Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Modal Third Way

Among other arguments I've defended in favor of classical theism, I have also defended a Thomistic modal argument inspired by Robert Maydole.  Let's first define two terms:

Something necessary is something that exists and cannot possibly-not exist.

Something contingent is something that possibly exists and possibly does not exist.  Contingency should not be conflated with "dependency."

Here is the argument:

1. Something presently exists. (Premise)
2. Something cannot come from nothing. (Premise)
3. Either everything that exists is contingent, or else there exists at least one necessary entity N. (Definition)
4. Necessarily, there was never a past time at which nothing existed. (From 1 and 2)
5. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing contingent existed. (Premise)
6. Therefore, a necessary entity N exists. (From 4 and 5)

Consider this reductio ad absurdum (reduction to the absurd):

7. N does not exist. (Assumption)
8. Possibly, there was a past time at which nothing existed. (From 3, 5, and 7)
9. (8) contradicts (4).
10. Therefore, (7) is false. (From 8 and the law of non-contradiction)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Logos Theology and Atheism

Dating way back to Heraclitus, but certainly more refined by the ancient Stoics, was the concept of the Logos.  The Logos had a broad list of meanings, including: word, speech, principle, and about a dozen others.  Heraclitus used the ambiguity of the meaning of Logos purposefully, though not in a deceitful manner.  Rather, his understanding of the Logos was that the little understanding we could have of it could be spread across a plethora of concepts.

Christians as early as the first century A.D. attempted to incorporate Greek philosophical ideas with their own theology in order to "speak the same language," as it were, as those Christian evangelists would spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Greek philosophers.  Paul does this in Acts 17:28 and, more to the point, John explicitly uses the Stoic understanding of Logos in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God."  The text almost invariably translates Logos as "Word" into English.  Nevertheless, this translation does not exclude the understanding of the Stoics, whose understanding of the Logos constituted a central tenet of Stoicism, which was arguably the philosophy of John's day.

For the Stoics, as well as for the Christians who attempted to converse with them, the Logos is simply that which orders the cosmos.  The Stoics, like the early Christians, understood the Logos to be found.  The difference was that the Stoics believed the Logos existed imminently and as part of the cosmos, whereas the Christians had a more nuanced understanding.  Nevertheless, there is clearly a place for common ground to be shared, as the above definition of Logos should illustrate.  What, then, is the argument for the Logos, and are there any reasons to think the Logos is God?  First, here is an argument for the existence of the Logos:

1. Everything that exists most likely has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of their own nature or in an external cause. (Premise, modest version of the PSR)

2. If an ordered cosmos exists and has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is the Logos. (Premise)

3. An ordered cosmos exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, the ordered cosmos most likely has an explanation. (From 1 and 3)

5. Therefore, that explanation is the Logos. (From 2 and 4)

The reader will notice a few things about the above argument.  First, I have slightly weakened the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) from a universal to high probability.  Secondly, this argument resembles the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA).  Finally, but perhaps easily overlooked, is that the Logos could be found within the necessity of the universe's own nature (Stoicism), or in an external cause (Christianity).  The argument above leaves that matter entirely open.  So what does atheism have to do with any of this?

An atheist can and should, in my opinion, entirely embrace the concept of the Logos as essential to any knowledge we could possibly have.  Apart from order, there is only chaos, and there is no knowledge in the absence of order.  The atheist, if he decides to do so, will almost undoubtedly choose to say that the order of the cosmos is found in the necessity of the cosmos' own nature.  What is the cosmos, after all, other than bound by logical and mathematical principles, even in the most alleged chaotic states?  It appears inescapable that the atheist should take the side of the Stoics.

Now, what else can we know about the Logos other than it is that which orders the cosmos?  The atheist should concede at least three things: the Logos is eternal (existing at all times), omnipresent (existing at all places), and indestructible.  This is because there is no time or place, even in the future, at which the laws of logic and mathematics will fail to be instantiated.  The atheist might be a bit cautious at this point, since if this is not God, then it is at least something God-like.  However, since I am interested in finding as much common ground between theists and atheists, I don't think this argument should scare anyone away.  All of us seek knowledge, and all of us do so while presupposes that there is knowledge to be found.  Apart from the Logos, there is no order and, as mentioned before, apart from order there is no knowledge.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Intuition and Libertarian Free Will

The following is an experimental argument.  I have no way of proving that (1) is true or even probable, but it seems reasonable at any rate.

1. All things being equal, intuition is a generally reliable guide to truth. (Premise)

2. My intuition is that I have libertarian free will. (Premise)

3. Therefore, all things being equal, my intuition that I have libertarian free will is most likely true. (From 1 and 2)

Libertarian free will entails that even though I chose X, I could have chosen ~X under the exact same conditions.  Again, this isn't really intended to be a proof, so please take this argument with a grain of salt.  It seems to me that I could have chosen to refrain from a second helping of macaroni and cheese under the exact same conditions in which I chose to eat that second helping.

Part of the issue hinges on this question: are all things equal?  That's a key portion of premise (1).  If there is overwhelming evidence to reject my intuition that I have libertarian free will, then "All things being equal . . ." is a moot point.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Reductio ad Absurdum for the existence of the Logos

The Logos is defined as that which orders the cosmos.

Prove A: The Logos exists.
Assume ~A: The Logos does not exist.
~A -> B: If the Logos does not exist, then nothing can be known.
~B: Something can be known.
Hence, ~~A: by modus tollens.
Therefore, A: by negation.

I think the most controversial premise is (~A -> B). Why think this is true? Consider a crooked line. Would you know that the line is crooked unless you knew what a straight line looks like? Of course not. Likewise, if there is nothing that orders the cosmos, then all we have is chaos, and whatever is claimed to be knowledge is misguided.

In addition, I think we can demonstrate that the Logos is eternal (existing at all times)* and indestructible.  Here's why: Whatever is intelligible is ordered, even if there is nobody to observe it.  Hence, there is no time at which order is non-existent.  Since the Logos is needed for order, it follows that there is no time at which it can fail to exist.  Therefore, the Logos exists, and is eternal and indestructible.

*Eternality can refer to at least two things: 1) Timelessness, which is existence literally without time; and 2) Omnitemporality, which is existence within time, but enduring through all moments of time.  The argument for the existence of the Logos above is consistent with either view of eternality.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Mereological Argument for Classical Theism

Graham Oppy has presented a mereological argument for pantheism.  What I want to explore is whether mereological realism can establish classical theism.

1. Every physical composite thing is composed of parts. (Definition)

2. The parts of a composite thing are either material or immaterial. (Definition)

3. If the parts of a composite thing are material, then those parts can be reduced to fundamental particles. (Premise)

4. Fundamental particles are either necessary or contingent. (Definition)

5. Whatever is necessary has an essence identical to its existence. (Premise)

6. Whatever has an essence identical to its existence is Pure Actuality. (From 5)

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

8. Fundamental particles are necessary. (Assumption)

9. Therefore, fundamental particles are Pure Actuality. (From 6 and 7)

10. Fundamental particles are contingent. (Assumption)

11. Therefore, fundamental particles have an external cause. (From 7 and 10)

12. If fundamental particles have an external cause, that external cause is Pure Actuality. (Premise)

13. Therefore, Pure Actuality exists. (From 9 and 12)

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.