Feser’s “Insuperable” Arguments Against Platonism

I have many, many criticisms of Feser’s Augustinian proof. I explain these in one the chapters of my (unpublished-but-currently-being-discussed-with-academic-publishers) book. I explain the book at the end of my post here. Later this summer I’ll probably make a video on the Augustinian proof, too.

Today, though, I want to focus on Feser’s arguments against Platonism. As Feser recognizes, the Augustinian proof crucially relies on Platonism’s falsity.[1] But—as I hope to show in this post—Feser has failed to justify this reliance. I can find about six problems Feser (2017, pp. 97-99) raises for Platonism. I shall tackle each of these in turn in the following sections.

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The Worst Argument for Classical Theism?

Alexander Pruss writes:

I can’t get myself to believe in a God who is an old bearded guy in the sky. That would be just a fairy tale.

What’s wrong with such a concept of God? It’s the beard! Seriously, the problem is that a guy who has a beard has parts and changing. Whether the parts are material or immaterial does not seem of very deep metaphysical significance. But having parts or changing, either one of these is an absurd anthropomorphism.

And hence I can’t get myself to believe in a God who changes or has parts.

This probably takes the cake for the worst argument for classical theism I’ve come across.[Fn] (For a critical assessment of most arguments for classical theism — including many leveled by Pruss himself — see these two videos [Part 1 and Part 2] as well as the document in the descriptions of these videos.) For there are lots of relevant dissimilarities between the bearded sky man and a non-CT God. (Let’s suppose our non-CT model affirms timelessness but says that God’s omnipotence, moral goodness, timelessness, necessity, and whatnot are numerically distinct.)

First, there is a kind of essential, metaphysically necessary, and intelligible unity to God’s parts that is absent from the bearded sky man. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that omniscience, omnipotence, etc. are co-instantiated. By contrast, a bearded sky man involves a whole host of seemingly arbitrary limitations and coincidences: why is the beard 7.8 inches long and not 7.81 or 7.79? Why isn’t the man cleanly shaven? And so on. In the case of God, God’s unlimited perfection can provide the resources for seeing why each of God’s numerically distinct attributes are all compresent, without any arbitrariness or possibility of being separated from one another or limitation. By contrast, the bearded sky man is limited, has lots of arbitrariness, has parts that are possibly separated, and so on. Not to mention that a bearded sky man would plausibly be contingent, whereas the non-CT God is necessarily existent. I don’t see why all of these points (and more) don’t count as having “deep metaphysical significance”. Indeed, a denial that they have such significance seems obviously wrong.

I can also imagine, say, Plotinus saying that it is Pruss’ view of ultimate reality that is patently absurd anthropomorphism. For Pruss, ultimate reality is personal. He’s an intentional agent with free will and acts for reasons (if only analogously so). He desires relationships with creatures. He loves creatures. He even has emotions [divine impassibility, importantly, does not deny that God has an emotional life; it simply says God’s emotional life is one of undisturbable blessedness/bliss/happiness]. And if that isn’t absurd anthropomorphism, what is? At the very least, all of these affirmations are obviously far more ‘anthropomorphizing’ than merely attributing change and non-simplicity to ultimate reality.

A more plausible (though still deeply implausible) argument might go something like:

“Pruss’ view is not one on which the foundational reality is truly ultimate. His view is fraught with absurd anthropomorphisms. He genuinely says ultimate reality is personal, has free will, has an emotional life, intentionally acts for reasons, is mental, and so on. But this is just projection onto ultimate reality. I’m reminded of Xenophanes’ scathing critique of Greek anthropomorphism: “[i]f horses had hands, or oxen or lions, or if they could draw with their hands and produce works as men do, then horses would draw figures of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen, and each would render the bodies to be of the same frame that each of them have” (B15). And in a similar vein, he notes that “Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and dark,” whereas Thracians say “that theirs are grey-eyed and red-haired” (B16). Here Xenophanes is noting correlations between the features of particular groups of people (on the one hand) and the features such groups associate with the ultimate reality (on the other). Just as Ethiopians are themselves dark-skinned, their ultimate realities (gods) are similarly dark-skinned; and just as Thracians are themselves red-haired, their ultimate realities (gods) are similarly red-haired. And just as Pruss has free will, intentions, acts for reasons, loves, desires, and has emotions, so too does Pruss’ “ultimate” reality have these features. But this is like supposing that ultimate reality is dark-skinned or has red hair. No. Ultimate reality is a radically transcendent One — a mindless, impersonal, absolutely simple principle from which *all* multiplicity and differentiation — including a multiplicity of trinitarian persons — derives. Pruss’ God is a dependent being. Pruss’ God has internal multiplicity and differentiation among persons. This internal multiplicity requires an extrinsic source or principle accounting for the unity of the multiplicity. This extrinsic source is the absolutely simple One, which transcends all multiplicity, differentiation, and qualification. Anything apart from the One requires a cause for the unity of its multiplicity, distinction, differentiation, and qualification. Thus, a differentiation or multiplicity of distinct divine persons demands an extrinsic cause. Multiplicity is an absurd anthropomorphism. Cast such anthropomorphism to the flames, for it contains nothing but sophistry and illusion. Either ultimate reality is the just-articulated impersonal, mindless, absolutely simple One, or else atheistic naturalism is true. There is no middle ground.”

Author: Joe

Email: majestyofreason@gmail.com

[Fn] It’s not exactly clear whether Pruss intends for his blog post to be an argument. So I want to emphasize that I’m not much concerned here with whether Pruss himself is proffering an argument. Whatever Pruss did, and whatever his own intentions were, he seems to be offering some kind of reasons, or at least evaluable claims. And these evaluable claims can be naturally strung together into an argument against non-classical models of God based on their (purported) objectionable ‘absurd anthropomorphism’. (E.g. Pruss claims that there is something wrong with a model of God and then goes on to pinpoint that in virtue of which it is wrong, and then alleges that non-classical models of God share this objectionable feature. But surely this claim can be critically evaluated by, say, pinpointing relevant dissimilarities between the example and the non-classical models of God that render the two categorically different.) And so my post is here to evaluate such claims.

The Aloneness Argument: A Response to Christopher, Gil, and Suan (PART 1/2)

Recently, Intellectual Conservatism uploaded a video on the Aloneness Argument against classical theism. As usual, I deeply value the criticisms they leveled and, more importantly, each of Christopher, Gil, and Suan themselves.

Image credit: Intellectual Conservatism (YouTube)

This post is PART 1 out of 2. I have only listened to the first 1:33:00 of their video. In part 2, I will address the last 30 minutes of the video. It will become apparent why I stopped at 1:33:00 as we proceed through this post. (It’s epistemically possible that they address some of my rebuttals in the last 30 minutes; if they do, then I’ll simply address that in Part 2.)

Without further ado, let’s dig in!

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Response to Hsiao and Sanders on the Thomistic Contingency Argument, Part 2

“Okay, so…”

Graham Oppy, Monash University

So, today I continue with my appraisal of Hsiao’s and Sanders’ (henceforth, ‘H&S’) argument presented in this paper.

Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the  cosmos

0 Outline

So, here’s an outline of this post:

1 Quantifier shift
2 Necessity and eternality
3 Necessity and immutability
4 Uniqueness
5 Immateriality
6 Mindedness
7 Omniscience
8 Freedom of Will
9 Omnipotence
10 Perfect
11 Perfectly good
12 Simplicity and oneness

13 Conclusion

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Response to Hsiao and Sanders on Existential Inertia and the Thomistic Contingency Argument

Tim Hsiao and Gil Sanders present a contingency argument here. I will address their argument in this post. (More specifically, I will only address their points about existential inertia and sustaining causation; I may or may not address the other components of their argument in a separate post.)

Before turning to their paper, let’s get clear on what existential inertia is, and let’s also get clear on some metaphysical accounts of existential inertia–i.e. accounts that aim to pinpoint that in virtue of which existential inertia obtains (if it obtains at all). Pay attention to these metaphysical accounts, since they will come up in my response to Hsiao and Sanders.

(And, of course, before digging in, CONGRATULATIONS to Tim and Gil for getting their paper published!!!)

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Fact-Checking TD on Existential Inertia

Existential inertia is not enjoyable for me to talk about publicly, mainly because (i) the questions it raises are so complex and thus lend very easily to misunderstandings on all sides, (ii) there are a variety of different inertial theses, many of which are immune to criticisms that others face, (iii) there are many different metaphysical accounts of inertial persistence, many of which are immune to the criticisms that others face, and (iv) my views have significantly changed since I originally wrote my first paper on it (my paper was written about 15 months ago, and you can imagine how much reflection over 15 months can change one’s views). For what it’s worth, I try to disentangle all these various aspects of the debate in papers I’ve recently finished and submitted to journals for review. (Don’t get your hopes up yet, since the review process takes many many months.)

Also for what it’s worth, I also have a big (scholarly) project that involves existential inertia. I plan to announce the project within the next couple of months. (Though, my patrons already know what the project is.) For those interested, I’ve also done lots of clarifications, precisifications, and defenses of it publicly:

  1. Existential inertia and the Aristotelian proof“, IJPR.
  2. A User’s Guide to Existential inertia
  3. Response to Intellectual Conservatism (Part 1 and Part 2)
  4. Response to Nemes
  5. Response to RM and HoH
  6. Quick discussion with Graham Oppy on it near the end of this video
  7. Covered in some sections of this post.

Okay, preliminaries are out of the way.

For this post, I’m responding to a video from Thomistic Disputations (henceforth, ‘TD’) wherein he claims to “refute” existential inertia and “expose” its flaws. He has done no such thing. I’ll be using the fact-checking structure I used in my response to Nemes.

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Some short (quasi?) tensions between DDS and Trinitarianism

Orthodox, conciliar Trinitarianism (henceforth ‘Trinitarianism’) is committed the following theses: (i) there is one God in three divine persons; (ii) the three divine persons are not numerically identical to one another; (iii) the divine persons are consubstantial (i.e. of one substance) or homoousios; and (iv) the divine persons are distinguished and related by eternal processions (the Father begets the Son, and either (a) the Father and Son spirate the Spirit or (b) the Father alone spirates the Spirit). There are different ways to understand these eternal processions, but they at least involve receiving/deriving existence from without (i.e. from some numerically distinct divine person(s)).[1]

[1] Btw, you need to watch this video if you want to understand why one might find DDS and Trinitarianism incompatible, as well as how one might respond to such worries (and respond to those responses, and respond to those responses to those responses, and…).

DEAR FATHER | Seeing the Trinity in daily life helps us understand the  mystery | Articles | Archdiocese of St Louis
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Response to RM and HoH

Recently, two individuals named Renaissance Man (henceforth, ‘RM’) and Hound of Heaven (henceforth, ‘HoH’) responded to some of my work. You can check out their video here.

I’ll begin by expressing my utmost gratitude to RM and HoH for their engagement with my public work[1]–I hope our mutual engagement will serve all in the pursuit of truth! 🙂

I would also love to chat with RM and HoH at some point soon! I was in the live chat of their video and was having fun chatting with them.

[1] I only say ‘public’ work because most of the work I’ve done on classical theism (and arguments for and against it) is in papers currently under review at various journals.

Reasons to Paint
Worldview building is like painting a mural. It’s a cooperative enterprise among people from all walks of life. It involves a joint and complementary enterprise of painting a masterpiece.
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