bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 15: Three More Thomist Arguments

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CASE SO FAR
In Part 1 through Part 8, I reviewed the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God in Chapter 3 his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), and I concluded in Part 9 that they provided ZERO evidence for the existence of God:
Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.  
Starting in Part 9, I began to examine the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, which Kreeft appears to believe are among the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.
In Part 12, I concluded that Argument #1 (the Argument from Change) was another bad argument:
In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.
In Part 14, I concluded that Argument #2 (the Argument from Efficient Causality) was yet another bad argument:
Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument…and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a dubious inference that appears to be invalid, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).
I have examined twelve out of the twenty arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, and ALL twelve arguments are bad arguments and they FAIL to provide a good reason to believe that God exists.
 
EVALUATION OF THE THREE REMAINING ARGUMENTS FROM AQUINAS
Given Kreeft’s pathetic track record, it appears that he is clueless as to what sort of argument would constitute a strong and solid argument for the existence of God, so I did not expect him to do any better with the remaining three arguments that he borrows from Aquinas.
In Argument #3, the Argument from Time and Contingency, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an absolutely necessary being.”  He does also strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely necessary being is God.  (HCA, p.53)

The most important premise of the argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

A. IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for premise (A), so Argument #3 is another FAILED argument for the existence of God.
In Argument #5, the Design Argument, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an intelligent designer” of the universe.  The conclusion of Argument #5 is stated as follows:

Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.  (HCA, p.56)

Note that the word “God” doesn’t appear in this stated conclusion.  So, in order to make Argument #5 relevant to the question at issue, we have to fill in an unstated premise, and make the ultimate conclusion of this argument explicit:

6. The universe is the product of an intelligent designer.

B. IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

C. God exists.

The most important premise in Argument #5 is premise (B), but Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for the unstated premise (B).  Thus, Argument #5 is yet another FAILED argument for God.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.” Based on Kreeft’s pathetic track record, and based on the fact that he continues to repeat the same huge blunder as he did in Argument #1 and Argument #2, we can quickly toss aside Argument #3 and Argument #5.
In Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection, Kreeft argues for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”.  He does strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)

The most important premise of this argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

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

Kreeft provides very little support for premise (D), so Argument #4 could reasonably be set aside as yet one more FAILED argument for the existence of God.  However, Kreeft does briefly hint at a line of reasoning that could be used to support (D), and it seems to me that (D) is more plausible than any of the other key premises that Kreeft failed to support in the other four Thomistic arguments:

  • IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists.
  • IF there is an uncaused cause of the present existence of other beings, THEN God exists.
  • IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

The very long, very convoluted, and very implausible reasoning that Aquinas provides in support of these four key premises related to four of his Five Ways has almost no chance of being sound.   Kreeft doesn’t even make an attempt to provide a rational justification of these four key premises; thus Kreeft’s versions of these four arguments are complete and utter FAILURES.
 
THE HINT OF AN ARGUMENT FOR (D)
The most important premise in Argument #4 is a premise that is not clearly stated by Kreeft:

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

Probably because Kreeft fails to clearly and explicitly state this premise, he fails to provide an argument to show that premise (D) is true.  However, he does hint at a line of reasoning that could be used in support of (D):
In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal. (HCA, p.54-55)
This suggests a line of reasoning that could be used to argue that “an absolutely perfect being” would be an intelligent and loving being, because having such attributes makes something better than, more perfect than, something that lacks them.  This line of thought was used by Anselm to derive the Christian concept of God from the concept of a being “than which nothing greater can be conceived”, or what is called Perfect Being theology.  There is a nice brief introduction to Perfect Being theology by Thomas Morris in Chapter 2 his book Our Idea of God (hereafter: IOG).
In the end, the reasoning in Perfect Being theology might turn out to be just as convoluted and implausible as the usual Thomistic BS given in support of the four key premises of the other four Ways or proofs of the existence of God, but in my view, (D) has significantly greater initial plausibility, in comparison to the four other key premises.  So, I plan to take a closer look at Argument #4, in the next post in this series, because it appears to be the only argument among the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for God.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 14: Evaluation of Argument #2

ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #2
In Part 13, I clarified and analyzed the logical structure of the Argument from Efficient Causality, Argument #2 in Kreeft’s case for God.  Here is the clarified version of Argument #2:

1a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

2a. IF all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

THEREFORE:

3a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

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

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

I provided (C) in order to complete the logic of Kreeft’s argument.
When Aquinas presented his case for God, MOST of his arguments are in support of premise (C), or of similar premises that link the existence of some abstract metaphysical being to the existence of God, to God as conceived of in Christian theology.  About 80% of the arguments in Aquinas’s case for God are attempts to prove that an abstract metaphysical being (such as an “unmoved mover” or an “uncaused cause of the present existence of all other things”) must have various divine attributes (such as being eternal, simple, immaterial, perfect, good, intelligent, all-knowing, loving, everlasting , etc.).
Kreeft does not mention premise (C) and provides no supporting arguments for (C).   Since this is the single most important premise in Argument #2, and since it is a highly controversial premise which requires several arguments to justify it, and since Kreeft makes no effort to justify (C), Argument #2 is clearly FAILS, just like Argument #1.
The second most important premise in Argument #2 is (6a), and unlike (C), Kreeft provides an argument in support of (6a):

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

THEREFORE:

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

But this argument is INVALID, at least it is not formally valid.  It has this logical structure:

It is NOT the case that: There is no thing that has attribute A.

THEREFORE:

There is at least one thing that has attribute A, AND there is exactly one thing that has attribute B.

The only conclusion that can be inferred from (5a) is the conclusion in the first clause of (6a):  “There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.”  The second clause of (6a) does NOT follow from (5a).  One cannot infer that “there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in  order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.”   For one thing, (5a) does not imply that there is EXACTLY ONE THING, at least not in any obvious way.  One must provide some significant bit of reasoning to infer that there is EXACTLY ONE THING of a certain sort, from a claim that only asserts that there is AT LEAST ONE thing of a certain sort.  The original statement of premise (6) by Kreeft used the word “something” ambiguously in order to make the inference from (5a) to (6a) seem legitimate:
So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent. (HCA, p.51)
But clarifying the meaning of premise (6) reveals the shift in quantification and the INVALIDITY of this inference.
There are a few other problems with the inference from (5a) to (6a).  First, the fact that something HAS a cause of its present existence does NOT imply that it NEEDS a cause of its present existence, at least this is NOT a formally valid inference:

X has a Y.

THEREFORE:

X needs a Y. 

If I HAVE a solid gold statue of Donald Trump, that does not mean that I NEED a solid gold statue of Donald Trump.  If I HAVE a three-week old slice of pizza that has mold growing on it, that does not mean that I NEED that furry slice of pizza.  If I HAVE a malignant tumor in my brain, that does not mean that I NEED a malignant tumor in my brain.  At the very least, Kreeft should justify the shift from HAVING a cause of present existence to NEEDING a cause of present existence.  Premise (5a) does not mention anything about NEEDING to have a cause.  Note: this objection applies directly to premise (1a).
Second, premise (5a) only talks about whether a thing has a cause of its “present existence”, it says nothing about whether that cause must exist simultaneously with the “present existence” that it causes.  This is another shift that Kreeft fails to justify.  This is NOT a formally valid inference:

Something Y caused X to have (at time T1) attribute A.

THEREFORE:

Something Y caused (at time T1) X to have attribute A.

My father caused me to have (at this time, now) blue eyes.  But my father’s causing of my blue eyes did NOT occur now.  It occurred several months before I was born, at my conception.  So, the causing of an attribute of X can occur before that attribute is manifested, and the attribute can continue to be possessed by X, long after the cause of that attribute ceases to exist.
It seems possible, theoretically, for the cause of thing X’s existence at time T2 to be caused by something that existed earlier, at time T1, but that no longer exists at time T2.  Causes can precede effects in time, it would seem.  So, Kreeft at least needs to argue against the possibility of a cause of the present existence of X  being something that no longer exists at the moment of time in question.
A third problem with the inference from (5a) to (6a) is that having a need for a cause of existence at one time, does NOT imply having the same need at another time, at least this is not a formally valid inference:

A thing X exists at time T1, and X needs a cause of its existence at time T1.

THEREFORE:

If that thing X also exists at time T2, then X needs a cause of its existence at time T2.

If I need to fly to San Francisco today, that does not mean that I need to fly to San Francisco tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or next week.  If I need to have my wisdom teeth extracted this week and I have this extraction performed, that does not mean that I will need to have them extracted again next week, or the week after that, or next year.  People and animals and plants and things can have needs at one time that they don’t have at some other time.  So, if there is a thing that “needs a cause of its present existence” right now, that does not imply that it will need a cause of its present existence ten minutes from now, or an hour from now, or a week from now, even if it continues to exist.  What a thing needs can change over time.
There are many problems and doubts about the VALIDITY of the inference from (5a) to (6a), and thus Kreeft should have provided an extensive justification of this inference and responses to these apparent problems with this inference.  This is a dubious inference that Kreeft has FAILED to adequately justify and support, and so the second most important premise in Argument #2 is supported by what appears to be an INVALID inference.
Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument, namely premise (C), and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a a dubious inference that appears to be invalid, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).
So, I conclude that the first two arguments of Kreeft’s case for God are CRAP.  Presumably, these are arguments that Kreeft believes to be among the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.  Since the very first two arguments of the first ten arguments are both crap, and since we know that all of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case are crap, we can reasonably infer that the remaining eight arguments are probably crap too, and that Kreeft’s entire case is a SPOC (Steaming Pile of Crap).
 
THE THREE REMAINING ARGUMENTS FROM AQUINAS
I can see right now that the next three arguments in Kreeft’s case (the remaining arguments from Aquinas) are ALL going to be CRAP, because it is obvious that Kreeft is clueless about what is needed in order to make a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
Kreeft is under the delusion that the concept of an “unmoved mover” is practically the same as the concept of “God”, and that the concept of a “first uncaused cause of the existence of all other things” is practically the same as the concept of “God”.  But Aquinas had no such delusions.  And Edward Feser has no such delusions, because his summary of the Argument from Change shows that the bulk of the argument by Aquinas occurs AFTER arriving at the sub-conclusion that there is an “unchanging changer”.
Because Kreeft is clueless about what is required to provide a strong and solid argument for the existence of God, and because he has failed to recognize the single most important premise in two of Aquinas’s arguments for God, it is almost certain that he will keep making the same blunder with the remaining arguments from Aquinas.
I’m going to take a brief look at Arguments #3, #4, and #5, just to verify that Kreeft continues to make the same error.  I’m almost certain that he does.  If he does repeat this same error for those next three arguments, there is little point in looking at the details of those arguments, because failing to state and failing to support the single most important premise of an argument, means that Kreeft has clearly FAILED to provide a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
In all likelihood, I will quickly toss out Arguments #3, #4, and #5, and will then move on to examine Arguments #6 through #10.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 13: Analysis of Argument #2

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CASE SO FAR
I began this series by considering the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God in Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  Those arguments appear to be ones that Kreeft viewed as weaker than his earlier arguments.  NONE of those last ten arguments turned out to be a solid argument, and I concluded that they provide no significant reason to believe that God exists.
I have shifted to an examination of the first ten arguments, which Kreeft appears to believe are the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God.  But Argument #1 turned out to be yet another FAILED attempt to provide a solid argument for the existence of God.  The two main premises of Argument #1 are both FALSE, so that argument is UNSOUND.
It is now time to consider Argument #2, another argument that Kreeft apparently believes to be one of the best and strongest arguments for God.  Given Kreeft’s pathetic track record so far,  it is doubtful that this will turn out to be a solid argument.
 
ARGUMENT #2 IN KREEFT’S WORDS
The Argument from Effecient Causality is the second argument in Kreeft’s case.  He presents the main claims of Argument #2 in a couple of paragraphs:
Now ask yourself.  Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God.  Then nothing could exist right now.  For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.  So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing other things to be, need a cause.  They can give being only so long as they are given being.  Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.
But caused by what?  Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing.  But that is absurd: all of reality dependent–but dependent on nothing!  The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.  So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.  (HCA, p.51)
The key to understanding the logic of this passage is the following pair of sentences:
That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God.  Then nothing could exist right now. 
Taken together, these sentences express a conditional statement: 
IF there is no Uncaused Being, THEN nothing could exist right now.
This key claim is what I label as premise (3) below.
Now I’m going to organize the main claims from the two paragraphs quoted above (plus two other claims from the paragraph immediately after those two) into a basic logical structure:

1. …on the no-God hypothesis [i.e. the hypothesis that there is no Uncaused Being], all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

2. Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  …Then nothing could exist right now.

THEREFORE:

3. …suppose there is no Uncaused Being… . Then nothing could exist right now.

4. …we exist. [from the paragraph following the above two quoted paragraphs]

THEREFORE:

5. The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.

THEREFORE: 

6. …there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

THEREFORE:

7.  …there must exist a God…

 
FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF ARGUMENT #2
The first premise needs clarification:

1. …on the no-God hypothesis [i.e. the hypothesis that there is no Uncaused Being], all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

Kreeft deceptively, or sloppily and misleadingly, conjoins the word “God” with the phrase “Uncaused Being”, thus falsely implying that there is little or no difference between these two concepts.  But there is a HUGE difference between them, so I am going to revise his wording so that the initial premises are focused, as they ought to be, on the concept of an “Uncaused Being”.  The use of capitalization here is also somewhat misleading, because it appears to be the NAME of a SINGLE being, which begs an important question or two:

1a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

Note that I add a lower-case letter after the number, to indicate that I have modified or revised the wording of the premise.
Now let’s look at the second premise of Argument #2:

2. Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  …Then nothing could exist right now.

The phrase “nothing could exist right now” is ambiguous between “it is possible that nothing exists right now” and “it is impossible that something exists right now”.  It is the latter meaning that was intended by Kreeft.  Also, this second premise should be rephrased and put into the form of a conditional statement that lines up logically with premise (1a):

2a. IF all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

Here is Kreeft’s wording of premise (3):

3. …suppose there is no Uncaused Being… . Then nothing could exist right now.

This is an inference from the conditional statements in premises (1a) and (2a), so this also should be rephrased as a conditional statement, using the wording from (1a) and (2a), so that it is clear that (3a) follows logically from them:

3a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

This shows that the logic of the first three premises is a deductively VALID conditional syllogism:

IF X, THEN Y.

IF Y, THEN Z.

THEREFORE:

IF X, THEN Z.

 
Premise (3a) is the key to this argument.  It suggests that the core of the reasoning is a decuctively VALID modus tollens inference:

IF X, THEN Z.

NOT Z.

THEREFORE:

NOT X.

So, one expects Kreeft to assert the negation of the consequent of premise (3a):

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

Kreeft does not assert (A) explicitly, but in the paragraph following the two above quoted paragraphs, Kreeft does assert a closely related claim:

4. …we exist.

The point of (4) is to show the following to be the case:

B. Something exists right now.

And (B) obviously implies (A), the negation of the consequent of (3a).  So, although Kreeft does not explicitly assert (A), it does appear that he implied (A) by asserting (4).  Premise (4) implies (B) and (B) implies (A).
Premise (5) is stated this way by Kreeft:

5. The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.

This is just a long-winded way of denying the claim that “there is no Uncaused Being”, so let’s use the clarified wording for this hypthothesis (as in the antecedent of premise (3a) ), and assert it’s denial or negation:

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

Premise (5a) is given to support premise (6):

6. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

The word “something” is notoriously ambiguous, and, of course, Kreeft stumbles over this ambiguity, like just about every Thomist has for the past seven centuries (since Aquinas). [IMHO no Thomist should be allowed to ever use the word “something” in a philosophical argument, at least not for the next seven centuries.] The word “something” can mean either “at least one thing” (like it does in the initial phrase “there must be something uncaused”, or it can mean “exactly one thing” (like it does in the next phrase “something on which all things…are dependent.”).

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

Finally,  Kreeft draws his ultimate conclusion:

7.  …there must exist a God…

We can simplify this conclusion a little bit:

7a.  God exists.

Kreeft has once again, as with Argument #1, left the single most important premise in Argument #2 unstated, namely the premise that links the sub-conclusion (6a) to the ultimate conclusion (7a):

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

 
ARGUMENT DIAGRAM AND ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #2
The following argument diagram shows my analysis of the logical structure of Argument #2 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Argument #2 – Clarified Version:

1a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

2a. IF all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

THEREFORE:

3a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

 
Sub-Argument for (A):

4. We exist.

THEREFORE:

B. Something exists right now.

THEREFORE:

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 12: The Argument for (3a)

THE EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #1 SO FAR
In Part 11 we saw that Argument #1 is UNSOUND, because it is based on the premise (F), and because Kreeft provides no support for (F), and because we have good reason to believe (F) to be FALSE.
In this current post, I will examine the core argument in support of premise (8a), the other main premise of Argument #1.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT SUPPORTING (8a)
Here is premise (8a):

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

Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

In Part 11 I argued that this core argument is logically INVALID, and thus that this core argument is UNSOUND.
So at this point, the single most important premise of Argument #1, premise (F), is FALSE, and the next most important premise of Argument #1, premise (8a), is supported by an UNSOUND core argument, leaving us without any good reason to believe (8a) to be true.
Another question about this core argument, is whether the premises are true or false.  Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premise (D) and premise (3a).   I’m not going to examine the argument supporting (D), because I interpret (D) as a conceptual claim, as a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Furthermore,  I’m willing to accept (D) as an implication of a stipulated definition.  In Part 11, I presented what I take to be the intended meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Based on that definition,  (D) would be an analytic truth, because (D) expresses logical implications of that definition.  Thus, there is no need to examine the argument for (D).  I accept (D) as a true analytic claim.
However, the other premise of the core argument in support of (6a) and (8a), namely premise (3a), is controversial and questionable.  So, if Kreeft fails to provide a solid argument that shows (3a) to be true, then premise (3a) remains questionable at best, and we would have another reason to reject this core argument.  So, we need to examine Kreeft’s sub-argument for (3a).
 
THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (3a)

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

The logic of this sub-argument for (3a) is VALID, so the evaluation of this argument depends on the evaluation of these two key premises: (B) and (2).  I take it that premise (2) is TRUE, given that any change to a human person or plant or animal or to a physical object constitutes a “change to the material universe” (that is how Kreeft appears to be using that phrase).   So, the evaluation of this argument for (3a) depends on the evaluation of premise (B).  Since the evaluation of premise (B) depends largely on our evaluation of  premises (1) and (A), which are given in support of (B), our evaluation of the argument for (3a) depends largely on what we think about premise (1) and premise (A).
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1)
Here is premise (1) of Argument #1:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

What does the phrase “cause the universe to change” mean?  Kreeft doesn’t explain or clarify the meaning of this key phrase.  However, the evidence that he gives to show that the universe does in fact change shows that he includes ordinary changes to people and objects on this planet:
The material world we know is a world of change.  This young woman came to be 5’2″ tall, but she was not always that height.  The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. (HCA, p.50)
Since the evidence supporting the claim that the “material world we know is a world of change” is that ordinary changes to people and things inside the material world occur, the phrase “the material universe changed” MUST include circumstances where some person or thing inside the material universe changes.  In other words, whenever some person or thing inside the material universe changes, Kreeft would infer from this fact that “the material universe has changed”.  But in that case, premise (1) is FALSE, because ordinary changes to individual people and objects inside the material universe can obviously be caused by other individual people or objects that exist inside the material universe.
For example, if my hand hits a glass of milk, and the glass is knocked over,  and the milk spills, there is no need to posit the existence of something “outside the material universe” as the cause of that spilled milk.  The milk spilled as a result of my hand knocking the glass over.  My arm and my hand are things that are inside the material universe, and the motion of my arm and hand caused the glass to move and the milk to spill.  This spilling of the milk is, based on how Kreeft uses the phrase, an example of a “change to the material universe”, but it is a change that was caused by physical things and events that are inside the material universe.  Therefore, even if there were nothing outside the material universe, this particular change to the material universe (i.e. the spilling of milk) could still occur, because it could be caused by some physical event or object that is inside the material universe (i.e. my hand knocking a glass full of milk).  Thus, premise (1) is FALSE.  Since premise (1) is FALSE, this argument in support of (3a) is UNSOUND, and (3a) remains unsupported and dubious.
But what about the need for a “first cause”? Something must have caused my hand to move so that it hit the glass of milk.  And whatever caused my hand to move must have also had a cause, and so on.  This tracing of causes cannot go on for infinity (some would say), so there must be a first cause that started this chain of events and changes.  But Aquinas does NOT deny the possibility that the universe is eternal, that the universe (and changes in the universe) has always existed (and have always occurred).
Aquinas does believe that the universe had a beginning and is of finite age, but he believed this on the basis of divine revelation, not on the basis of philosophical reasoning.  He admitted that as far as reason and philosophy are concerned, it is possible that the universe has always existed.  But if the universe has always existed, then there could indeed be infinite chains of cause and effect, one physical event causing another physical event, causing another, and so on, without any “first event” at the beginning of a chain of events, because some chains of events may be infinite and have no beginning.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (A)
Here is premise (A) from Argument #1:

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

Premise (A) seems plausible initially.  However, it is based on a very general metaphysical principle:

MP1. Every change to the material universe must be caused to occur by some existing thing. 

One might reasonably doubt this very general principle.  For example, radioactive decay appears to be random.  There is apparently no prior physical event that triggers the radioactive decay event.  So there does not seem to be “a thing” that causes the decay to occur at the specific time that it occurs.  It appears to be the case that while most ordinary changes are caused or triggered by some existing thing (i.e. by a change to some existing thing), there are also some changes that don’t follow this pattern, and that occur apart from being caused by some other existing thing.
Because the plausibility of (A) depends on (MP1), and because (MP1) appears to be FALSE, premise (A) becomes implausible.  The falsehood of (MP1) does not prove that (A) is false, but it does cast serious doubt on premise (A).
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PREMISE (3a)
The argument for (3a) is logically VALID, and premise (2) seems clearly to be TRUE, so how we evaluate this argument depends on our evaluation of premise (1) and premise (A).  I have argued above that premise (1) is FALSE, and that premise (A) is dubious, so we have good reason to reject the argument for (3a) as UNSOUND.
I am tempted to say that (3a) remains dubious, because Kreeft has not provided any good reason to believe that (3a) is TRUE.  However, (3a) might well be true, despite the failure of Kreeft’s argument for (3a).
Numbers appear to be “outside the material universe”.  The number five is NOT made of matter or energy.  The number five does NOT have any spatial characteristics (no size, no shape, no position in space).  The number five does not have any temporal characteristics (it has no beginning, no end, no duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).  The number five thus appears to be something that is outside matter, and outside space, and outside time; therefore, the number five is “outside the material universe”.  Thus, (3a) appears to be TRUE, even though Kreeft’s argument for (3a) FAILS.
One important point to note about this concession that (3a) appears to be TRUE:  if my reasoning is correct, then the same reasoning can be used to PROVE that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.   There are, afterall, many numbers, not just one number.  Thus, there are MANY things that are “outside the material universe”, such as the number one, the number two, the number three, etc.  Therefore, premise (8a) is not just dubious, it is (according to this reasoning) FALSE, and we can PROVE it to be false.
If my reasoning about numbers is correct, then we can PROVE (6a) and (8a) to be FALSE.  If my reasoning about numbers is incorrect, then (3a) remains dubious and so does (8a),  since Kreeft has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe (3a) to be true.  So, (8a) is either false or it is at least dubious.
 
PROBLEMS WITH ARGUMENT #1

  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.
  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), appears to be FALSE.
  • The second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), is supported by an INVALID core argument.
  • Although both premises of the core argument supporting the second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), appear to be TRUE, the very reason why one of those premises, namely (3a), appears to be TRUE shows that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.

In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 11: Evaluation of Argument #1

THE CONTEXT
Peter Kreeft and his co-author Ronald Tacelli open their Handbook of Christian Apologetics  (hereafter: HCA) with these words about their “reasons for writing this book”:

  1. We are certain that the Christian faith is true.
  2. We are only a little less certain that the very best thing we can possibly do for others is to persuade them of this truth, in which there is joy and peace and love incomparable in this world, and infinite and incomprehensible in the next. … (HCA, p.7)

Kreeft and Tacelli believe that heaven and hell are in the balance for every human being, when it comes to acceptance or rejection of “the Christian faith”.  So, it is very important that they try “to persuade” other people to accept the Christian faith in order for those people to gain a better life now, and a wonderful eternal life in heaven after death, and to avoid a life of eternal misery in hell.
Belief in the existence of God is one of the most basic beliefs in the Christian faith.  If God does NOT exist, then the Christian faith is just a fantasy.  Most of Christian theology rests upon the belief that God exists.  So, if Kreeft is to be successful in persuading others to accept the Christian faith, job number one is to provide good and solid arguments for the existence of God.  So, it is no surprise that after two introductory chapters (one on the idea of “apologetics” and another on the idea of “faith”) the very first Christian belief that Kreeft attempts to prove or show to be true is the belief that God exists.
As I have argued in previous posts, it appears that Kreeft has put his best foot forward by placing his best and strongest arguments for God up front in his case.  So, the first five arguments in Kreeft’s chapter containing twenty arguments for God, are presumably arguments that Kreeft takes to be the strongest and best arguments in his case for God.  If the first five arguments ALL FAIL, then we have good reason to suspect that his entire case will fail as well.
I have previously shown that the last ten arguments in his case all FAIL, so we have reason to suspect that his first five arguments will also fail.  But since these are arguments that he takes to be the best and strongest, we need to carefully examine and evaluate these first five arguments, in case one or more of them is in fact a good and solid argument for God.
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #1
Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:
8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.
One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!
In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.
We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:
(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 
But this additional premise is highly questionable and, as is seen in Edward Feser’s version of the Argument from Change (in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God), a fairly long and complex argument needs to be presented in order to support this questionable premise.
In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, MOST of that argument (over 70% of it) is given in support of this one premise (or one very similar to it).  Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change is a fairly accurate representation of the reasoning of Aquinas; it is also the case that MOST of Aquinas’s case for God is focused on establishing this premise (or one very similar to it).
So, Kreeft left out what appears to be the single most important premise in the Argument from Change.  Kreeft is attempting to save us from an eternity of misery in hell and he is presenting what he thinks is one of his very best and strongest arguments for the most basic belief of the Christian faith, and yet somehow he cannot manage to clearly state the conclusion that “God exists” nor does he manage to explicitly state or provide support for what appears to be the single most important premise of this argument.
Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that (F) is FALSE.   God is a person, if God exists.  But a person cannot be an “unchanging” being, so the existence of an “unchanging” being does NOT imply the existence of God.  In fact, if the phrase “the unchanging Source of change” is supposed to be a reference to the CREATOR of the universe, then the antecedent of (F), i.e. “there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change”,  implies that the CREATOR of the universe is unchanging and thus not a person.  But if the CREATOR is not a person, then it follows that God does not exist.  So, to assert that “there is exactly ONE being that is the unchanging Source of change” appears to imply that God does not exist.
I realize that many theologians and philosophers of religion would argue either that (a) God is not a person, or that (b) it is possible for a person to be an unchanging being.  However, both of these positions seem very implausible, so I have serious doubts about premise (F).  In order to adequately argue for (F), one must not only provide strong arguments to support (F), but one must also explain either how God can be a non-person, or else explain how an unchanging being can be a person.
If I die and appear before God and am asked why I rejected Christianity,  I’m going to point to Chapter 3 of HCA, and say:
You sent this incompetent philosopher to persuade me that the Christian faith is true,  so what did you expect me to do?  Blindly accept arguments that are complete crap? Arguments that don’t even state the conclusion on the main question at issue?  Arguments that fail to state the single most important premise of the argument, and that fail to provide support for the single most important premise of the argument?  Screw that!  I’m not going to pretend to be a freaking IDIOT just so that you will let me into heaven.  No thank you.  
An argument that does not end with the conclusion that “God exists” and that never even mentions God does NOT constitute a strong argument for God, especially when such an argument fails to state or defend the single most important premise in that argument, namely a premise that links the explicitly stated conclusion (8a) to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists”.
Without any further analysis or critique, I can see that the Argument from Change, as presented by Kreeft is CRAP, because the success of the argument depends heavily on the DUBIOUS unstated premise (F), which in order for it to be rationally supported would require many further sub-arguments (at least a half-dozen further sub-arguments), and Kreeft has made no attempt to provide any of these additional sub-arguments to support premise (F).  Given that Kreeft makes no attempt to defend the dubious claim made by premise (F), and given that (F) is the most important, the most crucial, premise in the Argument from Change, this argument FAILS to provide any significant reason to believe that God exists.
These are just a couple of several problems with Argument #1, as we shall see.
Another serious problem with this argument is that (8a) is very unclear, even after my efforts to improve the clarity of this premise.  This premise contains at least two unclear phrases:  “outside the material universe” and “the…Source of change”.  The phrase “the…Source of change” pops up out of nowhere; this phrase does not occur anywhere else in the argument, and Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of what this phrase means.  The phrase “outside the material universe” arises from earlier premises, so I will deal with the unclarity of that phrase when I evaluate previous premises that also make use of that phrase.
Given the serious problems of unclarity with premise (8a) and given the absence of argumentation in support of the dubious unstated premise (F), we already have good reason to view Argument #1 as a complete failure.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT
Although premise (F) is the most important premise in the whole argument in relation to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”, there is another very important part of the argument in relation to the explicitly stated conclusion (8a).  In viewing the argument diagram, which displays the reasoning supporting (8a), it is clear that the heart or core of that support is the two-premise argument supporting premise (6a).   The logical structure of the reasoning supporting (8a) is shown in this argument diagram (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Diagram Argument 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

This appears to be the core argument in support of (8a) because both premises of this argument are supported by arguments, and because (6a) is a key premise in the argument supporting (7a) and (8a).  So, this argument is firmly planted in the middle of the flow of logic moving from the initial premises to the stated conclusion (8a).
This core argument is clearly defective, because it is logically INVALID.  Premise (6a) does not follow from (D) and (3a).  We cannot infer that there is “exactly one” being outside the material universe from (D) and (3a).  At best, we can only infer that “at least one” such being exists, leaving open the possibility that hundreds or millions or trillions of such beings exist.
Both premises of this core argument are questionable, but Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premises, so we need to consider those sub-arguments before passing judgment on these two premises.  However, both (D) and (3a) make use of the phrase “outside the material universe” and the meaning of this phrase is UNCLEAR. Furthermore, Kreeft does not provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of this phrase, making it difficult to evaluate the truth of these premises.
The logic of Kreeft’s argument suggests that he is assuming (D) as a premise, in order to infer (6a) from (3a).  Premise (D) appears to be a conceptual claim, a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.
Since (D) implies that being “outside the material universe” is a sufficient condition for being “outside matter, space and time”,  this means that being “outside matter” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe” and that being “outside space” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”, and that being “outside time” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”.
Although Kreeft does not say so explicitly, this also suggests that these three necessary conditions are jointly sufficient.  In other words, if something meets all three of these necessary conditions, then it must be “outside the material universe”.
Based on this plausible interpretation, we can infer a definition of the key phrase in the core argument:
Something X is outside the material universe IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is outside matter,
AND
(b) X is outside space,
AND
(c) X is outside time.

Presumably by “outside matter” Kreeft means:  is not made of matter or energy.  Presumably by “outside space” Kreeft means:  does not have any spatial characteristics (does not have a size, a shape, or a location in space). Presumably by “outside time” Kreeft means:  does not have any temporal characteristics (does not have a beginning, an end, or a duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).
Notice that, in theory, there are eight different combinations of these three conditions, and thus eight different types of beings (click on image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Eight Types of Beings
 
 
 
Ordinary things, such as people, animals, plants, and physical objects, are Type 1 beings.  God, on Kreeft’s view, is a Type 8 being.  But there are potentially six other types of beings besides Type 1 and Type 8 beings.  On Swinburne’s view of God, God is a Type 7 being, because although God is not made of matter or energy, and God does not have any spatial characteristics, God does exist inside time; God is affected by the passing of time, and some of God’s thoughts and actions occur prior in time to other of God’s thoughts and actions.
Another interesting case to consider is that of angels.  Angels appear to be outside matter (i.e. they are not made of matter or energy), but inside time, and perhaps inside space as well.  Angels began to exist at some point in time, according to Christian theology, and although many angels (perhaps all) will continue to exist forever, it is possible for God to annihilate  an angel, so it is possible for an angel to come to an end at a specific point in time; an angel can, at least in theory, have both a beginning at one point in time, and and end at a later point in time.  Angels also appear to have spatial locations.  They appear to particular people at particular times and particular places.  So, although angels are “outside matter”, they appear to be “inside time” and “inside space”; angels appear to be Type 2 beings.
Based on the definition of the phrase “outside the material universe”, it appears that angels are NOT “outside the material universe” because they are inside time, and inside space.  But angels are not made of matter or energy, so one might have been tempted to conclude that angels are “outside the material universe”.  It is odd and very surprising that something as supernatural as an angel would count as something that is inside the material universe.
Furthermore, if Swinburne is right that God is a Type 7 being, a being that exists inside time, then God too would be inside the material universe NOT “outside the material universe”.  Since I agree with Swinburne that God is a Type 7 being, I also reject the view that God is “outside the material universe”, given the definition of this phrase that Kreeft appears to be assuming.  In that case, proving the existence of a being that is “outside the material universe” would be irrelevant to showing that God exists, and thus (3a) and (6a) would be irrelevant to showing that God exists.
In any case, the core argument is INVALID, so it is an UNSOUND argument.
In the next post or two I will consider the sub-arguments that Kreeft gives to support the two premises of this core argument: (3a) and (D).  This will help to determine whether either or both or neither of these premises are true.  If one or both of these premises are false or dubious, that will provide another reason for rejecting the core argument supporting premise (8a).

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 10: Analysis of Argument #1

ANALYSIS OF PHASE 1

In Part 9, I began to analyze and clarify the logic of Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) in Peter Kreeft’s case for God from Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  My analysis focused on the first phase of the argument. Here is my understanding of the logical structure of the first phase of Argument #1:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

 
INITIAL ANALYSIS OF PHASE 2
Now it is time to focus on the second phase of the argument.  Here is my initial analysis of the structure of the second phase of Argument #1:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

4.  But the material universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.

5.  Matter, space and time depend on each other.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8. This being outside the material universe is the unchanging Source of change.

 
THE FIRST INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
Premise (6) does not follow from premises (3a), (4), and (5).  However, premise (4) appears to imply a claim that is relevant to (6):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

This unstated premise appears to be working with premise (3a) to support premise (6):

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

I’m not sure of the role of premise (5).  Perhaps it works with premise (4) to support or imply (D).  In any case, it is the unstated premise (D) that is being used along with (3a) to support (6).
 
THE SECOND INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
The next inference is not logically valid; at least it is not clearly and obviously a valid deductive inference:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

The expression “this being outside the universe” assumes or implies that there is just ONE such being, so this assumption should be made more clearly and explicitly.  In order to make the inference from (6) to (7) clearly and obviously valid, we need to add a missing premise to the inference:

6a. There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

E. Anything that is outside of time is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

7a.  There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is not a changing thing.

 
THE THIRD INFERENCE OF PHASE 2
The final inference in Argument #1 is clearly INVALID:

7a.  There is exactly one being outside the material universe and that being is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

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

The most obvious and immediate problem is that the phrase “Source of change” appears nowhere previously in the argument, and it is unclear what this phrase means.  It might mean “the immediate cause of every change that occurs in the material universe” or it might mean “the ultimate cause of every change that occurs in the material universe” or it might mean “an ultimate cause of some change(s) in the material universe”  or it might mean “the immediate cause of every change TO the material universe” or it might mean “the ultimate cause of every change TO the material universe” or…
Because this phrase appears nowhere previously in the argument, the argument is clearly deductively invalid as it stands.  Further premises and/or inferences need to be added in order to turn this into a valid deductive argument.  I don’t see any easy way to fix this last inference.  I suspect that there is a significant gap of logic that needs filling here, but Kreeft has not left much in the way of clues to figure out what that logic would be.
I guess that since ANY change that occurs “inside” the material universe allegedly points to the existence of “something” that is “outside” the material universe, if there was just ONE being that was “outside” of the universe, then any and every change would ultimately trace back to that ONE being.  So, there is some sort of generalization or iteration of reasoning going on behind the scenes here, I suspect.    Given that ANY one single change “inside” the universe points (allegedly) to exactly ONE being “outside” the universe that is the ultimate cause of that change, it would follow that ALL changes could be traced back to that ONE being.
So, if all of the previous inferences were valid in Argument #1, then I suppose that one could validly infer (8a) as well, although NOT simply and directly from premise (7a).  The required reasoning would be more complicated than that.
 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #1
Here is an argument diagram showing the logical structure of Argument #1 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Diagram Argument 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
OK.  I have clarified and cleaned up the logical messiness of the first argument of Peter Kreeft’s case for God.  In the next post I will evaluate this argument.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 9: The Argument from Change

MY EVALUATION OF THE SECOND HALF OF KREEFT’S CASE
In Part 1 and Part 2 I argued that eight out of ten (80%) of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments (from Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Chapter 3; hereafter: HCA) are AWFUL arguments that are not worthy of serious consideration, that we should thus toss them aside, and ignore those eight arguments.
In Part 3 I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #12 (The Argument from the Origin of the Idea of God), and in Part 4 I evaluated Argument #12 as being a BAD argument that provides ZERO support for the claim that God exists.
In Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8, I analyzed and evaluated Argument #19 (The Argument from Common Consent), the only remaining argument of the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s collection of twenty arguments.  Here is the conclusion I reached about Argument #19:
…the Argument from Common Consent is based on a FALSE premise, premise (1), and it is also based on a dubious premise,  premise (3), for which Kreeft has offered two VERY BAD arguments.  The Argument from Common Consent is a FAILURE because it rests on a premise that is clearly FALSE and on a dubious premise that Kreeft has failed to give us any good reason to believe.
Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.
 
STARTING WITH HIS BEST AND STRONGEST ARGUMENTS
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.  If that impression is correct, then there is a significant chance that some of the earliest arguments in his case are strong and solid arguments.
Kreeft is a Thomist, so given my assumption that he is presenting what he takes to be the best and strongest arguments at the beginning of his case, it is no surprise that the first five arguments in his case are arguments based on Kreeft’s understanding of the “Five Ways” of Thomas Aquinas.  This provides some confirmation of my view that Kreeft has placed what he believes to be his best and strongest arguments up front in his case, and put his worst and weakest arguments in the second half of his case.
So,  I am going to reverse my strategy now, and I will begin analysis and evaluation of the very first arguments that Kreeft presents, on the assumption that those are the ones he considers to be the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.  If the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL, just like all of the last ten arguments did, then that will be a strong indication that Kreeft’s entire case is a SPOC (Steaming Pile of Crap) that FAILS to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.
If I find that his first five arguments all FAIL, I will, nevertheless, go on to analyze and evaluate the remaining five arguments in the first half of Kreeft’s case, but at that point there will be very little hope of me finding a real gem among all the manure that Kreeft has shoveled out in Chapter 3 of HCA.
In my analysis and evaluation of the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case, I don’t care whether he has correctly interpreted Aquinas.  My only concern is whether the arguments that Kreeft presents are good and solid arguments.   I believe that Kreeft has grossly misunderstood the reasoning of Aquinas about the existence of God, but that is of no importance here.  The only thing that matters, for the purposes of this series of posts, is whether the arguments presented by Kreeft are good arguments or bad ones.  They can be good and solid arguments for God even if Kreeft has totally distorted the reasoning of Aquinas, and they can be bad and weak arguments even if Kreeft’s understanding of Aquinas is flawless.  What I care about is the quality of Kreeft’s arguments for God, not the quality of his interpretation of Aquinas.
 
ANALYSIS OF THE ARGUMENT FROM CHANGE
Kreeft presents Argument #1 (The Argument from Change) twice.  The second presentation appears to be a summary.  It is a bit shorter than the first statement of the argument, and he begins the first sentence of this second presentation with the word “Briefly…”.  In any case, the second statement of the argument seems more clear and straightforward to me, so I will focus on the second statement of Argument #1, and draw upon the first statement only as necessary to clarify or evaluate the argument presented in his second statement of the argument.
Here is Kreeft’s second statement of Argument #1:
Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.  But it does change.  Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.  But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.  These three things depend on each other.  Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time.  It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.  (HCA, p. 50-51)
We need to take a closer look at this reasoning, in order to specify the actual logic of Argument #1. 
Let’s start with the first three sentences:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE: 

3. There must be something in addition to the material universe.

This inference is INVALID.  Premise (3) does not follow from (1) and (2).  There are some unstated assumptions and inferences operative here, which need to be made explicit to make this reasoning logically VALID:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

 
Let’s continue to examine the rest of the argument:

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

4.  But the material universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time.

5.  Matter, space and time depend on each other.

THEREFORE:

6.  This being outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

THEREFORE:

7.  This being outside the material universe is not a changing thing.

THEREFORE:

8. This being outside the material universe is the unchanging Source of change.

There are three inferences in this part of Argument #1, and NONE of these three inferences is logically valid!  That is, none of them is a formally valid deductive inference.
One could argue that premise (6) entails premise (7), but that alleged entailment is not self-evident, so some reasoning or argumentation is required to SHOW that (6) actually does entail (7).  The two other inferences are just flat out wrong.  Some additional assumptions and inferences might repair this bit of reasoning, but it is a logical MESS in this current state.
You would think that in presenting his strongest and best arguments, Kreeft could at least make an effort to present arguments that had logically VALID inferences.  A professional philosopher presenting the most important arguments for the most basic belief in his philosophical point of view ought to know a little bit of deductive logic and be capable of presenting such arguments so that they conform to the simple and basic rules of deductive logic, but I guess this is just too much to ask of Christian apologists, like Peter Kreeft.
I’m beginning to get the feeling that Kreeft’s strongest and best arguments for God will turn out to be pathetic failures, just like the last ten arguments in his case.   Argument #1 is looking pretty sad at this point.  In the next post of this series, I will attempt to clean up this sloppy, pathetic mess of an argument a little bit more, and then I will evaluate it.

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 8: Actualization of a Potential

FESER’S ANALYSIS OF CHANGE
A key idea in Chunk #1 of Feser’s Aristotelian argument is his analysis or understanding of change:

A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.

There are three phrases that constitute the key components of Feser’s analysis of change:

the actualization of…
…a potential of…
…some thing or substance

To understand Feser’s analysis of change, we need to understand the meaning of each of these key phrases.
 
“SOME THING OR SUBSTANCE”
In Part 7 of this series I pointed out that there are at least four different possible meanings of “substance”.  It is unclear whether the word “thing” represents an additional category (that includes non-substances) or is simply a clarification of the word “substance”.
In the ordinary use of the word  “substance” , this word means a KIND of stuff (like water, gold, salt, alcohol, glass, wood, plastic, etc.), as in the phrase “substance abuse”.  But in philosophy, the word “substance” means, roughly, a particular entity or object.  The word “thing” thus might well be a hint pointing to the philosophical use of the word “substance”, as opposed to the ordinary use of the word “substance”.  In that case, “thing” would NOT refer to something in addition to “substance”, but would simply be a rough synonym of “substance” that is an attempt to disambiguate that term and that points towards the philosophical use of the term. The philosophical use of the term “substance”, however, is itself ambiguous between various different concepts, as I pointed out in Part 7.
 
“A POTENTIAL OF”
A hot cup of coffee has the potential to become a cold cup of coffee;  it does not have the potential to become chicken soup or gasoline.  An acorn has the potential to become an oak tree; it does not have the potential to become a pine tree or a tomato plant.   A green banana has the potential to become a yellow banana; it does not have the potential to become a peach.
Having a potential is NOT, in general, a sufficient condition for the realization of that potential.  One can have the potential to become a famous movie star and yet fail to realize this potential.  A green banana could ripen and become a yellow banana, but it could also be incinerated before becoming ripe and thus fail to become a yellow banana.
It also seems that “having the potential to become X” is NOT a necessary condition of becoming X.
One might not “have the potential to become a famous movie star” and yet, by a matter of sheer luck and coincidence, become a movie star.  When we say that someone “has the potential to become a famous movie star” we mean that they have natural talent and natural good looks that would help them to be a very good and very appealing actor.  But sometimes people who are lacking in natural talent and natural good looks still manage to become very good and very appealing actors.  And sometimes people who are NOT very good and NOT very appealing actors still manage to become movie stars.  If I am correct on these points, then someone who does NOT “have the potential to become a famous movie star” might nevertheless become a famous movie star.
Having the potential to become X, thus seems to mean having some sort of natural tendency towards becoming X.  Having a natural tendency to become X is NOT, however, a necessary condition for becoming X.  Something that lacks a natural tendency towards becoming X might, nevertheless, become X.  A boy does not have a natural tendency to become a woman; however, that is not a necessary condition for becoming a woman.  A boy can undergo sex change procedures and over time become a woman.  Such a boy did NOT have “the potential to become a woman”, and yet he actually did become a woman, by means of surgery, hormone therapy, and psychological counseling.
In many cases, the properties of a thing are the result of a combination of its natural tendencies and particular circumstances.   A hot cup of coffee has the potential to become cold, but only if the air or environment near the coffee becomes cold.  Similarly, a cold cup of coffee has the potential to become hot, but only if the air or environment near the coffee becomes hot.  The coffee has the potential to become boiling hot, or freezing cold, or various temperatures between those two extremes, but which of these potential temperatures is realized depends on the temperature of the air or environment near the coffee.
The potential of the coffee to become cold could be stated in terms of the natural tendency of the coffee to become cold in circumstances where the surrounding air or environment was cold.  It would be unnatural for a hot cup of coffee to remain hot if it was left outside on a cold winter’s day.  It would be natural for a hot cup of coffee that was left outside on a cold winter’s day to become a cold cup of coffee after being outside in the cold for half an hour or so.  It would be unnatural for an acorn to develop into a pine tree, or for a green banana to develop into a peach, and it would be natural for an acorn to develop into an oak tree, and for a green banana to ripen and become a yellow banana.
Here is an attempt to capture this understanding of the phrase “a potential of”:

It is a potential of X to become Y

IF AND ONLY IF

(a) X has a natural tendency to become Y under circumstances C 

AND 

(b) circumstances C are ordinary or common circumstances.

A boy has a natural tendency to become a woman, but only under very specific circumstances that are not ordinary or common.  To make this happen there must be deliberate human intervention:  sex change surgery,  hormone therapy, and psychological counseling.  Under ordinary or common circumstances a boy has a natural tendency to develop into a man, into an adult male.
Natural tendencies are typically associated with KINDS of things, as opposed to particular individual objects or entities.  Acorns, coffee, and boys are KINDS of things, and these KINDS of things have natural tendencies.  A particular acorn, cup of coffee, or boy may also have natural tendencies, but these tendencies are usually derived from (are inferred from) the KIND of thing(s) that the particular entity is/are, from the categories to which that object or entity belong.
The phrase “become Y” is intentionally ambiguous.  This phrase can be used of either a change in an accidental attribute or of a change in an essential attribute, i.e. a change from one thing into a different kind of thing.  A cup of coffee can change from being hot to being cold; it can “become cold”.  Alternatively, a cup of coffee can be changed into a cup of water by separating the water in the coffee from the liquids and particles that turned it into coffee; a cup of coffee can “become a cup of water” under the right circumstances.
 
“THE ACTUALIZATION OF”
The phrase “the actualization of…” must be understood in relation to the phrase “…a potential of”.  The basic idea is that of truth or reality.  Some possibility is described, and then we can talk about “the actualization of…” that possibility, meaning that the described possibility is true or real.  We can describe the possibility of a cup of coffee being cold: “This cup of coffee is cold”.  This description could be FALSE; it could be a possibility that is not yet true or real.   If a cup of coffee is hot, then this possibility is not (at that time) true or real.  If the hot coffee cools down and becomes cold, then the possibility “This cup of coffee is cold” becomes true or real.
But in Feser’s analysis of change, we are NOT dealing with all logical possibilities concerning X; rather, we are focused only on “a potential of X to become Y”.  Since “a potential of X” is something narrower and more specific than all of the logical possibilities concerning X, Feser’s analysis of change limits the scope of events to those in which there is some NATURAL TENDENCY for “X to become Y”.  Only in such cases can there be a change, according to Feser.
 
OBJECTION TO FESER’S ANALYSIS OF CHANGE
Having clarified the meaning of Feser’s analysis of “change”, it seems to me that my original objection to Feser’s analysis of change holds true.   There are changes that are NOT based in a “a potential of X to become Y”.
If a boy becomes a woman, then that is a change, but it is NOT a change based on a potential of that boy to become a woman.  If an ugly and untalented actor becomes a famous movie star, that is a change, but it is NOT a change based on a potential of that actor to become a famous movie star.  Not every change happens in accordance with “a potential for X to become Y”, so Feser’s analysis of change is wrong.
Feser’s analysis of change illogically excludes some logically possible changes by limiting the scope of this concept to events which are based on the realization of a NATURAL TENDENCY in the context of some ORDINARY or COMMON CIRCUMSTANCES.  But some logically possible events and some logically possible changes occur outside of this boundary.
Because Feser’s analysis of change is wrong, a basic premise of Chunk #1 is FALSE:
A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.
Thus Feser’s first argument for the existence of God is UNSOUND.
Feser could reply to this objection by rejecting my clarification of his analysis of “change”, but to do so with any degree of credibility, he would have to offer an alternative way of understanding his analysis of “change”, and given that he makes no real effort to clarify this fundamental aspect of his thinking in his presentation of his Aristotelian argument for God, I doubt that he is up to this task.  If Feser was clear in his own mind about this basic concept in his argument, then he would have already provided adequate clarification in presenting this first argument of his case for God.

bookmark_border2017 in the Rearview Mirror

I had hoped to answer the question “Does God exist?” in 2017, at least to my own satisfaction.  No such luck.  That was a bit too aggressive of a goal.   However, I did make some good progress.  I learned that Norman Geisler’s case for God (in When Skeptics Ask) is a steaming pile of dog crap, and I learned that at least half of Peter Kreeft’s case for God (in Handbook of Christian Apologetics) is of a similar quality.
I also began to examine a third case for God by a third Thomist philosopher of religion:  Edward Feser (in Five Proofs of the Existence of God).  Feser’s case is much more extensive than either Geisler’s case or Kreeft’s case.  However, much of Feser’s case depends on the success of the first of his five arguments for God, and I am learning that Feser’s first argument suffers from serious problems of unclarity,  which was my main objection to every one of Geisler’s arguments and to most of the arguments of Kreeft (in the half of his case I have evaluated).  You would think that after more than seven centuries of intellectual effort somebody would be able to state a Thomistic argument for the existence of God with significant clarity and force, but Feser appears to have failed at this task, just as Geisler and Kreeft failed, even though Feser makes a much better effort at this than they have.
In 2017, my project of analyzing and evaluating Swinburne’s case for God has also moved forward significantly.  I am about 2/3 of the way through a revision of my initial draft article about Swinburne’s case for God.  Currently,  I’m revising a section on his Teleological Argument from Spacial Order (TASO), which is Swinburne’s modern inductive version of the classical argument from design.  The dozen pages or so that I have written on this particular argument are some of the best stuff I’ve ever written on the question of the existence of God (although I am mostly presenting Swinburne’s views and only add a couple of critical points of my own).
I plan to continue to work on analysis and evaluation of Kreeft’s case for God this year, and on analysis and evaluation of Feser’s case for God, and I hope to finally complete my article on Swinburne’s case for God, and submit it for publication.   Ideally, I will also find time for analysis and evaluation of William Craig’s case for God, and one or two other cases for God.  If so, then there is a good chance that in December of this year,  I will be in a good position to answer the question “Does God exist?”

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 7: Feser’s Concept of Change

FOCUS ON CHUNK #1
We are examining the first few premises of Edward Feser’s lengthy (i.e. containing fifty statements) Aristotelian argument for the existence of God, in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG).  What I call Chunk #1 of this argument consists of the following premises and inferences:

  1. Change is a real feature of the world.
  2. But change is the actualization of a potential.
  3. So, the actualization of potential is a real feature of the world.
  4. No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
  5. So, any change is caused by something already actual.
  6. The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
  7. The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S’s potential for existence.
  8. So, any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its existence.
  9. A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual.
  10. If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
  11. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute a hierarchical causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
  12. So, either A itself is a purely actual actualizer or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress that begins with the actualization of A.
  13. So, the occurrence of C and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.
  14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer. 

(FPEG, Location 477-493, p.35-36)
Let’s focus on premises (1) through (8) for now.   Premises (3), (5), and (8) begin with the word “So”, indicating that these are inferences based on previous premises.  The inferences appear, at least initially, to be logically valid inferences, so the primary question, concerning this first half of Chunk #1 is whether the previous premises are true or false.
Premise (1) is the basic factual claim upon which the argument rests.  This claim seems clearly to be true.  No problem here that I can see.
Premise (2) is vague and unclear, as I have indicated in recent posts (see Part 6Part 5, and Part 3).  This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to rationally evaluate whether (2) is true.
Premises (4) and (7) assert general metaphysical principles.  These premises need to be carefully examined and evaluated.  These are likely points where the argument may be weak or fail.
 
FESER’S ANALYSIS OF CHANGE
Premise (6) is interesting because it provides further explication of Feser’s concept of change.  Premise (6), it seems to me, provides clarification of premise (2).  I think that it makes more sense to move premise (6) to an earlier position in the above line of reasoning, and to combine premises (2) and (6) like this:

2. But change is the actualization of a potential.

6. The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.

THEREFORE:

A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.

This is NOT a formally valid deductive inference. The problem is that (2) is too vague and unclear as it stands.  However, (6) provides some clarification of (2), and (A) can be understood as a clarification of the meaning of (2), the clarification being provided by (6).
It is difficult, if not impossible, to rationally evaluate (2) because it is vague and unclear. However, if we use (6) as the basis for clarifying the meaning of (2), resulting in a clarified re-statement of (2) as (A), then there may be some hope of rationally evaluating (2), by evaluating the truth or falsehood of (A).
There are three phrases that constitute the key components of Feser’s analysis of change:

the actualization of…
…a potential of…
…some thing or substance

None of these three phrases is an ordinary expression.  The word “substance”, for example, is a philosophical term:
Many of the concepts analysed by philosophers have their origin in ordinary—or at least extra-philosophical— language. Perception, knowledge, causation, and mind would be examples of this. But the concept of substance is essentially a philosophical term of art.   (Substance, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
All three phrases use technical philosophical terms.  But Feser does not define ANY of the technical philosophical terms that appear in his analysis of change.  Although the examples Feser gives are helpful, they are not adequate to provide enough clarification of these technical terms to allow an intelligent non-philosopher to rationally evaluate whether (A) is true or false.
The first half of Chunk #1 thus consists of Feser’s analysis of change, premise (A), PLUS two general metaphysical principles, stated in premises (4) and (7).  If any one of these three claims is false, or is too unclear to evaluate, then Chunk #1 fails, as does Feser’s Aristotelian argument for God.  If all three of these claims are true, then the first half of Chunk #1 might well be sound.
In order to rationally evaluate Feser’s Aristotelian argument for God, one must first rationally evaluate Feser’s analysis of change:

A. The occurrence of any change C presupposes the actualization of a potential of some thing or substance S which changes.

Is (A) true or false?  In order to rationally evaluate (A), one must have a clear understanding of the meaning of each of the three key phrases in that premise:

the actualization of…
…a potential of…
…some thing or substance

Currently, I do not have a clear understanding of the meaning of ANY of these three key phrases, so I cannot rationally evaluate (A) at this time.  But these are concepts that originate with Aristotle, and that were used by (and perhaps tweaked by) Aquinas.  So, expositions of Aristotle’s use of these concepts, and of the use of these concepts by Aquinas might help to clarify the meaning of these three phrases.  Since this argument for God is based on Aristotle’s reasoning, I’m going to focus on Aristotle’s use of the concepts, to see if that provides enough clarification to make it possible to rationally evaluate premise (A).
 
THE AMBIGUITY OF “SOME”
In order to rationally evaluate Feser’s analysis of change, we need to have a clear understanding of what the phrase “…some thing or substance” means.  The word “some” is problematic, especially in arguments for God; it is often ambiguous between two meanings:

exactly one

at least one

Given that some changes involve changes in many things (e.g. the water in a pot becoming hot involves many water molecules increasing their movements), it appears that defining change in terms of “exactly one thing or substance” might exclude some actual changes which involve many things.  So, I think it is reasonable to interpret the phrase “…some thing or substance” as meaning:
at least one thing or substance
But what is a “thing or substance”?  Is a cloud a “thing or substance”?  Is a person a “thing or substance”? Is love a “thing or substance”?  Is  coffee a “thing or substance”?  Is the number three a “thing or substance”?  Is World War II a “thing or substance”?  Is the color red a “thing or substance”?  Is the pain I feel in my right foot a “thing or substance”?  Is gravity a “thing or substance”?  Is an idea a “thing or substance”?  Is a mind a “thing or substance”?  Is an angel a “thing or substance”?  Is time a “thing or substance”?  Is God a “thing or substance”?  Is space a “thing or substance”?
If we cannot answer these and other similar questions, then we don’t yet have a clear understanding of what the words “thing or substance” mean.
 
THE AMBIGUITY OF “SUBSTANCE”
First of all, there is a high-level ambiguity between two basic senses of the word “substance”:
… According to the generic sense, therefore, the substances in a given philosophical system are those things which, according to that system, are the foundational or fundamental entities of reality. Thus, for an atomist, atoms are the substances, for they are the basic things from which everything is constructed. In David Hume’s system, impressions and ideas are the substances, for the same reason. In a slightly different way, Forms are Plato’s substances, for everything derives its existence from Forms. In this sense of ‘substance’ any realist philosophical system acknowledges the existence of substances. …
The second use of the concept is more specific. According to this, substances are a particular kind of basic entity, and some philosophical theories acknowledge them and others do not. On this use, Hume’s impressions and ideas are not substances, even though they are the building blocks of— what constitutes ‘being’ for—his world. According to this usage, it is a live issue whether the fundamental entities are substances or something else, such as events, or properties located at space-times. This conception of substance derives from the intuitive notion of individual thing or object, which contrast mainly with properties and events. The issue is how we are to understand the notion of an object, and whether, in the light of the correct understanding, it remains a basic notion, or one that must be characterized in more fundamental terms. Whether, for example, an object can be thought of as nothing more than a bundle of properties, or a series of events. 
(“Substance”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, from the opening paragraphs of the article, emphasis added).
The word “substance” can refer either to a fundamental constituent of reality, or it can refer to any individual thing or object.  A key philosophical issue connects these two different senses of “substance”:

Are individual things or objects the fundamental constituents of reality, or are individual things and objects phenomena that derive from some more basic aspect of reality (like properties or events)?

Different philosophers have had different understandings of the meaning of the word “substance”.  Locke understood the “substance” of something to be whatever remained when you removed all of the properties from that particular thing.  Descartes thought that the “substance” of something was whatever it is that underlies the properties or accidents of that something.  Kant understood a “substance” to be the aspect of something that stays the same when something undergoes a change.  (See entries on “Substance” in A Dictionary of Philosophy by A.R. Lacey, and A Dictionary of Philosophy by Antony Flew).
Since we are concerned with the meaning of the word “substance” in an Aristotelian argument for God, we can ignore the use and understanding of the word “substance” by Locke, Descartes, and Kant, and focus in on how Aristotle used and understood this word.  But this doesn’t clarify things much, because Aristotle used the word “substance” with a variety of different meanings.
In fact, the different uses of the word “substance” by Lock, Descartes, and Kant can be traced back to Aristotle’s different uses of this word.  Here are three different senses of “substance” in Aristotle, as described by Antony Flew:

Sense 1: S is a substance if S is a subject of predicates, but cannot be predicated in turn of any other subject.

Sense 2: … a substance may be said to be that which has an independent existence.

Sense 3: … a substance is regarded as something which remains the same through change.

Flew mentions a fourth sense of “substance” , but he does not explicitly ascribe it to Aristotle:

Sense 4:  … some philosophers view the substance of a thing as what it really is, as opposed to the way in which it appears.

Lacey, however, indicates that Sense 4 represents one of Aristotle’s main uses of the word “substance”:
Aristotle seems to use ‘substance’ in two main senses… . …in the second sense, it is the FORM or essence which makes a substance in the first sense the thing it is.  Socrates is what he is because the flesh of which he is made has taken on the form of a man and not, say, that of horse.  (“Substance”, A Dictionary of Philosophy)
Lacey also mentions a meaning of the word “substance” that Aristotle discusses and criticizes:

Sense 5:  …what remains when one removes the form or properties of something. 

This is the sense of “substance” that was taken up by John Locke.  According to Lacey,  Aristotle dismissed this idea of “substance”, so it seems unlikely that Aristotle would have used “substance” in Sense 5 in an argument for the existence of God.  But that still leaves us with at least four different possible interpretations of “substance”.