Feser’s First Way: an argument proving God’s existence?

This post arises out of an exchange between me and one Matt Sheean at Ed Feser’s blog. I got involved there because there have been some exchanges, at times quite amusing and colourful, between Feser (assisted by some of his regular commenters) and Vincent Torley, well known to UD readers as perhaps the less unacceptable face of ID, in that he comes across as a nice guy on a personal level. Both Feser and Torley are both staunch Catholics, a religion that I find pretty objectionable (above all for it’s interference in private life and thought, the readiness of its leaders to tell others how to behave, oppression of women and minorities.. but I digress). In an earlier post at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley kindly transcribed some of Feser’s presentation (admittedly to a young, lay audience) of his version of Aquinus’ “First Way”. I was asked to summarise my impression of the video and agreed. Hence this post. Continue reading

Clinical ethics and materialism

In a variant of the hoary old ‘ungrounded morality’ question, Barry Arrington has a post up at Uncommon Descent which ponders how a ‘materialist’ could in all conscience take a position as clinical ethicist, if he does not believe that there is an ultimate ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. I think this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of clinical ethics. In contrast to daily usage, ethics here is not a synonym for morality.

I can understand how a theist who believes in the objective reality of ethical norms could apply for such a position in good faith. By definition he believes certain actions are really wrong and other actions are really right, and therefore he often has something meaningful to say.

My question is how could a materialist apply for such a position in good faith? After all, for the materialist there is really no satisfactory answer to Arthur Leff’s “grand sez who” question that we have discussed on these pages before. See here for Philip Johnson’s informative take on the issue.

After all, when pushed to the wall to ground his ethical opinions in anything other than his personal opinion, the materialist ethicist has nothing to say. Why should I pay someone $68,584 to say there is no real ultimate ethical difference between one moral response and another because they must both lead ultimately to the same place – nothingness.

I am not being facetious here. I really do want to know why someone would pay someone to give them the “right answer” when that person asserts that the word “right” is ultimately meaningless.

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Some of the discussion on the “Edward Feser and Vincent Torley” thread seems to have drifted way off topic.  So I’m starting a new thread for further discussion on realism.

I’ll just quote part of a recent comment by BruceS:

1. A complete description of the world is a scientific description (or has a large component that is a scientific description).

2. Science is in principle reducible to physics.

3. Physics requires mathematics.

4. Mathematics is “unreasonably effective” when used in physics, which is saying that somehow the world is describable by mathematical concepts.

5. The (parts of the) any two separate complete description of the world (eg by us and some alien species) in mathematical physics will hence involve the same (or at least mathematically equivalent) concepts.

I realize all of these statements are quite questionable, although I would have thought that #3, the need for mathematics in physics, would have been among the least questionable premises!

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Honest False Testimony

I’m kind of busy, and negligent in posting here, but I simply couldn’t resist starting this discussion. We touched on it a while back, and it pushes a lot of my buttons. I think it lies behind most disagreements. (All disagreements on this site, because we assume honesty.)

Based on her work, and that of others, Tavris shows three ways that different people can present conflicting narratives of the same event—not because any of them are lying, but because they are presenting what she calls “honest false testimony.” That is, their views of what really happened aren’t made up, but are tinged by several factors that makes them believe they are telling the truth.


Edward Feser and Vincent Torley

I have been following Vincent’s spat with Edward Feser (A Catholic philosopher with some reactionary views – his blog) over whether Feser’s own “cosmological argument” has the merit Feser seems to think. Here’s Vincent’s latest post on the matter.

Not being able to post at Uncommon Descent, I thought I might catch up with Vincent at Feser’s blog but I seem to have worn out my welcome. In case anyone decides to pop in from Feser’s blog, I thought I’d offer this thread for discussion. And please regard it as an open thread. Nothing will be considered off-topic. Usual rules apply!