The Tractatus

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tractātus (noun);

  1. touchinghandlingworking
  2. managementtreatment
  3. treatisetract
  4. sermonhomily

The purpose of this work is to create a unified philosophical system to equip professional philosophers and theologians with the tools needed to refute many of the deeply influential errors that define the intellectual climate of our time. These errors affect the thinking of atheists and those critical of Christian claims, but many errors are endemic to the vast majority of Christian apologetics efforts, and these mistakes give rise to a justifiable skepticism of Christian thought by the culture at large.

We intend that the premises used in developing this reasoning will be shared by the vast majority of philosophers whether they are atheists or devout Catholics. Principles such as logical truth, scientific method, and non-controversially valid modes of inference will be the sole basis for argumentation. Few epistemological commitments beyond these essential givens are required.

In view of its immediate interest to our readers, the developing content will be posted here as it is being written regardless of whether it is visibly incomplete, conceptually imperfect, in need of editing, or not fully understandable. The work will be under a continual process of ongoing refinement, especially in response to the questions and criticisms submitted by others. Those interested in submitting a response may do so through the “email us” link at the bottom of any page on this site.

The dialectic method evinced in St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica with be the chosen format because of its elegance and utility.

We hope this work will be of assistance to anyone seeking truth.

 

 

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THE TRACTATUS

(copyright 2012-2013, NewApologetics.com)

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PART I: REASONING CONCERNING METAPHILOSOPHY, THE FAILURE OF ARGUMENTS FROM EVIL, THE LOGICAL NECESSITY OF GOD, AND THE NATURE OF TRUE THEODICY

 

 

Part I, Article 1: WHETHER THE QUESTION OF GOD’S EXISTENCE IS TO BE DECIDED ACCORDING TO ORDINARY RULES OF EVIDENCE

Objection 1. It seems that ordinary rules of evidence need, of necessity, be applied to the question of whether or not God exists. For, if evidentiary considerations are to be ignored, then persons of honest inquiry have no means to distinguish truth from falsehood in this most important of all questions.

Objection 2. Further, rules of evidence are established in man’s quest for knowledge specifically because of their demonstrated reliability in minimizing unnecessary error. It follows that if no superior methodology is available, then the most reliable known methodology should prevail.

Objection 3. Further, reason demands that extraordinary claims (such as those of the religious believer), require extraordinary evidence. Therefore, not only does the question of God’s existence require deference to the rules of evidence, but it does so in a way that must be supported well beyond the evidence sought for ordinary claims.

On the contrary, It has long been established without controversy among logicians (regardless of their theistic or atheist persuasions) and well-informed philosophers that modal logic shows that the answer to the question of God’s existence is determined prior to evidentiary considerations.

I answer that, Within the system of S5 modal logic it is provable that (because of God’s purported modal status as a necessary being), that “If it is logically possible that God exists, then it is logically necessary that God exists.” The proof is as follows:

“q” = There is a perfect being, “N” = It is logically necessary that, “~” = It is not the case that, “v” = or, and “p -> q” = p strictly implies q:

(1) q -> Nq (Anselm’s principle)
(2) Nq v ~Nq (excluded middle)
(3) ~Nq -> N~Nq (Becker’s postulate)
(4) Nq v N~Nq (from 2 and 3)
(5) N~Nq -> N~q (from 1)
(6) Nq v N~q (from 4 and 5)
(7) ~N~q (intuitive postulate)
(8) Nq (from 6 and 7)
(9) Nq -> q (modal axiom)
(10) q (from 8 and 9)

As a consequence of this, the question of the existence of God is settled entirely at the level of whether or not logical possibility (or the mere admission of the coherence of the concept of God) is granted. Because all considerations of evidence presuppose the logical possibility of what is being investigated, and cannot demonstrate it, it then follows that the question of God’s existence is determined epistemically prior to any rules of evidence being applied to the matter.

Response to Objection 1. It is not the case that rules of evidence are ignored with regard to the question of God, but that they are superseded by the more epistemically basic laws of logic itself. Because well established logical truths are known to entail the proposition “God necessarily exists” once the logical possibility of that proposition is granted, no evidence can possibly provide a surer basis for the conclusion.

Response to Objection 2. It is well known among logicians, mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists that the truths of logic and math are more reliable and rationally basic than the rules of evidence which presuppose these most fundamental necessary truths.

Response to Objection 3. The modal ontological proof in S5 shows definitively that once the logical possibility of God is granted, then the actuality of God is a logically necessary conclusion. This conclusion follows inescapably much as 2+2=4, regardless of how extraordinary, improbable, or repugnant one considers it to be.

 

Part I, Article 1.1: WHETHER SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE CAN POSSIBLY PROVIDE EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Objection 1. It seems that scientific knowledge can provide evidence for the existence of God. The fruit of scientific apologetics is clear; many have come to believe specifically because of developments in scientific knowledge having theistic implications.

Objection 2. Further, science is a reliable means of acquiring knowledge about the world which God has made. If science, in giving us knowledge of the world, were not also capable of providing evidence for the existence of God, then St. Paul would be in error when he teaches: “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made” (Rom. 1:20)

Objection 3. Further, all truth is integral in that it forms a non-contradictory unity. The activity of science in pursuit of truth ought not be artificially excluded from questions of ultimate origin and purpose in favor of philosophical speculation on these important matters.

On the contrary, The Church teaches that, “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC, 154)

I answer that, It can be demonstrated through the following two arguments that scientific knowledge cannot possibly provide evidence for the existence of God:

The Argument from Falsifiability contra Scientific Apologetics:

1) If there can be scientific evidence for the existence of God, then there must also be a possible observation which could count as scientific evidence against the existence of God. [All scientific knowledge must be testable in principle and admit some criterion of falsifiability.]

2) There is no possible observation which could count as scientific evidence against the existence of God. [God’s existence is compatible with every possibly observable state of affairs. This follows from the fact that if God exists, then God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, and no fact within the universe can be incompatible with the existence of God.]

3) It is not the case that there can be scientific evidence for the existence of God. (from 1 and 2 modus tollens)

The Argument from the S5 Proof contra Scientific Apologetics

1) If there can be scientific evidence for the existence of God, then the existence and non-existence of God are both logically possible. [If it were not so, then God’s existence would be either logically necessary or logically impossible (both of which are outside the purview of possible confirmation or falsifiability through evidentiary means).]

2) It is not the case that the existence and non-existence of God are both logically possible. [The S5 proof (from Article 1) demonstrates that God’s existence and non-existence are not both logically possible. If God’s existence is logically possible, then God’s non-existence is not logically possible and vice versa.]

3) It is not the case that there can be scientific evidence for the existence of God. (from 1 and 2 modus tollens)

Response to Objection 1.  Necessarily, in view of the arguments given above, no use of the scientific method can support theism as a conclusion. Therefore, it is not the case that those who have come to believe through the work of scientific apologetics have done so as a result of strict evidentiary concerns.

Response to Objection 2. St. Paul’s teaching in this area is not referring to the use of scientific method for arriving at a conclusion of theism. Rather, St. Paul is speaking of an intuitive perception at a level of the soul that is not governed by those rules of evidence characterizing the scientific method.

Response to Objection 3.
Reasoning as such is broader than scientific method and its applications. If it can be proven independently of empirical evidence that scientific method is inapplicable to the question of God, then that conclusion is the one that must be adopted.
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Part I, Article 2: WHETHER ARGUMENTS FROM EVIL IN ANY FORM CAN BE USED AS EVIDENCE AGAINST THE EXISTENCE OF THE GOD OF CHRISTIAN THEISM

Objection 1, It seems that arguments from evil can be used to conclusively disprove the existence of the God of Christian theism. It is known with certainty that no logically impossible situation can actually obtain. We also know that the existence of a God who is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing is logically incompatible with the existence of evil of any kind. Consider the words of David Hume:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

Because we do know that there is evil, we can conclude with certainty that there is no God.

Objection 2, Further, even if it were granted that the existence of God is logically compatible with certain kinds of evil (viz., those evils which can be used to develop stoic virtue), it is not the case that the existence of God is compatible with the number and kinds of evils that actually occur. While some evils may be potentially instructive, there are horrendous evils which have no possible instructive purpose and cannot be reconciled with the existence of an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God.

Objection 3, Further, assuming broadly that it were logically possible for God and evil (in all of its possible forms) to coexist without direct logical contradiction, it remains the case that very strong inductive arguments against the existence of God can be formulated. Consider that if there were an orphanage which was daily pillaged by marauders, it would be unreasonable to conclude that there were hundreds of expertly competent guards of goodwill vigilantly seeing to the welfare of the children. The warrant for this conclusion is especially obvious if those unlikely guards cannot be seen or verified by any empirical method. Though it is (trivially) logically possible that such guards are on duty, a reasonable person would conclude (through inductive inference of the strongest kind) that security measures at the orphanage are probably inadequate. Similarly, because of the evil in the world, reasonable people must conclude that it is unlikely that there is an omnipotent, omniscient God who loves humanity and seeks to defend us from evil.

On the contrary,  Reason alone can demonstrate with certainty that arguments from evil (regardless of their form) cannot be used as evidence against the existence of the God of Christian theism.

I answer that, The demonstration must be made in two parts. The first part refutes all deductive arguments from evil in principle, and the second refutes all inductive arguments from evil in principle. Given that all reasoning must proceed from either a deductive or inductive basis for inference, it is thus shown that no argument from evil can be successful. The two parts now follow:

Part 1: The Limited Knowledge Defense (LKD) in Refutation of all Deductive Arguments from Evil:

1) If some deductive argument from evil is sound, then there is a logical incompatibility between the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence and the existence of some evil state of affairs.

2) It is not the case that there is a logical incompatibility between the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence and the existence of any evil state of affairs. [Limits of human knowledge must be admitted in that there logically possibly could be a morally exonerating reason for God’s non-prevention of even horrendous evils even if we do not know what that reason is, and this is true even if we have no viable hypothesis as to what it could possibly be. In order to prove this premise, one simply has to recognize that it is coherent to suppose that there could be limits to human knowledge on this topic. Provided there is possibly an unknown morally exonerating reason for God’s non-prevention of evil, there is no logical contradiction between the divine attributes and the existence of evil of any form.]

3) It is not the case that any deductive argument from evil is sound. [From 1 and 2 modus tollens]

Part 2: The Expectations Defense (ED) in Refutation of all Inductive Arguments from Evil:

1) If some form of an inductive argument from evil can provide evidence against the existence of the God of Christian theism, then one should not expect evil (of whatever form referenced by the particular argument in question) to exist if the God of Christian theism exists. [This expectation of the improbability of the coexistence of the God of Christian theism with a given kind of evil is the only possible basis for any inductive judgment that the reality of a particular type of evil makes the existence of the Christian God improbable.]

2) One should expect there to be evils (of every kind to be potentially referenced by any inductive argument from evil) if the God of Christian theism exists. [If it is the case that the God of Christian theism exists, then at least certain aspects of the Bible are generally historically accurate. In these parts of the Bible, there are evils of all types corresponding to a realistic description of the human condition concerning the experience of moral evil,  suffering, and death. Furthermore the existence of these evils is explicitly guaranteed up until the return of Christ at the end of the world.]

3) No inductive argument from evil can provide evidence against the existence of the God of Christian theism. [from 1 and 2 modus tollens]

Response to Objection 1. LKD shows that this argument is invalid. If it is logically possible that there is a morally exonerating reason for a good God to not prevent evil, then there is simply no logical incompatibility between the divine attributes and the existence of evil of any kind.

Response to Objection 2. LKD shows that this argument is invalid.  It is, admittedly, prima facie impossible that there be a purpose in horrendous evils, but this absence of intrinsic purpose says nothing about whether or not there is a possible morally exonerating reason for God’s non-prevention of them.  Horrendous evils need not be permitted because of any “means to an end” purpose to be found in the evils themselves.  Indeed, there may be deep implications concerning the morality of divine intervention in the world which have not been explored in known theological discourse. Recognition of the limits of human knowledge is enough to establish the logical possibility that there is a morally exonerating reason for God’s non-prevention of even horrendous evils despite their prima facie uselessness for any hypothetical purpose.

Response to Objection 3. ED shows that arguments of this type fail definitively because we should expect there to be evils of all humanly experienced types until the end of the world if the God of Christian theism exists. Given that we should expect these evils  if God exists, they cannot be used as evidence to show that the existence of God is improbable.

 

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Part I, Article 3: WHETHER THERE EXISTS A LOGICALLY NECESSARY GUARANTOR OF PERFECT JUSTICE

Objection 1. It seems that the existence of a guarantor of perfect justice is impossible. If such a being were to exist, then there would be no reasonable and informed persons in despair of there being perfect justice because it would be unjust that their situation proceed as it is without intervention. But there are many reasonable and informed people who are in despair of perfect justice. Therefore, a guarantor of perfect justice cannot exist.

Objection 2.
Further, perfect justice is a concept that is at least partially subjective. What seems perfectly just to one person may not be so according to the evaluative standard of another. Hence, a guarantor of perfect justice cannot exist because there is no objective meaning to the term “perfect justice.”

Objection 3. Further, if there were a guarantor of perfect justice, then no unjust situations would obtain. However, there are many situations which are, in the assessment of all reasonable people, entirely unjust. Since these situations do obtain, it follows that a guarantor of perfect justice cannot exist.

Objection 4. Further, it can easily be shown that it is logically impossible for any being (regardless of its power) to make just any situation that was once unjust. Consider that it is necessarily true that no perfectly just situation can come from a standpoint of “what ought not to have been” because the purportedly “just” end situation is degraded by the diminishment of its unjust prior state. It therefore follows that it is logically impossible for any being to cause an unjust situation to be perfectly just again regardless of the power brought to bear upon that situation. This logical impossibility, combined with the fact that there are many unjust situations, allows us to conclude that no guarantor of perfect justice can exist.

On the contrary, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Julian of Norwich, states: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith… and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that “all manner [of] thing shall be well.” (CCC, paragraph 313)

I answer that, The existence of a logically necessary guarantor of perfect justice can be demonstrated by means of the following modal ontological argument:

The Modal Ontological Argument from Divine Justice

Definition 1: A given situation is unjust iff it can possibly be considered to be lacking some due good by some coherent evaluative standard.

Definition 2: A given property is “situationally necessary” iff it is exemplified in every possible situation. [Some examples of situationally necessary properties are “being self- consistent”, “not being self-contradictory”, “being a situation”, “being something”, “being such that 2+2=4”, and so on.]

Axiom 1: If a given property “a” is not compatible with some other property “b”, then it is compatible with its complement, “non-b.” [Let “a” equal any property and let “b” equal any other property. For any property “a”, necessarily one of the following is true:
1) Property “a” is compatible with either property “b” or its complement, “non-b.”
2) Property “a” is compatible with both property “b” and its complement, “non-b.”
For example, “being blue” (a) is compatible with “being colored” (b), but is not compatible with “not being colored” (non-b). Further, “being blue” (a) is compatible with “being a crayon” (b) and “not being a crayon” (non-b).  However, it is not possible that the property “being blue” is compatible with neither property “b” nor its complement, “non-b” regardless of what those properties are.]

Axiom 2: The property of “being situationally necessary” is not compatible with the property “being unjust.” [For any instance of injustice, there is a logically possible situation in which a just state of affairs replaces the unjust one. For example, if a guilty man is unjustly acquitted, there is a logically possible situation in which he is found guilty. If an innocent man is unjustly condemned, there is a logically possible situation in which he is never accused. A given situation is unjust only in contrast to a logically possible just version of that situation.]

Axiom 3:  If an intrinsic property is compatible with the property of “being situationally necessary”, then that property is situationally necessary. [The conclusion that “If it is possible that x is necessary, then x is necessary” is an established theorem of S5 modal logic. By the same logic, we know that if it is possible that a given property is exemplified in every possible situation, then it is necessary that that property is exemplified in every possible situation. In other words, if it is possible that a given intrinsic property is situationally necessary, then it is situationally necessary.]

The Argument:

  1. If the property of “being situationally necessary” is not compatible with another given property, then it is compatible with the complement of that property. [from Axiom 1]
  2. The property of “being situationally necessary” is not compatible with the property “being unjust.” [Axiom 2]
  3. The property of “being situationally necessary” is compatible with “not being unjust”. [from Axiom 1 and premise 2, modus ponens]
  4. If the property of “being situationally necessary” is compatible with “not being unjust”, then the property of “not being unjust” is situationally necessary. [from Axiom 3 and premise 3]
  5. The property of “not being unjust” is situationally necessary. [from 3 and 4 modus ponens]
  6. Since “not being unjust” is situationally necessary, either there is no sense to the concept of “injustice”, or there is an infallible justice-making power which is also situationally necessary. The action of this power “redeems” and transforms unjust situations reconciling them to perfect justice. Such a reconciliation would have to be metaphysically coextensive with the commission of the injustice itself such that every situation is transubstantiated to be exactly the right thing at the right time, otherwise “not being unjust” could not be situationally necessary.
  7. It is not the case that there is no sense to the concept of injustice.
  8. There is a situationally necessary justice-making power. [from 6 and 7 modus tollendo ponens]

Response to Objection 1. Provided that it is logically possible for there to be an unknown morally exonerating reason why it cannot be inescapably shown (beyond the possibility of doubt) to suffering people that there is a guarantor of perfect justice, then this objection does not hold. It is logically possible that there is an unknown morally exonerating reason for such a lack of direct incontrovertible intervention. Therefore, Objection 1 does not hold. It need not be that the unknown reason remains unknown nor that it be intrinsically unknowable. However, the mere logical possibility of positing the existence of such an unknown reason is enough to refute objection 1. [Note: The presently unknown reason will be discussed in a separate article specifically dedicated to its explication.]

Response to Objection 2.
The fact of there being some subjectivity to perceptions of justice does not in any way exclude the possibility of there being an objectively perfectly just situation which meets or superabundantly exceeds all of these subjective evaluative variations. It may be the case that many standards of evaluation are themselves conditioned by injustice and in need of remediation. The mere logical possibility that this is so is enough to refute Objection 2.

Response to Objection 3. This objection fails because it is logically possible that there is a morally exonerating reason why a guarantor of perfect justice does not prevent unjust situations from happening, but rather somehow “redeems” them by making them consistent with perfect justice. As with Objection 1, it need not be that the morally exonerating reason remains unknown nor must it be intrinsically unknowable. However, the logical possibility of positing the existence of such an unknown reason is enough to refute objection 3. [Note: The presently unknown reason for “redeeming” rather than preventing injustices will be discussed in a separate article specifically dedicated to its explication.]

Response to Objection 4. This objection is legitimate only if there is some point in time at which a situation is unjust, and then at a later time it is rendered just. However, it is logically possible that the reconciliation of an unjust situation to perfect justice is not a temporal transition, but an atemporal transformation which is metaphysically coextensive with every point in space and time. On such a model, there would never be a time in which a bad situation was not reconciled to perfect justice, but it would be true that through the redemptive action of the guarantor of perfect justice, “the facts ought to be the case” at all times regardless of their appearance. As Julian of Norwich says: “And therefore when the judgment is given, and we are all brought up above, we shall then clearly see in God the mysteries which are now hidden from us. And then shall none of us be moved to say in any manner: Lord, if it had been so, it would have been well. But we shall all say with one voice: Lord, blessed may you be, because it is so, it is well; and now we see truly that everything is done as it was ordained by you before anything was made.”

 

Part I, Article 3.1: WHETHER THE MODAL ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FROM DIVINE JUSTICE DEPENDS ON UNSTATED PREMISES CONCERNING THERE BEING OBJECTIVE STANDARDS OF JUSTICE

Objection 1. It seems that the Modal Ontological Argument from Divine Justice (hereafter abbreviated MOADJ) depends on unstated premises concerning the objectivity of our standards of justice. If it were not so, then premise 7 of the argument, “It is not the case that there is no sense to the concept of injustice” could not be affirmed. There being some sense to the concept of injustice presupposes that some things are really right and others are really wrong. Consequently, there is the assumption of objectivity as an unstated premise of the argument.

Objection 2.
Further, if there were not an unstated assumption of the objectivity of justice, the argument’s conclusion, “There is a situationally necessary justice-making power” would be bereft of meaning. If there is no such thing as objective justice or injustice, it is meaningless to conclude to the existence of a “justice-making power” because such a power may as well be an injustice-making power.

Objection 3. Further, whatever is within the purview of subjective value is, in some measure, afflicted by the consequences of original sin. As the Catechism states, “By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails ‘captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 407) As a consequence, all true justice must be other than the justice man supposes to be true, for man is (in some measure) inclined to evil.

Objection 4, Further, if the argument does not rely on the presumption of objective standards of justice, then it is demonstrably unsound. Even apart from the task of identifying a false premise or invalid inference in the argument, one can know that it is unsound because merely subjective standards of justice are incompatible between one evaluator and another. Consequently, we know that there cannot be a logically necessary guarantor of perfect subjective justice because such standards of justice are incompatible, one to another. If there is some guarantor of justice, then it is for objective justice only, and therefore the argument (if sound) presupposes such objective standards.

On the contrary, “Only the beauty of God can attract. God’s way is through enticement which attracts us.” (Pope Francis, Apostolic Journey to Rio de Janeiro, on the occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day)

I answer that, Definition 1 of MOADJ reads as follows: “A given situation is unjust iff it can possibly be considered to be lacking some due good by some coherent evaluative standard.” Thus, the argument is committed to using subjective justice as its standard, and the conclusion of the argument is that there is a logically necessary guarantor of perfect subjective justice by every coherent evaluative standard.

Response to Objection 1. This objection presupposes that subjective and objective justice cannot possibly converge when pushed to their ultimate implications. It is therefore unsubstantiated.

Response to Objection 2. This objection assumes that universal subjective justice and objective justice cannot possibly converge when pushed to their ultimate implications. It is therefore unsubstantiated.

Response to Objection 3. The consequences of original sin do not in any way entail that the human will is attracted by evil in itself, but only that the human person is willing to tolerate evil while pursuing some good:  “The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it” (Catechism of the Catholic Chuch, 1765)

Response to Objection 4. This objection presupposes that subjective and objective justice cannot possibly converge when pushed to their ultimate implications. It is therefore unsubstantiated.


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PART II: REASONING ON THE EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD FROM METAPHYSICAL TRUTH AND FROM OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING THE HUMAN PERSON


Part II, 
Article 1: WHETHER IT CAN BE KNOWN WHY THERE IS SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING

Objection 1. It seems that it cannot be known why there is something rather than nothing. Supposing it could be known, such knowledge would only be possible on the condition that the knower comprehended all of reality so as to have insight into being at its most fundamental level. Because such knowledge is inaccessible to finite minds, it follows that the question of why there is something rather than nothing cannot be answered.

Objection 2. Further, knowledge of causes cannot proceed past being itself. Therefore, an attempt to answer to the question of the cause of there being something rather than nothing is not a coherently conceived investigation.

Objection 3. Further, whatever can be considered an answer to this question is not, itself, immune from the question. It can always be asked “Why this rather than something else?”

On the contrary, The Church teaches: “Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 286)

I answer that, An analysis of  the possible answers to the question of why there is something rather than nothing illumines that there is only one reasonable answer to the question. The following argument serves to demonstrate this:

1) The correct explanation of why there is anything at all is either in terms of being or non-being.

2) It is not the case that the correct explanation of why there is anything at all is in terms of non-being.

3) Therefore, the correct explanation of why there is anything at all is in terms of being. [From 1 and 2, modus tollendo ponens]

4) If the explanation of why there is something rather than nothing is in terms of being, then it is either in terms of some being or set of beings which ultimately depends on something else, or it is in terms of some metaphysically ultimate reality which exists a se, that is without dependency on any other concrete object or set of objects.

5) It is not the case that the correct explanation is in terms of some being or set of beings which ultimately depends on something else.

6) The correct explanation is in terms of some metaphysically ultimate reality which exists a se, that is without dependency on any other concrete object or set of objects. [From 4 and 5, modus tollendo ponens]

Reply to Objection 1. It is not the case that the knowledge that there is some ultimate reality existing a se requires a full comprehension of reality. Rather, the answer is attained through a process of elimination by which impossible answers are excluded. We arrive at the explanation of why there is something rather than nothing by excluding explanations in terms of non-being and metaphysically dependent beings. Therefore, we are left with the conclusion that there exists something a se.

Reply to Objection 2. This objection presumes that the answer must be in terms of some external cause for the existence of any given being, but this is not reasonable because it illegitimately excludes the possibility that something may exist a se.

Reply to Objection 3. The nature of whatever exists a se is such that its essence and existence are identical. In other words, there is no distinction between the “what” of its existence and the fact that it does indeed exist. The question of why this being exists with aseity rather than some other is not a coherent question as the “other” (in order to be other) must have an essence mixed with contingent or conditional properties which are inherently incompatible with existing a se.

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Part IIARTICLE 1.1: WHETHER THAT WHICH EXISTS A SE IS SIMPLE OR COMPLEX

Objection 1. It seems that that which exists a se is complex. Supposing it to be simple, (viz., without parts), it follows that it could not give rise to the vast complexities observable in reality. For whatever is truly simple, by the fact of having no parts, can neither be altered nor can it change within itself to produce the variegated array of contingent things which we perceive to be real.

Objection 2. Further, if that which exists a se is entirely simple, then it cannot be the ultimate substratum of spatiotemporal things. Consider that if something has spatial dimension, then it is divisible into parts and is both metaphysically dependent on those parts and dependent on the existence of space-time. Therefore, if that which exists a se is entirely simple, it cannot have spatial dimension. But if it has no spatial dimension, then it cannot be the ultimate ground of spatiotemporal things because it cannot contribute to the composition of those things being of zero spatial dimension itself.

On the contrary, The Church teaches that God is perfectly simple:

“We firmly believe and openly confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immense, omnipotent, unchangeable, incomprehensible, and ineffable, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons indeed but one essense, substance, or nature absolutely simple …”  (Fourth Council of the Lateran, 1215)

“[God] is one, singular, completely simple …”  (Vatican I, chapter 1, § 2, 1870)

“Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity.” (CCC, 43)

I answer that, The simplicity of that which exists a se can be demonstrated by means of the following argument:

1) That which exists a se  is either complex or it is non-complex. [For the purpose of this argument, something is defined to be complex if and only if it has parts.]

2) It is not the case that whatever exists a se is complex. [Whatever is complex always depends on simpler parts for its being. For example, in the case of a complex entity like a chair, it is dependent on the existence of simpler things, such as individual molecules. These complex molecules are, in turn, dependent on simpler things, such as atoms, which are similarly dependent on subatomic particles. Consequently, it is absurd to say that a chair exists a se. Being complex, it necessarily depends on more basic components for its being.]

3) Whatever exists a se is non-complex. [From 1 and 2, modus tollendo ponens]

Reply to Objection 1. This objection presupposes that the only way for something with aseity to give rise to dependent beings is for it to change in its own nature. This is simply an incorrect assumption which will be further explored in Article 5.2

Reply to Objection 2. This objection presupposes that the only way for something with aseity to engender spatiotemporal beings is for it to compose them substantially. This is another incorrect assumption which will be further explored in Article 5.2

 


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