Says Who? Part Deux: How Do We Know?

In response to Says Who, byblacksheep had some thoughtful comments that, while missing the point of the original post, I thought they were worth addressing.

Byblacksheep (BBS from here out) said,

“…if we have morals from a perfect God (we know what is good because god said so) we would expect perfect morals from the beginning.”

 

As a Christian, I would affirm that we have morals from a perfect God. As I argued in part uno, God himself is the ground of goodness. However, I would not say “we know that is good because God said so.” What I mean here is that I know of no Christian theologian who would say God has revealed his moral will exhaustively. He has revealed some things, and from those we can infer other things. We obviously can be mistaken about those inferences, but we do not claim they have the same weight of authority as clear revelation. For example, Exodus 20:15 says, “Do not steal.” We can infer from this that there is such a thing as private property of some kind, and that certain rights follow from this. As such while I think what God has revealed of his moral will is perfect, it is not entirely spelled out, which brings me to the second half of the statement above. We would expect this IF we were claiming that the purpose of divine revelation is to give us an exhaustive book or rules by which we must live, and anything that was happening that was wrong was to be called out and condemned. However, that is not the purpose of Scripture. Its overarching narrative is where we came from, what our problem is, what the solution is, and how it will all be resolved.

BBS goes on to say,

            “But our knowledge and our understanding grows…And because of that you would expect the moral codes of earlier civilizations would be just totally wrong and gradually change and be refined over time, which is what we see, globally we have moved in a direction that increases human dignity for all people. Can I definitively say we’ve moved in a direction that is “better?” No I can’t, I will leave that to the philosophers, but what i can do however is look back at the holocaust and say “they got it wrong” I can look back at slavery in the U.S., and slavery across the globe and say “they got it wrong.”

I can agree with BBS that “they got it wrong” but I do so from a worldview that can make sense of that claim. If all we are is molecules in motion, all we can mean when we say “they got it wrong” is that the “molecules in me feel icky about that.” To say they were wrong is to say that they had an obligation to not do that. That implies authority of some kind. Where does that come from? I would argue that the best explanation is a transcendent source in whose image we are made, which is why there is such widespread agreement on big issues like this such that large groups only achieve things like the holocaust by armed force. We have an intuitive sense that such things are wrong. We are also quite capable of ignoring that intuition and/or rationalizing violating it.

BBS also says,

            “…consensus really isn’t how we decide what is moral or not moral. Sure it is how we collectively agree what codes, rules, and norms we are going to follow, but that isn’t necessarily WHY we follow them.”

Again, I would agree. In fact, the why is yet another question. Many people follow moral laws against murder and adultery for no reason other than fear of consequences. While that may make their behavior seem moral on the surface,   Jesus doubled down on the commandments when he said,

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:21)

 

and…”

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (verses 27-28)

 

I will end here for the sake of brevity. Keep an eye out for part drei coming up. (Yes I am using a different language for each sequel number just to be annoying.)

 

 

 

Author: apologeticsminion

Daniel has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He is married and has four grown children. Professionally, Daniel is a sign language interpreter.

113 thoughts on “Says Who? Part Deux: How Do We Know?”

  1. god is goodness therefore, god is not morality; morality is only a descriptive word related to behavior. saying god is moral is from our perspective and our standard.

    god cannot ontologically be morality because morality arises only because there is need, inequality, and the sender of property. since god is not contingent, god is not moral. good is amoral.

    god’s nature cannot be morality because god is incomprehensible, and therefore, what we mean by “moral”, since it is intelligible, cannot be about god. the same is true of some “moral standard”.

    it is entirely a narrative of faith that there is a god and that this god is goodness, and that our draw to participate in what is good is salvation for humanity.

    no atheist cares if that is the narrative way a person wants to talk about human well-being. after all, their aim and interest in likewise in doing the good.

    it’s only certain types of believers who demand that such a theological narrative is insufficient and that instead of this simplicity, there must be magic involved and that the magic is the entire point of it all. and in fact, to hell with anyone who doesn’t buy the magic.

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    1. You said, “god is goodness…” and “god is not morality” and “god is not contingent” You also said, “god is incomprehensible.” Goodness, morality and contingency are all intelligible. What do you mean by “incomprehensible?”

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      1. i think you gets half of the point very clear. we understand goodness. we understand morality. we understand contingency. what we can’t say the object of our understanding of god is, is god.

        by incomprehensible, i mean exactly that, and unambiguously.

        Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced … [As for univocal] Our understanding and expressions are finite, and God’s are infinite, and there is an infinite gulf between finite and infinite. As transcendent, God is not only beyond our limited understanding, but He is also beyond our finite expressions.

        (Norman Geisler, ‘Systematic Theology, Vol. 1’, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pg. 615)

        … when we speak of God by using the word ‘God’, we do not understand what we mean, we have no concept of God; what governs our use of the word ‘God’ is not an understanding of what God is but the validity of a question about the world [Why anything at all?] … What goes for our rules for the use of ‘God’ does not go for the God we try to name with the word. (And a corollary of this, incidentally, is why a famous argument for the existence of God called the ontological argument does not work.)

        (Fr. Herbert McCabe, ‘God Matters’, Continuum, 2005, pg. 6)

        For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis. And in that case it would be possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experiential propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone. But in fact this is not possible. It is sometimes claimed, indeed, that the existence of a certain sort of regularity in nature constitutes sufficient evidence for the existence of a god. But if the sentence “God exists” entails to more than that certain types of phenomena occur in certain sequences, then to assert the existence of a god will be simply equivalent to asserting that there is the requisite regularity in nature; and no religious man would admit that this was all he intended to assert in asserting the existence of a god. He would say that in talking about God, he was talking about a transcendent being who might be known through certain empirical manifestations, but certainly could not be defined in terms of those manifestations. But in that case the term “god” is a metaphysical term. And if “god” is a metaphysical term, then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that “God exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance.

        (A. J. Ayer, “Language, Truth, And Logic”, Dover, Second Edition, 1952, pg. 117)

        To exist beyond the sphere of natural law means to exist beyond the scope of human knowledge; epistemological transcendence is a corollary of ‘supernaturalness’. If a god is a natural being, if his actions can be explained in terms of normal causal relationships, then he is a knowable creature. Conversely, if god can be known, he cannot be supernatural. Without mystery, without some element of the incomprehensible, a being cannot be supernatural – and to designate a being as supernatural is to imply that this being transcends human knowledge. Epistemological transcendence is perhaps the only common denominator among all usages of the term “god,” including those of Tillich, Robinson and other modern theologians. While some “theists” reject the notion of a supernatural being in a metaphysical sense, it seems that every self-proclaimed theist – regardless of his particular use of the term “god” – agrees that a god is mysterious, unfathomable or in someway beyond man’s comprehension. The idea of the “unknowable” is the universal element linking together the various concepts of god, which suggests that this is the most critical aspect of theistic belief. The belief in an unknowable being is the central tenet of theism, and it constitutes the major point of controversy between theism and critical atheism.

        (George Smith, ‘Atheism: The Case Against God’, 1973)

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      2. It is interesting that you keep telling me that God is incomprehensible, and unknowable, yet you seem to think you know these things about god. If he is unknowable, how do you know that? Also, in your Geissler quote, you conveniently omit the fact that he offered a third way, analogous God talk, where we speak of attributes of God that have the same meaning as attributes of creatures, but with a different application.

        “when we speak of God by using the word ‘God’, we do not understand what we mean, we have no concept of God; what governs our use of the word ‘God’ is not an understanding of what God is but the validity of a question about the world [Why anything at all?] …” Maybe that is the case for McCabe, by why think this is the case for everyone?

        “For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis.” This begs the question in favor of empircicism, which itself is not “possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experiential propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone.”

        “To exist beyond the sphere of natural law means to exist beyond the scope of human knowledge…” This assumes naturalism, but this is one of the very questions being addressed.

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      3. no. i haven’t said anything about god at all. what i have commented on are the meanings of imminent and transcendent. and given their meanings, the consequence is we can’t know anything about the gods.

        as for geisler, there’s nothing convenient about it! i myself said in my comments alone that god-talk is about us. that’s ANALOGOUS.

        you may want to review the meanings of equivocal and univocal, and then try to understand what norm is saying; and of course that starts with reading that section of that volume.

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      4. “as for geisler, there’s nothing convenient about it! ”
        Before I get around to a more detailed response, let me first apologize (no pun intended) for the unnecessarily inflammatory language.

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      5. ah, so, “true for mccabe but not for me”? no, mccabe is asserting a case that applies to everyone.

        no. ayer isn’t supposing naturalism. he too is only analyzing the words “imminent” and “transcendent” … and certainly, empirical conclusions can be deduced from. we cannot deduce from “god” anything about the world. the reason is merely THAT we have been able so far to account for experience with natural explanations. i’m that case, we don’t presume naturalism … a believer presumes god. this covers smith.

        let me give you a rhetorical truism:

        suppose there are two identical universes and each only differs in that one has a god and the other doesn’t. by what means would you be able to distinguish between the two.

        if you cannot, aside from claiming for no reason at all that no universe can exist without a god, then you cannot tell which sort of universe we live in, and also, you cannot appeal to any feature of reality to say it even implies deity. be that morality, logic, life, consciousness, out any other mainstay of apologists.

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  2. In the interest of brevity, i’m not going to go through your post point by point, i’m beginning to realize I don’t have time in my life for that kind of nonsense anymore. I just want to ask a couple of questions.

    Is stealing wrong? and how do you know?

    Is giving to the poor good? and how do you know?

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    1. we agree to what is good, what is bad. we objectively arrive at such agreements because 1) we are human and 1a) have the same general, natural reactions and sentiments, and 1b) human beings have the same thought processes. however, we don’t always agree because 2) our circumstances, 3) our problems, and 4) our histories vary.

      this is why in jury systems, we select a jury of our peers rather than randomly.

      what is moral or immoral is deliberated and objectified via intersubjective agreement. morality isn’t individually relative, it is tribally relative (ie regionally, culturally, ideologically, etc.).

      richard rorty once said of criticism toward martin heidegger that we certainly would like to say there’s definitely bad about nazism. however, it turns out that’s many people, in a certain place in the world, at a certain time, enjoyed the nazi conversation. and really, all there is for us to say is that nazism isn’t a conversation we’d particularly like to engage in. in the end, the differences between a nazi and someone else cannot be discussed between the two because neither will find common ground from which the one could approach the other with in order to change his mind. each will forever see the other as begging all the wrong questions, and that’s the best we can do.

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      1. Hi Steven, thank you for you input. However, and I don’t mean to be rude here, but I was addressing my question specifically to ApologeticsMinion, particularly because I am interested in what his world view has to say on the questions I posed.

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      2. Your right, it did post it as a reply to one of your comments, I apologize . I think the comment/reply function is one of the failings of WordPress, but alas. I apologize for the misunderstanding there.

        In answer to your question, I am of the opinion morality is a social structure, it is a combination of collective conscious, utilitarianism, evolution (in the sense that our understanding grows and adapts from the understanding of previous generations) plus a couple of other ideas that I have defined before but are escaping me at the moment.

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  3. My apologetic on Apologetics:

    ​There can be no evidence for God; a being which transcends reality, that which evidence is.

    There can be no evidence for God; a being which is imminent in reality, ordinary and indistinguishable from it.

    There are no absolutes aside from logical absolutes, which are all trivial; axioms, tautology, truism. All else are propositions which are labeled true, not via any means of assurity in knowing, but through warrant and justification; deliberation.

    Logic doesn’t entail truth in itself. Its predicate is reasonableness and it isn’t something about logic itself that leads us to accept any premise, relations of premises, flow of premises to conclusions. Logic also doesn’t prove anything in reality. It represents how people think, not how reality is.

    Sound arguments for and against the existence of God are easily had. Given their acceptance is not based on evidence, not based on logic, there is only a basis of abduction. In other words, what makes the most sense to say, given one’s experiences and impressions of the world.

    So, God and any debates about God, are merely, in all cases, assertions that “my impression is better than yours”.

    A Theist and an Atheist are best made distinct from one another by the single fact that one has an impression the other lacks.

    At the end of the pursuit of folks debating, there isn’t some truth discovered. What is owned is that God is a metaphysical proposition, and then by definition, neither true nor false (though there is a case after all, if one is not an Ignostic), but instead, only an idea that is meaningful or meaningless, worth something or worthless.

    What matters, and the only thing that can, about these senseless debates is that one leaves them having said something worth hearing.

    Sadly, few times is this ever the case.

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    1. Ok, thanks for sending me off for some research as some of this is not as fresh in my mind as it used to be.

      “There can be no evidence for God; a being which transcends reality, that which evidence is.”
      To say God transcends reality is to say all that is real is that which is not God. In other words, God is not real, if by reality you mean all that is real. How is this not circular? I would agree that he transcends the physical universe, in that he is completely distinct from it and is in no way limited by it. I would also argue he is causally active in it, and in that sense immanent.

      “There can be no evidence for God; a being which is imminent in reality, ordinary and indistinguishable from it.” If “ordinary and indistinguishable from it” is your definition of immanent, I agree. However, as stated above, I don’t agree with your definition of immanent.

      “There are no absolutes…” I am inclined to agree.

      “Logic doesn’t entail truth in itself….” ditto

      “Sound arguments for and against the existence of God are easily had…” If we are in agreement on what constitutes a sound argument, then I think we disagree here. I have yet to see an argument against God’s existence that did not depend on faulty premises or logical fallacies. I admit that that does not mean there aren’t any, but I have not seen them.

      “A Theist and an Atheist are best made distinct from one another by the single fact that one has an impression the other lacks.” Yeah, I disagree. People generally don’t write books and go on speaking tours to promote their lack of an impression.

      “What matters, and the only thing that can, about these senseless debates is that one leaves them having said something worth hearing.

      Sadly, few times is this ever the case.”

      While I might balk at the “senseless” characterization, I agree with your observation.

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      1. the first point can go many ways. the hebrew bible and especially the targum, the new testament, particularly johannine and pauline literature, preserve the proto-stoic and stoic concepts of logos; in the jewish traditions, this is the idea of memra. indeed, this all comes from the idea that reality most definitely is everything god is not. hence, the need for mediators.

        i would go with robinson, tillich, and spinoza … god is everything and nothing; being itself.

        however, none of these views matter. what is is this is an exercise in dialectics. so if god is being itself, we can’t know what that is, were can only know the things which manifest. too, the “parts” of god that transcends reality are still incomprehensible. the “parts” that are imminent are indistinguishable from reality. this is exactly what a.j. ayer pointed out.

        my phone is about to die but i want to cover the other items too if you can hang in there.

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      2. ok. picking things up from here, you don’t know of a sound argument against the existence of god.

        one can merely agree with ex nihilo nihil fit and have a sound argument against god, because it’s not just that something eternal exists. it’s that something eternal and volitional exists. given the truism “complexity from simplicity”, it is sound to say not only is volitionality rationally unnecessary, it is un-parsimonious to a non volitional eternality. it doesn’t matter that you would agree with the conclusion or not. it just matters that i am demonstrating sound arguments for and against aren’t hard to make in the least. the point of that comment is to assure folks that logic is not the basis of belief. what is is the already existent impression one has. THAT is what will lead a person to accept or reject any conclusion.

        you should slow down and appreciate my bring meticulous. i have in that one sentence, asserted that both the theist and the atheist have an impression. no one lacks an impression. more importantly, i’m saying that given the epistemology above, being that impression alone justified theism and atheism, we can’t talk as if either are true or false. and since each has a disposition to the question of god, we can only say that the theist lacks the impressions the atheist has, and the atheist lacks the impressions the theist has. even so, however, being engaged in writing about the impressions of others had nothing to do with whether or not a person has an impression of their own. thinking something is untrue is entirely different than thinking something is false. i may well think neither theism nor atheism are true. that may also be because i’m ignostic, or simply that i withhold judgment.

        david, honestly, if it turns out that my analysis is true and the basis and justification of belief and disbelief is impression alone, wouldn’t you agree that it would be senseless for grown adults to argue in the form of “my impression is better than yours?”.

        if you stick with this conversation, i am very positive i can get you to agree. i have decades in epistemology, theology, and apologetics and have conversations like this every day. because you’re educated, i think there’s only one way to respond to the way i will be freaking things from here on in.

        that’s, of you want the conversation.

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      3. “one can merely agree with ex nihilo nihil fit and have a sound argument against god, because it’s not just that something eternal exists. it’s that something eternal and volitional exists. given the truism “complexity from simplicity”, it is sound to say not only is volitionality rationally unnecessary, it is un-parsimonious to a non volitional eternality.”

        You offer this as a sound argument. What is your view of what makes a sound argument? My understanding is that an argument is sound just in case it is valid (its conclusion follows from its premises) and its premises are more plausibly true than their negations. In your example, you say ex nihilo nihil fit is a sound argument. How is it sound? Can you restate it in syllogistic form? It’s not clear to me how I could otherwise evaluate its soundness.

        I see I misread your “impression” statement from your earlier comment. (Sorry, but it looked a lot like the popular “i don’t have a belief about God so I have no burden…”)

        I am not persuaded at this point, in your view of “impression” epistemology. (Is that from Kant?)

        “i think there’s only one way to respond to the way i will be freaking things from here on in.” Is there a typo here?

        I’ll pick this up with you again tomorrow it you like.

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      4. ok, from here in, i’ll speak formally.

        a valid argument is one which arrange premises such that IIF they are true, the conclusion is necessary (or if you’re less legalistic, “follows”).

        a sound argument is merely a valid argument where we know the premises are true. (we can put aside the questions this begs)

        is ex nihilo sound, and how? yes. we observe as a matter of fact that something produces something and that even merely rationally, nothing produces nothing. so, the premises are not merely valid, we don’t have to assume they are true because we know they are. if lawrence krauss wasn’t so busy trying to trash philosophy, he’d note his book, “a universe from nothing” only demonstrates that “nothing” isn’t even theoretically possible and that he actually agrees with theists that conclude god from the argument ex nihilo nihil fit.

        so in plain english, because nothing produces nothing and because there is anything at all, something has always existed; we know this by experience and this is the only possible conclusion.

        (what’s not a necessary conclusion is the volitionality of this “eternality”, so, “god” isn’t a necessary idea)

        what i mean by “impression” is maybe better understood as “sentiment”, maybe best as “non cognitive disposition”.

        so when we talk about truth or morality, i’m going to use the term “sentiment” and “reason”. in both cases (though not from kant but something he certainly agreed with; ie impression, conception, image), we have natural and deliberated dispositions.

        we begin with an impression that there is (or isn’t) volition in the world and only experience can change it.

        with me so far?

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      5. Ok last comment from me for the day. Feel free to wait until tomorrow to respond. I get that “ex nihili nihil fit” is a sound argument. What I thought I read you say is that it is a sound argument against God. Did you intend it to be an example of a sound argument for god? I read your follow up comment that a nonvolitional eternality is to be preferred, but that looks like a separate but related argument. Did I miss something?

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      6. well, ex nihilo doesn’t get you god. so after we conclude ex nihilo, there’s the question of volition. to make a sound argument from there, we add the premise that complexity comes from simplicity and therefore the parsimonious conclusion is the “eternality” is non volitional. this is me giving you a sound argument against god, through and through.

        note if we were looking to actually argue beyond parsimony, it would be argued completely over the issue of volition and the appearance of volition in the world. but of course this is the conclusion my original “apologetic on Apologetics” reached at last; impressions.

        is that more clear?

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      7. sounds good. i suspect though, you can only suggest that simplicity can develop from complexity and so parsimony is a wash, or that it is not true that complexity comes from simplicity. in the case of parsimony, it doesn’t effect soundness. in the case of the verity of complexity from simplicity, i suspect your going to prove the observation is untrue?

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      8. well in general, we can think of things in terms of the number of moving parts of a thing as it were, or in terms of organizational probability, or merely in terms of order itself.

        i scarcely think you can’t make a distinction between what is meant in saying brahman is more simple than yhwh, that energy is more simple than matter, etc..

        what do you take it to mean. or, tell me what meaning you want it to have so that you can argue your case. i’ll go with that, principle of charity and all of that. however, of what i mean by simple and complex is “organizational complexity” then indeed, it is a truism.

        why? because complexity is always the combination of two or more “things” (say, atoms, molecules, ecosystems, computer processes). by definition then, even if you start out with two very highly complex “things”, the outcome of always something more complex than themselves, or just an increase in quantity (such as combing two water molecules only to get two water molecules, for instance).

        simplicity is never a product of anything but entropy. and, this ensures we have a sound argument.

        given philosophical “simplicity” (pun intended), if i wanted to argue the conclusion itself and not just the soundness of this argument, a non volitional eternality or an eternality which evolved a mind are in order, the two most parsimonious views. however (and again, this is my entire point), the argument is then over whether or not a person has an impression of volition in the world or not. it has nothing to do with evidence, logic proves nothing, and impression is all there can be.

        even still, of you agree about evidence and if you agree to logic as i described it, then you have to ask yourself about whether or not having sound arguments matter at all. you yourself agree it proves nothing in reality and is based on reasonableness and that it doesn’t entail truth.

        in that case, we’re only asking what justifies the claims “there are deity” and “there are no deity”. here, were have a wash because it is empirical for each asserter that what they claim is true. and, we’re exactly back to “my impression is better than yours”.

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      9. The point of my question was not to take issue with your definition but to understand it. Since I don’t believe God to be a composite of parts, I think he is, in that sense, simple, so I can agree that complexity comes from simplicity, but I need to be sure not to equivocate on terms. When I have more time later, I will address the volition thing.

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      10. right. since you agree complexity comes from simplicity, it is sound because volition is complex.

        the entire exercise here is to have a sound argument, not whether or not you agree to the conclusion.

        your comments should prove interesting.

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      11. not to be pedantic, but, volition is complex because it has “many moving parts”. it is “more complex” than a non volitional eternality because, lacking volition, a non volitional eternality is more “simple”.

        however, don’t forget why we’re having this conversation. all we are after for now is whether or not the following is sound:

        P1) nothing comes from nothing
        P2) something comes from something
        P3) something exists
        C1) something has always existed
        P4) complexity comes from simplicity
        C2) the “eternality” is not volitional

        now, we can fuss over the legalism of whether or not soundness requires “necessary” conclusions or whether many conclusions are possible, but at least i think we have agreed that all of the premises are true and the first conclusion. a hint about me, i’m not legalistic; i can outline that if you’d like.

        given the above, i would say that “any perfectly rational person” would agree this line of thought is “shored up” even if they didn’t agree to the conclusion. C2 for an atheist is the only possible rational conclusion there is given that they don’t have an impression of volition in the world. C2 for the theist can’t be the parsimonious response given that they do have an impression of volition in the universe; and they are entitled just the same to that belief.

        but at least in terms of you saying you’ve never heard of a sound argument against the existence of deity, i hope that you perhaps begin to think that soundness, justification, and agreeing a conclusion as true are not tied to each other.

        there’s no mystery in what i mean by “complex” or in saying “volition is more complex than nothing” or that this gives the atheist parsimony in C2 while the theist must add “more moving parts” because of P4.

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      12. I’m with you on P1-C1. For clarity, you should then say:
        P4) complexity comes from simplicity
        P5) volition is complex
        C2) the “eternality” is not volitional

        It is not the rejection of your conclusion that makes your argument unsound in my view. It is my rejection of P5. Volition is immaterial and as such, has no “moving parts.” Moreover, if YWH exists, he is ontologically simple in that he is not made of parts. His will (volition) is also not an assembly of parts, even though we could speak of it as such. However, speaking of it a s such is just a manner of speaking. Moreover, if the “something” from which everything els came is nonvolitional, then it is the same as saying the universe has always been here, since the something would just be the necessary conditions for the universe to come into being. A volitional cause is a better explanation since it would be a being with the ability to refrain from creating it. Moreover, such a being would be timeless without the universe, if you understand time as a relation between events where an event is a change in the state of affairs. On this view, there was a state of affairs such that all that existed was YHWH. In that state of affairs, there were no events. YHWH creates the universe, and with the first event, time begins.

        As you are probably familiar:

        P1) The universe began to exist, or it has always been.
        P2) Traversing an actually infinite series of moments is impossible.
        C1) The universe began to exist.
        P3) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
        P4) The universe began to exist.
        C2) The universe’s beginning has a cause.
        P5) The cause was personal/volitional or not personal/volitional
        P6) non-volitional = material necessary conditions
        P7) P2
        C3) the cause of the universe was personal/volitional.
        P7) the beginning of the universe was the beginning of matter, space and time.
        C4) the personal cause of the beginning was immaterial, non-spatial, and without the universe, timeless

        Admittedly, this does not get you all the way to YHWH, but it is consistent with him, whereas your argument, if sound, eliminates him.

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      13. ah, ok. that’s something we can work with then.

        funny, but i was just re reading before you posted. there are actually a few steps i left out. glad you added in at least the P5 premise.

        any way, “volition is complex”. that’s the issue. certainly if as a premise i left off, there’s no reason to think volition is required for creation, then ending the conversation there and concluding there’s no volitional eternality (by necessity out observation, from the atheist’s perspective) is sound.

        that keeps us from having to address P5 at all.

        but to engage it all the same, complexity is always in terms of comparison. i spoke to the additive nature. so as a truism, the very existence of volition is a more complex state of affairs than one without volition.

        but again, hear me: P5, whether you think it sound or not, is exactly the same state for the theist. that’s because volition or non volition cannot be rationally necessitated, must be presumed from one’s impression, and soundness is really uninteresting for both of us because, once again we agree, logic isn’t about reality and, i don’t think you would argue that the argument presented isn’t justified.

        but, i digress.

        it’s not that “volition is complex” (which it is, involving desire, will, intelligence, mind) but that volition isn’t a necessary attribute for the eternality from which this reality stems, and, that not postulating volition is parsimonious; ie “philosophical simplicity”.

        thoughts?

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      14. i haven’t seen you respond yet. but i have to ask — and obviously this “x make more sense” doesn’t effect soundness, which is what we’re discussing — why do you imply an ontological distinction between a volitional eternality and a non volitional eternality aside from the obvious; ie volition?

        for instance, if what justifies saying something is eternal is that nothing comes from nothing, then if there’s a god, “creatio ex nihilo” is necessarily a theological statement, and “creatio ex se” is descriptive of his creation occurred. but if god created from himself, then defining god as a thing which is not volitional changes nothing. and removing the need to call this eternality god changes nothing either.

        what i mean is that it’s entirely wrong to say the universe is eternal, because there’s every reason to doubt it is. however, there’s no reason whatever to think that the universe is not continuous with — in other words “is” — the eternal something ontologically, yet a temporal expression of it.

        there’s no need to appeal to or think that infinite regression is in play.

        thoughts?

        i simply do not see any requirement for saying creation of the universe must be a result of a willing agent … there’s no way to rationally get there other than to say “because there appears to be volition in the world, this would be proper to assume even as a brute fact.”

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      15. “i simply do not see any requirement for saying creation of the universe must be a result of a willing agent … there’s no way to rationally get there other than to say “because there appears to be volition in the world, this would be proper to assume even as a brute fact.””

        Please go back and read my last post, in which I offer reasons why the creation would need to come from a willing agent (redundancy?) Doubt them if you will, but at least interact with them.

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      16. first, do you agree to the soundness of the following, since this is the only thing we’re discussing, not conclusions:

        P1) nothing comes from nothing
        P2) something comes from something
        P3) something exists
        C1) something eternal exists
        P4) all things which exist are manifestations of this eternality
        P5) this eternality may or may not be volitional
        P6) volition is more complex than the absence of volition
        C2) following philosophical simplicity, it is parsimonious to presume this eternality is not volitional IIF it can be proven that universes must be the result of volition and IIF nothing non volitional can produce universes

        given that i think arguing about the existence of deity is supremely foolish, i am not arguing whether or not your premises are true when i say i see no reason to think volition is required … it’s me telling you that your logic doesn’t flow; ie it doesn’t follow that because x, y.

        notice too, i addressed your premises in great detail. i did interact. your not is to take my critique and help me see the error in my thinking.

        so, where’s the error?

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      17. first, a note. “do you agree to the soundness of the following, since this is the only thing we’re discussing, not conclusions”
        If I agreed with the soundness, I think I would have an obligation to accept the conclusion.

        Having said that, in order to keep this more focused, I have an idea. I will list here all areas where I disagree. Please address the first only, and Copy/paste the rest at the end of your response so they don’t get lost, and we can get to them after we come to some resolution on the first (unless the resolution of the first resolves multiple issues.) This way neither of us is trying to respond to multiple issues at once. How does that sound? Also, by “first” I mean whichever issue you choose to respond to first. You need not follow the order in which I list them.

        “if there’s a god, “creatio ex nihilo” is necessarily a theological statement, and “creatio ex se” is descriptive of his creation occurred. but if god created from himself, then defining god as a thing which is not volitional changes nothing. and removing the need to call this eternality god changes nothing either.”

        Is it your view that “god created from himself?” If so, how do you come to that conclusion?

        I’m with you on P1-C1. Why do you think P4 is true, or at least >50% more plausible than ~P4?

        (for later discussion) Why do you think all minds are physical?

        What sort of non-material non volitional cause can bring about the material universe?

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      18. on my phone, i can copy and paste easily. we can go one by one though. easy enough.

        you have four questions. i’ll answer all. if you want to reask any, please do. but for the future, let’s do one at a time.

        1) why creatio ex se? because it is incoherent to say creation from nothing is impossible, then make a special exception for god. the fallacy goes by the same name. see nicholas of cusa on creatio ex se, ex deo, etc.

        2) why P4? for the same reason; nothing comes from nothing, and since EVERYTHING is contingent in being BUT this eternality, it’s the only rational conclusion.

        3) i didn’t put even imply that all minds are physical much less express what i believe about minds. i said it is odd you associate a non volitional eternality with a material world rather than volition since the only mind WE know are material.

        4) you’re asking an ontological question here. you are implying volition is NOT an accidental property of casual agency. we know by observation that this is overwhelming false; which is why your previous P6 is conclusory and since minds are a more complex SOA, non volition is philosophically simple.

        as to having to accept sound arguments as being the case, that’s not at all true. remember that you and i already agree that logic doesn’t entail truth not does it inform us about reality. sounds arguments turn out to be false in reality all the time!

        the thing is though, your only outs would be that, or that you like your own sound counter argument or alternate proposal.

        remember, my entire point in talking about logic is that sound arguments for and against god are merely well put together sentences, and explaining the reason we pick one versus the other is because of an impression we have about volition on the world; not for arguments, not by evidence.

        with me?

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      19. “remember that you and i already agree that logic doesn’t entail truth not does it inform us about reality. sounds arguments turn out to be false in reality all the time!”
        If I agreed to this, I misspoke, or misunderstood what you were asking me to agree to.
        1) When I say “creation from nothing is impossible” I am not saying God is an exception. I am arguing that God is not nothing, and therefore (along with other premises) God is a better explanation for the beginning of the universe than nothing. I may be that you could make the case that not even God could create out of nothing, but it violates no law of logic to say he could. Therefore, divine creatio ex nihilo is not incoherent.

        “why P4? for the same reason; nothing comes from nothing, and since EVERYTHING is contingent in being BUT this eternality, it’s the only rational conclusion.” It’s the only rational conclusion if you assume no subject object distinction between creator and the created order does not exist. I do not accept this and it has not been established.

        ” mind WE know are material.” If you are including me in your “we,” then no. I think I have good warrant to think that not only is a divine mind immaterial, but all minds are.

        “you are implying volition is NOT an accidental property of casual agency.” Implying? It is true by definition. To say volition is an essential property of causal agency is almost a tautology. “In very general terms, an agent is a being with the capacity to act, and ‘agency’ denotes the exercise or manifestation of this capacity.” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/agency/

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      20. remember your questions because i will only be answering one per comment from here on. just ask them when your satisfied with the current question/answer.

        if you either study logic or have ever heard WLC talk about logic, what i’ve said about logic is ubiquitously accepted as the case with rare exception.

        anyway, your first statement is about creatio ex nihilo. let’s explore that.

        obviously if we do take the observation that nothing produces nothing, then we cannot say god can create from nothing.

        by that, i mean that nothing from nothing means things can’t come into being from nothing. the ONLY thing we can logically say then is that what DOES exist came from SOMETHING (god).

        you’re almost getting the point though. you’re right, god isn’t nothing … but GOD MUST BE the source from which all things exist.

        what i mean is that all that exist is some FORM of god, because there is no difference between this being conjuring in his hand material which didn’t exist before and saying nothing CAN come from nothing after all. if god is the only sort of thing which can pull that off, then we have a special pleading.

        also, ex nihilo justifies saying something is eternal. without that logic, then saying there’s a god because only good can create from nothing doesn’t make any case for god at all.

        as it is, god cannot be an explanation for anything because we have to induce anything about god at all and nothing can be deduced from an ineffable god. again, this is ayer’s point. that’s neither here nor there for me because i’m not going to argue for our against the existence of deity.

        let’s convert this and then when your ready, let’s revisit the next item in your list.

        thanks for hanging in there.

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      21. “there is no difference between this being … saying nothing CAN come from nothing after all” Is this a typo? Did you mean to say “…something CAn…?”

        “something is eternal..” I think we agree on this point.

        “then saying there’s a god because only good can create from nothing doesn’t make any case for god at all.” What I said was whatever created matter, energy, space and time would have had to be immaterial non spatial and timeless (which entails, but is not identical to eternality) without creation, and must possess sufficient power to do so, and as I argued, be volitional.Speaking of which, tell me more about your view of parsimony and why is it your grounds for rejecting volitional eternality.

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      22. we get to saying something is eternal by saying nothing comes from nothing. that means that all things that exist are derivatives of this eternal something. i’m saying that creatio ex nihilo assets god created something from nothing, which we already agree is impossible. this is why theologians posit creatio ex se.

        we agree something is eternal.

        how do you and i decide if it is volitional?

        we can agree that this eternal thing is immaterial, sufficiently able, spaceless, etc.

        i didn’t mean to say agent. what i meant to say in purely understandable terms is that we know absolutely that not all causes are volitional. in fact, most things causing effects aren’t volitional.

        i think we would decide by what makes sense. this is my assertion. one will think it insufficient that everything is by chance when it appears like there’s more to things than chance. on the other hand, some don’t have that impression and will be perfectly happy saying parsimony is on his side.

        i really can’t believe you’re still asking about what i mean when i talk about complexity and philosophical simplicity.

        quite frankly, there are two possible states of affairs (aka SOAs). it is inarguable that a SOA in which an immaterial mind exists is a more complex SOA than one in which no mind exists. this is all fully a QED of what philosophical simplicity means, parsimony.

        now there may indeed be disembodied minds even though we can’t even describe such a thing in real terms, but in order to posit them, we have more to explain before coming to some conclusion. again, that is by definition a count against parsimony because we’ve necessarily added at least one more level of complexity before we’ve explained things to our satisfaction.

        again, i am claiming the same premises as the theist, only because there is no impression of volition, there’s no further need of explanation. that entails to a sound argument against the existence of god because 1) volition is not required in order to have caused and effects and 2) we have no examples of disembodied minds, so 3) the non believer is entitled to deny the existence of deity because of 1, 2, and for the fact that he himself has nothing in reality leading him to genuinely doubt his assumptions or conclusions.

        with me?

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      23. “…god created something from nothing, which we already agree is impossible. …” Actually, no we have not agreed on this, which is why we are still talking about it.

        “e know absolutely that not all causes are volitional” Agreed. There are two kinds of causes: event causation and agent causation. My argument shows event causation entails an infinite regress. That leaves agent causation. Is there a third option?

        “quite frankly, there are two possible states of affairs (aka SOAs). it is inarguable that a SOA in which an immaterial mind exists is a more complex SOA than one in which no mind exists. this is all fully a QED of what philosophical simplicity means, parsimony.” Perhaps, but the SOA still needs to be the kind of SOA that can bring about the effect we are trying to explain. It doesn’t matter if a nonvolitional eternity is simpler than a volitional one if the nonvolitional does not have the capacity to bring about the beginning of the universe. The posited non-volitional cause, which seems as though it would have to be an event, would itself have to have a cause.
        ” volition is not required in order to have caused and effects ” Volition is required to have a first cause.
        “we have no examples of disembodied minds,” begs the question. We are still debating this very issue

        Are we reaching the exhaustion of fruitful dialogue on this? I’ve enjoyed it.

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      24. when you said you agree on P1-C1, what did you mean?

        do you know the latin?

        ex nihilo nihil fit == from nothing nothing comes

        let’s just do this one by one.

        we’ve gone from you agreeing to everything except whether or not i’ve made a sound argument to you disagreeing with everything, even that ex nihilo nihil fit means what it means.

        i suppose i’ll ask several times more if you agree after you’ve said you agree several times already? =)

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      25. P1) nothing comes from nothing
        Ok, as I understand it, ex nihilo nihil fit means “out of nothing, nothing comes. What I take this to mean is that “nothing” is the universal negation, “no-thing” and therefore is not some entity with properties and capacities, such as instability (a la Krauss) or the ability to produce anything. Therefore, I can affirm P1.

        P2) something comes from something

        P3) something exists

        C1) something eternal exists

        As I try to explain my agreement with P1-C1, it occurs to me that I agree with each part, but it seems to me perhaps the breakdown in communication comes from how I see their relations a little differently. Let me restate it and see what you think.

        P1′) Nothing comes from nothing (as qualified above)
        P2) Something exists
        C1) therefore something comes from something.
        P3) either something has always existed or it began to exist
        P4) if something begins to exist, something else caused it
        P5) the universe began to exist
        C2) the universe came from something

        I should also say at this point, when I say x “came from” y I mean y has caused x to exist. While it is possible that could mean x is coextensive with y, I do not mean “x comes from y” to mean just that.
        In other words, I am saying something is the efficient cause. It would seem your view is that the eternal something is the material cause.

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      26. of course you changed things extensively but i don’t see that it matters much.

        in saying that nothing comes from nothing, all that can be meant is that it takes something to get something else. this is a very sideline conversation because of you want to say god created material out of nothing even though we agree that nothing from nothing, that’s fine.

        my question to you, and really the only issue that matters is you baldly assert in your P6 that some first cause must have, behind the phenomenonal cause, volition.

        there is no difference between a cause which creates universes by will or by chance. you merely claimed an ontological difference.

        can you explain this to me without being conclusory like that?

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      27. i would mind your language and suggest that all causes are phenomenal events and this makes your problem here … which is, you liken agency itself to bring causal. mere agency cannot cause anything.

        since all effects are phenomenal and since all causes are phenomenal, agency is neither a necessary nor sufficient cause to anything, all by itself. an agent must have some means of manifesting will such as to effect anything at all.

        at that point, when you’ve given this agent a means to cause, then there’s no distinguishing one phenomenon from another ontologically; an act of volition is indistinguishable from an act without volition because both are acts and acts contain no teleological content at all.

        i use phenomenon here instead of event because event implies physicality. mental states are not events as such but clearly are casual to other mental states and to behaviors they may generate.

        so states of affairs change; this requires phenomenon but not all phenomenon are events.

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      28. to be able to take as much as we can into account, i mean by phenomenon “an object which produces, or is capable of producing, experience”.

        SOAs are phenomenal, not merely eventful. in other words, emotions, ideas and such are phenomenal but are not events and are states of affairs and causal to states of affairs.

        make sense?

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      29. “in other words, emotions, ideas and such are phenomenal but are not events” I agree, but what about a change in one’s emotions? This would be an event on my definition. There was SOA such that person P felt emotion E at time T0. At some time T1, P felt E1 instead of E. P feeling E1 at T1 would represent SOA1. As I defined it, the change from SOA to SOA1 is an event. You don’t seem (at least for the purposes of this discussion) to see emotions as physical things, so this would be an event that is not physical.

        “you liken agency itself to bring causal. mere agency cannot cause anything.” No, but i see agency as at least having the capacity to cause. Moreover, since agency is a property, it is obvious that “mere agency” can’t cause anything.

        “an act of volition is indistinguishable from an act without volition because both are acts and acts contain no teleological content at all.” Did these words just appear on this comment thread, or were they the result of an act of volition? What am I missing?

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      30. you’re defining SOA and SOA1 in terms of change. you asked if it agree that change and events are essentially the same thing. i answered that change is pheromonal and that all events are phenomenon but not all phenomenon are events.

        what does any of this have to do with anything?

        david, you can go have a full on conversation with chatbot, but what you don’t get on the other side of that conversation, a willing agent.

        it is an impression about this context which makes you presume what you do about words on a page. turing used the idea of such presumptions in order to caution that these presumptions may be the only way to test for AI. so, just because there appears to be volition behind something doesn’t ensure there is, even when it comes to weird on a page.

        the part you are missing is that you baldly assert that a non volitional first cause is material and therefore infinite regression applies. this cannot be the case since we arrive at a first cause by definition first. and saying something always existed means that it is eternal. the next question is whether or not is has volition. if i say it doesn’t, this doesn’t at all imply it is material. but even if material, this doesn’t lead to infinite regression because it isn’t being material which makes something subject to infinite regression. what does is “anything which begins to exist” … and so how every you want to look at it, your P6 is conclusory and thus does not flow to the conclusion, and this is not sound.

        follow?

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      31. Without going too far down that rabbit trail, you can only have a conversation with chatbot because a willing agent programmed it to carry on such a conversation.

        Since we are talking about the origin of the the physical universe, it seems to me the distinction between events and phenomena is irrelevant.
        We agree the physical universe began to exist. I think we agree that whatever the “something eternal” that brought about the beginning of the universe was not material. This implies that whatever that “something eternal” was had the capacity to make something of a different substance than itself. I think at this point we disagree, since you earlier stated something to the effect that the universe is coextensive of the “something eternal.”
        The reason I say it had to be volitional is because there seems to be only one of two possibilities. Ontologically prior to the beginning, either the necessary conditions for the beginning of the universe have always been there in a timeless immutable state, or an agent has always existed in a timeless immutable state. However, for A to be the efficient cause of B, then in the presence of A, B obtains spontaneously. However, if a first event has an efficient cause, and that event arises in a timeless, changeless spaceless state of affairs, it had to be the free act of an agent.

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      32. you do recognize my point about chatbot is whether or not words on a page entail to a phenomenon that was created of volitional agency … not that because there is a programmer programming chatbot, the programmer himself put those words there, thus making your argument? that rebuttal is non sequitur and the point still stands that in themselves alone, no event contains teleological information such that we can know, versus presume impressionistically from context, the cause of the phenomenal event was volition.

        yes to the following:

        1) the distinction between phenomenon and events is irrelevant which is why i asked what it has to do with anything we’re discussing.

        2) something eternal exists. it may or may not be material, but you may not agree on that point; in fact, you don’t but likewise don’t say why.

        3) things which begin to exist have a cause for their present form. however, it is incoherent to say nothing from nothing and then mean by “beginning” that creation is not in some way an ontological form of this eternality.

        4) we do not agree here: necessarily, in some way, the eternal first cause must be causal to our material world and just as nothing from nothing, “like from like” must be satisfied. that means we must view the first cause as material or first cause as immaterial and the materiality of being only an accidental property of being itself (ie specific instance of the embodiment of what is necessary; being itself, god … or where god remains only a word for a non volitional eternality which is the ground of being).

        if i summarize you in plain english, you are saying that because a non volitional first cause could produce a universe at any time, spontaneously, and i would think that would likewise go to the number of universes created as well which could be infinite, that the first cause must be volitional.

        why?!!! the point doesn’t even make coherent sense. in an SOA that has no time, exactly what on earth do you mean by “spontaneous”? further more, that’s exactly the way things could be! the existence of our universe or any number of universes doesn’t change at all if ours or ant other come into being a moment sooner or later. it seems you don’t like the idea of spontaneity (though that’s incoherent on inspection)? well, that’s merely appeal to negative consequence, no?

        i assume you’re either telling me at this point why the eternality can’t be material, or that you have given up that argument and this is a new one? can you clear this up for me?

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      33. let me also be clear here. you are now only debating whether or not any particular conclusion is true or false, not whether a set of premises are sound. so, even if you disagree THAT the eternality is non volitional, it doesn’t mean the argument for it is sound.

        the soundness of the argument itself is all i care about.

        this is a sound argument against god being first cause, thereby, the non existence of god:

        P1) sicut a simili, “like from like”
        P2) god is defined as immaterial
        P3) the universe is material
        C1) therefore, god cannot create material universes

        the first argument i put up there, you want to say isn’t sound because i rely on parsimony for non volition. though i contend that you do too, the point to discuss is what makes sense to believe and whether or not logic in and or itself informs us about the way things are.

        this argument avoids that all together and further illustrates my point that sound arguments for and against god are easy to make and logic isn’t why we side with one or the other.

        as it concerns the first argument, note that i intimated soundness is a lofty idea that if likely never reached; that there’s a strict sense to it and a less legalistic view. again, i’m not a legalist and so, i accept the maxim of parsimony as following to a conclusion though any number of other conclusions may arise from the very same set of premises.

        if you want to read more on that, google “logical consequence” and I’m sure you’ll get why i mentioned it at all from the beginning.

        please notice in this new argument, all the premises are true and the form is perfectly valid, but the content matters and we intuit this sound argument may be wrong simply if we say that how god is like the universe isn’t via materiality and materiality is only an accidental property of being itself … which is how god and the material world are like the other; ie the ground of all being is causal to instances of things which exist.

        anyway, the point is that in terms of epistemology, no logician i know would characterize logic differently than i have nor disagree i’ve made sound arguments, or that even if not, it is only a matter of form and grammar to create one, not a matter of reailty.

        my apologetic about apologetics is that for producing converts to any side is futile because they don’t change minds. they are by design made to embolden and entrench already held views and those ultimately are agreements about one’s impressions of volition in the world; not matters of strictly logic out evidence.

        the only benefit i can speak to is that if one does believe in deity, engaging in the chores of apologetics will help necessary questions emerge, and responses. but chiefly, since there are no bounds on what could be claimed of the gods, limiting all god-talk to rationally justifiable possibilities, and those with the end goal of human well-being, is essential.

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      34. oh, man! i don’t want a last word here. i think we finally reached a point where we can say where we disagree.

        that’s simply whether or not this eternal something can be non volitional.

        i think it can and if you’re genuinely saying it can’t because of spontaneity, then we can venture into why you feel that matters at all.

        i hope you keep the conversation going as it’s been very enjoyable.

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      35. ok
        With respect to :
        P1) sicut a simili, “like from like”
        P2) god is defined as immaterial
        P3) the universe is material
        C1) therefore, god cannot create material universes

        I still disagree on P1.

        Looking at how you characterize soundness, it looks like a key factor may be in how we are defining that. On my view, an argument is sound just in case it is valid (the conclusion follows from the premises) and the premises are more plausibly true than their negations. When you say you are not a legalist about this, what do you mean? It almost seems like you are using “sound” the way I am using “valid.” I say almost because you are defending your premises, which you wouldn’t bother doing if you were actually conflating the two.

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      36. google “logical conclusion”. i’m sure the SEP or OEP have entries. in short, there is no way to say any premise is true and no way but formally to ever say that a conclusion is necessary but in any sense that matters, how logic works is aside from formality … which is why soundness can’t be strictly defined (ie all premises are actually true, there is flow, there can only be one conclusion, and so on).

        the entire aristotelian idea of causation is that effects are like their causes. you can see it precisely explored by hume in “a treatise of human nature”.

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      37. by the way, you CAN’T conflate the two, so don’t accuse me of it.

        the ONLY way validity differs from soundness is that the premises of sound arguments ARE true, not merely ASSUMED true for the sake of some argument (such as seeing if the conclusion followed “just in case”).

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      38. that may be. i don’t think so though since you don’t require premises to be absolute but instead, more probable than not … which i agree with, as well as opening that some premises i may take as true are metro from a maxim, such as parsimony.

        my question to you continue to be why volition changes other ontologies of a first cause … because obviously if volition is the only ontological difference, the effect of creation is entirely possibly caused by something non volitional.

        i don’t think we can rationally necessitate either case, mind you. but i do see there is no prohibition for a non volitional first cause to be necessary and sufficient for the universe. that’s just as i don’t think there are any huge hurdles in the existence of disembodied minds.

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      39. “…i may take as true are metro from a maxim…” what does this mean?

        “my question to you continue to be why volition changes other ontologies of a first cause” Not sure what you mean here.
        “the effect of creation is entirely possibly caused by something non volitional.” Does anything volitional exist? If like must always come from like, where does volition come from?
        I would ask a similar question about disembodied minds, but I realize the discussion about origins has been about sound arguments, not necessarily about your view of origins. Am I missing something there?

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      40. yeah, creatio text gesturing. “are merely from a maxim”

        what i mean is that initially, you said of a first cause is without volition then it is material and as such, entails to infinite regression. so, i’m asking why that is. it doesn’t follow that all causes are material (ie will, emotion, desire, etc). that’s aside from the fact that materiality can be eternal, as long at it didn’t begin to exist (though thing which may begin to exist doesn’t imply they cannot exist forever).

        did volition exist? yes. you have just invoked a composition error. in animals, ie things which we know have volition, there is no one cause of volition. as long as volition is not impossible, then volition is the universe can be completely novel and not violate the rules of causation described by hume and others. this is hand in glove with “from simplicity, complexity”.

        so, volition is a result of enumerable causes, all real, all possible in the sort of reality we live in.

        as for disembodied minds … if we naturally grasp the complexity (chaos theory ensures is we vastly underappreciate it) and we get the distinct impression of volition in the universe, then we can and should only doubt that being the case if and only if it were shown that mind require the stress of bodies we have. as it is, being a software developer who programs AI, i don’t at ask think volition is tied only to the sorts of hardware we associate then with (brains) or that the relevant cause of volition itself (ie self-awareness) require any one sort of existence. that’s because it only takes existence to become self-aware.

        the only problem there is that in order to develop a meaning of self, an understanding of self, it takes circumstances. the solution may be that god created realities like ours so that he could know himself through his creations. this is right up the pedagogical, fractal, open theism themes.

        make sense?

        sorry for the text gesturing!

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      41. ” …then it is material and as such, entails to infinite regression. so, i’m asking why that is. ” That was what I addressed with my response as to necessary conditions.
        “it doesn’t follow that all causes are material…” agreed
        “(though thing which may begin to exist doesn’t imply they cannot exist forever).” agreed

        “that’s aside from the fact that materiality can be eternal, as long at it didn’t begin to exist” This is the nub isn’t it? It seems to me given our experience, that a volitional cause is the kind of cause that has the capacity to act freely, or refrain from acting. Immutable material things (from our knowledge of material, and from the definition of immutable being unchanging) do not change, by definition. If the material substrate was in some kind of eternal state of change, then it was temporal, and we are back to the problem of actual infinities. Parsimony is only refraining from unnecessarily complex explanation. It is parsimonious to say a rock shot JFK, but since a rock is not the kind of thing that can do that, it is not a plausible theory.

        “the solution may be that god created realities like ours so that he could know himself through his creations. this is right up the pedagogical, fractal, open theism themes.” That i may be the case is very different from saying it is the best explanation of the evidence.

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      42. well, there is no evidence. that’s the rub.

        you’re still not answering me.

        why must an eternal first cause have volition?

        x is NECESSARY for y, but volition isn’t necessary for x as it may not exist or may be accidental.

        by analogy, we see words on a page. i am saying that either a right-handed out left-handed person wrote them. you are saying it must be a right-handed person because a left-handed person has no foot and thus can’t walk.

        it is NOT parsimonious to say a rock shot JFK! i can hardly believe an MBA just said that. it is parsimonious to say a man shot JFK and not a conspiracy of men … because we care about things like facts, datum, reason, etc..

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      43. “x is NECESSARY for y, but volition isn’t necessary for x as it may not exist or may be accidental.”

        How are you using “may” here?
        If I was to paraphrase what you said (and correct me if I misconstrue it) you are saying it is possible that x does not exist or it may be accidental.” If this is a correct way of restating this as a possibility, which mode of possibility does it fall into? It is strictly logically possible if if violates no laws of logic, and I would grant that it does not. It is physically possible if it violates no laws of physics. This is the very thing in question. Is volition physical? If it is, then how does it coexist without entropy with the physical universe? If it does not, then the question does not apply. The last part is is it metaphysically possible. This is the issue we are trying to establish, so to say it is metaphysically possible for a non-volitional cause to exist, (which is the consequence of saying the cause was not volitional, brought to you by the Dept of Redundancy Department) is to say that a non-physical entity is the kind of thing that can bring about the beginning of the universe.

        Would you agree that for any proposition “X or Y, ~X, therefore Y” is true necessarily just in case ~X is true?
        Parsimony is no good if it gets you to an entity that does not have the capacity to produce the effect in question. It seems to me far more plausible that a conscious, powerful agent is far more capable of binging about the beginning of the universe, even without material substrate, than that immutable unconscious material can become mutable (which would mean it was immutable and mutable at the same time) and cause it.

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      44. sorry i wasn’t clear.

        X(n) where X is the “eternal something” (first cause) and n is any given property of X, of which volition may be a necessary property, an accidental property, or a property X lacks entirely.

        so, we have agreed X is required to cause Y but not that v (volition) is in the set X(n).

        let’s take it from there.

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      45. very well, if X causes Y, then ontologically prior to X causing Y, there is a SOA such that only X exists.
        when all that exists is X, X exists immutably. If time just is the relation between changes in the SOA, then X, without Y, exists timelessly.

        So far so good?

        Liked by 1 person

      46. well, for instance, i am the cause of a gun firing but I’m not the gun. energy induces heat but is not heat.

        time only exists as a property of y and x lacks that property. you seem to think that when time began to exist, it began to exist “in all possible worlds”. no. x is the necessary cause of y, making y contingent in being to x. the reverse isn’t true.

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      47. a couple of things:

        volition, as i see it, isn’t a “thing”. meaning, volition is not an object of experience but the sign that something is self-aware and “cares”. and by “care”, i mean “it” must know that “it” can act one way or the other and that which way to act is according to some reason the agent desires.

        so, is volition physical? i think that’s the wrong question to ask. better to ask is physicality is the only rational set of circumstances under which a self can be realized. in that case and in the case that i have an impression of volition in the universe, then i’m entitled to think it very probable, even if merely in theory.

        so, if:

        Y -> X, Y .: X where X(n != (v || ~v))

        something implies an eternality where one of the properties is volition or not volition.

        what i don’t at ask understand is why you would think the presence or absence of the property of volition as logically necessary for anything. volition is a reason to act, not a medium through which one acts; for example, words appearing here typed is not necessarily caused by will even though will is proximate to my body doing the typing. again, chatbot lacks a will, lacks a body and so on, yet produces words typed on screen none the less.

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      48. “why you would think the presence or absence of the property of volition as logically necessary for anything. volition is a reason to act, not a medium through which one acts; ”

        I would say volition is the capacity to freely act or refrain from acting. Are we in disagreement here?

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      49. no. i agree. my point is that volition isn’t something objective. if it becomes important, then in more depth, it’s not the mere ability out capacity to do otherwise because clearly i may will to fly but never be able. i would default to psychology for the best definition; volition is the entire decision making process.

        so if x causes y, is x only able to do so because of the property of volition?

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      50. The analogy of you willing to fly is irrelevant since we are talking about an entity with the capacity to bring about the beginning of the universe. It would obviously need to have the power to do so. By volition, I would mean it would also need to have the power to refrain from doing so. Moreover, in an immutable entity, a decision making process is unnecessary, as it would have its will all at once.

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      51. decision making is required by your definition. to do without consideration is as mindless as having no volition at all and equal to saying no ability to do otherwise exist. viola, you have neutered volition.

        my analogy is that one has will even when they don’t have the capacity or are not acting on the will.

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      52. It seems like your view is “since the only minds we have direct experience of are human minds, then all minds function like human minds.” On your view, what distinction is there, if any, between agency and volition?

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      53. Ok this might explain a lot of the confusion. Up until now I have made the mistake of assuming you were using the term “volitional” roughly synonymously with agency. Typically when I defend my view, I speak of agency, which seems to entail volition, which is why I didn’t think it necessary to differentiate. I’m not sure it makes a difference since I am arguing for agent causation, and you are arguing for event causation. In either case it is still “V or ~V” right?

        Liked by 1 person

      54. you’re almost getting my point.

        there’s no difference between agency causation and event causation. ALL causes are events (not caring about my preference to call it phenomenon). so yes, the EVENT is necessary, but if V is required for the event, we have to say how because as it is, some “shit just happens”, for brevity’s sake.

        are we tracking each other now, ya think?

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      55. I argued earlier that the first cause was an agent is because it would be timeless, changeless and spaceless without the universe. The only kinds of things we know of that are could be timeless changelss and spacelss are minds and abstract objects. Since abstract objects don’t stand in any causal relations, that leaves minds.

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      56. that’s not the case. first, energy is identical to god though it is not volitional.

        but again, the ONLY things which cannot be eternal are things which BEGIN or END existing … so, those properties are not mutually exclusive to being eternal.

        third, there only kinds of minds we know are effects of temporal causes; not timeless, not changeless, not spaceless. and since abstract “objects” are not material, they cannot be causal to a material reality.

        HOWEVER, this is what you need to hear. whatever this eternality is, it is eternal. it is parsimonious to describe this eternality as timeless, changeless, spaceless, and non volitional because that is philosophical simple, and, you’re only fiating volition is required. we KNOW it isn’t a mind like we understand them. whatever ENABLING that allows this agent to act cannot be ANY different than the same “stuff” without volition, save the fact it lacks volition.

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      57. ” energy is identical to god though it is not volitional.” In what sense is this true?

        So, to summaraize, like comes from like, so material must come from material.
        But, volition comes from non-volition, life comes from non-life, disembodied minds come from material, mutable material comes from immutable material,
        because parsimony?

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      58. no. not necessarily. this is where the idea of necessary and accidental comes into play. all in asking you is what is necessary for something to exist. that answer is “something else”. second is, what is necessary to cause it. the answer is by definition of philosophical simplicity, “a phenomenonal cause”. this is the order things rationally flow necessarily. so third, the LAST question is whether or not it is NECESSARY that this phenomenonal cause “happened” because it was willed or for literally no reason at all.

        you seem to think there’s nothing analogous to the latter but there certainly is. we have very clear analogies here as brought out by krauss in “a universe from nothing” where energy always existed, a state flux always exists, and each continually produces matter and for certain, these are all we can say are NECESSARY for matter to come into existence. none of that is volitional. we have as a matter of fact that the law of preservation of mass/energy that the sum of matter and energy is immutable.

        so, whether you think there’s a volitional creator or not, i cannot see why you would not find the argument(s) i put forward as not being sound. all the premises are from facts of the matter.

        there literally is no reason to think that the law of mass/energy is wrong or that something more than a phenomenal cause is required for some phenomenal effect.

        then there’s “the barrel’s loaded” problem you have indicated before. meaning, you approach this whole question from the wrong end of the barrel. you want to say that the object of explanation is the existence of the universe. however, it can ONLY be a phenomenal cause which can be explanatory of a phenomenal effect. to think out claim otherwise is to think or claim that “goddidit” has exploratory power. it doesn’t and as such, will always be unacceptable to any other explanation.

        that’s not gratuitous either. you have to understand that we deduce FROM reality to try and get at what god may be like. we cannot deduce from god, anything about reality. if you still wonder why, then notice the circle; nature used to guess at god used to talk about nature. aside from the huge epistemological problems in all of that, surely you can see the SIMPLE solution of the irrelevancy of the idea of god related to nature since all that is involved the whole way through is deducing from nature.

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      59. This whole time, I have been arguing that matter, energy (which is really just energy in another state) space and time came into existence in the finite past. As it is, this whole time you have been arguing that energy (matter in another state) is eternal. However, if energy existed eternally, it would have to have been immutable, which means it would have stayed in a static state of energy (though apparently the 2nd law of thermodynamics would not have applied for some reason,) Moreover, somehow, this energy would not require space, since space also came into existence in the finite past.

        The law of mass/energy only applies where mass/energy exists. I have been arguing that there was a SOA in which there was not mass/energy.
        At this point I think we are at an impasse. Parsimony cannot confer on things properties and capacities they do not already have. Your premises are not more plausible than their negation, and therefore your argument is not sound.

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      60. energy is a principle. energy is not a thing. energy is every way is analogous to god. immutability has nothing to do with eternality. energy, which is in principle, pure ability, potential, it eternal. that is a matter of fact. materiality is a form of it, but energy is not material. thermodynamics likewise has no purchase on the eternality of energy.

        there’s no impasse except that you continually fail to address my point and instead want to merely prove the existence of god.

        hear me. i don’t give a crap poptart whether or not there is a god.

        all i am saying is that sound arguments for and against god are easy to make and logic proves nothing.

        i have given two arguments and you won’t acknowledge what any reasonable person naturally concedes: that whatever aspect of some eternality that is causal to our reality, volition is not necessary.

        what you are suggesting is that there is only one property of this eternal something and that is volition. merely having a will doesn’t at all mean ability exists too. once you admit that ability (a means to be causal) is necessary, then clearly randomness is as viable as volition for effects to come from it.

        parsimony doesn’t confer anything. parsimony is merely the acknowledgement that where two or more explanations exist for the same problem, the simplest is to be favored.

        you have not discounted the soundness of any of my arguments by commenting on their form. you have attempted only to discount them by essentially saying they’re not parsimonious … because you don’t like the premises, not genuinely because they’re not true.

        seriously though, energy is eternal. matter needn’t exist and its form and states of affairs can be completely temporal and finite. to say energy came into existence is to violate a KNOWN and PROVEN law, and for the sake of a speculation. whatever that is (gratuity, i suppose?), it isn’t parsimony.

        there is nothing implausible about energy being eternal, that from it comes all we know as reality … reality because we know energy is eternal and that, well, here we are! “superfluous” would seem to be a better descriptive of god than “parsimonious”.

        again, nature points is to god. we cannot then think we are employing sound reason by then attempting to talk about nature via deducing from “god”; which is itself redundant.

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      61. your P6 mistakenly presumes that non volition is akin to the material, which is why you then bring in the attempt at dating infinite regression is the result. as it is, there’s absolutely no reason implied or started or observed in nature to imply non volition is material … which is of because the only sorts of things with volition are mind, and ALL of them are material.

        do you see the specific problem I’m having with your follow here?

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      62. david, let me share this quote from peirce’s “some consequences of four incapacities”. given that i suggest impression is the only justification for belief or doubt in the existence of deity, i’m implying there needs to be a turn in apologetics, to a previous time. a turn to belief and faith not being propositional, episteme, but a commitment to an idea which, as it is practiced, has substance.

        your job as an apologist becomes five minutes work with any opponent. that is, of you and they agree god is a metaphysical proposition and justification of your position and theirs is identical.

        the whole point at last is to get a person to hear you talk about something substancial; and i can assure you, there’s no substance in what passes for apologetics today.

        in my experience, i have yet to have an atheist say that what i’m saying is unjustified … just that they disagree with the conclusion there is a god. they don’t even disagree with my theology, then again, i’m pretty sure i’m a heretic.

        here the quote and what it implies is that impression is all one need I’m order to be justified, entitled, to a belief when there’s no other way to further justify it. to disbelieve a natural impression merely because someone argues well is to doubt in pretense.

        “We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy. These prejudices are not to be dispelled by a maxim, for they are things which it does not occur to us can be questioned. Hence this initial skepticism will be a mere self-deception, and not real doubt; and no one who follows the Cartesian method will ever be satisfied until he has formally recovered all those beliefs which in form he has given up. It is, therefore, as useless a preliminary as going to the North Pole would be in order to get to Constantinople by coming down regularly upon a meridian. A person may, it is true, in the course of his studies, find reason to doubt what he began by believing; but in that case he doubts because he has a positive reason for it, and not on account of the Cartesian maxim. Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.”

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      63. nietzsche in “twilight of the idols” also hits pretty hard on the theme that reason is to be favored over instinct and natural compulsion and makes very compelling cases for himself too.

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  4. Since this strangely got posted to a thread by Mr. Hoyt, let me try again here.

    In the interest of brevity, i’m not going to go through your post point by point, i’m beginning to realize I don’t have time in my life for that kind of nonsense anymore. I just want to ask a couple of questions.

    Is stealing wrong? and how do you know?

    Is giving to the poor good? and how do you know?

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    1. Hey, byblacksheep. Actually I did see your post earlier but you and Steve had your exchange before I got to it. Stealing is wrong and giving to the poor is good, generally speaking. However, I hold to a view called hierarchical or graded objectivism. This means that there are objective moral principles, but the circumstances inform their application such that when there are two goods in conflict, the obligation is for the greater good. For example, if stealing the enemies battle plans will save many lives, I am obligated to steal the battle plans (given the opportunity). Likewise, if I only have enough money to pay the rent and feed my family, or give to the poor, my greater obligation is to my family.
      How do I know? At the most basic level, I am aware of a sense of dread when I steal (for my own benefit) or when I ignore the plight of a poor person whom I am capable of helping. However, this intuition is reinforced by Jesus’ summary of the law and the prophets that he said was the greatest commandments “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength and… love your neighbor as yourself.”

      Sorry if that was long-winded, but I am not simplistic in my view of ethics.

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  5. No worries on either account of not getting their quick enough or long winded (I think you’ve may have noticed I am not well known for my brevity either) I’m actually pretty busy atm, and trying to get some content on my blog, so I’m going to have to rain check this conversation, I’ll try to get back to it tomorrow

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