Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The Inconsistencies of Materialism

Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Flipboard
Print
Email

Materialism — the belief that everything that happens is the result of the action of the basic laws of physics on the basic particles of physics — leads its adherents to some conclusions that most do not really believe but are obliged to assert. 

For example, they often claim there is no real free will, that everything we do is determined by the laws of physics.   But if they really believed this, why would they bother trying to convince the rest of us?  Whether or not we will accept their conclusion is completely beyond our control.   Certainly our behavior is influenced, maybe to a large degree, by our heredity and environment but no one would possibly conclude that he has no control over his own behavior if he were not forced to this conclusion by materialist philosophy.

Materialists are also forced—if they are consistent — to believe that there is no real good or evil, for how can some actions be “good” and others “evil,” if everything we do is beyond our control and determined by the laws of physics?   While there is substantial disagreement among humans over the details of moral codes even atheists know in their hearts that there is a difference between good and evil.  Have you ever known an atheist who did not appeal to morality to justify his actions, or to criticize those who disagree with him?

Materialists are also forced to believe that human brains are just advanced computing machines, and this leads to one of the most interesting inconsistencies of materialism.   The current ID debate can be reduced to the question:  is everything we see today simply the result of unintelligent causes or is an intelligent cause required to explain some things?   (Even though the big bang theory has shown us that the laws of physics and the particles of physics are themselves the result of some cause beyond our universe, the debate is still over whether this first cause is intelligent or unintelligent. And even though quantum mechanics tells us that there is a “supernatural” component — forever beyond the ability of science to explain or predict — to all natural phenomena, the debate is still over whether or not this supernatural component is entirely random, i.e., unintelligent.)

But what does “intelligent” mean?   Since humans are the only known intelligent beings in the universe, when we argue that a cause is intelligent, we can only mean “like humans.”  But if you really believe that human intelligence, like everything else in the universe, is just matter in motion what difference does it make if a cause is like humans or like rocks?  Both are just matter in motion.   A consistent materialist would have to conclude that the ID debate is over a trivial distinction.  But we all — including materialists — know that humans are not like rocks and so the debate is significant.

Please see my videos Why Evolution is Different and A Summary of the Evidence for Intelligent Design.

Comments
This is getting beyond absurd. What about “fully explains” is it that you do not understand? I eject myself from this discussion.
Evidently, you do not understand causality. I suspect that you are the only living human being who thinks that an omnipotent God could not possibly create humans with free will. This logical error leaks into all your comments. Even atheists do not go that far. Did it ever occur to you that if you are all alone in your opinion that you should consider revising it?StephenB
March 15, 2023
March
03
Mar
15
15
2023
03:32 PM
3
03
32
PM
PST
SB
Ori: If God, as a universal mover of man’s will, fully explains man’s will movement, then man is not free.
SB: No. It fully explains the fact of the movement, but it does NOT fully explain the direction of the movement ...
This is getting beyond absurd. What about "fully explains" is it that you do not understand? I eject myself from this discussion.Origenes
March 15, 2023
March
03
Mar
15
15
2023
12:31 PM
12
12
31
PM
PST
SB: There is nothing to wonder about. God causes (creates, designs, sustains, gives) free will to man; man, not God, decides how he will use it. Ori
Both man and “free will” have God as a sufficient cause. Therefore man’s “decision” is derived from God, it is like the movement of a billiard ball set in motion purely by something else.
That doesn’t follow. Man’s decisions are not derived from God. Only the power to make them is derived from God. God gives man the power, man decides how he will use it. It is not like the movement of billiard balls. Leave a replyDefault Comments (278)Facebook Comments Logged in as StephenB. Log out? RequirStephenB
March 15, 2023
March
03
Mar
15
15
2023
12:06 PM
12
12
06
PM
PST
Ori
If God as a universal mover of man’s will is a sufficient cause of man’s will, then man is not free.
SB: That doesn’t work at all. If God is the sufficient cause of man’s will, the man must be free by definition, ….
If God, as a universal mover of man’s will, fully explains man’s will movement, then man is not free.
. No. It fully explains the fact of the movement, but it does NOT fully explain the direction of the movement, which is under the control of the human agent. However, this completely ignores my point. If a man has a *will* he is free. The will, by definition, is a faculty that makes free choices. If God causes the will to exist in a man, then God causes the man’s freedom to exist in that same act. The movement of billiard balls is a different kind of causality. Billiard balls do not have wills and cannot choose their direction or their fate.. That is why your ABC analogy doesn’t work. If a man possesses a will, that man is free to use it. If he is not free, then what he possess is not a will. It is something else.
Put differently, if the universal movement of God fully determines man’s will movement …. if a man is like a billiard ball that derives its motion purely from something else …. then man is not free.
As indicated, that doesn’t work. Billiard balls do not have the capacity to choose their direction. They are total slaves to their environment. Humans, by contrast, are not slaves to the elements, so any comparison between them is irrational. Ori:
In Aquinas’s model, we, our reason, and everything else about us, have God as a sufficient cause.
SB: Everything else? My knowledge of mathematics did not have God as a sufficient cause. It was caused by me, my math teacher, and my intellectual faculty.
None of the items you list prevent God from being the sufficient cause of your knowledge of mathematics. Because all the items you list (you, your math teacher, and your intellectual faculty) have God as their 100% sufficient cause. They are all “instrumental causes” of God.
Excuse me, but that is ridiculous. God didn’t teach me mathematics, my teacher did. God didn’t decide to do my homework, I did. God didn’t decide to skip my homework, I did. I should know; I was there, To suggest that God made those decisions is to totally lose contact with reality. SB: There is nothing to wonder about. God causes (creates, designs, sustains, gives) free will to man; man, not God, decides how he will use it. Both man and “free will” have God as a sufficient cause. Therefore man’s “decision” is derived from God, it is like the movement of a billiard ball set in motion purely by something else. That doesn’t follow. Man’s decisions are not derived from God. Only the power to make them is derived from God. God gives man the power, man decides how he will use it. It is not like the movement of billiard balls.StephenB
March 15, 2023
March
03
Mar
15
15
2023
11:38 AM
11
11
38
AM
PST
SB A sufficient cause of X fully explains effect X. An insufficient cause of X partly explains effect X.
Ori: If God as a universal mover of man’s will is a sufficient cause of man’s will, then man is not free.
SB: That doesn’t work at all. If God is the sufficient cause of man’s will, the man must be free by definition, ….
I thought my formulation was clear. Let me try to be clearer: If God, as a universal mover of man’s will, fully explains man’s will movement, then man is not free. Put differently, if the universal movement of God fully determines man’s will movement …. if a man is like a billiard ball that derives its motion purely from something else …. then man is not free.
Ori: In Aquinas’s model, we, our reason, and everything else about us, have God as a sufficient cause.
SB: Everything else? My knowledge of mathematics did not have God as a sufficient cause. It was caused by me, my math teacher, and my intellectual faculty.
None of the items you list prevent God from being the sufficient cause of your knowledge of mathematics. Because all the items you list (you, your math teacher, and your intellectual faculty) have God as their 100% sufficient cause. They are all "instrumental causes" of God.
SB: God was present when I didn’t have that knowledge and, therefore, cannot be its sufficient cause.
Nonsense. Of course, a sufficient cause exists before the effect it causes. Here God operates as the first cause in a causal chain occupied by instrumental causes.
Ori: God is the first cause of man’s free will, but man is free nonetheless. How does that work one wonders.
SB: There is nothing to wonder about. God causes (creates, designs, sustains, gives) free will to man; man, not God, decides how he will use it.
Both man and “free will” have God as a sufficient cause. Therefore man’s “decision” is derived from God, it is like the movement of a billiard ball set in motion purely by something else.Origenes
March 15, 2023
March
03
Mar
15
15
2023
04:00 AM
4
04
00
AM
PST
Origenes
If God as a universal mover of man’s will is a sufficient cause of man’s will, then man is not free.
That doesn’t work at all. If God is the sufficient cause of man’s will, the man must be free by definition, since the will is the faculty by which we make choices and determine actions.
In Aquinas’s model, we, our reason, and everything else about us, have God as a sufficient cause.
Everything else? My knowledge of mathematics did not have God as a sufficient cause. It was caused by me, my math teacher, and my intellectual faculty. God was the first cause of all the operations that made it possible. Aquinas would never say that God was the “sufficient” cause of my math knowledge. A sufficient cause is one that will infallibly produce the effect. God was present when I didn’t have that knowledge and, therefore, cannot be its sufficient cause.
God is the first cause of man’s free will, but man is free nonetheless. How does that work one wonders.
There is nothing to wonder about. God causes (creates, designs, sustains, gives) free will to man; man, not God, decides how he will use it.StephenB
March 14, 2023
March
03
Mar
14
14
2023
11:46 AM
11
11
46
AM
PST
Alan Fox
So I wonder about how non-physical causes bring about physical effects. Where is the interface? At such moments, the laws of physics must break down.
Unless the non-physical operates on the quantum level, that must be true, I agree. If things at the quantum level are indeterminate such that they are significantly adjustable within the limits of the laws of physics, then it remains under the radar. Could it be that manipulation by the non-physical at the quantum level is going on in the brain? I don’t think it is inconceivable. Perhaps it even takes place in every living cell.
The physical effect can be observed and measured (presumably) but the non-physical cause cannot. We would at least observe an unsymmetrical breach of action and reaction being equal and opposite. Yet, whenever, wherever, however we look, such interfaces remain utterly elusive and the physical laws of the Universe remain intact.
Many times a day long strings of chromosomes in our cell get into knots. *Enter Topoisomerases *
Some topoisomerases cut just one strand of the double helix, allow it to wind or unwind around the other strand, and then reconnect the severed ends. This alters the supercoiling of the DNA. Other topoisomerases cut both strands, pass a loop of the chromosome through the gap thus created, and then seal the gap again. [Talbott]
These precision actions of the topoisomerase are unexplained. Why is there no way to measure if there is something “unlikely” about its movements? Why does such a small molecule arrive at just the right place on the chromosome? Its movements will be in accord with the laws, but arriving at the wrong places will be too.Origenes
March 13, 2023
March
03
Mar
13
13
2023
04:05 AM
4
04
05
AM
PST
He [Aquinas] wants God to be the first and sufficient cause of man’s free will, and he wants God not to be the sufficient cause, in order for man to move himself. As I said, God as the sufficient cause does not allow for man’s freedom, and God as the insufficient cause implies that man actually moves himself, which is inconsistent with the theory of act and potency.
I have no problem conceiving of God initially creating the Universe with its physical properties, laws and limits. God can be omnipotent but his creation has the limits imposed at its creation. So I wonder about how non-physical causes bring about physical effects. Where is the interface? At such moments, the laws of physics must break down. The physical effect can be observed and measured (presumably) but the non-physical cause cannot. We would at least observe an unsymmetrical breach of action and reaction being equal and opposite. Yet, whenever, wherever, however we look, such interfaces remain utterly elusive and the physical laws of the Universe remain intact.Alan Fox
March 13, 2023
March
03
Mar
13
13
2023
03:16 AM
3
03
16
AM
PST
~ Aquinas posits that God is the first cause of man’s free decisions ~ Here I want to address this specific idea of Aquinas’s theory, which I do not consider relevant to my main argument, but which contains a logical error that needs pointing out.
Aquinas: Free will is the cause of its own motion, because by his free will man moves himself for the sake of acting. Nevertheless, it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither is it required for one thing to be the cause of another that it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, moving both natural and voluntary causes. And just as by moving natural causes he does not divert their acts from being natural, so by moving voluntary causes he does not divert their actions from being voluntary; but rather he produces this ability in them: for he operates in each thing according to its own nature. [ST Ia 83.1]
Let's have a closer look:
Free will is the cause of its own motion, because by his free will man moves himself for the sake of acting.
Aquinas’s argument from motion, and his theory of act and potency, informs us that nothing can move itself, with the exception of God. Only a being of pure actuality (God) can move itself. So, his statement here “man moves himself” should surprise us. And what we will see in the next few lines, is that Aquinas tries to have it both ways, that is, man can move himself, but, at the same time he cannot.
Nevertheless, it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither is it required for one thing to be the cause of another that it be the first cause.
It is not necessary for man to be the first cause of his self-movement, according to Aquinas. Note that he has stated earlier “free will is the cause of its own motion”, so the idea that something other than man can be the first cause of man’s free will is in need of an explanation.
God, therefore, is the first cause, moving both natural and voluntary causes. And just as by moving natural causes he does not divert their acts from being natural, so by moving voluntary causes he does not divert their actions from being voluntary; but rather he produces this ability in them: for he operates in each thing according to its own nature.
God is the first cause of man’s free will, but man is free nonetheless, according to Aquinas. How does that work, one might wonder. Elsewhere he writes:
God moves man’s will, as the universal mover, to the universal object of the will, which is good. And without this universal motion, man cannot will anything, but man determines himself … (…) But since its being moved by another does not prevent its being moved from within itself …
Here is the problem with this compatibilist model: 1.) If God as a universal mover of man’s will is a sufficient cause of man’s will, then man is not free. 2.) If God as a universal mover of man’s will is not a sufficient cause of man’s will, then man moves himself, which is impossible according to the theory of act and potency. It is clear from Aquinas’s texts that he wants both. He wants God to be the first and sufficient cause of man’s free will, and he wants God not to be the sufficient cause, in order for man to move himself. As I said, God as the sufficient cause does not allow for man’s freedom, and God as the insufficient cause implies that man actually moves himself, which is inconsistent with the theory of act and potency.Origenes
March 13, 2023
March
03
Mar
13
13
2023
02:45 AM
2
02
45
AM
PST
SB @
SB: God doesn’t determine those choices, the human agents do.
Aquinas: BUT MAN *DETERMINES HIMSELF* ...
An appeal to both Aquinas and SB: zoom out and see the causal chain in its entirety; read #268. The proper context is the causal chain that starts with God as the 100% sufficient cause of every fiber of the human agent.
SB: God does not determine our choices
God determines every fiber of our being. Therefore we & our "choices" are 100% determined by God. Everything that is involved, when we make a "choice", is 100% determined by God.
Your perennial claim that Aquinas’s model leaves no room for human free will has been refuted by Aquinas’s own words.
For clarity, I am aware of the fact that Aquinas tries to have it both ways. He wants God to be the first cause of everything, and he wants man to be free. It's called compatibilism, and, properly understood, it doesn't work.Origenes
March 13, 2023
March
03
Mar
13
13
2023
12:38 AM
12
12
38
AM
PST
Origenes:
I think our conversation is again coming to an end.
Good idea.
You see freedom and responsibility for the human agent in Aquinas’s model, and I see neither.
It isn't a question of perception, it is a matter of unassailable fact. According to Aquinas, human agents are free to make their own choices and be responsible for them. God doesn't determine those choices, the human agents do. Your perennial claim that Aquinas's model leaves no room for human free will has been refuted by Aquinas's own words.
God moves man’s will, as the universal mover, to the universal object of the will, which is good. And without this universal motion, man cannot will anything, BUT MAN *DETERMINES HIMSELF* BY HIS REASON TO WILL THIS OR THAT, WHICH IS TRUE OR APPARENT GOOD.
God does not determine our choices or impose them on us, though God moves our will from the outside in a universal sense insofar as he has decided that our will should pursue what is good.StephenB
March 12, 2023
March
03
Mar
12
12
2023
10:47 PM
10
10
47
PM
PST
SB
This means that God does not determine our choices or impose them on us, though God moves our will from the outside in a universal sense insofar as he has decided that our will should pursue what is good.
In my view, these details are irrelevant. In Aquinas’s model, God is the sufficient cause of the agent and all his aspects. That means that He is the first cause of the causal chain of everything that happens next. Nowhere in this causal chain is a disconnect. Everything traces back to the same first cause.
However, God allows defects in the human agents will, which causes them to pursue something bad that is perceived to be good.
In Aquinas’s model, God is the sufficient cause of the human agent, his faculties, his will, and everything else. If there are any defects, then God bears full responsibility. Human agents neither create themselves nor their defects.
Indeed, Aquinas says that God moves us to determine ourselves by our reason.
In Aquinas’s model, we, our reason, and everything else about us, have God as a sufficient cause. You offer no new insights. - - - - - - - I think our conversation is again coming to an end. You see freedom and responsibility for the human agent in Aquinas’s model, and I see neither.Origenes
March 12, 2023
March
03
Mar
12
12
2023
05:49 PM
5
05
49
PM
PST
Origenes:
I note here, that my argument does not at all depend on God being the first mover of will. My argument is about causation in general and states roughly that because God is the sufficient cause of “free” will, every “free” will act traces back to God.
Yes, I understand your position, but you are seriously wrong. Internal acts by the human agent DO NOT trace back to God – even though God does, indeed, move the will. Aquinas says,
If the will were so moved by another as in no way to be moved from within itself, the act of the will would not be imputed for reward or blame. But since its being moved by another does not prevent its being moved from within itself as we have stated, it does not thereby forfeit the motive for merit or demerit."
This means that God does not determine our choices or impose them on us, though God moves our will from the outside in a universal sense insofar as he has decided that our will should pursue what is good. However, God allows defects in the human agents will, which causes them to pursue something bad that is perceived to be good. Indeed, Aquinas says that God moves us to determine ourselves by our reason. In one place, an objection is presented, "If, therefore, man's will were moved by God alone, it would never be moved to evil." Aquinas answers,
God moves man's will, as the universal mover, to the universal object of the will, which is good. And without this universal motion, man cannot will anything, but man determines himself by his reason, to will this or that, which is true or apparent good.
So you are not just making a casual error, you are getting it exactly wrong and this error permeates everything that you write.StephenB
March 12, 2023
March
03
Mar
12
12
2023
04:37 PM
4
04
37
PM
PST
Suppose 3 billiard balls A, B, C. Suppose further that A strikes B, causes B to move, and that this movement of B results in a collision of B with C. Let’s have a closer look at the latter collision in this scenario; the collision between B and C. Focusing on this particular collision, one could say: the collision is purely between B and C, and, therefore, nothing else is involved in this collision. And one could postulate that a “new causal chain” started with B. But when we zoom out and incorporate the role of billiard ball A into our deliberations, then we see that A is the sufficient cause of B’s movement. We see that B’s movement is 100% derived from the movement of A. Now we see a causal chain that starts with A. “So, was it A or B that collided with C ?”, one might ask. And the answer is, of course, “B.” However, the proper context is the entire causal chain, and here the First Cause is A, the responsibility lies with A, and the only true actor is A. Considering the entire causal chain, B is not free and did not make a decision prior to its movement. ~ Note that in Aquinas’s model, there is an A that is the sufficient cause of B in every aspect (not just movement).Origenes
March 12, 2023
March
03
Mar
12
12
2023
06:25 AM
6
06
25
AM
PST
SB
It is important to read Aquinas in context. Aquinas is saying that God is the first agent of willing and voluntary action by virtue of having created the faculty of will …
You have often claimed that Aquinas means by “first cause” of the will, the “creator” of the will, as opposed to the actual “mover” of the will. According to you, the movement of the will is a new causal chain that starts with the agent. This is what Aquinas says:
“God, therefore, is the first cause, moving both natural and voluntary causes. And just as by moving natural causes he does not divert their acts from being natural, so by moving voluntary causes he does not divert their actions from being voluntary; but rather he produces this ability in them: for he operates in each thing according to its own nature. [ST Ia 83.1]”
I note here, that my argument does not at all depend on God being the first mover of will. My argument is about causation in general and states roughly that because God is the sufficient cause of "free" will, every "free" will act traces back to God.
The existence of that faculty (or any “operation”) can be traced back to God as its first cause. That doesn’t mean that God causes the decisions that his created agents make. Quite the contrary.
You are mistaken. It means exactly that God causes the decisions that his created agents make. If you are the sufficient cause of X, then all X’s actions trace back to you as the first cause. If A is the sufficient cause of B, then B’s causal powers and what flows from them are derived from A.
SB: Here, among other places, Aquinas makes the point about the independent volitional power of intelligent agents:
Aquinas: For some beings so exist as God’s products that, *possessing understanding*, they *bear His likeness and reflect His image.* Consequently, they are not only ruled but are also *rulers of themselves,* inasmuch as *their own actions are directed* to a fitting end.
As an aside, addressing your claim that Aquinas is not a compatibilist, here we see compatibilism in action: “they are not only ruled but are also rulers of themselves …” Translation: they are determined AND they are free. Freedom is (supposedly) compatible with being determined. God created every fiber of our being, sustains our existence, God is the first mover of our will, and we are determined towards a “fitting end.” And we are free? That is pure compatibilism. To address Aquinas's quote, he may say that human beings are (also) “rulers of themselves”, but that is an empty claim, it does not make sense in his deterministic model.
Ori: Because the capacities and faculties you describe (also) have God as a sufficient cause, logically, they have their causal powers derivatively from God.
Their causal powers are, indeed, derived from God, as I have indicated many times, but the uses they make of those powers, that is, their free will decisions, are not derived from God at all; they come from the agent.
The agent also has God as its 100% sufficient cause, therefore everything the agent is and does traces back to God as the sufficient cause.
Ori: When billiard ball A sets billiard ball B into motion, then billiard ball B has its movement derived from billiard ball A. This means that the derived movement of billiard ball B does not originate from itself. And so it is with the derived “decisions” of agents, in Aquinas’s model they do not originate from the agent. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.
Origenes
March 12, 2023
March
03
Mar
12
12
2023
04:05 AM
4
04
05
AM
PST
cancelStephenB
March 11, 2023
March
03
Mar
11
11
2023
11:28 PM
11
11
28
PM
PST
Origenes:
Aquinas states that God is the first cause of “both natural and voluntary” action. He states that God is the “first agent of willing”, “every movement of a will …. is reduced to God” and, “every operation should be attributed to God.”
It is important to read Aquinas in context. Aquinas is saying that God is the first agent of willing and voluntary action by virtue of having created the faculty of will, which is the necessary condition for any free will act. The existence of that faculty (or any “operation”) can be traced back to God as its first cause. That doesn’t mean that God causes the decisions that his created agents make. Quite the contrary. The faculties of intellect and will were made for a purpose: To give human agents the power to know the truth and pursue the good. Both require free will. Here, among other places, Aquinas makes the point about the independent volitional power of intelligent agents: :
For some beings so exist as God’s products that, *possessing understanding*, they *bear His likeness and reflect His image.* Consequently, they are not only ruled but are also *rulers of themselves,* inasmuch as *their own actions are directed* to a fitting end.
They rule themselves and direct their own actions. Thus, they have free will and the prospect of determinism is ruled out. Then we have Aquinas’ own testimony in other places about his support of free will and his rejection of determinism. Any other interpretation is a consequence of reading him out of context.
Because the capacities and faculties you describe (also) have God as a sufficient cause, logically, they have their causal powers derivatively from God.
Their causal powers are, indeed, derived from God, as I have indicated many times, but the uses they make of those powers, that is, their free will decisions, are not derived from God at all; they come from the agent. This is Aquinas' position.StephenB
March 11, 2023
March
03
Mar
11
11
2023
11:09 PM
11
11
09
PM
PST
SB
It seems evident that the cause is God’s decision to create an agent with decision-making capacities and the effect is the agent’s decision to use those capacities by starting a new causal chain.
To be clear, “starting a new causal chain” is your proposition. Instead, Aquinas states that God is the first cause of “both natural and voluntary” action. He states that God is the “first agent of willing”, “every movement of a will …. is reduced to God” and, “every operation should be attributed to God.”
These capacities (the faculties of intellect and will) allow human agents to deliberate, consider options, and make one specific decision among several possible alternatives, which is the essence of free will.
Because the capacities and faculties you describe (also) have God as a sufficient cause, logically, they have their causal powers derivatively from God. In such cases Aquinas speaks of a “secondary cause”, to make clear that it is not the start of the causal chain. When billiard ball A sets billiard ball B into motion, then billiard ball B has its movement derived from billiard ball A. This means that the derived movement of billiard ball B does not originate from itself. And so it is with the derived “decisions” of agents, in Aquinas’s model they do not originate from the agent. If A causes B, and we have no control over A, and A is sufficient for B, then we have no control over B.Origenes
March 11, 2023
March
03
Mar
11
11
2023
01:10 PM
1
01
10
PM
PST
Origenes:
So, something that is 100% created by God, who lives in a world 100% made by God, and cannot get to the next second in time without God sustaining his existence, is *somehow* disconnecting (?) from God, and starts to make his “own” independent decisions. How does this idea make any sense? Explain it. (From a causal perspective).
I am still not clear on why this is perceived to be a problem. Perhaps you can help me to better understand your objection here. This is my proposition: It seems evident that the cause is God’s decision to create an agent with decision-making capacities and the effect is the agent’s decision to use those capacities by starting a new causal chain. These capacities (the faculties of intellect and will) allow human agents to deliberate, consider options, and make one specific decision among several possible alternatives, which is the essence of free will. (This model differs from one which has the Creator making decisions *through* a human agent, in which case the agent’s will is not free to make its own choices, which have been determined). In the free will model, the Creator builds a measure of independence into the agent’s nature by endowing it with intellectual and volitional capabilities which are, in themselves, God like powers that allow created agents to make their own decisions, even though God is 100% responsible for their existence. What that means is that God can create and sustain these intellectual and volitional capacities without controlling them. Indeed, the Creator designs the free will agent to do most of the controlling. That is where the independence comes from. God doesn’t mind it when his creatures grow and build in their own way, provided that they use their free will to act in accordance with their nature. From that standpoint, free will agents who use their intelligence to make decisions that God equipped them to make can be compared to dam-making beavers who use their instincts to build dams that God equipped them to build. God doesn’t make human decisions or build beaver dams, even though he is 100% responsible for the existence of human intelligence and animal instinct. The add-on would be this: humans, unlike animals, can ask God for wisdom, which is helpful to the task of making sound decisions. None of this means that human decision makers become disconnected from God as their cause when they make an independent, free will decision. The small portion of independence that they do have is a gift and the receiver of that gift is tied to the giver in the same way that an effect is tied to a cause.StephenB
March 11, 2023
March
03
Mar
11
11
2023
11:10 AM
11
11
10
AM
PST
SB
Only God is pure actuality and everything, including the actions of a created intelligent agent, is caused by God *in the sense* that He created and sustains the agent’s capacity to think and make decisions. Thus, God cooperates with the decision maker without determining the specific nature of the decision.
Let me get this straight: So, we have something that is 100% made by God, and we call it an “agent.” Not one fiber of this being is not 100% sufficiently caused and is not 100% fully determined, by God. And this agent is going to make his “own” decisions? So, something that is 100% created by God, who lives in a world 100% made by God, and cannot get to the next second in time without God sustaining his existence, is *somehow* disconnecting (?) from God, and starts to make his “own” independent decisions. How does this idea make any sense? Explain it. What kind of causality allows for an effect (the agent) to act independently from its 100% sufficient cause (God)? Where in this 100 % deterministic scenario can there possibly be any independence from the Cause? How can something that is entirely made by God, do anything that is independent of God?
Those actions are also caused by the intelligent agent himself *in the sense* that he makes a specific decision, based on his personal preferences, knowledge, and beliefs, using those gifts of intelligence and free will.
Just like that.
Accordingly, Aquinas is neither a compatibilist or a determinist.
….Origenes
March 9, 2023
March
03
Mar
9
09
2023
05:28 PM
5
05
28
PM
PST
SB: If it *cannot be the case* and *cannot be true,* it follows that it contains logical errors. Origenes:
No, that does not follow. When a premise is incorrect one arrives necessarily at the wrong conclusion despite perfectly logical reasoning.
Of course. I understand that. I am referring to the reasoning that forms the premises.
I hold that something is off with his (Aquinas') theory of act and potency and that those premises that are based on it (premises 2,3, and 4) are incorrect. His theory of act and potency implies that only pure actuality, that is God, can move itself, and, in fact, makes the entire argument.
All the premises in the argument are true, including 2, 3, and 4. So is the conclusion. Only God is pure actuality and everything, including the actions of a created intelligent agent, is caused by God *in the sense* that He created and sustains the agent’s capacity to think and make decisions. Thus, God cooperates with the decision maker without determining the specific nature of the decision. Those actions are also caused by the intelligent agent himself *in the sense* that he makes a specific decision, based on his personal preferences, knowledge, and beliefs, using those gifts of intelligence and free will. The intelligent agent, who starts a new causal chain, is being moved by God in the first sense, that is, the sense in which the agent’s existence and capacities are being sustained. At least two causes are in play: God causes the movement, the agent gives it direction. That is why human agents can militate against God’s will, something that is impossible without free will. So “self movement” can be understood in two ways, in an absolute sense and in a relative sense. Only God can move himself in an absolute sense. That is what Aquinas is referring to and that is what makes the argument work. Human agents, on the other hand, can move themselves in a relative sense. That kind of movement is enough to allow for free will and rule out determinism. That is because human agents can choose one course of action from among many possible alternatives. That is what free will means and that is the way I define it. Accordingly, Aquinas is neither a compatibilist or a determinist. By contrast, your definition of free will, i. e. "self determinism," doesn't really address any of the major issues. Who can possibly know what that means? Total dominion? Without limit? Self knowledge? (What about the will?) Self creating? (which you seem to attribute to yourself). How does that definition relate to the moral life (a term you seldom if ever use) or the purpose of our existence. What about the problem of Good and Evil? Right and wrong? On all these matters you are silent.
The Feser quote in #255 confirms that this is fundamental for Aquinas’s “Argument from Motion.”
Yes, that leads me once again to my question, which you continue to evade. Why do you trust Ed Feser’s judgment in describing Aquinas’ argument and yet, at the same time, distrust his judgment when he says that Aquinas’ argument is valid. Indeed, why do you distrust his judgment when he assures us that Aquinas believes in free will, which is what Aquinas says about himself?
You have denied all of this over and over. You have said again and again that Aquinas didn’t mean that only God can move Himself, that he didn’t mean that there is no self-movement of other things.
I have said that Aquinas allows for self movement *as you understand the meaning of the term,* which is not what Aquinas means by self movement – as Indicated above. This is why I often ask you to define your terms.StephenB
March 9, 2023
March
03
Mar
9
09
2023
02:33 PM
2
02
33
PM
PST
SB: Reading Feser is a good start. I recommend that you keep reading him. until you understand why he accepts and defends Aquinas’ argument and why …. You might even consider reading his book, “Five proofs for the existence of God.”
A word of warning. Before the gentle onlooker goes out to purchase Feser’s book, I want to make sure that he knows that Edward firmly rejects intelligent design. Instead, he accepts Darwinistic evolution and holds that it is compatible with the creation story. In my estimation, this is indicative of an overall compatibilist mindset. For someone who manages to hold theistic evolution to be a coherent idea, holding free will and determinism to be compatible is straightforward. BTW his post The trouble with William Paley is one of the dumbest articles I have ever read. I sincerely regret quoting him, and will not make the same mistake again. --- edit: Feser's website is rejected by Wordpress. Maybe I can offer the links like this: https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/05/id-versus-t-roundup.html https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/trouble-with-william-paley.htmlOrigenes
March 9, 2023
March
03
Mar
9
09
2023
01:38 PM
1
01
38
PM
PST
SB In your post #256, you are talking about Aquinas’s “Argument from Motion” and you are telling me that I should read Feser in order to understand why my claim that it contains logical errors is mistaken. I have never made the claim that the argument from motion contains logical errors.
SB: You said, — “Given that I am rational, it *cannot be the case* (per Aquinas) that God moves all things, my thoughts included. ‘God moves all things’, and ‘Nothing can move itself except for God’ *cannot be true.* If it *cannot be the case* and *cannot be true,* it follows that it contains logical errors.
No, that does not follow. When a premise is incorrect one arrives necessarily at the wrong conclusion despite perfectly logical reasoning.
The First Way: Argument from Motion 1.) Our senses prove that some things are in motion. 2.) Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion. 3.) Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion. 4.) Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another). 5.) Therefore nothing can move itself. 6.) Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else. 7.) The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum. 8.) Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
I hold that something is off with his theory of act and potency and that those premises that are based on it (premises 2,3, and 4) are incorrect. His theory of act and potency implies that only pure actuality, that is God, can move itself, and, in fact, makes the entire argument. The Feser quote in #255 confirms that this is fundamental for Aquinas’s “Argument from Motion.”
And the argument from motion claims that only that which is pure actuality— that which is, as it were, “already” fully actual and thus need not (indeed cannot) have been actualized by anything else — can be causally fundamental or underived in an absolute sense. [Feser]
Based on the premises following from his theory of act and potency Aquinas arrives at his 5th premise:
5.) Therefore nothing can move itself.
And from here on, again by perfectly logically executed reasoning, Aquinas arrives at his conclusion:
8.) Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
“Nothing can move itself” includes you and me, and exempts only God. Only God can move Himself, everything else (you and me included) derives its movement from God. If something other than God moves and is a cause, then it is an “instrumental” cause, which means an instrument by God (see the Feser quote #255). As Aquinas himself said: “every operation should be attributed to God.” In Aquinas’s model all movement is derived from God. Aquinas’s model is total determinism. There is but one actor. I dare anyone to come up with a more deterministic model. It cannot be done. Things cannot possibly get any more deterministic than this. You have denied all of this over and over. You have said again and again that Aquinas didn’t mean that only God can move Himself, that he didn’t mean that there is no self-movement of other things. You have fundamentally misunderstood Aquinas and his argument from motion, and I have your posts to prove it. - - - - - - - With this deterministic model as a basis, Aquinas proceeds with an attempt to fit in free will.
SB: Again, you said “First Thomas says ‘man moves himself’ and next he says ‘God is the first cause of the (voluntary) movement of man.’ “The latter does not make sense.” If it doesn’t make sense, it means that it contains logical errors.
This is not about Aquinas's argument from motion, which I have never claimed to contain logical errors. This is about Aquinas's subsequent compatibilist effort to fit free will in his deterministic model. You are correct that I claim that this effort fails on logical grounds. I have tried to discuss his compatibilism with you in another thread, e.g. in post #26 and #153, only to be met with another round of ridicule and blind obstruction.Origenes
March 9, 2023
March
03
Mar
9
09
2023
07:40 AM
7
07
40
AM
PST
SB:… and why your claim that (Aquinas' argument) contains logical errors is mistaken.
Not my claim. Yet another false statement.
You said, --- "Given that I am rational, it *cannot be the case* (per Aquinas) that God moves all things, my thoughts included. 'God moves all things', and 'Nothing can move itself except for God' *cannot be true.* If it *cannot be the case* and *cannot be true,* it follows that it contains logical errors. Again, you said "First Thomas says 'man moves himself' and next he says ‘God is the first cause of the (voluntary) movement of man.’ "The latter does not make sense." If it doesn't make sense, it means that it contains logical errors. However, in the spirit of absolute moral precision, I will retract my comment that you made a direct claim to that effect and simply say that you implied that it contains logical errors and did it often. In the same sense you *implied* that Aquinas' argument was not valid by saying that it only works as an argument against determinism, which is yet another way of saying that it doesn't work at all, presumably because it contains logical errors. Meanwhile, you avoided the substance of my comment. Ed Feser, whom you quoted with apparent approval, accepts and defends the validity of Aquinas's argument. Do you now agree with his conclusion?StephenB
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
04:04 PM
4
04
04
PM
PST
SB
... and why your claim that it contains logical errors is mistaken.
Not my claim. Yet another false statement.Origenes
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
12:44 PM
12
12
44
PM
PST
Origenes
Edward Feser on ‘The Argument from Motion’:.....
Reading Feser is a good start. I recommend that you keep reading him. until you understand why he accepts and defends Aquinas' argument and why your claim that it contains logical errors is mistaken. You might even consider reading his book, "Five proofs for the existence of God."StephenB
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
11:23 AM
11
11
23
AM
PST
Edward Feser on 'The Argument from Motion':
Now it is essentially ordered series rather than accidentally ordered series that necessarily have a first member. But “first” here doesn’t mean “the member that comes at the head of the line, before the second, third, fourth, etc.” Rather, “first” means “fundamental” or “underived.” The idea is that a series of instrumental causes – causes that have their causal power only derivatively, only insofar as they act as instruments of something else – must necessarily trace to something that has its causal power in a non-instrumental way, something which can cause without having to be made to cause by something else. And the argument from motion claims that only that which is pure actuality -- that which is, as it were, “already” fully actual and thus need not (indeed cannot) have been actualized by anything else -- can be causally fundamental or underived in an absolute sense. [Source: Feser's Blog]
Origenes
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
05:07 AM
5
05
07
AM
PST
Silver Asiatic @248
We often confuse the kind of movement that Aquinas is referring to as “things moving around” but he’s talking about the movement of change – from potentiality to act.
In Aquinas's view, all things are a mixture of potentiality and actuality, except for God who is pure actuality. According to his theory of potency and act, only pure actuality can move itself, and it is impossible for mixtures of potentiality and actuality (such as us) to actualize (e.g. to move) themselves. That is precisely the reason why he arrives at his 5th premise: “therefore nothing can move itself.”
In that case, we ourselves are not self-moved. We are contingent on other things to move us.
We are in agreement. And, to be clear, if we are indeed “contingent on other things to move us”, just like billiard balls are, then we are fully determined and not self-moved & free. So here is the problem: according to Aquinas, we cannot move ourselves. Arguably self-movement, self-determination, is the essence of freedom, so, clearly, Aquinas’s model has a problem allowing for free rational self-moved agents.Origenes
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
04:25 AM
4
04
25
AM
PST
~ StephenB and the Exclusion that Never was ~
Ori: Do you remember the 5th premise of Aquinas’ “The First Way: Argument from Motion”? Here it is: 5.) Therefore nothing can move itself.
SB: Sure.
Ori: Yet, self-movement exists, as you have said.
SB: Right again.
Ori: So, how does that work? How does self-movement fit in a world where nothing can move itself?
SB: It isn’t a problem.. Aquinas means that there is no self-movement in the *natural world.* He doesn’t mean there is no self movement *at all.*
So, when Aquinas says “therefore nothing can move itself”, he is only talking about observable moving objects that exist in the natural world, he is not talking about e.g. billiard players.
SB: The key point here is to realize that when Aquinas uses words like “something” or “a thing” in this context, he is alluding to observable moving objects that exist in the natural world, none of which can move themselves.
Are you sure that Aquinas does not mean billiard players as well when he says that “nothing can move itself”? I am asking because the 5th premise of his argument from motion, “therefore nothing can move itself”, is essential for his argument that each and every movement traces back to the First Mover. If instead, there is self-movement of things, such as billiard players, then his entire argument fails.
SB: He certainly doesn’t mean that there is no self-movement at all.
Really? So, “nothing can move itself” excludes intelligent agents, such as billiard players.
As you pointed out, and as Aquinas understood, that would be a false proposition. (...) Origenes thinks Aquinas made a logical error by implying that there are no agent causes and that the billiard player is just as much of a slave to the elements as the billiard balls he moves.
Summing up: when Aquinas says “nothing can move itself” he is talking about “things”, about “observable moving objects that exist in the natural world”, and he is not talking about intelligent agents such as billiard players. HOWEVER, when Aquinas states that God is the first cause of “both natural and voluntary” action, he seems to be talking about agents as well. And when he states that God is the “first agent of willing”, “every movement of a will …. is reduced to God” and, “every operation should be attributed to God”, then contrary to your claim, he seems to be talking about agents as well. So, what is going on here, is Aquinas excluding intelligent agents when he says “nothing can move itself” or isn’t he?
SB: He is not excluding intelligent agents. God is the first cause of everything.
Good to have that cleared up.Origenes
March 8, 2023
March
03
Mar
8
08
2023
01:45 AM
1
01
45
AM
PST
Origenes:
Anyway, it follows from what you are telling me that Aquinas “First Way, the Argument from Motion” is not valid.
No.StephenB
March 7, 2023
March
03
Mar
7
07
2023
04:08 PM
4
04
08
PM
PST
1 2 3 10

Leave a Reply