Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Scotist argument for God's existence...

1. An Uncaused Producer is logically possible.

2. Anything logically possible is either actual or potential.

3. A potential Uncaused Producer can only be caused (i.e., is not 'uncaused').

4. Hence, no Uncaused Producer is merely potential.

5. Therefore, an Uncaused Producer is actual.

6. This actual Uncaused Producer we call God.

7. Therefore, God actually exists.

(cf. James F. Ross, Philosophical Theology, pp.** [When I get home and have time, I will polish this up to fit exactly what Ross wrote, but for now I'm going from memory.)


UnBeguiled said...

You are free to call the quantum vacuum "God" if you wish.


"intelligibility presupposes intelligence"

No it doesn't. I can see light. But light does not presuppose eyes. But would light be visible with no eyes to see it? Trees falling and so forth. Yawn. Don't take words so seriously. (Yes I'm using words, I know, thanks.)


A priest told me last year that the so-called "proofs" for God's existence are intended to re-assure the faithful that their beliefs are rational. They were never intended to convince an atheist.

Why do you suppose the overwhelming majority of philosophers do not find these arguments convincing?


Started reading this today:

The Cogitator said...


I fully agree proofs fail to "compel" assent from nonbelievers. That is, after all, why I am not a foundationalist. Proofs function compellingly in conjunction with a proper catechesis in "first philosophy." Ross is hardly a lumpen evidentialist.

In any case, feel free at any point to engage the substance of this argument.

As for "light"-- it is a phenomenological concept derived from anthropic experience. Is light simply photons? Do we perceive photons? Is "color" naturally basic too? Surely you would deny that. In the same way that sound requires a resounding medium, so phenomenological realities like "light" require a perceptual medium. The very concept of "light" as you deploy is rife with anthropocentrism. But that is fine, actually, for a Thomist, since, as Wolfgang Smith argues in numerous places, measurement effects (actualizes) an ontological "projection" (a la Schrödinger's wave functions) from a purely physical level to a substantial corporeal level. Just as there is no actual wave state in the flux of superpositions until a substantial, corporeal 'agent' (viz., a corporeal measuring device employed by a conscious observer) effects a dematerialization by mensuration, so there is no actual light until an indeterminate sum of photons are actualized by proportionate observers.


UnBeguiled said...

We have trodden this ground before. I agree that there must be an uncaused cause or an infinite series of causes. I prefer the verbiage "brute fact".

So your proof "proves" there must be a brute fact. But what is the nature of that brute fact? A genocidal adolescent named Yahweh?

Or the void?

One seems more likely to you, the other to me.

The Cogitator said...


As I have argued before, your version of "brute fact" provides no account of intelligence and teleology, both of which are ineradicable features of the cosmos. Further, to return to my point above, intelligibility does presuppose intelligence, since an intelligibility imposed or 'composed' after the material facts is purely constructive. Read Richard Taylor's _Metaphysics_ for his analogy about seeing a 'sign' made of rocks on a hillside. Unless a) we were already intelligent and b) an intelligence had arranged the 'sign', we would have no *reason* to call the sign truly intelligible. It would be merely exceptional amidst otherwise less eye-catching stones, not meaningfully intelligible. We could say we 'recognize' a 'pattern' in the stones, but that does not mean it wold possess a truly intelligible structure, since, again, in a system primally devoid of intelligence, there would be no intrinsic intelligibilty to the sign.

Consider a dream you have had before. The neural activity had a discrete physical structure which could be, theoretically I suppose, simulated in a different medium (say a vast parallel CPU in the future, or even reproduced in your own head by elite TMS). Yet, in a suitably long span of time, the twinkles of light off motes of dust in the sun would transmit the 'simulation-code' for your dream, and if there were a giant civilization which scoured the cosmos for all "intelligible" signals, it would receive the code for your dream. Likewise, prior to your birth there had been similar 'simulations' based on stellar emissions, sun spots, quantum collapses, etc., but can we really say those prior simulations *just are* your dream without a conscious dreamer (you)? I deny that. Hence, the intelligiblity of the simulation in the stars eons ago *qua your dream* presupposes your conscious intelligence as dreamer. So it is with intelligibility in general. I could say a hundred coordinate points in any stack of garbage 'mean' a sentence of 100 words or 'compose' an abstract picture of my mother, but it would be a farce to say that pattern is intrinsically intelligible without a prior intelligence.

When you say "light," you exclude what bees and dogs and electron microscopes see, so the very existence of "light" as an intelligible, substantial, phenomenological reality presupposes there are humans who can see a certain range of photon wavelengths. "Light" presupposes "light-seers" as *real* natural intelligibility presupposes intelligence as dreams presuppose dreamers. Something intelligible must be intelligible *to someone*; and if the cosmos has always manifested intelligibility, it has always been grasped by a supervening intelligence.


UnBeguiled said...

"your version of "brute fact" provides no account of intelligence and teleology, both of which are ineradicable features of the cosmos."

Intelligence evolves. As far as I can tell, the universe has no purpose.

The Cogitator said...

"Intelligence evolves." ...

Based on what? According to what principles? Intelligible principles that order a system's evolution as a superior or inferior instance of intelligible dynamics? Or mere blind stochastic proliferation? The *evolution* of intelligence presupposes intelligibility which presupposes intelligence, active vs. potential knowledge, as such.


UnBeguiled said...

Crap. I wrote a long response but blogger ate it.

In summary: "God did it" is no explanation for human intelligence. Explaining the evolution of intelligence with an explanation that terminates with God's intelligence is just begging the question.

Why is there intelligence? Because there is intelligence. DOH!

The Cogitator said...


It's not "God did it." It's simply "God is it." Intelligence is not something that can be "done", without there *being* prior principles of actual intelligibility. According to Thomism, God's intelligence is suffused with the perfect knowledge of His own intelligibility and the derivative intelligibility -- and intelligence -- in the created world is also known is the same fullness of His own Essence as Actus Purus. In God, essence and existence, as well as intelligibility and intelligence, are wholly and eternally one.

As I may have said before, reaching an ontological "rock bottom" is not an unfortunate "lapse" on my part of any theistic thinker's part. You're not catching me off-guard by pointing out I'm deferring to God as the ground for intelligence and teleology, since my (and Aristhomism's) whole point is that, if we wish to account for them as explorable natural phenomena, we need a bedrock that surpasses what nature itself provides. Are you a panpsychist? Perhaps you are, but the whole point is that, in your own terms, there isn't intrinsic intelligible finality *in* nature. (Cf. Victor Reppert's work on the argument from reason.) So, if such intelligible order is not 'in' nature as such, and unless such intelligible order exists purely immaterially in a Platonic sense, then intelligible order must exist *in nature* as generated *intentionally* by a superior intellect. (Cf. Dr. Feser's second recent post on teleology, viz., his point about the three options [natural, Platonic, Aristotelian] for placing finality in nature). Citing intelligence as an irreducible, transcendent category for any intelligible "reading" of reality does not beg the question; it settles the question. If I allowed potency in God, I'd have to admit His intelligence could evolve. As it stands, your reference to the evolution (i.e., the progressive, variable actualization) of intelligence is just one more instance of the act-potency problem, which of course fits perfectly into the larger scheme of Aristhomism.

I'm not denying that intelligence can evolve; I am saying that it is an irreducible category derived from God Himself eternally, and only such a transcendental view of intelligibility makes sense of temporal, evolutionary intelligence. Your brute facts begin with no intellect and no life, but then try to insert active intelligence, in an inexplicably whole form, into natural evolution at some unspecified time in the past. You yourself are in effect saying that, at some point in cosmic history, "there is intelligence" because there just is, at some point, intelligence as we now understand it. We can't call fractions of intelligibility intelligible. Formal, intellectual operations are an all or nothing matter.

Sad as it may be, I'm done with this thread with you, unless, that is, I see you read Ross's essay on immaterial aspects of thought.


UnBeguiled said...

We disagree about what constitutes an intellectually satisfying explanation.

pluviosilla said...

I am going to wait until I'm in the United States again to purchase Ross' Philosophical Theology, because I am too cheap to pay the $13 USD in international shipping it would cost me to have it sent to Mexico.

But I am very eager to read it. A friend sent me this summary of Ross's reworking of Duns Scotus' proof of the existence of God:

Define two types of possibility:
1. Possible_1: `p is possible_1' means p is logically consistent; i.e., the terms of a statement involve no incompatible elements; derivatively, `x is possible' (where x ranges over things of a certain sort) means, `the appropriate existential statement or proposition that an x exists, p, is logically consistent. It is taken as fundamental that if p is existential and p is possible, then it is possible that what p asserts to exist does in fact exist.
2. Possible_2: x is possible_2 means:
• X is consistent;
• If x exists, there is a sufficient explanation of the fact that x exists to be found either in the nature of x, or in something else in combination with the nature of x;
• If x does not exist, either x could begin to exist, or x could have begun to exist;
• If x does not exist but could begin to exist or could have begun to exist, there actually exists or actually did exist something which could explain or could have explained the beginning to exist of x, or could have produced something which could be or could have been such an explanation.
A detailed exposition of Duns Scotus' proof of the existence of God shows that it is circular in that it implicitly regards impossible_1 and impossible_2 to be identical.

Constructively, define:
1. Logical necessity: A statement expresses a logical necessity if it expresses either a syntactic or a semantic necessity;
2. Syntactic necessity: A statement expresses a syntactic necessity if it has a formal (grammatical schema) counterpart from whose negation we can deduce a syntactical contradiction of the form (p.~p). Syntactical contradictions may be of two sorts, truth functional or quantificational.
3. Semantic necessity: A statement expresses a semantic necessity if it negation involves semantic inconsistency. The former depends upon logical form, the latter upon conceptual relationships.

From these concepts and the a priori principle called Principle E, the Principle of Explicability, he develops the concepts of `real necessity' and `real possibility'. Then he argues that what is really impossible is logically impossible, and that in particular, the existence of God is impossible in both senses.

Principle E:
It is necessarily the case that:
a. For any consistent state of affairs p (which involves the existence or nonexistence of something) it is possible that there should have been an explanation (or accounting) for its having been the case;
And it is necessarily the case that:
b. If q is a state of affairs logically distinct from p that explains p, then q entails the existence of something or other.

Now we define real possibility and real necessity:
Real necessarily p \equiv logically necessarily not (not p AND E)
Really possibly p \equiv logically possibly (p AND E).

Then we prove the logical equivalence of real and logical possibility.
We prove the incompatibility of Principle E and `Nothing exists'.
Define a statement p to be a priori if either p is inconsistent or its negation is inconsistent.
Then the statement `God exists' is a priori.
Next we prove that `God does not exist' and Principle E are incompatible.
But E is a priori (by demonstration) and true by assumption.
Thus God exists necessarily.