Friday, May 27, 2011

The Aesthetic Argument

A simple version:

1. There is the music of Bach.
2. Therefore, God exists.

"You either see that one or you don't," half-jests Peter Kreeft.

A more sophisticated version of the argument will unpackage some of the intuitions many of us feel when connection music to reverence of God. The argument, which for now I will simply designate as *the* Aesthetic argument for God's existence.

Music is beautiful if it exhibits melody on top of repetition.

By analogy, nature is beautiful if it exhibits diversity among repetition.

The parity between the two cases is that there is some intelligent composer/designer who is able to translate their beautiful thought into something tangible. As great as Bach's music is, just think of how much great and more wondrous the entire cosmos is! We can, then, quite naturally infer that the designer of the cosmos is that much greater than Bach. Bach, of course, took his inspiration from this designer - the being we call "God."

I prefer the argument from order, since it's premises and conclusions are so clear and impossible to reject on pain of irrationality. There is obviously order in the world and, depending on your additional presuppositions, God is either order itself, or else the entity that causes order within the cosmos. However, why should we limit our mode of inquiry to what is logically and mathematically airtight? Arguments like the aesthetic argument simply tap into a different realm of inquiry that may be known with just as much certainty, just not in the same dry manner.

It's something to think about, at least.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Carelessness of Language

Have you ever said, "I'm tired," when you're not really tired at all? Maybe you just don't like what you're doing at the moment and instead making this feeling explicit, you water it down with, "I'm tired."

Do these slips have any reflection on a person's rational status? Are we in thinking mode, or is it just an automatic response the way "ouch!" is whenever we stub a toe? Further, are these expressions symptomatic of an underlying moral problem? One should say how he/she feels, and so anything short of this would therefore fall short of a moral imperative.

Considered another way, it may actually be a sign of moral virtue. If you have your friend's feelings in consideration, you will likely "blunt the strike," so to speak. Your desire for his emotional well-being is morally praiseworthy, but do the ends justify the means? Or, is this question entirely misplaced, since your friend's well-being is an end in and of itself?

Ethics is tricky. I think I'll stick to the Golden Rule. That famous guy said it. What was his name? Oh, yeah. Jesus!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Against Materialism

Here's an argument against mind-body materialism that I find persuasive:

1. If Materialism is true, all possible minds are physical brains. (Premise)

2. Abstract objects are necessary concepts of a mind. (Premise)

3. There are possible worlds in which there are no physical brains. (Premise)

4. Therefore, Materialism is false. (From 1 - 3)

I take (1) to be one of the standard interpretations of Materialism, but of course, there is some variance among those who call themselves Materialists. (2) entails conceptualism: both the necessary existence of abstract objects and their conceptual nature. One of the inferences to be drawn from (2) is that a necessary mind exists. After all, abstract objects cannot be grounded in just any mind, since there there are possible worlds in which you and I (contingent minds) do not exist, and yet those same abstract objects are still instantiated. Moreover, there are possible worlds in which nothing contingent exists.

Given (3), conceptualism provides us with a strong defeater for Materialism. Obviously each of the argument's premises has to be defended. This is just an outline.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Circularity Objection Against the MCA

Like any modal argument for theism that uses S5, the modal cosmological argument (MCA) is sometimes alleged to commit the informal fallacy of begging the question. First, here's a refresher of the argument:

1. Every contingent entity possibly has an external cause. (Premise)

2. If the sum total of contingent entities C has an external cause, that cause is a necessary entity. (Premise)

3. C is a contingent entity. (Premise)

4. Hence, a necessary entity possibly causes C. (From 1 - 3)

5. Therefore, a necessary entity exists. (From 4 and S5)

Unless the skeptic is willing to question the truthfulness of S5, or else either of (2) or (3), which in any case would be highly dubious, he must focus his attention on (1). Does (1) beg the question?

It's not entirely clear. (1), on its own, does not entail (5), even in conjunction with S5. (2) and (3) have to be added, and only (2) is plausibly analytical. (3) seems almost indubitable, but that doesn't (or shouldn't) have any effect on one's acceptance/denial of (1). In other words, it is coherent to simultaneously affirm (3) and reject (1).

What makes the circularity objection even more suspect is that the negation of (1) does not result in the negation of (5). Even if it is not possible for every contingent entity to have an external cause, a necessary entity may very well exist. This is peculiar if the MCA's proponent is already assuming the truth of (5) by postulating (1).

Finally, even assuming that (1) entails (5) - which it doesn't - that doesn't undermine the argument. There are often cases in which one statement will entail another, despite their possessing two distinct levels of perspicuity. Take, for example, the proposition, "Socrates is a man." This statement is much more obvious than, "Socrates is a homo bipedal primate." Yet, the former entails the latter. What this illustrates is that some statements can supplement by their clarity even those statements they entail. Why can't this be the case with (1) and (5)?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arguing for God as the Logos

We observe diverse things coming together in certain kinds of order. These composite entities either have an external cause of that order or they do not. That much is obvious. What is more controversial, but still seemingly obvious to those of us without a strong prejudice against even quasi-religious statements is that these composite entities really do have external causes of their order. I call this statement "quasi-religious" because of its implications.

1. Composite entities have order. (Premise)

2. If a composite entity has order, its order most likely has an external cause. (Premise)

3. The universe as a whole is a composite entity with order. (Premise)

4. Therefore, the universe's order most likely has an external cause. (From 1 - 3)

The external cause - called the "Logos" by the ancient Greeks - of the universe must itself be non-composite, or simple, if we are going to avoid the regress problem. This is already apparent, though, since if a thing such as the Logos is not extended in space, it cannot be composed of any (physical) parts. The non-temporality of the Logos is also indicative of its eternality. And, of course, the Logos must also be very powerful if it is going to cause order in something as vast as the universe.

Obviously, whenever we introduce the notion that the Logos is intelligent, we are going to come across more resistance. However, if there exists an immaterial, eternal, and very powerful entity that causes the order throughout the entire universe, shouldn't atheists concede that something exists that is at the very least God-like? I would even be thrilled to see a retraction of the term "delusion" so often attached to descriptions of theistic belief.

It's also important to keep in mind that arguments like the one above should not be taken in isolation from one another. The argument from order may be combined with, say, the fine-tuning argument as part of a cumulative argument for God's existence.