Posted: Aug 22, 2013 11:54 am
by lobawad
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;
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.