## Theistic Arguments Series: On Philosophical Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a mechanical process.  Logical processes consist of following a well-defined set of rules.  It doesn't take human intelligence to perform a series of logical operations to arrive at some conclusion.  There are machines that perform these processes without ever thinking about what they are doing.  They simply start with some known propositional conditions (which may be regarded as premises), apply the rules of logic, and arrive at the inevitable result that is entailed by the starting conditions.  For example,
(proposition) Socrates is a man.
(proposition) All men are mortal.
Then, by performing a series of operations that follow established rules of logic,
(conclusion) Socrates is a mortal.
A computer is quite capable of performing these logical operations.  Once the conditions are established, the conclusion is a necessary consequence, regardless of the means used to perform those operations.

Mathematics is a form of purely deductive reasoning without the baggage of semantic interpretation of its propositions.  In mathematics, we use symbols to represent values, and equations to state propositions that include those values.  For example,
(proposition) y = 3x + 2;
(proposition) x = y/2 - 1;
Here, x and y are symbols that could represent many different kinds of values, including time, mass, money, etc.  It doesn't matter what they actually stand for, but the propositions represent simultaneous constraints on what those values can be, and they are clearly stated in a manner that is not conducive to misinterpretation.  If both propositions are taken to be true, there is one and only one conclusion that must result from the valid application of logical rules upon those starting propositions:
(conclusion) y = 2 and x = 0;
The conclusion is correct and indisputable because the logical process using symbolic propositions and operations is immune to any kind of misinterpretation or equivocation.  This is in contrast to more general propositional logic typically seen in philosophical arguments that does not use symbolic representation, but relies on semantics and word definitions to fix the meaning of the propositions.

Any good logical argument should be stated in terms that are not subject to misinterpretation or equivocation.  All the words used in the premises must be precisely defined so that there is no question about the validity of applying a sequence of logical rules or operations.  When I hear an argument stated with "weasel-words" or phrasing that is semantically impenetrable, that is a glaring signal to me that I should be on the lookout for an attempt to evade cold, hard deductive reasoning.  If you have a solid logical case to make, you should state your premises in the simplest terms possible, using words that are well-defined, and phrasing that is clearly understood to mean only one thing.

Deductive reasoning never yields information that isn't contained in the premises.  In the example above, once the premises are provided, we have all the information we need to arrive at the conclusion, and no logical operation introduces new information - it merely manipulates the information we already have.  The fact that x = 0 may be hidden from our awareness, but it is derived from premises, through a process of manipulating the available information with valid logical operations.

It is incumbent upon the one who makes a logical argument to demonstrate conclusively that the premises are true and valid, if he wants to prove something.  If a premise is merely a hypothetical proposition that is assumed to be true, either as a bald assertion or for the sake of argument, then the conclusion is also hypothetical, and the case has not been proven.  An argument that purports to prove the existence of supernatural entities must include premises that in some way assume the existence of those entities.  That's perfectly fine, as long as you can prove independently that those assumptions are true.  But if you can't, it's nothing more than a case of circular reasoning.

1. It sounds like you're saying that arguments for God's existence need arguments for God existence. Wouldn't this lead to an infinite chain of arguments?

I think that the good arguments for God can stand on there own. Take Leibniz’s cosmological argument:

(1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

(2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

(3) The universe exists.

(4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.

(5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

Now, you might say that premise two just inserts God in, but premise two flows from one. Premise one states that everything that exists either has a cause of its existence, and so is a contingent object, or exists necessarily, and so it cannot not exist. Premise two says that if the universe is contingent then it must be caused to exist by a necessary object. Even if we assume that Platonic forms like the number two exist necessarily, we have no reason to think that the number two caused the universe to exist as abstract objects have no causal power. We are only left with a necessary transcendent being. From the existence of a contingent universe flows the the existence of a transcendent necessary being i.e. God, who caused the universe to exist.

Of course, one can argue that eternal brute facts (or EBF's) might exist, but there is no good reason to think that they do as we observe that things have causes of their existence. Premise one of Leibniz’s argument seems to be a metaphysical truth.

1. Keith,

First. let me say that I do not mean to imply that arguments for God's existence require arguments for God's existence. I am merely saying that the premises must be proven. If it happens that a premise implies the existence of God, so be it, but you still need to prove it.

This discussion may be jumping the gun, because I intend to explore various arguments in later posts, but let me examine Leibniz’s cosmological argument more closely (and keep in mind that I am not a philosopher, so please forgive me if I don't address these issues in the "proper" manner).

(2) assumes that one of two possibilities is true: A - that the universe is non-contingent and has no explanation, or B - that the universe is contingent and is caused (or explained) by God. I take issue with this, since I could claim that the universe may be contingent but caused by something other than God. You say, "We are only left with a necessary transcendent being." This is an assumption that is indeed slipped into the argument. You need to prove it. Why can't there be some other kind of eternal reality (and here I hesitate to use the word 'necessary') that doesn't have the attributes you ascribe to God? Why can't this reality exist without any kind of conscious intent or purpose?

(4) is also problematic. I don't see this as logical consequence of the preceding assertions. It could be the case that the universe simply exists as a brute fact, as you mentioned. You say, "but there is no good reason to think that they do as we observe that things have causes of their existence." I think this assertion is patently false. For one thing, we have never observed the coming to being of the universe itself, and we have no basis to assume that it is in fact contingent. We simply don't know that. Besides that, we do in fact observe things that have no cause that we can discern. This is something that Leibniz could not have said, but our ability to observe things has expanded since then. Does this mean that these things don't have a cause? No, but neither does it lend credence to the assertion that everything must have a cause. So once again, the argument proceeds on the basis of an assumption that is not proven.

2. im-skeptical wrote: "I take issue with this, since I could claim that the universe may be contingent but caused by something other than God. You say, "We are only left with a necessary transcendent being." This is an assumption that is indeed slipped into the argument. You need to prove it."

As far as necessary objects go, it would be up to you to come up with an example of a necessary object that is not God or an abstract object, and then support that thing's existence with argumentation. Remember, necessary objects exist in all possible worlds and depend on absolutely nothing for their existence. They also, cannot not exist.

The cause of the universe could be a contingent object, but if all that exists are contingent objects then nothing would exist as there would have be objects that need a cause in order to exist that don't have a cause.

As to the existence of the necessary transcendent being, it flows from premise one. Premise one says that everything (a universal) that exists is either a contingent object or a necessary object. Since the universe is not a necessary object it must be contingent object, and so needs a cause. The list of possible necessary objects include abstract objects, like numbers, sets and propositions, and concrete objects like transcendent beings. Abstract objects have no causal power, so the cause of the universe must be a transcendent being or God.

im-skeptical wrote: "Why can't there be some other kind of eternal reality (and here I hesitate to use the word 'necessary') that doesn't have the attributes you ascribe to God? Why can't this reality exist without any kind of conscious intent or purpose?"

An EBF might exist, but I see no reason to think that there is an exception to the general rule that physical objects have causes of their existence and state. Even if the quantum vacuum has always existed, there would be the problem of what actualizes it change of state that would lead to the creation of the universe.

3. "(4) is also problematic. I don't see this as logical consequence of the preceding assertions. It could be the case that the universe simply exists as a brute fact, as you mentioned. You say, "but there is no good reason to think that they do as we observe that things have causes of their existence." I think this assertion is patently false. For one thing, we have never observed the coming to being of the universe itself, and we have no basis to assume that it is in fact contingent. We simply don't know that. Besides that, we do in fact observe things that have no cause that we can discern."

This is just an FYI, you can't object to premise four as it necessarily follows from premises one and three. You are alluding to objecting to premise one, so we'll go from there.

It is true that the universe might be an EBF, but what reason do we have to think that this is true? First of all, science gives us good reason to think that the observable universe is only 13.8 billion years old, and so needs some sort of cause for it's existence. Secondly, the universe is a physical object, and experience shows that physical objects have causes of their existence. Finally, saying that we don't know whether or not the universe has always existed does not prove that it is an EBF.

What things do we observe that have no cause? How about subatomic particles popping out of the quantum vacuum? No, as Dr. David Albert, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, explains that the cause of the particles is the state of the QV. He wrote, "Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing."

4. Keith: "As far as necessary objects go, it would be up to you to come up with an example of a necessary object that is not God or an abstract object, and then support that thing's existence with argumentation."

I don't think anything exists necessarily, and I certainly didn't make any argument asserting that there is such a thing, so I don't need to prove it. I did say, "some other kind of eternal reality (and here I hesitate to use the word 'necessary')". This is nothing more than a possibility - not something that I assert as existing. Furthermore, I don't claim that such a thing must be an object or a being. I called it a reality, meaning that it's just the way things are. For example, it might be something like natural law that holds whether or nor our universe exists. And regardless of what this reality is, there is certainly no requirement for it to be purposeful.

Keith: "The cause of the universe could be a contingent object, but if all that exists are contingent objects then nothing would exist"

I didn't say that. If the cause of the universe is contingent, then I would agree that it must be caused by something. But the cause of the universe might be something other than God that is eternal. Can you prove that it isn't?

Keith: "The list of possible necessary objects include abstract objects, like numbers, sets and propositions, and concrete objects like transcendent beings. Abstract objects have no causal power, so the cause of the universe must be a transcendent being or God."

Who says there are no other possibilities? Can you prove it?

Keith: "An EBF might exist, but I see no reason to think that there is an exception to the general rule that physical objects have causes of their existence and state."

Who says this is a general rule? It is not a law of physics. We do see things without cause. If you want to assert that it is an inviolable law, you need to prove it.

Keith: "you can't object to premise four as it necessarily follows from premises one and three."

I should have said (5) instead of {4). Premise 1 clearly states that there could be more than a single explanation for something's existence (contengent or necessary). But your discussion of premise 2 says, "Premise two says that if the universe is contingent ("has an explanation" is the term that was used) then it must be caused to exist by a necessary object". So you have equivocated on the meaning of "explanation". In the first case, it could be contingent or non-contingent existence, and in the second, it could only be contingent. This equivocation follows through to statement 4. This is a consequence of not using clearly defined terms, as I discussed in the OP.

Keith: "It is true that the universe might be an EBF, but what reason do we have to think that this is true? ... saying that we don't know whether or not the universe has always existed does not prove that it is an EBF."

But I have not made that assertion. I said it is a possibility, in response to your assertion that the only explanation for the universe is God. And what reason do we have to think that it isn't a possibility? Even if there is a beginning to the epoch of the universe that we can observe, that doesn't imply that there isn't more to it than that. Again, I'm not asserting that this is the case, but I am asserting that it's a logical possibility. And as long as it's a possibility, your argument fails.

Keith: "the cause of the particles is the state of the QV."

Maybe, but you don't know that for certain. The face is certain quantum events, have no cause that we can discern. If Dr. Albert is able to measure the quantum state and predict when a nuclear decay event will occur, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in physics. It is surprising that the rest of the rest of the physics community hasn't heard of it.

5. "The face is certain quantum events, have no cause that we can discern."

should read: The fact is, certain quantum events have no cause that we can discern.

6. im-skeptical wrote: "For example, it might be something like natural law that holds whether or nor our universe exists. And regardless of what this reality is, there is certainly no requirement for it to be purposeful."

I thought this was interesting because you're sounding like a Platonist here, as you seem to think that it is possible that natural laws are actual things that can exist without nature, and not just a description of the natural world. If there is no matter/energy and nature how can the natural law have an effect? Why these natural laws and not some others? It all seems very arbitrary.

im-skeptical wrote: "Who says there are no other possibilities [for necessary objects]? Can you prove it?"

Well, even though I, or anyone else that I know of, can't come up with other possible candidates for necessary objects besides God and abstract objects it doesn't necessarily follow that aren't any. However, you should realize that the philosophical consensus is that aren't other candidates, most likely. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, "There are various entities which, if they exist, would be candidates for necessary beings: God, propositions, relations, properties, states of affairs, possible worlds, and numbers, among others. Note that the first entity in this list is a concrete entity, while the rest are abstract entities (God and Other Necessary Beings)."

I'm open to other candidates for necessary beings, but I'm doubtful that are any others.

im-skeptical wrote: "Who says this is a general rule? It is not a law of physics. We do see things without cause. If you want to assert that it is an inviolable law, you need to prove it."

There is overwhelming evidence that events around us have explanations and causes. Baseballs don't just fly un-caused, they fly because a pitcher threw it. Elephants don't just pop into existence un-caused, the explanation for the baby elephant is its parents.

As to the subatomic world, you need to remember that not currently knowing something's cause does mean that there is no explanation for that quantum event. I'll have more to say about this below.

7. im-skeptical wrote: "Premise 1 clearly states that there could be more than a single explanation for something's existence (contengent or necessary). But your discussion of premise 2 says, "Premise two says that if the universe is contingent ("has an explanation" is the term that was used) then it must be caused to exist by a necessary object". So you have equivocated on the meaning of "explanation". In the first case, it could be contingent or non-contingent existence, and in the second, it could only be contingent."

There's no equivocation going on here; I think that there's a common misunderstanding that I hope I can clear up. Premise two says that if the universe has a cause then that cause is God, a necessary being. This follows from premise one that says EVERYTHING that exists has an explanation for its existence outside of itself or through its own nature. Since, according to premise one, EBF's don't exist, and the universe is not a necessary object, if it is to have an explanation then that explanation must be a necessary being.

Since the universe exists (premise three) it has an explanation for its existence (premise four from one and three). Since the universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is God (premise five from two and four).

im-skeptical wrote: "I said it is a possibility, in response to your assertion that the only explanation for the universe is God. And what reason do we have to think that it isn't a possibility?...And as long as it's a possibility, your argument fails."

It's logically possible that it could rain meatballs tomorrow, but is that event likely? It is logically possible that an EBF exists, but is this likely? No, I don't think there is any good reason to think that EBF's exist as the overwhelming evidence shows that everything around me and in me is not eternal and has an explanation for its existence.

The only sense that, the mere possibility that an EBF exists, causes Leibniz's argument to fail is the sense that it won't compel all rational people that God exists, however I think that the argument is more plausible than its denial.

If the criterion for success is compelling all rational people than almost all arguments fail, including arguments for the existence of the external world. Most arguments that compel all rational people are true by definition, such as arguments that married bachelors don't exist.

Keep in mind, by your criterion counter arguments to Leibniz's argument which argue for the existence of an EBF will fail as well.

8. im-skeptical wrote: "The fact is, certain quantum events have no cause that we can discern."

Just because it seems that we can't discern what the cause of a quantum event is it doesn't follow that there is no explanation for the event.

In regards to nuclear decay, Tim Mooney, from Newton's Ask A Scientist, explains the cause of nuclear decay is the interplay of nuclear and electrostatic forces. He writes, "The root cause is in the tension between the attractive, short-range nuclear force, and the repulsive, long-range electrostatic force. The nuclear force is hugely attractive when nucleons are very near each other, but drops off rapidly as the distance between nucleons increases. You can think of the nuclear force as being active only between nearest neighbors, and it does not make much difference whether those neighbors are neutrons or protons. The electrostatic force is much weaker, but also much less diminished by distance, and acts mainly between protons, pushing them apart."

As to the seemingly random and un-caused decay of individual atoms, scientific research is indicating that the explanation for this phenomena lies in the sun's emission of neutrinos. Stanford News reports, "The swings [in decay rates] seemed to be in synch with the Earth's elliptical orbit, with the decay rates oscillating as the Earth came closer to the sun (where it would be exposed to more neutrinos) and then moving away...

Going back to take another look at the decay data from the Brookhaven lab, the researchers found a recurring pattern of 33 days. It was a bit of a surprise, given that most solar observations show a pattern of about 28 days – the rotation rate of the surface of the sun.

The explanation? The core of the sun – where nuclear reactions produce neutrinos – apparently spins more slowly than the surface we see. 'It may seem counter-intuitive, but it looks as if the core rotates more slowly than the rest of the sun,' Sturrock said.

All of the evidence points toward a conclusion that the sun is 'communicating' with radioactive isotopes on Earth, said Fischbach (The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/august/sun-082310.html)."

Be careful, our current inability to detect with absolute certainty when a quantum event will occur does not mean that there is no explanation for these events.

9. Keith: "you seem to think that it is possible that natural laws are actual things that can exist without nature, and not just a description of the natural world. If there is no matter/energy and nature how can the natural law have an effect? Why these natural laws and not some others? It all seems very arbitrary."

I used the term "reality". I didn't say it must be an object of some kind. The reality IS nature. And I didn't say it is identical to the physical reality that is observable to us. This (transcendent) nature could be the explanation for our universe. And I didn't specify what this reality is, either (because I really don't know).

Keith: "I, or anyone else that I know of, can't come up with other possible candidates for necessary objects besides God and abstract objects ..."

What about actual worlds that are non-contingent? Again, I don't like to say "necessary" because I don't believe anything is necessary, and that goes for God, too. By the way, I am certainly no Platonist. Any so-called abstract "object" has no existence at all, except as a mental token in your brain.

Keith: "There is overwhelming evidence that events around us have explanations and causes."

We postulate that quantum events have a cause, but we haven't observed and don't know the cause. We postulate that the world has a cause, but we can't observe or know the cause. The "overwhelming evidence" you cite is induction, but we all know the problem with inductive logic. Please bear in mind, I am not making a case one way or the other. I'm saying you don't really know what you assume to be true.

Keith: "according to premise one, EBF's don't exist, and the universe is not a necessary object"

That's reading more into premise 1 than it says. I think the EBF is compatible with premise 1 unless you make additional assumptions.

Keith: "It is logically possible that an EBF exists, but is this likely?"

You're contradicting yourself. Is an EBF possible or not? My argument is about what's possible, not about what's likely. Since I'm not a theist, I don't believe that God is the most likely cause of our universe.

Keith: "The only sense that, the mere possibility that an EBF exists, causes Leibniz's argument to fail is the sense that it won't compel all rational people that God exists, however I think that the argument is more plausible than its denial."

As I said, as long as it's a possibility, your argument fails. You haven't proven the assertions. We both have our own ideas about what is more plausible. That shouldn't be a basis for this argument, because it convinces nobody, and it proves nothing.

Keith: "Keep in mind, by your criterion counter arguments to Leibniz's argument which argue for the existence of an EBF will fail as well. "

But I am only positing possibilities to show that Leibniz's argument doesn't prove what it purports to.

Keith: "Be careful, our current inability to detect with absolute certainty when a quantum event will occur does not mean that there is no explanation for these events."

You miss my point. I'm not claiming that there is no cause, nor do I believe that there is no cause. As long as we don't know what it is (and we still don't), it is logically possible that either there is no cause, or the cause is outside the scope of what is observable to us. Certainly this is the case for the universe itself. Even by your own logic, something must exist without a cause. You just assume that it's God, and I don't make that assumption.

10. im-skeptical wrote: "What about actual worlds that are non-contingent?"

I don't think that an actual world could be a necessary object as it could fail to exist. However, it could be an EBF.

im-skeptical wrote: "By the way, I am certainly no Platonist. Any so-called abstract "object" has no existence at all, except as a mental token in your brain."

There's something we can agree on.

im-skeptical wrote: "The "overwhelming evidence" you cite is induction, but we all know the problem with inductive logic."

Sure, tomorrow, when I open my hand, my keys might float into the sky instead of falling to the ground. That could happen, but is it likely to happen? Are you willing to bet everything you own that this will happen?

We live as if events have causes and explanations because there is ample evidence that they do, and this is a sensible way to live.

im-skeptical wrote: "Keith: 'according to premise one, EBF's don't exist, and the universe is not a necessary object'

That's reading more into premise 1 than it says. I think the EBF is compatible with premise 1 unless you make additional assumptions."

You're partly right here. I meant to say that the argumentation for premise two says/shows that universe is not a necessary object. However, premise one most certainly says that the EBF does not exist because premise one says that everything that exists has an explanation, and the EBF doesn't have an explanation for its existence --it just inexplicably exists. That's why we say brute fact; it just is.

11. im-skeptical wrote: "You're contradicting yourself. Is an EBF possible or not? My argument is about what's possible, not about what's likely. Since I'm not a theist, I don't believe that God is the most likely cause of our universe."

I don't see how I'm contradicting myself. I clearly said that the EBF is possible. To say that something is improbable is not to say that its impossible.

I've been laboring to help you see that when you say, "I'm not a theist," you're saying, "I believe that an EBF is most likely the cause of the world."

im-skeptical wrote: "As I said, as long as it's a possibility, your argument fails. You haven't proven the assertions."

I'm going to give you an example to show you that this attitude is unreasonable and irrational. Suppose you were arguing for the existence of a world external from mind, and I said, "As long as it is possible that the world around me is an illusion that is fed to me, your argument fails. You haven't proven the assertion that I can trust my senses. Since it is possible that this world is an illusion I'm not going to participate in this fantasy anymore." Can you honestly say that I'm being sensible in that scenario?

im-skeptical wrote: "But I am only positing possibilities to show that Leibniz's argument doesn't prove what it purports to."

The problem is that if you want to reject the conclusion of Leibniz's argument then you have to attack premise one, and attacking premise one means that you must argue for the existence of an EBF. You can't persuade all rational people that an EBF exists, so you're just clinging to a mere possibility. By your own criterion, your argument will fail.

im-skeptical wrote: "As long as we don't know what it [the cause of quantum events] is (and we still don't), it is logically possible that either there is no cause, or the cause is outside the scope of what is observable to us. Certainly this is the case for the universe itself. Even by your own logic, something must exist without a cause."

As to quantum events, although the causes of quantum events may still be a little murky there are explanations for them. The explanations include scientists, quantum vacuum states and the decay process. I'll borrow an example from Pruss. One of the symptoms of long term untreated syphilis is paresis. Even though only some long term sufferers of syphilis get paresis and we don't know exactly when it will develop, the fact remains that the explanation of the paresis is syphilis.

God is un-caused, but his existence isn't inexplicable. The big question is whether or not something exists that has no explanation.

12. Keith: "I don't think that an actual world could be a necessary object as it could fail to exist. However, it could be an EBF."

And God could fail to exist, too. In fact I believe that is exactly the case.

Keith: "We live as if events have causes ..."

We also live as if we have free will. But that doesn't make it true.

Keith: "However, premise one most certainly says that the EBF does not exist because premise one says that everything that exists has an explanation, and the EBF doesn't have an explanation ..."

Here, we get back to the equivocal use of the word 'explanation'. It seems to be conflated with 'cause'. Premise 1 says everything has an 'explanation' (including necessary things). Premise 2 uses the word in the manner of 'cause'. More on this in my next post, in which I will discuss my objections to Leibniz's argument again.

Keith: "I don't see how I'm contradicting myself"

You said that the EBF is possible, but you also eliminated it as a possibility. That sounds like a contradiction to me.

Keith: "Suppose you were arguing for the existence of a world external from mind, and I said, "As long as it is possible that the world around me is an illusion that is fed to me, your argument fails. ..."

Your example misses the essential fact that is the basis for my claiming that Leibniz's argument fails. His argument purports to prove its case by eliminating all other possibilities. I claim that he has not successfully eliminated the possibilities, and that's why it fails.

Keith: "The problem is that if you want to reject the conclusion of Leibniz's argument then you have to attack premise one, and attacking premise one means that you must argue for the existence of an EBF. You can't persuade all rational people that an EBF exists, so you're just clinging to a mere possibility."

Don't try to shift the burden of proof. I'm not trying to prove that an EBF exists. My point, once again, is that if it is possible that ab EBF exists, then Leibniz has not proven that God is the only possible 'explanation'.

Keith: "As to quantum events, although the causes of quantum events may still be a little murky there are explanations for them. The explanations include scientists, quantum vacuum states and the decay process."

You inadvertently made a good point here. Explanations are not causes. They are nothing more than rationalizations made by people. An explanation may or may not be true. But that is independent of whether there is an actual cause for something. God is explained (by people), but not caused (by anything), according to theists.

I would like to suggest at this point that you wait until I make my nest post, where I will revisit Leibniz's cosmological argument in light of the points I made in this OP and the discussion that ensued.

13. Based on these comments I can already see that the next post is going to go astray, but OK I'll wait to comment. I could use the break anyway.

2. Keith,

I hope I haven't driven you away. I'm sure he sees my views as illogical, because I have raised doubts about things that he takes for granted: there must be a cause for every physical thing, the only things that exist without cause are abstract universals and God, etc. It may be frustrating for him to argue with someone who doesn't accept those things as absolute truth. But I don't. If you want to make those assumptions the basis of your argument, you still need to prove that they are true. Otherwise, your argument will convince only people who also buy those assumptions.

I'm willing to listen to arguments that support those assumptions, but I don't take them on faith. If God can exist as a necessary or eternal object, why can't something else exist as an eternal object? That something could be the cause of what we see, but it may be hidden from us, just as God is. You may say that whatever it is, it is just God. But I don't think so. I see no logical reason to assume that it has the attributes that are generally ascribed to God (in particular, conscious intent). If you think those attributes must apply, then prove it.

1. im-skeptical wrote: "I hope I haven't driven you away."

No, you haven't driven me away; I'm just pacing myself. Thoughtful responses take an insane amount of time to produce. It's hard to justify spending so much time on these discussions.

im-skeptical wrote: "I'm sure he sees my views as illogical, because I have raised doubts about things that he takes for granted: there must be a cause for every physical thing, the only things that exist without cause are abstract universals and God, etc."

Since you're living in the world, I think that you assume that events have causes. I'm assuming that you didn't wait for the words written here to pop into existence un-caused, you wrote them because you know that words don't just pop into existence un-caused.

The supposed doubts surrounding cause and effect you raised from the quantum world have no bearing on the Leibnizian cosmological argument. As Alexander Pruss, a philosopher and defender of the Leibnizian cosmological argument writes, "A common objection to the PSR (or Principle of Sufficient Reason) is that indeterministic quantum effects lack sufficient reasons. However, the PSR that I'm defending concerns explanation, which is the giving of reasons sufficient to explain the explanandum, not the giving of reasons logically sufficient for entailing the explanandum.

Quantum mechanical events do, however, have explanations (from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology)."

im-skeptical wrote: "If God can exist as a necessary or eternal object, why can't something else exist as an eternal object? That something could be the cause of what we see, but it may be hidden from us, just as God is."

As I've said before, the existence of an EBF is a possibility, but I don't think it is likely. I don't, for lack of a better term, take it on faith that an EBF exists. Even if a physical EBF exists, the question of what caused the change in state that lead to the creation of the universe remains.

2. "The supposed doubts surrounding cause and effect you raised from the quantum world have no bearing on the Leibnizian cosmological argument."

I agree, we shouldn't waste time on the cause of quantum events. What matters is whether there is something that exists without a cause. You believe there is. You believe that God is the ultimate cause of everything, and God doesn't have a cause. I believe there probably is something that is the cause of our observable universe, but I don't know what it is.

So why don't we get down to the heart of the question? If you believe God is the explanation, fine. Why do you believe that God must have godly attributes? What makes you think you know what this God must be like? Why must this God be all-knowing, all-powerful, etc? Why couldn't it just be a transcendent reality or nature of some sort that does nothing but establish the way things are?

3. At heart this is a good question, although both the EBF and God would be un-caused, the real question, as pertains to the argument we've been discussing, is whether or not the thing that explains the world has an explanation for itself or not.

In regards to God's attributes, bear in mind that not all of God's attributes can be directly discerned from the Leibnizian cosmological argument, so I'll have to do some extrapolation. To get the fuller picture of God you should look at all of the main arguments for God.

Now to the attributes, eternality, at least before the formation of the universe, and aseity are, I think, pretty obvious. The un-caused cause must have always existed through its own nature if it is to be the cause of everything else. The un-caused cause cannot be a contingent object because it would need an explanation for its existence, and so couldn't cause everything else without a cause.

As the creator of space and time, the un-caused cause must transcend space and time, at least sans universe, existing atemporally and non-spatially since such things don't exist prior to their creation. This implies that the transcendent un-caused cause would be changeless, or simple, and immaterial as matter changes state and inhabits space. By the way, Dawkins' who designed God argument misses the mark because God is simple and immaterial, and therefore is not an ultra complex machine.

The un-caused cause would be omnipotent because creating everything other than itself implies extreme, unimaginable power.

There are several good reasons to think that the un-caused cause is personal. With personhood comes intentionality. A person can decide to do this like create universes. So, there can be a personal explanation for why there is a universe.

In contrast, a physical EBF like the quantum vacuum has no volition and would have to create randomly. This raises the questions like if the quantum vacuum has existed eternally why did this random event not occur hundreds of googol of years ago, or even an infinite time ago, rather than 13.8 billion years ago? Another question is what caused the change in state of the vacuum that lead to the big bang?

The un-caused cause's immateriality and atemporality implies a mind. The only other things that could exist sans space and time are abstract objects, but they have no causal power. However, minds have causal power and can conceivably exist without space and time.

Omniscience is beyond the scope of the the Leibnizian cosmological argument, but if the un-caused cause is a personal being who wanted to and is able to bring about certain effects in their creation than this would imply that this being would be the ultimate chess player, who knows a countless number of steps ahead what will happen. As the creator of the world it is conceivable that it would know all propositions. Also, it is conceivable that this being is the metaphysical ground of logic.

OK, I've given you my reasons why I think that the un-caused cause is a transcendent being. What reasons do you have to think that the un-cased cause is a physical EBF?