Originally posted by vistesd
maintaining that while it is possible using reason and simple facts to conclude (among other things) that God exists, the demonstration is neither easy nor readily understandable by most people, and that reasoning from faith and revelation is a much easier and more accessible way of proceeding (well, more so in his day than ours).
I did not read your ...[text shortened]... between theos and phusis.
Now, as I say, I have some due diligence to attend to.[/b]
Since Aquinas follows Aristotle, it seems that his main proof ends up positing an unmoved mover in order to avoid an infinite regression. His notion of an unmoved mover is that its essence (quiddity) and existence are one. However, the need for an extra-natural unmoved mover has been refuted on here more than once on several grounds. I have tried to sort the following by their relevance to the Five Ways, as best I can—*
(1) The universe is not a thing-itself, but the set of all existents, and that once one has explained all of those existents and their relationships, one has explained all there is to explain about the universe, without appeal to any external existent (whatever that might mean); there is after all that—with cause-and-effect being a feature of
the natural universe, rather than a metaphysical requirement—nothing left to explain. [Re: the First Way
(2) There is no way to stop the infinite regression except by fiat. This argument depends, I think on a non-nihilistic view of the universe: that is, since ex nihilo nihil fit
, there was “always”** “something”.** The universe-as-we-know-it may not have existed (being finite to the past), but that is not the same thing as positing an absolute nihil
, which seems to me to be a leap from the physical to the metaphysical. Under this argument, I can just as validly declare a stop to the regression before absolute nihil
. Previously I would have said that whatever mysterious cause gives rise to things as we known them in the universe could just as well be some mysterious, perhaps unknowable, aspect of the universe; but I want to be more careful, allowing for a broader understanding of "universe"--i.e., as the set of all that is non-nihil, whatever its form. [Re: the First and Third Ways
—Epiphenehas has eloquently and stubbornly [
Epi knows that I am just as stubborn as he is, and that that is no criticism on my part] argued the opposing view, based on what appears to be the current cosmological orthodoxy. I have revised my argument here by suggesting that positing an absolute nihil
represents a leap from physics to metaphysics; I might be wrong. I might also be wrong in assuming that physics allows for no absolute nihil
, and may be corrected on both counts. However, the latter would still imply that nihil
is possible within
the natural universe. And, in any event, basing one’s argument on the current scientific orthodoxy (denying the possibility of bang-bounce-bang-bounce, for example, which is still in play according to a Scientific American
article that I saw in the last year or so) assumes the risk of any “god-of-the-gaps” argument.
(3) The notions of efficient cause and priority are both dependent upon dimensionality as it is in the universe; priority, for example, makes no sense in reference to the universe-itself—since it is incoherent to speak of “before time”. (Though it is not incoherent to speak of a beginning, in reference to finiteness to the past.) Similarly, it makes no sense to speak of “outside (or beyond) space”; the physical universe as we know it is finite but unbounded (there being, by definition, nothing vis-à-vis the “Whole” could be bounded). [Re: The Second Way
—LemonJello has questioned the whole principle of sufficient reason (efficient cause?), but do not recall his argument: shame on me! But that would also apply here.
(4) The Fourth
Way seems to me to be very similar to Anselm’s ontological argument: e.g., (a) that “those things that are true to the maximum degree also enjoy being to the maximum degree” [CDP
, p. 39; reference below.] I would like to see that established in a logical inference. Similarly, the argument (b) that “what is supremely such in a given genus is the cause of all other things in that genus”. [ibid]
An attempt at a crude reductio
of (a) above:
(i) That which is maximally true is also has maximal being;
(ii) Nothing is more maximally true than to be absolutely true;
(iii) In order for an absolute to have being, it must be absolutely true; [from (i) & (ii)]
(iv) The statement “the absolute [God] has being” must be a priori
absolutely true in order for the absolute [God] to have being.
But that makes the whole argument circular—question-begging—since the aim is to establish (“prove” ) that the absolute has being (existence). More simply, the conflation of truth and being results in an empty tautology.
(5) I think that Thomas’ Fifth Way
can be deconstructed in a similar fashion to the First and the Third (and maybe the Fourth): that is, to conclude from the existence of intentional beings to a being of absolute intentionality (rather than, say, a complex—over-determined?—emergent property of the universe) is not clearly necessary.
—NOTE: According to DCP
, the Fifth Way is based on “final causality and should not be confused with any based on order and design”. This would mean, I think, that a similar deconstruction to the one for the Fourth Way (above) would be possible—i.e., that a final cause that assumes intentionality (in intentional existents) cannot be used to “prove” (absolute or ultimate) intentionality as the ground/source/cause of intentionality....
Now, my brain is for the moment cracked! I have not as yet sought out arguments from other sources, and have reconstructed the ones above from memory—simply trying to apply them directly to DCP
’s understanding of the Five Ways.
* Using the discussion of the Five Ways in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy
], Second Edition, 1999, pp. 38-40. (Article on Aquinas written by John F. Wippel of the Catholic University of America)
** The language here is, at best, a wicky-sticket [
]: time is a feature of the dimensionality of the universe as we know it, and “something” implies a spatial dimensionality that allows identification of an entity because it has spatial boundaries.