Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quote of the Day: "Not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides..."

La fenêtre provençale 5 (Saint-Saturnin-Lès-Apt)Image by Vainsang via Flickr
The Philosophy ProFeser on the misuse of the accusation of logical fallacies:
As I have often complained, certain atheist philosophers ritualistically present the cosmological argument for the existence of God as if it went like this: Everything has a cause; so the universe has a cause, namely God. After raising the obvious objections (“If everything has a cause, then what caused God?” etc.), they then treat even the most sophisticated defenses of the cosmological argument as if they were desperate attempts to patch up this transparently feeble line of reasoning. But as I noted in several earlier posts..., none of the major philosophers who have defended the cosmological argument – not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Thomas Aquinas, not John Duns Scotus, not G.W. Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne, and not anyone else as far as I know – ever put forward this silly argument. It is the philosophical equivalent of an urban legend – an argument that “everyone knows” has been defended for centuries, which in fact has never been defended. And yet such ludicrous caricatures are frequently put forward as “evidence” of how lame the traditional arguments for God’s existence are, and used as an excuse for not bothering even to read work done in the philosophy of religion. (“If the main arguments are that bad, what’s the point?”)
Feser concludes:
In this way, the study of logic becomes precisely the opposite of what it is supposed to be – a rhetorical gimmick, a cudgel with which to beat opponents and advance agendas rather than an aid to the disinterested pursuit of truth. In the name of attacking sophistry and fallacy, a higher-order sophistry – a “meta-sophistry,” if you will – is perpetrated. 
The whole article may be viewed here.
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22 comments:

Anonymous said...

In Feser's universe, chaos leads to order. I prefer a dialectical view of all, chaos and order, order was first and then chaos. (real conservative)

RkBall said...

"In Feser's universe, chaos leads to order."

How so?

Anonymous said...

Actually Ayn Rand did put forward that argument. The universe has always existed; there is no 'cause'.

RkBall said...

"Actually Ayn Rand did put forward that argument."

What argument, that the universe has always existed?

This is contradicted by both philosophical reasoning and Big-Bang science.

Anonymous said...

The universe is the total of that which exists—not merely the earth or the stars or the galaxies, but everything. Obviously then there can be no such thing as the “cause” of the universe . . .

Is the universe then unlimited in size? No. Everything which exists is finite, including the universe. What then, you ask, is outside the universe, if it is finite? This question is invalid. The phrase “outside the universe” has no referent. The universe is everything. “Outside the universe” stands for “that which is where everything isn’t.” There is no such place. There isn’t even nothing “out there”: there is no “out there.”

Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism”

RkBall said...

"The universe is the total of that which exists"

Are you saying this definitionally, i.e., you are defining all that exists and calling it "the universe", or are you saying the material time-space we know and inhabit and call the universe is "all that exists"?

If the latter, how do you know this is true?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, was too busy this evening to follow up. Anyway you said nobody was making that argument so I brought up Ayn Rand and her "heir". You can google her and her arguments about atheism.

P@J said...

here Rick, read this before you comment further on the Big Bang and the meaning of space time. Note escpecially that the Big Bang model does not opine on whether the universe always existed...

what is big bang theory?

RkBall said...

The big bang points to a beginning of the universe as an infinitely small, infinitely dense singularity approx.13.7 billion years ago. It was initially resisted precisely because it knocked an eternal universe off the table and fit the Christian view of a created universe which had a beginning.

An eternal universe produces problems such as the impossibility of an actual infinite number of past moments of time, meaning that the present could never be reached. Anyone who believes that the present is real cannot believe in a past eternal universe, at least not with logical consistency.

Nor can there be an actual infinite regress of causes for similar reasons.

There are also physics problems with an eternal series of exploding/collapsing universes.

So, the best bet is that the universe had a beginning, and the science supports this.

P@J said...

Clearly you didn’t follow the link. In the first paragraph there are three common misconceptions about the BBT listed:
· The BBT is not about the origin of the universe. Rather, its primary focus is the development of the universe over time.
· BBT does not imply that the universe was ever point-like.
· The origin of the universe was not an explosion of matter into already existing space.
Now compare these initial points of fact to your reply, and we can see your understanding of the Big Bang is flawed at the most basic level.
Apparently, so is your understanding of time, and Math: “An eternal universe produces problems such as the impossibility of an actual infinite number of past moments of time, meaning that the present could never be reached.”
There are always an infinite number of moments in the past, there are an infinite number of moments in any given day: there is no quantum of time known as the “moment”. At least not in this universe. Further, your concept of infinite numbers show your math education stopped before calculus class. You are essentially repeating the problem of “Achilles and the Tortoise”. This was a paradox in Greek times, but a couple of guys named Newton and Leibniz found a pretty elegant solution more than 300 years ago (although other mathematical solutions were separately found for similar infinite number problems in China and Arabia at least 600 years before that, alas European maths were profoundly set back by the use of Roman number systems and the subsequent Dark Ages…)

RkBall said...

"Clearly you didn’t follow the link."

I skimmed the link and found it contradicts other sources I have read.

By moments I mean a given unit of time, not time sliced to infinity. Whatever unit you choose to use, in an eternal universe, there would be an infinite number of these actual moments preceding the present -- thus, the present could never be reached.

RkBall said...

"you are essentially repeating the problem of “Achilles and the Tortoise”.

No, I am not.

RkBall said...

PJ -- for an illustration of the problem with an actual infinite set, please see the Hilbert's Hotel illustration here.

http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html

P@J said...

This might be the funniest thing I have ever read here (saying something!). Hilbert’s Hotel was a demonstration of how the idea of “infinite numbers” was difficult for those not trained in the application of mathematics to understand. When someone untrained in mathematics comes along and uses it as proof of how hard to understand the concept of “infinity” is, then concludes that math is wrong…well, you are kind of making Hilbert’s case. It is pretty much the ultimate “argument for personal incredulity”.

These alleged problems with math were easily resolved several hundred years ago. Yes, math is hard. But so is organic chemistry. So are fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, and orbital physics. But that doesn’t make then untrue. Reality is sometimes difficult to understand. Science does not offer easy answers.

RkBall said...

No one is saying that the math is wrong. The fact remains that, in the real world, an actual infinity is impossible. There is a difference between a concept and material instantiation of a concept. An actual infinity of cause/effect events or an actual infinity of moments (defined as an actual measure and not just as a variable concept) is impossible in the real world.

Therefore, both philosophy and science point to a beginning. That may cause problems for you, but why?

P@J said...

There you go again, calling something a fact when it is demonstrably untrue. I’m not sure you know what “fact” means. Infinity is not impossible in the real world. The radius of the electron (infinitely small), the number of paths away from any point in Cartesian space (infinitely large), the number of points on the electromagnetic spectrum…there are too many examples to even begin having a meaningful list.

You use the example of infinite moments of time (I mentioned there are an infinite number of “moments”, as time is not quantized) falls apart when you add your little “actual measures” equivocation, but “moment’ is rather a poorly defined term, isn’t it. How long does a moment last? If your chosen measure is 1-year chunks, there have been about 13.7 billion of them in the universe prior to this one. Proving what?

P@J said...

Wait, let me ask you one question. If infinity is impossible in the real world, as you claim, then what is the largest number in the real world?

RkBall said...

"Wait, let me ask you one question. If infinity is impossible in the real world, as you claim, then what is the largest number in the real world?"

If you mean numbers as abstracts, then you surely cannot believe they exist in themselves -- that would be denying materialism. Since abstracts occupy no space they have no size -- so any number would be as big or small as any other.

If you mean the largest number of things.... the answer is that it is a finite number, because an actual infinity of things in the material world is impossible.

You cannot have, e.g., an infinite number of steps in a process, and you cannot have an infinite number of cause/effect events, and you cannot have an infinite number of slices of time.

RkBall said...

" there have been about 13.7 billion of them in the universe prior to this one. Proving what?"

Proving that you are a long, long way from demonstrating infinite time in the material universe (which is what I was referring to when I used the term the real world).

P@J said...

Who said time was infinite? There are infinite moments in time, unless you define a measure (quantum) of time. But time is not infinite, it started about 13.7 billion years ago...

RkBall said...

It started, as in began, as in beginning.

P@J said...

...so wqe are back to something from nothing.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"