bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 6

Aquinas is often thought of as a rigourously logical and systematic thinker.  This is only half-true.  There is a good deal of vaguness, ambiguity, and illogical thinking in his book Summa Theologica, as far as I can see.
Here is a cautionary note from a philosopher who is an expert on Aquinas:
From the concept of God as ipsum esse subsistens, Thomas deduces certain other properties which must belong to God [i.e. in order to prove that “God”, in the ordinary sense of the word, exists].  The precise logical structure of the series of deductions undertaken by Thomas is very difficult to ascertain.  It is a very complicated structure for one thing; and although it resembles a series of proofs for theorems in a calculus, this comparison is probably not fair.  Thomas does nowhere systematically and exhaustively set out his equivalents of the definitions, axioms, and rules of inference of which he makes use.  The order in which he proves his “theorems” is no order of strict logical dependence. …Nor is it certain that he was absolutely clear in his own mind about the precise nature of his undertaking.  Thus, when we say that Thomas tries to deduce the other properties of God [i.e to prove that God exists] from the notion of ipsum esse subsistens, this must be taken as a kind of reconstruction of his intentions.  He nowhere says in so many words that this is what he is about to do.
(Knut Tranoy, “Thomas Aquinas”, in A Critical History of Western Philosophy;hereafter: CHOWP, p.111, emphasis added)
The first hint that Aquinas is something less than a rigorously logical thinker is his misuse of the word “God”.  Many people mistakenly think that Aquinas produced five arguments for the existence of God in the famous Five Ways passage from Summa Theologica (the Christian philosopher and apologist Peter Kreeft makes this mistake, for example).  That is probably because Aquinas claims to be proving the existence of God in that passage, but Aquinas is using the word “God” in an odd and non-standard way, and thus his arguments in the Five Ways are actually just a tiny piece of his long and complicated argument for the existence of God (in the ordinary sense of the word):
…it may appear that Aquinas is unjustified in describing the first efficient cause as God, at least if by “God” one has in mind a person possessing the characteristics Christian theologians and philosophers attribute to him (for example, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, goodness, and so forth.).  Yet Aquinas does not attempt to show through the previous argument that the demonstrated cause has any of the qualities traditionally predicated of the divine essence.  He says:  “When the existence of a cause is demonstrated from an effect, this effect takes the place of the definition of the cause in proof of the cause’s existence” (ST Ia 2.2 ad 2).  In other words, the term God—at least as it appears in ST Ia 2.2—refers only to that which produces the observed effect.  In the case of the second way, God is synonymous with the first efficient cause;  it does not denote anything of theological substance.  
(Shawn Floyd in “Aquinas: Philosophical Theology“, section 2b, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Aquinas fails to grasp this basic principle of philosophical reasoning:
Before we can try to prove anything at all we must, of course, have some idea of the nature or properties of the being whose existence we want to prove. (Knut Tranoy, CHOWP, p.110)
Aquinas works ass-backwards by first proving the existence of “God” and THEN proving that “God” has various divine attributes.  So, in order to understand his argument for the existence of God, we must constantly replace the word “God” in his arguments, with the appropriate metaphysical concept for that particular phase of his argument.  For example, in the Five Ways passage, the conclusion of the 2nd Way is NOT that “God” exists but that “a first efficient cause” (an FEC) exists.
My attempt to begin to reconstruct the “very difficult to ascertain” structure of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God starts in the middle of Aquinas’ argument, when he infers the existence of a being that has PERFECT KNOWLEDGE from the existence of a being that is IMMATERIAL:
Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. 1), it follows that He occupies the hightest place in knowldege.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 14, Article 1)
When I take a look at the section where Aquinas claims to have previously shown that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality” it turns out that the section is arguing for God being INFINITE (Q 7, A 1), not for God being IMMATERIAL.  There is mention of materiality in the argument, but it is difficult to take an argument for God being infinite and to try to revise the argument to be about God being “in the highest degree of immateriality”.
So, this is another bit of confusion and unclarity from Aquinas.  I’m NOT impressed by this sloppy presentation of a supposed “proof”, where the reader is expected to take a proof given for one thing and reformulate it so that it works as a proof for something else.  Also, the argument about infinity is a rambling one and its logic is difficult to discern.  If the argument for God’s infinity was more clear, I might be able to figure out how to reshape it into an argument for God being “in the highest degree of immateriality”.  But the argument is not very clear, and I’m not going to spend lots of time (at this point) trying to make sense out of it.
In any case, the argument for God’s infinity rests upon the concept of an IES (ipsum esse subsistens) being:
Since therefore the divine being is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4), it is clear that God Himself is infinite and perfect.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 7, Article 1)
Presumably since the derivation of God’s infinity is based on the concept of an IES being, the derivation of the conclusion that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality” is also based on the concept of an IES being.  In that case, we can at least summarize the flow of Aquinas’ logic:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
(CC2) If there exists an IES being, then there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality.
Therefore:
(MC8) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality.
(CC3) If there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality, then there exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge.
Therefore:
(MC9) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge.
Now we can work forward from the five metaphysical claims (that Aquinas argues for in the Five Ways passage) to get to the metaphysical claim of the existence of an IES being, (MC6), and thus complete the line of reasoning from the Five Ways to the existence of an IES being that has perfect knowledge.
The key passage about the existence of an IES being appears to be Question 3 , Article 4 (which Aquinas references in the above quotation).  In that passage, there are three different arguments to establish the existence of an IES being, which can be summarized in terms of three conditional claims:
(CC4) If there exists an FEC (first efficient cause) being, then there exists and FEC being that is also an IES being.
(CC5) If there exists an AP (actus purus, i.e. purely actual) being, then there exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
(CC6) If there exists a First being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both a First Being and an IES being. 
The First Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The existence of an FEC being was argued for in the Five Ways passage, so that particular line of reasoning has been traced back to its starting point: the 2nd Way, which is an argument for this metaphysical claim.  We can combine that metaphysical claim with one of the above conditional claims to form a modus ponens:
(MC2)  There exists an FEC being.
(CC4) If there exists an FEC (first efficient cause) being, then there exists an FEC being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC10) There exists an FEC being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this first line of reasoning:
FEC–>FEC & IES–>IES
 
The Second Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The second argument for the existence of an IES being is based on the following key metaphysical claim:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
This metaphysical claim is argued for in Question 3:
Secondly, beause the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potency. …Now it has already been proved that God is the First Being.  It is therefore impossible that in God there should be anything in potency.  (Summa Theologica, Question 3, Article 1, in the second argument)
The reasoning can again be put into the form of a modus ponens:
(MC11) There exists a First Being.
(CC7) If there exists a First Being, then there exists a First Being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC12) There exists a First Being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
However, because Aquinas is somewhat careless in his reasoning, it is unclear what he means by a “First Being”.  This is a technical term, and Aquinas introduces it without providing a definition, and without providing any explanation or clarification of what this term means.
Since the passage I quoted that refers to “the First Being” occurs immediately after the famous Five Ways passage, this new technical term presumably refers to one of the following “first” beings discussed in the Five Ways passage:
(MC1) There exists a UFC being.  
(“a UFC being” = a being that is an unchanged first changer – often misleadingly translated “unmoved first mover” )
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(“an FEC being” =  a being that is a first efficient cause)
(MC3) There exists an FN being.
(“an FN being” = a being that is a first necessary being, a being that is necessary but does not get its necessity from another being)
The 4th and 5th Ways do not speak of a being that is “first”, and unlike the other three Ways, they do not make use of the rejection of an infinite regress (to establish the existence of a being as the “first” in a chain of dependency), so the COP (cause of all perfections) being, and the IDN (intelligent designer of nature) being, do NOT seem to be good candiates for the referent of the expression “the First Being”.
My best guess is that when Aquinas speaks of “the First Being” in Question 3, he is referring back to the being that he tries to prove exists in his 2nd Way:  an FEC being.  The expression “the First Being” suggests the idea of “the First thing that exists”, and it is the 2nd Way that focuses in on the cause of the existence of beings in general.  The 1st Way is focused on the cause of changes, and the 3rd Way is focused on the cause of necessary beings, which is a special category of beings.  So, only the 2nd Way relates to the cause of the existence of beings in general.  I’m not certain of this interpretation of “the First Being”, but it seems to be the best of the three main alternatives.
Assuming my interpretation of “First Being” is correct, we can trace this line of reasoning back to the 2nd Way:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(CC8) If there exists an FEC being, then there exists an FEC being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC13) There exists an FEC being that is also an AP being.
Therefore:
(MC7) There exists an AP being.
(CC5) If there exists an AP (actus purus, i.e. purely actual) being, then there exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC14) There exists an AP being that is also an IES being.
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this second line of reasoning:
FEC–>FEC & AP–>AP–>AP & IES–>IES
 
The Third Line of Reasoning Supporting (MC6)
The third line of reasoning involves another reference to the “First Being”:
(CC6) If there exists a First being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both a First Being and an IES being. 
If we interpret the expression “First Being” as a reference to an FEC being, then this conditional claim (CC6) can be stated more clearly:
(CC9) If there exists an FEC being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
We have part of what is needed to show the truth of the antecedent of this conditional claim:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
But it needs to be shown that such a being “is its own essence” in order for us to be able to affirm the truth of the antecedent of (CC9).  Aquinas argues for the existence of a being that “is its own essence” in Question 3, Article 3: Whether God Is the Same As His Essence or Nature?  The argument in that section is based on another metaphysical concept:
Since God then is not composed of matter and form, He must be His own Godhead, His own Life, and whatever else is thus predicated of Him.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 3, Article 3)
This suggests the following conditional claim:
(CC10) If there exists a being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists a being that is its own essence.
Since Aquinas needs to prove the existence of a being that is both an FEC being and that is its own essence, he needs to prove the following modified version of the above conditional claim:
(CC11) If there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
Aquinas argues that God is “not composed of matter and form” in Question 3, Article 2: Whether God is Composed of Matter and Form?  He gives three different arguments to support this claim, and the third argument is based on the concept of an FEC being:
Now God is the first agent, since He is the first effecient cause as we have shown (Q. II, A. 3).  He is therefore of His essence a form, and not composed of matter and form.  (Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 3, Article 2).
So we can now trace this line of reasoning back to the 2nd Way, because Aquinas has argued for this conditional claim:
(CC12) If there exists an FEC being, then there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form.
Add to this the metaphysical claim from the 2nd Way for a modus ponens:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.
Therefore:
(MC15) There exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form.
(CC11) If there exists an FEC being that is not composed of matter and form, then there exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
Therefore:
(MC16) There exists an FEC being that is its own essence.
(CC9) If there exists an FEC being that is its own essence, then there exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
Therefore:
(MC17) There exists a being that is its own essence and that is both an FEC being and an IES being. 
Therefore:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
Here is a simple diagram showing the flow of this third line of reasoning:
FEC–> FEC & not composed of matter and form–>FEC & is its own essence–>is its own essence & FEC & IES–>IES
=======================
If we ignore the conditional claims and focus on just the metaphysical claims in the above arguments, we can depict the flow of Aquinas’ reasoning from the conclusion of the 2nd Way (MC2), to the conclusion that there is an IES being with PERFECT KNOWLEDGE (MC9).  Click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram:
Flow of Reasoning from MC2 to MC9
 
 
 

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 5

The famous Five Ways passage by Aquinas in Summa Theologica does not contain five arguments for the existence of God. Rather, it contains ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  There is actually only one argument for the existence of God in the Summa Theologica, and the reasoning in the Five Ways passage only represents a tiny piece of that very long and complicated argument.
The Five Ways passage presents arguments for these five metaphysical claims:
(MC1) There exists a UFC being.  
(“a UFC being” = a being that is an unchanged first changer – often misleadingly translated “unmoved first mover” )
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.  
(“an FEC being” =  a being that is a first efficient cause)
(MC3) There exists an FN being.
(“an FN being” = a being that is a first necessary being, a being that is necessary but does not get its necessity from another being)
(MC4) There exists a COP being.
(“a COP being” = a being that is the cause of all perfections)
(MC5)  There exists an IDN being.
(“an IDN being” = a being that is an intelligent designer of nature)
=================
NOTE:
The above list of five metaphysical claims is a revised version of the list of five metaphysical claims that I spelled out in Part 3 of this series of posts.   There are two key metaphysical claims by Aquinas that are derived from one or more of the above five metaphysical claims, but I jumped the gun by including those two key claims in the previous list of five metaphysical claims that Aquinas argues for in the Five Ways passage.  The two additional key metaphysical claims are argued for by Aquinas in other passages that occur later in Summa Theologica:
(MC6) There exists and IES being.
(“an IES being” = a being that is ipsum esse subsistens, i.e. its own self-subisting existence)
(MC7) There exists an AP being. 
(“an AP being” = a being that is actus purus, i.e. pure actuality, with no potentiality)
=================
Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God can be summarized this way:
(MC6) There exists an IES being.
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
The Five Ways passage comes close to providing an argument for (MC6), but some additional reasoning is required.  The Five Ways passage, however, makes no attempt to prove the conditional claim (CC1).  Several (at least a dozen) other passages in Summa Theologica provide a long and complex line of reasoning in support of (CC1), as we shall see.
I had initially thought that I would use the strategy of working backwards from the main conditional premise that Aquinas needs to support:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
The argument for (CC1) needs to be something like this:
ARGUMENT FOR (CC1)
(P1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
(P2) IF there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
I was planning to work backwards from various conditional claims linking the existence of an IES being to the existence of an IES being with a divine attribute:

  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is the creator of the universe.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally bodiless person.
  • IF there exists and IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally omnipotent person.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally omniscient person.
  • IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists an IES being that is an eternally perfectly morally good person.

However, Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God is even more lengthy and complicated than I first thought, so it is a bit discouraging to use the strategy of working backwards from (CC1) to reconstruct his reasoning.  So, I am changing my strategy, and I will be starting in the MIDDLE of his reasoning and working my way both forward, to arrive at the conditional claim (CC1), and backwards to the initial five metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage.
The middle of Aquinas’ reasoning occurs when he shifts from discussion and argument about abstract metaphysical properties of God to the more recognizable religious properties of God.  The core religious property of God is KNOWLEDGE, in Aquinas’ view, and this religious property is derived from the metaphysical property of IMMATERIALITY (although I include “eternally bodiless person” as a basic defining divine attribute).
Here is the passage where Aquinas makes the shift from the derived metaphysical property of IMMATERIALITY to the core religious property of KNOWLEDGE:
I answer that, In God there exists the most perfect knowledge. … Therefore it is clear that the immateriality of a thing is the reason why it is cognitive, and the mode of knowledge is according to the mode of immateriality. … Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. 1), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.
(Summa Theologica, Part I,  Question 14, Article 1: Whether There is Knowledge in God?)
By starting in the middle of Aquinas’ reasoning, I break the complex task into two main pieces: (1) working backwards from the conclusion that an IES being is IMMATERIAL to the metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage, and (2) working forward from the conclusion that an IES being has PERFECT KNOWLEDGE to the derived religious/theological properties of God:  the creator of the universe, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
The religious property of omnipotence is derived not from PERFECT KNOWLEDGE but from some of God’s metaphysical properties.  So, I will also have a third task: (3) working backwards from the existence of an eternally omnipotent person to the metaphysical claims made in the Five Ways passage.
Since being IMMATERIAL appears to imply that God is bodiless, if I can trace the reasoning for the claim that an IES being is IMMATERIAL backwards to the metaphysical claims in the Five Ways passage, then that will cover the property of being bodiless (though Aquinas needs to show that God is eternally bodiless, so some additional reasoning will probably be needed).
The following diagram shows the general flow of the reasoning (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Reconstructing Aquinas Argument
 

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care – Part 4

I have previously argued that, contrary to popular opinion, there are ZERO arguments for the existence of God in the famous Five Ways passage by Aquinas in Summa Theologica (Part I, Question 2, Article 3: Whether God Exists?).
Now I’m getting into what I do care about, namely the ACTUAL argument(s) that Aquinas gives to prove the existence of God.  Here is one argument (possibly the only one) for the existence of God from Summa Theologica:
THE IES ARGUMENT
(MC3) There exists an IES being.
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(G) God exists.
(“an IES being” = a being that is ipsum esse subsistens, i.e. its own self-subisting existence) 
The argument supporting (MC3) is found in the Five Ways passage.  But the arguments supporting (CC1) are found in various OTHER passages in Summa Theologica.  
In order to successfully prove (CC1), Aquinas needs to make an argument that is something very close to the following argument:
ARGUMENT FOR (CC1)
(P1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person.
(P2) IF there exists exactly one being that is the creator of the universe, an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, THEN God exists.
Therefore:
(CC1) IF there exists an IES being, THEN God exists.
It is premise (P1) that Aquinas argues for in various other sections of Summa Theologica outside of the Five Ways passage.
Aquinas argues for the existence of an omnipotent being in Part I, Question 25: “The Power of God” (especially in Article 2).
Aquinas argues for the existence of a being has “the most perfect knowledge” in Part I, Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge” (especially in Article 1).  This appears to be an argument supporting the view that an IES being must be omniscient.
While Aquinas does not appear to argue specifically that there exists a being that is a perfectly morally good person, he does argue for the existence of a supreme being who has the moral virtues of love and justice in Part I, Question 20: “God’s Love”, and in Part I, Question 21: “The Justice and Mercy of God” (especially in Article 1).  If Aquinas can prove that an IES being has the virtues of love and justice, then that comes close to the claim that an IES being is a perfectly morally good person.
Aquinas argues for the eternity of an IES being in Part I, Question 10: “The Eternity of God” (see Article 2: “Whether God is Eternal?”).  But even if a being exists eternally, and is omnipotent and omniscient now, that does not mean that this being will be eternally omnipotent and eternally omniscient.  So, I suspect that in order to show these (and other) divine attributes to be eternal, Aquinas has to establish that the IES being is IMMUTABLE, which he attempts to do in Part I, Question 9: “The Immutability of God”.
Aquinas argues, I believe, that there can be only ONE being that is an IES being in Part I, Question 11: “The Unity of God” (see Article 3: Whether God is One?”).
Aquinas argues for the immateriality of an IES being in Part I, Question 3: “Of the Simplicity of God.”  This would support the claim that an IES being is bodiless.
Aquinas does not have a section that explicitly argues that an IES being is the creator of the universe, but there is a section in Part I, Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge” that appears to address this: Article 8: “Whether the Knowledge of God Is the Cause of All Things”.  In that section, Aquinas argues that “God is the cause [of natural things] by His knowledge.”
NOTE: If Aquinas argues somewhere that an IES being must also be an IDN being (the intelligent designer of nature), then the Fifth of the Five Ways could also be used to support the claim that an IES being is the creator of the universe.
So, in order to piece together Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God, we must study the reasoning he lays out in at least the following sections in Part I of Summa Theologica:
Question 3: “Of the Simplicity of God”
Question 9: “The Immutability of God”
Question 10: “The Eternity of God”
Question 11: “The Unity of God”
Question 14: “Of God’s Knowledge”
Question 20: “God’s Love”
Question 21:  “The Justice and Mercy of God”
Question 25: “The Power of God”
Furthermore, in order to link some of these properties back to the concept of an IES being, reasoning from other sections of Part I of Summa Theologica will also be required:
Question 4:  “The Perfection of God”
Question 7:  “The Infinity of God”
Question 19: “The Will of God”
So, in order to reconstruct Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God, one must study his reasoning from at least a DOZEN different sections (“Questions”) of Part I of Summa Theologica, not just the reasoning found in the Five Ways passage which is in the section called Question 2: “The Existence of God.”
No wonder most people want to interpret the Five Ways passage as presenting five arguments for the existence of God!  To try to figure out Aquinas’ ACTUAL argument for the existence of God is a royal pain in the ass.  It is so much EASIER to just grossly distort and completely misinterpret the Five Ways passage, and then quickly move on to some other topic.

bookmark_borderI Don’t Care

Thomas Aquinas pulled a classic BAIT-AND-SWITCH move in Summa Theologica:
 “Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”
“Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.” 
“Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.” 
“Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every perfection; and this we call God.” 
“Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.” 
(Summa Theologica, Third Article: Whether God Exists?, emphasis added by me)
My first response to Aquinas’ Five Ways is: I DON’T CARE:

  • I don’t care whether there is a first unmoved mover.
  • I don’t care whether there is a first efficient cause.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that has of itself its own necessity.
  • I don’t care whether there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings.
  • I don’t care whether there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end.

What I care about is whether GOD exists or not.  Aquinas spells out his “Five Ways” in a section titled:
Whether God Exists?
This title leads one to believe that Aquinas will address the issue of whether GOD exists, not whether there is a first unmoved mover, not whether there is a first efficient cause, etc.  So, this is a classic bait-and-switch deception by Aquinas.  Aquinas does NOT address the question at issue.  At any rate, he FAILS to answer the question at issue.
Of course, one can REPAIR the defective arguments presented by Aquinas by simply tacking on a conditional premise at the end:
1.  IF there is a first unmoved mover, THEN God exists.
2. IF there is a first efficient cause, THEN God exists.
3. IF there is something that has of itself its own necessity, THEN God exists.
4. IF there is something that is the cause of the existence or the goodness of all beings, THEN God exists.
5. IF there is an intelligent being by whom all natural things are directed to their end, THEN God exists.
Tacking these additional premises onto the end of Aquinas’ Five Ways makes the arguments relevant to the question at issue, but that hardly gets us to any sort of conclusion on the issue.  NONE of these premises is self-evident, and as far as I can tell, NONE of these premises is true.
I understand that some people believe these premises, and some people argue for some of these premises.  But, I don’t think there is a single premise in this group that is easy to prove to be true or easy to show to be highly probable.  In any case, Aquinas makes no effort, in this passage at least, to provide any reasons or arguments in support of any of these DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS.
Aquinas is not alone among great philosophers who lay out obviously CRAPPY arguments.  Most, if not all, of the great historical philosophers that I have read have their bad days and their obviously bad arguments.  Nevertheless, you would think that this embarassing example of obviously CRAPPY arguments for the existence of God would have served as a warning to all future philosophers of religion and Christian apologists to avoid simply asserting such DUBIOUS ASSUMPTIONS without providing some well-thought-out reasons and arguments to support them.
But when I read presentations of the cosmological argument by William Craig and by J.P. Moreland, for example, they tend to provide only the skimpiest of arguments to support this kind of KEY PREMISE in their arguments for God.  Although they do give some sort of reasons, the reasons are often stated in just one, or maybe two sentences, and then they move quickly on to some other subject.
So, here we are 740 or so years after the publication of Summa Theologica, and Christian philosophers are still pulling the same BAIT-AND-SWITCH move:  pretending to present an argument for the existence of GOD, while actually presenting an argument for something else (e.g. the cause of the beginning of the universe).

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig: 36 Years of Equivocation – Part 2

One reason why it should be OBVIOUS that Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (hereafter: KCA) involves the fallacy of equivocation, is that Aquinas commits a very similar fallacy of equivocation in his cosmological arguments for God.
Every (or almost every) introduction to philosophy of religion course includes at least a brief examination of Aquinas’s Five Ways or Five Arguments for God.  So,  almost every philosophy student who has taken an introduction to philosophy of religion course has been exposed to the sort of fallacy of equivocation that occurs in KCA.
Let’s look at Aquinas’s first argument for God.  Here are a couple of key premises:
1. In the world some things are in motion.
2. Whatever is moved is moved by another.
To be “moved by another” is ambiguous.   This might mean either (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing” or it could mean (b)  “moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing”.   The premise is plausible on interpretation (a), but is clearly false on interpretation (b):
2a. Whatever is moved is moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing.
2b. Whatever is moved is moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing.
Premise (2b) is clearly FALSE, because it is possible for two moving objects to cause a third object to move, as when two moving billiard balls simultaneously bump up against a third stationary billiard ball and cause the third billiard ball to start moving.  So, for premise (2) of Aquinas’s first argument for God to have a chance of being true, we must interpret the ambiguous claim in (2) as meaning (2a).
But as the argument proceeds, Aquinas shifts into talking about a SINGLE first mover:
If that by which it is moved be itself moved, then this also must needs be moved by another, and that by another again.  But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and consequently, no other mover, seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are moved by the first mover; …Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; an this everyone understands to be God.
(Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, by William Alston, p.29 – excerpt from Summa Theologica).
Aquinas speaks of “the first mover” implying that there must only be ONE thing that initiates movement.  But even if there was just ONE SINGLE chain of one object moving another object moving another object, no matter how far back we go, we cannot infer that the prior cause of movement was a SINGLE object or thing; it might well be TWO or THREE or a THOUSAND things, because premise (2b) only supports an inference to there being AT LEAST ONE prior object or thing that causes the movement.
Aquinas then concludes that “this” first mover is understood to be God.  But to speak of “this” first mover, clearly implies that there was EXACTLY ONE such mover, and to identify the ultimate cause of motion as God, who is by definition,  ONE BEING, is also to assume that there is EXACTLY ONE such mover.  So, we see in Aquinas’s first argument for God, a clear shift between an ambiguous initial premise (2), which might refer to either (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing”   or to (b) “moved by EXACTLY ONE other thing”, to a conclusion that assumes that there must be EXACTLY ONE thing that is “the first mover”.  But premise (2) is plausible only if we give it interpretation (a) “moved by AT LEAST ONE other thing”, in which case the conclusion that there is EXACTLY ONE first mover does NOT logically follow.
Aquinas thus commits the fallacy of equivocation in his first argument for the existence of God, which is generally considered to be a cosmological argument.  
A similar equivocation fallacy occurs in Aquinas’s third argument for God. The third way is also considered to be a cosmological argument.  Here are some key premises [this is not the complete argument]:
1. If at one time [in the past] nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist.
 2.  If it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist [after some particular point in time in the past], then even now nothing would be in existence.
3. But it is absurd [i.e. false] that nothing is in existence now.
4. Therefore…there must exist something the existence of which is necessary.
I realize that (4) does not follow from premises (1), (2) and (3), but that is because I have left out some other premises of this argument.  My point here is that the meaning of “there must exist something” in premise (4) is nailed down by the logic of the argument supporting (4).  There could NOT have been a past time when nothing existed, so we can conclude that in every point in time in the past SOMETHING has existed, and this clearly means that AT LEAST ONE thing exists in any given point in time in the past (allowing that different things could exist at different points in time in the past).
So, when interpreted properly, (4) means this:
4a.  There must exist AT LEAST ONE thing the existence of which is necessary. 
But the conclusion that Aquinas draws requires that we assume the truth of a different premise:
4b.  There must exist EXACTLY ONE thing the existence of which is necessary.
Notice how the language of Aquinas shifts to talk about a SINGLE being or thing:
Therefore we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity.  This all men speak of as God.
(Religious Belief and Philosophical Thought, p.30)
The phrase “some being” is ambiguous between “EXACTLY ONE being” and “AT LEAST ONE being”, but in the very next sentence, Aquinas shifts to speaking about “This” which assumes that there is EXACTLY ONE being which has the sort of “necessity” in question.  And, of course, “God” by definition refers to a SINGLE being.  But the key premise that Aquinas is basing his conclusion on only talks about there being AT LEAST ONE being that has this sort of necessity.  So, once again, Aquinas commits the fallacy of equivocation.  The argument for premise (4) is logically valid only if we interpret (4) to mean (4a).  But Aquinas’s conclusion follows validly from premise (4) only if we interpret it to mean (4b).
In conclusion, IF I am correct that William Craig has committed a similar fallacy of equivocation in his cosmological argument (KCA), THEN the fallacy that Craig commits has about an 800 year history, and occurred in the most studied and examined versions of the cosmological argument, found in Aquinas’s Five Ways of arguing for the existence of God.

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig: 36 Years of Equivocation

William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument (hereafer: KCA) has been kicked around for several decades now, so it is very unlikely that I will come up with some new devastating objection that nobody has previously thought of (and published).
I purchased my copy of The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), which presents KCA for a general audience, in the summer of 1982 (or 1983?) at the bookstore at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where Craig was teaching at the time.  I dropped in at the school while travelling in hopes of meeting with Craig in person.  At that point in my young life I was still an Evangelical Christian, with plans to do graduate study at Trinity with Craig.  Craig was out of office, perhaps doing some summer travelling himself, so we did not meet.
I am confident that there are many serious objections to KCA because all of the following excellent philosophers have raised objections against it:
Thomas Aquinas
Edwin Curley
Paul Draper
Nicholas Everitt
Antony Flew
Richard Gale
Adolf Grunbaum
Douglas Jesseph
Stephen Law
J.L. Mackie
Michael Martin
Wes Morriston
Graham Oppy
Alexander Pruss
Keith Parsons
Massimo Pigliucci
Robin Le Poidevin
William Rowe
Bede Rundle
Walter Sinnot-Armstrong
Quentin Smith
Jordan Sobel
Richard Swinburne
John Taylor
Michael Tooley
Corey Washington
Keith Yandell
Most of these philosophers are philosophers of religion and most are atheists.  However, there are a few notable theists as well (indicated by italics).  I wasn’t sure whether to categorize Richard Gale as an atheist (because of his skeptical view of most arguments for God) or as a theist (because he helped create and defended a new version of cosmological argument).  In any case, since Gale has himself proposed a cosmological argument for God, I’m counting him as a theist, since he obviously must have some sympathy for other philosophers who defend some version of cosmological argument. (Richard M. Gale died earlier this summer, which was a significant loss to the philosophy of religion.)
The theists who have objected to KCA include two superstars of philosophy of religion: Thomas Aquinas and Richard Swinburne.  Alexander Pruss and Richard Gale are philosophers of religion who have expertise in the study of cosmological arguments for God, and they created a new version of cosmological argument.  So, their criticisms of KCA should be taken seriously.  Keith Yandell is no slouch either.  Keith specialized in the philosophy of religion, and he is now retired.  In fact, he is currently an “affiliated” professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where William Craig taught philosophy of religion in the 1980s.  So, we have an Evangelical Christian philosopher who is a respected expert in philosophy of religion who has raised objections to KCA.  According to Jeff Lowder, one of the best critiques of KCA was written by Wes Morriston, who is a theist.
There are a few other theist philosophers who should be mentioned, who do not appear on the above list:
Michael Peterson
William Hasker
Bruce Reichenbach
David Basinger
These four philosophers of religion have produced an introductory text on the philosophy of religion titled: Reason & Religious Belief.  In that text there is a brief critique of KCA, and the argument is found wanting (although KCA is not definitively refuted or rejected there).
Clearly, it is not just atheist philosophers who find problems with KCA.
It should also be noted that William Rowe, who is one of the atheists who have objected to KCA, is not only a philosopher of religion, but he specialized in the study of cosmological arguments for God, and is recognized as a leading expert on such arguments.  The article on “Cosmological Arguments” in the Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Religion was written by William Rowe.  Many edited collections of articles for philosophy of religion courses contain articles by William Rowe on the cosmological argument. (Sadly, William Rowe died this summer).
OK, now to the business of criticizing KCA.  I’m only going to raise one objection here, and this is not an entirely new objection, nor is it a devastating objection to KCA.
However, there is an OBVIOUS problem with KCA that should have been fixed long ago, and I wish to pound on William Craig for a bit, for failing to fix this problem with KCA for at least thirty-six years.  KCA involves an obvious equivocation fallacy, one that every student of philosophy ought to notice, especially any philosophy student who has had an Introductory course in philosophy of religion.  And yet, here we are nearly four decades after Craig began pushing KCA, and in 2015 he is still committing the same fucking logical fallacy that he was committing in 1979.  This has got to STOP!
Craig should not take all of the blame here.  Atheist philosophers should have pounded on Craig for this obvious equivocation fallacy, and should have long ago SHAMED Craig into reformulating his argument.  But, although a few atheist critics have hinted at this problem, I have not seen anyone make the effort to clearly point out the OBVIOUS EQUIVOCATION in KCA.  So, I’m going to try to take up some of the slack here, and do the work that other atheist critics of KCA have (as far as I am aware) failed to do.
Michael Martin comes the closest to pounding on Craig for the equivocation in KCA, so Martin should be given some credit(for the objection I’m going to lay out).  He points to the problem in the very first sentences of his “Evaluation” of KCA:
It should be obvious that Craig’s conclusion that a single personal agent created the universe is a non sequitur.  At most, this Kalam argument shows that some personal agent or agents created the universe.  Craig cannot validly conclude that a single agent is the creator.  
(Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, p.103)
William Rowe, a leading expert on cosmological arguments, makes a similar objection:
Even granting that the cause of the Big Bang is a mind, is it clear that it is a single mind rather than a multiplicity of minds who collaborated on the project of producing the Big Bang?
(“Cosmological Arguments” in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion, p.115)
This sort of objection goes back at least as far as David Hume, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a form of this objection was discussed by medieval philosophers.  Hume raised this sort of objection against the argument from design:
And what shadow of an argument, continued Philo, can you produce from your hypothesis to prove the unity of the Deity? A great number of men join in building a house or a ship, in rearing a city, in framing a commonwealth; why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing a world? This is only so much greater similarity to human affairs. By sharing the work among several, we may so much further limit the attributes of each, and get rid of that extensive power and knowledge which must be supposed in one deity, and which, according to you, can only serve to weaken the proof of his existence.
(Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and the Posthumous Essays, Hackett Publishing Co., 1980, p.36 – about halfway through Part V of the Dialogues.  Hume completed writing of the Dialogues in 1776.)
So, the objection that an argument for God fails to establish the existence of a SINGLE deity (monotheism), as opposed to MANY deities (polytheism) goes back at least 239 years, perhaps many more if medieval philosophers considered this sort of objection.
So, at least two major critics of KCA have made this sort of objection, and probably others have as well.  But neither Martin nor Rowe point out how this problem arises because of an OBVIOUS EQUIVOCATION in Craig’s formulation of KCA.  I have not reviewed the entire literature on KCA, so somebody else might well have already made this point, but apparently nobody has pounded Craig enough to get him to STOP HIS OBNOXIOUS EQUIVOCATING.
Here is how Craig formulates the first phase of the KCA:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The univerese began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(Philosophical Foundations For a Christian Worldview, by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, IVP, 2003, p.468)
The problem should be obvious to any undergraduate philosophy student, or even to a non-philosophy student who has done well in a course on logic or critical thinking.  The offending phrase here is “a cause”.  This phrase can be given at least two different interpretations.  It might mean “exactly one cause”, or it might mean “at least one cause”.  This ambiguity of quantification creates the potential for the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION. When KCA is formulated clearly, by dropping the ambiguous phrase “a cause”, it is clear and obvious that on one possible interpretation the above argument is LOGICALLY INVALID:
1a.  Whatever begins to exist has AT LEAST ONE cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
Therefore:
3b. The universe has EXACTLY ONE cause.
The conclusion (3b) does NOT follow from the premises.  This is why Craig cannot logically conclude that there is only one deity or only one creator from KCA.   Michael Martin and William Rowe are both correct to point out that KCA does not eliminate the possibility that the universe is the product of many gods or many minds, but they failed to point out that the mistaken inference to there being only one god or only one creator was supported by the OBVIOUS EQUIVOCATION in William Craig’s formulation of KCA.
One reason why this is an OBVIOUS EQUIVOCATION is that the same equivocation occurs in one or more of the cosmological arguments put forward by Aquinas.   Every introduction to philosophy of religion covers the cosmological arguments for God presented by Aquinas, and every introduction to philosophyof religion course that is taught by a reasonably intelligent philosopher or philosophy grad student will point out this problem in Aquinas’s cosmological arguments.  So, this very same shit has been going on for about 800 years now.  Can we just make a tiny bit of progress here? Can we STOP THE OBNOXIOUS EQUIVOCATION on ambiguous phrases like “a cause”?!
If Craig has any intellectual integrity, he will reformulate the first phase of KCA to eliminate the ambiguity:
1a.  Whatever begins to exist has AT LEAST ONE cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
Therefore:
3a. The universe has AT LEAST ONE cause.
I’m going to take a break now, but will do a Part 2, where I carefully walk through Craig’s presentation of KCA from 1979, and also his presentations of KCA from more recent years, showing how he keeps right on doing this OBVIOUS EQUIVOCATION.

bookmark_borderWhat is Faith? – Part 7

I’m going to take a detour and temporarily set Mr. Swinburne’s characterization of the Thomist view of faith aside.  But I will continue to examine the Thomist view of faith, specifically as presented by Dr. Norman Geisler.
As Jeff Lowder has recently shown, Dr. Geisler’s case for Christianity is a failure.  IMHO Jeff won that match with a K.O. of Geisler in the very first round:
 Let’s suppose, but only for the sake of argument, that the following evidence favors theism over atheism, i.e., is more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that atheism is true: the beginning of the universe, the design of the universe, the design of life, and the existence of the moral law. Even so, it still doesn’t follow that, all things considered, God’s existence is more likely than not. For example, it may be the case—and I think is the case—that there is other evidence which favors atheism over theism. But, if true, that entails that G&T’s [Geisler and Turek] case violates the Total Evidence Requirement and so G&T’s case accordingly fails to show that Christianity is probably true. 
Geisler’s case for Christianity was decimated by Jeff in just one paragraph-BOOM; that is the awesome power of logic.
Although Dr. Geisler’s case for Christianity fails, I appreciate his thinking about the resurrection of Jesus, especially what I have called Geisler’s Principle:
Before we can show that Jesus rose from the dead, we need to show that He really did die.        
(When Skeptics Ask, by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, p.120)
Based on this principle, one can also decimate William Craig’s case for the resurrection in just one paragraph, since Dr. Craig has never made a serious attempt to show that Jesus really did die on the cross.  So, despite the shortcomings of his Christian apologetics,  Dr. Geisler has some worthwhile things to say.   I am now going to turn to an article by Geisler on “Faith and Reason”, in order to become more familiar with the details of the Thomist view of faith.
Geisler is clearly a fan of Aquinas, even more than Swinburne is a fan.  In the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (1999; hereafter: BECA), Geisler has written a fairly long and detailed article on “Faith and Reason”, and the entire article is basically an exposition of the views of Aquinas about faith and the relationship between faith and reason.  Here is how Geisler characterizes the place of Aquinas in the history of thinking about faith and reason:
 Augustine made the first serious attempt to relate the two [faith and reason], but the most comprehensive treatment came at the end of the medieval period when Christian intellectualism flowered in the work of Thomas Aquinas.            (BECA, p. 239)
I see no criticisms, objections, or reservations expressed by Geisler about the views of Aquinas concerning the relationship of faith and reason, and given that Geisler has devoted the entire article on “Faith and Reason” to laying out the views of Aquinas, it seems clear that Geisler agrees with the view of faith and reason put forward by Aquinas, or at least he sees the view of Aquinas as the best of available comprehensive treatments of this topic.
There are nine bolded subheadings in Geisler’s article on “Faith and Reason”:
1. Relation of Faith to Reason
2. Three Uses of Reason
3. Divine Authority
4. Reason in Support of Faith
5. Distinguishing Faith and Reason
6. Perfected by Love, Produced by Grace
7. The Limitations of Reason
8. Things Above Reason
9. Summary
I might skip over some of these sections, but several look interesting and significant.  The first section looks significant, so I’ll start there.
 
1. Relation of Faith to Reason
There is just one subheading within this section: “Reason Cannot Produce Faith.”  If that is the Thomist view, then the idea of a “purely rational faith” that I described in the previous post, would seem NOT to fit with the Thomist view of ‘faith in God’.  The comments in this section make faith seem unavoidably  irrational:
Faith is consent without inquiry in that faith’s assent is not caused by investigation.  Rather, it is produced by God.  Commenting on Ephesians 2:8-9, Aquinas contended that “free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above reason. …That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it” (Aquinas, Ephesians, 96; unless noted, all citations in this article are from works by Thomas Aquinas). Faith is a gift of God, and no one can believe without it. (BECA, p.239)
Geisler knows more about Aquinas than I do, so I’m inclined to accept his interpretation of Aquinas, at least provisionally.  However, the quote of Aquinas here does not say anything about “inquiry” or “investigation”, so Geisler is reading something between the lines here that is less than obvious, at least to me.
I’m not sure what Aquinas means by the statement that “free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above reason.”  But my guess would be that he means that we cannot simply choose to believe in the doctrines of Christianity that are beyond discovery by human reason, because such doctrines must FIRST be revealed by God to human beings (at some point in history).  If a particular true idea is undiscoverable by means of human “inquiry” or “investigation”, then that implies that human beings will never discover that true idea, at least not on their own.  The trinity is a doctrine that Aquinas believes to be true, and to be beyond the power of human beings to discover by means of reason (or Geisler would say: by means of human “inquiry” or “investigation”).
On the other hand, there is a sense in which the doctrine of the trinity IS discovered by means of human inquiry and investigation, even if Aquinas’ views about the necessity of divine revelation are correct.  If I am to believe that the doctrine of the trinity is true on the basis of the fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of the trinity, I have to first determine whether the Bible is worthy of my trust concerning theological claims, and to determine that question, I need to determine whether there is a God and whether the Bible was inspired by God, and whether the Bible’s original contents have been preserved from corruption over the centuries.  All three of these issues require human inquiry and investigation; these issues require the use of human REASON.  Aquinas pointed to miracles as evidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  But if we need evidence to determine whether the Bible is inspired by God, then we need REASON to determine whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Also, it clearly will not do to appeal to the authority of the Bible in order to determine whether the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  For if the Bible is NOT inspired by God, then it has no significant authority concerning theological questions (such as “Did God inspire the Bible?”).  Appealing to the divine authority of the Bible in order to support the divine authority of the Bible is reasoning in a circle, so such an appeal has no force.
If Aquinas has in mind examples like the doctrine of the trinity being beyond the power of human investigation and inquiry, then it still seems to me that ‘faith in God’ can be purely rational and that ‘faith in God’ can be produced by REASON (on Aquinas’s view).  Belief in the trinity is based on acceptance of the authority of the Bible rather than based on a philosophical argument/proof about the details of this doctrine.  But there is still reasoning required to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible is a good and trustworthy source of theological information.
We must first determine that God exists (or at least, following Swinburne, that it is probable that God exists).  Then we must determine that the Bible was inspired by God (or at least, that it is probable that the Bible was inspired by God).  Then we must determine that the text of the Bible has been well-preserved over the centuries that have passed since it was first written down (or at least, that it is probable that the text of the Bible has been well-preserved).  All of this seems in keeping with the views of Aquinas, and all of this is a matter of REASON, of human inquiry and investigation into the existence of God, and into the inspiration of the Bible.
So, even if the trinity is a true doctrine and that no human being could ever discover the truth of the doctrine of the trinity by means of REASON without the help of divine revelation, it would still be the case that one’s acceptance of divine revelation (for example accepting the doctrine of the trinity on the basis of the authority of the Bible) would be based upon REASON, a human investigation or inquiry into questions about the existence of God and the alleged inspiration of the Bible.