Are Abstract Objects A Problem For Non-Theists?

Philosophers have some pretty good arguments for the existence of abstract objects -- immaterial, timeless, spaceless, acausal entities that aren't concrete, such as propositions, properties, possible worlds, numbers, sets, and the like. When I was a Christian and an aspiring apologist, I was prodded to think (by apologist philosophers like J.P. Moreland and Alvin Plantinga) that abstract objects posed a nasty problem for non-theistic views of the world, such as naturalism (the view that the natural world is all there is). I also thought that such immaterial entities could best be explained in terms of God. For Christian philosophers have traditionally taken them to be (roughly) thoughts in the mind of God. Actually, there are a variety of views about the way in which abstract objects are taken to depend on God, but all such views can be classified as versions of what is known as 'theistic activism' -- the view that abstract objects depend on God in one way or another. In light of these sorts of considerations, Christians often use the existence of abstract objects to support theism and critique naturalism. The line of reasoning can be put in any number of ways, but here's a common one (although I seldom hear its proponents make the logic of the argument explicit):

"If you deny the existence of God, then the most plausible alternative view for you to take is the view that the physical world is all there is. For if you thought that non-physical things existed as well, then you'd have to say that they arose from the physical. But nothing but physical entities can arise from the physical; therefore, you'd have to posit something immaterial, and very much like a god, to explain such things. Unfortunately, it's just not true that the physical world is all there is. For there are good reasons to think that abstract objects exist, such as numbers, propositions, possible worlds, moral values, etc. The existence of such things are crying out for explanation, and yet your naturalistic view of reality can't explain them. On the other hand, theism can handle them quite naturally. For God, you see, is an immaterial object, and so his nature bears the required sort of affinity with abstract objects to be able to cause, or in any case explain, their existence. Now a plausible and natural way to account for the relation between God and abstract objects is that of thoughts to a thinker; that is, as divine concepts -- they are the architecture of God's mind, as it were. For concepts, like other sorts of abstract objects, are immaterial. Furthermore, many abstract objects, such as propositions, are inherently representational, as are thoughts and concepts. Therefore, since theism can explain abstract objects quite naturaliiy, and naturalism cannot, abstract objects confirm theism and disconfirm naturalism."

Unfortunately, this argument is pretty terrible. For it turns out that (i) theistic activism is prima facie incoherent, and (ii) the argument relies on the dubious assumption that non-theists should adopt an extremely crude form of materialism. Let's discuss (i) and (ii) in turn.

Regarding (i): theistic activism is incoherent:
If you read the recent philosophical literature on theistic activism, you quickly realize that abstract objects actually pose a very nasty problem for Christian theism. To see this, consider a fairly recent and more-or-less standard critique of theistic activism by philosopher Matt Davidson (his paper is entitled, appropriately enough, "A Demonstration Against Theistic Activism". The paper is online -- you can google it). Here's my gisty summary of his argument:

God can't be the cause of abstract objects, for
*being omnipotent* is both an abstract object and one
of God's essential properties. If so, then it must
exist and be instantiated before God can do anything
at all. But God can't create and instantiate his own
essential properties, for that would require him to be
causally prior to himself, and that's wacko (and you
can just forget about the Thomistic solution of
collapsing the essence/existence distinction for God).
But if at least some abstract objects aren't due to
God's causal activity, then theistic activism is
unmotivated.

Furthermore, most philosophers who accept the existence of abstract objects also think that they exist of metaphysical necessity -- that is, they cannot fail to exist. Or to put it another way, they exist in all possible worlds. Why do they think this? For a number of reasons. Here a two. First, since abstract objects seems to be timeless, spaceless, and acausal, then it would seem that they are immune to the conditions of concrete existence that render the latter contingent (e.g, if they're timeless, then they neither come to be nor pass away; if they're acausal, then they seem immune from things causing them to come to be and pass away, etc.) Second, at least some properties of many sorts of abstract objects seem to hold of logical necessity. So, for example, suppose you are a philosopher who is a realist about numbers -- you think that numbers exist and are abstract objects. Then since it's not just true, but necessarily true that 1+1=2, it's true in all possible worlds that 1+1=2. If so, then it's natural to think that numbers and mathematical propositions exist in all possible worlds (otherwise, there might be a possible world in which '1+1=2' is false). But if so -- and here's the punchline -- abstract objects don't need an explanation for their existence in terms of something beyond themselves. For they can't fail to exist; if the reason why abstract objects exist is because it's metaphysically impossible for them to fail to exist, then one can hardly ask for a better reason for their existence than that (if not, then God is in trouble!).

So it turns out that if you look closely at the doctrine of theistic activism, it turns out to be prima facie incoherent: (a) God's causal activity is necessarily dependent on the prior existence of at least some abstract objects (e.g., the property of being omnipotent), and (b) abstract objects exist of metaphysical necessity, in which case they need no explanation anyway -- Indeed, they can't have an explanation (as we've just seen with an attempt to explain them in terms of God). But if that's right, then theism, no less than crude forms of materialism, can't explain the existence of abstract objects.

Of course, a theist can avoid the problem by just getting rid of the idea that abstract objects depend on God for their existence. After all, as we've just seen, the reasons philosophers have for thinking that they exist at all are equally reasons for thinking that they're necessary beings -- they exist of absolute necessity. If so, then they don't need an explanation in terms of something beyond themselves. So the theist can just say that abstract objects are necessary beings. And if they hold to a traditional doctrine about God at least as ancient as Anselm -- viz., that God is a necessary being -- then they can say that although God is just one of the infinitely many necessary beings, he's nonetheless unique and special in the sense that he's the only one among the infinitely many necessary beings that's a concrete, substantial being. However, they may not like this, since it diminishes the doctrine of God as absolutely sovereign and the creator and sustainer of everything else that exists; for on this revised account, God is neither the creator nor the sustainer of abstract objects.

On the other hand, if they hold (as, e.g., Christian philososopher Richard Swinburne holds) that God isn't a metaphysically necessary being, but rather a factually necessary being -- i.e., that there are possible worlds in which God does not exist, but given that he does exist, he's eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, the creator and sustainer of all else that exists (except for abstract objects) -- then God's greatness seems to be a bit diminished by the fact that abstract objects have a greater kind of existence than God, viz., metaphysically necessary existence.

In either case, though, theists do not have a piece of evidence for theism and against naturalism with the existence of abstract objects. For abstract objects (a) are necessarily existent entities, and thus need no explanation (indeed, this is so even if one accepts the Principle of Sufficient Reason), and (b) theism cannot -- logically cannot -- explain abstract objects in terms of the causal activity of God. What about non-theists, though? Don't abstract objects render their view of reality hopelessly implausible? This brings me to my last point.

Regarding (ii): the argument relies on the dubious assumption that non-theists should adopt an extremely crude form of materialism:

Contrary to what the argument asserts, abstract objects do not pose a problem for non-theists in the least. This is for at least two reasons. First, as we've already seen, if abstract objects exist, then there's excellent reason to think they're necessarily existent entities -- i.e., it's impossible for them to fail to exist. If so, then there's no need to postulate an explanation of their existence. But second, non-theists aren't commited to a crude form of materialism. They need not be commited to the view that the material world is all there is. Rather, they can happily grant the existence of abstract objects. Let me explain this by returning to the argument for a god from the existence of abstract objects.

Recall that a key premise of the argument was that if theism is false, then one must account for everything in terms of physical objects. And the argument for that premise was that only the physical could arise from the physical. But now we can see what's wrong with this inference (at least one of the things). For the non-theist need not explain the existence of non-physical, asbtract objects in terms of the physical if the latter never "arose" at all, but rather are timeless, spaceless, acausal, eternal, necessarily existent entities. A non-theist can hold that all contingent reality is physical, or arose from the physical, all the while serenely granting the existence of abstract, immaterial entities that exist of metaphysical necessity. For again, (i) if abstract objects exist of necessity, then they need no explanation, and (ii) God cannot explain the existence of abstract objects. Thus, the existence of abstract objects pose no problem at all for the non-theist.

To conclude: to the theist who asks me how I explain the existence of abstract objects, I say, "you're falsely assuming that abstract objects need an explanation, as well as that non-theists can only plausibly accept a crude form of materialism. But neither assumption is correct. As to the first assumption, abstract objects can't fail to exist if they exist at all, in which case they're in no need of explanation in terms of something beyond themselves. As to the second, and relatedly, non-theists aren't commited to crude materialism, especially if abstract objects exist of necessity, and thus need no explanation -- much less of an explanation in terms of the material world. But to turn the tables, how can you account for abstract objects? For if you take properties to be abstract objects, then you can't plausibly take them to be explained in terms of the causal activity of God. For God's ability to cause anything is posterior to the existence of at least some properties -- most saliently, in this case, the property of being omnipotent. And if some abstract objects don't depend on the causal activity of God, then what principled grounds can be offered for saying that any must so depend on him? (And if that's right, then what happens to the docrines of absolute creation and sovereignty?) So the argument seems to turn itself on you; abstract objects aren't puzzling in the least for non-theists; they are, however, for theists."

------------------------------------------------------------------------
A Short Bibliography on Theistic Activism
(It should be noted that every philosopher below is a Christian theist)

Bergmann, Michael and Jeffrey Brower. “A Theistic Argument Against Platonism (And In Support of Truhmakers and Divine Simplicity)”. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 2 (2006), 357-386. Available on line here.

Davidson, Matt. “God And Other Necessary Beings” (entry at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available here. See also the bibliography at the end of the article for further readings)

-“A Demonstration Against Theistic Activism”. Religious Studies 35 (1999), pp. 277-290. Available online here.

Morris, Thomas V. and Christopher Menzel. “Absolute Creation”. American Philosophical Quarterly 22 (1985), pp. 353-362.

Plantinga, Alvin. Does God Have A Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980).

-“How To Be An Anti-Realist” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 1982, pp. 47-70.

-“Two Dozen (Or So) Theistic Arguments” Available online here.

102 comments:

Anonymous said...

But you seem to have a problem with the abstract idea of a God who came out of nowhere and can create something from nothing. It really is not that difficult to grasp. Its pretty simple. I mean, adherents of the big bang theory have the same mindset. They do not give an account of what came before the big bang. What made it big, or a bang? How do we know it was big? There are no scales in outer space. There was nothing else to compare it to. What made it a bang as opposed to a splash or a flash or a crash.
These scientist use terms that they are familiar with to describe the event, it is from their point of view and their limited understanding. It is not that these attributes already existed or even are accurate, but they cover the most ground in defining something that is very hard to define. The same goes for people and God.

They say that the Universe is infinite. God created the universe so he is more than infinite. We can not even imagine something being more than infinite. How is that for abstract. Can something be more than infinite? Just because you can not imagine it does not mean that it can not be so.
Say you grew up in a controlled environment. It was an experiment or something. And for the first 15 years of your life you never saw the color red. Red existed, but you could not imagine it, and in fact when you actually saw it, it would be hard for you to even perceive, you might be blind to it, so you would have to take others word that it was real. Booyah baby!

Jim Jordan said...

Quite an impressive bean stalk you've made but unfortunately it isn't rooted in the ground. Here's your first big problem:

For God, you see, is an immaterial object, and so his nature bears the required sort of affinity with abstract objects to be able to cause, or in any case explain, their existence

Note the definitions for "immaterial".
1. of no essential consequence; unimportant.
2. not pertinent; irrelevant.
3. not material; incorporeal; spiritual.

Then you say, "Unfortunately, this argument is pretty terrible" [!] which begs the question "No sh*t, where did you get it from?" :-D

God can't be the cause of abstract objects [and that is because...?], for
*being omnipotent* is both an abstract object
[having unlimited power is abstract?] and one
of God's essential properties.



If so, then it must
exist and be instantiated before God can do anything
at all.


Does God need an omnipotence license?

But God can't create and instantiate his own
essential properties, for that would require him to be
causally prior to himself, and that's wacko


Wacko?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this just the same old "Who created God?" argument? If we say God is the uncaused cause, then is that an abstract idea? Or is it an abstract idea to us because we simply can't grasp it?

And if *some* abstract objects don't depend on the causal activity of God, then what principled grounds can be offered for saying that *any* must so depend on him?

How would you show that "abstract objects don't depend on the causal activity of God"? Christians maintain that God is the uncaused cause of everything in the universe and, as anon pointed out, it had a Big Bang beginning, then how could anything NOT depend on God for its existence?

The "and ifs" aren't leading anywhere because your case has a few too many ifs and more than one total disconnect along the way [makes the argument immaterial in my opinion]. You've gotten some theistic feedback and I am curious what other atheists would say about your arguments. Hasta la vista.

openlyatheist said...

I’ve often thought of starting an ‘atheist blog’ for myself. However, I think it would be more fruitful for me to start a ‘physicalism blog’ as this “abstract objects” nonsense is what keeps me away from the philosophy board on IIDB. Good post E.

Jim Jordan wrote:
How would you show that "abstract objects don't depend on the causal activity of God"? … then how could anything NOT depend on God for its existence?

Holy missed paragraphs Batman! Exapologist basically answered this question when he wrote:

For God's ability to cause anything is posterior to the existence of at least *some* properties -- most saliently, in this case, the property of being omnipotent. And if *some* abstract objects don't depend on the causal activity of God, then what principled grounds can be offered for saying that *any* must so depend on him?

Jim Jordan said...

Hi openly,
I didn't miss that paragraph. I read it about 10 times (and I reprinted it). It doesn't make any sense to me. Perhaps you could help me by translating it into common sense. Regards.

Anonymous said...

You can't have abstract objects without a mind. Since there is an infinite number of them then they have to exist in an infinite mind. There's too many of them to go arround.

exapologist said...

Thanks, Openly!

Hi Jim,
To set the stage for that paragraph: theistic activistm is the view that abstract objects are somehow explained in terms of God -- e.g., that they are logically or conceptually or causally *dependent* on God (It turns out that *causal* dependence is the most plausible version of dependence here. See the link to Davidson's "Demonstration Against Theistic Activism" for an argument for this in my short bibliography at the end of my post ). *Properties* -- e.g., being tall, being red, being a male, etc. -- are among the abstract objects claimed to be dependent on God. Unfortunately, *being omnipotent* is *itself* a property. If so, then it can't be causally dependent on God (on any plausible construal of causal dependence), for the property must exist and be in place in God's being before he can do some causing. It therefore follows that at least *some* abstract objects aren't causally dependent upon God. But if so, then the theistic activism is unmotivated as a *theory* or *account* of the existence and nature of abstract objects. For then we lose any principled basis for saying that *any* abstract objects are dependent on God: if it must be admitted that *some* abstracta do just fine in the "existing* department without God's help, then why think that *any* need his causal help?

Of course, we can't rule it out a priori as impossible that some do depend on God, but then we've moved from the task of using abstract objects as confirming *evidence* for God's existence to the task of showing that theistic activism can be made (with some concessions) *compatible* with the existence of abstract objects.

Hi Anon,
I can't be sure, but it sounds like you're asserting a fragment of one of William Lane Craig's arguments for God based on a conceptualist account of abstracta (which he, in turn, got from Plantinga). To set the context for a reply, we need to spell out the whole argument -- at least in rough summary form. So here goes:

For millenia, philosophers have debated the existence of abstracta like universals. However, on a common and traditional account, abstracta are timeless, spaceless and acausal. But in the 60s and 70s, a philosopher at Princeton named Paul Benacerraf wrote a couple of influential papers that argued that if such entities really were acausal (due to their timeless, spaceless, inert nature), then knowledge of them would be impossible; for knowledge requires causal contact, however faint and indirect, with the thing known (though I should note that this claim is hotly disputed among philosophers. For example, Benacerraf based his argument on an externalist/reliabilist theory of knowledge, which is itself a matter of much dispute among epistemologists. Also, a number of philosohers point out that his argument only applies to what's called 'knowledge de re', and not 'knowledge de dicto'.) Now a very old view about such entities is that they're concepts -- specifically, *human* concepts (This is a sort of variation of nominalist accounts of such entities). But Plantinga has argued that such a view is on the right track, since it gets around Benacerraf's objection, but that it doesn't get around the worry (and *this* is where your point comes in) that since there are infinitely many such entities (e.g., there are infinitely many numbers -- indeed, non-denumerably infinitely many), then there are too many to account for them in terms of *human* concepts. Therefore, we should construe such entities as *divine* concepts/mental entities. So the reasoning can be summed up as follows: certain philosophical arguments push us to realism about certain entities like universals (e.g., an abductive argument to realism about universals as the best explanation of the phenomena of resemblance, predication, and abstract reference), and numbers, sets, propositions, and possible worlds (e.g., by Quinean "indispensability" arguments). But Benecerraf's argument push us to construe them as not outside space, time, and causal influence in genereal, but rather as concepts. And finally, the infinity of such entities pushes us to a *theistic* form of conceptualism.

But again, the problem with this account is that it can't account for, e.g., the property of omnipotence. For it, too, is a property. So on the hypothesis of theistic conceptualism, it, too is one of God's concepts, dependent on the causal activity of his own mind. But this can't be right, for this makes omnipotence posterior to the instantiation of God's essence (since omnipotence is one of his essential properties)! The property must exist and be in place in God's being before *anything* can be dependent upon his mental activity. So again, abstract objects can't be grounded in God's causal activity.

Regards, EA

Anonymous said...

God has always been omnipotent and has always known He is omnipotent.

Truths exist in absolute time. (metaphysical time)

exapologist said...

Well, of course. The issue isn't whether God's always been omnipotent. Nothing about what I've said denies that. The relevant sorts of dependence relations at issue don't involve one thing being temporally prior to another. One thing could be causally prior to another in the sense in question, and yet neither one precedes the other in time. So, for example, to use an example from C.S. Lewis, a book's position could be causally posterior and dependent on a desk, even if the book and the desk are eternal. Similarly, God's existence ande his ability to do anything (broadly) logically possible could be posterior to and dependent upon the existence and instantiation of the property of being omnipotent, even though both he and his abilities are just as eternal as the property. The problem doesn't lie there, but rather with *what is depedendent on what*. The theistic activist has the relation of dependence inverted -- they have God's attributes dependent upon his causal activity (i.e., they have God's omnipotence depend on his having a concept of omnipotence), instead of the other way around.

To come at it a little differently, go back to Lewis' analogy of the eternal book resting eternally on the eternal desk. Now what if someone told you that the existence and position of the desk was dependent on the existence and position of the book? Wouldn't you say that the person got the order of dependence precisely backwards? Similarly, the theistic activist has the order of depdendence precisely backwards when it comes God's causal power and the existence (and instantiation) of the property of omnipotence. For on the account in question, properties depend on God in the same way as thoughts depend on a thinker. So on this account, the property of being omnipotent depends upon God having the concept of omnipotence(!). But of course, that gets things precisely backwards; the property of being omnipotent must exist and be instantiated in order for God to do any conceptualizing at all.

Regards,

EA

david ellis said...


Truths exist in absolute time. (metaphysical time)



define absolute time and metaphysical time.

Jim Jordan said...

Thanks for restating that, ea.

We need to separate God's actions from his attributes. That is, God is omnipotent even if he doesn't always exercise his power. After all, how powerful is God if he doesn't have free will. He would be a slave to his own omnipotence, probably destroying the universe that he had just created to show he could do it.

The problem doesn't lie there, but rather with *what is depedendent on what*. The theistic activist has the relation of dependence inverted -- they have God's attributes dependent upon his causal activity (i.e., they have God's omnipotence depend on his having a concept of omnipotence), instead of the other way around.


This is a sensible critique. An example of a theistic activist getting tangled in this web would add a lot. But I see a parallel with the "God sent your cancer" argument. Since he is omnipotent, everything powerful that happens comes from him even if it is God-awful.

Yet it is not a necessity that an eternal, omnipotent God sent your cancer. I might be going off on a tangent but I'm trying to zero in on a flesh-and-bones scenario here. Now if we were to say that the cancer was not God's will, I don't see how that disqualifies God from existence. The biblical scenario is that the world is full of brokenness, or sin, which can account for your cancer [I'm not eliminating the idea that he could send a cancer].

I think we limit God when we see his attributes as mandatory. This is not reflected in the nature of his alleged greatest creation, humans. We have free will. If everything good AND bad comes from God then we are saying that God lacks the same free will to act or not to act that we enjoy. That is not logical, and portrays God more as a computer program. As far as dependence goes, there is the point that a creator God's creation would be dependent on him, but that doesn't mean that every action need be God-inspired. The idea of "God is sovereign" is literally "God over rules". He can over rule anything; he's omnipotent, you know.:-)

The Lord says in Gen. 18:10 - "I'll be back next year". He soon leaves and doesn't return until the same time the next year. He reserves for himself the right to do nothing if he wills.

This begs the question what would God have been doing before creation? Nothing? Hanging around? Having fun? Probably. Thomas Merton wrote that we are like God in that our core being is engaged in nothing more than mere being. Our destiny then is to be totally useless!

Now if that's not a great recruiting theme for theism I don't know what is. (Let me know if I didn't follow your thread.)

Ciao.

exapologist said...

Hi Jim,

I'm not sure I'm following your reply. Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but I take it that your main point was the one at the beginning, so let's go slowly through that one:

First, you rightly point out that there's a difference between the existence of God and the attributes of God. So far, we're in agreement.

Then, you rightly point out that God can exist without exercising the capacities that correspond to (or are identical to) the relevant attributes. About this, too, we're in agreement.

But after this, I think the disagreement begins. For although you don't spell out this implication, I think you want to say that **attributes don't exist when the capacities that correspond to (or are identical to) them aren't exercised.** The reason I think you're implying this is because it's the only way I can charitably construe your remarks as a reply to my previous comments. For with this implication, you can then say that God *is* -- or at least can be -- causally prior to his attributes, contrary to what I'm claiming. (However, if I'm misunderstanding you, please let me know.)

In any case, while I agree with you that God's attribute of omnipotence is properly analyzed in terms of the capacity to do whatever is broadly logically possible (leaving aside subtle qualifications for the sake of discussion), I think that (i) this capacity exists whether or not it's exercised, and (ii) without the capacity in place in the being of God, he wouldn't be able to act in all the ways that an omnipotent being could, even if he wanted to and tried to do so.


This sort of account of capacities has a long philosophical pedigree, going back to at least Aristotle. But putting authority or tradition aside, the account of capacities I'm putting forward seems to apply to other, more humdrum cases involving capacities, or the lack thereof. So, for example, when someone has the property of being a Japanese-speaker, they have the capacity to speak Japanese (and thus the attribute/property is present) even when they're not exercising it. But when someone lacks the capacity/attribute to speak Japanese, they're unable to speak the language, even if they want to, and even if they try. It seems to me that the only way to make sense of this sort of phenomenon is to say that properties that are capacities can exist even when they're not exercised, and that the ability to exercise the capacity is posterior to its presence in a thing.

If this is right, then it seems to me that your reply doesn't work. Perhaps, though, I've misinterpreted you?

Sincerely,

EA

Jim Jordan said...

Hi EA
It seems to me that the only way to make sense of this sort of phenomenon is to say that properties that are capacities can exist even when they're not exercised, and that the ability to exercise the capacity is posterior to its presence in a thing.

There is one difference. God would be different in that he has the capacity to do anything, no training is necessary. I don't think being able to speak Japanese is not analogous to being omnipotent. Omnipotence would have always existed in God, who has always existed.

Correct me if I'm wandering again.

exapologist said...

Hi Jim,

I think you're right that there's a distinction between learned and unlearned capacities, but I don't think it's a distinction that matters in this case. For what matters, it seems to me, is what is dependent on what. Thus, I agree that omnipotence is an unlearned capacity; nor did it require a period of development before its instantiation in the being of God. But it seems to me that the problem remains: granted, the attribute of omnipotence in God has been around just as long as God has been around (assuming he's *been* around ;-)), but if theistic activism were true, then the existence of properties would still have to be causally posterior to/dependent upon the prior instantiation of at least one property, viz., God's omnipotence.

Now of course, none of this shows that God doesn't exist, or anything of that sort -- perhaps God exists, and perhaps he's just as eternal and necessarily existent as abstracta. All it shows that the existence of abstracta can't be appealed to in a good argument for theism.

Sincerely,

EA

Anonymous said...

God's omnipotence has always been there. God didn't create His own omnipotence.

exapologist said...

I agree, but that's precisely the problem; he's *not* the cause of properties at all; so whether or not God exists, the existence of properties, or any other sort of abstracta, provide zero evidence for God's existence. If there is evidence for God's existence, it's to be found somewhere else entirely.

Jim Jordan said...

Hi Ea
All it shows that the existence of abstracta can't be appealed to in a good argument for theism.


I agree that there are problems with the argument that since people generally agree that beating babies is bad, then God must exist. One could say just as easily that people don't like that behavior because they would not want that to happen to their child, self-interest, as saying that God must have set this in stone in our hearts. I think it is a far better case for God to focus on how we can process any of our thoughts to begin with. The alternative, that matter organized itself into consciousness, is, for me, untenable. That is where we would disagree (no surprise there:-).

But I would agree that the existence of abstracta provides no conclusive (wouldn't say zero) evidence for God.

That's where I stand. Thanks for the thoughtful responses.

exapologist said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments as well, Jim. I agree that consciousness is a better place to look for an argument for theism.

All the best,

EA

Anonymous said...

God has always existed and truth had always existed in His mind. Always. You can't have truth without a mind. God has always known true propositions. God has always known that God is omnipotent. God doesn't have to exist before omnipotence and then bring omnipotence into existence. To be causally conected to something doesn't mean that you have to exist temporally prior to the object and then bring it into existence.

exapologist said...

Please go back and read my comments. I *agree* that God need not be *temporally* prior to properties in order to be *causally* prior to them, just as an eternal table could be causally but not temporally prior to a book that's been laying on it for eternity. That's not where the problem lies. The problem is that God's property of omnipotence must causally prior (although, again, not temporally prior) to his thinking of omnipotence -- the *act* of thinking the thought is causally dependent upon the the instantiated *property* of being a thinker. But then at least *some* properties are *not* causally grounded in God's thinking.

Anonymous said...

True propositions are grounded in God's mind. They always have been.

exapologist said...

I will be happy to change my mind if given a good argument. Perhaps you have one, or perhaps you can point me to the literature for such an argument?

In the meantime, consider the " eternal book and table" case again. Suppose someone were to claim that the position of the desk were causally (though again, not temporally) posterior to and dependent upon the position of the book. Wouldn't you say that the asertion has it backwards? Clearly, the position of the book is causally dependent on the position of the desk, and not vice-versa.

Similarly, to say that God's omnipotence is causally dependent upon his having a concept of omnipotence is to have it backwards: God's having a concept of omnipotence is causally dependent upon his being omnipotent. But if so, then at least some propertiies are causally independent of the thinking of God.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm talking about true propositions and mathematical truths.
Truth requires a mind
Truth exists
Truth is eternal
If everything were to cease to exist it would be TRUE that everything ceases to exist.
So, there must be an eternal mind that grounds truth.
God is the truth.

exapologist said...

Your argument is interesting. Plantinga has given an argument of this sort, as has Ronald Nash (both of whom got it from Augustine). I think if you tweak the wording a little and add some modal operators, you've got a deductively valid argument. However, I'm not seeing why I'm supposed to accept (1). Perhaps you have an argument for it?

Regards,

EA

Anonymous said...

Truth requires a mind
Truth exists
Truth is eternal
If the whole physical universe ceases to exist then it would be TRUE that nothing physical exists.

So, there must exist an eternal mind.
God is the truth

exapologist said...

Hi Anon,

It looks like you might have accidentally hit the "publish" button twice. In my last comment, I asked for the reason why I'm supposed to accept (1).

EA

exapologist said...

Sorry, in a previous draft of my comment, I had your premises numbered. My question was, what is the reason for thinking that truth requires a mind?

Logismous Kathairountes said...

Here's how I think of such things. (If someone would tell me what this is called, I'd be grateful.):

If an author writes a book, he can write whatever he wants, even if it goes against the principle of non-contradiction, or any other abstract principle. If he does this, like if he makes 1 + 1 = 3, the book will still be the book, and the author will still be the author, and anything written in the book will be totally real from the perspective of anything else written in the book. I could do a rewrite of The Three Musketeers where there are actually 12 guys because, in my book, 3 + 1 = 12. For them, that would be as true as anything else in the book.

Right? I'm thinking of the difference between different mathematical systems, like Euclidean vs. Loebachevskian (spelling?).

So if God is like an author, His ability to write anything He wants comes prior to every abstract principle at work in the book/universe. That ability, from His perspective, may be causally dependent on any number of things, but for us in the book it's not. For us in the book, God's ability to write whatever He wants isn't even necessarily an abstract principle, since He could write that He couldn't write whatever He wanted, and for us that would be true and real, even though it would be a lie from His perspective.

It makes sense to me (although it does somewhat confuse the question of God's existence) and it seems to solve the questions being raised here. I'm sure somebody's thought of this before me - Anybody know what it's called?

Anonymous said...

Ronald Nash summerizes Clark's argument like this:

Truth is Mental

The existence of truth presupposes the existence of minds. Without a mind truth could not exist. The object of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning, a significance; it is a thought. For Clark, the existence of truth is incompatible with any materialistic view of man. If the materialist admits the existence of conciousness at all, he regards it as an effect and not a cause. For a materialist, thoughts are always the result of bodily changes. This materialism implies that all thinking, including logical reasoning, is merely the result of mechanical necessity. But bodily changes can be neither true or false. One set of physical motions cannot be truer than another. Therefore, if there is no mind there can be no truth; and if there is no truth materialism can't be true. Likewise, if there is no mind, there can be no such thing as logical reasoning from which it follows that no materialist can provide a valid argument for his position. No reason can possibly be given to justify an acceptance of materialism. Hence, for Clark, any denial of the mental nature of truth is self-stultifying. In Clark's words,

If a truth, a proposition, or a thought were some physical motion in the brain, no two persons could have the same thought. A physical motion is a fleeting event numerically distinct from any other. Two persons cannot have the same motion, nor can one person have it twice. If this is what thought were, memory and communication would be impossible....It is a peculiarity of mind and not the body that the past can be made present. Accordingly, if one may think the same thought twice, truth must be mental. Not only does truth defy time it defies space as well, for if communication is to be possible, the identical truth must be in two minds at once. If, in opposition, anyone wished to deny that an immaterial idea can exist in two minds at once, his denial must be concieved to exist in his own mind only; and since it has not registered in any other mind, it does not occur to us to refute it.

exapologist said...
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exapologist said...

I can't tell you how eerie this conversation is to me. For I used to give this very same argument to non-theists when I was a Christian. As a once-aspiring apologist, I recall fondly reading Nash's book, Faith and Reason, from which this argument is quoted (in my version, this argument occurs on pp. 161-164, just before his exposition of Plantinga's version). So I can sympathize with you here.

Unfortunately, I fear there's less than meets the eye with the two key points in this passage. But before I comment on it, let me re-state your previous argument below for ease of reference, this time numbering premises and conclusion:

1. Truth requires a mind
2. Truth exists
3. Truth is eternal
4. If the whole physical universe ceases to exist then it would be TRUE that nothing physical exists.
-----
5. So, there must exist an eternal mind (viz., God's).

First, I don't think you'll want to assert that truth (i.e., propositions that accurately represent their subject matter) presupposes the existence of a mind. For then your argument can be turned on its head: If nothing existed -- not even God -- then contrary to the premise you asserted in a previous comment, it would *not* still be true that nothing exists (because then there would then be no propositions in existence to *be* either true or false, since not even God's mind would exist to sustain them). But then one of your key premises -- viz., premise (4) -- goes false.

But of course, I think (and I think you might well agree) that this is an absurd result. For I think that if neither God nor the physical world existed, it would still be *true* that neither it nor the world doesn't exist. (This is because, as I stated in my original post, I'm a platonist about propositions; I think they're immaterial, timeless, spaceless, acausal abstract entities that exist of metaphysical necessity). Unfortunately, though, this would make a different key premise in your argument go false, viz., premise (1) -- the one that states that truth presupposes or requires a mind.

So I think we have a nasty dilemma here:

1. It's possible that neither God nor the world existed.
2. If it's possible that neither God nor the material world existed, then either (a) it would be *true* that no God or material world existed, or (b) it would be neither true nor false (since then no propositions would exist to *be* true or false).
3. If (a), then truths don't depend on God's mind, in which case premise (1) of The Argument from Truth is false.
4. If (b), then premise (4) of The Argument from Truth is false.
-----
5. Therefore, either truths don't depend on God's mind, in which case premise (1) of The Argument from Truth is false, or premise (4) of The Argument from Truth is false.


Now of course, you could deny (1), on the grounds that it's not possible for God to fail to exist (since he's a necessary being). But then the justification of one of the premises of the Argument from Truth would depend upon the prior rational acceptance of the ontological argument (or some other argument that has as its conclusion the existence of a necessarily existent, omniscient mind), in which case it's not an independent argument for God's existence. But if one had an argument like that in hand, then the Argument from Truth would be superfluous.

Also -- and this is my criticism of the second main point in the quoted passage -- the argument thinks it's somehow a problem for the non-theist if they can't account for the existence of propositions in terms of the physical. But as I've already argued in my original post, this is false. For a non-theist need not hold to such a crude form of materialism. For we need not hold that abstract objects arose from the physical *if they never arose at all* -- i.e., if they are necessarily existent entities.

exapologist said...

Sorry for the lack of paragraph spacing and separating out numbered arguments. These problems weren't present in my revised Word document version of my reply. Something must have been lost in the "cut-n-paste" process.

Anonymous said...

It would be self contradictory to deny the eternality of truth. If the world will never cease to exist, it is true that the world will never cease to exist. If it will one day perish then that is true. If truth were to perish then it would be true that truth has perished.

Truth Exists
Truth is eternal
Truth is mental

Truth must exist in an eternal mind. God is truth.

exapologist said...

HI Anon,

I just addressed these assertions in my previous comment.

-EA

Anonymous said...

Truth exists - to deny the existence of truth is self-contradictory. It's true that truth doesn't exist

Truth is eternal - If truth were to perish then it would be true that truth has perished. Truth will abide even if the created world perishes.

Truth is mental - As shown above.

Since truth is eternal it must exist in an eternal mind. God must be truth. God cannot not exist. He's eternal. He is truth.

exapologist said...

I'm not sure how you'd like me to respond; perhaps I should just re-state some of what I've already said? Ok, here's one point:

I can't rule it out that there's a possible world in which God doesn't exist. Now suppose such a world is possible, and call it 'W'. Is it *true* in W that God doesn't exist? If so, then your premise that truth is essentially depedendent on minds (or, a Mind), is false.

But suppose you want to argue that there is no suchc world, on the grounds that God is a necessary being, in which case there is no possible world in which God does not exist. That may or may not be so (though I doubt that it is so), but the Argument from Truth doesn't establish that God is a necessary being, but rather assumes it. So we'll need an independent argument to establish that God is a necessary being -- say the ontological argument, or the Leibnizian cosmological argument. But even if you had a successful argument like that -- one that is both sound, and it's more reasonable for a non-theist to accept all its premises than to reject them or suspend judgement -- then the Argument from Truth would be superfluous; if you have one of those other arguments in your pocket, you will have demonstrated the existence of God wholly apart from The Argument From Truth.

Sincerely,

EA

Anonymous said...

My argument doesn't assume God's existence.

It is self-contradictory to deny the existence of truth.
It is self-contradictory to deny the eternality of truth.
It was also shown that it is self-stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth.

Truth exist
Truth is eternal
Truth is mental

Since truth is eternal then it must exist in an eternal mind. God is truth. It's impossible for God not to exist.
The argument is an argument from the nature of truth.

Anonymous said...

Also,

If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being then the being isn't a necessary being. It's a contingent being.

exapologist said...

I've already responded to this. Look, your argument has a premise that asserts that truth (i.e., propositions that accurately represent their subject matter) is inherently mental. But I'm offering a worry about that premise with the following possible scenario that I can't rule out with the evidence I currently have, viz, a possible world in which God does not exist, and yet it's *true* that God does not exist. If this is indeed possible (and again, I don't have evidence to rule it out) then it follows that truth is *not* dependent on mind. So I need an independent argument for thinking that God is a necessary being.

Anonymous said...

If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being then it is not a necessary being. It is a contingent being. A necessary being cannot not exist. It must exist.

Anonymous said...

My argument doesn't rely on modal logic anyway.

Just to be generous the argument shows that God is possibly instantiated. There is a possible world where God exists. Therefore, God exists in every possible world.

God exists.

exapologist said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see no premise in your argument that shows that God is possibly instantiated. But in any case, *that's* not what you'd need to show that God exists in every possible world. To show that, you'd need to show that it's possible that there's a being -- in particular, a god -- that exists in every possible world. Unfortunately, there's no argument out there that does that.

Even if there were, notice that that's a separate issue from whether *the argument from truth* is a successful piece of natural theology, apart from having other arguments for God. If the argument requires the prior acceptance of (say) the ontological argument, then it's superfluous. For you'd have already demonstrated God's existence without it. But that's the issue under discussion in this thread.

exapologist said...

Sorry for the sloppiness and imprecision of expression-- I'm starting to type things out too fast.

Anonymous said...

If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being then it is not a necessary being. It is a contingent being. A necessary being cannot not exist. It must exist. Therefore, a necessary being exists and it exists in every possible world.

exapologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exapologist said...

If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary sandwich then it is not a necessary sandwich. It is a contingent sandwich. A necessary sandwich cannot not exist. It must exist. Therefore, a necessary sandwich exists and it exists in every possible world.

Anonymous said...

Nope. We're talking about necessary being not necessary sandwich.

Anonymous said...

I can conceive of the non-existence of the physical universe. I can't conceive of the non-existence of necessary being. If I could it wouldn't be necessary being. It must be.

Anonymous said...

Also, the idea of a necessarily existent sandwich seems incoherent. As a necessary being it would have to exist in every possible world. But a sandwich which could exist in a possible world where the universe is composed wholly of a singularity of infinite space-time curvature, density and temperature just isn't a sandwich. An immaterial being could transcend such physical limitations and be conceived as necessarily existent.

exapologist said...

The argument you gave was:

“If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being then it is not a necessary being. It is a contingent being. A necessary being cannot not exist. It must exist. Therefore, a necessary being exists and it exists in every possible world.”

So if we try to standardize your argument, we get:

1. If you can conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being, then it is not a necessary being, but a contingent being.
2. A necessary being cannot not exist: it must exist.
--------------
3. Therefore, a necessary being exists and it exists in every possible world.

But premise (1) isn’t doing any work; (3) follows from (2) all by itself. Furthermore, (2) says the same thing twice, but in different words: to say that something cannot not exist is just is to say that it must exist. So we can simplify it as follows:

1’. A necessary being must exist.
2. Therefore, a necessary being exists and it exists in every possible world.

But (1’) is just another way of saying that a necessary being exists in all possible worlds. So we can revise (1’), in which case your argument becomes:

1’’. A necessary being exists in all possible worlds.
2. Therefore, a necessary being exists and it exists in all possible worlds.

Well, wait: If the conclusion tells us that a being exists in all possible worlds then we already know that it exists; so we can simplify the argument further to say:

1’’. A necessary being exists in all possible worlds.
2’. Therefore, a necessary being exists in all possible worlds.


Uh-oh. That can’t be the argument you meant to assert. For arguments don’t get any more circular than that – it just re-asserts the premise in the conclusion. But then nobody who doesn’t already accept the conclusion will accept the premise. Perhaps you wanted to argue something along the following lines:

1. It’s possible that a necessary being exists.
2. If it’s possible that a necessary being exists, then a necessary being exists.
3. Therefore, a necessary being exists.


Is this the argument you were trying to assert? If so, then although it’s valid, I have no idea if it’s sound. I have no problem with premise (2), since it’s just an instantiation of Axiom S5, and I accept S5 modal logic. Rather, the premise that I don’t know to be true is (1), viz., that it’s possible that a necessary being – a necessary substance – exists.

Why are we supposed to accept (1)? Because it’s conceivable, and because whatever is conceivable is possible? If so, then the argument becomes:

1. It’s conceivable that a necessary being exists.
2. Whatever is conceivable is possible.
3. Therefore, it’s possible that a necessary being exists.
4. If it’s possible that a necessary being exists, then a necessary being exists.
5. Therefore, a necessary being exists.

But my worry is then with both (1) and (2). For a big chunk of my doctoral dissertation is on modal epistemology – on how, and whether inferences from conceivability to possibility are justified, and if so, how – and I can tell you that such an inference is not very reliable.

But in any case, as I mentioned a moment ago, I’m worried about (1) as well – I’m not sure if I have a conception of a necessary being. For I can also conceive of a world in which no gods exist at all; if so, then if I were to agree with you that (2) is true, I should infer that it’s possible for there to be no gods at all. But then it would follow that there is no necessary being, which undermines any intuition about (1) I might have had. Thus, I can construct an argument for the non-existence of a necessary being as follows:

1’. It’s conceivable that no gods exist.
2. Whatever is conceivable is possible.
3’. Therefore, it’s possible that no gods exist.
4’. If it’s possible that no gods exist, then no necessary being exists.
5’. Therefore, no necessary being exists.


So what am I to do? My basis for accepting (1) is exactly the same as my basis for accepting (1’), viz., my ability to conceive the state of affairs they describe. So if (2) is true – if everything conceivable is possible – then both (3) and (3’) are true. But that can’t be right; for if (3) is true, then (3’) is false. And if (3’) is true, then (3) is false. Therefore, it looks as though (2) is false as stated.

Now I’m not a complete modal skeptic: I think that at least some inferences from conceivability to possibility are valid. So I’m committed to some qualified version of (2), something that adds substantive content to the following schema:

(CP) Whatever is conceivable in the right way is possible.

The trick is to spell out a plausible, defensible account of “conceivable in the right way”. There are a lot of accounts out there (James Van Cleve’s, Stephen Yablo’s, David Chalmers’, Peter Kung’s, mine….). Unfortunately, all of the versions on offer are too stringent to allow your key premise (1) to pass as “conceivable in the right way”. Pending a better account that countenances (1), but not (1’), as conceivable “in the right way”, it looks as though the we’ve hit a stalemate.

Anonymous said...

I was just trying to state the conclusion in different words. I wasn't trying to be circular.

You cannot conceive the non-existence of necessary being. If you could it wouldn't be necessary being. It would be contingent. Necessary being cannot not be. It must be.

Anonymous said...

First I showed that it is self-contadictory to deny the existence of truth and the eternality of truth and that it is also self-stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth. I concluded to an eternal mind. Then I gave you the benefit of the doubt and said it at least makes God's existence metaphysically possible. There is a possible world where God exists. Therefore, He exists in every possible world. God exists.
Then I came to the conclusion that a necessary being must exist because it is inconceivable that a necessary being not exist.
A necessary being must exist. It cannot not exist. I can't conceive of it's non-existence. If I could it would not be a necessary being it would be contingent being.

I think we must conclude that a Necessary Being exist. We have no choice.

exapologist said...

I see -- thank you very much for that clarification.

I certainly agree with you that the definition or concept of a necessary being is a being that exists in all possible worlds. However, we still must ask whether anything satisfies that definition or concept.

I don't think you mean to assert it this way, but it comes off as if you're defining God into existence. Now there are definitional versions of the ontological argument, but I'm not sure if anyone defends them today. For most would say that it's always an open question whether anything satisfies the definition. Thus, suppose Isay that superunicorns are unicorns that exist. If so, then it's incoherent to conceive of the non-existence of a superunicorn -- anyone who conceived a unicorn not existing wouldn't be conceiving a *superunicorn*, since all such beings exist.

I might be wrong about this, but I think that you might be unconsciously sliding back and forth from a definitional to a modal ontological argument. For sometimes when I press the objection to the definitional ontological argument (e.g., with my "sandwich" argument), you bring up replies relevant to the modal ontological argument (you bring up issues about conceivability and possibility -- or so it seems to me anyway). But when I press an objection to the modal ontological argument (e.g., my "no-gods world" argument), you bring up replies relevant to the definitional ontological argument (back to the "you can't conceive of the non-existence of a necessary being, since any such conceiving must by definiton involve only a contingent being").

What do you think?


Anyway, I better get to bed.

Best,

EA

exapologist said...

Whoops! I see you've posted another comment while I was writing my last comment. I'll have to get to that one tomorrow (or as soon as I get some free time).

Best,

EA

exapologist said...

Anon: First I showed that it is self-contradictory to deny the existence of truth and the eternality of truth

Me: Again, I certainly agree with you that truth is eternal – indeed, I think that truths (and falsehoods) are necessarily existent, since I think that propositions are necessarily existent abstract objects. In fact, and again, I think it’s clear that they don’t depend on God. For if (whether per impossibile or not) God did not exist, it would still be true that God does not exist, in which case truth doesn’t depend on God.


Anon: …it is also self-stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth.


Me: I’ve repeatedly argued that it’s not self-stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth, if by that you mean that propositions depend on one or more minds (or, Mind) for their existence. I have given three main reasons for this. First, my thought experiment about the possible world in which God exists and in which it is still true that God does not exist undercuts the claim that truth depends on God. Second, some propositions are intrinsically necessarily true, e.g., that 1+1=2. This would be true even if (again, whether per impossibile or not) God did not exist. Finally, the argument I dealt with in my original post (which is a version of the Clark argument you quoted in Nash’s Faith and Reason) is a bad one. For it argues that a non-theist must be a crude materialist, and a crude materialist must give an account of everything in terms of the physical – including propositions. But as I keep pointing out, a non-theist need not be such a crude materialist. For one view that a non-theist can take (and it’s not the only view they can take) is that the all contingent entities must be either physical or grounded in the physical. But since propositions and other sorts of abstract objects aren’t contingent, but metaphysically necessary, they don’t need to give an account of their existence in terms of the physical. If abstracta exist of metaphysical necessity, then they need no explanation in terms of anything beyond themselves at all.



Anon: I concluded to an eternal mind. Then I gave you the benefit of the doubt and said it at least makes God's existence metaphysically possible. There is a possible world where God exists. Therefore, He exists in every possible world. God exists.

Me: I’ve repeatedly responded to this. It has not been established that there is a possible world in which a necessarily existent substance exists. That’s the 64,000 question. Even Plantinga, the most sophisticated proponent of the modal ontological argument (which is the version of the argument here) admits that he hasn’t demonstrated that there is a possible world in which such a being exists.


Anon: Then I came to the conclusion that a necessary being must exist because it is inconceivable that a necessary being not exist.
A necessary being must exist. It cannot not exist. I can't conceive of it's non-existence. If I could it would not be a necessary being it would be contingent being.

I think we must conclude that a Necessary Being exist. We have no choice.

Me: You’ve switched here to the definitional version of the ontological argument. You’re arguing that the definition of a necessary being – a necessarily existent substance – is a substance that exists in all possible worlds. Therefore, to say that one can conceive of a necessary being not existing is incoherent; therefore, a necessary being exists. This is a different argument than the modal ontological argument (see Graham Oppy’s book on this). This argument is bad. It’s not better than the following argument: the definition of a superunicorn is a unicorn that exists. Therefore, to say that one can conceive of a superunicorn not existing is incoherent; therefore, a superunicorn exists.

In short, if you raise the modal ontological argument, I worry that a necessarily existent substance might not be possible. For the argument for the key premise is supposed to be the conceivability of such a being, and that whatever is conceivable is possible. But a world in which no god exists is also conceivable; so if conceivability entails possibility, then it’s possible that no god exists. And if that’s possible, it follows that a necessary being is impossible. Now either it’s possible that there’s a necessary being, or it’s possible that no god exists. If one is true, then the other is false. Unfortunately, since both are conceivable, then (pending some qualification to conceivability-possibility inferences) the conceivability of either one isn’t going to clinch it either way. So the modal ontological argument is a stalemate. But that works to the advantage of the non-theist, if the goal is to provide independent evidence for the existence of God.

But if you raise the definitional ontological argument, I’ll raise the superunicorn objection to point out that one can’t move from a definition to reality.

Best,

EA

Anonymous said...

God's possible existence was established with an argument. It wasn't based on intuition. William Lane Craig uses this argument in Philosophy of Religion. The modal operative is broad logical possibility (metaphysical possibility). The Leibinez cosmological argument coupled with the kalam leads to a metaphysical necessary being. The moral argument leads to a locus of moral value that must be as metaphysically necessary as the moral values it grounds. And a conceptualist argument leads to an omniscient mind to ground true propositions and mathematical truths. Based on these arguments we can say that it is possible that a maximally great being exists. It's not the same as unicorns. The arguments are cumulative where the ontological argument encapsulates the thrust of all the arguments together to show that God the supreme being exists.

Anonymous said...

It's also in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Craig and Moreland.

Alvin may not have thought of it but William Lane Craig did.

Anonymous said...

Also, it is self-stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth. Just like I showed. Using your mind to deny it and show that it's false proves it.

Anonymous said...

Those three arguments show that maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. There is a possible world where God exists. Therefore, God exists in every possible world. God exists.
It's not based on intuition or imagination.

exapologist said...

Anon: God's possible existence was established with an argument. It wasn't based on intuition. William Lane Craig uses this argument in Philosophy of Religion. The modal operative is broad logical possibility (metaphysical possibility).

Me: It doesn't help to use a philosopher's ideas if you don't understand them. First of all, it's not a modal operative, but a modal operator. Second, Craig didn't come up with the notion of broad logical possibility, but rather is borrowing it from ch. 1 of Plantinga's seminal book on the metaphysics of modality, viz., The Nature of Necessity. Finally, both Plantinga and Craig agree that something can't just be assumed to be broadly logically possible just by saying that it is; rather, they need independent justification in terms of either an actual case (since actuality entails metaphysical possibility) or some legitimate form of conceivability.


Anon: The Leibinez cosmological argument coupled with the kalam leads to a metaphysical necessary being.

Me: Again, it doesn't help to talk about arguments you don't understand yourself. First of all it's not called the Leibinez cosmological argument; rather it's the *Leibnizian* cosmological argument. Second, while the argument would indeed establish the existence of a necessary being, it's not clear that it's sound. Third, the kalam argument does not help establish the existence of a metaphysically necessary being; rather, if it worked (which it doesn't) the existence of a *factually* necessary being at most -- a being that may or may not exist in other possible worlds, but given that it *does* exist, it's eternal, metaphysically independent, etc. There may be a metaphyically necessarily existent God, but the kalam argument sure doesn't show it.

Anon: The moral argument leads to a locus of moral value that must be as metaphysically necessary as the moral values it grounds.

Me: I don't think there is a plausible moral argument out there, but we can talk about that later. But this goes back to my original post; the moral values, if necessary, are abstract objects; as such, they are ontologically prior to God's commands.

Anon: t's not the same as unicorns.

Me: Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. But the way *you've* presented the argument, the superunicorn argument and the definitional argument have the same flaw. For you've repeatedly tried to support the key premise with the idea that since it's part of the definition of a necessary being that it exists in all possible worlds, it's contradictory to say that one can imagine a necessary being that fails to exist in at least one possible world. But this is the same flaw as in the superunicorns argument, viz., defining something so as to include existence -- whether contingent or necessary -- as part of the concept, and then arguing that since to deny existence to the referent is to contradict oneself, that therefore it must exist. This is just a stock objection to definitional ontological arguments. But again, as I've pointed out, you keep sliding back and forth between a defense of a modal and definitional version of the ontological argument.



I sympathize where you're coming from, really I do. I've read all the books you mention (and still own a copy of most of them); I've studied under J.P. Moreland at Talbot in their M.A. program in philosophy of religion and ethics. I've studied this stuff for fifteen years, and am now finishing up a Ph.D. in Philosophy. I used to accept and defend all those arguments for a decade and a half. I can only tell you that those arguments look less and less plausible the more philosophical training you get.

Anonymous said...

I was just telling you what Craig's version of the argument was.
I'll stick with the other one.

As I showed truth is mental. When you use your mind to try to show this is wrong and you are right you prove it. It's self- stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth.

It's also self contradictory to deny the existence of truth

It is also self contadictory to deny the eternality of truth.

Truth exists
Truth is mental
Truth is eternal

Since truth is eternal it must exist in an eternal mind. God must be truth. Deny God's existence and you deny the truth.

Anonymous said...

Also, using your mind to show that it's true or that it's true that it's possible that truth is not mental shows that truth is mental. The existence of truth pressuposes the existence of minds. The object of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning, a significance; it is a thought.

exapologist said...

Hi Anon,

I'm grading term papers and constructing final exams at the moment. I'll be back to comment when I finish up -- probably Thursday or Friday.

Best,

EA

Anonymous said...

And as we saw the existence of truth is incompatible with any materialistic view of man. Consciousness is an effect and not a cause. Thoughts are the result of bodily changes. All thinking is the result of mechanical necessity. But bodily changes can be neither true or false. Therefore, if there is no mind, there can be no truth, and if there is no truth materialism can't be true. Any denial of the mental nature of truth is self-stultifying. You will prove it when you try to deny it.
As we saw truth is eternal and mental. So, truth must exist within an eternal mind. God is truth.
It's really sad to watch the desperate attempts to try and get arround the facts. But facts are facts.

openlyatheist said...

Holy sh!t, is this thread still going? Ha ha.

Hey EA, it's nice to see a poster here actually tending to his/her post rather and dealing with objections rather than abandoning it after a few days. That happens all too often here on DC. Kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

Exapologist,

Using your mind you showed it's (true) that truth doesn't have to be mental. You are showing that truth is mental when you do this.

Even using your mind to show that it's (true) that it's possible that truth isn't mental shows that truth is mental.

Truth is mental. Showing that this is false involves the mind. You are showing with your mind the (truth) that truth is not mental.

The existence of truth pressuposes the existence of minds.

Now,

Truth exists
Truth is mental
Truth is eternal

Truth must exist in an Eternal Mind. God is truth. God cannot not be. Deny this and you deny the truth.

Anonymous said...

Coming to believe with your mind the truth - "truth is not mental" shows that truth is mental. The fact that you believe it's true that truth is not mental or that it's true that it's possible truth is not mental shows that truth is mental.

John W. Loftus said...

EA, Whatever problems the non-theist has with regard to morality truth metaphysical freedom and abstract objects applies equally to God. Thanks, I just got around to reading what you wrote. I liked it.

However, I am probably a crude materialist who thinks we can account for metaphysical freedom, abstract objects and truth itself based upon the fact that we are conscious beings which cannot be reduced to matter in motion because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I haven't done the study on this yet, but with the empiricists I believe all knowing comes from sense data or reflection upon sense data. It's the sense data which leads us to postulate universals and abstract objects so we can speak and reason and deal with that sense data.

Anonymous said...

I'm just refering to true propositions. I'm not refering to properties.

It's seelf-contadictory to deny truth and the eternal nature of truth. And it's self stultifying to deny the eternal nature of truth.

Truth exists
Truth is eternal
Truth is mental

Truth exists in an eternal mind.

Anonymous said...

mental nature of truth

correction.

exapologist said...

HI all,

My goodness -- there have been a lot of comments since I last checked in! Perhaps I can sneak in some comments later this afternoon.

Best,

EA

exapologist said...

Anon: As I showed truth is mental. When you use your mind to try to show this is wrong and you are right you prove it. It's self- stultifying to deny the mental nature of truth.




Me: I’m not sure how this argument is supposed to go. In what way is it self-stultifying to use the mind to deny that truth is “mental” – i.e., inherently dependent upon or belonging to a mind or minds? From the fact that some entity A can “handle” some other entity B, it doesn’t follow that B depends on, or inherently belongs to, A, or that B is inherently A-like in nature.


I think you’re conflating at least two senses in which something can be “mental”:


Sense 1: x is mental =df. x can be grasped, entertained, asserted, denied, etc., by a mind or minds.

Sense 2: x is mental =df. x depends on a mind or minds for its existence.


You need sense 2 for your argument, but you’ve only got evidence here for sense 1, and sense 1 doesn’t entail sense 2: for all you’ve said, something could be grasped by the mind, and yet not depend on the mind for its existence (somewhat analogous to the way in which a hand can grasp a flower without the latter being dependent on the former).


Perhaps, though, your argument is something different? If so, would you please clarify?


Anon: It's also self-contradictory to deny the existence of truth


Me: If by this you mean that it’s a performatory contradiction to deny the existence of truth, then you’ve got no problem with me.

Anon: 
Truth is mental
Truth is eternal

. Since truth is eternal it must exist in an eternal mind. God must be truth. Deny God's existence and you deny the truth.

Me: Again, I’ve given at least three arguments for the conclusion that truth doesn’t depend on an eternal mind (which is the conclusion you need, btw – not merely that it exists in such a mind). First, my thought experiment about the possible world in which God exists and in which it is still true that God does not exist undercuts the claim that truth depends on God. Second, some propositions are intrinsically necessarily true, e.g., that 1+1=2. This would be true even if (again, whether per impossibile or not) God did not exist. Finally, the argument I dealt with in my original post (which is a version of the Clark argument you quoted in Nash’s Faith and Reason) is a bad one. For it argues that a non-theist must be a crude materialist, and a crude materialist must give an account of everything in terms of the physical – including propositions. But as I keep pointing out, a non-theist need not be such a crude materialist. For one view that a non-theist can take (and it’s not the only view they can take) is that the all contingent entities must be either physical or grounded in the physical. But since propositions and other sorts of abstract objects aren’t contingent, but metaphysically necessary, they don’t need to give an account of their existence in terms of the physical. If abstracta exist of metaphysical necessity, then they need no explanation in terms of anything beyond themselves at all.



Anon: Also, using your mind to show that it's true or that it's true that it's possible that truth is not mental shows that truth is mental.

Me: This of course doesn’t follow, if you mean to conclude that truth is mental in sense 2 above. Rather, what follows is only that truth is mental in sense 1. See my remarks on this above.


Anon: The existence of truth pressuposes the existence of minds. The object of knowledge is a proposition, a meaning, a significance; it is a thought.


Me: Is this your argument?

1. Propositions are objects of knowledge.
2. Propositions are meanings.
3. Propositions have significance.
4. Being an object of knowledge, a meaning, or a significance presupposes being a mental object in sense 2
5. Therefore, propositions are mental objects in sense 2.

If so, then I’ve already dealt with premise (1) – you can only get a conclusion about sense 1 with it.

What about premise (2)? I think the argument equivocates on the notion of ‘meaning’. In one sense, a meaning is an intention, which, being an act of the mind and will, is surely is tied to the mind and the will. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of intention you need here. Rather, you need the sense of ‘meaning’ that’s synonymous with ‘proposition’; that is, an entity that’s a bearer of a truth-value. In short, a meaning in this sense is the thing intended; not the intention itself.

There are a bazillion accounts of the nature of propositions out there: property structures, sets of possible worlds, set-theoretic functions, etc. None of these sorts of things seem to be inherently mental in the sense you need, viz., sense 2. Indeed, on my account, they are inherently mind-independent, necessarily existent entities (which is a pretty standard account among philosophers).

Anon: And as we saw the existence of truth is incompatible with any materialistic view of man. Consciousness is an effect and not a cause. Thoughts are the result of bodily changes. All thinking is the result of mechanical necessity. But bodily changes can be neither true or false. Therefore, if there is no mind, there can be no truth, and if there is no truth materialism can't be true.

Me: I’ve responded to this in my original post, as well as in this thread. I’m sick of re-typing my reply, so I’ll just cut-n-paste it here:

“the argument relies on the dubious assumption that non-theists should adopt an extremely crude form of materialism. Contrary to what the argument asserts, abstract objects do not pose a problem for non-theists in the least. This is for at least two reasons. First, as we've already seen, if abstract objects exist, then there's excellent reason to think they're necessarily existent entities -- i.e., it's impossible for them to fail to exist. If so, then there's no need to postulate an explanation of their existence. But second, non-theists aren't commited to a crude form of materialism. They need not be commited to the view that the material world is all there is. Rather, they can happily grant the existence of abstract objects. Let me explain this by returning to the argument for a god from the existence of abstract objects.

Recall that a key premise of the argument was that if theism is false, then one must account for everything in terms of physical objects. And the argument for that premise was that only the physical could arise from the physical. But now we can see what's wrong with this inference (at least one of the things). For the non-theist need not explain the existence of non-physical, asbtract objects in terms of the physical if the latter never "arose" at all, but rather are timeless, spaceless, acausal, eternal, necessarily existent entities. A non-theist can hold that all contingent reality is physical, or arose from the physical, all the while serenely granting the existence of abstract, immaterial entities that exist of metaphysical necessity. For again, (i) if abstract objects exist of necessity, then they need no explanation, and (ii) God cannot explain the existence of abstract objects. Thus, the existence of abstract objects pose no problem at all for the non-theist.”

And again here:

“
Also -- and this is my criticism of the second main point in the quoted passage -- the argument thinks it's somehow a problem for the non-theist if they can't account for the existence of propositions in terms of the physical. But as I've already argued in my original post, this is false. For a non-theist need not hold to such a crude form of materialism. For we need not hold that abstract objects arose from the physical *if they never arose at all* -- i.e., if they are necessarily existent entities.”




Anon: Any denial of the mental nature of truth is self-stultifying. You will prove it when you try to deny it.
As we saw truth is eternal and mental. So, truth must exist within an eternal mind. God is truth.
It's really sad to watch the desperate attempts to try and get arround the facts. But facts are facts.

Me: What I find sad and desparate is the defense of an argument that I’ve refuted several times in this thread and in the post. The very same basis you offer for the necessary existence of truth shows that it can’t depend on God’s mind. Your basic argument here is this:

“even if nothing existed besides propositions, the following propositions would still be *true*:

(1) Nothing exists (besides propositions).

Therefore, truth is independent of everything else”.

But this argument has the same force when applied to God:

“even if nothing existed besides propositions – not even God – the following proposition would still be *true*:

(1') Nothing -- not even God -- exist besides propositions.

Therefore, truth is independent of everything else – even God.”

To deny the latter and not the former is ad hoc, and special pleading.

-EA

Anonymous said...

When you claim that truth is not mental you show that you believe with your mind that it's "true" that truth is not mental. So truth is mental. Truth has a mental nature. Just like truth has an eternal nature. So you show that truth is mental when you deny it.

To say that the eternally true proposition George Bush is the president of the U.S. in the year 2007 exists if nothing exists (not even a mind) doesn't make any sense. The proposition seems to have known that George Bush was coming before he even existed.

Anonymous said...

To say that the true proposition "triangles have three sides" exists if nothing exists "not even God" makes no sense.

Propositions contain information. Information presupposes intelligence.

To say it's true that "truth is independent of mind" makes no sense.

Truth exists
Truth is mental
Truth is eternal

Anonymous said...

To say as you did - Only propositions would exists if nothing but propositions exists. Iherefore, truth is independent of mind. Doesn't really make any sense.

If you say truth will one day die then the it is true - truth will one day die. Truth cannot die it's eternal.

Anonymous said...

To say as you did - Only propositions would exists if nothing but propositions exists. Iherefore, truth is independent of mind. Doesn't really make any sense.

If you say truth will one day die then the it is true - truth will one day die. Truth cannot die it's eternal.

Anonymous said...

Absolute truth never changes. To say "All triangles have three sides" means that it's absolutely true that all triangles have three sides. It will always be true. It's infinitely true. Since information pressuposes intelligence then there must be an infinite mind.

To say there is no such thing as absolute truth is to say it's absolutely true there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Anonymous said...

Since absolute truths exist in absolute time (metaphysical time) then it's not meaningless to talk about always, forever, and eternal.

Absolute propositions are eternal and they contain information. So they must exist in an Eternal Mind. God exists.

exapologist said...

Anon: When you claim that truth is not mental you show that you believe with your mind that it's "true" that truth is not mental. So truth is mental. Truth has a mental nature. Just like truth has an eternal nature. So you show that truth is mental when you deny it.

Me: Huh? How does this argument go? Perhaps something like this:

Suppose I assert

(1) Truth is not mental.


Well, to assert (1), I had to use my mind. But (so the argument goes) if I had to use my mind to assert (1), it follows that (1) itself is mental. If so, then to deny that truth is mental involves committing a performatory contradiction. Is this your argument?

If so, then it suffers from the same equivocation as the one I commented on last time: in premise (1), 'mental' is synonymous with 'identical to or dependent upon the mind for its existence', but in the key move in the later portion of the argument, 'mental' is synonymous with 'being grasped or entertained by the mind'. Unfortunately, the first construal doesn't entail the second construal of the term; from the fact that the mind can *grasp* or *entertain* an entity, it doesn't follow that that entity is identical to the mind, or that the entity depends on the mind for its existence, anymore than the fact that I can hold a book in my hand entails that the book is identical to my hand, or that the book depends on my hand for its existence.

Anon: To say that the eternally true proposition George Bush is the president of the U.S. in the year 2007 exists if nothing exists (not even a mind) doesn't make any sense. The proposition seems to have known that George Bush was coming before he even existed.

Me: Huh? Once again, it doesn't help to talk about philosophical topics that you don't understand. Propositions are true if and only if they accurately represent their subject matter. The proposition you use in your example is:

1. GW Bush is President of the U.S. in 2007.

This proposition is true because it accurately represents its subject matter. What's its subject matter? Well, a standard philosophical answer is a *state of affairs* -- in this case, the following state of affairs:

(SOA) GW Bush being the President of the U.S. in 2007.

Like propositions, states of affairs are timeless, spaceless abstract objects. While propositions are *true* or *false*, states of affairs *obtain* or *fail to obtain*. Thus, (1) is true in virtue of the fact that (SOA) obtains.

In light of this standard account of truth,propositions, and states of affairs, we see that the truth or falsity of a proposition, whether timeless or not, has nothing to do with someone "predetermining" its truth; rather, it has to do with whether it corresponds to the relevant state of affairs. No one has to stand behind the scenes to "make" the proposition true at the right time; the truth of the proposition is *dependent* upon whether the state of affairs obtains -- not vice-versa.

To come at this from another angle, consider truths not about what's *actual*, but rather what's *possible*. So, for example, consider

2. It is possible that sharks don't exist.

This proposition is true; that is, although it's not *actual* that there are no sharks, it's nonetheless true that there is a possible world, W -- a way the world could have been -- such that there are no sharks in W. What *makes* this true? Is some god standing behind the scenes ensuring that this statement turns out to be true? Of course not. Rather, what makes it true is that it accurately represents its subject matter, viz., a possible state of affairs -- in particular, this one:

(SOA*) There being no sharks.

That is, (2) is true in virtue of the fact that it accurately represents a possible world (which is another sort of abstract object) in which (SOA*) is a state of affairs. Once again, we see that truth or falsity depends on states of affairs obtaining -- not the other way around. And since that's so, you're simply wrong in your implication that the existence of eternal truths requires a god to *make* or *ensure* that they're true. But you would've known that if you had any philosophical training.

exapologist said...

Anon: Propositions contain information. Information presupposes intelligence.

Me: Propositions contain information in the sense that they're *representaional* -- they depict actual or possible (or even impossible) states of affairs. But it doesn't follow from the fact that something is *representational* that it *comes from intelligence*. Otherwise, the images reflected on mirrors or the surfaces of ponds would require that they're intelligent.

exapologist said...

Anon: If you say truth will one day die then the it is true - truth will one day die. Truth cannot die it's eternal.

Me: I'm not sure what the point is of this. I *agree* with this. In fact, I would take it further and say that not only is truth eternal, it's *necessarily* eternal -- it's eternal in all possible worlds. Indeed, this is what you want to say as well, no?

Indeed, I would go even further than you and say that the necessary eternality of truth is *intrinsic* or *internal* to it. On your view, you're committed to the view that the necessary eternality of truth is *extrinsic* to it -- i.e., it's not necessarily eternal in virtue of its own inner nature, but rather because God *makes* it to be so; in other words, its necessary eternality *depends on something else*. But this is ridiculous -- the fact that 1+1=2 is necessarily true doesn't depend on God; rather, it's *intrinsically* necessarily true, which you're committed to denying.

Let me end by reiterating another problem that plagues your view:

If God didn't exist, would it be *true* that God doesn't exist? I look forward to your answer.

Anonymous said...

To say it's absolutely true God doesn't exist therefore God doesn't exist doesn't mean anything. If something is absolutely true then it will always exist. Eternal propositions require intelligence because they have information. If God didn't exist then it would be true God didn't exist. But that doesn't show that God doesn't exist.
If nothing existed but that proposition then it would require a mind because it contains information. It's imposible for information to exist apart from intelligence. So the proposition Nothing exist except this proposition can't exist.

Cole said...

The eternaly true proposition God doesn't exist can't exist apart from from God.

It's contadictory to say God doesn't exist. He would have to exist in order for it to be true.

The proposition Nothing exists except eternaly true propositions requires an infinite mind for them to exist.

exapologist said...

Anon: To say it's absolutely true God doesn't exist therefore God doesn't exist doesn't mean anything.

Me: Of course, it *does* mean something; there's no inchoherence in asserting that it's true that P; therefore P. But in any case, that's not what I said. Rather, it was that if it turned out or turns out that God doesn't exist, then it would be *true* that God doesn't exist. But if so, then truth doesn't depend on God (since it would still exist even if he didn't).

Anon: if something is absolutely true then it will always exist.

Me: Again, I *agree* with this. In fact, true propositions would still exist and retain their truth even if god didn't or doesn't exist.

Anon: Eternal propositions require intelligence because they have information.

Me: I responded to this in my second-to-last comment. Propositions contain information in the sense that they're *representational*, i.e., they *depict* things (viz., impossible, possible, actual, or necessary states of affairs). But from the fact that something is *representational*, it doesn't follow that it came from *intelligence*; otherwise, it would follow from the fact that mirrors and pond surfaces reflect their surroundings that therefore mirrors and ponds are intelligent.


Anon: If God didn't exist then it would be true God didn't exist.

Me: Thank you! You've just given away the store. You grant here that if God didn't exist, then it would be *true* that God didn't exist. But from that it follows that truth does *not* depend on God (since truth would still exist serenely on in that state of affairs).

Anon: But that doesn't show that God doesn't exist.

Me: you're certainly correct about that: from the fact that truth would still exist even if God didn't, it certainly doesn't follow that God does not exist. But of course I'm not arguing that. For all I've said, God may in fact exist. All I'm saying is that, *whether or not* God exists, truth (i.e., true propositions) don't depend upon him for their existence. And if not, then *whether or not* God in fact exists, the mere existence of abstracta like propositions aren't *evidence* that God exists.


Anon:If nothing existed but that proposition then it would require a mind because it contains information. It's imposible for information to exist apart from intelligence. So the proposition Nothing exist except this proposition can't exist.

Me: I've already responded to this twice. See my "mirror and pond" illustrations in this comment, and my second-to-last comment.

Cole: The eternaly true proposition God doesn't exist can't exist apart from from God.

Me: To the contrary, that's the *only* way it could be true; if God exists, then it would be *false* that God doesn't exist.


Cole: It's contadictory to say God doesn't exist. He would have to exist in order for it to be true. The proposition Nothing exists except eternaly true propositions requires an infinite mind for them to exist.

Me: It's not contradictory to say that God doesn't exist; It's not like asserting that P and not-P.

But perhaps you're saying this because there's an argument lurking in your remarks? Let's see what it could be: So you're asserting that there's a contradiction lurking here, and the contradiction is supposed to be: God exists and God doesn't exist. But how do we get to that contradiction from your remarks? Well, you claim that the existence of truth presupposes or requires or depends upon a God. So suppose for reductio that

1. God doesn't exist.

Now we've just seen that you think that truth depends on God. If so, then you think that

2. If there are true propositions, God exists.

Now from (1) we get

3. (1) is a true proposition.

From which it follows from an application of Existential Generalization that

4. There are true propositions.

But then from (2) and (4), it follows via an application of Modus Ponens that

5. God exists.

If so, then by an application of Conjunction Introduction with respect to (1) and (5), we get

6. God exists and God doesn't exist.

Which is the explicit contradiction you're after.

What to make of this argument? Well, it's obviously valid. Unfortunately, though, the truth of (1) -- i.e., whether truth depends on God -- is the very question at issue, in which case the argument begs the question. I've responded to all of the arguments given in this thread for (1), and I've also given a bunch of arguments against (1); so the argument above is dialectically illegitimate here if it's being used as a response to my objection (viz., that if God didn't exist, then it would be *true* that God doesn't exist, in which case truth does *not* depend on God). Now of course *you* may accept (1) without having to convince me of it. But if the point of your argument is to respond to my objection, then it's just question-begging.

-EA

Anonymous said...

What you are saying is that it's possible that God doesnt't exist.
But this is true only with respect to strict logical possibility. There's no "logical" contradiction in saying that. But this doesn't make it metaphysically possible. Strict logical possibility is imagination.
But you can't actualize God's non-existence.

exapologist said...

You're certainly correct that if God's existence is metaphysically necessary, then if propositions also exist of metaphysical necessity, then there is no possible world in which propositions exist and God does not. However, my argument is a per impossibile argument; it's arguing as follows: suppose God exists of metaphysical necessity. Still, if, per impossibile, God didn't exist, propositions would still exist; if so, then even if the existence of God turns out to be necessarily co-extensive with the existence of propositions, the relationship between them is not one of existential *dependence*.

Per impossibile arguments are used when appeal to possible worlds is too coarse-grained a to discern relationships of dependence, which they are if it turns out that God and propositions are necessarily co-extensive.

Regards,

EA

Anonymous said...

If you can't actualize God's non-existence then He must exist.

Cole said...

The statement God doesn't exist has no meaning. Since it would exist apart from God's mind.

exapologist said...

Anon: If you can't actualize God's non-existence then He must exist.

Me: That's certainly true: *IF* there is no possible world in which God does not exist, then God exists. The $64,000 question is whether the antecedent of that conditional is satisfied. In my previous post, I wasn't implying that, *in fact*, God is necessarily exisent. Rather, I was assuming it for the sake of argument to show that *even if* it turned out that God is a necessary being, one could still see that propositions don't depend on him for their existence.

Anonymous said...

The statement it's possible God doesn't exist doesn't establish that it's metaphysical possible that God doesn't exist.

The true propositions would establish His metaphysical possibility. Therefore, he would exist in a possible world.

exapologist said...

Anon: The *statement* it's possible God doesn't exist doesn't establish that it's metaphysical possible that God doesn't exist. (emphasis added)

Me: Of course not (nor, for that matter, does the *statement* that it's possible that a necessary being exist establish that a necessary being exists). We're left agnostic either way about the metaphysical possibility of the instantiation of maximal greatness -- i.e., about the truth of the key premise in Plantinga's S5 modal ontological argument. We've gone over this ad nauseum.

Anon: The true propositions would establish His metaphysical possibility. Therefore, he would exist in a possible world.

Me: That of course begs the question, as it *assumes* that truth depends on God. Please see my recent comment about this -- the one where I tease out the logic of this argument premise-by-premise.

Anonymous said...

God would know that the proposition it's possible God doesn't exist doesn't establish the metaphysical possibility that God doesn't exist.

exapologist said...

[NOTE: I noticed an error in a previous version of this comment I posted, so I'm posting a revision of it here]

Anon: To say it's absolutely true God doesn't exist therefore God doesn't exist doesn't mean anything.

Me: Of course, it *does* mean something; there's no inchoherence in asserting that it's true that P; therefore P. But in any case, that's not what I said. Rather, it was that if it turned out or turns out that God doesn't exist, then it would be *true* that God doesn't exist. But if so, then truth doesn't depend on God (since it would still exist even if he didn't).

Anon: if something is absolutely true then it will always exist.

Me: Again, I *agree* with this. In fact, true propositions would still exist and retain their truth even if god didn't or doesn't exist.

Anon: Eternal propositions require intelligence because they have information.

Me: I responded to this in my second-to-last comment. Propositions contain information in the sense that they're *representational*, i.e., they *depict* things (viz., impossible, possible, actual, or necessary states of affairs). But from the fact that something is *representational*, it doesn't follow that it came from *intelligence*; otherwise, it would follow from the fact that mirrors and pond surfaces reflect their surroundings that therefore mirrors and ponds are intelligent.


Anon: If God didn't exist then it would be true God didn't exist.

Me: Thank you! You've just given away the store. You grant here that if God didn't exist, then it would be *true* that God didn't exist. But from that it follows that truth does *not* depend on God (since truth would still exist serenely on in that state of affairs).

Anon: But that doesn't show that God doesn't exist.

Me: you're certainly correct about that: from the fact that truth would still exist even if God didn't, it certainly doesn't follow that God does not exist. But of course I'm not arguing that. For all I've said, God may in fact exist. All I'm saying is that, *whether or not* God exists, truth (i.e., true propositions) don't depend upon him for their existence. And if not, then *whether or not* God in fact exists, the mere existence of abstracta like propositions aren't *evidence* that God exists.


Anon:If nothing existed but that proposition then it would require a mind because it contains information. It's imposible for information to exist apart from intelligence. So the proposition Nothing exist except this proposition can't exist.

Me: I've already responded to this twice. See my "mirror and pond" illustrations in this comment, and my second-to-last comment.

Cole: The eternaly true proposition God doesn't exist can't exist apart from from God.

Me: To the contrary, that's the *only* way it could be true; if God exists, then it would be *false* that God doesn't exist.


Cole: It's contadictory to say God doesn't exist. He would have to exist in order for it to be true. The proposition Nothing exists except eternaly true propositions requires an infinite mind for them to exist.

Me: It's not contradictory to say that God doesn't exist; It's not like asserting that P and not-P.

But perhaps you're saying this because there's an argument lurking in your remarks? Let's see what it could be: So you're asserting that there's a contradiction lurking here, and the contradiction is supposed to be: God exists and God doesn't exist. But how do we get to that contradiction from your remarks? Well, you claim that the existence of truth presupposes or requires or depends upon a God. So suppose for reductio that

1. God doesn't exist.

Now we've just seen that you think that truth depends on God. If so, then you think that

2. If there are true propositions, God exists.

Now from (1) we get

3. (1) is a true proposition.

From which it follows from an application of Existential Generalization that

4. There are true propositions.

But then from (2) and (4), it follows via an application of Modus Ponens that

5. God exists.

If so, then by an application of Conjunction Introduction with respect to (1) and (5), we get

6. God exists and God doesn't exist.

Which is the contradiction you're after. And if so, then from 1, 2-6, via Reductio Ad Absurdum, we get

7. God exists.


What to make of this argument? Well, it's obviously valid. Unfortunately, though, the truth of (2) -- i.e., whether truth depends on God -- is the very question at issue, in which case the argument begs the question. I've responded to all of the arguments given in this thread for (2), and I've also given a bunch of arguments against (2); so the argument above is dialectically illegitimate here if it's being used as a response to my objection (viz., that if God didn't exist, then it would be *true* that God doesn't exist, in which case truth does *not* depend on God). Now of course *you* may accept (2) without having to convince me of it. But if the point of your argument is to respond to my objection, then it's just question-begging.

-EA

Anonymous said...

X=If God didn't exist then it would be true God doesn't exist.

This doesn't show that truth can actually exist apart from mind. Since x is true and it is eternal and it contains information and information pressupposes itelligence
Then God knows x = If God didn't exist then it would be true God doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Information pressuposes intelligence.

Eternal truths contain information.

There must be an infinite intelligence.

To say if God didn't exist then it would be true God doesn't exist only shows that God knows this is true.

Anonymous said...

It may be a strict logical possibility for eternal information to exist apart from God. But its not a metaphysical possibility.

Strict logical possibility (imaginability) is epestemic possibility

Broad logical possibility (actualizability) is metaphysical possibility.

Anonymous said...

To say that eternal information can exist apart from an eternal intelligence is metaphysically absurd. Although it's a strict logical possibiliy.

Anonymous said...

To say that it's possible that Necessary true statements can exist apart from Necessary intelligence is a strict logical possibility. But it's not a metaphysical possibility.

Anonymous said...

So, we have eternal information existing with eternal intelligence.

or, we have eternal information existing without eternal intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Absolute truths are eternal and they contain information.

Information presupposes intelligence.

So, there must be an eternal intelligence.

If God didn't exist then it would be true God doesn't exist. This is an eternaly true statement that contains information. God knows this statement is true.

Anonymous said...

To deny the existence of truth would be self-contradictory. If truth doesn't exist then it's true truth doesn't exist.

Truth is also eternal. If truth were to die then it would be true that truth has died. If the universe will never perish then it's true the universe will never perish. If the universe will one day perish then it's true the universe will one day perish. If something is absolutely true then it will always be true.

Absolutely true statements are eternal and they contain information. Information presuposes intelligence. So there must exist an eternal mind.

X If God didn't exist then it would be true God does not exist. This statement is absolutely true. It will always be true. It contains information and God knows it's true.

Benny said...

Is that you, calvin/Houx?!? That pattern of spamming the same comments repeatedly in lieu of actually interacting with others seems very familiar. In case you forgot, that's the exact behavior that got you banned HERE.

D said...

An interesting article on this subject may be read for free from the SES Christian Journal of Apologetics by Puryear:
COULD ABSTRACT OBJECTS BE THE THOUGHTS OF GOD?
http://www.ses.edu/journal/articles/1.1Puryear.pdf