An “Unmoved-mover” is a cognitive requirement for humans. Without it, we could not maintain consistent causal relations.


Kindly excuse the mouthful of a heading, I could not think of a way to make it any shorter. An unmoved-mover just like the first cause argument for god posit that an indefinite regression is impossible.

Yours truly contends that an unmoved-mover or first cause is a logical absurdity and any such argument is doomed to fail. The proponents of these arguments start by making inferences about what we observe about things in the universe and infer that this must be true for the universe and arrive at a first cause. This error, I think, develops from a misunderstanding of causality.

Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Idea, Vol 2 defines causality or rather the law of causality thus

every change has its cause in another change which immediately precedes it.

The law only deals with changes in the state of matter and there is no ground a priori for inferring from the existence of given things, their previous non-existence. As such, the mere existence of a thing does not justify us in inferring it has a cause.

From the above, an unmoved mover is a logical impossibility. This is so because for this unmoved-mover to move something, it must be moved. There has to be something else preceding it’s first movement whatever that movement is. Whereas the person who made the above statement argues that it is a cognitive requirement for humans, I must contend that it is impossible to think of it. It is not given by experience[observation] or intuitively.

Anyone who makes the cosmological argument and stops at the first cause kills his own argument by negating that which was the starting point of his premise. There is no rescue possible from such a pit and the argument must be abandoned at once.

I would at this point like to hear from those who find the cosmological arguments persuasive for theism to at least demonstrate where they think this strength lies for I do not see it.

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

123 thoughts on “An “Unmoved-mover” is a cognitive requirement for humans. Without it, we could not maintain consistent causal relations.

  1. “an unmoved-mover or first cause is a logical absurdity and any such argument is doomed to fail”

    Even if that weren’t true, there’s no valid reason for a leap from a first cause, to a god, and certainly, if the leap WERE made, no reason to choose one god over another. And for either of those two scenarios to have any validity, would require a definition of a god, which is either sadly lacking, or far short of evidentiary establishment.

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  2. john zande says:

    I agree with Arch: if the theist is willing to grant an exemption to causality to their god then they must simultaneously explain WHY they won’t also extend that same exemption to the universe itself.

    Retrocausaility, though, already blows every cosmological argument out of the water. I would suggest citing it whenever you see “first cause” mentioned.

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  3. ladysighs says:

    Moving is a procedure
    Or maybe a stroke of luck
    But to make that maneuver
    It takes a lot of pluck

    The first cause of motion
    Most likely was Donald Duck
    And the stratagem that he used
    Well it simply ran amok

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  4. Debilis says:

    Jumping in as the dissenting voice, then:

    Well, not just yet. First, let me say that I appreciated the post. It is definitely thoughtful.

    Now, getting to the topic:
    The most common response, so far as I know, is that Schopenhauer’s view of causation is wrong. Many think that the traditional Humean puzzles over causation are a clear sign that philosophers are working with a poor concept of causation (and, yes, I happen to be one of them).

    The idea is that this definition refers only to a combination of materialistic and efficient causation, which does not exhaust all inquiry. In fact, this seems a microcosm of one of my biggest frustrations: attempting to refute theism while adopting the premises of the enlightenment thinkers (most notably, Hume) as axiomatic, or otherwise true beyond reproach.

    If that is the tact one takes, atheism is all but a foregone conclusion. Surely, classical theism is ruled out from the beginning.

    So, whether or not one is ultimately persuaded by the first cause argument, this reproach is only valid if one makes a set of assumptions particular to relatively few cultures.

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    • makagutu says:

      Glad to see you here.
      This being the holiday season, am going to be generous; let us say Schopenhauer is wrong, please give me your definition of causality so we will work with one definition.

      In most cultures, especially in Africa, there is no first cause so that such a word is not even part of the vocabulary and same is true for Buddhism. So the first cause argument was brought to us by the scholastics and church fathers who wanted a philosophical ground for belief.

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      • Debilis says:

        Personally, I tend to use the Aristotelian definition. It includes Schopenhauer’s definition, of course, but doesn’t assume that efficient causation must necessarily act on material objects (which is the basis of this argument). It also includes formal and final causation, though these are less pertinent to the matter at hand.

        But I mention Aristotle by name because I’d also like to challenge the idea that, because not all cultures recognize a first cause, it must have risen in the west due to the efforts of scholastics and church fathers.

        Historically, it was accepted by the platonists and the aristotelians before the birth of Christ (and well before the rise of scholasticism).

        I think it is a strong argument. In fact, the alternative seems to be that there simply is no explanation for the universe (or multiverse, if one believes in it), which seems far less consistent with rational inquiry.

        The weakest point in the argument, I would say, is in that it tells us very little about what the first cause actually is. It contradicts metaphysical naturalism, to be sure, but doesn’t establish theism. Additional arguments would be needed.

        Okay, I think I’ve rambled quite enough.
        Best to you.

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        • “the alternative seems to be that there simply is no explanation for the universe (or multiverse, if one believes in it), which seems far less consistent with rational inquiry.”

          OR, it could simply mean that we don’t yet know what it is, and are willing to wait until we do, before slapping labels on it.

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          • Debilis says:

            I know that many try to take that route, but I don’t find it at all persuasive.

            Personally, I’ve yet to encounter an atheist who finds “we don’t yet know the answer to that” a good response to arguments against theism.

            And this is no different. We’ll never have all the information, but a commitment to “follow the evidence where it leads” (as most atheists I know claim to have) would mean accepting the most plausible explanation available. Refusing to do so is holding to a belief (or, if you’d prefer, a lack of belief) in the teeth of evidence.

            Examples could be multiplied, of course, but that is the basic idea.

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          • “I know that many try to take that route, but I don’t find it at all persuasive.

            Fortunately for both of us then, that I’m not here to persuade you.

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          • Debilis says:

            You certainly aren’t required to do so.

            Though, I’m suddenly curious–what is your purpose?

            It seemed to me that you were putting that idea forward as a serious option. If you don’t think it should be treated that way (at least by me, but presumably by others), then I’m completely baffled as to why you mentioned it.

            Personally, I am trying to persuade, and I think its fairly obvious that following the evidence were it leads would mean rejecting the materialism that seems to be popular with the more vocal atheists. And I can’t seem to find anyone both able and willing to give me a good reason why this isn’t a correct view.

            As such, I’ll continue to maintain that materialism is held in the teeth of the evidence–and leave others to decide what to do with that information.

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          • “I’ll continue to maintain that materialism is held in the teeth of the evidence–and leave others to decide what to do with that information.”

            I think that’s an excellent idea.

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        • makagutu says:

          I have briefly looked at the Aristotelian definitions and I see nowhere he talks about a first cause and that was the main issue of this post. The four causes he lists only result in the end to why something is but does not at any point suggest a first cause. Maybe am missing something and I would like very much if you could clarify what it is I have left out.

          I think you should agree with me when I say it arose in the west. The matter left is of the period of when it arose.

          I would like you to describe what or a how a first cause would be explained in a manner that doesn’t result in a logical contradiction or impossibility

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          • Debilis says:

            With respect to Aristotle, he doesn’t (so far as I know) reference a first cause in his descriptions of causation, but he does draw that conclusion out elsewhere.

            If you’re interested, his concept is traditionally referred to as the unmoved mover.

            Yes, that is agreement that the idea arose in the west. I agree on that–but I don’t think this is a point against the idea. After all, it had to arise somewhere. And it clearly does not originate with those who had a prior theological reason to believe in a first cause.

            But I see no contradiction in the idea of a first cause. I’d actually need some help understanding why others do feel that there is a contradiction here. I know of no logical proof that a thing which causes another thing must itself be caused.

            This is even more clear if we use the aristotelian understanding of causation. In this sense, “explanation” would actually be a better translation. This is to say that must be a reason why a thing exists–but that reason need not be a prior efficient cause acting on pre-existing matter.

            The latter assumption is, after all, simply to presume materialism.

            That’s what I’d say in general. But, if you are aware of other objections, I’d love to be rid of my ignorance on that point. I honestly don’t know what the concern here is.

            But, more than anything else, best to you.

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          • makagutu says:

            Fair enough and thanks for your kindness.
            Even if we were to use the word that everything has it’s explanation, I don’t see how you would get to the point of something that doesn’t have an explanation and that is my contention with the first cause. The argument starts that everything has a cause and then makes an about turn and tell us except a first cause! Now I don’;t know about you but I see a contradiction in that.

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          • Debilis says:

            Apologies! That was very sloppy of me!

            You’d be right in making that criticism. It was a mistake owing to the fact that I wasn’t careful to be consistent about how I was using the term causation.

            What I should have said was this: all things need an explanation, but not all things need an explanation in terms of efficient causes acting on existing matter (the latter simply being a denial of materialism).

            With respect to the first cause, no good philosopher (which would exclude my sloppy ramblings, of course) has claimed that the first cause doesn’t need to be explained. Rather, the contention is that it is self-explained. Usually, this is taken to mean that some kind of ontological proof (whether humans have discovered it or not) is valid.

            I hope that is better.

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          • makagutu says:

            Apologies accepted and we are getting somewhere. I have taken the time to read the article on Aristotle’s unmoved mover and since I haven’t read his books, I want to assume that the authors of the wiki article are honest when they write at the end

            whether we have to suppose one such [mover] or more than one, and if the latter, how many

            and his conclusion

            The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be

            and elsewhere that he argues

            that motion and change in the universe can have no beginning, because the occurrence of change presupposes a previous process of change.

            and as such he can’t be your ally in postulating a first cause?
            Do you agree with this?

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          • Debilis says:

            Actually, I’d disagree (as much as I understand why you take the position that you do). The mistake I see in the article (I should have looked it over, as it constantly comes up with Aristotle) is that he’s only arguing that efficient causation has to be eternal. He is a proponent of the unmoved mover with respect to the ultimate explanation of the entire universe.

            In modern terms, he endorses something analogous to the Libnitzian Cosmological Argument, but rejects the Kalam on the grounds that (so he believed) the universe is eternal. That’s just an analogy, of course (a true Aristotelian scholar would have my head for butchering his arguments that badly), but the point is that he’s referring to different types of causation.

            Okay, getting off of Aristotle, I’d still say that Plato and his followers are reason enough to say that the concept arose in the west apart from a desire to defend monotheism.

            And, getting to my main contention, the idea that the argument fails because all causes are physical events involving matter acting on matter would be circular. It presumes metaphysical naturalism, which is the point at issue.

            I personally think the argument is an excellent refutation of metaphysical naturalism–its real weakness, it seems to me, is in its inability to tell us much about what the unmoved mover actually is.

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          • makagutu says:

            I don’t know why you are disagreeing. I don’t think Aristotle is your ally in any sense. For if he says

            all heavenly movement is ultimately due to the activity of 47 or [55] unmoved movers

            how then do you arrive at one unmoved mover while still with Aristotle? I also don’t see how you can say this does not establish monotheism? If in one instance Aristotle argues for a single unmoved mover whom he is willing to call god? For his efficient and final causes, there must be an end to the existence of the stars and basically everything else or else the argument falls.

            I will grant you your contention but ask you for just a few examples of causes that are

            1, not physical events involving matter
            2. that do not refer to change of states of matter from one form to another

            I have to disagree with you that the argument is an excellent refutation of metaphysical naturalism, no it ain’t and it’s greatest weakness is apart from it’s inability to tell us anything about the unmoved mover, it tells us nothing about
            a. how many they are
            b. whether they still act
            c. whether they are intelligent
            and so on. I think for all his brilliance, this was not a good job besides now that I have an interest in looking at the basis of his unmoved mover, I find his astronomy to be seriously wanting in very serious ways that it is difficult to take the argument seriously.

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          • Debilis says:

            Greetings!
            And, otherwise, diving right in:

            As to Aristotle, I have essentially two positions:

            1. His position is similar to mine in the respect that he believed in the existence of an unmoved mover, which is the relevant point in this discussion (I’ll not get into specifics, as I don’t think they are relevant).

            2. It really isn’t important whether or not he is an “ally”. I’m not looking for allies, but merely was pointing out that the first cause argument isn’t simply a result of a desire to defend monotheism. That is both true and, ultimately, irrelevant to the soundness of the argument.

            As for examples of causes that don’t fit the criteria you mention, there are all sorts if we are using Aristotle’s notion of causation. Teleological causes are an entire category that does not fit into that schema.

            But, to the person that simply rejects this view of causation, I would simply point out that insisting that there are no causes other than this is to assume materialism.

            To put it simply, the argument is, itself, a reason to believe in such types of causation. If one wants to refute it based on the claim that non-material causation cannot exist, then one is burdened to show this.

            But, if one’s tact is to insist that the theist show that such a thing can, in fact, exist, then I will simply point to the argument itself–which has only been countered by denying the conclusion.

            Even more plainly, “But we haven’t seen that such causes can exist” will always be answered with “We just did; that was my argument” unless the materialist can show, independently of requests for examples, that there is a reason why we should reject the argument.

            Moving on, any inability to know whether there is one non-physical unmoved mover or many does not defend materialism (as it depends on the idea that there is zero). Likewise regarding the intelligence of the mover.

            Whether such a thing/class of things is still active is more pertinent, but 1) still refutes metaphysical naturalism, and 2) is answered by many particular first cause arguments (such as those presented by Aquinas). In fact, the Kalam is the only first cause argument I know that would be affected by this point, and even it is not without response.

            I quickly grant that, given metaphysical naturalism, theism is false and the cosmological argument must, somehow, fail. But this is circular. To properly refute it, we need a counter that does not rely on assuming the materialist’s account of causation.

            Okay, I may be lapsing into repeating myself, and should definitely stop there.

            Best to you.

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          • makagutu says:

            We will essentially be going in circles so I will make this my last comment at this point. We can revisit it another time after I have spent more time with Aristotle.

            You mention teleological arguments to not fit into the schema of physical causes but to get anywhere with that argument, one necessarily show that there are ends to which the universe exist. If this can’t be shown, then the argument is just an assertion without a basis. It hangs in the air without any support!

            No, no, an argument, however sound can’t be a reason to believe something is true unless it is abetted by reality. And you can’t shift the burden of proof here. If a person makes an argument, it is upon them to demonstrate the validity of the same and not the critic. All I must need show is that the argument is fallacious or in need of proof. To say I show proof is similar to the famous story of Carl Sagan of dragon in the garage. I know you must know it.

            Whereas you are right that inability to show how many the unmoved movers are does not argue for materialism, it only makes theism harder, especially for the theist who wants to claim the unmoved mover is a personal deity of some sort.

            Unfortunately I don’t think Aquinas arguments help the first cause arguments. They were based on a misunderstanding of Aristotle’s physics and have been shown to be fallacious.

            The only way of refuting both metaphysical and methodological naturalism are false would require demonstrating the truth of theism, I am not aware of any theist who has done this.

            Be well

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          • Debilis says:

            Okay, here we go:

            I agree that one must first accept teleology in order to accept an argument based on it. This is why I moved to arguing from a non-teleological perspective (please note that I immediately left the subject of teleology).

            But, yes, yes. An argument is a reason to believe in something if it is sound. I agree that it must line up with reality, but that is exactly what it means to say that an argument is sound: it lines up with reality.

            All of scientific investigation, and every other form of inquiry is based on arguments. This is how we reach conclusions (if we are rational). To dismiss accepting the conclusion of arguments qua arguments is to dismiss rationality itself.

            That being the case, the argument has been presented. The rebuttal was shown to be based on a particular understanding of causation (which the theist rejects). Now, one can either give an argument in favor of that understanding, or accept that argument.

            This is why the “dragon in the garage” example doesn’t work. It assumes that the atheist isn’t claiming anything in this context, but you are, very specifically, claiming that a particular understanding of causation is true.

            Specifically, the response to the first cause argument presented here stands or falls with that understanding of causation. It has to be true–or this answer to the argument is no good at all.

            “That is a positive claim”, as many atheists like to say, “and the onus is on you to prove it”. (Actually, I wouldn’t use the word “prove”, but that is the meme, after all.)

            But I fully agree that there is more work to be done to get to a particular version of theism–or even theism itself. My only contention here is to wonder who ever suggested the contrary. Speaking for myself, I pointed this out in my first response.

            So, yes, it “makes theism harder”, but it is a different conversation. In this one, we’re discussing whether or not there is such a thing as an unmoved mover. If it turns out that this argument is sound (which, by definition, means that it lines up with reality) then we can have the conversation as to what sort of thing it might be.

            It may well be that such a thing isn’t a god. We’ll find out when we get to that discussion.

            But what many atheists want to say is that, since we don’t know what sort of thing it is, metaphysical naturalism must be true. And that is simply a wild non-sequitur.

            I’ll not get into Aquinas, however. I’m not an expert on him, and this has branched out far enough, I think.

            But I see no reason whatsoever why refuting metaphysical naturalism would require demonstrating the truth of theism. There are forms of platonism which are neither materialistic nor theistic. This alone seems to show that we needn’t do this.

            Really, this seems to be an argument from ignorance. A sort of “you can’t prove theism, therefore materialism is true”. This is clearly invalid reasoning.

            But, in one sense, I agree that I can’t refute the position here. That is, no argument has been given for it. And a rebuttal assumes that there is something to rebut.

            The underlying point here is that this is not a debate between theism and “a lack of belief” (or whatever the popular slogan is just now), It is a debate between two positive claims about how reality is structured (i.e. causation). Neither side can simply sit back and say, offer me proof, and, until you do, my view of causation is the correct one.

            Last, I do wish you well. I appreciate that you aren’t disengaging and resorting to ridicule as others are below.

            Really, as a human being, I know how tempting it is, and I commend those who refuse to do so.

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          • makagutu says:

            Now you have lost me totally. I had asked you to list a few non physical causes, you mentioned teleology to which I responded that for this claim, a demonstration is required. Now you say you have moved from this line of argument so what other example do we have to deal with?

            I see where I made a mistake. When I talked of a sound argument, my meaning was a logically consistent argument. An argument can be logically coherent but its premises are not true and as such would only be proof that the person who has formulated it has followed the rules of logic.

            Scientific investigations are not based on arguments. You investigate and use words to explain your findings. In the case of the class of arguments we are dealing with here, they require demonstration and to just formulate an argument and not do so is to be lazy and is a willing away of the problem.

            Agreeing with you for a moment that the argument here is based on a given understanding of causation, I did ask you to list other different understandings and you have ditched one of them. Which one else are you left with? You say the onus is on me to prove my claim. My claim is that

            every change has its cause in another change which immediately precedes it.

            This is something we know both intuitively and from experience, I don’t know if you will refuse it. The only objection I know to this is Hume who says the farthest we can go is to infer correlation but not causality.

            The contention here is if there as unmoved mover and I contend there isn’t. Just the same way I contend there is no first cause because that so called first cause will be in need of explanation.

            I see no need why you need to generalize what most atheists would say especially since I haven’t said it. What I don’t know, I say I don’t know and leave it there. I can’t make a conclusion one way or the other. But since I don’t think there is a first cause/ unmoved mover who the theist wants to call god, I can safely assert metaphysical naturalism is true.

            I don’t know where I have argued from ignorance. But tell me, we have two things on the table; theism[whatever form] and naturalism unless there is a third or more options so that am not putting you in a box of either or. If you are arguing for the truth of theism and can’t prove it’s validity how do you then expect me or any rational person to accept theism as true without demonstration? I don’t think you mean I take theism to be true without demonstrating its truth.

            Am lost again when you say

            in one sense, I agree that I can’t refute the position here. That is, no argument has been given for it. And a rebuttal assumes that there is something to rebut.

            since am not sure if you are referring to the OP or a particular comment thread. If the OP, the question was stated that an unmoved mover is required for our understanding of causal relationships and I have written that an unmoved mover or first cause is a logical impossibility and explained briefly why this is so. So be a little bit more specific.

            I agree with you that the debate here is about causation, the question of gods is for another day. And I have been more than generous in our exchanges. I have given you opportunities to list other causes that are non physical or rather that do not involve changes in physical states. You referred me to Aristotle’s four causes and his unmoved mover. I have explained that I find then insufficient. What else am I to do?

            Last, I do wish you well. I appreciate that you aren’t disengaging and resorting to ridicule as others are below

            You may have to thank my many classmates, we were in a large class at some point and you the teacher tried to at least get every student to understand. You learn to be patient in such a class 😛

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          • Debilis says:

            I mentioned teleology because you asked, but I don’t see this as pertinent to the subject. My point was that we shouldn’t need any examples to show that there are other types of causes than the one you name; the argument itself does that.

            Regarding the issue of the soundness of an argument, that makes much more sense. Yes, an argument is only as good as its premises.

            That being the case, which premises of the cosmological arguments (en masse?) do you reject?

            But scientific theories are, indeed, based in arguments. They are checked to see if their logic and math is consistent, and if they fit the data (their premises are true). They are a form of rational argument.

            Granted, there are other activities to be done in science, but this is definitely a necessary part.

            But I haven’t “ditched” another understanding of causation. I still favor the aristotelian system. But I thought it was silly to argue from that perspective, as you do not accept that view (and have not read on it). It seemed rather unfair and silly to take that approach.

            Instead, I thought it was best to stick to the point that the argument is, itself, a reason to reject the vision of causation required by this refutation. After all, even if we could show that Aristotle’s view is wrong, the argument wouldn’t suffer in the slightest.

            As such, I thought it was a moot point.

            You claim this:
            “Every change has its cause in another change which immediately precedes it”

            But I do reject this. Personally, I don’t see that this is something that we all know “both intuitively and from experience”. To start, this isn’t a point of cross-cultural agreement.

            More than that, it definitely isn’t more intuitive than the idea that contingent things have explanations in the first place.

            Essentially, this seems to be the argument that 1) all explanation fits mold x, 2) mold x can’t explain the case of the universe, therefore 3) the universe has no explanation.

            I think it is clear that the problem is with 1).

            But apologies if it seemed like I was generalizing about atheists. I really only meant many–as in, it is something that I run into often. I didn’t mean to imply that this was your personal position.

            We do indeed have two things on the table. In this discussion, I would say those two things are 1) unmoved mover and 2) a rejection of this based on metaphysical naturalism.

            I don’t see why other positions (your specific application of naturalism to ethics, my interpretation of the bible, thoughts on determinism, etc) should be terribly relevant.

            This is because the argument we’re discussing is one of the steps in establishing theism. We can’t reject it as false on the grounds of later steps, we have to get to those in turn.

            I’m also aware that you keep asking for examples of other forms of causation, but the reason I’ve been slow to provide them (though I did) is, again, because this is not the point of the argument. The cosmological argument, in general, does not hang on any particular form of causation.

            Rather, the only thing here that does so hang is the refutation listed in the original post. It is that which must be defended, not any other view.

            So, as to what else you can do–we need an argument that all causation (and, indeed, explanation) fits the format that you’ve endorsed. This shouldn’t require my providing any example of anything.

            And, finally, thank you for the kind words. Everything else aside. I very much appreciate your approach.

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          • “So, as to what else you can do–we need an argument that all causation (and, indeed, explanation) fits the format that you’ve endorsed.”

            And so, Mak, through his verbal “Rope-a-Dope,” he again flips the burden of proof back to you. I can just see this guy operating a 3-card Monte table on a street corner somewhere in NYC. If he weren’t so transparent, he’d be good.

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          • makagutu says:

            He disagrees with my formulation of causation then says am the one to give an explanation of these other causation which he is the one who knows! You can’t argue with that, can you?

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          • Debilis says:

            Is that, somehow, worse than the “Rope-a-Dope” of not answering my challenges while holding side conversations about how terrible a person I am?

            If this is “transparent”, then explain why all causation fits that model. If you can’t explain it, then my challenge has not been answered.

            That’s not “Rope-a-Dope”; that’s about as straight-forward as it gets.

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          • “If this is ‘transparent’, then explain why all causation fits that model.”

            I think we’re still waiting for you to trot out the evidence that it does.

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          • Debilis says:

            I was the one challenging the idea that it does. Why on Earth would you ask me for evidence of the thing I’m challenging?

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          • Debilis says:

            “It makes no difference what Aristotle may, or may not have said”

            Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been arguing from the beginning. I challenged Hume’s idea of causation, and never wanted to talk about Aristotle.

            Yet, all of my reasons for making that challenge keep being ignored for the sake of “prove that Aristotle was right” and side conversations about how arrogant I am.

            This is just a massive distraction from what I’ve actually said. I have no idea why people are still pretending that my point was about Aristotle. It wasn’t.

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          • “…side conversations about how arrogant I am.”

            Well, you surely can’t think THOSE were unjustified!

            I could have sworn you said you were leaving —

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          • Debilis says:

            I don’t remember saying I was leaving.
            Nor do I think it’s important, but feel free to show me the quotation if you want to press that point.

            As to “unjustified”, again, that’s not important. The issue is over whether or not Hume’s concept of causation is complete. Yet all anyone seems to want to debate is Aristotle and whether or not I’m personally arrogant.

            This doesn’t seem to be an attempt to get at the truth–but simply to win arguments.

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          • makagutu says:

            I said about Hume that he wrote we can’t for all intents and purposes infer causation from the existence of things but correlation. The debate here is on causation as defined by Schopenhauer. You have said it is incomplete. I say it isn’t. You need to tell us why it is incomplete. It is really that simple

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          • Debilis says:

            Let me simplify this:

            Position Mak: “Schopenhauer was correct”
            Position Debilis: “Schopenhauer’s view is incomplete”

            Conclusion: Debilis needs to prove his view; the burden is on him. There is nothing at all that anyone who claims boldly that Schopenhauer was correct has any burden at all to show that he was right.

            This seems wrong, and the first cause argument is, itself, a reason to reject it (unless one has a reason to reject it that doesn’t rely on assuming that Schopenhauer was right).

            That being the case, what is your reason for agreeing with Schopenhauer?

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          • makagutu says:

            Debilis, I think we are talking in cross purposes. In the OP I have said the law of causality as formulated above deals only with change in states of matter. And that we have no reason for inferring from a given change the non existence of something. You have insisted that the formulation is incomplete. I have asked you in what way it is incomplete. Is there a way change in states of matter can be represented in a different way?

            There is nowhere in the formulation that deals with first causes. That is why in the OP I said and I shall repeat that whoever is making the cosmological argument starts off with the law of causality and then discards it to come to their conclusion. I don’t know in what way I can say this more clearly than I have stated in the exchange we have had.

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            My point was that–so long as it is incomplete–we can’t base conclusions about the first cause argument on that formulation.

            That is, if we assume that causation is always about states of matter, it is no wonder that we’ll reject any argument that leads to a non-material conclusion.

            This doesn’t require that we have a specific theory about exactly how the theory is incomplete, but only that we not start from that assumption.

            This is true whether or not the that formulation deals with first causes by name. It is a materialistic approach to causation–and it is not news to say that materialistic approaches will lead us to reject theism.

            Nor does the cosmological argument require discarding the “law of causality”. It merely requires that one doesn’t impose the specific limits on causality insisted on by this material view.

            Like

          • And once again, he tries to flip the burden of proof, pathetic.

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          • Debilis says:

            Again, I think the time you spent writing this piece of mockery would have been better spent writing an actual argument.

            Perhaps you could explain why my reasons for saying that both sides need to defend their assumptions is false? That would be much more helpful than simply calling it pathetic–as if that ended the debate.

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          • Is that what you believe you’re doing, “debating“?

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          • Debilis says:

            Whatever I believe I’m doing is beside the point, isn’t it?

            But I suspect that you’d deny it if I asked you if this was the claim that I wasn’t–and requested evidence. At least, it seems to be a pattern here that I can’t get you to defend any position.

            Which raises the question–why to you take the position that you do, if you can’t defend it?

            I don’t expect that you should tell me, but I do suggest that you ask yourself if you think that writing that insult answers my points–or makes you feel more confident that Mak’s critique of the first cause argument is correct.

            I’ve seen the same thing in many religious people–mocking atheists because they don’t have an answer to their argument. It is a good thing to avoid.

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          • makagutu says:

            I think you complain too much. You are picking a battle where there is none. He has made an observation. It is only right that you show that this isn’t what you are doing.

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            I’ve definitely complained no more than Arch, who seems unwilling to do anything else.

            But the point here isn’t about me. It’s about whether or not Schopenhauer’s theory of causation is complete. And, very often, people mock to distract themselves from the fact that they don’t actually have an answer to the challenge being presented.

            Beyond that, Arch is the one making (wild, unsupported) claims about my motivations. If he wants people to believe him, he needs to show us that they are true.

            And that is the last point. It seems that, at bottom, many atheists don’t know anything more about debate than to demand proof–even when they are the ones making the claims.

            I point out that Schopenhauer’s view of causation hasn’t been supported (and offered reasons why it is incomplete), and the response has been “prove Aristotle was right” and “prove you aren’t dishonest and arrogant”.

            It seems we’ve completely abandoned any attempt to defend your case against the first cause argument, but that’s what I came here to discuss, and what you specifically invited theists to discuss–not angry conjectures about my personal motivations.

            Given that, I think “let’s get back on topic” is a reasonable suggestion to make toward Arch.

            Like

          • “…very often, people mock to distract themselves from the fact that they don’t actually have an answer to the challenge being presented.”

            There are also occasions when mocking is the gentlest way of saying, I choose not to allow myself to be sucked into your little shell game which you have taken great pains to construct and present.

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          • Debilis says:

            No there aren’t. You could have just left if you didn’t want to engage.

            Instead, you started side conversations about the fact that I’m a terrible person. And you haven’t remotely given us anything like a reason that I’m playing a “shell game”.

            In fact, let’s recap the conversation:

            Mak: The first cause fails because Schopenhauer’s view of causation is correct.

            Debilis: How do you know that his view is correct?

            Mak: Prove that Aristotle is right.

            Arch: You’re a bad person

            Debilis: Here’s a couple of reasons why Schopenhauer was wrong. Now, how do you know he’s right?

            Mak: Don’t duck proving that Aristotle was right.

            Arch: I don’t have to present reasons because you’re a bad person. Instead, I’ll mock you.

            Debilis: So, we aren’t going to discuss the topic, then?

            I think that brings us up to date. But now it looks like you’re saying that you know you’ll lose the debate with me, but you know your right–so you mock me.

            How is that any better than the kinds of things fundamentalist preachers say?

            There isn’t the slightest reason to think I’m presenting a shell game, and it wasn’t hard to “set up”. It’s just straight-forward logic.

            But, really, if this is how you react to theists who ask questions you can’t answer, is it any wonder that you have such confidence that you’re right?

            This seems exactly like fundamentalism.

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          • “…you haven’t remotely given us anything like a reason that I’m playing a ‘shell game'”

            Not sure, to you, who your “us” is, but those whom I was addressing, know exactly what I mean.

            Have you noticed how much of your time and energy you’ve poured into attempting to provoke a confrontation? Little wonder you’re so angry and frustrated!

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          • Debilis says:

            Well, it looks like no one is able to answer my challenges.

            To that end, I’m not upset. I feel rather good that I’ve asked some very straight-forward questions that apparently no one can answer. It seems that my defense of the argument has held.

            As to your defense via camaraderie, this is exactly what goes on in a fundamentalist church:
            “I don’t need to answer your challenges, because everyone I chose to spend time with, and that agrees with me, understands and knows I’m right”.

            Really, how do you think the Westboro Baptists became so convinced of such insane things. They didn’t start off crazy, each one of them kept telling his/her self that challengers must be wrong because those that agree ‘know I’m right’.

            So, while I’m selfishly happy to have so thoroughly won a debate that people won’t even try (this really was an easy win), it bothers me to see this kind of fundamentalism.

            “The other atheists here understand me” may be true, but it’s not a thing to hide behind. If your reasons aren’t defensible to outsiders, then hanging onto them is simply fundamentalism.

            But if you call trying to break up that fundamentalism “provoking a confrontation”, well, maybe a little confrontation is necessary. I tried to start the polite way, but got insults all the same.

            So, is there any way a theist could point out a flaw in your reasoning without your resorting to mockery? If not, your way of deciding things is uncannily like a fundamentalist preacher’s.

            Like

          • (HUGE yawn –!)
            Do you find that you actually interest anyone, anywhere? I find that difficult to envision.

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          • Debilis says:

            So, more fundamentalism, then?

            We seem to have gone from “I’m right because your a bad person” to “I’m right because I find the reasons why I’m wrong boring”.

            All I’ve done is ask why Schopenhauer was correct–and that seems to have crippled the entire case here. We’ve now been reduced to “but asking why is so boring”.

            I’ll let you know when someone makes a catchy music video that explains why he’s wrong. Until then, it’s still fundamentalism to dismiss the reasons why you’re wrong, rather than actually address them.

            It’s just one more way to not think.

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          • makagutu says:

            You amuse me.

            You seem to have told yourself several times over that you haven’t been answered and that you are correct. It seems to me you simply have ignored the conversation we have had to create a caricature of what you think the conversation was.

            I will not bother anymore to respond to your claims because it seems it will not matter in the end.

            Aristotle came up in this discussion because you brought it up. Besides Aristotle you have not given any other view of causation that would contradict the one I offered. So to claim you have not been answered is a wild claim and if it makes you feel good so be it. But I think am rather tired of this now.

            You keep saying Arch is making a mockery of you. You know, I have been taught and by good teachers at that if someone calls you a cow, there are two possibilities- either you behaved like a cow or the person calling you such doesn’t know a cow- in this case ask yourself if you have not being making wild claims and refusing to defend them instead you keep saying you are the one making the challenge! Are you expecting me to even defend your claims of their being other views of causation which you haven’t mentioned. I have written in this thread that the greatest challenge to the view of causation above was presented by Hume when he argued that we can only talk about correlation.

            The rest are games am not interested in playing.

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          • Debilis says:

            You’re always free to leave the conversation; I don’t demand a reply. But, as you’ve given me the last word:

            I never raised Aristotle as an answer. You asked which view I would take, and told me you’d use it as well (for the discussion). I never remotely suggested that I’d be defending Aristotle as the answer to your challenge.

            Rather, I said that we need to show that your view is incomplete, which has still not been done. That is what wasn’t answered–and I’ve still been given no reason to think that Schopenhauer was right.

            That being the case, the objection you gave based on his view wasn’t defended.

            Hence, my challenge was not answered. It really was that simple.

            I don’t seem to remember saying that anyone was “making a mockery” of me. Rather, I said Arch was trying to substitute mockery for an actual argument.

            But what wild claims have I made? I never claimed that Aristotle was right (re-read our first interchanges). I did claim that your definition of causation was incomplete, but I defended that–and no one seems to be able to answer that challenge.

            And, yes, I say that I’m the one making the challenge (because that is true). I reject your view of causation as scientistic, and would like to see some support for it.

            And there are other views of causation. That’s just a fact. Whether or not you think they’re correct, however, isn’t what we’re discussing.

            However, I agree with you about Hume. He’s pointed out that the view of causation you espouse leads us to the conclusion that there is no reason whatsoever that science works.

            Isn’t that, in itself, a reason to think that it is an incomplete view?

            Really, you need to re-read our opening statements to remind yourself how Aristotle actually arose in the conversation. All I’ve ever done is challenge the idea that Schopenhauer’s view is correct.

            And that isn’t a game. It is a straight-forward and serious challenge based on very simple logic.

            Really, I seem to be getting far too much credit for creativity here. My position isn’t any more than “how do you know that Schopenhauer was right?”.

            But that, by itself, was enough to collapse the argument in the original post.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            You know from your very first comment on this thread, all you have said is that Schopenhauer’s view of causation is incomplete. I granted you that and asked you to give a complete definition which I think was a fair request. Your answer was that you prefer the Aristotelian system or definition of causation. We looked at it and you said aspects of it need defending and you haven’t done that.

            I have said that the law of causality involves changes in states of matter. I have asked you if you another view and all you do is keep saying you are not obliged to give any, that saying my view is incomplete is enough. That my friend isn’t sufficient.

            You have written an entire post accusing among others those who have responded here of scientism, materialism, lack of doubt, meanness and so on whereas it is you who has not even for a moment considered what your position on this topic is.

            I have said the cosmological argument starts by making reference to the law of causality and ditches it to make it’s conclusion and you deny this. So tell me where I don’t get it and saying here that you don’t have to give an explanation just will not pass.

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          • Debilis says:

            This is much more on-topic. Thank you.

            As to the issue of Aristotle, I only mentioned him because you specifically said that, it being Christmas time, you were willing to accept my view of causation for the purposes of the argument.

            This quickly turned into demands that I show that my view was correct. If I’d known that was what was going to happen, I never would have mentioned it.

            Rather, it is enough to say that Schopenhauer’s view being incomplete is enough. This is for the very simple reason that your objection is based on the idea that there is no other kind of causation than Schopenhauer’s.

            So, let me be more specific (this is why I mentioned scientism): simply assuming, from the beginning, that all causation involves changes in matter within time is to throw out theism from the get-go.

            Of course this view contradicts arguments for God, because it is a statement of scientism (science covers the whole of reality). The only real question is whether it is theism or scientism that we should reject.

            This is the mistake I’ve been trying to call attention toward. The first cause argument doesn’t “ditch causation”, it simply doesn’t assume that all causation fits the scientistic mold presented in the original approach.

            But, to end on the more personal observations–I’ve make no accusations of mean-spiritedness at you. I make accusations of mockery at Arch, but he himself agrees that he’s been mocking me.

            I do hope that makes more sense. I’ve always appreciated your approach, which is very different (it is the reason why I came to your blog, rather than his, actually).

            So, if that didn’t communicate, I really do apologize. I did not mean imply more than that.

            Like

          • “feel free to show me the quotation if you want to press that point.”

            I’ve yet to note anything about you, that leads me to believe you’re worth that much effort.

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          • Debilis says:

            This is simply more mockery in place of a rational argument.

            You needn’t ever respond to me, of course, but I do think you should think about the fact that you’ve spent far more time insulting me than in addressing my challenges.

            It is very difficult not to take this as a sign that you don’t actually have an answer to them. I really am trying to be open-minded about that, but this behavior isn’t helping.

            Like

          • Despite being labeled “unhelpful,” neither I, nor I suspect anyone else on this site, has any intention of playing the game you’ve invented. Keep frothing at the mouth, I’m rather enjoying the spectacle you’re making of yourself.

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            This is simply more mockery.

            Despite being labeled “a spectacle” (or any of the other things I’ve been labeled, I’ll continue to point out that you haven’t actually made a logical point.

            The great thinkers of history would be shocked to learn that logic is a “game”, and mocking people without using logic is the road to truth.

            Really, whichever view is right, you’ve spent a lot of time on me. What I want you do to is spend some time on the arguments. That’s just the reasonable thing to do.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            You said you the definition of causation I was working with is wrong and said you use Aristotle’s definition. The four causes are material, efficient, formal and final. Material and formal causes are physical. Final/ efficient deal with teleology. I have contended that if you must go with Aristotle’s definition you need to demonstrate purpose. Don’t count on the fact that I said I haven’t read Aristotle’s work. For the purpose of this post, knowing his argument on causes is sufficient and I think if we must continue this debate, you have to show where am wrong. If you are asserting here that you don’t need to demonstrate these other causes, then you are defining them into existence and arguing from there on that they exist. Things don’t work like that.

            I will for our purposes list two formulations of the cosmological argument.

            Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
            A causal loop cannot exist.
            A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
            Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

            I reject premises 2, 3 and the conclusion. #2 and #3 must be demonstrated, saying so alone does not lead us anywhere. It is like having a foundation in the air and hoping the house will be stable.

            Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
            The Universe began to exist.
            Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

            #2 needs to demonstration. And don’t mention the big bang. I have read quite about it and the furthest they go is Planck seconds after the beginning of inflation.

            Yours is to present your case. Whenever am in doubt, I will ask or enquire to refuse to engage because I haven’t read Aristotle’s four causes is not a reason to not put your best foot forward.

            You say you reject the formulation of causality I gave. In my last comment, I wrote the objection by Hume which I think covers your point. But to say it isn’t cross-cultural is to tell a lie. Are you implying that in your culture you have a different conception of causality or that things pop up out of the blues? When you say something is contingent what do you mean?

            I see you are at it again, saying the onus is on me. I have done so consistently. You rejected my explanation of causality and said you will use the Aristotelian system. I have looked at it and expressed my thoughts about it. To say providing other examples of causation is irrelevant to the argument while arguing that there are others is to be simply ridiculous and you must know this! I can’t claim in a debate that there are other ways of doing something and when asked to list this ways I turn around and say it is not my work to provide these other ways they are irrelevant to the argument. That my friend is dishonest. So if you are going to insist I am wrong, you must show list these other causes and at least demonstrate why you think they are valid. Just saying so isn’t acceptable. And if they are the four causes of Aristotle, your work is set out for you; demonstrate their is purpose for me to accept the final/efficient causes.

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            I completely agree that, if I must go with Aristotle’s view of causation, then I should defend it. My contention is that I don’t need to for purposes of this discussion.

            All I’ve contended is that the model you offered is incomplete. That doesn’t require Aristotle’s model to be right, it merely requires yours to be incomplete.

            This is why it is your model we need to be discussing, not Aristotle’s; at bottom, it has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t read.

            Second, I’m not defining anything into existence. I was the challenger in this debate. I’ve shown that your critique of the first cause argument was based on a view of causation, and asked you to defend it. Perhaps you can, but this has not yet happened.

            Regarding your treatment of the first cause arguments you list, these are completely new objections. To respond:

            I’m not sure why you accept the idea that a causal loop can exist. It is rather like circular reasoning, and definitely contradicts the idea that causes precede effects in time (which was part of your earlier objection).

            As to the the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes, I find the arguments for that to be persuasive. It is impossible to transgress an infinite number of steps sequentially. Moreover, it does seem to be agreed that the universe is finite in duration. So, again, if you still believe that causes precede effects, then there simply hasn’t been enough time for an infinite number of them.

            Regarding the Kalam. I completely agree that premise two needs to be shown, but I am going to mention the Big Bang (but not only that). The mathematical description only goes back to the plank time, but this is not the same as saying that it offers no reason to think that the universe began to exist. Even Krauss says this is the most reasonable conclusion.

            I hope I’ve already answered the issue of Aristotle (that it’s not a matter of what you’ve read–it’s that it is a red herring). As to the issue of Hume: no, it is not cross-cultural.

            I am saying that I have a different conception of causality (and not just me). Hume’s formulation of causation led him to conclude that there is no reason why science works. Clearly, it is (at best) an incomplete view.

            Apologies in advance, but I am going to continue saying that you do need to support your concept of causation (or stop asserting conclusions based on it). I don’t see where you have supported it other than to say that Hume would agree with you and to ask me to offer counter examples.

            I really am open to the idea that I missed your actual support. Please make it more clear if you did.

            But, yes, it would be relevant if I were to offer absolute proof that there were some other kind of causation. But I’m aware that is a very long argument, and I think a much more direct one is simply to point out that I’ve not yet seen any reason to accept the limits you’ve placed on causation.

            But I did offer you a reason. I pointed out that the first cause argument is, itself, such a demonstration unless one assumes from the outset that causation always follows the pattern you gave.

            In fact, I thought I dwelt on this, but I can’t find any response to it here.

            That being the case, I feel that I’ve offered you reasons, and honestly have no idea what reasons have been given in defense of your view of causation. Please let me know.

            Okay, last thing. Things are definitely getting more tense, and I do want to close by saying that I’m here because I find you both intelligent and patient. I’m genuinely trying not to frustrate, but I’m aware that this is happening.

            So, I do wish you well, and apologize for any angst I’ve caused.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            This I think will be my last response.
            Let me give you an example; you are taking a walk someplace, you know the way there, a guy meets with you and tells you that your road is incomplete and that there are other ways. You agree and ask to be told these other ways, the fellow tells you I don’t have to since it is irrelevant to where you are going. This describes what you have been doing. You said my definition of causation was incomplete, I granted you that wish and asked you to tell me a complete description, you said the Aristotelian system. I checked it out, I said it require defending. To say my conception is incomplete and fail to ;
            1. give a complete description
            2. justify why you think mine is incomplete
            is in my view very dishonest. It is not enough to say a given view is incomplete without stating in what way or giving an alternative view.

            You did ask me my objections to the cosmological arguments en mass in your previous comment. I did that, to say the objections are new again would only mean you forgot your question.

            How would a causal loop be circular reasoning? In fact why would it not exist? By rejecting a causal loop, you need to show cause why, not me. My contention is that there is a first cause and not causes preceding effects in time, that I didn’t raise at any point in the discussion. Again why you say it is impossible to have infinite regress is not defended. The objections I have heard come from WLC and I don’t buy them. If there has been infinite time, how can you say there hasn’t been enough time for enough causes/ effects?

            Maybe we read different science books or articles, but when I said please don’t mention the BB, I knew you’d bring it up as explaining the beginning of the universe. It doesn’t. It tells us what happens Planck time after inflation began. The question as to how inflation occur, according to a science article that I frequent

            How did inflation occur? One of the mind-numbing things about inflation — both its great power and its great mystery — is the fact that inflation wipes out any information that existed about the Universe before inflation. That’s right, except for the last 10-20-to-10-36 seconds of inflation (depending on the exact model parameters you choose), we have zero information in our Universe today about what happened prior to that.

            and that

            If we want to talk about what happened earlier, such as in earlier stages of inflation, hypothetically what (if anything) came before inflation, or what (if anything) caused inflation to start, we have to rely on theory alone at this point.

            So I think it is clearer now that the BB is not as is understood by many people.

            You amaze me. In the OP, I said the law of causality only deals with changes in states of matter. It doesn’t give grounds to imagine things not existing. Now why, in the name of all that is reasonable, am I to defend my post when my contention is so clear. You have raised an objection that this view of causation is incomplete. The onus is on you to show cause why this is so and to tell me what else the law of causation includes or must include to be complete and this is something you can’t run away from.

            You keep saying I haven’t responded to your challenge. To say the premises of an argument is true and it’s conclusion follows and then move from there to say that it is confirmed by reality is to define things into existence. It is not any different from using the ontological arguments.

            As I have said at the beginning, I intend this to be my last response. We can carry it on further on in future.

            Thanks for your time

            Like

          • Even if your time were not valuable, Mak – and I contend that it is – you have wasted FAR too much of it on one whose only actual goal is to inflate his own ego.

            It makes no difference what Aristotle may, or may not have said – he lived 2300+ years ago, and had no inkling as to what may or may not have initiated the universe – he was speculating, with far less information with which to do so, than we possess today, but clearly, in his time – as evidenced by all of the “god of the gaps” theories that have evolved since – was required by his audience to have an answer other than the one with which science is content today: “I don’t know, but hopefully, one day, we will.”

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I don’t know is halfway to knowing. The person who says that appears to be one willing to find out

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            Well, it has definitely been a good conversation, in spite of the bumps. I do hope that others will follow your example in giving thoughtful responses. It is definitely appreciated.

            Here’s my response:

            Let me tell you a story in response to yours.
            Let’s say that we are traveling to London, and you insist that no one can ever get there because the road we are on doesn’t lead to it. I suggest that there might be other roads, and the response is “I can’t see any others, point to them”.

            While that would be great, it is the claim that this one road is the only possible way we could get to London that needs to be defended.

            Jumping back to the actual discussion, the cosmological argument doesn’t depend on the idea of aristotelian causation being true, but the objection given does depend on humean causation being true. That is the type that needs to be examined.

            But I completely agree that I should defend the idea that your view of causation is incomplete. I pointed to the fact that human causation contradicts the success of science, and pointed out that the cosmological argument is, itself, a reason to dismiss it.

            I did, however, present reasons for my other arguments that you seem to have missed. I pointed out that a causal loop contradicts your own definition of causation–as does an infinite regress of causes. If you accept these ideas, you’re agreeing with me that your own view of causation is incomplete.

            These need to be addressed if we are going to accept the humean view, on which your main objection depends.

            Yes, apparently we have been reading difference science books. Obviously, I don’t know where the quotation above is from, but I’ve never encountered any scientist who thinks that Standard Big Bang cosmology says nothing about a beginning. But, as you won’t be responding, I’ll not get into the details.

            I seem to be getting the phrase “the onus is on you” regardless of whether or not I’m the claimant or the challenger, and I can’t say that I ever agree with the notion that “the onus is on” any one side alone.

            You raised an objection based on a particular understanding of causation. I simply don’t see why you shouldn’t uphold your share of the burden of proof to show that this understanding is remotely correct. Your objection stands or falls with it–and I’ve not seen any reason to believe it other than “show me an example of Aristotelian causation”.

            Anyone who already agrees with Hume’s views already rejects God. Anyone who doesn’t accept his views has been given no reason that the cosmological arguments fail.

            It is not for me to do anything to prove this. That is shown by the lack of defense of humean causation.

            Okay, that is quite long enough. Best to you until next time.

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            “He disagrees with my formulation of causation then says am the one to give an explanation of these other causation which he is the one who knows! You can’t argue with that, can you?”

            I don’t recall saying that you need to give an explanation of any other views of causation. You asked, and I told you which form I, personally, lean toward.

            But the first cause argument doesn’t depend on the Aristotelian system being true. So, I have no idea why this is being treated as if it were the entire argument.

            Rather, the only thing that depends on a particular view of causation is the refutation you offered. That is why it is important. It is your view I’d like you to explain–not aristotelianism.

            I feel like I’m repeating this quite a bit. Is there a reason why you seem to be interested in Aristotle to the exclusion of the view you yourself espouse? This seems odd, and I’m having a hard time drawing charitable conclusions from it.

            Like

          • He’s simply trying to do a soft-shoe and flip the burden of proof, Mak – not even worthy of further consideration. To validate his stance, he says, “All of scientific investigation, and every other form of inquiry is based on arguments,” but neglects to mention that these arguments are accompanied by evidence, for which he has none – he offers the argument as evidence, and I can’t see you wasting your time on such absurdities. I find his argument debilistated.

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          • makagutu says:

            Arch he is a strange fellow. It’s like saying the study of resistance in certain bacteria to a certain regimen is based on arguments without accompanying evidence!

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          • “It’s like saying the study of resistance in certain bacteria to a certain regimen is based on arguments without accompanying evidence!”

            BUT – if you disagree with those evidence-less arguments, the burden of proof is on YOU!

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          • makagutu says:

            Strange my friend, stranger than fiction you may say!

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            Okay, if you’re going to comment on me directly, I’ll take it that you are trying to persuade others, even if not me, that you’re right.

            You’re right to say that scientific theories are supported by evidence. The only thing I’ve never seen supported is this constant New Atheist refrain that theism is not supported with evidence.

            If you’d like to demand that I produce that evidence, we can have that conversation, but, if you aren’t going to engage–that is, if you can’t or won’t respond to my arguments–please don’t act as if you’ve demonstrated what my arguments show to be false.

            Whether I’m “a legend in my own mind” or (as I actually see myself) just some guy saying what he thinks, you don’t earn the right to say what I haven’t got until you’ve shown that I haven’t got it.

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          • Debilis says:

            One more thing…

            Though I strongly endorse reading Aristotle, there is no need to read on him with respect to this conversation. I mentioned him only as a tangent with respect to a minor point.

            Really, he has almost nothing to do with my response.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Not exactly, if you check in my response to arch in this thread I mention Hume, Locke and Aristotle. So it is really not on your account but because I engage in a lot of metaphysical debates and someone is going to through any one name and a basic understanding of at least some of what these men wrote is a good way to start

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            I completely agree with this. He’s definitely worth a read.

            Like

          • Aristotle does state that gods neither come into being, nor depart from being. It would appear, however, that he left gods out of creation, as he states in his Parts of Animals, “Nature makes everything for the sake of something.”

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            For next year, I will have to make friends with Hume, Aristotle, Plato and Locke.
            Does he give a reason for excluding gods from the causal nexus?

            Like

          • May I suggest you also look into Celsus?

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Added to the list

            Like

  5. M. Rodriguez says:

    agreed, the arguement out of cauality is incompetle and fallacious. and then when you add semantic analogies that make no sense like. “The beginning and end.” —“The unmoved mover.” “the merciful judge”, it just further strengths the arguement for the impossiblity of a illogical god.

    Like

  6. Arkenaten says:

    There is no integrity in such arguments as presented by the likes of Debilis, for he is not arguing for a creator but his Creator, so once he is satisfied himself with a philosophical orgasm he is then faced with the ridiculous task of demonstrating how the man(Jesus) became the god became the creator became his Creator.

    Like

    • I sensed as much, which is why I chose not to engage him – if he’s going to have an orgasm, I’d prefer he do it without my assistance. The man is truly a legend in his own mind.

      Like

      • makagutu says:

        It was a wise decision you made, but then again you have always been wise!

        Like

        • Debilis says:

          Last one until a response, I promise.

          I hope it is not too blunt to say that I find this disappointing.

          I’m not nearly so elated by the fact that no one here can answer my challenges as I am dismayed that refusing to answer them, and to choose instead to insult me personally is being called wise. I think I’m right to be offended at this.

          Really, it seems to be confusing mockery with rational argumentation. And it reminds me of nothing so much as the close-minded church groups that mock atheists instead of answering their challenges.

          I really don’t think it becomes you whom, in my opinion, have much more to offer than such people.

          Like

          • I sense you’re upset because Mak chooses not to join you in a game of poker, in which you marked the cards and stacked the deck – imagine that.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Am shocked he says no one responds to his challenges! What have I been doing? He references Aristotle, I check it out, tell him why I think Aristotle is telling us nothing and he says his questions are not being answered? That’s not how to play!

            Like

          • Debilis says:

            This continues to be personal.

            Whether or not I’ve “stacked the deck” would be part of what we’re debating, wouldn’t it?

            You can’t simply say that if you aren’t willing to show, rationally and logically, why it is true.

            Obviously, I don’t remotely think its true, and will continue to point out that I’ve been able to answer every challenge here, and (apart from Makagutu) have received only playground-style quips in response.

            And personally, saying that mockery trumps rational argumentation is what I would call a stacked deck.

            Like

      • Debilis says:

        Can I interject quickly to request that we not devolve into personal attacks?

        My arguments are either good, or they are not. After showing that materialism fails, I may or may not be able to show that the most reasonable non-material view is the one I happen to take.

        But to simply avoid actually engaging in order to step off to the side to make personal remarks is to confuse mockery with a rational response. This is a very close-minded approach that does none of us any good.

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    • makagutu says:

      Mark Twain writes in what is man about men who are searching after truth

      ………they sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted argument until they believed without doubt or question they had found the truth. That was the end of the search.[..] if he was seeking after the only true religion he found it one or other of the three thousand that are on the market.

      I think this captures the debate very well though it may apply to any side of the divide depending on who is doing the judging.

      It would be a herculean task to come from unmoved mover[s] to personal god to Jesus. It is a jump that even a seasoned gymnast wouldn’t attempt.

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      • Debilis says:

        I personally agree with this. In fact, it was the complaint of the argument that I endorsed earlier.

        It is an argument against the currently popular metaphysical naturalism–not for any particular religion. I think confusing this is one of the big reasons why people dismiss it. They don’t understand what it is actually trying to prove.

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        • makagutu says:

          The argument unfortunately proves nothing! It makes assertions but offer no support for them. The proponents of the argument starting from Aristotle to all those who have adopted the argument appear to me to ignore the contradictions and flaws of the argument in the hope that if they repeat it oft times it will certainly be true!

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          • Debilis says:

            If this is your claim, you need to engage with my defense of the argument above.

            I’ve given very specific reasons why it proves something, and simply claiming the opposite does not address those reasons. After all (as many atheists are fond of saying), one can claim anything.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I have responded to your comment. Well, one can claim anything and I try not to.

            Like

  7. aguywithoutboxers says:

    Forgive my tardiness, my friend! I was away for the weekend and am only now trying to read all that I missed!

    Like

  8. […] almost want to apologize, but I entered into an online debate this week with a few self-identified atheists. Though they would deny it, I would classify them as […]

    Like

  9. An interesting post and very engaging thread/discussion, indeed!

    What I fail to understand is why atheists and theists (I am a theist, by the way–an Orthodox Christian panentheist, to be more precise) cannot recognize that both approaches–atheism and theism–are predicated upon a priori lines of thought, i.e., presuppositions. The atheist is confronted with evidence in the reality we experience, which is empirical, in combination with logical deductions brought on by mathematics, while the theist relies upon revelation of truth(s) from an entity that is both immanent and transcendent in relation to the universe.

    To be more specific, the atheist claims as his authority, although many atheists would say that there is no such authority in anything, I presume, in the scientific method. Of course, the scientific method has been very successful in explaining many of the phenomena in our universe, from the nucleus/atom to molecules, to cells, to organisms, and beyond to stars and galaxies, and even black holes. Certainly, no one is disputing this, whatsoever. What is to be contested, however, is the sort of default position of a growing number of scientists, although not yet a majority as far as polling is concerned of scientists around the world, including the US, which is a worldview, namely, materialism, as Debellis points to numerous times before in this thread. Materialism certainly does not come from the scientific method–it is introduced/interjected by human beings as an interpretation that seeks to synthesize all that is observed; however, the scientific method itself cannot be used to prove materialism.

    In like fashion, the theist is confronted with the dilemma of using the scientific method to prove the existence of an entity that is both immanent and transcendent. It cannot be done either way. Nevertheless, what I think is, perhaps, it is through our emotional faculties that people go down the path of either theism or atheism, or agnosticism (which may be the most honest of the ‘isms’).

    Accordingly, I do not see why in general, there is this ‘war’ on religion from the New Atheists, or the militant atheists. I think the ‘war’ is to be fought against fundamentalism of any kind and that includes fundamentalism within atheism, which is manifested through the militant atheist movement. Has it not been shown that, the more one presents rational arguments in a political discussion, that the people listening to the discussion who have certain biased views that are quite rigid, will become even more emboldened in their views and consequently discard the rational arguments proposed by the interlocutor?

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Christian thank you for reading and taking to comment.

      I don’t think in this thread the question of materialism is raised, at least not by me or the other atheists who have commented here but I think it is a question that would need a post of its own.

      A friend of mine has written a post about agnosticism that you may find very interesting. I wrote a post a while back on agnosticism that you could also look at that will tell my views on the matter.

      I don’t know how one could be a fundamentalist atheist. There is nothing in disbelief that would lead to that. One could be passionate about it but then why should this be a problem for anyone. The most I do is write about my thoughts on religion. How this can ever become militant is still open to debate. I have no leaflets to offer anyone on any material regarding disbelief. And many times in my interactions with theists, I tell them to read the bible not philosophy or science but to read the bible faithfully and consistently and think about what they have read trying in the process not to have faith filters.

      Where I live, almost everyone is a theist. I am not at war with any of them. I have concern when religion is given a pedestal above all else, that they want to dictate secular laws. There we have a problem and you should too.

      I agree with your last question that that is likely to happen. If you have time, and do a rough survey of the posts here, you will find many times where I have said I could be wrong and would do with a clarification and will change my mind whenever am given an explanation that I find convincing. The question then is not whether the recipients are rigid but rather whether the arguments are convincing. That’s how I see it.

      Like

    • This, Chris, is what confuses me the most:

      “The atheist is confronted with evidence in the reality we experience….”

      Evidence of what?

      Like

  10. makagutu says:

    Reblogged this on Enquiries on Atheism and commented:

    It is important to note here that I am not in any way concerned with theism in this discussion. If the question is discussed it is just an inference. In any case, if there were movers, nothing stops them from being many and as such the unmoved mover would establish polytheism. There is nothing in postulating a first cause that tells us its nature and whether it is still exists.

    Like

    • I saw a video tonight which asks if there is an unmoved mover to explain how existence got started, why does existence look as though no unmoved mover is necessary?

      To posit a god or unmoved mover to stop infinite regression is not necessary. A rain drop or a splash of ocean wave have no unmoved mover yet exist. To opine that what we call existence is more than a drop of what is outside of it is to say you know what you cannot. Because we cannot yet know what happened before the singularity we cannot say an infinite recursion is probable or necessary to understand this existence as we experience it. We only have to go a couple of recursions deep before it become incomprehensible to most humans. I posit that the unmoved mover was invented to both support religious delusion and to prevent thinkers from going mad. It is completely possible that the multiverse we talk about is merely a couple of atoms in the next recursion up.

      The real problem is not infinite regression, it is that infinite regression removes all question of a god or unmoved mover. The most supported answer is that we don’t know, and may never know. Everything else is guess work at this point. Further, to posit an unmoved mover requires evidence of such a mover. Infinite regression is not a problem from where I’m sitting.

      I didn’t see it mentioned, but if we live in a simulation created by our decendents, there is both a mover and infinite regression as possibilities and still zero reason to posit a god.

      Like

  11. kylerbullock says:

    Hey R.L.! Hope all is well. Again – insightful article. Today, I come to you with an honest question. I don’t know if I can quite keep up with the conversation, but I’d love to here some insight to a question I had during my reading!

    My question is, what if the universe is not a movement, but a continuation? It goes beyond looking at just what occurred, but what is constant. In terms of a theistic argument, it would sound like this: If a god exists who is a creator, and always is a creator, and always will be a creator, then the universe being created by something that constantly creates is not a movement, but a continuation. It is kind of like one note on a trumpet – it can be held for a long time, perhaps wavering here and there in vibrato, but it is essentially one note. In this case, the “note” would be a creator and the “long time” would be forever.

    In this argument, it seems that causality wouldn’t matter, that it wouldn’t lead to an argument for/against a deity, and that whatever the deity is, it would have to simply “be.” I ask this honestly, because it seems that in terms of theism, the point of causality seems to bypass a main point of several major religions. If a god or deity is all-powerful, it must certainly be all-existing, and if it is all-existing, the universe is nothing special compared to that deity. The universe would be merely an expression of the character of that deity, consistent with it in many ways, reflecting it’s personality. it would be like a painting; a painting reflects it’s artist, exists beyond the canvas, yet contains slight imperfections that make it what it is. This metaphor fails to convey my question very well, but it’s what I got for a middle of the night comment on such a deep post, so it’ll hafta do. 😉

    I dunno – I’m rolling around with this one a bit. You have a very powerful article, and I’ll be fleshing it out for some time I’m sure! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Like

    • kylerbullock says:

      And makagutu, sorry for calling you R.L. It’s late – I need a bed and about 8 hours! I award myself 100 suck points for that one. Forgive me!

      Like

    • makagutu says:

      kyler, welcome and thanks for your question.

      I think the universe is a continuum, nature always acting and acting everywhere creating new forms or modifying existing ones sometimes subtly and other times violently like in earthquakes. I don’t think a god need to be posited even in the case of a continuum and the theist if she were to posit one needs show that nature is incapable of acting unguided.

      In the next paragraph, if the universe is an expression of an aspect of the deity- whichever deity proposed- theists cannot with all honesty tell us their god is good. Unless the words are redefined in a way that they lack any meaning for us, an idea of a personal god would be the most absurd thing in a person’s mind.

      I would love to hear what you think about this.

      Like

      • kylerbullock says:

        Great responses – thank you!

        I’ll ask then, just a couple more questions for clarity. Concerning Deism, there is this concept that a god “wound” up the universe and let it rip, letting it go unguided. Wouldn’t this kind of speak to your comment about nature acting unguided? I think you perhaps answered part of this question in your later response, though.

        There’s a lot here, good conversation. I have really been walking around this one and looking at it from several angles. I’m interested to hear what you all think is this argument’s weakness? I see its strengths pretty clearly – you’ve done a splendid job conveying, makagutu! – but I always like to see everything both ways. 🙂

        I do have some ideas about the conversation we have going about the universe being an expression. There have been some pretty good ideas about it, particularly by the Jewish community. They have some well-rounded ideas of how to make sense of it and within their context I think it works well. It’s definitely a fascinating conversation though!

        Like

        • “there is this concept that a god ‘wound’ up the universe and let it rip, letting it go unguided. Wouldn’t this kind of speak to your comment about nature acting unguided?”

          When two possible explanations are offered for a particular phenomenon, Kyler, one naturally occurring, and the other involving magic, why would anyone choose the latter? Can you offer us the scientific principles behind “winding up” a universe in any way that doesn’t employ magic?

          “There have been some pretty good ideas about it, particularly by the Jewish community.”

          Here’s a member of the “Jewish community, who has some rather good ideas of his own —

          Like

        • makagutu says:

          Thanks kyller once again.

          About Deism and their ideas on the origin on the universe, my first answer is I can’t know whether this is the case. That said, it is a good starting point to ask the deist what they mean when they talk about god to see whether postulating one brings us any closer to the answer.

          There are very many interesting ideas about the universe from diverse cultures. And it makes good conversation until we get to errors of claiming we know things we don’t and may not in our lifetime know.

          Like

    • Since we don’t know, Kyler, and may never know, what came before the Big Bang, there are theories out there, that the Universe may actually BE a continuum, rather than a single event, but regardless, there is no evidence that there was anything supernatural involved.

      Unless, of course, one subscribes to THIS theory of supernaturality:

      “To the scientist the word ‘supernatual’ is a contradiction.
      Everything that is in the universe is natural;
      the supernatural is the natural not yet understood.
      And that which is called the supernatural is often the figment of a
      disordered, undisciplined or undeveloped imagination.”
      — Elbert Hubbard —

      Like

      • makagutu says:

        I like the quote by Elbert Hubbard.
        And most of all, I like the answer we don’t know and may never know

        Like

        • On this planet at least, I believe I’m safe in saying that we are the only species capable of possibly one day resolving that question, but my concern is that our greed and lack of foresight may well result in the extinction of our species, before we can ever come close to accomplishing that task.

          Like

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