bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 6: Ambiguity and Unclarity

LACK OF SPECIFICATION IN PREMISE (2)
The more I examine Chunk #1 of Feser’s Aristotelian argument for God, in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG), the more ambiguous and unclear this part of the argument seems to be.
The problems begin with premise (2):

2. But change is the actualization of a potential.   (FPEG, Location 477 )

I initially interpreted premise (2) as asserting this more specific universal generalization:

2a.  ALL LOGICALLY POSSIBLE changes are instances of the actualization of a potential ATTRIBUTE of a SUBSTANCE.

One commenter who has closely followed this series of posts, and who appears to be familiar with Feser’s case for God, objects that Feser does not intend to discuss ALL LOGICALLY POSSIBLE changes here, and, in any case, that Feser’s argument works just fine if we reduce the scope of changes under consideration to something like ALL PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE changes, or ALL NATURAL CHANGES.  One might also reasonably consider reducing the quantifier from ALL to SOME (i.e. AT LEAST ONE).
So (2a), unlike (2), specifies a quantifier: “ALL”, and (2a), unlike (2), specifies the scope of changes under discussion: “LOGICALLY POSSIBLE”, and (2a), unlike (2), specifies the type of thing that can be potential:  an “ATTRIBUTE”, and (2a), unlike (2) specifies the type of thing that can have a potential: a “SUBSTANCE”.
While I don’t claim that (2a) is the correct or best interpretation of (2), it seems to me that (2a) is much more clear, and much less ambiguous than premise (2).  In fact, it seems to me that (2) is so unclear and so ambiguous that it is not possible to rationally evaluate whether premise (2) is TRUE or FALSE, but I am much more optimistic about rational evaluation of (2a).
 
DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS OF (2) HAVE DIFFERENT IMPACTS
Furthermore, in terms of evaluating Chunk #1 of Feser’s Aristotelian argument,  it makes a significant difference what we decide the intended quantifier is, and what we decide the intended scope of changes under discussion is, and what type of thing (or types of things) can be a potential, and what type of thing (or types of things) can have a potential.
Let’s consider some different possible interpretations of premise (2) and note how the different clarifications of this premise impact the soundness or validity or cogency of the first inference in Chunk #1.
 
ORIGINAL WORDING:

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.  (FPEG, Location 477 )

VERSION I:

1a. At least one logically possible change has actually occurred.

2a. All logically possible changes that actually occur are instances of the actualization of a potential.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one instance of the actualization of a potential has actually occurred.

This version appears to be logically VALID.  However, premise (2a) makes a very strong claim, and I have serious doubts about the truth of (2a), so this version might well be UNSOUND.  Furthermore, (2a) does not appear to be a reasonable interpretation of Feser, given other things that Feser has to say about the actualization of a potential.
VERSION II:

1a. At least one logically possible change has actually occurred.

2b. At least one logically possible change would be an instance of the actualization of a potential (if such a change were to actually occur).

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one instance of the actualization of a potential has actually occurred.

This version is clearly INVALID.  It has the same invalid logical form as this argument:

Some People are Tall people.

Some People are Short people.

THEREFORE:

Some Short people are Tall people.

VERSION III:

1a. At least one logically possible change has actually occurred.

2c. At least one logically possible change that has actually occurred is an instance of the actualization of a potential.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one instance of the actualization of a potential has actually occurred.

Although this argument is logically VALID,  (2c) logically implies (3a) all by itself, because (2c) assumes or presupposes the truth of (1a), it is not a cogent argument.   Because (2c) implies (3a) all by itself, this appears to be a QUESTION BEGGING argument.  If one doubts (3a), then one will also doubt (2c), so it is inappropriate to use (2c) as the basis for establishing the truth of (3a).
VERSION IV:

1a. At least one logically possible change has actually occurred.

2d. All actual changes are instances of the actualization of a potential.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one instance of the actualization of a potential has actually occurred.

Although this version is not formally valid, it does appear to be deductively valid, because (1a) implies that there has been at least one actual change, and in combination with (2d) that logically implies (3a).   However, (2d) is presumably known either by means of inductive reasoning from experienced examples of actual changes (and is thus an empirical generalization), or by means of analysis of concepts to confirm that (2d) as an analytic truth.
In order to know (2d) by induction from examples, we must first determine that at least one actual change was an instance of the actualization of a potential, but then that would require knowing (3a) to be true, so if (2d) is known by means of induction from experienced examples, then we must FIRST determine whether (3a) is true, in order to establish that (2d) is true, but then we would be reasoning in a circle to infer (3a) from (2d).
On the other hand, if we know (2d) on the basis of the analysis of concepts, independent from experience, then we cannot eliminate any logically possible changes from the scope of the phrase “actual changes”.  So, in order to determine that (2d) is an analytic truth, we need to first determine whether ALL LOGICALLY POSSIBLE CHANGES that actually occur must be instances of the actualization of a potential.  But that brings us back to VERSION I of the argument, and to the problem that (2a) is a very strong claim that appears to be highly dubious.
VERSION V:

1b. At least one physically possible change has actually occurred.

2e. All physically possible changes that actually occur are instances of the actualization of a potential.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one instance of the actualization of a potential has actually occurred.

Again, we either know (2e) to be an empirical truth on the basis of induction from experience, or we know it to be an analytic truth on the basis of conceptual analysis.  In order to know (2e) to be true on the basis of induction from experience, we would need to first determine that one example of an actual change was an instance of the actualization of a potential, but that means that we would have to determine whether (3a) was true as an initial step towards evaluation of the truth of (2e).  So, if we turn around and later use (2e) as support for (3a), we would be reasoning in a circle.
Could we determine (2e) to be true by means of a conceptual analysis of this claim in order to show it to be an analytic truth?  Perhaps, we could.  Perhaps the concept of a “physically possible change” is best understood and best explained by reference to the idea that things have natural tendencies to change in specific ways in specific circumstances, and that the concepts of “potential” and “actualized” play key roles in such an analysis of the concept of a “physically possible change”.
Unfortunately,  I don’t think that Version V is what Feser had in mind in Chunk #1 of his Aristotelian argument.  In any case, Feser does not argue for a logical or conceptual tie between “physically possible changes” and “the actualization of a potential”, so although I think that Version V is more interesting than the other versions previously mentioned, I don’t think it reflects Feser’s thinking.
 
CLOSING REMARKS
There is a great deal of ambiguity and unclarity in premise (2) of Feser’s Aristotelian argument, which makes it difficult, if not impossible to rationally evaluate that premise.  Part of the unclarity results from a lack of specificity concerning the SCOPE of changes under discussion, and the QUANTIFICATION of claims about changes.  Different interpretations/versions of the initial inference of Chunk #1 of Feser’s Aristotelian argument show that there are different problems with the argument depending on which version/interpretation one adopts.
Furthermore, I have not said much about the problem of unclarity in relation to the type of thing(s) that could BE a potential, and the type of thing(s) that could HAVE a potential.  It makes a difference whether we are talking about potential attributes or potential substances or potential events or potential processes or ALL of these different sorts of potentials, or some combination of these different types of potentials.  It also makes a difference whether we are talking about substances having potentials or events having potentials or other types of things having potentials, or some combination of these different types of things having potentials. None of this is clearly specified by Feser.
Finally, Feser does not, at least not in Chapter 1, define what the phrase “a potential” means, nor does he define the phrase “actualizing a potential”, nor does he define the terms “substance” or “attribute”, which seem to be used or implied in his discussion of examples of the actualization of a potential.
At this point, I don’t see a way to rationally evaluate premise (2).  It stands in need of further specification and clarification.  I will probably move on to examine the rest of Chunk #1, leaving premise (2) as a claim that I cannot, at this point, evaluate as either true or false.  Perhaps, seeing what use Feser makes of premise (2) will help to clarify the meaning of this premise, and make it possible to rationally evaluate it later.

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 5: Potential Attributes vs. Contingent Attributes

POTENTIAL ATTRIBUTES VS. CONTINGENT ATTRIBUTES
I think (i.e. strongly suspect) it is important to understand the relationship between Edward Feser’s concept of the potential attributes of X and logical possibility.  Feser does not provide clarification on this point, at least not in Chapter 1 of his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG), where he introduces and makes use of the concept of the potential attributes of X.  So, I think it is worthwhile to try to figure this out for ourselves.
In particular, I think it is important to understand the relationship between Feser’s concept of  the potential attributes of X and the somewhat similar concept of the logically contingent attributes of X.  So, I’m going to make an effort to develop a clearer understanding of this subject.
 
DEFINITIONS CONCERNING LOGICAL POSSIBILITY
Logically Contingent Attribute:

An attribute A is a logically contingent attribute of X

IF AND ONLY IF

A is a logically possible attribute of X and A is NOT a logically necessary attribute of X.

Logically Possible Attribute:

An attribute A is a logically possible attribute of X

IF AND ONLY IF 

the statement that “X has attribute A” is a logically possible statement.

Logically Necessary Attribute:

An attribute A is a logically necessary attribute of X

IF AND ONLY IF 

the statement that “X has attribute A” is a logically necessary statement.

 
EXAMPLES OF TYPES OF ATTRIBUTES

  • Being married is NOT a logically possible attribute of a bachelor.
  • Being four sided is NOT a logically possible attribute of a triangle.
  • Being six feet tall is a logically possible attribute of a bachelor.
  • Having a right angle is a logically possible attribute of a triangle.
  • Being six feet tall is NOT a logically necessary attribute of a bachelor.
  • Having a right angle is NOT a logically necessary attribute of a triangle.
  • Being unmarried is a logically necessary attribute of a bachelor.
  • Being three sided is a logically necessary attribute of a triangle.
  • Being six feet tall is a logically contingent attribute of a bachelor (because this attribute is both logically possible and NOT logically necessary for a bachelor).
  • Having a right angle is a logically contingent attribute of a triangle (because this attribute is both logically possible and NOT logically necessary for a triangle).

 
EXCLUSION OF LOGICALLY NECESSARY ATTRIBUTES
I have defined the concept of a logically contingent attribute so that this EXCLUDES logically necessary attributes, because we are concerned with analysis of the concept of CHANGE, and there is an important feature of logically necessary attributes that relates to CHANGE.
It is important to note that a person who is a bachelor can, of course, become a married person.  But when he does so, he instantaneously and necessarily ceases to be a bachelor.  All bachelors are necessarily unmarried, but it is fairly easy for a bachelor to get married, and thus to cease being a bachelor.  What is ruled out here is the possibility of someone becoming a married person while remaining a bachelor.
A triangle cannot BECOME a three-sided plane figure, because the attribute of having three sides is a logically necessary attribute of a triangle.  We can take a square object (having four sides), remove one side of it, and connect the remaining sides to form a triangle (having just three sides).  So, the number of sides that an object or figure has can be CHANGED, but because triangles necessarily have three sides,  it is NOT logically possible for a triangle to change from having four sides to having three sides, because the initial four-sided object could not have been a triangle.  Nor can a figure change from having three sides to having four sides, and remain a triangle through that process.
 
TWO GENERAL CASES
There are TWO GENERAL CASES concerning the relationship between the referents of the phrases “the potential attributes of X” and “the logically contingent attributes of X”:
I.  The phrase “the potential attributes of X” refers to the same set of attributes as the phrase “the logically contingent attributes of X” (for any X, where X specifies a particular being or a category of beings).

OR

II. It is NOT the case that the phrase “the potential attributes of X” refers to the same set of attributes as the phrase “the logically contingent attributes of X” (for any X, where X specifies a particular being or a category of beings).
The “OR” here is EXCLUSIVE.  If CASE I holds, then CASE II does not hold.  If CASE II holds, then CASE I does not hold.
 
THINKING ABOUT CASE I
Let’s think about CASE I for minute.  If the phrase “the potential attributes of X” refers to the same set of attributes as the phrase “the logically contingent attributes of X”, then I don’t think I have any objection to Feser’s characterization of CHANGE in terms of a potential attribute of something becoming an actual attribute of that thing.
This characterization would, however, be trivial, obvious, and uninformative, because it just means that a CHANGE must start with a logically possible state of affairs and end up with a different logically possible state of affairs.  It is obvious and self-evident and trivial that a CHANGE cannot begin from a logically IMPOSSIBLE state of affairs, and it is obvious and trivial that a CHANGE cannot end up with a logically IMPOSSIBLE state of affairs.  But Feser seems to think that there is some significant, non-obvious, non-trivial truth in his characterization of the nature of CHANGE, so it seems to me that CASE I does not fit with Feser’s understanding of his characterization of CHANGE.
Furthermore,  when Feser asserts that hot coffee can CHANGE to cold coffee on the grounds that coldness is a potential attribute of coffee, he seems to be saying something MORE than just that it is logically possible for coffee to have the attribute of being cold.  He seems to be implying that there is something in the nature of coffee that makes it the sort of thing that can be cold.  This is more like the concept of physical possibility than the concept of logical possibility.
It is physically possible for coffee to be cold, and this physical possibility is more than mere logical possibility.  It is not physically possible for a man to walk on water, but it is logically possible for a man to walk on water.  Thus, the claim that it is physically possible to for X to do Y asserts MORE than the claim that it is logically possible for X to do Y.  Similarly, it seems that when Feser claims that “A is a potential attribute of X”  (e.g. “Coldness is a potential attribute of coffee”), he is asserting something MORE than just that the statement “A has attribute X”  (e.g. “This coffee is cold”) is a logically possible statement.
Therefore,  it seems to me that CASE I FAILS to provide an accurate characterization of the relationship between Feser’s concept of a potential attribute, and the concept of a logically contingent attribute.
 
ANALYSIS OF CASE II SCENARIOS
CASE II is a bit more complicated, because it encompasses three different scenarios, each of which needs to be considered and evaluated:
IIA.  At least one potential attribute of X is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X (AND it is NOT the case that at least one logically contingent attribute of X is NOT a potential attribute of X).

OR

IIB. At least one logically contingent attribute of X is NOT a potential attribute of X (AND it is NOT the case that at least one potential attribute of X is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X).

OR

IIIC. At least one potential attribute of X is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X, AND at least one logically contingent attribute of X is NOT a potential attribute of X.
The “OR” here is EXCLUSIVE.  If  Case IIA holds, then Case IIB and Case IIC do not.  If Case IIB holds, then Case IIA and Case IIC do not.  If Case IIC holds, then Case IIA and Case IIB do not.
 
CASE IIA
IIA.  At least one potential attribute of X is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X (AND it is NOT the case that at least one logically contingent attribute of X is NOT a potential attribute of X).
If there is a potential attribute of X that is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X, then either there is a potential attribute of X that is such that X cannot possibly have that attribute, or there is a potential attribute of X that is a logically necessary attribute of X.  Let’s consider the first alternative:
There is a potential attribute of X that is such that it is NOT logically possible for X to have that attribute.
This makes no sense in relation to the concept of a CHANGE.  For example, it is not logically possible for a triangle to have four sides.  To say that “having four sides” is a potential attribute of a triangle would be very misleading, to say the least.  Furthermore, since it is logically impossible for a triangle to have four sides, it is logically impossible for a triangle to ACTUALLY become four sided.  This is a “potential” that there is no possibility of ever being actualized.  It makes no sense to talk about CHANGE in terms of a “potential” that it is logically impossible to realize.
Let’s consider the second alternative:
There is a potential attribute of X that is a logically necessary attribute of X.
This also makes no sense in relation to the concept of a CHANGE.  For example, having three sides is a logically necessary attribute of a triangle, so a all triangles must always have three sides.  This means that it can never be the case that a triangle BECOMES three-sided.  In order to BECOME three-sided, something must start out not being three-sided.  So, it would be very misleading to say that having three sides is a “potential” attribute of a triangle, at the very least.  Furthermore, since all triangles must always have three sides, it is not logically possible for a triangle to BECOME three-sided, so it is not logically possible for the attribute of having three sides to be actualized for a triangle.  Any existing triangle will already have three sides.
CASE IIA FAILS to provide us with a concept of a “potential attribute of X” that can be used to reasonably analyze the concept of CHANGE as the actualization of a potential attribute.
 
CASE IIB
IIB. At least one logically contingent attribute of X is NOT a potential attribute of X (AND it is NOT the case that at least one potential attribute of X is NOT a logically contingent attribute of X).
In this case, there is a logical possibility that X lacks an attribute at one point in time and has that attribute at a later point in time, but this would be considered to be a case in which there was no CHANGE to X, because the attribute in question was not a “potential attribute” of X.
If X lacks an attribute at one point in time and has that attribute at a later point in time, then X has CHANGED.  It makes no difference whether obtaining that attribute was natural, or normal, or in keeping with the nature of X.  Even if that attribute is unnatural, or unusual, or abnormal for X, if X goes from lacking that attribute to having that attribute, then X has CHANGED.
This is similar to the distinction between logical possibility and physical possibility, and to the claim that the concept of CHANGE is restricted to physically possible events.  It is physically impossible to swim across the Atlantic ocean in one minute, but logically possible to do so.  If someone were to swim across the Atlantic ocean in one minute, then the location of that person has CHANGED, whether or not this event was physically possible.  The concept of CHANGE is NOT constrained by the limits of physical possibility; it is only constrained by the limits of logical possibility.  Similarly, the concept of CHANGE is NOT constrained by the limits of “potential attributes of X” if this is something narrower than the constraint of logical possibility (or “logically contingent attributes of X”).
CASE IIB FAILS to provide us with a concept of a “potential attribute of X” that can be used to reasonably analyze the concept of CHANGE as the actualization of a potential attribute.
 
CASE IIC
This third case has the problems of both CASE IIA and of CASE IIB.
CASE IIC FAILS to provide us with a concept of a “potential attribute of X” that can be used to reasonably analyze the concept of CHANGE as the actualization of a potential attribute.
 
CONCLUSION
The assumption that the phrase “the potential attributes of X” has the same referents as the phrase “the logically contingent attributes of X” makes Feser’s theory of CHANGE obvious and trivial, and it  FAILS to accurately interpret what Feser means by “potential attributes”.  So, CASE I  FAILS as an interpretation of a key concept in Feser’s metaphysical theory of CHANGE.
However, CASE II scenarios ALL FAIL to provide a concept of “the potential attributes of X” that can be used to reasonably analyze the concept of CHANGE.
Therefore, either Feser’s theory of CHANGE is obvious and trivial, or the key concept of “the potential attributes of X” makes it so that Feser FAILS to provide a reasonable analysis of the concept of CHANGE as the actualization of a potential attribute.

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 4: Coffee with Parmenides

THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (3)
In his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG), Edward Feser presents an Aristotelian argument for God in Chapter 1.  In Part 2 of this series I divided that argument into seven chunks.  Chunk #1 consists of premises (1) through (14).  The first sub-argument in Chunk #1 goes like this:

  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.

I am very skeptical and suspicious about premise (2), because acceptance of this premise seems to involve acceptance of a dubious metaphysical theory, or a significant portion of a dubious metaphysical theory.
In Part 3 of this series, I objected that (2) seems to be false, because the following alternative to (2) seems to be true:

2aBut change is when a logically possible state of affairs that was not an actual state of affairs becomes an actual state of affairs.

If there are (or could be) changes that are logically possible but that are physically impossible or beyond the natural “potential” of a thing, then (2a) would be TRUE, and (2) would be FALSE.  Premise (2) implies that there is no such thing as a change which is logically possible but that is beyond the natural “potential” of the thing that undergoes the change.  This would either mean that miracles cannot happen, or that miracles do not constitute changes.
COFFEE WITH PARMENIDES
Premise (2) imports an Aristotelian metaphysical theory (a theory about the nature of changes) into the argument.  One motivation for adopting this theory is that it provides, according to Feser, a powerful reply to Parmenides’ argument against the possibility of change.
Here is how Feser describes an argument by Parmenides:
Consider once again your coffee, which starts out hot and after sitting on the desk for a while grows cold.  You might say that the coldness of the coffee, which does not exist while the coffee is hot, comes into existence .  But now we have a problem, says Parmenides.  For if the coldness of the coffee was initially nonexistent, then at that point it was nothing;  and when it later comes into existence, it is then something.  But something can’t come from nothing.  So, the coldness of the coffee cannot come into existence, and thus, the coffee cannot grow cold.  Something similar could be said for any purported case of change–all of them would have to involve something coming from nothing, which is impossible.  Hence, concludes Parmenides, change cannot ever really occur.  (FPEG, Location 167)
Feser believes that Aristotle’s metaphysical theory about the nature of change provides a powerful reply to Parmenides:
There is another problem with Parmenides’ argument.  As the later Greek philosopher Aristotle pointed out, it is a mistake to think that change would have to involve something coming from nothing.  Go back to the coffee.  It is true that while the coffee is hot, the coldness is not actually present.  Still, it is there potentially in a way other qualities are not.  The coffee does not, after all, have the potential to fuel a gasoline engine, or to turn itself into chicken soup, or for that matter to morph into a live chicken and begin squawking.  But it does have the potential to grow cold, and it has various other potentials too… . That it has the potential to become cold while lacking certain other potentials shows that the coldness is not exactly nothing, even if it is not yet actual either.  (FPEG, Location 175)
But we do NOT need Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change to have a powerful reply to Parmenides argument (as represented by Feser above).  All we need is a little bit of common sense.  Let’s have coffee with Parmenides and see if we can straighten him out.
BRADLEY:  Care for some coffee?
PARMENIDES:  Sure,  here is my coffee mug.
BRADLEY:  I see that your mug is empty.  I am now going to pour some hot coffee from this pitcher into your mug.
PARMENIDES:  Thank you.  I’m a bit hung over from the party last night, so coffee will help me to think more clearly about metaphysics and the nature of reality.
BRADLEY:  OK.  Great.   Your mug is now full of hot coffee.  That is clearly a CHANGE.  Your mug was empty just a few seconds ago, and now it is full of hot coffee!
PARMENIDES:  Hold on!  The mug is now full of coffee.  According to you it was empty only seconds ago.  That means that the fullness of the mug came into existence.  But then the fullness of the mug was initially non-existent, and at that point the fullness was NOTHING, and then when the fullness came into existence, it was SOMETHING.   But something can’t come from nothing.  So, the fullness of the mug cannot come into existence, and thus, the mug cannot become full.  It must either have always been full, or else it must always remain empty.
BRADLEY:  I don’t agree.  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your basic assumption is correct and that is is impossible for something to come from nothing.  Your mug being full does involve something; it involves there being something in the mug, namely coffee.  That coffee is something, and based on your assumption, that coffee could NOT come from nothing.  However, the coffee did NOT come from nothing, it came from a pitcher that was full of coffee.  The coffee already existed, it just was in a different location.  When I poured the coffee into your mug, some coffee was transferred from the pitcher to the mug.  Therefore, your mug is full because it has coffee in it, and that coffee came from the pitcher; the coffee did NOT come from nothing.
PARMENIDES:  Perhaps you have a point.  Let me take a sip or two of this coffee and think on this for a while.  Hmmm.  This coffee is a little bitter.
BRADLEY:  Here, let me put some sugar in your coffee.
[BRADLEY takes a spoonful of sugar from a sugar bowl, puts the sugar into Parmenides’ coffee, and stirs the coffee for a few seconds.]
PARMENIDES:  Thank you.  The coffee is tastes much better now.
BRADLEY:  Right.  Just a few seconds ago your coffee had no sweetness, and now it has a bit of sweetness to it.  That is a CHANGE.  Your coffee has become slightly sweet.
PARMENIDES:  Not so fast!   The coffee is now sweet.  According to you it was NOT sweet only seconds ago.  That means that the sweetness of the coffee came into existence.  But then the sweetness of the coffee was initially non-existent, and at that point the sweetness was NOTHING, and then when the sweetness (allegedly) came into existence, it was SOMETHING.   But something can’t come from nothing.  So, the sweetness of the coffee cannot come into existence, and thus, the coffee cannot become sweet.  It must either have always been sweet, or else it must always remain without sweetness.
BRADLEY:  Once again, I disagree with your analysis.  Your coffee being sweet does involve something; it involves there being something in the coffee, namely sugar.  That sugar is something, and based on your assumption (that something cannot come from nothing), that sugar could NOT come from nothing.  However, the sugar did NOT come from nothing, it came from a sugar bowl that was full of sugar.  The sugar already existed, it just was in a different location.  When I put a spoonful of the sugar into your coffee, some sugar was transferred from the sugar bowl to the coffee in your mug.  Therefore, your coffee is sweet because it has sugar in it, and that sugar came from the sugar bowl; the sugar (and the sweetness) in your coffee did NOT come from nothing.
Note that BRADLEY’s replies to PARMENIDES did not require an appeal to Aristotle’s metaphysical theory of change, the replies only required an appeal to a bit of common sense.   The coffee in PARMENIDES’ mug did not come from nothing, it came from the pitcher of coffee.  The sugar in PARMENIDES’ coffee did not come from nothing, it came from the sugar bowl.
Duh.
 
 
 

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 3: Actualization of Potential

FESER TAKES OWNERSHIP OF THE FIVE ARGUMENTS
In Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG), Edward Feser presents five “proofs” or arguments, each of which was inspired by an historical philosopher (or two).  However,  Feser takes full ownership of these five arguments, so that none of these arguments is put forward as merely an historical presentation or as merely a scholarly interpretation of a specific argument by an historical philosopher:
In my earlier books The Last Superstition and Aquinas, and elsewhere, I approached questions of natural theology…by way of exposition and defense of what Aquinas had to say on the subject. (FPEG, Location 39, p.9-10)
…there is a need for an exposition and defense of all the most important arguments for God’s existence that is neither burdened with complex and often tedious issues of textual exegesis, nor preceded by any detailed metaphysical prolegomenon, but which simply gets straight to the heart of the argument and introduces any needed background metaphysical principles along the way. (FPEG, Location 53, p.10)
…the arguments [in this book] are all certainly inspired by several great thinkers of the past–in particular, by Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, and Leibniz.  Indeed, I think that the proofs that I defend here capture what is essential to the arguments of those thinkers.  But I am not presenting an interpretation of any text to be found in the writings of any of these thinkers, and I am not claiming that any of these thinkers said or would agree with everything I have to say.  I defend an Aristotelian proof of God’s existence, but not Aristotle’s own proof, exactly; an Augustinian proof, but not an exegesis of anything Augustine himself actually wrote; and so forth. (FPEG, Location 59, p.11)
The five arguments are thus inspired by historical philosophers, but they are presented as Feser’s arguments, not as Aristotle’s argument, not as Augustine’s argument, not as Aquinas’s argument.  This is one more thing that Feser gets right.  A book that takes on the issue of the existence of God, especially one that provides a case for the existence of God, ought to contain only arguments of which the author takes ownership, and that the author sincerely believes to be good and solid arguments, or at least the best and strongest arguments available.
 
CHUNK NUMBER 1 OF THE ARISTOTELIAN ARGUMENT
The first chunk of Feser’s Aristotelian argument attempts to prove the following metaphysical claim:

14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer.  (FPEG, Location 493, p.36)

Although Chunk #1 can be viewed as being unique to the Aristotelian argument (because each argument attempts to prove the existence of a metaphysical being of a different type), Chunk #1 is still very important to how one evaluates ALL FIVE of the arguments presented by Feser.  This is because, the other four arguments are dependent upon the success of the rest of the Aristotelian argument (i.e. premises (15) through (49) ), and the rest of the Aristotelian argument has a dependency on Chunk #1.
The dependency of the rest of the Aristotelian argument on Chunk #1 is NOT a dependency on the TRUTH of premise (14), however.  Rather, it is in Chunk #1 that the concept of “a purely actual actualizer” is developed and clarified, and the rest of the Aristotelian argument is ABOUT the alleged attributes of “a purely actual actualizer”, so any unclarity, confusion, or logical problems with this concept are likely to impact the truth or the logic of the rest of the Aristotelian argument that follows after Chunk #1.
The rest of the Aristotelian argument could be logically valid, even if premise (14) was FALSE.  It could still be the case that IF “a purely actual actualizer” existed, THEN that being would have various key divine attributes (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, being the cause of the existence of all things, etc.).   The point of the rest of the Aristotelian argument is to show that various key divine attributes are logically implied by the concept of “a purely actual actualizer”.  But what this concept logically implies, or does not imply, depends on what this concept MEANS.  So,  the success of the rest of the argument depends on the precise meaning of the phrase “a purely actual actualizer”, and the meaning of this phrase is developed and clarified in Chunk #1.
Therefore, Chunk #1 is NOT merely of significance in terms of our evaluation of the Aristotelian argument, but it is of significance to our evaluation of ALL FIVE of Feser’s arguments for the existence of God.
Here are the premises and inferences that Feser provides in support of claim (14):

  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)
There is a lot going on here in Chunk #1, so it will probably take me a few posts to walk through this part of the Aristotelian argument.
 
THE FIRST SUB-CONCLUSION OF CHUNK #1
The first sub-conclusion that Feser argues for is this:

3. So, the actualization of potential is a real feature of the world. (FPEG, Location 477, p. 35)

Here is the summary argument for (3):

  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.

 
I take it that the word “change” is NOT a technical term, but has its ordinary meaning, and thus there is no problem with premise (1); it is clearly and obviously true.
Premise (2) might seem fairly innocent at first blush, but I am deeply suspicious of this premise.  Here Feser is inserting some technical metaphysical concepts or terminology into the argument.  Feser makes no effort to hide this fact, and he provides some examples and clarifications of the terms “the actualization of” and “a potential”, so I’m NOT saying that Feser is trying to mislead anyone.  I’m just saying that we ought to be cautious about accepting premise (2), because it seems to involve acceptance of a philosophical point of view, of a metaphysical theory, or of a significant portion of a metaphysical theory.
Premise (3) clearly follows logically from the combination of (1) and (2), so the logic here is OK.
The only concern I have, so far, is with premise (2).  I doubt that (2) is true, but more importantly,  I do not, at this point, have a clear understanding of what (2) means.  What (2) means is crucial for understanding and evaluating both Chunk #1, and the rest of the Aristotelian argument that follows Chunk #1.  So, we cannot pass Go and collect $200 until we are clear about what premise (2) means.
 
CLARIFYING THE MEANING OF PREMISE (2)
Here is what Feser has to say in support of premise (2):
…it is a mistake to think that change would have to involve something coming from nothing.  Go back to the coffee [an example of a change given previously by Feser].  It is true that while the coffee is hot, the coldness is not actually present.  Still, it is there potentially in a way other qualities are not.  The coffee does not, after all, have the potential to fuel a gasoline engine, or to turn itself into chicken soup, or for that matter to morph into a chicken and begin squawking.  But it does have the potential to grow cold, and it has various other potentials too–to make you more alert if you drink it, to stain the floor if you spill it, and so forth.  That it has the potential to become cold while lacking other potentials shows that the coldness is not exactly nothing, even if it is not yet actual either.  
What change involves, then, is…the actualization of a potential.  The coffee has the potential to become cold, and after sitting out for a while, that potential is made actual.  This is not a case of something coming from nothing…because, again, a potential is not nothing.     (FPEG, Location 167 to 179, p.18)
Based on the above comments about the “actualization of a potential”, we can eliminate the following interpretation of (2):

2aBut change is when a logically possible state of affairs that was not an actual state of affairs becomes an actual state of affairs.

On this interpretation the coffee is hot at time T1, and it is logically possible for the coffee to be cold, but it is not actually the case that the coffee is cold at time T1.  However, if at time T2 the coffee is in fact cold, then a logical possibility that was previously not an actual state of affairs at time T1 has become an actual state of affairs at time T2.
First, let me explain why I think that (2a) is NOT what Feser means by premise (2).  In explaining the claim that the coffee has the potential to become cold, Feser says this:
The coffee does not, after all, have the potential to fuel a gasoline engine, or to turn itself into chicken soup, or for that matter to morph into a chicken and begin squawking.  (FPEG, Location 167, p.18)
Could some coffee turn “into chicken soup”?  This is NOT a physical possibility.  It would be contrary to the laws of nature for a cup of coffee to turn into chicken soup.  In fact, this would constitute a “miracle” if such an event were brought about by God.  However, as Christians often argue, miracles are logically possible even though they are physically impossible. God, being omnipotent, could change a cup of coffee into a cup of chicken soup.  This would be contrary to the laws of nature, contrary to the laws of chemistry, and thus it is a physically impossible event, but it is NOT a logical impossibility.  There is no logical contradiction involved in the claim that a cup of coffee turned into a cup of chicken soup.
 
AN OBJECTION TO PREMISE (2)
It seems to me that (2a) is TRUE.  But if (2a) is true, then (2) is FALSE.  So, it seems to me that (2) is FALSE.
Feser is clearly asserting that coffee does NOT have the “potential” to become chicken soup, but it is logically possible for coffee to become chicken soup, so having the “potential” to turn into chicken soup requires something MORE than just the logical possibility of turning into chicken soup.  Therefore, when Feser speaks of something having a “potential” this implies MORE than just a logical possibility.   It is logically possible for a cup of coffee to turn into a cup of chicken soup, but given Feser’s conception of a “potential”, a cup of coffee does NOT have the potential to turn into a cup of chicken soup.
This, it seems to me, creates a serious problem for Feser in relation to miracles.  God, being omnipotent, can turn a cup of coffee into a cup of chicken soup (this is clearly analogous to the NT miracle where Jesus allegedly turned water into wine).  This would constitute a miracle, in that such an event would be contrary to the laws of nature and would be brought about by God.  But if we accept (2), then we would be forced to conclude that NO CHANGE OCCURS when God turns the cup of coffee into a cup of chicken soup (or when Jesus turned the water into wine).  The cup of coffee had no “potential” to turn into a cup of chicken soup, so when God turned it into a cup of chicken soup, this would NOT be a case of actualizing “the potential” of the coffee to be chicken soup.  But since this is NOT a case of the potential of the coffee being actualized, it would not be a CHANGE, according to Feser’s concept of change.
But the idea that God performing the miracle of turning a cup of coffee into a cup of chicken soup (or Jesus turning water into wine) would NOT involve a CHANGE is absurd.  So, if we are going to accept the idea that miracles are logically possible, and that miracles like this involve a CHANGE, then we must accept (2a) and reject (2).
I doubt that I’m the first person to make this objection to Feser’s concept of CHANGE, so I’m going to stop here for now, and look to see if Feser addresses this objection somewhere in his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  
Before we can confidently conclude that we have a clear understanding of premise (2), we need to understand precisely how the meaning of (2) differs from (2a) and either how both (2) and (2a) could be true, or else WHY Feser believes (2a) to be false.  Once these questions have been answered, we should be in a good position to understand and to explicitly state a correct analysis of the meaning of (2).

bookmark_borderFeser’s Case for God – Part 2: Chunking Up the Aristotelian Argument

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ARISTOTELIAN ARGUMENT
In Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God (hereafter: FPEG),  Edward Feser presents his Aristotelian argument for the existence of God.  This is the most important argument in the book, because the other four arguments presented by Feser in later chapters all have a significant dependency on this first argument.
Specifically, the other four arguments rely on the assumption that a purely actual being must have various divine attributes (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, being eternal, being fully good, etc.).  These assumptions are argued for in the Aristotelian argument, so if that part of the Aristotelian argument fails, then the remaining four arguments also fail.  If Feser fails to prove that a purely actual being must have various divine attributes, then ALL FIVE of his arguments for the existence of God FAIL.   Similarly, if Feser succeeds in proving that a purely actual being must have various divine attributes, then significant portions of the other four arguments also succeed.  So, a great deal rests on Feser’s Aristotelian argument.
 
THE BASIC FORM OF THE ARISTOTELIAN ARGUMENT
All five of Feser’s arguments for the existence of God have the same basic form:

I. There is exactly one being of type X.

II. IF there is exactly one being of type X, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

III. God exists.

Feser’s Aristotelian argument can be summarized using the same form:

IA. There is exactly one purely actual actualizer.

IIA. IF there is exactly one purely actual actualizer, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

III. God exists.

In Feser’s formal outline of the Aristotelian argument (FPEG,  p.35-37), there are fifty statements.  Statements (1) through (18) contain the reasoning supporting (IA), and statements (19) through (49) contain the reasoning supporting (IIA).  So, the Aristotelian argument can be divided into two large pieces.
 
CHUNKING UP THE ARISTOTELIAN ARGUMENT
I plan to examine somewhat smaller pieces of the argument.  To guide my critique, I will divide Feser’s Aristotelian argument into seven small-to-medium-size chunks:
I.  There is at least one purely actual actualizer: premises (1) through (14).
II. There cannot be more than one purely actual actualizer: premises (15) through (18).
III. Any purely actual actualizer must be immutable, eternal, immaterial, and incorporeal: premises (19) through (27).
IV. Any purely actual actualizer must be perfect and fully good: premises (28) through (32).
V. Any purely actual actualizer must be omnipotent: premises (33) through (37).
VI. Any purely actual actualizer must be  the cause of the existence of all beings, intelligent, and omniscient: premises (38) through (47).
VII. God exists IF AND ONLY IF there is exactly one purely actual actualizer and that  being is immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, fully good, omnipotent, the cause of the existence of all beings, intelligent, and omniscient: premise (49).
NOTE: Premise (48) is a conjunction that summarizes several previous sub-conclusions: (18), (21), (23), (25), (27), (29), (32), (37), (39), (44), and (47).
Given this way of dividing the Aristotelian argument up into seven chunks, I plan to write at least seven posts on this argument, and I might well need to write more than one post on some of these chunks, so it could easily take a dozen posts for me to critically examine this first, and most important argument in Feser’s case for the existence of God.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 19: The Whole Enchilada

In part 11 of this series of posts I reviewed the overall structure of Norman Geisler’s case for the existence of God, the case that he presented, along with coauthor Ronald Brooks, in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In this present post, I will once again review the overall structure of Geisler’s case, and will summarize a number of key problems with Geisler’s case.
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For a more detailed analysis and critique of Geisler’s case, or of a specific argument in his case, see previous posts in this series:

INDEX: Geisler’s Five Ways

https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2017/05/25/index-geislers-five-ways/
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PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
On pages 15 through 26, Geisler presents five arguments for five conclusions.  I call this Phase  1 of this case.  Here are the five conclusions of the five initial arguments:

  • Something other than the universe caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • Something is a first uncaused cause of the present existence of the universe.
  • There is a Great Designer of the universe.
  • There is a supreme moral Lawgiver.
  • If God exists, then God exists and God is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
Note that the word “God” is being misused by Geisler in the statement of the fifth conclusion.  The purpose of his case is to prove that “God exists”, so a premise that begins, “If God exists, then…” is of no use in his case.
What he really means by the word “God” here is “the creator of the universe” or, more precisely: “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that causes the universe to continue to exist now.”  That this is what the word “God” means in his fifth argument can be seen in his comment about the significance of the fifth argument:
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
The “argument from creation” is actually two cosmological arguments: the Kalam cosmological argument, and the Thomistic cosmological argument (to a sustaining cause of the current existence of the universe).  Thus, the antecedent of the fifth argument “If God exists…” really means: “If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and that is also causing the universe to continue to exist now…”
As with MANY of the arguments that I have examined in Geisler’s case, he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense, which he does not bother to clarify or to define.  So, we have to examine the context of each such claim in his case to figure out what the hell he means each time he misuses the word “God”.  This is part of why I say that this case is a steaming pile of dog shit; Geisler does not bother to clarify or define the meaning of the most important word in his argument, and he continually shifts the meaning of this word at will, with no warning that he is doing so.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
ALL FIVE of Geisler’s arguments for the above five conclusions must be sound in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If just one of those five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Furthermore, the soundness of all five of those arguments is NOT sufficient to prove that God exists; further arguments are needed.  None of the five basic arguments is sound, and none of the additional arguments that Geisler makes in order to get to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists” is sound, so his case for God is pure unadulterated crap from start to finish.
The basic reason why Geisler needs all five arguments to be sound, is that the concept of God is complex.  God, as understood in Christian theology, has several divine attributes, and so Geisler must show that there is one and only one being that has all of the main divine attributes.
There is no universally agreed upon list of the “main” divine attributes, but we can see what Geisler considers to be the main divine attributes in relation to his lists of God’s characteristics, and in relation to his five basic arguments.  Here is a key comment by Geisler listing several divine attributes:
…God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent. (WSA, p.28)
A key attribute that Geisler left out of this list is “unlimited” (see WSA, p.27 & 28).
In view of his five basic arguments, Geisler implies that God also has the following key attributes or characteristics:

  • God caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • God causes the universe to continue to exist now.
  • God designed the universe.
  • God produced the laws of morality.
  • God is a necessary being.

Geisler’s description of God includes more than a dozen different divine attributes.  The existence of such a being cannot be established on the basis of just one simple argument.  That is why Geisler needs ALL FIVE of his basic arguments to be sound, plus a number of other additional arguments, in order for his case for the existence of God to be successful.  If any one of his five arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS. If one of his additional arguments is unsound, then his case FAILS.  Geisler’s case depends on the soundness of MANY (about a dozen) different arguments.  If one of those MANY arguments is unsound, then Geisler’s case for God FAILS. As far as I can tell, none of his arguments are sound.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
Geisler represents his case as consisting of two main phases: first he proves that “God exists”, and next he proves that God has various divine attributes:
The first question that must be addressed in pre-evangelism is, “Does God exist?”  The second question is very closely related to the first: “If God exists, what kind of God is He?”  (WSA, p.15)
This argument [his Thomistic cosmological argument] shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  (WSA, p.19)
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence? (WSA, p.26)
The argument from being may not prove that God exists, but it sure does tell us a lot about God once we know that He does exist (by the argument from Creation).  (WSA, p.27)
This is completely idiotic and ass-backwards.  In order to prove that “God exists”, one must prove that there exists a being who has various divine attributes (e.g. all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, etc.).
Proving that there is a thing or being that caused the universe to begin to exist is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a thing or being that is causing the universe to continue to exist now is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  Proving that there is a being who designed the universe (or some aspect of the universe) is NOT sufficient to prove that “God exists”.  The concept of God in Christian theology is a complex concept that implies a unique being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.  Thus proving that “God exists” in the context of a discussion about the truth of the Christian religion requires that one prove the existence of a being who possesses MANY different divine attributes.
Geisler is free to reject the Christian religion if he wishes, and  he is free to reject the traditional Christian concept of God as well.  He is free to invent his own personal concept of God, and to argue for the existence of that particular idiosyncratic God.  But if he wants to dump Christian theology and create his own new religion, then he needs to be very clear that this is what he is doing, and he would also need to provide a clear alternative definition or analysis of what he means by the word “God”, so that nobody would confuse Geisler’s new idiosyncratic concept of God with the traditional Christian concept of God.
Geisler, however, presents himself as a defender of the traditional Christian faith, so he clearly has no interest in inventing a new concept of God.  In the context of presenting apologetic arguments in support of the Christian faith, when Geisler asserts that “God exists”, he implies that there exists a being who has MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  Therefore, in order for Geisler to prove that “God exists”, he must prove that there exists exactly ONE being who possesses MANY (or most) of the divine attributes that Christian theologians have traditionally ascribed to God.  He cannot prove that “God exists” without proving the existence of a being who, for example, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, eternal, the creator of the universe, etc.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
The first order of business is to clarify the conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments.  Here are the conclusions in Geisler’s own words:

1. Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God. (WSA, p.16)

2. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.19)

3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p. 20)

4. Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.  (WSA, p.22)

5. Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist. (WSA, p.25)

These conclusions need to be cleaned up and clarified, so that we have a clear and accurate understanding of what they imply:

1a. The universe was caused to begin to exist (in the past) by at least one thing or being other than the universe (or some part or aspect of the universe) that existed prior to when the universe began to exist.

2a. There currently exists at least one uncaused cause for each finite, changing thing that currently exists.

3a. There existed (in the past) at least one Great Designer who designed some part or aspect of the universe. 

4a. There existed (in the past) at least one supreme Lawgiver who produced  at least some of the laws of morality.

5a. If there is (or ever was) a being that is (or was) the most perfect Being possible, then that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

Geisler provides dubious or unsound arguments for these five conclusions.  Furthermore, Geisler is very sloppy and unclear in his thinking, and so he infers significantly stronger conclusions that clearly do NOT follow logically from his five basic arguments:

1b. The entire universe was caused to begin to exist by EXACTLY ONE being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

2b. The current existence of the entire universe is caused by EXACTLY ONE currently existing being (other than the universe and the beings that are part of the universe).

3b. There is EXACTLY ONE Great Designer who designed every part and aspect of the universe.

4b. There is EXACTLY ONE supreme lawgiver who produced all of the laws of morality.

5b. IF there is a being who caused the universe to begin to exist and who also causes the universe to continue to exist now, THEN that being must always exist and cannot not exist.

PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
Geisler’s five arguments leave open the possibility that there were MANY beings involved in causing the beginning of the universe, and MANY beings involved in causing the continuing existence of the universe, and MANY beings who designed different parts and aspects of the universe, and MANY moral lawgivers who produced different moral laws.
Because the “divine attributes” are distributed differently among these different kinds of beings, Geisler cannot show that there is just ONE being who possesses ALL of the various divine attributes.  Furthermore, since the function of a particular kind of being could be spread out among MANY beings, we cannot infer that the required power or ability exists to a high or unlimited degree in any one such being.  If, for example, a team of one thousand beings worked together to design the human brain, then there might well have been no being who had enough knowledge or intelligence to design the human brain by itself.
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
On pages 26 and 27,  Geisler presents Phase 2 of his case.  He argues for three claims related to personal attributes of “God”:

  • God is very powerful.
  • God is very intelligent.
  • God is [morally] good.

Once again, Geisler misuses the word “God” here.  But he gives us a good clue as to what he means by “God” in his Phase 2 arguments:
The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
Geisler had argued in the previous paragraph that based on his two cosmological arguments “God” had great power.  Then Geisler uses his argument from design to try to show that “God” had great intelligence.  The above quoted statement implies that the word “God” is being used in the narrow sense of “whatever caused the universe”.  Roughly speaking, the conclusions that Geisler argues for in Phase 2 are more clearly stated as follows:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very powerful.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is very intelligent.
  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is [morally] good.

So, Geisler is arguing that there exists a cause of the universe, and that this cause has various personal attributes that are part of the ordinary meaning of the word “God”.
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
A being that causes a universe to begin to exist is NOT necessarily the being that designed the universe; design and manufacturing are two separate functions in most companies that make products.  Making something is NOT the same as designing something.
The laws of nature could have been created by one being, while the laws of morality could have been created by a different being. There is no reason to believe that the cause of the existence of the universe is the same as the designer of the universe or the same as the moral lawgiver.
Because Geisler has NOT proven that these beings are all the same being, he cannot ascribe these various personal attributes (powerful, intelligent, and good) to just one being.  But in order to prove that God exists, he must show that there is ONE being who possesses all three of these personal attributes in an unlimited way, a being that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.
 
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
Yet again, Geisler abuses the word “God” in Phase 3 of his case for the existence of God.  The argument in Phase 3 is on page 27.  It makes use of the conclusion from “The Argument from Being” in Phase 1 (pages 24-26). Here is how Geisler states the conclusion of this part of his case:

  • God is a necessary being.

Clearly, he is NOT using the word “God” in its ordinary sense here.  As I argued above, what he actually means something like this:

  • If there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the past) and that also causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), then that being is a necessary being.

PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
There is no reason to believe that a cause of the beginning of the universe must be a “perfect being”.  Let’s grant for the sake of argument that a “perfect being” must be a necessary being.  The question then becomes, “Does a perfect being exist?”
Geisler believes he has proven that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, but that tells us nothing about whether a perfect being exists.  The fact that the universe is finite and imperfect suggests the opposite conclusion, namely that the being that caused the beginning of the universe (if there were such a being) is something less than a perfect being.   In any case, Geisler has provided no reason to think that the cause of the beginning of the universe was a perfect being, so he has provided no reason to believe that there exists a perfect being, and thus Geisler has provided no reason to believe that there is a necessary being.
 
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
On pages 27-28, Geisler presents Phase 4 of his case.  There are two different sets of alleged implications that Geisler argues follow from the existence of a necessary being.  First there are implications related to God’s “metaphysical” attributes (as contrasted with God’s personal attributes above):

  • A necessary being is unchanging.
  • A necessary being is infinite.
  • A necessary being is eternal.
  • A necessary being is omnipresent.

Second, there are alleged conditional implications of the concept of a necessary being:

  • If a necessary being is powerful, then it is all-powerful.
  • If a necessary being is intelligent, then it is all-knowing.
  • If a necessary being is [morally] good, then it is perfectly [morally] good.

PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
We see this confusion in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the conclusion that a necessary being must be unchanging:
We said already that necessary existence means that He [God] cannot not exist–so He has no beginning and no end.  But it also means that He cannot ‘come to be’ in any other way.  He must be as He is necessarily.  He can’t become something new.  That removes all change from His being–He is unchanging.  (WSA, p.27)
The expression “come to be” is clearly AMBIGUOUS.  It can refer to something coming into existence, or it can refer to something undergoing a change in an attribute or characteristic.  The concept of a “necessary being” implies that the thing or being in question did not come into existence, will not cease to exist, and cannot cease to exist.  This concept does NOT imply that ALL of the characteristics or attributes of such a thing or being must remain unchanged.
An apple can change from being green to being red; this does NOT involve the apple coming into existence or ceasing to exist.  The apple continues to exist through the change in its color.  An apple can “come to be red” even though the apple previously existed and continues to exist.  Thus, the apple itself does NOT “come to be” when it changes color from green to red.
Geisler confuses and conflates two different meanings of the expression “come to be”.   The claim that an apple “came to be red” implies NOTHING about the apple coming to exist.  An apple can “come to be red” even if the apple has always existed, and will always exist.  The fact that some of the attributes of an apple can change, does NOT imply that the apple began to exist, nor that the apple will cease to exist.  Geisler draws an INVALID inference based on the AMBIGUITY of the expression “come to be”; he commits yet another fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this crappy bit of reasoning.
The same sort of confusion occurs again in Geisler’s reasoning in support of the view that a necessary being must have unlimited attributes:
Because of His [God’s] necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning, without change, and without limitation. (WSA, p.28)
If something is a “necessary being”, that just means that it has existence in a necessary way; it does NOT mean that it has all of its attributes or characteristics in a necessary way.  Geisler again confuses the existence of something being necessary with its possession of its attributes being necessary.  The necessity of attributes does NOT logically follow from the necessity of a thing’s existence.
Geisler contradicts himself a few pages later, by implying that God’s attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is NOT a necessary attribute or characteristic:
…He [God] must be all that He is.  All that is in God’s nature is necessary, but anything that He does extends beyond His nature and is done by His free will.  One cannot even say that it was necessary for Him to create.  (WSA, p.31)
But if it was NOT necessary that God create the universe, then the divine attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is merely a contingent attribute, not a necessary attribute, and therefore God does NOT possess this particular attribute (of being the creator of the universe) “in a necessary way”.   Geisler clearly contradicts his earlier assertion that God “can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.”
Geisler then uses the conclusions from Phase 2 (the cause of the universe is very powerful, very intelligent, and morally good) along with the conclusion of Phase 3 (the cause of the universe is a necessary being) in combination with the conclusions from Phase 4 (a necessary being is unchanging, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, and if a necessary being is powerful, intelligent, and good then it must be all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good) in order to infer this conclusion:

  • Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist is an unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent necessary being, that is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good.

 
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
In a short paragraph on page 28, Geisler argues that there cannot be multiple beings of the sort that he thinks he has shown to exist:

  • There can be only one infinite Being.

Geisler’s argument for this conclusion is based on the following premise:

  • If being A is an unlimited being and being B is an unlimited being, then we cannot tell being A apart from being B.

PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
Unlimited beings share many unlimited attributes, but one unlimited being can have an attribute that differs from another unlimited being, thus making it possible to distinguish the two beings as different and separate beings.
For example, since the attribute of being “the creator of the universe” is, according to Geisler (WSA, p.31), a logically contingent attribute of God, it is possible for there to exist both an unlimited being that is “the creator of the universe” and also an unlimited being that is NOT “the creator of the universe”.  Since these two beings would have at least one attribute that they don’t share, it would be possible to distinguish between these two unlimited beings.
Furthermore, according to traditional Christian doctrine, God consists of three different persons, but each of those persons is an unlimited person.  Although these three persons are unlimited, according to traditional Christian belief, it is possible to distinguish between these three persons: one is “the Father”, another “the Son”, and the third is “the Holy Spirit”.   It is logically inconsistent to allow that there can be three distinguishable unlimited persons, but at the same time to insist that there cannot possibly be two or more distinguishable unlimited beings.
In the case of the Trinity,  Christians believe that there are specific unique attributes possessed by each of the persons of the Trinity that make it possible to distinguish one from another.  But this implies that one unlimited person can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited person.  If so, then this implies that one unlimited being can possess an attribute that differs from another unlimited being.  Clearly, the attribute of being “unlimited” does NOT dictate every attribute possessed by such a person or being.
 
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
Although Geisler never provides a definition of the word “God”, it is fairly clear that his concept of God is something like this:
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:

  • X caused the universe to begin to exist, and
  • X causes the universe to continue to exist, and
  • X is the great designer of the universe, and
  • X is the supreme moral lawgiver, and
  • X is a necessary being, and
  • X is the only unchanging, infinite, eternal, and omnipresent being, and
  • X is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good being.

So, the ultimate conclusion of Geisler’s case is this:

  • God exists.

Here, finally, the word “God” is being used in something like it’s ordinary sense.
PROBLEM 10:  Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
On the above Thomistic definition of “God”, God is both a person and an absolutely unchanging being.  But a person can make choices and decisions and perform actions and a person can communicate with other persons.  Something that is absolutely unchanging cannot make choices and decisions and perform actions, nor can such a thing communicate with other persons.  The idea of a person who is an absolutely unchanging being is INCOHERENT, it contains a logical self-contradiction.  Therefore, on this definition of “God” it is logically impossible for it to be the case that “God exists”.  The claim “God exists” would be a logically necessary falsehood, given Geisler’s concept of God.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Replies to My Objections to ABEAN and REMEC

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

The ABEAN Argument is VERY UNCLEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN & REMEC Arguments: INDEX

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

bookmark_borderHinman’s ABEAN Argument – Part 3: More Objections

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

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

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

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

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

DEFINITION OF “CONTINGENT”:

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

DEFINITION OF “NECESSARY”:

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

THEREFORE:  

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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