Kreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 2

Kreeft’s Case for God: Summary of My Critique – Part 2 July 26, 2018

In Part 15 I begin to analyze Argument #4 of Kreeft’s case:

4. The Argument from Degrees of Perfection

In Argument #4, Kreeft argues for the existence of an “absolutely perfect being”.  He does strongly hint at the single most important premise of this argument:

This absolutely perfect being…is God. (HCA, p.55)

The most important premise of this argument is best stated as a conditional claim:

D. IF an absolutely perfect being exists, THEN God exists.

Kreeft provides very little support for premise (D), so Argument #4 could reasonably be set aside as yet one more FAILED argument for the existence of God.  However, Kreeft does briefly hint at a line of reasoning that could be used to support (D), and it seems to me that (D) is more plausible than any of the other key premises that Kreeft failed to support in the other four Thomistic arguments, so I will take a closer look at Argument #4.

 

In Part 16 I analyze and evaluate the original Argument from Degrees of Perfection as presented by Aquinas himself. The final part of this argument has two significant problems:

5b. There is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have. 

6b. IF there is exactly one thing…which causes in all other things…their goodness, and whatever other perfections they have, THEN God exists.

THEREFORE:

A. God exists.

The final inference in the argument is VALID but this part of the argument is probably UNSOUND because (5b) is dubious (supported by an INVALID sub-argument with a FALSE premise), and (6b) appears to be FALSE.

 

In Part 17 I examine the logical structure of Kreeft’s version of the Argument from PerfectionArgument #4.  I analyze the argument into three parts: an initial inference, an intermediate inference, and a final inference.  The initial inference in this argument contains two unstated assumptions, premise (A) and premise (B), and an unstated conclusion, (C):

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 point out that both the subject and the predicate of premise (A) are unclear.  My best guess 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 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.

 

In Part 19 I  attempt to clarify premise (B) in this argument, represented as premise (B9):

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.

 

THE INITIAL INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4

Also, in Part 19 I sum up problems with the initial inference in 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.

 

THE MIDDLE INFERENCE IN ARGUMENT #4

In Part 20 I evaluate the middle inference in Argument #4.

The very unclear and very dubious initial inference in Argument #4 is not the only problem with that argument.  In Part 17, I analyzed the logical structure of Argument #4, and I pointed out that there was a completely UNSTATED sub-argument that is required to logically link the initial inference to the final inference in Argument #4, and this middle inference is as follows:

F. IF there exists a source and real standard of all the perfections that pertain to being, THEN an absolutely perfect being exists.

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

THEREFORE:

D. An absolutely perfect being exists.

This middle inference appears to involve the following assumption:

(POP)  IF a being X causes perfection P in being Y, then being X has a greater degree of perfection P than Y.

This general Principle Of Perfection appears to be an assumption that underlies premise (F).  If this principle is false, then we have no good reason to believe premise (F).  But (POP) is clearly FALSE, so we have no good reason to believe (F) to be true.  Premise (F) is based on a FALSE assumption, so premise (F) is dubious, just like premise (C).

The main reason why (POP) is false is that a thing that lacks a property can, nevertheless, cause that property to occur in something else.  I can cause someone else to have a black eye and a bloody nose, even if I do not have a black eye or bloody nose myself.  I can cause a woman to become pregnant, even though I am not pregnant, and even though I cannot ever become pregnant.  I can make someone laugh, even if I am not laughing myself.

 

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE MIDDLE INFERENCE AND ARGUMENT #4

In Part 20 I present my evaluation of the middle inference of Argument#4 and of the whole argument.  The middle inference or sub-argument in Argument #4 is based on two dubious premises: (C) and (F).

  • The meanings of key words and phrases in these premises are UNCLEAR.
  • Premise (C) is dubious because it is based on a BAD argument (i.e. the first inference of Argument #4).
  • Premise (F) is dubious because it is based on a FALSE assumption (i.e. POP).
  • Premise (F) is ambiguous in its quantification; on one interpretation (C) must make a very strong and very dubious claim, and on the other possible interpretation (F) is clearly FALSE.

The middle inference or sub-argument thus FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion, just like the initial inference or sub-argument FAILS to provide a good reason for its conclusion.  Thus, we may reasonably conclude that Argument #4 is a complete FAILURE.  This argument has multiple serious problems, and so it provides us no good reason to believe that God exists.

Argument #4 fails, and thus ALL FIVE of the arguments that Kreeft apparently believes to be the best and strongest arguments for the existence of God FAIL, just like ALL TEN of the last arguments of his case FAIL.  At this point, we have determined that at least 75% of the arguments (15 out of 20) in Kreeft’s case for God FAIL.  Given the perfect consistency of FAILURE in Kreeft’s case so far, it is unlikely that any of the remaining five arguments will turn out to be a strong and solid argument for the existence of God.

 

THE CONCLUSIONS OF KREEFT’S FIRST TEN ARGUMENTS

In Part 21 I discuss a general problem with Kreeft’s arguments that is a theme in in my critique of his case for God.

A philosophical argument for the existence of God, ought to end with one of the following conclusions:

  • God exists.
  • There is a God.

So, one BIG CLUE that Kreeft’s case for God is seriously defective is that in the first ten arguments, which he appears to think are his best and strongest arguments, he almost never explicitly states the conclusion of an argument to be “God exists” or “There is a God”.

There is only ONE argument in the first ten arguments that has the proper conclusion.  Argument #9, the Argument from Miracles, has a proper conclusion:

4. Therefore God exists.  (HCA, p.64)

The conclusions of the other nine arguments fall short of making this claim.

So, 90% of Kreeft’s best and strongest arguments “for the existence of God” fail to end with the conclusion “God exists” or “There is a God”, and those nine out of ten arguments all FAIL to be arguments “for the existence of God”; rather, they argue for the existence of a being that has one or two characteristics that are characteristics that are also (supposedly) possessed by God.

In some cases, Kreeft attempts to bridge the logical gap between the conclusion that he actually argues for, and the desired conclusion.  Kreeft’s makes some additional claims in an attempt to provide a logical connection between the stated conclusions of those arguments and the desired conclusion that “God exists.”

However, Kreeft does NOT argue for or defend any of these key premises, and thus he BEGS THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of the most important and most controversial premises of those arguments.  Even in the cases where Kreeft provides a premise that links the stated conclusion of an argument to the conclusion that “God exists”, he still FAILS to show that “God exists”, because he does not provide any good reason for us to believe those crucial and controversial premises.

Kreeft is a professional philosopher who has taken on the responsibility to present solid arguments for God, and when he provides half-ass arguments that are logically incomplete, arguments that do not explicitly conclude that “God exists”, it is fair to simply point out that his arguments, as presented, FAIL to show the conclusion that they are supposed to show.  It is fair to simply point out that his arguments either BEG THE QUESTION by assuming the truth of controversial premises, or else that they are NOT actually arguments for the existence of God.

 

EVALUATION OF KREEFT’S CUMULATIVE CASE

In Part 22 I also point out some serious problems with Kreeft’s case in terms of his aim of presenting a cumulative case for God.

Although it would be unreasonable to insist that Christian apologists prove that there is ONE being that possesses ALL of the many characteristics that Christians believe God to have, there are some basic divine attributes that a case for the existence of God should show are possessed by ONE being.  In order to be “God”, a being must be:

  • an eternally bodiless person
  • an eternally omnipotent (all-powerful) person
  • an eternally omniscient (all-knowing) person
  • an eternally perfectly morally good person
  • a person who is the creator of the universe

Kreeft does repeatedly attempt to show that there is a being who is the designer of the universe, but none of his arguments show that such a being exists.  Even if  one of Kreeft’s arguments did actually succeed in showing that there was an intelligent designer of some part or aspect of the universe, this does not imply that there is a person who is the creator of the universe.  First, evidence of a designer does not imply that there is JUST ONE designer of the entire universe.  Second, even if we knew that there was just one designer, this does not imply that this designer also CREATED the universe.   Designing something is not the same as making that something.  Third, the existence of a designer or creator of the universe in the distant past does not imply that such a being still exists today.

Furthermore, a designer of the universe is not necessarily a bodiless person, and is not necessarily an eternal person, and is not necessarily an omnipotent person, nor an omniscient person.  And the many problems of evil indicate that if there is a designer of the universe, that designer was either not omniscient or not omnipotent or not a perfectly morally good person.  The argument from design actually casts doubt on the existence of God, when we take into account the problems of evil in the apparent “design” of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By combining all of his arguments together, Kreeft could, in theory, show that there exists a being or person who has MANY of the basic divine attributes.  However, there are at least three serious problems with the cumulative case that Kreeft has actually provided:

  1. Most of his arguments do not attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes. The chart above shows that eight out of the first twelve arguments in his case don’t attempt to show the existence of a person with ANY of the basic divine attributes (see the rows for Arguments 1 & 2, 4 & 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12).
  2. A number of the basic divine attributes are not touched upon by Kreeft’s arguments, or are supported by only one argument.  The chart above shows that in the first twelve arguments ZERO of them attempt to show that there is a person who is omnipotent, or a person who is omniscient, or a person who is perfectly morally good, and the chart also shows that only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a bodiless person, and only ONE of the first twelve arguments attempts to show that there is a person who is the creator.
  3. Additional argumentation is needed to show that there is JUST ONE being that possesses the various basic divine attributes.  But Kreeft does not argue for this assumption.  He simply ASSUMES that all of his arguments are about the same being or person.   Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that many of the attributes could be possessed by a person who was not God, because it is possible to have one divine attribute without having all of the other divine attributes.  One could, for example, be the creator of the universe but not be an omniscient person, and not be a perfectly morally good person.

 

Argument #13 looks like it could potentially rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, because it provides an argument for three basic divine attributes that no other argument in Kreeft’s collection supports.  Argument #13 is the Ontological Argument for God.  Specifically, Plantinga’s version of the Ontological argument concludes that “there actually exists…an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being.” (HCA, p.72).

However, Argument #13 is of no help to Peter Kreeft, because he (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli) admit that this argument is no good. The ONE argument that had the potential to rescue Kreeft’s cumulative case from being a complete failure, is an argument that Kreeft tells us is a “fundamentally flawed” argument (HCA, p. 49).  I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the Ontological argument is fundamentally flawed, so I must conclude that Kreeft’s cumulative case for the existence of God is a complete failure.

 

To Be Continued…

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