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Thursday, February 27, 2020

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It seems to me that this argument does not work if you really acknowledge that we can comprehend only that which is not God, i.e. the world as totally referring to God. It is already problematic to speak of God's "act" that is causing the world ... The world is "restlos bezogen auf ... / in restloser Verschiedenheit von ...", and that is (within natural theology) all we can say.

Best,
Bob

I don't see how you can reconcile the conclusion of the argument with divine simplicity. So a proponent of divine simplicity must deny that (c) follows from (a) and (b). I am inclined to agree with you that it is an unanswerable mystery how this can be so. From what I can tell, the best argument on offer from proponents of divine simplicity is that the same intrinsic act within God can have different contingent effects. At least that is how I interpret Feser's argument here: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-further-reply-to-mullins-on-divine.html.

Brad,

Good comment. >>that the same intrinsic act within God can have different contingent effects.<< I think you will agree with me that that makes no sense. I will now take a look at Feser's post. Thanks for the link.

At the end of the Feser link, this:

>>Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.<<

If God acts, God also causes effect, and this relation is necessary for the act to be an act. If God is pure act, God is purely relational to all effects and in that sense lacks transcendence. So it is obviously possible to distinguish between Gods existence and Gods essence.

Bill,

here is a new link, hope that works : https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-further-reply-to-mullins-on-divine.html?m=1

My question is what would a position like Norman Kretzmanns mean for Premise 2? That God wouldn't have any rational reason to reframe from creating? I think there is a significant difference between Gods existence being sufficient for the existence of creatures, but not for the existence of particular individual creatures. I would only affirm the former. Statements like “God could choose not to create“ should be cashed out as stating that creation doesn't add anything to God, bit it shouldn't be regarded as a real possibility.

Dominik,

Thanks for the link, which works.

>>I think there is a significant difference between Gods existence being sufficient for the existence of creatures, but not for the existence of particular individual creatures. I would only affirm the former.<<

But surely no classical theist can affirm the former. If God's existence is sufficient for the existence of creatures, then it is impossible that God exist and no creatures exist. But that is not the classical line.

Bill,

you're right, though I'd qualify the former by expanding “creatures“ to “creation“ (sloppiness on my part, that I haven't made that clear before). Even if we say that God has to create because not creating would be irrational, it would only follow that something would have to be created, while creatures like us would only appear at a later time. I don't want to go into deeper into the discussion whether or not creating a possible world with no creatures would be irrational and I'm also not really sympathetic (yet?) to this idea, but I think, in spirit of your past posts on Simplicity and Modal Collapse, that this idea combined with a version of the PSR where Gods act of creation doesn't entail the existence of particular contingent individuals + an externalist account of knowledge of contingencies could provide a way to avoid the problem.

If all we need is a factual necessity to ground dependent contingent beings, it’s hard to see why we couldn’t just posit some fundamental particles or set of fields to fulfill that role instead of God.

That’s the route that Leon takes and Oppy is sympathetic to, and I think it’s a better theory than one that involves an external agent (but again, this is only if we just posit a non-simple factual necessity).

If all we need is a factual necessity to ground dependent contingent beings, it’s hard to see why we couldn’t just posit some fundamental particles or set of fields to fulfill that role instead of God.

Positing the God of classical theism provides an explanation for contingent beings' existence (i.e. God externally unifies them) and God's necessary existence (i.e. God's existence = his nature); positing a necessary physical being shifts the need for explanation back to the necessary physical being's existence. (I'm reminded of David Lewis's quip that simply giving something a label (in this case, "necessary" or "necessary by nature") doesn't actually tell us anything.)

The approach of Leonard Nelson and Kant would work here. That is that Reason can not go beyond the conditions of experience, but that there is a faculty of faith that perceives truth not based on reason or experience. [For some reason Nelson does seem to be left out of academic debates.(That is the Kant Friesian School).

Brooding over this since your last entry on DDS:

1)If a Being of pure actuality existed, nothing else would. Such an entity has no potentialities to actualize with beings like us.

2)Stuff exists, most of which seems contingent.

Therefore there is no Being of pure actuality.

Cyrus, that was an interesting comment.

Could you expand more on that? I agree that the god of CT provides an explanation for contingent beings (and is a better alternative than brute facts or physical factual necessities), but I’m not sure what you mean by “a necessary physical being shifts the need for explanation back to the necessary physical beings existence”.

It has been a while since I swam in the treacherous waters of the philosophy of explanation, and I'm apprehensive.

Suppose that t is the totality of all contingent beings, b is the necessary physical being, and that b's existence is a brute fact.

I won't try for a crisp definition of explanation, but surely it involves clarifying or removing some mystery, and I have the sense when trying to explain t's existence in terms of b and t's dependency on b that we're not actually clarifying or removing any mystery. We're just “moving” or “shifting” the mystery around. (I don't mean that we're missing an ultimate explanation—an explanation in which the explanans doesn't call out for further explanation. I mean that in this particular case I don't think the mystery we're trying to remove is actually being removed.)

Dear Bill,

your argument is not formally valid, so even less it cannot be sound. Would you care to spell out your tacit premises?

It seems to me that on your general analysis of causality, no cause of a contingent effect can ever be simple. If you have good reasons to believe that (1) God exists, (2) God created the world and (3) God is simple, then, I would say, you have good reasons to revisit this general understanding of causality.

Dear Lukas,

The argument is an enthymeme. The post now has an addendum in which I state an auxiliary premise.

Consider this pentad:

1. God exists.
2. God created our universe U.
3. U is contingent.
4. God is simple.
5. No cause of a contingent effect is simple.

You argue from the first four propositions to the negation of the fifth. I grant you that if one has certain knowledge of each of the first four, then one would have certain knowledge of the negation of the fifth. But you don't have certain knowledge of each of the first four; hence you do not have certain knowledge of the negation of the fifth.

My claim is that we have good reason to accept (5) and good reason to reject its negation as incoherent, and therefore false. But I grant you that we have good (though not compelling) reason to accept each of the first four.

So I see the pentad as an aporia, whereas you don't. You think the inconsistent pentad has an easy solution: just reject (5).

With all due respect (and no insult intended), you are a dogmatist whereas I am an aporetician and hence a skeptics on the question whether we can have objectively certain knowledge in this subject area.

Dear Bill,

an aside: I don't consider "formally valid" a pleonasm. I take an argument to be valid iff its conclusion follows from the premises - that is, iff it is impossible that the premises are jointly true and the concluion false. An argument is formally valid iff it is valid in virtue of its form.

(1) "I like ice-cream, therefore 2 + 2 = 4"

is an argument which is valid but not formally valid.

(2) "Peter is a man, therefore, Peter is a substance"

is an argument which is valid but whether it is "formally valid" depends on what precisely is meant by "form" (I have yet to see a definition of "logical form"). Most people would not regard it as formally valid, I suppose. A reasonable way to disambiguate "formally valid" would to construe it as "valid in virtue of a form insomuch as it can be captured in a standard formal language."

Note that an argument can be evidently valid (i.e., epistemically compelling to whomever concedes the premises) without being formally valid, and vice versa.

More perhaps later,

Lukas,

Aristotle said that 'being' is said in many ways. I say the same of 'valid.' In my lexicon, a valid argument is a deductive argument the form of which admits of no counterexamples, where a counterexample is an argument with true premises and a false conclusion.

Validity, then, is a matter of form. If so, 'formally valid' is pleonastic.

I don't think we have a substantive disagreement. Not yet, anyway!

Your comments are appreciated. May they continue!

Cyrus,

wouldn't that depend upon the essence of the necessary being? I recall an interview on the ontological argument, where the philosopher (I forgot the name) said that God has his necessity as a brute fact. Is that what you are hinting at? I think this would be the conclusion we'd arrive with if we say that the ultimate is complex. I would disagree though if that is applied to the concept of an absolutely simple God, who is just existence. His necessary existence as opposed to the necessary existence of a complex ultimate would really be selfexplanatory and not brute. The followup question “Why the simple God as opposed to nothing?“ can be answered by saying that the emptybworld is impossible.

Dominik,

Did you read my first comment to Erik? I'm having a hard time seeing how you got a criticism of classical theism out of it and the other comment.

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