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Bill McEnaney

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Everything has a cause?
« on: January 11, 2019, 03:13:53 pm »
Michael Shermer asks, "If everything has a cause, what caused God?".  So he implies that there's a vicious infinite regress of causes.  But "Everything has a cause." is an ambiguous sentence because it could mean:

Quote
a. Each individual thing has a different, individual cause unique to it. b. Each individual thing has the same single cause. c. The totality of things has a single cause.

Baggini, Julian. The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (p. 75). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Let's suppose that each thing has a different cause.  Then I can argue that:

Each thing has a cause.
Causation is a thing.
____________________
So causation has a cause.

The argument makes sense if there's a first cause.  But if there's no first cause, no God, then the argument implies logically impossible self-causation because for causation to make itself begin to exist, it must already exist to do that.  For anything to cause itself to begin to exist, the cause needs to both exist and not exist in the same respect at the same time.

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Lawlessone777

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2019, 03:21:50 pm »
It's not "everything has a cause" specifically it's "everything which begins to exist has a cause". If something did not begin to exist and has simply always existed it can't have a cause because nothing can come "before" something which never didn't exist.

Though your post does have an interesting thought experiment when you consider the other way to put it. Sometimes it's also changed to "everything which exists has an explanation". God's explanation would be divine Aseity.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 03:23:29 pm by Lawlessone777 »
God willed both to reveal himself to man, and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.(so) the proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.

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Jabberwock

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 03:30:06 pm »
Though your post does have an interesting thought experiment when you consider the other way to put it. Sometimes it's also changed to "everything which exists has an explanation". God's explanation would be divine Aseity.

What is the exp[anation for aseity?
First learn to spell "ironic discussion"...

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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 05:05:43 pm »
It's not "everything has a cause" specifically it's "everything which begins to exist has a cause". If something did not begin to exist and has simply always existed it can't have a cause because nothing can come "before" something which never didn't exist.

Though your post does have an interesting thought experiment when you consider the other way to put it. Sometimes it's also changed to "everything which exists has an explanation". God's explanation would be divine Aseity.
I understand the difference, Lawless, so I started this topic.  Shermer asks, and I think I'm quoting exactly, "If everything has a cause, then what caused God?".

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hatsoff

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 05:19:59 pm »
It's not "everything has a cause" specifically it's "everything which begins to exist has a cause".

(emphasis mine)

What is "it"?
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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2019, 05:36:17 pm »
Though your post does have an interesting thought experiment when you consider the other way to put it. Sometimes it's also changed to "everything which exists has an explanation". God's explanation would be divine Aseity.

What is the exp[anation for aseity?
Whatever explains it, the explanation can't be causal because if it were causal, God wouldn't have aseity.  It's question-begging to  say that God has aseity because he exists in and of himself.  After all, for him to exist in and of himself is just what it is for him to have aseity.  But I don't beg the question when I say that God is the first cause who prevents a vicious infinite regress because he has aseity.  Though that noncircular point doesn't explain aseity, it does answer Shermer's question.

Again, I agree with the way St. Thomas and Aristotle define the law of noncontradiction. For them, it says that nothing can both be and not be in the same respect at the same time."  If they're right, the LNC is metaphysical principle built into the nature of reality.  If Aristotle and Thomas have defined the LNC correctly, it's immune to, say, the liar's paradox because the A-T version of the LNC is not a semantic principle.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 08:25:07 pm by Bill McEnaney »

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belorg

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2019, 06:20:18 pm »
It's not "everything has a cause" specifically it's "everything which begins to exist has a cause". If something did not begin to exist and has simply always existed it can't have a cause because nothing can come "before" something which never didn't exist.

Though your post does have an interesting thought experiment when you consider the other way to put it. Sometimes it's also changed to "everything which exists has an explanation". God's explanation would be divine Aseity.

"If something did not begin to exist and has simply always existed it can't have a cause" is an extremely controversial claim.
No classical theist is going to agree with you, e.g.

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 06:23:47 pm »
Shermer is wrong and/or doesn't understand what his side of the fence considers to be a causal principle these days. Most atheists here are probably happy to roll with a Sean Carroll flavored causal principle that "nothing is caused; things are determined to emerge according to their initial conditions." Even on this understanding, we can work with Shermer. He might say something like: Everything that has emerged has some set of initial conditions; therefore, God has some set of initial conditions too.

But God doesn't emerge. God is the set of initial conditions or the Quantum Fine-Tuner if you want to use that language. If the naturalist wants to avoid an infinite regress, then they'll have to accept some non-emergent part of reality that makes up the initial conditions for everything else to emerge too. So the theist isn't invoking "magic" with this move. No more magic than a naturalist anyway. We're just calling this non-emergent entity different things based on what we think its ontology is composed of.

So yeah, Shermer should go back to the drawing board.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 06:28:56 pm by Gordon Tubbs »
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Jabberwock

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 07:58:07 pm »
Whatever explains it, the explanation can't be causal because if it were causal, God wouldn't have aseity.  It's question-begging to  say that God has aseity because he exists in and of himself.  After all, for him to have aseity just is for him to exist in  an of himself.  But I don't beg the question when I say that God is the first cause who prevents a vicious infinite regress because he has aseity.  Though that noncircular point doesn't explain aseity, it does answer Shermer's question.

Again, I agree with the way St. Thomas and Aristotle define the law of noncontradiction. For them, it says that nothing can both be and not be in the same respect at the same time."  If they're right, the LNC is metaphysical principle built into the nature of reality.  If Aristotle and Thomas have defined the LNC correctly, it's immune to, say, the liar's paradox because the A-T version of the LNC is not a semantic principle.

But the problem remains the same: either aseity has some explanation other than itself (and that explanation has another explanation etc.), or aseity (or something other that explains aseity) is its own explanation. So either you have an infinite chain of explanations, or a vicious circle (God's nature explains God's nature).
First learn to spell "ironic discussion"...

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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2019, 09:29:48 pm »
Quote from: Jabberwock
But the problem remains the same: either aseity has some explanation other than itself (and that explanation has another explanation etc.), or aseity (or something other that explains aseity) is its own explanation. So either you have an infinite chain of explanations, or a vicious circle (God's nature explains God's nature).
I'll look into this, Jabberwock, because it sounds like a dilemma.  It doesn't help to say that God's existence is a brute fact because there's no way, even in principle, to discover that any state of affairs is a brute fact.

Here's what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about aseity.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01774b.htm

Quote
Aseity (Latin a, from; se, itself: ens a se) is the property by which a being exists of and from itself. It will be easily understood that this property belongs, and can belong only, to God. When we look for the efficient, exemplary, and final cause of all things, of their existence, nature, and organization, we come ultimately to a Being Who does not depend for His existence, realization, or end on any cause other than Himself; Who has within Himself His own reason of existence, Who is for Himself His own exemplary and final cause. It is to this very property of absolute independence, or self-existence by nature that we give the name of aseity. This notion of aseity includes, therefore, according to our conception, a negative and a positive aspect; absolute independence and self-existence, which complement each other and form one single objective property. As is easily seen, the Catholic concept of aseity which represents God as absolutely independent and self-existent by nature, and, consequently, all-perfect without any possibility of change from all eternity, is altogether opposed to the pantheistic concept of absolute or pure being, which absolute or pure being evolves, determines, and realizes itself through all time. (See PANTHEISM.) This quality of independence and self-existence has always been affirmed of God under various names by the Fathers and Catholic theologians, though the word aseity itself began to be used in theology only in the Middle Ages. The only point disputed among the theologians is, whether this property constitutes the very essence of God. (See DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.)

My question about this article is whether it implies self-causation.

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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2019, 09:40:19 pm »
Quote from: Gordon Tubbs
Most atheists here are probably happy to roll with a Sean Carroll flavored causal principle that "nothing is caused; things are determined to emerge according to their initial conditions." Even on this understanding, we can work with Shermer. He might say something like: Everything that has emerged has some set of initial conditions; therefore, God has some set of initial conditions too.
At only the quantum level?  Does Carroll believe that he makes his mouth move when he talks?
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 09:51:53 pm by Bill McEnaney »

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Relativist

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2019, 12:44:56 am »
Michael Shermer asks, "If everything has a cause, what caused God?".  So he implies that there's a vicious infinite regress of causes.  But "Everything has a cause." is an ambiguous sentence because it could mean:

Quote
a. Each individual thing has a different, individual cause unique to it. b. Each individual thing has the same single cause. c. The totality of things has a single cause.

Baggini, Julian. The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (p. 75). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Let's suppose that each thing has a different cause.  Then I can argue that:

Each thing has a cause.
Causation is a thing.
____________________
So causation has a cause.

The argument makes sense if there's a first cause.  But if there's no first cause, no God, then the argument implies logically impossible self-causation because for causation to make itself begin to exist, it must already exist to do that.  For anything to cause itself to begin to exist, the cause needs to both exist and not exist in the same respect at the same time.

I'm pretty sure Shermer would disagree that causation is a thing.  "Causes" is a predicate. 

But I think the real disagreement is with the concept of causation.  Everyone has something somewhat different in mind.  There's a common basis: everyday experience, but their's divergence when this is cast as a (meta)physical principle. 

I also think you're misunderstanding Sean Carroll.  In this article, Carroll just seems to be taking aim at Aristotle's reasoning for an "unmoved mover", and in the alleged "4 causes". 
« Last Edit: January 12, 2019, 09:08:37 am by Relativist »

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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2019, 02:40:56 am »
Quote from: Relativist
I'm pretty sure Shermer would disagree that causation is a thing.  "Causes" is a predicate.
What do you mean by "predicate?"

Safari won't follow the link to Carroll's article.

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kurros

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2019, 04:16:36 am »
Quote from: Gordon Tubbs
Most atheists here are probably happy to roll with a Sean Carroll flavored causal principle that "nothing is caused; things are determined to emerge according to their initial conditions." Even on this understanding, we can work with Shermer. He might say something like: Everything that has emerged has some set of initial conditions; therefore, God has some set of initial conditions too.
At only the quantum level?  Does Carroll believe that he makes his mouth move when he talks?

Sure, why wouldn't he?

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Bill McEnaney

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Re: Everything has a cause?
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2019, 05:29:27 am »
Quote from: Gordon Tubbs
Most atheists here are probably happy to roll with a Sean Carroll flavored causal principle that "nothing is caused; things are determined to emerge according to their initial conditions." Even on this understanding, we can work with Shermer. He might say something like: Everything that has emerged has some set of initial conditions; therefore, God has some set of initial conditions too.
At only the quantum level?  Does Carroll believe that he makes his mouth move when he talks?

Sure, why wouldn't he?
If he means that there's no caused event of any kind, that implies that his talking is an uncaused event.  You need to know what you're quantifying over, even when you're making a universal negative statement.