Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« on: November 18, 2009, 07:00:18 pm »

WLC’s version of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) states that a necessary being is such that its very nature requires that it exists.  God is said to be such a being.  But how do we determine whether a being’s nature requires that it exist, so that we can say God is such a being? What sort of properties would it need to have? At the very least, it would need to be eternal since things that come into being require an external cause.  But as Craig points out, while eternality is a necessary condition for a being’s necessity, it is not a sufficient condition.  To demonstrate this, WLC appeals to Hume’s analogy of an eternal ball resting on an eternal cushion, creating an eternal concavity in the pillow.  The concavity, while eternal, is not necessary because it is caused by an external being (the ball). So if eternality is not itself decisive for determining metaphysical necessity, what is?

Put another way, on what basis can we say that God’s existence is metaphysically necessary, but the ball and pillow which have existed for eternity are contingent, or brute facts?  Why couldn’t the ball and pillow be metaphysically necessary, and God be metaphysically contingent?


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Randy Everist

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2009, 07:45:10 pm »
jasondulle wrote:

WLC’s version of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) states that a necessary being is such that its very nature requires that it exists.  God is said to be such a being.  But how do we determine whether a being’s nature requires that it exist, so that we can say God is such a being? What sort of properties would it need to have? At the very least, it would need to be eternal since things that come into being require an external cause.  But as Craig points out, while eternality is a necessary condition for a being’s necessity, it is not a sufficient condition.  To demonstrate this, WLC appeals to Hume’s analogy of an eternal ball resting on an eternal cushion, creating an eternal concavity in the pillow.  The concavity, while eternal, is not necessary because it is caused by an external being (the ball).

I thought it was Kant's analogy?

Perhaps not eternality but an ultimate explanation of a concept; in this case, the universe. Mathematical objects, or laws of logic, for example, seem to be metaphysically necessary in this ultimate way. They are ultimate explanations of a concept. Similarly, God himself is the explanatory ultimate of the universe and all of created reality. If something is metephysically contingent, and if the PSR holds true, this means God could only be contingent if His existence is based in turn off of something else. But by definition of the kalam or LCA, God is the explanatory ultimate. Perhaps I am wrong, but this seems right to me.

"Every great man was thought to be insane before he changed the world. Some never changed the world. They were just insane."

Check out my blog, "Possible Worlds," at http://www.randyeverist.com

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 02:34:56 pm »

Right you are!  It was Kant.  I’ve made that mistake a number of times!

But why think the universe is contingent, and thus needs an explanation in some eternal explanatory ultimate? Why think it needs a further explanation? Why can’t it just be a brute fact, or even metaphysically necessary? Why can’t the ball and cushion be metaphysically necessary since they have always existed? What property does God have that makes Him metaphysically necessary, that the universe or the ball/cushion do not have?  

Craig’s use of the Leibnitzian cosmological argument (in which he employs the PSR) seems to assume that the universe’s contingency is obvious since we can conceive of the universe being different, or even not existing at all.  But as you and I have been discussing, the same could be said of God: we can conceive of God as having different properties or not existing at all. It seems to me, then, that for the LCA to be successful we have to find better reasons for thinking that the universe cannot be a brute fact or metaphysically necessary as atheists have been wont to claim. Only then do we have grounds to move on to the final step of the LCA in which God is introduced as the external cause of the universe—a being who is the metaphysical ultimate, who cannot not exist, but gives existence to all else.


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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2009, 02:41:14 pm »

I would like to explore the criterion of "ultimate explanation" further.  The term and concept seem a little bit fuzzy to me, however.  Is it possible for you to tighten up your defitions or flesh out the concept a little bit more for me?  Thanks!


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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2009, 09:34:55 pm »

jasondulle wrote:  

Right you are!  It was Kant.  I’ve made that mistake a number of times!

But why think the universe is contingent, and thus needs an explanation in some eternal explanatory ultimate?  Why think it needs a further explanation?  Why can’t it just be a brute fact, or even metaphysically necessary?  Why can’t the ball and cushion be metaphysically necessary since they have always existed?  What property does God have that makes Him metaphysically necessary, that the universe or the ball/cushion do not have?  

   

Craig’s use of the Leibnitzian cosmological argument (in which he employs the PSR) seems to assume that the universe’s contingency is obvious since we can conceive of the universe being different, or even not existing at all.  But as you and I have been discussing, the same could be said of God: we can conceive of God as having different properties or not existing at all.  It seems to me, then, that for the LCA to be successful we have to find better reasons for thinking that the universe cannot be a brute fact or metaphysically necessary as atheists have been wont to claim.  Only then do we have grounds to move on to the final step of the LCA in which God is introduced as the external cause of the universe—a being who is the metaphysical ultimate, who cannot not exist, but gives existence to all else.  

Jason,

While it is true that we could imagine God as a contingent being it would not follow that such a being would be "God" any longer. What I believe your question really hinges upon is why God, by definition is defined with the various essential traits philosophers of religion have adopted for Him. Yet, when one talks of such essential traits as necessary what they mean is by definition such traits must encompass a being to whom we attribute maximal greatness. Now in order for one to substitute the universe for God, one must find all the traits of maximal greatness present, not merely the trait of necessity. For even if one could assume the universe to be a necessary property of this possible world, it does not follow that it could substitute for God per say.

For example, a pantheistic worldview would assume the necessity of the universe as part of the greater "Divine". However, eternality would only be one of the many traits consigned to that universe (others may include, moral aptitude, impeccability, omnitemporalty, etc.) While such traits are systematically defined they are systemically incoherent and unverified.

Unlike God, the natural universe is physically testable by the five senses. So we can determine all of its traits, including that of eternality. PSR testifies to the contingency of the universe since we can imagine not only the non-existence of the universe but it's potentially different properties (as you have rightly noted). However, one must carefully construe his reasoning when he applies the same criteria for God's nature. Let us grant for arguments sake that one could truly imagine the non-existence of God (which I do not myself concur with, especially if one holds the ontological argument for God's existence to be sound). Does it therefore follow that we could imagine a God with different properties then what He is already prescribed with? Well, I think this is far from obvious. In fact, it seems to me to be inherently false.

       
For the moment when ascribes properties essentially different from those of omnipotence, omniscience, moral perfection, omnipresence, immutability and so forth, the being in question no longer identifies with the definition of God as we know it. For instance, were God to be construe as contingent and merely semi-omniscient, while all other ontological properties remained the same, such a being would cease to be God, in the classical sense. We might argue that such a being was God-like or half-god in essence, but not God Himself (perhaps an extraterrestrial being  or angelic being) Thus, your argument seems misplaced. One cannot conceive of a contingent or essentially different being and assume such a being to be God. God, by definition is the maximally greatest conceivable Being. The moment one does conceive of a less greater being, his conception falls short of relating to God.
George Mankbadi

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2009, 02:37:12 pm »

George,

Thanks for the reply, and sorry for the delayed response. I was out of town for Thanksgiving.

If I understand you correctly, you seem to be assuming that a necessary being must be a maximally great being, and that there can only be one necessary being, and thus you conclude that the universe cannot be metaphysically necessary since (1) it is not maximally great and (2) there is already another maximally great being. But why think something has to possess all great-making properties to be metaphysically necessary? Why couldn’t something be metaphysically necessary if it possesses just one, or maybe two great-making properties?  Unless your assertion that metaphysical necessity belongs only to a maximally great being (of which there is only one) can be defended by a rational argument, I see no reason for the atheist to give up his belief that the universe could be metaphysically necessary. He could argue that you are just begging the question.

Your response relies on the truth of the ontological argument (OA). That’s fine in itself, but I would prefer to avoid employing that argument if at all possible given the fact that so many non-theists are dismissive of the argument as a mere word game. If I need to provide rational proof for why it is that God, if He exists, must be metaphysically necessary by definition, it won’t help to appeal to an argument whose soundness is more controversial than the definition you seek to prove by it—an argument that would not only require the non-theist to concede that God must be defined this way, but would also require that he concede God in fact exists (and neither will it do much good to argue that this is the traditional definition of God, because that begs the question as to why God should be defined that way). It’s very unlikely that the non-theist will concede God’s existence on the basis of the OA alone, and thus it’s unlikely to persuade Him that God must be metaphysically necessary by definition. So what reason does the non-theist have for thinking that God must be metaphysically necessary apart from the OA?  

Even if you could provide an argument for this apart from the OA, it still wouldn’t prove that the universe cannot be metaphysically necessary. It would only prove that God is metaphysically necessary.  To prove that the universe cannot be metaphysically necessary you would have to prove that there can only be one metaphysically necessary being, or that the property of possessing all great-making properties is a necessary property of a metaphysically necessary being.  But this sounds circular, because God’s necessary existence is contingent on His being a maximally great being, and yet His being maximally great is contingent on His being a metaphysically necessary being. For if God was not metaphysically necessary, He would not be a maximally great being. Likewise, if God was not a maximally great being, it is no longer guaranteed that He would be metaphysically necessary.  So we’re back to my original question: what property or properties render a being metaphysically necessary, and how do we know that this property or these properties are necessary-making properties?

Finally, you say that any being who is not maximally great cannot be identified as God.  While I understand that God has classically been understood as a maximally great being, what if it turns out that such a being does not exist (which assumes the OA is unsound)? What if the greatest existing being is one who possesses all the great-making properties except for omniscience? Would you say “God does not exist then,” or would you simply change your definition of God?  I think most theists would take the latter approach.  We would admit that there is no maximally great being, but we would not thus say there is no God. We would simply identify the “maximally great minus omniscience being” as God. So I don’t see any reason to think that God must be defined a priori as a maximally great being. I think a more basic definition of God is “supreme being”; i.e. the greatest being that exists, regardless of his/its degree of greatness. If that is a more intuitive definition of God, then we can conceive of God being different than He is. And if God is not maximally great by definition, then what reason do we have for thinking that God must be metaphysically necessary? To answer that question we have to know what property or properties make something metaphysically necessary. That’s what my thread is seeking to discover.


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TheQuestion

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2011, 02:12:29 am »
jasondulle wrote:

WLC’s version of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) states that a necessary being is such that its very nature requires that it exists.  



This doesn't make sense.  If an entity doesn't exist, it doesn't have a nature.

lol metaphysics

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2011, 01:49:24 pm »
A necessary being cannot not exist, so you don't run into that problem.  It seems that you are confusing someting's reason for existing with a cause of it's existence.  There is no cause for a necessary being, but there is a reason for its existence, and the reason is that the very kind of thing that it is, requires that it exist.

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TheQuestion

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2011, 08:29:39 pm »
jasondulle wrote: A necessary being cannot not exist, so you don't run into that problem.  It seems that you are confusing someting's reason for existing with a cause of it's existence.  There is no cause for a necessary being, but there is a reason for its existence, and the reason is that the very kind of thing that it is, requires that it exist.


Oh, I understand what you're doing.  It's "this must exist by definition".  Which is nonsense.  

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2011, 12:50:30 pm »
No, I'm not saying God must exist by definition.  I am saying that if God exists He is eternal, and eternal beings do not have causes.  But not having a cause does not mean there is no reason for its existence.  The reason an eternal entity exists is because there is something about its very nature that requires it to exist.  

And this is not some ad hoc category of explanation invented especially for God.  Even some atheists would admit the validity of this category/distinction.  For example, some atheists believe that even in the absence of all physical reality, abstract objects such as mathematical principles, physical laws, and/or logical laws would still exist.  Since they are eternal, they do not have a cause, and yet that does not exclude the possibility of them having an explanation for their existence.  Why do they exist?  Because the very kind of thing they are requires that they exist.  There is no possible world in which they can not exist.  Would it be appropriate to respond to such atheists, "I understand what you are doing.  It's the 'this must exist by definition' response."?  No, because they are not claiming such abstract entities exist by definition, but exist because their very kind of thing they are makes it impossible for them not to exist.

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TheQuestion

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2011, 08:52:10 pm »
jasondulle wrote: No, I'm not saying God must exist by definition.  I am saying that if God exists He is eternal, and eternal beings do not have causes.  But not having a cause does not mean there is no reason for its existence.  The reason an eternal entity exists is because there is something about its very nature that requires it to exist.  

And this is not some ad hoc category of explanation invented especially for God.  Even some atheists would admit the validity of this category/distinction.  For example, some atheists believe that even in the absence of all physical reality, abstract objects such as mathematical principles, physical laws, and/or logical laws would still exist.  Since they are eternal, they do not have a cause, and yet that does not exclude the possibility of them having an explanation for their existence.  Why do they exist?  Because the very kind of thing they are requires that they exist.  There is no possible world in which they can not exist.  Would it be appropriate to respond to such atheists, "I understand what you are doing.  It's the 'this must exist by definition' response."?  No, because they are not claiming such abstract entities exist by definition, but exist because their very kind of thing they are makes it impossible for them not to exist.

You seem to be assuming that I believe certain things about abstract objects or existence that I don't.

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2011, 03:15:53 pm »
I'm not assuming anything about what you do or do not believe.  I was merely demonstrating why it is false to say I am saying God exists by definition.  To say something exists by a necessity of its own nature is not just defining something into existence, nor is it an ad hoc category theists have created for God.

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TheQuestion

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2011, 08:52:07 pm »
jasondulle wrote: I'm not assuming anything about what you do or do not believe.  I was merely demonstrating why it is false to say I am saying God exists by definition.  To say something exists by a necessity of its own nature is not just defining something into existence, nor is it an ad hoc category theists have created for God.  


That is exactly what you are doing.  Saying "this exists by definition" and "this exists by definition of its nature" are both hiding the same assertion "this exists" behind sophistry.

Crappy sophistry.

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Jason Dulle

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2011, 01:31:37 am »
When you can't distinguish the difference between defining something into existence, and explaining that the very nature of some X is such that it cannot not exist, then there is nothing more that can be said.  No one defines mathematical axioms into existence, and yet the explanation for those axioms is identical to the explanation I am offering for God's existence.

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TheQuestion

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What determines metaphysical necessity?
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2011, 01:42:55 am »
jasondulle wrote: When you can't distinguish the difference between defining something into existence, and explaining that the very nature of some X is such that it cannot not exist, then there is nothing more that can be said.  

Wait for it...

jasondulle wrote:
No one defines mathematical axioms into existence, and yet the explanation for those axioms is identical to the explanation I am offering for God's existence.

No, no they are not.  Mathematical axioms are in no respect similiar to the claim that a being exists.