Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Fifth Way

The Fifth Way of Thomas Aquinas likely appeals to many of you as obvious:

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are the result of design. (From 1 and and 2)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A circularity of causes and its irrelevance

Imagine a circle of causes.  Each part of the circle causes the next part, and so on, until the very first part is arrived at again.  Does this avoid the need for a First Cause?  Not at all, especially if one excepts even a modest version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR):

PSR: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

The problem with a circularity of causes is that no explanation for the circle is given.  Why is there a circle, rather than no circle at all?  Unless one is willing to bite the bullet and say the circle exists by a necessity of its own nature, which is highly unlikely, if not impossible (necessity entails an essence identical with its existence), then on the PSR one is required to reject the possibility of a circularity of causes: the circle has an external cause.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Fifth Way

This is the argument that moved me from agnosticism to theism.  

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

Since whatever transcends nature must also be timeless, changeless (since time is a measurement of change), immaterial, unique, and very powerful and intelligent, we have a sound argument for God's existence. Here's why:
Nature, or the universe, is the sum total of all physical space, time, matter, and energy. As a result, the Cosmic Designer must transcend time/change, and materiality. Moreover, the Cosmic Designer must be unique, or one. This is because whatever cannot change cannot exhibit any potentiality, and is therefore Pure Actuality. If there were more than one Pure Actuality, then there would be distinctions between them. Yet, to be distinct from actuality is to be non-actuality, in which case the latter cannot exist. The reason other things exist is because they are composites of actuality and potentiality.
Since there is only one God, it follows that all power and all intelligence is attributable to God. Hence, God is both omnipotent and omniscient. God is also perfectly good, since to only be partially good is to exhibit potentiality, which is impossible for God, who is Pure Actuality.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Argument from Reason as a Correct C-inductive Argument

Victor Reppert is well-known for his defense of the argument from reason (AFR).  This is a deductive argument in which it is argued that rationality cannot be derived from non-rationality.  However, let's consider using this argument as a correct C-inductive argument.

First, a correct C-inductive argument establishes that evidence for a claim makes the claim more probable than in the absence of that evidence.  For example, if a theft were committed and, say, John's fingerprints were found on the safe, that would increase the probability that John committed the theft.  However, it wouldn't be sufficient evidence, since it's possible that witnesses can attest to John's whereabouts far away from the safe when the crime was committed.  Let's look at the AFR, then, as a correct C-inductive argument.

1. In the cases we know of, a person's rationality is the result of some rational cause. (Premise)

2. In the evolutionary process, human beings are endowed with rationality. (Premise)

3. Therefore, evolution provides evidence that human beings' rationality is the result of a rational cause. (From 1 and 2)

In its current formulation, (3) doesn't prove that there is a Cosmic Designer (although I believe the Fifth Way demonstrates that there is a Cosmic Designer).  However, the inductive AFR does establish that in the absence of the evidence we have, the existence of a Cosmic Designer would be less probable.  Given that we have this evidence, however, the probability of the existence of a Cosmic Designer is increased.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hylomorphism as an Alternative to Mereological Nihilism

Mereological nihilism is the view that composite objects don't really exist.  All that truly does exist (besides God and other immaterial things, granting the arguments from natural theology are consistent with mereological nihilism, and they are, and are also correct) are the most fundamental particles, whether they be quarks or strings, or whatever.

The first problem with mereological nihilism is that it is highly counter-intuitive.  Of course, this point isn't enough the refute it, but it's a start.  Hylomorphism is the Aristotelian view that composite things do exist, and they exist as a combination of matter and form.  Forms are universals that are instantiated within the thing itself.  This is why we are able to compare stars with one another.  Our sun is one of the smaller stars, relatively-speaking.  Without form, or at least the concept of form, all that we would perceive are clumps of fundamental particles, and nothing would appear distinct from anything else.

The mereological nihilist could, then, adopt conceptualism.  Forms exist on this view, but they only exist as mental concepts.  The difficulty with this is that what is the mind (on a strong version of mereological nihilism) other than an arrangement of fundamental particles?  How can an arrangement of fundamental particles think?  This, of course, brings us to the mind-body problem, which is beyond the purview of this post.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Fifth Way

St. Thomas Aquinas' Fifth Way was the first argument that convinced me that a Cosmic Designer exists.  It remains as persuasive today as when I was in high school.

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

"Who designed the designer?" won't work as an objection, as poor as it is, for at least two reasons.

First, in order for an explanation to be best, we don't have to have an explanation of the explanation.  If a group of archeologists discovered pottery, they wouldn't have to know who designed the pottery or where the civilization went.  Secondly, the Cosmic Designer would transcend the laws of nature.  Since it is impossible to design something timeless, the question is irrelevant.  Whatever is timeless is also changeless, since time is a measurement of change.  Moreover, whatever is changeless cannot be designed, since that would entail a change.

Hence, the village atheist's objections to the Fifth Way fail as anything close to rebuttals to what Thomas has to say.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Modal Third Way

1. (x) (Cx □ → ◊ (t) ~xt).
2. (x) ◊ (□t) ~xt □ → ◊ (□t) (x) ~Pxt.
3. ~(x) (◊x □ → ◊(y) (x ^ Eyx)).
4. ~[(□x) ◊ (□y) Eyx □ → ~(□t) (x) ~Pxt].
5. ~Pxt → ~C(x).
6. :. ~C(x).
In English:
1. Every temporally contingent thing possibly fails to exist at some time.
2. If all things possibly fail to exist at some time, then it is possible that all things collectively fail to exist at some past time.
3. It is necessarily the case that possible truths are explicable.
4. It is necessarily the case that something is explicable if and only if there was not a time when nothing existed.
5. If there could never have been a time when nothing existed, then something temporally necessary exists.
6. Therefore, something temporally necessary exists.