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## Bill Nye’s Gettysburg

I considered putting this more tactfully, but decided against it.

In an age when a number of prominent scientists have said profoundly idiotic things about philosophy, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” has produced the Gettysburg address of philosophical ignorance. It would be hard to write a parody that compressed more stupidity and shallowness into 4 minutes.

I’m no philosopher, but even I can see that almost every sentence is a complete misrepresentation of what philosophy is and what philosophers do. As a scientist, I find Nye’s comments – and those of some of his idols – deeply embarrassing. If you are a philosopher, please don’t judge all scientists by these philistines. (Nye, if it helps, is an engineer by training).

Let’s watch the trainwreck; all quotes are from Nye.

I’m not sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins [actually, the questioner asked about Stephen Hawking], two guys I’m very well acquainted with, have declared philosophy to be irrelevant and are ‘blowing it off’.

Tyson said that philosophy can “mess you up” and thinks that “there is no such thing as consciousness” is a live option for explaining the nature of consciousness. (His history isn’t much better). Dawkins, who had no problem critiquing Aquinas for a few, fact-free pages in TGD (no, Aquinas did not assume that “There must have been a time when no physical things existed”), admitted 4 years later that he didn’t know what the word “epistemic” means. Stephen Hawking announced that “philosophy is dead” at the beginning of a book, before spending a few tens of pages doing some philosophy himself. Lawrence Krauss complained about “moronic philosophers” who criticised his book, before exhibiting a wide range of elementary fallacies in a debate with a philosopher.

Not all scientists are antagonistic to philosophy. George Ellis has written intelligently on the philosophy of cosmology and on philosophy more broadly, and I’m expecting good things from Sean Carroll‘s forthcoming book. There seems to be a very strong correlation among scientists between knowledge of philosophy and respect for philosophy.

I think that they’re just concerned that it doesn’t always give an answer that’s surprising. It doesn’t always lead you someplace that is inconsistent with common sense.

This is a common and worrying trope among popularisers – you’re not really doing science unless you’re contradicting what people naturally or normally believe. Rubbish. This idea has no place whatsoever in the actual practice of science. Imagine one astrophysicist criticising another’s model of the Sun on the grounds that it predicts that the sun is very bright and “that’s consistent with common sense”. This only feeds into the stereotype that science is incomprehensible, wacky, contradictory, likely to change and – obviously – opposed to common sense. (See Ben Goldacre on this point.) Yes, sometimes science is surprising. But sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes complete nonsense is surprising, too.

What is the nature of consciousness? Can we know that we know? Are we aware that we are aware? Are we not aware that we are aware?

The first question is actually meaningful. But Nye immediately demonstrates that he hasn’t the slightest clue what it means. “Can we know that we know?”, if it means anything, is about epistemology (theory of knowledge), not consciousness. “Are we aware that we are aware?” Yes. Yes we are. Because I am aware of my thoughts immediately, that is, without any intermediary. I can’t be mistaken about being aware of my thoughts, because the very act of being mistaken would involve a thought of which I am aware. This is Philosophy 101 – consciousness is data, not theory.

Is reality real or is reality not real and we are all living on a ping pong ball as part of a giant interplanetary ping pong game and we cannot sense it?

I suspect that part of the reason that philosophy can seem pointless is that some non-philosophers don’t understand the idea of a thought experiment. No, philosophers don’t sit around wondering whether we are really brains in vats or what the sound of one hand clapping is or imagining other fanciful scenarios to waste their time. (No one in the middle ages debated how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. That’s a joke from the 17th century.) Similarly, physicists aren’t obsessed with trains struck by lightning and unusual ways of killing cats. The point of the brains in vats thought experiment is to explore the relationship between our sensory experiences and extra-mental reality. If you want to explore this idea further, read Daniel Dennett’s marvellous essay “Where am I?“.

But the idea that reality is not real or what you sense and feel is not authentic is something I’m very skeptical of. I mean I think that your senses, the reality that you interact with with light, heat, sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing, absolutely hearing. These are real things.

In the development of a philosopher, learning that “assertion is not an argument” is a bit like learning to crawl. Nye isn’t quite there yet, and so can only … ahem … appeal to common sense. Nye’s position is known as “Philosophical realism”, and Nye would probably also affirm “Scientific realism”, which states that “we ought to believe in the unobservable entities posited by our most successful scientific theories.” The interested reader should start with Putnam’s “no miracles” argument, and work towards finding Nye on this diagram.

And to make a philosophical argument that they may not be real because you can’t prove – like for example you can’t prove that the sun will come up tomorrow. Not really, right. You can’t prove it until it happens. But I’m pretty confident it will happen. That’s part of my reality. The sun will come up tomorrow.

Nye confuses the problem of skepticism (are the objects of our sensory experience real?) with the problem of induction, which goes as follows. Consider the following argument. Will the Sun rise tomorrow? Probably yes, because it always has in our past experience. But why think the future will be like the past? Because in the past, the future has been like the past.

It shouldn’t take too much effort to convince yourself that this argument is circular: it should only convince us of the conclusion if we already know that the conclusion is true. This does not mean that philosophers sit around wondering whether the Sun will rise tomorrow, as if they’re just waiting for an engineer to burst in and announce “I’m pretty confident it will.” The point is that scientific induction cannot be justified in this way. If it can be justified, it must be on other grounds.

… you start arguing in a circle where I think therefore I am. What if you don’t think about it? Do you not exist anymore? You probably still exist even if you’re not thinking about existence.

If you write that in a Philosophy 101 essay, you will get zero marks. Your tutor will show your paper to as many colleagues as she can find, and they will all have a good laugh. (Yes, we do this in academia.)

Here is Descartes’ point. Can we build our knowledge on sure, certain foundations? Is there anything we know with certainty? The “brain in the vat” thought experiment shows that I could be mistaken about the existence of the objects that I perceive. But, says Descartes, I cannot be mistaken about the fact that I exist. If I doubt that I exist, then I must exist, because otherwise there wouldn’t be anyone to do the doubting. I think, therefore I am. Moreover, whatever else I am, I am a thinking kind of thing. On this foundation, Descartes attempts to build his world view.

It does not follow, and Descartes does not go on to suggest, that anything that is not thinking does not exist. This is a textbook logical fallacy called denying the antecedent. The following is not a valid argument:

If A then B
Not A
Therefore, not B.

Also, none of this has anything to do with “arguing in a circle”. Nye has completely missed Descartes’ point.

And so, you know, this gets into the old thing if you drop a hammer on your foot is it real or is it just your imagination? You can run that test, you know, a couple of times and I hope you come to agree that it’s probably real.

(There’s that common sense, again.) The whole point of the brain in a vat thought experiment is that it could feel real every time and yet not be real. You could be Neo in the Matrix. We cannot justify realism by continually dropping hammers on our feet and asserting realism again. So what now? Should we accept some beliefs as properly basic? Should we be idealists (in the philosophical sense) and believe that reality is fundamentally mental?

A philosophy degree may not lead you on a career path.

An astronomy degree might not either – I’m still finding that out. Neither might an interest in poetry, history, music, literature, archaeology, or a thousand other good things.

The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates.

Humans discovered or invented the process of science.

Which is it!? We discovered Pluto and we invented cricket. Is science a process that actually gives us knowledge of the external world, or are we playing a game of our own invention?

To defend science, you have to think about science. And thinking about science is not doing science. It is doing philosophy. Nye says “it’s important I think for a lot of people to be aware of philosophy”. A great idea; he should try it sometime.

### 84 Responses

1. Bit of digression but related to something said – with regards to the following –

“and thinks that “there is no such thing as consciousness” is a live option for explaining the nature of consciousness.”

Consciousness is defined as – the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings.

It is a product of a bio-chemical process. A brain state.

I think what Tyson is really pushing back against is about whether consciousness is something more than this and/or how this physical process makes us feel needs further explanation. Which, if so, I agree with him, it isn’t more than I brain state and need not really be explained further.

2. Forgive the grammatical and spelling errors above. Is there a way to edit a post after committing it?

3. Are you wrong about this? Paul, great thinkers have been debating whether the mind is just the brain or something more for a very long time. There are no simple answers. If you want to start with a cogent philosopher who argues that there must be an immaterial aspect to thought you could do worse than Edward Feser’s blog. There’s a summary post linking to his various discussions on the mind/body problem here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

4. on March 15, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Reply Edward Thomas Babinski

Luke, You don’t seem to understand the limitations of what is presently known versus your attempt to sit in an armchair and regal us with your so-called “proofs that a Fine-Tuner exists.” Nor does a person have to advocate some rival philosophy like say, “scientism,” in order to recognize the above mentioned limitations of knowledge. For instance, we don’t know if the constants can be varied individually without affecting the others. And the cosmos seems relatively simple if it can be broken down to six (or less as some have pointed out) truly basic constants. And based on what we DO know about the cosmos it looks like the largest experiment once could conceive with so much space, time, matter and energy, i.e., an incessant mix of energy and matter for billions of years, with abiogenesis and evolution being merely in equilibrium with inevitable death and extinction, making it look like a TINKERER could explain this big experiment rather than an omniscient all-powerful designer. In fact, based on estimates of all the matter and energy still available, there are far more stars and planets yet to form in the long future history of this cosmos than have already formed. Nor have we discovered exactly what dark matter is, nor exactly what black holes are and where they may lead nor what exactly happens to matter inside them, nor do we know what existed prior to this cosmos, nor solved the question of what time is, or if it exists prior to, or apart from this cosmos, nor do physicists agree concerning how the cosmos might end, or continue on, or be superseded by another cosmos, or how many cosmoses or even dimensions might exist. So the FTA that you keep defending tooth and nail seems more like the result of your personal psychological resistance to continuing to ask questions than a philosophical proof. If I may paraphrase Mark Twain, “We have endless difficulties solving man-made mystery novels and mysteries of nature, but when it comes to the mystery of God everyone’s got the answer.”

As a species we still haven’t crawled off the surface of our cradle planet, and we might be a blip that came, multiplied and went extinct in the blink of the cosmos’s eye. The latest worldwide temperature jump exceeded all expectations for Feb. this year. And humans occupy all the easily reached arable land and waterways, or are cutting through the rainforests, and injecting poison into the ground to extract more poison that will wind up in the skies. Like bacteria we have been mindlessly fruitful in our multiplying and even a major pandemic won’t stop us from reaching 10 billion, though global warming will certainly be disastrous.The once huge herds of wild animals our species lived beside on the North American continent are gone, We have exploded thousands of atomic bombs so our air is more radioactive than in the past (so radioactive that we can’t accurately C-14 date the remains of any organisms that existed after the Cold War). Perhaps the world is fine-tuned for the destruction of any and all organisms that stupidly exceed their environment’s capacity to sustain them. Too bad we weren’t warned about that in the Bible. Humans have proven as fruitful as mold that covers an orange, sucks out its resources to make more mold, and then dies in its own excrement. And even if our species wasn’t so fruitfully minded, and took time from its rutting to work out this “Food, Air” thing, the planet itself will probably explode a super volcano or get shot in the side-pocket by one of many asteroids that cross our orbit or that have left scars on the moon and the surface of our own planet.

So this cosmos appears FINE-TUNED for death and extinction as well as evolution and flourishing. What exactly can one gather about the “Fine-Tuner” from such evidence?

5. Edward,

Wow… that was quite the ricocheting bullet. Let me see if I can’t patch at least some of the holes in the walls, windows, and furniture…

“Luke, You don’t seem to understand the limitations of what is presently known versus your attempt to sit in an armchair and regal [sic] us with your so-called ‘proofs that a Fine-Tuner exists’…”

So it would seem that; a) All the subtle, and otherwise unrelated fine-tuned parameters we see in the universe are related to some underlying unity for which we have not only no evidence, but no possibility of any currently on the horizon; and b) Whatever this unknown unifying principle might be, it has to be so self-evident and idiot-simple that it cannot be anything other than a “here, hold my beer…” accident, so it isn’t possible for a rational Fine-Tuner to created a rational universe like ours without resorting to magic.

a) is a textbook example of an Argument from Ignorance fallacy (argumentum ad ignorantiam), and b) is some combination of a God-of-the-Gaps fallacy and presumptuousness taken to its terrifying limits. There may well be one or more underlying principles tying many, or all fine-tuned parameters to each other. But if so, there is no rational reason why a Fine-Tuner couldn’t have made the universe that way. And until we have so much as a shred of evidence for any such principle/s, the creative organizing activity of a Fine-Tuner apart from one is an entirely possible option as well. If there’s a factual error or logical inconsistency anywhere in the previous three sentences, please demonstrate it. [Note that I said demonstrate, not assert… there is a difference. ]

“Nor does a person have to advocate some rival philosophy like say, ‘scientism,’ in order to recognize the above mentioned limitations of knowledge…”

The subject of this post is one of Scientism’s biggest shortcomings. Specifically, the foolishness of asserting that philosophy–a field of inquiry that has occupied some of the greatest thinkers in history for at least three millennia–is now somehow obsolete, because a handful of scientists (and scientistic atheists) who are illiterate in it believe it hasn’t kept up with their favorite subject. Arguments based on presumptuousness and Ignorance/God-of-the-Gaps fallacies are off-topic.

“For instance, we don’t know if the constants can be varied individually without affecting the others…”

Nonsense! A great deal of work has in fact been done on this. There is a wealth of published research has investigated the outcomes of varying multiple parameters. Luke has posted extensively about this and cited the relevant research at length. He’s also published a comprehensive paper on the topic. You would do well to research this further.

“And the cosmos seems relatively simple if it can be broken down to six (or less as some have pointed out) truly basic constants…”

Also nonsense! From the looks of it you’re just parroting Richard Carrier. Please do your own homework before commenting.

“As a species we still haven’t crawled off the surface of our cradle planet … [yada yada yada] … Perhaps the world is fine-tuned for the destruction of any and all organisms that stupidly exceed their environment’s capacity to sustain them. Too bad we weren’t warned about that in the Bible.”

So let me get this straight… a Fine-Tuner God creates a universe with rational, self-aware, and morally empowered creatures with whom He can be in relationship… chooses to make Himself known to them in various ways, presumably including a book called “The Bible”… said creatures then deliberately embark on a path of widespread foolishness and destruction including neglect of His creation (which BTW, said Bible actually does explicitly forbid)… And it’s His fault they did all that, and this somehow proves that He doesn’t exist and never created them in the first place…

Damn… My daughter will be learning how to drive in a few years. If the convertible ends up top-down in the catfish pond at midnight on a school night, I can’t wait for her to try an argument like that on me! I wonder if it would’ve worked for Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Porsche, parties, hookers, and all?

Edward, I understand your concerns vis ‘a vis fine-tuning and the more credulous arguments of the Intelligent Design movement. But if you want to critique religion and bring science into it, please learn something about the religions you criticize first. And while you’re at it, learn some science as well.

[And fer Gawd’s sake… “explode a super volcano” or “get shot in the side-pocket” by an asteroid…? Reeeeeally…? 😀 Surely you can do better than that, can’t you…? ]

• on March 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Reply trollmonster

@ Scott Church

The main point here is precisely the following question: who is really making argumentum ad ignorantiam here. You wrote about “All the subtle, and otherwise unrelated fine-tuned” parameters, but the thing is that we do not know whether they are really unrelated. THEY only SEEM so at the moment.

Our (Or at least my) disagreement with Luke is THIS: He says that “we should work with what we know” and he assumes we know that life permitting spectra of constants are only a small part of possible spectra of said constants. The thing is -I doubt we know what the possible spectra ARE. Luke seems to assume, that if he can define it then it is possible…Not really, at least, if we consider a posteriori possibility -and only such possiblities are relevant here…So our accusation is, that it is HIM that is making argument from ignorance….The thing is that before asking “why are parameters tuned?” one should know that they could have been different and have POSITIVE scientific proof for that……I haven’t seen Luke presenting such a proof by now, though he pledged to give us something in his book….By now however he was merely asssuming possiblities without apparent proof….

• Trollmonster,

As used by physicists, the term fine-tuning is a reference to the fact that many of the parameters that define the Standard Model (particle physics) and the Concordance Model (cosmology) appear to have no underlying physics constraining them so the associated equations of state and motion permit widely varying values, of which only narrow ranges permit the existence of life… by any reasonable definition. The fact that we observe them to fall within those ranges has been compared to tuning in a narrow-band radio station on a wide-frequency receiver… hence, the term fine-tuning. No reference is being made here to a Fine Tuner per se, so no Argument from Ignorance is involved… unless of course, we rely on one to push a particular theory to explain it. Generally speaking, solutions to the Fine-Tuned problem can be classified as follows,

1) As yet undiscovered physics that constrains one or more parameters to their observed values.

2) A suitably diverse multiverse, and a demonstrable means for producing it from underlying physics.

3) The creative activity of a Fine-Tuner god.

When Luke says that “we should work with what we know” he isn’t making an argument from ignorance–he is simply stating that physics allows for 1) and 2) but has not yet demonstrated them. That is correct… they haven’t been demonstrated. While both are possible, nothing we currently know even renders them likely much less demonstrable, and given the current state of high energy physics and quantum gravity it seems unlikely they will be during our lifetimes. As for uncertainties in the “life permitting” ranges of the parameters, even the slightest variations of most (single or collectively) lead to universes that immediately collapse back to black holes, inflate to universes with no more than a handful of subatomic particles per cubic light year, or yield a soup of fields that cannot support any sort of chemistry. If you can think of a way that life, any sort of life, could arise from these scenarios I’m all ears. Otherwise, “we know that life permitting spectra of constants are only a small part of possible spectra of said constants…” is a pretty damn reasonable assumption.

If we discover new physics that constrain “what the possible spectra ARE”, then 1) will be the answer we’ve been seeking. Until then, references to fine-tuning in physics are simply an accurate statement of a well-known, and unsolved problem. And evidence against 1) and 2) or a lack of solid theoretical or observational basis for them, does in fact lend support to 3).

6. But if you want to critique religion and bring science into it, please learn something about the religions you criticize first. And while you’re at it, learn some science as well.

May I ask, Scott, do you believe in the Resurrection and that Jesus is the Creator of the Universe?

• It’s science Arkenatan, not some kind of fiendish theist conspiracy. Read about it and you’ll find that the evidence for fine-tuning is acknowledged by the biggest names in science, including Hawking. What you conclude from the evidence is up to you: it’s not a cast-iron proof of Cosmic Design, and many propose the multiverse as a possible explanation. But either way, to slyly insinuate that anyone who acknowledges the evidence is secretly a christian pushing an agenda is absurd.

• No, Stephen what I am saying is this: those who I have encountered who push the FT argument have all been Christians.

So, do you believe in FT, Stephen?

7. If scientific evidence appears to support the God hypothesis it is no surprise if christians make use of it. That doesn’t in any way alter the credibility of the scientific evidence. What’s your point?

• But it doesn’t support a god hypothesis. It may, depending on the interpretation, suggest a design. But how does this in any way favour a Christian?
So, do you believe the universe is fine-tuned for life, Stephen?

8. Fine-tuning is evidence of design. A ‘designer of the universe’ sounds quite a lot like the christian God. There’s nothing in the fine-tuning data that points to the CHRISTIAN God, of course, but it doesn’t rule it out either. It is perfectly reasonable for religious people to point to fine-tuning as evidence for God.

• A god or Yahweh?
If we are going to cite a god then unless we are simply suggesting deism perhaps it is best to ”come clean” as it were and put our cards on the table, don’t you agree?
So, do you consider the designer to be Yahweh, Stephen?

9. I’m a deist. Which implies a supreme being. That’s as far as I’m willing to go. I’m not sure what you’re trying to get me to “come clean” about, presumably so you can pounce and shout “Aha!!”….

• ” … presumably so you can pounce and shout “Aha!!”….

Not in the least.
If you had said Yahweh/Jesus, maybe… (At least I am honest )

But I have no gripes with deism at all. Deists are closer to atheists than many people realise, and one of my blog pals is a deist.

Plus,there is no doctrine; which means no silly books, no sin, no ridiculous notion of a messiah, no heaven or hell and no confessions.

A supreme being ”did it” and metaphorically ”walked away”.

Sounds pretty cool to me?

As long as he/she/it is not a Manchester United supporter I’m Hunky Dory.

10. So your problem isn’t with fine-tuning, it’s with christians?

• I am not qualified to make a scientific judgement call on FT.

As I stated before, in my (albeit ) limited experience every proponent of FT I have read or thus far interacted with has been a Christian.
As the tenets of Christianity are all man-made and built upon a foundation of entirely false doctrine I view it with extreme prejudice. Your announcement that your are a deist has just added a new dimension.

So, why did you become a deist,Stephen? Was it after you came into contact with F.T. or before?

11. My deism comes from this and other philosophical arguments for a creator. I find there is much I admire and value in Christianity and Christian philosophers and writers, but I’m agnostic as to whether Jesus was anything more than a great spiritual leader.

It seems to me you should judge the fine-tuning hypothesis as science and not merely as some sort of ammunition that Christians arm themselves with. It is widely accepted as valid and true in the scientific community. I don’t understand all the maths either, but there is massive scientific authority behind it that you can’t lightly dismiss.

12. Which came first, FT or faith/philosophy? Were you originally an atheist or were you brought up in a Christian environment of some description?

Widely accepted? Massive scientific authority?
Not from what I have read. ( which isn’t that much, I’ll be honest, but it seems that more scientists dismiss it rather than cheer for it)

You appear to be be appealing to authority without even naming the authority?
Why not offer some links for me to research. Just the ones you have vetted yourself will do; no need to go all out. I’m okay with a couple of names to start.

I remember you mentioning Hawking. However, I read he is reported to have changed his stance on fine tuning and seems not to believe it any more.

I admire absolutely nothing about Christianity. It is an abhorrent religion, built entirely on false doctrine and its myriad convolutions and spin-offs have been responsible for untold mayhem and misery since its invention.

13. No. 🙂 the subtle point you miss is that possibility 1) is really not an (possible) explanation of fine tuning. It is a situation where ft does not occur. Let me explain by example: when cern scientists observed apparent faster than light neutrino they did not really considered theory explaining ftl travel . They treated neutrino as an artifafact that should be explained AWAY. They did not explain FTL, They explained an observable already assuming it is false i. e. not veridical as FTL would require immense overhaul in physics and problems. Similar aproach is required in case of fine tuning. Both god and multiverse ard heavy loaded ad hoc hypotheses that should be regarded as prima facie implausible. Science should therefore focus on option 1 (no actual fine tuning) and consider god or multiverse only when 1 is shown to be implausible or untenable.

14. Trollmonster,

I think we’re getting stuck on terminology here. Let me explain it differently…

The Standard and Concordance models contain many parameters that according to all of our current physics, can assume a wide range of values. Those values just happen to fall into very narrow ranges that permit life of any reasonable type. Why they assume those values out of a vast range of possibilities thereby allowing us to be here asking these questions, is a mystery for which there is currently no explanation. Physicists call that mystery the fine-tuning problem… not because these parameters are, or ever were finely tuned, but by analogy to a radio station at a finely-tuned frequency. Whatever one chooses to call this mystery, it has three possible solutions: 1) is that the parameters are constrained to their observed values by underlying physics we haven’t discovered yet, and are therefore not finely tuned like a radio station. Solution 2) is that they’ve been anthropically selected from a suitably diverse multiverse and therefore merely appear to be finely tuned in our universe. Solution 3) is that they really are finely tuned by divine design, and the radio station analogy is more than just a coincidence.

Science does not focus on 1) because 2) and 3) are “prima facie implausible.” They aren’t. It does so because by its very nature 3) is outside of its methodology and would therefore shut it down, and the only viable options for 2) involve speculative physics that we won’t be able to viably test, or even pin down to an acceptable degree anytime in the foreseeable future. If you think fine-tuning is a confusing name for this mystery, and you don’t consider 2) or 3) to be decent explanations for it, then call it something else… the “life parameter mystery” or whatever you please… and say that you think 1) is the answer. 🙂 But it is in fact, a mystery for which each these three explanations is possible.

• And if we accept your premise for 3, how do you a Christian, get from Godditit to your god did it?

15. on March 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Reply trollmonster

No, It is not matter of terminology..The issue concerns something I’d call “order of inquiry”, that is a “blueprint” of scientific investigation. My point is that scientists DO NOT simply posit the question and then investigate possible explanations. SOMe explanations are a priori or prima facie preferable or even prima facie plausible and others are prima facie implausible. When measurement sugggests neutrino is going FTL scientist do not asks “how it is possible?” . Rather he or she asks: “what’s wrong with my equipment?”. (s)He does not think (S)He was presented with scientific question. It haven’t occured yet. By new it is merely a technical question about equipment BECAUSE established theory rules out FTL.. Only if double/triple.quadruplechecking the equipment won’t reveal the cause of misobservation we can try first replicate the experiment, and then investigate alternate scientific ecplanations. BUT right after the experiment THERE IS NO ISSUE OF NEUTRINO GOING FTL….THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC QUESTION….

My point is that, there is similar situation regarding “fine-tuning”…We have not reached the point when the scientific question is established. We have an observation “life permitting spectra” seem to be small subset of “conceivable spectra” but this is not yet a scientific problem. Science is not concerned with “conceivable spectra” but “physicallly possible” spectra but these seems to be uknown depending on knowledge we do not yet have. Therefore our observation does not constitute scientific conundrum YET. So just as in case of neutrino we have a way of explainining it AWAY and this should be our first pick. IT is not picking one of possible solutions to the problem because by now we ASSUME that there is NO scientific problem at all. I state that Ockham’s Razor entails explaining away sufficiently strange conundrums which require us to overhaul the scientific paradigm as long as we have “cop out” ,that is as long the problem is justified by established a posteriori facts…..This is not the case with fine tuning….

As for God I am scientific realist and I assume that success of science entails us to believe in established scientific theories AND (a la Quine’s “web of belief”) metaphysics underlining these theories, because metaphysics is connected to empirical content constituting one “body” of theory. Therefore success of “methodologically naturalistic” science ENTAILS us to be believe in in at least weak METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM (supernatural may exist but it cannot be causally related to natural, at least not by means of in fieri causation and probably also by final causation). This renders atheism and deism as viable possibilities but not theism. This is why i think is why I think theism is prima facie implausible given science not just methodologically “unfit”.

16. Trollmaster,

“My point is that scientists DO NOT simply posit the question and then investigate possible explanations.”

Physicists did not “simply posit the question” of fine-tuning. It is a direct, and necessary consequence of the Standard and Concordance models of particle physics and cosmology, both of which are the culmination of a century of research and among the best established theories in history. The question isn’t on the table because someone had an idle curiosity about it after a bottle of scotch and some LSD. It bears directly on what the next generation of quantum gravity and/or unified field theories may look like and the related philosophical questions as well.

“SOMe explanations are a priori or prima facie preferable or even prima facie plausible and others are prima facie implausible [sic]. When measurement sugggests neutrino is going FTL scientist do not asks ‘how it is possible?’ [sic]. Rather he or she asks: “what’s wrong with my equipment?”. (s)He does not think (S)He was presented with scientific question [sic]. It haven’t occured yet [sic]. By new it is merely a technical question about equipment BECAUSE established theory rules out FTL [sic]… IT is not picking one of possible solutions to the problem because by now we ASSUME that there is NO scientific problem at all [sic]…”

None of this is correct. It is true that some explanations are less plausible than others, and when scientists encounter something as radical as a potential FTL neutrino, equipment failures are the first thing they’re going to investigate. But implausible is not the same as “ruled out” and other theories will be investigated as well. As a matter of fact, “established theory” does not rule out FTL neutrinos. By itself, special relativity does. But a number of theoretical frameworks that build on, or encompass it (e.g. DSR Relativity and some candidate string theories) do allow for them (Smolin, 2007), and in the wake of the CERN OPERA results some of these were investigated as possible explanations (Ehrlich, 2013; Hamieh, 2011; Marfatia et al., 2012; Oda & Taira, 2011; Carmona & Cortes, 2011). This was done in addition to equipment checks, not instead of them. A number of large-scale experiments such as the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory in Argentina are actively searching for evidence of them as well (Smolin, 2007). I’m not suggesting that any of these present a serious challenge to special relativity, and I too would’ve been shocked if the CERN OPERA results hadn’t turned out to be due to equipment failure. But I guarantee you… if scientists thought they weren’t being “presented with [a] scientific question” none of these papers would’ve been published, and we wouldn’t be actively funding searches for evidence of the theories behind them.

Nothing on this earth will shut science down faster than to “ASSUME that there is NO scientific problem at all…” and rule out everything except equipment failure when our pet theories aren’t confirmed… no matter how well-supported they may have been to date. 😉

“As for God I am scientific realist and I assume that success of science entails us to believe in established scientific theories AND (a la Quine’s “web of belief”) metaphysics underlining these theories [sic]… Therefore success of “methodologically naturalistic” science ENTAILS us to be believe in in at least weak METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM [sic]… This renders atheism and deism as viable possibilities but not theism.”

Deism is a form of theism–namely, one in which the god in question isn’t personal. If deism is allowed, then by necessity so is “theism”. The only way around this is to redefine both, and science as well, in terms that beg the question in favor of Naturalism… which is precisely what you’re doing here. Science is a discipline, not a metaphysic, and it restricts us to naturalistic explanations by method only. Claiming that it also restricts us to “METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM” as well is to go from science to Scientism (or to use your term, Scientific Realism). Scientism is itself based on metaphysical claims that take science to be the only legitimate source of any knowledge, physical or metaphysical. This is no different than a drunk outside a bar at midnight saying that by necessity, his lost car keys must be under the street light because that’s the only place where there’s enough light to look for them. It argues in a circle.

This is just one of many problems that plague Scientism, as well as Quine’s web of belief. In its more extreme form of Logical Positivism, it was essentially dead by the end of World War II and today few philosophers take it seriously. A detailed examination is off the topic of this post, and beyond what I have time for. But for more on these issues you can start with Feser (2008; 2009; 2013) or Burtt (2003), and for something more accessible online, Feser (2012). For more on Quine’s web of belief in particular, you can start with Kim (1988).

I agree that your conclusions do follow from Scientism, and you can certainly adopt that position if you choose so I won’t belabor it further here. But you should be aware that your Scientific Realism commits you to a metaphysical stance that begs the relevant questions in your favor without answering any of them, and puts you on the hook to account for all the problems raised in the works cited.

Best.

[PS – My apologies for not directly linking the citations below. I’ve been having trouble with my comments getting stuck in moderation when I include more than one hyperlink. It might be a WordPress problem but I’m not sure.]

REFERENCES

Burtt, E. A. (2003). The metaphysical foundations of modern physical science. Dover Publications. ISBN-10: 0486425517; ISBN-13: 978-0486425511. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Metaphysical-Foundations-Modern-Science/dp/0486425517/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458595030&sr=8-1&keywords=The+metaphysical+foundations+of+modern+physical+science. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Carmona, J. M., & Cortes, J. L. (2011). Constraints from neutrino decay on superluminal velocities. arXiv preprint arXiv:1110.0430. Available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.0430. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Ehrlich, R. (2013). Tachyonic neutrinos and the neutrino masses. Astroparticle Physics, 41, 1-6. Available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.0484. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Feser, E. (2008). The last superstition: A refutation of the new atheism. St Augustine Press Inc. ISBN-10: 1587314525; ISBN-13: 978-1587314520. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Last-Superstition-Refutation-New-Atheism/dp/1587314525/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458595198&sr=8-1&keywords=last+superstition. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Feser, E. (2009). Aquinas: a beginner’s guide. Oneworld Publications. ISBN-10: 1851686908; ISBN-13: 978-1851686902. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Edward-Feser/dp/1851686908/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1458594466&sr=8-2&keywords=feser. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Feser, E. (2012). Natural theology, natural science, and the philosophy of nature. Edward Feser Blogspot. Available online at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/05/natural-theology-natural-science-and.html. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Feser, E. (2014). Scholastic metaphysics: A contemporary introduction. Editions Scholasticae. ISBN-10: 3868385444; ISBN-13: 978-3868385441. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458594466&sr=8-1&keywords=feser. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Hamieh, S. (2011). New physics for superluminal particles. arXiv preprint arXiv:1112.1222. Available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1112.1222. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Kim, J. (1988). What is” naturalized epistemology?”. Philosophical perspectives, 2, 381-405. Available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2214082?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Marfatia, D., Päs, H., Pakvasa, S., & Weiler, T. J. (2012). A model of superluminal neutrinos. Physics Letters B, 707(5), 553-557. Available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037026931200041X. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Oda, I., & Taira, H. (2011). A Resolution to Cherenkov-like Radiation of OPERA Neutrinos. arXiv preprint arXiv:1110.6571. Available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.6571. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

Smolin, L. (2007). The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory. The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next (Mariner, Boston, 2007). Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/061891868X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458583555&sr=8-1&keywords=smolin. Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

17. Hmmm, that’s interesting… When I put my links in with hyperlink tags they get stuck in moderation, but url’s by themselves automatically hyperlink. Maybe that’s been my problem! 🙂

18. Actually, there is one final comment I should make before concluding my previous post–my apologies for not including it there…

While Scientism metaphysically begs the question against Theism (including Deism), the reverse is not true. Those who believe in God, including Christians like me, consider the very rationality of the universe that makes science possible in the first place to be a gift from His hand. To us, science is the practice of reverse-engineering His creation to ever deeper levels of understanding. It is a never-ending act of worship, and is to be engaged in with diligence and reverence, without confirming or denying that we’ve reached the unexplainable at any stage and cheapening it by resorting to god-of-the-gaps fallacies. Science is but one of many pathways to knowledge–one that we embrace, but don’t metaphysically straight-jacket ourselves with.

Atheist chest-beating to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is that most of the foundations of modern science were laid by men and women who believed in God, and most of them were Christians. A role call of scientists who are, or were Christian would include, Rene Descartes, James Clerk Maxwell, Werner Heisenberg, Charles Misner, Georges LeMaitre, George Ellis, Christopher Isham, Francis Collins, Isaac Newton, and many more. In fact, not only was Newton a Christian, he was a Charismatic and the bulk of his written works were theological rather than scientific. Sir Arthur Eddington also believed in God, as did Einstein, who once captured our thought beautifully when he said, “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.”

Say whatever you will about these men. Dismiss or explain away their faith and poison the well against them to your heart’s content. It was they, and others like them on whose shoulders we are now standing, and not only did their belief in God not interfere with their work… it inspired them. Those who claim that religion and science are mutually contradictory must explain how that is possible, and if they want to have any credibility at all they must do so without resorting to any of the bread-and-butter straw men, god-of-the-gaps, ad hominem, and poisoning-the-well fallacies so many atheists and materialists are addicted to. Like it or not, it is they who have metaphysically painted themselves into a question-begging corner, and limited themselves to reductionist views that create far more problems than they solve.

19. @ Scott Church

My response will be brief and and this time I will certainly earn your ire and end up being called “ad hominem atheist” a description which you like so much… Scott you wasted three posts presenting little actual argument, and by the way you GROSSLY misrepresented what I said.

1. First of all please note that I’ve never said that “implausible” means “ruled out”. I consistently used the expression “PRIMA FACIE (im)plausible” THIS IS THE DIFFERENCE. I believe that “special relativity” IS established theory. So i’m not sure what are you up to…Also we all know that FTL goes with a huge amount of possible complications (“possibility of temporal paradoxes”) AND THIS ALONE constitute PRIMA FACIE evidence against it. Of course scientists can investigate alternatives but one is allowed to hold them prima facie implausible unless proved otherwise. One is also free to state that current scientific consensus is AGAINST them. In a similar fashion one can say the same about fine- tuning – just it is the simplest option to rule out FTL it is still the simplest opition to rule out fine tuning. This ruling out is CONDITIONAL (it is not therefore “ruling out” sensu stricto), because it may be overturned by future developments. But the point is that BY NOW I do not owe ANY apology for treating both FTL and FINE-TUNING as RUBISH….That is my point…..And NO the argument ” do not stop scientific inquiry” is flawed as well. No one stops Barnes or anyone from devising theories but unless there is some solid evidence for it I AM allowed to hold them WRONG IF there is a simpler explanation…..And no it is not argumentum ad ignorantiam either, it is Ockham’s Razor…….

2. As for the God issue…Scott this part REALLY infuriated me…..Where to begin. NO Scott, deism is not a theism :D….Not if we think of theism “narrowly” as “religious theism” the idea that god not only exists but communicates with physical reality by interfering with natural order a la old Leuba definition. And such a definition is NOT arbitrary. It was presented in the context of my argument…. And the argument WAS not vicious circle…I have not assumed METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM….I assumed in agreement with facts that science, being methodologically naturalistic makes success in obtaining knowledge about world. This DEMANDS EXPLANATION. The second part is NOT vicous circle. THE SECOND PART IS INFERENCE TO THE BEST EXPLANATION ( the very strategy some of you use to prove god). I conclude that the best explanation for science where methodological naturalism guides you to truth, is the natural world where “causal closure” holds and no non-natural agent interferes causally (at least in the in fieri mode) with natural. Such a world excludes possibility of god interfering with world. and therefore excludes (narrow)theism. It does allow for deism though.

Now Scott, simple question here: while my English fails me ( I am not a native speaker) I think i’ve put it clearly enough before….So let me ask you: WHY ARE YOU MISREPRESENTING MY ARGUMENT? YOu can disagree, sure but why are labelling it as “SCientism”? It is not presented as dogma….

Sorry Scott but this time It is YOU that commit both ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM AND STRAW MAN FALLACY 😀

3. The last post really got on my nerves. Scott can you tell me what the fact, that a bunch of top scientist were theists means for the issue of science-religion relations? Science is self-correcting enterprise it may be even in theory run by idiots -as long as there is a peer review -there may be a progress. You seem to suggest kind of “division fallacy” – ” science is rational therefore scientist are rational and scientist are theists”….It does not hold. Also Scott, where the FUCK AM I “poisoning the well”. By now I wrote nothing ad hominem against theistic scientist. I presented the argument in favor of weak metaphysical naturalism -which also answers you question as to how science is incompatible with religion. It is incompatible because religion is assumed to imply supernatural interference of god in the world and the success of science suggests it is NOT taking place. You can disagree but, please do not suggest that I have no arguments. Do not try to mute me with rhetorics. Also I do believe that I CAN make persuasive argument against reliability of theist scientist: for instance the whole quarrel Luke had against deGrasse Tyson was also partially a straw man fallacy – Luke assumed that Tyson accuses Newton of allowing miracles. And that was not the case. Tyson ‘s charge was about god-of-the gaps..And this WAS partially vindicated because by the very quote of Newton presented by Luke from “Optics”, NEWTON PRESENTED RELIGIOUS IDEA OF “RESTORATION” IN SCIENTIFIC TEXT. And this IS a serious violation of current scientific methodology (and also of the very Newton’s “hypotheses non fingo”). This is also why atheists like me are so vary of Christians in science, especially Christians who have not problem with Newton’s insert…..

4. Scott, Final remark If you want this debate to continue: please do not misrepresent my arguments. And please do not lecture me about what I should read. This is a very “cheap” way of avoiding debate. If you have argument against Quine, then make it (Kim’s critique of natiuralized epistemology is not necessearilly critique of “web of belief” as I understand it – because I understand it “normatively” – I subscribe not to “quinism” but to specific idea which is not necessearily coonnected with other thoughts of Quine)….

Believe it or not but in my country I’ve defended Phd thesis on philosophy which involved, among other things, some debate concerning…five ways of Aquinas…..And, believe it or not, I think I understand them (and no, not in a way of Dawkins :D), and yet i believe them WRONG. And I’am still naturalist and atheist NOT BECAUSE OF DOGMATIC ASSERTIONS BUT because of arguments.You are free to debate me and criticise me , but do not try to evade me by “straw man’s” or lecturing…The point is is that, while atheists often treat you christians with ad hominems and shit YOU ARE DOING QUITE THE SAME TO US, just more elegantly :D……Respond to my argument and we can continue…..In other case don’t be astonished when I start trolling -this time for real……

20. @Scott

And One more think, I am sick and tired of you theists confusing SCIENTISM wit SCIENTIFIC REALISM and NATURALISM with LOGICAL POSITIVISM….Especially below the article which trats about the issue of scientific realism….Scott if you intepret me a( a naturalist and scientific realist) as example of scientism and a positivism then I believe IT IS YOU that should READ a little bit more…..starting with the article above…….alternatively you should give up commiting straw man fallacy 😀

21. on March 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Reply trollmonster

And just one more: What are those problems posed by “reductionism” which are greater in number than solved by reductionism? Because, you see, it is a religion rather that created problems in theological discourse, that can be solved only by reverting to speculative , unproven, non explainable phenomena. God does not explain the world (by definition he can create any being not necessearily with humans), neither he explains rationality of universe (could really be the universe irrational at first place? And even if, how god can it make more probable?). So positing god as source of unspecified “rationality” is bollocks. Per analogiam, Soul does not explain consciousness (it embraces the conscoiusness but it does not make it any more intelligible -hence plea for naturalistic explanation of consciousness even from guys like Jaegwon Kim). So no explanation from theology and consequeently your claim that reductionism creates more problem than theological framework is probably bollocks…..And what are those “other” means of obtaining knowledge different than science. Revelation? It is not knowledge its faith, which as such is “blind” (no, even proving god does not make the case for Jesus reasonable, much less the cases fo specific christian doctrines, it may be necesseary condition but not sufficient). And philosophical, theology and antinaturalistic philosophy do not better because of reasons stated above. If we are to debate, would you kindly use specific argument not empty BS rhetoric?

Scott, if you want debate STOP making SERMONS :D…SERMONS will be considered bulllshit by me….Use arguments instead, and first of alll start respond to MY arguments…not just YOURS or those of mine who aknowledge 😀 For instance tell my why do you think one is entitled to infer from “rationality of worls” (what exactly?) to god but one is not entitled to infer from success of science to (moderately) naturalistic reality……

22. @Scott.
I think it only fair that you demonstrate ( to both Trollmaster and I) how it is possible that Jesus who, according to biblical tradition was Yahweh made flesh, was also the creator of the universe.

Can you please offer a straightforward explanation without delving ( too much) into metaphysics?
Thanks.
Ark

23. Ark,

Fine-tuning and related issues in physics are only relevant to questions of materialism vs. the existence of a creator of some sort–anything regarding that creator’s identity or nature is a matter of theology and/or comparative religion, and my reasons for believing that creator god to be the triune God of the Bible and His crucified Son have nothing to do with physics.

Beyond that, given the statements he made, my responses to Trollmaster are clear enough and amply cited to peer-reviewed science and philosophical texts that cover them thoroughly. I’m not sure what you mean by “straightforward”, but my reasons for being a Christian are quite involved and require delving into metaphysics as well as history, text criticism, and other subjects (not to mention my own personal story). I can’t give you an answer that’s worthy of your question in a few sound bites, or even a few paragraphs. However, you’ve already been shown many of those reasons–if not here, then certainly in other forums–and provided with plenty of source material as well. If you or Trollmaster want more, I would invite you both to review the material that’s already been provided. But again, this blog is for physics and related matters. Theological discussions are off-topic here and belong in a different forum. But then… you already know that. 😉

Best.

• Every place is good for if people are willing at least to acknowledge each other,s arguments (not necessearily agree) Still wonder how arguments from ft to god can avoid being god of the gaps. You can not propose god in science, so you are bound to criticising naturalistic hypotheses and you are unlikely to add anything positive from philosophy. Seems like god of the gaps and you disowned such an approach.

• Trollmonster,

Physics gives us an account of the origin and evolution of the universe that is predominately mathematical… differential equations and boundary conditions, equations of state, and to some extent a qualitative picture of what those equations describe (e.g. quarks, gluons, fields, etc.). After the Enlightenment, Newtonian physics led to a view of all this that was mechanistic–the universe is an enormous, mathematical machine. If it was created, then the creator simply made all the pieces, assembled it per instructions, wound it up and launched it to run on its own with an occasional tweak here or there as needed. God-of-the-gaps arguments are a natural outcome of this picture. If the universe is just a gigantic, properly assembled drone it’ll fly just fine on its own, and a god (or gods) will only be needed if it breaks down or gets off course somewhere. To the extent that the laws of physics are mathematically solid, interconnected, and immutable–which as far as we know, they are–this will be increasingly unnecessary. It follows directly that the more we know about the inner workings of nature, the smaller the corner any creator will be painted into.

By contrast, in classical theology ( at least per Abrahamic religions, including Christianity) the God is seen not as a machinist creator, but as the author and sustainer of the universe. It is His work of art–created and sustained by His activity, much the way a musician or novelist creates a song or story as it unfolds. As an analogy, we might ask whether Gulliver was shipwrecked on Lilliput because the ocean currents took him there after he was shipwrecked, or because Swift willed that he end up there to develop his story. Either… or both. Once we accept that Swift is the author and sustainer of the unfolding story he is creating, including the character and laws of the universe it takes place in, both are equally valid accounts that exist in parallel, not opposition. To use Steven Jay Gould’s term, they are non-overlapping magisteria.

This is traditionally how most theists have understood God… as scientists they give themselves to the former approach in their labs, and to the latter in their churches. The two are just different forms of worship. Conflicts only arise if we trade this God for a machinist god… which unfortunately, is precisely what many Fundamentalist Christians did after the Enlightenment, making them every bit as responsible for the confusion as the secular community, if not more so.

[BTW, my apologies if I misunderstood any of your previous arguments. First language or not, your command of English is certainly far beyond any bilingual abilities I have! 🙂 ]

• Off topic?
You are, by default, suggesting a goddidit it and this god is the one you genuflect to and I must not bring up theology?
Yeah, right!

So, let me get this straight. You are taking as an article of faith, the divinity of the biblical character,Jesus of Nazareth, a narrative construct, for whom there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and inserting this make believe character into a scientific framework and basically saying:
”Ahah, you see !”

You offer a crappy theory, chuck in some ridiculous theology and expect
someone such as me to concede:
“Hmm, sounds more than reasonable. Okay , I’ll buy it!”

Tell me, do you understand the meaning of the word integrity?

Once you have looked it up find an urban slang dictionary and look up Arse- Hat.

24. on March 23, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Reply trollmonster

Well, stil not sure this answers my doubt. “Artist” and “engineer” seem to be equivalent metaphors: they both create by assembling elements (whether physical parts or words and meanings) , both do it quided by purposes, and both seem to have absolute authority over “creatura”. “Artist” may imply greater affinity with creations, but not necessearily: Swift may not feel anything personal towards Gulliwer, in order to create interesting character. Both artist and engineer share essentially subject-object relation with their creations. But the way, this may be serious problem -whether it is possible for creator enter the personal relationship with created. Personal relationship seem to assume independence of both sides and also switching from subject-object to subject-subject relations feels strange…..

Anyway, fine-tuning is precisely finding that current “mechanism of universe” is lacking something in explanation (still don’t believe it is established lack, but this is how it seems to be presented), so if we were to posit supernatural as explanation , it may be hard to avoid it being a god-of-the- gaps……..

25. Hi Trollmaster,

I do agree with much of what you said. Bear in mind that my “author” analogy was just that–an analogy. And like all analogies it does have limitations. Taken literally it implies what philosophers refer to as occasionalism–the claim that physical causality is an illusion (a la David Hume) and events appear to unfold in a law-like manner only because God chooses to bring them about that way. It’s an idea that’s been embraced by some theologians and philosophers of religion, but not many, and I certainly do not intend it here. I used the author analogy only to illustrate the difference between seeing the universe as a self-existing machine to be tinkered with vs. seeing it as an ongoing work of art.

It’s easy to see how an occasionalist view would, as you say, render agency, personhood, and even science itself essentially meaningless. But there’s a lot more to it than the author analogy alone might imply. Ultimately, the distinction comes down to one of powers. Do charged particles exchange photons, say, because they have an innate ability to do so, or because they’re directed to by laws of physics that exist independent of them? This might sound like hair-spliting… angels dancing on the head of a pin. But it has profound implications for both science and religion. Philosophers of ontology distinguish between act (the actual existence and form of things), and potency (their potential for change). From these we can draw further distinctions between potencies as active and passive, and from that various views of causality. For instance, by virtue of its hardness and thread pattern, a screw has the potential (potency) to drive into wood and anchor things to it, but it cannot actualize this potential unless a screwdriver drives it. So we say it has the passive potency for driving into wood and anchoring, waiting to be actualized by the corresponding potency in a screwdriver. The screwdriver in turn has its own passive potency to drive screws, but only if a carpenter uses it to. The carpenter has his/her own potencies as well, and so on, and so on… This chain of act/potency and related causalities must begin somewhere. It does no good to suggest an infinite regress because that still leaves us with an infinite number of things, all of which have many potencies that cannot be self-actualized. Sooner or later, this chain must end with something that is, for lack of a better term, pure act–something that just is–eternally, changelessly, omnipotently, and from which everything else draws its essence, potencies, and existence. In classical theology, this bedrock pure act is God, and everything else is His created work of cascading acts and potencies.

There’s a lot more to all this of course… far more than I could ever pass along in a few blog comments. The best I can do here is give you a fly-by, but there are at least four take-aways that I believe are relevant to your questions. I’ll put them in a separate post for better readability.

26. First, at the risk of perhaps over-generalizing, most of the atheists I’m aware of have addressed the same questions by claiming that bedrock reality is the universe itself, and that it is ultimately just blind bits of stuff being “pushed around” by an equally blind “theory of everything” which is rational to the extent that it’s mathematical, but beyond that is so in appearance only. Everything else is a deterministic outcome of this, including the appearance of conscious personhood, free will, and rational thought. Thus, ontological questions about science, religion, and related matters ultimately come down to what one considers to be a better candidate for bedrock pure act–God, or the universe. IMHO, the latter leads to far more problems than it solves compared to the former. But as before, that’s a conversation for another forum.

Second, because classical theism views the universe as created by God with both act and potency, it follows that it has its own distinct existence apart from Him (act) as well as its potencies, both of which derive from Him. Because it has the former (as opposed to merely existing in His, or anyone’s imagination) it departs from my author analogy and as such, is a meaningful object of study that can be explored, understood, and reverse-engineered (so to speak) via science. But the analogy remains to the extent that while it is distinct from Him, it nevertheless derives its continuing existence and law-like character from His ongoing creativity. And given that our identity as humans includes rational self-awareness and agency of our own, they too are part of the existence and potencies we receive from His hand. Thus science is a meaningful endeavor, and so is our ability to be in relationship with our Creator, even though both depend on HIs continuing creative sustenance. This is why the idea of the universe as a machine to be tinkered with fails, and with it god-of-the-gaps arguments.

Third, all that said, the picture I’ve painted here is one that begins with bedrock pure act… that which just is, be it God or a “theory of everything”. Should science ever take us to that place we will have reach the one and only point where a “gaps” argument would be valid, and at least in principle we could say “God-did-it” or “the-universe-did-it”. However, this is purely academic because in practice we can never know whether we’ve reached that point. There will never be a time when we can definitively claim, “Yep, we’re at bedrock reality… God/Universe just did it…!” The most we could ever say with any confidence is that the longer we go without deepening our theoretical understanding of the universe’s inner workings, the greater the odds that we’ve reached that point (provided of course, that we have at our disposal all the viable means needed to empirically testall the options on the table, which today we don’t). This is why from a practical standpoint, god-of-the-gaps arguments will never be valid, and for that matter universe-of-the-gaps arguments never will be either.

Finally, for reasons that are too involved to get into here, the classical theistic view of God as pure act leads to His having omniscience, self-aware intellect, and will, and thus He has personhood. But because He is changeless, all-knowing, and eternal, His personhood is radically different from ours. He is not a person in the same way that we are–that is, an individual instantiation of a personality defined in terms of thoughts and behaviors unfolding in time. Inevitably, discussions like these confront us with the limits of language itself (what does it mean to call God “pure act” for instance…?) and of necessity we will have to speak in analogies. I think the most we can say here is that God, as eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient pure act, has something like our instantiated personhood, and to that extent He can be in relationship with us. [At this point, a Christian theologian would tell you that He broke down those barriers between our personhood and His by becoming one of us in the person of Jesus. But that too is a conversation for another forum.]

Given the limited space we have here, I think this is the best I can give you… heaven knows I’ve rambled enough already! 🙂 I doubt it will answer all of your questions, but hopefully there’s something in all of this that you’ll find helpful. For what it’s worth, the works I cited in my previous post do go into a lot more details on these topics and would likely clarify many things if I failed to here, particularly the works of Feser. Whether you find them convincing or not, they’re priceless contributions to any discussion of theistic vs. atheistic science and philosophy… if for no other reason because they take a lot of popular theistic straw men out of play. And BTW, thank you for engaging in this discussion with me. I find it hugely helpful to regularly sanity check my thoughts on these matters. I hope you’ve found it helpful too.

Best.

27. on March 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Reply trollmonster

All right, thank You for response, Please note however that if we agree that as you said by what you are saying apparent unsolvability of f purported “fine-tuning” may be read as an argument (though not proof) that “the universe simply is like that”. But you suggested before that problems with “bedrock physics” and multiverse hypotheses ma lend some support to theism. So, which is that? Are you willling, given existence of fine-tuning problem and lack of solutions over the course of say, next 30 years, to say this supports theism? Or atheism, by “simply-is-like-that”. Or Neither? But if theither then, you may support hupothesis of supernatural only by positive, direct arguments, like the ones you wrote later. Mere criticism of naturalism means litttle to nothing.

As for the rest,I will briefly respond: I do not buy Aquinas-like theism for variety of reasons. First of all, applying concepts of “act” and “potency” may be regarded as strong assumption: possible alternatives include for example Hume’an world where causality is not so much an illusion, but is reduced to succesion of events. In such a world things simply happen, but some of them happen in patterns which give rise to notions of cause and effect. Of course you theists, hastily deny such a possibility citing need for substantial “basis” of happening, as well as the need for explanation of said “patterns” .But in Humean framework there is no substance (for some reason – the concept is non empirical and not necessearily clear) and no causality apart from succession so the patterns can not have metaphysical “cause” (because the very concept of causation as “production” of one thing from the other is inexplicable -it does not mean much to say that wood has “potency” to turn into ash by means of acting fire -the fundamental issue: how X becomes Y is not touched and can not be touched). And even if we allow “productive” causation it is unclear we need to sucumb to “act-potency” ontology – better account may involve for example leaving everything “actual” and explaining changes by means energy transfer and motion in space. This would probably require some yet undiscovered physics but is still more intelligible than potency, which seem to be irreducible and unclear ( what does it mean that wood has potency to turn into ash? That, should I apply fire it will turn into ash? But there is difference between conditional and actual fact -wood is not ash NOW, only will turn into one once I’ll burn it. It is supposed however to have NOW the disposition. But this disposition is kind of relation and it is unclear how disposition can be actual with only one of corelates actual).

Secondly, admitting act and potency is just first step in establishing theistic case. These terms have to be interpreted in a certain manner, applied in a specific manner to reality.. Basically Aquinas goes like this: Things are composed by form and matter (matter is whatever “stuff” they are from, form is “arrangement” of this stuff -thiese are relative terms). Such compositions need to be actualized in multiple ways: first of all something needs to bring matter and form together, secondly such a composition is usually changeable so it has potency to change which must be actualized, and at the end, the very existence of things requires bringing together or “fulllfilling” their essence with their existences. These processes require other composite beings working but if this chain is going to terminate- we need simple, not composed being- absolute.

This picture may look great at first glance, but close examination somewhat spoils it: First of all, the assumption that every composition requires actualization is a suspect.. This principle assumes that part is ALWAYS ontologically PRIOR to the whole. If you have the house, then the brick from the house is PRIOR to the house. It is not because , temporarily, first there were bricks and then house was built from them. NO. Even should the house be eternal (or aviternal in Aquino parlance) you can imagine brick not constituting the house or the brick constituting the house, BUT you can not imagine HOUSE not being constituted by bricks or their equivalents like e. g. marbles or something. The idea here is that existence of the whole presupposes existence of the parts BUT NOT VICE VERSA. This is the definition of ontological priority of part with respect to the whole. And this is also justification of “composition-needs-actualization” principle. Every composition assumes prior separate parts which needs to be “bound”, “assembled” by kind of action. Every part is a potency with respect to the whole, which is actualized potency, which requires “actualizer”…..”Actualizer” is turn is either composed and requires another “actualizer” or simple. The latter is identified with absolute.

Trouble is, this looks like blunder to me at least to a certain degree. The point is that, what is true about PHYSICAL parts is not necesseary true about ontological parts. Yes house pressupposes bricks and not vice versa…But what about a statue and its shape? Shape is also a part (but not physical) of the thing. Can a physical thing exist without a shape? NO!. Can a shape exist without a physical thing? Also NO! ( Of course shape can be instantiated on different objects but, always required some physical stuff, at least computer screen to display it) Here we have symmetry. Part is not prior to the whole, therefore the whole does not seem to need prior actualization. Now the point is that ontological parts are (usually) more like shape and statue, then like house and brick. Existence and essence of certain thing are instantiated ONLY when that thing exists (maybe essence can preexist with absolute’s mind, but even if, it is not enough, also absolute possesses “idealized” existence not the one that is instantiated, also reverting to absolute would probably making vicious circle for theism). Matter and form may also constitute similar inseparable compositions. It is unclear whether you can separate electron from its basic properties like electric charge, spin, mass etc. This would mean that electron would cease to exist. You can strip a portion of gas from electrons, leaving electrons existing, but it is unsure you can strip electrons of charge leaving it existing. Also it is unclear, that you can separate physical things from accidental properties. If just two particles exist, they must gain some speed and momentum, by gravitational or electric interaction so no need to inserting movement on them. This also makes the need for actualisation via efficient causation uncertain. You said that every screwdriver needs hand to make it moving -the point is that that not necessearily: two screwdriwers are enough to instantiate some movement by gravitational interaction :D. And please note that while such an interaction requires screwdriwers, it is unclear what here is the potency and what act. WHat is actualizing and what is actualized? We may interpret this situation saying that there is a causal loop -screwdrivers force themselves to move. Assuming that laws of physics are derivates of properties of physical properties and space is not-substantial, we need just those two screwdrivers to produce movement. And the screwdrivers themselves may not require any “ontological causation” because of reasons stated above. So , in principle, self-sufficient world, both ontologically and physically, is stilll an option IN FACT IT IS TO BE EXPECTED.

Third. Even if Aquinas proofs would work regarding the composition issue, there is the question what are they able to establish. You said, that they point out to the first Act. Not exactly :D….They point to the first act AND the first potency :D…..This first Act has to actualize something to instantiate being. Of course Aquinas answer is in line with Christian Orthodoxy: creatio ex nihilo. Absolute actualizes <>!…But this is like a joke to me. First you propose an axiom that causation requires actualizing potency, then in crucial point you break it to reach desired conclusion. You are making exempt on absolute to prove its existence. Please note that there are reasons behind the potency thing: it determines what can be result of causation, making it a little intelligible in this manner. Because of this you theists propose this act-potency distinction. And yet when it suits you, you ditch this thing altogether. First you claim that we need potency to know why a match produces a fire and not an elephant, to ensure that effect is not accidental. But you seem not to mind that the world as a whole is precisely that way accidental (because absolute, being unconstrained by prime matter and omnipotent could have created it differently). We do not know why it looks the way it looks. Should the world be everything, or the absolute was impersonal set of laws we could have an ultimate rationale for reality as such. Your theism does not provide such and more importantly is making exempt in crucial point revealing forcing the conclusion.

Fourth, the very idea of absolute as it is derived from Aquinas proofs is controversial. As said, these proofs establish existence of ontologically simple being. But how this being is possible? Absolute is creative mind with WILL and concepts of “creatura”. This seems to be a complex being. The attempted answer is of course famous theory of Transcendentals. Goodness, Wisdom,Power are supposed to be one thing identical with absolute, we predicate analogicallly about it. Thing is, this does not suffice. What about the concepts of horse, bird,or a cosmologist which absolute is supposed to use creating world? They should be in absolute but how is this possible when it is simple. “Being in” imply’s inherence, which implies having properties. The desperate measure, I heard about, is to identify absolute with ideas in his mind. Absolute is therefore supposed to be perfect or ideal horse,bird, cosmologist…..But such an explanation seems to be insane solution implying ultimate unity of everything….

Finally, even if we answer all those, there is on last. Suppose that simple actus exists. How is he going to create anything. Simplistic pious answer “with a puff” does not sufffice when we consider all consequences of simplicity. Actus is identical with its will. But the world created is contingent. So the absolute’s act of creating world should be also contingent. If so this act can not be identical with will of the actus and with the actus. And indeed, as far as I remember, Fordham’s translation of “Summa” distinguished”Will” from “willing”. But if willing is not identical or inherent to absolute, then it must be a separate being. This being however requires creation itself which requires another willing and regressus. The point here is that “normal” beings produce effect by activity which corresponds to some of their feature. Seed produces flower dividing its cells. Water dissolves rock by using electric properties of its molecules. But absolute has no features distinct from itself so he can act only by “Will” identical with Suprem Goodness, Wisdom, perfect bird etc…..However “Will” is unable to create the world, only “Willing” can do it. But according to thomistic metaphysics absolute ca not effectively produce willing. This argument, and those before, I treat as a proof nonexistence of being that is pure act and hence as a reductio ad absurdum of thomistic proofs. Arguments Third and Fourth also yield some argumentational power towards establishing that conclusion

Arguments Third to last assume one more thing I need to clarify. I spoke about world as “accidental”. You probably want to criticise this conclusion because you think Supreme Mind acts from superior reason ,and this is opposite to accident. Also Supreme Being is loving and love is guided towards mankind so no accident here. But keep in mind, that in we follow thomistic arguments, we have no basis for admitting such opposition. Why? Thing is, Supreme Being really is only after yourself. Literally. As perfect SB only studies itself, and (per se) loves itself. SB loves other things through ITSELF, by adressing those concepts in his mind. But these concepts are varied and if they really all “converge” in SB’s mind, and also “Will” does not determine creation, only “contingent “willing”, then there is no a priori reason for absolute to love more human than the horseshit. I mean that seriously. As I remember Summa, Aquinas, while not putting this as I do, nevertheless admitted that absolute is not bound by any particular order of creation. It is not that the current world is reasonable and the other wouldn’t be. As I understand it absolute could create, world filled by horseshit or merely quark-gluon plasma, and still be eligible for getting credit for being awesome. So I continue to think that I am legitimate to believe that thomistic absolute does not make creating world in humans anymore probable than world without. Even if my all other arguments fail, I have right to say that creation of humans is “fluke” and so is birth of Jesus. This the reason I believe the theism (at least in thomistic manner) has zero chance of making existence of humans more understandable than the most crude non-theistic theory. THe world is accidental in eyes ofthe one you call God.

Anyway, Best wishes and Happy Easter (despite the criticism above this is meant to be sincere).

28. Hi Trollmonster,

Once again, thanks for your last thoughtful response. Sorry for the delay in responding again myself… I was out of town last weekend and this has been a busy week. And I felt your comments deserved a little extra time and effort as well. 🙂 If I may, let me start by responding to a few of your specifics and then offer some general conclusions that I hope you’ll find helpful. As before, I’ll break it up across a few posts to make things more readable…

“The assumption that every composition requires actualization is a suspect.. This principle assumes that part is ALWAYS ontologically PRIOR to the whole. If you have the house, then the brick from the house is PRIOR to the house. It is not because , temporarily, first there were bricks and then house was built from them. NO… The idea here is that existence of the whole presupposes existence of the parts BUT NOT VICE VERSA… Every composition assumes prior separate parts which needs to be “bound”, “assembled” by kind of action. Every part is a potency with respect to the whole, which is actualized potency, which requires “actualizer”…..”Actualizer” is turn is either composed and requires another “actualizer” or simple. The latter is identified with absolute…”

If I understanding you correctly, you’re saying that in classical theology potency denotes a potential for parts to be bound together to bring something new into existence, and act is that which brings this about, which would make the concepts of act and potency based partially, if not completely on a Composition Fallacy. If so, this is exactly backwards. In the Scholastic tradition the term “act” was derived from the word actual, not “action.” It has to do with the state in which something exists, not just its powers to bring anything about per se (although powers will be one part of that). Potency on the other hand, has do with that thing’s potential for change… any change, not just the potential assembly of parts by any “actualizing” power/s intrinsic or external to it. Consider a plastic ball. If heated enough it will melt into a pile of goo and no longer be a ball. No parts have been assembled or disassembled… it’s just realized a potential to change form in the presence of an actualizing cause. Or, here’s an better example… Consider a proton. Its wave function has the capacity to be in any number of eigenstates, each of which will be associated with one of its properties (e.g. location, momentum, energy, etc.). This Hilbert space of possible states for each observable property may be taken as reflecting its potency to be in those states. Observing one of those properties will actualize a particular value for it, and that value will be constrained by the probabilities given by a mathematical operator associated with the act of observing it. The wave function is not actually in any of those states prior to being observed to be there, nor is anything “assembled” when it’s observed. It’s just forced from one state into another when one of its properties is observed, and the possible outcomes with be determined by the current state of the wave vector and the nature of what property is then observed. Observing different properties will result in different possible states for the wave function to end up in. Act and potency are strictly about state of existence and potential for change, regardless of how we choose to further analyze either. “Composition” alone per se, has nothing to do with it.

“Even if we allow “productive” causation it is unclear we need to sucumb to “act-potency” ontology – better account may involve for example leaving everything “actual” and explaining changes by means energy transfer and motion in space….”

Energy transfer and motion in space are changes of exactly the type that classical theism would characterize as actualized potencies. All we’re doing here is equivocating on the words “actual” and “change” vis ‘a vis act and potency. You can use that language if you like… it works. But nothing in it is contrary to the concepts of act and potency.

29. “The point is that, what is true about PHYSICAL parts is not necesseary true about ontological parts. Yes house pressupposes bricks and not vice versa…But what about a statue and its shape? Shape is also a part (but not physical) of the thing. Can a physical thing exist without a shape? NO!. Can a shape exist without a physical thing? Also NO!”

You are correct regarding physical vs. ontological parts. However, this doesn’t tell us anything new. The statue and its shape are directly analogous to the plastic ball example I just gave, and the concepts of act and potency apply to them in the same manner. As for shapes and physical things, classical theists would agree wholeheartedly with you that a shape cannot exist without a physical thing (although a Platonist would disagree). The reverse however, is not true. At its most basic level, physical matter would come under the realm of quantum field theory, as applied to individual or many particle systems. In QFT, not only do physical things exist without a shape, they exist without any properties until those properties are observed, or “measured.” Strange as this may sound, they don’t even have a meaningful location, much less anything else, until that location is observed.

“You said that every screwdriver needs hand to make it moving -the point is that that not necessearily: two screwdriwers are enough to instantiate some movement by gravitational interaction… And please note that while such an interaction requires screwdriwers, it is unclear what here is the potency and what act. WHat is actualizing and what is actualized?”

The potency in my screw/screwdriver example has nothing to do with motion per se–it was about the screw’s passive potency to be driven, and the screwdriver’s causal potency (or power) to drive it. The power to drive a screw includes the capacity to secure it (via pressure and head fit or grip) combined with rotation. Gravity alone cannot do this, and even if it could, that wouldn’t matter. Nothing about the concept of a thing’s potency requires a unique actualizing power either. A screw could also be driven by a pair of pliers gripping the head and applying a twisting pressure. Or consider a baseball, which has a potency for parabolic motion that can be actualized by a baseball bat, a cricket bat, a throwing arm, or countless other things. As for which is the actualizer, physics discriminates cause from effect via the second law of thermodynamics, according to which entropy increase in physical systems is unidirectional toward the future. So at least in the case of temporally ordered events, cause and effect are clearly distinguished. You won’t find may physicists who will tell you that a baseball in motion causes a bat to hit it, and a batter to swing.

“We may interpret this situation saying that there is a causal loop -screwdrivers force themselves to move. Assuming that laws of physics are derivates of properties of physical properties and space is not-substantial, we need just those two screwdrivers to produce movement. And the screwdrivers themselves may not require any “ontological causation” because of reasons stated above. So , in principle, self-sufficient world, both ontologically and physically, is stilll an option IN FACT IT IS TO BE EXPECTED.”

As we’ve already seen, the example of two screwdrivers moving each other is useless… even if they were the size of asteroids and actually could exert a measurable gravitational force on each other. In this case, what needs to be shown is how circular causality could account for carpenters wielding screwdrivers to drive screws into wood or metal. Good luck with that… 🙂 Even if such a scenario could be dreamed up it would still run afoul of the second law, which as I noted, is irreducibly time asymmetric. Causally circular cosmological models have been tried before. Without exception, all have proven to be either unworkable from an entropy standpoint, flatly contrary to observation, or so contrived that no one could them seriously. The phrase “to be expected” doesn’t exactly leap to mind.

There is another subtlety here that I should’ve addressed in my last post. In classical theism, the powers a thing has to actualize potencies in other things can be distinguished by whether they’re per accidens or per se. The former involve a thing’s power to produce an outcome that does not require its continuing activity as an actualizing agent. Most men have the power to father children for instance. This power is inherent in them, and may or may not be exercised. If a man does father a child, his child will continue to live independent of whether he breeds again, or if he dies. Thus, the power of fatherhood is independent of the outcome and contingent (from the Latin accidens, or “contingent”; “accidental”). By contrast, per se denotes causal powers that a thing cannot actualize in another thing unless its potency to do so is in turn actualized by a more primary actualizer. A freight car for instance, has the power to induce motion in a caboose by coupling to it and pulling it, but only if the exercising of that power is in turn actualized by another freight car, and so on. The power cannot be exercised unless it is itself sustained by a more primary causal agent (from the Latin per se, or “in itself”).

Notice that this distinction exists regardless of the chain itself. An infinitely long chain of freight cars and cabooses cannot move themselves, and neither can a circular chain. The train can only move if it contains at least one car with the self-contained per accidens power to induce motion in itself and other things… an engine. This is where your causal loop of screwdrivers breaks down. To take theism off the table, materialism must demonstrate that a spectacularly diverse, and contingent universe–evolving according to time-asymmetric laws in an utterly random manner (“what Dawkins called, “blind, pitiless indifference”)–has the per accidens power to self-actualize its own potencies… to create, and sustain itself by its own bootstraps. This has not been done.

30. “Even if Aquinas proofs would work regarding the composition issue, there is the question what are they able to establish. You said, that they point out to the first Act. Not exactly :D….They point to the first act AND the first potency.”

No they don’t. The whole point of Aquinas’ cosmological argument was precisely that sooner or later, a train cannot run without an engine, and by logical necessity, that engine cannot have any passive potencies or dependencies of its own. With language and examples from their time, he and the Scholastics after him argued that the universe is more like a freight car than an engine. It need not be in motion, or evolve the way it does–actualize itself in this manner, and not that–unless its countless potencies are actualized by a primary engine. If this “engine,” had passive potencies or per se dependencies of its own, they argued, that would only push the question back a level without answering it. Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with.

Their arguments were a lot more involved than I’ve described here, but this is the basis of why they concluded that the ground of all being must be God. They began with assumptions that were based directly on experience and observation, and to the extent that one agrees with those assumptions their conclusions follow directly and necessarily. You may not find them convincing, and you’re certainly within your rights to challenge as you see fit. But they had nothing whatsoever to do with mere composition and were in fact, a refutation of “first potency.” Any refutation of them must clearly, and demonstrate that they’re unavoidably incompatible with the way the world actually is.

“This first Act has to actualize something to instantiate being. Of course Aquinas answer is in line with Christian Orthodoxy: creatio ex nihilo. Absolute actualizes !…”

No on both counts. The first Act does not have to actualize any being–whatever it is, by definition it is the ground of all being, and as such, by logical necessity it must be self-existent. Otherwise it would only be another link in a chain of contingent causes and would tell us nothing. What requires actualization by a first Act is contingent being–that which may or may not exist, and if it does, could have been something else. Again, this is precisely why Aquinas and the Scholastics argued that the first Act had to be eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient (among other things). Nothing short of this could account not only for why there is something rather than nothing, but why that something is the particular universe we live in–with the particular laws, diversity, and evolution it has–and not any of countless other possible ones.

Aquinas’ answer had nothing to do with creatio ex nihilo either–at least not as that term is most commonly understood. He would’ve agreed that God is the reason why there is a contingent something rather than nothing. However, he would not have agreed that his arguments proved that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. In fact, he argued explicitly that it wasn’t possible to prove that. He did believe the universe wasn’t past eternal, but he considered that to be a revealed truth from scripture, not something that could be proven via his, or anyone else’s arguments.

“First you propose an axiom that causation requires actualizing potency, then in crucial point you break it to reach desired conclusion… Because of this you theists propose this act-potency distinction. And yet when it suits you, you ditch this thing altogether.”

Actually, we didn’t propose it. At least, Christians didn’t. Act and potency were first proposed in Aristotle’s Metaphysics three and a half centuries before Christ, and until the Enlightenment neither concept was seriously opposed by more than a handful of thinkers, theist or otherwise. He didn’t propose them as an argument for theism either. He did so in response to the Eleatics (Parmenides and Zeno, who argued that change was impossible), and Heraclitus (who argued that nothing else was). Both concepts were based on his observation that the universe exists contingently (act), and undergoes change contingently (potency)–both of which if you ask me, are damn reasonable assumptions. 🙂 And ones that are not disputed by physicists either… which is precisely why they model the universe with differential equations and boundary conditions.

The argument given here is exactly backwards as well. Neither Aristotle, nor the Scholastics after him “assumed” act and potency, nor did they “ditch” them when they came to God. As I already noted, they began with a universe that contingently exists and undergoes change (again, damn reasonable assumptions), and required that any concrete answer as to why there is something rather than nothing must eventually take the contingent part out of that (another damn reasonable assumption… and whether that’s possible or not, at the very least, any explanation which can do so is a hell of an improvement on any that can’t). From there, they followed a long string of arguments (including those presented here) and concluded that the first Act must be God… or Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” (BTW, in Aristotle, move denoted change, not movement in the sense we understand it today). Again, you may not agree with their arguments. But they were in fact, arguments, and those arguments did not postulate God, they concluded with Him. No taxicab fallacy or bait-and-switch was involved.

BTW, it’s worth noting that what theists actually did propose was… [wait for it…] the very mechanistic matter/law worldview modern materialism is founded on! The main architects of the classical worldview were Descartes and Newton, both of whom were Christians. They proposed that God had created the universe as simple bits of matter whose only real properties were substantive (e.g. size, solidity, weight, etc.). All other properties were considered subjective and relegated to a separate realm of mind, which was along for the ride on top of, and distinct from the material world. The material world in turn evolved rationally and mathematically because it was constrained to by divinely decreed laws… which is why to this day, we still refer to them as the laws of nature rather than patterns, rules, or any similar term. The classical realm of mind included a divinely created human counterpart–in God’s own image, and also separate from the “real” material world (hence, Descartes’ famous struggles with “cogito ergo sum”).

Thus, in creating this dualistic matter/law-mind worldview, Descartes and Newton set the stage for atheists to come along later and do precisely what they did–dispense with a rational God when He became unfashionable, yet retain all the language and trappings of belief in Him… right down to the concept of rational laws of nature. How ironic…

31. You’ve stated that none of my arguments prove that causality, act and potency, or God rule out a Humean materialism without causality. For the record, I agree… I haven’t. 🙂 At least, not in the sense most of us think of as “proof.” To be honest, when I hear people say that science proves God I cringe… just as I do when I hear them say that it disproves Him. IMHO neither is possible. What we can do however, is start with the most thorough and grounded data and assumptions we can, and from there infer to the best explanation. I imagine you’ll point out that “best” is a loaded term, and again you’ll be right… it is. We all bring our hopes, dreams, and wounds to the formulation of our worldviews, and do the best we can to be objective. Some of us do better than others of course, but none of us does so perfectly. I certainly don’t have the chutzpah to claim that I do. But in the end, I believe everything we’ve been discussing here comes down to two possibilities–Materialism (which I will take to be Humean as you have and denote as M), and Theism (which I will take to be classical theism and denote as T). Views on both vary widely but broadly speaking, here’s my best shot at describing them;

MATERIALISM

M1) The first Act is the universe itself. For all of its vast complexity and subtleties it could’ve been different, but it isn’t. There is no reason why.

M2) This first Act is mechanical in nature and has two separate realms–matter, which is composed of blind “bits of stuff” with no inherent properties other than extension, solidity, and the like; and universal laws that exist in what is essentially a platonic realm and describe all other properties and behaviors. Thus, fundamental reality is dual, encompassing matter and law (this was the view of the British empiricists, including Hume). The realm of law happens to be rational and mathematical, but this too is ultimately a coincidence–whatever the final “theory of everything” is, it’s formalism just is what it is. This duality has been likened to saying that an orange is a pile of pulp and rind, plus a glass of orange juice (Feser, 2014 cited previously), except that the glass of orange juice isn’t immaterial.

M3) Causality is an illusion. Reality is just a sequence of events unfolding in a certain order. It may, or may not continue to do so in an orderly manner, but we describe it in causal terms because it has so far.

M4) Science works because so far at least history happens to have unfolded in a rational, orderly manner (per M3). Because it has to date, we have confidence that it will continue to. But if that ever changes, science will cease to be meaningful.

Given the above, it follows that;

M5) The duality of the matter and law in the machine machine leads to a fundamental duality between mind and matter as well, and to the extent that the former is immaterial it isn’t real. Thus, consciousness, free will, and personhood are all epiphenomenal. To use Hume’s term, we are nothing but “bundles of percepts” riding atop blind bits of matter and deterministic laws. There actually is no “you” or “I”, nor our thoughts, feelings, or choices. It just seems that way.

M6) Likewise, there is no absolute morality either. Blind bits of stuff pushed around by differential equations don’t give a shit, so the bundles of percepts that arise from them by chance have no inherent value or meaning beyond their own CYA instincts. We evolved something like a moral sense because that selected for our survival as a species. But beyond that it has no meaning. If you or your loved ones are grievously harmed by someone that will be unfortunate, but it won’t be in any objective sense evil. For that matter, “loved” ones isn’t really a meaningful term either. The subjective reactions of mere bundles of percepts aren’t “right” or “wrong.” At best, they’re just constructs that happen to be useful for the survival of our species. They just are what they are.

THEISM

T1) The first Act is the self-existent ground of all being. Given the nature of contingent existence and change in this spacetime-bound universe it follows that this first Act is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and possesses self-aware intellect and will, and is thus consistent with the God of classical theism.

T2) The contingent universe exists because it is the contingent creation of the rational, creative God (per T1). This universe is a unified, interrelated whole of spacetime and matter, both of which have the distinct properties and behaviors we observe in them–including, but not restricted to so-called “substantive” properties–because they are fundamentally part of their essence. An orange is an orange.

T3) Causality is real. In their very essence, spacetime and matter are, always have been, and always will be rational, precisely because they are the product of a rational mind.

T4) Science works because of T3. A universe that is beautifully and subtly created by a rational mind can be counted on to stay that way. Rational beings like us can meaningfully learn about it by reverse-engineering it.

Given the above, it follows that;

T5) Consciousness, free will, and personhood are real. If there is more to fundamental reality than the substantive properties of bits of stuff, there’s no reason to believe that we are just “bundles of percepts.” We perceive the world, including our thoughts, feelings, and freely made choices, because it’s real… and so are you and I. You and I are meaningful references to meaningful realities.

T6) Inasmuch as we are the intentional and valued creations of a rational mind, we have value and purpose, both of which can be honored or dishonored. Thus, the concepts of good, evil, and absolute morality are all real as well. If someone harms you or your loved ones for no good reason, your outrage is more than just a lower-brain survival instinct–to the extent that it’s justified, it is rational. We may disagree on what is good or evil of course. But our discussions about them will actually be meaningful.

Again, I’ve done my best to be true to both, but no doubt many in both camps will take issue with some of these points and/or how I chose to word them. If any of it fails to represent your views properly, my apologies. But from where I stand, I think that followed to their conclusions, this is where both will eventually lead. But the thing is, to one degree or another, both of these worldviews will work. Neither is perfect–they both have their difficulties and unanswered questions–but a workable account of why things are they way they are can be based on either. It all comes down to where we feel inference to the best explanation takes us. We all have to make that call as best we can, with our own limited knowledge and experience, and our fears and prejudices, and be willing to alter our views when our information changes. This is why intellectual honesty requires courage and humility from us. When I give that my best shot, I find that T is simpler, more broadly-based, and more to the point given human experience as well as science. You can probably tell why from descriptions of them. But there is certainly room for you to disagree. To that extent, I’ve offered arguments that do infer to good explanations, but nothing that could really be called proof.

At this point I think we’ve covered these topics as completely as we reasonably can in this forum. We could go back and forth scrutinizing the many subtleties involved, but that will likely bring diminishing returns. The main take-away I see here is just this: Those who claim that science has rendered God and philosophy untenable or irrelevant haven’t done their due diligence with either, and are pitting straw men against each other.

Which brings us full circle to the real point of Luke’s post. Scientists like Bill Nye who are dismissive of philosophy and theology are almost always ignorant of both… which makes them part of the problem rather than the solution.

BTW, thank you so much for your comments about sincerity! Right back at you my friend! 🙂 And thanks for the Easter wishes as well. I hope yours was good too!

32. Ooops… highly misleading typo above… “You can probably tell why from descriptions of them…” was supposed to read, “You can probably tell why from my descriptions of them.” 🙂

33. on April 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Reply trollmonster

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

<<<<>>>
NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

<<>>>
Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.
P
<<>>>
Again probably wrong -as I understand Aquinas treats act and potency as “components” every contingent being is “already” an actualized potency and has non-actualized potencies to actualize. Thus every being is someghow “assemblied” (though I’m not sure whether this is good metaphor -but anyway this all seems to be based on principle that part is prior to composite) and may be “assemblied” further when things are added to it. In case of proton, Aquinas would probably interpret “eigenstate” as “ontological component” (every property can be in principle regarded such) which is added , “assemblied” in proton.
Of course there most probably are different interpretation but the one I present here makes most sense regarding thomistic realism, also check this: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP003.html#FPQ3A7THEP1
And please pay no attention to the fact that this is about simplicity of God. Instead focus on these statements: “Secondly because every composite is posterior to the component parts and is dependent on them.” …..”Thirdly, because any composite has a cause, because for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”…..This I believe is the real cornerstone of thomistic case not only for simplicity of god but also for the existence of god.

<>>>>>>

As shown before it MOST DEFINITELY DOES

What you do not seem to understand is how Thomistic arguments EXACTLY work. You probably follow Feser, which I sense from the per-per accidens distinction not considering to what this distinction is applied. Listen: Thomas applies distinction act-potency both temporally and atemporally. In temporallly there things undergoing change so that one ACTUAL thing (in actu) actualizes potency of the other. Burt this chain probably CAN be INFINITE and considered as such does not require Actus Purus. We can imagine infinite amount of moons each being ILLUMINATED by the previous one WITHOUT A SUN being there. What exists are the moons AND the light BUt not the source of light. So you can interpret this as you “per accidens” chain..

Of course you are already protesting, asking: where the light came from? And you are ready to argue that infinite moons per se are dim -merely in potency to receive light. Sure, but I’ve never said we are starting with merely moons. We are starting with moons AND LIGHT, BUT not source of light. So to put it in terms of your argument: The infinite chain of freight cars and cabboses MAY be moving as long as some of the cars ARE moving. And they can move one other. You do not need an engine ,you need a movement (momentum, kinetic energy).

Because of this I believe the composition issue is more primordial to the issue .Ultimately if , According to Aquinas the chain requires GREAT MOVER it is because freighters and movement are different beings. The world with moving things is COMPOSITUM and as such requires “bringing together” separate beings: movement and movable things, form and matter of individualas and MOST importantly EXISTENCE AND ESSENTIA. This last distinction is most important because ONLY applying the act-potency distinction to Existence and Essentia you can prove Absolute. Without it you can at best prove some pure form, and maybe not even that. But as I have shown The application of act-potency distinction to form -matter and exsistence and essentia is erroneous because it assumes those things can exist separately. They can not. And this seems to dismantle Aquinas case. The fact that existence and essence coexist in one being does not require explanation/reason/cause. Neither does it require coexistence of matter and form.

All above shows that Aquinas arguments ultimately ARE about composition. But this is composition of ontological parts no physical ones. If you do not believe me check with the summa yourself.

With physical movement (as we know Aquinas understands movement broadly as any change -by physical movement i mean only movement in space) there may be different case because prima facie the physical thing may not be moving. Thing is that even this is uncertain because as long as they are at least two material beings in space they will always start moving towards each other by means of gravity (AND NO the need not be the size of asteroids, if they have non zero mass they should start moving towards each other). And if there is only one thing it is unclear we can describe it as moving or static , without point of reference. So it may be, that everything is necesseary moving somehow. This becomes obvious when we consider that movement is relative to observer, and because one thing is moving in universe -everyting is moving because everything else is moving with the respect of that thing. If we think like that, then the quest for “first mover” becomes vacuous -THERE CAN NOT BE A MOVER because the mover can move only a thing that is at the beginning “Static” , “unmoving”. And ,the thing is that it is unsure anything was ever static unmoving.

And even if this argument is wrong and things can be indeed static – it is still unclear as to why movement requires explanation. Both being static and moving are metaphysically accidental properties of things. Why the former is assumed as prima facie fitting and the former requires explanation is beyond my understanding. In fact should the world be wholly static, that would be surprising

From the above we get, that both causal lopholes and infinite chains are possible with respect to physical movement and probably also, by extension, to physical change.

<<<>>

You don’t understand. Energy transfer and motion in space are naturalistic and scientific concepts. At least from the looks of it. Act and potency are metaphysical concepts which are prima facie aplicable not to discourse of physics, but also , in more general manner, to any beingd including non-physical. When you introduce act-potency you can talk about potency shape and mass and the need to actualize it by something. “energy transfer and motion” restict us, in turn ,to merely “physical enviroment”. You are discussing merely physical events in time not any “in esse causation” (at least from the looks of it). That is important difference. Energy and motion confine us to merely naturalistic enviroment and we may find it suitable when searching for alternative for these strange concept that force us to ask ridiculous questions.

And there is more: energy and motion are both “actual” not talking about some strange “capacities” which are itself a a problem as unreal.

<<<>>>
NO 😀
I will be tirelessly repating, As far I can see it most of Aquinas is about “ontological composites”. Statue and ball can loose particular shape but not shape at all (Descartes, I meditation as I recall). Your example was about physical change as described in physical terms. MY example concerned “ontological causation” understood as bringing something from its matter and form. Probably your example was about efficient causation and my is about formal/material and maybe also final causation. My point is that such a types of causation seem to be meaningles if one can think of them as assembling ontological components…
<<<>

Not sure of it. Things is, despite Aristotle’s influence there is still great deal of Plato in Aquinas -That is the point. Chief medieval philosophers might very well be all Platonists….Though Ockham for example stands obviouslu out.

<<>>>

Is this another consequence of Copenhagen interpretation? Because if so, then pay attention that strictly speaking it is philosophical interpretation. I can counter this with simple philosophical argument: there is no being without properties. Expression being without properties does not make any sense. Therefore if science encounters such thing it must be reinterpreted to avoid such an absurd….But there is more. Suppose you are right and there might be being that aquires properties by observations. This is hardly compatible with realism, rather with some kind of anirealism. And this somehow removes the issue of such particles because the very debate concerning cosmological argument presumes that we are dealing with real stuff. Still we can say that there is no REAL being without properties (no REAL physical thing like shape). And that is probably fine for me and my stance because properties and ontological components stil can not “roam free” in ACTUAL/REAL yniverse -they must be bounded…..

<<<<>>>>

Scott, but the thing is that the best sense I have about argument from movement DOES concern motion “per se” , “as such”. The original Aristolian proof for God interpreted it as the cause for movement. Reality was considered per se STATIC and required imparting movement. Not so much PARTICULAR movement (though we may debate finalism in this respect) but simply movement/change. If things can “impart” movement themselves or , even better” the NEeD NOT BEING IMPARTED ANYTHING because they are already moving, then this sems to enough to defeat argument. You would have to explain why even gravity moving scredriver rotationally is not enough…….As for finding actualizer – please note that I asked this question regarding specific examples regarding to pieces of matter -care to answer ? Also consider the idea self causation in a psecific manner: I am not saying that we can not distinguish cause and effect, I am saying possibly beings can cause themselves to change their state. The cause of scredrivers moving are the same screwdrivers a moment before, which were static ( if they were?). Not necessearily there is a confusion here from the standpoint of physics. However from the standpoint of Aquinas there is a confusion because the same thing can not be actual and potential regarding the same feature. If not reinterpreted these screwdrivers pose some challenge for Aquinas…..

<<<<>>
Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause…..

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

<<>

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
<<>
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

<<>>
No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

<<<>>

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

And causation in physics can always be interpreted in Humean manner (reducing it to patterns, co-occurence). Also equations of physics are as I recall bi -directional which makes toime conundrum to some. This suggests to me that

<<<<>>

No, you get EVERYTHING wrong. I know precisely what Aquinas have wrote. No need to remind me on that. I also know what he intended. The point is precisely that YES his system requires the CHAIN of events be TERMINATED. I Know that :D…The points is you CAN NOT TERMINATE this CHAIN IN Scholastic system….Because EVERY ACT requires potency. And there is no reason to exempt God from this…..God therefore requires potency as well but if so then either he/she/it created this potency (regress) or the potency is absolute but this problematic……The point is PRECISELY that while the “engine” requires having no potency, as you said, the potence is UNAVOIDABLE if we treat god as any other act…..

NO my argument all rely on passages from Aquinas regarding composition…AND NO there is no refutation of the “first potency”. The point is PRECISELY that for actus to actualize there must be corresponding potency. Actus is both WHAT is actual and also “active” element which activates some other potential element, transforming it into other actualized being. But by very distinction this requires potency. The whole problem is that theist first assumes that EVERY potency needs to be actualized and that EVERY actualization requires BOTH ACT AND POTENCY. This creates regress. This regress MUST be terminated with SINGLE being to avoid another potency but this requires EXEMPTING god from rule than any creation requires both potency and act – in case of god only actus (god) is necesseary -hence the idea creatio ex nihilo. But this is breaking contradicting the asumption made before.

Repetiution:
<<<>>>

This is some sinopsis of thomistic argument but possibluy misleading. Those terms are used analogically regarding absolute, as you said. And this creates problem as to whether we can really call this being “a person”. And no it is unclear whether something that brings order to the world needs to have anything called “mind”. Again both term “order” and “mind” require definitionj….

Scott, I do not want to irritate you (as much as you irritate me positing all these stements with undefined terms :D) but can you define “mathematics”?Because you see, I suspect that pretty much EVERY symbolic formalism (at least apart from natural language) invented by humanity was “mathemathical”. If so, then the question “why is the world mathematical?” should be replaced by : “why we can talk i about world in symbolic language?”. And now comes the bullet: “Could you imagine yourself a world which is completely not intelligible and not susceptible to formalization?” Because I CAN NOT. So the question : “why is the world mathematicaL?” makes as much sense as “Why is the circle round and not square?” ….This question is meaningless, because the world could not be non-mathematical. At least until you define mathematics precisely enough to show that it is not trivial….

<<<,No on both counts. The first Act does not have to actualize any being–whatever it is, by definition it is the ground of all being, and as such, by logical necessity it must be self-existent.

Scott, what you said here is pretty much ludicrous. First of all what logical necessity…Absolute is not logicallly necesseary only metaphysically necesseary. If it were logically necesseary Anzelmian proof would be valid for Aquinas..And it is not . And NO first Act is not "a ground being by definition" 😀 By definition of Act and potency the ground of being is constituted by first act and first potency BUT this is impossible which provides us with reductio ad absurdum of the whole act-potency account of reality 😀 The pure act may exist without other beings but it can not create anything without potency. Which means he could not create the world.

<>>

AND THAT IS PRECISELY POINT OF MY ARGUMENT. THE ABSOLUTE CANNOT CREATE THE WORLD EVEN IF IT EXISTED 😀

<<>>

Omnipotence is not prima facie necesseary for creation. Neither omniscience. Of course you can define “omni-” as referring to everything that was created but this is trivial and we do not mean omnipotence that way. Aquinas believed that it is not the subject of go’s power to make square circle .

Aquinas’ answer had nothing to do with creatio ex nihilo either–at least not as that term is most commonly understood. He would’ve agreed that God is the reason why there is a contingent something rather than nothing. However, he would not have agreed that his arguments proved that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. In fact, he argued explicitly that it wasn’t possible to prove that. He did believe the universe wasn’t past eternal, but he considered that to be a revealed truth from scripture, not something that could be proven via his, or anyone else’s arguments.>>>

Scott, could you possibly assume that I’ve read something from Aquinas -at least short “on eternity of world”…And that is not what I’ve mean’t. Referring to ex nihilo i’ve mean’t this:

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP045.html#FPQ45A2THEP1

Please note that Aquinas himself anticipated the very argument I’ve made, or something very similar (see Objection 2). Of course he provided us with response. Point is I do not buy this response either: interpreting creation as different from change allows us to question the need for the latter: any change can be regarded as creation and destruction (change always involving creation of some new quality and destruction of former) and if so there is no change and no need for potency.

<<<<>>

Scott I know the history of philosophy 😀 I’ve completed my studies and prepared phd Thesis :DBy saying “propose” I merely referred to you defending this position :D…..And I know what was the reason for act-potency distinction ,except this is hardly only account for change avalaible….AND no I do not say you developed this to prove god…I’m saying that theistic arguments abuse this distinction to prove god. An it does not matter that god appears only in conclusion -this is not petitio principii I am accusing you of….

Now I will just refer to points from your last post:

M1) Very few atheist myself included would consider universe as an Act. Do you mean absolute? Maybe that things are all actual? In what way it could be different? Why do you say that we both treat universe as at the same time actual and contingent? What does it mean contingent? DEFINE THESE TERMS?

M2) Alaso uncertain . Many people consider mathematica nature of the world logically trivial thus “logically necesseary”. Describe mew the world that is not mathematicall….Naturalism also does not necessearily entails being ELIMINATIVE.. Properties like space,extension solidity are BASIC but not necessearily exhaustive….

M3) Debatable…Humean may look so, but it is rather that “productive causality” is meaningless and causality is reduced to pattern. Again not sure the patterns are accidental. But naturalism IS MORE than HUME 😀

M4) Again debatable..science works because shift paradigms An it is unclear it can become meaningful as the world may be always described by some mathematical formulation. AND Again not just hume…

M5) Duality in materialism How? And determinism? Without causation. And no self? Maybe too much of that…

M6) Again dubious.. Presumes that moral realism is necesseary for good life. It is not. And that naturalism preclusdes moral realism…….

T1) Unclear, depending on meaning of terms…especially terms like mind ,will require clarification….Criticized all along here….

T2) Spacetime is probalby not substantaial under Aquinas. If it were I t could probably be the substance anfd replace absolute…Neothing in atheism prcludes you from callling orange, orange. Do not confuse eliminativism with materialism…

T 3 ) define “rational” How would “irrational world would look like..?

T4) May or mat not be entailed by T3

T5) How fdoes consciousness with free will agree with rational hence deterministic world? How your world can be rational without being deterministic? Are you aware that Aquinas might have bee a kind of determinist?

T6) How T5 grounds T6? What is the ral ground for morality eccept god wanted it….

Scott it is alll a bunch of straw-man’s……..Inconsistent straw-man’s

34. on April 3, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Reply trollmonster

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

<<<<>>>
NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

<<>>>
Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.
P
<<>>>
Again probably wrong -as I understand Aquinas treats act and potency as “components” every contingent being is “already” an actualized potency and has non-actualized potencies to actualize. Thus every being is someghow “assemblied” (though I’m not sure whether this is good metaphor -but anyway this all seems to be based on principle that part is prior to composite) and may be “assemblied” further when things are added to it. In case of proton, Aquinas would probably interpret “eigenstate” as “ontological component” (every property can be in principle regarded such) which is added , “assemblied” in proton.
Of course there most probably are different interpretation but the one I present here makes most sense regarding thomistic realism, also check this: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP003.html#FPQ3A7THEP1
And please pay no attention to the fact that this is about simplicity of God. Instead focus on these statements: “Secondly because every composite is posterior to the component parts and is dependent on them.” …..”Thirdly, because any composite has a cause, because for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”…..This I believe is the real cornerstone of thomistic case not only for simplicity of god but also for the existence of god.

35. on April 3, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Reply trollmonster

<>>>>>>

As shown before it MOST DEFINITELY DOES

What you do not seem to understand is how Thomistic arguments EXACTLY work. You probably follow Feser, which I sense from the per-per accidens distinction not considering to what this distinction is applied. Listen: Thomas applies distinction act-potency both temporally and atemporally. In temporallly there things undergoing change so that one ACTUAL thing (in actu) actualizes potency of the other. Burt this chain probably CAN be INFINITE and considered as such does not require Actus Purus. We can imagine infinite amount of moons each being ILLUMINATED by the previous one WITHOUT A SUN being there. What exists are the moons AND the light BUt not the source of light. So you can interpret this as you “per accidens” chain..

Of course you are already protesting, asking: where the light came from? And you are ready to argue that infinite moons per se are dim -merely in potency to receive light. Sure, but I’ve never said we are starting with merely moons. We are starting with moons AND LIGHT, BUT not source of light. So to put it in terms of your argument: The infinite chain of freight cars and cabboses MAY be moving as long as some of the cars ARE moving. And they can move one other. You do not need an engine ,you need a movement (momentum, kinetic energy).

Because of this I believe the composition issue is more primordial to the issue .Ultimately if , According to Aquinas the chain requires GREAT MOVER it is because freighters and movement are different beings. The world with moving things is COMPOSITUM and as such requires “bringing together” separate beings: movement and movable things, form and matter of individualas and MOST importantly EXISTENCE AND ESSENTIA. This last distinction is most important because ONLY applying the act-potency distinction to Existence and Essentia you can prove Absolute. Without it you can at best prove some pure form, and maybe not even that. But as I have shown The application of act-potency distinction to form -matter and exsistence and essentia is erroneous because it assumes those things can exist separately. They can not. And this seems to dismantle Aquinas case. The fact that existence and essence coexist in one being does not require explanation/reason/cause. Neither does it require coexistence of matter and form.

All above shows that Aquinas arguments ultimately ARE about composition. But this is composition of ontological parts no physical ones. If you do not believe me check with the summa yourself.

With physical movement (as we know Aquinas understands movement broadly as any change -by physical movement i mean only movement in space) there may be different case because prima facie the physical thing may not be moving. Thing is that even this is uncertain because as long as they are at least two material beings in space they will always start moving towards each other by means of gravity (AND NO the need not be the size of asteroids, if they have non zero mass they should start moving towards each other). And if there is only one thing it is unclear we can describe it as moving or static , without point of reference. So it may be, that everything is necesseary moving somehow. This becomes obvious when we consider that movement is relative to observer, and because one thing is moving in universe -everyting is moving because everything else is moving with the respect of that thing. If we think like that, then the quest for “first mover” becomes vacuous -THERE CAN NOT BE A MOVER because the mover can move only a thing that is at the beginning “Static” , “unmoving”. And ,the thing is that it is unsure anything was ever static unmoving.

And even if this argument is wrong and things can be indeed static – it is still unclear as to why movement requires explanation. Both being static and moving are metaphysically accidental properties of things. Why the former is assumed as prima facie fitting and the former requires explanation is beyond my understanding. In fact should the world be wholly static, that would be surprising

From the above we get, that both causal lopholes and infinite chains are possible with respect to physical movement and probably also, by extension, to physical change.

<<<>>

You don’t understand. Energy transfer and motion in space are naturalistic and scientific concepts. At least from the looks of it. Act and potency are metaphysical concepts which are prima facie aplicable not to discourse of physics, but also , in more general manner, to any beingd including non-physical. When you introduce act-potency you can talk about potency shape and mass and the need to actualize it by something. “energy transfer and motion” restict us, in turn ,to merely “physical enviroment”. You are discussing merely physical events in time not any “in esse causation” (at least from the looks of it). That is important difference. Energy and motion confine us to merely naturalistic enviroment and we may find it suitable when searching for alternative for these strange concept that force us to ask ridiculous questions.

And there is more: energy and motion are both “actual” not talking about some strange “capacities” which are itself a a problem as unreal.

36. on April 3, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Reply trollmonster

<<<>>>
NO 😀
I will be tirelessly repating, As far I can see it most of Aquinas is about “ontological composites”. Statue and ball can loose particular shape but not shape at all (Descartes, I meditation as I recall). Your example was about physical change as described in physical terms. MY example concerned “ontological causation” understood as bringing something from its matter and form. Probably your example was about efficient causation and my is about formal/material and maybe also final causation. My point is that such a types of causation seem to be meaningles if one can think of them as assembling ontological components…
<<<>

Not sure of it. Things is, despite Aristotle’s influence there is still great deal of Plato in Aquinas -That is the point. Chief medieval philosophers might very well be all Platonists….Though Ockham for example stands obviouslu out.

<<>>>

Is this another consequence of Copenhagen interpretation? Because if so, then pay attention that strictly speaking it is philosophical interpretation. I can counter this with simple philosophical argument: there is no being without properties. Expression being without properties does not make any sense. Therefore if science encounters such thing it must be reinterpreted to avoid such an absurd….But there is more. Suppose you are right and there might be being that aquires properties by observations. This is hardly compatible with realism, rather with some kind of anirealism. And this somehow removes the issue of such particles because the very debate concerning cosmological argument presumes that we are dealing with real stuff. Still we can say that there is no REAL being without properties (no REAL physical thing like shape). And that is probably fine for me and my stance because properties and ontological components stil can not “roam free” in ACTUAL/REAL yniverse -they must be bounded…..

<<<<>>>>

Scott, but the thing is that the best sense I have about argument from movement DOES concern motion “per se” , “as such”. The original Aristolian proof for God interpreted it as the cause for movement. Reality was considered per se STATIC and required imparting movement. Not so much PARTICULAR movement (though we may debate finalism in this respect) but simply movement/change. If things can “impart” movement themselves or , even better” the NEeD NOT BEING IMPARTED ANYTHING because they are already moving, then this sems to enough to defeat argument. You would have to explain why even gravity moving scredriver rotationally is not enough…….As for finding actualizer – please note that I asked this question regarding specific examples regarding to pieces of matter -care to answer ? Also consider the idea self causation in a psecific manner: I am not saying that we can not distinguish cause and effect, I am saying possibly beings can cause themselves to change their state. The cause of scredrivers moving are the same screwdrivers a moment before, which were static ( if they were?). Not necessearily there is a confusion here from the standpoint of physics. However from the standpoint of Aquinas there is a confusion because the same thing can not be actual and potential regarding the same feature. If not reinterpreted these screwdrivers pose some challenge for Aquinas…..

37. on April 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Reply trollmonster

<<<<>>
Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause…..

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

<<>

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
<<>
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

<<>>
No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

<<<>>

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

38. on April 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Reply trollmonster

<<<<>>
Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause…..

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

<<>

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
<<>
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

<<>>
No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

39. on April 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Reply trollmonster

<<<>>

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

40. on April 3, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Reply trollmonster

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

<<<<>>>
NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

<<>>>
Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.

41. on April 3, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Reply trollmonster

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

If I understanding you correctly, you’re saying that in classical theology potency denotes a potential for parts to be bound together to bring something new into existence, and act is that which brings this about, which would make the concepts of act and potency based partially, if not completely on a Composition Fallacy. If so, this is exactly backwards. In the Scholastic tradition the term “act” was derived from the word actual, not “action.” It has to do with the state in which something exists, not just its powers to bring anything about per se (although powers will be one part of that).
NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

Potency on the other hand, has do with that thing’s potential for change… any change, not just the potential assembly of parts by any “actualizing” power/s intrinsic or external to it. Consider a plastic ball. If heated enough it will melt into a pile of goo and no longer be a ball. No parts have been assembled or disassembled…
Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.

42. on April 3, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Reply trollmonster

it’s just realized a potential to change form in the presence of an actualizing cause. Or, here’s an better example… Consider a proton. Its wave function has the capacity to be in any number of eigenstates, each of which will be associated with one of its properties (e.g. location, momentum, energy, etc.). This Hilbert space of possible states for each observable property may be taken as reflecting its potency to be in those states. Observing one of those properties will actualize a particular value for it, and that value will be constrained by the probabilities given by a mathematical operator associated with the act of observing it. The wave function is not actually in any of those states prior to being observed to be there, nor is anything “assembled” when it’s observed.
Again probably wrong -as I understand Aquinas treats act and potency as “components” every contingent being is “already” an actualized potency and has non-actualized potencies to actualize. Thus every being is someghow “assemblied” (though I’m not sure whether this is good metaphor -but anyway this all seems to be based on principle that part is prior to composite) and may be “assemblied” further when things are added to it. In case of proton, Aquinas would probably interpret “eigenstate” as “ontological component” (every property can be in principle regarded such) which is added , “assemblied” in proton.
Of course there most probably are different interpretation but the one I present here makes most sense regarding thomistic realism, also check this: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP003.html#FPQ3A7THEP1
And please pay no attention to the fact that this is about simplicity of God. Instead focus on these statements: “Secondly because every composite is posterior to the component parts and is dependent on them.” …..”Thirdly, because any composite has a cause, because for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”…..This I believe is the real cornerstone of thomistic case not only for simplicity of god but also for the existence of god.
It’s just forced from one state into another when one of its properties is observed, and the possible outcomes with be determined by the current state of the wave vector and the nature of what property is then observed. Observing different properties will result in different possible states for the wave function to end up in. Act and potency are strictly about state of existence and potential for change, regardless of how we choose to further analyze either. “Composition” alone per se, has nothing to do with it.

As shown before it MOST DEFINITELY DOES

What you do not seem to understand is how Thomistic arguments EXACTLY work. You probably follow Feser, which I sense from the per-per accidens distinction not considering to what this distinction is applied. Listen: Thomas applies distinction act-potency both temporally and atemporally. In temporallly there things undergoing change so that one ACTUAL thing (in actu) actualizes potency of the other. Burt this chain probably CAN be INFINITE and considered as such does not require Actus Purus. We can imagine infinite amount of moons each being ILLUMINATED by the previous one WITHOUT A SUN being there. What exists are the moons AND the light BUt not the source of light. So you can interpret this as you “per accidens” chain..

Of course you are already protesting, asking: where the light came from? And you are ready to argue that infinite moons per se are dim -merely in potency to receive light. Sure, but I’ve never said we are starting with merely moons. We are starting with moons AND LIGHT, BUT not source of light. So to put it in terms of your argument: The infinite chain of freight cars and cabboses MAY be moving as long as some of the cars ARE moving. And they can move one other. You do not need an engine ,you need a movement (momentum, kinetic energy).

Because of this I believe the composition issue is more primordial to the issue .Ultimately if , According to Aquinas the chain requires GREAT MOVER it is because freighters and movement are different beings. The world with moving things is COMPOSITUM and as such requires “bringing together” separate beings: movement and movable things, form and matter of individualas and MOST importantly EXISTENCE AND ESSENTIA. This last distinction is most important because ONLY applying the act-potency distinction to Existence and Essentia you can prove Absolute. Without it you can at best prove some pure form, and maybe not even that. But as I have shown The application of act-potency distinction to form -matter and exsistence and essentia is erroneous because it assumes those things can exist separately. They can not. And this seems to dismantle Aquinas case. The fact that existence and essence coexist in one being does not require explanation/reason/cause. Neither does it require coexistence of matter and form.

All above shows that Aquinas arguments ultimately ARE about composition. But this is composition of ontological parts no physical ones. If you do not believe me check with the summa yourself.

With physical movement (as we know Aquinas understands movement broadly as any change -by physical movement i mean only movement in space) there may be different case because prima facie the physical thing may not be moving. Thing is that even this is uncertain because as long as they are at least two material beings in space they will always start moving towards each other by means of gravity (AND NO the need not be the size of asteroids, if they have non zero mass they should start moving towards each other). And if there is only one thing it is unclear we can describe it as moving or static , without point of reference. So it may be, that everything is necesseary moving somehow. This becomes obvious when we consider that movement is relative to observer, and because one thing is moving in universe -everyting is moving because everything else is moving with the respect of that thing. If we think like that, then the quest for “first mover” becomes vacuous -THERE CAN NOT BE A MOVER because the mover can move only a thing that is at the beginning “Static” , “unmoving”. And ,the thing is that it is unsure anything was ever static unmoving.

And even if this argument is wrong and things can be indeed static – it is still unclear as to why movement requires explanation. Both being static and moving are metaphysically accidental properties of things. Why the former is assumed as prima facie fitting and the former requires explanation is beyond my understanding. In fact should the world be wholly static, that would be surprising

From the above we get, that both causal lopholes and infinite chains are possible with respect to physical movement and probably also, by extension, to physical change.

43. on April 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Reply trollmonster

Energy transfer and motion in space are changes of exactly the type that classical theism would characterize as actualized potencies. All we’re doing here is equivocating on the words “actual” and “change” vis ‘a vis act and potency. You can use that language if you like… it works. But nothing in it is contrary to the concepts of act and potency.

You don’t understand. Energy transfer and motion in space are naturalistic and scientific concepts. At least from the looks of it. Act and potency are metaphysical concepts which are prima facie aplicable not to discourse of physics, but also , in more general manner, to any beingd including non-physical. When you introduce act-potency you can talk about potency shape and mass and the need to actualize it by something. “energy transfer and motion” restict us, in turn ,to merely “physical enviroment”. You are discussing merely physical events in time not any “in esse causation” (at least from the looks of it). That is important difference. Energy and motion confine us to merely naturalistic enviroment and we may find it suitable when searching for alternative for these strange concept that force us to ask ridiculous questions.

And there is more: energy and motion are both “actual” not talking about some strange “capacities” which are itself a a problem as unreal.

You are correct regarding physical vs. ontological parts. However, this doesn’t tell us anything new. The statue and its shape are directly analogous to the plastic ball example I just gave, and the concepts of act and potency apply to them in the same manner.
NO 😀
I will be tirelessly repating, As far I can see it most of Aquinas is about “ontological composites”. Statue and ball can loose particular shape but not shape at all (Descartes, I meditation as I recall). Your example was about physical change as described in physical terms. MY example concerned “ontological causation” understood as bringing something from its matter and form. Probably your example was about efficient causation and my is about formal/material and maybe also final causation. My point is that such a types of causation seem to be meaningles if one can think of them as assembling ontological components…
As for shapes and physical things, classical theists would agree wholeheartedly with you that a shape cannot exist without a physical thing (although a Platonist would disagree)

Not sure of it. Things is, despite Aristotle’s influence there is still great deal of Plato in Aquinas -That is the point. Chief medieval philosophers might very well be all Platonists….Though Ockham for example stands obviouslu out.

The reverse however, is not true. At its most basic level, physical matter would come under the realm of quantum field theory, as applied to individual or many particle systems. In QFT, not only do physical things exist without a shape, they exist without any properties until those properties are observed, or “measured.” Strange as this may sound, they don’t even have a meaningful location, much less anything else, until that location is observed.

Is this another consequence of Copenhagen interpretation? Because if so, then pay attention that strictly speaking it is philosophical interpretation. I can counter this with simple philosophical argument: there is no being without properties. Expression being without properties does not make any sense. Therefore if science encounters such thing it must be reinterpreted to avoid such an absurd….But there is more. Suppose you are right and there might be being that aquires properties by observations. This is hardly compatible with realism, rather with some kind of anirealism. And this somehow removes the issue of such particles because the very debate concerning cosmological argument presumes that we are dealing with real stuff. Still we can say that there is no REAL being without properties (no REAL physical thing like shape). And that is probably fine for me and my stance because properties and ontological components stil can not “roam free” in ACTUAL/REAL yniverse -they must be bounded…..

The potency in my screw/screwdriver example has nothing to do with motion per se–it was about the screw’s passive potency to be driven, and the screwdriver’s causal potency (or power) to drive it. The power to drive a screw includes the capacity to secure it (via pressure and head fit or grip) combined with rotation. Gravity alone cannot do this, and even if it could, that wouldn’t matter. Nothing about the concept of a thing’s potency requires a unique actualizing power either. A screw could also be driven by a pair of pliers gripping the head and applying a twisting pressure. Or consider a baseball, which has a potency for parabolic motion that can be actualized by a baseball bat, a cricket bat, a throwing arm, or countless other things. As for which is the actualizer, physics discriminates cause from effect via the second law of thermodynamics, according to which entropy increase in physical systems is unidirectional toward the future. So at least in the case of temporally ordered events, cause and effect are clearly distinguished. You won’t find may physicists who will tell you that a baseball in motion causes a bat to hit it, and a batter to swing.

Scott, but the thing is that the best sense I have about argument from movement DOES concern motion “per se” , “as such”. The original Aristolian proof for God interpreted it as the cause for movement. Reality was considered per se STATIC and required imparting movement. Not so much PARTICULAR movement (though we may debate finalism in this respect) but simply movement/change. If things can “impart” movement themselves or , even better” the NEeD NOT BEING IMPARTED ANYTHING because they are already moving, then this sems to enough to defeat argument. You would have to explain why even gravity moving scredriver rotationally is not enough…….As for finding actualizer – please note that I asked this question regarding specific examples regarding to pieces of matter -care to answer ? Also consider the idea self causation in a psecific manner: I am not saying that we can not distinguish cause and effect, I am saying possibly beings can cause themselves to change their state. The cause of scredrivers moving are the same screwdrivers a moment before, which were static ( if they were?). Not necessearily there is a confusion here from the standpoint of physics. However from the standpoint of Aquinas there is a confusion because the same thing can not be actual and potential regarding the same feature. If not reinterpreted these screwdrivers pose some challenge for Aquinas…..

44. on April 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Reply trollmonster

As we’ve already seen, the example of two screwdrivers moving each other is useless… even if they were the size of asteroids and actually could exert a measurable gravitational force on each other. In this case, what needs to be shown is how circular causality could account for carpenters wielding screwdrivers to drive screws into wood or metal. Good luck with that…Even if such a scenario could be dreamed up it would still run afoul of the second law, which as I noted, is irreducibly time asymmetric. Causally circular cosmological models have been tried before. Without exception, all have proven to be either unworkable from an entropy standpoint, flatly contrary to observation, or so contrived that no one could them seriously. The phrase “to be expected” doesn’t exactly leap to mind.
Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause…..

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

There is another subtlety here that I should’ve addressed in my last post. In classical theism, the powers a thing has to actualize potencies in other things can be distinguished by whether they’re per accidens or per se. The former involve a thing’s power to produce an outcome that does not require its continuing activity as an actualizing agent. Most men have the power to father children for instance. This power is inherent in them, and may or may not be exercised. If a man does father a child, his child will continue to live independent of whether he breeds again, or if he dies. Thus, the power of fatherhood is independent of the outcome and contingent (from the Latin accidens, or “contingent”; “accidental”). By contrast, per se denotes causal powers that a thing cannot actualize in another thing unless its potency to do so is in turn actualized by a more primary actualizer. A freight car for instance, has the power to induce motion in a caboose by coupling to it and pulling it, but only if the exercising of that power is in turn actualized by another freight car, and so on. The power cannot be exercised unless it is itself sustained by a more primary causal agent (from the Latin per se, or “in itself”).

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
Notice that this distinction exists regardless of the chain itself. An infinitely long chain of freight cars and cabooses cannot move themselves, and neither can a circular chain.
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

The train can only move if it contains at least one car with the self-contained per accidens power to induce motion in itself and other things… an engine. This is where your causal loop of screwdrivers breaks down.
No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

To take theism off the table, materialism must demonstrate that a spectacularly diverse, and contingent universe–evolving according to time-asymmetric laws in an utterly random manner (“what Dawkins called, “blind, pitiless indifference”)–has the per accidens power to self-actualize its own potencies… to create, and sustain itself by its own bootstraps. This has not been done.

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

No they don’t. The whole point of Aquinas’ cosmological argument was precisely that sooner or later, a train cannot run without an engine, and by logical necessity, that engine cannot have any passive potencies or dependencies of its own. With language and examples from their time, he and the Scholastics after him argued that the universe is more like a freight car than an engine. It need not be in motion, or evolve the way it does–actualize itself in this manner, and not that–unless its countless potencies are actualized by a primary engine. If this “engine,” had passive potencies or per se dependencies of its own, they argued, that would only push the question back a level without answering it. Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with.
Their arguments were a lot more involved than I’ve described here, but this is the basis of why they concluded that the ground of all being must be God. They began with assumptions that were based directly on experience and observation, and to the extent that one agrees with those assumptions their conclusions follow directly and necessarily. You may not find them convincing, and you’re certainly within your rights to challenge as you see fit. But they had nothing whatsoever to do with mere composition and were in fact, a refutation of “first potency.” Any refutation of them must clearly, and demonstrate that they’re unavoidably incompatible with the way the world actually is.

No, you get EVERYTHING wrong. I know precisely what Aquinas have wrote. No need to remind me on that. I also know what he intended. The point is precisely that YES his system requires the CHAIN of events be TERMINATED. I Know that :D…The points is you CAN NOT TERMINATE this CHAIN IN Scholastic system….Because EVERY ACT requires potency. And there is no reason to exempt God from this…..God therefore requires potency as well but if so then either he/she/it created this potency (regress) or the potency is absolute but this problematic……The point is PRECISELY that while the “engine” requires having no potency, as you said, the potence is UNAVOIDABLE if we treat god as any other act…..

NO my argument all rely on passages from Aquinas regarding composition…AND NO there is no refutation of the “first potency”. The point is PRECISELY that for actus to actualize there must be corresponding potency. Actus is both WHAT is actual and also “active” element which activates some other potential element, transforming it into other actualized being. But by very distinction this requires potency. The whole problem is that theist first assumes that EVERY potency needs to be actualized and that EVERY actualization requires BOTH ACT AND POTENCY. This creates regress. This regress MUST be terminated with SINGLE being to avoid another potency but this requires EXEMPTING god from rule than any creation requires both potency and act – in case of god only actus (god) is necesseary -hence the idea creatio ex nihilo. But this is breaking contradicting the asumption made before.

Repetition:Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with.

This is some sinopsis of thomistic argument but possibluy misleading. Those terms are used analogically regarding absolute, as you said. And this creates problem as to whether we can really call this being “a person”. And no it is unclear whether something that brings order to the world needs to have anything called “mind”. Again both term “order” and “mind” require definitionj….

Scott, I do not want to irritate you (as much as you irritate me positing all these stements with undefined terms :D) but can you define “mathematics”?Because you see, I suspect that pretty much EVERY symbolic formalism (at least apart from natural language) invented by humanity was “mathemathical”. If so, then the question “why is the world mathematical?” should be replaced by : “why we can talk i about world in symbolic language?”. And now comes the bullet: “Could you imagine yourself a world which is completely not intelligible and not susceptible to formalization?” Because I CAN NOT. So the question : “why is the world mathematicaL?” makes as much sense as “Why is the circle round and not square?” ….This question is meaningless, because the world could not be non-mathematical. At least until you define mathematics precisely enough to show that it is not trivial….

,No on both counts. The first Act does not have to actualize any being–whatever it is, by definition it is the ground of all being, and as such, by logical necessity it must be self-existent.

Scott, what you said here is pretty much ludicrous. First of all what logical necessity…Absolute is not logicallly necesseary only metaphysically necesseary. If it were logically necesseary Anzelmian proof would be valid for Aquinas..And it is not . And NO first Act is not “a ground being by definition” 😀 By definition of Act and potency the ground of being is constituted by first act and first potency BUT this is impossible which provides us with reductio ad absurdum of the whole act-potency account of reality 😀 The pure act may exist without other beings but it can not create anything without potency. Which means he could not create the world.

Otherwise it would only be another link in a chain of contingent causes and would tell us nothing.

AND THAT IS PRECISELY POINT OF MY ARGUMENT. THE ABSOLUTE CANNOT CREATE THE WORLD EVEN IF IT EXISTED 😀

45. on April 3, 2016 at 7:41 pm | Reply trollmonster

What requires actualization by a first Act is contingent being–that which may or may not exist, and if it does, could have been something else. Again, this is precisely why Aquinas and the Scholastics argued that the first Act had to be eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient (among other things). Nothing short of this could account not only for why there is something rather than nothing, but why that something is the particular universe we live in–with the particular laws, diversity, and evolution it has–and not any of countless other possible ones.

Omnipotence is not prima facie necesseary for creation. Neither omniscience. Of course you can define “omni-” as referring to everything that was created but this is trivial and we do not mean omnipotence that way. Aquinas believed that it is not the subject of go’s power to make square circle .

Aquinas’ answer had nothing to do with creatio ex nihilo either–at least not as that term is most commonly understood. He would’ve agreed that God is the reason why there is a contingent something rather than nothing. However, he would not have agreed that his arguments proved that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. In fact, he argued explicitly that it wasn’t possible to prove that. He did believe the universe wasn’t past eternal, but he considered that to be a revealed truth from scripture, not something that could be proven via his, or anyone else’s arguments.>>>

Scott, could you possibly assume that I’ve read something from Aquinas -at least short “on eternity of world”…And that is not what I’ve mean’t. Referring to ex nihilo i’ve mean’t this:

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP045.html#FPQ45A2THEP1

Please note that Aquinas himself anticipated the very argument I’ve made, or something very similar (see Objection 2). Of course he provided us with response. Point is I do not buy this response either: interpreting creation as different from change allows us to question the need for the latter: any change can be regarded as creation and destruction (change always involving creation of some new quality and destruction of former) and if so there is no change and no need for potency.

Actually, we didn’t propose it. At least, Christians didn’t. Act and potency were first proposed in Aristotle’s Metaphysics three and a half centuries before Christ, and until the Enlightenment neither concept was seriously opposed by more than a handful of thinkers, theist or otherwise. He didn’t propose them as an argument for theism either. He did so in response to the Eleatics (Parmenides and Zeno, who argued that change was impossible), and Heraclitus (who argued that nothing else was). Both concepts were based on his observation that the universe exists contingently (act), and undergoes change contingently (potency)–both of which if you ask me, are damn reasonable assumptions. And ones that are not disputed by physicists either… which is precisely why they model the universe with differential equations and boundary conditions.
The argument given here is exactly backwards as well. Neither Aristotle, nor the Scholastics after him “assumed” act and potency, nor did they “ditch” them when they came to God. As I already noted, they began with a universe that contingently exists and undergoes change (again, damn reasonable assumptions), and required that any concrete answer as to why there is something rather than nothing must eventually take the contingent part out of that (another damn reasonable assumption… and whether that’s possible or not, at the very least, any explanation which can do so is a hell of an improvement on any that can’t). From there, they followed a long string of arguments (including those presented here) and concluded that the first Act must be God… or Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” (BTW, in Aristotle, move denoted change, not movement in the sense we understand it today). Again, you may not agree with their arguments. But they were in fact, arguments, and those arguments did not postulate God, they concluded with Him. No taxicab fallacy or bait-and-switch was involved.
BTW, it’s worth noting that what theists actually did propose was… [wait for it…] the very mechanistic matter/law worldview modern materialism is founded on! The main architects of the classical worldview were Descartes and Newton, both of whom were Christians. They proposed that God had created the universe as simple bits of matter whose only real properties were substantive (e.g. size, solidity, weight, etc.). All other properties were considered subjective and relegated to a separate realm of mind, which was along for the ride on top of, and distinct from the material world. The material world in turn evolved rationally and mathematically because it was constrained to by divinely decreed laws… which is why to this day, we still refer to them as the laws of nature rather than patterns, rules, or any similar term. The classical realm of mind included a divinely created human counterpart–in God’s own image, and also separate from the “real” material world (hence, Descartes’ famous struggles with “cogito ergo sum”).
Thus, in creating this dualistic matter/law-mind worldview, Descartes and Newton set the stage for atheists to come along later and do precisely what they did–dispense with a rational God when He became unfashionable, yet retain all the language and trappings of belief in Him… right down to the concept of rational laws of nature. How ironic…

Scott I know the history of philosophy 😀 I’ve completed my studies and prepared phd Thesis :DBy saying “propose” I merely referred to you defending this position :D…..And I know what was the reason for act-potency distinction ,except this is hardly only account for change avalaible….AND no I do not say you developed this to prove god…I’m saying that theistic arguments abuse this distinction to prove god. An it does not matter that god appears only in conclusion -this is not petitio principii I am accusing you of….

Now I will just refer to points from your last post:

M1) Very few atheist myself included would consider universe as an Act. Do you mean absolute? Maybe that things are all actual? In what way it could be different? Why do you say that we both treat universe as at the same time actual and contingent? What does it mean contingent? DEFINE THESE TERMS?

M2) Alaso uncertain . Many people consider mathematica nature of the world logically trivial thus “logically necesseary”. Describe mew the world that is not mathematicall….Naturalism also does not necessearily entails being ELIMINATIVE.. Properties like space,extension solidity are BASIC but not necessearily exhaustive….

M3) Debatable…Humean may look so, but it is rather that “productive causality” is meaningless and causality is reduced to pattern. Again not sure the patterns are accidental. But naturalism IS MORE than HUME 😀

M4) Again debatable..science works because shift paradigms An it is unclear it can become meaningful as the world may be always described by some mathematical formulation. AND Again not just hume…

M5) Duality in materialism How? And determinism? Without causation. And no self? Maybe too much of that…

M6) Again dubious.. Presumes that moral realism is necesseary for good life. It is not. And that naturalism preclusdes moral realism…….

T1) Unclear, depending on meaning of terms…especially terms like mind ,will require clarification….Criticized all along here….

T2) Spacetime is probalby not substantaial under Aquinas. If it were I t could probably be the substance anfd replace absolute…Neothing in atheism prcludes you from callling orange, orange. Do not confuse eliminativism with materialism…

T 3 ) define “rational” How would “irrational world would look like..?

T4) May or mat not be entailed by T3

T5) How fdoes consciousness with free will agree with rational hence deterministic world? How your world can be rational without being deterministic? Are you aware that Aquinas might have bee a kind of determinist?

T6) How T5 grounds T6? What is the ral ground for morality eccept god wanted it….

Scott it is alll a bunch of straw-man’s……..Inconsistent straw-man’s

46. on April 3, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Reply trollmonster

I am sorry but i could not hightlight your quotes…I willl try to figure way out tomorrow….

47. on April 4, 2016 at 10:52 am | Reply trollmonster

NOTE: THIS IS FINAL VERSION OF MY POST : QUOTES ARE INDICATED BY DESCRPTION IF you see this please diregard previous drafts…..

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

QUOTE: If I understanding you correctly, you’re saying that in classical theology potency denotes a potential for parts to be bound together to bring something new into existence, and act is that which brings this about, which would make the concepts of act and potency based partially, if not completely on a Composition Fallacy. If so, this is exactly backwards. In the Scholastic tradition the term “act” was derived from the word actual, not “action.” It has to do with the state in which something exists, not just its powers to bring anything about per se (although powers will be one part of that). _ END OF QUOTE

NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

QUOTE: Potency on the other hand, has do with that thing’s potential for change… any change, not just the potential assembly of parts by any “actualizing” power/s intrinsic or external to it. Consider a plastic ball. If heated enough it will melt into a pile of goo and no longer be a ball. No parts have been assembled or disassembled…- END OF QUOTE

Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.

QUOTE: it’s just realized a potential to change form in the presence of an actualizing cause. Or, here’s an better example… Consider a proton. Its wave function has the capacity to be in any number of eigenstates, each of which will be associated with one of its properties (e.g. location, momentum, energy, etc.). This Hilbert space of possible states for each observable property may be taken as reflecting its potency to be in those states. Observing one of those properties will actualize a particular value for it, and that value will be constrained by the probabilities given by a mathematical operator associated with the act of observing it. The wave function is not actually in any of those states prior to being observed to be there, nor is anything “assembled” when it’s observed. -END OF QUOTE

Again probably wrong -as I understand Aquinas treats act and potency as “components” every contingent being is “already” an actualized potency and has non-actualized potencies to actualize. Thus every being is somehow “assemblied” (though I’m not sure whether this is good metaphor -but anyway this all seems to be based on principle that part is prior to composite) and may be “assemblied” further when things are added to it. In case of proton, Aquinas would probably interpret “eigenstate” as “ontological component” (every property can be in principle regarded such) which is added , “assemblied” in proton.
Of course there most probably are different interpretation but the one I present here makes most sense regarding thomistic realism, also check this: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP003.html#FPQ3A7THEP1
And please pay no attention to the fact that this is about simplicity of God. Instead focus on these statements: “Secondly because every composite is posterior to the component parts and is dependent on them.” …..”Thirdly, because any composite has a cause, because for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”…..This I believe is the real cornerstone of thomistic case not only for simplicity of god but also for the existence of god.

QUOTE: It’s just forced from one state into another when one of its properties is observed, and the possible outcomes with be determined by the current state of the wave vector and the nature of what property is then observed. Observing different properties will result in different possible states for the wave function to end up in. Act and potency are strictly about state of existence and potential for change, regardless of how we choose to further analyze either. “Composition” alone per se, has nothing to do with it. -END OF QUOTE

As shown before it MOST DEFINITELY DOES

What you do not seem to understand is how Thomistic arguments EXACTLY work. You probably follow Feser, which I sense from the pe se-per accidens distinction not considering to what this distinction is applied. Listen: Thomas applies distinction act-potency both temporally and atemporally. In temporal mode there are things undergoing change so that one ACTUAL thing (in actu) actualizes potency of the other. Burt this chain probably CAN be INFINITE and considered as such does not require Actus Purus. We can imagine infinite amount of moons each being ILLUMINATED by the previous one WITHOUT A SUN being there. What exists are the moons AND the light BUt not the source of light. So you can interpret this as you “per accidens” chain..

Of course you are already protesting, asking: where the light came from? And you are ready to argue that infinite moons per se are dim -merely in potency to receive light. Sure, but I’ve never said we are starting with merely moons. We are starting with moons AND LIGHT, BUT not source of light. So to put it in terms of your argument: The infinite chain of freight cars and cabboses MAY be moving as long as some of the cars ARE moving. And they can move one other. You do not need an engine ,you need a movement (momentum, kinetic energy). AND there seems to be no need for introducing movement.

Because of this I believe the composition issue is more primordial to the issue .Ultimately if , According to Aquinas the chain requires GREAT MOVER it is because freighters and movement are different beings. The world with moving things is COMPOSITUM and as such requires “bringing together” separate beings: movement and movable things, form and matter of individualas and MOST importantly EXISTENCE AND ESSENTIA. This last distinction is most important because ONLY applying the act-potency distinction to Existence and Essentia you can prove Absolute. Without it you can at best prove some pure form, and maybe not even that. But as I have shown The application of act-potency distinction to form -matter and exsistence and essentia is erroneous because it assumes those things can exist separately. They can not. And this seems to dismantle Aquinas case. The fact that existence and essence coexist in one being does not require explanation/reason/cause. Neither does it require coexistence of matter and form.

All above shows that Aquinas arguments ultimately ARE about composition. But this is composition of ontological parts no physical ones. If you do not believe me check with the summa yourself.

With physical movement (as we know Aquinas understands movement broadly as any change -by physical movement i mean only movement in space) there may be different case because prima facie the physical thing may not be moving. Thing is that even this is uncertain because as long as they are at least two material beings in space they will always start moving towards each other by means of gravity (AND NO the need not be the size of asteroids, if they have non zero mass they should start moving towards each other). And if there is only one thing it is unclear we can describe it as moving or static , without point of reference. So it may be, that everything is necesseary moving somehow. This becomes obvious when we consider that movement is relative to observer, and because one thing is moving in universe -everyting is moving because everything else is moving with the respect of that thing. If we think like that, then the quest for “first mover” becomes vacuous -THERE CAN NOT BE A MOVER because the mover can move only a thing that is at the beginning “Static” , “unmoving”. And ,the thing is that it is unsure anything was ever static unmoving.

And even if this argument is wrong and things can be indeed static – it is still unclear as to why movement requires explanation. Both being static and moving are metaphysically accidental properties of things. Why the former is assumed as prima facie fitting and the former requires explanation is beyond my understanding. In fact should the world be wholly static, that would be surprising

From the above we get, that both causal loopholes and infinite chains are possible with respect to physical movement and probably also, by extension, to physical change.

QUOTE:Energy transfer and motion in space are changes of exactly the type that classical theism would characterize as actualized potencies. All we’re doing here is equivocating on the words “actual” and “change” vis ‘a vis act and potency. You can use that language if you like… it works. But nothing in it is contrary to the concepts of act and potency. -END OF QUOTE

You don’t understand. Energy transfer and motion in space are naturalistic and scientific concepts. At least from the looks of it. Act and potency are metaphysical concepts which are prima facie applicable not to discourse of physics, but also , in more general manner, to any being including non-physical. When you introduce act-potency you can talk about potency shape and mass and the need to actualize it by something. “energy transfer and motion” restict us, in turn ,to merely “physical enviroment”. You are discussing merely physical events in time not any “in esse causation” (at least from the looks of it). That is important difference. Energy and motion confine us to merely naturalistic enviroment and we may find it suitable when searching for alternative for these strange concept that force us to ask ridiculous questions.

And there is more: energy and motion are both “actual” not talking about some strange “capacities” which are itself a a problem as unreal.

QUOTE: You are correct regarding physical vs. ontological parts. However, this doesn’t tell us anything new. The statue and its shape are directly analogous to the plastic ball example I just gave, and the concepts of act and potency apply to them in the same manner. END OF QUOTE

NO 😀
I will be tirelessly repating, As far I can see it lots of Aquinas is about “ontological composites”. Statue and ball can loose particular shape but not shape at all (Descartes, first meditation as I recall). Your example was about physical change as described in physical terms. MY example concerned “ontological causation” understood as bringing something from its matter and form. Probably your example was about efficient causation and my is about formal/material and maybe also final causation. My point is that such a types of causation seem to be meaningles if one can think of them as assembling ontological components…

QUOTE: As for shapes and physical things, classical theists would agree wholeheartedly with you that a shape cannot exist without a physical thing (although a Platonist would disagree) – END OF QUOTE

Not sure of it. Things is, despite Aristotle’s influence there is still great deal of Plato in Aquinas -That is the point. Chief medieval philosophers might very well be all Platonists….Though Ockham for example stands obviously out.

QUOTE: The reverse however, is not true. At its most basic level, physical matter would come under the realm of quantum field theory, as applied to individual or many particle systems. In QFT, not only do physical things exist without a shape, they exist without any properties until those properties are observed, or “measured.” Strange as this may sound, they don’t even have a meaningful location, much less anything else, until that location is observed. -END OF QUOTE

Is this another consequence of Copenhagen interpretation? Because if so, then pay attention that strictly speaking it is philosophical interpretation. I can counter this with simple philosophical argument: there is no being without properties. Expression being without properties does not make any sense. Therefore if science encounters such thing it must be reinterpreted to avoid such an absurd….But there is more. Suppose you are right and there might be being that aquires properties by observations. This is hardly compatible with realism, rather with some kind of anirealism. And this somehow removes the issue of such particles because the very debate concerning cosmological argument presumes that we are dealing with real stuff. Still we can say that there is no REAL being without properties (no REAL physical thing like shape). And that is probably fine for me and my stance because properties and ontological components stil can not “roam free” in ACTUAL/REAL universe -they must be bounded…..

QUOTE: The potency in my screw/screwdriver example has nothing to do with motion per se–it was about the screw’s passive potency to be driven, and the screwdriver’s causal potency (or power) to drive it. The power to drive a screw includes the capacity to secure it (via pressure and head fit or grip) combined with rotation. Gravity alone cannot do this, and even if it could, that wouldn’t matter. Nothing about the concept of a thing’s potency requires a unique actualizing power either. A screw could also be driven by a pair of pliers gripping the head and applying a twisting pressure. Or consider a baseball, which has a potency for parabolic motion that can be actualized by a baseball bat, a cricket bat, a throwing arm, or countless other things. As for which is the actualizer, physics discriminates cause from effect via the second law of thermodynamics, according to which entropy increase in physical systems is unidirectional toward the future. So at least in the case of temporally ordered events, cause and effect are clearly distinguished. You won’t find may physicists who will tell you that a baseball in motion causes a bat to hit it, and a batter to swing.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, but the thing is that the best sense I have about argument from movement DOES concern motion “per se” , “as such”. The original Aristolian proof for God interpreted it as the cause of movement. Reality was considered per se STATIC and required imparting movement. Not so much PARTICULAR movement (though we may debate finalism in this respect) but simply movement/change. If things can “impart” movement themselves or , even better” the NEED NOT BEING IMPARTED ANYTHING because they are already moving, then this sems to enough to defeat argument. You would have to explain why even gravity moving scredriver rotationally is not enough…….As for finding actualizer – please note that I asked this question regarding specific examples regarding to pieces of matter -care to answer ? Also consider the idea self causation in a specific manner: I am not saying that we can not distinguish cause and effect, I am saying possibly beings can cause themselves to change their state. The cause of scredrivers moving are the same screwdrivers a moment before, which were static ( if they were?). Not necessearily there is a confusion here from the standpoint of physics. However from the standpoint of Aquinas there is a confusion because the same thing can not be actual and potential regarding the same feature. If not reinterpreted these screwdrivers pose some challenge for Aquinas…..

QUOTE:As we’ve already seen, the example of two screwdrivers moving each other is useless… even if they were the size of asteroids and actually could exert a measurable gravitational force on each other. In this case, what needs to be shown is how circular causality could account for carpenters wielding screwdrivers to drive screws into wood or metal. Good luck with that… Even if such a scenario could be dreamed up it would still run afoul of the second law, which as I noted, is irreducibly time asymmetric. Causally circular cosmological models have been tried before. Without exception, all have proven to be either unworkable from an entropy standpoint, flatly contrary to observation, or so contrived that no one could them seriously. The phrase “to be expected” doesn’t exactly leap to mind.-END OF QUOTE

Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause….. Here I am dismantling thomistic arguments -I need not to prove than universe is self driven to defend atheism as a posiibility. IT is enough to show that it MAY BE SELF DRIVEN. And it MAY BE- from the standpoint of this philosophical argument….You may argue that physics haven’t constructed model of self driven universe yet ( I doubt it -see below) but if you find this an argument for god or even for god possibility -then it is already god-of-the-gaps. Because you openly admit that self driven universe would take god out of picture – and so theism is viable only as long as there is a “gap” in deducing of observed movement from perpetual movement…..If you want to say that god is probable because physics can not not account for non-perpetual motion then it looks like god of the gaps to me…..Because you are exploiting ignorance regarding PHYSICAL reality to posit god as explanation……

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

This probably shows that self-driven universe is not excluded -and that is enough for me -at least right now.

QUOTE: There is another subtlety here that I should’ve addressed in my last post. In classical theism, the powers a thing has to actualize potencies in other things can be distinguished by whether they’re per accidens or per se. The former involve a thing’s power to produce an outcome that does not require its continuing activity as an actualizing agent. Most men have the power to father children for instance. This power is inherent in them, and may or may not be exercised. If a man does father a child, his child will continue to live independent of whether he breeds again, or if he dies. Thus, the power of fatherhood is independent of the outcome and contingent (from the Latin accidens, or “contingent”; “accidental”). By contrast, per se denotes causal powers that a thing cannot actualize in another thing unless its potency to do so is in turn actualized by a more primary actualizer. A freight car for instance, has the power to induce motion in a caboose by coupling to it and pulling it, but only if the exercising of that power is in turn actualized by another freight car, and so on. The power cannot be exercised unless it is itself sustained by a more primary causal agent (from the Latin per se, or “in itself”). -END OF QUOTE

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
QUOTE: Notice that this distinction exists regardless of the chain itself. An infinitely long chain of freight cars and cabooses cannot move themselves, and neither can a circular chain. _END OF QUOTE
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

QUOTE:The train can only move if it contains at least one car with the self-contained per accidens power to induce motion in itself and other things… an engine. This is where your causal loop of screwdrivers breaks down. -END OF QUOTE.

No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

QUOTE:To take theism off the table, materialism must demonstrate that a spectacularly diverse, and contingent universe–evolving according to time-asymmetric laws in an utterly random manner (“what Dawkins called, “blind, pitiless indifference”)–has the per accidens power to self-actualize its own potencies… to create, and sustain itself by its own bootstraps. This has not been done. -END OF QUOTE

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

QUOTE: No they don’t. The whole point of Aquinas’ cosmological argument was precisely that sooner or later, a train cannot run without an engine, and by logical necessity, that engine cannot have any passive potencies or dependencies of its own. With language and examples from their time, he and the Scholastics after him argued that the universe is more like a freight car than an engine. It need not be in motion, or evolve the way it does–actualize itself in this manner, and not that–unless its countless potencies are actualized by a primary engine. If this “engine,” had passive potencies or per se dependencies of its own, they argued, that would only push the question back a level without answering it. Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with.
Their arguments were a lot more involved than I’ve described here, but this is the basis of why they concluded that the ground of all being must be God. They began with assumptions that were based directly on experience and observation, and to the extent that one agrees with those assumptions their conclusions follow directly and necessarily. You may not find them convincing, and you’re certainly within your rights to challenge as you see fit. But they had nothing whatsoever to do with mere composition and were in fact, a refutation of “first potency.” Any refutation of them must clearly, and demonstrate that they’re unavoidably incompatible with the way the world actually is. -END OF QUOTE

No, you get EVERYTHING wrong. I know precisely what Aquinas have wrote. No need to remind me on that. I also know what he intended. The point is precisely that YES his system requires the CHAIN of events be TERMINATED. I Know that :D…The points is you CAN NOT TERMINATE this CHAIN IN Scholastic system….Because EVERY ACT requires potency. And there is no reason to exempt God from this…..God therefore requires potency as well but if so then either he/she/it created this potency (regress) or the potency is absolute but this problematic……The point is PRECISELY that while the “engine” requires having no potency, as you said, the potence is UNAVOIDABLE if we treat god as any other act…..

NO my argument all rely on passages from Aquinas regarding composition…AND NO there is no refutation of the “first potency”. The point is PRECISELY that for actus to actualize there must be corresponding potency. Actus is both WHAT is actual and also “active” element which activates some other potential element, transforming it into other actualized being. But by very distinction this requires potency. The whole problem is that theist first assumes that EVERY potency needs to be actualized and that EVERY actualization requires BOTH ACT AND POTENCY. This creates regress. This regress MUST be terminated with SINGLE being to avoid another potency but this requires EXEMPTING god from rule than any creation requires both potency and act – in case of god only actus (god) is necesseary -hence the idea creatio ex nihilo. But this is breaking contradicting the asumption made before.

QUOTE Repetition:Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with. -END OF QUOTE

This is some sinopsis of thomistic argument but possibly misleading. Those terms are used analogically regarding absolute, as you said. And this creates problem as to whether we can really call this being “a person”. And no it is unclear whether something that brings order to the world needs to have anything called “mind”. Again both term “order” and “mind” require definitionj….

Scott, I do not want to irritate you (as much as you irritate me positing all these stements with undefined terms :D) but can you define “mathematics”?Because you see, I suspect that pretty much EVERY symbolic formalism (at least apart from natural language) invented by humanity was “mathemathical”. If so, then the question “why is the world mathematical?” should be replaced by : “why we can talk i about world in symbolic language?”. And now comes the bullet: “Could you imagine yourself a world which is completely not intelligible and not susceptible to formalization?” Because I CAN NOT. So the question : “why is the world mathematicaL?” makes as much sense as “Why is the circle round and not square?” ….This question is meaningless, because the world could not be non-mathematical. At least until you define mathematics precisely enough to show that it is not trivial….

QUOTE: No on both counts. The first Act does not have to actualize any being–whatever it is, by definition it is the ground of all being, and as such, by logical necessity it must be self-existent.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, what you said here is pretty much ludicrous. First of all what logical necessity…Absolute is not logicallly necesseary only metaphysically necesseary. If it were logically necesseary Anzelmian proof would be valid for Aquinas..And it is not . And NO first Act is not “a ground being by definition” 😀 By definition of Act and potency the ground of being is constituted by first act and first potency BUT this is impossible which provides us with reductio ad absurdum of the whole act-potency account of reality 😀 The pure act may exist without other beings but it can not create anything without potency. Which means he could not create the world.

QUOTE: Otherwise it would only be another link in a chain of contingent causes and would tell us nothing. – END OF QUOTE

AND THAT IS PRECISELY POINT OF MY ARGUMENT. THE ABSOLUTE CANNOT CREATE THE WORLD EVEN IF IT EXISTED 😀

QUOTE:What requires actualization by a first Act is contingent being–that which may or may not exist, and if it does, could have been something else. Again, this is precisely why Aquinas and the Scholastics argued that the first Act had to be eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient (among other things). Nothing short of this could account not only for why there is something rather than nothing, but why that something is the particular universe we live in–with the particular laws, diversity, and evolution it has–and not any of countless other possible ones.- END OF QUOTE

Omnipotence is not prima facie necesseary for creation. Neither omniscience. Of course you can define “omni-” as referring to everything that was created but this is trivial and we do not mean omnipotence that way. Aquinas believed that it is not the subject of go’s power to make square circle .

QUOTE Aquinas’ answer had nothing to do with creatio ex nihilo either–at least not as that term is most commonly understood. He would’ve agreed that God is the reason why there is a contingent something rather than nothing. However, he would not have agreed that his arguments proved that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. In fact, he argued explicitly that it wasn’t possible to prove that. He did believe the universe wasn’t past eternal, but he considered that to be a revealed truth from scripture, not something that could be proven via his, or anyone else’s arguments.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, could you possibly assume that I’ve read something from Aquinas -at least short “on eternity of world”…And that is not what I’ve mean’t. Referring to ex nihilo i’ve mean’t this:

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP045.html#FPQ45A2THEP1

Please note that Aquinas himself anticipated the very argument I’ve made, or something very similar (see Objection 2). Of course he provided us with response. Point is I do not buy this response either: interpreting creation as different from change allows us to question the need for the latter: any change can be regarded as creation and destruction (change always involving creation of some new quality and destruction of former) and if so there is no change and no need for potency. To put it shortly: IF YOU exempt creation from the need of potency you can exempt any change from it (because change can be reduced to creation and destruction) and the whole potency seems to be not necesseary. Why introduce potency to make change more reasonable if things can be not changed but created – in a completely unregulated manner.

QUOTE: Actually, we didn’t propose it. At least, Christians didn’t. Act and potency were first proposed in Aristotle’s Metaphysics three and a half centuries before Christ, and until the Enlightenment neither concept was seriously opposed by more than a handful of thinkers, theist or otherwise. He didn’t propose them as an argument for theism either. He did so in response to the Eleatics (Parmenides and Zeno, who argued that change was impossible), and Heraclitus (who argued that nothing else was). Both concepts were based on his observation that the universe exists contingently (act), and undergoes change contingently (potency)–both of which if you ask me, are damn reasonable assumptions. And ones that are not disputed by physicists either… which is precisely why they model the universe with differential equations and boundary conditions.
The argument given here is exactly backwards as well. Neither Aristotle, nor the Scholastics after him “assumed” act and potency, nor did they “ditch” them when they came to God. As I already noted, they began with a universe that contingently exists and undergoes change (again, damn reasonable assumptions), and required that any concrete answer as to why there is something rather than nothing must eventually take the contingent part out of that (another damn reasonable assumption… and whether that’s possible or not, at the very least, any explanation which can do so is a hell of an improvement on any that can’t). From there, they followed a long string of arguments (including those presented here) and concluded that the first Act must be God… or Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” (BTW, in Aristotle, move denoted change, not movement in the sense we understand it today). Again, you may not agree with their arguments. But they were in fact, arguments, and those arguments did not postulate God, they concluded with Him. No taxicab fallacy or bait-and-switch was involved.
BTW, it’s worth noting that what theists actually did propose was… [wait for it…] the very mechanistic matter/law worldview modern materialism is founded on! The main architects of the classical worldview were Descartes and Newton, both of whom were Christians. They proposed that God had created the universe as simple bits of matter whose only real properties were substantive (e.g. size, solidity, weight, etc.). All other properties were considered subjective and relegated to a separate realm of mind, which was along for the ride on top of, and distinct from the material world. The material world in turn evolved rationally and mathematically because it was constrained to by divinely decreed laws… which is why to this day, we still refer to them as the laws of nature rather than patterns, rules, or any similar term. The classical realm of mind included a divinely created human counterpart–in God’s own image, and also separate from the “real” material world (hence, Descartes’ famous struggles with “cogito ergo sum”).
Thus, in creating this dualistic matter/law-mind worldview, Descartes and Newton set the stage for atheists to come along later and do precisely what they did–dispense with a rational God when He became unfashionable, yet retain all the language and trappings of belief in Him… right down to the concept of rational laws of nature. How ironic…- END OF QUOTE

Scott I know the history of philosophy 😀 I’ve completed my studies and prepared phd Thesis 😀 By saying “propose” I merely referred to you defending this position :D…..And I know what was the reason for act-potency distinction ,except this is hardly only account for change avalaible….AND no I do not say you developed this to prove god…I’m saying that theistic arguments abuse this distinction to prove god. An it does not matter that god appears only in conclusion -this is not petitio principii I am accusing you of….

Now I will just refer to points from your last post:

Scott please forgive but its basically all bullshit and straw man’s You define naturalism in a way that it looks moronic and offensive

M1 ) What does it mean that universe is an act? Do you think we consider it an absolute? Very few of us would subscribe to the explanation. The universe simply is or may be contingent or even accidental but this depends on how you define these terms (if you can define them -we do not necessearily subscribe to your act -potency distinction) Also in somehow contradictory manner You state that the universe is contingent and accidental, and there is “no reason why”. Scott please note that, if the universe is an Act there IS NO NEED FOR REASON :D. It’s like asking why god exists? And if you ask about reason of universe being such-and-such then please note tha GOD also cannot provide such reason :D…I told you earlier that creation IS EFFECTIVELY ACCIDENTAL -God could create digfferent world with no humns….There is no particular reason for this world given god either 😀 God of course may love humanity and such but this love is technically not its WiLL, it is its “willing” and is accidental. So you play double standards -you paint us with weakness which applies to your stance as well.

M2) WTF is this? Since when Hume is a Platonic? Since when NATURALISM is Platonic? We may believe in universals which bring laws of nature (Armstrong) but they are naturalized sop NO TWO REALMS. Matter is not necessearily a solidity only. In what way mathematics is coincidence? If it is “platoinic” it is at least metaphysically necesseary. It is logically contingent? Aquinas god is probably too because we can think of him not existing . Again double standards.? And the chage of dualism coming from someone who believes in pure forms trading movement to material beings is simply ludicrous :D. And if you were saying that mathematics is “merely a formalism”, then why involve platonism.

M3) CAUSALITY may be an illusion but order is not AS LONG as the laws are either platonic or consequnce of naturalized universals. Causality as such does not matter. Order matters. Please note that both: this point is false and it contradicts earlier point. Platonic forms if they are proposed are meant to be efficacious on world and guarantee that order won’t cease. You basically paint us as complete morons who first propose platonism contradicting our naturalism and then are too stupid o “reap” some good consequnces of it for our’s sake…..Scott, please READ SOME ACTUAL NATURALISTS….Not Feser because he obviously shots bullshit…..

M4) science works because of M3. If we were platonist it would work thanks to laws but it works because of – for instance -naturalized universals. Alternatively laws may be the consequnce of of the the fact that the amount of matter and energy is constant and because of that energy transformations. Or may be simply constant because nothing forbids even humean world to be SIMPLY ordered. Some kind of order is inevitable, order as such is trivial. Even completely accidental world would be ordered by laws of theory of probability -so a quite advenced set of laws. So why not other set.

Please also note that the whole M$is suspect because science does not necessearily work :D. There are paradigm shifts…EVen if order is guaranteed by paradigm shifts we can only see “statistical artifacts” not true order……So Even if naturalism is such blind as you paint it may actually be better account of our scientific practice….. M5) What kind of duality? Especially given the fact that immaterial is not real? If these “bundle of percepts” conform to laws then they are equivalent of machines…Machines may not look-like personlike but thomistic theism does not offer any better. Aquinas man is probably also partly deterministic partly accidental being driven by actualisation of potency…..Because your action must be regulated by cause to be reasonable and unless you are causa siu (and that would be irrational) you must be determined by external causes…..Compatibilism allows for talking about free will assuming determinism. M6) Confusing reduction with elimination. Moral norms evolved because of survival but that does not mean that they have not normative power. Such power may be conceptual in nature. .Also you entirely subscribe all moral realism to antinaturalism. I doubt this is accurate. Also normative power is per se problem. Nobody provided good account for it (Hume’an forks). AND NO saying that act is both descriptive and normative is no good answer either :D…… T1) I have already told that this inteelect and will are very different from what is commonly held under these terms…I also showed you that simple being cannot exactly have min unless you think of him as identical with his thoughts. The same goes for WILL and and hiss willings. And identyfying god with his thoughts and desires seems to be ludicrous. T2) god is considered rational because we already assumed universe is rational. His/her/its rationality may have nothing to do with ours. Space is substantial? So it can be a substance of the world instead of creator? No reason why in naturalism orange is not an orange. In theism you also REDUCE THINGS to matter and form. Please note that in philosophy every theory that merely posits orange is an orange is trivial….. T3) Causality can be violated in any time by god who supposedly does not need potency to make a puff and create something o (without potency) or block some cause from hapening. World is ratioanl because how the F%^$^% could it be different?

T4) NO, god is free to do what he pleases – It can perform miracle, suspend or ebven change physics of the world. In fact christian beliefs suggest that he/she/it WILL DO PRECISELY THAT thing one date (Second coming) creating better world without suffering. Anyway god is free and different world would do as much sense as this one…..Scientific study maybe reveals actual rationality…or not 😀

T5) You and I are “metaphysical” machines made of actualities and potentialitities. Because according to aquinas there is NO self causation YOUR EVERY ACTION is ultimatelycaused by something external to you ultimately god. Also accident (not your agency) may sometimes spoil certain actions and their corresponding results. Your agency is therefore an illusion – you are god’s puppet and an imperfect one. The only reason your action’s are ascribed to you is because “you” are performing them -much like in naturalism.

T6) How the fact that we are created by rational mind makes values and purposes objective? To be objective they must exist in reality not just in minds, not even god’s mind. What does it mean that thing has purpose? Because he follows certain pattern -this is description not a norm. We assume finality and then ascribe it to god as prime cause. But the point is that descriptive does not translate into normative.. Even if this is metaphysically necesseary for seed to give birth to plant, and that seed is “directed” it does not entail that GOOD seed should bore the plant…….Morality is as much mysterious as it were and can only be explained by patterns of behaviour and innate longings….much like in naturalism.

48. on April 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Reply trollmonster

NOTE: THIS IS FINAL VERSION OF MY POST : QUOTES ARE INDICATED BY DESCRPTION IF you see this please diregard previous drafts…..

Scott

Thank you for response, but i’m afraid it all wrong 😀
Let me clarify

QUOTE: If I understanding you correctly, you’re saying that in classical theology potency denotes a potential for parts to be bound together to bring something new into existence, and act is that which brings this about, which would make the concepts of act and potency based partially, if not completely on a Composition Fallacy. If so, this is exactly backwards. In the Scholastic tradition the term “act” was derived from the word actual, not “action.” It has to do with the state in which something exists, not just its powers to bring anything about per se (although powers will be one part of that). _ END OF QUOTE
NO, I never said that actus is merely related to action, I know perfectly that it is related to actuality and the point is that potency can only be actualized by something actual.

QUOTE: Potency on the other hand, has do with that thing’s potential for change… any change, not just the potential assembly of parts by any “actualizing” power/s intrinsic or external to it. Consider a plastic ball. If heated enough it will melt into a pile of goo and no longer be a ball. No parts have been assembled or disassembled…- END OF QUOTE
Probably wrong :D. We are still talking about ontological parts – melted ball changed its form (not just shape but also other properties) so the change would be problably interpreted by scholastic philospher as “dissambling” current form from matter and aquiring new form by said matter (“reassembly”). Not talking about physical parts -bricks are only to ilustrate ontological dependency.

QUOTE: it’s just realized a potential to change form in the presence of an actualizing cause. Or, here’s an better example… Consider a proton. Its wave function has the capacity to be in any number of eigenstates, each of which will be associated with one of its properties (e.g. location, momentum, energy, etc.). This Hilbert space of possible states for each observable property may be taken as reflecting its potency to be in those states. Observing one of those properties will actualize a particular value for it, and that value will be constrained by the probabilities given by a mathematical operator associated with the act of observing it. The wave function is not actually in any of those states prior to being observed to be there, nor is anything “assembled” when it’s observed. -END OF QUOTE
Again probably wrong -as I understand Aquinas treats act and potency as “components” every contingent being is “already” an actualized potency and has non-actualized potencies to actualize. Thus every being is somehow “assemblied” (though I’m not sure whether this is good metaphor -but anyway this all seems to be based on principle that part is prior to composite) and may be “assemblied” further when things are added to it. In case of proton, Aquinas would probably interpret “eigenstate” as “ontological component” (every property can be in principle regarded such) which is added , “assemblied” in proton.
Of course there most probably are different interpretation but the one I present here makes most sense regarding thomistic realism, also check this: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP003.html#FPQ3A7THEP1
And please pay no attention to the fact that this is about simplicity of God. Instead focus on these statements: “Secondly because every composite is posterior to the component parts and is dependent on them.” …..”Thirdly, because any composite has a cause, because for things in themselves different cannot unite unless something causes them to unite.”…..This I believe is the real cornerstone of thomistic case not only for simplicity of god but also for the existence of god.

49. on April 4, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE: It’s just forced from one state into another when one of its properties is observed, and the possible outcomes with be determined by the current state of the wave vector and the nature of what property is then observed. Observing different properties will result in different possible states for the wave function to end up in. Act and potency are strictly about state of existence and potential for change, regardless of how we choose to further analyze either. “Composition” alone per se, has nothing to do with it. -END OF QUOTE

As shown before it MOST DEFINITELY DOES

What you do not seem to understand is how Thomistic arguments EXACTLY work. You probably follow Feser, which I sense from the per se-per accidens distinction not considering to what this distinction is applied. Listen: Thomas applies distinction act-potency both temporally and atemporally. In temporallly there things undergoing change so that one ACTUAL thing (in actu) actualizes potency of the other. Burt this chain probably CAN be INFINITE and considered as such does not require Actus Purus. We can imagine infinite amount of moons each being ILLUMINATED by the previous one WITHOUT A SUN being there. What exists are the moons AND the light BUt not the source of light. So you can interpret this as you “per accidens” chain..

Of course you are already protesting, asking: where the light came from? And you are ready to argue that infinite moons per se are dim -merely in potency to receive light. Sure, but I’ve never said we are starting with merely moons. We are starting with moons AND LIGHT, BUT not source of light. So to put it in terms of your argument: The infinite chain of freight cars and cabboses MAY be moving as long as some of the cars ARE moving. And they can move one other. You do not need an engine ,you need a movement (momentum, kinetic energy). AND there seems to be no need for introducing movement.

Because of this I believe the composition issue is more primordial to the issue .Ultimately if , According to Aquinas the chain requires GREAT MOVER it is because freighters and movement are different beings. The world with moving things is COMPOSITUM and as such requires “bringing together” separate beings: movement and movable things, form and matter of individualas and MOST importantly EXISTENCE AND ESSENTIA. This last distinction is most important because ONLY applying the act-potency distinction to Existence and Essentia you can prove Absolute. Without it you can at best prove some pure form, and maybe not even that. But as I have shown The application of act-potency distinction to form -matter and exsistence and essentia is erroneous because it assumes those things can exist separately. They can not. And this seems to dismantle Aquinas case. The fact that existence and essence coexist in one being does not require explanation/reason/cause. Neither does it require coexistence of matter and form.

All above shows that Aquinas arguments ultimately ARE about composition. But this is composition of ontological parts no physical ones. If you do not believe me check with the summa yourself.

With physical movement (as we know Aquinas understands movement broadly as any change -by physical movement i mean only movement in space) there may be different case because prima facie the physical thing may not be moving. Thing is that even this is uncertain because as long as they are at least two material beings in space they will always start moving towards each other by means of gravity (AND NO the need not be the size of asteroids, if they have non zero mass they should start moving towards each other). And if there is only one thing it is unclear we can describe it as moving or static , without point of reference. So it may be, that everything is necesseary moving somehow. This becomes obvious when we consider that movement is relative to observer, and because one thing is moving in universe -everyting is moving because everything else is moving with the respect of that thing. If we think like that, then the quest for “first mover” becomes vacuous -THERE CAN NOT BE A MOVER because the mover can move only a thing that is at the beginning “Static” , “unmoving”. And ,the thing is that it is unsure anything was ever static unmoving.

And even if this argument is wrong and things can be indeed static – it is still unclear as to why movement requires explanation. Both being static and moving are metaphysically accidental properties of things. Why the former is assumed as prima facie fitting and the former requires explanation is beyond my understanding. In fact should the world be wholly static, that would be surprising

From the above we get, that both causal lopholes and infinite chains are possible with respect to physical movement and probably also, by extension, to physical change.

50. on April 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE:Energy transfer and motion in space are changes of exactly the type that classical theism would characterize as actualized potencies. All we’re doing here is equivocating on the words “actual” and “change” vis ‘a vis act and potency. You can use that language if you like… it works. But nothing in it is contrary to the concepts of act and potency. -END OF QUOTE

You don’t understand. Energy transfer and motion in space are naturalistic and scientific concepts. At least from the looks of it. Act and potency are metaphysical concepts which are prima facie aplicable not to discourse of physics, but also , in more general manner, to any beingd including non-physical. When you introduce act-potency you can talk about potency shape and mass and the need to actualize it by something. “energy transfer and motion” restict us, in turn ,to merely “physical enviroment”. You are discussing merely physical events in time not any “in esse causation” (at least from the looks of it). That is important difference. Energy and motion confine us to merely naturalistic enviroment and we may find it suitable when searching for alternative for these strange concept that force us to ask ridiculous questions.

And there is more: energy and motion are both “actual” not talking about some strange “capacities” which are itself a a problem as unreal.

QUOTE: You are correct regarding physical vs. ontological parts. However, this doesn’t tell us anything new. The statue and its shape are directly analogous to the plastic ball example I just gave, and the concepts of act and potency apply to them in the same manner. END OF QUOTE
NO 😀
I will be tirelessly repating, As far I can see it lots of Aquinas is about “ontological composites”. Statue and ball can loose particular shape but not shape at all (Descartes, first meditation as I recall). Your example was about physical change as described in physical terms. MY example concerned “ontological causation” understood as bringing something from its matter and form. Probably your example was about efficient causation and my is about formal/material and maybe also final causation. My point is that such a types of causation seem to be meaningles if one can think of them as assembling ontological components…
QUOTE: As for shapes and physical things, classical theists would agree wholeheartedly with you that a shape cannot exist without a physical thing (although a Platonist would disagree) – END OF QUOTE

Not sure of it. Things is, despite Aristotle’s influence there is still great deal of Plato in Aquinas -That is the point. Chief medieval philosophers might very well be all Platonists….Though Ockham for example stands obviously out.

QUOTE: The reverse however, is not true. At its most basic level, physical matter would come under the realm of quantum field theory, as applied to individual or many particle systems. In QFT, not only do physical things exist without a shape, they exist without any properties until those properties are observed, or “measured.” Strange as this may sound, they don’t even have a meaningful location, much less anything else, until that location is observed. -END OF QUOTE

Is this another consequence of Copenhagen interpretation? Because if so, then pay attention that strictly speaking it is philosophical interpretation. I can counter this with simple philosophical argument: there is no being without properties. Expression being without properties does not make any sense. Therefore if science encounters such thing it must be reinterpreted to avoid such an absurd….But there is more. Suppose you are right and there might be being that aquires properties by observations. This is hardly compatible with realism, rather with some kind of anirealism. And this somehow removes the issue of such particles because the very debate concerning cosmological argument presumes that we are dealing with real stuff. Still we can say that there is no REAL being without properties (no REAL physical thing like shape). And that is probably fine for me and my stance because properties and ontological components stil can not “roam free” in ACTUAL/REAL universe -they must be bounded…..

51. on April 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE: The potency in my screw/screwdriver example has nothing to do with motion per se–it was about the screw’s passive potency to be driven, and the screwdriver’s causal potency (or power) to drive it. The power to drive a screw includes the capacity to secure it (via pressure and head fit or grip) combined with rotation. Gravity alone cannot do this, and even if it could, that wouldn’t matter. Nothing about the concept of a thing’s potency requires a unique actualizing power either. A screw could also be driven by a pair of pliers gripping the head and applying a twisting pressure. Or consider a baseball, which has a potency for parabolic motion that can be actualized by a baseball bat, a cricket bat, a throwing arm, or countless other things. As for which is the actualizer, physics discriminates cause from effect via the second law of thermodynamics, according to which entropy increase in physical systems is unidirectional toward the future. So at least in the case of temporally ordered events, cause and effect are clearly distinguished. You won’t find may physicists who will tell you that a baseball in motion causes a bat to hit it, and a batter to swing.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, but the thing is that the best sense I have about argument from movement DOES concern motion “per se” , “as such”. The original Aristolian proof for God interpreted it as the cause of movement. Reality was considered per se STATIC and required imparting movement. Not so much PARTICULAR movement (though we may debate finalism in this respect) but simply movement/change. If things can “impart” movement themselves or , even better” the NEED NOT BEING IMPARTED ANYTHING because they are already moving, then this sems to enough to defeat argument. You would have to explain why even gravity moving scredriver rotationally is not enough…….As for finding actualizer – please note that I asked this question regarding specific examples regarding to pieces of matter -care to answer ? Also consider the idea self causation in a specific manner: I am not saying that we can not distinguish cause and effect, I am saying possibly beings can cause themselves to change their state. The cause of scredrivers moving are the same screwdrivers a moment before, which were static ( if they were?). Not necessearily there is a confusion here from the standpoint of physics. However from the standpoint of Aquinas there is a confusion because the same thing can not be actual and potential regarding the same feature. If not reinterpreted these screwdrivers pose some challenge for Aquinas…..

QUOTE:As we’ve already seen, the example of two screwdrivers moving each other is useless… even if they were the size of asteroids and actually could exert a measurable gravitational force on each other. In this case, what needs to be shown is how circular causality could account for carpenters wielding screwdrivers to drive screws into wood or metal. Good luck with that… Even if such a scenario could be dreamed up it would still run afoul of the second law, which as I noted, is irreducibly time asymmetric. Causally circular cosmological models have been tried before. Without exception, all have proven to be either unworkable from an entropy standpoint, flatly contrary to observation, or so contrived that no one could them seriously. The phrase “to be expected” doesn’t exactly leap to mind.-END OF QUOTE
Scott but the philosophy is not concerned with explaining how perpetual motion of world transforms into motion we observe. This is the goal of physics to explain this. At best we are obliged to explain where did the motion come from , but even this is unclear, since as I said the question -why are the things moving requires asumption that they can not move. And this assumption is question begging. If motion as such is explainable the problem why it looks like this is merely problem for physics; supposing that we may need god to account for this, is already “god -of-the -gapping” . Anyway theistic arguments, thomistic at the very least seem to be concerned with motion as such, not with this particular motion we observe. If Aquinas was convinced that motion is natural and thing can move by itself, he would give up. As I said, he makes these general statements and backs it with arguments, and the seem to be pillar of its cause….. Here I am dismantling thomistic arguments -I need not to prove than universe is self driven to defend atheism as a posiibility. IT is enough to show that it MAY BE SELF DRIVEN. And it MAY BE- from the standpoint of this philosophical argument….You may argue that physics haven’t constructed model of self driven universe yet ( I doubt it -see below) but if you find this an argument for god or even for god possibility -then it is already god-of-the-gaps. Because you openly admit that self driven universe would take god out of picture – and so theism is viable only as long as there is a “gap” in deducing of observed movement from perpetual movement…..And even if the gap iss still here I doubt you can exploit it to prove anything, even the mere possibility of god -even suggesting the latter entails using the gap which can be closed by future developments, if it was not closed already (see below). Anyway if you were to make a point that Aquinas argument is working and god i proved because observed motion is not explained even though it is theoretically possible to explain it by perpetual motion which does not involve go, then such argument of yours would definitely constittute god-of-the gaps argument.

Irregardless, I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states. As for “second law of thermodynamics” argument, I belive that Poincare already demonstated that Second Law applies to only our timescale. After aeons the universe can revert to its former stage:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Gravitational_systems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of_the_universe

This probably shows that self-driven universe is not excluded -and that is enough for me -at least right now. Suggesting that cyclical causally-looped world is impossible because nobody showed it yet is non-sequitur. Especially arguing that some model is “so contrive that no one would take it seriously” is….hardly persuasive

52. on April 4, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE: There is another subtlety here that I should’ve addressed in my last post. In classical theism, the powers a thing has to actualize potencies in other things can be distinguished by whether they’re per accidens or per se. The former involve a thing’s power to produce an outcome that does not require its continuing activity as an actualizing agent. Most men have the power to father children for instance. This power is inherent in them, and may or may not be exercised. If a man does father a child, his child will continue to live independent of whether he breeds again, or if he dies. Thus, the power of fatherhood is independent of the outcome and contingent (from the Latin accidens, or “contingent”; “accidental”). By contrast, per se denotes causal powers that a thing cannot actualize in another thing unless its potency to do so is in turn actualized by a more primary actualizer. A freight car for instance, has the power to induce motion in a caboose by coupling to it and pulling it, but only if the exercising of that power is in turn actualized by another freight car, and so on. The power cannot be exercised unless it is itself sustained by a more primary causal agent (from the Latin per se, or “in itself”). -END OF QUOTE

I’ve answered already. Movement does not require per se chain , only per accidens and the “motor” is unnecesseary. And “Per se” chain with regards to act-potency distinction seem to assume “part prior to whole principle” which is suspect for me for the reasons stated.
QUOTE: Notice that this distinction exists regardless of the chain itself. An infinitely long chain of freight cars and cabooses cannot move themselves, and neither can a circular chain. _END OF QUOTE
They can not move themselves BUT THEY CAN BE MOVING 😀

QUOTE:The train can only move if it contains at least one car with the self-contained per accidens power to induce motion in itself and other things… an engine. This is where your causal loop of screwdrivers breaks down. -END OF QUOTE.
No breaking down, movement is required, not engine.

QUOTE:To take theism off the table, materialism must demonstrate that a spectacularly diverse, and contingent universe–evolving according to time-asymmetric laws in an utterly random manner (“what Dawkins called, “blind, pitiless indifference”)–has the per accidens power to self-actualize its own potencies… to create, and sustain itself by its own bootstraps. This has not been done. -END OF QUOTE

No we need not to demonstrate anything. It is theism that tried to show that world CANNOT be self sustaining. It is enough for us to merely dismantle theistic arguments and some arguments of our own – and I have done it. We need not explain anything much less the whole universe to prove atheism -please do not shift burden of proof. Also again you are succumbing to rhetorics: why “random”? “Contingent does nor necessearily mean random? And what “contingent” ? These qualification is based on act-potency distinction and I have already rejected this distinction in most if not all applications. I have not epistemological obligation to work with your conceptual scheme…especially when I ‘ve shown where this scheme is lacking…….

QUOTE: No they don’t. The whole point of Aquinas’ cosmological argument was precisely that sooner or later, a train cannot run without an engine, and by logical necessity, that engine cannot have any passive potencies or dependencies of its own. With language and examples from their time, he and the Scholastics after him argued that the universe is more like a freight car than an engine. It need not be in motion, or evolve the way it does–actualize itself in this manner, and not that–unless its countless potencies are actualized by a primary engine. If this “engine,” had passive potencies or per se dependencies of its own, they argued, that would only push the question back a level without answering it. Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with.
Their arguments were a lot more involved than I’ve described here, but this is the basis of why they concluded that the ground of all being must be God. They began with assumptions that were based directly on experience and observation, and to the extent that one agrees with those assumptions their conclusions follow directly and necessarily. You may not find them convincing, and you’re certainly within your rights to challenge as you see fit. But they had nothing whatsoever to do with mere composition and were in fact, a refutation of “first potency.” Any refutation of them must clearly, and demonstrate that they’re unavoidably incompatible with the way the world actually is. -END OF QUOTE

No, you get EVERYTHING wrong. I know precisely what Aquinas have wrote. No need to remind me on that. I also know what he intended. The point is precisely that YES his system requires the CHAIN of events be TERMINATED. I Know that :D…The points is you CAN NOT TERMINATE this CHAIN IN Scholastic system….Because EVERY ACT requires potency. And there is no reason to exempt God from this…..God therefore requires potency as well but if so then either he/she/it created this potency (regress) or the potency is absolute but this problematic……The point is PRECISELY that while the “engine” requires having no potency, as you said, the potence is UNAVOIDABLE if we treat god as any other act…..

NO my argument all rely on passages from Aquinas regarding composition…AND NO there is no refutation of the “first potency”. The point is PRECISELY that for actus to actualize there must be corresponding potency. Actus is both WHAT is actual and also “active” element which activates some other potential element, transforming it into other actualized being. But by very distinction this requires potency. The whole problem is that theist first assumes that EVERY potency needs to be actualized and that EVERY actualization requires BOTH ACT AND POTENCY. This creates regress. This regress MUST be terminated with SINGLE being to avoid another potency but this requires EXEMPTING god from rule than any creation requires both potency and act – in case of god only actus (god) is necesseary -hence the idea creatio ex nihilo. But this is breaking contradicting the asumption made before.

53. on April 4, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE Repetition:Thus, it must be pure act that contains within itself the per accidens powers to bring about all else that is–eternally self-existent and omnipotent. Furthermore, inasmuch as the universe behaves according to rational laws in the absence of any reason why it should (what physicist Eugene Wigner called, “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”), and contains contingent, self-aware rational agents (i.e. us), this pure act must include self-aware intellect and will. And if this intellect brought about all else that is, it must be omniscient. Eternally self-existent, omnipotent, omniscient, personhood… This is as good a definition of God as anyone has ever come up with. -END OF QUOTE

This is some sinopsis of thomistic argument but possibly misleading. Those terms are used analogically regarding absolute, as you said. And this creates problem as to whether we can really call this being “a person”. And no it is unclear whether something that brings order to the world needs to have anything called “mind”. Again both term “order” and “mind” require definitionj….

Scott, I do not want to irritate you (as much as you irritate me positing all these stements with undefined terms :D) but can you define “mathematics”?Because you see, I suspect that pretty much EVERY symbolic formalism (at least apart from natural language) invented by humanity was “mathemathical”. If so, then the question “why is the world mathematical?” should be replaced by : “why we can talk i about world in symbolic language?”. And now comes the bullet: “Could you imagine yourself a world which is completely not intelligible and not susceptible to formalization?” Because I CAN NOT. So the question : “why is the world mathematicaL?” makes as much sense as “Why is the circle round and not square?” ….This question is meaningless, because the world could not be non-mathematical. At least until you define mathematics precisely enough to show that it is not trivial….

QUOTE: No on both counts. The first Act does not have to actualize any being–whatever it is, by definition it is the ground of all being, and as such, by logical necessity it must be self-existent.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, what you said here is pretty much ludicrous. First of all what logical necessity…Absolute is not logicallly necesseary only metaphysically necesseary. If it were logically necesseary Anzelmian proof would be valid for Aquinas..And it is not . And NO first Act is not “a ground being by definition” 😀 By definition of Act and potency the ground of being is constituted by first act and first potency BUT this is impossible which provides us with reductio ad absurdum of the whole act-potency account of reality 😀 The pure act may exist without other beings but it can not create anything without potency. Which means he could not create the world.

QUOTE: Otherwise it would only be another link in a chain of contingent causes and would tell us nothing. – END OF QUOTE

AND THAT IS PRECISELY POINT OF MY ARGUMENT. THE ABSOLUTE CANNOT CREATE THE WORLD EVEN IF IT EXISTED 😀

QUOTE:What requires actualization by a first Act is contingent being–that which may or may not exist, and if it does, could have been something else. Again, this is precisely why Aquinas and the Scholastics argued that the first Act had to be eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient (among other things). Nothing short of this could account not only for why there is something rather than nothing, but why that something is the particular universe we live in–with the particular laws, diversity, and evolution it has–and not any of countless other possible ones.- END OF QUOTE

Omnipotence is not prima facie necesseary for creation. Neither omniscience. Of course you can define “omni-” as referring to everything that was created but this is trivial and we do not mean omnipotence that way. Aquinas believed that it is not the subject of go’s power to make square circle .

QUOTE Aquinas’ answer had nothing to do with creatio ex nihilo either–at least not as that term is most commonly understood. He would’ve agreed that God is the reason why there is a contingent something rather than nothing. However, he would not have agreed that his arguments proved that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. In fact, he argued explicitly that it wasn’t possible to prove that. He did believe the universe wasn’t past eternal, but he considered that to be a revealed truth from scripture, not something that could be proven via his, or anyone else’s arguments.- END OF QUOTE

Scott, could you possibly assume that I’ve read something from Aquinas -at least short “on eternity of world”…And that is not what I’ve mean’t. Referring to ex nihilo i’ve mean’t this:

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP045.html#FPQ45A2THEP1

Please note that Aquinas himself anticipated the very argument I’ve made, or something very similar (see Objection 2). Of course he provided us with response. Point is I do not buy this response either: interpreting creation as different from change allows us to question the need for the latter: any change can be regarded as creation and destruction (change always involving creation of some new quality and destruction of former) and if so there is no change and no need for potency. To put it shortly: IF YOU exempt creation from the need of potency you can exempt any change from it (because change can be reduced to creation and destruction) and the whole potency seems to be not necesseary). So by exempting creation from need of potency you make it unclear as to why potency is needed in change as well. If we agreethat potency need not “regulate” creation determining what can be created, why we need it to regulate change. To make the world ordered. But the world is already disordered if anything can be created because potency does not limit creation, and not necesseary god’s creation.

54. on April 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Reply trollmonster

QUOTE: Actually, we didn’t propose it. At least, Christians didn’t. Act and potency were first proposed in Aristotle’s Metaphysics three and a half centuries before Christ, and until the Enlightenment neither concept was seriously opposed by more than a handful of thinkers, theist or otherwise. He didn’t propose them as an argument for theism either. He did so in response to the Eleatics (Parmenides and Zeno, who argued that change was impossible), and Heraclitus (who argued that nothing else was). Both concepts were based on his observation that the universe exists contingently (act), and undergoes change contingently (potency)–both of which if you ask me, are damn reasonable assumptions. And ones that are not disputed by physicists either… which is precisely why they model the universe with differential equations and boundary conditions.
The argument given here is exactly backwards as well. Neither Aristotle, nor the Scholastics after him “assumed” act and potency, nor did they “ditch” them when they came to God. As I already noted, they began with a universe that contingently exists and undergoes change (again, damn reasonable assumptions), and required that any concrete answer as to why there is something rather than nothing must eventually take the contingent part out of that (another damn reasonable assumption… and whether that’s possible or not, at the very least, any explanation which can do so is a hell of an improvement on any that can’t). From there, they followed a long string of arguments (including those presented here) and concluded that the first Act must be God… or Aristotle’s “unmoved mover” (BTW, in Aristotle, move denoted change, not movement in the sense we understand it today). Again, you may not agree with their arguments. But they were in fact, arguments, and those arguments did not postulate God, they concluded with Him. No taxicab fallacy or bait-and-switch was involved.
BTW, it’s worth noting that what theists actually did propose was… [wait for it…] the very mechanistic matter/law worldview modern materialism is founded on! The main architects of the classical worldview were Descartes and Newton, both of whom were Christians. They proposed that God had created the universe as simple bits of matter whose only real properties were substantive (e.g. size, solidity, weight, etc.). All other properties were considered subjective and relegated to a separate realm of mind, which was along for the ride on top of, and distinct from the material world. The material world in turn evolved rationally and mathematically because it was constrained to by divinely decreed laws… which is why to this day, we still refer to them as the laws of nature rather than patterns, rules, or any similar term. The classical realm of mind included a divinely created human counterpart–in God’s own image, and also separate from the “real” material world (hence, Descartes’ famous struggles with “cogito ergo sum”).
Thus, in creating this dualistic matter/law-mind worldview, Descartes and Newton set the stage for atheists to come along later and do precisely what they did–dispense with a rational God when He became unfashionable, yet retain all the language and trappings of belief in Him… right down to the concept of rational laws of nature. How ironic…- END OF QUOTE

Scott I know the history of philosophy 😀 I’ve completed my studies and prepared phd Thesis 😀 By saying “propose” I merely referred to you defending this position :D…..And I know what was the reason for act-potency distinction ,except this is hardly only account for change avalaible….AND no I do not say you developed this to prove god…I’m saying that theistic arguments abuse this distinction to prove god. An it does not matter that god appears only in conclusion -this is not petitio principii I am accusing you of….

55. on April 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Reply trollmonster

Now I will just refer to points from your last post:

Scott please forgive but its basically all bullshit and straw man’s You define naturalism in a way that it looks moronic and offensive

M1 ) What does it mean that universe is an act? Do you think we consider it an absolute? Very few of us would subscribe to the explanation. The universe simply is or may be contingent or even accidental but this depends on how you define these terms (if you can define them -we do not necessearily subscribe to your act -potency distinction) Also in somehow contradictory manner You state that the universe is contingent and accidental, and there is “no reason why”. Scott please note that, if the universe is an Act there IS NO NEED FOR REASON :D. It’s like asking why god exists? And if you ask about reason of universe being such-and-such then please note tha GOD also cannot provide such reason :D…I told you earlier that creation IS EFFECTIVELY ACCIDENTAL -God could create digfferent world with no humns….There is no particular reason for this world given god either 😀 God of course may love humanity and such but this love is technically not its WiLL, it is its “willing” and is accidental. So you play double standards -you paint us with weakness which applies to your stance as well.

M2) WTF is this? Since when Hume is a Platonic? Since when NATURALISM is Platonic? We may believe in universals (Armstrong) but they are naturalized so NO TWO REALMS. Matter is not necessearily a solidity only. In what way mathematics is coincidence? If it is “platoinic” it is at least metaphysically necesseary. It is logically contingent? Aquinas god is probably too because we can think of him not existing . Again double standards. And the charge of dualism coming from someone who believes in pure forms trading movement to material beings is simply ludicrous :D. And if you were saying that mathematics is “merely a formalism”, then why involve platonism.

M3) CAUSALITY may be an illusion but order is not AS LONG as the laws are either platonic or consequnce of naturalized universals. Causality as such does not matter. Order matters. Please note that both: this point is false and it contradicts earlier point. Platonic forms if they are proposed are meant to be efficacious on world and guarantee that order won’t cease. You basically paint us as complete morons who first propose platonism contradicting our naturalism and then are too stupid o “reap” some good consequnces of it for our’s sake…..Scott, please READ SOME ACTUAL NATURALISTS….Not Feser because he obviously shots bullshit…..

M4) science works because of M3. If we were platonist it would work thanks to laws but it works because of – for instance -naturalized universals. Alternatively laws may be the consequnce of the the fact that the amount of matter and energy is constant and because of that energy transformations. Or may be simply constant because nothing forbids even humean world to be SIMPLY ordered. Some kind of order is inevitable, order as such is trivial. Even completely accidental world would be ordered by laws of theory of probability -so a quite advenced set of laws. So why not other set.

Please also note that the whole M4 is suspect because science does not necessearily work :D. There are paradigm shifts…EVen if order is guaranteed paradigm shifts show us that we may be only seeing “statistical artifacts” not true order……So Even if naturalism is such blind and stupid as you paint it may actually be better account of our scientific practice…..

M5) What kind of duality? Especially given the fact that immaterial is not real? If these “bundle of percepts” conform to laws then they are equivalent of machines…Machines may not look- personlike but thomistic theism does not offer any better. Aquinas man is probably also partly deterministic partly accidental being driven by actualisation of potency…..Because your action must be regulated by cause to be reasonable and unless you are causa siu (and that would be irrational) you must be determined by external causes…..Compatibilism allows for talking about free will assuming determinism.

M6) Confusing reduction with elimination. Moral norms evolved because of survival but that does not mean that they have not normative power. Such power may be conceptual in nature. .Also you entirely subscribe all moral realism to antinaturalism. I doubt this is accurate. Also normative power is per se problem. Nobody provided good account for it (Hume’an forks). AND NO saying that act is both descriptive and normative is no good answer either :D……

T1) I have already told that this inteelect and will are very different from what is commonly held under these terms…I also showed you that simple being cannot exactly have min unless you think of him as identical with his thoughts. The same goes for WILL and and hiss willings. And identyfying god with his thoughts and desires seems to be ludicrous.

T2) god is considered rational because we already assumed universe is rational. His/her/its rationality may have nothing to do with ours. Space is substantial? So it can be a substance of the world instead of creator? No reason why in naturalism orange is not an orange. In theism you also REDUCE THINGS to matter and form. Please note that in philosophy every theory that merely posits orange is an orange is trivial…..

T3) Causality can be violated in any time by god who supposedly does not need potency to make a puff and create something o (without potency) or block some cause from hapening. World is ratioanl because how the F%^$^% could it be different? T4) NO, god is free to do what he pleases – It can perform miracle, suspend or ebven change physics of the world. In fact christian beliefs suggest that he/she/it WILL DO PRECISELY THAT thing one date (Second coming) creating better world without suffering. Anyway god is free and different world would do as much sense as this one…..Scientific study maybe reveals actual rationality…or not 😀 T5) You and I are “metaphysical” machines made of actualities and potentialitities. Because according to aquinas there is NO self causation YOUR EVERY ACTION is ultimatelycaused by something external to you ultimately god. Also accident (not your agency) may sometimes spoil certain actions and their corresponding results. Your agency is therefore an illusion – you are god’s puppet and an imperfect one. The only reason your action’s are ascribed to you is because “you” are performing them -much like in naturalism. T6) How the fact that we are created by rational mind makes values and purposes objective? To be objective they must exist in reality not just in minds, not even god’s mind. What does it mean that thing has purpose? Because he follows certain pattern -this is description not a norm. We assume finality and then ascribe it to god as prime cause. But the point is that descriptive does not translate into normative.. Even if this is metaphysically necesseary for seed to give birth to plant, and that seed is “directed” it does not entail that GOOD seed should bore the plant…….Morality is as much mysterious as it were and can only be explained by patterns of behaviour and innate longings….much like in naturalism. 56. Hi Trollmaster, My sincere apologies if my descriptions of your materialism seemed “moronic” or were in any way offensive. That certainly wasn’t my intent! 🙂 I believe we’ve misunderstood some things and we may be talking past each other. Again, I do believe we’ve already covered the important issues here, but only if we understand each other. So, let me try one more time and see if I can’t clarify my arguments a little better than I have so far. I will restrict myself to your last post as well, as between work, an upcoming business trip, and getting my taxes done that’s all I have time for. As before, I’ll break it up across a few posts for readability…. “What does it mean that universe is an act? Do you think we consider it an absolute? Very few of us would subscribe to the explanation. The universe simply is or may be contingent or even accidental but this depends on how you define these terms (if you can define them -we do not necessearily subscribe to your act -potency distinction) Also in somehow contradictory manner You state that the universe is contingent and accidental, and there is ‘no reason why’.” I didn’t say the universe was an act–I said that in a naturalistic worldview it is the first Act. Again, in the language of Scholastic classical theism, Act is not“an” action–it’s derived from the word actual and denotes existence. To say that the universe is the first Act is just another way of saying that is simply is. I’ve been using the terms Act and Potency because those are the ones used by classical theist philosophers of religion. If you find them confusing you can replace them with “Existence” and “Potential,” say, or “Actuality” and “Capability,” or whatever else works better for you. The basic point here is, and always has been, that events whose potential for change are brought about via essentially ordered causal chains (again, using the Scholastic terminology) must culminate in something that simply is, and is in no sense caused itself. In classical theism that brute actuality is God. In naturalism it is the universe. If you can think of a third option, I’m all ears. And as I pointed out, causal loops no more avoid this than a circular train can move itself without an engine. Speaking of which… you also said, “I find your picture of cosmology and your reverting to old entropy argument suspicious. Scott THERE ARE Cyclical universe models and they seem to get along both with entropy and with causal loops, as such universes revert to previous states.” Cyclical cosmologies and causal loops have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, and no, they do not “get along” with entropy or each other. Cyclical cosmologies posit a universe which repeatedly expands and collapses, repeating the big-bang cycle at “bounces.” The large majority of these models have clearly defined entropic time asymmetries that survive the bounces, and have in fact been shown to grow between them such that they are not past eternal (Craig & Sinclair, 2012; Vilenkin & Zhang, 2014; and others). Those that destroy all information at each bounce do not have past/future time asymmetries and are more properly understood as an infinite number of universes appearing at once at a finite time in our past… which leaves you with an infinite number of contingent brute facts that “just are” without explanation. The word parsimonious doesn’t exactly leap to mind. The few that manage to avoid these problems (e.g. the ekpyrotic model) involve highly speculative physics like the M-theory framework, in which there aren’t even well-defined theories much less clear, testable predictions. For a number of reasons this state of affairs isn’t going to be changing any time in the foreseeable future, which renders these models little more than acts of blind faith no different than those atheists accuse fundamentalists of. The only cosmological model I’m aware of that has something like a causal loop anywhere in it is the Gott Li model (in which the universe emerges from something like a torus), and that model has been shown to be unstable (Craig & Sinclair, 2012). “Since when Hume is a Platonic? Since when NATURALISM is Platonic? We may believe in universals (Armstrong) but they are naturalized so NO TWO REALMS. Matter is not necessearily a solidity only. In what way mathematics is coincidence…?” By “platonic” I only meant that natural laws are, by analogy, similar to platonic universals in that they aren’t inherent properties of the things that obey them. I didn’t mean to imply that Hume, or any other materialist was actually a Platonist. My apologies if my choice of words was misleading. That said, modern naturalism did in fact inherit its mechanistic worldview from the Christian one of Descartes and Newton, in whom matter was considered a separate realm from mind, that behaved as it did because of divinely decreed laws, or if you rather, rules… and decreed rules are not material. Atheists later tossed God but kept all the rest, and to this day, whether they intend to or not, most secular physicist and philosophers of science speak in terms of of matter and the laws of nature as though the two are separate. If you don’t think of it that way, then in your case I stand corrected. But consciously or unconsciously, most atheists do at least think in those terms. The laws of physics (classical and relativistic) can be understood in final as well as efficient terms. Moving masses follow paths from here and now to there and then, obeying the relevant conservation laws, because Lagrangian formalism directs them to follow the worldline of least action between the two events. A similar argument relates the evolution of one quantum state to another via the formalism of Feynmann path integrals. From this perspective we can view causality in one of three senses. Per Aristotle, we could say that the directedness of causal potency is inherent in things apart from God (the unmoved mover) although they ultimately require Him for their existence (Johnson, 2005). On the other hand, we could what has been called theological intentionalism, in which the directedness of the laws of nature exist only in the divine intellect (Shields, 2013). This was the view of Plato (Timaeus)… and Newton, from whom modern atheists inherited their mechanistic worldview (hence, the tendency of today’s atheist physicists to speak of matter and law in separate terms, and my description of materialism as “essentially” platonic). Classical theism adopts an intermediate concurrentist view, according to which the proximate source of the order of natural law is inherent in created things, but its distal source is the ordered by God. Things have inherent causal powers, but those powers require divine concurrence to be efficacious (Feser, 2014; 2014b). “CAUSALITY may be an illusion but order is not AS LONG as the laws are either platonic or consequnce of naturalized universals. Causality as such does not matter. Order matters.” Spacio-temporally ordered events accompanied by a time asymmetry are causally related. In physics, events that are simultaneous in any particular reference frame are treated as “interactions,” and those that are not, distinguish between cause and effect via the time asymmetry. Whether one adopts the A or B theory of time, there isn’t a physicist anywhere on this earth who uses the term causality in any other sense. All you’re doing here ignoring the time asymmetry and substituting the word “order”for “cause.” REFERENCES Craig, W.L. and J.D. Sinclair (2012). The Kalam Cosmological Argument. In The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Eds. W.L. Craig and J.P. Moreland. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN-10: 1444350854; ISBN-13: 978-1444350852. Pg. 101. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/The-Blackwell-Companion-Natural-Theology/dp/1444350854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408120780&sr=8-1&keywords=blackwell+companion+to+natural+theology. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Feser, E. (2014). Being, the Good, and the Guise of the Good. Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives in Metaphysics. London: Routledge, 84-103. Available online at https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2QBgAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA84&dq=feser+between+aristotle&ots=0GOWYsM-Ui&sig=DNCG6GVzWzdm4-7QBGlHlld0yj8#v=onepage&q=feser%20between%20aristotle&f=false. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016. Feser, E. (2014b). Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. Editions Scholasticae. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Scholastic-Metaphysics-Contemporary-Introduction-Scholasticae/dp/3868385444/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460145360&sr=1-1&keywords=feser. Accessed Apr. 8, 2016. Johnson, M. R. (2005). Aristotle on teleology. Available online at http://philpapers.org/rec/RANAOT-2. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016. Shields, C. (2013). Aristotle, Ruotledge 2nd Edition. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Aristotle-Routledge-Philosophers-Christopher-Shields/dp/0415622492/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460052244&sr=1-2&keywords=shields+aristotle. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016. Vilenkin, A., & Zhang, J. (2014). Past incompleteness of a bouncing multiverse. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, 2014(06), 034. Available online at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1475-7516/2014/06/034/meta. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. 57. “Scott, please READ SOME ACTUAL NATURALISTS….Not Feser because he obviously shots bullshit…” I didn’t learn naturalism from Feser. I learned it studying some of the last century’s greatest historians and naturalist philosophers and scientists, including (but not restricted to) Bertrand Russell (1957; 1992; 2013), Isaac Asimov (1981), Stephen Hawking (1998; 2012), Will Durant (1961) F.S.C. Northrup (1946), and many others. Then there was Antony Flew (1966), arguably the most seminal atheist thinker of the 20th Century prior to his conversion to theism a decade or so ago, and those who despite being naturalists themselves are critical of many aspects of it (e.g. Nagel, 2012). I only cited Feser regarding classical theology and Scholastic metaphysics–both subjects regarding which he is, in fact, one of the world’s leading authorities. “science works because of M3. If we were platonist it would work thanks to laws but it works because of – for instance -naturalized universals. Alternatively laws may be the consequnce of the the fact that the amount of matter and energy is constant and because of that energy transformations…” “Naturalized universals” that would include both matter and the laws of physics are, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from the Aristotelian/Scholastic concepts of Act and Potency. Aristotle and the Thomists were Realists, and they embraced the very naturalized universals you speak of. The concepts of Act and Potency were largely based on them. Furthermore, conservation of mass-energy doesn’t “alternatively” result in laws… it is a law of nature! Specifically, it’s a consequence of Noether’s theorem–itself a law of nature derived from the behavior of Lagrangians along time-like world lines in local, asymptotically Minkowskian regions of spacetime. Note the word local. For the universe as a whole, not only is “the amount of matter and energy” not constant, it’s neither well defined, nor conserved. Globally, constraints on mass and energy are given by the covariant divergence of the stress-energy-momentum tensor; T{^{\mu}}_{\nu;\mu} = 0 The corresponding ordinary divergence we would use to define energy-mass conservation in the usual way is given by; \partial_{\mu}T^{\mu\nu} [to view these equations, copy/paste them into an online LaTex viewer like http://www.codecogs.com/latex/eqneditor.php%5D In both cases the divergences are tensors (and thus frame dependent), and the divergence in the second equation only vanishes for flat spacetimes… which on a global scale, the universe is not. Thus, whether its mass, energy, or momentum are zero, infinite, or anything in-between is entirely a matter of perspective. Furthermore, the associated Noether currents that determine the resulting convervation laws for them aren’t well-defined in any of these properties, so conservation laws for them don’t work either. Once again, you’re “rejecting” classical theistic concepts by equivocating on language, and in this case, also by appealing to a conservation law that isn’t. [BTW, in case you haven’t seen it yet, Luke has also written about this at https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/more-sweet-nothings/ ] “Please also note that the whole M4 is suspect because science does not necessearily work. There are paradigm shifts…EVen if order is guaranteed paradigm shifts show us that we may be only seeing “statistical artifacts” not true order…” Exactly… and that’s the point! M4 is suspect… precisely because materialism is built on a foundation of science, yet when coupled to the very Humean non-causal empiricist view you’ve been arguing for it renders the continued possibility of science questionable. Science has made God obsolete, were told… and what does it replace Him with…? [wait for it…] A worldview that gives us no reason to believe that science is even a reliable source of knowledge. And again, you’re also confusing the issue. “Paradigm shifts” and whether we’re mistaking “statistical artifacts” for laws involve the practice of scientific methods, and how they advance our knowledge of the natural world. This is an epistemological question. The issue on the table is an ontological one… Rationality, order… call it whatever you please. Why is our contingently existing universe like that in the first place? Why is it one in which science is even possible? How much we’ve learned about that rational order, and whether paradigm shifts or statistical artifacts were involved, is irrelevant to why it exists. “What kind of duality? Especially given the fact that immaterial is not real? If these “bundle of percepts” conform to laws then they are equivalent of machines…” The duality in Descartes, Newton, and the British empiricists after them was one of matter and mind. Building on the classical mechanics of Newton, they attributed to matter what they called “primary” properties (e.g. size, shape, solidity, etc.) and “secondary” properties (e.g. color, taste, smell, etc.). And inasmuch as matter behaved according to divinely decreed mathematical laws, they took their secondary properties to be subjective and relegated them, along with free will, thought and everything else not amenable to mathematical laws, to the separate immaterial but equally real realm of mind. Thus, they left us with blind bits of “stuff controlled by God’s decreed laws of physics, and the “subjective” realm of everything else. It was only a matter of time until those who were pissed off at the church, and enamored with the successes of classical mechanics, decided that God was no longer politically correct or fashionable and dispensed with Him, and the realm of “mind” that smacked of a humanity created in His image. And it came to pass in those days that Descartes and Newton gazed out upon the splendor of creation and said unto themselves, “Behold… it isn’t broke, but let us fix it anyway! Let us divide it! That which is the realm of physics we will call objective, and it was so. And everything else that we deemeth subjective we will call mind, and it was so… and Lo! Thus did they give unto the atheists the mechanistic framework they couldn’t create for themselves, but without which their worldview wouldn’t be possible. You’re welcome. 🙂 REFERENCES Asimov, I. (1981). Asimov’s Guide to the Bible. Wings; Reprint edition. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Asimovs-Guide-Bible-Volumes-Testaments/dp/051734582X/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459973922&sr=1-7&keywords=isaac+asimov. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Durant, W. (1961). Story of philosophy. Simon and Schuster. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Story-Philosophy-Opinions-Greatest-Philosophers/dp/0671739166/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459975298&sr=1-4&keywords=will+durant. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Flew, A. (1966). God and philosophy. Prometheus Books. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/God-Philosophy-Antony-Flew/dp/1591023300/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459973697&sr=1-2&keywords=god+and+philosophy. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Hawking, S. W. (1998). The illustrated a brief history of time. Bantam. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Brief-History-Time-Stephen-Hawking/dp/0553380168/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459974516&sr=1-1&keywords=stephen+hawking. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Hawking, S. (2012). The grand design. Bantam; Reprint edition. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Design-Stephen-Hawking/dp/055338466X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459974588&sr=1-4&keywords=stephen+hawking. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Nagel, T. (2012). Mind and cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false. Oxford University Press. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cosmos-Materialist-Neo-Darwinian-Conception/dp/0199919755/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459973265&sr=1-1&keywords=thomas+nagel. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Northrop, F. S. C. (1946). The meeting of East and West: An inquiry concerning world understanding. New York: Macmillan. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Meeting-East-West-Concerning-Understanding/dp/0918024110/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459975221&sr=1-1&keywords=the+meeting+of+east+and+west. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Russell, B. (1957). Why I am not a Christian: and other essays on religion and related subjects. Simon and Schuster. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Essays-Religion-Related-Subjects/dp/0671203231/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459972947&sr=1-4&keywords=bertrand+russell. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Russell, B. (1992). The basic writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959. Psychology Press. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Writings-Bertrand-Russell-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415472385/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459972947&sr=1-6&keywords=bertrand+russell. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. Russell, B. (2013). History of Western Philosophy: Collectors Edition. Routledge. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/History-Western-Philosophy-Bertrand-Russell/dp/0671201581/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459972947&sr=1-1&keywords=bertrand+russell. Accessed Apr. 6, 2016. 58. “Aquinas man is probably also partly deterministic partly accidental being driven by actualisation of potency…..Because your action must be regulated by cause to be reasonable and unless you are causa siu (and that would be irrational) you must be determined by external causes…” There’s nothing even remotely inconsistent about one’s being partly deterministic and partly accidental with intrinsic powers. As I type this, it is entirely within my powers of choice to decide when, or if, I will take another sip of my coffee or change the channel of the music I’m currently listening to. Yet my body is constrained by deterministic laws of physics as well, so I would be wise not to step off the roof of my condo or stand in the path of a moving freight train. As a man, I also have the inherent power (potency) to father a child, and it is my choice whether I will partner with a fertile woman and do so. Should I choose to, my offspring will continue to exist independent of me and will have all of the same physical constraints and powers of choice I do, including the power to procreate. This is the case regardless of whether we consider free will to be real and intrinsic, or compatibilist. If this is true of us, there isn’t a reason in the world why it can’t be true of God and the universe in general, even if our continued existence is sustained by Him and not entirely separate. The Scholastic concurrentist view of causality I referred to earlier accounts for it perfectly. Problems arise only if we arbitrarily toss everything out of the realm of “real” except blind bits of matter pushed around by differential equations. Nothing iinvolving physics ever required this. It was done for historical reasons that had more to do with politically correct Enlightenment fashion than anything related to science. “I have already told that this inteelect and will are very different from what is commonly held under these terms…I also showed you that simple being cannot exactly have min unless you think of him as identical with his thoughts. The same goes for WILL and and hiss willings. And identyfying god with his thoughts and desires seems to be ludicrous…” What is “commonly held under these terms” is irrelevant. What matters is how they are defined by the philosophers who formulated classical theism, and whether they do in fact follow from those damn reasonable assumptions they started with. The idea of God being an immaterial simple substance who is eternal, unchanging, omnipotent, omniscient, and possessesing intellect and will is certainly abstruse–mysterious, even paradoxical. I can understand why many people might have trouble grasping it. But like it or not, mysterious and paradoxical are not synonymous with irrational. If they were, I guarantee you that would’ve been irrefutably demonstrated centuries ago, and classical theism wouldn’t have been an actively pursued field of research for more than two millennia. If you can’t wrap your head around it, fine. I can, and so can most theologians and philosophers of religion… which is of course, why they’re still actively researching it and publishing their conclusions in refereed journals. “Causality can be violated in any time by god who supposedly does not need potency to make a puff and create something o (without potency) or block some cause from hapening. World is ratioanl because how the F%^$^% could it be different? … NO, god is free to do what he pleases – It can perform miracle, suspend or ebven change physics of the world…”

Yes, God is free to do as He pleases–He can violate the usual order of the very real causal laws he sustains, just as a writer can alter the stage on which his/her story takes place while writing it. Causality is an entirely meaningful concept, metaphysically and scientifically, precisely because He almost never does so. Which is why on the extremely rare occasions that He does, we refer to them as miracles. Couldn’t have said it better myself… what’s your point?

As for the world being rational because “how the F%^\$^% could it be different?” Really…? You honestly can’t grasp the concept of a universe that’s anything other than rational…? Well… okay then. I can, and so can the overwhelming majority of philosophers and physicists. If anything, the rest of us have trouble understanding why the universe is as rational as it is when there are so many ways it could’ve been otherwise. This is why Wigner spoke of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. It’s also one of the reasons physicists consider fine-tuning to be a very real problem in need of a solution… even if you don’t.

“You and I are “metaphysical” machines made of actualities and potentialitities. Because according to aquinas there is NO self causation YOUR EVERY ACTION is ultimately caused by something external to you ultimately god. Also accident (not your agency) may sometimes spoil certain actions and their corresponding results. Your agency is therefore an illusion”

“Self causation,” at least in terms of causa sui, has nothing to do with it. The issue is one of our essential vs. accidental causal potencies (as those terms are clearly defined in the classical theist tradition), and neither is in any way whatsoever tied to our possessing causa sui. See my previous comments on Scholastic concurrentism and the cited sources.

“Confusing reduction with elimination. Moral norms evolved because of survival but that does not mean that they have not normative power…”

Um, as a matter of fact, yes it does. To wit…

“How the fact that we are created by rational mind makes values and purposes objective…?”

To say that something has value is to say that to one degree or another, it’s considered precious. To say that it has purpose is to say that it’s intended for something. Consideration and intent are mental concepts. Persons consider things, behave with intent, and hold things precious or otherwise. Particles and fields don’t… they just do what differential equations and boundary conditions say they will. If you dispute that, try asking a beer how much it loves you. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m betting you won’t get much of an answer.

Apart from God, the only minds known to exist in the universe are ours, and nature does not favor any of them. Grounding normative morality in natural selection only makes things worse. Natural selection has produced minds with every moral belief in existence, and even if to date some have contributed more than others to our survival, which ones do could change at any time. Then there’s the fact that many of those most deeply engrained in our psyches are actually contrary to our long-term genetic viability and survival–case in point, caring for those who are disabled, elderly, or weak. If a friend or loved one came down with a rare genetic disorder I doubt you’d feel good about leaving natural selection to run its course for the good of our species. Beyond that, claiming that our most widely held “common sense” moral values are normative would only reduce morality to a bandwagon fallacy (50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong, can they…?). In your case it would make things even worse. The overwhelming majority of the human race believes in God, and this has always been the case. So it would appear that natural selection and socio-cultural evolution favor theism. Today, roughly two thirds of humanity professes an Abrahamic religion (ARDA, 2010), and most, if not all of those people consider atheism morally questionable at best, if not wrong, which on this view would render atheistic morality self-refuting, or at least self-incriminating–a conclusion I’m guessing you aren’t going to find palatable. In any event, it’s hard to argue that the universe cares about any of this given that the laws of physics could send a dinosaur killer down on us at any time, and according to paleontologists and astrophysicist, is in fact long overdue to. The same will be true of any other intelligent alien race as well, if one exists.

This leaves us with two viable options: Individual moral preference, and nihilism. Which brings us to your next statement…

“To be objective they must exist in reality not just in minds, not even god’s mind. What does it mean that thing has purpose? Because he follows certain pattern -this is description not a norm.”

Apart from minds, you have only matter… As already noted, your beer doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone, including you. Neither does Mars, the Higgs boson, fireplace bricks, ice cubes, Dawkins’ “selfish” genes, or anything else. In River Out of Eden, Dawkins said that the universe ultimately comes down to “no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (Dawkins, 1996). If naturalism is true, he’s right. For a naturalistic morality that isn’t nihilistic and is in any sense at all normative beyond the subjective preferences of individuals, you must demonstrate how blind, pitiless indifference can render anything at all precious and intentionally purposeful. This has never been done, and not for a lack of trying either. Good luck with that… 😉

[PS – If you succeed, by all means publish your conclusions… then go collect your Nobel and Templeton prizes and retire to the lecture circuit.]

At this point I’ve done everything I can to clarify these issues. Further exchanges will only bounce the current rubble and immerse us in an endless string of tit-for-tat that I doubt either of us has time for. If you have any further comments or critiques I refer you to the sources I’ve cited so far. Again, thank you for taking the time to discuss these things with me! Best. 🙂

REFERENCES

Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). (2010). World Religions (2010). Available online at http://www.thearda.com/QL2010/QuickList_125.asp. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016.

Dawkins, R. (1996). River out of Eden: A Darwinian view of life. Basic books. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/River-Out-Eden-Darwinian-Science/dp/0465069908/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460074381&sr=1-1&keywords=river+out+of+eden. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016.

Johnson, M. R. (2005). Aristotle on teleology.
Available online at http://philpapers.org/rec/RANAOT-2. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016.

Shields, C. (2013). Aristotle, Ruotledge 2nd Edition. Available online at http://www.amazon.com/Aristotle-Routledge-Philosophers-Christopher-Shields/dp/0415622492/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460052244&sr=1-2&keywords=shields+aristotle. Accessed Apr. 7, 2016.

• on April 9, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Reply trollmonster

Scott,
I believe I do understand what you are trying to do but still not see the arguments from it. But this time I will try to be concise and again restrict only to your last three posts:

1.I know that you ascribed the “universe is an act view” to us. I do not get it wrong. The point is that by doing so you interpreted OUR philosophy within the conceptual framework of your philosophy. The point is -that is unclear whether I can subscibe to such a description when I am sceptical about the act-potency distinction itself: naturalist may do a handful things to describe his/her position -to say universe is contingent, “brute fact”, “simply is” or to ditch the whole metaphysical necessity/contingency issue. These approaches may require Further argumenyts but they are not prima facie off the table. And because of that I am sceptical abou your translation of our belief. “Act” may be synonymous with “existence” in your philosphy -not necessearily ours. Maybe I can agre to “matter” (understood as we do it – in a way reminiscent of cartesian res extensa) as actus but this is merely one of the options. Point is that naturalism is WAYYY much diverse you poresent it -it does not break down to two options. And train may require engine to get itself moving (at best: i am not sure even of that, depending on how train metaphore is understood) from being static but it does not require engine to BE moving.
2.By virtue of what you said about cyclical universe the are not disproved. The may just require groundbreaking shifts in science but can not be ruled out. I was not PROVING such a universe must exists only that it was not ruled out by cosmological arguments or anything else. I am no sure you apply principle of parsimony correctly. Positing “huge amount of stuff” is not enough because the parsimony issue is related to number of theoretical assumptions not the necessearily the number of separate beings postulated by theory. “the causal loop” as I understand it in this should be present in every model of universe that is able to revert to previous states. “Cycling” assumes going round the same number of states. This is a “loop”. And I can not imagine such universe working without loops int he form X affects Y then Y affects X.
3.I can’t see naturalist’s talking about laws and matter as two different realms. And thus I suppose straw man. If anything thye may be accused of the very opposite- of equating laws with description of matter. You seemed to propose similar objection to us before. But you can have both ways. Either we are some kind dualists and if so laws should have some efficient power (which makes us free from explaining purported “order”) or laws are held to be description and no dualism. There may be of course different options but at first look it seems that accusing us both may be contradictory. I do not buy your history about “inheriting language ” either, and even if it was true positing it as an argument seems still ad hominem. It is not “HOW” we speak but what we “MEAN” If i were to be charitable interpretator i ‘d assume you suggesting that because some of us treat laws as descriptions, you accuse us of conventionalism. This may be true regarding some of us but has nothing to do with anu dualism charge, or with our “conceptual dependence” of theism….Seems still like rhetorics and/or straw man attempt.
4.I used metaphysical concept of cause when said that “causality may be not, but order matters”. I mean’t that causality understood as “production” may be nonexistent…but universals ensure that facts aere ordered ehich seems to be enough for validatic concept of “cause” in physical, less demanding sense.
5.Scott, Hawking is not a major naturalist philosopher. He is scientist, at best philosophizing scientist. Asimov here is like a joke especially in the context of Bible. Others seem to outdated at best ( is it just me or are you presenting me with textbooks?), as their works was done half a century and from that time naturalism went..a little further…:D Flew, former atheist turned DEIST non theist is possibly an exception, but he is definitely not enough. Yes you quoted Feser regarding “orange as a pulp and juice example” I suggest you start reading from basics: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/

• on April 9, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Reply trollmonster

1.Scott I know that act/potency were related to universals. Unfortunately that does not mean that those universals were naturalized ( not all of them at least). And no they are no “for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from act and potency”. Just one example, because the issue is complex and involves all this stuff about “ontological composites” you do not wanna hear about: I can not use act-potency to posit self -changing being (self-moving particle for example). But i do not seem such an obstacle regarding universal, at least not from the first look. I doubt act-potency can account for statistically accidental phenoma without some two components (one is act, second potency) present. Universals can achieve this with possibly one element (one being with universal).
2.Conservation of energy is a law of nature WHICH can be derived from the philosophical postulate that there is certain amount of physical stuff of universe and nothing of it can be created or destroyed (yu ver “ex nihilo nihil fit). And these are reasonable assumptions which do not require much of “order” (though icontinue to insist that “order” itself is tautological, every conceivable state of affairs is somehow ordered and thus ordered is logically necesseary.).
Anyway, Please note that ,first you CAN NOT HAVE IT both ways. If conservation of energy is not defined with respect to WHOLE UNIVERSE then you cannot say that energy is not conserved. Also note that this lack occurs, in General relativity but not in other theories of physics. And it can be amended by positing energy of gravitational field as additional enrgy form. We can expect therefore that ultimate physical theory will recover conservation of mass and energy. SO NO I DO NOT BUY your statement that enrgy is not conserved in the (whole) universe. Energy is not conserved in one scientific theory that does not encompass the everything. And because everywhere else conservation occurs we have every reason to believe that GR account is simply insufficient. Conservation of energy served physics from decades if not centuries and saying that “it is not” on the basis that it does not work in single theory is not serious to me.
My main point here was simply that when you have the same amount of physical “stuff” that transforms itself into multiple forms, order WILL arise from relatively simple conditions.
And even if you were correct, that STILL proves nothing. Energy may not be conserved with respect to the whole universe -but every local enviroment obeys conservation which is enough to account for regularities in energy transformations. This would explain why observed facts conform to laws of physics and rules out any “miracle” like a whale poping out of thin air or soul affecting body without siphoning energy from enviroment. And the universe as a whole? Maybe “local” order translates somehow into “globaL” order…
3.NO SCOTT M4 was a suspect NOT BECAUSE of naturalism but because, science changes. . If science changes then we cannot treat “workability of science” as ESTABLISHED FACT. Maybe scientific progess is an ILLUSION. If so we do not need any particular answer for “why science works?”. Because it is a false question. Because science may just not work Even success of human techologies does not ensure that we know the world. At best it makes it probable, and even this has its doubters.
4.Yes, yes I know that you consider atheists incapable of actual philosophical of scientific creativity and you think that we reject god out of politics only. But apart of bigotry do you have any actual argument? 18th century matrialism had the genealogy you describe. But today’s naturalism is much more diverse and complicated. The brake you subscribe to Descartes and Newton was necesseary for epistemological and scientific reasons it was result of attempts to conquer scepticism. Suggesting that we put smells and mathematical laws in one basket is already either requiring much of explanation or just funny. IT may be true only under certain asumptions.

• on April 9, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Reply trollmonster

1.Scott, There MAY BE something inconsistent about one’s being partly deterministic and partly accidental with intrinsic powers IF YOU want the “real” free will with your choices not determined by processes constituting you or independent accident. But scholasticism is unlikely to offer such a “real” free will. As I understand it entails probably some form of compatibilism with human being being driven by causes external to him just like in naturalistic compatibilistic theories. So no difference. And still I can not see naturalism as involving only “bits of matter” it merely one of possibilities. Anyway it would not make any difference, because either way we are puppets of external causes…..
2. The mere fact that some theory or worldview is pursued by centuries means precisely nothing wth respect to its truth or even meaning. No, the argument” something was not recognized irrational by most of people over the course of centuries, therefore it is not irrational” is another non sequitur I do not even want to comment on. Especially that there were countless counterarguments of different kinds, the ones you know little of. Also theology is hardly uniform, one of the doubters of god’s simplicity was Alvin Plantinga as I recall. So if you are going to state that my objections positing to conceptual difficulties of theism are my problem , you are only going to ridicule your cause. These are legitimate doubts which were pursued by theists and atheists alike.
12. Scott I t is really simple: possibility of miracles makes the “order” of the world ( if we assume it is not tautological)completely
accidental. I can be or it can be not. So god ceases to be someone who guarantees it. We
may expect anything just like in your (caricature of ) naturalism. And positing god as
necessary and not sufficient cause of intelligibility of world is not enough, because the world itself is necessary but not sufficient cause of its rationality.
13.Scott ,ad hominems, even subtle ones won’t help. Try to describe the possible state of affairs in the world which would not be somehow “ordered” , mathematical or reasonable. Probalby you will be always able to come up with some conceptualisation which will present this state of affairs as “ordered”. Just out of curiosity: how do you know what “majority of philosophers” think about rationality? Especially given the fact that only some of them show interest in Wigner’s problem. Sure, philosophers try to explain or at least explicate world’s rationality. But that does not mean, they can see possible alternative to it. Kant for example would argue tirelessly that we can not make sense of the idea of world that is not structured by concepts -he posited ding an sich but merely as grenzbegriff- border concept that is somehow problematic with respect to content. To investigate rationality does not entail believing it could not exist.
14.Concurrentist approach you talk about is not helping if the ultimate cause still determines the outcome. If the proximate cause merely serves as a medium for ultimate cause it does change nothing that it is performing action. This action is determined by ultimate cause and not by proximate cause, therefore proximate cause is determined not free. Proximate cause may of course show better or worse capacity with respect to serving as a tool for ultimate cause but this too is not its agency only nature As I see it the choice of human is determined by activity of god and human’s nature. Therefore it not determined by human’s agency but by external causes. Therefotre there is no real human agency and not freedom in this thought, no better than in naturalism at the very least…

59. on April 9, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Reply trollmonster

15.No, the fact that natural selection used morality as a tool of survival does not mean that we need to treat it as tool. And no, the fact “that nature does not give a shit” means nothing. Moral realism is about that moral statements denote some facts existing in reality. Existence of these facts, even in physical reality does not entail that reality is “wishing you good” or helping you. The fact that “Auschwitz is a bad thing” does not entails that a conzentration camp will try to subdue guards and free prisoners. This would not be true even if said moral fact was natural and located precisely in the camp itself. That moral fact merely entails truth of certain statements (like “destruying Auschwitz is a moral obligation”) and certifies that certain actions will be morally good and others bad. It does not affects the course of events in any way. Nazis may win the war and this will not disprove moral fact according to a realist neither the reality of this fact will do anything to prevent Nazi victory. From this we get that the question of moral realism is completely unrelated to what is actually haappening. Descriptive and normative do not overlap. But this is the very problem of the very idea of moral realism -the very idea that they are moral facts of ANY kind is a suspect BUT NOT BECAUSE of naturalism but because of observation (made by hume) that descriptive and prescriptive simply do not encompass and one cannot entail the other.
16.The results in awkward situation. IF realism is wrong it is NOT because of naturalism naturalism. If you accept the hume argument you can not believe in that morality is real EVEN if you believe in god. Because morals according to hume are not factual: killing is bad” does not describe any fact NOT JUST EMPIRICAL FACT BUT ANY BEING. This statement is about valuing and does not describes any conceivable state of affairs even “spititual”, “transempirical” one. If such was the truth then even god cannot produce morality, as there is nothing to produce. God can, in such case simply present his or her individual preferences. And you can follow them because you like god or you want to earn salvation. But there is nothing peculiar in god’s preferences which would not be present in my or yours preferences. They are all, to quote Wittgenstein, at the same level. Morality in such case is either individual choice or self interest and the fact that god exists changes NOTHING. You can of course equate morality with self-interest or individual choice but note that this is something you accuse atheists of. The point is that in case hume argument is right, you can no better.
17.Of couse you can also reject hume’s argument for some or no reason. Maybe god can establish moral facts or is moral facts itself…But note that in such a case it is unclear why natural facts cannot have prescriptive dimension. As said it does not matter that you do not see it -god, should it existed, is not helping those who suffer as well. But from the perspective of moral realism it does not need it, it is not required that god would even think about suffering. It is enough that god provides ground for moral statements. But it is unclear why natural facts cannot do the same. The fact that beer is silent does not mean anything. It may be merelly a bottle or that bottle may contain, apart the liquid, a moral fact as well which does not in any way affect empirical aspect. But as long as we conceive this moral fact as spatiotemporal and somehow reducible to physical, this may be natural fact. We have problems of course with such a reduction but difficulties seem to be no less painful that in case of engulfing prescriptive in something supernatural. Conclusion is: supernatural does not offer anything better with respecet to morality than natural.
18.As for evolution -Again straw man…We evolve as social species – which means that subjects of evolution are not necessearily individuals but societes..Even if evolution is about selfish genes those genes reproduces in societes and thus selection prefers those genes that make efficient societes….Maybe caring for sick is beneficial because it makes strong, societes, tribes that can hunt a mammoth or something. 😀
19.Quoting Dawkins and using his rhetoric against me is also rhetorical. IF anything the world is not “pitiless” or “indifferent” and even if it was caring about us it would STIL not make it a world which is morally valued “value-laden”. It may be that value-laden world is insane thing but this has nothing to do with naturalism. And if it can be done, nothing precludes naturalistic solution. And was it successfully done? That depends who is to judge :D. There were attempts (see: http://www.amazon.com/From-Metaphysics-Ethics-Conceptual-Analysis/dp/0198250614) but of course I doubt any of it will ever merit Templeton. This prize was always about supporting religion, and I doubt that naturalizing ethics would fit to that purpose :D.

60. Fascinating posts, Scott!

61. Thanks Steven! 🙂

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69. Okay, I get it. There are some scientists who speak ill about philosophy. But shouldn’t you also mention sometimes all the philosophers who talk about science and scientific progress in a very negative and condescending way?
And it’s not something rare even. You can find this even in textbooks.
Just to give a few examples, you have Thomas Kuhn and his theories about Incommensurability. Feyerabend, Kuhn, Popper, Pickering , quite a few names, right?