Thursday, October 27, 2011

Contingency and Design Arguments

An acceptance of the PSR leads one to believe that the whole of contingent reality C has an explanation of its existence. Now, an explanation can be of one of two types: a thing's explanation is found either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. Since C does not exist by a necessity of its own nature, it follows that C's explanation is found in an external cause. This external cause must be a necessary and eternal entity N, as well as very powerful in order to cause something as vast as C.

Let's suppose the atheist not only denies that N is God, but that there is any such entity as N. The atheist could do this, for example, by denying the PSR. The problem is that this presents the atheist with a new challenge. For, design arguments often present the uniformity of nature or the fine-tuning of the universe's initial conditions within the context of a trilemma:

1. The laws of nature are either due to necessity, chance, or design. (Premise)

One would be hard-pressed to think of a fourth alternative to premise (1). Keeping in mind the atheist's denial of the argument from contingency, especially the existence of N, we are led to premise (2):

2. The laws of nature are not due to necessity or chance. (Premise)

From these two premises, it follows that:

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

But surely the atheist does not want to affirm (3)! Yet, he already denies one of his alternatives, which leaves him with only one option: the affirmation that the laws of nature (and/or the universe's fine-tuning) are due exclusively to chance. Remember, there is no N at all according to this radical position, so the laws of nature cannot be the products of a combination of necessity and chance.

Obviously, if the chance hypothesis doesn't pan out (and there are good reasons to think it doesn't), one must accept that N exists and/or that the laws of nature are designed. Whichever route is taken, a large chunk of either the contingency or design arguments must be affirmed as a matter of consistency.

Friday, October 21, 2011

De Ente et Essentia and the First Way

Thomas argues in De Ente et Essentia that God is Pure Act, or existence itself subsisting. His metaphysical argument is the ground of the first four of his five ways in proof of God's existence. The argument from motion, the first of these, specifically recalls the transition of a thing's potentiality to actuality. For example, an acorn exists as an acorn in actuality and as an oak tree in potentiality.

Since no potentiality can actualize itself (an acorn needs water, sunlight, etc), it follows that some actuality is needed to actualize a potentiality. Since Pure Act just is existence itself, it's not hard to see why Thomas associates Pure Act with God. All potentialities are possibly actualized, and nothing is actualized apart from Pure Act (existence), so Pure Act ultimately has power over all potentialites and is therefore omnipotent.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Euthyphro Dilemma

I'm of the opinion that Euthyphro should have been the one asking Socrates the questions. Roughly, the modern defender of the alleged dilemma asks, "is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good?" Let's tackle this question by separating each part of the disjunction:

A. X is good because God wills it.

B. God wills X because X is good.

Now, in order for this to be a true dilemma, B must be the negation (or the equivalent to the negation) of A. Otherwise, the disjunction that Socrates presents is a false dilemma. Euthyphro should have asked Socrates why A and B are contradictory. Why can it not be the case that both A and B?

In debating the question over the years, it has become clear to me that defenders of the dilemma are making a very crucial assumption. What the Euthyphro Dilemma requires in order to work properly is the implication that B entails independence of God. A and B should really be rephrased like this:

A'. X, which is good, is dependent on God.

B'. X, which is good, is independent of God.

Obviously, A' and B' are mutually incompatible, but this raises an even more obvious question: why not simply state the dilemma like this? The answer is likely that Euthyphro would have simply affirmed A'. Hence, there is no dilemma for him to consider. What Socrates and his modern counterpart have to defend is that B entails B'. Are there any forthcoming arguments to support this? I doubt it. In any case, the theist should not accept the burden of proof in trying to explain away the (false) dilemma. Rather, the dilemma's defender ought to accept responsibility for arguing that B and B' are ultimately identical.