The Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 4: Finite Changing Things Exist?

The Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 4: Finite Changing Things Exist? July 25, 2020

In his book When Skeptics Ask (1990), Norman Geisler presents a Thomist Cosmological Argument for the existence of God (although he FAILED to conclude the argument with the claim that “God exists”!).  I am now going to start evaluating the first premise of this argument:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (When Skeptics Ask, p. 18; hereafter: WSA.)

Here is the argument Geisler gives in support of this premise:

For example, me. I would have to exist to deny that I exist; so either way, I must really exist.  (WSA, p. 18)

That is the entire extent of Geisler’s defense of premise (1), at least in WSA.  Geisler also has a much older book called Philosophy of Religion (1974; hereafter: PoR), and in that older book he provides three and a half full pages of argumentation in support of premise (1).  So, after I examine his very brief argument for premise (1) from WSA,  I will turn to the arguments that he presents in Chapter 9 of PoR, in support of premise (1) of his Thomist Cosmological Argument.

Pronouns are the devil’s workshop.  They should be avoided whenever possible in carefully-stated philosophical arguments, to avoid UNCLARITY and AMBIGUITY and EQUIVOCATION.  So, let’s revise Geisler’s brief argument in support of premise (1) to make it more clear:

I would have to exist in order to deny that I exist… (WSA, p.18)

==> Norman Geisler would have to exist in order to deny that Norman Geisler exists.

==>Norman Geisler would have to exist in order to deny the claim that Norman Geisler exists.

==>IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

That is a key premise in this argument in support of premise (1).  I take it that (10) is TRUE; it is obviously true.  So, that is a good start, at least. What is the immediate conclusion of this argument?  Here is how Geisler states the conclusion:

…I must really exist.   (WSA, p.18)

Words like “must” and “necessarily” are sometimes used as inference indicators, like the words “thus” and “therefore”.  Such words should be stripped out of carefully-stated philosophical arguments (they are about the logic of the argument, the inferences in the argument, not about the content of the claims in the argument).  Also the word “really” is superfluous here.  Premise (1) makes no distinction between “really existing” and just plain “existing”, so there is no need for such a distinction within an argument supporting premise (1):

…I must really exist. (WSA, p.18)

==> I really exist.

==>I exist.

==>Norman Geisler exists.

11. Norman Geisler exists.

We now have a clear statement of Geisler’s brief argument in support of premise (1):

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

1. Finite, changing things exist.

Just in case you did not notice,  this argument is a piece of SHIT.  It is a stinking philosophical TURD.  Both of the inferences in this argument are clearly and obviously INVALID.  This is NOT rocket science.  So, the fact that the initial premise (10) is TRUE is not enough to make this piece of SHIT argument worth anything.

If I were teaching a Philosophy 101 course, and a freshman turned in a paper that presented this argument,  I would not hesitate for a moment to give that paper an F.    I would expect more out of a freshman taking an introductory philosophy course than what Geisler (a professor of philosophy who has published dozens of books on Christian apologetics, philosophy of religion, and theology) has provided us here.

It seems easy to fix the first part of this argument.  We need to add another premise, one that Geisler neglected to mention:

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

A. Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

By adding premise (A), we turn Geisler’s INVALID first inference into a VALID inference (called modus ponens). But premise (A) is clearly and obviously FALSE.  So, if this is the argument Geisler had intended, then he has provided an argument that is clearly UNSOUND, and that FAILS to support premise (1).

There is a short phrase in Geisler’s statement of this argument that gives us a clue about how we might be able to fix this first INVALID inference:  “…so either way, I must really exist.”  What is he talking about when he says “either way”?

The phrase “either way” comes out of nowhere and has no clear reference.  However, I suspect that he is talking about the possibility of EITHER accepting the claim “Norman Geisler exists.” or denying the claim “Norman Geisler exists.” Let’s assume that these are the alternatives he had in mind in writing the phrase “either way”.  In that case, we could revise his initial inference this way:

B. EITHER Norman Geisler accepts the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.” OR Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”

C. IF Norman Geisler accepts the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

10. IF Norman Geisler denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”, THEN Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

This argument is not obviously INVALID, like the original argument.  In fact, this revised argument is logically VALID, and premise (C) is clearly and obviously TRUE, as well as premise (10).  So, in order to determine whether this revised argument is SOUND, we need to determine whether premise (B) is true.

Upon reflection premise (B) is FALSE, or at least its truth it problematic.  There is a third possibility not mentioned in (B), and also a fourth possibility as well:

  • Norman Geisler neither accepts nor denies the claim that “Norman Geisler exists.”  
  • Norman Geisler does NOT exist.

Failing to notice the first possibility is similar to making the assumption that everyone must either believe the claim “God exists.” or deny the claim “God exists.”  But some people have never heard about the idea of “God” and have no opinion either way (for example, infants are neither theists nor atheists).  Also, some people who have heard about the idea of “God” remain undecided on the question “Does God exist?”.  Agnostics often neither accept nor deny the claim that “God exists.”

A fourth possibility is that there is no such person or being as “Norman Geisler”.  In order to eliminate this fourth possibility, one would have to assume that “Norman Geisler exists”.  But that is the VERY CONCLUSION that is being argued for here.  Such an assumption would BEG THE QUESTION in the very first premise of this revised argument.

So, Geisler has FAILED to establish his first intermediate conclusion:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

But there are still more problems with this stinking philosophical TURD that Geisler has provided for us:

11. Norman Geisler exists.

THEREFORE:

1. Finite, changing things exist.

There are four words in premise (1), and Geisler has completely IGNORED three of those four words:  “Finite”, “changing”, and “things”.  He did make an attempt to show that “Norman Geisler exists“, but, as we just determined:

  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler exists.

This second inference from (11) to (1) is not merely INVALID; it is TRIPLY INVALID!  It is illogical in three different respects:

  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is “finite”.
  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is “changing”.
  • He has FAILED to show that Norman Geisler is a “thing”.

So, there are four different claims that he needs to prove in order to support premise (1), and he FAILED to prove EACH of those four different things.  That is why Geisler’s argument in support of (1) in WSA is a stinking philosophical TURD.  It would be difficult to locate an argument by a professor of philosophy that was so awful and that so obviously FAILED.


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