Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Is Existence a Predicate?

A friend of mine once referred to the statement that "existence is not a predicate" as Kant's Assertion.  I think that's an apt description, since there are really no arguments against existence being a predicate.  Yet, Kant's Assertion is often just repeated as if the matter is settled.  However, consider this argument:

1. Necessarily, if X and Y possess all of the same attributes, then X and Y are identical. (Premise, Leibniz's Law)

2. Necessarily, if some not-real A possesses all of the same attributes as some real B, then A and B are identical. (From 1)

3. A not-real A cannot possess all of the same attributes as B. (Premise)

4. Therefore, A and B are distinct. (From 2 and 3)

(1) states the relatively uncontroversial axiom of logic known as Leibniz's Law.  Now, if existence is not a predicate, then (2) requires that A and B possess all of the same attributes.  The problem is that A does not exist, whereas B does exist.  The only difference between the two would be existence, but since existence does not exist, it follows that A and B are distinct by nothing.  However, to be distinct by nothing is to be identical, which entails that A and B are actually identical and not distinct.  You can all decide for yourselves if that's a rational position.

If you're anything like me, though, you'll affirm (3) (and hence (4) as well) and reject Kant's Assertion.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Central Argument of "The God Delusion"

For some reason I always feel the need to say Richard Dawkins is a man of intelligence before I criticize any of his arguments.  It's the same with Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss.  Some are critical of those who criticize their arguments, since they're not professional philosophers.  Poetically, that's entirely the point.  Not only are they not professional philosophers, but they've shown very little evidence that they've studied philosophy to any reasonable extent.  However, whenever a person enters into the world of philosophy, they had better be prepared for some philosophical critiques.  Can you imagine me, as a scientific layman, writing a book called The Science Delusion, and then making excuses for why I shouldn't debate the leading scientists of the day?  Dawkins has done just that with William Lane Craig for years now.  Nevertheless, let's take a quick look at the argument that Dawkins considers a knockdown argument for atheism.

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises. (Premise)

2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. (Premise)

3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. (Premise)

4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. (Premise)

5. We don't have an equivalent explanation for physics. (Premise)

6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism in biology. (Premise)

7. Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist. (Conclusion)

Now, anyone even remotely familiar with logic will say that the conclusion that "God almost certainly does not exist" is a complete non sequitur.  Even if one grants all six of Dawkins's premises - even the most dubious ones, such as (3) - the conclusion is simply not a cogent inference.  Let's say the design argument fails, and let's grant that arguments concerning law-like behavior and the fine-tuning of the universe's initial conditions fail.  So what?  These are largely inductive arguments, whereas Thomism and other philosophical traditions offer mostly deductive arguments for God's existence.

Dawkins only offers a couple pages dedicated to the proofs of Thomas Aquinas, and he misinterprets them for the most part.  For example, with respect to the first three ways Dawkins states on p. 101 that, "[Thomists] make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress."  Unfortunately, had Dawkins taken the time to read Thomas Aquinas's reasons for concluding to an Unmoved Mover, an Uncaused Cause, and a Necessary Being, he would have realized that the causal premises require that the First Cause be uncaused.

Dawkins continues, "Even if we allow the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress and giving it a name, simply because we need one . . ."

I'm going to stop right there and point out that Thomas offers three distinct arguments against an infinite regress of essentially-ordered causes.  There's nothing arbitrary about it.

Continuing, "there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with any of the properties normally ascribed to God: omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, creativity of design, to say nothing of such human attributes as listening to prayers, forgiving sins and reading innermost thoughts."

At this point, one can only wonder: did Dawkins just read the five ways in the Summa Theologiae (literally a summary of theology) and simply gloss over Thomas's arguments for God's omnipotence, and so forth?

Next, "Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible.  If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence.  But that means he can't change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent."

First, what logicians is Dawkins referring to?  He makes no citations and only adds a little poem by Karen Owens to confirm his point.  Secondly, God cannot do what is logically impossible.  He cannot create a square-circle, and no, he cannot change his mind, since he is immutable.  This fits quite nicely with the actual definition of omnipotence (the ability to do whatever is logically possible) and can only be used as an argument against God by adopting a caricature of the term.

Finally, "To return to the infinite regress and the futility of invoking God to terminate it, it is more parsimonious to conjure up, say, a 'big bang singularity', or some other physical concept as yet unknown."

This is the definitive proof that Dawkins doesn't understand Thomas's arguments.  Thomas argues that the universe must have a First Cause in the order of essentially-ordered causes, or sustaining causes.  This is entirely different from the originating cause of the kalam cosmological argument that Dawkins conflates with the Thomistic proofs.  As far as Thomas is concerned, a universe infinite in the past still requires a First Cause in the order of sustaining causes.  It's one thing to ask why something begins to exist, and quite another to ask why it continues to exist.  For defenders of the kalam argument, I'll leave it to you to explain what's obviously wrong with Dawkins's alternative "big bang singularity" being the cause of anything.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Am I Crazy?

You've probably heard that the colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Of all forums, I once again found myself trying to engage in serious debate on YouTube.  YouTube.  Let that sink in.

Now, YouTube is among the worst places on the internet to expect reasonable debate to take place on serious issues.  Since I've gone there several times in the hopes that "maybe this time things will be different," I'm now questioning my sanity.

Here's the dilemma, though.  If I'm insane, I shouldn't know that I'm insane, right?  Crazy people don't know they're crazy.  So, if I'm insane for expecting a different result from YouTube, but I know it, then I can't be insane.  It gets even nuttier from here!  If I now know that I'm sane, then maybe I'm crazy after all.  Since crazy people believe they're sane, what if that includes me!?

Goodness!  My whole world is crumbling beneath me! :)

Look, the fact of the matter is that whatever your religious or political persuasion, if you're looking for meaningful debate and or dialogue, you need to learn to choose your battles.  That means avoiding nutcases who substitute personal attacks for sound philosophical arguments.  It means not letting yourself get baited into debates that have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand.  Finally, it means not getting yourself worked up over the fact that "someone on the internet is wrong."  We live in a complex world, filled with all kinds of ideas and philosophies.  Be comfortable in your own skin and you'll be fine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Is there evidence for God's existence?

Notice the question isn't asking whether God's existence is certain, highly plausible, or just more plausible than not.  Rather, it's asking whether there is any evidence that would increase the probability that God exists than had that evidence not existed.  Here's how we can assess such evidence:

Let G = God exists
E = some specific evidence
B = our background information
P = probability

Now, God's existence increases in its probability so long as the following is met:

P(G/E&B) > P(G/B)

Richard Swinburne calls a successful instance of the above a correct C-inductive argument for God's existence.  A correct C-inductive argument would only make the probability of God's existence more plausible than it would have been sans the specific evidence.  It does not purport to demonstrate a correct P-inductive argument, which would make God's existence more probable than not.

To give an example of a correct-C inductive argument, let's take the law-like operations of nature.  If God exists, and more specifically designed the universe, would we expect nature to exhibit law-like behavior?  The answer is yes, so long as the God in question is the God of classical theism.

Might we expect nature to behave in a law-like manner without God's design?  Maybe, but that's no reason to discount the evidence as constituting a correct C-inductive argument.  For instance, let's suppose that there was a theft, and two sets of fingerprints are found on the safe.  The probability that one person is the thief is not undermined by the fact that another person's fingerprints were found.  Of course, both could have agreed to steal from the safe, but that's impertinent to the argument.  Moreover, what if one of the persons was witnessed to be in another location during the time of the theft?  That would undermine this person's guilt.

What we have, then, are the beginnings of what Swinburne calls a cumulative case for God's existence, all of which are based on the accumulation of correct C-inductive arguments.  After analyzing all of the evidence for and against God's existence, Swinburne concludes that we have a correct P-inductive argument for God's existence.  However, that conclusion is beyond the scope of this post.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Brute facts and explanations

I've been mulling over an axiom I've come up with (at least, I think it's original), but I welcome thoughts on it.

Axiom: For any brute fact f1, if f1 is capable of explaining some other fact f2, then f1 possibly has an explanation.

The axiom appears to have intuitive support, but I'm looking for more than that.  If we consider that f1 stands in some sort of explanatory relationships, then is it not a double-standard to say that while f1 can explain f2, f1's being explained is impossible?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Transcendental Thomism

Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one type of Thomism.  My own allegiance is to Aristotelian-Thomism, which holds to realism and teleology with respect to various metaphysical and ethical issues.  Nevertheless, I remain intrigued by what's known as "Transcendental Thomism."  This is not Thomism combined with presuppositionalism.  Rather, it's an attempt to reconcile the conclusions of Thomas Aquinas with the methodology of Immanuel Kant.  That's just a rough definition, but it'll do for now.  One famous Transcendental Thomist is Karl Rahner.

What caused me to initially look into this other school of Thomism is a discussion I had years ago as an undergrad with my Ethical Theory professor.  I questioned whether virtue ethics were really inconsistent with Kant's categorical imperative.  He stated that it was, and that was that.  Don't get me wrong; he was very polite about it.  However, I wasn't convinced.

Let's take the Aristotelian mean (virtue ethics) between two extremes: cowardice and rashness.  The Aristotelian mean is courage, or bravery.  The coward shies away from acting when he ought to act.  On the other extreme, the rash person goes out looking for trouble.  A truly courageous person will act/step in/fight/whatever when appropriate.  Now, why can't the categorical imperative be consistent with this?  Wouldn't Kant agree that the best moral decision to choose is courage?

Of course, there are some inconsistencies between the two.  Kant is famous for stating that one ought to tell the truth even if the whole world should perish, and no exceptions.  The virtue ethicist, while acknowledging that lying is wrong, will make exceptions for a person's culpability.  For instance, if one were living in Germany during World War II, and Nazis came knocking on his door, asking if he's hiding any Jews, then the homeowner ought to lie if he's hiding any Jews.  Lying in this situation will potentially save the lives of these men and women, which is a greater good than telling the truth in this situation.

When it comes to metaphysics, Kant rejects the traditional arguments for God's existence first on the grounds that the noumena (what a thing is in and of itself) cannot be known.  What we do know is phenomena (what we perceive).  Kant also allows for a priori knowledge, or at least a predisposition toward allowing perceptions to be intelligible.  He accepts a moral argument for God's existence, based on the pragmatism of moral accountability.  However, I think the Transcendental Thomist can salvage the traditional arguments simply by limiting their application to the phenomenal realm.  Take, for example, the argument from change:

1. Changing things exist. (Premise)

2. Changing things exhibit actuality and potentiality. (Premise)

3. No potentiality can actualize itself. (Premise)

4. There is a regress of potentialities being actualized. (Premise)

5. The regress itself exhibits potentiality. (Premise)

6. Hence, the regress cannot actualize itself. (From 1 - 5)

7. The only thing that could actualize an entire regress of potentialities is Pure Actuality. (Premise)

8. Therefore, Pure Actuality exists. (From 6 and 7)

The purpose of this post isn't to debate the merits of this argument.  I've written many posts previously where I invite such debate and discussion.  Rather, the point here is this: Kant rejects this argument because its premises make claims about the noumenal realm, the latter of which is unknowable.  Now, there are two options the Thomist can take at this point.  The first is to take the Aristotelian-Thomistic approach and reject Kant's insistence on there being an unknowable noumenal realm.  The second is to follow how the Transcendental Thomists respond, which is to ask: so what?  So what if the argument has no bearing on the noumenal realm?  It can still be applied to the phenomenal realm, and one would be justified in accepting this as a sound argument for God's existence so long as it's justification is limited to phenomena.

In any case, these are just some of my inchoate thoughts.  My favorite (extra Biblical) philosophers are undoubtedly Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.  However, I'd include Kant somewhere within my top five philosophers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An update of my summary of the fifth way

Here's how I now choose to summarize Thomas Aquinas's fifth way:

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity always or for the most part is the result of providence. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit regularity always or for the most part. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the laws of nature are the result of providence. (From 1 and 2)

Lest someone charge that I've committed a reification fallacy in premise (2) by treating the "laws" of nature as things that exist, I'm simply referring to the behavior of things that these laws describe.  And once again, "providence" should be understood as either necessity or design.  If one is uncomfortable using this term, he or she is free to choose another.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Can an actual infinite exist in the real world?

I confess that I'm still intrigued by the kalam cosmological argument (KCA), even though I very much prefer the Aristotelian-Thomistic cosmological arguments.  The KCA is easy to formalize:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. (Premise)

2. The universe began to exist. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. (From 1 and 2)

If this argument is sound, then the cause of the universe (the sum total of all physical space, time, matter and energy) would have to be timeless, changeless, immaterial and very powerful.  I won't comment on premise (1), except to note that it relies on the ex nihilo principle: out of nothing comes nothing.

I'm more interested in premise (2).  William Lane Craig offers two philosophical arguments and two scientific arguments in support of this premise.  I only want to focus on one of his philosophical arguments.

2a. An actual infinite cannot exist in the real world. (Premise)

2b. A universe without a beginning includes an actual infinite in the real world. (Premise)

2c. Therefore, the universe's past must be finite. (From 2a and 2b)

I'll skip (2c), since I assume it's not the controversial premise of the argument.  Why think an actual infinite cannot exist in the real world?  Here's what I've gathered based on my on-and-off study of the KCA:

2i. In set theory, subtraction and division are prohibited when applied to infinite sets. (Premise)

2ii. Nothing in the real world would prevent subtraction or division when applied to any set. (Premise)

2iii. Therefore, there cannot be an actual infinite in the real world. (From 2i and 2ii)

Keep in mind that set theory is logically consistent.  If a mathematician wants to prohibit certain functions in a mathematical theory, that's fine.  The question is whether or not such a theory can be applicable in the real world.

I've struggled with this argument, but I do see a lot of intuitive support for it.  Nevertheless, I'll ultimately leave this issue to those who are experts on the KCA.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why a rejection of the PSR undermines atheism

Theists are often challenged to provide a sufficient reason to believe in God.  Isn't it poetic, then, that when theists cite the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) in support of God's existence, that many atheists object to the PSR?  To state the contingency argument yet again:

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

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. (Premise)

3. The universe exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (From 1 and 3)

5. Therefore, the universe's explanation of its existence is God. (From 2 and 4)

The only way to avoid this conclusion is to say that the universe exists by a necessity of its own nature, which very few atheistic philosophers contend, or to deny the PSR, which is premise (1).  Yet, if (1) is rejected, why is the theist required to give an explanation of his or her belief in God?  It seems to me that unless that atheist presupposes the PSR, then the theist doesn't have to justify his or her belief.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Simple Argument for Substance Dualism

1. There is a possible world at which I exist apart from my body. (Premise)

2. Whatever is possible is necessarily possible. (Premise, S5)

3. Hence, it is possible that I exist apart from my body in the actual world. (From 1 and 2)

4. Therefore, I am distinct from my body. (Implied by 3)

The God Gene and the Sensus Divinitatis

Some have dismissed religious experiences as inauthentic due to the fact that medical professionals can induce these states in patients.  I'm not at all impressed by this objection.  After all, they can induce all kinds of experiences, such as pain and pleasure, that we all know to be authentic.

In any case, scientists are now talking about the so-called "God gene," known technically as VMAT2.  What this means is that human beings are genetically predisposed toward belief in God.  I'm not yet able to formulate an argument for justified belief based on VMAT2, but I think we're headed in that direction, and that the sensus divinitatis, far from being a whacky outdated idea, is actually backed up by medical science.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Can I, a non-scientist, be justified in rejecting a scientific theory that has a strong majority support?

Some physicists, like Lawrence Krauss, make sweeping claims about how we cannot trust the laws of logic.  What folks like Krauss have in mind are paradoxes, such as Schrodinger's Cat.  It should be noted, first of all, that only the law of excluded middle (that p is either true or false) is called into question, and this is only done at the quantum level.  The law of excluded middle, along with the rest of the laws of logic, would still have to be trustworthy on the macro level.  Otherwise, anything Krauss claims can be dismissed on non-logical grounds.

However, let's dig into this a bit deeper.  The law of excluded middle is only called into question within the domain of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.  Assuming the law of excluded middle truly is incompatible with this interpretation, which the majority of physicists accept for the time being, should the philosopher simply concede that the law of excluded middle is inapplicable on the quantum level?  I suggest that the philosopher ought to give himself more credit and not view himself as inferior to the physicist.  If any scientific theory, or interpretation of that theory, undermines any of the laws of logic, including the law of excluded middle, maybe it's time for scientists to abandon that theory or interpretation.  The argument may be summarized as follows:

1. The law of excluded middle is inconsistent with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. (Premise)

2. One should not adopt inconsistent positions. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one should either abandon the law of excluded middle or the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. (From 1 and 2)

Given the overwhelming support in favor of the law of excluded middle, it seems to me that if there is any inconsistency, then the Copenhagen interpretation ought to be abandoned.  I don't think I'm any more out of line rejecting some scientific theory than a scientist is by making the absurd claim that philosophy is useless.  After all, science presupposes various philosophical concepts: the laws of logic and mathematics, the principle of induction, and the uniformity of nature.  These concepts are not observed by the scientist, but are presupposed by the scientist in order to allow his observations to be intelligible.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reformulating the argument from change

Since roughly half the people I talk to about the argument from change don't understand the argument against an infinite regress of sustaining causes of change (and that's on me for not explaining it clearly enough), I've decided to offer an additional argument:

1. Changing things exist. (Premise)

2. Everything that changes exhibits actuality and potentiality. (Premise)

3. No potentiality can actualize itself. (Premise)

4. The regress of potentialities being actualized itself exhibits potentiality. (Premise)

5. Therefore, Pure Actuality exists. (Implied by 1 - 4)

Since I've recently written on the first three premises, I want to focus on (4).  What I like about this formulation is that it doesn't matter if the regress is finite or infinite.  Even if the regress of sustaining causes of change were infinite, it would still exhibit potentiality, since every member of the regress exhibits potentiality.

Like many cosmological arguments, premise (4) might be charged with committing a composition fallacy.  However, since there are many instances in which the whole is like its parts, we need to be careful.  It seems quite reasonable that the regress, finite or infinite, need not be actualized.  In other words, it's not a necessity that any member of the regress, or the regress as a whole should be actualized.  This implies that the regress as a whole must exhibit potentiality.

Now, since the regress exhibits potentiality, and no potentiality can actualize itself, it follows that the regress of potentialities being actualized can only be actualized by something external to the regress of entities that exhibit potentiality.  That's why Pure Actuality must exist, whether the regress of sustaining causes of change is finite or infinite.

Another nice feature of this version of the argument is that it's immune to the fairly common "quantum mechanics objection."  Although I don't find that objection sound, we can do a complete end-run around this issue, since the regress of potentialities being actualized also includes things that change on the macro level.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An undesirable consequence of Heracliteanism

First of all, I like Heraclitus's thought in many ways.  He's famous for saying one cannot step into the same river twice.  He views reality as being in flux, or change, with the exception of the Logos, which is the ordering principle that allows these changes to be intelligible.

Here's where I disagree with Heraclitus.  Nevermind his position that the Logos is part of the universe, as opposed to a transcendent cause of the order found within the universe.  There's also a major difficulty with his notion of everything in a constant state of flux.  He goes further than the Aristotelian, who acknowledges change in things that exhibit potentiality.  Heraclitus maintains that one cannot step into the same river twice not just because it's no longer the same river, but also because it's no longer the same person stepping into it!

Imagine taking this mentality into the courtroom.  "Your honor, I couldn't have committed the crime, because there's no such thing as a person who maintains his identity."  Do you think the judge, let alone an entire jury, would be impressed by such an objection?

The Aristotelian can make sense out of the change that occurs throughout the world by postulating that the form of the person, which is identified with the soul, remains the same, even though the body undergoes steady change.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Arrogance is a virtue?

One of my former philosophy professors (I'll keep the name anonymous) at the University of North Texas think so.  In his words, "Being a philosopher is the highest calling.  Everyone should be a philosopher."  He meant this not in an "everyone is a philosopher" type of way, but to the extent that everyone should spend most of their lives pondering philosophical questions and attempting to provide reasonable answers.

Now, it would be too easy to dismiss this professor's conviction that "arrogance is a virtue," without understanding the context in which he said it, which was partly tongue-in-cheek ("Are you students paying attention to what ridiculous thing I just said?").  I think a more charitable interpretation would be that he meant that confidence is a virtue.  On a virtue ethics interpretation, confidence is the Golden Mean between self-deprecation and arrogance.  Strictly speaking, one engages in self-deprecation if he thinks of himself as less than he really is.  Likewise, one engages in arrogance if he thinks of himself as greater than he really is.  The most ethical attitude to possess, therefore, is confidence.

The question remains: is being a philosopher really the highest calling?  I won't attempt to answer this question, except to say that engaging in philosophy ought to be a very important aspect of every person's life.  Nevertheless, my former professor's contention leaves him in some good company.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why do theistic philosophers generally win their debates with atheistic philosophers?

A lot of excuses have been made.  "William Lane Craig is just a good debater" is an instant classic.  If he were only a good debater, but lacked any substance to his arguments, then surely his atheistic counterparts would be ready to provide successful refutations.  Instead, we find that atheistic philosophers have to make some claims that they could only get away with in writing.  Once these claims are stated out loud, it's exceedingly difficult to take their arguments seriously.  Consider the following atheistic responses to theistic arguments:

1. Something can come from nothing.  (Really?  So why don't things pop into existence out of nothing in any of our experiences, since observational sense experience is supposed to be so key to the case against theism?)

2. Potentialities can actualize themselves, e.g. things can be self-caused.  (In order for a thing to be self-caused, it would first have to exist in order to cause its existence, which means it both exists and does not-exist simultaneously.  This is contradictory.)

3. There is no objective moral law, but it's wrong to torture children for fun. (Theistic response: huh?)

4. The universe's fine-tuning can be explained by infinitely-many universes.  (Best case scenario?  Pure speculation.)

5. The laws of logic are not reliable, so philosophy is useless and science alone can provide us with knowledge.  (Granted this claim was made by Lawrence Krauss, and not any atheistic philosopher I'm aware of.)

6. Just because every contingent thing can possibly not-exist doesn't mean the sum total of all contingent things can possibly not-exist.  (If every part of a mountain can not-exist, then the mountain as a whole can not-exist.  The atheist is now grasping at straws.)

7. An actual infinite can be formed by successive addition.  Between 1 and 2, there are infinitely-many fractions.  (I've already had a lot to say about this gem.  Whenever all of the fractions are added up, we get a finite sum.  Moreover, 1 and 2 are the respective beginning and end of the interval.  The atheist has unwittingly provided confirmation of the theist's claim, since the example presupposes something finite!)

8. God hasn't made his existence sufficiently evident to everyone which, if God existed, he would do.  (Question-begging much?)

9. Even if a deity exists, it doesn't have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.  (So what?  Besides, if the ontological argument is sound, then God must possess these additional attributes.)

10. The post-mortem appearances of Jesus to his disciples can be explained as hallucinatory.  (What about the Apostle Paul?  And the lack of any evidence for uniformity among group hallucinations?  How about the empty tomb?)

These are just ten examples of what I consider to be bad objections to theistic arguments.  Yet, many of these aren't typically the arguments of the new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett).  Rather, we find professional (atheistic) philosophers of the likes of Quentin Smith asserting #1.  Is it any wonder that Smith admits that theists win the vast majority of these debates?

Finally, we don't just find William Lane Craig winning these debates.  J.P. Moreland is another.  Then there's Gary Habermas, Norman Geisler, and even the late Greg Bahnsen.  To reiterate, my theory is that atheistic philosophers are somewhat embarrassed to say out loud what they've previously claimed in writing.  Things become a little more real, a little more concrete, when you have to verbally communicate some rather absurd claims.

It should go without saying that I respect the intellects of atheistic philosophers, such as Quentin Smith, Austin Dacey, Graham Oppy, and J. Howard Sobel.  Nevertheless, I think their objections to theism are simply too easy to expose as fallacious in the context of a formal debate.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reintroducing the Basic Metaphysical Argument for God's Existence

I refer to the argument in St. Thomas Aquinas's small tract, De Ente et Essentia, as a "metaphysical argument," as opposed to a cosmological or ontological argument, since neither of the latter descriptions appear to me adequate to describe what Thomas is getting at.  To be certain, the metaphysical argument is a posteriori, since it begins with the observation that something exists.  Here's how I simplify the argument:

1. Something exists. (Premise)

2. Something exists if and only if being exists. (Premise)

3. Therefore, being exists. (From 1 and 2)

I use the expression "being exists" in order to avoid the redundancy of saying that "existence exists."  Nevertheless, "being" is used synonymously with "existence."

Premise (1) is quite obviously true.  For example, in order to doubt my own existence, I would first have to exist in order to doubt it.  This is along the same lines as Descartes's cogito ergo sum, or "I think, therefore I am."

Premise (2) is more controversial.  However, I'm not at all impressed by the objections to it.  Kant asserted that existence is not a predicate.  But, why should we agree with such a contention?  What, for instance, is the difference between something real and something not-real?  If being does not exist, then the difference between something real and something not-real is literally nothing.  This means that what is real is identical to what is not-real, which is absurd.

Thomas continues by deducing some of the divine attributes of being, or "being itself subsisting."  Being must be eternal and omnipresent, since there is no time or place at which being does not exist.  If there were no being at some time or place, then nothing would exist at either time or place.  Moreover, being must be unique, or one.  If there were more than one being, then there would be distinctions among them.  However, to be distinct from being is to be non-being, in which case the latter does not exist anyway.  Being is a thing's existence or actuality.  The reason why things are able to be distinct from one another is because they possess distinct essences.  The essence of a thing is its nature.  This means that everything that exists participates in one being, but can be distinguished by their various essences.

Being must also be immutable, since to change from being to anything else would result in being's becoming non-being, which is self-contradictory.  Next, being must contain within itself all perfections: omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection.  If it did not possess these attributes, then being would exhibit potentiality, which is impossible for something immutable.  Changing things exhibit actuality and potentiality, just as the acorn is merely an acorn in actuality and an oak tree in potentiality.  Being itself must be Pure Actuality as a result of its immutability.

Therefore, I maintain we have a sound and rationally compelling argument for the existence of an eternal, omnipresent, unique, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being.  This, as the Angelic Doctor muses, everyone understands to be God.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Outline of an argument I'll be defending

As some of you know, I'm currently editing an anthology entitled, Contemporary Perspectives in Thomism.  This will be my second major work after completing Faith and Philosophy: An Introduction to Natural Theology, which I authored by myself.  I'll have more details about the publication of these books relatively soon.  In my contribution to the anthology, "Karl Popper, Induction and the Teleological Argument," I argue that the principle of induction is a rational presupposition, the denial of which results in absurdity.

I maintain that Karl Popper's alternative to induction actually presupposes induction, and so his albeit very well thought-out epistemology is ultimately self-defeating.  Since the principle of induction is a first principle of rational inquiry, as well as rational inference, mental assent to the uniformity of nature is unavoidable.  Moreover, I maintain that the uniformity of nature has at the very least some modest theistic implications.  Here's an outline of one of my arguments in support of closing the gap between the uniformity of nature and theism:

1. The universe is intelligible. (Premise)

2. Intelligibility presupposes order. (Premise)

3. Order is explicable in either necessity or design. (Premise)

4. Hence, the intelligibility of the universe is either the result of necessity or design. (From 1 - 3)

5. If it is the result of necessity, then theism is true. (Premise)

6. If it is the result of design, then theism is true. (Premise)

7. Therefore, some form of theism is true. (From 4 - 6)

Obviously, I will have to defend each of these premises, some of which are more controversial than others.  I'll also be taking a look at conceptualism as a plausible explanation for our knowledge of necessarily existent abstract objects, such as the laws of logic, which will yield very strong theistic implications.  After all, the intelligibility of the universe is not just in terms of the laws of nature, but also in terms of a priori knowledge and the laws of logic and mathematics.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Pragmatic Argument for Justified Belief in God

This argument falls under the category of pragmatic arguments, as opposed to theoretical arguments, the latter of which seek to demonstrate the existence of God.  Pragmatic arguments, on the other hand, merely seek to demonstrate that a person is justified in believing in God for practical purposes.  Here's just one such pragmatic argument.

1. All things being equal, one should adopt a belief that leads to happiness as opposed to unhappiness. (Premise)

2. Belief in a God (especially one who is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect) leads to happiness. (Premise)

3. There are no demonstrative proofs of God's existence or non-existence. (Assumption)

4. Hence, belief in God's existence or non-existence is on equal terms. (From 1 - 3)

5. Therefore, one should adopt and maintain belief in God. (From 1, 2 and 4)

Premise (1) seems intuitively true.  I can't think of any arguments in support of it or against it off the top of my head, though.  I'd support premise (2) by appealing to the many studies that show how prayer and meditation have a positive impact upon one's health and happiness.  See, for example, this article. Praying to and meditating upon a maximally excellent God would seemingly add to one's health and happiness, considering that such a God would be in control and have a greater purpose for one's suffering.

Premise (3) is merely an assumption.  I'm assuming for the sake of argument that there are no sound theoretical or demonstrative arguments for theism (I think there are) and no sound theoretical or demonstrative arguments against theism (I think there aren't).  (4) follows from (1) through (3) and (5) follows from (1), (2) and (4).

Again, this is by no means a proof of God's existence.  I'm also not claiming that people who pray and meditate won't experience suffering of various sorts.  However, the same studies show that those who pray and meditate are generally more able to cope with these sufferings, which helps to explain why praying people tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.