Feser on Schmid on Existential Inertia: The Prior Probability of EIT | Part 4

Feser has recently responded to my IJPR article. I will respond to his post in a series of blog posts. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. This post is Part 4, which deals with the prior or intrinsic probability of P-EIT and EET as well as Feser’s summary of my paper’s stage-setting.

Feser: “A third claim Schmid makes about EIT and EET is that neither has a presumption in its favor, so that we ought initially to be agnostic about which is correct.  A priori, they are evenly matched.”

This is one part of my paper that I have come to disagree with. For I now think EIT is far better than EET when it comes to prior or intrinsic probability [or a priori plausibility, to use Feser’s phrase — one I’m happy to use]. One key determinant of prior/intrinsic probability is simplicity. And unless I have overlooked something, it is clearly true that EIT is simpler than EET. For one thing, EET requires a categorically different kind of causation in our ontology [namely, sustaining causation]. EIT does not by itself require this. For another thing, EET is going to require a categorically different kind of being in our ontology [assuming, as I take to be innocuous in this dialectical context, the impossibility of infinitely descending per se chains of causal dependence]. In particular, EET is going to require there to be at least one timeless being that sustains temporal things in existence. EET is thus committed not only to all the temporal entities EIT is committed to, but it also includes more entities (a timeless entity), more kinds of causation (sustenance or conservation from without, as well as timeless-to-temporal causation), and more fundamental [i.e. not-reducible-to-other] kinds of entities (reality is fundamentally divided at least into timeless/immutable concrete things and temporal/immutable concrete things), and so on. This makes EET much more complex than EIT and hence much less intrinsically probable. [Fn]

I also want to pinpoint another way in which I would modify the IJPR paper. In particular, I say therein that “Consider again P-EIT and EET. In particular, notice that they exactly parallel one another. Their ontological commitments are exactly parallel (each committed to a particular kind of tendency within temporal objects)”. This, I don’t think, is right. First, I seem to speak in this passage as if a ‘tendency’ is some metaphysically heavyweight thing, such as a dispositional property of something. But that is a commitment of neither P-EIT nor EET. In particular, they can both be read in ways that don’t ontologically commit to some ‘tendency’ — this can be read in a metaphysically lightweight way. [For those interested, cf. my discussion of tendency-disposition accounts here for more on this.] Second, it is wrong that the two theses have the same commitments. As I showed in the previous paragraph, EET has many, many more commitments. In any case, my modifications/corrections only strengthen my paper’s case.

———-

[Fn] Note that when philosophers speak of fundamental kinds of things in the context of theoretical virtue comparison, they simply mean kinds of things that are not analyzable in terms of or reducible to other kinds of things. This is a separate issue from one such fundamental kind of thing [e.g. temporal things] standing in a causal dependence relation to another such fundamental kind of thing [e.g., a timeless thing or things].

———-

But Feser thinks I’m mistaken for another reason, and I will argue that he is mistaken in this regard.

Feser: “This too, I would argue, is mistaken. To take an example I have often used, suppose you explain, to someone who has never heard of them before (a young child, say), the nature or essence of a lion, of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and of a unicorn.  Then you tell him that, of these three animals, one exists, one used to exist but has gone extinct, and the other never existed and is fictional.  You ask him to tell you, based on his new knowledge of the essences of each, which is which.  Naturally, he couldn’t tell you.  For there is nothing in the essence or nature of these things that could, by itself, tell you whether or not it exists.  Existence is something additional to the essence of a contingent thing.  It doesn’t follow from such a thing’s essence.”

Suppose I grant this. All the child should conclude is that — precisely because there is nothing about a contingent thing [or its nature] that tells us whether it exists — there must be some other factor that explains why the contingent thing exists. In other words, we need some reason why the contingent thing is in reality at all. But this, of course, is an entirely separate question from why, once in existence, the thing continues to exist.

And, indeed, I would argue that the a priori considerations strongly favor EIT. Consider this dialogue between me and the child from earlier.

—–

Joe: Suppose something S exists immediately before a given moment m. Now, for S to fail to exist at m despite existing immediately before m is for some kind of change to occur. Of course, it’s not as though S undergoes some change in this process, since S doesn’t become something different. But still, there is some kind of change here, whether in the ontological inventory of what there is, or whether in the incorporation of what were previously S’s parts into parts of something else, or whether in the passing away of a state, or whatever. [See Section 4.1.2 here for more on this objection.]

Child: That seems reasonable to me.

Joe: But changes of state (i.e., cases where some new state comes to be or some old state passes away) plausibly require some cause. It’s not as though a raging tiger could just spring into existence in this room right now; that would require some cause.

Child: Yeah, changes of state seem to require causes.

Joe: So, if there is no cause that induces the relevant change of state, then there won’t be such a change.

Child: That follows.

Joe: So, if there is no cause that induces S to cease to exist at m — that is, if there is nothing that comes along to destroy S — then S will not cease to exist at m. And in that case, S will persist to m. For you granted earlier that S’s failing to exist m despite existing before m constitutes some kind of change. In particular, it’s a change of state in the sense of an old state passing away. And in that case, we get the conclusion that so long as nothing destroys S from immediately before m through m, then S will exist at m. We derived this in a manner that removes mystery as to why and how S exists at m.

Child: That makes sense.

—–

In this (obviously gerrymandered) conversation, we have a seemingly perfectly illuminating inertialist-friendly explanation of why S exists at m once S is in existence. The explanation tells us precisely how and why S exists at m. And whether or not existence follows from what a contingent thing is is not relevant to this point.

Feser: “This is, of course, an argument Aquinas gives for the Thomistic doctrine of the real distinction between essence and existence (which I develop and defend in chapter 4 of Five Proofs).  The point for the moment is this.  If nothing about the essence or nature of a thing entails that it exists at all in the first place, then it is hard to see how anything about its essence or nature could entail that will persist in existence once it does exist.”

Maybe so. But nothing in the exchange above, for instance, assumes that it was something about the essence or nature of the contingent thing which explains why the object persists. Totally separate explanatory facts were cited. And so this point doesn’t support the denial of EIT, which is what it would need to do in order for Feser to substantiate his claim that EET is better off than EIT in terms of their ‘a priori matchup’ (as it were).

Feser: “In short, the very nature of a contingent thing qua contingent makes it implausible to attribute to it a feature like existential inertia.  In which case, EET is, contra Schmid, a priori more plausible than EIT.”

I have already shown why this is mistaken. First, none of the explanatory facts cited in my conversation with the child involved facts about the essence or nature of a contingent thing explaining why it persists. And there are whole swathes of inertialist-friendly explanations of persistence, as we saw in previous posts in this series, that likewise make no appeal to the nature of contingent things. I have also already explained why existential inertia isn’t a ‘feature’ or ‘attribute’ of things in Section 3 of my lengthier blog post. (And even those who accept a tendency-based account of EIT where things have the tendency by nature [cf. some tendency-disposition accounts] should not be convinced by what Feser says. They will simply say ‘if you leave off a tendency to persist in your description of their essences, then you have simply given the child an incomplete description’.)

Finally, suppose — contrary to what I argued — that Feser did show or render plausible the claim that contingent things do not enjoy existential inertia. As I point out in a footnote of my IJPR paper and explain in more detail in Section 4.1 of my lengthier blog post, in principle EIT (or an EIT) can quantify over a subset of temporal concrete objects. And so the inertialist may very well hold that contingent things uniformly fail to enjoy inertial persistence, but that there is nevertheless some foundational necessarily existent temporal concrete object or objects upon which non-foundational contingent concrete objects depend. (Theist-friendly examples include the neo-classical or panentheistic temporal God, while non-theist-friendly examples include one or more foundational quantum fields, or a spatiotemporal wavefunction [cf. Section 4.3.8 of my lengthier blog post], or a collection of fundamental particles, what have you.] In this case, it is false that nothing about the necessary foundation demands its existence or its persistence; indeed, the opposite is true. Hence, even if — contrary to what I argued — Feser’s argument succeeds, the inertialist can still maintain a version of EIT. (To be sure, Feser might try to adduce other arguments claiming that only the classical theistic God could be necessarily existent. But that is a separate argument from the one under present consideration, and my sole purpose here is to point out that the the argument under present consideration need not move an inertialist to abandon their position. And there’s also the fact that there are responses to such arguments that, by my lights at least, succeed.)

Feser: “In summary, then, in the first, stage-setting part of his paper, Schmid makes three dubious claims: that the falsity of EIT and truth of EET are simply taken for granted by the Aristotelian proof (not true);”

Let’s also summarize: in Feser’s assessment of the stage-setting part of my paper, he both mischaracterized and read uncharitably what I said about the presupposition of EIT, and even if he didn’t, my point still stands [cf. Part 2]. So his first point here is simply false.

Feser: “that the falsity of EIT does not give us reason to believe EET (not true);”

And I already addressed Feser’s allegations in this regard in Part 3, showing that they don’t work. Hence, Feser is wrong to claim that what I said here is false.

(I am assuming that by ‘does not give us reason’, Feser means ‘does not give us adequate reason’ (instead of meaning ‘does not give us any reason’), since nowhere did I say that the negation of P-EIT does not give us any reason to believe EET.)

Feser: “and that EIT and EET are equally plausible a priori (not true).”

I have already shown why Feser’s responses to my claim here fail. See the paragraphs above. But Feser is (accidentally) right here — my claim that they’re equally plausible a priori is not true. As I explained above, EIT is much more plausible than EET a priori!

Feser: “So unpromising a beginning does not portend well for the rest of the paper, and indeed further serious problems with it arise immediately.”

And an unpromising beginning to Feser’s blog post, rife as it was with false claims and misrepresentation, does not portend well for the rest of his blog post, and indeed further serious problems with it arise immediately — problems to which I will turn in Part 5 of this series.

Author: Joe

22 Comments

  1. Gunther Laird

    Joe: Suppose something S exists immediately before a given moment m. Now, for S to fail to exist at m despite existing immediately before m is for some kind of change to occur. Of course, it’s not as though S undergoes some change in this process, since S doesn’t become something different. But still, there is some kind of change here, whether in the ontological inventory of what there is, or whether in the incorporation of what were previously S’s parts into parts of something else, or whether in the passing away of a state, or whatever.

    I doubt there are too many kid’s who’d be able to make sense of this, lol. I know ‘ontological inventory’ wasn’t in my vocabulary before I hit puberty, and for quite a while afterwards.

    Still, jokes aside, I get what you’re saying, and IMO it is a fatal or neat-fatal blow to the Doctrine of Divine Conservation that Thomists haven’t really grappled with. I brought up pretty much the same point to grenjib earlier, if you noticed:

    https://majestyofreason.wordpress.com/2021/07/06/feser-on-schmid-on-existential-inertia-part-2/#comment-1502

    Like he said, “For S to cease to exist is not the same as S *changing into* something, but simply a negation of its existence (at the respective time).” But like I said, this simply doesn’t seem to be how most people regard change. As my lighthearted reply alluded to, if someone “went out of existence” (i.e died) at a party, we’d certainly say a change occurred, and we’d certainly want an explanation for that change. Now, grenjib responded by saying that was an example of substantial change–a person turning into a corpse (so to speak), not nothing at all. But as I also responded, referring to yet another comment from Johannes, Thomists seem to think of those kinds of substantial changes as the original thing passing out of existence. As he implied, if a table undergoes a substantial change into a pile of charcoal, we take it as the table having passed out of existence, no longer being here, and so on.

    If I were to put it in as simple a (VERY informal) syllogism as I could, I’d say this: The Aristotelian account of change implies inertia of actuality, which thus implies existential inertia. I’m 99% sure this is the point you’re reaching at, so I hope you find this useful 🙂

    1: Any potentiality something has MUST be actualized by something else that’s already actual.
    2: If something exists right now, it has the potentiality to not exist.
    3: Thus, going from premise one, something’s potentiality to not exist MUST be actualized by something else.

    A whimsical example to show this: I’m actually alive right now, and my potentiality to be dead (i.e to go out of existence) must be actualized by an actual, real threat. I could be killed by an actual bullet or an actual nuclear bomb or an actual bolt of lightning, but in any case, my potentiality to not exist (since in actuality I exist right now) needs to be actualized by something else with a capability of killing me.

    But all this seems to imply another axiom: Something that is actual (in some way or another) will remain actual in that way unless something else actual does something to change that, namely actualize one of its other potentialities.

    This is apparent when we unpack premise 1 above a little more. Potentialities are grounded in actualities–for instance, if a red ball has the *potentiality* to be blue in the future, it must first actually exist AND it must first actually be red. But if its potentiality to be blue needs something else to actualize it, that implies the ball’s actuality of being red has a sort of inertia–the ball won’t just become blue for no reason, it’ll remain red unless something changes it–i.e I actualize its potentiality to be blue by painting it.

    But if this is so, we have a perfect argument for existential inertia. Something that exists will continue to exist because its “potentiality to not exist” must be actualized by something else–namely an active destructive cause, like you mention. QED. Thanks, Aristotle!

    • johannes y k hui

      Hi Gunther,

      I intended to click “reply” under your comment, but if my other post addressed to you appeared as a first level comment, then I must have pressed a wrong button. Please see my thought in that comment.

      🙂

  2. johannes y k hui

    Hi Gunther,

    EIT and EET seems to be simply two different ways of describing the SAME UNDERLYING PHENOMENON: the ability of a conditionally existing entity such as a wooden table (or a cup of coffee beverage, or a hardcopy book ) to persist/continue in existence is CONTINUOUSLY conditional on the presence of various CONCURRENT conditions.
    [eg CONCURRENT conditions such as the continuation in: (a) the presence of space, (b) the presence of correct range of surrounding temperature, (c) the presence of appropriately bonded atoms, and so on.]

    To the EIT proponent, the removal of one of these conditions is described as “causing that entity to cease existence”.

    To the EET proponent, the SAME removal of one of these conditions is described as “ceasing to sustain that entity’s existence”.

    Ultimately, Prof Feser’s type of Aristotelian proof (or some other cosmological proofs that start from the empirical fact that a conditionally existing entity’s existence is CONTINUOUS LY conditional on some CONCURRENT conditions) does not seem to depend on whether EIT or EET is true, because both EIT and EET are describing the same underlying phenomenon.

    As long as the underlying phenomenon is true, the issue of EIT vs EET does not seem to obstruct or defeat such cosmological proofs.

    🙂

    Cheers!

    • Gunther Laird

      Hi Johannes,

      Thanks for your reply. The problem with this “concurrent conditions” argument is that it flatly doesn’t work for the more fundamental “components” of reality you speak of. It makes sense to say that the existence of a man or an ice cube or a table is “actualized” by concurrent conditions because the nature of all those physical things entails they can only exist *under specific conditions*–it is the nature of a man to require oxygen (for instance), the nature of water to become liquid or gas at higher temperatures, the nature of a table to require a specific gravity to avoid being smushed (a wooden table would be smashed into noexistence on Jupiter, for instance), and so on.

      You’ll notice that in all of those examples I made it clear that *specific external conditions* were responsible for existence or destruction of these particular things. I never attributed their contingency to something as vague as “the distinction between their essence and existence,” which is what Feser needs to get his argument against existential inertia off the ground. It’s easy to see why a table or something might be “contingent” *upon* the existence of space or temperature or whatnot. But what, precisely, are space or temperature contingent on? How could one destroy those things? Temperature, for instance, is “contingent” on atomic motion, and atoms are “contingent” on quarks, I suppose. But what are quarks contingent on? As far as I know nobody’s ever shown them to be destroyed under any circumstances, which means they must possess existential inertia of some sort. The only thing the Thomist can say is that “oh, quarks are ~*composites*~ of act and potency and/or essence and existence” or something like that, but this doesn’t convince me that existential inertia is false, it just convinces me that there is something very, very suspicious about the Thomistic account of composition and the definition of existence–but that would be a far longer topic so I shall stop here.

      Cheers,
      Gunther

      • There was an interesting comment near the end of Feser’s comment section (as of 7/9 at 6:37 est) from someone with a physics background that was interesting and might merit a look.

      • Gunther Laird

        Hi Todd,

        If possible, could you link to the comment? I’m having trouble finding it, did you mean the comment itself was posted at 6:37? Yet another reason I prefer Disqus I suppose 😛

      • johannes y k hui

        Hi Gunther,

        As you mentioned: “It makes sense to say that the existence of a man or an ice cube or a table is “actualized” by concurrent conditions because the nature of all those physical things entails they can only exist *under specific conditions*.”

        This would be good enough as the first premise of a theistic deductive proof to to work towards a “Part 1 Conclusion”that “at least one Unconditionally Existing Entity exists”
        (ie such a proof does not need to be bothered with, or obstructed by, our incomplete knowledge about fundamental physical entities).

        For example, we can begin with this:

        The existence of the coffee beverage (in my cup now) is continuously conditional on at least one condition (eg the existence of water – if all the water in that cup ceases to exist, the leftover dry residue is not coffee beverage). So we can write it as:

        coffee beverage > condition 1
        where “>” denotes “is continuously conditional on”

        If condition 1’s existence is not unconditional, then condition 1’s existence would in turn be continuously conditional on at least one other condition, say condition 2, as follows:

        coffee beverage > condition 1 > condition 2

        If condition 2 exists unconditionally, then the “Part 1 Conclusion” is proven. If not, then the above series continues on:

        coffee beverage > condition 1 > condition 2 > …

        Such a series as represents of my Premise 1 which can be roughly stated as:

        P1: The existence of the coffee beverage in my cup is continuously conditional on the fulfillment of at least one series of conditions.

        The empirical fact that the coffee beverage is existing now in my cup entails that the above series of conditions is currently fulfilled at this moment. This fulfillment of all the conditions in the above series entails that the above series of conditions is not endless but ends in a last condition Condition N. (An endless series of conditions is impossible to be fulfilled and this would then mean the coffee beverage is impossible to exist now which clearly contradicts the empirical fact of the existing coffee beverage.)

        So we have such a series:

        coffee beverage > condition 1 > … > Condition N

        My Premise 2 can be roughly described as:

        P2: Such a series would have a last member.

        [Another reason why there exists a last member in the above series: The above series is an essentially ordered dependency series and every essentially ordered dependency series has a last member.]

        Since Condition N is the last member of the series, this means Condition N’s existence is not conditional on any condition (otherwise it would not be the last member in the series). Hence Condition N exists unconditionally as an Unconditionally Existing Entity. This is a rough idea of my Premise 3:

        P3: The last member of the above series exists unconditionally of anything.

        Part 1 Conclusion:
        Therefore at least one Unconditionally Existing Entity exists extra-mentally.

        If my above three premises are true and if the implicit reasoning structures are valid deductive structures, then the “Part 1 Conclusion” is impossible to be false. In that case, the rest of the tasks would be to analyse the nature of this Unconditionally Existing Entity to see if there is one and only one such entity, and if it is indeed the Sustainer of everything else that exists extra-mentally.

        Notice this:
        The above way of reasoning does not require us to make any judgment between EIT and EET.

        Even if EIT is true, the above reasoning is not affected.

        I am fallible and I have my blind spots, hence I may not be aware of my reasoning errors. Your correction is much welcome.

        🙂

        Cheers!

  3. Pingback:Feser on Schmid on Existential Inertia: Vicious Circularity and the Metaphysics of EIT | Part 5 | Majesty of Reason

  4. Gunther Laird

    Hi Johannes/”reasonable” (as I assume you go by on Feser’s blog),

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I actually wouldn’t disagree with your syllogism, if there is an error there somewhere I’m not skilled enough to catch it on a first look (perhaps Joe or someone else can). However, the thing is, it’s addressed by the last sentences in my previous post–The only thing the Thomist can say is that “oh, quarks are ~*composites*~ of act and potency and/or essence and existence” or something like that, but this doesn’t convince me that existential inertia is false, it just convinces me that there is something very, very suspicious about the Thomistic account of composition and the definition of existence–but that would be a far longer topic so I shall stop here.

    In other words, I’d agree that there might be “at least one” terminus of a causal series, but I’d argue that can be fulfilled in the end by quarks rather than a classical theistic God, i.e that existential inertia applies to the fundamental particles rather than needing to be attributed to God. The reason for that goes into my critiques of the act/potency and essence/existence distinctions, but again that may be off topic which is why I didn’t go into that.

    • johannes y k hui

      Good day Gunther!

      Before I can conclude anything about whether any quark can qualify as an Unconditionally Existing Entity (UEE), I would need to first suggest what is meant and what is entailed by being an UEE.

      Some initial remarks about the Unconditionally Existing Entity (UEE):

      (a) To exist extra-mentally is to be *actual* extra-mentally.

      (b) Existing unconditionally means being *unconditionally actual*.

      (c) Existing unconditionally means
      existence is not conditioned on any entity, and existence is not conditioned/constrained by any entity.

      (d) Existing Unconditionally means unconstrained existence.

      •••••••

      Towards a 2nd Conclusion
      _____________________________

      One immediate real feature of UEE is *unconditional existence* or *unconditional actuality*.

      Let “feature X” symbolises a feature or a set of features that is really distinct from the feature of “unconditional existence” or “unconditional actuality”.

      Can UEE’s essence comprises the feature “unconditional existence” plus the second feature X?

      If UEE is the entity “unconditional existence plus a second feature X”, then UEE’s existence would be conditional on the condition of the continuous conjoining of “unconditional existence” and feature X. UEE would then NOT be existing unconditional upon any condition. But from our earlier 1st conclusion, UEE’s existence is NOT conditional on any condition at all. Therefore by Modus Tollens, UEE does not have any additional second feature X that is really distinct from its feature of “unconditional existence”.

      2nd Conclusion:

      Therefore UEE can only have one feature which is, or can be described as, “unconditional existence”. Any other feature of UEE would not be really distinct from “unconditional existence”, but would just be either another way of describing what is equivalent to, or else what entails from, “unconditional existence”.

      •••••••

      Towards a 3rd Conclusion
      _____________________________

      UEE is unconditional on or unconstrained/unconditioned by anything means UEE is not constrained or conditioned by space. UEE is not existing in space. UEE is not located at this spatial location or that spatial location. UEE just exists.
      (No condition attached.)

      UEE is also not constrained by time. It does not exist in this or that temporal location or any temporal location. UEE just exists.
      (No condition attached.)

      UEE is not constrained to exist with this kind, or that kind, or any kind of matter/energy/physicality. UEE is non-physical. *UEE just exists.*
      (No condition attached.)

      For there to be two or more UEEs, there must be a difference between them. In other words, some conditions must exist that differentiates one UEE from another UEE, such as this UEE is located at this spatial/temporal location while the other UEE is located at at least a slightly different spatial/temporal location, or there is at least a slight difference in shape. colour, size or physicality/energy/matter between one UEE and another. Or this UEE is “unconditional existence + feature X” while the other UEE is “unconditional existence without any feature X”.

      But UEE exists without any qualifying condition so there is in principle no difference at all between two or more hypothetical different UEEs. UEE is simply “unconditional existence without any second feature and without any constraining factor be it space, time, matter/energy or anything at all” and another hypothetically second UEE is also “unconditional existence without any second feature and without any constraining factor be it space, time, matter/energy or anything at all”.

      So no difference can exist between the hypothetical two UEEs. The hypothetical two UEEs are the same “single” UEE. Therefore given the nature of UEE, there can only be one UEE in the whole of reality.

      3rd Conclusion:
      There exists, and can exist, one and only one UEE. There is only one entity that is existing unconditionally.

      •••••••

      Given that there exists one, and can exist only one, unconditionally existing entity, this means all other entities is impossible to exist unconditionally. So all other entities can exist only conditionally on one or more conditions.

      4th Conclusion:
      Except for UEE, all other entities exists conditionally.

      •••••••

      Since all other entities exists conditionally, every other entity’s existence is continuously conditional on one or more series of conditions. Ultimately EVERY such series of conditions would terminated in the same one and only UEE. Hence the same one and only UEE enables or sustains the existence of all other entities.

      5th Conclusion:
      Ultimately the one and only one UEE CONTINUOUSLY enables or sustains the existence of all other entities. There exists one Enabler or Sustainer of all other entities.

      [BTW notice also this:
      Except for UEE, all other entities at best possess only Conditional Existential Inertia. Only UEE has Unconditional Existential Inertia, in the sense that Unconditional Existential Inertia is another way of describing UEE’s feature of “unconditional existence”.

      Given all that is said so far, quarks cannot be that one and only one UEE. (Quarks comes in and out of existence, and that there are different quarks conditioned in different spatial and temporal locations.)

      🙂

      Cheers!

      • Gunther Laird

        Hi Johannes,

        Looking it up, you have a point about quarks popping into existence (and muons decaying), it seems. However, I found a fundamental particle that doesn’t seem to go out of existence in quite the same way:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluon

        However, I’m hesitant to say more about this because I haven’t studied quantum physics at all. I suppose I can come back to it after reading some of the relevant parts of Aristotle’s Revenge a bit. It may be some underlying quantum foam that’s “unconditioned existence”, has “existential inertia,” or whatever it is you Thomists say has to be ‘purely actual/unconditionally actual/unconditionally existent/*whatever*;’ and why that type of ‘purely actual’ being does not and does not need to have several of the divine attributes (goodness, will, and intellect, among other things) is a topic for another day.

        • johannes y k hui

          Thanks Gunther for your response.

          Gluons also exhibit the phenomenon of starting and ceasing to exist. There are more than one gluon. Gluons exist within different spatial and temporal locations. Gluons are physical entities. Therefore a gluon cannot be an unconditionally existing entity.

          I suggest that any candidate that is located within some spatial or temporal location, or having more than one feature, or exists in two or more of its kind (eg we have a gluon in this location and another different gluon in that location), or that contradict any one of my previous listed conclusions, would not be an entity that exist unconditionally.

          BTW if one day you are interested to see how quantum physics relate to Aristotelian and Thomistic ontologies, you may like to visit the website of Dr Nigel Cundy (his doctorate in Theoretical Physics is from the University of Oxford), a quantum physicist who “held research positions in Germany and South Korea, before moving back to the UK towards the end of 2015” and “have been researching and teaching fundamental particle physics for about 15 years, with over fifty academic publications and numerous presentations at conferences and seminars”. His research involves “the fundamental physical theory of quantum field theory, which is a merger between quantum mechanics and special relativity”.

          Dr Cundy has studied Thomas Aquinas in his graduate days, and since then he has continued to read classical philosophy (both ancient writers like Plato and Aristotle, and modern writers like David Oderberg).

          His website is about how the best of modern physics relate to the classical philosophical tradition especially the Thomistic tradition. Google “The Quantum Thomist”. [all these said in case you have not known his website; you may have already read his articles on his website]

          🙂

          Cheers!

      • Gunther Laird

        Hi Johannes,

        Gluons also exhibit the phenomenon of starting and ceasing to exist.

        Genuinely curious, could you explain this? I was looking it up on Wikipedia and the article on Gluons didn’t say when they came into existence nor that they decayed in any sense, but I skimmed over the article so I may have missed it.

        Other than that, yes, yes, I’m aware of the Thomist axiom that anything with variety, spatial location, etc. etc. etc. is composed of act and potency and all that. Like I said above, I don’t take to the Thomist account of change, so I don’t draw the same conclusions as you do, but again, that’s way tl;dr for a blog comment so I’ll leave the matter there.

        Aside from that, I’ll give Dr. Cundy a look, though I should note it’s curious you recommend him. Despite being a friend of Feser’s, he definitely didn’t agree much with Feser’s metaphysics, judging by this exchange:

        https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/12/cundy-on-relativity-and-a-theory-of-time.html

        I actually think Feser’s response was somewhat weak and I’m more in Cundy’s corner, but again that’s way off topic and I don’t want to get into that here. I’m just saying it’s kind of ironic you recommend him given that he doesn’t entirely buy into Feser’s arguments either 😉

        • johannes y k hui

          Hi Gunther,

          On gluons starting and ceasing existence, you can google it, such as, for example, google this statement: “the strong force is carried by a field of virtual particles called gluons, randomly popping into existence and disappearing again.”

          You said “I’m just saying it’s kind of ironic you recommend him given that he doesn’t entirely buy into Feser’s arguments either.”

          It should not be ironic. Feser is not infallible and neither is Cundy. Or any human being. Each person needs to do the careful thinking himself. Of course we should work hard to understand carefully what the relevant experts actually meant in what they said instead of misrepresenting them and resulting in our dismissal of straw-men, but at the end of the day, we need to do our own thinking, and on the ground of our careful thinking AFTER our accurate understanding of the experts, we should dare to disagree with the experts.

          For example, I disagree with those Thomists like Feser on whetheror not in principle all versions of the Ontological Argument would fail. I developed my own versions of Ontological Arguments and I think they are sound.

          You may like to have a read on Cundy’s analysis of Existential Inertia using his expertise on Quantum Physics at
          http://www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/my-cgi/blog.cgi?first=67&last=67

          I quote Cundy regarding quantum particles and quantum events seemingly contradict existential inertia:

          “Where existential inertia might have problems is if there is the spontaneous annihilation and corruption of particles… If proponents of existential inertia were to propose that a particle has more than one inherent tendency, either the tendency to exist or to cease to exist, then the question becomes why it selects one over the other at any given moment in time. This reason cannot be internal to the particle; since then one or other of the options would be forced. Neither could it be external to the particle without denying existential inertia. The only option remaining is that there is no reason, and that the universe is fundamentally irrational; an proposition that I think all scientists would find objectionable… In a quantum world, then existential inertia seems to a have problem, while divine conservation is fully consistent with it. One cannot postulate that things have an inherent tendency to continue to exist in the same state when they don’t always continue to exist in the same state, even when there is no physical interaction. There are, however, various ways in which the advocate of existential inertia might try to avoid this. The only one that seems plausible to me (that there is an external non-physical cause for the change) is functionally equivalent to divine conservation.”
          – Nigel Cundy

          You wrote: “I’m aware of the Thomist axiom that anything with variety, spatial location, etc. etc. etc. is composed of act and potency and all that. Like I said above, I don’t take to the Thomist account of change, so I don’t draw the same conclusions as you do.”

          I did not make use of Thomism’s account of change at all in my version of cosmological argument shared with you 🙂

          Did you notice that my proof did not mention act and potency at all? Because my reasoning in that proof did not rely on the idea of change.

          My proof started from this simple fact: the existence of the coffee beverage in a cup is continuously conditional on the fulfillment a series of conditions and reasoned to the various conclusions. So those conclusions are not axioms in the sense of presumed axioms, but axioms in the sense of conclusions produced by true premises and valid reasoning structures.

          If the premises I used are indeed true (only two independent premises; the third premise is entailed by my second premise) and my implicit reasoning forms are indeed valid deductive structures, then the conclusions are impossible to be false given the nature of deductive reasoning.

          The only way to escape from the conclusions is either to show that at least one of the premises is false or an implicit reasoning structure is deductively invalid.

          🙂

          Cheers!

      • The Trickster

        Even granting that your argument is valid and sound, how does it prove that christianity is true?

        Moreover, how can a non-physical, spaceless, timeless entity with no other feature but existence(which I can’t make sense of) sustain the other entities in existence?

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  8. Gunther Laird

    Hi Johannes,

    Looking it up it seems that the New Scientist has mentioned gluons being a virtual particle, and that seems accurate. So, fair enough, I need to concede that fundamental particles aren’t candidates for having existential inertia.

    That said, what about that from which particles seem to be generated and destroyed–the “quantum foam,” I’ve heard it called. That would, curiously enough, fulfill more than a few of your requirements for having existential inertia–the quantum foam isn’t really in any particular location because it’s everywhere (omnipresent), as far as I know nobody’s ever seen it going out of existence and it seems to have been here forever, it’s not really divisible, and so on, and so forth. That would leave only the question of whether it’s “good” and whether it has “intelligence” and “will,” and I think it’s quite possible to deny that, thus allowing for an atheistic sort of pantheism (for which I’ve argued elsewhere).

    • johannes y k hui

      Hi Gunther,

      Quantum foam is a SET/COLLECTION of particles such as quarks and gluons that have a beginning and an an end to existence – they start existing and quickly cease existing. It is not an entity in addition to those virtual particles. So quantum foam refers to the virtual particles themselves.

      Just as the word “SET” in the phrase “a SET of positive integers” is not referring to an integer in addition to all the positive integers inside that SET, quantum foam is also not an entity in addition to all other virtual entities inside that collection.

      I quote from an article explaining Quantim Foam in the website of Fermilab which is America’s particle physics and accelerator laboratory:

      “And this appears everywhere. At the quantum level, matter and antimatter particles are constantly popping into existence and popping back out, with an electron-positron pair here and a top quark-antiquark pair there. This behavior is the reason that SCIENTISTS CALL THESE EPHEMERAL PARTICLES ‘QUANTUM FOAM’…”

      From another website which covers astronomical exploration in space:

      “That something is a roiling collection of virtual particles, COLLECTIVELY CALLED QUANTUM FOAM. According to quantum physicists, virtual particles exist briefly as fleeting fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime, like bubbles in beer foam.”

      The most fundamental entities in the physical world (ie quantum entities) seem to contradict the Existential Inertia Thesis and is consistent with the Exisyential Expiration Thesis.

      The quantum physicist Nagel Cundy wrote:

      “In a quantum world, then, existential inertia seems to a have problem, while divine conservation is fully consistent with it. One cannot postulate that things have an inherent tendency to continue to exist in the same state when they don’t always continue to exist in the same state, even when there is no physical interaction.”

      As per one of my conclusions in a previous comment, the Unconditionally Existing Entity has only one feature (the feature of “unconditional existence”). Any entity that has more than one feature would not be able to exist unconditionally.

      BTW, how do you perform italics, bold, indented quotation etc over at these comment boxes?

      🙂

      Cheers!

      • Gunther Laird

        Well wikipedia describes it:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_foam

        as “the quantum fluctuation of spacetime.” In that case, spacetime itself could be considered the fundamental Being on which everything else depends, which has existential inertia. This is what Richard Carrier brought up in his review of Five Proofs. Yes, yes, as Feser said, ” Space-time, for all Carrier has shown, is contingent. Accordingly, its essence is distinct from its existence, it is by itself merely potential unless actualized, and thus it requires a cause distinct from it. Since it is extended, it is also in the relevant sense material (contrary to what Carrier asserts) and is composite rather than simple (contrary to what Carrier asserts),” but Carrier (and I) would contest all that and argue that properly conceived, spacetime is purely actual in the metaphysical sense required for an atheistic sort of pantheism to work, Again, though, that’s much too off-topic for me to spend much time on in this entry, since this is Joe’s blog.

        To make italics, bold, and whatever, try

        Italic text goes here

        And remove the spaces. Replace i with b for bold.

      • Gunther Laird

        Interesting, spaces didn’t have the effect I thought they would, haha. My apologies. Try

        (open carat)i(close carat)italic text goes here (open carat)/i(close carat)

        with open carat replaced by

        That should work 🙂

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