The Atheist Cosmological Argument

I said the other day in passing that, “…theism is not unverifiable. Its contradiction is incoherent, so it must be true. Just why that’s so is a topic for another post.”

This is that post.

Take “cosmos” to mean everything whatever that is contingent – that is, i.e., not necessary. The classical theist cosmological argument, then:

  1. All contingent actuality is caused.
  2. The cosmos is contingent.
  3. The cosmos is actual.
  4. Ergo, the cosmos is caused.

Since “cosmos” is defined to include everything that is contingent, the only possible cause of the cosmos is something that is not contingent – that is, i.e., necessary, thus eternal, and itself uncaused: in a word, God.

The atheist cosmological argument:

  1. All contingent actuality is caused.
  2. The cosmos is contingent.
  3. The cosmos is not caused.
  4. Ergo, the cosmos is inactual.

It’s a valid argument!

Unfortunately, its conclusion is counterfactual. Too bad.

The third premise is the atheist distinctive. It forces the absurd conclusion.

All but the most extremely nominalist atheists will object, of course. Their usual objection is to the first premise. They rarely choose to notice that to the extent contingent actuality is uncaused, it is not intelligible, on account of the fact that it has not sufficient reasons to completely determine its character. It is then an instance of chaos. But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.

Sometimes the objection is to the contingency of the cosmos. Such is the recourse of the determinists. But determinism too is the death of thought, the impossibility of understanding; for, under determinism, what is could not be otherwise, and so stands in no need of explanation; so that there is really no such thing as explanation in the first place.

So atheists quickly move on to question the second premise. They propose that the cosmos has always existed, and so needs no cause. They don’t notice that the whole congeries of events comprising the cosmos, howsoever great its temporal extent, is contingent: there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.

Poor things. We should not be surprised that they generally seem so angry. The whole of nature must seem a threat to them, portending their doom.

As, indeed, it is, and does. No wonder they are frightened by it.

107 thoughts on “The Atheist Cosmological Argument

  1. How did General Washington once put it?:

    ‘A man would lose his reason in attempting to account for the great phenomena of the universe without recourse to a Supreme Being.’

    Or something very close to that. Anyway, good stuff!; brings back old memories.

  2. Pingback: The Atheist Cosmological Argument | @the_arv

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  4. The conclusion that the cosmos is caused implies also that the cosmos is a realm of freedom, in which intentionality has real and recursive consequences for the conscious subject. One reason for the atheist’s stubbornness in clinging to his bad syllogism, as I see it, is his fear of freedom. You can’t be free while floating in the air; you can only be free with your feet on the ground.

    • Yes. No ultimate ground of order → no order whatever. It’s that simple. And, no order → no possibility of ordered acts; i.e., no freedom. But if you are worried about your culpability, a deficit of freedom is not so very unwelcome.

  5. The atheist might argue that nothing is contingent, that nothing can be other than what it is since what is is all that is by definition.

    • That would be a particularly clever atheist. But it won’t do. What is not contingent is not caused. But science is the project of discovering the logos of causation. If nothing is caused, then there is no such logos; for, then, things are not related to each other. Then there are no fit objects of scientific inquiry, and thus no way to understand things. The result is that meaningful propositions become impossible. This includes the proposition that nothing is contingent.

    • Nothing cannot envelope “contingency.” “It” is nothing. “It” is devoid of everythere INCLUDING ALL contingencies.

  6. “there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.”

    this seems to treat Time as an object within Time, so that a “history of time” would be possible. that’s enough reason to be skeptic, I’d think.

    “They rarely choose to notice that to the extent contingent actuality is uncaused, it is not intelligible, on account of the fact that it has not sufficient reasons to completely determine its character. It is then an instance of chaos. But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.”

    cowardice shouldn’t be an argument. it seems pretty obvious that whatever the ultimate reality of the cosmos is, it may well be beyond (human) understanding, so that we may never be able to apprehend it (but it can apprehend us). humbleness would demand us to recognize that we are just unequipped to cognize the cosmos.

    i’m think which texts from Land i should link, but i’d say these four give the idea of how intractable the problem is:

    http://www.xenosystems.net/simulated-gnon-theology/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/gnon-theology-and-time/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/what-is-philosophy/
    http://www.xenosystems.net/what-is-philosophy-part-2a/

    all this to say that the cosmos might be contingent, caused and unintelligible nonetheless.

    • [A]ll this to say that the cosmos might be contingent, caused and unintelligible nonetheless. — cyborg__nomade

      This ^^^ does not make sense. This memetic line of thought literally leaves one senseless. Per the fallacy of “universal equality,” “cause” and “contingency” ARE unintelligible.

      • This ^^^ is not quite right because you cannot write conclusively about what others can sense or not sense. What you meant to write was that, “The whole point is that MY SENSES are not enough to know.” If you read Kristor with an increased sensitivity then you will acknowledge that he concedes to no such lack of sense to know as it relates to the origin of the cosmos. Although, he would add that he can sense his inability to know All Things thoroughly (he knows many, many things, but he is not omniscient). And clearly, there is no contradiction between possessing a sense of Perfection and confessing to a lack of total knowledge of said Perfection.

    • But chaos is the death of thought, and so is it the impossibility of understanding. It is insanity. No one wants to go there, not even most atheists.

      Cowardice shouldn’t be an argument.

      It’s not that chaos is scary (for it isn’t anything definite at all); it is that – precisely because it is completely indefinite – chaos is the zero of philosophy.

      Proposals that reality is fundamentally unintelligible are self-refuting. If reality is fundamentally unintelligible, then we can’t know or say anything intelligible – including the statement that we can’t know or say anything intelligible. A proposition that is self-refuting cannot be true.

      So however difficult it is, admittedly, for us to make sense of things, it must be possible to do so.

      … there might never have been such a thing as time, or times. Times are not *necessary.* They are contingent. So they *had* to have been caused.

      This seems to treat Time as an object within Time, so that a “history of time” would be possible.

      It doesn’t. Times are essential internal dimensions of worlds. To say that there might never have been such a thing as time amounts to saying that there might never have been such a thing as a world. That said, it is perfectly possible to have worlds within worlds. But what I was getting at was that no worlds are necessary, so nor therefore are their times. Thus even if there was a world that was per impossibile infinitely old, being contingent it would still in its entire temporal extent require a cause.

      It seems pretty obvious that whatever the ultimate reality of the cosmos is, it may well be beyond (human) understanding …

      This is a given. Only omniscience could comprehend ultimacy.

      Humbleness would demand us to recognize that we are just unequipped to cognize the cosmos.

      Our incapacity to comprehend ultimacy does not entail an incapacity to understand at all. We can’t know all of what God knows; that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything.

      I’ll read those essays you linked and get back to you about them.

      • “true” or “false” already supposes we can make sense out of the world, rather than just playing word games with no purchase on reality. nonetheless, I’m probably being too radical here. so, perhaps, “most of the cosmos isn’t comprehensible to our cognitive apparatus” is enough. we may be smart enough to admit we can’t know anything else.

        Times are essential internal dimensions of worlds.

        I’d flip that and say that worlds are properties of Time-in-itself, and that, as much as things *in time* are finite and thus contingent, Time-in-itself is trans temporal and thus cannot have a history of its own.

      • “True” or “false” already supposes we can make sense out of the world, rather than just playing word games with no purchase on reality.

        To be sure. But there is no alternative to that supposition. Because the supposition that we can make sense is the only way that we can then go on to suppose that we might mean something by what we say, the only way that we can meaningfully suggest that, “what we say is nothing more than word games with no purchase on reality,” is if the suggestion itself is wrong. The possibility that we might be correct and meaningful in our thoughts and words is then the forecondition of the possibility that we might now and then err or spout nonsense. If everything is nonsense, then nonsense isn’t even nonsense, and error is impossible. But notice that if error is impossible, then no statement is errant, including the statement that error is possible, and the statement that knowledge is possible.

        No matter which way we turn, we are led back inexorably to the position that some knowledge is possible to us, albeit not all.

        I’d flip that and say that worlds are properties of Time-in-itself, and that, as much as things *in time* are finite and thus contingent, Time-in-itself is trans-temporal and thus cannot have a history of its own.

        This appears to be saying the same thing I said. Time is a dimension of relation between events within the history of some world. Julius Caesar lived before Napoleon, and Churchill lived after him. The world as a whole, however, has no temporal relations to itself. Nor likewise has it any spatial dimension. Its temporal and spatial extent are mensurable only from perspectives internal to it.

      • There was never nothing, correct. That doesn’t make the question why there is something rather than nothing meaningless, though. It answers it: the existence of something or other is necessary.

      • That doesn’t make the question why there is something rather than nothing meaningless

        Yes, it does.

        As you said, there was never nothing. How can your question be meaningful if you already believe there was always something? It’s logically incompatible.

      • The question is meaningful in the same way as “what is the square of 3,024?” That the answer is necessarily given does not make a question meaningless.

      • Again, it is thoroughly meaningless.

        1. You are asking why there is something rather than nothing
        2. You admit there was never nothing.
        3. Therefore, there was always something, and never nothing.
        4. Point 1 is meaningless by your own admission.

      • Nonsense.

        1. Your question: Why there is something rather than nothing?
        2. You concede there was never nothing.
        3. If there was never nothing, then there has always been something.

        So, either you’re pretending to be stupid, or you actually are and really can’t see what I’m saying.

        For the record, I don’t you’re stupid. Not at all.

      • Thanks, I don’t think you’re stupid either. I really can’t see what you are saying, but there are other reasons than my stupidity (pretended or not) why that might be so. You might be expressing yourself poorly, or you might not understand what I’m saying, or we might be construing “meaning” differently, so that we are talking at cross purposes, and so forth.

        It seems to me that what you are saying is something like, “but if you know the answer, it is absurd to ask the question.”

        Asking why there is something rather than nothing is like asking why the Pythagorean Theorem is true. In both cases, the answer follows by inexorable logic from the definitions of the terms of the formal system in which the question is posed. That this is so does not make our investigations of the logical structure of the formal system meaningless. On the contrary: those investigations enable us to discover more and more fully the meanings of the terms of the system.

      • “but if you know the answer, it is absurd to ask the question.”

        No, nothing like that at all, but I appreciate the effort.

        The question is, Why is there something instead of nothing? The question is absurd because, as you’ve said, there was never nothing. If, as you say, there was always something then to even propose that ‘nothing’ is a possibility is utterly nonsensical.

      • It is tautologous that the square of 2 is 4. It is also tautologous that the square of 2 is not 15, or any other number than 4. Nevertheless it is meaningful to ask why the square of 2 is 4 and not some other number. All sorts of interesting things can be learned by digging into that question.

        It is tautologous that nothingness is impossible. It is also tautologous that something or other necessarily exists. Nevertheless it is meaningful to ask why nothingness is impossible, and it is necessary that something or other exist. All sorts of interesting things can be learned by digging into that question.

      • It is tautologous that nothingness is impossible.

        That has nothing at all to do with a tautology.

        and it is necessary that something or other exist.

        That is redundant given your statement that there was never nothing. Something has always existed. That is what you have stated.

        Necessity is not the subject here, rather aseity.

      • It is tautologous that nothingness is impossible.

        That has nothing at all to do with a tautology.

        Did you read the post I linked in answer to your first question? In this present discussion, I’ve been guilty of assuming that you had. It shows that it is impossible that there should be nothing at all; and this entails that it is necessary that there should be something. These are truths of modal logic. Some have argued that the truths of math, logic, and metaphysics – which are all true under every interpretation – are all tautologous.

        [To say that] it is necessary that something or other exist [is] redundant given your statement that there was never nothing. Something has always existed. … Necessity is not the subject here, rather aseity.

        See, this is a good indication of the sorts of interesting things we can discover when we dig into the question of why there is something rather than nothing, *even though we have already discovered that it is necessarily true that there can’t be nothing,* so that it is necessarily true that there must be something. We get into necessity, eternity, and aseity.

      • Well, it seems plain to me that this universe, with its particular history, might have been otherwise than it is. Other cosmogonies and other universes can be coherently conceived, and are not therefore impossible. This state of affairs in which we now find ourselves is then the actualization of but one among many possibilities. So it is not necessary. What is not necessary is contingent. Only what is necessary can be aseitic.

      • I can roundly agree with that, although I do tend to avoid ‘necessity’… it is riddled with worthless theological presuppositions.

        It seems you have a claim, and I have an equally valid claim. There is, in fact, just difference separating your position from mine:

        We have evidence the universe exists.

      • I’m deploying “necessity” here strictly as a term of modal logic.

        I’m not sure what your equally valid claim is. I thought you were claiming only that, if you know absolute nothingness is ontologically impossible, then the question why something or other exists is meaningless.

        It would help if you expatiated a bit on your last comment, because I’m not sure what you are getting at.

      • As I said, I avoid the word ‘necessity’ because of the theological baggage that comes with it. Aseity serves the purpose perfectly.

        Do I claim it? As i have absolutely no idea what was happening before Inflation, I’d be a fool to claim anything. Do you, for example, know how super high energy strings behave in a 6-dimensional Calabi–Yau manifold?

        I don’t, and I’m not afraid to say so.

        Presently, we’re observing this world from the perspective of (flawed) Newtonian physics, and that models the baryonic world, which comprises a grand total of just 4.6% of this particular universe, interacting with just 3 of anywhere from 11 to 26 dimensions.

        So, you claim aseity (with a conscious purpose), and i propose a counter claim of aseity. Ignoring everything else, there exists just one difference between these positions:

        We have evidence the universe (of which we know frightening little) exists.

      • Well, despite your preferences, you simply *can’t* avoid necessity. There are all sorts of necessary truths that you can’t do without if you want to behave. You employ them when you do such things as catch a ball, or count your pennies. Or, a fortiori, think rigorously. The world is ordered according to these necessary truths, through and through. You rely upon them every time you plan, every time you act; for, all our acts presuppose the ordered regularity of the world.

        Then also, as a matter of logic, necessity comes along with aseity as a package deal. Kind of like the way trigonality trilaterality comes along with triangularity. What is a se *just is* necessary. As uncaused, it could not possibly fail to exist. For, what comes into being must be caused to come into being (under the principle ex nihilo nihil fit); so that only what does not come into being can be uncaused. Ergo, what is a se cannot come in to being; and, if it does indeed exist – which it must, for to be a se (or anything else whatever) it must first be – it must exist necessarily.

        What is a se then exists in every conceivable state of affairs. And this is to say that what is a se is necessary.

        So if you think the universe is a se, you have not really any choice but to think that it is necessary.

        I don’t think this binds you to any distasteful theological commitments. I don’t see that it binds you to any theological commitments whatever. In fact, it seems to me that the necessity of the universe would marry up rather neatly with the necessity of the necessary truths that cannot fail to be true in any state of affairs, and that are true in this state of affairs, so that it is only to be expected that the necessary universe should be ordered according to the necessary truths. It could even be suggested that the universe is itself the repository of the necessary truths; is itself the Platonic Realm.

        I should think that a vision of that sort would be extremely appealing to atheists and positivists. It’s wonderfully parsimonious. Ockham smiles: he gets his nominalism, and he gets to keep his realism, too – for, the universals are not given independently of concrete things (that’s the nominalist bit), but they are given necessarily (that’s the realist bit).

        It would be tempting of course for weaker minds (Spinoza, say) to leap to the conclusion that the necessary universe is God. But there would be no reason you would have to do that. You could just stick with the notion that the necessary universe is utterly profane.

        I myself have a hard time crediting the notion that our universe (however broadly you want to draw its boundaries) is a se, or necessary. It seems so obviously contingent. All sorts of other cosmogonies, and other universes altogether, are coherently conceivable, and therefore eminently possible. There are options to this world. And that *just means* this world is not necessary: there are coherently conceivable possible states of affairs in which this universe had never existed. And that means that something must have operated upon the library of potential universes so as to bring this one (plus however many others) into actuality. Etc.

        Notice that with my conclusion that the universe is contingent, and therefore must have been caused, we are not yet anywhere near theism. All we’ve got is something or other that causes this world and is itself not contingent. So, no theological connotations have yet crept in.

      • Well, despite your preferences, you simply *can’t* avoid necessity.

        Yes I can. Physical prescriptions are physical prescriptions. There is no need to place “necessary” before the word prescription. It is what it is. A puddle fits into its hole perfectly 😉

        Then also, as a matter of logic, necessity comes along with aseity as a package deal.

        I agree with this, but it’s redundant. Aseity stands alone. It does not require the word ‘necessity’ to render it any more meaningful…. Unless, of course, you’re trying to shoehorn in some theistic concept of conscious guidance.

        what comes into being must be caused to come into being

        Ultimately this contradicts your earlier statement that there was never nothing. Aseity is aseity.

        And, as i pointed out earlier, this statement is based on just 4.6% of this particular universe. Are you entirely comfortable making an apparent statement of fact concerning something which you know virtually nothing about?

        Ockham smiles

        Yes, I was thinking that.

        It seems so obviously contingent.

        You’re looking at 4.6%.

      • Sorry, I’m afraid you are stuck with necessity. Say we try to dispense with necessity as a modal category. What are we left with? Possibility and impossibility. But impossibility is a type of necessity: the impossible is that which is necessarily not possible. So it is impossible that there should be no necessity. It is necessary that there be something or other that is necessary.

        It could be objected that we might then dispense with impossibility, too. That would leave us with possibility as the only modal category. But the problem with that move is that if there is no impossibility, then everything is possible, including coherent incoherence, x ≠ x, and square circles. If everything is possible, nothing can be known, including whether or not everything is possible. It’s the zero of thought, of order, and of being.

        Well, despite your preferences, you simply *can’t* avoid necessity.

        Yes I can. Physical prescriptions are physical prescriptions. There is no need to place “necessary” before the word prescription. It is what it is. A puddle fits into its hole perfectly.

        What makes you think we are talking about physical things?

        Then also, as a matter of logic, necessity comes along with aseity as a package deal.

        I agree with this, but it’s redundant. Aseity stands alone. It does not require the word ‘necessity’ to render it any more meaningful.

        Necessity and aseity are different aspects of the same thing. They entail each other. Again, their relation is like that of trigonality trilaterality and triangularity. Trigonality Trilaterality is not redundant to triangularity, it is *essential* to triangularity. You can deemphasize one or another essential aspect of the triangle, to be sure, depending upon your purposes of the moment. But you can’t obtain a triangle in the first place, or therefore treat of triangles in any way whatever, without all of them. You can’t begin to think about triangles, in any respect, until you begin thinking *about triangles.*

        Because aseity and necessity *entail* each other, they *mean* each other. When we say “aseity,” necessity is implicitly part of what we mean; and vice versa. It’s not that we need to add necessity to aseity in order to make “aseity” more meaningful. On the contrary: we can’t say “aseity” without implicitly invoking necessity. We can’t properly mean what “aseity” means without implicitly taking account of the necessity entailed in it.

        … what comes into being must be caused to come into being

        Ultimately this contradicts your earlier statement that there was never nothing. Aseity is aseity.

        Not so. To say that there cannot be nothing – that there must always be something or other – in no way rules out contingent becoming.

        There must always be something or other: maybe that something or other consists in a beginningless sequence of contingent actual events, each of which had to be caused in order to come into being; or maybe it consists in a set of contingent actual events plus some necessary things like sheer possibilities, Forms, ideas, potentialities logically arrayed in a configuration space or Realm; or maybe it consists in a set of contingent actual events, a set of necessary sheer possibilities, and a necessary actuality that as necessary is both eternal and a se. “Something or other” covers all those options, plus a number of others.

        And, as I pointed out earlier, this statement is based on just 4.6% of this particular universe. Are you entirely comfortable making an apparent statement of fact concerning something which you know virtually nothing about?

        Yup; as are you, with your assertion that the universe is a se.

        It is in fact within the realm of possibility that you could logically demonstrate that the universe is indeed a se. But to do that, you’d have to show that all the alternative specifications of universes are logically incoherent, ergo impossible. A big job. So big, that it is 100% of this universe, multiplied infinitely.

        By the way: if the universe is causally coherent – which it would have to be in order to be a cosmos, an integrity, a world – then the 95.4% of it that we seem not to be able to know much about is exerting a causal effect on the 4.6% that we feel we have a handle on. The 4.6% takes full causal account of the 95.4%, and vice versa. In a causal coherence, it could not be otherwise; for in a causal coherence, there are no causal loose ends. The character of the 95.4% is then somehow or other implicit in the 4.6%. So in understanding the 4.6%, we implicitly understand something about the 95.4%. E.g., we understand that there does in fact seem to be a 95.4%.

        [The universe] seems so obviously contingent.

        You’re looking at 4.6% [of it].

        I’m looking at 100% of what is, regardless of its extent. I’m doing metaphysics, rather than natural history. It’s an a priori logical procedure, rather than an a posteriori empirical procedure. That does not of course mean that it has no relevance to the world we encounter as natural historians.

        John, consider what you are doing in preferring to avoid thinking about necessity because of its theological implications, despite your recognition that it is logically entailed in the concept of aseity that you like to think about. You are in effect shutting the eyes of your intellect to a light that you know is there, sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting to drown out a music that you know is sounding. You are willingly turning your attention away from evidence you admit is there.

      • What makes you think we are talking about physical things?

        Talking about reality, aren’t we?

        Not so.

        Absolutely so, if we’re talking about the universe… which is what we’re talking about, and your position on this is that there was never nothing.

        I’m looking at 100% of what is, regardless of its extent.

        No, you’re looking at 4.6% of what is, and making a statement (offering an opinion, really) based on that 4.6%. Again, do you know how super high energy strings behave in a 6-dimensional Calabi–Yau manifold? I don’t.

        I’m doing metaphysics, rather than natural history.

        Translation: you’re just making things up…. and I’m afraid to say, you can’t define something into existence.

      • Aseity serves the purpose perfectly. —. John Zande

        You cannot write this unless you have conceded to a metaphysical (P)erfection.

      • True. It is. The area of validity, however, comes in its meaning: being responsible for itself. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I have no idea as to the “how.”

      • I beg to differ. Metaphysics is philosophy. It has no grounding. It has no substance. It is abstract (imaginative word games) with no basis in reality. In this respect, metaphysics is much like religious “faith.” People have faith when they don’t have evidence. The moment, however, evidence comes along faith is jettisoned.

      • What makes you think we are talking about physical things?

        Talking about reality, aren’t we?

        Well, sure; trying to, anyway. But, what makes you think that physical things are the only reals? I mean, that’s a *very* strong metaphysical statement. Consider: where in the physical universe is Bach’s B Minor Mass located? Where in it is Planck’s Constant located? Where would we find these things, if we looked? Not, mind you, their instantiations in performances or scores or texts or discussions or pixels or minds or memory registers (whether digital or neural), but the things themselves? Are ideas real? If not, how does anyone manage to perform the B Minor Mass, or employ Planck’s constant in an equation? If not, how do you happen to have any of them?

        Careful, now; it will be awfully difficult to answer *in any way whatever* without debasing yourself by practicing philosophy – indeed, metaphysics.

        … if we’re talking about the universe… which is what we’re talking about, and your position on this is that there was never nothing …

        You’ve been talking about the physical universe, under the (*very* strong) metaphysical presupposition that it exhausts the category of the real. I have been talking about what is, whether or not this universe exhausts the category of the real. So, part of the problem here is that we are talking about different things. You are talking about this little world. I am talking about all possible and possibly actual worlds.

        I’m afraid to say, you can’t define something into existence.

        So saying, you’ve defined something into existence: the proposition that you can’t define something into existence. I happen to agree with it, for the most part – I think we can define only *definitions* into existence, and then see whether the logic of the resulting formal system works out coherently and the propositions implicit in it agree with experience – but still.

        You’re a smart guy. You *must* see that you are painting yourself into a corner here.

        Metaphysics is philosophy. It has no grounding. It has no substance. It is abstract (imaginative word games) with no basis in reality.

        These are all philosophical propositions; for, any proposition about philosophy per se is itself philosophical. As philosophical propositions, they devour themselves. If they are true, then as philosophical propositions they have no grounding, no substance, and no basis in reality.

        John, you abhor metaphysics even as you practice it, and indeed *by* practicing it. You argue that the universe is a se – a metaphysical proposition that cannot possibly be put to any conceivable empirical test – even though such arguments are by your own metaphysical lights groundless, insubstantial, and unmoored to reality.

        You can’t have it both ways, John. If you want to say that the universe is a se, you are going to have to give yourself permission to practice metaphysics. If you want to say that philosophical knowledge is impossible, you are going to have to give yourself permission to practice philosophy. Your only alternative is to shut your mouth on these topics, on account of what you yourself take to be your invincible metaphysical and philosophical ignorance.

      • Metaphysics… It exists only because you don’t have evidence to support the thing you hope exists. Metaphysics and (religious) faith are inseparable. You would not require ‘faith’ in your particular god, for example, if you had ‘evidence’ for that god, correct? Similarly, you would not be talking ‘metaphysics’ if you could be talking ‘evidence.’

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the word games, but don’t ever lose sight that all you’re doing is playing word games. It’s a pantomime told from comfortable chairs, but ultimately, you’re just making things up. The pantomime might feel meaningful to you on an emotional level, which is fine, but it’s just a pantomime… Your pantomime.

        But, what makes you think that physical things are the only reals?

        If you can demonstrate the existence of something immaterial, something that might lend credence to this thing you call “metaphysics,” then by all means do so. Traumatic brain injury (which dramatically alters a person’s personality) disproves any and all notions of spirit, for example.

        That being said, I can certainly appreciate the point you’re trying to make. Yes, we can be moved in marvellous and wonderful ways by music and art… ways a long eared jerboa, for example, could never be moved. Why? A long eared jerboa has 70,000,000 neurons. We, well we have 100 billion.

        It’s a matter of physical (neurological) complexity.

        You’ve been talking about the universe, under the presupposition that it exhausts the category of the real. I have been talking about what is, whether or not this universe exhausts the category of the real.

        And there’s the pantomime.

        But in my defense, the only statement i’ve made regarding this is 1) we have no idea what was happening before Inflation, and 2) that we know only 4.6% of this particular universe.

        I think we can define only *definitions* into existence, and then see whether the logic of the resulting formal system work out coherently and the propositions it implicitly generates agree with experience – but still.

        As we’re on the same page that there was never nothing, then we’re left with two propositions, both of which demand aseity: 1) some conscious external agent (what a theist would call a ‘god’), or 2) the universe itself being aseitic.

        As you already alluded to in an earlier comment (regarding Ockham), you yourself seem to recognise that the latter is the far more logical, reasonable, rational, probable answer.

        You argue that the universe is a se

        I’m arguing that it’s more probable, indeed more logical, that the universe is aseitic. I use the word aseitic simply because it is the word theists use in their hypothesis. If it makes you more comfortable, I can just as easily say contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence. There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

      • Metaphysics … It exists only because you don’t have evidence to support the thing you hope exists.

        On the contrary. Like ornithology or logic, metaphysics is inherently fascinating to certain sorts of minds, whether religious or not. You are allowing yourself to be swayed by prejudice, rather than facts. Most of metaphysics is not about God. Most of it is just about what being must be like.

        You would not require ‘faith’ in your particular god, for example, if you had ‘evidence’ for that god, correct?

        No; incorrect; laughably so. Obviously, one can have evidence that x without believing that x. You’ve done it yourself. In uttering your philosophical statements, you’ve provided evidence to yourself that philosophy must be possible; but nevertheless, you don’t believe in philosophy. You’ve devised a way to overlook the evidence you yourself have provided.

        I leave it to you to determine whether your convenient oversight is honest, or tendentious. Either way, it’s nuts.

        One can have evidence for x without believing that x. You can have evidence that your wife is unfaithful without believing that she is. To go ahead and believe in her adultery, you must gird your loins and honestly reckon with the evidence that has long been right there in front of you, but from which you have been averting your eyes; and then test it; and, should you find it trustworthy, then take the horrible, courageous step: to *go ahead and trust that what it tells you is true.*

        That step ushers you into a new and extremely painful world, quite different from the one you thought you had inhabited. Yet there is a certain intense relief in admitting the truth, howsoever uncomfortable it might be.

        Most people who convert to Christianity (or any other religion, properly so called) do not begin by wanting to come to it. On the contrary, they generally resist it with all their might. They don’t *want* it to be true, any more than a man wants to believe that his wife is unfaithful. They don’t *want* to believe in sin, and hell, and Judgement Day, and all the rest. It’s a *terrifying set of doctrines*! It’s about the most uncomfortable thing to believe that could be conceived. It would be *so much easier* for Christians if they could honestly believe that atheism was true.

        Religious belief is *terrifically inconvenient* to the believer, because it imposes terrible duties upon him that he would not otherwise bear. Religion is *much harder* than irreligion.

        Don’t you get that?

        The irreligious are pansies. Morally, they don’t even lift.

        You badly misconstrue religion if you think that religious believers believe their religious beliefs despite the lack of any evidence of their truth. LOL! There’s plenty of evidence. It’s just that you have blinded yourself to it ab initio, so that you never let it enter your mind. Convenient for you, sure. For a time, anyway; until you learn better.

        Honestly, it is as if you had used Ockham’s Razor to cut off your own nose.

        Similarly, you would not be talking ‘metaphysics’ if you could be talking ‘evidence.’

        On the contrary. Most of my work in metaphysics has had nothing to do with the specifics of any religious faith. I daresay this is true also for almost all metaphysicians.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the word games, but don’t ever lose sight that all you’re doing is playing word games.

        You really don’t see that, if true, this applies with equal force to everything you have said with your words? It is a critique that devours itself; and that must, therefore, be wrong. It is as much as to say, “this statement is false.”

        If you can demonstrate the existence of something immaterial, something that might lend credence to this thing you call “metaphysics,” then by all means do so.

        Show that Bach’s B Minor Mass and Planck’s Constant do not exist; that there is no such thing as they. They are both *obviously* ideas. They have no mass, no energy, no material aspect whatever. Yet they are both *obviously* real.

        Or, just show that there is no such thing as 5. Simpler, perhaps. If you could do it, then you could put five oranges in front of me, and utterly convince me that there were not five oranges in front of me. That would be … pretty impressive. You’d probably go down in history as a – well, I hate to say it, but as a great metaphysician.

        Or perhaps as a great charlatan.

        That being said, I can certainly appreciate the point you’re trying to make. Yes, we can be moved in marvellous and wonderful ways by music and art …

        You’ve totally missed the point I was trying to make. Planck’s Constant is not art (although, being a mathematical entity, does indeed have its musical aspects).

        And there’s the pantomime.

        You are just as vulnerable as anyone to the accusation you have here leveled. You can accuse me of being intellectually dishonest, and I can accuse you right back. Then, we will be at loggerheads, and equally stymied, at least with respect to each other. So, leveling accusations of this sort is a neat way of foreclosing any possibility that you might learn something inconvenient to your life as you now understand it. What is it that you are so afraid to learn?

        NB: I am not accusing you of being intellectually dishonest. You are however accusing me of being intellectually dishonest. It’s a way you can avoid grappling with my arguments.

        No observer of this exchange could be fooled by such dodges. It will be clear to all of them that you are not responding to my arguments, but rather engaging in a subtle and indeed genteel and good-humored ad hominem attack on my honesty.

        … the only statement I’ve made regarding this is 1) we have no idea what was happening before Inflation, and 2) that we know only 4.6% of this particular universe.

        No. You said also that the physical cosmos is reality.

        As we’re on the same page that there was never nothing, then we’re left with two propositions, both of which demand aseity: 1) some conscious external agent (what a theist would call a ‘god’), or 2) the universe itself being aseitic.

        No. You’ve got the dichotomy wrong. It is much simpler. It is merely this: either the cosmos is a se, or it is not. With this dichotomy, theism has not yet crept into view, and we may disregard it for the time being. If the cosmos is indeed a se, then no God is needed to explain it, nor is any other thing whatever. Is the cosmos then a se? Only if it is necessary; for, as you have admitted, necessity and aseity entail each other. Is the cosmos necessary? Proving it is would be a tough row to hoe. I’d like to see you try.

        If we cannot demonstrate that the cosmos is a se, then and only then will we be forced to consider what sort of thing it might be that caused the cosmos.

        Can you *prove* that the cosmos is a se? If not, then … your fond notion that it is will be revealed as an article of blind faith, unsupported by any evidence.

        As you already alluded to in an earlier comment (regarding Ockham), you yourself seem to recognise that the [the aseity of the cosmos] is the far more logical, reasonable, rational, probable answer.

        Wrong. I stated in an earlier comment that the *necessity* of the cosmos – a notion that, as you say, you have wanted to avoid thinking about, on account I suppose of its incredibility – would seem to be a comfortable proposal for an atheist or positivist.

        But, again, you say you don’t want to think too much about the fact that the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity, even though you admit that it does.

        I use the word aseitic simply because it is the word theists use in their hypothesis. If it makes you more comfortable, I can just as easily say contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence. There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        If you were to do that, you’d just be writing out the definition of “aseitic,” rather than using the word. The effect would be equivalent, either way. Either in using the term or in using its definition, you’d be engaging in metaphysics.

        There’s really no escape, John.

      • I haven’t deleted any of your comments. Perhaps there was a problem in the submission process. If you still have it, please by all means submit it again.

      • metaphysics is inherently fascinating to certain sorts of minds, whether religious or not.

        I thoroughly agree, but we should not lose sight of the fact that this is nothing but imagination at play. It is not supported by evidence (which is why it’s not taught as a ‘science’), rather made to look reasonable only when dressed in still other invented ideas.

        It’s simply defining things into existence… an adult pantomime.

        No; incorrect; laughably so.

        By all means, if you have evidence for your god, then do please present it. I’d be happy, and interested, to review whatever you have.

        You can have evidence that your wife is unfaithful without believing that she is.

        That would be practicing (for emotional reasons, i would presume) willful ignorance. It doesn’t alter the facts.

        On the contrary. Most of my work in metaphysics has had nothing to do with the specifics of any religious faith.

        Sure, but let’s be honest: you believe in a god; the Middle Eastern god of the Pentateuch, I assume, and your ‘work’ is dedicated to trying to define that particular entity into existence.

        You’re not, after all, trying to prove pantheism, or support panpsychism, are you?

        They have no mass, no energy, no material aspect whatever. Yet they are both *obviously* real.

        I tap a drum, its skin vibrates, that vibration resonates through the air, and a beat is heard. Air from my lungs gives rise to notes (which can be written down and read by anyone who has learned that language) from an oboe. Together, music is made. It has physical properties. Cognitively, I might appreciate the composition as it vibrates through the atmosphere as it reminds me of something, beaches in the winter perhaps, and inside my brain enkephalin rains down on opioid receptors and I feel happiness.

        One does not require ‘metaphysics’ to explain this.

        You are however accusing me of being intellectually dishonest.

        I’ve made no such accusation.

        It’s a way you can avoid grappling with my arguments.

        I don’t recall you presenting any actual argument… nothing beyond the wish you so clearly have that a god is aseitic, and not the universe itself.

        For what I can only assume to be deep emotional reasons, that idea appears to be thoroughly abhorrent to you.

        May I ask why you’re appalled by this possibility?

        No. You said also that the physical cosmos is reality.

        Of course. As previously stated:

        If you can demonstrate the existence of something immaterial, something that might lend credence to this thing you call “metaphysics,” then by all means do so. Traumatic brain injury (which dramatically alters a person’s personality) disproves any and all notions of spirit, for example.

        Is the cosmos necessary? Proving it is would be a tough row to hoe. I’d like to see you try.

        As previously stated:

        I’m arguing that it’s more probable, indeed more logical, that the universe is aseitic … There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        If we cannot demonstrate that the cosmos is a se, then and only then will we be forced to consider what sort of thing it might be that caused the cosmos.

        Absolutely. My mind is open. Is yours?

        We could simply be a simulation, or a physical experiment. On paper, both are as likely a god. The moment, however, you say ‘god,’ a particular god that is, as opposed to some broad deistic/pantheistic notion, you cannot ignore all the characteristics prescribed to that god, such as, in your case, maximum goodness. If you cross that line, then we’re in another conversation, and it’s one you cannot rationally defend.

        For example, could an impossibly good, monstrously skilled, prohibitively capable designer of extraordinary compassion and unlimited means convene a world where the very mechanisms necessary to physically experience something beginning to resemble ‘happiness’ (enkephalin and opioid receptors) would not even exist in the world before some 3.5 billion years of terrestrial evolution had passed and untold billions of generations of living things had suffered enormously without as much as the hope of corporeal relief?

        To suggest such a thing with a hint of even accidental sincerity is bravely ridiculous. In this case, physical evolutionary history contradicts the claim.

        But, again, you say you don’t want to think too much about the fact that the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity, even though you admit that it does.

        I’m a little baffled as to why you keep harping on about this. I believe I already stated that using the word ‘necessity’ is redundant. If we simply use the word aseity, then we’re on the same page. If, however, you want to keep using the word ‘necessity,’ then do so. I don’t mind. I will see it only as meaning aseity.

      • [Metaphysics is] simply defining things into existence … an adult pantomime.

        In which you are participating. “Metaphysics is just word games” is a proposition in metaphysics. In saying that metaphysics is simply defining things into existence, you have engaged in metaphysics.

        Again, there is no escape from metaphysics. Some metaphysic or other is presupposed by every statement.

        By all means, if you have evidence for your god, then do please present it.

        I do. But that is not the topic at hand. You suggested that religious believers believe their religious beliefs without evidence. I was simply informing you that that is an inaccurate notion. Religious believers have what they take to be evidence for their religious beliefs. So strong do they take that evidence to be, that they believe in their religious beliefs, despite the fact that it would be manifestly easier and more convenient for them if they did not.

        You can have evidence that your wife is unfaithful without believing that she is.

        That would be practicing (for emotional reasons, I would presume) willful ignorance. It doesn’t alter the facts.

        Right. The facts are out there. And so is the willful ignorance of those facts, for emotional reasons.

        On the contrary. Most of my work in metaphysics has had nothing to do with the specifics of any religious faith.

        Sure, but let’s be honest: you believe in a god; the Middle Eastern god of the Pentateuch, I assume, and your ‘work’ is dedicated to trying to define that particular entity into existence.

        You’re not, after all, trying to prove pantheism, or support panpsychism, are you?

        I was for a time a pantheist, on account of pantheism’s alluring parsimony (to which I referred upthread in saying “Ockham smiles”), until I realized that it didn’t quite pencil out (for some of the same reasons we have been discussing (and some others): e.g., the world can’t be a se, for is contingent, rather than necessary; so, it can’t be God).

        I have been a panpsychist for forty years. So far, I have found no flaw in it; indeed, it resolves all sorts of problems otherwise bedeviling. I consider myself a Thomist of the Whiteheadian interpretation. Or perhaps a Whiteheadian of the Thomist persuasion. Either way will do, I suppose.

        Honest, John: this whole time, I’ve just been trying to puzzle things out.

        Scientism, positivism, radical skepticism and naturalism don’t pencil out either. Nor does atheism. They just don’t work; are incoherent. If they were true, it would be impossible to reason.

        Metaphysics has *driven* me to Christianity. I’m not unhappy to find myself there, to be sure, as many other more reluctant Christians who have traversed the same path have been. I’m comfortable with its *extremely uncomfortable* doctrines, in the sense that I’m doggone confident that they are true.

        But my metaphysical work has not been intended to verify Christianity. It has been from the start a disinterested exploration of a configuration space of notions. That exploration has – to my profound surprise, indeed to my shock (for I started out as a jejune sophomore *extremely skeptical* of Western metaphysical categories) nevertheless verified the supreme reasonableness of Christian doctrine. Christian doctrine is *spookily* congruent with rigorous metaphysics, in just the same way that the world is *spookily* congruent with applied mathematics.

        I tap a drum … and inside my brain enkephalin rains down on opioid receptors and I feel happiness.

        OK. Fine. But that’s neither here nor there. You’ve evaded the question. Where is Planck’s Constant? Where is Bach’s B Minor Mass? Where are ideas? Not, NB, their instantiations in neural configurations, but the ideas themselves?

        Is there no such thing as Planck’s Constant? Is there no such thing as the B Minor Mass? How then do any of their instantiations manage to be their instantiations?

        If there is such a thing as Planck’s Constant or the B Minor Mass, where in physical reality are they to be found? Show us; give us the coordinates.

        You are however accusing me of being intellectually dishonest.

        I’ve made no such accusation.

        Of course you have. You’ve suggested that my metaphysical work has been tendentious. You’ve said that it has been a “pantomime,” intended only to support my favored hypotheses. That’s ad hominem: a fallacious way of avoiding engagement with the arguments, by dismissing them out of hand.

        You have not shown how any of my metaphysical arguments are flawed. Can you?

        I don’t recall you presenting any actual argument … nothing beyond the wish you so clearly have that a god is aseitic, and not the universe itself.

        For what I can only assume to be deep emotional reasons, that idea appears to be thoroughly abhorrent to you.

        May I ask why you’re appalled by this possibility?

        I’m not appalled by the notion. It’s just obviously incoherent, and therefore, to any reasonable mind that understands the relevant modal logic, untenable. It is not appalling, but rather absurd, thus silly, and may be dismissed without a second thought.

        I’ll repeat the argument I have here already proffered. If the cosmos is a se, then – as you have agreed – it is ipso facto necessary. But obviously the cosmos is *not* necessary, for others can be coherently conceived – which is to say, that they are possible. If many x are possible, then none are necessary. What is necessary cannot possibly be otherwise than it is; none of its alternatives are really possible, however plausible they might seem prima facie. When we investigate those alternatives to what is necessary, they all turn out to be inconceivable – i.e., absolutely impossible, in exactly the way that a square circle is impossible. But when we investigate the alternatives to this cosmos, untold quadrillions of them turn out to be coherently conceivable, ergo possible (viz., the MWI). So, no such cosmos could be necessary; and, therefore, it follows that no such world could be a se.

        This is all as plain as the nose on your face.

        If you can demonstrate the existence of something immaterial, something that might lend credence to this thing you call “metaphysics,” then by all means do so.

        Planck’s Constant: what is its energy? Or 5: what is its mass? Where in the cosmos are these values located?

        There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        So it is for you an article of blind faith. You have no evidence for the aseity of the cosmos. It’s just an idea you like, that is not supported by any evidence or arguments you can adduce.

        If we cannot demonstrate that the cosmos is a se, then and only then will we be forced to consider what sort of thing it might be that caused the cosmos.

        Absolutely. My mind is open. Is yours?

        For sure. Please proceed with your demonstration.

        I realize of course that you have already offered some paragraphs that I suppose you took as apposite to the project of demonstrating that the cosmos is a se. They were not.

        We could simply be a simulation, or a physical experiment. On paper, both are as likely [as a] god.

        Simulations and experiments are not a se. They are caused by agents. That is why they seem to you as likely as a god. To say that this cosmos might be a simulation or an experiment is not materially different from saying that it might be a creation.

        The moment, however, you say ‘god,’ a particular god that is, as opposed to some broad deistic/pantheistic notion, you cannot ignore all the characteristics [ascribed] to that god, such as, in your case, maximum goodness. If you cross that line, then we’re in another conversation, and it’s one you cannot rationally defend.

        No; sorry, nice try, but no dice: you are changing the subject. Your project is not to refute the characteristics of any god. It is simply to demonstrate that the cosmos is a se. If you can, then might we dispense with any further discussion of gods, for you will then have demonstrated their superfluity. If you cannot, then and only then might we find ourselves behooved to consider the nature and character of whatever it is that caused the cosmos. And only then, having nailed down what that thing would have to be like, might we find ourselves engaged in theodicy.

        But, again, you say you don’t want to think too much about the fact that the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity, even though you admit that it does.

        I’m a little baffled as to why you keep harping on about this.

        I harp on about it because it is the huge looming problem with your faith, untrammeled by any evidence or arguments that you have yet shared, that the cosmos is a se. You prefer to avert your eyes from this problem, but everyone else can see it, and can see you shying away from its scandalous consequences for your preferred metaphysical scheme.

      • In which you are participating.

        Sure, to the extent of using the word ‘aseitic.’ As I noted earlier, I’d just as happily say contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence… even though I admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        Again, there is no escape from metaphysics. Some metaphysic or other is presupposed by every statement.

        I’d use the words cautious, informed conjecture drawn from, and based on, factual historical evidence, as opposed to emotional drivers… but if you really, truly, deeply want to use the word metaphysics, then by all means do so. It really doesn’t bother me, but it does appear to bother you. Greatly.

        I do. But that is not the topic at hand.

        No, it’s not.

        despite the fact that it would be manifestly easier and more convenient for them if they did not.

        On this I flatly disagree.

        Religious belief is a wonderful tool (the most powerful ever invented, in fact) for fighting existential death anxiety, which arose with mortality salience about 150,000 years ago (coinciding precisely with the evolution of the frontal lobe)… and which has, single handedly, driven human memetic evolution.

        With the evolution of the frontal lobe and its astonishing capacity for predictive, abstract, and imaginative thought we saw our own mortality, and once seen it could never be unseen. According to the American existential psychiatrist, Professor Irvin Yalom of Stanford, human beings are “forever shadowed by the knowledge that we will grow, blossom, and inevitably, diminish and die”, and this fear of tomorrow has come to be the very hallmark of what it means to be human; a rigid, historical partition standing between that moment when man was not quite man, and that moment, shortly after, when he was.

        Powerful palliative measures were needed, powerful palliative measures were invented, and powerful palliative measures were embraced by our species… and for very, very good reasons: it’s the easiest path.

        From an evolutionary perspective, these carefully shaped falsehoods have proved so beneficial to the success of the species that the human brain has bent itself in remarkable ways, adapting and physically rearranging itself over some 6,600 generations to make this gorgeous self-deception easier. Indeed, a large body of research demonstrates that the more we lie, and the more we are exposed to the ever-so-delicious lies of others, the uneasiness felt by us in the face of deception weakens.

        That is a fact, and it’s evidenced in the first Paleolithic burials with grave goods: tools and weapons and adornments of impossible scarcity and value useful only to the living, but placed in the grave because people began to imagine the dead having some use for them in some ‘afterlife.’

        Right. The facts are out there. And so is the willful ignorance of those facts.

        Your point being?

        I have been a panpsychist for forty years.

        Well, that is surprising, but pleasantly so.

        I’m curious, though… Panpsychism presents a diametrically opposed idea to that of your chosen religion. They move in opposite directions. One suggests a movement towards (an evolution of) greater complexity and ‘higher’ consciousness, whereas the other suggests that end-point has always existed. One says you become “God” (for want of a better word), the other says you simply join the existent “God,” but never become it. The universe in one proposition is entirely antithetical to the universe in the other. In one universe a “God” is the supreme authority, but in the other the individual consciousness is, ultimately, the supreme authority.

        How on earth do you reconcile this?

        Honest, John: this whole time, I’ve just been trying to puzzle things out.
        Scientism, positivism, radical skepticism and naturalism don’t pencil out either. Nor does atheism. They just don’t work; are incoherent. If they were true, it would be impossible to reason.

        I appreciate your honesty. Atheism, though, isn’t antagonistic to panpsychism. Buddhists are panpsychists, and they’re atheists.

        nevertheless verified the supreme reasonableness of Christian doctrine.

        Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this point.

        You’ve evaded the question … Where is Planck’s Constant? Where is Bach’s B Minor Mass? … Is there no such thing as Planck’s Constant?

        Apologies if you thought so. I thought I had made myself clear. Music is physical, the numbers of this universe are descriptions of prescriptions. As I said earlier: A hole is absolutely, immaculately ‘perfect’ for the puddle that finds itself in that hole.

        You’ve said that it has been a “pantomime”

        I said metaphysics is used to construct pantomimes by defining things (things you want to be true) into existence. And that is the truth.

        I don’t wish to offend you, but as noted earlier, you’d ditch ‘metaphysics’ in an instant if you actually had evidence for those things desired.

        I’m not appalled by the notion. It’s just obviously incoherent, and therefore, to any reasonable mind that understands the relevant modal logic, untenable. It is not appalling, but rather absurd, thus silly, and may be dismissed without a second thought.

        And why is the universe (for which we have evidence exists) being aseitic ‘absurd,’ but not a “god” (for which we have no evidence exists, and every cosmogony ever presented to the support the notion has been proven false)?

        Hand waves aren’t arguments, I’m afraid.

        The ‘argument’ you present is riddled with theological presuppositions… which is precisely why I avoid the word ‘necessity.’

        Planck’s Constant: what is its energy? Or 5: what is its mass? Where in the cosmos are these values located?

        These are prescriptions as described by human minds. A mathematical equation has no ‘energy’ unless acted on, applied.

        You have no evidence for the aseity of the cosmos. It’s just an idea you like, that is not supported by any evidence or arguments you can adduce.

        Evidence begins at the universe itself: it exists. That’s a fairly strong starting point. And it only gets more reasonable when we consider we only know 4.6% of this universe.

        Ockham is well and truly on my side here.

        Simulations and experiments are not a se. They are caused by agents.

        Yes, which is what you propose… a contingent (artificial) universe.

        Your hypothesis of a “god” is less believable than this all being some ancestor simulation, or a petri dish. That is, of course, so long as we argue this world is artificial, which is the Christian position.

        No; sorry, you are changing the subject. Your project is not to refute the characteristics of any god.

        I agree, and I really don’t want to go there. It’s tiring to present historically verifiable, unignorable evidence only to have a theist hand-wave it away… or simply ignore it altogether.

        You prefer to avert your eyes from this problem

        I have no problem at all with you using the word. As I said, if and when you say ‘necessary’ i will agree, although I simply take it as meaning ‘aseitic’ (free , therefore, of any and all made up theological nonsense and presuppositions).

        If, however, you want to be redundant in your use of language, then I won’t stop you. I will not, however, grant you any presuppositions.

      • John, let me first thank you for your patience with this discourse, and for your civility and clarity. Much appreciated.

        I’m not going to respond to all of your points, because with respect to some of them it seems to me that we have both been straying off into interesting tangents – interesting to the two of us, anyway, although not perhaps to many others – that could each themselves lead down an almost endless rabbit hole that featured many interesting tangents of its own. So I’m going to respond only to what I take to be the most salient to our basic topic, which it seems to me is the question whether the cosmos is a se. If you think some of the points I have overlooked deserve more attention, let me know and I’ll address them. I certainly don’t want to appear as if I am avoiding what you take to be a strong argument on an important relevant topic.

        I will however make exceptions for the tangents I myself find the most interesting, and that most closely orbit the main topic of cosmic aseity.

        As I noted earlier, I’d just as happily say contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence … even though I admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        And as I’ve already pointed out, whether you use the definition of “aseity” or the term itself, you are engaging in metaphysical reasoning. If metaphysical reasoning is as you say nothing more than word games played in the imagination, with no basis in reality, it follows that your assertion that the cosmos contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence is nothing more than a play in a word game carried out in your imagination, with no basis in reality.

        Panpsychism presents a diametrically opposed idea to that of your chosen religion. They move in opposite directions. One suggests a movement towards (an evolution of) greater complexity and ‘higher’ consciousness, whereas the other suggests that end-point has always existed. One says you become “God” (for want of a better word), the other says you simply join the existent “God,” but never become it. The universe in one proposition is entirely antithetical to the universe in the other. In one universe a “God” is the supreme authority, but in the other the individual consciousness is, ultimately, the supreme authority.

        How on earth do you reconcile this?

        There is no need to do so. Panpsychism asserts only that events are the basic constituents of actuality, and that events begin with prehensions – feelings – of other, completed events, proceed through a phase of concrescence in which the felt qualities of events in their actual worlds are assembled into a novel integrity according to certain aesthetic principles, and reach their completion in the final version of that assemblage, which approximates to an initial ideal aim, thereby satisfying an urge toward that aim. Upon the completion of a concrescence in its final satisfaction, an event becomes actual, and as at last definite and fully specified, therefore accessible for the prehension of other concrescing events. The process of concrescence, then, is essentially mental.

        Panpsychists interpret physical transactions as prehensions.

        So well does panpsychism congrue with Christian doctrine that there is a whole school of panpsychist theology, called “process theology.” It departs from classical Christian metaphysics only in the suggestion by many (but not all) process theologians that God himself evolves.

        One suggests a movement towards (an evolution of) greater complexity and ‘higher’ consciousness, whereas the other suggests that end-point has always existed.

        You can’t move toward a summit if the summit is not there before you begin your climb. You can’t search for a solution if the solution space is not first defined, and the properties of a satisfactory solution specified.

        One says you become “God” (for want of a better word), the other says you simply join the existent “God,” but never become it.

        Well, finities *can’t* become infinite, so nothing can become God. But they can certainly progress toward God, by becoming more comprehensive, more spacious. And because God is infinite, that progress of spatiation of comprehension is endless. This has been Christian doctrine since the very beginning. As Saint Athanasius said, God became man that men might become gods.

        In one universe a “God” is the supreme authority, but in the other the individual consciousness is, ultimately, the supreme authority.

        On panpsychism, the concrete individual is ultimately responsible for the character of its act – its beauty, goodness, truth, and so forth – in respect to its actual world, of which the supremely influential actuality is … the supremely influential actuality. The supremely influential actuality, likewise, is responsible for itself.

        Atheism, though, isn’t antagonistic to panpsychism.

        I didn’t say that atheism is antagonistic to panpsychism. I said that atheism didn’t pencil out; that it is incoherent on its own terms; that if it were true, reasoning would be impossible.

        I don’t wish to offend you, but as noted earlier, you’d ditch ‘metaphysics’ in an instant if you actually had evidence for those things desired.

        There you go again, accusing me of being intellectually dishonest. John, I do metaphysics even to understand concrete physical objects and motion. One must, if one is to be thorough. If you don’t get your metaphysics right, you are very likely to make some basic errors of policy, that can ruin life.

        E.g., modernism rejects the notion that we can have access to reality, or therefore to truth. It therefore rejects the notion that some minds have better access to truth than others, and that it is important that we identify those minds and attend to their discoveries. It therefore rejects authority, and embraces liberalism and egality. And they lead to massive tragedies of the commons, and the deaths of hundreds of millions, and the destruction of civilization.

        Ideas have consequences.

        And why is [it that] the universe (for which we have evidence [that it] exists) being aseitic [is] ‘absurd’ …?

        Because mere existence is not ipso facto a se, of course. The desk in front of me exists, but it is not a se. And if the universe is a se, then (as you’ve agreed) it is ipso facto necessary. But lo, the universe is *not* necessary. Like the desk in front of me, it is contingent (if any single event in the universe is contingent, then the universe as a whole is contingent). We can tell that it is not necessary because we know that other, different sorts of universes – such as, e.g., the universe just like this one, with the sole exception that the desk in front of me is a different shape – are coherently conceivable, thus possible.

        The ‘argument’ you present is riddled with theological presuppositions …

        What are those presuppositions? It’s just modal logic. Where are the faults in the argument? It’s no good to cast aspersions on the argument itself; you have to show where and how it fails.

        A mathematical equation has no ‘energy’ unless acted on, applied.

        So, it isn’t physical in and of itself, but rather only insofar as it is physically incorporated into some concrete act. In and of itself, it is immaterial.

        John, you have not yet demonstrated that the cosmos is a se. You have not yet tried. So far as we can tell from what you have told us, cosmic aseity is nothing more than a metaphysical doctrine that you personally prefer, but cannot logically or empirically support, because – as you admit – you don’t know *how* it is a se. It is, i.e., a blind faith in which you take some comfort, and would rather keep than not.

        Here’s the thing: if you can’t demonstrate the truth of a metaphysical doctrine, then it is indeed nothing more than a word game you are playing in your own head, that is not moored to reality. It’s just a phantasm of your imagination.

      • While it can be broad, you appear to have invented your own definition of panpsychism. I’m not sure what it is, but what you have described is not panpsychism.

        Panpsychists interpret physical transactions as prehensions.

        You will not find that word anywhere in any treatise on panpsychism.

        process theology is NOT panpsychism. There is no “god” in panpsychism.

        Perhaps you should stop calling your belief panpsychism.

        You can’t move toward a summit if the summit is not there before you begin your climb.

        There is no ‘summit.’ Every node in increasing complexity is the summit. There is no goal, no point of completion after which all evolution ceases. Concepts such as end design, optimal design, stasis, and even destiny, are only fleetingly meaningful notions, and only ever so in a local context. What is true is continual improvement, as Professor Adrian Bejan states in his Constructal Law of design and evolution in nature.

        “In each case the urge [of living] is not toward an ideal. It is toward something better tomorrow, and to something even better the day after tomorrow—relentless improvement and refinement.”

        John, you have not yet demonstrated that the cosmos is a se.

        You haven’t presented anything to suggest it’s not aseitic.

        It’s just a phantasm of your imagination.

        The universe is a phantasm of imagination? With that type of limited thinking we’d still believe the sun was a giant shouldering coal ball.

        I choose continued investigation.

      • You will not find [“prehension”] anywhere in any treatise on panpsychism … There is no “god” in panpsychism. Perhaps you should stop calling your belief panpsychism.

        It appears you’ve never read Whitehead. You should. He’s the archon of latter day panpsychism. I recommend his magisterial masterpiece, Process & Reality. Prehension is his neologism, and it is not unusual to find it used by subsequent panpsychists. As to whether panpsychism has anything to say about God, I note merely that the Wikipedia article on the subject is part of the Wikipedia series on … God.

        You can’t move toward a summit if the summit is not there before you begin your climb.

        There is no ‘summit.’ Every node in increasing complexity is the summit.

        Yes. Every node in increasing complexity is a summit. And you can’t move toward a summit, however proximal, if it is not there before you begin to move toward it.

        John, you have not yet demonstrated that the cosmos is a se.

        You haven’t presented anything to suggest it’s not aseitic.

        Certainly I have. It’s just that you don’t want to grapple with what I have suggested: that, as you have agreed, the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity; and that the cosmos is obviously not necessary, for others more or less like it are possible. You’ve chosen not to respond to that fairly simple and straightforward objection.

        It’s just a phantasm of your imagination.

        The universe is a phantasm of [my] imagination?

        No; that’s an absurd misreading of what I wrote. It’s not the universe that is a phantasm of your imagination, but rather – by your own account of metaphysics as such – your preferred comfortable metaphysical notion that the cosmos is a se. If you can’t demonstrate the truth of that notion, then it’s a phantasm of your imagination, to which you cling for unphilosophical reasons.

        Your entire critique of theism in this discussion has depended on the metaphysical notion that the cosmos is a se; so that it needs no cause other than itself, rendering a Creator superfluous, and susceptible to Ockham’s Razor. You’re the one who wants to employ this idea that controverts essentially all our experience that the world is contingent, and might be otherwise than it is, as the premise in an argument. It’s your baby. Well, then, prove that it is true.

      • It appears you’ve never read Whitehead.

        You’re citing Whitehead to support Whitehead?

        That’s a nice circle you’ve painted there 😉

        Listen, process theology came to my attention a while ago, presented to support some odd evolutionary idea cherished by another apologist desperate to shoehorn his version of Christianity into established science. It was not presented then as panpsychism because it is not panpsychism. It has nothing at all to do with panpsychism. It doesn’t even begin to touch on some of the more extreme, modern definitions of panpsychism.

        Panpsychism does not, in any way, claim a god. Repeat that sentence as many times as required before it sinks in. That is why I asked you how on earth you reconciled your chosen religion with what you claimed to also believe, ie. panpsychism.

        My learned friend, you don’t believe panpsychism. Stop using that word, especially since Whitehead’s own wiki page contradicts your claim:

        Process philosopher David Ray Griffin coined the term “panexperientialism” (the idea that all entities experience) to describe Whitehead’s view, and to distinguish it from panpsychism (the idea that all matter has consciousness)

        Yes. Every node in increasing complexity is a summit. And you can’t move toward a summit, however proximal, if it is not there before you begin to move toward it.

        Absolute nonsense.

        Evolution is not goal-orientated, not adaptively directed. A mutation today might be beneficial (for an organism) to the environmental conditions of today (or tomorrow), but appalling deleterious if it arose in the environmental conditions of yesterday.

        Certainly I have.

        Certainly you have not.

        the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity.

        Yes, precisely. I hope this point has finally sunk in. Necessity = Aseity. I have stated this repeatedly. I have also stated that I will not grant you your religious presuppositions that you attach to the word ‘necessity.’ I hope that is now perfectly clear.

        No; that’s an absurd misreading of what I wrote.

        Not at all. I have repeatedly pointed you to the existence of the universe (a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural) as primary evidence. I have demonstrated that traumatic brain injury, for example, disproves any and all notions of some immaterial ‘spirit.’

        There is nothing you can point to which even vaguely suggests the supernatural.

        For some odd reason, you choose to ignore this elephant in the room, inserting this ill-defined thing you keep calling ‘metaphysics’ despite having no reason at all to do so… except, of course, your desire for there to be some god. Because of that desire, that need, you simply make things up, then present them (presuppositions) as if fact.

        I’m sorry, but that’s not a game that is going to work on me. My intellectual attention moves with the evidence. It is shaped and directed by the evidence, inspiring questions that are intrinsically rooted in reality.

        It is for this reason I am certainly open-minded about panpsychism. I have found no flaw in its underlining proposition, and 13.8 billion years old cosmic evolution certainly points to it being (at least nominally) correct.

        This is NOT metaphysics. It is materialism, as expressed recently by Max Tegmark (and Penrose before him) who firmly believes that like a solid, a liquid, or a gas, consciousness is not just integrated information (as stated in IIT), but rather a state of matter; a fourth state that is material, measurable, and mathematically verifiable.

        Your entire critique of theism in this discussion has depended on the metaphysical notion that the cosmos is a se

        I have not even begun to critique your religion, or theism in general.

        And no, it is not ‘metaphysics’ to assume it staggeringly more rational (logical) that a material universe has a material explanation. And as I haven’t even offered some probable/possible mechanism it is simply odd beyond imagination why you persist with this allegation.

        Conversely, I might say it is the height of oddity to spontaneously propose magic as some sort of explanation when no evidence of magic exists… anywhere, at any time.

        so that it needs no cause other than itself, rendering a Creator superfluous, and susceptible to Ockham’s Razor

        Yes, rational thought typically travels down such lines, free from emotional drivers which tend to place the conclusion before the question.

      • You’re citing Whitehead to support Whitehead?

        No; don’t be silly; you know perfectly well that I was citing Whitehead as the source of the term “prehension.”

        Panpsychism does not, in any way, claim a god.

        Sure. Panpsychism is quite compatible with atheism. At least, so it has always seemed to me. On the other hand, that had always seemed so obvious to me that I have never bothered to test the notion, so … maybe I’ve been wrong about that. Will have to think about it.

        Lots of panpsychists have argued that there is a God, but panpsychism itself does not (as, again, it has always seemed to me – perhaps wrongly). I did not say that it did. It is however *compatible* with theism; and with pantheism, and panentheism, etc. You asked me to explain how panpsychism was compatible with theism, and I did so.

        Whitehead’s own wiki page contradicts your claim [that Whitehead was a panpsychist]:

        Process philosopher David Ray Griffin coined the term “panexperientialism” (the idea that all entities experience) to describe Whitehead’s view, and to distinguish it from panpsychism (the idea that all matter has consciousness).

        I’ve read a lot of Whitehead, and I’ve read a lot of DR Griffin. Whatever Wikipedia might say, Griffin introduced “panexperientialism” not to distinguish it from panpsychism, but to make clear that Whitehead did not think that all matter has the same sort of experience as humans do when conscious. Scoffing critics of panpsychism often heap scorn upon the notion that electrons, stones, clouds, and so forth, are all conscious in the same way, or to the same degree or extent, that we are. But that critique is founded upon a grotesque misprision of what panpsychists actually think. Griffin was just trying as it were to rebrand panpsychism so as to forestall such foolish, misguided objections.

        Was Whitehead in fact a panpsychist?

        The most significant development and defense of a panpsychist philosophy in the twentieth century was undoubtedly that of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947). Exploration of the details of Whitehead’s philosophy would require an article of its own, and would be fraught with interpretive difficulties in any case since Whitehead’s own presentation is forbiddingly complex. But roughly speaking Whitehead proposed a radical reform of our conception of the fundamental nature of the world, placing events (or items that are more event-like than thing-like) and the ongoing processes of their creation and extinction as the core feature of the world, rather than the traditional triad of matter, space and time. His panpsychism arises from the idea that the elementary events that make up the world (which he called occasions) partake of mentality in some – often extremely attenuated – sense, metaphorically expressed in terms of the mentalistic notions of creativity, spontaneity and perception.

        Panpsychism is *not* the idea that all matter has consciousness. It is the idea that *mentality* is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world:

        The word “panpsychism” literally means that everything has a mind. However, in contemporary debates it is generally understood as the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world. Thus, in conjunction with the widely held assumption (which will be reconsidered below) that fundamental things exist only at the micro-level, panpsychism entails that at least some kinds of micro-level entities have mentality, and that instances of those kinds are found in all things throughout the material universe. So whilst the panpsychist holds that mentality is distributed throughout the natural world – in the sense that all material objects have parts with mental properties – she needn’t hold that literally everything has a mind, e.g., she needn’t hold that a rock has mental properties (just that the rock’s fundamental parts do).

        Rather obviously, it is possible to be mental without being conscious. We all do it, every time we sleep.

        Yes. Every node in increasing complexity is a summit. And you can’t move toward a summit, however proximal, if it is not there before you begin to move toward it.

        Absolute nonsense. Evolution is not goal-orientated, not adaptively directed. A mutation today might be beneficial (for an organism) to the environmental conditions of today (or tomorrow), but appalling deleterious if it arose in the environmental conditions of yesterday.

        For Pete’s sake, John, I was quoting and agreeing with you! Nor was I saying that evolution is teleological. That’s a discussion for another day. All I was saying was that you can’t get from here to there (however proximal here and there might be) unless there is there already to begin with. *Obviously* – it’s surprising that I must make this explicit – that is as true of marginal descents in complexity as it is of marginal ascents in complexity.

        … the aseity of the cosmos entails its necessity.

        Yes, precisely. I hope this point has finally sunk in. Necessity = Aseity. I have stated this repeatedly. I have also stated that I will not grant you your religious presuppositions that you attach to the word ‘necessity.’ I hope that is now perfectly clear.

        What religious presuppositions? I think you are projecting. I have not suggested that the necessity of the universe would make it God, or godlike. Again, that’s a discussion for another day. Just explain how the universe can be necessary. Oh, right – you keep saying that you can’t.

        No; that’s an absurd misreading of what I wrote.

        Not at all. I have repeatedly pointed you to the existence of the universe (a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural) as primary evidence. I have demonstrated that traumatic brain injury, for example, disproves any and all notions of some immaterial ‘spirit.’

        You are being obtuse. I wrote:

        Here’s the thing: if you can’t demonstrate the truth of a metaphysical doctrine, then it is indeed nothing more than a word game you are playing in your own head, that is not moored to reality. It’s just a phantasm of your imagination.

        You replied:

        The universe is a phantasm of [my] imagination?

        I responded:

        No; that’s an absurd misreading of what I wrote. It’s not the universe that is a phantasm of your imagination, but rather – by your own account of metaphysics as such – your preferred comfortable metaphysical notion that the cosmos is a se. If you can’t demonstrate the truth of that notion, then it’s a phantasm of your imagination, to which you cling for unphilosophical reasons.

        Clear? I did not write that the universe is a phantasm of your imagination. I wrote that *your notion of its aseity* is a phantasm of your imagination – unless, that is, you can *demonstrate* that aseity.

        There is nothing you can point to which even vaguely suggests the supernatural.

        I have not been talking about the supernatural in this exchange. You keep raising it, and I keep saying, “No, no, John, just stick to aseity and necessity, and leave all that supernatural stuff alone for the time being.” But you won’t let go of it and get down to the matter at hand. It’s as if you were scared or something.

        This is NOT metaphysics. It is materialism, as expressed recently by Max Tegmark (and Penrose before him) who firmly believes that like a solid, a liquid, or a gas, consciousness is not just integrated information (as stated in IIT), but rather a state of matter; a fourth state that is material, measurable, and mathematically verifiable.

        For sure; I’m down with all that, except that I think it more precise to distinguish consciousness from mere reception of information. IIT makes sense as an account of consciousness only under a more basic panpsychism.

        I would go further. I would argue that mentality is basic to actuality as such. And if mentality is basic, then *it is a property of matter per se* (and of any other sort of thing that might be out there). It is not just a state of matter, but an aspect of matter in every state.

        Your entire critique of theism in this discussion has depended on the metaphysical notion that the cosmos is a se.

        I have not even begun to critique your religion, or theism in general.

        You keep bringing up God and magic and the supernatural and so forth, and I keep saying, “Dude, stop with all the umbrage about spooky stuff already, and just *explain to us how the cosmos can be necessary.*” If you can explain that, then fine. If you can’t, then you are just waving your hands about with your talk of the aseity of the cosmos.

        Drive this into your forehead like a railroad spike: the question is not about God. Just stop talking about him. Don’t think about him at all. The question is how the universe can be properly construed to be necessary.

        Demonstrate that the cosmos is necessary, or drop your talk of its aseity – or, if you want to hang on to your belief that the cosmos is a se, admit that your belief is baseless, an article of blind faith.

        We can talk about God some other time.

        The total extent of your ‘argument’ was simply calling attention to intuitively obvious rules of causality. I highlighted those words because intuition is not reliable. It is, after all, intuitively obvious that the sun and the planets revolve around the earth.

        The argument does not mention causality. It turns on necessity and possibility. These are terms of modal logic, rather than of ontology. Here is the argument again, to refresh your memory:

        I’ll repeat the argument I have here already proffered. If the cosmos is a se, then – as you have agreed – it is ipso facto necessary. But obviously the cosmos is *not* necessary, for others can be coherently conceived – which is to say, that they are possible. If many x are possible, then none are necessary. What is necessary cannot possibly be otherwise than it is; none of its alternatives are really possible, however plausible they might seem prima facie. When we investigate those alternatives to what is necessary, they all turn out to be inconceivable – i.e., absolutely impossible, in exactly the way that a square circle is impossible. But when we investigate the alternatives to this cosmos, untold quadrillions of them turn out to be coherently conceivable, ergo possible (viz., the MWI). So, no such cosmos could be necessary; and, therefore, it follows that no such world could be a se.

        See? Nothing in there about causality. Clear?

        Now, in case you’ve forgotten, you, at the very start of this discussion, already broke those apparently unbreakable ‘rules’ of causality by affirming that there was never nothing. There was always something.

        You annihilated your ‘argument’ before it had even begun … negated it with a single word: “Nope.”

        Not at all. That it is necessary that there must always be something or other nowise touches upon whether or not this or that bit of that something or other was or was not itself necessary.

      • As far as panpsychism goes, I’ll simply say, no theistic (personal) “God” concept is to be found in any interpretation of it.

        All I was saying was that you can’t get from here to there (however proximal here and there might be) unless there is there already to begin with.

        There is no ‘there.’ That’s the whole meaning of the word random in ‘random mutations.’

        Evolution is not goal orientated, not adaptively directed. It is not working towards something. 80% of all mutations are believed to be harmful to an organisms fitness. That does not speak to guidance, or objectives, or goals out ‘there.’

        Just explain how the universe can be necessary. Oh, right – you keep saying that you can’t.

        Why are you pretending to be stupid? You’re not stupid, so stop it.

        We’ve been through this. Necessary (your pet word) because it is more reasonable to suspect the material universe contains the reasons and mechanisms for its own existence. That is to say, aseitic.

        Again, if you wish to be redundant in your use of language, then do so. I’m fine with the word. I agree with it. But, as stated earlier, I will not grant you the religious presuppositions that get attached to the word, such as the universe being contingent. If you wish to propose that, and you’re certainly free to do so, then the onus is on you to demonstrate it. Bear in mind, as we presently only really understand 4.6% of the workings of this particular universe, it takes an astonishing degree of intellectual recklessness (hubris) to even think you could make a statement on the capacity, and capacities, of this particular universe.

        As however I noted earlier, for fun, as a thought exercise, we can certainly entertain the idea of contingent universe, the idea that this world is artificial, but an ancestor simulation, or a petri dish, are profoundly more rational explanations than some invisible magical being.

        I wrote that *your notion of its aseity* is a phantasm of your imagination – unless, that is, you can *demonstrate* that aseity.

        Presently, neither of us have evidence of anything being aseitic, so well might I say your notion of aseity is a phantasm of your imagination… doubly so as you don’t even have a single shred of evidence for the thing you’re trying to claim is aseitic.

        I, on the other hand, have evidence the material universe exists. My position could be wrong, but it is at least rooted in reality. Your position begins in imagination, and never leaves it.

        You do realise that, don’t you?

        I have not been talking about the supernatural in this exchange.

        Explicitly, no. Implicitly, most certainly…. Or are you not proposing a god to be your non-contingent thing? Are you perhaps suggesting it could be aliens? If you do believe it to be ordinary baryonic aliens, and not a supernatural god, then do please make that clear.

        Considering you wrote these words below earlier, I suspect it is in fact the Middle Eastern god of the Pentateuch you believe in, not natural aliens, but again, if I’m wrong do please let me know.

        ”That exploration has … nevertheless verified the supreme reasonableness of Christian doctrine. Christian doctrine is *spookily* congruent with rigorous metaphysics, in just the same way that the world is *spookily* congruent with applied mathematics”.

        Demonstrate that the cosmos is necessary, or drop your talk of its aseity

        No. And I truly hope you’re kidding.

        Here are a few examples to demonstrate that I have repeatedly addressed this:

        I’m arguing that it’s more probable, indeed more logical, that the universe is aseitic … There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        and

        Sure, to the extent of using the word ‘aseitic.’ As I noted earlier, I’d just as happily say >contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence… even though I admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        and

        Simply because we don’t presently know the ‘how,’ does not, in any way, bring us back to the original question: why is there something rather than nothing.

        and

        I’m arguing that it’s more probable, indeed more logical, that the universe is aseitic. I use the word aseitic simply because it is the word theists use in their hypothesis. If it makes you more comfortable, I can just as easily say contains the reason and mechanisms for its own existence. There is no need for me to drift into metaphysics (making things up) as I readily admit I don’t know the ‘how.’

        and

        Not at all. I have repeatedly pointed you to the existence of the universe (a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural) as primary evidence. I have demonstrated that traumatic brain injury, for example, disproves any and all notions of some immaterial ‘spirit.’

        and

        And no, it is not ‘metaphysics’ to assume it staggeringly more rational (logical) that a material universe has a material explanation. And as I haven’t even offered some probable/possible mechanism it is simply odd beyond imagination why you persist with this allegation.

        As it appears you’re having serious troubles understanding this, let me say it one more time: As we find ourselves in a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural, then it is staggeringly more rational (logical) to assume that this thoroughly material universe has a material explanation for itself… even though we do not presently know the ‘how.’

        The argument does not mention causality. It turns on necessity and possibility.

        Do you take me for some kind of fool?

        Necessity is the inventive (entirely unfounded) thought exercise the theist deploys to excuse their god from the rules of causality while simultaneously stating that the (allegedly unbreakable) rules of causality must mean the universe is contingent, and therefore in need of a (non-contingent) creator.

        Period.

        Please don’t speak such nonsense again.

        Not at all.

        Absolutely. See above response.

        That it is necessary that there must always be something or other nowise touches upon whether or not this or that bit of that something or other was or was not itself necessary.

        What on earth are you talking about? That is pure gibberish.

        It’s really very simple. I can summarise it in three points.

        1) You concede there was never nothing, there was always something. I agree, and that means something is aseitic (or, as you’d prefer, necessary).

        2) As we find ourselves in a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural, then it is staggeringly more rational (logical) to assume that this thoroughly material universe contains the reasons and mechanisms for its existence… Which is to say, the universe is aseitic (or, as you’d prefer, necessary), even though we do not presently know the ‘how.’

        3) To propose magic (as the theist proposes), when no evidence of magic exists anywhere, at any time, is a massive violation of Occam’s razor, and overkill as a fundamental basis of reality. It is, therefore, not only hopelessly illogical, but comprehensibly irrational.

        So, as we have evidence the universe exists, and as you admit there was never nothing, my position (the universe is more than likely aseitic) is intrinsically rational. As we have no evidence the supernatural exists, your position is not only intrinsically irrational, but irredeemably preposterous.

        With these facts in mind, the onus is entirely on you to demonstrate why anyone should not expect anything but a perfectly material answer, and instead take you, and your claim of magic, seriously?

        That’s a serious question, and a serious answer should not rely on lounge chair ‘metaphysical’ abracadabra.

      • As far as panpsychism goes, I’ll simply say, no theistic (personal) “God” concept is to be found in any interpretation of it.

        Evidently you have not read some of the panpsychists that I have read.

        I’m not sure why you are so worked up about this. As I’ve already said, your panpsychism does not (so far as I have yet been able to ascertain) contradict your atheism. There’s no need to feel defensive.

        There is no ‘there.’ That’s the whole meaning of the word random in ‘random mutations.’

        Your use of the term “node” led me to think you were thinking of evolution as a traversal of an n-dimensional configuration space, in which each node denotes a different unique configuration of values for each of the n dimensions. It’s a not uncommon way to treat of any sort of change. Obviously you can’t go from actualizing node A of a configuration space to actualizing the immediately adjacent node B if there is no B there in the first place. I.e., you can’t go from any A here to any B there unless B is there to begin with.

        Evolution is not goal orientated, not adaptively directed.

        I haven’t said anything about that topic. There are more complex nodes in the configuration space (local “summits” along the complexity dimension), and there are less complex nodes (local “valleys” along the complexity dimension). That’s all. That there are these nodes does not imply that there is any telos along the dimension of complexity (or any other) toward or away from them. There may be such a telos; but that’s a different topic. Why keep harping on it?

        Perhaps because you raised it to begin with:

        What is true is continual improvement: Professor Adrian Bejan states in his Constructal Law of design and evolution in nature: “In each case the urge [of living] is not toward an ideal. It is toward something better tomorrow, and to something even better the day after tomorrow – relentless improvement and refinement.”

        An urge toward a state that is a bit better *just is* an intension toward the actualization of some as yet inactual idea immediately proximal (in the configuration space) – namely, betterment (howsoever it be defined; whether or not it be defined). But, again, whether or not that sort of inward nisus toward the realization of an entelechy amounts to teleology is not something I have been discussing with you.

        Again, if you wish to be redundant in your use of language, then do so. I’m fine with the word [“necessity”]. I agree with it. But, as stated earlier, I will not grant you the religious presuppositions that get attached to the word, such as the universe being contingent. If you wish to propose that, and you’re certainly free to do so, then the onus is on you to demonstrate it.

        I’ve provided that demonstration to you three or four times already. Maybe more. Here it is again:

        I’ll repeat the argument I have here already proffered. If the cosmos is a se, then – as you have agreed – it is ipso facto necessary. But obviously the cosmos is *not* necessary, for others can be coherently conceived – which is to say, that they are possible. If many x are possible, then none are necessary. What is necessary cannot possibly be otherwise than it is; none of its alternatives are really possible, however plausible they might seem prima facie. When we investigate those alternatives to what is necessary, they all turn out to be inconceivable – i.e., absolutely impossible, in exactly the way that a square circle is impossible. But when we investigate the alternatives to this cosmos, untold quadrillions of them turn out to be coherently conceivable, ergo possible (viz., the MWI). So, no such cosmos could be necessary; and, therefore, it follows that no such world could be a se.

        You still have not addressed that argument in any way. You’ve been avoiding it.

        Note that the argument is couched entirely in the terms of modal logic. It is, i.e., *not theological.* You are quite wrong that necessity is only a theological category. Modal logic is used to treat of all sorts of things. Perhaps the palmary example is math. Are the truths of math true necessarily? Most thinkers agree that they are. It can’t be true, e.g., that 2 + 2 = 4 and that 2 + 2 = 5. The former proposition is true necessarily. The latter proposition is therefore impossible; it is not coherently conceivable.

        Bear in mind, as we presently only really understand 4.6% of the workings of this particular universe, it takes an astonishing degree of intellectual recklessness (hubris) to even think you could make a statement on the capacity, and capacities, of this particular universe.

        That consideration does not seem to have given you pause. You’ve forged ahead with your assertion that the universe is a se, even though you don’t know how, have no logical argument that it is, have no evidence that it is, and have understood only 4.6% of it to begin with.

        [Excursus: How could you know that you understand only 4.6% of the universe if you understand only 4.6% of the universe? Wouldn’t you need to understand 100% of the universe first, so as to tell whether someone understood 4.6% of it, or 23.5%, or whatever?]

        In treating of the necessity of the cosmos under the terms of modal logic, mind you, I am reasoning, not about our particular cosmos, but about *any cosmos whatever.* This, in just the way that in reasoning about 2 we are not reasoning about 2 particular peanuts or 2 particular pennies, but about 2 per se.

        Surely you get this. I can’t believe you don’t get this.

        Presently, neither of us have evidence of anything being aseitic, so well might I say your notion of aseity is a phantasm of your imagination … doubly so as you don’t even have a single shred of evidence for the thing you’re trying to claim is aseitic.

        I have not in our discussion so far claimed that *anything* is a se. Only you have done that.

        You agree that you have no evidence that anything is a se. Nor do you have any logical demonstration that the cosmos is a se. Indeed, you say that you don’t know how it could be a se. It sure begins to look as though your notion that the cosmos is a se is a baseless phantasm of your imagination; is blind faith; is something you’d very much like to believe, but for which you have no warrant at all, whether in experience or in logic.

        Your position begins in imagination, and never leaves it. You do realise that, don’t you?

        Sure – with the caveat that you are conflating imagination with intellect (they are not quite the same thing). All perfectly conceptual reasoning is like that: all mathematics, all logic, all metaphysics. There’s no other way to do that sort of reasoning. You can’t run experiments or do field research to tell whether an equation is true. That this is so does not entail that no knowledge of truth can be obtained from such reasoning. You don’t really want to dispute the truth of, say, the Pythagorean Theorem, do you?

        I have not been talking about the supernatural in this exchange.

        Explicitly, no.

        Right. Exactly! Stop right there. Forget all the terrifying theology you are reading into my modal argument, and just focus on what it says. Defeat it if you can. If you can’t, admit defeat.

        Demonstrate that the cosmos is necessary, or drop your talk of its aseity

        Here are a few examples to demonstrate that I have repeatedly addressed this …

        To address is not to demonstrate. You’ve *suggested* a lot of stuff, but have not offered anything like a demonstration.

        The argument does not mention causality. It turns on necessity and possibility.

        Do you take me for some kind of fool?

        I had thought you were far less foolish than you have been acting.

        Necessity is the inventive (entirely unfounded) thought exercise the theist deploys to excuse [his] god from the rules of causality while simultaneously stating that the (allegedly unbreakable) rules of causality must mean the universe is contingent, and therefore in need of a (non-contingent) creator.

        Period.

        Please don’t speak such nonsense again.

        You are simply wrong about this.

        That it is necessary that there must always be something or other nowise touches upon whether or not this or that bit of that something or other was or was not itself necessary.

        What on earth are you talking about? That is pure gibberish.

        No. It’s just stuff that you are evidently having trouble understanding. Let me try to break it down for you a bit more simply. Existence by itself is not eo ipso necessary existence. Both contingent existents and necessary existents exist. Knowing only that a thing exists, we therefore need to do some more work in order to figure out whether or not it exists necessarily.

        From the fact that there is necessarily something, then, it simply does not follow that any given thing must exist necessarily. Something necessarily exists; the coffee cup in front of me exists; it does not follow that the coffee cup exists necessarily.

        Something necessarily exists; the cosmos exists; it does not follow that the cosmos exists necessarily.

        You concede there was never nothing, there was always something. I agree, and that means something is aseitic (or, as you’d prefer, necessary).

        No, it doesn’t. One of the other options on the table is that there is always something or other *and that everything is contingent.* I.e., that there are no necessities. That, say, it’s contingent coffee cups all the way down.

        As we find ourselves in a thoroughly material universe with no hint whatsoever of the supernatural, then it is staggeringly more rational (logical) to assume that this thoroughly material universe contains the reasons and mechanisms for its existence… Which is to say, the universe is aseitic (or, as you’d prefer, necessary), even though we do not presently know the ‘how.’

        Why? You have offered no arguments. You have the impression from your acquaintance with 4.6% of the universe that it is a se, although you don’t know how. I have the opposite impression from a like acquaintance with it. It looks to you like the universe is a se, it looks to me like it is not. We have the same empirical basis for our impressions, so on that score alone the question can’t be decided.

        But, unlike yours, my impression is bolstered by an argument from modal logic. So unless you can defeat that argument, or come up with an indefeasible logical argument for the aseity of the universe, your impression is less warranted than mine.

        NB that the material aspect of the universe is neither here nor there. It doesn’t tell us anything about the necessity or contingency of the universe. Nor would the perfect immateriality of the universe.

        To propose magic (as the theist proposes), when no evidence of magic exists anywhere, at any time, is a massive violation of Occam’s razor, and overkill as a fundamental basis of reality. It is, therefore, not only hopelessly illogical, but comprehensibly irrational.

        We have not yet got to the question of theism. We must first see whether we can demonstrate the necessity of the cosmos. If we can, then the question of theism – along with all other questions about what might have caused the cosmos, in the event it were not demonstrably necessary – is utterly moot, and we may disregard it henceforth. If not, then perhaps we shall have to grapple with it at some point.

        But first things first: is the cosmos necessary? If yes, then theism is ruled out. If no, then theism is an open question.

        So, as we have evidence the universe exists, and as you admit there was never nothing, my position (the universe is more than likely aseitic) is intrinsically rational. As we have no evidence the supernatural exists, your position is not only intrinsically irrational, but irredeemably preposterous.

        Sure, it isn’t unreasonable prima facie to think that the cosmos is a se. To find out whether it is irrational to think that the cosmos is a se, we have to do some rigorous reasoning. And inductive reasoning from empirical data can’t do the job. As should be clear by now, no matter how much empirical data we had – 4.6% or 100% – they could tell us only *that* the cosmos exists. Empirical data as such *cannot* tell us whether the cosmos – or any other sort of thing whatever – exists necessarily. To answer that question, we have no alternative but to resort to modal logic.

        In just the same way, we can’t answer a question about geometry by means of empirical researches, but only by means of geometrical reasoning. “Is the cosmos necessary?” : modal logic :: “Do the vertices of squares sum to 40°?” : geometry.

        … the onus is entirely on you to demonstrate why anyone should not expect anything but a perfectly material answer, and instead take you, and your claim of magic, seriously?

        Again, for the umpteenth time, I have provided a logical demonstration that the cosmos can’t be necessary. You have not addressed it at all.

        Again, I’m not claiming anything about God. I’m arguing only that the universe can’t be necessary. I’ve presented a logical argument for that conclusion. Can you defeat it? Show your work.

        Again likewise, the material or immaterial nature of the cosmos is neither here nor there: neither materiality nor immateriality entail either aseity or necessity. “The universe is material” is simply not apposite to the question, “Is the universe a se?”

        I have not therefore – you have not seemed to notice this – said *anything at all* about whether or not the universe is material. It’s just not a relevant factor.

        John, it is becoming apparent to me that you are *absolutely determined* to avoid grappling with my modal argument against cosmic aseity: either because you see that you can’t; or because you don’t understand the argument and the concepts it deploys to begin with, so that I’ve been talking over your head; or because you *totally don’t want to,* on account of the dire consequences you worry that your failure would have for other ideas you *urgently want to believe.*

        I grow tired of making the same arguments over and over, bootlessly. And since I am the host of this symposium, I set the terms of continued discussion. So, then, feel free to respond. But nonresponsive comments won’t do. I shall not publish in this thread any further comment from you that does not do at least one of the following:

        1. Offer a logical counterargument to my modal argument against cosmic necessity.
        2. Offer a logical argument for cosmic necessity. Hunches based on the 4.6% of the cosmos that you have a shot at knowing about empirically are not going to cut the ice. The reason you don’t know how they could work is that they can’t work.
        3. Ask for clarification on this or that point I have made, so that you can then proceed to craft a truly responsive response.

        You should understand one other thing. If no further comments of yours appear on this thread, readers will infer that your assertion of cosmic aseity has been defeated.

        Other thinkers might do better with it, of course. I’d be interested to find out.

      • I’ve provided that demonstration to you three or four times already.

        With all due respect, you haven’t demonstrated anything. You have presented ethereal concepts (figments of your imagination) supported only by your own presuppositions which are designed, specifically so, for one purpose: to support your ethereal concepts.

        Do you honestly believe that’s “demonstrating” something? Seriously?

        You agree that you have no evidence that anything is a se.

        Nor do you.

        Nor do you have any logical demonstration that the cosmos is a se.

        I have evidence the cosmos exists, and an unbroken line of material explanations answering our questions. Your position begins in imagination, and never leaves it.

        You are simply wrong about this.

        No, I’m not.

        So unless you can defeat that argument, or come up with an indefeasible logical argument for the aseity of the universe, your impression is less warranted than mine.

        Has magic ever explained anything, at anytime?

        I rest my case.

        I will not publish in this thread any comment from you that does not do at least one of the following:
        1. Offer a logical counterargument to my modal argument against cosmic necessity.
        2. Offer a logical argument for cosmic necessity.

        Absolutely.

        Has magic ever explained anything, at anytime, anywhere?

        Has a supernatural explanation ever supplanted a natural one, at anytime, anywhere?

        Unless you can answer “Yes” then you must concede this is a “logical counterargument,” and as such I expect you will publish this reply. If you don’t publish this response, then you’re just being enormously disingenuous… and you know you will be being enormously disingenuous.

        Listen, it’s been fun, but I think we’ve exhausted the ground to be travelled here on this subject.

        You’re dedicated to playing in fields of pure imagination, busily defining fictional things into existence, which is fine. I, on the other hand, am the first to admit I do not have the answers, but just as material explanations have answered all of the questions of yesterday, I do expect (logically so) that a material explanation will answer the questions of today and tomorrow. You begin your day with the conclusion you desire most and work backwards, ignoring reality so as to accommodate your beliefs. I start my day with a question and work forwards through those unknowns, mindful to only ever follow the evidence and let reality arbitrate my beliefs.

        We were never going to see eye-to-eye, but I’ve appreciated the conversation nonetheless. You’re astute, and even though the tools you have at your disposal lack persuasive power in the actual world, you yield those tool exceptionally well and make honest attempts to rationalise your beliefs, and that’s to be applauded.

        Take care.

        You can have the last word.

      • Despite the fact that in it he offers no logical demonstrations of any sort, and has thus failed to meet the strict criteria I had set forth for the appearance of any further comments from him in this thread, I approved the most recent comment of Mr. Zande because it is evident that he honestly believes that he has furnished such a demonstration, and thus has met my criteria. This in spite of his forceful insistence that logic is nothing more than ethereal – i.e., irreal, like the luminiferous ether.

        Such an opinion cannot but be illogical; there could be no other way to repudiate logic as such, except by illogic.

        Illogic can I suppose be the basis for an honest conviction that one has been logical.

        At any rate, Mr. Zande believes his comment truly is responsive. I will leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether it is, and whether Mr. Zande’s arguments – such as they are – hold water.

        And I reciprocate his good will, and his respect.

      • Apologies, you mentioned presuppositions, and I forgot to make a note on that.

        An example? Sure, simply saying the universe is contingent. That is not rooted in reality. It is a theological presupposition, presented as if fact. It’s not. It’s simply made up… a word game that enables someone to then talk about a “creator.” Pantheists, for example, don’t require the universe to be contingent, and in-tune, pantheists don’t claim the universe is contingent. The word simply doesn’t exist in their lexicon.

        Now, as a thought exercise, we can certainly entertain the idea of contingency, the idea that this world is artificial, but as I noted earlier, if we wish to entertain the thought, then an ancestor simulation, or a petri dish, are profoundly more rational (magic-free) explanations.

      • … simply saying the universe is contingent … is a theological presupposition, presented as if fact.

        I have not simply *said* that the cosmos is contingent. I have *presented an argument* in modal logic that it *must* be contingent. Where is the defect in that argument?

      • The total extent of your ‘argument’ was simply calling attention to intuitively obvious rules of causality. I highlighted those words because intuition is not reliable. It is, after all, intuitively obvious that the sun and the planets revolve around the earth.

        Now, in case you’ve forgotten, you, at the very start of this discussion, already broke those apparently unbreakable ‘rules’ of causality by affirming that there was never nothing. There was always something.

        You annihilated your ‘argument’ before it had even begun… negated it with a single word:

        “Nope.”

      • “Logical” to conceive a uni-verse without cause while avoiding a drifting into metaphysics, ie., “word games?”

        How? What’s the conception other than a real void, ie., no words, no games?

      • Who said anything about no cause? I thought we were all on the same page that there was never nothing.

        Am I mistaken? Do you believe there was once nothing?

      • I believe there is always (P)erfection and never nothing, absolutely.

        But you and I still know “nothing,” perfectly well.

      • Mr. Zande…

        Your aseitic universe is necessarily perfect or else “it” is not an uni-verse at all.

        YOU are invoking the First Cause of (P)erfection and then denying such invocation.

        “God is dead,” but you cannot deny (P)erfection. And you know perfectly well that you will not state such a denial publicly.

        PS. “Happy” is metaphysical language.

      • Why perfect? What is imperfect? And what on earth are you comparing it to?

        Listen, to be brutally honest, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what you’re trying to express here.

        I think I’ll just file this comment under Gerrit Glas’s highly astute 2013 observation:

        “postmodern [Christian] writing is often impenetrable”.

        Glas the Chairman of the Reformational Philosophy Association.

      • PS. “Happy” is metaphysical language.

        No it’s not. Ask any neurologist. We know exactly what the mechanisms are that are required to physically experience the emotion: enkephalin and opioid receptors. No enkephalin/no opioid receptors, no physical capacity to experience ‘happiness.’

      • Why perfect? — John Zande

        Because “God is dead” and so is “universal equality.”

        So an aseitically imperfect “universe” is multi-verse.

      • God is dead?

        Can’t kill something that never existed.

        And aseity in no way implies whatever it is you mean by perfection. That is a theological attachment written in after the fact so as to meet certain criteria the theologian desires for his or her pantomime to be more emotionally appealing… and even as a vaporous notion it’s entirely meaningless unless you have something to compare it to.

        A hole is absolutely, immaculately ‘perfect’ for the puddle, yes? A multiverse is ‘perfect’ if it is a multiverse.

      • Mr. Zande…

        Before there was the neurologist’s known mechanisms of “happiness,” there was the emotion expressing a fulfilling sense of luck. To be “happy” IS NOT the language of a strict materialist. To be “happy” is to transcend the mechanism. Again, you are hypocritically borrowing metaphysical language to deny what amounts to your anti-metaphysical first assumption.

        Where “you” claim to be “happy” is merely strict mechanics. Suboptimal A.I. unaware of utilizing an outdated language traditionally expressed by free-willed, God-worshipping men.

      • Can’t transcend something if it’s never existed. It was just 210 million years ago that terrestrial life stumbled upon the chemicals (enkephalin) and cellular structures (opioid receptors) with which it could begin to recognise the first spasms of something not unlike ‘happiness.’ Before that moment, there simply wasn’t the neurological/mechanical/chemical capacity.

        That is history.

      • And aseity in no way implies whatever it is you mean by perfection. — John Zande

        Aseity implies necessary self-sufficiency… A (p)erfection. This is the “how” of a cosmos as a se.

        Can’t transcend something if it’s never existed. — John Zande

        Exactly my point. You are using metaphysical language in an attempt to subvert metaphysics AND IT CANNOT BE DONE.

        You don’t know “happy” (“it” has never really existed) as a metaphysical reality EVEN THOUGH you know that there can be no actual mechanics beneath that fulfilling sense of luck because there are no mechanics to luck.

      • Aseity implies necessary self-sufficiency

        It implies having the reasons and mechanisms for its own existence.

        because there are no mechanics to luck.

        Quite on the contrary. I’m thirsty, it rains, my thirst is quenched.

      • [Cosmos as se ] implies having the reasons and mechanisms for its own existence. — John Zande

        Yes… Your uni-verse is perfected from its beginning.

        Quite on the contrary. I’m thirsty, it rains, my thirst is quenched. — John Zande

        That’s not luck. That’s you being thirsty, it rains and your thirst is quenched (assuming you were so thirsty you had to drink rain water). It’s more like a little salvation. But you don’t believe in that either so it’s all basic mechanics and nothing more. Surely not “luckiness.”

      • Of course that’s luck. I’m a dingo. I was thirsty, there were no waterholes, but i got lucky: it rained.

        Listen, to return to Gerrit Glas’s observation (“postmodern [Christian] writing is often impenetrable”) I have to say, and with all due respect, I have no idea what point you’re trying to make here in this thread.

  7. As a side note, I would appreciate it if you would all take me off Moderation. I can appreciate initial caution, but I believe we’ve well passed the stage of you knowing I’m not boorish, implolite, or vulgar.

    Thanks.

    • Sorry. I don’t think there’s a way to take a particular commenter off moderation. If there is, I don’t know it.

      You are correct about your comments. Knowing you, I have been approving them on sight. It’s just that I’ve been doing other things than the Orthosphere today. So that, sometimes, it takes a while for them to come under my view.

    • Unlike the last time – when I never saw the comment you sent, in order to delete it – this time the comment you thought was deleted was still in my moderation queue. So I approved that one.

      Something odd going on with WordPress, maybe.

      A glitch in the Matrix.

      Does the latter version differ from the former version materially? If so, I can copy and paste it into the former version. If not, I’ll delete it. Let me know which version you’d prefer, if any.

  8. Kristor, I have a few questions of unequal import, in no particular order.

    How is trigonality at all different from triangularity, apart from its using Greek rather than Latin roots to refer to a shape with three corners? Are you thinking of trilaterality?

    If there never was a state of absolute nothingness, that’s one thing. But if it is Necessary that something exists rather than nothing, how is it coherent to ask Why something exists rather than nothing? Surely an argument that nothingness is impossible precludes any question of why nothingness is not the case. The answer would just be “because it is impossible.” Perhaps this is what John Zande was trying to get at, though he couldn’t express it properly. Clearly, the fact that something never Has been the case does not mean that it never Could Have been the case.

    Why, in your view, must there be an end to the regression? Why couldn’t it be contingent coffee cups (or turtles) all the way down? Is infinity impossible?

    Do you have anything beyond intuition to support the contingency of the cosmos? I share your intuition, but I can conceive of many things that may not be possible, and since I don’t understand everything about the universe, it may not be clear to me that they are not possible. I could imagine, for example, a white horse with cloven hooves and the horn of a narwhal growing from its forehead, and it could seem to me that this conception is coherent, but perhaps it is impossible that such a creature should exist.

    Forgive my nonstandard use of capitalization for emphasis, by the way; I’m not sure how to italicize in this combox.

    • If there never was a state of absolute nothingness, that’s one thing. But if it is Necessary that something exists rather than nothing, how is it coherent to ask Why something exists rather than nothing? Surely an argument that nothingness is impossible precludes any question of why nothingness is not the case.

      I’ve been following this discussion with interest, and this question keeps cropping up as though it is meritorious. It isn’t.

      The answer is very simple – if we all cannot agree that something must necessarily be, or exist, then the rhetorical question is perfectly coherent. It’s just a question to make one think; it can only be incoherent if we’re all in perfect agreement with the premises. We’re not, so the question is legit.

      • I see. Put that way, it makes perfect sense, but I was under the impression that both Kristor and John Zande did agree on that point from the beginning. And when the word “tautologous” was used to describe the impossibility of nothingness, it seemed to me to come close to granting Mr Zande a point, for if the impossibility of nothingness is as self-evident as that word would imply, then the question of why there isn’t nothing becomes incoherent.

        It’s possible I misunderstood something.

    • Theodman, thanks for correcting me re trigonality versus triangularity. It’s another of the stupid errors of diction I have made over the last month. It has been a tough month in real life; I’m making lots more mistakes than usual. Lent should help with that.

      You are absolutely correct: I meant trilaterality. I’ll go back and strikeout the error, and insert the proper term, so that future readers are less confused.

      Terry has already answered your second question. Once we understand the proof – which is to say, the necessary truth – of a purely conceptual proposition (as of math, logic, or metaphysics), we realize that its falsehood is simply inconceivable, so that to question its truth is to the mind that truly understands things just incoherent. But, until we understand such proofs, it is perfectly possible to entertain as reasonable a proposition that will turn out upon examination to be incoherent. And this is just what John Zande is doing with his notion that the cosmos is a se. Prima facie, it’s a reasonable hypothesis. But, once we’ve dug into it with the proper tool – modal logic – we come eventually understand that it is impossible for it to be true. And when it comes to propositions in metaphysics, math, or logic, their impossibility is given in and by their incoherence. E.g., square circle.

      Why couldn’t there be coffee cups all the way down? I.e., nothing but an infinity of contingencies, and nothing necessary back of them? Well, a whole set of contingencies, no matter how large, is itself contingent. The contingencies in the set of all contingencies whatsoever can have causal relations with each other only insofar as the set of contingencies as a whole has been brought already into being.

      The set cannot cause itself to exist.

      Is infinity possible? To be sure; in fact, it’s so possible that it is necessary. But no collection of finities, howsoever large, and however long they multiplied, could approximate to infinity.

      Do I have anything beyond intuition to support the contingency of the cosmos? Yes. I have the modal argument that I have already several times proffered in this thread:

      If the cosmos is a se, then … it is ipso facto necessary. But obviously the cosmos is *not* necessary, for others can be coherently conceived – which is to say, that they are possible. If many x are possible, then none are necessary. What is necessary cannot possibly be otherwise than it is; none of its alternatives are really possible, however plausible they might seem prima facie. When we investigate those alternatives to what is necessary, they all turn out to be inconceivable – i.e., absolutely impossible, in exactly the way that a square circle is impossible. But when we investigate the alternatives to this cosmos, untold quadrillions of them turn out to be coherently conceivable, ergo possible (viz., the MWI). So, no such cosmos could be necessary; and, therefore, it follows that no such world could be a se.

      If you can coherently conceive the notion that 2 + 2 = 5, then 2 + 2 = 4 is not necessarily true, because 2 + 2 = 5 might be true instead. Likewise, if you can coherently conceive of a cosmos even a bit different than ours, then our cosmos is not necessary. It might have been otherwise, as that other cosmos is otherwise. And this *just is* to say that our cosmos is not necessary. What is not necessary is contingent by definition; for there are no other modes of actual existence than necessary and contingent.

      Finally, thanks to you – and to Terry – for your interest in following this long exchange between Mr. Zande and me. I’m surprised anyone has been following it, other than the two principals.

      • Thank you, too, for your long patience with the topic.

        I still have a couple of reservations. First, it’s not clear to me that the elements of a set transfer their properties to the set itself. I don’t think that’s true in mathematics, for example: the set of infinite number sets (natural numbers, rational numbers, real numbers, and so on) may or may not itself be infinite, but if it is infinite, that would not be because its elements are infinite sets, but for other reasons. So the contingency of the set of all contingencies is not self-evident to me.

        Second, you say that one can coherently conceive of a cosmos that is different from ours. I am not well read in this subject, so to me many of these terms—“coherent”, “conceive”, even “cosmos”—don’t seem well defined. For example, I don’t think I can coherently conceive that 2 + 2 = 5. The meanings of 2 and 5 (as well as + and = ) forbid it. So if someone thought he could conceive of such a thing, I would say he’d be wrong, rather than that 2 + 2 is contingent. Now things like where I put my books in my room—choices I make, that is—do seem contingent to me, but I’m not sure a bookcase in a different spot makes a different world. I have no way of knowing if things like Planck’s constant might coherently be something else (it may be as necessary as 2 + 2 = 4), and I don’t see that anything less fundamental than that would necessarily qualify as world-altering. Does that make sense? And why should my ability to imagine something have any bearing on its actual possibility?

      • Thanks, Theodman, these are all good questions. As to the first, yes, there is no transference of the properties of the members of a set to the set itself. The set of contingent actualities is necessary. Obviously it must be necessarily possible that contingent things could come to pass, or there could never have been contingent things. But the set of contingent things could be empty; that’s what we mean by saying of the things that fit the category of the set that they are contingent. So, what I meant by saying that the whole set of contingent things had to have been brought into being even if there were infinitely many of them and there had always been some of them hanging about is, not that the category itself had to be brought into being, but that it had to be filled.

        As to the second, I agree with you that if someone says he can coherently conceive that 2 + 2 = 5, he’s smoking something. He might labor under the misapprehension that he can conceive of it, but that’s only the intellectual version of the move we make when we write down the symbol string “2 + 2 = 5” as if it meant something. Really it can’t mean anything. It’s just that its meaninglessness is not always so immediately obvious to us as with 2 + 2 = 5 (I note here that to my 4 year old granddaughter, it is *not* immediately obvious that 2 + 2 = 4; she has to ponder things to figure that out)(so is it with me, respecting logical and metaphysical puzzles). You are correct that because 2 + 2 = 5 is incoherent, it is not contingent: on the contrary, it is impossible. There is necessity, possibility, contingency, and impossibility. The category of the possible includes the categories of the necessary and the contingent. The category of the impossible includes nothing, because what is impossible cannot be coherently specified.

        If you could nail down every specification of this world and then vary one tiny aspect of that specification – such as where you put the book – you would in so doing have defined a subtly different world. It does not matter whether the difference between the two worlds is trivial or fundamental. They differ somehow or other; that’s all we need to know, in order to be sure that they are different.

        If this world is necessary, there are no other places you might have put the book than the place where you did put it. But in that case, you didn’t put the book anywhere. The necessity of the world entails the block universe hypothesis. And in the block universe, nothing happens, it only (somehow or other) *seems* to happen. If nothing happens, then nobody does anything.

        … why should my ability to imagine something have any bearing on its actual possibility?

        That is such a great question.

        If a thing cannot be conceived by any mind no matter how capacious its intellect, then it is strictly impossible. 2 + 2 = 5 is such an inherently inconceivable thing. So is a square circle. They cannot actually come to pass in any world whatever, because their specifications involve logical contradictions. If the specification of a thing does not involve logical contradiction, then can it be coherently conceived, and then also can it be possible. Its possibility does not derive from its conceivability, but rather both its conceivability and its possibility derive from its logical consistency and coherence – from the lack of logical contradictions in its specification.

        Nevertheless the conceivability and the possibility of a thing come along together with it as a package deal. Its conceivability and its possibility are essential to its specification; are *aspects* of its specification. We can never therefore find that a thing is inconceivable and yet possible; nor can we ever find that a thing is conceivable and yet impossible. So, if a different universe is conceivable, it is possible.

      • I hope I’m doing this reply thing correctly; the last comment I tried to post didn’t show up where I expected. I will quote what I’m replying to so as to ease confusion.

        …what I meant by saying that the whole set of contingent things had to have been brought into being even if there were infinitely many of them and there had always been some of them hanging about is, not that the category itself had to be brought into being, but that it had to be filled.

        Ah, now I see. That makes more sense.

        The category of the impossible includes nothing, because what is impossible cannot be coherently specified.

        I was on board with this whole paragraph until this sentence. It comes close to saying that nothing is impossible, but I imagine you merely mean that nothing that is impossible exists, leaving the category empty of real things. I imagine it full of square circles, liquid books and feline dogs.

        If you could nail down every specification of this world and then vary one tiny aspect of that specification – such as where you put the book – you would in so doing have defined a subtly different world.

        This is much more the way a computer thinks than how human beings do. If I come into a familiar room and a book is somewhere other than where I think I left it, I do not assume it’s a different room, but that I have misremembered where I put the book, or that my wife moved it. A computer faced with an analogous situation—a single mistyped or omitted keystroke in a password, say—will indeed see it as utterly different. This is not necessarily to say you are wrong, only that your style of reasoning is not intuitive.

        I understand that if everything about the world is necessary, then no choice I make is truly a choice, since the results of my decisions can be no other way. (This brings up the question of why the illusion of choice should exist in such a necessary world.) But if worlds are less minutely defined than you say, then it might be the same world whether I put the book here or there, or whether a man goes to war or dodges the draft, or whether Hitler wins or loses WWII. Perhaps only such things as hold the world together (like Planck’s constant) would, if changed, make it a different world. It becomes difficult to define where the line would be, though, between world-altering attributes and non-world-altering ones. I’m just spitballing here, not offering my own theory.

        [A thing’s] possibility does not derive from its conceivability, but rather both its conceivability and its possibility derive from its logical consistency and coherence – from the lack of logical contradictions in its specification.

        I like this. It ties things neatly together so that we can keep thinking, trusting that conclusions we draw are real. It allows us, that is, to engage in this kind of metaphysical conversation without worrying that we are only playing word games with phantasms of our imaginations.

        I’m glad you think my questions are good ones, by the way. I wasn’t sure of that myself.

      • You use [“tautology”] to mean a necessarily true statement.

        Close. I use it to mean a formal statement that is true under every possible interpretation.

        I imagine you merely mean that nothing that is impossible exists, leaving the category [of the impossible] empty of real things. I imagine it full of square circles, liquid books and feline dogs.

        Yes. Except that those impossible things don’t exist even as concepts. It seems that we are referring to something when we say, “square circle,” but really we are not. The category of the impossible is *absolutely* empty.

        … your style of reasoning is not intuitive.

        When you start reasoning abstractly, you soon find that your former notions of the intuitive have been stretched. To me it is intuitively obvious that if two things do not differ in any respect, they are the same thing. If they do differ, in any respect no matter how tiny, then they are different things.

  9. The Pythagorean Theorem is tautologously true. But it isn’t *obviously* true, to most minds.

    One consequence of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem is that there are an infinite stack of logical calculi, each of which is capable of expressing all the true statements expressible in all the stack that lies beneath it. The higher a logical calculus is in the stack, the greater the number of truths it can express (these are all logical truths, mind). So there are infinitely many logical truths. It is unlikely that the human mind is capable of encompassing too many of them. By the definition of infinity, infinitely many of those truths lie completely outside the maximum comprehension of any finite mind. All those truths are tautologously true. Infinitely few of them are obviously true.

    (I see this answer in my email, but not on the page, so have copied and pasted the whole thing. I hope this comment of mine shows up.)

    I have found the source of my confusion: you and I understand the word “tautologous” in very unlike ways. I have always thought it meant saying exactly the same thing twice (though perhaps in superficially different terms), like “This desert is a very dry land.”

    You use it to mean a necessarily true statement. You see, although they necessarily work out to the same number, the sum of the squares of the legs of a right triangle and the square of its hypotenuse aren’t the same idea. One can prove the theorem in several ways, but some proof is necessary, or else it would not be held up as true. But a desert is by definition a very dry land, so the other kind of tautology must be self-evident.

    Thanks for explaining so patiently. I don’t have much to say about the stack of logical calculi, but the point is well taken.

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