Saturday, January 21, 2017

David Haines' Defense of Aquinas' First Way

Here. 

2,872 comments:

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bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

Continued from the LLL post.

It would be helpful for everyone who wants to join the discussion to read the post that Victor has provided. I think it will allow us to focus more on points of agreement and disagreement.

This exchange:
SP:"A.He defeats himself in 8 by contradicting 5."
" The Unchanged Changer is not in changing so there are no contradictions. If you disagree, let's have that discussion."
5.Therefore nothing can move itself.
8.Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other.
Clearly, 8 and 5 are mutually exclusive. If something moved without a mover then something moved itself. If nothing can move itself then there can be no thing put in motion by no other."

8 and 5 are not mutually exclusive if the first mover is not in motion. Since it is not in motion, it requires nothing to move it. Or more accurately it is necessary to arrive at an Unchanged Changer is not changing.

If it is not clear what Aquinas intended, here it is discussed in Summa Contra Gentiles as part of a more in depth discussion.

From Summa Contra Gentiles
"Everything that is moved is moved by another. That some things are in motion—for example, the sun—is evident from sense. Therefore, it is moved by something else that moves it. This mover is itself either moved or not moved. If it is not, we have reached our conclusion—namely, that we must posit some unmoved mover. This we call God. If it is moved, it is moved by another mover. We must, consequently, either proceed to infinity, or we must arrive at some unmoved mover. Now, it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Hence, we must posit some prime unmoved mover."

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
SP:"B. He correctly states that an infinite regress is logically irrational, but fails to prove it is necessarily impossible to realize. Nobody has solved this riddle."
" Your objection assumes the First Way is addressing how” Everything is indeed in motion so that does indeed call for the question of how it all got started moving.” The First Way is not addressing “how it all got started moving” at all, only what is happening at this very moment. "
??? Same thing. Something started it all moving, else it has always been moving. So, either there was a first mover or motion is eternal in the past. Both choices are irrational, hence the great existential riddle."

I understand that you don't see the distinction that is being made, but I'm confident that if you read the post, perceive the distinctions between the 2 types of causal series he discusses and use the understanding of the essentially ordered series to the First Way you can see the difference.

I could implore you to "Free your mind of these (atheist) and false simplifications and you can begin to expand your mind", but that would be insulting. :-)

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

SP:"So now it isn't ***an argument to demonstrate the existence of God***.

Make up your mind. Is there an attention span issue here? Try to focus. Keep your eye on the ball, OK?"

Am I to understand that you don't know what an epilogue is?

This exchange"
" So in context, his audience will have understood the classical definition of God as a singular category unto Himself, not part of a category of a number of “gods”. "
Then the audience is ill informed as to the alternative sorts of first movers one can speculate."

And this:
SP"Then Aquinas was a narrow minded fool. His problem, no mine."

And This:
SP:"I don't care if he was addressing everybody in that audience and if it was true for that limited number of people. The attribution of "everybody" is false as presented in general circulation today."

All of this is irrelevant to your objection, which supposes that the intended audience was everyone in the world everywhere at all times.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

It would be helpful for everyone who wants to join the discussion to read the post that Victor has provided. I think it will allow us to focus more on points of agreement and disagreement."
Agreed. I read it, carefully, word for word, not a skim.

Hopefully you will now recognize that roughly half my points are clearly stated in agreement by the author.

The author is wrong about the other half.


This exchange:
SP:"A.He defeats himself in 8 by contradicting 5."
" The Unchanged Changer is not in changing so there are no contradictions. If you disagree, let's have that discussion."
5.Therefore nothing can move itself.
8.Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other.
Clearly, 8 and 5 are mutually exclusive. If something moved without a mover then something moved itself. If nothing can move itself then there can be no thing put in motion by no other."

" 8 and 5 are not mutually exclusive if the first mover is not in motion."
This is a clear error by the author, David Haines, in thinking this could logically be the case. The speculated god would have to "move", or more generally "change" in order to make the decision and to carry out the "motion" or "change" of being a mover.

I am holding my nose and using the simplistic and archaic language of Aquinas just for the sake of communicating in the vernacular of the believer.


January 21, 2017 6:45 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" I understand that you don't see the distinction that is being made, but I'm confident that if you read the post, perceive the distinctions between the 2 types of causal series he discusses"
Quite the contrary. As I read that section I immediately recognized the muddled nature of that false distinction. It is grounded in a per-scientific world view and of no actual analytical value.


" I could implore you to "Free your mind of these (atheist) and false simplifications and you can begin to expand your mind", but that would be insulting. :-)"
By all means, please feel free to to expand my mind if you can. I welcome an expansion of my mind from any source as a treasured gift of kindness.

However, I have never encountered a theistic apologetic that did anything of the sort, and the false distinction between an "accidental causal series" and an "essential causal series" is no exception.


January 21, 2017 6:59 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

SP:"So now it isn't ***an argument to demonstrate the existence of God***.
Make up your mind. Is there an attention span issue here? Try to focus. Keep your eye on the ball, OK?"

" Am I to understand that you don't know what an epilogue is?"
I suggest you re-read the Haines post.
"Aquinas says that this is the most evident or manifest way to demonstrate that God is"

No mere epilogue, rather, what Haines shows as (5)a. is in fact the very purpose of the whole argument, to demonstrate that God is (exists).

This is part of the half of my arguments that Haines affirms.


January 21, 2017 7:21 PM

Cal Metzger said...

The First Way (The Essential Version):

1. Nothing can move itself.
2. Did I say nothing? I meant god.
3. Therefore, stop asking hard questions.

Yay, Aquinas!!!

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
“" 8 and 5 are not mutually exclusive if the first mover is not in motion."
This is a clear error by the author, David Haines, in thinking this could logically be the case. The speculated god would have to "move", or more generally "change" in order to make the decision and to carry out the "motion" or "change" of being a mover.”

The conclusion of an unchanged changer is indeed logical. That the unchanged changer could change is ruled out by the premises. You have given us no reason to accept your assertion.

This exchange:
“" I understand that you don't see the distinction that is being made, but I'm confident that if you read the post, perceive the distinctions between the 2 types of causal series he discusses"
Quite the contrary. As I read that section I immediately recognized the muddled nature of that false distinction. It is grounded in a per-scientific world view and of no actual analytical value.”

There is nothing I can do to *make* you understand the distinction. If you want to deny that there is a difference between the *past* and *now*, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

SP:” No mere epilogue, rather, what Haines shows as (5)a. is in fact the very purpose of the whole argument, to demonstrate that God is (exists).

This is part of the half of my arguments that Haines affirms.”

I disagree. His outline has sub-statements that he uses to clarify the First Way. (5)a has a footnote [13] that you may have missed. But if even that is unclear he renders the argument as he understands it in footnote [8].

Legion of Logic said...

Cal, it's like you go out of your way to prove that you don't understand the argument. Is that your goal? If so, well done. You have convinced me, sir.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...
SP- The speculated god would have to "move", or more generally "change" in order to make the decision and to carry out the "motion" or "change" of being a mover.”

" The conclusion of an unchanged changer is indeed logical. That the unchanged changer could change is ruled out by the premises. You have given us no reason to accept your assertion."
I just did, but you did not recognize it, so I will repeat it.

The speculated god is said to have made a decision to move the substance of the universe. That decision itself is a change, or "movement". Even without a decision the act of causing something to happen is a change because this speculated god did not cause that action, then god did cause that action, so god changed and is thus not unchanged.


SP Quite the contrary. As I read that section I immediately recognized the muddled nature of that false distinction. It is grounded in a per-scientific world view and of no actual analytical value.

" There is nothing I can do to *make* you understand the distinction. If you want to deny that there is a difference between the *past* and *now*, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree."
I deny that an object is a cause prior to or after a mutual event process. Prior to the event the objects do not cause each other and are not effects of each other. During the event process the objects are mutual causes and effects of each other. After the event process the objects are no longer causes or effects of each other.

The distinction between an "accidental causal series" and an "essential causal series" is merely muddled pre-scientific thinking with no actual analytical value.


SP:” No mere epilogue, rather, what Haines shows as (5)a. is in fact the very purpose of the whole argument, to demonstrate that God is (exists).

This is part of the half of my arguments that Haines affirms.”

" I disagree. His outline has sub-statements that he uses to clarify the First Way. (5)a has a footnote [13] that you may have missed. But if even that is unclear he renders the argument as he understands it in footnote [8]."
The footnotes do nothing to alter the fact that (5)a. is factually false by counter example as well as being a false dichotomy and is in fact a conclusion that is set out as the very purpose of the argument, to demonstrate that god exists.

I find it particularly bizarre that individuals will claim to have an argument to demonstrate that god exists, present that argument, conclude the argument by claiming to show this thing of the argument is god...and then deny the argument is intended to demonstrate that god exists!!!


January 22, 2017 8:29 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" Cal, it's like you go out of your way to prove that you don't understand the argument. Is that your goal? If so, well done. You have convinced me, sir."
Hmm, well, I found the short form to be an accurate summation of one of the oddities of the first way.

I posted a partial critique of Aquinas at the link of the OP, perhaps you can find some flaws in my reasoning above or here:
http://philosopherdhaines.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-defense-of-aquinass-first-way.html


January 22, 2017 9:19 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

“" I understand that you don't see the distinction that is being made, but I'm confident that if you read the post, perceive the distinctions between the 2 types of causal series he discusses"
SP Quite the contrary. As I read that section I immediately recognized the muddled nature of that false distinction. It is grounded in a per-scientific world view and of no actual analytical value.”
.
To follow up here is a small sample of a scientific discussion of cause and effect:

About his final formulation Bell wrote: “Note, by
the way, that our definition of locally causal theories,
although motivated by talk of ‘cause’ and ‘effect,’ does not
in the end explicitly involve these rather vague notions.”


II. LOCAL CAUSALITY: OVERVIEW
We begin with a qualitative formulation of Bell’s concept
of local causality. In answer to an interview question about
the meaning of locality, Bell responded:
33
“It’s the idea that what you do has consequences
only nearby, and that any consequences at a distant
place will be weaker and will arrive there only after
the time permitted by the velocity of light. Locality
is the idea that consequences propagate
continuously, that they don’t leap over distances

http://www.stat.physik.uni-potsdam.de/~pikovsky/teaching/stud_seminar/Bell_local_causality.pdf

Contrast the modern scientific analysis with the language of Aquinas and it becomes glaringly apparent that the distinction between an "accidental causal series" and an "essential causal series" is merely muddled pre-scientific thinking with no actual analytical value.


January 22, 2017 8:29 AM

bmiller said...


@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" The conclusion of an unchanged changer is indeed logical. That the unchanged changer could change is ruled out by the premises. You have given us no reason to accept your assertion."
I just did, but you did not recognize it, so I will repeat it.

The speculated god is said to have made a decision to move the substance of the universe. That decision itself is a change, or "movement". Even without a decision the act of causing something to happen is a change because this speculated god did not cause that action, then god did cause that action, so god changed and is thus not unchanged. “

To assert that the First Way says anything at all about “decisions” is false.
The First Way comes to the logical conclusion of an Unchanging Changer. Your assertion seems to be that all things that cause change must themselves be changed, That would lead to an infinite regress which is impossible. There must be something unlike the things changing to terminate the causal chain, thus the concept of the unchanged changer which violates none of the premises.

This exchange:

" There is nothing I can do to *make* you understand the distinction. If you want to deny that there is a difference between the *past* and *now*, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree."
I deny that an object is a cause prior to or after a mutual event process. Prior to the event the objects do not cause each other and are not effects of each other. During the event process the objects are mutual causes and effects of each other. After the event process the objects are no longer causes or effects of each other.

You are welcome to deny causality, but in that case, please don’t scold people for imagining them to have either pre-scientific or scientific views. As we discussed previously to deny cause and effect is to make nonsense of not only your own ideas but of science as well.

This exchange:
“" I disagree. His outline has sub-statements that he uses to clarify the First Way. (5)a has a footnote [13] that you may have missed. But if even that is unclear he renders the argument as he understands it in footnote [8]."
The footnotes do nothing to alter the fact that (5)a. is factually false by counter example as well as being a false dichotomy and is in fact a conclusion that is set out as the very purpose of the argument, to demonstrate that god exists.

I find it particularly bizarre that individuals will claim to have an argument to demonstrate that god exists, present that argument, conclude the argument by claiming to show this thing of the argument is god...and then deny the argument is intended to demonstrate that god exists!!!”

The First Way formally demonstrates that an unchanged changer exists through observation and logic. It just so happens that this being fits as part of the definition of God. You want to claim that the epilogue is a non-sequitur but I’ve shown you how it is relevant to the topic, audience and intent of instruction.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

It seems that you think somehow that John Bell disproved cause and effect, or at least that certain types of causal series are impossible. I'm willing to hear you make your case. I can't see how what you posted supports this.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


" To assert that the First Way says anything at all about “decisions” is false."

This is an argument for god, try to keep that in mind. Aquinas set out to argue for god. The god Aquinas conceived of is said to have made decisions. The notion that god decided to create the universe is widespread, but I cover other possibilities as well, that a first mover just moved itself or the first mover of our universe was eternally in motion. The argument fails in any case.

" The First Way comes to the logical conclusion of an Unchanging Changer. "
And for god. It says so at the beginning and at the end. Try to keep that straight.

"Your assertion seems to be that all things that cause change must themselves be changed, "
That is what Aquinas says! That is a premise he states!

"That would lead to an infinite regress which is impossible. "
Nobody knows if it is existentially impossible but it seems logically impossible based on our concepts of time and material existence.

"There must be something unlike the things changing to terminate the causal chain, thus the concept of the unchanged changer which violates none of the premises."
It does violate the premise! That is the problem. Aquinas constructed a self contradictory argument.

You can tinker with the premises to fix the problem, but Aquinas did not fix the problem.

This exchange:

" There is nothing I can do to *make* you understand the distinction. If you want to deny that there is a difference between the *past* and *now*, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree."
I deny that an object is a cause prior to or after a mutual event process. Prior to the event the objects do not cause each other and are not effects of each other. During the event process the objects are mutual causes and effects of each other. After the event process the objects are no longer causes or effects of each other.

" You are welcome to deny causality, "
You still have not read the words with understanding. It is not a denial of causality. Read carefully and open your mind to learn some new concepts.

Cause and effect are mutual during a temporal interaction process.



This exchange:
“" I disagree. His outline has sub-statements that he uses to clarify the First Way. (5)a has a footnote [13] that you may have missed. But if even that is unclear he renders the argument as he understands it in footnote [8]."
The footnotes do nothing to alter the fact that (5)a. is factually false by counter example as well as being a false dichotomy and is in fact a conclusion that is set out as the very purpose of the argument, to demonstrate that god exists.

I find it particularly bizarre that individuals will claim to have an argument to demonstrate that god exists, present that argument, conclude the argument by claiming to show this thing of the argument is god...and then deny the argument is intended to demonstrate that god exists!!!”

" The First Way formally demonstrates that an unchanged changer exists through observation and logic. It just so happens that this being fits as part of the definition of God. You want to claim that the epilogue is a non-sequitur but I’ve shown you how it is relevant to the topic, audience and intent of instruction."
It is relevant because it is a non-seqitur that seeks to fulfill the stated intent of the argument, which is to demonstrate that god is (exists).

Aquinas set out to demonstrate god. He ended his argument with a non-sequitur in an attempt to fulfill that stated purpose.

He failed.

January 22, 2017 12:05 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

" It seems that you think somehow that John Bell disproved cause and effect, or at least that certain types of causal series are impossible. "
Archaic and simplistic notions. The traditional language of cause and effect is an impediment to sound analysis of how consequences propagate.

"I'm willing to hear you make your case. I can't see how what you posted supports this."
I really dislike "go read a book" as an answer, but I almost have to say that or do a whole lot of typing. How about "so skim the link"? Is that too much of a dodge? It isn't meant to be, but it will give you a feel for the complexity of the study of causality in modern science.

Ok, one quick swipe at it...
We can think of cause and effect when a rolling billiard ball hits a stationary ball. But lets turn those balls into a flyby mission, still essentially 2 interacting masses, but let's see about cause and effect.

Pretty much everybody knows that a spacecraft will fly by a planet. You may have seen simulations of the flight path, how the spacecraft will come in at an angle, get bent, and exit at a different angle. You are probably aware that gravity acts between the two objects over a long distance.

Which is the cause and which is the effect? When does this cause and effect occur? In truth, the planet affects the spacecraft, and the spacecraft effects the planet from launch until forever. Gravity acts over very long distances. The effect of the gravity of the spacecraft on the planet is non-zero and easily calculable. The effect of the planet on the spacecraft is more obvious.

But how doe we describe the cause and effect of this system? It is a mutual temporal process over long time periods and large distances.

That is kind or sort of a bit of an analogy for how things work on a subatomic scale. To understand the nature of existence of our observable universe we must immediately consider how things work at the very smallest scales detectable and imaginable. That's why cosmologists must study particle physics.

So, again, maybe skim the link.
http://www.stat.physik.uni-potsdam.de/~pikovsky/teaching/stud_seminar/Bell_local_causality.pdf




January 22, 2017 12:47 PM

Legion of Logic said...

SD,

Regarding your planet analogy, I would group that "category" of examples as in addition to what bmiller describes in cause/effect, rather than instead of what he describes.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

SD,

" Regarding your planet analogy, I would group that "category" of examples as in addition to what bmiller describes in cause/effect, rather than instead of what he describes."
That seems reasonable at first look but breaks down under close examination.

I only offered the spacecraft/planet interaction as an analogy. Somewhat the same thing happens on an atomic scale and subatomic scale, and if we are talking about the origins of our observable universe we must immediately consider the very smallest scales to gain realistic understandings.

I could construct pretty much the same description with 2 electrons colliding. At moderate velocities the electrostatic repulsion is such that the electrons don't actually collide like billiard balls, rather, they interact owing to their electrostatic charges (both negative by convention) and the repulsive force between them.

Physicists typically integrate from infinity to a defined location to solve such interactions in a classical model, which ends up being essentially the same sort of temporal process over a distance, a mutual interaction through time as space.

What we think of on our macro scale as cause and effect is actually an amalgam of vast numbers of ongoing mutual interactions over time and space.

We can do useful work in our daily lives with these macro approximations and analogies, but if we wish to contemplate the nature of existence itself the only rational thing to do is to seek to strip away all our illusions and approximations and be as realistic as we are able.

When we do so the language of Aquinas regarding cause and effect becomes almost useless. I say almost because the fundamental problem of a real infinite regress remains.

The arguments of Aquinas and the ontological argument, the Kalam, or whatever...they all are reformulations of one riddle, the problem of a real infinite regress, or more generally, a real infinity.


January 22, 2017 2:10 PM

SteveK said...

Science confirms that mathematical models suggest God exists. Skeptics confirm that they are selectively skeptical about what mathematical models can suggest. Rationalists commented that, "all the realistic models, in the hands of real scientists suggest God doesn't exist"

http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/756870/proof-of-god-kurt-godel

Stardusty Psyche said...

Scientists use mathematical calculations to PROVE the existence of God
SCIENTISTS have ‘confirmed’ the existence of God after proving a mathematician’s theory which suggests that there is a higher power.

How stupid, this site contradicts the headline in the subtitle.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/756870/proof-of-god-kurt-godel

"Dr Gödel’s model uses mathematical equations that are extremely complicated, but the essence is that no greater power than God can be conceived, and if he or she is believed as a concept then he or she can exist in reality."
Ha Ha Ha, that is just the ontological argument which fails because it contains a non-sequitur, confusing a logical possibility with an existential possibility.

SteveK said...

But, but, but math and science and models. Did I mention science? Science, man!!

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
"" To assert that the First Way says anything at all about “decisions” is false."

This is an argument for god, try to keep that in mind. Aquinas set out to argue for god. The god Aquinas conceived of is said to have made decisions. The notion that god decided to create the universe is widespread, but I cover other possibilities as well, that a first mover just moved itself or the first mover of our universe was eternally in motion. The argument fails in any case."

Your argument here is irrelevant to the First Way. Please stick to the subject you are debating.


Me:"Your assertion seems to be that all things that cause change must themselves be changed, "
SP:"That is what Aquinas says! That is a premise he states!"

Which premise are you talking about?

Here is how you seemed to state this same objection before:

Summarizing:
>>>
5.Therefore nothing can move itself.
6.Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.
8.Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other;
---This violates 5. and 6. above. Aquinas defeats himself.
<<<
A cannot change itself and therefore is not changing.(5)
B is changing but cannot change itself so it must be changed by something else. In this case it is changed by A.(6)
We have arrived at a first changer namely A that is not changed by anything else.(8)

And the first post on this topic:
From Summa Contra Gentiles
"Everything that is moved is moved by another. That some things are in motion—for example, the sun—is evident from sense. Therefore, it is moved by something else that moves it. This mover is itself either moved or not moved. If it is not, we have reached our conclusion—namely, that we must posit some unmoved mover. This we call God. If it is moved, it is moved by another mover. We must, consequently, either proceed to infinity, or we must arrive at some unmoved mover. Now, it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Hence, we must posit some prime unmoved mover."

There is no premise that states "all things that cause change must themselves be changed".

This exchange:

" The First Way formally demonstrates that an unchanged changer exists through observation and logic. It just so happens that this being fits as part of the definition of God. You want to claim that the epilogue is a non-sequitur but I’ve shown you how it is relevant to the topic, audience and intent of instruction."
It is relevant because it is a non-seqitur that seeks to fulfill the stated intent of the argument, which is to demonstrate that god is (exists).

Aquinas set out to demonstrate god. He ended his argument with a non-sequitur in an attempt to fulfill that stated purpose.

He failed."

Consider that we all know what an equilateral triangle is.
Consider that I performed a geometric proof that a particular 3 sided figure had all 3 internal angles equal to 60 degrees.
Consider then, that I claimed that the proof showed the figure was an equilateral triangle.
Your objection amounts to a complaint that I tacked a non-sequitur to the end of a proof because I had not proven that the figure also had equal length sides. What an annoying pupil.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche

SP:"Archaic and simplistic notions. The traditional language of cause and effect is an impediment to sound analysis of how consequences propagate....

So, again, maybe skim the link.
http://www.stat.physik.uni-potsdam.de/~pikovsky/teaching/stud_seminar/Bell_local_causality.pdf"

Yes I did skim the link. It is 15 pages. What do you think the "take-away" is? It has sections. Which sections should I look at?

To mention that we see things banging into each other and interacting is not science. When we cause one thing to bang into another under controlled conditions, this is a scientific experiment. Your explanations so far seem to indicate that we can't do scientific experiments.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

"You still have not read the words with understanding. It is not a denial of causality. Read carefully and open your mind to learn some new concepts.

Cause and effect are mutual during a temporal interaction process."

Please, let's clear this up.
First, what do you consider a "temporal interaction process"?
"Now" is the instantaneous unmeasurable moment commonly known as the "present". "Past" is the sequentially ordered (per the "arrow of time") moments of "now" that we remember. Please compare and contrast.

Next, how does this "process" make cause and effect indistinguishable unless one takes a passive, almost supernatural point of view? From my point of view, I certainly perceive when someone is hitting me. Don't you?

Joe Hinman said...

on Metacrock's blog:why there is no empirical evidence for God

grodrigues said...

@SteveK:

"But, but, but math and science and models. Did I mention science? Science, man!!"

The irony is that Goedel's modal argument (actually, a version of it), which basically is an exercise in modal logic, has been *computer verified* so it is not only valid (that is, it is valid in point of logical form, does not equivocate, commit logical fallacies like non-sequitur, etc.), it is provably so, we know it and we know it with some of the highest degree of certainty possible to us fallible human beings. It *is* science, man!!

Whether the argument is sound or not is a different question.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "To mention that we see things banging into each other and interacting is not science."

Observations are inherently scientific. You should take a basic science class someday before you pretend to lecture people.

bmiller: "When we cause one thing to bang into another under controlled conditions, this is a scientific experiment. Your explanations so far seem to indicate that we can't do scientific experiments."

Do tell us, professor.

It's not so much that Stardusty so obviously understands scientific principles and facts and theory better than you, it's that you don't seem to even understand science at all. And I think it's hard to improve someone's understanding when there's no basis on which the recommendations can work.

Which makes your pretending to teach something here so amusing.

Chalk another up to Dunning Kruger.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" Me:"Your assertion seems to be that all things that cause change must themselves be changed, "
SP:"That is what Aquinas says! That is a premise he states!"

Which premise are you talking about?"

From the OP
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.

So, god must have moved first to move our universe.
If god had been motionless and then moved then god moved itself, which is irrational, and a violation per Aquinas.
If god has always been in motion then that is the very infinite regress Aquinas denies, owing to the irrationality of an infinite regress of motion.

Either way, god is irrational by the premises of Aquinas himself. Yet he asserts god in the end, making the first way irrational and unsound.
.

January 22, 2017 6:28 PM

Legion of Logic said...

"Observations are inherently scientific."

And you accuse him of not understanding science? Newborns observe things. Animals observe things. I had no idea that we had such a hidden trove of scientific knowledge from the arthropod world. Should we publish it, or wait for them to submit their observations themselves?

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "And you accuse him of not understanding science? Newborns observe things. Animals observe things. I had no idea that we had such a hidden trove of scientific knowledge from the arthropod world. Should we publish it, or wait for them to submit their observations themselves?"

A common problem of the scientifically uneducated seems to be that science is itself a kind of specialized magic, where men in labcoats perform arcane and unknowable rites.

It's not. It's a process for eliminating biases, involving things that can be examined, that are objective, reliable, and verifiable. Yes, things can get complex, and even counter-intutive, but once you understand it the fundamental process you're ready to start learning more.

I'm sorry that scientific principles so mystify you. On the plus side, this is fixable.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Your assertion seems to be that all things that cause change must themselves be changed, "
SP:"That is what Aquinas says! That is a premise he states!"
bmiller: "Which premise are you talking about?"

This exchange brought you by yet another self-proclaimed expert on the First Way.

grodrigues said...

"This exchange brought you by yet another self-proclaimed expert on the First Way."

Another bit of clueless, pointless snark brought to you by Mr. Metzger; bmiller is of course, absolutely and precisely correct. Nowhere does St Thomas holds that "all things that cause change must themselves be changed" -- he rather explicitly, rather famously, says otherwise of God -- neither does it follow from anything that he does hold.

bmiller said...



From the OP
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.

So, god must have moved first to move our universe.
If god had been motionless and then moved then god moved itself, which is irrational, and a violation per Aquinas.
If god has always been in motion then that is the very infinite regress Aquinas denies, owing to the irrationality of an infinite regress of motion.

Either way, god is irrational by the premises of Aquinas himself. Yet he asserts god in the end, making the first way irrational and unsound.

Let me add the next line from the OP that you omitted:
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.

It is clear that this does not say “all things that cause change must themselves be changed” but instead says that things that change must be changed by another.
SP:” So, god must have moved first to move our universe.”
No, the First Way explicitly denies this.
SP:”If god had been motionless and then moved then god moved itself, which is irrational, and a violation per Aquinas.”
No, the First Way explicitly denies this.

SP:”If god has always been in motion then that is the very infinite regress Aquinas denies, owing to the irrationality of an infinite regress of motion.”
No, in fact the unchanged changer terminates any regress of changers.

Are just messing with me now?

Legion of Logic said...

"A common problem of the scientifically uneducated seems to be that science is itself a kind of specialized magic, where men in labcoats perform arcane and unknowable rites."

A common problem of the scientifically uneducated is that they take things that are involved in science - such as the act of seeing something, or making a deduction - and then turn around and try to claim that every instance of these things is scientific. Not so.

Scientism seems to be incompatible with understanding science.

Legion of Logic said...

"Are just messing with me now?"

I think SD is hung up on the notion of God acting being a violation of the First Way argument. A more simple version of the objection might be "If I ask God a question and he answers, then I acted upon him and produced a change."

At least, I think that is his current objection.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: “It is clear that [(2) d.] does not say “all things that cause change must themselves be changed” but instead says that things that change must be changed by another.

Right, and this remains the same problem for the argument — one that has been raised umpteen times now — as it relates to a first mover (let alone deity).

(2) d. “But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.

Objection: If god had been motionless and then moved then god moved itself, which is irrational, and a violation per Aquinas.
The violation can maybe be seen more clearly in: “(2) f. It is therefore impossible that, in the same way and same sense, a thing is moving and is moved, or in other words, that it moves itself.”

Objection: If god has always been in motion then that is the very infinite regress Aquinas denies, owing to the irrationality of an infinite regress of motion.
The violation: “(4) But this [chain of movers and moved] cannot proceed to infinity:

The premises are clear: something cannot move itself, and an infinite regress is impossible. Thus, the conclusion of the First Mover has to violate one of the premises presented in the argument itself. All that the "argument" does is present an ancient existential riddle and "solve" it by violating one its premises and stating the mystery has somehow been resolved by irrationality? Seriously?

How many times and in how many ways does the same objection need to be stated in order for you to see it?

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "Nowhere does St Thomas holds that "all things that cause change must themselves be changed" -- he rather explicitly, rather famously, says otherwise of God -- neither does it follow from anything that he does hold."

Well, actually, Aquinas does introduce the problem that Stardusty raised. Because in Aquinas's "argument," god is the first mover, and at some point god decided to act (otherwise god is an infinite regress). At some point, God went from potency to act (not moving, to moving), and as Aquinas stipulates, "But it is not possible that the same thing be simultaneously in act and in potency in the same sense, but only in a different sense."

Thus, god had to change, and this violates one of Aquinas's premises -- "(2) f. It is therefore impossible that, in the same way and same sense, a thing is moving and is moved, or in other words, that it moves itself."

Same problem as always, isn't it? In order for the "argument" to work, it has to violate one its premises. And thus, it is irrational. (As well as ad hoc.)

Legion of Logic said...

"At some point, God went from potency to act"

You accidentally used correct grammar and capitalized God.

bmiller said...

@Legion of Logic,

"I think SD is hung up on the notion of God acting being a violation of the First Way argument. A more simple version of the objection might be "If I ask God a question and he answers, then I acted upon him and produced a change.""

If that's the case, it would just add more muddle to the discussion because it goes beyond what the First Way argument is establishing.

bmiller said...

@Legion of Logic,

"You accidentally used correct grammar and capitalized God."

HaHaHa! It's only a matter of time now :-)

Legion of Logic said...

"HaHaHa! It's only a matter of time now :-)"

Baby steps!

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

'Well, actually, Aquinas does introduce the problem that Stardusty raised. Because in Aquinas's "argument," god is the first mover, and at some point god decided to act (otherwise god is an infinite regress). At some point, God went from potency to act (not moving, to moving), and as Aquinas stipulates, "But it is not possible that the same thing be simultaneously in act and in potency in the same sense, but only in a different sense."'

Is this the same as the alleged supposed problem pointed at January 23, 2017 8:02 AM, and by the derisive tone a devastating one, presumably also introduced by St. Thomas, that supposedly he asserted, or somehow it allegedly follows from what he asserted, that seemingly "all things that cause change must themselves be changed"? If it is the same problem, then I already answered. Or is it a different problem? And if it is a different problem, what are we to make of the, by the derisive tone devastating, supposed alleged problem that you pointed? It is not a problem anymore? Because that was "the problem that Stardusty raised" that I responded to. And as long as I am requesting clarifications, is Stardusty or not a, to quote your expression, "expert on the First Way", "self-proclaimed" or otherwise? When I broke off conversation with him, he knew the First Way better than St. Thomas and all his commentators combined, so given your cheerleading I suppose you must think him so. And given your endorsement of his objections, devastating objections that neither St. Thomas nor any of his commentators addressed or even so much as thought of, I suppose you must doubly think him so -- because if he or they had addressed them, you *would know* it right? Like you know all the, quite extensive, part of the ST that St. Thomas dedicates to angels and of which you have provided us so many quotes, right?

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "Is this the same as the alleged supposed problem pointed at January 23, 2017 8:02 AM, and by the derisive tone a devastating one, presumably also introduced by St. Thomas, that supposedly he asserted, or somehow it allegedly follows from what he asserted, that seemingly "all things that cause change must themselves be changed"? "

Yes.

grod: "Or is it a different problem?"

The problems with the First Way are the same as have been pointed out, over and over and over here. The argument violates its own premises (is irrational), and is ad hoc (unsound). So, same, same.

Grod: "And if it is a different problem, what are we to make of the, by the derisive tone devastating, supposed alleged problem that you pointed?"

That some attempts to score (undeserved) points deserve derision? That's what I'd take away. How do you justify your approach? I'm so curious!!!!

grod: "Because that was "the problem that Stardusty raised" that I responded to."

mkay.

grod: "And as long as I am requesting clarifications, is Stardusty or not a, to quote your expression, "expert on the First Way", "self-proclaimed" or otherwise?"

Is it possible to be an expert in something that is irrational, and unsound? Wouldn't that be kind of like being an expert in angelology? So, no, I suspect that Stardusty is not an expert in the First Way, nor Angelology, nor lots of other nonsense. It seems that he has a good head on his shoulders, and his priorities are straight.

Grod: "When I broke off conversation with him, he knew the First Way better than St. Thomas and all his commentators combined, so given your cheerleading I suppose you must think him so.:"

As I recall, you slipped away when he proceeded to fairly quickly pursue your supposed expertise regarding physics. Do you suppose enough time has passed that he won't follow up on some of your silly assertions regarding physics? Do you think I should go back and fetch them for you?

grod: "And given your endorsement of his objections, devastating objections that neither St. Thomas nor any of his commentators addressed or even so much as thought of, I suppose you must doubly think him so -- because if he or they had addressed them, you *would know* it right?"

Oh, the suspense!!!! I can't wait for the big reveal. I'm sure it's going to be so devastating.

grod: "Like you know all the, quite extensive, part of the ST that St. Thomas dedicates to angels and of which you have provided us so many quotes, right?"

Oh, I am not an expert on St. Thomas. Nor, angelology. And you? Are you the expert on these?

Do tell.






grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

'"Is this the same as the alleged supposed problem pointed at January 23, 2017 8:02 AM, and by the derisive tone a devastating one, presumably also introduced by St. Thomas, that supposedly he asserted, or somehow it allegedly follows from what he asserted, that seemingly "all things that cause change must themselves be changed"?"

Yes.'

Then you have your answer already.

bmiller said...

A little added clarification because it seems there is still some confusion.

The First Way establishes a being, the Unchanged Changer, that ( unsurprisingly, given the name) is *not* changing, is *not* changed by anything including itself. To claim that an unchanging thing “went from potency to act” or “decided to act” is to claim that a thing is both unchanging and changing at the same time in the same respect which is a contradiction. Aquinas does not make this mistake. Some people on this thread have.

Also, given the name, the Unchanged Changer is ultimately responsible for all change. So given the premises it follows that, at this very moment, changing things causing other things to change cannot go on ad infinitum, so there must be something of a different category to terminate the causal series. This is the Unchanged Changer. This we call God.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...



From the OP
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.


" Let me add the next line from the OP that you omitted:
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered."
Which are examples of "change".

" It is clear that this does not say “all things that cause change must themselves be changed” "
Nonsense, that is precisely what (2)d. says.

"but instead says that things that change must be changed by another."
That is a separate premise.

Look, I cannot read the OP for you, study the OP for you, and understand the OP for you. Take the time to read it and understand it. You obviously have not done so as of yet.


SP:” So, god must have moved first to move our universe.”
No, the First Way explicitly denies this.
(2)d. says so, but in (5) Aquinas contradicts himself. His argument is preposterously self contradictory and it is even more absurd that you or anybody else would fail to see these glaring inconsistencies.

" Are just messing with me now?"
I'm telling you to go read for comprehension.


January 23, 2017 8:38 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" First, what do you consider a "temporal interaction process"?"
I used the macro example of a spacecraft flyby and the micro example of two electrons "colliding" (the electrons don't truly smack into each other like billiard balls, rather, their mutually repulsive electrostatic fields in combination with their kinetic energy give rise to deflected paths of motion over time)


" Next, how does this "process" make cause and effect indistinguishable unless one takes a passive, almost supernatural point of view? "
When 2 balls collide which is the cause and which is the effect? The choice is arbitrary. They are mutually causes and effects over time as they interact with each other.

When 2 rubber balls collide it is easy to imagine them compressing for a short time and then pushing off against each other. This interaction is a temporal process, since it happens over a finite time. Billiard balls do the same sort of thing, but the compression is so little and the time is so short human perception is of a virtually instantaneous event, but that is an illusion owing to our inability to judge very short, yet finite, periods of time.

"From my point of view, I certainly perceive when someone is hitting me. Don't you?"
That is a macro approximation of a vastly complex mutual interaction temporal process.

Is his fist the cause of the pain in your cheekbone or is your cheekbone the cause of the pain in his fist? The true description of this process is so vastly complex as to be humanly impossible to describe, so we approximate in order to function.

When considering the origins of existence I intend to rid myself of illusions and approximations to the best of my ability, realizing at the same time my abilities are limited.


January 22, 2017 8:49 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


" Yes I did skim the link. It is 15 pages. What do you think the "take-away" is? It has sections. Which sections should I look at?"
My point was that you might possibly expand your concepts of causality. You will not find "The First Way" in that article, or any scientific article of the sort because the arguments of Aquinas are preposterous and primitive and superstitious by comparison, and thus irrelevant to any serious study of causality.

" To mention that we see things banging into each other and interacting is not science. When we cause one thing to bang into another under controlled conditions, this is a scientific experiment. Your explanations so far seem to indicate that we can't do scientific experiments."
Truly, can we do meaningful experiments? Bell is vociferously "against measurement", and highly cautious about experiment.

Beware. Is your experiment valid? Are your results telling you what you think they are telling you? No small scientific concern indeed.


January 22, 2017 7:30 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


" Consider that we all know what an equilateral triangle is."
Do we? Does such a triangle exist? If so, in what sense does it exist? Can you point to an equilateral triangle as a real existing object? No.

" Consider that I performed a geometric proof that a particular 3 sided figure had all 3 internal angles equal to 60 degrees."
That would require that we first provisionally or faithfully accept certain postulates of logic. Your "proof" would be existentially unprovable.

" Consider then, that I claimed that the proof showed the figure was an equilateral triangle."
On the acceptance of certain postulates you could consider that a logical proof, but not an existential proof.

" Your objection amounts to a complaint that I tacked a non-sequitur to the end of a proof because I had not proven that the figure also had equal length sides. What an annoying pupil."
Indeed, I was an annoying pupil, which will shock none of my detractors here!!!

I feel a kinship of sorts with the presuppositionalist as he asks "why, why, why, how do you know, how do you know, how do you know" ad infinitum like an incessant child.

I happen to like asking "why, why, why, how, how, how". The one who cannot forthrightly address this incessant probing is not the great mature thinker he or she imagines himself or herself to be.

I thought little of many of my teachers, especially my Sunday school teachers.

Annoying student indeed.



January 22, 2017 6:28 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


" Let me add the next line from the OP that you omitted:
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered."

" It is clear that this does not say “all things that cause change must themselves be changed” "

Ok, maybe I was a bit harsh. I admit I somewhat lost patience.

(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act,
---it is impossible that a thing begin to move, or transition from an unchanging state to a changing state, to go from "potential" to "act"

unless it is by a thing
---unless acted upon by some other thing, some causal agent, some mover, some changer, some act inducer


that is[11] in act.
---that is in motion, that is changing, that is moving, that is acting

Thus Aquinas clearly states, only a thing that is changing can be the cause of change in another thing.

Yet Aquinas says the opposite later in (5). Even I run out of words to describe how incredibly bad this "argument" is. It's unbelievable on so many levels. Who could possibly take this hodgepodge seriously? What part of this doesn't the theist get?


January 23, 2017 8:38 AM

grodrigues said...

@bmiller:

"A little added clarification because it seems there is still some confusion."

You think? Your penchant for understatement is delightfully charming (and a salutary contrast to my heavy-handed mannerisms).

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

I will reply to the other post later.


SP:"that is[11] in act.
---that is in motion, that is changing, that is moving, that is acting"

Thanks for this. I can now tell where the disconnect is. You are equating "change" with "act". They are different things. (2)c. below shows the difference. The relevant footnotes explain in more detail act and potency as used in the argument.


(2) But, all that is moved, is moved by another.
a. Nothing is, in fact, moved, unless it is in potency[9] to that towards which it is moved.
b. But, a thing moves only insomuch as it is in act.[10]
c. In fact, to move is nothing else than to bring a thing from potency to act.
d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.

[9]The term potency is a technical term that is used to describe all of the non-actual, but possible, states of an actually existing being – a being that is in act....

[10]The phrase “in act” describes the state of a thing that actually exists in the mind-exterior world. It could be paraphrased as “to be actual”, or “to be really existent at the present moment in the mind-exterior world, independent of anyone’s perceptions of it.” It is opposed to potency, which is the non-existing but potential states of an actually existing thing. That which is in potency does not actually exist, but is a possible future state of some being that is in act. For example, an apple seed is which is in act, is also in potency, an apple tree. This potency may never be actualized (or realized).

[12]Is moving and is moved from act to potency. In other words, it is impossible that the same thing be, at the same time and in the same sense, in act and in potency, or actual and potential.


So, no, the Unchanged Changer is not changing. The Unchanged Changer is not moving from potency to act.

bmiller said...

@grodrigues,

"You think? Your penchant for understatement is delightfully charming (and a salutary contrast to my heavy-handed mannerisms)."

Well, I may get a smile or 2, but I can't match your or some other's creativity and ability to make us laugh out loud.
My most recent awards would go to: "Cuckoo land", "Woo Monger" and "Pyschotic Dust"

SteveK said...

"The one who cannot forthrightly address this incessant probing is not the great mature thinker he or she imagines himself or herself to be."

Said the immature-thinking child to his mature-thinking mother.

bmiller said...

@ Stardusty Psyche,


This exchange:
"" Consider that we all know what an equilateral triangle is."
Do we? Does such a triangle exist? If so, in what sense does it exist? Can you point to an equilateral triangle as a real existing object? No.
....

Annoying student indeed."

OK, all of this is fine. But, if you wish to be radically skeptical and insist that nothing can be proven, then please don't insist to others that you're right and they're wrong.

Cal Metzger said...

SP:"that is[11] in act.
---that is in motion, that is changing, that is moving, that is acting"

bmiller: “Thanks for this. I can now tell where the disconnect is. You are equating "change" with "act". They are different things.

Not really, and not in a way that affects the criticism of this silly First Way.

From the linked article: “First, when Aquinas talks about movement he is talking about change, as can be seen from the definition that he gives of change (to move) as: to bring a thing from potency to act.”

bmiller: “So, no, the Unchanged Changer is not changing. The Unchanged Changer is not moving from potency to act.”

But, as has been pointed out so many times, the Unchanged Changer then must violate Aquinas’s silly argument in order to move anything. From the linked article:

“(2) d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.”

As has been said so many times, all Aquinas does is repeat the riddle and then pronounce that the riddle can be resolved by a stroke of irrationality — if he ignores what his premises stipulate. He could just as well have pronounced that existence goes on to infinity and his conclusion would be just as sound, because all he does is outline the riddle and declare that one of his premises isn’t really a premise after all.

It’s stuff like this (from the linked article): “The second premise [(2) But, all that is moved, is moved by another.] is a corollary of the principle of causation, and in light of the above explanations, needs no elaboration. Note that Aquinas, following on the minimal claim of premise 1, only states that all things change.”

bmiller: “So, no, the Unchanged Changer is not changing.”

Then we can just as safely conclude, per Aquinas, that the Unchanged Changer is no thing at all.


bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" Yes I did skim the link. It is 15 pages. What do you think the "take-away" is? It has sections. Which sections should I look at?"
My point was that you might possibly expand your concepts of causality. You will not find "The First Way" in that article, or any scientific article of the sort because the arguments of Aquinas are preposterous and primitive and superstitious by comparison, and thus irrelevant to any serious study of causality.

" To mention that we see things banging into each other and interacting is not science. When we cause one thing to bang into another under controlled conditions, this is a scientific experiment. Your explanations so far seem to indicate that we can't do scientific experiments."
Truly, can we do meaningful experiments? Bell is vociferously "against measurement", and highly cautious about experiment.

Beware. Is your experiment valid? Are your results telling you what you think they are telling you? No small scientific concern indeed.”

As far as I can tell, the paper does not support your view that Bell would have rejected any of the premises of the First Way. Bell wanted to prove that quantum entanglement was due to some local hidden variables, but had to admit that experiments ruled out “local hidden variables”. He reached the currently unpopular conclusion that quantum entanglement was due to something happening at faster than the speed of light, which of course violates special relativity. He even suggested that the dilemma could be resolved by reviving the ancient….wait for it….. Aristotelian theory of aether! All of this is in the introduction.

But thanks for prompting me to read the backstory of John Stuart Bell. It turns out his day job involved particle accelerator design at CERN and studying the foundations of quantum mechanics was his hobby. Kind of funny he made it to the history books by being a hobbyist that set the stage for experiments that ruled out the theory he was rooting for.

As a side note, grodrigues, I also found some recent articles that there have been experiments that look promising for the De-Broglie-Bohm superluminal pilot wave theory which Bell favored.

grodrigues said...

@bmiller:

"As a side note, grodrigues, I also found some recent articles that there have been experiments that look promising for the De-Broglie-Bohm superluminal pilot wave theory which Bell favored."

The scholastic principle of causality does not stand or fall with the fortunes of deterministic (non-local) extensions of QM.

bmiller said...

@grodrigues,

"The scholastic principle of causality does not stand or fall with the fortunes of deterministic (non-local) extensions of QM."

Yes, of course I agree.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,


ME:"Please, let's clear this up.
First, what do you consider a "temporal interaction process"?"
SP:"I used the macro example of a spacecraft flyby and the micro example of two electrons "colliding" (the electrons don't truly smack into each other like billiard balls, rather, their mutually repulsive electrostatic fields in combination with their kinetic energy give rise to deflected paths of motion over time)"

But you ignored what I was explicitly asking about next to clarify.

Me:""Now" is the instantaneous unmeasurable moment commonly known as the "present". "Past" is the sequentially ordered (per the "arrow of time") moments of "now" that we remember. Please compare and contrast."
SP:"BLANK"


ME:"Next, how does this "process" make cause and effect indistinguishable unless one takes a passive, almost supernatural point of view?"
SP"When 2 balls collide which is the cause and which is the effect? The choice is arbitrary. They are mutually causes and effects over time as they interact with each other.

When 2 rubber balls collide it is easy to imagine them compressing for a short time and then pushing off against each other. This interaction is a temporal process, since it happens over a finite time. Billiard balls do the same sort of thing, but the compression is so little and the time is so short human perception is of a virtually instantaneous event, but that is an illusion owing to our inability to judge very short, yet finite, periods of time."

OK, when we are not interested in how things work and we have a passive God-like view of the universe, it's all so cool man. Pass the bong. Can you not "see" "the compression is so little and the time is so short human perception is of a virtually instantaneous event, but that is an illusion owing to our inability to judge very short, yet finite, periods of time." after the last hit?


ME:"From my point of view, I certainly perceive when someone is hitting me. Don't you?"
SP:"That is a macro approximation of a vastly complex mutual interaction temporal process.

Is his fist the cause of the pain in your cheekbone or is your cheekbone the cause of the pain in his fist? The true description of this process is so vastly complex as to be humanly impossible to describe, so we approximate in order to function.

When considering the origins of existence I intend to rid myself of illusions and approximations to the best of my ability, realizing at the same time my abilities are limited."

That's not the type of hit I was referring to. :-)

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


Thanks for this. I can now tell where the disconnect is. You are equating "change" with "act". They are different things.
How ridiculous. You just pointed this out to me. Is there an attention span issue here?
(2)d.i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.

Aquinas clearly equates "be reduced to act" with "moved or altered".


January 24, 2017 5:59 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger bmiller said...

" OK, all of this is fine. But, if you wish to be radically skeptical and insist that nothing can be proven, then please don't insist to others that you're right and they're wrong."
Aquinas is provably wrong in the sense of a mathematical proof.


January 24, 2017 3:17 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...


" As far as I can tell, the paper does not support your view that Bell would have rejected any of the premises of the First Way."
Hilarious.


January 24, 2017 5:15 PM

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
Thanks for this. I can now tell where the disconnect is. You are equating "change" with "act". They are different things.
How ridiculous. You just pointed this out to me. Is there an attention span issue here?
(2)d.i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.

Aquinas clearly equates "be reduced to act" with "moved or altered"."


Then you must have missed what I posted right after that. Let me do it again.

(2)c. In fact, to move is nothing else than to bring a thing from potency to act.

[10]The phrase “in act” describes the state of a thing that actually exists in the mind-exterior world. It could be paraphrased as “to be actual”, or “to be really existent at the present moment in the mind-exterior world, independent of anyone’s perceptions of it.” It is opposed to potency, which is the non-existing but potential states of an actually existing thing. That which is in potency does not actually exist, but is a possible future state of some being that is in act. For example, an apple seed is which is in act, is also in potency, an apple tree. This potency may never be actualized (or realized).

[12]Is moving and is moved from act to potency. In other words, it is impossible that the same thing be, at the same time and in the same sense, in act and in potency, or actual and potential.


Please notice the difference between potency and act. Then note the difference between those 2 and motion or change.

So there are some things that can possibly change or move. Change is the motion from what a thing can potentially be to what it actually is. After the change is complete, the thing is now actually what it used to only have a potential to be. In (2)d. as you note, the wood was only potentially burning until something that was actually burning changed it into actually burning.
If something actually existing has no potential to change then it cannot be changed.
Some things are changing now caused by other things that are changing. The series cannot go to infinity so there must be something actually existing that cannot potentially change. This is the Unchanged Changer.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" OK, all of this is fine. But, if you wish to be radically skeptical and insist that nothing can be proven, then please don't insist to others that you're right and they're wrong."
Aquinas is provably wrong in the sense of a mathematical proof."

But in your example you have just told me that all mathematical proofs are wrong too. How can one show anything "provably wrong" in the sense of a mathematical proof since they are all wrong too?

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" As far as I can tell, the paper does not support your view that Bell would have rejected any of the premises of the First Way."
Hilarious.

Well yes, I find the whole appeal to this paper to somehow support your view of cause and effect kind of funny.
Bell's goal was to narrow down the "cause" of the apparent simultaneous "effects" of 2 separate particles when only one was disturbed. There were experiments set up with stringent initial conditions that demonstrated the phenomena to everyone's satisfaction including Bell. He accepted the results of the experiments even though they proved his theory wrong going in.

"Truly, can we do meaningful experiments? Bell is vociferously "against measurement", and highly cautious about experiment."

Yes, it's funny in an odd way how someone could have read the paper, understood what it was saying and come to that particular conclusion.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" Then you must have missed what I posted right after that. Let me do it again.

(2)c. In fact, to move is nothing else than to bring a thing from potency to act.

[10]"
That is a footnote, not the words in the premise. Again, try to stay focused on the words of Aquinas, not some convoluted sophomoric attempt to make sense out of nonsense.

"Please notice the difference between potency and act."
I did, in the actual words, which are highly self contradictory if you take the time to read them carefully.


January 25, 2017 5:11 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

SP " Aquinas is provably wrong in the sense of a mathematical proof."

" But in your example you have just told me that all mathematical proofs are wrong too. How can one show anything "provably wrong" in the sense of a mathematical proof since they are all wrong too?"
I am sorry you do not understand the basics of what a mathematical proof is, and what its value is, what it is based on, and what it is not.

All I can suggest is that you read up on the subject to realize that a mathematical proof rests on certain postulates that are not themselves proved.


January 25, 2017 5:17 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

SP "Truly, can we do meaningful experiments? Bell is vociferously "against measurement", and highly cautious about experiment."

" Yes, it's funny in an odd way how someone could have read the paper, understood what it was saying and come to that particular conclusion."
??? If you don't understand that Bell had the above views than you know nothing about his views.


January 25, 2017 5:37 AM

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Some things are changing now caused by other things that are changing. The series cannot go to infinity so there must be something actually existing that cannot potentially change. This is the Unchanged Changer."

Some things are changing now caused by other things that are changing. Since, everything changing must be changed by something else that is changing the chain of movement must go back to infinity. This is the Infinite Finiter.

What an argument!!!!




Cal Metzger said...

SP: "Truly, can we do meaningful experiments? Bell is vociferously "against measurement", and highly cautious about experiment."
bmiller: "Yes, it's funny in an odd way how someone could have read the paper, understood what it was saying and come to that particular conclusion."

I call this the bmiller-Kruger Effect. It's rampant around here.

Legion of Logic said...

"I call this the bmiller-Kruger Effect. It's rampant around here."

Are you happy contributing nothing to these discussions but juvenile insults? You don't exactly come across as an intellectual by doing so, to say the least. On the rare occasion you make a valid point, it's almost always masked by some asinine ad hominem.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Are you happy contributing nothing to these discussions but juvenile insults?"

Actually, the vast bulk of my comments here are substantive -- read above and you will see that by and large I tend to cite comments, and point out where these comments are inconsistent with arguments, positions, etc.

But you must mean that I don't refrain from returning insults, or pushing back when I read comments that are not just wrong, but offensively wrong. For instance, when someone is hypocritical, that is not merely an inconsistency -- it is also an offense. And one of the tools that humans can employ against offensive behavior is reproving those who act hypocritically. To ask for me to stop insulting those I see as being hypocritical would not only take away a valuable tool for convincing others, but also would be hypocritical as well -- see the great number of insulting comments here by apologists, and you will see the problem.

Legion: :"You don't exactly come across as an intellectual by doing so, to say the least."

If by intellectual you mean an effete and feckless person who believes that ideas don't really matter, then I accept this characterization gladly.

Legion: "On the rare occasion you make a valid point, it's almost always masked by some asinine ad hominem. "

Funny that while asking me to avoid insulting others here, you would not be able to refrain from insulting me ("on the rare occasion you make a valid point...")

So, your comment makes you a hypocrite, doesn't it?

If you think that question is insulting, and beneath your consideration, then you are not prepared to discuss intellectual matters. You should maybe consider that.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" Then you must have missed what I posted right after that. Let me do it again.

(2)c. In fact, to move is nothing else than to bring a thing from potency to act.

[10]"
That is a footnote, not the words in the premise. Again, try to stay focused on the words of Aquinas, not some convoluted sophomoric attempt to make sense out of nonsense.

"Please notice the difference between potency and act."
I did, in the actual words, which are highly self contradictory if you take the time to read them carefully.”

The footnotes are there to help people who are unfamiliar with the terms used in the premises. If you misunderstand the terms you will misunderstand the premises which is just what you are doing. When you change the premises of the argument you are disputing you are creating a straw man and this is a fallacy.

Do you care to understand the argument at all?

Cal Metzger said...

I would like to remind subsequent defenders of the First Way that the problem stated in the paragraph below has been pointed out repeatedly and throughout these discussions, and no one has been able to show why one should conclude otherwise.

Re the First Way. The premises are clear: something cannot move itself, and an infinite regress is impossible. Thus, the conclusion of the First Mover has to violate one of the premises presented in the argument itself. All that the "argument" does is present an ancient existential riddle and "solve" it by violating one its premises and stating the mystery has somehow been resolved by irrationality? Seriously?

If anyone thinks the problem above was ever resolved here or in the prior posts regarding the First Way, please copy and paste what you think it is that resolves the irrationality of the First Way.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" But in your example you have just told me that all mathematical proofs are wrong too. How can one show anything "provably wrong" in the sense of a mathematical proof since they are all wrong too?"
I am sorry you do not understand the basics of what a mathematical proof is, and what its value is, what it is based on, and what it is not.

All I can suggest is that you read up on the subject to realize that a mathematical proof rests on certain postulates that are not themselves proved.”

You just finished arguing with me that:
1)No one knows if equilateral triangles exist and so the definition is nonsense.
2)No one is required to “ accept certain postulates of logic”.

My example is typical of proofs in high school geometry and was used to illustrate that a particular proof may only prove a certain part of the definition of a type of triangle and not all of it. Your counter argument seems to be that geometric proofs somehow prove nothing. Given this counter argument, how can you claim *prove* anything is wrong?

Also, are you sure the one asking "why, why, why, how, how, how" was not your father asking why and how you never got a passing grade in Geometry?

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" Yes, it's funny in an odd way how someone could have read the paper, understood what it was saying and come to that particular conclusion."
??? If you don't understand that Bell had the above views than you know nothing about his views.”

Bell had a paper out in 1990 titled “Against ‘measurement’”. Don’t you think that would be a better paper to use as a background to this discussion?

grodrigues said...

"I would like to remind subsequent defenders of the First Way that the problem stated in the paragraph below has been pointed out repeatedly and throughout these discussions, and no one has been able to show why one should conclude otherwise."

I asked Mr. Metzger if this was the same problem as pointed in January 23, 2017 8:02 AM and he responded "yes". *That* problem was already answered. Here, I will even quote it (January 23, 2017 8:15 AM):

"Nowhere does St Thomas holds that "all things that cause change must themselves be changed" -- he rather explicitly, rather famously, says otherwise of God -- neither does it follow from anything that he does hold."

This is the counter-apologetics of refutation by ignorance. Remain resolutely ignorant of what St. Thomas *actually* holds, so that then one can read back into what he says whatever one fancies, so much so that one can then easily make him sound almost as moronic as Mr. Metzger. Pathetic.

And not surprisingly, St. Thomas explicitly answers this family of objections -- if nothing else, the dumb ox was thorough. But now I am already sorry for having said this, for now Mr. Metzger might start quoting random portions of "Quaestiones disputatae de spiritualibus creaturis" and ask rethorically if that is where the answer is to be found.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: ""Nowhere does St Thomas holds that "all things that cause change must themselves be changed" -- he rather explicitly, rather famously, says otherwise of God -- neither does it follow from anything that he does hold."

Nonsense.

From the linked article. "Note that Aquinas, following on the minimal claim of premise 1, only states that ALL THINGS CHANGE.”

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"From the linked article. "Note that Aquinas, following on the minimal claim of premise 1, only states that ALL THINGS CHANGE.”"

First, there is a potential ambiguity in the article (a typo maybe?). If the author means by "All things change" that all existing things without exception change, it is false. St. Thomas does not assert that, does not use such a premise and in fact explicitly denies it. In fact, the author (correctly) states the premise as "For it is certain and evident to the senses that something in this world moves" and then goes on to say in the same paragraph, also correctly, that "Logically there need be no more than one changing thing for premise 2 to be true, as it applies the principle of causation to changing things, regardless of whether there are many or few".

But more importantly, how do you go from "All things change" to "all things that cause change must themselves be changed"? These are two distinct claims, so enlighten me, please.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "First, there is a potential ambiguity in the article (a typo maybe?)."

Take it up with Victor who posted the article here, and with the writer of the article, who has taken it upon himself to explain the First Way.

grod: "But more importantly, how do you go from "All things change" to "all things that cause change must themselves be changed"? These are two distinct claims, so enlighten me, please."

Since you seem to object to the linked article's interpretation of Aquinas's words I will use a different translation of the argument.

Aquinas: "For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality."

Motion is a kind of change.

Aquinas: "But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality."

And nothing can change except by something that is moving.

Aquinas: "Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it."

A moving thing (which is a kind of change) is what moves (changes) another thing.

Aquinas; "Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects."

Not moving (not changing) and moving (changing) are incompatible. Therefore, the only way that a mover can move something is if it is moving (changing) itself.

Seems like a pretty straightforward reading to me. I hope that you are now enlightened.

Legion of Logic said...

Here's a version of their objection, I believe, in condensed paragraph form:

"There seems to be a contradiction in the argument. Premise (2), "Whatever is moved is moved by another," conflicts with the notion of God in this argument as that of something unmoved, i.e., that of the Unmoved Mover. God, then, is an the exception to the truth of premise (2). Nevertheless, cannot God move or act? If God is pure actuality, then it would seem to follow that God can't do anything, for God is already all that God could be. If, then, God is already all that God can be, there's no potential for God to be able to act or be in any way different from what God is. If God is claimed to have a privileged status and not subject to the firse premise, then the argument becomes viciously circular."

bmiller said...

@ Legion of Logic,

And whoever wrote that objection also failed to understand the difference among act, potency and motion in the sense of Aristotle and Aquinas.



grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"Since you seem to object to the linked article's interpretation of Aquinas's words I will use a different translation of the argument."

I did not object "to the linked article's interpretation of Aquinas's words" -- I did not even read it carefully. I pointed a "potential ambiguity" so as to preempt yet even more cavilling.

"And nothing can change except by something that is moving."

Aristotle never asserted that (the First Way is taken by St. Thomas from Aristotle). St. Thomas never asserted that, neither it follows from anything that Aristotle or St. Thomas asserted. It is explicitly denied by St. Thomas. It is explicitly denied by all his commentators without exception. This is an egregious misunderstanding of the quoted principle of causality -- demonstrably, provably so. Period, end of story.

"Not moving (not changing) and moving (changing) are incompatible. Therefore, the only way that a mover can move something is if it is moving (changing) itself."

It is impossible for something to be in potency and act, yes, but in the same respect and at the same time -- a straightforward consequence of the principle of non-contradiction. But from "it is not possible to be in potency and act, in the same respect and at the same time" and the principle of causality, it does not follow that "the only way that a mover can move something is if it is moving". Not here, not in China, not anywhere where reason and logic are used in a sound manner.

And there is another egregious misunderstanding. St. Thomas is *NOT* concerned to prove that for a sequence of changers

... -> e_n -> ... -> e_0

that it must be the case that there is a head of the sequence, that is, the causal sequence must be of the form,

E ... -> e_n -> ... -> e_0

with E the First Mover, the first link in the series and the one that gets the "ball rolling" so to speak. St. Thomas' argument does not establish that -- if it makes you happy, I am the first to admit out loud that the First Way does *NOT* establish such a proposition. He is not in the least interested in establishing such a thing; such a thing is in explicit, direct contradiction with what Aquinas takes the First Mover to be and how He operates in the created order (qua First Mover). Once again, this is a simple matter of actually knowing and understanding what Aquinas *means* -- understanding, not (necessarily) agreeing with -- and can be resolved by textual evidence. And needless to say, I am simply correct and you are not; as has been abundantly established, you simply have no idea what you are talking about.

As I said, refutation by resolute ignorance. And these are not minor oopses, that a little fix here and a little patching up there, will mount to a coherent objection. It rather betrays an egregious and fundamental misunderstanding, an abysmal ignorance. Something that could be cured by sitting down and reading a good book on the subject. But we already know what we will happen: round and a round we will go, in one more iteration of Mr. Metzger's displaying his complete and resolute ignorance while at the same time subjecting us to his dull, vapid wit, the taunting of schoolyard boys.

Martin said...

Cal Metzger:

>Therefore, the only way that a mover can move something is if it is moving (changing) itself.

Hence, the need for the technical terminology. When we use terms like "motion" and "moving" it's easy for unclear and equivocal premises to hide.

It would be better to frame it something like:

* Whatever is in potency can only be raised to act by something already in act
* If that thing which is in act is itself an actualized potency, then it too must be actualized by something else already in act, and so on
* A complete explanation of potencies begin actualized will have to involve something that is already act without needing be actualized by anything itself: something, in other words, without any potencies

So the objection doesn't work. The objection is aimed at the premise that only something that is an actualized potency can actualize other potencies, but that isn't the premise. The premise is that something already in act (whether it's an actualized potency or just in act full stop) can actualize a potency.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" You just finished arguing with me that:
1)No one knows if equilateral triangles exist and so the definition is nonsense.
2)No one is required to “ accept certain postulates of logic”."
Your words, not mine.


January 25, 2017 10:17 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

grodrigues said...

" I did not object "to the linked article's interpretation of Aquinas's words" "

"And nothing can change except by something that is moving."

Aristotle never asserted that (the First Way is taken by St. Thomas from Aristotle). St. Thomas never asserted that,"

(2)
d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


The example Aquinas uses is wood, flame, burning.
A piece of wood is "potentially burning".
Then, that piece of would is caused "to be burning in act".
That change can only be caused by "a thing that is in act", "such as a flame".
In this way "wood is moved and altered".

In this description of causation Aquinas manages to describe our perception of cause and effect fairly well. Clearly, a flame is moving, literally. Flames move. A flame is not stationary. Nobody watching a flame would say the flame stands still.

Burning is a motion, clearly. The example is of "burning". If a thing is burning it is necessarily moving. There is no such thing as stationary burning. So the example clearly states *actually moving thing, makes wood, which is potentially moving, to be moving in act, in this way the wood is moved*

A piece of wood has the appearance of being stationary. Of course, it is not truly stationary, rather a buzzing beehive of subatomic activity, but at our macro level a piece of wood seems stable and unchanging.

The only thing that can get that stationary thing to move is a moving thing such as a flame. The moving flame causes the wood to transform from potentially moving to actually moving, as anybody who has set fire to wood, watch it burn, and watch it turn to ash can easily see.

The language of (2)d. states clearly that the only thing that can reduce a thing to act is a thing already in act. The example given in (2)d.i. clearly is an example of a moving thing, a flame, causing a stationary thing, a piece of wood, to be transformed into a moving thing, a burning piece of wood.

How is this somehow not obvious to the theist? If this were in any other context the intelligence of the theist would be able to grasp this simple language easily. Yet, when framed as a defense of god the theistic brain seems to suffer some kind of mental breakdown, displaying an attention span that seems to extend no more than 5 words, unable to connect the end of a single sentence to the beginning of that same sentence...unable to connect an example sentence with the previous logical sentence...unable to apply even the most rudimentary logic to a very simple set of just 2 sentences.

It is this most apparent mental breakdown that leaves me groping for an explanation of what could possibly be the cause of an otherwise bright and highly functional human being to suffer some sort of mental collapse over two simple sentences.

Why do you theists struggle so hard to comprehend something this simple, when in the rest of your lives you are such capable thinkers?


January 25, 2017 5:24 PM

Martin said...

Stardusty Psyche,

>The only thing that can get that stationary thing to move is a moving thing such as a flame.

This is not the principle, though, despite Aquinas's misleading example. The premise is that if something is going to raise a potency to act, it must itself be in act (i.e. it must exist). Of things in act, there are two types:

1. Something already (and always) in act
2. Something in act that was a potency actualized by something else

The argument is that if it was 2, then you need something else to actualize it, and so on. The ultimate explanation for ANY potencies being actualized is: something not just in act, but something that is not an actualized potency but a thing already in act.

There is nothing about "becoming actualized" that requires the thing doing the actualizing to be #2. Something that is #1 can just as easily actualize a potency.


How is this somehow not obvious to the atheist? If this were in any other context the intelligence of the atheist would be able to grasp this simple language easily. Yet, when framed as a defense of god the atheistic brain seems to suffer some kind of mental breakdown, displaying an attention span that seems to extend no more than 5 words, unable to connect the end of a single sentence to the beginning of that same sentence...unable to connect an example sentence with the previous logical sentence...unable to apply even the most rudimentary logic to a very simple set of just 2 sentences.

It is this most apparent mental breakdown that leaves me groping for an explanation of what could possibly be the cause of an otherwise bright and highly functional human being to suffer some sort of mental collapse over two simple sentences.

Why do you atheists struggle so hard to comprehend something this simple, when in the rest of your lives you are such capable thinkers?

grodrigues said...

@Stardusty Psyche:

"Why do you theists struggle so hard to comprehend something this simple, when in the rest of your lives you are such capable thinkers?"

Why does an ignorant idiot who does not have the foggiest idea of what St. Thomas means -- provably, demonstrably so -- pretends to lecture me on his metaphysics? Go read a book.

SteveK said...

Distort the argument, then label it nonsense. That's the atheist way.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" You just finished arguing with me that:
1)No one knows if equilateral triangles exist and so the definition is nonsense.
2)No one is required to “ accept certain postulates of logic”."
"Your words, not mine."

Regardless of what you meant, the question is still:
"Given this counter argument, how can you claim *prove* anything is wrong?"

bmiller said...


"Why does an ignorant idiot who does not have the foggiest idea of what St. Thomas means -- provably, demonstrably so -- pretends to lecture me on his metaphysics? Go read a book."

BTW,as I see it, in case someone misconstrues this statement as an insult, I should point out that it is merely a "temporal interaction process" and since "Cause and effect are mutual during a temporal interaction process." the statement should not be construed as having "caused" the "effect" of offense to SP.

Cal Metzger said...

Me: “”And nothing can change except by something that is moving.""
Grod: "Aristotle never asserted that (the First Way is taken by St. Thomas from Aristotle). St. Thomas never asserted that, neither it follows from anything that Aristotle or St. Thomas asserted. "

More nonsense. I already showed how it follows from Aquinas’s silly argument.

Aquinas: "For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality."

As Aquinas indicates, he defined motion as a kind of change. It is, to use the awkward terminology of the argument, a reduction FROM potentiality TO actuality.

Aquinas: "But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality."

So, only an actual (as opposed to potential) thing can make something move (change). I am using the term “move” in both senses — the one that Aquinas uses (a reduction FROM potentiality TO actuality, or change), of being actual, but also in the more modern, physical sense as well; if something CHANGES its position, for instance, then Aquinas and I would be using the term in near identical ways about the something’s motion (ugh — is it any wonder that we have abandoned these fuzzy terms?).

So, more nonsense from you — it not only DOES follow that Aquinas argues that nothing can change except by something that is in motion (is moving, as I describe above), but I don’t see any other way to read the premises that he sets up.

———

Grod: “But from "it is not possible to be in potency and act, in the same respect and at the same time" and the principle of causality, it does not follow that "the only way that a mover can move something is if it is moving". Not here, not in China, not anywhere where reason and logic are used in a sound manner.”

Well, if something hasn’t undergone a change, isn’t actual, or hasn’t changed position, then I don’t think anyone knows what Aristotle means when he sets out: “But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality [be in motion], except by something in a state of actuality.”

————

Grod: “And there is another egregious misunderstanding. St. Thomas is *NOT* concerned to prove that for a sequence of changers
... -> e_n -> ... -> e_0
that it must be the case that there is a head of the sequence, that is, the causal sequence must be of the form,
E ... -> e_n -> ... -> e_0
…. And needless to say, I am simply correct and you are not; as has been abundantly established, you simply have no idea what you are talking about.”

To some extent I agree with you here; the First Way doesn’t seem to understand that motion in the present is inextricably linked to motion in the past, and to beginnings in the very distant past — in fact, he seems to be ignorant of what we understand today about the origins of our universe. I wonder if that could be related to the fact that he was playing with an ancient argument, in a time when he didn’t even have access to Newtonian physics.

Cal Metzger said...

Martin: "This is not the principle, though, despite Aquinas's misleading example. The premise is that if something is going to raise a potency to act, it must itself be in act (i.e. it must exist). Of things in act, there are two types:
1. Something already (and always) in act..."

I really do appreciate your trying to explain the argument so that it works.

But if something is already and always in action, doesn't that admit that one of the premises (that an actual infinity isn't possible) is false?


Martin said...

Cal Metzger,

>if something is already and always in action, doesn't that admit that one of the premises (that an actual infinity isn't possible) is false?

Well first of all there are two points that need clarification here:

The word "first" in "first cause" or "prime mover" in the case of this argument is not meant to mean something that some first in time, but rather to refer to something that is primary rather than secondary, or perhaps more clearly, something more/most fundamental rather than derivative. So the phrase "always acting" does not necessarily mean "acting from infinite past." It means "at the fundamental bottom of all causal activities." It's on the ground floor of reality, so to speak, and not necessarily something that came before.

More importantly, the argument against infinity in the First Way (argument from motion) is not an argument against an infinity per se. For example, Thomas Aquinas explicitly rejected the Kalam cosmological argument because he thought that an infinite past is not an actual infinity, since each moment happens in succession and they are not all at once. The argument against in infinity in this argument (as opposed to Kalam) is rather that an explanation must be something other than the thing it is meant to explain. For example, let's say you are trying to explain how a lamp in the living room is lit since it doesn't have its own source of power. An explanation might very well be that it is getting its power from the outlet, but this just pushes the problem aside rather than answering it since the outlet must receive its power from something else as well. A complete explanation of this is going to have to involve something that doesn't receive its power from something external to it. A power plant, for example, would be the real explanation of where the lamp is getting its power from. So we might say something like, "if the lamp is getting its power from the outlet, which is getting its power from the power lines, the power lines cannot stretch to infinity because then there would be no source of power and hence no explanation for where the lamp is getting its power from. Since the lamp is getting power, the power lines cannot be infinitely long, not because an infinity is impossible but because then there wouldn't be any source of power even though we know there is one somewhere."

Make sense?

bmiller said...

"But if something is already and always in action, doesn't that admit that one of the premises (that an actual infinity isn't possible) is false? "

I think this is part of the confusion. In ordinary discussion when we speak of act, we think of something in motion, whereas in A-T parlance it means "actually exists now". This confusion is apparent in the transposition of the word "act" to the word "action" in the quoted sentence. It's a hazard of reading the translation directly without a background of what the author had in mind. This could be avoided by reading those who understand the background material as well as the footnotes in the article. If one sees an apparent issue, then another similar article can be consulted. Otherwise, a better path would be to read and understand the background material for oneself.

The things we normally experience are changing so what we see at the moment will be something else (in a way) at the next moment. So for something to change, means the process going from what it is now (in act or actually) to what it potentially will be. When the process has completed, it is in act now (actually existing) albeit existing as a different act (actually existing) than is used to be. Of course there are many qualifiers to be added, but this is basically the idea.

How can something be in act (actually existing) and still cause change without itself changing should be the question that no one has brought forth.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"I already showed how it follows from Aquinas’s silly argument."

No, you have not showed such.

"So, more nonsense from you — it not only DOES follow that Aquinas argues that nothing can change except by something that is in motion (is moving, as I describe above), but I don’t see any other way to read the premises that he sets up. "

No there is no nonsense from me. Of course St. Thomas is committed to the scholastic principle of causality, that that which is potency can only be reduced to act by something already actual. But this is *NOT* the same as saying "nothing can change except by something that is in motion". Motion is the *reduction of potency to act*, it is *not* being actual (in respect X). These are two different things. The First Mover is not in motion, nor could He be in motion, precisely because there is no potenciality in the First Mover to be reduced to act in the first place.

An ignoramus who does not know St. Thomas' metaphysics from the hole in his head, pretending to educate me on it. Hilarious if it were not pathetic.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"To some extent I agree with you here; the First Way doesn’t seem to understand that motion in the present is inextricably linked to motion in the past, and to beginnings in the very distant past — in fact, he seems to be ignorant of what we understand today about the origins of our universe. I wonder if that could be related to the fact that he was playing with an ancient argument, in a time when he didn’t even have access to Newtonian physics."

And this is why you are a moron. I have just said that you are egregiously misunderstanding the First Way and yet here you repeat your misunderstanding, and present it as some deep "wondering". Pause for a chuckle at your expense. Whether motion in the present is inextricably linked to the past, and thus to the origins, is a very plausible notion held by a number of philosophers way before Newton formulated his theories. It is also totally and completely irrelevant to the First Way.

Newton of course, thought there had to be a First Mover that set things in motion, but whether he was right or not, the fact is that Newton's First Mover has nothing to do with how St. Thomas, after Aristotle, understands the First Mover. Nothing at all. Simply because St. Thomas is not concerned with who or what set things in motion but with the causes of motion as such.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...

" This is not the principle, though, despite Aquinas's misleading example."
This is the argument of Aquinas. If you want to make some other argument then that is your argument, not the argument of Aquinas.


" How is this somehow not obvious to the atheist?"
Because you are arguing a straw man, apparently lacking the attentions span to be able to connect elements in just 2 simple sentences.


(2)
d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


"in this way the wood is moved and altered."
Clearly, this is an example of motion and change. You want to make some argument about existence, which is your straw man. Why the mental breakdown? What causes an intelligent yet theistic human being to lose grasp on rationality over 2 simple sentences?


January 26, 2017 7:25 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

grodrigues said...

"Why do you theists struggle so hard to comprehend something this simple, when in the rest of your lives you are such capable thinkers?"

" Why does an ignorant idiot who does not have the foggiest idea of what St. Thomas means"
Because I read the words. It is only 2 sentences


(2)
d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


The first sentence is a statement of principle, the second sentence is an example of the principle.

"burning in act" "in this way the wood is moved and altered."
Attention span issues? What? How hard can this be?

If this were in a dry physics book on some other subject I am sure you would understand it easily. Yet, somehow, when associated with god your capacity to read and comprehend a relatively few elements in just 2 simple sentences utterly collapses.

Why is that?


" -- provably, demonstrably so -- pretends to lecture me on his metaphysics?"
I don't need to, all I am doing is breaking down 2 simple sentences and explaining their clear meaning to you, yet you seem unable to comprehend this simple material, apparently somehow clouded in your otherwise capable rationality by this being on the subject of god.


" Go read a book."
A particularly weak argument.


January 26, 2017 8:26 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger bmiller said...

Regardless of what you meant, the question is still:
"Given this counter argument, how can you claim *prove* anything is wrong?"
Indeed, a question that has occupied the minds of many great thinkers.

I can absolutely prove this statement to be wrong:
---There is no existence of any kind.---
My proof is owing to my self awareness.

A logical "proof" is more limited. First we must accept certain principles which are not themselves proved. Some people accept them on faith, some provisionally, some implicitly without even realizing them as such, and some deny them as universally necessary.

But let's just suppose you and I agree, at least provisionally, to accept the commonly held principles of logic. Then I can "prove" a logical proposition to you, and you can "prove" a logical proposition to me, but only within that closed system of analysis.

If you choose to deny the commonly held principles of logic then we have no basis for meaningful logical communication.


January 26, 2017 11:59 AM

SteveK said...

Dusty's principle of clear meaning:
The clear meaning of a sentence is always that which supports Dusty's atheist activist agenda

Martin said...

>If you want to make some other argument then that is your argument, not the argument of Aquinas.

But it's not my argument, it's Aquinas's. His principle is "whatever is moving is moved by something else," which is technical terminology for "whatever is an actualized potency is actualized by something in act."

>Clearly, this is an example of motion and change

Correct, that's an example of act causing potency to raise to act. And as I said, there are two types of act:

1. Something already (and always) in act
2. Something in act that was a potency actualized by something else

For Aquinas's examples, he using #2: the actual fire is itself an actualized potency. But the principle qua principle doesn't require that the thing in act (doing the actualizing) is also an actualized potency.

>You want to make some argument about existence, which is your straw man.

Huh? The term "act" refers to "existence." You know, like something actual, or real. Existent. Aquinas's entire argument concerns existence.

Why the mental breakdown? What causes an intelligent yet atheistic human being to lose grasp on rationality over 2 simple sentences?

Cal Metzger said...

Martin: “The word "first" in "first cause" or "prime mover" in the case of this argument is not meant to mean something that some first in time, but rather to refer to something that is primary rather than secondary, or perhaps more clearly, something more/most fundamental rather than derivative. So the phrase "always acting" does not necessarily mean "acting from infinite past." It means "at the fundamental bottom of all causal activities." It's on the ground floor of reality, so to speak, and not necessarily something that came before.”

Okay, but that is fanciful when it comes to describing physical events (causal activities), which do occur in spacetime. If the First Way is supposed to use our world as a demonstration of a god at its primary level, the explanation can’t pretend that spacetime is not what our world is made of — at least not in a way that’s rational.

Martin: “More importantly, the argument against infinity in the First Way (argument from motion) is not an argument against an infinity per se… Since the lamp is getting power, the power lines cannot be infinitely long, not because an infinity is impossible but because then there wouldn't be any source of power even though we know there is one somewhere." Make sense?

Two things — even the example (power from an outlet) you use involves spacetime; power from the outlet is not an instantaneous event, with the electrons involved moving at approximately the speed of light. And if we were to trace the event back to what we designate as the ‘real’ source of the power that shines the light, we could either find ourselves at a locality that we are calling the ultimate source for our designated event, or we’d shift to talking about a prior mover that introduces time, and those events that brought us to the locality. This must introduce time. I don’t see any way of escaping this fact concerning reality without making the description of causal chains fanciful (and the premise thus unsound).

Martin said...

Cal Metzger,

I certainly did not intend to imply that the First Way does not involve time. It certainly does.

The point is that the prime mover is supposed to be located in the present "behind the scenes causing the activity you see around you," as opposed to "the thing in the past that triggered the Big Bang." The reasoning starts from the example of change and activity, and reasons to a "motor" of sorts behind the scenes causing change concurrently, as opposed to reasoning backwards to some event that occurred in the distant past. In other words, don't mix the First Way up with the Kalam argument, which is in many ways an opposite argument and indeed al-Ghazali formulated it precisely as a resistance against the First Way because the First Way assumes the universe could be infinitely old and he didn't like that.


Think of it like this. If you see clock hands moving, you can infer a motor "behind the scenes, inside the clock" because you know A) the clock hands are moving, and B) the hands don't have their own internal power of movement. You might be able to see the first few gears attached to the clock but you would still infer a motor behind the scenes because the gears are no more capable of turning themselves than the hands are.

Now apply that same reasoning to what we might call "causal activation" you see in the world: the plant is growing because of sunlight. But sunlight can't activate plant growth without itself being activated by further factors, such as nuclear reactions. But the ability of nuclear reactions to generate heat and light is itself activated by further factors such as gravity. Similar to how we can infer from "clock hands" through "gears" to "motor," in the world we can infer from "change" through "causal activation" to "something causally active that does not depend on anything else for its causal abilities."

Stardusty Psyche said...

grodrigues said...

" The First Mover is not in motion, "
That is the later part of the argument where Aquinas contradicts himself. Try to stay focused, ok?

Legion objects to internet psychoanalysis, and rightly so, because who knows the motivations of others really? But it is an intriguing psychological question as to how the theist goes into such deep logical denial, sort of like a skipping record, some kind of cognative dissonance, a disconnect or logical blockage of some kind.

I suppose that asking those who suffer from this mental breakdown to explain it to me is not reasonable, but sometimes people who have certain mental deficiencies are aware of them and communicate to others about their own personal mental experiences.

There seems to be some sort of mental god wall in the brain of a theist. When an argument is about some dry subject the individual is able to cope with it and connect a complicated set of elements together into a cohesive whole. But add god into the mix and sentences become disconnected somehow, from each other, or even broken apart themselves.

grodrigues, (2)d. simply contradicts (5), it is that easy, not complicated.


January 27, 2017 5:57 AM

Cal Metzger said...

Martin: "For Aquinas's examples, he using #2: the actual fire is itself an actualized potency. But the principle qua principle doesn't require that the thing in act (doing the actualizing) is also an actualized potency."

Right, but at that point he is talking about something that has always existed (been in act). And since always is a time descriptive term, I don't see how you get to arguing that the First Way doesn't also involve time when it talks about causes.

The best I can still come to with First Way is to say that it can be interpreted to outline the riddle of existence, and that it declares what would be the case (an irrational conclusion -- an unmoved mover that is existence itself, which is eternal without being infinite?) by rejecting another premise (that an infinite regress itself is impossible) without admitting that the conclusion (an eternal, unmoved mover) faces the same objection (an infinite regress [in time] is impossible] as the premise it rejects.

And that's without mentioning the problem that introducing a being (god) into the conclusion is ad hoc.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" Consider that we all know what an equilateral triangle is."
Do we? Does such a triangle exist? If so, in what sense does it exist? Can you point to an equilateral triangle as a real existing object? No.

" Consider that I performed a geometric proof that a particular 3 sided figure had all 3 internal angles equal to 60 degrees."
That would require that we first provisionally or faithfully accept certain postulates of logic. Your "proof" would be existentially unprovable.

" Consider then, that I claimed that the proof showed the figure was an equilateral triangle."
On the acceptance of certain postulates you could consider that a logical proof, but not an existential proof.

Followed by this exchange:
Regardless of what you meant, the question is still:
"Given this counter argument, how can you claim *prove* anything is wrong?"
Indeed, a question that has occupied the minds of many great thinkers.

Finally this:
SP:“If you choose to deny the commonly held principles of logic then we have no basis for meaningful logical communication.”

This was exactly my point.
You asserted that Aquinas was “provably” wrong right after you argued with me that you could take the position that all the talk about “equilateral triangles” could be dismissed by rejecting triangles existing and logic working.
Your opponent could use the same argument against you if you think that you can “prove” anything including that Aquinas was wrong. You somehow exempt your own “proofs” from the same criteria you use to judge other “proofs”. This is illogical.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "You asserted that Aquinas was “provably” wrong right after you argued with me that you could take the position that all the talk about “equilateral triangles” could be dismissed by rejecting triangles existing and logic working. "

Nope. Stardusty has just (as shown above, and verified by his earlier comments) delineated what it means to be prove something logically (accepting postulates, then proceeding) versus proving something existentially (which can get complex fairly quickly).

So, you just don't understand the comments and the argument that you have assembled above.

bmiller: "Your opponent could use the same argument against you if you think that you can “prove” anything including that Aquinas was wrong. You somehow exempt your own “proofs” from the same criteria you use to judge other “proofs”. This is illogical."

Nope. Aquinas is provably wrong, assuming that one accepts the postulates of logic.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...


" But it's not my argument, it's Aquinas's. His principle is "whatever is moving is moved by something else," "
That is another principle, related to, but a subset of (2)d.

You speak in the singular. In fact Aquinas does not state a single principle, and of those multiple principles he states, some contradict others.

""which is technical terminology for "whatever is an actualized potency is actualized by something in act."""
Of which motion and change are a type of, that is, a type of act.

" >Clearly, this is an example of motion and change

Correct, that's an example of act causing potency to raise to act."
Right, and the act in this case is motion or change, and it is required that this be "by" a thing in act, in this case a thing in motion or change.

" And as I said, there are two types of act:

1. Something already (and always) in act"
Ok, so in this case, if god were the mover, god would always have been moving violating a further principle of Aquinas, (4)

2. Something in act that was a potency actualized by something else
Which is a component of (2)d.i., the wood.

" For Aquinas's examples, he using #2: the actual fire is itself an actualized potency."
Which is necessarily moving. The flame is the mover that is itself necessarily moving.

" But the principle qua principle doesn't require that the thing in act (doing the actualizing) is also an actualized potency."
Now you have suffered theistic cognitive breakdown, apparently unable to maintain your attention span, hence you keep bouncing back and forth endlessly like a "who's on first" routine. (2)d. requires just the very thing you state is not required. Try to maintain your focus, OK?

(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.

Aquinas clearly states that a thing can only be caused to act by a thing already in act. In i. Aquinas calls "act" to be "moved and altered"


" >You want to make some argument about existence, which is your straw man.

Huh? The term "act" refers to "existence." You know, like something actual, or real. Existent. Aquinas's entire argument concerns existence."
No, Aquinas clearly calls "act" to be "moved and altered". This is very, very simple language, how can you be having this much difficulty with it?

"burning in act" There is is, right there for you in one of just 2 sentences. It seems as though you can only read and remember 1 short phrase at a time, losing your concentration on all other phrases whenever you read a few more words.

"burning" is not a static existence. "burning" is necessarily in motion. To be burning in act is to be actually burning, as opposed to being potentially burning.


January 27, 2017 9:10 AM

grodrigues said...

@Stardusty Psyche:

"I don't need to, all I am doing is breaking down 2 simple sentences and explaining their clear meaning to you, yet you seem unable to comprehend this simple material, apparently somehow clouded in your otherwise capable rationality by this being on the subject of god."

Your self-serving interpretation contradicts what St. Thomas himself, along with all his commentators without exception, say on the subject. So yes, we have an ignoramus pretending to know the argument better than St. Thomas himself and all his commentators. The hubris and arrogant stupidity is just unbelievable.

You are one of those idiot kooks that pretends to have the magical capacity to tease the meaning out of a text in a vacuum, out of all context and divorced from everything else the author says, with absolutely no textual evidence -- it is all so "clear" from "2 simple sentences" alone! This is the Hermeneutics of an Idiot.

Go get an education.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

Finally this:
SP:“If you choose to deny the commonly held principles of logic then we have no basis for meaningful logical communication.”

This was exactly my point.
" You asserted that Aquinas was “provably” wrong right after you argued with me that you could take the position that all the talk about “equilateral triangles” could be dismissed by rejecting triangles existing and logic working."
This absurd "argument" called the First Way attempts to be a logical argument. A logical argument can be logically disproved, making it provably wrong.

The First Way contradicts itself, and is thus logically proved wrong. If you do not wish to accept the commonly held principles of logic then that is up to you. On acceptance of them, however, Aquinas is provably wrong, making the the Whack A Mole defense of it put up here by theists somewhat astonishing.

" Your opponent could use the same argument against you if you think that you can “prove” anything including that Aquinas was wrong. You somehow exempt your own “proofs” from the same criteria you use to judge other “proofs”. "
Try to keep in mind the difference between a logical proof and an existential proof, ok?


January 27, 2017 11:23 AM

SteveK said...

"This is the Hermeneutics of an Idiot"

The fuel that drives atheism forward

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" You asserted that Aquinas was “provably” wrong right after you argued with me that you could take the position that all the talk about “equilateral triangles” could be dismissed by rejecting triangles existing and logic working."
This absurd "argument" called the First Way attempts to be a logical argument. A logical argument can be logically disproved, making it provably wrong.

OK, then your argument against “equilateral triangles” had exactly nothing to do with anything. Why would you add further muddle to your existing muddle?

You seem to insist that the phrase “in act” means “in motion” when Aristotle, Aquinas, commentators on the argument over the last 2300 years, the OP, grodrigues, Martin and I are all in agreement that it means that something is in a particular state of existence.
If you don’t understand how the same log can be in an actual state of “not-burning” and then later be in another actual state of “burning”, then why not ask what Aristotle, Aquinas, etc meant rather than insisting they must have meant what they did not mean?

SteveK said...

"Nope. Aquinas is provably wrong, assuming that one accepts the postulates of logic."

What FACT can you cite that requires anyone to value logic over illogic or truth over falsehoods or carrots over broccoli? There is no such FACT under your worldview.

Given that there are none, and given the postulates of logic it follows that no human being is obligated to live any particular way in your anti-realistic fantasy world you call naturalism.

I like my way of living, you like yours, and that's all you can FACTUALLY say (because Science!) but you cannot help yourself. You seem to think you have various FACTS on your side. You don't. You clearly value clinging to falsehoods.

Legion of Logic said...

Martin: "But the principle qua principle doesn't require that the thing in act (doing the actualizing) is also an actualized potency."

SD: "(2)d. requires just the very thing you state is not required. Try to maintain your focus, OK?

(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act."

SD: "Of which motion and change are a type of, that is, a type of act."

You still don't understand the argument, SD, presumably because of translational issues from the original Latin to a non-modern English (in the Lord of the Rings, everyone is gay and everything is queer, right?)

Something that is "in act" is not "something that is acting (on something else). To be "in act" is to be "in a state of being" - an actualized state. A soda can is "in act" not because it is doing something, but because it is metal that has been formed and shaped into a can.

A potential is a state of being that could be realized if something influences it (I say "influence" instead of "acts" to avoid confusion). Metal is in a state of being (in act), but it has a potential of being a soda can if it is changed (reduced from potential to act, or had a potential state realized) by something else that already exists (something that is already in act, which means in an actualized state). To be "reduced from potential to act" means "to have a potential state realized".

Where you failed to understand Martin's point is that there is nothing in the argument that says that the thing doing the changing (reducing a potential to an act, making a potential state a reality) must have also once been a potential that got realized. The only premise is that the thing doing the changing (reducing from potential to act) must be in act (already existing) itself. There is no qualifier that something that exists must be a realized potential.

Stardusty Psyche said...

miller said...


" You seem to insist that the phrase “in act” means “in motion” "

(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


Read, focus, concentrate. Try to not let the previous phrase escape your mental grasp when a few new words are read.

This is only 2 sentences. I feel like I am communicating with a 10 year old on this subject, who somehow resides inside the being of an otherwise mature and intelligent adult.

"an actually burning or hot thing" That is the flame in act, meaning it is actually burning, ok? Can you hold on to that thought while I introduce another thought?

" makes wood" Wood, not yet burning will be made to do something by the flame. Hold that thought too, please.

"to be burning in act" Now the wood is actually burning. So, can you hold in your mind those 3 things?

Now put it all together, actually burning flame makes wood actually burn. Can you grasp that concept? Flame makes wood burn. Aquinas just told you.

"in this way the wood is moved and altered"
So, the wood was moved and changed, which was done by a thing that was moving and changing, the flame.

Aquinas tells you right there, in plain language, in just 2 simple sentences.

The first sentence provides the principle. The second sentence gives an example of how to apply that principle to motion and change using flame and wood to show that only a thing that is moving or changing can cause a thing that is not moving or changing to begin to move or change.

Aquinas says it right there in 2 simple sentences. It is an obvious observation Aquinas writes in pedantic plain language, yet the theists here just cannot seem to grasp this very simple idea. To move an object it must be set in motion by a moving object. Your moving hand hits a stationary ball to make it move. A moving flame causes a stationary fuel to burn.

What part of this incredibly simple set of just 2 sentences does the theistic mind get baffled by?


January 27, 2017 12:46 PM

Martin said...

I'm sorry Stardusty Psyche, but you have Aquinas completely wrong.

The concept of act and potency evolved out of a response to Parmenides during the Presocratic era. Parmendies argued that there are only two concepts: being and non-being. Since a change entails being coming out of non-being, but non-being does not exist (by definition), then change can never occur. Change is an illusion.

Aristotle thought he was wrong and came up with the concept of potency to explain why: potency is a sort of middle ground between being and non-being. A thing can have being, but also be potentially in another state. It can have being-in-potentiality. For example, a coffee cup has being on my desk but is potentially drunk if I pick it up and slurp it down. It has the potential to be different than it is.

The concept of act and potency correspond to being and potential being, not "acting."

Martin said...

Cal Metzger,

> I don't see how you get to arguing that the First Way doesn't also involve time when it talks about causes.

Huh? I just agreed above that it does involve time...?

>rejecting another premise (that an infinite regress itself is impossible) without admitting that the conclusion (an eternal, unmoved mover) faces the same objection (an infinite regress [in time] is impossible] as the premise it rejects.

Eh? I just explained above how the argument doesn't involve rejection of an infinity qua infinity...?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act."

SD: "Of which motion and change are a type of, that is, a type of act."

" You still don't understand the argument,"
Then I suggest you ask to have the OP replaced with a better translation.

I am working from the text of the OP. If you have some other text that more accurately states the First Way you are free to request it be used as a replacement for the OP.


" Something that is "in act" is not "something that is acting (on something else). To be "in act" is to be "in a state of being" - an actualized state."
In this case the state of change, to be a changing thing, a moving thing.

Let's use your words then, fine.
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to a state of being a changing thing, unless it is by a thing that is in a state of being a changing thing."


" A soda can is "in act" not because it is doing something, but because it is metal that has been formed and shaped into a can."
That is a perceived static state of being. That perception is an illusion, leading to further errors of Aquinas that are less obvious.

But, just for the sake of communicating at the level of our macro perceptions, let's suppose there can be a static state of being and a dynamic state of being.

Aquinas provides the example of a thing in a static state of being (wood) being moved to a dynamic state of being (burning) by a thing in a dynamic state of being (flame).

A changing thing causes a static thing to be altered to become a changing thing. That is what Aquinas gives in (2) of the OP, and it makes sense.

It makes sense at our level of perception. When something is standing still it does not suddenly start moving on its own. Only a moving thing can cause a stationary thing to move. That much makes perfect sense.

In (2) Aquinas merely states the obvious. Yet the theists here have managed to deny the obvious, in several true cases of cognitive dissonance.

You have some further points, I realize, but I am having such a hard time with these folks just getting them to understand the obvious point Aquinas is making, that a thing can be made to move only by something that is itself moving, that I hesitate to go any further at the moment.


January 27, 2017 1:27 PM

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: “You seem to insist that the phrase “in act” means “in motion” when Aristotle, Aquinas, commentators on the argument over the last 2300 years, the OP, grodrigues, Martin and I are all in agreement that it means that something is in a particular state of existence.”

I dunno. Maybe because Aquinas’s argument and terminology are muddled and confusing, in which he wrote things like:

Aquinas: “For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.”

Which leads people who try to make sense of it into writing more muddled and contradictory things like these:

linked article: “But, a thing moves only insomuch as it is in act.”
bmiller: “Change is the motion from what a thing can potentially be to what it actually is.”
Grod: “Motion is the *reduction of potency to act*, it is *not* being actual (in respect X).”

Please compare:
bmiller: “You seem to insist that the phrase “in act” means “in motion” when…grodrigues, Martin and I are all in agreement that it means that something is in a particular state of existence.”
Grod: “Motion is the *reduction of potency to act*, it is *not* being actual (in respect X).”

Cal Metzger said...

Martin: "Huh? I just agreed above that it does involve time...? ... Eh? I just explained above how the argument doesn't involve rejection of an infinity qua infinity...?"

Sorry, I had responded to a prior post of yours, and hadn't refreshed in awhile to see that you had clarified as you had. I'll circle back later.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...

" I'm sorry Stardusty Psyche, but you have Aquinas completely wrong."
Then I suggest you request the OP be replaced. I am using that as the reference text on this thread.


" The concept of act and potency correspond to being and potential being, not "acting.""
Being what though? All Aquinas does is state the obvious, a stationary thing is made to move only by a moving thing.

The word "move" appears in several forms some 25 times in the First Way. The state of being in question is a state of motion.


January 27, 2017 2:12 PM

Martin said...

Stardusky,

>The word "move" appears in several forms some 25 times in the First Way. The state of being in question is a state of motion.

And as we all explained to you, the term "motion" here is not being used to mean what we normally mean. Consider:

1. A coffee cup
2. The coffee cup filled with coffee

#1 is act: a coffee cup being, or existing. #1 also has the potential to be filled. #2 is also act: a coffee cup with coffee in it, being, or existing. The transition between the two is what "motion" means in the First Way.

So a state of act <> a state of motion or a state of acting on something else. Motion = a potency becoming actual.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This exchange:
" You seem to insist that the phrase “in act” means “in motion” "

(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


Read, focus, concentrate. Try to not let the previous phrase escape your mental grasp when a few new words are read."


You claim to have read the OP, but the OP post is more than just those 2 sentences. I wonder why you can only take (2)d. out of context and ignore (2)a.(2)b.and (2)c.? You misunderstand (2)d. because you ignore or don't understand (2)c.

This is the second time I will have posted this series with footnotes included. (2)c. explains how “move” relates to “potency” and “act” with footnote [11] explaining how “act” is to be understood.
Try to substitute the phrase “thing that actually exists” with “in act” (2) d. and you will see that it says * But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to “a thing that actually exists”, unless it is by a thing that is[11] “a thing that actually exists”*.

If you insist the terminology used in the post means what you want it to mean rather than what the author correctly explains what Aristotle, Aquinas etc meant, you are attacking a straw man.

I would be interested if you had an objection to the actual argument of the First Way, but after a month, I’m thinking that you can not or will not understand it, so I will never find out.


From the OP:

2) But, all that is moved, is moved by another.
a. Nothing is, in fact, moved, unless it is in potency[9] to that towards which it is moved.
b. But, a thing moves only insomuch as it is in act.[10]
c. In fact, to move is nothing else than to bring a thing from potency to act.
d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is[11] in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.

[9]The term potency is a technical term that is used to describe all of the non-actual, but possible, states of an actually existing being – a being that is in act. Other words that are sometimes used in the place of potency are potential, or possible. I prefer to use this uncommon term so as to avoid any misunderstanding that might be caused by the variation of meanings that are attached to the more common words, potential and possible. For further elaboration on the word potency, and what is implied by it, see note 17.

[10]The phrase “in act” describes the state of a thing that actually exists in the mind-exterior world. It could be paraphrased as “to be actual”, or “to be really existent at the present moment in the mind-exterior world, independent of anyone’s perceptions of it.” It is opposed to potency, which is the non-existing but potential states of an actually existing thing. That which is in potency does not actually exist, but is a possible future state of some being that is in act. For example, an apple seed is which is in act, is also in potency, an apple tree. This potency may never be actualized (or realized).

[11]I translated ens as “that is” for readability, but it should technically be translated “being” or “a being”.

grodrigues said...

"Maybe because Aquinas’s argument and terminology are muddled and confusing"

This goes without saying. When Mr. Metzger can pretend to understand the argument, it is inconsistent. After being shown that he does not know the argument from the hole in his head, it is "muddled and confusing". After all, what *else* can be concluded from the fact that so rational a rationality as Mr. Metzger's cannot understand, let alone refute, St. Thomas in a couple of sentences and a chuckle? And besides St. Thomas was medieval. And theist apologetics are really *really* blinkered and biased. And science.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger Martin said...
" >The word "move" appears in several forms some 25 times in the First Way. The state of being in question is a state of motion.

And as we all explained to you, the term "motion" here is not being used to mean what we normally mean. Consider:

1. A coffee cup
2. The coffee cup filled with coffee

#1 is act: a coffee cup being, or existing. #1 also has the potential to be filled. #2 is also act: a coffee cup with coffee in it, being, or existing. The transition between the two is what "motion" means in the First Way.

So a state of act <> a state of motion or a state of acting on something else. Motion = a potency becoming actual."
OMG

d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.
i. For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.


The wood is "moved". When wood burns it moves, literally, changes position. A flame moves. Burning is necessary a motion, physical, kinetically, something changing its spatial position.

There is no such thing as a stationary flame, even at our macro perception level.

The entire First Way argument is about motion. The example of (2)d.i. is an example of motion.

What kind of cognitive disconnect drives the theist to defend some imagined interpretation of an argued static state?

Aquinas merely states the apparent obvious, that a stationary thing is moved only by a moving thing. From our perspective that is obviously true.

The deeper truth is that we know of no stationary states. All observed states are states of motion, but I hesitate to go into that line of discussion when the theists here cannot grasp the simple concept that a flame makes a piece of wood burn.


January 27, 2017 2:57 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" Try to substitute the phrase “thing that actually exists” with “in act” (2) d. and you will see that it says * But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to “a thing that actually exists”, unless it is by a thing that is[11] “a thing that actually exists”*."
That is a different argument about an imagined static existence. Flames are necessarily in motion.

Why do the theists here feel so compelled to inject this notion of a static state moving as static thing to another static state?

Aquinas sets out with "something in this world moves". Things are in a state of motion. Things exist in a state of motion. Things actually move. The state of act in question in the First Way is a state of motion.


January 27, 2017 3:15 PM

Legion of Logic said...

"the theists here cannot grasp the simple concept that a flame makes a piece of wood burn"

Atheists are famous for strawman caricatures of theists, but you just became a standout attraction, sir.

"The state of act in question in the First Way is a state of motion."

"Motion" in Aquinas' usage is akin to "change", which can include but is not dependent on the modern usage of the word "motion". Variance in physical location or posture is not the point of the argument, but the concept of an existing object undergoing a change due to the influence of another existing object. Indeed there must be some form of interaction for one object to influence another and change it, but I feel like that's running down a rabbit hole.

When I get the time, which likely won't be until Sunday at the earliest if this is still ongoing, I will try and rewrite the argument as it is understood by those familiar with it, in modern English instead of using "act", "potential", and "motion".

Martin said...

Stardusky

>What kind of cognitive disconnect drives the theist to defend some imagined interpretation of an argued static state?

Huh? Nobody's arguing about a "static state." In fact, Aristotle had two different terms for the state of actuality:

Energeia, which would translate roughly to being-at-work, or actuality-at-work
Entelecheia, which would translate roughly to being-accomplished, or actuality-accomplished

The concept of actuality only entails "rest" in the sense that the transition from one state to another state is completed, but the thing in question is still very much active in the sense of being busy being the kind of thing it is.

For example, an acorn grows into an oak tree. The transitions from acorn to mature oak and then "rests" in the sense that it's transition to adulthood is complete, but certainly is not resting in the sense of being static: it is busy being an oak tree by taking in nutrients, replacing cells, and so on. So the terms are:

* Acorn transitioning to mature oak: motion
* Mature oak: actuality, which splits into:
* Energeia: the mature oak busy being the kind of thing it is
* Entelecheia: the mature oak finished maturing and so "resting" in that sense

You should read up on this topic before accusing theists of postuatling any kind of "static" state in the sense you mean it: http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-mot/

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" "the theists here cannot grasp the simple concept that a flame makes a piece of wood burn"

Atheists are famous for strawman caricatures of theists, but you just became a standout attraction, sir."
I wish it were not the case, but time after time the theists here just do not get that the flame is in motion, and it makes the wood burn, and thus go from being perceived as stationary to being in motion.

I expected some disagreement about some more complex issues, but the theists here literally do not understand that Aquinas is providing an example of motion causing motion, as though a flame could somehow be a static thing that merely exists unrelated necessarily to motion.

" "The state of act in question in the First Way is a state of motion."

"Motion" in Aquinas' usage is akin to "change", which can include but is not dependent on the modern usage of the word "motion"."
Change requires motion. No physical object changes unless something moves.

" When I get the time, which likely won't be until Sunday at the earliest if this is still ongoing, I will try and rewrite the argument as it is understood by those familiar with it, in modern English instead of using "act", "potential", and "motion"."
Undoubtedly you can do a better job than Aquinas. Unfortunately modern theists cling adamantly to such badly written pre-scientific notions.


January 27, 2017 3:58 PM

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...

Stardusky

>What kind of cognitive disconnect drives the theist to defend some imagined interpretation of an argued static state?

Huh? Nobody's arguing about a "static state." In fact, Aristotle had two different terms for the state of actuality:"
Aristotilian physics? Really? That is supposed to be some kind of basis for understanding motion?


" Energeia, which would translate roughly to being-at-work, or actuality-at-work
Entelecheia, which would translate roughly to being-accomplished, or actuality-accomplished"
Whatever.

" The concept of actuality only entails "rest" in the sense that the transition from one state to another state is completed,"
The resultant state being a state of motion in this case.

" You should read up on this topic before accusing theists of postuatling any kind of "static" state in the sense you mean it: http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-mot/"
I am just reading the words posted in denial that "act" is a state of motion. What other theists think on the subject is irrelevant to the above denials that "act" is a state of motion in the First Way.


January 27, 2017 4:15 PM

Martin said...

Stardusky,

>Aristotilian physics? Really? That is supposed to be some kind of basis for understanding motion?

No, Aristotelian metaphysics. His physics are not accurate, as proven by modern science.

>I am just reading the words posted in denial that "act" is a state of motion.

Because "act" means "being," which can be both being-accomplished (entelecheia) and being-at-work.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...

>I am just reading the words posted in denial that "act" is a state of motion.

" Because "act" means "being," which can be both being-accomplished (entelecheia) and being-at-work."
Being in a state of motion. What do you folks have so invested in denying motion in an argument from motion?

I mean, the first line sets up with "something in this world moves". Yet it is somehow difficult for the theists here to see that to change a physical thing is to necessarily cause it to literally move, a flame is in motion and the words of the First Way keep coming back to motion, one thing moving another thing.

A moving flame makes apparently static wood burn and thus move and change. A flame makes wood burn. I feel like I am communicating with children here. Flame, wood, burn...the flame moves, burning is motion, what part of that don't you folks get?


January 27, 2017 5:58 PM

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,
This exchange:
" Try to substitute the phrase “thing that actually exists” with “in act” (2) d. and you will see that it says * But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to “a thing that actually exists”, unless it is by a thing that is[11] “a thing that actually exists”*."
That is a different argument about an imagined static existence. Flames are necessarily in motion.”

This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual. The flame is actual. The burning log as the end of the change is actual. What do you not get about this? Why do you ignore (2)a, b and c? Why do you ignore footnote [10]?

SP:”Why do the theists here feel so compelled to inject this notion of a static state moving as static thing to another static state?”
First, this is so muddled I don’t even know what you are complaining about. Yes, fire consuming a log means that something is changing, however, the point of the example was that actual fire, caused an actual non-burning log to change from a potentially burning log into an actual burning log. Rational people feel compelled to understand what an argument is actually saying before coming to conclusions.
Second, no one has to be a theist to understand the argument. Only someone who can follow logic and apply the supplied definitions.

SP:”Aquinas sets out with "something in this world moves". Things are in a state of motion. Things exist in a state of motion. Things actually move. The state of act in question in the First Way is a state of motion.”
This is something you made up and is not the First Way argument. It’s so screwed up there’s no point in responding to it. It seems your formulations are getting more unhinged the longer you post.
Are you afraid that if you come to understand the actual argument rather than something straw that you made up you will start vomiting pea soup or something?

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual."
No, the wood is potential, not actual in (2)d.i. The wood is potential burning. The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning.

"The flame is actual. The burning log as the end of the change is actual. What do you not get about this?"
I don't get how the theists here, such as you, are having such a difficult time understanding simple sentences.

You are wrong from the outset. The act of the example in (2)d.i. is flame or burning. The wood is not in that sort of act. To be moved from potential to act requires something already in act, in this case already burning.

Legion chastised me for this, but not reasonably, you literally do not get that fire makes wood burn.


January 27, 2017 7:09 PM

SteveK said...

The comedic level of ignorance continues unabated. No brakes.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This:
" This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual."
No, the wood is potential, not actual in (2)d.i. The wood is potential burning. The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning.

"The flame is actual. The burning log as the end of the change is actual. What do you not get about this?"
I don't get how the theists here, such as you, are having such a difficult time understanding simple sentences.

You are wrong from the outset. The act of the example in (2)d.i. is flame or burning. The wood is not in that sort of act. To be moved from potential to act requires something already in act, in this case already burning.

Legion chastised me for this, but not reasonably, you literally do not get that fire makes wood burn."

Well I guess I feel that I'm in good company. You not only take the OP comments out of context and misunderstand or ignore them (purposely?), along with STA, but even lowly me.
It's apparent that you are now having a conversation with those pesky voices in your head. Let me know if you want to be serious.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger bmiller said...

" This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual."
SP No, the wood is potential, not actual in (2)d.i. The wood is potential burning. The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning.


" It's apparent that you are now having a conversation with those pesky voices in your head. Let me know if you want to be serious."
Non-responsive.

You made a clear error. That would not be so bad if it were just a one-off mistake. But your failure to acknowledge that mistake as such, coupled with the profound misunderstanding you and most others here have displayed on these 2 sentences, as well as the rest of the First Way, clearly indicates that there is some sort of cognitive breakdown that commonly afflicts a theist in a compartmentalized way.


January 27, 2017 9:48 PM

SteveK said...

"And besides St. Thomas was medieval. And theist apologetics are really *really* blinkered and biased. And science."

Dang! That's such a well thought out argument. I think I'm becoming convinced.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This then:
" This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual."
SP No, the wood is potential The wood is potential burning. The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning.

SP:You made a clear error. That would not be so bad if it were just a one-off mistake. But your failure to acknowledge that mistake as such, coupled with the profound misunderstanding you and most others here have displayed on these 2 sentences, as well as the rest of the First Way, clearly indicates that there is some sort of cognitive breakdown that commonly afflicts a theist in a compartmentalized way.”

If you think I made an error then you have not shown me what you think it is.

Let me take your first response one part at a time:
SP:“No, the wood is potential”
Don’t know what that means.
SP:“The wood is potential burning.”
Yes, but the wood is not actually burning. At this point it is “not-burning” in act.
SP"The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning."
No, You are clearly wrong and have repeatedly ignored what the meaning of “act” is in the context of the topic. You have failed to acknowledge the multiple times the definition has been presented to you. What is your excuse?

(2)d.i says:
“For example, an actually burning or hot thing, such as a flame, makes wood, which is potentially burning, to be burning in act, and in this way the wood is moved and altered.”

This is the breakdown:
1) Flame is in act
2) Wood is potentially burning, but in act is not
3) Flame makes 2) burning in act rather than not burning in act.
4) This is the way wood is altered from not burning in act to burning in act.

Notice there is nothing mentioned about any “static” thing or about the nature of flame or burning wood being static or dynamic. Only that an actual thing (as opposed to nothing or a potential thing) makes some other actual thing change from being a different potential thing to a different actual thing.

And BTW, my actual quote was:
“This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual. The flame is actual. The burning log as the end of the change is actual. What do you not get about this? Why do you ignore (2)a, b and c? Why do you ignore footnote [10]?”

You failed to answer any of the questions….for multiple times now.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

:
" This is the “actual” (no pun intended) premise of the argument. I’ve just proven it to you by substituting the definition as provided in the OP. The non-burning log is actual."
SP No, the wood is potential The wood is potential burning. The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning.


" If you think I made an error then you have not shown me what you think it is."
I have, many times in various ways. But somehow you just don't get it.


SP:“The wood is potential burning.”
" Yes, but the wood is not actually burning. At this point it is “not-burning” in act."
Right, which contradicts your previous statement "The non-burning log is actual.". I am sorry for you that you are so confused. Maybe if you get a good night's sleep or something...


SP"The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning."
" No, You are clearly wrong and have repeatedly ignored what the meaning of “act” is in the context of the topic. You have failed to acknowledge the multiple times the definition has been presented to you. What is your excuse?"
The words of Aquinas "burning in act,"
Attention span issue. Again the theistic compartment of the brain suffers a mental breakdown.


Look, I am really very sorry you are so profoundly confused, I really am. I do have a very constructive suggestion for you. Open your mind to this thought, Aquinas was wrong.

Just that simple. You are not obligated to hold on to some idea that came out of medieval times with Aristotelian notions.

If you start fresh from that simple consideration, that Aquinas was wrong, you can find a path to clear your mind of your confused and irrational notions.


January 28, 2017 12:01 AM

grodrigues said...

@SteveK:

"Dang! That's such a well thought out argument. I think I'm becoming convinced."

Never underestimate the power of a pair of bozos with a combined IQ that could not outwit a dead gerbil.

grodrigues said...

"If you start fresh from that simple consideration, that Aquinas was wrong, you can find a path to clear your mind of your confused and irrational notions."

You see bmiller, if you start from the "simple consideration" that Aquinas is wrong, you will "clear your mind" of "confused and irrational notions" and finally see the truth that Aquinas is wrong. You are not "obligated to hold on to some idea that came out of medieval times". That and grasping "the simple concept that a flame makes a piece of wood burn". If you would just open your mind to the idea that Aquinas is wrong you would see that he is wrong. Flee the darkness; free yourself, before it is too late. There is a whole fascinating world out of Science (tm)! If you toil hard enough, until you finally grasp "the simple concept that a flame makes a piece of wood burn", you may even have the privilege of Psycho pursuing the "deeper truth" that "all observed states are states of motion".

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

The argument is saying there are only two kinds of existence. Whatever exists is either pure act (pure existence with no potential) or composed of potency and act.

All things that have the potential to change/move are examples of the latter. God is the former.

What Cal and Dusty would have you believe (without evidence) is that there exists only the latter and that these things change/move themselves.

Dusty and Cal may not believe in God but they surely believe in magic.

Martin said...

Stardusky,

>What do you folks have so invested in denying motion in an argument from motion?

Huh? Not only do I not deny, I am explaining to you what the term means for Aristotle and Aquinas.

>Yet it is somehow difficult for the theists here to see that to change a physical thing is to necessarily cause it to literally move

Of course it does, and even Aquinas says as much and argues that therefore the first cause cannot be physical.

>the words of the First Way keep coming back to motion, one thing moving another thing.

Correct, with “motion” meaning “potency becoming act.” So the First Way is about something actualizing potencies.

I feel like I am communicating with children here.

SteveK said...

For all their talk about strict reliance on modern physics and evidence, it's ironic to know that Cal and Dusty are *philosophically* committed to such a belief.

SteveK said...

As far as I can tell, a summary of Cal and Dusty's "First Way" argument would go something like this:

There exists a self-moving, self-changing mover that acts of its own volition to cause the changes we observe. This (magical) mover is the source for what we observe to be the immutable patterns known as the laws of physics.

Stardusty Psyche said...

grodrigues said...

" you may even have the privilege of Psycho pursuing the "deeper truth" that "all observed states are states of motion"."

Indeed, when you rid yourself of Aristotelian notions and learn more about the underlying reality you learn the deeper truth that all observed states are states of motion.

Everything we observe is in motion. In truth, we cannot accurately speak of an object beginning at rest and then being made to move since all things are already in motion, we can only accurately speak of things interacting and changing their motion.


January 28, 2017 7:23 AM

Martin said...

Stardusty,

>Everything we observe is in motion. In truth, we cannot accurately speak of an object beginning at rest and then being made to move since all things are already in motion

Indeed, as Aristotle himself said. Actuality entails two concepts:

Energeia, which would translate roughly to being-at-work, or actuality-at-work
Entelecheia, which would translate roughly to being-accomplished, or actuality-accomplished

The concept of actuality only entails "rest" in the sense that the transition from one state to another state is completed, but the thing in question is still very much active in the sense of being busy being the kind of thing it is.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Martin said...

" Of course it does, and even Aquinas says as much and argues that therefore the first cause cannot be physical."
If a thing is not physical then in what sense do you say it exists?

If a thing is not made of something it is absolutely nothing at all. To be a thing is to have a material existence. If a thing is not material then in what sense is it a thing?

If the first cause is not some thing then it is no thing. How can nothing cause something?


January 28, 2017 8:22 AM

SteveK said...

Abstractions exist as a thing. They are not material things, for if they were they would not be abstractions.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...

" As far as I can tell, a summary of Cal and Dusty's "First Way" argument would go something like this:

There exists a self-moving, "
Well, that would be a violation of:
(2)g. It follows, therefore, that all that is moved is moved by another.

"self-changing mover that acts of its own volition to cause the changes we observe."
In (5) Aquinas leaves open two possibilities, that of an infinitely changing first mover, or a first mover that moved itself:
5) Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at (or come to) a first mover which is not moved:

The infinitely changing first mover is a violation of
4) But this cannot proceed to infinity:

The mover that moved itself is a violation of
(2)g. It follows, therefore, that all that is moved is moved by another.

If it is said that the first mover moved the universe without moving itself that is a violation of:
(2)d. But, it is not possible that a thing be reduced to act, unless it is by a thing that is in act.

" This (magical) mover is the source for what we observe to be the immutable patterns known as the laws of physics."
Magical indeed. Aquinas solves nothing and merely asserts ad hoc that there is something that is allowed to violate our logic.

The problem of the actual infinite remains unsolved. All Aquinas does is assert a magical being that is allowed to violate logic.


January 28, 2017 10:02 AM

SteveK said...

Dusty
I have no idea what an "infinitely changing first mover" means, but you're wrong that Aquinas leaves those two choices open.

This is where grodrigues' advice to go read a book comes into play. It is there that you will discover, from Aquinas himself, that you're wrong.

Legion of Logic said...

I wrote this while sleepy, which is probably a mistake, but the continued misrepresentations are ridiculous. This is a basic, possibly simplistic rewriting of the argument in modern English, where "act" is "a state of being" and not a verb, and "motion" is "change". For those who understand the argument, feel free to reword anything that is muddled or misspoken.

In the world, things change.

Whatever changes is changed by something else.

Change is the actualization of a potential state of being, the transition from potential to reality.    

No potential state can be actualized except by something that already exists.

For example, wood is not already hot in of itself, but it has the potential to burn.  The heat of a fire, which already exists, can change wood so that it goes from potentially burning to a state of actual burning.

It is not possible that something can be both potentially and actually in the same state at the same time, but it can be potentially something that it is not already.  For example, an object cannot be both hot and potentially hot, but it can be hot and potentially cold.

It is impossible for an object to change itself.  Whatever changes must be changed by something else.

If something is changed by something else, and that thing is also changed by another (and so on), this cannot go on into infinity, as a thing's ability to change another is contingent upon something else, which is contingent on something else, and so on.  For example, in the game of pool a cue ball moves the 8 ball, but only because the cue stick moves the cue ball, which is due to the hand holding the cue stick. This cannot go into infinity, as there would be no source of change to drive all other change. A set of any number of mirrors can reflect a light off one another, but only if there is a light that changes the first mirror from dark to reflecting light. Without that first light, the mirrors all lose their ability to change other mirrors from dark to reflecting light. They maintain the potential to do so, but unless actualized by the first light, that potential cannot be realized.

Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, an initial source of actualization, in a pure state of being without any potential of change, that has always been in a fully realized state and has never been contingent upon change from another thing in order to become realized.

Cal Metzger said...

Stardusty: "If you start fresh from that simple consideration, that Aquinas was wrong, you can find a path to clear your mind of your confused and irrational notions."

It is clear to me that your garden variety internet apologist is unable to consider something like the above. Pretty much every response from an apologist can be predicted if one understands that the internet apologist proceeds from the premise that god does exist, and everything else (arguments, etc.) can only be correct inasmuch as they are consistent with that premise.

The other abiding premise from the internet apologist seems to be that the arguments for god must be excellent.

And what proceeds between the two parties is predictable when one side is unbiased about the outcome of an argument, and the other is so invested that the only intellectual engagement can truly be called rationalizing.

SteveK said...

Even if you don't agree with Aquinas, there are a limited number of logically derived options on the table (sans denying the premises altogether).

If not an unmoved mover as Aquinas concludes here, then some other existing thing like the one I stated above, a self-moving thing that actualizes potentials I cannot think of another logically derived option, but regardless these things are what Dusty and Cal are committed to logically.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...

" Abstractions exist as a thing. They are not material things, for if they were they would not be abstractions."
Where is an abstraction? What is an abstraction made of? Absolutely nothing at all? Then in what sense do you say an abstraction exists?

An abstraction is a dynamic process of a structure. An abstraction has no existence, no realization, outside the structure's process.


January 28, 2017 11:03 AM

Cal Metzger said...

@Legion, thank you for taking the time to write how you understand the argument.

Two things:

1. You left out the part about this being an argument for god. Previously, you had indicated that the First Way shows that a deity must exist. Do you now think that the First Way is not really an argument for a deity?

2. The problem with the argument remains in that it declares (arbitrarily) that the answer to the riddle of existence is to violate one of the premises put forth in the riddle. (Aquinas could have chose the other option, that an infinite regress is possible, with the same success that he achieves in deciding to pick the unmoved mover.)

As you write: "Whatever changes is changed by something else." But then later, your summation of the argument then declares that the first premise does not hold -- that "a first mover... has never been contingent upon change from another thing in order to become realized."

Those two sentences are incompatible, and thus the soft conclusion (minus the ad hoc deity) of the First Way violates one of its premises and becomes an irrational argument.

This is the same criticism I have leveled since we first began discussing the First Way, and parallels what Stardusty has been saying throughout.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...

" I have no idea what an "infinitely changing first mover" means,"
It means the speculation that the first mover of our universe was itself always moving.

"but you're wrong that Aquinas leaves those two choices open."
Aquinas presents a grab bag of ideas that are mutually contradictory taken in whole. Taken in isolation each line may leave open several speculative solutions, but unfortunately all such speculations lead back to the same fundamental problem, that of an actual infinite, and thus Aquinas solves nothing.


January 28, 2017 11:26 AM

SteveK said...

Lol. Aquinas himself explains that you're wrong about Aquinas' argument. Go read a book

SteveK said...

You're arguing with the author who has explained what you're doing wrong. This is the argument you are making

Dusty: "You meant X"
Aquinas: "No, I meant Y"
Dusty: "You're wrong"

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

I think that sums things up pretty well in less arcane language, but a key conditional needs to be added in brackets[].

No potential state can be actualized except by something that already exists [in the sort of state to be actualized].

In other words, mere existence is not sufficient. Ice exists, but it is not in a state of existence that will allow it to cause wood to burn. Only a thing in a sufficiently hot state of existence can cause wood to burn.

" Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, an initial source of actualization, in a pure state of being without any potential of change,"
In this formulation the first mover is asserted to to be static, unchanging, with no potential to change, and thus incapable of change, yet it somehow caused change.

This is a self contradiction of a previous principle that Aquinas states correctly in isolation but you, perhaps owing to your tired condition, neglected to fully translate into modern English.

Aquinas clearly states in (2)d.i. that the "act" in question is a state of being in flame, or burning, what we might call combustion, or more generally hot enough to induce combustion. Only a thing in the state of burning can cause a non-burning thing to move from potentially burning to being in the state of burning, burning in act.

" that has always been in a fully realized state and has never been contingent upon change from another thing in order to become realized."
In this view the first mover is an infinitely existing unchanged and unchangeable thing that somehow caused the first change in our universe. This is mere special pleading for a magic something that violates logic.

Aquinas in (2)d. states what appears obvious to us all. Motion is only applied to a stationary object by a moving object. Burning is only applied to wood by a flame. A potential state of being only moves to its act by something already in that sort of act. Flame causes wood to move to burning, but ice does not cause wood to move to burning because the sort of act for ice is not the sort of act for burning. The example of (2)d.i clearly shows the necessity of the text I added in brackets above.


January 28, 2017 11:48 AM

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...

" So it is confusing to your opponents"
I am sorry you are so confused. This really is not so very complicated, but you seem to have a very great deal of difficulty keeping several things straight together.

" when you attack premise (2) after you seem to agree with it. "
Certain aspects of (2) match with our intuition and our general macro level observations, but that does not make (2) accurate nor does it make (2) consistent with further arguments of Aquinas.


"You’ve added a hidden premise something like “only things that are changing can cause change” which Aristotle and Aquinas reject and is not part of the argument. "
It is the example of the argument provided by Aquinas himself. A flame moves and changes necessarily.


"The argument is valid and sound as it stands,"
LOL


" Now Aristotle actually did think that the things were observe are always changing due to interaction with each other just as you hold."
So now I am right after all. Sorry, you are all over the map.

" But the universe itself, whether you consider it from a macro level or a micro level, is a changing thing also and thus requires something other than itself to bring about the changes."
That is the great riddle of existence, the irrationality of an actual infinite, combined with the irrationality of any speculated alternative.

The origin of existence defies rational analysis.

I make no claim to have solved this ancient riddle. My claim is that no human being has published into general circulation a solution to the riddle of the origin of existence.

Yet I am absolutely certain that there is and existence.


" I’ve seen you deny in the past that things can move themselves and called the notion “fallacious”, yet here we have you endorsing it."
You are confused again.


" Perhaps you’re correct that things happen for no reason at all,"
I didn't say that either. Where did that come from?


January 28, 2017 1:08 PM

bmiller said...

Sorry, I will repost the comment SP responded to:
@Stardusty Psyche,
This:
SP:“The wood is potential burning.”
" Yes, but the wood is not actually burning. At this point it is “not-burning” in act."
Right, which contradicts your previous statement "The non-burning log is actual.". I am sorry for you that you are so confused. Maybe if you get a good night's sleep or something...
The OP has explained what is considered a potential state of an actual thing as opposed to the actual state of an existing thing per the footnotes as I pointed out. If you refuse to read, you won’t learn anything.
This:
SP"The act of (2)d.i. is flame or burning."
" No, You are clearly wrong and have repeatedly ignored what the meaning of “act” is in the context of the topic. You have failed to acknowledge the multiple times the definition has been presented to you. What is your excuse?"
The words of Aquinas "burning in act,"
Attention span issue. Again the theistic compartment of the brain suffers a mental breakdown.”
Please explain in your own words what you think “in act”, “in potency” and “motion” mean in the context of the First Way. Do you have your own private meaning that conflicts with what the author intended?

This exchange:
" you may even have the privilege of Psycho pursuing the "deeper truth" that "all observed states are states of motion"."

Indeed, when you rid yourself of Aristotelian notions and learn more about the underlying reality you learn the deeper truth that all observed states are states of motion.

Everything we observe is in motion. In truth, we cannot accurately speak of an object beginning at rest and then being made to move since all things are already in motion, we can only accurately speak of things interacting and changing their motion.”

Yes, I think we understand your “worldview” . Everything we observe is changing, observed things change due to interaction with other things and multiple things may be interacting with each other and changing at the same time. These notions are basically the first 3 major premises of the OP outline of the First Way.
(1) For it is certain and evident to the senses that something in this world moves.
(2) But, all that is moved, is moved by another.
(3) If, therefore, that which moves is moved, then it must be moved by another; and this by another [and so on].
(4) But this cannot proceed to infinity:
(5) Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at (or come to) a first mover which is not moved:
So it is confusing to your opponents when you attack premise (2) after you seem to agree with it. You’ve added a hidden premise something like “only things that are changing can cause change” which Aristotle and Aquinas reject and is not part of the argument. The argument is valid and sound as it stands, but becomes contradictory when you insert a premise that is not in the argument.
You’re attacking the straw man with the hidden premise.
The reason “only things that are changing can cause change” is rejected and is not part of the argument is premise (4).
Now Aristotle actually did think that the things were observe are always changing due to interaction with each other just as you hold. But the universe itself, whether you consider it from a macro level or a micro level, is a changing thing also and thus requires something other than itself to bring about the changes.
At this point you disagree and, it seems, you posit a First Self-Moving Mover, the universe itself. Of course this violates premise (2) and by extension premise (4). I’ve seen you deny in the past that things can move themselves and called the notion “fallacious”, yet here we have you endorsing it.
Perhaps you’re correct that things happen for no reason at all, but if true, you have just destroyed the study of science as we’ve discussed before. So please don’t try to beat people with a stick (science) that (you’ve just proven to yourself) doesn’t exist.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,


This:
" So it is confusing to your opponents"
I am sorry you are so confused. This really is not so very complicated, but you seem to have a very great deal of difficulty keeping several things straight together."

You finally made more than a one sentence explanation below. Your previous responses and non-responses indicated that you had a private meaning of "in act".

SP:" Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, an initial source of actualization, in a pure state of being without any potential of change,"
In this formulation the first mover is asserted to to be static, unchanging, with no potential to change, and thus incapable of change, yet it somehow caused change.

This is a self contradiction of a previous principle that Aquinas states correctly in isolation but you, perhaps owing to your tired condition, neglected to fully translate into modern English.

Aquinas clearly states in (2)d.i. that the "act" in question is a state of being in flame, or burning, what we might call combustion, or more generally hot enough to induce combustion. Only a thing in the state of burning can cause a non-burning thing to move from potentially burning to being in the state of burning, burning in act."

What your complaint then is not *that only something existing can cause a change in something else that is existing* but that you perceive a problem from the analogy (2)d.i with respect to how particular changes depend on particular agents of change. A fair question and a good one but exceeds what the argument establishes. The analogy in context is only used to illustrate how actual things are required to change other actual things. The concluded Unchanged Changer then must be an actually existing thing, and a thing that is not changing itself in order to satisfy the premises. It is simply not contradictory for something to cause change and remain unchanged itself. For instance a saucer of milk may be the cause of a cat to move across the room, just by the fact that it exists in the room.

However, as I mentioned, the First Way does not assume a wide range of attributes of God (being infinite for example). Instead many attributes of God follow as logical consequences.















bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This:
" Now Aristotle actually did think that the things were observe are always changing due to interaction with each other just as you hold."
So now I am right after all. Sorry, you are all over the map.

Then you have not read carefully.

This:
" But the universe itself, whether you consider it from a macro level or a micro level, is a changing thing also and thus requires something other than itself to bring about the changes."
That is the great riddle of existence, the irrationality of an actual infinite, combined with the irrationality of any speculated alternative."

Solved by the Unchanged Changer.


This:

" I’ve seen you deny in the past that things can move themselves and called the notion “fallacious”, yet here we have you endorsing it."
You are confused again.

Then un-confuse me. Can things move themselves?


This:
" Perhaps you’re correct that things happen for no reason at all,"
I didn't say that either. Where did that come from?

From the other thread. Remember where Ilion summed up the irrationality of holding that if everything is caused by everything, then nothing in particular is caused by anything in particular, including you, your thoughts, my thoughts, and scientist's thoughts including what they think they are doing when they are doing experiments.

Stardusty Psyche said...

bmiller said...



" Then un-confuse me. Can things move themselves?"
As opposed to the Aristotelian notion, yes, in the limited sense of continued motion. Aristotle was overturned by Newton on this point.

But that does not solve the problem of origins.


This:
" Perhaps you’re correct that things happen for no reason at all,"
I didn't say that either. Where did that come from?

" From the other thread. Remember where Ilion summed up the irrationality of holding that if everything is caused by everything, then nothing in particular is caused by anything in particular, including you, your thoughts, my thoughts, and scientist's thoughts including what they think they are doing when they are doing experiments."
Gee, kind of out of left field much? So sorry I did not pick up on the reference to some old post on some other thread!

A universal common reason is not no reason at all. For simplicity of analysis to do useful work we can model a collection as a single object. Things happen for a multitude of reasons far to complicated to describe in detail.

To call all of that "no reason at all" makes no sense.

January 28, 2017 2:13 PM

grodrigues said...

"Pretty much every response from an apologist can be predicted if one understands that the internet apologist proceeds from the premise that god does exist, and everything else (arguments, etc.) can only be correct inasmuch as they are consistent with that premise."

"The other abiding premise from the internet apologist seems to be that the arguments for god must be excellent. "

Personally, I have always been very clear that the source of my dispute is that the pair of buffoons cluttering the combox with their inane drivel do not have the foggiest idea of what the argument is. I do think the argument works, but I am very reserved on my judgments -- on this thread you will nowhere find me saying that the argument is "excellent" or even "very good" or even that it "works". Hell, I even said: "Once again, this is a simple matter of actually knowing and understanding what Aquinas *means* -- understanding, not (necessarily) agreeing with".

On the other hand, Mr. Metzger uses words like "nonsense" and "silly" with gleeful abandonment, meaning he judges the argument plain awful, stupid even. And then, after it has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he does not have a clue about it, Mr. Metzger, the paradigmatic example of an internet apologist for atheism (and dumbassery), goes on to accuse the "internet apologist" of presuming the conclusion from the very start of the discussion. In other words, a delusional kook, whose persistent intellectually dishonest modus operandi is to remain resolutely ignorant of St. Thomas holds so that he can then freely lie about it, impugning the "internet apologist" with closed-mindedness.

Unbelievable, the level of intellectual scumbaggery.

bmiller said...

@Stardusty Psyche,

This:
" Then un-confuse me. Can things move themselves?"
As opposed to the Aristotelian notion, yes, in the limited sense of continued motion. Aristotle was overturned by Newton on this point.

Ground Hog Day. Newton proposed the law of inertia to confirm Aristotle's notion that things can't move themselves. We've been over this before.

SP:"Gee, kind of out of left field much? So sorry I did not pick up on the reference to some old post on some other thread!"

Ground Hog Day again.
I remember previous discussions so I can start with certain assumptions about the beliefs of the person I'm having a discussion with. I had assumed that you could do the same. I'm sorry for your condition.

bmiller said...

grodrigues said:
"Personally, I have always been very clear that the source of my dispute is that the pair of buffoons cluttering the combox with their inane drivel do not have the foggiest idea of what the argument is."

Agreed. It's very easy to find all sorts of sources on the internet that explain the argument. For all the time some folks have spent composing attacks on imagined versions of the argument, they could have completed a legitimate course.

What a waste.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiler: “ Then un-confuse me. Can things move themselves?"
Stardusty: “As opposed to the Aristotelian notion, yes, in the limited sense of continued motion. Aristotle was overturned by Newton on this point.”
bmiller: “Ground Hog Day. Newton proposed the law of inertia to confirm Aristotle's notion that things can't move themselves. We've been over this before.”

Well, no. Among other things, Newtonian physics developed the idea of inertia, that things in motion tend to remain in motion until opposing forces come into play. As it turns out this insight is a more accurate description of the underlying forces that govern things in motion than Aristotle’s conjecture, that there were a series of pushing forces connected in a series, and that when one of these underlying forces was severed then motion would abate because, well, he thought something like the First Way governed physics (he was wrong).

Do you know what’s particularly unseemly? Thinking that you can lecture someone on a topic (physics) that they completely and obviously and repeatedly demonstrate they understand far better than you. As I’ve mentioned before, if one has a decent-enough background in basic scientific principles, it’s fairly easy to spot those who have avoided this kind of education. And you ring that bell all day long. So, my advice is you stop trying to fake it when you’re in over your head. Fake it till you make it works in some aspects of life, but in self-education it’s a dead stopper.

grodrigues said...

"As I’ve mentioned before, if one has a decent-enough background in basic scientific principles, it’s fairly easy to spot those who have avoided this kind of education."

Indeed it is.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "Personally, I have always been very clear that the source of my dispute is that the pair of buffoons cluttering the combox with their inane drivel do not have the foggiest idea of what the argument is."

This would ring more true if you were ever to take it upon yourself to do what Legion at least did -- explain how you think the argument reads -- what it's premises are, what it concludes.

Instead, we get your little sniping. Which is (surprise!) consistent with someone who at least knows pretending to have an answer is better than disclosing what he thinks that answer actually is.

You should gain the courage to join the fight someday. I think you'll end up feeling better about yourself in the long run. And you might even learn something.

Grod: "I do think the argument works, but I am very reserved on my judgments -- on this thread you will nowhere find me saying that the argument is "excellent" or even "very good" or even that it "works"."

Because your approval of an argument is not what we're asking for, this is to your credit.

Grod: "Hell, I even said: "Once again, this is a simple matter of actually knowing and understanding what Aquinas *means* -- understanding, not (necessarily) agreeing with". "

Nonsense. You constantly decry our pointing out that the argument is ad hoc and irrational, and we can point this out precisely because we do understand the argument (and consistently apply the principles of argument -- consistency, rationality, soundness, etc.)

Grod: "On the other hand, Mr. Metzger uses words like "nonsense" and "silly" with gleeful abandonment, meaning he judges the argument plain awful, stupid even."

True. I reserve those words for things that I think are plain awful and stupid. That's kind of why we have those words.

Grod (swelling to his full size now): "And then, after it has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he does not have a clue about it, Mr. Metzger, the paradigmatic example of an internet apologist for atheism (and dumbassery), goes on to accuse the "internet apologist" of presuming the conclusion from the very start of the discussion."

Which remains completely consistent with everything we've observed here.

Grod: "In other words, a delusional kook, whose persistent intellectually dishonest modus operandi is to remain resolutely ignorant of St. Thomas holds so that he can then freely lie about it, impugning the "internet apologist" with closed-mindedness. / Unbelievable, the level of intellectual scumbaggery."

Yeah. That's the best explanation for what we've seen here. Um hmm.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"This would ring more true if you were ever to take it upon yourself to do what Legion at least did -- explain how you think the argument reads -- what it's premises are, what it concludes."

It is you that claimed that First Way fails. The burden is on you to prove your claim. You were explicitly asked here to post what you "understand[s] the argument to be and then point out the flaws". You never did. Not in that thread, not anywhere. Do you think I am going to do the work for you, a lazy intellectual fraud? Join in the lie that you were ever interested about what St. Thomas actually held, rather than whatever idiocy you can read back into him? That you are in this in "good faith"? That you are an "open-minded seeker of truth"?

"You constantly decry our pointing out that the argument is ad hoc and irrational, and we can point this out precisely because we do understand the argument (and consistently apply the principles of argument -- consistency, rationality, soundness, etc.)"

It is precisely because you provably do not understand the argument -- this is not really under dispute, except perhaps in the empty skulls of some delusional kooks -- or the metaphysical ideas that animate it that I "decry" what you say as ad hoc and irrational. Which it is.

What St. Thomas means is a matter that can be settled with textual evidence; yet, we have Dumb and Dumber insisting that they know the argument better than St. Thomas himself and all his commentators combined.

"Which remains completely consistent with everything we've observed here."

Indeed; you hold a perfect mirror to yourself.

Legion of Logic said...

"You left out the part about this being an argument for god. Previously, you had indicated that the First Way shows that a deity must exist. Do you now think that the First Way is not really an argument for a deity?"

That would be because Aquinas did not declare that conclusion himself in the argument. The closest he comes is arguing that a first mover must exist, and that Christians understand this to be God (but not that the First Way proves the Christian deity). I personally believe that a deity is the only thing that fits the description of a first mover, and is the only thing that can.

"As you write: "Whatever changes is changed by something else." But then later, your summation of the argument then declares that the first premise does not hold -- that "a first mover... has never been contingent upon change from another thing in order to become realized."

I perhaps see where my wording caused the failure. How about instead of "whatever changes is changed by something else", it is phrased as "whatever undergoes change is changed by something else". Difference being that the first mover changes other things, but does not itself undergo change.

bmiller said...

"As I’ve mentioned before, if one has a decent-enough background in basic scientific principles, it’s fairly easy to spot those who have avoided this kind of education."

Indeed it is.

And I might add if he was told that he got "a decent-enough background in basic scientific principles" as part of his college education he has good grounds for a law suit. :-)

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "Do you now think that the First Way is not really an argument for a deity?"
Legion: "That would be because Aquinas did not declare that conclusion [that a deity must exist] himself in the argument. The closest he comes is arguing that a first mover must exist, and that Christians understand this to be God (but not that the First Way proves the Christian deity). I personally believe that a deity is the only thing that fits the description of a first mover, and is the only thing that can."

No, this is false.

In the First Way, Aquinas states, " Therefore IT IS NECESSARY to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this EVERYONE understands to be God."

And regarding the First Way previously, you wrote, "I believe the argument SHOWS THAT something with the attributes of a transcendent deity MUST EXIST."

So, which is it? Aquinas and your statements from earlier, or your first quoted passage above; it can't be both.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "And I might add if he was told that he got "a decent-enough background in basic scientific principles" as part of his college education he has good grounds for a law suit. :-) "

Shabby try (quelle surprise!). You don't know what you don't have, and it's obvious to those who do.

Seriously. You can maybe fool yourself, and you can fool the others who share your deficiency, but when you don't understand the principles, no amount of jargon can hide your problem.

bmiller said...

HaHa, sure Cal.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "I perhaps see where my wording caused the failure. How about instead of "whatever changes is changed by something else", it is phrased as "whatever undergoes change is changed by something else". Difference being that the first mover changes other things, but does not itself undergo change."

Well, no, that’s not really getting at the heart of the problem with the argument.

From the argument:

“Change is the actualization of a potential state of being, the transition from potential to reality….. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, an initial source of actualization, in a pure state of being without any potential of change, that has always been in a fully realized state and has never been contingent upon change from another thing in order to become realized.”
But this conflicts with the very first premise of the argument, that “It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.”

In other words, as you have framed the argument, the only way to remain consistent is to deny that the first premise of the argument is actually a premise: that some things are in motion. Because, according to the argument, change (motion) is the actualization of a potential state of reality, from potential to reality.” If the first mover is in a fully realized state, then there is no observable motion / change.

How many times do we have to point out the same problem?

Isn't it possible that the First Way doesn't actually resolve an existential riddle with a valid conclusion, but simply rephrases it in a way that demonstrates where an arbitrary determination might lead?

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: “It is you that claimed that First Way fails. The burden is on you to prove your claim.”

I have provided my criticism umpteen times. Consistency. Logic. Soundness. These are things that the First Way fails to achieve, described in a multitude of ways. You are blind.

Grod: “You were explicitly asked here to post what you "understand[s] the argument to be and then point out the flaws”.”

I have explicitly pointed out the flaws umpteen times. I have described what I understand the argument to be EVERYTIME I HAVE POINTED OUT THE FLAWS. THAT’S WHAT A CRITICISM IS — A DESCRIPTION OF THE THING, AND THE FLAWS ONE SEES.

You are blind.

Grod: “You never did. Not in that thread, not anywhere.”

You are blind.

Grod: “Do you think I am going to do the work for you, a lazy intellectual fraud? Join in the lie that you were ever interested about what St. Thomas actually held, rather than whatever idiocy you can read back into him? That you are in this in "good faith"? That you are an "open-minded seeker of truth”?”

Hysterical. You are a hot mess.

SteveK said...

You've applied your criticism to something, but not the First Way argument as detailed by Aquinas.

grodrigues said...

@SteveK:

"You've applied your criticism to something, but not the First Way argument as detailed by Aquinas."

Indeed. In the linked thread it was because the conclusion, the First Mover, could be something other than God, a causally disconnected multiverse or some other such stupidity. For reasons unknown. In that thread, Mr. Metzger ended up relying on your summary (which he later said it was very bad); in this and the previous thread "Aswedenism", he relied on Stardusty to do the work for him -- and we all know how *that* went.

As I have already said several times, it is refutation by ignorance -- not only ignorance, but resolute, willful ignorance. The time wasted on typing inane drivel could have been better spent opening up a good book and learning a thing or two.

There is another point to be made here. It is a consistent tactic of the Gnus to always be on the offensive and put Theists in the defensive. Mr. Metzger's first post in the "Aswedenism" thread opens up with this idiocy of a gem: "One doesn't give evidence FOR a non-belief; one has a better explanation for the evidence (all the relevant evidence) that doesn't include the non-belief. That is all there is to it.". All a gnu needs to do is to raise the flimsiest, the most spurious of objections, and if the Theist does not explain everything in the span of a combox comment in the most painstaking detail and to the irrational standards of a mob of yahoos, then by the Flying Spaghetti Monster! it is all a bunch of nonsensical woo and God does not exist. I refuse to dance to this tune; so against these dishonest internet activists I reserve myself the right to simply say that I lack the belief that "God does not exist".

Cal Metzger said...

steveK: "You've applied your criticism to something, but not the First Way argument as detailed by Aquinas."

Hmm, let me see. So far, we have the various translations of the argument, but when these versions are criticized we hear that the real argument is contained in some vague and unspecified elsewhere. You provided a version of the argument, which we showed to share the problems of Aquinas's versions, and you were subsequently scolded (by a fellow apologist) for actually writing down the argument. Then Victor provided the version linked to in this post. And more recently, Legion has provided a version.

Isn't it strange that none of the above apparently contain the actual, real, but somehow always secret argument?

Do you know what those who leave the Church of Scientology tell us? That they are asked to invest more and more of their time, all with the promise that the real secret, the great knowledge, will be revealed to them one they are finally ready. Those who leave eventually realize that something like what was promised is never going to arrive, or that the thing finally proffered is NOT what those who promoted it said it would be.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Legion of Logic said...

" Difference being that the first mover changes other things, but does not itself undergo change."
January 28, 2017 8:21 PM

That is a violation of (2)d. of the OP, see January 28, 2017 1:09 PM for a more detailed explanation as to why.

Wood can only be moved from potential burning to burning in act by a thing that is already burning in act, a flame.

Hence
Our universe can only be moved from potentially moving to moving in act by a thing that is already moving in act, a moving first mover.

(in the vernacular, may the gods of science forgive me)

SteveK said...

Cal
"Isn't it strange that none of the above apparently contain the actual, real, but somehow always secret argument?"

It's no surprise to me because I know why. You don't - and THAT'S the problem!

You are CLUELESS to the fact that Aquinas didn't write out a formal standalone argument meant to be parsed and examined. What you are seeing are distilled versions that attempt to capture the basic essence of the argument, however in order to understand what he is saying completely you have to look at the rest of his writings. Hence the repeated call for you to go read a book. Will you?

With every comment you confirm that you have no idea what you are talking about. But that never seems to stop you.

bmiller said...


SP:"That is a violation of (2)d. of the OP, see January 28, 2017 1:09 PM for a more detailed explanation as to why."

From January 28, 2017 1:09 PM:

SP:"I think that sums things up pretty well in less arcane language, but a key conditional needs to be added in brackets[].

No potential state can be actualized except by something that already exists [in the sort of state to be actualized]."

With this we actually witness the construction of the straw man that will then come under attack by changing the premises.

Cal Metzger said...

Me: ""Isn't it strange that none of the above apparently contain the actual, real, but somehow always secret argument?"
Stevek: "It's no surprise to me because I know why. You don't - and THAT'S the problem!"

Why is the real argument a secret? Where is it? Why can't you be specific about where the actual argument really is, and how the unrevealed parts of the provided arguments avoid the problems pointed out in the provided arguments?

Who do you think you're really fooling when you wave your hands and pretend that the answer you can't describe is contained in some unspecified place?

stevek: "You are CLUELESS to the fact that Aquinas didn't write out a formal standalone argument meant to be parsed and examined."

I don't think you understand the term "argument" then. If we aren't to parse and examine arguments, then what are we supposed to do with them -- blindly accept whatever conclusion is tacked on at the end? Is that it then -- no rationality, just aggressive gullibility? How sad.

stevek: "What you are seeing are distilled versions that attempt to capture the basic essence of the argument, however in order to understand what he is saying completely you have to look at the rest of his writings."

Which say what, exactly, and that avoid the problems pointed out in the revealed argument so far in what way? Why won't you cite them? Why won't you bring them forward so that they can be examined?

stevek: "Hence the repeated call for you to go read a book. Will you?"

Handwaving.

Pretending.

The only explanation I can come up with is that you imagine everyone else is as aggressively gullible as you appear to be.

SteveK said...

The difference between you and me, Cal, can be summed up like this:

I knew almost nothing about Aquinas until a few years ago. I withheld judgment unit I read several books, blog posts, criticisms on his metaphysicsal views. I'm not convinced his metaphysics are wrong, in fact, a lot of it makes perfect sense.

You on the other hand are convinced it's all nonsense and yet you've read almost nothing. You cannot summarize some of his metaphysical principles in your own words because you don't know what they are. Yet you're convinced it's all nonsense.

SteveK said...

Lol. For what seems like the thousandth time, the argument it's contained in the specified place called the writings of Aquinas.

Cal Metzger said...

stevek: "For what seems like the thousandth time, the argument it's contained in the specified place called the writings of Aquinas."

Pretending.

Legion of Logic said...

SD: "Wood can only be moved from potential burning to burning in act by a thing that is already burning in act, a flame."

Translation: Wood can only be changed from potentially burning to actually burning by a thing that is already actually burning, a flame.

This describes change as a potential state becoming actualized by something already existing. This is correct understandin of the argument.

SD: "Our universe can only be moved from potentially moving to moving in act by a thing that is already moving in act, a moving first mover."

Translation: Our universe can only be changed from potentially undergoing change to actually undergoing change by a thing that is already actually undergoing change, a first mover undergoing change.

This describes change as something that is already actualized potentially being changed into a potential state by a thing that is not already in an actual state, but is itself in the process of having a potential state actualized by something else. This..is not correct.

SteveK said...

Cal
"Which say what, exactly, and that avoid the problems pointed out in the revealed argument so far in what way? Why won't you cite them? Why won't you bring them forward so that they can be examined? "

There are several people here trying to explain where you are going wrong, using Aquinas as their source. One of your faults is you think a particularly worded distilled version of the argument is the final authority that determines who is correct and who is not. It's not. Aquinas' writings are the authority, and you haven't read them.

By analogy, here's what you're doing:

You're critiquing a book based only on reading the Amazon reviews. You emotionally side with the 1-Star reviews, of which there are scant few, and use their criticisms as ammo against the 5-Star reviews. Since you have NOT read the book, you cannot explain WHY any any particular review is mistaken or is correct.

Go read the book, then come back and give us your review.

bmiller said...

@Legion of Logic,

In case you missed my post above and the sleight of hand:

SP:"That is a violation of (2)d. of the OP, see January 28, 2017 1:09 PM for a more detailed explanation as to why."

From January 28, 2017 1:09 PM:

SP:"I think that sums things up pretty well in less arcane language, but a key conditional needs to be added in brackets[].

No potential state can be actualized except by something that already exists [in the sort of state to be actualized]."


Here is where he changed the premises so he could fabricate a contradiction.



Cal Metzger said...

steveK: "You're critiquing a book based only on reading the Amazon reviews. You emotionally side with the 1-Star reviews, of which there are scant few, and use their criticisms as ammo against the 5-Star reviews. Since you have NOT read the book, you cannot explain WHY any any particular review is mistaken or is correct."

No, this is false.

We began discussing this argument because I was specifically asked to refute The First Way, which I was lead to believe was a decisive argument that shows that a deity must exist.

Now it seems you'd like to deny that this argument -- The First Way -- exists.

After so much discussion, I can agree that the First Way, as a decisive argument that shows a deity must exist, does not itself exist.

That much has been made clear to me for lo these many comments.

SteveK said...

Blustered the man who hasn't read the book

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger bmiller said...


SP:"That is a violation of (2)d. of the OP, see January 28, 2017 1:09 PM for a more detailed explanation as to why."

From January 28, 2017 1:09 PM:

SP:"I think that sums things up pretty well in less arcane language, but a key conditional needs to be added in brackets[].

No potential state can be actualized except by something that already exists [in the sort of state to be actualized]."

" With this we actually witness the construction of the straw man that will then come under attack by changing the premises."

Nope, that is the example given by Aquinas himself in (2)d.i. Wood is moved from potential burning to burning in act by a thing that is already burning in act, a flame.

Aquinas clearly states this example, which is only common sense. Mere existence of of a thing is not sufficient to move wood to be burning in act. An actually existing rock, actually existing ice, actually existing water, are not sufficient to move wood to be burning in act. Only a thing that is already burning in act, a flame, is sufficient to move wood from potential burning to burning in act.

"Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. "
http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/aquinasFiveWays.htm

In this interpretation the text is more clear. Wood is moved to be actually hot by a thing that is actually hot. Heat is motion.

"The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it."
http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/modules/Philosophers/Aquinas/aquinas_five_ways02.html
a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act.
motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality
(clearly the actuality under discussion is actual motion)
But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality
(actual motion is caused by something in actual motion, which is plainly true in our common experience. Aquinas is not saying something stupid here, he is stating the obvious in an attempt to make a thorough argument)


January 29, 2017 10:27 AM

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