The Instigator
ErickCBass
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Nur-Ab-Sal
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points

Should We Believe in God?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Nur-Ab-Sal
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/23/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,381 times Debate No: 35915
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (3)

 

ErickCBass

Con

Since there's no evidence in God, we shouldn't believe in him.
Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

Should we believe anything? This in itself asks for a reason to believe that we should believe, and as such presupposes the "ought" in holding to that which we can prove by reason. I believe it can be shown through reason that there is indeed a God in the way billions understand Him, and it involves Saint Thomas Aquinas' famous First Way, or the argument from motion.

Aristotelian metaphysics revolves around an elementary concept that regards existence in terms of a distinction. In his influential philosophical work Metaphysics, Book Theta, Aristotle noted that all being is "distinguished in respect of potency and complete reality" (Aristotle \0;1). Here, the Philosopher drew the fundamental distinction between act, the present reality of a thing, and potency, the possibilities which can be reduced to act (Leff 217). For something to change, he said, some potency must be realized within that thing. Aristotle thus deduced what is known as the principle of motion " all potencies must be raised to act by something already in act; in other words, a potency cannot act itself into being, because it does not yet exist in the way act does. The Philosopher summarizes this briefly with, "obviously, then, actuality is prior both to potency and to every principle of change" (Aristotle \0;8). Note that motion here refers to potency and act, rather than exclusively translation through space; instead, this is referred to as local motion.

The argument Saint Thomas uses, then, relies on this idea of the movers (that which is in act) and the moved (that which is reduced from potency to act). Following Aristotle, Saint Thomas observed that the priority of act over potency requirse that everything which is moved must have a mover. In his famous work, the Summa contra Gentiles, Aquinas deduces that since movers cannot proceed to infinity, there must exist a prime Mover which realizes all the being of the Universe, the same conclusion reached by Aristotle when he wrote, "since that which moves and is moved is intermediate, there is something which moves without being moved" (Aristotle \3;7). Thus, the First Way dissolves into two contentious propositions: first, that all which is moved is moved by another, and second, that the priority of movers cannot extend to infinity. If both of these propositions are true, then the conclusion of both Aristotle and Aquinas, that there exists a prime Mover, follows by necessity.

In the Summa contra Gentiles, Aquinas reiterates Aristotle"s proofs for the first proposition in a three-stemmed argument. For the sake of this article I will merely attempt to relay the final proof. Here, Aristotle employs an appeal to contradiction, that "same thing cannot be at once in act and in potency with respect to the same thing" (Aquinas SCG 1.13.9). However, that which is moved is in potency, for to be moved is to be reduced from potency to act; that which moves is in act, for Aristotle and Aquinas have both already observed the priority of act over potency. Hence, the conclusion follows that some thing cannot both be a mover of its own motion; the conclusion follows that all that which is moved is moved by another.

As for the second proposition, that the priority of movers cannot extend to infinity, requries some clarification. Here, Saint Thomas is assuming a hierarchical series (in medieval terminology, an essentially-ordered series) of movers, "seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover" (Aquinas ST 1.2.3). When describing this same argument in his most famous work, the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas appeals to the example of a hand grasping a staff: the staff only moves inasmuch as the hand moves. In this way, the staff, the hand, and then proceeding to the arm, elbow, etc., are essentially-ordered. Contrarily, a series can be accidentally-ordered: consider a gust of wind blowing a leaf to the ground. The wind blows and then reduces the potency of the leaf"s descent to act, an example of motion which does not depend on the constant act of the mover. In fact, Saint Thomas believed this sort of temporal motion could in fact extend to infinity, and that no philosophical arguments could prove otherwise: "by faith alone do we hold, and by no demonstration can it be proved, that the world did not always exist" (Aquinas ST 1.46.2). Thus, Aquinas believed that only by divine Revelation, Genesis 1:1, could we know that the Universe had a beginning in the temporal sense. His argument here, then, assumes a simultaneous series of movers.

Mirroring his proof of the previous proposition, Aquinas affirms that Aristotle proved in three ways we can show movers do not proceed to infinity. I will briefly explain the second way. Recall that an essentially-ordered series mandates that the moved only moves inasmuch as the motion of the mover. So, if the movers do in fact proceed to infinity, then each mover only moves inasmuch as the prior mover to infinity; however, if there is no first mover, then there is no motion to cause the subsequent movers, since the subsequent movers only move inasmuch as the prior mover. Aquinas therefore concludes "none of the others will be able to be moved, and thus nothing in the world will be moved" (Aquinas SCG 1.13.14). This is reminiscent of pre-Socratic Parmenides" conclusion that no change exists, which is obviously contrary to observation: it is "evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion" (Aquinas ST 1.2.3). Unless one escapes to some sort of nihilism concerning change in the world, we must accept that the simultaneity of prior movers cannot be infinite.

There are other considerations and rebuttals that Aquinas refutes in the Summa contra Gentiles, but the general conclusion here is that, as he observes, "we must posit some first mover that is not moved by any exterior moving cause" (Aquinas SCG 1.13.20). But let us now return to the basic metaphysics described above; all that which is moved is in potency with respect to the motion, and all movers are in act with respect to the motion. As the corporeal things around us, including humans, are both moved and movers, they are composites of both act and potency. However, in analyzing a prime mover, unmoved itself, one arrives at the Aristotelian and Scholastic conception of God as Actus Purus, or Pure Act, lacking any subordinating potency (Leff 219).

Various characteristically Judeo-Christian ideas have been attached to this perspective on God. For Aristotle, actuality was perfection and potency imperfection. In Book Delta of his Metaphysics, Aristotle finds that "all contraries are reducible to being and non-being" (Aristotle [6;2). Thus perfection and imperfection, completeness and incompleteness, goodness and badness, and any other "contrary," are merely derivative of the distinction between being and non-being. Therefore, as Pure Act, the Prime Mover must embody complete being, perfection, power, knowledge, and all that which opposes negation, while the lesser degrees, the corresponding non-being, imperfection, impotence, and ignorance, are necessarily absent. As Aristotle elaborates, it is "being eternal, substance, and actuality" (Aristotle \3;7).

The God of the Bible, YHVH, was known to the ancient Hebrews through divine Revelation. Opposingly, the Prime Mover was known to philosophers through reason. When Moses encounters YHVH as a burning bush, he calls to God for His Holy name, so as to identify God for the Hebrews to which he will return. YHVH answers, "I AM that I AM."

Sources

Aristotle. Metaphysics. Trans. W. D. Ross. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1967.

Leff, Gordon. Medieval Thought: St. Augustine to Ockham. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1958.

Aquinas, Saint Thomas. Summa contra Gentiles. Trans. Anton C. Pegis.

Aquinas, Saint Thomas. Summa Theologiae. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province.
Debate Round No. 1
ErickCBass

Con

I am ready to assume the grounds that there must be an initial mover (my effort of oversimplifying) for the sake of debate and for better discussion. Your second to last paragraph is where you mainly make your point to relate the initial mover to Judeo-Christian ideas which is what I'm most interested in and where I think your argument might fall through. Maybe you could elaborate for me the connections you make in that paragraph. At first inspection It seems like you are using circle logic to say that the Prime Mover must embody "complete being, perfection, power, knowledge, and all that which opposes negation" but not any of their corresponding opposites simply because he is the Pure Act so that can't logically happen. I ask for elaboration and more explanation on that second to last paragraph more than anything else.
Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

Thanks to ErickCBass (henceforth "my opponent") for his thought-provoking reply. I must say I really appreciate his readiness to engage the argument at hand where he believes it to be most vulnerable, without attacking a conclusion he sees as perfectly valid. Although a newcomer to the site, I look forward to hearing more of his thoughts.

My opponent thus begins with a critique of my second-to-last-paragraph, wherein I discussed the idea of being as perfection in accordance with the ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas. It seems to my opponent that I am employing circular logic to assign the "being" attributes rather than the "non-being" attributes simply as God is Pure Act. Let us take another look at the idea of perfection within Aristotle"s and Aquinas"s philosophy.

The idea is simply that individual properties " such as goodness, power, knowledge, love, and such " are reducible to being and non-being. Recall that Aristotle says in Book Delta of the Metaphysics that "all contraries are reducible to being and non-being" (Aristotle [6;2). As such, ignorance should not be viewed as an opposing force to knowledge, because ignorance is a privation in knowledge (a lack of it); and, impotence should not be viewed as an opposing force as impotence is a privation in power. In the same way, badness is reducible to the non-being of goodness, since badness is a privation in goodness. So, if we can distinguish between the being and non-being in contraries, it becomes easier to analyze how these properties can be predicated to us or to God.

Recall the distinction the Hellenic philosophers and Scholastics made with regard to act and potency. Act is being, and potency is non-being. This is evident from a comprehension of what the terms mean. Potency is the state of merely being possible, rather than being, while act is the state of being so. Thus, we approach a teleological account of perfection " a state of pure being is pure goodness, and a state of pure being is pure knowledge, etc. So as composites of act and potency, creatures such as my opponent and I (as I assume I am not arguing against God) are composites of both knowledge and ignorance, power and impotence, etc. But as Pure Act, we must predicate being to God, rather than non-being. For if God were ignorant in some way, then God would possess a privation in knowledge, which is contradictory to the idea of Pure Act.

It is also evident that we cannot assign both being and non-being to God, for these are contradictory. The law of non-contradiction is perhaps one of the most fundamental ideas of all of metaphysics, and grounds much of our understanding of reality. As Aristotle says, "It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect" (Aristotle [6;3). To predicate both being and non-being to God is meaningless, as it is saying God is both powerful and impotent in the same respect.

I hope I clarified my opponent"s objections, and I again thank him for engaging my argument.

I'd also like to apologise for the error in formatting in my previous post. The Greek characters do not seem to be recognised by the text editor and as such were badly corrupted. I cited Book Delta of the Metaphysics in both citations in this post.

Sources

Aristotle. Metaphysics. Trans. W. D. Ross. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1967.
Debate Round No. 2
ErickCBass

Con

My opponent states in his last response that God must be Pure Act because of the nature of God as we define him and how my opponent has defined Pure Act. But this is a purely theoretical and philosophical realization more than anything. Of course God must be perfect if he is real, but one has to prove that he is real first for us to believe in him as my opponent so wisely stated that there must be a "reason to believe". My opponent does a good job of explaining how there must be a prime mover that created the universe in his very first response but I also do not necesarily have to prove this wrong to show where his argument falls through.

My opponent takes paragraphs 2-7 of his response in Round 1 to prove that the world must have a prime mover. Let's assume this is true. My opponent takes paragraph 8 of his reponse in Round 1 and all of his response in Round 2 to prove that God must be Pure Act and so therefore perfect. Let's assume this is also true. In that case, my opponent has succesfully proven that the world has a prime mover and that God as we define him is perfect, but my opponent has not devoted any of his time to connecting these two concepts. There is no connection in my opponents case proving that the prime mover is the perfect God that he has described.

Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

I"d once again like to thank ErickCBass for his response to my argument. Unfortunately, I do not believe he understands the logical progression I took from natural reason to God. Let"s take a look at where my opponent"s confusion lies before I respond.

My opponent seems to believe that I have made an arbitrary connection between a being of Pure Act and a perfect God. He believes there is a disjunct between the Prime Mover / Pure Act I proved earlier " which he has (thankfully) conceded " and the God as perfection. In other words, he believes God as a Prime Mover / Pure Act and God as perfection cannot be connected. Thankfully, my opponent has made it clear where he belives the error in my reasoning lies, so as to stimulate further dialogue.

Well, let us first begin with a summary of what I have proven so far. First, I have shown there to be a Prime Mover, which as my opponent has assumed to be true. Second, I have shown that this Prime Mover must be Pure Act, based on the metaphysics which frame the argument in context. Third, I have shown that Pure Act must be perfection, since act is being and being is perfection. As such, I have shown that a being of perfection exists through these three progressions. This is what billions of men understand to be God.

Thus, my opponent"s error lies in his twofold understanding of my case: that first, there must be a Prime Mover of Pure Act, and second, that God is perfection. On the contrary, my argument progresses right through this, since Pure Act is perfection. When I use God prior to the termination of my argument, it is merely as shorthand for "Pure Act," as this is not how many cultures regard a deity. Nowhere have I argued that if God exists, he must be perfection. Rather, my argument is, roughly:

There is a Prime Mover " my opponent concedes that I have spent a great deal of time showing this.

If there is a Prime Mover, then that Prime Mover is Pure Act " this is within my original argument. Recall that movers are in act and the moved is in potency (with respect to the motion). So if there is a Prime Mover, then it is not moved, but is a mover. Hence it is in no way a composite of act and potency, but rather only act. For if it had potency, then there must be a mover to move it as well. As such, a Prime Mover must be Pure Act.

If there is Pure Act, then that Pure Act is perfect " I spent a great deal of time showing this as well, in round 2. Recall that contraries can be reduced to being and non-being; take, for example, power and impotence. Act is being. Hence, to be purely Act is to be purely Being. As such, Pure Act is devoid of impotence, and as such has power to its greatest extent of being.

Lastly, if Pure Act is perfect, then God exists " This is just how billions of men understand God; that is, as perfection.

So my argument progresses directly through the supposed disjunct my opponent finds. I spent round 2 showing that to be purely Act is to be purely perfection because it was a progression from the prime Mover being purely Act. Thus, my opponent"s only objection is merely a misunderstanding of the syllogistic progression of my case. Hopefully, I have clarified it for him.

Thanks again to my opponent for his thoughtful contribution to our debate.
Debate Round No. 3
ErickCBass

Con

My opponent takes the majority of his time in round 2 to explain how God must be Pure Act because of the nature of opposites to be between something and the lack of the same something. My opponent then skips ahead and says that God has to either be one of the opposites because that is the nature of God as we define him and the nature of the definitions as we define them. But the problem arises when he explains how in that case God must be things like pure goodness and pure knowledge. But using everything we have learned from his argument we should also be able to say that Pure Being could also be pure evil(lack of good) and pure ignorance(lack of knowledge). We can also stack on a bunch of silly positive claims on to be Pure Being such as God is Pure Silly(lack of control), Purely circular(lack of being linear).
Nur-Ab-Sal

Pro

Thanks once again to my opponent for his response; however, I'm afraid he simply doesn't understand the argument at hand. In his last objection, he misunderstood the sequence of my case as a connection between two different proofs. In this objection, he does not understand the idea of "act" and how it relates to contraries.

To summarize my opponent"s rebuttal, he claims that I've arbitrarily assigned only being to God, rather than non-being. While it"s already easy to see where the error in his reasoning lies, there is an interesting implicit objection in here that, while my opponent did not precisely exclaim it, can easily be derived from confusion on the word "being," which has already mystified my opponent.

But first, let"s once again return to the very basic metaphysics that frames the argument. Recall that act is being and potency is non-being. If one correctly understands the terms, this is self-evident. For, something in act is there, while something in potency is not there, but could be. So, to be Pure Act is to be Pure Being, which my opponent, through use of both of these phrases, understands.

Now as I have said earlier, contraries (roughly, binary opposing properties) can be reduced to being and non-being. Thus, we have "power" and "impotence," or "knowledge" and "ignorance," or "good" and "evil," or "competence" and "incompetence," etc. This reductive ability is highly important, and is key to understanding the progression from this perplexing abstract term "Pure Act" to the essence of God in most monotheistic religions. As Pure Being, God cannot be pure ignorance or pure impotence, because ignorance or impotence is a privation in knowledge or power, rather than being itself. Impotence has no substance, as it is simply the non-being of power. This is why we say power is being, it has substance -- impotence is its contrary as the lack of that substance. For something to be pure impotence or pure knowledge, it would be pure non-being or pure potency, for there is absolutely no substance to it, only non-being (in Aristotelian terms, this pure potency is is called "primary matter," but let"s save that discussion for another time).

There is however, an implicit objection that I will preemptively address. In De Ente et Essentia, Saint Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between two different understandings of the word "being," as he notes, "in the first sense, nothing can be called a being unless it posits something in reality," but "in the second sense, anything can be called a being about which an affirmative proposition can be formed" (Aquinas 1). In other words, we can say something is in the sense that it is substantial in reality, or we can say something is if it corresponds to reality. Obviously, the "act" or "being" used throughout both Aristotle and Aquinas"s proofs of the Prime Mover is meant in the first sense: something which "posits something in reality" as Aquinas puts it. But, I can also say, "I am powerless," and this is being in the second sense: for I am merely expressing the truth of an affirmative proposition, rather than describing the "being" of a property. Thus, to say that to be "Pure Being" means to be "Pure Impotence" because one can be impotent merely confuses the semantic distinction between two senses of the same word; this is merely a flaw of our language.

Thus, to conclude, my opponent errs in his objection concerning an arbitrary assignment of being rather than non-being to Pure Act. Recall that contraries can be reduced to being and non-being, and that to have being is to have substance, and non-being is merely a privation in this substance. Thus, the objection my opponent advances is merely a confused descriptive error. But, I have preemptively addressed a similar objection which mistakes the being of affirmative propositions with the being of a substantial property.

Thanks again to ErickCBass for his reply! I look forward to the final round of our debate!

Sources

Aquinas, Saint Thomas. De Ente et Essentia. Trans. Robert T. Miller.
Debate Round No. 4
ErickCBass

Con

ErickCBass forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Nur-Ab-Sal 3 years ago
Nur-Ab-Sal
Sorry, the Greek characters I used were formatted incorrectly. I used citations from Books Delta, Theta, and Lambda from the Metaphysics. If you need a specific citation, I can find it.
Posted by dj21 3 years ago
dj21
You define God as "him". Why? It is important because even Richard Dawkins concedes deism as a theoretical possibility. So if all you want is "evidence", not proof, and are not stuck on debating the Western concept of God, then I'll debate you. I think most atheists concede there is evidence of something "God"-like (All of the many Uncaused Cause concepts), just not proof.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by GOP 3 years ago
GOP
ErickCBassNur-Ab-SalTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Con forfeited one round. It must also be noted that Pro used MANY sources whereas Con used none. Con did not even bother to thoroughly reply to Pro's arguments, so I am giving Pro points for arguments as well.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
ErickCBassNur-Ab-SalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I will try to give an RFD for this debate, until then Pro get's conduct and arguments points for the forfeit.
Vote Placed by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
ErickCBassNur-Ab-SalTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiting is Forbidden!!!!!!