A theological/philosophical question concerning Thomas Aquinas

Discussion in 'Theology' started by Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Netti-Netti —

    The whole Summa Theologiae is a logical argument founded on Revealed data. For Aquinas, the existence of God is a self-evident truth. Equally, faith is not illogical, so faith must be logical and reasonable.

    ST I-I Q2 a8.

    Thus he accepts no-one is obliged to accept Christianity, because its data transcends the human faculty, however, even if one refuses to accept Christianity, that refusal itself is founded on faith, not reason, as every objection to the faith can be answered.

    Faith and Reason are two different things — the philosopher Paul Ricoeur talks of Critique and Conviction — 'faith' is not a poor alternative to reason, as it were, or something to plug the gap where reason fails, which many erroneously assume it to be. In many ways, faith is superior to reason, because all science advances in faith with regard to its principles, which it seeks to prove.

    People today assume that faith is a 'fall-back' position in the absence of reason and logic, which is not the case. It depends whether one sees man as an entirely empirically-ordered mechanical organism, or indeed as a spiritual being.

    +++

    "the Church is in the unique position of possessing data not derived from the operations of purely human reason or logic, but of Revelation ... if you accept this, as Aquinas did, then there is no fallacy involved."
    No, it's perfectly acceptable ... if one allows Revelation. If one doesn't, it becomes unacceptable. To declare the statement unacceptable, you must first disprove Revelation. As that cannot be done, then it devolves to a matter of choice, but it is not a given.

    Quite. So Christian Doctrine is coherent in light of the data of Revelation.

    OK. But a proof needs data from somewhere.

    Of course it can ... the 'proofs of God' do not refer to psychological but physical and scientific phenomena. The argument of Christian Doctrine is both logicla and reasonable, so not necessarily psychological.

    Again, it boils down to what one chooses to believe. Your position seems to argue from the standpoint of the Enlightenment, which utterly refutes objective knowledge and the validity of all experience. If that's your basis then every religion is a mere psychologism.

    Well, demonstrably, they do ... unless you can demonstrate they do not?

    Thomas
     
  2. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    Thomas,

    Of course, and I have no problem with that. But it's beside the point.
    The issue is validity in a logical proof. A proposition would be accepted as true regardless of whether it was articulated by an authority.

    One finds an argument Invalid if one finds a false conclusion in the presence of true premises. If someone should find out that a proof was developed by an authority, or that an authority has endorsed it or presumes to have added to its validity, might make it more interesting. But it doesn't make the proof any more valid and does not change the possibility of invalidity.

    Validity is a property of an argument. Validity derives from the coherency between the premises and the conclusion. It does not derive from opinions and whether opinions are authoritative is irrelevant. Based on the Church's response to Galileo, the Church presumed to be an authority in various matters. In fact, in 1633 the Church presumed to know more about astronomy and physics than Galileo. In yet another appeal to authority, the Church forced Galileo to recant his views on heliocentricsm. In the interest of protecting tradition by means of censorship, how long did Church resist the truth?

    The Galileo episode s is a good example that the Church's authority matters not. It illustrates that the mere fact of the Church asserting an official, authoritative position does not make the position true.


    The church does not own Revelation, does not control it, and it is not the last word on what Revelation means.
    You're off on a tangent, Thomas. How does a proof of the existence of G-d prove the Judeo-Christian G-d? Or does it? Why would anyone assume that the Unmoved Mover is the deity described in the Bible?


    Not so. Logicians are not scientist and they dont have to collect data. A logical argument can be purely symbolic and the objects may have no real world referents.
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Netti-Netti —

    OK.

    Let's not overstate the case. The church never claimed to know more, but yes, the Church made a mistake in managing the affair. The Church had received with approval, a heliocentric model of the solar system from Copernicus (1473–1543) a century previously. No problem then. Heliocentrism was not the issue ...

    ... but I'm not going to trawl through the detail again. The whole affair was badly handled, and we have apologised for it since.

    No, it's a good example that man can make mistakes. The argument is invalid, it doesn't make the Church invalid.

    OK. So we're wrong on one position. That does not invalidate anything else, just that one argument.

    Well here's a sudden emotive, sentimental and sensational jump: "someone makes a mistake, therefore they are always wrong about everything", that's not logical at all. So the assertion made here does not follow from any previous discussion.

    I didn't say that — in fact I made the reverse clear. Aquinas is arguing the existence of a God, as did Aristotle, but he is not arguing the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.

    Of course they do, otherwise you can just make it up[ as you go along!

    Mathematics has no real world referants, 'numbers' do not exist in any way other than an abstract sense — they're just signifiers — but maths is a precise science, and proceeds by reason and logic.

    Thomas
     
  4. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    I was merely citing it as an example that authority does not establish validity.

    See my above comment.

    See my first response


    See my first response in this post.


    It was not intended to. It was merely an example.


    So Aquinas was a polytheist?


    My point was to raise a basic question about what Aquinas actually accomplished with his five proofs. The logical necessity underlying his arguments does not imply conditional necessity - i.e., an actual causal process of any kind.

    While we're at it, the noncontingency of G-d's being is a logically ascribed trait, not necessarily a real aspect. It is certainly not anything that can be established by a scientific test.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    No ... where does he say that?

    The 'Proofs' comprise cosmological and ontological arguments for the existence of God. They argue what God is, not who God is — that bit is Revealed, and subject to no empirical determination.

    I'm at a loss to know why. What he accomplished is what he set out to do, offer sound reason and logical argument for the existence of God. The arguments stand ... one either accepts them, or one doesn't, but they are neither disproved nor invalidated by what boils down to doubt.

    I would argue the other way round — the conditional realities imply a logical necessity if we are to make sense of the world. Aquinas argues that something is necessary to start anything off — as far as I know, no-one has successfully refuted that argument.

    I accept that David Hume and others deny 'cause and effect' — but I don't accept that argument.

    Nothing about God can be asserted by scientific test, nor anything contrary to God — that's the problem with science, in people's assumptions that it can.

    Thomas
     
  6. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    He doesn't. You implied it when you suggested that Aquinas was "not arguing the existence of the Judeo-Christian God" when he provided a "proof" of a first cause.

    Chances are Aquinas had at least heard about the Judeo-Christian G-d, who presumably could coexist with the first cause.

    Doubt or epistemic realism?

    Aquinas' approach included a traditional cosmological argument. It was by way of his reaction to Hume that Immanuel Kant attacked this aspect in an apparent effort to highlight the importance of faith. Specifically, Kant argued that it makes no sense to reason about G-d because G-d is not amenable to the sensory modalities and inferential processes that we use to understand the phenomenal world.

    Likewise, as Kant pointed out, nothing about G-d can be asserted on the basis of human reason.

    Here's a brief outline that that settles on the conclusion that, at best, a cosmological argument can show that there is "an architect, not a creator."
    Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Precisely. Aquinas himself makes the point in Q1 of the Summa. The Judeo-Christian God is not an object of proof, but of faith, of conviction, not critique, as Ricoeur would say.

    As Aquinas was a Christian, of course there is only one God.

    Yes, all the evidence seems to point to a profound gnosis of the Judeo-Christian God ... but not as one 'co-existing' with a philosophical abstraction.

    That's an alternative philosophical poisition, for sure. Not one I espouse particularly. I view epistemic realism as part of the process of understanding, along with ontological realism (which it does not necessarily disallow), but when epistemic realism claims to be all, then I view it as 'epistemic reductionism'. Epistemic realism is, as you say, a position of doubt or skepticism, it doesn't prove anything either way.

    I am a Thomist, not a Kantian.

    Again, Kants belief, not mine. I think that man can conceive of the term "God", and that certain reasonable assertions can be made. God is not a piece of chewing gum — that would be unreasonable.

    Metaphysics asserts much that can be reasoned about the deity as such, from reason. Additional data from Revelation transcends what reason can aspire to. Kant, of course, did not believe in Revelation, but of mysteries 'hard wired' into the nature of the creature — his was a deist faith.

    Well there's another philosophical debate ... an architect draws up the blueprint of something, a builder makes it ... who then, is the creator? I would suggest the architect is the ontological source of the vision, and therefore is the author of the means by which it is realised?

    You accept my rejection of your assertion about the Church and Revelation then?

    Thomas
     
  8. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    I said that?

    You asked about attempts to dispute Aquinas. :)

    Who sets the standard for "reasonable?"

    Whose Metaphysics?

    ok

    I gather he did not reject Revelation; he just didn't see it as adding 'supernatural' content.

    Kant would probably say that this is unknowable because our understanding is limited to concepts derived from the sensible world.

    For your interest, this fellow Peter Kreeft - a Catholic, I believe - goes over 20 arguments for the existence of G-d.
    Twenty Arguments For The Existence Of God by Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I thought you were offering that. My error.

    Yes I did. My point is that the dispute does not prove.

    That's an interesting question. The community.

    Depends on the paradigm. Christian metaphysics, Vedic metaphysics, Buddhist metaphysics ...

    Then nothing really is 'revealed', is it, but arrived at by the process of reason and logic. The point is that the Enlightenment rejected the supernatural altogether as an object of knowledge.

    Lonergan and others would dispute that.

    Thanks. His 'Summa of the Summa' is on my bookshelf.

    Thomas
     
  10. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Staff Member

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    Sorry about the disruption of your dialogue, but here is the "rundown" of Aquinas's argument (as presented in class):

    1) There are efficient causes
    2) Nothing is its own efficient cause
    3) There isn't an infinite regression of efficient cause
    4) There must be a first efficient cause

    I'm still having difficulties wrapping my thoughts around the contradiction inherent between #2 and #4. :eek:

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Ah, that'll be God then?
    The fundamental distinction between God and everything else, is that everything else has a cause, but God does not. God just ... is ... and ever was, and ever shall be.

    If you mean the universe, there are two theories. The one is that the universe is eternal, the 'Steady State' theory, and the other is that the universe had a beginning, the 'Big Bang' theory.

    Fred Hoyle and others postulated the Steady State theory, in which new matter is continuously created as the universe expands, nevertheless the universe remains substantially the same, its state remains the same, it just gets bigger.

    The discovery of 'cosmic microwave background radiation' in the 1960s, regarded as the reverberation of the Big Bang, means today only a very small number of supporters remain. The ongoing findings in astrophysics research supports the Big Bang theory, that the universe was very different in its origin than it is today.

    One interesting theory is by Stephen Hawking, in his "Brief History of Time". In his thesis, he rejects the idea of an originating 'point' as a 'something' that went bang: If you think of the Big Bang as a point, and then the universe is an expanding sphere from that point, you can imaging a 'V', the base of the v being the originating point, the two arms indicating movement and expansion.

    But think: If there is something that went bang, what did it go bang into? What was 'around' the thing that went bang? If 'time' and 'space' are products of the bang itself, what contained whatever it was that went bang, before it went bang? Where did that come from?

    Hawking proposes not a 'V' but a 'U' — there is not initial 'point', no location in time and space of the primordial explosion — but rather that when the universe appeared, what occurred was not only a bang, but equally and simultaneously the 'space' and 'time' in which the bang can occur ... mind boggling, isn't it? Not everyone agrees with Hawking however ...

    The author Italo Calvino offers another story: In "All at One Point," (from Cosmicomics) before the Bang, things were pretty crowded, "(we were) packed in there like sardines ... Every point of each of us coincided with every point of each of the others in a single point, which is where we all were." Then a being named Mrs Ph(i)Nk0, the prototypical Italian mama, cried out, "Oh, if I only had some room, how I'd like to make some noodles for you boys!" At that, everyone began to think of the room required, to sift the flour to make the dough, the fields needed to grow the flour, the mountains needed to collect the rain to irrigate the fields, the sun needed to warm the earth, the stars to light the night ... and as they thought it, Mrs Ph(i)Nk0, the prototypical Italian mama, dissolved and became everything they thought of ...

    Thank for reminding me. Calvino's book of short stories is, quite literally, fabulous, I must read it again.

    Thomas
     

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