Monday, July 23, 2012

Part 4 of my discussion with Mentat1231, or "why you NEVER piss off the Joycean"

Ha! Tricked you. You thought this discussion would have only 3 installments since I said "trilogy" in the last post. You should know better than to trust a night-walking (former) moral nihilist. [Wait for it...] Oh wait, by now you would have all seen the posts for parts 4 and 5. Darn! Anyway, I present part 4 of my Youtube private message discussion with Mentat1231. I won't say whether this is the final installment, because at this point, you probably don't trust me [or you think he's insane...third-person mode: signing out]  ;)  :

Mentat1231, "A note on "question-begging" arguments.", 6/7/12


I'm working on my PM about God's permission of suffering, but I'm trying to make sure that one expresses the point clearly without excessively drowning you in Scriptures or causing unnecessary confusion. So, I'll send that one as soon as its read. However, in the interim, I've remembered something that pertains to the "question-begging" you allege against the Ontological Argument. 

You see, logical arguments don't beg the question; *proponents* of arguments do. To "beg the question" means to accept a Premise in an argument with no further justification than the fact that you already accept the Conclusion. So, the most you could say is that anyone who accepts Premise 1 of the Ontological Argument is begging the question, since the only reason they would do so is if they already accepted the Conclusion. And, if that is what you are alleging, then I have to say I strongly disagree. You can accept P1 without even *realizing* that it leads to C. Indeed, I have argued that it is the more rational approach to view all things as possible until shown to be impossible or incoherent. 

In any case, I thought this might be helpful in our other discussion. 


Mentat1231, "Suffering", 6/11/12


Your question on Point E of the "PM?" thread was the following: "Please provide plausible, Biblical reasons that God would allow people to suffer in situations where: 1) the cause of the people's suffering was their own ignorance, 2) they could not remedy their ignorance, 3) their ignorance was not their fault, and 4) it would have been possible for God to remedy the ignorance (I'll leave off "without violating their free will" so as not to beg the question against your possible response). 

As a side-note: I chose this question because it has direct relevance to the Old and New Testament. After all, God sent Jesus and the prophets down to a populace suffering immensely from lack of sanitation, diseases they could not cure, unpredictable natural disasters, etc., and things did not really improve." 

The basic question seems to be: Why does God permit suffering that He is very capable of alleviating? My response will be based entirely on what the Bible teaches, but I'll try not to over-burden you with Scriptures. I'll just give a summary of the main points, with a few Scriptures to back it up, and then you can always request more if you wish. Note, I often use the common English spelling of the divine name: Jehovah. This is just shorthand for "the God of the Bible", so as not to confuse the issue with other ideas about God(s). 

I think the following two points are relevant to the question: 1) Jehovah is not the cause of the suffering in the world, but He has a very good reason for having permitted human suffering for as long as He has; 2) Jehovah will not permit suffering forever, and will undo any evil that has occurred. 

I will now elaborate on each point: 

1) God is not the cause of suffering or evil in the world. The Bible teaches that God created humans perfect (that is to say: they would never get sick, never grow old, never die, and never transgress His commands unintentionally; and they would have a perfect relationship with Him, such that there was two-way communication, and He would give them meaningful tasks, perfect guidance, etc). God put them into a perfect paradise, and wanted them to expand the paradise until it covered the Earth, and was full of perfect humans. He also gave them free will, to decide what they would do for themselves. Now, you are probably already at least basically familiar with what happened in the Garden of Eden, right? Eve was deceived by the serpent (which was actually just being used (kind of like a puppet) by a powerful spirit creature), so she broke Jehovah's command and got Adam to do the same. As such, they were ousted from their paradise and their perfect life was taken away from them (they would no longer live forever, nor could they bear perfect children... Romans 5:12 says that "... through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because they had all sinned", and Romans 6:23 says that "the wages sin pays is death"). Anyway, because Satan had challenged Jehovah's right to rule over humanity (essentially, he implied that humans were better off ruling themselves, and that God was a liar who withheld good things from them), time had to be permitted for us to try it on our own. Humans have been ruling themselves under Satan's influence since then. So, God didn't cause the mess, He just permits it so that the issue of proper Universal Sovereignty can be satisfied. (Deuteronomy 32:4, 5) 

Of course, this raises a bunch of questions. For example, where did Satan come from, if all God's creations are perfect? Well, that really does go back to the free will issue. Jehovah wanted creatures that would serve Him because they chose to; but the only way to have that, is for them to have the real, legitimate possibility of choosing *not* to do so. Satan was evidently enticed by a desire to rule humanity himself. That kind of desire can lead one to freely choose a wrong path (James 1:13-15). In any case, Satan is now the ruler of the world (1 John 5:19), and humans are imperfect. These are two reasons why bad things happen to people. On the one hand, if Satan is "misleading the entire inhabited Earth" (Revelation 12:9) and promoting his own attitudes, then suffering will proliferate (for example, see John 8:44). On the other hand, imperfect humans often seek dominance over others, and this leads to much suffering (Ecclesiastes 8:9). The third cause of suffering in the world is, simply, chance. Ecclesiastes 9:11 says "... time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all". So, in a world without God's protective intervention, sometimes bad things happen because someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, Jehovah is not the *cause* of any of this; but He does permit it for a time, in order to settle the issue of Universal Sovereignty. 

Some may ask, "Why didn't He just destroy the rebels and start over?", but that wouldn't have answered the challenge about His right to rule. Satan never said Jehovah wasn't omnipotent, so a show of power was not in order. It's like a student who stands up in class and rudely interrupts the professor, saying that the professor doesn't know what he's doing and that the student can solve the problem better. Some of the kids side with the rebel student. The professor already knows his way is right, but he lets the student try to prove his point. If the professor were to interfere (either by helping or hindering), the question would remain open: was the student's way right? But, if he allows sufficient time for the student to make it evident that the professor was right all along, then the professor is justified in sending the student and those who supported him out of the class. 

Along the way, a second issue came up: namely, Satan charged that no one would serve Jehovah out of love. He said they only serve God for selfish reasons, and that if the incentives were taken away, all humans would rebel against Him. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5). So, those who take God's side in this issue of Sovereignty will often undergo hardships, but enduring these faithfully is a response to Satan's secondary challenge (Proverbs 27:11). 

2) Immediately after humans sinned in Eden, and Jehovah took away their ability to keep living forever, He made provision for them to get it back. At Genesis 3:15, He uttered the first recorded prophecy, which indicates (in symbolic language) how we would get back to His original purpose for us. I can go into detail if you like, but basically a perfect human would have to come along, be tested completely, and die, in order to balance out what Adam had lost. This is in keeping with the divine standard of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life" (Exodus 21:24). But, since Adam and Eve could never have perfect offspring, Jehovah sent His most precious spirit creation to the Earth to be born as a perfect human, and eventually to die. We can cover this in more detail later, but if you looked up Romans 6:23, you probably noticed that the second half says "the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus". 

To undo all of the effects of wickedness, Jehovah will destroy Satan, along with any who follow him. Then He will give humans perfect life again, and allow them to finish what Adam and Eve should have done. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29; Matthew 6:10). They will never have to suffer again (Revelation 21:3, 4). Even most of those that have died, will be given a second chance to do what is right and live forever in paradise (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15). It is likely that even some of our painful memories will be taken away (Isaiah 65:17). 

Anyway, this is as brief a sketch as I could draw for you, and I have no doubt there will be questions or disagreements. I wholeheartedly welcome them. Or, if you are satisfied with knowing the Bible's basic sketch, that's fine too. 



NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: Suffering", 6/10/12

Hello Mentat.

This PM will be filled with mostly questions. I'm not going to offer a critique yet. I just want to better understand your Biblical position

First, let's set up some preliminary ground rules: 

1) I cannot believe most of section 1 on scientific grounds. All that I've learned over years of public education implies that Genesis cannot be literally, historically correct. However, there is no way we're going to be able to resolve that dispute via PM. So here's my concession. I'll resort to only using scientific evidence that most proponents of a literal Genesis account would agree to. I'll call such proponents "LGs" for short. LGs would likely believe, for example, that most diseases are caused by viruses, prions, bacteria, etc., "microevolution" occurs (gosh, I hate that term), etc. So I'll try to stick to those sorts of scientific facts in our discussion. That will mean allowing for things I don't actually believe exist (raising of the dead, demonic spirits inhabiting animals, etc.), but every view has its presuppositions. LGs have theirs. Anyway, if I can show there are problems with the Biblical account even if I grant these concessions, it makes my position all the more stronger. So are you an LG? What sorts of scientific claims do you accept or reject? If you do reject certain scientific claims, is your rejection based on the Bible? If so, which passages? I just need a better idea which scientific facts I'm entitled to use here and which I'm not.

2) Though I will make scientific concessions, I will make VERY FEW moral concessions. I never liked the idea that ancient peoples or divine entities should be judged by moral standards radically different from our current moral standards. Differing contexts only allows for so much. So I'm curious about what moral standard you are using to judge God's actions? What would God have to do before you believe you had sufficient reason to deny that God was all-good?

Now to address some of your particular points:

From what I was taught, the Old Testament Jewish writers treated Satan not as a adversary of God or a challenger to God's right to rule over humanity, but instead as an angel who fulfilled a role ordained for him by God. Satan was "the Accuser" whose job [puns FTW!] was to act as a sort of prosecutor for the crimes committed by humans. How do you feel about this interpretation of Satan?

You claim that God allows suffering to exist to "settle the issue of Universal Sovereignty." I take this as referencing your claim that, "humans were better off ruling themselves, and that God was a liar who withheld good things from them." But I don't get how God's allowing for suffering best helps God meet this goal. For example, some people who might otherwise be open to obeying God would be DRIVEN AWAY because God did not reach out to help them when they were helpless. And it's already a foregone conclusion that Satan will be destroyed without acknowledging God's sovereignty: "Jehovah will destroy Satan, along with any who follow him." So allowing for suffering and is of little long-term help to Satan and his ilk. Also, people who might have chosen to obey God, if they had been provided with the correct information, will fail to follow God because they had not been provided the correct information. This goes to the heart of the problem of divine hiddenness and reveals one flaw in free will theodicy. Free will involves taking in external information, making decisions based on that information (decisions which are based on your memory, other information you remembered, your upbringing, unconscious inclinations, etc.), and an output of behaviors/choices. So the problem is how is God supposed to judge the issue of universal sovereignty when many (if not most) of the humans are making decisions on based on faulty information. This is what sections 1-3 of my question were trying to get at. If God is allowing suffering in order to establish point, it's doing it in a very strange and inefficient manner that pushes people towards the incorrect answer. Could you explain to me how, despite my claims otherwise, it makes sense for God to pursue this method to answer the question of Universal Sovereignty?

I know ProMTH has done a series of videos on Biblical prophecy entitled "Jesus was not the Messiah." The core of Prof's argument is that Christians misapply passages that were not supposed to apply to the Messiah and fail to account for the true Messianic prophecies that Jesus failed to fulfill. This would be in tension with your claim in paragraph one of 2 about "a perfect human would have to come along, be tested completely, and die, in order to balance out what Adam had lost." It would be unfair of me to expect you to completely address his entire series. Instead, please tell me what you think the strongest Biblical Messianic prophecies are, and I'll re-watch Prof's videos to see if he addresses those prophecies. If he does, I'll tell you exactly where and in which videos he does so you can make an appropriate response. If he does not, then I'll do some background reading on the passages you provide.

As a child, I always assumed that sacrifice of Jesus was supposed to make sense. But as time passed, it made less and less sense to me. And then Christopher Hitchens came along and put it all together, in his sardonic and often lovingly cruel manner. You say, "Jehovah sent His most precious spirit creation to the Earth to be born as a perfect human, and eventually to die." In most situations, we don't think the guilt or responsibility of person X can be alleviated by punishing innocent party Y. So I would like to hear your Biblical explanation for how Jesus' death transforms us from beings not morally worthy of everlasting life to, upon acceptance of Jesus, beings morally worthy of "everlasting life"?

That should be enough for now. I look forward to your response,

NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: PM?", 6/11/12

Hello Mentat.

Take as much time as you need in responding. My response was quick because I'm mostly reiterating points I've made before.

Prelude 2) After this PM I'll agree to simply speak of the MGB and avoid the MEB as much as possible. I just want to reiterate I could parallel your point about the MGB parallels with ANY description that includes NE (NEX). If the other properties of X don't conceptually entail NE (i.e. an X without NE being is conceptually coherent), then there should be no problem speaking of X. Alternatively, it seems just as arbitrary to me to leave off NE when discussing the necessarily existent unicorn; it's like give all the properties of the NE unicorn while leaving off NE. We're not here to talk about unicorns, but NE unicorns.

Prelude 3) Why is the "necessary" in P3 and C logical necessity as opposed to metaphysical necessity. I'll just assume by "logical" you meant "broadly logical." But to prevent confusion from now own, please just say "metaphysical" instead. Furthermore, please replace "being" with "thing" in your "Definitions" and conclusion C. This will prevent the question-begging equivocations I discussed in my previous PM (i.e. "causer" vs. "creator").

1) You say, "God is traditionally defined as the "prime mover", or terminating point in the chain of explanations."OK, so you've now defined God as the "K" from my previous prelude 2. I am worried about the possibility of equivocation down the line. You could use "God" to simultaneously refer to the K/prime mover, the MGB, the God of the Bible, etc. So from now on, I'm just going to call the prime mover "K", unless I say otherwise, to prevent such equivocations. Now I defined C as "the cause of the universe." By this I meant C was the PROXIMAL cause of the universe. For example, I said "that does not show that C could not have a cause K; if K was uncaused, there would be no infinite regress. And if K was N, there would be no conflict with the PSR." If I granted WLCs and Swinburne's arguments (which I don't), they would prove that there was a mental being they call "God," which was the proximal cause of the universe. Basically, they are arguing that God is C. That's completely different from arguing that God is K. You can define God as K, but then Swinburne, WLC, and the PSR provide me no reasons for thinking K is C or that K has a mind, cares about people, is omnipotent, etc. At best, we have argument for a C with those attributes and no argument for thinking K is C. So you have an argument for a prime mover which metaphysically necessary, not an argument for a prime mover which has any of the other attributes people associate with God. 

3) First, I never bought the inference from "sentient life is unlikely" to "there is a designer who made the world with a focus on sentient life." There are things in the universe more improbable than sentient life, such as this specific rock being located here at this moment. If the rules of the universe were even slightly different, this rock could not been there. Yet no one leaps to the conclusion that the universe's constants were modified by a mind intent on making the world fit for this rock. It seems people have a bias towards looking at improbable life as implying design, as opposed to other improbable things. Second, there is a usage of "fine-tuning" in cosmology that has nothing to do with a designing mind modifying the constants (AndromedaWake is my source for this). Third, sentient life would not be "infinitely unlikely" in a multiverse. Just unlikely. And a multiverse could have the probabilistic resources to overcome this issue given the number of universes produced.

5) WLC uses empirical arguments to show our universe had a beginning; he has no such evidence for the multiverse's beginning, given our causal isolation from the multiverse. So he's left with metaphysical arguments that multiverse must have a beginning. But there are a few problems. First, his metaphysical arguments are fallacious. Second, even he admits that the cause of the universe could be time-less; that's what he says of his God that caused the universe. So even if I accepted his metaphysical arguments, I'd just say the cause of the universe was timeless, non-mental thing, as I argued for in my reply to prelude 3 in my 6/5/12 PM. You say "[I, the NoctambulantKoycean, am] stuck explaining the Multiverse (whether it began or not), which means you are still in the chain of contingencies." Yes, and I am arguing that the MGB is metaphysically impossible, and so cannot by C or K or N. Thus the MGB is not even a part of the "chain of contingencies." So your being is much worse off.

6a) The problem still remains: beliefs and desires can be dispositional, but choices cannot. And it's God's timeless choice which you need to explain. For example, I may have the disposition to respond to the question "is the TV smaller than the Earth" with the answer "Yes." So I have a dispositional belief that the TV is smaller than the earth. If I rehearse the belief, it becomes a conscious, occurrent belief that I can use to influence my behavior. Now, dispositional beliefs and desires can influence behavior but they do so at an UNCONSCIOUS level; if they were beliefs/desires we were conscious of, they would be occurrent beliefs/desires, not just dispositions. Or to put it another way, they would be dispositions whose stimulus conditions had been met and thus their result was produced, as opposed to dispositions whose stimulus conditions had not been met ("mere dispositions"). So what about choices? Our brains can produce involuntary reflexes or make unconscious "decisions." For example, we instantaneously leap out of the way of looming objects or our hand reaches for something without our realizing it. But, in a deep sense, these are not "choices." There is no deliberation, no rehearsal of information, no direction of our will, etc. We can only do such things consciously. That's the whole point of a "choice": a mind CONSCIOUSLY deciding to do one thing as opposed to another. Mere dispositional desires and beliefs are not sufficient for choices because, they are not conscious; the moment desires and beliefs become conscious, they become occurrent and not just mere dispositions. So if God "chose" to make the universe and this choice "caused" the universe to exist, this choice needs to be conscious. And your defense based on dispositions presents no explanation of how this could be so.

An analogy might help. In your previous PM you said, "a mind does not need to be thinking all the time, in order to be a mind (minds presumably stop thinking when we are unconscious or asleep). They simply need to be CAPABLE of thought; as God apparently is, since He begins doing so from the first moment in time onward." Well, when I'm asleep, my mind is unconscious and made up of mere dispositions. I have no occurrent desires or beliefs. Nor do I make choices. This is the analogy I'm making to a timeless God with only mere dispositions. It has no occurrent desires/beliefs and lacks consciousness, and so it makes no choices. You say God "instantly puts into action that which His essential nature [his "disposition"] chooses." I've argued that this makes no sense, if by "dispositions" you mean "mere dispositions" that do not result in occurrent states.

7) I was impressed with your argument here, though I disagree with your conclusion. You say, "fundamental particles are simple in the sense that they have no parts, AND THEREFORE their many properties, capacities, and potentialities DO NOT DERIVE FROM THEIR CONSTRUCTION." So we can say "electrons have negative charge, they have specified spin, and other such properties," and, if electrons are simple fundamental entities, we do this without mentioning different parts of the electron. Now let's take an object we all agree has parts: an atomic nucleus. For the nucleus, we can speak of the nucleus having the properties (charge, spin, etc.) it does IN VIRTUE OF the causal interaction of distinguishable entities within the nucleus (the protons and neutrons). We can't do that for electrons if electrons are simple. Furthermore, let's say we attach a nucleus onto another nucleus or attach an electron onto another electron. At this point, we've create a composite, non-simple thing. If we remove the attached nucleus or the attached electron, we end up with two entities that we can distinguish, each of which can have properties different from the entity they were separated from. So, in some sense, composite entities can be heterogeneous in their nature. Contrast that with a simple electron. Assuming the electron does not have distinguishable parts, when we break up the electron, the resulting components should be largely indistinguishable. So, in some sense, the electron is homogenous.

Now let's take a mind. I can sensibly say (as most philosophers of mind do) that "my belief that X and my desire for Y caused/produced my motivation Z)." My motivation Z came about IN VIRTUE OF "my belief that Z" and "my desire for Y." So in this respect, minds are more like nucleus that electrons, which provides evidence that minds are composite entities. Furthermore, we can break minds down into different components (beliefs, desires, different qualia, etc.), each of which have different properties. So minds are of a heterogeneous nature, similar to nuclei and dissimilar to the fundamental particles of physics. This provides further evidence that minds are composite, non-simply entities. So the analogy you drew between minds and the fundamental particles of physics does not show that minds are simple. It shows the opposite.

A1) Your argument would lead to the unfortunateresult that for every syllogism, "the conclusion is a CONCEPTUAL truth, not just a physical one." But that's patently false. Suppose that in our world, there no dogs with 6 legs, while in other metaphysically possible worlds, there are dogs with 6 legs. The lack of 6-legged dogs is just a result of the biological contingencies of our universe. Take the following syllogistic argument:

M1 : All dogs are non-6-legged.
M2 : Spot is a dog.
M3 : Spot is non-6-legged

M3 IS NOT A CONCEPTUAL TRUTH. Conceptual truths are true in all logically possible worlds, while M1 and M3 are false in logically possible worlds where there are 6 legged dogs and Spot is one of those dogs. The problem is that you are confusing using the rules of logic to derive a conclusion with showing that your conclusion is a conceptual truth. The Spot syllogism implicitly uses the rules of Aristotlean/predicate logic to derive its conclusions. As such, the following is true:

S1 : There is no logically possible world where the premises (M1 and M2) are true while the conclusion (M3) is false. 

The truth of S1 is a feature of all syllogisms similar to my Spot example. But note that this is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from saying S2:

S2 : M3 is true in every logically possible world (i.e. M3 is a conceptual truth).

For instance, M3 is false in logically possible worlds where there are no 6-legged dogs. You're confusing S1 with S2 when you say "for as long as the premises are true, and the inference is valid, the conclusion is a CONCEPTUAL truth, not just a physical one." The only time S1 and S2 amount to the same thing is when M1 and M2 are true in every logically possible world (are conceptual truths); the conceptually true M1 and M2 are combined with the conceptual truths of Aristotlean/predicate logic to produce the conceptual truth M3. However, since M1 IS NOT a conceptual truth, the conclusion M3 is not a conceptual truth. Same point applies to the Socrates syllogism; its conclusion is not a conceptual truth. You also say, "it [the conclusion] was waiting to be derived by logical inference, but it was implicitly already stated in the first premise, coupled with a definition of 'Socrates'." If by "implicitly" you mean "conceptually or logically entailed", your claim is incorrect. The conclusion was not conceptually entailed by the premises because it is an empirical, not conceptual, truth that Socrates was a man; the same hold for the truth "all men are mortal." The conclusion was not derived from the premises SOLELY using the conceptual truths and the meaning of logical terms. Instead, the conclusion was derived from the logical rules IN CONJUNCTION with the empirical premises. This differs from the modal ontological argument where all the premises (outside of P1) are conceptual truths. Let me make this as clear as possible.

I could rephrase my Spot argument as follows:

M1 : All dogs are non-6-legged
M2 : Spot is a dog
A' : If all As are Bs and X is an A, then X is B
M3: Spot is non-6-legged

We can thus explicitly state the logical rules involved in our syllogisms, giving us 2 empirical premises and one conceptual premise. We normally leave out premises like A' because they are assumed; they are the conceptual truths of logic, the terms that give the logical operators their meaning. However, Plantinga's modal OA is different. He explicitly states his logical truths (P2 and P3) as PREMISES, leaving P1 as his only empirical premise (P1 is logically equivalent to C1 and C1 is derived from P1, so C1 does not count as an additional independent premise). But then the OA is more similar to my question-begging Steve argument (which has one empirical premise and one conceptual premise,) than a deductive syllogism (involving two non-conceptual true premises with some conceptual true logical rules). So if we removed the logical conceptual truths from the OA, we'd be left with:

P1 : MG is instantiated in a possible world (logically equivalent way of rephrasing C1 AND C2)
C1 : MG is instantiated in every possible world (logically equivalent way of rephrasing P1 AND C2)
C2 : MG is instantiated in the actual world (logically equivalent way of rephrasing P1 AND C1)

What an uninteresting argument, unlike the stripped down Spot syllogism. 

Moving on, the issue is not whether syllogisms/deductive arguments involve, as you say, setting "up a general statement and a definition which IMPLY the conclusion." The Socrates argument and the Spot argument do not involve "definitions"; it's not a conceptual truth that "Spot is a dog" nor that "Socrates is a man" (I argued for this in paragraph of section A of my 6/1/12 PM and section A of my previous PM). Immortal men could have many, if not most of the properties we associate with men, so you're wrong when you say men are, by definition, mortal. Same claim holds for saying Socrates is, by definition, a man. Furthermore, the issue is what KIND of "general statement" is being made. Is it an empirical generalization that is not conceptually necessary (like M1 or the first premise of the Socrates argument)? Or is it a conceptually/logically necessary truth (like the premise "bachelors are unmarried males" or P2 and P3 in the ontological argument)?

You move on to contrast my Steve argument with the modal OA. You say "'Steve is a bachelor' is not a statement about a set of things." Well neither is P1: "Maximal greatness (MG) is instantiated in a possible world". You rephrase P1 as, "the set of things that could possibly exist includes an MGB." I can make the same move: "the set of things that are bachelors includes Steve." So the distinction you point out does not hold. 

You then say my "Steve argument just states the conclusion twice... the conclusion 'an MGB actually exists' is implicit in the first premise, just like it should be in any deductive argument, but the conclusion and the first premise are not THE SAME EXACT STATEMENT. 'Steve is a bachelor' and 'Steve is unmarried' are the same exact statement." Your distinction is incorrect. I've already explained that the conceptual truths of logic are the logical rules. These rules give logical operators and logical terms there meaning. Another way to say this is the logical rules tell you what terms like "modal necessity", "modal impossibility", "modal possibility", etc. MEAN. So there is no real difference between the "logical inference" involved in the OA and conceptual inferences in my Steve argument. Furthermore, I've already explained that conclusion C2 is logically equivalent to C1, C1 is equivalent to P1, and C2 is equivalent to P1. The conclusion of the OA is THE EXACT SAME STATEMENT as its two non-logically necessary premises. "Possibly necessary X" MEANS THE SAME THING as "necessary necessary X" which MEANS THE SAME THING AS "actually necessary X." These are conceptual truths in modal logic, just like it's a conceptual truth in English that "bachelor" means the same thing as "unmarried male." There are just different labels for things that conceptually imply one another. That's why, once one understands the conceptual truths of modal logic, the modal OA becomes completely uninformative and uninteresting.

I explained three paragraphs back why the Socrates argument is not question-begging and could be informative. We don't just assume men are mortal or Socrates is a man nor do we determine these truths via conceptual analysis. These are not a priori truths. Instead, we investigate the world and perform a posteriori investigations to determine if these empirical claims are true.

A2) I still think the Kflu (or S/T distinction) is relevant; it shows that you should not apply the epistemological methods/standards we use to determine if beings who have only S properties are possible to determining whether beings with T properties are possible. There are different epistemic standards for different kinds of modal claim.

A3) You made the same mistake I warned you against in my previous PM. Yes, "the concept of an MGB (X is only an MGB if it has ALL the GMPs at their maximum level; if not, X is something else) entails NE and is incoherent otherwise," if by this you mean it's incoherent to say "X is the MGB, but X lacks NE." But the SAME EXACT think is true of the NE unicorn. If by your claim you meant that "we can't coherently imagine a being which has all the great properties except NE," your claim is patently false. Period. None of the other great-making qualities conceptually entail having NE. The description MGB implies having NE, but so does any other description NEX. There is a difference between: 1) "arbitrarily breaking off NE from a set of properties {A, B, C}, none of which conceptually entail imply NE" and 2) "breaking off NE from a set of properties {A, B, C}, which conceptually entail imply NE." My NE unicorn and your MGB fit into 1, not 2, while, if you're right in saying the other properties of numbers entail NE, then numbers fit into 2. 

Furthermore, you're wrong when you say, "it is incoherent to think of a number that only exists in some Possible Worlds." None of the other properties of being a number CONCEPTUALLY ENTAIL NE. None. For example, there are many philosophers of math who deny that numbers exist at all (nominalists like WLC) or say they only exist in some possible worlds. Numbers are thus not just defined as necessarily existent. Instead, philosophers ARGUE that numbers necessarily exist. So, contrary to what you claim, many philosophers do think they can, "imagine a number (the set of all things that define the number 7, for example) without NE." This is the problem you're having: you're saying concepts like "number" conceptually entail NE without providing an argument for this. Same holds true for the MGB. So until you provide me with an argument that MEB implies NE (an argument that does not involve re-defining the MEB into the MGB), I'll be content to say that we can make sense of a being that all the great-making properties except NE.

You also said that you would explain how we, "we get from 'descriptional' to 'ontological' ground." But again, your discussion was just about concepts and descriptions and how they relate to one another. You told me why you think the DESCRIPTION MGB non-arbitrarily entails the DESCRIPTION NE. I still don't see how makes it more likely that a being matching the description MGB is more likely to ONTOLOGICALLY exist in reality. Analogously, a Platonist could tell a nominalist that the concept number implies concept NE. Even if the nominalist agreed, this would not imply that numbers were any more likely to exist (in an ontologically-committing sense).

B1) You say "if the concept of NE were frightening to you, then all the MFB would need to do is make you BELIEVE that it was an NE. Indeed, it is precisely equivalent (in terms of fright) for you to believe that it is NE or for it to actually be NE." Um, no. If your rebuttal to my position worked, I could rebut your MGB the same way; all the being in question needs to do is convince you that it has all the great-making properties. But you would probably respond, "no, a being that simply tricked us would not truly have the great-making properties." I can make a similar move. A being that simply tricked us would not TRULY have fright-making properties. Just like a being could deceive you into thinking its great, a being could deceive you into thinking it's frightening. For example, the Wizard of Oz only frightens Dorothy via tricks; once Dorothy strips away his caption, she has no fear of him. So I can just limit my thesis to saying, "Y is the MFB only if X knowing the true nature of Y would induce fright in X." At this point, your just trying to find some way of making sure MFB does not imply NE and I'm just showing you how easy it is to come up with description that rebuts your critique.

B2) I LOLed at your response to my all-existent point. It's been awhile since I was this impressed with a theist non-philosopher. Anyway, there is a crucial distinction here between the possibility involved in choice/decision-making and metaphysical possibility. This is easier to see with an example. I assume you agree that God is necessarily good and there is no possible world in which God is not caring, empathetic, loving, etc. So it's metaphysically impossible for God not to have those traits. But does this imply that God does not have a CHOICE about being caring, empathetic, etc. since God could not have done otherwise? If so, this is problem. If we're libertarians about free will, then we'll only grant moral responsibility to agents who can make free choices or could have something different from what they actually did. We don't describe the nature or actions of beings that could not have done otherwise as morally good or bad. They are just amoral actions that result in harms or benefits. But if God could not have been anything other than empathetic, etc. then under this view, God had no choice in the matter and is thus neither morally responsible nor morally good.

To avoid this conclusion, you probably need to argue that though it's metaphysically impossible for God to have different character traits (or behave cruelly, unfairly, etc.), there is still a sense in which God has a choice in its behavior. The reason that God is caring is not because it lacks the power to do otherwise. Instead, in every possible world, God's metaphysically necessary nature results in God CHOOSING to always be caring. But I could make the same move in response to your point on all-existence and omnipotence: though it's metaphysically impossible for God to create the universe, there is still a sense in which God had a choice about not creating. The reason the all-existent God does not create is not because it lacks the power to or is not omnipotent. Instead, in every possible world, God's metaphysically necessary nature results in God CHOOSING to always not create. God simply chooses never to exercise the power it has. So your wrong when you say, " [all-existence] gets rid of the entity's omnipotence (since the being could never create anything), and so, in that way, actually DECREASES objective value," unless you want to agree that God's never acting in an uncaring manner implies that God has no choice in the matter and is thus not a moral agent.

Your second objection makes no sense to me. You say "he can act on Himself REGARDLESS of whether there are other things, and therefore all-existence hasn't conferred a bit of value He didn't already have." I could make the same argument for NE; God could act on itself REGARDLESS of whether there are other things, so NE does not confer objective value. You would not buy this since NE could confer objective value on God in spite of this. So why do you think NE confers "objective value?" Why is a being better just because it's impossible for it not to exist? Suppose you can provide an explanation. Do you really that explanation will be more plausible than one that claims that being "not only be all that exists, but all that ever has, ever will, and ever could possibly exist" confers objective value? That would be special pleading.

C) Argued against that in A3

Thanks for your response. 

Mentat1231, "Re: PM?", 6/11/12

Prelude 2) Nope. I'll address this more fully later, with the issue about numbers, but "unicorn" is a coherent concept and "necessary unicorn" is a SEPARATE but equally coherent concept. "7" is a coherent concept, and "necessarily-existent 7" is PRECISELY THE SAME concept, if you accept that numbers are inherently necessary. You can debate that this hasn't been substantiated (though you were happy to go along with it until now), but the general point that "if X entails NE, it is incoherent without that property" ought to be clear. And, even if the numbers fail to satisfy that, SOMETHING could satisfy it, and that would become my example in the place of the numbers. 

1) I haven't changed anything, nor attempted any equivocations. I ALWAYS said "the chain of causes can't go on ad infinitum, therefore the PSR concludes to a logically necessary cause of the Universe". This is Peter Williams' point in the debate with Ahmed and Copson, which I directly referenced. Now, Swinburne would invoke Occam's Razor here, and say not to multiply entities beyond necessity (therefore K = C unless you have some REASON to think there was another contingent step). However, I don't even have to make that appeal, since my whole purpose in bringing up the PSR argument is to establish a logically necessary "prime-mover". The contingency of the Universe immediately entails a logically necessary "prime-mover", capable of producing (either by a chain of contingencies, or directly) the Universe. And, since the "prime-mover" is what we mean by God anyway, it gives us God as a logically-necessary being. That's all it needs to give, and all I brought it up for. 

3) The inference isn't from "unlikely" alone, as I mentioned in a couple of previous PMs. The design inference is made from something being very unlikely AND conforming to a separately given pattern. This kind of inference is made in cryptography, SETI, and many other fields all the time. So, if the Universe's fine-tuning is such that it produces intelligent life, then you have extraordinary improbability coupled with a separately given pattern: ergo, design inference. The multiverse could spit out Universes of precisely the same kind over and over again, or just some limited number of variations (none of which need to be life-permitting), or an infinite number of variations. Only in that last case does a life-permitting one go from "infinitely unlikely" to just "unlikely", and even in that case, Roger Penrose has shown that such a Universe would be much smaller than what we observe. And Roger Penrose is not a theist, he is just extrapolating from the probabilities. 

5) LOL. Given our "causal isolation" from the multiverse we are irrational to ever postulate it in the first place! It is only postulated in this discussion as an alternative to God, which we have other reasons to postulate. By Occam's Razor alone we should discard the completely isolated, faith-based multiverse, in favor of the God hypothesis. As to a "time-less, non-mental cause", you forget that this time-less cause has a finite effect. Free will/agency is the only plausible explanation for sufficient causal conditions to exist eternally, and yet their effect to exist only for a finite time. And finally, you'll have to actually prove that the MGB is incoherent, and if you do it will be utterly separate from this line of reasoning. The multiverse is worse off because it is utterly ad hoc, and has no motivation other than as an alternative to the logically-necessary prime-mover (and it doesn't even accomplish this, since it itself needs an explanation). 

6a) As I've said before, God knows all things at once, and has all those beliefs present before Him ("occurent", if you insist, rather than dispositional) eternally and time-lessly. He doesn't not need time to process these, or think about them. They are all always present. His choice to create (which is the first point in time) is just a change in acting on those beliefs/dispositions. And it's not as though some infinite amount of time elapsed "before" He made that decision. There was no "before"! The decision itself is the first point in time, and the movement of God (along with the numbers or whatever other logically necessary entities you believe in) into time. 

7) The dispositions, beliefs, etc of a mind are not analogous to the pieces of a nucleus, since they are not "pieces" of the mind. They are analogous to the innate properties of an electron (none of which constitute "part" of the electron; merely part of its innate description). A belief is not a "piece" of the mind (that would imply that the mind loses part of itself when it stops believing in something, and that it is "built" from beliefs and dispositions and such... all of this is quite non-sensical). The mind is utterly simple, and fundamental, and possesses certain capacities simply by virtue of being a mind (just as the electron possesses its abilities and capacities simply by virtue of being an electron, and not as a cooperation of pieces). Now, just to make sure you see why the electron is analogous, and the nucleus is not: Think of the fact that certain activities of electrons are predicated on more than one of its properties or states (say, energy level and spin). We still do not say that it is a cooperation of "parts" which brings about these activities; merely that the electron was in certain "states", and that it has certain "properties", by virtue of which it did certain things. That is much more analogous to "beliefs and dispositions" in the mind, than comparing such to "pieces" of a nucleus. 

A1) If the statement "all men are mortal" was a statement of definition (which is how I've always taken it; and I think everyone else does), then it is equivalent to saying "the word 'man' entails mortality, right along with entailing maleness, human-ness, maturity, etc". If the statement "Socrates is a man" is also a definitional statement (which, again, is how everyone takes it), then he necessarily falls into a class of beings which, by definition, are mortal. This makes the conclusion a conceptual truth, because the logical rules of inference are valid. Now, if the first premise were just an observation about men, then it ought to be phrased "all men we've so far encountered are mortal" or "most men are mortal" or "there has never been an immortal man". But no on, in posing the Socrates syllogism, intended so weak a statement as these. They intended a DEFINITIONAL statement: namely, part of being a "man" is to be mortal. 

P1 is a statement which can be contested. It is not self-evidently true, as is quite obvious from the fact that we've been debating it for days! As such, it is not equivalent to C1 and C2, since someone could argue "no, P1 is false". C1 and C2 are DERIVED from P1, but they are not equivalent to it. Just as, in the Socrates Syllogism, someone could argue "no, not all men are mortal" and the conclusion would then be called into question, so someone could claim that P1 is false, and C1/C2 would be called into question. 

"Steve is a bachelor" is precisely the same statement as "Steve is unmarried". I didn't properly explain the difference between stating a set of properties, and simply stating one property twice, so I'll try again: If I say "Steve is a man", and then derive that "Steve is mortal", I have taken a set of things that describe Steve (namely, the set of all things that describe "men"), and then picked one MEMBER of that set of properties, and focused on it. This is quite different from saying "Steve is a bachelor", and then saying "Steve is unmarried" since the set of properties for "bachelor" are PRECISELY EQUIVALENT to the set of properties for "unmarried man". You haven't picked out certain members of that set to focus on, you have just restated the exact same premise! In the case of the MGB, we say it has lots of properties, NE just being one of them. However, we then focus in on that one property, and make extrapolations from it. We could have said "MGB is instantiated in a Possible World", and concluded to lots of other things, like "therefore in reality there is someone besides me who knows whether my socks match today". Do you not see the difference in terms of informativeness and question-begging? If not, I'm not positive I'll ever be able to show it. 

Just to re-iterate, we do NOT examine the world looking for immortal men in order to substantiate P1 of the Socrates Syllogism. That's absurd. We DEFINE men as being mortals, and state that explicit definition in P1. If some immortal being, having all the other properties of a man, came along, we'd either re-define "man" or label the new entity differently (perhaps, "demi-god", or something). But P1 of the Socrates Syllogism is meant to be a definition, NOT something we looked around and concluded inductively (as I showed above, if it were an inductive, a posteriori observation, it would have been phrased differently). 

A2) But we are postulating an entity, not discovering one by observation. We define the entity, and see if it is coherent for such a thing to possibly exist. If it does exist, then it really is as we defined it to be when we postulated it. 

A3) I can't believe you're still arguing from "the other properties of X entailing NE", when I've repeatedly demonstrated that this is backward! No one is claiming that the OTHER PROPERTIES of an MGB entail NE. That wouldn't make any sense. We are claiming that the DEFINITION of an MGB entails, for example, omnipotence. Do you disagree? Could you imagine an MGB without omnipotence? OF COURSE NOT! So, just replace omnipotence with NE, and it works the same way! Again, no one is saying that you can't imagine an entity X, with all the great-making properties at their maximum level, "except NE". What we are saying is that the entity with all of the GMPs, NOT arbitrarily excluding one, could also exist! Again, with the numbers: if numbers are by definition NE, then we say "7" is an NE, NOT because NE follows from some OTHER property of 7, but because ALL NUMBERS ARE NE! You think *you're* frustrated.... <takes a deep breath> Forgive me. I will tackle your point about the numbers now (though you were very content until this moment to accept that numbers were, by definition, NE, which is the only reason I used them as an example... it's difficult not to see this new point as a side-step to avoid the conclusion from an MGB sharing a definitional property with the numbers, but I'll not press the issue). 

The numbers exist in every possible world, because even if there were no other entities, the number zero would exist (as would the null set, by the way, and mathematicians and philosophers also usually consider sets to be NE entities). And, by extrapolation, if zero exists, the other numbers exist (in much the same way, if the null set exists, then all coherent sets exist). This is not an argument from some other property of numbers entailing "NE". This is an argument from *what it means to be a number*. Just as I could argue that logical truths are NE entities by virtue of *what it means to be a logical truth*. And these exist in the ontologically-committing sense, because they could not fail to exist. You cannot have a Possible World without them. Now, if we accept this reasoning (and I've never seen a good argument against it), then when I postulate that there may be a highest prime number, you are stuck with two options: either it is incoherent for such a thing to exist (mathematically incoherent, and therefore broadly-logically impossible), OR the entity not only exists, but exists in every possible world, by virtue of being a number. The claim for the MGB is that it also possesses this property, since it is a great-making property. And the very idea of an MEB without NE, is like an MEB without omnipotence. Say you had the postulate of a being which has all the GMPs except for omnipotence. This being would necessarily exist in all possible worlds, because NE is a great-making property it DOES possess. However, it is utterly ridiculous to arbitrarily leave off omnipotence (or any other GMP), and so the concept becomes incoherent. It incoherent, because "having the maximum instantiation of every great-making property" is like a mathematical function (as I've already explained) which spits out a bunch of properties. However, putting an arbitrary limit on this function requires some substantiation. In the absence of any substantive reason why it can produce the other GMPs at maximum, EXCEPT X, you are left with an illogical, ad hoc invention. 

B1) Wrong again. It is not "fright-making" to have NE. It is "fright-making" for you to BELIEVE that it has that property (since you find that property frightening). Greatness, as defined in the OA, is not us subjectively THINKING that God is great; it is function of OBJECTIVE great-making properties. For a property to simply be subjectively fright-making to you, merely requires that you believe the entity has that quality. Indeed, the situation where the MFB existed in every possible world, and the situation where you simply BELIEVE that it does, are precisely equivalent in terms of "fright value". 

B2) You make a large argument based on the supposition that I think of God as completely free. He isn't. He cannot do what is bad, any more than He can destroy Himself. These would be logically incoherent (like creating a rock too heavy for Him to lift). But, it's interesting that you think this means He has no choices at all. God has a WIDE ARRAY of choices. They are just all morally good ones. So, God's actions can judged as to whether they were good or bad, since He could have done any of a number of things, but the judgment will always end up being: GOOD. 

Thus it follows that God does not really have the choice to behave badly, since that would be metaphysically impossible. But, if it were metaphysically necessary for God to be solely-existent, then it would become metaphysical impossible for God to do anything. He would be timeless and changeless, without the option of creating time or space or matter (which means He is locked in that "time-less moment" I mentioned before, and cannot get out). This is certainly not "omnipotence". 

I "LOLed" when I saw this last bit about God being able to act on Himself whether He is NE or not, since *I'm not the one claiming that all He can act on is Himself*. You are. You claim that it would be a GMP for God to be necessarily the sole-existent thing. As such, He could only act on Himself (though, I question even that much now, since actions involve change which involves the creation of time; and therefore time would exist along with Him....). But, this has not CHANGED anything. It has not conferred objective value, since God could act on Himself, regardless of what else existed around Him. Do you not see that GMPs are supposed to be objectively valuable (such that they increase objective value in some way by possessing them)? Being NE does that, since entity becomes intrinsic to reality and could not fail to exist (is thus ultimately reliable, etc, as I've said before). But being A-E doesn't. It doesn't change a thing about acting on Himself, and it DOES get rid of any ability to act otherwise. AND, I've now come to see that it may even get rid of ability to act on Himself, since it removes ability to create TIME! Hm.... A-E has some real problems. 



NoctambulantJoycean, "Metaethics", 6/13/12

Hello Mentat.

This is a reboot of the meta-ethics discussion we had before (see your "Re: PM?" PM sent on 5/29/12). I've outlined my responses to your other 2 PMs and you will receive them shortly.

a) "All bachelors are unmarried males" is a conceptual truth. That does not necessarily mean it's a definition in the stipulative sense. Definitions can stipulate what concepts a label will refer to a concept (my stipulated definition of the MFB, Plantinga's MEB, etc.) or they can relate two concepts. Nor does it mean it's obvious to anyone. There are many conceptual truths that people doubt and analytic philosophers spend whole careers arguing over conceptual truths. So just because something is an axiom or is questioned or we are no absolutely certain about it does not mean it's not a conceptual truth or logically necessary. Similarly, the analytic naturalist will argue for their conceptual truth "moral good means the same thing as natural property X." You may not agree that it's a conceptual truth, but your disagreement does not imply that the naturalist cannot offer this as a conceptual truth (i.e. a logically necessary truth).

You have an incorrect view of science; you're a scientific anti-realist. I normally only see this position asserted by either theists or post-modernists. These people normally don't speak to scientists, attend scientific meetings, or have any understanding of the scientific process. For example, creationists who think "theories" eventually become "facts" once they accumulate enough evidence. I'm not calling you a creationist. I'm just saying your mistaken view of science results from spending too much time listening to what theistic philosophers like Craig SAY about science, as opposed to actually looking at what scientists SAY and DO. As a graduate student in the life sciences (specifically immunology) and someone who read up a bit on philosophy of science, I'd be happy to correct your mistakes.

S1) Enterprises can have more than one purpose or goal. For example, we want to know whether O.J. Simpson murdered his wife BOTH because we want to have accurate beliefs about the real world AND we want to deter crime. Similarly, I clearly stated in my previous PM that science has BOTH predictive utility AND metaphysical implications. So you're wrong when you say I conceded that we care about science SOLELY because of its practical or predictive utility. In fact, many scientific domains are of little practical utility. Yet scientists still work in those domains because they are curious about THE REAL FEATURES OF THE WORLD. They want true beliefs about what the REAL world is like. Don't believe me? Talk to any scientist you know or any student of science; this is much better than getting your understanding of the scientific enterprise from biased theistic sources like Craig.

S2) Again, you're confused. Just because something can be used for predictive or practical purposes DOES NOT IMPLY that it can't be used to accurately represent the real world or we don't really care whether it accurately represents the world. Don't believe me? Walk up to a doctor and ask them, "What if there is no virus called HIV that causes AIDS? The explanation of HIV as the cause of AIDS is just a useful hypothesis that allows us to predict who will get sick; we're not actually committed to believing in a real thing called 'HIV'". First, the doctor will probably laugh at you. Then they'll explain, "it's awesome that HIV 'hypothesis' has such great predictive and practical utility, but that's not all we doctors and scientists care about. We're an inquisitive bunch and we REALLY WANT TO KNOW whether there are REAL THINGS such as HIV. Our scientific tests and experiments are our ways of determining whether those things exist. We don't just make up theories to explain data; we use theories as our BEST ESTIMATION of what's REALLY GOING ON. The theories posit REAL THINGS that explain the data we're seeing."

You say, "scientists do not imagine that their hypotheses or theories will ever BECOME 'facts'. They know that these theories are just predictive tools." Again, actually speak with a scientist. If you did, you would not be making this claim. I already explained in the previous PM what theories and facts are. You're making exactly the "fact/theory" error creationists make. There are a number of possible mistakes you could be making here. I will diagnose them in turn and correct them.

You could be confusing the colloquial meaning of "fact" with its meaning in science and philosophy of science. Colloquial "facts" are things we're really sure of. However, in science, that's often not the case. Sometimes, we're more sure of a given theory than we are of a given fact. For example, if scientist Y said, "I've found a patient with AIDS who lacks HIV," they would be immediately doubted. Y could present their evidence for their observations and other scientists might tentatively accept it as a "fact" (i.e. a piece of data in need of explanation via a hypothesis), but people could always wonder, "did Y make an experimental error, is Y lying, are Y's reagents contaminated, etc." And their doubts could be augmented by the large amount of data supporting the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS. So here, the scientist's certainty about a given hypothesis outweighs their certainty about a particular fact. So if by your "fact/hypothesis" distinction you meant to point out an epistemic difference, you messed up.

Alternatively, you might have meant to make a metaphysical distinction; hypothesis/theories don't are simply aimed at having practical/predictive utility, while facts aim to describe the real world. If that's what you were trying to do, your argument fails. I already explained in S1 and the first paragraph of S2 that theories/hypothesis have both predictive/practical utility and aim to represent real things in the world. Hypotheses, like facts, can make true or false claims, which is feature of explanations that seek to truly represent the world. For example, if the hypothesis "HIV causes AIDS" failed enough experimental tests scientists would not just cast it off as predictively/practically useless; they would say the hypothesis WAS WRONG. It made a metaphysical claim ("the virus HIV causes the disease AIDS") that turned out to be incorrect. This is how science works. My understanding of this is why I find your scientific anti-realism to be so implausible. 

Now to the analogy of morality and science. You say, "if a moral fact were analogous to a scientific theory, then it would be only as real as its utility. And it could be fundamentally flawed, but it wouldn't matter for as long as it gave us accurate predictions." This is patently false. As I've argued, if scientific theories gave us accurate predictions but falsely represented reality, this would matter to scientists. If two different theories passed all the tests, scientists would have trouble determining which one is correct. But this would not mean they don't or it doesn't "matter" which one is correct. That's absurd. We care whether our scientific theories are correct or not. You could only have such a view if you sorely misunderstood the scientific enterprise or didn't actually interact with scientists. You're drawing a metaphysical conclusion when you should be draw epistemological one (for context, see WayoftheBastard's excellent video "William Lane Craig is NOT a Philosopher of Science", starting at 5:15). So in drawing an analogy between scientific realism and moral realism, I'm showing how both enterprises aim at representing real facts in the world. And it would matter to both scientific realists and moral realists whether there accounts correctly represented the real world. I'm NOT claiming that scientists and moralist employ the same methods in determining truth; just that they both aim at correctly representing different features of the world.

b) Your reasoning here is confusing. In your 5/31/12 PM you say the following: "[I] don't need to substantiate God's metaphysical necessity for the sake of the moral argument. I choose to do so (and I will defend both the Leibniz-style argument and the Plantinga-style one), but I do not need to.... The conditional would read: 'If objective moral values really exist, then a metaphysically necessary, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, eternal person who created the Universe exists.' So, your opening statement ("if I can show that G is unjustified, then your argument collapses...") is quite mistaken."
My G was: "G: God's existence is metaphysically necessary."

In your 5/29/12 PM you say, "If you simply run an OQA, asking 'why is God's necessary, eternal, changeless nature really 'good'', the simple answer is because it is the only moral nature which exists unchanging in every possible world... Does it not follow then that, if in every possible world there are God's moral opinions, changelessly and eternally present, and all morally-aware species of being receive that intuition from Him, that these are the necessarily true ones."

I'm confused. If I show G is false (that God is either metaphysically impossible or contingent), haven't I shown that God can't be the foundation for morality since, by your reasoning, morality requires a foundation that exists in every possible world? So isn't your point in the 5/31/12 PM incorrect? Or maybe I should take you as arguing that objective morality implies a necessary mind with the properties you outlined? But as I've explained to you many times, objective morality does not require necessarily existent moral properties; it instead requires that certain moral statements are true in every possible world. And statements can be true even in worlds where no minds exist. For example, take moral statements of the form, "If agent X did action Y in context C, then action Y was morally wrong." I'm saying objective morality is committed to statements like this being true in every possible world. In worlds where the antecedent of the conditional is met, the property "moral wrongness" is produced. In worlds where the antecedent is not met (maybe there are no minds or agents), the conditional is STILL TRUE. First, you don't falsify a conditional by showing its antecedent is false. You falsify it by showing its conditional is false in situations where the antecedent is true. Second, there are plenty of examples of statements that are true even in worlds where there antecedent is not met. For example, the counterfactual truth, "If Nixon committed murder, then Nixon killed someone" is true even in worlds where Nixon does not exist. So no, you cannot argue from objective morality to God via saying objective morality requires necessary moral properties and these properties imply a necessary mind. That's fallacious.

Anyway, in your 5/29/12 reply you missed the thrust of my question. Telling me that God's nature is the "only moral nature which exists unchanging in every possible world" does not tell me why I should think God's nature is "good". How does that even address the question? God could be a prick in every possible world; would you then say its nature was good? If so, you're a type 2 theist from my 5/24/12 PM, and you said you weren't in your 5/24/12 PM. If not, then you agree that having "moral nature which exists unchanging in every possible" is not sufficient for being morally good. But maybe when you said "moral nature" you meant to exclude possibilities like God being a prick; such a God would not be moral. EXACTLY. This goes back to my whole FOM point. God's relevant to morality only because you smuggled the FOMs into its character traits. Remove these, and God is irrelevant to (and insufficient for) objective morality. I've just shown that having a metaphysically necessary nature is neither sufficient for (via God the prick) nor necessary for (via the necessary property/necessary truth distinction of the previous paragraph) objective morality. You're right; it does follow that "if in every possible world there are God's moral opinions, changelessly and eternally present, and all morally-aware species of being receive that intuition from Him, that these are the necessarily true ones." But that's SOLELY because of the FOMs you put in God. Take those FOMs out, and moral realism is fine because these FOMs are all that's necessary to make the moral statements I mentioned in the previous paragraph necessarily true. We would then use our own minds to find out what was right and wrong. No God required. This perfectly squares with people's moral intuitions, as I will explain in a subsequent PM.

Finally, you're still confused about necessity. Take the two following claims:

1 : X is necessary (i.e. X exists in every possible world)

2 : The following is a necessary truth: "If Y is in accordance with X's nature, Y is good."

When you say God is the "only moral nature which exists unchanging in every possible world... it is as fundamental to reality as the numbers" you are defending 1. But I don't care about 1. As my discussion of the analytic naturalist should have made clear, I care about 2. I want you to explain to me why I should accept 2's necessity claim. As I showed in the previous paragraph, 1 has absolutely no relevance to this meta-ethical discussion. None. You need to provide me an argument for 2. But I doubt you can. And even if you did, I could just perform WLC's favorite tactic, a tactic many theists employ; feign denial. In your 5/25/12 PM you say, "until you actually present an argument for the "A" option [analytic naturalism], I am quite justified (within the parameters of this debate) to call it a bare assertion." WLC does that same thing when he say he just cannot see, on atheism, why thinks like harm, suffering, etc. are morally bad. "Feigning denial" involves saying "I just don't see how X is good/bad on view Y," and is a favorite move of people who employ the OQA. Two can play that game: I just don't see how God could be without possessing the FOM traits. It just doesn't make sense. And I think the FOM traits could justify moral statements well even if they were separated from God. And though 2 might not be an "OBVIOUS or INTUITIVE truth," I'm going to treat it as "bare assertion" until you actually provide me an argument for its logical or metaphysical necessity. See how annoying that is? That's how atheists (or moral philosophers in general) feel when theists like you or Craig walk around saying think like harm or violation of rights are not SOLELY sufficient for ground morality, though our moral experience and intuitions tell us other. Why in the heck should we take this seriously?! So either provide an argument for 2 (NOT 1), or I'm going to brush off your meta-ethical position.

C2) My point was God could have lied to us or given us false beliefs. You could stipulate that your loving, benevolent God would not do this. Fine. I'll drop the point.

C4). I've argued that morality is not conceptually linked to God (via my L/C/R distinction, various thought experiments, etc.), while you have not provided me with an argument that morality is conceptually predicated on God's nature nor even explained how you would go about making such a conceptual argument. So provide me with such an argument (without confusing 1 with 2). Otherwise I'm going to treat you the same way you treated the analytic naturalist and call your claims bare assertions.

C5) I said the teleological argument gave me "pause." That's not the same thing as saying its compelling or sound. For a taste of my view on teleological arguments, see my comments from about 3 weeks on the video "Intelligent Design For Dummies Part 6 - The Origin of Life (1 of 2)." To summarize: I think theistic ID is a joke of a position that's just a convenient way of smuggling God into schools. Unlike ID theories based on minds that act via their physical properties (i.e. act like every mind we've unambiguously experienced), theistic ID resorts to a timeless, space-less God since that's what their theology demands. Forgive me if I can't grant that (or its proponents in the Discovery Institute) any scientific respectability. Such proponents aren't advancing our knowledge.

Z) You say, "A-C are fallacious for the reasons I've already presented, which have not been rebutted." Cite where you showed those positions were fallacious. Your argument for objective morality to a necessary mind mischaracterizes objective morality's commitments, so I don't take that as arguing against A-C. You also say "as to God's goodness being 'parasitic' on the moral properties themselves, I've responded numerous times that that is completely BACKWARD. Those things are only good because they are part of His nature. Otherwise, there is no reason to think of them as objectively good rather than just (at best) very useful." Wrong. The reason we think they are good is a combination of moral experience, intuition, and thought experiments. Your view disagrees with our moral intuitions and you don't even have an argument explaining why X agreeing with God's nature makes X good. So forgive me if I'm willing to go with our moral intuitions rather than your counterintuitive, unsupported position. The only reason you think otherwise is because you a) don't understand science and thus misunderstood the analogy between science and morality b) think something being agreeing God's nature somehow makes it good. Your view is b falls under a class of positions meta-ethicists call "subjectivism." Morality depends on the nature of a being as opposed to mind-independent properties. Such views are counterintuitive (i.e. disagree with people's moral conceptual intuitions as can be determined via the LCR method, thought experiments, psychological experiments, etc.) and this counterintuitiveness counts against your theory. 

I'm going to send you another PM on meta-ethics outlining how we ACTUALLY determine our moral conceptual intuitions, and how this shows your analysis of "morally good" is completely misguided.


Mentat1231, "Re: Metaethics", 6/13/12


Good to hear from you again. I hope everything's been going well in your life. 

a) No one is saying that a moral philosopher couldn't offer X as a conceptual truth, but they would have to justify it, or give us some warrant for thinking that it is such. This is even harder in the case you describe (where it is an axiom, it is questionable, and we are not certain). I'll get back to the "bare assertion" point later, but without some warrant/justification that is what these "proposed conceptual truths" would be: a bare assertion. 

You really have me wrong on the science issue. I've actually done much more reading on several of the sciences, as well as the philosophy of science, than on any other topic we've discussed (and that is great deal). Let me address your points head-on: 

S1) Of COURSE scientists are interested in the real world. Indeed, many sciences have no practical utility to our everyday life (theoretical physics, cosmology, even archaeology most of the time), but are instead pursuits of knowledge about the world. I never claimed that science (as a discipline or a pursuit) was all about practical utility or predictive capacity. I said scientific HYPOTHESES and THEORIES are graded on those measures. That is quite a different thing from saying "scientists are in the business for practical utility and predictive capacity", which I don't claim at all. However, a particular HYPOTHESIS or THEORY is given credence *only insomuch as it offers predictive capacity and utility*. I will address this point further in my responses to your HIV example later, but the point is that a particular theory cannot be graded based on "how much closer to truth it gets us" since we cannot know this (such a thing would involve a completely separate knowledge of what the "truth of the matter" actually was, and a comparison of the theory to that separately given knowledge). All we can know is that it gets its predictions right in every experiment, and is therefore more useful and predictive. Eventually, when it becomes very, very unlikely that some new discovery is going to overturn a particular hypothesis or theory, it can be referred to as a "fact" (but, even then, the scare-quotes are often included, in recognition of the Inductive nature of Science). For example: I don't know how much reading you've done in the realm of theoretical physics, but one of the leading criticisms of the superstring theory is that it has made no testable predictions. It can explain A GREAT DEAL which needs explaining (it relates GTR to QM, it gives a Unified Field Theory explaining the four forces, it explains aspects of black holes that we can't explain otherwise, it gives explanations for dark energy and dark matter....), but it hasn't given any testable predictions (at least, not the last time I checked). The huge amount of concern over this is indicative of the fact that, as Stephen Hawking says: "A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations". In line with Karl Popper's explanation of what makes a good theory, it is not "anti-science" or "anti-scientific-realism" for me to say that the strength of a theory is predicated on utility in explanation of natural phenomena + predictive capacity (despite the fact that its predictions are easily testable/falsifiable). 

S2) Trust me, I cringe just as much as you do, when some foolish creationist says "evolution is JUST a theory" or some such nonsense. You really aren't teaching me anything here, and are speaking directly past my actual point. My point was, quite clearly, that a scientific theory is only as good as its utility, and I'll prove that with your own example: Why is it that doctor's don't look for some alternative explanation for AIDS? Why do they settle for the fact that HIV is always present prior to AIDS, and that the causal mechanisms are well understood? It could very well be the case that something COMPLETELY UNRELATED to that virus is what really causes AIDS, but that that real cause happens to have been present in all the same people who had HIV. So, it is not a fundamental truth about the real world that HIV causes AIDS, nor does any scientist study it with that kind of "truth" in mind. They have in mind the useful, predictive kind of knowledge (i.e. "so far the HIV hypothesis has held, so we can be more and more certain it will continue to hold, and should proceed with treatment accordingly"). So it is with all other pursuits in Science. 

Just to make sure my point is clear: You say "if the hypothesis 'HIV causes AIDS' failed enough experimental tests scientists would not just cast it off as predictively/practically useless; they would say the hypothesis WAS WRONG. It made a metaphysical claim ("the virus HIV causes the disease AIDS") that turned out to be incorrect." But, don't you see that the worth of the hypothesis was indeed judged entirely on "predictive/practical usefulness"?? No other measure is invoked. We don't have some other meaning for "wrong" in this context. This is quite different from morality. In morality, we want our statements to be fundamentally, actually true, and this is not measured based on Induction or empirical tests, which always leave open the possibility that some new event will overturn our whole paradigm (I reference Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"). 

In the case of two theories which both make accurate predictions constantly, the interest is in finding a test/experiment/situation where that does NOT occur. Then the one that still gives an accurate prediction will "win", so to speak. Again, predictive capacity is the end-all, final determination of the good theory. 

b) Forgive me for having confused you about my burden of proof. If you look at the context, I was referring to proving God's metaphysical necessity via OTHER arguments (like the OA and the PSR). This, I am indeed not required to do. I can just take that as one of the things under the label "God" in the argument: "If objective moral values and duties exist, then God exists". After all, I don't have to separately prove that God is a person, that He has moral opinions, or that He created us. These are just given in the label "God" as used in the Moral Argument. So is metaphysical necessity. 

To put it another way, if the existence of objective moral values/duties really did require the existence of a metaphysically necessary God, then discovering that such things do really exist would logically entail the existence of a metaphysically necessary God (*completely independently* of any other argument for that property of God). 

I never argued that objective morality necessitates a mind directly. I argued that the fundamental nature of God must exist in every Possible World, in order to ontologically ground moral facts as true. If not, then we have no reason to accept, for example, "you must not cause harm to sentient beings" as a moral duty. Indeed, societies could evolve that thought quite the opposite, and there is no one to tell them they are wrong. **Key Point**: You say that these moral facts could just exist as counterfactual truths in every Possible World. The problem is that there is nothing logically inconsistent (not even broadly logically inconsistent) about a Possible World where "you must torture one girl every 100 years" is a moral duty. As a deductive argument: 
P1) A Possible World is ANY configuration of reality which is (broadly) logically permissable. That is to say that this configuration of reality does not violate any logical or mathematical rules, nor the fundamental meaning of particular terms (e.g., a round square cannot exist in any PW, not because it is technically logically impossible, but because it is definitionally incoherent, since square are by definition not round). 
P2) No moral statement can be such that a Possible World (even in the broadly logical sense) cannot be constructed where that statement is false, unless God exists in every Possible World to ground that statement in something metaphysically necessary. The moral statements are not derived from logic, mathematics, or the fundamental meanings of terms. 
C) If any moral statement is necessarily true (true in every PW) it is because God exists. 

You ask "what makes His nature 'good'?", and I say that is a malformed question. What makes anything "morally good" is that such a thing is in compliance with God's unchanging, eternal, metaphysically necessary nature. The fact that He is also the Creator in every world in which any contingent beings exist, further shows that any moral intuition we have would have come from Him. You ask "what if He lied to us?", and I think that is rather irrelevant (along with being unlikely, given that it seems an omniscient being cannot value false information). If He did lie to us, we'd simply be wrong about WHICH moral statements were correct; but NOT about the fact that there are correct and incorrect statements about morality, and so my argument is untouched. 

I have provided an argument for (2), as you put it. I'll re-state it, for easy reference: Any moral statement can be false in at least one Possible World, since morality is not derived from logic, mathematics, or definitional non-contradiction. The only way out of that (to rescue moral realism) is if God exists in every Possible World, with His changeless, eternal moral nature. 

C2) My argument was not just "He would never do that"; it was that He could have given us false logical, epistemic, etc intuitions, but that that is irrelevant, since we are stuck with them, and must operate as if they are at least basically oriented rightly. 

Final point: I showed that A-C all had fundamental problems. Since I showed this throughout the PMs, I can only say to go back and read them again. Here is what I remember about them: 
(A) was a bare assertion that moral truths might be metaphysically necessary (without any justification). You yourself didn't buy it, but referred me to the work of others. I said that, within the proper framework of a debate, either you defend an idea or you discard it and proceed with other arguments you actually intend to defend. 
(B) failed in its contingency. The example of Mercury being the 1st planet from the Sun was used, and I think supported my case against (B) quite well. 
(C) relied on the idea that "goodness" could be measured or tested as an "effect" of a particular moral action. But, since goodness cannot be approached in that way, (C) is useless. 

I look forward to your response. As the great Garrison Keillor says: Be well, do good work, and keep in touch :-) 


NoctambulantJoycean, "Re: Suffering", 6/16/12

Hello Mentat.

1) "I don't reject any scientific claims on the basis of the Bible." Good; then I have science's full arsenal at my disposal. That should make things relatively easy.

Genesis fails on both literal and allegorical levels. Non-fundamentalist Christians often try to get around the literal failures by making the text's meaning non-literal. But this has many flaws. First, it's such a convenient, under-handed way of dodging criticism. The Bible says something false? No problem; make the Bible's claim non-literal. Second, there are many Biblical claims that don't make sense even as allegory. For example, what's the allegorical point of giving the incorrect order of creation (Genesis gives the incorrect order for the existence of various life forms, the star, light and the Earth)? Isn't this more plausible read as a mistake, as opposed to metaphor or allegory? What reason, other than a refusal to allow the Bible to make mistakes, would we interpret this section as non-literal?

Furthermore, contrary to Genesis, there was never a time when human beings and the other animals existed in harmony. Our best evidence suggests that suffering, death, etc. have been here as long as life has. "Death" did not enter the world via sin. That's false on a literal level. Plenty of organisms suffered and died before there were any humans to sin. It's also false on an allegorical level because it blames humanity for something WE HAD NO CONTROL OVER and which preceded us. We never got ourselves kicked out of paradise because we never were in paradise. Also, there was no primordial, privileged Adam who was the first to sin and thus screwed us all. That's a myth made up by people who don't have the knowledge of genetics we do. It fails as an allegory because Adam's choice has nothing to with the nature and condition of his resulting descendants because Adam, as the Bible describes him, never existed. Again, the legend places blame of the wrong party. Finally, scientists have begun to investigate how human beings evolved sentience; we don't need to resort to saying "Jehovah 'breathing the breath of life into them'" as an explanation. We don't need a God of the gaps.

2) "But, seriously, He would have to violate His own standards of right and wrong; since these are the standards upon which my own right/wrong discrimination is based." This is what I was afraid of. Honest question: if God did X and his own standards said X was right, would you say that X was right REGARDLESS of what X was? If your answer is yes, then you've answered my question from the previous PM: there is NOTHING God could do that would make you say God was not all-good. God's goodness, on this view, is utterly non-falsifiable. It's the type 2 position I had so much disdain for in my 5/24/12 PM. Anyway, if this is your position, I'll be arguing against it in my discussion of meta-ethics. We don't use God's nature or standards to determine what's good. Instead, we use independent standards to JUDGE God's nature and commands as good.

If your response is no...well, I really hope your answer is no.

Onto Satan as the Accuser. This interpretation may not be supported by some NEW Testament sources, but that's to be expected. The New Testament writers were building their own tradition in light of Jesus' death so it's not surprising that they re-interpreted the Old Testament in light of their new tradition. This happens in religions all the time. People re-interpret works in ways the original writers would have found ridiculous (ex: see the videos from ProfMTH in the last paragraph of section 2e). The sources I've seen (including current scholars of Jewish history, many of them Jews themselves) treat Satan as "the Accuser." This makes more sense of the Job account than the New Testament alternative; why would God listen to its sworn, rebellious, evil enemy and punish a just man? It's more plausible than in the Job account, the Jewish writers views Satan as just an Accuser fulfilling his assigned role. It also makes more sense of God's omnipotence. If Satan is just the Accuser and a being fulfilling a role God gave him, we don't need some explanation of why an all-powerful God allows a malevolent jerk to tempt people with false information that they don't know is false. So if you want to continue with the New Testament interpretation of Satan, that's fine. You'll just have to contend with the Old Testament Jewish writers.

a) It's not a matter of "getting something out of it." Instead, it's about whether a being is worthy of worship, praise, or loyalty. For example, we're often loyal to people merely because we think they deserve it, even when we don't materially benefit from the relationship or even when we suffer because of the relationship. Parents choose to be loyal to their children and followers can choose to protect and obey an infirm, but kind and wise leader. If someone treats us badly, we "choose not to serve" that person not because we don't get something from them (though that's one reason not to serve such a person), but because that person DOES NOT DESERVE our service.

For instance, let's say Bob saw Mary was being raped. Instead of rushing to Mary's aid, contacting the police that were located across the street from Bob, etc., Bob does nothing to prevent Mary's rape. Upon Mary's mother finding out about Bob, Mary's mother refuses to even be around Bob, let alone serve him. Would we say Mary's mother was just looking to "get something out of" Bob and that's why she turned her back on him? Is she being a rebellious person, like Adam and Eve? Of course not. Mary's mother is judging Bob based on his actions and coming to the conclusion that Bob DOES NOT DESERVE her consideration or service. Bob's inaction drove her away. Things get even worse if Bob gives extremely unclear/ambiguous evidence for what his motives were, does not bother to give an explanation, or, worse yet, responds that, "I did not prevent the rape because it's apart of my plan to see if people like Mary would choose to serve and obey me." That's what I'm saying is happening with God and much of humanity. Many people are driven away because 1) God does not ensure that they have full, unambiguous knowledge of its existence, let alone it's nature and 2) they can't make sense of why a being DESERVING of their service would allow not only them, but other innocents, to suffer torment.

b) The issue of universal sovereignty was not "raised in front of all intelligent creatures (human and angel)" since most humans don't even know it's going on. Many people haven't even heard of God or Satan and many who have heard of them haven't been presented with sufficient evidence for them to believe this "issue" is actually real and so don't actually KNOW what's going on. This is not their fault, since people can't force themselves to believe something they think lacks sufficient evidence. That's the whole point behind the problem of divine hiddenness. Your God expects people to make a choice it could blame them for (i.e. an informed choice), when they lack crucial knowledge that God could easily provide via telling them information (not just putting info in their heads or sending imperfect missionaries). These "ilk" of Satan that your God is dooming certainly don't seem like the kind of people an omnibenevolent being would turn away or punish. Yet your God will.

Furthermore, God could destroy Satan while still meeting the challenge to his sovereignty. Remember, the issue regards whether "humans were better off ruling themselves, and that God was a liar who withheld good things from them." God could immediately destroy Satan and reveal itself to humanity. Humans would still have a choice about whether or not to obey God, and they could make an informed choice since they would have the relevant information. This would allow God to settle the issue of sovereignty quite easily. In fact, allowing Satan to deceive people is counterproductive to God's goal. Satan's deception gives people incorrect information about who to serve, and so makes the person's resulting choice to sin or disobey God is uninformed. Since God wants people to make an informed choice, getting rid of Satan would be a great boon. But, of course, this has not happened. So some Christians look for some explanation of why an omnibenevolent God would permit the suffering we see. You settled on the 'sovereignty" explanation. But as I've just shown, this explanation is implausible.

c) And how inefficient that missionary work has been. Many people have died without hearing the information. And apologists lack sufficient evidence to convince many open, rational people. Again, as KnownNoMore discusses in his response to J. P. Holding, God could just easily show up, tell people about itself, and thus give them the information necessary to make an informed choice. You might reply that, "this is what Jesus did." No, that's not what he did. Instead, Jesus did not do what we'd expect of a God, but instead what we'd expect of a mere human; he spoke to JUST the people who lived around him during his lifetime and sent his followers out to spread his message. As TheoreticalBulshit discusses in his video of divine hiddenness, there have been countless other religious leaders that have done the exact same thing. It's an inefficient, human method of spreading information. So why did Jesus choose this method if even apologists cannot convince rational, open people that the Gospel is true and fail to get people the information necessary to make an informed choice,? It's easy to explain why if Christianity is false and there is no Christian God. It's much harder to explain if Christianity is true. Divine beings could instead show up to all peoples at any time to make the evidence clear so that people could make an informed decision. It's a mystery why God does not do this (and no, the free will defense cannot save you here). And, if theory X explains phenomena P better than theory Y, we will, all other things being equal, prefer X over Y. So X is the non-existence of the Christian God, Y is the existence of the Christian god, and P is phenomena like suffering, the failure of Christianity to spread very efficiently, etc.

d) I) For the Micah passage, I know of the contortions Matthew and Luke went through to have Jesus born in certain places and certain times to align with prophecy, especially via made-up nation-wide censuses [ex: ProfMTHs videos, particularly the "Quirinius, where art thou?" series]. They even went so far as to write patently false things. So even if Micah 5:2 was a prophecy of the Messiah, I would be hesitant to take the Gospel writers word for where Jesus was born, given their tendencies and their knowledge of this passage. Furthermore, verse 3 says the Messiah will rule in Israel. Yet Jesus died without ruling in Israel. You could resort to saying, "well he will return to rule at the second coming." But I could say that of anyone who was born in Bethlehem and died; maybe they'll come back and rule Israel as well. And as ProfMTH discusses from 8:10-8:55 of "Jesus Was Not the Messiah -- Part 4 (Crucifixion "Prophecies" Continued)", there were no prophecies of the Jewish messiah dying and THEN coming back to rule Israel. That's just a Christian contrivance to allow Jesus to count as the messiah. So even if Micah passage claimed the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, Jesus is out of the running since he died without being "ruler in Israel."

II) For the "a day for a year" point, I'm surprised that you're willing to take Genesis non-literally when it suits the exegetical purpose (see part 1), yet you take Numbers and Ezekiel very literally when it suits this purpose. Why shouldn't I take the passages in Numbers and Ezekiel non-literally, as meaning that prophecies treat long time frames a brief moments, instead of the literal claim that "a day = 1 year" in prophecy? Also, in the Numbers passage, the link between days and years is made explicit. The writers don't say "day" when they actually mean "year." Instead, they just flat out say "year": "According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years (NKJV)." That's not what happens in Daniel; there is not even a mention of years. Nor is the claim made that a day equals a year in ALL PROPHECIES, even when the prophecy makes no mention of years. There are plenty of prophecies where mention of a day (with no subsequent reference to years) simply means day, not years. The same points hold for Ezekiel 4:6. You're working backwards for the date you want, and accordingly changing your Biblical interpretation from literal to non-literal to get that date.

III) For Psalm 34:20, see 6:10-8:20 of "Jesus Was Not the Messiah -- Part 4 (Crucifixion "Prophecies" Continued)".
For Psalm 22:18, see 5:56-9:03 of ProfMTH's "Jesus Was Not the Messiah -- Part Two". He discusses Psalm 22:16 in particular, but if his analysis in correct, the individual discussed in Psalm 22 is not the Messiah and so Psalm 22:18 is not a messianic prophecy. 
For Isaiah 53:9, see 5:00-9:13 of ProfMTH's "Jesus Was Not the Messiah -- Part Two" 

e) "It is because of Adam that we are sinful (and the wages of sin is death)." No, that's false. I argued against that in part 1. But let's say I grant the claim that "Adam incurred a debt of everlasting value" through his actions. You've still failed to address my point. In a plausible justice system, the severity of the punishment is adjusted based on the severity of the crime. So if Adam's action cost us a lot and Adam knew that he was taking a lot from us, then you're right in saying the resultant sacrifice could not be small. But this has problems. First, it does imply that the punishment needs to EXACTLY match the crime or an offender must lose something of as much value as what they lost/took. If Roy rapes someone, Roy'd punishment will be worse than the punishment for stealing a penny from my jar. However, I don't need to have Roy raped to insure Roy loses something of equivalent value to what Roy took nor do I need to have some extreme punishment to make sure Roy loses something of extreme value. That's absurd. Instead, I just make sure your punishment is worse that I would give for lesser offense and that your punishment is sufficiently harsh to either deter crime (consequentialism) or teach you what you need to learn/give you what you deserve (deontology). Similarly, God could have chosen to punish Adam more severely than Adam would have been punished if he had done something minor like steal a penny, without demanding an incredibly massive (or, for Adam, impossible) sacrifice because he lost something of "infinite" value.

Also, your reference to Jesus misses the point of my objection. In a plausible justice system, we punish the OFFENDOR[S], not some innocent third party. The guilty party is not absolved of guilt or responsibility because someone else was punished. It's the guilty party that needs to be punished or sacrifice. Jesus may have made an "infinite sacrifice" but that means quite little for absolving humanity of sin or responsibility since the WRONG PERSON was punished. God just took things out on the wrong party. That's the madness of a justice system that punishes/sacrifices animals such as goats and livestock (which may feel pain) to absolve the sins of person. Furthermore, if ADAM lost something of eternal value, it's ADAM who needs punishing, not Jesus or any of Adam's other descendants who had something taken from them. And did Adam even know the full weight of what he was losing? We don't execute people who did something wrong and knew what they were doing was wrong, but did not know their wrong action would lead to massive loss of life. For example, we won't execute someone who stole a penny when they did not know their theft would directly cause the deaths of 10 people. If, however, they did know that this would result, we're willing (if we believe in capital punishment) to execute them. So did Adam really know the full impact of what he was losing? Yes, he knew God said he would die if he ate the fruit, but did he know all his descendants would die? I doubt it (even though, again, Genesis is a myth that is not literally true nor a morally plausible allegory). So his resulting punishment would need to be adjusted accordingly, and would thus not be infinite. 

So why do Christians say Jesus' sacrifice was meant to atone for Adam's sin? Again, early Christians needed some explanation to make sense of Jesus' death and any explanation would due, even one that completely overturned all notions of desert or justice [ex: see 8:10-8:55 of "Jesus Was Not the Messiah -- Part 4 (Crucifixion "Prophecies" Continued)" and from 8:30 of "Part 3 -- DID the disciples die for a lie?" to 2:18 of "Part 5 -- DID the disciples die for a lie?"].

Hope that clears things up. Thanks.

NoctambulantJoycean, "Ontological and Metaphysical Arguments", 6/17/12

Hello Mentat.

Let's get one thing out of the way first. Your use of "LOL" in parts 5 and B2 suggests you think that, in my last PM, I insulted you when I "LOLed" at your argument. But that's not the case. As the sentence right after the "LOL" shows, I was laughing because I was surprised and impressed by your argumentative ingenuity. It's the same laugh I gave when I first read Richard Joyce's "The Evolution of Morality." So I meant to compliment you, not mock you. Moving on...

Prelude 2) You addressed it later, so I'll address it later.

1) You say "I [Mentat] haven't changed anything, nor attempted any equivocations." I know. I didn't accuse you of equivocating. Instead, I suggested that your use of terms could very easily lead to equivocations and I wanted to use distinct labels for distinct concepts to forestall this result. I also wanted to use labels like "causer" over labels like "creator" or "being" since this avoided any question-begging. That's it. For example, I've argued that K (the prime mover) is probably not a mind. So if by "God" you meant "the prime mover", then by God you referenced, "a thing (not a being) that lacks any mental properties." That would be strange, wouldn't it? So instead of labeling the prime mover as "God" or defining "God" as the prime mover, why not just stick to your definition of "God" as the "MGB" and then argue that the MGB is the most plausible candidate for being K? Again, there's no need to employ different, non-equivalent definitions for the same term, especially when this could result in equivocations.

You then say "therefore K = C unless you have some REASON to think there was another contingent step." Well, I do have "REASONS" and I've elaborated on them. If the MGB is supposed to fill the role of C, then the MGB can't be K since the MGB is metaphysically impossible. If it's the MEB that's supposed to fill the role, that being is contingent and by the PSR's own reasoning, the MEB cannot be N or K. I've given my arguments for thinking C is not a mind. And I've already given my arguments for thinking that if C is a mind, it's more plausible to think C is caused rather than uncaused (my commandeering of teleological argument, my discussion of our experience of minds in U2, etc.) and thus C would not be K.

3) Unfortunately, I know what the design inference is. I just think Dembski's use of it is B.S. In SETI and cryptography we don't infer design based solely on "something being very unlikely AND conforming to a separately given pattern." Instead, we 1) determine whether there are plausible naturalistic, non-mental causes for the phenomena in question and 2) explain why a mind would be interested in sending the pattern seen (this usually includes conjecture about how the mind made and sent the pattern). In the case of SETI, we know of no natural processes that produce electromagnetic waves that conform to certain mathematical patterns (such as the sequence on prime numbers). We suppose that intelligent aliens should be able to produce such waves since we are able to. And intelligent aliens would settle on prime numbers or some basic mathematical formula since those aliens could want to communicate and would want to use a metric/language that intelligent life on other planets would likely stumble across and understand. In the case of cryptography, you've normally intercepted a message you ALREADY KNEW came from the enemy (maybe you intercepted their courier, maybe you're picking up their radio chatter, etc.), so you already know the source is a mind [imagine how difficult it would be to infer design if you picked up on some sequence of electromagnetic waves in the middle of nowhere and or some piece of wood on a courier and had no clue if they were from the enemy?]. Since you know your enemies probably want to use what you've captured to communicate, you're justified in inferring design (unless this is a decoy).

You can't just infer design from, "something being very unlikely AND conforming to a separately given pattern," because we're very good at finding patterns, especially on topics that interest us. Human beings have an incredible fascination with math, life, etc. and given our pattern-seeking tendencies, we find patterns within these subject matters. But suppose another group of organisms was really interested in rocks. They could study rocks, find patterns in those rocks, and take those patterns as "separately given" since those patterns seemed so apparent and salient to them. They would then marvel at how the laws of the universe were so "fine-tuned" to allow for the existence of rocks with the given pattern to exist in this universe. What an unlikely occurrence fitting an "independently" given pattern. If you understand why what their saying is a mistake, you can understand why Dembski's "separately given pattern" line is a mistake. Furthermore, in the biology and physics context, where exactly is Dembski getting his "patterns" from? He certainly can't derive them from biology and physics, since they need to be "separately given" i.e. derived independently of the topic to which they're applied. What's the independently given pattern that DNA and the laws of physics fit? He can't take advantage of Meyer's account of specified complexity in DNA since natural selection can account for the information in DNA. So what is he left with? And regardless of the pattern he comes up with, if he proposes a MENTAL designer as the cause of the pattern, I'll probably be able to follow Dembski's own rules and come up with an independent pattern that this fits this designing mind. And no, this mind is not metaphysically necessary; as TheoreticalBullshit argues in "Random....Necessarily", the traits of this mind are random and unlikely. And so the infinite regress begins again...

5) Like Craig (and most other apologists), you start with the conclusion that God exists and then work backwards, endorsing whatever claims appear to be required for God to exist. This often involves asserting things that aren't plausible. I've been taking the opposite tact; I've been arguing from the evidence to certain conclusions. Of course, just as Craig might be deceiving himself about what he's doing, I could be deceiving myself as well. So the best either of us can do is go where we think the evidence leads us. However, I do think Craig is cherry-picking metaphysical intuitions in an ad hoc manner and question-begging when it comes to God being C (ex: see TheoreticalBullshit's video "William Lane Craig Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors." at 14:05 and 27:47). This shows in his reasoning. Moving on...

You say, "given our 'causal isolation' from the multiverse we are irrational to ever postulate it in the first place! It is only postulated in this discussion as an alternative to God." Incorrect or at least misleading; you need to substitute "C" for the "multiverse" as I did when I was making my point. My point was that if we're causally isolated from C, where would our evidence about C's nature come from? Some theists like to make wild claims about what's outside the universe, as if the mere fact that they've asserted something exists outside the universe defeats atheism and justifies claim like "what's outside the universe has mind, is eternal, etc." I was trying to shut down those responses by noting that theists need to provide an ARGUMENT for thinking C has those attributes. They need to tell us how they're getting their information about C. Atheists aren't going to buy claims about religious experience, since these are easily refuted. So theists must instead use other sources of information. I then surveyed these sources to show that, unless we conveniently cherry-pick evidence, our evidence argues against C being a mind. So that was the dilemma. Either we don't have sufficient evidence for making claims about C, in which case the multiverse is, at worst, on the same footing as the God explanation (or better footing, since at least the multiverse is not metaphysically impossible) and you can't rebut atheism by JUST arguing there is something outside the universe. Or we do have evidence for making claims about C, in which case our best unbiased, un-cherry-picked information argues against C being a mind. So the multiverse is not a "faith-based" excuse to avoid the God hypothesis. It's instead meant to stop theists tempted to employ arguments from ignorance (I doubt your one of them).

You then say, "free will/agency is the only plausible explanation for sufficient causal conditions to exist eternally, and yet their effect to exist only for a finite time." This follows Craig's tradition of constructing in an ad hoc manner whatever philosophy of mind and metaphysics is necessary to support his God, as opposed to arguing from the evidence we do have. I'll avoid doing this. There are two logically exhaustive classes of causation; causation where the cause is a non-mental entity and causation where the cause is a mental entity. We have no experience of minds existing eternally. In fact, we have no experience of timeless minds. However, I've argued that our best philosophy of mind implies a timeless mind is not a functioning mind. It's not a mind that makes choices, had occurrent beliefs/desires, is conscious, etc. So no, free will/agency is not a plausible explanation for causation involving a cause that is timeless and we should opt for a non-mental, timeless cause. You might complain that we can't use our observations about mental and non-mental causation within time to argue about what goes on when time is not in play. Fine. You've now fallen on the other horn of my dilemma, where we can't use our intuitions in this universe to make judgments about what's outside our universe. So why do you prefer God over the multiverse as an explanation again? How would that not be a mere argument from ignorance?

Furthermore, I don't know where you or Craig get this idea about free will, agency, and time. The causally sufficient conditions did not exist "eternally" in the sense of existing for an infinite period of time. Instead, if I grant Craig's assertion for the sake of argument, they existed in a TIMELESS sphere of existence. The sufficient conditions weren't "waiting around" to produce their finite effect; there was no wait. As you say, "it's not as though some infinite amount of time elapsed "'before' He made that decision. There was no 'before"'!" The sufficient causes were there for precisely no time at all (or a "timeless moment", whatever that is) and produced their effect. And how do you argue that, "free will/agency is the only plausible explanation for sufficient causal conditions to exist eternally, and yet their effect to exist only for a finite time." For the life of me, I don't understand how one would argue for that conclusion. What are the premises? We certainly have not observed externally existing, timeless minds and our metaphysical intuitions in philosophy of mind and causation certainly don't imply that 1) only mental causes produce temporal effects and 2) only mental causes can exist timelessly.

Later on you say, "you'll have to actually prove that the MGB is incoherent." No I don't. We've been over this; you're not running the logical ontological argument. Otherwise, it would be brutally easy to rip that argument apart. Your God also cannot be the logically necessary N [again, I don't the PSR soundly argues for the existence of a logically necessary N, but I'll let that point pass for now] because denying the existence of your God does not imply a contradiction nor a denial of a logical/conceptual truth (I went over this in prelude 2 of my 6/1/12 PM). All I need to show is that God (as you define it) is metaphysically impossible, which is relatively easy to do once one includes NE in being's description. Also, you're incorrect when you say the multiverse is "ad hoc." It's no more ad hoc than the God explanation. Just as we observe mental causation in this universe, we observe non-mental things causing other things as well. So just as theists say a mind COULD be C, atheists say a non-mind COULD be C. You also say the multiverse, "itself still needs an explanation." And so does the MEB, if it's the C since the MEB is contingent. The MGB is also out of the running because, if I grant your account of the PSR (which I don't): 1) the MGB is not logically necessary and 2) the MGB is metaphysically impossible. And depending on what our best theory of physics is, the multiverse may be less ad hoc than the God hypothesis.

6a) Again, you don't get to assert whatever philosophy of mind you want in order for God to exist. Our best evidence suggests that timeless minds (if that's even a coherent description), would not have occurrent states and would not be conscious. Period. Theists might want to say otherwise so their timeless God could have occurrent states, but we don't construct philosophy of mind based on theistic presuppositions. If the theistic characterization of God conflicts with the evidence, then theists are WRONG and such a God does not exist.

You say, "the decision itself is the first point in time." Are you saying God's decision to cause the universe caused the universe to exist? If not, what did cause the universe to exist? If so, God's decision to cause the universe did not occur before the universe and its space-time began to exist, but instead was simultaneous with it. When does it ever make sense to say "S caused effect E", where S and E are simultaneous? How is that not just a made up, ad hoc account of causation some theists employ so they can have God's choice be simultaneous with the supposed effect? Now I know the standard theistic accounts of how a cause can be simultaneous with its effect. These defenses fail for at least two reasons. First, they usually make reference to two temporal entities (i.e. two things in space-time) interacting. So "S causes E" where both S and E exist at the same time. For example, a ball causing a foil wrapped around it to stay in place. However, that analogy won't due for your case. In the ball situation, time already exists and so time is not E. Therefore, both the ball and foil can both be temporal. However, if you're saying God's decision caused time to exist, then E is time. So you either say an atemporal God caused the universe to exist, in which case the examples of simultaneity, even if they did work, would not be of help to you. Or you say a temporal being caused time to exist. And that's just incoherent. Second, even if examples like the ball were instances of simultaneous causation (which I doubt), they would be cases in which the cause prevented the affected thing from doing something; they are not examples where the cause brought the affected thing into existence. So there of no help to the theist as an analogy.

7) In my 6/7/12 PM I say "minds have parts, as long as your don't read 'parts' in an unfairly physicalist sense that implies spatially distinct components with different physical properties." I suspect you are giving "part" an unfairly physicalist reading when you say it's non-sensical that a mind has "pieces" such as beliefs and desires which "build" the mind. Actually, it's not non-sensical. When you lose a belief, you do lose a component of your mind; that's a perfectly natural understanding of what beliefs are. And when you gain a belief, something new is added to your mind. It's only "non-sensical" if you imagine a mind as some sort of spacially extended thing with a belief as a "piece" of that. But again, that would be giving an unfairly physicalist reading of the terms "part", "components" and "piece". And no, we do not merely state that brains have go into certain "states" analogous to the electron. Again, like Craig, you're constructing an ad hoc philosophy of mind to justify your theistic presupposition that God is simple. In philosophy of mind and everyday discourse, we say things like "my belief that B and my desire for D CAUSED my motivation M [a Humean account of motivation]", "John's thoughts about spiders CAUSED him to be fearful" etc. Beliefs, desires, etc. are thus distinguishable components of a heterogenous mind.

These components causally interact, unlike the states of the fundamental particles. Some philosophers (some functionalists, for example), go so far as to reduce beliefs into their causal roles and desires into their causal roles. Philosophers who disagree with functionalists don't argue, "that's silly; beliefs and desires don't causally interact with one another." That would be an obviously incorrect and counterintuitive picture of beliefs and desires. Instead, opponents respond that beliefs and desires are not REDUCIBLE to mere causal roles, though beliefs and desires still have causal roles and causally interact with one another. If you want to disagree, that's fine. But I'm not going to overhaul modern philosophy of mind just to honor a theistic presupposition. You're going to need an independent argument.

A1) You say, "if the first premise were just an observation about men, then it ought to be phrased 'all men we've so far encountered are mortal' or 'most men are mortal' or 'there has never been an immortal man' But no on, in posing the Socrates syllogism, intended so weak a statement as these. They intended a DEFINITIONAL statement." That's false. First, the first premise is phrased that way to make the argument formally valid. We sacrifice some certainty in the premise for a logical guarantee that if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. We could rephrase the premise in the way you claim, but then we'd be sacrificing the logical guarantee for certainty about the premise. Second, the first premise is taken as an empirical generalization analogous to saying "all swans are white". Our observations support the claim that "all swans are white", but this generalization is not guaranteed to be true and is not a definitional truth. It's an empirical one. Empirical generalizations are quite common and are often phrases in an "All X are Y" fashion (ex: TheoreticalBullshit's video "William Lane Craig Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors." at 12:35); you should know about them and should avoid conveniently confusing them with definitional and conceptual arguments when it suits your defense of the ontological argument. You also say "we do NOT examine the world looking for immortal men in order to substantiate P1 of the Socrates Syllogism. That's absurd." No, it isn't. We defend P1 by noting that every single person we have observed or have records of, eventually died (or is young enough that it's not strange for them to have no yet died yet). The empirical generalization in P1 has been confirmed via so much experience that most people just take it as common-place and don't bother looking for evidence to contradict it (i.e. look for immortal men). However, that does not somehow transform P1 into a definitional truth. It's just an empirical generalization that has a MASSIVE amount of evidence supporting it.

In your discussion of the Steve case, your making exactly the same errors I warned you not to make. My argument was that "Steve is a bachelor" is logically equivalent "Steve is unmarried", just as "the MGB is possible" is logically equivalent to both "the MGB is necessary" and "the MGB is actual'. They're just re-statements of the same thing. Both arguments use premises that are just logical/conceptual restatements of their conclusions. To put it formally, the following three claims are logically equivalent (◊: possible, □: necessary):

◊□X [P1 of the ontological argument]

□□X [C1 of the ontological argument]

actual□X [C2 of the ontological argument]

Now, the MEANING of the modal terms is fixed by their truth values, i.e. the situations under which they are true. By extension their meaning is given by the logical operations since if two modal claims are logically equivalent, they share EXACTLY the same truth values and vice versa. So it's a conceptual truth of modal logic the P1, P2, and C2 of the ontological argument MEAN THE SAME THING and are just conceptually equivalent re-phrasings of the SAME CLAIM. Period. Now, if you wanted to rebut this point, you'd need to show that they aren't restatements of the same thing. But nowhere in your A1 did you do that. Instead, you made a number of tangential points. I'll address these points in turn.

First, you claim that the Steve example doesn't pick out certain members of the set of properties for "unmarried man" to focus on, unlike the ontological argument does for the MGB. So? How does that show that the premises of the ontological are not just a restatement of the conclusion? Furthermore, I could easily restate the Steve argument to address this point and show you just how cheap the modal ontological argument's tactic's are:

Replace "Steve is a unmarried" with "The man Steve is unmarried"
Keep "Steve is a bachelor" the same
Derive "Steve is a bachelor" from the claim that "The man Steve is unmarried" using conceptual truths

I could say "see, I've only focused on one feature of 'the man Steve' or 'Steve." I focused on the property of being a man. I then made extrapolations from it based on saying that this man was unmarried and used that to get my conclusion." Yeah, and how does that show that your premises were not conceptually equivalent ways of restating the same thing? You should also note the trick going on here. All I did was make explicit one feature of Steve that was implicit in the previous form of the premise; namely that he was a man. Then I acted as if that somehow addressed the point about equivalence. So you would complain, "the set of properties for 'bachelor' are PRECISELY EQUIVALENT to the set of properties for 'unmarried man'." EXACTLY. Just because I moved "man" over to the concept of Steve (or to the concept of "the man Steve") did not change the equivalence of the set of properties. Similarly, moving necessity into the concept of God (changing God from the MEB into the MGB) does not change the fact that the set of properties for "the possible necessary MGB" are PRECISELY EQUIVALENT to the set of properties for "the actual necessary MGB" or "the necessary necessary MGB." You tried to dodge this point by saying the ontological argument involved focus on and extrapolating from one property of the MGB. And that's exactly what's happening in the Steve argument. I'm noting that Steve is a male, combining that with the claim that he's unmarried, and deriving the conceptual equivalent claim that Steve is a bachelor. Similarly, your noting that the MGB is necessary, combining it with a claim about God's possible and presto, deriving the conceptually equivalent claim that the MGB actually exists. To avoid confusion, here is what the ontological argument is doing:

Replace "The MEB is possibly necessary" with the equivalent "The MGB (i.e. the necessary MEB) is possible.'
Keep "The MGB exists in the actual world" the same
Derive "The MGB exists in the actual world" from "The MGB is possible" using the conceptual truths of modal logic

Quite a cheap move.

Second, you say, "We could have said 'MGB is instantiated in a Possible World', and concluded to lots of other things, like 'therefore in reality there is someone besides me who knows whether my socks match today'". Again, so? How does this show that the premises on the ontological argument do not merely restate the conclusion? Also, the exact same point applies to the Steve analogy; from the premise that Steve is a bachelor, we can draw the conclusions like "therefore there is someone besides me who knows what it's like to be single." So great, we can derive lots of other things from our premises. How does that in any way address my argument?

A2) Please stop mentioning "coherence"; you're not running the logical ontological argument. And now you've officially made the DEFINITIONAL/ONTOLOGICAL equivocation I warned you about. Just because I agree that the MGB exists in the definitional sense or say that the concept is coherent, does not imply that any entity in the real world exists (in the ontologically-committing sense) that matches that concept. And the analogy to looking for patients with flu or Kflu was NOT meant to imply that were investigate the existence of the MGB just by a posteriori methods. I told you before in my PM from 6/7/12 that, "Conceivability...Instead, it involves imagining a world, and then using that as evidence that that world is metaphysically possible. In my analogy, patients corresponded to possible worlds, the doctor/epidemiologist corresponded to atheists/theists, and flu/Eflu corresponded to Plantinga's MEB/MGB." Your asserting an entity known as the MGB exists in every possible world and one way of rebutting that is conceiving, A PRIORI, worlds in which the MEB or the MGB does not exist.

A3) You say, "you [the NoctambulantJoycean] were very content until this moment to accept that numbers were, by definition, NE." No, not really. For the sake of argument, I was willing to accept that numbers were necessary existent. But I certainly did not take this to be a conceptual truth about numbers. And when you started acting as if this was a conceptual truth without a supporting argument, I rebutted your point.

You also say, "even if there were no other entities, the number zero would exist (as would the null set, by the way, and mathematicians and philosophers also usually consider sets to be NE entities). And, by extrapolation, if zero exists, the other numbers exist (in much the same way, if the null set exists, then all coherent sets exist)." Again, like Craig with Hilbert's hotel, you IMMEDIATELY violate the rules you set up for the thought experiment. If there were no entities in the world in question, the number 0 (or the null set) would not exist. Period. To say otherwise is to contradict the rules of your thought experiment. Again, many philosophers believe that abstract entities (like sets) can be contingent or may not exist (nominalists such as Craig, for example). So why in the world would these people think that in a world where no nothing existend, the null set existed? How does that make any sense? If the null set exists, the something exists. And saying that nothing exists does not commit you to saying the null set exists (see nominalists). Furthermore, the existence of the null set does not entail the existence of all other coherent sets. That's patently false. I expect an argument for that claim.

More importantly, here's where you made you key mistake: "it is utterly ridiculous to arbitrarily leave off omnipotence (or any other GMP), and so the concept becomes incoherent. It incoherent, because 'having the maximum instantiation of every great-making property' is like a mathematical function (as I've already explained) which spits out a bunch of properties. However, putting an arbitrary limit on this function requires some substantiation." Again, incoherence should have nothing to do with this since you aren't running the logical ontological argument (see section A2). Furthermore "incoherent" is not one of your stipulated terms; you don't get to re-define what that concept is. In prelude 2 of my 6/1/12 PM I gave the clear, standard definition of an incoherent concept: concept D is incoherent iff it entails a denial of a contradiction or a denial of a truth of logic/conceptual truth. Nowhere is it claimed that D is incoherent if it "arbitrarily" leaves off properties. That's an ad hoc definition of "incoherence" you made up to defend the ontological argument.

For instance, suppose the following:

Concept D1 has the following set of properties: [A1, A2, A3,...A100]

Concept D2 has the following set of properties: [A2, A3,...A100]

I don't need to provide a justification for leaving A1 off D1 to show that D2 is coherent. I can randomly and arbitrarily decide to leave A1 off; I don't need a reason. D2 would only be incoherent if it implied a contradiction or denied a logical/conceptual truth. Now do you see why I asked you to show "that the OTHER PROPERTIES of an MGB entail NE?" If you did that and we substituted NE for A1 and the MGB for D1, the resulting concept D2 would have denied a conceptual truth by leaving out NE, and would be thus incoherent. But you did not argue for this. Instead you went the arbitrary function route, which does nothing to address the issue of incoherence. For instance, I can easily break off the property "male" from the concept "bachelor" and end up with the perfectly coherent description "unmarried" or "unmarried non-male". You would not show that the resulting concepts were incoherent by demanding I produce a logical, non-ad-hoc, non-arbitrary reason for breaking off this property. Instead, you would need to show the resulting concepts denied logical/conceptual truths or entailed contradictions.

B1) You say "it is 'fright-making' for you to BELIEVE that it has that property (since you find that property frightening)." Let's see how that squares with my definition for my STIPULATED TERM maximally frightening: "Y is the MFB only if X knowing the true nature of Y would induce fright in X." The two don't seem to match. So again, you made the mistake of assuming that since maximally frightening meant one thing in other contexts, then that's what my stipulated term meant (i.e. you made the mistake I noted in prelude 2 of my 6/7/12 PM). Maybe it's my fault. Maybe my definitions were unclear or constantly shifting. My mistake. I've now twice given you my stipulated definition of maximum frightfulness. If you continue to not follow the stipulated definitions, then I'll return the favor and refuse to interpret "maximal greatness" in the way you wanted. It's quite easy to show your description implies NE and mine does not when you re-define my concept at your leisure but cry foul when the same happens to your concept (as you did in section D, subsection 1 of your 6/4/12 PM).

B2) I can hone the omnibenevolence argument. In a given situation, there are a wide-set of alternative actions a being could take. Call this set of alternatives A. This set contains the set of kind, empathetic actions. Call this subset K. Within the set K, there are the action(s) that are the most kind, just, etc. in that situation. Call this subset K'1. God, as the omnibenevolent, all-good being, presumably does the best, most good action in every situation. So God's actions fall within set K'1. If in any possible worlds, God did something that was not the morally best thing to do in that situation, God would not be necessarily omnibenevolent. But now we see how limited God truly is. Not only does God "not really have the choice to behave badly", but God also does not have a choice about whether to be morally good as opposed to morally perfect. The only situations in which it really has any "choice" are situations in which there is more than one morally best thing to do (i.e. where K'1 has more than one member). And those situations could be quite rare. Your God looks horribly limited in its freedom. It's false to say that "God has a WIDE ARRAY of choices. They are just all morally good ones," since God isn't choosing among the morally good choices; it's choosing among the morally best choices, which is a much smaller subset. Furthermore, please stop saying God's chooses among the "morally good" choices. On your view, what's morally good is dependent on God's nature or standards. So how could God's action's fail to be good since WHATEVER God did, it would be good as long as God endorsed it? Saying "God chooses to do good" amounts to saying "God does what God does and God endorses God's actions". Please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing your position.

You also try to defend the limit on God's choice by referencing logical incoherence. God cannot do what's bad, but, contrary to your claim, that's nothing like saying "He can destroy Himself. These would be logically incoherent (like creating a rock too heavy for Him to lift)." God can't destroy itself because having the power to destroy itself would contradict ANOTHER, DIFFERENT feature of God; namely, God's indestructibility. Alternatively, if God had the power to create a rock it could not lift (call this P), that would contradict ANOTHER property of God; namely God's ability to lift such rocks (call this L). Now you could resort to grouping P and L under ONE property: omnipotence. Now saying BOTH that God has P and God has L is logically contradictory, so omnipotence can't involve doing both. But on their own, neither act is inherently contradictory. The contradiction arises when you say a being can do both. So resorting to saying that an "omnipotent" being can "do all logically possible things" would imply that the being God should have either P or L, but certainly not both. So which does have?

God can't have P if L is apart of its nature. And it can't have L, if P is apart of its nature. And having one without the other would certainly be logically possible and would grant God more power than lacking both. So which does God have? But this is beginning to look exactly like the destruction scenario. God can't have a property because it contradicts another property of its nature. And as KnownNoMore showed in his "God's meaningless attributes - Part 1 - Omnipotence", this is the problem that arises when some theists claim God is "maximally great" or can do all this awesome, great stuff or has so much value beyond anything within our universe. Instead of actually providing EVIDENCE for specific attributes of God or what God can ACTUALLY do, they ascribe all sorts of random abilities to God just because they seem "valuable" or "great". This leads them into contradictions and reduces the meaning of terms like "omnipotence" to virtually nothing. Omnipotence just becomes: the ability to do whatever does not contradict your other attributes. And, in that sense, we're all omnipotent.

Now let's take the claim that God can't do wrong. In one sense, God doing what's bad is logically incoherent, but only if we buy into your conceptual claim that good is defined relative to God's nature or commands. But I don't endorse that claim; God can't endorse whatever behavior X it wants or have X be in accordance with its nature, and all of a sudden X is good. I'll argue for my position in the meta-ethical debate. So you'll need to pursue another option. If you're going to claim that God doing the bad is like the destruction case or the rock case, God's behaving badly needs it either contradict another one of its properties BESIDES omnibenevolence. But which property would that be? Which other properties of God entail God being good? Being cruel or not morally perfect is certainly not a logically contradictory pseudo-act; we do it all the time. So why can't your God? If you say, "well if God behave badly, God would not be all-good and thus would not be the MGB and thus would not be God." Yes, and if I couldn't read, I would not be able to read Hamlet. Pointing out that if a being X did not do Y, X would not count as a Z, does not show that Y is a logically incoherent action. It merely shows that if X fails to do Y, X is not Z. Your God can't do bad acts while remaining all-good. So? It couldn't lie without being a liar; does that somehow show lying is inherently contradictory or God's a liar. No. Similarly, the being who made this world could choose to be cruel and it would not be the MGB (the MGB would simply not exist).

Anyways, you've sculpted an ad hoc account of value to exclude properties like "all-existence" and "maximal freedom" (which God lacks). In your 6/6/12 PM you say, "'all-existent' confers no objective value at all. Indeed, it robs the entity of almost all power (there is nothing to act on) and USEFULNESS [emphasis added]." I assume moral value is a species of objective value. In your 6/13/12 discussion on meta-ethics you say, "but, don't you see that the worth of the hypothesis was indeed judged entirely on 'predictive/practical usefulness'?? No other measure is invoked. We don't have some other meaning for "wrong" in this context. This is quite different from morality." I'm probably misreading you hear, but is value about usefulness or not?

You also say in your 6/6/12 PM that "to 'confer objective value' is to give an entity capacities within the world." Well, wouldn't increased freedom grant God more capacities in the world, given that it would have a wider available pool of things it COULD do? And, of course, freedom admits of degrees. So even if I go with your stipulated account of value, the Christian God does not possess the great-making feature "maximal freedom" and is thus not the MGB. Please present a non-ad-hoc justification for excluding "maximal freedom." As a great-making property. Otherwise, it looks like your just constructing whatever theory of "objective value" is necessary to spit out all and only the properties you already assume the Christian God has.

You then say that, "being NE does that, since entity becomes intrinsic to reality and could not fail to exist (is thus ultimately reliable, etc, as I've said before)." How does NE increase God's "capacities within a world?" You're confusing different senses of "reliable" in your account of value. I can be reliable in a given world W1 if I always exist in W1. People can trust I'll always be around in W1. That has NOTHING to do with what's going on in other worlds. My existing in another possible world, especially is worlds with causal events and history radically divergent from the W1, does not make me any more reliable in W1. It grants me no additional capacities of abilities in W1. If by reliable you mean "guaranteed to exist in every metaphysically possible scenario" than 1) that's just a rephrasing of NE and 2) I still don't see how that grants a being more reliability in W1 that my previous account of reliability.

Furthermore, AE does not rid God of "any ability to act otherwise." I still say you're wrong when you claim that God lacks the capacity to create just because in every metaphysically possible world, God would choose not to create. Again, do you believe God has less value in worlds where it chooses not to create and thus has nothing outside itself to act on? If so, then you've allowed there are metaphysically possible worlds in which God has less value based on its own decisions. And why doesn't the same lesson apply to our world? Couldn't God have created more than just this universe, and thus given itself more to act on and more to be "useful" to? So isn't the God of our universe not maximally valuable? Moving on to your "intrinsic to reality" claim. First, that has nothing to do with capacities and so has nothing to do with your account of value. Second, even if it did, AE, just like NE, makes my being intrinsic to reality. And you can't say AE robs could of value without addressing the point I made earlier in this paragraph.