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ID Foundations, 9: Cause, necessity/contingency vs. sufficiency/determinism, the observed (fine tuned . . . ) cosmos and design theory

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"Turtles, all the way down . . . " vs a root cause

In recent exchanges, design objector RH7, has made objections to the concept of cause, regarding it as an outmoded, deterministic and classical (in the bad sense) view.

Since this is now clearly yet another line of objection to design inference on detection of credible causal factors, we need to add a response to this to the cluster of ID Foundations posts here at UD.

A useful way to do so is to highlight an ongoing exchange, here on, in the Universe Portal thread:

JDFL: 20th century physics has called into question determinism. But determinism and causality are not necessarily the same thing. we may not be able to determine or predict an qm outcome but we can identify the set of causal factors. [T]he unity of the set of causal factors is the cause.

KF: JDFL: You are right, once we see the significance of necessary causal factors, we decouple cause from determinism.

RH7: Cites JDFL & responds:

we may not be able to determine or predict an qm outcome but we can identify the set of causal factors. the unity of the set of causal factors is the cause.

Well that’s the problem. Not only can we not determine the outcome, we can not definitively know the cause. As an alternative, Bohm’s quantum mechanics is deterministic and non-local – though I’m not sure you would find his idea of a universal wave function any better.

This sets up my own response:


>> Re:

that’s the problem. Not only can we not determine the outcome, we can not definitively know the cause . . . [highlights added]

Let us mark key distinctions:

a: Knowing — per identified necessary causal factors — that something, X, is subject to causal influences,


b: Knowing a sufficient set of causal factors that WILL cause X,


c: Knowing the necessary and sufficient cluster of causal factors for X,


d: Knowing a sufficient set of causal circumstances in which a distribution of cases Y occurs, in which we may observe some y1, or y2, or y3, etc. That is, we have a sufficient causal framework for a stochastic process from population Y of possibilities, that will lead to some outcome from the population, and thus may lead to observed samples y1, y2, etc that in turn may help us model Y.

Case a is the necessary causal factor case, it identifies enabling factors that PERMIT or ENABLE but do not FORCE the occurrence of X.

Cases b or c, by contrast, are sufficient to FORCE — determine — that an event X will occur. Case c is more stringent yet: it is a cluster that must be met in any situation that X occurs.

Case d is sufficient, not for any given yk, but to set up a stochastic sampling from Y.

In any of cases a – d, causes are at work, perhaps through mechanisms that we have not elucidated, and in some cases may not even be able to elucidate.

In many quantum mechanical situations, what we have is case d.

The possibilities a – d also point to the sharp distinction between knowing that an observed outcome is caused, and knowing the sufficient and/or the necessary and sufficient cluster of factors that force the outcome to occur.

What is clear is that, RH7, you keep emphasising that for many quantum cases we do not — and perhaps cannot — know cases b or c, when all that is needed to demonstrate that causality is at work would be a or d. The quantum cases, in fact, typically are cases of d.

All that is required for the main discussion to proceed is that we know that something is caused, and in particular that we are able to identify that there are observed or identifiable conditions under which X of yk do occur, and different ones under which they do or do not (explicitly including, that these have a beginning, or may come to an end), i.e. that they are contingent. That which is contingent — and, please notice the empirical, observational focus — is caused, i.e. acts under the influence of factors that may enable or contribute to or may even force its occurrence, depending on specifics.

[Citing Wikipedia on cause, against known interest, from 6 in the same thread:

Causality is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first.[1]

In common usage Causality is also the relationship between a set of factors (causes) and a phenomenon (the effect). Anything that affects an effect is a factor of that effect. A direct factor is a factor that affects an effect directly, that is, without any intervening factors. (Intervening factors are sometimes called “intermediate factors.”)

Though the causes and effects are typically related to changes or events, candidates include objects, processes, properties, variables, facts, and states of affairs; characterizing the causal relationship can be the subject of much debate . . . .

Causes are often distinguished into two types: Necessary and sufficient.[7] A third type of causation, which requires neither necessity nor sufficiency in and of itself, but which contributes to the effect, is called a “contributory cause.”[8]

Necessary causes:

If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.

Sufficient causes:

If x is a sufficient cause of y, then the presence of x necessarily implies the presence of y. However, another cause z may alternatively cause y. Thus the presence of y does not imply the presence of x.

Contributory causes:

A cause may be classified as a “contributory cause,” if the presumed cause precedes the effect, and altering the cause alters the effect. It does not require that all those subjects which possess the contributory cause experience the effect. It does not require that all those subjects which are free of the contributory cause be free of the effect. In other words, a contributory cause may be neither necessary nor sufficient but it must be contributory.[9][10]

J. L. Mackie argues that usual talk of “cause,” in fact refers to INUS conditions (insufficient but non-redundant parts of a condition which is itself unnecessary but sufficient for the occurrence of the effect).[11] For example, a short circuit as a cause for a house burning down. Consider the collection of events: the short circuit, the proximity of flammable material, and the absence of firefighters. Together these are unnecessary but sufficient to the house’s burning down (since many other collections of events certainly could have led to the house burning down, for example shooting the house with a flamethrower in the presence of oxygen etc. etc.). Within this collection, the short circuit is an insufficient (since the short circuit by itself would not have caused the fire, but the fire would not have happened without it, everything else being equal) but non-redundant part of a condition which is itself unnecessary (since something else could have also caused the house to burn down) but sufficient for the occurrence of the effect .]

This is not assumption, it is empirically based.

The Big Bang timeline -- a world with a beginning

Now, we move to a different level: we live in an observed cosmos that credibly had a beginning, on the usual timeline some 13.7 BYA.

Whether we are in cases a or d, we are in a situation of contingency and presence of cause.

Going beyond, the observed cosmos is credibly locally exceedingly fine tuned (cf also here [kindly, watch the vids]), such that relatively minor variations in parameters and physical laws that we have no reason to believe are constrained, would make the cosmos radically inhospitable to C-Chemistry, cell based life. The Hoyle law-monkeying issue in particular arises in respect of the resonance responsible for the cluster of most common elements of the universe we observe: H, He, C, O. These elements turn out to be — surprise — the core elements of life, and to have astonishing properties reflected in the physics and chemistry of water, H2O, and the rich world of Carbon chemistry.

See why Hoyle inferred a “put-up job” as best most plausible explanation? As he said:

From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16]

I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [[“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

And, here’s the trick: even on case d, that obtains, as a multiverse set up so that the local cluster of possibilities at the “knee” where our observed cosmos happens to be, requires a “cosmic bakery” that itself would be fine tuned. (Leslie’s isolated fly on the wall swatted by a bullet discussion here points out why this inference is highly reasonable.)

This points onward to an alternative that is astonishing but perfectly logical: Case e. Let us observe, that which is under case a is contingent, and has possible conditions under which it may not be actualised.

Now, let us ask: what of something, Z, that has no necessary causal factors, i.e no circumstances in possible worlds, in which it is not actual?

Since Z has no beginning, it is not caused, it is a necessary being. A good first example is abstract, necessarily true propositions like the truth in the statement 2 + 3 = 5. But of course such is both mental — truths are held in minds and are meaningful assertions — and inert in itself.

Is there another possible class? Not matter per observations in our world, as we know it is causally dependent.

That is, we have reasons to infer to the possibility and credibility of a mental necessary being, which is present in all possible worlds. One with power, intent and knowledge to create a world such as the one we inhabit.

Or, again, we see that there is a possible class of being that does not have a beginning, and cannot go out of existence; such are self-sufficient, have no external necessary causal factors, and as such cannot be blocked from existing. And it is commonly held that once there is a serious candidate to be such a necessary being, if the candidate is not contradictory in itself [i.e. if it is not impossible], it will be actual.

Or, yet again, we could arrive at effectively the same point another way, one which brings out what it means to be a serious candidate to be a necessary being:

If a thing does not exist it is either that it could, but just doesn’t happen to exist, or that it cannot exist because it is a conceptual contradiction, such as square circles, or round triangles and so on. Therefore, if it does exist, it is either that it exists contingently or that it is not contingent but exists necessarily (that is it could not fail to exist without contradiction). [–> The truth reported in “2 + 3 = 5” is a simple case in point; it could not fail without self-contradiction.] These are the four most basic modes of being and cannot be denied . . . the four modes are the basic logical deductions about the nature of existence.

That is, since there is no external necessary causal factor, such a being — if it is so — will exist without a beginning, and cannot cease from existing as one cannot “switch off” a sustaining external factor. Another possibility of course is that such a being is impossible: it cannot be so as there is the sort of contradiction involved in being a proposed square circle. So, we have candidates to be necessary beings that may not be possible on pain of contradiction, or else that may not be impossible, equally on pain of contradiction.

In addition, since matter as we know it is contingent, such a being will not be material. The likely candidates are: abstract, necessarily true propositions and an eternal mind, often brought together by suggesting that such truths are held in such a mind.

Strange thoughts, perhaps, but not absurd ones.

So also, if we live in a cosmos that (as the cosmologists tell us) seems — on the cumulative balance of evidence — to have had a beginning, then it too is credibly caused. The sheer undeniable actuality of our cosmos then points to the principle that from a genuine nothing — not matter, not energy, not space, not time, not mind etc. — nothing will come. So then, if we can see things that credibly have had a beginning or may come to an end; in a cosmos of like character, we reasonably and even confidently infer that a necessary being is the ultimate, root-cause of our world; even through suggestions such as a multiverse (which would simply multiply the contingent beings).

Of course, God is the main candidate to be such a necessary being. (As we saw, truths that are eternal in scope, i.e. true propositions, are another class of candidates, and are classically thought of as being eternally resident in the mind of God.)

Once that is seriously on the table, it radically shifts the balance of our epistemological evaluations of best explanations of a great many things: origin of the observed cosmos, origin of life, origin of body plans, origin of humanity with mind and under moral governance.

And, a prime line of evidence pointing to the credibility of this view, is the strong inductive evidence we have that here are signs of design that are reliable. Signs that appear in two relevant contexts: our world of human art, which allows us to see and analyse why such signs are credibly reliable and are tested and shown strongly reliable, and in the world around us, in cell based life and the credible fine tuning of the cosmos. In particular, we are looking at functionally specific complex organisation and information that often embeds irreducibly complex cores of co-matched parts that are necessary factors for he observed performance.

In short, the updated design view of our world and ourselves, is anchored on an empirical basis, and has a wider context of worldviews analysis on cause that makes it inherently highly plausible.

Even, on case d.>>


So, credibly knowing that something X or yk is caused, is different from knowing a sufficient or necessary and sufficient cluster of causal factors [cases b and c] that forces the event to happen.

And, in particular, the insight that there are cases in which necessary causal factors act, a, points to the difference between contingent and necessary being.

So also, on d, we can see that even through a multiverse of a quantum world in which we see populations of possible outcomes, a contingent universe such as we credibly inhabit, points beyond itself to a necessary and powerful, intelligent and purposeful being as its most reasonable explanation.

Which opens up a world of possibilities. END

Norton's work has been cited, discussed, debated, and added to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy since it was first published in 2003. Korolev questioned the dome's status as a true Newtonian system because, in his opinion (which Norton refutes), it did not incorporate the Lipschitz condition. That is, Korolev obejected that the dome was not a time reversible event. rhampton7
The bold part is what is necessary to explain causality in QM, unless you add further conditions (the "contrary response"). The skeptics say that using our natural experience of cause and effect as a basis to explain quantum causality is the actual mistake - hence they are skeptical of causality itself. rhampton7
I'm pretty sure the dome is a mathematical trick that uses time reversal, somewhat similar to Hawkings no-boundary proposal in which he uses imaginary time to smear/curve the mathematical singularity point in relativity. junkdnaforlife
rham, your bold is part of the qm causation argument, not the other way around, beginning with, "One response is to use a general account of causation to argue that causation in quantum mechanics has remarkable features..." (Further down is the skeptic response.) junkdnaforlife
The Oxford Handbook of Causation Chapter 33: Causation in Quantum Mechanics Richard Healy p.673-674 There is widespread agreement that quantum mechanics has something radical to teach us about causation. But opinions differ on what that is. Physicists have often taken the central lesson to be that many physical systems occur spontaneously, so that a principle of causality is violated whenever an atom emits light, or a uranium nucleus decays, even though nothing happened beforehand made this inevitable. Feynman (1967: 147) urged philosophers to acknowledge that this implication of quantum mechanics undermines the view that causal determinism forms a precondition of scientific inquiry. But while some physicists (notably Bohm 1957) have denied the implication, most philosophers since Reichenbach have accepted it with alacrity, and sought to developed accounts of causation equally applicable in an indeterministic or deterministic world... ...Later Bell showed how, by extending EPR's own line of argument, one could derive a contradiction between their locality assumptions and potentially testable predictions of quantum mechanics. Many of these predictions have subsequently been verified in ingenious experiments, so the theory of quantum mechanics may be 'factored out': the experimental results themselves apprarently exlude any ordinary causal explanation of the sort that philosophers have focused on in their accounts of causation. One response is to use a general account of causation to argue that causation in quantum mechaincs has remarkable features--that cause and effect are not always connected by any continuous process, that quantum causes may act 'instantaneously' at a distance, or even that quantum causes may occur after their effects. A contrary response has been to add further conditions to a general account of causation, so peculiar connections among distant events involved in realizations of Bell-EPR-type situations are rule non-causal. Others have drawn the more sceptical conclusion that it is a mistake to look to any general account as a way of settling disputes about the nature and extent of causal relations in the quantum realm. Noting that our causal concepts were adapted phenomena experienced far outside that realm, such sceptics argue that there is simply no uniquely correct way of applying concepts in Bell-EPR-type situations, where their diverse components pull in different directions.
The Dome: A Simple Violation of Determinism in Newtonian Mechanics John D. Norton based on Section 3 "Acausality in Classical Physics" of "Causation as Folk Science," Philosophers' Imprint Vol. 3, No. 4 While exotic theories like quantum mechanics and general relativity violate our common expectations of causation and determinism, one routinely assumes that ordinary Newtonian mechanics will violate these expectations only in extreme circumstances if at all. That is not so. Even quite simple Newtonian systems can harbor uncaused events and ones for which the theory cannot even supply probabilities. Because of such systems, ordinary Newtonian mechanics cannot license a principle or law of causality. Here is an example of such a system fully in accord with Newtonian mechanics. It is a mass that remains at rest in a physical environment that is completely unchanging for an arbitrary amount of time--a day, a month, an eon. Then, without any external intervention or any change in the physical environment, the mass spontaneously moves off in an arbitrary direction, with the theory supplying no probabilities for the time or direction of the motion.
Acausality in Discrete Reality? Jason Cawley, Wolfram Research participant ...Philosophically then, determinism is not "disproven" by QM experiments. An underlying probabilistic reality can account for those experiments, and can combine the observations with a continuous mathematical model and locality. We say there are real "probability waves" (which can interfer with one another) in that case, or that the state at any given place and time is a "probability amplitude" rather than one definite thing. This can be thought of as the default or standard picture presented by QM. But it involves several "premises" rather than just one, non-determinism. We can consider denying the other premises instead of the deteminism premise, in effect. The phenomena might be "saved" (i.e. matched or accounted for) by alternative models that are non-continuous, non-local, and deterministic. Or we might deny the other premises and determinism as well (some discrete non-local model, but with probabilitistic behavior). We can't keep all the premises of previous, classical physical theory, or we will fail to match what experiment reports. See the section of the NKS book [Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science] on "Quantum phenomena", starting on page 537 and running to the end of the chapter on page 545. In the notes, from 1056 to 1065. Bell's inequalities are discussed in particular in the last note in the chapter, starting on page 1064. I hope this helps. http://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/page-537 http://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/page-1056 http://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/page-1064
Yeah. My problem is in reading formal proofs for these things. When someone puts them out in human terms (lol) then for me they are quite simple. So thanks. I have a problem with any kind of formulaic logic that is not stated in simple referential terms. This is why I had a lot of trouble with math in school. It's not that I don't understand it, it's that my mind tends to wander when faced with equations and I can't concentrate on them. Right now I'm trying to work through modal logic. Alvin Plantinga's book "God, Freedom and Evil" has a section on Modal Ontological arguments that is quite helpful, so I'm going through that now. Rhampton7 might want to check it out. There's also a section refuting what Plantinga calls atheological arguments. And I'm delighted the the book is written in human terms. lol. CannuckianYankee
It's going to be several posts, 'cause I want to keep people interested, and it's going to take maybe a weak or more to work through. http://onkalam.blogspot.com/2011/10/ontological-arguments-54-years-of-fun.html CannuckianYankee
Yeah. Thanks. It's a very useful site. I guess then that it would be appropriate to refer to him/her simply as DOXA. CannuckianYankee
CY: I am wondering if you are still a bit puzzled on S5 issues regarding modality and logic. My suggestion is that you start with a burning match, let it run half way then tilt up the head. It will die down and probably go out. This shows the reality of necessary causal factors in action: factors that are causal, and enable if present, disabling if absent. Something that has necessary causal factors is plainly contingent. Now, switch cases: think of something that is a serious candidate to have no necessary causal factors. Such is not contingent, it cannot begin and if existing it cannot end. What would then block such a thing from always having been and always being, in any possible world? Only, if it is impossible, like a square circle, we can make the noises that verbally announce such a thing, but we cannot create the reality. So, if something, Z, is a serious candidate necessary being, and it is not impossible, it will be actual in all possible worlds (including of course the one we happen to live in). A major class of candidates, is true propositions like the truth asserted in the statement 2 + 3 = 5. This is not only possible but actual in our world. It is also necessarily so and will be actual in any possible world: always was, always is, always will be. By contrast 2 + 3 = 6 is impossible and will not be the case in any world, it cannot be the case. Such an abstract entity of course has no physical effects in itself, though it constrains physical effects. If we put three guavas in a previously empty bowl and then put two more in it just after, we will necessarily have five guavas in the bowl. When we come to that serious candidate to be a necessary being, God, plainly God would have to be non-contingent; so also, non-material. Since God is understood to know, purpose etc, then God would be mental. The implication of the argument is that either God is impossible or else God is real. The real debate on the ground then is over whether God is impossible. That is, the atheist is committed to the idea that God is impossible [going beyond talking points about "no evidence" which really means, no evidence we are prepared to accept], as we can see from the former glee with which the deductive form of the argument from evil was triumphalistically presented as disproving the possibility of God. (This fell apart when by the 1960's - 70's, Plantinga's free will defense blew the argument out of the water. [Cf here on.]) That is the real power of the argument, in my view: it highlights that the atheist has a very stiff claim to defend. And, as well, the usual fast move to shift attention by claiming the argument assumes God as first move, ending up being circular collapses. For, the issue is put in focus: modes of being and what it means to be contingent vs necessary, and what blocks a necessary being candidate from being actual. I should add, that a further real issue, given that it is credible that our observed cosmos is contingent [call up the Big Bang for starters] then we need a necessary being as undergirding the observed cosmos. The debate now pivots on what or who that being is. That is where the issues that -- as even atheists imply by raising the arguments from evil -- we are under moral government and that we live in a cosmos that seems quite fine tuned for C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life, become crucial. Good/evil and moral government become coherent only in a world created by an inherently good and wise Creator. And, such a Creator makes good sense in light of a world that seems rather carefully set up for the sort of life we are and observe. Just think, rooted in the core physics of the cosmos, is that the first four most abundant elements are going to be H, He, C, O. H and O have properties that make the astonishing molecule, H2O possible, and C is the connector block element that makes the informational polymers that life is based on possible. He is of course the stepping stone element useful to build others, as well being the nuclear ash from burning H in stars. All of this, makes it look really compelling to infer that someone monkeyed with the physics of h5e cosmos to make a world in which life like ours is possible, a point borne out by the dozens of fine tuning facets that we can see. All of this long before the debates on origin of life, origin of body plans etc even come on the table. In turn, that shifts the balance of plausibilities on such drastically. For we have a serious candidate designer for life and body plans, in a context where mind CREATES the cosmos, i.e the attempt to plead incredulity at mind interacting with matter evaporates. Materialism is in big trouble, but does not realise it. Fire de pon mus mus tail, but 'im tink seh a cool breeze deh deh. (A fire sits next to the mouse's tail, but it thinks that it is a cool breeze he is feeling. Jamaican peasant proverb.) GEM of TKI kairosfocus
F/N: Looks like we should just use the self-chosen identity. kairosfocus
Not sure, but at the foot of the Doxa Page on the modal ontological argument, we can see the following source note: [from Baird's Handout] (from Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection (LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court, 1962), pp. 50-51, using some of the modifications by C. Stephen Evans, in Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), p. 48.) The associated blog has this About Me: About Me Masters Degree in Theology From Perkins at SMU. Ph.D.Candidate in History of Ideas (ABD)University of Texas at Dallas. Publisher of academic journal. I was an atheist before there was an internet. Reason led me to God. Given the sort of abuse I have been subjected to, I can fully understand the use of anonymity. kairosfocus
Just link it back here, and give us a link from here! kairosfocus
Huh. About an hour ago I remember replying to this, JDNAFL, but for some reason whatever I typed is gone. Anyway. Yeah. Thanks for stopping by. Apparently you checked out some stuff that the family always requests and now my sister has gotten all her friends involved and I have this list of requests that I don't think I'll eve be able to grant. Anyway, yeah. please stop by whenever and cause as much trouble as you like, just clean up your mess before you leave. :) My next post is an introduction to Ontological Arguments, so who knows when I'll be done with that. It's rather complicated. I think it's something along the lines of a VJ or KF post; long and detailed. I hope I can do justice to the subject. CannuckianYankee
OT: cannuck, I just stalked you a little, checked out the blog, I like the name. Also checked out your youtube guitar, very good. I'll be popping in over at onKalam soon to cause some trouble junkdnaforlife
KF, in that DOXA Christian Thought site you linked to I was not able to find the site's author. Do you know? I would like to use some of her/his thoughts in my blog. CannuckianYankee
More to ponder. Thanks. CannuckianYankee
CY: Think of a possible world in which the proposition expressed in 2 + 3 = 5 is not true. Ask yourself, is that proposition, impossible? Plainly, not. And, plainly, it obtains then as true. What blocks a serious candidate necessary being from being so is that it is impossible. That is the context in which the claim for such is, if possible then actual [i.e. actual in our world!], and actual in all worlds that are potentially realised. For, if such fails, something absurd results. Going beyond, the arguments at this level have the character of a rope, whereby strands that could not each carry the weight, work together to carry a surprising weight. To defeat such a cumulative, inference to best explanation case -- and yes, I am not asserting proofs per deduction from premises acceptable to all but instead an exchange on comparative difficulties, you have to cut through enough that that no longer obtains, and what happens is the implied commitments to make the objections may well turn out to be far more onerous. That is a good slice of what comparative difficulties are about. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Fine tuning, design, cosmological arguments, ontological arguments and moral arguments in the end are all interrelated and mutually supportive of the necessity of a designer. You can believe you've argued one away, but you can't wipe them all out by seemingly eliminating one. When you get to the point where you've defeated the idea of a designer by taking a chopping block to one of these arguments, the others pop into place in challenge to your chopping block. But what seems to happen most often is that design opponents attempt to defeat design on it's own merits (with the common omissions and misrepresentations) without understanding the supportive structure of why design is the better of the choices involved. And BTW, none of the above argument examples are particularly religious. They are all based in common formal logic; not scripture. CannuckianYankee
On closer inspection it would appear that the axiom is common to all modal arguments. It seems to define them. "if possibly p, then necessarily possibly p, and if necessarily possibly p, then necessarily p." That seems to be also the structure of Hartshorne's argument. I guess it's the wording in Plantinga's that is a bit more confusing. CannuckianYankee
WOW!! KF, Great post. There's a lot to digest there. Thanks. I like Hartshorne's Modal argument better than Plantinga's. It's quite similar, but to me less complicated, considering Plantinga's appeal to Axiom S5, which I only partially understand. Which do you think is the better argument, and why? Does Hartshorne's argument also depend on Axiom S5? Are you familiar with what I'm talking about? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_S5 I'm sure you are, but I thought I'd give a reference for those who aren't. I want to try to put together the best of the cosmological, ontological and moral arguments I can find and make sense of them as a whole, which I admit is not something I have really thought about doing until recently. CannuckianYankee

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