of anything other than past or future from our vantage point.

Just so I don't sound dismissive about all this, I think "is there such a thing as now" would be a cool paper topic, either in philosophy or physics. But it's a really non-trivial matter, which is why we must be cautious about throwing supposedly self-evident statements about reality around.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 24, 2022, 02:41:09 AM
I just wanted to throw in once more than I'm trying to gang up on you, Joshua, if it may appear to be the case. I'm not joining up with Tom to oppose arguments for God, or anything like that. As you know I agree with some of your views on the cause of all things, and so all of my objections above need to be understood as me going after a particular line of argument, not against your core beliefs. I hope that distinction is clear :)

I don't mind the gang-up aspect. I'm responding at a pace I'm comfortable with and you guys don't seem to mind the delays, so it's fine.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 24, 2022, 03:06:32 AM
Quote from: Fenring
I'll make sure I'm being clear by saying this again: your problem thoughout the argument, and in these recent rebuttals, is always the language. You keep saying I am too (I guess) modern to understand the ideas you're putting forward.

No, I think you basically understand the argument I made on the first page. I don't think you're too modern to understand it, I just think you're lost in non-essential details. It's not that the little details don't matter, it's that they aren't terribly interesting to the argument.

You should spend time thinking about the Principle of Sufficient Reason and whether you believe it holds true. If you don't, you should spend time with the consequnces of that belief. If you ultimately conclude that it holds true, then we can talk about any other place you think the argument on page one fails.

Quote from: Fenring
If you want to say that a philosophical statement should be accepted by someone else, which is literally the only reason to put forward a proof, then your #1, #2, and #3 priorities should be to establish common language and communication standards with your audience or interlocutor.

I disagree. I have no interest in inventing a new vocabulary with each person I meet, creating my own little version of the tower of babel. If I meet a quantum physicist, I don't expect him to make up an entire new vocabulary to meet me half way. If I want to understand his ideas, I'll learn his vocabulary.

I have no problem explaning what I mean by any word I use. I'm not interested in changing the long-standing language of the philosophers I learned from to suit your preferences.

Quote from: Fenring
If someone is saying there's a disagreement about word meaning, and you insist there isn't, there is already a disagreement about word meaning!

What? I'm not insisting that you and I don't disagree. I'm just saying you're wrong and I'm right.

Quote from: Fenring
If I tell you that you are using the letters C-A-U-S-E to point in all sorts of different directions, and you tell me I just don't know what you're talking about, we have already established what the particular arena of the debate should be: to nail down the meanings of the words so that we can finally move on to discussing whether the concepts you want to outline are in fact true.

I have used the word cause in this thread as a synonym for the word reason, in the context of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. If there is a particular time I used it that you find confusing (i.e. you don't understand my meaning) ping it, and I'll be glad to clarify.

Quote from: Fenring
I pointed out in a detailed way the ways in which "cause" were used in Aristotle (which is historically the only context I'm aware of in which that word can connote definitions of structure [e.g. 'I am made up of cells therefore my cells are the cause of me']) but you seem to have ignored the specifics, re: material cause, formal cause, etc. Without such restriction on what the word "cause" means, then, yes, it's a constant equivocation scenario.

If I ask the question "Why does my keyboard not fall to the floor?" a fine answer is "because of the desk". be-cause. For the reason that.  The desk is the cause of my keyboard staying aloft. The desk is the reason for my keyboard staying aloft.

I like Aristotle's four causes and I think it's a fine thing, but I'm not really invoking it here. It's a really simple thing to say: My desk is the reason my keyboard doesn't fall to the ground.

Quote from: Fenring
This is just one example, of which there are may here, of where language disagreement makes it difficult to get to the point where we can discuss the truth merits of a proposition.

May I suggest that instead of getting me to speak a different way, just ask me what I mean and I will tell you. If you think I am doing a equivocation sleight-of-hand, point at it and we'll talk about it. While I didn't agree with your point when you made that a few posts back, I thought it was a worthwhile question and I didn't mind responding to it.

All of the rest of this is pretty noisy and value-less to me. If you don't understand what I mean with something I said, ask me, and I'll try to clarify. Please stop writing paragraph after paragraph about how generally hard language is; it might be hard, but dragging the philosophy of language into the question isn't going to make it any easier.

If you are confused by my words, ask me what I mean. It's simple friend.

Quote from: Fenring
You asked me why I have a problem with PSR, and I mentioned a few issues, but perhaps primarily that I'm not even sure it's a coherent proposition. So far I have not seen any evidence that you have understood what I mean by that, because you seem to be very quick to dismiss my concern and to still insist that I should be able to pick a side and say whether I agree with it or not. But you can neither agree nor disagree with a non-proposition, something that is just a jumble of sounds with no real meaning.

I understood your point in concept and I don't see any reason to think that's a valid criticism of the principle of sufficient reason, so I encouraged you to go gather your thoughts on the topic and make your argument in clear and specific objections. I can't respond to "well, I think maybe that's not a coherent statement". It looks perfectly coherent to me. Why does it look incoherent to you?

Quote from: Fenring
matter what you would try) is that even your phrase "in this moment" is most likely an incoherent phrase that doesn't point to a real thing

No, it points to a real thing. Now exists. I'm here, right now. I'm typing these words, right now. If you'd like to say otherwise, say it with some conviction and with clear arguments, not a vague appeal to who knows what. Give me a concrete reason to entertain your idea and I'll do so. Saying "probably" doesn't mean anything at all. 


Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 24, 2022, 03:12:05 AM
I realized I should also note that I chose the "farting goat" hypothesis because it is a) ridiculous; and b) still meets all the presented criteria for the creation of the universe without being the Christian God -- the point being, of course, that there's a huge gulf between "extraplanar reason for time progressing in this universe" and "omnipotent, omnibenevolent sapient spirit obsessed with blood sacrifice."

For about the tenth time, it does not satisfy the presented criteria. The arguments for the existence of God start with our immediate experiences and some basic philosophical principles (such as the principle of sufficient reason) and point at something which necessarily exists, something which possesses no potential, something which is perfectly simple, and so on.

Your goat does not satisfy those characteristics. Your goat may very well have farted out our Universe in some multiverse scheme, it is just some uninteresting intermediate cause; it cannot be the most fundamental cause because it does not satisfy those characteristics, as you've openly acknowledged.

You're really not getting the argument. There may be worthwhile responses to what I'm saying; talking about some made up intermediary cause is not one of those worthwhile responses.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 24, 2022, 03:34:30 AM
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If the property is extrinsic to the thing, then (pursuant to the PSR) the property's existence requires an explanation.
And a perfectly fine explanation, per the PSR, is "that's the way matter works, for some perfectly good reason we don't know." It's not a "brute fact."

If you're saying the property is extrinsic to the object and is not the ultimate cause of the persistence of the object, then you've defanged your property of persistence such that it no longer attempts to refute my argument.

Let me again emphasize this point: we know that things do not spontaneously stop existing. This directly assaults the entire need for an "uncaused cause," as the whole point of an unbroken chain of causation was that, in a universe where things stop existing and by and large only arise from other things, it would be unlikely for things to be observed to exist unless some existing thing persisted.

Just because we observe that a particular thing is constantly true doesn't mean it ceases to require an explanation. Your entire premise here is deeply flawed.

Quote from: Tom
Absent the need to explain how to deal with non-existence -- and let me remind you that a strict reading of the PSR demands that things have a reason to stop existing, which you have not provided (and which contradicts observed reality) -- an uncaused cause is irrelevant.

Non-existence doesn't exist and doesn't require an explanation in the same way that existence does. They are not co-equal in opposition; one is existence, the other is the absence of the former.  We don't need to explain why a room is dark other than to show that there is no light in it. Light has existence; darkness does not. We need to explain light, we don't need to explain darkness in the same way.

Quote from: Tom
Things, once they exist, keep existing. This is a truer law than "things stop existing." If you want to insist that it is a "brute fact" because we do not yet understand the reason for the preservation of energy (beyond the obvious mathematic implications), that's fine -- as long as we then agree that "things stop existing" is not only "brute" but in fact a "brute falsehood." ;)

I'm not asserting that the limits of science are brute facts; I think we can and do know plenty beyond what science has mapped. I'm saying that if your philosophy stop at the limits of science, you are asserting the limits of science as brute facts. We don't need to be able to map all of the great unknown to know some features about it. I know metaphysics gives you an emotional reaction, but that's not a good reason to dismiss our ability to reason beyond our ability to observe.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 24, 2022, 10:35:53 AM
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it is just some uninteresting intermediate cause; it cannot be the most fundamental cause
In a truly multiversal model, no fundamental cause -- as you're defining it -- is logically necessary. Time itself is non-observable in that framework. This means that any requirements you're asserting are a priori, not actually based on observation.

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Just because we observe that a particular thing is constantly true doesn't mean it ceases to require an explanation.
Nor did I say there was not an explanation. As I noted before, we genuinely don't know what causes all forms of cancer. And yet we do not assert that cancer cannot exist.

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Non-existence doesn't exist and doesn't require an explanation in the same way that existence does.
Says you. Whereas I say that once an object exists, the change of state to non-existence is an event just like any other event handled by the PSR.

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We don't need to explain why a room is dark other than to show that there is no light in it.
But if a room is lit, and then ceases to be lit, there must be a reason.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: JoshuaD on July 25, 2022, 02:19:29 AM
Quote from: JoshuaD
it is just some uninteresting intermediate cause; it cannot be the most fundamental cause
In a truly multiversal model, no fundamental cause -- as you're defining it -- is logically necessary. Time itself is non-observable in that framework. This means that any requirements you're asserting are a priori, not actually based on observation.

1. For about the twentieth time, I am not making an appeal to an historical cause. I have no problem with those arguments and I think they hold, but I chose to use the hierarchical one I presented on page 1, which is still standing. Your best attempt to refute my actual argument was asserting a property of persistence, but I've offered my counterargument to that idea which I believe is fatal, and in your attempt to respond two posts ago you neutered your argument to the point where it no longer tries to refute mine.

2. Either the principle of sufficient reason holds or it doesn't. Either things happen for reasons or they don't. If they do, then that implies the existence of something which necessarily exists, no matter what intermediate causes you imagine between here and there.

If you'd like to explain why some multiversal model you've imagined circumvents the line of reasoning I've presented on page one, I'm listening. If you could construct such a thing that was not nonsense (even if it were completely made up) it would be a fine response to my point. Indicating that time may not work the same way in that system isn't a refutation of my ideas; you can talk about time loops, you can talk about whatever you want, all of it needs to happen for reasons, and if it does, that implies a fundamental reason.

Ultimately, if you accept that things happen for reasons, you're going to have to say there is a most fundamental reason, which contains in itself its own reason. It's unavoidable. You can abandon the PSR if you'd like, but then you're off in some pretty dark waters that I don't think you want to be in.

So, if you think you can articulate a multiversal model that retains the PSR but refutes my argument, go ahead and outline it. It would be a fine point, but I don't think it is possible. Thus far, every time you have attempted to refute my argument you have either made a brute stop at some intermediate cause or suggested that wacky time travel would undermine the PSR when it would not.

Quote from: JoshuaD
Just because we observe that a particular thing is constantly true doesn't mean it ceases to require an explanation.
Nor did I say there was not an explanation. As I noted before, we genuinely don't know what causes all forms of cancer. And yet we do not assert that cancer cannot exist.

This again misunderstands my arguments, and again ignores my prior response (responses?) to this point: I am not saying that we must map every cause in order to satisfy the PSR, only that things must happen for reasons. The reasons can be mysteries, but we can know that they are there.

To use your analogy: we might not know all of the reasons why cancer happens, but we believe that it happens for reasons. It isn't just spontaneously popping into people's bodies with no reason whatsoever. Maybe those reasons are too subtle for us to understand o currently; if so, that's not at all important. It's only important that we live in an intelligible universe, that things happen due to reasons.

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Non-existence doesn't exist and doesn't require an explanation in the same way that existence does.
Says you. Whereas I say that once an object exists, the change of state to non-existence is an event just like any other event handled by the PSR.

No, reasons says this. Existence and non-existence aren't the same and non-existence doesn't require explanation in the same way that existence does.  Again, you misunderstand me and respond to something you've made up, not what I've said.

There are reasons why things cease to exist, I haven't rejected that. If I turn off the lights, there is a reason the room went dark: I stopped the flow of light into the room.

My point is that darkness does not require further explanation in the same way that light does. Darkness isn't a substance which must be explained, it is simply the absence of light.  Light is a substance and its existence requires further explanation. Darkness is explained fully by simply saying "there is no light".

It is the same with existence and non-existence. If something exists we must explain that fully. If something doesn't exist, it doesn't require any further explanation because there is nothing to explain.

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We don't need to explain why a room is dark other than to show that there is no light in it.
But if a room is lit, and then ceases to be lit, there must be a reason.

Sort of. The reason a room is full of light is that something is constantly flooding it with light particles. The reason a room goes dark is simply that that process of flooding stopped. Nothing actively created darkness; darkness is just the absence of light. The analogy holds very well in relation to my argument on page one.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 25, 2022, 09:37:50 AM
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in your attempt to respond two posts ago you neutered your argument to the point where it no longer tries to refute mine
No, it doesn't. Sweep away the metaphysical claptrap that's befuddling you and work with this statement: "things exist until they are caused to not exist."

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all of it needs to happen for reasons, and if it does, that implies a fundamental reason
No. The issue here is that a "fundamental reason" is only necessary if you're dealing with a chain of causation. You seem to think that the PSR mandates the existence of an uncaused cause, but appear ignorant of the arguments against that conclusion that have been presented over the last two hundred years.

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Maybe those reasons are too subtle for us to understand o currently; if so, that's not at all important. It's only important that we live in an intelligible universe, that things happen due to reasons.
Sure. And for reasons you don't understand, things that exist continue to exist. Because that's how things work, because that's how matter works. Once a universe existed with matter in it, physical laws inherent to both the universe and to matter ensured that matter which exists continues to exist. This does not require a metaphysical "cause;" it merely requires that we accept that things can have properties.

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Existence and non-existence aren't the same and non-existence doesn't require explanation in the same way that existence does.
Nope. You keep saying this, but you're wrong. If a room is dark, that is because there are no visible electrons bouncing around the room. That happens for a reason, in much the same way that when a room is not dark, there's a reason electrons are bouncing around a room. Remember, the question here isn't "why did this thing stop existing;" you keep insisting that you're not just talking about FIRST causes. The question is "why does this thing KEEP existing" -- and, as you've conceded, a thing needs a reason to stop existing.


Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: rightleft22 on July 25, 2022, 10:01:55 AM
Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it - Terry Pratchett
How would one measure the speed of darkness? And if measured would they find G_d :)

But I digress

Much is over my head but have been enjoying the dialog
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 25, 2022, 12:04:37 PM
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Remember, the question here isn't "why did this thing stop existing"
Just a quick correction: the question isn't "why did this thing start existing."
I really hate the edit window. :)
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 25, 2022, 12:13:09 PM
Nope. You keep saying this, but you're wrong. If a room is dark, that is because there are no visible electrons bouncing around the room. That happens for a reason, in much the same way that when a room is not dark, there's a reason electrons are bouncing around a room.

This is the problem with analogies, and largely a problem with ancient argumentation: they don't tend to apply because things rarely map 1:1. The difference between non-existence and existence isn't equivocal to that between light and darkness, and therefore conclusions drawn about a dark room won't apply to a non-existent universe. As Tom points out, a room can be dark because there are obstructions not allowing light in. It's what we might call an open system masquerading as a closed system. The light is outside, let's say, and walls that block EM radiation stop it entering. There's a structure in play. What's more, the room is not totally dark vis a vis EM radiation, just to visible light. There is still background radiation, excitation in the molecules, etc etc. But in the case of non-existence, whatever that might be, we cannot posit an 'outside' to this, or an obstruction blocking existence from 'getting in'. There is just nothing. And we can't even ask in what the nothing is contained; in fact we can't even really conceive of nothing or what it's like (or not like!). So the analogy fails on so many levels that all it will do is confuse. That's not a slam on this particular analogy, but more on the difficulty of generating an analogy that works.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 25, 2022, 12:20:38 PM
To be fair, it's possible that Joshua is positing something like an "existence beam" made up of, say, existitrons, which radiates out from God (or all discrete points, if God is omnipresent), and only those things recently struck by existitrons can be said to exist.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 25, 2022, 12:24:05 PM
To be fair, it's possible that Joshua is positing something like an "existence beam" made up of, say, existitrons, which radiates out from God (or all discrete points, if God is omnipresent), and only those things recently struck by existitrons can be said to exist.

I won't speak for him, but existence as divine emanation is more of a Gnostic idea.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Tom on July 25, 2022, 12:35:24 PM
Full disclosure: I AM a little interested in some of the underlying physics of this, because there are some hints in the underlying mathematics that suggest that time may not in fact exist as discrete units, and moreover that the "past" and "future" might be assemblages of multiple pasts and futures where the membranes of what we consider "time" intersect with the portion we consider the "present." In that sense, I do find the question of why we appear to perceive time sequentially -- and, thus, why anything might be said to persist from one moment to the next when it's not actually possible to prove the existence of moments at all -- to be an interesting one. We clearly think of events in terms of "moments," and on a human scale we can define "moments" with a great deal of specificity -- down to the predictable, observed vibration of individual atoms, even -- but that starts breaking down on very large (interstellar) and very small (subatomic) scales. But that's not the sort of "persistence" that's interesting to Joshua, unfortunately.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 25, 2022, 12:53:15 PM
Full disclosure for me, then: I actually think that both the present and the past are not objectively fixed on an absolute scale (some parts are, some are not), and the the future has very open-ended possibilities that depend on 'un-anchored' elements in the present and past. I have my reasons for thinking this, not easy to go into here. But that would make the 'present' some kind of bridge between unselected reality in both past and future. Sort of like a clearinghouse for parts of the puzzle getting solved or set in place. I'm sort of riffing a bit off Frank Herbert in where I started thinking on these lines, but my current guess would be something like that the 'present' is a past-present-future meeting place where the three are tied together and interrelated, and where you can't disentangle 'now' from 'just now' and 'just then'. I expect that the uncertainty principle would have to figure into this somehow. Anyhow this is all conjecture, I wouldn't try to persuade someone of it.
Title: Re: God Exists
Post by: Fenring on July 25, 2022, 04:21:59 PM
You should spend time thinking about the Principle of Sufficient Reason and whether you believe it holds true. If you don't, you should spend time with the consequnces of that belief. If you ultimately conclude that it holds true, then we can talk about any other place you think the argument on page one fails.

I think I've addressed this point at length by this point. One of the chief problems with a priori arguments is that they rely heavily on their self-declared statements, which in turn require the word choice in the statements to make sense. Like a house of cards, if the slightest thing is out of place in an a priori argument there simply is no argument - it's not even a question of disagreement with its conclusions. But hey, I can keep listing things I find wrong with PSR if you like...I didn't want to go totally bananas on it. I'll even list an objection that covers a hidden premise you've been using, namely that PSR is the only possible proposition allowing for causal logic in the universe. Here's an alternative:

There are reasons for all things, and these reasons may include connections and causes that are beyond our ability to understand. So while we can posit that they exist, we cannot form causal conclusions about them since our conception of cause may not align with how they really are.

So this variation might be called Agnostic-PSR, wherein we take it on faith that everything has a reason, but do not take it on faith that we can make positive statements about this.

And there's Tom's variation, where the farting goat creates reality and imbues it with the property wherein persistence is baked in without further input. That the farting goat vanishes subsequently was probably an unnecessary addition on Tom's part for the point to be made. This is the 'God setting everything in motion permanently' scenario which is oft mentioned. So here there would also be reasons for everything, but our ability to backtrace them would be cut off since there would not be any active connectivity between the original reason and the current setup.

Quote from: Fenring
If you want to say that a philosophical statement should be accepted by someone else, which is literally the only reason to put forward a proof, then your #1, #2, and #3 priorities should be to establish common language and communication standards with your audience or interlocutor.

I disagree.[/quote]

You disagree that the primary objective in communication should be to communicate?

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I have no interest in inventing a new vocabulary with each person I meet, creating my own little version of the tower of babel. If I meet a quantum physicist, I don't expect him to make up an entire new vocabulary to meet me half way. If I want to understand his ideas, I'll learn his vocabulary.

And if you think his vocabulary containts internal inconsistencies, you'll use his vocabulary anyhow without objection? It doesn't matter who in fact makes up the vocabulary; this isn't a question of who has the burden of coming up with the word choice. This is about the words being used having the same meaning in the minds of both participants, however that should come to pass.

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Quote from: Fenring
If someone is saying there's a disagreement about word meaning, and you insist there isn't, there is already a disagreement about word meaning!

What? I'm not insisting that you and I don't disagree. I'm just saying you're wrong and I'm right.

It doesn't matter who's wrong and right. What matters is that if we're stuck on a word's connotations then we can't proceed with things built upon the word until we agree the word's meaning is both coherent and consistent.

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I have used the word cause in this thread as a synonym for the word reason, in the context of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. If there is a particular time I used it that you find confusing (i.e. you don't understand my meaning) ping it, and I'll be glad to clarify.

Yes but PSR does certain things within its parameters, and not other things. And in fact you have never really defined whether your use of it is entirely a priori, or employs a posteriori elements. I'm not sure if there's an authoritative understanding of this, but I suspect that historic uses of PSR were entirely a priori, meaning PSR was posited as a justification for making an a priori argument about first causes and such. Why can I say I know that God must be behind all things? The answer is I posit that my intellect and its logic are sufficient to think about it and come to a conclusion that is truth. So PSR ends up standing in as a permission (or an excuse) to posit these thought experiments (like first mover, like argument by necessity, etc) and say that they must make sense. I do not believe these uses of it would have claimed to have induced or derived PSR based on empirical results being consistent over time and therefore suggesting we can rely on our intellects for thought experiments. In fact the one would probably not imply the other anyhow. Your argument on pg 1, however, seems to be to use a posteriori information in its structure, and (as I've argued) unintentionally employs chronology. But realistically, would you agree that your argument is essentially completely a priori?

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If I ask the question "Why does my keyboard not fall to the floor?" a fine answer is "because of the desk". be-cause. For the reason that.  The desk is the cause of my keyboard staying aloft. The desk is the reason for my keyboard staying aloft.

I like Aristotle's four causes and I think it's a fine thing, but I'm not really invoking it here. It's a really simple thing to say: My desk is the reason my keyboard doesn't fall to the ground.

It's a fine answer if you're being informal, and it also employs physical laws which operate in time. I already said you didn't bring up Aristotle; what I could have added is that you should, because the reason he divided things up into four causes was precisely to avoid mixing up what one means with a word like "cause". I don't like his divisions, but at least they acknowledge that you can't just lump reasons from different categories all together and use the word interchangeably.

-The desk is the cause of the keyboard staying above the floor.
-The atoms in my body cause me to exist.
-Matter persists because God causes it to persist.

The only thing these have in common is that you are offering explanations of things. But an explanation is an idea or a model, not a thing or an event. An explanation can be about an identity, for instance: 1+1=2. That's an explanation, but it's not something that exists and causes effects in anything. Now you could use an awkward phrase like "1+1=2 is the cause of number theory" but that would be beyond awkward; it would not only fail to communicate anything but essentially puts us backward in understanding anything since we have to untangle a bad first step. It might be ok to say "1+1=2 is a necessary element of number theory" (let's say), but the word choice matters a lot in what you're saying. If the only commonality to "cause" in your usage is you're offering explanatory logic to something, it can mean basically anything, even made up things. And like I said it's such an awkward use of the word that it would better to employ an extant set of language (Aristotle's, just as an example) than to re-write English and use a word in a way where defining to your audience how you're using it requires a larger explanation than the proof you're presenting with it in the first place!

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If you are confused by my words, ask me what I mean. It's simple friend.

That's my point, it's not simple. What you call a simple answer to a question of word meaning is actually an enormous rabbit hole where you are actually asserting all sorts of unannounced axioms to support that definition.

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It looks perfectly coherent to me. Why does it look incoherent to you?

As I've mentioned, phrases such as "we can see that there are reasons for why things exists", "external cause", and "the nature of the thing itself" are deeply problematic for multiple reasons. Language clarity is one such reason. Another is terms that are made to sound self-evident but which I think are not; in fact as I've mentioned I suspect their content is not coherent. Another is the fact of making an essentially a priori argument but using obervational data as support for it.

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Now exists. I'm here, right now. I'm typing these words, right now. If you'd like to say otherwise, say it with some conviction and with clear arguments, not a vague appeal to who knows what. Give me a concrete reason to entertain your idea and I'll do so. Saying "probably" doesn't mean anything at all.

Lack of ability to say "probably" about complex topics is...probably a serious problem. That being said, I'm 100% sure you didn't understand why I wrote that, based on this response. Obviously you feel like there's a 'now'. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about whether there is in fact[ such a thing as "now" in the formal sense, in the sense that you can freeze time and describe some kind of hierarchical structure in a moment without any reference to before or after. You think you can do that, exemplified by your description of the keyboard and desk, but I think you are missing what I said earlier about EM repulsion happening in time only. It is not an instantaneous or static effect. There's no such thing as "EM repulsion right now", there is only EM repulsion measured over time. This isn't just an artifact of inefficient measurement, any more than relativity is a reflection of bad time-measurement instrumentation. It's your insistance that you are not talking about chronology that I'm after here (which by the way is part of why I'm pretty sure this is a purely a priori argument). I'm saying the way you keep conceptualizing cause is in fact chronological, which is by the way ok, I think that is also how the original prime mover type arguments were also understood (i.e. to involve causes in time, not instananeous hierarchical structure).

Sorry for any typos, I don't have time to edit, gotta run!