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[Serious] Thomism: Then & Now
#41
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 4:40 pm)Nomad Wrote: ...
The biggest problem with Thomist thinking is that all his arguments necessitate that you start with the proposition "assume the christian god exists".  When your whole argument hangs on you first assuming your conclusion is true, then you have no argument.

Fair enough... I did have concerns about that myself, but since Neo's not even contesting that, I guess it's a moot point now.

(October 12, 2021 at 5:01 pm)Neo-Scholastic Wrote: Did Aquinas start with the conclusion and worked backwards? Sure, maybe he did. Does it matter? Not really. The logical structures of the 5W demonstration are solid so that’s not the issue. The main objection seems to be the typical ending of “…to which everyone gives the name of God.” This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. None of the 5W demonstrations “prove” the fullness of God’s revelation, which would be impossible and unreasonable to expect. Instead, each demonstration deals with a specific divine role such as Creator (1W & 2W), Sustainer (3W for embodiment, 5W for order), or Ultimate Truth (4W for reason and value). With respect to that limited goal, I find the 5W successful.

FWIW I'm still interested in learning all about this, even if it is based on circular reasoning. It's just an interesting subject, and as I said, it has also sparked an interest in classical philosophy for me, so that's a bonus.
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#42
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
Yair.

Fascinating stuff.

I have a few issues with Thomas Aquinas.

Right up front, he's a presuppositional apologist. IE God is simply assumed as a given when this is not the case. To me, that means Aquinas' claims are of only intellectual interest, but interesting just the same.

It is my opinion that God cannot be argued into or out of existence. That so far all claims about god(s) remain unfalsifiable. IE have not yet been demonstrated to be true or false.

The first of Aquinas Five ways/Five proofs" is the teleological/cosmological/ prime cause/ the watchmaker's argument/ Intelligent design/irreducible complexity/god of the gaps.

As far as I'm aware, the first thinker recorded as positing the First Cause argument for the existence of god was Aristotle.

The latest have ben a bunch of sly creationist trying to argue irreducible complexity. I seem to remember evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins shredding that argument.

Th e basic claim has been debunked over centuries. Russell's Teapot is a pretty good place to start. If you're really keen, perhaps have a listen to the 1948 radio debate between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston SJ.

THE issue is the bald statement that everything must have cause. This claim has not been shown to be absolutely true. It may not be true. I must admit Lawrence Krauss hasn't been much help. Turns out that the physicist's idea of 'nothing' is different from the philosopher's understanding, as far as I can tell. What I'm left with is that the claim 'everything has a cause' is presently unfalsifiable. Consequently, I'm unable to accept that claim.

This is heady stuff for me. I welcome correction of factual errors.
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#43
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 5:54 pm)HappySkeptic Wrote: As for final cause - this seems to come about because living things appear to work by different rules.  Of course, Aristotle wouldn't know about DNA, cell differentiation, energy metabolism etc, so describing life as having some built-in purpose or function is a catch-all for his lack of understanding (but it still isn't wrong).

I think people are shy of admitting to a final cause because they assume it means an intelligent designer. They think it means that somebody decided the purpose of something in advance. But that's not necessarily true. 

Imagine you're teaching a basic anatomy class, and you do a two-hour lecture on the heart. You describe its growth, muscle tissue, and structure. (Efficient, material, and formal causes.) But at no point do you explain that the heart serves to pump the blood around. (Final cause.) That wouldn't be a very good lecture, I think. 

The final cause of the heart is what it does for the body. The reason it's there. The final cause of the acorn is an adult oak tree (but also as squirrel food). None of these requires an intelligent designer, or conscious planning in advance. Evolution works just fine as an explanation.

(October 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm)Oldandeasilyconfused Wrote: As far as I'm aware, the first thinker recorded as positing the First Cause argument for the existence of god was Aristotle.

This is about right, I think. And a lot of the problem with discussions on this forum is that people don't understand Aristotle's vocabulary. If you Google "aristotle cause in greek" you'll get this at the top of the page:

Quote:Aitia (Greek: αἰτία), the word that Aristotle used to refer to the causal explanation, has, in philosophical traditional, been translated as "cause." This peculiar, specialized, technical, usage of the word "cause" is not that of everyday English language.

Yet people don't seem to get that. They continue to use "cause" in its conversational English sense. I mean, everybody's comfortable with the fact that words can have different meanings depending on context. We know that the word "theory" in science is not the same as "guess," although we might use it that way in conversation. It's the same with "cause." 

Here's what it means when used as a translation of Aristotle's αἰτία: the causes of X are all the things that need to be the case in order for X to be the case. 

This set of things may include an Efficient Cause, but not necessarily. 

A misunderstanding of this vocabulary leads some people to make a spurious argument. They think that it is relevant to point out that (apparently) some type of quantum decay lacks an Efficient Cause. They think this means that some things are uncaused. But that's not what αἰτία means. Lots of things have to be the case in order for quantum decay to be the case. For example, the universe has to exist. If there were nothing rather than something, then quantum decay wouldn't happen. You need the prior existence of quantum particles, because without that they couldn't decay. Most importantly, you need the laws and regularities of nature which allow for quantum decay to occur. So there are LOTS OF CAUSES for quantum decay, if "cause" is a translation of αἰτία.

So the argument that a lack of Efficient Cause works against the Aristotelian/Thomist argument is false. 

Another common misconception is that the A/T causal chain is a temporal chain, with one thing leading to another in time. It is not that. It is an essential series, not a temporal one. That means that in order for Z to be the case, Y must be the case. In order for Y to be the case, X must be the case, etc. In fact all these things may have come into existence at the same time, or not -- that's not important. The important thing is that the thing farther down on the chain depends for its existence on the things that are higher. 

So for example, the existence of the sun depends on the existence of Hydrogen atoms. You can see this because if the sun stopped existing, this wouldn't make hydrogen atoms impossible. But if hydrogen atoms stopped existing, then the sun would be impossible. So the existence of hydrogen atoms is prior in an essential chain of causation. The time order isn't a part of the argument. 

Those are the main two misconceptions I've seen on this topic. There are others. I don't know why these errors are so basic and yet so difficult to dispel. 

(By the way, I love your screen name. I am no longer so young either!)
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#44
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
[quote pid='2068841' dateline='1634100182']
Quote:Aitia (Greek: αἰτία), the word that Aristotle used to refer to the causal explanation, has, in philosophical traditional, been translated as "cause." This peculiar, specialized, technical, usage of the word "cause" is not that of everyday English language.

Yet people don't seem to get that. 
[/quote]
 
Ah, I didn't know that. Did that misunderstanding change  the meaning?
Translation from one language into another can be very problematic.
The commandment translated as "Thou shalt not kill" isn't quite right. In the original Hebrew it's lo tirtach, "thou shalt not murder"..  All murder is killing , but not all killing is murder. Of course believers cherry pick their sacred books to fit their own world view. They ignore the really inconvenient bits, such as "love your neighbour"
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#45
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 13, 2021 at 2:59 am)Oldandeasilyconfused Wrote: Did that misunderstanding change  the meaning?

It's led to a lot of confusion, that's for sure. We have to be careful not to change the meaning and argue as if he'd said something he didn't. 

Quote:Translation from one language into another can be very problematic.

It's a fascinating and enlightening thing! When we come across a concept in a foreign language that doesn't have a one-to-one counterpart in our own language, it makes us realize how habitual and narrow our thinking can be. 

Recently I've been reading about the history of Japanese aesthetics, and how when they started translating Western texts into Japanese they had to invent all kinds of new terms. Japanese didn't have a word for "art" for example. And English lacks good terms for Japanese concepts. 

Quote:The commandment translated as "Thou shalt not kill" isn't quite right. In the original Hebrew it's lo tirtach, "thou shalt not murder"..  All murder is killing , but not all killing is murder. Of course believers cherry pick their sacred books to fit their own world view. They ignore the really inconvenient bits, such as "love your neighbour"

It's true! Translation is interpretation, and no interpreter is impartial.
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#46
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm)Oldandeasilyconfused Wrote: Right up front, he's a presuppositional apologist. IE God is simply assumed as a given when this is not the case.

There are two issues here. The first is whether the Aquinas uses circular reasoning. The second is noting the fact that the 5W are a miniscule part of a larger work and, as such, take as given what Aquinas, thought he had already adequately demonstrated, or addresses later in the Summa.

So does Aquinas use circular reasoning, as some suggest? I say no. There is a difference between motivated and circular reasoning. As a man of faith, Thomas Aquinas would most certainly be motivated to reason towards a conclusion. Motivated reasoning increases the likelihood of making mistakes but that does not mean the outcome must be wrong. In contract to this, circular reasoning is when the initial premise and the conclusion form a closed loop. This is not the case in the 5W.

This takes me to my second point. I noted ealier that Aquinas defines God in Article 3 of the Summa as a Being whose existence is identical to His essence.

“I say that this proposition, "God exists," of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown (I:3:4). Now because we do not know the essence of God, the proposition is not self-evident to us; but needs to be demonstrated by things that are more known to us, though less known in their nature — namely, by effects. – Thomas of Aquinas, Question 2, Article 1 <my emphasis>

So Aquinas is very up front about his process. Step 1, Question 2, Article 1, was about defining God. Step 2, the 5W, pairs principles that transcend the natural world of appearances (like a necessary being) with divine roles (like Sustainer). Step 3, the rest of Part 1, is about pairing those transcendent principles to God (simplicity, etc.) That is a clear progression. It may be mistaken somewhere along the line, but it doesn’t loop back on itself.

Thomas says in Article 1 of Question 2, that “God exists” is a self-evident statement but only to those who already understand that the essence of God is His existence. It’s like saying, “Existence exists.” Where does one go from there? Well, it leads into the 5W (Question 2, Article 2) which demonstrates that qualities evident in the natural world are attributable to principles that transcend the limitations and imperfections of the natural world. This is the negative way. Seeing the contours of God hidden in the outline of what is evident. Then after presenting the 5W Thomas does the real heavy lifting of defining God’s essence (simplicity, unity, etc.) which takes the variable “...this everyone calls God,” and fleshes it out.

Basically, what I am saying is that critics of the 5W make the mistake of treating it like a stand-alone, self-contained paper rather than an intermediate stage within a larger work.



(October 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm)Oldandeasilyconfused Wrote: The first of Aquinas Five ways/Five proofs" is the teleological/cosmological/ prime cause/ the watchmaker's argument/ Intelligent design/irreducible complexity/god of the gaps.

None of the 5W are similar Paley’s watch.

(October 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm)Oldandeasilyconfused Wrote: THE issue is the bald statement that everything must have cause.  This claim has not been shown to be absolutely true.

@Belacqua seems to have addressed this objection by explaining the term “cause” in classical philosophy denotes something different from the denotation in contemporary use. This is well presented at around 19:30m in the video @vulcanlogic posted. The Aritotelean causes are about "whatness".

Here, I’d like to commend @emjay, for wanting to understand the 5W on their own terms. To me, it’s a bit arrogant to assume Aquinas was incoherent just because his ideas do not neatly translate into the familiar concepts of modern physics. IMO, trying to shoe-horn the metaphysics of the Summa into modern physics is like playing Go on a Chess board. Maybe you can do it, but the limitations of the board make any such game different from actual Go.

I would also like to mention that after his visionary experience, Thomas said, “All I have written is as straw.” It serves as a reminder to me, as a Christian, that an intellectual understanding of God is nice but can never compare with a direct encounter with the living God.
<insert profound quote here>
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#47
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 9, 2021 at 9:48 am)Nomad Wrote:
(October 8, 2021 at 5:57 pm)DLJ Wrote: 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.

Three of Aquinas' five ways are "the universe must have had a beginning, therefore god".  The other two are "there must be a maximal value of X, therefore god".

Despite the utter paucity and extreme idiocy of these arguments, Woothers has such a hard on for Aquinas that every time he thinks of him he spaffs over all these fora like he's some sort of straw haired clown.

Who the hell is ‘Woothers’?

Boru
‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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#48
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 13, 2021 at 2:45 pm)BrianSoddingBoru4 Wrote:
(October 9, 2021 at 9:48 am)Nomad Wrote: Three of Aquinas' five ways are "the universe must have had a beginning, therefore god".  The other two are "there must be a maximal value of X, therefore god".

Despite the utter paucity and extreme idiocy of these arguments, Woothers has such a hard on for Aquinas that every time he thinks of him he spaffs over all these fora like he's some sort of straw haired clown.

Who the hell is ‘Woothers’?

Boru

Mispelling of Chad Wooters.
The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!
Big James
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#49
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 13, 2021 at 3:20 pm)Nomad Wrote:
(October 13, 2021 at 2:45 pm)BrianSoddingBoru4 Wrote: Who the hell is ‘Woothers’?

Boru

Mispelling of Chad Wooters.

Still not getting it, sorry. Who's Chad Wooters when he's at home?

Boru
‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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#50
RE: Thomism: Then & Now
(October 13, 2021 at 3:23 pm)BrianSoddingBoru4 Wrote:
(October 13, 2021 at 3:20 pm)Nomad Wrote: Mispelling of Chad Wooters.

Still not getting it, sorry. Who's Chad Wooters when he's at home?

Boru

The original name for neo-scholastic.
The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!
Big James
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