CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

And now for today's discussion in metaphysics.

Consider the following claim (from this philosophy paper from Spencer Lo, provided for context--the original statement can be found in the second paragraph of Part IV, "Empty Resolution"):

"The fact that all phenomena are dependently arisen, entails that all phenomena, without exception, come into being in dependence upon prior phenomena, remain in existence dependent upon prior phenomena, and cease to exist dependent upon prior phenomena.”


A.) How cogent is this claim, as it stands?

B.) Would it cohere well enough with an attempt to deny the existence of an independently existent reality with at least some intrinsically fixed, unalterable characteristics?

C.) Would such a claim, if true, be any protection against, or any denial of, an attempt to claim that phenomena may come into and go out of existence completely uncaused?

D.) Would any failure of (A), (B) and/or (C) be remedied by replacing the occurrences of the phrase "prior phenomena" with "conditions"?


JRP

13 comments:

Just a mark for tracking comments.

I'm hoping to put up a link later, to the 50-page paper this statement was excerpted from.

JRP

I think that "without exception" is a separate issue. Standard function can hardly rule out an edge case.

That clause introduces an infinite regress, which is fair enough, but fights against the idea total comprehensibility that naturalists shoot for. Gaps are a given, when you have an infinite number of preceding events to account for.

The popular argument of ever-receding "gaps" suffers as well, as it can only "recede" by a projection upon the details. "We don't know the details, but we can presume continuity."

I can't say that Prime Mover wins over this, but it at least establishes "What has happened" as just as complex a problem as "Who made God?" I don't see a net gain in comprehensibility.

I'm going to take an amateur stab at this, and it's more of just my passing thought rather than an attempt to answer your questions as listed.

A) How can ALL phenomena be dependently arisen AND, by necessity, dependent on prior existing phenomena? You would need to account for at least one phenomena that exists without being dependent on a pre-existing phenomena or the ball never starts rolling, right? It might be more accurate to state that there are no uncaused phenomena, because once you make the existence of a phenomenon dependent on some other phenomenon, then aren't you stuck on that first phenomenon?

B) I'm not sure how well the statement coheres standing by itself in the first place for the reasons set forth above (and hinted to in Question D). Be that as it may, I see what you're getting at with this question, but for some reason I get hung up on the phrase "independent reality." I think we might agree on "B" if you mean the laws of physics, but I honestly don't know whether or how those rules could be a seperate reality from various phenomena themselves. Maybe that's a chicken or the egg question, but I keep thinking "Are the rules of chess a seperate, INDEPENDENT reality from the game itself? We can discuss the rules independently, but they can't exist without the game!" To put it another way, what are the rules to a game that doesn't exist? You could answer that humanity-- a seperate reality from the chessboard-- caused chess, but not so fast. Humans and chess exist in same reality.

Again, I'm an amateur here and I get lost sometimes in the philosophical jargon which I understand may have a meaning beyond lay talk. But I have a hard time really wrapping my head around the idea or a seperate reality. I'm really not trying to be nit picky, but you'd need to explain to me exactly what seperates one reality from another and how we could possibly understand something like that trapped as we are in this reality.

C) There's never protection against an attempt at anything. I stand by my position that all phenomen cannot be dependent for their existence on pre-existing phenomena, BUT, if you substitute "conditions," and take the revised statement as true, then I say "maybe."

D) With regards to (A), probably, yes. With regards to (B) and (c), maybe.

Again, I'd have to think this through a LOT more, as I'm a bear of little brain and long words bother me. Thanks for an, uh, phenomenal post?!

I'm going to take an amateur stab at this as well.

A) It appears that individual atoms might decay randomly without a dependence upon prior phenomena. Also Hawkins radiation information loss (contested) could be used to argue that cause link is broken even if dependency might exist. So, it might not be cogent argument.

B) I would say it is too early to deny the existence of an independently existent reality. If multiverse exists why just one of them, and what are the properties of other universes?

C) If it is true (which I don't think it is), I think by definition it can be used to deny an attempt to claim that phenomena may come into and go out of existence completely uncaused

D) The word "conditions" does not get around the seemingly random events we can observe and the statement "The fact that all phenomena are dependently arisen" does not address the issue what was the initial default state if there was one.

adude commented that Prime Mover issues. Prime Mover might not be a solution to this as it also leads to an infinite regression problem.

Thanks for the comments so far! The author (who sent me the paper this was excerpted from, earlier this summer after I finished posting up my HSIBAS entries, claiming he thought it created a problem for "theism") has provided me a link to an html version of the original paper now; which I've added to the main post near the beginning.

Super-busy today, so I probably won't do further commenting on this (and on comments) myself until later this week. But I'll let Spencer know some thoughtful comments have been left here, too.

Thanks again!

(PS: I suppose I should add, for clarification purposes until then, that I'm pretty strongly critical of the paper at many points--I not only think it doesn't succeed as an argument against the existence of an IF (much the reverse), and doesn't succeed as an argument against theism per se (much the reverse!), but also doesn't succeed against the purported "problem of induction" it's trying to protect against (much the reverse!)--a problem I don't consider to be any kind of a problem in the first place. {wry g} More on all this later, maybe, hopefully...)

JRP

Righty, then; some comments as I come across them...

Adude: {{I think that "without exception" is a separate issue. Standard function can hardly rule out an edge case.}}

In the larger context of the paper’s argument, though, the “without exception” is vital to the position being argued for. Any identified ‘edge case’ would involve a denial of the aimed position. Ironically, I don’t think the larger-context argument has any chance of even seeming to work without admitting at least the existence of edge cases, however.

Adude: {{That clause introduces an infinite regress}}

Not entirely sure that it does, in the end, but that’s because think infinite regression claims are self-refuting in various ways. (My thoughts on the topic can be found here, as well as forward and back one entry.)

I’m curious about whether the author would agree he’s introducing an infinite regression thereby, or whether he’d think that was okay or was rather a problem instead. Perhaps he’ll comment on it, too, eventually. (I’ve emailed him to let him know, and he replied that he’d look in eventually. He posts in the comments under the name “radical logic”.)

For what it’s worth, I’m somewhat doubtful that the author was attempting to deal with “What made God?” questions (pro or con); but the topic is obviously relevant.


Lifeguard: {{It might be more accurate to state that there are no uncaused phenomena, because once you make the existence of a phenomenon dependent on some other phenomenon, then aren't you stuck on that first phenomenon?}}

I’m certain the author was aiming at an argument that there are no uncaused phenomena; but I would argue he either fails to legitimately arrive and/or doesn’t take into account positive aseity where the Independent Fact is self-causingly existent. (Much of the argument is aimed against the existence of any Independent Fact at all, which the author would think also counts as a strike against theism per se, though that isn’t the main attempt in his paper.)


Lifeguard: {{I think we might agree on "B" if you mean the laws of physics}}

For what it’s worth, no, I wouldn’t consider “laws of physics” per se to be independent reality in any ontological sense. (The author certainly wouldn’t, either, as he is attempting to deny the existence of any independently existant reality.) The system of Nature itself would be the Independent Fact if philosophical naturalism is true (theistic or atheistic naturalism either one). The “laws” are our discovery and understanding of the system characteristics and behaviors. Similarly, the laws of accounting, or of chess for that matter, don’t do anything. (I discuss this in some detail myself here and in the subsequent entry. Obviously, since I’m gearing up to return to posting entries in that series, I’m taking the opportunity of the topics of this article to do some retrospective pointing. {g})


Peter: {{It appears that individual atoms might decay randomly without a dependence upon prior phenomena.}}

From an ontological perspective, the event would still have dependence on system characteristics such that ‘random spontaneous decay’ has a chance to occur. (The event could also, in principle, be a result of ontologically supernatural behavior affecting the system in a fashion not otherwise detectable due to lack of a prior causal chain within the system; although it would admittedly be special pleading to appeal to that as an actual explanation without sufficient ground for doing so. My relevant chapter topics on that entry can be found starting here, btw. {g} Also possibly of interest is my Cadre article here where I present what I consider to be “a solid, archetypal naturalistic ontology argument”, which I also called “a practical component of my own metaphysical arguments”.)


Peter: {{I would say it is too early to deny the existence of an independently existent reality. If multiverse exists why just one of them, and what are the properties of other universes?}}

I think we ought to conceptually distinguish between universes that exist extra-naturally to one another, and universes that exist as independent facts in themselves--the latter proposition goes far beyond the former. (Yep, I have an entry on this, too, here. {g} Though the prior three entries before it are of important relevance as well. (I linked to those up in my reply to Adude.)


Peter: {{Prime Mover might not be a solution to this as it also leads to an infinite regression problem.}}

It’s certainly an important topic worth discussing in its own right.


Good comments from everyone so far! Thanks muchly for the thoughtful remarks!


JRP

JRP:

You lost me at "positive aseity," but that's clearly where I run smack into my lack of any technical expertise at this. I mean, I couldn't even take a stab at what "aseity" means.

I probably didn't make this clear, but I agree that the laws of physics are not an independent reality anymore than the rules of chess, although I didn't quite put my finger on the idea that those rules "don't do anything."

Thanks for the link... I'll check it out.

p.s. Any suggestions on a quick place (book, web page, articles, etc.) to get up to speed on some of this stuff? Assuming that's possible...

LG,

Aseity: a short way of saying 'independent self-existence'.

Positive aseity: the self-existent entity depends upon itself for its self-existence. This tends to involve active self-causation, and tends to imply that intentional action is intrinsic to the fundamental character of the entity. (I briefly mentioned this in the same sentence that I mentioned the term 'positive aseity'.)

Privative aseity: the self-existent entity doesn't even depend upon itself for its self-existence. This tends to mean that the entity exists completely uncaused, and tends to imply that intentional action is not intrinsic to the fundamental character of the entity.

Ironically, theists (including Christian theologians and philosophers) have historically been more likely to promote privative instead of positive aseity; which is doubly ironic in the case of Christianity, since positive aseity would be much the same as claiming that the Independent Fact is self-begetting and self-begotten.


I honestly don't know of any quick place to get up to speed on this stuff; but the current table of contents for the synthetic progressing metaphysic that I've been posting up to the Cadre Journal in the past few years, can be found here. The first section of chapters (which is also the longest section) does not arrive specifically in favor of naturalism, supernaturalism, atheism or theism (nor specifically in favor of various subcategories); and its two summary entries can be found starting here. Most of Section Four has also been posted already (in fact I posted it up first {g}), and a sort-of-summary up through the end of chapter 40 can be found here.

I have not yet begun posting Sections Two, Three or Five. Section Two ("Reason and the First Person") will be next, whenever I get around to it. (Which will likely be sometime in the next month or two.) Since my philosophical argument is largely ended before Section Five, I'm dubious about whether I'll ever post that online here.

JRP

Thanks for your feedback. The characteristics of randomness if difficult. (i.e. can God create a truly random [even to him] phenomena?)

I'm not sure what your "universes that exist extra-naturally" and "universes that exist as independent facts" really are. Bible describes supernatural realm as possible having properties, at least one dimesional time, similar dimensional space, same materials and chemical reaction we have. To me it sounds similar to what could be called an other universe; how is your afterlife universe different ("Final Reality"?) from other possible material universes?

Anyways, I enjoy your thought provoking post and comments. I had to read your answers couple of time and I am still wondering if I really understood your deep thoughts.

Peter,

Good follow-up comments, btw.

{{The characteristics of randomness if difficult. (i.e. can God create a truly random [even to him] phenomena?)}}

That’s an important topic, too. This is where I’d point to some chapters I’ve posted up, except they’re in Section Three and won’t be posted for a long time. {wry g} I would currently argue that the answer is ‘yes’, but I don’t know how to address the issue without having first covered a number of other topics. It has to do with the self-sacrificial action of God that would be necessary for creating any not-God system of reality.

Roughly speaking, the question is whether a reality that is fundamentally intentional in its intrinsic self-existence can generate behaviors that might as well be non-intentional. Experience indicates that this is possible, insofar as we who are intentional act-ers of some kind can ourselves intentionally generate effects of that sort; and insofar it is agreed that (as C. S. Lewis put it in his famous 3rd chapter to the 2nd edition of Miracles: A Preliminary Study, in a statement too often ignored by his critics pro or con) chains of non-intentional behaviors can be clearly set up that in some ways can function just as well as intentional behaviors or even in some ways better. (It is often not recognized that Lewis here as elsewhere protects against committing the externalistic fallacy; but at the same time neither can such a recognition be called in against the evidentiary value of our own cognitive value-claims. I’ll be discussing this in more depth in Section Two eventually.)

One non-problem, meanwhile, would be omniscience somehow voiding random behavior. The behavior can be random in relation to Him, without being unknowable; and the behavior can be knowable without being non-random.


{{I'm not sure what your "universes that exist extra-naturally" and "universes that exist as independent facts" really are.}}

In the latter case, the universes exist without any relationship to one another at all, not sharing any commonality of existence, and either exist uncaused in themselves or exist as self-causing entities. (Privative or positive aseity, respectively.) I would suspect theism to be true of any self-causing system, but that’s incidental at the moment. Also I would argue that no independently existent fact comes into existence from nothing, but that’s also incidental at the moment.

In the former case, the universes have no direct connection to one another, but share a common overarching field of existence on which ontologically they depend.

The former case might involve some kind of supernaturalism (though not necessarily theism), depending on whether the system characteristics of the dependent universes were distinctly different enough from the overarching reality; the latter case would involve ontological dualism at least (with any mixture of various kinds of atheism or theism).


{{Bible describes supernatural realm as possible having properties, at least one dimesional time, similar dimensional space, same materials and chemical reaction we have.}}

The Bible speaks analogically a lot, too. I don’t consider the “everlasting fire” to be “the same chemical reaction” we have, for example (or to be a chemical reaction at all--even though it may result in chemical reactions when affecting natural material perhaps).

Ontologically, of course, there is no reason why there cannot be an above-nature system on which ours is (also) immediately dependent in relationship, with both natural systems ultimately dependent on an ultimately supernatural IF (which would be God if theism is true). Traditionally this would be something like the notion of a supernatural ‘heaven’ where angels live; but this shouldn’t be confused with the final Independent Fact itself. And that kind of subsidary supernaturalism, though interesting (I have several versions of such things in my novels, for example, like many other fantasy authors), isn’t what I’m primarily focusing on when I’m doing analytical metaphysics. I’m interested in the properties and characteristics of the IF.

Nor should discussion of IF properties be confused with the concept of a resurrected heavens-and-earth, some of which imagery is also mixed into the canonical texts. But the texts are beside the point in discussions of this sort. I’m doing metaphysics, not exegetics; and that kind of analysis doesn’t rely on textual witness.

It’s admittedly possible, in principle, that in reasoning about the IF, we may arrive at the IF being some kind of supernatural realm per se; although if we did, I would be inclined to consider this tantamount to atheism strictly speaking. (Much as I consider Mormonism or Greek polytheism to amount to atheism strictly speaking, even though those religions feature Really Powerful Preter-or-Super-natural Personal Entities.)


In effect, by the way, I’m agreeing with you that insofar anyone (be it me or the Biblical authors or whomever) is talking about some ‘supernatural’ realm, it might only count as one of the universes of a multiverse. I’m not at all against the concept of multiverses. (Heck, they’re a staple of modern fantasy/sci-fi. {ggg!} I use them myself in my novels. Quantum multiplcation of universes has long been a useful component of “comic book” epics, too, especially DC and Marvel.) I do get the impression sometimes that the scientific proposition of a multiverse is more guesswork and speculation than an evidentiary inference, but I don’t particularly hold that against it, and I would be just as happy to learn of better evidentiary status than I’m currently under an impression about. I’m more than a little bit fond of the concept after all. {ggg!}

JRP

PS: in other news, my brother's wife gave birth to their second child (and second daughter) this morning, Kathryn Claire. Yay Ishy and Bro!!! {GGGG!}

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