Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Theism a Fraud? and other questions some people think they can answer without knowing the best arguments for a position

A week or two ago, I saw a post come across my Google Reader about a philosopher who had decided to "call it quits" on the philosophy of religion:
Over the past ten years I have published, in one venue or another, about twenty things on the philosophy of religion ... But no more. I’ve had it. I’m going back to my real interests in the history and philosophy of science and, after finishing a few current commitments, I’m writing nothing more on the subject. It was kind of a strange post, since this kind of thing is not normally "news." Who the heck cares whether some academic has decided not to study or teach in a particular area of his discipline, anyway?
I take it that one of the benefits accruing to someone who decides not to do any more work in a particular field is that he doesn't have to talk about it anymore. But if he doesn't want to talk about it anymore, then why is he announcing it to the world?

It would be sort of like someone working in public relations having a press conference to announce that he didn't want to deal with the press anymore, and then taking questions from reporters about it.

Anyway, then I start seeing all these posts about this particular philosopher, Keith Parsons, who teaches the subject at the University of Houston, Clear-Lake, and how he took this dramatic action that everyone is supposed to care about, but not so much that he has to talk about it some more because that was the whole point of doing it in the first place.

Parsons states that he thinks the whole thing is a fraud, albeit perpetrated by sincere people.
I found the arguments so execrably awful and pointless that they bored and disgusted me ... I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position...
His announcement is curious because he does not actually give any reasons for why he thinks this, something you would expect a philosopher to do.

But now it is becoming interesting because his announcement has become the subject of some debate over the philosophy of religion, with our good friend Edward Feser weighing in on this curious non-news event that somehow got media traction. Parsons first says "who's Edward Feser?" and then accuses Feser of being "nasty." He apparently thinks that engaging in intellectual debate is "nasty." No wonder then, that Parsons doesn't want to deal with philosophy of religion anymore. I mean, he would have to, like, debate and defend his positions and all that nasty stuff.

Feser, far from being "nasty," criticizes Parsons for not having dealt, in his treatments of theistic positions, with classical theism itself, preferring instead to deal exclusively with modern theistic personalism, which, compared with classical theism, is a mere side attraction on the main highway of historical theism:
In general, though at least some contemporary atheist philosophers may be said to have a solid enough grasp of the arguments of writers like Plantinga and Swinburne, their grasp of the mainstream classical theistic tradition tends to be at best only slightly better than that of vulgar pop atheist writers like Richard Dawkins (who, as I demonstrate both in Aquinas and, more polemically, in The Last Superstition, hasn’t the faintest clue about what writers like Aquinas really said). And if one hasn’t grappled seriously with the arguments of the great classical theists, then one simply cannot claim to have dealt a serious blow to theism as such. Not even close.
Parsons, in response, simply accuses Feser of nastiness. Then comes the most lastest response to Parsons by Feser, in which Feser points to further evidence of why, after all, Parsons might want to find something else to do:
Parsons says, as if it were something we could all agree on:

Both theists and atheists begin with an uncaused brute fact.

And the problem is that that is precisely not what theists do, at least not if we are talking about theists like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, and all the other great representatives of classical theism. Aristotle’s Pure Act is not a brute fact. Plotinus’ One is not a brute fact. Anselm’s That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Conceived is not a brute fact. Aquinas’s Subsistent Being Itself is not a brute fact. And so forth. In each case we have arguments to the effect that the material universe in principle must have had a cause and that the divine cause arrived at not only happens not to have a cause (as a “brute fact” would) but rather in principle could not have had or needed a cause and in principle could not have not existed. And the reasons, of course, have to do with the metaphysics of potency and act, the difference between composite substances and that which is metaphysically absolutely simple, the real distinction between essence and existence in anything contingent, and other aspects of classical metaphysics in the Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, and Scholastic traditions.

...Neo-Platonist, Aristotelian, and Thomistic and other Scholastic writers are hardly marginal theists, after all. They are the paradigmatic theists. They invented (what is these days called) the philosophy of religion and the core arguments in the field. They represent a 2300 year old tradition of philosophical theism, and their thought has historically determined the intellectual articulation of revelation-oriented religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It's sort of like a scientist saying that, despite only a passing familiarity with the thought of Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr, he had found relativity theory and quantum mechanics wanting. Or, despite only a vague idea of the accomplishments of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn, you had announced classical music a fraud.

Sheeez.

27 comments:

One Brow said...

Dr. Feser loves to attack people he can accuse of not getting his argument. When people who do understand his argument show why it fails, he goes quiet on the issue.

Martin Cothran said...

Well, just so we know what you might be referring to, could you give an example of where someone shows his fails?

Singring said...

'Well, just so we know what you might be referring to, could you give an example of where someone shows his fails?'

What an invitation!

Here's one little problem that immediately comes to mind.

If God is pure act, he cannot be a person, as a person is defined by possibilities (i.e. making decisions, for example). A 'person' that is pure 'act' therefore has no potency at all and is akin to an automaton.

Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.

That was easy.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Well, first of all, it seems to me that your argument does not sohw that God does not exist, but rather that, whether or not he exists, he is not personal.

You have "a thing that does not exist" as your major term, but it appears nowhere in your premises, making it an example of the fallacy of four terms.

So let me restate it for you and see if I can fix it:

God is pure act
No person is pure act
Therefore, God is not a person

That works logically, although one of the premises could be attacked. Is that what you want to say? If you want to say something about his existence, you're going to have to provide more umph in your premises.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...

'God is pure act
No person is pure act
Therefore, God is not a person'

Much better, Martin, thanks for rephrasing. But please be aware: this is not what I am saying. It is what Ed Feser is saying.

He states that everything within the universe (and that includes all physical persons) is a mixture of act and potency (a 'compound' as he puts it).

He then states that God is pure act, as opposed to a brute fact as Parson has apparently made him out to be.

Lest you don't belive me, let me quote him from the article you link to above:

'The whole point of theism, for these classical writers, is that the explanatory buck must stop with something that is in itself intelligible through and through – precisely because, unlike the mixtures of act and potency which make up the world of our experience, it is purely actual [...]For an Aristotle, Plotinus, or Aquinas, to show that there is no such thing as Pure Act, the One, or Subsistent Being Itself would not be to show that God is after all just a “brute fact” among others; it would rather be to show that there is no God. '

Take these two premises and you are left with the above argument as you have phrased it, which is of course a lovely disproof of Yahweh (not of all Gods, as I have already pointed out earlier but which you might have missed).

So if you have any issues with this disproof of Yahweh, you better take it up with Feser, not me. Of course, that means you would have to attack his premises, which are Thomas Aquinas' premises...which may put you in a tight spot, to say the least. It also means you are stuck with either admitting that Feser fails in this instance, or that the above argument is sound. I'm looking forward to seeing which it will be.

P.S.: Let me just close the back door out of this argument real quick: Saying 'God is the only person that can be pure act' is pure question begging, as I'm sure you are aware.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

I'm still trying to understand your point here.

You seem to be saying that two of Feser's assertions contradict the existence of God:

1. That every thing within the universe is a mixture of act and potency; and

2. That God is pure act

But these two things together do not lead to a contradiction of the assertion that God exists. All they would lead to is the conclusion that God does not exist "within the world":

Every thing within the world is a mixture of act and potency
God is not a mixture of act and potency
Therefore, God is a thing that does not exist

But that conclusion does not logically follow--again, because of the fallacy of four terms. The only conclusion that would follow is:

Every thing within the world is a mixture of act and potency
God is not a mixture of act and potency
Therefore, God is not a thing within the world

And I don't see why the latter conclusion would be problematic for Feser

Singring said...

Martin, please read my posts before you respond. That will help to clear up any confusion.

The problem with Feser's argument is not so much the distinction of whether or not God is in the universe or not, as I have stressed earlier it is much rather that God cannot be a person according to Feser.

Since Yahweh is defined as a person (especially in Catholicism which both you and Feser profess), he cannot exist.

Let me highlight the operative portions of Feser's statements again to underline this point:

First:

'unlike the mixtures of act and potency which make up the world of our experience, [God] is purely actual'

Since all and every person ever known by us was within the universe ('our world of experience' as Feser refers to it), all persons are therefore mixtures of act and purpose -unlike God, as Feser explicitly states above.

Second:

'to show that there is no such thing as Pure Act [...] would rather be to show that there is no God'

Once more, Feser drives home the point that God is pure act, unlike any persons we have ever known.

Therefore, the only conclusion we could possibly be left with without resorting to blatant and shameless question-begging (i.e. 'God is the only person that is pure act') we are left with the inescapable conclusion that a personal God cannot exist.

You are left with a determinist 'robot God'.

I hope this has cleared up things, Martin. I'd like to here where you would place your criticism with this argument - on the premises or at Feser for making the argument?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

I did read your post, and you said, "Take these two premises..." which I did, and derived the obvious argument. If you didn't mean to say that, then you shouldn't have said it.

But I'll follow along here. So it seems to me that we are back to the original argument you claim Feser is making:

(1)God is pure act
(2)No person is pure act
Therefore, (3)God is not a person

You have shown where Feser says (1), but I am unclear on where he says (2). So far you have justified putting it there on three grounds:

1. Because Feser said it, although you have provided no evidence for that;

2. Because it is the position of classical theism, although, again, you have provided no evidence for that; and

3. That it follows from the fact that we have never encountered in our own existence a person who was not a mixture of act and potency.

This latter argument, I'm afraid, is no good at all. Just because you have never encountered something does not make it impossible. There are a lot of things that men never encountered before and then did encounter and found to exist.

You seem to be confusing an inductive anomaly with a contradiction.

So it would be nice to see either some evidence for 1. and 2., or some further argumentation to justify 3.

Singring said...

'This latter argument, I'm afraid, is no good at all. Just because you have never encountered something does not make it impossible. There are a lot of things that men never encountered before and then did encounter and found to exist.'

This is precisely what I hoped you would say. Because it exposes your philsophical shell game for what it is.

Firstly, it is of course an instance of pure question begging as I have already stated: why should all persons be mixture of act and potency except God? It's special pleading taken to the max. You know it and I know it, so don't pretend otherwise. If you are allowed to do that, then I am allowed to make teh case for the universe (i.e. the only mixture of act and potency that can give rise to itself is the universe).

Secondly, you seem to be very confused about your own principles of reasoning: Just a couple weeks ago you were insisting, INSISTING that I name one thing that contains its own explanation, otherwise I could not reject your argument fo the first cause that was based on the premise that everything within the universe does not. Saying: 'we don't know if everything even has an explanation' did not cut it with you at all. (I did actually give you things without explanation, but you seemed unimpressed).

Now see how the game has changed: All of a sudden, it is simply enough for something to be 'possible' to exist in order to allow us to derive statements of truth from its 'possible' existence.

Just priceless.

Or how about the time you made a deductive argument from the premise that 'all men are mortal'. How did you know that all mean are mortal? Just because you haven't seen, read or heard of an immortal man yet, does not mean such a aman does not exist?!

Singring said...

But that is not my mine issue here. Let's tackle some of the objections you have raised:

'You have shown where Feser says (1), but I am unclear on where he says (2). So far you have justified putting it there on three grounds:'

Let's look that 2 and 3:

'2. Because it is the position of classical theism, although, again, you have provided no evidence for that; and'

Are you now denying that the classic conception of a God is as that of a personal being? Are you ststing that Feser, as a Roman Catholic does not hold that God is a person? Please confirm and I will let Feser know immediately.

'3. That it follows from the fact that we have never encountered in our own existence a person who was not a mixture of act and potency.'

and

'...or some further argumentation to justify 3.'

I let Dr. Feser do the argumentation himself. He stated clearly that:

'unlike the mixtures of act and potency which make up the world of our experience, it is purely actual'

There it is. He clearly states that everything in our world of experience is a mixture of act and potency. He is saying we cannot know a person who is not a mixture of the two because it is beyond our experience! Therefore, Feser holds to premise 2 with an iron grip.

But I here you object - there could be a person within or outside of our world of experience that is pure act that Feser simply does not know about. It's a possibility! (Let's ignore the fact that the latter would simply be an instance of special pleading as mentioned before).

A fair objection - but then unfortunately the classical theological argument for the first cause fails completely. If there are other persons of pure act within or outside of our universe, then there plainly is more than one being that is pure act. So there are many first cuases.

You can't have your cake and eat it too, Martin. Feser's premises leave us with only one of two possibilities: Either Yahweh does not exist or the first cause argument from classical theology is invalid. Take your pick.

Thomas said...

Singring,

You seem hung up on this idea that God is a person, and that, because he is a person, he is composite.

That argument is actually a good one against those who think of God as being personal in the sense that human beings are personal. But for classical theology, this is not the case. As Herbert McCabe says, we call God personal simply because we cannot call him impersonal.

The Scholastics, drawing on previous traditions found in the Bible and the writings of earlier theologians, made a crucial distinction between univocal and analogical language. I use language univocally when I refer to Barack Obama and Lebron James as a human being. In both cases the term means precisely the same thing. However, we obviously cannot speak of God in univocal language, because he cannot "fit" within any category; as the Bible says, his ways are above ours. Gregory of Nyssa offers the succinct definition of God as that which is beyond all limit.

So when theologians speak of God they do so by analogy. Everything predicated of God holds in one respect, but does not in others. So when we call God "Father", the term connotes something like biological fatherhood in a sense, but not in other senses.

Singring said...

Me (several posts ago):

'P.S.: Let me just close the back door out of this argument real quick: Saying 'God is the only person that can be pure act' is pure question begging, as I'm sure you are aware.'

Thomas:

'That argument is actually a good one against those who think of God as being personal in the sense that human beings are personal. But for classical theology, this is not the case.'

Apologetics 101. When in doubt, resort to special pleading and question begging.

If YOU can do it, I can do it.

For cosmology, the big bang being an event in the sense that a ball being kicked is an event is not the case. Therefore, the universe is self-caused and God does not exist. Presto.

'However, we obviously cannot speak of God in univocal language, because he cannot "fit" within any category; as the Bible says, his ways are above ours.'

Special pleading, count 2.

'Gregory of Nyssa offers the succinct definition of God as that which is beyond all limit.'

Count 3.

'So when theologians speak of God they do so by analogy.'

An analogy is only of value when it provides information about the quality of what is being referred to. Otherwise why even make it? If saying 'God is a person' is supposed to be useful as an analogy in any way, it must mean that God has at least somequalities that we ascribe to a person. Maybe not all qualities, maybe not in the same quantity, but if you say 'God is a person' - even as an analogy - but then say that God at the same time cannot be a person, you are simply making a fool of yourself, as Dr Feser has done so brilliantly.

You can then make all kinds of fanciful claims that 'God is not like this, God is like that' which are worded for no other purpose than to escape the fangs of your premises, but it amounts to no more than a case of special pleading, as you have just demonstrated.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring appears to have forgotten what this discussion is about.

OneBrow made the following claim: When people who do understand his [Feser's] argument show why it fails, he goes quiet on the issue.

When I asked for an example of this, you said, "What an invitation!" In other words, you were going to show me where Feser's argument failed. You then set out to show that Feser's argument was somehow unsound. You gave an invalid argument for your claim which I had to fix. But once I fixed it, it didn't show what you claimed it showed (that from the fact that God is pure act, "God does not exist" because a person ). It only showed only that God was not within the world, which was not inconsistent with Feser's position.

You then argued that there was something about God being pure act and humans being composite that showed how his argument failed. But that wasn't a go, since you had to show that Feser (or Christian theism) held that a person had to be a composite being.

You haven't produced it.

You made a claim that Feser is inconsistent. This involves showing that two contradictory conclusions can be drawn from Feser's positions. And the only way you can do it is by attributing positions to Feser (or classical theism) which they don't hold.

So, again, where does Feser or classical theism hold the a person is necessarily a composite being?

Thomas said...

Singring,

One can respond to an argument in two ways: the first by understanding the argument and challenging it, the second by challenging the argument in such a way that one reveals that one does not understand the argument. The first case requires an argument as a rejoinder. The second requires an education.

You make a pretty basic mistake about the law of non-contradiction. It is only impossible to say both that "X is A" and "X is not A" if one means A in the same respect. When I say that Jeremy Bentham is the father of modern utilitarianism, I mean the term "father" in an analogical sense which means something. Jeremy Bentham is not the biological father of a tradition in ethical philosophy, but that does not mean that I spoke falsely. And as modern philosophers of language have shown, our language relies heavily on analogy for its intelligibility.

If you were to challenge my claim that Bentham is the father of utilitarianism by saying that ideas are not the product of sexual reproduction, and so my claim is obviously false, you are not really attacking my claim but only your misunderstanding of my claim. Because I am speaking by analogy and you do not understand what the analogy signifies, my response can't be an argument. Education is required.

Similarly, if you attack the Catholic concept of God as a person because persons are composite, physical, primarily human beings, when what is being asserted is an analogical statement not connoting composite being, then you are not attacking the Catholic concept of God, but only your misunderstanding of it. To offer an argument concerning the existence or nature of God would be premature, because you are still in the grips of your own misunderstanding. What is required is simply to educate you, to teach you the sort of claim that Catholics are making about God, or about how one must speak of God.

To that end, I suggest you read the tract by Denys the Areopagite entitled "The Divine Names". It is short as far as these things go, it is hugely influential on later theology (particularly Scholastic theology), and it is probably the best short statement on how Christians must speak of God, the limits of language, and so forth.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...

'Similarly, if you attack the Catholic concept of God as a person because persons are composite, physical, primarily human beings, when what is being asserted is an analogical statement not connoting composite being, then you are not attacking the Catholic concept of God, but only your misunderstanding of it.'

So are you now telling me that God has none of the qualities of a person? In other words, the analogy made by stating that God is a person is purely linguistic and has no bearing on the actual qualities of God?

In that case, I concede. God has none of the qualities of an actual person. Therefoe, Yahweh does not exist (after all, he is supposed to love, feel jealous, angry etc. according to the very Bible you have cited as athoritative on the issue).

Somehow I think that is not what you are trying to say.

Now if you are going to come along and say that God has some qualities of a person but not all - once again you are simly begging teh question.

You can't just make up characteristics of the conclusion to an argument in just such a way that it escapes the premises of the argument that exclude everything else as a possible conclusion. In other words, if you can just claim that 'person' is an analogous description of God, what is there to stop me from saying that calling the Big Bang an 'event' is just an analogous description of it and therefore allows me to conclude that it was uncaused.

This should be painfully obvious to any student of philosophy - and you are obviously much better read than I am.

Singring said...

'In other words, you were going to show me where Feser's argument failed. '

No, Martin. Once again your reading comprehension is lacking:

This is what you wrote in your original challenge to OneBrow:

'Well, just so we know what you might be referring to, could you give an example of where someone shows his fails?'

This clearly is an invitation to show any instance in which Feser fails. I did. Maybe you misspoke?

'You haven't produced it.'

In fact I did, despite your consistent denial of what I have posted. You don't even try to enbgage with the arguments, you just flatly claim that I never offered them in the first place, when I plainly did. Let me quote Feser once more.

'...precisely because, unlike the mixtures of act and potency which make up the world of our experience...'

Any and all persons we know of are part of the world of our experience, as Feser puts it. I already pointed out that claiming that God is a 'different' type of person outside of this definition is simply special pleading, what Thomas has engaged in.

'So, again, where does Feser or classical theism hold the a person is necessarily a composite being?'

Are you now telling me that a 'person' can also be a pure being? Excellent!

This means that there are persons that are not composite beings and are therefore pure act. This of course leads to the conclusion that not everything within our universe is a composite, which means Feser's premise is false.

We can keep running around in circles like this all day, Martin. either Feser fails or Yahweh cannot exist. I invite you once more: Take your pick.

Thomas said...

"So are you now telling me that God has none of the qualities of a person? In other words, the analogy made by stating that God is a person is purely linguistic and has no bearing on the actual qualities of God?"

If predicates referring to God hold in some respects but not others (as they must in analogical predication), then it is of course not the case that the predicate has no positive content. Theological language always has realized that it falls short, but this is different than saying it says nothing at all.

Nor is analogy purely linguistic. Analogy belongs to things themselves, language just reflects this fact.

You've brought up a good example of how analogy works. When the Bible speaks of God as becoming angry, this must be understood to be analogical, just as Christians understand God's breathing as analogical. It tells us something, while at the same time it falls short. Christians cannot, of course, say that God has fluctuating emotional states, because this would make him subject to time and change; that is, it would make him composite.

But that's not to say that it tells us nothing. God's anger at sin signifies that our sin runs contrary to his nature and cuts us off from him. In a similar way, calling Jesus the "right arm of the Father" does not signify that Jesus literally is an arm, but that he carries out the plans of the Father.

Analogy is necessary any time we refer to something that exceeds our power to express it, and this is not limited to God. However, because God is that which, by definition, exceeds every limit (or in more Scholastic terms, transcendent) we must always speak by analogy when we speak of God.

One Brow said...

Martin Cothran said...
Well, just so we know what you might be referring to, could you give an example of where someone shows his fails?

I've pointed <a href="http://lifetheuniverseandonebrow.blogspot.com/2009/11/review-of-tls-unmoving-first-cause.html>this</a> out on Dr. Feser's blog. So far, neither Dr. Feser nor any commentators have actually defended the part where the argument fails (for one thing, the notion that eesentially ordered sequences terminate). Thomas was kind enough to provide some detailed explanation, but not a defense.

If you know of someone who can defend the the gaps I presented in the argument, by all means send them over.

Singring said...

'Theological language always has realized that it falls short, but this is different than saying it says nothing at all.

Nor is analogy purely linguistic. Analogy belongs to things themselves, language just reflects this fact.

[...]

Analogy is necessary any time we refer to something that exceeds our power to express it, and this is not limited to God. However, because God is that which, by definition, exceeds every limit (or in more Scholastic terms, transcendent) we must always speak by analogy when we speak of God.'

Thomas, no offense, but that is just the most wishy-washy, question-begging nonsense I have yet to hear in reference to the properties of God.

In your effort to dodge the problems arising from the premises Feser has laid out and maintain the cherished notion of a 'personal' yet 'purely actual' Yahweh, you seem to have sabotaged everything you have previously said and everything you ever will say about theological philosophy. If all things we can say about God are merely analogous and we can't really pin down what qualities we are assigning to God, then any and all philosophical statements we make about him or his existence are at best lacking and at worst completely useless.

For example, Ed Feser states very clearly that 'God is pure act'. Now, according to you, this is merely an analogy. So we can't really be sure how 'pure' God really is and any additional claims you make about how 'pure' God really is refelct nothing but special pleading on your part.

This is exactly what you are doing right now: I highlight a clear and obvious contradiction in Feser's notions about God, based upon the language he uses (and he uses it very definitely and strongly) and because you know you can't defend the argument, you start waving your arms about and making the most outlandingly arbitrary claims about how God is a person in some ways but not others, how we can't really know whether what we say about God being this or that is correct in one aspect or another etc.

If this is really how you feel, perhaps you should write to a journal and express your exasperation with theological philosophy and practicing Catholics the world over who seem to have no such qualms about making very definite statements and conclusions about God.

Edward Feser said...

One Brow,

Your problem is that you post comment after comment after comment at my blog, and blog post after blog post after blog post about me on your own blog, all typically very lengthy, and all filled with various misunderstandings, errors, oversimplifications, and the like. There is no way I could possibly address all of it, and if I addressed only some of it you would accuse me of dodging what I did not address. Since I have very limited time anyway, my solution is just to ignore all of it. But you can choose to believe that you've made some devastating point somewhere that I can't respond to, if that makes you feel better.

Anyway, like Martin says, it would be nice if you could give an example of some brilliant point Parsons has made that I have dodged. Re: the post of your own that you link to, I haven't even read it, though I have often addressed objections to the notion of an essentially ordered causal series, e.g. in a post at my blog on "Edwards on infinite causal series."

Singring,

Your problem is that you don't realize that the "problem" you raise has been responded to many times over the centuries, if only you'd bother to try to read and understand the classical writers instead of making ill-informed smart-ass remarks in comboxes. I've even blogged about it myself -- for example, in a fairly recent post on "God, man, and classical theism" and in other recent posts on classical theism.

Martin Cothran said...

Ed,

I think your comments on One Brow apply more specifically to Singring, whose method of argumentation we affectionately refer to here at Vital Remnants as the "ADHD Method" of argumentation.

Singring said...

'whose method of argumentation we affectionately refer to here at Vital Remnants as the "ADHD Method" of argumentation.'

This from the guy who misrepresents my posts habitually. Two examples can be seen above.

Singring said...

Ed, thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

I have just read your post 'God, man and classical theism' and it strikes me as lacking in every respect in terms of addressing the problem you have raised with your set of premises.

It is not a good sign when you start a defense of an argument by appealing to authority. It only gets worse from there.

For the most part, you go to great lengths arguing precisely what I have - that Gos cannot be a person and pure act at the same time, even going so far as to suggest that passages of the Bible that describe God using attributes usually ascribed to persons cannot be reliable and should be dismissed as analogies.

You try to get around this problem exactly the same way Thomas has - by waving your hands about and saying 'well, God isn't really a person but he isn't really pure act either...he's something in between.’ Something of exactly such quality that you can keep all of your precious premises going. As a teacher of philosophy you know perfectly well that this is nothing but special pleading.
Continued…

Singring said...

An excellent example is this nugget of nonsensicality that you tuck away in points 4 & 5:

'Indeed, even apart from questions of orthodoxy, the idea that God is three Persons in one substance entails that God cannot “a person” in the way that we are, since for there to be two or more human persons is precisely for there to be two or more substances.'

which is followed by:

'As I emphasized in the earlier post, that does not mean that God is impersonal, since according to classical theism there is in God something analogous to what we call intellect and will in us, and other attributes too which presuppose intellect and will (such as justice, mercy, and love – where “love” is understood, not as a passion, but as the willing of another’s good).'

So God is not a person but there is in him something 'analogous' to a person?!

What is that analogous part exactly, Ed. Its easy to string all those words together in a sentence. but what do they mean? Is the change that is part of a person analogous to the change in God? Are emotional states in a person analogous to the emotional states in God?

I know you won't answer the question because you know that any direct analogy would immediately create an impurity in the 'act' that you claim is God and thus destroy your argument. It si much easier to ramble on about 'analogous' qualities without getting specific and hoping you will get away with it.

If you can attribute attributes to God as you please so as to excuse him from your premises, so can I and define the Big Bang just so that it is 'pure act', thus replacing God.

Deriving elaborations on how exactly God is not quite like this (thus excusing him from premise 1) and not quite like that either (thus excusing him from premise 2) may pass for sound argumentation in your circles, but trust me when I tell you that there is little that appears more intellectually dishonest to an atheist.

Lee said...

> One can respond to an argument in two ways: the first by understanding the argument and challenging it, the second by challenging the argument in such a way that one reveals that one does not understand the argument. The first case requires an argument as a rejoinder. The second requires an education.

That may be the single best written remark I have read in five years.