In my previous post, I attempted to show two things. The first of these is that I understand a key concept that is part of the Thomistic cosmological argument - that is, what is meant by an "essentially ordered" causal series (or EOS). This has been an area of contention, because they insist that I don't get it, and I am not alone in my ignorance - many atheists are similarly painted with this same brush, regardless of whether there is any truth to it. The second thing is that regardless my acceptance of the meaning of this concept, it is still inconsistent with physical reality, and therefore, I reject the reality of the concept. In response to this, Martin was good enough to make another post of his own to clarify his position and open up the topic for further discussion. I congratulate him for his willingness to discuss something that has divided us for such a long time, and to try to clear the air in a rational manner. To my surprise, I found that we couldn't even agree on something that I thought was already in agreement.
It seems that my understanding of what is meant by an "essentially ordered" causal series, even though it echoes the explanations given by many different Thomists, including Ed Feser, and Martin himself, misses the point. And it isn't a question of my being just too dense to get the concept, but rather that I take them at their word for what it means. It has to do with the concurrent nature of essentially ordered causation. It is the idea that in this type of causation, there is a causal source (or instrumental cause, as Feser calls it) that may be passed through some number of causally inert elements to the final effect at the end of the series, and this is something that occurs in the moment. But the explanation Martin now gives has changed. Apparently because I pointed out that there is no truly simultaneous causation, he now says that the concurrent aspect of it is not what is important.
it is unfortunate that I’ve given the impression that the entire series must be simultaneous. - MartinAnd this is despite the fact that it was not only important, but vital to him before:
We have here a concurrent chain of changers. and this is vital to understand for the next point: ... - MartinNow, I understand that there is one sense in which the concurrent aspect of EOS doesn't hold. As Feser explains, if this causal chain passes through some kind of time portal, then the effect is not simultaneous with the instrumental cause, but other than that it is simultaneous, according to Feser. OK, fine. But Feser's imaginary time portal doesn't change the the basic idea that the causal linkage from one element to the next doesn't incur any time delay. It is "passed through", as Martin puts it. This is also consistent with the explanation of EOS given in this paper, where simultaneity is not part of his definition of EOS, but it is an implication. And the whole idea of concurrent causality is what I tried to show as being inconsistent with physical reality. And please note that without the notion of concurrent causation, it is impossible to distinguish essentially ordered causation from accidental in any realistic physical sense.
I don't think Martin is in a position to argue against my physical explanation of how passing power through a wire to light a room involves many tiny time delays, so it really isn't concurrent, even though Martin used this as an example of EOS. So now he insists that such time delays can indeed be part of the EOS, and that isn't what I should be focusing on.
Even if an effect lingers for a time after its cause has disappeared, we can still infer the cause from the effect. Would we, for example, be justified in rejecting the hypothesis of a burglar from the observance of a broken window and a missing TV set just because the burglar is long gone? - MartinSo now, we should forget about simultaneous causation, and just think about whether a cause can be inferred from an effect, because that's what is important about EOS. What was that about inferring a burglary? Was that supposed to be an example of EOS? Please tell me more, because frankly, I don't see how that relates to EOS in any meaningful way at all. I'm afraid that in his effort to discredit my understanding of the concept, Martin has managed to muddle it to the point that it is meaningless. Consider, if you will, what distinguishes an essentially ordered causal series from accidentally ordered in light of this new definition. Can we not infer some kind of cause in either case? Given that we can always infer that there muse be some kind of cause, what's the point of talking about EOS at all?
whether a series is simultaneous or not is not important, and can be dropped. When reasoning from effect to cause, it doesn't matter if the cause happened a while ago and is no longer present, as the burglar example shows. What is important is avoiding explanatory circularity - Martin
And I would add that the so-called instrumental cause in any EOS is itself caused by something else, too. Which means that it really isn't instrumental, after all. The hand that moves the stick is moved by the arm. And you can take a causal series back as far as you like, but if you do, you must, at some point, cross the line into an accidentally ordered causal series. Does Martin's explanation involving inference of a cause give us any guidance at all on where that line is drawn?
It seems that this whole side-trip down the rabbit-hole wasn't really to clarify a concept, but simply to discount whatever I had to say about it. Whether of not my understanding is accurate, Martin must disagree. And rather than discuss the issue (which I thought was the intent of that whole blog post), he now wants to divert the discussion away from the points I raised, and focus instead on how I should just accept his Thomistic dogma.
I think you should drop all the terminology of temporality, and linear this and that, and everything else, and pay attention to what I said - MartinFor the record, I have paid attention, and I hear things that raise issues, which I have tried to point out. One thing I have always noticed in my discussions with theists is that whenever I make a point that they have no good answer for, they drop that line of discussion and turn to something else. They never want to discuss it further. They typically pretend it never happened. But OK, I get it. Martin doesn't really want to discuss what I have to say, and even if I agree with what he has said before, he will now disagree with it. So I shouldn't even try to present my side of the story. That's not what Martin is here to discuss. I should just accept his presumptions and his arguments, and this discussion will conclude in a manner that is satisfactory to him. And so goes my rational discussion with a Thomist.