Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dale down for the count

Apostate Dale Tuggy attempted to respond to me:

Steve seems to understand how this sort of game works. In trying to come up with a purely philosophical argument against unitarianism, what we’re working with, at bottom, is intuitions about what must be and what can’t be, and about what’s consistent with what. It all has to do with impossibility. He should ask himself why trinitarian philosophers like Davis, Swinburne, and Morris are all trying to show it to be impossible that God is unipersonal. His crying about me supposedly changing the rules on him is sad. A humbler man would realize that he’s out of his depth here, that the trinitarian philosophers, the relevant experts here, understand what must be done, to have a philosophical argument from theism to Trinity. This is how you would beat unitarian theology with a philosophical argument – if that can be done. Just asserting that unitarianism has some problem in this regard, without showing how, is just time-wasting bluster.

i) Notice Dale's illicit argument from authority. Problem is, philosophers aren't expert witnesses. We're not supposed to defer to their mere opinion. Of all disciplines, philosophy especially is supposed to be distinguished by appeal to reason. Philosophers ought to be able to defend their positions through rational explanation and argument.  

ii) In addition, there's no general criterion in philosophy that a philosophical argument is only successful if it proves the impossibility of the alternative. Consider Bayesian apologists like Swinburne and the McGrews. They don't attempt to show that Christianity is true, or the factuality of the Resurrection, by demonstrating that naturalistic alternatives are impossible. Rather, it's sufficient for their purposes to show that the naturalistic alternatives are less likely. Same thing with cumulative case arguments. Or the fine-tuning theory. Or apologetic responses to the evidential argument from evil. It's about relative probabilities.

iii) Or take the shift from proof to justified or warranted belief. Plantinga is a case in point. Likewise, consider this observation:

A proper mathematical proof, whatever else it may be, is an argument that should convince anyone who can follow it of the truth of its conclusion. We cannot think of philosophical arguments as being like that…The idea that there are proofs in philosophy as there are proofs in mathematics is ridiculous, or not far short of it…Only one thing can be said against this standard of philosophical success: if it were accepted, almost no argument for any substantive philosophical thesis would count as a success…The account of philosophical success we have been examining sets the bar too high, Peter van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil (Oxford 2006), 37-40.

Inwagen's method is to tell hypothetical stories. A philosophical argument against unitarianism doesn't require the Christian to show that unitarianism is impossible. Dale resorts to special pleading by his insistence on an artificial standard that's utterly exceptional in reference to philosophical argumentation generally. Is he so inept that he doesn't know that? Of does he know, but he's banking on the ineptitude to his sympathetic, gullible groupies to rubber-stamp whatever their hero says?  

In contrast, Steve seems to lack any reason. As far as I can see, he just asks, “How could a God who ‘is love’ never love another?” Of course, a plausible answer is: because that God doesn’t need anything or anyone else, and is plausibly thought to have been free not to create. Against this, our little apologist seems to have nothing.

For Dale, it has yet to sink in that his stock rejoinder backfires. If a unitarian God can be loving or personal without an object because he doesn't need anything or anyone else, then there's no reason for him to have an innate capacity for interpersonal relations or the ability to love another. Dale unwittingly shoots unitarianism in the foot. 

In fact, I explained how such capacity seems to logically implied by other divine attributes, attributes agreed to be essential by most trinitarians and unitarians, such as absolute perfection and aseity. Oddly, he seems to not understand. There’s no circularity in what I said; in other words, I never assume the conclusion in giving plausible reasons for the conclusion.

Yes, it's circular. Look at his explanations:

In my view, intrinsically and essentially, God is able to love another, and he is also essentially all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing. So necessarily, God possibly has someone to love, someone he makes.

Because then he wouldn’t be absolutely perfect. He’d be greater if he had such a capacity. To not have it would be a terrific disability.

I’ve just answered all of these questions above. Capacity for love of another is plausibly necessary to his being, as it seems essential. But here’s another compatible answer. If a god is supposed to be someone we can personally deal with, personally relate to, who can hear our prayers, intervene, forgive, help – then such a being must be capable of a kind of friendship with humans. So “God” would hardly be a god, in the above sense, if “God” were unable to love another. But the biblical “God” is supposed to be a god, a necessarily unique one. Of course, a unitarian Christian thinks that God is a loving, merciful, covenant-making god because of scripture, tradition, and Christian experience. But yeah, even a full-blooded concept of a deity seems to presuppose a capacity for some kind of interpersonal love.

Perfect being theology. Self-sufficiency seems to be a perfection. It is implied, I think, by aseity – that God neither exists nor has his perfections because of any other.

All he's done is to build a capacity for interpersonal relations or the ability to love another into his stipulative definition of a perfect God. He posits that that's a necessary component of perfect God. So his appeal is circular. He fails to provide an underlying reason for why a perfect God must have that attribute. He simply paraphrases his oft-repeated assertion that perfect being theology entails that. 

In his latest response to me, he attempts to sketch an argument:

But here’s another argument, this time, for his convenience, in numbered steps, and in all small words:

1. By his essence, God is perfect in power.

2. By his essence, God is able to love another.

This ability should be included in omnipotence, in divine power, right? So, it seems that 2 follow from 1. This seems to be a sound argument, and Steve has not lifted a finger to cast any doubt on the truth of 1, or on 1’s implying 2. Moreover he agrees with 1! So his only option, logically, is to try to argue that 2 doesn’t follow from 1 – in other words, that it is possible for 1 to be true while 2 is false. Good luck with that!

Unfortunately, his argument impales itself on a category error. Omnipotence has reference to God's creative power. An ability to perform any logically possible task or bring about any logically possible/compossible state of affairs. 

However, a capacity for interpersonal relations or ability to love isn't an ability in that sense. Rather, it's a divine predisposition or attribute (or "character trait", according to Dale). But a divine  predisposition or attribute (or character trait) is not an object of divine power or omnipotence. God can't have that predisposition in virtue of his omnipotence. The object of omnipotence concerns contingent states. Things which might not be. Omnipotence is not a self-referential attribute, as if God takes himself as the object of his creative power. So Dale cannot derive that predisposition for God's omnipotence. 

Now, I think we’ll have to draw the line, and demand reasons why we should think that (1) the peerhood required for the best kind of love must be peerhood of essence.

Since my argument was never predicated on the contention that peer love is the best kind of love, it's not incumbent on me to provide supporting reasons for a claim that's irrelevant to my actual argument.  

Steve-o asserts that on his Trinity theory, God must have F. Okey-dokey. 

No, I didn't merely "assert" that. Rather, that follows from the nature of a Trinitarian deity. You can deny the existence of a Trinitarian deity, but if he exists, then the very concept of a Trinitarian deity entails an intrinsic capacity for interpersonal love or the ability to love another. If God is essentially and eternally Triune, then he must be interpersonal and able to love another or others. 

1 comment:

  1. You've been stung, as if by a bee!