My Top 13 Best Arguments for God

Here is a list of the 13 best argument for God’s existence that I have written or formulated:

  1. The Bonaventurean Ontological Argument
  2. The Modal Ontological Argument from Divine Simplicity
  3. The Modal Ontological Argument from Anselm’s Apophatic Definition
  4. The Anselmian Ontological Argument
  5. The Cartesian Ontological Argument
  6. The Argument for an Omnipotent Being from Aristotelian Actualism
  7. A Mereological Interpretation of Aquinas’s Third Way
  8. The Argument from Essential Uniqueness
  9. The Indispendability Modal Ontological Argument (Voltairean Variation)
  10. A Deontic-Ontological Argument from Gratitude
  11. The Argument from Hope
  12. An Induction based on the Modal Ontological Argument
  13. The Knowability Argument for an Omniscient Mind

 

The Catholic Church and the Priority of Meaning

P1. The Bible contains inerrant truths (as most mainstream Christians agree).

P2. Meaning is prior to and a constituent of truth (a propositions must be composed of meaningful terms in order to have a truth-value).

P3. If the Bible contains inerrant truths and meaning is prior to and a constituent of truth, then there is an inerrant meaning to inerrant Biblical truths (as the truth of a proposition is contingent on the meaning of the terms and an inerrant truth cannot be contingent on errant meanings).

C1. There is an inerrant meaning to Biblical truths.

P4. If there is an inerrant meaning to Biblical truths, the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found nowhere, in the Bible itself, subjectively, exclusively in early commentaries and patristic sources, or in a living magisterium informed by councils, creeds, theological opinions and tradition.

C2. The inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found nowhere, in the Bible itself, subjective theological opinions, exclusively in early commentaries and patristic sources, or in a living magisterium informed by councils, creeds, theological opinions and tradition.

P5. It is false that the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found nowhere (as this would render the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy practically useless).

P6. It is false that the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can found in the Bible itself (as this gets the Biblical genres incorrect, i.e. there is no Book of dogmatically precise theological definitions for terms related to, e.g. Christology, Trinity, Soteriology, Church offices, or Sacraments/Ordinances in the Bible).

P7. It is false that the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found by subjective theological opinions (as these opinions contradict one another and are empirically known to be changeable in light of new evidence or shifting opinions).

P8. It is false the the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found exclusively in early commentaries patristic sources (as these sources are subject to the fragmentary nature of historical sources and there is not always a clear consensus or moral consensus over the meaning of theologically significant terms in the Bible).

C3. The inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found in a living magisterium informed by councils, creeds, theological opinions and tradition.

P9. If the inerrant meaning of Biblical truths can be found in a living magisterium informed by councils, creeds, theological opinions and tradition, then Catholicism is true (as this simply is the faith and epistemology that is exclusive to the Catholic Church).

C4. Catholicism is true.

Isaiah 22-Matthew 16 Throughout History – Daniel Vecchio (Suan Sonna’s Intellectual Conservatism)

If you would like a copy of the presentation, you can find it here:

A couple of errors that I would like to correct based on the comments of Młody i Reformowany (see comments on YouTube). The Rabanus Maurus reference should be PL 111, pg 610, from De Universo. Młody i Reformowany notes that I cite another work that is spuriously attributed to Maurus, but I have double-checked the De Universo reference and I am fairly confident that it is indeed authentic. So either way, there is such a reference:

The second error is that I mistakenly attribute one source to Andreas of Caesarea, when it was Arethas of Caesarea. Both wrote a commentary on Revelation and appear in the same edition. However Arethas is likely a 10th century source, and so I was wrong to attribute the source to the 7th century. This is still a source within the first millennium, and so significant when consider the Isaiah 22-Matthew 16 connection. My apologies for that error!

Otherwise, Młody i Reformowany argues against the St. Ephraem reference having to do with Is. 22:22, and it is clear that there is not explicit reference to the text there, but I would still argue the “Steward” and “Keys” are relevant to this discussion. He also points out that the St. Theodoret reference is Matthew 18:18, and says that there is no reference to keys. My point is that it is a commentary on the passage about keys, so why bring up Matt 18:18 unless one also has Matt 16:19 in mind.

A Second Stage Argument that the Necessary Ground of All Contingent Reality has a Mind

In this argument, I am going to assume that we have used some form of a Cosmological Argument to prove that there is a Necessary Being that is, in some way, the cause of all contingent reality, i.e. there is some successful first-stage Leibnizian-style Cosmological Argument. Here might be a second-stage argument for the Mind of this Necessary Being, with use of the Barcan Formula.1<!–

P1. It is possible that there is a what it is like to be the necessary ground of all contingent reality.

P2. Necessarily, if there is a what it is like to be the necessary ground of all contingent reality, then the necessary ground of all contingent reality has a mind.

C. The necessary ground of all contingent reality has a mind.

Let,

Exy ≝ x is the experience of what it is like to be y
Mx ≝ x has a mind
Cx ≝ x is all of contingent reality
Gxy ≝ x is the causal ground of y
g ≝ (ɿx)☐[(∃y)(y=x) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)]
Theorem of K: ☐(p ⊃ q) ⊃ (♢p ⊃ ♢q)
Theorem of S5: ♢☐p ⊃ ☐p
Barcan Formula: ♢(∃x)Fx ⊃ (∃x)♢Fxb

Formal deduction

  1. ♢(∃x)Exg (premise)
  2. ☐[(∃x)Exg ⊃ Mg] (premise)
  3. ☐[(∃x)Exg ⊃ Mg] ⊃ ♢(∃x)Exg ⊃ ♢Mg (theorem of K)
  4. ♢(∃x)Exg ⊃ ♢Mg (2,3 MP)
  5. ♢Mg (1,4 MP)
  6. ♢(∃x)☐{(∃y)(y=x) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = x)} ∧ Mx]} (5 theory of descriptions)
  7. ♢(∃x)☐{(∃y)(y=x) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = x)} ∧ Mx]} ⊃ (∃x)♢☐{(∃y)(y=x) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = x)} ∧ Mx]} (6 BF)
  8. (∃x)♢☐{(∃y)(y=x) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = x)} ∧ Mx]} (6,7 MP)
  9. ♢☐{(∃y)(y=μ) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = μ)} ∧ Mμ]} (8 EI)
  10. ♢☐{(∃y)(y=μ) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = μ)} ∧ Mμ]} ⊃ ☐{(∃y)(y=μ) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = μ)} ∧ Mμ]} (theorem of S5)
  11. ☐{(∃y)(y=μ) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = μ)} ∧ Mμ]} (9,10 MP)
  12. (∃x)☐{(∃y)(y=x) ∧ [(∀z){(Cz ⊃ Gyz) ∧ (∀z1) [☐(∃y)(y=z1) ∧ (∀z)(Cz ⊃ Gyz)] ⊃ (z1 = x)} ∧ Mx]} (11 EG)
  13. Mg (12 theory of descriptions)

1The Barcan Formula is famously controversial, as there appears to be many intuitive counterexamples. For example, ‘possibly’ there is the third biological child of Vecchio’ implies that ‘there is someone who is the possible third biological child of Vecchio’. Since I only have two children, it seems wrong to think that there is someone actually out there who is counterfactually my third child. So how might I defend the Barcan Formula, as an Aristotelian actualist (there are some possibilist solutions, where we are quantifying over non-concrete possibilia)? I think many of the reasons we reject BF is because we equivocate on the meaning of the modal operator as it jumps the quantifier. So on the outside, it might mean something like broad logical possibility, or even strict logical possibility. When we move to the de re context, suddenly we think in terms of possibility as powers, capacities, or potentials that things have. While it is logically possible that I have a third biological child, it is not true that someone now in existence has the power/potential/capacity to be that child. But if one holds to the logical point, one might argue that there is some person for which it is logically possible for them to have been my third biological child. All this might mean is that, were this person have been my third biological child, it would not involve any explicit or implicit contradictions or absurdities. It would have involved the fact that this person had a different causal history than he or she, in fact, has, and some take causal history to be essential to individuals, in which case it would be broadly logically impossible for any individual to have a different causal history than it, in fact, has, i.e. it does involve an implicit absurdity. However, I would say that this is just to collapse the distinction and equivocate in just the way I was pointing out. For, ‘causal power to be’ just is ‘potential to be’. So, I am happy to say that, aside from lacking the causal potential to be my third biological child, there is no contradiction or absurdity in someone possibly being my third biological child.

Trent, the Eucharist, and Locality

Some scholastic philosophers like Thomas Aquinas affirmed the non-local substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The arguments for this are largely drawn from Aristotle and boil down to a) the impossibility of a body to be in multiple locations and the same time, b) the impossibility of a body of a certain quantitative dimension to be in a place that is of lesser quantitative dimension, and c) the absurdity that Christ circumscribes the Eucharist part for part such that a larger Eucharist contains a larger portion of Christ.

Trent and Eucharistic teaching throughout the history of the Church is fairly clear when it comes to (b) and (c). Christ’s body does not circumscribe the Eucharist via some “reduced projection” onto the host. Rather the Church teaches that Christ is wholly present in each part. Hence, in Session XIII, Trent declares, “For Christ is whole and entire under the form of bread and under any part of that form; likewise the whole Christ is present under the form of wine and under all its parts.” This is, I think, what we mean by sacramental or substantial presence. Hence, Christ is really present under the species of bread and wine, but as Pope Paul VI affirms, “…not in the manner in which bodies are in a place” (Mysterium Fidei, 46). That is to say, by nature, bodies are in a place such that their quantitive dimension fills the place in a way that is commensurate, and such that it is part for part. Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is supernatural such that Christ is wholly present under all the parts of the species, as said above. So, I would agree with Pope Paul VI, and in part, with the Thomists that Christ is not located in the place occupied by the species in a natural manner. However, that the whole is present in each part leads us back to (a), and this is significant when it comes to Trent, and Paul VI. That Christ can be wholly present even in each part of the species already indicates the metaphysical possibility of multi-location, and this leads to my next point…

When it comes to Christ’s substantial presence, it is not local in a natural way, and if one were to stipulate that locality is defined according to the natural mode, there is a sense in which the Thomists are right, and this conforms with what Paul VI says. But we must also keep in mind what Trent says, i.e. that Christ is wholly present in each part, and that, in explaining sacramental and substantial presence, Trent appeals to the metaphysical possibility for God to multi-locate substances. Hence, Trent rejects the Thomistic argument for (a) explicitly, while agreeing with (b) and (c). Moreover, while Paul VI says that Christ is present “not in the manner in which bodies are in place (ibid.), he also says “The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us” (Solemni Hac Liturgia, 26). Christ is not multiplied, but remains indivisible even while He is present in many places, just as Trent says. So it seems clear that Paul VI is teaching in a way that is consistent with Trent, that in the many locations Christ is present, it is the Whole and Indivisible Christ

So, in sum, my position is this: the Real Presence of Christ is a sacramental and substantial presence that is not in the natural manner in which bodies are in place, since natural bodies are divisible into the parts of a given “quantitative dimension” or place. Christ’s presence is indivisible such that there is but One Whole Christ that is located in many places, on many altars, and in many tabernacles while also being at the right hand of the Father. It is in this latter sense that Christ’s substantial presence can be said to be in place, just as Session XIII says “For neither are these things mutually repugnant,-that our Saviour Himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, and that, nevertheless, He be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, conceive, and we ought most firmly to believe, to be possible unto God.” Though multi-location was rejected by the Thomists, it was defended by other scholastic theologians and philosophers, as I have noted: Bonaventure and Bellarmine to name a few. Moreover, Trent says multi-location is possible and uses it to defend a sense in which Christ’s substance is localized in many places.

One Small Step w/Jason Rennie: The Ontological Argument

Catholicism is Realism

A Modus Tollens of Rosenberg to God

Alex Rosenberg makes an unflinching case that strong atheism (the denial of God’s existence) leads one to adopt positions like eliminativism, mereological nihilism, and semantic nihilism. It would be too strong to say that Rosenberg proves that there is a direct implication between strong atheism and these subsidiary positions, but a more modest claim would be that strong atheism implies that one ought to treat these beliefs as “live options”. Thus:

P1. If strong atheism is true, then one ought to treat eliminativism, mereological nihilism and semantic nihilism as live options.

A “live option” is a belief that one can actively entertain as a real possibility. What one counts as a “live option” can vary from culture to culture and from time to time. The progress of scientific knowledge can preclude certain live options. For instance, I would not consider belief in a flat earth to be a live option. It is not a belief I could actively entertain or take seriously. Despite the relativistic and historicistic aspects of what might count as a “live option”, it would be bizarre to think that one has an epistemic duty to consider self-defeating beliefs as live options. This is not to say that one has a duty to reject these beliefs as live options, but certainly such an epistemic duty is under-cut by the fact that a belief is self-defeating. That is:

P2. If belief p is self-defeating, then it is not the case that one ought to treat p as a live option.

Now, William Lane Craig and Edward Feser have made very powerful cases that Rosenberg’s eliminativism, mereological nihilism, and semantic nihilism are self-defeating beliefs. So:

P3. Eliminativism, merelogical nihilism and semantic nihilism are self-defeating beliefs.

Thus is follows:

C1. It is not the case that one ought to treat eliminativism, mereological nihilism, or semantic nihilism as live options. [From P2,P3 Modus Ponens]

C2. It is not the case that strong atheism is true. [From P1,C1 MT]

or

C3. God exists. [C2 Semantic Equivalence]

La-la la-la, la-la la-la, I was on Elmo’s World Podcast

A Refinement on The Contingent Symmetry Argument Against Existential Inertia

P1. If contingent entities have existential inertia, then the facts by which identity and individuation principles are grounded are intrinsic to contingent entities.

P2. If the facts by which identity and individuation principles are grounded are intrinsic to contingent entities, then contingency is not symmetrical.

P3. It is false that contingency is not symmetrical.

C1. If contingent entities have existential inertia, then contingency is not symmetrical. (P1, P2 HS)

C2. It is not the case that contingent entities have existential inertia. (P3, C1 MT)

Ad P1. Suppose that identity and individuation principles are not grounded by facts intrinsic to contingent entities. If so, it would seem that identity and individuation is ungrounded or extrinsically grounded. Ungrounded identity and individuation is metaphysically absurd, or at least an untoward position to adopt to salvage EI and contingent symmetry. If a contingent entity’s identity and individuation is grounded extrinsically, then there are external facts that must be the case for the contingent entity to be sustained in existence, but that would be incompatible with existential inertia. For, if an entity has existential inertia, its sustenance, or persistence, cannot be explained by external facts happening to obtain and not failing to obtain.

Ad P2. Contingency is typically defined as two-way possibility, i.e. x possibly exists and possibly does not exist. Now, one might say that x is contingent if it is actual and could fail to exist, but that is only because it seems reasonable to say that whatever is actual is possible. However, such a claim is not the same as the notion of symmetrical contingency, in which an entity that exists could cease to exist and in situations or worlds in which that entity has ceased to exist, it could come to be again. If an entity’s identity and individuation is groundless, it would be a groundless claim to say that it has symmetrical contingency, i.e. that it could come back into existence in situations where it is not. There would not be any facts by which principles of identity or individuation are grounded such that one could appeal to make the claim that it is the same individual. Likewise, if identity and individuation are intrinsic to an entity, the intrinsic facts that ground those principles would go out of existence in situations where the entity does not exist. Thus, from the perspective of those situations, a counterfactual claim that the same individual entity could come to be would be groundless, since the facts that could have grounded the coming-to-be of that same individual would have ceased to be along with the entity and all of its other intrinsic properties.

One possible response is that identity and individuation are grounded intrinsically when a contingent entity is existentially inert, but is somehow buffered to an extrinsic source so that when the entity goes out of existence, there are extrinsic grounds for its identity and individuation are preserved. This response seems rather complicated and an ad hoc rescue. Buffering grounding principles seems like a kind of overdetermination of identity and individuation and so metaphysically implausible. Moreover, it is not entirely clear how a different set of facts that ground identity and individuation could preserve the possibility of the same individual. A regress would have to form, i.e. there would have to be something the grounds the identity between the intrinsic facts and the buffered facts, and such a grounding would suggest that there ultimately is an extrinsic ground for a contingent entity’s identity and individuation, since its supposed intrinsic facts are, themselves, grounded extrinsically.

Ad P3. Typically, we think of two-way possibility, or contingency, as symmetrical. So if EI is true, we must drastically modify our modal intuitions to accommodate that fact. Contingency would be more like a fuse than a circuit breaker, i.e. the current flows in a fuse but once broken, a different fuse, which would be a counterpart to the first, is needed whereas the same circuit breaker can be flipped back to complete the circuit. When I consider myself as a contingent being, I think that I could blip in and out of existence, as a teleporter might be able to decompose me and bring me back into existence. Christian theists, in particular, should think that God has the omnipotence to bring the same individuals back into existence after they have ceased to exist. So, those committed to EI must suppose that individual entities are not symmetrically contingent, but only contingent in the sense that they actually exist and can cease to exist, but can never come back into existence again. If EI is metaphysically necessary, then it would be impossible for any individual to ever be resurrected, person or object.

Brass Tacks: it seems, if this argument is sound, that a commitment to EI will require one to abandon modal Axiom B. That is, if EI is necessarily true, φ → ☐♢φ fails as would systems of modal logic that depend on Axiom B, e.g. system B, which adds Axiom B to system M, S5 which adds Axiom B to system S4, among others.

Some Thoughts on Existential Inertia

P1. If x has existential inertia, then necessarily, the actuality of x is not grounded in some actuality extrinsic to x.

P2. If x is symmetrically contingent and exists in the actual world, @, then there is a possible world where x does not exist and accessibility relations are such that x possibly exists in @.

P3. If necessarily the actuality of x is not grounded in some actuality extrinsic to x, then it is not the case that there is a possible world where x does not exist and accessibility relations are such that x possibly exists in @.

C1. If it is not the case that there is a possible world where x does not exist and accessibility relations are such that x possibly exists in @, then it is not the case that x is symmetrically contingent (P2 Transposition)

C2. If necessarily the actuality of x is not grounded in some extrinsic reality, then it is not the case that x is symmetrically contingent. (P3,C1 HS)

C3. If x has existential inertia, then it is not the case that x is symmetrically contingent. (P1,C2 HS).

P4. All contingent things that actually exist are things that are symmetrically contingent.

C5. No thing that actually exists and has existential inertia is a thing that is symmetrically contingent. (C3 Semantic Equivalence)

C6. No contingent thing that actually exists is a thing that has existential inertia. (P4,C5 Modus Camestres)

I am thinking about this argument. A defense of the premises would need to be made, but I think they are intuitively true.

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