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Argument for God's existence.

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by gradyll, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    The set of even numbers has an infinite amount of numbers in it, but it excludes all odd numbers. Saying that God can do an infinite number of things isn't the same as saying God can do any thing.
     
  2. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I said, "Theism means that reality is subjective (i.e., that it is personal)," which I thought would have cleared up what I meant by the word "subjective." That was where the confusion was, so I don't see how specifying that it was a personal definition would have made any difference in clarity. You would have still misinterpreted me.

    This is false. Christianity is a subset of theism, but the truth value of theism is an independent issue than the truth value of Christianity. Jews, Muslims, some Hindus, and various deistic belief systems all believe in something that can be described as God, so there's no reason to start with revelation. That is a secondary concern, not the primary one here.

    Do you think the refutation succeeds, and if so, why?

    I am not personally a proponent of the S5 logic this type of argument relies upon. I think it's a useful conceptual tool in clarifying what we mean by necessity, but I am not convinced that it can appropriately be used to prove that 1+1 necessarily equals 2, much less the existence of God.

    How so? Pride is traditionally considered a serious sin, and the intellectual and moral varieties above others.

    People who focus on the historicity of the Resurrection don't assert it without evidence. I don't think the evidence is conclusive, but it is existent, and cannot rationally be dismissed out of hand.

    Are you not familiar with game theory? It is actually an extremely logical style of reasoning built around the analysis of potential gains against potential losses.

    (1) The Christian God desires relationship with all people.
    (2) Relationship requires awareness of God.
    (3) There are people who seek God earnestly and do not seem to find him.
    (4) These people cannot enter into relationship with the Christian God, who desires relationship with all people.
    (5) Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.

    I'm not engaging in special pleading. I am challenging the validity of this line of reasoning, since it hinges upon a variety of issues, including what we understand earnestly seeking God to entail. Given the complication surrounding the concept of earnest seeking, we cannot actually know whether there are people who seek God earnestly and fail to find him. Therefore, the argument does not succeed.

    "You probably don't exist, and if you do, then it's your fault I don't believe in you" is effectively blaming God for one's own lack of belief. We are capable of reasoning in conditionals and counterfactuals.

    If you would like to use the words "Flying Spaghetti Monster" as a stand-in for what we mean by the word God, i.e., the transcendentally good grounds of being, then yes, a mystic could fall madly in love with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    As I have pointed out multiple times, this is why it is important to first define the term "God." If atheists wish to caricaturize things that they don't understand, they are well within their rights to do so, but they just make themselves look like idiots.
     
  3. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

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    Interesting thread, especially the last several pages. Wanted to chime in here, though.

    This suggests a poor understanding of what Aquinas is actually arguing. The way this is phrased suggests that the author thinks Aquinas is talking about an accidentally ordered series of causes -- that is, one extending back in time -- rather than an essentially ordered series of causes. I believe that Aquinas even grants that it would be hypothetically possible for there to be a series of temporal causes stretching back to infinity, and it still wouldn't do much to exactly what he's arguing.

    Given the notion of God here as an unactualized actualizer, as purely actual with no potential, outside of time, immaterial, purely simple, etc., these questions don't really make much sense.

    See, yeah, I don't think Aquinas actually argued that an infinite temporal sequence was necessarily impossible. He was talking about hierarchical, simultaneous series of potentials being actualized.

    Well if we granted the existence of an unmoved mover/unactualized actualizer/first cause/what have you, the next step would be to start discussing exactly what sorts of attributes this thing would have. It's at that point that one could start drawing out the divine attributes that would lead one to call this thing "God".
     
  4. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    This is quite possibly the best question in the thread. :)

    Unfortunately, it also highlights why I think we go about these arguments incorrectly about 90% of the time, since we start with a predefined concept of God and don't stop to examine what we mean by the word. I'm going to skip rigorous argumentation, but for me, in all my Platonic glory, a potential line of reasoning to start building to a concept of God would look like this:

    1) Why is there something instead of nothing?
    2) Because nothing is an impossible state of affairs. Something must necessarily exist.
    3) Why must something exist? What is a good candidate for the sort of thing that must necessarily exist?
    4) It doesn't appear to be physical entities, since they are characterized by properties that could have failed to hold true. The physical universe does not appear to be the sort of thing that is what it is through metaphysical necessity.
    5) The "something" that must necessarily exist appears to be non-physical in nature, perhaps abstract. Are things like mathematical facts necessary truths?
    6) Even if they are, can abstract truths give rise to a physical universe? It seems like you would need some sort of "actualizer" to make the abstract real.
    7) For the sake of convenience, and so I can demonstrate to others in the thread why definitions matter, let us call this necessarily existing, non-physical actualizer the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    8) Your question, rephrased: Why is there a Flying Spaghetti Monster instead of nothing?

    What does it mean that something has to exist? What type of attributes might something have that would make it the sort of thing that would exist by its very nature? This is the sort of question that shoves us right into Ontological Argument territory. This line of reasoning is often criticized for effectively defining God into existence, but the underlying problem is that if there is something that necessarily exists, then we are looking at the sort of thing that practically does exist by definition. This opens up a whole separate line of theological inquiry, and we have to wonder what sort of thing might actually exist by definition.

    It leaves us with ideas like Anselm's "that which nothing greater can be conceived," which has always been strange and controversial, but I think is at the very least the appropriate direction to move on when really focusing on the question of why there is something instead of nothing.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
  5. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    I actually already asked it earlier. Most of the time when apologists bring up "Why is there something instead of nothing" they mean to imply "why is there a universe instead of no universe" so that they can say Goddidit. That's what the apologist meant when I asked earlier, so he didn't have an answer at all. I was betting on you having something more substantial to say since you like the PSR so much.
    I see a huge jump in logic right here at the beginning. Why is nothing an impossible state of affairs? And then there's no answer to "why must something exist?" You assume that something must, and then try to figure out what that might be. Your reasoning isn't necessarily faulty, but it is missing some very important steps.
     
  6. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    To quote Aquinas:

    Objection 2. Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident.

    Reply to Objection 2. Perhaps not everyone who hears this word "God" understands it to signify something than which nothing greater can be thought, seeing that some have believed God to be a body. Yet, granted that everyone understands that by this word "God" is signified something than which nothing greater can be thought, nevertheless, it does not therefore follow that he understands that what the word signifies exists actually, but only that it exists mentally. Nor can it be argued that it actually exists, unless it be admitted that there actually exists something than which nothing greater can be thought; and this precisely is not admitted by those who hold that God does not exist.

    -ST Ia, Q. 2, A. 1
    Secondly, if by "definition" we are talking about an essence rather than a merely stipulative description it is still unclear that one could, in that case, comprehend the definition of God (ST Ia, Q. 12, A. 7). The question is clear: how does one arrive at such a definition or essence?

     
  7. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Yeah. I mean, I think the question is far more interesting and far reaching than just asking why a universe exists (assuming a universe exists). I spent a little while as the sort of radical skeptic who would reject the notion of knowledge altogether, but I think it's impossible to get around the fact that there is something instead of nothing. That is true knowledge.

    Yes, I know. I said I was skipping rigorous argumentation, because I'm honestly a little bit bored of cosmological arguments. You already know that I support the PSR, so I don't think there's any need to beat that particular dead horse--my interest here isn't over whether there is a necessarily existing being, but what it would mean that something must necessarily exist.

    If you want to fill in that hole a little better, we can use the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit (nothing comes from nothing), and say that the fact that the current state of affairs is that there is not nothing means that there never could have been nothing, otherwise there still would be nothing. Insert something like Aquinas's Third Way.
     
  8. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I was wondering if I was going to draw some Thomistic ire here. ^_^

    Despite my quote from Anselm, my starting point when it comes to the Ontological Argument is more Hegelian in nature--I find his response to Kant interesting, where it seems to be our very ability to conceptualize the notion of something being unconceptualizable which leads to our being able to know Truth. What is the mind, and to what extent is it capable of grasping genuine truths on the order of something like theism? Is it our most abstract, least physically beholden concepts, like what we mean by the Good, the ones that actually match up best to ultimate reality?

    I think "Necessary Being" is the sort of thing that the human mind can grasp, if just barely, so to a certain extent, it seems that we can comprehend something that lies pretty close to the heart of what God is thought to be. I think it's valid to ask why it's the case that something must necessarily exist, why there could not have been nothing, and I'm not aware of any other line of thought that really heads in that direction, aside from... your traditional Franciscan enemies. :p

    I find the axiomatic angle interesting. The ultimate good must exist because it's ultimately good... you can't really say that the physical must exist because it's physical, or even that awareness must exist because it's awareness, but is the Good something that could potentially exist simply because it's good that it exists? I find it a fascinating rabbit hole to explore.
     
  9. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    No ire, just a nudge to answer the basic objections. :p

    This is Hegel responding to Kant's objection to the Ontological Argument? What you say sounds interesting, but I'm not really familiar with the argumentation. It vaguely sounds like Transcendental Thomism and and the Kantian transcendental apperception.

    I don't find the concept of necessary being incomprehensible, but as a concept it is severed from existence via Aquinas' retort. Aquinas himself argues for a necessary being, but by means of a cosmological rather than ontological/axiomatic argument.

    Perhaps... I like to start with Aquinas because he is rational in the mundane sense. What you say here borders on the mystical, which brings with it a strong element of incommunicability.

    Just pressing you. ;)
     
  10. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I know, haha. You guys just have quite the reputation. :p

    I think it's Hegel's reply to Kant's theory of cognition in general. Kant claims that the thing-in-itself (the noumenon) is unknowable, because our experience of reality is constructed by sense impressions and the mental categories that we impose upon them, which have no basis in external reality. Hegel champions something more akin to the intuitive intellect--if I remember correctly, simply by conceptualizing the notion of the noumenon, we paradoxically bring it within the sphere of things we can think of, and therefore we do ultimately have knowledge of it. And then he takes that and builds his entire theology on paradox.

    I'm not sure Hegel specifically tackles the Ontological Argument, but I've seen his entire opus referred to as one, which I think is what happens whenever you start focusing on the possibility of intuitive cognition.

    I would agree that Anselm's conceptually bound approach is flawed, but I'm not sure that Aquinas succeeds at severing thought from existence altogether. You do have the tradition extending from Plotinus to Hegel which identifies thought with being, so we're back at the question of whether all knowledge is representational, or if there are some forms of cognition which do give us access to the noumenon.

    I've been spun around so many times in front of this piñata that we call theism that I don't even know where my starting point is these days. ^_^

    I do think Aquinas is a better starting place in general, but I'm not aware of any answer he gives to the question of why God exists instead of nothing. Unless the distinction between essence and existence itself could lead to an analysis of necessary being? You would know better than I.
     
  11. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    Silmarien, theism actually means “people believing in a God or gods.” That’s what the word means. If you had, however, specified that this was a personal definition of your own, then we could have discussed your reasons for thinking that, instead of wasting time.

    Although there are many different gods and goddesses and ideas about what “god” means in different religions, “God” is a thing with a well-understood meaning. Again, all we need to do is check a dictionary. A god is “the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe”.

    Definition of GOD


    I’m not particularly convinced by this argument for God. Not being familiar with this way of forming an argument I can’t say for certain; but the refutation sounds plausible. It would certainly follow the pattern for other apologetics arguments of trying to define God into existence, and failing due to a logical fallacy.

    Perhaps there’s no need to argue about this right now. If you wish to consider pride a sin according to your religion, feel free.

    It’s true, there is “evidence”, technically. There are oral history stories. There are accounts in the Bible. There is corroboration of some of the events in the story. But these are very weak forms of evidence, which Christians themselves routinely dismiss when they appear in non-Christian religions, and so non-Christians can dismiss them in the Jesus story. Would you believe, for example, that a Greek god brought a worshipper back to life, just because an ancient historian recorded it as having happened?

    I’m not. But I am familiar with Pascal’s Wager and its many flaws.
    Perhaps you ought to clarify: what do you mean when you say you accepted Pascal’s Wager, and why did you do so?

    That sounds reasonable. Wouldn’t that be your reaction if you were told that there was someone who you couldn’t see, but who loved you and wanted to talk to you, and who could hear all the things you said to him…but who never answered you?

    Wouldn’t you, at this point, think “Maybe the reason I can’t see him and he never answers my calls is that he doesn’t exist.”


    In order to say that, you have to accuse cvanwey of being a liar. He told you that he had been seeking earnestly, and had failed to find God, but you say “we cannot know if this is true”.


    If God existed, then you’d be correct. And cvanwey would be in good company, if you’ve ever read what Bertrand Russell said he would say if he met God.

    But if you’re using “blame” in the emotional sense, saying that cvanwey is angry or bitter against God, then I can’t understand you. He’s already told you he isn’t. Don’t you believe him?

    I’ll add my voice to his. I don’t blame God for not giving me evidence of his existence, any more than I blame Darth Vader for destroying Alderaan. Of course, if I did die and meet God, then I would consider him to blame for my not knowing He existed. But that's not what we’re talking about, is it?


    No, they don’t. It’s not the atheists who end up looking silly here.

    I’d better explain the purpose of the FSM.

    First of all, no, I’m not at all saying that the FSM is “a stand-in for the transcendentally good grounds of being”. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an animated plate of meatballs and spaghetti. He likes pirates and beer, and created the universe. He’s a ridiculous, made-up cartoon.

    But it isn’t atheists who look ridiculous when they talk about Him. They aren’t caricaturing God. They are pointing at the flaw in most Christian apologetics arguments: these say that it is who only the Christian God could have created the universe. But they’re wrong. Any magical creature could have. Another god. A wizard. A universe-creating pixie. Or a flying plate of pasta.

    And so, if you think that’s ridiculous – and you should, it is – then show me how. Prove that the FSM did not create the universe. Take the cosmological argument, and prove that the FSM could not have been the thing that caused the universe to begin. Because pasta can’t create universes? Ah, but this is magical pasta. Because the FSM was invented only a few years ago? That’s what people think, but I tell you that I’ve talked to Him, and feel the truth in my heart. Because most people don’t believe in the FSM? So you’re saying that if lots of people did believe in Him, you would too? Because it’s not up to you to disprove the FSM, it’s up to me to prove it? Strange, you didn’t say that when you thought the cosmological argument proved God.

    The story of the FSM does have a strong element of the ridiculous, but that element lies in pointing out how ridiculous the arguments for God are, as they work equally well for the God of the Bible or for an animated plate of spaghetti.
     
  12. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    I see. So do you believe the cosmological argument for God is sound – and, if so, how would you make it?

    What you said doesn’t make much sense. How does a creature exist outside of time? How would it be able to do anything without time to act in? How could it have one thought after another? And is it possible to exist if you are immaterial? Is there a difference between immaterial and nonexistent?

    No, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Isn’t it perfectly clear that He is the one who made the universe? See my answer to Silmarien on this.
     
  13. InterestedAtheist

    InterestedAtheist Veteran

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    1) Why is there something instead of nothing? I don’t know. And until you have some evidence to back up your answer, I suggest you not invent answers.

    2) Because nothing is an impossible state of affairs. Something must necessarily exist. Obviously something does exist, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it.

    3) Why must something exist? What is a good candidate for the sort of thing that must necessarily exist? ? I don’t know. And until you have some evidence to back up your answer, I suggest you not invent answers.

    4) It doesn't appear to be physical entities, since they are characterized by properties that could have failed to hold true. The physical universe does not appear to be the sort of thing that is what it is through metaphysical necessity. “Does not appear to be” is a remarkably weak argument. It’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He has magical powers, so He can do anything.

    5) The "something" that must necessarily exist appears to be non-physical in nature, perhaps abstract. Are things like mathematical facts necessary truths? How does it appear to be non-physical? It’s a magical plate of pasta.

    6) Even if they are, can abstract truths give rise to a physical universe? It seems like you would need some sort of "actualizer" to make the abstract real. No, the FSM just needs magic.

    7) For the sake of convenience, and so I can demonstrate to others in the thread why definitions matter, let us call this necessarily existing, non-physical actualizer the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Nonsense. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a very real, very physical plate of spaghetti. That flies.


    Not really, Silmarien. It’s magic. That’s all the answer you need.
    How did the FSM make the universe?
    By magic.
    How can the FSM have existed before the universe came to be?
    By magic.
    Why hasn’t the FSM been destroyed after an infinity of time?
    Because He’s magical.
    Now it looks like I’m spoiling your party, interrupting your philosophical musings with an irreverent and ridiculous fairy tale about a plate of flying pasta. But that’s the point. The FSM could be the answer, and you can’t prove that He couldn’t, because the logic that you use works just as well for Him as it does for God. Or for an infinite number of other possible causes.
    And that is why the arguments for God fail.
     
  14. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Good points! Unfortunately the distinction between a per se and a per accidens causal series is going to fly a few miles above the heads of most CF posters. You'll find that most atheists in these parts haven't actually read the arguments and theologians they purport to disagree with. Basically they are just playing a big game of "telephone," and even the initial message comes from people with a remarkably superficial understanding of theism and God (e.g. Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.). Strange, but true.
     
  15. InterestedAtheist

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    Funny. Over a hundred pages on this thread so far, and none of the arguments for God have managed to make their case yet. Either they're comically misplaced (gradyll, Ed) or they avoid actually saying what they think, preferring to dance around the meanings of words.

    That reminds me of something I read. Funnily enough, it was in a book by Richard Dawkins:
    “I am still amused when I recall the remark of a former Warden (head) of my Oxford college. A young theologian had applied for a junior research fellowship, and his doctoral thesis on Christian theology provoked the Warden to say, 'I have grave doubts as to whether it's a subject at all.'
    What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?”

    It is a good point. You can study the Bible's influence on society, its impact on language, it's value as a historical source. But how exactly do theologians you go about studying God?

    Basically, by...how to put it? Playing a game of telephone.
    I mean, I'm very impressed that you know the difference between a per se and a per accidens causal series. I freely admit that I haven't heard of either of them. But it's just comical watching learned people apply their thinking to try to prove the existence of an ancient Israelite deity (forum rules forbid me from describing Yahweh with an analogy).

    But perhaps you are, after all this time, going to fulfil the promise of this thread and...prove that God exists?
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  16. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    This is completely false. Theism is a metaphysical claim; it cannot be defined as an observation that people believe certain things, because if theism were the claim that there were people who believed in God, then it would be self-evidently true.

    I do not have a personal definition of theism. I adhere to the classical one, hence my citing Ratzinger. If you wanted to discuss reasons for holding to the classical understanding of God, you could have asked for clarification instead of jumping straight to abuse, so you are the only one wasting time here.

    The dictionary is not a good source on metaphysical questions, since its aim is not exactly encyclopedic. You might as well take the dictionary definition of "evolution" and wield it against any biologist trying to explain to you precisely what it means.

    How does it try to define God into existence?

    Potentially, yes, though it would depend upon the ancient historian. Some are more trustworthy than others. Still, I see no reason to dismiss out of hand the thesis that miracles actually were a commonplace occurrence in antiquity. I think denying the possibility of any miracle aside from the Resurrection is primarily a Protestant tendency.

    That said, the only other major religion that makes historical claims in the same way that Christianity does is Islam. In both of these religions, the records date back to the same generation as the alleged events, whereas the origins of most religions (including Judaism) are effectively lost in the mists of time. I don't think you have to accept either religion on historical grounds, but you should recognize that they possess a different type of evidence that can be assessed than most religions.

    I thought you were only interested in arguments for the existence of God?

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I am a Prophet who gets regular messages from God. I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion.

    Because we don't know if it's true. The claim is psychologically untenable--we don't have the sort of perfect self-knowledge that would be required to know precisely what our motives are about anything. We are masters at self-deception, and that needs to be taken into account whenever claims like this are made.

    Actually, this is precisely what I'm talking about. I am first and foremost an existentialist, and I see in statements like this a prime example of what Jean-Paul Sartre called mauvaise foi (bad faith). We are all ultimately responsible for our own decisions, and shouldn't be shifting blame in other directions. The failure to take responsibility is actually one of the things that Sartre, despite being an atheist, associates with hell in No Exit, and I think there's some validity to that.

    If someone's reaction on a hypothetical Judgment Day is immediately "It's you're fault I was wrong!" rather than simply, "Wow, I guess I was wrong," then I see a pretty serious problem there. Serious enough, in all honesty, that it was what first led me to wonder if there might be some truth to the way Christians look at damnation.

    No, the actual purpose of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was as an argument against teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design in schools. The idea was that if we wished to teach religious ideas in public schools, all religions should be on equal footing, and that would have to include ridiculous made up ones.

    For that purpose, I think the FSM is successful. As a criticism of theistic arguments, though, it is woefully ignorant. And your presentation of it is bordering on the hysterical, so I would recommend dialing it back a bit.

    First and foremost, if you have actually talked to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, something you referred to several paragraphs earlier as a ridiculous, made-up cartoon, then I would suggest psychiatric help. If you're engaging in rhetoric, however, then it's not impressive. Anyone who does not actually have mystical experiences involving the FSM can hardly claim personal experience as a reason to think it might exist.

    Secondly, I am intrigued by your notion of magical, universe-creating pasta. One of the strengths of theism is that it circumvents the need for an appeal to magic--at its heart is the Principle of Sufficient Reason and the claim that things do not come into being uncaused. With the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we have a physical, complex entity, and as such are stuck wondering how it came to exist. Does the existence of magical pasta that predates the universe imply the reality of something like Plato's Realm of Forms, since the idea of spaghetti is clearly no longer dependent upon us, and does this ultimately open up a path from a realm of abstract truths to the mind of God?

    Even if you wanted to take the Flying Spaghetti Monster seriously, the complications involved could still be used to support genuine theistic arguments.

    I wasn't presenting an argument. I was offering a cursory example of the sort of chain of reasoning that I think these sort of discussions should start with, since the old Socratic method of asking questions and heading towards some sort of solution works better than immediately positing God and then trying to shoehorn an argument into that definition.

    You are welcome to adhere to a strongly agnostic approach to the question, though it's at odds with your hysterical insistence that everything to do with theism is completely ridiculous.

    Which argument fails? The Gale-Pruss, that you couldn't respond to because of the heavily logical language involved, or the Thomistic argument that you attempted to refute by posting from a website that misinterpreted everything Aquinas said?
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  17. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    I just noticed this comment, and I think it's really the crux of the problem here.

    When dealing specifically with a thinker like Aquinas, you're in the realm of classical theism (i.e., that thing you think I made up). God, as everyone you're talking to right now understands it, is not actually a "creature" at all. He is not existing outside of time in the same way that a concrete being might, because he's thought to be that which gives creatures their being, rather than being just another existing thing out there. He is not acting in the same way a creature would be acting, he does not have thoughts which follow one another in material fashion, and so forth and so on.

    The big question at the heart of theism is what being, what existence really is. If you look at something like modern physics, you will find that space and time are properties of the universe--they are not things that exist on their own, independently of a material universe. If the theist asks why it's the case that matter exists and why it acts in the way that it does, coming to the conclusion that a material god who exists within time must be the answer would not make much sense at all. It doesn't provide any sort of solution to the question being asked.

    I think atheists are often under the impression that all we're interested in is the question of why the universe exists, but the real ontological puzzle goes far, far deeper than that. Unless you're willing to put the effort into trying to figure out precisely what we're talking about, I don't see how this conversation is going to be anything but ridiculous.
     
  18. Redac

    Redac Regular Member

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    I find myself drawn to Christianity for a variety of reasons, not all of which are relevant to this thread. But I have found the arguments compelling, especially since I've gotten a better idea of what those arguments actually are.

    So, on to how the argument might be formulated, at least as best as I can do it. One would first start from the observation that change happens, and is constantly happening. Aquinas's understanding of change was an Aristotelian one -- that is, change involves the actualization of a potential in a given thing. He used the word "motion" to describe this, but it refers to change generally, physical motion from one location to another being just one kind of change. Not only that, but we can see that the actualization of a potential requires something to actualize it. Since potentials do not really exist -- or else they would be actual instead of potential -- it means that potentials cannot self-actualize, but instead must be actualized by some other actual.

    So the argument goes: any change from potential to actual requires a cause. If that cause itself has potentials that are being actualized, then it must also have another cause, and so on. One could trace that chain of causes/actualizers back in time to a beginning point of the universe, but that's not what Aquinas does, nor does he think that's actually a good way to argue the point. Instead he talks about essentially ordered series of causes, which often exist simultaneously rather than going back in time.

    It goes a little like this: suppose there's an apple sitting on a table. One could say that the apple's potential to be in that particular location is being actualized by the table that is holding it up -- otherwise it would fall. So that particular potential is being actualized by the table. But the table itself is being held up by the floorboards beneath it. Due to this we might say that the table's causative power in holding up the apple is derivative rather than absolute, as it itself is being actualized in a way that allows it to actualize something else. But then the floorboards are being held up by the foundation of the house, which is being held up by the earth, and so on. This is an example of a causal series that is simultaneous rather than temporal. In this sense we would still need some sort of causal bedrock upon which everything else rests; without some sort of actualizer that itself is not being actualized in the way the table, the floorboards, and the foundation are, we are left with an infinite regress of derivative causal power with nothing from which that power is derived.

    In that example the bedrock is the earth itself, but the question could be asked of more fundamental things. Why are the particles that make up the apple being actualized in the way they are instead of in some other way? Why do they exist at all instead of not existing?

    We could then keep talking about the argument that contingent things require explanation, but I've rambled long enough. Ultimately, the argument goes, we are left with the conclusion that there must be something actualizing all these potentials that itself is not being actualized -- that has no potential to be actualized and could not have potentials to be actualized. It is pure being, pure actuality. It is the causal bedrock upon which everything else relies, not just at the beginning of the universe, but also at every single moment since its inception. That thing is what we call God.

    As Silmarien said, God isn't a "creature" that exists in the way you or I do.

    It wouldn't, at least not in the way you and I do.

    Are you an eliminativist?


    Your FSM posting isn't as poignant as you might think. Supposing you wanted even a half-hearted response to it, I'd point out that the FSM is composite in a way that classical theism supposes God is not and could not be, and would thus require further explanation.
     
  19. cvanwey

    cvanwey Well-Known Member

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    @Silmarien @Redac

    I must admit, I have not thoroughly read your last couple responses... But if I may introduce a point or two... :)

    My take is that you two are reading way too much into this entire line of response(s), regarding the 'FSM'.

    The OP-er is 'Christian'. Furthermore, you are in a Christian based apologist's arena. What I believe @InterestedAtheist is presenting, is that all such arguments presented, thus far, are meant to start pointing to the Abrahamic God. In which case, we have a 'definition' of this 'god', and it's defined in the human written book - the Bible.

    At the end of the day, even if the topic was completely settled and undisputed, regarding any cosmological argument(s), or even any other derivative which may argue the case for 'creation', the point still stands. There exists a very LARGE gap between reconciling such conclusions; only then to begin connecting dots with any specific 'god' there-after - (defined or undefined)... Because, at the end of the day, we have no concluded/settled/undisputed/complete evidence based definition of a 'god', period. Just because you have the ability to create a definition of your appointed god, and even believe this specific version as being real, does not lay any further weight to it's validity - without 'evidence'.


    Thus, it seems we do not really need to define any such 'god' specifically, prior to moving forward...

    You can define your god, I could define a different god, and so-on... However, such a created definition is rather worthless, without evidence to back up such specific assertions.

    And in the case for the Bible, this is exactly what it's intent is set out to do. Or at least one of the main intents anyways... The Bible is a human account of anecdotal stories, spawned from oral tradition, and later recorded to paper by a particular sect of humans at this time.

    One of the purposes of the Bible, is meant to 'demonstrate' that such a specific God is real, and wants you to worship Him. However, at present, it is really no more or less unfalsifiable than the proclaimed 'FSM'. That's really the point....

    The Bible is comprised of human writings, the FSM is comprised by humans, and any other definition of any god(s) are, thus far, also human defined.

    So where do we go from here?.?.?.?.?.?................?????

    What type of evidence is deemed 'credible' to demonstrate existence of any asserted god(s)????..?.?

     
  20. Silmarien

    Silmarien Existentialist

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    Traditional Catholic theology is irrelevant to the question of how to think about God in a Christian apologetics forum? How on earth do you come to that conclusion?
     
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