Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Philosopher Ed Feser offers some fun: Richard Dawkins vs. Thomas Aquinas

arroba Email

At his blog:

Recently I was interviewed by Matt Fradd for his Pints with Aquinas podcast. We talk a bit about Five Proofs of the Existence of God, but our main topic is Richard Dawkins’s critique of Aquinas’s Five Ways in The God Delusion.

Richard Dawkins

We work through each of the objections Dawkins raises and discuss where they go wrong. Matt is posting the interview in two parts, and the first part has now been posted. (podcast)

Carlo Crivelli 007.jpg If you think that anyone born after the invention of the Bomb must be smarter than the Angelic Doctor (Aquinas,1225–1274), fetch a mug and sit down and listen.

Note: Aquinas points to ponder.

See also: How naturalism rots science from the head down

john_a_designer @ Thank you for unpacking the argument. I too prefer Aquinas over what can be named 'Craig's cosmological argument', although I believe that both are strong arguments for an uncaused cause. The reason I prefer Aquinas' version is that we can ignore time and space. We are simply focusing on the foundation of being. What is true foundational being, what does it look like? The problem with Craig's argument is, perhaps, the complicated role of time and space. It leads to easy questions and difficult answers. Was there time and space before the big bang? No. So, the first cause is outside time and space? What does that look like? To be clear, I am not saying that there are no answers, but, to my knowledge, no easy ones. Origenes
Here is a more concise explanation “on the difference between an accidental series of causes, and an essential series of causes.”
An accidental series of causes is one in which the earlier causes need no longer exist in order for the series to continue. The example Feser gives is a series of fathers and sons: A father begets a son, who begets a son, who begets a son, etc. Without the first father begetting his son, the last son would not exist, and therefore could not continue the series of fathers and sons. Yet, if the first father dies, that doesn’t prevent the last son from begetting yet another son. Thus, although the first father is a part of the causal series, his continued existence is not necessary for the continuation of the series; it can continue without him. On the other hand, an essential series of causes is one in which the first, and every intermediate member of the series, must continue to exist in order for the causal series to continue as such. The illustration is a hand holding a stick which is pushing a stone. If the hand suddenly withers, losing its power of motion, then the stick in turn will stop moving, and so will the stone. Thus, the causal series will come to an end. The hand has to exist at the same time as the stick and the stone, in order for the causal series to continue; i.e. for the stone to continue being pushed by the stick moved by the hand, stone, stick and hand must all exist in the present. In my ignorance, I had always understood the First Cause argument as referring to an accidental series of causes. I thought the argument was that everything that exists was brought into existence by something else, which in turn was brought into existence by something else, etc., and that there had to be a first member of this accidental causal series which got the series started. Using the illustration of the father/son series mentioned above, there had to be a first father, otherwise there could not have been a second or a third one, and therefore no fathers and sons existing today. But Feser says no, Aquinas is talking about an essentially ordered causal series, not an accidentally ordered one. The accidental series implies that the universe had to have a beginning, but Aquinas, says Feser, never argued that it had to have a beginning. He believed that it did (says Feser), but he did not believe it could be demonstrated philosophically.
https://agellius.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/the-first-cause-argument-misunderstood/ Again this is the distinction that Dawkins was completely oblivious to in his book, The God Delusion. Is it because he is stupid or is it because he is so filled with contempt for anything that challenges his dogmatic world view that he refuses to understand the argument. Is that kind of closeminded arrogance what atheists mean by reason? john_a_designer
Dawkins is a biologist playing at being a philosopher. He should stick to his knitting. Aeneas Pietas
Elsewhere Feser does a good job explaining the difference between an accidentally ordered series and an essentially ordered series. Below I have summarized some key points of Feser’s argument.
Essentially ordered hierarchical series (which need not go back in time, although sometimes they may) are fundamentally different from linear series, in that the later members of the chain have no power to act, except insofar as they derive that power from prior members. Example 1: Suppose there’s a coffee cup on your desk. The coffee cup on your desk is being held up by the desk, which is supported by the floor, which is supported by the foundation of your house, which is supported by the Earth. This series need not go back in time: the coffee cup is sitting on your desk at that moment only because it is being held up at that moment by the desk, floor, foundation and ultimately by the Earth. The desk has no power of its own to hold up your coffee cup; its power to do so depends on the floor, foundation and Earth beneath it. Example 2: Or consider a lamp above your head, which is held up by a chain, which is held up by the fixtures in the ceiling, which in turn is held up by the walls, which are held up by the foundation, which is once again held up by the Earth. The chain, fixture, ceiling, walls and foundation have no power of their own to hold anything up; their power is derived from that of the Earth. They are in that sense instruments, just as it’s not a brush that paints a picture, but rather the painter who uses the brush that paints the picture. Likewise with the coffee cup resting on the desk, the desk, floor, and foundations are instruments of the Earth. Thus in a hierarchical series, each member is thus being actualized by prior members, and is only capable of acting insofar as it is being actualized by those members. In other words, every member of a hierarchical series, apart from the first, has its power only in a derivative way. Thus in a hierarchical series of causes, the later members of the series are instruments. In a linear series, on the other hand, the members of the series have their own causal power, and can continue acting, even if prior members cease to exist and/or operate. *** A hierarchical series of causes has to have a first member, while a linear series of causes does not. Here, “first” does not mean “temporally first,” but rather, something whose power to act does not derive from anything else: something which is not the instrument of anything else, which has its causal power in a primary or built-in way, and which can impart causal power without anything being imparted to it. *** Hierarchical series are more fundamental to reality than linear series, because a linear series of causes presuppose the existence of an underlying hierarchical series. Things can undergo change only because they exist. But for any material thing, we can legitimately ask: what makes it continue to exist? Appeals to past causes in a linear series fail to explain anything, because although they explain why the thing came to exist, they don’t explain why it continues to exist. To say that the things exists by default, because nothing has come along to break up or destroy that thing yet, still doesn’t explain what keeps it in existence at any moment. After all, it has the potential to either exist or not exist. Appeals to the structural arrangement of the internal components don’t work either, as they fail to explain why those components are not arranged differently. Hence the chain of explanation for things’ existence must be a hierarchical chain. *** Because the chain is hierarchical, the First Cause of things’ existence must be one which can actualize the potential for things to exist, without having to have its own existence actualized by anything. This Cause doesn’t have any potential for existence that needs to be actualized in the first place: it is always actual. You might say that it doesn’t have actuality, but that it is Pure Actuality. ***The First Cause is the Ultimate Cause of the existence of things: it keeps them in existence at any moment at which they exist at all.
https://vimeo.com/60979789 http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/fesers-first-way-an-argument-proving-gods-existence/ Unfortunately atheists like Dawkins are so blinded by their own conceit and smugness that they don't understand the logic behind the argument. john_a_designer
Agreed. Dawkins is highly overrated as an a/mat philosopher. There are some good a/mat philosophers...but he is not one of them. Truth Will Set You Free
A philistine like Dawkins up against one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived? Please. Aeneas Pietas

Leave a Reply