Second Way Clarification

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Second Way Clarification

Postby Jac3510 » Sun Dec 04, 2016 8:53 pm

So I've been thinking about the discussion around Aquinas' argument from causality referenced in another discussion. In particular, where I argued that there is an important sense in which free choices don't have causes. As an aside, that little point is really of broad importance because there are lots of people who still think that true randomness is impossible. Such thinking suggests that these people are still stuck in a Newtonian (which is to say, mechanistic) view of the world--that quantum fluctuations, for instance, aren't really random . . . it's just that we can't calculate with sufficient certainty because we simply lack the know how to do so. I would suggest that the older view is actually the correct view, namely, that most of what happens in our world truly is indeterminate. That is, that there is an element of randomness about most things in the world. Granted that randomness is contained within lesser or greater ranges of probability such that we can still predict a lot of what is going to happen with sufficient certainty to actually live our lives. But, no, the simple fact (or, better, my interpretation of the facts as we have them) is that our world is just not fundamentally deterministic.

But I digress. Back to the argument from causality. I've talked a lot about the argument from motion or change, aka, the First Way. You guys are probably pretty familiar with it by now: 1) things are changing; 2) if something is changing then it's being changed by something else; 3) but that means that the something doing the changing itself is changing or not; 4) but since all per se or instrumental causal chains are being powered by some "first" thing, then by nature such causal chains can't infinitely regress; and 5) therefore we must conclude that there is something that is changing everything else that is itself absolutely and completely unchanging (which, upon further analysis, we understand to be actus purus or pure act).

We've talked a lot about how people misunderstand the argument, especially around the two types of causal chains (temporal, accidental chains that go back in time vs. atemporal, instrumental chains in which the events are simultaneously related). But I'm afraid that there's a bit of confusion when we try to apply that reasoning to the Second Way, and I wanted to offer a clarification there that people might find useful--a clarification which in turn should help people understand the First Way better.

So the Second Way is the argument from efficient causality. For those interested, here's Aquinas' explanation of the argument:

    The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. (ST Ia.3.2)
So this is pretty to the First Way in that we're thinking about per se, instrumental causes. Because we're talking about efficient causes, it's easy to accidentally slip into thinking about accidentally related causal chains. The baseball hitting the glass is the efficient cause of it breaking; but the ball moving through the air was the efficient cause of it hitting the glass; but the bat hitting the ball is the efficient cause of the ball moving through the air, etc. This is especially problematic when we get to indeterminate causes and effects like free choice. The unstated fear, I think, is that if an effect is truly indeterminate, then not being able to identify a determinate cause for the effect would refute the Second Way as that would sound like there is no efficient cause at all!

But that's just not true. On the older view, causes can either be necessary or not. Both types of causes are real causes. So if I choose X rather than Y, I really am the efficient cause X even though the choice is itself non-necessary. In other words, we shouldn't understand "cause" in a Newtonian, mechanistic sense, in which X necessarily brings about Y. That may be true with some causes, but not all. The other major problem here, though (and I think this is deeper), is that we have the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the back of our mind. We here "efficient cause" and we tend to think "bring into being." But we have to be really careful here, because "bringing into being" can easily be misinterpreted along the KCA's first premise ("that which comes into existence must have a cause"), but that then quickly devolves into a discussion about temporal, accidental causal chains! The trick here is to recognize that, in the KCA's premise, "comes into existence" is limited to only one type of what we loosely call "change": the KCA is concerned with "generation" (that is, something did not exist, and now it does: e.g., a baby didn't exist and after conception it does; a universe didn't exist and after creation it does, etc.). But in Aquinas' terminology, lots of things can "come into existence," most importantly being the actualization (= "coming into existence") of any potency. If you're familiar with the First Way's argument from change/motion, that should be immediately obvious.

The upshot is that the First and Second ways are actually making the same general argument from the same observed phenomena but thinking looking at slightly different aspects of the same. In the argument from motion, the actualization of potency is analyzed in terms that help us see that if something is changing, there has to be something unchanged and unchanging to all that changing. But in the argument from efficient causality, the actualization of that same potency is analyzed in terms that help us see that if something is efficiently caused (changing in this analysis), then it is ultimately being caused by something that is itself not being caused. The First Way, then, leads us to an Unmoved Mover. The Second Way, though, leads us to an Uncaused Causer.

That, I think, is important to understand so that we don't accidentally fall into KCA style thinking. If we do that, then things like a truly undetermined free choice might lead us to think that the second way fails. After all, if some things don't really have causes, then it just isn't true that any given effect has a cause! Ah, how easily we fall back on Newtonianism . . . no, Aquinas is much, much more dynamic than that. When it comes to free choice (or quantum fluctuations or whatever you want), the cause in question isn't the bringing about of X as opposed Y (as if that needed cause--it doesn't!!!), but rather the fact that X is being actualized at all. What is doing that? I am. But what is causing me to bring about X? What is causing me to choose? To be clear, we aren't asking what is causing me to choose X rather than Y. We're asking what's the efficient cause of my choosing period. And what's the efficient cause of that? And so on. Eventually, you get to a cause that is absolutely uncaused in any sense whatsoever: an Uncaused Causer. Yes, in another analysis (the First Way) the exact same series of causes leads to see the fundamental cause is Unmoved or Unchanging. And in still another analysis (the Third Way), we see the exact same series of causes leads us to see that the fundamental cause is necessary and in no way contingent. So the arguments are similar, but just taken from a little bit of a different perspective.

I hope, then, that helps clarify things. I just too much accidental equating of the Second Way with the KCA, and I hope to see that error reduced just a little bit.

Sorry for the length, as always. If someone can shorten and clarify, feel free. ;) :wave:
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby abelcainsbrother » Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:51 pm

I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible. The science we have for instance makes it hard to be a Hindu for example.Now I'm not saying science won't change,it might,but regardless how it changes truth is still truth,a lie is still a lie and a theory is still a theory and God's word is true so no need to worry. Instead we need to be on guard about deception in the last days. Jesus warned about great deception in the last days,so much so,that even the very elect of God could be deceived.
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,despising the shame,and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

2nd Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,lest the light of this glorious gospel of Christ,who is the image of God,should shine unto them.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Audacity » Tue Jan 03, 2017 3:14 pm

abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby abelcainsbrother » Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:51 pm

Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,despising the shame,and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

2nd Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,lest the light of this glorious gospel of Christ,who is the image of God,should shine unto them.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Audacity » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:42 am

abelcainsbrother wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Really? y:-? God was a singularity of very high density in a state of high temperature 13.8 billion years ago?

From Wikipedia
"The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model accounts for the fact that the universe expanded from a very high density and high temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and Hubble's Law. If the known laws of physics are extrapolated to the highest density regime, the result is a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place this moment at approximately 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity in halos of dark matter, eventually forming the stars and galaxies visible today"

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby jenna » Wed Jan 04, 2017 11:50 am

Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Really? y:-? God was a singularity of very high density in a state of high temperature 13.8 billion years ago?

From Wikipedia
"The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model accounts for the fact that the universe expanded from a very high density and high temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and Hubble's Law. If the known laws of physics are extrapolated to the highest density regime, the result is a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place this moment at approximately 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity in halos of dark matter, eventually forming the stars and galaxies visible today"

so where did these things come from, this high density and high temperature state, the light elements, the cosmic microwaves, etc? did they just somehow appear from nothing at all?
some things are better left unsaid, which i generally realize after i have said them

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Jac3510 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:02 pm

I wrote:The other major problem here, though (and I think this is deeper), is that we have the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the back of our mind. We here "efficient cause" and we tend to think "bring into being." But we have to be really careful here, because "bringing into being" can easily be misinterpreted along the KCA's first premise ("that which comes into existence must have a cause"), but that then quickly devolves into a discussion about temporal, accidental causal chains

ACB, Audacity, Jenna wrote:Big Bang

I rest my case.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby jenna » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:12 pm

Jac3510 wrote:
I wrote:The other major problem here, though (and I think this is deeper), is that we have the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the back of our mind. We here "efficient cause" and we tend to think "bring into being." But we have to be really careful here, because "bringing into being" can easily be misinterpreted along the KCA's first premise ("that which comes into existence must have a cause"), but that then quickly devolves into a discussion about temporal, accidental causal chains

ACB, Audacity, Jenna wrote:Big Bang

I rest my case.

you gonna quote me as having said "big bang" please make sure i actually did. y[-X
some things are better left unsaid, which i generally realize after i have said them

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Jac3510 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:43 pm

Yeah, the point was over there a bit. Might want to try again. ;)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Kurieuo » Wed Jan 04, 2017 6:48 pm

Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Really? y:-? God was a singularity of very high density in a state of high temperature 13.8 billion years ago?

Audacity, I know you're response is targeted as ACB. Nonetheless, I wonder, if, rather than reading Genesis creation through a literal modern scientific lens to determine whether it is true and false (and thereby rule it largely false), loosening such a lens and simply looking at as a framework for understanding origins and purpose according to a particular culture which still has great influence 1000s of years later. What do I mean?

Well, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" would simply entail our universe had a beginning. Christian apologetic organisations like Reasons to Believe try to read science very much into this, and the "days" that follow. They will say things like the Bible espouses big bang cosmology. No, it does not. It simple provides a framework for there being a beginning to the heavens and the earth (i.e., all that exists in the universe). Sure, "big bang" cosmology can fit within that framework, but the Bible doesn't write about such at all. YECs equally literalise with their own science, and such is to be rejected also, not simply because we'd both think such pseudo-science, but for the same reasons we ought not literalise Scripture like RTB tend to with more modern and up-to-date science -- the Bible isn't setting out to primarily espouse such however.

After the opening verse, we then are provided with a sketched framework for God being responsible for each kingdom of creation, heavens, land, air, sea. The overarching framework being communicated is merely that God is responsible and Lord over all. It's not meant to have science applied to it, it's not meant to be read such a way, in fact to read it in such a manner leads to distortions of Scripture. Rather, it's primarily meant to communicate who, Who, Israel's God is, and set such up as the one true Lord of all beyond whom there is nothing higher. Accept or reject such a framework of a Hebraic worldview, but when treating Genesis merely as a framework there seems to be little wrong or can be criticised.
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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Audacity » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:11 pm

jenna wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Really? y:-? God was a singularity of very high density in a state of high temperature 13.8 billion years ago?

From Wikipedia
"The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model accounts for the fact that the universe expanded from a very high density and high temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and Hubble's Law. If the known laws of physics are extrapolated to the highest density regime, the result is a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place this moment at approximately 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity in halos of dark matter, eventually forming the stars and galaxies visible today"

so where did these things come from, this high density and high temperature state, the light elements, the cosmic microwaves, etc? did they just somehow appear from nothing at all?

Sorry, but I don't see the relevancy to the discussion. Care to explain it?

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Audacity » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:49 pm

Kurieuo wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:
Audacity wrote:
abelcainsbrother wrote:I think that there is a kind of fear out there that science could change oneday and it could make it hard to believe in God or what the bible says based on science. But there is really no reason to fear this as it has not happened so far but the opposite as the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible.

Got any examples?


The Big Bang,now read Genesis 1:1. Then read other religious holy books and see how wrong they are.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

Really? y:-? God was a singularity of very high density in a state of high temperature 13.8 billion years ago?

Audacity, I know you're response is targeted as ACB. Nonetheless, I wonder, if, rather than reading Genesis creation through a literal modern scientific lens to determine whether it is true and false (and thereby rule it largely false), loosening such a lens and simply looking at as a framework for understanding origins and purpose according to a particular culture which still has great influence 1000s of years later. What do I mean?

Well, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" would simply entail our universe had a beginning. Christian apologetic organisations like Reasons to Believe try to read science very much into this, and the "days" that follow. They will say things like the Bible espouses big bang cosmology. No, it does not. It simple provides a framework for there being a beginning to the heavens and the earth (i.e., all that exists in the universe). Sure, "big bang" cosmology can fit within that framework, but the Bible doesn't write about such at all. YECs equally literalise with their own science, and such is to be rejected also, not simply because we'd both think such pseudo-science, but for the same reasons we ought not literalise Scripture like RTB tend to with more modern and up-to-date science -- the Bible isn't setting out to primarily espouse such however.

After the opening verse, we then are provided with a sketched framework for God being responsible for each kingdom of creation, heavens, land, air, sea. The overarching framework being communicated is merely that God is responsible and Lord over all. It's not meant to have science applied to it, it's not meant to be read such a way, in fact to read it in such a manner leads to distortions of Scripture. Rather, it's primarily meant to communicate who, Who, Israel's God is, and set such up as the one true Lord of all beyond whom there is nothing higher. Accept or reject such a framework of a Hebraic worldview, but when treating Genesis merely as a framework there seems to be little wrong or can be criticised.

Abelcainsbrother remark was: "the science we now have points to not only God but the God of the bible." Therefore, when his example of this was "In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth" the implication is that because science says the BB occurred it necessarily substantiates the claim that the god of Abraham did it. Thing is, if this were so it would no less substantiate the claim that the Greek goddess Gaea did it.

"Gaea, or Mother Earth, was the great goddess of the early Greeks. She represented the Earth and was worshipped as the universal mother. In Greek mythology, she created the Universe and gave birth to both the first race of gods (the Titans) and the first humans."
source

OR

no less substantiate the claim that the Chinese god Pangu did it.

"Pangu is a prominent figure in Chinese creation mythology. To this day, the Zhuang people sing a traditional song about Pangu creating the Heaven and Earth."
source

There is no more reason to think that just because science says the BB was the beginning of the universe it necessarily points to the God of Abraham as the cause than necessarily pointing to Gaea or Pangu.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Kurieuo » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:55 pm

Yes, good points. More is needed to justify one over the other.
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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby PaulSacramento » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:52 am

Jac3510 wrote:
I wrote:The other major problem here, though (and I think this is deeper), is that we have the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the back of our mind. We here "efficient cause" and we tend to think "bring into being." But we have to be really careful here, because "bringing into being" can easily be misinterpreted along the KCA's first premise ("that which comes into existence must have a cause"), but that then quickly devolves into a discussion about temporal, accidental causal chains

ACB, Audacity, Jenna wrote:Big Bang

I rest my case.

In all fairness Jac, people tend to want to read INTO things what they WANT to be there.
Add to that trying to address something that they don't fully understand and you get this.

I don't think people realize that the universe already existing or not doesn't impact the arguments.

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Re: Second Way Clarification

Postby Jac3510 » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:15 am

I agree, Paul, and you're right that's fair. Add to that, this is a discussion board and people can talk about whatever they want, and given how highly nuanced some of these things are, I'm not surprised when something with as much gravity as the Big Bang (pardon the pun) takes over a conversation about the relation between God and the universe. Still, with that said, having stated my case I think fairly clearly, if and when the point does come up, I always have something to point people back to. 8)

Unrelated, since the thread is already off track, I am about to jump into one of a few major writing projects (now that the DS book is not only long finished but sort of out of my system). I have a multiyear project I'm already starting on that has to do with a clincal approach to spiritual care, so that's going to get first attention no matter what. But in terms of things I'll finish more quickly, I have a few ideas in mind that I'd enjoy addressing. Which do you think would be helpful/interesting to write about at the popular level (along the same lines as the DS book): 1) an apologetics manual focusing on classical arguments (primarily here each of the five ways, which would all get a chapter, but other arguments as well) so that we could explore the philosophy behind them but also emphasis on how to use them in argument, above all, their application to the Christian's own life; 2) a theological discussion on the Trinity, especially for evangelicals, on the history and development of the Trinity to help them see what it is and isn't, with (again) a major emphasis on the devotional value the doctrine holds; or 3) a broad discussion of the problem of evil (with a special chapter or two on the problem of hell), where the approach here would be as much practical as it would theological, given my day job.

What say you?
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue

And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.


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