bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 12: What is Potentiality?

WHERE WE ARE
In his book Philosophy of Religion  (hereafter: POR), Norman Geisler provides an argument in support of the second premise of his Thomist Cosmological Argument (see pages 194-197).  Here is my understanding of the argument that Geisler gives in support of that premise:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

 51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Before we can evaluate this part of Geisler’s argument, we must first have a clear understanding of what these claims mean.
 
CLARIFICATIONS NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR THE 2ND PREMISE
This part of the argument is clearly steeped in concepts from Thomistic metaphysics.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally mistaken or confused, then this part of the argument is likely to fail under close examination.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally correct and logical, then this part of the argument is likely to be successful.
In any case, this part of the argument is UNCLEAR apart from careful and clear definitions and explanations of some basic concepts of Thomistic metaphysics.  The main question at issue for now is this:
Q1. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts that he makes use of in this part of his argument?
Premise (52), for example, MAKES NO SENSE, at least as it stands, apart from an explanation of Thomist metaphysics.  So, our main question at issue can be focused further:
Q2. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts in premise (52), so that we can have a clear understanding of what this premise is asserting?
Premise (52) consists of two main concepts, and so Geisler needs to provide clear answers to at least two questions of clarification:
Q3. What is a “potentiality”?
Q4. What does “X actualized Y” mean?
Furthermore, it is NOT obvious that (52) is TRUE, so Geisler also needs to provide some justification for this claim:
Q5. Why is it not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself”?
 
WHAT IS A “POTENTIALITY”? (QUESTION 3)
Here is a passage where Geisler attempts to clarify the concept of a “potentiality” and attempts to answer Question 3:

Geisler states that a “potential” is “the mere capacity to have a certain kind of existence.”  That is a crappy definition. What the hell is “a certain kind of existence”?  How many kinds of existence are there?  Something either exists or it does not exist.  Do some things have SUPER existence? Do some things only have QUASI existence?  Do some things have MEGA-DOUBLE-SECRET existence? Talk about kinds of existence sounds like WOO-WOO pseudo-science bullshit.
However, Geisler does then go on to provide some specific examples, and that might help to clarify what the hell he means by the manifestly UNCLEAR phrase “a certain kind of existence”.   Geisler talks about “the potential for steel to be a skyscraper” and “the real potential” of an “empty bucket” to “be filled”.  So, steel has the potential to either be girders stacked into pile on the ground, or to be assembled together as the framework of a skyscraper.  A bucket has the potential to either be empty or to be filled with water.
We would NOT normally speak of these potential states as being “kinds of existence”, so the Thomistic terminology here is foreign to how we ordinarily talk about such things and states of things.  Steel has the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and buckets have the potential to contain water (and other liquids).  Air, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, does NOT have the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and (as Geisler points out) the flat surface of a desk top does NOT have the potential to contain water (or other liquids), at least not in any sizeable quantity (You could spray a mist of water onto the surface of a desk top, and the water would remain in place for an hour or more until it evaporated. But this would be a very inefficient way to transport water from one location to another!).

By some measures, what came to be known as a “skyscraper” first appeared in Chicago with the 1885 completion of the world’s first largely steel-frame structure, the Home Insurance Building. It was demolished in 1931.

But a particular steel girder either exists or it does not exist.  It’s “kind” of existence doesn’t change when it is moved from a pile of girders and assembled into the framework of a new building.  It existed in the pile, and it continues to exist in the framework of the new building; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence in this process.  The bucket exists when it is empty, and it continues to exist when it is filled with water; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence when filled with water.  So, when Geisler defines “A potential” in terms of the capacity “to have a certain kind of existence”, he is just muddying the water and failing miserably to clarify the meaning of this term.
It appears that there are not degrees of existence, and this casts doubt on the whole idea of “kinds of existence”.  However, the “potential” to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper does appear to be a matter of degree.  Air clearly does not have the “potential” to be used as the primary material for constructing the framework of a skyscraper, nor does liquid water have such a “potential”.  But if water is frozen into large columns and bars, it could be used to construct a temporary framework for a one-story building.
Ice would, however, melt in warm temperatures, so it would be a poor choice to use it in the structure of even a small building (except for igloos in areas that stay freezing cold year round).  Ice also is not as strong as wood 2x4s.  You can use wood to construct the framework of a two or three-story building, and it would be sturdy and stable, in both cold and warm weather.  But wood  2x4s are not as strong as steel girders, so wood 2x4s would not work for construction of the framework of a skyscraper.  We can see that there are different degrees of suitability of materials for construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

Air & Liquid Water:  useless for constructing a framework for any building.

Frozen Water:  can be used to construct a framework, but not strong enough to support multiple stories, and melts in warm weather (over 32°F).

Wood 2x4s: can be used to construct a framework that is strong enough to support a few stories, doesn’t melt in warm weather, burns up at high temperatures (over 570°F), but is not strong enough to support dozens of stories.

Steel Girders:  strong enough to be used to construct frameworks for buildings with dozens of stories, will not melt in warm weather (steel melts at 2,500°F), and does not burn up at temperatures where wood burns up (steel burns at 1,500°F in pure oxygen, and at 2,246°F in air).

The suitability of a material for use in constructing the framework of a building is a matter of degrees, because (a) there are different degrees of strength, and there are different degrees of susceptibility to melting, and  different degrees of susceptibility to burning.  Thus, there are different degrees of “potential” of different materials for use in construction of the framework of a building, and of a skyscraper.
The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose is typically a matter of degrees and typically is a matter of more than one criterion.  Some things or materials might be completely unsuitable, while some things/materials are somewhat suitable, and some things/materials are very suitable or ideal for the purpose at hand.  The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose depends on the properties or characteristics of that thing that are relevant to the particular purpose under consideration.
Steel girders have “great potential” for use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers because they are very strong (stronger than wood 2x4s), because they don’t melt in ordinary temperatures, and don’t burn, except at extremely high temperatures.  These various properties or characteristics of steel girders are what make steel girders very suitable for this particular purpose; they are what give steel girders this “great potential” related to the purpose of use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers.
Here is an summary (in more abstract terms) of how we understand the idea of the “potential” of a steel girder to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

The “potential” of thing T to perform function F depends on various properties of T that are relevant to how well it can perform function F

How do we determine whether thing T has the “potential” to perform function F well?

  • One obvious way of making this determination is to observe T performing function F, and evaluating how well it is performing that function.
  • Another way of making this determination is by making inductive inferences about T based on how well other things that are SIMILAR to T perform function F.   We might observe many wood 2x4s in the frameworks of many different buildings, and based on many such observations, we may reasonably infer that some particular 2×4 is well-suited for use in the construction of a framework for a two-story house or apartment building, and based on many such observations we may reasonably infer that some particular wood 2×4 is NOT suitable for use in the construction of the framework for a 40 story office building.
  • A third way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties, such as strength in the case of materials for use in constructing the framework of a building.  Strength tests could be made on a particular 2×4 to determine whether it was strong enough for the intended framework that is to be constructed.
  • A fourth way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties of things that are SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  Strength tests can impact the thing being tested (the test itself can break or weaken the thing), so we might run tests on things that are very SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  We might run tests on a random sample of 2x4s from a particular source of lumber, and if 100% of the samples pass the test, we might reasonably infer that other 2x4s from that source of lumber are also strong enough to pass the test, and thus suitable for use in construction of a framework for a specific building.

So, we can either (a) observe the particular thing performing the desired function, or (b) we can observe SIMILAR things performing the desired function, or (c) we can check or test the particular thing for the relevant properties that make it suitable for that function, or (d) we can check or test SIMILAR things for the relevant properties that would make them suitable for that function.  There may be other ways to determine the “potential” of a thing T to perform a function F well, but these are some of the important ways we have of making such determinations.
 
POTENTIAL VS. POSSIBLE VS. ACTUAL
There are three closely related concepts that I think we need to understand in order to have a clear understanding of what the term “potential” means in the context of Geisler’s Thomistic Cosmological Argument: potential, possible, and actual.  I think we need to understand how these concepts relate to each other.
In Aristotle’s theory of change, whenever any change occurs some potential has been actualized.  When a green banana turns into a yellow banana, we say that the green banana had the “potential” to become a yellow banana.  We KNOW that this particular green banana had this potential because we observed that it actually became a yellow banana.  In other words, when a property of a thing ACTUALLY changes, we infer that the thing had the POTENTIAL to have the new property.  The banana was ACTUALLY green, and had the POTENTIAL to become yellow, and then at some point it was ACTUALLY yellow, and no longer green.  The change in color of the banana was a POTENTIAL that became ACTUAL.
Because this banana is now ACTUALLY yellow, we know that is is POSSIBLE for this banana to be yellow, because what is ACTUAL is necessarily logically possible. But does having the POTENTIAL to be yellow the same thing as it being logically possible to be yellow?  I know that Ed Feser rejects equating these two concepts.  But I’m not sure whether Geisler distinguishes these two concepts.
One important difference, it seems to me, is that the POTENTIAL to be yellow ceases to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  But the logical possibility of being yellow does NOT cease to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  When the banana turns yellow, it no longer has the POTENTIAL to be yellow, and it is ACTUALLY yellow.  But we infer that it HAD the potential to be yellow previously, when it was still completely green.  In the case of logical possibility, when the banana turns yellow, it is still logically possible for that banana to be yellow, even while it is ACTUALLY yellow.  We infer not only that this was logically possible when the banana was completely green, but that it is still logically possible now that the banana is completely yellow.
Having the POTENTIAL to be yellow is a kind of physical possibility for the green banana.  We know from many experiences with green bananas that they often turn yellow over a period of days.  The chemical and biological nature of bananas makes it so that they tend to turn yellow as they age.  So, a banana turning from green to yellow is NOT merely a logical possibility, it is a tendency of (some varieties of) bananas to go from green to yellow over a matter of days after being picked.  This tendency is based on the chemical and biological nature or composition of bananas.   It is logically possible for a green lime to turn yellow a few days after being picked, but limes don’t tend to do this.  The mere logical possibility of some change in properties is NOT sufficient to bring about that change.  Limes don’t have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, but they do have the logical possibility of turning yellow days after being picked.  Bananas have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, because they have a nature or composition that gives them a tendency to do so.  This tendency to turn yellow in a matter of days is MORE THAN just a logical possibility for a banana, it is something more like a physical possibility for bananas to turn yellow.
Does an ACTUAL change in property logically imply that a thing had MORE THAN just a logical possibility of undergoing that change? Some changes are random and extremely rare.  According to quantum physics, it is possible for all of the air molecules in a room to quickly move to one small area in the corner of the room, causing any people or animals in the room to asphyxiate.  But this possibility is so extremely unlikely, so extraordinarily improbable, that we can safely assume this will never actually happen.  Since the laws of chemistry and physics are based upon such extreme improbabilities, it is logically possible for a law of chemistry or physics to be broken.  I take it that this means that an ACTUAL violation of a supposed law of physics is logically consistent with that law being a true law of physics.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next post on this topic, I will try t clarify the meaning of Geisler’s term “X actualized Y” (Question 4), and look into why he thinks it is not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself” (Question 5).
P.S.  I hope that when I get around to examining Feser’s Thomist Cosmological Argument, that Feser will make more of an effort than Geisler to define and/or clarify the basic concepts in his argument.  The fact that Geisler makes so little effort to define or clarify his most basic terms leads me to suspect that he himself is UNCLEAR about the meaning of those basic terms, and that he literally does not know what he is talking about.

bookmark_borderBack to God and Leviticus

When Easter rolled around this year, I dove back into the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”  These are issues that I have enjoyed thinking about for the past four decades, and will continue to think and write about for the rest of my life.
 
DEFENDING THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I wrote a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory, specifically examining seven objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor.  I discovered that the main problem with McDowell’s discussion about this skeptical theory is that he DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE about (a) what the word “hallucination” means, (b) what psychologists have learned about hallucinations and dreams, and (c) how to present a clear and intelligent argument for an historical claim about Jesus.  So, McDowell had no chance of producing a solid and strong refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  
His more recent defense of the resurrection in a book co-authored with his son, Evidence for the Resurrection mostly re-hashes the same pathetic objections against the Hallucination Theory, and COMPLETELY FAILS to refute that skeptical theory just like he COMPLETELY FAILED to refute it in The Resurrection Factor.  I noticed that in the most recent version of Evidence that Demands a Verdict McDowell abandoned his pathetic case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points to Peter Kreeft’s pathetic attempt to refute it (although Kreeft’s attempt appears to lean heavily on McDowell’s case).
 
DEFENDING OTHER SKEPTICAL THEORIES ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
If you are interested in the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” you might want to also see my series of posts defending the Conspiracy Theory against objections raised by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), and my series of posts defending the Apparent Death Theory (or “Swoon Theory”) against objections raised by Peter Kreeft.

Portion of the Temple Scroll, labeled 11Q19, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 
BACK TO GOD, LEVITICUS, AND THE PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Having exposed McDowell’s sham of a case against the Hallucination Theory, I will now return to my previous topics:

  • Leviticus and Homosexuality

Part 12: More Bad Guidelines is where I left off on Leviticus.

  • Feser’s Perverted Faculty Argument

Part 1: The Core Argument is where I left off on the Perverted Faculty Argument.

  • The Thomist Cosmological Argument

I’m critiquing Norman Geisler’s pathetic attempt to present a Thomist cosmological argument, as a warmup exercise before I attempt to critique Feser’s better and clearer presentation of this argument for the existence of God.

 

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 11: The Argument for Premise (2)

WHERE WE ARE
Norman Geisler has FAILED to show that premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument is true, but premise (1) is obviously true.  Since premise (1) is obviously true, we should not reject TCA just because Geisler FAILED to prove that (1) is true.  Since premise (1) seems to be obviously true, we should accept it, and examine the rest of this argument to see if the other premises are true, and if the inferences in the rest of the argument are all logically valid.
In Part 10 of this series, I began to analyze and clarify Geisler’s argument for premise (2):

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.

 
APPARENT GAPS IN GEISLER’S LOGIC
There is an obvious problem with Geisler’s argument for premise (2).   Premise (2) DOES NOT APPEAR TO FOLLOW LOGICALLY from his argument in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  Geisler is a sloppy and careless thinker, so it would be no surprise to me if his argument for this key premise is a non sequitur:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then that thing cannot be a thing that exists independently.

THEREFORE:

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.

There are two logical/conceptual JUMPS that occur between (42) and (2).  First, (42) talks about “limited” things, while (2) talks about “finite” things.  Second, (42) talks about things that exist “independently”, while (2) talks about things that are “caused by something else”.
Actually, the inference from (42) to (2) might be correct.  It might be the case that (2) follows logically from (42), but that depends on the meanings of the key terms in these claims: “a thing that is limited”, “a thing that exists independently”, a “finite…thing”, and a “thing…caused by something else.”  If these terms are defined in particular ways, then the inference from (42) to (2) would be logical.
Geisler, being a sloppy and unclear thinker, does not bother to define the key terms in his Thomist Cosmological Argument, so it is difficult to evaluate the correctness of his inference from (42) to (2).  Geisler’s argument in WSA for premise (2) consists of two measly sentences (WSA, p.18) , so it is no wonder that his argument is unclear and that it appears on its face to be a non sequitur.
 
GEISLER’S ARGUMENT IN POR FOR PREMISE (2) 
Geisler provides a longer and more detailed defense of premise (2) in his earlier book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: POR).  So, I am going to shift my focus (for now) to his argument for premise (2) as presented in POR (on pages 194-197).
In POR, premise (2) of the Thomist Cosmological Argument is stated in slightly different words than in WSA.  Geisler uses the term “limited” in POR instead of “finite” in WSA:

2a. The present existence of every limited, changing being is caused by another.

He also uses the word “being” in POR rather than “thing” in WSA.  And in POR, Geisler specifies that it is the “present existence” of finite things that is “caused” by another.
Based on how Geisler switches freely back and forth between the terms “limited” and “finite”, those words appear to be equivalent in meaning, at least as far as Geisler is concerned.  Since I am now focused on the argument for (2) in POR, I will defer to his preference of the term “limited”,  for now.  Talking about the “present existence” of things being caused is a nice bit of clarification in POR, so I will now use those additional words in a revised formulation of premise (2).
I don’t care for the term “being” because this smacks of a technical philosophical term, but Geisler has FAILED to define this word, so it is unclear and misleading to use that term as opposed to the more common n0n-technical word “thing”.  I don’t object to the use of technical philosophical terminology, but if one wishes to use such terms, then one has an obligation to DEFINE the meaning of such a term.  Geisler rarely defines his key terms, so he needs to stick to common words and their ordinary meanings.
I take it that the phrase “caused by another” means “caused by another being”, and since I find the use of the term “being” unclear and misleading, I will interpret that final phrase as meaning: “caused by another thing“.  Here then is my clarified version of premise (2) that uses elements from both the WSA and the POR versions of this key premise:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Geisler re-iterates the argument for (2) at least four times in just a few pages, with only slight variations.  Here is one instance of the argument:

51. Every limited changing being is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

53. There is some actuality outside of every composed being to account for the fact that it actually exists.

There is also  an intermediate conclusion that Geisler, in his typical sloppy and careless manner, fails to spell out:

L. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing being to account for the fact that it actually exists.

Premise (52) is a reason for premise (53).  Premise (51) works together with premise (53) to support the unstated intermediate conclusion (L).
 
THE STRUCTURE OF THE ARGUMENT IN POR FOR PREMISE (2b) 
Because I have replaced the term “being” with the term “thing” in premise (2), following Geisler’s wording in WSA, we need to revise the wording of other premises that use the term “being” so that they also use the term “thing”:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.


 
To be continued…
 
 

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 10: Geisler’s Argument for Premise (2)

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  I analyze this argument in Part 2 of this series.
The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might have turned out to be a solid proof, so I evaluated this enhanced 2nd argument in Part 9 of this series.  Here is the conclusion of the enhanced 2nd argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.  Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
Since all three of Geisler’s attempts to support premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument, he has FAILED in his attempt to prove the existence of God.
 
GEISLER’S THOMIST COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (TCA)
The second cosmological argument in When Skeptics Ask is Geisler’s generalized version of a Thomist cosmological argument (WSA, p. 18 & 19):

1. Finite, changing things exist.

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.

3. There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes.

THEREFORE:

4. [There is]…a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.

THEREFORE:

5. There is a present, conserving cause of the world.

A. IF there is a present, conserving cause of the world, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

G.  God exists. 

Here is the logical structure of TCA:

Since Geisler has FAILED to show that premise (1) is true, it seems unlikely that he will be able to prove that premise (2) or (3) are true, since those premises are controversial and dubious, whereas premise (1) was obviously true.  But since premise (1) is obviously true, we should not reject TCA just because Geisler FAILED to prove that (1) is true.  Since premise (1) seems to be obviously true, we should accept it, and examine the rest of this argument to see if the other premises are true, and if the inferences in the argument are all logically valid.
 
GEISLER’S SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (2) OF TCA
Here is premise (2) of TCA:

2. Every finite changing thing must be caused by something else.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler attempts to support premise (2) in just two sentences:

If it is limited and it changes, then it cannot be something that exists independently.  If it existed independently, or necessarily, then it would have always existed without any kind of change. (WSA, p.18)

It seems foolish and pathetic to attempt to prove premise (2) in just two sentences, so it will be no surprise if this argument FAILS, like most of Geisler’s other apologetic arguments.
The second sentence provides a reason in support of the first sentence.  Also, I take it that the term “necessarily” is supposed to be equivalent to the term “independently” in this context, so we can simplify by dropping the redundant term “necessarily”:

41. If a thing existed independently, then it would have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then it cannot be a thing that exists independently.

This is a bit sloppy, as Geisler often is in presenting his arguments.  There is a shift from the past tense phrase “existed independently” in premise (41) to the present tense phrase “exists independently” in premise (42).  So, it is unclear that this is a logically valid inference.
We can fix this problem by consistently using the present tense phrase in both premises:

41a. If a thing exists independently, then it would have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then it cannot be a thing that exists independently.

This inference seems OK.  It might well be a logically valid inference. However, the logic is not completely clear.  These statements are in the form of conditional statements (IF P, THEN Q), but they are both actually universal generalizations (ALL Xs ARE Ys).  So, I will restate the premises as universal generalizations:

41b. ALL things that exist independently ARE things that have always existed without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

42b. NO things that are limited and that change ARE things that exist independently.

There are three different categories that are referenced in the above argument:

I: things that exist independently

A: things that have always existed without any kind of change

L: things that are limited and that change

So, if we abbreviate by using the above categorical designations, we can see the logical structure of Geisler’s argument:

41c. ALL I’s ARE A’s.

Therefore:

42c. NO L’s ARE I’s.

Since one of the categories referenced in the conclusion is not referenced in the premise, this argument is NOT formally valid.  The problem here is that there are logical relationships that Geisler is ASSUMING between these various categories.  But we need to make those logical relationships EXPLICIT in order to determine what other ASSUMPTIONS are being made here, and to determine whether this argument can be restated in a way that is clearly a logically VALID argument.
One assumption that Geisler appears to be making is this:

NO things that are limited and that change ARE things that have always existed without any kind of change.

OR:

H. NO L’s ARE A’s.

This seems clearly to be true, to be a necessary truth. A thing that changes cannot have always existed without any kind of change.
 
So, if we add this necessary truth to the original argument, we might have an argument that is clearly logically valid:

41c. ALL I’s ARE A’s.

H. NO L’s ARE A’s.

Therefore:

42c. NO L’s ARE I’s.

This categorical syllogism is formally valid, as can be seen by the following Venn Diagram:

The reddish brown shading represents the claim “ALL I’s ARE A’s”.  The shaded area means there is NOTHING in that sub-category, there is nothing in the part of the circle for I outside of the part of that circle that overlaps with the circle for A. The only I’s that exist (if there are any) are things that are in the area where I and A overlap, things that fall into both of those categories.
The tan shading represents the claim “NO L’s ARE A’s”.  The shaded area means there is NOTHING in that sub-category, there is nothing in the part of the L circle that overlaps with the A circle.  The only L’s that exist (if there are any) are things that are in the area of L that is outside of the part of that circle that overlaps with the circle for A, things that fall into the category of L but not in the category of A.
Note that the area of the circle for L that overlaps with the circle for I is completely shaded in.  That means that there is NOTHING in that overlap area.  In other words, there is NOTHING that falls into the category of L that also falls into the category of I.  That means that “NO L’s ARE I’s”, which is the conclusion of the above categorical syllogism.  Simply by diagraming the two premises, we have automatically diagramed the conclusion. That demonstrates that the conclusion of the syllogism follows logically and necessarily from the premises of the syllogism.
However, there are some gaps of logic here, so we need to fill in those gaps in order to be sure that (41a) does in fact logically imply (42):

41a. If a thing exists independently, then it exists without any kind of change.

THEREFORE:

J. IF a thing is such that it is NOT the case that it exists without any kind of change, THEN it is NOT the case that it exists independently. (from 41a by transposition)

K. IF a thing is limited and it changes, THEN that thing  is such that it is NOT the case that it exists without any kind of change.  (a tautology)

THEREFORE:

42. If a thing is limited and it changes, then that thing cannot be a thing that exists independently.

 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things

WHERE WE ARE
In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.
In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will go ahead and evaluate this enhanced 2nd argument in this post.
 
THE ENHANCED 2ND ARGUMENT FOR CHANGING THINGS
Here is the core of the enhanced 2nd argument in PoR:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Here is the argument in support of premise (A1):

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are supported by an explicit premise:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Based on the above analysis, we can show the structure of this argument:
PROBLEMS WITH PRONOUNS
Although I have made a sincere effort to clarify and enhance Geisler’s argument, to take his FAILED argument and try to turn it into a clear and logically valid argument, there are still some serious problems of unclarity,  because of the use of pronouns:  “I” and “myself”.  All by themselves, pronouns don’t have a specific meaning; they don’t specify a particular thing, a particular person, a particular group, or a particular collection of things.
Because pronouns, on their own, don’t have a specific meaning, each pronoun in an argument MUST be interpreted BEFORE one can evaluate the truth of a premise or claim that is stated using a pronoun.  So, no serious philosophical argument should contain any pronouns.  In order to formulate a clear and serious philosophical argument, one must eliminate all pronouns in the statement of the argument by substituting a proper name or a clear description of the thing, person, group, or collection to which the pronoun is referring.
Perhaps “I” refers to the author of the argument, Norman Geisler:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

D1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F1. It is NOT the case that the world and Norman Geisler’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

I just noticed that the argument supporting (C1) and (D1) is incomplete.  There are additional unstated premises that need to be made explicit:

G1. Norman Geisler seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Norman Geisler’s self.

H1. Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Norman Geisler’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

I believe that Geisler exists.  I believe that he has had various experiences over many years.  But I’m NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler is in fact Norman Geisler, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler has had various experiences over many years (because I cannot get inside of someone else’s mind).  So, although I am inclined to believe that (G1) is true, this claim is NOT self-evident, nor is it certain.  In any case,  premise (G1) is LESS CERTAIN than the ultimate conclusion of this argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

So, this argument FAILS.
There is a second problem that I see here with this sub-argument for (C1).  Suppose that one of Geisler’s early experiences of his “self” was accurate.  Perhaps he experienced in himself an antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.  Suppose this experience was accurate, and that he did in fact have a strong antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.   Suppose that at a later point in time, Geisler experiences what seems to be a change in himself, namely that he no longer has antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems, or at least has nowhere near the strong antipathy that he used to have.  Suppose further that this seeming experience of a change in his self is a delusion, and that he in fact has just as much antipathy towards solving word problems now as he ever had in the past.  In this case Geisler’s initial perception of himself was accurate and correct, but his later perception of a change in himself was false and incorrect.
============================

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_problem_(mathematics_education)
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In this case we can say that his experience of himself is NOT a “total illusion” because his initial perception of himself was accurate and correct.  However, his seeming experience of a CHANGE in himself was false and incorrect.  No such CHANGE took place.  But now, suppose that EVERY CHANGE that Geisler has experienced concerning himself was similarly false and incorrect.  In that case, his experiences of himself would NOT be a “total illusion” because his initial perceptions of himself would be accurate and correct, but EVERY CHANGE that he has seemed to experience to himself is false and incorrect, and in fact no change that he seems to have experienced actually took place.
What this shows is that the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is LOGICALLY INVALID, in spite of my efforts to enhance the argument, to make Geisler’s argument logically valid.  Even if “total illusion” is ruled out, there is still the possibility that NO CHANGE experienced by Geisler about himself was an actual event.
So, there are at least two problems with this sub-argument.  First, premise (G1) is neither self-evident nor certain, and is less certain than the ultimate conclusion it is supposed to be supporting.  Second, the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is logically invalid.  The same objections apply to the parallel sub-argument for premise (D1).  So, we now have four different significant problems with this argument.
Furthermore, premise (E1) is problematic as well:

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

Although I believe that Norman Geisler exists, I am NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, and I am even less certain that Norman Geisler’s “self” exists.  Furthermore, since I’m not sure what it means for Geisler’s “self” to exist, I am very uncertain that it is appropriate to categorize his “self” as  “a thing”.
Finally, this is an argument based on the thinking of Aquinas, and Aquinas had a very specific idea of what constitutes “a thing”, so it might well be the case that the phrase “a thing” here has a very particular meaning, which Geisler has failed to specify.   For these reasons, I am reluctant to agree with the first half of premise (E1), and I most definitely don’t KNOW (E1) to be true.
The phrase “the world” is not as vague and unclear as “self”, but it is not entirely clear what this means.  I also have the same concerns about the meaning of the phrase “a thing” in the second half of (E1) as with the first half of (E1).
So, without Geisler providing a good deal more in the way of clarifications or definitions, premise (E1) seems rather dubious.  These concerns also apply to premise (F1).
What if the pronouns “I” and “myself” in this argument do NOT refer to Norman Geisler?  Perhaps, they refer to whoever the reader happens to be, like ME:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

D2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E2. Bradley Bowen’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F2. It is NOT the case that the world and Bradley Bowen’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

This interpretation does help with the degree of certainty I have about a premise in a sub-argument for (C2):

G2. Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self.

H2. Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Bradley Bowen’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

I am more confident and certain about (G2) than I was about the analogous premise about Norman Geisler.  I am more certain that I exist, and that I have had experiences about myself.  But there is a problem with making the argument about me as opposed to about Geisler.
Geisler, so far as I am aware, does not know that I exist.  Even if he does have some small awareness about my existence, he surely is NOT certain that I exist.  So, this argument cannot be what Geisler had in mind, since he either doesn’t know that I exist, or has only a modest and uncertain belief that I exist.  Geisler is in no position to confidently assert premise (G2) to be true and certain.  So, this is NOT a plausible interpretation of Geisler’s argument.
Furthermore, although premise (G2) has the advantage of being more certain to ME than premise (G1), the argument still has all of the other serious problems that I have pointed out above.  Changing the focus from Norman Geisler to Bradley Bowen doesn’t help with any of the other objections that I have raised.
 
CONCLUSION
Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.
I have made a serious attempt to repair Geisler’s unclear and logically invalid argument, but although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 4: Skepticism about God

WHERE WE ARE
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

In Part 2 of this series I explained my reason for skepticism in general (i.e. CYNICISM), and I explained my reasons for skepticism about supernatural claims.
In this Part 3 of this series I explained my reasons for skepticism about religion.
In this post I will cover my reasons for skepticism about the existence of God, the first two being based directly on my skepticism about supernatural claims and skepticism about religion.
SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
A. Skepticism about supernatural powers and supernatural beings supports skepticism about the existence of God.
Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are ghosts and demons, invisible bodiless supernatural beings.  Over many centuries billions of people have mistakenly believed that there are people with amazing supernatural powers, what we now call psychics.   But there are no people who can actually move or bend physical objects with just their minds.  There are no people who can actually “see” future events.  There are no people who can actually “read” the thoughts of other people.  There are no people who can actually instantly heal physical injuries or organic diseases with just their minds.  There are no actual psychics.
Suppose someone claims that there is a person who has ALL of these supernatural psychic abilities.  Such a claim would be ridiculous on its face.  I remember as a young boy listening to Pastor Jim Jones of the “People’s Temple” on the radio in San Francisco, claiming that he had ALL of “the gifts of the spirit”, which include speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing,  miracles, and supernatural knowledge.  He, of course, turned out to be a mentally ill drug addict, who was followed by many naive, clueless, gullible, superstitious fools, many of whom followed him to Jonestown, a commune built in the jungle in Guyana, and then later ended their own lives by drinking poisoned cool-aid at the direction of Pastor Jim Jones.

Mass suicide at Jonestown (History.com article)

Now suppose that the “person” who allegedly has ALL of these amazing supernatural powers is not an ordinary person with a physical body, but is (allegedly) a ghost or spirit who is invisible and has no physical body.  Now we are getting into crazyville territory.  But belief in the existence of God is very similar to belief in the existence of a ghost who has many amazing psychic powers.
God, if God exists, is an invisible and immaterial supernatural being who has no physical body, like ghosts and demons.  God also has many supernatural powers.  God, if God exists, can “see” the future, just like a psychic.  God can make physical objects move (or bend) just by willing them to move (or bend), just like a psychic.  God can “read” minds, just like a psychic.  God can instantly heal people of injuries or diseases, just like a psychic.  So, belief in the existence of God is a lot like believing in the existence of a ghost who has many different psychic powers.
Although billions of people have for many centuries believed in supernatural beings (like ghosts or demons) and in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), there is no good reason to believe that ghosts actually exist, or that psychics actually exist.  In fact, we have good reason to disbelieve in supernatural beings (like ghosts and demons) and to disbelieve in supernatural powers (like those allegedly possessed by psychics), because such alleged phenomena have been carefully and scientifically investigated for about 150 years, but no solid empirical evidence has ever been discovered that shows any such supernatural beliefs to be true.
So, we have good reason to be skeptical about God, and good reason to doubt that God exists, unless and until powerful empirical evidence confirming the existence of God becomes available.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for that evidence!
B. Skepticism about religions supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 3 of this series  I presented a number of reasons for being skeptical about religions. Given those reasons for skepticism about religions, it might well be the case that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all FALSE.
That is, the worldviews promoted by these religions might well be FALSE, meaning that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute each of these worldviews are FALSE.  Since a worldview contains several beliefs and assumptions, it is not necessary that EVERY belief and assumption in a worldview be FALSE in order for the worldview as a whole to be FALSE.  So long as a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions of a worldview are FALSE, that would provide sufficient grounds for evaluating the worldview as being FALSE.
But if all three major Western religions are FALSE, then that means that a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute the worldviews associated with these religions are FALSE.  One of the beliefs that is part of the worldviews of all three of these religions is the belief that God exists.  But if a large portion of the beliefs and assumptions that constitute these worldviews are FALSE, then it might well be the case that belief in the existence of God was one of those FALSE worldview beliefs.
In any case, if the worldviews of all three major Western religions were FALSE, then these three religions would have no significant credibility.  We could not, in that case, reasonably view any of these religions as a reliable source of knowledge or information about theology, metaphysics, or ethics.   Thus, doubt about the existence of God would be justified, unless there were good reasons independent of these religions to believe in the existence of God.
Reasons for skepticism about religion don’t prove that all religions are FALSE, but they do make it somewhat likely that all three major Western theistic religions are FALSE, and if all three major Western theistic religions were in fact FALSE, then we would have good reason to doubt that God exists.
C. The silence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
In Part 2 of this series, I presented this argument for disbelief in the existence of God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

It is clear and certain that the “holy books” of the main three western theistic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) were NOT inspired by God; they do not constitute messages from God.
Jehovah, the god of the Old Testament is clearly a morally flawed person, so that means that Jehovah was NOT God.  But if Jehovah was NOT God, then Moses was a false prophet, and the Torah was NOT inspired by God.  If Jehovah was a false god and Moses was a false prophet, then the other holy books of Judaism (which constitute the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) were also NOT inspired by God, since they assume Jehovah to be God and Moses to be a true prophet.
Jesus believed and taught that Moses was a true prophet, and Jesus practiced and promoted worship and obedience to Jehovah.  Since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and since Jehovah is in fact a false god, it follows logically that Jesus was also NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God.  If Jesus was NOT a true prophet and NOT the divine Son of God, then the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament were also NOT inspired by God. Thus both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible were NOT inspired by God.
According to the Quran, both Moses and Jesus were true prophets of God, so since Moses was in fact a false prophet, and Jesus also was in fact a false prophet, we can logically conclude that the Quran was NOT inspired by God, and that Muhammad himself was a false prophet, just like Moses and Jesus.  Therefore: NONE of the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam were inspired by God.
Furthermore, other supposedly “holy books” teach or assume that Jesus was a true prophet, or that Moses was a true prophet, or that Muhammad was a true prophet, so those “holy books” are also clearly NOT inspired by God, because Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad were in fact false prophets.  For example, The Book of Mormon, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures both teach or assume that the Bible was inspired by God and that Jesus was a true prophet.  So, it is clear and certain that those two “holy books” are NOT inspired by God.
This means that either there have been NO prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided messages of truth and wisdom from God, or else that God attempted to communicate with mankind through a prophet and/or holy book in the past four thousand years, but God’s attempt was a failure, because that prophet and/or holy book are now unknown or known only to a small number of human beings.
But God, if God exists, is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good.  How could such a being fail so miserably at an attempt to communicate truth and wisdom to the human race?  The hypothesis that God made such an attempt but failed miserably is very improbable.  So, the most likely scenario is that it is NOT the case that there have been any prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that provide messages of truth and wisdom from God.
Premise (22) is very likely true, and premise (21) is believed by most Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and it seems very plausible to me too.  Therefore, the silence of God gives us a good reason to believe that there is no God.
D. The utter failure of Peter Kreeft’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from some of my posts on Kreeft’s case for God:]
Given that 100% of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case FAIL to provide any good reason to believe that God exists, it might seem unlikely that there will be any strong and solid arguments for God among the remaining ten arguments.  However, it seems to me that Kreeft was trying to put his best foot forward by presenting his strongest and best arguments up front, at the beginning of his case, and thus saved the weakest and worst arguments for the second half of his case.
Argument #3 and Argument #5 FAIL for the same reasons that Argument #1 and Argument #2 FAILED:  Kreeft does not bother to SUPPORT the most important premise in each of these arguments, namely the premise that links his stated conclusion to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists.”
The middle inference or sub-argument [in Argument #4] FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.
Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2020/04/26/peter-kreefts-case-for-god-2/
E. The utter failure of Norman Geisler’s case for God supports skepticism about the existence of God.
[Excerpts from one of my posts on Geisler’s case for God:]
PHASE 1: GEISLER’s FIVE WAYS
PROBLEM 1:  Geisler FAILS to provide a clear definition of the word “God”, thus making his whole argument unclear and confusing.
PROBLEM 2:  Geisler has only ONE argument for the existence of God, but he mistakenly believes he has FIVE different and independent arguments for the existence of God.
PROBLEM 3: Geisler makes a confused and mistaken distinction between proving the existence of God and proving the existence of a being with various divine attributes.
PROBLEM 4: The conclusions of Geisler’s five basic arguments are UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS, leading to multiple fallacies of EQUIVOCATION by Geisler.
PROBLEM 5:  Because Geisler consistently FAILS to show that there is EXACTLY ONE being of such-and-such kind, he cannot prove that  “the cause of the beginning of the universe” is the same being as “the cause of the current existence of the universe” or as “the designer of the universe” or as “the moral lawgiver”.  
PHASE 2: THE CREATOR’S PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES
PROBLEM 6:  Geisler simply ASSUMES without providing any reason or argument that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that designed the universe, and that the (alleged) being that caused the beginning of the universe is the same being as the (alleged) being that produced moral laws.
PHASE 3: THE EXISTENCE OF A NECESSARY BEING
PROBLEM 7:  Geisler illogically shifts from the claim that a perfect being must be a necessary being to the assumption that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist must be a necessary being.  This is an INVALID inference.
PHASE 4: THE IMPLICATIONS OF “A NECESSARY BEING”
PROBLEM 8: In his reasoning about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”, Geisler confuses different senses of the verb “to be” leading to INVALID inferences about the implications of the concept of a “necessary being”.
PHASE 5: ONLY ONE INFINITE BEING
PROBLEM 9: Geisler’s assumption that two unlimited beings would be indistinguishable from each other is FALSE and it also contradicts a basic Christian dogma.
PHASE 6: GOD EXISTS
PROBLEM 10: Geisler has adopted a Thomistic concept of God, but this Thomistic concept of God is INCOHERENT, making it a necessary truth that “It is NOT the case that God exists.”
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2020/04/26/geislers-case-for-the-existence-of-god/
F. The fact that arguments for God often provide reasons against the existence of God supports skepticism about the existence of God. 
There is a theme in Jeff Lowder’s case for Naturalism:  the thinking of religious believers is often distorted by confirmation bias.  They look for evidence that supports their belief in God, but ignore, or forget, or fail to notice, evidence that goes against their belief in God.
When believers offer some reason or evidence for the existence of God, it is often the case that if you look a little closer at that evidence, or take a step back and look at the general sort of evidence or phenomena that an argument for God relies upon, you find powerful evidence AGAINST the existence of God, evidence that was missed or ignored by religious believers.
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2020/03/03/arguments-for-god-that-are-arguments-against-god/
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 8: 2nd Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument for (21) FAILS.
Now I will attempt to analyze and evaluate Geisler’s second argument for claim (21). Here is the paragraph where Geisler presents this second argument (PoR, page 192):   Key claims in Geisler’s second argument:

31. The argument that all change is illusory is indefensible.

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

I believe that claim (31) is just a summary of Geisler’s view, and does not play a role in this second argument.  So, the basic logical structure of this argument goes like this:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33. If only some change is real…, then it follows that there is at least some real change in real things.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

It seems to me that the consequent of claim (33), i.e. “there is at least some real change in real things” is just an alternative way of stating claim (21), so I will revise the wording of (33) accordingly:

33a. IF only some change is real, THEN changing things exist.

It is immediately apparent that (33a) is FALSE.  The antecedent only requires that ONE change is real, but the consequent asserts that MORE THAN ONE change exists (“things” is plural).  So, if Geisler’s second argument is going to have any chance of success, we need to beef up the antecedent of claim (33a) a bit:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

Here is the revised 2nd argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

This argument is NOT formally VALID.  We need a claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) in order to have a formally VALID inference (namely a modus ponens).  Presumably, the claim that affirms the antecedent of (33b) is inferred from claim (32), so that claim (32) has a role in this argument:

32. Total illusion about ourselves and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

I can see how claim (32) could be used to infer claim (A), because (32) is talking about experiences of two different phenomenamyself and the world.  (Note: I don’t think Geisler intends for claim (32) to be about multiple selves, but just about ONE self, so I’m going to revise that premise to refer to “myself”.)   We can add an intermediate inference between claim (32) and claim (A):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A. Two or more changes are real.

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

THEREFORE:

21. Changing things exist.

OK.  We have now analyzed and clarified Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”  Here is a diagram showing the logical structure of the argument: 
I am going to start with what is right with this argument, and then proceed to examine the more dubious aspects of the argument.  I set up the final inference from (33b) and (A) to (21) as a modus ponens, so that inference is clearly deductively VALID.  Furthermore, although the inference from (B) to (A) is not a formally VALID deductive inference,  I take it that (B) clearly logically implies (A), so I accept that as a VALID deductive inference.  The assumption I make here is that oneself is something distinguishable from and other than “the world”.  Given that assumption (B) logically implies (A).
There remain three potential problems with this second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist.”:

  • Is premise (32) TRUE?
  • Can premise (B) be VALIDLY deduced from premise (32)?
  • Is premise (33b) TRUE?

I’m going to start with the third question, because premise (33b) is clearly NOT TRUE, but is clearly FALSE:

33b. IF two or more changes are real, THEN changing things exist.

 Two real changes can happen to the SAME THING.  A caterpillar can grow from being small and slender to being much larger and plump, and a caterpillar can then transform into a butterfly.  So, ONE thing can undergo TWO changes.  Therefore, the occurrence of two changes does NOT logically imply the existence of TWO different things that change.
Also, it is not clear and obvious that real changes only occur in “things”.  I can change my mind.  Does that mean that some “thing” has changed?  That depends on whether my mind counts as a “thing”.  Events can change.  My birthday party can change from being dull and boring to being fun and exciting.  But is a birthday party a “thing”?  Are events “things”?  Geisler provides no clarification or definition of the word “thing”, so it is difficult to answer these questions.
Furthermore, the word “thing” is a problematic word in the context of Thomist philosophy.  Aristotle and Aquinas had very specific ideas about what constitutes a “thing” or a “substance”, so whenever the word “thing” appears in relation to Thomist philosophy, one must determine whether this word is being used in some loose ordinary sense of the word, or whether it is being used in a more specific sense in keeping with the metaphysical theories of Thomas Aquinas.
Strictly speaking, premise (33b) is clearly FALSE, and it must be rejected as currently stated.  However, one might be able to revise the wording of (33b) to avoid the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes:

33c. IF two or more things change, THEN changing things exist.

Premise (33c) avoids the counterexample of ONE thing undergoing TWO changes, and it avoids the error of inferring the change of a THING from just any sort of change.  However, premise (33c) also appears to be FALSE.
There is no clear reference to time in (33c), and one could reasonably interpret it as having the following meaning:

33d. IF two or more things change at some time or other, THEN changing things exist right now.

But with this clarification in terms of time, we can clearly see that premise (33d) is FALSE, and thus that premise (33c) is also FALSE, if (33d) is a correct interpretation of the meaning of (33c).  My father’s father changed professions at some time or other, and my mother’s mother also changed her profession at some time or other, but both of those people are dead now; neither of them exist at this time, to the best of my knowledge.  So, TWO people have changed at different times in the past, but neither of those two people exist right now.  That is a clear counterexample to premise (33d), so this premise is clearly FALSE.
We could try to repair premise (33d) by making the references to time match up between the antecedent and the consequent.  I happen to know that for the purposes of the Thomist Cosmological Argument it is important to establish that “Changing things exist right now.”  So, we cannot change the consequent of (33d); instead, we must change the antecedent to match the consequent:

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

This is the premise that Geisler actually needs to establish for his second argument to work.  Now we need to modify the other premise in the final sub-argument so that the argument will remain logically VALID:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

OK.  Now premise (33e) appears to be TRUE, and with the modification of the other premise to premise (A1), this sub-argument is also deductively VALID.  So, the question now becomes, has Geisler provided a SOUND deductive argument for premise (A1)?  Here is the argument that Geisler had provided for this premise:

B. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about myself is real, and at least ONE change that I seem to have experienced about the world is real.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Because we have modified premise (A) into premise (A1), this inference is no longer a VALID deductive inference.  For example, (B) says nothing about whether the world still exists right now.  
So, premise (B) now also needs to be modified or supplemented in order for Geisler to have a deductively valid sub-argument for (A1).  I am going to split up the reference to the two key phenomena, and I am going to make explicit the assumption that myself and the world are different things:

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are each supported by premise (32a).  For example, (32a) is a premise supporting (D):

32a. Total illusion about myself and the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

I just now noticed an ambiguity in (32a), so that needs to be fixed:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Now we can lay out the logical structure of my modified/enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist right now.”:  
Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.
It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the above enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will continue to evaluate this enhanced argument in the next post.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 7: 1st Argument for Changing Things

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.
Geisler also presents arguments for the claim that “changing things exist”, and I will begin to analyze and evaluate those arguments in this post.  Here is the first paragraph Geisler wrote in support of this claim  (PoR, p.192):  
Here are the key claims made by Geisler in the above paragraph:

21. Changing things exist.

22. I am a changing thing.

23. I experience other changing things in the world.

24. The whole world of my experience is a space-time continuum of change.

Statement (21) is the conclusion of his argument.  Statements (22), (23), and (24) are premises in his argument for (21).   Because the conclusion uses the plural “things”, premise (22) is not sufficient by itself to prove (21).  We need at least one other example of a changing thing, in order to prove that (21) is true, so (22) and (23) must work together to support (21). The basic logical structure of Geisler’s argument is this:  
Because Geisler uses pronouns in all three premises, we cannot evaluate those claims as either true or false, unless and until we determine the meaning of those pronouns.  Since Geisler wrote those statements, one obvious interpretation of the pronoun “I” is that this is a reference to himself:

22a. Norman Geisler is a changing thing.

23a. Norman Geisler experiences other changing things in the world.

24a. The whole world of Norman Geisler’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

I believe that (22a) is true, and I also believe that (23a) is true.  However, I have never met Norman Geisler, and I have not done any historical research about his life.  So, I am not absolutely certain that Norman Geisler exists.
More importantly,  my belief that “Changing things exist” is MORE obvious and MORE certain than my belief that “Norman Geisler exists” or that “Norman Geisler is a changing thing”.  But in order to provide an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion that “Changing things exist”, ALL of the premises in this deductive argument must be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument.  So, given the above interpretations of Geisler’s premises, this argument clearly FAILS.
But perhaps Geisler intends for the readers of his argument to insert their own names into the argument wherever the personal pronoun “I” appears (or “my”).  In that case, I would interpret the argument this way:

22b. Bradley Bowen is a changing thing.

23b. Bradley Bowen experiences other changing things in the world.

24b. The whole world of Bradley Bowen’s experience is a space-time continuum of change.

First of all, we need to toss out premise (24b).  Geisler’s reference to the modern scientific notion of “a space-time continuum” sounds very sophisticated, and it is somewhat sophisticated, but that is clearly a problem with this premise.  There is no way that such a modern scientific idea can be viewed as a self-evident truth, or as a truth that is MORE obvious and MORE certain than the claim “Changing things exist”. (Aristotle firmly believed that “Changing things exist”, but I doubt very much that Aristotle viewed his experience as “a space-time continuum of change”.) So, that premise is worthless for the purposes of this argument.
Premises (22b) and (23b) are more plausibly viewed as self-evident or at least as having a high degree of obviousness and certainty.  But there is a problem, however, with this argument given this interpretation of Geisler’s premises.  Geisler doesn’t know me, as far as I am aware.  He doesn’t know that I exist.  Although I myself might be fairly confident of the truth of (22b) and (23b),  Geisler has no idea whether those claims are true or false.  So, since he has no knowledge or information relevant to determining whether those premises are true or false, it is obvious that he was NOT asserting the truth of (22b) or (23b) when he presented his argument.  This interpretation is clearly mistaken.
Perhaps Geisler intended that the pronoun “I” be viewed in more general terms, as a sort of placeholder for ANY person.  In that case, we could interpret his premises this way:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

23c. Every person experiences other changing things in the world.

Whoops!  This immediately gets into dangerous territory for Geisler, because the following argument would then be very tempting to make and accept:

22c. Every person is a changing thing.

25. God is a person (if God exists).

THEREFORE:

26. God is a changing thing (if God exists).

I myself, accept this as a SOUND deductive argument for claim (26).  But Geisler, as a fan of Thomas Aquinas, would firmly reject claim (26).  Thomists also tend to reject claim (25), but Geisler is not a dogmatic Thomist, so he might well accept (25), but then reject (22c) in order to avoid the conclusion that “God is a changing thing (if God exists).”
Because Thomists strongly affirm that God is unchanging and unchangable (in fact this idea is at the heart of the TCA), I think that Geisler would be very reluctant to agree with premise (22c).  But in that case, this third interpretation of the meaning of Geisler’s premises also seems to be a dubious and mistaken interpretation.
I’m now in a bit of a bind.  On the one hand, if we don’t cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” in Geisler’s key premises, then we cannot determine whether those premises are true or false.  On the other hand, when I try to cash out the meaning of the pronoun “I” significant problems arise, so that either the argument FAILS or it appears to be a mistaken interpretation.  I am not able, so far, to come up with an interpretation that is both a plausible interpretation of what Geisler meant AND an acceptable deductive proof of the conclusion.
Although I cannot reach a definitive evaluation, it appears to me that Geisler’s 1st argument for the conclusion that “Changing things exist” FAILS.  I do not see any plausible interpretation of the premises of this argument on which the argument would constitute an acceptable deductive proof.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 6: More on Something Exists

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).
In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple and obviously true claim that “Something exists”.  Geisler provides further arguments in PoR for the claim that there are finite, changing things.  But I will get into those further arguments in later posts of this series.
There were eight explicit statements in Geisler’s longer argument, but in attempting to re-construct the logic of his argument it became apparent that the argument contained several logical gaps which needed to be filled by making explicit various unstated assumptions in the argument.  My previous diagram of the resulting re-construction of Geisler’s argument contains seven clarified versions of Geisler’s original statements plus five additional assumptions, required to make the argument logically valid.  Furthermore, when I evaluated a number of the initial sub-arguments in the overall argument, I discovered further logical gaps, and added three more assumptions to my re-construction of this argument.
Here is the logical structure of Geisler’s longer and more complex argument in support of the claim that “Something exists”, including the three additional assumptions (the numbered circles represent explicit statements, and the lettered circles represent unstated assumptions that I made explicit to clarify the argument): 
In my previous evaluation of this longer and more complex argument, I examined each inference and sub-argument, beginning with the inference from (15a) to (H), through the sub-argument with the inference from premises (N) and (14a) to premise (13a).  In this post I will finish evaluating the final premises and inferences of this argument.
My evaluation of the argument so far is that it is clearly UNSUCCESSFUL even though each premise (so far) appears to be TRUE, and each inference (so far) appears to be VALID.  The problem is that premise (J) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”, which makes premise (K) Less obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion, and the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is also not entirely obvious and certain, so by the time we get to premise (14a), that premise is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  In the case of a deductive proof for a conclusion, the premises of the argument must all be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion in order for the argument to have any significance or value.  So, this longer more complex argument by Geisler FAILS.
I will continue, nevertheless, to evaluate the rest of this longer argument to determine if there are any more problems or weaknesses in the argument.   The next sub-argument to evaluate is this one:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

L. When a person denies the existence of everything, that person is denying his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

I accept premise (13a) as TRUE, because it appears to be a VALID deductive inference from (N) and (14a) which I accept as TRUE, although (14a) is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  I accept premise (L) as being obviously TRUE.  So, the remaining question is whether the inference is deductively VALID.  I believe the inference is VALID, but it is not formally VALID.  That is mainly because of the way I formulated the unstated assumption (L).  I could have formulated a supplementary premise in a way that would have made this inference formally VALID:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

P. IF any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating, THEN all attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

The addition of premise (P) turns this sub-argument into a formally VALID deductive inference (called a modus ponens).  The problem is that (P) is not as clearly and obviously true as (L).  I suppose that we can take (L) to be a reason supporting (P), making the truth of (P) more clear and obvious than it would otherwise be, and then (P) makes the sub-argument formally deductively VALID.  I believe that (P) is TRUE, but there is a complexity to (P) that requires some thinking to evaluate it’s truth, and that makes it LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  So, this appears to be a THIRD step-down in the degree of obviousness and certainty that this argument provides relative to the obviousness and certainty of the conclusion (prior to the giving of the argument).
The next inference in the argument is from (17a) to (11a):

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

There are some missing steps of logic here.  The denial of “the existence of everything”, implies the claim that “nothing exists”, so the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” implies the FALSEHOOD of the claim that “nothing exists”, and if the claim that “nothing exists” is FALSE, then that implies that the claim “something exists” is TRUE.  So we can get from the FALSEHOOD of the denial of “the existence of everything” to the conclusion that “something exists” is TRUE.
However, this inference from (17a) to (11a) is not quite that simple.  It talks about “attempts” by a person “to deny the existence of everything”, not about the denial itself.  It talks about such “attempts” being “self-defeating” as opposed to being FALSE.  Furthermore, the conclusion is not that “something exists”, but that it is “undeniable” that something exists.
In any case, this inference is NOT a formally VALID inference.  There may be a chain of deductive inferences that could link (17a) to (11a), but it is not at all clear what the steps of reasoning would be here.  The main problem is going from the concept of a denial being “self-defeating” to the concept of a claim being “undeniable”.  Geisler has once again introduced a new term in (11a), a term that does NOT appear in the previous premises of the argument.  That messes up the logic of the argument.
Once again, we need a premise that clarifies or defines the new term that Geisler has thrown into the argument: “undeniable”.  I think Geisler was assuming that if the denial of a claim X is self-defeating, then claim X is “undeniable”:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

THEREFORE:

 11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

The final inference from (T) to (11a) is still not formally VALID, but it seems so clearly to be logically implied by (T), that I will accept this inference as being a VALID deductive inference.  So, this is how I would repair the inference from (17a) to (11a), except that we still need to show that (17a) logically implies the additional premise (S) above.
I take it that (Q) is a partial stipulative definition of “undeniable”, and is thus TRUE, and I take it that (Q) logically implies (R), so (R) is also clearly and obviously TRUE.  So, the only thing that remains questionable in this revised sub-argument is whether (17a) logically implies premise (S):

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

U. To deny the existence of everything is the same as to deny the claim “Something exists”.

THEREFORE:

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

Premise (U) is obviously and certainly TRUE, and the inference from (17a) and (U) to (S) is VALID, so this sub-argument is SOUND and acceptable.
The final inference in Geisler’s argument is this one:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

As it stands, this inference is NOT formally VALID.  In order to determine whether the inference from (11a) to (18a) is deductively VALID, we need to understand the logical implications of the term “undeniable” in premise (11a).  If a claim is “undeniable”, does that necessarily mean that the claim is TRUE?  We need a clarification or definition of “undeniable” that allows us to bridge the logical gap between premise (11a) and the conclusion (18a):

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

My first inclination is to say that we simply don’t know whether premise (V) is true or false, because we simply don’t know what it MEANS for a claim to be “undeniable”.  But in evaluating an earlier part of this argument, we had to supply a premise that partially defined this term, in order to make one of the inferences in this argument logically valid.  So, here is the premise that we added in order to repair a logical gap in Geisler’s reasoning:

Q. IF the denial of claim X is self-defeating, THEN claim X is undeniable.

But because this was only a partial definition, and because it only stated a sufficient condition for a claim being “undeniable”, this will be of no help for our evaluation of premise (V).
We need to know the logical implications of a claim being “undeniable”, which means we need to know the NECESSARY CONDITIONS for a claim being “undeniable”, not the sufficient conditions.  Specifically, we need to determine whether a claim must be TRUE in order for it to be “undeniable”.  But Geisler gave us no clarification or definition of the term “undeniable”, and the argument up to this point only assumes (Q) which provides us with just a sufficient condition.
Recall that we get to the conclusion that “Something exists” is “undeniable” on the basis of the previous claim that the denial of the claim “Something exists” is “self-defeating”:

R. IF the denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating, THEN the claim “Something exists” is undeniable

S. The denial of the claim “Something exists” is self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

T. The claim “Something exists” is undeniable.

So, perhaps if we understand what it MEANS for the denial of a claim to be “self-defeating” we could determine whether all such claims must be TRUE.
It is now becoming clear to me that there is an important distinction that we need to keep in mind between “the negation of claim X” and “the denial of claim X by person P”.  On the one hand, the denial of the claim “Something exists” by a person P is “self-defeating” because person P is something that exists.  But this contrasts with the negation of the claim that “Something exists”, which is “It is NOT the case that something exists”, which means the same as “Nothing exists”.
The claim that “Nothing exists,” as Geisler himself points out, is a logical possibility.  It is logically possible for it to be the case that nothing exists.  So, there is no intrinsic logical self-contradiction involved in the statement “Nothing exists”.  The self-defeating aspect of the claim “Nothing exists” occurs only when a PERSON affirms this claim.
In other words, the “undeniable” character of the claim “Something exists” has to do with the existence of a PERSON who either affirms or denies that “Something exists”.  It has nothing to do with the intrinsic logic of the statement “Something exists”.
Therefore, even if we grant the assumption that the claim “Something exists” is “undeniable”, it remains logically possible for the statement “Something exists” to be FALSE.  Therefore, the additional premise required to make the final inference of Geisler’s argument logically VALID is a FALSE premise:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

V. IF claim X is undeniable, THEN claim X is true.

THEREFORE:

18a. Something exists.

It is logically possible for the antecedent of (V) to be TRUE, and yet for the consequent to be FALSE.  Premise (V) is thus FALSE, so the final sub-argument in Geisler’s long and complex argument for the conclusion that “Something exists” is an UNSOUND argument!  Therefore, Geisler’s argument for the conclusion “Something exists” clearly and definitely FAILS.
CONCLUSION
This argument is very much like a “Shaggy Dog” joke, where the punchline is really stupid, or where the person telling the joke forgets the punchline after they are already five minutes into telling the joke story-line.
Here is my final diagram of the logical structure of Geisler’s argument for the simple and obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”: 
This argument consists of twenty-two statements, seven of which were explicitly asserted by Geisler (the statements identified with numbers), and fifteen of which were unstated assumptions (the statements identified with letters), plus thirteen inferences (indicated by red arrows).  It should come as no surprise that, given the length and complexity of this argument, some of the premises and inferences in this argument are LESS obvious and/or LESS certain than the obviously true conclusion that “Something exists”.
The final sub-argument involves an unstated assumption that is clearly FALSE, so this final sub-argument is UNSOUND, which means the whole argument FAILS.  But there were also earlier problems with the argument that also make it so this argument FAILS, even if all of the premises of the argument were accepted as TRUE and all of the inferences were accepted as VALID.
Some of the premises and inferences were LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument “Something exists”, and with a deductive proof, ALL of the premises and inferences in the argument need to be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument (or at least AS obvious and AS certain as the conclusion).  So, even without the FALSE premise in the final sub-argument, this argument still would have FAILED to provide a legitimate proof of the conclusion that “Something exists.”
Specifically, the sub-argument that infers (14a) from premises (K) and (M) has two problems that make it so that premise (14a) is definitely LESS obvious and LESS certain than the claim that “Something exists”.
The truth of (K) is based in part on the previous premise (J) which is LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”, making (K) similarly LESS obvious and LESS certain than “Something exists”.  Furthermore the VALIDITY of the inference from (K) and (M) to (14a) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the truth of the claim “Something exists”.  So, the sub-argument supporting (14a) clearly FAILS to make (14a) anything other than LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  Therefore, the problems with this sub-argument for (14a) are also enough all by themselves to make Geisler’s overall argument here FAIL.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 5: Something Exists

Before I start an analysis and evaluation of Thomas Aquinas’s Unmoved Mover argument, I want to finish evaluating Norman Geisler’s Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA) in When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA).  In Part 4 of this series,  I showed that the very brief argument Geisler gives in support of the first premise of TCA is a stinking philosophical TURD.
But Geisler gives a more detailed and in-depth defense of the first premise of TCA in his older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  So, before we can write off premise (1) of TCA, we should consider what he has to say in support of that premise in Chapter 9 of PoR.

Here is Geisler’s argument in PoR (p.191) for the claim that “something exists”, which is part of what premise (1) asserts: 

Here are the key claims in this argument in Geisler’s own words:

11. It is actually undeniable that something exists.

12. I exist.

13. Any attempt to deny one’s own existence is self-defeating.

14. One always (implicitly) affirms his own existence in the very attempt to deny it.

15. One must exist in order to make the denial.

16. If he exists, the denial is not true.

17. All attempts to deny the existence of everything self-destruct.

18. It is necessary to affirm that something exists.

The above claims could use some clarification:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

12a. Norman Geisler exists.

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

18a.  Something exists.

Geisler is not at all clear about the logical structure of this argument, but I will attempt to re-construct his reasoning.  I think the basic structure of the argument goes like this:

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

THEREFORE:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

J.  IF the denial by a person of his/her own existence is not true, THEN the affirmation of  that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

L. When a person denies the existence of everything, that person is denying his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

17a. All attempts by a person to deny the existence of everything are self-defeating.

THEREFORE:

11a. It is undeniable that something exists.

THEREFORE:

18a.  Something exists.

NOTE: I don’t see what logical role premise (12a) has in this argument.  It might just be pointing to a specific example that one could use to walk through the logic of the argument, which involves universal generalizations (e.g. “any attempt”, “one always”, “all attempts”).  Geisler exists.  But what if he denies his own existence?  In that case, he must exist in order to be able to deny his existence, according to premise (15a), and so on.  I believe that we can toss premise (12a) aside without damaging this argument.
Here is an argument diagram showing the logical structure of Geisler’s argument for the conclusion that “Something exists”:
 
This seems like a very complicated argument for the very simple claim that “Something exists”.  I wonder if the basic premises of this argument are any more obvious or certain than the claim that “Something exists”.  If not, then this argument has no value or significance.  The premises of an argument need to be more obvious and more certain than the conclusion, at least in the case of deductive arguments (with inductive arguments you can arrive at a conclusion that has a high degree of probability even if some of the premises have only a modest degree of probability).
EVALUATION OF GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR “SOMETHING EXISTS”
Geisler’s argument starts with this initial inference:

15a. A person must exist in order that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

Premise (15a) is clearly and obviously TRUE, and the inference seems to be VALID. I’m not sure that (15a) is any more obvious or certain than (H), but since both seem obvious and certain, I won’t quibble about this infrence.  I do have one caveat here, though.  One can deny one’s own existence at time t1, and if so, then one must exist at time t1, but then one could cease to exist and thus no longer exist at time t2.  So, there is an implicit reference to time in both (15a) and (H).
Here is the next inference in Geisler’s argument:

H. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN that person exists.

16a. IF a person exists, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

THEREFORE:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

This inference from (H) and (16a) is a hypothetical syllogism and is clearly deductively VALID.  Premise (H) is obviously and certainly TRUE.  So, the main question is whether premise (16a) is also TRUE.  This premise is also obviously and certainly TRUE, so this deductive argument is SOUND.  Premise (I) also appears to be obviously and certainly true, even apart from the argument, so I’m not sure if this argument does any real work.  But since both premises appear to be obviously and certainly TRUE, I won’t quibble about this deductive argument.  (I don’t know if this matters, but all three claims here have an implicit reference to time, because a person can exist and one point in time, but then cease to exist, and thus not exist at a later point in time.)
Here is the next inference in Geisler’s argument for “Something exists”:

I. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the denial by that person of his/her own existence is not true.

J.  IF the denial by a person of his/her own existence is not true, THEN the affirmation of  that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

Premise (I) is clearly and certainly TRUE, and this is another hypothetical syllogism, so the inference from (I) and (J) to (K) is a deductively VALID inference.  The main question here is thus whether premise (J) is TRUE.  Premise (J) seems to be true, but I have a concern about the shift from “the denial…is not true” to “the affirmation…is true”.  In arguments about the existence of God, such a conditional claim would NOT be acceptable:

X. IF the denial of the existence of God is not true, THEN the affirmation of the existence of God is true.

In the case of the existence of God, there is a third possibility:

Y. The sentence “God exists” is neither true nor false.

One of the biggest objections to theism in the twentieth century was that the sentence “God exists” does NOT assert a factual claim, a claim that could be true or false.  If we understand the denial of the existence of God to mean agreement with the sentence “It is not the case that God exists”, then that denial could also be said to be neither true nor false.
So, a person who was skeptical about theism on the basis of this sort of objection would say that “the denial of the existence of God is not true” and would also say that “the affirmation of the existence of God is not true“.  Such a skeptic would reject the conditional statement (X) above.  Furthermore, so long as statement (Y) is a logical possibility, then we must all reject the conditional statement (X) above, because that statement assumes that there are only two possibilities: either “God exists” is TRUE or “God exists” is FALSE.
It is not immediately obvious whether this objection concerning the statement “God exists” applies to this particular case, however.  Maybe now we can make use of Geisler’s claim “I exist”, or stated more clearly:

2a. Norman Geisler exists.

Are there only two possibilities with this existence claim?  Let’s consider the parallel with the above conditional statement:

X1. IF the denial of the existence of Norman Geisler is not true, THEN the affirmation of the existence of Norman Geisler is true.

Could a skeptic assert an objection to (X1) that is analogous to the above objection (Y)?

Y1. The sentence “Norman Geisler exists” is neither true nor false.

Of course, anyone could utter the sentence (Y1), but the question is whether this is a meaningful thing to say.  Is it possible that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” could fail to assert a factual claim, i.e. a claim that was either true or false? It is hard to imagine how this existence claim could fail to assert a factual claim.
I suppose that it is possible that this sentence could be partially true and partially false.  For example, if we think of Norman Geisler as being the co-author of When Skeptics Ask and being the author of Philosophy of Religion, it could turn out that he was the author of Philosophy of Religion but contributed nothing to the book When Skeptics Ask (perhaps he bribed the “co-author” to do all the work but to give him part of the credit).  In that way, the Norman Geisler who we thought existed only partially exists.
On this scenario, there is a a man who was the author of Philosophy of Religion, but there is no man who is both the author of Philosophy of Religion and the co-author of When Skeptics Ask.  But in this sort of case, we would normally conclude that “Norman Geisler exists” but that we had a partially mistaken understanding of what Norman Geisler has done, and thus a partially mistaken understanding of who Norman Geisler is.  There would still presumably be a birth certificate somewhere that recorded the birth of Norman Geisler (or if he changed his name, the birth of the person who later changed his name to: Norman Geisler).
But perhaps I am thinking too narrowly here, too much in keeping with our ordinary common-sense view of the world.  What if I am a brain in a vat and my sensory experiences are being generated by a powerful computer?  In that case, it seems very likely that there is no such person as “Norman Geisler”.  Norman Geisler is merely one of millions of imaginary, unreal persons, animals, plants, and objects that a computer creates in my mind.  I might firmly believe that “Norman Geisler exists” but that belief is based on a deception or delusion, and it is a FALSE belief.  I might fail to figure out that the statement “Norman Geisler exists” is FALSE, but it would, nevertheless, in fact be false, and thus would be a factual claim, a claim that could be true or false.
In the movie The Matrix millions of people were brains in vats (so to speak), and a super-powerful computer allowed these millions of people to interact in a virtual world created by the computer.  So, in a reality like that of The Matrix, the statement “Norman Geisler exists” could be true, even though all of my interactions with Geisler were in a virtual world created by a computer.  Nevertheless, there would be an actual human person, on this scenario, whose mind I would be interacting with, even though the actual body of Norman Geisler might look completely different than the Norman Geisler with whom I have interacted.  In any case, I would still be inclined to say that “Norman Geisler exists” even if all of my interactions with him turned out to be in an imaginary virtual world.
Here is another idea.  Norman Geisler is a dualist.  He believes that every human beings is composed of a body combined with an immaterial soul.  Thus, he believes that he himself is composed of a body combined with an immaterial soul.  So, when he asserts “I exist” (and when I re-state that claim as “Norman Geisler exists”), perhaps what he MEANS is this:

2b. There exists a person named Norman Geisler who is composed of a body and an immaterial soul. 

If that is what Geisler MEANS, then one could argue that the claim “Norman Geisler exists” has a problem that is very similar to the claim “God exists”, namely it makes the sort of metaphysical assertion that fails to make a factual claim, and that is neither true nor false.
The sentence “This body contains the immaterial soul of Norman Geisler” might not make a factual claim.  This sentence might be neither true nor false.  Nevertheless, I think that if someone could persuade Geisler that the sentence “This body contains the immaterial soul of Norman Geisler” (uttered while pointing at Norman Geisler) does NOT make a factual claim, and is neither true nor false, Geisler would still maintain his own existence.  He would probably say “I still believe that I exist, it is just that I had a mistaken notion about the nature of myself.”  So, I don’t think that (2b) is a correct interpretation of (2a), even though Geisler is a dualist, even though he currently believes that he is composed of a body plus an immaterial soul.
I’m having a difficult time coming up with a way of making sense of how it could possibly be the case that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” could fail to assert a factual claim that is either true or false.  Perhaps this is a failure of my imagination, but I’m going to admit defeat here, and conclude that the sentence “Norman Geisler exists” (unlike the sentence “God exists”) clearly makes a factual claim and must be either true or false.  So, although I was previously hesitant to simply accept premise (J) of Geisler’s argument,  I’m now willing to believe that premise (J) is TRUE, and thus that the deductive argument from premises (I) and (J) to (K) is a SOUND argument.
However, because it required a fair amount of thinking to arrive at agreement with (J), and because I am not entirely certain that (J) is TRUE, I am inclined to raise the objection here that the truth of (J) is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”.  So, although Geisler has, so far, provided SOUND deductive arguments in a chain of reasoning leading towards the conclusion that “Something exists”,  I don’t think this argument is successful, because it makes use of at least one premise that is LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.
The next inference in Geisler’s argument goes like this:

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

I’m willing to accept premise (K) as TRUE, because it was validly deduced from two premises that I believe to be TRUE, although I don’t think (K) is as obvious or as certain as the ultimate conclusion of this argument (“Something exists.”).
Does premise (K) logically imply (14a)?  It seems to provide support for (14a), but this is NOT a formally valid deductive inference.  For one thing, there is a new term introduced by (14a): “implicitly affirms”.  There is also a shift from talking about a person who “denies his/her own existence” to talking about “any attempt” by a person “to deny his/her own existence”.
Because of the new terms and concepts introduced in (14a) it is NOT obvious or self-evident that (K) logically implies (14a).  Perhaps if we think carefully about this inference we will arrive at the conclusion that (K) does in fact logically imply (14a), but this again raises the concern that a part of Geisler’s argument is LESS obvious or LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.  If we have to engage in a significant bit of thinking to determine whether (K) logically implies (14a), then this inference might well be a second weakness in the argument, making the truth of (14a) LESS obvious or LESS certain than the truth of (K), which already is LESS obvious or LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument.
In short, every time we encounter a premise or inference that is less than clearly obvious or clearly certain, we depart further from the requirement (for deductive arguments) that the components of the argument be MORE obvious and MORE certain than the conclusion of the argument.  So, if the inference from (K) to (14a) is something less than clearly obvious and clearly certain, then the failure of this argument will be doubly confirmed.
I’m going to set aside my reservations about the introduction of the phrase “any attempt” in premise (14a).  That is to say,  I will grant the assumption that if a person’s denial of his/her own existence necessarily involves that person implicitly affirming his/her own existence, then it would ALSO be the case that “any attempt” by a person to deny his/her own existence necessarily involves that person implicitly affirming his/her own existence.  I will assume here that “any attempt” at such a denial would be equivalent to in fact making such a denial.
That leaves just one potential problem with the inference to premise (14a), the introduction of the previously unused phrase “implicitly affirms”.  It is not immediately clear or obvious what it means to “implicitly affirm” a claim or statement.  So, as it stands, the inference from (K) to (14a) is formally INVALID.  We need a premise that defines or specifies sufficient conditions for when a denial of a claim involves implicitly affirming that claim:

M. IF a person’s denial of claim R logically implies that the affirmation of claim R is true, THEN that person implicitly affirms claim R in any attempt by that person to deny claim R.

K. IF a person denies his/her own existence, THEN the affirmation of that person’s existence is true.

THEREFORE:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

If it takes you a minute to try to wrap your mind around the complex claim (M), that should be an indication of the less-than-perfectly obvious and certain nature of this part of Geisler’s argument.  I’m still unclear and unsure about what the phrase “implicitly affirms” MEANS.
I can accept premise (M) as being a part of some yet-to-be fully explicated stipulative definition of the meaning of “implicitly affirms”.  But so long as the imagined stipulative definition remains incomplete and unstated, we can understand this phrase ONLY in terms of the sufficient condition stated in (M).  We must be vigilant against any inferences based on any implications of the phrase “implicitly affirms” that go beyond the partial definition that (M) provides.
I conclude that this revised sub-argument is SOUND, but given the complexity of (M), I think this part of Geisler’s argument further reduces the degree of obviousness and certainty of the conclusion.  So we now have identified two different parts of Geisler’s argument that are LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion of the argument. Premise (J) is somewhat problematic, which makes the truth of premise (K) LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion that “Something exists”, and the inference from (M) and (K) to (14a) is also somewhat problematic. Thus, the truth of premise (14a) is clearly LESS obvious and LESS certain than the conclusion “Something exists”.
Let’s continue and see if there are any other problems with Geisler’s argument for “Something exists”:

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

Here we have yet another inference that is clearly NOT formally VALID.  Premise (13a) introduces a term that has not been used previously in the argument:  “self-defeating”.  Furthermore, just as Geisler failed to clarify or define the phrase “implicitly affirms”, he also failed to clarify or define the phrase “self-defeating”.  Given this context, I can probably construct a stipulative definition of “self-defeating” that will allow us to repair this part of Geisler’s argument, and turn it into a formally VALID inference:

 N. IF a person implicitly affirms claim S in any attempt by that person to deny claim S, THEN any attempt by that person to deny claim S is self-defeating.

14a. A person implicitly affirms his/her own existence in any attempt by that person to deny his/her own existence.

THEREFORE:

13a. Any attempt by a person to deny his/her own existence is self-defeating.

I’m willing to accept premise (N) as a stipulative definition of part of the meaning of “self-defeating”, as applied to denials of claims.  And given that premise, this argument appears to be VALID and SOUND.
Hang in there! We are getting close to the end of Geisler’s very complex argument for the very simple claim that “Something exists”.
TO BE CONTINUED… 
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* NOTE ABOUT PREMISE (15a)
Shortly after publishing this post, I realized that there was in fact a problem with premise (15a).  I think the problem is related to the fact that there are lots of implicit (unstated) references to time in this argument.  If so, the problem with (15a) is probably not a serious one, but I want to point it out anyway, just in case something later in the argument hinges on a reference to time.
Does Aristotle deny that an actual infinity can exist?  Many would say: “Yes, Aristotle denies that an actual infinity can exist.”  But now consider premise (15a):

15a. A person must exist in order for that person to deny his/her own existence.

This initial premise of Geisler’s argument in support of the claim “Something exists” appears to be based on a more general assumption:

O. A person must exist in order for that person to deny ANY CLAIM whatsoever.

But given (O) and our previous claim about Aristotle, we can formulate a VALID deductive argument with a FALSE conclusion:

1. Aristotle denies that an actual infinity can exist.

O. A person must exist in order for that person to deny ANY CLAIM whatsoever.

THEREFORE:

2. Aristotle exists.

It’s true, to the best of my knowledge, that Aristotle existed at one time in the past, more than 2,000 years ago.  But Aristotle no longer exists.  He is no more.  He died a long long time ago.  So, the conclusion of this apparently VALID deductive argument is FALSE.  Thus, to the extent that one agrees with premise (1), and many people would agree with that premise, that casts doubt on the truth of premise (O).
The way to fix this argument, it seems to me, is to introduce clear references to time.  The verb “denies” is present tense, but what we MEAN by premise (1) is that Aristotle made this denial a long time ago, and wrote it down in a book that gives us access to his beliefs and views today.  When premise (O) asserts that a person must exist in order to deny a claim, it means that the person must exist WHILE that person denies the claim, but then after denying the claim could have a massive heart attack, die, and cease to exist, or after denying the claim the person could be annihilated by God (if there is a God) and thus cease to exist.