William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Non-existence Of Infinite Causal Chains

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles.

Previous post.

Here’s what was proved so far: (1) that some things move and others change, and that (2) whatever is in the process of being moved or being changed is being moved or changed by another. Utterly unremarkable assertions; but both the backbone of science, even though some scientists pretend to be skeptical of causality. There is a world, nay a universe, of difference between our knowledge of a cause and of the existence of a cause. Poor Jaki spent his career reminding people of Heisenberg’s fallacy of equivocation. “Poor” because, for whatever reason, people cannot keep in mind the difference between epistemology and ontology. Once more I beg you to read the stone being moved by the stick being moved by the arm being moved by the muscles etc. example. Today we reach the end of the First Way. Next week we begin the Second way.

Chapter 13: Arguments in proof of God’s existence

4 This argument contains two propositions that need to be proved: namely that whatever is in motion is moved by another, and that it is not possible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved…

11 He proves the other proposition, namely that it is impossible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved, by three arguments.i

12 The first[10] of these is as follows. If one were to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved, all this infinite number of things would necessarily be bodies, since whatever is moved is divisible and corporeal, as is proved in 6 Phys.[11]ii Now every body that moves through being moved is moved at the same time as it moves.iii Therefore all this infinite number of things are moved at the same time as one of them is moved. But one of them, since it is finite, is moved in a finite time. Therefore all this infinite number of things are moved in a finite time. But this is impossible. Therefore it is impossible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.iv

13 That it is impossible for the aforesaid infinite number of things to be moved in a finite time, he proves thus.[12] Mover and moved must needs be simultaneous; and he proves this by induction from each species of movement. But bodies cannot be simultaneous except by continuity or contact. Wherefore since all the aforesaid movers and things moved are bodies, as proved, they must needs be as one movable thing through their continuity or contact. And thus one infinite thing would be moved in a finite time, which is shown to be impossible in 6 Phys.[13]v

14 The second argument[14] in proof of the same statement is as follows. In an ordinate series of movers and things moved, where namely throughout the series one is moved by the other, we must needs find that if the first mover be taken away or cease to move, none of the others will move or be moved: because the first is the cause of movement in all the others. Now if an ordinate series of movers and things moved proceed to infinity, there will be no first mover, but all will be intermediate movers as it were. Therefore it will be impossible for any of them to be moved: and thus nothing in the world will be moved.vi

15 The third argument[15] amounts to the same, except that it proceeds in the reverse order, namely by beginning from above: and it is as follows. That which moves instrumentally, cannot move unless there be something that moves principally. But if we proceed to infinity in movers and things moved, they will all be like instrumental movers, because they will be alleged to be moved movers, and there will be nothing by way of principal mover. Therefore nothing will be moved.vii

16 We have thus clearly proved both statements which were supposed in the first process of demonstration whereby Aristotle proved the existence of a first immovable mover.viii

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iIt is utterly absolutely painfully crucial that you understand what is meant by this. Aquinas means here-and-now, or at-this-very-moment causation. The stick moves the stone here-and-now, your arm moves the stick here-and-now at-this-very-moment, your muscles move your arm here-and-now at-this-very-moment, simultaneously. Your muscle and other cells here-and-now at-this-very-moment move, and so on down to something. Some first unmoved mover. It is this here-and-now at-this-very-moment chain which cannot proceed here-and-now at-this-very-moment to infinity. Update See YOS’s clarification on “instantaneous” movement/change below.

Ed Feser (who not uncoincidentally, since I’ve stolen many of my ideas from him, today wrote on a similar subject) has taken great pains in his many books and articles to teach that this per se chain of here-and-now at-this-very-moment causes exists here-and-now at-this-very-moment, that everything is happening at once. His experience has been that this teaching does not stick. Why? Who knows. But since it is so, I remind you we are not talking about accidental chains of causation, such as when one rock falls off a hill into another, and the second rock then hits a third, and so on. No no no no. We are talking about how movement or change in the here-and-now comes about. Meditate on the example until it is clear in your mind before continuing.

Or watch Feser’s terrific lecture on the subject.

iiAll of Aristotle’s Chapter 6 may be found here. The stick is a body, and so is your arm, and so are your cells, the chemicals, the electrons and neutrons, the quarks, the strings (if they exist) and whatever, if anything, is “below” them. Notice that Aquinas and Aristotle use a proof by contradiction. They assume there exists an infinite here-and-now chain.

iii Here-and-now at-this-very-moment!

ivSweet, no? If there did exist an infinite chain, and because we certainly see things move or change in finite time, this entire infinite chain would have to move not only in finite time, but at this moment, here and now (have we memorized this yet?). The proof immediately follows.

vAristotle proves even more than his: his book 7 may be found here. Anyway, it is clear that if we have an infinite here-and-now chain of objects, the whole thing must itself, here-and-now at-this-moment, move. And that is not possible in finite time. Worse, this would have to be the case for everything everywhere that is in the process of being moved or changed. That’s a lot of chains and lots of infinite movements! Since it is absurd that these infinite chains can move in finite time, yet things are moved or changed in finite time, the chains must not be infinite.

viIf the here-and-now chain is finite—this is an assumption, arguendo—and the first element is removed, the later parts also cannot move, which is obvious. Now I don’t think people understand how big infinity really is. It is not just big, nor even BIG, but horrifically huge. An infinite chain would have more than a googol of elements, which is 10100; it would have more than a googoplex of elements, which is 10googol. If you were to keep doing that operation, namely taking 10 to the power of the last result, and continuing once a second for a whole day, you still would not have got close to infinity. You would still be infinitely far away. But the, to us humans anyway, unimaginably long chain would have only just got started! Just to use your arm to move a stick to push a stone.

An infinite chain is one which never stops. It goes on and on and on and always on some more. If infinite chains existed, there would not and could not be a first element. How, then, would the whole thing get started? Answer: it could not. It would be impossible—not unlikely, but impossible.

I think people believe infinity isn’t all that big because of mathematical analysis, and used in many areas of science. In analysis we regularly and somewhat glibly call on infinity. We say some function converges (perhaps) “O(n2)”, meaning as the number of elements grows, the finite function gets closer and closer to its infinite cousin. We plug in n = 20 or even n = 100 and see that the function is “settling down”, i.e. approaching some obvious value, and we think, “Ah, infinity and n = 100 aren’t that far apart.” However useful an approximation our function at some finite number of elements is, it is never the real value of the function at infinity. Taking approximations as reality and not just as approximations is a common, though not usually painful, fallacy.

It’s a killer here, though. When we are talking movement or change, we cannot have an approximation. We must needs have the whole chain. Stopping at the first (say) 100 elements just won’t do. If we remove a link, the chain cannot pull. And if we do have an infinite chain, there will be nothing to give the chain impetus. Without a first mover, nothing can happen. The chain thus cannot be infinite.

viiThe rock is being moved instrumentally by the stick, which is being moved instrumentally by the arm, and so forth. The principal unmoved mover sets off the whole shebang. I think we get it by now.

viiiLet’s review. We proved the premises in this First Way:

Whatever is in motion is moved by another: and it is clear to the sense that something, the sun for instance, is in motion. Therefore it is set in motion by something else moving it. Now that which moves it is itself either moved or not. If it be not moved, then the point is proved that we must needs postulate an immovable mover: and this we call God. If, however, it be moved, it is moved by another mover. Either, therefore, we must proceed to infinity, or we must come to an immovable mover. But it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Therefore it is necessary to postulate an immovable mover.

The premises being true, and the argument valid, the conclusion must also be true. And therefore it would irrational to deny it. But why God as the unmoved mover? Why not call the immovable mover the Higgs Field Driver or whatever? Well, we haven’t fleshed this part of the proof out yet, so our modern scientistic suspicion is natural.

As a hint—and only a hint—there cannot be more than one immovable mover, one unchangeable changer. There must be something which exists which acts to sustain everything. Stay tuned!

Next installment.

[10] 7 Phys., l.c.
[11] L.c.
[12] 7 Phys. i. ii.
[13] Ch. vii.
[14] 8 Phys. v.
[15] Ibid.

115 Comments

  1. All this is no doubt why I do not like philosophy as I have no idea what you are talking about. For example what do you mean by this:

    “Aquinas means here-and-now, or at-this-very-moment causation. The stick moves the stone here-and-now …”

    By its very nature causation can not be at this very moment. Even though you explicitly rejected the rock falling off the cliff and striking another rock chain of events the example that you have used above also involves a chain of events. In this case the limiting time is set by the speed of elastic deformation of the stick and not the acceleration of gravity. There is no here and now causation so what are you and Aquinas talking about?

    If the argument is simply that the material universe can not be infinite or eternal then say so. I suppose that I should read the source text and get back to you. Since we are still at part thirteen this is going to take a long time to finish.

  2. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

    A clarification:

    Not only is kinesis/motus something more than mere local motion but the actualization of a potential, as kinetic motion actualizes potential energy, but also First Mover need not mean “first in time.” Suppose Sharon Kam plays Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. The music is caused by compression waves in the air, which are caused by a vibrating air column in the clarinet, which is caused by the vibrating reed, which is caused by Sharon Kam.

    A first mover is distinct not by its place in a sequence, but by its not-being-instrumental. An email may be forwarded an infinite number of times, but forwarding is merely instrumental and does not effect the content; so there must be an “unsent sender” of the email, someone who did not receive it as a forwarded email from another. Sharon Kam is blowing at the same time as the music is playing, even if the finitude of the speed of sound means more distant folk hear it a bit after they see it, as Br. Roger Bacon observed regarding the blacksmith; even if the persistence of impetus (momentum) means the sounds “linger” in the air, or the reed, exhibiting its pseudo-life through its inertia/soul, resists a change from rest to motion for a fraction of a second. (As Whitehead pointed out in his Principle of Relativity, real-world events always take place across an interval of time. There is no such thing as “instantaneous” in the physical world.

  3. one analogy with regard to the impossibility of a simultaneous (at the same instant) infinite chain of causation is a moving railroad train–it would not consist of only freight cars–there would have to be an engine somewhere….see also
    Peter Kreeft’s article on the First Cause argument.

  4. YOS,
    It seems to me that you are doing what you have accused others of doing, which is jumping to the conclusion while we are still discussing the build up and the analogies used to support it. I believe that I understand the conclusion, the unmoved mover, but not the argument used to derive it.
    Examples:

    “as kinetic motion actualizes potential energy” This is incorrect. Kinetic energy does not produce a potential energy.

    “The music is caused by compression waves in the air, which are caused by a vibrating air column in the clarinet, which is caused by the vibrating reed, which is caused by Sharon Kam.” As for Briggs example, this is a causal chain separated in time.

    “A first mover is distinct not by its place in a sequence, but by its not-being-instrumental.” This is the conclusion, that which is to be demonstrated.

    “even if the finitude of the speed of sound means more distant folk hear it a bit after they see it” and “There is no such thing as “instantaneous” in the physical world.” Now you are admitting that your earlier statements were incorrect and you are contradicting Briggs who claimed that causal event chains were, or could, be instantaneous.

    Kurland,
    “one analogy with regard to the impossibility of a simultaneous (at the same instant) infinite chain of causation is a moving railroad train” This is not an example of a simultaneous chain of causation and as a physicist you must know this.

    I am trying to play the game by the rules here and am not objecting because of where the argument is leading. In fact I have less objection to the conclusion than I have to the nature of the arguments leading up to it. I am, however, asking that Briggs & co. follow the same rules and stop giving analogies of the conclusion but stick to the argument itself.

    By the way YOS, why have you made it so difficult to comment on your blog?

  5. Sander van der Wal

    July 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

    There is no such thing as a here-and-now . Locally it may look like that, but at a large scale or at large enough speeds, not anymore. What this means is that if I send out a body to cause something elsewhere, that somethings happens later. And that means that I do not cause an infinite number of things to happen right now. Those things happen one after the other, because it takes a finite amount of time for the next thing in line to happen. If I wait longer, the causal chain is longer. But it never needs to contain an infinite number of cause things in a finite amount of time.

  6. Sander van der Wal

    July 6, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Oops, cause in the last sentence is caused.

  7. Scotian, please explain why the moving train is not simultaneous… I’m not talking about starting it up, but moving against friction. And relativistic considerations do not apply in context of the argument.
    And, strictly speaking, the motion of the arm is not strictly a simultaneous act…it takes time for neural impulses to travel.
    A perhaps better argument is for the physical laws of nature to keep acting–and even here, if you take into the time it takes for forces to act (relativistically) there is no simultaneity.

  8. Kurland,
    “Scotian, please explain why the moving train is not simultaneous… I’m not talking about starting it up, but moving against friction.”

    I assume that you are talking about constant velocity here where the applied force is balanced by the frictional force and that the train cars have been stretched to an equilibrium length. You can consider this a simultaneous situation, at least classically, in the sense that it is static but any change must propagate through the train as an elastic deformation.

    “it takes time for neural impulses to travel.” As above my main point is the speed of force application due to elastic deformation.

    “And relativistic considerations do not apply in context of the argument.” The problem as I see it is that Aquinas is presenting an argument for the existence of God in the real world and the real world is not classical. This must reflect the validity of the argument but I will also freely admit that I find Aquinas a difficult read, like having your tooth pulled.

    “A perhaps better argument is for the physical laws of nature to keep acting”
    Not sure what this means.

  9. Scotian, your comments are well taken. I can’t explain well my last statement (your last quote) either, but on reflection it won’t apply to the argument against infinite regress in motion…

  10. ok…I’m still baffled by the html rules… ..here we go again:

    “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

  11. Just to keep score:

    (2) whatever is in the process of being moved or being changed is being moved or changed by another.

    Was NOT proven. Only stated then restated. Repetition is not proof. If the argument(s) that follow depend upon this, then, if not taken for granted, the arguments will be pointless.

  12. Now for one more comment. It’s clear that any requirements for simultaneity are invalidated by relativistic considerations–what’s simultaneous in one frame of reference might not be in another. In one frame of reference the line of freight cars might be considered stationary. But since this is an argument by analogy, which is not rigorous in any case, why worry about relativistic effects or time lags in neural transmission?

  13. Kurland,
    “But since this is an argument by analogy, which is not rigorous in any case”

    There can not be an argument by analogy. Analogies are used to illustrate arguments which must stand on their own. The problem that I see here is that Aquinas has relied on simultaneous causation to argue that you can not move an infinite object but if this is not what is happening where does that leave the argument?

    Briggs says “It is utterly absolutely painfully crucial that you understand what is meant by this. Aquinas means here-and-now, or at-this-very-moment causation.” and “It is this here-and-now at-this-very-moment chain which cannot proceed here-and-now at-this-very-moment to infinity.”

    It is this that my objection is focused on. I agree that this can not happen but it can not happen for a finite system as well. I do no think that this is what Aquinas is saying but there is that tooth pulling thing. I understand the need to update the pre Newtonian physics that Aquinas assumes and that is what I want to see.

  14. Scotian, I think there are two different mind sets here… An argument is not the same as a logical proof. You have arguments in a legal trial. What arguments by analogy are intended for, I think, is to make the formal propositions–assumptions– reasonable. Now I agree that simultaneity is a difficult condition to pull out… and in this I think you’re correct that the Aquinas argument is deficient. The only counter-argument I can think of is that since G-d is timeless, then to Him all things are simultaneous.

  15. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Kinetic energy does not produce a potential energy.

    Which is why I said “kinetic motion actualizes potential energy.” (Kinesis just is motion, so the phrase is an example of emphatic redundancy.) “Motion” — the actual Greek word is kinesis — means the actualization of a potential, such as an acorn maturing into an oak, or a green apple ripening into red. Aristotle defined kinesis as the first actualization of a potential, in the sense that it was the potential in the course of actualizing. The example he used was a pile of lumber and other materials, which is potentially a house, but also potentially a lot of other things. When the builder commences to build a house, he is making the lumber’s potential to be a house actual. When he has finished building the house, he has made the house actual, the second actuality. This is a bit confusing in Greek as it is in English, where “building” can be a noun (the completed structure) or a verbal participle (the process of completing the structure). Hence, motion/kinesis is what makes the potential actual.

    “The music is caused by compression waves in the air, which are caused by a vibrating air column in the clarinet, which is caused by the vibrating reed, which is caused by Sharon Kam.” As for Briggs example, this is a causal chain separated in time.

    It’s not clear what you mean by “separated in time.” The music is being produced while Sharon Kam is playing. If she stops playing, the music stops. Think in terms of the present progressive tense and Whitehead’s dictum that events in physics do not occur at an instant. It’s not as if Sharon Kam blows the air (and twiddles her fingers) and then later on the music happens. If that were the case, the argument against an infinite regress would be a no-brainer: it would take an infinite amount of time for anything to happen.

    “There is no such thing as “instantaneous” in the physical world.” Now you are admitting that your earlier statements were incorrect and you are contradicting Briggs who claimed that causal event chains were, or could, be instantaneous.

    No. There is no “instantaneous.” There is only “simultaneous,” or better yet, “concurrent.” The key point however is not whether the medievals were right in their doctrine of first and last moments and there is a “beginning-to-be” and a “ceasing-to-be” in the kinesis of a potency. (They were quite aware that kinesis took place over time.) The key facts are that:
    a) The clarinet cannot play Mozart on its own, unless it is being simultaneously played by Sharon Kam. It is a secondary, or instrumental, cause.
    b) There cannot be an infinite regress of such instrumental causes, because each instrumental cause is powerless to move anything unless it is concurrently being moved by a prior cause. (That is logically prior, not temporally prior. They could be eternal.)
    c) If Sharon Kam decides she wants to stop playing, the clarinet will not carry on without her. Sharon Kam in this example is a primary mover of the music.

    There might very easily be an infinite regress of accidentally ordered causes, as Aquinas notes in a later theorem in the Summa theologica. But he doesn’t need everything to be essentially ordered to achieve his conclusion. Remember, he assumed secundum argumentum that the universe was eternal.

    Aquinas is presenting an argument for the existence of God in the real world and the real world is not classical.

    If Aquinas were presenting a theory of physics, this might mean something; but he is reasoning from ordinary experience. It does not matter whether some things travel near light speed or that other things are very small. He is not trying to explain extreme motions or present a physics of motion. That’s why he starts by saying that in the sensible world we see that some things are in motion. He was unable to assert that every thing was in motion.

    By the way YOS, why have you made it so difficult to comment on your blog?

    I did not know that I had. In what way is it difficult? Is it the Auld Blogge or the TOF Spot?

    +++++++++

    (2) whatever is in the process of being moved or being changed is being moved or changed by another
    Was NOT proven. Only stated then restated.

    Try this: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit
    But a dog is moved by its legs, and its legs are moved by its muscles, and its muscles are moved by its nerves, and its nerves are moved by its motor neurons, and its motor neurons are moved by the estimative power of its appetites, that is, by its soul — because it wants to catch a rabbit or keep some sheep in line. A green apple is moved to red by the action of sunlight in the 3,600 to 4,500 Ã… range, which moves the anthocyanin in the apple’s skin to absorb the near-ultraviolet, violet, blue and green regions of the spectrum, which moves it to reflect red light. The acorn is moved to be an oak by the action of the water and nutrients in the soil. And so on. Not sure why this seems so mysterious.

    It’s clear that any requirements for simultaneity are invalidated by relativistic considerations–… In one frame of reference the line of freight cars might be considered stationary.

    Good thing there is no such requirement, only of instrumentality in the causes and their per se ordering. That action and reaction are simultaneous, or concurrent, even if they are not instantaneous, is a fall-out from this and indicates that one needn’t search back to the beginning of the world to discover First Mover. The nature of First Mover is in the nature of a primary rather than a secondary/intrumental mover, and not necessarily of a prior-in-time mover. It’s all happening right now.

    The principle of relativity goes back at least to the 13th century, to Witelo’s Perspectiva.. Witelo was a contemporary of Aquinas. No one ever supposed the relativity of motion was a counter-argument, any more than it is an argument against the Twin Paradox. (In one reference frame, the space ship stands still and the earth recedes. So which twin ages faster?) But the relativity of motion is simply an epistemological issue, not an ontological one. It is the space ship that is moving and its twin will appear to age more slowly. That is, relativity (actually, the finiteness of information speed) affects our ability to know not the ability to be and applies just as well to the finite speed of sound or the finite speed of nerve impulses.

  16. I’m getting lost again. Aquinas “Therefore all this infinite number of things are moved in a finite time. But this is impossible. Therefore it is impossible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.” Yes this is exactly what he is saying as also quoted by Briggs and this is a problem. By this argument all finite motion is also impossible since the absolute rigidity of the above is impossible, Kurland’s special static case excepted. Now since everything does not have to move at once the causal chain can move backwards in time and with the relativistic space-time universe what does a beginning even mean? We should really consider what kind of argument would an Aquinas familiar with modern physics present.

  17. Scotian and YOS, I think the illustration about the clarinet (which I play indifferently) is useful. I cannot imagine a relativistic account in which the sound comes before the player blows… So I’m wondering wherein an ordering in time is required rather than an ordering in causal relations (as YOS posits) and, accordingly whether simultaneity or time-ordering is relevant to this question. (I’ll admit that there some philosophers–from Hume on–who would dispense with causality, and that relativistic considerations can make hash of supposed causal relations, but that offends my common sense view of things.)

  18. Sander van der Wal

    July 6, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    @Scotian

    No we don’t. Thomas’ argument is that he can convince everybody with his argument, irrespective of their beliefs. We believe (have a theory that is tested and tested and tested again and that works perfectly), that in this universe it takes time to work from cause to cause. Not always, as the music example shows, but at the basic level where particles interact. As in the example of the prodding stick. And we believe that we need to be able to disprove a theory (that’s our metaphysics).

    Now, Thomas states his argument. Which isn’t convincing, because in our theory we never get an infinite regress of things causing the next in a finite amount of time. So as far as we are concerned, our theory doesn’t have that fundamental problem. Therefore, we see no need to abandon it because of that.

    The music example has a different problem. In this case, blowing air in the flute and moving your fingers in a particular way is called making music, and the particular sequence of air pressure differences is music. We interpret those air pressures as music. We don’t however interpret it at the time it is played but at the time we hear it. Which is a bit later, because it takes time for the air pressures to reach us. If we are a kilometer away and use a telescope to look, then we see somebody pressing their fingers against a flute. Three seconds later we hear that it is music.

  19. In the previous session I asked YOS why a special creation for the universe, and not for a lightning bolt or a hurricane. YOS answers “because the universe is special”. Well actually there is way out, which is called multiverse, in which our universe with the event horizon of 14 billion years is nothing special, in fact it’s just another giant black hole, so exit special creation as with lightning and hurricanes. One can even consider a fractal multiverse without origins or limits. see Max Tegmark for details: http://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/crazy.html

    Now back to Aquinas’ cosmology: His is in fact still as simple as biblical cosmology. Earth below, heaven up, and God only 10 kilometers away in heaven. Biblical cosmology is static, and requires a Prime Mover, well not if you forget the poem of Genesis 1, one can consider a static cosmos that exists eternally. A Prime Mover is only necesary if there really is something like a “beginning”.

    But have a look at Max Tegmark’s multiverse cosmology, It’s very enlighting.

  20. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    We believe (have a theory that is tested and tested and tested again and that works perfectly), that in this universe it takes time to work from cause to cause.

    And this is a problem because…?
    You don’t realize that Bradwardine, Heytesbury, and others worked the problem of “beginning to be” a pretty dang long time ago? The traditional problem was: Suppose Socratese changed from white to black. Is there a first moment at which he ceases to be white or begins to be black?
    http://books.google.com/books?id=X80ap2CPoN0C&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=bradwardine+first+and+last+moments&source=bl&ots=F9I5Tn8zti&sig=xJ9Q0fnyijILRj5_u5wTb9tbWtU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ebu5U97INvHKsQSs6ICYCA&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=bradwardine%20first%20and%20last%20moments&f=false

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YyvmEyX6rZgC&q=first+and+last#v=snippet&q=first%20and%20last&f=false

    in our theory we never get an infinite regress of things causing the next in a finite amount of time.

    Which is what Aquinas concluded. Except he concluded it while you simply assume it.
    Even more amusing is the modern concept of motion as an infinite regress of instantaneous moments of perfect rest. That’s what dx/dt = lim (Δt→0)[Δx/Δt] says. Another reason why mathematical models should not be confused with physical reality.
    The music example has a different problem. In this case, blowing air in the flute and moving your fingers in a particular way is called making music, and the particular sequence of air pressure differences is music. We interpret those air pressures as music. We don’t however interpret it at the time it is played but at the time we hear it. Which is a bit later, because it takes time for the air pressures to reach us. If we are a kilometer away and use a telescope to look, then we see somebody pressing their fingers against a flute. Three seconds later we hear that it is music.
    Br. Roger Bacon noted this in the sight of a blacksmith hammering versus the sound of the hammer striking, back in the early 13th century. I’m not sure why the epistemological problem of human awareness is an objection. If you prefer to think of the motion of the music to the ear as an accidentally ordered series, feel free.

    Or your objection to calling music music. It could just as easily be the shrills and squawks of an inept player. The point remains: the instrument does not make the sounds unless someone plays the instrument and the sound is concurrent to the playing. Your objections are based on an infinite regress of things causing the next in a finite amount of time (lim (Δt→0)), and this cannot happen. Therefore, something must be playing the instrument. (Note tenses.)

  21. I seem to have three people who believe that the music starts as soon as the musician starts to work the mechanism. I really despair at times. It takes time for standing waves to be set up, for reeds or strings to vibrate, for valves to bend and do on. Hands up, who believes that when I push on one end of a steel rod the other end instantly moves in response? This is all separate from the speed of sound delay through the air.

    YOS, silly me for thinking that when you use terms unique to physics (kinetic and potential energy) that you are using the physics definition.

    “It’s not as if Sharon Kam blows the air (and twiddles her fingers) and then later on the music happens. If that were the case, the argument against an infinite regress would be a no-brainer: it would take an infinite amount of time for anything to happen.”

    Yes, the music happens later as I said above. It would not take an infinite amount of time for anything to happen. It would take an infinite amount of time for an infinite causal time sequence to happen, or maybe not: does a black hole collapse in a finite or an infinite amount of time?

    “No. There is no “instantaneous.” There is only “simultaneous,” or better yet, “concurrent.””

    I don’t see that this helps.

    “The principle of relativity goes back at least to the 13th century, to Witelo’s Perspectiva.. ”

    Maybe it only seems that way since relativity is a misnomer and it should have been called the theory of invariance.

    The TOF spot. It requires that you create a google account and guess a distorted phrase.

  22. Hans, I’ve read the various mathematical metaphysical accounts of multiverses–Linde, Tegmark, and I don’t find them enlightening. They aren’t science, because there is no way they could be empirically tested. I do not give them much credit as philosophy because they violate Occam’s razor by multiplying hypotheses. For a more balanced account you might read a summary of George Ellis’s article on “Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology” http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/07/creation-what-science-can-and-cannot-say.html
    or if the math doesn’t bother you, his original article:
    Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology

  23. Scotian, I hope you don’t think I’m one of those three people…the point is not that there is a simultaneity between the musician starting to play and the music coming out, but there is definite causal sequence–I blow on the reed, I depress the upper register key, put my fingers on all the other appropriate keys and (God willing and no squeaks) a “B” clarion register comes out. If I didn’t blow, if I didn’t depress the upper register key, if I didn’t depress all the other appropriate keys, then no B clarion register note would be emitted. Now the definition of simultaneity in fact is more conventional than not (see
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-convensimul/ )
    so perhaps one might better define it with a delta t bracket…or perhaps not worry about time ordering but only causality sequence.

  24. “That action and reaction are simultaneous, or concurrent, even if they are not instantaneous, is a fall-out from this and indicates that one needn’t search back to the beginning of the world to discover First Mover. The nature of First Mover is in the nature of a primary rather than a secondary/intrumental mover, and not necessarily of a prior-in-time mover. It’s all happening right now.”

    This is the nub of the matter. What does this statement even mean? Is it an inferred animism?

  25. Kurland,
    “or perhaps not worry about time ordering but only causality sequence.”

    But we have to worry about it because Briggs says it is essential to Aquinas’ argument.

  26. Nullius in Verba

    July 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    “If one were to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved, all this infinite number of things would necessarily be bodies, since whatever is moved is divisible and corporeal, as is proved in 6 Phys.[11]ii Now every body that moves through being moved is moved at the same time as it moves.iii Therefore all this infinite number of things are moved at the same time as one of them is moved. But one of them, since it is finite, is moved in a finite time. Therefore all this infinite number of things are moved in a finite time. But this is impossible. Therefore it is impossible to proceed to infinity in movers and things moved.iv”

    This sounds like a sort of Zeno’s paradox for the continuum.

    Let’s say we have a ‘rigid’ body, like a stick. We include the forces/fields between the atoms as part of the body. We push on the left hand end, and the wave propagates down the stick to the right hand end at some finite speed.

    So we start by saying that the motion of the left hand half causes the motion of the right hand half. Then because whatever is moved is divisible, we can divide the left hand half into two. The first of the halves causes the motion of the second of these halves. We divide the first portion again. The first half of this portion again causes the motion of the second half. And so on, ad infinitum.

    Either things that are moved are not corporeal and divisible, contra the first claim, or the cause can proceed from one point to another without having to pass through all the points in between, or it is impossible for such a body to exist, or to move, or we have an infinite chain of causes and motions that proceeds to completion in a finite time, contra the conclusion.

    Obviously quantum mechanics makes what goes on at the Planck scale in our actual world a bit mysterious, but the classical continuum version seems at least conceivable as a way that it could work, and the idea of an infinite chain of events occurring in a finite time, because the time taken for each event shrinks fast enough for the sum to converge, is widely understood today – although it was not in the time of Aquinas. If this is wrong, what is the flaw?

  27. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    In the previous session I asked YOS why a special creation for the universe, and not for a lightning bolt or a hurricane.

    What exactly is “special” creation? And if the universe is simply a mereological sum of things, it is not a thing in itself and requires no more a cause than the MoonHans, the sum of the Moon and Hans. But lots of people today seem to regard the universe as a thing, as if it were some big empty box into which other things are stuffed.

    Well actually there is way out, which is called multiverse, in which our universe with the event horizon of 14 billion years is nothing special, in fact it’s just another giant black hole, so exit special creation as with lightning and hurricanes.

    One can imagine all sorts of unfalsifiable fables. But since the “universe” is simply the set of every thing that physically exists, it includes the fabulous multiverse and the various space-time continua with which it supposedly buds. The question of existence does not change simply because the existants become more numerous.

    Biblical cosmology is static, and requires a Prime Mover,

    If the universe were static, it would not require a Prime Mover, since it is precisely the fact of motion (the actualizing of potentials) that deduces to a primary mover.

    one can consider a static cosmos that exists eternally.

    Aquinas assumed sec. argumentum that the universe={X|X exists physically} is eternal because he knew of no philosophical argument for a beginning in time. The big bang solution to the field equations came some seven centuries later. One of the consequences was that the universe is not static, but expanding and is of course in continual motion.

    A Prime Mover is only necesary if there really is something like a “beginning”.

    Aquinas believed that the universe had a beginning, but he did not assume so for the proof. And Aristotle, who first developed it, believed the universe to be eternal. A Prime Mover is necesary if there really is motion in the world, regardless whether there is a “beginning” or not.

  28. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 6, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    It takes time for standing waves to be set up, for reeds or strings to vibrate, for valves to bend and do on.

    So what? This was known to the medievals. You state it like it was an objection, all the while ignoring the essential point: that an instrument cannot play itself and therefore there cannot be an infinite regress of instrumental movers/actualizers. That the clarinet makes no music unless Sharon Kam is playing it does not depend on any time lags. When she stops playing, the music stops, even if someone farther off does not realize it right away, even if there are echos. If You-know-who were not lurking at the end of the syllogism, none of this would require nit-picking. Folks seem to be still insisting on instantaneous action, but there are no first instants.

    The TOF spot. It requires that you create a google account and guess a distorted phrase.

    Hmm. Those don’t seem very onerous to my regulars. I was getting a plague of spambots a while back trying to sell male enhancements. The distorted phrase, which I see on a number of sites, is supposed to filter out robo-postings. Let me take a look and see what’s shaking.

    The nature of First Mover is in the nature of a primary rather than a secondary/intrumental mover, and not necessarily of a prior-in-time mover. It’s all happening right now.”

    What does this statement even mean?

    It means that it’s happening right now. Mentally, you must place yourself at the event to avoid the distortions due to the finite speed of information.

    the time taken for each event shrinks fast enough for the sum to converge, is widely understood today

    What that means is that if we pretend motion is the infinite sum of states of rest, we can get a mathematical model that smooths things over and gives reliable results, much like the Ptolemaic and Tychonic models did. But that does not obligate the physical world to go along with the gag. As Feynmann once said, a term in an equation does not mean there is something physical that corresponds with it. To give the old devil his due, Parmenides was concerned with the physical possibility of motion, not with whether you could model it with math. In fact, it was the Parmenidean paradoxes that led Aristotle to formulate the metaphysic of potency and act. The reason it puzzles moderns is that his system was an answer to questions that we have forgotten were ever asked. The revival of Parmenides in the Minkowski 4-space is sometimes amusing, since it only makes sense if you view it from outside the universe.

  29. Bob, Of course you are allowed uniqueness of the observable universe. However there are observations that require non-uniqueness. You may of course invoke a god-of-the-gaps for that. I think a non unique universe is the logical next step of non-unique planets, stars and galaxies, And of course you are allowed a “god” as “creator” of a multiverse although that would be an academic god, you might as well leave him out of the equation altogether.

  30. YOS,
    “You state it like it was an objection, all the while ignoring the essential point: that an instrument cannot play itself”

    I don’t see that I have ignored this. It is an objection to the claim that “this entire infinite chain would have to move not only in finite time, but at this moment, here and now (have we memorized this yet?)”

    “If You-know-who were not lurking at the end of the syllogism, none of this would require nit-picking.”

    I know that you do not believe me but I have no objection to the conclusion.

    “It means that it’s happening right now.” Really?

  31. @YOS
    “a) The clarinet cannot play Mozart on its own, unless it is being simultaneously played by Sharon Kam. It is a secondary, or instrumental, cause.”

    The assignation of “instrumental” is epistemological, and not ontological. Sharon cannot be playing Mozart without a clarinet.

    “….the fact of motion (the actualizing of potentials) that deduces to a primary mover.”

    Actualization of a potential is epistemological (a frame of reference) since all things are in motion. One thing does not “potentialize” another thing. Both are “potentialized” at the same time.

    The problem with the Prime Mover argument is that postulates “why” things move. Science, however, only concerns itself with how things move. The concept “Prime Mover” cannot be reasoned from observation.

  32. Jim S sums it up, and as well I will add that the possibility of limitless and infinite movement remains. I see no proof of anything here.

    JMJ

  33. Sander van der Wal

    July 6, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    @YOS

    The questions aren’t forgotten. It was clear from the multitude of answers that thinking about reality did not produce an obviously true answer. Thinking by itself is not good enough. All these supposedly bright men, each having plenty of time to contemplate, were not able to agree on a single thing apparently.

    So, instead of thinking up multiple theories of the universe and letting Occam’s Razor decide, what about actually looking at the universe and see what it actually does? Then you can throw away all the other theories, as they do not work.

    Indeed, the table of the number of teeth on a horse’s mouth mentioned above.

    Back to the problem of Moving an infinite amount of bodies in a finite amount of time. Actually moving stuff around is Motion too. So the proposition must work for motion. As people have said, because motion takes time, you never run into the problem that you need to move an infinite amount of bodies in a finite amount of time.

    Regarding music, you know what music is, and you can associate all kinds of other stuff with that notion too. Now, by the time you hear the sound waves you know that those sound waves are music too. The knowledge what is music was already with you, and so was everything else that would be attached to that knowledge. The only new thing you know is that the flute player was indeed playing music. When you were looking you could not be sure, but by the time you are hearing it, you are sure.

  34. Sander van der Wal

    July 7, 2014 at 2:56 am

    “No one ever supposed the relativity of motion was a counter-argument, any more than it is an argument against the Twin Paradox. (In one reference frame, the space ship stands still and the earth recedes. So which twin ages faster?) But the relativity of motion is simply an epistemological issue, not an ontological one. It is the space ship that is moving and its twin will appear to age more slowly. That is, relativity (actually, the finiteness of information speed) affects our ability to know not the ability to be and applies just as well to the finite speed of sound or the finite speed of nerve impulses.”

    The twin in the spaceship ages faster. And that is because the spaceship accelerates first, coasts a bit at high speed, accelerates to turn back to earth , and finally decelerates back to the same speed and direction as Earth. So there is no paradox in General Relativity.

    Relativity of position and motion has nothing to do with the maximum speed of light. Newtonian Mechanics is relativistic in position and motion too. It is the maximum limit of the speed which results in a finite number of bodies moving in a finite amount of time, instead of an infinite number of bodies in a finite amount of time.

  35. @YOS:

    You have the patience of a Saint.

  36. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 5:40 am

    All,

    Put a pencil on your desk and then ask it to move to the floor. Once it gets there by its own power, then you can say that which was moved was not moved by another. Everything that undergoes change is changed by something else. This is the way the world works.

    All & NIV,

    No,no, no. No propagation of waves. I have tried, I see in vain, to emphasize the here-and-now, the simultaneity of the causes of the changing. Maybe I should have said it a few more times? I ask in earnestness.

    We are not talking about a wave that starts here and sometime later ends there by whatever means of propagation. We are talking about now. The actions which all occur now. The stick pushing on the stone now, which is being held and pushed by your arm now, and so on. This chain cannot be infinite. That is all that is claimed, and all that is proved in today’s post.

    As far as an infinite chain of events happening in finite time, no way. Let the time for all of the events be as small as you like, but not zero, then when summed infinitely, it would still require infinite time to move. We don’t need limits here. This is a straight sum.

  37. Hans, the non-uniqueness of planets, stars and galaxies is shown by observation. The non-uniqueness of universes, on the other hand, will not and can not by definition of universe be empirically demonstrated. But if you will, you can make up a non-ending chain of universes, meta-universes, meta-meta-universes,….

  38. Sander van der Wal

    July 7, 2014 at 6:32 am

    Very well, the stick example. You can drill down from the arm to the sinew and muscles to the cells in the sinew and the muscle to the proteins in the cells to the molecules in the proteins to the atoms in the molecules to the quantum particles in the atoms. And there it stops in modern thinking. That causal chain doesn’t have a time component in its explanation. Sinew and muscle are explained in terms of cell behaviour, cell behaviour is explained in terms of protein behaviour, and so on until we are at the quantum level, below which we have no theories.

    The reason why the arm moves is different, it has a time component. The arm moves because Briggs told you to push the brick with the stick, amd you complied. The reason Briggs told you so is because he wants to explain about Thomist thinking. And so on. Here we have an explicit time ordering events happen after each other, and the next event, pushing the stick is because of an earlier event, Briggs telling you so.

  39. As per GR a mass moves through space and is moved by its geometry. The mover, the curvature of space, is not in motion, except in extreme cases.
    Move on nothing to see here.

  40. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Sander,

    Dude. No argument here. Perhaps another go?

    And anyway, you have it backwards. It is because of arguments like this one of Aquinas that I became convinced, not the other way around.

  41. Sander van der Wal

    July 7, 2014 at 7:51 am

    The levels stop at the point where you do not need another theory, as the one you have either explains everything to your satisfaction, or there are things you cannot explain and you have no clue on how to proceed. And because of that there is no infinite regress. We are after all constructing these theories while inside the universe, and the construction does take time. So does the corroboration.

  42. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Sander,

    You’ve lost me. “We” are not “constructing” anything. There is no “theory” here. This is about what must be so and what cannot be so.

    It must be so that whatever is undergoing changed is changed by another, and it cannot be so that the chain of causes for the change in infinite.

    How this or that changes is an interesting (scientific) question, but utterly beside the point here.

  43. Bob, have a look at what Tegmerk writes about the multiverse concept. If the definition of our universe is limited to the 14 billion time horizon, then our universe can be considered a giant black hole. Then observations point to energy exchange outside our universe. Which would be proof for a multiverse.

  44. It must be so that whatever is undergoing changed is changed by another

    Something you have claimed to prove but have not.

  45. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 11:42 am

    DAV,

    But, of course, I did. Or, rather, others did and I echoed them.

  46. Briggs,

    No you did not. You (or rather Aquinas) only stated it and gave a bunch of examples but at no time was it proven. It amounted to nothing more than belief. Belief is not proof. As such, an infinite chain of causes is not required, and given a non-infinite chain of causes of Everything then one could logically conclude that uncaused events can occur.

  47. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    DAV,

    Nope. Proven. As in conclusively demonstrated.

    Also good on this in Aristotle in the original (see the links above).

    If you think you see a flaw in the proof, show us—and then we can show you where you went wrong.

    Why ever would you want to believe, without proof, in the lack of causality? Didn’t I start by asking if you caused your fingers to type your comment? Or do you believe the comments just showed up, completely uncaused? Now that’s a belief.

  48. Why ever would you want to believe, without proof, in the lack of causality?

    Now let;s not make this personal. If Every event has a cause, then I fail to see the proof. As far as I can tell, it was nothing more than a belief itself and seems to have arisen from experience but never having encountered a non-caused event is not proof. Aquinas and yourself are asking for an example of an uncaused event and the lack of production of one is being taken as further proof. IOW: the onus has been changed to proving that an uncause cause can exist otherwise the claim is taken for granted.

    The proof appears circular.

  49. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    The assignation of “instrumental” is epistemological, and not ontological. Sharon cannot be playing Mozart without a clarinet.

    Depending on her skill set, she might play the same part on an oboe or a flute. She might even hum or scat. Are you seriously claiming an inability to distinguish the flute from the flautist?

    Actualization of a potential is epistemological (a frame of reference) since all things are in motion. One thing does not “potentialize” another thing. Both are “potentialized” at the same time.

    This makes no sense. Could you reword it? Things do not get “potentialized.”

    The problem with the Prime Mover argument is that postulates “why” things move.

    It does no such thing. It deduces conclusions from the fact that some things do “move.”

    Science, however, only concerns itself with how things move. The concept “Prime Mover” cannot be reasoned from observation.

    That is correct. It is a metaphysical argument, not a physical one.

  50. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    thinking about reality did not produce an obviously true answer. … instead of thinking up multiple theories of the universe and letting Occam’s Razor decide, what about actually looking at the universe and see what it actually does?

    Good idea — and one the medievals came up with — and some day when we are discussing physics we can get into it. Maybe by then the multiple theories of relativity and quantum mechanics will have been winnowed by Ockham’s Razor.

    Actually moving stuff around is Motion too. So the proposition must work for [local] motion. As people have said, because motion takes time, you never run into the problem that you need to move an infinite amount of bodies in a finite amount of time.

    Which is precisely the reason Thomas gave for the impossibility of an infinite regress.

  51. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    That causal chain doesn’t have a time component in its explanation.

    That a mathematical model does not contain a term does not obligate the universe to dispense with the entity. There is no “t” in Newton’s equations, either.

    I’m thinking the difference between an essentially-ordered sequence and an accidentally-ordered sequence needs some schooling. Thomas did not deny, indeed he pointed out, that not all sequences were essentially ordered. But so long as folks insist on viewing the whole argument as if it were a theory in physics, this confusion will persist. Science deals entirely with accidental forms.

  52. YOS,
    “Maybe by then the multiple theories of relativity and quantum mechanics will have been winnowed by Ockham’s Razor.”

    What multiple theories are you referring to? I am only aware of one each.

  53. YOS,
    “There is no “t” in Newton’s equations, either.”

    Another strange comment. There is a “t” in F=ma or F=dp/dt.

  54. Briggs

    July 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    DAV,

    Personal? Ha! Just wait until you see the part you have in the new mini play (Saturday).

    No, sir. The burden of proof, as common sense suggests, is on you. Which of the events around you, like your typing, are uncaused?

    The proof is also not circular, especially as Aristotle in his Chapter 6 has it. He shows quite clearly that an event would have to be its own cause, which is impossible.

    It would be like say the potential of you typing caused you comment. Or (to use Feser’s perennial example), the potential for a rubber ball to be a pile of goo is what caused it to be the good.

    There is a vast difference between our understanding or our knowledge of a cause with the existence of the cause. We too often (in probability, too) mix up ontology and epistemology.

  55. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    The mover, the curvature of space, is not in motion

    Space is curved by the presence of matter. That is, matter moves the “fabric” of space.

    The levels stop at the point where you do not need another theory, as the one you have either explains everything to your satisfaction

    The argument is not trying to explain anything about physics. Just as physics induces from facts to theories, metaphysics deduces from facts to conclusions.

    And because of that there is no infinite regress.

    No. There is no infinite regress of essentially-ordered movers because instruments cannot play themselves. There might logically be an infinite regress of accidentally-ordered movers. The Standard Model, which cuts off the eternal/steady-state universe was unknown to Aquinas.

  56. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    It must be so that whatever is undergoing changed is changed by another
    Something you have claimed to prove but have not.

    Try this:
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit

    If Every event has a cause, then I fail to see the proof. As far as I can tell, it was nothing more than a belief… the onus has been changed [sic] to proving that an uncause cause can exist otherwise the claim is taken for granted.

    Well, as Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” The claim of a material thing being in “motion” (actualizing) without being actualized by something already actual is surely an extraordinary claim. (Language of “event” and “cause” ain’t in it.)
    It has also been said that once the ties between science and its birth were cut, irrationalism would gradually undermine the whole scientific program.
    ++++++++++++

    “Maybe by then the multiple theories of relativity and quantum mechanics will have been winnowed by Ockham’s Razor.”
    What multiple theories are you referring to? I am only aware of one each.

    My cosmologist friend sometimes gives a talk called “43 Cosmologies.” In relativity one knows of Einstein’s theory, Whitehead’s theory, Milne’s kinematic theory. When I last asked him, he told me that Einstein and Milne are still indistinguishable in the experimental evidence.
    In quantum mechanics, we have Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation, Everett’s many-worlds interpretation, Bohm’s standing wave intepretation, Cramer’s transactional interpretation. Cramer claimed the Afshar Experiment undermined Copenhagen and supported transactionalism, but the Copenhagenites rallied around orthodoxy and looked for ways to interpret the experiment in Copenhagenish terms. (Don’t know how that came out, or if it did. Because all the theories incorporate the same mathematical formalism, and experiments are predicated on that formalism, it may be impossible to distinguish among the theories based on empirical experiment.)
    http://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw16.html
    http://www.analogsf.com/0412/altview.shtml
    Also:
    http://www.wired.com/2014/06/the-new-quantum-reality/

  57. YOS, you have brought light where there was fog… I think your distinction between essential and accidental causation is much better than trying to distinguish between temporally ordered and simultaneous causation.
    And, by the way, Wikipedia lists 18 different interpretations of QM… Only one (to my knowledge) has been disproved by experiment, the Local Realistic version of hidden variables by the Aspect experiments disproving Bell’s Theorem.
    See
    Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics

  58. No, sir. The burden of proof, as common sense suggests, is on you. Which of the events around you, like your typing, are uncaused?

    I’m missing something here. The claim “all events has causes” was supposedly proved but now it seems the claim really was “All events have causes prove otherwise”. Sorry, but that doesn’t prove the original claim. In fact, saying you can’t think of one is the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy, is it not?

    The proof of “All events has causes” started with “A causes B; B causes C; etc.” and ends with therefore something caused A. I agree it’s the most probable explanation and should be the first guess but doesn’t isn’t prove A had a cause.

    The proof is also not circular, especially as Aristotle in his Chapter 6 has it. He shows quite clearly that an event would have to be its own cause, which is impossible.

    Also not necessarily true if it had NO cause. ‘A’ above would have to be it’s own cause only if it is assumed “all events have causes” which is what you claim to be proving. How is that not circular?

    Furthermore, there is the built-in assumption that all things had a beginning — also not proven. Even if you grant that, you still are stopped short at the beginning of everything. Assuming there was a cause is extrapolation of experience which does not, in itself, constitute proof.

    We too often (in probability, too) mix up ontology and epistemology.

    And that seems to be happening here. Assumption 1: the Universe had a beginning. Assumption 2: It’s beginning must have had a cause. Both of these seem to arise from extrapolating what we think we know to the way things are. Not unreasonable but perhaps not correct either.

  59. YOS,
    All the things that you mention use the same quantum mechanics, the one and only. Applying quantum mechanics to real objects such as atoms, nuclei, stings, the cosmos lead to the use of different models. This is no different than modeling harmonic motion using Newtonian physics one way and modelling planetary orbits another way. It is the same Newtonian physics. The alternatives to general relativity that you mention have long been discredited.

  60. Kurland,
    They are called interpretations of quantum mechanics because there is only the one quantum mechanics that is being interpreted. There are different formulations as well which is also seen in classical mechanics.

  61. Hey Scotian, I’m well aware of the distinction between interpretation and formalism, and all that stuff…I did get an A in Schwinger’s advanced QM class, I have published papers involving density matrix theory, and I have read texts by Messiah, Dirac, and Abragam and various books on the philosophy of quantum mechanics. There’s still a remnant of knowledge left, even though that advanced QM course was some 60 years ago. So please don’t try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
    (do the Wikipedia search for that idiom if you aren’t familiar with it.)

  62. Scotian, I apologize for being nasty. It’s a hot day, the dogs are yapping at a bicycle race on our road, and my computer is acting up. I shouldn’t take it out on semi-anonymous posters… Go ahead and pontificate on QM as you wish.

  63. Briggs,

    Having seen the trailers, I can guess the end of the movie. We are going to discover there is an Uncaused Cause after all that even had No Beginning and we are going to call it the Prime Mover.

    You are then left with the interesting problem of reconciling that with the claim: “All things and events have a cause” and it will be done by saying: obviously then the Prime Mover is not a thing or event and completely deny this would be mere handwaving not to mention the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    I look forward to the dance showing there can only be ONE Prime Mover.

  64. That’s all right Kurland. I guess this just demonstrates the danger of inserting yourself in the middle of a conversation. I am impressed that you got to take a course from Schwinger and I hope that he was better than the professor(s) that I suffered through, who shall remain nameless. The text Messiah still sits on my shelf but I never liked it personally.

    “semi-anonymous posters”
    I started using Scotian about a year ago because I thought if Mike can do it then so can I. If you are interested, and there is no reason why you should be, my name is William Sears. Of course given the number of people in the world with this name this is only slightly less anonymous than Scotian.

  65. Thanks Scotian; my attitude to science and QM is possibly less reverent than yours; I’ll quote from a late post on my blog…
    “When I was much younger (more than 60 years ago) I regarded what my professors in college and graduate school said as holy writ. When Julian Schwinger strode into class (usually a half-hour or more late–we’d make book on the delay time) and in beautifully articulated sentences told us about projection operators, Lagrangian formulations, S-matrices, we sat as disciples, not necessarily understanding, but faithfully recording the gospel of quantum mechanics. It was only until after I retired that I began to inquire into the philosophic foundations of science and learned that although quantum mechanics worked, it was a house built on epistemological and ontological sand.” (from “Tipping the Sacred Cow of Science–Confessions of a Science Agnostic”)..
    Here’s another quote about QM to lighten up the proceedings:
    “I am a Quantum Engineer, but on Sundays I Have Principles.”
    John Stewart Bell (of The Bell’s Theorem) as quoted in Quantum [un]speakables: from Bell to quantum information.

  66. YOS

    The ‘ fabric ‘ of space. I have never read about its properties.

    Spacetime is warped, rippled, dragged but it is not in motion itself, or else what would it be moving through?

    http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/29478/is-spacetime-moving-in-general-relativity.

  67. Kurland,
    You better not mention your doubts to lumo or he will call you a crackpot. 🙂

    http://motls.blogspot.ca/2014/07/droplets-and-pilot-waves-vs-quantum.html

    I enjoyed Bell’s “Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics”.

    Briggs,
    I am slowly beginning to understand what you, and Aquinas, are talking about. You shouldn’t be too hard on people since it is often necessary to argue the opposite position to understand something and I don’t think that I am done arguing yet. YOS I never understand. 😉

  68. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    All the things that you mention use the same quantum mechanics, the one and only. Applying quantum mechanics to real objects such as atoms, nuclei, stings, the cosmos lead to the use of different models.

    Have st[r]ings been found to be real objects, or are we riffing on the idea of “real”?
    If physics is to be anything more than a branch of mathematics, there has to be something behind the number crunching. Remember, the Ptolemaic model gave correct answers for 1500 years when it was applied to real objects such as stars and planets.
    Remember, it is the interpretation and not the mechanics that folks point to when they want to claim some thing is uncaused. You ought not rely on an interpretation on the one hand, then dismiss it on the other.
    ++++++++++
    We are going to discover there is an Uncaused Cause after all that even had No Beginning and we are going to call it the Prime Mover.

    You are mixing up the argument from motion [actualization] with the argument from the ordering of efficient causes.

    You are then left with the interesting problem of reconciling that with the claim: “All things and events have a cause”

    That has not been claimed. The only claim so far is that some things in the world are in motion. That nothing can actualize itself and that a per se regression of actualizers cannot be infinite were proven as subsidiary lemmas.

    the No True Scotsman fallacy.

    Is not a fallacy. Consider the No True Fish fallacy:

    A: “All fish breathe through gills rather than lungs.”
    B: “But whales are fish, and they breathe through their lungs.”
    A: “Whales may look and seem like fish, but they aren’t truly fish because they breathe through their lungs.”

    which is formally identical to the No True Scotsman herring. Alas, folks who have forgotten the distinction between matter and form have also forgotten the distinction between a material fallacy and a formal fallacy.

    I look forward to the dance showing there can only be ONE Prime Mover.

    Oh, that one’s a piece of cake, once you have shown that Prime Mover is Purely Actual.
    ++++++++++
    Spacetime is warped, rippled, dragged but it is not in motion itself, or else what would it be moving through?

    “Motion” is a reduction from potency to actuality. It need not mean a motion of location: e.g., when an apple is moving from green to red.
    The idea of space-time as the Aristotelian aether (it moves others without being moved; it acts without being reacted upon) is intriguing. But space and time have no objective existence, per Einstein, being the consequence of the existence of matter and change, so its hard to promote them too highly. Heisenberg did suggest that mass-energy was the Aristotelian protomatter, but he belonged to the last generation of scientists with a thorough grounding in philosophy.
    +++++++++
    YOS I never understand. 😉

    Perhaps if I used Latin?

    But you are perfectly correct. Their categories of thought were different. Their concept of cause, substance, motion, and so on were not the same as ours, which were radically simplified in the 17th century to accomodate the idealized world of physics: frictionless planes, perfectly elastic collisions, motion in a vacuum, ideal gasses, etc. The thing to remember is that a lot of what they jettisoned had not been disproven, only discarded [largely because they too no longer undestood the original arguments]. But in the post-modern world, we are inching back toward older notions.

  69. ME: We are going to discover there is an Uncaused Cause after all that even had No Beginning and we are going to call it the Prime Mover.
    YOS; You are mixing up the argument from motion [actualization] with the argument from the ordering of efficient causes.

    Am I? From the previous post on this subject: “Whatever is in motion is moved by another. Therefore it is set in motion by something else moving it. Now that which moves it is itself either moved or not.” what does the or not mean if not an Uncaused Cause?

    Still inherent in all this is that there was a Cause to explain the motion which I maintain was never proven — only claimed.

  70. YOS,
    “Remember, it is the interpretation and not the mechanics that folks point to when they want to claim some thing is uncaused.”

    Who are those folks? That seems an odd thing to say. Better to say truly random as opposed to the pseudo randomness of the classical system. Folks also say shut up and calculate.
    I don’t know what this space-time can not move statement is all about as you have the expansion of the universe and gravitational waves. I suppose it all depends on how you wish to define motion.
    I’ve forgotten most of my Latin. It has been a long time since high school.

    I’m surprised that you have so much free time to cast such pearls before us swine. As someone once said to Asimov: should’t you be writing a book. 😉

  71. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    From the previous post on this subject: “Whatever is in motion is moved by another. Therefore it is set in motion by something else moving it. Now that which moves it is itself either moved or not.” what does the or not mean if not an Uncaused Cause?

    It speaks of movers, not causes. The argument is simply listing all logical possibilities. Say A is undergoing kinesis/motion and is being moved by B. What the argument states at this point is simply that either B itself is undergoing kinesis or it is not. And if not, then we have identified an unmoved mover and we are done. And if it is, then B is moved by C, and repeat the argument on C. But this cannot proceed without limit, since instrumental [secondary] movers have no power to move anything unless they themselves are being concurrently moved [present progressive tense]. There must be a primary mover that moves without being itself in kinesis. Example: even an eternal series of forwarded emails (“sent senders”) implies a primary cause. — an “unsent sender” or “author.” Example: everyone you know who has learned the Pythagorean Theorem has been taught the theorem by another, and these teachers also have been taught by their teachers. They are “taught teachers.” But even without a knowledge of history (which we can no longer presume upon these days) logic alone tells us there must be an Untaught Teacher who knows the Theorem without having been taught it.

    No instrumental mover has any power to move others per se. Think: clarinet not being blown, stick not being pushed. So any such series must have a primary mover in virtue of which all the other instrumental movers receive their power to move things.

  72. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    As someone once said to Asimov: should’t you be writing a book

    Damn! You’re right. Ciao!

  73. YOS,

    OK but somewhere I think you said “Motion” in this context means “change or happen” and not necessarily physical translation in space. Said Unmoving Mover went from the state of being That-Which-Hasn’t-Initiated-Motion to That-Which-Has so it too changed (Moved?) and is no longer Unmoved. What caused this change? Itself? I thought Aristotle said this was impossible.

    “Whatever is in motion is moved by another. “ amounts to “Motion has a Cause” and is still an unproven assertion.

  74. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    “Motion” in this context means “change or happen” and not necessarily physical translation in space. Said Unmoving Mover went from the state of being That-Which-Hasn’t-Initiated-Motion to That-Which-Has so it too changed (Moved?) and is no longer Unmoved. What caused this change? Itself? I thought Aristotle said this was impossible.

    “Change” means the actualization of a potential, such as a green apple (which is potentially red) becoming actually red. In this motion, the apple is being moved by another: viz., sunlight in specific wavelengths acting on a chemical in the apple’s skin. All that has been concluded so far is that there must be a primary mover for a series of instrumental [secondary] movers to have any motive power at all. That Prime Mover is itself unmoved is a later theorem. What you describe is not a change in the mover, a confusion that stems from regarding abstractions like “states” rather than actual “things.”

    “Whatever is in motion is moved by another. “ amounts to “Motion has a Cause” and is still an unproven assertion.

    Well, Newton put it this way: A body at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. This applies to a body in eternal rectilinear motion, since it is the change in that rest-motion which concerns us here. (Recall that Aristotle considered repetitive or circular motions as being a state of rest. That’s why “equilibrium” may be a better modern word to use.) And Newton agrees that any change in such motion does require an external force. Granted, Newton does not prove this. He was coasting on the fumes of a discarded metaphysic, and did not think he needed to prove such a thing. Modern science assumes motion and has investigated only how motion may change.
    But briefly, if X is moving from A (green) to B (red), then it begins in potency with respect to B. But whatever is “potentially” is not “actually” and whatever is not actual has no power to do diddly squat. So whatever is in potency has no power to move itself from potency to actuality any more than a thrown rock has the power within itself to heigh off on a different trajectory. Where this appears to be otherwise, we find that one part of a thing is moving another part: as the dog is moved by its legs, which are moved by its muscles, etc. Or that an alpha particle is emitted by an atom because of electrical repulsion among the protons in its nucleus. But when we say X is moved we mean that X as a whole is moved. (It would be profoundly silly to say that the legs walked across the room but the dog did not.)

    Given that science has been based on tacitly ignoring Hume on causation, it is the claim that motion may be happening without a mover that wants to be supported.

  75. @YOS
    “Depending on her skill set, she might play the same part on an oboe or a flute. She might even hum or scat. Are you seriously claiming an inability to distinguish the flute from the flautist?”

    In a specific observation of a specific person playing a specific clarinet — no thing is ontologically “instrumental” to the event. All things are required for the specific event to take place. Playing on a flute is an entirely different event.

    The introduction of an ontological hierarchy is not justified per the observation.

  76. OK. Still:

    1) Newton: even if true maybe only applies to physical motion but, even here, there is no proof that the application of force could not occur sans a cause.

    2) But briefly, if X is moving from A (green) to B (red),

    Perhaps unable to change itself but still there is no proof that an agent of the change must exist.

    All that has been concluded so far is that there must be a primary mover for a series of instrumental [secondary] movers to have any motive power at all. That Prime Mover is itself unmoved is a later theorem. What you describe is not a change in the mover, a confusion that stems from regarding abstractions like “states” rather than actual “things.”

    By “actual things” I assume you mean “physical things” and a change in color, say from green to red, must have a physical explanation even though it can be shown the color of an object is subjective perception just as you claim “states” are. A change in the observer IOW. OK.

    Still unproven is that all physical changes require a cause or agent although some (even perhaps all to date) have an external agent as the cause.

  77. Sander van der Wal

    July 8, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Consider a Newtonian Toy Universe with two bodies having certain masses. These bodies will revolve around each other for ever, even in the degenerate case where they bounce of each other move apart, fall back, bounce again and so on.

    Analyze this toy universe in terms of a causal chain.

    @YOS

    Ptolemeic planetary theory worked because they thought comets were a atmospheric phenomenon. Planets on invisible circular shells is one thing, but shells that can carry a planet and can be crossed by a different body is much harder to stomach.

    Ptolemeic theory is just mathemathics. It is curve fitting, in fact.

  78. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 8, 2014 at 8:21 am

    1) Newton: even if true maybe only applies to physical motion but, even here, there is no proof that the application of force could not occur sans a cause.

    It is always amazing to see how much of natural science itself folks are willing to chuck under the bus. The application of a force just is an example of a cause.

    2) But briefly, if X is moving from A (green) to B (red),
    Perhaps unable to change itself but still there is no proof that an agent of the change must exist.

    X is either actualized by itself or by another. If it cannot be actualized by itself, because it is only potential and not (yet) actual, then it must be actualized by another.
    Besides, we know the agency of the apple moving from green to red: sunlight in specific wavelengths acting on the anthocyanin part of the apple.

    By “actual things” I assume you mean “physical things” and a change in color, say from green to red, must have a physical explanation even though it can be shown the color of an object is subjective perception just as you claim “states” are.

    Recte: “it can be assumed the color of an object is subjective perception.” This is the so-called “problem of the qualia” so deadly to Modern materialism that the qualia are often denied existence as such. Of course, the results of a scientific experiment are also perceptions, perhaps engendered by the evolved human tendency to “perceive patterns.” You are confusing the human sensation of color (the experience) with the objective fact that different light waves are being reflected by the apple. The apple really does change color, no foolin’

    Still unproven is that all physical changes require a cause or agent although some (even perhaps all to date) have an external agent as the cause.

    See above. What you have provided here is a prima facia case why causes are at the very least a natural default assumption, and the assertion of causelessness is the one that needs justification. As Chesterton is said to have remarked: When people stop believing in God, they will not believe nothing; they will believe anything.
    ++++++++++

    In a specific observation of a specific person playing a specific clarinet — no thing is ontologically “instrumental” to the event. All things are required for the specific event to take place.

    See Chesterton aphorism, above. You are confusing necessity with instrumentality. Trust me: the clarinet does not use Sharon Kam to make the music. The airplane does not use the pilot to fly to London.
    ++++++++++

    Consider a Newtonian Toy Universe with two bodies having certain masses. These bodies will revolve around each other for ever,

    What is being actualized?

    even in the degenerate case where they bounce of each other move apart, fall back, bounce again and so on. Analyze this toy universe in terms of a causal chain.

    What is being actualized? Recall that continual or repetitive “motion” is regarded as a state of rest by Aristotle.

    Ptolemeic theory is just mathemathics. It is curve fitting, in fact.

    So is nearly all of modern science, at least of modern physics. Some models, like the GCMs are not even curve-fitting!

  79. YOS,
    I see that you couldn’t stay away.

    “Besides, we know the agency of the apple moving from green to red: sunlight in specific wavelengths acting on the anthocyanin part of the apple.”

    Are you sure? I thought that ethylene gas was the ripening agent although sunlight ultimately supplies the energy of most chemical reactions in the plant.

  80. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I thought that ethylene gas was the ripening agent although sunlight ultimately supplies the energy of most chemical reactions in the plant.

    Let’s not conflate art with nature. Apples ripened long before humans stepped into the fray. Besides, that A is a causer of B does not prevent C from also being one. Remember, this is not an all-encompassing theory of motion.

  81. YOS,

    It is always amazing to see how much of natural science itself folks are willing to chuck under the bus. The application of a force just is an example of a cause.

    It is indeed an example of a cause but I said “there is no proof that the application of force could not occur sans a cause.” which would be an Uncaused Cause. Not sure how the application of a force from Nowhere throws Newton under a bus.

    “it can be assumed the color of an object is subjective perception.”

    Nope. The color isn’t there. That there is something there that leads us to “see” it is not the issue. Some things change color merely by changing position and not because they reflect different light waves. It’s all in your head. But this is a side issue.

    What you have provided here is a prima facia case why causes are at the very least a natural default assumption, and the assertion of causelessness is the one that needs justification.

    At least you agree it is an assumption. Never said it shouldn’t be the first guess. Still, it has never been proven.

  82. YOS,
    “Apples ripened long before humans stepped into the fray.”

    Apples and plants in general produce their own ethylene gas.

    http://www.plant-hormones.info/ethylene.htm

  83. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Not sure how the application of a force from Nowhere throws Newton under a bus.

    It seems to invoke a direct theological intervention.

    The color isn’t there. … It’s all in your head.

    Calling Bishop Berkeley. I guess that’s what separates Aristotelian realists from Kantian idealists. If the proper sensibles are “all in your head”, what is it that privileges the common sensibles from the same charge? Are the things “all in your head” somehow not as real as any other thing in the universe. That would mean your head is not in the universe. You raise an interesting objection to materialism.
    http://thomism.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/finding-a-place-for-berkeley/
    http://thomism.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/berkeleys-permanent-value/

    What you have provided here is a prima facia case why causes are at the very least a natural default assumption, and the assertion of causelessness is the one that needs justification.
    At least you agree it is an assumption.

    See boldface.
    ++++++

    Apples and plants in general produce their own ethylene gas.

    How nice, and the link even gives the series of cause and effect involved, all the way back to something outside the plant. But the ethylene sequence is thought to “contribute to ripening,” not specifically to the rubicosity [redness] of apples. Many plants ripen without turning red.

  84. It seems to invoke a direct theological intervention.

    But in regard to Newton, I don’t think the source of the external force matters so I still don’t see how it tosses him under a bus. A force from Nowhere is hardly theological intervention if that means it came from God.

    why causes are at the very least a natural default assumption … see bold face

    None of which makes the assumption true or proven. But maybe an illustration might help:

    I reach a conclusion but assume a GREBLFRBLSNORTZ exists. Regardless of my conclusion and how elegant my logic might be, what value would you place on the conclusion if I couldn’t get you to agree to the assumption? Nada, Zip, Zilch?

    If it’s not necessary for the argument why insist on its truth?

    Calling Bishop Berkeley.

    We can discuss color at another time when more appropriate and I will try to find links illustrating what I have said. Meanwhile, color doesn’t exist outside the head anymore than the pleasantness of an odor does.

  85. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Meanwhile, color doesn’t exist outside the head anymore than the pleasantness of an odor does.

    Notice the shift. If you had said ‘the prettiness of the color…’ or that color exists ‘outside the head anymore than odor’ you would at least have maintained the parallelism. But then how would it benefit a king snake to mimic the coloration of a coral snake, or a chemist determine the flame of sodium? Mars is reputed to be red, according to scientists.
    But why stop there? Why not say that motion, number, position, time, magnitude, etc. are also all in the head? If nature is “what is given to sensation,” how can nature be a real system outside our heads. (Or perhaps only outside my head. Does the world lose color when I close my eyes?) The sense object, Aquinas wrote, is a mixture of a thing in the world and the subjective and personal dispositions of the one sensing. He denied perfect objectivity to the senses long before post-modern physics. But that doesn’t mean we cannot study nature objectively, red and all.

  86. Notice the shift.

    Yes. Does it mean we have reached an impasse on Uncaused Causes?

  87. Sander van der Wal

    July 9, 2014 at 7:21 am

    “Very well, the stick example. You can drill down from the arm to the sinew and muscles to the cells in the sinew and the muscle to the proteins in the cells to the molecules in the proteins to the atoms in the molecules to the quantum particles in the atoms. And there it stops in modern thinking. That causal chain doesn’t have a time component in its explanation. Sinew and muscle are explained in terms of cell behaviour, cell behaviour is explained in terms of protein behaviour, and so on until we are at the quantum level, below which we have no theories”

    Bad form quoting oneself. Anyway, because causal chains as mentioned here cannot be infinite, there is the Prime Mover, the First Cause. How do you know by moving down the causal chain that you have reached it? When can you fire all researchers, or school them to be teachers only?

  88. IMHO it is impossible to extend the causal chain across the big bang. The big bang was a physical event, just like lightning is a physical event, no need to intruduce a Creator here.

    The causal chain stops therefore (only!) 14 billion years ago, before that it’s speculating.

  89. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Anyway, because causal chains as mentioned here cannot be infinite, there is the Prime Mover, the First Cause. How do you know by moving down the causal chain that you have reached it? When can you fire all researchers, or school them to be teachers only?

    a) Researchers? What are you talking about? Is scientism so deeply ingrained that you suppose the point of it all is to discover some fact in physics?
    b) “Causal chains as mentioned here” are series of movers, that is “actualizers” that are ordered per se. That is, the intermediate movers are instrumental in nature and receive their power to actualize because they are concurrently themselves being actualized. Series that are ordered per accidens could logically regress infinitely, were it not for modern physics. Nearly everyone gets confused on this point, so it is worth re-iterating.(*)
    c) You don’t “move down the causal chain” until you reach First Mover. It’s an existence theorem, not a search algorithm. Essentially ordered movers must have a primary mover, otherwise nothing in the series would be moving. What would then follow would be a series of deductions about the powers and properties of First Mover.
    d) First Mover and First Cause are different arguments, although the being they deduce is eventually shown to be one and the same. The same with Necessary Being. The three arguments share a common structure, so they are commonly confused with one another.

    (*) accidentally ordered. An example is a chain of toppling dominoes, each domino topples the next in line. There is no reason in principle such a series might not regress indefinitely. Since Domino n, once it has been toppled, has the power to topple Domino n+1 regardless whether Domino n-1 or any other prior domino concurrently exists. That is, n’s power does not depend on the concurrent exercise of that power by n-1, let alone by a hypothetical First Domino. However, the Scotists make an argument that even in accidentally ordered series one may determine a primary mover that accounts for the power in virtue of which the movers move. In the case of the dominoes, that would be the geometrical arrangement of the dominoes, without which none of the dominoes would necessarily possess any power to topple another. But notice that the Arranger of Dominoes is not itself a domino, and acts simultaneously on all the dominoes. It is not the First Toppling Domino because, sec. arg., there is no first domino in an infinite series.
    Aquinas argued similarly that causation is not affected by the assumed eternity of the world, since “prime” or “primary” or “first” did not necessarily mean “first in time.”

    Hope this helps.

  90. Hans, you may or may not be interest in posts on my blog that stand in direct opposition to your statement (as do the opinions of many philosophers and physicists):
    “Philosophic Issues in Cosmology 1: Introduction and later posts.

  91. IMHO it is impossible to extend the causal chain across the big bang. The big bang was a physical event, just like lightning is a physical event, no need to intruduce a Creator here.

    The causal chain stops therefore (only!) 14 billion years ago, before that it’s speculating.

    You’ve had it explained to you that creation out of nothing is different in kind from a transformation or change of X from one thing to another thing. Secondary causation cannot explain how a thing can emerge literally out of nothing. Its failure to explain this is the impetus to the conclusion we are moving toward.

    Just follow the argument where it leads.

  92. Just because you don’t know yet what caused “our”universe is not a reason to invoke a creator, just like we don’t need a god-of-lightning anymore.

  93. Sander van der Wal

    July 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    @YOS

    a) Actually, yes. Science is also about discovering the causal chains that actually cause the things happening the universe. Because one side effect is lots of stuff that works, like the modern internet with its blogs.

    c) If there is a finite number of causal links, at some point traversing the link you run into the First Cause. That’s the whole point of it being a finite number, you can visit them all (if you live long enough as a smart enough species, or the universe doesn’t ends first).

  94. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Just because you don’t know yet what caused “our”universe is not a reason to invoke a creator, just like we don’t need a god-of-lightning anymore.
    a) Aquinas is not trying to explain what “caused” “our””universe.” He is deducing from the fact that some things are changing to the conclusion that there must be something that is completely actual. Folks persist in assuming that he is trying to do physics.
    b) It is the part of courage to have recourse to dialectic in all things, for recourse to dialectic is recourse to reason, and he who does not avail himself of reason abandons his chief honor, since by virtue of reason he was made in the image of God. — Berengar of Tours, 11th cent.
    c) [They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so. — William of Conches, 12th cent.
    d) In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass. — St. Albertus Magnus, 13th cent.
    e) Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship. — Thomas Aquinas,13th cent.
    f) I propose here [in On the causes of miracles]… to show the causes of some effects which seem to be miracles and to show that the effects occur naturally… There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens [astrology], the last refuge of the weak, or to demons, or to our glorious God, as if he would produce these effects directly… –Nicole d’Oresme, 14th cent.
    g) Scientists are most welcome to “explain everything they need to without appeal to God;” indeed, I hope all the readers of First Things [magazine] would join me in strenuously objecting if God is ever invoked in the course of normal scientific explanation! — Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, 20th cent.
    h) Just because you don’t know yet what caused “our”universe is not a reason to invoke a creator, just like we don’t need a god-of-lightning anymore. — Hans Erren, 21st cent. parroting Catholic doctrine

  95. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    @YOS: a) Actually, yes. Science is also about discovering the causal chains that actually cause the things happening the universe. Because one side effect is lots of stuff that works, like the modern internet with its blogs.
    So you appeal to science as the handmaiden of engineering and industry? How Baconian. But science deals with the metric and controllable accidental qualities of mutable matter. Outside that sphere (which runs “from quarks to quasars”) its methodology falters. Culinary schools also result in stuff that works; so do art schools. Just different stuff. I’m not sure why you suppose that the evident existence of an unmoved mover somehow means that tinkering and technology isn’t somehow useful. The medievals decided that the invention of new things for the benefit of all was a duty of man on earth; and not only that, but the study of nature was a fit occupation for grown-ups, regardless whether it was subordinated to industry. “Indeed,” wrote Hugh, Abbot of St. Victor, in his Didascalicon, “man’s reasoning shines forth much more brilliantly in inventing these very things than ever it would have had man naturally possessed them.”

  96. Just because you don’t know yet what caused “our”universe is not a reason to invoke a creator, just like we don’t need a god-of-lightning anymore.

    So you’re going to continue conflating creation ex nihilo with change as well as conflating God with god even though as it is understood by Aquinas, the former is distinct and secondary causation is the realm of physics, while the latter excludes ‘god’ given the implications of the argument itself. But, of course, this requires oneself to consider the argument on its merits and to patiently but attentively follow it wherever it may lead.

  97. Sander van der Wal

    July 10, 2014 at 12:56 am

    @YOS

    Is being a Baconian consinsidered to be an insult or praise among the Medievalists?

    But what about concern c)? That one should have a logical refutation.

  98. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Is being a Baconian consinsidered to be an insult or praise among the Medievalists?

    Neither. Among historians of science it is merely descriptive. It refers to the new “scientific programme” instituted by Francis Bacon and other revolutionaries that repurposed science from a form of art criticism (appreciating the beauty and connectedness of nature) to a form of support for engineering and industry. The purpose of science, he wrote in “The Masculine Birth of Time or the Great Instauration,” was to increase “man’s dominion over the universe” by subordinating Nature to human will and bringing her before us “in chains.” It was Bacon who dismissed final causes, not because they did not exist — he acknowledged that they did — but being neither metric nor controllable, they were unsuited to extending man’s mastery of Nature. Hence, the emphasis on “practical applications” even for the most blue sky of investigations. The increase of knowledge per se is not enough, let alone of understanding.

    Of course, the Modern Way of doing science is fading along with the rest of the Modern Ages. The post-modern way seems to be a subordination of science to political purpose, so that science becomes a form of PR.
    ++++
    c) If there is a finite number of causal links, at some point traversing the link you run into the First Cause. That’s the whole point of it

    But it’s not “the whole point.” Consider an infinite series of accidentally ordered movers. There is still a First Mover (not yet a First Efficient Cause) but no finite number of links. And [Baconian] science deals only with accidents, not essences. All that’s been demonstrated so far is that an essentially-ordered series of instrumental movers must have a primary mover. In his summation. Aquinas wrote, “and this all men call God.” He ought to have added, “Details to follow” because Late Moderns, ignoring the hundreds of pages that follow, assume he plugged that one in arbitrarily.

  99. Sander van der Wal

    July 10, 2014 at 10:11 am

    What’s wrong with having Science provide working answers next to providing a deeper understanding? Different people will always value these things differently.

    Bacon was from a time when Man was in Nature’s chains, so not surprisingly he wanted that situation reversed. Now Man is much less shackled by Nature, and all in all I would consider the situation an improvement.

    At least we agree about the Post-Modern.

    As we haven’t had the difference between accidental and essential, as far as I can see using a search in the previous posts, there’s no way for me to critique the infinite causal chain argument then.

  100. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

    What’s wrong with having Science provide working answers next to providing a deeper understanding?

    We could ask the city fathers of Hiroshima. Otherwise, little matter as long as the tinkerer tinkers well.

    Now Man is much less shackled by Nature, and all in all I would consider the situation an improvement.

    But you may also perceive the origin of the feminist and environmentalist critique of science. One interesting question is how much of the improvement is due to engineering and how much to science. For much of the time, improvements were discovered by tinkerers and engineers, and science played catch-up trying to explain how the new invention worked. In some notable cases, prior science was convinced the proposed invention could not work… until it did.

    As we haven’t had the difference between accidental and essential…

    I thought this had been covered. It’s essential (LOL).

  101. Sander van der Wal

    July 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Count the dead, and count the living.

    The Romans could built but they did not know why it worked until Newton. Solid State Electronics is Quantum Mechanics. Engineers finding stuff that wasn’t predicted by then-current theories were falsifying those theories. That is Science. At its best. Which is that it is logically possible to prove that a theory is wrong.

    Apparently (from a very shallow reading of http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-science/#PhiImp) the feminist critique is about how scientists construct theories and why they believe these theories to be true. If the the theories are about people, they could very well have a lot of points. Good theories about people are hard.

  102. @dover_beach
    So you’re going to continue conflating creation ex nihilo with change as well as conflating God with god even though as it is understood by Aquinas, the former is distinct and secondary causation is the realm of physics, while the latter excludes ‘god’ given the implications of the argument itself. But, of course, this requires oneself to consider the argument on its merits and to patiently but attentively follow it wherever it may lead.

    So we agree that physics, like mathematics, is timeless, and therefore creation-ex-nihilo was never an event in the Genesis sense, as there was never a “beginning”. “When was pi created?” is as futile to ask as “when was the universe created?”. (OK our visible part of the universe started 14 billion years ago, but that is as meaningless as hurricane Arthur started on July 1st 2014)

    So you may coin the “Creator of mathematics and physics” = “god” like Aquinas does, but this “creation” does not have a beginning. “god” was therefore “created” together with mathematics and may therefore be omitted from the equation altogether, as it doesn’t add anything useful.

    The God of Israel is a fictional character like Zeus.

  103. Hans, what bothers me about your comments is that you make various assertions, but you don’t back them up with any sort of philosophical or other reasoning… I should add, that I disagree entirely with your comments about creatio ex nihilo, physics and mathematics. I’ll have a new post on my blog shortly, “Creatio ex nihilo: theology vs. physics” to support that opinion.

  104. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 10, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    So we agree that physics, like mathematics, is timeless,

    Math is; physics is not. The interior angles of a Euclidean triangle sum to 180 deg. regardless whether any physical triangles have ever existed; but physics is the study of the metric properties of physical matter and so cannot exist without matter.

    and therefore creation-ex-nihilo was never an event in the Genesis sense

    Uncertain what this means. Aquinas does not appeal to Genesis; nor does Aristotelian philosophy deal with “events.”

    there was never a “beginning”.

    Except for the Big Bang. Both space and time originated in that, per the current standard model. But then, Aquinas assumed sec. arg. that the universe was eternal when he made his arguments. So whether there was a beginning in time as science now seems to indicate is irrelevant to his proof. “First” does not mean “first in time” but rather “primary in motive power, right now.

    our visible part of the universe started 14 billion years ago

    So you believe in invisible entities up in the sky?

    So you may coin the “Creator of mathematics and physics” = “god” like Aquinas does

    Where does he say this? (Also, lower case g is grammatically incorrect, a sophomoric gimmick.)

    but this “creation” does not have a beginning.

    So what? See here for details: http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/ocm.html

    “god” was therefore “created” together with mathematics and may therefore be omitted from the equation altogether

    “Therefore” is inappropriate, as this conclusion does not follow logically from the preceding “premises.”
    Also, what “equation”?

  105. Sander van der Wal

    July 11, 2014 at 12:52 am

    The invisibility is accidental. If we would be closer we could see that part. And not see some of the parts we see now, because those parts would be too far away.

  106. YOS, Bob,

    We are going round in circles. I notice the need for a god of the gaps to explain the big bang. You can’t have it both ways. If the big bang was a special event of creation ex nihilo then you are invoking a god of the gaps for a less inderstood physical event, you don’t use god either in a direct way to explain lightning events.

    I consider the big bang as just an event in the multiverse. Our universe is just another (albeit huge) black hole, because light cannot excape from it. The multiverse is eternal.

    About grammar: in dutch “God” is the name of the christian god, and (a) god is the general descriptive term for a powerful supernatural being, e.g.: “Zeus and God are gods”.

    If there is no beginning event, then there is no need for a creator.
    If there is a beginning event, then that doesn’t prove a creator, it just proves that the physics is incomplete.( viz. earthquakes, lightning and hurricanes)

    So you believe in invisible entities up in the sky?
    Yes, they are called black holes.

    physics is the study of the metric properties of physical matter and so cannot exist without matter.
    That’s an academic statement: likewise chemistry cannot exist without atoms. biology cannot exist without life, and ethics cannot exist without groups. Physics, chemistry, biology and ethics evolved.

    but you don’t back them up with any sort of philosophical or other reasoning
    Sincere apologies, I never had philosophical training, my other reasoning is very clear: I fundamentally don’t see the need to invoke a god for issues we cannot comprehend yet, because that is the god-of-the-gaps, who has always been a hurdle for scientific progress.

  107. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 11, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I notice the need for a god of the gaps to explain the big bang.

    Funny. I don’t.

    If the big bang was a special event of creation ex nihilo

    It isn’t. Fr. Lemaître, who initially developed the “big bang” solution to the field equations, pointed that out at the time.

    Our universe is just another (albeit huge) black hole, because light cannot excape from it. The multiverse is eternal.

    You are entitled to your religious beliefs, but if Aquinas thought to propose logical reasons for his, perhaps you can provide logical reasons for yours.

    in dutch “God” is the name of the christian god, and (a) god is the general descriptive term for a powerful supernatural being, e.g.: “Zeus and God are gods”.

    Has the Dutch language degenerated so far? The name of the Christian (and Jewish) God is “I AM.” “God” is not a name. Theologically, he is not “a powerful supernatural being,” although children, atheists, and others seem to find it a useful image. Rather, he just is being itself.

    If there is no beginning event, then there is no need for a creator.

    Why not? (cf. http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/ocm.html)

    I fundamentally don’t see the need to invoke a god for issues we cannot comprehend yet, because that is the god-of-the-gaps, who has always been a hurdle for scientific progress.

    Right. That’s why medieval Catholic theologians and natural philosophers rejected it and why science did not emerge in pagan antiquity. The pagans really did believe gods were responsible for natural phenomena.

  108. Sander van der Wal

    July 12, 2014 at 1:39 am

    @YOS

    Children believe what they are being taught to believe, and so do most adults. In Dutch Calvinism, God is portrayed as Our Father, Who is in Heaven. Clearly a person.

    Anyway, two philosophically very different religions, both calling themselves. Christianity.

  109. YOS,

    In De aeternitate mundi Aquinas sets God as axiom. Of course God is then the source of everything.

    But, for the same token one can define an eternal godless entity called “universe”.

    Eternal entities do not need causes, they simply exist.

  110. Here is something I thought of when taking the garbage out;

    All sets have rules:
    mass has physics, atoms have chemistry, life has biology, groups have ethics.

    Are these rules eternal, timeless and absolute or have they co-evolved with the set? I think the latter.

  111. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 12, 2014 at 11:28 am

    In De aeternitate mundi Aquinas sets God as axiom. Of course God is then the source of everything.

    Try again, this time after reading the essay.

    But, for the same token one can define an eternal godless entity called “universe”.

    But the universe is not an entity at all. It is a collection of entities, and a mereological sum of things is not itself a thing, otherwise we would consider the MoonHans (={Hans Erren+ the Moon} to be one thing rather than two. The universe being “the set of everything that exists” would be in the unhappy state of having to contain itself.

    Eternal entities do not need causes, they simply exist.

    “IT JUST IS!” is not a philosophically superior argument to “GODDIDIT!” If I were to ask you “Why do you keep a hammer in the freezer?” it would be no answer to say, “We have always kept the hammer in the freezer.”
    Your comment indicates that you did not read “On the eternity of the world,” because you would have encountered the eternal foot.

  112. The funniest thing about readings Hans Erren’s responses is his incapacity to actually engage the argument of the respondent even one as clear and patient as YOS.

    So we agree that physics, like mathematics, is timeless, and therefore creation-ex-nihilo was never an event in the Genesis sense, as there was never a “beginning”.

    Firstly, how does this follow from my saying: So you’re going to continue conflating creation ex nihilo with change as well as conflating God with god even though as it is understood by Aquinas, the former is distinct and secondary causation is the realm of physics, while the latter excludes ‘god’ given the implications of the argument itself.
    It doesn’t.

    Secondly, as YOS says, physics – the laws of nature – actually requires physical things to exist that have a limited range of dispositions. The laws themselves are nothing but descriptions of these dispositions. No nature/universe, no laws of nature.

    So far as your continual assertion that the God of classical theism is a god-of-the-gaps goes, this fails to recognize that God is not being posited by the classical theist as an explanation of secondary causes, like lightening, so the analogy you continue to make misses the mark and commits an ignoratio elenchi.

    Eternal entities do not need causes, they simply exist.

    And Aquinas agrees. As YOS says above: But then, Aquinas assumed sec. arg. that the universe was eternal when he made his arguments. So whether there was a beginning in time as science now seems to indicate is irrelevant to his proof. “First” does not mean “first in time” but rather “primary in motive power, right now.”
    What is it about this statement that you find perplexing?

    The problem here, as others have noted, is that when formal and final causes were rejected and replaced by laws of nature, the latter depended upon the notion that the motive power of these laws derived from God. The laws of nature, as it were, commanded nature now understood as itself without any limited range of dispositions other than those actively willed by God (occasionalism). Now, however, they have rejected the motive force to the laws of nature, and yet they are still used as if they have the power of conjuring energy and matter literally out of nothing. Magic indeed.

  113. Ye Olde Statisician

    July 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    YOS can hardly wait for Dr. Briggs to get to Summa contra gentiles II.52.5, though at the present rate it may be a while. This is the part where Aquinas says:

    “To be caused by another does not appertain to a being inasmuch as it is being; otherwise, every being would be caused by another, so that we should have to proceed to infinity in causes — an impossibility…”

    IOW, he specifically denies that “every thing has a cause,” so the objection might not have the stopping power that some here suppose.

  114. Sander van der Wal

    July 13, 2014 at 5:37 am

    @dover_beach
    The Laws of Nature are outdated too, AFAIU. It’s now theories, not laws.

    Something else. Are the attributes of quantum particles accidental or essential? I would say essential. An electron must have a spin of 1/2. If it doesn’t have it, it is not an electron.

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