Archive for August, 2008

I want to add my comments to the argument from movement, as a “rationally compelling argument for the existence of God” as worded by punkforchrist (henceforth pfc). It might as well be called a rebuttal.

Pfc presents the first part of his case here, as a part of formal debate on IIDB.org between him and fellow atheist wiploc.

Pfc starts his case by stating that:

Aristotle referred to God as the ‘unmoved mover’. In my opening, I wish to defend two major contentions: 1) that such a being exists; and 2) that this being possesses attributes that are most consonant with the God of classical theism.

The main argument is as follows, a direct copy of pfc’s words:

1. If there is no unmoved mover, then there is no regularity of motion.
2. There is regularity of motion.
3. Therefore, there exists an unmoved mover.
Already, this argument strikes me as being very unclear. It seems pfc notices it himself when he wrote:

It is important to note that when we use the word ‘motion’ we simply mean change.

I’m confused as to why pfc then chose to word it mover and motion instead of change? Perhaps he wanted to keep to the wording of the original argument. Why?

As for the argument form, I find it quite strange. It looks like this:

1′. If no As, then ¬B.
2′. B.
3′. There is some As.

By ‘some As’ I mean at least one A. However, he could just have worded it positive, which is generally better, for instance, this form:

1”. If there is regularity of motion, then there is an unmoved mover.
2”. There is regularity of motion.
3”. There is an unmoved mover.

Let’s move on. As for the support for his premises pfc writes:

(2) ought to be uncontroversial. If anything is evident to our senses, it is that things change. We live in a dynamic universe, and we constantly observe change in things. So, what about (1)?

Notice that what he writes does not support his (2). He writes that things change and that we live in a dynamic universe, but neither of those imply (2). Also notice how quick he is to move on. He didn’t even explain what ‘regularity of motion’ is supposed to mean. To his defense, it should be noted that the word limit for the opening statement is 1000, so he does not have much space, however, he only used about 900 words, leaving 100 open for elaboration.

Now, pfc wants to establish the justification of (1). Oddly enough, no makes special note of the ‘regularity of motion’ contrasted with motion. What regularity? Is he talking about like a specific time regularity? For instance, that motions happens every microsecond? All the time?

He goes on to say that regularity [of motion] must correspond to something unchanging, and states that otherwise it “wouldn’t be regular in the first place!”. Why is this? It reminds me of the moral argument, that if something is good, it must be good because we contrast it with something perfectly good. By this premise, there must exist a perfect car, which is false.

He then writes that it logically follows–how else can things follow?–that there exists something unchanging, which he identifies with immutable a common attribute to the Christian god.

Now, pfc wants to establish the godless, so to speak, of the unmoved mover that he thinks he has established.

He then defines the typical attributes of the classical theism god, but smuggles a nice little word on ‘being’, which implies personality. That certainly did not follow from his unmoved mover. Entity would have been a better choice of word.

Talking about immutability:

[...] something can be immutable if and only if there is no potentiality in it to change. Therefore, what is immutable must be purely actual.

Strange use of words. It can be P iff there is no potentiality “in it” to change. Does he mean that potentialities are intrinsic? Does potentiality mean possibility? Why the use of can in the beginning? Is he implying that there are multiple necessary conditions for immutability? I think he meant to type ‘is’.

Pfc then wants to establish ‘oneness’ of this entity:

However, something can only be purely actual if it is one. The reason why is because if there were more than one pure actuality, then there would be distinctions between them. But, distinctions entail limitations, and limitations entail potentiality; and because there is no potentiality in what is purely actual, the unmoved mover must be one.

Note the beginning. ‘can only’ implies a second necessary condition to pure actuality. He’s equivocating ‘one’ for ‘oneness’ here. Oneness is like a feeling, but here he talks about the amount of unmoved movers is one.

It’s not clear how these conditionals are true. Why does distinctions entail limitations? And why does limitations entail potentiality?

Pfc goes on to discuss his terminology of potentiality and actuality:

At one point in time, I was a fetus. This means that at that time I was a fetus in actuality, and an adult in potentiality.

Again he seems to be implying that potentialities are intrinsic. How was ‘he’ a fetus? How does pfc do personal identification? The energy I consist of could (physically) be something else, like a rock, does that mean that I am a potential rock? What about a female, they are slightly less in size, and thus we could rearrange the energy and I could be a female–in potentiality. Where do this get us?

Pfc goes on to make a non-sequitur:

Partly actual beings, like ourselves, possess some power, some knowledge, and some goodness. From this, we can infer that a purely actual being would have power to do all thing, would know everything there is to know, and would possess every good thing there is to possess.

Pfc then discusses a common objection:

Regarding the above, it is commonly objected that if God is purely actual, and as a result must be all-knowing, he must also be all-ignorant, which is a contradiction. However, this misconstrues the nature of what ignorance is. Ignorance is simply a privation; it is a lack of knowledge, and not something actual in and of itself. An ignorant person does not possess something a knowledgeable person lacks, but the other way around. Now, since God is pure actuality, He can only be described in terms of what is actual, and not of what is privative. The same can be said of weakness and evil.

I’m not sure how he is supposed to define evil as a privation; a lack of good I take it. That’s certainly not what I have in mind when I use the word ‘evil’. But, even if true, it would not save his god from his own argumentation. Just find some arbitrary attribute theists don’t accept that god has, show that humans have a little of them and that they are not a privation, then god ‘must’ have an absolute version of them. A candidate could be greed, a handicap and so on. Unless pfc wants to define a lot of things negatively (that seems indefensible on it’s own), then this is highly problematic.

In his conclusion pfc states another argument that:

I believe the above argument is sound. If this is the case, then we find confirmation for more traditional versions of the argument from motion [...]

I won’t take that argument on at this moment.

My conclusion of this analysis was the same as my immediate impression:

Au contraire the above post. I find this argument very weak, however, I will await Wiploc’s rebuttal before I comment on it.

This article has also been posted here.