bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 20: More on Argument #4

THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
In Part 19,  I argued that the initial inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 (the Argument from Degrees of Perfection) of Peter Kreeft’s case for God is very unclear, and that based on my best guess at what the premises of that sub-argument mean, one premise begs the question at issue by assuming that God exists, and another premise is too vague to be useful in a proof of the existence of God.  So, Argument #4 is yet another FAILED argument in Kreeft’s case for God.
 
THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
But the very unclear and very dubious initial inference in Argument #4 is not the only problem with that argument.  In Part 17, I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #4, and I pointed out that there was a completely UNSTATED sub-argument that is required to logically link the initial inference to the final inference in Argument #4, and this middle inference is as follows:

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

 
THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IS UNCLEAR
There are, once again, problems of UNCLARITY in this sub-argument.  What is a “perfection”?  What are “perfections that pertain to being”?  What is an “absolutely perfect being”?  Kreeft does not define or clearly explain the meaning of any of these key terms in his argument.  He does briefly discuss “degrees of perfection” and provides some vague hints as to what he means by a “perfection” and by “perfections that pertain to being”, but he does not say enough to be able to infer what he means with any significant degree of confidence.  So, the main problem with this middle inference is the same as with the initial inference: it is VERY UNCLEAR.
 
PREMISE (C) IS DUBIOUS
However, I’m happy to make a best guess at what Kreeft’s premises mean, and evaluate this sub-argument based on my interpretation of the premises.  Premise (C) is dubious because it is based on the very UNCLEAR and apparently QUESTION BEGGING first inference.  So, (C) might well be false, which would make this middle sub-argument UNSOUND.
 
IS PREMISE (F) TRUE?
Let’s take a closer look at premise (F):

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

Given that the initial inference talks about perfection being “caused in” finite beings, the phrase “a source…of all the perfections” probably refers to a CAUSE “of all the perfections”.  Earlier in his presentation of Argument #4, Kreeft used an analogy with fire as a source of the heat in some objects:
…the degree of heat they possess is caused by a source outside of them. (HCA, p.54)
Fire, which is very hot, causes objects near it to become somewhat hot, or at least warm.  The idea that Kreeft hints at here is a general Principle Of Perfection:
(POP)  IF a being X causes perfection P in being Y, then being X has a greater degree of perfection P than Y.
This general Principle Of Perfection appears to be an assumption that underlies premise (F).  If this principle is false, then we have no good reason to believe premise (F).  But (POP) is clearly FALSE, so we have no good reason to believe (F) to be true.  Premise (F) is based on a FALSE assumption, so premise (F) is dubious, just like premise (C).
The main reason why (POP) is false is that a thing that lacks a property can, nevertheless, cause that property to occur in something else.  I can cause someone else to have a black eye and a bloody nose, even if I do not have a black eye or bloody nose myself.  I can cause a woman to become pregnant, even though I am not pregnant, and even though I cannot ever become pregnant.  I can make someone laugh, even if I am not laughing myself.
A football coach can cause a football player to become one of the best football players in the nation, even though the coach is (or would be) a mediocre football player at best.  There are many counterexamples to the idea that the CAUSE of a characteristic must possess that characteristic, and there are many counterexamples to the idea that the CAUSE of a perfection (i.e. a characteristic that makes something better than it would be without that characteristic) must possess that perfection to a greater degree than what it causes in something else.
This, however, is not the only problem with premise (F).  There is also an ambiguity of quantification in premise (F), similar to the ambiguity that Kreeft repeatedly stumbles over with the word “something”.  Here are two different interpretations of (F):

F1. IF there exists EXACTLY ONE BEING THAT IS THE CAUSE of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

F2. IF there exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH of  the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

Premise (F1) requires that premise (C) make a very strong claim, in order for (F1) and (C) to logically connect together to make a valid inference.  Premise (C) would have to assert the following very strong claim:

C1. There exists EXACTLY ONE BEING THAT IS THE CAUSE of all the perfections that pertain to being.

Premise (C) was already dubious to begin with, so if we now interpret (C) to mean what (C1) states, then it becomes even more obvious that Kreeft has FAILED to provide a good argument in support of (C), in the initial sub-argument.
On the other hand, premise (F2) does not require that premise (C) make such a strong claim.  If we go with interpretation (F2), then the middle sub-argument only needs the following claim to create a valid inference:

C2. There exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH OF the perfections that pertain to being.

But, the problem with (F2) is that it is clearly FALSE, which would make the middle sub-argument UNSOUND.  The antecedent of premise (F2), namely “there exists AT LEAST ONE BEING THAT IS A CAUSE FOR EACH of  the perfections that pertain to being”, is logically compatible with it being the case that there is a separate ultimate source for each perfection.
There could be a cause of intelligence, and a separate cause of the ability to give and receive love.  There could be one cause of beauty, and another cause of kindness, and a third cause of strength, and a fourth cause of wisdom.  If there were separate ultimate causes for each perfection, then there would be no necessity for there to be ONE BEING that possessed ALL perfections (or all perfections that pertain to being).  Therefore, the antecedent of (F2) does NOT entail the consequent of (F2), and thus premise (F2) is FALSE.
So, we must either adopt interpretation (F1) in which case it becomes very obvious that Kreeft has FAILED to show that (C) is true (i.e. that (C1) is true), or else adopt interpretation (F2) in which case it becomes clear that the middle sub-argument is UNSOUND, because (F2) is clearly FALSE.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE MIDDLE INFERENCE AND ARGUMENT #4
The middle inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 is based on two dubious premises: (C) and (F).

  • The meanings of key words and phrases in these premises are UNCLEAR.
  • Premise (C) is dubious because it is based on a BAD argument (i.e. the first inference of Argument #4).
  • Premise (F) is dubious because it is based on a FALSE assumption (i.e. POP).
  • Premise (F) is ambiguous in its quantification; on one interpretation (C) must make a very strong and very dubious claim, and on the other possible interpretation (F) is clearly FALSE.

The middle inference or sub-argument thus 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.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 19: Premise (B)

The initial inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 of Peter Kreeft’s case for God is based on three premises, and all three premises are very UNCLEAR:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

In Part 18, I pointed out that both the subject and the predicate of premise (A) were unclear.  My best guess, at this point, is that the subject is referring to different degrees of perfection when comparisons are made between KINDS of things (e.g. between human beings and “a stone, a flower, an earthworm…” ).  My best guess, at this point, is that the predicate of (A) is a Trojan Horse that sneaks a Thomistic theory of “perfection” (including a Thomistic theory of good and evil) into the argument.  Based on these assumptions,  I interpret premise (A) as follows:

A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.

It seems to me that Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection ASSUMES the existence of God, and thus premise (A4) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue: “Does God exist?”.
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (B)
The subject of premise (B) is “Being”.   I can think of at least three different interpretations of the subject of premise (B):

S1. Coming-into-being

S2. Continuing-to-exist…

S3. The particular ways-of-being…

It is also not clear what Kreeft means by “finite creatures”.  If he means “finite things created by God”, then premise (B) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue (Does God exist?) in assuming that there are things that were created by God.  So, we should replace the question-begging term “creatures” with something more neutral, such as “things” or “beings”.  But what is a “finite being”?  A being could be finite in terms of how long it exists, or a being could be finite in terms of its powers and abilities,  or a being could be finite in terms of its degree of perfection.   So, I can think of at least three different ways that a being could be considered to be “finite”:

P1.  … is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

P2.  … is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

P3.  … is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Each of the three possible subjects could be combined with each of the three possible predicates,  at least in theory, so we are looking at nine different possible interpretations of premise (B):

B1. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B2. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B4. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B5. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B7. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B8. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Does Kreeft argue for any of these claims in the passage about Argument #4?  Do any of these claims seem to be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4?  If Kreeft argues in support of one of these claims, or if one of these claims seems relevant to his initial inference, then that interpretation should be given serious consideration.
Premise (B1) has some initial plausibility.  However, (B1) is based on the Kalam cosmological argument (which is Argument #5 in Kreeft’s case), so that would make Argument #4 dependent upon the soundness of Argument #5, so Argument #4 would NOT be an independent reason for believing in God.   Kreeft has not argued for (B2) in the passage on Argument #4, and it does not appear to be relevant to his initial inference.  It is unclear whether Kreeft has attempted to argue for (B3), but this claim does seem to have some relevance to the initial inference in Argument #4.
Kreeft does not argue for (B4) in the passage about Argument #4, and (B4) does not seem relevant to the initial inference.  Kreeft does not argue for (B5) and it does not seem relevant to Argument #4.  I don’t think Kreeft argues for (B6), but it does seem like it might be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4.
Kreeft does not appear to argue for either (B7) or (B8).  He might have attempted to argue in support of (B9).  Premises (B7) and (B8) don’t seem relevant to Argument #4, but (B9) seems like it might be relevant.
So, based on my brief review of these nine possible interpretations, it seems like the best candidates are (B3), (B6), and (B9):

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (B3) won’t work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to come into existence does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that was brought to exist.  If I make a chair that is ugly and crooked and wobbly, someone else could take my crappy chair and fix it up so that it became a beautiful, straight, and sturdy chair.  But then the degree of perfection in that chair was caused more by the person who fixed it up, than by my lousy effort in making the chair.  The source of the chair’s degree of perfection is the person who fixed it up, not the person who made the chair.  Similarly,  we cannot confidently trace the finite degree of perfections of natural things to the maker (or makers) of those natural things.
Premise (B6) also will not work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to continue to exist does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that is preserved in existence.  The staff of a museum might preserve a wonderful painting created by Rembrandt, but the perfections of that painting do NOT come from the staff of the museum; they come from the painter, namely Rembrandt.  Keeping something with a high degree of perfection in existence does not mean that one has the power or ability to make something that has such a high degree of perfection.  Thus, even if it could be proven that there was a “super preserver of all things” operating to keep many things that have high degrees of perfection in existence, this would not show that this super preserver has the power or ability to confer high degrees of perfection to anything.
Premise (B9) is an interesting claim.   The subject concerns “ways-of-being” and the predicate concerns beings with a “degree of perfection.”  It seems to me that Kreeft explains the idea of perfection in terms of some “ways-of-being” being better than other “ways-of-being”.  So, perfections are a sub-set of ways-of-being.  Thus, we can re-state (B9) so that both the subject and predicate talk about perfection:

B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (B9*) has some initial plausibility.  It is a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  If there must be a cause or explanation for the particular characteristics of each and every being, then there must be a cause or explanation for the particular perfections and degrees of perfection of each and every being with a finite degree of perfection.  But this seems too vague to be of use in proving the existence of God.  Some things might have their perfections from a creator (or from various creators), and other things might have their perfections from a fixer-upper (or various fixer-uppers) who improved on the work of a creator (or of various creators).  Asserting that there must be some cause or other of various perfections is not specific enough to allow us to infer that there is ONE single source or cause of all perfections.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ARGUMENT #4
Premise (A) and Premise (B) are both very unclear.  The subjects of both premises are unclear, and the predicates of both premises are unclear.  So, it is very difficult to evaluate the initial inference in Argument #4.
My best guess at the meaning of (A) is that it asserts claim (A4):

A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.

But if (A) is intended to assert claim (A4), then premise (A) begs the question at issue (i.e. Does God exist?).
My best guess at the meaning of (B) is that it asserts claim (B9*):

B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Although (B9*) has some plausibility, being a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, it seems to be too vague to be useful for proving the existence of God.  Even if we grant the assumption that all perfections of things that have a finite degree of perfection, are caused by something or other to have those perfections (and to have them to that specific degree), that doesn’t get us to the conclusion that there is just ONE ultimate source or cause of all of the perfections found in various beings that have a finite degree of perfection.
Premise (A) appears to beg the main question at issue, and premise (B) appears to be too vague to be useful in a proof for the existence of God.
Because Kreeft has presented us with a very unclear argument,  it does not deserve any more of my time and attention.  I have attempted to clarify and make sense of this poorly stated argument, and when I do clarify it, it still remains a crappy argument.  So, once again, Kreeft has FAILED to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.  Argument #4 fails, just like the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case, and just like the rest of the initial five arguments in his case.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 17: Analysis of Argument #4

MOVING ON TO KREEFT’S VERSION
In Peter Kreeft’s case for God, in Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), his fourth argument is based on the fourth way of Aquinas.  Kreeft’s Argument #4 is the Argument from Degrees of Perfection.  Because Aquinas’s version of this argument is clearer and more straightforward than Kreeft’s version, I began by analyzing and evaluating Aquinas’s fourth way (see Part 16 of this series).  I discovered some serious problems with Aquinas’s version of this argument, and rejected that argument.  It is now time to try to analyze and to understand Kreeft’s version of this argument.
 
THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
An important part of Argument #4 is implied by a single complex sentence in Kreeft’s presentation of this argument. Let’s call this premise (1):

1. But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a “best,” a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings. (HCA, p.55)

Premise (1) can be cleaned up a bit, to make it more succinct:

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

The word “But” at the beginning of the sentence is unnecessary.  The word “must” simply indicates a logical implication, and so it is unnecessary.  The phrase “a ‘best'” is unnecessary because it is immediately defined by the following phrase “a source and real standard of all the perfections…”.  The phrase “that we recognize belong to us as beings” can be replaced by the shorter phrase “that pertain to being”.
Premise (1a) has the following logical structure:

IF A and B, THEN C.

This suggests the logical structure of a key initial inference in Argument #4:

A

B

IF A and B, THEN C

THEREFORE:

C

Let’s put the appropriate statements into this structure:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

 
THE FINAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4
Kreeft’s versions of the Five Ways of Aquinas, especially Ways 1, 2, 3, and 5, are all complete FAILURES, because Kreeft does not bother to support the most important premises in those arguments, namely the premises that link the existence of some alleged metaphysical being (e.g. “unmoved mover” or “first efficient cause”, etc.) to the existence of God.  Kreeft hints at the most important premise of Argument #4 in another sentence; let’s call this premise (2):

2. This absolutely perfect being…is God.  (HCA, p.55)

This most important premise of Argument #4 is best stated as a conditional claim:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

This conditional claim is a key piece of the final inference in Argument #4:

2a. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

THEREFORE:

E. God exists.

 
THE LOGIC IN THE MIDDLE OF ARGUMENT #4
We now know the initial inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (C), and we know the final inference of Argument #4, i.e. the sub-argument for (E), but we are missing the logic in the middle of this argument, the connection between the initial inference and the final inference.
The connection is clearly that premise (C), the conclusion of the initial inference, provides support for premise (D), a premise in the final inference. Since it is not immediately obvious that (C) logically implies (D), we should explicitly state a premise that asserts that there is this logical relationship between (C) and (D):

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

So, the logic in the middle of Argument #4 goes like this:

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

 
THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT#4
Now we can show the full logical structure of Argument #4, especially how the initial inference is connected to the final inference by an inference in the middle of this argument (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that out of the eight statements that make up this argument, only two statements were made explicitly by Kreeft.  Three-fourths of this argument was left UNSTATED.  Not exactly a great job of clarifying the Fourth Way of Aquinas.
 
NEXT STEPS
Now that we know the logical structure of Argument #4, the next steps are to figure out the meanings of the premises of this argument:

  • What is a “perfection”?
  • What sort of perfections are those that “pertain to being”?
  • What is a “finite creature”?
  • What does it mean to say that “being is caused in” something? 
  • What is an “absolutely perfect being”?
  • What constitutes “a source and real standard” of a perfection?

There is not a SINGLE premise in Argument #4 that has a CLEAR meaning.  Each and every premise in this argument uses odd or technical terms, and is thus UNCLEAR as it stands.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 16: Aquinas’s Way #4

WHERE WE ARE AT WITH THE FIRST FIVE ARGUMENTS
For the first five arguments in his case for God, Peter Kreeft makes use of the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas.  Kreeft’s versions of four of those Five Ways are complete failures, because he does not bother to provide any support for the most important premises of those arguments.  Thus, we can reasonably toss aside Argument #1, Argument #2, Argument #3, and Argument #5, for this reason alone.
Kreeft does slightly better with Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection,  because he provides at least a hint about a line of reasoning that could be used to support the most important premise of Argument #4:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Furthermore, in my view this key premise has significantly greater initial plausibility than the analogous key premises in the other arguments based on the Five Ways of Aquinas.  For this reason, Argument #4 is the ONLY argument in the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.  So, I am going to take a closer look this argument, and will not toss it aside until I have examined it in more detail and found it to be a weak or defective argument.
 
THE ARGUMENT AS PRESENTED BY AQUINAS
Kreeft is supposed to be CLARIFYING the arguments of Aquinas, and making them understandable for a general audience, but in this case he makes the argument UNCLEAR and more difficult to understand.  The Argument from Degrees of Perfection is fairly clear as presented by Aquinas, and it is fairly UNCLEAR as presented by Kreeft, so I will begin by focusing on the argument as presented by Aquinas, and then move on to try to figure out what the hell Kreeft’s version of this argument means.
Aquinas’s statement of the argument is quoted in full in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition (see “Degrees of Perfection, Argument for the Existence of God” in Volume 2):
The fourth way is based on the gradation observed in things.  Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less.  But comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative; for example,  things are hotter and hotter the nearer they approach what is hottest.  Something therefore is the truest and best and most noble of things, and hence the most fully in being; for Aristotle says that the truest things are the things most fully in being.  Now when many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others: fire, to use Aristotle’s example, the hottest of all things, causes all other things to be hot.  There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God.   (Summa Theologica Ia, 2, 3)
 
Here are the main premises of Aquinas’s argument quoted above:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6. This we call God.

As it stands, this argument is irrelevant to the question “Does God exist?”.  In order to make this argument relevant to the question at issue, we need to revise premise (6), and state the actual conclusion.  Here is the final inference in the clarified argument:

5.  There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6a. IF there is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

Premises (3) and (4) are given in support of premise (5):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

5. There is something…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

Premises (1) and (2) are given in support of premise (3):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

 
AMBIGUITY IN PREMISE (3)
Aquinas and his followers are, for some reason, unable to use the word “something” without committing the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  (Suggestion: Thomists should not be allowed to use this word in a philosophical argument for the next seven centuries.)  Aquinas uses the word “something” ambiguously in premise (3):

3. Something…is the truest and best and most noble of things.

This premise has at least four different meanings:

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

3b.  At least one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

3c.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things AND exactly one thing is the best of things AND exactly one thing is the most noble of things.

3d.  Exactly one thing is the truest of things and is also the best of things and is also the most noble of things.

There are actually more meanings of premise (3) than just these four interpretations, because the terms “truest” and “best” and “most noble” are themselves ambiguous.  It is not clear whether there can be TWO or more “best” of things.  In other words, does Aquinas allow for a tie for first place?  On one interpretation of “best” there can be only ONE thing that is best, and so if two things are better than everything else, but neither one is better than the other, then there is NO best of things, on that interpretation of the word “best”.
Aquinas commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in this reasoning, based on the ambiguity of premise (3).  The sub-argument is clearly insufficient to prove the strong claim made in (3d).  At best, the sub-argument supports the weak claim made in (3a).  But Aquinas needs the stronger claim made in (3d) for the rest of his argument to work.  Premise (3a) is too weak to provide support for premise (5).  The sub-argument for (3) is either INVALID and fails to prove the strong claim (3d), or else it is VALID but proves only the weak claim (3a), which is not adequate to support premise (5).  Therefore, either the sub-argument for (3) is INVALID, or else the sub-argument for (5) is INVALID.
 
CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (5)
If we look at the wording of premise (5) taken by itself, ignoring the context, then it too uses the word “something” ambiguously, and it can be given at least two different interpretations:

5a. There is at least one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

It does seem a bit odd, however, that there could be TWO (or more) things which cause “in all other things…their goodness…”, because then these ultimate causes of goodness would also be causing each other’s goodness, and there might be some logical contradiction involved in that scenario.  But there is another better reason to eliminate interpretation (5a).  In context, it is clear that Aquinas is referring to just ONE thing:
There is something therefore which causes in all other things their being, their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have.  And this we call God (emphasis added)
The pronoun “this” clearly implies that the word “something” in the previous sentence means EXACTLY ONE thing.  Furthermore, calling something “God” also implies that he is referring to EXACTLY ONE thing, because “God” is a proper noun, the name of an individual being.   So, in context, premise (5) clearly is making the stronger claim (5b).  In order to avoid a similar ambiguity with premise (6), that premise should be revised to use the same clear quantification language as in (5b):

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 
THE SUB-ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (5b)
We can now clearly state the sub-argument for premise (5b):

3a.  At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

4. When many things possess some property in common, the one most fully possessing it causes it in the others.

THEREFORE:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

Now that we have clarified the meanings of premises (3) and (5), it becomes obvious that this sub-argument is INVALID.  All that can legitimately be inferred from (3a) and (4) is that the truest of things causes truth in other things that are less true, and that the best of things causes goodness in other things that are less good, and that the most noble of things causes nobility in other things that are less noble.  We cannot infer that there is EXACTLY ONE thing which causes ALL perfections in everything else.
Premise (4) is pretty obviously FALSE, as well.  Aquinas gives the example of fire causing heat in other things that are less hot than fire.  But this is clearly a HASTY GENERALIZATION.   First of all, the example doesn’t work at all, because fire is NOT a thing.  Fire is a KIND of thing.  There are many fires, many instances of fire.  Second, specific instances of fire are NOT the hottest thing there is.  Some instances of fire are hotter than other instances of fire.  Also, some physical objects can become hotter than some instances of fire.  Finally, fire is NOT the only cause of heat in things.  Heat can also be caused by friction, and by the flow of electricity.  Fire is basically a rapid form of oxidation, which is different from friction and from the flow of electricity.  The evidence that Aquinas gives in support of (4) FAILS to support (4), and we cannot reasonably draw a universal conclusion from a single alleged example.
Coaches are not necessarily the very best players of the sport they coach.  So, a football coach can be a worse football player than the players that he coaches.  But that means that a cause of the excellence of some of the best football players might well be a worse football player than they are.   
Charcoal can be used to filter water, to make water more pure.  But after using a charcoal filter to purify water for a while, the filter becomes less pure than the water.  Even so, the charcoal filter can continue to be used to purify the water, at least for some additional period of time.  In that period of time, the filter is less pure than the water that it is being used to purify.   
The cause of an oak tree is a tiny acorn.  The largeness of the oak tree is thus caused by something that is much smaller than the oak tree, not by something that is larger than the oak tree, and certainly not by the largest thing that has ever existed. The size of the blast from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was much larger than the bomb that caused the blast.  Therefore, the largeness of the blast was caused by something much smaller than the blast, and not by something that was much larger than the blast.
There are many counterexamples to the universal generalization made in premise (4), so we can reasonably conclude that (4) is false.
Therefore, the sub-argument for (5b) is definitely UNSOUND, because it contains an INVALID inference, and because it is based on a FALSE premise.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (3a)
Here is the sub-argument for (3a):

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

2. Comparative terms describe varying degrees of approximation to a superlative.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

This sub-argument is clearly INVALID.  That is, as stated it is formally INVALID.  It might well be possible to re-state this sub-argument in a way that is formally VALID.  I think premise (2) can be reasonably viewed as support for an unstated premise that would make the argument VALID:

1. Some things are found to be more good, more true, more noble, and so on, and other things less. 

B. If one thing has more of quality X than another thing, then there is at least one thing that has the most of quality X.

THEREFORE:

3a. At least one thing is the truest of things AND at least one thing is the best of things AND at least one thing is the most noble of things.

Premise (2) is a reason given in support of the unstated assumption (B), which makes the argument VALID.  (Actually, the argument still is not quite formally valid, but it is easier to see that this revised argument is deductively valid and that it could be revised to make it formally valid.)
Let’s suppose that Aquinas allows for there to be a tie for first place, that there could be two “best” things, for example.  It seems as if (B) is an analytic truth, and thus it would not matter whether premise (2) actually implies or provides a good reason for (B).
If there are various things that have quality X, and at least one of those things has more of that quality than one of the other things, then it seems like there MUST be one or more things in that set of things that has “the most” of quality X.  Some people are taller than other people, so there MUST be at least one person who is the tallest person (perhaps there are many people tied for being the tallest person).  Some cars are faster than other cars, so there MUST be at least one car that is the fastest car (perhaps there are several cars that would tie for being the fastest car).
Although (B) appears to be an analytic truth, it is actually an analytic FALSEHOOD.  It is an analytic falsehood, because it is a universal generalization that has a counterexample that is a necessary truth:
Some integers are greater than other integers, but there is no greatest integer.
So, (B) is a false universal generalization in all possible worlds.
Besides being a necessary falsehood, (B) also is clearly too weak to be of use in the rest of Aquinas’s argument, a weakness that is passed on to premise (3a), making (3a) inadequate to support premise (5b).
Suppose that only two persons exist, and that one person is Satan and the other is Adolf Hitler.  In this world, it would presumably be the case that Hitler was a better person than Satan, because Hitler is presumably not as wicked and evil as Satan.  Since Hitler is better than Satan, if these were the only two persons in existence, then Hitler would be the best person.  Big Freaking Deal!  In this world, there is a best person but that person is a horrible and very evil person, NOT a perfectly good person, and NOT God.
So, premise (B) and premise (3a) can only be used to show that there is at least one thing that has “the most” of some good quality, but that is logically compatible with this thing having only a tiny smidgen of that good quality,  and thus falling miles and miles short of divine perfection.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (6b)
The single most important premise in the Argument from Degrees of Perfection as presented by Aquinas is the premise that links the idea of a single cause of all perfections to the idea of God:

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

Aquinas provides no support for this premise in the Five Ways passage.  He does continue his case for God for over a hundred more pages after the Five Ways passage, so one could probably construct a line of reasoning from those later passages in support of (6b).  I won’t make that attempt here.  I’m just going to evaluate (6b) as it stands.
Premise (6b) is very dubious because, as we saw in our examination of premise (4), the cause of a property in thing X does NOT need to have that property to a greater degree than thing X.  A coach can cause a football player to become a better player than the coach is or ever was.  A charcoal filter can be less pure than the water it causes to become purified.  A tiny acorn can cause an oak tree that is much larger than the acorn.   A small atomic bomb can cause a blast that is much larger than the bomb.  Because (4) is clearly FALSE, (6b) is very questionable.  The cause of goodness in all things need NOT be better than any of the things it causes to be good.  The cause of knowledge in other beings need NOT have more knowledge than those beings it causes to have knowledge.  The cause of the power of other things need NOT be more powerful than those things to which it gives power.
Because (4) is FALSE, it appears to me that (6b) is also FALSE.  Premise (6b) implies a logically necessary connection between causing goodness in other things and possessing maximal or unlimited goodness, but there is no such logically necessary connection, at least none that I can discern.
 
CONCLUSION
Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram of the logical structure of Aquinas’s Way #4 argument:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Although Aquinas’s version of the Argument from Degrees of Perfection is clearer than Kreeft’s version, it still contains some serious ambiguities, and it turns out to be a very crappy argument, full of serious problems.
The sub-argument for (5b) is clearly UNSOUND; the inference is INVALID, and premise (4) is FALSE.
The most important premise of the argument is premise (6b), and because premise (4) is FALSE, this gives us good reason to believe that (6b) is also FALSE.
The final inference in the argument is VALID but this part of the argument is probably UNSOUND because (5b) is dubious (supported by an INVALID sub-argument with a FALSE premise), and (6b) appears to be FALSE:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

 

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for God – Part 15: Three More Thomist Arguments

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CASE SO FAR
In Part 1 through Part 8, I reviewed the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God in Chapter 3 his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), and I concluded in Part 9 that they provided ZERO evidence for the existence of God:
Of the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case,  I have shown that eight arguments (80%) were AWFUL arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration.  Only two of these ten arguments seemed worthy of serious consideration: Argument #12 and Argument #19.  After careful analysis and evaluation, I concluded that Argument #12 was a BAD argument that provided ZERO support for the claim that God exists, and I concluded that Argument #19 was based on a FALSE premise and also on a dubious premise.  Thus, all ten arguments in the second half of Kreeft’s case for God (i.e. 100%  of those arguments) are BAD arguments, and they fail to provide any good reason to believe that God exists.  
Starting in Part 9, I began to examine the first five arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, which Kreeft appears to believe are among the strongest and best arguments for the existence of God.
In Part 12, I concluded that Argument #1 (the Argument from Change) was another bad argument:
In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.
In Part 14, I concluded that Argument #2 (the Argument from Efficient Causality) was yet another bad argument:
Argument #2 clearly FAILS, because Kreeft fails to state or to support the single most important premise of the argument…and because Kreeft supports the second most important premise of the argument with a dubious inference that appears to be invalid, namely the inference from (5a) to (6a).
I have examined twelve out of the twenty arguments in Kreeft’s case for God, and ALL twelve arguments are bad arguments and they FAIL to provide a good reason to believe that God exists.
 
EVALUATION OF THE THREE REMAINING ARGUMENTS FROM AQUINAS
Given Kreeft’s pathetic track record, it appears that he is clueless as to what sort of argument would constitute a strong and solid argument for the existence of God, so I did not expect him to do any better with the remaining three arguments that he borrows from Aquinas.
In Argument #3, the Argument from Time and Contingency, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an absolutely necessary being.”  He does also strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely necessary being is God.  (HCA, p.53)

The most important premise of the argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

A. IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for premise (A), so Argument #3 is another FAILED argument for the existence of God.
In Argument #5, the Design Argument, Kreeft argues for the existence of “an intelligent designer” of the universe.  The conclusion of Argument #5 is stated as follows:

Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent Designer.  (HCA, p.56)

Note that the word “God” doesn’t appear in this stated conclusion.  So, in order to make Argument #5 relevant to the question at issue, we have to fill in an unstated premise, and make the ultimate conclusion of this argument explicit:

6. The universe is the product of an intelligent designer.

B. IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

C. God exists.

The most important premise in Argument #5 is premise (B), but Kreeft provides NO SUPPORT for the unstated premise (B).  Thus, Argument #5 is yet another FAILED argument for God.
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.” Based on Kreeft’s pathetic track record, and based on the fact that he continues to repeat the same huge blunder as he did in Argument #1 and Argument #2, we can quickly toss aside Argument #3 and Argument #5.
In Argument #4, the Argument from Degrees of Perfection, Kreeft argues for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”.  He does strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)

The most important premise of this argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides very little support for premise (D), so Argument #4 could reasonably be set aside as yet one more FAILED argument for the existence of God.  However, Kreeft does briefly hint at a line of reasoning that could be used to support (D), and it seems to me that (D) is more plausible than any of the other key premises that Kreeft failed to support in the other four Thomistic arguments:

  • IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists.
  • IF there is an uncaused cause of the present existence of other beings, THEN God exists.
  • IF an absolutely necessary being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, THEN God exists.

The very long, very convoluted, and very implausible reasoning that Aquinas provides in support of these four key premises related to four of his Five Ways has almost no chance of being sound.   Kreeft doesn’t even make an attempt to provide a rational justification of these four key premises; thus Kreeft’s versions of these four arguments are complete and utter FAILURES.
 
THE HINT OF AN ARGUMENT FOR (D)
The most important premise in Argument #4 is a premise that is not clearly stated by Kreeft:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Probably because Kreeft fails to clearly and explicitly state this premise, he fails to provide an argument to show that premise (D) is true.  However, he does hint at a line of reasoning that could be used in support of (D):
In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal. (HCA, p.54-55)
This suggests a line of reasoning that could be used to argue that “an absolutely perfect being” would be an intelligent and loving being, because having such attributes makes something better than, more perfect than, something that lacks them.  This line of thought was used by Anselm to derive the Christian concept of God from the concept of a being “than which nothing greater can be conceived”, or what is called Perfect Being theology.  There is a nice brief introduction to Perfect Being theology by Thomas Morris in Chapter 2 his book Our Idea of God (hereafter: IOG).
In the end, the reasoning in Perfect Being theology might turn out to be just as convoluted and implausible as the usual Thomistic BS given in support of the four key premises of the other four Ways or proofs of the existence of God, but in my view, (D) has significantly greater initial plausibility, in comparison to the four other key premises.  So, I plan to take a closer look at Argument #4, in the next post in this series, because it appears to be the only argument among the Five Ways that has any chance of being a strong and solid argument for God.