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 11: Evaluation of Argument #1

THE CONTEXT
Peter Kreeft and his co-author Ronald Tacelli open their Handbook of Christian Apologetics  (hereafter: HCA) with these words about their “reasons for writing this book”:

  1. We are certain that the Christian faith is true.
  2. We are only a little less certain that the very best thing we can possibly do for others is to persuade them of this truth, in which there is joy and peace and love incomparable in this world, and infinite and incomprehensible in the next. … (HCA, p.7)

Kreeft and Tacelli believe that heaven and hell are in the balance for every human being, when it comes to acceptance or rejection of “the Christian faith”.  So, it is very important that they try “to persuade” other people to accept the Christian faith in order for those people to gain a better life now, and a wonderful eternal life in heaven after death, and to avoid a life of eternal misery in hell.
Belief in the existence of God is one of the most basic beliefs in the Christian faith.  If God does NOT exist, then the Christian faith is just a fantasy.  Most of Christian theology rests upon the belief that God exists.  So, if Kreeft is to be successful in persuading others to accept the Christian faith, job number one is to provide good and solid arguments for the existence of God.  So, it is no surprise that after two introductory chapters (one on the idea of “apologetics” and another on the idea of “faith”) the very first Christian belief that Kreeft attempts to prove or show to be true is the belief that God exists.
As I have argued in previous posts, it appears that Kreeft has put his best foot forward by placing his best and strongest arguments for God up front in his case.  So, the first five arguments in Kreeft’s chapter containing twenty arguments for God, are presumably arguments that Kreeft takes to be the strongest and best arguments in his case for God.  If the first five arguments ALL FAIL, then we have good reason to suspect that his entire case will fail as well.
I have previously shown that the last ten arguments in his case all FAIL, so we have reason to suspect that his first five arguments will also fail.  But since these are arguments that he takes to be the best and strongest, we need to carefully examine and evaluate these first five arguments, in case one or more of them is in fact a good and solid argument for God.
 
THE CONCLUSION OF ARGUMENT #1
Here is the explicitly stated conclusion of Argument #1: “…this being outside the universe…is the unchanging Source of change.” (HCA, p.51).  I have re-stated this claim to clarify it a bit:
8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.
One of the first things I look at when analyzing an argument is the conclusion of the argument.  Argument #1 is presumably one of the very best and strongest arguments for God, in the view of Peter Kreeft.  But there is an OBVIOUS and SERIOUS problem with Argument #1: The conclusion does not mention God!
In fact, the word “God” does not appear in anywhere in this argument.  How can Argument #1 be a strong and clear argument for the existence of God, if it never once mentions God?  In order for an argument to be a clear and strong argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument should be that “God exists” or “There is a God”.   Argument #1 fails to satisfy this basic and obvious requirement.
We can fix this obviously defective argument by adding yet another  premise to fill in the logical gap:
(F) IF there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change, THEN God exists. 
But this additional premise is highly questionable and, as is seen in Edward Feser’s version of the Argument from Change (in Chapter 1 of Five Proofs of the Existence of God), a fairly long and complex argument needs to be presented in order to support this questionable premise.
In Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change, MOST of that argument (over 70% of it) is given in support of this one premise (or one very similar to it).  Feser’s presentation of the Argument from Change is a fairly accurate representation of the reasoning of Aquinas; it is also the case that MOST of Aquinas’s case for God is focused on establishing this premise (or one very similar to it).
So, Kreeft left out what appears to be the single most important premise in the Argument from Change.  Kreeft is attempting to save us from an eternity of misery in hell and he is presenting what he thinks is one of his very best and strongest arguments for the most basic belief of the Christian faith, and yet somehow he cannot manage to clearly state the conclusion that “God exists” nor does he manage to explicitly state or provide support for what appears to be the single most important premise of this argument.
Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that (F) is FALSE.   God is a person, if God exists.  But a person cannot be an “unchanging” being, so the existence of an “unchanging” being does NOT imply the existence of God.  In fact, if the phrase “the unchanging Source of change” is supposed to be a reference to the CREATOR of the universe, then the antecedent of (F), i.e. “there is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of  change”,  implies that the CREATOR of the universe is unchanging and thus not a person.  But if the CREATOR is not a person, then it follows that God does not exist.  So, to assert that “there is exactly ONE being that is the unchanging Source of change” appears to imply that God does not exist.
I realize that many theologians and philosophers of religion would argue either that (a) God is not a person, or that (b) it is possible for a person to be an unchanging being.  However, both of these positions seem very implausible, so I have serious doubts about premise (F).  In order to adequately argue for (F), one must not only provide strong arguments to support (F), but one must also explain either how God can be a non-person, or else explain how an unchanging being can be a person.
If I die and appear before God and am asked why I rejected Christianity,  I’m going to point to Chapter 3 of HCA, and say:
You sent this incompetent philosopher to persuade me that the Christian faith is true,  so what did you expect me to do?  Blindly accept arguments that are complete crap? Arguments that don’t even state the conclusion on the main question at issue?  Arguments that fail to state the single most important premise of the argument, and that fail to provide support for the single most important premise of the argument?  Screw that!  I’m not going to pretend to be a freaking IDIOT just so that you will let me into heaven.  No thank you.  
An argument that does not end with the conclusion that “God exists” and that never even mentions God does NOT constitute a strong argument for God, especially when such an argument fails to state or defend the single most important premise in that argument, namely a premise that links the explicitly stated conclusion (8a) to the conclusion that actually matters: “God exists”.
Without any further analysis or critique, I can see that the Argument from Change, as presented by Kreeft is CRAP, because the success of the argument depends heavily on the DUBIOUS unstated premise (F), which in order for it to be rationally supported would require many further sub-arguments (at least a half-dozen further sub-arguments), and Kreeft has made no attempt to provide any of these additional sub-arguments to support premise (F).  Given that Kreeft makes no attempt to defend the dubious claim made by premise (F), and given that (F) is the most important, the most crucial, premise in the Argument from Change, this argument FAILS to provide any significant reason to believe that God exists.
These are just a couple of several problems with Argument #1, as we shall see.
Another serious problem with this argument is that (8a) is very unclear, even after my efforts to improve the clarity of this premise.  This premise contains at least two unclear phrases:  “outside the material universe” and “the…Source of change”.  The phrase “the…Source of change” pops up out of nowhere; this phrase does not occur anywhere else in the argument, and Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of what this phrase means.  The phrase “outside the material universe” arises from earlier premises, so I will deal with the unclarity of that phrase when I evaluate previous premises that also make use of that phrase.
Given the serious problems of unclarity with premise (8a) and given the absence of argumentation in support of the dubious unstated premise (F), we already have good reason to view Argument #1 as a complete failure.
 
THE CORE ARGUMENT
Although premise (F) is the most important premise in the whole argument in relation to the ultimate conclusion that “God exists”, there is another very important part of the argument in relation to the explicitly stated conclusion (8a).  In viewing the argument diagram, which displays the reasoning supporting (8a), it is clear that the heart or core of that support is the two-premise argument supporting premise (6a).   The logical structure of the reasoning supporting (8a) is shown in this argument diagram (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Diagram Argument 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There must be something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

This appears to be the core argument in support of (8a) because both premises of this argument are supported by arguments, and because (6a) is a key premise in the argument supporting (7a) and (8a).  So, this argument is firmly planted in the middle of the flow of logic moving from the initial premises to the stated conclusion (8a).
This core argument is clearly defective, because it is logically INVALID.  Premise (6a) does not follow from (D) and (3a).  We cannot infer that there is “exactly one” being outside the material universe from (D) and (3a).  At best, we can only infer that “at least one” such being exists, leaving open the possibility that hundreds or millions or trillions of such beings exist.
Both premises of this core argument are questionable, but Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premises, so we need to consider those sub-arguments before passing judgment on these two premises.  However, both (D) and (3a) make use of the phrase “outside the material universe” and the meaning of this phrase is UNCLEAR. Furthermore, Kreeft does not provide a definition or clarification of the meaning of this phrase, making it difficult to evaluate the truth of these premises.
The logic of Kreeft’s argument suggests that he is assuming (D) as a premise, in order to infer (6a) from (3a).  Premise (D) appears to be a conceptual claim, a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.
Since (D) implies that being “outside the material universe” is a sufficient condition for being “outside matter, space and time”,  this means that being “outside matter” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe” and that being “outside space” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”, and that being “outside time” is a necessary condition for being “outside the material universe”.
Although Kreeft does not say so explicitly, this also suggests that these three necessary conditions are jointly sufficient.  In other words, if something meets all three of these necessary conditions, then it must be “outside the material universe”.
Based on this plausible interpretation, we can infer a definition of the key phrase in the core argument:
Something X is outside the material universe IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) X is outside matter,
AND
(b) X is outside space,
AND
(c) X is outside time.

Presumably by “outside matter” Kreeft means:  is not made of matter or energy.  Presumably by “outside space” Kreeft means:  does not have any spatial characteristics (does not have a size, a shape, or a location in space). Presumably by “outside time” Kreeft means:  does not have any temporal characteristics (does not have a beginning, an end, or a duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).
Notice that, in theory, there are eight different combinations of these three conditions, and thus eight different types of beings (click on image below for a clearer view of the chart):
Eight Types of Beings
 
 
 
Ordinary things, such as people, animals, plants, and physical objects, are Type 1 beings.  God, on Kreeft’s view, is a Type 8 being.  But there are potentially six other types of beings besides Type 1 and Type 8 beings.  On Swinburne’s view of God, God is a Type 7 being, because although God is not made of matter or energy, and God does not have any spatial characteristics, God does exist inside time; God is affected by the passing of time, and some of God’s thoughts and actions occur prior in time to other of God’s thoughts and actions.
Another interesting case to consider is that of angels.  Angels appear to be outside matter (i.e. they are not made of matter or energy), but inside time, and perhaps inside space as well.  Angels began to exist at some point in time, according to Christian theology, and although many angels (perhaps all) will continue to exist forever, it is possible for God to annihilate  an angel, so it is possible for an angel to come to an end at a specific point in time; an angel can, at least in theory, have both a beginning at one point in time, and and end at a later point in time.  Angels also appear to have spatial locations.  They appear to particular people at particular times and particular places.  So, although angels are “outside matter”, they appear to be “inside time” and “inside space”; angels appear to be Type 2 beings.
Based on the definition of the phrase “outside the material universe”, it appears that angels are NOT “outside the material universe” because they are inside time, and inside space.  But angels are not made of matter or energy, so one might have been tempted to conclude that angels are “outside the material universe”.  It is odd and very surprising that something as supernatural as an angel would count as something that is inside the material universe.
Furthermore, if Swinburne is right that God is a Type 7 being, a being that exists inside time, then God too would be inside the material universe NOT “outside the material universe”.  Since I agree with Swinburne that God is a Type 7 being, I also reject the view that God is “outside the material universe”, given the definition of this phrase that Kreeft appears to be assuming.  In that case, proving the existence of a being that is “outside the material universe” would be irrelevant to showing that God exists, and thus (3a) and (6a) would be irrelevant to showing that God exists.
In any case, the core argument is INVALID, so it is an UNSOUND argument.
In the next post or two I will consider the sub-arguments that Kreeft gives to support the two premises of this core argument: (3a) and (D).  This will help to determine whether either or both or neither of these premises are true.  If one or both of these premises are false or dubious, that will provide another reason for rejecting the core argument supporting premise (8a).

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 2: How Many Arguments for God?

In Chapter  2 of When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler appears to present five different arguments for the existence of God.  However, there are some significant problems with this characterization of Geisler’s case for God.
 
NONE of the five arguments end with the conclusion that “God exists”.  In fact, only his first argument even mentions the word “God”, and it is precisely the reference to “God” in the conclusion of his first argument that makes that argument logically invalid!  So, if we correct the logic of the first argument, and remove the reference to “God” in it’s conclusion, then there is no mention of “God” anywhere in any of Geisler’s five arguments.  There is no mention of “God” in the premises of any of the five arguments presented by Geisler, and there is no mention of “God” in the conclusions of his arguments, with the exception of the first argument.
 
How can Geisler present five arguments for the existence of God, and yet NONE of the arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”?  This is bizzarre.  This is absurd. This is ridiculous.  What the hell is going on here?
 
Geisler is a professional philosopher who has specialized in the philosophy of religion and in Christian apologetics, and he has been writing books defending basic Christian beliefs for decades.  I remember reading his book Christian Apologetics in the early 1980’s, and that book was originally published in 1976.  He earned his PhD in Philosophy in 1970.  Here is a blurb on Geisler from his website:
 
Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian. To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.”
 
Norm has authored or co-authored over 100 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years. He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary and to Southern Evangelical Seminary.
 
Geisler is well-educated, well-informed, has a PhD in philosophy, and has been writing and lecturing on philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics since at least the 1970’s.  So, how can it be that he thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, and yet ZERO of the arguments that he gives end with the conclusion that “God exists”?
 
One might doubt the claim that Geisler thinks he is presenting five arguments for the existence of God, but there is good reason to believe this is in fact, how he views his own case for God:
  1. The first section of of Chapter 2 is labelled “Does God Exist?” (WSA, p.15). The five arguments are presented in this section, indicating that these arguments settle the question about the existence of God, in Geisler’s view.
  2. The first sub-section in that first section is labelled “Arguments for the Existence of God” (WSA, p.15)  Note that Geisler uses the plural “Arguments” not the singular term “Argument”.  The five arguments are presented in this sub-section, indicating that each one of the five arguments is believed to be an argument “for the existence of God”.
  3. The opening sentence of this sub-section states that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).  Geisler then goes on to present his five arguments in terms of these four basic types of argument; he gives two “forms” of cosmological argument (or what he calls “the Argument from Creation”) and one argument for each of the remaining three types of argument.
  4. In describing the history of “the Argument from Creation” (his term for cosmological arguments), Geisler states that this argument is “the most widely noted argument for God’s existence” (WSA, p.16).  This is a clear indication that each one of the “Arguments from Creation”  presented by Geisler is thought to be an argument “for God’s existence”.
  5. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that Kant “rejected all of the traditional arguments for God’s existence.” (WSA, p.22).  Note the use of the plural “traditional arguments” and that these were arguments “for God’s existence”.  This parallels nicely with the idea that Geisler is presenting a number of “arguments” which are arguments “for God’s existence”.  This is an echo of Geisler’s intial statement that there have “traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence.” (WSA, p.15).
  6. In describing the history of “the Moral Argument” Geisler mentions that this argument has been refined “to show that there is a rational basis for God’s existence to be found in morality.” (WSA, p.22).   This is an indication that Geisler believes that “the Moral Argument” can be used as a stand-alone argument to show that God exists.
Finally, Geisler is a Thomist.  He was clearly influenced by the philosophy of religion of Thomas Aquinas, and Aquinas is generally believed to have presented five different arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler does not stick with the five arguments used by Aquinas, but he does use at least a couple of Aquinas’s Five Ways, and he also sticks with presenting five brief arguments, just like in Aquinas’s (alleged) case for God.
 
Thus, there are several good reasons to conclude that Geisler believed he was presenting five different arguments for the existence of God, and yet we have the very odd fact that NONE of these arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists”.  How can this be?
 
One big clue comes when Geisler discusses the second argument, which is Geisler’s version of a cosmological argument by Aquinas:
 
This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists.  How do we know that this is really the God of the Bible?  (WSA, p.19, emphasis added)
 
This is a fairly clear indication that Geisler is working with at least two different senses of the word “God”.  Geisler thinks that his second cosmological argument proves the existence of “God” (in one sense) but does NOT prove the existence of “the God of the Bible”.  He believes that the second cosmological argument proves the existence of some sort of “God” but not the existence of some other sort of “God”. 
 
But this is very confusing.  What kind of “God” does Geisler think his second argument proves?  and how is that kind of “God” different from the “God” of the Bible?  Furthermore, what sort of “God” does Geisler think his first argument proves to exist?  Does the first argument prove the existence of the “God” of the Bible or some other kind of “God”?  If it only proves the existence of some other kind of “God” is that other kind the same as the other kind of God proven by the second argument or is the other sort of “God” proven by the first argument different from both the “God” proven by the second argument and different from the “God” of the Bible as well? Is there a third sense of the word “God” that is in play in the claim that the first argument proves the existence of “God”?  Are we now dealing with three different senses of the word “God”?  
 
The same questions apply to each of the other arguments as well.  There is clearly an ambiguity in the way that Geisler uses the word “God”, but since he failed to provide any definition of the word “God”, we are at a loss to know what the hell he is talking about.
 
In spite of the great potential for confusion from using the word “God” in two or three different senses, Geisler never bothers to provide a definition of any sense of the word “God”. However, based on some additional reasoning and arguments that Geisler presents, it becomes fairly clear what he means when he speaks of the “God” of the Bible.  We will return to this point in a moment.
 
Geisler admits that there is a problem with considering his five arguments individually, as separate and independent arguments, and he suggests that we must somehow combine the five arguments together in order to arrive at the conclusion that “the God of the Bible” exists:
 
But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence?  That is what we will do in the following pages.
 
If we want to show that God exists and that He is the God of the Bible, then we need to show that all of the things in the arguments we mentioned are true.  Each one contributes something to our knowledge of God and, taken together, they form a picture that can only fit the one true God. (WSA, p.26, emphasis added)
 
Why bother to “combine all of the arguments”?  If Geisler has previously proven the existence of God four or five times, isn’t that enough?  In mathematics and in logic, you only need to give ONE proof and you are done.  Geisler gives five arguments, and then he continues on with some new hybrid argument that attempts to combine the previous five arguments “into a cohesive whole”.  Why not just quit after proving the existence of God four or five times?
 
Clearly, Geisler believes that his five arguments are NOT enough to prove that the “God” of the Bible exists. That is because the five arguments prove the existence of “God” in some other sense (or senses) of the word, a sense (or senses) of the word that Geisler fails to explain or define.
 
But it is clear what Geisler does think that he ends up proving with his combination of the five arguments “into a cohesive whole”, and so this gives us a fairly clear indication of what it is that he means by the “God” of the Bible:
 
We have said that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, infinite, uncreated, unchanging, eternal, and omnipresent.  (WSA, p.28)
 
We can construct a definition of the word “God” in accordance with the sort of “God” that Geisler thinks he has shown to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
  1. X is all-powerful, and 
  2. X is all-knowing, and
  3. X is all-good, and 
  4. X is infinite, and 
  5. X is uncreated, and
  6. X is unchanging, and
  7. X is eternal, and 
  8. X is omnipresent.
Geisler admits that his first argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his second argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his third argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fourth argument does NOT prove the existence of such a “God”, and that his fifth argument doe NOT prove the existence of such a “God”.  
 
Geisler admits that NONE of his five arguments is sufficient by itself to establish the existence of “God” in this sense of the word, which is (more or less) the ordinary sense of the word as used in the context of the Christian faith, Christian theology, and Christian-dominated cultures.
 
But then, what sort of “God” do his five arguments prove exists?  Geisler does not bother to spell this out, so we have to try to guess at what he means by the word “God” in this context.  In Geisler’s “combined” argument, he begins by using the cosmological arguments, his first two arguments, to prove that there is a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and to show that this being is very powerful (WSA, p.26).  
Geisler then uses his argument from design to show that:
 
…whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence. (WSA, p.26)
 
What connects these two arguments together is the idea of “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist.  So, it would appear that the “God” that is proven to exist by the first argument is simply “whatever caused the universe” to begin to exist:
 
X is God IF AND ONLY IF:
X caused the universe to begin to exist.
 
But if this is what is meant by “God” in relation to what the five arguments can prove by themselves, individually, then it is still the case that most of the five arguments (with the possible exception of the first argument) FAIL to prove that “God” exists, even in this weak sense of the word.

The second cosmological argument allegedly shows the existence of a current sustaining cause of the universe, but this does not imply that the universe began to exist.  It is conceivable that the universe has always existed and that the sustaining cause has always caused the universe to continue to exist. (Avoiding the issue of whether the universe began to exist was precisely the reason that Aquinas favored this second cosmological argument and rejected the cosmological argument that Geisler gives as his first argument for “God”).  If the universe has always existed, then there is no X that caused the universe to begin to exist, so the truth of the conclusion of the second cosmological argument is compatible with there being no “God”, in the sense of something that “caused the universe to begin to exist”.
 
Geisler’s third argument allegedly proves the existence of a designer of the universe.  A designer of the universe is not necessarily the cause of the existence of the universe. The universe could have always existed, and at some point an intelligent being organized the matter of the universe into something like its present form.  In that case, there would be a designer, but no creator and no cause of the universe coming into existence.  
 
A moral lawgiver need not be the cause of the existence of the universe.  So, proving the existence of a supreme moral lawgiver FAILS to prove that “God” exists, in the sense of proving the existence of something that caused the universe to come into being.
 
Geisler admits that the fifth argument, an ontological argument, “fails to show that God actually exists.”  (p.25)  It is clear that by “God” here he means the weak sense of the word “God” (not the “God” of the Bible). So, argument number five is also a failure.
 
All of these failures of the five arguments to prove that “God exists” would have been evident from the start if Geisler had simply bothered to define the word “God” before presenting his five arguments, and if he had actually constructed clear arguments that ended with the conclusion that “God exists”.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways

Norman Geisler is a Thomist.  His case for the existence of God is basically a simplified, clarified, and somewhat modified version of the case for God made by Thomas Aqinas in Summa Theologica.  Geisler borrows the basic logical structure of the case for God made by Aquinas, as well as some of the specific sub-arguments of Aquinas.
The standard view of Aquinas has it that Aquinas presents Five Ways or five arguments for the existence of God.  Geisler apparently accepts this standard view of Aquinas, and he is thus led to believe that his own case for God rests upon five arguments for the existence of God.
But the standard view of Aquinas is completely mistaken, and the Five Ways of Aquinas are NOT arguments for the existence of God.  Similarly, Geisler mischaracterizes his own case for God as including five arguments for the existence of God.  The truth of the matter, however, is that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler is an argument for the existence of God.  Geisler literally does not know what he is doing.
In order for an argument to BE an argument for the existence of God, the conclusion of the argument must be that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  None of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God ends with the conclusion that “God exists”, and none of the five arguments ends with the conclusion that “There is a God”.  Thus, it is very clear that NONE of the five arguments presented by Geisler in his case for God is an argument for the existence of God.
We saw in the previous post about Geisler’s first argument, that the word “God” did appear in the conclusion of that argument.  But we also saw that the word “God” did not appear in any of the premises of the argument, and that the inclusion of the phrase “this cause was God” in the conclusion of that argument makes that first argument logically invalid.  In order for the first argument to be logically valid, we must remove the reference to “God” in the conclusion.
If we look at just the conclusions of the remaining four arguments that Geisler presents, it is clear that none of those conclusions contain the word “God”:
Argument #G2: The universe needs a cause for its continuing existence (WSA, p.18-19)
4. Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists. (WSA, p.18-19)
Argument #G3: Argument from design (WSA, p.20-22)
3. Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20)
Argument #G4: Argument from moral law (WSA, p. 22-24)
3.  Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver. (WSA, p.22)
Argument #G5: Argument from being (p.24-26)
3. Therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being. (WSA, p.24-25)
Since the word “God” does not appear in any of the conclusions of the remaining four arguments presented by Geisler, it is clear that NONE of these four arguments ends with the conclusion that “God exists” or that “There is a God”.  Therefore, NONE of the four remaining arguments is an argument for the existence of God.
Geisler believes that in his case for God he has presented five arguments for the existence of God, but it is crystal clear that, in fact, he has presented ZERO arguments for the existence of God.  So, it appears, at least initially, that Geisler’s case for God is a complete and utter failure.
However, just as the standard view of Aquinas presents a mischaracterization of the case for God made by Aquinas, so because of Geisler’s own misunderstanding of what he is doing, he has mischaracterized his own case for God.  If we come to see what Aquinas was actually doing in Summa Theologica, that will help us to understand what Geisler is actually doing in his case for God.  
Just as I believe that the case for God in Aquinas is a serious one that deserves serious consideration and analysis, so I think that Geisler’s case for God is better than what my critique has indicated so far.  There is some real substance to Geisler’s case for God, but we need to reconceive the overall logic of his case.

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Exist? Ehrman’s Complete Failure – Part 2

Existence vs. Basic Aspects/Attributes
“Did Jesus exist?” – What does this question mean?
Clarity is a gateway standard of critical thinking.  If you are UNCLEAR about the meaning of a question, then your thinking about that question will also be unclear, and your thinking will probably not be very useful or productive or logical so long as you remain UNCLEAR about the question at issue.
On the one hand, it is certain that there was no Jewish man who lived in Palestine in the first century  named “Jesus”.  That is because “Jesus” is a name in the English language, and the English language did not exist in the first century.  Question settled!  That was easy.
On the other hand, if the question is asking whether there was a Jewish man who lived in Palestine in the first century named “Yeshua” (in Aramaic), that question can also be answered with certainty.  Yes, there was such a man.  In fact, there were thousands of Jewish men who lived in Palestine in the first century named “Yeshua” (in Aramaic).  Aramaic was the language of Palestinian Jews in the first century, and “Yeshua” was a very common name at that time.  Question settled.  No need for further discussion.
Obviously, I have not really settled the question “Did Jesus exist?” here.  Clearly, the question is NOT merely asking whether there was a Jewish man by the name of “Yeshua” who lived in Palestine in the first century.  But if that is not what the question is asking, then what IS the question asking?  It turns out that it is not so easy to say what this question is asking.  So philosophy (or at least logic and critical thinking) has an important role to play, as it usually does, right from the start.  We need to clarify the meaning of the question “Did Jesus exist?”
One important failure of Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist? (hereafter: DJE) is that Ehrman never asks this basic question of clarification:
What does the question “Did Jesus exist?” mean?
The clarity and quality of Ehrman’s thinking about the question “Did Jesus exist?” suffers because of this fundamental mistake.   Furthermore, because of his basic unclarity about the question at issue, Ehrman appears to make the same sort of blunder that was made by Thomas Aquinas when Aquinas discussed the question “Does God exist?”.
In Summa Theologica Aquinas attempts to first prove the existence of “God” and then he goes on to try to prove that God has various divine attributes.  Ehrman similarly thinks that the question of the existence of Jesus can be settled prior to showing that various basic aspects of the life of Jesus (as portrayed in the canonical gospels) are factual.   Here are some comments by Ehrman where he seems to treat these as two separate issues:
The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist. (DJE, p.4, emphasis added)
…a dispassionate consideration of the case makes it quite plain: Jesus did exist.  He may not have been the Jesus that your mother believes in or the Jesus of the stained-glass window or the Jesus of your least favorite televangelist or the Jesus proclaimed by the Vatican, the Southern Baptist Convention, the local megachurch, or the California Gnostic.  But he did exist, and we can say a few things, with relative certainty, about him.  (DJE, p.6, emphasis added)
[My goal is] to show that there really was a historical Jesus and that we can say certain things about him.  (DJE, p.37, emphasis added)
These [surviving Gospels] all attest to the existence of Jesus.  Moreover, these independent witnesses corroborate many of the same basic sets of data–for example, that Jesus not only lived but that he was a Jewish teacher who was crucified by the Romans at the instigation of Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.  (DJE, p.92, emphasis added)
Would someone count as BEING “Jesus” if that person was not Jewish?  I don’t think so.  Would someone count as BEING “Jesus” if that person was not crucified by the Romans?  Probably not.  These “basic aspects” or attributes of Jesus seem to be more than just trivial claims about Jesus.  They seem to be a part of the meaning of the word “Jesus”, part of how we determine whether or not a particular person was in fact “Jesus”.
Aquinas and Ehrman both failed to recognize the need to DEFINE the thing that you want to talk about BEFORE attempting to prove that it exists.  This is a basic mistake in logic.
Knut Tranoy raises a serious objection against the way Aquinas approaches the question “Does God exist?”:
To prove or to produce evidence that a certain being, x, exists, is, one might say, to prove that a certain set of compossible properties is actualized.  That is, we cannot prove or know that x exists without at the same time knowing something about the nature or essence of x.
To prove the existence of God is, then, to show that the properties ascribed to the Christian God in the Bible are actualized in one and only one being.
(“Thomas Aquinas” in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, p.110)
Tranoy sums up the logical principle this way:
Before we can try to prove anything at all we must, of course, have some idea of the nature or properties of the being whose existence we want to prove. 
(“Thomas Aquinas” in A Critical History of Western Philosophy, p.110)
In order to prove the existence of God, one must START with a definition of God, and this is commonly done by means of a list of key (or basic) divine attributes.  For example, here is a list of basic divine attributes that I use to clarify the meaning of the word “God”:

  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent person
  • an eternally omniscient person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person
  • a person who is the creator of the universe

Ehrman never explains what he means by a “basic aspect” of the life of Jesus, but I suspect that the word “basic” here is leaning in the direction of “essential”.  In other words, some aspects of the life of Jesus are very important and central from the point of view of Christian faith, and other aspects of the life of Jesus are less important and less central from the point of view of Christian faith.  That Jesus was crucified by the Romans is a very important and cenral aspect of the life of Jesus from the point of view of the Christian faith.  That means that the “basic aspect” of Jesus being crucified by the Romans is a good candidate for being an essential attribute of Jesus.  In other words, this is an aspect or attribute that we could reasonably include in a DEFINITION of the meaning of the word “Jesus” for the purpose of clarifying the question “Did Jesus exist?”
But lots of Jewish men were crucified by the Romans in first century Palestine, so these basic attributes would not be sufficient by themselves to define the word “Jesus”, since the point is not to locate a whole GROUP of Jewish men, but to identify exaclty ONE particular Jewish man.  So, what we need, and what Ehrman failed to provide, is a clear definition of the word “Jesus” for the purpose of clarifying the question “Did Jesus exist?”, and that definition, in order to be plausible and useful, will need to specify several basic aspects or attributes, just like my definition of “God” specifies several basic attributes of  God, in order to clarify the question “Does God exist?”.
Because Ehrman never stops to clarify and define the word “Jesus”, he is UNCLEAR about the meaning of the qeustion “Did Jesus exist?”, and because he is UNCLEAR about the meaning of this question, he is in no position to think clearly about this question, and he is in no position to prove or to establish that it is the case that “Jesus” did exist.
I have some other serious objections to raise against Ehrman’s ABSIG argument (Agreements Between Seven Independent Gospels) for the existence of Jesus, but they will have to wait for another day.
 

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 6

A key part of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica is found in Question 14, Article 1: “Whether There Is Knowledge in God?”.  In that article, Aquinas argues for the conclusion that “In God there exists the most perfect knowledge.”  The word “God” here is a misleading translation, and I take this claim to mean the following:
(MPK) In the first principle there exists the most perfect knowledge.
Aquinas provides only ONE argument for this conclusion (at least in Summa Theologica), and this conclusion is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, so if that ONE argument fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica) also fails.
NOTE: Aquinas might have other arguments for the existence of God in other writings; I’m only concerned here about his argument for God in Summa Theologica.
This conclusion (MPK) is critical to the success of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, because it is the basis on which Aquinas argues for three key divine attributes:
(AKB) The first principle is an all-knowing being
(see Question 14, Articles 2 through 6)
(PLB) The first principle is a perfectly-loving being.
(see Question 20, Articles 1 through 4, and Question 19, Article 1)
(PJB) The first principle is a perfectly-just being.
(see Question 21, Article 1, and Question 19, Article 1).
Thus, if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then he also fails to prove that the first principle is all knowing, and fails to prove that it is perfectly loving, and fails to prove that it is perfectly just.  If Aquinas fails to prove that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he fails to prove that God exists, because these are basic and essential divine attributes.  If Aquinas cannot show that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he cannot show that the first principle is God (in the ordinary sense of the word “God”), and thus cannot show that God exists.
Aquinas’ ONE argument for (MPK) concludes with these words (from Question 14, Article 1):
Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. I), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.
This means that the ONE argument that Aquinas gives for (MPK) is based on the following assumption (because the word “God” is a misleading traslation here, I have rephrased the premise using a more generic term):
(HDI)  The first principle is in the highest degree of immateriality.
Aquinas indicates that (HDI) is argued for in Question 7, Article 1.  But Question 7, Article 1 is specifically about “Whether God Is Infinite?”.   The conclusion of that article is that “God is infinite.”  The word “God” is a misleading translation here, and I take this conclusion to mean this:
(FPI) The first principle is infinite.
Again Aquinas gives only ONE argument for the conclusion (FPI).  Presumably, Aquinas believes that (FPI) implies (HDI), or that (FPI) can be used as a premise in an argument for (HDI), making the conclusion of Question 7, Article 1 relevant to the assumption (HDI), which he needs in order to prove the key claim (MPK).
The ONE argument given by Aquinas for (FPI) concludes with these words (from Question 7, Article 1):
Since therefore the divine being is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4), it is clear that God Himself is infinite and perfect.
The word “God” here is misleading; the phrase “the divine being” is better, but to be consistent with how the other key claims have been phrased I take this premise to mean this:
(OSB)  The first principle is its own sufficient being.
Here is the logical structure of the core argument within the overall structure of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica):
(OSB)–>(FPI)–>(HDI)–>(MPK)
If Aquinas fails to prove (OSB), then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then Aquinas fails to prove the existence of God, because (MPK) is needed to establish that the first principle has three key divine attributes (i.e. is all knowing, perfectly loving, and perfectly just).
Furthermore, if any of the inferences here are mistaken or illogical, then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and thus fails to prove the existence of God (note that additional premises are often stated and required).  Therefore, this chain of reasoning is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God as given in Summa Theologica.
In the passage quoted above, Aquinas indicates that (OSB) is proven in Question 3, Article 4:  “Whether Essence and Being Are the Same in God?”.  In this article, Aquinas gives THREE arguments in support of (OSB).
The first argument connects back to the 2nd of the Five Ways.  Here is a key part of this first argument (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore that thing whose being differs from its essence must have its being caused caused by another.  But this cannot be said of God, because we call God the first efficient cause.  Therefore it is impossible that in God His being should differ from His essence.
The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take the key premise here to mean this:
(FEC)  The first principle is the first efficient cause.
So, (FEC) is a key premise in an argument that Aquinas offers to prove (OSB):
(FEC)–>(OSB)
The second argument for (OSB) ends this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (A. I), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from His being.  Therefore His essence is His being.
The word “God” is a misleading translation; I understand the key premise here this way:
(HNP) The first principle has no potentiality.
So, Aquinas uses (HNP) as a premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(HNP)–>(OSB)
The third argument for (OSB) concludes this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
But God is His own essence, as shown above (A. 3); if, therefore, He is not His own being He will be not essential, but participated being.  He will not therefore be the first being–which is absurd.  Therefore God is His own being, and not merely his own essence.
A key premise in this argument is that “God is His own essence”.  The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take this premise to mean this:
(IOE)  The first principle is its own essence.
Aquinas takes (IOE) to be a key premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(IOE)–>(OSB)
Now we can take the core argument in Aquinas’ overall argument for the existence of God and add the three main conclusions on the back end, and add the three main reasons/premises for (OSB) on the front end (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the chart):
Aquinas Argument for God -RevA
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. This entire chain of reasoning exists OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage (which is found in Question 2, Article 3).
2. This chain of reasoning is ESSENTIAL to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica. (If this chain of reasoning fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica fails.)
THEREFORE:
3. The Five Ways passage does NOT contain any proof of the existence of God (not even just one proof).
Furthermore, although there are three separate arguments given in support of (OSB), there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (OSB) to the key claim (MPK), and there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (MPK) to the conclusion that God exists, namely to arrive at the conjunction of  (AKB), (PLB), and (PJB), plus a few other key divine attributes.  Thus, although one could technically construct three different proofs based on the structure of the logic shown in the chart above, the reasoning in those three proofs would be identical starting from the point at which one concludes that (OSB) is the case.
That is to say, about 80% of the proof or chain of reasoning would be identical between the “three proofs”.  The only difference between the proofs would be how one initially proves or argues for the key claim (OSB).  It seems more reasonable to me to say that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, but that a key premise of that argument is supported by three different sub-arguments.  It would certainly be very misleading to assert that “There are three separate and distinct arguments for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.”
So, I still hold the view that there are ZERO proofs of the existence of God in the Five Ways passage, and that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 5

In order to prove that God exists, Aquinas must prove that there exists a being that has ALL of the following divine attributes:

  • a person who is the creator of the universe
  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent person
  • an eternally omniscient person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person

I don’t believe that Aquinas actually proves that there is a being with even just ONE of these key divine attributes, so I certainly don’t believe that Aquinas proves that there is a being that possesses ALL of these divine attributes.  I believe that Aquinas failed to prove that “God exists.”
But an argument for God need not PROVE that God exists.  An argument for God could simply provide evidence or support for the existence of God without proving that God exists.  So, if Aquinas had managed to prove only that there is a being who possesses one or two of the above divine attributes, that would fall short of proving that God exists, but it would still be a significant philosophical accomplishment because that would provide evidence or support for the claim that “God exists”.
My understanding of Aquinas’ book Summa Theologica is that in Part I of this book Aquinas attempts to prove that there exists a bodiless person who created the universe, who has full knowledge of everything that exists, who is perfectly loving and perfectly just, and who is eternal.  So, Aquinas does not exactly attempt to prove the existence of a being who has all of the divine attributes that I mention above, but the being that he attempts to prove is very similar to the sort of being that I think he needs to prove exists in order to prove that “God exists”.
So, if Aquinas was successful in his attempt to prove the existence of a bodiless person who created the universe, who has full knowledge of everything that exists, who is perfectly loving and perfectly just, and who is eternal, then Aquinas would have come close to proving that “God exists” and he certianly would have provided powerful evidence or support for the claim that “God exists.”
The traditional view of the Five Ways passage in Summa Theologica (Part I, Question 2, Article 3) is that Aquinas presents five proofs for the existence of God in that passage.  But this is a completely mistaken view of what Aquinas is doing in that passage.  There are actually ZERO proofs for the existence of God in that passage.
In the Five Ways passage Aquinas is attempting to prove the existence of five metaphysical beings:

  1. an Unchanged Changer  (UC)
  2. a First Efficient Cause  (FEC)
  3. a First Necessary Being (FNB)
  4. a Most Perfect Being (MPB)
  5. an Intelligent Designer of Nature (IDN)

Proving the existence of one of these beings is NOT the same as proving the existence of God.  In order to use these metaphysical conclusions to prove the existence of God, one must add another premise to each of the Five Ways:

  • IF an Unchanged Changer exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a First Efficient Cause exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a First Necessary Being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF a Most Perfect Being exists, THEN God exists.
  • IF an Intelligent Designer of Nature exists, THEN God exists.

But Aquinas makes no effort to prove or support any of these additional claims, at least not in the Five Ways passage.  Therefore, there are ZERO proofs of the existence of God in the Five Ways passage in Summa Theologica.
Furthermore, NONE of the five beings for which Aquinas argues in the Five Ways passage is defined as possessing even ONE of the divine attributes.  None of these beings is (defined as) an eternally bodiless person, an eternally omnipotent person, an eternally omniscient person, or an eternally perfectly morally good person.
Proving the existence of an Intelligent Designer of Nature comes close to proving the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe, but further argumenation would be required to show that the existence of an Intelligent Designer logically implies the existence of a person who created the universe.
So, the existence of the five metaphysical beings would NOT immediately entail the existence of a being who possesses one of the primary divine attributes.  The Five Ways not only fall short of proving the existence of God, they also fall short of proving the existence of a being who possesses even just one of the main divine attributes.  Thus, the Five Ways are complete and utter failures as proofs of the existence of God.
However, I think it is a great mistake to view the Five Ways passage as containing five attempts to prove the existence of God.  This is unfair to Aquinas, an insult to one one of the greatest defenders of theism in the history of philosophy.  Aquinas uses the existence of the five different kinds of metaphysical beings as the foundation of an extensive and complex case for the existence of God, a case which extends for over one hundred pages (not just the Five Ways passage, which occupies less than two pages in the English translation that I’m using).
My view is that there is only ONE proof for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, and that proof relies heavily on the Second Way.  The complex proof for the existence of God presented by Aquinas requires the assumption that a First Efficient Cause (FEC) exists, that there is a being that is an FEC.  Without this assumption, Aquinas’ complex proof for the existence of God fails.
There might be one or two other metaphysical beings from the Five Ways that Aquinas’ proof also requires to be successful, but I have not identified such a logical dependency yet.   Since the success of the 2nd Way is essential to the success of Aquinas’ complex proof of the existence of God, there are NOT five different ways of proving the existence of God in the Summa Theologica; there is just ONE attempted proof of the existence of God.
In Part I, Question 14, Article 1, Aquinas argues that “there is knowledge in God”.  This would be better translated as “there is knowledge in the first principle” or “there is knowledge in the god of Aristotle”.  This is a very important claim in Aquinas’ attempted proof of the existence of God.  It is the first step towards establishing that there is a being who has full knowledge of everything that exists (which comes close to the divine attribute of omniscience), and it is also an important step towards establishing that this being, this god of Aristotle, has will and is perfectly loving (which comes close to the divine attribute of a person who is perfectly morally good).  So, if Aquinas fails to prove this point about there being knowledge in the first principle, then his proof for the existence of God fails.  Aquinas gives only ONE argument for this claim and that argument, so far as I can tell, requires the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause (the conclusion of the 2nd Way).
Aquinas argues that “there is knowledge in God” (better: “there is knowledge in the first principle”) on the grounds that “God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. I)…”  (better: “the first principle is in the highest degree of immateriality…”).  If we then take a look at the argument for that premise, we find it is based on the assumption that “the divine being…is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4)…”  If we then take a look at the arguments (three of them) for that assumption, they are based on the existence of three kinds of beings (respectively):

  1. First Efficient Cause
  2. A being that is pure act
  3. The First Being

The argument for the existence of a being that is pure act is found in Question 3, Article 1:
…the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potency.
Therefore, both the second and third kinds of being mentioned above refer to the existence of  “The First Being”.  This is an ambiguous technical expression used by Thomas to refer to some being that is discussed in the Five Ways passage.  But there are three different “first” beings discussed in the Five Ways:  [the first] Unchanged Changer,  the First Efficient Cause, and the First Necessary Being.  Based on various details in the text, I have concluded that the expression “The First Being” refers to the “First Efficient Cause”.  Thus, all three arguments for the claim that “the divine being…is His own subsistent being…” require the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause.  Therefore, the key claim by Aquinas that “there is knowledge in God” (better: “there is knowledge in the first principle”) requires the assumption that there exists a First Efficient Cause.  Aquinas’ attempt at a complex proof of the existence of God rests upon the success or failure of the 2nd Way of the Five Ways.
Why have so many people wrongly believed that the Five Ways passage contains five proofs for the existence of God?  The main problem is that the word “God” is a mistaken or very misleading translation of the Latin text of the Five Ways passage.  Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Aquinas wrote in Latin, not in English.  
  • Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle.
  • Aristotle wrote in Greek before the English language existed, and before Christianity existed.
  • The English language has been heavily influenced by Christianity.

The word “God” is a word in the English language, and it’s meaning is based in Christian thought, because the English language developed in countries that were predominantly Christian.  The word “God” is a proper noun, a name, not a category.  But since we cannot see “God” or meet “God”, the meaning of this name is based on a description of this (alleged) person in terms of various divine attributes (see the list of key divine attributes at the beginning of this post).
But when Aquinas used the Latin word that is translated as “God” in the Five Ways passage, it is clear that Aquinas was referring to the god of Aristotle, who spoke Greek, and who was not a Christian (because Christianity did not yet exist).  The god of Aristotle is NOT the same as the God of the Christian religion, and was NOT the same as the being referred to by the ordinary use of the word “God” in the English language.  Aristotle’s god was something like a “first principle”, something like a First Efficient Cause.  The word “God” in the English language does NOT mean “first principle” or “First Efficient Cause”.  But that is what Aristotle and Aquinas have in mind in their arguments that are presented as “arguments for the existence of God”.
Thus, people take the word “God” in English translations of Summa Theologica to mean what this word means in the ordinary use of the word, but that is clearly a mistake.  The Latin word that is translated as “God” in English, does NOT mean “God” in the ordinary sense of the word.  In the Five Ways passage (at least), it only means something like a “first principle”; it only refers to the god of Aristotle, which is different than the God of the Christian religion.
Aquinas first attempts to prove the existence of the god of Aristotle in the Five Ways passage, and then on the basis of that assumption he goes on to attempt to prove the existence of the God of the Christian faith in a complex proof that extends over one hundred pages in Part I of Summa Theologica.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 4

NOTE: I began to reconstruct Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in the post I Don’t Care – Part 4, and continued that effort in  I Don’t Care – Part 5, and I Don’t Care – Part 6.   I am changing the title of this series to better reflect the content, so I consider the previous posts numbered as Parts 4, 5, and 6 to constitute Parts 1, 2, and 3 (respectively) of this new series called “Aquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God”.  That is why I’m calling this post “Part 4”.
The first “half” of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God can be summarized like this:
(MC2)–>(MC6)–>(MC9)
Here are the key metaphysical claims from that first part of his argument:
(MC2) There exists an FEC being.   (FEC = First Efficient Cause)
(MC6) There exists an IES being.    (IES =  ipsum esse subsistens)
(MC9) There exists an IES being that is in the highest degree of immateriality and that has perfect knowledge. 
There are arguments for each of these claims, and there are intermediate steps between each of these claims, so the actual argument is more complex and involves several other claims, including several other metaphysical claims.  Click on the diagram below for a clearer image of a more detailed summary of this first “half” of Aquinas’ argument for God:
Flow of Reasoning from MC2 to MC9
 
For more details on this first part of Aquinas’ argument, see the previous post in this series.
 
The second “half” of Aquinas’s argument can be summarized like this:
(MC9)–>(MC22)
(MC9)–>(MC23)
(MC9)–>(MC28)
Metaphysical claim (MC22) asserts there is an IES being who is omniscient (i.e. who knows all things by proper knowledge – See Summa Theologica PI, Q14, A6).
Metaphysical claim (MC23) asserts there is an IES being who is perfectly just (i.e. who always acts justly – See Summa Theologica PI, Q21, A1).
Metaphysical claim (MC28) asserts there is an IES being who is perfectly loving (i.e. who loves all things and who always loves the better things more – see Summa Theologica PI, Q20, A4).
There is a final step (or phase?) that goes from the conjunction of (MC22), (MC23), and (MC28) to the conclusion that God exists.
This final step requires that Aquinas either prove that there can be only one IES being, or else that there can be only one IES being that has these three properties.  Also, Aquinas needs to show that other divine attributes belong to this being (i.e. omnipotence, bodilessness, and eternality).  But for now, I have mapped out the flow of Aquinas’ reasoning from (MC9) to the conclusion that God exists, with focus on (MC22), (MC23), and (MC28):
Flow of Reasoning from MC9 to God
 
 
 
Click on this image to get a clearer view of the diagram.
 
I have now completed a high-level flow of some important parts of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God.  I have skipped over many details of his specific arguments for each of the many metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagrams, and I have not yet attempted to determine the reasoning for other parts of the argument (concerning the divine attributes of being creator of the universe, a bodiless person, omnipotence, and eternality).  I have also not yet attempted to figure out how Aquinas argues that there is only one being that possesses all of these various divine attributes, so the above diagrams leave out important and essential parts of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God.
Note that the very first metaphysical claim (MC2) is the ONLY claim (out of the many metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagrams) that Aquinas argues for in the famous “Five Ways” passage.
It should be plainly obvious at this point that the “Five Ways” passage represents only the very beginning of a long and complex argument for the existence of God, and therefore the traditional view that Aquinas presents five arguments for the existence of God in the “Five Ways” passage is utterly and completely wrong, and is utterly and completely STUPID.
Aquinas does NOT give five arguments for the existence of God in just a couple of pages; rather, Aquinas gives ONE argument for the existence of God that takes up over one hundred pages of Summa Theologica (the material included in my diagrams starts near the beginning of Summa Theologica and goes up to Question 21, Article 1, which in my copy is on page 125), and that involves literally dozens of inferences and sub-arguments.
Here are the metaphysical claims referenced in the above diagram of the flow of reasoning from (MC9) to the conclusion that “God exists”:
(MC18) There is an IES being that has a will.   (see Q19, A1)
(MC19) There is an IES being that understands itself.  (see Q14, A2)
(MC20) There is an IES being who perfectly comprehends itself.   (see Q14, A3)
(MC21) There is an IES being who knows all things.   (see Q14, A5)
(MC22) There is an IES being who knows all things by proper knowledge.  (see Q14, A6).
(MC23) There is an IES being who always acts justly.    (see Q21, A1).
(MC24) There is an IES being in which love exists.    (see Q20, A1)
(MC25) There is an IES being with a will that is the cause of things.  (see Q19, A4)
(MC26)  There is an IES being that loves all things.   (see Q20, A2)
(MC27) There is an IES being that loves all things, but loves some things more than others.   (see Q20, A3)
(MC28) There is an IES being who loves all things and who always loves the better things more.  (see Q20, A4).