The Argument from Contingency

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The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:32 pm UTC

My son, who is now studying philosophy, explained the argument from contingency to me.

Now, I don't find it a very convincing proof of the existence of God, except for very loose definitions of God, but at the same time, the basic principle seems sound - things are either necessary (they always existed) or they are contingent (caused by something else), ergo if the universe is contingent, then something else must be necessary.

What is the general response to this? My own take/questions are as follows:

  • Something triggered the big bang, but just because we don't know what it is, we shouldn't call it God
  • The principle depends on linear time, but there was no time before the BB, so the principle is meaningless - time started with the universe, so the universe is, in essence, necessary
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 2:46 pm UTC

It might be a handwavy answer, but I tend to view philosophical arguments for the divine as a de facto product of limited inductive reasoning. We axiomatically group things into categories like "contingent" and "necessary" based on our inductive understanding of the way the world works, and while inductively-derived axioms usually hold up pretty well for macroscopic objects moving at low percentages of the speed of light, we shouldn't expect them to hold up under conditions we have no experience. None of us have experienced the universe in a primarily quark-gluon plasma state (afaik), so we shouldn't expect our intuition to apply in those circumstances.

The more direct answer is that it's impossible to prove the universe is contingent. The intrepid philosopher assumes that the universe could, in principle, not-exist, but this is not a defensible assumption. The math doesn't hold up, for one thing; the nature of quantum mechanics as we understand it dictates that quantum fluctuations WILL produce a universe, no matter what. So until the philosopher has a way of proving that the universe could not-exist, the argument from contingency is mere speculation.

Of course the universe may, in fact, be contingent and created and all that jazz, but on the other hand, it might not be.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby PeteP » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:00 pm UTC

Reading the description of that argument you linked I think the creation of this argument went something like this: "When we do the old 'Something must be at the beginning of the chain=>God' argument others point out that the "what caused it" argument applies to God too." "I know let's make a new class for necessary existence that requires no explanation and put God into it."

But more seriously: As you said even if something "necessary" is necessary there is no reason to label that a God.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:20 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Reading the description of that argument you linked I think the creation of this argument went something like this: "When we do the old 'Something must be at the beginning of the chain=>God' argument others point out that the "what caused it" argument applies to God too." "I know let's make a new class for necessary existence that requires no explanation and put God into it."

But more seriously: As you said even if something "necessary" is necessary there is no reason to label that a God.


Yeah, my response to my son was that, personally, I would find the theory of a time-traveller going back and accidentally starting the ball rolling a more convincing explanation than 'God', who requires a whole new set of contingents. My son, despite being an atheist, finds that even more absurd than God, and it certainly wouldn't carry much weight in class.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby thoughtfully » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:25 pm UTC

It's also possible that our universe was spawned from a (always existing, hence necessary) Multiverse.

But philosophy and language and ideas are meta-things, so one should take care when applying them too broadly to "reality".
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:36 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Reading the description of that argument you linked I think the creation of this argument went something like this: "When we do the old 'Something must be at the beginning of the chain=>God' argument others point out that the "what caused it" argument applies to God too." "I know let's make a new class for necessary existence that requires no explanation and put God into it."

It's not quite so special-pleading as that, because most definitions/conceptions/descriptions of "god" already implicitly or explicitly contained the attribute of necessary existence, or something like it. Consider John 1: "In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with Theos, and Logos was Theos. ...Through him all things came into being, and without him nothing came into being that has come into being." Because this idea of God as the uncaused, uncreated, uncontingent originator of all that is created and contingent preceded philosophical challenges to the argument from causation/contingency, it's not quite special pleading to appeal to this attribute.

PeteP wrote:As you said even if something "necessary" is necessary there is no reason to label that a God.

Philosophical arguments for God's existence are used by two kinds of people: apologists who want to reassure their flock that they are more intelligent and reasonable than all those evil atheists, and real philosophers. The former case tends to jump straight from "contingent!" to "therefore my denomination of fundamentalist evangelical anabaptist teetotalling patriarchal sandal-forbidding gun-toting Republicanism!" The latter does not, and can be engaged with on a more reasonable basis.

The fly in the proverbial ointment is simply that the contingency of the universe is unproven and likely unprovable.

thoughtfully wrote:Philosophy and language and ideas are meta-things, so one should take care when applying them too broadly to "reality".

Exactly. Or, as physicists like to say, where are the maths? If the intuition on which the argument from contingency is built also leads people to question special and general relativity on the basis that they "just don't make sense" then maybe that's the problem.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby peregrine_crow » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:51 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Reading the description of that argument you linked I think the creation of this argument went something like this: "When we do the old 'Something must be at the beginning of the chain=>God' argument others point out that the "what caused it" argument applies to God too." "I know let's make a new class for necessary existence that requires no explanation and put God into it."


I think this is exactly what happened. And it is not even a terrible argument to define "the thing that started causality" as god, provided you don't expect that thing to conform to all the other stuff people believe about god (ie. omnipotent, omniscient, all wise, all good, sentient etc).

It is not a proof for gods existence but a redefinition of the word god that (sort of) ensures that it does exists. Or to put it another way: insofar as it provides any evidence for gods existence it also provides the same evidence for the existence of a universe creating devil, causelessly causing Easter bunny or omnipotent platypus.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 3:56 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
PeteP wrote:As you said even if something "necessary" is necessary there is no reason to label that a God.

Philosophical arguments for God's existence are used by two kinds of people: apologists who want to reassure their flock that they are more intelligent and reasonable than all those evil atheists, and real philosophers. The former case tends to jump straight from "contingent!" to "therefore my denomination of fundamentalist evangelical anabaptist teetotalling patriarchal sandal-forbidding gun-toting Republicanism!" The latter does not, and can be engaged with on a more reasonable basis.


Indeed - I find it fascinating that, afaict, most of first year of the class is spent on the philosophy of religion. This is not, I hasten to add, an attempt to convert the little buggers - just a good place to get to grips with basic concepts and very demanding terminology.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:00 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:
PeteP wrote:Reading the description of that argument you linked I think the creation of this argument went something like this: "When we do the old 'Something must be at the beginning of the chain=>God' argument others point out that the "what caused it" argument applies to God too." "I know let's make a new class for necessary existence that requires no explanation and put God into it."


I think this is exactly what happened.


I think that's a bit unfair. Basic observation would confirm that the principle is sound - if a thing is moving, either it was always moving or something caused it to move. Eventually, if you follow that chain of reasoning down, you need something that was always moving to get the ball rolling (sic). It may be wrong, and it looks very dodgy to jump from there to God, but I don't think the original idea shows any bias except towards logic.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:08 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote: most of first year of the class is spent on the philosophy of religion.

How horribly boring. It really does all seem to amount to simple special pleading.

"Necessary." Scoff.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:13 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
tomandlu wrote: most of first year of the class is spent on the philosophy of religion.

How horribly boring. It really does all seem to amount to simple special pleading.

"Necessary." Scoff.


Wait until I tell you about Descartes ;)

That aside, the whole thing is much more formal than I expected - a sort of verbal maths - so this is partly about getting them used to the tool-set. He certainly hasn't found it boring - just very demanding (and he thought it might be an easier option alongside maths and history - heh).
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:22 pm UTC

I give Descartes a little credit for realising that pure dualism would mean the nonphysical is completely useless and irrelevant unless it had some sort of connection to the world. Many modern dualists are not so thoughtful. I give him minus points for his shoving that onto the pineal gland.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:58 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
doogly wrote:
tomandlu wrote: most of first year of the class is spent on the philosophy of religion.

How horribly boring. It really does all seem to amount to simple special pleading.

"Necessary." Scoff.


Wait until I tell you about Descartes ;)

That aside, the whole thing is much more formal than I expected - a sort of verbal maths - so this is partly about getting them used to the tool-set. He certainly hasn't found it boring - just very demanding (and he thought it might be an easier option alongside maths and history - heh).

Yeah, handwaving first-year philosophy as a protracted exercise in special pleading isn't a great idea...even if many of the subjects aren't, in fact, "real" it's still an important step to learning about reasoning and philosophy.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:01 pm UTC

No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:23 pm UTC

doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.

Those who remain ignorant of history...

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby tomandlu » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:30 pm UTC

doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.


I think Pascal must have run over doogly's dog...
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:46 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.

Those who remain ignorant of history...
What is equivalent to "history" in this case, and what is the implied consequence?
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:59 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:
doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.

Those who remain ignorant of history...
What is equivalent to "history" in this case, and what is the implied consequence?

Paraphrase of the idiom, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." If doogly brushes aside the history of philosophical development and evolution on the basis that a great many philosophers contexualized their philosophy in exploration of religious themes, he might find himself ill-equipped to deal with bad philosophy like the evangelical version of the argument from contingency. Granted, there may be situations where it's better to berate/mock/ignore apologists, but I for one think it's useful to at least have the choice of whether to answer them according to their folly.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:13 pm UTC

I think this particular doom you portend will pass me by. If I start spouting Thomism, I promise you I will choke on my own vomit.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:20 pm UTC

I like to think of it as being prepared. If someone is trying to sell "quantum energy crystals" to my impressionable grandparents, it's nice to be able to expose the quackery with minimal effort. Similarly, if someone is claiming justification for their particular brand of bigotry based on the misuse of some philosophical thought experiment it's good to know what they're talking about and why they're wrong, regardless of whether you choose to point this out.

And besides, even though the context of much of philosophy has historically been religious, that doesn't mean it's useless. You can learn a lot of real science talking about Star Wars, after all.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Meteoric » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:30 pm UTC

Yeah, but if most of your first-year science was spent on "The Science Of Star Wars", that would ALSO not be a good sign about the structure of the curriculum.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:35 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:You can learn a lot of real science talking about Star Wars, after all.

Sure but life is short, and if you've got a semester to spare you could just talk about science though.

And history is lovely, generally, but there is nothing special or privileged about these Christians. That this is somehow "important" to philosophical development or understanding is as bad a pretension as the original notion that it constitutes meaningful philosophy in the first place. Knock down these pedestals. Or start giving equal due to the non-Christian endeavors.

Calling christian cultural studies "philosophy" is unfair to philosophy AND to non christians. Double trouble!
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:46 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:My son, who is now studying philosophy, explained the argument from contingency to me.

Now, I don't find it a very convincing proof of the existence of God, except for very loose definitions of God, but at the same time, the basic principle seems sound - things are either necessary (they always existed) or they are contingent (caused by something else), ergo if the universe is contingent, then something else must be necessary.

What is the general response to this? My own take/questions are as follows:

  • Something triggered the big bang, but just because we don't know what it is, we shouldn't call it God
  • The principle depends on linear time, but there was no time before the BB, so the principle is meaningless - time started with the universe, so the universe is, in essence, necessary


Oh, yes. That events have causes is all well and good, but one should not assume that an unknown cause is necessarily God. Those labels do not exactly mean the same things.

What caused the big bang? Who the hell knows. It's not as if we have any meaningful way to examine what happened before it. I mean, interesting ideas have been postulated, such as each universe inevitibly creating the next somehow, but...that's pretty pie in the sky. It has an appeal to it in terms of symmetry, but we certainly cannot prove it, or even make a very persuasive case for it, given the available data. At a certain point you have to accept that you do not have sufficient data for a meaningful answer with any real confidence.

Or maybe we're just a simulation, in which case, the cause is a bored student who fell asleep at the keyboard.

How would we really test for the differences between those? Calling them all god is merely obscuring the problem, not answering it.

And, it seems very unpersuasive to argue that everything MUST have a cause...but then immediately deny that God had a cause. You're shooting a hole in yer own argument that way. With or without a God, you've still got an origin without a cause itself. You're just inserting "God" in the chain for no real reason.

doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.


I suppose it's rather necessary to understand the history of philosophy that one explore the various popular past ideas. If nothing more, it will cement in the wise student's mind a certain sense of humility as he realizes how the future will likely look back upon his great ideas.

A year seems rather long, though.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:59 pm UTC

Causes are like purpose. Events in movies need them so that humans can digest the stories, but the physical universe is exempt from the requirements of our taste.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:01 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:
doogly wrote:No, I'm dismissing the dribblings of christians who puff up their piety with the pretense of philosophy. One need not spend a year of philosophy gargling such errors.

Those who remain ignorant of history...
What is equivalent to "history" in this case, and what is the implied consequence?

Paraphrase of the idiom, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." If doogly brushes aside the history of philosophical development and evolution on the basis that a great many philosophers contexualized their philosophy in exploration of religious themes, he might find himself ill-equipped to deal with bad philosophy like the evangelical version of the argument from contingency.
I'm familiar with the idiom, I just didn't see how "doomed to repeat it" fit the analogy you're trying to make with philosophy.

Tyndmyr wrote:A year seems rather long, though.
Yeah, we spent one month of my very first college philosophy course talking about arguments for/against god(s), and that (plus all the subsequent philosophy I took about more interesting themes) sufficiently equipped me to have a fair amount of insight into every argument one way or the other I've seen about the existence of a god that I've seen in the 15 years since.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Frenetic Pony » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:53 pm UTC

Found a solution I feel fine with to both this sort of question and all questions pertaining to existence, I just call it "reducere ad infinitum"

Which is to say, sure yes we can say the universe exists (or not, doesn't even matter) and then something created it, and then something created that something, and etc. etc. It doesn't really matter where it "stops". At some point, no matter how many answers you have, no matter how many times you ask "why" the answer must always be reduced to "because". Even if there's an infinite loop of gods or universes or whatever, if they always existed or didn't or created each other in some time loop or something, you can always ask "well, why is that?" The question of "why" never stops. Except for the one answer, and that is "reducere ad infinitum" or rather "well it just is!" To which an addendum can be added (in your head if you want) "Now shut up!"

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby commodorejohn » Wed Jan 13, 2016 12:33 am UTC

tomandlu wrote:What is the general response to this? My own take/questions are as follows:

  • Something triggered the big bang, but just because we don't know what it is, we shouldn't call it God
  • The principle depends on linear time, but there was no time before the BB, so the principle is meaningless - time started with the universe, so the universe is, in essence, necessary

The first is more or less reasonable; the second less so. Arguing that the universe necessitates itself...doesn't really explain anything. If the universe necessitates itself, then why this universe? Why these laws of physics and fundamental constants? What necessitates those? If they necessitate themselves as well, then what magic property do they possess that makes them necessary and other things not?

To return to the first argument, though, you can argue that just because Stuff must have come from somewhere isn't sufficient reason to call its source God, but my question then is, what else are you gonna call it? If we posit the existence of something outside the universe that gave rise to the universe, then either we keep adding turtles to the pile of "turtles all the way down" (to wit: okay, then what gave rise to that?) or we eventually have to introduce a Prime Mover to the equation: something outside not just our context, but all possible contexts that could have given rise to our context. And by that very definition, it can't be merely the end result of operations of another entity, or we're right back on the Recursion Express. At that point, I'd be curious as to what else it could be but something that fits at least the most general criteria of "god."
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Meteoric » Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:02 am UTC

Plenty of religious traditions have an Ultimate Source of Stuff which is not a god. There's no reason to call your ultimate source of stuff "God" without additional justification, and doing so prematurely is a great way to get confused.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Xanthir » Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:06 am UTC

Plenty of other people have already beaten the "Even if we assume something is 'necessary', that doesn't imply any other traits beyond necessary-ness; in particular it doesn't imply any Godly traits" horse to death.

It looks like at least one post hit the "self-caused event" 3rd possibility, that a CTC could create an event chain without a beginning.

I only did a relatively quick skim of the thread, but I don't think anyone's hit the 4th possibility yet, which is that there's nothing theoretically ruling out an infinite sequence of causes stretching backwards. No beginning, but nothing eternal either, just an infinite past as long as the infinite future. (After all, the laws of physics are time-symmetric - if an infinite future is possible, then an infinite past is too.)

And there's the 5th which may have already been hit, that of the uncaused cause. Nothing prevents an effect from simply happening "for no reason" - causality didn't necessarily exist before time, and even now that we have causality it can still happen.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:35 pm UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:Found a solution I feel fine with to both this sort of question and all questions pertaining to existence, I just call it "reducere ad infinitum"

Which is to say, sure yes we can say the universe exists (or not, doesn't even matter) and then something created it, and then something created that something, and etc. etc. It doesn't really matter where it "stops". At some point, no matter how many answers you have, no matter how many times you ask "why" the answer must always be reduced to "because".

The argument from contingency is a little trickier.

In this argument, existence isn't the problem. Just because you exist doesn't mean you had to have a creator or a cause or anything like that. The kicker is conditional existence. If it could have been possible, even theoretically, that you never existed, then your existence is dependent on some condition outside yourself. Condition-dependence, or contingency, requires that there be something outside yourself upon which your existence is contingent.

The argument is fairly reasonable, and actually not too far removed from legitimate study of the universe's origins. It just depends on a faulty premise: that the universe could have not-existed as opposed to existing.

A defeater to the argument itself (rather than an attack on the minor premise) would be the question of whether the outside condition could have not-created the universe. If it's impossible for the outside condition to have not created the universe, then the universe isn't contingent after all. If it's possible for the outside condition to have not created the universe, then we ask upon what basis the outside condition operates, which will probably lead to it being contingent as well, which brings us back to your "reducere ad infinitum".

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:13 pm UTC

Frenetic Pony wrote:Found a solution I feel fine with to both this sort of question and all questions pertaining to existence, I just call it "reducere ad infinitum"

Which is to say, sure yes we can say the universe exists (or not, doesn't even matter) and then something created it, and then something created that something, and etc. etc. It doesn't really matter where it "stops". At some point, no matter how many answers you have, no matter how many times you ask "why" the answer must always be reduced to "because". Even if there's an infinite loop of gods or universes or whatever, if they always existed or didn't or created each other in some time loop or something, you can always ask "well, why is that?" The question of "why" never stops. Except for the one answer, and that is "reducere ad infinitum" or rather "well it just is!" To which an addendum can be added (in your head if you want) "Now shut up!"

I think I prefer the answer "we don't know." As much as some people like to present that as a defense for their silly made-up stories about how they feel the universe really ought to be, it's actually as incompatible with those stories as "because" is. But anything that's truly outside of empirical evidence, there's no need to insert anything into that space. We only know what we know. Stated as "and you also don't know," it also contains the "shut up".

doogly wrote:Sure but life is short, and if you've got a semester to spare you could just talk about science though.

And history is lovely, generally, but there is nothing special or privileged about these Christians. That this is somehow "important" to philosophical development or understanding is as bad a pretension as the original notion that it constitutes meaningful philosophy in the first place. Knock down these pedestals. Or start giving equal due to the non-Christian endeavors.

Calling christian cultural studies "philosophy" is unfair to philosophy AND to non christians. Double trouble!

Christians and related groups monopolized the conversation of the followers of the Classical schools. Neoplatonists argued with Gnostics, Thomas Aquinas formalized Christian theologies under Aristotelian language. I'm sure that's a narrow and Eurocentric picture of things even within the category of "Western philosophy", but I think a lot of the narrowness is kinda inherent in the philosophical traditions themselves.

sevenperforce wrote:It's not quite so special-pleading as that, because most definitions/conceptions/descriptions of "god" already implicitly or explicitly contained the attribute of necessary existence, or something like it. Consider John 1: "In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with Theos, and Logos was Theos. ...Through him all things came into being, and without him nothing came into being that has come into being." Because this idea of God as the uncaused, uncreated, uncontingent originator of all that is created and contingent preceded philosophical challenges to the argument from causation/contingency, it's not quite special pleading to appeal to this attribute.

It's absolutely as special pleading as that, because John was a Greek-educated writer of the Common Era, familiar with Classical philosophy, rebranding the then-millennium-old God of Judaism in a modern, cosmopolitan form. These abstracted philosophical concepts were imported into the religions as the abstractions themselves developed, they didn't come out of those religions organically.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:38 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:It's not quite so special-pleading as that, because most definitions/conceptions/descriptions of "god" already implicitly or explicitly contained the attribute of necessary existence, or something like it. Consider John 1: "In the beginning was Logos, and Logos was with Theos, and Logos was Theos. ...Through him all things came into being, and without him nothing came into being that has come into being." Because this idea of God as the uncaused, uncreated, uncontingent originator of all that is created and contingent preceded philosophical challenges to the argument from causation/contingency, it's not quite special pleading to appeal to this attribute.

It's absolutely as special pleading as that, because John was a Greek-educated writer of the Common Era, familiar with Classical philosophy, rebranding the then-millennium-old God of Judaism in a modern, cosmopolitan form. These abstracted philosophical concepts were imported into the religions as the abstractions themselves developed, they didn't come out of those religions organically.

That's true, to some extent. Then again, the author of the Johannine gospel was drawing heavily in that passage from themes in the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 45) dating to the sixth century BCE, which in turn drew from themes in the Psalms and earlier tradition. One wouldn't really expect religious writers to create philosophize about things people weren't yet asking about, after all.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:41 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:the Johannine gospel

It's called John.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:43 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:the Johannine gospel

It's called John.

But since "the author of John" ≠ "John" it's helpful to distinguish betwixt the two.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:55 pm UTC

Well, I didn't say John the Apostle. I felt like it could be assumed from context we were talking about "John" the writer, but to be clear, I'm aware it's an anonymous book. I mean, when I say "John" was "an educated Greek-speaker", that's two very important things he didn't have in common with John the Apostle.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:55 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:But since "the author of John" ≠ "John" it's helpful to distinguish betwixt the two.

That is a good reason to distinguish between "the author of John" and "John," sure.

And yeah, what Copper said.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:45 pm UTC

In any case that's just me being pedantically specific in my own writing, not passing judgment on anybody else's diction.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby doogly » Wed Jan 13, 2016 7:53 pm UTC

Yes, the pedantry is what I was calling you out on, that was the thrust of my comment.

And it is quite clear that John was written by someone fluent in his Greek and responding to contemporaneous Platonic thought. Probably aware of, either reactionary against or sympathetic to, Gnostic currents.
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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:59 pm UTC

commodorejohn wrote:To return to the first argument, though, you can argue that just because Stuff must have come from somewhere isn't sufficient reason to call its source God, but my question then is, what else are you gonna call it?


Unknown.

It might not be sentient, but rather some kind of process we just don't understand yet. All we can really do is admit that we don't know. Philosophy and religion seems to have a real problem with question marks, but science, well, science is pretty okay with acknowledging the unknown.

In particular, I do not think that "god" is a sufficiently accurate label for the unknown. It's often been used in that role, sure...but then it gets used as a "we know what that is, don't go questioning god" when someone pokes at it. So, it's not very productive. No more than slapping "here be dragons" on a map because you couldn't be bothered to chart it. Just cop to not knowing the answer, and stick to what you do know while you work on the rest.

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Re: The Argument from Contingency

Postby ian » Thu Jan 14, 2016 8:50 am UTC

I still don't really understand the argument that a god can exist out of time as a prime mover, but something that isn't sentient can't.


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