samedi 9 avril 2016

Two rebuttals of Kalaam rebutted

1) Kalam, Loftus & Lindsay · 2) Two rebuttals of Kalaam rebutted

Shaun Doyle*

The Kalaam:

  • Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  • The universe had a beginning.
  • Therefore, the universe had a cause.

Rebuttal a) "who created God?" or "what is the cause of God?" or verbatim "what if God isn't eternal?"

Shaun Doyle answers, correctly, that (resuming):

  • Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  • Therefore, everything that has no cause has no beginning.

And from then:

  • Everything that has no cause has no beginning.
  • God (among others as conclusion of Kalaam, see above), has no cause.
  • Therefore, God has no beginning.

Rebuttal b) "Everything that is sentient has a cause."

  • Everything that is sentient has a cause.
  • God is sentient.
  • Therefore the God has a cause.

Shaun Doyle, again (quoting this time):

The Kalam argument usually takes this sort of form:

  • Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  • The universe had a beginning.
  • Therefore, the universe had a cause.

Subsequently, the nature of the effect (the universe) is analyzed to determine what type(s) of cause(s) could’ve produced it. Note that the form of the argument you presented doesn’t refute anything in the Kalām argument as presented above—even if God has a cause, the universe still needs a cause in view of it having a beginning. Rather, the argument you mention tries to show that no sentient being can be an uncaused cause, so that if we think that the cause of the universe itself has to be uncaused, it can’t be God because “Everything that is sentient has a cause”.

No problem with analysis, so far. Then:

Nonetheless, we would consider the argument unsound because the first premise is false. Why think that all sentient beings have causes? There is no evidence for the first premise. Worse, there are powerful positive reasons to reject the first premise. To avoid an infinite regress of contingent causes, we would need a first, uncaused, necessary being to ground the causal chain in reality. But how else could a necessary being cause a contingent effect, other than by being able to choose to create, which is of course something only sentient beings can do? Rather than it being problematic that the uncaused cause would be sentient, it’s highly likely that it would need to be sentient to be able to produce a contingent effect like the universe.

Here, I agree how Shaun Doyle argues that the first cause had to be able to choose.

However, he misses a point about sentient. "Everything that is sentient has a cause." : "Why think that all sentient beings have causes? There is no evidence for the first premise."

Actually there is, if we take the kind of sentience we find in biological sense organs!

Seeing is CAUSED by the light that hits the eye. Hearing is CAUSED by the sound that hits the ear. Feeling is CAUSED by roughness, smoothness, cold, heat, moisture, dryness and so on making an impact in skin and what is just underneath. Smelling is CAUSED by molecules dissolved in air hitting parts of the nose. Tasting is CAUSED by a more restricted gamut of molecules hitting parts of the tongue.

In order for us to argue God could choose, we must also argue that having knowledge and will by being a spirit is sth different and more "self-caused", less "caused from outside" than having the five exterior senses.

And to argue this, we need to argue that spirit in man, capable of moral and logical discernment and of categorising (as opposed to just catalogising) is sth wholly immaterial and above the mere brain, even the human brain.

Which is why a little scholastic revival of Thomism is in order for this kind of apologetics.

St Thomas Aquinas ... first, he did not use the Kalaam, he considered it impossible to prove its second premiss, that the universe had a beginning** ... his five ways lead to a FIRST mover who is not necessarily earliest. Good. A clockmaker could have caused the universe just to begin, but then let it continue without himself, St Thomas considers God more as an instrument builder who then is an instrument player (Six days : God doing the Stradivarius job, from then on : God doing the Paganini job), and considers the latter point ONLY (that God is moving or "playing" the universe right now) the only way in which to prove God.

BUT his Averroist opponents agreed on that and then argued that the God who/which is First unmoved mover, would NOT be aware of what He is moving. Why? Because awareness of sth outside oneself is (in all experience of our created awareness) in a sense to be "moved" or "caused" by what one is aware of. So they consider it was instead "the world soul" who, aware of the God who had caused him, moved itself and the universe with it, out of love of this superior (and unaware) God.

And St Thomas answers "not so with God : in His case, His being aware is what causes the things He is aware of to be."

We must agree, not just I the Catholic, but I think also Shaun Doyle on CMI. However, in doing so, the only consistent position is to distinguish the spiritual or rational awareness we have of generalities from the sense awareness we have of particulars. Distinguish, not separate. But distinguish we must. This means, certain positions of modern neuropsychology or whatever, saying that rational thought "is caused by" or "emanates from" or are "an emerging property of" certain parts of the brain have to be rejected.

The minimum is, if accepting brain cortex as "causa efficiens" of rational thought and choice in us, we must nevertheless consider it enjoys a "causa exemplaris" above that. But even this is too little, unless we say that the "causa exemplaris" really is exemplary for the "causa formalis" of our thought so much that our thought is a real similar image and not just a neurobiological miming of rationality as it exists in God and angelic beings. This however means that the brain cortex cannot be totally the "causa efficiens" even of our rationality, but there must be a real interaction between the two : reason receiving sense impressions from the brain as organ caused from outside, reason giving order (via brain to) body about looking at this, or listening to that or making the bodily choices impact the limbs that obey them.

And this, again, is a subject where Thomism was left and confused modernity began a few centuries ago. Descartes argued there had to be an organ which was the organ of exchange ... body outside it not directly connected to spiritual soul, and presumably soul apart from receiving sense impressions not directly connected to body. This organ was never found and this led to abandoning the theory, but not to returning (overall in general culture, outside a few clerical Catholic buffs) to the Thomistic view : "soul" (in whatever living creature) is "form of the body" (as alive - not of the corpse or cadaver!); "spirit" (in whatever spiritual creature or non-created) is "what is aware of itself and of other, what can known and chose, what can be wise and love" ; in man "soul" and "spirit" coincide.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Carrières Saint-Denis
St Mary Cleophas***

* CMI : Could God cause the beginning of the universe?
Feedback archive → Feedback 2016
Published: 9 April 2016

** That the universe had a beginning, St Thomas certainly believed, but JUST because of faith, because the Bible told him so.

*** In Judaea sanctae Mariae Cleophae, quam beatus Joannes Evangelista sororem sanctissimae Dei Genitricis Mariae nuncupat, et cum hac simul juxta crucem Jesu stetisse narrat.

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