The Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things

The Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 9: Enhanced 2nd Argument for Changing Things September 1, 2020

WHERE WE ARE

In his book When Skeptics Ask (hereafter: WSA), Norman Geisler presents his general version of a Thomist Cosmological Argument (hereafter: TCA).  The first premise of Geisler’s TCA is this:

1. Finite, changing things exist.  (WSA, p.18)

Geisler provides a very brief argument in support of (1) in WSA.  In Part 4 of this series I showed that Geisler’s brief argument in support of (1) was a stinking philosophical TURD.  It FAILS utterly and completely to support ANY part of premise (1).

In Part 5 of this series I clarified and analyzed a longer and more sophisticated  argument by Geisler in support of just one part of premise (1) of TCA, an argument that is found in his much older book Philosophy of Religion (hereafter: PoR).  This longer argument only supports the simple (and obviously true) claim that “Something exists”.  In Part 6 of this series, I argued that this longer argument by Geisler FAILS.

In Part 7 of this series, I analyzed and evaluated Geisler’s first argument in PoR for the following claim:

21. Changing things exist.

I concluded that this first argument in PoR for (21) FAILS.

In Part 8 of this series, I analyzed Geisler’s second argument for claim (21), and then I began to evaluate the argument.  But I repeatedly ran into problems with the argument, problems that could be fixed by making an unstated assumption explicit, or by clarifying the meaning of a premise, or by modifying a premise in order to make an inference in the argument logically valid.  I ended up adding a number of premises, and modifying the statement of each of the original premises.

Because I have revised each of the three premises that Geisler provided in order to clarify them or to make the logical inferences valid, and because I have had to add five different unstated assumptions, also in order to make the logical inferences in this argument valid, it is no longer clear that this is Geisler’s argument.  My thought, effort, and skills have gone into the construction of this argument, and it is significantly different from the argument that we started with.  So, even if this turns out to be a solid deductive argument, that will not show that Geisler’s original argument was a solid deductive argument.

It is clear that Geisler’s second argument as originally stated was NOT a SOUND deductive argument, and that it FAILED as a deductively valid proof of the conclusion.  But the enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument might turn out to be a solid proof, so I will go ahead and evaluate this enhanced 2nd argument in this post.

 

THE ENHANCED 2ND ARGUMENT FOR CHANGING THINGS

Here is the core of the enhanced 2nd argument in PoR:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

33e. IF two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now, THEN changing things exist right now.

THEREFORE:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

Here is the argument in support of premise (A1):

C. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about myself is real, and myself still exists right now.

D. At least ONE change that I seem to have experienced in the past about the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E. Myself is a thing and the world is a thing.

F. It is NOT the case that the world and myself are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

Premises (C) and (D) are supported by an explicit premise:

32b. Total illusion about myself is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

Based on the above analysis, we can show the structure of this argument:

PROBLEMS WITH PRONOUNS

Although I have made a sincere effort to clarify and enhance Geisler’s argument, to take his FAILED argument and try to turn it into a clear and logically valid argument, there are still some serious problems of unclarity,  because of the use of pronouns:  “I” and “myself”.  All by themselves, pronouns don’t have a specific meaning; they don’t specify a particular thing, a particular person, a particular group, or a particular collection of things.

Because pronouns, on their own, don’t have a specific meaning, each pronoun in an argument MUST be interpreted BEFORE one can evaluate the truth of a premise or claim that is stated using a pronoun.  So, no serious philosophical argument should contain any pronouns.  In order to formulate a clear and serious philosophical argument, one must eliminate all pronouns in the statement of the argument by substituting a proper name or a clear description of the thing, person, group, or collection to which the pronoun is referring.

Perhaps “I” refers to the author of the argument, Norman Geisler:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

D1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F1. It is NOT the case that the world and Norman Geisler’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

I just noticed that the argument supporting (C1) and (D1) is incomplete.  There are additional unstated premises that need to be made explicit:

G1. Norman Geisler seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Norman Geisler’s self.

H1. Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Norman Geisler’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C1. At least ONE change that Norman Geisler seems to have experienced in the past to Norman Geisler’s self is real, and Norman Geisler’s self still exists right now.

I believe that Geisler exists.  I believe that he has had various experiences over many years.  But I’m NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler is in fact Norman Geisler, nor am I certain that the person who claims to be Norman Geisler has had various experiences over many years (because I cannot get inside of someone else’s mind).  So, although I am inclined to believe that (G1) is true, this claim is NOT self-evident, nor is it certain.  In any case,  premise (G1) is LESS CERTAIN than the ultimate conclusion of this argument:

21a. Changing things exist right now.

So, this argument FAILS.

There is a second problem that I see here with this sub-argument for (C1).  Suppose that one of Geisler’s early experiences of his “self” was accurate.  Perhaps he experienced in himself an antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.  Suppose this experience was accurate, and that he did in fact have a strong antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems.   Suppose that at a later point in time, Geisler experiences what seems to be a change in himself, namely that he no longer has antipathy towards solving mathematical word problems, or at least has nowhere near the strong antipathy that he used to have.  Suppose further that this seeming experience of a change in his self is a delusion, and that he in fact has just as much antipathy towards solving word problems now as he ever had in the past.  In this case Geisler’s initial perception of himself was accurate and correct, but his later perception of a change in himself was false and incorrect.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_problem_(mathematics_education)

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In this case we can say that his experience of himself is NOT a “total illusion” because his initial perception of himself was accurate and correct.  However, his seeming experience of a CHANGE in himself was false and incorrect.  No such CHANGE took place.  But now, suppose that EVERY CHANGE that Geisler has experienced concerning himself was similarly false and incorrect.  In that case, his experiences of himself would NOT be a “total illusion” because his initial perceptions of himself would be accurate and correct, but EVERY CHANGE that he has seemed to experience to himself is false and incorrect, and in fact no change that he seems to have experienced actually took place.

What this shows is that the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is LOGICALLY INVALID, in spite of my efforts to enhance the argument, to make Geisler’s argument logically valid.  Even if “total illusion” is ruled out, there is still the possibility that NO CHANGE experienced by Geisler about himself was an actual event.

So, there are at least two problems with this sub-argument.  First, premise (G1) is neither self-evident nor certain, and is less certain than the ultimate conclusion it is supposed to be supporting.  Second, the inference from (G1) and (32c) to (C1) is logically invalid.  The same objections apply to the parallel sub-argument for premise (D1).  So, we now have four different significant problems with this argument.

Furthermore, premise (E1) is problematic as well:

E1. Norman Geisler’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

Although I believe that Norman Geisler exists, I am NOT certain that Norman Geisler exists, and I am even less certain that Norman Geisler’s “self” exists.  Furthermore, since I’m not sure what it means for Geisler’s “self” to exist, I am very uncertain that it is appropriate to categorize his “self” as  “a thing”.

Finally, this is an argument based on the thinking of Aquinas, and Aquinas had a very specific idea of what constitutes “a thing”, so it might well be the case that the phrase “a thing” here has a very particular meaning, which Geisler has failed to specify.   For these reasons, I am reluctant to agree with the first half of premise (E1), and I most definitely don’t KNOW (E1) to be true.

The phrase “the world” is not as vague and unclear as “self”, but it is not entirely clear what this means.  I also have the same concerns about the meaning of the phrase “a thing” in the second half of (E1) as with the first half of (E1).

So, without Geisler providing a good deal more in the way of clarifications or definitions, premise (E1) seems rather dubious.  These concerns also apply to premise (F1).

What if the pronouns “I” and “myself” in this argument do NOT refer to Norman Geisler?  Perhaps, they refer to whoever the reader happens to be, like ME:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

D2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to the world is real, and the world still exists right now.

E2. Bradley Bowen’s self is a thing and the world is a thing.

F2. It is NOT the case that the world and Bradley Bowen’s self are the same thing.

THEREFORE:

A1. Two or more things have changed in the past and still exist right now.

This interpretation does help with the degree of certainty I have about a premise in a sub-argument for (C2):

G2. Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced many different changes in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self.

H2. Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

32c. Total illusion about Bradley Bowen’s self is impossible and total illusion about the world is impossible.

THEREFORE:

C2. At least ONE change that Bradley Bowen seems to have experienced in the past to Bradley Bowen’s self is real, and Bradley Bowen’s self still exists right now.

I am more confident and certain about (G2) than I was about the analogous premise about Norman Geisler.  I am more certain that I exist, and that I have had experiences about myself.  But there is a problem with making the argument about me as opposed to about Geisler.

Geisler, so far as I am aware, does not know that I exist.  Even if he does have some small awareness about my existence, he surely is NOT certain that I exist.  So, this argument cannot be what Geisler had in mind, since he either doesn’t know that I exist, or has only a modest and uncertain belief that I exist.  Geisler is in no position to confidently assert premise (G2) to be true and certain.  So, this is NOT a plausible interpretation of Geisler’s argument.

Furthermore, although premise (G2) has the advantage of being more certain to ME than premise (G1), the argument still has all of the other serious problems that I have pointed out above.  Changing the focus from Norman Geisler to Bradley Bowen doesn’t help with any of the other objections that I have raised.

 

CONCLUSION

Geisler’s second argument for (21a) FAILS.

I have made a serious attempt to repair Geisler’s unclear and logically invalid argument, but although I made several significant improvements to his argument, it still has a number of unclear and dubious premises, and some invalid inferences in the sub-arguments for key premises.  Even the significantly enhanced version of Geisler’s second argument for the claim that “Changing things exist right now.” clearly FAILS.


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