Friday, April 29, 2016

The Incongruity of Divine Simplicity

I previously discussed some problems with the Thomistic metaphysical concept of act and potency.  As expected, it resulted in lots of harsh commentary from the good folks at Feser's echo chamber.  One thing that didn't happen is any kind of cogent rebuttal to the issues I raised.  I am not arrogant enough to think that I am an expert on scholastic metaphysics, or to think that these issues haven't been raised before.  But I can say with confidence that they haven't been answered in a way that is intellectually satisfying to a scientifically-minded skeptic.  I raise these questions because in my opinion, they cast serious doubt on the whole enterprise, and all the explanations that have been offered are simply rationalizations.  The Thomist must live with some cognitive dissonance when he tries to explain how his metaphysics exists in harmony with modern science.

My next area of criticism is the concept of divine simplicity.  This is the notion that God is simple - that he is composed of no parts and has no complexity.  He is identical to his properties: simplicity, perfection, goodness, infinity, ubiquity, immutability, eternity, and unity.  God's is said to be unknowable except by analogy.  His intellect is utterly unlike the intellect of man.  And so we have some problems that demand an explanation.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Incongruities of Act and Potency

Thomism is based on a system of metaphysics that Thomas Aquinas adapted from Aristotle.  Aristotle posited the existence of act and potency as a means of explaining phenomena observed in the natural world.  It was said that movement (which can be any of a variety of types of change) is explained as the actualization of a potency.  Actualization was thought to be the fulfillment of an end or goal.  Movement occurs when an object that has the property of potential with respect to a certain kind of actualization is acted upon by another object that has that actualization.  Take, for example, a cold stone.  It has the potential to become warm, and will do so when placed in contact with a hot stone.  The movement (becoming warm) is the actualization of the potential (to become warm), and is caused by the hot stone (which is warm).

In keeping with this metaphysical system, God is said to be pure actualization (or act).  God is the ultimate cause of all movement, but God himself is not moved by anything.  The reason is that movement requires some potential that must be actualized.  But God has no potential - he is pure act, he is perfectly fulfilled.  But this belief leads to some problems, as we shall see.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Craig: No Explanation Needed

There has been much discussion lately about the need to bring a measure of sophistication to the table when discussing philosophical issues.  I get it.  It is annoying to hear creationists insist that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.  This is sheer ignorance.  I have no doubt that trained philosophers feel the same way when they hear some of the things I say.  But there is a difference between scientific and philosophical ignorance.  Scientific facts are not matters of opinion, and are not matters of debate.  The creationist is not only ignorant about thermodynamics, but he is demonstrably, factually wrong.  Period.  On the other hand, someone who asks the question "Who made God?" may be philosophically ignorant, but he's not factually wrong.  The necessary being or the self-explanatory nature of God is not a demonstrable fact.  It's something that one can reasonably reject.  It is a matter of debate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Defending the Ivory Tower

Philosophers like Victor Reppert and Keith Parsons long for the good old days, when they could sit in their ivory tower and have cordial debates about esoteric philosophical arguments.  As long as the atheists in the room remained duly respectful and didn't push their own beliefs too hard, everything was fine.  And the atheist philosophers among them played the game.  Being educated in the intricacies of high-brow theistic philosophy, they could hold their own in these debates while being careful not to offend their religious counterparts.  The trick to this is pretending that all arguments deserve equal respect, as long as they are made by a member of the elitist club in the ivory tower.*

Philosophy of religion (POR) is quite unlike science or mathematics, where a hypothesis or proof of a theorem can be shown to be false, and once that is done, the community converges on an agreement that it is false, and abandons it.  In POR, when an argument is shown to be logically invalid, or its premises are unsupported by factual knowledge, there is no consensus in the community.  They simply divide themselves into camps that either agree with the argument or disagree with it.  But the cordial debate goes on in the ivory tower.  So while science and mathematics have made solid and beneficial contributions to the knowledge of mankind, POR really hasn't contributed anything tangible.  They just keep debating the same tired arguments, endlessly.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

More Analysis of Atheism

Over at Atheism Analyzed there is a new "atheist discussion zone", which is mostly one-sided, but it is interesting because it reveals so much about how Stan, the owner of the blog, thinks.  I've taken a look at Stan's "analysis of atheism" before.  The discussion we had was not very fruitful.  He is unwilling to listen to anything that might disagree with his beliefs or his reasoning.  In this discussion zone, Hugo Pelland attempts to reason with him, but Stan concedes nothing, under the arrogant delusion that his own logic and analysis are flawless.  It is amusing to read the entire thread (and in particular his discussion of physics, which is mind-numbingly wrong), but I want to focus on Stan's final comment, where he summarizes his "observations and conclusions" about atheism.  I feel this is worthwhile because some of Stan's delusions may be shared with other theists, and they should be addressed, just to set the record straight.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Prokop Challenge

There is an interesting conversation going on at Dangerous Idea regarding scientism.  The topic of the Reppert's post was Larmer's treatment methodological naturalism, which I discussed in my previous post.  Not surprisingly, the commentary has turned from naturalism to scientism in general.  And true to form, the theists can't help but drag out all their stale old tropes, stereotypes, and falsehoods about people who value science as a method of gaining objective knowledge.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Theists Misunderstand Naturalism

Isn't it interesting that theists love to tell atheists that their metaphysical beliefs are incoherent, but they can't accurately describe what those beliefs are?  I'm following two different blog posts currently where this arrogant attitude is displayed by theists.  One is about metaphysical naturalism, and the other is about methodological naturalism.  In both cases, the theist presents a straw-man version of naturalism, and then argues that it is illogical or incoherent.  The straw man is apparently due to a lack of understanding the naturalist's position.

Let's start with metaphysical naturalism.  On CADRE Comments, Don McIntosh has posted an article called Why I Am Not a Metaphysical Naturalist.  It contains a number of statements about the supposed incoherency of naturalism, mostly based on the implicit assumption of theism.  For example, the dualistic notion that mind is immaterial in essence, and can't emerge from or be supervenient upon the physical is taken for granted, and used as a basis for dismissing monistic materialism as a coherent worldview.  This kind of circular reasoning is pervasive among theists, and I have come to expect it.