• Mitchell
    134
    I want to start a discussion on the third argument presented by Edward Feser, in his *Five Pro ofsof the Existence of God*. This argument, he tells us is historically known as the “Argument from Eternal Truths”; in Feser’s book it appears as an Argument from the Reality of Universals. The basic idea is that the existence of universals (or the reality of abstract objects) requires the existence of God.

    The stages in this argument are four. Stage one, of course, is to clarify, identify, what is meant by “abstract objects”. He includes within this category, Universals, Propositions, Mathematical and Logical Truths, and Possible Worlds.

    The second stage is to argue that such objects are real. Traditionally, theories about the ontological status of universals have been categorized into three opposing groups: Realism maintains that universals are real and mind-independent; Nominalism maintains that universals are not real, but merely convenient fictions; Conceptualism maintains that universals are real, but are mind-dependent.
    Feser offers six direct arguments for Realism and four indirect arguments. The six direct arguments he labels (1) the “One over Many” Argument, (2) the Argument from Geometry, (3) The Argument from Mathematics, (4) The Argument from Science, and (6) The Argument from Possible Worlds. His indirect arguments consist of two against Nominalism ((7) the Vicious Regress Argument and (8) the “Words Are Universals Too” Argument) and two against Conceptualism ((9) the Argument from the Objectivity of Concepts and Knowledge and (10) the Argument from the Incoherence of Psychologism).

    Stage Three pf his argument, he addresses the question “In what way are Universals real?” He claims that there are only three possible theories about how universals are real: Platonic Realism, Aristotelian Realism, and Scholastic Realism. He then proceeds to argue that neither Platonic Realism nor Aristotelian Realism are adequate, leaving only Scholastic Realism as a viable theory of universals. And according to this view of Realism “universals, propositions, mathematical and logical truths, and necessities and possibilities exist in an infinite, eternal, and divine intellect."

    Stage Four of his argument purports to show why an eternal, divine intellect must have most, if not all, the properties of the traditional Theistic God.

    Thus, from the reality of abstract objects, we prove the existence of God.

    {There are so many arguments contained in this larger one, I thought to leave it to the commentators on this post as to which of these they wish to see expanded and discussed. The element I have the most doubts about is his claim that there are only three possible Realist views: Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic, and that by a process of elimination, the Scholastic one wins.)
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    As it happens, I came across the following article the other day, which I think is a clear and perspicacious summary of Augustine's argument, which is worded differently than your summary of Feser's: http://www.catholic.org/homily/yearoffaith/story.php?id=48442.

    The element I have the most doubts about is his claim that there are only three possible Realist views: Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic, and that by a process of elimination, the Scholastic one wins.Mitchell

    If he says that, I very much doubt it too. There is simply no such thing as "the Scholastic" view of universals. There are loads of different views among the various Scholastic thinkers. Abelard, John of Salisbury, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, Matthew of Aquasparta, Duns Scotus, Walter Burley, Ockham, etc. They all have contrasting views on universals.

    This isn't the first time someone has observed that Feser has a penchant for essentializing Scholasticism, which for him is really just Thomism. The following review by a Scotist of one of Feser's previous books advances this charge: http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/2014/06/fesers-scholastic-metaphysics-book.html
  • Mitchell
    134
    Thank you so much for your two links. His *Proofs* book seems to be too recent to generate much discussion.
  • Mitchell
    134
    Greenwell's articulation on Augustine's "Proof" has much in common with Feser's "Argument from Mathematical and Logical Truths". Greenwell puts it:

    "Our experience therefore indicates that these shared truths point to a truth external from us that is immutable and, what is more eternal. These shared truths do not change and will never change, and so behind these shared truths there appears to be a truth which is immutable and eternal and to which we ought to conform. This truth is God, or if there is something even higher than this truth, then this something higher is God. In either event, God exists."

    But he does not go into the key move from the eternal truths to God. In a way (notice my hesitation, here) he seems to be arguing
    1. Mathematical Truths exist as eternal and unchanging.
    2. God is eternal and unchanging.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    (Yes, I know, this is not right, but it is the impression I get reading his article.)

    Greenwell asserts that "There is an inextricable link between truth, our faculty to recognize it, our search for truth, and God. This is St. Augustine's argument." But he does not provide a description/discussion of how one moves from the existence of eternal truths to the existence of God. He simply asserts it.

    So, why does Augustine think that the existence of eternal truths entails the existence of God?
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    But he does not go into the key move from the eternal truths to GodMitchell

    You're right, he's a bit unclear. God would be eternal truth as such, whereas the eternal truths in the examples are Ideas in the mind of God for Augustine. I don't know if that makes it any clearer, though.
  • Mitchell
    134
    I can see how that would be where he winds up, but I don't see the move from (1) eternal truths are real to (2) eternal truths must exist in the mind of God, unless, of course, you already assume that God exists. Feser seems to argue that eternal truths cannot exist outside a mind, but they do exist outside of any and all human minds, therefore there must be a divine mind in which they reside. Does Augustine make this move as well?
  • Mitchell
    134

    BTW: "God would be eternal truth as such"

    I honestly have no clue what that means.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Hi Mitchell - I am a casual student of these matters, and feel an affinity for Platonic realism. But there's a passage about Augustine which I think condenses some of the essential attributes of the idea of the 'intelligible object' into a few succinct paragraphs. Scan down to the numbered paras on this page.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Does Augustine make this move as well?Mitchell

    He might.

    I honestly have no clue what that means.Mitchell

    I mean, God is not the sum of 3 and 7. That is an eternal truth but not the eternal truth. God is the truth itself. The argument is basically:

    If something greater than the mind exists, then that is God.
    Truth is greater than the mind.
    Therefore, God, as the truth itself, exists.
  • Mitchell
    134
    I would question two things. (1) What is meant by "greater" in "greater than the mind". (2) The first premise seems to need argument. In fact, I would deny it, unless what "greater than" means by itself involves God's existence, in which case the argument begs the question.
  • Mitchell
    134
    The link leads me to a blank page. Fortunately, I have that volume in my Library, so I'll look up page 24.

    Thanks
  • Mitchell
    134
    I found this article
    https://philarchive.org/archive/CHAAAF-3

    "Augustine’s Argument for the Existence of God" by H. Chandler.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    The link leads me to a blank page. Fortunately, I have that volume in my Library, so I'll look up page 24.Mitchell

    Strange! Works for me. I think you'll find it relevant.

    It might be useful to first re-visit the Analogy of the Divided Line in the Republic, which is the summary of Platonic epistemology.
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