Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 13: Analysis of Argument #2

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 13: Analysis of Argument #2 February 2, 2018

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CASE SO FAR

I began this series by considering the last ten arguments in Peter Kreeft’s case for God in Chapter 3 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).  Those arguments appear to be ones that Kreeft viewed as weaker than his earlier arguments.  NONE of those last ten arguments turned out to be a solid argument, and I concluded that they provide no significant reason to believe that God exists.

I have shifted to an examination of the first ten arguments, which Kreeft appears to believe are the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God.  But Argument #1 turned out to be yet another FAILED attempt to provide a solid argument for the existence of God.  The two main premises of Argument #1 are both FALSE, so that argument is UNSOUND.

It is now time to consider Argument #2, another argument that Kreeft apparently believes to be one of the best and strongest arguments for God.  Given Kreeft’s pathetic track record so far,  it is doubtful that this will turn out to be a solid argument.

 

ARGUMENT #2 IN KREEFT’S WORDS

The Argument from Effecient Causality is the second argument in Kreeft’s case.  He presents the main claims of Argument #2 in a couple of paragraphs:

Now ask yourself.  Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God.  Then nothing could exist right now.  For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.  So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing other things to be, need a cause.  They can give being only so long as they are given being.  Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.

But caused by what?  Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing.  But that is absurd: all of reality dependent–but dependent on nothing!  The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.  So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.  (HCA, p.51)

The key to understanding the logic of this passage is the following pair of sentences:

That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God.  Then nothing could exist right now. 

Taken together, these sentences express a conditional statement: 

IF there is no Uncaused Being, THEN nothing could exist right now.

This key claim is what I label as premise (3) below.

Now I’m going to organize the main claims from the two paragraphs quoted above (plus two other claims from the paragraph immediately after those two) into a basic logical structure:

1. …on the no-God hypothesis [i.e. the hypothesis that there is no Uncaused Being], all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

2. Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  …Then nothing could exist right now.

THEREFORE:

3. …suppose there is no Uncaused Being… . Then nothing could exist right now.

4. …we exist. [from the paragraph following the above two quoted paragraphs]

THEREFORE:

5. The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.

THEREFORE: 

6. …there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

THEREFORE:

7.  …there must exist a God…

 

FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF ARGUMENT #2

The first premise needs clarification:

1. …on the no-God hypothesis [i.e. the hypothesis that there is no Uncaused Being], all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

Kreeft deceptively, or sloppily and misleadingly, conjoins the word “God” with the phrase “Uncaused Being”, thus falsely implying that there is little or no difference between these two concepts.  But there is a HUGE difference between them, so I am going to revise his wording so that the initial premises are focused, as they ought to be, on the concept of an “Uncaused Being”.  The use of capitalization here is also somewhat misleading, because it appears to be the NAME of a SINGLE being, which begs an important question or two:

1a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

Note that I add a lower-case letter after the number, to indicate that I have modified or revised the wording of the premise.

Now let’s look at the second premise of Argument #2:

2. Are all things caused to exist by other things right now?  Suppose they are.  …Then nothing could exist right now.

The phrase “nothing could exist right now” is ambiguous between “it is possible that nothing exists right now” and “it is impossible that something exists right now”.  It is the latter meaning that was intended by Kreeft.  Also, this second premise should be rephrased and put into the form of a conditional statement that lines up logically with premise (1a):

2a. IF all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

Here is Kreeft’s wording of premise (3):

3. …suppose there is no Uncaused Being… . Then nothing could exist right now.

This is an inference from the conditional statements in premises (1a) and (2a), so this also should be rephrased as a conditional statement, using the wording from (1a) and (2a), so that it is clear that (3a) follows logically from them:

3a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

This shows that the logic of the first three premises is a deductively VALID conditional syllogism:

IF X, THEN Y.

IF Y, THEN Z.

THEREFORE:

IF X, THEN Z.

 

Premise (3a) is the key to this argument.  It suggests that the core of the reasoning is a decuctively VALID modus tollens inference:

IF X, THEN Z.

NOT Z.

THEREFORE:

NOT X.

So, one expects Kreeft to assert the negation of the consequent of premise (3a):

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

Kreeft does not assert (A) explicitly, but in the paragraph following the two above quoted paragraphs, Kreeft does assert a closely related claim:

4. …we exist.

The point of (4) is to show the following to be the case:

B. Something exists right now.

And (B) obviously implies (A), the negation of the consequent of (3a).  So, although Kreeft does not explicitly assert (A), it does appear that he implied (A) by asserting (4).  Premise (4) implies (B) and (B) implies (A).

Premise (5) is stated this way by Kreeft:

5. The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.

This is just a long-winded way of denying the claim that “there is no Uncaused Being”, so let’s use the clarified wording for this hypthothesis (as in the antecedent of premise (3a) ), and assert it’s denial or negation:

5a. It is NOT the case that: there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.

Premise (5a) is given to support premise (6):

6. So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

The word “something” is notoriously ambiguous, and, of course, Kreeft stumbles over this ambiguity, like just about every Thomist has for the past seven centuries (since Aquinas). [IMHO no Thomist should be allowed to ever use the word “something” in a philosophical argument, at least not for the next seven centuries.] The word “something” can mean either “at least one thing” (like it does in the initial phrase “there must be something uncaused”, or it can mean “exactly one thing” (like it does in the next phrase “something on which all things…are dependent.”).

6a. There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.

Finally,  Kreeft draws his ultimate conclusion:

7.  …there must exist a God…

We can simplify this conclusion a little bit:

7a.  God exists.

Kreeft has once again, as with Argument #1, left the single most important premise in Argument #2 unstated, namely the premise that links the sub-conclusion (6a) to the ultimate conclusion (7a):

C. IF there is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now, THEN God exists.

 

ARGUMENT DIAGRAM AND ANALYSIS OF ARGUMENT #2

The following argument diagram shows my analysis of the logical structure of Argument #2 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argument #2 – Clarified Version:

1a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.

2a. IF all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

THEREFORE:

3a. IF there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, THEN it is impossible that something exists right now.

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

THEREFORE:

5a. It is NOT the case that: there is no thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused.

THEREFORE:

6a. There is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now.

C. IF there is at least one thing which is such that its present existence is uncaused, AND there is exactly one thing on which all things that need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist are dependent for their existence right now, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

7a. God exists.

 

Sub-Argument for (A):

4. We exist.

THEREFORE:

B. Something exists right now.

THEREFORE:

A. It is NOT the case that: it is impossible that something exists right now. 

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