Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

Mick vs. lobawad

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Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#1  Postby Calilasseia » Aug 13, 2013 6:48 pm


!
GENERAL MODNOTE
Debate Closed: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/post1 ... l#p1808467


Welcome to the re-vamped formal debate forum.

The protagonists in this formal debate will consider the proposition "A deity exists," with Mick defending the proposition and lobawad opposing.

The debate will conform to the following format, as agreed by both participants.

  1. An opening post from each participant, consisting of < 2001 words.
  2. Three reply posts from each participant, consisting of < 1001 words,
  3. A closing post from each participant, consisting of < 501 words.
  4. References and/or quotes from external sources will be excluded from the word count.
  5. Replies must be posted within 14 days. An extension of 7 days may be permitted only with the agreement of both parties.

A debate comment thread has been made available for the purpose of observer commentary: Peanut Gallery: A Deity Exists.

Participants in the debate are expressly forbidden from posting to the commentary thread until the debate is concluded. Only Mick and lobawad will be permitted to post to this thread - members who post here will have their comments deleted. Additionally, the usual terms and conditions of the Forum Users' Agreement apply throughout the debate.

Mick, as the defender of the proposition, will post first and the debaters will then post alternately. I now invite Mick to post his opening remarks.
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Re: Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#2  Postby Mick » Aug 14, 2013 3:31 pm

I offer argument for the existence of a deity. My argument is valid; my premises are more plausible than their contradictories, and no question is begged.

Terminology

Change: the transition between potency to act. Changing things change only in virtue of one of their potentials (a potency) being brought into actuality (act). For example: I have brown hair (act), and my potential (potency) for red hair is brought out by red dye.(1)

Causal principle: Every change in something is brought about by something distinct from it, and every changed or changeable thing has a distinct cause of some sort.

Accidental causal series: Each member of the series is independent of each other. A family lineage would be an example of this. I exist and change without a continuous causal force from my father, and the same is true for his father, and so on.

Essential Causal Series: This causal series is simultaneous: Each member of the causal series is affected only inasmuch as the first member ('first' in the sense of being ultimate source) continuously imparts an effect. For example, a locomotive train moves only inasmuch as the locomotive empowers it, because neither one of the carts nor any collection of them has that causal power on its own. There cannot be an infinite regress in an essential causal series.

A Cosmological Argument

1. Something changes.

2. Whatever changes is changed by another (non-identical to it).

3. If something changes, then there is either a first, unchanged changer or an infinite, essential causal series.

4. There is no infinite, essential causal series.

5. Thence, there is a first, unchanged changer.

Premise 1

Premise {1} is evident: Some apples turn red. Animals change. Evolution depends on such change. Thus, things change.

Premise 2

Premise {2} refers to an essential causal series only. Consider the alternatives to premise {2}. I can think of two: self-change and change from nothing.

Self-Change

Nothing self-changes. Consider animals. Change in an animal is brought about by something distinct from the animal himself. If an animal grows, dies or moves, it is because of some change in or by one of his parts, or some outside actor, each distinct from the animal himself. I can reason similarly for any scenario.

Furthermore: something changes only if there is a transition from potency (potential) to act (actuality) by something already actual (because only actualities are causally efficacious). But if that which changed underwent self-change, then it would have actuated itself before it actually existed, and that is unintelligible. Besides, change is brought about by a distinct thing; and so it cannot be both the same (since we are talking about a self-cause) and distinct.

Change from Nothing

There are two ways to interpret this: nothingness caused some change, or something changed from or by nothing, inexplicably.

The first way is incoherent. Nothingness is non-being; and so it has neither potency nor act. Thus, nothingness is causally inert.

How about inexplicable change? That way should be a last resort, because we live and conduct some of our best sciences with the prima facie presumption that changes have causes. An arbitrary abandonment of that presumption constitutes a taxi-cab fallacy; and hence abandonment must have good reason, but I know of none.

But if there is regularity concerning inexplicable changes, such as there being a certain sort of thing that changes without a cause, or that a thing changes only under a certain sort of condition, then that regularity needs explanation. For if these changes were brought about from nothing or by nothing, then why would there be that regularity?

Consider a common example of “acausal” beginnings: virtual particles. Why is there a regularity of virtual particles emerging into being "from nothing" or "by nothing"? Why not zebras too? That last question seems silly, but nothingness has no potentialities or delimitations; and so there is nothing to regulate that there be a certain sort of change or emergence over any other. Therefore, if virtual particles can come from nothing or by nothing, then there seems to be no reason why zebras are excluded from this. (2)

But if virtual particles came from or by something, then that would explain the regularity. Why? Because on the classical view, all things are immanently restricted from certain ends and directed toward others. Virtual particles themselves would be restricted and empowered by their potencies and actualities. Thus, given the kind of thing they are, their form and final cause, we can expect that virtual particles emerge only in such-and-such vacuum state (or whatever else); and in turn we can know that that vacuum state itself has the potency for allowing for emerging virtual particles but not zebras.

If this sort of causality is debased or denied, we are left with the problem of enumerative induction. Consider this. David Hume argued that our causal knowledge is nothing more than constant conjunctions and regularities. Everything else, this idea of necessary connection and causative action, are just projections or habits of the mind.

Therefore, for Hume, there is no knowledge that a cause will create one sort of effect over any other; and hence he could neither justify enumerative induction nor the proposition that the future will resemble the past. A harsh price to pay, indeed. It doesn't seem worth it.

That aside, suppose an objector insists: "Quantum mechanics reveals that on the subatomic level some causation is irreducibly probabilistic; and thus even if we knew all of the causes, it would still be a matter of chance (to some degree) whether the effect occurs." Does this refute the causal principle? No, it doesn't.

Firstly, whether that example is probabilistic is contentious: it depends on philosophical interpretations. Philosopher of science Carl Horefer argues that despite popular opinion "...quantum mechanics is one of the best prospects for a genuinely deterministic theory in modern times." (3) He then cites several works in support of this idea. Thus, it is far from clear that this objection is correct, and it might even be very wrong.

Secondly, this objection presumes that the causal principle exclusively refers to a deterministic efficient cause, but that presumption is false. Indeterminism is acceptable. Moreover, the principle is Aristotelian; and hence there are 3 other sorts of causes for which it refers: material, formal and final. Each of those 3 could save the causal principle from refutation even if quantum mechanics implied the existence of some change without a deterministic efficient cause.

In short: the objector's failure emanates from a misunderstanding of what classical metaphysicians mean when they proffer the causal principle.

Premise 3

Premise {3} is exhaustive. The causal series referred to in {3} is either finite or infinite. If the series is finite, then it has a first changer. But we know from the content of premise {2} that if there is a first changer, then it is itself unchanged (otherwise it, too, has cause for its change); and hence I therein pose a first, unchanged changer in {3}. But if the series is infinite, then there is no first changer.

Premise 4

How about premise {4}? An essential causal series requires a first member or an ultimate source of the empowering effect, since the series only exists inasmuch as an effect is continuously imparted onto the each member of the series. Contra Hume, an infinite number of moving carts on a locomotive train would not explain why the train itself is moving, because none of the carts move unless there is a locomotive. Likewise, the music from a flute is sustained here and now only by an empowering breath.

Thus: If there is no first member, then there is no essential causal series. (4)

The final proposition is {5}, and it is the deduced conclusion. My argument is deductively valid; and hence I need no support for {5} save the support for the truth of the aforementioned premises.

Thus, we have deduced the existence of a first, unchanged changer.

But Is the Changer Unchangeable?

Why think that there is an unchangeable, unchanged changer? That is, why think that there is an unchanged changer capable of some sort of change (has potencies) but does not, qua first mover, change?

Consider this essential causal series: a paint brush changes upon some hand simultaneously actualizing some potency within the paint brush; and the potency of this hand to move is simultaneously actualized by certain muscles; and a relevant potency of the muscles is actualized by certain neurons; and a relevant potency of those neurons is actualized by a specific nervous system; and a relevant potency of that system is actualized by its atomic structure; and that, in turn, is actualized by electromagnetism and gravitation, and so on, all simultaneously.

In that example, that specific nervous system, atomic structure and gravitational force operate in specific ways over others and take particular forms. That is, the specific atoms and molecules for which I am materially constituted could now operate in some other way, or in some other system, and they could change into some other thing (this will be the case when I die). Even gravity and the laws of nature could be different; Steven Hawkings agrees. Hawkings says that "the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle." (5)

Thus, those things have the potential to be different things and do different things, but they do not. Instead, they exist in this particular way over another; and they operate here and now in this particular way over another; and hence we say that a potency is continuously actuated to sustain those particular ways over any other; and given the causal principle, we know that this continuous actuation is caused by a distinct thing.

However, given the truth of premise {4}, this continuous actuation that sustains the operations and existence of those things needs a terminus. Otherwise, we are faced with the same questions: why does the changer have that operation, and why does it take that form? What sustains it? We therefore appeal to a first, unchanged changer whose very existence need not be made actual. A changer who is identical to its existence: a changer with no potentiality.(6)

Now, every thing either pure potentiality (having no actuality at all), pure actuality (having no potentiality at all), or composite of potentiality and actuality. The first and third options entail a changer with some potentiality rather than none, but we need a changer with no potentiality. Thus, we can only deduce the second option.

Therefore, the changer is pure actuality; and hence this changer is unchangeable, because a changer with no potentialities has no potential to change.

Fleshing It Out

Anything that is pure act does not owe its sustenance to any other thing, for it does not have the potential to be any other way. After all, there is no potency to act upon or fail to actualize. Thus, it can neither perish nor diminish. We know that the laws of nature are sustained by this changer, and that they could be different. Thence, the changer is neither governed by such laws nor does this changer fall within their scope (that is, this changer is supernatural or supranatural). We also know that this changer is neither of matter, energy, nor any physical thing, since they are capable of change. Thus, it is amaterial or immaterial; and if space is capable of change, it is spaceless. We also know that it is responsible for all change; and hence it is causal and extremely powerful.

That description fits abstract objects or an intelligence exclusively. But abstract objects are causally inert; and hence it is an intelligence, what we call a deity. I therefore conclude my argument.

Endnotes

(1) Potency' and 'act' are Aristotelian terms. Aristotle began using them in his refutation to the Megaric school's denial of all change and becoming. Opponents of this Aristotelian view are left to explain the possibility of change, if they believe in it. Please see this link for a better understanding: http://www.thesumma.info/reality/reality6.php

(2) In any case, virtual particles do not come from nothing, as philosophers understand the word: non-being itself. Physicists Tipler and Barrow observe: "The quantum mechanical vacuum is not truly 'nothing'; rather, the vacuum state has a rich structure which resides in a previously existing substratum". See: John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 441.

(3) For more on the impossibility of an infinite, essential causal series, see this link: http://www.anthonyflood.com/sadowskyendlessregress.htm

(4) Steven Hawkings and Leonard Mlodinow.'The Grand Design'. Page 140. For work on prescriptive laws of nature and to see why many construals fail without God, see this link: http://www.isnature.org/Files/Cartwrigh ... _draft.pdf

(5) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/deter ... al/#QuaMec

(6) I owe this point to philosopher Edward Feser. See his 'Aquinas'. Page 73.
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Re: Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#3  Postby lobawad » Aug 14, 2013 5:06 pm

In the early 21st Century, when someone makes a statement to the effect “a deity exists”, those who are sceptical that this statement is true will usually respond by saying “show me some evidence of this deity.” Of course those making such claims do have evidence, but on closer inspection this evidence is revealed to be something other than what the sceptic meant by “evidence”. What the sceptic means by “evidence” is evidence subject to empirical testability, falsifiability, and so on. The evidence that is typically presented in support of the claim “a deity exists” is famously averse to such strictures.

Does the sceptic make a reasonable demand in insisting on empirical evidence for the claim “a deity exists”? A cynic might say that this demand is a sneaky trick, for is not “elusive of empirical testability” traditionally a characteristic and even defining feature of deities? Should not someone claiming “a deity exists” (someone we shall call from here on “claimant”) be wary of entangling themselves in such a debate? To present empirical evidence of their deity is to admit that empirical methods are a touchstone, that their deity may be measured in some way. And after all, empirical knowledge changes and grows: only a fool or a fast-talking salesman would stake the existential integrity of their deity on current empirical knowledge, or found an argument for the reality of their deity on a current gap in empirical knowledge.

( I trust that participants in this debate, and those reading it, will not make the clumsy error of assuming that the sceptic's continual calls for empirical evidence mean that the sceptic's position is necessarily built on empiricism itself. )

If we (both claimants or sceptics) are to graciously avoid duking it out in the ring of the empirical, then what evidences do claimants have?

The first, perhaps the weightiest in terms of individual conviction, is the evidence of personal experience. Personal experience is not something we can simply dismiss completely, out of hand, if we are exercising charitable reasoning, but personal experience is not admissible as positive evidence in a reasonable debate because one person's experiences can be not only different to another's, but even contradictory.

In a sincere rational discussion of these matters we must gently pass over another time-honored variety of evidence for the claim “a deity exists”, the appeal by claimants to ancient writings. Where such texts are not inanities, insanities, insufferable misogyny or just plain blather, they offer no single, clear and universally accepted “authority”. Debating the claim “a deity exists” should not lead to rebooting the Crusades, nor could convincing evidence of the being of some non-trivial deity possibly hinge on the “proper” translation and understanding of some words in some long-dead language.

So, what evidences do we have left? We have what are called “metaphysical arguments”, which we may fairly look upon and treat as “thoughtful speculations”. I am quite familiar with such speculations, and engage in them myself, as an artform or kind of literary criticism. I do not dismiss metaphysical arguments at all, but it seems quite clear to me that the metaphysical arguments allegedly supporting claims such as “a deity exist” in fact support quite opposite conclusions, so much so that we might even suspect that many of the landmark theolgical apologists of the past were in fact thinly-veiled atheists speaking slyly or in heavily sardonic tones.

One point that needs to be made clear: in discussing the proposition “a deity exists”, we are necessarily discussing either a small god or an openly human construct. Paradoxically, a God worthy of the name and of the hyperbole assigned to it by many theologies would be unnameable, inexpressible, ineffable. It would not be possible to even say that this God exists, for we could neither name nor reduce to symbols such a thing, nor would it be possible to make the claim “exists” because this is conceivably negated: “does not exist”. This Ineffable could not even conceivably or hypothetically not be. There would be no way to disbelieve such a thing, nor could such a thing be grasped by such puny and ephemeral actions such as “belief”. Complete silence on the matter altogether would be the best, the only possible, discussion.

We could call this point a metaphysical axiom, or an igtheistic claim, or even a definition rooted in a tautology (an ineffable is ineffable). An atheist is under no obligation to accept or even seriously consider this conception, but a theist cannot simply brush it off without argument, nor can they honestly ignore the possibility that a sincere, untrammeled and rational approach to theistic claims might result in a position on the claim “a deity exists” which is functionally indistinguishable from atheism.

My fellow participant in this particular debate being a Roman Catholic, it must be said in the spirit of fairness and reason that he could gladly concede that his God is indeed “small” in keeping with my metaphysical definition, in fact deliberately small, and that the manner in which this God makes itself small is the very heart of his religion. For Catholic and Orthodox Christianities, as well as for the more sophisticated Protestants, hyperbolic adjectives lavished upon the deity are heavily qualified and are considered in terms of compossibility. This well-considered approach to descriptions of a deity should free the more intricate theologies from the charge of insincere and inconsistent flattery of their deity, an accusation which is quite obviously implied by the igtheistic conception of a deity I have presented. Their approach does not let them simply ignore my claim that one may rationally reach a functionally atheistic position by way of theological means, though.

(Please do not grievously misunderstand this metaphysical definition as any kind of claim on my part that some Neoplatonic "The One" is real, or anything like that.)

Another point that needs to be made before entering into debate is that unless one has already made strong metaphysical assumptions, the verb “exists” might have many meanings. If one is claiming that a deity exists in the manner Darth Vader exists, for example, we do not need to debate. In fact I would join in supporting this proposition.

In order to see how metaphysical arguments by claimants support conclusions very different to “a deity exists”, simply embrace the argument fully and follow through to the bitter end.

This is what I did to come to the metaphysical conclusion above. If we accept that God is all that, we are forced into complete silence on the subject, functional atheism.

We may take the same approach with the whole arsenal of metaphysical arguments by claimants.

Cosmological arguments come in many shapes but are all at the heart based on a disjunctive syllogism.
Either this or that must be true; it is not this, so it must be that.

The argument from first cause, for example, does not engage in special pleading as many detractors mistakenly think, for it is not rooted in a modus ponens or a categorical syllogism. “Either there is an infinite regress of causes (splayed out or looped) or there must be some uncaused cause at the heart of it;this regress cannot be; therefore, there is an uncaused cause.” (Disjunctive Syllogism)

If we accept this argument, we can conclude that the world of cause and caused we observe is simply “made of something that causes”. The same holds true for arguments from first mover, first existent, and so on. Not only is there no need to add a deity to this conclusion, but strapping on some unobserved being makes a mockery of any premise we use in which we depend on “intuitively obvious” assumptions from observation. A wholesome exercise of cosmological arguments does not permit us to shove yet more ontological distinction into our original disjunction.

Ontological arguments by claimants take the blue ribbon in slipperiness and inscrutability. Let us welcome them without assuming a conclusion and see what we have. Take Anselm's:

“Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality. “ (Anselm, Prosologium II)

To my knowledge, no philosopher has pointed out the rather embarrassing admission tacit in this argument, and in all ontological arguments by claimants. What is it that makes the conceived “greater”? Existence in reality. What is this “reality”, but the world subject to empirical epistemologies? By using ontological arguments, the claimant inadvertently lets slip the nature of the world to which their deity hopes admission- but we already have this very world and all its glories at hand! From ontological arguments we can only conclude that a deity exists in a manner countless other ideas exist.

Space is limited, so that is enough for now.I am looking forward to my opponent's arguments, to be treated in this manner: not by attempting to dismiss the arguments, or pooh-poohing them, but by accepting them and discovering where they might lead when we do not assume the conclusion “deity!”
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Reply to the Opener

#4  Postby Mick » Aug 16, 2013 6:23 am

Thoughts on Evidence

My opponent anticipated the sort of response I would have if someone were to demand that a deity's existence or all evidence thereof should be measurable, quantifiable, and things of that sort. I would reject that demand categorically.

Such a demand is partially predicated on the Cartesian and Baconian redefinition of knowledge: knowledge defined in terms of utility. This redefinition led to an exclusive focus on the how questions, that is, on the material and efficient causes, as well as a great focus on the quantifiable and measurable aspects of the world. Everything else was omitted or ignored, and formal and final causes were of no exception.

But the dismissal of formal and final causes was partially based upon hope and theological motivations rather than sincere, academic rebuttal or refutation. Because of this, there is unfinished business between Aristotelians and the moderns. And so if I were now faced with the aforementioned demand, one embolden by that scientism or understanding of knowledge, then I would charge my demander with presuming contentious ideas.

Furthermore, even if I wanted, it is unclear how I could offer testable or falsifiable claims for God's existence. I say this for two reasons.

Firstly, if God is a necessary existent, then His existence is not falsifiable, in principle. Secondly, if my cosmological argument is sound, then God is the precondition of all change, regularity, becoming, and changeable things. Thus, the fact that there are things of that sort (change, regularity, etc.) necessitates His existence. Consequently, God's existence is not a hypothesis in need of scientific confirmation or testability. Instead, God's existence is a precondition of scientific evidence.

On the Cosmological Argument

My opponent says this:

The argument from first cause, for example, does not engage in special pleading as many detractors mistakenly think, for it is not rooted in a modus ponens or a categorical syllogism. “Either there is an infinite regress of causes (splayed out or looped) or there must be some uncaused cause at the heart of it;this regress cannot be; therefore, there is an uncaused cause.” (Disjunctive Syllogism)


My opponent argues that the cosmological argument does not commit the fallacy of special pleading, because it is not “rooted in” modus ponens or the categorical syllogism. But it is unclear to me why an argument form such as modus ponens or a categorical syllogism is relevant. I say this because that fallacy is an informal one; and hence its occurrence depends upon the content of what is said rather than its logical form or presentation.

What is more, any instance of modus ponens can be translated into a disjunctive syllogism. Consider: '(p →q), p; and hence q' is logically equivalent to (~p V q), p; and hence q'. Thus, if either one, in virtue of its form, commits the fallacy of special pleading, then so does the other.

My opponent furthers:

If we accept this argument, we can conclude that the world of cause and caused we observe is simply “made of something that causes”. The same holds true for arguments from first mover, first existent, and so on. Not only is there no need to add a deity to this conclusion, but strapping on some unobserved being makes a mockery of any premise we use in which we depend on “intuitively obvious” assumptions from observation. A wholesome exercise of cosmological arguments does not permit us to shove yet more ontological distinction into our original disjunction.


My cosmological argument concludes that there is a first, uncaused cause, but nothing there explicitly deduces a deity. That is why I have a subsection entitled Fleshing It Out. In that subsection I explicate why the first, unchangeable changer is a deity.

Therefore, this objection is inapplicable to my argument.

On the Ontological Argument

My opponent says:

To my knowledge, no philosopher has pointed out the rather embarrassing admission tacit in this argument, and in all ontological arguments by claimants. What is it that makes the conceived “greater”? Existence in reality. What is this “reality”, but the world subject to empirical epistemologies? By using ontological arguments, the claimant inadvertently lets slip the nature of the world to which their deity hopes admission- but we already have this very world and all its glories at hand! From ontological arguments we can only conclude that a deity exists in a manner countless other ideas exist.


Despite reading this paragraph, I am left unsure what "embarrassing admission” is found within that ontological argument. Anselm argues that that than which no greater can be conceived, if it is conceived, can only be that thing if it exists in conception and in reality. That argument is given on the background of a platonic metaphysic and epistemology, one in sharp contrast to "empirical epistemologies". But if my opponent presumes those "empiricist epistemologies", then he is begging the question against Anselm.

That issue aside, despite what my opponent claims, it is false that all ontological arguments make use of the superlative 'greater'. Consider this argument.

1. Necessarily, if God exists, then God is pure act.
2. Necessarily, if God exists contingently, then God is not pure act.
3. Possibly, God exists.
4. Therefore, God exists.

This argument is valid in S5 modal logic, and yet it does not take stock in superlatives; and hence my opponent’s global objection against the ontological argument fails. (1)

On Religious Language

My opponent says:

One point that needs to be made clear: in discussing the proposition “a deity exists”, we are necessarily discussing either a small god or an openly human construct. Paradoxically, a God worthy of the name and of the hyperbole assigned to it by many theologies would be unnameable, inexpressible, ineffable. It would not be possible to even say that this God exists, for we could neither name nor reduce to symbols such a thing, nor would it be possible to make the claim “exists” because this is conceivably negated: “does not exist”. This Ineffable could not even conceivably or hypothetically not be. There would be no way to disbelieve such a thing, nor could such a thing be grasped by such puny and ephemeral actions such as “belief”. Complete silence on the matter altogether would be the best, the only possible, discussion.


There is a historical concern about language and God, because God is supposed to be simple and transcendent. My opponent thinks this concern leads us to a "functional atheism", since we cannot properly say anything about God. My opponent is wrong.

Firstly, the objection is self-inconsistent, since the objection is proffered in a way that presupposes the legitimacy of God-talk. Indeed, my opponent freely talks about how we can or cannot talk about the Ineffable. For instance, he says that"[t]his Ineffable could not conceivably or hypothetically not be”, but that sentence takes the Ineffable (or the concept thereof) as a proper subject. The fact that my opponent offers that "tautology" ("an ineffable is ineffable") is sufficient for my point, since he therein predicates ineffability to something ineffable. But if that sort of predication is the very thing we cannot do, then how does my opponent get away with it?

Similar concerns apply to this so-called functional atheism. If we can neither hold propositional attitudes concerning “an ineffable” nor predicate anything to it (nor its concept), then what exactly is functional atheism? An explanation of what functional atheism is seems futile, since such an explanation would only make sense on the background of expressible theological claims.

Secondly, theists can turn to analogical predication. On analogical predication, existence is understood as an analogical notion: we understand that things can exist in different ways or senses. For instance, properties and substances have being, but not in the same way. Potencies and actualities are said to have being, but not in the same way. Yet, despite their differences, there is a similarity, an analogous way that they all are.

We can reason similarly with God and His creatures. That which we predicate to God and His creatures is neither equivocal nor univocal; it is analogical. We are good, and God is good, but 'is good' does not hold univocally between us and God. Instead, the relation is analogical. There is a similarity in the way that God is good and we are good, but that relation is not identical.

By using analogical senses, we can respect the transcendence of God while still being about to talk about God, since the predicates do not hold univocally. We can use this sort of predication to help us speak about God, or to at least point to certain truths about God, just as we often use metaphorical language to convey difficult or ineffable ideas and experiences. (2)

Conclusion

My opponent’s objections to the cosmological argument are inapplicable in my case. His global objection to the ontological argument fails, and his objection to religious language is self-defeating.

Thus, my opponent’s opening post offers no good reason to be a skeptic about the existence of a deity.

Endnotes

(1) The premises for this argument are schematized thusly: (1) □(G→A); (2) □{(◊G &◊~G)→~A}; and (3) ◊G. Those familiar with modal propositional logic and S5 should be able to see why this argument is valid. ‘G’ stands for ‘God exists’ and ‘A’ stands for ‘God is pure act’. Within the antecedent of (2) I express ‘God exists contingently’ with the help of the modal operators rather than with an additional constant.

(2) See Edward Feser's piece for more information on analogical predication. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2010/09/ ... heism.html
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Re: Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#5  Postby lobawad » Aug 22, 2013 11:54 am

Mick wrote:

My opponent anticipated the sort of response I would have if someone were to demand that a deity's existence or all evidence thereof should be measurable, quantifiable, and things of that sort. I would reject that demand categorically.

Such a demand is partially predicated on the Cartesian and Baconian redefinition of knowledge: knowledge defined in terms of utility. This redefinition led to an exclusive focus on the how questions, that is, on the material and efficient causes, as well as a great focus on the quantifiable and measurable aspects of the world. Everything else was omitted or ignored, and formal and final causes were of no exception.

But the dismissal of formal and final causes was partially based upon hope and theological motivations rather than sincere, academic rebuttal or refutation. Because of this, there is unfinished business between Aristotelians and the moderns. And so if I were now faced with the aforementioned demand, one embolden by that scientism or understanding of knowledge, then I would charge my demander with presuming contentious ideas.


The claim that formal and final causes (originating with Aristotle) have been omitted or ignored is patently absurd. Were the final cause a lost concept, archeologists would never be able to distinguish between a bronze hammer and a bronze ax! The formal cause of the musical octave remains as Aristotle described it, a fact not lost on any tuning theorist- in fact the formal causes of various musical intervals remains a topic of interest and debate to this day.

No, the four causes of Aristotle have not been abandoned, but refined, deepened, expanded and directed to cases in which they are meaningful and do not smuggle in superfluous entities. It seems to me that to fail to see this would indicate great philosophical naivity... or the deliberate construction of a false and ahistorical dichotomy between ancient and modern for purposes of deception.

Mick wrote:
Furthermore, even if I wanted, it is unclear how I could offer testable or falsifiable claims for God's existence. I say this for two reasons.

Firstly, if God is a necessary existent, then His existence is not falsifiable, in principle. Secondly, if my cosmological argument is sound, then God is the precondition of all change, regularity, becoming, and changeable things. Thus, the fact that there are things of that sort (change, regularity, etc.) necessitates His existence. Consequently, God's existence is not a hypothesis in need of scientific confirmation or testability. Instead, God's existence is a precondition of scientific evidence.


Apparently we have moved from “a deity” to “God”. If such a being's existence is in principle not falsifiable- a point I happily grant to those who acknowledge the igtheistic description of deities I have given- then it cannot be the case that the actions of this being manifest themselves in any comprehensible way in what we call the natural world, for any such actions here would be subject to empirical scrutiny and falsifiability. Why a traditional theist rather than a Deist would promote a God indistinguishable from dead is beyond me.

If my friend's cosmological argument is sound, it supports only a “first cause”- but there is no reason that this first cause is not inherent in whatever stuff it is of which the universe is composed. In the Aristotelian conception from which the argument comes, change itself, changing, may be part of the material cause of the universe. Mere “instability” would be enough to get that ball rolling.

Mick wrote:

My opponent argues that the cosmological argument does not commit the fallacy of special pleading, because it is not “rooted in” modus ponens or the categorical syllogism. But it is unclear to me why an argument form such as modus ponens or a categorical syllogism is relevant. I say this because that fallacy is an informal one; and hence its occurrence depends upon the content of what is said rather than its logical form or presentation.

What is more, any instance of modus ponens can be translated into a disjunctive syllogism. Consider: '(p →q), p; and hence q' is logically equivalent to (~p V q), p; and hence q'. Thus, if either one, in virtue of its form, commits the fallacy of special pleading, then so does the other.


I am sure that I am not the only one reading this who is cocking an eyebrow over the logical implications of my compadre's exuberant use of double negative elimination here, given his apparent advocation of dialetheism elsewhere. But let us have that discussion elsewhere. In order to make my point clear, I would ask that he render what is probably the best known cosmological argument in our times:

1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
Therefore:
3. The universe has a cause of its existence

(Nasr, trans. Seyyed Hossein, An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1993 )

into a disjunctive syllogism of the kind that lies at the heart of cosmological arguments, using the logical mechanism he has proposed. My debate buddy will protest that when this argument is presented today, as it is by WL Craig, it is accompanied by further arguments which do present the relevant disjunct, and he will be right to make this protest. He will also have illustrated the point I am making.



Mick wrote:
My cosmological argument concludes that there is a first, uncaused cause, but nothing there explicitly deduces a deity. That is why I have a subsection entitled Fleshing It Out. In that subsection I explicate why the first, unchangeable changer is a deity.


Occam's Push-broom may permit such flights of fantasy, Occam's Razor does not.

Mick wrote:
Despite reading this paragraph, I am left unsure what "embarrassing admission” is found within that ontological argument. Anselm argues that that than which no greater can be conceived, if it is conceived, can only be that thing if it exists in conception and in reality. That argument is given on the background of a platonic metaphysic and epistemology, one in sharp contrast to "empirical epistemologies". But if my opponent presumes those "empiricist epistemologies", then he is begging the question against Anselm.


My argument chum here claims that Anselm did not mean that “reality” means what we generally take to mean “reality”, the physical (and therefore subject to emiricist epistemologies) world. If Anselm is indeed not referring to this reality, then I would like a definition or description of what reality Anselm does mean.

Mick wrote:
That issue aside, despite what my opponent claims, it is false that all ontological arguments make use of the superlative 'greater'. Consider this argument.

1. Necessarily, if God exists, then God is pure act.
2. Necessarily, if God exists contingently, then God is not pure act.
3. Possibly, God exists.
4. Therefore, God exists.

This argument is valid in S5 modal logic, and yet it does not take stock in superlatives; and hence my opponent’s global objection against the ontological argument fails. (1)


The usual argument against the famous S5 modal arguments is to use the same logic to demonstrate the existence of necessary Most Evil Demons, Dragons, Logical Contradictions, and so on.

This counterargument fails to show that the S5 argument is invalid, of course, for the argument must be treated as valid in order to produce the absurd conclusion.

This usual counterargument (the standard for atheists arguing against theists) also fails to show that the S5 argument in not sound. Why? Because it is using a fallacious appeal to consequences. No, the S5 argument is valid and sound, an excellent argument to show that God does exist... in the same manner Most Evil Demons, Dragons and Logical Contradictions exits.


As for the rest of my pal's counterargument, I believe that the contortions to which he must resort in order to decry the metaphysical conception I earlier proposed illustrate far better than anything else just how sound and effective igtheistic approaches are to defusing claims of “a deity exists”. To deny that we can not assume theism and, digging in, reach atheist conclusions, is to admit that one is not interested in a search for truth regardless where it leads.
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A Rejoinder

#6  Postby Mick » Aug 26, 2013 9:48 pm

My opponent replied that Aristotle's four causes have not been abandoned in modern science, but that is regrettably false. Modern science and philosophy is partially characterized by this abandonment. But if neither my opponent nor my reader will take my word for it, then perhaps the word of a relevant scholar will suffice.

Historian John Herman Randall writes: "The world of the Middle Ages has been explicitly and entirely rejected for the world of modern science." And in this world an explanation is sought " for all things in the world in purely mechanical terms." (1). Newton, Leibniz and Boyle endorsed what they call final causation, and even Bacon endorsed forms, but the conceptions they endorsed were gutted of their Aristotelian content. Instead of understanding goal-orientated behaviour as intrinsic within things themselves, Newton and others believed that that behaviour is extrinsically imposed by God. (2)

If my sources here do not suffice, then I can provide others.

My opponent says:

"Apparently we have moved from “a deity” to “God”. If such a being's existence is in principle not falsifiable- a point I happily grant to those who acknowledge the igtheistic description of deities I have given- then it cannot be the case that the actions of this being manifest themselves in any comprehensible way in what we call the natural world, for any such actions here would be subject to empirical scrutiny and falsifiability. Why a traditional theist rather than a Deist would promote a God indistinguishable from dead is beyond me. "


My opponent is confused. If God is a necessary existent, then the proposition 'God exists' cannot be falsified. However, that fact does not suggest that a proposition such as 'God created squared circles' cannot be falsified. Nor does it suggest that any contingent proposition concerning God's action is unfalsifiable. We might not be able to falsify some of these propositions, but that would not suggest that those propositions are unfalsifiable.

My opponent says:

"If my friend's cosmological argument is sound, it supports only a “first cause”- but there is no reason that this first cause is not inherent in whatever stuff it is of which the universe is composed. In the Aristotelian conception from which the argument comes, change itself, changing, may be part of the material cause of the universe. Mere “instability” would be enough to get that ball rolling."


My opponent errs. A precursory reading of my cosmological argument makes it clear why the first cause is unchangeable; and hence the first cause is neither material nor energy. Why? Because both matter and energy are changeable. And if the universe is wholly composed of matter and energy, then the first cause cannot be inherent within it. Moreover, and most importantly, the first cause cannot be part of any material cause. Why? Because the first cause is not material, and a material cause is material.

If my opponent wants to challenge my conclusions, he needs to seriously address my argument. But as of yet, my opponent has not quoted a passage from my opening statement, nor has he clearly addressed one of its premises. Regrettably, I cannot help but feel befuddled by my opponent's lack of engagement with my opening post.

My opponent says:

I am sure that I am not the only one reading this who is cocking an eyebrow over the logical implications of my compadre's exuberant use of double negative elimination here, given his apparent advocation of dialetheism elsewhere. But let us have that discussion elsewhere. In order to make my point clear, I would ask that he render what is probably the best known cosmological argument in our times:

1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
Therefore:
3. The universe has a cause of its existence

(Nasr, trans. Seyyed Hossein, An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1993 )

into a disjunctive syllogism of the kind that lies at the heart of cosmological arguments, using the logical mechanism he has proposed. My debate buddy will protest that when this argument is presented today, as it is by WL Craig, it is accompanied by further arguments which do present the relevant disjunct, and he will be right to make this protest. He will also have illustrated the point I am making. "


My opponent is confused again. The only point I made here is that the fallacy of special pleading has nothing to do with logical form. Whether some an argument take the form of modus ponens or a disjunctive syllogism is irrelevant to whether an argument commits the fallacy of special pleading. That fallacy is concerned with content, but the question as to whether an argument takes the form of modus ponens or a disjunctive syllogism pertains exclusively to argument form.

My opponent says:

Occam's Push-broom may permit such flights of fantasy, Occam's Razor does not
.

Here my opponent begs the question. If my opponent wants to argue that my conclusions are somehow unnecessary or bloated, then he needs to show where they err and why. Reference to slogans will not suffice.

My opponent says:

The usual argument against the famous S5 modal arguments is to use the same logic to demonstrate the existence of necessary Most Evil Demons, Dragons, Logical Contradictions, and so on.

This counterargument fails to show that the S5 argument is invalid, of course, for the argument must be treated as valid in order to produce the absurd conclusion.

This usual counterargument (the standard for atheists arguing against theists) also fails to show that the S5 argument in not sound. Why? Because it is using a fallacious appeal to consequences. No, the S5 argument is valid and sound, an excellent argument to show that God does exist... in the same manner Most Evil Demons, Dragons and Logical Contradictions exits.


My opponent is yet again confused. The only reason I mention that S5 ontological argument is to show that some ontological arguments do not depend upon superlatives. My point is pellucid: Contrary to my opponent's earlier objection, not all ontological make the so-called "embarrassing admission" concerning the superlative 'greater' and existence in reality. Why? Well, because that S5 ontological argument does not use any superlative.

For further support of this point, let us review what I said in my earlier response. Consider this quote: "This argument is valid in S5 modal logic, and yet it does not take stock in superlatives; and hence my opponent’s global objection against the ontological argument fails."

Notice that I did not say that the argument is sound or persuasive. I simply said that my S5 ontological argument shows that not all ontological arguments fail in virtue of some questionable use of a superlative.

Thus, I did not present that S5 argument as persuasive or sound; and consequently my opponent's reply about demons and whatnot is irrelevant, even if it is true.

Finally, my opponent says:

As for the rest of my pal's counterargument, I believe that the contortions to which he must resort in order to decry the metaphysical conception I earlier proposed illustrate far better than anything else just how sound and effective igtheistic approaches are to defusing claims of “a deity exists”. To deny that we can not assume theism and, digging in, reach atheist conclusions, is to admit that one is not interested in a search for truth regardless where it leads.



But what are these so-called contortions? My opponent does not say. If my opponent wants to engage in debate, then he needs to argue. If he wants to argue, then my opponent needs to show which of my claims is a contortion; he cannot presume that it is.

Conclusion

My opponent has neglected my opening post. Mind you, my opponent quoted me in my first reply; and in that quote I spoke about my cosmological argument, but my opponent did not specifically address my opening post. Regrettably, the brief (and indirect) attention my opponent gave to my cosmological argument can be easily dismissed with a precursory reading of the text within my opening statement.

It is worth noting that my opponent did not defend his "functional atheism" from my earlier criticism. Likewise, my opponent gave no response to my critique of his arguments concerning God-talk. There I argued that his arguments were not just wrong, but self-inconsistent. He also said nothing about my reference to analogical predication. I await his response on these issues.

I conclude that my opponent has not rebutted or undermined my arguments, even when he addressed them. I also conclude that his earlier arguments regarding "functional atheism" and religious language remain failures. Hence, my case for theism remains undaunted.

Endnotes

(1) John Herman, The Making of the Modern Mind. Page 241-2

(2) See: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, Page 95. Also see: Lynn S. Joy in The Cambridge History of Science, Volume 3. Page 73-87.
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Re: Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#7  Postby THWOTH » Sep 10, 2013 11:26 pm

.



!
GENERAL MODNOTE
With lobawad currently off-line Mick has kindly agreed to suspend the debate for a time.


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Re: Formal Debate: A Deity Exists

#8  Postby THWOTH » Sep 16, 2013 7:28 pm

Due to unforeseen circumstances lobawad has been unable to meet the conditions of the dabate as agreed and outlined above. Therefore it is with some regret that I now declare the debate void.

I would, however, like to thank both participants for their interesting and informed contributions to this discussion.

Now that the debate is officially terminated Mick and lobawad are free to discuss the matter further in the 'Peanut Gallery: A Deity Exists' thread, if they so wish.
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