Niko's Nature

“Whatsoever thy soul shall say to me, I will do for thee.”

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Argument for the Existence of God

Syllogism 1 

1. Either something exists or nothing exists.

2. Nothing cannot exist.

a. Therefore, something exists.

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1. There can be no doubt that either something exists, or nothing exists, for the two are dichotomous.  2. Nothing cannot exist, for the idea of nothing itself implies a contradiction.  To say nothing exists is to conceive of some “nothingness” and then say that it, rather than something else exists.  But that “nothingness,” though claiming to represent nothing, would in fact be something, (that which is conceived as “nothingness”) and therefore, something would exist.   In other words, nothing is a term that definitionally has no extension.  But if something has no extension, then it does not exist.  Further, to say, “nothing exists,” requires one to first imagine “something” and then imagine its absence.  Therefore, something must exist since one must necessarily presuppose that something in order to conceive of nothing. 

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Syllogism 2

3.     God is that which can be conceived of existing in every possible world, (Definition: God is conceived as a necessary entity)

4.     Only existence can be conceived of existing in every possible world.

a.     Therefore, God is existence.

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3. It may be argued that if one defines God as a necessary entity, one is assuming that which needs to be proven, that God exists, since a necessary entity exists necessarily.  But I challenge this on the grounds that it may be impossible to conceive of a necessary entity.  That is to say, a necessary entity may be a term with no extension.  Further, it is clear that any argument seeking to prove or disprove God’s existence must define God as God is properly understood.  God’s necessity is one of the properties of God that believers and nonbelievers consider essential to a definition of God, therefore God must be considered a necessary entity.  Also, it should be noted, if one disagrees with this conception of God, but does not disagree with the rest of the argument, the argument is still sound, having proven the existence of such an entity as was intended to be proven.  The one who disagrees merely disagrees that such an entity is properly called God.  Finally, since God is a necessary being, He must exist in every possible world, for if He did not exist in every possible world, His existence would be conditional on the conditions by which He existed in every world but the ones He did not exist in, but to say God’s existence is conditional is to contradict what has been stated above.  Therefore, God exists in every possible world.  4. Existence must be supposed to exist in a possible world for if we said existence did not exist in this world, it would not be possible for that world to exist, but this would mean it is not a possible world.  Further, existence is the only thing that can be claimed to exist in every possible world, for the absence of any other thing would not make it impossible for the world to exist, but if existence were absent it would be impossible for the world to exist.  Since only existence fulfills the definition of God, it is clear that existence is God. (N.B. By existence I do not mean the totality of existing things, but rather, the principle by which things exist; or put in different words the act of existing itself.)

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Syllogism 3

5.     God is existence.

6..     If something exists, then existence exists.

a.     Therefore, if something exists, then God exists.

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5. Follows from above.  6. Something cannot exist unless it is possible for things to exist.  It is only possible for things to exist if existence exists.  Therefore, if something exists, then existence exists, and since God is existence, if something exists, then God exists.  By analogy, a man cannot run unless it is possible for men to run.  It is only possible for men to run if running itself exists.  As it is with running, so it is with existence.  Therefore, if something exists, then God exists.

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Syllogism 4

7. If something exists, then God exists.

8. Something exists. 1 (2a)

a. Therefore, God exists.

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All follows from above.

Filed under Catholic Christianity Atheism Relgion Atheist

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Anonymous asked: I want to commend you for your arguing skills, bravo! Do you have any reading recommendations on that (philosophy, logic, etc)? Thanks!

Thanks!  Um, without knowing what area of philosophy you’re interested in its hard to recommend anything.  If you haven’t read the first part of the Summa or Plato’s republic those are good ones to read.  If you have read those consider reading Descartes, Locke, or Spinoza.  Another would be Anselm’s Proslogium.  Hope that helps!

Filed under Philosophy Catholic Theology

25 notes &

Catholic Joke

A little child stopped by a nativity scene and noticing that around the newborn Lord were three animals, asked his mother why those animals were there.

The mother thought for a second and said, “Those three animals represent three great orders of priests. The dog represents the Dominican order, since the Dominicans are great philosophers and theologians, and dogs are the most philosophical animal. Further, Domini-canes means dogs of the Lord. The ox represents the Benedictines, for the Benedictines are known for being steadfast in their prayers and in their work, and the ox’s steadfastness is evident by its perseverance at the plow.”

The child said, “Alright, but which order does the ass represent.”

"That’s simple," The mom replied, "The Jesuits."

Filed under Catholic Christianity Dominican Jesuit Benedictine

1 note &

Hardin v. Singer (v. Natural Law Based Liberalism)

Hardin v. Singer (v. Natural Law Based Liberalism)

Hardin and Singer’s arguments use many premises that are essentially the same.  Singer argues that we must do that which we are able to alleviate suffering without sacrificing something of comparable moral wealth and Hardin says, “We must ask if such a program would actually do more good than harm, not only momentarily but also in the long run.”  They have thus both adopted a fundamentally consequentialist ethic.  Singer argues that poverty causes suffering and death; we can prevent poverty without sacrificing anything of comparable moral worth; and thus we ought to through charity (which he would not call charity but justice.)  Hardin argues that poverty is bad, charity to poor nations causes more poverty, (by creating more impoverished people) and thus we should not do it.  Hardin would accuse Singer of sentimentalism, and being ignorant willfully or not of the economic principles of how to actually help the poor, and Singer would accuse Hardin of callousness, but philosophically they really cannot critique each other since they are two sides of the same consequentialist coin.

Of the two, Hardin’s is weaker because he bases his idea on Malthusianism, an idea that can be used to promote a variety of programs, but who’s central tenet is essentially that the problem of poverty is not that there is too much poverty, but that there are too many poor people, and thus decreasing the number of poor people solves the problem.  This is like thinking you’ve solved the problem of having socks with holes in them by throwing out the socks.  You still have lost a pair of socks.  Furthermore, philosophy, unlike the sciences, math, history, and a few other subjects, rarely has the opportunity to empirically study its theories, but Malthusianism is one of the rare opportunities that we do have the opportunity, and Malthusianism has never once been proven right.  It claims population growth outstrips food production, and so population growth among the poor will necessarily lead to hunger, and yet, food production has always increased faster than population growth.  This is due to mainly two factors: first, as there are more people, there will be more people involved in producing food.  Yes, not everyone will choose to be involved in food production, but a single person involved in food production, produces food not just for himself and his family, but enough to be put on the market, thus leading to net gain in crop production.  Second, as there are more people, more will become involved in the sciences, engineering, etc. creating more efficient methods of food production.  (Currently, hydroponics has produced very successful results in higher crop yields from far fewer natural resources.  The only thing stopping it from mass adoption as standard farming practice is that it can be unstable since it lacks the buffer of soil, thus, if a failure in the hydroponic system occurs, it leads to massive crop death.  But this is an issue of practicality that can and will be solved.)  Essentially, Hardin is wrong because he assumes we are on a lifeboat with no resources.  Really, we are on a giant ship, that has on it construction material necessary for any repairs and expansions of the ship, fishing equipment to catch more fish, and oars to help propel the boat forward.  Of course, all these things have to be manned.  Thus, when we add more men to this ship we call the earth, we are increasing our common share, not decreasing it. 

Hardin’s argument also fails because of his reliance on the principle of the “Tragedy of the Commons,” an idea that individuals, acting rationally in their own interest will act against the group’s best interest, usually by overuse of a necessary resource.  Essentially, Hardin argues that if something is shared in common.  It goes to the advantage of each individual to use that resource as much as they can replenishing it as little as they can.  Such a system may tolerate a few “free riders” if the rest of the commons pick up their slack, but Hardin’s argues, that upon seeing that other people are benefitting, they will not have the motivation to work harder for no gain, and so will become “free riders” too.  Thus, the commons collapses. Again, we have an idea that has been tested in history, and found false, the actual commons under the English feudal system.  The commons contrary to what Hardin argues, was actually a highly successful system and as long as law protected the commons, the commoners had access to a sustainable income.  Once the commons were enclosed, the commoners were dispossessed of that land, and had no source of income except working for wages as a newly created proletariat from the newly created land-owning class.  This meant that the poor previously governed by nobles and defended by the crown, were now to be governed by the laws of supply and demand and exploited by capitalists.  John C. Medaille, in his “The Vocation of Business” notes, “A century before the seizures, the peasant could provision his family by fifteen weeks of work and the artisan by ten; by 1543, it took the peasant forty weeks of work and the artisan thirty-two.”  Further, recent articles about pastoralism and land held in common in Africa, and the problems when the common is destroyed prove bunk the “tragedy of the commons.”[1] 

Finally, Hardin’s argument fails because he recognizes the existence of what he calls “pure justice” (I suppose by this he means deontological concepts of justice) which he argues we should not follow because it produces an “infinite regression” to absurdity.  Whether or not this is true, or whether his example of immigration rights as an example of “pure justice” is valid, is beside the point.  The comment alone shows that Hardin recognizes the existence of “pure justice” and anyone who recognizes pure justice is morally obligated to align oneself to those principles of pure justice no matter how absurd they may be, even to the point of death.  It is only bizarre for a man to die a martyr for justice if he defines justice based on self-interest, but this would hardly be justice.  Under any system of justice conceived under a premise of human equality (a necessary principle for justice), death for one’s principles is an honor.  Is it difficult, even to the point of absurdity?  Sure, but just because something is difficult does not mean we should not do it.  The fact that Hardin has a concept of “pure justice” but does not follow it because he does not like the consequences shows his argument is based more on emotion than on reason.

Which brings us to the arguments of Peter Singer.  Peter Singer, like Hardin bases his argument in consequentalist ethics.  This brings us to some interesting consequences following Singer’s ethical principles outlined in his theory.  For example, Singer notes that suffering and death are both bad and should be minimized.  But a true utilitarian would need to ask, “Are they equally bad?  If not, how much of one is worse than another?”  It seems to me that we can much more easily minimize suffering across the world if we just kill everyone who’s suffering, (of course, doing it humanely while they are sleeping, so they don’t suffer,) and killing someone is always cheaper than helping them.  Essentially, why give a man a fish, or even take the time to teach him to fish, when a bullet through his head will ensure he’ll never go hungry again?  This might seem radical, and of course I find it abhorrent, but in the context of Singer’s entire philosophy, which includes euthanizing fetuses, newborns, people with disabilities, and anyone else Singer doesn’t see as capable of living a life without suffering, it’s not clear how one can escape this conclusion.  In fact, Singer’s claim that death is in itself bad and most people agree with this principle seems strange when in hundreds of other places he denies it and has no problem with it as a solution to suffering.  Thus, it does not seem Peter Singer is being consistent in his body of work. 

That being said, a principle in any philosophical discourse is to disprove the argument, not the person.  So, while it seems clear that Peter Singer has contradicted himself in his body of work, I still have yet to attack the argument directly, as if it were advanced by someone who has never made the eugenicist claims he has, and will endeavor to do so.  Firstly, the argument is too simplistic because it assumes that helping someone halfway around the globe is just as easy as helping the person next door.  But, by trying to give a dollar to the person in Burundi, it must first pay the salaries of the aid organizations that help get it there.  Even if those organizations are incredibly efficient there is still going to be some loss in value.  This doesn’t really attack the core of the argument though, but does require it to be reformulated so that our calculation would go from (Aid for starving at home = Aid for starving in Burundi) to (Aid for starving poor at home – loss of value from “middle-men” in long-distance aid =  Aid for starving in Burundi)  We can add more variables to the equation for “relative worth of aid in various countries, loss of time/interest-value of dollar as it travels, tax benefit difference etc. all making the equation more complicated than the argument claims.

Secondly, the contention regarding death v. suffering is still relevant even if we allow the generous concession that killing is still categorically wrong in a utilitarian system (A generous concession.*)  Consider John Taurek’s example: “The situation is that I have a supply of some life-saving drug. Six people will all certainly die if they are not treated with the drug. But one of the six requires all of the drug if he is to survive. Each of the other five requires only one-fifth of the drug. What ought I to do?”[2] Now, add to that the further “wrinkle” that if you give the first person the drug, he will live a pain-free life, but the other five suffer from an untreatable disease that will cause them pain the rest of their lives.  Now what should you do?   What’s “worth” more in this situation?  How does one even begin the moral calculus involved here?  Another similar example but attacking a different side of the “moral calculus” would be an updated version of Buridan’s ass.  Suppose there were two dying people alike in every possible way equal distance away from me.  I have a drug that can save one.  Since I can save them, I ought to, but since I can’t pick either of them because that would be showing preferential treatment to them I must let them both die, rather than try to save one or the other.  Or suppose a situation where I am stranded on an island with a starving cannibal who will not last the night if he does not eat, but we know that we will be rescued in the morning.  Do I have an obligation to prevent the death of the cannibal by letting him nibble on my foot in order to get him through the night, or does my suffering from having my toes chewed off somehow outweigh the moral weight of the cannibal’s death.  Examples like this show that utilitarianism fails as a guide for right moral action.

Thirdly, the author takes the easy way out by refusing to provide an argument for why death and suffering in itself is bad.  Obviously, we agree it is bad, but depending on why one believes it’s bad, different moral principles come into play.  For example, suppose someone refuses to work for an income out of sheer laziness and announces that unless people feed him, he will starve and die.  Do we still have the same obligation to feed him as we would someone who wants to work, but can’t, or someone who works but due to external factors can’t earn enough to eat?  If one says yes, the obligation is still there, we are trapped in a situation where we are rewarding people for being lazy and thus not contributing to charity, and thus violating their moral obligation.  If one says no, the obligation is not there, then we have already weakened the idea that we should always act to prevent suffering and death.  Or what about the idea that we must treat every body absolutely equally?  I would think any reasonable person would say that a parent has a duty to their own child that supersedes their duty towards another child.  People might arrive at that conclusion through different ways, natural law, implied contractual obligation, “selfish gene” evolutionary ethics etc. but a reasonable person would get there.  Now, perhaps Peter Singer is right that this obligation to one’s own child does not justify a fancy college education when that money could improve the life of a child (or several children) immensely more than a college degree could improve a rich dad’s child’s life, (especially given the worth of an undergraduate degree nowadays) but suppose instead it was an option between preventing one’s own child from prolonged suffering from constant hunger, or preventing a child in Burundi from dying from hunger?  I think that might be a bit different.  Thus, it seems that there are more moral principles at play than just, “if you can prevent death and suffering without sacrificing something of equivalent moral worth, you ought to.”

Thus, I find Singer and Hardin’s arguments to both be deficient.  I agree with Singer that there is a moral obligation to help the poor, but it does not derive from consequentialist ethics, but deontological principles that are derived from an understanding of property as having ends directed towards the common good.  Because no one created the natural resources of the world, which are originally held in common, property created from these resources have a final cause in benefitting humanity, and thus the property must be used in such a way so as to benefit humanity.  However, in order for natural resources’ final cause of benefitting humanity to be realized, the natural resources must be taken out of communal ownership and thus, the person “privatizing” these resources becomes the efficient cause of the property created from the natural resources.  Thus, they have the freedom and responsibility to best decide how the final cause of the property is to be achieved.  Thus, a man who takes an apple from an apple tree has a responsibility to make sure that apple helps humanity, but whether that is done by giving the apple to the poor, or eating the apple himself, and using the energy gained from the apple to teach a poor boy how to fish, is a decision only he can make.



[1] See: “What Tragedy? Whose Commons? Conservation Magazine”; and “The Tragedy of the Enclosure, The Social Contract Press”

* Distinction between rule v. act utilitarianism can be overcome simply by noting that any objection to act utilitarianism can be an objection against rule utilitarianism simply by adding the words “…in cases where the utility of breaking the rule produces more utility than keeping it.” to it.  Thus, as David Lyons has argued, rule utilitarianism necessarily collapses into act utilitarianism.

[2] John M. Taurek, “Should the Numbers Count?”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 6:4 (Summer 1977), pp. 293-316.

Filed under Catholic Philosophy Social Justice Peter Singer Utilitarianism

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