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[Serious] Thomism: Then & Now
#1
Thomism: Then & Now
In another thread, a member* expressed interest an old debate in the philosophy section, a debate about the 5 Ways of Thomas Aquinas. While the debate IMO ended unsatisfactorily, I do feel that my interpretation of the 5 Ways stands up well against those of other apologists. That isn't saying much. I do not think modern defenders of Scholasticism (think the Strange Notions website) don't really update the archaic philosophical nomenclature of the Summa or do much in the way of explaining the important distinctions from classical philosophy, such as actuality/potency, accidental/essential, etc.

While reading the posts again, after so much time, my explanations seem designed to prove to myself that I understood the subject rather than clearly convey to others that understanding. Nevertheless, I do feel too many detractors of the 5W lack a fair appreciation of them.

My goal is not to revive any debate or even advocate from a position of conviction. Instead I would welcome a discussion of possible 5W flaws and even share some of my own issues. For example, I am not as certain as I once was that an essentially ordered sequence is impossible. Maybe that's just the mystic in me going "meta". Similarly, I do not necessarily share with Scholastics the idea that potency isn't in its own way a kind of being.

*I am keeping the OP anonymous out of respect for AF contributors who may not see or wish to join this thread.
<insert profound quote here>
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#2
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
I'm down.

I know the difference between accidental and essential. I'd have to look up actuality/potency. We could run through the five ways first with myself and others asking questions (or for clarification) without debating. And at that point you could introduce your interpretations (that you feel is better than other apologists').

I'm not trying to direct the course of the thread or anything, but I do worry about the debate getting super heated before your position has been fully explained. It's been a while since I've looked at the 5 Ways. I can only recall like two of them off the top of my head. Would you mind explaining them in your own words and/or providing a link with summary descriptions you feel are accurate?

Quick questions before things commence: Are there any of the 5 you feel is strongest, Neo? Is there one that you consider weakest? And why (for both)?
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#3
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 6, 2021 at 8:12 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Would you mind explaining them in your own words and/or providing a link with summary descriptions you feel are accurate?[/i]

Sure, I think this translation works: Summa Theologiae
Here is the debate that prompted this thread:Debate

(October 6, 2021 at 8:12 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Quick questions before things commence: Are there any of the 5 you feel is strongest, Neo? Is there one that you consider weakest? And why (for both)?

The 1W, Prime-Mover, and 2W, Efficient Cause, kind of blend together in people's mind. That makes them less convincing than they might otherwise be. Maybe because human cognition needs physical metaphors, like time and space, to imagine concepts like logical priority. Anyways. IMHO 1W and 2EW both have to be salvaged from any imagined notion of being about time. Doing that with the 1W is a hard sell. Doing that with 2W is nearly impossible.

IMHO the 3W, Necessary Being, is by far the strongest but it is also the most difficult to understand - which is also to say that I could be way off myself. But it also takes us back to the profound ontological speculations of Heraclitus and Parmenides.

The 4W would get us closer to a discussion of Platonic Forms, if that's your interest, since the God being demonstrated is basically a Neo-Platonic "One" or "All" that Plotinus would have recognized. But the analogy Thomas used, gradiation of heat, doesn't work. I think that taints the effectiveness of the demonstration.

The 5W IMHO is also fairly strong but I do not what to discuss it because it gets confused with intelligent design. In contrast to this, I consider it an explanation of why there are particular natural laws,...meaning that there is a reason for the laws of physics; they aren't just brute facts or the illusion of order in an otherwise cartoon world. My defense of this would be the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Not everyone finds the Principle of Sufficient Reason as important as I do. To each his own.
<insert profound quote here>
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#4
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
All of Aquinas' arguments are very poor, and rely on linear time and causation, misunderstanding about what it means for something to "begin to exist", incredulity about infinity, and a lack of knowledge about how complex systems can arise without intelligence guiding it.
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#5
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
Thank you, @HappySkeptic . Perhaps you could elaborate. One of my points is that 1, 2, and 3 are misunderstood to be about linear time. They are about logical contingency. So unless you give me a reason why they must involve time then you share that misunderstanding. Also, how is relying on causation an error? What is the misunderstanding about beginning to exist? Do you have an objection to the start, persistence, and end of objects based on ontology?

As for the 5W, I specifically refered, not to complex systems, but to the most fundamental laws of physics. So again, you seem to partake of the very misinterpretations this thread is meant to confront.
<insert profound quote here>
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#6
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 7, 2021 at 9:10 pm)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: ...
IMHO the 3W, Necessary Being, is by far the strongest but it is also the most difficult to understand - which is also to say that I could be way off myself. But it also takes us back to the profound ontological speculations of Heraclitus and Parmenides.
...

I'm far from knowledgeable about Aquinas's original argument (so please be gentle with me) but I have listened to some (e.g. Islamic apologisers) who use the Necessary Being argument.

I've noticed that they equivocate between verb and noun: Being and A Being.

Did Aquinas do that too? What have I missed?

Cheers.
The PURPOSE of life is to replicate our DNA ................. (from Darwin)
The MEANING of life is the experience of living ... (from Frank Herbert)
The VALUE of life is the legacy we leave behind ..... (from observation)
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#7
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 8, 2021 at 4:23 pm)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: Thank you, Happy Skeptic. Perhaps you could elaborate. One of my points is that 1, 2, and 3 are misunderstood to be about linear time. They are about logical contingency. So unless you give me a reason why they must involve time then you share that misunderstanding. Also, how is relying on causation an error? What is the misunderstanding about beginning to exist?

As for the 5W, I specifically refered, not to complex systems, but to the most fundamental laws of physics.  So again, you seem to partake of the very misinterpretations this thread is meant to confront.

Yes, I misinterpreted 5W.  Let me summarize the 5:

1) Movement needs a prime mover.
2) Causation implies a first cause.
3) Creation of things requires a first creator.
4) The existence of Goodness must resemble maximal goodness, which is God.
5) Natural law requires an intelligent law-giver.


For 5,

Why does non-chaos need an intelligence behind it?  We find no such rule in complex natural phenomena, but I suppose we know of that they are underpinned by fundamental natural law.  Who is to say there are not even more basic fundamental laws (perhaps unknowable) underpinning the basic ones, and so on, until we land on something so fundamental it simply must be so?  Or, perhaps our laws come from an evolutionary process within the multiverse.

I see this as an argument from ignorance.  Natural "law" is simply order, not something purposefully directed.  Order does not necessarily require intelligence.



As for 1-3, they are about logical contingency, though I doubt Aquinas would think this any different than linear time (not knowing modern Physics).

Quantum causation means that some quantum states affect the probability of a particular future event, and some do not.  That type of causation is deals with probability, not determinism.  It may be that all events actually happen, but that somehow one timeline of macroscopic events wins out from our perspective.

What caused time and the initial quantum state?  According to some theories, they formed together from some earlier state - where time and space weren't differentiated, and causality couldn't be described in our current terms.  If we can't even describe what causality means, then arguments that rely on causality break down.

So,

1) Movement happens even without cause - though symmetries in spacetime do result in conservation laws.  Conservation of energy allows the entire energy of the universe to be zero (negative gravitational energy, and positive mass-energy). 

2) Causation as we know it breaks down when time breaks down.

3) The universe doesn't just go around creating "things".  Things just change form.  As far as Aquinas' argument is concerned, he has never seen a single thing "beginning to exist".  Even anti-particle pairs "coming into existence" are associated with negative energy dip in the background.  It adds up to nothing, and nothing caused it (beyond the structure of the universe itself).

4) This one doesn't need refutation.  It is just silly.

5) If non-chaos requires intelligence to create it, how does an intelligent non-chaotic creator exist?  That seems a bigger mystery to me than why there is something rather than nothing (perhaps that is impossible) or why is there there order instead of chaos (perhaps chaos reigns some when/where else, but who would be there to know about it?)
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#8
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 8, 2021 at 5:57 pm)DLJ Wrote:
(October 7, 2021 at 9:10 pm)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: ...
IMHO the 3W, Necessary Being, is by far the strongest but it is also the most difficult to understand - which is also to say that I could be way off myself. But it also takes us back to the profound ontological speculations of Heraclitus and Parmenides.
...

I'm far from knowledgeable about Aquinas's original argument (so please be gentle with me) but I have listened to some (e.g. Islamic apologisers) who use the Necessary Being argument.

I've noticed that they equivocate between verb and noun: Being and A Being.

Did Aquinas do that too?  What have I missed?

Cheers.

I say yes. Thomas would have agreed with the statement that "God's Essence is identical to His Existence." That's part of what it means to be fully in act. God is the Being that is Being-itself...the Ground of All Being.
<insert profound quote here>
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#9
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 8, 2021 at 7:33 pm)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: ...
I say yes. Thomas would have agreed with the statement that "God's Essence is identical to His Existence." That's part of what it means to be fully in act. God is the Being that is Being-itself...the Ground of All Being.

OK, thanks.

Was he smoking something?

Big Grin
The PURPOSE of life is to replicate our DNA ................. (from Darwin)
The MEANING of life is the experience of living ... (from Frank Herbert)
The VALUE of life is the legacy we leave behind ..... (from observation)
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#10
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
My issue with Thoms arguments is that he used the completion backwards principle. It's why his conclusion was always everyone understand this to be god.
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