Monday, June 1, 2015

A Quickie on Catholic Apologetics

Followers of this blog will have noticed how sparse things have been lately.  Short story is that work is insane and I'm gearing up for a move.

However, while looking at Reddit this morning, I stumbled across a post on /r/TrueAtheism that caught my eye and I ended up typing a reply there that should be put up as a post of its own.

The post on Reddit references this blogpost by a Catholic that is arguing for god's existence.  Below is my response from Reddit:

Catholic philosophers/theologians are always a fun ball of wax.

There are a lot of atheistic objections you'll see raised to these kinds of arguments, and they seem sensible enough. The problem is that the Catholic philosopher (usually a Thomist with a hard on for Aquinas) has answers for them - or they just blather on about the objector not truly understanding the argument. or something along those lines. The sad part is that the Thomist usually has a point here, in that the atheist objection does miss the point of the argument.
The post starts by referencing previous posts, talking about a network of interconnected changing things. What I'm assuming this is referencing is a previous series of posts which basically lay out the basics for a "neo" Aristotelian metaphysics. Basically, it's a way of looking at the world and breaking things down into various categories that rely on each other. Things like "material causes" being one category, and things like "final causes" being another category, etc.

It's a very specific metaphysic with a long history going back to ancient Greece, and there's nothing inherently wrong with coming up with a metaphysic.

The trick that's pulled is that once you accept the axioms of the metaphysic all of the conclusions that are drawn by the arguments like this one follow logically.

Consider this statement from the article:
Now, this network must have a source
Given the axioms that the metaphysic starts with, this is trivially true because it's effectively defined to be that way. So saying "it could have existed infinitely", or "it has no cause" would violate the axioms of the metaphysic. Hence the apologist will say "you don't understand my argument" and will just sit there smugly.

The key is that the metaphysic that this is all based on is nothing more than a set of unprovable assertions about the way things are and how "reality" functions.

The trick is acknowledging that effectively every metaphysic is going to be this way, including any metaphysic that's posited by a naturalist/atheist/whatever.

There's no way to prove that their metaphysical assumptions are fundamentally wrong, no more than we can prove our metaphysical assumptions are correct. The most we can do is say that a number of their axioms appear to be superfluous - ie. we don't need to appeal to things like final causes to explain everything we observe.

TL/DR - Once you accept the axioms that were setup prior to this post, the argument will follow logically. It's kind of like assuming a set of categories that entails a god must exist, rather than just assuming a god exists like a protestant theologian will do (like Alvin Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology). The key is to reject the metaphysics this argument is based on as superfluous rather than trying to reject the argument.

1 comment:

  1. My apologies for commenting on such an old post.

    In my online adventures I occasionally run into a catholic apologist. The arguments seem to run in the same vein as those of the apologist linked to above. Do you have any suggestions for how to tease out the metaphysical axioms, aside from actually asking? Because if I do ask, the expected answer is either a book recommendation, or an arrogant remark that it's far too complex an issue to delve into.