Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum

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



5/23/2018 2:55 am  #1


Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

Hey everyone. So I am still pretty new here and certainly a lay man, so I wanted to get some thoughts on a review that makes a number of criticisms, I am wondering if they are legitimate objections, are based on misreadings of the book, are strawmen etc.

Edit: I've decided to keep all of my questions about five proofs contained to this thread, so please scroll down to later posts if you'd like to help clarify further questions/objections I have or have seen.

https://jonathandavidgarner.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/five-proofs-of-the-existence-of-god-feser-book-review/

Here are some specific criticisms from the review followed by comment/question for you all:

1. Feser avoided the strongest arguments against theism that are "really important" such as:

- "certain conceptual proofs." Not sure what these are.
- "arguments of the “evidential” variety like atheistic teleological arguments, atheistic moral arguments, atheistic cosmological argument" Has Ed addressed these elsewhere in print? Do they have any force?

2. Feser arbitrarily defines change following Aristotle, when there are, in fact, other ways

"I never get the sense that he actually argues this his account of change is the correct one. Why think change is the actualization of a potential? Why can’t we subscribe to another account, besides Aristotle’s account?"

I assume Ed defends this in a earlier book like "Scholastic Metaphysics" or "Aquinas." If so, the reviewer would have to engage with these other books, and argue for the merits of some alternative account

3. "if naturalism is true, there is nothing to cause a hierarchical series to pass out of existence. If theism is true, God can easily stop sustaining any such series at any moment (and why can’t God create a series that is self-sustaining? By Feser’s logic, this is somehow logically impossible. How?!). At the same time, I’m sure Feser will respond by saying that his argument is deductive, but is he thereby conceding that naturalism predicts what we see and theism doesn’t? If a certain deductive argument for God really is sound, then why can’t Feser then say God predicts the data?"

Not sure what to make of this part, nor what predictability has to do with anything.

Appreciate any thoughts


 

Last edited by mnels123 (6/18/2018 12:09 am)

 

5/23/2018 4:04 am  #2


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

mnels123 wrote:

1. Feser avoided the strongest arguments against theism that are "really important" such as:

- "certain conceptual proofs." Not sure what these are.
- "arguments of the “evidential” variety like atheistic teleological arguments, atheistic moral arguments, atheistic cosmological argument" Has Ed addressed these elsewhere in print? Do they have any force? 

Presumably the modal problem of evil and various arguments for the incompatibility of the Divine Attributes. Give Feser his due he does deal with the most prominent of the later e.g. the paradox of the stone and Grimm's Cantorian argument against Omniscience. 

I don't know what he means by 'evidential' in the later case. If probabilistic then he would say that an if valid deductive proof will trump of proofs from probability, something atheists philosophers of religion will normally admit. If the atheistic cosmological argument in question is that of Quentin Smith then the variant of the PSR Feser employs would rule it out.

mnels123 wrote:

2. Feser arbitrarily defines change following Aristotle, when there are, in fact, other ways

"I never get the sense that he actually argues this his account of change is the correct one. Why think change is the actualization of a potential? Why can’t we subscribe to another account, besides Aristotle’s account?"
I assume Ed defends this in a earlier book like "Scholastic Metaphysics" or "Aquinas." If so, the reviewer would have to engage with these other books, and argue for the merits of some alternative account

Yes, although the Thomist account has loads of baggage relating to causation, some of which e.g. prime matter, probably doesn't work, all Ed needs for that argument is a powers theory of causation, something he has argued for elsewhere. 

mnels123 wrote:

3. "if naturalism is true, there is nothing to cause a hierarchical series to pass out of existence. If theism is true, God can easily stop sustaining any such series at any moment (and why can’t God create a series that is self-sustaining? By Feser’s logic, this is somehow logically impossible. How?!). At the same time, I’m sure Feser will respond by saying that his argument is deductive, but is he thereby conceding that naturalism predicts what we see and theism doesn’t? If a certain deductive argument for God really is sound, then why can’t Feser then say God predicts the data?"
Not sure what to make of this part, nor what predictability has to do with anything.

You are correct. Predictability has nothing to do with such arguments (the account of causation is not a predictive hypothesis but a way of analyzing the supposed casual relations we see in the world and which supposedly underlie our scientific reasoning. I have no idea what it would mean for God to predict the data (one could say I suppose that this theory 'predicts' that any change of states-of-affairs happens because of something and not for no reason).
 

 

5/23/2018 12:15 pm  #3


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

1- I guess the modal problem of evil or perhaps atheistic arguments like those of Smith, but Feser's arguments (including his use of PSR) would rule the later out; and with the modal problem, again, Feser's arguments being deductive would give us a reason to doubt any objections to theism, modal problem of evil included (see the thread here)

2- It just amazes me why people would insist on doubting the act/potency account of change. How else would we account for change without POTENTIALITY and ACTUALITY? If something is not potentially X then it cannot become actually X, just like if something can't POSSIBLY exist cannot actually exist at all. If something changes, it's going from a potential for that change into an actuality. What's the fuss all about? It's not like it's a controversial view or anything, it's quite simple and common sensical. And note that something being controverted does not thereby make it controversial. PSR being another example. Things existing with no explanation whatsoever, really?

3- I'll just add that if naturalism is true then there is nothing to keep the hierarchical series in existence or guarantee that it won't spontaneously cease to exist; therefore if things have always existed then they should've ceased to exist already, by probability. Which would mean that if there's still anything in existence right now, then every contingent thing would have to have come into existence from nothing. Now if a naturalist thinks this is more plausible than a self-existent foundation, that's their problem.

 

5/23/2018 4:56 pm  #4


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

I think we can split evil into two categories: Moral evil and natural evil.

Moral evil, is the evil that humans carry out and some examples would be Genocide, rape, murder, etc. The best theodicy given to date is Alvin Plantinga's Free will response. If God did stop every single murder, theft, robbery, rape and so on. What is the point of the divine test? Why make a divine test if you will correct all the mistakes anyways? It would be like a professor giving a test to the class and then fixing all the wrong answers before marking them. It is frivolous and it is unfair to those who did work hard and did righteousness. You might object that an omniscient God would not need to conduct a test if he already knows all the answers. But that objection assumes that the divine test is for God's benefit, which goes against the Abrahamic conception that God is self-sufficient.

Natural evil has been refuted multiple times and the best rebuttal is The Higher order of Goods. Without natural evil, the scope and magnitude of the divine test would be confined and limited and the opportunities to attain virtue is universal. Here is a good passage to support the first point

>>For instance: The knowledge that poison causes death is unobtainable unless someone is first observed to have accidentally died by poisoning. And knowledge of poisonous toadstools and berries thereafter affords us an opportunity to exercise significant moral liberty: We can use that knowledge to kill off a neighbouring village by poisoning its well or to warn the neighbouring village not to eat toadstools. Earthquake belts, to give another example, give us a choice between building upon them cities that may be destroyed long after we are dead or avoiding doing so. Pathogens give us a choice between making biological weapons that kill thousands or developing antibiotics that save thousands. These examples show that natural evil broadens the scope and significance of our choices so that they are able to benefit or harm others far from us in both time and space.

Now to illustrate the second point, Consider a world without disaster, disease and decrepitude; a world in which the only cause of injury and death is, respectively, assault and murder. It is a mathematical certainty that such a world would provide far, far fewer opportunities for virtue and highly probable that some people would have no such opportunities at all.

In addition, evil and suffering is sometimes justified to permit. Consider vaccinating your child. When your child has a disease, you take him to the doctor to get his needle shots. During the process, your child cries out in pain and agony complaining about the suffering inflicted from the medication. Is it a fair inference for the child to make that her father does not love her because he allowed her suffering? In this case, the father allowed suffering for a greater good (preventing her from sickness). Similarly, it is possible that God has a sufficient reason to permit evil for a greater good which would explain why he allows evil yet the PoE denies such a possibility since it is a possible explanation for how an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent God is compatible with evil. Well, I myself am agnostic on the issue (I do not know if God allows evil for a greater good or for some other reason). The proponent of the argument from evil has the impossible burden of proof of showing that God does not allow evil for a greater good.

Moreover, it has been argued that the existence of evil proves God. Stewart Goetz in The Blackwell companion to Natural Theology has dedicated an entire chapter to prove that the existence of evil actually proves the existence of God.

My last point would probably be that "evil" does not exist. It is a subjective man-made construct. What is evil to one person may not be so to another. For example, The Holocaust may have been evil to the Jews but it was the pinnacle of morality for the nazis. As a result, proponents of the problem of evil will have to supplement their argument with an argument for moral realism.

 

5/23/2018 5:21 pm  #5


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

"I never get the sense that he actually argues this his account of change is the correct one. Why think change is the actualization of a potential? Why can’t we subscribe to another account, besides Aristotle’s account?"

The other account of change is the four-dimensionalist one , He argues against that in Ch.3 of "Scholastic Metaphysics", and in his paper in "Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science" he defends it from objections from physics. So he has actually defended his account, and plans to write more on the topic in future.

 

5/23/2018 5:57 pm  #6


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

I get the sense that a lot of people really overthink the whole act-potency explanation of change. Often they make it out to be some esoteric notion or generalization of change. I recall Arif Ahmed, in his debate with Feser, rejecting the act-potency explanation of change on the grounds that he has no reason to believe there are strange things called potencies hidden throughout the universe. Instead he claimed that he merely needs to appeal to, say, the molecular structure and powers of a rubber ball to explain why it has the capacity to melt--of course talk of certain structures having powers and tendencies merely assumes that there are potentials yet to be actualized that they have. It really is metaphysically inescapable if we are to avoid the Eleatic route and deny the distinction between potential and actual being. 

 

6/18/2018 1:28 am  #7


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

Some more objections:

4. If God can be powerful, intelligent, good, etc. doesn't that make him composite, since he holds multiple attributes? God can only be non-composite if he is just pure essence and nothing more, so theists cannot add in these additional attributes without making God composite.

5. For Christians who believe in the trinity, doesn't this also violate the Neo-platonic proof? How can God be three in one but still be absolutely simple?

     Thread Starter
 

6/18/2018 4:27 am  #8


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

I am pretty sure that's discussed in the book on the sections on Divine Simplicity. It certainly is elsewhere in Feser's works.

*Sigh* I wrote detailed critiques of certain points with Five Proofs, which sank like a couple of stones. If I ever meet Ed I am going to collar him about the compatiblist versus libertarian interpretation of Aquinas (and 'he doesn't fit into modern categories' is not an excuse!).

 

6/18/2018 12:04 pm  #9


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

I think my main problem with the book was that the rhetoric therein often didn't match up with the strength of the argumentation, e.g. his all too easy rejection of Kant rests on a straw man. I was also a bit disappointed he never updated his retorsion argument for PSR; pretty much every philosopher I've talked to about the argument has more or less given the same objection to it, yet Feser has nowhere directly addressed it, as far as I'm aware.

Last edited by UGADawg (6/18/2018 3:11 pm)

 

6/18/2018 6:09 pm  #10


Re: Answering Challenges to "Five Proofs"

UGADawg wrote:

I think my main problem with the book was that the rhetoric therein often didn't match up with the strength of the argumentation, e.g. his all too easy rejection of Kant rests on a straw man. I was also a bit disappointed he never updated his retorsion argument for PSR; pretty much every philosopher I've talked to about the argument has more or less given the same objection to it, yet Feser has nowhere directly addressed it, as far as I'm aware.

Are you talking about the objection that the possibility of unreliable cognitive processes in a ~PSR world isn't enough to entail radical skepticism of our cognitive processes in general?

 

Board footera

 

Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum