November 19-21 was this year’s annual Evangelical Philosophical Society’s conference. I coauthored a paper with Dave Beck of Liberty University. This is the third year in a row I’ve had a paper accepted for presentation at EPS.
Abstract: Due to advances in cosmology and theoretical physics the origin of the universe is being relentlessly debated. Nevertheless, whether there is one universe or even an infinite plurality of universes, Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the existence of a first cause from contingency circumvents the debate of temporal beginnings to the universe; such as those that are embedded within the kalam cosmological argument. Tensed, tenseless, dynamic, static, endurantist, and perdurantist theories of time will be irrelevant or be peripheral at best. Physical science as a system will always require further explanation, not mere description, and that explanation will always have to appeal to something outside of itself. This is true for any philosophical and/or theological explanation of science. In this paper we will attempt a consilience of Thomas’ argument from contingency and modern cosmology to show that regardless of whether the universe had a temporal beginning, or what the nature of that beginning might have been, it would still be best explained by a first uncaused cause. We will defend Thomas’ notion of radical contingency and argue against a necessitation understanding of Thomas that is often misattributed to him. This metaphysic will be used as a plausible and defensible abductive cosmological argument, which will appeal to the radical contingency of constituents of the universe, and thus take the form of an argument to the best explanation.
Contemporary physics seem to indicate that there are good reasons, theoretically and physically, for an idea that there is a plurality of worlds. This concept has come to be understood as the multiverse. The multiverse is not monolithic but it is modeled after the contemporary understanding of an inflationary model of the beginning of this universe. Max Tegmark has championed the most prominent versions of the multiverse. Tegmark has made a four-way distinction.
This is the third year in a row I’ve had a paper accepted for presentation at EPS (coauthoring with Dave Beck). This paper will help thresh out some of my research concerning the behaviour of natural law as well as methodology in a philosophy of cosmology. In the paper I will be able to examine different cosmological models (primarily multiverse models) and consider the necessitarian vs. regularity debate as well as the metaphysical and modal status of natural law and the ontological furniture of all reality. This is relevant to several sections of my thesis and the peer feedback offered by conferences such as this are vital to have external minds critiquing my proposed models for many universes and, what I believe to be, the radical metaphysical contingency of worlds.
Boethius discusses the problem in reconciling genuine human freedom with God’s foreknowledge in “Divine Foreknowledge and Freedom of the Will” (proses III-VI). He bases his whole discussion on whether or not something that is foreknown happens by necessity. He offers the disjunctive option of the necessity of either thing, which are going to happen be foreseen by God or that what God foresees will in fact happen—either way, he argues, human will is removed. When discussing the uncertainty of future events he concludes that, for God, there must be no uncertainty in these events because it’s then reduced to possible conditionals, or could-counterfactuals. Hence, the law of excluded middle is true for knowledge of future tensed events. He makes an interesting point when discussing aspects about Cicero’s contribution to the problem. If foreknowledge is removed then the events of human will are no longer necessary. Considering all of the discussion so far he believes that everything that happens does so by necessity.
I recently coauthored a paper with Dave Beck (Liberty University, Department of Philosophy): “The Suitability of Aristotelian Metaphysics for Theism” presented at the Evangelical Philosophical Society in Baltimore, MD (November 2013). We primarily focus on critiques of Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysics offered by Richard Swinburne and Lydia Jaeger. Dave primary contribution was the body-soul discussion and I focussed on Christian thought and science and our Thomistic cosmological argument. This version of the argument is something that we’ve developed over the last year or two. He also worked with my contributions as well. It was a mixed and shared effort by both of us.
Swinburne actually sat in and listened to the presentation. Afterwards, he said the critiques were fair and accurate. Likewise, he agreed that Jaeger should be read and discussed more in Christian philosophy/theology and liked our critique of her as well. He has since offered for us to send him our paper so he can review and critique it. That is certainly an honor and privilege. We haven’t finalized plans for a journal submission but I suspect we may plan to do that in the near future.
Here is our introduction to the paper:
Not just a few current philosophers and theologians have asserted that the metaphysics of Aristotle, even after it was transformed and adapted by Thomas Aquinas, will not meet any or all the requirements of a robust Christian Theism. There is nothing new about that. Both among the Patristics and the Medievals were those who for various reasons rejected Peripatetic metaphysics, primarily for its alleged physicalism. Of course the Condemnations of 1277 didn’t help things either. While directed principally against Averroistic Aristotelianism that was infecting the University of Paris, 20 of the 219 condemned theses were Thomistic. Nevertheless, Thomas would prevail, not only to sainthood, but to become the patron of education and the Teacher of the Church.
Theology is doubly revealed and many Christians often ignore God’s natural revelation as being a valid object of interpretation. It’s all too often that many Christians reject many valid scientific theories.
“Theology is properly distinguished as natural and revealed. The former is concerned with the facts of nature so far as they reveal God and our relation to him, and the latter with the facts of Scripture.” –Charles Hodge
Theology refers to the all encompassing knowledge of God.
Theology of Nature refers to the Book of Nature as revealed in Scripture (Ps. 19.1-4; Rom. 1.20) Look at Psalm 19. When speaking of God it refers to his general name (El, Heb., continuous, abundant, universal). Some of the themes are creation’s contingency, Imago Dei, Stewardship, the fall, etc.
Thomas Aquinas believed that there was an appropriated assimilation or likeness to God found in creatures and creation. Some likeness must be found between an effect and its cause. It is in the nature of any agent to do something like itself. Thus, God also gives to creatures and creation all their perfections; and thereby he has with all creatures a likeness.
Additionally, the cause of variety and the multitude of things in creation find their cause in God. Thomas contrasts himself with early Greek philosophers such as Democritus and the other atomists who argued that the distinction of things come from chance according to the movement of matter.
Hey Max I have a few questions about your cosmological argument from Thomas Aquinas:
(1) Did Aquinas believe in creation out of nothing?
(2) Did Aquinas believe that the universe existed eternally side by side with God even though it was contingent?
Also, how can be God be timeless on the view that the universe did not begin to exist? If God’s relation to the universe is always present, would that not imply an eternal relation of God with the universe, which would involve time itself? It is difficult for me to make sense of how God could be timeless on this view and not simply temporal.
Here’s the short answers:
2) I don’t think Thomas would phrase it that way but Thomas is okay with a creation that has existed for an infinite duration in the past–emphasizing the radical contingency.
Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are the leading thinkers when it comes to answering the question, “What is the good life?” Both Aristotle and Thomas agreed that the good life is fulfilling one’s purpose in life but Thomas was the one who grounded the good life in divine love and purpose.
One of the common misconceptions of Christianity is that the goal of human life is happiness. The chief end of man is to love and know God—fulfilling God’s purposes for each individual. Man’s end is not happiness in this world, but the knowledge of God, which will ultimately bring humanity to it’s intended purpose and end.
Over the last month or two I’ve been working on a written/audio debate with Justin Schieber of Reasonable Doubts. The topic of the debate was “Does the Christian God Exist?” I imagine the debate may have been released earlier had it not been for my delayed responses due to health issues and moving out of our house and preparing to embark on our move to Scotland. I have apologized to Mr. Schieber concerning this and I extend apologies to the readers and listeners.
I was actually expecting much stronger arguments from Mr. Schieber. Two arguments were off topic and the other one was a far metaphysical and modal stretch. You’ll be able to read his arguments in full but here are my thoughts :