Author Topic: A few questions about the Five Ways  (Read 292 times)

Offline Daniel

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A few questions about the Five Ways
« on: December 09, 2018, 02:35:10 PM »
Can somebody explain the difference between the first way (argument from motion) and second way (argument from efficient causality)? They look like the exact same argument.

Also, what exactly is the third way (argument from contingency)? I've heard it described as a special case of the first or second way: things which exist might not have existed, so their existence proves the existence of a God which can't not exist, which is giving them their existence. But can someone confirm that I have this right? Because Wikipedia's summary sounds entirely different (and is very confusing... something about infinite time and the universe not existing...)
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 02:37:13 PM by Daniel »
 
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: A few questions about the Five Ways
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2018, 12:07:10 PM »
Can somebody explain the difference between the first way (argument from motion) and second way (argument from efficient causality)? They look like the exact same argument.

They are, sort of.  It's just that the first way deals with accidents and the second way deals with things themselves.

Quote
Also, what exactly is the third way (argument from contingency)? I've heard it described as a special case of the first or second way: things which exist might not have existed, so their existence proves the existence of a God which can't not exist, which is giving them their existence. But can someone confirm that I have this right?

No, that's not right.

Quote
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not possible to be, since they are found to be generated and corrupted. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which can not-be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything can not-be, then at one time there was nothing in existence. Now if this were true then even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begins to exist only through something already existing. Therefore if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus now nothing would be in existence -- which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has already been proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore, we cannot but admit the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

And this argument is not sound.

If every thing is always generated from something else, and corrupts into something else, then despite the fact that it is possible for every individual thing to not be, it is not possible that at one time there was nothing in existence.

 

Offline Xavier

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Re: A few questions about the Five Ways
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 10:57:40 PM »
Hi Daniel. I wrote up brief summaries of the Five Ways for you, especially the first three. Hope this is helpful.

I: The First Way (also known as the argument from motion, or alternately the argument from Potentiality)

1. All that is moved (or that has had some potency actualized) has been put in motion (or has been actualized) by another.
2. If every thing set in motion (or actualized) were moved (i.e. in a state of potency needing to be actualized), there would be an infinite regress.
3. Therefore, there is a Mover that is Unmoved. (or, a Being that is Pure Actuality, in Whom there is no potentiality)

This Being terminates the chain of motion and is Who we call God. It is He Who, lacking potentiality (there is nothing that He can become that He is already not), set all other things in motion - He actualizes the potential other beings have by moving them from one state to another.

For an analogy, if you could observe balls being set in motion, by one ball striking the next and moving it, you could deduce that the line of balls (even if you could not see the first mover) does not go on indefinitely, but will have to terminate in some mover - of a nature other than a moved ball (e.g. a human hand).

The difference between the First Way and the Second Way is the first deals with motion/potentiality while the second deals with cause/being itself. Some non-theists may admit only one or the other, hence the Angelic Doctor takes the trouble to prove the same Truth in different ways, so many people can be led to acknowledge it.

While there is some overlap between the different ways, they only approach the question from different angles, to deduce properties of the Unmoved Mover/First Cause.

II: The Second Way (also known as the argument of efficient causes leading up to a first Cause)

1. In the world we see that nothing can be the cause of itself, otherwise it would exist prior to itself
2. Therefore, every thing that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
3. It cannot be that every being is caused by another being, otherwise there will be no end.
4. Therefore, a first being exists, without beginning, and as first cause of all beings.

III: The argument from Contingency/Necessity (also known as the argument of the possible and the necessary)

1. Beings are said to exist contingently when their non-existence is possible (i.e. for instance, they can cease to exist, they at one time did not exist etc)
2. Every contingent being depends on another being for its existence.
3. Therefore, if every being in existence existed contingently, the series would never end, and no existence would be possible.
4. Therefore, it is necessary that some Being exists not contingently, but necessarily, i.e. without beginning and end.

Let me know if you want syllogisms for the 4th and 5th Way.

In the Fourth Way, St. Thomas proves God is infinite Goodness and infinite Perfection. This follows from the gradation we observe in created things. We see that some are more or less good, more or less beautiful and so on. But what is Goodness that is differently participated in by different beings? What is the origin of the moral law we discern on our conscience, that reason and the natural law inform us is eternal and immutable? Each of these predications suggest an infinite source of all these attributes which they display in a limited way. Just as we saw that being and motion must be caused, so now we see that goodness and beauty and each particular attribute has its source in God.

In the Fifth, God's Intelligence and Wisdom is deduced from the laws of the created universe and the design inherent in nature. Pretty straightforward. ID is based on the same principle. If you saw a programmed algorithm, you'd know intelligence made it. When British cryptographers saw signs of design in apparently random signals, they deduced the enemy was trying to send a code. Design detection is clearly possible and is a scientific endeavor. DNA exhibits clear signs of Design.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2018, 11:36:21 PM by Xavier »
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Offline Daniel

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Re: A few questions about the Five Ways
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2018, 07:13:42 AM »
Yes, could you please give syllogisms for the fourth and fifth ways?

In the fourth way, is the word "participation" to be understood as Plato defines it (i.e. all the forms and all instantiations are good because they all participate in the form of the Good), or does it mean something else?
« Last Edit: December 20, 2018, 07:18:59 AM by Daniel »
 
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