• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I will be making several threads in the near(-ish) future about the general proofs of God's existence argued by Edward Feser in his new book, Five Proofs for the Existence of God so we can discuss them and hopefully learn something. First up is his "Aristotelian" proof. In summary:

    1.) Change occurs (and this cannot be coherently denied - the denial of change is itself a form of change, for example)
    2.) Material objects that change can only do so because they have potentials that have been actualized; a cup of coffee has the potential to cool down, an acorn has the potential to grow into a tree. Change is just the actualization of a potential.
    3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual.
    4.) Things exist in hierarchies; a cup of coffee rests on a table, which rests on the floor, which is supported by the ground, which is held together by gravity, etc. The cup of coffee cannot hold itself up - it must rest on the table. But the table cannot hold itself up either - it must rest on the ground. Each member of a hierarchical system has derivative causal power conferred on them by other things. It cannot be infinitely long.
    5.) Things can only change, however, if they exist in a hierarchical system; a cup of coffee cannot grow cold unless it exists, for example.
    6.) Things can only exist, however, if it has the potential to exist which is actualized.
    7.) Therefore there must be a purely actual actualizer of everything that exists.
    8.) There cannot be more than one purely actual actualizer, as differences between them would entail some difference in potential, which cannot be since it is actualized.
    9.) Since it it pure actuality, it cannot change, so it is immutable.
    10.) Since it cannot change, it does not exist in time, and is thus eternal.
    11.) If it were material, it would exist in time and could change, but it does not. Thus is must be immaterial.
    12.) If it was corporeal, it would be material, but since it is not material, it is not corporeal.
    13.) Since it has no unactualized potentials, it must be perfect.
    14.) A privation is an unactualized potential, which corresponds to evil; a fully actualized being, the purely actual actuality must not have any privations, and thus must not be at all evil, thus is must be purely good.
    15.) The purely actual actualizer confers power onto the rest of the hierarchical system - i.e. every material object that has power to actualize potential derives this power from this purely actual actualizer. But to have all the power is to be omnipotent.
    16.) Whatever is an effect must be in some way in its cause; since the purely actual actualizer causes everything, everything that exists must in some way be in it.
    17.) The forms/patterns of material objects cannot exist in this actualizer in the concrete way they exist in the world, so they must exist as abstracta. Thus the purely actualizer is an intelligence, a mind, of sorts.
    18.) There is nothing outside these abstracta, the thoughts in the mind of the purely actual actualizer - this entails it is omniscient.
    19.) Thus what we have been referring to as the purely actual actualizer is unified, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, good, omnipotent, and omniscient.
    20.) But these are the characteristics of what we call God - therefore God exists.

    I've butchered things a bit, as I'm only summarizing things. Each step has several other steps and background information that purport to support them.

    Discuss.
  • 0rff
    31


    What is left unmentioned is that this is just a philosopher's god. It might as well be a bishop and knight checkmate or a game of Sudoko.
  • Meta
    185


    "3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual."
    I would argue this point.

    What do we mean when we talk about actualization? If the actualization of an oak tree includes the whole process that starts with an acorn lying on the ground at time t0 and ends with a fully developed tree at t1 then 3.) is wrong in my opinion.

    At t0 there are many events needed to the actualization of the tree and, which events exist potentially but not actually (like specific weather conditions). These events will or will not become actual somewhere between t0 and t1 but they are not actual at t0. This shows that proper actual world states are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the actualization of complex systems.

    If we assume that the actual reality at t0 determines what possible events will become actual in the future then 3.) becomes true but we pay the price of assuming hard determinism.

    A weaker claim is that 3.) is true only in infinitesimally short time periods. That is still arguable but much more acceptable.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    But it's still God.

    You are making a metaphysical argument with respect to a temporal series, whereas the argument I have presented is with respect to a hierarchical series. Hierarchical dependencies are more fundamental than temporal series, since a thing has to exist (with potentials) in order for a thing to be able to change in time, and to exist (according to this argument) requires that there be a hierarchical dependency relationship that ultimately derives all its power from what we call God.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    Is there any detail in the book on how things come to exist in hierarchical relationships with each other? And also what hierarchy means when applied to arbitrary sets of entities?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    "How things come to exist in hierarchical relationships with each other" seems to be a question for the sciences, particularly historical sciences like cosmology or evolutionary biology. But the fact that they exist in hierarchical relationships, as the argument holds, requires that there be a non-derivative, fundamental source of power in this hierarchical system.

    And also what hierarchy means when applied to arbitrary sets of entities?fdrake

    Not sure what you mean here.
  • Meta
    185
    If the concept of actualization you were talking about is independent of temporal causality and is based on the so called "hierarchy" then I think you should further clarify what you mean by that because it contradicts my intuition at least.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    Things exist in hierarchies; a cup of coffee rests on a table, which rests on the floor, which is supported by the ground, which is held together by gravity, etc. The cup of coffee cannot hold itself up - it must rest on the table. But the table cannot hold itself up either - it must rest on the ground. Each member of a hierarchical system has derivative causal power conferred on them by other things. It cannot be infinitely long.

    The cup has a relationship of 'is held up by' the table, the table 'is held up by' its legs, which 'is held up by' the floor which 'is grounded in gravity', the hierarchy presented has the possibility of different relations between successive entities/relata. A hierarchy is typically constructed of elements under a ordering relation, like a lattice of sets under inclusion. If this is possible, is there a recipe to take an arbitrary set of entities, say 'my laptop', 'my granny's house's front door' and 'Donald Trump's hair' and organize them into a hierarchy such that every step is done through the same binary relation and has the character of 'derivative causal power'?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Actuality and potentiality stand in relation to each other. Change occurs when a thing changes qualitatively (coffee cup cools), quantitatively (a puddle increases in size), in location (I walk ten meters over there) or in substance (a living creature dies), and does so only when a potential is actualized (by something already actual - a potential cannot actualize itself).

    Now a substance allegedly has a potential to exist or not exist. To be or not to be? Well, perhaps it's our choice whether we want to keep living, but what constitutes our living right now, i.e. our existence, has to do with the fact that other things are keeping us alive. Our bodies are working "properly". The environment is not too hostile. Etc. But these things are also existing. How do they exist? This chain of hierarchical causality does not requires time, but it's more of a logical entailment.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If this is possible, is there a recipe to take an arbitrary set of entities, say 'my laptop', 'my granny's house's front door' and 'Donald Trump's hair' and organize them into a hierarchy such that every step is done through the same binary relation and has the character of 'derivative causal power'?fdrake

    I guess? I'm not sure where this is going, sorry.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    Well I want to understand the logic by which these hierarchies are constructed. Depending on how successive elements in the hierarchy are allowed to relate to each-other there can be violations of the sense of logical priority which is suggested in the OP.

    Say we allow two partial orders, and we say that an element is prior to another iff it is prior under at least one of the partial orders. So take the cup and gravity. The cup is logically before the action of the earth's gravity to it, but the action of the earth's gravity on the cup is also determined by the cup's mass and therefore the cup. The cup's resting on the table is 'notionally after' the idea of gravity keeping it there but is 'physically prior' to the theory of gravity since it is instantiated in terms of the cup's mass and the earth's. Then cup<gravity in the first sense, but gravity<cup in the second sense. This then makes the constructed hierarchy is not a hierarchy, since gravity and the cup are distinct and hierarchical orderings are anti-symmetric.

    This means there have to be restrictions on the number or types of relation which are used in constructing these hierarchies, otherwise there are going to be examples that show a hierarchy cannot be constructed using those concepts.

    The purpose of my questioning was twofold, in the first sense I wanted to know if the book had any recipe for constructing such hierarchies after the fact or whether it contained any metaphysical justification for how things will always stand in some relation of derivative causal power. The second was to see if constructing these hierarchies is self consistent.

    It also just isn't the case that there aren't infinite hierarchies without precluding certain classes of objects. The natural numbers are ordered by < but there is no greatest element, thus there is an interminable sequence. I suppose this is why there is a restriction to material objects standing in hierarchies (but then why would the inclusion of an immaterial being in the hierarchy be allowed?).
  • Meta
    185
    I dont understand why you refuse my example since all your examples are temporal so far.

    At this very moment the actualities of the world are the only factors relevant to my life at the next moment. But this is not what 3.) Says imo. (At least if we want actualization to be a useful concept)

    At this moment there is a possibility (or potential) that I will die of a heart attack tomorrow or I will die of cancer a year later. These events exist only as potentials and not as actualities. So the "last scene" of the actualization of my death exists only as a potential and not as an actuality.

    Saying that these events, namely the potential causes of my death -one of them will turn out to be true and all others will turn out to be false- are actualities -which is a consequence of 3.)- is just like hard determinism.

    And the general statement 3.) is exactly hard determinism.
  • SophistiCat
    583
    Starting from premise (2) (potentiality/actuality) the argument heavily relies on idiosyncratic and antiquated Aristotelian metaphysics, which I feel no obligation to accept, and which in any case is not at all clear in this brief summary (if at all). And this is why this argument has no pull on me. Just my opinion.
  • fishfry
    469
    7.) Therefore there must be a purely actual actualizer of everything that exists.darthbarracuda

    Same old Craig cosmological argument. Same old First Mover argument. Same old false argument.

    Consider the following model of causation. Let E(n) stand for Event n where n is an integer.

    ..., E(-4), E(-3), E(-2), E(-1), E(0), E(1), ...

    Suppose each event is caused by the event immediately to its left. Then we have a model of events in which:

    * Every event is caused; and

    * There is no first cause.

    In your version of this fallacious argument you have swapped in the word "actualized" for cause. So think of this model as saying that every event is "actualized by" the event immediately to its left. Now every event is actualized yet there is no un-actualized actualizer.

    Your thesis is refuted.

    By the way this example is known as ω* in the literature. ω (lower case Greek letter omega) is the order type of the positive integers. ω* is the reverse order. By extending the causality chain to the right, the model I presented is described as ω* + ω. Philosophers already know all about this.
  • andrewk
    1.6k
    I don't accept 2 and, while I have no strong objection to 1, I do not accept the vehemence with which it is asserted. As usual with these metaphysical 'demonstrations' the whole thing relies on equivocation over undefined terms, and the attempt to use everyday notions outside the scope within which they have any meaning or validity.

    First, line 1: What is meant by 'change'? In a practical, everyday situation we know what that means, but the creation of the universe, including time itself, is not a practical, everyday situation. From the block-universe perspective, change does not occur in the 4D block.

    Now line 2: What is 'potential'. This seeks to trade on the everyday notion of the words 'possible' or 'can'. But the everyday notion of these words is epistemological, not metaphysical. Again when we move from the everyday to the metaphysical, the definitions no longer work. It is not clear that 'possible' means anything in the context of the universe as a whole, rather than viewed through an epistemological lens. Some worldviews assert that there is no 'can' - everything that happens must have happened and could not have been otherwise.

    He then ploughs on using more and more terms that are outside their scope of validity 'cause', 'material', 'corporeal'.

    The question is, does Edward Feser reallty think that it is arguments like this that found his belief in God? If so, he's almost certainly kidding himself. If he's like most believers, he believes for entirely different reasons that have nothing to do with Aristotle or syllogisms. Those real reasons are no less valid - in fact in my view they are more so - but perhaps he doesn't want to admit to them because they don't sound as Sciency.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Circular set of unjustified and false assumptions.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Circular set of unjustified and false assumptions.charleton

    Baseless assertion with no argument given.
  • 0rff
    31
    But it's still God.darthbarracuda

    Is it, though? What 'nice' attributes of God are included in the package? Do we get a pleasant afterlife and cosmic justice? Do we get a loving Father or Mother who feels our pain and sees our struggle from within our very souls?

    'God' gets content (seems to me) from the predicates we attach. I can't see into your motives, but I imagine that most 'logical' proofs of God are there to support belief in a far more anthropomorphic and 'irrational' God. Unless all the desirable anthropomorphic attributes are also somehow proved, though, it seems that only a vague philosopher's god-object is established (at best.)
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Unless all the desirable anthropomorphic attributes are also somehow proved0rff

    That's the next step. God's existence is usually demonstrated prior to his simplicity, which demonstrates why he has the attributes he does.
  • 0rff
    31

    Oh. Ok. But I agree with andrew that it's hard to imagine such a demonstration being the actual cause of belief. Not long ago I read After Finitude. It's creative and exciting, but Q.M. himself admits that his reasoning is just a hair away from sophistry. He also believes that a God could begin to exist. Anything is possible except that something should be impossible. A God may spring into being and resurrect the dead. This is the only way that a God could justify our world, in his view. But it's all presented very logically, not convincingly but carefully, deductively. I bring it up because I find it so strange, in the same way that I find it strange that such proofs are taken seriously as proofs. There's an 'emotional' sense that seems to missing attended by an unrealistic picture of why we believe what we believe.

    *I think I've put my finger on it. Reaching for a proof suggests a lack of visceral experience of the divine on the one hand or a banalization of this experience on the other. If God is intensely there, then one might expect a person to drop the theoretical pretense and have the courage describe this experience poetically, musically, etc. Or maybe remain silent. In any case, such proofs strike me a desiccated, artificial, vaguely false.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Nope. Aristotle's laughable "proof" of God has been refuted with regular efficiency for over two thousand years. It was rubbish then, and it remains rubbish.
    It is a reflection of the utter shame upon which we have to view the mind tainted with the myth of theism that this risible bit of flim-flam is still lifting its head above the barricades.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    1.) Change occurs (and this cannot be coherently denied - the denial of change is itself a form of change, for example)
    2.) Material objects that change can only do so because they have potentials that have been actualized; a cup of coffee has the potential to cool down, an acorn has the potential to grow into a tree. Change is just the actualization of a potential.

    Nope. Change can also happen by external forces, such as a high speed chalk-board eraser hitting the dull head of the theist pupil.

    3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual.

    Actually circular, and meaningless.

    4.) Things exist in hierarchies; a cup of coffee rests on a table, which rests on the floor, which is supported by the ground, which is held together by gravity, etc. The cup of coffee cannot hold itself up - it must rest on the table. But the table cannot hold itself up either - it must rest on the ground. Each member of a hierarchical system has derivative causal power conferred on them by other things. It cannot be infinitely long.

    False assumption number one. It is not possible and can never be possible to determine the infinitude of things without an infinitely long time to view those things, even then you have to ask what might happen next.

    5.) Things can only change, however, if they exist in a hierarchical system; a cup of coffee cannot grow cold unless it exists, for example.

    Hierarchy is about perspective. It is an abuse of language to imply one thing has a higher level than an other in this context. This is just a childish attempt to posit on unmoved mover. Which has already failed since it contradicts the already false statement you have had about things existing needing to be in a system.

    6.) Things can only exist, however, if it has the potential to exist which is actualized.

    Saying something twice does not make it more true, only more false

    7.) Therefore there must be a purely actual actualizer of everything that exists.

    No such conclusion is warranted since it already contradicts what you have said.

    8.) There cannot be more than one purely actual actualizer, as differences between them would entail some difference in potential, which cannot be since it is actualized.

    This is simply rubbish. You have not even offered any support for this bland statement.

    9.) Since it it pure actuality, it cannot change, so it is immutable.



    This is simply rubbish. You have not even offered any support for this bland statement.


    10.) Since it cannot change, it does not exist in time, and is thus eternal.

    There is no time for such a thing to exist; therefore it does not exist . And contradicts everything you have said.


    11.) If it were material, it would exist in time and could change, but it does not. Thus is must be immaterial.

    Not. Consequently is simply does not exist, and there is nothing necessary for it to exist.

    12.) If it was corporeal, it would be material, but since it is not material, it is not corporeal.
    13.) Since it has no unactualized potentials, it must be perfect.

    YES!!! Perfectly non-existent. LOL


    14.) gibber gibber gibber... - therefore God exists.
    darthbarracuda

    Therefore nothing that is not an effect can exist.
  • Marty
    139
    That's just not charitable at all.


    Not sure if Feser ever puts it that way, but I haven't read that book in particularly, because...

    I think something's a miss in these steps:
    6.) Things can only exist, however, if it has the potential to exist which is actualized.
    7.) Therefore there must be a purely actual actualizer of everything that exists.

    I'm not sure why it follows there must be a pure actualizer. It could be the case that the world contains potency and act from the beginning to the end (or in other terms needs both product and productivity in its mix). Product because we see the conclusion of forces at play reaching a temporary state of equilibrium in which we see trees, plants, grass, mountains reach an end product. Productivity, because we need a fundamental striving-towards those ends. So the change is intrinsic to the world instead instead of relying on something outside of it.
  • Marty
    139
    "It's no place for charity - obviously!"

    :-}
  • fdrake
    1.5k
    @charleton,@darthbarracuda

    Honestly? The interesting thing about this thread isn't whether there is a God or isn't one. It's in what metaphysical assumptions generate that conclusion, and how those metaphysical assumptions are justified. Only on the basis of analysing the argument in terms of its metaphysical background can it be established as sound and valid anyway.

    So when you read something like:

    3.) A potential cannot be actualized except by something already actual.

    There's a wealth of metaphysical background that could be explored, and its relationship to the argument would be the next step of analysis. Saying that it's 'just false' is completely uninteresting and you don't learn much from that.

    More interesting responses to (3) might be:
    a) do potentials actualise themselves?
    b) in light of (a), is it true that material objects change through the 'actualisation of potentials by actuals' or 'the actualisation of potentials' in general?
    c) what does it mean to be actual and what does it mean to be a potential? are potentials actual? material? corporeal? incorporeal? immaterial?
    d) can potentials be included in hierarchies?

    Yadda yadda. Being an atheist doesn't just mean you rebut theistic arguments on the internet, as if dialogue was a competition to be the most right, it means you have to reject theological baggage in how you think.
  • Marty
    139


    No, the world in Aristotlean-Thomstic metaphysics is such that nature contains both potency and act. So, in order for something to have potency it must also exist (be actual).
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    What's the difference between potency and actuality here? I'm genuinely asking 'cos I'm curious, not for some 'destruction through Socratic method' of the original argument.
  • Marty
    139
    Generally, potentialities are going to describe the intrinsic capacity of any being such of what it can become or what it does strive towards. An acorn has the potential to become a tree, a lighter does not. Therefore, both exist, but all have certain restrictions of what they can become. Potency is a constrained version of possibility due to Aristotle being an essentialist.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    I didn't understand the role of 'Therefore, both exist' in the post. Is it because acorns and lighters have some 'real potential' that they can be said to exist?
  • Marty
    139
    Well, in order for an acorn to have the potential to become a tree, it first needs to exist, doesn't it? Potency is contained in act - it's capacity to change. At least in nature.

    Take another example: In order for you to climb a mountain safely, you will need equipment that can get to the top -- otherwise that climb is impossible. That equipment needs to exist.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    I try to suspend all common sense when asking for clarifications on metaphysics.
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