Five Proofs

of the Existence of God

Philosopher Edward Feser has a new book out in which he puts forth five arguments for the existence of God. These are not the “Five Ways” of Aquinas so it might be refreshing to discuss one or all of these. At the very least this OP may introduce readers to arguments for the existence of God which they had previously been unaware of.

The five proofs are:

  • The Aristotelian Proof
  • The Neo-Platonic Proof
  • The Augustinian Proof
  • The Thomistic Proof
  • The Rationalist Proof

: The Aristotelian Proof

Chapter 1 defends what I call the Aristotelian proof of the existence of God. It begins with the fact that there is real change in the world, analyzes change as the actualization of potential, and argues that no potential could be actualized at all unless there is something which can actualize without itself being actualized—a “purely actual actualizer” or Unmoved Mover, as Aristotle characterized God. Aristotle developed an argument of this sort in book 8 of his Physics and book 12 of his Metaphysics. Later Aristotelians such as Maimonides and Aquinas developed their own versions—the first of Aquinas’ Five Ways being one statement of such an argument. These earlier writers expressed the argument in terms of archaic scientific notions such as the movement of the heavenly spheres, but as modern Aristotelians have shown, the essential kernel of the argument in no way depends on this outdated husk. Chapter 1 aims to present the core idea of the argument as it might be developed by an Aristotle, Maimonides, or Aquinas were they writing today.

: The Neo-Platonic Proof

Chapter 2 defends what I call the Neo-Platonic proof of God’s existence. It begins with the fact that the things of our experience are in various ways composite or made up of parts, and argues that the ultimate cause of such things can only be something which is absolutely simple or noncomposite, what Plotinus called “the One”. The core idea of such an argument can be found in Plotinus’ Enneads, and Aquinas gave expression to it as well. Indeed, the notion of divine simplicity is absolutely central to the classical theist conception of God, though strangely neglected by contemporary writers on natural theology, theists no less than atheists. Among the aims of this book is to help restore it to its proper place.

: The Augustinian Proof

Chapter 3 defends an Augustinian proof of God’s existence. It begins by arguing that universals (redness, humanness, triangularity, etc.), propositions, possibilities, and other abstract objects are in some sense real, but rejects Plato’s conception of such objects as existing in a “third realm” distinct from any mind and distinct from the world of particular things. The only possible ultimate ground of these objects, the argument concludes, is a divine intellect—the mind of God. This idea too has its roots in Neo-Platonic thought, was central to Saint Augustine’s understanding of God, and was defended by Leibniz as well. This book puts forward a more detailed and systematic statement of the argument than (as far as I know) has been attempted before.

: The Thomistic Proof

Chapter 4 defends the Thomistic proof of God’s existence. It begins by arguing that for any of the contingent things of our experience, there is a real distinction between its essence (what the thing is) and its existence (the fact that it is). It then argues that nothing in which there is such a real distinction could exist even for an instant unless caused to exist by something in which there is no such distinction, something the very essence of which just is existence, and which can therefore impart existence without having to receive it—an uncaused cause of the existence of things. Aquinas presented an argument of this sort in his little book On Being and Essence, and many Thomists have regarded it as the paradigmatically Thomistic argument for God’s existence.

: The Rationalist Proof

Chapter 5 defends a rationalist proof of the existence of God. The proof begins with a defense of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR), according to which everything is intelligible or has an explanation for why it exists and has the attributes it has. It then argues that there cannot be an explanation of the existence of any of the contingent things of our experience unless there is a necessary being, the existence of which is explained by its own nature. This sort of argument is famously associated with Leibniz, but the version of it I defend departs from Leibniz in several ways and interprets the key ideas in an Aristotelian-Thomistic way. (Hence, while it is definitely “rationalist” insofar as it is committed to a version of PSR and to the thesis that the world is intelligible through and through, it is not “rationalist” in other common senses of that term. For example, it is in no way committed to the doctrine of innate ideas or other aspects of the epistemology associated with continental rationalist philosophers like Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. And its interpretation of PSR differs in key respects from theirs.)

For whatever reason I’m starting my reading with the rationalist proof. Because, you know, everyone here is always so rational. 🙂

332 thoughts on “Five Proofs

  1. Kantian Naturalist: But I’m mostly interested to know why these function as proofs of God.

    Kantian Naturalist: Is that the God of the Bible?

    These are not equivalent questions.

    Rationally deduced greatest conceivable being (or Being Itself or whichever way the philosophical argument is formulated) is what is rationally attainable. I hope at least that you see why this cannot be anything like a Spaghetti Monster or teapot as ridiculed by atheists.

    In contrast, God of any particular religion is a more or less dogmatic positum, loaded with mythology rather than philosophical attributes.

    Kantian Naturalist: There’s always this lacuna or gap between the God of the philosophers and the God of the Bible. Sure, if you want to stipulate that the being which is non-composite and non-contingent is God, you can use the word that way if you want to. But what does that have to do with the events described in Torah or the Gospels? As far as I can tell, nothing at all.

    The same way as after the preliminary philosophical argument to the greatest being or such the second step is to derive its attributes, a further step is to reconcile it with your preferred religion, and depending on the religion it may entail plenty of hoops.

    Kantian Naturalist: One could perfectly well accept that there must be a non-contingent, non-composite being and still be a complete atheist.

    Not really. First, if you take the philosophical argument(s) seriously and contemplate their real import, it is not a non-contingent, non-composite being among others. It is inevitably the only being that truly is, while every other being is lesser and exists less truly. Atheism is incompatible with this.

    Buddhists are labeled atheists, but they really are not. Same as in every other religious system, they rely on the concept of an all-encompassing transcendent reality whereof everyone and everything is an aspect or part or spark (Buddha nature or such). And contemplation of that reality and living in harmony with it is said to be salvific or at least virtuous. Atheists in the proper sense can’t conceive of a need for salvation or of a savior beyond the individual lifespan.

    Philosophical God is something that may or may not make one a non-atheist, depending on the weight one attributes to philosophical arguments or intellectual exercises. Next is to realize that such God, if real, is a constant presence, that it must be worshiped or at least it’s a good idea to live one’s life more or less in harmony with it. At this point one is inevitably a non-atheist, as a minimum an inconsistent atheist.

  2. Erik: Not really. First, if you take the philosophical argument(s) seriously and contemplate their real import, it is not a non-contingent, non-composite being among others. It is inevitably the only being that truly is, while every other being is lesser and exists less truly. Atheism is incompatible with this.

    Buddhists are labeled atheists, but they really are not. Same as in every other religious system, they rely on the concept of an all-encompassing transcendent reality whereof everyone and everything is an aspect or part or spark (Buddha nature or such). And contemplation of that reality and living in harmony with it is said to be salvific or at least virtuous. Atheists in the proper sense can’t conceive of a need for salvation or of a savior beyond the individual lifespan.

    Philosophical God is something that may or may not make one a non-atheist, depending on the weight one attributes to philosophical arguments or intellectual exercises. Next is to realize that such God, if real, is a constant presence, that it must be worshiped or at least it’s a good idea to live one’s life more or less in harmony with it. At this point one is inevitably a non-atheist, as a minimum an inconsistent atheist.

    These are interesting remarks, but I think they largely amount to a redefinition of “God.” I mean I’m guessing most people here would take the universe to be an all-encompassing reality that we are just a part of, and that it makes a lot of sense not to ignore. It’s “transcendent” in some sense of the term, I suppose, too.

    But the vast majority of theists are not pantheists, and most would say that believing that there’s a universe that one is a part of and that one should always consider before stepping in front of a moving bus, does not make one a theist.

  3. One thing that strikes me as funny about this book is that, based on the chapter descriptions that mung has provided, Feser defends every proof! To me that’s like the old joke about the defense lawyer who says that he will show that no murder ever took place, that when the killing occurred, his client was not present, that while his client was there, he had no interactions with the deceased, that in spite of his client killing the deceased man, it was clearly an accident, etc., etc.

    I mean does Feser really believe that every single one of these (all refuted many times) proofs actually works? It’s silly: if he really thinks ones of them is sound, he should concentrate on that one, rather than throwing his entire spaghetti dinner against the wall and hoping against hope.

  4. Hi keiths,

    Re the possibility of reconciling the God of the philosophers with the God of the Bible, I suggest you have a look at this post of Feser’s:

    Olson contra classical theism (September 1, 2014)

    Consider Olson’s populist appeal to what the “ordinary lay Christian, just reading his or her Bible” would come to think. I certainly agree with him that the average reader without a theological education would not only not arrive at notions like divine simplicity, immutability, etc., but would even reject them. But so what? By itself this is just a fallacious appeal to majority. Moreover, Olson does not apply this standard consistently. The average reader might also suppose that God has a body — for example, that he has legs with which he walks about the garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), eyes and eyelids (Psalm 11:4), nostrils and lungs with which he breathes (Job 4:9), and so forth. But Olson acknowledges that God does not have a body. Since Olson gives us no explanation of why we should trust what the ordinary reader would say vis-à-vis divine simplicity, etc. but not trust him where divine incorporeality is concerned, we seem to have a fallacy of special pleading…

    Then there is Olson’s characterization of classical theism, which is a straw man. He accuses the classical theist of “start[ing] down the road of de-personalizing” God. But Scholastic classical theists argue that we must attribute intellect and will to God, and these are the essential personal attributes. To be sure, Olson also says that “feelings and emotions are part of being personal,” that classical theism portrays God as “unemotional,” and that “scholastic theology tends to portray the image of God as reason ruling over emotion, being apathetic.” But this is a tangle of confusions. First of all, by itself the claim that “feelings and emotions are part of being personal” just begs the question. Second, the claim that there is some connection between “reason ruling over emotion” and “being apathetic” is just a non sequitur.

    Third, the claim that classical theism makes God out to be “unemotional” is ambiguous. If by an “emotion” we mean a state that comes upon us episodically, that varies in its intensity, that has physiological aspects like increased heart rate and bodily sensations, etc., then it is certainly true that the classical theist maintains that God cannot possibly have such states. However, if the insinuation is that classical theism makes God out to be “unemotional” in a way that entails that he cannot be said to love us, to be angry at sin, etc., then that is certainly false. To love is to will the good of another, and for the classical theist God certainly wills our good, acts providentially so that we attain what is good for us, etc. Hence he loves us…

    …[I]t is ridiculous for human beings to think that the divine intellect, the divine will, divine love, etc. must be inferior to ours if God is immutable, impassible, incorporeal, etc. On the contrary, they are unimaginably higher and nobler than our thinking, willing, loving, etc. precisely because they are not tied to the limits of created things. God does not have to reason through the steps of an argument or to make careful observations in order to know something; his love does not vary in intensity given alterations in blood sugar levels, the state of the nerves, over-familiarity, etc.

    As you’re doubtless aware, I don’t agree with Feser on everything. However, I think the argument that classical theism is irreconcilable with the God of the Bible is a little simplistic.

    Take Genesis 6, which portrays God as regretting that He had made man, and as resolving to wipe out most of the human race. On a superficial level, it appears that God is changing His mind here. But the Bible is written from a human perspective. It is perfectly consistent to hold that God was glad that He had made Adam and Eve, but disappointed with most human beings (except for Noah and his family) at the time of the Flood. That doesn’t imply a change in God; rather, it implies a change in human beings, over the course of time. A classical theist would explain this by positing a God Who stands outside time, and Who (timelessly) has one attitude towards the first human beings, in Paradise, and an entirely different attitude towards the human race in the time of Noah. God timelessly beholds the human race at both points along the timeline of human history. Since the human race has changed, His attitude at each point is different. Simple as that.

    Of course, the story of the Flood is largely mythical – or, as I should say, counter-mythical. Genesis was written as a rebuttal of the old Babylonian creation myths: it assumes their veracity in broad outline, but recasts them from a monotheistic, God-centered perspective. The intention of the Biblical author was to show that God is just and merciful, and that He detests murderous violence, but protects those who obey His commands and call on His name.

  5. vjtorley: It is perfectly consistent to hold that God was glad that He had made Adam and Eve, but disappointed with most human beings (except for Noah and his family) at the time of the Flood. That doesn’t imply a change in God; rather, it implies a change in human beings, over the course of time. A classical theist would explain this by positing a God Who stands outside time, and Who (timelessly) has one attitude towards the first human beings, in Paradise, and an entirely different attitude towards the human race in the time of Noah. God timelessly beholds the human race at both points along the timeline of human history. Since the human race has changed, His attitude at each point is different. Simple as that.

    Simple, I don’t know. Nonsensical, I’m pretty sure.

  6. vjtorley: The intention of the Biblical author was to show that God is just and merciful, and that He detests murderous violence, but protects those who obey His commands and call on His name.

    How do you know the intention of the biblical author? How can you possibly argue that the flood story shows that god is either just or merciful? He kills all of creation in order to get the evil human population (including those evil babies you talk about); how is that just? He saves a few of each species; that’s what you call merciful? It’s an appropriation of the Utnapishtim story from a monotheistic perspective. I’ll agree that “they’re evil” is a step up from “they make too much noise” as justification. But even the burnt offering at the end, wafting to the gods’ or god’s nostrils, is preserved.

  7. Hi everyone,

    I haven’t bought Dr Feser’s new book yet, although I intend to. However, I am familiar with the tenor of his thought, having read many of his blogs over the years, as well as three of his books and a couple of his journal articles. So to get the ball rolling, I’d like to identify the key metaphysical assumptions underlying each of Feser’s Five Proofs (which are not to be confused with Aquinas’ Five Ways).

    The Aristotelian Proof

    The key metaphysical assumption here is that any being whose nature can only be described in terms of a mixture of “ises” and “isn’ts” is a Being requiring an external explanation for its existence. Only a Being whose nature consists of nothing but “ises” – a fully switched-on Being, if you like – would not require such an explanation. Hence the Unexplained Explainer must be fully switched-on, or perfectly actualized.

    The Neo-Platonic Proof

    The key metaphysical assumption here is that composite beings require an external cause for their continuation in existence.

    The Augustinian Proof

    The key metaphysical assumptions here are that (i) universals exist in their own right, outside their instantiation in particulars, and that (ii) the only place where universals can exist in their own right is a Mind.

    The Thomistic Proof

    The key metaphysical assumption here is that there is a real (and not merely a logical) distinction between essence and existence.

    The Rationalist Proof

    The key metaphysical assumption here is that everything (including God, if there is one) has an adequate explanation for its existence – either within itself, or outside itself. Note: for Thomists, “adequate explanation” need not mean “sufficient set of conditions”; it need only mean something which is capable of explaining a thing’s existence. Hence this last proof in no way commits us to determinism.

    That’s just a sketch. Mung has the book; I’ll leave it to him to add more details, if he wishes to do so. Anyway, what do people think of Feser’s assumptions? (By the way, Feser argues for most of them in his 2014 book, Scholastic Metaphysics, which I possess.)

  8. John Harshman.

    How do you know the intention of the biblical author? How can you possibly argue that the flood story shows that god is either just or merciful? He kills all of creation in order to get the evil human population (including those evil babies you talk about); how is that just? He saves a few of each species; that’s what you call merciful?

    You’re right: I don’t know the intentions of the Biblical author. I’m just arguing that they can be construed in the way that I have described. As for the animal deaths in the Flood: I can’t see how they’re any more theologically problematic than animals dying as a result of predation, disease, drought or famine. As for babies: one need not posit that God sent a Flood to wipe out violent people. One need only posit that He foresaw its occurrence, and warned only a few, non-violent families that it was coming. Once again: I don’t see how this is any more problematic than the deaths of people in earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

    In any case, I’d let to return to a discussion of Mung’s OP. What do people think of Feser’s arguments? I’m sure Feser himself would say that his arguments for God’s existence would still stand, even if Christianity were proved to be false.

  9. vjtorley:

    It is perfectly consistent to hold that God was glad that He had made Adam and Eve, but disappointed with most human beings (except for Noah and his family) at the time of the Flood.

    Hi Vincent,

    The story doesn’t merely say that God was disappointed with humans at the time of the Flood; it says that God regretted having created them:

    6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

    Genesis 6:6-7, NIV

    The God of the Bible makes mistakes that he regrets and has to fix. He is clearly not the God of classical theism.

  10. Hi keiths,

    The God of the Bible makes mistakes that he regrets and has to fix. He is clearly not the God of classical theism.

    Here’s more from the God of the Bible:

    “And Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.‘” (1 Samuel 15:28-29)

    “For I the LORD do not change...” (Malachi 3:6)

    “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

  11. walto: These are interesting remarks, but I think they largely amount to a redefinition of “God.”

    God of the philosophers (and of theologians) is admittedly different from God of the priests, but it’s always been this way. They have always been parallel definitions and alternative modes of worship. And God of laymen is yet another. And they are not necessarily on friendly terms with each other.

    walto: But the vast majority of theists are not pantheists…

    Pantheists would perhaps stay at the level of being awestruck by the magnitude of the universe. Classical theists distinguish God and the universe, Creator and creation. Being theists in the proper sense, they also have a mode of worship and a path of salvation/liberation to follow. These latter things are missing from pantheists and deists.

  12. keiths: Mung has a habit of posting OPs for books that he hasn’t read yet but is excited about. I wish he had the discipline to read the books first, then post.

    Actually, I had started reading this one then set it aside for something else. An alternative way to think about it is that by creating an OP on the book I actually do encourage myself to finish reading it. So for me it’s not either or, it’s post and read.

  13. keiths: The God of the Bible makes mistakes that he regrets and has to fix. He is clearly not the God of classical theism.

    Is there a particular reason you don’t wish to discuss the OP?

  14. Mung:

    We don’t know if Flint was right. Do you really think that I have the burden of proof to show that he is wrong? Doesn’t he have the burden of proof to show that he is right?

    I don’t know how to show that my skepticism is justified or not. Perhaps a good counterexample would help. Feser certainly doesn’t qualify. To the best of my knowledge, there are thousands of apologies attempting to reify one god or another, but all those I’m familiar with were constructed by someone who actually believed in the god(s) being derived. The pattern seems clear to me.

    Yes, it’s “hollow skepticism” on your part, unless you can produce actual evidence to support your claims. Do you have any?

    Nothing more solid than the rather mundane observation that nobody is going to go to any great lengths to show the existence of something for which their faith is the only evidence, unless they HAVE that faith.

    (As an aside, I was taught that the ancient Greeks had a whole pantheon of gods. So the concept was surely known to Plato and Aristotle. If they did not share these beliefs in any way, why would they go to the trouble of arguing that they themselves were wrong?)

  15. Kantian Naturalist: I’m mostly interested to know why these function as proofs of God.

    What else needs to said until this is answered? Assuming the soundness of the logic in the arguments, how does this produce a “god” with attributes? Religious belief is inherently emotional. For those that need to bolster those beliefs with logic (such as it is) then fine.

  16. Flint: (As an aside, I was taught that the ancient Greeks had a whole pantheon of gods. So the concept was surely known to Plato and Aristotle. If they did not share these beliefs in any way, why would they go to the trouble of arguing that they themselves were wrong?)

    Greek philosophers apparently made a distinction between particular gods and the transcendent. The latter had no name, the particular gods had.

    PARTICULAR
    “…to Apollo, the God of Delphi, there remains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things of all.”

    “The institution of temples and sacrifices, and the entire service of gods, demigods, and heroes; also the ordering of the repositories of the dead, and the rites which have to be observed by him who would propitiate the inhabitants of the world below.”

    TRANSCENDENT
    “…is the violator of these duties to be regarded as an impious and unrighteous person who is not likely to receive much good either at the hands of God or of man?”

    “…in the present evil state of governments, whatever is saved and comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may truly say.”

    These are quotes from Plato’s Republic. If the text makes consistent sense (ancient text are often not preserved in the best way), a good translator would make a distinction by consistent choice of capital initial or such.

  17. vjtorley,

    A quick response to each of these “proofs”

    1. The Aristotelian proof assumes an Aristotelian conception of change, which can hardly be taken for granted. With that assumption in place, the Aristotelian argues that there must be a pure activity or pure actuality. But there’s no reason to think that pure actuality has any of the attributes assigned to God, such as personality or will. Even Aristotle, who thought of pure actuality as an unmoved mover by virtue of being thought thinking itself, did not think that the unmoved mover had personality or will.

    2. The Neoplatonic proof only requires that there be simples (non-composite beings). It doesn’t show that there must be one simple. A plurality of non-composite beings would do just as well, as far as that argument is concerned.

    3. The Augustinian proof relies on the assumption that there are real universals, and that real universals can only exist as ideas in the divine mind. But are there real universals? One would first have to settle the debate between nominalism, realism, and conceptualism about universals before establishing a proof for the existence of God on that basis. Since the proof of God’s existence depends on realism about universals, one cannot appeal to God in order to settle that debate without begging the question.

    4. The Thomistic proof correctly shows that there must be a necessary being, but as with the first and second proofs, nothing there establishes that the necessary being must have any (let alone all) of the divine attributes.

    5. The rationalist proof assumes a very strong version of the principle of sufficient reason, but why should that be granted? There’s lacuna between “for all facts, there is an explanation of that fact” and “there is one explanation for all facts”. In fact one cannot derive the latter statement from the former in first-order symbolic logic without committing a formal logical fallacy. Hence anyone who accepts that there is an explanation for each fact should not infer that there is one explanation for all facts. And without that latter claim this proof also fails.

  18. As pointed out earlier in the thread Feser follows the same general pattern for each argument in which he sets out an informal argument in two stages. He then follows this with a more formal presentation of the argument.

    Here is his more formal statement of the rationalist argument:

    1. The principle of sufficient reason (PSR) holds that there is an explanation for the existence of anything that does exist and for its having the attributes it has.

    2. If PSR were not true, then things and events without evident explanation or intelligibility would be extremely common.

    3. But this is the opposite of what common sense and science alike find to be the case.

    4. If PSR were not true, then we would be unable to trust our own cognitive faculties.

    5. But in fact we are able to trust those faculties.

    6. Furthermore, there is no principled way to deny the truth of PSR while generally accepting that there are genuine explanations in science and philosophy.

    7. But there are many genuine explanations to be found in science and philosophy.

    8. So, PSR is true.

    9. The explanation of the existence of anything is to be found either in some other thing which causes it, in which case it is contingent, or in its own nature, in which case it is necessary; PSR rules out any purported third alternative on which a thing’s existence is explained by nothing.

    10. There are contingent things.

    11. Even if the existence of an individual contingent thing could be explained by reference to some previously existing contingent thing, which in turn could be explained by a previous member, and so on to infinity, that the infinite series as a whole exists at all would remain to be explained.

    12. To explain this series by reference to some further contingent cause outside the series, and then explain this cause in terms of some yet further contingent thing, and so on to infinity, would merely yield another series whose existence would remain to be explained; and to posit yet another contingent thing outside this second series would merely generate the same problem yet again.

    13. So, no contingent thing or series of contingent things can explain why there are any contingent things at all.

    14. But that there are any contingent things at all must have some explanation, given PSR; and the only remaining explanation is in terms of a necessary being as cause.

    15. Furthermore, that an individual contingent thing persists in existence at any moment requires an explanation; and since it is contingent, that explanation must lie in some simultaneous cause distinct from it.

    16. If this cause is itself contingent, then even if it has yet another contingent thing as its own simultaneous cause, and that cause yet another contingent thing as its simultaneous cause, and so on to infinity, then once again we have an infinite series of contingent things the existence of which has yet to be explained.

    17. So, no contingent thing or series of contingent things can explain why any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment; and the only remaining explanation is in terms of a necessary being as its simultaneous cause.

    18. So, there must be at least one necessary being, to explain why any contingent things exist at all and how any particular contingent thing persists in existence at any moment.

    19. A necessary being would have to be purely actual, absolutely simple or noncomposite, and something which just is subsistent existence itself.

    20. But there can in principle be only one thing which is purely actual, absolutely simple or noncomposite, and something which just is subsistent existence itself.

    21. So, there is only one necessary being.

    22. So, it is this same one necessary being which is the explanation of why any contingent things exist at all and which is the cause of every particular contingent thing’s existing at any moment.

    23. So, this necessary being is the cause of everything other than itself.

    24. Something which is purely actual, absolutely simple or non-composite, and something which just is subsistent existence itself must also be immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.

    25. So, there is a necessary being which is one, purely actual, absolutely simple, subsistent existence itself, cause of everything other than itself, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient.

    26. But for there to be such a thing is for God to exist.

    27. So, God exists.

  19. Mung: It has already been answered.

    CLICK HERE!

    Mung quotes Feser:

    …I argue that anything fitting the description in question must have certain key divine attributes, such as unity, eternity, immateriality, omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness.

    That’s a promise of an argument, not an argument.

  20. Mung

    quoting Feser again:

    Having thereby established God’s unity, the chapter goes on to show that to God we must also attribute simplicity, immutability, immateriality, incorporeality, eternity, necessity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, will, love, and incomprehensibility.

    Again it’s a promise, not an argument.

  21. Vincent,

    Yes, the Bible contradicts itself. But how does that help your case?

    Unless you’re willing to argue that Genesis is wrong and that the Flood story should not be considered part of the Bible, you have to face the fact that the biblical God is not the God of classical theism.

  22. Mung,

    Actually, I had started reading this one then set it aside for something else. An alternative way to think about it is that by creating an OP on the book I actually do encourage myself to finish reading it. So for me it’s not either or, it’s post and read.

    Yes, which is why I wrote this:

    Mung has a habit of posting OPs for books that he hasn’t read yet but is excited about. I wish he had the discipline to read the books first, then post.

  23. keiths:

    The God of the Bible makes mistakes that he regrets and has to fix. He is clearly not the God of classical theism.

    Mung:

    Is there a particular reason you don’t wish to discuss the OP?

    Stop whining. You made the claim. Vincent is now trying to rescue it, since you were unable to do so yourself.

  24. Kantian Naturalist: Likewise, the argument from contingency does show, correctly, that there must be a necessary being

    I think you’ve argued before that this relies on the PSR, but I have a hard time at conceiving a self explaining entity. A “self explaining” entity is an unexplained one in my book, one that actually violates the PSR. Am I perhaps question begging?

  25. dazz,

    If this is of any consolation to you, since your flop with the okapi/zebra thingy, some of the “big boys” here have had much, much greater boo-boos that to today make me and my kids laugh to tears…

    You’ve probably read it, but Joe not only has finally “unified” quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity…something Einstein and others have not been able to do until he did it, he also says that tu fracaso con okapi/zebra evolution doesn’t look that bad after all:

    Joe: “And although it is not absolutely impossible that an okapi will turn into a zebra, so much would have to happen very precisely that it is astronomically improbable, an event that would not happen even once in the whole history of the Universe.

    Harshaman, por exemplo, found a new branch of evolutionary biology called for now miracle-insertion-etics, where the missing genes in the tree of life are inserted by some miraculous forces by a mechanism also for now called as gene-spermia.

    Tom Ingles forgot to include quantum mechanics in his miscalculation of Evo-Info search-or-not-to-search? That’s the question even though he has promised to do so…

    So, we have a new “holy trinity” of intellectuals that believe it or not, might turned out to be TSZ bullies…Hashman has been found guilty already, but the other two are still the prime suspects… 😉

  26. J-Mac,

    I understand this will offend you, even though it’s not my intention, but I pity your kids, I really do. Hope all is well anyway

  27. dazz:
    J-Mac,

    I understand this will offend you, even though it’s not my intention, but I pity your kids, I really do. Hope all is well anyway

    Why would this offend me? My kids write or contribute to many of my comments here… One is not even a teen and the other just a teen…Quantum mechanics is their specialty and the older one pretty much set up the trap on you…

    Do you really think I should be concerned? 😉

  28. J-Mac, to dazz:

    Do you really think I should be concerned?

    If any of your comments are not written by your kids, then yes, you should be concerned…about yourself.

  29. keiths:
    J-Mac, to dazz:

    If any of your comments are not written by your kids, you should be concerned…for yourself.

    I’m often concerned that your aging cat has evolved and is doing all your writing… lol (my comment, kids are busy breaking down some equations that time travel is impossible ) 😉

  30. KN:

    Likewise, the argument from contingency does show, correctly, that there must be a necessary being.

    dazz:

    I think you’ve argued before that this relies on the PSR, but I have a hard time at conceiving a self explaining entity. A “self explaining” entity is an unexplained one in my book, one that actually violates the PSR.

    If everything is contingent, then the backward chain of contingency can have no terminus. That creates either a) an infinite regress, or b) a chain that loops back on itself.

    If you reject those, then you must conclude that there is something non-contingent on which all of the contingent things ultimately rest. It isn’t turtles all the way down.

    I do disagree with KN on one point. He identifies this non-contingent basis as a “necessary being.” I see no necessity for it to be necessary. 🙂

  31. keiths: If you reject those, then you must conclude that there is something non-contingent on which all of the contingent things ultimately rest. It isn’t turtles all the way down.

    I do disagree with KN on one point. He identifies this non-contingent basis as a “necessary being.” I see no necessity for it to be necessary.

    You’re arguing for something which is not contingent but while being not contingent it is also not necessary? Does that even make sense?

  32. Mung:

    You’re arguing for something which is not contingent but while being not contingent it is also not necessary?

    Yes. Or more precisely, I’m saying that the ultimate, non-contingent basis for everything else isn’t necessarily necessary. 🙂

    Does that even make sense?

    Yes. What’s the problem?

  33. dazz: I think you’ve argued before that this relies on the PSR, but I have a hard time at conceiving a self explaining entity. A “self explaining” entity is an unexplained one in my book, one that actually violates the PSR. Am I perhaps question begging?

    I think the view is that a necessary entity is one that doesn’t need any explanation for why it happens to exist, since it could not possibly not exist. That’s different from being “self-explaining.”

  34. Mung: Because to deny it would be irrational.

    It might be irrational (in some sense) to insist that all facts are brute facts, and that therefore nothing needs to be explained.

    My point is that there’s a lot of gray between “all facts are brute facts and none of them need to be explained” and ‘there is one single explanation for all facts”.

    My own take on the PSR is that it’s role in our reasoning is (to use Kant’s terms) “regulative” rather than “constitutive”. Meaning, it’s a norm or ideal to which reasoning aspires rather than a condition on the possibility of reasoning as such. One can take it as a prescriptive statement: “don’t rest content with mere descriptions, but always look for explanations whenever you can!” That’s very different from taking it to be a descriptive statement about reality.

    In order to motivate the rationalist proof, there would need to be an argument as to why the PSR should be taken descriptively rather than prescriptively.

    And there’s still the little problem of how to get from “for all facts, there exists some explanation” to “there is one explanation for all facts.” (Just because each person has one mother, it doesn’t follow that there’s one mother for everyone!)

  35. Kantian Naturalist: I think the view is that a necessary entity is one that doesn’t need any explanation for why it happens to exist, since it could not possibly not exist. That’s different from being “self-explaining.”

    No, if that were the case, it would mean the premise of the argument is false:

    1. The principle of sufficient reason (PSR) holds that there is an explanation for the existence of anything that does exist and for its having the attributes it has.

    The necessary entity needs an explanation for it’s existence too, else the argument doesn’t hold water.

  36. Kantian Naturalist: And there’s still the little problem of how to get from “for all facts, there exists some explanation” to “there is one explanation for all facts.”

    Where are you getting this idea that “there is one explanation for all facts” is part of the argument?

  37. keiths: Yes. What’s the problem?

    It’s incoherent. 🙂

    It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/god-necessary-being/

    There is no such thing as an entity that is not of the first sort that is not en entity of the second sort. If it exists, it is one or the other. If it is not a contingent being, it is a necessary being. If it is a necessary being, it could not have failed to exist.

    To say that it could not have failed to exist, but not necessarily, is to make no sense.

  38. Mung,

    To say that it could not have failed to exist, but not necessarily, is to make no sense.

    That’s not what I’m saying — at all.

    The problem here is that you and KN are conflating two dichotomies: contingent/non-contingent and necessary/non-necessary.

    Contingent entities are those that depend on something else for their existence. Non-contingent entities don’t depend on anything else for their existence.

    Necessary entities are those that must exist as a matter of sheer logic. Non-necessary entities are those who existence is not mandated by logic alone.

    While necessary entities must be non-contingent,* it isn’t true that non-contingent entities must be necessary.

    For example, you can conceive, perfectly coherently, of a situation in which there are two logically possible universes: one in which A is the non-contingent base on which everything else rests, and one in which B, an entity different from A, serves that role. Logic doesn’t mandate A over B, or vice-versa. Neither is necessary, but both are non-contingent. Their existence, or lack thereof, is just a brute fact, dependent on nothing else.

    *And even that is debatable, depending on a nuance we can discuss later, if necessary.

  39. keiths: While necessary entities must be non-contingent,* it isn’t true that non-contingent entities must be necessary.

    You either mean that necessary (and non-contingent) beings are not necessary (which is nonsense) or there is no necessary being in the first place (which requires an argument). Or is there some third thing you are aiming at?

  40. Mung: 1. The principle of sufficient reason (PSR) holds that there is an explanation for the existence of anything that does exist and for its having the attributes it has.

    2. If PSR were not true, then things and events without evident explanation or intelligibility would be extremely common.

    3. But this is the opposite of what common sense and science alike find to be the case.

    4. If PSR were not true, then we would be unable to trust our own cognitive faculties.

    5. But in fact we are able to trust those faculties.

    6. Furthermore, there is no principled way to deny the truth of PSR while generally accepting that there are genuine explanations in science and philosophy.

    7. But there are many genuine explanations to be found in science and philosophy.

    8. So, PSR is true.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s pretty bad, though, which is why I stopped at 8.

    Neither 2 nor 3 is obvious and ought to be put as a premise. 4 is not obvious and does not follow from anything above it. I agree with 5, but it should be acknowledged that it’s an axiom, i.e., a premise that can’t really be defended (except maybe by noting the success of an entire system–that one has chosen to accept). 6 (again) is neither obvious nor follows from anything above it. Finally, 8 wouldn’t follow even if all the premises above it were true. The only premises in there that are OK are 1 and 7 and none of the inferences is valid.

    Feser is a terrible philosopher. I don’t know why anybody reads him.

    {EDIT: Well I actually DO know why. They want what he says to be true SOOOOOO BAD. }

  41. I have to agree with walto and others here, the PSR argument is a travesty for the same reasons they alight on.

    It is far from clear to me why it must be the case that if there are some things that have no explanation, things without explanation must be extremely common.

    Imagine the following being true: 99.9999999999999999999 (insert any finite number of 9’s here)% of all things have an explanation. Then it seems to me it would be exceptionally rare for things to have no explanation. This is entirely compatible with the world we observe.

    Or maybe it could be like this: All but one single thing(or two, or three, or four…) has an explanation, and that single thing(or two, or three, or four…) has none.

    I wonder how these possibilities were excluded. Something strange is going on in premise 2.

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