• Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Thomas Aquinas’ argument from degree for the existence of God can be summarized as follows:

    • P1: If there exist beings with varying degrees of a property, then there must exist a being with that property to the maximum degree.
    • P2: There exist beings with varying degrees of moral goodness.
    • C: The moral good to the maximum degree exists (which is what we call God).

    For this discussion, we will assume that morality is objective, so that P2 is assumed true. E.g., Mother Teresa is objectively morally better than Hitler.

    Still, P1 seems wrong for some beings. For example, there exist beings with varying degrees of heat, size, and weight; and yet it is unreasonable to suppose that there exists a maximum degree of these properties, as we can always imagine a being with 1 more unit of heat, size, or weight. That said, P1 is true for some beings, like colours, for there exists for example a pure red to which there is no higher degree of red. So if it can be demonstrated that P1 is true when it comes to goodness, then the conclusion still follows.

    Now what is goodness? Rather than seeing good and bad as two separate and opposite beings, it is more correct to see good/bad as how close/far a being gets to its perfect nature or function. To say the same thing using Aristotelian terminology, a being is good if its formal cause and final cause are very much in actuality, and bad if very much in potentiality. Let’s illustrate this with examples in the common language that use the terms good and bad in an objective way.

    • Eg 1: Take a circle: A hand-drawn circle is called a good circle if it gets close to a perfect circle, its nature, and called a bad circle if it gets far from it.
    • Eg 2: Take a hammer: A tool is called a good hammer if it gets close to serve the function of a perfect hammer, “hitting objects into other materials”, and called a bad hammer if it gets far from it.
    • Eg 3: Take a homework: A homework is graded as good if it gets close to the perfect homework graded as 100%, and graded as bad if it gets far from it.
    • Eg 4: Take the health of a living organism: an organism is in good health if it gets close to the perfect health state of the species, and in bad health if it gets far from it.

    Now for all the above examples to be true, it is necessary that these perfect beings of the same nature exist; otherwise, the judgement of being objectively good or bad would be impossible. And these beings are called perfect because they have goodness of that nature to the maximum degree. The argument of degree thus becomes:

    • P1: If there exist beings with varying degrees of goodness of a certain nature, then there must exist a being with goodness of that nature to the maximum degree.
    • P2: There exist beings with varying degrees of moral goodness.
    • C: A being with moral goodness to the maximum degree exists (which is what we call God).

    Objection: Yes, the perfect natures exist, but some are man-made, as is the case for a hammer or a unicorn, thereby making these perfect natures to exist in the mind only. How do we know this is not the case for morality as well?

    Response: That is correct, but we have assumed in this discussion that morality is objective, and as such, a being with perfect morality must exist objectively.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    Lovely stuff.

    This argument is reminiscent of the Ontological Argument isn't it? It seems to put in clearer terms the intuition that the Ontological Argument tries to express in a more muddled way.

    The only problem with this line of reasoning isn't with the reasoning itself, which is lucid, rather with the fact that the "technical" metaphysical concepts involved (like actuality and potentiality, formal cause, final cause, increments towards perfection, etc.) are quite alien to thinkers raised on "modern" and "Postmodern" philosophy and require extensive explication - "You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means." :)

    The added wrinkle is that objective morality, in the Aristotelian/Thomist system, is itself related to degrees of perfection (the moral person seeks to actualize their potential, the form of them, as best they can).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.6k
    Thomas Aquinas’ argument from degree for the existence of God can be summarized as follows:



    P1: If there exist beings with varying degrees of a property, then there must exist a being with that property to the maximum degree.
    P2: There exist beings with varying degrees of moral goodness.
    C: The moral good to the maximum degree exists (which is what we call God).
    Samuel Lacrampe

    I don't think the argument from gradation is properly represented here, P1 seems a little simplistic. The argument is that in order for things to be graded, by degree, there must be an "ideal". The "ideal' defines the maximum. So for example if "heat" is graded by degree, then there must be an ideal which defines the maximum possible heat. Likewise with "good", if good is graded by degree, then there must be a maximum good, provided by the ideal.

    The argument may not be sound though because in the case of quantities, the ideal is "infinite". So with quantities the ideal escapes the maximum. What is required to make the argument sound, is to establish an acceptable distinction, a categorical division, between quality and quantity, such that a quality cannot be reduced to a quantity. If qualities are really quantities, then the ideal is infinite, there is no maximum, and the argument is unsound.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Interesting post.

    Eg 1: Take a circle: A hand-drawn circle is called a good circle if it gets close to a perfect circle, its nature, and called a bad circle if it gets far from it.Samuel Lacrampe

    My objection to P1 can be illustrated by objecting to this part of your argument. There are no perfect circles in the world. Every circle is slightly elliptical, they never have a perfectly uniform radius. The point being is that the existence of imperfection does not entail that perfection must exist.

    This argument reminds me of the ontological arguments of Anselm and Descartes.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.

    This argument is reminiscent of the Ontological Argument isn't it?gurugeorge
    This argument reminds me of the ontological arguments of Anselm and Descartes.darthbarracuda
    It is different in that the Ontological Argument aims to prove the existence of Perfection (a being perfect in every way) based on the essence of Perfection (which fails because we have not apprehended the essence of Perfection). It starts with the essence of Perfection and ends with its existence.

    In contrast, the Argument from Degree starts with the existence of imperfection and ends with the existence of perfection, and specifically for morality.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    The only problem with this line of reasoning is [...] with the fact that the "technical" metaphysical concepts involved [...] are quite alien to thinkers raised on "modern" and "Postmodern" philosophy and require extensive explicationgurugeorge
    You are correct, when it comes to the aim of persuasion rather than to seek truth. This is why I used the terms nature and function rather than formal and final causes (only added in one line for the fans of Aristotle); but there is always room for more clarity.

    The added wrinkle is that objective morality, in the Aristotelian/Thomist system, is itself related to degrees of perfection (the moral person seeks to actualize their potential, the form of them, as best they can).gurugeorge
    Maybe I misunderstand your point here; because as I understand it, that is also my point in the argument; that the potential of moral goodness in persons is the potential to achieve moral perfection.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    The "existence" is based on scholastic realism's belief in the extra-mental existence of universals. Once that is made explicit, the significance of the "proof" as a proof evaporates. It remains, however, as an artifact of a certain kind of thinking. The presentation of the "proof" as a proof without making its realist underpinnings clear (if known - a material qualification), is simply fraud.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    My objection to P1 can be illustrated by objecting to this part of your argument. There are no perfect circles in the world. Every circle is slightly elliptical, they never have a perfectly uniform radius. The point being is that the existence of imperfection does not entail that perfection must exist.darthbarracuda
    That's a valid point. Slight correction: The existence of imperfection does entail the existence of perfection, though sometimes only from our minds rather than from reality outside the mind. I accept the possibility that perfect circles are man-made (I am not certain about this but this would be off-topic). Now a man-made being entails that we know its essence. E.g., we must conceive the essence of a hammer before we build one.

    In the case of moral goodness, we have not fully apprehended the essence of perfect morality, and therefore this being cannot be man-made. Instead, we deduce its existence from the existence of imperfect moral goodness.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    In the case of moral goodness, we have not fully apprehended the essence of perfect morality, and therefore this being cannot be man-made. Instead, we deduce its existence from the existence of imperfect moral goodness.Samuel Lacrampe

    How do we do this? Could it be that perfect moral goodness cannot exist?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello MU.

    I don't think the argument from gradation is properly represented here, P1 seems a little simplistic. [...]Metaphysician Undercover
    I agree with your representation of the argument. This is essentially what I was attempting to describe too, though it may not have come out that way.

    The argument may not be sound though because in the case of quantities, the ideal is "infinite". So with quantities the ideal escapes the maximum. What is required to make the argument sound, is to establish an acceptable distinction, a categorical division, between quality and quantity, such that a quality cannot be reduced to a quantity. If qualities are really quantities, then the ideal is infinite, there is no maximum, and the argument is unsound.Metaphysician Undercover
    I think you are on to something when making the distinction between qualities and quantities, and I also agree that when it comes to quantities, there cannot be an ideal because there is no maximum. However, it is not necessary to prove that qualities cannot be reduced to quantities. What is necessary is to prove the existence of the ideal for goodness. Your way is indeed a means to that end, but not the only one. I use a different approach in the OP by showing that the judgement of goodness is possible only if an ideal exists.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.

    I admit I have trouble reading your post. Are you saying that a real proof requires a physical observation of the thing inferred?
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    How do we do this? Could it be that perfect moral goodness cannot exist?darthbarracuda
    If perfect moral goodness could not or did not exist, then it would not be possible to rightly judge a being to be morally good; because, as described in the OP, a being is called good insofar as it gets close to its perfect nature.

    Or did I misunderstand your last post?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.6k
    However, it is not necessary to prove that qualities cannot be reduced to quantities. What is necessary is to prove the existence of the ideal for goodness. Your way is indeed a means to that end, but not the only one. I use a different approach in the OP by showing that the judgement of goodness is possible only if an ideal exists.Samuel Lacrampe

    Yes, to prove that the ideal for goodness exists is to prove that God exists. Your approach is the same as Aquinas', it is based in the assumption that to judge for goodness requires the existence of the ideal (maximum) for goodness.

    I don't think that this assumption is sound because we can judge for quantity without the ideal (maximum) for quantity. Judgement for quantity requires the assumption of a fundamental unit, or unity, as a particular, an individual. So the soundness of this judgement, the judgement of quantity, is based in the reality of the assumed unit. The assumed unit allows for a first, the one, then the other numbers of the quantity may follow.

    I believe that this is why the cosmological argument, which is based in the necessity of a first unit, the One, is a stronger argument than the ontological argument, which is based in the claim that the ideal must be real. That the ideal must be real can only be known intuitively and cannot be proven with logic, but that the unit, the individual or particular must be real, in order that there is a quantity, can be proven with logic.

    So with respect to the argument from gradation, there is a real need to distinguish quality from quantity. If what is counted as a degree of goodness, is a real individual unit, a particular or individual unit of goodness, then there is no need for the ideal (maximum) goodness in order to count the degrees of goodness. But if goodness is a quality which cannot be reduced to a quantity (i.e. there are no real discernible units of goodness), then the units of measurement, the degrees, are arbitrary, and as such, to have any real value they must be based in an ideal which has real grounding. So with heat, we can have degrees of temperature which are completely arbitrary, either F or C for example, but the whole system of measurement is grounded in real principles such as the boiling and freezing point of water.

    But notice that the reality of the ideal is not necessarily based in a maximum, as Aquinas describes. The reality of the ideal is the grounding principles for the system of gradation. When Aquinas talks about a "maximum" for goodness, this implies the character of a quantity, and this gives the argument an unsound premise to begin with.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    No. Because Aquinas was a scholastic realist (i.e., he believed that universals were real), it was easy for him to construct a proof using that as a general principal. In short, he assumed what he needed to prove.This is also the underpinning of St. Anselm's "proof." Try googling scholastic realism and nominalism.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Judgement for quantity requires the assumption of a fundamental unit, or unity, as a particular, an individual. So the soundness of this judgement, the judgement of quantity, is based in the reality of the assumed unit. The assumed unit allows for a first, the one, then the other numbers of the quantity may follow. [...] That the ideal must be real can only be known intuitively and cannot be proven with logic, but that the unit, the individual or particular must be real, in order that there is a quantity, can be proven with logic.Metaphysician Undercover
    Interesting. I am not familiar with this notion of "fundamental unit". Can you give examples to illustrate that the unit must be real in order to have a quantity?


    it is based in the assumption that to judge for goodness requires the existence of the ideal (maximum) for goodness. I don't think that this assumption is sound because we can judge for quantity without the ideal (maximum) for quantity.Metaphysician Undercover
    But we know it is the case for goodness, straight from the definition of goodness: the measure of how close a being gets to its perfect nature or ideal. Under such a definition, an ideal must exist for the judgement of goodness to apply. This definition is backed up by the examples given in the OP. Do you disagree with it?


    But notice that the reality of the ideal is not necessarily based in a maximum, as Aquinas describes. The reality of the ideal is the grounding principles for the system of gradation. When Aquinas talks about a "maximum" for goodness, this implies the character of a quantity, and this gives the argument an unsound premise to begin with.Metaphysician Undercover
    What he means about maximum is not a maximum absolute quantity but a maximum in actuality from potentiality; or to say the same thing in a different way, a grade of 100%, which can be seen as a relative quantity, relative to the perfect nature or ideal.

    He can only mean it this way, since we have already established that absolute quantities do not have a maximum.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Understood. But I don't think the Argument from Degree presupposes the theory of universals (although they are not incompatible). All we need to agree on is the definition of goodness, which is: the measure of how close a being gets to its perfect nature or ideal.

    Unless you are saying that this ideal is the same as the universal? Regardless, do you disagree with the definition? It is backed up by the examples given in the OP.
  • AngleWyrm
    66
    The "Maximum Degree" has two interpretations, and they are being abused in the example.
    • There is a sorted maximum of a sample set, the top dog
    • There is no clearly defined maximum degree of moral goodness
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    The only problem with this line of reasoning isn't with the reasoning itself, which is lucid, rather with the fact that the "technical" metaphysical concepts involved (like actuality and potentiality, formal cause, final cause, increments towards perfection, etc.) are quite alien to thinkers raised on "modern" and "Postmodern" philosophy and require extensive explicationgurugeorge

    Quite right. And the principle factor that has changed or been forgotten, is the idea of 'degrees of perfection' in any qualitative sense, which again, goes back to the hierarchical cosmology of the ancient world. In Platonism (broadly defined) the universe is conceived as an ascent from less to the more real. The highest Form is the Form of the Good, the ens perfectissimum. In the Republic, Plato explains four levels of existence: (1) shadows, reflections, dreams, (2) perceptions, sensations, images, (3) lower forms of science, and (4) higher forms of mathematics and the intelligible form of the good. Levels (1) and (2) are the changing, impermanent, visible realm, and Levels (3) and (4) are the real, permanent, intelligible realm. Similarly, Plato's metaphor of the sun explains the Form of the Good (representing God or ultimate reality) as illuminating the sensory domain of becoming and passing away. In Aristotle's scala naturae or ladder of nature, objects in the world range from inanimate matter to plants, invertebrates, and finally human beings according to their formal factor. Whilst interpretations of these ideas vary considerably, many of the ontological arguments can only be understood against this background, which is now very remote from our own.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.6k
    Interesting. I am not familiar with this notion of "fundamental unit". Can you give examples to illustrate that the unit must be real in order to have a quantity?Samuel Lacrampe

    I suppose it's a matter of definition here. A "quantity" is always a number of units. If the units are not real, then neither is the quantity. If you have a quantity which consists of unreal, or false units, then this is not a real quantity.

    But we know it is the case for goodness, straight from the definition of goodness: the measure of how close a being gets to its perfect nature or ideal. Under such a definition, an ideal must exist for the judgement of goodness to apply. This definition is backed up by the examples given in the OP. Do you disagree with it?Samuel Lacrampe

    Again, this is a matter of definition. You are defining "goodness" in a way so as to support your position. But if you define it in a utilitarian way, you judge goodness by a quantity not by comparison to an ideal of a perfect nature, because quantity is infinite, allowing for no perfect or ideal 'good".

    So if we follow your definition, we would have to assume that there is a purpose for human beings, in order that a human being could be judged as good. How would we define this purpose, the reason why human beings exist? In order to judge the goodness of any human being, or any human act, we'd need to know this purpose of human existence, and position the person, or act, relative to it. But clearly we do not know this purpose, and we do not judge goodness in this way. So I think that your definition does not reflect "goodness" as we commonly use the word.

    What he means about maximum is not a maximum absolute quantity but a maximum in actuality from potentiality; or to say the same thing in a different way, a grade of 100%, which can be seen as a relative quantity, relative to the perfect nature or ideal.Samuel Lacrampe

    I think that you, as well as Aquinas, are headed toward contradiction here. "Maximum" is a term which applies to things which are measurable, as is "quantity". To say that there is a "maximum" is to say that there is a "quantity", and this is to say that the thing is measurable. But you define "goodness" as a quality. So by talking about a maximum goodness you talk about goodness as a quantity, when you have defined it as a quality. If it's not leading toward contradiction, it's clearly a category mistake.
  • SophistiCat
    551
    The "existence" is based on scholastic realism's belief in the extra-mental existence of universals. Once that is made explicit, the significance of the "proof" as a proof evaporates. It remains, however, as an artifact of a certain kind of thinking. The presentation of the "proof" as a proof without making its realist underpinnings clear (if known - a material qualification), is simply fraud.tim wood

    It's unfair to the original argument, because presented in the way @Samuel Lacrampe did, it fails miserably. His version of the argument simply says that there must be an maximum of actually realized goodness, and that is what we call God, which is wrong for several quite obvious reasons.
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    P1 from the OP doesn't stand. But there are people, and used to be people, for whom it does stand. Wayfarer above introduces us to some of them and what they were about, and scholastic realism seems to have grown out of, evolved, from that. They, those people, are satisfied with their logic and conclusions on the matter.

    But any debate about whether they were right or wrong misses the point. Or, unless you can resolve the matter one way or the other, it misses the point - and I'm thinking you cannot, nor can anyone else. The point is that we encounter what they took for granted, what they presupposed. We, you and I, do not presuppose what they presupposed. We, then, do not reach the conclusions they reached. The best we can do is to excavate their thinking, and our own, to determine theirs and our presuppositions.

    To be sure, we may find that what we think is a presupposition - theirs or ours - is actually just a proposition, and in that they, or we, may be wrong. But the presuppositions, that presumably are about unresolveable things, are thereby neither right nor wrong, but merely presupposed. (And even if found to be propositions that are wrong, it's still significant that they were presupposed.)

    A word of warning, MU is going to crap all over this, but he has made clear elsewhere that he neither knows nor is interested in knowing, anything about presuppositions, because he, MU, already knows it all.
  • SophistiCat
    551
    I was specifically addressing OP's understanding and presentation of the argument, and contrasting it with Aquinas's. I agree with you and others that Scholastic philosophy carries with it a load of metaphysical baggage that makes it a non-starter for many. And that, if we want to address that philosophy - whether to uphold it or to dispute it - we need to take it on its own terms (as best as we can make out those terms).
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.

    If I understand your post correctly, you are saying all the examples in the OP include degrees of goodness and a defined maximum, where as the moral good only includes degrees of goodness and no defined maximum, is that right?

    That is correct that the maximum moral goodness is not defined, and the OP merely attempts to prove its existence. This is done by using inductive reasoning from the examples to the definition of good in general, and then using deductive reasoning from the definition of good to the existence of maximum moral goodness. Thus it is possible to prove the existence of a being without fully knowing its essence.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    A "quantity" is always a number of units. If the units are not real, then neither is the quantity. If you have a quantity which consists of unreal, or false units, then this is not a real quantity.Metaphysician Undercover
    I see. Real quantities imply real units. Although real, some can be man-made or arbitrary, such as 1 m in length, 1 kg in weight, etc. Anyways, I suggest dropping this side topic to focus on the main one.

    You are defining "goodness" in a way so as to support your position.Metaphysician Undercover
    Of course it supports my position, but it is not done arbitrarily for that aim; rather, the definition comes from the Socratic Method using the examples in the OP. To refute it, we would have to find an example that does not fit the definition. And you have attempted to do that with the example on human purpose. See below for the response on this.

    But if you define it in a utilitarian way, you judge goodness by a quantityMetaphysician Undercover
    And what unit of measure would the utilitarian use? Note that the definition is for goodness in general, and not merely for moral goodness.

    So if we follow your definition, we would have to assume that there is a purpose for human beings, in order that a human being could be judged as good.Metaphysician Undercover
    Yes, that follows.

    In order to judge the goodness of any human being, or any human act, we'd need to know this purpose of human existence, and position the person, or act, relative to it. But clearly we do not know this purpose, and we do not judge goodness in this way.Metaphysician Undercover
    A valid point. And now let me blow your mind :cheer: .
    Through inductive reasoning, we can find the human purpose based on what we observe to be a good human being: A large majority considers Mother Teresa to be a better human being than Hitler. This is based on their moral behaviour and nothing else. So the human purpose would coincide with the moral ideal, which is God as per the argument from degree. As such, the christian argument from degree and the above corollary agree perfectly with the christian view on the human purpose, which is based on the Great Commandments in the bible: (1) Love God with all your mind, heart and soul; and (2) Love your neighbours as yourself. In other words, aim all your acts for the end of the moral good, which is done in practice by following the Golden Rule.


    "Maximum" is a term which applies to things which are measurable, as is "quantity". To say that there is a "maximum" is to say that there is a "quantity", and this is to say that the thing is measurable. But you define "goodness" as a quality. So by talking about a maximum goodness you talk about goodness as a quantity, when you have defined it as a quality.Metaphysician Undercover
    I suspect a misunderstanding either from me or from you; because as I understand your comments, I have already addressed these objections in my previous post. I'll try again, and maybe you can clarify. A maximum cannot imply an absolute quantity because absolute quantities are theoretically infinite, and so no maximum is theoretically possible. It can only imply a relative quantity, a percentage, where the maximum is 100%. I suppose you could also call it a quality insofar that relative quantities don't have any units. But as a relative quantity, I see not contradiction.
  • Pilgrim
    25
    I would like to offer a couple of points to this thread if I may

    "P1: If there exist beings with varying degrees of a property, then there must exist a being with that property to the maximum degree."

    P1 seems to make an assumption which is that there can only be ONE being with the maximum degree of a property (which Aquinas equates with God). I offer the idea that whatever property one focusses on, it is surely feasible for many beings to display/acquire that maximum property, even moral goodness.

    I guess also that if all the beings in the universe are constantly striving to improve and better themselves and/or are being gradually perfected then the end point would surely be that all beings will eventually display the given property to the maximum degree.

    The second point I would like to throw in for consideration is that the universe as we know it, is constantly changing. Nothing stays the same even though to our short-lived existence it may seem static. Is it not possible then that the perceived "maximum" of a given property itself, moves and changes over time? Even moral goodness? Is it really a sound argument to suggest that moral goodness must have a maximum attribute? Could it actually be the case that every attribute is constantly changing over time.

    The 2 points above lead me to consider that:

    - There could be many beings who have attained the perceived maximum attribute of moral goodness or indeed any other property and thus in Aquinas's terms, we might conclude that there may be many Gods.

    - Our concept of this "maximum" or "perfect" state is possibly flawed and the reality instead is that this state is constantly changing and evolving over time which would by definition mean that "God" is also changing and evolving.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.6k
    Through inductive reasoning, we can find the human purpose based on what we observe to be a good human being:Samuel Lacrampe

    This is just a vicious circle, using goodness in human beings to determine the human purpose, in order to use the human purpose to identify goodness. To say that so and so is a good person would require already that one has an idea of the human purpose, if goodness is determined relative to the human purpose. So we can't look for good human beings to determine what the human purpose is because we wouldn't know how to identify a good human being without already knowing what the human purpose is.

    I suspect a misunderstanding either from me or from you; because as I understand your comments, I have already addressed these objections in my previous post. I'll try again, and maybe you can clarify. A maximum cannot imply an absolute quantity because absolute quantities are theoretically infinite, and so no maximum is theoretically possible. It can only imply a relative quantity, a percentage, where the maximum is 100%. I suppose you could also call it a quality insofar that relative quantities don't have any units. But as a relative quantity, I see not contradiction.Samuel Lacrampe

    I don't understand what you're trying to argue. I agree that something with a maximum cannot be infinite. But no quantity can be infinite because "quantity" implies measured or measurable, which nothing infinite is. So "absolute quantity" as "infinite" doesn't make sense, "quantity" is always relative to measurement and never infinite. However, my point is that qualities such as goodness, cannot be measured as a definite quantity. And, it is the attempt to measure that which cannot be measured, that which is indefinite, which gives rise to the notion of infinite.

    Now, when we say that a quality such as goodness has a maximum, it is implied that this quality is measurable through the use of that term, "maximum". So to measure the quality, we set up a scale, based in an ideal, and determine the degrees of that quality relative to the ideal. The ideal is something completely distinct from the quality, which the quality is related to for the purpose of measurement, it is not the "maximum" of the quality. For example, to measure heat, we set up a scale of temperature, and this scale is the ideal. We measure degrees of temperature relative to this ideal. The ideal is not the maximum, it is the scale. It is only when we try to limit the scale, to put a cap of maximum or minimum on it, that we attempt to turn the measurements into absolutes, as "absolute zero" does. If this limiting of the scale is accomplished, then the quality being measured, "heat", becomes a true measurable "quantity", in an absolute sense. But if the limiting is not accomplished, the measurements of degree are relative to the scale and so are not true quantities, nor are the measurements absolute.

    I see. Real quantities imply real units. Although real, some can be man-made or arbitrary, such as 1 m in length, 1 kg in weight, etc. Anyways, I suggest dropping this side topic to focus on the main one.Samuel Lacrampe

    We can't drop this, because this is the very point I am arguing. If the units are arbitrary, then there is no real quantity. The quantity is relative to the arbitrary scale, there is a possible infinity, and no maximum. If the units are real, then there are real limits, no infinity, and a maximum, there is a quantity in an absolute sense. These two are incompatible. If we mix them together the result is confusion. So if we talk of goodness, we must determine whether we are talking about something which comes in real units, with limits, and therefore a maximum, or are we talking about something without limits, infinite, and without units.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello all.
    I think you are all roughly bringing up the same topic, namely, that we may need to presuppose a platonic view of reality in order to buy into the argument from degree. I could be wrong but I suspect this is not as critical as you make it out to be. Rather, all we need to agree on is the definition of the term 'good' as used in the common language.

    My hypothesis definition of good is: "the measure of how close a being gets to its perfect nature or ideal".
    Admittedly, the terms 'being' and 'nature' need to be defined too:
    Being: literally a thing; such that whatever is not a being is nothing. E.g. a rock, a dog, jumping, red.
    Nature: Identity; the kind of thing that it is. E.g. A hand-drawn circle, insofar that we intended to draw a circle, has the nature of a circle, although it is not a perfect one. A cat with three legs still has the nature of a cat, although a perfect cat has four legs.

    Once the definition of the term 'good' has been accepted or rejected, the rest of the argument becomes straightforward. With that, can you falsify the hypothesis definition of 'good'? To do so, we just need to find a example of the term 'good' used in the common language where we know no ideal exists. A Socratic Dialogue around the term good, if you will.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.
    You bring up valid points.

    Regarding the possibility of many beings with the maximum degree of a property, rather than just one: It is indeed possible for many beings to fully actualize a property, thereby reaching the maximum degree. But two counterpoints:
    (1) If we don't know this, then it is more reasonable to infer a single being rather than many, due to the Law of Parsimony or Occam's Razor, stating that the simplest hypothesis that explains all the data is the most reasonable one.
    (2) If the ideal is essentially made of that one property only, (e.g. the ideal red), then there can only be one ideal being with that property, as per the principle of Identity of Indiscernibles. Other beings with that property may also reach the maximum degree, but they have it only 'in participation', where as the ideal being would have it 'essentially', and would be the source of that property in others. (This is admittedly getting quite technical).

    Regarding the possibility of everything constantly changing: This is impossible, for the statement "nothing is eternal" cannot be eternally true, and is therefore a self-contradiction. As such, some things must be eternal, that is, do not change. But can maximum goodness change? No, by definition of the term 'maximum'; that is to say, a "changing maximum" is a contradiction.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    But how to arrive at any kind of consensus about what is good, absent something like a Platonic view or its equivalent?

    Platonic Christianity naturally assumes that there is a real good, a summum bonum, towards which one’s efforts ought to be guided. If you’re Catholic, for example, then acceptance of that is part of your faith. But there is no generally-agreed concept in modern ethical philosophy that corresponds with that. Sure, there are schools of thought that defend various forms of ethical theory. But the assumption from a scientific point of view can only be that ethical theories are socially constructed and/or matters of individual conscience. It’s finding a basis for them in reality, that presents the difficulty, outside a basic kind of common-sense utilitarianism.

    And also take into account

    The ‘is–ought problem’, as articulated by the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711–76), which states that many writers make claims about what ought to be, based on statements about what is. Hume found that there seems to be a significant difference between positive statements (about what is) and prescriptive or normative statements (about what ought to be), and that it is not obvious how one can coherently move from descriptive statements to prescriptive ones. The is–ought problem is also known as Hume's law, or Hume's guillotine. — Wikipedia
  • creativesoul
    3.5k
    A "quantity" is always a number of units.Metaphysician Undercover

    Rubbish.

    Numbers are names of quantities. Numbers are existentially dependent upon language. Quantities are not. Quantities exist prior to numbers. Thus, there were quantities prior to numbers.

    A quantity is not always a number of units.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    thus in Aquinas's terms, we might conclude that there may be many Gods.Pilgrim

    Except for the important point that Aquinas was a monotheist.

    There might be many angels - indeed, the medievals famously debated how many of them could occupy the same space - but 'many Gods' is definitely heresy from a Christian P.O.V.
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