Were you looking for formal proof of God’s existence? Edward Feser listed five, exempting you from looking for a small miracle to strengthen your faith. What is his book worth? Should you finally fall into the great theistic family of Humanity, ugly atheist that you are? Let’s take a closer look at the demonstration.
Part 1: Evidence
1) Aristotelian evidence
The world is changing. Change is the actualization of potential. But no potential could be actualized without something being able to actualize without being actualized itself. Aristotle calls God “purely actual actualizer” or the “Unmove Mover”.
2) Neo-Platonic evidence
Things in our experience are composite, made of parts. The ultimate cause of such things can only be absolutely simple, non-composite, what Plotinus calls “the One.”
3) Augustinian evidence
The universals (redness, humanness, triangularity etc.), propositions, possibilities and other abstractions are real in a sense, but not that of the ‘third realm’ distinct from the mind and material things as Plato conceives. The only possible ground for such phenomena is the divine intellect—the spirit of God.
4) Thomistic evidence
For every thing contingent in our experience there is a real distinction between its essence (what the thing is) and its existence (the fact that it is). But nothing in which such a distinction is found could exist for a moment without being caused by something in which there is no such distinction, something for which the essence is only existence, without the need to receive it, something that is not caused.
5) Rationalist evidence
It defends the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): everything that is intelligible has an explanation for existing and having such attributes. But none of the contingent things in our experience can have an explanation without there being a necessary being, whose existence is explained by its own nature.
6) Complementary principles
Edward Feser completes the 5 proofs with some principles:
Principle of proportionate causality: Everything that is in an effect must pre-exist in some way in its cause.
Principle of a single and identical God: The 5 proofs converge on the same God, whose attributes are simplicity, immutability, immateriality, incorporality, eternity, necessity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, will, love, and incomprehension.
Principle of Divine Conservation: The world could not exist for a moment if God did not continually sustain it by being.
Principle of Divine Contribution: No created thing could have causal effectiveness if God did not instill power in it at every moment it acts.
Part 2: The flaws
The problem, when we look for evidence of something immeasurably superior to ourselves, is to be able to extract ourselves from ourselves, that is, from the postulates on which our mind operates. Worse, it is even more difficult to imagine a method that allows extraction and verifies that it has taken place. Did Edward Feser take this step? Did he consider dispossessing himself of his own mind? I couldn’t find a trace of it in the book.
First symptom of confinement: no definition of God, the main subject of the book. Manifestation of humility at Feser? It’s not too much his style. On the contrary, it seems that his personal definition is universal enough not to require clarification. Too bad. It is always individuals who discuss it. We are authors of a representation of God, not owners of his being. The author is indoctrinated by a formation where God has taken place or not, in the form of tyrant or liberator. My personal vision has nothing to do with Feser’s but it is his that I will comment.
In Feser’s postulates I immediately notice an archaic view of time. Perhaps he has one more recent than the classical thinkers to whom he refers, but he does not mention it. Very annoying. All evidence is presented in a perfunctory setting given the importance of the subject. Time is returned to the background, a decorative element. No difference is made between sequence of information, course of time, arrow of time. But any notion of causality is based on the temporal foundation. Much of Feser’s vocabulary (instant, pre-existence, change, actualization, etc.) is based on hidden postulates.
Let’s update Aristotle
For the ‘Aristotelian proof’, the gap in actualization between things is already considerable without involving a God who does not actualize himself. A human life is tiny compared to that of a proton. While a universe of events unfolds for the proton in the space of a human life. Time scales abysmal foreign to each other. God, what Whole is he? That of all particles? Of all humans? How do these things merge into God? We do not know how they merge into the human. What I do not know how to say is whether to see in oneself the proof of a divinity is the most terrible fatuity or the most dramatic insecurity.
My own fatuity leads me to think that I am a God for the proton, thanks to the accelerators that my congeners have designed to make it explode. Small consolation. The Creator is ephemeral in the face of his creature.
Let’s break down Plotinus
“The One” seems to espouse the “nothing” of platonic love. Frightening monotony. What can shake an ultimately simple Whole? What happens to an individuation in this Whole? A more seductive principle than “the One” is “Conflict”. Conflict between individuation and the Whole, precisely. Let such a conflict never die and unfold the universe that we have before our eyes, multifaceted, alternately good and bad, never stabilized, giving the greatest happiness in contrasts with misfortune, and I would worry about the all good as well as the all bad.
Note that Feser is in bad faith with his principle of a God ‘crossroads’ to which all roads lead. The “evidence” leads in other authors to cabalistic versions of God that are much more realistic for the contemporary world.
Let us unite Augustine
To situate phenomena such as the redness in the divine mind is not to cross the gap of dualism. It is only to make the mind-body problem a little more inaccessible when it is undoubtedly within our reach. Feser is probably worried about the eventual capture of the soul by neuroscientists. The rupture of a tiny dendrite or the electromagnetic stimulation of a neuron may be enough to modify it. The theist no longer has a choice: to save the soul it must be made immeasurable again, a parcel of divine. But I heard that the divine had no parts?
Congratulations to Thomas Aquinas
for its distinction between being and the essence of a thing. But is it mandatory to need a principle external to the thing for it to stand out in this way? Structuralism today sees everything as two sides of the same coin: its constitution and fusional properties. Between the two there is a relative independence and yet it is a unique thing. Things self-create, combine to form more complex things. If there is a divine principle we could call it ‘self-organization’. This is what differentiates us, humans, from artificial intelligences: they still need their creator. Not us.
Let’s keep rationalism
The Principle of Sufficient Reason defends the existence of an explanation, but why would a self-explained being be necessary? Some information sequences are circular. God could be a vast loop of states in the universe, traversed by peaks of complexity, human wondering why they are there. Without the loop itself having such thoughts. Let us not forget that rationalism also discovers cognitive biases, including an inextinguishable appetite for explanation. The brain does not hesitate to invent it even in the absence of any data. Alzheimer’s feverishes all day long to fill the voids in her mind. When two hemispheres of the brain are separated, the language of the left pronounces an explanation for the behavior of the right, perfectly sincere, while it discovers these actions at the same time as an outside observer.
Let us beware of the Sufficient Reason that is proposed even when it is not summoned…
Part 3: Feser defends natural theology
In his 7th chapter, Feser responds to the criticisms of natural theology, criticisms he holds in low esteem: “It is clear that no objection to the arguments defended in this book is successful, and even that the most common objections are incredibly weak and overestimated.“
“What causes God?”
Edward is not wrong for the first objection: “If everything has a cause, what causes God?”. Indeed it is a reductionist question that ignores the divine principle—nothing exists outside of it so the cause does not apply. But the misunderstanding comes from a flaw that also affects Feser: each having his definition of God it would be necessary that author and readers agree on where one arrives before discussing the paths.
“Why would everything have a cause?”
That is the previous argument in reverse. This time the atheist wants to take the universe out of the clutches of God by assuming that it has no cause or that it occurred “by chance”. Same remark as before: without precisely defining the term ‘God’, the atheist can make it a synonym for ‘quantum vacuum’, ‘Big Bang’ or ‘chance’. Even if they are washed away from any divine sacrament, these terms nevertheless retain an intention: they contain natural principles or laws that are the source of their transformations.
“Why assume that the universe had a beginning or that a regress of causes must terminate?”
Edward easily gets rid of this argument since God has no beginning or end, so he can perfectly encompass something of the same type. Mathematicians, mostly atheists, have already decided the subject by declaring that one infinity can be greater than another. Again, fuzzy about God; it is not the biblical God who completed creation in 7 days 6,000 years ago that Feser defends.
“First Cause arguments commit a fallacy of composition”
A dead-end discussion between the compositionists, who start from the elements to the whole, and the holisticists, who start from the whole to create the elements. No victor can emerge from a confrontation between things that are defined only in relation to each other. Each accuses her opponent of “error of composition” of the elements towards the Whole or the other way around. Sterile.
“Even if there were a First Cause, there is no reason to think that it is omnipotent, omniscient, of perfect goodness and so on”
Feser takes advantage of the fact that the question is presented as an anthropomorphic package to answer with a package of the same type: “you take all or nothing”. If one undoes the package, some attributes continue to stand (God, just like fundamental laws, is omnipotent), others collapse (what universality can have ‘goodness’ outside of individual consciousness?).
“Even if the omni First Cause is proven, it does not mean that God sent His prophets, inspired the Bible and so on”
Edward rightly replies that he defends the existence of God, not his marketing department (his answer is less ironic). Well, it’s still difficult for someone who has been continuously immersed in the society of the show to say that there is something true behind the show. The medical delegates are also very sincere when they present their products to me, convinced that their laboratory is the image of ‘perfect goodness’ towards the sick.
“The cosmological argument proposes a ‘god of the gaps’ in order to explain something which in fact either is, or eventually will be, better explained via a naturalistic scientific theory”
Here is God reduced to an ‘alternative medicine’, occupying the land temporarily abandoned by official medicine! Feser rightly protests that his ‘evidence’ is global and not adjusted to the flaws of science. However, he fails to make his God necessary for naturalistic science. On the contrary, it is doing very well without him. The good objection to him is to hope for a theory that encompasses God and science in a holism superior to his own.
“Science is the only authentic source of knowledge and our best scientific theories make no reference to God”
Pitiful scientism, one must comment in the wake of Edward. Radical atheists are as blind as theists, in their vain desire to explain everything without reference to the other. I point out several times on this blog that scientists, referring to the ‘fundamental forces’, simply opened the tabernacle and replaced the tables of laws with others. These do not explain in any way the most direct of the phenomena experienced: consciousness.
“The reality of suffering and other manifestations of evil show that God does not exist”
Ouch, there you are not good at all in your denials, Mr. Feser. You remind me of lawyers, who spend their time justifying their role as defenders as much as defending the indefensible. Without ever convincing. And for good reasons. Who should languish in prison when they are acquitted, or vice versa? Who should go to Hell while in Heaven, or the other way around? Feser spanks his pen, begins to put limits on omnipotence: “Even God cannot make a circular square, or that two and two equals five.” But then, if God is subject like the universe to the laws of mathematics, he is not All, is he? Scoop: An Aboriginal tribe has achieved in Australia the miracle inaccessible to God. Its members count ‘two and two equals five’. They take two cords carrying two knots each, tie them together with an extra knot, which makes five in all…
Feser is forced to recognize that it takes harm to do good, so the whole thing is much more contrasted than ‘perfect goodness’. He tries to get away with the classic theistic argument of free will, falling in turn into the trap of the ‘God of gaps’. He seeks to save a primary global theory with individualistic principles.
“If God really existed, He would not be hidden from us, His existence would be obvious to all”
Edward Feser simply replies that there is no indication that God was interested in us. The debate ends in a tailspin, on this mixture of good lines and contradictions, which makes us understand a posteriori the peremptory introduction of Feser on “the arguments against [his] book that meet no success”. This is a shame because the 5 proofs are well presented and form an excellent basis for anyone who wants to embark on a general theory of reality that escapes scientific reduction.
If you have the laziness to start, then unfortunately you will also have the laziness to read the 800 pages of Surimposium, which recreates the notion of God without the need for proof, simply by introducing complexity as a fundamental dimension of reality, with unknowable ends. Dualism is replaced by the crossing of a multitude of material and then virtual levels of reality, each in charge of its own spatio-temporal framework. Every soul is saved… in her own universe. And when we merge them, orally, in writing, and soon in digital form, surely we are really taking a step towards the divine complex.
The true simplicity of the divine
The simple divine, on the other hand, is at the foot of complexity. This statement makes it easy to answer the last criticism cited, that “the existence of God should be obvious to all”. It is, by the fact that we all experience our physical and mental constitution. If God is in us, let science continue to reveal Him and detail how He manages to animate us. So far science has been much more successful in tracing our divine origin than any religion or classical thinker, right?
2 thoughts on “Five proofs of God's existence?”
Well. In consideration of all this, I believe that men and women write the things which are written. About everything, except perhaps those things being instilled, or installed in artificial intelligence…here, of course,we run aground epistemically over what constitutes knowledge in artificial intelligence. Garbage in does not equal creativity out. Insofar as I believe the opening statement above, I also believe men (and women) wrote religious texts/scripture. In my humble opinion, this is proof of THEIR belief in God. Anything else, physical or metaphysical, falls on faith, history and conjecture—more on the first two, because conjecture is, at best, an educated guess. Or, as an old friend avowed, you can’t catch an elephant with flapper.
Sorry. That was flypaper.