bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 3

In Part 23 I begin to analyze and evaluate the five remaining arguments in Kreeft’s case for God.
FIVE REMAINING ARGUMENTS
Although I have already shown that Kreeft’s cumulative case for God is a complete failure, I would still like to make a few comments and objections concerning the remaining five arguments:

  • Argument #6: The Kalam Argument
  • Argument #7: The Argument from Contingency
  • Argument #8: The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
  • Argument #9: The Argument from Miracles
  • Argument #10: The Argument from Consciousness

I quickly toss aside three of these five arguments: Argument #8, Argument #9, and Argument #10.  Although I put forward some objections to these arguments, I don’t put much time and effort into evaluation of these arguments, because they are insignificant arguments in terms of a cumulative case for God. As the chart at the end of Part 22 shows, these three arguments do not support of ANY of the basic divine attributes, so even if these arguments were solid and strong arguments, they would still fail to play any significant role in a cumulative case for the existence of God.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT # 8
One serious problem with Argument #8, the Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole, is that it is UNCLEAR.  It is too unclear to be a good and solid argument.  Kreeft uses a variety of abstract terms and phrases, and he does not bother to define any of them (see HCA, page 63):

  • This world is “an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system”
  • “each component is defined by its relation with others”
  • “each component…presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act”
  • “relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts”
  • “parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole”
  • “no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory”
  • “any part presupposes all the other parts-the whole system already in place”
  • a  component part “can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it”

So, Argument #8 is a crappy bit of incompetent philosophy.  If someone called this argument “Word Salad” and dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration, I would be inclined to agree with that evaluation.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #9
Argument #9 is the Argument from Miracles.  The second premise of this argument is FALSE:

2. There are numerous well-attested miracles. (HCA, p. 64)

I have two different reasons for asserting that premise (2) is FALSE, and they are both based on the definition that Kreeft provides of a “miracle” in premise (1):

1. A miracle is an event whose only adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God. (HCA, p.64)

First of all, Kreeft’s concept of God is logically incoherent (the idea of an unchanging person is logically incoherent), so it follows that “the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” cannot provide an adequate explanation for ANY event whatsoever.  Because Kreeft’s concept of God contains a logical self-contradiction, his concept of a miracle is the concept of a logically impossible event.
Kreeft could, however, modify his concept of God to get rid of the logical contradiction it contains.  In that case, there is still a serious problem with premise (2).  For something to be a “well-attested miracle”, it must be an “extraordinary… intervention”, meaning it must be a supernatural event.  But if a supernatural event actually occurs, we have no way of knowing whether God was the cause of that event or some other person or being was the cause.  So we have no way of knowing whether such an event was caused by a “direct intervention of God.”
A supernatural event could be caused, for example, by an angel rather than by God.  Alternatively, a supernatural event could be caused by a human being who had supernatural powers.  We have no rational and objective way to determine whether a specific supernatural event was caused by (a) God, or (b) an angel, or (c) a human being with supernatural powers. Thus, there cannot be an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” (emphasis added).  At least none of the many alleged “miracles” that Christians have put forward in the past satisfy this requirement.
So, even if Kreeft repaired his concept of God to make it logically coherent, premise (2) would still be FALSE.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an actual historical example of an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”  because there are almost always alternative supernatural explanations that are as good as the “God did it” explanation.

 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #10
Argument #10, the Argument from Consciousness, is based on a premise that appears to be FALSE:

2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance. (HCA, p.66)

This seems to be a FALSE DILEMMA that is very similar to a premise found in crackpot creationist arguments:

  • Either human beings are the products of an intelligent creator, or human beings are the products of blind chance.

This dilemma ignores an obvious third alternative: EVOLUTION.
Human brains did NOT form from random blobs of cells or biological chemicals that just happened to gather together in the same location.  Humans  EVOLVED from primates; human brains EVOLVED from primate brains.  Primates EVOLVED from less intelligent mammals; primate brains EVOLVED from less sophisticated mammalian brains. Mammals EVOLVED from reptiles.  Mammalian brains evolved from reptile brains, etc., etc.,  going all the way back to the first single-celled animals.
If we understand the “blind chance” explanation to mean that random blobs of cells or biological chemicals just happened to gather together in the same location to form a human being, then OF COURSE “blind chance” is not a serious candidate for explaining the origin of human beings.  The process of EVOLUTION is neither “intelligent design” nor is it “blind chance”; it is a third alternative.
Premise (2) of Argument #10 makes the same idiotic blunder as creationist arguments; it ignores the third alternative of EVOLUTION.  Premise (2) is FALSE, so Argument #10 is UNSOUND.

 
INITIAL ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #7
In Part 24 I do an initial analysis and clarification of the Argument from Contingency, Argument #7, and in Part 25, I further clarify the first inference in the argument:

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists now, i.e. at time t1.

A. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–depends on something else for its existence at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

The ultimate conclusion of the argument is based on (5a):

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

 
INITIAL OBJECTIONS TO ARGUMENT #7
In Part 25, I raise some initial objections against Argument #7.
At best, the argument shows the existence of a bodiless being (i.e. a bodiless thing, not necessarily a person) that is the cause of the current existence of the universe:

  • it does NOT show the existence of an omnipotent person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an omniscient person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a perfectly morally good person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an eternal person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe
  • it does NOT show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #7 asserts that the cause of the current existence of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #7 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.

 
THE BASIC PROBLEM WITH ARGUMENT #7
In Part 26 I point out the most basic problem with Argument #7.
Clarity is a gateway standard of critical thinking.  A statement that is unclear cannot be evaluated, at least not as it stands.  I attempted to clarify Argument #7 so that it would be possible to evaluate this argument.  But the above revised and clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s Argument from Contingency still contains more than a dozen unclear words and phrases.  Furthermore, those unclear words and phrases appear multiple times in the argument, multiplying the ambiguity and unclarity, resulting in millions of possible meanings of this argument.
UNCLEAR WORDS AND PHRASES IN ARGUMENT #7

  1. something  (1 instance): Is time “something”?  Is space “something”? Is a law of physics “something”? Is an idea or a feeling “something”? Is the number 3 “something”?  Why or why not? If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  
  2. depends on (2 instances): Does this refer to logical dependency or causal dependency or to both kinds of dependency?  Does this refer to necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  3. something else (4 instances):  “something” is ambiguous, and so is “else”. Does a part of a whole thing count as “something else” in addition to the whole?  Does a whole containing parts of two other things count as “something else” besides those two other things?
  4. what it takes for  (4 instances):  If the existence of X at a particular moment depends on Y does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that Y is what it takes for X to exist at that particular moment?  What if Y is only ONE of MANY different things that could have caused the existence of X at that moment?  Does what it takes for X to exist at a particular moment refer to logical dependencies of the existence of X or to causal dependencies or to both kinds of dependency?  Does what it takes for X to exist consist of necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  5. The universe (7 instances): although this word is defined in premise (2a), the definition is itself very unclear and has many possible meanings. The highly ambiguous definition makes the term “universe” highly ambiguous as well.
  6. the collection (2 instances): the universe contains a different set of things at different times, so “the collection” is ambiguous between the set of all the things that have existed in the entire history of the universe and the set of all things that exist at a particular moment in time.
  7. beings (4 instances): If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  Is time a “being”?  Is space a “being”? Is a law of physics a “being”? Is an idea or a feeling a “being”? Is the number 3 a “being”?  Why or why not?
  8. in space and time (2 instances): Is the requirement that the thing in question be BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?  The word “and” is ambiguous in this phrase.
  9. within the universe (1 instance): If X is within the universe, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being in space and time?  If X is a being in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is within the universe?  If so, then the ambiguity of “being” and the ambiguity of “in space and time” apply to this expression.  For example, is time within the universe?  Is space within the universe?  Are laws of physics within the universe?
  10. bounded by space and time (1 instance):  If X is bounded by space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is bounded by space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.  Does being bounded by space and time mean being BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?
  11. transcend both space and time (1 instance): If X is not in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X transcends both space and time?  If X transcends both space and time does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is not in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.
  12. OUTSIDE of both space and time (1 instance):  I don’t think this was part of Kreeft’s wording, so this is a phrase that I added.  This should probably be revised to “transcend both space and time” which was Kreeft’s own wording.  In that case this would be a second instance of the unclear expression “transcend both space and time”.
  13. finite (1 instance):  Does this mean finite in EVERY respect, or finite in AT LEAST ONE respect?
  14. material (1 instance): If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is material?  If X is material, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of the expression “in space and time” applies to this word.

 
REDUCING THE NUMBER OF POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS
Not only are there numerous unclear words and phrases in Argument #7, but many of them occur multiple times in the argument.  Each instance of an ambiguous word or phrase multiplies the number of possible interpretations of the argument.  There is a simple way to dramatically reduce the number of possible interpretations of this argument: we can simply assume that ALL instances of an expression have the SAME meaning.  If the meaning of an expression changes in the course of an argument, then that usually breaks the logic of the argument and results in an invalid inference or a false conditional premise, making the argument UNSOUND.  So, if we assume that all instances of an expression have the same meaning, that eliminates many versions of the argument that are, in all likelihood, UNSOUND because of the fallacy of equivocation.
There are eleven unique words and phrases that are unclear in the premises supporting (6a), not including (6a) itself.  The phrases “depends on”, “something else”, and “the universe” each have four possible meanings, and the eight other unclear words and phrases each have at least two possible meanings.  So, if we assume that ALL instances of each of these eleven unique words and phrases have the same meaning, that none of these words or phrases shifts in meaning in the course of this argument, then the number of possible interpretations would be 4 to the 3rd power times 2 to the 8th power:
(4 x 4 x 4) x (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2)
(4 x 4 x 4) x (4 x 4 x 4 x 4)
= 64 x 256
= 16, 384 different possible interpretations of Argument #7 (ignoring any ambiguities in the conclusion and assuming all of the expressions are used unequivocally)
I don’t know about you, but this argument does not seem promising enough to want to spend four years of my life evaluating all of the 16,384 different possible versions of it (on the assumption that all expressions in the argument are used unequivocally).
EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #7
Argument #7 at best would only support one of the basic divine attributes (a bodiless being), and if it were a sound argument it would prove the existence of an absolutely UNCHANGING being, which means it would, if sound, prove the existence of something that is NOT God, and Argument #7 is hopelessly UNCLEAR, making it extremely difficult, practically impossible, to rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of the premises in this argument and the validity of the inferences in this argument.  Because of these three serious problems, I conclude that Argument #7 is NOT a strong argument for God, and that it FAILS to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 2

In Part 15 I begin to analyze Argument #4 of Kreeft’s case:
4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
In Argument #4, Kreeft argues for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”.  He does strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:
This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)
The most important premise of this argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides very little support for premise (D), so Argument #4 could reasonably be set aside as yet one more FAILED argument for the existence of God.  However, Kreeft does briefly hint at a line of reasoning that could be used to support (D), and it seems to me that (D) is more plausible than any of the other key premises that Kreeft failed to support in the other four Thomistic arguments, so I will take a closer look at Argument #4.
 
In Part 16 I analyze and evaluate the original Argument from Degrees of Perfection as presented by Aquinas himself. The final part of this argument has two significant problems:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

The final inference in the argument is VALID but this part of the argument is probably UNSOUND because (5b) is dubious (supported by an INVALID sub-argument with a FALSE premise), and (6b) appears to be FALSE.
 
In Part 17 I examine the logical structure of Kreeft’s version of the Argument from PerfectionArgument #4.  I analyze the argument into three parts: an initial inference, an intermediate inference, and a final inference.  The initial inference in this argument contains two unstated assumptions, premise (A) and premise (B), and an unstated conclusion, (C):

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

 
In Part 18, I point out that both the subject and the predicate of premise (A) are unclear.  My best guess is that the subject is referring to different degrees of perfection when comparisons are made between KINDS of things (e.g. between human beings and “a stone, a flower, an earthworm…” ).  My best guess is that the predicate of (A) is a Trojan Horse that sneaks a Thomistic theory of “perfection” (including a Thomistic theory of good and evil) into the argument.  Based on these assumptions,  I interpret premise (A) as follows:
A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.
 
In Part 19 I  attempt to clarify premise (B) in this argument, represented as premise (B9):
It seems to me that Kreeft explains the idea of perfection in terms of some “ways-of-being” being better than other “ways-of-being”.  So, perfections are a sub-set of ways-of-being.  Thus, we can re-state (B9) so that both the subject and predicate talk about perfection:
B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.
Premise (B9*) has some initial plausibility.  It is a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  If there must be a cause or explanation for the particular characteristics of each and every being, then there must be a cause or explanation for the particular perfections and degrees of perfection of each and every being with a finite degree of perfection.  But this seems too vague to be of use in proving the existence of God.  Some things might have their perfections from a creator (or from various creators), and other things might have their perfections from a fixer-upper (or various fixer-uppers) who improved on the work of a creator (or of various creators).  Asserting that there must be some cause or other of various perfections is not specific enough to allow us to infer that there is ONE single source or cause of all perfections.
 
THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
Also, in Part 19 I sum up problems with the initial inference in Argument #4.  Premise (A) and Premise (B) are both very unclear.  The subjects of both premises are unclear, and the predicates of both premises are unclear.  So, it is very difficult to evaluate the initial inference in Argument #4.
My best guess at the meaning of (A) is that it asserts claim (A4):

A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.

But if (A) is intended to assert claim (A4), then premise (A) begs the question at issue (i.e. Does God exist?).
My best guess at the meaning of (B) is that it asserts claim (B9*):

B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Although (B9*) has some plausibility, being a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, it seems to be too vague to be useful for proving the existence of God.  Even if we grant the assumption that all perfections of things that have a finite degree of perfection, are caused by something or other to have those perfections (and to have them to that specific degree), that doesn’t get us to the conclusion that there is just ONE ultimate source or cause of all of the perfections found in various beings that have a finite degree of perfection.
Premise (A) appears to beg the main question at issue, and premise (B) appears to be too vague to be useful in a proof for the existence of God.
 
THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
In Part 20 I evaluate the middle inference in Argument #4.
The very unclear and very dubious initial inference in Argument #4 is not the only problem with that argument.  In Part 17, I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #4, and I pointed out that there was a completely UNSTATED sub-argument that is required to logically link the initial inference to the final inference in Argument #4, and this middle inference is as follows:

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

This middle inference appears to involve the following assumption:

(POP)  IF a being X causes perfection P in being Y, then being X has a greater degree of perfection P than Y.

This general Principle Of Perfection appears to be an assumption that underlies premise (F).  If this principle is false, then we have no good reason to believe premise (F).  But (POP) is clearly FALSE, so we have no good reason to believe (F) to be true.  Premise (F) is based on a FALSE assumption, so premise (F) is dubious, just like premise (C).
The main reason why (POP) is false is that a thing that lacks a property can, nevertheless, cause that property to occur in something else.  I can cause someone else to have a black eye and a bloody nose, even if I do not have a black eye or bloody nose myself.  I can cause a woman to become pregnant, even though I am not pregnant, and even though I cannot ever become pregnant.  I can make someone laugh, even if I am not laughing myself.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE MIDDLE INFERENCE AND ARGUMENT #4
In Part 20 I present my evaluation of the middle inference of Argument#4 and of the whole argument.  The middle inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 is based on two dubious premises: (C) and (F).

  • The meanings of key words and phrases in these premises are UNCLEAR.
  • Premise (C) is dubious because it is based on a BAD argument (i.e. the first inference of Argument #4).
  • Premise (F) is dubious because it is based on a FALSE assumption (i.e. POP).
  • Premise (F) is ambiguous in its quantification; on one interpretation (C) must make a very strong and very dubious claim, and on the other possible interpretation (F) is clearly FALSE.

The middle inference or sub-argument thus FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.
Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
 
THE CONCLUSIONS OF KREEFT’S FIRST TEN ARGUMENTS
In Part 21 I discuss a general problem with Kreeft’s arguments that is a theme in in my critique of his case for God.
A philosophical argument for the existence of God, ought to end with one of the following conclusions:

  • God exists.
  • There is a God.

So, one BIG CLUE that Kreeft’s case for God is seriously defective is that in the first ten arguments, which he appears to think are his best and strongest arguments, he almost never explicitly states the conclusion of an argument to be “God exists” or “There is a God”.
There is only ONE argument in the first ten arguments that has the proper conclusion.  Argument #9, the Argument from Miracles, has a proper conclusion:

4. Therefore God exists.  (HCA, p.64)

The conclusions of the other nine arguments fall short of making this claim.
So, 90% of Kreeft’s best and strongest arguments “for the existence of God” fail to end with the conclusion “God exists” or “There is a God”, and those nine out of ten arguments all FAIL to be arguments “for the existence of God”; rather, they argue for the existence of a being that has one or two characteristics that are characteristics that are also (supposedly) possessed by God.
In some cases, Kreeft attempts to bridge the logical gap between the conclusion that he actually argues for, and the desired conclusion.  Kreeft’s makes some additional claims in an attempt to provide a logical connection between the stated conclusions of those arguments and the desired conclusion that “God exists.”
However, Kreeft does NOT argue for or defend any of these key premises, and thus he BEGS THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of the most important and most controversial premises of those arguments.  Even in the cases where Kreeft provides a premise that links the stated conclusion of an argument to the conclusion that “God exists”, he still FAILS to show that “God exists”, because he does not provide any good reason for us to believe those crucial and controversial premises.
Kreeft is a professional philosopher who has taken on the responsibility to present solid arguments for God, and when he provides half-ass arguments that are logically incomplete, arguments that do not explicitly conclude that “God exists”, it is fair to simply point out that his arguments, as presented, FAIL to show the conclusion that they are supposed to show.  It is fair to simply point out that his arguments either BEG THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of controversial premises, or else that they are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God.
 
EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CUMULATIVE CASE
In Part 22 I also point out some serious problems with Kreeft’s case in terms of his aim of presenting a cumulative case for God.
Although it would be unreasonable to insist that Christian apologists prove that there is ONE being that possesses ALL of the many characteristics that Christians believe God to have, there are some basic divine attributes that a case for the existence of God should show are possessed by ONE being.  In order to be “God”, a being must be:

  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person
  • an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person
  • a person who is the creator of the universe

Kreeft does repeatedly attempt to show that there is a being who is the designer of the universe, but none of his arguments show that such a being exists.  Even if  one of Kreeft’s arguments did actually succeed in showing that there was an intelligent designer of some part or aspect of the universe, this does not imply that there is a person who is the creator of the universe.  First, evidence of a designer does not imply that there is JUST ONE designer of the entire universe.  Second, even if we knew that there was just one designer, this does not imply that this designer also CREATED the universe.   Designing something is not the same as making that something.  Third, the existence of a designer or creator of the universe in the distant past does not imply that such a being still exists today.
Furthermore, a designer of the universe is not necessarily a bodiless person, and is not necessarily an eternal person, and is not necessarily an omnipotent person, nor an omniscient person.  And the many problems of evil indicate that if there is a designer of the universe, that designer was either not omniscient or not omnipotent or not a perfectly morally good person.  The argument from design actually casts doubt on the existence of God, when we take into account the problems of evil in the apparent “design” of the universe.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By combining all of his arguments together, Kreeft could, in theory, show that there exists a being or person who has MANY of the basic divine attributes.  However, there are at least three serious problems with the cumulative case that Kreeft has actually provided:

  1. Most of his arguments do not attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes. The chart above shows that eight out of the first twelve arguments in his case don’t attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes (see the rows for Arguments 1 & 2, 4 & 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12).
  2. A number of the basic divine attributes are not touched upon by Kreeft’s arguments, or are supported by only one argument.  The chart above shows that in the first twelve arguments ZERO of them attempt to show that there is a person who is omnipotent, or a person who is omniscient, or a person who is perfectly morally good, and the chart also shows that only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a bodiless person, and only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a person who is the creator.
  3. Additional argumentation is needed to show that there is JUST ONE being that possesses the various basic divine attributes.  But Kreeft does not argue for this assumption.  He simply ASSUMES that all of his arguments are about the same being or person.   Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that many of the attributes could be possessed by a person who was not God, because it is possible to have one divine attribute without having all of the other divine attributes.  One could, for example, be the creator of the universe but not be an omniscient person, and not be a perfectly morally good person.

 
Argument #13 looks like it could potentially rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, because it provides an argument for three basic divine attributes that no other argument in Kreeft’s collection supports.  Argument #13 is the Ontological Argument for God.  Specifically, Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument concludes that “there actually exists…an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.” (HCA, p.72).
However, Argument #13 is of no help to Peter Kreeft, because he (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli) admit that this argument is no good. The ONE argument that had the potential to rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, is an argument that Kreeft tells us is a “fundamentally flawed” argument (HCA, p. 49).  I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the Ontological argument is fundamentally flawed, so I must conclude that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure.
 
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDo our reasons depend on our desires?

NOTE: This post assumes an understanding of much of the terminology that I explain in my post, “On Reasons and What They Do?” In particular, this post uses the terms ‘reason,’ ‘objective,’ and ‘subjective’ in accordance with the explanations that appear in that article. Further, there are other important matters (such what it means for a reason to be pro tanto) that my discussion in this current posts assumes a familiarity with. 
I have been writing about reasons, what they are, and what they do. This is an important topic because, as I have argued, reasons play a central role in issues of morality and the meaning of life. The reason for talking about such issues in a philosophy of religion blog is that many religious apologists have argued that, if there is no god, there are no objective moral truths and that if there is no god, life is meaningless. Both of these assertions are false but understanding why they are false requires a good understanding of the nature of reasons and the connection reasons have to morality and meaning.
In a previous post, I argued that at least some reasons are objective. One consideration that is commonly relied on to argue that reasons must be subjective is that reasons are dependent on desires. David Hume famously said, “’Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger”[1] Exactly what Hume intended to be saying here about the nature of reasons is a matter of some controversy. He has, however, been widely interpreted as claiming that reason is only a matter of selecting the best means of satisfying our ends. On such a view, reason can recommend no ends. We have our ends on the basis of our desires and passions, but these ends are not rationally evaluable. We have reasons only once we have chosen an end, and then the reasons that we have are to do the things that effectively satisfy that end. This view, regardless of whether it is Hume’s real view, is consistent with a position that I have previously called the Desire-Based Reasons Thesis (DBR):
DBR: For a person, P, to have a reason to engage in some behavior, Φ, P must have some desire (or desire-like state) d, such that Φ-ing tends to promote the satisfaction of d.
I strongly suspect that DBR is false and I want to provide some examples that serve to undermine it. First, though, I think we should acknowledge the intuitive appeal of DBR. DBR fits in very nicely with a certain conception of rationality that is often called “means-ends-rationality.” This conception can be well illustrated via the following example:
Pizza: Sue wants to have a pizza delivered to her house. Given that calling the local pizza place, Pizza Yurt, and ordering a pizza will efficiently promote the satisfaction of Sue’s desire, Sue has a reason to call Pizza Yurt to order a pizza. Further, she only has this reason given that she has this desire. A person who does not have the desire for pizza to be delivered to their home does not have a reason to call for pizza delivery.
This seems right, at least at first glance. Despite this appearance, I will later argue that the above account of why Sue has the reasons she does is completely wrong. Now, though, I want to acknowledge the way in which the account is intuitively appealing. It seems true that anyone who does not want a pizza does not have a reason to call for pizza delivery. Thus, the natural conclusion is that Sue’s reason for calling Pizza Yurt is that she wants to have a pizza delivered. Certainly, if we assume (i) that Sue wants a pizza, (ii) that calling Pizza Yurt is the most efficient (or only) means of satisfying this desire, and (iii) that Sue knows that calling Pizza Yurt is the most efficient (or only) means of satisfying her desire, it seems clear that if Sue fails to call Pizza Yurt, she is being irrational.
It is important to note that we now have before us two different claims: One is that Sue’s reason to call Pizza Yurt is dependent on her desire; the second is that, given this desire plus her belief that calling Pizza Yurt is the most efficient way of satisfying that desire, if Sue fails to call Pizza Yurt, she is being irrational. I think that the second claim is true, but the first is false.
It is important to distinguish claims about what reasons an agent has from claims about the agent’s rationality. These claims are different as can be revealed by a common example:
Snake/Rope: I am walking through the desert; I look down at my feet and see a snake-like object coiled in the path immediately next to where I am walking. I immediately form the judgment that there is a snake in my path. My pulse quickens, I immediately feel fear, and quickly leap away. In reality, the object is not a snake but a coiled length of rope.
Now, let’s ask whether I had any reason to fear and whether I had any reason to jump away. The natural response to such questions is that, given that it was not a snake, I had no reason to fear. Similarly, my daughter has no reason to fear the non-existence monsters under the bed even though she firmly believes in them. Further, I had no reason to jump away in fear since there was nothing to be afraid of. However, given that I believed that there was a snake on my path, my fear-response and avoidance behavior was completely rational. The Snake/Rope example shows that we can behave rationally even when we are not responding to reasons.
In this post, I will be making claims about reasons rather than rationality. In particular, I will argue that reasons are not dependent on desires. I will not be defending any view about rationality. However, the view that I find attractive is that, as Derek Parfit has put it, our reasons are provided by the facts, what is rational for us to do depends on our beliefs.
While DBR seems to make sense of Sue’s reasons in the Pizza example, I think that this appearance is deceiving and that a proper understanding of Sue’s reasons show that they are not at all dependent on her desires. To understand why, I need to explain why I doubt DBR. Let’s look at three cases that present possible counterexamples to DBR.
(1) Gin/Petrol
This example comes from Bernard Williams who is a defender of DBR [2]. Williams’ view is that the reasons that an agent has are dependent on the agent’s motivational set. Your motivational set includes your desires, intentions, positive attitudes, etc., (henceforth, I will use ‘desire’ to refer to all of these kinds of states) which have the tendency to motivate you to act. Importantly, this entails that the existence of a reason for an agent requires the presence of an appropriate desire.
Williams presents the following example as a reason to amend his view: Suppose Jim is sitting at a table on which is a bottle of clear liquid. Jim wants to have a gin and tonic and believes that the stuff in the glass on the table is gin. Suppose, though, that the stuff in the bottle is not gin but gasoline. Does Jim have a reason to mix the stuff in the bottle with tonic and consume the concoction? Williams points out that we are pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, it seems natural to say that since the stuff in the glass will make Jim sick, he does not have a reason to drink it and has a reason to not drink it. On the other hand, if Jim does drink the gasoline, there is a natural explanation for why he did so: Jim thought that the stuff in the bottle was gin.
Williams’ conclusion is that we shouldn’t think that the fact that we would have an explanation for why Jim would drink the stuff entails that Jim would have a reason to do so. In fact, according to Williams, even though he believes that the stuff is gin, Jim does not have a reason to drink it. This requires that Williams amend his view. He does so by claiming that an element, d, of an agent’s motivational set will not provide a reason to the agent if d is based on a false belief (see Williams, 293).
Williams is right, in my view, that Jim does not have a reason to drink the stuff in the bottle despite the fact that he has a desire to drink it.  However, I think that the example poses a bigger problem for his view than he realized. The problem is that it is difficult to square the claim that desires that are based on false beliefs do not generate reasons with the view that desires generate reasons.
Williams’ view seems to be that some desires generate reasons and some do not. But, having asserted that all reasons depend, for their existence, on desires, his view provides no basis for claiming that some desires do not generate reasons. Let’s call the capacity to generate reasons, which, on Williams’ view, at least some desires have, “reason-generating power” (or “rg-power” for short). On Williams’ view desires have rg-power unless those desires that are based on false beliefs. But what is it about this class of desires that makes them impotent to generate reasons? Why would a false belief interfere with a desire’s rg-power? Why does a desire lose its reason-generating capacity just because it is based on a false belief? Williams provides no answer.
This example does not refute DBR, but despite Williams response, I think it should cast some doubt on the thesis. Unless we have some basis for thinking that desires that are based on false beliefs cannot generate reasons, the Gin/Petrol example suggests that desires do not generate reasons.
(2) Agony
This example is inspired by Parfit’s Agony Argument.[3]
Suppose Sally want to experience excruciating pain. She realizes that stabbing herself in the eye with a metal fork will satisfy this desire. Does Sally therefore have a reason to stab herself in the eye with a fork? I don’t think she does. The fact that Sally will experience horrendous and needless suffering is a reason for her to not stab herself in the eye with a fork regardless of her desires.
Suppose that Ryan does not have a desire to experience excruciating pain but also does not want to avoid it. Does Ryan have a reason to avoid stabbing himself in the eye with a metal fork? On a view according to which an agent only has reasons to engage in actions that satisfy his desires, Ryan does not have such a reason. This is implausible. Ryan has a reason to avoid stabbing himself in the eye with a fork (and to avoid any activity that will cause horrible suffering) regardless of whether he has any desire to avoid pain/agony.
(3) Radio
This example is an adaptation of one originally provided by Warren Quinn in his paper, “Putting Rationality in its Place.” [4]
Suppose you have a friend, Tom, who engages in the following behavior: When Tom enters a room with a radio that is turned off, he immediately turns the radio on. He does not tune the radio to a specific station; he seems content merely to have the radio on, even if it is playing static. Tom does this consistently. When you ask him why he does this, he says that he wants radios to be turned on. He does not cite a desire to hear music or sound of any kind. He merely says that he wants that radios are turned on.
Does the presence of such a desire make Tom’s behavior reasonable?  I think it is natural to say that Tom’s answer to the question of why he is always turning on radios makes his behavior seems even more unreasonable since the desire itself is irrational. Quinn’s point, I take it, is that the mere presence of this desire cannot give Tom a reason for turning on radios. What would rationalize Tom’s behavior, according to Quinn, is Tom’s belief that by turning on radios, he is achieving something good. If Tom was turning on the radio to listen to good music or to hear the news, this would make his behavior reasonable. But the mere presence of a desire that radios be turned on does nothing to make this action reasonable.
 
These three examples, taken together, cast a great deal of doubt on the DBR thesis. I will not claim that they effectively refute the thesis, but merely that they strongly suggest that it is false. There are many other arguments against DBR. If you are interested, I highly recommend Jonathan Dancy’s book, Practical Reality, which mounts a sustained criticism of DBR.
Let me return, briefly, to the Pizza example. If we reject DBR, how are we to account for Sue’s reasons? More importantly, if we reject DBR, how are we to account for the fact that Sue does have a reason to call Pizza Yurt, but a person who has no desire for pizza (apparently) does not have such a reason?
Here is my answer: Sue does have a reason to call Pizza Yurt, but this reason is not generated by and does not depend on her desire to have a pizza delivered to her home. What gives Sue a reason to call Pizza Yurt, I believe, is the following collection of facts: Sue is hungry, eating pizza is a good way of satisfying that hunger, Sue likes the taste of pizza, and calling Pizza Yurt is an efficient way of getting a pizza delivered to her home. What about those who lack a reason to call for delivery? For such people, it (currently) will not be good to have a pizza. Either such people are not currently hunger or do not enjoy the taste of pizza or else having a pizza delivered would in some other way be bad.
What reasons we have depends only on what is good and what is bad. It does not depend on our desires.
 


[1] Hume, D. A Treatise of Human Nature (2.3.3.6)
[2] Williams B., “Internal and External Reasons” reprinted in Shafer-Landau and Cuneo (eds.) Foundations of Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
[3] In Parfit, D. On What Matters, Volume 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). See pp. 73-82 for Parfit’s Agony Argument.
[4] Quinn, W. “Putting Rationality in its Place” in his Morality and Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
 

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 1

DOES GOD EXIST?
One way to approach this question is to critically examine some cases for the existence of God.  I am especially interested in cases for God made by Christian philosophers in the late 20th century or the early 21st century.  One such case was made by Peter Kreeft:
Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God
 
KREEFT’S CASE FOR GOD
In September of 2017, I began to analyze and evaluate Peter Kreeft’s case for God in his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli).  In July of this year, I finished examining the final argument of his case for God:

INDEX: Kreeft’s Case for God

 
A SUMMARY OF MY CRITIQUE OF KREEFT’S CASE
In Part 1 I toss four arguments aside as being unworthy of serious consideration:
We can quickly whittle down the list of twenty arguments to a list of sixteen arguments by tossing aside the following four arguments:
11. The Argument from Truth
13. The Ontological Argument
14. The Moral Argument
20. Pascal’s Wager
We can toss these arguments aside based on serious problems with these arguments that Kreeft himself admits.
 
In Part 2 I toss another four arguments aside as being unworthy of serious consideration:
The last ten arguments in Kreeft’s  collection of twenty arguments are, in my view, very weak and very flawed arguments; they are unworthy of serious consideration, and they fail to add significant weight to his cumulative case for the existence of God.  In the first post of this series I argued that four of those last ten arguments could be tossed aside right away based on admissions by Kreeft of serious flaws and weaknesses in those arguments.  The case for tossing aside another four of those last ten arguments is not in general based on Kreeft’s own admissions, so I will have to make the case myself, based on serious problems that I see with these four arguments:
15. The Argument from Conscience
16. The Argument from Desire
17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
18. The Argument from Religious Experience
I tossed out Argument #17, because Kreeft makes no effort whatsoever to defend the questionable main premise of this argument.
The other three arguments (in the second set of four crappy arguments) all share the same serious flaw; their conclusions are VAGUE and UNCLEAR:
…something superior to me [exists].  (HCA, p.75)
…something more than nature [exists]… (HCA, p.81)
…there exists a “divine” reality… (HCA, p.82)
NONE of these three arguments ends with the clear and straightforward conclusion that “God exists”.  But the question at issue is NOT whether there is something superior to us humans, nor is the question at issue whether there is something more than nature or natural phenomena, nor is the question whether there is a “divine” reality (whatever that means).  The question here is: “Does God exist?”  So, I am only interested in arguments that end with the conclusion “God exists” (or “God does NOT exist.”).  I also point out other confusions and problems of clarity in those three arguments, major problems that show those arguments to be unworthy of serious consideration.
So, in the first two posts, I toss out eight arguments (40% of the arguments) that Kreeft presents.  At least 40% of the arguments in Kreeft’s case for the existence of God are crappy arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.
 
In Part 3 and Part 4 I analyze and evaluate Argument #12 in Kreeft’s case for God:
12. The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God
The bulk of Argument #12 is concerned with supporting premise (14):

14. The idea of God must have been caused by something outside us.

But premise (14) is irrelevant to the conclusion, so that portion of the argument constitutes a Red Herring fallacy; it is a lot of blather about a point that is irrelevant to the question at issue.
The core of Argument #12, on the other hand, is a bit of deductive reasoning that IS relevant to the question at issue:

15. The idea of God must have been caused by something which has nothing less than the qualities contained in the idea of God.

6a. But only God himself has the qualities contained in the idea of God.

THEREFORE:

7. God himself must be the cause of the idea of God.

However, the core of Argument #12 has a very serious flaw: both of its premises use an ambiguous phrase: “the qualities contained in the idea of God”.  When the meaning of this phrase is clarified, we see that there are four possible interpretations of the core of Argument #12.  We examined each of those interpretations, and discovered that the core of Argument #12 is UNSOUND no matter which interpretation we give it.  Because this core argument is UNSOUND no matter which interpretation we consider, we must conclude that Argument #12 is a BAD argument and that it provides ZERO support for the conclusion that “God exists”.
 
In Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8,  I analyze and evaluate Argument #19 in Kreeft’s case for God:
19. The Argument from Common Consent
The Argument from Common Consent is based on a FALSE premise, premise (1):

1. Almost all people of every era have believed in God.

It is also based on a dubious premise,  premise (3), for which Kreeft has offered two VERY BAD arguments:

3.  It is FAR MORE LIKELY that almost all people of every era have believed in God and God does exist, than that almost all people of every era have believed in God but God does NOT exist.

The Argument from Common Consent is a FAILURE because it rests on a premise that is clearly FALSE and on a dubious premise that Kreeft has failed to give us any good reason to believe.
 
In Part 9 I begin to analyze and evaluate the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God:
1. The Argument from Change
2. The Argument from Efficient Causality
3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection
5. The Design Argument
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.  If that impression is correct, then there is a significant chance that some of the earliest arguments in his case are strong and solid arguments.
Kreeft is a Thomist, so given my assumption that he is presenting what he takes to be the best and strongest arguments at the beginning of his case, it is no surprise that the first five arguments in his case are arguments based on Kreeft’s understanding of the “Five Ways” of Thomas Aquinas.  This provides some confirmation of my view that Kreeft has placed what he believes to be his best and strongest arguments up front in his case, and put his worst and weakest arguments in the second half of his case.
So,  I am going to reverse my strategy now, and I will begin analysis and evaluation of the very first arguments that Kreeft presents, on the assumption that those are the ones he considers to be the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.  If the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL, just like all of the last ten arguments did, then that will be a strong indication that Kreeft’s entire case is a SPOC (Steaming Pile Of Crap) that FAILS to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.
 
The very first argument in Kreeft’s case is this one:
1. The Argument from Change
I analyze and evaluate Argument #1 in Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12.
Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:

8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.

One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!
In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.
We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:

(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 

Here are the main problems I found with Argument #1:

  • The single most important premisenamely (F), is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.
  • The single most important premisenamely (F), appears to be FALSE.
  • The second most important premise, namely (8a), is supported by an INVALID core argument.
  • Although both premises of the core argument supporting the second most important premise, namely (8a), appear to be TRUE, the very reason why one of those premises, namely (3a), appears to be TRUE shows that (8a) is FALSE.

In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that both appear to be FALSE.
 
In Part 13 and Part 14 I analyze and evaluate Argument #2 of Kreeft’s case:
2. The Argument from Efficient Causality
Here is the core argument inside Argument #2:

5a. It is NOT the case that: there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

The main problem with Argument #2 is the same as the main problem with Argument #1 the single most important premise in the argument is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.  Specifically, Kreeft fails to state the premise that links the sub-conclusion (6a) to the conclusion that God exists, (7a).  Kreeft does not bother to explicitly state the most important premise in this argument, namely (C):

C. IF there is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now, THEN God exists.

Kreeft does not mention premise (C) and provides no supporting arguments for (C).   Since this is the single most important premise in Argument #2, and since it is a highly controversial premise which requires several arguments to justify it, and since Kreeft makes no effort to justify (C), Argument #2 clearly FAILS, just like Argument #1.
The only conclusion that can be inferred from (5a) is the conclusion in the first clause of (6a):  “There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.”  The second clause of (6a) does NOT follow from (5a).  One cannot infer that “there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in  order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.”   For one thing, (5a) does not imply that there is EXACTLY ONE THING, at least not in any obvious way.
Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument, namely premise (C), and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a dubious inference that appears to be INVALID, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).
 
In Part 15 I quickly toss aside two more of Kreeft’s thomistic arguments:
3. The Argument from Time and Contingency
5. The Design Argument
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.” Based on Kreeft’s pathetic track record, and based on the fact that he continues to repeat the same blunder as he did in Argument #1 and Argument #2, we can quickly toss aside Argument #3 and Argument #5.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderINDEX: Kreeft’s Case for God

KREEFT’S CASE FOR GOD
In September of 2017, I began to analyze and evaluate Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God in Chapter 3 of his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli).  In July of this year (2018), I finished examining his case for God, which consists of 20 arguments for God:

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 1: Tossing Out Four Arguments

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 2: Tossing Out Four More Arguments
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 3: The Origin of the Idea of God
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 4: Evaluation of Argument #12
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 5: The Argument from Common Consent
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 6: More on Premise (1)
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 7: The Natural Capacity Argument
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 8: Are Believers in God DELUSIONAL?
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 9: The Argument from Change
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 10: Analysis of Argument #1
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 11: Evaluation of Argument #1
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 12: The Argument for (3a)
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 13: Analysis of Argument #2
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 14: Evaluation of Argument #2
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 15: Three More Thomist Arguments
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 16: Aquinas’s Way #4
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 17: Analysis of Argument #4
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 18: Interpretation of Argument #4
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 19: Premise (B)
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 20: More on Argument #4
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 21: Bait and Switch?
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 22: Kreeft’s Reply
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 23: Five Remaining Arguments
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 24: The Argument from Contingency
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 25: Clarification of Argument #7
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 26: The Unclarity of Argument #7
Letter to Peter Kreeft
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #27: The Universe and Time
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #28: Did the Universe Begin to Exist?
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #29: Evaluation of Premise (2)
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #30: Phase 2 of the Kalam Argument
Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #31: Evaluation of Phase 2 Continued

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part #31: Evaluation of Phase 2 Continued

WHERE WE ARE AT
In Phase 2 of Argument #6, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Peter Kreeft aims to establish two claims:

4. The cause of the coming into being of the universe is eternal.

5. The cause of the coming into being of the universe was a person.

In Part 30, I argued that Kreeft’s argument for claim (4) is UNSOUND and should be rejected.  In this current post I will consider and evaluate Kreeft’s argument for claim (5).
 
THE ARGUMENT FOR THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE BEING A PERSON
Kreeft prefers to talk about God as being “personal” rather than as being a “person”.  However, there is no clear difference between these characterizations.  Furthermore, Kreeft does sometimes refer to God as a “person,” and we can specifically define the word “person” in keeping with what Kreeft means by a “personal” being.
In discussing the Moral Argument for God, Kreeft uses the word “person” with reference to God:
It seems most reasonable that moral conscience is the voice of God within the soul, because moral value exists only on the level of persons, minds and wills. And it is hard, if not impossible, to conceive of objective moral principles somehow floating around on their own, apart from any persons.  (HCA, p.73)
Kreeft is saying here that it makes sense to view God as being the source of moral value because God is a person.  What he means by “person” is a being that has a mind and a will.
Since non-human animals have minds (or a degree of intelligence), and since we don’t consider most animals to be persons, the requirement to have a mind can be narrowed to the requirement to have at least a human level of intelligence.  Having a will means being able to make choices and decisions, especially between alternative courses of action.  So, we can define “person” for the purpose of Kreeft’s arguments about God as follows:

X is a “person” IF AND ONLY IF:

X is a being that has at least a human level of intelligence, and X is able to make choices between alternative courses of action.

Here is a summary of Kreeft’s reasoning (see HCA, page 60)  in support of claim (5):

3. The universe has a cause of its coming into being.

13. IF the universe has a cause of its coming into being, THEN:  either the cause of the universe coming into being was a person or the cause of the universe coming into being was not a person.

THEREFORE:

14. EITHER the cause of the universe coming into being was a person, OR the cause of the universe coming into being was not a person.

FURTHERMORE:

15. IF the cause of the universe coming into being was not a person, THEN the universe has always existed.

16. IF the universe has always existed, THEN it is not the case that the universe began to exist.

2. The universe began to exist.

THEREFORE:

17.  It is not the case that the cause of the universe coming into being was not a person.

14. EITHER the cause of the universe coming into being was a person, OR the cause of the universe coming into being was not a person.

THEREFORE:

5. The cause of the coming into being of the universe was a person.

 
EVALUATION  OF PREMISE (13)
Premise (13) is FALSE, so this Phase 2 argument is UNSOUND.
In the consequent of (13) we find the expression “the cause of the universe…”, but the antecedent of (13) only speaks of “a cause of the universe”.  We cannot logically infer that there is such a thing as “the cause of the universe” from the assumption that there was “a cause of the universe”.  The expression “a cause” means that there was “at least one cause”, but the expression “the cause” implies that there was “EXACTLY ONE cause”.  Since the claim that there was “at least one cause” leaves open the possibility that there were two or more causes, the antecedent of (13) does NOT logically imply the consequent of (13), so premise (13) is FALSE, and thus the Argument for the Cause of the Universe being a Person is UNSOUND.
Premise (13) could be modified, so that the consequent only talks about “a cause of the universe” instead of “the cause of the universe”.  Premises (14), (15) and (17) would have to be similarly modified, as well as the conclusion:

5a. At least one cause of the universe coming into being was a person.

So, this problem with (13) being FALSE appears to be a fixable problem.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (15)
Premise (15) asserts that the idea that the universe was caused by a non-person logically implies that the universe has always existed.  This is because an “impersonal cause” would have to have always been operative, thus implying that the universe was always being caused to exist:
Suppose further that this cause is not personal; …In that case it is hard to see how the universe could be anything but infinitely old, since all the conditions needed for the being of the universe would exist from all eternity. (HCA, p.60)
But recall (from Part 30 of this series), that “the universe” as defined by Kreeft basically refers to the collection of currently existing galaxies that make up most of what currently exists in both space and time.  The galaxies that currently exist are clearly the result of natural causes that operated in both space and time.  Star formation which began about 100 million years after the Big Bang is an important natural cause of the coming into being of galaxies that began to exist about 400 million years after the Big Bang.  Thus, it is FALSE that the “impersonal causes” of the coming into being of the currently existing galaxies have always been operative, and it is FALSE that “all the conditions needed for the being” of the galaxies that currently exist have existed “from all eternity”.
It appears to be the case that the cause of the formation of the galaxies was NOT a person, and yet it is also clearly the case that the non-personal cause (or causes) of the galaxies have NOT always existed, and thus there is no reason to believe that “the universe”, in Kreeft’s sense of this phrase, must have always existed.  So, Kreeft’s reasoning supporting (15) is based on false assumptions, and it is clear that the antecedent of (15) is true while the consequent of (15) is false, making premise (15) itself a FALSE premise.  Therefore, the Argument for the Cause of the Universe being a Person is UNSOUND, and should be rejected.
While there is some possibility that Kreeft could come up with a better definition of “the universe”, one which makes premise (15) true,  given that Kreeft has greatly wasted my time, and your time, with 19 FAILED ARGUMENTS for the existence of God, there is no good reason to believe that Kreeft would or could improve upon this argument to make it into a GOOD one.
Argument #6 has other problems besides premise (15) being FALSE, so the argument would still FAIL even if Kreeft did, contrary to reasonable expectations, revise and improve premise (15) to make it true.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ARGUMENT #6: THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT

  • Argument #6 fails to show the existence of an omnipotent person, an omniscient person, a perfectly morally good person, an eternal person (i.e. a person who has existed forever in the past and who will continue to exist forever in the future), and it fails to show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe, so it is of little use in a cumulative case for God.
  • Argument #6, if SOUND, would prove the existence of a being that is OUTSIDE OF TIME, and thus a being that cannot change in any way, cannot be a person, cannot be the creator of anything, a being that cannot be God.
  • Argument #6, is UNSOUND, if we understand the phrase “the universe” in the way that Kreeft has defined and explained that term; premise (15) is FALSE, assuming Kreeft’s definition of “the universe”, and either premise (10) or (11) must be FALSE, assuming Kreeft’s definition of “the universe”.
  • Argument #6 has an intermediate premise, premise (3), which if understood in accordance with Kreeft’s definition of “the universe,” makes a claim that while being true is IRRELEVANT to the question of the existence of God.  The cause (or causes) spoken of in premise (3) would be natural causes that existed in both space and in time (e.g. the process of star formation that began about 100 million years after the Big Bang was one of the primary causes of the coming into existence of galaxies, which began about 400 million years after the Big Bang).

 

bookmark_borderThe sense in which pain is objectively bad

NOTE: This post assumes an understanding of much of the terminology that I explain in my post, “On Reasons and What They Do?” In particular, this post uses the terms ‘reason,’ ‘objective,’ and ‘subjective’ in accordance with the explanations that appear in that article. Further, there are other important matters (such what it means for a reason to be pro tanto) that my discussion in this current posts assumes a familiarity with. 
It is not uncommon for defenders of the objectivity of moral value to point to the goodness of pleasure and the badness of pain. But it is also not uncommon that the claims that pleasure is objectively good and pain is objectively bad to be ambiguous and thus misunderstood (see, for example, this Twitter thread from Sam Harris and this video response to Harris’s argument). I think such ambiguity and misunderstanding can be avoided if we are careful and so I want to carefully explain the sense in which pleasure can be thought to be objectively good and pain objectively bad.
Good, Bad, and Reasons
The words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ do not have single meanings; they can be used in several distinct ways to indicate different things. For example, we might say that some object is good in the sense that it satisfies some set of criteria, as when we say of a particular bloom on a rose bush that it is a good specimen of its variety. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ can also be used to merely express one’s own approval or disapproval, as for example when we say something like “This wine isn’t very good” merely as a means of expressing our dissatisfaction with the selection. But neither of these senses has any direct relevance to morality. The morally significant sense of these terms is normative in character. The normative sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is equivalent to what Derek Parfit calls the reason-implying sense. In this sense, something is good when there are reasons to want it, pursue it, preserve it, etc.; something is bad when there are reasons to want that it not occur, to avoid it, etc. A more careful account of what Parfit means by good and bad in the reason-implying sense is as follows:
To say that something Φ (an object, event, state of affairs, state of mind, etc.) is good in the reasons-implying sense is to say that something about the nature of Φ gives us reasons to respond positively to Φ (i.e, to want that Φ occur, to try to bring Φ about, to preserve Φ, to choose Φ, etc.).  To say that something Φ is bad in the reasons-implying sense is to say that something about the nature of Φ gives us reasons to respond negatively to Φ (i.e., to want that Φ not occur, to try to prevent it from coming about, to try to eliminate it, to avoid it, etc.). [Parfit discusses this sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in volume one of On What Matters (see esp. pp 38-42).]
It is in this sense that pleasure is good and pain is bad. The nature of pleasure gives us reasons to pursue it and to want that it occur. The nature of pain gives us reasons to avoid it and want that it not occur. Importantly, this does not imply that we can never have reasons to avoid pleasure and want that it not occur or reasons to pursue pain and want that it occur. This is because something can have both intrinsic value and instrumental value. Something is intrinsically good when we have reasons to want it for its own sake. Something is instrumentally good when we have reasons to want it, not for its own sake, but because of the things it brings about. Something is instrumentally bad when we have reasons to want that it not occur because of what it brings about. When we want pleasure, at least typically, we want it for its own sake. We don’t want pleasure, again typically, because of the effects that pleasure has; we want it just because of what it is. Since the nature of pleasure gives us reasons to want it for its own sake, pleasure is intrinsically good. Money, on the other hand, is good because it is useful, i.e., the goodness of money consists in the fact that with money we can acquire other things that are good. We have reasons to pursue money because it allows us to achieve these other good things.
The Badness of Pain
Pain is intrinsically bad. It is a bit odd to say that it is for its own sake that we want that pain not occur. Perhaps more intuitively, we can say that pain is intrinsically bad because its nature gives us reason to want the cessation of pain for its own sake. Nonetheless, at least in some circumstances, pain is instrumentally good. Pain plays an important role in the motivational architecture of biological creatures; it motivates us to avoid damage to our bodies. Because pain has this effect, we have reasons to want that pain occur. This is shown via the phenomenon of congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP). People born with this condition do not feel physical pain and as a result, many of them are seriously injured, some fatally, in childhood. This example shows that it is bad if a person cannot feel pain. So, due to the role that pain plays in protecting us from bodily harm, pain is instrumentally good. Notice that the proper conclusion here is that the nature of pain gives us reasons to not want to feel pain but that we also have reasons to want that we can feel pain. This is not a contradiction.
There are other reasons that we might want pain. Pain is sometimes an indication of healthy physical developments, as in the case of the pain associated with exercise. If you go running and experience no physical discomfort, then chances are good that you will not be making much progress toward your health goals. Intense or prolonged experiences of pain can also result in the release of endorphins into the body, which can induce a state of euphoria. When we want pain because of its association with progression toward our health goals or for the euphoric effects it leads to, we want pain not for its own sake but because of its effects. So, the fact that some people sometimes have reason to want pain does not conflict with the claim that the nature of pain gives us reason to want that it not occur. Notice that when pain is instrumentally good, our reasons are not to pursue pain for its own sake, but to pursue things that bring about or are associated with pain. When a runner goes for a long run pursuing a runner’s high, she is not pursuing pain for its own sake. What she wants, for its own sake, is the euphoria that accompanies the rush of endorphins.
Though the reasons run in opposite directions, there is no contradiction in saying that, in some circumstances, there are both reasons to pursue pain and reasons to avoid it. Think, by way of analogy, about making an important decision, for example, whether you should move across the country to take a new job. When you carefully consider what you should do, you will weigh the factors that count in favor of moving (higher salary, e.g., or a more rewarding position) against the factors that point in the opposite direction (not wanting to be far from friends and family, e.g.). So, we can have reasons for some course of action (or for having some desire) and reasons that count against that same course of action (or against having that same desire). The upshot is that there is no contradiction involved in claiming both that there are reasons to avoid pain and also that there are, in some circumstances, reasons to not avoid pain (and maybe even reason to pursue it). Nonetheless, it remains true that, since pain is intrinsically bad, we always have reasons to want that it not occur and to avoid it. It is just that, in some circumstances, these reasons are overridden by other reasons that we have to pursue things that are painful.
Is the badness of pain objective?
If the badness of pain is subjective, then the badness of pain constitutively depends on the goals, interests, beliefs, desires, reactions or attitudes of a subject or subjects. And if the badness of pain is objective, then it does not constitutively depend on the goals, interests, beliefs, desires, reactions or attitudes of subjects. To say that something, F, constitutively depends on X is to say that X at least partly constitutes F. In other words, part of what it is to be F is to be X. Suppose we think, plausibly, that our taste preferences are subjective. Then part of what it is for something to taste good is for a subject or subjects to have certain kinds of reactions, desires, or attitudes toward it. [Michael Huemer, whose work introduced me to this notion, has an excellent discussion of constitutive dependence (and how it differs from other kinds of dependence) in his book, Ethical Intuitionism, which I highly recommend.]  For the remainder of this article, when I talk about dependence, I will be talking about constitutive dependence.
Since we are talking about the reason-implying sense of ‘bad,’ if the badness of pain is subjective then the reason we have to want that pain not occur depends on the goals interests, beliefs, desires, or attitudes of subjects. Is this true? Let’s begin answering this question with the following observation: It is certainly not the case that the qualitative character of pain is subjective. By ‘qualitative character’ I mean to indicate the feeling of pain, considered in isolation of its causes, effects, or value. What I am saying is that the qualitative character of pain is completely independent of any person’s beliefs, desires, attitudes, interests, or judgments about it (or anything else, for that matter). When you stub your toe, you have an experience that has a certain qualitative feel to it. That experience, which we call pain, would exist even if no person (including yourself) had any beliefs, desires, attitudes, etc. about it. No person’s beliefs, desires, judgments, etc. in any way makes up or constitutes the experience. So, the experience is completely objective.
[A subtle complication. A painful experience is always an experience of a subject (it is my pain or your pain or her pain, etc.). But this does not make the existence of pain subjective in the relevant sense. This is because the conscious experiences of a subject are still objective in the sense that they are not dependent on the goals, interests, desires, etc. of subjects. If I am in pain (or in pleasure, for that matter), my pain does not depend for its existence on the beliefs, desires, judgments, etc. of any subject. States of consciousness (which are states of subjects) are objective in the relevant sense.]
So what about the claim that pain is objectively bad in the reasons-implying sense?  If the badness of pain is subjective, this means that the reason that we have to want that pain not occur (and to avoid it, want it to cease, etc.) depends for its existence on the beliefs, desires, goals, interests, or judgments of subjects. This seems implausible. That I have a reason to avoid pain depends on the qualitative character of pain. The nature of the experience gives me a reason to want that it not occur. This seems true regardless of my (or anyone else’s) desires. Even if I wanted it to occur, for its own sake, this would not change the fact that I have reasons to want that it not occur.
Suppose you meet a person who tells you that he wants to jab a metal fork into his eyeball. When asked, he admits that he expects that doing so will cause tremendous pain and that he will intensely dislike the experience, but nonetheless he still wants to do it. Should we say about such a person that he has no reason to not stab himself in the eye with a metal fork? Should we say that he has a reason to stab himself? It seems to me that the answer to both questions is no. Since stabbing himself in the eye will cause intense pain, he has a strong reason to refrain from doing so. And he has this reason regardless of what he wants.
There are philosophers who argue that all reasons depend on desires (or desire-like mental states). Such philosophers defend a version of what I have previously referred to as the DBR (desire-based reasons) thesis. This is not the place for a full examination of the DBR thesis. In a future article, I will offer some reasons to think that the DBR thesis is false. For now, I will only note that, if DBR is true, then we only have reasons to avoid pain if we have some desire the satisfaction of which requires (or is furthered by) our avoidance of pain. If DBR is true, we have no reason to avoid pain for its own sake.
One final point: The claim that goodness and badness in the reason-implying sense (which is the morally relevant sense) are objective is just the claim that there are reasons to respond positively to pleasure (by wanting that it occur, pursuing it, etc.) and reasons to respond negatively to pain (by wanting that it not occur, avoiding it, etc.) and that these reasons do not depend on the goals, interests, desires, beliefs, or judgments of any subject. The existence of such reasons does not seem to have any bizarre metaphysical or epistemological consequences.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part #30: Phase 2 of the Kalam Argument

WHERE WE ARE AT
In Part 29,  I criticized Phase 1 of Peter Kreeft’s Argument #6: the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  In this post, I will begin to analyze and evaluate Phase 2 of Argument #6.
Phase 1 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument goes like this (HCA, p.58):

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its coming into being.

2. The universe began to exist.

THEREFORE:

3. The universe has a cause of its coming into being.

Based on the conclusion of this argument, Kreeft lays out further reasoning in support of these conclusions:

4. The cause of the coming into being of the universe is eternal.

5. The cause of the coming into being of the universe was a person.

 
THE ARGUMENT FOR THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE BEING ETERNAL
Here is a summary of Kreeft’s reasoning in support of claim (4):

3. The universe has a cause of its coming into being.

10. IF the universe has a cause of its coming into being, THEN the cause of the coming into being of the universe is the cause of the entire universe of space and time.

11. IF the cause of the coming into being of the universe is the cause of the entire universe of space and time, THEN the cause of the coming into being of the universe must be outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.

THEREFORE:

12. The cause of the coming into being of the universe must be outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.

A.  Anything that is outside the limitations and constraints of space and time is eternal.

THEREFORE:

4. The cause of the coming into being of the universe is eternal.

 
EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR THE CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE BEING ETERNAL
Premise (3) appears to be true, assuming the following definition of “the universe”, which comes from Kreeft’s definition plus some clarifications that Kreeft provided via email:

X is “the universe” IF AND ONLY IF:
X is the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time.

So, the first two premises of the argument for the cause of the beginning of “the universe” being eternal should be interpreted this way:

3a. The collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time has a cause of its coming into being.

10a. IF the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time has a cause of its coming into being, THEN the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time is the cause of the entire universe of space and time.

The phrase “the entire universe of space and time” in the consequent of premise (10a) is ambiguous.  On the one hand, the word “entire” could be read simply as emphasizing the notion of “all” in the previous phrase “the collection of all of the things…”.  In that case,  (10a) is TRUE because the consequent of (10a) is a tautology, making (10a) itself a tautology.
On the other hand, the word “entire” could be read as referring to everything in the entire history of things that have existed in both space and in time.  In that case, (10a) would be making a substantial claim, but a claim that appears to be FALSE.  The antecedent of premise (10a) talks about a cause of the “collection of all of the things” that CURRENTLY EXIST “in both space and in time”, so if the consequent of (10a) is talking about a cause of the “collection of all of the things” that HAVE EVER EXISTED “in both space and in time,” then the consequent of (10a) goes well beyond the information provided in the antecedent.
There is no good reason to believe that the cause of what currently exists in both space and time  must also be the cause of everything that has ever existed in both space and in time.  That is clearly a hasty generalization, and is NOT a logical implication of the antecedent of (10a).  Thus, on this interpretation, premise (10a) is FALSE.
But if we interpret the consequent of (10a) to be merely a tautology, then we should restate (10a) to make the tautology obvious:

10b. IF the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time has a cause of its coming into being, THEN the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time is the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time.

This is clearly an uninformative and useless premise, and in order to make this premise logically connect with premise (11), we would need to restate (11) in similar terms:

11b. IF the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time is the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time, THEN the cause of the coming into being of the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time must be outside the limitations and constraints of space and time.

On this interpretation premise (11b) is FALSE, because although the antecedent of (11b) is necessarily true, the consequent can be false, and we have good reason to believe that the consequent of (11b) is in fact false, so (11b) is itself FALSE.
As I argued in Part 29, “the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time” did not begin to exist until about 400 million years after the Big Bang, because the first galaxies began to form about 400 million years after the Big Bang.  Galaxies are about the largest and most significant “things” that currently exist, and none of the galaxies that currently exist existed prior to about 400 million years after the Big Bang.  Thus, “the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time” did not begin to exist until the first galaxies began to exist.
But the cause (or causes) of the coming into being of the first galaxies was NOT something “outside the limitations and constraints of space and time”.  For example, the process of star formation is an important part of the “cause” of the formation of galaxies.  But stars did not develop until about 100 million years after the Big Bang, so the development of stars took place INSIDE of space and INSIDE of time.  We have good reason to believe that the cause (or causes) of the coming into being of galaxies were perfectly natural causes that existed both in space and in time.
 
CONCLUSION
Premise (11b) is clearly FALSE.  But in order to make use of premise (10b), we must interpret premise (11) to mean what (11b) means.  So, either premise (10)  is a true claim but a tautology and premise (11) is a FALSE premise, or else premise (10) makes a more substantial claim and premise (10) is itself a FALSE premise.  Therefore, either premise (10) is FALSE or else premise (11) is FALSE, and in either case, the Argument for the Cause of the Universe Being Eternal is UNSOUND, and should be rejected.
Furthermore, as I have previously indicated, if this argument were SOUND, that would mean that Argument #6 proves the existence of a being that is OUTSIDE OF TIME, and such a being cannot change, and thus cannot be a person, and cannot be the creator of anything, and therefore cannot be God.  So, if Phase 1 of Argument #6 was a SOUND argument, and if the Phase 2 Argument for the Cause of the Universe being Eternal was also SOUND, then Argument #6 would prove the existence of a being that is clearly NOT God.
If Argument #6 is UNSOUND, then the argument FAILS.  If Argument #6 is SOUND, then the argument FAILS.  Either way, Argument #6 FAILS to show that God exists.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part #29: Evaluation of Premise (2)

Here is the second premise of Argument #6 (the Kalam Cosmological Argument) in Peter Kreeft’s case for the existence of God, from Chapter 3 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

2. The universe began to exist. (HCA, p.58)

In order to be able to rationally determine whether this claim is true or false, we need to first understand what it means.
Based on a definition of “the universe” from Kreeft, plus some clarifications of that definition that were also provided by Kreeft, I understand this phrase as follows:

X is “the universe” IF AND ONLY IF:
X is the collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time.

We can revise premise (2) in accordance with this understanding:

2a. The collection of all of the things that currently exist in both space and in time began to exist.

If (2a) is true, then (2) is true.  If (2a) is false, then (2) is false.  So, we need to determine whether (2a) is true or false.
Because we have clarified the meaning of this claim, it becomes fairly easy to evaluate this claim, and it is now clear to me that this claim is in fact TRUE.
 
THE COLLECTION OF ALL OF THE THINGS THAT CURRENTLY EXIST…
What is “The collection of all the things that currently exist in both space and in time”?
Well, basically, this is the collection of the currently existing GALAXIES:
Galaxy
    A galaxy is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas, dust, and dark matter.[1][2] The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias (γαλαξίας), literally “milky”, a reference to the Milky Way. Galaxies range in size from dwarfs with just a few hundred million (108) stars to giants with one hundred trillion (1014) stars,[3] each orbiting its galaxy’s center of mass.
    Galaxies are categorized according to their visual morphology as elliptical,[4] spiral, or irregular.[5] Many galaxies are thought to have supermassive black holes at their active centers. The Milky Way’s central black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, has a mass four million times greater than the Sun.[6] As of March 2016, GN-z11 is the oldest and most distant observed galaxy with a comoving distance of 32 billion light-years from Earth, and observed as it existed just 400 million years after the Big Bang.
    Recent estimates of the number of galaxies in the observable universe range from 200 billion (2×1011)[7] to 2 trillion (2×1012) or more,[8][9] containing more stars than all the grains of sand on planet Earth.[10]
There is a little bit of gas between galaxies, but it is roughly correct to say that “The collection of all the things that currently exist in both space and in time” is “The collection of galaxies that currently exist.”  So, we can clarify the second premise a bit more:

2b. The collection of galaxies that currently exist began to exist.

Statement (2b) is clearly a true statement, and since (2b) is roughly equivalent to (2a), the fact that (2b) is clearly true, provides us with good reason to believe that (2a) is true, and if (2a) is true, then (2) is also true.  So, we have good reason to believe that premise (2) is true, assuming Kreeft’s definition of “the universe”.
Furthermore, although the galaxies that currently exist might not include absolutely everything that currently exists in both space and in time (because, for example, there is some gas between the galaxies), those galaxies (and the contents of those galaxies) clearly constitute MOST of the things that currently exist in both space and in time.  So, if those galaxies (and the contents of those galaxies) began to exist, then MOST of the things that currently exist in both space and in time began to exist, and thus “The collection of all the things that currently exist in both space and in time” began to exist, because that collection did NOT exist until those galaxies began to exist.
Based on current Big Bang astronomy,  stars did not begin to form until about 100 or 200 million years after the Big Bang.  So, for the first 100 million years after the Big Bang, there were no stars and no galaxies (or very few stars and galaxies).  The oldest galaxy that we know of formed about 400 million years after the Big Bang (see the quote above from an article on Galaxies). But stars and galaxies exist NOW, so the collection of currently existing galaxies BEGAN TO EXIST no earlier than about 400 million years after the Big Bang.  Clearly, premise (2b) is TRUE.
Did the collection of galaxies that currently exist begin to exist about 400 million years after the Big Bang?  Well at least ONE of the currently existing galaxies began to exist about 400 million years after the Big Bang.  But not all galaxies began to exist at the same time.
Our galaxy is the Milky Way Galaxy, and the nearest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy.  The Andromeda Galaxy formed about 10 billions years ago (see article on the Andomeda Galaxy).  So, two of the currently existing galaxies are the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy.  Since the Andomeda Galaxy is one of the currently existing galaxies, “the collection” of currently existing galaxies did not exist, one might reasonably assert, until the Andromeda Galaxy was formed about 10 billion years ago.  In that case, “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” did NOT exist prior to about 10 billion years ago, so it did not begin to exist prior to 10 billion years ago.
Since there are between 200 billion and 2 trillion galaxies that currently exist, it seems likely that some of those galaxies came into existence after the Andromeda Galaxy, perhaps sometime in the last billion years.  If one of the currently existing galaxies was formed in the past billion years, then “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” BEGAN TO EXIST less than one billion years ago, it would seem.
But did “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” begin to exist only when the most recently formed galaxy began to exist?  Or could “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” begin to exist sometime before every single galaxy in that collection was formed? For example, someone might reasonably claim that “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” began to exist when the oldest galaxy (among currently existing galaxies) began to exist.  Since the oldest currently existing galaxy that we know of formed about 400 million years after the Big Bang, on this view “the collection of galaxies that currently exist” began to exist about 400 million years after the Big Bang.
We can see now that the phrase “began to exist” is somewhat VAGUE when we are talking about collections of things.  On the one hand, it is somewhat reasonable to say that “the collection of currently existing galaxies”  began to exist when the oldest galaxy in that collection began to exist, even though billions of other galaxies would develop over the course of the next three billion years.  On the other hand, it is also reasonable to say that “the collection of currently existing galaxies” began to exist when the most recent galaxy began to exist (perhaps 10 billion years ago, or maybe less than one billion years ago).
Because of the vagueness of the phrase “began to exist” it is not clear whether “the collection of currently existing galaxies” began to exist about 13 billion years ago (when the oldest known galaxy formed), or 10 billion years ago (when the Andromeda Galaxy formed), or less than one billion years ago (when the most recent galaxy formed).  But one thing is clear: the collection of currently existing galaxies began to exist no earlier than hundreds of millions of years AFTER the Big Bang.
 
REVISED VERSION OF PHASE 1 ARGUMENT
We can reformulate the Phase 1 Argument to conform with the clarifications that we have developed above:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its coming into being.

2b. The collection of galaxies that currently exist began to exist.

THEREFORE:

3b. The collection of galaxies that currently exist has a cause of its coming into being.

In this reformulation of the argument, we can clearly see two important points:

  • Premise (2b) is clearly TRUE.
  • The conclusion (3b) is clearly IRRELEVANT to the question “Does God exist?”

Why is the conclusion (3b) irrelevant to the existence of God?  We already have a fairly good scientific explanation for how the collection of galaxies that currently exist came into being, for how this collection of galaxies began to exist.
For one thing, we know that they did NOT come into existence from out of nothing.  First there was the Big Bang, and about 100 million years later stars began to develop, and about 400 million years after the Big Bang, the first galaxy (among those that still exist) developed.  For at least the next three billion years more and more stars and galaxies developed.  Astronomers and astrophysicists can provide evidence-based theories and explanations of how the billions of galaxies that currently exist began to exist, so we have no need of the hypothesis of God to explain this phenomenon.
One more conclusion that we can draw here is that Kreeft has FAILED to properly define the phrase “the universe”.  So, the clarified version of the Phase 1 Argument of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is based on a BAD definition of “the universe”.  But the phrase “the universe” is a key concept in this argument, and in order to present a solid proof or argument for God, one must provide clear definitions of the key concepts in the argument, so it is Kreeft’s responsibility to provide a GOOD definition of “the universe” and he has FAILED to do so.
 
CONCLUSION
Kreeft’s Argument #6 FAILS because without a definition of “the universe” the argument is too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated, but with Kreeft’s definition of “the universe” the argument is IRRELEVANT to the question at issue: “Does God exist?”.  Either way, Argument #6 FAILS.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part #28: Did the Universe Begin to Exist?

WHERE WE ARE AT
There is only one more argument in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate: Argument #6: the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  In Part 24, I did an initial analysis of Argument #7, and I pointed out some significant problems with that argument.  Argument #6 has the same set of significant problems:

  • it does NOT show the existence of an omnipotent person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an omniscient person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a perfectly morally good person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an eternal person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe
  • it does NOT show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the beginning of the universe

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #6 asserts that the cause of the beginning of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #6 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.
It might be objected that in his presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Kreeft provides reasoning in support of the conclusion that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe “must exist eternally” (HCA, p.60).  However, it is clear that this does NOT mean that this being has existed forever, because that would contradict the philosophical arguments used to support the second premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and because Kreeft clearly indicates that what he means by “exist eternally” is that this cause exists OUTSIDE of time:
It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time. (HCA, p. 60)
But if this argument proves the existence of a thing or being that is outside of time, then that thing or being cannot change, cannot be a person, and cannot be the creator of anything, and so even if Argument #6 were a sound argument, it would necessarily FAIL to prove the existence of God.
 
THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE?
Kreeft seems to think that Argument #6 proves the existence of a creator of the universe:
…the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. (HCA, p.58)
Therefore, the universe has a cause of its coming into being, a Creator. (HCA, p.59)
This cause created the entire universe of space and time.  (HCA, p.60)
And the Kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth.  (HCA, p.60)
Kreeft does argue that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe was a choice made by some being (or beings), but this falls short of showing that this being is the CREATOR of the universe.  In order to be the creator of the universe, a being must be a PERSON who INTENTIONALLY DESIGNS the universe and then MAKES the universe in accordance with that design.  Even if Kreeft were able to prove that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe was a choice by some being, he has NOT shown that this choice was made by a PERSON, nor that this choice involved MAKING the universe in accordance with a DESIGN for the universe that was produced by the mind of the being in question.  So, Kreeft FAILS to show that “the cause” of the universe was the CREATOR of the universe.
 
PHASE I OF ARGUMENT #6
Argument #6 can be divided into two phases.  In Phase 1, Kreeft argues that there is a cause of the beginning of the universe, and in Phase 2, he argues that this cause is “eternal” and is a being that made a choice that resulted in the universe coming into existence.  Let’s start with Phase 1 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (see HCA, p.58):

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

2. The universe began to exist.

THEREFORE:

3. The universe has a cause for its coming into being.

The inference in the argument as stated here appears to be deductively valid, so the only question is whether the premises are both true.  Note, however, that the expression “begins to exist” in premise (1) must have the same meaning as the expression “began to exist” in premise (2) in order for the argument to be logically valid.  Furthermore, the expression “the universe” in premise (2) must have the same meaning as the expression “the universe” does in the conclusion, statement (3).
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (2) OF THE PHASE 1 ARGUMENT
Premise (2) consists of a subject and a predicate, both of which require clarification:

Subject:  The universe…

Predicate:  …began to exist.

Kreeft provides a definition of the phrase “the universe”:
Did the universe–the collection of all things bounded by space and time–begin to exist? (HCA, p.58)
This definition is very similar to the one Kreeft gives in Argument #7:
The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists. (HCA, p.61)
I have pointed out that there are various ambiguities in this definition, which result in the phrase “the universe” having at least sixteen different possible interpretations.
In email correspondence, Kreeft has provided some clarifications that eliminate some of the ambiguities in the definition.  Based on those clarifications, we can modify the definition of “the universe” to make it less ambiguous:

X is “the universe” IF AND ONLY IF:

X is the collection of all of the things that currently exist both in space and in time.

NOTE: The word “things” here includes plants, animals, and people, not just inanimate objects.
What about the predicate of premise (2)?  What does “began to exist” mean?  There is an important ambiguity in this expression.  It could mean either of the following:

  • came to exist out of nothing
  • came to exist out of something else

In the context of Christian theology, the idea that the universe “began to exist” suggests that the universe came to exist out of nothing.  But when we are talking about ordinary things, plants, animals, and human beings, things do NOT come to exist out of nothing.  Plants come from seeds, when buried in soil, and watered.  Animals and human beings come from the bodies of their parents.  We never experience things, plants, animals, or people coming from nothing.
So, if we are to interpret the phrase “began to exist” in accordance with our actual experience of the beginnings of things, plants, animals, and people, then we should interpret this phrase to mean “came to exist out of something else”.  On the other hand, if we are to interpret the phrase “began to exist” in accordance with Christian theology concerning the origin of the universe, then we should interpret this phrase to mean “came to exist out of nothing”.
Perhaps it is better to think about this distinction as two different sub-categories of “began to exist”.  In general, when something begins to exist, it represents a re-configuration of previously existing matter/energy.  However, we can conceive of the possibility of something beginning to exist from out of nothing, not from previously existing matter/energy.  This is a very odd possibility that we don’t ever experience or observe happening, but it seems to be a possibility.  So, things usually “began to exist” when there is a re-configuration of previously existing matter/energy, but we can imagine that some thing or things “began to exist” from out of nothing.
NEXT POST:  Is Premise (2) True?