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May 28, 2012

Comments

I like the transcendental presuppositional method of Van Til / Greg Bahnsen- we prove the validity or existence of our God from the impossibility of the contrary. That can sometimes be a very lengthy process of explaining, but it seems to work well at least in my experience.

Quick question: do you believe that people choose to believe in God? And if so, how can that choice bring assurance of salvation?

BrettKunkle,

It seems like your method is based on the premise that if God exists and has a minimal set of properties such as omnipotence, omnipotence and perfect goodness, then we should expect him to be interested in establishing a religion devoted to him. But this seems like a pretty big assumption. Why think it is true? Maybe God wants to leave us alone, undisturbed. I can't find any reason to prefer an involved God to an uninvolved God.

Regards,
Ben

Billy,

In case you didn't see my comment in the other thread, I would be curious to hear that Van Tilian argument you think is successful in proving the existence of God.

Needless to say, I am quite skeptical. But I try to be open-minded. If you think it is a good argument, by all means, please share it.

Regards,
Ben

Here's a very rough sketch.

Theism
The traditional rational arguments can show that there is a God or gods that is (are) omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly rational, independent of space and time.

All evil is a form of ignorance, stupidity or weakness, so God is (the gods are) also morally perfect.

Methodological Monotheism

If there is more than one God, they are distinguished from one another in some way that cannot be explained.

Being independent of space and time, yet possessed of mental attributes like knowledge and reason, implies that they are by nature purely mental, so they cannot be distinguished as bodies can...by location.

And the very things that might be used to distinguish minds from one another are ruled out by the properties of omniscience, perfect rationality and so on.

Unless the gods choose to reveal that there are differences that distinguish them, I can't tell the difference between monotheism and a polytheism where there's no way that I can distinguish the gods from each other.

I suppose there might be another type of polytheism that we might call "God by Committee". The idea is that there are a whole host of super-powerful beings that exist independent of space and time, gods if you like. Each of the individual gods might have any number of mental shortcomings and differences. But when you take their collective action as a whole, you get an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Morally Perfect agency. God, if you will, but by committee.

Again, unless the gods choose to reveal the difference to me, I can't tell the difference between standard monotheism and by-committee monotheism.

There may be other conceivable schemes that give polytheism with the appearance of standard monotheism. Suffice it to say that I'll never know that any such view is correct unless the gods choose to reveal it to me.

As such, even though that does not prove monotheism, I'm going to dispense with the "or gods" locution. If the gods later tell me that there's a distinction I can't understand, but which they assure me exists, I'll believe them.

Revelation

Now, it is evident that humans exist and have a desire to know their creator. Even atheists couldn't call Christianity 'wish-fulfillment' if this were not so. They think religion is wish-fulfillment, not because they deny the wish, but because they deny the fulfillment: God.

But as I've already suggested, rational argument shows that there is a God. This omnipotent omniscient God who created us, created us with this desire to know Him. It seems that he does want to reveal Himself to us somehow.

Sin and Grace

It also seems that, being morally perfect, He must be dreadfully disappointed in us. And I use that word "dreadful" deliberately. It should fill us with dread that this is so.

At the same time, none of that is outside of what our Omnipotent creator wanted or planned...how could it be. As such He must, in His moral perfection, have some way that He plans to redeem the situation. That is, He is a God of redemption. A God of grace.

Christianity

There is only one religion of grace: Christianity. Every other religion is a religion of works.

If God is a God of grace, then only a religion of grace can be a true religion.

So there is one true religion, Christianity.

Monotheism Revisited

Christianity, the true religion, teaches that there is one God, not a pantheon of indistinguishable gods, nor God by Committee, nor any other idiosyncratic form of polytheism.

So there is one God. The God of Christianity. The God of the Bible.

A Wrinkle: A Second Religion of Grace?

Understood in a certain way, Judaism might also qualify as a religion of Grace. Certainly Christians should say so. It is a religion looking forward to a grace to be revealed. Christianity is a religion looking back to the grace revealed in Christ.

So it comes down to the question: "Who was Jesus?"

Ben,

I would love to talk to you about this, but as far as writing a bunch of stuff I just don't have the time. YouTube -Greg Bahnsen. Besides, unless your presuppositions change you'll just throw all the evidence into a bottomless pit. What you would consider fact is determined by your ultimate commitment........to be continued........

Okay maybe a little writing. What do you believe, Ben, and why?

Billy,

Well as I mentioned in the other blog comment stream, you don't have to write everything out yourself---a link is fine if the argument has already been formulated.

As for your question, I'm a hard agnostic, which is to say that I take the position nobody can know that God exists. My argument for this position is based on the fact that we can only have knowledge about the external world through inductive evidence. However God's omnipotence transcends induction by definition, such that we can never inductively infer that property. But omnipotence is not just an accidental property---it is essential to God. Since we cannot infer an essential property of God, that means we cannot infer the existence of God.

Of course, that cuts both ways. Neither can we have any inductive evidence against the existence of God. So the only way we could ever rule out the existence of God is to show that it is incoherent. This has not been done.

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

It seems to me that we can entertain four scenarios:

  1. God exists in every possible world, and ipso facto the actual world.
  2. God exists in no possible world, and ipso facto does not exist in the actual world.
  3. God exists in some possible worlds, but not others, and He happens to exist in the actual world.
  4. God exists in some possible worlds, but not others, and He happens not to exist in the actual world.
Now, it seems to me that the very idea of God rules out the last two options. If God exists at all, He's not the sort of being that happens to exist, depending on which possible world happens to be the actual one. Indeed, just for the sake of argument, we may define "God" to mean "A being whose existence does not depend on any logical contingency".

And option 2. can only obtain if the idea of God is logically impossible.

If the idea of God is even possible, then God exists in every possible world, including the actual one.

Given that you don't think that there has yet been any proof that the idea of God is incoherent (which I take to mean the same, in this context, as logically impossible), it seems that your agnosticism is resting on a knife edge.

WisdomLover,

I disagree that "the very idea of God rules out the last two options." If we discovered that there only exists an unembodied mind who created the universe and is omnipotent and omniscient but not broadly logically necessary, then we would hardly throw up our hands and say "well I guess God doesn't exist after all." Instead we would say, "oh, I guess God isn't necessary after all."

Regards,
Ben

The difficulty is that a being that is omnipotent and omniscient and all the rest cannot be logically contingent. So it is not possible to discover that such a being exists but is not logically necessary.

WisdomLover,

I see no reason to think that omnipotence and omniscience together imply broad logical necessity.

Regards,
Ben

Agnostic is a more realistic stance than atheist, I believe. You say the basis for the position of your argument is fact. How do you know? Or do you just have faith? To know that we can only have knowledge about the external world through inductive evidence assumes that you know the limits of knowledge. How would you prove that? Or do you just have faith? God's omnipotence transcending induction is who's definition? Can that be proven? I can't assume that apples would kill buffalos if launched at a high enough velocity, but I know they exist. I can't assume this is an essential property of apples, but it might be.

The transcendental presuppositional apologetic approach shows that nothing contrary to the Christian worldview is intelligible. Pick any religion (Christianity is not a religion in my opinion) and I can tell you its internal flaws. The impossibility of the contrary is the key here.

I am not trying to be a jerk at all and I hope I don't ever come across that way. You haven't taken a solid stance on this subject, I feel. If God didn't exist you couldn't know that to be the case. Why do you expect toothpaste to come out when you squeeze the tube? Because of induction? You have faith that the future will be like the past. But why? Epistemological self consciousness is essential in understanding why you believe and being consistent in those beliefs. Tell me more about what you think. I'm curious.

Wisdom Lover,

I can tell that you are clearly more familiar with the philosophical tradition than many, since it is not hard to detect familiarity with philosophy when reading those whose comments are informed by that tradition. Furthermore, more than once on this blog you have intimated your interest in the ontological argument. I have no desire to debate you concerning the merits of that argument. I am presently convinced that it is sheer sophistry and among the most patently question-begging arguments to receive such interest in the history of philosophy (no more convincing, that is, than helping oneself to the premise that God exists in all worlds in order to argue that he exists in the actual world). Nevertheless, I do wonder what it is about that argument that you find so interesting. I agree that, if God is defined as a maximally perfect being, and if “maximal perfection” is defined in such a way that it includes necessary existence, then it follows from the proposition Possibly, God exists that God actually exists. What I cannot ascertain, however, is what non-question begging reason you have for thinking that it is true that Possibly, God exists. Even if I were convinced that the following proposition is true

Possibly, there exists an omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect being.

I would not thereby be convinced that the following is true

Possibly, there is some being B, such that (a) B exists in every possible world and (b) B is omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect.

The first proposition may very well be true. But what non-question begging reason is there for thinking that the latter is also true?

Proceeding proleptically, I might anticipate someone saying, "But it is obviously true that it is possible that an absolutely perfect being exists, and clearly an absolutely perfect being would exist in all possible worlds." But this is not convincing in the least, since anyone already in doubt as to whether or not an omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect being could exist in all possible worlds will certainly be in doubt about whether it is possible for such a being to be maximally perfect, given that the definition of maximal perfection explicitly articulates as a necessary condition of possessing such a property that one exist in all possible worlds.

Look at it this way. Suppose that we say that God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly rational and so on.

Now, let's suppose that there's some possible world, call it W, and it contains God with His omnipotence and so forth.

How could it happen, then, that God does not exist?

Is it because W just happens not to be the actual world?

No, that can't be it.

To say that God is omnipotent is to say that He is in complete control of which possible world happens to be actual.

Had we wanted to say that God wouldn't be able to make a world He lives in actual, the time to do it was when we were saying that He exists in W with His omnipotence etc. Or when we were declaring that W was possible in the first place.

What we don't get to do is have a perfectly possible world containing an omnipotent God who does not actualize a world that contains Him. Such a world is perfectly impossible.

Malebranche-

My last comment was directed to Ben's claim that the divine attributes could exist in a contingent being.

You were asking a somewhat different question. To wit, why believe that it is possible for there to be a being with all the divine attributes?

My response was not directed at that.

I do have reasons to believe that the divine attributes are compatible with one another. Not the least of which is the history of success theistic philosophers have had in maintaining that precisely that thesis.

I have also devised my own proof that all the attributes are compatible. As far as I know, it is original to me, though it does bear some resemblance to Leibniz's proof. I have not published it yet. Maybe one day I will.

I first thought of it many years ago in a course with my favorite Philosophy prof, Nelson Pike. I ran it by him during a conversation and, after thinking about it for a couple days, he had to admit that he thought it worked.

Neither he nor I appreciated, at the time, how it relates to the Ontological argument.

Billy,

You wrote:

You say the basis for the position of your argument is fact. How do you know? Or do you just have faith?

The argument proceeds solely from what we mean by terms like "God," "omnipotence," "knowledge," and so on.

To know that we can only have knowledge about the external world through inductive evidence assumes that you know the limits of knowledge. How would you prove that? Or do you just have faith?

It assumes something about what we mean by knowledge, namely that knowledge consists of justified true belief, and justification consists of cogent inductive inference checked by coherence.

God's omnipotence transcending induction is who's definition? Can that be proven?

It's my definition, but I expect others to share it. I assume you agree that God can violate the broadest-according regularities of our experience. So for instance, God can suspend the laws of nature, right? Well that's what I mean by transcending induction.

The transcendental presuppositional apologetic approach shows that nothing contrary to the Christian worldview is intelligible. Pick any religion (Christianity is not a religion in my opinion) and I can tell you its internal flaws. The impossibility of the contrary is the key here.

The problem with this approach is that there are lots of different religions out there, each one of which has a wide range of doctrinal variation. Or it could be that God does not exist at all, or that God does exist but has not established any of the religions accessible to us today. So to disprove all these numerous possibilities seems impractical at best.

You haven't taken a solid stance on this subject, I feel. If God didn't exist you couldn't know that to be the case.

I don't understand you, here. If you mean that I haven't decided whether or not God exists, that's true. But I hope you don't think I'm being wishy-washy or lazy about it. On the contrary, in the past I tried very hard to prove one way or the other that God exists or does not, to no effect. Later I developed an argument to explain why those efforts were unsuccessful, and hence I am now a hard agnostic.

Why do you expect toothpaste to come out when you squeeze the tube? Because of induction? You have faith that the future will be like the past.

Well I'm wary about your use of the word "faith" here. It's true that I have no deeper justification for my assumption that the future will tend to be like the past. But I don't celebrate that lack of justification, as seems to be the implication when people use the word "faith" in place of the harsher-sounding "unjustified assumption." Rather, I try to be humble about my limited epistemic position, and acknowledge that for all I know tomorrow could be Hume's day.

Regards,
Ben

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

To say that God is omnipotent is to say that He is in complete control of which possible world happens to be actual.

But this is only true if God exists, i.e. if God happens to be in the actual world (call it A). If God does not exist, he's not in control of anything. And if God is in world W but not A, then that W-God has no control over what happens in A, much less what happens outside and above the possible worlds model we're using to talk about what could have been the case.

W-God is just an abstraction, not a real conscious mind existing somewhere in W-land.

Regards,
Ben

Ben

I just realized there was the other blog post where you had responded to one of my earlier comments so I wrote some stuff over there. Sorry for the confusion.

The main thing I want to point out is that with all the religions there are really only a few categories. Most of them fit into one of these categories. It really isn't that hard. God is the only Truth. The one and only God as revealed in the Bible.

In your usage of the word "we" you mean other agnostics?

SIDENOTE: one of my all time best friends is an agnostic. We have had some conversations in the past about God and he always ends with saying that there is not proof enough to convince him.

I will say that when I first believed it wasn't because someone convinced me through a rational argument. I applied what I feel God showed me to the things I had experienced in life and it all made sense finally. I applaud your efforts to know truth. Have you ever tried praying? If nothing happens you're right where you started. Just a thought. John 10:26 - Jesus says to some people that they don't believe because they are not of His flock. I don't argue to sound smart (that's probably a good thing since I know I don't) but because I want other people to know the incomparable greatness of God and the happiness that it can bring. If you are even taking the time to post stuff I would say that you are not totally at peace with your current convictions or lack of. I can honestly say that I believe in
God and I don't know that it's possible for me not to believe nor would I want to be
there. I think a debate setting will sometimes cause people to not accept ideas simply because of the nature of debating. I wish you well in your journey.

My favorite apologetic method is presuppositionalism. I think Greg Bahnsen had some great things to say in that area. YouTube has some of his lectures. All I could say about it he has already done a much better job of.

What people accept as truth is determined by their presuppositions. Christianity is the only thing that makes sense. Also have you read the Bible? You should if you want to be thorough in your search. Peace!

Ben

Apparently I forgot to hit "post" after writing that other post so don't bother looking for it. Greg Bahnsen lecture material on the problem of induction and it was mostly for materialistic atheism which you have pointed out doesn't apply to you.

Ben-

"W-God is just an abstraction, not a real conscious mind existing somewhere in W-land."

This is irrelevant. I assume that possible worlds are nothing more than maximal consistent sets of propositions. As abstract as abstract can be.

All that is relevant is whether it is true that an omnipotent God exists in W. That is, is the proposition "God exists and is omnipotent" a member of the set, W? And whether W is impossible or possible. That is, does the set of propositions, W, imply a contradiction or not?

If we stipulate that W is possible, that has consequences. One of the consequences is that no maximal consistent set of propositions can exclude the proposition that God exists and is omnipotent.

You seem to want to have it both ways. But a God that no contingency can deny is not compatible with a contingency that denies Him.

WisdomLover,

Well it was relevant to the argument in your other post, but you appear to have formulated a new argument here. You write:

If we stipulate that W is possible, that has consequences. One of the consequences is that no maximal consistent set of propositions can exclude the proposition that God exists and is omnipotent.

This does not follow. Can you explain your reasoning?

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

None of my arguments are new. I have explained my reasoning multiple times. Here is another try.

What I'm saying is that it is possible that there is an omnipotent being that chooses His own existence.

If a being is omnipotent, that means that there is no possibility of His will being thwarted.

Note, I am NOT saying that an omnipotent being is so powerful that even the idea of one has causal impact. All I'm saying is that what we mean by the term "omnipotent" is that there is no possibility of His will being thwarted.

So what we mean when we say "X exists and wills His own existence" is that there is no possibility of His not existing.

What we are declaring possible is that there is no possibility wherein this being does not bring himself into existence.

That is, we are declaring that it is possible that this being must exist.

As a general principle of (S5) modal logic, if it is possible that a proposition is necessary, then the proposition is necessary.

As such, declaring it possible that the being must exist just is to declare that He must exist.

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

What I'm saying is that it is possible that there is an omnipotent being that chooses His own existence.

No being can choose anything unless it exists. And if it exists, the matter of existence is already settled.

If a being is omnipotent, that means that there is no possibility of His will being thwarted.

God's will can only be thwarted if God actually exists. So in a world W where God does not exist, God's will cannot be thwarted, because there is no such will in that world to thwart!

Now, I think maybe you are objecting to the following idea: Suppose W is not actual, and in the actual world A, God does exist and in fact really wants to exist. Since God does not exist in W, doesn't that mean A-God's will is thwarted in W?

But no, that doesn't follow. If W were actual, then A-God's will would not be thwarted, because A-God would not exist. So the logical possibility for W to be actual does not violate the omnipotence of A-God.

What we are declaring possible is that there is no possibility wherein this being does not bring himself into existence.

That seems incoherent. A nonexisting being can't do anything at all, much less bring himself into existence. And an existing being already exists, and thus cannot bring himself into existence either.

As a general principle of (S5) modal logic, if it is possible that a proposition is necessary, then the proposition is necessary.

I have no problem here with S5.

Regards,
Ben

Billy,

You wrote:

I can honestly say that I believe in God and I don't know that it's possible for me not to believe nor would I want to be there. I think a debate setting will sometimes cause people to not accept ideas simply because of the nature of debating. I wish you well in your journey.

Well sometimes I have a hard time openly admitting I'm wrong, but for the most part I don't have much of a problem with admitting privately to myself that I am wrong, and changing my position accordingly. In fact, that happens so often it's downright depressing sometimes. (It's not fun to realize one is wrong.)

On the other hand, everyone seems to think that he is open-minded to the truth, and yet clearly not everyone is correct about their self-evaluation. So maybe I'm just wrong, like so many other people before me have been wrong. And even if I'm not, you have no way of knowing that. So I can certainly understand your unwillingness to get involved in a debate.

Take care,
Ben

Ben-

It's either the definition of "omnipotence" or precisely S5 you're having difficulty with.

The claim "X is an omnipotent being who chooses to exist" implies this "It is a necessary truth that X exists" To say that the one is possible is to say that the other is. But to say that the second is possible is to say that it is possible that it is necessary that X exists. Which is just to say that it is necessary that X exists.

You saw something particularly difficult with this claim:

It is possible that there is an omnipotent being that chooses His own existence.
You argued that
No being can choose anything unless it exists. And if it exists, the matter of existence is already settled.
But Ben, no being can be omnipotent unless it exists either. So your point here is irrelevant.

What is not at issue here is that existence is required for the actual possession of a property.

What is at issue is what the consequences are of saying that the difficult proposition is possible.

WisdomLover,

I agree that no being is omnipotent unless it exists, but that doesn't make my point irrelevant.

Maybe I wasn't clear before, but I'm pointing out that it is incoherent to say that God chooses to have existed. He can perhaps choose whether or not he will continue to exist, but he can't make a choice about his having existed at all, because that matter is already settled by the fact of his existence.

So until you make coherent sense of the claim "X is an omnipotent being who chooses to exist," nothing is going to follow from it.

Regards,
Ben

Ben,

Does believing something make it true or is truth separate from perception of it. Does absolute truth exist? Does it exist if we don't perceive it?

Could you prove that I can't know if you're wrong?

Lots of questions I know, but I am just curious.

WL, I think I agree with Ben. You seem to be defining "omnipotence" to include the ability to bring yourself into existence. I don't think it is possible in any world for a being to bring itself into existence. If "omnipotence" is part of your definition of God, and that is what you mean by "omnipotence," then I don't think it is possible for such a being to exist. No such being exists in any possible world because it's not possible for such a being to exist. The description of such a being contains an incoherence.

Sam, Ben-

This contention that it is not possible for any being to bring itself into existence is an interesting metaphysical assertion for which there has not been a scintilla of argument.

Indeed, it seems that all the argument goes the other way.

For starters I reiterate my reflection on the definition of omnipotence, so long as the proposition "X exists" is logically possible, it would seem that an omnipotent being can make it true, and any being who cannot make it true is, ipso facto, not omnipotent. The fact that the omnipotent being is also X hardly seems to matter.

Or try this.

You grant that it's perfectly OK for a being to maintain itself in existence. It just can't bring itself into existence.

Fine.

Suppose God exists at t-1, Now God is going to maintain himself in existence at the later time t. Something that you think is totally coherent.

When does God act to maintain His own existence at t?

Isn't it at t?

Question: How is that different from Him simply self-generating at t.

Answer: It isn't.

The same objection you register against the idea of God's eternal self-generation can be leveled against His eternal self-maintenance (which is really no surprise, since the two acts, are, in truth, one and the same...God's maintaining a thing is just His creation of it all over again).

There's no other time at which God could act to maintain Himself at t, than t itself, but by the time He's gotten to t, the issue of existence has been settled in His own favor or against it. If against His favor, then He can't do anything at all at t. If in His favor, then what need of His doing anything.

Of course, the whole argument is a fallacy. The fact that the issue of God's existence has been settled is completely orthogonal to the issue of why it's been settled.

Can you not see that to take your stance leads inevitably to the idea that God cannot create anything at all? After all, the fact that Y is different from God has no bearing on the fact that by the time we get to t, the question of Y's existence has been settled one way or the other. if Y doesn't exist at t, then it's too late for God to do anything about it. And if Y does exist at t, then why should He need to act at all.

Now, if you want to say that the idea of the omnipotent God is impossible, fine. You should have said so in the first place. But that just leads back to my initial contention that there is no middle ground between the necessity of God and the impossibility of God.

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

This contention that it is not possible for any being to bring itself into existence is an interesting metaphysical assertion for which there has not been a scintilla of argument.

That is not true. I wrote earlier:

"That seems incoherent. A nonexisting being can't do anything at all, much less bring himself into existence. And an existing being already exists, and thus cannot bring himself into existence either."

For starters I reiterate my reflection on the definition of omnipotence, so long as the proposition "X exists" is logically possible, it would seem that an omnipotent being can make it true, and any being who cannot make it true is, ipso facto, not omnipotent. The fact that the omnipotent being is also X hardly seems to matter.

That's fine, but that doesn't help you get to necessary existence.

Suppose God exists at t-1, Now God is going to maintain himself in existence at the later time t. Something that you think is totally coherent.

When does God act to maintain His own existence at t?

Isn't it at t?

Question: How is that different from Him simply self-generating at t.

Answer: It isn't.

No, I don't subscribe to that kind of simultaneous causation. And even if I did, it would only consist of a constant conjunction between the wishes of God at time t and the state of affairs at t. So you would have God make a wish at t for his own existence at t, and of course that wish would already be true. If that's all you mean by having God bring himself into existence, okay. But God doesn't bring himself into existence in any literal sense. It's just that no state of affairs contradicts God's wish to exist or not exist at any particular moment. Unfortunately, that fact won't help you show that God exists necessarily.

Now, if you want to say that the idea of the omnipotent God is impossible, fine. You should have said so in the first place.

I'm not asserting the impossibility of omnipotence. It seems perfectly coherent to suggest that there exists a being whose wishes always come true, which is really all there is to omnipotence. The only catch is that by "wishes" we mean coherent wishes. It won't do for God to wish for himself never to existed, which is why it is inappropriate to say that God "chooses His own existence." On the contrary, he doesn't choose anything of the sort. His wishes are simply consistent with his having existed.

Regards,
Ben

So Ben, you are effectively saying that God cannot create anything. OK. I get it. But why are you agnostic? It sounds to me like you've more or less made up your mind that there is no God, that the very idea is impossible.

BTW, since the standard view of God is that He created everything, including time, He exists independent of time so that all moments are, in effect, simultaneous from His perspective. So simultaneous causation is really the only game in town for God.

Of course, maybe no such creation is possible. If you think not then you are, once again, not a mere agnostic, hard or soft, but a thoroughgoing atheist.

On another note, everything you are saying about wishes and omnipotence applies just the same to garden variety 'nipotence'. Your argument, once countenanced cannot be stopped. I think that consistency requires us to say that no one really can ever do anything. I wish that P were true, and at the same time P turns out to be true. But I didn't make P true in any real sense.

WisdomLover,

Obviously I am not saying any of those things about God not being able to create, or creation being impossible, etc. I realize that you think my view commits me to those things, but of course I don't agree you have supported such claims.

However that's all more or less a red herring. As I said before, I'm willing to grant simultaneous causation for the sake of argument. That still doesn't get you where you need to go, though, due to the reasons I gave in my last post. Namely, you just have God existing and (simultaneously) causing his existence. But this does not imply that he chooses to exist, because he could not have declined to cause his existence. Nor does it get you necessary existence.

As for the business of wishes, I don't see any other way to characterize omnipotence, but if you don't like my account you don't have to buy it. That is to say, it's not required to see that your view is incoherent. Whatever it is in which causation consists, God's (simultaneously) causing himself to exist won't get you choice, and it won't get you necessity.

Regards,
Ben

WL, if it is possible for God to bring himself into existence, then isn't it possible for God to not exist? And if it's possible for God to not exist, then he's not necessary, is he? It seems to me that if God is a necessary being, then it's not possible for him to bring himself into existence.

WisdomLover,

Even though it's not required to see that it's incoherent for God to bring himself into existence, or choose his own existence, etc., I would like to clear up the following point. You wrote:

On another note, everything you are saying about wishes and omnipotence applies just the same to garden variety 'nipotence'. Your argument, once countenanced cannot be stopped. I think that consistency requires us to say that no one really can ever do anything. I wish that P were true, and at the same time P turns out to be true. But I didn't make P true in any real sense.

The problem with your suggestion here is that we do not observe any constant conjuntion between your wishes and what actually happens. So you might get lucky and wish for something that happens. But your wish does not cause it to happen, because there is no regularity between you wishing for things and those thing happening.

With God, all his wishes come true, without exception. What more could there possibly be to God's "causing" his wishes to come true than this constant conjunction?

Regards,
Ben

Sam-

I think an important nuance to my argument that I haven't brought out (mostly because we've been hung up on other matters) is that God's choice to bring Himself into existence must be essential to God (as I think perfect rationality would imply).

I think that you have a necessary being then. And His necessity is underwritten by the only thing that can underwrite necessity: omnipotence.

And what God is choosing in this case is the existence of a necessary being: Himself. So His choosing that that being exist can hardly be a reason to think that God might not have existed.

BTW-God's bringing Himself into existence is not creation of Himself from nothing. But it is His eternal self-generation. The idea that God is eternally self-generating is, I think, the standard view. This is what it is to be begotten. The Father-Son idea is, as it were, baked-in to the whole idea of God the Necessary One.

Here's the argument, Sam, in standard form, if that helps:

  1. "X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true"
    entails
    "P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"
  2. "X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
    entails
    "P is unpreventably true, i.e. necessary."
  3. Possibly "X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
    entails
    Possibly "P is necessary"
  4. Possibly "X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
    entails
    "P is necessary"
Anything that an omnipotent being is, or even might be, essentially disposed to make true is, thus, a necessary truth. Insofar as the omnipotent being is also rational, one of those propositions is the proposition that that being Himself exists.

Malebranche-

There was one other wrinkle in your comment that I think I glossed over in my other response to you. I hope you are still reading.

I have argued here in my hamfisted way, and others, starting with Leibniz and more recently including Plantinga, have argued more elegantly that the key discovery of the ontological argument is that it carves out the middle ground between the necessity of God and the impossibility of God. It rules out any scenario where a maximally perfect being exists in some, but not all, possible worlds.

Given that, merely showing that a maximally perfect being is possibly existent is all that is required. Because showing that rules out the only option remaining other than the necessity of the maximally perfect.

It is not required to directly show that a maximally perfect being is possibly necessary (which was another aspect of the question you were asking in your comment)...you get that indirectly by eliminating all the other alternatives.

WisdomLover,

Would it be accurate to say God could not choose to not exist? I think this is what I’m trying to ask : )

KWM-

I think the argument depends on it being essential to God that He choose His own existence.

I took this, BTW, to be part of the unpacking of the notion of perfect rationality. I don't know whether you can get that from omnipotence alone. Perhaps, but I haven't yet seen how.

If it is essential to God that He choose His own existence, then I think the answer to your question is "no".

BTW-God's bringing Himself into existence is not creation of Himself from nothing. But it is His eternal self-generation.

Oh, I see. That does clarify things.

So His choosing that that being exist can hardly be a reason to think that God might not have existed.

But what if he had made a different choice? If it's even possible for God to have made a different choice, then he's not a necessary being, is he?

Nevermind, WL. I just read your response to KWM.

WisdomLover,

You wrote:

2. "X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true" entails "P is unpreventably true, i.e. necessary."

But this does not follow. If X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that he chooses to make P true, then it only follows that P is true whenever X exists. But unless you want to assume in advance that God is a necessary being (which would be circular) then P might not be necessary, because it need not be true in those possible worlds where God does not exist.

Anyway, as explained before, it doesn't even make sense to say that God chooses to make it true that he should exist. You can't plug just anything in for P.

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

Picking up a thread that escaped me initially.

I wrote:

This contention that it is not possible for any being to bring itself into existence is an interesting metaphysical assertion for which there has not been a scintilla of argument.
You replied:
That is not true. I wrote earlier:
"That seems incoherent. A nonexisting being can't do anything at all, much less bring himself into existence. And an existing being already exists, and thus cannot bring himself into existence either."
Well, I suppose the following is an argument:
  1. An existing being cannot bring itself into existence (because it already exists)
  2. A non-existent being cannot bring itself into existence (because it can't do anything)
  3. Every being either exists or not
  4. So, no being can bring itself into existence.
It even has that elusive property of validity. Needless to say, however, (at least) one of the premises remains metaphysically contentious and unproven.

Furthermore, the premise I have a problem with seems obviously false: That an existing being cannot bring itself into existence. And the reason given, because it already exists, underscores the difficulty. The issue is not whether God can do something at some future time that will bring it about that He exists now (which the problem of His already existing might address...though even that is problematic: an omnipotent being will do whatever he wants with time). The issue is whether He can now be the cause of His own present existence.

It seems obvious to me that something must be the cause of its own existence for the standard reasons that are leveraged in the cosmological argument. As such an omnipotent being can surely be the cause of His own existence.

WisdomLover,

I don't think you can make sense of the idea that God causes himself to exist, for the reasons explained earlier. You say that the impossibility of a being bringing itself into existence is obviously false. Well, I think the idea of a being bringing itself into existence is obviously incoherent.

But if there were some relation C such that God exists iff God C-relates to his existence, then that doesn't get you any closer to God's necessary existence. (You can plug "cause" in for C if you like, even though it doesn't really make sense to do so.)

Regards,
Ben

Ben-

Allow me first to back up to your prior post

I wrote:

2. "X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true" entails "P is unpreventably true, i.e. necessary."
You replied:
But this does not follow. If X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that he chooses to make P true, then it only follows that P is true whenever X exists. But unless you want to assume in advance that God is a necessary being (which would be circular) then P might not be necessary, because it need not be true in those possible worlds where God does not exist.
Well, item 1 from my list, is surely a true entailment:
"X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true"
entails
"P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"
This is because of the meaning of "omnipotent". An omnipotent being's choices will come true no matter what. The only possible barrier to that is if He Himself places the barrier.

Notice that it is not necessary to add "X exists" to the antecedent of the entailment, since, as you are fond of pointing out, Ben, "X chooses to make P true" already entails that X exists (as, BTW, does "X is omnipotent"). If "A and B" entails "C", and "A" entails "B", then "A" entails "C".

Now let's break down the move from item 1 to item 2.

For starters, note that the antecedent of item 2:

X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true
entails the antecedent of item 1:
X is omnipotent and X chooses to make P true
Because X is omnipotent, X exists, as such, X does what He is essentially disposed to do and chooses to make P true.

The upshot of this is that this entailment holds:

"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
entails
"P is true and nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true"
Now, as already noted, if X is omnipotent, X exists, and if He is essentially disposed to make P true, then He Himself cannot prevent Himself from making P true. That is, this entailment holds:
"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
entails
"X could not have prevented P from being true"
Now, if
"A" entails "B" and "C"
and
"A" entails "D"
then
"A" entails "B" and "C" and "D"
In the context of the current argument, this rule means that:
"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
entails
"P is true" and
"Nothing other than X could have prevented P from being true" and
"X could not have prevented P from being true"
Now, the consequent of this entailment can be collapsed into this:
"P is true" and
"Nothing could have prevented P from being true"
Or this:
P is unpreventably true.
And "unpreventably" here means that there is no logical possibility of prevention. That is:
P is necessary
Thus we have our entailment as expressed in item 2:
"X is omnipotent and it is essential to X that He choose to make P true"
entails
"P is necessary"
The rest of the argument goes through by standrad principles of (S5) modal logic:
  • If A entails B, then Possibly-A entails Possibly-B. (That gets us from item 2 to item 3)
  • Possibly-"P is necessary" entails that P is necessary. (That allows us to transform the consequent in item 3 and infer item 4).
Now let us consider this claim:
Anyway, as explained before, it doesn't even make sense to say that God chooses to make it true that he should exist. You can't plug just anything in for P.
Actually, this has never been explained. Nor has it ever been argued for (except in the very preliminary fashion...that leaves the main contention unexplicated...that I spelled out a few posts up). It has only really ever been asserted. But I haven't seen a reason to believe this assertion, other than, perhaps, it leads to consequences you don't care for.

Conversely, I have at least alluded to reasons for thinking that some self-generation is necessary if there are to be any generated beings at all. Without them, the whole chain of existence would seem to be impossible.

To put this in terms that map to your earlier comment, I see no reason not to plug in any proposition P into the argument spelled out above. So long as that proposition is logically possible. That is, I see no reason not to stick to the standard definition of omnipotence ("X is omnipotent" = "X can make any logically possible proposition true").

So "X exists" can be plugged in so long as it is logically possible. Now, the claim that "X exists" is logically possible is, as I have said all along, not something that one just needs to/gets to accept on my say so or anyone's say so. It needs proof one way or the other.

Ben

Does absolute truth exist?

Observation #1

Is is logically impossible for a being at t to choose his own existence at t?

One way to prove that a statement, P, is logically possible is to show that there is at least one other statement, Q that P does not imply. The reason for this is that a contradiction implies anything and everything.

Does "X chooses his own existence at t" imply "X attempts suicide at t"?

Does "X chooses his own existence at t" imply "X refrains from defending himself from destruction at t"?

It seems pretty clear that the answer to both questions is "No, those implications do not obtain." At the very least, anyone who wants to assume that they do obtain has a pretty heavy burden of proof. Infinitely heavy.

So it is logically possible for X to choose his own existence at t.

Observation #2

Is it logically possible for X's choice of X's own existence to be effective?

Well, does "X's choice of X's own existence is effective" imply "X successfully commits suicide"?

Does it imply "X fails to prevent another individual from destroying X"?

Again, no.

Observation #3

With some trepidation, I'll venture to give the property of choosing one's own existence "self-realization". I have no Hindu or Freudian presuppositions built into that.

So my argument above was based on two assumptions about God:

  1. "X is God" implies "X is omnipotent">LI>"X is God" implies "X is essentially self-realizing"

It carves out the middle alternatives about God based only on those two assumptions. I might define "God" as follows:

"X is God" = "X is omnipotent and essentially self-realizing".

Now the possibility question is simplified

Are omnipotence and essential self-realization compatible?
If they are, then it's a necessary truth that God, so defined, exists.

The confusing clause:

I'll venture to give the property of choosing one's own existence "self-realization"

Should read:

I'll venture to name the property of choosing one's own existence "self-realization"

Also, I made a hash of my list of assumptions. It should read:

  1. "X is God" implies "X is omnipotent"
  2. "X is God" implies "X is essentially self-realizing"
I need to use the preview function more wisely.

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