Friday, January 7, 2011

Mind Versus Matter

Which is more fundamental in explaining the orderly processes of nature: mind or matter? How one answers this question will inevitably determine whether one adopts a theistic or atheistic worldview. I have to wonder why some of the New Atheists continue to refer to belief in God as a delusion or mental disorder when the "mind" answer isn't obviously false or a priori less likely true than "matter." Maybe they would dispute this, but it's hard to understand how there could be a reasonable a priori reason for preferring the "matter" answer. In any case, I wish to offer a couple analogies in support of a theistic worldview.

Imagine you win the lottery. You might think that you were lucky. However, suppose now that you win the lottery twice in a row, or a hundred or a thousand times in a row, etc. At this point, the chance hypothesis would become quite unreasonable. As Aristotle so aptly explained, "when a certain result is achieved either invariably or normally, it is no incidental or merely lucky coincidence; and in the processes of nature each result is achieved if not invariably at least normally, provided nothing hinders."

Lest anyone think this is an "outdated" assumption, here is what contemporary British physicist, Paul Davies, has to say, "All science is founded on the assumption that the physical world is ordered. The most powerful expression of this order is found in the laws of physics. Nobody knows where these laws come from, nor why they apparently operate universally and unfailingly, but we see them at work all around us: in the rhythm of night and day, the pattern of planetary motions, the regular ticking of a clock."

Atheistic philosopher, Michael Martin, agree: "Consider science. It presupposes the uniformity of nature: that natural laws govern the world and that there are no violations of such laws."

Now, whether there are any violations of natural laws (e.g. in the case of miracles) is another issue. The point is that nature exhibits regularity for the most part, as expressed, for example, in the laws of gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak atomic forces.

Yet, how could matter be the ultimate explanation of this? Without the direction of some intelligence, the same person would not win the lottery over and over again. Another analogy is this. Which computer would you trust to be reliable: one designed by an intelligence or one put together without the direction of any intelligence whatsoever? I hope you would choose the former.

This second analogy is used in support of the so-called "argument from reason," a la Lewis and Reppert. Briefly, if our cognitive faculties were formed by non-rational processes, why should we trust that our cognitive faculties are rational, e.g. why trust that our cognitive faculties generally produce true beliefs? If the skeptic retorts that they don't, then they are engaging in a self-contradiction. For, the conclusion that our cognitive faculties do not generally produce true beliefs is itself produced by our cognitive faculties, undermining the skeptic's own position. Of course, if our cognitive faculties are generally reliable, then they are most plausibly formed by rational processes, which implies an intelligent designer of sorts.

These are very simple arguments, but they have withstood centuries of philosophical critique. The fact of the matter is that the believer is capable of showing the non-believer that God exists based on just two starting points:

1. One cannot be rational while rejecting rational inquiry.

2. One cannot be rational while undermining the necessary preconditions of rational inquiry.

Order, regularity, and reliable cognitive faculties are all necessary preconditions of rational inquiry. What is more, each of these aspects of rational inquiry are best explained by the design hypothesis.

Now, the "who made God?" question of Dawkins, etc., can be easily disposed of. Here are the design criteria of the argument from laws of nature, for example: everything that a) lacks intelligence, and b) exhibits regularity, is designed.

Obviously, God does not lack intelligence, so He is not in need of being designed. When you type words on a keyboard, your own intelligence suffices to guide that process. The reason you and I are designed is because we have not always existed, and hence we didn't always have intelligence.

In combination with the cosmological argument (e.g. the Modal Third Way), these various teleological arguments provide the believer with a rational justification for theism.

[1] Aristotle, Natural Science, Book 2, Chap. 8, translated and edited by Philip Wheelwright, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., pp. 40-41.

[2] Paul Davies, http://www.fortunecity.com/emachines...6/freeuni.html.

[3] Michael Martin, http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...rame/tang.html.

68 comments:

  1. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 8, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    Happy New Year, Doug

    Doug said:

    "Now, the "who made God?" question of Dawkins, etc., can be easily disposed of. Here are the design criteria of the argument from laws of nature, for example: everything that a) lacks intelligence, and b) exhibits regularity, is designed."

    So, you just invent some criteria. e.g. Everything that a) lacks greenness and b) exhibits regularity is designed.
    To me the 'lacks intelligence' part is just special pleading, and is based on nothing at all.
    But maybe you can show that an intelligent being can design itself? If not, the 'intelligent' part has no effect at all.
    The whole idea behind Dawkins' etc. idea that God needs a designer is the fact that theists ask for an explanation of the order in the universe. The theist's answer is: the order in the universe is the result of design by a being who has order. Dawkins asks, "But how is the order of that being explained?" And the theist replies that the order of that being does not need an explanation, it's just the way it is.
    Then why can't we say that the universe is what it is? Why the need to postulate a mysterious being that we can only know by what it's not. We know that is isn't a blue whale. So, the universe was designed by a being that is not a blue whale. A very convincing argument.
    BTW, you still haven't managed to get out of the infinite regress of designers.


    Doug
    "Obviously, God does not lack intelligence, so He is not in need of being designed."

    Obviously, you do not lack intelligence, so you are not in need of being designed either.


    Doug:


    "When you type words on a keyboard, your own intelligence suffices to guide that process. The reason you and I are designed is because we have not always existed, and hence we didn't always have intelligence."

    Here you ,out of the blue, just add another criterion: not having always existed. So, actually your argument has nothing to do with (lack of) intelligence, but with 'having always existed.
    So does a rock that has always existed need a designer or not?

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  2. Happy New Year to you as well, Walter.

    There are some unintentional misinterpretations of the argument going on here.

    Walter: "So, you just invent some criteria. e.g. Everything that a) lacks greenness and b) exhibits regularity is designed.
    To me the 'lacks intelligence' part is just special pleading, and is based on nothing at all."

    Actually, no. This is what we observe. You type on a keyboard, so your own intelligence suffices to explain the sentences. The keyboard lacks intelligence, so its production of sentences must be guided by some external intelligence.

    Walter: "But maybe you can show that an intelligent being can design itself? If not, the 'intelligent' part has no effect at all.
    The whole idea behind Dawkins' etc. idea that God needs a designer is the fact that theists ask for an explanation of the order in the universe."

    Something has to meet certain criteria in order for it to meet the standards of a specific type of explanation.

    Walter: "The theist's answer is: the order in the universe is the result of design by a being who has order. Dawkins asks, "But how is the order of that being explained?" And the theist replies that the order of that being does not need an explanation, it's just the way it is."

    That's not an answer of the well-informed theist. The theist says that given certain criteria, we can infer design. Then, given that the laws of nature meet these criteria, we can infer that the laws of nature are designed. God doesn't meet those criteria, so the regress problem is moot.

    Walter: "Then why can't we say that the universe is what it is? Why the need to postulate a mysterious being that we can only know by what it's not. We know that is isn't a blue whale. So, the universe was designed by a being that is not a blue whale. A very convincing argument.
    BTW, you still haven't managed to get out of the infinite regress of designers."

    The regress problem is only a real problem if God meets the same criteria as the laws of nature, but of course He doesn't. He has intelligence.

    Walter: "Obviously, you do not lack intelligence, so you are not in need of being designed either."

    My own intelligence does suffice to explain the words I'm typing, but that's beside the point.

    Walter: "Here you ,out of the blue, just add another criterion: not having always existed. So, actually your argument has nothing to do with (lack of) intelligence, but with 'having always existed."

    Having not existed, I couldn't have had intelligence. That's not another criterion; it's just being consistent with the criteria in place.

    Walter: "So does a rock that has always existed need a designer or not?"

    If it exemplifies order, yes. Rocks lack intelligence, so they would meet the design criteria, whether they have always existed or not.

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  3. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 8, 2011 at 6:47 AM

    Doug:

    "Actually, no. This is what we observe. You type on a keyboard, so your own intelligence suffices to explain the sentences. The keyboard lacks intelligence, so its production of sentences must be guided by some external intelligence."

    That's not the problem, the problem is: can intelligence explain itself? If you answer yes, then you have to explain how.

    Doug:
    "Then, given that the laws of nature meet these criteria, we can infer that the laws of nature are designed. God doesn't meet those criteria, so the regress problem is moot."

    You have to show that God does not meet the criteria, not just assert it, Doug.
    I still see no reason other than special pleading why God does not meet the criteria. There is AFAIK no reason why intelligence would not need design. If there is a reason, just show it.

    Doug
    "My own intelligence does suffice to explain the words I'm typing, but that's beside the point."

    Of course your intelligence suffices to explain your words, the point is that your intelligence does not suffice to explain your intelligence.

    Doug:
    "Having not existed, I couldn't have had intelligence. That's not another criterion; it's just being consistent with the criteria in place."

    So, the high order of intelligence does not need design if it is eternal but ...


    "If it exemplifies order, yes. Rocks lack intelligence, so they would meet the design criteria, whether they have always existed or not. "

    But the 'lower' order of rocks does need design even if it's eternal.
    All sounds very logical indeed

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  4. Walter: "That's not the problem, the problem is: can intelligence explain itself? If you answer yes, then you have to explain how."

    We're talking about order needing an explanation.

    Walter: "You have to show that God does not meet the criteria, not just assert it, Doug."

    God is intelligent, so He doesn't meet the criteria. That's not just an assertion - it's the very meaning of "God."

    Walter: "I still see no reason other than special pleading why God does not meet the criteria. There is AFAIK no reason why intelligence would not need design. If there is a reason, just show it."

    I already did with the keyboard illustration.

    Walter: "Of course your intelligence suffices to explain your words, the point is that your intelligence does not suffice to explain your intelligence."

    That's because at one point I didn't exist and therefore didn't have intelligence.

    Walter: "But the 'lower' order of rocks does need design even if it's eternal.
    All sounds very logical indeed"

    It meets the criteria, and the criteria are based on our observations.

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  5. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 9, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Just one question, Doug.

    What is the causal relationship between intelligence and not needing a designer? IOW what does intelligence do so that a designer isn't necessary for it?

    I can understand the causal connection between intelligence and the ability to design or create, as your keyboard example shows but really, I do not have any clue what could be the causal connection between intelligence and not needing design.
    Can you please enlighten me?

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  6. The question presupposes that in order for an explanation to be best, we have to have an explanation of the explanation. There's simply no reason to think that's true.

    I've always held that arguments for God's existence ought to be considered cumulatively. Given the conclusion of, say, the Modal Third Way, we ought to believe in a temporally necessary and omnipotent being. Given the argument from laws of nature, we ought to believe that an intelligence has designed the order of the universe.

    When we put these two arguments together, among others, the best explanation is that these two entities are one and the same. Parsimony is just one reason why. It makes no sense to ask who or what designed an omnipotent being.

    My answer, then, is two-fold: 1) the question assumes something from the outset that is incorrect; and 2) in conjunction with other arguments, the design argument gives us good reason to believe in the temporal necessity of a cosmic designer.

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  7. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 9, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    No, I am not asking for an explanation of the explanation, I am asking you to give me at least one reason to assume that what you are proposing IS an explanation.
    But since you cannot answer my question, it seems I was correct in my understanding that the only way to get out of an infinite regress is by special pleading.
    So, I don't think your argument in itself gives us any rational basis for believing in a powerful designer. So this argument adds nothing. Assuming the Modal Third Way is a little bit convincing (and BTW: there are lots of problem with that argument too) , that doesn't leave you too much to "cumulate" I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  8. How is positing an intelligent designer not an explanation? Granted, it's not an explanation you fancy, but that doesn't tell us anything about whether it counts as an explanation or not. The God hypothesis is just as much an explanation as if I were to say my truck is designed by Chevrolet. Just because some hypothetical person cannot explain where Chevrolet came from, that doesn't have any effect on the merit of the explanation.

    And no, it's not special pleading. It would be special pleading if God met the design criteria and we made Him an exception to the rule. As it is, though, God does not meet the design criteria. If you accept the keyboard illustration I offered, what's the problem? An eternal intelligence would suffice to explain its own designs.

    As for the MTW, I've never seen a decent objection to it. I have to wonder what constitute the "lots of problems" you allude to.

    ReplyDelete
  9. By the way, if you're not asking for an explanation of the explanation, why all the focus on an infinite regress?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 9, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    The explanation of order in the universe is a mystery. That's an explanation.
    It's special pleading because the design criteria are specially built to argue that God is an exception to your claim that ordered things must have a designer. But the 'exception' is baseless.


    And an eternal intelligence does not suffice to explain its own design. It explains how God could design something (because he's intelligent) , not how he could have designed himself.

    And the MTW begs the question in at least two of its premises and, once again, makes use of the completely unjustified conflation of yes/no possibility with actual possibility.
    If I find the time, I will present you a decent objection in some more detail. But I don't think you are willing to accept it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Douyg said

    "By the way, if you're not asking for an explanation of the explanation, why all the focus on an infinite regress?"

    Because YOU said that an infinite regress does not constitute an explanation. So, if you cannot get out of the infinite regress, you don't have an explanantion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Walter: "The explanation of order in the universe is a mystery. That's an explanation."

    That's a non-explanation.

    Walter: "It's special pleading because the design criteria are specially built to argue that God is an exception to your claim that ordered things must have a designer. But the 'exception' is baseless."

    No, it's based on what we observe, as I've pointed out. You could at least represent my claim correctly. I don't just say that ordered things must have a designer.

    Walter: "And an eternal intelligence does not suffice to explain its own design. It explains how God could design something (because he's intelligent) , not how he could have designed himself."

    And we're back to needing an explanation of the explanation.

    Walter: "And the MTW begs the question in at least two of its premises . . ."

    Begs the question? I offer support for each premise, none of which are remotely question-begging.

    Walter: "and, once again, makes use of the completely unjustified conflation of yes/no possibility with actual possibility."

    It doesn't. There are good reasons to believe in their actual possibility.

    Walter: "Because YOU said that an infinite regress does not constitute an explanation. So, if you cannot get out of the infinite regress, you don't have an explanantion."

    Again, please represent me correctly. An infinite regress does not constitute a sufficient explanation. Even if there could be an infinite regress, and that's highly unlikely to say the least, one individual thing is still explained by another.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Walter Van den AxkerJanuary 9, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    Doug said:

    "That's a non-explanation."

    So is 'Goddidit', it does not say anything more than 't's a mystery'

    "No, it's based on what we observe, as I've pointed out. You could at least represent my claim correctly. I don't just say that ordered things must have a designer."

    You say that ordered things must have a designer, except when they are intelligent, yes, but the latter part is not supported by observation. What is based on observation is that intelligent beings can create order in other things, but to conclude from this that intelligent beings can create the order required for their intelligence is not only a big non-sequitur, it's complelety absurd.

    "Again, please represent me correctly. An infinite regress does not constitute a sufficient explanation."

    Let me quote one from our debate, Doug.

    "..., then there would be an infinite regress of explanations , in which case nothing at all would be explained."
    An infinite regress, according to your alter ego, does not explain anything. But anyway, I don't have a problem admitting that I have only proven that your argument does not present God as a SUFFICIENT explanation. That 'suffices' for me as a rebuttal.

    And as far as the MIW is concerned, it would be too far off topic for me to show here and now where it fails. But rest assured: it does fail in more than one way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Walter: "So is 'Goddidit', it does not say anything more than 't's a mystery'"

    Then I guess people should stop accepting "Chevrolet made my truck" as an explanation...

    Walter: "You say that ordered things must have a designer, except when they are intelligent, yes"

    No. You left out a couple steps, but I see no need to reproduce them.

    Walter: "What is based on observation is that intelligent beings can create order in other things, but to conclude from this that intelligent beings can create the order required for their intelligence is not only a big non-sequitur, it's complelety absurd."

    Good thing I'm not claiming that God designed Himself. I don't where you got that impression from.

    Walter: "Let me quote one from our debate, Doug."

    That's a good quote, but context is everything. In the case of an infinite regress, the set as a whole remains unexplained. I never said that one part of the regress cannot be explained by another.

    Walter: "But anyway, I don't have a problem admitting that I have only proven that your argument does not present God as a SUFFICIENT explanation. That 'suffices' for me as a rebuttal."

    Unfortunately, you overlook the other half of my answer to your objection. The other half is that there's no infinite regress problem to begin with.

    Walter: "And as far as the MIW is concerned, it would be too far off topic for me to show here and now where it fails. But rest assured: it does fail in more than one way."

    This is my blog, so I don't care if you want to tackle something slightly off-topic. After all, I did mention the MTW in the post. Now, if your only objections are things we have talked about in the past (e.g. epistemic versus actual possibility), then there is probably little reason for us to rehash that old discussion. However, if you have a new objection, I'm all ears.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Doug said


    "Then I guess people should stop accepting "Chevrolet made my truck" as an explanation..."

    If "Chevrolet" were just some name and nobody knew anything about what Chevrolet was, except that it wasn't a blue whale or a coconut ... , then yes, I don't think I would call it "an explanation."

    "Unfortunately, you overlook the other half of my answer to your objection. The other half is that there's no infinite regress problem to begin with."

    Only because you assert it, you have given no argument whatsoever to show it. Until you do, there is absolutely no reason why I should accept that your argument does not lead to an infinite regress.

    "That's a good quote, but context is everything. In the case of an infinite regress, the set as a whole remains unexplained."

    You said NOTHING would be explained. Anyway, in the case of an IR, EVERY part of the regress is explained. So, if that's what you mean, an IR of designers, IMO would be a sufficient explanation.

    "Now, if your only objections are things we have talked about in the past (e.g. epistemic versus actual possibility), then there is probably little reason for us to rehash that old discussion."

    That's one of my objections, and a very important one that you have never managed to understand, let alone that you have rebutted it, but I'll give you another.


    "However, if you have a new objection, I'm all ears. " OK, just one, then:

    I'll take the second part of your argument, assuming FTSOTA that the first one does prove the existence of a temporally necessary being (it doesn't, of course).

    6. Every existing being is either omnipotent or non-omnipotent. (Definition)

    7. Possibly, whatever is non-omnipotent can be generated. (Premise)

    8. Necessarily, whatever is temporally necessary cannot be generated. (Premise)

    9. Therefore, a temporally necessary and omnipotent being exists. (Conclusion)

    Now, if we accept 8 and do not beg the question, (which means that WHATEVER is temporally necessary cannot be generated) then , if there is, say, a non-omnipotent but temporally necessary Roquefort cheese, it cannot be generated. Which means that 7 is false, because there is at least one non-omnipotent temporally necessary being that cannot be generated.
    IOW 7 is only true (and here is doesn't matter whether we speak of epistemic or actual possibility) IFF ALL temporally necessary beings are omnipotent, but that is the conclusion of your argument, so you beg the question, once again.
    So, in fact, your cumulative case is a cumulation of 0 and 0, which, AFAIK is still...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Walter: "If 'Chevrolet' were just some name and nobody knew anything about what Chevrolet was, except that it wasn't a blue whale or a coconut ... , then yes, I don't think I would call it 'an explanation.'"

    Why not?

    Walter: "Only because you assert it, you have given no argument whatsoever to show it. Until you do, there is absolutely no reason why I should accept that your argument does not lead to an infinite regress."

    I'm going to play my keyboard analogy card one more time.

    Walter: "You said NOTHING would be explained."

    You know what a rhetorical device is, right?

    Walter: "Anyway, in the case of an IR, EVERY part of the regress is explained. So, if that's what you mean, an IR of designers, IMO would be a sufficient explanation."

    My point is that infinite regress or not, the objection falls short. I find it funny that atheists are often so adamant about the possibility of an infinite regress and then, on the other hand, are under the impression that the "who made God?" question is such a definitive rebuttal of theistic arguments because they imply an infinite regress. Which is it?

    Walter: "That's one of my objections, and a very important one that you have never managed to understand, let alone that you have rebutted it, but I'll give you another."

    I do understand it. I simply reject it.

    Walter: "I'll take the second part of your argument, assuming FTSOTA that the first one does prove the existence of a temporally necessary being (it doesn't, of course)."

    Of course? Lol

    Walter: "Now, if we accept 8 and do not beg the question, (which means that WHATEVER is temporally necessary cannot be generated) then , if there is, say, a non-omnipotent but temporally necessary Roquefort cheese, it cannot be generated. Which means that 7 is false, because there is at least one non-omnipotent temporally necessary being that cannot be generated."

    Leaving aside the fact that cheese is necessarily temporally contingent (otherwise it wouldn't really be cheese), you haven't done anything to undermine (7). You haven't addressed the argumentation in support of (7), which is itself based on the fact that we regularly observe that non-omnipotent things can be generated.

    Walter: "IOW 7 is only true (and here is doesn't matter whether we speak of epistemic or actual possibility) IFF ALL temporally necessary beings are omnipotent, but that is the conclusion of your argument, so you beg the question, once again."

    No, (7) does not entail the conclusion a temporally necessary being exists and is omnipotent, so it's clearly not begging the question. (7), in conjunction with other premises, implies (9).

    Walter: "So, in fact, your cumulative case is a cumulation of 0 and 0, which, AFAIK is still..."

    Until you can give me an objection that takes the argument seriously, I'm going to conclude that we're 2-for-2.

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  17. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 10, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    Doug siad:
    "Why not?"
    Because then 'Chevrolet' would be the same as 'mystery' and ACCORDING TO YOU, a mystery is a non-explanatioon.

    Your keyboard analogy does not say anything about why intelligent beings would not need a designer, so you have every right to believe the God does not need e designer, but claiming that that is based on His alleged inyelligence is a non-sequitur.

    And the question "Who made God? " is a definitive rebuttal of theistic arguments if the theist has no good arguments to get out of it because virtually no theist would accept that his favourite God was in fact designed by an infinityb of other Gods. No theist I knox reacts to the 'accusation' that God needs a designer by sayinfg, "So, what?", they inavriabbly assert
    that their God does not need a designer.

    "Of course? Lol"

    The fist part can easily be rebitted too, but I'll stick to the second point here.

    My point is that what exactly the trmporally necessary entity is, in 8 YOU say that NO TNE can ge generated, even if it is omnipotent.

    If that is true, then how can 7 be true?

    Let's have a closer look at your argumentation in support of (7)

    "(7) might be the most controversial premise of the argument, but it too seems highly plausible. Assume that X is non-omnipotent, but is also the most powerful being in w1."

    Why 'most powerful being'? Nowhere is it stated that a TNE must be a powerful being. According to (8) it does not matter how powerful it is. Here you try to sneak in the 'power' in order to be able to argue for an omnipotent being.


    "In w2, X is less powerful than Y. If there is even a single possible world in which Y generates X, it follows that X is possibly generated. "

    That ONLY follows if X is NOT a TNE, if X IS a TNE, then, according to (8), Y cannot possibly generate X, no matter how 'weak' X is. That's why this argument is, in fact, question-begging, admittedly, in a subtle way, but nevertheless, the question-begging is vital for the argument to work.

    So, in all honesty, Doug, I cannot take this argument seriously because , once we dispose of all the smoke and mirrors, there is no serious argument left.


    The same process can be used to show that any non-omnipotent being is possibly generated.

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  18. Walter: "Because then 'Chevrolet' would be the same as 'mystery' and ACCORDING TO YOU, a mystery is a non-explanatioon."

    No. If we found pottery on the dark side of the moon, we would be rationally justified in concluding that it was designed by some intelligence, even if we had no idea what that intelligence was.

    Walter: "Your keyboard analogy does not say anything about why intelligent beings would not need a designer . . ."

    It doesn't need to.

    Walter: "And the question "Who made God? " is a definitive rebuttal of theistic arguments if the theist has no good arguments to get out of it"

    That's pretty weak. I already explained why I think the regress doesn't apply to God, any way.

    Walter: "No theist I knox reacts to the 'accusation' that God needs a designer by sayinfg, "So, what?", they inavriabbly assert
    that their God does not need a designer."

    And why is that?

    Walter: "The fist part can easily be rebitted too, but I'll stick to the second point here."

    If you think it's so easy to rebut, why not do so?

    Walter: "My point is that what exactly the trmporally necessary entity is, in 8 YOU say that NO TNE can ge generated, even if it is omnipotent.

    "If that is true, then how can 7 be true?"

    All I can say is, what?

    Walter: "Why 'most powerful being'? Nowhere is it stated that a TNE must be a powerful being. According to (8) it does not matter how powerful it is. Here you try to sneak in the 'power' in order to be able to argue for an omnipotent being."

    The point of "most powerful being" is that whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated. There's absolutely no sneaking anything in. Whatever exists has a certain level of power, whether it is a lot or a little. It's just that things with less than omnipotence are also the types of things that can be generated.

    Walter: "That ONLY follows if X is NOT a TNE, if X IS a TNE, then, according to (8), Y cannot possibly generate X, no matter how 'weak' X is. That's why this argument is, in fact, question-begging, admittedly, in a subtle way, but nevertheless, the question-begging is vital for the argument to work."

    You might want to look up the term, "question-begging." You can't just postulate that a temporally necessary being is non-omnipotent before dealing with the premises of the argument.

    Walter: "So, in all honesty, Doug, I cannot take this argument seriously because , once we dispose of all the smoke and mirrors, there is no serious argument left."

    I'm disappointed in how you have chosen to dismiss the argument: just call it question-begging and that's that. If that's all you have, then I'm even more confident in the argument than I was before.

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  19. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 11, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Doug said

    "No. If we found pottery on the dark side of the moon, we would be rationally justified in concluding that it was designed by some intelligence, even if we had no idea what that intelligence was."

    Of course, but that's because we KNOW pottery is designed. That's the same as with Paley's watch.


    "That's pretty weak. I already explained why I think the regress doesn't apply to God, any way."

    Yes, but you have given no argument, just the assertion that it is because He's intelligent. That's pretty weak.

    "Walter: "No theist I know reacts to the 'accusation' that God needs a designer by saying, "So, what?", they invariably assert
    that their God does not need a designer."
    Doug:
    "And why is that?"

    Probably because they don't like the idea that their God must have a designer, so they just assert He does not.

    "If you think it's so easy to rebut, why not do so?"

    Because you probably won't understand my argument anyway.

    "The point of "most powerful being" is that whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated."

    The point is, if (8) is true and X is a non-omnipotent TNE, then (7) is false.
    So, (7) is true iff every TNE is omnipotent, which has to be shown.(and which comes down to the conclusion of your argument)

    "You might want to look up the term, "question-begging." You can't just postulate that a temporally necessary being is non-omnipotent before dealing with the premises of the argument."

    I don't postulate anything. I just say, on the basis of your premise (8), that a TNE cannot be generated, no matter what its 'potency' is.
    I know that (7) is based on some sort of 'common sense' which holds that powerful beings can generate whatever less powerful beings they want, but (8) states that this common sense might be wrong if the less powerful being is a TNE.
    So, premise (7) is not (necessarily) true. It is false if X is a TNE.

    "I'm disappointed in how you have chosen to dismiss the argument: just call it question-begging and that's that. If that's all you have, then I'm even more confident in the argument than I was before."

    I have argued why it's question-begging, Doug. If you don't want to believe that, I can't make you of course. I can just say what I know with 100% certainty: the argument, without all the smoke and mirrors, clearly does not prove what it set out to prove. If such arguments were all I had in favour of atheism, I would probably become a theist.

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  20. Walter: "Of course, but that's because we KNOW pottery is designed. That's the same as with Paley's watch."

    You're shifting the goalposts. We're talking about the explanation of the pottery. We also know that trucks are designed, but you originally claimed that "Chevrolet made it" would be a non-explanation if we had no idea what Chevrolet was. Which is it?

    Walter: "Yes, but you have given no argument, just the assertion that it is because He's intelligent. That's pretty weak."

    You do realize we're going around in circles, right?

    Walter: "Probably because they don't like the idea that their God must have a designer, so they just assert He does not."

    Give us a little credit, Walter. The fact of the matter is the regress "problem" has been successfully answered by theists for hundreds of years now. There's a reason why atheistic philosophers, such as Quentin Smith, don't give it the time of day.

    Walter: "Because you probably won't understand my argument anyway."

    This is just patronizing. If someone disagrees with you, just say they don't understand you...

    Walter: "The point is, if (8) is true and X is a non-omnipotent TNE, then (7) is false."

    X is not a non-omnipotent TNE. That's what I've been arguing the whole time. We observe that non-omnipotent things can, and invariably are, generated.

    Walter: "I know that (7) is based on some sort of 'common sense' which holds that powerful beings can generate whatever less powerful beings they want, but (8) states that this common sense might be wrong if the less powerful being is a TNE.
    So, premise (7) is not (necessarily) true. It is false if X is a TNE."

    I'm glad you at least concede that (7) is based on common sense. Other than that, see above.

    Walter: "I have argued why it's question-begging, Doug."

    You asserted it, but that's not an argument. You can't say that a non-omnipotent being is temporally necessary without ignoring the common sense and observational support in favor of (7).

    Walter: "I can just say what I know with 100% certainty: the argument, without all the smoke and mirrors, clearly does not prove what it set out to prove."

    Will you at least concede its rational acceptability? After all, it's "common sense," right?

    Walter: "If such arguments were all I had in favour of atheism, I would probably become a theist."

    The only argument for atheism that carries any weight at all, and it's really just emotional weight, is the problem of evil.

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  21. Allow me to stop for a moment and thank you, Walter, for another spirited debate. While the general population may be uncomfortable engaging in this type of argumentation, it's encouraging to see people delve right into religious debate in a cordial manner.

    Let's move on. I would like to try to tie these two arguments together with a cosmological-teleological hybrid argument. I'll just call it the argument from uniformity (AU).

    The universe exemplifies regularity, especially in the laws of nature. That much, I think, we're agreed upon. Now, I'm going to reintroduce the actuality/potentiality distinction here. I know you are already familiar with this, but I'm going to briefly explain it again for the sake of anyone who might be reading along.

    An actuality is what something is, whereas a potentiality is what it could be. Things that transition from a state of potentiality to actuality are hereby defined to be in a state of "motion," or change. For example, an acorn is merely an acorn in actuality; but in potentiality, it is an oak tree.

    Now that we have those terms defined, let's get on with the argument itself:

    Prove A: Pure Act exists.
    Assume ~A: Pure Act does not exist.
    ~A --> B: If Pure Act does not exist, then there is no regularity in the laws of nature.
    ~B: There is regularity in the laws of nature.
    Hence, ~~A: by modus tollens.
    Therefore, A: Pure Act exists.
    Q.E.D.

    We are already agreed on (~B), so the key premise so far is (~A --> B). In support of this, it is simply pointed out that if there is no Pure Act (e.g. something in a state of actuality without exemplifying any potentiality for change), then everything exemplifies potentiality. But if this is so, it follows that the laws of nature are themselves subject to change, and we observe just the opposite. The laws of nature are so predictable that they cannot result from something in a constant state of flux.

    With respect to omnipotence:

    1. Pure Act is either omnipotent or non-omnipotent. (Definition)

    2. Whatever is non-omnipotent exemplifies the potentiality to grow in power. (Premise)

    3. Pure Act does not exemplify the potentiality to grow in power. (Premise)

    4. Therefore, Pure Act is omnipotent. (From 1 - 3)

    The growth of power is a kind of change, but we already saw that Pure Act is changeless, for it does not exemplify any potentiality.

    After arguing that Pure Act exists and is omnipotent, the question is whether it is intelligent or without intelligence. This is where the teleological aspect of the argument comes in, at which point I would offer the lottery analogy, etc.

    Can you see why the regress problem does not apply to such an entity?

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  22. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    Doug said:
    "Give us a little credit, Walter. The fact of the matter is the regress "problem" has been successfully answered by theists for hundreds of years now. There's a reason why atheistic philosophers, such as Quentin Smith, don't give it the time of day."


    I do not dispute that theists may have answers to the regress problem and I even agree that it has been successfully answered in that it cannot be proven that God leads to an infinite regress, but that is not the point, the point is that YOUR argument does lead to an infinite regress and that YOU haven't given any serious argument for why it doesn't.

    "X is not a non-omnipotent TNE. That's what I've been arguing the whole time. We observe that non-omnipotent things can, and invariably are, generated."

    The point is: we do not observe necessary entities, omnipotent or not, so we simply haven't enough information to conclude that a non-omnipotent TNE cannot exist.
    That's why (7) can be true or false.

    "I'm glad you at least concede that (7) is based on common sense. Other than that, see above."

    But "common sense" just isn't enough when we talk about such uncommon things as necessary entities.

    "Will you at least concede its rational acceptability? After all, it's "common sense," right?"

    Of course I concede its rational acceptability, I have never thought that theism cannot be rationally acceptable, you know that.
    But the argument does NOT prove that an omnipotent TNE exists.

    "The only argument for atheism that carries any weight at all, and it's really just emotional weight, is the problem of evil."

    The PoE isn't even an argument for atheism, Doug, it's just an argument against some forms of theism.
    There are lots of far more convinving arguments for atheism.

    As for your AU argument. I'll have to look into it in some more datil before I can comment on that.

    Just one thing

    "This is just patronizing. If someone disagrees with you, just say they don't understand you..."

    It really isn't meant to be patronizing, Doug, I really do feel you keep misunderstanding me.

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  23. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 11, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Just some quick remarks, I haven't got time for more.

    "the key premise so far is (~A --> B). In support of this, it is simply pointed out that if there is no Pure Act then everything exemplifies potentiality. But if this is so, it follows that the laws of nature are themselves subject to change, and we observe just the opposite. The laws of nature are so predictable that they cannot result from something in a constant state of flux."

    The laws of nature are descriptions of how nature behaves. Now nature seems to behave in a regular way, but I think we agree that nature 'behaves', which means that everything in nature is in na state of potentiality, but the potentiality is (more or less) regular. The decription of this regular potentiality is what we call a 'law of nature', so yes, the 'laws of nature' do result from something in a constant state of flux. In fact, the description 'a constant state of flux' IS a law of nature ('constant' already means that it behaves at least 'law-like). So, I'm afraid this is another non-sequitur.

    The second part of your argument, I'm afraid, has the same problem as the MTW.
    "2. Whatever is non-omnipotent exemplifies the potentiality to grow in power. (Premise)"

    I do not know this, and I think nobody knows it. If something is pure act, by its own definition, it does not exemplify any sort of potentiality. Whether this is the result of its omnipotence or not, is an open question, and, as yet, unanswerable.
    Yes, we may observe that all non-omnipotent entities exemplify the potentiality to grow in power (although I'm not even sure that is true, I do not know whether a photon exemplifies such power) but the fact is, we do not observe pure actual entities(nor onmipotent ones for that matter) , so how are we justified to say with any degree of certainty that non-omnipotent purely actual beings are impossible?
    It seems you are applying some sort of inductive reasoning here, but we are talking about a completely different category of beings (pure actuality and omnipotent), so why should inductive reasoning based solely on the observation of ordinary (potential and non-omnipotent) beings give us reason to conclude something about purely actual or omnipotent beings?

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  24. Walter: "The point is: we do not observe necessary entities, omnipotent or not, so we simply haven't enough information to conclude that a non-omnipotent TNE cannot exist.
    That's why (7) can be true or false."

    The fact that we haven't observed something isn't sufficient reason for us to reject it. We can also infer it.

    Walter: "But 'common sense' just isn't enough when we talk about such uncommon things as necessary entities."

    I also mentioned observational evidence.

    Walter: "Of course I concede its rational acceptability, I have never thought that theism cannot be rationally acceptable, you know that."

    I do know that, but I wanted it repeated for the sake of anyone who might be following along.

    Walter: "But the argument does NOT prove that an omnipotent TNE exists."

    Let's be careful with the word, "prove." Instead, let's say that the MTW provides us with a good reason to believe in a temporally necessary and omnipotent being.

    Walter: "The PoE isn't even an argument for atheism, Doug, it's just an argument against some forms of theism."

    Even better for my claim, then. The PoE is the only atheistic argument that carries any weight whatsoever, and it's not even an argument for atheism per se.

    Walter: "There are lots of far more convinving arguments for atheism."

    Let's just say I'm highly skeptical.

    Walter: "It really isn't meant to be patronizing, Doug, I really do feel you keep misunderstanding me."

    Maybe you've been misunderstanding me?

    Walter: "The laws of nature are descriptions of how nature behaves."

    Sure.

    Walter: "Now nature seems to behave in a regular way, but I think we agree that nature 'behaves', which means that everything in nature is in na state of potentiality . . ."

    I don't think that necessarily follows, but that's not too important.

    Walter: "The decription of this regular potentiality is what we call a 'law of nature', so yes, the 'laws of nature' do result from something in a constant state of flux. . . ."

    Do you recognize the distinction between being consistently inconsistent versus being consistently consistent? Gravity is a law of nature not because of some changing aspect of matter, but because of an aspect of matter that remains constant.

    Walter: "Yes, we may observe that all non-omnipotent entities exemplify the potentiality to grow in power . . . but the fact is, we do not observe pure actual entities(nor onmipotent ones for that matter) , so how are we justified to say with any degree of certainty that non-omnipotent purely actual beings are impossible?"

    Why do we have to be able to observe them?

    Walter: "It seems you are applying some sort of inductive reasoning here, but we are talking about a completely different category of beings (pure actuality and omnipotent), so why should inductive reasoning based solely on the observation of ordinary (potential and non-omnipotent) beings give us reason to conclude something about purely actual or omnipotent beings?"

    I think you're attempting to shift the burden of proof. If you want to claim that we are not justified in using induction here, we need to be given a reason.

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  25. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 11, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    Doug:

    "The fact that we haven't observed something isn't sufficient reason for us to reject it. We can also infer it."

    The point is, you are not justified in claiming that your premise (7) is true, it is possibly false, and since (7) is possibly false, the conculsion of your argument isn't jsutified either. That's all I have ever claimed

    "I also mentioned observational evidence."

    We have never observed TNE's. So, it seems that you conclude from an observation of white SWANS that all DUCKS are white.

    "Let's be careful with the word, "prove." Instead, let's say that the MTW provides us with a good reason to believe in a temporally necessary and omnipotent being."

    It still remains very subjective, Doug. Thre are also good reasons not to believe in it. Really depends on what you want to believe.
    Anyway, the MTW does not prove with 100% certainty that a TNOB exists, and the percentahe of ceratinty is inscrutable.


    "Even better for my claim, then. The PoE is the only atheistic argument that carries any weight whatsoever, and it's not even an argument for atheism per se."

    Well, it's a good argument against at least your brand of theism , Doug. Although Chritianity can easily be rejected of the basis of fundametal logical contradictions and we don't need the PoE for that.

    "Maybe you've been misunderstanding me?"

    Let me put it this way. If I say that the MTW and your ontological argument do not prove with 100% certainty that a TNOB exists and that the degree of certainty is inscrutable, am I right or am I wrong?


    "Do you recognize the distinction between being consistently inconsistent versus being consistently consistent? Gravity is a law of nature not because of some changing aspect of matter, but because of an aspect of matter that remains constant."

    So what? Where's the contradiction in the fact that one or some aspects of nature remain constant but that yet there is also potentiality in other aspects? Do tou actually think that a photon in motion is purely actual because it does not change colour too?
    Not everything in nature has the same kind of potentiality. I still don't see what's so strange about that.

    "Why do we have to be able to observe them?"

    Well, induction is generally based on observation, and inductive reasoning about something we do not observe is much more difficult, and the conclusion gets less 'certain'.

    "I think you're attempting to shift the burden of proof. If you want to claim that we are not justified in using induction here, we need to be given a reason."

    Well, ley's be clear about that; It's your argument so you do have the burden.
    And you may use induction, but the conclusions are premature due to a lack of information.

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  26. Walter: "The point is, you are not justified in claiming that your premise (7) is true, it is possibly false, and since (7) is possibly false, the conculsion of your argument isn't jsutified either. That's all I have ever claimed"

    Possibilities run cheap. If there's a 5% chance of (7) being false, (7) is much more reasonable to accept than its negation.

    Walter: "We have never observed TNE's. So, it seems that you conclude from an observation of white SWANS that all DUCKS are white."

    That's a non sequitur and a red herring. We have never directly observed a temporally necessary being, but so what? Swans and ducks, where did that come from?

    Walter: "It still remains very subjective, Doug. Thre are also good reasons not to believe in it. Really depends on what you want to believe."

    Not at all. When we observe that non-omnipotent things can, and often are, generated, that gives us a good reason to believe in (7). The negation of (7) is merely postulated without any support.

    Walter: "Anyway, the MTW does not prove with 100% certainty that a TNOB exists, and the percentahe of ceratinty is inscrutable."

    We don't know with 100% certainty that all men are mortal, but nobody can reasonably claim on that basis that "Socrates is mortal" is inscrutable. The fact is, we do know that some things are highly likely, even if we are unable to give a perfectly precise Bayesian percentage of likelihood.

    Walter: "Well, it's a good argument against at least your brand of theism , Doug. Although Chritianity can easily be rejected of the basis of fundametal logical contradictions and we don't need the PoE for that."

    I've always found such arguments to be the result of caricatures and misrepresentations.

    Walter: "Let me put it this way. If I say that the MTW and your ontological argument do not prove with 100% certainty that a TNOB exists and that the degree of certainty is inscrutable, am I right or am I wrong?"

    You're asking two different questions, but more importantly, you're shifting the discussion away from the original context. You claim that I misunderstand your distinction between epistemic and actual possibility when, in fact, I was the one who first made that distinction in my debate over the MCA. I know the difference between the two. However, I argue not for epistemic possibility only in the MTW, but for actual possibility. Besides that, wikipedia articles notwithstanding, I don't think your definition of "epistemic possibility" is correct.

    Now to answer your two new questions, I'm willing to say that we only have a slightly less than 100% level of certainty that the MTW is correct. But, that in no way suggests that its degree of likelihood is inscrutable. So long as its premises are more likely true than their negations, we have a sound argument.

    Walter: "So what? Where's the contradiction in the fact that one or some aspects of nature remain constant but that yet there is also potentiality in other aspects?"

    The question is: where does that constancy come from?

    Walter: "Do tou actually think that a photon in motion is purely actual because it does not change colour too?"

    No, but that's irrelevant.

    Walter: "Not everything in nature has the same kind of potentiality. I still don't see what's so strange about that."

    Neither do I.

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  27. Walter: "Well, induction is generally based on observation, and inductive reasoning about something we do not observe is much more difficult, and the conclusion gets less 'certain'."

    You're exaggerating how difficult it is, but either way, I can grant that the conclusion is less certain all the while maintaining that it's a sound argument.

    Walter: "Well, ley's be clear about that; It's your argument so you do have the burden."

    I have a burden, but I'm not the only one. The opposition has a burden as well, and in this case you are making a positive assertion about the limitations of induction and what we are allowed to claim with it.

    Walter: "And you may use induction, but the conclusions are premature due to a lack of information."

    What information is lacking? We make observations about things with potentiality, compare them to Pure Act, and conclude that Pure Act has no potentiality for growth with respect to power. That's straight-forward and not at all premature.

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  28. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 12, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    Doug:

    "Possibilities run cheap. If there's a 5% chance of (7) being false, (7) is much more reasonable to accept than its negation."


    But there is no way of assessing this 5% or 95% chance.


    "That's a non sequitur and a red herring. We have never directly observed a temporally necessary being, but so what? Swans and ducks, where did that come from?"

    You conclude from observing temporal contingent beings (swans) something about temporally necessary beings (ducks). The two kinds of beings are distinct, so why would that which applies to the first, also apply to the second?
    Answer: we do not know that with any degree of certainty. Not 95%, not 25%, we are not justified in saying the chance is more than 50% even.

    "We don't know with 100% certainty that all men are mortal, but nobody can reasonably claim on that basis that "Socrates is mortal" is inscrutable. "

    Because in both cases we are talking about men. we are not in the one case, arguing about contingent men and in the other about necessary men, are we. If we were, Socrates is mortal would be inscrutable.

    "The fact is, we do know that some things are highly likely, even if we are unable to give a perfectly precise Bayesian percentage of likelihood."

    In some cases, yes, in this case: no, because we are dealing with hypothetical beings that are, by definition, different from ordinary beings. I have no idea whether an omnipotyent being is more likely to be temporally necessary than a non-omnipotent being because I do not know what exactly would make a being temporally necessary (and neither do you).

    "I've always found such arguments to be the result of caricatures and misrepresentations."

    So are most arguments against atheism.

    "Now to answer your two new questions, I'm willing to say that we only have a slightly less than 100% level of certainty that the MTW is correct. But, that in no way suggests that its degree of likelihood is inscrutable. So long as its premises are more likely true than their negations, we have a sound argument."

    There is no way of knowing whether the premises are more likely true than their negeation. We simply lack the information to conclude that.

    "The question is: where does that constancy come from?"

    I don't know, it just is, probably. Anyway, contancy in potentiality does not indicate pure actuality.

    "Walter: "Not everything in nature has the same kind of potentiality. I still don't see what's so strange about that."

    Neither do I."

    Then what is your argument about?

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  29. Walter: "But there is no way of assessing this 5% or 95% chance."

    All of our observations support (7). None of our observations undermine (7). Our inability to be precise in Bayesian terms is irrelevant.

    Walter: "You conclude from observing temporal contingent beings (swans) something about temporally necessary beings (ducks). The two kinds of beings are distinct, so why would that which applies to the first, also apply to the second?"

    I know I cannot be reading you correctly, since you literally claimed that ducks are (at least alleged to be) temporally necessary, which of course is false. Besides, I'm not claiming that everything that applies to temporally contingent beings also applies to temporally necessary beings.

    Walter: "Because in both cases we are talking about men. we are not in the one case, arguing about contingent men and in the other about necessary men, are we. If we were, Socrates is mortal would be inscrutable."

    You're shifting the goalposts again. Why can we not use induction in the case of temporal necessity?

    Walter: "In some cases, yes, in this case: no, because we are dealing with hypothetical beings that are, by definition, different from ordinary beings. I have no idea whether an omnipotyent being is more likely to be temporally necessary than a non-omnipotent being because I do not know what exactly would make a being temporally necessary (and neither do you)."

    We don't need to know what makes a being temporally necessary in order to know that it is any more than we need to know what makes the sky look blue in order to know that it does.

    Walter: "So are most arguments against atheism."

    I'm sure that's the case with some of them.

    Walter: "There is no way of knowing whether the premises are more likely true than their negeation. We simply lack the information to conclude that."

    This is just a reassertion, so I see no need to respond further with respect to it.

    Walter: "I don't know, it just is, probably. Anyway, contancy in potentiality does not indicate pure actuality."

    It just is? So, we should stop requiring explanations when we don't like it? Constancy is an immutability. An immutability cannot be a potentiality, which means that it is purely actual.

    Walter: "Then what is your argument about?"

    I just explained it. All you said was that not everything in nature has the same kind of potentiality. How does that conflict with my argument?

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  30. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 12, 2011 at 1:46 AM

    The information that is lacking is information on Pure actual beings. We have no idea what makes a being purely actual and whether or not this has anything to do with potency or not.
    We do know that hypothetical purely actual beings do not have potentiality, because that is what the definition of actuality entails but is that due to omnipotence or not? I really have no idea. I would think that a very simple being that does not and cannot do anything at all would be a very strong candidate for the title of 'Pure Actual being', based on the observation that potential beings gererally do something and ate least can do something.
    In fact a Purely Actual being that can do lots of things seems to be a contradictio in terminis. At least, that is a valid inference from what we observe.


    I think you'll have to engage in lots of special pleading to have a pure actual being not only create everything around it, but even, while being chnageless, transform itself into a human being, later into a corps on a cross and later into a human being again. That seems like a lot of potentiality to me.

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  31. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 12, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    Doug

    "I know I cannot be reading you correctly, since you literally claimed that ducks are (at least alleged to be) temporally necessary, which of course is false. Besides, I'm not claiming that everything that applies to temporally contingent beings also applies to temporally necessary beings."

    My use of "swans" and "ducks" is jst an illustration of how you are comparing apples and oranges. that's all. Of course, ducks are not temporally necessary.

    "You're shifting the goalposts again. Why can we not use induction in the case of temporal necessity?"

    Because we do not know enough about it to justify any conclusion.We know something about temporallty contingent beings.

    "We don't need to know what makes a being temporally necessary in order to know that it is any more than we need to know what makes the sky look blue in order to know that it does."

    We observe that the sky is blue, Doug, we do not observe anything about TNB's. And all we know is that TNB's if they exists, cannot be generated. Why that is so, we don't know. But you claim to have a reasonably high degree of certainty that it is so because those beings (or that being) are (is) omnipotent. Based on the fact that non-necessary beings can be generated. But what does that learn us about necessary beings? Nothing at all?

    "It just is? So, we should stop requiring explanations when we don't like it?


    Requiring explanations? Yes. we if we don't know, we don't know. I don't believe in the PSR. I do believe we should look for explanations as much as possible, but I don't have any problem admitting I do not know something and even that something may not be known.

    Do you know how God can create matter? Doesn't that 'require' an explanation?.

    "An immutability cannot be a potentiality, which means that it is purely actual."

    So the law of gravity is purely actual. That means the LoG is omnipotent?

    "I just explained it. All you said was that not everything in nature has the same kind of potentiality. How does that conflict with my argument? "

    Laws decribe the potentiality, but laws are not concrete entities. I have no probelem with the fact that abstract entities can be purely actual, I do not have any problem with the fact that 1+1 =2 cannot change into 3. Is 1+1=2 omnipoptent?

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  32. Walter: "The information that is lacking is information on Pure actual beings. We have no idea what makes a being purely actual and whether or not this has anything to do with potency or not."

    This is irrelevant, as I pointed out with the blue sky illustration.

    Walter: "We do know that hypothetical purely actual beings do not have potentiality, because that is what the definition of actuality entails but is that due to omnipotence or not? . . ."

    Who says Pure Act doesn't do anything?

    Walter: "I think you'll have to engage in lots of special pleading to have a pure actual being not only create everything around it, but even, while being chnageless, transform itself into a human being, later into a corps on a cross and later into a human being again. That seems like a lot of potentiality to me."

    This is another attempt to shift the discussion away to something else. Remember what I said about caricatures? This is a prime example of one. Pure Act did not transform into a human being. Jesus' divine nature (Pure Act) is one thing and his human nature another. That's two distinct natures.

    Walter: "My use of 'swans' and 'ducks' is jst an illustration of how you are comparing apples and oranges. that's all. Of course, ducks are not temporally necessary."

    If you could give me a single example of a non-omnipotent being incapable of being generated, you might have a point.

    Walter: "Because we do not know enough about it to justify any conclusion.We know something about temporallty contingent beings."

    Question-begging.

    Walter: "We observe that the sky is blue, Doug, we do not observe anything about TNB's."

    So? We're right back to the question of induction. We infer that a temporally necessary being exists.

    Walter: "But what does that learn us about necessary beings? Nothing at all?"

    For one, it shows us that a temporally necessary being exists, and secondly that it is omnipotent. Didn't you just say that? What else do you want to know about it?

    Walter: "Requiring explanations? Yes. we if we don't know, we don't know. I don't believe in the PSR. I do believe we should look for explanations as much as possible, but I don't have any problem admitting I do not know something and even that something may not be known."

    So much for science then. Even assuming that something cannot be known, that doesn't mean there's no explanation.

    Walter: "Do you know how God can create matter? Doesn't that 'require' an explanation?."

    Sure does. My ignorance of what that explanation is doesn't take anything away from the fact that there is an explanation.

    Walter: "So the law of gravity is purely actual. That means the LoG is omnipotent?"

    Laws in general are expressions of God's sovereignty. That doesn't mean they are one and the same.

    Walter: "Laws decribe the potentiality, but laws are not concrete entities."

    Of course not, but they do describe concrete happenings.

    Walter: "I have no probelem with the fact that abstract entities can be purely actual, I do not have any problem with the fact that 1+1 =2 cannot change into 3. Is 1+1=2 omnipoptent?"

    See above.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 12, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    "Walter: "The information that is lacking is information on Pure actual beings. We have no idea what makes a being purely actual and whether or not this has anything to do with potency or not."

    This is irrelevant, as I pointed out with the blue sky illustration."

    But YOU claim that it has something to do with potency. I do not know that. Maybe it has something to do with the internal structure of such being, or with its simplicity or with its complexity.... All of which would mean that no matter whether there is an opmnipotent being present, this omnipotent being cannot generate it.

    "Walter: "We do know that hypothetical purely actual beings do not have potentiality, because that is what the definition of actuality entails but is that due to omnipotence or not? . . ."

    Who says Pure Act doesn't do anything?"

    I don't see where I claimed that, at least not in the part you are replying to here. Isn't it part of the definition of Pure Act that it lacks potency?

    "This is another attempt to shift the discussion away to something else. Remember what I said about caricatures? This is a prime example of one. Pure Act did not transform into a human being. Jesus' divine nature (Pure Act) is one thing and his human nature another. That's two distinct natures."

    That is irrelevant. Then one being has both an actual and a potential nature. So part of it can change, another part cannot. I cannot be blamed the fact that the Christian faith is caricatural.


    "If you could give me a single example of a non-omnipotent being incapable of being generated, you might have a point."

    Well, since I do not know of any temporally necessary being, this will be very difficult.

    But, I seem to recall from high school that matter/energy can't be created nor destroyed. Is that because matter/energy is omnipotent?

    "Question-begging."

    OK, if you say so. You are an expert on question-begging.

    "Sure does. My ignorance of what that explanation is doesn't take anything away from the fact that there is an explanation."

    The explanantion is "it just is the way it is" That's also an explanation.

    "So much for science then. Even assuming that something cannot be known, that doesn't mean there's no explanation."

    Science does not require that everything has an explanation, Doug. Science requires that there are things that have explananations.

    "Laws in general are expressions of God's sovereignty. That doesn't mean they are one and the same."

    Are they potential or purely actual? That's all I want to know. If they have potentiality, your argument fails and if they are purely actual, they must be omnipotent.

    "Of course not, but they do describe concrete happenings."


    They describe happenings of potential entities, yes.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Walter: "But YOU claim that it has something to do with potency. I do not know that. Maybe it has something to do with the internal structure of such being . . ."

    The internal structure of anything will inevitably raise questions about a thing's potentiality and actuality.

    Walter: "I don't see where I claimed that, at least not in the part you are replying to here. Isn't it part of the definition of Pure Act that it lacks potency?"

    Pure Act is not composed of any potentiality, that's right. As for the quote I was responding to, it was this one: "In fact a Purely Actual being that can do lots of things seems to be a contradictio in terminis."

    I just added the ". . ." in order to save some space.

    Walter: "That is irrelevant. Then one being has both an actual and a potential nature. So part of it can change, another part cannot. I cannot be blamed the fact that the Christian faith is caricatural."

    Jesus has a purely actual nature on the one hand, and a distinct human nature on the other. This isn't an admixture of the two natures the way it would have to be in order for your objection to work.

    Walter: "But, I seem to recall from high school that matter/energy can't be created nor destroyed. Is that because matter/energy is omnipotent?"

    That's one option. Not a very good one, in my opinion, but it would be one way of attempting to get out of belief in a transcendent God.

    Besides, the law of conservation of mass and energy only applies to closed systems. In an open system, and especially at a singularity, the law would break down.

    Walter: "OK, if you say so. You are an expert on question-begging."

    You have asserted that I have begged the question many times, but I have yet to see a time when the charge actually stuck.

    Walter: "Science does not require that everything has an explanation, Doug. Science requires that there are things that have explananations."

    You're missing the point, so I'll say it again. Just because we don't know what an explanation of something is, that doesn't mean there is no explanation.

    Walter: "Are they potential or purely actual? That's all I want to know. If they have potentiality, your argument fails and if they are purely actual, they must be omnipotent."

    It's a category mistake. The MTW refers to concrete objects being capable of generated. Abstract objects don't even enter the picture, due primarily to their causal inertness.

    Walter: "They describe happenings of potential entities, yes."

    Changing or unchanging?

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  35. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 15, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    Doug:

    "The internal structure of anything will inevitably raise questions about a thing's potentiality and actuality."

    Raise questions? Probably. Lots of assumptions raise questions. Anyway, I don't hold that the internal structure of something makes it temporally necessary, I do not know what makes something temporally necessary (if there even are TNB's, something which your argument does not prove or even make more likely) and I don't think anybody knows that. And without knowing what makes a being TN, any conclusion on this matter is premature.


    But does a TNB even exist? Your argument claims it does.
    "1. Every existing being is either temporally contingent or temporally necessary. (Definition)
    2. Something exists right now. (Premise)
    3. Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something (TN or TC) has always existed. (Premise)
    4. Possibly, there was a time in the past at which nothing temporally contingent existed. (Premise)"

    Now, does this "possibly" refer to a possible world in which nothing TC existed at some time in the past?

    Then the non-existence of a TNB does not lead to a contradiction because a TNB does not have to exist in every possible world. Unless you mean in your reductio that there is no possible world in which a TNB exists. Now that could lead to a contradiction, but all it takes to reject your argument is that a TNB possibly does not exist in the actual world.

    After all, there are still other possible worlds in which something TC exists right now and something TC has always existed. And for all we know, that may be the actual world.

    Or maybe “possibly” refers to the actual world. But then in the actual world either there was a time in the past at which nothing TC existed or there wasn't such a time.
    And only if the first is true (which we cannot know), your argument works, but of course it doesn't work if the second is true.
    If 'possibly ' refers to the actual world, then it is yes/no possibility (I won't call it epistemic possibility anymore), as you yourself say "this does not assume there actually was such a time, but only that it is possible." So, you explicitly leave open the possibility that a TCB has always existed in the actual world.

    "You have asserted that I have begged the question many times, but I have yet to see a time when the charge actually stuck."

    I have never ASSERTED this Doug, I have always ARGUED for it. Maybe my arguments weren't good, or maybe I was wrong or whatever, but I have never, in all our exchanges just asserted it.
    You, on the other hand, just say "question begging" without even trying to argue.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 15, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    Doug

    "Jesus has a purely actual nature on the one hand, and a distinct human nature on the other. This isn't an admixture of the two natures the way it would have to be in order for your objection to work."

    Oh, I see, if you add 'on the one hand' and 'on the other hand' it makes it all right.
    Nut the simple fact is that, as you say, Pure Act is not composed of any potentiality, and that we have a God here who has a few distinct natures, at least one of which (but arguably also the other ones)does show potentiality.

    Wether it is an admixture or not: God has at least two natures, one of which has a lot of potentiality. So is He Pure Act 'on the one hand' and Potential 'on the other hand'?

    And as for Pure act not doing anything, that seems a logical inference. After all, you are the one claiming that by looking at the natural world, we can infere lots of things with a high degree of certainty about beings we 've never obsered. So, every being we have ever observed has potentiality and as a result, can 'do' things. So, if something doesn't have potentiality, it seems very reasonable to assume it doesn't do anything until a very strong argument is put forward to show that something can be done without 'changing'. Do you have an example of something that does something without changing?

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  37. Walter: "And without knowing what makes a being TN, any conclusion on this matter is premature."

    This is incorrect, for the reasons I've already given. We don't need to know how something is the way it is in order to know that it is.

    Walter: ". . . Now that could lead to a contradiction, but all it takes to reject your argument is that a TNB possibly does not exist in the actual world."

    I never even raised the issue of possible worlds or of logical necessity.

    Walter: "Or maybe 'possibly' refers to the actual world. But then in the actual world either there was a time in the past at which nothing TC existed or there wasn't such a time.
    And only if the first is true (which we cannot know), your argument works, but of course it doesn't work if the second is true."

    No, if a temporally necessary being does not exist, then it is necessarily the case that some temporally contingent being or other has always existed. This logically follows from the premises. It may very well be that at every time some temporally contingent being existed, but that's irrelevant.

    Walter: "If 'possibly ' refers to the actual world, then it is yes/no possibility (I won't call it epistemic possibility anymore), as you yourself say 'this does not assume there actually was such a time, but only that it is possible.' So, you explicitly leave open the possibility that a TCB has always existed in the actual world."

    Okay, but again, this misses the point.

    Walter: "I have never ASSERTED this Doug, I have always ARGUED for it."

    First of all, please no yelling. Secondly, you're reading into my use of the word, "assertion." "Assertion" does not mean or imply "without argumentation." An assertion is just a general term for contention.

    Walter: "You, on the other hand, just say "question begging" without even trying to argue."

    Then maybe you missed the parts where I did argue it. As for this quote of yours: "Because we do not know enough about it to justify any conclusion.We know something about temporallty contingent beings." If you offered no argument in support of this claim, then no argument is needed in order to call it question-begging. So, tell me: where did you argue this point?

    Walter: "Oh, I see, if you add 'on the one hand' and 'on the other hand' it makes it all right."

    Walter, this is a huge misinterpretation of what I said. I'll leave it at that.

    Walter: "Nut the simple fact is that, as you say, Pure Act is not composed of any potentiality, and that we have a God here who has a few distinct natures, at least one of which (but arguably also the other ones)does show potentiality."

    You're repeating the same objection without directly responding to what I said. Again, what I stated was that one of Jesus' natures is composed of potentiality, whereas the other is not. Where's the contradiction in that?

    Walter: "Wether it is an admixture or not: God has at least two natures, one of which has a lot of potentiality. So is He Pure Act 'on the one hand' and Potential 'on the other hand'?"

    You quote "on the other hand" as if that's supposed to embarrass me. One of Jesus' natures is Pure Act, the other is a composition of actuality and potentiality.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Walter: "And as for Pure act not doing anything, that seems a logical inference. After all, you are the one claiming that by looking at the natural world, we can infere lots of things with a high degree of certainty about beings we 've never obsered."

    1) We infer these things based on what we do observe. 2) I'm not the one who holds that we have to be able to observe something in order to have a high degree of certainty about it.

    Walter: "So, every being we have ever observed has potentiality and as a result, can 'do' things. So, if something doesn't have potentiality, it seems very reasonable to assume it doesn't do anything until a very strong argument is put forward to show that something can be done without 'changing'."

    Again, you're assuming an unjustified epistemological stance that I don't share.

    Walter: "Do you have an example of something that does something without changing?"

    Besides God? No, but if you want a non-God example, then that's like asking me to give an example of something that's omnipotent that isn't God.

    ReplyDelete
  39. One more thing: I did mention possible worlds at one point in my defense of the MTW.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 16, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    Doug

    "No, if a temporally necessary being does not exist, then it is NECESSARILY the case that some temporally contingent being or other has always existed. This logically follows from the premises. It may very well be that at every time some temporally contingent being existed, but that's irrelevant."

    But you claim that you didn't raise logical necessity. What about the 'necessarily' in (3), then?
    And if at every time something TC existed, then that does not lead to a contradiction in your argument, so your reductio does not work.
    Let's try it

    1. Every existing being is either temporally contingent or temporally necessary. (Definition)
    2. Something exists right now.(either a TNB or a TCB) (Premise)
    3. Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something (TN or TC) has always existed. (Premise)
    4. Possibly, there was no time in the past (of the actual world) at which nothing temporally contingent existed. (Premise)"

    Now, where is the contradiction? If the 'necessary' in (3) is logical necessity it can be translated as: in every possible world in which something exists at a certain time, something has always existed. We might conclude from (4) that a TNE is actually possible, but that is not the point. Even if there is a possible world with a TNE, that does not mean it is also the case in the actual world.

    BTW Doug, I am not YELLING. It's just that I want to highlight some words and I am not able to put them in black or in italics, so I use capitals instead. Don't be afraid, I'm not mad at you.

    "One of Jesus' natures is Pure Act, the other is a composition of actuality and potentiality."

    But Jesus = God, so one of God's natures is a composition of actuality and potentiality. That means God is a composition of a purely actual nature and a partly potential nature, which means that God is not Pure Act.

    "1) We infer these things based on what we do observe. 2) I'm not the one who holds that we have to be able to observe something in order to have a high degree of certainty about it."

    So, based on what we observe about potential beings , we can infere that purely actual beings cannot do things

    "Besides God? No, but if you want a non-God example, then that's like asking me to give an example of something that's omnipotent that isn't God."

    "Omnipotent" means "every potency", yet you claim that God does not have potency at all.

    "Then maybe you missed the parts where I did argue it. As for this quote of yours: "Because we do not know enough about it to justify any conclusion.We know something about temporallty contingent beings." If you offered no argument in support of this claim, then no argument is needed in order to call it question-begging. So, tell me: where did you argue this point?"

    I do not knwo anything about temporally necessary beings, Doug. I have never met one, so you want me to conclude something about temporally necessary beings with a high degree of certainty. I don't have enough information to do that. Where is the question-begging here?
    I do not have enough information from observing frogs to conclude that eagles can fly.

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  41. Walter: "But you claim that you didn't raise logical necessity. What about the 'necessarily' in (3), then?"

    A thing can have its logical necessity limited to one particular world. There are broadly logical necessities, strict logical necessities, and also what we might call qualified necessities. For example, "it is impossible that the prime minister is a prime number" expresses a broadly logical necessity. It's not as immediately obvious as "it is impossible that X is ~X," which expresses a strictly logical necessity.

    In this case, a qualified necessity would be something like, "the conjunction of hydrogen and oxygen produces water," where the application of this truth is limited to domains where such things exist. The MTW is a lot like that. What's being said is that given that something exists right now, something must have always existed. That's not expressing a strict logical necessity, and while I think it does express a broadly logical necessity, that's not a position I need to defend at the moment.

    Walter: ". . . We might conclude from (4) that a TNE is actually possible, but that is not the point. Even if there is a possible world with a TNE, that does not mean it is also the case in the actual world."

    Given what I said above, is the distinction clearer now?

    As for your modified (4), I have no problem accepting the possibility that some temporally contingent being or other has always existed. That's not what's at stake, though. My original (4) only requires that it's possible with respect to the actual world for there to have been a time in the past at which nothing temporally contingent existed.

    Walter: "BTW Doug, I am not YELLING. It's just that I want to highlight some words and I am not able to put them in black or in italics, so I use capitals instead. Don't be afraid, I'm not mad at you."

    I understand. You might check out this page on how to add italics: http://mike.brisgeek.com/2006/08/30/simple-html-for-formatting-blogger-comments/

    Walter: "But Jesus = God, so one of God's natures is a composition of actuality and potentiality. That means God is a composition of a purely actual nature and a partly potential nature, which means that God is not Pure Act."

    When you say that "Jesus = God," that's a bit of an oversimplification. I do believe that Jesus is God, but for the sake of theological precision, the traditional view is that Jesus = both God and man. The humanity of Jesus is not the same as his divine (God) nature.

    Walter: "So, based on what we observe about potential beings , we can infere that purely actual beings cannot do things"

    No, I don't think so. What would the inference look like, formally-speaking?

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  42. Walter: "'Omnipotent' means 'every potency', yet you claim that God does not have potency at all."

    Be careful not to equivocate "potency." There's a reason I now choose to use "potentiality" almost exclusively. "Omnipotent" means "having every power" or "the ability to do all logically possible things." Potentiality, on the other hand, is not used in the sense that you have defined. Rather, it just refers to the inclination to change in general.

    Walter: "I do not knwo anything about temporally necessary beings, Doug. I have never met one, so you want me to conclude something about temporally necessary beings with a high degree of certainty. I don't have enough information to do that. Where is the question-begging here?
    I do not have enough information from observing frogs to conclude that eagles can fly."

    No, but you do have enough information from observing frogs to conclude that some animals hop, even if you've never seen it happen (hypothetically). The point is that we make sound inferences that aren't directly observed all the time based on things we do directly observe. Viruses, for instance, are not observed, but since we observe their effects, we reasonably conclude that they exist.

    By analogy, we observe certain effects (temporally contingent beings currently existing) that only a temporally necessary being can account for. I don't expect you to agree with this application necessarily, but that's the claim.

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  43. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 18, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    Doug

    "The MTW is a lot like that. What's being said is that given that something exists right now, something must have always existed."

    I know that, Doug.


    "That's not expressing a strict logical necessity, and while I think it does express a broadly logical necessity, that's not a position I need to defend at the moment."

    You do, because otherwise your reductio does not lead to acontradiction.

    "As for your modified (4), I have no problem accepting the possibility that some temporally contingent being or other has always existed. That's not what's at stake, though. My original (4) only requires that it's possible with respect to the actual world for there to have been a time in the past at which nothing temporally contingent existed."

    The question is: does my modified (4) lead to a contradiction if we use
    (5') "A necessary being does not exist in the actual world." Of course my argument does not prove that, but if we use (5') as the starting point of a reductio, does the argument lead to a contradiction?
    I don't think so, because (3) still reads "3. Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something (TN or TC) has always existed. (Premise)", which still holds. It would even hold ig it said "Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something contingent has always exised". It is possible for a contingent thing to be necessary in this way, because if a thing exists in every possible world but one, it is still a logically contingent being.
    And (3) does not say it has to be the same contingent being that exists, it still works if A exists in W1 and B exists in W2 etc.
    In fact, even if we use (5") "There is no possible world in which a TNB exists", it still does not lead to a contradiction because it is still ogically possible that in every possible world where thre is something right now, a temoorally contingent thing has always existed. You would think that in that case the contingent being is, in fact T necessary, but , that is not true. The fact that something exists right now means, that something (not necessarily the same thing) has always existed, but it does not mean it also has to exist at every time in the future. So it can be TC and yet exist in veery possible world where something exists now.

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  44. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 18, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Doug:
    "No, I don't think so. What would the inference look like, formally-speaking?"


    When we observe that potential beings can, and often do, do things and create things, that gives us a good reason to believe in the fact that non-potential things cannot do things or create things.

    "No, but you do have enough information from observing frogs to conclude that some animals hop, even if you've never seen it happen (hypothetically)."

    Yes, but we were talking about temporally contingent beings as apposed to temporally necessary beings, the only thing that we know those two have in common is that they are things
    but that they belong to a different category of things. So they are not both animals or something.

    "The point is that we make sound inferences that aren't directly observed all the time based on things we do directly observe. Viruses, for instance, are not observed, but since we observe their effects, we reasonably conclude that they exist."

    Viruses are not observed? Strange, I have a beautiful photograph of HIV soemwhere? Must be phantasy.


    "By analogy, we observe certain effects (temporally contingent beings currently existing) that only a temporally necessary being can account for. I don't expect you to agree with this application necessarily, but that's the claim."

    Temporally contingent beings currently existing can be accounted for by the fact that it isn't impossible for TCB's to have always existed. But we are talking about omnipotence being the reason why TNB's exist, and that is not only not proven, it is even demonstrably false.

    Now Doug, Unless you come up with some spectacular new insights I would like to call it quits here.
    As always, I enjoyed this exchange very much.
    So long

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  45. Walter: "You do, because otherwise your reductio does not lead to acontradiction."

    Sure it does. If there is no temporally necessary being, it logically follows that some temporally contingent being or other necessarily exists. But, how could something's non-existence imply the existence of another thing? If no non-unicorns exist, that doesn't imply the existence of a unicorn.

    Walter: ". . . It is possible for a contingent thing to be necessary in this way, because if a thing exists in every possible world but one, it is still a logically contingent being."

    That's all fine and good, but it doesn't address the argument.

    Walter: "it still does not lead to a contradiction because it is still ogically possible that in every possible world where thre is something right now, a temoorally contingent thing has always existed."

    This is what I'm talking about, though. Why think that something temporally contingent must exist? I've already given my reasons for thinking that's not the case, but what reason can be given in support of such a claim?

    Walter: "The fact that something exists right now means, that something (not necessarily the same thing) has always existed, but it does not mean it also has to exist at every time in the future. So it can be TC and yet exist in veery possible world where something exists now."

    That certainly applies to temporally contingent beings, but the same cannot be said of a temporally necessary being. Something temporally necessary would have to continue existing in the future.

    Walter: "When we observe that potential beings can, and often do, do things and create things, that gives us a good reason to believe in the fact that non-potential things cannot do things or create things."

    How's that? We observe that humans breathe oxygen, but that doesn't imply that non-humans don't breathe oxygen.

    Walter: "Yes, but we were talking about temporally contingent beings as apposed to temporally necessary beings, the only thing that we know those two have in common is that they are things
    but that they belong to a different category of things. So they are not both animals or something."

    You're shifting the discussion away from your original claim about the need to have observations. That's what I am responding to.

    Walter: "Viruses are not observed? Strange, I have a beautiful photograph of HIV soemwhere? Must be phantasy."

    I've seen it, too. My understanding is that it's not based on something that's actually been seen. Either way, the argument works just fine if we replace the example with quarks or something else unseen.

    Walter: "Temporally contingent beings currently existing can be accounted for by the fact that it isn't impossible for TCB's to have always existed."

    I've said as much myself. The whole point is that their possible non-existence, given the fact that something exists currently, implies that a temporally necessary being exists.

    Walter: "But we are talking about omnipotence being the reason why TNB's exist, and that is not only not proven, it is even demonstrably false."

    I don't know where you think you argued that it's demonstrably false. In any case, I gave a good reason, based on what we know about non-omnipotent beings, to accept the conclusion that whatever is temporally necessary is also omnipotent.

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  46. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 22, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Just a few closing remarks, as a final attempt to get rid of some misunderstandings

    Doug
    "Sure it does. If there is no temporally necessary being, it logically follows that some temporally contingent being or other necessarily exists."

    Yes, but so what?


    "But, how could something's non-existence imply the existence of another thing?"

    It doesn't. It's not the non-existence of something that implies the existence of something else, it's the hypothetical non-existence of a temporally neceesary being, together with the existence of something right now, that leads to the conclusion that the only possibility left is that a TCB has always existed.

    "If no non-unicorns exist, that doesn't imply the existence of a unicorn."

    If there are only two possibilities (either a uninicorn exists or a non-unicorn exists) and we have established that something exists and it is not a non-unicorn, then of course it is necessarily a unicorn.

    "You're shifting the discussion away from your original claim about the need to have observations. That's what I am responding to."

    I've never claimed anything about 'the need to have observations'. What I've said is that we cannot use observations about one category of beings as a basis for conclsuions about another category of beings.

    "I've said as much myself. The whole point is that their possible non-existence, given the fact that something exists currently, implies that a temporally necessary being exists."

    If no TNB exists and something does exist right now, then of course the non-existence of a TCB isn't possible in past of the actual world, but it's still possible in the future of the actual world.

    "I don't know where you think you argued that it's demonstrably false. In any case, I gave a good reason, based on what we know about non-omnipotent beings, to accept the conclusion that whatever is temporally necessary is also omnipotent."

    I haven't argued that, and I'm not going to bother doing it here and now, because I want to finsh this disucusion and because it's irrelevant anyway. What's relevant is that it is not proven that being omnipotent makes or can make a being necessary. IOW we have no reason to assume that omnipotence and temporal necessity have anything to do with each other and therefore your conclsuion is a non-sequitur.

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  47. Walter: "Yes, but so what?"

    Well, for one thing, we have no reason to think that some temporally contingent being or other necessarily exists. Further, we have good reasons to think this isn't the case.

    Walter: "It doesn't. It's not the non-existence of something that implies the existence of something else, it's the hypothetical non-existence of a temporally neceesary being, together with the existence of something right now, that leads to the conclusion that the only possibility left is that a TCB has always existed."

    Once again, given that we have good reasons to affirm (4), we are unwarranted in thinking that some TCB or other has always existed.

    Walter: "If there are only two possibilities (either a uninicorn exists or a non-unicorn exists) and we have established that something exists and it is not a non-unicorn, then of course it is necessarily a unicorn."

    This ultimately misses the point, and it misrepresents the hypothetical scenario. The correct scenario goes like this: a) something necessarily exists; b) all temporally contingent non-unicorns fail to exist. Now, given the conjunction of (a) and (b), the correct inference to make isn't that a unicorn necessarily exists. Rather, we ought to say that a temporally necessary being exists. Unicorns don't have necessary existence, and neither do any temporally contingent beings, so we have every reason to think that (4) is correct.

    Walter: "I've never claimed anything about 'the need to have observations'. What I've said is that we cannot use observations about one category of beings as a basis for conclsuions about another category of beings."

    If that were truly the case, then you shouldn't be claiming that Pure Act cannot do anything because of what we observe about beings that exemplify potentiality. This is a double-standard.

    Walter: "If no TNB exists and something does exist right now, then of course the non-existence of a TCB isn't possible in past of the actual world, but it's still possible in the future of the actual world."

    But the point is that it is possible for nothing temporally contingent to have existed in the past. The future is irrelevant.

    Walter: "I haven't argued that, and I'm not going to bother doing it here and now, because I want to finsh this disucusion and because it's irrelevant anyway."

    Okay, but you brought it up.

    Walter: "What's relevant is that it is not proven that being omnipotent makes or can make a being necessary. IOW we have no reason to assume that omnipotence and temporal necessity have anything to do with each other and therefore your conclsuion is a non-sequitur."

    First, I didn't claim that omnipotence makes a being necessary. You have the two mixed up. Secondly, I offered an argument based on what we observe about non-omnipotent beings, and I drew the inference from that evidence that something temporally necessary could not possess one or more attributes of a thing non-omnipotent. Therefore, whatever is temporally necessary is omnipotent. That does logically follow, so your criticism that it's a non sequitur, interestingly, is what doesn't follow.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 24, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Doug

    "The correct scenario goes like this: a) something necessarily exists; b) all temporally contingent non-unicorns fail to exist."


    That is not the correct scenario, not if you don't want to beg the question. The correct scenario is "Something exists and there is no temporally necessary being, so the thing existing must be a temporally contingent being"

    The "must be" here means that it is the only possibility left under this particular hypothetical scenario. It has nothing to do with logical necessity, there are possible world in which the TCB does not exist, but in the actual world, given the hypothesis is true, some TNB has existed at every time in the past of this world. There is no contradiction anywhere but in your imagination, Doug.

    "Unicorns don't have necessary existence, and neither do any temporally contingent beings, so we have every reason to think that (4) is correct."

    Your whole argument is based on an equivocation of 'necessary'. If necessary means 'the only possibility given certain conditions' then there is no contradiction. That contradiction only arises if you throw in the meaning 'cannot not exist', which nowhere follows from your premises.

    "Secondly, I offered an argument based on what we observe about non-omnipotent beings, and I drew the inference from that evidence that something temporally necessary could not possess one or more attributes of a thing non-omnipotent."

    Something temporally necessary cannot have one of the attributes of a temporally contingent being, but if you cannot establish any causal relation between temporal necessity and omnipotence you cannot draw the conclusion that whatever 'attribute' has to do with non-omnipotence. That an hypothetical omnipotent being happens to have the attribute of not being possibly generated does not mean that a non-omnipotent being cannot also happen to have the same attribute. In fact, something impossible also has the attribute of not being possibly generated. And, maybe immaterial beings (whatever they may be) cannot be generated. Who knows?
    So, no matter how much you want it, your conclusion does not logically follow, the only thing that can be said about it is that it isn't necessarily false.

    Now, I suggest we agree to disagree here, because we seem to be at an impasse and I see you have posted another article that may be worth considering.

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  49. Walter: "That is not the correct scenario, not if you don't want to beg the question. The correct scenario is 'Something exists and there is no temporally necessary being, so the thing existing must be a temporally contingent being'"

    Read what you just wrote again. Now, you're saying that I'm begging the question?

    Walter: "There is no contradiction anywhere but in your imagination, Doug."

    I'm not the only one who thinks so. In any case, your whole objection hinges on the dubious notion that some temporally contingent entity or other necessarily exists. Not only is this contention unsupported; it's defeated by intuitive and observational evidence.

    Walter: "Your whole argument is based on an equivocation of 'necessary'. If necessary means 'the only possibility given certain conditions' then there is no contradiction. That contradiction only arises if you throw in the meaning 'cannot not exist', which nowhere follows from your premises."

    Let me put the question to you directly, since you're dodging the issue. Do you think that the non-existence of all contingent non-unicorns implies that a unicorn exists? Yes or no.

    Walter: "Something temporally necessary cannot have one of the attributes of a temporally contingent being, but if you cannot establish any causal relation between temporal necessity and omnipotence you cannot draw the conclusion that whatever 'attribute' has to do with non-omnipotence."

    No, you have it backwards. We need only establish that non-omnipotent beings are capable of being generated in order to conclude that whatever is temporally necessary is omnipotent. The "causal relation" between temporal necessity and omnipotence that you speak of is implied by that statement. Again, the premise is evidenced by intuitive and observational evidence.

    Walter: "That an hypothetical omnipotent being happens to have the attribute of not being possibly generated does not mean that a non-omnipotent being cannot also happen to have the same attribute."

    Except that we do observe that non-omnipotent are capable of being generated. Why do it seem like this point is being ignored?

    Walter: "In fact, something impossible also has the attribute of not being possibly generated."

    Impossible things also do not possibly exist, so they're outside the realm of our discussion.

    Walter: "So, no matter how much you want it, your conclusion does not logically follow, the only thing that can be said about it is that it isn't necessarily false."

    If you really think your objections are sound, then there's not much I can do to persuade you they're not. But, the conclusion does logically follow. The evidence, intuitive and observational, stands firm.

    Walter: "Now, I suggest we agree to disagree here, because we seem to be at an impasse and I see you have posted another article that may be worth considering."

    That's fine, but I figure I may as well respond.

    One more thing, to get back to the original argument and the issue of an infinite regress:

    That "the universe is designed by some intelligence" does not imply an infinite regress is also demonstrable by the following consideration. Whatever designs the universe and its laws to be uniform must transcend the universe (all physical space, time, matter and energy). This means that the cosmic designer must be timeless, changeless, and immaterial, as well as enormously powerful. Is it even sensible to speak of a designer of the designer in this scenario? Not at all.

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  50. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 26, 2011 at 6:37 AM

    Doug

    "Walter: "That is not the correct scenario, not if you don't want to beg the question. The correct scenario is 'Something exists and there is no temporally necessary being, so the thing existing must be a temporally contingent being'"

    Read what you just wrote again. Now, you're saying that I'm begging the question?"

    What I say here is just a rewording of your reductio. IOW suppose (1) a temporally necessary being does not exist and (2)something exists right now, then it follows that the only possibility is that there was no time in the actual past at which nothing temporally contingent existed. Where is the contradiction here? You have never stated that it is impossible for something tempoally contingent to exist at every time in the past, and nothing in the definition of "temporally contingent" says that it is.

    "Let me put the question to you directly, since you're dodging the issue. Do you think that the non-existence of all contingent non-unicorns implies that a unicorn exists? Yes or no."

    No, but that is definitely not what I'm claiming. I'm claiming that if in world W there are only two possible (kinds of) beings, e.g. unicorns and non-unicorns, and in the hypothetical case that we establish that no non-unicorns exist, the only possibility is that unicorns exist.

    "No, you have it backwards. We need only establish that non-omnipotent beings are capable of being generated in order to conclude that whatever is temporally necessary is omnipotent."

    Yes, but you have only established that non-omnipotent CONTINGENT beings are capable of being generated, or, you have established that non-omnipotent MATERIAL beings are capable of being generated, but you have not established anything about non-omnipotent necessary beings, or non-omnipotent immaterial beings, a totally different category of beings.

    "Except that we do observe that non-omnipotent are capable of being generated. Why do it seem like this point is being ignored?"

    We observe that non-omnipotent contingent and material beings are capable of being generated (perhaps even except elemenary particles, or matter/energy or singularities). We do not observe anything about necssary beings. I've said that several times, so I don't see why "it seems that point is being ignored."

    Doug:

    "Whatever designs the universe and its laws to be uniform must transcend the universe (all physical space, time, matter and energy). This means that the cosmic designer must be timeless, changeless, and immaterial, as well as enormously powerful. Is it even sensible to speak of a designer of the designer in this scenario? Not at all. "

    First of all, even if the designer must transcend the universe that does not mean he must be timelss, changeless and immaterial, it just means that his time is not the same as ours and neither is the matter of which he consists. And he could change in a very differnt way too.
    But even if what you say is true, that has nothing to do with your original claim. I was responding to your argument, not to one of the other thousands of arguments and pseudo-arguments for theism. And it's clear that your argument does not work. That does not mean there aren't other argument that are more pesuasive, but I haven't got time to respond to all of them, of course.

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  51. Walter: "What I say here is just a rewording of your reductio. IOW suppose (1) a temporally necessary being does not exist and (2)something exists right now, then it follows that the only possibility is that there was no time in the actual past at which nothing temporally contingent existed. Where is the contradiction here?"

    You're just affirming the antecedent. I already agreed that it's possible for something temporally contingent or other to have always existed. What I've argued is that it's possible for nothing temporally contingent to have existed in the past. Where's the contradiction in that?

    Walter: "No, but that is definitely not what I'm claiming. I'm claiming that if in world W there are only two possible (kinds of) beings, e.g. unicorns and non-unicorns, and in the hypothetical case that we establish that no non-unicorns exist, the only possibility is that unicorns exist."

    First, we're talking about the actual world, not hypothetical possible worlds. Secondly, the conditional, "if no non-unicorns exist," ought to be rejected if it leads us to such an absurd conclusion.

    Walter: "Yes, but you have only established that non-omnipotent CONTINGENT beings are capable of being generated, or, you have established that non-omnipotent MATERIAL beings are capable of being generated, but you have not established anything about non-omnipotent necessary beings, or non-omnipotent immaterial beings, a totally different category of beings."

    You can't just assume that these are viable options. Let's think of an immaterial non-omnipotent being, such as an angel. Angels are generated, at least according to all of the traditions I'm familiar with. The point is, "whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated," is a general claim, not one specific to material entities only.

    In sum, you cannot assume that a temporally necessary non-omnipotent being is possible without first dismissing premise (7) of the MTW.

    Walter: "We do not observe anything about necssary beings. I've said that several times, so I don't see why 'it seems that point is being ignored.'"

    What's being ignored is what we observe about non-omnipotent beings. I never said we observe temporally necessary beings, at least not in any direct observational sense.

    Walter: "First of all, even if the designer must transcend the universe that does not mean he must be timelss, changeless and immaterial, it just means that his time is not the same as ours and neither is the matter of which he consists. And he could change in a very differnt way too."

    The universe just is the sum total of all physical space, time, matter and energy. If the designer transcends the universe, it follows that the designer transcends all physical space, time, matter and energy. In other words, the designer would necessarily have to be timeless, etc.

    Walter: "But even if what you say is true, that has nothing to do with your original claim. I was responding to your argument, not to one of the other thousands of arguments and pseudo-arguments for theism."

    Well, part of the problem is that you had to misrepresent the design criteria in order to claim the argument leads to an infinite regress. I realize you don't accept the criteria I laid out, but your exact claim was that my argument leads to an infinite regress, and it doesn't.

    Walter: "And it's clear that your argument does not work. That does not mean there aren't other argument that are more pesuasive, but I haven't got time to respond to all of them, of course."

    I bring this other response up in the hopes that you'll see why your infinite regress objection is unsound. If I can't persuade you with one response, it's at least possible I can persuade you with another.

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  52. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 27, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    Doug

    "What I've argued is that it's possible for nothing temporally contingent to have existed in the past. Where's the contradiction in that?"

    Nowhere. But unless you also argue against the possibility for some TCB to have existed at every time in the past, your conclusion "Therefore a TNB exists" is not justified. The only conclusion that would be justified is "a temporally necessary being possibly exists", something I don't dispute.

    Doug:
    "First, we're talking about the actual world, not hypothetical possible worlds. Secondly, the conditional, "if no non-unicorns exist," ought to be rejected if it leads us to such an absurd conclusion."

    Of course we're talking about the actual world. And in the past of the actual world, there are no 'possibilities'. everything that happened in the past, is necessary, meaning that it is the only possibility a posteriori. From the PoV of the present, the past is not contingent, it is necessary. Which does not mean that the past could not have been different, just that the past was not different. In this actual world, there is only one possible past, which either has a TNB or no TNB. IOW if in the actual past, there was no TNB and something exists right now, then it logically follows that the only possibility is that it has always been the case that some TCB existed.
    And as to my unicorn analogy, that's just an analogy, so whether that leads to absurd conclusions is irrelevant.


    "You can't just assume that these are viable options. Let's think of an immaterial non-omnipotent being, such as an angel. Angels are generated, at least according to all of the traditions I'm familiar with. The point is, "whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated," is a general claim, not one specific to material entities only."

    No, I agree, we cannot just assume that the supernatural is a viable option.
    And I'm not talking about traditions here, Doug, I'm talking about logical inferences. There is nothing illogical about a non-physical entity that is not generated.
    And what we might be able to infer from observing material beings is whatever is material is possibly generated. And also that whatever is omnipotent cannot possibly be gererated, but not that whatever is non-omnipotent can possibly be generated. That's an epistemic possibility, but that does not mean it's an actual possibility.






    "The universe just is the sum total of all physical space, time, matter and energy. If the designer transcends the universe, it follows that the designer transcends all physical space, time, matter and energy. In other words, the designer would necessarily have to be timeless, etc."

    No, the designer would necessarily not consist of physical time and not occupy physical space and not have physical energy, but it does not follow that e.g. the designer could not exist in metaphysical time, space etc.

    But your original claim was that everything that is ordered and lacks intelligence needed a designer, which is a baseless assertion. And even your new argument does not persuade me, so if you want to persuade me, you'll have to try something different. I'm not claiming BTW that there is no argument that could persuade me, but that the arguments you've presented here and on FRDB aren't persuasive. I've never seen any argument for theism that was persuasive but who knows, maybe some day I'll find one. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

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  53. Walter: "Nowhere. But unless you also argue against the possibility for some TCB to have existed at every time in the past, your conclusion "Therefore a TNB exists" is not justified. The only conclusion that would be justified is "a temporally necessary being possibly exists", something I don't dispute."

    No, I think you're missing the advantage of the MTW. I don't have to argue against some TCB's existing at every time in the past. I only have to argue that it's possible.

    Walter: "Of course we're talking about the actual world. And in the past of the actual world, there are no 'possibilities'. everything that happened in the past, is necessary, meaning that it is the only possibility a posteriori."

    No, not at all. If the present could have been different than it is, there's no reason why the past could not have also been different. True, we cannot change the past, but don't confuse that with the past's being necessary in any modal sense. You seem to recognize this in the sentence that follows what I quoted above, but you also seem to be shifting back and forth between the two views.

    Walter: "IOW if in the actual past, there was no TNB and something exists right now, then it logically follows that the only possibility is that it has always been the case that some TCB existed."

    But given the absurdity of the consequent, the conditional is also false given the premise that something has always existed. In other words, "some TCB or other has necessarily always existed" is patently false, so "a TNB does not exist" cannot be true either.

    Walter: "And as to my unicorn analogy, that's just an analogy, so whether that leads to absurd conclusions is irrelevant."

    Are we at least agreed that the non-existence of one temporally contingent thing doesn't imply the existence of another?

    Walter: "There is nothing illogical about a non-physical entity that is not generated."

    But in order for your objection to work, you would have to defend the much stronger claim that a non-omnipotent thing cannot be generated. This is much different than the notion of something non-omnipotent that has always existed.

    Walter: "And what we might be able to infer from observing material beings is whatever is material is possibly generated. And also that whatever is omnipotent cannot possibly be gererated, but not that whatever is non-omnipotent can possibly be generated."

    Why the limitation to material beings? What about immateriality per se implies an impossibility of generation?

    Walter: "No, the designer would necessarily not consist of physical time and not occupy physical space and not have physical energy, but it does not follow that e.g. the designer could not exist in metaphysical time, space etc."

    I guess I have no idea what non-physical space is supposed to be. A thing is physical if it is extended in space.

    Walter: "But your original claim was that everything that is ordered and lacks intelligence needed a designer, which is a baseless assertion."

    No, I certainly offered support for the claim. You didn't think it was sufficient, but that's not enough to call it "baseless."

    Walter: "I'm not claiming BTW that there is no argument that could persuade me . . ."

    Maybe you could start by explaining what you would find persuasive.

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  54. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 28, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    Doug

    "No, not at all. If the present could have been different than it is, there's no reason why the past could not have also been different."

    Of course the past could have been different, but the point is, then it would not have been the past of this actual world. A world with a different past, present or future is not the actual world, it's a different possible world.
    e.g. I drank coffee this morning, so it is impossible that I didn't drink coffee this morning, but of course there is a possible world in which I didn't drink coffee this morning.


    "True, we cannot change the past, but don't confuse that with the past's being necessary in any modal sense."

    I don't, but you do.
    Your (3) says
    Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something has always existed. (Premise)

    The 'necessarily' here means 'there is no other possibility.'
    What I say is that if something exists right now, and there is no TNB, then the only possibility is that some TCB has always existed. Again, there is no contradiction here.

    "But given the absurdity of the consequent, the conditional is also false given the premise that something has always existed. In other words, "some TCB or other has necessarily always existed" is patently false, so "a TNB does not exist" cannot be true either."

    There is nothing absurd about the consequent. You yourself said that it is possible that a TCB has always existed. There is nothing 'patently false' about the statement you quote.

    "Are we at least agreed that the non-existence of one temporally contingent thing doesn't imply the existence of another?"

    Of course we are agreed. I have never claimed it does.


    "But in order for your objection to work, you would have to defend the much stronger claim that a non-omnipotent thing cannot be generated. This is much different than the notion of something non-omnipotent that has always existed."

    No, I just have to defend that it is epistemically possible that a non-omnipotent being cannot be generated. And it is epistemically possible. Whether it's actually possible, I don't know, but there seems to be no good argument against it.
    Assuming e.g. that an omnipotent being is impossible, then the most powerful possible being would be incapable of being generated.

    "Why the limitation to material beings? What about immateriality per se implies an impossibility of generation?"

    We don't know enough about the non-physical world (or immateriality) to say whether non-physical beings can be generated or not. As long as we don't know that, it is possible that they cannot be genererated. That's all I need.

    "Maybe you could start by explaining what you would find persuasive."


    Just an argument that would show that the existence of God is (even a tiny bit) more likely than His non-existence.

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  55. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 28, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    Doug

    "I guess I have no idea what non-physical space is supposed to be. A thing is physical if it is extended in space."

    Neither have I, and I don't have any idea what metaphysical time would be, but WL craig seems to think it's possible that God has some sort of metaphysical time in which he can change without changing and create things that only go into effect later than the non-time in which they were created.
    The point is, once we are in some sort of transcendent realm, we cannot just infer things from the physical realm. This transcendent realm by definition does not have the same laws as the physical realm, so, I humbly admit that I haven't any clue as to what exactly would be possible in the transcendent realm. I suggest theists do the same and stop claiming they know with almost 100% certainty that there is some law there that says that only omnipotent beings can be temporally necessary. This is simply unknowable.
    We might know that the laws of the physical world do not allow for things to be impossible to generate (and even that is questionable because I don't know if e.g. a singularity is possibly generated or not), but what about 'transcendent laws'?

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  56. Walter: "Of course the past could have been different, but the point is, then it would not have been the past of this actual world. A world with a different past, present or future is not the actual world, it's a different possible world."

    It's possible in the actual world for the actual world to have been different. If you want to call that a different possible world, that's fine, but it doesn't make any difference to the argument. Whatever is possible is necessarily possible, and what is necessarily possible does not vary from world to world.

    Walter: "I don't, but you do.
    Your (3) says
    Necessarily, if something exists right now, then something has always existed. (Premise)"

    Yes, of course I'm making a modal claim. That's the whole point of the argument. What I was saying is that you cannot deny this premise on the grounds that we cannot change the past.

    Walter: "The 'necessarily' here means 'there is no other possibility.'
    What I say is that if something exists right now, and there is no TNB, then the only possibility is that some TCB has always existed. Again, there is no contradiction here."

    Except that it does contradict (4): "Possibly, there was a time in the past at which nothing temporally contingent existed."

    Walter: "There is nothing absurd about the consequent. You yourself said that it is possible that a TCB has always existed. There is nothing 'patently false' about the statement you quote."

    I obviously wasn't being clear enough here. What's absurd is that the non-existence of every other temporally contingent being would imply the existence of another. That's why I gave the unicorn example, which you apparently agree with. If this is so, then your disagreement with the argument doesn't add up.

    Walter: "No, I just have to defend that it is epistemically possible that a non-omnipotent being cannot be generated."

    Still seems like a pretty strong claim to me.

    Walter: "And it is epistemically possible. Whether it's actually possible, I don't know, but there seems to be no good argument against it."

    I'm going to play my observation card once more. The fact that we observe non-omnipotent entities being generated is enough to undermine this as an epistemic possibility. Now, you object that immaterial entities may be different, but I think I've argued successfully why there's no reason to think that.

    Walter: "We don't know enough about the non-physical world (or immateriality) to say whether non-physical beings can be generated or not. As long as we don't know that, it is possible that they cannot be genererated. That's all I need."

    But you haven't explained anything about why immateriality should be treated so differently. The only difference between an immaterial entity and a material entity is that the former is not extended in space. That has nothing to do with the possibility or impossibility of generation.

    Walter: "Just an argument that would show that the existence of God is (even a tiny bit) more likely than His non-existence."

    You'll have to be more specific than that.

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  57. Walter: "Neither have I, and I don't have any idea what metaphysical time would be, but WL craig seems to think it's possible that God has some sort of metaphysical time in which he can change without changing and create things that only go into effect later than the non-time in which they were created."

    First, I'm not defending Craig's view, so I don't want to chase this rabbit trail. However, I think you have misunderstood Craig. What he says is that God is timeless without the universe, and enters into time at the moment of creation. This isn't the same as any alleged distinction between physical time and metaphysical time.

    Walter: "The point is, once we are in some sort of transcendent realm, we cannot just infer things from the physical realm. This transcendent realm by definition does not have the same laws as the physical realm, so, I humbly admit that I haven't any clue as to what exactly would be possible in the transcendent realm. I suggest theists do the same and stop claiming they know with almost 100% certainty that there is some law there that says that only omnipotent beings can be temporally necessary. This is simply unknowable."

    Some truths about the transcendent realm are known analytically. To exist beyond change is to exists changelessly, for example. In any case, my original question was this: what about immateriality per se implies an impossibility of generation? You cannot just point to the transcendent as being unknown, since you're making a strong claim about (im)possibility.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 30, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Doug

    "Yes, of course I'm making a modal claim. That's the whole point of the argument. What I was saying is that you cannot deny this premise on the grounds that we cannot change the past."

    I do not and I have never denied this premise.
    And the non-existence of a TNB does not contradict this premise either.

    "Except that it does contradict (4): "Possibly, there was a time in the past at which nothing temporally contingent existed."

    No, it doesn't, because you haven't established the actual possibility of this. Possibly here means: maybe it was so, maybe it wasn't.

    It may have been a priori possible for this world to have contained nothing TC, but if the world did contain something TC at all times in its past, then it is not an a posteriori possibility. The actual world is what it is, but could have been a different possible world. It could have been a world with a TNB too, but maybe it isn't. And that does not lead to a contradiction.

    "This isn't the same as any alleged distinction between physical time and metaphysical time."

    Craig does present the possibility of metaphysical time in his arguments, so your claim that whatever transcends time is timeless, is certainly not shared by every theist




    "Whatever is possible is necessarily possible, and what is necessarily possible does not vary from world to world."

    Is it possible that human beings exist? Yes. Is it possible that human beings don't exist? Yes
    If human beings exist in the actual world then it is impossible that human beings don't exist in the actual world. The confusion lies in your use of 'possible'

    "In any case, my original question was this: what about immateriality per se implies an impossibility of generation?"

    I don't know enough about immaterial things to anwer that question but it is definitly not an analytical truth that immaterial things can be generated.

    "The fact that we observe non-omnipotent entities being generated is enough to undermine this as an epistemic possibility."

    What we observe is material objects being generated, or things in this universe being generated, which levaes us with no clue as to what goes on in some transcendent realm.
    Besides, who has observed the generation of the singularity that gave rise to the Big Bang? Was there a time when the singularity didn't exist?


    "You cannot just point to the transcendent as being unknown, since you're making a strong claim about (im)possibility."

    I am not making any strong claims here, so pointing to the transcendent as being unknown suffices to throw considerable doubt upon the validity of extending induction to that transcending realm. And that's all I need to do.

    But I shall make a stronger claim. An omnipotent being cannot possibly be temporally necessary because omnipotent means "being able to do anything (but the logically impossible)". So an omnipotent being should be able to destroy itself, but then it cannot be temporally necessary because there is a possible time when it doesn't exist. Now a logically necessary being cannot destroy itself, because that would lead to a contradiction, but since you are not claiming in this argument that whatever is omnipotent is logically necessary, you cannot use this defence. So, I think the claim that whetver is omnipotent is temporally necessary is demonstrably false. QED.

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  59. Walter: "I do not and I have never denied this premise.
    And the non-existence of a TNB does not contradict this premise either."

    Then what's the objection? Why call the past necessary in any sense?

    Walter: "No, it doesn't, because you haven't established the actual possibility of this. Possibly here means: maybe it was so, maybe it wasn't."

    I'm arguing that it's actually possible, not just maybe/maybe not possible. Just as each part of a house can fail to exist and therefore the house as a whole can fail to exist, every temporally contingent thing as a whole can also fail to exist.

    Walter: "It may have been a priori possible for this world to have contained nothing TC, but if the world did contain something TC at all times in its past, then it is not an a posteriori possibility."

    Whether it did always contain something temporally contingent is irrelevant. The a priori/a posteriori distinction is also impertinent. All that matters is that it was possible for nothing temporally contingent to exist.

    Walter: "The actual world is what it is, but could have been a different possible world. It could have been a world with a TNB too, but maybe it isn't. And that does not lead to a contradiction."

    The contradiction is that without a TNB, we are required to say that it's necessarily the case that something temporally contingent has always existed. Given that it isn't necessary, it follows that a TNB exists.

    Walter: "Craig does present the possibility of metaphysical time in his arguments, so your claim that whatever transcends time is timeless, is certainly not shared by every theist"

    I would like a citation. As you probably know, I'm very familiar with Craig's work.

    Walter: "Is it possible that human beings exist? Yes. Is it possible that human beings don't exist? Yes
    If human beings exist in the actual world then it is impossible that human beings don't exist in the actual world. The confusion lies in your use of 'possible'"

    If human beings (who exists contingently) exist in the actual world, it's still possible that they don't exist. You're apparently confusing necessity with certainty.

    Walter: "I don't know enough about immaterial things to anwer that question but it is definitly not an analytical truth that immaterial things can be generated."

    I didn't say it was, but unless you can give me a reason to say that immaterial things cannot be generated, your objection is entirely ad hoc.

    Walter: "What we observe is material objects being generated, or things in this universe being generated, which levaes us with no clue as to what goes on in some transcendent realm."

    The question stands unanswered: what about immaterial entities per se requires that they be incapable of generation?

    Walter: "Besides, who has observed the generation of the singularity that gave rise to the Big Bang? Was there a time when the singularity didn't exist?"

    I never mentioned the Big Bang or any of this. As far as the MTW and design arguments are concerned, the universe could very well be eternal. I don't believe it is, but that's not important.

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  60. Walter: "I am not making any strong claims here, so pointing to the transcendent as being unknown suffices to throw considerable doubt upon the validity of extending induction to that transcending realm. And that's all I need to do."

    First of all, you're conflating immateriality with transcendence. They're not the same. Secondly, you haven't given any reason to think that immateriality is exempt from the possibility of generation just on the basis on not being material. If a thought, for example, is an immaterial thing, it is obviously generated. Thirdly, there are many things we can know about transcendence (e.g. timelessness).

    Walater: "But I shall make a stronger claim. An omnipotent being cannot possibly be temporally necessary because omnipotent means "being able to do anything (but the logically impossible)". So an omnipotent being should be able to destroy itself, but then it cannot be temporally necessary because there is a possible time when it doesn't exist."

    It's not logically possible for something temporally necessary to destroy itself.

    Walter: "Now a logically necessary being cannot destroy itself, because that would lead to a contradiction, but since you are not claiming in this argument that whatever is omnipotent is logically necessary, you cannot use this defence. So, I think the claim that whetver is omnipotent is temporally necessary is demonstrably false. QED."

    Whatever is temporally necessary must logically exists at all times in worlds where it exists. So no, it's not logically possible for a temporally necessary being to destroy itself. The only difference between a (merely) temporally necessary being and a logically necessary being is that a temporally necessary being does not exist in all possible worlds to begin with. However, in worlds where a temporally necessary being does exist, it must always exist.

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  61. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 3, 2011 at 5:30 AM

    Doug

    "I'm arguing that it's actually possible, not just maybe/maybe not possible. Just as each part of a house can fail to exist and therefore the house as a whole can fail to exist, every temporally contingent thing as a whole can also fail to exist."

    Of course, because that's part of the definition of a TCB.

    "The contradiction is that without a TNB, we are required to say that it's necessarily the case that something temporally contingent has always existed. Given that it isn't necessary, it follows that a TNB exists."

    No, Doug, as you correctly point out: we are required to say that in this world, without a TNB, something temporally contingent has CERTAINLY always existed, but of course that isn't necessary, because this world could have been different, it could have had a TNB, it's just that this possibility wasn't actualized.
    Just as this world certainly contains someone named Doug Benscoter, but if this had been a world without inhabitable planets, it wouldn't have contained a human being called DB. So, this world does not necessarily contain Doug Benscoter.

    "First of all, you're conflating immateriality with transcendence. They're not the same."

    No, but 'transcendent' will do for me as well.

    "Secondly, you haven't given any reason to think that immateriality is exempt from the possibility of generation just on the basis on not being material. If a thought, for example, is an immaterial thing, it is obviously generated."
    I have never witnessed an immaterial thought, so if they exist, they are possibly not- generated.
    Besides: 1+2 = 2 is an immaterial truth, but AFAIK it is not generated, or at least it is mosty certainly epistemically possibly ungenerated.

    "It's not logically possible for something temporally necessary to destroy itself."

    That's great, but that's actually my argument. Something TN cannot be generated nor destryed by vitue of its necessity.
    IOW if ther is nothing logically contradictory about an omnipotent being destroying itself, such a being cannot be TN.

    "I never mentioned the Big Bang or any of this. As far as the MTW and design arguments are concerned, the universe could very well be eternal. I don't believe it is, but that's not important. "
    The Big Bang and the singularity could well be exmaples of something that is not generated and is not omnipotent. Nobody knwos when or even if the sigularity began, so it is very well possible that it is beginningles and eternal. And eternal things cannot be generated because then something has to be generated that already exists. QED

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  62. Walter: "No, Doug, as you correctly point out: we are required to say that in this world, without a TNB, something temporally contingent has CERTAINLY always existed, but of course that isn't necessary, because this world could have been different, it could have had a TNB, it's just that this possibility wasn't actualized."

    All we need for the argument to work is the possibility that nothing temporally contingent existed at some moment in the past, so your point about this not being actualized is moot.

    Walter: "Just as this world certainly contains someone named Doug Benscoter, but if this had been a world without inhabitable planets, it wouldn't have contained a human being called DB. So, this world does not necessarily contain Doug Benscoter."

    Sure, but once again, this doesn't support your objection.

    Walter: "I have never witnessed an immaterial thought, so if they exist, they are possibly not- generated."

    Possibly not-generated doesn't entail not possibly generated. Besides, given the fact that you don't believe in anything immaterial (you are a materialist, correct?), in order to be consistent, you should still accept the the premise that whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated. After all, if everything that exists is material, then we need only give examples of material things being possibly generated. So, I suggest you should adopt some form of pantheism, for the sake of consistency.

    Walter: "Besides: 1+2 = 2 is an immaterial truth, but AFAIK it is not generated, or at least it is mosty certainly epistemically possibly ungenerated."

    We have already gone over the fact that the MTW is talking about concrete objects being possibly generated, and 1+1=2 is an abstract object.

    Walter: "That's great, but that's actually my argument. Something TN cannot be generated nor destryed by vitue of its necessity.
    IOW if ther is nothing logically contradictory about an omnipotent being destroying itself, such a being cannot be TN."

    But you're overlooking the fact that omnipotence has to do with what is logically possible, and it's not logically possible for something temporally necessary to cease to exist. Hence, an omnipotent being's "inability" to destroy its temporal necessity is beyond the purview of its omnipotence.

    Walter: "The Big Bang and the singularity could well be exmaples of something that is not generated and is not omnipotent. Nobody knwos when or even if the sigularity began, so it is very well possible that it is beginningles and eternal. And eternal things cannot be generated because then something has to be generated that already exists. QED"

    Why are you hung up on the singularity? A singularity is just a theoretical mathematical point at which the universe does not exist. A singularity doesn't have any positive ontological status in and of itself, so your Q.E.D. is a non sequitur.

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  63. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 4, 2011 at 3:58 AM

    Doug

    "All we need for the argument to work is the possibility that nothing temporally contingent existed at some moment in the past, so your point about this not being actualized is moot."


    Sure, it is possible that nothing contingent existed in the past. It's just that, if something exist right now and a TNB does not exist then it is not the case that nothing contingent existed in the past, IOW this possibility wasn't actualized, but it is possible.


    "Possibly not-generated doesn't entail not possibly generated."

    No it doesn't, but it doesn't necessarilyentail possibly generated either. So, we don't know.

    "Hence, an omnipotent being's "inability" to destroy its temporal necessity is beyond the purview of its omnipotence."

    Only if you already assume its temporal necessity, which would beg the question.
    My objection is: is there a logical objection against an omnipotent being destroying itself? If there isn't, then an omnipotent being can possibly destroy itself and hence cannot be temporally necessary. If not being able to destroy istelf is a result of being temporally necessary, then my original objection stands: nothing that is temporallly necssary (for whatever reason) can be generated or destryed, therefore we have no clue as ti why something would be TN, so lots of things can be TN.

    "A singularity is just a theoretical mathematical point at which the universe does not exist."

    A theoretical construct, maybe, but still something that is possible, does not begin and is not generated. And it has an ontological status that is just as positive as any transcendent being, which is also nothing but a theoretical construct.

    BTW I am not a materialist, I am agnostic on whether concrete immaterial beings (can) exist. I don't even know what distinguishes an immaterial being from a material one but I do not hold the position that immaterial beings do not or cannot exist. And even if I were a materialist I don't see why I should accept some form of pantheism.

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  64. Walter: "Sure, it is possible that nothing contingent existed in the past. It's just that, if something exist right now and a TNB does not exist then it is not the case that nothing contingent existed in the past, IOW this possibility wasn't actualized, but it is possible."

    Not quite. If a TNB does not exist, then it's not possibly the case that nothing contingent existed in the past.

    Walter: "No it doesn't, but it doesn't necessarilyentail possibly generated either. So, we don't know."

    If I were basing the premise off of the fact that something is possibly not-generated, then you might have a point. However, that's not the argument.

    Walter: "Only if you already assume its temporal necessity, which would beg the question."

    But I'm not just assuming it. There's a reason why I spend time giving reasons to think that a temporally necessary being exists and is omnipotent.

    Walter: "My objection is: is there a logical objection against an omnipotent being destroying itself?"

    Yes, just as there is a contradiction with the idea of an omnipotent being creating a square-circle. Part of the problem here is your understanding of omnipotence. Omnipotence refers to the ability to actualize any potentiality. If something isn't a potentiality, then it isn't a weakness for an omnipotent being to be "unable" to actualize it. If an omnipotent being were to cease to exist, then it would no longer be able to actualize any potentiality at all, since nothing cannot actualize anything.

    Walter: "A theoretical construct, maybe, but still something that is possible, does not begin and is not generated. And it has an ontological status that is just as positive as any transcendent being, which is also nothing but a theoretical construct."

    For one, you're misusing the term, "theoretical construct," in your equivocation in applying it to something transcendent. More importantly, a singularity certainly does have a beginning, since there is nothing in time that precedes it. In any case, this is all irrelevant.

    Walter: "BTW I am not a materialist, I am agnostic on whether concrete immaterial beings (can) exist. I don't even know what distinguishes an immaterial being from a material one but I do not hold the position that immaterial beings do not or cannot exist."

    Good to know. By the way, what distinguishes something immaterial from something material is that the former is not extended in space. That's all.

    Walter: "And even if I were a materialist I don't see why I should accept some form of pantheism."

    Because that would give you more reason to accept the premise that whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated. You were limiting that premise to physical (material) things. So, if a TNB exists and materialism is true, it follows that the TNB is material and, given the inability to generate it, it would have to be omnipotent. That's textbook pantheism.

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  65. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 6, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    Doug

    "Not quite. If a TNB does not exist, then it's not possibly the case that nothing contingent existed in the past."

    Of course that's possible. At any time it was possible that nothing contingent existed or that everything TC ceased to exist. It's just that if there is something TC at time t, this did not actually happen, but it is still possible.
    And the claim is not that a TNB does not possibly exist, so its non-existence would just be a not-actualized possibility.
    You are just trying to force 'necessity' onto a TCB that happens to exist at some time, in order to argue for a contradiction. But there is no necessity, and the first part of your MTW is not just unproven, it is invalid.

    "Omnipotence refers to the ability to actualize any potentiality. If something isn't a potentiality, then it isn't a weakness for an omnipotent being to be "unable" to actualize it."

    That's true. But why wouldn't "not-existing" not be a potentiality? It seems to be a potentiality for lots of things. 'Becoming a square circle' is not a potentiality for anything I know of, but 'not-existing' is.

    "Good to know. By the way, what distinguishes something immaterial from something material is that the former is not extended in space. That's all."

    I have heard that definition, but I am not sure that is true and if it is, I do not know in what sense something immaterial is really 'existing' or in what way it can have any effect on the material world.


    "If an omnipotent being were to cease to exist, then it would no longer be able to actualize any potentiality at all, since nothing cannot actualize anything."

    That's also true but irrelevant.


    "Because that would give you more reason to accept the premise that whatever is non-omnipotent is possibly generated. You were limiting that premise to physical (material) things. So, if a TNB exists and materialism is true, it follows that the TNB is material and, given the inability to generate it, it would have to be omnipotent. That's textbook pantheism."

    I see, but I wasn't limiting that premise to physical things, I was just saying that, even if we know this about all physical things (and we don't) that does not mean that it would also be the case for some other 'exotic' thing.

    "For one, you're misusing the term, "theoretical construct," in your equivocation in applying it to something transcendent."

    So is it a known fact that something transcends the universe or is it a theoretical construct? And if it is somehow a known fact, then why couldn't it be a singularity?


    "More importantly, a singularity certainly does have a beginning, since there is nothing in time that precedes it. In any case, this is all irrelevant."


    So, there is something in time that precedes your TNB ? I'd like to know what that was, Doug.
    This is not irrelevant at all, because a singularity seems is a very good candidate for the title of non-omnipotent TNB.


    But I don't see why I should still bother with the second part of your argument, since I've shown the first part to be invalid anyway.

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  66. Walter: "You are just trying to force 'necessity' onto a TCB that happens to exist at some time, in order to argue for a contradiction. But there is no necessity, and the first part of your MTW is not just unproven, it is invalid."

    Can you demonstrate this? I took the time to show why it is valid.

    Walter: "That's true. But why wouldn't "not-existing" not be a potentiality? It seems to be a potentiality for lots of things. 'Becoming a square circle' is not a potentiality for anything I know of, but 'not-existing' is."

    Not-existing is a potentiality for temporally contingent things.

    Walter: "I have heard that definition, but I am not sure that is true and if it is, I do not know in what sense something immaterial is really 'existing' or in what way it can have any effect on the material world."

    if you have some argument that shows or makes plausible that immaterial things can have no effect on the material worlds, then I'd like to see it.

    Walter: "I see, but I wasn't limiting that premise to physical things, I was just saying that, even if we know this about all physical things (and we don't) that does not mean that it would also be the case for some other 'exotic' thing."

    No, I understand what you're saying. We have a fundamental disagreement about whether what we observe about material entities would also extend to immaterial entities. It's just that, if there are no immaterial entities, then pantheism becomes the most viable option. Of course, I don't expect you to agree without first acknowledging both the validity and soundness of the MTW.

    Walter: "So is it a known fact that something transcends the universe or is it a theoretical construct? And if it is somehow a known fact, then why couldn't it be a singularity?"

    First, when I call a singularity a "theoretical construct," I don't mean we don't know if it exists or not. I can understand why you took it that way, though. Let me put it another way. A singularity is a mathematical point, which means it is an abstract object. The singularity isn't supposed to be some physical (or non-physical) concrete object out of which the universe originated. Given that a mathematical point isn't the type of thing that concrete entities could arise out of, it follows that the singularity is not sufficient to bring about the universe. So, whether the singularity is real or even transcendent in any sense is moot.

    Walter: "So, there is something in time that precedes your TNB ? I'd like to know what that was, Doug."

    What? When did make a claim about something preceding or not preceding the TNB in time? As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter if the universe is infinite or finite in age.

    Walter: "This is not irrelevant at all, because a singularity seems is a very good candidate for the title of non-omnipotent TNB."

    As I pointed out, a singularity would just be a mathematical point. It's not a concrete object.

    Walter: "But I don't see why I should still bother with the second part of your argument, since I've shown the first part to be invalid anyway."

    Where do you think you've shown this?

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  67. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 10, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    No offense, Doug, but I've said all I wanted to say about this argument and I have argued why it's invalid. If you don't believe me, that's fine, but I cannot go on repeating myself forever.

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  68. Yeah, we have been talking about these arguments for quite awhile now. I don't know how anyone can maintain that the argument is logically invalid, but I'm sure you're not surprised by my incredulity.

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