bookmark_borderLetter to Peter Kreeft

Dear Dr. Peter Kreeft,
I have recently been studying your Argument #7, the Argument from Contingency:
http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#7
In the second premise, you provide a definition of “the universe”:

2. The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.

Although I appreciate the attempt to clarify the meaning of this phrase, the definition itself seems unclear to me, and I am hoping that you can provide some clarification of the definition, so that I will understand what you mean by the phrase “the universe”.
First, it seems to me that there needs to be a reference here to time. Your example of something that needs a cause of existence is that of a person, and in that example you focus in on the cause of a person’s existence right now:
…you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now.
This suggests that premise (2) is also talking about the existence of “the universe” right now. I take it that it is an important feature of the Argument from Contingency that it does NOT deny the possibility of an infinite regress of cause-and-effect backwards in time. It leaves open this possibility, but instead denies an infinite regress of current causes of existence.
In commenting on this argument, you confirm my interpretation that this argument is based upon the premise that “the universe” exists right now:
But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know.
Although you are talking about multiple “proofs”, it seems clear to me that it is the Argument from Contingency, among the first six proofs, that has the potential to provide “knowledge that right now it [the universe] is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit…”.
So, I take it that premise (2) should be understood as referring to a particular moment of time:

2a. The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists right now.

But when we specify a particular moment of time, the definitional phrase “the collection of beings in space and time” becomes ambiguous between two different meanings:

2b. The universe—the collection of every being that has ever existed in space and time—exists right now.

2c. The universe—the collection of currently existing beings in space and time—exists right now.

This ambiguity in the second premise of the Argument from Contingency appears to constitute a fallacy of equivocation, because on the first interpretation (2b) the premise is clearly false, but on the second interpretation (2c), the definition of “the universe” is clearly mistaken or misleading, which results in a problem later in the argument:

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

If the expression “the universe” is talking ONLY about things or beings that currently exist, then the inference that what it takes for “the universe” to exist “cannot exist within the universe” ONLY implies that what it takes for “the universe” to exist cannot be one of the things that exists in space and time RIGHT NOW.  But there have been many physical objects (“beings in space and time”) that have existed in space and time in the past that no longer exist RIGHT NOW. Those objects are not within “the universe” as this expression is defined in premise (2c), but they were, nevertheless, “beings in space and time”.
So, my question is this:
Does the expression “the universe” in this argument mean, “the collection of every being that has ever existed in space and time” or does it mean, “the collection of currently existing beings in space and time”?
Or is there some other interpretation of the expression “the universe” that you would propose?
Sincerely,
Bradley Bowen
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RESPONSE FROM PETER KREEFT  (06/25/18):
=============================
BB:
Although that chapter and this proof was largely the work of Fr. Tacelli, I will answer your question about it.  Obviously, 2c rather than 2b is what “the universe” means in this argument.  So the argument as it stands does not exclude infinite temporal regress into the past.  That possibility has been refuted, not by this argument, but by Big Bang cosmology.  And (here is the tricky part) if time is relative to matter and if all matter had a beginning, then so did time.  Thus there is only finite regress in time.  I do not think this radically changes the essential argument, though.  But it at least apparently requires the cause of the universe to be not a being in time, since the part cannot cause the whole.  Thus the God proved by the combination of Aquinas’ contingency argument and modern Big Bang cosmology is a being that is not determined by or part of matter, or time, or space.  And this applies even if our universe is only one of many in a “multiverse,” since the same logic must apply to whatever whole this universe might be a part of, even if that whole does not necessarily have the same kind of matter, time, or space as our universe does.  And Christianity suggests such a possibility in positing a universe of pure spirits, or angels, who are not in chronological time but spiritual time.  They too need a cause for their existence, however their “time” relates to their existence.
PK
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REPLY TO PETER KREEFT (6/25/18):
=============================
Dear Dr. Kreeft,
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question about the definition of “the universe” in the second premise of the Argument from Contingency.   That eliminates one ambiguity in the definition, which in my view reduces the number of possible interpretations of that phrase from sixteen down to just eight.
There is another ambiguity in the definition of “the universe” that I am hoping you can help me to eliminate; the phrase “in space and time” has at least two different meanings.
In theory, there are four different kinds of things or beings:

I. In space and in time

II. In space but not in time

III. Not in space but in time

IV. Not in space and not in time

 The phrase “in space and time” could be interpreted in two different ways:

  1. BOTH in space AND in time
  2. EITHER in space OR in time  [inclusive “or”]

 
When “the universe” is defined in the Argument from Contingency as “the collection of beings in space and time”, does the phrase “in space and time” have meaning #1 or meaning #2?
Sincerely,
Bradley Bowen
==========================
RESPONSE FROM PETER KREEFT (6/26/18):
=========================
BB:
Good point, since acts of thinking and willing are in time but not in space, though for us they are dependent on things in space, material things like brains and nervous systems.  In one sense these acts are not part of the universe, or nature, but are supernatural.  In another sense, they are.  Angels make up still another class: created, finite spirits, not the Creator, but not in or dependent on matter or space or the time (kronos) that is relative to matter and space, but only in another kind of time, spiritual time (kronos).  Thus we have a complex hierarchy:  (1) God, (2) angels, (3) human spiritual souls that are dependent on matter, and (4) matter, which itself is hierarchical (animals, plants, minerals).  The contingency argument is about (1) vs. everything else, not about the divisions of “everything else,” so it works best on a metaphysical level of act and potency rather than on a cosmological level of matter and mind.
PK
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REPLY TO PETER KREEFT (6/28/18):
=============================
Dear Dr. Kreeft,
Thank you for again taking the time to respond to my question about the definition of “the universe” found in the Argument from Contingency.
You appear to agree that something can be “in time but not space”, so you see the ambiguity in the phrase “in space and time”.
But I’m still not clear which of the two meanings of this phrase was intended (or which is the best interpretation):

  1. BOTH in space AND in time
  2. EITHER in space OR in time  [inclusive “or”]

How do you interpret the phrase “in space and time” in this context?
Sincerely,
Bradley Bowen
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RESPONSE FROM PETER KREEFT (6/29/18):
=====================
BB:
If “the universe” means the material universe, then 1.  If it means all of creation, including angels, it means 2.
PK
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REPLY TO PETER KREEFT (6/30/18):
=============================
Dear Dr. Kreeft,
You have graciously answered two of my questions about the definition of the phrase “the universe” found in premise (2) of the Argument from Contingency.  I have saved what might well be the most challenging question about the definition for last:
What does “beings” mean?
The definition of “the universe” that is given in premise (2) is as follows:
…the collection of beings in space and time…
 The general principle stated in premise (1) of the Argument from Contingency applies to whatever can be said to be “something” that exists.  So, in order for that principle to apply to a “part of the universe”, the part of the universe must be “something”  that exists.  This raises questions about the relationship between the concept “X is something” and “X is a  being”:

  • If X is something, then X is a being.  (True or False?)
  • If X is a being, then X is something.  (True or False?)

My intuition is that time is something, but that time is NOT a being.
My intuition is that space is something, but that space is NOT a being.
My intuition is that a law of physics is something, but that a law of physics is NOT a being.
These are, however, my linguistic intuitions, and what is important here is not what is the “correct” use of these words, but rather what is the intended meaning of these words in this particular context.
The context appears to be, in part, Thomistic philosophy, and you are more familiar with Thomistic philosophy than I am, so you might have a very clear and specific understanding of the words “something” and “being” in the context of the Argument from Contingency.
Thank you again for your help clarifying the meaning of the definition of “the universe” in this interesting argument.
Sincerely,
Bradley Bowen
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RESPONSE FROM PETER KREEFT (7/1/18):
=====================
BB:
Aristotle gave the best and most commonsensical answer to your question.
PK
 

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 26: The Unclarity of Argument #7

WHERE WE ARE AT
There are only two more arguments in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate:  Argument #7 (the Argument from Contingency) and 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, based only on the conclusion of the argument.
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. 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.
 
ARGUMENT #7: THE ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY

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 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.

THEREFORE:

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.

 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #7
Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
THE BASIC PROBLEM WITH ARGUMENT #7
Usually it only takes ten or fifteen minutes for me to examine a “proof” of the existence of God in order to find two or three major problems with the argument.  Often there are one or two premises that are false or dubious.  Often there are one or two inferences that are logically invalid.  I have previously pointed out some serious deficiencies with Argument #7, but I have been struggling for about three or four weeks trying to identify one or two specific objections that would clearly show this argument to be unsound.  A couple of days ago I realized the reason why I was struggling so much with this argument, why it was taking so long to evaluate it.  In short, the argument is so unclear and ambiguous that there are at least 33 million different possible interpretations of this argument.
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EXPONENTIAL INCREASE IN UNCLARITY
Unclear words and phrases usually allow for two or more interpretations (ambiguity).  Every instance of an ambiguous word or phrase can double or triple (or even quadruple) the number of possible interpretations of a statement or argument.  There are 25 instances of unclear words or phrases in the premises supporting (6a), not including the instances of unclear words or phrases in (6a) itself.  If each of these unclear words or phrases has at least two different possible meanings, then the number of possible interpretations of the premises of this argument are at least 2 to the 25th power:
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2
= 2 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4
= 2 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16
= 2 x 256 x 256 x 256
= 2 x 16,777,216
= 33,554,432  different possible interpretations of Argument #7 (ignoring any ambiguities in the conclusion)
The problem with ambiguous words and phrases in an argument, is that every instance of such a word or phrase can double or triple the number of possible interpretations of the argument.  Ambiguity increases the the number of possible interpretations exponentially.
If I spent just one-half an hour evaluating each of the 33 million interpretations of Argument #7, it would take 16.5 million hours to evaluate all of the possible interpretations.   There are about 8,760 hours in a year  (24 hours/day  x 365 days = 8,760 hours), so in order to evaluate all of the 33 million interpretations of Argument #7 would take me over 1,883 years, working day and night, seven days a week (16,500,000 hours x  1 year/8,760 hours = 1883.56 years).  So, it is not humanly possible to evaluate every one of the millions of different possible interpretations of this argument.
===================
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.
I have put the problematic words and phrases in bold red font below, to show how frequently such unclear words and phrases occur in this 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 universethe collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

A. The universethe collection of beings in space and timedepends 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.

THEREFORE:

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.

 
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. Thus the premises of this argument have at least 33 million different possible interpretations.
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.  So, in making this assumption we are eliminating obviously bad versions of the argument and focusing on a small subset of possible interpretations, which at least have the potential to be good, sound arguments.
So, rather than looking at how many instances there are of unclear words and phrases, we can focus on how many unique words and phrases are unclear.  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)
If we spend just one-half hour on evaluating each of these possible interpretations, that would require 8,192 hours of work.
If we work on this 40 hours per week, then it would take about 205 weeks or nearly four years to finish evaluating all of those different possible interpretations (8,192 hours x 1 week/40 hours = 204.8 weeks).
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).
I do think it is worth spending some time thinking about the various possible meanings of the unclear words and phrases in this argument, but this argument is much too UNCLEAR to be worth any more of my time.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 25: Clarification of Argument #7

WHERE WE ARE AT
There are only two more arguments in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate:  Argument #7 (the Argument from Contingency) and 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, based only on the conclusion of the argument.
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.
 
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT #7
In this post,  I will work on further clarification of Argument #7:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

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

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 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.

NOTE: the phrase “at time t1” doesn’t have a specific meaning; it is a placeholder.  It is intended to be a clarification of the word “now”.  But we can fill in this placeholder expression with something more definite, like “at 9:40 pm Pacific Time on May 21st, 2018”.  Once we specify a particular point in time, the premises become meaningful factual claims that can be evaluated as true or false.
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.

 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (1a)
Here is the first premise of the Argument from Contingency:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

Although adding the reference to a specific moment in time clarifies the meaning of this premise, it is still ambiguous.  Here are three different possible interpretations of it:

1b. IF something exists 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.

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.

1d. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else existing at time t1 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.

Premise (1b) generates an infinite regress of current causes of existence.  One thing exists at t1, so a second thing must exist at t, so a third thing must exist at  t1, and so on.  According to (1b) if God exists at time  t1, “then there must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes” for God to exist at time t1.  But God is supposed to be the exception to the rule; the one thing that does NOT depend on something else for its existence.  God is supposed to be what stops the regress of causes of existence.  So, it appears that interpretation (1b) will not work, because it implies the existence of the very infinite regress that this argument seeks to deny.
Premise (1c) on the other hand, only has implications when a “thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1,” so this leaves open the possibility that there could be things that DO NOT depend on something else for their current existence.  The same is true of premise (1d); it also leaves open the possibility that there could be things that DO NOT depend on something else for their current existence.
The main point of (1c) appears to be that in order for one thing X to cause the current existence of some other thing Y, the thing X must exist at the very same moment in time as the moment of Y’s existence that it is causing.  This assumption seems contrary to our intuitive belief that things that currently exist will tend to stay in existence.
If something vanishes into thin air, we are surprised and perplexed, because we expect things to continue to exist.  It is when something ceases to exist that we seek a cause or explanation.  But if a table was here in the dining room a few seconds ago, we are not surprised if we see that the table is still here in the dining room now.  Tables, chairs, people, rocks, and trees all tend to stay in existence.  Why is there a table here in this room right now?  Because there was a table right here in this room just a second ago.  Therefore, a natural explanation for the current existence of this table here and now, is that this table existed here just a moment ago.  The CAUSE of the current existence of this table appears to be the existence of this table a moment ago.
The chair here in the room did not cause the current existence of the table.  The air in the room did not cause the current existence of the table.  If the table had been built by some person in the room, we might be tempted to say that this person is a cause of the current existence of the table, but it seems more accurate to say that the person who built the table caused the table to come into existence, but once the table came to exist, it no longer depended upon the existence of the person who built it.  The table can continue to exist even if the person who made the table ceases to exist.  So, although this specific table would not exist here and now if it had not been built by the person who made it, its current existence does NOT depend on the current existence of its maker, so the person who made the table is NOT the CAUSE of the current existence of the table.
But if the current existence of a table is caused by the previous existence of the same table, then that table does not depend on “something else” for its current existence.  But when the table was first constructed, its first moment as a table was not caused by the previous existence of the same table, because it did not previously exist.  So, it seems that we should attribute the cause of the first moment of the existence of the table to the person who made the table.  The cause of the first moment of existence of the table is the person who made the table, and the cause of the following moments of existence of the table were caused by the previous existence of the same table:
Person at time t1 –> Table at time t2 –> Table at time t3 –> Table at time t4 –> …
Sometimes things dissolve.  Sometimes things burn up.  Sometimes things fall to pieces.  Sometimes things explode.  Sometimes things melt.  This table has not dissolved; it has not burned up; it has not fallen to pieces; it has not exploded, and it hasn’t melted.  Why not?
Not everything continues to exist in the stable way that most tables continue to exist, so one might seek an explanation for why tables tend to continue to exist while other things quickly dissolve, burn up, fall to pieces, explode, or melt.  A very basic explanation for this is that there are various laws of physics that allow tables to continue to exist in a stable way under “ordinary” circumstances that we find here on Earth.
In short, the laws of physics are such that tables tend to stay in existence, at least for several years or several decades.  For this reason, we might say that the current existence of this table here and now depends upon the laws of physics.  If the laws of physics were different, then tables might tend to quickly dissolve, burn up, fall to pieces, explode, or melt under the typical physical circumstances that we find on the Earth.
In this sense, the current existence of this table depends upon the current character and operation of various laws of physics, and upon various circumstances that are typical on Earth (temperature, pressure, chemical composition of the atmosphere, gravitational forces, etc.), so we might reasonably conclude that the current existence of this table depends upon “something else” other than just the table itself (and other than just the existence of the table in a previous moment of time).  Tables tend to continue to exist for several years because of the operation of particular laws of physics and because of the character of the physical environment here on the Earth.
For a table to continue to exist requires that the laws of physics and the physical environment of the table remain the same, or undergo only minor changes.  Major changes in the laws of physics or in the character of the physical environment around the table might well cause the table to be destroyed, to cease to exist.  To the extent that the current existence of the table depends on the continued stability of the laws of physics and the continued stability of its physical environment, the current existence of the table does depend on the current character and operation of those laws of physics and the current character of various aspects of its physical environment.
This point about tables appears to be generalizable: the continued existence of ANY physical object depends upon the laws of physics and on the physical environment around that physical object, so the current existence of EACH and EVERY physical object depends on the current character of the laws of physics and on the current character of various aspects of its physical environment.  Thus, premise (1c) appears to apply to all physical objects, and it appears to be true, at least about physical objects.
Premise (1d) also appears to be true, but it appears to be a tautology:  IF something requires X to be the case in order to exist, then, of course, that thing would not exist unless X is the case.  But this gives us no significant information.  In order to make use of (1d), Kreeft would need to show that everything in the universe (a) depends on something else for its current existence, and (b) the something else must exist at the very same instant that the thing in question is having its existence caused.  So, premise (1d) although true, does not appear to be useful for the purposes of this argument.  Thus, premise (1c) appears to be the best interpretation of (1a), because it appears to be both true and also useful for the purposes of this argument.
 
REFORMULATED INITIAL INFERENCE
Premise (1c) appears to be the best interpretation of premise (1a), so we should reformulate the initial inference of Argument #7 accordingly:

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 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.

This argument is logically INVALID, because (1c) has an additional condition that has not been asserted to be satisfied: “if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1” .
So, to make the argument valid, we need to add another premise that asserts this added condition to be satisfied:

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 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.

We already have a reason for thinking that premise (A) is true: the current existence of ALL physical objects depends on the current character and operation of the laws of physics and on various aspects of their current physical environment/circumstances.
 
LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #7
Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram:

 

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 24: The Argument from Contingency

WHERE WE ARE AT
There are only two more arguments for the existence of God left to consider out of the twenty arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God from Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  In this post I will analyze Argument #7: the Argument from Contingency.
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #7
None of Kreeft’s twenty arguments is actually an argument for the existence of God, and Argument #7 is no exception to this generalization.  Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of this argument:

5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist [right now] must transcend both space and time.  (HCA, p.61)

A further conclusion is mentioned in Kreeft’s explanation of this argument:
…we know that this cause [of the current existence of the universe] cannot be finite or material–that it must transcend such limitations. (HCA, p.62)
Because Kreeft uses the expression “this cause”, he is clearly assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE cause of the current existence of the universe.  When Kreeft asserts that this cause “must transcend both space and time” he is contrasting this being with “the collection of beings in space and time” (HCA, p.61), so transcending space and time implies being OUTSIDE of both space and time.
We can now clarify the intended conclusion of this argument to be as follows:

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.

Because part of this conclusion is that the cause of the current existence of the universe is NOT material, I take it that Kreeft is (in part) arguing for the existence of a bodiless person, so Argument #7 could be part of a cumulative case for God, since one of the basic divine attributes is being a bodiless person.
Proving that there is a bodiless being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe does NOT prove that God exists.  This argument fails to show that (a) this being is omnipotent, (b) this being is omniscient, (c) this being is perfectly morally good, or that (d) this being is the creator of the universe.  This argument also fails to show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe; there could be many beings that are involved in causing the current existence of the universe.
In order for Argument #7 to play a significant role in a cumulative case for God, the cause of the current existence of the universe must be shown to be the same being as another being with other divine attributes.  However, most of Kreeft’s arguments do not concern any of the basic divine attributes, so there are only a few other arguments that could be combined with Argument #7 Setting aside Argument #13, which Kreeft himself admits is a bad argument, there is only one argument that supports more than one basic divine attribute: Argument #6.  So, to even begin to build a cumulative case for God, Kreeft needs to show that the being discussed in Argument #7 is the same being as is discussed in Argument #6.
Kreeft thinks that in Argument #6 he has proved the existence of a person who was the creator of the universe, which is one of the basic divine attributes.  So, if Kreeft’s cumulative argument is going to be even partially successful, he needs to show that the creator of the universe is the same being as the being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe.  Kreeft makes no effort to show that these two beings are the same being, so his cumulative case for God is clearly a failure.  His cumulative case for God doesn’t even get started.
Kreeft implies that the cause of the current existence of the universe exists OUTSIDE OF TIME and outside of space.  If the cause of the current existence of the universe is something that exists OUTSIDE OF TIME, then the cause of the current existence of the universe is absolutely and completely UNCHANGING, and if the cause of the current existence of the universe is absolutely and completely UNCHANGING, then the cause of the current existence of the universe is NOT a person.
Argument #6 is an argument for the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe.  Thus, if the conclusion of Argument #7 was TRUE, and if the cause of the current existence of the universe were the same being as the creator of the universe, the it follows that the creator of the universe is a being that exists OUTSIDE OF TIME.  But a being that exists outside of time cannot change in any way, and so such a completely changeless being cannot be a PERSON.  Therefore, if Argument #6 and Argument #7 are both discussing the same being, then both arguments are discussing a non-existent being, for in order for something to be the creator of the universe it must be a PERSON.  The idea that the creator of the universe is NOT a person is an incoherent idea, so no such being exists.
In short, if Argument #7 were a sound argument that proved it’s conclusion to be true, then Argument #7 would be of no use in a cumulative case for God, because the conclusion of Argument #7 is about the existence of a being that is NOT a person, and thus that being cannot be the creator of the universe, and thus that being cannot be God.  Therefore, not only does Argument #7 fail to prove that God exists (because it only relates to one of the basic divine attributes), but if it were in fact a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that is NOT the creator, and that is NOT God.
 
INITIAL ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #7
Here is Kreeft’s summary of Argument #7:

1. If something exists, then there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

2. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists.

3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

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

5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

(HCA, p.61)
It is clear from Kreeft’s discussion of this argument that he is talking about the existence of the universe at a particular moment in time, specifically: “now”.   Because of this temporal specificity, the above statement of the argument needs to be clarified so that it refers to a specific moment in time:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

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

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 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.

Because Kreeft does not include references to a specific moment in time, it might be objected that it is unfair to ascribe to Kreeft the assumption that the cause of the existence of a thing X at time t1 must itself exist at time t1 in order to cause the existence of X at time t1.   But when Kreeft gives his primary example of a “contingent” being, he clearly implies this to be the case:
…you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you.  Not your parents or grandparents.  They may no longer be alive, but you exist now.  And right now you depend on many things in order to exist–for example, on the air you breathe.  To be dependent in this way is to be contingent.  You exist if something else right now exists.  (HCA, p.61)
Kreeft infers that the cause of a person’s existence right now cannot be the “parents or grandparents” of that person, because people continue to exist even when their parents or grandparents no longer exist.  This inference is clearly based on the assumption that something that does NOT exist right now CANNOT cause something else to exist right now.  Therefore (1a) is an accurate and correct clarification of the first premise of Argument #7.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Replies to My Objections to ABEAN and REMEC

I. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO ABEAN
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS ABEAN:
Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
 
B. MY MAIN OBJECTION: ABEAN IS VERY UNCLEAR
My contention is not merely that ABEAN is a bad or defective argument; rather, it is so unclear that it is unworthy of serious consideration.   It cannot be rationally evaluated in its current form, because it is VERY UNCLEAR.
An excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response to my objections to ABEAN [bold font added]:
=========================

The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR

The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.

what is he calling unclear?: he does not say!!!!

============================
What am I calling unclear?  According to Hinman I don’t say what I’m calling unclear.
This complaint by Hinman is FALSE, as one can see by simply reading the very passage that Hinman just quoted:
…nearly every claim in the argument is unclear…
That is what I am calling unclear.
Since I don’t say that EVERY claim in the argument is unclear, Hinman might think that the expression “nearly every claim” is vague.  But Hinman knows that I have specified exactly which premises were problematic.  Here is another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response [bold font added]:
============================

I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.

He’s going to repeat the numbers,  He has nothing to say,he has made no argument
============================
Clearly, I have specified exactly which premises are VERY UNCLEAR.    Hinman says that I have “nothing to say” and that I “made no argument”.
Once again, if Hinman had simply read the sentence that he just quoted, he would have known that his reply was FALSE.  Here is my argument, spelled out so that even a child can understand it:

1. IF a claim in ABEAN contains at least two different unclear words or phrases, THEN that claim is VERY UNCLEAR.

2. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which contain at least two different unclear words or phrases.

THEREFORE

3. (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) are claims in the ABEAN argument which are VERY UNCLEAR.

This is what we here on planet earth refer to as an “argument”.  The sentence that he just quoted refutes his own complaint.
OK.  I specified exactly which claims in ABEAN were VERY UNCLEAR, and I specified WHY I believe them to be VERY UNCLEAR, but Hinman still might continue to complain: But what exactly about each of those specific claims makes them unclear?
Hinman, however, knows exactly what about those specific claims makes them unclear, because I listed out the specific words and phrases in those claims that are the main cause of the unclarity of ABEAN.   Another excerpt from Hinman’s 2nd response shows he was aware of this list [bold font added]:
============================

(2) list of terms he finds unclear
 .
 The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:
 .
[of course I have defined each of these terms…
============================

Hinman then walks step-by-step through my list of unclear words and phrases from ABEAN.  So, Hinman was perfectly well aware of the exact words and phrases that I believe are unclear and that are the basis for my conclusion that his ABEAN argument is VERY UNCLEAR.  His definitions are, in general,  less clear than the words he attempts to define, and thus they FAIL as definitions.
 
C. TWO EXAMPLES OF HINMAN’S INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS
I think it is obvious to most readers of my posts and Hinman’s posts about ABEAN, that this argument is unclear and that many words and phrases in this argument are unclear.  But Hinman has some sort of intellectual blindness that prevents him from seeing what is obvious to most of the rest of us, and this blindness comes across loud and clear with his initial comments about two of his unclear terms:
============================

  • naturalistic phenomena
This is obvious,self evident, it;s a common term…
 
[…]
  • temporal
another self evident term that everyone understands…
============================

The meanings of these words are “obvious” and “self-evident”  and “everyone understands” what they mean, according to Hinman.
These are problematic philosophical and theological concepts that REQUIRE clarification and definition.  The fact that Hinman cannot understand this obvious point shows that he is not intellectually ready to argue intelligently for the existence of God, or for any other philosophical claim.
First of all, “naturalistic phenomena” presumably has the same meaning as “natural phenomena”.   We understand the word “natural” in relation to the contrasting word “supernatural”.  These two words represent categories, categories that presumably constitute a dichotomy.  Everything is either natural or supernatural.
I suppose there could be composite things that have both natural components and supernatural components.  Most Christians, for example, believe that humans are composed of a physical (natural) body and a non-physical (supernatural) soul. But human bodies are completely natural things, and human souls are completely supernatural things, so at the level of the basic components that make up human beings, there are no quasi-natural things, and no quasi-supernatural things.
If one does NOT have a clear understanding of what the word “supernatural” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “natural” means.  But the word “supernatural” is highly problematic, and it should be obvious to anyone with some degree of intellectual sophistication that the meaning of “supernatural” is highly problematic.
We have argued about the meaning of the word “supernatural” on more than one occasion here at The Secular Outpost.  In fact, I and others have argued with Mr. Hinman about the meaning of the word “supernatural” here at The Secular Outpost!  He has no excuse for thinking that the meaning of the word “supernatural” is clear and unproblematic.  Thus, Hinman has no excuse for the idiotic belief that “naturalistic phenomena” is a clear and unproblematic term.
The word “temporal” contrasts, as Hinman himself points out, with the word “eternal”.  Once again, if one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “eternal” means, then one does NOT have a clear understanding of what “temporal” means.  But the word “eternal” is obviously problematic.  First, it is obviously ambiguous between at least two different senses:
DEFINITION 1:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X has always existed in the past, and X exists now, and X will always continue to exist in the future. 
DEFINITION 2:
X is eternal IF AND ONLY IF X exists outside of time.
I suspect that Hinman takes “eternal” to mean something like what it means in DEFINITION 2.  But this understanding of “eternal” is inherently problematic.  DEFINITION 2 is itself unclear and problematic.  What does it mean for something to be “outside of time”?  How can we tell whether or not something is “outside of time”?  Is this idea logically coherent, or does it contain a logical contradiction?
Furthermore, how can something CHANGE if it exists “outside of time”?  If something that exists “outside of time” cannot change, then how can something “outside of time”  communicate with people who are “inside of time”?  How can something “outside of time” make decisions and take actions that affect people who are “inside of time”?  Unless there are clear answers available to such questions, we don’t clearly understand what the word “eternal” (as used by Hinman) means, and thus we don’t understand what the word “temporal” means either.
This is NOT the sort of thing I expect to have to explain to an intellectually sophisticated person.  These points should be obvious to anyone who has some degree of intellectual sophistication in matters of theology and philosophy of religion.  Hinman’s inability to see and understand these obvious points is astounding to me.
The meanings of these words and phrases are NOT “self-evident” nor are they “obvious” nor are they words that “everyone understands”.  Such comments reflect the thinking of a person who is lacking in intellectual sophistication, of a person who is not yet ready to present an intelligent argument for the existence of God.
I am not going to bother addressing all of the various points Hinman raises about my list of unclear words and phrases, nor about my objections to some of the specific claims in ABEAN.   My main objection to ABEAN stands firm, and Hinman’s responses to my main objection are pathetic: he doesn’t understand my objection because he is clueless about what it means for a word or phrase to be CLEAR.
ABEAN is a VERY UNCLEAR argument, and that made the argument Dead On Arrival, and unworthy of serious consideration.  Those who are intellectually capable of understanding my  objections will be persuaded by them and will not find anything of significance and substance in Hinman’s many and various responses to my objections.  The ABEAN argument was DOA when Hinman first presented it, and it remains cold and dead, despite Hinman’s long-winded posts attempting to resuscitate it.
 
II. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
 
A. POSTS IN THIS DEBATE THAT DISCUSS REMEC:
Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
 
B. MY THREE MAIN OBJECTIONS TO REMEC
OBJECTION #1:
Neither God nor existence are mentioned ANYWHERE in REMEC.
OBJECTION #2:
The central concept of REMEC (i.e. “religious experience”) is left UNDEFINED and VERY UNCLEAR.
OBJECTION #3:
The contents of the key epistemic criteria upon which REMEC is based are left UNSPECIFIED.
 
C. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #1
Hinman has nothing intelligent to say in reply to my Objection #1.
So, I will simply re-state the objection in a way that even a child could understand.
Hinman’s REMEC Argument:
(1) we trust perceptions that work for us in navigating the world
(2) we judge by criteria Regular, Consistent, Shared (inter-subjective)
(3) RE fits this criteria
(4 ) enables “navigation” (the point of the criteria)
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
The conclusion of this argument is claim (5):

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (5).

Claims (1) through (4) are the premises of the REMEC argument:

  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (1).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (2).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (3).
  • There is NO MENTION OF GOD in claim (4).

Now I will draw an inference that even a child could understand and follow:
There is NO MENTION OF GOD ANYWHERE in the REMEC argument.
The REMEC argument is about “religious experience”; it is NOT an argument about God, and therefore it is NOT an argument about the existence of God.
NOTE:
If Hinman had provided an actual definition of “religious experience”, he could have defined it as an “experience that seems to the experiencer to be of the presence or activity of God.”  (I believe William Alston has a definition along those lines).  In that way, he could have linked the concept of “religious experience” directly to the concept of “God”. I would have objected to such a definition, but it would have at least created a logical connection between claim (5) and the issue of the existence of God. But Hinman failed to provide a legitimate definition of “religious experience”, so no such conceptual connection was established.
 
D. HINMAN’S REPLIES TO MY OBJECTION #2
REPLY #1:
No, first of all I said religious experience (RE) is the umbrella term.
Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to clarify the meaning of this phrase. Hinman considers “mystical experience” to be one kind of “religious experience” and that there are other kinds of “religious experience”. I am aware of that, and my objection showed that I was aware of that. But that does almost nothing to define the term “religious experience”.
REPLY #2:
Secondly, the charge that I’m being unclear is empirically disproved because there is a huge body of academic work from which I researched to write my book.
This is completely irrelevant. Even if we grant the assumption that “there is a huge body of academic work” that is considered in Hinman’s book, this has no relevance to the clarity or lack of clarity in his blog post where he presents the REMEC argument. Hinman’s book might be filled with dozens of crystal clear arguments and definitions, but that doesn’t show that his blog post is clear, and it certainly does not in any way show that he clearly defined the key concept in REMEC (which is “religious experience”) in his blog posts in this debate.
REPLY #3:
Bowen refers to the problem of other kinds of experiences being called RE, yes that is why I called RE an “umbrella term” but ME (mystical experience)is very specific and clear. It’s clear in it’s definition we know exactly what is produced and how to determine a valid mystical experience.
Hinman then quotes various definitions and explanations of the term “mystical experience”. This is, once again, irrelevant to my objection, which is that the phrase “religious experience” is the key concept in the REMEC argument, and that Hinman failed to clearly define what this phrase means. The conclusion of the REMEC argument is this:
(5) :. we are warranted to trust RE as indicative
There is no mention of “mystical experience” in the conclusion of REMEC. The conclusion is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “RE” which is an abbreviation for “religious experience”. Therefore, this argument is about “religious experience”, but Hinman failed to provide a clear definition of this key concept. Hinman literally does not know what he is talking about.
Hinman’s replies above to my objection are all irrelevant to the objection. Saying that “religious experience” is an “umbrella term” fails to provide any significant information about what this phrase means. The alleged massive academic content and merits of Hinman’s book are completely irrelevant to the question of whether his blog post on REMEC is clear, and is certainly irrelevant to whether or not his blog post provided a clear definition of the key phrase “religious experience”. Finally, even if we grant the claim that Hinman clearly defined “mystical experience” in his blog post, the REMEC argument is NOT about “mystical experience”; it is about “religious experience”, and providing a clear definition of “mystical experience” is obviously NOT the same as providing a clear definition of “religious experience”.
Hinman has completely failed to provide a relevant reply to my Objection #2.
 
E. HINMAN’S REPLY TO MY OBJECTION #3:
====================
The criteria is what we use to determine the reliability of our experiences and perceptions, Thomas Reid suggests that criteria, true he does not use the phrases “regular,” “constant.” and “shared,” but the process he describes is best summarize in that way,he gives three examples:
(1)A solider on the battlefield notices all those stuck with bayonets tend to die so he does not ask bunch of Cartesian questions about reality while waiting to be stabbed he get’s out of the way;
(2) A man making love to a woman does not stop in the middle to quiz her about the reality of her existence,
(3) Common people living their lives going about their tasks don’t refrain from putting bread on the table until they they sort out the epistemology,even Descartes waited for retirement.
=========================
Examples are often helpful in explaining or clarifying a general principle, but it is very sad that Hinman takes the giving of these three examples to be sufficient to specify the content of his three key epistemic principles. This illustrates the unclarity and confusion that buzzes around inside of Hinman’s head.
Providing one example of a principle doesn’t even come close to specifying the actual contents of the principle. The fact that Hinman confuses the giving of an example with the clear statement of an epistemic principle is, by itself, sufficient to firmly establish the correctness of my Objection #3.  Given that the above UNCLEAR CRAP is what we get when Hinman has a second opportunity to clearly state his key epistemic principles, I strongly suspect that Hinman is not intellectually sophisticated enough to provide a clear statement of any epistemic principle.
Hinman’s pathetic second attempt at specifying the content of his key epistemic criteria shows that the answer to the question “Where’s the beef?” is: There ain’t any beef here!  Underneath all the bullshit that Hinman spews in the REMEC argument is just more bullshit, more confusion, more unclarity.
All three of my main objections to REMEC stand firm, and each one is sufficient by itself to justify my view that REMEC was Dead On Arrival, and that REMEC is not merely a defective argument, but is an argument that is not worthy of serious consideration.
NOTE:
This is my last and final post on the ABEAN and REMEC arguments (Thank you Jesus!).

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN & REMEC Arguments: INDEX

1. Joe Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
2. My Criticism of Hinman’s ABEAN Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/04/hinmans-abean-argument-part-2-objections-11-1/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/06/hinmans-abean-argument-part-3-objections/
3. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His ABEAN Argument
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-defense-of-god-argument-1.html
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god.html
4. Joe Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/bowen-hinman-debate-existence-of-god-my.html
5. My Criticism of Hinman’s REMEC Argument for God
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/07/21/hinmans-remec-argument/
6. Joe Hinman’s Responses to My Criticism of His REMEC Argument
http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2017/07/debate-existence-of-god-round-ii.html
7. My Rebuttal to Hinman’s Replies to My Objections about ABEAN and REMEC arguments
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/08/05/hinmans-replies-objections-abean-remec/

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 3: More Objections

ABEAN Contains Twelve Statements
Although I cannot provide a comprehensive critique of Hinman’s ABEAN argument in just two blog posts (of reasonable length),  I can at least briefly touch on each of the dozen statements in that argument.
[NOTE: ABEAN is an acronym that refers to the claim that “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”.]
The statements in ABEAN are numbered (1) through (11), but there is an additional statement that Hinman should have made, but that he did not make clearly and explicitly.  There is a little bit of text in brackets following premise (4):
[=GOB]
There is a similar notation following premise (6):
[=SON]
The notation following premise (6) merely indicates an acronym that will be used as shorthand for the phrase “a Sense Of the Numinous”, a term that was already being used in premise (6).  So, the notation following (6) does not assert anything or add anything to (6).
However, the notation following premise (4) asserts a substantive claim, which Hinman ought to have spelled out as a separate premise:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
The notation “[=GOB]” does NOT merely specify an acronym for a term already present in the argument; rather, it introduces a new and additional concept into the argument, a concept that is very unclear.  Since premise (A) includes at least three unclear terms (“The Ground of Being”, “any aspect of being that is…”, and  “eternal”), I judge this premise to be VERY unclear.
 
The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR
The main problem with the ABEAN argument is that it is UNCLEAR.  This is the same problem that I encountered repeatedly in my analysis and evaluation of Norman Geisler’s case for God in his book When Skeptics Ask.  The problem is not so much that ABEAN uses false premises or invalid inferences.  The problem is that nearly every claim in the argument is unclear, making it nearly impossible to rationally evaluate the argument.
In my view, ten out of the twelve statements that make up ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR.  Only one statement in ABEAN is clear, and there is one statement that is somewhat unclear (but less than very unclear).  So, in my view, more than 80% of the statements in ABEAN are VERY UNCLEAR, and less than 10% of the statements in ABEAN are clear (only 1 statement out of 12).  Given the prevalence of VERY UNCLEAR statements, it is reasonable to characterize the whole argument as being VERY UNCLEAR, and thus for all practical intents and purposes it is impossible to rationally evaluate ABEAN.  As it stands, ABEAN is little more than a heap of words without much intellectual or philosophical significance.
If Mr. Hinman were to provide clear definitions for the many problematic words and phrases in his ABEAN argument, then it would be possible to rationally evaluate this argument, but I suspect that if he could have provided such definitions then he would have done so already.  So, I’m doubtful that he will be providing clear definitions for all of the many problematic words and phrases in ABEAN.
Here is my view of the general unclarity of Hinman’s ABEAN argument (click on image below for a better view of the chart):
ABEAN CLARITY TABLE
 
 
 
 
 
The unclarity that I based this chart on is the unclarity of the meaning of several problematic words and phrases:

  • naturalistic phenomena
  • temporal
  • some aspect of being
  • eternal
  • the Ground of Being
  • being itself
  • a sense of the numinous
  • God (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this word)
  • the transcendental signified
  • universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
  • believing in… (Hinman has an idiosyncratic understanding of this phrase)

The terms “necessary” and “contingent” are also problematic words, but Hinman provides fairly clear definitions of these two words, which in turn made it possible for me to evaluate the inference from premises (1) and (4) to premise (5) as being an INVALID inference (see Part 2 of this series).  The one time that Hinman provides clear definitions, makes it clear that ABEAN is a bad argument.  This is why, I suspect, that Geisler and Hinman are so unclear and fuzzy-headed when they argue for God.  When they think and reason clearly, their arguments for God fall apart.
I judged premises (1), (2), (4), (A), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10), and (11) to be VERY UNCLEAR because they each contain at least two different unclear words or phrases, which Hinman failed to adequately define or explain.
I judged premise (6) to be UNCLEAR, but not to be VERY UNCLEAR, because of the use of the phrase “a sense of the numinous” in that premise.  Given the subjective nature of that concept, it would be difficult for anyone to provide a clear definition of that phrase, and Hinman did make a brief attempt to provide some clarification of this term, but his attempt was inadequate in my judgment.  As it stands, this phrase is too vague to allow one to make a rational evaluation of the truth or falsehood of premises (7) or (8) with any degree of confidence.
 
How Many Possible Interpretations are there of ABEAN?
The easiest sort of unclarity to fix is ambiguity.  There are eight different unclear words or phrases used in ABEAN. (NOTE: some of the unclear words and phrases in the list above are not used in the ABEAN argument, but are used in definitions of terms.)  Most of these unclear words or phrases have MANY different possible meanings, not just two.  So, most of these unclear words or phrases have a more serious problem than that of being ambiguous between two alternative meanings.
But, for the sake of illustration, let’s assume that all eight unclear words or phrases each have only two alternative meanings.  Let’s also assume that these words or phrases are consistently used with the same meaning in all premises where they occur.  How many different possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be, based on those assumptions?  There would be 2 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 =  4 x 4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 16 = 256 Different Possible Interpretations
There are well over two hundred different possible interpretations of ABEAN if the unclear words and phrases in the argument each have only two possible meanings.  But most of the unclear words and phrases have a more serious problem of unclarity than this, so it would not be unreasonable to estimate that there is an average of three different possible meanings for each of the unclear words and phrases.  How many possible interpretations of ABEAN would there be on that assumption?  There would be 3 to the 8th power different interpretations of ABEAN:
3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 =  9 x 9 x 9 x 9 =  81 x 81 = 6,561 Different Possible Interpretations
Given these two estimates of the number of different possible interpretations of ABEAN, it is reasonable to conclude that it is very likely that there are more than 200 but less than 7,000 different possible interpretations of ABEAN.   So, I would need at least 200 blog posts to adequately evaluate all of the various possible interpretations of ABEAN.  Not gonna happen.  Wouldn’t be prudent.  I have better things to do with my time.
 
One Premise in ABEAN is OK
I’m OK with premise (3):
3. Something did not come from nothing.
The wording and clarity could be slightly improved:
3a. It is NOT the case that something came from nothing.
I accept this premise as true, although I’m not entirely certain that it is true.  I think it is based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and I’m inclined to accept that principle (i.e. “Every event has an explanation.”)
 
A Couple of Other Problems with ABEAN
I have many objections and concerns about ABEAN in addition to the basic problem of unclear words and phrases.   But I will just mention two of those problems here.  One objection concerns the statement that Hinman failed to make clearly and explicitly:
(A) The Ground of Being is identical with any aspect of being that is eternal and necessary.
Premise (4) asserts that “Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.”  The word “some” is ambiguous here, just like the word “something” as used by Aquinas and by Geisler in their arguments for God.  What premise (4) actually means is this:
4a.  Some aspect or aspects of being are eternal and necessary.
There is no reason or justification given for limiting the relevant aspects to just ONE aspect.  So, we have, yet again, an ambiguity in quantification that leads to confusion and illogical inferences.  If there are many aspects of being, and if more than one aspect of being is eternal and necessary, then that casts doubt on premise (A).  If there are multiple aspects of being that are eternal and necessary, then it is doubtful that we ought to identify “the Ground of Being” with that collection of aspects.
This is particularly the case if an “aspect” of being is an individual thing or event.  The concept of an “aspect of being” is VERY UNCLEAR, so it is not at all obvious that we can rule out the possibility that individual things or events could count as aspects of being.  Clearly, Mr. Hinman would NOT accept the idea that “the Ground of Being” is composed of various individual things or events (that would lead us in the direction of Polytheism or Pantheism), so the identification of “the Ground of Being” with “some aspect or aspects of being” might well turn out to be an incoherent claim, a claim that contradicts the implications of Hinman’s concept of “the Ground of Being”.
This is one more example that illustrates the need for clear definitions of problematic words and phrases such as “an aspect of being” and “the Ground of Being”.  Without such definitions, we may well be stumbling over various logical errors and incoherent claims.
I also have a problem with premise (9):
9. GOB = God.
First of all, this premise needs to be spelled out in a clear sentence of English:
9a. The Ground of Being is identical with God.
Although Hinman fails to provide a clear definition of “the Ground of Being” or of the word “eternal”, I strongly suspect that by “eternal” he means “outside of time”, and it is clear that Hinman believes “the Ground of Being” to be “eternal”.  Given these assumptions, it follows that “the Ground of Being” cannot change.
But God is a person, or at least a being with personal characteristics like “can think”, “can communicate”, “can make choices”, and “can perform actions”.  But only a being that can change can have such personal characteristics.  Therefore, given the assumption that “the Ground of Being” is something that is “outside of time” it follows that “the Ground of Being” is NOT identical with God.  Premise (9) appears to be false.
So, premise (A) might well, for all we know, be an incoherent statement, and premise (9) appears to be false.

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 2: Objections to (11) and (1)

I. The Conclusion of the ABEAN Argument is UNCLEAR.
(ABEAN is an acronym for: “some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary”, which is premise (4) of Hinman’s argument.)
The first thing that I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Here is the conclusion of Hinman’s ABEAN argument:
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God.
This might not seem to be unclear at first glance, but the meaning of the phrase “believing in God” is indeed unclear.  One might think this means “believing that God exists”, but Hinman apparently does NOT believe that it is literally true that “God exists” (this is only metaphorically true in Hinman’s view), so this otherwise plausible interpretation of (11) is presumably incorrect.
The biggest problem here, though, is that Hinman defines the word “God” in a way that makes this concept completely unclear and obscure:
God: The transcendental signified, Universal truth at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy
If you want to make an already unclear concept even more unclear, then there is no better way to make things murky and incomprehensible than to go fishing around in the sewer consisting of the writings of the literary theorist Jacques Derrida.  If you aren’t familiar with Derrida’s notion of the “transcendental signified” don’t worry,  I found this brief and very helpful explanation that is sure to give you a firm grasp of this concept:
Upholding the notion of decentering, Derrida asserts that a “fixed” structure is a myth, and that all structures desire “immobility” beyond free play, which is impossible. The assumption of a centre expresses the desire for a “reassuring certitude” which stands beyond the subversive or threatening reach of any play which might disrupt the structure. The centre, that which gives stability, unity and closure to the structure, can be conceived as an “origin”, or a “purpose” — terms which invoke the notion of presence or logos that guarantee such stability and closure.
Now that we are all straight about what Derrida means by the “transcendental signified”, is anyone interested in buying a bottle of my Dr. B’s Amazing Elixir?  It cures baldness, AIDS,  acne, indigestion, and all forms of cancer, and I only charge $50.00 for an eight ounce bottle of it.  What a bargain, right?
I swear to GOB that I did not make up the above quoted paragraph.  You can read it for yourself on the LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM NOTES web page.  WARNING: The bullshit is so deep on that page, that you may want to put on a pair of hip waders before clicking on the link.
In short, I have no clue what Joe Hinman means by  the phrase “believe in God”.  I seriously doubt that Hinman has much of a clue either, and I would rather not immerse my mind into the raw sewage that spews out of the books and articles of many modern literary theorists, especially NOT those by Derrida.  So, the ABEAN argument as it stands is DOA.  It has no clear and intelligible conclusion.
The ABEAN argument is a FAILURE even before I examine any premises or any inferences in the argument. An argument cannot possibly FAIL any faster than this one has.
II.  Various Problems with Premise (1) of the ABEAN Argument
Since I have no clue what the conclusion of ABEAN asserts,  I’m just going to start from the start, and work my way through the argument, step-by-step, noting any problems I discover along the way.
The first premise of the argument, like the conclusion, is unclear, at least initially:
1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
In a philosophical argument, when there is a premise of the form “ALL Xs  ARE Ys”, a premise that is a universal generalization, one needs to determine whether this is supposed to be an inductive generalization based on experience, or (alternatively) an a priori claim.  If it is supposed to be an a priori claim, then is it an analytic truth (like “All triangles have three sides”) or  some other sort of a priori claim (like a synthetic a priori claim)?  More on this point later.
All three concepts in this premise are unclear, at least initially: “naturalistic phenomena”, “contingent”, and “temporal”.
However, Hinman does provide a fairly clear definition of the characteristic of being “contingent”:
Contingency:  That which can cease or might have failed to exist.
The characteristic of being “contingent” contrasts with the characteristic of being “necessary”:
Necessity: That which cannot cease or fail to exist.
Here are standard-form definitions of “contingent” and “necessary”, based on what Hinman says about these concepts:

DEFINITION OF “CONTINGENT”:

X is contingent IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X can cease to exist, or (b) X can fail to exist.

DEFINITION OF “NECESSARY”:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF either (a) X cannot cease to exist, or (b) X cannot fail to exist.

These two concepts are supposed to create a dichotomy, a set of two categories which are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive of all possibilities.  But Hinman’s definitions do NOT create a dichotomy.  That is because something can “fail to exist” that cannot “cease to exist”. (There may be other problems as well.  This is just the problem that I noticed right away.)
For example,  a four-sided triangle CAN “fail to exist” (since it is impossible for such a thing to exist), but a four-sided triangle CANNOT “cease to exist” (because it can never exist–not even for a fraction of a second–it can never cease to exist).  Based on Hinman’s definition of “contingent”, a four-sided triangle is “contingent” because it CAN “fail to exist”.  Based on Hinman’s definition of “necessary”, a four-sided triangle is “necessary” because it CANNOT “cease to exist”.  Thus, based on Hinman’s definitions, a four-sided triangle is BOTH “contingent” AND “necessary”.  Therefore, the categories of “necessary” and “contingent” do NOT constitute a dichotomy.  These two categories overlap each other; they are NOT mutually exclusive concepts.
The fact that something is contingent, therefore, does NOT imply that it is not necessary.  The fact that something is necessary, does NOT imply that it is not contingent.  Thus, even if I granted, for the sake of argument, that ALL “naturalistic phenomena” were contingent, that does NOT imply that no “naturalistic phenomena” are necessary.  Given Hinman’s definitions, these categories are NOT mutually exclusive, so the fact that something falls into one category does NOT exclude the possibility that it ALSO falls into the other category.
Hinman’s inference from premise (1) and premise (4) to the sub-conclusion (5) is logically invalid, because this inference ASSUMES that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy, that they are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, but this assumption is FALSE, so the the inference to (5) is INVALID.
What does Hinman mean by the term “temporal”?  The category of “temporal” contrasts with the category of “eternal”.  Once again, it appears that Hinman takes these two concepts to be a dichotomy, to be mutually exclusive categories, and to be jointly exhaustive categories.
But Hinman fails to provide a definition of either “temporal” or “eternal”, so we have no reasonable way to determine whether these concepts really do constitute a dichotomy, or if Hinman is just as confused in this case as he was in the case of the false dichotomy between “contingent” and “necessary”.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  We should presume that Hinman is just as confused and unclear about this set of categories as we have seen him to be about the previous set of categories.  Unless and until he puts forward clear definitions of “temporal” and “eternal”, we should remain doubtful about the assumption that these concepts constitute a dichotomy, and thus we should remain doubtful about any inferences that Hinman makes based on either of these UNCLEAR concepts.
What does Hinman mean by the phrase “naturalistic phenomena”?  This phrase is obviously problematic and in need of clarification.  Hinman does discuss this concept, but does NOT provide a clear definition of this term.  What he says is summed up in this one sentence:
Thus I equate naturalistic with nature and nature with S/TC and phyiscal [sic] law. 
(S/TC  means: Space/Time Continuum)
The term “nature” is hardly much clearer than “naturalistic” and reference to the space/time continuum and physical law might provide a clue about what he means, but this is an inadequate clarification of a key concept in the argument.  Without providing a clear definition of this key term, I don’t see how anyone can rationally evaluate premise (1) as being true or false.
One might assume that because this sounds like other cosmological arguments, that this argument is based on an empirical claim, and that premise (1) is at least one of the empirical claims in this argument.  However, Hinman makes a comment that casts doubt on that reasonable assumption:
The very concept of nature is that of a contingent temporal realm. 
This comment comes very close to asserting that premise (1) is an analytic truth, and thus NOT an empirical claim.  So, Hinman needs to be clearer on this crucial point.  Is premise (1) to be interpreted as an inductive generalization based on experience? or is it an a priori claim?  If it is an a priori claim, then is it supposed to be an analytic truth? or some other kind of a priori claim?  This is yet another problem that makes premise (1) an UNCLEAR statement.  We need to know what sort of claim it is, in order to properly evaluate this claim.  But it is less than clear whether this is supposed to be an empirical claim or an a priori claim.
Premise (1) is hopelessly unclear and confused.  The meaning of the word “contingent” is clear, but is confused, because Hinman mistakenly believes that the categories of “contingent” and “necessary” constitute a dichotomy.  Because of this confusion, the inference from (1) and (4) to (5) is INVALID.  The meaning of the word “temporal” is unclear, because this is a problematic word that is left undefined.  The meaning of the phrase “naturalistic phenomena” is unclear as well.  Hinman makes an effort at clarifying the meaning of this phrase, but his effort falls short; he needs to provide a clear definition of this problematic phrase.  There is also some ambiguity as to the type of claim that Hinman intends to be making.  Is this premise an empirical claim or is it an a priori claim?
III. A Counter Argument from a Skeptical Point of View
Hinman has taken on the burden of proof, which is as things should be.  I made no promise to put forward an argument against the existence of God.  However, in reflecting on the ABEAN argument, I do have some thoughts that constitute an alternative way of thinking about the alleged “contingency” of the universe or of natural phenomena, so I’m going to give Hinman (and the other readers of this post) something to consider (and to criticize) other than my objections to his ABEAN argument:

1. A true explanation of an event requires a true claim of the form “A change in X caused a change in Y”.

2. The Big Bang can be thought of as an event, as “a change in Y”.

3. There is a true explanation for every event, including the Big Bang.

THEREFORE:

4. The Big Bang was caused by a “change in X”, by a change in something. (from 1, 2, and 3)

 5. God, if God exists, is eternal (meaning “God is outside of time”).

 6. Something can undergo change ONLY IF it exists in time.

THEREFORE:  

7. God, if God exists, cannot undergo change. (from 5 and 6)

8. God caused the Big Bang ONLY IF God can undergo change. (from 4)

THEREFORE:

9. It is NOT the case that God caused the Big Bang. (from 7 and 8)

Another way of expressing basically the same point is that the mere existence of God is NOT sufficient to explain the coming into existence of the universe.  There must be an EVENT that caused the universe to come into existence.  If God caused the universe to come into existence, then God did this by creating the universe, by willing the universe to come into existence.  But “creating” and “willing” are activities that require God to undergo change.  So, God CANNOT be the cause of the coming into existence of the universe unless God can undergo change.
But Hinman’s concept of God, as with Norman Geisler and Thomas Aquinas, is that God is outside of time and completely unchanging.  Hinman’s God, and the God of Geisler and of Aquinas, does NOT exist, because their concept of God is incoherent, it contains a logical contradiction: “God caused the universe to begin to exist AND God cannot undergo change”.
NOTE:
There are many more premises and inferences to analyze and evaluate in Hinman’s ABEAN argument, and I’m fairly certain that I will not be able to get to all of the remaining premises and inferences in my next post on ABEAN.  I have agreed to limit myself to just two posts containing my initial objections to ABEAN, so I do not expect my critique to be comprehensive.  However, there are enough problems with just the conclusion and the first premise to sink this argument, so I expect that a second post will be more than enough to justify rejection of the ABEAN argument.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Opening Argument for God

Joe Hinman has published his opening argument for God on his blog site:
http://metacrock.blogspot.com/2017/07/opening-argument-resolved-that-belief.html
Here is his argument in summary form:

1. All naturalistic phenomena are contingent and temporal.
2. Either some aspect of being is eternal and necessary unless or something came from nothing (creation ex nihilo)
3. Something did not come from nothing.
4. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary [=GOB]. (from 2,and 3)
5. Some aspect of being does not consist of naturalistic phenomena. (from 1 and 4)
6. Some people experience a sense of the numinous [=SON].
7. The SON is not evoked by any naturalistic phenomena.
8. The SON experienced by some people is evoked by GOB.
9. GOB = God.
10. If 8 and 9, then some people are warranted in believing in God.
11. Therefore, some people are warranted in believing in God. (from 8, 9, and 10)

In future posts I will refer to this as Hinman’s ABEAN argument (some Aspect of Being is Eternal And Necessary).

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 1: “Eternal and Necessary”

Joe Hinman wants me to seriously consider two arguments for the conclusion that “God is real”.  I’m going to focus on his ABEAN argument for a number of posts, before I examine his argument from religious experience.
I have attempted to summarize Hinman’s  first argument in a brief standard form argument:
Hinman’s ABEAN Argument

1. All natural phenomena are contingent and temporal.

2. IF all natural phenomena are contingent and temporal, THEN some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

THEREFORE:

3. Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

4. IF some aspect of being is eternal and necessary, THEN there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real.

5. IF there is good reason to believe that the Ground of Being is real, THEN there is good reason to believe that God is real.

THEREFORE:

6. There is good reason to believe that God is real.

I think of this argument in terms of three steps or phases:
THREE STEPS OF THE ABEAN ARGUMENT
   Step 1            Step 2          Step 3
—->ABEAN—->GOBIR—->GIR

ABEAN:  Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

GOBIR:  The Ground of Being is real.

GIR: God is real.

Each of these three key conclusions is unclear, at least they are unclear to me.  Perhaps Hinman has a clear idea of what these three assertions mean, but before I can have any hope of rationally evaluating his ABEAN argument, I need to have a better understanding of what these assertions mean, what they imply and what they don’t imply, what they rule out, and what they don’t rule out.
The Meaning of ABEAN
The first step or phase of Hinman’s argument is to show that ABEAN is true:

ABEAN: Some aspect of being is eternal and necessary.

But meaning is prior to truth.  We must first understand the meaning of ABEAN before we can assess whether it is true or false, coherent or incoherent.
Here are some other similar assertions with different subjects that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ATEAN:  Some aspect of TIME is eternal and necessary.

ASEAN:  Some aspect of SPACE is eternal and necessary.

AMEAN:  Some aspect of MATTER is eternal and necessary.

AJEAN:  Some aspect of JELLO is eternal and necessary.

Here are some other similar assertions with different predicates that should be understood in relation to the meaning of ABEAN:

ABBAY: Some aspect of being is bright and yellow.

ABCAR: Some aspect of being is curved and round.

ABSAP: Some aspect of being is strong and powerful.

ABAAA: Some aspect of being is alive and aware.

If the meaning of ABEAN is clear to someone, then the meanings of the above similar statements should also be clear to that person.  If Hinman understands the meaning of ABEAN, then he ought to be able to explain the meaning of these similar statements, and comment on their coherence or incoherence, and their truth or falsehood.
Some of the above statements may be incoherent. but a person who understands the ABEAN assertion should be able to understand and explain why such an incoherent statement was incoherent.  For example, it might be incoherent to assert ABBAY, the assertion that some aspect of being is bright and yellow, because there is a category mistake in applying the properties of “bright and yellow” to being.  The same might be said about ABCAR, and the application of the properties “curved and round” to being.  But if we are to reject ABBAY and ABCAR as incoherent because they apply inappropriate properties to being, how can we be confident that ABSAP and ABAAA are not also incoherent statements?  And if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then how could we be confident that ABEAN was not similarly incoherent?  What sorts of properties can we coherently apply to “being”?
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NOTE:
We are much more familiar with describing physical objects, plants, animals, people, human activities, historical events, etc.  People don’t generally go around describing “being”.  So, the rules or logic and language concerning how to talk about “being” are unfamiliar at the very least, and are presumably unclear, at least to most of us.
However, we do sometimes talk intelligently and coherently about abstractions like “gravity” and “integers” and “science” and “logic” and “time” and “morality”,  so it is possible to make coherent statements about abstractions.  We cannot simply rule out the possibility that there are coherent and true statements that can be made about “being”.
I, for one, would be more comfortable talking about the properties of “being” if there was a collection of several statements ascribing properties to “being” where those statements have a fairly clear meaning and also were obviously true, or at least seemed to be true.  (Mr. Hinman or anyone else reading this post: Can you provide some examples of clear statements about being that are clearly true or that at least seem to be true?  I’m looking for statements about being that are less controversial than ABEAN.)
===========================
Furthermore, if ABSAP and ABAAA are incoherent statements, then it is hard to see how it would be coherent to make similar assertions about the Ground of Being, namely that the Ground of Being was strong and powerful, and that the Ground of Being was alive and aware.  But if we cannot coherently make these assertions about the Ground of Being, then how can we coherently make these assertions about God?  But surely any God who is worthy of worship must be (at the least) strong and powerful and alive and aware.  So, if we cannot coherently make these sorts of assertions about the Ground of Being, then the ABEAN argument falls apart.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say about the meaning of ABEAN, and whether his comments and attempts at clarification help to answer these questions and concerns:
=======================
BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is eternal”?
Joe:
There are only three alternatives for origin of all things given the assumption of cause and effect. They are             (1) reality began in a state of nothing and something emerged from nothing, (2) There is an Infinite Causal Regression (ICR) that just happens to always be as a brute fact. (3) Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is. for various reasons I reject 1 and 2. From the premise that something cannot come from true absolute nothing, something must be eternal and thus able to give rise to all that is not eternal. So at this point we have a distinction between the eternal which I might call “primordial being;” the first form of being, or “ground of being,”  and temporal being or “the beings.” McQuarrie makes the distinction between primordial being and the beings.
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Joe provides three alternatives and attempts to eliminate two of the alternatives.  Joe rejects the option that something came from nothing (hereafter: SFN), and he rejects the option of an infinite causal regress (ICR).  That leaves the third alternative: “Something exists eternally that gives rise to all that is.”
But “all that is” would include the “something that exists eternally”, so this option can be ruled out, since it is logically impossible for something to give rise to itself.  However, I think Joe unintentionally incorrectly stated the third option.  Here is a revised version of the third option that avoids the logical contradiction of a self-caused being:

SEE: Something exists eternally that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed.

This is more like the language of traditional arguments for God, and I have no problem with the meaning or coherence of SEE (unless Hinman understands the meaning of this sentence in an odd and idiosyncratic way that is different than it would be understood in relation to traditional arguments for the existence of God).
I take it that the initial phrase “Something exists eternally” represents the meaning of the assertion that “an aspect of being is eternal” and that the remainder of the sentence (“that gives rise to everything else that has ever existed”) represents the meaning of “an aspect of being is necessary”.
The “something” here is clearly what Hinman will at some later point argue to be identical with “God”, but then it would follow logically that “God exists”, which is a statement that Hinman wishes to avoid asserting.  Perhaps he only avoids the expression “God exists” because of a concern that this statement, while being a true statement, would tend to be misunderstood in a way that the assertion “God is real” would not tend to be misunderstood (?).  But if Hinman actually rejects the claim “God exists”, then he cannot use SEE as part of his case, because in identifying “God” with the “something” that “exists eternally”, he will logically imply that “God exists” is a true statement.
The ordinary meaning of “exists eternally” is as follows:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

There is an indication in one of Hinman’s recent comments about his ABEAN argument, that he is using the phrase “exists eternally” in this ordinary sense of those words:
My point is some thing has to be eternal, the big bang is not eternal, it has a beginning…
The Big Bang is not eternal because “it has a beginning”.  In other words, the Big Bang did NOT always exist in the past, so the Big Bang is not something that exists eternally.
If Hinman is using the phrase “exists eternally” in the ordinary sense of that phrase, then I see a serious problem with his argument in support of ABEAN.  He has left out at least two other options:

Option 4: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, then ceased to exist (at some later point in time in the past).

Option 5: Something has always existed in the past prior to the beginning of the universe, caused the universe to begin to exist, but will cease to exist either now or at some later point in time in the future.

Hinman’s argument is logically invalid, because it presents us with three alternatives, and eliminates two alternatives, leaving us with the conclusion that SEE is true, but there are more than just the three alternatives that Hinman’s argument presents, so we cannot logically conclude that the third alternative, SEE, is true.  Hinman’s argument for SEE is a false dilemma, or to be more precise, a false trilemma.
Hinman also appears to commit the same fallacy as Aquinas and Geisler in the sloppy use of the ambiguous word “something”.  SEE has at least two different meanings:

SEE1:  There is exactly one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

SEE2:  There is at least one thing that exists eternally that gave rise to everything else that has ever existed.

Only SEE1 identifies a single thing, and thus only SEE1 can be used to point to a thing that could be identified with “the Ground of Being” or with “God”.  If there were many things that existed eternally, then we could not identify “the Ground of Being” or “God” with what exists eternally (unless we want to conceive of God as a collection or set of different things, but  I don’t think Hinman’s concept of God allows for God to be a collection or set of different things).
Once again, there appear to be more alternatives than just the five alternatives that we have mentioned so far.  Each alternative that begins with the word “something” must be clarified and turned into two separate alternatives.  Thus SEE must be clarified and turned into SEE1 and SEE2,  and Option 4 and Option 5 must also be clarified and turned into Options 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B, so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
Let’s consider what Hinman has to say in an attempt to clarify what he means by saying that “an aspect of being is necessary”:
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BB:
What does it mean to say that an “aspect of being is necessary”?
Joe: 
In this case, that of ultimate origin. I see necessary more in terms of causality, whereas Necessary is usually taken to mean x is necessary iff x must exist in the same way in all possible worlds. Another way to say it, if it cannot cease or fail to exist. I think that is also true of God, God is necessary in that way. But in thinking about ultimate origins I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. Moreover, being the eternal aspect of  being God is in some sense the necessary condition upon which all contingencies depend. In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.
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Hinman says that “Another way to say it” is “if it cannot cease or fail to exist”.  This sounds like a definition:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Previously, Hinman suggested that we understand the claim “An aspect of being is eternal” as meaning that “Something exists eternally”, so it seems reasonable to follow the same pattern and to understand the claim “An aspect of being is necessary” as meaning that “Something exists necessarily”.  Presumably, “X exists necessarily” means the same as “X is necessary”, so the above definition works for either phrase.  So, we have a series of expressions that have the same meaning:

Equivalence 1: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something exists necessarily”.

Equivalence 2: “Something exists necessarily” means “Something is necessary”.

Equivalence 3: “Something is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

From these three equivalences we may validly infer a fourth equivalence:

Equivalence 4: “An aspect of being is necessary” means “Something cannot cease or fail to exist”.

Hinman states that  “I think that there is another implication that being eternal God is uncased and thus not the product of any conditions prior to himself. … In this case being necessary is an implication of being eternal.”
But I don’t see how “being eternal” has any such implication.   Given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is eternal” and given the understanding that I have outlined of what it means to say that “X is necessary”, the claim that “X is necessary” does NOT follow logically from the claim “X is eternal”.
I take it that “X is eternal” means the same thing as “X exists eternally”, and my current understanding of the meaning of “X exists eternally ” is this:

X exists eternally IF AND ONLY IF  (a) X has always existed in the past,  and (b) X exists right now, and (c) X will always continue to exist in the future.

My current understanding of the meaning of “X is necessary” is this:

X is necessary IF AND ONLY IF X cannot cease or fail to exist.

Thus, if “X exists eternally” logically implied “X is necessary”, then the following inference would be logically valid:

(7) X has always existed in the past,  and X exists right now, and X will always continue to exist in the future.

THEREFORE:

(8) X cannot cease or fail to exist.

This inference, however, is logically INVALID.  The universe could, in theory, have always existed in the past, and exist right now, and always continue to exist in the future, even though the existence of the universe was contingent on God’s will that it exist.
Aquinas pointed out long ago that an eternal universe could be eternally dependent upon God, and thus even if the universe has always existed and continued to exist forever, the universe would remain contingent upon the will of God, and thus the universe CAN cease or fail to exist, namely IF God were to decide someday that it should cease to exist.  If God never in fact chooses to make the universe cease to exist, that would only make it a fact that the universe continues to exist forever, not a necessity that that universe continues to exist forever.
So, either Hinman is WRONG about his claim that “X is eternal” logically implies “X is necessary” or else he has some OTHER MEANING in mind for these expressions than what I have been able to discern so far.
In conclusion, I think I have a fairly good understanding of claims like “Something exists necessarily” and “Something exists eternally”.  So, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is necessary” simply means “Something exists necessarily” then I have no problem with understanding the former assertion.  Similarly, if the somewhat perplexing expression “An aspect of being is eternal” simply means “Something exists eternally”, then I have no problem understanding the former assertion.  But given the apparently invalid inference that Hinman makes, I’m not sure that he would accept these as equivalences, as statements having the same meaning.
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CORRECTION (6/27/17 at 8am):
Normally, when I find a mistake in my reasoning or a questionable factual claim in a post that I have recently published (say in the past 24 hours),  I just revise the post to fix the problem, and don’t bother to point out my error.   However, this post is a part of a debate with Joe Hinman, so I feel obliged to be more circumspect about making revisions to this post; hence this “correction” notice.
Above, I make this critical comment:
…so we are now up to a total of eight alternatives ( SFN, ICR, SEE1, SEE2, Option 4A, Option 4B, Option 5A, and Option 5C).  We are way beyond a trilemma at this point.
This comment is a conclusion based on a mistake in reasoning that I made.
I stand by the point that the word “something” is ambiguous and can mean either “at least one X”  or “exactly one X”.  However,  I was mistaken in treating these as two separate and independent possibilities.   The possibility that there is “at least one X” that is eternal includes the possibility that there is “exactly one X” that is eternal.  These two statements overlap in terms of possibilities.  Therefore, although the word “something” is ambiguous, if Hinman chooses to go with the broader sense of the word, i.e. “at least one X”,  then only five of the alternatives that I mention would be required to cover all of the possibilities, or at least all of the possibilities included in my list of eight alternatives (here are the five: SFN, ICR, SEE2, 4B, and 5B).