Monday, June 24, 2013

The Argument from Reason and Evolution

One of the principal objections to the argument from reason (AfR) is that evolution provides a sufficient explanation for our ability to think critically.  Reliable cognitive faculties provide us (human beings) with a much better chance of survival.  I think this is undoubtedly true, unless as Alvin Plantinga argues, there are equally advantageous ways of surviving without generally reliable cognitive faculties.

However, let's leave aside Plantinga's argument for now and just take the objection at face value.  What does it truly illustrate?  Well, on an evolutionary model of natural selection, we just get survival.  It's not as if natural selection "cares" about whether we have cognitive faculties that are reliable well beyond what is needed for survival.  Yet, as little as we know relatively speaking, we also have a vast amount of knowledge that's simply gratuitous to survival and reproduction.  How exactly does knowledge of General Relativity Theory give us a survival advantage?  I'm sure someone could come up with a hypothesis, ad hoc though it may seem.

In any case, the evolutionary objection to the AfR is not at all conclusive, and is at best an explanation for rationality as it relates to survival.  It explains nothing more.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Future Works to be Published

I'm currently in talks with Abner Publishing to publish an ebook of my text, Faith and Philosophy: An Introduction to Natural Theology.  They should have a definite answer by the end of the month, so I'll be sure to update everyone in case there's any interest in reading.  It's very concise, and my attempt was to take sophisticated arguments for theism and simplify them (without dumbing them down) so the philosophical layperson can understand them and put them into practice.  I also dedicate a chapter to responding to the most common atheistic arguments.  To be blunt, some of them are silly, but I include them because of their pervasiveness.  The only atheistic arguments I take seriously are the arguments from suffering and divine hiddenness, so I respond to these with a bit more vigor.

Next, I'm working on gathering contributors to an anthology entitled, Contemporary Perspectives in Thomism, which I'll be editing and contributing an article of my own ("Karl Popper, Induction and the Teleological Argument").  I'm really looking forward to this work, since it covers much more than natural theology, but also natural law ethics, hylomorphism, an analysis of the transcendentals, and much much more.  We'll only be submitting this book to publishers that will include physical prints (hardcover and or paperback), so prayers are much appreciated!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Michael Martin on Bruce Reichenbach's Cosmological Argument

I've begun writing a response to Michael Martin's criticisms of the Second and Third Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas.  Nevertheless, Martin also criticizes other cosmological arguments in his well-written book, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification.  I say it's "well-written" not because I agree with his conclusions or think he provides any good justification for atheism, but rather that he writes eloquently and surveys a vast number of theistic and atheistic arguments.  I have yet to correspond with Martin in any way, but I have exchanged some emails with Bruce Reichenbach, a defender of a modest Leibnizian cosmological argument.  Reichenbach's argument seeks not to establish the existence of a logically necessary entity, but of an ontologically and temporally necessary entity.  

Here's how Martin summarizes Reichenbach's argument:

1. A contingent being exists.
    a) This contingent being is caused either (i) by itself or (ii) by another.
    b) If it were caused by itself, it would have to precede itself in existence, which is impossible.

2. Therefore, this contingent being (ii) is caused by another; that is, it depends on something else for its existence.

3. That which causes (provides the sufficient reason for) the existence of any contingent being must be either (iii) another contingent being or (iv) a noncontingent (necessary) being.
    c) If (iii), then this contingent cause must itself be caused by another, and so to infinity.

4. Therefore, that which causes (provides the sufficient reason for) the existence of any contingent being must be either (v) an infinite series of contingent beings or (iv) a necessary being.

5. An infinite series of contingent beings (v) is incapable of yielding a sufficient reason for the existence of any being.

6. Therefore, a necessary being exists. [1]

Now, Martin levels multiple objections against Reichenbach's argument, but the one that stood out to me most was this one:

"One can . . . [argue] that the totality of contingent beings is itself contingent on the contingency of that that make up this totality is to commit a composition fallacy. . . . Just because each individual being could cease to exist, it does not follow that all could cease to exist at the same time." [2]

The problem with such an objection is that it leads to obvious absurdities.  Is it, then, necessarily the case that some contingent thing or other exist?  As Pruss is apt to ask, would the non-existence of all non-unicorns imply that a unicorn exists?  Surely not.  It's at this point in his critique that I think Martin takes a much too liberal use of what we call the composition fallacy.  If every part of a mountain is made of rock, then the mountain as a whole must be made of rock.  Likewise, if every part of the totality of contingent things C is contingent, then C must also be contingent.  While I respect Martin's intellect, I think he's just grasping at straws with this objection.

[1] Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, Temple University Press, 1990, p. 119.

[2] ibid., pp. 122-123.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Two Certainties: 1) There is a God; and 2) I am not God.

As you all know, I'm a Thomist.  However, I see value in Descartes's famous maxim: cogito ergo sum, or "I think, therefore I am."  In order to doubt that I exist, I would first have to exist in order to doubt it. Hence, my own existence is certain.  However, I can also be certain that God exists and that God is distinct from me.  Even if the external world were illusory, I experience change in my mind nonetheless, and hence I exemplify both actuality and potentiality.

As I've argued in the past, it is logically impossible for there to be an infinite regress of potentialities having their actualizations sustained.  Therefore, we must arrive at some Pure Actuality: immutable, eternal, indestructible, unique, and omnipotent.

You can reject my arguments if you'd like, but I'm more certain of these two facts than I am that there exists an external physical world.  What argument, after all, can be used to establish or even make plausible that the external physical world is real?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Modal Versions of the First Way

I'm actually finding more time to post entries on this blog than I initially expected, which is nice, because I truly enjoy the diverse interactions.  Here's how one might formulate a modal version of the argument from motion, with the use of a weakened Principle of Sufficient Reason (W-PSR)

1. Possibly, everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (Premise)

2. Possibly, everything that changes has an external and sustaining cause of its change. (Premise)

3. Necessarily, the regress of external and sustaining causes of change is either finite or infinite. (Premise)

4. Possibly, the regress of external and sustaining causes of change is finite. (Premise)

5. Necessarily, if there is a first cause in the order of sustaining causes of change, that cause is immutable, e.g. an Unmoved Mover. (Premise)

6. Hence, an Unmoved Mover possibly exists. (From 2, 4, and 5)

7. Necessarily, an Unmoved Mover cannot be externally caused. (Premise)

8. Hence, an Unmoved Mover exists by a necessity of its own nature. (From 1, 6 and 7)

9. Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists. (Implied by 8)

Another modal version might look like this:

1. Possibly, everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (Premise)

2. Possibly, everything that changes has an external and sustaining cause. (Premise)

3. The universe as a whole is constantly changing. (Premise)

4. Hence, the universe's change possibly has an explanation.

5. Possibly, the universe does not have to change. (Premise)

6. Possibly, the change of the universe is explained by an external cause, e.g. an Unmoved Mover. (From 1, 3, and 5)

7. Hence, an Unmoved Mover possibly exists. (Implied by 6)

8. Necessarily, an Unmoved Mover cannot be externally caused. (Premise)

9. Hence, an Unmoved Mover exists by a necessity of its own nature. (From 1, 7, and 8)

10. Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists. (Implied by 10)

To reiterate, we may infer some modest divine attributes.  Given that the external cause of the universe's change must transcend the universe (the sum total of all physical, space, time, matter and energy), the Unmoved Mover must be timeless, changeless, immaterial, and very powerful.  A good case can be made for additional attributes, but I'll leave that issue aside for now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Simpler Version of the Argument from Change

Normally, I argue against an infinite regress of sustaining causes of change in support of the Aristotelian-Thomistic argument.  However, the following argument is logically valid:

1. Everything that changes has an external cause. (Premise)

2. The universe changes. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe has an external cause of its change. (From 1 and 2)

Premise (1) simply reiterates that no potentiality can actualize itself.  If it could, then it would be self-caused, and would be existent and non-existent simultaneously, which is absurd.  Premise (2) is obviously true, barring some radical version of metaphysical skepticism.

The only objection truly worth noting is the idea that the argument commits a composition fallacy.  Just because every part of a mountain is small doesn't mean the mountain as a whole is small.  Likewise, it is surmised, just because every part of the universe has an external cause of its change doesn't mean that the universe as a whole has a cause of its change.

I think this objection is dubious at best.  After all, an explanation of the change in every part of the universe would not explain why there is any change at all to begin with.  Moreover, many times the whole is like its parts.  If every part of a mountain is made of rock, then the mountain as a whole is made of rock.  Sticking with this analogy, we know that the mountain as a whole has an external cause, e.g. the accumulation of various geological processes.

I think the argument summarized above most resembles the latter type of part-to-whole relationship.  If I'm correct about this, then we have an argument for an Unmoved Mover, which exemplifies no potentiality.  It must, therefore, not only be immutable, but purely actual, eternal, indestructible, unique (for to differ from actuality is to be non-actuality.  Other things are distinct insofar as they exhibit various levels of potentiality), as well as omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.  In defense of these three latter attributes, if the Unmoved Mover were limited in any of these respects, that would entail potentiality, which is impossible for the Unmoved Mover.

*Update: Given that the universe as a whole exhibits both actuality and potentiality, it follows that we have an even stronger argument against the composition fallacy objection.  Since no potentiality can actualize itself, and the universe exhibits potentiality, it necessarily follows that the universe as a whole must have its potentiality actualized by some external cause.  This could only be a timeless, changeless (for time is a measurement of change), immaterial, and very powerful entity, e.g. the Unmoved Mover.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

J.B.S. Haldane's Refutation of Mind-Body Materialism in One Sentence

"If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Link to my new blog

I've attempted to approach the blog you're currently reading as accessible to the philosophical layperson.  This new blog, while not mind-blowing, is intended to be much more scholarly and academic.  Some of the concepts referred to will not be easily understood by philosophical novices.  However, I do my best to explain the relevant concepts with as much rigor as I can.