Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Step 4: The Unconditioned Reality is the Creator

In the last two steps I have departed significantly from Fr. Spitzer’s proof for the existence of God. This step, however, will closely follow the last part of his argument. In this final step, we will show that there exists a creator of all that is, and that this creator is infinite, immutable, unbounded by the laws of physics, eternal, absolutely simple, and unique.

First, some definitions:

4.1 “’Creation’ means the ultimate fulfillment of a conditioned reality’s conditions.” (Spitzer 140)

4.2 “Ultimate fulfillment” means the fulfillment of a reality’s conditions that does not itself depend on some further condition. Ultimate fulfillment may be distinguished from proximate fulfillment, in which a reality fulfills a condition in such a way that it depends upon some further condition.

4.3 “’Creator’ means the source (power or act) which ultimately fulfills a conditioned reality’s conditions.” (Spitzer 140.)

It is either the case that a reality is unconditioned or it isn’t. There is only one unconditioned reality. (3.4) Therefore, all realities other than the unconditioned reality are not unconditioned—i.e., they are conditioned.

4.4 All realities other than the one unconditioned reality are conditioned realities.

Recall the argument in Step 1. Any conditioned reality which has, as its conditions, a finite set of conditioned realities, does not exist. (1.6) Any conditioned reality that has, as its conditions, an infinite set of conditioned realities does not exist. (1.7) Therefore, a conditioned reality must have, as a condition, a reality which is not conditioned—i.e., an unconditioned reality. Furthermore, this condition is not itself conditioned, so it must be last in the series of conditions. Thus:

4.5 The unconditioned reality is the ultimate condition of all conditioned realities.

Now we are in a position to conclude that the unconditioned reality is the creator of all other realities. For the unconditioned reality is the ultimate condition of all other realities, (4.5) and the ultimate condition of a conditioned reality’s conditions is its creator. (4.2 and 4.3) Therefore:

4.6 The unconditioned reality is the creator of all other realities.

The creator of all things must continually fulfill the conditions, for if the conditioned were at some point in time unfulfilled, the conditioned reality would cease to be. (1.3) Thus, the Creator must continually sustain all other realities so long as they exist as their final condition. Thus:

4.7 The Creator continually sustains all other realities in being.

These four steps establish the truth of theism. There exists a Creator of all other realities that is not limited by space or time, is immutable and eternal, infinite, absolutely simple, and the ultimate condition for all that is.

Conclusion of the Series


In the introduction to this series I spoke of a gradation in the strength of an argument. I’ll reproduce that here:

A: Absolute certainty. No rational person could harbor any doubt, however small, as to the argument’s conclusion. 

B: Satisfactory certainty. The argument is so convincing that no rational person could be unpersuaded. A reasonable person may be able to identify some doubts about the conclusions of the argument, but those doubts are so small, and the weight of the argument so great, that it would be irrational to deny the conclusion.

C: Relative certainty. A reasonable person can be certain that conclusion of the argument is better supported than any alternative. The argument is not airtight, but it is sufficient to establish that the conclusion is superior to any alternative.

D: Reasonable disagreement. The argument is sufficiently compelling that a reasonable person could reasonably believe the conclusion of the argument to be true. It is not so compelling that it would convince any rational person.

E: Moderate support. An argument does not compel one to a conclusion, but it nevertheless furnishes grounds that supports a conclusion.

F: Bad arguments. The argument does not establish its conclusion, nor does it furnish any ground that might lead a reasonable person to think the conclusion more likely.

Every reader can, of course, assess the argument from himself or herself. In my view, the argument hovers between an A and a B. The only major empirical claim made by the argument is that something of some kind exists. The rest of the argument is deductive. The argument does not depend upon any particular scientific or philosophical theory.

Most cosmological arguments rely on either the principle of causation, the principle of sufficient reason, or both. Our argument, however, does not rely on either principle. It does not assume that the existence of things has an explanation. It simply shows that if one affirms that some reality exists, one cannot deny the existence of a single unconditioned reality, unbound by space or time, immutable, eternal, infinite, and the Creator of all that is.

31 comments:

KyCobb said...

Well if you worship a void I guess you proved theism. But I would guess that most theists worship a God who has complex emotional states, and you haven't come close to proving something like that exists.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

KyCobb,

See the distinction between simplicity in potency and simplicity in act. A void would be simplicity in potency. However, step 2 establishes that an unconditioned reality must be simple, and that simplicity must be simplicity in act--i.e., pure, unrestricted act.

And any classical theist denies that God undergoes emotions if that means a change from one state to another.

KyCobb said...

"See the distinction between simplicity in potency and simplicity in act. A void would be simplicity in potency. However, step 2 establishes that an unconditioned reality must be simple, and that simplicity must be simplicity in act--i.e., pure, unrestricted act."

In regards to acts you wrote "Simplicity in act, on the other hand, does not have boundaries because it does not have limitations on its act or power. Absolute simplicity in act, as Fr. Spitzer puts it, “would then refer to act or being without any intrinsic or extrinsic parameters, boundaries, or restrictions, that is a being capable of acting in any and all non-contradictory ways.” Simplicity in act arises as the plenitude of unbounded reality.

A simpler reality (in act) will have fewer boundaries and therefore greater compatibility or inclusivity with other realities lower in the tree of being. An absolutely simple reality is, by definition, utterly without boundaries or incompatible states, and therefore is compatible with all other realities. (The question remains, at this point, whether there is any absolutely simple reality.)" The Void meets this requirement; it acts to produce all other realities and is utterly without boundaries or incompatible states.

"And any classical theist denies that God undergoes emotions if that means a change from one state to another." However you wan to define emotion, virtually every Christian I have ever known has taken the position that God is love. If God does not love, I don't see how that is compatible with the God of Christianity.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

The word void entails the lack of something. Simplicity via potency is just such a lack. But simplicity via actuality is not a lack.

If you're trying to say that the sort of God presented here transcends our thoughts about him, and that Christians sometimes don't talk this way, I see what you're saying, but something like "infinite plenitude" is better, because it does not entail limitations, as the void does. Many theologians, such as Gregory of Nyssa, will speak of the "divine darkness."

The infinity of God and our inability to contain him in our thoughts is a central part of any traditional theology, and an important part of religious experience.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

On the issue of emotions:

Christian theology traditionally regards God as immutable and impassible in himself. That is, he does not change, and emotions do not come over him. Denying God's impassibility is actually quite close to heresy.

And God's love is only inconsistent with this argument if it's finite, or God is only partially love. But nobody that I know would limit the love of God in that way, except maybe open theists. Christians regard God's love as pervading his being and as being infinite.

KyCobb said...

Thomas, the void is not limited, because it acted to produce all possible realities, which does not require it to love or possess any other attribute of consciousness.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

KyCobb,

The term "void" is only accurate if there is some lack in an unconditioned reality, which the argument in step 2 rules out. You would be more accurate to call the sun dark or a quark huge.

And I'm not sure where you got the idea that this argument is supposed to prove that God is love.

kycobb said...

Thomas, if the unconditioned reality doesn't love and isn't even conscious, then it would hardly fit most people's conception of god. And I'm not sure what you think the void lacks.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

The argument I've presented doesn't say anything about love or consciousness, but it does show that there our world depends upon an infinite, eternal, simple, and immutable reality that exists outside space and time and that is constantly creating it. You're saying God means more than just that to most people, which of course, he does.

But even if all that could be established was what I've shown in this argument, it's sufficient to establish a form of theism. And of course, if some form of theism is true, atheism is false.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

As to the issue of the void, the OED defines a void as "a completely empty space." Webster's defines it as a "large empty space."

Now an unconditioned reality is not spatial as was demonstrated in step 2.

And what is empty is so because it lacks the actual presence of something. An unconditioned reality, however, is infinite actuality, and so it lacks nothing.

No unconditioned reality can be a "large empty space." I don't know why you're hanging on to this.

kycobb said...

Everything initiates from the void, so it lacks nothing. But rather than a void perhaps the unconditioned reality is the singularity from which the Big Bang occurred, because otherwise it could not include everything and also lack parts and spatial dimensions.

KyCobb said...

No explanation as to why the singularity can't be the unconditioned reality?

Thomas Cothran said...

KyCobb:

Depends on what you mean by a singularity. If it's something that can change, has any determinations whatsoever, exists in time or space, is infinite, has any aspects distinct from other aspects, doesn't continually sustain things in existence, or is limited any any way by anything (including the laws of physics), it has already been ruled out.

Thomas Cothran said...

If you're talking about the singularity which is hypothesized at the big bang, you're talking about something that depends on gravity, the existence of matter, and so on, and so it is obviously a conditioned reality.

KyCobb said...

Thomas,

You are contradicting yourself. You said the void can't be the unconditioned reality because it lacks things, and now the singularity can't be the unconditioned reality if it has things. Both can't be true. But that isn't the case anyway, since matter didn't exist before the Big Bang, and gravity explains how black holes are created, but isn't a condition for the initial existence of the singularity.
You said:
"Depends on what you mean by a singularity. If it's something that can change, has any determinations whatsoever, exists in time or space, is infinite, has any aspects distinct from other aspects, doesn't continually sustain things in existence, or is limited any any way by anything (including the laws of physics), it has already been ruled out."
Your conditions presume time is real and not an illusion, and philosophically its very doubtful that time exists. The singularity which created the universe doesn't change, precedes the existence of space-time, and is infinite. Its existence sustains all of reality, which wouldn't exist without it. The singularity has no distinct aspects as it has no spatial dimensions, and causes everything that can possibly happen to happen. The singularity is an unconditioned reality which does not love you or is even aware of your existence.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

KyCobb:

I suggest you reread the argument. An unconditioned reality cannot have parts. An unconditioned reality can't have an intrinsic spatial emptiness. Those aren't contradictory at all.

Your claim about time being unreal is inconsistent with contemporary cosmology, which asserts the existence of a spacetime field. Even so, I set out an argument that did not depend on time being real apart from objects herehere.

In that argument, it is demonstrated that no pure unconditioned reality can go from one state to another. Nor, obviously, can it depend on the existence of mass or gravity. Nor can it have distinct aspects.

The initial singularity both had distinct aspects and depended for its existence on mass and spacetime. Furthermore, it went from one state to another, which is inconsistent with immutability. From Wikipedia:

"The initial singularity was the gravitational singularity of infinite density thought to have contained all of the mass and spacetime of the Universe before quantum fluctuations caused it to rapidly expand in the Big Bang and subsequent inflation, creating the present-day Universe.

KyCobb said...

"Your claim about time being unreal is inconsistent with contemporary cosmology, which asserts the existence of a spacetime field."

There was no spacetime field before the Big Bang, hence, no time. You might want to look into the philosophical arguments that time does not exist.
""The initial singularity was the gravitational singularity of infinite density thought to have contained all of the mass and spacetime of the Universe before quantum fluctuations caused it to rapidly expand in the Big Bang and subsequent inflation, creating the present-day Universe."

I'll trump Wikipedia with Stephen Hawking, who I think is more of an expert on physics. He said, "At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down." The singularity does not depend on the laws of physics, it created them at the Big Bang. Since time is illusory, it can't be asserted that the singularity does not exist.

Martin Cothran said...

We believe in one Singularity, the Singularity Almighty, by Whom all things were made...

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

A fellow player on my basketball team when I was very young once got turned around. To the dismay of his teammates and the amusement of everyone else he streaked down the court and scored a goal for the other team.

You remind me of him.

The argument I've set out shows that any unconditioned reality must meet the criteria of certain forms of theism. It is:

-Not dependent on the laws of physics (step 1)
-Immutable (step 2)
-Infinite (step 2)
-Unlimited (step 2)
-Utterly simple (step 2)
-Atemporal (step 2)
-Absolutely unique (step 2)
-Continually sustaining all other realities in existence (step 3)

An unconditioned reality is, therefore, the God of a form of theism..

You are attempting to show that the singularity is an unconditioned reality--after the unconditioned reality has been shown to divine in the sense above.

I have always assumed the singularity was an occurrence in nature that the physical sciences could explore. But if you intend to show that physics points to a singularity that is unconditioned (and therefore the God of a brand of theism), please proceed!

I'll be watching you and William Lane Craig charge at the same goal from across the court. Have at it!

KyCobb said...

Thomas,

I believe I have covered all of those given that outside the context of space-time time did not exist prior to the Big Bang, and even then may only be illusory, Hawkings stated that the laws of physics break down in the singularity, which is infinite and without parts or spatial dimensions, and that all possible realities are conditioned on the existence of the singularity. I'd say that the burden is on you to show that the singularity is insufficient in and of itself to create everything else.

KyCobb said...

Martin,
"We believe in one Singularity, the Singularity Almighty, by Whom all things were made..."

Now you've got it. Creation needs no further explanation for its existence than the singularity in the beginning. Worship your God, which neither knows or cares.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

You're trying to score against your own team. If you're right, then the God of theism has been shown to create the world at the big bang. Physics, on your account, points to a theistic God.

Why ever would you expect me, a theist, to argue with you? You're standing down the field, shooting against your own team, and yelling for me to stop you.

KyCobb said...

Well, if you define theism as a singularity without awareness or love as God, then I guess I'm a theist as well. I don't know how many christians would agree.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

The argument doesn't set out to show that God is conscious or that he is love. What it does show is that there is a reality that is eternal, immutable, constantly holding everything else in existence, utterly simple, infinite, outside the spacetime field we inhabit, and so on. The belief in such a reality is a form of theism.

The argument I've presented doesn't pretend to prove Christianity true; it's sufficient for my purposes to demonstrate the existence of a God with the features listed above. That's enough to disprove atheism.

KyCobb said...

Then this is just all a word game. Define an unconditioned reality which lacks awareness, love and purpose as a God, and presto, everyone's a theist!

Martin Cothran said...

KyCobb,

You are clearly not understanding Thomas's point.

He said exactly what he was attempting to show, showed it, and then you come along and rename it (the "Singularity"), as if that somehow makes it go away, and then accuse him of playing word games?

This is another case in point as to why it is valuable to have some education in philosophy.

Thomas Cothran said...

Kycobb:

"Define an unconditioned reality which lacks awareness, love and purpose as a God ...."

You're assuming something very weird here. If an argument does not establish X is y, you think that argument defines X as not y. That's not how arguments or definitions work.

KyCobb said...

Martin,

You clearly misunderstood my point. Which is that it appears that the singularity, which we know probably exists at the beginning of the Universe, could meet Thomas's definitions. Now if you want to worship the singularity and call it God, that's your business, but I don't think you'll find many takers for that cult (I could be wrong though; there have been a lot of weird cults).

KyCobb said...

Thomas,

"You're assuming something very weird here. If an argument does not establish X is y, you think that argument defines X as not y. That's not how arguments or definitions work."

If you want to argue that the singularity has awareness, love and purpose, have at it. Without that, you don't have a "God", at least not one that billions of the faithful would embrace, even if you choose to define it as such.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

Does the singularity exist now? Because part of the definition is that it's atemporal.

In any case, the initial singularity depends on conditions like mass and energy, and is clearly not an unconditioned reality.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Kycobb:

I think it's fair to say that Aristotle's God lacks awareness (at least of any finite thing), love, or purpose.

All you're saying is that the argument doesn't establish the existence of, say, a personal God. To which I agree! It doesn't demonstrate the attribute of personhood to God, but it does hit most of the important classical attributes: infinity, eternity, simplicity, creation of the universe, immutability, utter transcendence, etc.