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.


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".

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

Pat McHugh said...

I am discovering that this was essentially the argument of the sadly forgotten philosopher W. Pepperell Montague (1873 - 1953), himself a materialist and a theist.