Monday, December 28, 2015

Logos Theology and Atheism

Dating way back to Heraclitus, but certainly more refined by the ancient Stoics, was the concept of the Logos.  The Logos had a broad list of meanings, including: word, speech, principle, and about a dozen others.  Heraclitus used the ambiguity of the meaning of Logos purposefully, though not in a deceitful manner.  Rather, his understanding of the Logos was that the little understanding we could have of it could be spread across a plethora of concepts.

Christians as early as the first century A.D. attempted to incorporate Greek philosophical ideas with their own theology in order to "speak the same language," as it were, as those Christian evangelists would spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Greek philosophers.  Paul does this in Acts 17:28 and, more to the point, John explicitly uses the Stoic understanding of Logos in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God."  The text almost invariably translates Logos as "Word" into English.  Nevertheless, this translation does not exclude the understanding of the Stoics, whose understanding of the Logos constituted a central tenet of Stoicism, which was arguably the philosophy of John's day.

For the Stoics, as well as for the Christians who attempted to converse with them, the Logos is simply that which orders the cosmos.  The Stoics, like the early Christians, understood the Logos to be found.  The difference was that the Stoics believed the Logos existed imminently and as part of the cosmos, whereas the Christians had a more nuanced understanding.  Nevertheless, there is clearly a place for common ground to be shared, as the above definition of Logos should illustrate.  What, then, is the argument for the Logos, and are there any reasons to think the Logos is God?  First, here is an argument for the existence of the Logos:

1. Everything that exists most likely has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of their own nature or in an external cause. (Premise, modest version of the PSR)

2. If an ordered cosmos exists and has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is the Logos. (Premise)

3. An ordered cosmos exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, the ordered cosmos most likely has an explanation. (From 1 and 3)

5. Therefore, that explanation is the Logos. (From 2 and 4)

The reader will notice a few things about the above argument.  First, I have slightly weakened the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) from a universal to high probability.  Secondly, this argument resembles the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA).  Finally, but perhaps easily overlooked, is that the Logos could be found within the necessity of the universe's own nature (Stoicism), or in an external cause (Christianity).  The argument above leaves that matter entirely open.  So what does atheism have to do with any of this?

An atheist can and should, in my opinion, entirely embrace the concept of the Logos as essential to any knowledge we could possibly have.  Apart from order, there is only chaos, and there is no knowledge in the absence of order.  The atheist, if he decides to do so, will almost undoubtedly choose to say that the order of the cosmos is found in the necessity of the cosmos' own nature.  What is the cosmos, after all, other than bound by logical and mathematical principles, even in the most alleged chaotic states?  It appears inescapable that the atheist should take the side of the Stoics.

Now, what else can we know about the Logos other than it is that which orders the cosmos?  The atheist should concede at least three things: the Logos is eternal (existing at all times), omnipresent (existing at all places), and indestructible.  This is because there is no time or place, even in the future, at which the laws of logic and mathematics will fail to be instantiated.  The atheist might be a bit cautious at this point, since if this is not God, then it is at least something God-like.  However, since I am interested in finding as much common ground between theists and atheists, I don't think this argument should scare anyone away.  All of us seek knowledge, and all of us do so while presupposes that there is knowledge to be found.  Apart from the Logos, there is no order and, as mentioned before, apart from order there is no knowledge.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Intuition and Libertarian Free Will

The following is an experimental argument.  I have no way of proving that (1) is true or even probable, but it seems reasonable at any rate.

1. All things being equal, intuition is a generally reliable guide to truth. (Premise)

2. My intuition is that I have libertarian free will. (Premise)

3. Therefore, all things being equal, my intuition that I have libertarian free will is most likely true. (From 1 and 2)

Libertarian free will entails that even though I chose X, I could have chosen ~X under the exact same conditions.  Again, this isn't really intended to be a proof, so please take this argument with a grain of salt.  It seems to me that I could have chosen to refrain from a second helping of macaroni and cheese under the exact same conditions in which I chose to eat that second helping.

Part of the issue hinges on this question: are all things equal?  That's a key portion of premise (1).  If there is overwhelming evidence to reject my intuition that I have libertarian free will, then "All things being equal . . ." is a moot point.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Reductio ad Absurdum for the existence of the Logos

The Logos is defined as that which orders the cosmos.

Prove A: The Logos exists.
Assume ~A: The Logos does not exist.
~A -> B: If the Logos does not exist, then nothing can be known.
~B: Something can be known.
Hence, ~~A: by modus tollens.
Therefore, A: by negation.

I think the most controversial premise is (~A -> B). Why think this is true? Consider a crooked line. Would you know that the line is crooked unless you knew what a straight line looks like? Of course not. Likewise, if there is nothing that orders the cosmos, then all we have is chaos, and whatever is claimed to be knowledge is misguided.

In addition, I think we can demonstrate that the Logos is eternal (existing at all times)* and indestructible.  Here's why: Whatever is intelligible is ordered, even if there is nobody to observe it.  Hence, there is no time at which order is non-existent.  Since the Logos is needed for order, it follows that there is no time at which it can fail to exist.  Therefore, the Logos exists, and is eternal and indestructible.

*Eternality can refer to at least two things: 1) Timelessness, which is existence literally without time; and 2) Omnitemporality, which is existence within time, but enduring through all moments of time.  The argument for the existence of the Logos above is consistent with either view of eternality.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Mereological Argument for Classical Theism

Graham Oppy has presented a mereological argument for pantheism.  What I want to explore is whether mereological realism can establish classical theism.

1. Every physical composite thing is composed of parts. (Definition)

2. The parts of a composite thing are either material or immaterial. (Definition)

3. If the parts of a composite thing are material, then those parts can be reduced to fundamental particles. (Premise)

4. Fundamental particles are either necessary or contingent. (Definition)

5. Whatever is necessary has an essence identical to its existence. (Premise)

6. Whatever has an essence identical to its existence is Pure Actuality. (From 5)

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

8. Fundamental particles are necessary. (Assumption)

9. Therefore, fundamental particles are Pure Actuality. (From 6 and 7)

10. Fundamental particles are contingent. (Assumption)

11. Therefore, fundamental particles have an external cause. (From 7 and 10)

12. If fundamental particles have an external cause, that external cause is Pure Actuality. (Premise)

13. Therefore, Pure Actuality exists. (From 9 and 12)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Fifth Way

The Fifth Way of Thomas Aquinas likely appeals to many of you as obvious:

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A circularity of causes and its irrelevance

Imagine a circle of causes.  Each part of the circle causes the next part, and so on, until the very first part is arrived at again.  Does this avoid the need for a First Cause?  Not at all, especially if one excepts even a modest version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR):

PSR: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

The problem with a circularity of causes is that no explanation for the circle is given.  Why is there a circle, rather than no circle at all?  Unless one is willing to bite the bullet and say the circle exists by a necessity of its own nature, which is highly unlikely, if not impossible (necessity entails an essence identical with its existence), then on the PSR one is required to reject the possibility of a circularity of causes: the circle has an external cause.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Fifth Way

This is the argument that moved me from agnosticism to theism.  

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

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

Since whatever transcends nature must also be timeless, changeless (since time is a measurement of change), immaterial, unique, and very powerful and intelligent, we have a sound argument for God's existence. Here's why:
Nature, or the universe, is the sum total of all physical space, time, matter, and energy. As a result, the Cosmic Designer must transcend time/change, and materiality. Moreover, the Cosmic Designer must be unique, or one. This is because whatever cannot change cannot exhibit any potentiality, and is therefore Pure Actuality. If there were more than one Pure Actuality, then there would be distinctions between them. Yet, to be distinct from actuality is to be non-actuality, in which case the latter cannot exist. The reason other things exist is because they are composites of actuality and potentiality.
Since there is only one God, it follows that all power and all intelligence is attributable to God. Hence, God is both omnipotent and omniscient. God is also perfectly good, since to only be partially good is to exhibit potentiality, which is impossible for God, who is Pure Actuality.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Argument from Reason as a Correct C-inductive Argument

Victor Reppert is well-known for his defense of the argument from reason (AFR).  This is a deductive argument in which it is argued that rationality cannot be derived from non-rationality.  However, let's consider using this argument as a correct C-inductive argument.

First, a correct C-inductive argument establishes that evidence for a claim makes the claim more probable than in the absence of that evidence.  For example, if a theft were committed and, say, John's fingerprints were found on the safe, that would increase the probability that John committed the theft.  However, it wouldn't be sufficient evidence, since it's possible that witnesses can attest to John's whereabouts far away from the safe when the crime was committed.  Let's look at the AFR, then, as a correct C-inductive argument.

1. In the cases we know of, a person's rationality is the result of some rational cause. (Premise)

2. In the evolutionary process, human beings are endowed with rationality. (Premise)

3. Therefore, evolution provides evidence that human beings' rationality is the result of a rational cause. (From 1 and 2)

In its current formulation, (3) doesn't prove that there is a Cosmic Designer (although I believe the Fifth Way demonstrates that there is a Cosmic Designer).  However, the inductive AFR does establish that in the absence of the evidence we have, the existence of a Cosmic Designer would be less probable.  Given that we have this evidence, however, the probability of the existence of a Cosmic Designer is increased.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hylomorphism as an Alternative to Mereological Nihilism

Mereological nihilism is the view that composite objects don't really exist.  All that truly does exist (besides God and other immaterial things, granting the arguments from natural theology are consistent with mereological nihilism, and they are, and are also correct) are the most fundamental particles, whether they be quarks or strings, or whatever.

The first problem with mereological nihilism is that it is highly counter-intuitive.  Of course, this point isn't enough the refute it, but it's a start.  Hylomorphism is the Aristotelian view that composite things do exist, and they exist as a combination of matter and form.  Forms are universals that are instantiated within the thing itself.  This is why we are able to compare stars with one another.  Our sun is one of the smaller stars, relatively-speaking.  Without form, or at least the concept of form, all that we would perceive are clumps of fundamental particles, and nothing would appear distinct from anything else.

The mereological nihilist could, then, adopt conceptualism.  Forms exist on this view, but they only exist as mental concepts.  The difficulty with this is that what is the mind (on a strong version of mereological nihilism) other than an arrangement of fundamental particles?  How can an arrangement of fundamental particles think?  This, of course, brings us to the mind-body problem, which is beyond the purview of this post.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Fifth Way

St. Thomas Aquinas' Fifth Way was the first argument that convinced me that a Cosmic Designer exists.  It remains as persuasive today as when I was in high school.

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits order and regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit order and regularity. (Premise)

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

"Who designed the designer?" won't work as an objection, as poor as it is, for at least two reasons.

First, in order for an explanation to be best, we don't have to have an explanation of the explanation.  If a group of archeologists discovered pottery, they wouldn't have to know who designed the pottery or where the civilization went.  Secondly, the Cosmic Designer would transcend the laws of nature.  Since it is impossible to design something timeless, the question is irrelevant.  Whatever is timeless is also changeless, since time is a measurement of change.  Moreover, whatever is changeless cannot be designed, since that would entail a change.

Hence, the village atheist's objections to the Fifth Way fail as anything close to rebuttals to what Thomas has to say.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Modal Third Way

1. (x) (Cx □ → ◊ (t) ~xt).
2. (x) ◊ (□t) ~xt □ → ◊ (□t) (x) ~Pxt.
3. ~(x) (◊x □ → ◊(y) (x ^ Eyx)).
4. ~[(□x) ◊ (□y) Eyx □ → ~(□t) (x) ~Pxt].
5. ~Pxt → ~C(x).
6. :. ~C(x).
In English:
1. Every temporally contingent thing possibly fails to exist at some time.
2. If all things possibly fail to exist at some time, then it is possible that all things collectively fail to exist at some past time.
3. It is necessarily the case that possible truths are explicable.
4. It is necessarily the case that something is explicable if and only if there was not a time when nothing existed.
5. If there could never have been a time when nothing existed, then something temporally necessary exists.
6. Therefore, something temporally necessary exists.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Why I Became a Theist

Like many people at a young age, I wanted sound philosophical arguments to believe in God.  While reading Thomas Aquinas, it was his Fifth Way that persuaded me that there exists a Cosmic Designer, aka God:

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity is the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit regularity. (Premise)

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

Premise (2) isn't controversial; otherwise they wouldn't be laws in the first place.  Premise (1) we can infer through induction.  The arrow lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity, or an end with the aim of the archer.  Winning the lottery a thousand times in a row meets the same criteria.  Hence, there exists a Cosmic Designer, which must transcend the universe and be timeless, changeless, immaterial, very powerful and intelligent.  This everyone understands to be God.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (LCA)

I haven't spent much time defending the LCA, but it's not because I think it's a weak argument.  As my readers know, the vast amount of time defending theism proper I spend vigorously defending St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways.  With that said, I consider the LCA, the conceptualist argument, and the argument from desire to be the next strongest.  Let's take a look at the LCA:

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

2. The universe exists. (Premise)

3. Hence, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (From 1 and 2)

4. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a timeless, changeless, immaterial, powerful cause. (Premise)

5. Therefore, a timeless, changeless, immaterial, powerful cause exists. (From 3 and 4)

Premise (2) is hardly controversial.  Premise (1) is known through experience.  If there were an elephant standing in the middle of the street, and someone claimed that the elephant has no explanation whatsoever, then surely people would think he is either crazy or merely jesting!  Nobody would take such a claim seriously.

Since the remaining premises, except (4), are equally uncontroversial, let's focus on premise (4).  Would it really be reasonable to think the universe exists necessarily?  Does every quark exist necessarily?  Moreover, to exist necessarily is to have its existence and essence identical.  Yet, the universe has diverse essences, which makes a necessary universe impossible.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Benign "First Way"

St. Thomas Aquinas' "First Way" provides us with certainty regarding the existence of God. I only think it's unfortunate that Christians today are often treated as though being a Christian is so unusual. The First Way is a fairly benign argument, so much so that any rejection of the argument's premises (and its conclusion) is demonstrably false. Here's how the argument goes: 

1. Changing things exist. (Premise)

2. Whatever changes exhibits potentiality and actuality. (Premise)

3. No potentiality can actualize itself. (Premise)

4. Either an Unmoved Mover exists, there is a circularity of causes of change, or there is an infinite regress of sustaining causes of change. (Implied by 1 and 2)

5. There cannot be a circularity of causes of change or an infinite regress of sustaining causes of change. (Premise)

6. Therefore, an Unmoved Mover exists. (From 3 and 4)

Of course, the argument doesn't end there. We may deduce that the Unmoved Mover is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique (there is only one Unmoved Mover), as well as enormously powerful and intelligent (if not omnipotent and omniscient). The Unmoved Mover's goodness may be inferred on the grounds of its Pure Actuality.

(I'd be happy to defend each of the argument's premises. This is just a summary.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Mereological Argument for Pantheism

It should be clear that I am not a pantheist, but a classical theist.  Just three arguments in favor of classical theism I support are the First Way, the Fifth Way, and the Argument from Desire.  Nevertheless, I'd like to defend pantheism for the sake of argument.

1. I exist. (Premise, contingent a priori

2. (Hence) Some--i.e. least one--thing exists. (From 1) 

3. Whenever some things exist, there is some thing of which they are all parts. (Premise, from mereology) 

4. (Hence) There is exactly one thing of which every thing is a part. (From 2, 3) 

5. The unique thing of which every thing is a part is God. (Definition, pantheism) 

6. (Hence) God exists. (From 4, 5)

The argument is logically valid, but it is unsound.  The defeater is found in the arguments of classical theism.

An Evolutionary Argument for Theism

1. Evolution provides rationally justified advantages. (Premise)

2. Belief in God is an evolutionary advantage. (Premise)

3. Therefore, belief in God is rational justified. (From 1 and 2)

The argument's conclusion is rather modest.  Belief in God is said to be rationally justified, not rationally compelling.  Of course, there are sound arguments for God's existence, e.g. the First Way, the Fifth Way, the Argument from Desire, etc.  However, those arguments are beyond the purview of this post.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Knock-Down Argument in Favor of Religious Freedom

For the record, I love engaging in constructive debate. However, I hate confrontation. Nevertheless, I have to reiterate once more that religious freedom trumps one's emotional feelings. As a libertarian, I hold that marriage should be privatized. As a Christian, I believe that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. If same-sex couples want to have a wedding, then that's fine by me. However, that does not give them the right to legally require those opposed to same-sex weddings to participate in a same-sex wedding. As I've repeated before, I'm a Christian and a record producer. It would be completely unreasonable for me to be legally required to record the music of a band that I have religious objections to, e.g. a Satanic band's music.

Feel free to post your objections to this post, but I'm finished debating the issue. I only write this because religious freedom is being threatened, and religious freedom is one of the foundational principles of our Constitution. Marriage, in general, is not.

Who would object that I should be legally required to record a Satanic band's music?  If you oppose such a legal requirement, why the double-standard with respect to same-sex weddings?  I'm not saying homosexuals are Satanists, but the principle is the same nonetheless.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Propositions as both True Conditionals and Impossible Instantiations

Let's take the following proposition:

P1: If the devil were to repent, God would forgive him.

Now, on Christian theology, is P1 true or false?  Moreover, if it is true, then is there a possibility for the devil to repent and return to heaven?  Answers to this question will inevitably vary from one Christian theologian to another.  However, let's assume that P1 is true.  Does this make any more difference than P2?

P2: If there are square-circles, then the law of non-contradiction is false.

P2 appears to be true as a conditional statement, yet impossible to instantiate.  This is because the consequent ("the law of non-contradiction is false") is necessarily false.  However, that does not make P2 any less meaningful.  We still understand P2 as providing information that corresponds to reality.

The question for the Christian theologian to ponder is whether or not P1 is like P2.  Certainly God forgives those who repent, but is it possible for the devil to repent?  This question is tricky because it depends on how one understands the manner in which redemption is made possible.  Most orthodox Christian theologians accept St. Anselm's argument in Cur Deus Homo ("Why God Became Man").

When humanity sinned against God, only God could forgive us, yet only man could provide satisfaction for the sin.  Hence, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man: one person with two distinct natures.  His death "satisfied" humanity's sin against God, and allowed our repentance to lead us to redemption.  Hence the saying: "Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life."

If this account of the Incarnation is taken to be true, what it implies is that for any fallen angel, including Lucifer/the devil to be led to redemption, God would have to take on the nature of an angel and be both fully God and fully angelic.  Whether this is possible can be left open to debate.  However, I am personally inclined to think one's will is voluntarily fixed upon entering heaven or hell.

This would make any notion of repentance, much less redemption, for the devil impossible.  If I am correct about this, then P1 is a true conditional statement that is impossible to instantiate.  The difficulty is that the simultaneous truth and impossibility of instantiation of P1 is not nearly as obvious as that of P2.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Cumulative Case for God's Existence

Richard Swinburne is famous for his inductive arguments which lead to a cumulative case for God's existence.  He distinguishes a correct-C inductive argument (in which the evidence X increases for Y more than in the absence of X) from a correct P-inductive argument (in which case, the overall balance of the evidence for Y is more probable than not).  Let's consider some inductive arguments, even if they are not Swinburne's.

The Cosmological Argument

1. Complex things most likely have an external cause. (Premise)

2. The universe is complex. (Premise)

3. Therefore, the universe most likely has an external cause. (From 1 and 2)

The Teleological Argument

1. Whatever lacks intelligence and exhibits regularity is most likely the result of design. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature lack intelligence and exhibit regularity. (Premise)

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

The Moral Argument

1. If people have knowledge of objective moral obligations, then they most likely have an intrinsic end designed for such knowledge. (Premise)

2. People have knowledge of objective moral obligations. (Premise)

3. Therefore, people mostly likely have an intrinsic end for knowledge of objective moral obligations. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Happiness

1. People who pray to God and meditate on average live longer, healthier, and happier lives than those who don't, as long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

2. Self-interest is worth pursuing so long as it is not at the expense of others. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one should most likely pray to God and meditate. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Desire

1. Innate desires most likely correspond to something that can satisfy them. (Premise)

2. Perfect and eternal happiness is an innate desire. (Premise)

3. Therefore, one's innate desire for perfect and eternal happiness most likely corresponds to something. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Religious Experience

1. Barring some defeater, one's religious experience is most likely genuine. (Premise)

2. There are those who have religious experiences that lack any defeater. (Premise)

3. Therefore, there are those whose religious experiences are most likely genuine. (From 1 and 2)

The Argument from Suffering

1. A perfect God would not allow gratuitous suffering. (Premise)

2. Most likely, whether there is gratuitous suffering is unknowable. (Premise)

3. Therefore, it is unknown if there is gratuitous suffering and if God allows it. (From 1 and 2)

Now, let's weigh the evidence.  Surely there are other arguments, but let's stick with these for now.  The arguments in favor of God's existence end up like this: P(h/e&k) > P(h/k).  In English, P = a proposition's probability, h = a hypothesis, e = evidence, and k = one's background knowledge.  We can know this is the case, since these are all facts we would expect if God exists, rather than if he didn't.  The argument from suffering fails as a correct C-inductive argument because it is inscrutable.  There is no way of determining whether gratuitous suffering actually occurs.

If all of this is correct, then we actually have a correct P-inductive argument: P(h/En&k) > 1/2.

Monday, March 30, 2015

An Open Challenge to the Westboro Baptist Church

I am offering an open challenge to any member of the Westboro Baptist Church to defend their theological positions in a formal debate.  We will find a moderator that both of us will agree upon, and the debate will take place in writing.  Please let me know if you are willing to engage me in a formal debate, letting me know either here on my blog or by email:

Douglas R. Benscoter, M.T.S.

A Priori Arguments and Thomism

I have flirted with the idea of formulating a Thomistic argument that is purely a priori.  More than one comes to mind, but I am interested in exploring a reductio ad absurdum argument that establishes the existence of a necessary being.

1. If nothing exists, then possibility does not exist. (Premise)

2. If possibility does not exist, then it is not possible for nothing to exist. (Premise)

3. Hence, something necessarily exists. (From 1 and 2)

4. Possibly, nothing contingent exists. (Premise)

5. Therefore, something necessary exists. (From 3 and 4)

6. Whatever is necessary has an essence identical to its existence, e.g. it is pure actuality. (Premise)

7. Therefore, pure actuality exists. (From 5 and 6)

The argument is clearly valid, but is it sound?  If it is, then we have a sound a priori argument for the existence of God as being itself subsisting.