Apologetics, Augustinian Intellectual Tradition, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Saint Augustine

The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of God

The Augustinian Argument for the Existence of GodI have been spending time highlighting arguments for the existence of God presented by Edward Feser in his book, Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Thus far, I have covered his presentation of the Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic arguments. The third argument presented by Feser is the Augustinian proof.

Here is the Augustinian proof, which is taken from the book mentioned above, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 109-110:

  1. There are three possible accounts of abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds: realism, nominalism, and conceptualism.
  2. There are decisive arguments in favor of realism.
  3. There are insuperable objections against nominalism.
  4. There are insuperable objections against conceptualism.
  5. So, some version of realism is true.
  6. There are three possible versions of realism: Platonic realism, Aristotelian realism, and Scholastic realism.
  7. If Platonic realism is true, then abstract objects exists in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  8. If Aristotelian realism is true, then abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  9. If Scholastic realism is true, then abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  10. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist in a “third realm” distinct from either the material world or any intellect.
  11. So, Platonic realism is not true.
  12. There are insuperable objections against the claim that abstract objects exist only in human or other contingently existing intellects.
  13. So, Aristotelian realism is not true.
  14. So, Scholastic realism is true.
  15. So, abstract objects exist not only in contingently existing intellects but also in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  16. Abstract objects such as universals, propositions, numbers and other mathematical objects, and possible worlds are all logically related to one another in such a way that they form an interlocking system of ideas.
  17. The reasons concluding that at least some abstract objects exists in a necessarily existing intellect also entail that this interlocking system of ideas must exist in a necessarily existing intellect.
  18. So, this interlocking system of ideas exists in at least one necessarily existing intellect.
  19. A necessarily existing intellect would be purely actual.
  20. There cannot be more than one thing that is purely actual.
  21. So, there cannot be more than one necessarily existing intellect.
  22. An intellect in which the interlocking system of ideas in question existed would be conceptually omniscient.
  23. So, the one necessarily existing intellect is conceptually omniscient.
  24. If this one necessarily existing intellect were not also omniscient in the stronger sense that it knows all contingent truths, then it would have unrealized potential and thus not be purely actual.
  25. So, it is also omniscient in this stronger sense.
  26. What is purely actual must also be omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  27. So, there is exactly one necessarily existing intellect, which is purely actual, omniscient, omnipotent, fully good, immutable, immaterial, incorporeal, and eternal.
  28. But for there to be such a thing is just what it is for God to exist.
  29. So, God exists.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Theology

The Neoplatonic Argument for the Existence of God

The Neoplatonic Argument for the Existence of GodIn an earlier post I mentioned some of the names that have done important work to undermine the credibility of new atheism and its presuppositions of metaphysical naturalism, epistemological scientism, and moral nihilism. The individuals highlighted were Wolfgang Smith, David Bentley Hart, and Edward Feser. I proceeded to focus on the work Feser is doing because he has systematically dismantled the new atheist movement, while successfully defending the legitimacy of natural theology.

Feser has accomplished this in a variety of ways. Most significantly is his ability to articulate classic arguments for the existence of God and then proceed to refute the objections offered against their reasonable authenticity. To that end Feser has used reason to the glory of God against those who have reduced it to an idol.

In his most recent work, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser explains, develops, presents, and defends the Aristotelian proof, the Neoplatonic proof, the Augustinian proof, the Thomistic proof, and the Rationalist proof. The presentation of the Aristotelian proof has already been highlighted, so now it is time for the Neoplatonic proof.


Taken from Neo-Scholastic Essays, The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument, Pg. 130, 131:

  1. There must be a first principle of all if there is to be an explanation of the orderly existing world, or why anything at all exists rather than nothing.
  2. If the first principle of all were composed of parts, then those parts would be ontologically prior to it.
  3. But in that case it would not be the first principle at all.
  4. So the first principle is not composed of parts, but is absolutely simple.
  5. If there were a distinction between what the first principle is and the fact that it is, then there could be more than one first principle.
  6. But in order for there to be more than one, there would have to be some attribute that distinguished them.
  7. But since a first principle is absolutely simple, there can be no such attribute.
  8. So there cannot be more than one first principle.
  9. So there is no distinction in the first principle between what it is and the fact that it is.
  10. So the first principle is not only absolutely simple but utterly unique, what Plotinus called “the One.”

Taken from Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 80-82:

  1. The things of our experience are composite.
  2. A composite exists at any moment only insofar as its parts are combined at that moment.
  3. This composition of parts requires a concurrent cause.
  4. So, any composite has a cause of its existence at any moment at which it exists.
  5. So, each of the things of our experience has a cause at any moment at which it exists.
  6. If the cause of a composite things’ existence at any moment is itself composite, then it will in turn require a cause of its own existence at that moment.
  7. The regress of causes this entails is hierarchical in nature, and such a regress must have a first member.
  8. Only something absolutely simple or noncomposite could be the first member of such a series.
  9. So, the existence of each of the things of our experience presupposes an absolutely simple or noncomposite cause.
  10. In order for there to be more than absolutely one simple or noncomposite cause, each would have to have some differentiating feature that the others lacked.
  11. But for a cause to have such a feature would be for it to have parts, in which case it would not really be simple, or noncomposite.
  12. So, no absolutely simple or noncomposite cause can have such a differentiating feature.
  13. So, there cannot be more than one absolutely simple or noncomposite cause.
  14. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause were changeable, then it would have parts which it gains or loses – which, being simple or noncomposite , it does not have.
  15. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is changeless or immutable.
  16. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause had a beginning or an end, it would have parts which could either be combined or broken apart.
  17. So, since it has no such parts, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is beginningless and endless.
  18. Whatever is immutable, beginningless, and endless is eternal.
  19. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is eternal.
  20. If something is caused, then it has parts which need to be combined.
  21. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it has no parts, is uncaused.
  22. Everything is either a mind, or a mental content, or a material entity, or an abstract entity.
  23. An abstract entity is causally inert.
  24. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it is not causally inert, is not an abstract entity.
  25. A material entity has parts and is changeable.
  26. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, since it is without parts and changeless, is not a material entity.
  27. A mental content presupposes the existence of a mind, and so cannot be the ultimate cause of anything.
  28. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause, being the ultimate cause of things, cannot be a mental content.
  29. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause must be a mind.
  30. Since the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is unique, everything other than it is composite.
  31. Every composite has the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause as its ultimate cause.
  32. So, the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause is the ultimate cause of everything other than itself.
  33. If the absolutely simple or noncomposite cause had potentialities as well as actualities, it would have parts.
  34. So, since it has no parts, it must have no potentialities but be purely actual.
  35. A purely actual cause must be perfect, omnipotent, fully good, and omniscient.
  36. So, there exists a cause which is simple or noncomposite, unique, immutable, eternal, immaterial, a mind or intellect, the uncaused ultimate cause of everything other than itself, purely actual, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, and omniscient.
  37. But for there to be such a cause is just what it is for God to exist.
  38. So, God exists.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Apologetics, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Philosophy, Scholasticism, Thomism

The Aristotelian Argument for the Existence of God

Aristotelian Argument for the Existence of GodAlthough atheism still exists as a basic presupposition of our modernistic culture, its credibility has been thoroughly exposed as fatuous. The new atheism of our current era has had its intellectual legs cut out from underneath it, and in actuality, has been demonstrated to be an illusory superstition from the very outset of its opportunistic endeavor. And despite the overall cultural embeddedness of atheistic pretension, it has been intellectually and spiritually routed by numerous minds dedicated to the perennial truths of wisdom. Indeed, atheism resides in the convenience of mantra, rationalistic sophistry, and a will to ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ as Saint Paul tells us in the book of Romans.

Some of the minds that have contributed to the systematic dismantling of modern atheism hinted at above are Wolfgang Smith, David Bentley Hart, and Edward Feser. There are, of course, many others that can be mentioned because these men are merely participating in a tradition of thought inherited from the legacy of Western perennial wisdom. This tradition reaches all the way back to Plato and Aristotle, Plotinus and Porphyry, the Patristics, the Scholastics, and finally up to those who would not bend their knee to the mechanistic Weltanschauung or the postmodern metanarrative relativism that followed.

Wolfgang Smith, the philosopher and scientist par excellence, has showed us that we do not need to sacrifice even an inch of our traditional inheritance to the Goliath of scientistic presumption. Instead, Smith makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled traditionalist. David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, has triumphantly defended the tenets of classical theism against the ferocious misapprehension of those atheists erroneously proclaiming the death of God. Finally, Edward Feser, working within the Neo-Scholastic tradition of thought, has effectively established the fact that atheism is a pernicious superstition, rather than the most reasonable interpretation of reality atheism claims itself to be.

And while I am indebted to all of these great thinkers, it is Edward Feser’s thought that I would like to focus on at this time.

Throughout the extensive argumentation found in his work, Edward Feser has entirely destroyed any and all respectability the new atheist movement might have feigned to possess in their many publications of vociferous prognostications. The task of refuting the new atheists began with his great work, The Last Superstition, and has been extended in several publications that followed. His latest work, Five Proofs of the Existence of God, presents classic arguments of natural theology that demonstrate the necessary existence of God. These arguments are the Aristotelian argument, the Neoplatonic argument, the Augustinian argument, the Thomistic argument, and the Rationalist argument. Moreover, Feser dismantles the stock objections to these arguments and thoroughly defends the veracity of natural theology against those critics from the traditions of the so-called Enlightenment. I am reluctant to say that Feser’s work is the ‘last word’ regarding the positive legitimacy of natural theology and theistic ways of arguing for the existence of God, but nonetheless, Feser’s corpus is formidable. To get a glimpse of just how formidable Feser’s work is, all one must do is examine the arguments as he presents them.

Beginning with this initial installment, I will provide each classical argument in their syllogistic format as formulated by Feser. This is useful for a number of reasons, but most importantly is to pin the atheist against the wall with his own irrational slogans. If an atheist is going to reject the conclusion of the arguments, incredulity is not going to be sufficient for the task. Simply rejecting the conclusion that God exists because “I can’t see how X,” or “Science has shown X,” or the puerile reaction “What caused God,” is a desperation of the will, not an exercise of the intellect. The atheist, if he is going to live by his creed of the supremacy of reason must show which premises are in error, why they are in error, and how they invalidate the conclusion that God exists. Mindlessly appealing to the “quantum enigma” (which by the way Wolfgang Smith has solved in favor of the traditionalist) or the materialistic fallacies of Neo-Darwinian dogma do nothing to even wrestle with perennial truth.

Without further ado, here is Edward Feser’s presentation for the Aristotelian Argument for the existence of God.


Taken from Neo-Scholastic Essays, The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument, Pg. 128:

  1. That the actualization of potency is a real feature of the world follows from the occurrence of the events we know of via sensory experience.
  2. The occurrence of any event E presupposes the operation of a substance.
  3. The existence of any natural substance S at any given moment presupposes the concurrent actualization of a potency.
  4. No mere potency can actualize a potency; only something actual can do so.
  5. So any actualizer A of S’s current existence must itself be actual.
  6. A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of a further potency or (b) A’s being purely actual.
  7. If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of a further potency, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
  8. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute an essentially ordered causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
  9. So either A itself is purely actual or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress of concurrent actualizers.
  10. So the occurrence of E and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.

Taken From Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Pg. 35-37

  1. Change is a real feature of the world.
  2. But change is the actualization of a potential.
  3. So, the actualization of potential is a real feature of the world.
  4. No potential can be actualized unless something already actual actualizes it (the principle of causality).
  5. So, any change is caused by something already actual.
  6. The occurrence of any change C presupposes some thing or substance S which changes.
  7. The existence of S at any given moment itself presupposes the concurrent actualization of S’s potential for existence.
  8. So, any substance S has at any moment some actualizer A of its existence.
  9. A’s own existence at the moment it actualizes S itself presupposes either (a) the concurrent actualization of its on potential for existence or (b) A’s being purely actual.
  10. If A’s existence at the moment it actualizes S presupposes the concurrent actualization of its own potential for existence, then there exists a regress of concurrent actualizers that is either infinite or terminates in a purely actual actualizer.
  11. But such a regress of concurrent actualizers would constitute a hierarchical causal series, and such a series cannot regress infinitely.
  12. So either A itself is a purely actual actualizer or there is a purely actual actualizer which terminates the regress that begins with the actualization of A.
  13. So, the occurrence of C and thus the existence of S at any given moment presupposes the existence of a purely actual actualizer.
  14. So, there is a purely actual actualizer.
  15. In order for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer, there would have to be some differentiating feature that one such actualizer has that the others lack.
  16. But there could be such a differentiating feature only if a purely actual actualizer had some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
  17. So, there can be no such differentiating feature, and thus no way for there to be more than one purely actual actualizer.
  18. So, there is only one purely actual actualizer.
  19. In order for this purely actual actualizer to be capable of change, it would have to have potentials capable of actualization.
  20. But being purely actual, it lacks any such potentials.
  21. So, it is immutable or incapable of change.
  22. If this purely actual actualizer existed in time, then it would be capable of change, which it is not.
  23. So, this purely actual actualizer is eternal, existing outside of time.
  24. If the purely actual actualizer were material, then it would be changeable and exist in time, which it does not.
  25. So, the purely actual actualizer is immaterial.
  26. If the purely actual actualizer were corporeal, then it would be material, which it is not.
  27. So, the purely actual actualizer is incorporeal.
  28. If the purely actual actualizer were imperfect in any way, it would have some unactualized potential, which, being purely actual, it does not have.
  29. So, the purely actual actualizer is perfect.
  30. For something to be less than fully good is for it to have a privation – that is, to fail to actualize some feature proper to it.
  31. A purely actual actualizer, being purely actual, can have no such privation.
  32. So, the purely actual actualizer is fully good.
  33. To have power entails being able to actualize potentials.
  34. Any potential that is actualized is either actualized by the purely actual actualizer or by a series of actualizers which terminates in the purely actual actualizer.
  35. So, all power derives from the purely actual actualizer.
  36. But to be from which all power derives is to be omnipotent.
  37. So, the purely actual actualizer is omnipotent.
  38. Whatever is in an effect is in its cause in some way, whether formally, virtually, or eminently (the principle of proportionate causality.)
  39. The purely actual actualizer is the cause of all things.
  40. So, the forms or patterns manifest in all things it causes must in some way be in the purely actual actualizer.
  41. These forms or patters can exist either in the concrete way in which they exist in individual particular things, or in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
  42. They cannot exist in the purely actual actualizer in the same way they exist in individual particular things.
  43. So, they must exist in the purely actual actualizer in the abstract way in which they exist in the thoughts of an intellect.
  44. So, the purely actual actualizer has intellect or intelligence.
  45. Since it is the forms or patterns of all things that are in the thoughts of this intellect, there is nothing that is outside the range of those thoughts.
  46. For there to be nothing outside the range of something’s thoughts is for that thing to be omniscient.
  47. So, the purely actual actualizer is omniscient.
  48. So, there exists a purely actual cause of the existence of things, which is one, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, fully good, omnipotent, intelligent, and omniscient.
  49. But for there to be such a cause of things is just what it is for God to exist.
  50. So, God Exists.


 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

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Natural Theology, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Natural Theology & the Thomistic Synthesis

RGL on Thomism

Natural Theology

That which is, is more than that which can be, more than that which is on the road to be. This principle led Aristotle and Aquinas to find, at the summit of all reality, pure act, understanding of understanding, sovereign and good. But Aquinas rises above Aristotle and Leibnitz, for whom the world is a necessary consequence of God. St. Thomas shows, on the contrary, the reason why we must say with revelation that God is sovereignly free, to create or not to create, to create in time rather than from eternity. The reason lies in God’s infinite plenitude of being, truth, and goodness, which creatures can do noting to increase. After creation, there are more beings, it is true, but not more being, not more perfection, wisdom, or love. “God is none the greater for having created the universe.” God alone, He who is, can say, not merely “I have being, truth, and life,” but rather “I am being itself, truth itself, life itself.”

Hence the supreme truth of Christian philosophy is this: In God alone is essence identified with existence. The creature is only a capability to exist, it is created and preserved by Him who is. Further, the creature, not being its own existence, is not its own action, and cannot pass from potency to act, either in the order of nature or in that of grace, except by divine causality.

We have thus shown how Thomism is an elevated synthesis, which, while it rejects unfounded denials, assimilates the positive tendencies of current philosophical and theological conceptions. This synthesis recognizes that reality itself is incomparably more rich than our ideas of that reality. In a word, Thomism is characterized by a sense of mystery, which is the source of contemplation. God’s truth, beauty, and holiness are continually recognized as transcending all philosophy, theology, and mysticism, as uncreated richness to be attained only by the beatific vision, and even under that vision, however clearly understood, as something which only God Himself can comprehend in all its infinite fullness. Thomism thus keeps ever awake our natural, conditional, and inefficacious desire to see God as He is. Thus we grow in appreciation of the gifts of grace and charity, which move us, efficaciously, to desire and to merit the divine vision.

This power of assimilation is therefore a genuine criterion whereby to appraise the validity and scope of Thomism, from the lowest material elements up to God’s own inner life. Economy demands that any system have one mother-idea, as radiating center. The mother-idea of Thomism is that of God as pure act, in whom alone is essence identified with existence. This principle, the keystone of Christian philosophy, enables us to explain, as far as can be done here below, what revelation teaches of the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the unity of existence in the three divine persons, the unity of existence in Christ. It explains likewise the mystery of grace. All that is good in our free acts comes from God as first cause, just as it comes from us as second causes. And when we freely obey, when we accept rather than resist grace, all that is good in that act comes from the source of all good. Nothing escapes that divine and universal cause, who without violence actualizes human freedom, just as connaturally as He actualizes the tree to bloom and bear fruit.

Let Thomism then be judged by its principles, necessary and universal, all subordinated to one keystone principle, not a restricted principle as is that of human freedom, but by the uncreated principle of Him who is, on whom everything depends, in the order of being and activity, in the order of grace and nature. This is the system which, in the judgment of the Church, most nearly approaches the ideal of theology, the supreme branch of knowledge.

– Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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