Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Big Problem With Thomism


Edward Feser, perhaps the greatest proponent of Thomistic philosophy today, dismisses modern science-based cosmological theories, such as those of  Lawrence Krauss, as being ignorant of the one true philosophical tradition:
The reason God is necessary and the material universe is not is that he is pure actuality while the material universe is composed of potentiality and actuality, and thus in need of something to actualize it; that he is absolutely simple while the material universe is composite, and thus in need of something to compose it; and that his essence just is subsistent existence itself whereas material things (and indeed anything other than God) have an essence distinct from their acts of existence, and thus stand in need of something to cause them.  No doubt some atheists will be inclined simply to scoff at the metaphysical ideas underlying such arguments.  But to scoff at an argument is not to produce a rational criticism of it.  And since the arguments in question are the chief arguments in the Western tradition of philosophical theology, to fail to produce a rational criticism would simply be to fail to show that atheism really is rationally superior to that tradition. - Feser
Feser is, of course, entitled to his opinion.  But he seems to be unaware of any alternative metaphysical view that would be consistent with a modern scientific understanding, or he simply rejects such views out of hand because they don't support his theistic beliefs.

I believe that Thomistic philosophy is riddled with logical inconsistencies, and is based on assumptions that are epistemologically unjustified.  Perhaps I will devote a future article to some of those problems.  But what I would like to focus on in this article are the metaphysical foundations of Thomism.

In the days of Aristotle, science was in its infancy.  As an empiricist, Aristotle made significant advances in the way we think about the natural world.  He discerned a rational order in nature, and attempted to distill that order into laws that describe how things behave, based on his observations.  One of the key assumptions in his view was the idea that the behavior of everything is governed by purpose.  Thus, teleological assumptions form the basis of Aristotle's physics, where movement is seen as the actualization of a potency, and the purpose behind it was built into nature itself.  His metaphysics was concerned with what what kind of things exist - form, substance, and of course, the unmoved mover that is the ultimate source of motion, but wasn't particularly involved in the affairs of man.  For Aristotle, physics and metaphysics were intimately coupled, forming a coherent view of the natural order of things.

Thomas Aquinas was first and foremost, a Christian.  As a brilliant philosopher, he sought to bring a strong philosophical underpinning to his Christian faith.  He adopted the teachings of Aristotle and elevated teleology to the province of God, who was seen as the ultimate source of act and intention, while nature was demoted in status to become the product of God's will.  Thus in the Thomistic view, metaphysics becomes dominant in explaining the order of things, while physics falls by the wayside.  No longer is there an intimate coupling between physics and metaphysics.  But at least in the time of Aquinas, there was no great schism between the two, mainly because empirical observation had not advanced significantly.

But the state of empirical knowledge has not remained static since the days of Aquinas.  Our powers of observation have improved dramatically, and physics has been thoroughly revolutionized.  No longer do we cling to some of the basic assumptions upon which Aristotle's physics was built.  The teleological basis of movement has been replaced by mechanics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and biology.  No longer do we believe that an object in motion must always be acted upon by another object.  We observe inertial motion.  We observe spontaneous change due to thermodynamics or quantum mechanics.  No longer do we see purpose in every event.  There is order in natural law, but there is no apparent goal.  In fact, by our current understanding of natural laws, the universe will eventually become cold, dark, and devoid of structure.  This is a departure from the Aristotelian teleological view of nature, and antithetical to the Thomistic view.

And along with this revolution in science, there has been a corresponding revolution in metaphysics.  The metaphysical underpinnings of natural reality must evolve along with empirical science in order to keep a coherent view of the natural order, consistent with the empirical understanding of our time, as was the case with Aristotle.   Philosophical works like Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science describe this revolutionary change.  The key point is that physics and metaphysics must go hand-in-hand to maintain a coherent view of reality.

But the Thomist remains stuck in medieval times, with a metaphysical view that is now completely divorced from physical reality.  Thomistic metaphysics could once have claimed an empirical basis, but that is no longer the case.  Instead, its basis is entirely theistic.  Thomistic metaphysics has become a separate realm of existence where teleology rules and problematic facts of modern physics must be ignored.  This separate realm has its own laws.  It has severed the ties it once had with science and empirical knowledge.  It exists for the sole purpose of justifying the theistic beliefs of its followers.

Ed Feser can arrogantly decry the ignorance of modern scientific views of nature and natural reality all he likes.  And indeed, he may be correct in some cases, that modern scientists and philosophers are ignorant or don't understand Thomistic philosophy.  But there are certainly many who do.  And for the most part, they don't reject Thomism out of irrationality.  Rather, they reject it precisely because they are rational, and unlike Feser, they are far more objective in their acceptance of empirical knowledge.  Their goal is not to justify and sustain theistic belief, but to gain a realistic, objectively-based understanding of nature and reality.

110 comments:

  1. im-skeptical wrote: "I believe that Thomistic philosophy is riddled with logical inconsistencies, and is based on assumptions that are epistemologically unjustified."

    Could at least some of this be due to your ignorance of Aquinas' work?

    im-skeptical wrote: "No longer do we cling to some of the basic assumptions upon which Aristotle's physics was built. The teleological basis of movement has been replaced by mechanics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and biology. No longer do we believe that an object in motion must always be acted upon by another object. We observe inertial motion. We observe spontaneous change due to thermodynamics or quantum mechanics."

    First of all, teleology doesn't really come into play until Aquinas' Fifth Way: The argument from change, so naturalism's unproven assumption that there is zero design in the universe does not invalidate the arguments from motion and cause. These arguments begin with the observation that are things being changed by other things all around and even inside of us, and then deducing that there must be an ultimate source of cause and motion.

    As to quantum mechanics and causation, here's Feser's response:

    "Now so far none of this is even a prima facie counterexample to the principle of causality. From:

    1. QM describes the transition of the electron without making reference to a cause.

    it simply does not follow that:

    2. QM shows that the transition of the electron has no cause.

    Such an inference would be no better than:

    3. Kepler’s laws describe the orbits of the planets without making reference to any cause of those orbits, so

    4. Kepler’s laws show that the orbits of the planets have no cause.

    Even if for some reason you think that the orbits have no cause, Kepler’s laws give you no reason to doubt that they have one. And even if you think the transition of the electron has no cause, QM gives you no reason to doubt that it does." I think Feser's response is spot on--nothing that we know about QM gives us reason to think that there's an exception to the PSR.

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    1. Nice attempt to straw man, but let's keep our eye on the ball. I didn't mention the PSR. I was talking about the empirical basis for the observation that a body in motion is acted upon by another body. Clearly, this, among other things, has been disconfirmed by modern science. The larger point is that Aquinas' metaphysical notions of act and potential have lost their explanatory power. Thermodymanics is inconsistent with the magical, mystical realm of Thomistic metaphysics. The only way a modern scientist can still believe Thomism is to compartmentalize his beliefs and keep them separate from science. And that the issue. Metaphysics is not supposed to be separate from science.

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    2. im-skeptical wrote: "I was talking about the empirical basis for the observation that a body in motion is acted upon by another body. Clearly, this, among other things, has been disconfirmed by modern science."

      Are you referring to Newton's First Law of Motion? If so, then you are the one straw manning arguments. The source of motion of a cue ball rolling across a pool table is the motion of the cue stick which was transferred to the ball, and the source of motion of the cue stick is the hand of the pool player. There is no empirical evidence of an object that has been eternally in motion without a source of motion.

      im-skeptical wrote: "The larger point is that Aquinas' metaphysical notions of act and potential have lost their explanatory power."

      This seems perfectly relevant to me. I went from being a potential person to an actual person thanks to my actual parents who caused me to exist. Also, I thought that physics still has the notion of potential and actual energy.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Thermodymanics is inconsistent with the magical, mystical realm of Thomistic metaphysics."

      You'll have to elaborate on this, as the First Law meshes perfectly with the Thomistic idea of cause and effect. The energy from the sun transfers to plants which transfers to animals, who eat the plants; which transfers to me, when I eat a hamburger. I'm not sure how the Second Law would be inconsistent with Thomisim.

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    3. "The source of motion of a cue ball rolling across a pool table is the motion of the cue stick which was transferred to the ball, and the source of motion of the cue stick is the hand of the pool player. There is no empirical evidence of an object that has been eternally in motion without a source of motion."
      - Yet Aquinas believed that without the continued impetus of the mover, all things must come to rest. There is no empirical evidence of any eternal object, but we do know that things that were set in motion billions of years ago are still moving, and without any sustaining mover to keep them going.

      "I went from being a potential person to an actual person thanks to my actual parents who caused me to exist. Also, I thought that physics still has the notion of potential and actual energy."
      - It [metaphysical act and potency] is completely irrelevant to out understanding of how things work. Potential energy in physics is unrelated to that, and "actual energy" is not not a term used in physics, to my knowledge.

      "You'll have to elaborate on this ..."
      - As I mentioned, thermodynamics leads to spontaneous decay. Everything decays over time without sustaining energy to keep its structure intact. This is an example of bodies changing without being acted upon by other bodies. But it also belies the very concept of act and potential. Decay is not what I would call actualization. In fact, it seems to be the opposite of that.


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    4. im-skeptical wrote: "There is no empirical evidence of any eternal object, but we do know that things that were set in motion billions of years ago are still moving, and without any sustaining mover to keep them going."

      The earth revolves around the due to gravity which is caused by the sun. Who is the ultimate mover? God who sustains this process that he created.

      im-skeptical wrote: "It [metaphysical act and potency] is completely irrelevant to out understanding of how things work."

      Physics deals with how things work. Metaphysics deals with what exists and what those thongs are like. It is therefore unreasonable to expect metaphysics to answer questions it's not asking.

      im-skeptical wrote: "As I mentioned, thermodynamics leads to spontaneous decay. Everything decays over time without sustaining energy to keep its structure intact. This is an example of bodies changing without being acted upon by other bodies."

      The argument says that things that are changing are changing because of an efficient cause. What is the efficient cause of the increase of entropy? Energy transfers.

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    5. "The earth revolves around the due to gravity which is caused by the sun. Who is the ultimate mover? God who sustains this process that he created."
      - Gravity is what keeps a body in an elliptical orbit. It does not account for the motion of that body in the first place. But we can place an object in orbit ourselves. No gods needed in the process.

      "Physics deals with how things work. Metaphysics deals with what exists and what those thongs are like. It is therefore unreasonable to expect metaphysics to answer questions it's not asking."
      - Then why do you keep harping about act and potency? That has always been a question of physics, and it has long since been superseded by physical laws that do a far better job of explaining how things work. And by the way, to simply say "I went from being a potential person to an actual person thanks to my actual parents who caused me to exist" tells us nothing about the physical mechanisms involved. You can say the same thing about a rock turning into a statue, or celestial domes rotating around the earth. It explains exactly nothing about what is really causing things to change.

      "The argument says that things that are changing are changing because of an efficient cause. What is the efficient cause of the increase of entropy? Energy transfers."
      - You need to read your Aquinas. He says things move [change] because they are moved by another.

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    7. im-skeptical wrote: "Gravity is what keeps a body in an elliptical orbit. It does not account for the motion of that body in the first place. But we can place an object in orbit ourselves. No gods needed in the process."

      Well, we'd have to work backwards and locate the causes that lead to the earth being in motion.

      Sure, we can and have put objects into orbit, but could we do so without the existence of time, space, matter/energy and physical laws? Aquinas' point is that eventually there has to be an unmoved mover, that possesses pure actuality, which actualizes all the things we observe that have a mix of potentiality and actuality. God is the unmoved mover that created and sustains the universe and the natural processes that run it.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Then why do you keep harping about act and potency? That has always been a question of physics, and it has long since been superseded by physical laws that do a far better job of explaining how things work. And by the way, to simply say "I went from being a potential person to an actual person thanks to my actual parents who caused me to exist" tells us nothing about the physical mechanisms involved. You can say the same thing about a rock turning into a statue, or celestial domes rotating around the earth. It explains exactly nothing about what is really causing things to change."

      Why does metaphysics have to ask and answer questions that science asks and answers? Biology and anatomy & physiology answer how I was born. Metaphysics deals with what these beings (my parents and I) are. We are contingent beings with a mix of potentiality and actuality. We see that if my parents had not actually existed then I would not actually exist either.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You need to read your Aquinas. He says things move [change] because they are moved by another.

      Which argument are we talking about? You were previously talking about change and the Second Law of Thermodynamics which leads me to believe that you were referring to Aquinas' Second Way which deals with causation, but now you're talking about movement which would deal with the First Way. The Second Law of Thermodynamics certainly says that change is happening, but does it make sense to say that movement is happening? In any case, the potential change/movement of entropy is caused by the transition of actual energy.

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    8. The more I think about what you've said about Aquinas' arguments it becomes more and more apparent that you're attacking a straw man version of his arguments. I warned you that this was likely to happen, and sure enough it has. The only way for modern science to be in conflict with or disprove Aquinas' arguments is if it could show that a potential i.e. non-existent thing caused a contingent thing to actually exist, or if it could show that an infinite chain of contingent contingents exists. Neither of these things has happened, and likely never will happen, so in actuality modern science is not in conflict with Aquinas' arguments.

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    9. "Well, we'd have to work backwards and locate the causes that lead to the earth being in motion."
      - Bottom line: nobody knows what caused the big bang. Goddidit is not a satisfactory answer.

      "Aquinas' point is that eventually there has to be an unmoved mover, that possesses pure actuality, which actualizes all the things we observe that have a mix of potentiality and actuality. God is the unmoved mover that created and sustains the universe and the natural processes that run it."
      - And all of this is built on the foundation of a metaphysical view that isn't valid. That's my point. Modern science, as I pointed out, gives us very good reason to doubt that there is, or that there must be, any unmoved mover. We already observe things that are moved without a mover.

      "Why does metaphysics have to ask and answer questions that science asks and answers? Biology and anatomy & physiology answer how I was born. Metaphysics deals with what these beings (my parents and I) are. We are contingent beings with a mix of potentiality and actuality. We see that if my parents had not actually existed then I would not actually exist either."
      - Why does the Thomist insist that he knows better than any mere scientist why things happen? Go back and read the quotation of Feser. That's a question for you to answer. The metaphysics of Aquinas has usurped the role of physics, not only in explaining what is, but in explaining how things happen, as a consequence act and potency. The trouble is, these ancient ideas no longer work. They contradict what we observe. But the Thomist has painted himself into a corner by basing his entire theology on an obsolete understanding nature.

      "Which argument are we talking about? You were previously talking about change and the Second Law of Thermodynamics which leads me to believe that you were referring to Aquinas' Second Way which deals with causation, but now you're talking about movement which would deal with the First Way. The Second Law of Thermodynamics certainly says that change is happening, but does it make sense to say that movement is happening? In any case, the potential change/movement of entropy is caused by the transition of actual energy."
      - It seems you need to do a little more reading on your own philosophy. Aristotle's notion of motion encompassed various types of change - in substance, in quality, in quantity and in place. Aquinas adopted these notions from Aristotle. In any case, neither Aristotle, nor Aquinas had any concept of "transition of actual energy", whatever that is. To them, movement (or change) was the result of something being moved (or changed) by another. But we now know that that doesn't explain what we observe in nature. So the first way (argument from motion) appears to be in question, on the basis of Aquinas' assumptions. Furthermore, the second way (causation of existence) is also on shaky ground, due to modern observations of things coming to exist with no apparent cause. I am not trying to say here that these arguments are necessarily disproven, but there is good reason to doubt their validity, based on faulty assumptions that Aquinas took for granted.

      And this gets right back to my previous comment: the Thomist has painted himself into a corner by basing his entire theology on an obsolete understanding nature.

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    10. "The only way for modern science to be in conflict with or disprove Aquinas' arguments is if it could show that a potential i.e. non-existent thing caused a contingent thing to actually exist, or if it could show that an infinite chain of contingent contingents exists. Neither of these things has happened, and likely never will happen, so in actuality modern science is not in conflict with Aquinas' arguments."
      - I'm not trying to prove anything, and neither is science, as I have explained ad nauseum. But what I do insist is that modern observations have cast into doubt the very foundations of Thomism.

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    11. im-skeptical wrote: "Bottom line: nobody knows what caused the big bang. Goddidit is not a satisfactory answer."

      Bottom line: nobody knows what caused the big bang. eternalphysicalbrutefactdidit is not a satisfactory answer.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Modern science, as I pointed out, gives us very good reason to doubt that there is, or that there must be, any unmoved mover. We already observe things that are moved without a mover."

      What you're saying is ludicrous. What you're saying is that either A) we have observed an object that is eternally moving without any source of cause or movement or B) We have observed something pop into existence un-caused from something non-existent. Both A and B are clearly false--B isn't even metaphysical plausible.

      Modern science does not give us good reason to think that an eternal physical brute fact exists, it just asserts that one does because this is a presupposition of naturalism.

      im-skeptical wrote: "The metaphysics of Aquinas has usurped the role of physics, not only in explaining what is, but in explaining how things happen, as a consequence act and potency..."

      This whole section is false.

      im-skeptical wrote: "It seems you need to do a little more reading on your own philosophy. Aristotle's notion of motion encompassed various types of change - in substance, in quality, in quantity and in place. Aquinas adopted these notions from Aristotle."

      This is a red herring that has nothing to do with the arguments in question.

      im-skeptical wrote: "In any case, neither Aristotle, nor Aquinas had any concept of "transition of actual energy", whatever that is. To them, movement (or change) was the result of something being moved (or changed) by another. But we now know that that doesn't explain what we observe in nature. So the first way (argument from motion) appears to be in question, on the basis of Aquinas' assumptions."

      Yes, of course Aristotle and Aquinas didn't talk about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but their ideas fit perfectly with actual energy transitions causing potential entropy to actually increase.

      Again, I say that we've never observed something that has been eternally in motion without any source or cause.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Furthermore, the second way (causation of existence) is also on shaky ground, due to modern observations of things coming to exist with no apparent cause."

      Not knowing the cause of something is not the same as there being no cause. Besides, quantum vacuums are not non-existent things--they are actually existing things that cause subatomic particles to exist.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But what I do insist is that modern observations have cast into doubt the very foundations of Thomism."

      Show me your evidence that something non-existent has caused something to exist.

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    12. "Bottom line: nobody knows what caused the big bang. eternalphysicalbrutefactdidit is not a satisfactory answer."
      - But it's not what I claim. You're the one making the claims about what exists and how it all happened, not me.

      "What you're saying is ludicrous. What you're saying is that either A) we have observed an object that is eternally moving without any source of cause or movement or B) We have observed something pop into existence un-caused from something non-existent. Both A and B are clearly false--B isn't even metaphysical plausible."
      - What I'm saying is that observation does not show us that there is always a cause for movement. Aquinas said that we observe that there is always a mover, and in modern times, we can see that that is false. You might assume that there is a mover, but we do not observe it.

      "Modern science does not give us good reason to think that an eternal physical brute fact exists, it just asserts that one does because this is a presupposition of naturalism."
      - It might be worth examining your own position. Naturalism assumes that what exists is precisely the set of things that we already know exist (by virtue of observation) - natural things. It does not presuppose anything beyond that. Your supernatural metaphysics assumes more than that - that there are other things, despite the fact that we can't detect them.

      "This whole section is false."
      - Now you want me to think that act and potency don't explain movement in the Thomistic view? But they do (or at least they purport to). And that's how they usurp the role of physics.

      "This is a red herring that has nothing to do with the arguments in question."
      - You were the one who said that change was different from movement. I felt I needed to explain it to you.

      "Yes, of course Aristotle and Aquinas didn't talk about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but their ideas fit perfectly with actual energy transitions causing potential entropy to actually increase."
      - Actually, they don't. Potency is the ability to become something, and act is how that potential is realized. Thermodynamic decay is not actualization, or becoming - it is destructive, a movement away from any kind of ideal or form. This is not consistent with Aquinas. Furthermore, after hearing this mouthful: "actual energy transitions causing potential entropy to actually increase", methinks you don't have any idea what you're talking about.

      "Again, I say that we've never observed something that has been eternally in motion without any source or cause."
      - Now there's a red herring for you. We've never observed something that has been eternally in motion with any source or cause, either.

      "Not knowing the cause of something is not the same as there being no cause. Besides, quantum vacuums are not non-existent things--they are actually existing things that cause subatomic particles to exist."
      - I never said there is no cause for the things we observe. I said we don't observe a cause. And that's why Aquinas is wrong, because he says we do.

      "Show me your evidence that something non-existent has caused something to exist."
      - I didn't make that claim. What I said was that we don't always observe that there is a cause, and that's why Aquinas' assumptions are cast into doubt.

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    13. im-skeptical wrote: "What I'm saying is that observation does not show us that there is always a cause for movement.

      Here is a definition of the Scholastic meaning of causality from Edward Feser that I hope will shed a great deal of light and help you see where your post and this whole discussion got of the track. Feser writes, "The Scholastic principle of causality states that any potential, if actualized, must be actualized by something already actual. I think this definition is very helpful because it seems like when you see words like motion and change you immediately leap into physics mode and completely miss what Aquinas is actually saying. When you say that modern science is in conflict with Aquinas thought or that the Second Law of Thermodynamics shows that there is an instance of something not caused this shows me that you are not understanding the distinction between physics and metaphysics which are addressing completely different questions and so could not be in conflict with one another. As Feser writes,"The principle of causality itself does not make any claim about how exactly efficient causes operate in all of these diverse cases. It just tells us that whatever the details turn out to be, any potential will only be actualized by something already actual...[T]here there is no conflict [between Aquinas' metaphysics and physics] at all, because the principle of causality and the laws of physics are not even addressing the same question...[T]there can be no conflict between Newton’s law and the principle of causality because the former is a thesis of natural science and the latter a thesis of metaphysics -- or more precisely, of that branch of metaphysics known as the philosophy of nature. As Bertrand Russell and others with no Aristotelian or theological ax to grind have emphasized, what physics gives us is really only the abstract mathematical structure of the material world. It does not tell us what fills out that structure, does not tell us the intrinsic nature of the material world. But that is what metaphysics, and in particular the philosophy of nature, are concerned with. Moreover, the philosophy of nature, as modern Scholastics have understood it, tells us what the natural world must be like whatever the specific laws of physics, chemistry, etc. turn out to be. And the Scholastic position is that the distinction between actuality and potentiality, the principle of causality, and other fundamental elements of the Aristotelian conception of nature are among the preconditions of any possible material world susceptible of scientific study.

      That is why no findings of empirical science can undermine the claims of metaphysics and the philosophy of nature. It is also why no findings of empirical science can undermine the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, for these are grounded in premises drawn, not from natural science, but from metaphysics and the philosophy of nature."


      So, you can't just point to physical laws, which are descriptions of how he natural world works, and then say that this defeats Aquinas' arguments because you are straw manning them. To really interact with Aquinas' argument you'll need to do metaphysics not physics.

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    14. im-skeptical wrote: "But it's not what I claim. You're the one making the claims about what exists and how it all happened, not me."
      OK, so are you saying that you think that God's causing the observable universe to exist is just as likely as the brute fact causing the universe? In other words, you're a 50-50 agnostic.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Naturalism assumes that what exists is precisely the set of things that we already know exist (by virtue of observation) - natural things. It does not presuppose anything beyond that."

      If you've a priori eliminated God from the list of possible suspects of what caused the contingent observable universe to exist then you're down to saying that either A) An eternal physical brute facts exists and is the suspect B) There exists an infinite chain of contingent contingents or C) The universe popped into existed un-caused out of literally nothing. As I've said many times there's no evidence that any of these options are true, and all violate the PSR. There's also no evidence that an actual infinite number of objects exist.

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    15. "So, you can't just point to physical laws, which are descriptions of how he natural world works, and then say that this defeats Aquinas' arguments because you are straw manning them. To really interact with Aquinas' argument you'll need to do metaphysics not physics."
      - Feser's view of metaphysics is basically "I presuppose this to be a priori truth, and no amount of physical science or empirical evidence can possibly affect what I believe, no matter how much it diverges from my presuppositions." How very Catholic of him. If sciencs seems to disagree with his presuppositions, he can simply ignore it, or find a way to rationalize it. But either way, he's not willing to allow empirical knowledge to intrude on his beliefs.

      It might be interesting to contrast Feser's intransigent view with a somewhat more realistic perspective that acknowledges the symbiotic relationship between physics and metaphysics. Read this, and notice especially the conclusion. Real philosophy is more interested in investigating the nature of reality than justifying religious belief by eschewing any such investigation.

      "OK, so are you saying that you think that God's causing the observable universe to exist is just as likely as the brute fact causing the universe? In other words, you're a 50-50 agnostic."
      - No. I'm saying that I don't presuppose anything. Which of the various possibilities is most likely is a different question altogether. But you see God as the most likely precisely because, like Feser, you presuppose that as the basis of your whole worldview.

      "If you've a priori eliminated God from the list of possible suspects of what caused the contingent observable universe to exist then you're down to saying that either A) An eternal physical brute facts exists and is the suspect B) There exists an infinite chain of contingent contingents or C) The universe popped into existed un-caused out of literally nothing. As I've said many times there's no evidence that any of these options are true, and all violate the PSR. There's also no evidence that an actual infinite number of objects exist."
      - I don't a priori eliminate anything, as I have tried to explain to you. But there's no evidence that the God option is true, either. And despite theists' attempts to define away the need for God to have a cause or an explanation, God also violates the PSR.

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    16. im-skeptical wrote: "Feser's view of metaphysics is basically 'I presuppose this to be a priori truth, and no amount of physical science or empirical evidence can possibly affect what I believe, no matter how much it diverges from my presuppositions.'"

      Ah, but there you're quite wrong. Aquinas' argument that any potential, if actualized, must be actualized by something already actual came from observations of the world, not a priori logic. Just some of the vast number of examples of this are our actual parents actualizing our potential selves, a potential tree being actualized by an actual acorn; potential heavy elements being actualized by the death of actual stars; and potential subatomic particles being actualized by actual quantum vacuums. There is a preponderance of evidence that shows that potential things, that are actualized, are actualized by something that already actually exists. Is it logically possible that some potential thing could be actualized from something that doesn't actually exist? Yes, but there is no reason to think that this absurd possibility could obtain in reality.

      im-skeptical wrote: "If sciencs seems to disagree with his presuppositions, he can simply ignore it, or find a way to rationalize it."

      But science doesn't disagree with Aquinas' arguments, in fact it could not because metaphysics and science aren't even addressing the same questions.

      In case you missed it, I'm going to re-quote what Feser said about science. He wrote, "Moreover, the philosophy of nature, as modern Scholastics have understood it, tells us what the natural world must be like whatever the specific laws of physics, chemistry, etc. turn out to be. And the Scholastic position is that the distinction between actuality and potentiality, the principle of causality, and other fundamental elements of the Aristotelian conception of nature are among the preconditions of any possible material world susceptible of scientific study."

      im-skeptical wrote: "No. I'm saying that I don't presuppose anything. Which of the various possibilities is most likely is a different question altogether. But you see God as the most likely precisely because, like Feser, you presuppose that as the basis of your whole worldview."

      In other words, you find yourself on the atheist side of the spectrum. On faith you conclude that because there is not overwhelming evidence that God caused the universe to exist as it does, that, by deduction, you're positing that one of the aforementioned naturalistic explanations is most likely true even though there is no overwhelming evidence or even good reason to think that these possibilities are true. This move was not based on reason but on faith.

      im-skeptical wrote: "God also violates the PSR."

      As I've said many times now, God does not violate the PSR, as his status as a necessary being is the explanation for his own existence.

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    17. "Ah, but there you're quite wrong. Aquinas' argument that any potential, if actualized, must be actualized by something already actual came from observations of the world, not a priori logic."
      - Actually, you're quite wrong. What we observe is that things change. We never observe act and potency. Those things are postulations made to explain what we observe.

      "Is it logically possible that some potential thing could be actualized from something that doesn't actually exist? Yes, but there is no reason to think that this absurd possibility could obtain in reality"
      - A better question to ask is whether something can change without something else acting upon it. Then, it is no longer an absurd possibility, but the reality that we sometimes observe.

      "But science doesn't disagree with Aquinas' arguments, in fact it could not because metaphysics and science aren't even addressing the same questions."
      - You just asserted that metaphysics is based on "observations of the world". If that's true, then you can't separate it from science. But I assert that it's not true, and Thomistic metaphysics isolates itself from empirical observation. But in doing so, it loses any basis in reality.

      Feser: "the Scholastic position is that the distinction between actuality and potentiality, the principle of causality, and other fundamental elements of the Aristotelian conception of nature are among the preconditions of any possible material world susceptible of scientific study."
      - This just proves my point. Thomism is based on presuppositions that are isolated from empirical investigation. So even when science shows that things don't always seem to be compatible with the Thomistic supposition of potencies being actualized (as I have tried to demonstrate), the Thomist can only ignore it or try to explain it away. This is dysfunctional metaphysics. The paper I cited is an example of what metaphysics ought to be. Did you read it?

      "In other words, you find yourself on the atheist side of the spectrum. On faith you conclude that because there is not overwhelming evidence that God caused the universe to exist as it does, that, by deduction, you're positing that one of the aforementioned naturalistic explanations is most likely true even though there is no overwhelming evidence or even good reason to think that these possibilities are true. This move was not based on reason but on faith."
      - On evidence (or lack thereof) I conclude that there is not overwhelming evidence that God caused the universe to exist. This is not a matter of faith. You believe despite the lack of evidence. That's faith.

      "As I've said many times now, God does not violate the PSR, as his status as a necessary being is the explanation for his own existence."
      - As I said, "despite theists' attempts to define away the need for God to have a cause or an explanation, God also violates the PSR." Either you believe everything has a cause, or you don't. Defining God in such a way that he is exempt from the PSR doesn't change the fact that God violates the PSR. Oh, and let's not forget the soul, with its free will. There's another violation of PSR that needs its own special exemption. How convenient for you that every time your philosophy runs into a contradiction, you can just define it away.

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    18. im-skeptical wrote: "Actually, you're quite wrong. What we observe is that things change. We never observe act and potency. Those things are postulations made to explain what we observe."

      Uhh, I don't know about you, but I'm surrounded by things that seem to actually exist, in fact I seem to actually exist. I don't know of anyone that claims that nothing actually exists. However, I would agree that we don't and can't see things that only potentially exist. After all, how could one see a person that doesn't actually exist? We do, however, observe actually existing contingent things causing other contingent things go from potential existence to actual existence. Go to any car factory and observe potential cars turn into actual cars thanks to actually existing, people, machines, metal, plastic and rubber.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You just asserted that metaphysics is based on "observations of the world". If that's true, then you can't separate it from science."

      Metaphysics makes use of scientific findings to support arguments and metaphysics has formed the structural foundations of science.

      im-skeptical wrote: "This just proves my point. Thomism is based on presuppositions that are isolated from empirical investigation. So even when science shows that things don't always seem to be compatible with the Thomistic supposition of potencies being actualized (as I have tried to demonstrate), the Thomist can only ignore it or try to explain it away."

      First of all, Thomism is based on empirical observations. Secondly Thomism is not incompatible with science; its' your straw man version of Thomism that is in conflict with science.

      im-skeptical wrote: "On evidence (or lack thereof) I conclude that there is not overwhelming evidence that God caused the universe to exist. This is not a matter of faith. You believe despite the lack of evidence. That's faith."

      So, you have a double argument from ignorance going on. A negative one for God and a positive one for your brute fact. In other words, your naturalistic beliefs are based on faith and not reason.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Either you believe everything has a cause, or you don't. Defining God in such a way that he is exempt from the PSR doesn't change the fact that God violates the PSR."

      I've tried to explain the distinction between necessary objects and contingent objects, but you apparently don't want to see the distinction.

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    19. "Uhh, I don't know about you, but I'm surrounded by things that seem to actually exist, in fact I seem to actually exist. I don't know of anyone that claims that nothing actually exists. However, I would agree that we don't and can't see things that only potentially exist"
      - That is meaningless gibberish. Everything that exists actually exists. But Aquinas postulated that act and potency are substances in their own right. Do you observe that? Have you ever had a container of 'potency' and sprinkled some 'act' on it? This is nothing but speculation from a pre-scientific age that has been thoroughly debunked by science.

      "Metaphysics makes use of scientific findings to support arguments and metaphysics has formed the structural foundations of science."
      - You argue from both sides of your face. Either metaphysics is consistent with empirical observation and science, or it is independent of those things, as Feser seems to be saying. Which is it?

      "First of all, Thomism is based on empirical observations. Secondly Thomism is not incompatible with science; its' your straw man version of Thomism that is in conflict with science."
      - So Feser is wrong when he says "no findings of empirical science can undermine the claims of metaphysics". Because I have already pointed out that science disagrees with the claims of Thomitic metaphysics.

      "So, you have a double argument from ignorance going on. A negative one for God and a positive one for your brute fact. In other words, your naturalistic beliefs are based on faith and not reason."
      - You need to take another look at what I have claimed. I think you are reading way too much into my words.

      "I've tried to explain the distinction between necessary objects and contingent objects, but you apparently don't want to see the distinction"
      - And I've tried to explain that this is just a matter of the way you define God. I don't think God is necessary at all. But you do because otherwise, you would be facing a contradiction in your philosophy. Maybe the philosophy is faulty. Have you ever considered that? Is there any room for logic in your thinking that hasn't been crowded out by blind faith?

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    20. im-skeptical wrote: "That is meaningless gibberish. Everything that exists actually exists. But Aquinas postulated that act and potency are substances in their own right. Do you observe that? Have you ever had a container of 'potency' and sprinkled some 'act' on it? This is nothing but speculation from a pre-scientific age that has been thoroughly debunked by science."

      This is another prime example of you seeing a word like substance and thinking of it in terms of matter and molecules, and completely missing the fact that this is not the sense of the word that is being used in this instance. To understand Aquinas' metaphysical meaning of substance we first need to cover the distinction between essence and existence. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's (IEP) article on Aquinas' metaphysics says, "Essence/existence composites merely have existence; whatever an essence/existence composite is, it is not its existence. Insofar as essence/existence composites merely have, but are not, existence, they participate in existence in order to exist. This is a second of Thomas’s fundamental metaphysical teachings: whatever does not essentially exist, merely participates in existence. Insofar as no essence/existence composite essentially exists, all essence/existence composites merely participate in existence. More specifically, the act of existence that each and every essence/existence composite possesses is participated in by the essence that exists." This comes from our observation that contingent objects, like you and I, exist, but they don't exist eternally, so pure existence is not our essence. John Shand writes about Aquinas' metaphysics in Philosophy and Philosophers. He writes, "(a) Essence...This is "whatness"; viewed etymologically through a definition it tells us what a thing is. (b) Existence...this is the fact that a thing is.

      OK, onto Aquinas' meaning of substance. The IEP says, "According to Aquinas, substances are what are primarily said to exist, and so substances are what have existence but yet are not identical with existence. Aquinas’s ontology then is comprised primarily of substances, and all change is either a change of one substance into another substance, or a modification of an already existing substance. Given that essence is that which is said to possess existence, but is not identical to existence, substances are essence/existence composites; their existence is not guaranteed by what they are. They simply have existence as limited by their essence.

      Let us begin with a logical definition of substance, as this will give us an indication of its metaphysical nature. Logically speaking, a substance is what is predicated neither of nor in anything else. This captures the fundamental notion that substances are basic, and everything else is predicated either of or in them. Now, if we transpose this logical definition of substance to the realm of metaphysics, where existence is taken into consideration, we can say that a substance is that whose nature it is to exist not in some subject or as a part of anything else, but what exists in itself. Thus, a substance is a properly basic entity, existing per se (though of course depending on an external cause for its existence), and the paradigm instances of which are the medium sized objects that we see around us: horses, cats, trees and humans." So, from the empirical observation of the contingent objects around us, Aquinas' concludes that there must be an unmoved mover whose essence is pure existence (i.e. a necessary being), as contingent objects need a source of actualization; that what caused all contingent objects to exist is something that didn't need to be actualized itself.

      Clearly, no scientific findings put Aquinas metaphysics in question.

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    21. im-skeptical wrote: "You argue from both sides of your face. Either metaphysics is consistent with empirical observation and science, or it is independent of those things, as Feser seems to be saying. Which is it?"

      What I'm saying is that both Aquinas' metaphysics and science flow from empirical observations, but they are asking different questions and so could not be in conflict with one another.

      im-skeptical wrote: "So Feser is wrong when he says "no findings of empirical science can undermine the claims of metaphysics". Because I have already pointed out that science disagrees with the claims of Thomitic metaphysics."

      No, it's just your straw man version of Aquinas' argument that is in conflict with science--Aquinas actual argument has no conflict with modern science. Pointing to the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not show that potential contingents aren't actualized by things that actually exist. Besides, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a description of the flow of heat and the arrow of time, and so does not necessarily lack a cause, even in the scientific sense of the word.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You need to take another look at what I have claimed. I think you are reading way too much into my words."

      I think you're playing coy. You're trying to act like you're an agnostic with no firm beliefs, while simultaneously showing a contempt for theism that is not backed by hard reason or evidence. You're trying to pretend that you don't have faith.

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    22. "This is another prime example of you seeing a word like substance and thinking of it in terms of matter and molecules ..."
      - Nice parry from a discussion of "potential existence" vs "actual existence" to the ethereal realm of essentialism. But I don't think that's what we were discussing in the first place.

      "Clearly, no scientific findings put Aquinas metaphysics in question."
      - In case you failed to read my post, that was the main objection. Thomism is so far removed from reality that it can't be touched by any observation of reality, and yet it still lays claim to having an empirical basis: "So, from the empirical observation of the contingent objects around us, Aquinas' concludes that there must be an unmoved mover whose essence is pure existence." It sure does sound like you can have your cake and eat it, too.

      "What I'm saying is that both Aquinas' metaphysics and science flow from empirical observations, but they are asking different questions and so could not be in conflict with one another."
      - What I've tried to explain is that the "observations" that are the basis of Thomism are no longer valid, now that we see so much more than we could in medieval times. If we understand that things don't really work the way we thought they did in those times, how can we believe that Thomism has any basis in reality?

      "No, it's just your straw man version of Aquinas' argument that is in conflict with science--Aquinas actual argument has no conflict with modern science. Pointing to the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not show that potential contingents aren't actualized by things that actually exist."
      - The example I gave was an attempt to get you to see that those "observations" that are at the foundations of Thomism are not valid observations. Modern observations tell us that things don't necessarily work the way Thomists insist they do. Your only recourse is to postulate that they work that way in the magical mysterious realm of Thomistic metaphysics. But in doing so, you are separating your philosophy from any empirical basis. If science proved conclusively that there is no act and potency - that there is some other teleological basis for movement that flat-out contradicts the notion of act and potency, you would still believe in them.

      "I think you're playing coy. You're trying to act like you're an agnostic with no firm beliefs, while simultaneously showing a contempt for theism that is not backed by hard reason or evidence. You're trying to pretend that you don't have faith."
      - I don't believe in God. Period. Why? Because I find insufficient reason to believe it. Likewise, I don't make specific claims about the nature of the cosmos. Why? Because I don't have sufficient evidence to support belief in any of the various cosmological theories. I am a naturalist. Why? Because I think the evidence for naturalism is indeed sufficient to support that, and to reject any belief in supernaturalism. You can call it faith if you like. But unlike yours, what I believe is based entirely on evidence. Your belief is built upon a mountain of theistic presuppositions.

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    23. im-skeptical wrote: "In case you failed to read my post, that was the main objection. Thomism is so far removed from reality that it can't be touched by any observation of reality, and yet it still lays claim to having an empirical basis."

      And that objection has failed because you're straw manning Aqunias' argument. There are three ways that the metaphysics we've been discussing could be invalidated: 1) If we found evidence that an eternal physical brute fact exists 2) If we found evidence that an infinite chain of contingent contingents exist or 3) We found evidence that a contingent thing popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing. There is absolutely no evidence of any of things, or really any good reason to think that they're true, so Aquinas' metaphysics has not been shown to be in conflict with science.

      im-skeptical wrote: "What I've tried to explain is that the "observations" that are the basis of Thomism are no longer valid, now that we see so much more than we could in medieval times."

      And you've failed. There is a mind boggling amount of evidence that potentially existing contingent things are caused to exist by actually existing things, and no good reason to think that brute facts exists.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Because I find insufficient reason to believe it. Likewise, I don't make specific claims about the nature of the cosmos. Why? Because I don't have sufficient evidence to support belief in any of the various cosmological theories. I am a naturalist. Why? Because I think the evidence for naturalism is indeed sufficient to support that, and to reject any belief in supernaturalism. You can call it faith if you like. But unlike yours, what I believe is based entirely on evidence. Your belief is built upon a mountain of theistic presuppositions."

      So, you do actually have the double arguments from ignorance going on as I suspected. As a naturalist, whether you're willing to admit it or not, you're tacitly agreeing with the presupposition that a brute fact exists--it inevitably follows from the baseless deduction of God from the possible explanation for the existence of the universe. How in the world can you say that your beliefs are based on reason? You leap from saying that there's no conclusive evidence for God, so there must be a brute fact, even though there is no conclusive evidence for a naturalistic alternative to God. You haven't even shown that naturalism is more plausible than God--you've just asserted that physical brute facts are logically possible. You can try to deny that you have naturalistic faith, but I don't know who you're trying to fool. You might be fooling yourself, but you're not fooling me.

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    24. "There is absolutely no evidence of any of things, or really any good reason to think that they're true, so Aquinas' metaphysics has not been shown to be in conflict with science."
      - That misses the point altogether. First, There IS evidence of things that are inconsistent with the supposed empirical basis of Thomism. Second, How can you keep insisting that there's no reason to believe things for which we have no evidence (when in fact all the evidence we have says everything is natural), when you have no such reason to believe Thomistic metaphysics?

      "And you've failed. There is a mind boggling amount of evidence that potentially existing contingent things are caused to exist by actually existing things, and no good reason to think that brute facts exists."
      - I've failed because you don't listen. Brute fact. Brute fact. Brute fact. Why do you keep going back to that, when I'm not talking about that? I'm talking about things that we really do observe - that are part of nature, and that were not observed back in the middle ages when Aristotelian physics was transformed into Thomistic metaphysics.

      "How in the world can you say that your beliefs are based on reason? You leap from saying that there's no conclusive evidence for God, so there must be a brute fact, even though there is no conclusive evidence for a naturalistic alternative to God. You haven't even shown that naturalism is more plausible than God"
      - I said what I believe is based on evidence. Without evidence, all the reason in the world can still lead you down the wrong path. That's why there are theists. I don't believe in God because the evidence supports it. But since ALL empirical evidence supports natural things, and NO empirical evidence supports supernatural things, the only reasonable thing to believe is that there are no supernatural things. Therefore, I can place that possibility on the bottom of the list. This is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of evidence, no matter how hard you try to make it seem otherwise. As I have said a million times - just show me the evidence, and then I'll have reason to believe. Is that what you call faith?

      Incidentally, I've heard this line of reasoning before, and it always makes me wonder - why would someone who has faith try to denigrate the belief of someone else by calling it faith?

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    25. im-skeptical wrote: "First, There IS evidence of things that are inconsistent with the supposed empirical basis of Thomism."

      What evidence? We've already established that quantum vacuums are actually existing things with actually existing energy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a description of how nature works, and doesn't imply that changes in entropy are not caused by something that actually exists. When an ice cube melts on a table that change was caused by the flow of of actually exiting heat created by the rapid movement of the actually existing air molecules in the room. We certainly don't say that the ice cube melted itself.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I'm talking about things that we really do observe - that are part of nature, and that were not observed back in the middle ages when Aristotelian physics was transformed into Thomistic metaphysics."

      We still observe potentially existing contingent things being actualized by other actually existing things. In fact, we observe it all the time. Is it really reasonable to think that a potentially existing house could build itself in the absence of actually existing builders, wood, glass and metal? Is it reasonable to think that a baseball could fly across a field in the absence of a thrower (or other source of motion), or even for a potentially existing baseball to actually exist in the absence of actually existing people and all the material supplies that goes into making it?

      im-skeptical wrote: "How can you keep insisting that there's no reason to believe things for which we have no evidence (when in fact all the evidence we have says everything is natural...I said what I believe is based on evidence. Without evidence, all the reason in the world can still lead you down the wrong path. That's why there are theists. I don't believe in God because the evidence supports it. But since ALL empirical evidence supports natural things, and NO empirical evidence supports supernatural things, the only reasonable thing to believe is that there are no supernatural things. Therefore, I can place that possibility on the bottom of the list."

      The problem is that your evidence is question begging. The existence of a universe that has a natural order could be evidence for naturalism or theism--the question of who or what caused that universe and that natural order to exist remains. But you're assuming, via deduction, that the cause of the universe and the natural order must be a physical brute fact when you have no evidence that this is the case. So, the big question is, in your opinion, how would a world, created by God, that is endowed with a natural order that he created, look different from our actual world, and why do you think that it must be that way?

      im-skeptical wrote: "Incidentally, I've heard this line of reasoning before, and it always makes me wonder - why would someone who has faith try to denigrate the belief of someone else by calling it faith?"

      I'm just trying to help you see how shaky the case for naturalism is. You crow about how much evidence and reason is backing your beliefs, while in actuality, there are no solid arguments or evidence for what you believe.

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    26. "When an ice cube melts on a table that change was caused by the flow of of actually exiting heat created by the rapid movement of the actually existing air molecules in the room. We certainly don't say that the ice cube melted itself."
      - I agree that you can transfer energy from one body to another. But that's not what I was talking about. Place a warm body in empty space, and it spontaneously radiates heat. There is no external body acting on it. Furthermore, it is hard to see this as any kind of actualization. It is simply energy loss. If there's any "potency" involved, it is being lost, not actualized.

      "We still observe potentially existing contingent things being actualized by other actually existing things. In fact, we observe it all the time. Is it really reasonable to think that a potentially existing house could build itself in the absence of actually existing builders, wood, glass and metal? Is it reasonable to think that a baseball could fly across a field in the absence of a thrower (or other source of motion), or even for a potentially existing baseball to actually exist in the absence of actually existing people and all the material supplies that goes into making it?"
      - The last time we went through this, you transitioned into a discussion of essentialism. So let's skip that part, and just tell me, when was the last time you observed a "potentially existing contingent thing"? What did it look like, and how could you know it was potentially existing before it became actually existing? The fact is that you don't observe the things you claim. You only presume them. I'll make it simple for you. I'll show you a rock. Is this a potentially existing thing? If so, describe the potential.

      "The problem is that your evidence is question begging. The existence of a universe that has a natural order could be evidence for naturalism or theism--the question of who or what caused that universe and that natural order to exist remains. But you're assuming, via deduction, that the cause of the universe and the natural order must be a physical brute fact when you have no evidence that this is the case. So, the big question is, in your opinion, how would a world, created by God, that is endowed with a natural order that he created, look different from our actual world, and why do you think that it must be that way?"
      - First, evidence is not question-begging. Presumptions about the evidence are question-begging. You see a universe that has nothing but natural things in it, and your theistic presumptions lead you to conclude that something supernatural must be going on. I see a universe that has nothing but natural things in it, and the evidence leads me to conclude that nothing supernatural is going on. How do I think the world would look if it was created by God? I think I would be able to see something somewhere that indicates there is something supernatural going on. But that's not what I see.

      "I'm just trying to help you see how shaky the case for naturalism is. You crow about how much evidence and reason is backing your beliefs, while in actuality, there are no solid arguments or evidence for what you believe."
      - Like I keep saying, I observe EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE looks natural. That's not evidence for the supernatural. That's evidence that everything in the universe IS NATURAL. You're the one who lacks evidence.

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    27. im-skeptical wrote: "But that's not what I was talking about. Place a warm body in empty space, and it spontaneously radiates heat. There is no external body acting on it. Furthermore, it is hard to see this as any kind of actualization. It is simply energy loss. If there's any "potency" involved, it is being lost, not actualized."

      You keep using the term body, but the metaphysical concept of causation doesn't imply that a body has to be involved, it could be the actually existing laws that are causing things to be actualized. Remember that, "The Scholastic principle of causality states that any potential, if actualized, must be actualized by something already actual." In any case, a great candidate for the actually existing things causing the change in heat are molecules. As you know, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that, in a closed system, energy is neither created nor destroyed. The Second Law deals with the transfer of heat from high to low. The temperature of something is ultimately a measure of the kinetic energy of the molecules in an object. So, when a pizza comes out of an oven the energy piped into the oven gets transferred to the molecules of the pizza exciting them to move rapidly. When the pizza is taken out of the oven, the high energy molecules of the pizza collide with the less active air molecules molecules in the room. The energy from the pizza molecules get transferred to the air molecules in the room (heating it slightly). Since this is a closed system, the energy that the pizza received from the oven is eventually lost to the air molecules in the room. The only way to reheat the pizza is transfer in more energy by placing it back into the oven. So, clearly this is not a case where a non-actualized thing is causing a change.

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    28. im-skeptical wrote: "The last time we went through this, you transitioned into a discussion of essentialism. So let's skip that part, and just tell me, when was the last time you observed a "potentially existing contingent thing"? What did it look like, and how could you know it was potentially existing before it became actually existing? The fact is that you don't observe the things you claim. You only presume them. I'll make it simple for you. I'll show you a rock. Is this a potentially existing thing? If so, describe the potential."

      The metaphysical notion of potentiality is a concept that helps us think about the nature of contingent objects. It is the pre-actualized state of a contingent object. Although one can't see a potentially existing tree, one can see an actually existing acorn that can be changed into an actually existing tree thanks to a number of other actually existing things. Just because a concept can't be observed does not mean that the concept is false or useless. For instance, we've never observed ideal gas molecules, but the concept is still a useful way to understand how real gas behaves.

      As to your rock, like all contingent things, it is a mix of potentiality and actuality. It went from being a potentially existing rock to an actually existing rock. It has the potential to be crushed and turned into actual cement. The rock also has potential energy that could be actualized into kinetic energy by me if I throw it.

      im-skeptical wrote: "First, evidence is not question-begging. Presumptions about the evidence are question-begging. You see a universe that has nothing but natural things in it, and your theistic presumptions lead you to conclude that something supernatural must be going on. I see a universe that has nothing but natural things in it, and the evidence leads me to conclude that nothing supernatural is going on. How do I think the world would look if it was created by God? I think I would be able to see something somewhere that indicates there is something supernatural going on. But that's not what I see."

      OK, then your presumptions about the nature of the universe are question begging. We see a universe that might only have natural things, we don't have enough evidence to conclude that the only thing that exists are natural objects. Furthermore, the universe we do observe is completely consistent with the notion that God created the universe and the natural processes that run it. There is no reason to think that God would be constantly intervening with the natural order he created by performing miracles. By definition miracles are rare. If the god who created who created that order wanted to communicate his presence and power by momentarily and locally pausing that natural order then it would make sense that these pauses would have to be rare so that we can see that the order has been altered.

      I also need to point out that just because you may not have personally witnessed a miracle, it doesn't follow that a miracle has never occurred. When it comes to miracles, you've moved the goalpost so far back that you've made it nearly impossible to prove that a miracle has occurred.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Like I keep saying, I observe EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE looks natural. That's not evidence for the supernatural. That's evidence that everything in the universe IS NATURAL. You're the one who lacks evidence."

      But the explanation for that universe and its natural order is most likely a supernatural God. The universe is a contingent object and the evidence we do have is that contingent objects are actualized by things that actually exist. There must be a stopping point, which is an unmoved mover that posses pure actuality which actualizes all the contingent objects we see.

      To say that all that exists is natural is nothing more than an article of faith backed by no solid evidence or arguments.

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    29. "You keep using the term body, but the metaphysical concept of causation doesn't imply that a body has to be involved"
      - I'm using the terminology of Aquinas. That's what he said.

      "... the energy that the pizza received from the oven is eventually lost to the air molecules in the room ..."
      - I specifically said "radiated". The movement of molecules is not the cause of this.

      "The metaphysical notion of potentiality is a concept that helps us think about the nature of contingent objects."
      - The concept is useless for understanding how things work in our world. It is useful, if you're a Thomist, to form part of the philosophical framework that justifies your religious beliefs.

      "Just because a concept can't be observed does not mean that the concept is false or useless"
      - Then don't keep telling me this is something you observe, because it isn't.

      "It has the potential to be crushed and turned into actual cement. The rock also has potential energy that could be actualized into kinetic energy by me if I throw it."
      - And it has potential to become a statue. And it has potential to supply iron to by blood's hemoglobin. But if potency is a substance, how can you say that it has this potency explains anything at all? And how can you infer that it exists? The fact is that processes and forces determine how the rock will be moved, and what will become of it - not some mysterious substance called 'potency' in the rock.

      "We see a universe that might only have natural things, we don't have enough evidence to conclude that the only thing that exists are natural objects."
      - We don't ever see supernatural things. This is not a presumption. You might speculate that they are supernatural in origin, but you don't have any observations to substantiate that. What we see fully supports the notion of a natural world, without the need to make any presumptions.

      "If the god who created who created that order wanted to communicate his presence and power by momentarily and locally pausing that natural order then it would make sense that these pauses would have to be rare"
      - I agree. But rare is not the same as never. Rare implies that they actually happen. That's not what we observe.

      "because you may not have personally witnessed a miracle, it doesn't follow that a miracle has never occurred."
      - I agree. But nobody has ever seen one. If I a believer tells me that he saw one, I don't have anything objective, and neither does anyone else. Evidence must be objective to merit belief.

      "The universe is a contingent object and the evidence we do have is that contingent objects are actualized by things that actually exist."
      - There you go again. That's not what we see. That's your theistic presumption. I don't care how you define 'necessary' and 'contingent' to suit your own purpose. That's your presumption, not mine. If God doesn't need something to create him, then the universe doesn't either.

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    30. im-skeptical wrote: "I specifically said "radiated". The movement of molecules is not the cause of this"

      How do you figure? The Wikipedia article on thermal radiation says, "Thermal radiation is electromagnetic radiation generated by the thermal motion of charged particles in matter. All matter with a temperature greater than absolute zero emits thermal radiation. When the temperature of the body is greater than absolute zero, interatomic collisions cause the kinetic energy of the atoms or molecules to change. This results in charge-acceleration and/or dipole oscillation which produces electromagnetic radiation, and the wide spectrum of radiation reflects the wide spectrum of energies and accelerations that occur even at a single temperature." Well, if the example I gave was not clear cut enough for you. How about thermal radiation from the sun? The actually existing plasma in the actually existing sun emits electromagnetic radiation in the form of actually existing photons which travel all the way to my face. The energy from the photons excites the molecules in my face. These collisions transfer the energy from the photons to my face raising the temperature of my face. Again, this shows that the changes in temperature are caused by actually existing things.

      im-skeptical wrote: "The concept is useless for understanding how things work in our world. It is useful, if you're a Thomist, to form part of the philosophical framework that justifies your religious beliefs.'

      Why in the world would anybody turn to metaphysics in order to know how things work? Metaphysics does not ask things how things work or seek to explain how things work--that is science's job. Metaphysics asks what exists or could exist and what those things are like. The metaphysics we've been discussing is useful for understanding what contingent objects are. You may not like where Thomistic metaphysics leads us, namely to the existence of an unmoved mover, which posses pure actuality, but that's your problem.

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    31. im-skeptical wrote: "We don't ever see supernatural things. This is not a presumption. You might speculate that they are supernatural in origin, but you don't have any observations to substantiate that. What we see fully supports the notion of a natural world, without the need to make any presumptions."

      You may not have directly experienced supernatural objects, but other people say that they have. Besides, notice how I can fire this right back at you. You might speculate that the universe is of natural origin, but you don't have any observations to substantiate that. What we see fully supports the notion of a world of supernatural origin without the need to make any (naturalistic) presumptions. You have no evidence that a physical brute fact exists--you don't even have any good reasons to think that one does.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I agree. But rare is not the same as never. Rare implies that they actually happen. That's not what we observe...But nobody has ever seen one. If I a believer tells me that he saw one, I don't have anything objective, and neither does anyone else. Evidence must be objective to merit belief."

      This is some of the most ridiculous reasoning I've seen in some time. How in the world could you know, given your limited knowledge and experience, that no one has ever experienced a miracle. This is just a bald-faced instance of begging the question. First of all, someone's subjective experience is true to them. Whether that experiences meshes with reality, whatever that is, is another question. However, you're making a giant leap of logic, which doesn't follow, when you say that subjective experiences that you've never personally experienced never happened or don't mesh with reality. Just because you've never experienced what it feels like to be Napoleon Bonaparte, it doesn't follow that this experience never existed or was only based in delusion.

      Also, you're insulting every single person who has ever claimed to experience a miracle by insinuating that they're all either lying or insane.

      Not only is this reasoning illogical, it's also very restrictive because you've basically invalidated all testimony and subjective experiences. Because you didn't actually witness Julius Caesar Crossing the Rubicon, it didn't actually happen. Since you haven't witnessed quarks, they not exist.

      You last sentence, in this section, defeats your point, as you have no objective evidence that a miracle has never occurred, since you certainly have not viewed every single event that has ever happened in the universe, so your belief that no miraculous event has ever occurred should not be believed.

      im-skeptical wrote: "There you go again. That's not what we see. That's your theistic presumption. I don't care how you define 'necessary' and 'contingent' to suit your own purpose. That's your presumption, not mine. If God doesn't need something to create him, then the universe doesn't either."

      What evidence do you have that the observable universe has existed eternally sans a cause? The available evidence shows that the observable universe is about 13.8 billion years old, and is therefore not eternal, and hence it is contingent. It is logically possible that there is an eternal physical brute exists beyond the observable universe or that the universe might be a link in an infinite chain of contingent contingents, but there's not good reason to think that this is so because our experience shows that physical objects are contingent and that potentially existing contingent objects need to be actualized by something that actually exists, and that everything that exists has an explanation for its existence either in the nature of that thing or through some other thing.

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    32. "Well, if the example I gave was not clear cut enough for you. How about thermal radiation from the sun?"
      - It's still not molecules imparting kinetic energy to other molecules. You were talking about one body acting upon another. When molecules impart their kinetic energy to other molecules, that's thermal conduction - one body acting upon another. But a body can radiate heat without any other body acting upon it. That's what I meant - no molecules bumping other molecules. Your example of the sun heating your face is also one body acting upon another, indirectly. But what acts upon the sun? It is its own engine. Nothing outside the sun makes it burn. Maybe it's God. Yeah, that's the ticket.

      "Why in the world would anybody turn to metaphysics in order to know how things work?"
      - Because you keep telling me about how potential things are actualized by actual things. You keep telling me about things acting upon other things to cause movement, like your face being heated by the sun, in terms of actual and potential. And then when I point out that science has a different (and better) explanation, you go back to metaphysics as a separate realm of existence. If metaphysics is a separate realm of existence, then stop telling me it explains about how things move, because that's what physics does. But if you think it does explain how things move, science does it better. Act and potency are metaphysical substances in Thomism, and they supposedly are the basis for explaining movement. I have asked for some reason to believe such things exist, and I don't hear any answers.

      "You may not have directly experienced supernatural objects, but other people say that they have."
      - Hearsay. Nothing objective.

      "What we see fully supports the notion of a world of supernatural origin without the need to make any (naturalistic) presumptions. You have no evidence that a physical brute fact exists--you don't even have any good reasons to think that one does."
      - What we see is a universe that exists. That is a fact, whether you want to tag it with the dirty word of "brute" or not. There is nothing in it that says "supernatural". If you think it is supernatural, it is only because of your theistic presumptions.

      "This is some of the most ridiculous reasoning I've seen in some time."
      - Learn about epistemology. Belief is justified when we have good reason (evidence). And evidence is good when it is objective. If I told you that I walked on water but nobody else saw it, would you believe me? You shouldn't. But if I told you that I saw something that is visible for all the world to see, then you have much better reason to believe me, because it can be verified.

      "Also, you're insulting every single person who has ever claimed to experience a miracle by insinuating that they're all either lying or insane."
      - No. Lots of people genuinely think they have seen a miracle. But that doesn't mean they really did. And even if it was true, I still have no reason to believe it.

      "Because you didn't actually witness Julius Caesar Crossing the Rubicon, it didn't actually happen."
      - There is sufficient objective evidence to justify belief that it happened.

      "You last sentence, in this section, defeats your point, as you have no objective evidence that a miracle has never occurred"
      - You are shifting the burden of proof.

      "What evidence do you have that the observable universe has existed eternally sans a cause?"
      - I didn't say that.

      "It is logically possible that there is an eternal physical brute exists beyond the observable universe or that the universe might be a link in an infinite chain of contingent contingents, but there's not good reason to think that this is so"
      - There's no good reason to believe that anything supernatural caused it, because we don't ever see anything supernatural.

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    33. im-skeptical wrote: "But what acts upon the sun? It is its own engine. Nothing outside the sun makes it burn. Maybe it's God. Yeah, that's the ticket."

      The sun, like all other contingent objects, was actualized by actually existing things like gravity, hydrogen and dust. As the hydrogen molecules were compacted together temperatures rose in the ring of dust and gas. Eventually hydrogen molecules started slamming into one another causing them to be fused together forming helium atoms. This released tremendous amounts of energy in the form of heat and light. What keeps the sun burning is its supply of, slowly dwindling, (and actually existing) hydrogen atoms which continue to fuse together. Again, we have actually existing things causing other things to exist.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Because you keep telling me about how potential things are actualized by actual things. You keep telling me about things acting upon other things to cause movement, like your face being heated by the sun, in terms of actual and potential. And then when I point out that science has a different (and better) explanation, you go back to metaphysics as a separate realm of existence. If metaphysics is a separate realm of existence, then stop telling me it explains about how things move, because that's what physics does. But if you think it does explain how things move, science does it better."

      I never said that metaphysics explains how things move--I've said several times now that metaphysics tells you what exists and what causes other things to exist. Science tells you how and metaphysics tells you what. Please re-read the previous sentence as many times as it takes for you not to be confused about this.

      Notice how my previous explanation melds (one might say fuses) metaphysical and scientific explanations for a more rounded pictures of what caused the sun to be and how it came to be.

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    34. im-skeptical wrote: "What we see is a universe that exists. That is a fact, whether you want to tag it with the dirty word of "brute" or not. There is nothing in it that says "supernatural". If you think it is supernatural, it is only because of your theistic presumptions."

      Yes, of course we observe the observable universe, but it's not a brute fact. It's a finite contingent object, and like all other contingent objects, it must have been actualized by some other thing. The big question is whether it was God or some kind of physical brute fact that actualized it. There is nothing in the universe in the universe that says that the brute fact actualized it. If you think it was the brute fact, it is only because of your naturalistic presumptions.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Learn about epistemology. Belief is justified when we have good reason (evidence). And evidence is good when it is objective. If I told you that I walked on water but nobody else saw it, would you believe me? You shouldn't. But if I told you that I saw something that is visible for all the world to see, then you have much better reason to believe me, because it can be verified."

      I have studied epistemology. I remind you that this is in reference to your absurd and question begging claim that no miraculous event has ever occurred and that no one has ever witnessed a miracle. The only way that you could know that this is true is if you have witnessed literally every single event in the history of the universe, which is certainly not the case. The truth is that you don't know that people, who existed before you were born, didn't witness a miracle. That's not to say that you/we should leap to the opposite extreme and say that every person who has ever claimed to have viewed a miracle actually did witness a bona fide one.

      Your weak case for naturalism can't support your unmitigated skepticism and question begging claim that no one has ever witnessed a miracle. Each claim must be evaluated. If the event in question was witnessed by 1) many credible witnesses 2) The event is surrounded by a religious context that would lead us to believe that God has a reason to momentarily and locally pause the natural order he created 3) The event can be explained more plausibly and in a less ad hoc fashion as a miracle than as a natural event then I think that we can say that a supernatural event likely occurred.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And even if it was true, I still have no reason to believe it."

      And you also have no reason to believe that it could not have happened. Also, notice how your extreme skepticism could be blinding you to actual supernatural events. You're just beginning with the assumption that naturalism is true and concluding that supernatural events don't happen.

      im-skeptical wrote: "There is sufficient objective evidence to justify belief that it [Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon] happened."

      How is not special pleading? You said that subjective testimonial claims shouldn't be trusted. Following your own logic, we should conclude that since we didn't actually witness Caesar crossing the Rubicon that it didn't actually happen. After all, the witnesses could be lying or maybe they were hallucinating, or maybe they were confused about which river he was actually crossing.

      im-skeptical wrote: "There's no good reason to believe that anything supernatural caused it, because we don't ever see anything supernatural."

      You may not have directly witnessed supernatural events, but others say they have. We also don't observe eternal physical brute facts. So, we have absolutely no evidence for a naturalistic ultimate cause of the world, but we have possible evidence for supernatural events.

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    35. Keith, sorry for the delay. I'm away from home. so I can't respond in a timely manner right now.

      "The sun, like all other contingent objects, was actualized by actually existing things like gravity, hydrogen and dust."
      - If that is your view of act and potential, it is nothing more than re-labeling what science tells us as cases of Thomistic "actualization". Gravity causes matter to amass into stars? Actualization.A seed grows into a tree? Actualization. A body decays? Actualization. Does it occur to you that as explanations go, this is meaningless? It doesn't even fit with Aristotle's concept of what actualization is.

      "I've said several times now that metaphysics tells you what exists and what causes other things to exist. Science tells you how and metaphysics tells you what. Please re-read the previous sentence as many times as it takes for you not to be confused about this."
      - I think the problem here is that I've read what Aristotle said about movement. Apparently, you haven't. So your concept of what it means is, as far as I can tell, very different.

      "Notice how my previous explanation melds (one might say fuses) metaphysical and scientific explanations for a more rounded pictures of what caused the sun to be and how it came to be."
      - I disagree. Simply saying that potential things are actualized be existing things (due to gravity, or any other physical mechanism) may seem to you as if you are melding science with metaphysics, but you can leave out the part about actualization, and still have the same explanation.

      "Yes, of course we observe the observable universe, but it's not a brute fact. ..."
      - Whatever it is, you have no reason based in observation to presume something else.

      "I have studied epistemology. I remind you that this is in reference to your absurd and question begging claim that no miraculous event has ever occurred and that no one has ever witnessed a miracle. The only way that you could know that this is true is if you have witnessed literally every single event in the history of the universe ..."
      - You have a point. I haven't personally witnessed everything. And' I'll lay odds that you haven't witnessed these miracles, either. The kind of things you may have experienced yourself are "inner" experiences, also known as subjective. Since such experiences are not verifiable, they have little epistemic value. Objective events are verifiable. But if they ever happened, we would have some factual record of them. Instead, all we have are the stories of believers.

      "And you also have no reason to believe that it could not have happened. Also, notice how your extreme skepticism could be blinding you to actual supernatural events. You're just beginning with the assumption that naturalism is true and concluding that supernatural events don't happen."
      - That is like saying I have no reason to believe that there are no unicorns. I don't make presumptions about the existence or non-existence of unicorns. I simply believe what the evidence leads me to believe. Theism is no different.

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    36. "How is not special pleading? You said that subjective testimonial claims shouldn't be trusted."
      - You are completely wrong. Some claims are verifiable, or at least supported by corroborating information that gives us reason to believe them. When a believer claims to have experienced a miracle, there is no such means of verifying the claim. Do you believe that Joe Smith actually found golden plates from Moroni that only he could translate? If not, why not? Could it be that his stories have not been verified?

      "You may not have directly witnessed supernatural events, but others say they have. We also don't observe eternal physical brute facts. So, we have absolutely no evidence for a naturalistic ultimate cause of the world, but we have possible evidence for supernatural events."
      - Others have? I think they are deluded. There is evidence for naturalism - namely, the fact that everything we DO observe is completely natural (to the best of our ability to discern). So your evidence (the fact that people tell stories about miracles) is completely subjective and unverifiable, while my evidence is on full display for the whole world to witness. Isn't it obvious which of these has more epistemic value?

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    37. im-skeptical wrote: "If that is your view of act and potential, it is nothing more than re-labeling what science tells us as cases of Thomistic "actualization". Gravity causes matter to amass into stars? Actualization.A seed grows into a tree? Actualization. A body decays? Actualization. Does it occur to you that as explanations go, this is meaningless? It doesn't even fit with Aristotle's concept of what actualization is."

      First of all, nothing you've said here or anywhere gives us reason to think that contingent objects, which posses a mix of actuality and potentiality, aren't actualized by actually existing things. Even if you're right about what Aristotle believed, and I don't think you actually are, being in accordance with what he said is not a necessary condition for Aquinas' argument to be sound.

      Secondly, in regards to what science says, I don't even know how one would extricate the metaphysical framework from the science that is built on top of it. Scientific explanations are built out of the metaphysical idea that contingent objects cause other contingent objects to exists and be in certain states. One doesn't need to state that, the hydrogen molecules that cause the sun's fusion, heat and light, actually exist and have the potentiality to be helium molecules because this is taken for granted and is fairly obvious. However, one can still look at the metaphysical picture and see things from a slightly different perspective.

      Thirdly, as what Aristotle said, I think that his first philosophy i.e. metaphysics are in complete agreement with Aquinas' argument. In the IEP's article on Aristotle it says, "The development of potentiality to actuality is one of the most important aspects of Aristotle's philosophy. It was intended to solve the difficulties which earlier thinkers had raised with reference to the beginnings of existence and the relations of the one and many. The actual vs. potential state of things is explained in terms of the causes which act on things. There are four causes:

      1. Material cause, or the elements out of which an object is created;
      2. Efficient cause, or the means by which it is created;
      3. Formal cause, or the expression of what it is;
      4. Final cause, or the end for which it is.

      Take, for example, a bronze statue. Its material cause is the bronze itself. Its efficient cause is the sculptor, insofar has he forces the bronze into shape. The formal cause is the idea of the completed statue. The final cause is the idea of the statue as it prompts the sculptor to act on the bronze. The final cause tends to be the same as the formal cause, and both of these can be subsumed by the efficient cause. Of the four, it is the formal and final which is the most important, and which most truly gives the explanation of an object. The final end (purpose, or teleology) of a thing is realized in the full perfection of the object itself, not in our conception of it. Final cause is thus internal to the nature of the object itself, and not something we subjectively impose on it.

      To Aristotle, God is the first of all substances, the necessary first source of movement who is himself unmoved. God is a being with everlasting life, and perfect blessedness, engaged in never-ending contemplation." This agrees with Aquinas' argument perfectly.

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    38. im-skeptical wrote: "I think the problem here is that I've read what Aristotle said about movement. Apparently, you haven't. So your concept of what it means is, as far as I can tell, very different."

      First of all, we're discussing about Aquinas' cosmological argument, so even though Aquinas' thought grew out of Aristotle's you need to interact with Aquinas' argument.

      Secondly, Aristotle was an intellectual who wrote about a large array of different things. I have a strong suspicion that you're referring to his work on physics and not his metaphysics. His work on physics is not relevant to the topic at hand.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Whatever it is, you have no reason based in observation to presume something else."

      It is logically possible that the observable universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing, but there is no good reason to think that this is so. The evidence we do have is that contingent things have efficient causes for their existence. It would be quite strange if only one thing popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing in the course of the 13.8 billion year history of the universe.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And' I'll lay odds that you haven't witnessed these miracles, either. The kind of things you may have experienced yourself are "inner" experiences, also known as subjective. Since such experiences are not verifiable, they have little epistemic value. Objective events are verifiable. But if they ever happened, we would have some factual record of them. Instead, all we have are the stories of believers."

      Yes, I haven't lived for thousands of years either. And, yes, I have had religious experiences. You're also right that any one religious experience has little epistemic value for someone who didn't have the experience. However, when one considers how widespread religious experiences and miracle claims are throughout history and different cultures, I think that this poses a great problem for naturalism, as just one single veridical experience is enough to sink naturalism. Especially when we consider how shaky the arguments and evidence supporting naturalism are.

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    39. im-skeptical wrote: "That is like saying I have no reason to believe that there are no unicorns. I don't make presumptions about the existence or non-existence of unicorns. I simply believe what the evidence leads me to believe. Theism is no different."

      This a poor analogy for several reasons. First of all, a unicorn would be just another contingent object that explains almost nothing and would need an explanation for its existence. God on the other hand is not a contingent being, and is the likely explanation for the existence of the observable universe and a whole host of other things. So, the universe itself might be evidence of God's existence. In fact, if eternal physical brute facts don't exist then God is far and away the best explanation for the observable universe. As such, there is inconclusive evidence of God's existence.

      When it comes to miracles, there is also inconclusive evidence that they have occurred while there is not even inconclusive evidence that unicorns exists.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You are completely wrong. Some claims are verifiable, or at least supported by corroborating information that gives us reason to believe them. When a believer claims to have experienced a miracle, there is no such means of verifying the claim. Do you believe that Joe Smith actually found golden plates from Moroni that only he could translate? If not, why not? Could it be that his stories have not been verified?"

      How does this process work? In regards to Caesar crossing the Rubicon, not only did you not personally witness this event, but Suetonius did not personally witness it either.

      Saying that there is no means of identifying a miracle is a pretty bold statement.

      I do think that there is reason to question to question the credibility of the witnesses of the Moroni plates for many reasons. However, that doesn't cause me to leap to the conclusion that because one claim is suspicious that all miracle claims are false.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Others have? I think they are deluded. There is evidence for naturalism - namely, the fact that everything we DO observe is completely natural (to the best of our ability to discern). So your evidence (the fact that people tell stories about miracles) is completely subjective and unverifiable, while my evidence is on full display for the whole world to witness. Isn't it obvious which of these has more epistemic value?"

      Well, that's your opinion. As I've said many times now, the existence of the observable universe, which posses a natural order, could very well be evidence that a transcendent, necessary being exists and created it. In fact, the observable universe gives us no reason to think that an eternal physical brute facts exists, as all the contingent objects we observe are finite and have causes and explanations for their existence.

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    40. "First of all, nothing you've said here or anywhere gives us reason to think that contingent objects, which posses a mix of actuality and potentiality, aren't actualized by actually existing things."
      - Right. And do you suppose you've said anything to convince me that "actuality and potentiality" have any existence in reality?

      "Secondly, in regards to what science says, I don't even know how one would extricate the metaphysical framework from the science that is built on top of it."
      - That's simple. All you have to do is ignore the things that don't exist, on the theory that if they really did exist, it would cause cause some problem. If they don't exist, ignoring them makes no difference. So far, my theory has been 100% successful.

      "Scientific explanations are built out of the metaphysical idea that contingent objects cause other contingent objects to exists and be in certain states."
      - That's not part of any science that I have studied.

      "Thirdly, as what Aristotle said, I think that his first philosophy i.e. metaphysics are in complete agreement with Aquinas' argument."
      - Yes, I said his metaphysics was fully integrated with his whole philosophy, including science (with the understanding that his science is now completely obsolete). It's Thomism that has the problem of divorcing metaphysics from science and modern philosophy. That was the whole point of my post.

      "... Final cause is thus internal to the nature of the object itself, and not something we subjectively impose on it."
      - That's according to an ancient understanding of things that is utterly obsolete. Modern science tells us a very different story.

      "To Aristotle, God is the first of all substances, the necessary first source of movement who is himself unmoved. God is a being with everlasting life, and perfect blessedness, engaged in never-ending contemplation." This agrees with Aquinas' argument perfectly."
      - However, Aristotle's logic regarding his unchangeable nature actually makes sense, while Aquinas doesn't. "Will and intellect are incompatible with the eternal unchangeableness of His being." Aristotle's God was not the source of human intellect or the creator of the universe.

      "First of all, we're discussing about Aquinas' cosmological argument, so even though Aquinas' thought grew out of Aristotle's you need to interact with Aquinas' argument."
      - If you say so. But Aquinas' cosmological argument certainly didn't arise out of Aristotle's philosophy.

      "Secondly, Aristotle was an intellectual who wrote about a large array of different things. I have a strong suspicion that you're referring to his work on physics and not his metaphysics. His work on physics is not relevant to the topic at hand."
      - As I said, Aristotle's metaphysics was fully consistent with and inseparable from his physics. This is well-known to everyone who has any familiarity with his works. Only a Thomist would take insist on this bizarre separation.

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    41. "It is logically possible that the observable universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing, but there is no good reason to think that this is so."
      - It is logically possible that God created the universe, but there is absolutely no reason for me to think that. Furthermore, it is inconsistent with that attributes of simplicity and unchangeable-ness that you assign to him.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And' I'll lay odds that you haven't witnessed these miracles, either. The kind of things you may have experienced yourself are "inner" experiences, also known as subjective. Since such experiences are not verifiable, they have little epistemic value. Objective events are verifiable. But if they ever happened, we would have some factual record of them. Instead, all we have are the stories of believers."

      "when one considers how widespread religious experiences and miracle claims are throughout history and different cultures, I think that this poses a great problem for naturalism, as just one single veridical experience is enough to sink naturalism. Especially when we consider how shaky the arguments and evidence supporting naturalism are."
      - Nothing but stories told by believers. No reason for me to believe any of it, and certainly no problem for materialism. Show me the evidence, and then I might have a problem.

      "God on the other hand is not a contingent being, ..."
      - According to your question-begging definition.

      "... and is the likely explanation for the existence of the observable universe and a whole host of other things."
      - According to your question-begging assumptions.

      "When it comes to miracles, there is also inconclusive evidence that they have occurred while there is not even inconclusive evidence that unicorns exists."
      - The evidence for miracles is no better.

      "How does this process work? In regards to Caesar crossing the Rubicon, not only did you not personally witness this event, but Suetonius did not personally witness it either."
      - If you want to know how historians arrive at a consensus on the accuracy of historical accounts, I suggest you do some reading or take a course on it. Here's a hint: evidence is involved. A single uncorroborated story of a particular event has little value.

      "I do think that there is reason to question to question the credibility of the witnesses of the Moroni plates for many reasons."
      - Mainly, due to the fact that you aren't predisposed to believe in Moroni, like you are with your own God, you are able to recognize really crappy "evidence". You don't have that ability with regard to your God.

      "Well, that's your opinion."
      - No, it isn't. Epistemology helps us to discern the relative epistemic value of various pieces of evidence. The truth is that objective evidence beats any unverifiable story about subjective experiences. I discussed this matter here, and cited a paper that is worth reading.

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  2. This is one of the reasons why most philosophers are agnostic/atheist. SEE HERE also. Metaphysics must supervene physics as Aristotle rightly inferred.

    Thomism today is a peculiarly Catholic enterprise. Despite Feser's brave attempt at reviving the fortunes of Thomism and inveigle it back into contemporary philosophy the exercise has been largely unsuccessful:

    "Thomistic scholasticism in the English speaking world went into decline in the 1970s when the Thomistic revival that had been spearheaded by Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson, and others, diminished in influence. Partly, this was because this branch of Thomism had become a quest to understand the historical Aquinas after the Second Vatican Council. Still, those who had learned Scholastic philosophy continued to have unresolved questions about how the insights of the medieval synthesis could be applied to contemporary problems. This conversation departed from the academic environment and entered internet discussion groups such as Aquinas,[24] Christian Philosophy,[25] and Thomism,[26] and websites such as Open Philosophy,[27] where it continues today."


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    1. Papalinton wrote: "This is one of the reasons why most philosophers are agnostic/atheist."

      The survey, by Chalmers and Bourget, that you're alluding only had a 48% response rate which is well below 85% threshold for reliable survey results. It also was only sent out to 1,972 philosophers from 99 different philosophy departments. Most of those 99 departments were at secular schools where naturalism has a firm hegemony. So, this was hardly a representative sample of philosophers. The survey was skewed.

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    2. This is the form of scuttlebutt known as 'poisoning the well'. The manic desire in this comment desperately attempting to impute fault with the research illustrates both astounding and unqualified ignorance together with a deep and abiding level of intellectual dishonesty. Keith, you might wish to avail yourself to bona fide information, HERE and list out why your comment is wrong on all counts. Most particularly relevant to your comment is the dot-point: "The response to a direct mail campaign is completely and utterly irrelevant to the statistical accuracy of a survey. In other words, beware of whose advice you take! (Some of the worst advice you will get about surveys will come from people who claim to be market researchers.)"

      You will need to read the article for the other three dot-points that puts a lie to your deliberately egregious nonsense about the survey.

      You might also wish to actually read Chalmers' and Bourget's PAPER.

      What I am most curious about is the source of your claim of '85% threshold for reliable survey results'? I suggest, if there is any skewing demonstrated here, it most certainly isn't the survey.

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    3. Papalinton wrote: "This is the form of scuttlebutt known as 'poisoning the well'. The manic desire in this comment desperately attempting to impute fault with the research illustrates both astounding and unqualified ignorance together with a deep and abiding level of intellectual dishonesty."

      Wow, I am amazed at how much rhetoric you can stuff into five
      paragraphs. You must have some sort of rhetoric vacuum sealer. I notice that you completely ignored my comments about how the surveys were almost exclusively sent out to secular philosophy departments. We both know that if the survey had been sent out to primarily Christian schools and only a handful of secular schools that the percentage of atheist philosophers would plummet.

      As to your comments about response rates, there does seem to be some disagreement about what an acceptable response rate is. Takesurvey states, "Ideally, statistical surveys based on scientific probability samples should be conducted to obtain information on designated populations. A response rate of about 75 percent or more is a typical target range for a scientific sample." The Wikipedia article on response rates says, "A low response rate can give rise to sampling bias if the non-response is unequal among the participants regarding exposure and/or outcome. Such bias is known as non-response bias." However, it also points to studies that show that low response rates can produce good or acceptable results. On the other hand, the article then concludes this section by saying, "In spite of these recent research studies, a higher response rate is preferable because the missing data is not random.[7] There is no satisfactory statistical solution to deal with missing data that may not be at random. Assuming an extreme bias in the responders is one suggested method of dealing with low survey response rates. Getting a high response rate (>80%) from a small, random sample is considered preferable to a low response rate from a large sample."

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    4. Keith, tell me about Takesurvey and the actual source from which you take their quote? To me it sounds not unlike a 'take-out fast food shop' though I would hold that first impression until you provide the academic bona fides of the source organisation. There is a lot of junk out there in the interwebs.

      It would have been prudent and indeed wise for you to read the Chalmers and Bourget PAPER before throwing stones at it because they expertly and professionally address all the potential pitfalls, with due diligence and very much mindful of the possibilities of erring into misreading or misinterpreting the data. They account for sampling size, skew, apprehended bias, response rates, among many other inherent statistical risks that distinguishes a poor survey from a genuine one.

      Ironically. and it seems to have been missed by you, Chalmers and Bourget survey was not random, targeting the top 90 university philosophy departments around the world with the proviso they needed to be Anglo-centric to minimise language difficulties. If any religious institution of higher learning with a philosophy department recognised to be in the top 90 I am sure they would have been included.

      As you have not provided any substantive rationale for decrying the research I take there is none?

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  3. I still haven't stopped laughing over the idea of im-skeptical, the original know-nothing, having the absolute chutzpah to take on the most towering intellect in all of Western Civilization. Too funny for words. It's like an elementary school gym class challenging the Pittsburgh Steelers to a game.

    Heck, even I've gotten the better of him in all our exchanges on this site (without even breathing hard), and I ain't no Aquinas!

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    1. I took on the most towering intellect in all of Western Civilization? How did I do? Constructive comments would be appreciated.

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  4. One of your biggest (though by no means your only) problem with your (mis)understanding of Thomism is your complete reversal of the relationship between philosophy and science. You appear to think that science comes first, and then philosophy is a byproduct of our understanding of the physical world. This is evident from such statements of yours as "But he seems to be unaware of any alternative metaphysical view that would be consistent with a modern scientific understanding" or "In the days of Aristotle, science was in its infancy" or "But the state of empirical knowledge has not remained static since the days of Aquinas" and many, many others.

    What such phraseology indicates is that you believe that we start with our senses (and other physical means of acquiring information) and proceed to philosophy. But nothing could be further from the truth. We begin with a philosophical framework, and then evaluate data (the senses, empirical observation, scientific instruments, etc.) based on the preexisting framework. Believe it or not (and I'm pretty sure you don't), that's how science works.

    So no amount of "scientific progress" can ever invalidate (or for that matter validate) any particular philosophy (to include Thomism). That would be a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

    That;s why your criticism of Thomism falls so flat. It is like a person not liking the outcome of a game by protesting the rules, rather than the actual play. Good luck with that!

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    1. "One of your biggest (though by no means your only) problem with your (mis)understanding of Thomism is your complete reversal of the relationship between philosophy and science. You appear to think that science comes first, and then philosophy is a byproduct of our understanding of the physical world."
      - You have misinterpreted what I said. I was speaking of the relationship between physics and metaphysics, not between science and philosophy. Throughout most of history, science was part of philosophy, and I still consider it to be that. However, science has become quite specialized, and has developed methodologies that help to assure that it produces knowledge that is more likely to be correct. In particular, it relies on verification by testing. If you think I have a disdain for philosophy, you are wrong. I only have a disdain for certain philosophers who eschew scientific methods in favor armchair speculation and faith-based belief without epistemological justification.

      "What such phraseology indicates is that you believe that we start with our senses (and other physical means of acquiring information) and proceed to philosophy. But nothing could be further from the truth. We begin with a philosophical framework ..."
      - Sorry, but I am an empiricist. Without sensory information, you wouldn't be able to function in this world. You would never learn language, logic, or any useful facts upon which to build a philosophical framework. Your conception is not only backwards - it is sheer fantasy.

      "So no amount of "scientific progress" can ever invalidate (or for that matter validate) any particular philosophy (to include Thomism). That would be a classic case of putting the cart before the horse."
      - Funny, Aristotle's philosophy was, by his own estimation, based on empirical knowledge. Even Thomism claims to be empirically based. But the very idea that factual empirical information is somehow inferior to "any particular philosophy" is just stunning. You're saying that any idiot with a hare-brained idea has a better claim to knowledge than those who have actually investigated how things work.

      "That;s why your criticism of Thomism falls so flat. It is like a person not liking the outcome of a game by protesting the rules, rather than the actual play. Good luck with that!"
      - I think I hear the dull thud of someone's projected frustrations falling on the floor.

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  5. >> Im-skeptical: But the state of empirical knowledge has not remained static since the days of Aquinas.  Our powers of observation have improved dramatically, and physics has been thoroughly revolutionized.  No longer do we cling to some of the basic assumptions upon which Aristotle's physics was built. 

    Aristotle's metaphysics is not dependent on Aristotle's physics. It analyze questions more fundamental than the ones asked by empirical science and that are the presuppositions of the intelligibility of any empirical investigation in particular.

    >> Im-skeptical: The teleological basis of movement has been replaced by mechanics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and biology.  No longer do we believe that an object in motion must always be acted upon by another object.  We observe inertial motion. 

    Inertial motion does not refute the aristotelian principle. (Btw, the word 'object' is not in the original (I checked and it's 'quod', “what”)). The insight of the principle of motion is simple. First, notice that motion, here, is not local motion, but change as such. Change involves the coming into being of something that was not (if it already was, then it wouldn't be a 'change'). So there two ways change could have a explanation, either by a being or by a non-being. Non-being, obviously, can't be the cause of something, since it isn't. So only being could explain change. So is that simple: a non-being that comes into being (change) only has it explanation on another being prior to it (ontologically). It is impossible to coherently deny that.

    >> We observe spontaneous change due to thermodynamics or quantum mechanics. 

    I don't understand how a change can occur due do 'thermodynamics' or 'quantum mechanics', since those are just human disciplines. Perhaps you are saying that certain laws of nature studied by those disciplines are the causes of the changes? If so, this not conflict with the idea that the potential comes into existence by means of what is actual, unless you would like to claim both that (a) those laws are non-existent (not actual) and (b) that they are the cause of change.

    >> Im-skeptical: No longer do we see purpose in every event. 

    Final causes are explanations (aitia) of substances (ousia), not events. So you are committing a category error.

    >> Im-skeptical: There is order in natural law, but there is no apparent goal. 

    This unintelligible. The concept or order presupposes the notion of goal or ends. You must be confusing goal ('telos') with “human” goals or something like that.

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  6. >> Im-skeptical: In fact, by our current understanding of natural laws, the universe will eventually become cold, dark, and devoid of structure. This is a departure from the Aristotelian teleological view of nature, and antithetical to the Thomistic view.

    No, in fact your statement can only be understood in light of Aristotle doctrine. You are saying that our universe is directed at a certain end or state (being cold, dark, etc.). This is exactly final causation: the idea that only a certain effect or a certain range of effects follows naturally / immanently from natural substances, not any effect.

    >> Im-skeptical: Ed Feser can arrogantly decry the ignorance of modern scientific views of nature and natural reality all he likes.  And indeed, he may be correct in some cases, that modern scientists and philosophers are ignorant or don't understand Thomistic philosophy.  But there are certainly many who do.  And for the most part, they don't reject Thomism out of irrationality.  Rather, they reject it precisely because they are rational, and unlike Feser, they are far more objective in their acceptance of empirical knowledge.  Their goal is not to justify and sustain theistic belief, but to gain a realistic, objectively-based understanding of nature and reality.

    Please, show the evidence for each of your following claims:

    (a) there are certainly many (scientists and philosophers) who do (understand Thomistic philosophy); (b) they reject it (Thomism) precisely because they are rational; (c) that their goal is to gain a realistic, objectively-based understanding of nature and reality.

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    1. Marcelo, let's face it. Thomism is a uniquely Catholic proclivity. Thomism is not central to the practice of modern contemporary philosophy. So it seems a particularly arduous and unproductive exercise of yours to attempt to resurrect the fortunes of Thomistic philosophy in contemporary philosophical discussion, to rescue it from travelling the inexorable detour into irrelevancy. Apart from Catholics and few ambivalent Protestants, Thomism is largely of historical interest only in today's philosophy circles.

      Putting all your Aquinian eggs behind the 'burning bush' [Exodus 3:2] will only result in their being totally cooked. :o)

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    2. Welcome to the discussion, Marcelo.

      "Aristotle's metaphysics is not dependent on Aristotle's physics. It analyze questions more fundamental than the ones asked by empirical science and that are the presuppositions of the intelligibility of any empirical investigation in particular. "
      - The word 'metaphysics' comes from the Greek ta meta ta physika "the (works) after the Physics"

      "Non-being, obviously, can't be the cause of something, since it isn't. So only being could explain change. ... It is impossible to coherently deny that."
      - You presume that change is always "caused". If something changes without a cause then being is not the explanation for the change.

      "Perhaps you are saying that certain laws of nature studied by those disciplines are the causes of the changes? If so, this not conflict with the idea that the potential comes into existence by means of what is actual ..."
      - If a body radiates heat, what is the potential, what is the actual, and what is the cause?

      "Final causes are explanations (aitia) of substances (ousia), not events. So you are committing a category error."
      - The final cause, according to Aristotle is that for the sake of which motion happens. As noted above, Aristotle's notion of motion encompassed various types of change - in substance, in quality, in quantity and in place.

      "This unintelligible. The concept or order presupposes the notion of goal or ends. You must be confusing goal ('telos') with “human” goals or something like that."
      - No. 'Order' simply means structure or pattern. It makes no implication of goals or ends.

      "You are saying that our universe is directed at a certain end or state (being cold, dark, etc.). This is exactly final causation"
      - No. I am saying is the the expected end state is not directed. It has no form and no purpose. It is not the result of 'becoming' - it is the result of destruction. This is not consistent with Thomistic philosophy at all, unless you rationalize it as such.

      "Please, show the evidence for each of your following claims: ..."
      - I don't know how many people understand Thomism. Are you suggesting that only Thomists can understand it? It is a fact that the majority of philosophers are not Thomists. It is my claim that most philosophers and scientists seek to understand the natural world, while Thomists seek to justify their religious beliefs. I can't prove it, but it is fairly obvious.

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  7. "It is a fact that the majority of philosophers are not Thomists. It is my claim that most philosophers and scientists seek to understand the natural world, while Thomists seek to justify their religious beliefs. I can't prove it, but it is fairly obvious."

    The claim I think is a warranted one. The steady decline in religious belief in the Western world and the waning influence of Thomism in contemporary philosophy track similar if not identical paths. Both are inextricably intertwined and the fortunes of one must necessarily reflect the fortunes of the other. It must be remembered that Thomism foundationally rides on the back of Aristotelian thought. The modern philosopher need not refer to Thomism at all or at any time when they can go straight to the original source, Aristotle himself. Thomism is the marrying of Catholic theology with Aristotelian philosophy. Aquinas sought to justify his religious beliefs by clipping those beliefs onto the coattails of Aristotle. It was a marriage of convenience, opportunistic. But the epistemological foundations of Catholic theology is suspect and now known to be highly problematic when it makes 'fact' claims about us, the world, the universe. Catholic theology is irredeemably problematic just as it is with all the various theologies developed by humanity. Simply ask a Catholic whether Islam is grounded in a substantive epistemology. Or the converse, ask a Muslim whether Catholicism is fundamental to the belief of God [Allah].

    The great irony of course is that Christian theology, revealed direct from God no less, is existentially and entirely dependent on pagan philosophy expounded 400 years earlier. Arthur Koestler [d 1983] Hungarian-Jewish-British social and political philosopher best sums up the relationship:

    "Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also making you believe that a herring is a race horse."

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  8. >> im-skeptical: "- The word 'metaphysics' comes from the Greek ta meta ta physika "the (works) after the Physics"

    This name comes only from a historical coincidence (i. e. the placing of the books of metaphysics after the books of Physics); what we should analyze is the object of study of the discipline, not it's name. After all, we could conclude that the discipline was just not aptly named (for example, as the Naturalistic Fallacty of G. E. Moore could be better called the “Anti-Reductionist Fallacy”, since it claims that moral properties are sui generis and, thus, not reducible at all, not just to 'natural' properties).

    >> im-skeptical: “- You presume that change is always "caused". If something changes without a cause then being is not the explanation for the change. “

    Recall that I asserted a conditional (that it “could have a explanation”...). If you are saying that change has no explanation, then you are attacking a more fundamental principle (the principle of causality), not the principle of motion itself. So it's clear that your initial claim that inertia refutes the principle of motion rests on a confusion.

    >> im-skeptical: “- If a body radiates heat, what is the potential, what is the actual, and what is the cause?”

    I cannot explain that without understanding your initial claim that we observe “spontaneous change due to thermodynamics or quantum mechanics. “. I offered a putative explanation of what you could have been thinking, but no clarification was given.

    >> im-skeptical: “- The final cause, according to Aristotle is that for the sake of which motion happens. As noted above, Aristotle's notion of motion encompassed various types of change - in substance, in quality, in quantity and in place.”

    Yes, but not any change. Aristotle himself says that his object of search are causes of *substances* (Metaphysics, Book VIII). In the same book, he suggests events like eclipses have no final causes. You can check this yourself.

    Quality, quantity, place, etc. are what are called 'categories' and they are not independent of substances. So this does not contradict what I said.

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  9. >> im-skeptical: “- No. 'Order' simply means structure or pattern. It makes no implication of goals or ends.”

    Please explain how to use the notions of 'order', 'structure' and 'pattern' without refering to beginnings and ends.

    >> im-skeptical: '- No. I am saying is the the expected end state is not directed. It has no form and no purpose.'

    As I said, either you're confusing the aristotelian notion of 'telos' with 'human purpose' / 'divine purpose' or something like that. Otherwise, your assertion is contradictory. The notion of 'telos' is that, the expected end that flows from the substance. For example, the expected end ('telos') of a seed is the tree because a seed of a particular tree wil grown into a particular tree, not into a rabbit, a human being, etc. If you say that the expected end of the universe is growing cold, dark, etc. this is just the telos.

    >> im-skeptical: 'It is not the result of 'becoming' - it is the result of destruction.'

    To my knowledge, the phenomenon of corruption and degeneration are not denied either by Aristotle or by Thomas Aquinas. In fact, even one of the Five Ways use explicitly the notion that the material universal is subject to destruction.

    >> im-skeptical: 'This is not consistent with Thomistic philosophy at all, unless you rationalize it as such.'

    I fail to see how this conclusion can be infered from your premisses. Please reconstruct your argument.

    >> im-skeptical: 'I don't know how many people understand Thomism.'

    If you dont know how many people understand Thomism, how can you claim that *many* (scientists and philosophers) understand Thomism?

    >> im-skeptical: 'Are you suggesting that only Thomists can understand it?'

    I'm not suggesting anything. Since this is a blog about skepticism, I'm just asking for evidence of the claims made in your post.

    >> im-skeptical: 'It is a fact that the majority of philosophers are not Thomists. It is my claim that most philosophers and scientists seek to understand the natural world, while Thomists seek to justify their religious beliefs. I can't prove it, but it is fairly obvious.'

    So you have no proof of your assertions. That's fine; exactly as I expected.

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    1. "This name comes only from a historical coincidence ..."
      - That's true, and I agree that metaphysics provides a founding basis for physics. But the observations of nature that led to physics was necessarily first. From SEP: "The prime and distinctive task of first philosophy is an inquiry into first entities; these, however, are not perceptible entities, and as a result they have to be investigated through a metaphysical investigation of physical entities. Hence the overlap between the two disciplines, which often verges on inseparability."

      "If you are saying that change has no explanation, then you are attacking a more fundamental principle (the principle of causality), not the principle of motion itself. So it's clear that your initial claim that inertia refutes the principle of motion rests on a confusion."
      - I am attacking the observational basis of the principles of causality. Yes, this is more fundamental than motion itself, and it casts into doubt the whole structure of Thomism. Can we be sure that the four causes are valid when we don't always observe that cause?

      "I cannot explain that without understanding your initial claim that we observe “spontaneous change due to thermodynamics or quantum mechanics.“. I offered a putative explanation of what you could have been thinking, but no clarification was given."
      - Radiation of heat happens without any body acting upon another. It contradicts the observational basis claimed by Aquinas.

      "Yes, but not any change. Aristotle himself says that his object of search are causes of *substances* (Metaphysics, Book VIII). In the same book, he suggests events like eclipses have no final causes."
      - I use the term 'event' to mean motion. An eclipse, in that sense, is not an event. It's just a coincidence of the relative position of sun, moon, and earth. There is no motion directed specifically toward the goal of making an eclipse. Aistotle is quite correct. But final causes certainly do apply to motion.

      "Please explain how to use the notions of 'order', 'structure' and 'pattern' without refering to beginnings and ends."
      - I don't know what you're asking. There is order in nature, and that doesn't imply beginnings or ends.

      "If you say that the expected end of the universe is growing cold, dark, etc. this is just the telos."
      - Telos is more than just a final state. It is an intentional goal. For Aquinas, it is a divine goal.

      "the phenomenon of corruption and degeneration are not denied either by Aristotle or by Thomas Aquinas. In fact, even one of the Five Ways use explicitly the notion that the material universal is subject to destruction."
      - Aquinas' notion of corruption is that something goes out of being as something else comes into being. That is inconsistent with thermodynamics.

      "I fail to see how this conclusion can be infered from your premisses. Please reconstruct your argument."
      - Summa Theologica attempts to define the purpose of the universe and everything in it. Ultimate destruction is not consistent with Aquinas' purpose of the universe.

      "If you dont know how many people understand Thomism, how can you claim that *many* (scientists and philosophers) understand Thomism?"
      - More to the point, how can Feser claim that they don't understand it? It is sheer arrogance for him to assume that none of them has read the works of Aquinas.

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    2. "Since this is a blog about skepticism, I'm just asking for evidence of the claims made in your post."
      - Where is that information to be found? Why doesn't Feser provide evidence for this claim that modern philosophers and scientists are ignorant of Thomism? I simply made the reasonable assumption that some are ignorant, and others are not. I know that it is still part of philosophical education, and I know that I have some knowledge of it.

      "So you have no proof of your assertions. That's fine; exactly as I expected."
      - I stated that it is a fact because it is indeed a fact. Surveys of philosophers show it.

      But if you want to play that game, go ahead and show me evidence that the substances of act and potency exist. I know you can't, because modern science has thoroughly debunked it, along with the four causes, etc.. And let's not keep repeating Feser's tropes that Thomistic metaphysics is independent of any empirical observation. To Aristotle, metaphysics was inseparable from science, just as today, modern metaphysics is fully integrated with the scientific understanding of the world. It is only theistic hubris and arrogance that allows people like Feser to declare that their "knowledge" is independent from and impervious to any empirical observation, and that those who disagree are ignorant. I know the people over at Feser's blog are laughing at me and calling me "the village atheist", but not one of them has offered any substantive rebuttal to the thesis of my post. In the comments above, Keith keeps insisting that we "observe" potentially existing thing come into being by means of actually existing things. But that's meaningless. It doesn't support the assertion that act and potency exist. So you, or one of the folks at Feser's blog, please give me a better reason to think it's true. Science certainly doesn't.

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  10. >No longer do we believe that an object in motion must always be acted upon by another object. We observe inertial motion.

    As do Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, as Feser has written about many times. It seems to me that most “criticisms” of this philosophy is based on caricatures, not on the real thing. What does that say about the person doing the criticizing? Are they so intent on finding something wrong with an idea that they will distort the idea beyond recognition?

    >There is order in natural law, but there is no apparent goal.

    That “order” of which you speak just is what is meant by teleology. If something X has a disposition to cause Y but never Z, that’s because X is inherently disposed to cause Y but never Z. That’s what teleology is. It doesn’t mean some huge grand purpose to the entire universe.

    >Philosophical works like Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science describe this revolutionary change.

    Which is a book used by Feser to illustrate exactly what happened: a methodological shift, but final causes were never actually disproven. And the arguments against them are often very bad, like your misunderstanding of final causes as being the view that the universe as a whole is developing towards some grand purpose.

    >a metaphysical view that is now completely divorced from physical reality.

    A Thomist could plausibly argue that your non-teleological view is completely divorced from reality, as you have no way of explaining why X regularly causes Y but never Z, since you reject that X has a built-in disposition to cause Y.

    >its basis is entirely theistic.

    No, I’m sorry, but it is not. Aristotle did not attach teleology to any of his theistic arguments, and he thought teleology was just a brute fact of nature.

    >Ed Feser can arrogantly decry the ignorance of modern scientific views of nature and natural reality all he likes.

    He does nothing like this. He decries the anti-teleological interpretations of science, not science itself.

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  11. >No longer do we believe that an object in motion must always be acted upon by another object. We observe inertial motion.

    As do Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, as Feser has written about many times. It seems to me that most “criticisms” of this philosophy is based on caricatures, not on the real thing. What does that say about the person doing the criticizing? Are they so intent on finding something wrong with an idea that they will distort the idea beyond recognition?

    >There is order in natural law, but there is no apparent goal.

    That “order” of which you speak just is what is meant by teleology. If something X has a disposition to cause Y but never Z, that’s because X is inherently disposed to cause Y but never Z. That’s what teleology is. It doesn’t mean some huge grand purpose to the entire universe.

    >Philosophical works like Burtt's The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science describe this revolutionary change.

    Which is a book used by Feser to illustrate exactly what happened: a methodological shift, but final causes were never actually disproven. And the arguments against them are often very bad, like your misunderstanding of final causes as being the view that the universe as a whole is developing towards some grand purpose.

    >a metaphysical view that is now completely divorced from physical reality.

    A Thomist could plausibly argue that your non-teleological view is completely divorced from reality, as you have no way of explaining why X regularly causes Y but never Z, since you reject that X has a built-in disposition to cause Y.

    >its basis is entirely theistic.

    No, I’m sorry, but it is not. Aristotle did not attach teleology to any of his theistic arguments, and he thought teleology was just a brute fact of nature.

    >Ed Feser can arrogantly decry the ignorance of modern scientific views of nature and natural reality all he likes.

    He does nothing like this. He decries the anti-teleological interpretations of science, not science itself.

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    1. Martin,

      I am leaving on a trip. It will probably be a couple of days or so before I have a chance to reply more fully, but I will as soon as I get a chance.

      Just a few quick things I can say right now.

      There are differences between Aristotle's philosophy and Aquinas'. Aquinas was much more apt to see things as having divine purpose where Aristotle saw nature.

      Telos is not just a final state. It is about purpose. For Aristotle, the final cause was a striving for the good. For Aquinas, it was God's design. That's why I see the cold, dark end of the universe as being antithetical to his philosophy.

      Feser may not be against science, but he has a lot to say about scientists who don't buy Thomism. And he may use Burtt's book for his purposes, but I think he misses the big picture. Just as Aristotle's metaphysics was closely tied to the science of his day, modern metaphysics must be closely tied to science. Otherwise, it doesn't tell us anything useful (unless your intention is to justify religious belief).

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    2. Martin says: "That “order” of which you speak just is what is meant by teleology. If something X has a disposition to cause Y but never Z, that’s because X is inherently disposed to cause Y but never Z. That’s what teleology is. It doesn’t mean some huge grand purpose to the entire universe."

      No Martin that is not correct. This is an unwarranted conflation of 'order' with 'purpose'. The order that Skep rightly notes has nothing to do with teleology. Teleology is the 'explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes. [• Theology the doctrine of design and purpose in the material world.] '[All References Dictionary]. There is no purpose behind the order of the universe. That is a thoroughly theological conception with no epistemic, let alone scientific, credibility. The order Skep refers to has all to do with entropy, the state of order/disorder in the universe, a 'thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system' [All References Dictionary]. The greater the entropy the greater the disorder at both the micro and the macro level. We know the universe is inexorably moving from a state of order to one of high entropy, that is, greater disorder. Indeed the universe is replete with varying degrees of entropy, from supreme chaos to sublime order.

      Soon you'll be telling us that this entropy is also written in the scriptures, God's purpose, his telos. According to Christian theology all the order of the universe is attributed to god but yet all the chaos is posited as the inexplicable mysteriousness of god. Right? Total certitude that the order of the universe is all due of god's divine will yet the entropic chaos we observe is simply put into the 'mystery' basket. Not much of an explanation. Really? Is it? More a contrived rationalisation shoehorned into the gap, no?

      Soon you'll be telling us that the universe's inevitable headlong flight into total entropy is simply John's Revelation prophesied, the armageddon, right?

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    3. I'm sorry, but both you guys have it completely wrong. You don't understand teleology at all. You seem to think teleology means something like:

      "The universe is developing into a nice place to live"

      ...because your objection to it is:

      "The universe is decaying and will eventually die a heat death, therefore teleology is false."

      But that's not teleology at all. Teleology is the view that X causes Y but never Z because of a built-in or immanent disposition in X to cause Y but never Z. Flammable liquid can cause flames, but never causes kittens, because flammable liquid has a built-in disposition to cause flames but not kittens. That's teleology. Where the universe is headed has nothing to do with it whatsoever. In fact, your description of the heat-death of the universe can be described teleologically by saying that energy has an inherent disposition to die down rather than produce kittens, or heat up. Energy has a built-in tendency to do X but not Y. Teleology.

      So, as usual, both you and im-skeptical's objections to these concepts are aimed squarely at something that is merely a product of your own fevered imaginations, and has nothing to do with the actual concept itself. Of course, I realize that I can tell you people this hundreds of times and you'll just stubbornly refuse to understand it and continue objecting to your strawman as if I've said nothing.

      Delete
  12. >That's why I see the cold, dark end of the universe as being antithetical to his philosophy.

    But both forms of telos say nothing about what the end state of the universe will be, if any. Aristotle believed that individual things have a telos, but not necessarily that the universe does.

    >modern metaphysics must be closely tied to science. Otherwise, it doesn't tell us anything useful (unless your intention is to justify religious belief).

    Or unless our intention is to make sense of efficient causes, which, as Christopher Martin explains, are just final causes read in the other direction, and therefore are flip sides of the same coin. That's Feser's whole point. That we can't make sense of why X causes Y but not Z unless we say that it is because X has an inherent or built-in disposition to cause Y but never Z.

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  13. So you're saying the dictionary definition of 'teleology' is wrong, right? :o)

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  14. No, the dictionary definition, assuming you mean this one:

    "the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes."

    ...is correct. The word "purpose" is used to refer to "final causes", which the dictionary defines as:

    "the purpose or aim of an action or the end toward which a thing naturally develops."

    The end towards which a thing naturally develops or is aimed at. Acorns naturally develop into oak trees but not sea lions. The biological end or function or mature form of acorns is oak trees. That's exactly what I said: X has a built-in disposition to cause Y but never Z.

    This is distinguished from other theories of causation like Humean ones, where X happens to be next to Y, like how the red crayon in the box happens to be next to the blue one, but where X does not have a natural disposition to cause Y.

    None of this says anything about the universe developing into beachfront property. How you guys develop your strawmen is fascinating.

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    1. Martin,

      "A Thomist could plausibly argue that your non-teleological view is completely divorced from reality, as you have no way of explaining why X regularly causes Y but never Z, since you reject that X has a built-in disposition to cause Y."
      - The four causes of Aristotle have no explanatory power whatsoever. The fact is that an X can become a Z, in many cases. What makes it happen is the forces and processes that act upon X. These are not properties of X. There is no intrinsic "potency" in X, but given the external forces and processes, X could become a Y, or it could become a Z. Or it could become something else. The idea of potency is completely useless.

      "Aristotle did not attach teleology to any of his theistic arguments, and he thought teleology was just a brute fact of nature."
      - But Aquinas certainly did. For him, God was the ultimate cause of everything.

      "You seem to think teleology means something like: "The universe is developing into a nice place to live""
      - As I mentioned, Aristotle thought that telos was "the good" toward which things were aimed, and Aquinas thought that telos was divine design. You can't square those concepts with an ultimate state of chaos and still pretend that it makes sense.

      "So, as usual, both you and im-skeptical's objections to these concepts are aimed squarely at something that is merely a product of your own fevered imaginations, and has nothing to do with the actual concept itself."
      - My understanding of it comes from reading what Aristotle, and Aquinas said, as well as others. Now I will admit that I'm no expert on either of them, but I have a tendency to take things they say at face value, and not try to mold it to my own system of belief. (And of course, Aquinas himself did a lot of this molding to make Aristotle's philosophy fit his theistic beliefs.) I think in many cases, your own understanding is shaped by your theistic belief (perhaps as interpreted by people like Feser), and in not necessarily in agreement with the original intention. So you may have a tendency to see one interpretation as the "one true" meaning of a term, while overlooking other possible interpretations, even if they are more likely to be correct. That's why I now have two different Thomists telling me two completely different things about the meaning of telos.

      Delete
  15. > What makes it happen is the forces and processes that act upon X.

    As usual, you are failing to see the point, and I already know that it will take at least 100 more replies before you even begin to slightly understand, at which point you'll then drop the issue, only for it to crop up again later as if we've said nothing.

    So here we go. First of at least 100.

    If other "forces and processes," which we'll call F, are acting upon X, then this is still a causal process, and so "acting upon X" is something that F does due to a built-in disposition or ability to act upon X. And that disposition or ability is what Aristotelians would refer to as a "telos": a built-in disposition or ability to bring about certain effects.

    >Aristotle thought that telos was "the good"

    More misunderstanding, per usual for you and Papa. The word "good" here does not mean "nice, something I personally enjoy" like we mean today. For them, it simply means the complete, mature, or end form of a thing. If the end form of the universe is chaos or heat death, than that is the "good" towards which it is striving. In fact, your very words underscore the concept of final causes: the universe is inevitably developing towards X (heat death) and not Y (beachfront property). Because, of course, it is a built-in or inherent property of energy, heat, the way the universe is configured, etc that it will do X and not Y. And, to emphasize again, "telos" is a built-in disposition or tendency to do this and never that. That's what is meant by Aristotle and Aquinas when they speak of final causes.

    > I have a tendency to take things they say at face value

    And there is your problem, since words in philosophy are used in technical ways that don't always match up with the way we use them in colloquial speech. Cases-in-point; "good" and "motion."

    >your own understanding is shaped by your theistic belief

    This illustrates the dangers in psychologizing others ("you just think that because you're a P"), as you're completely wrong about my beliefs: I'm not a theist. I've told you this before, but I guess I haven't told you at least 100 times so that's why it hasn't sunk in yet.

    >why I now have two different Thomists telling me two completely different things about the meaning of telos.

    Not likely. Most likely people are using words differently to how you are used to and you are malinterpreting them, per your usual modus operandi.

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  16. Martin says: "No, the dictionary definition, assuming you mean this one:
    "the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes."
    ...is correct. The word "purpose" is used to refer to "final causes", which the dictionary defines as:
    "the purpose or aim of an action or the end toward which a thing naturally develops.""



    I don't think you know or understand what you read, Martin. The definition of 'teleology' specifically notes explanation by 'the purpose they serve' rather than by 'postulated causes'. And then, head long, you unwittingly lurch into postulating a cause, a 'final cause'.

    Apologetics is renowned for undisciplined, unwarranted and unbridled conflation just as your 'The word "purpose" is used to refer to "final cause"', demonstrates so clearly. Of course no one is under any illusion that 'final cause' is anything other than a euphemism for the Christian God.

    Martin, you can only flog a dead horse so far. And the Feserite Thomist horse is long dead in the stables of contemporary philosophy.

    You must abjure from peddling primitive medieval religious thought if you are to earn a seat at the adults table. Parrot-phrasing [a neologism for 'paraphrasing with malicious intent'] Feser does you or your cause no service in today's learned world. :o)

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  17. Paps, you have not understood a single thing you've read. Not surprising. For both of you I have to explain something at least a hundred times.

    >And then, head long, you unwittingly lurch into postulating a cause, a 'final cause'.

    Yes, final cause means the end state at which something is aiming. The "cause" as you are using the term would be the generating or efficient cause: where the thing in question came from:

    --efficient cause--> object --final cause-->

    So the efficient cause of an acorn would be the oak tree from which it sprang, and the final cause of the acorn would be the mature oak tree towards which it is developing.

    The word "purpose" here is referring to final cause: the built-in disposition to cause certain effects. It is not referring to the Christian God, as Aristotle was not a Christian. It is referring to what you might today call a "disposition."

    That was the first of at least a hundred times having to explain this to you and skeppy. Go ahead and respond now with your next strawman so that I can explain this concept for the second time (of a hundred). In 3, 2, 1...

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    1. "The word "purpose" here is referring to final cause: the built-in disposition to cause certain effects. It is not referring to the Christian God, as Aristotle was not a Christian. It is referring to what you might today call a "disposition.""

      Now don't be disingenuous Martin. We all know full well that your interest in promulgating this medieval nonsense is primarily about the forlorn attempt at pumping the moribund philosophical corpse of the 'Ground of all Being', the GOAB, or the Anselmian, "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". Of course such word salad has really passed its use-by date quite some time ago in contemporary philosophy and has long forgone is usefulness as an explanation about us, the world, the universe, the cosmos. All this rhetorical rehashing of trite, old and dilapidated 'efficient causes, final causes, acorns and oaks', the argument from ad nauseum, simply doesn't cut it in the broader intellectual circles outside the theological enclave.

      One must also remember that Thomism is simply a theologised strap-on with respect to Aristotelian thought which itself predates the cultural construct of the Christian mythos by at least four hundred years before Mary even got that cheeky jesus sparkle in her eye; with Aquinas's post hoc appropriation of Aristotelian Pagan philosophy some fifteen hundred years after the event, no less.

      But there is light of understanding glowing more brightly. Humanity is slowly maturing and continuing to transit toward a Post-Christian era. Thomism is largely a boutique philosophical subset with little more relevance to today than as an interesting historical relic redolent of the time when people, in their unbounded ignorance and deeply erroneous knowledge base, relied so heavily on religious supernatural superstition as the predominant explanatory mechanism.

      The evidence for this transition is encouraging.


      Delete
  18. As usual, you are failing to see the point, and I already know that it will take at least 100 more replies before you "So here we go. First of at least 100."
    - I feel the same. No matter how much you try to explain reality to a Thomist, he will continue to believe that his medieval understanding of things is the correct one.

    "that disposition or ability is what Aristotelians would refer to as a "telos": a built-in disposition or ability to bring about certain effects."
    - Tell me: what is the built-in disposition of a rock? To be part of a wall? Somethinng different? To be sculpted into a statue? Doesn't it depend on what happens to the rock?

    "The word "good" here does not mean "nice, something I personally enjoy" like we mean today."
    - And when did you hear me say that? You're just like Feser. Dumb atheists don't understand nuthin'.

    "it simply means the complete, mature, or end form of a thing. If the end form of the universe is chaos or heat death, than that is the "good" towards which it is striving."
    - I don't think that's what Aristotle meant. A seed becomes a tree. But that isn't its end form. The tree will eventually die and decompose. In fact, everything will decompose in the end - just like the universe. That is NOT what Aristotle had in mind as the telos. His view of "the good" was more like a state of fulfillment.

    "And there is your problem, since words in philosophy are used in technical ways that don't always match up with the way we use them in colloquial speech. Cases-in-point; "good" and "motion.""
    - Your problem is that you assume I don't understand without listening to what I say. Look at my other comments in this thread and see what I have said about motion. I have been arguing with another Thomist about what movement means, and his understanding appears to be limited, but like you he assumes that I am the one who doesn't understand.

    "I'm not a theist."
    - Sorry, I don't recall you telling me that, but I don't believe it for a second. As far as I can tell, you are a Christian, and you believe in God.

    "Not likely. Most likely people are using words differently to how you are used to and you are malinterpreting them, per your usual modus operandi."
    - Don't think so. This is two different Thomists who each have their own understanding of their philosophy. I'm sure there are many others who also have their own variations in the way they understand it.

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  19. >Tell me: what is the built-in disposition of a rock? To be part of a wall? Somethinng different? To be sculpted into a statue?

    Easy to answer: what types of effect does a rock have on other things? Not much. They usually just sit there, they themselves the effects of other things, but not very causally active themselves. Whatever causal activities they do have would be their final causes. To be used as a part of a wall or shaped into a statue is externally imposed teleology, not part of the nature of a rock if left to their own devices. What Aristotelians would call an "artifact": teleology imposed from outside. This is how Intelligent Design proponents see life, and it is the complete opposite of how Aristotelians see life.

    >And when did you hear me say that?

    It was implied when you seemed to think that "the universe developing towards the end state of chaos" is a good objection to teleology.

    >I don't think that's what Aristotle meant. A seed becomes a tree. But that isn't its end form. The tree will eventually die and decompose

    The death and decomposition is the end of the tree as a tree, and the beginning of something new, such as soil.

    >you assume I don't understand without listening to what I say.

    I don't assume anything. I observe it. I observe it when you seem to think that "the universe is headed towards chaos" is a good objection to teleology. If you understood teleology, you would understand that saying "the universe is headed towards X and not Y" just is a description of teleology, but since you don't realize that, you don't understand teleology.

    >As far as I can tell, you are a Christian, and you believe in God.


    Hey, believe what you want. I can't stop you. Doesn't match up with reality, but have at it.



    ReplyDelete
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    1. "Easy to answer: what types of effect does a rock have on other things? Not much. They usually just sit there, they themselves the effects of other things, but not very causally active themselves. Whatever causal activities they do have would be their final causes. To be used as a part of a wall or shaped into a statue is externally imposed teleology, not part of the nature of a rock if left to their own devices. What Aristotelians would call an "artifact": teleology imposed from outside. This is how Intelligent Design proponents see life, and it is the complete opposite of how Aristotelians see life."
      - It's much simpler to take a scientific view of reality. At least the rules are intelligible.

      "It was implied when you seemed to think that "the universe developing towards the end state of chaos" is a good objection to teleology."
      - No. That was your mistaken assumption, because you were too busy trying to refute me, and you weren't trying to understand what I said.

      "The death and decomposition is the end of the tree as a tree, and the beginning of something new, such as soil."
      - Not necessarily. All your pat answers from Thomism fail to hit the mark when you examine them too closely.

      "I don't assume anything. I observe it. I observe it when you seem to think that "the universe is headed towards chaos" is a good objection to teleology. If you understood teleology, you would understand that saying "the universe is headed towards X and not Y" just is a description of teleology, but since you don't realize that, you don't understand teleology."
      - On the contrary, I think you're the one who doesn't understand Aristotle. You're trying too hard to make facts fit the fantasy.

      "Hey, believe what you want. I can't stop you. Doesn't match up with reality, but have at it."
      - You don't think I have seen your blog? Are you lying to me?

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  20. >It's much simpler to take a scientific view of reality. At least the rules are intelligible.

    The two are not in competition, and can even be seen to be complementary. For example, it isn't implausible to describe science to be in the business of cataloging the behaviors of objects. Physics is in the business of discovering and cataloging particles and their characteristic behaviors. But "behavior" is just colloquial speech for "final cause." The characteristic way in which something acts. The concept of final causes or dispositions could be seen as a statement that things which have effects have causal powers, but not a description of what those causal powers consist of. An Aristotelian might say something like, "Opium causes sleep because it has a built-in tendency or disposition to cause that effect. Now you scientists go figure out why it has that effect." And the scientist would go do experiments to discover the underlying molecular structure which gives opium its characteristic behavior/final cause. The Aristotelian is dealing in the general notion that (some) things have causal powers, and the scientist is dealing in the vehicles by which those causal powers are exercised.

    > That was your mistaken assumption

    That is a direct paraphrase of what you said above, which was this: "...by our current understanding of natural laws, the universe will eventually become cold, dark, and devoid of structure. This is a departure from the Aristotelian teleological view of nature..."

    You are saying that the universe becoming dark and cold and devoid of structure is a departure from the teleological view. But teleology as a concept says nothing about what the end-state of the universe will be. It says rather that (some) things have characteristic end-states towards which they are developing, and also that science is in the business of discovering these characteristic behaviors. How do you think scientists know that this is how the universe will turn out? Because they have studied and know the characteristic behaviors of energy, matter, entropy, etc. If teleology were false, if there were no characteristic behaviors/end-states we could discover about the universe, then we would have no way of predicting how the universe will end up. It would be a crap shoot, and we'd just have to wait and see. The very fact that physicists can discover the characteristic behaviors of energy, matter, etc underscores the concept of teleology, or at least gives the Aristotelian a plausible case to put on the table and to be seriously considered.

    >Not necessarily.

    Yes, necessarily. Once the tree dies and decomposes, it is no longer a tree but is now dirt. Some other type of stuff with its own characteristic behaviors distinct from those of a tree.

    > Are you lying to me?

    No. I'm not. I criticize online apologetics and counter-apologetics because I think their reasoning is poor. But I do not pray, go to church, or believe in the Bible. This is like that time when someone on reddit said something factually incorrect about Ronald Reagan, and after I corrected them I was branded a Republican and downvoted, even though no one had anything to say about my comment directly. IMO, this is humans behaving like apes: beating their chests at the opposing tribe. And anyone who criticizes the Us tribe must be one of the Them tribe, right?

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    1. "The two are not in competition, and can even be seen to be complementary. ... The Aristotelian is dealing in the general notion that (some) things have causal powers, and the scientist is dealing in the vehicles by which those causal powers are exercised.
      - Science can (and does) figure out how things work without any "help" from A/T philosophers. In fact, It has done much better since they got out of the way.

      "That is a direct paraphrase of what you said above, which was this: "...by our current understanding of natural laws, the universe will eventually become cold, dark, and devoid of structure. This is a departure from the Aristotelian teleological view of nature..."
      - There is nothing in what I said that implies "the good" means "beachfront property". Those are your words, not mine.

      "You are saying that the universe becoming dark and cold and devoid of structure is a departure from the teleological view. But teleology as a concept says nothing about what the end-state of the universe will be. It says rather that (some) things have characteristic end-states towards which they are developing, and also that science is in the business of discovering these characteristic behaviors. How do you think scientists know that this is how the universe will turn out? Because they have studied and know the characteristic behaviors of energy, matter, entropy, etc. If teleology were false, if there were no characteristic behaviors/end-states we could discover about the universe, then we would have no way of predicting how the universe will end up. It would be a crap shoot, and we'd just have to wait and see. The very fact that physicists can discover the characteristic behaviors of energy, matter, etc underscores the concept of teleology, or at least gives the Aristotelian a plausible case to put on the table and to be seriously considered."
      - You are definitely putting the cart before the horse. Science predicts the thermodynamic death of the universe, not teleology. Without science, your A/T philosophy wouldn't have a clue about what will become of the universe.

      "No. I'm not [lying]. I criticize online apologetics and counter-apologetics because I think their reasoning is poor. But I do not pray, go to church, or believe in the Bible. This is like that time when someone on reddit said something factually incorrect about Ronald Reagan, and after I corrected them I was branded a Republican and downvoted, even though no one had anything to say about my comment directly. IMO, this is humans behaving like apes: beating their chests at the opposing tribe. And anyone who criticizes the Us tribe must be one of the Them tribe, right?"
      - As I said, I have read your blog. What I see is that you reject naturalist explanations and come to conclusions like "God exists" and "Jesus rose from the dead". By your own words, you are indeed a theist.

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  21. >Science can (and does) figure out how things work without any "help" from A/T philosophers. In fact, It has done much better since they got out of the way.

    No joke, since as I just explained, they are answering two completely separate questions. Why do you do this? Seriously. I just got finished explaining this very topic above, and you turn around and respond as if you didn't read any of it, prompting me to only think of Duchovny's line from Zoolander: "What are you serious? I...I just told you that, a moment ago." Oh well, this is part of the whole having to explain things to you 100 times before you understand it. I think we're only on #5 or so...

    >There is nothing in what I said that implies "the good" means "beachfront property". Those are your words, not mine.

    How can you seriously be this dense? The term "beachfront property" should obviously be a jokey way of referring to "not chaos," as opposed to literally beachfront property. Your objection to teleology was that the universe is evolving to chaos. I explained how this is not relevant to teleology at all, and can even be seen to support teleology. And yet your only response to that was to zoom in on my silly paraphrase...? Do you really have no ability to read charitably and say to your self:

    "Oh, by 'beachfront property' he must be referring to my contention that the universe is going to end up in chaos rather than order, so I'll address that..."

    I mean, that's what you ought to say. At this point, since you are avoiding my substantial points and instead just addressing tangential or irrelevant points, it's pretty obvious you are dancing around the discussion like a sugar-plum fairy instead of actually engaging.

    > Science predicts the thermodynamic death of the universe, not teleology.

    !!! Of course it does! I even said exactly that above! I said, quote: "How do you think scientists know that this is how the universe will turn out? Because they have studied and know the characteristic behaviors of energy, matter, entropy, etc."

    That is, I said: "science predicts the heat death of the universe." I never said "science predicts teleology," whatever that even means. What does that even mean? "Teleology" is not some future state the universe will evolve into, but is a description of how some things have characteristic behaviors, such as how energy will increase in entropy or whatever. I explained this above and you seem to have completely ignored it.

    >What I see is that you reject naturalist explanations

    I'm sorry, but taking notes on arguments I read elsewhere is not a case of accepting those arguments. It's a case of me trying to understand arguments so that I can be as charitable as possible to them. I read an argument for the resurrection of Christ. I take notes. I put notes on my blog so I can read them later. At no point am I accepting said arguments. Allow me to repeat: I am a theist or a Christian. I'm sure that won't change your mind, as beliefs are stubborn things and people tend to dig in their heels even in the face of contradictory evidence.

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    1. He's now distancing himself from his comments on his own blog.

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    2. "No joke, since as I just explained, they are answering two completely separate questions. Why do you do this?"
      - It is because I DO read what you say. You tell me "The two are not in competition, and can even be seen to be complementary. ... The Aristotelian is dealing in the general notion that (some) things have causal powers, and the scientist is dealing in the vehicles by which those causal powers are exercised." To me, that doesn't sound like answering two completely different questions. It sounds more like addressing different aspects of the same question. We both understand that your philosophy has to take a subordinate role to science in explaining what happens, but we disagree as to whether it has anything significant to say. I think it doesn't. I don't need A/T philosophy to tell me that there are causes. I vehemently disagree that final causes exist at all, let alone explain anything. I made an effort to show that potency is purely imaginary and final causes only muddy the picture, as they tell us absolutely nothing about what will become of certain objects. If you think that it is useful to know that a seed has a tendency become a tree, that's fine, but I don't need A/T philosophy to tell me that, and truth be told, you don't either.

      "How can you seriously be this dense? The term "beachfront property" should obviously be a jokey way of referring to "not chaos," as opposed to literally beachfront property."
      - You kept saying it, not me.

      "Your objection to teleology was that the universe is evolving to chaos. I explained how this is not relevant to teleology at all, and can even be seen to support teleology."
      - So which is it - not relevant, or supporting the case? I don't think it can be both.

      "I mean, that's what you ought to say. At this point, since you are avoiding my substantial points ..."
      - It seems to me that I made a case for chaos being antithetical to the notion of teleology, as conceived by Aristotle and Aquinas. Neither of them had any idea that this would be the case, as far as I know. Aristotle thought total destruction would be "the good"? Aquinas thought this was God's ultimate purpose? I doubt it.

      "I explained this above and you seem to have completely ignored it."
      - Ditto.

      "I'm sorry, but taking notes on arguments I read elsewhere is not a case of accepting those arguments. It's a case of me trying to understand arguments so that I can be as charitable as possible to them. I read an argument for the resurrection of Christ. I take notes. I put notes on my blog so I can read them later. At no point am I accepting said arguments. Allow me to repeat: I am a [not?] theist or a Christian. I'm sure that won't change your mind, as beliefs are stubborn things and people tend to dig in their heels even in the face of contradictory evidence."
      - Evidence? I'll repeat: I have read your blog. I saw a few instances where you do summarize the arguments of others. Most of it is written as if it is your own words. And in addition, I was unable to find any case where you "take notes" like that on the arguments of naturalists or atheists. All you ever do is reject every single thing they say. On the other hand, you are quite friendly toward theistic arguments, and you often state their conclusions as if you are in full agreement, if not wording it as your own conclusion. And one more thing: I have called you a Thomist repeatedly, and you never denied it.

      So maybe you imagine you're some kind of unbiased evaluator of arguments, not adhering to one side or the other, but you need to face the truth. You are a theist.

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    3. > I don't need A/T philosophy to tell me that there are causes.

      You don't "use A/T philosophy" to tell you there are causes. Rather, deciding that there are causes is (part of) A/T philosophy. You can take a Humean approach: there are no causes; events we label "cause" and events we label "effect" just happen to be next to each other but have no link between each other, much like the blue crayon is next to the red crayon in the box, even though there is nothing linking them. Or you could take a causal realist approach and reason that causes really do cause their effects, unlike Hume. Or various other approaches. Either way, science isn't going to inform you about the correct interpretation since science simply isn't trying to answer questions like that.

      >they tell us absolutely nothing about what will become of certain objects.

      Yes, and I said exactly this (again; you don't pay any attention). I said that science's job is to figure out the vehicles by which causes operate. But that the causal realist approach is correct, or the Humean approach, or something else, simply isn't a question being addressed by science.

      >It seems to me that I made a case for chaos being antithetical to the notion of teleology, as conceived by Aristotle and Aquinas

      And I've explained how since teleology is not the view that "the universe will not become chaotic," then your objection that the universe will become chaotic is not an objection to teleology. Teleology is (what are we on now, like #7? A long way to go before you understand it!) the view that some things have a built-in or inherent tendency to behave in certain ways. We can examine energy, know how it behaves, and know that entropy will increase. Therefore, we can know how the universe will end up.

      >You are a theist.

      Go ahead and believe that if it makes you feel better. It's false, but I can't stop you. I don't like to talk about myself because you have a very bad habit of psychologizing your interlocutors, and engaging you in it just encourages it. I'm talking about teleology, not "Martin's beliefs."

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    4. "You don't "use A/T philosophy" to tell you there are causes. Rather, deciding that there are causes is (part of) A/T philosophy."
      - Science alone discovers the means by which physical entities interact. Ideas like Aristotle's four causes play no role. It is inaccurate to say that "behavior" is just colloquial speech for "final cause", or to pretend that science is complimentary with Thomistic metaphysics. They are completely different. From a scientific perspective, Thomistic metaphysics doesn't add to or complement our understanding of reality - it is entirely superfluous.

      "I said that science's job is to figure out the vehicles by which causes operate. But that the causal realist approach is correct, or the Humean approach, or something else, simply isn't a question being addressed by science."
      - The only "correct" understanding is that which comports with reality. (Hint: Thomism doesn't. Final causes have no bearing on how things turn out in nature. This is simply an attempt to impose intention or purpose on nature, where there is none.)

      "the view that some things have a built-in or inherent tendency to behave in certain ways. We can examine energy, know how it behaves, and know that entropy will increase. Therefore, we can know how the universe will end up."
      - You completely fail to understand. The view that "some things have a built-in or inherent tendency to behave in certain ways" is just plain wrong. What we observe in reality is quite different from that. In reality, things interact. The way a certain thing behaves is a result of these interactions. Place that thing in different circumstances, and it will behave in a different way. And this interaction is not one-directional, either.

      "I don't like to talk about myself because you have a very bad habit of psychologizing your interlocutors, and engaging you in it just encourages it. I'm talking about teleology, not "Martin's beliefs.""
      - You certainly do not take a neutral stand. When you speak of these things, it is with the conviction of a true believer, and you leave no room for other opinions. Furthermore, while you are accusing me of psychologizing, let me rewind the tape and play back a few of your own words from this thread:
      "these concepts are aimed squarely at something that is merely a product of your own fevered imaginations"
      "you'll just stubbornly refuse to understand it"
      "I already know that it will take at least 100 more replies before you even begin to slightly understand"
      "And there is your problem, since words in philosophy are used in technical ways that don't always match up with the way we use them in colloquial speech."
      "Go ahead and respond now with your next strawman"

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    5. >From a scientific perspective, Thomistic metaphysics doesn't add to or complement our understanding of reality - it is entirely superfluous.

      Of course, because they are answering two completely different questions (what number are we on? 7 or 8, right? Looong way to go before any of my words penetrate your skull).

      >This is simply an attempt to impose intention or purpose on nature, where there is none.

      No, it isn't. There is nothing sneaky here. It is an attempt to desribe certain aspects of the world around us that science is not describing. For example, if an electron behaves a certain way, is this because some overall force in the universe is forcing it to behave that way, or is it because of something built-in or inherent in the electron itself, as an electron, which causes it to behave this way? Either way, this is a question independent of science, since science is consistent with both interpretations.

      >What we observe in reality is quite different from that. In reality, things interact.

      ...which is not inconsistent with things behaving a certain way due to a built-in disposition.

      >The way a certain thing behaves is a result of these interactions. Place that thing in different circumstances, and it will behave in a different way.

      ...which is also not inconsistent with things having a built-in disposition to behave a certain way.

      An electron in one situation will behave one way,and in another situation will behave another way, both predictable. In situation type 1, an electron will do X but never Y, and in situation type 2, an electron will do Y but never X. Why does it behave these ways in these situations? Because of a built-in or inherent tendency to do these things in these situations? You are not answering the question at all, and are dancing around it. No worries. That's normal for you. This will go on and on and on and on.

      >You certainly do not take a neutral stand.

      Go ahead and belive what you want. I can't stop you. It's false, but I can't stop you.

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    6. "Of course, because they are answering two completely different questions (what number are we on? 7 or 8, right? Looong way to go before any of my words penetrate your skull)."
      - That's what you keep saying. And I keep trying to remind you that it's wrong. As long as you insist on this, then metaphysics lives in its own realm, separate and distinct from physical reality, and therefore, totally irrelevant. That certainly was not the case for Aristotle.

      "No, it isn't. There is nothing sneaky here. It is an attempt to desribe certain aspects of the world around us that science is not describing."
      - Oh, but you're wrong. Science describes it quite well. Teleology is only in your mind.

      "For example, if an electron behaves a certain way, is this because some overall force in the universe is forcing it to behave that way, or is it because of something built-in or inherent in the electron itself, as an electron, which causes it to behave this way? Either way, this is a question independent of science, since science is consistent with both interpretations.

      "[things interact] ...which is not inconsistent with things behaving a certain way due to a built-in disposition."
      - If only you understood the concept, you would see how inconsistent it is. Your four causes are simplistic and not connected to reality.

      "You are not answering the question at all, and are dancing around it. No worries. That's normal for you. This will go on and on and on and on."
      - Unfortunately, there is no way for reason and evidence to penetrate the dogma-driven mind of the terminally superstitious. You will always find a way to believe that your superstition is consistent with reality. And despite the fact that you think I will understand if you repeat it enough times, the truth is that I understand it only too well. But I don't swallow it. As long as I still have the ability to reason, I never will.

      "Go ahead and believe what you want. I can't stop you. It's false, but I can't stop you."
      - Then why don't you just tell me what you do believe, and why it looks for all the world like you are a Christian.

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    7. >As long as you insist on this, then metaphysics lives in its own realm, separate and distinct from physical reality

      I don't "insist" on anything; it's reality. Again, believe something false if you like; I can't stop you. But when we are answering questions about whether causality is because of something built-in to the object in question, or that it is like Hume's "mosaic" where the effect just happens to be next to the cause with no link between them, science is consistent with both pictures and isn't going to inform you either way. I mean, try it. How would physics inform you as to whether causal realism, Humena, counterfactual, or any other causal theory is the correct one or not? What experiment could you do that would answer which one is correct?

      >Teleology is only in your mind.

      Right! That's exactly what Feser tirelessly points out over and over again! "Teleology is only in your mind" is the very engine behind Cartesian dualism: separating the world into two realms of the objective material world and the mind. It's fine if you want to do that, but it can only lead to two conclusions with the mind: dualism or eliminativism. He considers both positions to be untenable and an indication that a thesis is false if it leads to either one.

      >You will always find a way to believe that your superstition is consistent with reality.

      Right right right. Gotta get some psychologizing and dehumanizing of your opponents in, amiright?

      I fucking hate this...

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    8. "How would physics inform you as to whether causal realism, Humena, counterfactual, or any other causal theory is the correct one or not?"
      - I don't care what philosophical view of causality you take. I do know that a Thomistic view of causality (essentially ordered causal series, and other such nonsense) is demonstrably wrong. Reality, to the extent that we can know it, is revealed by science.

      "Right! That's exactly what Feser tirelessly points out over and over again! "Teleology is only in your mind" is the very engine behind Cartesian dualism:"
      - Feser takes the position that superstition A is wrong because it implies superstition B, and he "knows" that superstition C is the one true and correct superstition. Regardless of what superstition you adhere to, humans have various beliefs, some of which are true, and others are not true. Belief in the purpose or intention behind of natural unconscious behaviors is an example of belief that isn't true. This false belief, or superstition, exists in the mind of the believer. That fact does not imply any kind of dualism, despite Feser's scientifically ignorant insistence that it does. This is yet another example of the arm-chair theistic philosopher pretending his beliefs are safe from scientific scrutiny

      "I fucking hate this.."
      - Then I suggest that you gain a working knowledge of the science that your superstition denies.

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  22. With Christian theism so sullied and compromised as an explanatory tool in today's world, with an epistemological foundation to match that of a sieve, is it any wonder Martin seems to want to personally put distance from it, putting on a show of publicly disowning it to garner a scintilla of credibility for peddling rehashed Aquinian medieval thinking. Perhaps Martin is not aware of the boutique nature of Thomism today and its relatively marginal impact on contemporary philosophical discourse: "Thomistic scholasticism in the English speaking world went into decline in the 1970s when the Thomistic revival that had been spearheaded by Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson, and others, diminished in influence. Partly, this was because this branch of Thomism had become a quest to understand the historical Aquinas after the Second Vatican Council. Still, those who had learned Scholastic philosophy continued to have unresolved questions about how the insights of the medieval synthesis could be applied to contemporary problems. This conversation departed from the academic environment and entered internet discussion groups such as Aquinas,[24] Christian Philosophy,[25] and Thomism,[26] and websites such as Open Philosophy,[27] where it continues today." Wiki

    Thomism is largely a rump sub-culture in today's philosophical circles most noticeably constrained within theistic establishments.

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    1. Fascinating. How does this disprove teleology, again? Your argument appears to be:

      1. If Thomism moved to the Internet in recent years, then objects do not have built-in characteristic behaviors
      2. Thomism moved to the Internet in recent years
      3. Therefore, objects do not have built-in characteristic behaviors

      That's clearly not a very good argument.

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    2. None of your syllogisms throughout this thread have been very good including this attempt. The common element? Thomism. The poor state of syllogisms is a reflection of the abject nature of Thomism to offer argument not soused in a miasma of medieval supernatural superstition.

      Philosophy has come a long way since the medieval Aquinas, Martin. Perhaps you may need to catch up reading forward rather than reading backwards for explanation. Reading Aristotle and Aquinas out of context of their times presents all sorts of constraints and limitations in today's world. What you parrot as 'telos', teleology, is a misnomer and a misguided application within contemporary philosophy. You might wish to familiarise yourself with the concept of teleonomy in modern philosophy.

      And it makes for good reading too.

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    3. Martin you might also wish to brief yourself on THIS ENTRY on teleology in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You'll note any teleological link to an un-moved mover, or un-caused cause, or 'Ground of all Being', or final cause' is explanatorily redundant. Indeed it is ontologically and epistemically superfluous in contemporary philosophical discourse, apart from within and dwindling theological circles, that is.

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    4. So, what is your argument, then? That teleology is false because LOOK AT THIS ARTICLE ON TELENOMY!!1!! LOOK AT THIS ARTICLE ON THE SEP!1!!! GOD! GOD GOD! THOMISM THOMISM THOMISM!!1!!!!!1!!?

      But none of that does anything to show that teleology is false. You are just pointing to other things to distract from the fact that you have no good argument against teleology.

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    5. No. What it is saying is that the notion of teleology as the divine product of the actions of some disembodied, live [putative], non-human entity [the GOAB] ethereally residing out there, beyond time and space, manipulating the natural laws of physics at will, throwing in a few miracles every now and then, is really shown to be pretty much what people are now realising, primitive superstition.

      The arcane God concept of past thinkers, championed by Aquinas, forlornly promulgated by Feser, is drawing to a close as a serious 'origins of the universe' contender in philosophical discourse. What is being rejected today is the notion that Thomism, just as with the Bible, apparently can only be read 'in a certain way' to get the 'right' meaning. And it's odd how the 'right' meaning always seems to coincide with how an apologist interprets it. Anyone who doesn't think as the apologist thinks is misinterpreting Thomism, right? I mean, when I read through your blog, you are very, very strong in ensuring how Thomist stuff must be interpreted in a particular way, your way, lest they be accused of misinterpreting or misperceiving Aquinas. Indeed, your website is replete with cautionary tales of interpreting Aquinas in a manner that doesn't square with your interpretation.

      The articles I cite show a simpler, natural, and a more plausible explanation of teleology that can be properly made without recourse to the mystery of the unmoved mover, the final cause, the uncaused cause.

      Of course the Thomistic notion of the Uncaused Cause [a euphemism for the Christian god], drawing an arbitrary line in the sand, reducing everything to efficient and final causes, is itself a reductio ad absurdum argument, and ironically, one much favoured by apologists who decry metaphysical naturalism.

      Philosophy is moving on, Martin.

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  23. >The articles I cite show a simpler, natural, and a more plausible explanation of teleology that can be properly made without recourse to the mystery of the unmoved mover, the final cause, the uncaused cause.

    So...you're not disputing teleology, then. I've said about fifty times that Aristotle, like you, also belived in teleology but that there is no divine mover behind it. Of course, I've only said it fifty times and as we all know you and skeppy need to be told something about 100 times before you even begin to understand it. So we're only halfway there. Keep talking strawmen and irrelevancies to force me to continually explain it, and eventually we'll hit that magic 100 number and then you and skeppy will finally get it! If only for a brief second, of course...

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  24. Don't be disingenuous Martin. I don't believe in teleology in the manner you imply, at all. To me teleology is a thoroughly human construct, not a function of intrinsic 'good' as Aristotle would have it. Aristotle's conception of teleology arises from his aporetic approach to explaining why there appeared to be so much order in nature. He invented teleology as a response to an insoluble problem. And many philosophers would suggest that teleology is more a semantic rather than a causal relationship, as philosopher M Ransome Johnson would have it. Of course we know about the bastardisation of this concept, conflating Aristotle’s philosophy with teleological proof for the existence of god, first creationism and then intelligent design, the anthropic cosmological principle, and anything else theists could throw against materialism and evolution. Aquinas made a good fist of this conflation which only to now had kept us in the dark about the reality of the natural world.

    We've moved on in philosophy, Martin, where teleology is best used as a descriptor of events. In the sciences, particularly biology, teleology is a metaphorical or literary device that provides a useful means of explaining the environmental, evolutionary and physical relationships we observe.

    If one were versed in the philosophy of mind, one world have come across a phenomenon now known as the Theory of Mind. One would understand that teleology is a projection of one's own mind as a means of reconciling intentions or purpose, whether it is deliberative as in art, or 'intuitive', as to working out the intentions of an interlocutor's actions or 'reading' their thoughts.

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  25. >One would understand that teleology is a projection of one's own mind

    Feser would argue that this is incoherent because circular. If one's mind is projecting teleology onto the world, then that is itself an example of end-directedness. So you haven't really gotten rid of teleology at all; you've just relocated it. And that is ALSO Feser's point: modern mechanists have a place where they can dump anything that doesn't fit the materialist dogma, such as teleology. Namely, the human mind. And that is what Cartesian dualism is: a split of the world into two: mind and matter.

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    1. "modern mechanists have a place where they can dump anything that doesn't fit the materialist dogma, such as teleology. Namely, the human mind. And that is what Cartesian dualism is: a split of the world into two: mind and matter."
      - Oh, brother. There is no need to dump things that don't fit materialism, because there is nothing that doesn't fit. All your teleology and your unmoved movers and your final causes and your act and potency don't fit materialism because they don't exist. They are contrived by the superstitious to help provide a semblance of intellectual respectability to superstition.

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    3. Who cares what bit players imagine is incoherence and circularity. Feser's perspective is irrelevant in the broader scope of contemporary philosophy. Feser whines about modern philosophy and expresses his misfit principally because none of today's big hitters takes him as a serious contender in the competitive marketplace of ideas. His catholicized philosophy only caters for an ebbing niche market largely predicated on supernatural superstition of a peculiar and idiosyncratic religious kind. Not much transferability or applicability there outside the catholic perimeter.

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    4. Now that I've given you an argument about how you have just relocated teleology rather than eliminating it, you shift to ad hominems of Ed Feser. No surprise there, since you don't have an answer.

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    5. It was never about eliminating it, Martin. Nowhere have I said anything about ridding it from the lexicon. It was always about forensically paring back the long history of nonsense that had agglomerated around what is now known to be a deep and abiding intrinsic psychological and emotional need, the existential imperative to be loved and protected, In our deepest of ignorance it mattered not if that 'protector' was nothing more than a figment of our imagination, the 'Father' figure, the big parent in the sky. Teleology was always a thoroughly human construct. It is now known to be properly an epiphenomenon of the conscious mind, much in the manner that language, cognition etc is.

      Whatever 'telos' we attributed to the old god construct, the uncaused cause, or derivations of it, such as the 'intrinsic' good in nature no longer has the ear of contemporary philosophers as an explanatory mechanism.

      We need to move on.

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  26. >They are contrived by the superstitious to help provide a semblance of intellectual respectability to superstition.

    If you say that "teleology doesn't really exist; it's just a contrivance, only in the minds of the superstitious," then that is exactly Feser's criticism: a "contrivance" is itself an example of end-directed behavior, so instead of getting rid of teleology, you've just relocated it to the mind.

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  27. >Teleology was always a thoroughly human construct.

    Right, and as Feser argues, "constructing something" is itself an example of end-directed behavior, and thus you have merely relocated teleology rather than eliminated it. You still have not addressed this charge, and my prediction is that you never will; you'll keep bringing up irelevancies like "humans just need to be loved" or whatever, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the point I've made, even if true..

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    1. " a "contrivance" is itself an example of end-directed behavior, so instead of getting rid of teleology, you've just relocated it to the mind."
      ""constructing something" is itself an example of end-directed behavior, and thus you have merely relocated teleology rather than eliminated it."
      - You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between the behavior of a conscious agent, and observed patterns in the natural world. When a predator sees its prey, it stalks and attacks the prey with the intention of getting a meal. That's end-directed behavior, not teleology. When a human works toward some goal, that's end-directed behavior, not teleology. In both cases, there is a conscious being whose behavior is guided by the need (or perceived need) to accomplish some task.

      When a seed id provided with certain environmental conditions necessary for growth, it develops into a tree. The seed has no goal. It has no consciousness and no perceived needs. Its growth is guided by physical or biological laws. If you imagine that there is some goal toward which the seed's behavior is directed, that is only in your mind. The object will develop in a manner consistent with conditions, regardless of what you or anyone else thinks. Change the environmental conditions, and the development will proceed differently. It is true that the seed contains biological material that has evolved over a long time to maximize the chances of replicating itself. This is not by design, and it is not the result of any conscious decision to achieve any goal. Evolution is a consequence of purely natural processes that have no purpose, but do have characteristic behaviors. Those characteristic behaviors are what you might call telos, if you choose to ignore or deny the science that leads to understanding how things really work in our world.

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    2. >That's end-directed behavior, not teleology.

      "Teleology" is another word for "end-directed behavior." It means to strive towards a specific end or goal.

      >The seed has no goal. It has no consciousness and no perceived needs

      It isn't conscious but it still has a specific end. An acorn will, assuming the right conditions are met, always grow into an oak tree but never into a hamster, no matter what kind of conditions you give it. Assuming the right conditions, it is always aiming towards X (oak tree) but never Y (hamster).

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  28. >When a seed id provided with certain environmental conditions necessary for growth, it develops into a tree. The seed has no goal. It has no consciousness and no perceived needs.

    "The seed will develop into a tree (do X) but not develop into a sea lion (Y) (assuming certain conditions are met)."

    That just is a description of teleology. If you think Aristotle is saying that the seed has consciousness, you are quite mistaken.

    What # are we on now? I know it's not close to 100, but surely we are up into the 20s by now...?

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    1. "That just is a description of teleology. If you think Aristotle is saying that the seed has consciousness, you are quite mistaken."

      - Definition of teleology in philosophy: "the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes."

      There can be no purpose without an agent of some kind that has the intention to achieve some goal. Nature has no intention. Nature has no purpose. Therefore, there is no teleology in nature.

      And I'm not saying what you seem to think about Aristotle. But he did ascribe purpose to nature, which is WRONG.

      I don't care what # you are on repeating the same scientifically ignorant blather over and over doesn't won't me buy your superstition.

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    2. "That just is a description of teleology. If you think Aristotle is saying that the seed has consciousness, you are quite mistaken."

      - Definition of teleology in philosophy: "the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes."

      There can be no purpose without an agent of some kind that has the intention to achieve some goal. Nature has no intention. Nature has no purpose. Therefore, there is no teleology in nature.

      And I'm not saying what you seem to think about Aristotle. But he did ascribe purpose to nature, which is WRONG.

      I don't care what # you are on. Repeating the same scientifically ignorant blather over and over won't make me buy your superstition.

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    3. I know - this is the part where you retreat to your insistence that your metaphysics answers different questions from science. But I ask you: if that was truly the case, why do we keep coming into conflict over how these things work? No, they don't answer completely different questions, as is clearly demonstrated by reading this conversation, where we repeatedly butt heads over issues of these things colliding.

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