• spirit-salamander
    268
    That this proof is still of such high interest can be seen in a critical video of the atheist Youtuber Rationality Rules with the title:

    Ben Shapiro calmly EDUCATED by Stephen Woodford

    After all, Rationality Rules`s video is his second most viewed video with over 770000 clicks.

    In the video description, he lets the following be known, among other things:

    "As always, thank you kindly for the view, and I hope that this video explains just some of the major issues with Aristotle / Aquinas / Shapiro / Feser’s unmoved mover / unactualised actualiser."

    Only I found that his video is not so strong from a philosophical perspective. That is why I have taken the great trouble to do a critique of the proof in its popularly presented form myself on the basis of the relevant literature. Even though it has become very long, I think it is worth reading if you are interested in such things. I start with a summary of the proof. The summary refers to the full argument of the currently most famous Thomism popularizer Edward Feser in his book "The Last Superstition". I may be rightly accused of not doing justice to Feser, but I think the summary gets to the heart of the basic idea, and this is how the proof is mostly presented orally. The rest explains itself, if one reads the critical quotations.

    Here is the summary of the alleged proof:

    "In Chapter 3 Feser discusses three of St. Thomas's magnificent five ways, describing the first way with customary clarity and succinctness. Noting that "no potential can make itself actual" (p. 91), Feser points to St. Thomas's well known example of a man pushing a stone with a stick. The stone's potency to move is actualized by the stick, whose potency to move is actualized by the hand, whose potency to move is in turn actualized by the firing of certain motor neurons, and so forth. In this, an essentially subordinated series, each actualized potency is simultaneously actualized by a superior. Feser notes that such a series "of its nature, must have a first member" because "it is only the first member which is in the strictest sense really doing or actualizing anything" (p. 95). Without a first Pure Act [God] free from all admixture of potency, there are no other actualities, nor can there be, since all others "exist at all only insofar as yet earlier ones do" (p. 95)." (an official review by Michael O'Halloran)

    By "and so forth" Feser means the existence of molecules, atoms and quarks and whatever else may be smaller. Aquinas would add:

    "this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover."

    And he concludes:

    "Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God."

    However, one does not arrive at an in every respect actual unmoved mover:

    "Assuming that Aquinas can block a regress in the case of movers and things moved, why must the primary mover be not just unmoved, but unmovable? Aquinas thinks that if the mover of some moved thing is not itself moved, it is an unmovable mover [...]. What justification does he have for supposing that an unmoved mover is unmovable? The sort of causal series he has in mind in the proof from motion has as a member something, M, that is being moved. M’s going from being in potentiality with respect to some state S to being in actuality with respect to S needs to be explained by some primary mover, P. All that is required of P is that it be in actuality with respect to S; P’s being in actuality with respect to S is what makes P the primary mover in this causal series ordered per se. So in order to count as a primary mover, as the stopping point in a causal series ordered per se, P must be unmoved (because it is in actuality) in the relevant respect. But it does not follow from this that P must be unmoved (and hence in actuality) in all respects. If P were in actuality in all respects, P would be absolutely unmoved and unmovable, but the fact that P is unmoved with respect to some state S does not entail that P is unmovable. Given that Aquinas’s argument so far has shown only that there must be some primary mover that is in actuality in the respect relevant to the particular case of motion at hand, it seems likely that there will be very many relatively uninteresting primary movers. The fire in our paradigm case seems to be a suitable primary mover, animals (or their souls) might be unmoved movers, and some of Aquinas’s own examples of causal series ordered per se apparently have human beings filling the role of primary mover, at least as Aquinas describes them. We might call fire, animals, human beings, and other natural unmoved movers (if there are any) mundane primary movers. The problem, then, is that the proof from motion gives us no reason to suppose there are any primary movers other than mundane primary movers." (Scott Macdonald - Aquinas’s Parasitic Cosmological Argument)

    Mundane primary movers may result from accidentally ordered series (non-instrumental, non-simultaneous):

    "An alternative strategy is to argue that every essentially ordered causal series has a first member, where a causal series is essentially ordered if no effects within the series can exist without their causes also existing (e.g., the movement of a stone depending upon the pressure of a stick). The thought is that even if some causal series can be infinite, no essentially ordered can be. A proponent of this strategy faces the challenge of explaining why a first cause in an essentially ordered series could not have been caused by things within a non-essentially ordered causal series." (Joshua Rasmussen - Cosmological Arguments from Contingency)

    Aristotle himself gives an example for an accidentally (non-essentially) ordered causal series:

    "As, when something has caused motion in water or air, this moves another and, though the cause has ceased to operate, such motion propagates itself to a certain point, though there the prime mover is not present[.] [464a1] [5]" (ARISTOTLE - ON DIVINATION IN SLEEP)

    [edit: Here is an alternative translation:

    "When something has moved a portion of water or air, and this in turn has moved another, then even when the initial impulse has ceased, it results in a similar sort of movement continuing up to a certain point, although the original mover is not present." (Filip Radovic - Aristotle on Prevision through Dreams)]

    In such an order, not all members need to coexist (e.g. father and son).

    Feser's example of the proof of God originally comes from Aristotle:

    "The example [Aristotle] most often gives—a man using his hands to push a spade to turn a stone—suggests a series of simultaneous movers and moved. We may agree that there must be a first term of any such series if motion is ever to take place: but it is hard to see why this should lead us to a single cosmic unmoved mover, rather than to a multitude of human shakers and movers. […] Aristotle himself at one point seems to agree with this objection, and to treat a human digger as a self-mover (256a8)[:]" (Anthony Kenny – A New History of Western Philosophy)

    "e.g. the stick moves the stone and is moved by the hand, which again is moved by the man; in the man, however, we have reached a mover that is not so in virtue of being moved by something else." (Aristotle – Physics)

    Elsewhere Aristotle wants to rule out self-movers:

    "The basic principle of Aristotle’s argument is that everything that is in motion is moved by something else. At the beginning of book 7 of the Physics he presents a reductio ad absurdum of the idea of self-movement. A selfmoving object must (a) have parts, in order to be in motion at all; (b) be in motion as a whole, and not just in one of its parts; and (c) originate its own motion. But this is impossible. From (b) it follows that if any part of the body is at rest, the whole of it is at rest. But if the whole body’s being at rest depends upon a part’s being at rest, then the motion of the whole body depends upon the motion of the part; and thus it does not originate its own motion. So that which was supposed to be moved by itself is not moved by itself [...]. This argument contains two fallacies." (Anthony Kenny – A New History of Western Philosophy)

    These are the fallacies:

    "First, it equivocates between logical and causal dependence, as Sir David Ross points out in his commentary on Physics 242a 38: ‘the motion of the whole logically implies the motion of the part, but is not necessarily causally dependent on it’. (Ross, p. 669). Secondly, it equivocates between being a necessary condition and being a sufficient condition. The part’s being at rest is a sufficient condition for the whole’s being at rest; from this it follows only that the motion of the part is a necessary condition for the motion of the whole, and not that it is a sufficient condition for it. Hence the argument in no way proves that something else, namely the motion of the part, is a causally sufficient condition for the motion of the alleged self-mover. So the reductio ad absurdum fails: it has not been shown that there cannot be a body which can initiate its own movement without external causal concurrence." (Kenny, Anthony - Five Ways)

    Self-motion could be explained in the following way:

    "In fact, the First Way cannot deny that there are non-processes that are active, because it argues to one. But in point of fact, both Aristotle and St. Thomas held that there are acts that seem to be processes and are not, and yet are not the First Mover. These are transitions of a sort, but not transitions from potency to act. The most common example they give of such a transition is that of not seeing to seeing. […] This type of pseudo-process, then, is a transition from act to act, and the being does not acquire something that it does not already have. Another example would be actively thinking about some fact that one already knows, but was not thinking of before. One is no greater for thinking about it, because one already knows it. One could say that there is a change in some sense going on here, but it is a peculiar one, one that could be called, in modern terms, a change of phase rather than a change of state. Now such transitions are most obvious in the operations of living things, but are not confined to them. […] And this leads us back to the First Way in the light of St. Thomas’ own philosophy. Since he admits, as was said earlier, that there are transitions that are not processes, then all the First Way really argues to in Thomism is to a living being, which is defined as one which can set up its own process. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, c. 20.) Of course, the living being does not "move itself" (movere se) in the respect in which it is in process, but processes like growth or movement of the limbs are initiated from the soul, or the “first act” within the being, and so have as their cause one of those transitions from act to act." (George A. Blair – Another Look at St. Thomas' "First Way")

    Here is a suggestion that the mind moves the body:

    "The [mind] is an entity and yet not a “res . . . ,” because it is the complete dynamism of [a] substrate-less absolute change [keyword: stream of consciousness as inner motion].“ […] As an entity of time [the mind or subject] would then be precisely the form of motion of a body. For as the subject in a form of one, namely, its own body, the subject would be exactly that which through itself as that completely special type of constant motion would place its body in motion or at rest: already as a cognizing, and thus first and truly as an acting subject." (Gerold Prauss - The Problem of Time in Kant)

    The mind would appear on the basis of a highly complex organized body. One would also have to say that it would emerge from the body in an entirely natural way.

    Natural motions, according to current theoretical physics, generally do not require continuous causation:

    "Most important for our purposes, the whole structure of Aristotle’s argument for an unmoved mover rests on his idea that motions require causes. Once we know about conservation of momentum, that idea loses its steam. [...] There is conservation of momentum: the universe doesn’t need a mover; constant motion is natural and expected. [...] The universe doesn’t need a push; it can just keep going." (Carroll, Sean - The big picture)

    There are philosophical explanations for this:

    "Some Thomists claim that the crucial fact which the First Way seeks to explain is not the tendency which a heavy body has to fall — this, they admit, is something which was given to the heavy body by whatever it was in the past which made it heavy — but rather the current exercise of that tendency in actual motion. Every such potentiality of a creature, they say, needs to be actualized by the immediate action of the Creator. This seems to be a piece of nonsense. To say that something has a tendency to move is precisely to say that unless something interferes, it will move; if it moves therefore, when interference is removed, no further explanation of its motion is called for apart from the tendency and the removal of the interference." (Kenny, Anthony - Five Ways)

    And:

    "But it seems that at least things in perpetual motion could be self-movers. It seems, in Aquinas’s Aristotelian terms, that they could be at every moment things actually in motion and potentially in motion in the immediate future, their changing potentialities being continuously actualized by the action of their immediately antecedent actualities." (Jordan Howard Sobel - Logic and Theism Arguments: For and Against Beliefs in God)

    The effect of gravity ends with large masses, which themselves would be nothing but mundane primary movers:

    "But to someone outside the solar system, they would not see a force at all; they would observe that the space around the Earth has curved, so that empty space is pushing the Earth so that it goes in a circle around the sun. Einstein had the brilliant observation that gravitational attraction was actually an illusion. Objects moved not because they are pulled by gravity or the centrifugal force but because they are pushed by the curvature of space around it. That’s worth repeating: gravity does not pull; space pushes. […] For example, you might be sitting in a chair right now, reading this book. Normally, you would say that gravity is pulling you down into your chair, and that is why you don’t fly off into space. But Einstein would say that you are sitting in your chair because the Earth’s mass warps the space above your head, and this warping pushes you into your chair. [...] Now replace the marble with the Earth, the shot put with the sun, and the mattress with space-time. [...] This is the insight of what Einstein called general relativity: space-time is warped by heavy masses, causing the illusion of gravitational force." (Kaku, Michio. The God Equation)

    Thus, large masses move (curve) the space and the space moves smaller masses in the direction of the larger masses.

    One could identify two kinds of potential in Aristotle:

    "My proposed interpretation will be based upon introducing [a] double feature of potentiality as a basic tenet of Aristotle's physics. I'll argue that there are two distinct kinds of potentials, the one consisting of potentials that are marked by their being logically entailed by the given existence of the actual, and the other, of potentials that are merely suggested by similarity or inductive considerations. The ontological difference between them is that whereas the entailed potential is fully effectual [...], the analogical or inductive potential is merely a necessary condition and thus necessarily ineffectual. [...] I'll use the terms "genuine" and "nongenuine" respectively to refer to these two modes of potentiality." (Zev Bechler - Aristotle's Theory of Actuality)

    Nongenuine potentials

    "are nonreal things." (Zev Bechler)

    Genuine potentials, on the other hand,

    "can be movers[.]" (Bechler)

    This follows from all:

    "[T]he proof of the necessity of a first unmoved mover is destroyed: No such mover is needed, nor de facto exists in the natural motion of the elements, where only the genuine potential is the mover. Hence the cosmic chain of mover-moved breaks down at each case of continuous natural motion, that is, of both living things and the five elements." (Bechler)

    In the face of all these counterarguments, Feser turns the First Way into a composition argument as a way to save it. However, Feser is not the first to do so:

    "In an attempt to vindicate the celebrated "Five Ways," John Lamont tries to show that Aquinas's arguments for an uncaused cause are successful provided they are understood as resting on an argument from composition.' Lamont further seeks to show that an uncaused cause must be immaterial and unique. In this paper, however, I shall argue that even if we accept the translation of Thomas's various proofs into an argument from composition, such an argument need in no way be thought of as implying the existence of an uncaused cause. Further, I shall show that Lamont's argument for the immateriality of the uncaused cause is problematic and his argument for its uniqueness unconvincing. [...] To sum up: Lamont, following Peter Geach, tries to show that Aquinas's proofs for the existence of God can be construed as a valid composition argument. I have argued that insofar as we can reduce the Five Ways to a composition argument, such an argument in no way yields the desired conclusion. The failure of Lamont's attempt is explained by the fact that he makes the proof of God's existence into a deductively valid composition argument only by begging the question with respect to the fundamental issue, namely, that the sum of all effects is really a group in need of a singular cause different from the causes of any of the effects of which it is the aggregate. Finally, inspection of Lamont's reasons for arguing in favor of God's immateriality and uniqueness reveals that such attributes could be seen to be validly predicated of God only by excluding alternative hypotheses which Lamont does not even envisage." (ANTOINE COTE - THE FIVE WAYS AND THE ARGUMENT FROM COMPOSITION)

    The big problem is that Feser basically does not believe in the ontologically prior efficacy of parts at all:

    "For example, if a stone is a true substance, then while the innumerable atoms that make it up are real, they exist within it virtually or potentially rather than actually. What actually exists is just the one thing, the stone itself." (Edward Feser – Aristotle's Revenge)

    To this must be added the following:

    "Since (per one of Feser’s premises) only actual things can actualize something’s potential for existence, it follows that the parts Feser adduces cannot causally actualize the existence of the substances they compose." (Joseph C. Schmid - Existential inertia and the Aristotelian proof)

    Hence, Feser thinks holistically, and that amounts to:

    "According to holism, the table in front of you does not derive its existence from the sub-atomic particles that compose it; rather, those sub-atomic particles derive their existence from the table." (Philip Goff - Is the Universe a conscious mind?)

    This means that parts cannot cause the whole, which is contrary to the point the composition argument is trying to make.

    Here, the holism of an animal is presented taking a leopard as an example:

    "A leopard is self-moving because the action of one part of it, the brain, which is an action of the leopard, moves another part of it, the legs, which is a movement of the leopard. […] I mean we think of the leopard as the natural unit of which the legs and brain are essentially parts; being a part-of-the-leopard is what it is for the leg to be what it is; it has its existence as what it now is by being a part of the leopard. The whole leopard, so to say, comes first. The parts are secondary. If the leg ceases to be part of the leopard it will turn into something completely different, as mutton is something completely different from a sheep. So a leopard is alive because it has organs which exist as what they are precisely by being organs, being functioning parts of a prior whole." (Herbert McCabe - On Aquinas)

    Intuitively, one rightly assumes that once holistic things begin to exist, they will persist for some time:

    "I say that [a] chair’s existence at t + ε is fully explained by the actualization of the potential, possessed by the chair at t, to continue to exist through t + ε, and the absence of anything that intervenes to prevent the realization of this potential." (GRAHAM OPPY - On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof’)

    One can add that

    "most things naturally tend to remain in existence." (Anthony Kenny - Medieval Philosophy)

    Feser is at least a reductionist in his God-proof reconstruction and therefore must assume simples that God generates and moves so that they can move everything else in the world. If the transcendent God is the first member of the causal series, then something physically indivisible must stand in the second place (but in the first place within the immanence), because otherwise it would not be at exactly that second position. Doesn't God then seem completely superfluous and can't we save ourselves the incredible leap to the transcendent?

    For to

    "[j]ump from a first immanent cause to a first transcendent cause appears [it doesn't only appear so] to be one of the most questionable moves in the Thomistic program." (Edward N. Martin – Infinite Causal Regress and the Secunda Via)

    Yet even more baffling, Feser

    "offers us the explanation that God is the first transcendent cause, which, given God’s eternality and immutability, is prima facie [but not only prima facie] very hard to accept." (Edward N. Martin)

    Immanent (fundamental) particles would thus suffice to explain everything under the plausible assumption of naturalism. If one sees a barely surmountable difficulty regarding the hard problem of consciousness, then naturalistic panpsychism (Philip Goff) or naturalistic dualism (David Chalmers) could be helpful additional presuppositions.

    A further remark shall be made here to the particles which would be indivisible atoms of matter without further substructure, having absolute cohesion of their homogeneous minimum extension, which could only be misunderstood by mathematical minds as a sum of discrete parts:

    "[E]ven though [they] have spatial extent, the question of their composition is without any content." (Brian Greene - The Elegant Universe)

    Aquinas also seems to agree with this in some way:

    "For example, in his commentary on Aristotle's Physics, Aquinas writes of natural minima that, “although a body, considered mathematically, is divisible to infinity, the natural body is not divisible to infinity.”" (wikipedia on Minima naturalia)

    One can also grant the Thomists a certain version of a hylemorphism, if it absolutely must be.

    It would be a concrete, naturalistic hylemorphism. Form and matter of a particle would not be like two heterogeneous, abstract things, which would have to be put together awkwardly by a god. There would be a natural duality of two aspects, form and matter, within the absolute unity of the particle. The aspects would be in a certain sense consubstantial or nature-like, whereby the matter would be something like dammed up, potential energy of a rest mass and the form would be something like like an electromagnetic field energy, which arises from the matter, constantly originates and passes away and therefore can "move" the matter smoothly and continuously and produce complex stuff.

    Here is a similar description:

    "The form, or nature, or essence, is some definite component sitting inside the matter but distinct from it in a simple, physical sense, like the balloon from the helium it contains. [...] Aristotle's forms are not parts or components within the object because, being aspects, they are not the kind of thing that can compose their object." (Zev Bechler - Aristotle's Theory of Actuality)

    Form and matter would necessarily always go hand in hand, and they would have always existed and will do so in all eternity, always making up the indissoluble unity of a particle, all without energy loss. Nothing supernatural at play. And perhaps only in our mind, that is, only conceptually, the particle has a dual aspect nature, but extramentally, that is, in reality, it is probably one in a strict sense.

    The attempt to save Aquinas' proof by making it a composition argument fails. The supposed saviors want to say: parts compose (move) the whole and these parts are composed by further parts and this cannot go to infinity. I say that this is refuted by holistic wholes or fundamental particles.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    The ancient atomists (as well as Heraclitus) took it as axiomatic that motion was constant and universal without exception but generations later Aristotle disagreed with a "unmoved mover" fiat. On what grounds, however, is it reasonable to assume that (a) physical / natural motion ever started or (b) needed to be started or (c) that there is stasis (e.g. "unmoved mover") that starts, and therefore is prior to, physical / natural motion? Aquinas' "First Way", IMO, is just vacuous scholastic twaddle without justifying this anachronistic Aristotlean assumption.
  • javi2541997
    5.3k
    First of all, if you let me give you a wisdom. Do not make OP so long please. Try to make it more concise because sometimes you just copy citations from others that often get out form the nature of what are you proposing. Nevertheless, it is interesting this OP.

    no potential can make itself actual"spirit-salamander

    This was just a comment where Aquinas tried to explained the omnipresence of God through Aristotle logic.

    The basic principle of Aristotle’s argument is that everything that is in motion is moved by something else.spirit-salamander

    This is probably one of the most important theories ever made by thinkers and also is a fundamental one in West civilisation. Keep in mind that Aristotle made a lot of logic theories as syllogism or the whole is bigger than the sum of all parts or one thing cannot be a different thing at the same time
    It was important because somehow religious thinkers as Aquinas copied this principles to develop the belief on God. They literally talked about the same but reinforce it in the idea of God instead of one (Epicuro) or demiurge (Plato), or the atoms (Empedokles).
    But the main fact here is that Aristotle ideas were always developed by their originality in terms of physics or reality not by God or religion.


    Nongenuine potentials

    "are nonreal things." (Zev Bechler)

    Genuine potentials, on the other hand,

    "can be movers[.]" (Bechler)
    spirit-salamander

    Parmenides said that the change is impossible because it implies a step from not be to be. But we only can pass to be.
    Aristotle replied: Only be can transform to be. But “be” can be explained with different forms, but the change which occurs is the one who passes from potency to act. P is potency and then transform to act. A change means in an upgrade of a potency.

    We cannot call this as fallacies. I guess this is what literally happens in physics.
  • spirit-salamander
    268
    Thanks for the advice. Actually, I've already left a lot out. I have, of course, detached the quotes from their context, but incorporated them into my context. I wanted to do a comprehensive overall critique, after all.

    Here is an explanatory passage to the proof that I should have included at the beginning. Feser says that the series always goes into the smaller. Nerve and muscle cells, molecules, atoms, elementary particles. An Aquinas quote should follow here:

    Aquinas adds: "this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover." And he concludes: "Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God." [edit: I have now incorporated this into the main text]

    To the Aristotle quotation on an accidentally ordered causal series there is an alternate translation:

    "When something has moved a portion of water or air, and this in turn has moved another, then even when the initial impulse has ceased, it results in a similar sort of movement continuing up to a certain point, although the original mover is not present." (Filip Radovic - Aristotle on Prevision through Dreams)

    To the ANTOINE COTE quote, it reads in full:

    "The failure of Lamont's attempt is explained by the fact that he makes the proof of God's existence into a deductively valid composition argument only by begging the question with respect to the fundamental issue, namely, that the sum of all effects is really a group in need of a singular cause different from the causes of any of the effects of which it is the aggregate."

    There, the point is that one wanted to save Aquinas' Ways by making a compositional argument out of them: Parts compose the whole and these parts are composed by further parts and this cannot go to infinity. I say that this is refuted by holistic wholes or fundamental particles.

    But do you think the proof works with or without the composition argument?

    The point of my criticism is that you will always end up with mundane primary movers, never with a God.
  • spirit-salamander
    268
    One can quote Walter Kaufmann on Aquinas' proof of God from movement or causation to what you have said:

    "What at first seemed to be a simple proof is in fact a world view in miniature, an image of the world projected onto half a page. Is it a proof of God's existence which, taken by itself, compels assent, quite independent of what we may think of Thomas' metaphysics or the remainder of his System? Definitely not." (Walter Kaufmann - Critique of Religion and Philosophy)

    My criticism consists in part in allowing certain Aristotelian understandings to hold and yet declaring the proof invalid.
  • javi2541997
    5.3k
    But do you think the proof works with or without the composition argument?spirit-salamander

    I think we need composition argument. This is due to of how our knowledge needs to be proven with solid arguments that will end up convincing others. I guess this is why syllogisms was so important back in the day, despite positive logistics critise them. We need always to compose a good structure because we tend to value theories that are built with reasoning.
    Aristotle developed a lot of tools that later on worked in important issues as physic or biology.
    I guess DARII syllogism could work here as: some proofs are proven because of a composition argument.

    The point of my criticism is that you will always end up with mundane primary movers, never with a Godspirit-salamander

    Agreed. Very good quote.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    I just read your entire OP. It is interesting that you cite a lot of secondary sources. Feser assumes something "simple" can be out there in a transcendent way. If gravity is the prime mover, we can imagine an infinite slide with water running down, posit that the slide had always existed, and say the water has to move the way it does because of gravity. That's one way to visualize it. Spacetime is elastic because the speed of light is constant. Everything moves in our universe through the four dimensional spacetime continuum at the speed of light. Change in motion always remains absolutely zero. Thomists don't understand these things because no Thomist has ever been a good physicists. Yet ironically, their arguments for their very specific Christian God depend on physics, one of the subjects they understand the least. Just take a look at "Aristotle's Revenge" by Feser. Seldom is seen such a waste of paper by someone so famous
  • spirit-salamander
    268
    Just take a look at "Aristotle's Revenge" by Feser. Seldom is seen such a waste of paper by someone so famousGregory

    There is a review of this book by a certain Daniel H. Chew that comes to a similar conclusion:

    "In conclusion, while Feser has in fact written a great apology for Aristotelianism for the modern world, Feser has failed to actually prove the necessity of Aristotelianism in science or indeed anywhere else. Far from the revenge of Aristotle, what we see are the quivering spasms of Aristotle’s corpse."
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k

    I think that the easiest way to understand the cosmological argument is from the way that it is expressed by Aristotle. He demonstrated that anything eternal must be actual, it cannot be potential. Any potential requires an actuality to be actualized. The actuality must be prior in time to the potential, because if there was ever a potential without the actuality required to actualize it, it could not ever actualize itself. This would mean that there would be forever potential without actuality. However we observe the reality of actuality, therefore we must conclude that actuality is temporally prior to potentiality.

    Aquinas expounds on this in his "first way". He denies that potentiality and actuality are coexisting eternities by explaining that a thing cannot be both actual and potential in the same respect. He also describes how if there is a succession of things, activities in this case, there must be a first, as an infinite regress is impossible.

    That infinite regress is impossible is a principle commonly argued against. And we can assume the reality of infinite regress if we so desire, but as Aquinas explains, this assumption is repugnant to the intellect. What such an assumption does is render any particular motion as unintelligible by removing its start and end. If we assume that a particular motion has no start or end, then we do not have a complete understanding of that motion. In reality we see that no motions can be perpetual. The difference between start and end is what gives the motion a temporal context. However, it is evident, by the use of infinities in modern mathematics, that the possibility of infinite regress is not denied in the application of laws of physics. This contributes to the unintelligibility of motion which we find in quantum particles, and is evidence that failure to observe these Aristotelian principles is a hinderance to modern science.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Everything has potential and actuality, simplicity and matter. Its one reality that goes back to infinity and to nowhere
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Thomist often say "I find your assumptions repugnant to intellect", to which we respond

    1) truth doesn't care about your feelings

    2) why are you assuming you considered every angle of the question at hand?
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Thomas Aquinas was a Catholic priest who got addicted to pagan philosophy when he should have been reading the Jewish-Catholic Bible. He caused endless headaches for the Church through his addiction.

    Aristotle did not know that:

    1) nothingness is a reality

    2) that matter is fully actual

    3) that nothingness and matter stand in a relationship we cannot connect together with our minds

    4) that the reality of the soul in relationship to matter is better left not meditated on

    5) that the relationship between the simple soul and matter can never be fully grasped by the mind

    6) that the composite cannot be proven inferior to the simple by logical analysis
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Everything has potential and actuality, simplicity and matter. Its one reality that goes back to infinity and to nowhereGregory

    In other words, you can't distinguish between the potential for something, and that thing's actual existence, so you conclude that the two coexist for eternally.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    You're say in response to the question "how many parts does a tree have": "our minds are fallible"

    You're response to the question of whether a lamp or a street sign have one form or many: "our minds are fallible"

    Yet you think you have fully figured out that there is deity based on two petty ideas?
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    For the reader:

    Thomists like to run amuck with ideas of "potentiality" and "actuality". I find that defining God as pure actuality is very ackward and unnecessary. The whole endeavour of trying to prove transcendental powers beyond the world requires a desire for the arguments to work before you encounter them and generally taking the ideas farther than is wise to take them. Aquinas said an object is mathematically divisible to infinity but even God can't divide it to infinity. Thomist hate getting into that quagmire and most people don't like their "potentiality -actuality" tar baby either. However, since they so wanted the proof of God to work as they studied it, now that it's gelled their brains, they have become convinced of their own infallibility, although they will admit at other times that problems presented to them cannot be solved. So be cautious with Thomists. Their method of writing sounds erudite, but it may be because they built their lives on a desire for perfection
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    You're say in response to the question "how many parts does a tree have": "our minds are fallible"

    You're response to the question of whether a lamp or a street sign have one form or many: "our minds are fallible"

    Yet you think you have fully figured out that there is deity based on two petty ideas?
    Gregory

    What?
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    We've talked before about whether a stop sign is one form or many. I pointed out that we sense it as one thing but the screw in it seems to indicate more than one thing. You responded, as Thomists do, that the mind is fallible. I say to you "so is your reasoning for God"

    We've talked before about Zeno's paradox. Aristotle essentially answers this by saying that a whole has parts only potentially, and yet I say "cannot God divide it infinitely"? When I press Thomists on this, they say, "the mind is fallible". I respond: "so are your arguments for God".

    You've criticized Hegel in the past in your arguments with Jerseyflight. But I ask you, how many of Hegel's books have you read? I've read and processed the first Book of the Summa Gentiles and much of Aquinas's other writings, so I am familiar with them. I ask you, have you read a whole book by Hegel? Are you capable of processing a whole book of his? How do you know your reasoning on matters of "potentiality and actuality" is infallible?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k

    Did I ever say, or imply that my reasoning is infallible? If you can show me a way to understand the concepts of potential and actual which you think is better than the one I've derived from the Aristotelian tradition, then I'd be happy to discuss it with you. But all you seem to do is make oddball off the wall, or incoherent, assertions.

    I will not accept the proposition that a distinction between potential and actual is not required, because the nature of time, and the evident division between future and past necessitates such a distinction as a first step toward understanding reality.
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    you seem to do is make oddball off the wall, or incoherent,Metaphysician Undercover

    You don't say how though

    If you can show me a way to understand the concepts of potential and actual which you think is better than the one I've derived from the Aristotelian tradition,Metaphysician Undercover

    I don't know if you will find it better, but there are alternatives. Every object has potential to be painted, burned, thrown in the air, and lots of other things. But it is actual. All objects are like this and have always been this way. The universe has always been free falling through space so to speak and gravity, friction, and other factors have kept all the energy moving. There is no need for something BEHIND because physics is always ALONG SIDE.

    Your idea of seinsfrage ("what is being") in terms of potency and actuality, to use the terminology of Heidegger, leads to a very strange notion of zeitlichkeit (the here and now as "this very presence"). "The sense of the world must lie outside the world" says Wittgenstein. If you don't want to read a Hegel book from to cover and really try to understand it (which is the best way to get past Thomism), then maybe try Being and Nothingness by Sartre, who tries in a very subtle way to cure Aristotle's horror of nothing
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    I don't know if you will find it better, but there are alternatives. Every object has potential to be painted, burned, thrown in the air, and lots of other things. But it is actual. All objects are like this and have always been this way.Gregory

    Here, you are assuming the existence of objects. The point of the cosmological argument though, is that every object comes into existence, and before it can actually exist there must be the potential for it. But that potential need not be actualized. This is why objects are said to be contingent. Since objects are contingent, each one's existence requires the appropriate cause, or causes, necessary for its existence. Therefore it is wrong to take the actual existence of objects for granted, as you do here.

    Your idea of seinsfrage ("what is being") in terms of potency and actuality, to use the terminology of Heidegger, leads to a very strange notion of zeitlichkeit (the here and now as "this very presence"). "The sense of the world must lie outside the world" says Wittgenstein. If you don't want to read a Hegel book from to cover and really try to understand it (which is the best way to get past Thomism), then maybe try Being and Nothingness by Sartre, who tries in a very subtle way to cure Aristotle's horror of nothingGregory

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I've read a lot of Hegel's material, and also a good portion of Being and Nothingness. And I really cannot even see how you might relate any of these to Thomism. They are worlds apart, and you don't seem to know what you are talking about. "Aristotle's horror of nothing"?
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    The point of Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre is that objects exist a priori. I guess you don't understand them. And yes, Greeks hated the number zero and thought the idea of nothingness a dangerous idea. That's where Aquinas got his phobia of nothingness from!
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Each of Hegel's books is like a concept album. So you don't get the full affect until you finish the last page
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    For the reader:

    Aristotle and Aquinas assumed an infinite power was needed to cause motion throughout eternity. Physicists now know this is wrong and consequently reject this notion of Aristotle's physics. Aquinas dovetailed faulty physics with endless musings about forms and matter, essence and existence, and potency and actuality. Phenomenology offers a legitimate alternative to Thomistic speculations, and if you accept modern physics, you are in a position to put Aquinas's arguments into the dustpan of history
  • spirit-salamander
    268
    @Gregory @Metaphysician Undercover

    Potentiality and actuality are at least useful words to describe change. In themselves, they are mere empty words that still need to be given meaning through philosophical reflection.
    And many possibilities of interpretation could arise, even some that are perhaps no longer Aristotelian or Thomistic.

    Zev Bechler, whom I quote briefly in my op, does indeed assume two kinds of potentiality.

    The German philosopher Trendelenburg dealt with this topic:

    "There is a problem, it seems, in ascribing such importance to Aristotle’s influence on Trendelenburg. For when he does comment on Aristotle’s explicit definition of motion, Trendelenburg explicitly rejects it. In Physics III,1 Aristotle had defined motion as “The actualization of what exists potentially, in so far as it exists potentially.” (201a) Trendelenburg took issue with this definition in the Logische Untersuchungen on the grounds that the concepts of actuality and potentiality are less primitive than motion itself, and indeed need to be defined through it (I, 153). Potentiality made no sense, for example, unless it was understood as a direction toward something, and so as a motion." (Frederick C. Beiser - Late German Idealism. Trendelenburg and Lotze)

    There is a also distinction between "energy" as "potential" and "kinetic" made by physics. With "potential energy" only the "rest energy" is meant in contrast to the "kinetic energy". However, both are essentially an "actual" energy. So the actual "potential" energy can also be actualized.

    One could perhaps also simply put movement as an incomprehensible axiom, or describe it with other words than potency or actuality.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Zev Bechler, whom I quote briefly in my op, does indeed assume two kinds of potentiality.

    The German philosopher Trendelenburg dealt with this topic:

    "There is a problem, it seems, in ascribing such importance to Aristotle’s influence on Trendelenburg. For when he does comment on Aristotle’s explicit definition of motion, Trendelenburg explicitly rejects it. In Physics III,1 Aristotle had defined motion as “The actualization of what exists potentially, in so far as it exists potentially.” (201a) Trendelenburg took issue with this definition in the Logische Untersuchungen on the grounds that the concepts of actuality and potentiality are less primitive than motion itself, and indeed need to be defined through it (I, 153). Potentiality made no sense, for example, unless it was understood as a direction toward something, and so as a motion." (Frederick C. Beiser - Late German Idealism. Trendelenburg and Lotze)
    spirit-salamander

    This criticism by Trendelenburg is not altogether truthful of Aristotle's concept of "potential", because it does not pay attention to the second usage of the term which you mention above. Aristotle not only assigns "potential" to the possibility of motion, but also to the possibility of substantial being itself, through the concept of "matter". It is this sense of potential which is more primitive than motion, because motion implies something which is moving, an object, thing, or being, and we see that the potential for existence of that object necessarily precedes its actual existence. This necessity, that the potential for an object is prior to its actual existence, is produced as a principle by inductive reasoning.

    The cosmological argument deals with this sense of potential, the potential for existence of a thing, as a being, or an object, and this potential is given the name of matter by Aristotle. The argument shows how it is necessary to assume a form of actuality which is prior in time to the potential for an object or being (matter), in an absolute sense. Since motion is a thing, object, or being, changing place, this form of actuality which is prior to the existence of such a thing, cannot be classed as a motion.

    There is a also distinction between "energy" as "potential" and "kinetic" made by physics. With "potential energy" only the "rest energy" is meant in contrast to the "kinetic energy". However, both are essentially an "actual" energy. So the actual "potential" energy can also be actualized.spirit-salamander

    I think you characterize energy wrongly here. Since energy is defined as the capacity to do work, it is inherently a potential, the potential for work to be done. We might say that energy has taken the place of Aristotle's "matter" in modern physics, as the fundamental potential. "Energy" represents the potential for work to be done, whereas "matter" represents the potential for the existence of an object. You can see the similarity So it is somewhat misleading to say that both kinetic and potential energy are "actual" energy, because "energy" by definition is potential.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    Things exist in between Aristotelian actuality and potentiality, and move by virtue of their material constitutions. Physics easily says of this is done. I dont know what you thought phenomenology meant, but it is inherently anti-Thomistic and is in it's origins is about giving a different explanation of the world than Aristotle
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Okay, then it's as I concluded above: Aquinas' "First Way" is just vacuous scholastic twaddle. (Btw, me and Prof. Kaufmann have been 'old drinkin' buddies' for over forty years – his translations of F.N. are first rate and still my favorite.) Thanks. :up:
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    For the reader:

    Aquinas makes a distinction between an

    1) accidental infinite series

    and an

    2) essential infinite series

    God makes an accidental series essential in Aquinas's mind. An accidental series without God is a false essential series for him

    However, Einstein and the majority of great physicists since Newton have not believed a non-physical explanation is needed to make sense of an eternal past, so once we understand Aquinas's errors in physics we can know how his three cosmological arguments are wrong
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Things exist in between Aristotelian actuality and potentiality, and move by virtue of their material constitutions.Gregory

    In Aristotelian physics and metaphysics, the potentiality of a thing is its matter, and the actuality of a thing is its form.
  • Gregory
    4.6k


    An unnecessary distinction unless in a larger context. The first three chapters of Phenomenology of Mind are by far the best of Hegel's first book. It shows many ways of looking at time (now) and space (here). His "Logic" books add a lot of neat thoughts too. I would someday like to write a 60 to 80 page paper expressing all his particular thoughts on matter and actuality in condensed form. When seen within the context of modern physics, a different perspective emerges than the Thomistic one. Everything within the universe moves at the speed of light all while in the spacetime continuum. There is a trade-off between space and time. When you move faster in space you move slower in time and visa versa. Since physics can now explain the world without supernatural assumptions, the Thomistic arguments are left with philosophical arguments alone, all of which can be absorbed within the larger framework of phenomenology
  • Gregory
    4.6k
    Important addition:

    The arrow of time is not absolute as Aristotle thought. Time is not the sustaining power of God in the universe, but something science can frame and understand. Imagine two sets of cards suspended under a piece of cardboard. We will call the cardboard space. Now because of the first or prime force the the cards fall side by side, and we will call one deck time and the other motion. This little illustration helps us see that time is potentiality and exists only so far as motion is happening, but the prime mover could simply be the empty space into which the cards fall, and the laws of General Relativity can explain it from there with greater precision
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