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11/23/2018 12:49 am  #1


God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

I've been reading Ed Feser's Aquinas and after finishing with his discussion of Aquinas' First Way, and midway into the Second Way, it appears to me he neglected to answer the objection that a per se causal series can terminate with a natural thing. The rock's motion depends on the stick which depends on the hand, muscles, electrical stimuli, brain neurons, atoms, quarks. Is a quark made of anything? Perhaps not. Apparently not? Why doesn't the buck stop there, as far as this 'unmoved mover' argument is concerned? Why must you instead necessarily arrive at God, Creator of the Universe, for any per se causal event (or observation of some motion, i.e. potential becoming actualized)?
 

 

11/23/2018 4:09 am  #2


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ForumUser wrote:

I've been reading Ed Feser's Aquinas and after finishing with his discussion of Aquinas' First Way, and midway into the Second Way, it appears to me he neglected to answer the objection that a per se causal series can terminate with a natural thing. The rock's motion depends on the stick which depends on the hand, muscles, electrical stimuli, brain neurons, atoms, quarks. Is a quark made of anything? Perhaps not. Apparently not? Why doesn't the buck stop there, as far as this 'unmoved mover' argument is concerned? Why must you instead necessarily arrive at God, Creator of the Universe, for any per se causal event (or observation of some motion, i.e. potential becoming actualized)?
 

​I don't have a copy of Aquinas to hand at the moment, I remember that Feser explains something about the act/potency distinction there but I can't remember how much depth he goes into.

​In A-T terms a 'natural thing' (including quarks) would be a form/matter composite and therefore act/potency composite, so I think this question is really whether an act/potency composite (rather than something that is purely actual) can be the terminus of a per se causal series. I can't remember but I think Feser provides an argument about why this is impossible.

 
 

 

11/23/2018 8:16 am  #3


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

The only thing he says is that if it has potency, then that potency must be actualized and hence it isn't the terminus of a per se series. I do not see how that applies to quarks as the fundamental constituents of matter. It appears to me that their only potency is being in one place rather than another -- namely, their current location rather than a different one, and this potency has no bearing on the fact that they were triggered by present stimuli (according to naturalism) to collectively form a neuron firing to move a limb to move a stick to move a rock. So the idea that the terminus of a per se series must be 'pure actuality' and hence be God seems simply false.

Or, if one must explain why the quarks are being held together by the nuclear forces to form atoms, then it seems to me we are equally justified to say that this recurring observation (which we refer to as the strong force and weak force) "just exists" as a brute fact, rather than say that "God exists to cause the strong force and weak force to exist" as a brute fact. I mean, I do not see any justification for declaring God to be the brute fact rather than the apparent laws of nature as the brute fact. In other words, we can say "It is in the universe's nature to exist" more easily than we can say "It is in God's nature to exist, and God holds the universe in existence". (The former accounts for our suffering; the latter does not, and hence holds greater explanatory power. That is, if we regard 'God' as the god of Abraham, rather than merely an indifferent clockmaker-type deistic god.)

Last edited by ForumUser (11/23/2018 8:28 am)

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11/23/2018 8:51 am  #4


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

This belongs in Athens, not Jerusalem. I've moved it. 

I haven't read Aquinas in a long time now, but I'm pretty sure Ed answers this question in his discussion of actualizing existence towards the end of his section on the First Way. You (and Cosmyk) might also find the discussion of per se and per accidens causal series starting at around fifteen minutes here helpful.

 

11/23/2018 10:08 am  #5


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ForumUser wrote:

The only thing he says is that if it has potency, then that potency must be actualized and hence it isn't the terminus of a per se series.

Hello, Forum User, just two minor suggestions. First, it may be clearer if you use some term like "first principle" or "origin" for the first cause of a per se series and reserve "terminus" for the final effect of the series.

  So the idea that the terminus of a per se series must be 'pure actuality' and hence be God seems simply false.

There can be many hierarchical series of causes ordered per se. God is not the only causal agent that can set into motion a process that will produce a desired effect. An example of a per se series used by Aquinas is one that starts with a king who orders an action. The order is transmitted from one minister to another until the action, the effect - the terminus of the series - is effected. But you are right to notice that Aquinas would hold that the origin/first cause/principium of every secondary per se series is itself a subordinate mover within another per se series, of which the first mover is God.

Good questions, carry on and I shall appreciate lurking further.
 

Last edited by ficino (11/23/2018 10:10 am)

 

11/23/2018 12:42 pm  #6


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ForumUser wrote:

Or, if one must explain why the quarks are being held together by the nuclear forces to form atoms, then it seems to me we are equally justified to say that this recurring observation (which we refer to as the strong force and weak force) "just exists" as a brute fact, rather than say that "God exists to cause the strong force and weak force to exist" as a brute fact. I mean, I do not see any justification for declaring God to be the brute fact rather than the apparent laws of nature as the brute fact. In other words, we can say "It is in the universe's nature to exist" more easily than we can say "It is in God's nature to exist, and God holds the universe in existence". (The former accounts for our suffering; the latter does not, and hence holds greater explanatory power. That is, if we regard 'God' as the god of Abraham, rather than merely an indifferent clockmaker-type deistic god.)


I haven't got a lot of time to post at the moment but I think the first proof is a kind of deductive proof, not an inference to the best explanation one. It starts from the Aristotelian analysis of change and uses this to deduce that a being which is pure act to required to make the change we experience possible. It's somewhat different to a scientific inference based explanation.

​Also, I think discussion of the problem of evil in relation to this argument will lead to digression/obscurity. It isn't helpful in understanding the argument.



 

Last edited by FZM (11/23/2018 12:45 pm)

 

11/23/2018 1:45 pm  #7


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

A quark is a composite of potency and act. Because it's a composite it needs an explanation for its composition--why is it actual in one respect and potential in another? Something outside of the quark must be actualizing its potency to be composed in the specific way that it is. Just in the same way if you saw an ice cube in a room you might ask why it's actually ice rather than water? There would be an answer for its specific composition of potency and act--for instance, the air surrounding it is below freezing. 

 

11/24/2018 4:29 am  #8


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ForumUser wrote:

The only thing he says is that if it has potency, then that potency must be actualized and hence it isn't the terminus of a per se series. I do not see how that applies to quarks as the fundamental constituents of matter. It appears to me that their only potency is being in one place rather than another -- namely, their current location rather than a different one, and this potency has no bearing on the fact that they were triggered by present stimuli (according to naturalism) to collectively form a neuron firing to move a limb to move a stick to move a rock. So the idea that the terminus of a per se series must be 'pure actuality' and hence be God seems simply false.

​The first way is an argument from change, particularly change of location, so if quarks change location that is enough for the argument to start. If their behaviour changes in other ways it is also going to be relevant. It seems that any individual quark has a lot of potencies, to be at a range of different locations, and some of these potencies are actualised as it changes location. 

​The act/potency distinction and various principles of causality that arise from it are important for this argument (and the 2nd Way), I can't remember how much space Feser devotes to explaining it in Aquinas​. His book Scholastic Metaphysics​ does so at greater length. Then, he develops a similar argument but more systematically in Five proofs of the Existence of God.

​​I found a little book by Stephen Mumford called Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2012), particularly the first three chapters and chapter 4 'What is change?', gives a broad idea of where these kinds of arguments are coming from.  
 

Last edited by FZM (11/24/2018 4:31 am)

 

12/03/2018 9:48 pm  #9


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ForumUser wrote:

I've been reading Ed Feser's Aquinas and after finishing with his discussion of Aquinas' First Way, and midway into the Second Way, it appears to me he neglected to answer the objection that a per se causal series can terminate with a natural thing. The rock's motion depends on the stick which depends on the hand, muscles, electrical stimuli, brain neurons, atoms, quarks. Is a quark made of anything? Perhaps not. Apparently not? Why doesn't the buck stop there, as far as this 'unmoved mover' argument is concerned? Why must you instead necessarily arrive at God, Creator of the Universe, for any per se causal event (or observation of some motion, i.e. potential becoming actualized)?
 

Per se causal series, can not even in principle, terminate in a natural thing. They must terminate in necessity and all natural things are contigent. Thus, they don't fit the bill. Attempting to end a per se causal series of contigent things, with a contigent thing (which would be all natural things, even if they're small), is incoherent. I could give you a more in-depth response, if you wish.

 

12/09/2018 5:30 pm  #10


Re: God is a quark? How do you arrive at God from per se causality, etc?

ClassicalLiberal.Theist wrote:

ForumUser wrote:

I've been reading Ed Feser's Aquinas and after finishing with his discussion of Aquinas' First Way, and midway into the Second Way, it appears to me he neglected to answer the objection that a per se causal series can terminate with a natural thing. The rock's motion depends on the stick which depends on the hand, muscles, electrical stimuli, brain neurons, atoms, quarks. Is a quark made of anything? Perhaps not. Apparently not? Why doesn't the buck stop there, as far as this 'unmoved mover' argument is concerned? Why must you instead necessarily arrive at God, Creator of the Universe, for any per se causal event (or observation of some motion, i.e. potential becoming actualized)?
 

Per se causal series, can not even in principle, terminate in a natural thing. They must terminate in necessity and all natural things are contigent. Thus, they don't fit the bill. Attempting to end a per se causal series of contigent things, with a contigent thing (which would be all natural things, even if they're small), is incoherent. I could give you a more in-depth response, if you wish.

You'll definitely need to elaborate for me, because it is not self-evident that all matter and energy is contingent.

I also do not see how the fact that a collection of quarks was positioned at (x,y,z) instead of (x', y', z') prior to someone moving a stone with a stick implies God's existence. To phrase my problem another way, it is not clear to me why God's existence must be the brute fact rather than the universe's existence (i.e. the set of all matter and energy).

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