Monday, January 24, 2011

The Modal First Way

Inspired by Maydole's Modal Third Way, as well as Gale and Pruss' Modal Cosmological Argument, I think there is promise in constructing a modalized version of the argument from motion - the Modal First Way (MFW). Let's start with three modal axioms:

A1. Everything in motion is possibly moved by another.

A2. The regress of movers is possibly finite.

A3. Whatever is contingent is possibly moved by another.

Motion, or change, is the transition of a potentiality to an actuality, as in the case of an acorn becoming an oak tree. Now, for a reductio ad absurdum:

P1. Assume that a First Mover does not possibly exist.

P2. If a First Mover does not possibly exist, then it is either necessarily the case that a) something in motion cannot be moved by another; or b) the regress of movers is infinite. (From 1, A1 and A2)

P3. It is not necessarily the case that (2a) or (2b). (From A1 and A2)

P4. Hence, it is possible that a First Mover exists. (From 1 - 3)

P5. Whatever is possible is either contingent or necessary. (Definition)

P6. Whatever is contingent is possibly moved by another. (From A3)

P7. A First Mover cannot be moved by another. (Premise)

P8. Therefore, a First Mover necessarily exists. (From 1 - 7)

Of course, one may imagine a possible world in which nothing is in motion. However, this wouldn't undermine our conclusion that a First Mover necessarily exists. For, without motion the First Mover would just exist a se and without any effect, much like George Washington would still be the same person had he not been the first president of the United States.

Let's sum up the argument in simpler terms:

1. Pure Act possibly exists. (Premise)

2. Whatever is possible is either contingent or necessary. (Definition)

3. Whatever is contingent is possibly actualized. (Premise)

4. Hence, Pure Act is necessary. (From 1 - 3)

5. Therefore, Pure Act exists. (From 4)

Then, in closing the gap between Pure Act and God:

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

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

8. Pure Act does not exemplify any potentiality. (Definition)

9. Therefore, Pure Act is omnipotent. (From 6 - 8)

49 comments:

  1. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 24, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    Doug


    "P2. If a First Mover does not possibly exist, then it is either necessarily the case that a) something in motion cannot be moved by another"

    That is false. Consider a possible world W, with two elements , A and B . A is moved by B and B is moved by A ,so everything in motion is moved by another, yet there is no first mover in W and in W, the regress of movers is not infinite.

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  2. I hadn't considered including circularities as one one of the alternatives, but I suppose we could do that as well. Either way, the possibility of a circularity, much like the possibility of an infinite regress, is not mutually exclusive with the possibility of a First Mover.

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  3. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 26, 2011 at 6:06 AM

    Doug

    "I hadn't considered including circularities as one one of the alternatives, but I suppose we could do that as well. Either way, the possibility of a circularity, much like the possibility of an infinite regress, is not mutually exclusive with the possibility of a First Mover."

    No, it isn't mutually exclusive, but it does show that your P2 does not work to prove that a PM is possible. A PM may still be impossible, you'll have to find another argument to show it isn't.

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  4. Okay, let's just tweak our axioms to say that 1) an infinite regress is not necessary, and 2) a circularity is not necessary.

    Along with the weak causal premise that everything in motion is possibly moved by another, the conjunction implies that a First Mover possibly exists.

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  5. By the way, do you really think the burden of proof is on me to show that a First Mover isn't impossible? It seems to me that the claim of impossibility carries a significant burden of proof, as well.

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  6. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 26, 2011 at 6:55 AM

    "Okay, let's just tweak our axioms to say that 1) an infinite regress is not necessary, and 2) a circularity is not necessary."

    Okay

    1) There is a possible world in which there is no circularity, but there is an infinite regress

    2) There is a possible world in which there is an infinite regress , but there is
    no circularity.

    Along with the weak causal premise that everything in motion is possibly moved by another, the conjunction does not imply that a First Mover possibly exists.

    "By the way, do you really think the burden of proof is on me to show that a First Mover isn't impossible? It seems to me that the claim of impossibility carries a significant burden of proof, as well."

    I haven't got any idea whether a PM is possible or not, may be so, may be not. So, I don't have any burden.
    If you want to prove something, you prove it. Up to now, you havne't.

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  7. Walter: "Along with the weak causal premise that everything in motion is possibly moved by another, the conjunction does not imply that a First Mover possibly exists."

    That's not important. As long as these hypothetical possible worlds do not exclude the possibility of a First Mover, the argument works just fine.

    Walter: "I haven't got any idea whether a PM is possible or not, may be so, may be not. So, I don't have any burden.
    If you want to prove something, you prove it. Up to now, you havne't."

    What's your criteria for possibility?

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  8. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 27, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    Doug

    "That's not important. As long as these hypothetical possible worlds do not exclude the possibility of a First Mover, the argument works just fine."


    Okay, consider 3
    3) There is a possible world in which there is circularity, but no infinite regress and it does not contain a first mover.

    Does this lead to a contradiction? If it doesn't, it's a possible world.

    "What's your criteria for possibility?"

    Something is possible if it does not lead to a contradiction. If e.g. an empty corld does not lead to a contradiction, it's a possible world and you have to show that it leads to a contradiction in order to show that it isn't a possible world. And if an empty world possibly exists, the PM does not possibly exist.

    So my claim is: as long as you haven't rejected each and every possible woeld without a necessary PM, all your modal arguments for such being are futile.

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  9. Walter: "Does this lead to a contradiction? If it doesn't, it's a possible world."

    I think it does lead to a contradiction, of the broadly logically necessary type. It just isn't as immediately obvious as 2+2=5.

    I think we can agree that we have discussed these issues at quite some length in the past. I take it your objection to these types of arguments in general comes down to whether or not the non-existence of a necessary being is a conceptualization immune to potential overriders, making the conceptualization a possibility. Is this correct?

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  10. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 28, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    The point is, Doug, that, since both the necessary being seems possible and there seem to be possible worlds without it, we cannot conclude that a necessary being is actually possible (not can we conclude that it is actually impossible). So these kinds of arguments do not add anything. If one believes this NE is possible, then the argument really gives no additional reasons to believe it, and if one doesn't, the argument does not give additional reason that would persuade one to start believing it.

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  11. @Walter: If the only criterion for possibility is that it not lead to a contradiction, then this leads to problems.

    There are three metaphysical options. 1) There is a necessary being. 2) Necessarily, some contingent entity exist. 3) Everything is contingent (or, possibly nothing exists).

    Each of the options taken alone is consistent. But together, they are contradictory. So there must be some other way of determining whether something is possible or not. We'll have to do some metaphysics; but this is not the place nor the time to settle our metaphysics.

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  12. BTW Doug, I like this argument. I was thinking something very similar to your simplified argument a couple of weeks ago. This is similar to the one Scotus uses, yes?

    I think the problem for people is going to be (3), "Whatever is contingent is possibly actualized." This seems like a weaker version of the PSR. I think that Humeans and most atheists who deny the PSR will also deny that for *all* contingent entities they are possibly caused.

    To illustrate, let's take a state of affairs where the tree in my neighbor's yard exists and call it T. Let's suppose that it is uncaused. Fine, you may say, because T is still possibly caused. However, take another state of affairs U where the tree in my neighbor's yard exists *uncaused*. U obtains in some worlds. But in those worlds where my neighbor's tree either doesn't exist or is caused, U does not obtain. Yet in all worlds where U obtains it is uncaused. Hence, necessarily, U is uncaused; but it is still contingent because it only obtains in some possible worlds.

    That means that (3) which says, "Whatever is contingent is possibly actualized," is false.

    Also, some people may claim that they find all this "potentiality/actuality" talk "unintelligible". But I think that's just prejudice. :-)

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  13. Walter: "The point is, Doug, that, since both the necessary being seems possible and there seem to be possible worlds without it, we cannot conclude that a necessary being is actually possible (not can we conclude that it is actually impossible)."

    But isn't it the point of the argument to undermine one or the other alleged possibility? I've argued in earlier posts and discussions that possibility is not determined by conceptualization alone. What I've attempted to do with these arguments is show that the union of a number of states of affairs that are known with a high degree of certainty to be possible imply the possibility of a necessary being.

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  14. Alfredo, that's a very thought-provoking counter-example. I hope you continue to push these arguments as you enter your collegial career.

    The illustration of U obtaining or not-obtaining is a fact about T, I take it, where T is a contingent entity. We have a necessary conditional statement: "Necessarily, if T exists, then U obtains." However, it is not necessary that T, so U cannot be inferred as necessary as the basis of T or not-T.

    This is a good illustration, since I think it captures something often overlooked about these types of arguments. You will notice that the MFW does not appeal to the possibility of generation, as the MTW does. Instead, the MFW discusses the continuity of motion, not anything about a thing's origination. In what sense, then, is T said to be uncaused? If we translate this into the language of the MFW, it reads: T is unmoved. But surely that doesn't make sense. If a tree is not in motion, then is it really a tree?

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  15. Walter Van den AckerJanuary 30, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    Awatkins69 said:

    "@Walter: If the only criterion for possibility is that it not lead to a contradiction, then this leads to problems."

    Yes, it does lead to problems, but I don't think there is any other applicable criterion. IMO the problems arise because of the fact that something at first glance does not entail a contradiction, but may of course entail a hidden contradiction.
    Consider Doug's first axiom
    "Everything in motion is possibly moved by another." This looks, at first glance, possible, but the question is: is it really (actually) possible? What if, e.g. an 'unmoved mover' isn't possible? There might be something we overlook here that makes it impossible for something unmoved (and unmoving) to move something else. Then either there is circularity, or an infinite regress or a first mover that moves out of itself.


    "There are three metaphysical options. 1) There is a necessary being. 2) Necessarily, some contingent entity exist. 3) Everything is contingent (or, possibly nothing exists)."

    Yes, these are the three options, and I don't think it is possible to prove one of the three false.


    Doug:
    "But isn't it the point of the argument to undermine one or the other alleged possibility?"


    Yes, but I have yet to see a single argument that really undermines the other possibilities.
    I've given you a few possibilities that are not undermined by your argument.

    W"hat I've attempted to do with these arguments is show that the union of a number of states of affairs that are known with a high degree of certainty to be possible imply the possibility of a necessary being"

    The problem lies in "...that are known with a high degree of certainty to be possible". This high degree of certainty is obtained for the better part by conceptualization. We can conceive of the fact that everything in motion is moved by another, but I would not say that this is so with a high degree of certainty. I have no idea where we would get this high degree of certainty.

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  16. Well, first off, we should be denying your P6: "Whatever is contingent is possibly moved by another." I think that T and U are separate states of affairs.

    T = a state of affairs where my neighbor's tree exists

    U = a state of affairs where my neighbor's tree exists unmoved by another

    Remember, they are separate from each other. When I was talking about T I was not talking about just my neighbor's tree, but the entire state of affairs. So I wouldn't say that "Necessarily, if T exists, then U obtains." I would just say that "Necessarily, if U obtains, then U is uncaused." But U is still contingent. Your(3) of the simplified version are both universal statements. But this counter-example is supposed to show that you can only say "Something which is contingent is possibly actualized", which doesn't work for our proof.

    Could you say that P6 does not apply to states of affairs, but rather more specifically to concrete substances? I think maybe saying that a state of affairs is moved by another *is* sort of hard to understand.

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  17. Walter: "Yes, but I have yet to see a single argument that really undermines the other possibilities."

    Well, how about this? We observe that some things, at any rate, that are in motion are moved by another. This makes it highly plausible that everything in motion is possibly moved by another. Next, we observe that things in potentiality have finite attributes. Given that the regress of movers is an attribute of potentialities, it seems reasonable to say that the regress of movers is at least possibly finite. Finally, we observe that circularities are generally fallacious as explanations.

    A general rule to follow is that if we have three distinct possibilities, then their conjunction is also possible, unless of course some contradiction can be deduced. If you think there is a contradiction entailed by their conjunction, I would like to know what it is.

    Walter: "I've given you a few possibilities that are not undermined by your argument."

    What possibilities, though? If you say that a circularity is possible, then that's fine. It doesn't conflict with a First Mover's existence at all, even in worlds where both exist. If your only conceptualized possibility is a world where these alternatives obtain and a First Mover does not exist, then I'm afraid that begs the question.

    Walter: "The problem lies in "...that are known with a high degree of certainty to be possible". This high degree of certainty is obtained for the better part by conceptualization. We can conceive of the fact that everything in motion is moved by another, but I would not say that this is so with a high degree of certainty. I have no idea where we would get this high degree of certainty."

    Okay, so you're questioning how much value we should place on conceptualization? If so, then I fully agree that conceptualization alone is not sufficient to establish possibility. What I've suggested is that conceptualization (e.g. conceivability) combined with other aspects of knowledge (e.g. observations of things in motion being moved by another) make the axiom highly plausible.

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  19. Alfredo: ". . . But this counter-example is supposed to show that you can only say "Something which is contingent is possibly actualized", which doesn't work for our proof."

    Okay, I see what you're getting at.

    Alfredo: "Could you say that P6 does not apply to states of affairs, but rather more specifically to concrete substances? I think maybe saying that a state of affairs is moved by another *is* sort of hard to understand."

    Yes, absolutely. I was thinking specifically of concrete objects, since states of affairs are abstract.

    It just seems to me that an uncaused tree is contradictory. Any type of tree that exists will necessarily depend on its existence by the conjunction of its parts, in addition to the ground it is rooted in, and so forth. Whether it has always existed or not, though very interesting, wouldn't have any bearing on whether it is caused.

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  20. My point is, Walter, not that your idea of something being possible just in case it is conceivable leaves the question unanswered. It's the fact that your idea leads to a flat out *contradiction*. That entails that either your idea is false or we cannot know anything about possibility.

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  21. Well, states of affairs are concrete too right, i.e. the actual ones?

    So I think that (3) of the simplified argument doesn't work because of the counterexample we've been working with. But if we make A3 something like "Any contingent substance is possibly moved by another" then I think you've got a stronger premise, no? Whatever states of affairs are, they aren't substances, I think. Also, Thomists consider the Unmoved Mover a substance right?

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  22. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 3, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    Doug

    "Well, how about this? We observe that some things, at any rate, that are in motion are moved by another."

    We do observe that, but we also infer that some things that are in motion just move spontaneously

    "This makes it highly plausible that everything in motion is possibly moved by another."

    Well, no, since we have examples of things that move spontaneously, or at least that possibly move spontaneously.

    "Next, we observe that things in potentiality have finite attributes."

    I don't think we observe that all things in potentiality have finite attributes.

    "Given that the regress of movers is an attribute of potentialities, it seems reasonable to say that the regress of movers is at least possibly finite."

    Even if this is true, the first mover may be potential rather than actual. It's also very reasonble to say that actual things possibly cannot move anything else.


    "Finally, we observe that circularities are generally fallacious as explanations."

    They seem to do quite fine to explain the morality of God, so I wouldn't call them fallacious. Besides, my exmaples do not necessrily lead to cicularity. "A is caused by B and B is caused by A" is perfectly possible under simultaneous causation and is not circular.

    "If your only conceptualized possibility is a world where these alternatives obtain and a First Mover does not exist, then I'm afraid that begs the question."

    If I wanted to prove that a PM did not exist, that would beg the question, yes, but I am only claiming that a PM possibly does not exist. So, I just have to present some possible alternatives. If a world without a PM is possible, then the PM is not necessary. The burden of proof is on the one claiming a being's necessity, by demonstrating that all alternatives without the NB are impossible.
    The problem is that your first three axioms aren't axioms, they are just inductive inferences, and the denial of the possibility of a PM does not lead to a contradiction, therefore I think, it is possible that a PM does not exist.
    And as for plausibility, I have no idea how to judge the plausibility of unusual situations.
    The logical inference from observing things caused by other things is that everything is caused by another, which would logically point to an infinite regress or simultaneous causation (or circularity, if you wish). If those aren't possible (which must be shown), then there must be another possibility. The most likely possibility would be that there is some prime mover that is a bit 'special'. Now either it is 'special' in the sense that it moves spontaneously (which is definitely not impossible) or in the sense that it is necessary, and doesn't move but is, through some never heard-of process, capable of moving all other things. You may choose which one is the most likely, but my choice is with the first one.

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  23. Walter: "We do observe that, but we also infer that some things that are in motion just move spontaneously"

    Spontaneity doesn't imply that a thing is not moved by another, much less not-possibly moved by another.

    Walter: "Well, no, since we have examples of things that move spontaneously, or at least that possibly move spontaneously."

    Again, just because something may be spontaneous, that doesn't mean it is necessarily spontaneous.

    Walter: "I don't think we observe that all things in potentiality have finite attributes."

    It's an inductive argument. We observe something in potentiality, such as an acorn, and the acorn possesses nothing but finite attributes.

    Walter: "Even if this is true, the first mover may be potential rather than actual."

    If a First Mover, or anything at all, exists, it must be actual.

    Walter: "It's also very reasonble to say that actual things possibly cannot move anything else."

    Possibly "cannot" or "do not"?

    Walter: "They seem to do quite fine to explain the morality of God, so I wouldn't call them fallacious."

    Let's stay on topic, shall we?

    Walter: "Besides, my exmaples do not necessrily lead to cicularity. "A is caused by B and B is caused by A" is perfectly possible under simultaneous causation and is not circular."

    That's actually the definition of circularity, simultaneous or not. Paratrooper A is holding up paratrooper B, and B is holding up A. Unfortunately, if that's it, then both A and B will fall to their deaths. Only if something outside the set of the circularity is holding them up (e.g. a parachute) will A and B survive.

    Walter: "If I wanted to prove that a PM did not exist, that would beg the question, yes, but I am only claiming that a PM possibly does not exist."

    Given that the MFW points to a necessarily existent First Mover, the possibility of such a First Mover not-existing entails that it necessarily does not exist, via S5. Therefore, you are making a much stronger claim.

    Walter: "So, I just have to present some possible alternatives. If a world without a PM is possible, then the PM is not necessary."

    But none of those alternatives require that a First Mover does not exist, unless you add the ad hoc state of affairs in which a First Mover does not exist.

    Walter: "The burden of proof is on the one claiming a being's necessity, by demonstrating that all alternatives without the NB are impossible."

    I accept a burden of proof, but so should you. In order to reject the argument, one would need to demonstrate that there is not even a single possible world in which such a being does exist. That's a tall order.

    Walter: "The problem is that your first three axioms aren't axioms, they are just inductive inferences, and the denial of the possibility of a PM does not lead to a contradiction, therefore I think, it is possible that a PM does not exist."

    Yeah, they're definitely not axioms in the sense of being first principles of metaphysics or anything. Nevertheless, I think they're highly plausible, so much so that the average observer is justified in taking them for granted.

    Now, when you say that a denial of a First Mover does not lead to a contradiction, this is the same claim as before, so there's nothing more to me to add to what I've already stated.

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  24. Walter: "And as for plausibility, I have no idea how to judge the plausibility of unusual situations."

    What's unusual about any of them, though?

    Walter: "The logical inference from observing things caused by other things is that everything is caused by another, which would logically point to an infinite regress or simultaneous causation (or circularity, if you wish)."

    Not at all. You hint as to why this isn't the case afterward...

    Walter: "If those aren't possible (which must be shown), then there must be another possibility. The most likely possibility would be that there is some prime mover that is a bit 'special'."

    I think there are good reasons to think these alternatives aren't possibly or, at the very least, are highly unlikely, and I've already given a few reasons. The First Mover is "special" only in the sense that it isn't in motion, which is what the causal premise limits itself toward examining.

    Walter: "Now either it is 'special' in the sense that it moves spontaneously (which is definitely not impossible) or in the sense that it is necessary, and doesn't move but is, through some never heard-of process, capable of moving all other things. You may choose which one is the most likely, but my choice is with the first one."

    I've said about all I can about spontaneity so far, so if you have anything else to add about it, I'm all ears. As for the "never heard-of process," here is a elementary one. A statue doesn't need to move in order to move a person to appreciate its beauty. Is this the same as God? No, but it's an analogy that shows why something need not be in motion in order to move another.

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  25. Sorry for the relatively long posts, by the way. I'll try to be more concise in the future.

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  26. Alfredo: "Well, states of affairs are concrete too right, i.e. the actual ones?"

    I think of states of affairs as nothing more than facts. The referents involved in states of affairs are concrete, but the states of affairs themselves are abstract. For example, "the cat is on the mat." The cat and the mat are both concrete, but the fact that the cat is on the mat (try saying that five times fast!) expresses an abstract truth concerning concrete substances.

    Alfredo: "So I think that (3) of the simplified argument doesn't work because of the counterexample we've been working with. But if we make A3 something like "Any contingent substance is possibly moved by another" then I think you've got a stronger premise, no? Whatever states of affairs are, they aren't substances, I think. Also, Thomists consider the Unmoved Mover a substance right?"

    Yes, and I think your revision works just fine. The Unmoved Mover's substance (nature, or essence) would be identical to its existence (Pure Act).

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  27. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 4, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    Doug said:

    "What's unusual about any of them, though?"

    a purely actual being is not something you meet everyday, Doug. So, I simply cannot judge the probability of something like that, and i cannot judge the probabality of an infinite regress etc.

    "Not at all. You hint as to why this isn't the case afterward..."

    I hint as to why it may not be the case afterwards, but it's up to you to prove that.

    "I think there are good reasons to think these alternatives aren't possibly or, at the very least, are highly unlikely, and I've already given a few reasons."

    It is impossible to judge the likelihood of any of the alternatives. If something isn't logically impossible, it's possible. Likeliness does not come into play here.


    "Is this the same as God? No, but it's an analogy that shows why something need not be in motion in order to move another. "

    No, it's not. The motion in this analogy is completely caused by the person, not by the statue. But even if the statue in some sense caused the motion, it could not have done so without the potentiality of the person already existing. A statue cannot move another statue, let alone that it could move nothingness.

    "Spontaneity doesn't imply that a thing is not moved by another, much less not-possibly moved by another."

    Spontaneity implies that a thing can move out of itself, so its motion is explained without having to invoke something else. Whether it can also be moved by something else isn't relevant here.
    There is no reason to assume that a first mover cannot be moved by another. Once there are more movers, they can start moving each other even though the first one wasn't moved by other movers before other movers existed (or were moving).
    So, I don't think there is any reason to accept your premise (7), because it is also possible for several movers to exist eternally (or uncaused) and then each of these movers can move the others, so everyone of these prime movers is possibily moved by another.

    "It's an inductive argument. We observe something in potentiality, such as an acorn, and the acorn possesses nothing but finite attributes."

    That's true, but I think we observe (or at least infer) potential things that have infinite attributes. An elementary particle or matter-energy e;g.don't seem to be possibly destroyed.

    "I accept a burden of proof, but so should you. In order to reject the argument, one would need to demonstrate that there is not even a single possible world in which such a being does exist. That's a tall order."

    Since I do not reject the idea of a prime mover, but only the idea that it can be demonstrated that such a PM is a a necessary being, all I have to demonstrate that there is a possible world without it. As you say, since that already entails that such being is impossible, my burden is much smaller than yours.

    "But none of those alternatives require that a First Mover does not exist, unless you add the ad hoc state of affairs in which a First Mover does not exist."

    If those alternatives are acceptable and form a possible world, then there is a possible world without a PM. If a PM is hanging arounbd doing nothing means that there is definitely a possible world without him too.

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  28. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 4, 2011 at 4:53 AM

    Awatkins69 said:

    "My point is, Walter, not that your idea of something being possible just in case it is conceivable leaves the question unanswered. It's the fact that your idea leads to a flat out *contradiction*. That entails that either your idea is false or we cannot know anything about possibility."

    Well, Alfredo, my idea is not just that something is possible if it's conceivable, but that something is possible if it does not lead to contradictions. And yes, this does entail that, if we have competing alternatives that are mutually exclusive, it is definitely so that one of them is impossible, but in many case,determining which one it is may be very difficult, if not impossible.
    That's why I think that Doug's argument is not really a modal argument. I don't think his use of modal logic here serves any purpose. It's really an inductive argument and, IMO highly speculative.

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  29. Walter: "a purely actual being is not something you meet everyday, Doug. So, I simply cannot judge the probability of something like that, and i cannot judge the probabality of an infinite regress etc."

    That's not what I was asking, though. I was asking what is unusual about the axioms I listed, e.g. what is unusual about a finite regress?

    Walter: "It is impossible to judge the likelihood of any of the alternatives. If something isn't logically impossible, it's possible. Likeliness does not come into play here."

    If it doesn't, then you should conclude that a First Mover both exists and does not exist, which is contradictory. Possibility is something that has all kinds of prerequisites.

    Walter: "No, it's not. The motion in this analogy is completely caused by the person, not by the statue."

    The person doesn't just choose to be moved by the statue. Most of the time, it occurs involuntarily.

    Walter: "But even if the statue in some sense caused the motion, it could not have done so without the potentiality of the person already existing. A statue cannot move another statue, let alone that it could move nothingness."

    What's the relevance? Nobody is even talking about God as originating cause, but as sustaining cause of a particular aspect of the universe (motion).

    Walter: "Spontaneity implies that a thing can move out of itself, so its motion is explained without having to invoke something else."

    You're describing self-motion, not spontaneity. Spontaneity is just randomness.

    Walter: "Whether it can also be moved by something else isn't relevant here."

    It is relevant, since I only have to defend the conclusion that there is a single possible world in which the conjunction of the axioms is obtained.

    Walter: "There is no reason to assume that a first mover cannot be moved by another. Once there are more movers, they can start moving each other even though the first one wasn't moved by other movers before other movers existed (or were moving)."

    Let's break this down into a really basic format:

    A. Everything in motion is moved by another.
    B. The universe is in motion.
    C. Therefore, the universe is moved by another.

    Whether you accept (A) outright isn't important, since the modal argument shows that (A) at least possibly obtains. Given the conjunction of (A) and (B), it follows that whatever is moving the universe also transcends the universe which, as I have explained, necessitates that this mover be timeless, changeless, and so forth. Now, whatever is changeless cannot be moved by another. Therefore, the mover of the universe is the Unmoved Mover.

    Walter: "That's true, but I think we observe (or at least infer) potential things that have infinite attributes. An elementary particle or matter-energy e;g.don't seem to be possibly destroyed."

    I don't follow, even assuming that elementary particles cannot be destroyed even in an open system. Still, I will point out that one cannot just assume that the universe is one big closed system and that's all that exists.

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  30. Walter: "Since I do not reject the idea of a prime mover, but only the idea that it can be demonstrated that such a PM is a a necessary being, all I have to demonstrate that there is a possible world without it. As you say, since that already entails that such being is impossible, my burden is much smaller than yours."

    If this were so, then I could make a parallel argument. All I have to demonstrate is that there is a single possible world with a necessary PM, and since this entails that a necessary PM actually exists, my burden is just as small as yours.

    Of course, there's more to it than conceptualization, which is why I reject that as the sole criterion for judging possibility.

    Walter: "If those alternatives are acceptable and form a possible world, then there is a possible world without a PM. If a PM is hanging arounbd doing nothing means that there is definitely a possible world without him too."

    Even if there were hypothetical a possible world in which a PM isn't doing anything, it doesn't follow that it doesn't exist in that possible world.

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  31. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Doug

    "A. Everything in motion is moved by another.
    B. The universe is in motion.
    C. Therefore, the universe is moved by another."

    I do not know whether A possibly obtains, it is epistemically possible that it obtains, but whether it's actually possible depends on the existence of something outside the universe, so I don't accept this argument.


    "All I have to demonstrate is that there is a single possible world with a necessary PM, and since this entails that a necessary PM actually exists, my burden is just as small as yours."

    Yes, but you don't have to just demonstrate that a PM possibly exists but thatb it is a necessary being, and that there is no other possibility. If you can do thta, be my guest. I, on the other hand, just have to present one single alternative without a necessary PM. Why is thta: because I am not claiming anything is necssary.

    "Even if there were hypothetical a possible world in which a PM isn't doing anything, it doesn't follow that it doesn't exist in that possible world."

    Since he isn't vital for a possible world, it does follow that he does not exist in at least one possible world. Hence, He is not necessary.


    "I don't follow, even assuming that elementary particles cannot be destroyed even in an open system. Still, I will point out that one cannot just assume that the universe is one big closed system and that's all that exists."

    The point is that those elementary particles are observed to be infinite in life-span, therefore your inductive argument that we do not observe infinities is false.

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  32. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 6, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Doug

    "If it doesn't, then you should conclude that a First Mover both exists and does not exist, which is contradictory. Possibility is something that has all kinds of prerequisites."

    No. All I should conclude is that the existence of a FM is epistemically possible and so is its
    non-existence. If a FM is actuallypossible (and is necessary)then its negation isn't possible, but you've come nowhere near proving the actual existence of a FM.

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  33. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    Doug

    "What's the relevance? Nobody is even talking about God as originating cause, but as sustaining cause of a particular aspect of the universe (motion)."

    That is simply not true. In this argument you are speaking of the originating cause of a particular aspect of the universe. You are trying to explain what causes the motion, not what sustains it. What is true is that you are not speaking about the originating cause of the universe, but your analogy has nothing to do with why something suddenly displays potentiality.

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  34. Walter: "I do not know whether A possibly obtains, it is epistemically possible that it obtains, but whether it's actually possible depends on the existence of something outside the universe, so I don't accept this argument."

    Okay, so you're willing to say one or both of the following?:

    ~1. Necessarily, something in motion is not moved by another.

    ~2. Necessarily, the universe is not in motion.

    (~2) is obviously absurd, so I take it you would want to defend (~1)?

    Walter: "Yes, but you don't have to just demonstrate that a PM possibly exists but thatb it is a necessary being, and that there is no other possibility."

    All I have to do there is argue that such a being exists in one possible world. Do you see why merely postulating a possible world based on conceptualization is insufficient?

    Walter: "I, on the other hand, just have to present one single alternative without a necessary PM. Why is thta: because I am not claiming anything is necssary."

    You actually are, however indirectly. By saying that a necessary being, of any kind, does not exist, you are also saying (as a result) that it is necessarily the case that nothing is necessary.

    Walter: "Since he isn't vital for a possible world, it does follow that he does not exist in at least one possible world. Hence, He is not necessary."

    I would like you demonstrate this: "if X isn't vital for w1, then X does not exist in w1."

    Walter: "The point is that those elementary particles are observed to be infinite in life-span, therefore your inductive argument that we do not observe infinities is false."

    We don't observe that. If you think there is evidence that we do, then I would like to ask for it.

    Walter: "No. All I should conclude is that the existence of a FM is epistemically possible and so is its non-existence. If a FM is actually possible (and is necessary)then its negation isn't possible, but you've come nowhere near proving the actual existence of a FM."

    If that's the case, then I would like to hear your defense of premises like (~1).

    Walter: "That is simply not true. In this argument you are speaking of the originating cause of a particular aspect of the universe."

    Imagine a watch that has existed from all eternity. Likewise, the motion of its gears has existed from all eternity. The watch and the motion of its gears had no beginning - it is infinitely old. Does the watch still require a spring in order to sustain the motion of the gears?

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  35. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Doug said

    "Okay, so you're willing to say one or both of the following?:

    ~1. Necessarily, something in motion is not moved by another.

    ~2. Necessarily, the universe is not in motion."

    No, I am not, since I do not make the claim to know any of this for certain.
    What I would defend is this:
    It epistemically possible that
    ~1' In every possible world in which something is in motion there is at least one thing that moves out of itself without needing anything outside it to move.

    This is,as I said, epistemically possible and very likely also actually possible, since we have exmaples in the actual world.

    Note that I do not claim that something that moves out of itself cannot possibilbly be moved by something else, just that its initial motion is uncaused by anything outside it.

    "I would like you demonstrate this: "if X isn't vital for w1, then X does not exist in w1.""

    IF X isn't vital for world w1, then it follows that there is a world w2 in which X does not exist. That follows from the definition of necessary: if X is necessary, then X is vital for every possible world.


    "Does the watch still require a spring in order to sustain the motion of the gears?"

    No, a battery will do just fine.
    But seriously, the watch may require a spring in order to sustain the motion of its gears, but the motion of the spring would explain itself and needs no outside force to move it and neither would it need something to sustain its motion.
    So, in this case, the 'motion' aspect of the watch really does not need an originating nor a sustaining cause. If, on the other hand, as you seem to claim, tyhe spring's motion needs a cause, you are also talking about an originating cause.

    "We don't observe that. If you think there is evidence that we do, then I would like to ask for it."

    We do not observe infinities directly because we are finite beings,however, we do infer from observation that elemantary particles will never disappear. So, we have every reason to conclude that there are infinities.

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  36. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 11, 2011 at 2:47 AM

    Upon second thought, Doug, no,the watch does not require anything at all to sustain the motion of its gears. The gears have always been and will always remain in motion unless some force intervenes to stop the motion.

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  37. Walter: "No, I am not, since I do not make the claim to know any of this for certain."

    If you reject the central premise of the MFW, then you have no other alternative but to choose from one of the two. One's epistemic status on the matter is beside the point.

    Walter: "~1' In every possible world in which something is in motion there is at least one thing that moves out of itself without needing anything outside it to move."

    Again, even if I grant such a speculative claim, it doesn't undermine the existence of a First Mover. There's a difference between what something is (First Mover) and what it does (whether it actually moves anything or not).

    Walter: "This is,as I said, epistemically possible and very likely also actually possible, since we have exmaples in the actual world."

    Such as?

    Walter: "Note that I do not claim that something that moves out of itself cannot possibilbly be moved by something else, just that its initial motion is uncaused by anything outside it."

    That's fine, but it has no effect on the argument. Even if something does move without being moved by another, this state of affairs is still consistent with a First Mover.

    Walter: "IF X isn't vital for world w1, then it follows that there is a world w2 in which X does not exist."

    How?

    Walter: "That follows from the definition of necessary: if X is necessary, then X is vital for every possible world."

    No, X is necessary if it exists in every possible world. You're talking about some metaphysical dependence.

    Walter: "We do not observe infinities directly because we are finite beings,however, we do infer from observation that elemantary particles will never disappear. So, we have every reason to conclude that there are infinities."

    I'm still waiting for some evidence to back up this claim.

    Walter: "Upon second thought, Doug, no,the watch does not require anything at all to sustain the motion of its gears. The gears have always been and will always remain in motion unless some force intervenes to stop the motion."

    If you're referring to Newtonian physics, that only applies to objects that move in a straight line in an absolute vacuum. That has nothing to do with potentialities being actualized. If the spring is removed at any time, the gears will cease moving.

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  38. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 13, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    The point is, Doug, that I have presented a viable alternative, for which there is evidence in quantum mechanics, without having to speculate on a FM, which I do not cliam to know is impossible, but which is extremely unlikely considering the porperties it would need and considering the fact that the only supporting evidence for the idea that something unmoving can move something else is a totally irrelevant analogy.

    Secondly: if a world is viable without some X, then there is s possible wolrd without X, that's justa consequence of logic.

    And as for the gear: if its truly moving frolm eternity, the only reason why it would need an sustainibng cause is because theists desperately need this to make a case for their Prime Mover.
    It is a fact that something in motion stays in motion in this universe. Whether there is some transcendent realm where sustaining causes are needed really isn't my concern.

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  39. You have summed up our share of disagreements quite well. I will start with your final statement. Do you have any evidence that if something is in motion it will stay in motion? I answered your original comment by providing clarification of Newtonian physics. Obviously the gears of a watch do not move in an empty vacuum, nor do they move in a straight line, so there's something fishy here.

    Now, if you think it is "just a consequence of logic" that if X is not vital for w1, then X does not exist in w2, perhaps you could cite the logical axiom upon which you base this claim? Maybe X exists in w2 for some reason other than having to explain motion or another aspect of w2.

    Finally, you call my analogy irrelevant without having responded to my latest defense of it. When we view something beautiful, we almost never choose to be moved by it. Rather, the beauty of, e.g. a statue, simply compels us to be moved. As for quantum mechanics, this has been addressed so many times, there is not much need to delve into it again. However, it's worth repeating that even on an indeterminist interpretation of QM, fluctuations are not entirely without a mover. Spontaneity is not synonymous with unmoved.

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  40. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 16, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    Doug

    "Do you have any evidence that if something is in motion it will stay in motion?"


    I'll just copy-paste what I said earlier
    The gears have always been and will always remain in motion unless some force intervenes to stop the motion. AFAIK hardly anybody doubts this nowadays. When you say the gears of a watch do not move in an empty vacuum, nor do they move in a straight line,you mean that, in the case of a watch, their is some force intevening on the gears to make the motion slow down or stop or become rotary. That's true, of course, but it is also true that motion does not require a sustaining cause. On the contrary it requires a force to stop it. Aristotle and Aquinas were not aware of that, so their argument is just based on a poor understanding of physics.

    "Perhaps you could cite the logical axiom upon which you base this claim?"


    If A does not require X for its existence, then A is possible in the absense of X. So, simple logic tells us that there is a possible world with A and without X. It's as simple as that.
    X can only be a necessary being if X is required to explain A. Since you admit that my alternative is possible, you aslo admit that your X is not a neceesary being.
    That's why all modal aruments for a necessary being fail if they don't porve that alternatives are impossible.


    "Rather, the beauty of, e.g. a statue, simply compels us to be moved."

    OK, I'm willing to consider the possibility that a totally inert actual being moves us to tears because we pity the poor thing for not being able to do anything.

    "However, it's worth repeating that even on an indeterminist interpretation of QM, fluctuations are not entirely without a mover. Spontaneity is not synonymous with unmoved. "

    It's certainly worth repeating because it's so irrelevant. If QM is indeterministic then q fluctuations are by definition entrely without a mover. What do you think would be the mover of a QM?

    Even if you don't believe QM is indeterministic, it is still possibly indeterministic, so my alternative is definitely possible, while we don't have any sort of reason to think something can move other things without moving itself.

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  41. Walter: "Aristotle and Aquinas were not aware of that, so their argument is just based on a poor understanding of physics."

    On the contrary, the Newtonian objection isn't even applicable to the Aristotelian/Thomistic argument. Take a watch that you have and remove its spring/battery. Then watch the gears stop moving. The reason they will stop is because they do require a sustaining cause of motion. And, the reason they require a sustaining cause of motion is because they neither move in a straight line nor move in an empty vacuum.

    Walter: "If A does not require X for its existence, then A is possible in the absense of X. So, simple logic tells us that there is a possible world with A and without X. It's as simple as that."

    It's not as simple as that. If A does not depend on X, but B does depend on X, and both A and B exist, then X exists as well.

    Walter: "OK, I'm willing to consider the possibility that a totally inert actual being moves us to tears because we pity the poor thing for not being able to do anything."

    Okay...

    Walter: "It's certainly worth repeating because it's so irrelevant. If QM is indeterministic then q fluctuations are by definition entrely without a mover. What do you think would be the mover of a QM?"

    The energy out of which these fluctuations arise.

    Walter: ". . . while we don't have any sort of reason to think something can move other things without moving itself."

    If you have some argument showing that this concept is contradictory, then I'd like to hear it. Otherwise, you're shifting the burden of proof.

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  42. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 19, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    Doug

    "The reason they will stop is because they do require a sustaining cause of motion. And, the reason they require a sustaining cause of motion is because they neither move in a straight line nor move in an empty vacuum."

    I've already explained why that's wrong, but I guess it takes an post-medieval understanding of physics to understand it.

    "It's not as simple as that. If A does not depend on X, but B does depend on X, and both A and B exist, then X exists as well."

    I'm not talking about B, Doug, I am talking about A. If A does not require X to explain its existence, there is a possible world with A and without X, and X is not necessary.

    "If you have some argument showing that this concept is contradictory, then I'd like to hear it. Otherwise, you're shifting the burden of proof."

    Sure I have an argument. Newtonian physics tell us that if A is moved by B, then B is moved by A.
    And, agian, I do not have a burden of proof, becuase I don't claim I can prove anything. You have the burden, but ,unfortunately,so far you haven't proven anything .

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  43. Walter: "I've already explained why that's wrong, but I guess it takes an post-medieval understanding of physics to understand it."

    I have such an understanding, which is why I've been talking about Newtonian physics for the past several posts.

    Walter: "I'm not talking about B, Doug, I am talking about A. If A does not require X to explain its existence, there is a possible world with A and without X, and X is not necessary."

    There is absolutely no rule of logic that would warrant such a conclusion from the premises you offer. The point is, there may be some other reason why X exists, without respect to A.

    Walter: "Sure I have an argument. Newtonian physics tell us that if A is moved by B, then B is moved by A."

    The statue isn't moved by the observer when the statue compels the observer to be moved by its beauty. In any case, Newtonian physics is limited to objects in motion that move other objects.

    Walter: "And, agian, I do not have a burden of proof, becuase I don't claim I can prove anything. You have the burden, but ,unfortunately,so far you haven't proven anything ."

    Your responses are filled with claims about proof, or demonstration. So yes, you do have a significant burden of proof. As for what I have or have not demonstrated, people can decide for themselves.

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  44. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 21, 2011 at 6:18 AM

    You obviouusly do not understand Newtonian physics if you keep making such a basic mistake. Under Newtonian physics, an object in motion stays in motion unless another force is applied to it. No sustaining cause needed anywhere. And yes, an object in motion moves in a straight line unless some other force applies to it, but that's totally irrelevant.

    "There is absolutely no rule of logic that would warrant such a conclusion from the premises you offer. The point is, there may be some other reason why X exists, without respect to A."

    There may be some other reason why X exists, yes, but you have not offered such reason, and if there is an alternative there simply is no such reason. If A, B and C can be explained by something other than X, then X is not necessary, no matter how much you want it to be necessary. And if thre is some D that isn't explained by the alterntaive, it's up to you to show it. But you haven't.

    "Newtonian physics is limited to objects in motion that move other objects."

    Newtonian physics says that if A is moved by B, then B is moved by A, so it excludes your statue, which is just an example of a totally inert, passive 'first mover'. I don't think you would want to describe your PM as passive. And if the PM is actively bringing about motion, Newtonian physics tells us that if A is moved by the PM, the PM is moved by A. If you want to claim that yopur PM is an exception, you have to argue for it, Doug.

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  45. Walter: "You obviouusly do not understand Newtonian physics if you keep making such a basic mistake. Under Newtonian physics, an object in motion stays in motion unless another force is applied to it."

    You keep leaving out the most important aspect of Newtonian physics - namely, that this particular law only applies to objects moving in a straight line and that move in an absolutely empty vacuum. Until you can reconcile this with your objection, you have no objection.

    Walter: "No sustaining cause needed anywhere. And yes, an object in motion moves in a straight line unless some other force applies to it, but that's totally irrelevant."

    No, Walter, it's not irrelevant. The type of change we observe throughout the universe simply doesn't fall under the category of moving in a straight in an absolute empty vacuum.

    Walter: "There may be some other reason why X exists, yes, but you have not offered such reason . . ."

    Actually, I have: S5.

    Walter: "If A, B and C can be explained by something other than X, then X is not necessary, no matter how much you want it to be necessary. And if thre is some D that isn't explained by the alterntaive, it's up to you to show it. But you haven't."

    This is starting to remind of the forum: "nuh-uh."

    Walter: "Newtonian physics says that if A is moved by B, then B is moved by A, so it excludes your statue, which is just an example of a totally inert, passive 'first mover'."

    You're once again thinking of Newtonian physics in too narrow of terms. For any object A in motion that moves B, A is moved in the process of moving B. That says nothing about objects that are not in motion.

    Walter: "And if the PM is actively bringing about motion, Newtonian physics tells us that if A is moved by the PM, the PM is moved by A. If you want to claim that yopur PM is an exception, you have to argue for it, Doug."

    I have argued for it, but unfortunately, you're overlooking a number of Newtonian specificities.

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  46. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 23, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    "No, Walter, it's not irrelevant. The type of change we observe throughout the universe simply doesn't fall under the category of moving in a straight in an absolute empty vacuum."

    Of course not, because in this universe, other forces are at work which bend, slow down or speed up objects in motion. But nevertheless, applying your favourite PSR, if we see an object moving, we have no reason whatsoever to aks for the reason why it does not stop, instead if the object suddenly stops or starts moving in another direction, then a reason is required.

    "For any object A in motion that moves B, A is moved in the process of moving B. That says nothing about objects that are not in motion."

    Have you ever really studied Newtonian physics, Doug? Because what you are saying here is does not make any sense at all.
    Newtonian physics says that every object A that moves an object B is moved by B in the opposite direction. Action equals reaction. Once an object moves some other object, the original object is also moved.
    You argue that if A moves B, then B moves A, except when A does not move. There is absolutely no reason to believe that, based on 21st century knowledge, that is.

    But I'm not going to spend any more time on this completely outdated argument, Doug.

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  48. Walter: "Of course not, because in this universe, other forces are at work which bend, slow down or speed up objects in motion."

    Good.

    Walter: "But nevertheless, applying your favourite PSR, if we see an object moving, we have no reason whatsoever to aks for the reason why it does not stop, instead if the object suddenly stops or starts moving in another direction, then a reason is required."

    This doesn't make any sense. I already pointed out that your objection is only applicable to objects moving in a straight line in an empty vacuum. You can't have it both ways.

    Walter: "Have you ever really studied Newtonian physics, Doug?"

    Yes, I have.

    Walter: "Newtonian physics says that every object A that moves an object B is moved by B in the opposite direction. Action equals reaction. Once an object moves some other object, the original object is also moved."

    Newton himself would have only applied this principle to physical objects. Besides, you're ignoring the distinction between attractive and compulsive motion.

    Walter: "But I'm not going to spend any more time on this completely outdated argument, Doug."

    It's funny that you call it "outdated," as if age has anything to do with truth. As it's been shown, the objections against the argument from motion (and its subsequent modal versions) are all based on either misrepresentations of Aristotelian causality or misuses of modern science. Case in point is the idea that Newtonian physics somehow undermines Aristotle's argument.

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  49. Walter Van den AckerFebruary 26, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    "It's funny that you call it "outdated," as if age has anything to do with truth. As it's been shown, the objections against the argument from motion (and its subsequent modal versions) are all based on either misrepresentations of Aristotelian causality or misuses of modern science. Case in point is the idea that Newtonian physics somehow undermines Aristotle's argument."

    Age does not matter so much, but what does matter is that modern physics definitely does undermine Aritotle's idea that movement is caused by invisible creatures pushing things around. For the rest, I won't repeat. If you want to believe your argument works, that's fine with me. I know it doesn't.

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