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President Duterte, this is what it means to say that God is the necessary being at the root of reality


Recently, President Duterte of the Philippines issued a challenge to prove the existence of God. About a week ago, I showed that to believe in God is reasonable and responsible; indeed, he credibly exists.  (BTW, the hits:comments ratio was interesting.)

Today, I will explore a bit on what it means for God to be the necessary being at the root of reality.

Classically, a necessary being would exist in any possible world, while a contingent one (such as we are) exists in at least one possible world, but would not exist in at least one possible world. This is because contingent beings are causally dependent on external enabling factors. For example, ponder the fire tetrahedron:

The fire tetrahedron as a model of cause, with a cluster of four necessary, and jointly sufficient causal factors

A fire, being contingent, has enabling factors which must each be present for a fire to exist. In every instance of a fire, those factors will be present, and a sufficient cluster of causal factors will be present. So, too, were one or more on/off enabling factors removed or absent, a fire could not begin or would go out.

Thus, we can see by example what it means to be contingent as a being.

Now, we need to also see that candidate beings may be possible or impossible, and of the possible beings, some will be contingent and others are necessary. Impossible beings — such as a square circle — cannot exist in any possible world. They are impossible of being as core characteristics connected to their identity stand in mutual contradiction thus the being cannot exist in any possible world. For example, characteristics of squarishness and circularity are mutually contradictory, which is why a square circle cannot come into existence in any possible world. By contrast, a possible being can exist in at least one possible world. Then, if there is at least one possible world in which a candidate being would not exist, it is contingent — like a fire. Where there is no possible world in which a candidate being would not exist, that being would be necessary.

Why is that?

Because, the candidate would be part of the framework for a world — any world — to exist.

For example, for a distinct world W_1 to exist, it must have a distinct identity. This instantly means that we contrast W_1 with NOT-W_1, ~ W_1. Using A, we see A vs ~A. That is, two-ness must exist once any distinct world exists. This brings with it the set of counting numbers {0, 1, 2, 3 . . . }.  You cannot have a world without these things.

A serious candidate necessary being — invisible pink elephants and flying spaghetti monsters etc need not apply — will have another key characteristic: they will not be built up from separate, independently existing parts. Such parts would be external, necessary enabling factors.

Thirdly, a serious candidate necessary being will either be impossible of being or else it will actually exist. For, being framework to any possible world and being possible of being, it will be in the world that we inhabit.

This means that God (as understood by ethical theism — the eternal, utterly independent, utterly good, utterly true, utterly holy sovereign Creator and Lord) will either be impossible of being or else will be actual.

In short, atheism implies that God as understood by ethical theism is either not a serious candidate or else is impossible of being. This is why we have so often seen silly parodies like flying spaghetti monsters [a composite being like that cannot be a necessary being]. It is also why atheists used to champion the now failed problem of evils as a means of arguing that the concept of God could not be instantiated.

Such arguments are in part un-serious, and the serious part has failed.

So, we are back to where we were a week ago:

we look for reasonable, responsible warrant for world roots adequate to account for a domain spanning hydrogen to humans, and know that it is not credibly a wholly material order. There must be room for mind, moral government and the human spirit. Where, too, we must adequately account for the one and the many, including good vs. evil.

Cutting to the chase scene, we are looking for a grand, worldviews level inference to the best explanation of a world that spans from hydrogen to humans.

The candidate to beat is: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

That is, it is a reasonable and responsible view to hold to ethical theism. In that context, we can account for ourselves as created to be in the image of God, able to sufficiently sense, understand and act into the world responsibly and freely. Where also, it then makes excellent sense to see a world that is full of signs of design of the cosmos, and of the world of biological life. Where also moral government and significant, responsible, rational freedom make sense as endowments by our creator.

This is the challenge on the table. END

F/N: Material beings of course are composed of atomic matter and so, necessarily, are composite and contingent. Such beings are therefore causally dependent on the ordering of their component parts down to atomic level. And, if these parts only interact according to mechanical necessity and/or chance and accident, then such structures and functions do not and cannot have the freedom required for intensionality, rational inference on ground/consequent or cogency of evidential support, or warrant thus knowledge. They do not have freedom of action. This is a context in which I keep coming back to the inherent limitations of a computational substrate: GIGO, blind processing NOT reasoning. KF PS: Interesting site, e.g. https://aquinas.design/thomism/ kairosfocus
KF Thanks. Somewhat related - I see this as a very big moment: https://aquinas.design/ That site is a pro-ID Thomist philosopher - directly attacking claims of Theistic Evolution. A big moment because until now, there weren't any (or many) Thomists who were pro-ID. Regarding potentiality
Every material being (i.e., composite being) is in between act and potency; it has some act and some potency. The more potency is actualized in a being, the more perfect it is. Granting for the sake of argument the existence of macroevolutionary change, we see that the older species would have less act and more potency, whereas the newer ones would be more actualized, that is, more perfect. Therefore, much potency in matter would have been actualized in the course of life’s history on earth. But no potency can actualize itself into act. To actualize potency something actual is needed. Further, it is supposed that in the macroevolutionary process lower (that is less perfect) organisms generate higher (that is more perfect) organisms. And this is contrary to the principle of sufficient reason which says that a lesser cause cannot bring about a greater effect. To achieve the perfection present in higher animals a higher cause is needed than the power of generation in the lower animals or plants. Thus, macroevolution contradicts the metaphysical principle of potency and act as well as the principle of sufficient reason. Macroevolution is therefore impossible. And if macroevolution cannot have occurred, then theistic evolution is ruled out.
He gives 5 reasons from the teaching of Aquinas why Darwinism is false. This is good also ...
Thomistic evolutionists maintain that Aquinas’s philosophy/theology is incompatible with the modern theory of intelligent design (ID). At the same time they say it can be reconciled with neo-Darwinism. This may seem odd even for a non-Christian. There may be different reasons why Thomistic evolutionists chose to counter ID: Some may be ignorant of it, some may fear “the scientific community” and “the scientific consensus.” Still others may actually believe that arguments for ID somehow threaten the old Thomistic arguments for God’s existence known as the Five Ways.
Silver Asiatic
AS, I have been busy the past day or two, so I can only follow up now. Yes the issue of potentiality and actualisation, with implication of contingency of being is a reasonable perspective. And, in a world of many contingent beings, it is reasonable to look to a root in a maximally actualised being, which would be necessary. KF kairosfocus
I'm not as familiar with the history on the argument, but there is/was a parallel argument that uses "potentiality" instead of "possibility". So, all things that exist had the quality of potentiality - the potential to exist. When they exist, they have actualized that potential. Wood has the potential to burn. Fire is something that has a potential existence and it becomes actual in a wood fire. Having potential is a dependency or contingency. The fire is contingent on wood, oxygen, heat, dryness. The only way to gain the potential is to have it given by a being that possesses actuality. God is the being that fully actualizes potentiality of being, not dependent on anything else to give or receive potential being or to actualize it. I think that kind of argument has given way to "possibility" as the underlying component - perhaps easier to understand and perhaps avoids some confusion with potentiality. Silver Asiatic
Excellent post. Thank you. Truth Will Set You Free
President Duterte, this is what it means to say that God is the necessary being at the root of reality kairosfocus

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