Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 19: Premise (B)

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 19: Premise (B) March 16, 2018

The initial inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 of Peter Kreeft’s case for God is based on three premises, and all three premises are very UNCLEAR:

A. These degrees of perfection pertain to being.

B. Being is caused in finite creatures.

1a. IF these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, THEN there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

THEREFORE:

C. There exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being.

In Part 18, I pointed out that both the subject and the predicate of premise (A) were unclear.  My best guess, at this point, is that the subject is referring to different degrees of perfection when comparisons are made between KINDS of things (e.g. between human beings and “a stone, a flower, an earthworm…” ).  My best guess, at this point, is that the predicate of (A) is a Trojan Horse that sneaks a Thomistic theory of “perfection” (including a Thomistic theory of good and evil) into the argument.  Based on these assumptions,  I interpret premise (A) as follows:

A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.

It seems to me that Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection ASSUMES the existence of God, and thus premise (A4) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue: “Does God exist?”.

 

CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (B)

The subject of premise (B) is “Being”.   I can think of at least three different interpretations of the subject of premise (B):

S1. Coming-into-being

S2. Continuing-to-exist…

S3. The particular ways-of-being…

It is also not clear what Kreeft means by “finite creatures”.  If he means “finite things created by God”, then premise (B) BEGS THE QUESTION at issue (Does God exist?) in assuming that there are things that were created by God.  So, we should replace the question-begging term “creatures” with something more neutral, such as “things” or “beings”.  But what is a “finite being”?  A being could be finite in terms of how long it exists, or a being could be finite in terms of its powers and abilities,  or a being could be finite in terms of its degree of perfection.   So, I can think of at least three different ways that a being could be considered to be “finite”:

P1.  … is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

P2.  … is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

P3.  … is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Each of the three possible subjects could be combined with each of the three possible predicates,  at least in theory, so we are looking at nine different possible interpretations of premise (B):

B1. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B2. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B4. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B5. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B7. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that exist for a finite duration.

B8. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have finite powers and abilities.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Does Kreeft argue for any of these claims in the passage about Argument #4?  Do any of these claims seem to be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4?  If Kreeft argues in support of one of these claims, or if one of these claims seems relevant to his initial inference, then that interpretation should be given serious consideration.

Premise (B1) has some initial plausibility.  However, (B1) is based on the Kalam cosmological argument (which is Argument #5 in Kreeft’s case), so that would make Argument #4 dependent upon the soundness of Argument #5, so Argument #4 would NOT be an independent reason for believing in God.   Kreeft has not argued for (B2) in the passage on Argument #4, and it does not appear to be relevant to his initial inference.  It is unclear whether Kreeft has attempted to argue for (B3), but this claim does seem to have some relevance to the initial inference in Argument #4.

Kreeft does not argue for (B4) in the passage about Argument #4, and (B4) does not seem relevant to the initial inference.  Kreeft does not argue for (B5) and it does not seem relevant to Argument #4.  I don’t think Kreeft argues for (B6), but it does seem like it might be relevant to the initial inference in Argument #4.

Kreeft does not appear to argue for either (B7) or (B8).  He might have attempted to argue in support of (B9).  Premises (B7) and (B8) don’t seem relevant to Argument #4, but (B9) seems like it might be relevant.

So, based on my brief review of these nine possible interpretations, it seems like the best candidates are (B3), (B6), and (B9):

B3. Coming-into-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B6. Continuing-to-exist is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

B9. The particular ways-of-being is caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (B3) won’t work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to come into existence does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that was brought to exist.  If I make a chair that is ugly and crooked and wobbly, someone else could take my crappy chair and fix it up so that it became a beautiful, straight, and sturdy chair.  But then the degree of perfection in that chair was caused more by the person who fixed it up, than by my lousy effort in making the chair.  The source of the chair’s degree of perfection is the person who fixed it up, not the person who made the chair.  Similarly,  we cannot confidently trace the finite degree of perfections of natural things to the maker (or makers) of those natural things.

Premise (B6) also will not work for an argument attempting to prove the existence of God.  Causing something to continue to exist does NOT imply causing all of the perfections and degrees of perfection in the thing that is preserved in existence.  The staff of a museum might preserve a wonderful painting created by Rembrandt, but the perfections of that painting do NOT come from the staff of the museum; they come from the painter, namely Rembrandt.  Keeping something with a high degree of perfection in existence does not mean that one has the power or ability to make something that has such a high degree of perfection.  Thus, even if it could be proven that there was a “super preserver of all things” operating to keep many things that have high degrees of perfection in existence, this would not show that this super preserver has the power or ability to confer high degrees of perfection to anything.

Premise (B9) is an interesting claim.   The subject concerns “ways-of-being” and the predicate concerns beings with a “degree of perfection.”  It seems to me that Kreeft explains the idea of perfection in terms of some “ways-of-being” being better than other “ways-of-being”.  So, perfections are a sub-set of ways-of-being.  Thus, we can re-state (B9) so that both the subject and predicate talk about perfection:

B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (B9*) has some initial plausibility.  It is a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.  If there must be a cause or explanation for the particular characteristics of each and every being, then there must be a cause or explanation for the particular perfections and degrees of perfection of each and every being with a finite degree of perfection.  But this seems too vague to be of use in proving the existence of God.  Some things might have their perfections from a creator (or from various creators), and other things might have their perfections from a fixer-upper (or various fixer-uppers) who improved on the work of a creator (or of various creators).  Asserting that there must be some cause or other of various perfections is not specific enough to allow us to infer that there is ONE single source or cause of all perfections.

 

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ARGUMENT #4

Premise (A) and Premise (B) are both very unclear.  The subjects of both premises are unclear, and the predicates of both premises are unclear.  So, it is very difficult to evaluate the initial inference in Argument #4.

My best guess at the meaning of (A) is that it asserts claim (A4):

A4.  The overall degree of goodness/perfection of different beings varies from one kind of being to another kind of being given Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection, AND Peter Kreeft’s view of the nature of goodness/perfection is true.

But if (A) is intended to assert claim (A4), then premise (A) begs the question at issue (i.e. Does God exist?).

My best guess at the meaning of (B) is that it asserts claim (B9*):

B9*. The particular perfections in a being (and the degree of those perfections) are caused in beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Although (B9*) has some plausibility, being a corollary of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, it seems to be too vague to be useful for proving the existence of God.  Even if we grant the assumption that all perfections of things that have a finite degree of perfection, are caused by something or other to have those perfections (and to have them to that specific degree), that doesn’t get us to the conclusion that there is just ONE ultimate source or cause of all of the perfections found in various beings that have a finite degree of perfection.

Premise (A) appears to beg the main question at issue, and premise (B) appears to be too vague to be useful in a proof for the existence of God.

Because Kreeft has presented us with a very unclear argument,  it does not deserve any more of my time and attention.  I have attempted to clarify and make sense of this poorly stated argument, and when I do clarify it, it still remains a crappy argument.  So, once again, Kreeft has FAILED to provide us with a good reason to believe that God exists.  Argument #4 fails, just like the last ten arguments in Kreeft’s case, and just like the rest of the initial five arguments in his case.

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