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The existence of God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/3/2021 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 904 times Debate No: 127255
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will be arguing for classical theism. Three arguments:
1. Firstly, The Aristotelian argument from act and potency: Change is the reduction of potency to act. Everything conditioned by potency can only be actualized (i. E. , Exist in an actual state) if it be actualized by something extrinsic to itself that is already in act (for potency is only that which potentially exists). Now this cannot continue ad infinitum since there would ultimately be nothing actual in and of itself to derive actuality from, And thus nothing would ever change. But things do change. Therefore there must be that which is pure act, Actus purus, From which all that has potentiality ultimately derives actuality; to pure act we give the name "God. "
2. Secondly, The Thomistic argument from being and essence: Everything that exists contingently has an essence (i. E. , What it is, Its nature) and an existence (i. E. , That it is). Contingent beings can only exist when something extrinsic to them give them existence, Since the essences of contingent beings, By virtue of being contingent, Do not exist of themselves. Now if there were only contingent beings, None of their essences could ever receive existence, Since none of them exist per se but must rather derive existence; therefore nothing could ever exist. But things do exist. Therefore there must be ipsum esse subsistens, Subsistent existence itself, Whose essence and existence are selfsame. To subsistent existence or non-contingent being we give the name God.
3. Thirdly, The argument from finality: All natural substances exist for a final cause insofar as they act for a purpose, Naturally tend towards an end: e. G. , A rock naturally tends to remain firm rather than squishy; a cloud naturally tends towards precipitation, To become rain; a plant naturally tends to give off oxygen, Reproduce; an animal naturally tends to reproduce, Strive for survival, A human being naturally tends towards knowing and willing by virtue of being rational, Etc. In other words, They have an intrinsic purpose for which they act. But purpose presupposes a purpose giver. To this supreme purpose giver which assigns to all things their natures which cause them to act for a particular and objective end, We give the name "God. "


A brief history of Aristotle:
Aristotle was not a classical theist to the extent that classical theism did not exist in ancient Greece in the time of Aristotle. It would come to the region some 100-200 years after his death. Predominantly the ancient Greeks believed in pantheism and animism - that aspects of the natural world were external agencies which could be personified into humanoid personalities. Aristotle's conception of the Primum Movens (the first cause of existence setting all other things into motion) - before his ideas were reappropriated by the Catholic Church - was thus in dialogue with an altogether different theology than the one which St Aquinas formulated almost a thousand years later. This is a man whose theory of nature was that a rock fell not because of gravity but because the rock had some inner propensity to fall fulfilling its essential purpose in doing so. He thought that the perfect celestial cycles - the Moon and Sun - were moved by love whilst at the centre of the universe (Earth) imperfection predominated because matter did not always fulfill its essential purposes - telos - but was always in a relation of striving towards its fulfilment or flourishing. To understand the arguments you have presented fully you have to understand the completely different theory of nature Aristotle believed in and the different but similar theory of nature Aquinas beleived in (although he was deeply affected by Aristotle and his work).

This Aristotelian view of nature does not really hold today. For instance instead of matter striving towards an ideal purpose - a rock desiring to be hard and thus becoming so - evolutionary theory has provided us with such concepts as 'adaptation' and 'vestigiality'. The idea that individuals strive towards their essential purpose has changed to the idea that organisms adapt to and construct their environments in order to best satisfy their purposes (whether these are necessary for survival or not). Some adaptions whilst being useful to fulfil one purpose in one historic moment are in centuries later (if genetically passed on) used for no or many different purposes. This is their vestigiality. It means that the structure of the individual organism does not have to strive for any one essential purpose but can be used for many different possible purposes contingent to a range of individual, Social and environmental factors.

So what does this mean in terms of your arguments?
1) That there is no necessary guiding principle to all change - a Primum Movens. There can by a myriad of other variables which prompts change which does not emante from some transcendental being. Since there is no actuality in the Aristotelian sense - essences all types of individual strive towards - all changes can be for a range of non-essential ends. To use your language - every state is an 'actual state'. There is not a hierarchy of being where that which exists can not be in an actual state.

As for the teleological argument (the who pushed the domino question): fallacy of composition. Just because all individuals need a cause to bring them into being does not mean that all movement - the universe itself - needs a cause to bring it into being. The general law of the former does not demonstrate that the latter proposition is true. General laws tend to break down when applied outside of the conditions in which they were observed in.

2) Essentialism is false. Instead of individuals having inner essences they strive towards - whatever inner propensities they have are in dialectic with their environments and others across time which changes what they aim for and how they develop as individuals. Contingent beings exist and this contigency is constitutive of their existence. Essences are not required for this except for the purposes of nomenclature and classification.

3) "purpose presupposes a purpose giver"
This is confusing the logical structure of individuals with teleology (there is a difference! ) A rock is not hard because it is its purpose to be hard. This is the Aristotelian idea of matter moving itself to fulfil its essential purposes (e. G. Part of the form of a rock is hardness and therefore the rock will aim towards becoming hard). On the reverse the hardness of a rock is constutitive of its being a rock and it has no essential purpose but rather plays different functions within the ecosystem in which it features and can be used by organisms for a multitude of different ends. And the rock's hardness is dependent on the ecosystem which produces the right conditions for it to have the property of hardness and thereby be called a rock.

The regularity of the patterns of behaviour within the natural world - the general laws of nature - do allow for logical essences to be created. In order for a rock to be a rock it must be X and Y. . . This is so when these criteria are met the thing perceived can be called a rock. This should be decoulpled from the idea of 'purpose' however. Also general tendencies do not mean that non-conformity to these tendencies is unnatural or false; if an instance breaks a general law - this highlights the limitations of the general law and not the unnaturalness or wrongness of the instance.
Debate Round No. 1


1. "Aristotle was not a classical theist. . . " He was insofar as he argued for a first principle of being which must be purely actual, And hence, His argument from act and potency for what he called "God. " Whether he adhered to the existence of other "gods" who would be composites of act and potency is irrelevant, As classical theism is fundamentally compatible with monotheism or polytheism (if by "gods" are understood be ontologically distinct from "God" " the former being brings among many conditioned by potency, The latter being actus purus). Animism would also be especially irrelevant. Whether Aristotle believed all things have a soul is superfluous to the argument (and he didn't, Since he considered plants to have the lowest soul, Viz. The vegetative soul). Finally, Your example of the rock falling has no bearing. In short, Arguments against Aristotle's natural science have no bearing on Aristotle's metaphysics. To understand his argument you must understand his metaphysical (not science) distinction between act and potency (explained in R1).
2. His metaphysics only holds today if it hasn't been disproven by another metaphysical system, Not a scientific one. For science presupposes metaphysics. Adaptation/evolution, E. G. , Presupposes final causality insofar as a creature evolves with the end being survival, Adaptation to environment etc. His metaphysical positions in general hold today (with slight positive modification found with Scholastics, Especially St. Thomas). Materialism does not hold on the contrary, As is evident from my arguments.
3. If all beings were in an actual state then there could never be change. This is the problem of Parmenides, Who held the same. If there is no such thing as potential, Then change must be an illusion. Heraclitus, Held the opposite extreme, That there is only change and no permanence. The necessary medium is Aristotle's division of act and potency: potency is what a being really could be, Act is that which it actually and presently is. It's that simple. My arm could potentially be raised, But is actually resting on an armchair. Here lies a problem with Materialism, Insofar as it is ultimately reducible to one of the two extremes (as Heraclitus and Parmenides were both materialists, Albeit remotely different from materialists today.
4. My opponent makes a common Atheistic mistake of confusing accidentally ordered casual series and essentially ordered casual series. The former is temporal, The latter is hierarchical. Dominos constantly knocking other dominos down could continue for eternity, Falling under the former; St. Thomas, E. G. , Held that the universe could in principle have an eternal past. However, Even if it did, It would constantly have to derive actuality from something without, Since the universe would still have potentiality. Hence, He has not refuted the first argument, Nor even touched on it.
5. Contingent beings cannot give themselves existence, Since nothing can cause itself to exist; for if it were so, It would have to exist prior to its existing, Which is a logical contradiction. His first sentence concerning essentialism is not apparently a refutation of essentialism; whether it is true is irrelevant. If my opponent rejects the existence of essences, He is implicitly arguing for nominalism, Which states that real natures do not exist, But this is clearly false from the fact that all beings tend towards certain ends and act in similar ways given their natures. Human beings really possess a human nature that gives them rationality and distinguishes them from trees, E. G.
6. You say a rock is hard qua a rock. Yes, Precisely. It's not a coincidence that all rocks are hard, And that their environment just so happens to make them all this way, But rather they have an intrinsic principle that makes them to be always hard by virtue of being rocks. An acorn tends to grow as a tree precisely because it is an acorn, And a cloud can rain fundamentally because it is a cloud, So on. These purposes for which beings act are intelligible to us. A rock having to fulfill X and Y is not opposed to its existing in a certain way for being a rock. That natural substances can stray from their natural ends presupposes that they have natural ends which can be frustrated. E. G. The moon naturally tends towards circling the earth (note the metaphysical necessity of final causality is not opposed to scientific explanations for how they are exemplified) but this could be hypothetically frustrated by a large meteor crashing into it or the earth.


Well this requires a lot of dense philosophical writing! Haha.
1) No. To call Aristotle a classical theist would be anachronistic. The distinction I was making was between the social backgrounds of Aristotle and Aquinas. In ancient Athens the dominant beliefs systems at the time were a belief in animism and pantheism; in Aquinas's time, Judeo-Christian monotheism. Unless you can cite otherwise (which I think impossible) Aristotle was not aware of the latter. The language he used in his text does not therefore refer to God with a capital 'G'. It would have referred to theus - a kind of supernatural divinity or idol - in the ancient Greek style and sense of the language is which he was writing. Just because the Christians reappopriated Aristotle's writings and Metaphysics and incorporated it into their systems of thought does not mean that Aristotle was one of them. This would be to apply a label which only existed after Aristotle's death and impose it on him. Classical theism usually excludes pantheism and is primarily associated with Judeo-Christian writers (who heavily drew on Plato and Aristotle). If you still disagree with me and want to claim that Aristotle was a classical theist then you're going to have to define what you think classical theism is.

"Whether Aristotle believed all things have a soul is superfluous to the argument (and he didn't, Since he considered plants to have the lowest soul, Viz. The vegetative soul). "

Isn't this a self-contradiction? 'Aristotle did not think all substances had a soul. He thought plants had a vegetative soul. ' For Aristotle there was a hierarchy in his classification of organic 'souls' he still thought that a hierarchy of souls existed based on the functions of the type of organism (e. G. The vegetative/mineral soul - the animal soul - the rational soul. . . ). Yet I'm not talking about the aether. I did not claim that Aristotle thought that literally everything had a soul (including that which was outside of his hierachy of souls). I did not even refer to the word soul. I was simply providing the context of the Aristotelian view of nature. The rock because of its elements is self-moving (it moves towards the Earth) as opposed to gravity doing this work. In doing so it is fulfilling its natural telos - its purpose in nature - which it does so from its own inner propensities. This is much closer to animism than Christianity and in contemporary terms is wrong. The rock if it was in space would not be self-moving in a similar geocentric way.

The simple point: Aristotle overemphasises how the structure of individual things distinct from other things makes them behave without the contemporary concepts (such as gravity) which actually explain their observed behaviours. His focus is on inner rather than eternal causes. Nature for him is (1015a): "the substance of all those things that possess an origin of change in themselves qua themselves".

"Arguments against Aristotle's natural science have no bearing on Aristotle's metaphysics. To understand his argument you must understand his metaphysical (not science) distinction between act and potency (explained in R1). "
They are not mutually exclusive; the ideas of his Metaphysics appear in his Physics!

2) & By metaphysics I think you are defining the term as: the constitutive principles by which nature operates? I do not agree that current scientific paradigms are based on an Aristotleian theory of nature. If you have personally reconciled the two so contemporary science and Aristotle are compatible could you please elaborate on this further so I can understand how you've done this? In terms of evolution I would claim it highly reductive of the life of organisms to claim that the central telos - the purpose of organic life - is just their individual or collective survival. Nor did Aristotle think this. When you refer to his Ethics the flourishing of human lives was not in mere survival or in having progeny but the development of virtues which allowed individuals to live 'the good life'.

4 and 3) I agree with some extent with you here. In contemporary English the word 'cause' is entirely horizontal (X->Y) whereas in Aristotle it is vertical (apropos the four causes) and horizontal cause and effect are simultaneous (when something is changed what caused it to change simultaneously makes the thing change). Yet it would be easier to understand what exactly you were getting at if you unpacked your language a bit more so I don't have to work at interpreting what you are saying correctly.

I did not quite understand the Thomist argument: the universe could potentially exist in a eternal sequence and thereby God exists? It looks like a non sequiter? An eternal sequence by definition means that each step in the sequence exists (is actual) so if an eternal sequence could exist why is there a need for an external cause (namely God) to cause the next step to occur? Are you stating perhaps that creation is an ongoing process and each step in the sequence is caused by God as the primary mover? If so - why use the term 'God'? What explanatory power does this have?

3-6) Contingency and accidental changes I would hold are not illusory or aberrations from a general form. Each change in the individual is simply just change (neither good or bad without utilizing an external frame of judgement) regardless of how this change measures up to some idea of what is natural or what the essence of that individual is. An oak tree may ensue from an acorn but that does not mean that all acorns are the same or that all will grow into a tree. There is instead a biodiversity in all organisms making individuals distinct from each other. Now I wouldn't disagree with you on the predicate logic. An oak tree by definition has originally developed from an acorn. There are natural types. Yet what is classified as belonging to each type is not always clear-cut. Furthermore is something doe not conform to mind-imposed definitions about what 'the essence' of a type the fault is with the system of definitions rather than thing. My argument against essences is reducing the development of all within a species to a predetermined definition of how members of that type generally develop. Shoehorning all individuals into a type is just for the purposes of nomenclature as I said; the diversity in organisms across time often means that the form each biological type generally becomes does change and is not eternal or uniform across all members of the type in every instance. Else how do types evolve? How do you account for biodiversity?

Nor would I agree with Aristotle that it is just the propensity of the natural substance which causes its change. The development of an acorn into an oak tree is not just dependent on what the acorn is made up of and its biological structure. The soil - the availability of nutrients and sunlight - what is happening in its ecosystem and to it will all develop how it grows. With human organisms it is more complicated as there are a myriad of variables which can affect how a person develops beyond just their biological temperament or DNA. Instead of individual essence->development I would say individual organism is dialectic with its environment->development. Currently (depending on your position within transhumanism or posthumanism) there can be said to be a human condition. You can't fly. You can't refuse to get older. These regulative conditions on human development however are not the only conditions which affect it; there are countless more and these cannot be undermined as accidental or not part of the 'reality' of the organism.

This returns back to my disagreement with Essentialism. Basically I have separated out logical definitions from essential purposes. By definition a bachelor is an unmarried man. Saying that bachelors have some inner driving purpose to not be married is just a confusal of terms. There is no intrinsic principle driving them to be unmarried. No telos. They are bachelors only insofar as they are unmarried. A rock does not have an intrinsic principle which keeps it hard; it can be called a rock only insofar as it is hard (assuming there isn't some strange type of non-hard rock out there). It is either is a rock or it is not (by which I mean - either it satisfied our definition of what a rock is or it does not).

So I agree that it exists in a certain way which qualifies it as a rock. What I don't want is the Aristotelian teleological baggage where the matter is driven towards the organic form of rockness out of some internal guiding principle. These forms or types instead I would argue are imperfect generalizations used for classification and which change and adapt and stem off into several different types of form and sometimes cease to be altogether. See the Idea of Nature by Collingwood for a clearer explanation.

How all this ties into God I hope you can expound on a bit more too.
Debate Round No. 2


1. I am not arguing Aristotle's conception of God was selfsame with St. Thomas' but rather there is agreement that there must be a purely actual first principle of being. The divine attributes I believe are overall another discussion; the classical theist's understanding of God is that He is the first principle of being, Purely actual and not participatory in being but simply subsisting as such. So to call Aristotle a classical theist does him no injustice. That Aristotle understood there to be a necessary first principle of being that was conditioned by no potency is clear from his argument. Classical theism is usually associated with more traditional Christians (e. G. , Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) since they elaborate on it the most, But there are non-religious classical theists, Jewish and Muslim classical theists, And pagan classical theists. For more on classical theism: https://www. Rep. Routledge. Com/articles/thematic/god-concepts-of/v-1/sections/classical-theism (Note Aristotle is mentioned in the first sentence. )
No it's not a contradiction because not all substances are living. Aristotle would classify plant-life as the lowest form of life, As you seem to be aware of. Christianity does not contradict this (nor does classical theism); St. Thomas basically agrees with Aristotle on this, And so do I. Again I want to emphasize the distinction between Aristotle's metaphysics and natural science; the rock can still tend towards the earth by virtue of its heaviness, Not even considering the existence of gravity. Aristotle also wouldn't say it "moves itself" since he clearly teaches that motion, Being the reduction of potency to act, Can only occur when something extrinsic to the moved subject actualizes the potency of its movement (e. G. , Gravity can actualize the floating rock's potency to gravitate towards earth). Aristotle says that nature is the sum of things that are mutable of themselves and have an origin of motion or change from without. That nothing can actualize its own potency is one of his most basic and fundamental teachings concerning his distinction of act from potency. His ideas of metaphysics appear in his physics of course because the latter presupposes the former; but the former does not depend on the latter. The latter depends on observation while the former depends on natural reason.

In short, You have conflated his science with his metaphysics, Despite their being two entirely different categories, And hence have not refuted the distinction of act and potency and the first argument for God's existence. Without this distinction, One will either fall under the camp of Parmenides or that if Heraclitus.

2. To use Aristotle's definition of metaphysics: it is the science of being qua being. Modern science is compatible with Aristotle's metaphysics simply because they're two different fields. Gravity is perfectly compatible with final causality, E. G. A heart has the final cause of pumping blood; how exactly it pumps blood is another question, But nevertheless the end of a heart is to pump blood. I have also not claimed that the sole end of evolution etc. Is survival; it's a part of it, As animals adapt to their environment so that they actually can survive and preserve their species. This end is a real end of animals in general. The final end of man for Aristotle is to attain happiness, Since happiness is human fulfillment (and fulfillment is the general end of all things, As it is a being's being what it is supposed to be to the fullest degree, E. G. , A triangle is more perfected to the degree that it is most actual according to its respective mode of being, I. E. , Triangularity). Happiness is when the rationality of satiated.

4 and 3. Since the universe is conditioned by potency (as the universe is the sum of contingent beings) then it must constantly derive actuality from a source without. Ultimately there must be something not conditioned by potency, But is pure act (what Aristotle and Aquinas call "God"). Hence it is a hierarchically or essentially ordered casual series. (It doesn't matter whether the universe is eternal or not, Pure act would still have to be the ultimate origin of its actuality). The eternal past of the universe however would be a temporally or accidentally ordered casual series and could go on to infinity. An essentially ordered casual series cannot go on to infinity. The universe can have an eternal succession of events, But its still conditioned by potency and would never be actual unless something outside itself actualizes it, Being its source of act at all times. To use an analogy: you could have an infinite number of moons reflecting light, But they have not light of themselves. There would still have to be a source of the light.

3-6. To say "change is just change" does not explain what change is and how it can happen. Either it's the actualizing of a potentiality, Or its an illusion (Parmenides) or we'd have to concede that contradictions can exist (as does Heraclitus since he held all there is is change).

An acorn *naturally* has as its end to grow into a tree. That something can impede from becoming a tree is certainly possible. The same is applicable to any sort of seed. A heart *naturally* has as its end to pump blood; it's not a coincidence that all happen to do that. They do not have an intrinsic principle that makes them tend towards becoming a second brain or what have you. Individuals are indeed distinct and yet they can be really similar not just nominal. Both of us are really humans with the same human nature that provides us with capacities and ends that we have by virtue of being humans. But we are really and truly distinct humans. (Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Et al. Would say that the principle of differentiation is form, What makes us what we are, But the principle of individuation is matter, Which individuates you from me. Now there's debate even among those who hold to classical metaphysics as to what is exactly are the principles of differentiation and individuation, E. G. , Bl. John Duns Scotus holds the latter to be haeccity, But nevertheless they agree such principles but be conceded to actually exist to explain unity and diversity among corporeal beings). As for how things can evolve, They can certainly change accidentally, In order to adapt to their environment. An accident is a form that must exist within a substantial form; e. G. , I'm white, But being white is not essential to humanity; it's accidental to humanity.

I agree actually that the acorn's growing does depend solely on its biological structure or what have you. There are four causes: you mention sunlight and soil, And environment etc. These would fall under efficient causality. The final cause is simply that towards which it tends by virtue of what it is. The material cause is its matter, And the formal cause is what makes it what it is (i. E. , An acorn). Accidents are really apart of reality. If humans could fly in the future, That potency would really exist in humans and it wouldn't just randomly, But it would have actualized by something (or several factors). Accidents can be gained or lost; but the essence of man (i. E. An animal with an intellect and a will) remains, Lest the substance itself changes into another substance.

A bachelor is not a natural substance; there is no such thing as the essence of a bachelor. (Sort of analogous to what Aristotle would call "artifacts, " made by man, But artifacts can be given a telos insofar as man ascribes to them a purpose, As God ascribes a purpose to all natural substances. ) The essence of a bachelor would be a human, Really. And I would certainly a agree a rock is either a rock or its not a rock; but the essence is what makes it a rock as distinct from say, A tree, Or a human being.

In conclusion: regarding the first argument, The Atheist must either argue that change is an illusion, Or that change can happen ad infinitum in an essentially ordered casual series (which by definition cannot continue to infinity). This has not been demonstrated. Change, If it exists, Is when something moves from potency to act. Since this principle stands, So does the first argument for God.

The Atheist also cannot explain how things that are can be or not be (i. E. , How they can exist or not exist). Existence is not necessary to anything contingent; it's derived from without. But this too cannot continue to infinity, As nothing contingent exists in and of itself (e. G. , The dinosaurs no longer exist; I at a point did not exist; I did not have to exist by definition). And hence there must be something that is existence of itself (God).

Finally, The Atheist cannot explain how things really tend towards certain ends of themselves and not coincidentally. Science can explain how final causality is exemplified in certain ways and we change even change ours minds on this as more evidence is discovered (e. G. , As already mentioned, Gravity). But the principle of finality must stand. For anything that causes anything must have an end that moves it to cause something. Final causality is that which moves something to act.

In short, Contingent being cannot explain its own existence by virtue of being contingent. Hence there must be non-contingent being to which we give the nominal label "God. " There's fundamentally two options: either contingent beings can ultimately explain their own existence, Or they can't. If it's the latter then we must concede that God exists (debating about Who He Is or what attributes He has later). The former is demonstrably not true, Firstly from what I have said, And also simply because contingent beings by definition do not exist per se, And thus would never exist apart from God (see the aforementioned moon analogy). I'll leave this video that my friend made for more info: https://youtu. Be/YrXjmHdA1tg

Thank you for debating me.


1) Aristotle is not a classical theist.

The Routledge article you cited appears more in favour of what I have already wrote than it is your position: "Classical theism's ancestry includes Plato, Aristotle, Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. " The word 'ancestry' is essential here. It clearly demarcates between classical theism and that which intellectually preceded it. I would readily concede that classical theists heavily drew on the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. This is not what you are claiming however. You are claiming that Aristotle is a classical theist. He is not. Not only was he not aware of the Jewish religious ideas from which this theology stemmed but he lived in a time where polytheism and animism were the dominant belief systems and openly writes about the existence of multiple gods - theus - setting celestial bodies in motion in his texts. The confusion comes because Aristotle's legacy in theology is applied retrospectively to his texts where he himself did not share this same theology and system of beliefs. He wasn't a classical theist; the classical theists used his ideas. This is like calling Karl Marx a Stalinist. No. Of course he wasn't. That doesn't mean that the latter is not affilated with the former.

2) Aristotle's principle of act and potency cannot be used to defend theism.

This conflation means that your argument is fundamentally flawed. Your initial proposition was that: If Aristotle's arguments are correct then God exists. However Aristotle only argues for as you put "a purely actual first principle of being". There is nothing necessitating this first principle of being is identical to God. A purely actual first principle of being could also be compatible with a neutral monism or with a Heideggerian 'fundamental ontology' or Spinozian pantheism. And you admit this. You said "the classical theist's understanding of God is that He is the first principle of being". This means that God and a/the first principle of being are conceptually distinct from one another and you haven't established that the first principle of being must be God. If you are not already inclined to have a classical theist's understanding of Aristotle's texts then you can interpret his first principle of being in purely secular terms.

"Change, If it exists, Is when something moves from potency to act. Since this principle stands, So does the first argument for God. "

To presuppose that this first principle can be framed in a language of religion begs the question. It presupposes that you are already inclined towards a lexicon where Aristotle's first principle can be labelled God. The same argument "there can be no change without a prior state of existence capable of being changed" could be used to establish the ontological status of 'that which exists capable of change' prerequisite to change happening regardless of your position in ontology (monism, Materialism, Idealism. . . ) and theology (atheists could easily use this argument too! ) It therefore does absolutely nothing to further theism as a belief system to prefer above others in philosophical ontology. It certainly does not put you in the position to personify and gender this existence constitutive of all particulars which exist as 'He'. If you are only applying the term God nominally then I could easily apply a different term nominally and label the theism out of your argument altogether.

3) Essences exist; they are more commonly known as definitions.

My claim is simply the claim that eidos (form) is not fixed and homogenous across all members of a classified type. The potency - the capability of change - of the matter is open to many divergent possibilities of change. That members of a type will tend to change in a certain way (an acorn become an oak tree) means that at this period of time a general pattern can be discerned in the evolutionary history of the acorn where it tends to change in a certain way. This is not fixed. Individual acorns may be exceptional and change differently or fail to become trees. There may be regional divergences with different species of acorns growing in different ways which over time changes the dispositions of members of that species to the extent that there are two rather than one discernable types of plant. The members of a type do not strive towards a predetermined form; they develop contingent to many different variables in which general tendencies and patterns can be discerned and used to define a type as a type in a classifactory system. That the same tendencies emerge again and again is only possible because the conditions which make these tendencies possible means that members of a type only dispositionally change slowly with no driving factors making them change as a type/s more quickly or cease to be at all. A flying human may have changed sufficiently to what humans are defined as now that a new category of being (a new form) has come into being. I think you agree here. It's just that I'm emphasising that 'a substance' or a type is part of a system of limited conceptual classification whereas you are emphasising that these classifications essentially define all members of the classified types. However the definition of a type can change relative to one's perspective of what you are defining (Superman has different essential characteristics than Clark Kent which makes him Superman and not Clark Kent).

Or simply. There are definitions (something is a rock only if it meets certain criteria) and there is essential telos (a heart's natural function is that it pumps blood); there is nothing fixed in the latter (it's not part of the definition of a heart) but only a general tendency. A heart could be used for different purposes or still be a heart without pumping blood.

4) Change: " Since the universe is conditioned by potency (as the universe is the sum of contingent beings) then it must constantly derive actuality from a source without"

To unpack the jargon. I think what you are saying is that since the universe is constituted of particulars capable of changing into what they are currently not then their 'actuality' or existence must be prior to and independent of this capacity fror changing. In terms of ontology this just means you are assuming some ontological stuff which has the property of actually existing which you then label God. You're not entitled to do the latter as I've said. This ontological stuff could be characterised in many different ways and in fact is in the field of ontology. Additionally you cannot exclude the possibility of all particular things simultaneously both having the properties of actually existing and also being capable of change. It's not an either/or. Since nothing exists which does not both have potency and actuality then why must this actuality be transcendent to it? Just because you can conceptualize 'essence' and 'contingency' does not mean that each must belong to two separate subjects: God and the universe.

"3-6. To say "change is just change" does not explain what change is and how it can happen. "

That's the role of the sciences and evolutionary theory and history and psychology and so many other fields. These fields don't give the lazy answer of hylomorphism: things change to conform to our pre-existing definitions of them (their classifactory form). Rather the pre-existing definitions given are a way of trying to observe general patterns in a constantly changing universe where something does not have an essential telos to become in the shape of some form but changes to be what it is given a myriad of variables. What you call a 'substantial form' in nature is the end result of 'accidental forms' or more the different forms of every individual which slowly transform or create new 'substantial forms'.

A triangle does not need to be purple in order to be classified as a triangle. Yet nor is this purpleness of the triangle irrelevant or accidental. It is essential to its particular being. Becuase of the diversity within any one type different tendencies or individual variation cannot be undermined as merely 'accidental' because these differences are the norm. They are essential to what the thing is qua itself. I disagree with your phrase "a being's being what it is supposed to be" since there is no way a being is supposed to be. There are instead many divergent possibilities where what one expects something to become does not come into being and more importantly you cannot claim that they ought to have become this way. They have simply developed or been used in a way you did not expect given the circumstances. The general tendencies of things to develop similarly allows these things to be classified together under one general law or type. This does not mean that all things of these types should be expected to remain constant and that every member of that type will strive towards the general tendencies.

Small quibbles:
- "Aristotle would classify plant-life as the lowest form of life, As you seem to be aware of. Christianity does not contradict this (nor does classical theism); St. Thomas basically agrees with Aristotle on this, And so do I. "
I'm sure you know what microrganisms are. Aren't they a lower form of life than plants?
- The argument for actuality and potentiality appears in Aristotle's Metaphysics. He also gives all his definitions in his Metaphysics like what nature is and cause is and so forth. Furthermore what you have emphasised - act and potency - is essentially a metaphysical question about what being essentially is as opposed to a question of physics.
- "The Atheist cannot explain" This language is a bit pedagogical. There is not just one variant of Atheist; they're a pretty diverse bunch and have a wide range of explanations for change within the world which certainly do not appeal to Aristotelian or ancient Greek thought.
Debate Round No. 3
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 4 months ago
Two little questions. . .
1) Why insist on the term 'God'? Far more people are going to have a problem with this term than the idea that something enduring exists which makes all particular possibilities of change possible. (Aquinas does not do this work since medieval philosophers assumed the existence of the God of the Church and the arguments in favour of their God were secondary to the theism they already believed in. )
2) What is 'complete metaphysical certitude'? (Deductive arguments don't offer certitude because their premises depend on subjects which need verification outside the formal logic of the arguments. )
Posted by Champybeat 4 months ago
1@backwardseden. I never said "belief" is evidence, As belief is an act of the will. (I don't think you even know what the word means from what you've said). 2. What does Genesis have to do with anything? 3. The existence of God and the divine attributes can be ascertained to the extent of complete metaphysical certitude.

Fazel has apparently not done his homework on classical theism and neither have you
Posted by backwardseden 4 months ago
@Champybeat - "So you don't know what the word "God" means in classical theism to put it simply. "
Neither do you to put it simply because there is no definition for a god. If you were to get yourself and someone from classical theism's earliest foundations and the both of you were to be put into one room, 1 billion to 1 you would not even be able to come to an agreement on what the very first 5 chapters of genesis are about. You're really not that bright, Intelligent, Educated and you really don't even know why even though it has nothing to do with the "belief" in your religion. Oh and btw, A "belief" is not evidence. Btw, Stop complaining as Fazel happens to be right.
Posted by Leaning 4 months ago
Thanks for the summery.
I might reread it again, But even if I do, I think the technical language, Density, And quick mentioned people and their arguments, Will still brush over my head some.
Still often nice to build knowledge by increments.
. . .
Have heard 'of the people before, And 'some of their arguments. Lightly though.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 4 months ago
@Leaning This debate really presupposes prior knowledge of Aristotle in some form and a lot of ground was covered with limited characters. Bascially pro is for a couple of of Aristotlelian arguments and thinks they can be used to support the existence of what they are calling God. I think that a lot of Aristotle's arguments and beliefs are not correct and that even if you buy into them they can't be used to support pro's theism.
Posted by Leaning 4 months ago
Some conversations, Even when I squint, I can't really tell everything that's being discussed.
Partially because I forget what was discussed a sentence or two ago, But then it had some context for the sentence or two later, Or fits into the overall argument, But I've forgotten all the sentences, But for a vague general vibe.

Hm, Morning, Stay awake for 2 days, Perhaps.
Posted by Champybeat 4 months ago
@Fazel The metaphysical arguments for God's existence have nothing to do with the natural sciences, So you don't know what the word "God" means in classical theism to put it simply. There is an infinite ontological difference between gods (beings among many) and God (ipsum esse subsistens)
Posted by Fazel 4 months ago
To me it is just simple logic:

People are following an idea that was made up back a very long time ago when men had no idea of how the world worked.

I assure you that if you had a talk with someone then, About the world, You would laugh at what they think.
Posted by Champybeat 4 months ago
*I meant it does not depend solely on the acorn's biological structure etc etc. Woops.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Mangani 4 months ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: The first round set the pace here. Pro came in with strong terminology and rhetoric, but little explanation. Pro made the mistake of introducing concepts, and asserting them rather than explaining and persuading. Con showed complete command of the subject. Where Pro left questions, Con had answers. After Round 1 Pro proceeded to make arguments that were pointless, and would not further his premise. For example whether or not Aristotle was a classical theist has absolutely no bearing on your premise, and so you wasted 2 paragraphs or so explaining something he couldn't have been by virtue of the time period in which he lived, something you refused to acknowledge although Con was pretty precise. This is definitely Cons wheelhouse, and he maintained control of the debate from start to finish.

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