Sunday, June 22, 2014

Roadmap for an Argument for the Existence of God

This is the second in a series of posts setting out an argument for the existence of God.

This post sets out the initial roadmap for the argument for the existence of God that will be set out in later posts. The particular argument I will be using is derived from Robert Spitzer’s New Proofs for the Existence of God and, to a lesser extent, W. Norris Clarke’s The One and the Many. Both are simplified versions of Aquinas’ Second Way, and they do not rely on any particular metaphysical view of the world. Thus, one does not need to accept Aquinas’ metaphysics to find the argument compelling.

The argument will proceed in five major steps. The first step is a proof for the thesis that at least one unconditioned reality exists. As we will see shortly in greater detail, an unconditioned reality is one that does not depend on another reality for its existence. It is an absolute reality that transcends the order of space and time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Introductory Remarks to An Argument for the Existence of God

It is commonly assumed that there is no compelling argument for the existence of God. However, the argument for the existence of God is more compelling than almost any other argument about the fundamental nature of reality. The existence of God is more easily and convincingly demonstrated than the existence of other minds; the independent or objective existence of objects; or the real existence of subatomic particles.

In order to back up these claims, it is necessary to set out an argument for God’s existence. This is the first in a series of posts setting out an argument for the existence of God. The argument I will present is a form of the cosmological argument. The cosmological argument is hardly new. It dates back to ancient Greece, and its characteristic reasoning was set out in the Medieval period.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Is There Such A Thing As Aristotelian-Thomism?

Is there such a thing as an Aristotelian-Thomist tradition? There are a number of philosophers at present who claim to belong to an Aristotelian-Thomist tradition (or A-T), such as Edward Feser, Benedict Ashley, and Charles De Koninck.

It is, of course, true that Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle. Nevertheless, it is not the case that Aristotle and Aquinas were in agreement on all the important fundamentals. Aristotle should not be read as a proto-Thomist, nor Aquinas as a Christian Aristotle. Aquinas sided with the Platonist tradition against Aristotle on some of the most fundamental issues, and Aristotle's own views are often much different than what Thomists make of him.

Aristotle is not a Thomist, Primitive or Otherwise

I'll begin briefly with the mistake of reading Aristotle as a proto-Thomist. It is striking that Aristotle's ousia continues to be referred to as "substance." This is a mistranslation that tends to lead to misunderstanding. Substance etymologically refers to what "stands under" and does not evince the direct relation to being in the manner of ousia. The colloquial notion of "substance" as matter only intensifies this pre-existent problem. Interestingly, earlier Latin translators used "essentia" to translate ousia.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Christ the Cipher

How Christians read the Old Testament has always been a matter of some controversy. Not, however, until the rise of fundamentalism have moral questions about Old Testament the stories of genocide been particularly pressing. Contrary to what one finds in the more brutish anti-religious polemics, it is not the case that Christians have always read the Bible as the straightforward documentation of facts about the past, only retreating in modernity to metaphorical and spiritual readings in modern times.

Fundamentalism, however, is a demonstrably modern phenomenon; whereas sophisticated spiritual, typological, and metaphorical readings of Scripture stretch back to the beginnings of Christian exegesis. In considering how we should read the “hard passages” of the Old Testament, less literal approaches are often the more traditional.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Philosophers Reasoning Badly: Nicholas Everitt

The arguments for the existence of God are almost always misstated in popular atheist literature. Anyone who has endured the works of the neo-atheists knows their grasp of the philosophy of religion to be deficient. 

For example, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins all believe that one premise of the cosmological argument is that "everything has a cause."

Mistakes like that usually indicate that the writer has made no serious effort to understand the debate. No serious theistic thinker has based an argument on the notion that "everything has a cause."

One would hope these sorts of errors would be limited to pop-atheism. The trouble is that these wild misunderstandings keep popping up in the work of respectable philosophers. Graham Priest, for example, is no pamphleteer, but he makes these sorts of elementary mistakes in his short introductory book in logic.

Which brings me to Nicholas Everitt and his book The Non-Existence of God, where one finds this: