Monday, April 26, 2021

If materialism is true, God exists

Causal finitism is the doctrine that backwards infinite causal histories are impossible.

  1. If the xs compose y, then y cannot have caused all of the xs.

  2. If materialism is true and causal finitism is false, then it is possible to have a human being that (a) is composed of cells and (b) caused each of its cells via a backwards infinite regress.
  3. So, if materialism is true, causal finitism is true. (1, 2)

  4. If causal finitism is true, then God exists.

  5. So, if materialism is true, God exists. (3, 4)

  6. If God exists, the materialism is false.

  7. So, materialism is false. (5, 6)

Premise (1) is a strengthening of a plausible principle banning self-causation.

Premise (2) follows from the fact that we are causes of all our present cells. If presentism is true, that completes the argument against materialism as in my previous post. But if eternalism or growing block are true, then we may also be composed of our past cells. And we didn’t cause our first cells. However if causal finitism is false, then it’s very plausible that backwards infinite causal regresses are possible, and so we could have existed from eternity, continually producing new cells, with the old ones dying.

Premise (4) is backed by a version of the kalaam argument.

Premise (6) is definitional if we understand materialism strongly enough to apply not just to us but to all reality. If we understand materialism more weakly, then the argument “only” yields the conclusion (5) that if materialism is true, God exists.

16 comments:

Ibrahim Dagher said...

Dr. Pruss,

With regards to (1), you clarified in your earlier post that you mean "fully compose", given that obviously, a whole can cause some of its parts (a tree and its branches). So, are humans "fully composed" of cells?

Alexander R Pruss said...

To a first approximation, yes, but only if materialism is true.

Why do I say "to a first approximation"? Well, for simplicity I'm ignoring such things as hair that aren't made of cells. A more rigorous statement would say "cells and other biological constructs". Or maybe I should have just said "organs".

. said...

This is an interesting argument. I wonder if someone could respond by saying that the x's that compose earlier time-slices of y cause the x's that compose later time-slices of y without saying that y as a whole causes all the x's that compose it. Is this reply unavailable to the materialist?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I think this reply leads to the implausible idea that we don't cause anything, but it's only our time-slices that cause effects. For it would be ad hoc to say that our cells are caused by time-slices alone and not by us, while effects outside of us are caused both by time-slices and by us.

One could, I guess, bite the bullet and say we don't cause anything, but our time-slices do. But that would imply that we are not morally responsible for anything. And we can't offload the moral responsibility onto the slices. For you can't punish a slice for what it "did", since by the time you get to punishing a slice, that slice is already long gone.

. said...

I agree that, in any case, the materialist is biting a bullet. Perhaps the easier bullet to bite would be to accept the following three propositions:
1. Either a nominalistic or an emergentist view of morally relevant phase kinds is true.
2. A relative view of diachronic identity is true.
3. For all intents and purposes, someone can hold a time slice s2 of some subject s responsible for the actions of some time slice s1 of s if they know that some phase kind K was relevant to s1's wrongdoing and s1 and s2 are diachronically identical with respect to phase kind K.

Alexander R Pruss said...

If we admit identity between time-slices, then we get something like self-causation on materialism, because if s1 and s2 are sufficiently far apart that none of the cells of s2 exist in s1, then all the constituents of s2 will be caused by s1. Hence, s1 will cause all of its own constituents. Granted the "its own" in your story will only be understood relative to a phase kind K, and maybe that helps, but it's still a kind of self-causation (or K-self-causation).

If one responds that K-relative identity is sufficiently different from identity that this kind of self-causation is not a problem, then I will say that now it's not clear that K-relative identity is close enough for responsibility. For we have a very strong intuition that it is wrong to punish y for x's wrongs if y is not identical with x.

. said...

It seems that what we typically mean when we deny the existence of self-causation is something like the following: for any s1 and s2, s1 cannot be the efficient cause of s2 and simultaneously be identical to s2 in all respects. I'm not sure this has to be denied on a relative theory of identity. Suppose we take s1 and s2 to be identical relative to some phase-kind K and different relative to some other property P. Now, since s1 qua K is identical to s2 qua K in all respects, it cannot be the efficient cause of s2 qua K. However, s1 qua K can potentially be the cause of s2 qua P because they are different with respect to P, and are thus not identical in all respects. So unless a more generalized prohibition on self-causation than the one I gave is called for, it seems that it is possible for s1 to be the efficient cause of s2 while being identical with s2 relative to some K.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Perhaps, though, we can still run the argument when the entity remains in the same kind. And we can imagine an entity remaining in the same kind for eternity, no?

. said...

In the case of your thought experiment, we can take K to be, say, the instantiation of the form of rational being. We then take s1 to have the property P1 of being composed of a certain set of cells and s2 to have the property P2 of being composed of a different set of cells. We would then say that s1 qua P1 is the efficient cause of s2 qua P2 while they are both identical relative to K.

swaggerswaggmann said...

2 no, as causal loop could happen to only small particles, not whole humans. There is no "his" to do the action...
4 Look at virtual particles.
5- 6 are contractory

Alexander R Pruss said...

I suspect that not every property defines a kind relevant for relative diachronic identity. I doubt that P1 and P2 define kinds for relative diachronic identity.

. said...

Perhaps not all properties are relevant to diachronic identity, but I wonder why P1 and P2 wouldn't be. It seems that objects can maintain their mereological identity over time. In the case of the ship of Theseus, for example, we might explain our conflicting intuitions about which ship has a claim to being the original ship by saying that the original ship is identical to the remodeled ship relative to their spaciotemporal identity and that it is identical to the reassembled ship relative to their mereological identity. Since P1 and P2 are relevant to the mereological identity of humans, P1 and P2 would seem to be relevant to the relative diachronic identity of humans. Is this wrongheaded somehow?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Good point, but I suggest a modification of your argument: instead of the kinds being P1 and P2, let the kind be: heap of cells.

. said...

This is a good suggestion. Given this modification, we could then say that s1 qua heap of cells can be the efficient cause of s2 qua heap of cells since s1 and s2 are different with respect to the exact numerical identity of the heap of cells of which they are composed.

swaggerswaggmann said...

Also 3 do not follow : a guy live eternally, there is no first cell that he couldn't have caused , So he caused all others that keep him alive, but no first, that never existed.
Use this simple mathematical logic: 0 years = 1 cell = 0% self caused cells ; 100 year, billions of cells , 99.9999..% self caused ; infinite , billions, 100% self caused.
All this assuming a linear, non cyclical time, with no emerging properties...

Assuming that there is a first is already assuming causal finitism is true. A fallacy.

Kq said...

How is premise 4 true v