## Thursday, May 17, 2012

### Come On Baby, Do The Local Motion

The argument so far: Feser wants to establish that "Whatever changes is changed by something else," a crucial premise (as we will see later) for Aquinas's First Way of proving the existence of God. To do so, he has relied on the idea that when a change occurs there is always an explanation for why it occurred at that particular time. But the study of quantum systems gives us strong reason to doubt that there is always an explanation for why a change occurs at a particular time.

Now, there's another reason to doubt  "Whatever changes is changed by something else." It's Newton's First Law of Motion, aka the law of inertia: Whatever is in motion will stay in motion, unless acted on by an outside force. So here is another kind of change (a change of position) that doesn't require an outside changer.

(In fact, the First Way is traditionally known as the argument to a First Mover: "Whatever moves is moved by something else."  Feser says that "move," in the Aristotelian-Aquinean sense, is more properly translated as "change." I assume he is correct in this.)

Feser doesn't address the issue with quantum mechanics, but he does address the issue of inertia, or "local motion." He gives three reasons (p.102) inertia is irrelevant to Aquinas's argument.

1. Aquinas means change in general, and not just actual movement. The argument applies to changes of temperature, of state, etc. Thus, "...even if we were to grant that the local motion of an object needn't be accounted for by reference to something outside it, there would still be other kinds of motion to which Aquinas's argument would apply."

But to say this is to get rid of  "Whatever changes is changed by something else," and replace it with "Some things that are changed are changed by something else," or perhaps, "Every change of type X is caused by something else." Feser doesn't tell us what the replacement premise is. But, as we will see, none of these possible replacements is sufficient for the First Mover argument to go through.

2. "Second, whether or not an object's transition from place to place would itself require an explanation in terms of something outside it, its acquisition or loss of momentum would require such and explanation, and thus lead us once again to an Unmoved Mover."

Here the same objections apply as in (1.).

3. "Third, the operation of Newton's first law is itself something that needs to be explained...." If it is just in the nature of things that they continue to move, then we need an explanation of why they have that nature. This, Feser says, leads us to the Second Way.

But if it is just in the nature of things to change without any requirement of an external changer (as in local motion or quantum processes), then we have completely abandoned  the premise "Whatever changes is changed by something else." If all sorts of things can change without requiring an external changer, then there is no way to argue to a First Changer.

I'll show this in detail next time. But for now, notice that Feser's (3.) doesn't, in fact, show that the inertia problem is irrelevant to the First Way. (3.) may lead to some other argument for God, but it doesn't resolve the issue: that local motion is a change without any external changer.

1. Feser could have attempted the more physically-erudite move of claiming that inertia isn't change at all. Movement in a straight line at constant velocity is just how not-moving looks like to a moving observer. Unfortunately for Feser, relative change is still change so that the system of observer + observed still changes without any part of it changing any other part, or any external "something" affecting it.

I note that I am somewhat confused in that the principle appears to not consider systems as a whole, only parts. For virtually any closed system - say, a watch - clearly changes without something external changing it. It is the parts, the individual acts of causation, that seem to be in mind when the principle is invoked - "the dial moves only because the spring pushed it", for example. Yet the principle is stated more broadly. Far too broadly. At any case, such local changes cannot account for relative change such as in inertia, which is why it makes a good counter-example.

Yair

1. Yes, it is possible to adopt a perspective in which inertial movement appears to disprove Feser's principle. As you point out, it is also possible to adopt a perspective in which it doesn't. Just as we can adopt a perspective in which Newton's Second Law appears to fail (i.e. an accelerating reference frame) or one in which it appears to succeed (an inertial reference frame). All that shows is that it is possible to adopt a perspective in which a particular principle doesn't help us or appears to be false. It doesn't show that the principle fails in an absolute sense, or that it can't do valuable intellectual work for us from the appropriate perspective.

2. Are you kidding Prof Oerter? As I recall I explained this to you over at Victors blof Aristotle's metaphysical explanation of motion/change was a response to Parmenides(the teacher of Zeno) who taught all change and or physical movement wasn't real.

It's in the book. Parmenides and Zero and that whole crew shared the same faulty view of physics.

Such as the false idea an object moved from point A to B as long as something was acting on it to move. Otherwise it would return to it's natural state of stasis.

Parmenides believed the same faulty physics except his metaphysics was to say the apparent change was impossible and therefore an illusion.

Aristotle's view on motius/movement/change answered him.

You are not going to get anywhere with any Thomist pretending the argument from motus is an argument from primitive false views on physical motion.

1. Ben, remember that here I'm addressing Feser's argument as laid out in his book.

There may be other, better arguments that eliminate the local motion objection. But I'm trying to show that Feser's don't work - nothing more.

2. >Ben, remember that here I'm addressing Feser's argument as laid out in his book.

This is of course in illegitimate tactic and a form of argument by special pleading. What matters is the principle or idea (i.e. Prima Via) valid or not?

I didn't just read Feser's book alone I read his footnotes, many of the books in his bibliography which provide the backround information which in turn lead me to other books.

>There may be other, better arguments that eliminate the local motion objection. But I'm trying to show that Feser's don't work - nothing more.

At best you might bring up issues he doesn't directly address. All individual books written to a popular audience are in some sense incomplete.

But suppose I took one of your books. Let us say "A THEORY OF (ALMOST) EVERYTHING. Let us say I ignored the footnotes, bibliography, backround information regarding theoretical physics and of course I am self-confessed to not know that much about physics. Plus I started treating it like a philosophy text & responding to it as one and not a text on Theoretic physics.

Do you really think I would produce a truly meaningful critique? Or better yet would you be spending most of you time responding to my arguments or correcting my mistakes?

There is a difference.

3. >But if it is just in the nature of things to change without any requirement of an external changer (as in local motion or quantum processes), then we have completely abandoned the premise "Whatever changes is changed by something else."

You seem to have missed the part about how cats or animals in genral are said to "move themselves" and Feser's explanation how the parts of one thing move the parts of another.

Your objection amounts to saying "A baseball with mini-retro rockets is trown in zero-gravity. The retro-rockets fire and stop the ball in mid flight. Nothing outside the Retro-Rocket equipped ball stopped it therefore the First Way is false".

Sorry but such an objection commits the fallacy of composition.

So far you have been treating Feser philosophical arguments as arguments from physics and to date not even one of them succeeds.

Later I going to post some of Fesers responses in your objections in you comm boxes so your reader may be fully informed.

You so desprately need to start making philosophical arguments here Prof Oerter. But I still salute you for taking the book seriously even if I think you fall short.

Cheers sir.

1. I like Yair's statement in another thread: "What exists changes." I've made essentially the same statement (more clumsily put) on Feser's blog only to be scoffed at by dogmatists.

The question is, Is there anything in the universe that does not change? If not, maybe God would be that power that can actually make the sun stand still -- or at least one atom.

But change is everywhere, all the time. We can forgive Aristotle and Aquinas for thinking a rock is at any moment unchanging, waiting to be changed by an outside force. Now we know that's not true. The rock is full of motion all of the time.

But we don't even have to know this.

When A changes B it's easy to ignore that B is changing before, during and after A changes it. But why ignore the fact that B changes A just as much as A changes B? The cue ball hits the eight ball and causes it to go into the pocket. But the eight ball caused the cue ball to change its path too. Cause and effect are mutual. It's not unidirectional. Feser's examples depend on a static, staged environment with a point of view designed to manipulate and focus perception in one direction. Once we step outside his filtering it's easy to see the reasoning is poor.

2. The "parts" solution doesn't work for inertial motion: inertia applies even to individual particles. So I really don't see why you bring it up here - maybe I'm missing something?

For that matter, it doesn't apply to the electron decay, either. The electron is a fundamental particle, and the transition is one of the simplest processes that can be described in QM. There just aren't any "parts" to break this process down into.

3. >The "parts" solution doesn't work for inertial motion:

Clearly it does otherwise you have to explain to me why a ball with retro-rockets moving in Zero G is to be conceived as one thing and not two things 1)a ball 2) retro-rockets. Please note this is a philosophical question not a physics one. The meaning of something and it's metaphysical identity falls under the preview of philosophy not physics.

>inertia applies even to individual particles. So I really don't see why you bring it up here - maybe I'm missing something?

I am clarifying what Feser clearly means but something moving not by an outside force.

(Of course if you would give pages numbers in your critique it would help. Just saying)

>For that matter, it doesn't apply to the electron decay, either. The electron is a fundamental particle,

We call it fundamental because at this point in time Science can't tell us if electrons are made of smaller sub-atomic particles. That is a mere convention due to our present ignorance or do you claim it's been proven Electrons don't have components?

Still given it's fundamental there could be other causal forces at work & the objections to this Atheist-of-the-Gaps argument I have already argued on the other thread.

4. "What exists changes." pretty much if we understand that refers to things who's essence is distinct from it's existence.

Of course God's existence is not like ours and in many ways Atheists are closer to classic theists more then they know.

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2009/print2009/mbrumley_aquinasatheism_sept09.html

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2009/mbrumley_aquinasatheism_sept09.asp

In the end we find that the word "exists" must be considered in a new fashion when it comes to God. This always seems to be the problem. Why? I think it's because we cannot imagine or conceive of these godly attributes. The inability of conceiving is very important to you in other arguments. But it's quietly ignored in matters of God.

5. Dr. Oerter,

But in the inertial reference frame of the non-accelerating object, it's not changing position at all, is it? Wasn't it Einstein's point that there is no absolute frame from which to calculate Newtonian inertia, and therefore that inertial positional change is merely a matter of perspective? I believe the Thomistic argument is an argument from absolute metaphysical change, not just the appearance of change.

In any case, I think we can understand Newton's First Law as a redefinition of what the fundamental "state" of an object is. Aristotle thought the basic state of an object was its position. To change the position's object, a force must be applied. Newton disagreed, and said that the basic state of an object is its velocity, not its position, and applied force changes its velocity (primarily, i.e. dv/dt = F/m) rather than position. The Newtonian insight is that constant velocity is really a condition of stasis, not change, a view later borne out by Einstein's demonstration that inertial movement is a matter of perspective.

1. As Yair pointed out above, we only need consider two objects in relative motion. Then either A is changing with respect to B or B is changing with respect to A. So I don't think relativity helps here.

Your second paragraph seems to be an attempt along the lines I mentioned in my response to (1.) in the post: to declare that "only changes of type X 'count.'" But how do you define the class X? And how do you justify saying that only these changes count? In any case, you have abandoned the principle that "Whatever changes is changed by something else."

2. Yes, you've repeated the either/or of forcing the interpretation of motion from one or the other (arbitrary) reference points, but I still don't see the philosophical justification for this insistence. It is just as easy to interpret motion from the perspective of each inertial mover, when the principle stands. My reference to Einstein was to the effect that the insistence on interpreting motion from a single arbitrary reference point (either A's or B's) is not even justified physically, let alone metaphysically, so I don't see how you can insist on it in your argument.

"Change" is a word with broad meaning, and it is certainly possible to find a meaning for it in which the philosophical principle "Whatever changes..." fails, and others (perhaps) in which it succeeds. The philosophical question is whether a meaning can be put on the word in which the principle both succeeds and does the metaphysical work Feser wants it to do, not whether someone can find an interpretation of the word in which it fails.

By the way, you can thank Feser for helping your booksales. I just bought your Theory of Almost Everything on Amazon and it looks fascinating.

6. "...even if we were to grant that the local motion of an object needn't be accounted for by reference to something outside it, there would still be other kinds of motion to which Aquinas's argument would apply."

LOL! I forgot how truly awful that book is. So Feser's premise is now: "Whatever changes is changed by something else. Except when it isn't."

I'm curious if you plan on addressing Feser's distinction between 'essentially ordered' and 'accidentally ordered' causes. I recall he botched that badly when he tried to give examples.

7. @Prof Oerter

Principled objections to the First Way

http://thomism.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/principled-objections-to-the-first-way/

On that page is a link to an article by Michael Augros who responsed to ten of these objection.

I really think you should read it to get a sense how to formulate valid objections against the First Way. To date you been treating a metaphysical argument as an Argument from Physics and this has not been successful IMHO.

Cheers.

1. Ben,

Just saw this. Immediately thought of you.

http://i.imgur.com/Hvhh6.jpg

2. A strange demotivator?

PHYSICISTS - Just because your're not smart enough to know what the fuck they're talking about doesn't mean God exists.

The Existence of God is a philosophical question not a question of physics. That is simply a brute fact.

The statement itself however is in fact trivially true.

But it is practically no different then saying:

SEAL TEAM SIX- Just because your not as fucking brave and gutsy as they are doesn't mean God exists.

This is also trivially true.

PHILOSOPHERS - Just because your're not smart enough to know what the fuck they're talking about doesn't mean God exists/doesn't exist.

Of course the above statement is also trivially true regardless of either ending or both is tacked on.

How do I know all this?

I just employ a little philosophy.

After all only a fucking idiot who doesn't understand what the fuck he is talking about would think analyzing that demotivator's statement scientifically.*

*Accept when one recognizes philosophy as one of the sciences.

3. Ben,

Sorry. I though you understood the concept of a 'joke'.

4. I do. I also understand the concept of a rebuttal joke(I have seen comedy roasts on TV).

Also why can't I joke back & teach some philosophy at the same time?

Cheers.

8. This comment has been removed by the author.

9. TEN OBJECTIONS TO THE PRIMA VIA
www.aristotle-aquinas.org/peripatetikos-6/FirstWayP.pdf

Some quotes from the above document. I suggest the serious critic of the first way needs to read it so we don't have to keep covering the same ground. Anyway I wish to partally quote from Objection 5. INERTIA

QUOTE"How, then, did Aquinas (or, for that matter, Aristotle) intend the principle Omne quod movetur ab alio movetur? It is Hume, not Aquinas or Aristotle, who defines a cause (in the
sense of a mover) as something in “constant conjunction” with what it moves or effects.16 When Aristotle defines a mover, he does not
define it as what is in constant conjunction with the mobile, but as what first began some motion.17
His examples are a father and an
advisor. The father is a “cause of the child” even though the seed generating the child is separate from the father. The advisor,
presumably, is the one who first begins some action carried out on his advice, and he is a cause of this although he is separate from the one who carries it out. Aristotle’s definition conforms more to experience than Hume’s: according to Hume’s understanding, a fire would be more responsible for the burning of a building, would be more a mover, than the arsonist who lit it and fled. On Aristotle’s understanding, the arsonist is more a mover, because although he is not constantly conjoined to the burning of the building, he is the one who
started it. The man who yells “Fire!” in a crowded theatre is more responsible for the stampede that follows than those who stampede.
Accordingly Aristotle designates as the “mover” of a natural motion whatever in some way initiates it, even if it is not thereafter
continuously acting upon the mobile throughout its motion. Conversely, Aristotle and Aquinas both admit that the nature of a natural
body is in some sense an active principle of its natural motion, and that it is continuously conjoined to the natural body whose nature it is, and yet they do not call it the “mover”:

Just as other accidents follow upon the substantial form, so too place,
and consequently moving to a place; but not in such a way that the natural form is a mover, but rather the mover is the generator which gives such a form, upon which such motion follows.

............The principle “Omne quod movetur
ab alio movetur” requires only that everything in motion depend on some kind of mover other than the mobile itself, and this is true of
every inertial motion at least with regard to its initiator. To sum up: inertial motions and motions of mutual attraction or repulsion are always initiated by things other than the mobiles in question, whether by whatever generated them or projected them or removed impediments to them. Hence the principle Omne quod movetur ab alio movetur is preserved, and the objection fails.END QUOTE

One can download the pdf by cutting and pasting the link at the top of the quote.

I recommend every serious critic of the First Way read them. So we don't have to cover needless ground.

Cheers my friends.

1. Ben, thanks for posting the link to the Augros article. As I've said already, I don't intend to deal with all possible defenses of the First Way - just with Feser's. (Maybe Feser would say his version is just a sketch of some fuller argument, appropriate for a popular book. But if he did, he would be inconsistent, because he takes the New Atheists to task for doing that very thing.)

From Augros:

"(3) Others have responded to the inertial problem by ignoring
local motion altogether, allowing the First Way to proceed from
alterations and other non-local motions alone.

The difficulty with this way of proceeding is that there is no
obvious reason that Aquinas’s universal principles about act and
potency should not apply to local motion. Hence, either they do apply,
and one must show that inertial motions are no exception, or else they
do not apply, and one must say why not. Otherwise Aquinas is in the
position of having proved too much, having shown that all motions
require movers distinct from the mobile, when in fact only some do."

This is precisely what I'm saying about Feser's attempted resolution of the local motion objection.

2. >Ben, thanks for posting the link to the Augros article. As I've said already, I don't intend to deal with all possible defenses of the First Way - just with Feser's.

I have already explained why this is not a rational approach.

>(Maybe Feser would say his version is just a sketch of some fuller argument, appropriate for a popular book. But if he did, he would be inconsistent, because he takes the New Atheists to task for doing that very thing.)

He takes them to task because they are completely ignorant & erroneous of the subject matter not merely for being popular. For example if Richard Dawkins had merely read Kenny and given some dumbed down versions of his critiques of the five ways in THE GOD DELUSION instead of the brain dead shit he made up off the top of his head that might have been respectable even if incomplete.

I'm sorry but he doesn't even do that. Unless you want to tell with a straight face Aquinas believe his philosophical arguments didn't presupose a past eternal universe.

I don't for a second doubt your sincerity and integrity dear sir. But so far you have been reading TSL as a physics text not a philosophical one.

It's doging you with all due respect.

Cheers.

3. Ben,

"But so far you have been reading TSL as a physics text not a philosophical one."

You have tried this dodge over and over, and it just won't work. Here's why: Feser tries to use examples from the real world to justify his premises. So, it is entirely legitimate to use counter examples from the real world to show why those premises can be doubted.

Once Feser starts talking about stones and trains, he's talking about physics.

Unfortunately for you and Feser, he gets the physics all wrong.

10. Allow me to get technical for a moment. There are two kinds of causal series: those ordered per se and those ordered per accidens.

Causal series ordered per se are those that require something else to change/move them at all times. Aquinas's traditional example was that a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone. (Obviously, we now know that there are more steps involved, but just consider the scenario in abstract.) If the stick stops moving, the stone stops moving; if they hand stops, it all stops. Causal series ordered per se like this cannot regress infinitely, and hence must terminate via the Unmoved Mover argument. Inertia is irrelevant to this example. Anything that cannot continue moving/changing without a constant cause--because gravity or what have you prevents it from continuing on its own--creates a metaphysical infinite regress that must be explained.

On the other hand, a causal series ordered per accidens is when one cause begets an effect that can then function on its own. A man starting a fire, or a woman giving birth to a baby, would be examples of this. The effect does not rely on the cause beyond its initiation. The man or woman, for example, could blink out of existence without any effect on the fire or baby. A causal series ordered per accidens need not apply to the Unmoved Mover argument. As a result, an asteroid in space whose inertia keeps it going on its own is part of a per accidens causal series, and the collision that put it into motion is its cause.

However, going back to my fire example, the fire itself, despite being started through a per accidens series, can only continue to change via a per se series. It grows or shrinks or moves or otherwise changes as the result of something else, which itself follows the same pattern, onward to the Unmoved Mover. Now, I'm ignorant of the state of particles within rocks such as our asteroid, but, if they are in a constant state of change, then they must be explained with the Unmoved Mover argument. If they are not in a constant state of change, then the asteroid doesn't require the Unmoved Mover at every moment of its existence. The Mover returns, of course, whenever something changes the asteroid in a per se series. For example, the asteroid might crash into a planet--halting its per accidens movement--and then be moved per se by a massive stick held by an even more massive Thomas Aquinas.

If there exists (or could exist) something whose particles were not in a constant state of change, and whose particles were never changed (whether or not this is possible) by a per se series, then it would not require the Unmoved Mover. As the argument goes, only whatever is changing is being changed by something else. Regardless, the existence of this unchanging thing would still entail the First Cause, and so it would not escape Aquinas's Ways entirely. The other three ways would most likely apply to it as well. Four out of five isn't too shabby for something that may be physically impossible.

1. rank sophist.

"Aquinas's traditional example was that a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone."

Let's change this to: A hand pushes a stick, which pushes a mountain. In this case what is changing what? What is cause and what is effect? The hand is connected to a body which stands on the earth. The mountain sits on earth which is held in orbit by the sun. The sun, in fact, pulls against the stick, the hand and the mountain. If we pull back to the divine perspective, we have a stalemate situation in which half of the universe is pushing against the other half.

The traditional hand-stick-rock example directs the mind away from an extremely messy situation. There is not one "ordered" chain in the real world. That is an illusion. If we look at any point that's changing in the universe, it's never the terminal node on a linear per se chain, it's an intersection of an infinite number of causal chains. Change is both pressing in and radiating out in all directions all the time. Those infinite number of causal events do not point back to an Unmoved Mover, they point to an infinity of "movers".

11. Rank said:

"If the stick stops moving, the stone stops moving; if they hand stops, it all stops."

That is false. A stone in motion will stay in motion.

12. Rather the potency being reduced to Act of "a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone" will cease to be once one of the essential objects in the series is removed.

You are equivocating here between Motus vs Momentum and Inertia.

Motus/motion is defined by Aquinas as the reduction of Potency to Act.

Once I remove the hand & stick it is true a stone in motion will stay in motion but then it will be the act of a stone in momentum not the act of "a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone".

This is still a metaphysical description of an essential series not a description of physics.

This dumb objection is getting old.

13. It's a dumb objection to point out false assertions? If false assertions are allowed to stand, then you can prove anything.

1. How is it a false assertion to say the Act of "a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone" ceases to be that when one of the objects is removed from this essential series?

I am James 4th, Father of James V & I am the son of James III of James II of Jewett of James of Robert of William II of William.

I am part of an accidental series. Only myself my son & my Dad are existing(in Act) in the wayfaring state here an now.
James II and up are no longer existing/in Act in a wayfaring state but have passed on to the Beyond.

But we each of us have our own individual Act in this series that is not depended on others in the series for us to be in Act.

So how is the assertion Feser's or mine a false metaphysical assertion?

2. In principle there can be no end to the number of Paternal ancestors that come before me and such an accidental series can be conceived of as going back forever.

3. "How is it a false assertion to say the Act of 'a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone' ceases to be that when one of the objects is removed from this essential series?"

It's false to claim it's an "essential series" because physically it's no different than the non-essential series of cue stick striking a billiard ball, or even a series of three billiard balls striking each other. It's the friction of the ground that makes it appear different.

14. "If the stick stops moving, the stone stops moving"

Ben, that is false.

It is not true.

If we permit false statements in arguments, then anything can be proven.

15. >If the stick stops moving, the stone stops moving"

>Ben, that is false.

Only in a trivial sense such as when I say the sun will rise tomorrow. No the Earth turns.

Still a dumb objection.

1. BTW BI,

You still have to explain how is it a false metaphysical assertion to say the Act of "a hand moved a stick, which moved a stone" ceases to be that when one of the objects is removed from this essential series?

2. No I don't. I would never use language like that.

Rank made a statement about physics. A statement that anyone with even the most basic of educations should know is false.

3. Rank was clearly citing Feser who was making a metaphysical description of an essentialist series not a statement about physics.

Come on! Unbeguilded the fruitbat philosophically illiterate Gnu first came up with this nonsense.

It's getting old.

16. It's not trivial. It's key to the argument.

Once again, we see Ben dismissing how the world actually works in favor of how he thinks it should work. At least you are consistent.

1. >It's not trivial. It's key to the argument.

But what kind of argument is it? An argument intending to make strict descriptions of physical momentum & Inertia or a metaphysical description of the instrumental nature of an essential series?

Well?

2. It's an argument that uses sticks and stones. Label it as you see fit.

3. That is the Matter of the Argument but what is in dispute is it's Form? It has the form of a metaphysical description of Act not the form of an argument from physics & Inertia.

4. Ben,

You cannot immunize your argument by labeling it metaphysical. Once you start making statements about the real physical world that are false, then it is a legitimate criticism to point out the false statements.

This is boring.

5. Rather you cannot meaningfully polemic a philosophical argument by pretending it an explanation of actual Physics and Inertia.

It is boring to willfully make the same category mistake because you still don't know how to use philosophy to answer philosophy.

But I have seen some improvement lately . So I have hope.

6. "Rather you cannot meaningfully polemic a philosophical argument by pretending it an explanation of actual Physics and Inertia."

The metaphysics is based on a false analogy so you'll have to find a good analogy if you want to draw a distinction between an essentially ordered versus a non-essential series.

17. djindra,

Let's change this to: A hand pushes a stick, which pushes a mountain. In this case what is changing what? What is cause and what is effect? The hand is connected to a body which stands on the earth. The mountain sits on earth which is held in orbit by the sun. The sun, in fact, pulls against the stick, the hand and the mountain. If we pull back to the divine perspective, we have a stalemate situation in which half of the universe is pushing against the other half.

The traditional hand-stick-rock example directs the mind away from an extremely messy situation. There is not one "ordered" chain in the real world. That is an illusion. If we look at any point that's changing in the universe, it's never the terminal node on a linear per se chain, it's an intersection of an infinite number of causal chains. Change is both pressing in and radiating out in all directions all the time. Those infinite number of causal events do not point back to an Unmoved Mover, they point to an infinity of "movers".

My scientific knowledge is fairly limited, but, if what you say is true, then science supports the Unmoved Mover argument more than I'd realized. If everything is always being acted on by countless other causal chains, then the Unmoved Mover really would be required for everything at every moment.

The one thing you got wrong was this: "Those infinite number of causal events do not point back to an Unmoved Mover, they point to an infinity of "movers"." No, in fact, that's impossible. First, if the causal chains regressed infinitely, then they could never be explained and or actually do anything. Second, and less critically, there are no such things as infinite numbers within our universe (see the kalam cosmological argument).

Also, there is no contradiction with the Unmoved Mover in the idea of causes pulling and pushing at each other. How could there be? Even in an example that Aquinas might have made--two people pushing against each other--the Unmoved Mover makes perfect sense.

"If the stick stops moving, the stone stops moving; if they hand stops, it all stops."

That is false. A stone in motion will stay in motion.

Way to ignore my post. I quote:

Inertia is irrelevant to this example. Anything that cannot continue moving/changing without a constant cause--because gravity or what have you prevents it from continuing on its own--creates a metaphysical infinite regress that must be explained.

The stick must continue moving the stone because the stone is being prevented by gravity from moving on its own. BI, I know you're desperate, but don't make yourself look illiterate on top of that.

1. rank sophist,

If everything is always being acted on by countless other causal chains, then the Unmoved Mover really would be required for everything at every moment.

That does not follow.

"if the causal chains regressed infinitely, then they could never be explained and or actually do anything."

There is no regression. Regression comes to mind by thinking in terms of one thing causing another, which causes another one thing, in a straight series. But we don't have that in the real world.

"there are no such things as infinite numbers within our universe"

I'm talking about an infinite number of events, not things. But that's not true either. What exactly is an "event?" The moon circles the earth. How many "events" occur on each revolution? How many molecules of water does it tug on each day? When does it count as an "event" -- when it approaches the molecule or passes it by? We humans like to think in terms of numbers, of one revolution of the moon, etc. But nature doesn't categorized things that way. It doesn't chop up interactions into discrete events. That's us.

2. A finite number of "particles" it seems could only interact with one another in a finite number of ways. (ways, not "events"- if events are subjective)

This is to say that a known state of a deterministic universe can in theory be fully simulated using a finite number of calculations. If we ask someone in the simulation how many events there are, they will ask, "What do you mean?" (Or more properly, if we ask the simulator)

Even if indeterminacy creeps it's way in, by way of say... irreducible QM, we will still only need to simulate a finite number of possible universes. Calculations for each one are finite.

Different layers/levels of abstraction have a finite number of "particles" and therefore "events" to be "divided" and "counted" from their myriad perspectives. Along the way, at some point(s), change emerges as events. The events of each form are finite it seems to me. But change is constant and everpresent, and is intertwined with causality. Change and causality underlie the perception / emergence of events. First mover needs to set change in "motion."

Events are subjective. Change is not. Causality is not.

18. "Inertia is irrelevant to this example."

Oh, I see. The way the universe actually works is irrelevant.

1. Works in what sense? Metaphysically or mechanistically?

2. BI, you're like a self-parody. Come back when you learn to read.

19. Rank,

Let's do this. Define what an "essentially ordered" series is. Then give one example from the real universe of such a series. And it's not legitimate to demand that I ignore the laws of physics while analyzing your example. Thanks.

20. I was very tired when I wrote that first post, so let me clarify a few points that have yet to be raised.

If there exists (or could exist) something whose particles were not in a constant state of change, and whose particles were never changed (whether or not this is possible) by a per se series, then it would not require the Unmoved Mover. As the argument goes, only whatever is changing is being changed by something else. Regardless, the existence of this unchanging thing would still entail the First Cause, and so it would not escape Aquinas's Ways entirely. The other three ways would most likely apply to it as well. Four out of five isn't too shabby for something that may be physically impossible.

First, it's "whatever changes", not whatever is changing. Just a small wording mistake, but it can lead to misunderstandings. Anything that is changed must be changed by something else, whether it be via a per se or per accidens series.

Second, the unchanging thing could not be changed by a per accidens cause either, because anything that changes anything else, whether per se or per accidens, must have been changed itself. As a result, the Unmoved Mover comes back even in a per accidens causal series, albeit in an odd and occasional fashion.

Also, in the asteroid example, it's important to note that change is, as Ben said, technically a reduction of potentiality to actuality. Yet, an asteroid traveling in one direction via inertia is not being reduced from potentiality to actuality. The reduction occurred during the initial collision that started its movement; afterward, the asteroid does not change in the technical sense. However, as djindra helpfully pointed out, it is still being pushed and pulled by countless forces that terminate in the Unmoved Mover.

I hope this clears up any confusion about the inertia problem.

21. Let's do this. Define what an "essentially ordered" series is. Then give one example from the real universe of such a series. And it's not legitimate to demand that I ignore the laws of physics while analyzing your example. Thanks.

Essentially ordered (per se) series can be defined like so: "In essentially ordered causes the second depends on the first for its act of causing" (stolen from a book). As for a real-world example, consider this. My computer monitor is currently displaying images. These images would not be displayed if the cord connecting my monitor to my tower was unplugged. Further, the images would disappear if my computer was unplugged from the wall outlet. They would also disappear if the wires inside my wall were cut, if the power lines leading to those wires were interrupted, and so forth. This will eventually lead us to some kind of station for storing energy--pardon my lack of knowledge with regard to electrical engineering. In any case, this station will in turn require a constant cause to keep it in operation, and we can keep going with this until we get to the particle level.

Note, also, the countless per se series that sustain each link in this particular chain. If certain moderate temperatures and so forth were not affecting my computer, for example, then it would melt. Those temperatures are in turn the result of another sustaining cause, and so on.

22. "These images would not be displayed if the cord connecting my monitor to my tower was unplugged"

False. The images remain, although briefly. So the images do not depend on the monitor being plugged in. You might not believe this. But suppose the cord reached from here to the moon. Then the images would remain for several seconds.

You have given an example of an accidentally ordered series. You have made the same mistake Feser did.

1. Exactly. Plus, the whole thing works (basically) by bouncing electrons back and forth. The computer generating those images is doing a lot of things in parallel. It's not a simple series of events. Nothing happens "instantly" like the Thomists like to believe. That computer image is constructed by millions of discrete steps synchronized to clock pulses. Thomists like to ignore the messy details of reality. It plays havoc with their purified metaphysics. They really should stay away from computer examples where we measure delays in picoseconds.

23. BI,

Nope. Let's go back to the stick-stone example. If the stick is pushing the stone along at a high speed and then lets up, the stone will inherit residual movement. The stone's movement up until that point was the direct result of the stick, though; and therefore it is not per accidens, since the stick was required to continue moving the stone at that speed. However, as soon as the stick lets up, a per accidens series begins in which the stone's inherited movement continues without the stick, like when one uses a bat to hit a baseball. In the example of the computer, if the sustaining electricity from the monitor cord, say, is cut off, a per accidens series begins in which residual electricity keeps the images present for a fraction of a second. It's like when one uses a defibrillator to revive someone: the brief shock is per accidens, and the electricity rapidly dissipates from the subject's body (as far as I know, at least). If one was to hold a defibrillator against the person, the continued current would be per se.

Nice try, though.

24. Rank,

Stick to one example.

"These images would not be displayed if the cord connecting my monitor to my tower was unplugged"

That is false. The images continue to be displayed after the cord is pulled. The cord is not required to "sustain" the image.

25. BI,

Incredible reading skills. Where did you learn?

26. Rank,

When making arguments, it's better to make true statements rather than false ones. It's kinda basic.

27. BI,

In other words, you've been defeated so soundly that you're reduced to throwing sticks at me. Good to know. When you come up with a real argument, we'll talk again.

Robert: If you have any remaining concerns with regard to local motion and the Unmoved Mover, feel free to post them.

28. Rank,

"These images would not be displayed if the cord connecting my monitor to my tower was unplugged"

That is what you wrote. It is false. Nice try, though.

(And is it really necessary for me to point out that it was you that started with the insults? It was you that was defeated so soundly that you were reduced to throwing sticks at me.)

29. Here are two citations that I think are relevant to this whole discussion and why I am beginning to believe that in spite of his many talents in his original discipline Prof Oerter's analysis thus far is way off the bset.

QUOTE"The problem with Dawkins criticisms of Aquinas, then (and the other New Atheists’ criticisms of certain other religious arguments), is that they fail to understand the difference between a scientific hypothesis and an attempted metaphysical demonstration, and illegitimately judge the latter as if it were the former.
Page 83 the LAST SUPERSTITION[Hardcover}

But there is nothing in the argument itself that requires the truth of Aristotle’s scientific theories, only his metaphysical ones. The illustrations are mere illustrations and can be replaced with better ones. In particular the analysis of motions or change, as a transition from potentiality to actuality is a metaphysical analysis that is deeper than any empirical scientific theory. Theories of the later sort merely give us different accounts of the specific physical mechanisms by which transition from potency to actuality occurs in the material world, and can never call into question the distinction itself which can only be evaluated by philosophical means. Page 101 TLS (Hardcover edition)

I fear Prof Oerter is doing exactly this with his analysis thus far.

I also think following his example that is what djindra and BeingItself are doing here as well.

This discussion will never progress till we start having a philosophical discussion not a scientific one.

1. "But there is nothing in the argument itself that requires the truth of Aristotle’s scientific theories, only his metaphysical ones."

The metaphysics is always inferred from the physical properties of the world. Aristotle starts with observations. Feser is just flat wrong. Without physics he has no metaphysics.

30. Ben,

What they're trying to do is offer evidence that change (reduction of potency to act) has been scientifically proven to occur without being actualized by something else. It's a valid (if self-destructive) pursuit. However, all of the examples in here can be reconciled with per se and per accidens causal metaphysics, as I have been explaining.

31. Ben,

Where do these metaphysical principles come from? By that I mean how do you know they are true? Were you born knowing them? Did Craig's Holy Ghost whisper them in your ear?

Or did you learn them empirically? Or by some "other way of knowing"?

32. BeingItself

Would it really hurt your asshole to pickup some Aristotle and learn some philosophy?

Craig's Holy Ghost whisper into your ear your Scientism/Positivism empiricism beliefs are true?

Did you do a scientific experiment that proves Science sans philosophy is the sole means of natural knowledge?

Hume's Empiricism is bullcrap. Aristotle is the only true empiricist.

1. "Did you do a scientific experiment that proves Science sans philosophy is the sole means of natural knowledge?"

You dodged the question. How do you know your metaphysics is true? Based on more metaphysics?

33. Ben,

You believe that "whatever changes is changed by another" based on your experience in this middle world we inhabit. It is an inductive conclusion. (There is some philosophy.)

So, despite what you and Feser say, it is entirely legitimate to offer experiential evidence (QM) to show that the principle is false. Those quotations from Feser are transparent attempts to immunize his assertions from criticism. It's lame.

Here is your problem, and it was Einstein's problem as well. You assume that the way things work in this middle world we inhabit also must work at the quantum level.

But, they don't. Get over it.

Whatever changes is not changed by another. Or at least based on observation it is rational to believe that.

Yelling "learn philosophy!" over and over does not alter what we observe about how the world actually works.

34. >So, despite what you and Feser say, it is entirely legitimate to offer experiential evidence (QM) to show that the principle is false. Those quotations from Feser are transparent attempts to immunize his assertions from criticism. It's lame.

The "evidence" is no different then the "evidence" for Paley's so called "god", faeries or invisible pink unicorns.

I & my fellow Thomist will at least hold out for an as if yet explained merely natural cause.

You believe in magic.

>Here is your problem, and it was Einstein's problem as well. You assume that the way things work in this middle world we inhabit also must work at the quantum level.

>But, they don't. Get over it.

This is called "point weak pound pulpit".

You have given no evidence things work differently in both worlds. You have only shown it is impossible to observe that world at this time.

>Whatever changes is not changed by another. Or at least based on observation it is rational to believe that.

It is about as ration as finding five objects and claiming they are the result of adding two objects.

>Yelling "learn philosophy!" over and over does not alter what we observe about how the world actually works.

Refusing to learn philosophy makes you morally no different then the Young Earth Creationist who refuses to learn general science or biology.

Thus your "atheism" is merely preference and uninformed enthusiasm not a rationally arrived at conclusion.

Your refusal to learn philosophy will always be anti-intellecutal.

Always.

1. The problem with the idea the quantum world works differently (i.e. it somehow is non-causal in it's regularities). In the macro world we see things because light bounces off of those object and out optic nerves and brains etc interpret the data.

Now imagine living in a macro world where "seeing" involved light particles made of giant diamond hard pool balls striking objects? Thus we would under those conditions "see" a world of shattered glass and rubble.

But such a world would still be governed by causality and it seems that should be the default view till someone philosophically explains how something can coherently be an "un-caused event".

I still say it's like claiming 2+2=5 is rational. You can only get to it by abandoning a rational world. But then how could you say the more superstitious versions of folk religion are wrong?

35. You seem to be saying "because I do not understand how uncaused events occur, then uncaused events cannot occur."

Now be consistent and apply that reasoning to God.

Consider for a moment that maybe the world at bottom functions in a way humans cannot understand fully. You already believe that about God.

And concerning rationality, as Feynman and others point out, giving up dogmatic or intuitive ideas of causality does not mean we abandon rationality.

And no where have I been a critic of philosophy in general. You are confusing me with someone else, or with your own straw-man version of me.

1. >You seem to be saying "because I do not understand how uncaused events occur, then uncaused events cannot occur."

Do you even understand why 2+2=5 can't occur or do you really want to claim with a straight face in some "reality" you don't understand it is possible that such a thing might exist?

>Now be consistent and apply that reasoning to God.

That would be a valid argument if the concept of Pure Actuality where compatible to claiming 2+2=5. But it is then still incumbent on you to actually learn some philosophy to try to make that argument. You refuse to do your homework.

OTOH claiming there could be such a thing as a "un-caused events" is the same as claiming 2+2=5 is possible. I have already made the brief argue elsewhere on this blog.

To claim "un-cased events" or "2+2=5" is possible you have to abandon rationality.

>And concerning rationality, as Feynman and others point out, giving up dogmatic or intuitive ideas of causality does not mean we abandon rationality.

This was on Feynman's part an ad hoc dogmatic claim not a well reasoned philosophical claim. Feynman was the 1st of a whole generation of physicists who rejected philosophy and also where very ignorant of it. Unlike earlier physicists like Heisenberg who at least knew something it.

Feynman was a Philistine.

>And no where have I been a critic of philosophy in general. You are confusing me with someone else, or with your own straw-man version of me.

You have simply refused to learn any philosophy or argue philosophically & thus you can't formulate a proper response to Thomism or Aristotle. Nor can you even know or defend their philosophical rivals. You keep kneejerk playing the scientism card.

It's getting old.

36. This comment has been removed by the author.

37. That 2+2=4 is obvious to everyone. Nobody denies it.

But that "whatever is changed is changed by another" is not obvious to everybody.

As usual, you continue denying reality.

Why not just say: "I have a strong intuition that the principle is true."

But to keep comparing it to 2+2=5 is just dishonest.

Also, you would not continue to argue with someone who denied that 2+2=4. So on some level you know the analogy fails.

1. >That 2+2=4 is obvious to everyone. Nobody denies it.

Obvious from which perspective? Of Realism? A Conceptionalist perspective? How about a Nominalist perspective? And of course which perspective do you choose?

Plus what are your unexamined philosophical presuppositions and axioms?

Bertram Russell devoted way more than a hundred pages to prove 1+1=2 in PRINTIFICA MATHMATICA. He was a Math genius. Clearly he didn't think it was an easy thing.

>But that "whatever is changed is changed by another" is not obvious to everybody.

Why? Can you make a philosophical case for this claim other then just pronounce it Ad Hoc?

>But to keep comparing it to 2+2=5 is just dishonest.

No it just spells out why your concept is silly. You can say it's unknown what is the cause of Quantum Events but it is not rational to saying nothing caused it because from nothing nothing comes.

Till that maxim is overthrown then "Un-caused events" is not better a claim then a Unicorn with only 5 legs & not 5 let making footprints in a desert.

>Also, you would not continue to argue with someone who denied that 2+2=4. So on some level you know the analogy fails.

Then why do you waste your time trying to argue with Religious people? Why argue with a group of people who believe in faeries from your perspective? Physician heal thyself.

Plus why do you handicap yourself by refusing to learn any philosophy?.

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39. "The law of causality, I believe, like much that passes muster among philosophers, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm."

Bertrand Russell, On The Notion of Cause, 1913

40. "We may now sum up our discussion of causality. We found first that the law of causality, as usually stated by philosophers, is false, and is not employed in science."
-ibid

I think we can agree that BR knew a bit more philosophy than us both. So apparently, learning philosophy is no guarantee that one will accept The Law of Causality as true, as you have been claiming.

Once again, reality relentlessly imposes itself, and shows your deeply held belief to be false.

41. More BR being awesome:

"This makes it plausible to suppose that every apparent law of nature which strikes us as reasonable is not really a law of nature, but a concealed convention, plastered on to nature by our love of what we, in our arrogance, choose to consider rational. Eddington hints that a real law of nature is likely to stand out by the fact that it appears to us irrational, since in that case it is less likely that we have invented it to satisfy our intellectual taste. And from this point of view he inclines to the belief that the quantum-principle is the first real law of nature that has been discovered in physics."

42. I read Russell's essay "Why I am not a Christian" twenty something years ago in my first philosophy when I was a freshman. My teacher was an Atheist.

From it I learned the two alternatives he gave for accounting for the Universe other than God. They being the Universe is Eternal or it came into existence without a cause.

Can you even argue philosophy these philosophical views? Have you even tried to learn how? Obviously you can research a few choice proof-texts of Russell but can you learn philosophy?

Will you even try?

>Eddington hints that a real law of nature is likely to stand out by the fact that it appears to us irrational, since in that case it is less likely that we have invented it to satisfy our intellectual taste.

>And from this point of view he inclines to the belief that the quantum-principle is the first real law of nature that has been discovered in physics."

In which case we are advocating a non-rational basis to reality. Which like I said makes the world even more subject to a magical interpretation then any religion could.

No Atheist like yourself can in principle convince me of a non-rational world via rational argument. I simply can't ignore the blatant contradiction.

I might as well believe in Young Earth Creationism and Ouigi boards and be done with it.

1. "In which case we are advocating a non-rational basis to reality. Which like I said makes the world even more subject to a magical interpretation then any religion could."

I can only speak for myself, but I don't think QM suggests a non-rational, magical universe. It does suggest one that acts by laws of probability rather than by those of a perfectly deterministic billiard ball table.

43. "it appears to us irrational"

He is saying that there are limits to what humans can understand.

Besides Eddington and Russell, some other smart folks who think events occur uncaused: Ludwig Boltzmann, Max Born, Murray Gell-Mann, Ilya Prigogine.

All those guys, according to you, are irrational idiots who believe something as stupid as 2+2=5.

Are you familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect? You are the type specimen. Your confidence in what you believe reveals your ignorance.

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” -Charles Darwin

"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision" -Bertrand Russell

44. Besides Eddington and Russell, some other smart folks who think events occur uncaused: Ludwig Boltzmann, Max Born, Murray Gell-Mann, Ilya Prigogine.

All those guys, according to you, are irrational idiots who believe something as stupid as 2+2=5.

Appeal to authority. How impressive.

45. Also, you took those quotes from the Wikipedia article on the Dunning-Kruger effect to appear well-read. Equally impressive.

Almost more impressive is that the Russell quote is merely a lesser paraphrase of something Yeats wrote decades before--and more eloquently.

BI, you are a troll. Nothing you say has any weight. I have yet to see you present even a half-way decent argument on any subject. When beaten, you merely buckle down into denial mode and plug your ears. Why an intelligent guy like Ben bothers giving you the time of day is beyond me.

1. >Why an intelligent guy like Ben bothers giving you the time of day is beyond me.

Not in this tread but he and djindra actually came up with a few intelligent challenges on this blog. For a brief shining moment he rose above his Gnu mentality to be a rational Atheist.

So I hold out a small hope he can do so again.

Of course I won't hold my breath.

Anyway I noticed Faser has responded so I am going to go read his post.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/05/oerter-contra-principle-of-causality.html

There is a picture where Feser makes Prof Oerter look all James Deany.

That is rather generous and charitable on his part comparing him to James Dean.

Considering Prof Oerter compared Feser to P.Z. Myers. ;-)

But we all forgive him for that and wish him nothing but good will.:D

Cheers.

2. "BI, you are a troll."

This seems to be the argument of choice for Thomists. When they fail to offer convincing arguments, when we fail to swallow their wide-eyed metaphysics whole, it's almost a guarantee someone will yell "troll!" But as I've said before, in their hostility to modernity it is they who are the alienated ones. They're cultural trolls. This is especially apparent when they come to a non-Thomist site and still yell "troll!" It's amusing to watch them squirm.

46. Rank,

Ben was the one who brought BR into the conversation.

Ben's claim that the law of causality is on all fours with 2+2=4 is absurd.

Providing examples of respected scientists who reject the law of causality is a legitimate way of showing the absurdity of Ben's claim.

I did not offer those authorities as evidence that the law of causality is false, but merely to show that some non-crazy people reject it.

I could not find anyone who thinks that 2+2=5.

47. Reading russell's appeals of reality being irrational made me a little giddy I must confess. LOL

So tells us bertrand, how is it that you KNOW that reality is irrational? My irrationalizing it? How do you make the distinction between rational and irrational in the first place? By irrationalizing your own irrationalization into a sea of turtles one stacked up on top of the other? Laughable.

But I gues wee do agree on one thing with bertrand:

"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"

That's a pretty accurate descriptions of religious fundamentalists on both sides (whether atheists or adherents of "traditional" religions). But I don't think anyone in their right mind would deny that such a description is spot on when it comes to the new atheist movement. Thanks bertrand for reminding us just what idiots your minions (such as dawkins and his ilk) truly are.

48. above,

I think you are misreading BR. First, he is paraphrasing Eddington. Second, he says QM "appears to us irrational" by which I think he means "we can't make sense of it fully".

This is my paraphrase:

The universe is as it is, regardless of how we think it ought to work. If we discover the universe works in a way we do not like or in a way that we think it ought not work, then we can be sure our observations are not the result of confirmation bias.