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

WHERE WE ARE AT
There are only two more arguments in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate:  Argument #7 (the Argument from Contingency) and Argument #6 (the Kalam Cosmological Argument).  In Part 24, I did an initial analysis of Argument #7, and I pointed out some significant problems with that argument, based only on the conclusion of the argument.
At best, the argument shows the existence of a bodiless being (i.e. a bodiless thing, not necessarily a person) that is the cause of the current existence of the universe:

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

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #7 asserts that the cause of the current existence of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #7 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.
 
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT #7
In this post,  I will work on further clarification of Argument #7:

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

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

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

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

THEREFORE:

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

NOTE: the phrase “at time t1” doesn’t have a specific meaning; it is a placeholder.  It is intended to be a clarification of the word “now”.  But we can fill in this placeholder expression with something more definite, like “at 9:40 pm Pacific Time on May 21st, 2018”.  Once we specify a particular point in time, the premises become meaningful factual claims that can be evaluated as true or false.
The ultimate conclusion of the argument is based on (5a):

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

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

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

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

1b. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: there must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

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

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 23: Five Remaining Arguments

WHERE WE ARE AT
I have previously argued that the last ten arguments in  Peter Kreeft’s case in Chapter 3 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.  I have argued that the first five arguments, which Kreeft appears to think are among his best and strongest arguments for God, also fail to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.
In Part 22,  I argued that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure because he has ONLY ONE argument in his entire case to support three of the basic divine attributes (i.e. omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness), and that ONE argument (Argument #13: The Ontological Argument) is a BAD argument, as Kreeft himself admits (HCA, p.49).
 
FIVE REMAINING ARGUMENTS
Although I have already shown that Kreeft’s cumulative case for God is a complete failure, I would still like to make a few comments and objections concerning the remaining five arguments:

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

 
THREE INSIGNIFICANT ARGUMENTS
In this post, I will focus on three of the five remaining arguments: Argument #8, Argument #9, and Argument #10.  Although I will put forward some objections to these arguments, I won’t put much time and effort into evaluation of these arguments, because they are insignificant arguments in terms of a cumulative case for God.
As the chart at the end of Part 22 shows, these three arguments do not support of ANY of the basic divine attributes, so even if these arguments were solid and strong arguments, they would still fail to play any significant role in a cumulative case for the existence of God (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Argument #8 and Argument #10 are both arguments from design, and they both suffer from the usual problems with arguments from design:

  • they don’t show that there is JUST ONE designer of the universe
  • they don’t show that the designer EXISTS NOW
  • they don’t show that the designer is a BODILESS person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an ETERNAL person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an OMNIPOTENT person
  • they don’t show that the designer is an OMNISCIENT person
  • they don’t show that the designer is a PERFECTLY MORALLY GOOD person
  • they don’t show that the designer is THE CREATOR of the universe

 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT # 8
One serious problem with Argument #8 is that it is UNCLEAR.  It is too unclear to be a good and solid argument.  Kreeft uses a variety of abstract terms and phrases, and he does not bother to define any of them (see HCA, page 63):

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

So, Argument #8 is a crappy bit of incompetent philosophy.  If someone called this argument “Word Salad” and dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration, I would be inclined to agree with that evaluation.
I blame Aquinas for this mess, or to be more accurate,  I blame Kreeft’s distorted understanding of Aquinas for this bit of crappy and incompetent philosophy.  Kreeft believes that Aquinas provided us with FIVE arguments for the existence of God in just TWO pages.  But in reality, the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Aquinas has just ONE argument for the existence of God that spans over 100 pages, and the Five Ways are just the opening moves of his long and complex case for God.
Kreeft thinks that since Aquinas provided FIVE arguments for God in just TWO pages, that he (Kreeft) should be able to provide one argument for God in just two pages (starting near the bottom of page 62 and ending about halfway down page 64 of HCA).  But Aquinas could not do this, nor did Aquinas attempt to do such a foolish thing.   Kreeft is clearly not capable of performing such an incredible intellectual feat.  Kreeft rushed in where angels (and the Angelic Doctor) feared to tread.
However, I think I can come up with a plausible interpretation of some key claims in Argument #8, and based on that interpretation I can show that this argument does not work.
Why couldn’t reality consist of just one lonely proton?  If so, wouldn’t that proton be intelligible and self-sufficient?  Does it really need to have other protons and electrons and photons and neutrons and various forms of energy?
Well, what is a “proton”?  A proton has a bit of mass and it has a positive charge.  What is “mass”? and what is a “positive charge”?  Part of what it means to have mass is that IF there was another proton, the two protons would exert some gravitational attraction to each other, which would weaken the further apart the protons became.  Part of what it means for the proton to have a positive charge is that IF there was another proton, the positive charge of one proton would tend to repel the positive charge of the other proton.
So, in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for a proton to exist, we need to invoke, at least hypothetically, other protons.  What it means to have “mass” and to have a “positive charge” is understood, in part, in terms of how two protons would interact, if there were two protons.  Therefore, to UNDERSTAND what it means for ONE proton to exist, we must have an understanding of how two protons would interact with each other, if two protons existed.
It is not logically necessary for there to BE more than one actual proton in existence, but to understand the idea of a “proton”, we need to understand how two protons would interact with each other IF there were two protons.
If the above reasoning reflects Kreeft’s thinking about the necessity of understanding physical objects in terms of “interactions” and “relationships”, then the problem with Argument #8 is that this same reasoning applies to God, thus reducing God to being just as “dependent” and just as lacking in “self-sufficiency” as physical objects.  Thus, this argument necessarily FAILS to establish the existence of a transcendent being who is self sufficient and self explanatory.
As with the proton, we can conceive of reality consisting of just God alone.  But what does it mean for a being to be “God”?  Among other things, this means there is a person who is omnipotent and omniscient.  But what does it mean for a person to be “omnipotent” or “omniscient”? “omnipotence” means that this person is able to control any and every object and event, and make it do whatever the person wants it to do.  “omniscience” means that this person knows every detail about every object that exists and event that occurs.
But if there are no other objects and no other events (besides the musings of God), then there would be nothing for God to control and nothing for God to know about (other than himself).  That is a possibility, but like the lone proton, the concepts of “omnipotence” and “omniscience” have IMPLICATIONS of a hypothetical nature:  IF there was a universe full of stars and planets, and IF there was a planet full of plants and animals, an omnipotent person could control every object and every event in that universe, and an omniscient person would know every detail about every single star and planet and every detail about every plant and every animal, including the number of hairs on my head.
In order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist alone, we must understand what it means for a person to be “omnipotent” and what it means for a person to be “omniscient”, and in order to understand these two concepts, we must understand how an omnipotent and omniscient person would be related to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe were to exist.  We can conceive of God existing alone, without a universe, without a single star or planet, and without any animals or plants.  But in order to UNDERSTAND what it means for God to exist, we must have an understanding of how God would relate to a universe full of stars and planets and animals and plants IF such a universe existed.
The concept of God is just as logically dependent on interactions and relationships with other objects and events as is the concept of a proton. Therefore, if a proton fails to be “transcendent” or “self-sufficient” or “self-explanatory” because of the logical dependency of the concept of a proton on ideas about interactions and relationships with other objects and events, then God also fails to be “transcendent” and “self-sufficient” and “self-explanatory”, for the very same reason.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #9
Argument #9 is the Argument from Miracles.  The second premise of this argument is FALSE:

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

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

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

First of all, Kreeft’s concept of God is logically incoherent (the idea of an unchanging person is logically incoherent), so it follows that “the extraordinary and direct intervention of God” cannot provide an adequate explanation for ANY event whatsoever.  Because Kreeft’s concept of God contains a logical self-contradiction, his concept of a miracle is the concept of a logically impossible event.
Kreeft could, however, modify his concept of God to get rid of the logical contradiction it contains.  In that case, there is still a serious problem with premise (2).  For something to be a “well-attested miracle”, it must be a supernatural event that has religious significance.  For example, Jesus rising from the dead appears to be a supernatural event (people who have been dead for over 24 hours cannot come back to life by natural causes) and to have religious significance (Jesus claimed to have been sent by God, and his rising from the dead would confirm this religiously significant claim).
But if a supernatural event actually occurs, we have no way of knowing whether God was the cause of that event or some other person or being was the cause.  A supernatural event could be caused, for example, by an angel rather than by God.  Alternatively, a supernatural event could be caused by a human being who had supernatural powers.  We have no rational and objective way to determine whether a specific supernatural event was caused by (a) God, or (b) an angel, or (c) a human being with supernatural powers.
Thus, there cannot be an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”(emphasis added).  At least none of the many alleged “miracles” that Christians have put forward in the past satisfy this requirement.  So, even if Kreeft repaired his concept of God to make it logically coherent, premise (2) would still be FALSE.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an actual historical example of an event “whose ONLY adequate explanation is the extraordinary and direct intervention of God”  because there are almost always alternative supernatural explanations that are as good as the “God did it” explanation.
 
AN OBJECTION TO ARGUMENT #10
Argument #10 is based on a premise that appears to be FALSE:

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

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

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

This dilemma ignores an obvious third alternative: EVOLUTION.
Human beings are neither the products of an intelligent designer NOR are human beings the products of blind chance.  Intelligence is something that has EVOLVED over a billion years or so.
One difference between plants and animals is that animals are mobile; they can move from one place to another place.  But mobility by itself is not much help for survival, because an animal can move from a safe place to a dangerous place or from a place with plenty of food  to a place where there is no food.  So in order for mobility to help an animal survive, an animal needs to be able to obtain information about its physical environment in order to determine whether it would be beneficial to move from where it is at to some other location.  Thus, animals developed sensory capabilities to obtain information about their physical environment.
It was useful for early microscopic forms of life to have some simple and minimal form of sensation, so they could detect the presence of light or food or warmth. Microscopic life forms that developed some minimal form of sensation were enabled to survive better than their competitors who lacked any kind of sensation of the external world.
As animal life EVOLVED, sensation developed into awareness of the physical environment.  Awareness of the physical world EVOLVED into cognition and intelligence, including the ability to make inferences and to solve problems.  Non-human mammals have a degree of intelligence, and that intelligence helps them to survive better than similar animals with less intelligence.  Humans EVOLVED from primates.  Primates are highly intelligent mammals, mammals that have a survival advantage because of their degree of intelligence.
In any case,  human brains did NOT form from random blobs of cells or biological chemicals that just happened to gather together in the same location.  Humans  EVOLVED from primates; human brains EVOLVED from primate brains.  Primates EVOLVED from less intelligent mammals; primate brains EVOLVED from less sophisticated mammalian brains. Mammals EVOLVED from reptiles.  Mammalian brains evolved from reptile brains, etc., etc.,  going all the way back to the first single-celled animals.
If we understand the “blind chance” explanation to mean that random blobs of cells or biological chemicals just happened to gather together in the same location to form a human being, then OF COURSE “blind chance” is not a serious candidate for explaining the origin of human beings.  The process of EVOLUTION is neither “intelligent design” nor is it “blind chance”; it is a third alternative.
Creationists love the FALSE DILEMMA between “intelligent design” and “blind chance”, but this ignores the obvious third alternative, which is that human beings EVOLVED from less intelligent forms of life.  Premise (2) of Argument #10 makes the same idiotic blunder as creationist arguments; it ignores the third alternative of EVOLUTION.  Premise (2) is FALSE, so Argument #10 is UNSOUND.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 22: Kreeft’s Reply

MY BAIT-AND-SWITCH OBJECTION
In Part 21 I reiterated a criticism of Kreeft’s case for the existence of God that has been a theme in my critique:  very few, if any, of Kreeft’s twenty arguments are actually arguments for the existence of God, thus Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) appears to be one big bait-and-switch ploy.
Although it would be unreasonable to insist that Christian apologists prove that there is ONE being that possesses ALL of the many characteristics that Christians believe God to have, there are some basic divine attributes that a case for the existence of God should show are possessed by ONE being.  In order to be “God”, a being must be:

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

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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally, there is not a single argument that even attempts to show that there is a being who possesses three or more of the above basic divine attributes.  Thus, there is not a single argument in Kreeft’s twenty arguments that actually ATTEMPTS to prove the existence of God.  Therefore, it is highly misleading for Kreeft to call Chapter 3: “Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God”.  It would be much more accurate to label Chapter 3: “Zero Arguments for the Existence of God.”
 
KREEFT’S DEFENSE OF THE LOGIC OF HIS CASE FOR GOD
Kreeft has some awareness of this objection to his case for God, for he makes a few comments that indicate an awareness of the sort of objection that I am calling my bait-and-switch criticism.  In this post I will examine some of Kreeft’s comments that are relevant to my bait-and-switch objection.
In a nutshell, Kreeft’s reply to the sort of objection that I have repeatedly raised is that his twenty arguments form a cumulative case for the existence of God.  It is the whole collection of arguments, taken together, that prove the existence of God, or that show the existence of God to be highly probable, not individual arguments:
Not all of the arguments are equally demonstrative.  One (Pascal’s Wager) is not an argument for God at all, but an argument for faith in God as a “wager”.  Another (the ontological argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed; … Others (the argument from miracles, the argument from religious experience and the common consent argument) claim only strong probability, not demonstrative certainty.  We have included them because they form a strong part of a cumulative case.  We believe that only some of these arguments, taken individually and separately, demonstrate the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have (no argument proves all of the divine attributes); but all twenty taken together, like a twined rope, make a very strong case.
(HCA, p. 49-50, emphasis added)
Kreeft clearly believes that SOME of his arguments “claim demonstrative certainty” in showing “the existence of a being that has some of the properties only God can have…”.  Such an argument could prove that God exists, but ONLY IF the properties or divine attributes in question were proven to be “properties only God can have”.  If only God can have the property of omnipotence, for example, then proving the existence of an omnipotent person would be sufficient to prove the existence of God.
But Kreeft never argues that being “eternal” is a property “only God can have”.  Kreeft never argues that being “bodiless” (or immaterial) is a property “only God can have”, and Kreeft never argues that being “the creator” is a property “only God can have”.  Furthermore, it seems fairly obvious that these are not properties “only God can have”, so proving the existence of a person who is eternal would not prove that God exists.  Proving the existence of a person who is bodiless would not prove that God exists, and proving the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe would not prove that God exists.
By combining all of his arguments together, Kreeft could, in theory, show that there exists a being or person who has MANY of the basic divine attributes.  However, there are at least three serious problems with the cumulative case that Kreeft has actually provided:

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

In the first twelve arguments presented by Kreeft, only one argument attempts to show the existence of a person who has more than one of the basic divine attributesArgument #6 attempts to show that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe.  Yet Kreeft admits that this argument falls short of establishing many divine attributes:
Of course, the kalam argument does not prove everything Christians believe about God, but what proof does?  Less than everything, however, is far from nothing.  And the kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth.
(HCA, p.60, emphasis added)
Proving that there is an eternal person who is the creator of the universe, however, does not show that there is a JUST ONE person who has ALL of the basic divine attributes.  Proving that there is a person who is eternal and who created the universe does NOT prove that God exists, because the creator of the universe (a) might not be omnipotent, (b) might not be omniscient, (c) might not be a perfectly morally good person. 
Furthermore, although Kreeft is right that it would be unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the characteristics that Christians ascribe to God, it is not unreasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there exists a being who has ALL of the basic divine attributes, and it is certainly reasonable to expect a Christian apologist to prove that there is a being who has MOST of the basic divine attributes.  The kalam argument, as presented by Kreeft, fails to do this, and Kreeft’s cumulative case for God also fails to do this.
=====================
UPDATE 4/25/18
=====================
I have added the rest of Kreeft’s arguments, specifically Argument #13 through Argument #20, to a chart showing which of the basic divine attributes, if any, each argument attempts to support.  The chart shows that one argument, Argument #13, attempts to prove the existence of a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.  The chart also shows that Argument #14 through Argument #20 do not attempt to show that there is a being with ANY of the basic divine attributes:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other than Argument #13, the rest of the arguments that I have added into this chart are of little worth in terms of making a cumulative case for the existence of a person who has ALL (or MOST) of the basic divine attributes.  However, Argument #13 looks like it could potentially rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, because it provides an argument for three basic divine attributes that no other argument in Kreeft’s collection supports.
Argument #13 is the Ontological Argument for God.  Specifically, Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument concludes that “there actually exists…an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.” (HCA, p.72)  However, Argument #13 is of no help to Peter Kreeft, because he (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli) admit that this argument is no good:
Another (the Ontological Argument) we regard as fundamentally flawed… (HCA, p. 49)
The ONE argument that had the potential to rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, is an argument that Kreeft tells us is a “fundamentally flawed” argument.  I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the Ontological argument is fundamentally flawed, so I must conclude that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 20: More on Argument #4

THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
In Part 19,  I argued that the initial inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 (the Argument from Degrees of Perfection) of Peter Kreeft’s case for God is very unclear, and that based on my best guess at what the premises of that sub-argument mean, one premise begs the question at issue by assuming that God exists, and another premise is too vague to be useful in a proof of the existence of God.  So, Argument #4 is yet another FAILED argument in Kreeft’s case for God.
 
THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
But the very unclear and very dubious initial inference in Argument #4 is not the only problem with that argument.  In Part 17, I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #4, and I pointed out that there was a completely UNSTATED sub-argument that is required to logically link the initial inference to the final inference in Argument #4, and this middle inference is as follows:

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

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

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

 
THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IS UNCLEAR
There are, once again, problems of UNCLARITY in this sub-argument.  What is a “perfection”?  What are “perfections that pertain to being”?  What is an “absolutely perfect being”?  Kreeft does not define or clearly explain the meaning of any of these key terms in his argument.  He does briefly discuss “degrees of perfection” and provides some vague hints as to what he means by a “perfection” and by “perfections that pertain to being”, but he does not say enough to be able to infer what he means with any significant degree of confidence.  So, the main problem with this middle inference is the same as with the initial inference: it is VERY UNCLEAR.
 
PREMISE (C) IS DUBIOUS
However, I’m happy to make a best guess at what Kreeft’s premises mean, and evaluate this sub-argument based on my interpretation of the premises.  Premise (C) is dubious because it is based on the very UNCLEAR and apparently QUESTION BEGGING first inference.  So, (C) might well be false, which would make this middle sub-argument UNSOUND.
 
IS PREMISE (F) TRUE?
Let’s take a closer look at premise (F):

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

Given that the initial inference talks about perfection being “caused in” finite beings, the phrase “a source…of all the perfections” probably refers to a CAUSE “of all the perfections”.  Earlier in his presentation of Argument #4, Kreeft used an analogy with fire as a source of the heat in some objects:
…the degree of heat they possess is caused by a source outside of them. (HCA, p.54)
Fire, which is very hot, causes objects near it to become somewhat hot, or at least warm.  The idea that Kreeft hints at here is a general Principle Of Perfection:
(POP)  IF a being X causes perfection P in being Y, then being X has a greater degree of perfection P than Y.
This general Principle Of Perfection appears to be an assumption that underlies premise (F).  If this principle is false, then we have no good reason to believe premise (F).  But (POP) is clearly FALSE, so we have no good reason to believe (F) to be true.  Premise (F) is based on a FALSE assumption, so premise (F) is dubious, just like premise (C).
The main reason why (POP) is false is that a thing that lacks a property can, nevertheless, cause that property to occur in something else.  I can cause someone else to have a black eye and a bloody nose, even if I do not have a black eye or bloody nose myself.  I can cause a woman to become pregnant, even though I am not pregnant, and even though I cannot ever become pregnant.  I can make someone laugh, even if I am not laughing myself.
A football coach can cause a football player to become one of the best football players in the nation, even though the coach is (or would be) a mediocre football player at best.  There are many counterexamples to the idea that the CAUSE of a characteristic must possess that characteristic, and there are many counterexamples to the idea that the CAUSE of a perfection (i.e. a characteristic that makes something better than it would be without that characteristic) must possess that perfection to a greater degree than what it causes in something else.
This, however, is not the only problem with premise (F).  There is also an ambiguity of quantification in premise (F), similar to the ambiguity that Kreeft repeatedly stumbles over with the word “something”.  Here are two different interpretations of (F):

F1. IF there exists EXACTLY ONE BEING THAT IS THE CAUSE of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

F2. IF there exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH of  the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

Premise (F1) requires that premise (C) make a very strong claim, in order for (F1) and (C) to logically connect together to make a valid inference.  Premise (C) would have to assert the following very strong claim:

C1. There exists EXACTLY ONE BEING THAT IS THE CAUSE of all the perfections that pertain to being.

Premise (C) was already dubious to begin with, so if we now interpret (C) to mean what (C1) states, then it becomes even more obvious that Kreeft has FAILED to provide a good argument in support of (C), in the initial sub-argument.
On the other hand, premise (F2) does not require that premise (C) make such a strong claim.  If we go with interpretation (F2), then the middle sub-argument only needs the following claim to create a valid inference:

C2. There exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH OF the perfections that pertain to being.

But, the problem with (F2) is that it is clearly FALSE, which would make the middle sub-argument UNSOUND.  The antecedent of premise (F2), namely “there exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH of  the perfections that pertain to being”, is logically compatible with it being the case that there is a separate ultimate source for each perfection.
There could be a cause of intelligence, and a separate cause of the ability to give and receive love.  There could be one cause of beauty, and another cause of kindness, and a third cause of strength, and a fourth cause of wisdom.  If there were separate ultimate causes for each perfection, then there would be no necessity for there to be ONE BEING that possessed ALL perfections (or all perfections that pertain to being).  Therefore, the antecedent of (F2) does NOT entail the consequent of (F2), and thus premise (F2) is FALSE.
So, we must either adopt interpretation (F1) in which case it becomes very obvious that Kreeft has FAILED to show that (C) is true (i.e. that (C1) is true), or else adopt interpretation (F2) in which case it becomes clear that the middle sub-argument is UNSOUND, because (F2) is clearly FALSE.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE MIDDLE INFERENCE AND ARGUMENT #4
The middle inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 is based on two dubious premises: (C) and (F).

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

The middle inference or sub-argument thus FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 19: Premise (B)

The initial inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 of Peter Kreeft’s case for God is based on three premises, and all three premises are very UNCLEAR:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

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

THEREFORE:

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

In Part 18, I pointed out that both the subject and the predicate of premise (A) were unclear.  My best guess, at this point, is that the subject is referring to different degrees of perfection when comparisons are made between KINDS of things (e.g. between human beings and “a stone, a flower, an earthworm…” ).  My best guess, at this point, is that the predicate of (A) is a Trojan Horse that sneaks a Thomistic theory of “perfection” (including a Thomistic theory of good and evil) into the argument.  Based on these assumptions,  I interpret premise (A) as follows:

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

It seems to me that Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection ASSUMES the existence of God, and thus premise (A4) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue: “Does God exist?”.
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (B)
The subject of premise (B) is “Being”.   I can think of at least three different interpretations of the subject of premise (B):

S1. Coming-into-being

S2. Continuing-to-exist…

S3. The particular ways-of-being…

It is also not clear what Kreeft means by “finite creatures”.  If he means “finite things created by God”, then premise (B) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue (Does God exist?) in assuming that there are things that were created by God.  So, we should replace the question-begging term “creatures” with something more neutral, such as “things” or “beings”.  But what is a “finite being”?  A being could be finite in terms of how long it exists, or a being could be finite in terms of its powers and abilities,  or a being could be finite in terms of its degree of perfection.   So, I can think of at least three different ways that a being could be considered to be “finite”:

P1.  … is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

P2.  … is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

P3.  … is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Each of the three possible subjects could be combined with each of the three possible predicates,  at least in theory, so we are looking at nine different possible interpretations of premise (B):

B1. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B2. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B4. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B5. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B7. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B8. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Does Kreeft argue for any of these claims in the passage about Argument #4?  Do any of these claims seem to be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4?  If Kreeft argues in support of one of these claims, or if one of these claims seems relevant to his initial inference, then that interpretation should be given serious consideration.
Premise (B1) has some initial plausibility.  However, (B1) is based on the Kalam cosmological argument (which is Argument #5 in Kreeft’s case), so that would make Argument #4 dependent upon the soundness of Argument #5, so Argument #4 would NOT be an independent reason for believing in God.   Kreeft has not argued for (B2) in the passage on Argument #4, and it does not appear to be relevant to his initial inference.  It is unclear whether Kreeft has attempted to argue for (B3), but this claim does seem to have some relevance to the initial inference in Argument #4.
Kreeft does not argue for (B4) in the passage about Argument #4, and (B4) does not seem relevant to the initial inference.  Kreeft does not argue for (B5) and it does not seem relevant to Argument #4.  I don’t think Kreeft argues for (B6), but it does seem like it might be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4.
Kreeft does not appear to argue for either (B7) or (B8).  He might have attempted to argue in support of (B9).  Premises (B7) and (B8) don’t seem relevant to Argument #4, but (B9) seems like it might be relevant.
So, based on my brief review of these nine possible interpretations, it seems like the best candidates are (B3), (B6), and (B9):

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (B3) won’t work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to come into existence does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that was brought to exist.  If I make a chair that is ugly and crooked and wobbly, someone else could take my crappy chair and fix it up so that it became a beautiful, straight, and sturdy chair.  But then the degree of perfection in that chair was caused more by the person who fixed it up, than by my lousy effort in making the chair.  The source of the chair’s degree of perfection is the person who fixed it up, not the person who made the chair.  Similarly,  we cannot confidently trace the finite degree of perfections of natural things to the maker (or makers) of those natural things.
Premise (B6) also will not work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to continue to exist does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that is preserved in existence.  The staff of a museum might preserve a wonderful painting created by Rembrandt, but the perfections of that painting do NOT come from the staff of the museum; they come from the painter, namely Rembrandt.  Keeping something with a high degree of perfection in existence does not mean that one has the power or ability to make something that has such a high degree of perfection.  Thus, even if it could be proven that there was a “super preserver of all things” operating to keep many things that have high degrees of perfection in existence, this would not show that this super preserver has the power or ability to confer high degrees of perfection to anything.
Premise (B9) is an interesting claim.   The subject concerns “ways-of-being” and the predicate concerns beings with a “degree of perfection.”  It seems to me that Kreeft explains the idea of perfection in terms of some “ways-of-being” being better than other “ways-of-being”.  So, perfections are a sub-set of ways-of-being.  Thus, we can re-state (B9) so that both the subject and predicate talk about perfection:

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

Premise (B9*) has some initial plausibility.  It is a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  If there must be a cause or explanation for the particular characteristics of each and every being, then there must be a cause or explanation for the particular perfections and degrees of perfection of each and every being with a finite degree of perfection.  But this seems too vague to be of use in proving the existence of God.  Some things might have their perfections from a creator (or from various creators), and other things might have their perfections from a fixer-upper (or various fixer-uppers) who improved on the work of a creator (or of various creators).  Asserting that there must be some cause or other of various perfections is not specific enough to allow us to infer that there is ONE single source or cause of all perfections.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ARGUMENT #4
Premise (A) and Premise (B) are both very unclear.  The subjects of both premises are unclear, and the predicates of both premises are unclear.  So, it is very difficult to evaluate the initial inference in Argument #4.
My best guess at the meaning of (A) is that it asserts claim (A4):

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

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

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

Although (B9*) has some plausibility, being a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, it seems to be too vague to be useful for proving the existence of God.  Even if we grant the assumption that all perfections of things that have a finite degree of perfection, are caused by something or other to have those perfections (and to have them to that specific degree), that doesn’t get us to the conclusion that there is just ONE ultimate source or cause of all of the perfections found in various beings that have a finite degree of perfection.
Premise (A) appears to beg the main question at issue, and premise (B) appears to be too vague to be useful in a proof for the existence of God.
Because Kreeft has presented us with a very unclear argument,  it does not deserve any more of my time and attention.  I have attempted to clarify and make sense of this poorly stated argument, and when I do clarify it, it still remains a crappy argument.  So, once again, Kreeft has FAILED to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.  Argument #4 fails, just like the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case, and just like the rest of the initial five arguments in his case.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 17: Analysis of Argument #4

MOVING ON TO KREEFT’S VERSION
In Peter Kreeft’s case for God, in Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), his fourth argument is based on the fourth way of Aquinas.  Kreeft’s Argument #4 is the Argument from Degrees of Perfection.  Because Aquinas’s version of this argument is clearer and more straightforward than Kreeft’s version, I began by analyzing and evaluating Aquinas’s fourth way (see Part 16 of this series).  I discovered some serious problems with Aquinas’s version of this argument, and rejected that argument.  It is now time to try to analyze and to understand Kreeft’s version of this argument.
 
THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
An important part of Argument #4 is implied by a single complex sentence in Kreeft’s presentation of this argument. Let’s call this premise (1):

1. But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a “best,” a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings. (HCA, p.55)

Premise (1) can be cleaned up a bit, to make it more succinct:

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

The word “But” at the beginning of the sentence is unnecessary.  The word “must” simply indicates a logical implication, and so it is unnecessary.  The phrase “a ‘best'” is unnecessary because it is immediately defined by the following phrase “a source and real standard of all the perfections…”.  The phrase “that we recognize belong to us as beings” can be replaced by the shorter phrase “that pertain to being”.
Premise (1a) has the following logical structure:

IF A and B, THEN C.

This suggests the logical structure of a key initial inference in Argument #4:

A

B

IF A and B, THEN C

THEREFORE:

C

Let’s put the appropriate statements into this structure:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

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

THEREFORE:

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

 
THE FINAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
Kreeft’s versions of the Five Ways of Aquinas, especially Ways 1, 2, 3, and 5, are all complete FAILURES, because Kreeft does not bother to support the most important premises in those arguments, namely the premises that link the existence of some alleged metaphysical being (e.g. “unmoved mover” or “first efficient cause”, etc.) to the existence of God.  Kreeft hints at the most important premise of Argument #4 in another sentence; let’s call this premise (2):

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

This most important premise of Argument #4 is best stated as a conditional claim:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

This conditional claim is a key piece of the final inference in Argument #4:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

THEREFORE:

E. God exists.

 
THE LOGIC IN THE MIDDLE OF ARGUMENT #4
We now know the initial inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (C), and we know the final inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (E), but we are missing the logic in the middle of this argument, the connection between the initial inference and the final inference.
The connection is clearly that premise (C), the conclusion of the initial inference, provides support for premise (D), a premise in the final inference. Since it is not immediately obvious that (C) logically implies (D), we should explicitly state a premise that asserts that there is this logical relationship between (C) and (D):

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

So, the logic in the middle of Argument #4 goes like this:

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

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

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT#4
Now we can show the full logical structure of Argument #4, especially how the initial inference is connected to the final inference by an inference in the middle of this argument (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that out of the eight statements that make up this argument, only two statements were made explicitly by Kreeft.  Three-fourths of this argument was left UNSTATED.  Not exactly a great job of clarifying the Fourth Way of Aquinas.
 
NEXT STEPS
Now that we know the logical structure of Argument #4, the next steps are to figure out the meanings of the premises of this argument:

  • What is a “perfection”?
  • What sort of perfections are those that “pertain to being”?
  • What is a “finite creature”?
  • What does it mean to say that “being is caused in” something? 
  • What is an “absolutely perfect being”?
  • What constitutes “a source and real standard” of a perfection?

There is not a SINGLE premise in Argument #4 that has a CLEAR meaning.  Each and every premise in this argument uses odd or technical terms, and is thus UNCLEAR as it stands.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 16: Aquinas’s Way #4

WHERE WE ARE AT WITH THE FIRST FIVE ARGUMENTS
For the first five arguments in his case for God, Peter Kreeft makes use of the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas.  Kreeft’s versions of four of those Five Ways are complete failures, because he does not bother to provide any support for the most important premises of those arguments.  Thus, we can reasonably toss aside Argument #1, Argument #2, Argument #3, and Argument #5, for this reason alone.
Kreeft does slightly better with Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection,  because he provides at least a hint about a line of reasoning that could be used to support the most important premise of Argument #4:

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

Furthermore, in my view this key premise has significantly greater initial plausibility than the analogous key premises in the other arguments based on the Five Ways of Aquinas.  For this reason, Argument #4 is the ONLY argument in the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.  So, I am going to take a closer look this argument, and will not toss it aside until I have examined it in more detail and found it to be a weak or defective argument.
 
THE ARGUMENT AS PRESENTED BY AQUINAS
Kreeft is supposed to be CLARIFYING the arguments of Aquinas, and making them understandable for a general audience, but in this case he makes the argument UNCLEAR and more difficult to understand.  The Argument from Degrees of Perfection is fairly clear as presented by Aquinas, and it is fairly UNCLEAR as presented by Kreeft, so I will begin by focusing on the argument as presented by Aquinas, and then move on to try to figure out what the hell Kreeft’s version of this argument means.
Aquinas’s statement of the argument is quoted in full in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition (see “Degrees of Perfection, Argument for the Existence of God” in Volume 2):
The fourth way is based on the gradation observed in things.  Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less.  But comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative; for example,  things are hotter and hotter the nearer they approach what is hottest.  Something therefore is the truest and best and most noble of things, and hence the most fully in being; for Aristotle says that the truest things are the things most fully in being.  Now when many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others: fire, to use Aristotle’s example, the hottest of all things, causes all other things to be hot.  There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God.   (Summa Theologica Ia, 2, 3)
 
Here are the main premises of Aquinas’s argument quoted above:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6. This we call God.

As it stands, this argument is irrelevant to the question “Does God exist?”.  In order to make this argument relevant to the question at issue, we need to revise premise (6), and state the actual conclusion.  Here is the final inference in the clarified argument:

5.  There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6a. IF there is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

Premises (3) and (4) are given in support of premise (5):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

Premises (1) and (2) are given in support of premise (3):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

 
AMBIGUITY IN PREMISE (3)
Aquinas and his followers are, for some reason, unable to use the word “something” without committing the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  (Suggestion: Thomists should not be allowed to use this word in a philosophical argument for the next seven centuries.)  Aquinas uses the word “something” ambiguously in premise (3):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

This premise has at least four different meanings:

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

3b.  At least one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

3c.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things AND exactly one thing is the best of things AND exactly one thing is the most noble of things.

3d.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

There are actually more meanings of premise (3) than just these four interpretations, because the terms “truest” and “best” and “most noble” are themselves ambiguous.  It is not clear whether there can be TWO or more “best” of things.  In other words, does Aquinas allow for a tie for first place?  On one interpretation of “best” there can be only ONE thing that is best, and so if two things are better than everything else, but neither one is better than the other, then there is NO best of things, on that interpretation of the word “best”.
Aquinas commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this reasoning, based on the ambiguity of premise (3).  The sub-argument is clearly insufficient to prove the strong claim made in (3d).  At best, the sub-argument supports the weak claim made in (3a).  But Aquinas needs the stronger claim made in (3d) for the rest of his argument to work.  Premise (3a) is too weak to provide support for premise (5).  The sub-argument for (3) is either INVALID and fails to prove the strong claim (3d), or else it is VALID but proves only the weak claim (3a), which is not adequate to support premise (5).  Therefore, either the sub-argument for (3) is INVALID, or else the sub-argument for (5) is INVALID.
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (5)
If we look at the wording of premise (5) taken by itself, ignoring the context, then it too uses the word “something” ambiguously, and it can be given at least two different interpretations:

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

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

It does seem a bit odd, however, that there could be TWO (or more) things which cause “in all other things…their goodness…”, because then these ultimate causes of goodness would also be causing each other’s goodness, and there might be some logical contradiction involved in that scenario.  But there is another better reason to eliminate interpretation (5a).  In context, it is clear that Aquinas is referring to just ONE thing:
There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God (emphasis added)
The pronoun “this” clearly implies that the word “something” in the previous sentence means EXACTLY ONE thing.  Furthermore, calling something “God” also implies that he is referring to EXACTLY ONE thing, because “God” is a proper noun, the name of an individual being.   So, in context, premise (5) clearly is making the stronger claim (5b).  In order to avoid a similar ambiguity with premise (6), that premise should be revised to use the same clear quantification language as in (5b):

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

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

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 
THE SUB-ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (5b)
We can now clearly state the sub-argument for premise (5b):

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

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

Now that we have clarified the meanings of premises (3) and (5), it becomes obvious that this sub-argument is INVALID.  All that can legitimately be inferred from (3a) and (4) is that the truest of things causes truth in other things that are less true, and that the best of things causes goodness in other things that are less good, and that the most noble of things causes nobility in other things that are less noble.  We cannot infer that there is EXACTLY ONE thing which causes ALL perfections in everything else.
Premise (4) is pretty obviously FALSE, as well.  Aquinas gives the example of fire causing heat in other things that are less hot than fire.  But this is clearly a HASTY GENERALIZATION.   First of all, the example doesn’t work at all, because fire is NOT a thing.  Fire is a KIND of thing.  There are many fires, many instances of fire.  Second, specific instances of fire are NOT the hottest thing there is.  Some instances of fire are hotter than other instances of fire.  Also, some physical objects can become hotter than some instances of fire.  Finally, fire is NOT the only cause of heat in things.  Heat can also be caused by friction, and by the flow of electricity.  Fire is basically a rapid form of oxidation, which is different from friction and from the flow of electricity.  The evidence that Aquinas gives in support of (4) FAILS to support (4), and we cannot reasonably draw a universal conclusion from a single alleged example.
Coaches are not necessarily the very best players of the sport they coach.  So, a football coach can be a worse football player than the players that he coaches.  But that means that a cause of the excellence of some of the best football players might well be a worse football player than they are.   
Charcoal can be used to filter water, to make water more pure.  But after using a charcoal filter to purify water for a while, the filter becomes less pure than the water.  Even so, the charcoal filter can continue to be used to purify the water, at least for some additional period of time.  In that period of time, the filter is less pure than the water that it is being used to purify.   
The cause of an oak tree is a tiny acorn.  The largeness of the oak tree is thus caused by something that is much smaller than the oak tree, not by something that is larger than the oak tree, and certainly not by the largest thing that has ever existed. The size of the blast from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was much larger than the bomb that caused the blast.  Therefore, the largeness of the blast was caused by something much smaller than the blast, and not by something that was much larger than the blast.
There are many counterexamples to the universal generalization made in premise (4), so we can reasonably conclude that (4) is false.
Therefore, the sub-argument for (5b) is definitely UNSOUND, because it contains an INVALID inference, and because it is based on a FALSE premise.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (3a)
Here is the sub-argument for (3a):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

This sub-argument is clearly INVALID.  That is, as stated it is formally INVALID.  It might well be possible to re-state this sub-argument in a way that is formally VALID.  I think premise (2) can be reasonably viewed as support for an unstated premise that would make the argument VALID:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

B. If one thing has more of quality X than another thing, then there is at least one thing that has the most of quality X.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

Premise (2) is a reason given in support of the unstated assumption (B), which makes the argument VALID.  (Actually, the argument still is not quite formally valid, but it is easier to see that this revised argument is deductively valid and that it could be revised to make it formally valid.)
Let’s suppose that Aquinas allows for there to be a tie for first place, that there could be two “best” things, for example.  It seems as if (B) is an analytic truth, and thus it would not matter whether premise (2) actually implies or provides a good reason for (B).
If there are various things that have quality X, and at least one of those things has more of that quality than one of the other things, then it seems like there MUST be one or more things in that set of things that has “the most” of quality X.  Some people are taller than other people, so there MUST be at least one person who is the tallest person (perhaps there are many people tied for being the tallest person).  Some cars are faster than other cars, so there MUST be at least one car that is the fastest car (perhaps there are several cars that would tie for being the fastest car).
Although (B) appears to be an analytic truth, it is actually an analytic FALSEHOOD.  It is an analytic falsehood, because it is a universal generalization that has a counterexample that is a necessary truth:
Some integers are greater than other integers, but there is no greatest integer.
So, (B) is a false universal generalization in all possible worlds.
Besides being a necessary falsehood, (B) also is clearly too weak to be of use in the rest of Aquinas’s argument, a weakness that is passed on to premise (3a), making (3a) inadequate to support premise (5b).
Suppose that only two persons exist, and that one person is Satan and the other is Adolf Hitler.  In this world, it would presumably be the case that Hitler was a better person than Satan, because Hitler is presumably not as wicked and evil as Satan.  Since Hitler is better than Satan, if these were the only two persons in existence, then Hitler would be the best person.  Big Freaking Deal!  In this world, there is a best person but that person is a horrible and very evil person, NOT a perfectly good person, and NOT God.
So, premise (B) and premise (3a) can only be used to show that there is at least one thing that has “the most” of some good quality, but that is logically compatible with this thing having only a tiny smidgen of that good quality,  and thus falling miles and miles short of divine perfection.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (6b)
The single most important premise in the Argument from Degrees of Perfection as presented by Aquinas is the premise that links the idea of a single cause of all perfections to the idea of God:

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

Aquinas provides no support for this premise in the Five Ways passage.  He does continue his case for God for over a hundred more pages after the Five Ways passage, so one could probably construct a line of reasoning from those later passages in support of (6b).  I won’t make that attempt here.  I’m just going to evaluate (6b) as it stands.
Premise (6b) is very dubious because, as we saw in our examination of premise (4), the cause of a property in thing X does NOT need to have that property to a greater degree than thing X.  A coach can cause a football player to become a better player than the coach is or ever was.  A charcoal filter can be less pure than the water it causes to become purified.  A tiny acorn can cause an oak tree that is much larger than the acorn.   A small atomic bomb can cause a blast that is much larger than the bomb.  Because (4) is clearly FALSE, (6b) is very questionable.  The cause of goodness in all things need NOT be better than any of the things it causes to be good.  The cause of knowledge in other beings need NOT have more knowledge than those beings it causes to have knowledge.  The cause of the power of other things need NOT be more powerful than those things to which it gives power.
Because (4) is FALSE, it appears to me that (6b) is also FALSE.  Premise (6b) implies a logically necessary connection between causing goodness in other things and possessing maximal or unlimited goodness, but there is no such logically necessary connection, at least none that I can discern.
 
CONCLUSION
Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram of the logical structure of Aquinas’s Way #4 argument:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Although Aquinas’s version of the Argument from Degrees of Perfection is clearer than Kreeft’s version, it still contains some serious ambiguities, and it turns out to be a very crappy argument, full of serious problems.
The sub-argument for (5b) is clearly UNSOUND; the inference is INVALID, and premise (4) is FALSE.
The most important premise of the argument is premise (6b), and because premise (4) is FALSE, this gives us good reason to believe that (6b) is also FALSE.
The final inference in the argument is VALID but this part of the argument is probably UNSOUND because (5b) is dubious (supported by an INVALID sub-argument with a FALSE premise), and (6b) appears to be FALSE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

C. God exists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

X has a Y.

THEREFORE:

X needs a Y. 

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

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