Feser has recently responded to my IJPR article. I will respond to his post in a series of blog posts. Check out Part 1 and Part 2. This post is Part 3, which deals again with Feser’s false (and misrepresentative, and uncharitable) claim that I claim that his Aristotelian proof assumes, without justification, the falsity of EIT. It also deals with the entailments of EIT.
“You may or may not agree with this argument. (In my previous post on Schmid, I defend it against an objection he raises against it.)”
And in Section 3 of my lengthier blog post, I argued that Feser’s defense fails.
Feser: “But it is precisely an argument against EIT and for EET. For it entails that the water will not continue to exist from t – 1 to t unless something acts to keep it in existence. Hence Schmid is wrong to say that the Aristotelian proof (of which this argument is a component part) merely assumes EET.”
But I am not wrong here, because that’s not what I claimed. I showed in Part 2 that Feser has both mischaracterized me and read me uncharitably here. And I also explained that even if (as is contrary to fact) he neither mischaracterized me nor uncharitably read me, my claim is still correct. See Part 2.
Feser: “(Moreover, the whole point of my ACPQ article “Existential Inertia and the Five Ways” is to show that, properly understood, Aquinas’s Five Ways – the first of which is a version of the Aristotelian proof – are arguments against EIT. Schmid cites this article in his own paper, which makes it is especially odd for him to write as if my arguments simply assume the falsity of EIT.)”
I have already explained why I did not claim that Feser’s arguments simply assume (without justification) the falsity of EIT. And this is obviously true when one inspects what I actually wrote in my IJPR paper, as I explained in Part 2. This makes it especially odd for Feser to write as if I claimed, in my IJPR paper, that Feser’s arguments simply assume (without justification) the falsity of EIT.
Feser: “Schmid also claims that the rejection of EIT does not entail accepting EET. Consider again the example of the water. If we reject EIT, Schmid thinks, all that follows is that the water will not of necessity continue to exist without a sustaining cause. But it doesn’t follow that it will of necessity go out of existence without one. It might simply happen to carry on without one.
This too is not correct.”
Feser is incorrect here. For it is demonstrable that the mere negation of P-EIT does not entail the truth of EET as I spelled them out in my paper. Let’s see why.
The negation of P-EIT says that it is not necessarily the case that objects persist in the absence of destruction.
It is simply a fact of logic that the negation of P-EIT is consistent with the following claim:
CLAIM: It is possibly the case that objects persist in the absence of destruction.
If we let ‘objects persist in the absence of destruction [i.e., the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for objects’ persistence]’ be ‘p’, then we have:
The logical form of ~P-EIT is: ~□p, which is equivalent to ◊~p
The logical form of CLAIM is: ◊p
Now, it is, again, simply a fact of logic that ◊~p and ◊p are consistent.
So, ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM.
But CLAIM is not consistent with EET. CLAIM says that, possibly, the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for persistence. According to EET, however, it is necessarily the case that objects cease in the absence of sustenance, in which case it is necessarily true that the absence of destruction is not by itself sufficient for persistence (since the object needs to be sustained in addition). This has the form of □~p. Since CLAIM says that, possibly, the absence of destruction is by itself sufficient for persistence, CLAIM is equivalent to: it is not necessarily the case that the absence of destruction is not by itself sufficient for persistence. So, CLAIM is equivalent to ~□~p. Hence, EET is □~p whereas CLAIM is ~□~p. That’s inconsistent. Hence, CLAIM is not consistent with EET.
Hence, ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM, but CLAIM is inconsistent with EET. But it is a simple fact of logic that if q is consistent r and r is inconsistent with s, then q does not entail s. For suppose the antecedent of that conditional is true. Now suppose, for reductio, that q entails s. Since s is inconsistent with r, s entails ~r. So, q entails ~r (by transitivity of entailment). But this is to say that q and r are not consistent. But we are supposing that q is consistent with r. Contradiction. Hence, our assumption for reductio is false. So, q does not entail s. Hence, from the truth of the antecedent we derived the truth of the consequent. Hence, the conditional claim is true. Hence, if q is consistent r and r is inconsistent with s, then q does not entail s.
But it was shown above that ~P-EIT is consistent with CLAIM whereas CLAIM is inconsistent with EET. So, ~P-EIT does not entail EET.
So, I’ve shown that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. But Feser claimed I was wrong in making this claim. So, Feser is wrong.
This shows that what Feser goes on to say after ‘this too is not correct’, in connection with justifying this claim, is moot (to quote Feser). But, nevertheless, let’s consider it.
Feser: “If the water continues to exist from t – 1 to t, then something must account for this fact, and it will have to be something either intrinsic to the water or extrinsic to it.”
What? The claim Feser is supposed to be evaluating is my claim that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. Feser is here adding an auxiliary thesis — that something must explain the fact that the water continues to exist. But Feser is NOT supposed to be evaluating the claim that the conjunction of (~P-EIT & <something must explain the fact that objects persist>) does not entail EET. I never claimed anything about this conjunction. It is trivial that you can add auxiliary theses to ~P-EIT to entail EET. No one denied that. My claim was, instead, that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. Feser can add an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to derive EET if he wants, but then he is obviously not targeting my claim. And yet that is precisely what he was supposed to be doing — he is supposed to be explaining why my claim is “not correct”.
Feser: “Now, if EIT is false, then it is not something intrinsic to the water; and if there is no sustaining cause, then it will not be something extrinsic to it either.”
This is false. It is false that if there is no sustaining cause at t [or from (t-1) to t, which I shall hereafter drop], then the explanation for an object’s existence at t will not be something extrinsic to the object at t. For there are whole swathes of explanations of an object’s persistence that do not adduce sustaining causes and yet adduce facts extrinsic to the object itself at t.
Consider, for instance, one of the explanations I proffered in section 3 of my lengthier blog post and which I adumbrated in the previous post:
For S to fail to exist at m despite existing from [m*, m), m* < m, is for some change to occur.[Fn] But a change occurs only if some factor causally induces said change. Hence, if no factor causally induces a change, then the change won’t occur. Thus, if no factor causally induces S to fail to exist at m despite existing from [m*, m), then S exists at m. Once we add that nothing came along to causally induce this — that is, once we addd that nothing came along to destroy S from m* to m — it simply follows that S exists at m. [Cf. Section 4.1 in the lengthier blog post for more on this line of thought.]
Here, we seem to have a perfectly respectable, perfectly legitimate explanation of S’s existence at m — and this explanation adduces facts outside of or extrinsic to S at m. And the explanation does, indeed, tell us how S exists at m. That was a straightforward deduction of the explanatory facts cited [namely, (i) S existed immediately before m, (ii) nothing causally induced S’s cessation at m [i.e., nothing destroyed S from the immediately prior moment(s) through m], and (iii) a change occurs only if some factor causally induces said change]. And so we do, indeed, have sufficient explanation for S’s existence at m, one that doesn’t adduce some extrinsic sustaining efficient cause. For me at least, the explanation certainly seems to remove mystery as to why/how S exists at m. The present explanation does, indeed, tell us how S exists at m. [I discuss and defend EIT-friendly explanations of persistence that adduce facts extrinsic to S at m along similar lines in this document here on no-change accounts. And again, Feser need not engage with this document if he responds. I include it for those who want to dig deeper.]
Or consider inertialist-friendly explanations based on laws of nature, which adduce facts extrinsic to S at m. Or consider inertialist-friendly explanations based on transtemporal explanatory relations, which adduce facts extrinsic to S at m. Or consider an explanation by appeal to the de dicto necessity of the inertial thesis (à la propositional necessity accounts). And on and on. Feser’s claim is just false.
Feser: “But then there will be nothing to account for its continuing to exist from t – 1 to t, in which case it will not continue to exist. Which is precisely what EET claims. So, if we reject EIT, then we must indeed affirm EET.”
But we’ve already seen that (i) Feser has added an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to derive EET, and hence he has NOT shown that ~P-EIT by itself entails EET (which was the claim he is supposed to be evaluating), and that (ii) his derivation contains a false claim, to wit, the false claim that if there is no sustaining cause at t, then the explanation for an object’s existence at t will not be something extrinsic to the object at t.
Feser: “A critic might respond that this presupposes the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). Well, since I think PSR is true and have defended it at length in several places, I hardly think that is a problem. But in fact the argument does not presuppose PSR – or to be more precise, it doesn’t presuppose PSR any more than any other explanation does. Homicide detectives, insurance investigators, and forensic engineers never take seriously the suggestion “Maybe it just happened for no reason!” when considering the phenomena they are trying to understand, and that is so whether or not they are committed to the principle that absolutely everything has an explanation. Similarly, we needn’t appeal to such a principle in order to judge that the rejection of EIT should lead us to embrace EET.”
But the criticism that I’ve leveled, at least, is not that the argument merely presupposes the PSR or something like it. The criticism instead is that Feser was supposed to be addressing my claim that ~P-EIT does not entail EET. But then to address this claim, he only argued that adding an auxiliary hypothesis to ~P-EIT entails EET. That wasn’t my claim, and I never denied the trivial fact that one can add an auxiliary thesis to ~P-EIT to entail EET.
One might object: isn’t your post here just pedantic and irrelevant logic-chopping? How does any of this matter?
Here’s my response.
I see it as neither pedantic nor irrelevant or insignificant. There is a purpose behind it, and I take the purpose to be obviously significant. What is that purpose? I’ll spell it out briefly.
Remember my point: the mere fact of denying P-EIT doesn’t deliver (i.e., allow us to derive or establish or logically infer the truth of) EET. This means that it is not enough merely to deny P-EIT if we want to deliver or establish EET. Feser wants to deliver or establish EET. So it is not enough for Feser merely to deny P-EIT. So if Feser wants to succeed in delivering or establishing EET, he must adduce and defend some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses added to the denial of P-EIT. This is quite clearly a significant result, one that some may not have seen originally and one that some may have thought unnecessary. [Some may have thought it would be enough merely to reject P-EIT.]
And this discovery especially helps us focus precisely on those substantive auxiliary theses and whether or not they are true/defensible. And that’s precisely what I went on to do with Feser’s proffered auxiliary theses: one of Feser’s theses was a PSR or PSR-like explanatory principle, which I accept; but another one of his theses was that if there is no sustaining cause, then there is no extrinsic explanation. And I argued against this. Nothing is pedantic or irrelevant here. It is a significant point that some philosophically substantive auxiliary thesis or theses needs to be conjoined to a mere denial of P-EIT to deliver EET. It helps us see connections between ideas, clears up the dialectical context [i.e., helps us see what one needs to do if one wants to establish EET], allows us to identify the dialectical role the auxiliary theses play and what they need to add to ~P-EIT to deliver EET, and finally sets the stage for and facilitates our focus on such auxiliary theses. Nothing pedantic or irrelevant here.
In Part 4 of this series, I’ll address the next part of Feser’s post.[Fn] I addressed an objection to this argument based on the claim that cessation isn’t a change in Section 4.1.2 of my lengthier blog post. Use the command F function to find it quickly.