Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 12: The Argument for (3a)

THE EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #1 SO FAR

In Part 11 we saw that Argument #1 is UNSOUND, because it is based on the premise (F), and because Kreeft provides no support for (F), and because we have good reason to believe (F) to be FALSE.

In this current post, I will examine the core argument in support of premise (8a), the other main premise of Argument #1.

 

THE CORE ARGUMENT SUPPORTING (8a)

Here is premise (8a):

8a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is the unchanging Source of change.

Here is what appears to be the core argument in the reasoning supporting (8a):

D. Anything that is outside the material universe is outside matter, space and time.

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is exactly ONE being outside the material universe and that being is outside matter, space and time.

In Part 11 I argued that this core argument is logically INVALID, and thus that this core argument is UNSOUND.

So at this point, the single most important premise of Argument #1, premise (F), is FALSE, and the next most important premise of Argument #1, premise (8a), is supported by an UNSOUND core argument, leaving us without any good reason to believe (8a) to be true.

Another question about this core argument, is whether the premises are true or false.  Kreeft provides arguments in support of both premise (D) and premise (3a).   I’m not going to examine the argument supporting (D), because I interpret (D) as a conceptual claim, as a partial analysis of the meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Furthermore,  I’m willing to accept (D) as an implication of a stipulated definition.  In Part 11, I presented what I take to be the intended meaning of the phrase “outside the material universe”.  Based on that definition,  (D) would be an analytic truth, because (D) expresses logical implications of that definition.  Thus, there is no need to examine the argument for (D).  I accept (D) as a true analytic claim.

However, the other premise of the core argument in support of (6a) and (8a), namely premise (3a), is controversial and questionable.  So, if Kreeft fails to provide a solid argument that shows (3a) to be true, then premise (3a) remains questionable at best, and we would have another reason to reject this core argument.  So, we need to examine Kreeft’s sub-argument for (3a).

 

THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (3a)

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

THEREFORE:

B. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN the material universe does not change.

2. But the material universe does change.

THEREFORE:

C. It is NOT the case that there is nothing outside the material universe.

THEREFORE:

3a. There is something outside the material universe.

The logic of this sub-argument for (3a) is VALID, so the evaluation of this argument depends on the evaluation of these two key premises: (B) and (2).  I take it that premise (2) is TRUE, given that any change to a human person or plant or animal or to a physical object constitutes a “change to the material universe” (that is how Kreeft appears to be using that phrase).   So, the evaluation of this argument for (3a) depends on the evaluation of premise (B).  Since the evaluation of premise (B) depends largely on our evaluation of  premises (1) and (A), which are given in support of (B), our evaluation of the argument for (3a) depends largely on what we think about premise (1) and premise (A).

 

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1)

Here is premise (1) of Argument #1:

1. IF there is nothing outside the material universe, THEN there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change.

What does the phrase “cause the universe to change” mean?  Kreeft doesn’t explain or clarify the meaning of this key phrase.  However, the evidence that he gives to show that the universe does in fact change shows that he includes ordinary changes to people and objects on this planet:

The material world we know is a world of change.  This young woman came to be 5’2″ tall, but she was not always that height.  The great oak tree before us grew from the tiniest acorn. (HCA, p.50)

Since the evidence supporting the claim that the “material world we know is a world of change” is that ordinary changes to people and things inside the material world occur, the phrase “the material universe changed” MUST include circumstances where some person or thing inside the material universe changes.  In other words, whenever some person or thing inside the material universe changes, Kreeft would infer from this fact that “the material universe has changed”.  But in that case, premise (1) is FALSE, because ordinary changes to individual people and objects inside the material universe can obviously be caused by other individual people or objects that exist inside the material universe.

For example, if my hand hits a glass of milk, and the glass is knocked over,  and the milk spills, there is no need to posit the existence of something “outside the material universe” as the cause of that spilled milk.  The milk spilled as a result of my hand knocking the glass over.  My arm and my hand are things that are inside the material universe, and the motion of my arm and hand caused the glass to move and the milk to spill.  This spilling of the milk is, based on how Kreeft uses the phrase, an example of a “change to the material universe”, but it is a change that was caused by physical things and events that are inside the material universe.  Therefore, even if there were nothing outside the material universe, this particular change to the material universe (i.e. the spilling of milk) could still occur, because it could be caused by some physical event or object that is inside the material universe (i.e. my hand knocking a glass full of milk).  Thus, premise (1) is FALSE.  Since premise (1) is FALSE, this argument in support of (3a) is UNSOUND, and (3a) remains unsupported and dubious.

But what about the need for a “first cause”? Something must have caused my hand to move so that it hit the glass of milk.  And whatever caused my hand to move must have also had a cause, and so on.  This tracing of causes cannot go on for infinity (some would say), so there must be a first cause that started this chain of events and changes.  But Aquinas does NOT deny the possibility that the universe is eternal, that the universe (and changes in the universe) has always existed (and have always occurred).

Aquinas does believe that the universe had a beginning and is of finite age, but he believed this on the basis of divine revelation, not on the basis of philosophical reasoning.  He admitted that as far as reason and philosophy are concerned, it is possible that the universe has always existed.  But if the universe has always existed, then there could indeed be infinite chains of cause and effect, one physical event causing another physical event, causing another, and so on, without any “first event” at the beginning of a chain of events, because some chains of events may be infinite and have no beginning.

 

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (A)

Here is premise (A) from Argument #1:

A. IF there is nothing that can cause the material universe to change, THEN the material universe does not change.

Premise (A) seems plausible initially.  However, it is based on a very general metaphysical principle:

MP1. Every change to the material universe must be caused to occur by some existing thing. 

One might reasonably doubt this very general principle.  For example, radioactive decay appears to be random.  There is apparently no prior physical event that triggers the radioactive decay event.  So there does not seem to be “a thing” that causes the decay to occur at the specific time that it occurs.  It appears to be the case that while most ordinary changes are caused or triggered by some existing thing (i.e. by a change to some existing thing), there are also some changes that don’t follow this pattern, and that occur apart from being caused by some other existing thing.

Because the plausibility of (A) depends on (MP1), and because (MP1) appears to be FALSE, premise (A) becomes implausible.  The falsehood of (MP1) does not prove that (A) is false, but it does cast serious doubt on premise (A).

 

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PREMISE (3a)

The argument for (3a) is logically VALID, and premise (2) seems clearly to be TRUE, so how we evaluate this argument depends on our evaluation of premise (1) and premise (A).  I have argued above that premise (1) is FALSE, and that premise (A) is dubious, so we have good reason to reject the argument for (3a) as UNSOUND.

I am tempted to say that (3a) remains dubious, because Kreeft has not provided any good reason to believe that (3a) is TRUE.  However, (3a) might well be true, despite the failure of Kreeft’s argument for (3a).

Numbers appear to be “outside the material universe”.  The number five is NOT made of matter or energy.  The number five does NOT have any spatial characteristics (no size, no shape, no position in space).  The number five does not have any temporal characteristics (it has no beginning, no end, no duration, and is unaffected by the passing of time).  The number five thus appears to be something that is outside matter, and outside space, and outside time; therefore, the number five is “outside the material universe”.  Thus, (3a) appears to be TRUE, even though Kreeft’s argument for (3a) FAILS.

One important point to note about this concession that (3a) appears to be TRUE:  if my reasoning is correct, then the same reasoning can be used to PROVE that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.   There are, afterall, many numbers, not just one number.  Thus, there are MANY things that are “outside the material universe”, such as the number one, the number two, the number three, etc.  Therefore, premise (8a) is not just dubious, it is (according to this reasoning) FALSE, and we can PROVE it to be false.

If my reasoning about numbers is correct, then we can PROVE (6a) and (8a) to be FALSE.  If my reasoning about numbers is incorrect, then (3a) remains dubious and so does (8a),  since Kreeft has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe (3a) to be true.  So, (8a) is either false or it is at least dubious.

 

PROBLEMS WITH ARGUMENT #1

  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), is left UNSTATED and UNSUPPORTED.
  • The single most important premise of Argument #1, namely (F), appears to be FALSE.
  • The second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), is supported by an INVALID core argument.
  • Although both premises of the core argument supporting the second most important premise of Argument #1, namely (8a), appear to be TRUE, the very reason why one of those premises, namely (3a), appears to be TRUE shows that (6a) is FALSE and that (8a) is FALSE.

In short, the Argument from Change, one of the five first arguments for the existence of God in Kreeft’s case for God, an argument which is presumably one of the strongest and best arguments for God (in Kreeft’s view), is an UNSOUND argument that is based on two key premises that are both FALSE.

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