Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 26: The Unclarity of Argument #7

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 26: The Unclarity of Argument #7 June 21, 2018

WHERE WE ARE AT

There are only two more arguments in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate:  Argument #7 (the Argument from Contingency) and Argument #6 (the Kalam Cosmological Argument).  In Part 24, I did an initial analysis of Argument #7, and I pointed out some significant problems with that argument, based only on the conclusion of the argument.

At best, the argument shows the existence of a bodiless being (i.e. a bodiless thing, not necessarily a person) that is the cause of the current existence of the universe. Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #7 asserts that the cause of the current existence of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #7 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.

 

ARGUMENT #7: THE ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

A. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–depends on something else for its existence at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

THEREFORE:

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

 

THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #7

Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BASIC PROBLEM WITH ARGUMENT #7

Usually it only takes ten or fifteen minutes for me to examine a “proof” of the existence of God in order to find two or three major problems with the argument.  Often there are one or two premises that are false or dubious.  Often there are one or two inferences that are logically invalid.  I have previously pointed out some serious deficiencies with Argument #7, but I have been struggling for about three or four weeks trying to identify one or two specific objections that would clearly show this argument to be unsound.  A couple of days ago I realized the reason why I was struggling so much with this argument, why it was taking so long to evaluate it.  In short, the argument is so unclear and ambiguous that there are at least 33 million different possible interpretations of this argument.

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EXPONENTIAL INCREASE IN UNCLARITY

Unclear words and phrases usually allow for two or more interpretations (ambiguity).  Every instance of an ambiguous word or phrase can double or triple (or even quadruple) the number of possible interpretations of a statement or argument.  There are 25 instances of unclear words or phrases in the premises supporting (6a), not including the instances of unclear words or phrases in (6a) itself.  If each of these unclear words or phrases has at least two different possible meanings, then the number of possible interpretations of the premises of this argument are at least 2 to the 25th power:

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2

= 2 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 x 4

= 2 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16 x 16

= 2 x 256 x 256 x 256

= 2 x 16,777,216

= 33,554,432  different possible interpretations of Argument #7 (ignoring any ambiguities in the conclusion)

The problem with ambiguous words and phrases in an argument, is that every instance of such a word or phrase can double or triple the number of possible interpretations of the argument.  Ambiguity increases the the number of possible interpretations exponentially.

If I spent just one-half an hour evaluating each of the 33 million interpretations of Argument #7, it would take 16.5 million hours to evaluate all of the possible interpretations.   There are about 8,760 hours in a year  (24 hours/day  x 365 days = 8,760 hours), so in order to evaluate all of the 33 million interpretations of Argument #7 would take me over 1,883 years, working day and night, seven days a week (16,500,000 hours x  1 year/8,760 hours = 1883.56 years).  So, it is not humanly possible to evaluate every one of the millions of different possible interpretations of this argument.

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Clarity is a gateway standard of critical thinking.  A statement that is unclear cannot be evaluated, at least not as it stands.  I attempted to clarify Argument #7 so that it would be possible to evaluate this argument.  But the above revised and clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s Argument from Contingency still contains more than a dozen unclear words and phrases.  Furthermore, those unclear words and phrases appear multiple times in the argument, multiplying the ambiguity and unclarity, resulting in millions of possible meanings of this argument.

I have put the problematic words and phrases in bold red font below, to show how frequently such unclear words and phrases occur in this argument:

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universethe collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

A. The universethe collection of beings in space and timedepends on something else for its existence at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

THEREFORE:

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

 

UNCLEAR WORDS AND PHRASES IN ARGUMENT #7

  1. something  (1 instance): Is time “something”?  Is space “something”? Is a law of physics “something”? Is an idea or a feeling “something”? Is the number 3 “something”?  Why or why not? If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  
  2. depends on (2 instances): Does this refer to logical dependency or causal dependency or to both kinds of dependency?  Does this refer to necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  3. something else (4 instances):  “something” is ambiguous, and so is “else”. Does a part of a whole thing count as “something else” in addition to the whole?  Does a whole containing parts of two other things count as “something else” besides those two other things?
  4. what it takes for  (4 instances):  If the existence of X at a particular moment depends on Y does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that Y is what it takes for X to exist at that particular moment?  What if Y is only ONE of MANY different things that could have caused the existence of X at that moment?  Does what it takes for X to exist at a particular moment refer to logical dependencies of the existence of X or to causal dependencies or to both kinds of dependency?  Does what it takes for X to exist consist of necessary conditions or sufficient conditions or to both kinds of conditions (or to criterial conditions)?
  5. The universe (7 instances): although this word is defined in premise (2a), the definition is itself very unclear and has many possible meanings. The highly ambiguous definition makes the term “universe” highly ambiguous as well.
  6. the collection (2 instances): the universe contains a different set of things at different times, so “the collection” is ambiguous between the set of all the things that have existed in the entire history of the universe and the set of all things that exist at a particular moment in time.
  7. beings (4 instances): If X is something, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being?  If X is a being, does that LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is something?  Is time a “being”?  Is space a “being”? Is a law of physics a “being”? Is an idea or a feeling a “being”? Is the number 3 a “being”?  Why or why not?
  8. in space and time (2 instances): Is the requirement that the thing in question be BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?  The word “and” is ambiguous in this phrase.
  9. within the universe (1 instance): If X is within the universe, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is a being in space and time?  If X is a being in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is within the universe?  If so, then the ambiguity of “being” and the ambiguity of “in space and time” apply to this expression.  For example, is time within the universe?  Is space within the universe?  Are laws of physics within the universe?
  10. bounded by space and time (1 instance):  If X is bounded by space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is bounded by space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.  Does being bounded by space and time mean being BOTH in space AND in time? or just that the thing in question be EITHER in space OR in time?
  11. transcend both space and time (1 instance): If X is not in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X transcends both space and time?  If X transcends both space and time does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is not in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of “in space and time” applies to this expression.
  12. OUTSIDE of both space and time (1 instance):  I don’t think this was part of Kreeft’s wording, so this is a phrase that I added.  This should probably be revised to “transcend both space and time” which was Kreeft’s own wording.  In that case this would be a second instance of the unclear expression “transcend both space and time”.
  13. finite (1 instance):  Does this mean finite in EVERY respect, or finite in AT LEAST ONE respect?
  14. material (1 instance): If X is in space and time, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is material?  If X is material, does this LOGICALLY IMPLY that X is in space and time?  If so, then the ambiguity of the expression “in space and time” applies to this word.

 

REDUCING THE NUMBER OF POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS

Not only are there numerous unclear words and phrases in Argument #7, but many of them occur multiple times in the argument.  Each instance of an ambiguous word or phrase multiplies the number of possible interpretations of the argument. Thus the premises of this argument have at least 33 million different possible interpretations.

There is a simple way to dramatically reduce the number of possible interpretations of this argument: we can simply assume that ALL instances of an expression have the SAME meaning.  If the meaning of an expression changes in the course of an argument, then that usually breaks the logic of the argument and results in an invalid inference or a false conditional premise, making the argument UNSOUND.  So, if we assume that all instances of an expression have the same meaning, that eliminates many versions of the argument that are, in all likelihood, UNSOUND because of the fallacy of equivocation.  So, in making this assumption we are eliminating obviously bad versions of the argument and focusing on a small subset of possible interpretations, which at least have the potential to be good, sound arguments.

So, rather than looking at how many instances there are of unclear words and phrases, we can focus on how many unique words and phrases are unclear.  There are eleven unique words and phrases that are unclear in the premises supporting (6a), not including (6a) itself.  The phrases “depends on”, “something else”, and “the universe” each have four possible meanings, and the eight other unclear words and phrases each have at least two possible meanings.  So, if we assume that ALL instances of each of these eleven unique words and phrases have the same meaning, that none of these words or phrases shifts in meaning in the course of this argument, then the number of possible interpretations would be 4 to the 3rd power times 2 to the 8th power:

(4 x 4 x 4) x (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2)

(4 x 4 x 4) x (4 x 4 x 4 x 4)

= 64 x 256

= 16, 384 different possible interpretations of Argument #7 (ignoring any ambiguities in the conclusion and assuming all of the expressions are used unequivocally)

If we spend just one-half hour on evaluating each of these possible interpretations, that would require 8,192 hours of work.

If we work on this 40 hours per week, then it would take about 205 weeks or nearly four years to finish evaluating all of those different possible interpretations (8,192 hours x 1 week/40 hours = 204.8 weeks).

I don’t know about you, but this argument does not seem promising enough to want to spend four years of my life evaluating all of the 16,384 different possible versions of it (on the assumption that all expressions in the argument are used unequivocally).

I do think it is worth spending some time thinking about the various possible meanings of the unclear words and phrases in this argument, but this argument is much too UNCLEAR to be worth any more of my time.

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