Leibniz’ proof of Alethian deity


Our friend from last Monday, the “brick through the window” guy, has taken me to task for getting Leibniz’ cosmological argument wrong (though he’s really blaming William Lane Craig, who made the argument I was critiquing).

You (Craig?) misrepresent the Leibnizian cosmological argument. It should be summarized as follows (taken from Alexander Pruss’ chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.

The cool thing about being an Alethian is that Christian philosophers have a habit of setting out to prove the existence of God, and end up proving the existence of Alethea instead. Take Anselm’s ontological proof, by which he attempts to prove God’s existence by calling Him “something than which nothing greater can be imagined.”

And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater.

Did you catch that inadvertent reference to Alethea? Alethea is just another name for Reality, and in order for God to be real, He must exist “in Reality.” Reality is therefore greater than God, or at least the Christian God, because if God were real, then Alethea would comprise all that God is, PLUS all real things that are not God. The Christian God, therefore, is not “something than which nothing greater can be imagined,” but rather Alethea is.

Isn’t that awesome? Anselm, in trying to prove his God, ended up proving mine instead. And Leibniz does the same thing, without meaning to.

The problem with Leibniz’ cosmological proof is the difficulty of making the real world out to be a “contingent” entity. In Chapter 4 of On Guard, William Lane Craig brings up the topic of the fallacy of composition.

This is the fallacy of confusing a property of a part with a property of the whole. For example, every part of an elephant may be light in weight, but that doesn’t mean the whole elephant is light in weight!

Precisely so. The problem with trying to make Leibniz’ argument work as a proof of God is that you have to commit the fallacy of composition by assuming that, because things within the material universe have a contingent existence, therefore the existence of the material universe as a whole is contingent. What we know now, that Leibniz didn’t, is that time is finite: it goes back only as far as the Big Bang, and the material universe goes all the way back with it, so that there has never been a time when the universe did not exist. As a candidate for non-contingent being, therefore, the material universe ought to be our first choice, since there was nothing before the universe for the universe to be contingent on.

But there’s an even better answer, and that is Alethea, i.e. Reality itself. The ultimate Being, the original Being, the most fundamental Being, has to be Reality itself, because Reality by definition comprises all that is real. Whatever exists in reality, therefore, depends upon (is contingent upon) the existence of Reality, because if Reality itself did not exist, then nothing else could either. The same goes for God too: if He does not exist in reality, then He Himself is not real, and if He is not real, then He cannot be the cause of real thing, such as the material universe.

Thus, Leibniz’ proof of God fails: God cannot be the “necessary Being” because His own existence is contingent upon the existence of Reality itself. The one loophole is if God Himself—or Herself—actually is Reality. To the extent that Leibniz proves the existence of a God, he proves the existence of my pantheistic God rather than of a lesser, contingent deity. Reality itself is the only truly self-necessary Being, and to the extent that this Being is the same as the One True God, Alethian theology is triumphant over Christianity.

Danke, Herr Leibniz!

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Ontological “proofs” are just silly.

    I here borrow from myself:

    What, you don’t know the Plantinga’s modal form of the ontological argument?

    Here:
    * It is proposed that a being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly stinky in W; and
    * It is proposed that a being has maximal stench if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
    * Maximal stench is possibly exemplified. That is, it is possible that there be a being that has maximal stench. (Premise)
    * Therefore, possibly it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly stinky being exists.
    * Therefore (by axiom S5) it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly stinky being exists.
    * Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly stinky being exists.

    QED God, the pongiest possible being, necessarily (ontologically) exists.

  2. says

    DD:

    The problem with trying to make Leibniz’ argument work as a proof of God is that you have to commit the fallacy of composition by assuming that, because things within the material universe have a contingent existence, therefore the existence of the material universe as a whole is contingent.

    Pruss’ second point is: “there is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.” Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the material universe is not contingent. Nonetheless you seem to admit that there are contingent facts. This entails that there is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts (the union of all contingent facts).

    As a candidate for non-contingent being, therefore, the material universe ought to be our first choice, since there was nothing before the universe for the universe to be contingent on.

    But by admitting the universe had a beginning you are committed to believing the universe is contingent. If the universe existed necessarily there would be no beginning.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      No, strictly speaking the universe does not have a beginning (i.e. a point in time where there is a transition from the universe’s non-existence to the universe’s existence). Time itself has an “origin,” in the mathematical sense of “minimum value,” but the universe has existed for all of time, as far as we can determine. This will be true even if it turns out that the material universe somehow extends back before the Big Bang, since this will mean merely that the origin is somewhat earlier than we thought. It doesn’t change the fact of the eternal existence of the universe (where “eternal,” of course, means “throughout all time”).

      It’s all moot, naturally, since either way Leibniz ends up proving a pantheistic Alethian God rather than a lesser monotheistic one.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Regarding “the union of all contingent facts,” that’s an interesting observation, but again, since all facts are ultimately contingent upon the existence of Reality itself, only a pantheistic deity can serve as the Necessary Being whose existence explains them. A lesser deity, who existed only as part of reality, would itself be contingent upon the existence of the greater Reality.

      • says

        DD:

        No, strictly speaking the universe does not have a beginning (i.e. a point in time where there is a transition from the universe’s non-existence to the universe’s existence).

        What is the evidence that there was no time before the universe came into existence? You hedge your bets later.

        Time itself has an “origin,” in the mathematical sense of “minimum value,” but the universe has existed for all of time, as far as we can determine.

        Note, on this account, time has a beginning in the sense that it is closed in the direction of the past.

        It doesn’t change the fact of the eternal existence of the universe (where “eternal,” of course, means “throughout all time”).

        Note, on this account, it is not eternal in the sense that time is open in both the direction of the past and the future.

        It’s all moot, naturally, since either way Leibniz ends up proving a pantheistic Alethian God rather than a lesser monotheistic one.

        The fourth point of the LCA entails the explanation is a necessary being. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the “pantheistic Alethian God” but I take it to refer to reality itself: the totality of real things and events. But you seem to accept that reality contains contingent things. Thus it is a logical contradiction to claim that reality is both a necessary being and contains contingent facts.

        Regarding “the union of all contingent facts,” that’s an interesting observation, but again, since all facts are ultimately contingent upon the existence of Reality itself, only a pantheistic deity can serve as the Necessary Being whose existence explains them.

        If by “pantheism” you mean that God is identical to the universe then you fall into the same logical contradiction as noted above.

        A lesser deity, who existed only as part of reality, would itself be contingent upon the existence of the greater Reality.

        The first “reality” appears to mean “the totality of real things and events.” The meaning of the second, capitalized “Reality” is unclear. Would you mind unpacking it?

      • Deacon Duncan says

        What is the evidence that there was no time before the universe came into existence?

        Dr. Craig’s summary of modern physics is actually pretty good on this point. You might want to look up what he has to say about it. From there you could move on to a number of layman-friendly books, such as Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

        Note, on this account, time has a beginning in the sense that it is closed in the direction of the past.

        As I pointed out before, however, it is helpful to call this an origin rather than a “beginning,” to avoid any false implications about a time when time did not exist.

        Note, on this account, it is not eternal in the sense that time is open in both the direction of the past and the future.

        Precisely. In fact, it may not even be open in the future. But that’s really irrelevant. The most significant point here is that space-time curves back to a point of infinite curvature at the Big Bang, leaving no time prior to the Big Bang during which any causes could have operated to produce the universe as an effect.

        But you seem to accept that reality contains contingent things. Thus it is a logical contradiction to claim that reality is both a necessary being and contains contingent facts.

        Not at all, any more than there’s a logical contradiction between “The hand is not a finger” and “The hand contains fingers.” You’re falling into the fallacy of composition, confusing the properties of the part with the properties of the whole.

        Reality itself is the necessary being: if God “exists” in some non-real sense, e.g. if He exists merely as a delusion or as a fantasy in the mind of believers, then He does not exist in reality. A God Who did not exist in reality would not be capable of creating reality, since He Himself is only a kind of fiction or falsehood. God’s existence, therefore is contingent on the existence of reality, which means God cannot be the necessary being. Reality must be the necessary being, because its existence is not and cannot be contingent on anything else. Whatever lies outside of reality does not really exist and cannot do anything. The existence of reality cannot, therefore, be contingent on the existence of anything that is not real.

        If by “pantheism” you mean that God is identical to the universe then you fall into the same logical contradiction as noted above.

        The pantheism I’m referring to is the deity of Reality itself. If you wanted to assert that the material universe is the only thing that is real, however, I probably would not contradict you, with the caveat that God, Reality, and the universe comprise quite a lot more than we know or are capable of knowing. That said, however, truth is consistent with itself, and reality is the ultimate truth, so if we do discover new things about reality, we can trust that these new things will be consistent with the things we can already see.

        The first “reality” appears to mean “the totality of real things and events.” The meaning of the second, capitalized “Reality” is unclear. Would you mind unpacking it?

        I can give it a shot, though some points may be subtle. Consider a photograph of, oh, Richard Nixon. I can show it to you and you can say, “That’s Richard Nixon,” and in a sense you’d be right, and in another sense you’d be wrong, because that’s not Nixon, it’s a piece of paper with colored pigments on it, arranged to produce a visual sensation reasonably close to what you would experience if you saw the true Nixon in real life.

        I can tell you that Reality is Truth, but you might not grasp what I mean by that, because we tend to apply the word “truth” to concepts we hold in our heads. The concept in my head, however, is like the photograph of Nixon: it’s not the real truth, it’s a representation of the truth, a mental “snapshot” as it were that I can mentally manipulate just like I can wave around the Nixon photo, or draw on it, or remove part of it, etc, all without affecting the true Nixon in any way.

        So, then, Reality is the self-consistent Truth, in the strictest possible sense. Not truth in the sense of finite, fallible, abstracted concepts about the truth, but the universal, self-consistent, self-sufficient Truth itself, such that to be part of the Truth is to be real, and to differ from the Truth is to be false. Reality contains all that is real, but there’s something more to Reality than just containing all real things.

        Don’t even get me started, though. Reality is rather a broad subject, and not really suitable for a blog post, much less a comment.

      • says

        DD:

        I found an online article by Dr. Craig called “Beyond the Big Bang.” It seems to me that time, as we know it in this universe, began to exist at the Big Bang. But modern physics cannot rule out the existence of another timeline or a timeless prior state.

        In one place Craig writes: “In his best-selling popularization of his theory, Hawking even reveals an explicitly theological orientation. He concedes that on the Standard Model one could legitimately identify the Big Bang singularity as the instant at which God created the universe (Hawking 1988: 9). Indeed, he thinks that a number of attempts to avoid the Big Bang were probably motivated by the feeling that a beginning of time ‘smacks of divine intervention’ (Hawking 1988: 46). He sees his own model as preferable to the Standard Model because there would be no edge of space-time at which one ‘would have to appeal to God or some new law’(Hawking 1988: 136).”

        On Hawking’s Quantum Gravity Model the past is finite but there is no edge or beginning point. In one place, you state that time has a minimum value and therefore appear not to adhere to the Quantum Gravity Model. If you adhere to the Standard Model then even Hawking admits divine creation is a possibility. Note that Craig goes on to show that even on the Quantum Gravity Model the universe has a beginning. When you state that “space-time curves back to a point of infinite curvature at the Big Bang”, it appears you might be following the Quantum Gravity Model. But neither options seems to help your case.

        Related to the LCA, Craig writes: “This beginning of the universe, of space and time themselves, reveals the contingency of the universe. The universe is evidently not necessarily existent, as Hume suggested, since it is not eternal, and therefore its existence does cry out for explanation.”

        In light of the above, you have no basis to claim that time (in some form) or a timeless state did not exist before the Big Bang.

        Since your definition of reality is so vague I don’t see how it can be reached via the LCA and clearly distinguish itself from a monotheistic God. There’s really not anything I can comment on there.

  3. Rikitiki says

    Wow…kewl! My eldest daughter’s name is Alethea.
    So, as her dad, wonder what that makes me?
    Never knew I had a goddess in the family, simply
    loved the word and its referrants.

  4. Deacon Duncan says

    @Jayman

    But modern physics cannot rule out the existence of another timeline or a timeless prior state.

    Careful: if it’s “prior” (earlier in time), then it is not a timeless state.

    Many of Craig’s arguments about the beginning of the universe are based on the assumption that space and time and matter and energy all began at the Big Bang. That’s why he spends so much time reviewing the science of the Big Bang. It’s possible that this is somehow incorrect, making Craig’s arguments invalid where they’re based on that assumption.

    Some current studies in physics suggest a material universe (or megaverse, if you prefer) of which this visible universe is only a part/extension. That, however, is evidence against the Big Bang being some kind of supernatural creation by an immaterial mind. It makes the universe the produce of non-supernatural forces, contrary to the conclusion Craig would like to reach. In fact, under that model we can’t eliminate the possibility that space-time might not curve back on itself, such that the far-future extremity becomes the ancient, pre-Big-Bang past.

    Thus, Craig’s cosmological argument falls apart. If the Big Bang is the beginning of space and time and matter and energy, then there has never been a time when the universe did not exist, and thus no need (and no opportunity) to invoke supernatural forces as the cause of its existence. But if the Big Bang is not the beginning of the larger universe/megaverse of space/time/matter/energy, then all the scientific evidence of the Big Bang is conclusively not evidence of divine creation, since it proceeds from natural causes.

    In one place Craig writes: “In his best-selling popularization of his theory, Hawking even reveals an explicitly theological orientation. He concedes that on the Standard Model one could legitimately identify the Big Bang singularity as the instant at which God created the universe.

    Well, unfortunately this is one of those cases where Hawking’s true meaning is best discovered by reading Hawking’s work in context, rather than relying on Craig’s prematurely triumphant summaries.

    When you state that “space-time curves back to a point of infinite curvature at the Big Bang”, it appears you might be following the Quantum Gravity Model. But neither options seems to help your case.

    It’s not merely “my” case. Time cannot exist before the beginning of time, because “before” is a time-based relationship. There is a minimum value of time, which itself is an aspect of space-time which in turn is an aspect of the material universe. At that minimum point in time, the material universe already existed, leaving no opportunity for anyone or anything to create it.

    Craig writes: “This beginning of the universe, of space and time themselves, reveals the contingency of the universe. The universe is evidently not necessarily existent, as Hume suggested, since it is not eternal, and therefore its existence does cry out for explanation.”

    Craig is deceiving himself by his failure to distinguish between a “beginning” (in the sense of a time of non-existence followed by a time of existence) and an “origin” (in the sense of minimum value). Time has a minimum value: there is a time that is the earliest time anything could have existed: God, the universe, anything. This is true even if the Big Bang turns out not to be the original beginning. If you are going to look at the earliest moment, and say that the existence of the universe at that moment means that the universe had a beginning and is therefore contingent, then God Himself is necessarily also contingent, because that earliest moment is the earliest moment He could have existed as well. (That’s what makes it THE earliest moment.) The best God can do is to have the same beginning as the universe; it would be perversely arbitrary to declare that the same beginning makes the universe contingent without doing the same to God.

    The most consistent answer is to recognize the uncaused nature of the universe, as it is inherent in the universe’s existence from the earliest moment of time. And if you wish to acknowledge this reality as a pantheistic deity, then you can draw theological conclusions from it as well. But a lesser God just won’t cut it.

    Since your definition of reality is so vague I don’t see how it can be reached via the LCA and clearly distinguish itself from a monotheistic God.

    Heh, says the guy who is telling me about time existing in a timeless state. I warned you it might be a bit subtle, but for most practical purposes you can think of Reality as being, not just the sum of all things that are real, but the context within which their real existence is possible. Normally I’d describe reality as being “all that is real,” but I was wary of setting you up for another fallacy of composition, so I tried to be more detailed.

    • says

      Deacon Duncan:

      (1) A timeless state could be said to be causally or logically prior to our timeline. The main point is that science can’t rule out either a timeless state or another timeline of some kind. You assume that the relative beginning of time at the Big Bang is the absolute beginning of time. Regardless, even if there is an absolute beginning of time I don’t think it damages the Kalam Cosmological Argument or the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument.

      (2) The KCA worked prior to the rise of modern science. It relied solely on philosophical arguments to argue that the universe has a beginning. The Big Bang has merely confirmed the philosophical arguments. If the state of science changes in the future the KCA can still stand.

      (3) It is my understanding that Craig believes God existed in a timeless state and entered time at creation. Thus, God has no beginning. He exists necessarily. On the other hand, the existence of the universe is contingent on the existence of its cause. No First Cause, no universe. It seems to me you need to deny the premises in the KCA and LCA that rely on the existence of cause and effect.

      (4) But, seeing as cause and effect impinges upon us every moment of our lives, I see no reason to reject these premises. You will have to provide an incredibly strong argument to convince me that things can begin to exist without a cause or that contingent facts can have no explanation. How can the atheist avoid the charge of special pleading in this instance?

      (5) Your definition of Reality as Being sounds close to the God of classical theism. That’s why I wondered how you can clearly distinguish Reality from a monotheistic God. Greeks, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have held that God’s essence is existence. You may not believe all of Jewish, Christian, or Islamic theology but you appear to have at least monotheistic or deistic leanings.

  5. Deacon Duncan says

    A timeless state could be said to be causally or logically prior to our timeline.

    Notice that you cannot express the idea of causality without using chronologically-ordered terms like “prior.” There can be logical or mathematical relationships without time, but there cannot be causal relationships. The creationist argument, however, requires a causal relationship.

    You assume that the relative beginning of time at the Big Bang is the absolute beginning of time.

    Not quite. Craig makes several arguments that use the Big Bang as the starting point for time (and the other aspects of the material universe), and devotes much of Chapter 5 to arguing against the validity of alternatives like the “many worlds” hypothesis. I address Craig’s arguments by pointing out that they cannot be evidence that the universe had a supernatural cause, since under those assumptions there has never been a time when the universe did not already exist. God cannot create the universe today because it already exists, nor could He create it yesterday because it already existed yesterday, and so on all the way back to the first moment of time, and which point there are no more intervals in which He might somehow find an opportunity to create a universe that was not already there.

    Alternately, we might suppose that some other timeline exists “at right angles” (so to speak) to our timeline, and the events on this timeline are merely continuations of that one. With respect to the creation of spacetime, however, that merely means that time extends farther into the past than previously thought. It does not, however, change the facts about conditions at the beginning of time. There still can be no cause for the beginning of time, because there is no time in which time does not already exist.

    Alternately again, this universe may have some kind of mathematical and non-chronological relationship with some kind of larger context. Such a relationship, however, would not be the Divine Creation event that believers would like to use as proof of God’s existence, because it is non-causal.

    Finally, let me point out that the alternatives are all speculation at this point. What we know—in the sense of what we can observe and verify—is that time began at the Big Bang, which leaves us with no known time during which any deity could have initiated any action that would have resulted in the creation of spacetime. That leaves creationists with nothing to work with but an appeal to ignorance as the justification for their belief in the existence of a Divine Creator.

  6. says

    DD:

    Notice that you cannot express the idea of causality without using chronologically-ordered terms like “prior.”

    The terms “causally prior” and “logically prior” are meant to stress that I do not mean temporally prior.

    There can be logical or mathematical relationships without time, but there cannot be causal relationships.

    There’s no reason to accept this. It requires one to either deny cause and effect or to posit an infinite regress of cause and effect.

    That leaves creationists with nothing to work with but an appeal to ignorance as the justification for their belief in the existence of a Divine Creator.

    That’s a blatantly false statement. Cosmological arguments are deductive arguments. They are based on premises that we have good reason to believe are true.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      The terms “causally prior” and “logically prior” are meant to stress that I do not mean temporally prior.

      But you contradict yourself, because you can’t have “causally prior” without “temporally prior.” There are non-temporal orderings: you could, for example, sort a deck of cards by suit and rank. In such an ordering the ace would be prior to the deuce, but this does not mean that the ace has the opportunity to create the deuce, because the deuce already exists and the ace is only “prior” in a non-temporal (and thus non-causal) sense.

      Causality means that a change in state at A propagates to B to produce a corresponding change in state at B. This is a temporal change in three places: in the change in state at A, in the propagation of that change to B, and in the corresponding change at B. Without a change over time at A, nothing has happened to produce the effect at B, and thus there is no causality. If the change at A does not propagate over time to B, then there is no connection between the two, and thus again there is no causality. And if there is no change over time at B, then no effect has been caused, and thus again no causality. But it takes time for each of these three events to occur (since an event is a difference between conditions at one point in time and conditions at some subsequent point), and therefore you cannot have causality without time.

      There’s no reason to accept this. It requires one to either deny cause and effect or to posit an infinite regress of cause and effect.

      Actually, you’ve got that backwards. The only way to avoid infinite regress is to recognize that cause-and-effect is a time-bound phenomenon; being time-bound, it naturally has its limit at the zero-point of time. If cause-and-effect transcended the limits of time, then you’re in trouble, because then what caused God? You can’t protect Him any more by saying He draws His existence from some timeless state, because you’ve just extended the requirements of cause and effect so that He falls under their jurisdiction even then.

        That leaves creationists with nothing to work with but an appeal to ignorance as the justification for their belief in the existence of a Divine Creator.

      That’s a blatantly false statement. Cosmological arguments are deductive arguments. They are based on premises that we have good reason to believe are true.

      Sorry, I was referring to evidence-based cosmological arguments such as Craig was making in Chapter 5 of On Guard. Once the evidence for Divine Creation is reduced to “science can’t rule out X or Y or Z,” we’re appealing only to what we don’t know, not basing our conclusions on what we do know. What we do know is that time began at the same time as the rest of the universe, leaving no opportunity for any cause, divine or otherwise, to create it, since it already existed at the earliest possible time. Speculating about the possibility of “other timelines” or “timeless states” is, at this point, merely an appeal to ignorance, because there’s nothing there that we actually know.

      But cosmological arguments such as Leibniz’ are easily dealt with. It is self-evident that Reality could exist even if God does not, i.e. there is no logical contradiction if Reality exists but, say, Zeus does not. By contrast, it is not possible for God to exist if Reality does not—it’s a logical impossibility, since if there is no Reality, then there’s no meaningful sense in which we can claim anything exists. Leibniz’ Cosmological argument, therefore, proves that Alethea is the only possible necessary being, since the existence of everything else is contingent upon the existence of Reality, QED.

      • says

        DD:

        This is a temporal change in three places: in the change in state at A, in the propagation of that change to B, and in the corresponding change at B.

        The problem with your example is that you are commenting on multiple cause-and-effect relationships, yet trying to place them under one cause-and-effect relationship. The change in state at A is one effect, the propagation of the change from A to B is a second effect, and the change at B is a third effect.

        Let’s focus solely on the change at B and do a thought experiment. Suppose that a change in state A has occurred and begun to be propogated towards B. Then suppose state A and whatever it is proprogating vanish. Would the effect at B ever occur? I think not. Effect B will not occur until the instant A propogates to B. It that instant where the cause and effect are simulataneous.

        Without a change at A, nothing has happened to produce the effect at B, and thus there is no causality.

        But if I were to interrupt the propagation of the change from A to B then effect B would never occur (as you seem to admit). But this implies the change at A is not the most immediate cause of the change at B. Something between A and B is the most immediate cause of B.

        The only way to avoid infinite regress is to recognize that cause-and-effect is a time-bound phenomenon; being time-bound, it naturally has its limit at the zero-point of time.

        Which is what I call the denial of cause and effect. In the KCA you reject the premise that holds that whatever begins to exist has a cause. In the LCA you reject the premise that holds that contingent facts have an explanation.

        If cause-and-effect transcended the limits of time, then you’re in trouble, because then what caused God?

        Seriously? This is an elementary atheist mistake. In the KCA, God does not begin to exist and therefore is uncaused. In the LCA, God is a necessary being and therefore is uncaused. This is how cause and effect are fully upheld and the infinite regress is avoided.

        Speculating about the possibility of “other timelines” or “timeless states” is, at this point, merely an appeal to ignorance, because there’s nothing there that we actually know.

        It’s a logical deduction based on what we know about cause and effect and time.

        But cosmological arguments such as Leibniz’ are easily dealt with by observing that it’s possible for Reality to exist even if God does not, but it’s not possible for God to exist if Reality does not. Leibniz’ Cosmological argument, therefore proves that Alethea is the only possible necessary being, since the existence of everything else is contingent upon the existence of Reality, QED.

        I’m not convinced you aren’t just re-naming the God of classical theism. If you define Reality as Being then how is that different than God being Pure Actuality in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy?

  7. Deacon Duncan says

    @Jayman

      This is a temporal change in three places: in the change in state at A, in the propagation of that change to B, and in the corresponding change at B.

    The problem with your example is that you are commenting on multiple cause-and-effect relationships, yet trying to place them under one cause-and-effect relationship. The change in state at A is one effect, the propagation of the change from A to B is a second effect, and the change at B is a third effect.

    Fascinating. You’re saying that for every relationship (B) between a cause (A) and an effect (C), there are actually three relationships (B1,2,3) between three causes (A1,2,3) and three effects (C1,2,3). And since each of them is also a cause-and-effect relationship, it follows that each of the three is, in turn, a trio of cause-and-effect relationships, each of which must also be a trio, and so on ad infinitum. But then when you try to explain why this should be so, you inexplicably discard the whole notion of “cause” and of the relationship between the two, and declare that the cause is an effect, and the relationship between the cause and the effect is an effect, and finally, the effect is an effect. So if we consider the relationship between the First Cause and the first effect, you would be saying that the First Cause is an effect, and must therefore also have a cause.

    I think you’re groping.

    Let’s focus solely on the change at B and do a thought experiment. Suppose that a change in state A has occurred and begun to be propogated towards B. Then suppose state A and whatever it is proprogating vanish. Would the effect at B ever occur? I think not.

    Ok, so you’re describing a situation in which the influence of the cause fails to propagate to the effect, and asking whether or not this constitutes a cause and effect relationship. Obviously it cannot, because a cause-and-effect relationship requires all 3 events occurring in sequence over time. So your point is…?

    Effect B will not occur until the instant A propogates to B. It that instant where the cause and effect are simulataneous.

    No, sorry, instant is a very small period of time, but it is not zero time. The effect has to be a change in state over time, i.e. a difference in conditions as they exist at one point in time and as they exist at some subsequent point of time. If you only have one point in time you cannot have a difference between two points in time. Without that change over time, the “effect” has not happened yet.

    And by the way, just remember that all this is still an argument from ignorance: even if you could prove that there were some way to make the effect instantaneous with its cause, you still do not have any time when the universe did not exist, and therefore no creation event which requires any explanation. The best you can hope for is to speculate about some kind of undetectable cause to which you can attribute the existence of the universe, even though there has never been a time when it did not exist. And that’s just superstition.

    Which is what I call the denial of cause and effect.

    Well, you can call it scrambled eggs and cheese if it makes you feel any better, but that doesn’t really mean anything. If I tell you that you cannot calculate the tangent of a 90° angle because it involves dividing by zero, would you try to claim that I’m denying tangents? It is obvious that time-constrained phenomena are limited by the minimum value of time, and it is equally obvious that acknowledging this limit does not constitute a denial of time-based phenomena.

    In the KCA you reject the premise that holds that whatever begins to exist has a cause. In the LCA you reject the premise that holds that contingent facts have an explanation.

    Wrong on both counts. What’s more, you’re wrong in a way that pretends the arguments I’m making don’t even exist. Now you’re not just groping, you’re trolling.

      If cause-and-effect transcended the limits of time, then you’re in trouble, because then what caused God?

    Seriously? This is an elementary atheist mistake.

    And that’s precisely why you should be extremely embarrassed about making it. If you’re going to argue that the chain of cause-and-effect must extend backwards without limit, even going so far as to transcend the limits of time itself, then you are making that error. You must admit, at some point, that the process of cause and effect is not infinite, and therefore when I describe the limits of cause and effect, I am not denying cause and effect.

      Speculating about the possibility of “other timelines” or “timeless states” is, at this point, merely an appeal to ignorance, because there’s nothing there that we actually know.

    It’s a logical deduction based on what we know about cause and effect and time.

    You should write down your chain of logic, by which you claim to know that other timelines exist. If you can indeed prove that your deductions are correct, I guarantee you will win a Nobel prize in physics.

    Until then, however, I reserve the right to dismiss your claims as bullshit.

    I’m not convinced you aren’t just re-naming the God of classical theism. If you define Reality as Being then how is that different than God being Pure Actuality in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy?

    Well, considering that my God is Reality itself, and considering that there is only one Reality in which you and I and the philosophers all have our being, it’s not entirely surprising that at least some of their observations would be at least somewhat similar to the truth. The problem is that their conclusions have frequently been tainted by superstition and preconceptions. Still, the more theologians allow the facts to lead them away from monotheism and into the truth of pantheism, the closer they are to real theology.

    • says

      DD:

      You’re saying that for every relationship (B) between a cause (A) and an effect (C), there are actually three relationships (B1,2,3) between three causes (A1,2,3) and three effects (C1,2,3).

      No, but in your example you started with a change in state at A. This change leads directly to the question of what caused the change in state at A. Then we must ask what causes the propagation from A to B.

      But then when you try to explain why this should be so, you inexplicably discard the whole notion of “cause” and of the relationship between the two, and declare that the cause is an effect, and the relationship between the cause and the effect is an effect, and finally, the effect is an effect.

      Something can be a cause and an effect. Consider a cause and effect chain like so: A->B->C->D->E. B is the effect of A but it is also the cause of C.

      So if we consider the relationship between the First Cause and the first effect, you would be saying that the First Cause is an effect, and must therefore also have a cause.

      Which is why it is deduced that the First Cause does not undergo change, unlike A in your example. It is an Uncaused Cause.

      Ok, so you’re describing a situation in which the influence of the cause fails to propagate to the effect, and asking whether or not this constitutes a cause and effect relationship. Obviously it cannot, because a cause-and-effect relationship requires all 3 events occurring in sequence over time. So your point is…?

      That, in your original example, A is not the most immediate cause of B. Again, consider a cause and effect chain: A->B->C->D->E. In this chain, D is the most immediate cause of E. A is a more distant cause. In order for your example to focus on only one cause and effect you need to narrow its scope.

      The effect has to be a change in state over time, i.e. a difference in conditions as they exist at one point in time and as they exist at some subsequent point of time.

      In some sense (and in some cases) that is true. But in another sense the effect comes into existence at a single moment in time. Before that time there was no effect. It is only at this moment that the cause truly becomes the cause of the effect.

      even if you could prove that there were some way to make the effect instantaneous with its cause, you still do not have any time when the universe did not exist, and therefore no creation event which requires any explanation.

      On the KCA, universe began to exist and therefore needs a cause. On the LCA, the universe is a contingent fact and therefore needs an explanation. From this it is deduced that the universe was caused by a timeless being. You may disagree with some premises but it is not in the form of an argument from ignorance.

      Wrong on both counts. What’s more, you’re wrong in a way that pretends the arguments I’m making don’t even exist.

      Earlier you wrote: “The most consistent answer is to recognize the uncaused nature of the universe”. It’s hard to square that statement with all the premises in the KCA and LCA.

      If you’re going to argue that the chain of cause-and-effect must extend backwards without limit, even going so far as to transcend the limits of time itself, then you are making that error. You must admit, at some point, that the process of cause and effect is not infinite, and therefore when I describe the limits of cause and effect, I am not denying cause and effect.

      But, I’m not maintaining that the chain of cause and effect must extend backwards without limit. I’m maintaining that it must stop at an Uncaused Cause.

      You should write down your chain of logic, by which you claim to know that other timelines exist.

      To be clear, I think another timeline is a possibility. I see no way to prove or disprove the notion. Regardless of whether there is another timeline, I think the impossibility of an actual infinite requires that a timeless stated preceded time.

      Still, the more theologians allow the facts to lead them away from monotheism and into the truth of pantheism, the closer they are to real theology.

      If your beliefs are actually identical to classical theism, then you’re a monotheist, not a pantheist.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        [T]he effect comes into existence at a single moment in time. Before that time there was no effect. It is only at this moment that the cause truly becomes the cause of the effect.

        Yes. Thank you. You’ve finally arrived at the point I started from: the universe is an uncaused phenomenon because there is no “before that time” when the universe did not exist. The “timeless state” is not a time “before that time”, and some other timeline is not a time “before that time” (since if Timeline A comes before Timeline B, they’re really just two parts of the same timeline). Since there is no “before” time when the universe did not exist, there is no “effect” that could be attributed to any cause, quod erat demonstratum.

        Jayman, I hate to say it, but you’re really not making any progress here. You’re dodging away from crucial distinctions like the difference between “beginning” and “origin,” you’re strenuously avoiding any serious consideration of what a cause-and-effect relationship really is, you’re circling back to arguments that have already been dealt with as though they were new, you’re misreading my comments so badly that your rendition of them is completely unrecognizable. I’m putting you on the Moderation List in hopes of sparing both of us from a pointless waste of time. You can continue to comment, but your comments will not show up unless they meet the criteria listed in the link. If you want to post a more detailed response, you may do so on your own blog and post a link here (as detailed in the Moderation List page), and I will publish the link so that people can find your response easily.

  8. sc_fe04a3f01f0ad5a9575e53e25607cc08 says

    Look, God isnt going to impressed by what is, at best, an ant telling a human what he is.
    We dont believe in Christ because of some clever argument. God’s truth is not based on dribble on the internet. You go to God and ask him about Christ. You are either drawn by the truth of the message or you’re not. The whole world is set up so you can reveal yourself. When we turn humbly to God it is put as a fact in our minds. So I dont get this idea that some formulated argument is gonna essentially explain to me what is more clear than my own name.
    I think if those who from such arguments understood this– they would just realize they are preaching to the lost..nothing more.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      And yet you yourself are offering a clever argument for why believers should be absolved from providing any evidence for what they say about God. You just believe whatever pops into your head, regardless of whether it’s consistent with reality or not. That means you have no basis for calling it “true,” because it does not come from objective reality. It only exists inside your head, and you simply choose to assume that God (as you imagine Him) must have magically put it there.

      Frankly I see no difference between how you claim to arrive at your beliefs, and how any other self-deluded person would do so.

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