We have reached at long last the happiest part of our journey. A proof for the existence of God. Aquinas starts and ends with the best, an argument which, once it is understood, grasped at its full, is fully convincing. It is a scientific proof. It is based on the indisputable evidence of our long observation of Nature. It first saw print, as so much foundational knowledge has does, with Aristotle. So strongly does Aquinas feel about this argument that he offers no other in this work. It is an argument, or rather two arguments which share much in common, which he, and which I think you will agree, is best suited for those of a scientific mind. Read all three (short) paragraphs from Aquinas before reading the footnotes.
Chapter 13: Arguments in proof of God’s existence
1 HAVING shown then that it is not futile to endeavour to prove the existence of God, we may proceed to set forth the reasons whereby both philosophers and Catholic doctors have proved that there is a God.
2 In the first place we shall give the arguments by which Aristotle sets out to prove God’s existence: and he aims at proving this from the point of view of movement, in two ways.i
3 The first way is as follows. Whatever is in motion is moved by another: and it is clear to the sense that something, the sun for instance, is in motion.ii Therefore it is set in motion by something else moving it. Now that which moves it is itself either moved or not. If it be not moved, then the point is proved that we must needs postulate an immovable mover: and this we call God. If, however, it be moved, it is moved by another mover. Either, therefore, we must proceed to infinity, or we must come to an immovable mover. But it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Therefore it is necessary to postulate an immovable mover.iii
4 This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved: namely that whatever is in motion is moved by another, and that it is not possible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.iv
iThere are various kinds of movement, change, or evolution that first must be understood. There is movement in space, where an object is first here then there, or a change in orientation. There can be change in mass, where an object excretes or accretes. There can be change in energy, such as when a field offers up a newly created particle from a “quantum fluctuation,” or when mass is converted to energy. There can be change in qualitative characteristics, such as in color. In short, any differentiation whatsoever in an object can be considered change or motion. There need not be, of course, any person to witness or measure this differentiation, nor do we need to understand all of the (secondary efficient) causes that bring this differentiation about. Somebody with no knowledge of internal combustion engines is surely aware that a car moves from one place to another.
iiFor bookkeeping, and for commenting, label the first argument “W1”, for “Way 1”, etc.
We begin with the observation that things move, that they change. There can be no doubt about this. Even those who profess complete philosophical skepticism know that their minds change (about objects moving). (I say “profess” because however much somebody might claim to be a skeptic, nobody except possibly the genuinely insane actually believes it. If you argue with me, you necessarily agree with me. But this point is not in the least necessary for us to continue. Feel free to pretend your computer is not really there.)
And what around us does not change? All of Nature, i.e. the physical, does. Trees rot, even protons decay, babies are born, the universe expands. What remains motionless? Well, truth. Mathematical truths are not subject to movement, neither can logical truths shift from place to place or grow hair. Our knowledge of such truths, individually and collectively, surely evolves, or devolves, as the case may be. But the truths themselves are incorruptible. Again, if you disagree, you agree. If you say, “All truths are inventions”, you have either stated a truth or an invention. If it is a truth, your proposition is self-defeating. If it is an invention, there is no reason to trust it. There is no way to speak coherently except by admitting truth exists and is unchangeable.
Anyway, that much is background. Aquinas is not claiming nothing is unchangeable. His first simple indubitable plain commonsensical premise is only that some things move, and that we all see this to be the case, as for example the relative motion of the sun or your finger on the scroll bar. This is all you must advert to now. Do you?
iiiNow W1 will be proved bit by bit. Aquinas will give examples and clarifications of each of the propositions and premises which comprise the argument and when he is finished no loose ends will remain. However, it is well here to ensure you grasp the intention or meaning of this argument before continuing. Here is a sketch.
Take an analogy—an analogy, I say—from Fulton Sheen. You see a boxcar of a train pass by. It moves. Something caused it to move. What? Well, the boxcar in front of it pulls it. But what caused that boxcar to move? The one in front of it. But this cannot go on forever. We cannot have an infinity of boxcars, each pulled by the one in front. At the start of the line there must exist an engine which pulls all along, or there can be no movement.
The same analogy holds for cogs in a machine. This one moves by the one before it, and so on, a series which must terminate at an axle hooked to a motor. There must be a start.
These are only analogies because we left off short. Something is causing the engine to move, and something is causing the motor to spin. These causes are operating now, in this moment. And this what we’re talking about. Movement or change occurring the here in the right now, at this instant.
The classic example is a stick pushing a stone. Imagine yourself holding the stick and applying steady pressure to it, nudging the stone. The stone moves because of the stick. The stone moves now, in this moment because of the stick’s pressure. The stick is also in motion: it has force now, in this moment applied to it via your arm. Your arm is also in motion: its muscles contract or extend now, in this moment. This is happening all at once, at the same instant. Do not let this slip from your mind.
The muscles are also in motion: individual cells contract or extend now, in this moment. The materials in the cell are also in motion: chemicals are moving or reacting now, in this moment. The chemicals are also in motion: the chemicals subcomponents are moving or reacting now, in this moment; and if the chemicals are simple, the electrons in its shell and the neutrons and protons in its nucleus are moving now, in this moment. And the electrons themselves, and the quarks inside the nucleus are moving now, in this moment.
Again, all this is happening at once. Not in the distant past, but right now.
The quarks are also in motion: the strings, or whatever, inside the quarks now, in this moment are also “vibrating”.
Are there things “bellow” strings, or whatever? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What does is that if there is, whatever these objects are, have to be in motion now, in this moment too. The chain of all these objects pushes along, as it were, pushed from “below,” all at the same time. This series cannot, however, continue to infinity. There cannot an infinite number of things smaller, or rather more base, than strings and which must first move before any movement is possible.
There must be a base. There must be a thing which moves, which is itself not moved, and is indeed immovable. There must be a start to everything, a first unmoving mover. If there were not, nothing would ever happen. And we have already agreed things happen.
Now two happy things follow from this. The first (and the proof of this is coming: this is not here a proof, but a claim: do not say it was not proved when it is not claimed as being proved) is that this unmoved mover is and must be the same everywhere and for all changes. That is why the unmoved mover is God.
The second is that to be truly scientific, to honestly understand physics, to speak properly of causation and how the universe is run, one must understand God. Because He is there, at base, in everything. He is the root cause of every single thing that happens. This should be cheering, not the least because of the good news we have received some two thousand years ago, but because our task of contemplating the world is proven finite. There must come a point below which physics ends and God begins, to speak loosely. It is not clear if we will ever figure out the whole of mechanics, though. All we have proved is that the causal movement-chain must be finite. We haven’t any idea, through arguments of this kind, how long it is. Finite does not imply short.
ivCall these P1 and P2, or properly W1P1, etc. Next time we start with these same premises. They are given here for the sole reason of noting that there was only one thing proved in this post. That we see some things move. Everything else was a clarification, a heads up. The argument for God being the unmoved Mover was merely sketched. There is thus no point whatsoever in claiming that the main argument was found wanting because it hasn’t yet been fully given.
Clever readers will also have recognized that at no point was scripture invoked. No divine revelation, other than the ordinary kind, i.e. the revelations of our senses, is assumed. Like I said up top, this proof is purely scientific.
 7 Phys. i.
Categories: Philosophy, SAMT
It’s lonely here at the top.
The first way is as follows. Whatever is in motion is moved by another: and it is clear to the sense that something, the sun for instance, is in motion
But motion is relative. The sun moves in ECI coordinates. Translating to Heliocentric Coordinates the sun does not move at all. It’s a bad example if what you are after is everything has a beginning.
You misunderstand. Any motion at all is what we’re observing. Whether it is relative or fixed is irrelevant. Anyway, relative motion is not non motion.
Perhaps, but in Heliocentric coordinates we have one physical thing that DOESN’T move. Better to start with cause. And even there, all we can say is everything has a cause AS FAR AS WE KNOW. It’s a matter of unproven conjecture and likely unprovable.
Let me ask you this: how did those letters which form the words in your comment get there. Movement or not?
Update On second reading it seems that you are question whether every event has a cause. Well, we’ll come to that. Hint: bah, humbug.
Don’t change the argument. Using your logic, the Sun must be a Prime Mover since it doesn’t move in the coordinate system.
Did your fingers not move in a “coordinate system”? Or maybe you mean to claim that they do. I’m getting lost.
OK. I’ll wait.
Of course you can postulate a Prime Mover, but a Prime Mover doesn’t prove the judeochristianmuslim God.
Newton’s first law must come in here but I suppose that this represents a limitation of Aristotle who though that uniform motion required a force or mover. You could restrict yourself to acceleration I suppose and to whether the fundamental forces are unmoved movers. The philosophical discussion as to whether the causal links are finite or infinite is intriguing but I do not see that you can avoid the infinite by postulating an infinite God. So far it seems that Aquinas has used the label God for this stage in the argument and that we should not read anything else into it until the concept is further developed.
DAV, you misunderstand. In Aristotelian terminology motion refers to any change, not just change from place to place. The idea that motion = locomotion (an idea which I think dates to Descartes) is one of those parts of modern thinking that Dr Briggs (via Tommy Aquinas) is arguing against in this series, and which needs to be dismissed.
So, for example, if one moment the sun consists of (some stuff) + 2 Deuterium atoms, and the next moment consists of (some stuff) + Helium atom + some photons, then that also counts as being in motion in this terminology. Essentially, one similar argument (differing because it is based on Quantum Mechanics rather than Aristotlean physics) is that the Helium atom + photons must have come from somewhere (i.e. 2 Deuterium atoms with enough relative momenta to be able to tunnel through the electromagnetic potential), which in turn must have been put in their current state from something else (maybe 2 Deuterium atoms with small relative momenta and some other stuff with high momenta), which must have come from something else, and so on, either to infinity or to some termination of the series. Hopefully you will agree that the sun is in that sort of motion.
a) Aquinas will get there, if you give him time; and b) This series is titled ‘a summary against modern thought,’ and any unmoved mover, whether God as described by Christianity or God as described by some other religion, is against modern thought.
Buddhism is not modern, it is older than christianity and far superior in eternal morals.
“There must be a base. There must be a thing which moves, which is itself not moved, and is indeed immovable. There must be a start to everything, a first unmoving mover. If there were not, nothing would ever happen. And we have already agreed things happen.”
Why would that be, other than because you like to believe so? Why wouldn’t everything there is be moving in some sense? Why should there be a start to everything?
Trying to prove the existence of a God in this way is just too naive, Briggs. I think that the closest you can get is to ask why there is something and not just nothing. But it is a question, and no one knows the answer. Of course, you are free to pick your favourite guess and stick to it if you like.
I commented already this on 2 March 2014 at 5:08 pm:
“A deistic god exists by definition, just like the universe.”
We are going rond in circles.
Yeah I got that. But most of those words above could have been said in on sentence: “Every event has a Cause (Aquinas used the word Motion to mean Event).”
Thing is, that’s conjecture. It may be based on what has been experienced so far and may be a good starting point for examining events but just because we have never seen an event without a cause doesn’t mean it is impossible. I see most of Aquinas’s argument evaporating if the premise isn’t true. Whether all events have causes is not provable but then showing an event doesn’t is equally impossible.
Since when does conjecture count as proof?
Ah, the ol’ Prime Mover argument. It’s an interesting question – what started all the motion? Science does not provide the answer to this question, and may never. But to say that existence of motion is proof of the existence of God is a radical leap of faith. Spaghetti Monster enthusiasts can make the same claim. You’re just filling in the blanks with God. There is no proof of anything here, no way to test it, no way to experiment with it, no other evidence to substantiate it, just remaining questions about the origin of the universe and what lies beyond it.
Matt, I strongly disagree that this is a “scientific” proof. It is rational, but not scientific. I’m with Fr. Jaki, that science consists of theories, founded on mathematical equations, that are verified (or falsified) by repeated experiments. Science is a subset of rationality (as I put it in a blog post), and is much more limited.
I grant that we begin with empirical evidence, but that isn’t a sufficient condition for a scientific endeavour (sp?–English). The proof for a deity is reasonable, and the deity doesn’t have to be the Judaeo-Christian God–that isn’t what Aquinas claims. The evidence for the deity /Deity being the Judaeo-Christian God comes from Revelation and history. Also, the infinite regress argument applies not to those causal sequences which are temporal, but to those active simultaneously–the freight train and the engine; you don’t have a moving freight train without an engine.
With motion in the sense of things changing position, there is no need for an unmoving mover, setting things in motion. And that is because objects attract each other. Because of that attraction, objects will start accellerating, which is beginning to move.
So, if you have a collection of objects attracting each other in a universe, those objects will start to move all by themselves.
And there is a second problem with an unmoving mover in the sense of changing positions. Both position and speed are relative. You can measure your position in relation to other things, and you can measure speed in relation to other things. But there is no such thing as an absolute position or an absolute speed. You do not have a builtin speedometer, or a builtin position meter. An unmoving mover would have a builtin speedometer that said: speed is zero. Because that is what not moving means: you speed is zero. But because speeds are always relative, you always have a speed relative to something.
So there cannot be an unmoving mover by definition, at least for changing positions.
If Aristotle and Thomas knew about Galilean relativistics, they would have postulated an Unaccellerating Accellerator.
I have trouble accepting that. I also have trouble accepting that time is infinite. Some have said that time is circular, but then you get a causality train rear-ending its own caboose.
… but when the postulates include the conclusion, there is a problem.
Even Plato and Aristotle had different opinions about whether first mover had to be unmovable. How would the unmovable even know movement? How culd He start it? In this matter, though, it could not be less relevant.
Gravity may be all the explanation we need to explain all movement, or the key to it, but we need a full explanation of gravity first.
And here’s the problem with God in this case – we would need to know something else about God before we could postulate that He started all movement. In other words – why God?
Sander, the cause of the things moving (changing their motion) is indeed a force…so it is a cause…and then if there is a force, what caused that??? Although motion is relative, Newton postulated (didn’t prove) that the center of gravity of the solar system is at rest, so in Newtonian mechanics motion is relative to that. However, in special relativity mechanics no frame of reference is privileged, whence the speed of light (in vacuo) being constant. Interesting discussion of this in Nancy Cartwright’s “How the Laws of Physics Lie”, but I can’t find the exact reference.
Depends on the definition of God. So then the question becomes, “Why this God?”
Which invariably leads me to, “Why Anything?”
However we came to be, we’re certainly not comfortable with a priori.
Well, that discomfort is what this is all about, right? Some people can live without the answers, and some people can’t. For those that can’t, if no answer is real available, they’ll accept a pretend answer.
Why God, in this case, is why would it have to be any notion of God to explain the beginning of all movement? In other words, what leads us to that conclusion? What is it about God that suggests He may be the starter of all motion?
“What is it about God that suggests He may be the starter of all motion?”
Start with the fact that that is the most basic definition of “God”.
This quote isn’t applied to anyone in particular, so please let’s not be oversensitive.
I came across it in today’s Office of Readings (part of the Liturgy of the Hours), from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 2:1-16
shoot….I still can’t manage html
here’s the quote:
“The natural man does not accept what is taught by the Spirit of God. For him, that is absurdity. He cannot come to know such teaching because it must be appraised in a spiritual way. The spiritual man, on the other hand, can appraise everything, though he himself can be appraised by no one. For, â€œWho has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?â€ But we have the mind of Christ.”
Can someone tell me how to delete a comment when we’ve goofed?
My reading of history is that we invoke God(s) to explain the inexplicable, hence the tired but true God of the Gaps. Thus far in what has been written by humanity, that argument only hacks away at phenomena for which there seems to be an empirically observable mechanism. God still could be the (hidden) Prime Mover. A First Cause makes some intuitive sense given our arguably finite mortal existences.
A necessary Creator does suffer from the problem of infinite regress. However so does potentially the nature of time, and hence the universe as well.
“I don’t know” is the only logical answer I am comfortable giving when the question is (not)God(s). So I’m sceptical when Aquinas — or anyone — says, “Herein lies proof of the answer.” Hard for me to not jump to the end from the middle, but the urge is quite strong. Cheers.
Confess and do penance? 🙂
1 Cor 2:15 “But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one.”
That is a perfect definition of Buddhist enlightenment to me. 😀
Brandon, is goofing on a comment a mortal or a venial sin?
Hans, is CorinthiansI 2:15 an example of what biologists would call convergent evolution?
Ben, if the definition of God is the starter of all movement, that tells us really nothing about God or movement. All logos, no logic.
Brandon, I get the ad infinitum problem. I agree. We very well may come to know “why” and we may even know it already and don’t know we’re looking right at it. Suffice to say, if it was God, we’ve been looking in that direction for an awfully long time now and still haven’t gleaned any answers from it.
Newton did not prove that. Newton could show that the motion of particles in a subsystem can be described as the motions of the particles relative to the center of gravity of that system and the motion of the center of gravity.
Regarding gravity, current thinking is that the Universe consists of Space, Time and Particles. Gravity is a kind of particle interacting with other particles. Electricity are different kinds of particles interacting. Interacting means that particles are first far away from each other, then closer, then again further away and moving differently because they bumped into each other, or whatever it is particles do. Or these particles might stick together.
That leaves three questions, what is causing space, what is causing time, and what is causing particles? Bumping is being at the same point in slace at the same time, and sticking is staying close together during lots of time, so there should be no difficulty with that.
Tentatively one can say that you need to be somewhere, which is space, that you need to be able to be somewhere else too, hence time, and that you need to be something, hence particles. Logically, you are then done. Without space, time and particles you cannot be, and the particles interacting in space during some time is the cause of everything else.
So, instead of a single god we have three different entities, all much simpler and the three of them together the cause of everything else.
Sander, I didn’t say Newton proved that the center of mass of the solar system was stationary…he assumed it. Leibniz disagreed with that hypothesis. Again, see Nancy Cartwright’s discussion. And the hypotheses of particles, gravity, forces, space, time, etc. are just those–hypotheses. (Indeed, the most current theory for gravity is that from General Relativity which takes gravity as a deformation of space-time due to the presence of mass–I don’t take into account string theory, because that’s mathematical metaphysics, not empirically verifiable–see “Not Even Wrong” by Peter Voit). So mass, particles, gravity, etc are all theoretical constructs that currently can be verified empirically. But as a First Cause? Unlikely.
Bob, scandal perhaps?
JMJ, I get a sinking feeling that if we do ever find God, all we’ll be seeing is our own tails.
Snark asisde for a moment, I give much due credit to religious philosophy as the moral and ethical foundation of modern civilization. There’s much good stuff to be had in holy writ, and I’m thankful for it. That aside, I’m quite content to look to modern secular thinking for ethical inspirations and work out my own morality from the combination of both. A cafeteria agnostic is me. Cheers.
“Ben, if the definition of God is the starter of all movement, that tells us really nothing about God or movement. All logos, no logic.”
Jersey, don’t get too ahead of yourself. We have to start somewhere and Aquinas decides to begin with an absolute first cause, which if it really bothers you, you don’t have to give the appellation “God.” Its what Aquinas does afterwards with this fairly straightforward assumption that is interesting, and only then will a coherent picture of God emerge.
Why would you need an eternal Prime Mover for an eternal universe?
You also don’t need a First Matematician.
Hans, both Augustine and Aquinas considered the question of an eternal universe, one that didn’t begin in time. Aquinas said that there was no way to prove the Universe began in time–but even an eternal universe needs a cause, outside that universe. Aquinas’s demonstration of a First Cause is not limited to an origin in time, but can be a cause outside of time. And why not a First Mathematician? Whence comes number? And the laws of mathematics?
If the Cause wasn’t caused then why would the universe need a cause?
Bob K: Only blog owners can delete comments. It makes us gods of our domain!
If there is a Hell, the above will be the only reading material.
Hans, I think a basic assumption/premise/belief is that inanimate things don’t cause themselves… On the other hand, a personal being/an intelligence/a power with mind can be thought of as being an ultimate cause. And such a being who is not himself/herself/itself caused, is by definition God.
So one would say (or this one at any rate), on that line of reasoning, the universe doesn’t cause itself. If you don’t want to pursue the why/how questions of why the universe/mathematics/laws of nature exist, where they come from, that is a permissible stance, but not one all of us are willing to take.
Some of the above kvetches sound like the man who, having just been inveigled into peeking out his front door to see the road outside his house, complains that he has not reached Pittsburgh and does not see how peeking out the door gets him there. Maybe there is no Pittsburgh. Or maybe the road leads to Akron or Spaghetti Monster instead. A little patience would not be amiss, and try not to let the objections run ahead of what has been established so far. I notice that some of the Buts raised here were also raised by Thomas: “This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved…” IOW, more is coming, so don’t get your knickers in a knot.
Thomas’ conclusion that Purely Actual being is “God” should be followed by the phrase “Details to follow” because he has not actually established this yet. At this point (or rather at the point we will shortly be) all we have is a Being of Pure Act (BPA). What will follow after that are explorations of the nature of this BPA.
Thomas starts from this very presence regarding things in nature, though he only requires that some are in motion. An apple is moving from green to red; an acorn is moving from nut to tree; a mind is moving from ignorance to assent.
Who said anything about “start”? All the motions mentioned are happening right now, not a zillion years ago.
No, he didn’t. There was a perfectly good Latin word eventum that meant “event.” He (and others) used the word motus to translate the Greek word kinÄ“sis, “a reduction from potency to actuality.” So for example, SchrÃ¶dinger’s cat is in potency with respect to being alive or being dead, and is moved to being actually alive of actually dead by the opening of the container.
Not without eventually equating the SM with God. Don’t forget there are a lot more theorems coming and their conclusions will add up.
You cannot take a definition from one specialty and apply it willy nilly to another specialty. “Simple” means something different to an algebraist than to a topologist than to a pharmacist. In discussing Aristotle’s proof, one ought to use the terms with the meaning they had in the argument.
But which conclusion is there among the postulates:
a) some things in the universe are in kinesis.
b) essentially-ordered chains cannot be infinite.
c) nothing can actualize wrt X that is not itself actually X in either a formal or an eminent sense.
Now we just invoke “Evolutionâ„¢” But you will note that Aristotle (and Aquinas) do not do so here. They are not trying to “explain” motion, but are drawing logical deductions from the fact of motion, regardless what its explanation might be.
Remember that the whole schema of potency and act was developed to explode the idea of Parmenides and Zeno that motion was impossible.
Briggs – I, for one, am enjoying this series and anticipating future installments patiently. I find your explanations fresh and lucid.
YOS – I was wondering if/when you might, um, reduce from potency to act in the conversation here. Always a singular pleasure.
Why would you need an eternal Prime Mover for an eternal universe?
You are thinking in terms of “First”= “first in time”. That was not what was meant. It is more along the lines of “Primary” rather than “First-in-time.” For example: suppose everyone knows the Pythagorean theorem because they were taught the theorem in school by someone who already knew it. They are “taught teachers.” Suppose further that everyone you know or ever will know learned the theorem in this way. Suppose that as far back in history as you can possible go all you can find are “taught teachers.” By logic you must conclude that an “untaught teacher” must exist, even if outside space and time, because the process of teaching does not account for the actual existence of the theorem being taught. There must be something which we might refer to as the First Mathematician.
why would the universe need a cause?
Because the universe is not a thing. It is a set of things. It exists iff any of the things that comprise it exist. For example, per general relativity, space and time do not exist unless mass-energy exists. If matter were to vanish, Einstein said, space and time would vanish with it. There is no “universe” independent of stars, planets, protons, petunias, platypuses, and pretty girls. See Russell’s Paradox.
But let us not get ahead of things. Only the argument from kinesis has been raised. We have not been exposed as yet to the argument from the ordering of efficient causes, so objections to First Cause are premature. We should keep objections focused on First Mover.
I have a competing hypothesis. Instead of one Prime Mover, I have Space, Time and Particles.
As the object of this series of posts is to convert people to believing in Prime Mover, Prime. Mover is a hypothesis too. It must be, otherwise you are saying that I must believe because you are right because you are right. And not because you have a better hypothesis. By stating that you can prove that you are right, you automatically have a hypothesis too.
Well I’d truly be off my rocker if I said Briggs dealt in flattery. Double-bonus points for using kvetch in the same sentence as inveigle, though.
I’ve never been to Rome, but I’m pretty sure it exists — there are many photos taken of famous places by many photographers. Compare 100 photos of the Coliseum taken over a span of a century by different photographers and no one but a blind man or a lunatic would dispute what the photo was showing.
There are no photos of God. Many paintings and accounts of God. Most of which cannot be compared and recognized one for the other.
Scepticism is to be expected, to the point where many will wonder if they’ve been inveigled into believing something in the sense of having been deceived. Kvetching about that isn’t even in the same ballpark as hooting at someone who thinks they can get to Akron from Toledo without first stepping out of their own front door.
Why anyone would want to go to Arkon from anywhere is another story. Anywhere north of Dayton is something I do only if I’ve got family to visit.
Brandon, I was talking about our understanding of movement, motion, the point of Briggs post. No snark. We’re not getting any practical physics from the Bible, hence using practical physics to prove God hasn’t yet been done. An atheist am I.
Ben, the Prime Mover is a wonderful and beautiful argument, but from what we now know about the universe around us, it’s hard to imagine God has anything to do with it. Why there is a universe, a place, a place with stuff in it, we do not know. But we do a lot more now than we did 2000, 3000, 5000, 10,000 years ago. And we have made tremendous strides in science in the past several hundred years. And from what we do know now, when put together with any theology, we glean no practical furthering of our knowledge. I think we’ve gotten all we’re ever going to get from religion.
So the idea is that you would need a Designer for the universe. But if there is no designer needed for the evolutionary tree of life, there is also no designer needed for the evolving universe.
Of course there do exist laws beyond time, we humans discovered them, they are emergent entities, not made up by a creator, they are made up by humans, like all laws are.
And there’s no evidence of design in the universe.
JMJ, sorry, didn’t mean to imply you were snarking. But I most certainly was when I said, ” if we do ever find God, all weâ€™ll be seeing is our own tails.” Just wanted to be clear that my comments following were not snark. Peace my insane atheist brother.
LOL! You too, Brandon.
“Why there is a universe, a place, a place with stuff in it, we do not know. But we do a lot more now than we did 2000, 3000, 5000, 10,000 years ago”
This is simply a false statement, we are nowhere closer to knowing “why,” perhaps we are closer to knowing “how.” And can you please stop confusing and blurring science with metaphysics.
Briggs, since there are 463 chapters in total, if my mental arithmetic has not failed me, are you planning to continue this for about 9 years? One of us my not be around by then. Don’t get me wrong though I look forward to these Sunday sermons. Maybe you have missed your calling.
What do we know about the nature of this God whose existence must be deduced by philosophical proof?
The historical record, studied in total is interesting and revealing.
A core facet of that divine nature was hammered out over nearly 400 years; an effort that included intervention by a Roman emperor and a few formal Church counsels to work out the details & along the way to define a formal creed and reject some heretical variations.
And how did they do? After sorting it all out we can fast forward in our study of history to the present day and, on the above point, learn that the official position is now the “central mystery of Christian faith and life (CCC 234).”
No contradictions there — because where it seems obvious those contradictions are inescapably obvious it is postulated they aren’t — we just don’t get it. It is, officially [says the institution that concocted this] a “mystery.”
E.G., reference: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2014/06/deacon-bickerstaff-most-holy-trinity/
So, how’s that going over in an increasingly educated society?
We’re observing in society an increasing acceptance of scientific mysteries & theories that seem testable, if on limited scales, that offer alternative explanations to existence (e.g. the evidence of space-time, matter/energy wherein a pure vacuum of nothingness can spontaneously spawn matter/energy). These are no less plausible than mindless acceptance of a self-contradictory theological doctrine of God that can only be accepted by asserting it as an un-understandable “mystery.”
Rather than question the historical evidence of authorship, many choose to stick with the officially incomprehensible “mystery” … and with that attack the science that is slowing working out the testable, reproducible, proof of an alternative.
“For example, per general relativity, space and time do not exist unless mass-energy exists. If matter were to vanish, Einstein said, space and time would vanish with it. ”
He did? Where? Because here is some professor sayin that its quite possible to have an empty relativistic universe: http://www.einstein-online.info/spotlights/empty_universes, at the bottom.
There’s also the notion that a black hole is not a thing.
Why is there something rather than nothing? Just because it can. Because if it couldn’t, it wouldn’t.
Actually, it’s a “conclusion.”
Not only that, but all roads lead there.
Why should there be?
Most Late Moderns do not grasp what the argument from actualization really is. They keep confusing it with the physics of local motion.
This confuses theology with a specialized branch of physics, as if the only knowledge that is furthered is the mechanics of local motion.
No, that is a completely different argument, one not covered in Contra gentiles.
Whatever that means. Sounds like “then magic happens.” But we don’t cotton to no magic round here.
That’s the subject of the many subsequent theorems in Contra gentiles. First things first. One mustn’t leap too far ahead.
But it’s not nothing. It’s a pure vacuum plus the power to spawn.
YOS, all roads do lead to Rome, that the Vatican is there may just be coincidence. 🙂 And there shouldn’t be a photo of God if He wants to be hidden, but it is reasonable cause to wonder if He’s there. That is all, good day sir.
I was thinking something more basic and less metaphysical than that. Under none of the conceptions of God is he regarded as reflecting light. One no more expects a photograph of God than an autopsy of an idea.
Ken, I believe you have your physics wrong:
“wherein a pure vacuum of nothingness can spontaneously spawn matter/energy).”
that’s not so.. having published in quantum mechanics, taught courses in quantum mechanics, and got an A in Schwinger’s Advanced QM course, I believe I can speak with authority. The vacuum is not “nothingness”…it has space, extension, there are coordinate and momentum operators, annhilation and creation operators, there are photons existing at a zero-point of energy (whence the fluctuations that give rise to creation of matter)….You’re advancing the simplified view given by those popularizing science (or trying to)..
And as far as mystery goes, I’ll cite two famous theoretical physicists:
Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say no one understands quantum mechanics”
Bernard d’Espagnat: “quantum mechanics cannot describe the world as it really is…through science we can glimpse some of the reality beneath the veil, but much of it remains an infinite, eternal mystery”. (This is a paraphrase of what I remember from his book “On Physics and Philosophy”)
“Most Late Moderns do not grasp what the argument from actualization really is. They keep confusing it with the physics of local motion.”
But local motion is part of the argument, isn’t it? Local motion is a kind of actualisation. And in that case we can show that local motion does not need a single prime mover.
Or, local motion is not actualization. And it also not a potentiality. Which means that you concepts are not all-encompassing, that there are things in the universe not covered by your theory. Which means it cannot explain the universe, in particular the moving stuff.
Request to file this for future reference when Aquinas gets to Scripture.
Genesis 1 (D-R):
26 And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.
27 And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.
In the same chapter, I’m mindful of:
3 And God said: Be light made. And light was made.
4 And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness.
I certainly did not grow up expecting anything less some day:
Which is why when I see, “none of the conceptions of God”, I drill right on into the word “conceptions”.
Thanks for the link to Chastek on Berkeley. Looks like good reads.
Add this to your quote bin if it isn’t already there:
I deeply respect both the man’s work, and his philosophical wisdom. I dearly would have loved to have taken him on in a debate over those final two sentences. I believe I would have learned a great deal from him in doing so.
Stick around, eh? This here agnostic will get your godless delusions properly sorted. 🙂
Curious that the focus of the response remains on the physics. Local motion is indeed a kind of actualization. The object is actually here, but it potentially there (esp. in quantum phenomena). Local motion is the actualization of the objects potential to be “over there.” But the argument from motion is an argument from motion. It is not an attempt to explain the mechanics of motion — although potential and kinetic energy does enter into such mechanics.
The distinction between physics and meta-physics is that the latter explores things that much be true for any physics to exist, whether our own familiar world or some other world following different (but coherent) laws. That is, physics and meta-physics have different proper objects of their study.
They also differ in their methodology. Unlike mathematics, the third great realm of knowledge, they both start their inquiries from empirical experience. But while physics proceeds inductively from facts to theories (and therefore never completely demonstrates any particular theory), metaphysics proceeds deductively from the facts to conclusions about being, causation, and other such matters that the physicist must take for granted in order to do physics at all.
(Mathematics also proceeds deductively, but from axioms or postulates; and regards not real bodies but ideal bodies; that is, the second abstraction rather than the first.)
IOW: the Argument from Motion is not an attempt to discover how motion takes place. (That in fact is settled by the potency-to-act business.)
“But the argument from motion is an argument from motion. It is not an attempt to explain the mechanics of motion â€” although potential and kinetic energy does enter into such mechanics.” That is what you are reduced to after Aristotle’s original ideal was shown to be wrong. He thought that a force (spirit) was required to keep an object in motion, before Newton’s insight. This seems like animism to me although Aquinas has increased the level of sophistication.
“Most Late Moderns do not grasp what the argument from actualization really is. They keep confusing it with the physics of local motion.â€ Perhaps because they do not understand the animistic roots of the problem. Maxwell came closest. 😉
Now you are confusing Aristotle’s book Physics with his other book Metaphysics. You are correct that the rampant animism of the ancient world is a major reason why natural science was stillborn in ancient Greece. We now know that an object is kept in motion by a force or spirit called “inertia,” Latin for “laziness.” Mach’s Conjecture of course is that inertia is simply the vector sum of the gravitational forces of all other bodies in the universe.
“We now know that an object is kept in motion by a force or spirit called â€œinertia,â€ Latin for â€œlaziness.â€ Machâ€™s Conjecture of course is that inertia is simply the vector sum of the gravitational forces of all other bodies in the universe.”
You mean lack of force, but I suppose this is an attempt at humour. I believe that you need advice in this area and so may I recommend your favourite author.
You have mentioned Mach before but you keep forgetting that he was wrong.
Nothing is something, isn’t it?
Otherwise known as “self-awareness”. May I steal it?
Nothing is indeed “the empty set”.
Hard to define sets if one doesn’t exist though, eh?
Physics is the easiest of sciences, that’s why.
Back to the problem at hand. Aristotle was trying to refute Plato’s meta-physics by showing that his meta-physics was at least as logical (I would say consistent) as Plato’s. So according to Aristotle there is a real world, and its existence can be proven rationally.
The Modern thinkers you are referring to do not believe that Plato is right, so for them there is no need to disprove him. And Aristotle’s meta-physics might be logically consistent, but is completely useless when it comes to predicting the exact way an actualization, any actualization happens in this universe. The only thing it says is that actualization is possible. And that is it.
Then , identifying the Prime Mover with the Judeo-Christian-Muslim One God. The problem here is that this family of gods insists on some actualizations, and forbid other actualizations. But each one of them has a different set of actualizations.
As an unbeliever, I firstly cannot see the point of a Prime Mover being bothered by something as trivial as which actualization is right and which one is wrong. And secondly, if there is a preferred set of actualizations, you steel need to prove logically that that set is indeed the preferred one. Thirdly, choosing a preferred set of actualizations seems to me an actualization, which should be impossible for a being that is only potentiality.
The empty set is like unto a bank account with zero balance. It presupposes a whole lot of something (e.g., set theory, or a banking system). That’s the difference between zero and nothing. As long as people are unclear that “nothing” means just what is says, they will continue to find the whole thing incomprehensible, confuse creation with evolution, first mover with big bang, and the cosmological argument with a mechanical theory of local motion.
Some useful readings, all short.
The first way
Whatâ€™s So Great about The Unmoved Mover?
What does the first way explain?
Three notes on the First Way
Eternal movers and mobiles
Sure, and Arithmetic does not predict how or whether your checkbook will balance this month.
Actually, what it says is that, contra Parmenides, motion is possible. Actualization is the manner in which physical motions take place. This abolished the Parmenidean paradoxes and did so without appeal to Plato’s separate realm of Ideals.
+ + +
You’re getting way ahead of the game. Slow down. Briggs is still on the first theorem, and you want to jump to something way down the line.
It’s not clear what you mean by that. What actualizations are you talking about? That human beings cannot actually fly? That cats do not actually give birth to dogs?
Also, pretending that three perspectives on the same thing amount to three separate things does not make it so. How many elephants did the nine blind men perceive? Nine?
Which may only show the limits of your imagination. Many of the problems of Late Modernity stem from over-reliance on imagination at the expense of the intellect.
I think Briggs himself has already jumped way down the line:
â€¦ to be truly scientific, to honestly understand physics, to speak properly of causation and how the universe is run, one must understand God. Because He is there, at base, in everything. He is the root cause of every single thing that happens.
So for the second time now, if the conclusion is axiomatic please explain to me why we shouldnâ€™t be radioing Houston to report an anomaly?
I agree. However you’ve just earned the first ‘sploded irony meter of the day. I see a lot of intellect out there that suffers from lack of imagination. I see a lot of the converse as well. I see far too much uncreative stupidity — this blog is one of my refuges from all that. It very much helps me consider that I’m the artless moron with a severe case of Dunning-Kruger.
The injunction against jumping too far down the line is killing me here. Suffice to say that I’ve not yet met a religion on this orb that didn’t come up lacking in either intellect or creativity. And it’s not just a “Late Modern” issue.
Over, but not out.
Part of the problem here is that everyone knows where it’s all supposed to be headed, and so some react with a visceral rejection of the looming conclusion. Consequently, they raise distractions and objections to points that have not even been addressed. Staring down the road toward a discomfiting end, they stumble over the stones of the present analysis.
There are some items that can be debated, but almost no one has brought them up:
1. We see that some things in the world are in motion (potency->act).
Possible objection: motion is an illusion; Achilles will not catch the tortoise.
2. Everything that is moving is being moved by another.
Possible objection: Some things move by themselves, don’t they? And what about inertia?
3. An essentially-ordered series cannot regress infinitely.
Possible objection: What about an infinitely long sequence of fathers begetting sons? There is no “first begetter” is there?
These would be better objections than “religion is stoopid” or “Muslims have a different ghod” or “You haven’t shown First Mover is Jesus H. Christ” or similar sorts of meanderings.
YOS, thanks for the re-focus.
1. I thought that’s where the discussion of Newtonian relativity vs. Einsteinian special relativity was going. The former leaves time out of the frame of reference. (Gravity plays a part in both, but differently. I don’t how relevant that may be.) This may be a place Aquinas trips up, or not. We shall see.
2. Yes, the objection is that force only imparts acceleration. It may be more appropriate to speak of a Prime Accelerator. Personally I favour thinking of it in terms of a First Accelerator. Or even better an Initial Accelerator. Until shown otherwise, that’s my working assumption.
3. I’ve pointed out several times hither and thither in various threads that a Godless universe suffers from the same problem of infinite regress. I appreciate it that you have also identified it as an issue. I consider it the central problem of existence. My intuition wants a t0, but there’s some nagging logic circuit deep down that says, “BEEEP, error.”
As to your final points, I agree. If this were a neutral philosophy forum, those objections would be clearly right out. But this is not a neutral forum. No criticism here, just plainly stated fact. Since Aquinas is providing the commentary via Briggs, we broadly know what the end conclusion will be. So I have a tough time suppressing my stock objections. I’m trying.
@ YOS: “Part of the problem here is that everyone knows where itâ€™s all supposed to be headed, and so some react with a visceral rejection of the looming conclusion.”
IT’S NOT the looming conclusion people react to…it’s the pretense the analysis is objective when it is not.
Aquinas’ analysis/proof has always had, and still has, its critics and is hardly conclusive.
“If, however, it be moved, it is moved by another mover. …. Therefore it is necessary to postulate an immovable mover.”
Golly, right off one ‘postulates an immovable mover’…later defines that postulated mover “God” and then congratulates himself on the scientific derivation of the existence of that mover/God.
With that postulated God just happening to be precisely the God Aquinas had been believing in from the outset & before (as opposed to some other God, like Allah, or Vishnu, or ….) — and how exactly did Aquinas, after defining that “a God” was there at the start, conclude that it was his (Aquinas’s) God that was THE God, rather than some other God?
He kinda overlooked that eh?
In some circles that is referred to as “circular reasoning.”
1. First error: He does not ‘postulate’ an immovable mover. Specifically, he writes:
Sed non est procedere in infinitum. Ergo necesse est ponere aliquod primum movens immobile.
The key verb is ponere, which means “to put in place, to set; to station.” The usual English translation is “posit,” which has the same meaning. Specifically, it states that since an essentially-ordered series cannot consist of an unending sequence of movers (else nothing would be presently in motion, contrary to empirical evidence), then we must logically posit a primary mover.
2. Second error: Thomas does not simply ‘define’ the unmoved mover as God. He writes: Et hoc dicimus Deum, “and this we call God,” but as to why we call “this” God, there are some 88 further theorems yet to come. Have patience, mon dude.
3. Maybe you could quote the part where he congratulates himself. I missed it.
Among the critiques made against the First Way by actual thinking atheists (as opposed to by reflexive atheists), that it is “circular” has not been included. If this were so it would long ago have been defeated not only by the likes of Anthony Kenny, but by the medieval schoolmen — who took their syllogisms far more seriously than Late Moderns (who tend to weigh arguments by the congeniality of their conclusions). The usual criticisms are leveled against the premises of the syllogism:
a) omne quod movetur, ab alio movetur.
b) sed non est procedere in infinitum.
And some (though not as many), considering Minkowski’s reversion to Parmenides and Zeno, have even objected to:
c) Patet autem sensu aliquid moveri
If you should so desire, simply cross off the phrase Et hoc dicimus Deum (“and this we call God”) and take the rest of the argument simply as concluding to the necessary existence of First Mover. Then from First Mover, you can proceed to further deductions: it is purely actual, it is singular, it is eternal, it is immaterial, all power-full, and so on. After a while you have to ask what it is all adding up to.
(as opposed to some other God, like Allah, or Vishnu, or â€¦.)
Why on earth do you suppose they are “other”? Vishnu is part of a trinity, and not the Godhead itself; but Allah is simply the Syriac/Arabic word for God, cognate with Hebrew Eloh(im). It is used by Arab Christians as well as Arab muslims.
Jezus being a prophet instead of part of the Trinity is surely a different actualization? Or at least a different kind of God? God not being a Trinity is surely a different kind of God?
This is simply going for the weak point immediately. After all, theories are proven to be false so there is not much point in redoing the experiments that do not make it fail.
a) The Hellenization of the name is spelled with a sigma, not a zeta. The deliberate misspelling is a sign of Late Modern times.
b) You do not understand “actualization”. You are confusing it with “conception.”
c) A different conception of God is not a different God, nor a different kind of God. Since logically God is not in a genus (Contra gentiles, I.25) there cannot be more than one. Hence, there are simply differences of opinion on the matter.
The divinity of Jesus is a separate issue from the proof of the Godhead’s existence. That is, whether Jesus was divine or not or, if divine, a hypostasis of the Godhead or not is irrelevant to whether the Godhead exists.
We are presently on I.13. That God is One comes up in I.42. Would you learn geometry by hopping helter-skelter among the theorems in Euclid, or is it better grasped by taking them in some order? Do not complain that from Theorem I you cannot immediately grasp the conclusion of Theorem LIV. But from I you will eventually reach LIV.
The trinitarian arguments in Contra gentiles do not come up until Book IV, ch. 2-26. (though imho they could have been introduced earlier). We simply aren’t there yet.
judging from his name I surmise that Sander is dutch, and in dutch it’s spelled Jezus, an understandable mistake of a non-native english speaker. So no modernism, just culture.
A different Pantheon is a different religion. The trinitarian god is a
The trinitarian god is a chutzpah.
Tell that to Plotinus.
The First Cause argument was debunked 300 years ago. That you should rehash it and present it as rational is quite shocking.
Very well, Avon. Debunk it for us.
I am having trouble understanding the “hierarchical series” of causation as discussed in Ed Feser’s “Five Proof of God”. In particular, the need for the actualization of the potential of existence of things. In other words, I want to understand how to reject Deism and accept God as a sustainer. I need to study this post more carefully later. Another helpful resource I am going through is Father Robert Spitzer’s credible catholic big book (https://www.crediblecatholic.com/the-big-book/).
I am currently trying to finish my PhD in WCM (the fact that you were a professor here gives me a weird sense of amusement) and has been in RCIA (formerly atheist/agnostic brought up in China) since October. Close to making my final decision to be baptized this Easter. Your posts are very useful for both preparing for my future career (as a data scientist) and my intellectual conversion.
When are you gonna publish these as a book as Peter Kreeft did with Summa Theologiae?
I wonder if there are some basic irreducible “elements” whose nature and essence cause all the complexity we encounter in reality. You talked about how we should understanding models and conclusions from them in Uncertainty. But I wonder if there are some practical, general principles for constructing a model (argument). Most of the examples you use are (generalized) linear regressions, while I mostly work with “raw” data (images). Now you said somewhere that constructing models is not supposed to be easy and has to rely on comprehension of nature and essence and done case by case. But I wonder if there are some general principles in understanding the nature or essence of things. For example, it seems to me (though I am not a physicist) that the three most fundamental concepts in the physical world are time, space, and mass (energy). In addition, Will is also fundamental and causes a lot of complexity in economical and social phenomenon. On the other hand, such understanding (if they are correct) does not necessarily help with constructing a model. For example, understanding that color is caused by the movement of electrons in space (or whatever) may not be helpful at all when building models to make some decisions based on colors. At any rate, change truly is fundamental, and a good starting point for an argument for God.