Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum

You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?



5/17/2017 11:34 am  #1


The Impossibility of God

You know, I was thinking:

So, you know how God cannot be material, or temporal because than he would be conditioned by space-time, and definitionally material is contingent on something other than themselves? 

So the theist posits the inverse of that: a non-material, or non-temporal God, but notice they don't say, non-mental. They 'extend' the mind into a domain where the normative explaination of mind now becomes something more than that -- it becomes a "really powerful mind". Whereas they don't do that with "really powerful material" or "really "powerful temporal thing" because somehow that just seems sully the definition of those terms. Something is material in so far as it's an object that's presumably in space-time. Likewise, a mind is a mind in virute of it being a temporal entity, that has intentions, desires and beliefs. However, God cannot be temporal, nor can he have beliefs. The first one has already been explained, where as the second one is impossible to beliefs being both possible to be true and false - they are normative; you can fail to believe something -- God cannot. 

Now you could ask for a logical contradiction for why a mind cannot be all-powerful, but it seems to contradict the normative definition. You could extend that definition, but then I'm not sure why you can't just "extend" the definition of material, or temporal, or spatial. You would be virtually saying that these are properties of "mind²", instead of properties of a mind. But then we're just making up fantastical objects because these are not being supplied by any intuition.

I take the formal proof of the impossibility of God to be something as such: 

P1. God has a mind. [Classic theistic account of God.]
P2. To have a mind means to necessarily have beliefs, and desires and intentions. [Standard definition of mind.]
P3. Therefore, God has beliefs, desires, and intentions.
P4. However, to have intentions, beliefs, and desires means to necessarily presuppose that one can fail to intend, desire and belief something. For what is constitutive of these properties is that they are normative. 
P5: Therefore, God can fail to actualize something that he would intend.
C: If God can fail at intending, desiring and believing something, he is not omnipotent. For he is limited in virtue of something he cannot do.

If there something wrong here, please let me know. I didn't get it from a book or anything. 

Now I don't believe this argument defeats a first-cause, just anthropomorphizing the necessary being into a God that has human-like characteristics. If one wants to describe God as a "pure act", then that would be different.

Last edited by Marty (5/17/2017 11:35 am)


"And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
― Søren Kierkegaard
 

5/17/2017 12:14 pm  #2


Re: The Impossibility of God

That's right. If we assume terms like “mind” apply univocally to both God and man, our conception of God turns out to be incoherent. Men's minds are composite (e.g. beliefs, desires, thoughts); God is absolutely simple. Men's minds can change; God is immutable. So classical theists argue that we can't speak univocally of both God and man.

(Thomists say we can still speak in an analogical fashion of both man and God. Others, that we can't even do that.)

 

5/17/2017 12:38 pm  #3


Re: The Impossibility of God

I know, but we have no notion of what a mind is as if it's "simple". That's not a mind if in virute of all our experiences minds are composite. I might as well say, God is temporal, just really temporal².

Because if we have absolutely no idea what temporal² is, I'm not sure how we're properly assigning such a predicate onto God. Likewise, it's equally utter nonsense to say God has a mind². We could say it's analogous, but I'm not sure how to say "it's like a mind" if to be like a mind means to necessarily be temporal, and have beliefs, desires, intentions, or whatever. So it's either not like a mind at all, or it has some characteristics, but if it has the latter, it is not God. 

But if you're not arguing for a necessary being with a mind, and just a pure act, I'm not really sure how this grants more than a prime mover. 

Last edited by Marty (5/17/2017 12:57 pm)


"And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
― Søren Kierkegaard
     Thread Starter
 

5/17/2017 1:56 pm  #4


Re: The Impossibility of God

Since a huge portion of this forum is Thomist, it's worth going into their views on analogy in more detail before the conversation gets started. (It'll help prevent misunderstandings later.)

Thomists distinguish between analogies of attribution and analogies of proportionality. If the property being attributed two analogates is only intrinsically in one, it's in an analogy of attribution; if it's in both intrinsically, it's in an analogy of proportionality.* (If I predicate healthiness of both George and food, I'm making an analogy of attribution, i.e. the food is healthy because of its extrinsic relation to humans like George (in this case because it causes them to be healthy).)

Thomists also distinguish between analogies of proper proportionality and analogies of improper or metaphorical proportionality. If the property being attributed to two analogates exists intrinsically and formally in them, it's in an analogy of proper proportionality; if the property being attributed to two analogates exists intrinsically in both, but formally in one and figuratively in the other, it's in an analogy of metaphorical proportionality. If I predicate life of humans and plants, I'm making an analogy of proper proportionality; if I predicate lionhood of both George and a lion at a zoo, I'm making an analogy of metaphorical proportionality (i.e. there is something intrinsically in George that leads us to call him a lion, but the substantial form or nature of lionhood is of course only in the zoo animal).*

Now, I agree that there is a huge gap between how we use words when we're talking about men and when we're talking about God, and think this probably does lead to a sort of obscurity in whatever the terms mean when applied to God. (I haven't been able to look into it much, though. I haven't been able to find much on analogy.) So, lately I've been exploring a view people only familiar with the analytic tradition apparently tend to hiss at—the apophatic one.

My guess, though, is that Thomists are going to say that they can make good enough sense of how these terms apply to God as part of analogies of attribution.

*I'm using property in the broadest sense (even blob nominalists could breathe easy), not just to talk about irreducible universals or tropes like I usually do.
*I've taken my examples from section 4.3 of Scholastic Metaphysics.

Last edited by John West (5/17/2017 2:30 pm)

 

5/17/2017 1:58 pm  #5


Re: The Impossibility of God

Marty wrote:

But if you're not arguing for a necessary being with a mind, and just a pure act, I'm not really sure how this grants more than a prime mover.

I'm not taking any position over and above “If God exists, he's absolutely simple and immutable”. We have plenty of perfectly good Thomists here to defend their own theses! http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/grin.png

(I'm, however, not sure that the conception of God you're working with is the one we're typically talking about when we say “classical theism”. It sounds a lot like the one Davies blasts here.)

 

5/17/2017 3:44 pm  #6


Re: The Impossibility of God

One brief point: 'But then we're just making up fantastical objects because these are not being supplied by any intuition'

This is surely incorrect - if successful various theistic proofs are in themselves successful i.e. they prove that a being with X attributes exists, then they serve as more than an intuition that Mind2 is possible. All the objection then boils down to is the observation that God must be a very unusual being, something the theist will grant given Divine uniqueness. 

 

5/17/2017 8:03 pm  #7


Re: The Impossibility of God

Marty wrote:

P4. However, to have intentions, beliefs, and desires means to necessarily presuppose that one can fail to intend, desire and belief something. For what is constitutive of these properties is that they are normative.

Can you explain this premise? First, what does it mean to call intentions, desires, and beliefs "normative"? Second, why does a property's being normative imply that every bearer of any of those properties can fail to attain that property's fulfillment conditions? (The defense of this implication obviously has to be sensitive to the fact that intentions, desires, and beliefs evidently do not "fail," when they fail, univocally.)

I don't see why the classical theist should be embarrassed to say that what God wills happens and, on the supposition of his willing it, must happen. One could insist that, in saying this, the classical theist is uttering an incoherence, which he'd appreciate if he acknowledged the meaning of "wills"--but I can't see that the classical theist will be put in anything like an uncomfortable position by denying this.

 

5/17/2017 8:12 pm  #8


Re: The Impossibility of God

Greg wrote:

Marty wrote:

P4. However, to have intentions, beliefs, and desires means to necessarily presuppose that one can fail to intend, desire and belief something. For what is constitutive of these properties is that they are normative.

Can you explain this premise? First, what does it mean to call intentions, desires, and beliefs "normative"? Second, why does a property's being normative imply that every bearer of any of those properties can fail to attain that property's fulfillment conditions? (The defense of this implication obviously has to be sensitive to the fact that intentions, desires, and beliefs evidently do not "fail," when they fail, univocally.)

I don't see why the classical theist should be embarrassed to say that what God wills happens and, on the supposition of his willing it, must happen. One could insist that, in saying this, the classical theist is uttering an incoherence, which he'd appreciate if he acknowledged the meaning of "wills"--but I can't see that the classical theist will be put in anything like an uncomfortable position by denying this.

That's the only way we do understand intentions - them being normative; they can fail to uphold to certain commitments one makes. When one has a commitment, they can inevitably fail to be accordance with such a commitment to which they will then attempt to try to succeed at it again. They are different from mere casual dispositions in the sense that casual events do not have something to be accordance with. Lighting doesn't "intend" to hit a tree, it merely hits a tree - therefore never misses it's mark. If something never missed it's mark, how can we distinguish this from mere casual dispositions? You could say, "it intended to do it, but succeeds it's in intentions each time" but how are we to judge success outside the capacity from failure? Intentions need at least the possibility of failure, but God cannot fail. However, if he does truly have intentions (which presumably the theists holds) he must be able to fail!

 


"And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
― Søren Kierkegaard
     Thread Starter
 

5/17/2017 8:14 pm  #9


Re: The Impossibility of God

DanielCC wrote:

One brief point: 'But then we're just making up fantastical objects because these are not being supplied by any intuition'

This is surely incorrect - if successful various theistic proofs are in themselves successful i.e. they prove that a being with X attributes exists, then they serve as more than an intuition that Mind2 is possible. All the objection then boils down to is the observation that God must be a very unusual being, something the theist will grant given Divine uniqueness. 

And which are those?


"And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
― Søren Kierkegaard
     Thread Starter
 

5/17/2017 8:28 pm  #10


Re: The Impossibility of God

John West wrote:

Since a huge portion of this forum is Thomist, it's worth going into their views on analogy in more detail before the conversation gets started. (It'll help prevent misunderstandings later.)

Thomists distinguish between analogies of attribution and analogies of proportionality. If the property being attributed two analogates is only intrinsically in one, it's in an analogy of attribution; if it's in both intrinsically, it's in an analogy of proportionality.* (If I predicate healthiness of both George and food, I'm making an analogy of attribution, i.e. the food is healthy because of its extrinsic relation to humans like George (in this case because it causes them to be healthy).)

Thomists also distinguish between analogies of proper proportionality and analogies of improper or metaphorical proportionality. If the property being attributed to two analogates exists intrinsically and formally in them, it's in an analogy of proper proportionality; if the property being attributed to two analogates exists intrinsically in both, but formally in one and figuratively in the other, it's in an analogy of metaphorical proportionality. If I predicate life of humans and plants, I'm making an analogy of proper proportionality; if I predicate lionhood of both George and a lion at a zoo, I'm making an analogy of metaphorical proportionality (i.e. there is something intrinsically in George that leads us to call him a lion, but the substantial form or nature of lionhood is of course only in the zoo animal).*

Now, I agree that there is a huge gap between how we use words when we're talking about men and when we're talking about God, and think this probably does lead to a sort of obscurity in whatever the terms mean when applied to God. (I haven't been able to look into it much, though. I haven't been able to find much on analogy.) So, lately I've been exploring a view people only familiar with the analytic tradition apparently tend to hiss at—the apophatic one.

My guess, though, is that Thomists are going to say that they can make good enough sense of how these terms apply to God as part of analogies of attribution.

*I'm using property in the broadest sense (even blob nominalists could breathe easy), not just to talk about irreducible universals or tropes like I usually do.
*I've taken my examples from section 4.3 of Scholastic Metaphysics.

I agree here that there's an analogy being made - and if I understand you correctl, an analogy of proportionality - but when we say, George is brave like a Lion, we have something in mind by "brave". Admittedly certain brave-like qualities: such as being able to fight well, show unyielding character, etc, which are all demonstrated in the lion. But as you say, the gap between what a God's mind is, and what a man's Mind is seems incommensurably different; that is, to the point of compromising the definition of what it means to be a mind. 

Last edited by Marty (5/17/2017 8:28 pm)


"And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith."
― Søren Kierkegaard
     Thread Starter
 

Board footera

 

Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum