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Many theists appeal to certain facts about the world (objectivity of morality, laws of nature, existence of the universe) and infer that these facts must be grounded in God. One response that I found common to atheists is to argue that these facts are rather brute and need no explanation beyond themselves. My question then is this: What makes a particular fact a brute fact? To put it more specifically, are there any criteria for what would make a certain fact brute and also for what would make a certain fact necessarily grounded on something else?

As I understand it, the distinction between brute facts and other facts is that a brute fact has no explanation (not simply an explanation we fail to know) whereas any other fact has an explanation (even if we don't know the explanation). Contingent facts could have been otherwise: they could have failed to be facts. Noncontingent facts couldn't have been otherwise: they couldn't have failed to be facts. Given the history of scientific explanation, I see no reason to accept the existence of brute contingent facts. Many contingent facts that seemed to resist explanation were later explained. I see no reason to think that many of the facts that now seem to resist explanation won't themselves later be explained. One way for every contingent fact to have an explanation is for there to be an endless regress of contingent facts. I see nothing wrong with such a regress. Assuming that the existence and nature of our universe are both contingent, they would be explained by an endless regress of contingent...

Hi! My friend tells me that our purpose in life can't be to be happy. Either one of the religions has got it right, and there is a deity or deities, in which case our purpose is to serve them, or there is no God, in which case we have no purpose other than one we arbitrarily decide for ourselves to follow. Does that claim hold water? Thanks in advance for your help!

I think your friend's argument by dilemma leaves out this possibility: we were made by a deity (or deities) principally in order to lead happy lives rather than principally in order to serve it (or them). Even so, our having been made for the purpose of being happy wouldn't make being happy our purpose . Instruments made for a purpose thereby acquire that purpose (although, of course, they can later be repurposed). But people aren't instruments; I doubt that they're the kind of thing that can be given a purpose, even by their maker. Or at least, because they're autonomous, people can thwart any attempt by their maker to give them a purpose. Hence I don't think there could be any such thing as "our purpose in life," if "our" refers to people in general. So I agree with your friend's conclusion (although for different reasons than your friend gave): our purpose in life can't be to be happy. Nor can it be anything else.

Hello my question is about the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I personally do agree with the premises and the conclusion, however a person on youtube said that you cannot say that an infinite regress does not make sense but an infinite being does. So my questions are what is the difference between an infinite regress and an infinite being, can you say they are both absurd? Does an infinite being make sense?

A response to Jonathan's point: To deny that the universe had a beginning is not to deny that a Big Bang occurred several billion years ago, nor is it to discount the evidence for such an event. But the available evidence doesn't imply, and it may not even favor, the claim that a Big Bang event occurs only once rather than cyclically, with the cycles going back, in principle, forever. So I stand by "eminently." While I'm at it: Jonathan wrote that "some infinite series don't make sense (e.g. an infinite series of events leading up to a present event, since one could never take the last step, since there is no last step)." I take it that Jonathan meant to write "there is no first step," since we're talking about a series that is infinite in the earlier direction. But either way -- "first" or "last" -- his reasoning sounds like Zeno's argument that I can never begin to traverse (or finish traversing) any distance because there is never a first (or a last) fraction of the distance that I traverse. That...
I myself have much more sympathy for the major premise of the KCA, "Whatever begins to exist is caused to exist," than for the minor premise, "The universe began to exist." It's true that the major premise faces pressure from quantum mechanics, but only from those interpretations of quantum mechanics that presume indeterminism. The minor premise is often thought to gain support from physical cosmology, but I have my doubts about that. It's one thing to admit that our equations go silent at the instant of the Big Bang, quite another to insist that nothing, not even time, existed prior to that instant. Anyway, to your question. Some infinite regresses clearly make sense, such as the regress generated by starting with 0 and subtracting 1 from every result you get. There is nothing absurd about that regress unless there is something absurd about the set of negative integers. By the same token, I see no reason why states of the universe cannot go back infinitely far into the past. To object that "The...

Why does God not relieve the acute suffering of a child? This example incites the jury. The child's suffering and mine during a flu episode only differ in degree. The question is why God allows suffering at all. In a world of inevitable death suffering is unavoidable and is therefore as natural as elliptical orbits. Suffering (like its twin pleasure) is morally neutral and a by-product of sentience--cruelty and indifference are not neutral. For God to intervene would be to change the natural order, thus depriving humans of a full range of experience, freedom to act, and full responsibility for those actions. The terms of existence are non-negotiable. God's moral law is the architect's plan for living with these conditions. Does my argument hold any water?

I think your argument has holes that prevent it from holding much water: 1. Our world need not have been a world of inevitable death. Any God capable of creating the universe from scratch is capable of creating its physical laws, so nothing forced God to make our universe one in which everything dies. The creation of a universe having that feature is entirely God's choice. Nor could any sin we humans later committed force God to institute death as a response. That response is not dictated to God by any law; it is likewise entirely God's choice. 2. "For God to intervene would be to change the natural order..." But, again, it's a natural order that God chose to institute in the first place. 3. "...thus depriving humans of a full range of experience, freedom to act, and full responsibility for those actions." As it is, humans don't have the full range of experience: there are things (including pains and pleasures) that we can't experience but other animals can. If the freedom to act is highly valuable...

Skeptical theism states that if we cannot tell whether any of the evils in our world are gratuitous, then we cannot appeal to the existence of gratuitous evil to conclude that God does not exist. However, I can't help but think that we can. The rules of probability tell us that that individual probabilities can be quite low, but their disjunction can be very high. For instance, there may be only a small chance that you will be involved in an automobile accident on a given day, but if you drive every day, the chances are pretty good that you will be in one on some day in your lifetime. Similarly, even if the chance that a given instance of a trillion cases of suffering is gratuitous is quite low, the chance that one of that trillion is gratuitous can be can be very high, and it only takes one instance of gratuitous evil to rule out the existence of God. Coming from someone who is not a philosophy major, am I right in my criticism of skeptical theism or is it too naive?

The theism part of skeptical theism, at least if it's classical theism, must say that the probability that God allows suffering without having an adequate moral justification for allowing it is well-defined and zero, just as you suspect. But the skeptical part of skeptical theism, as I understand it, says that we can't properly assign any probability at all to the claim that a given case of suffering is in fact gratuitous (i.e., such that God, if God exists, has no adequate moral justification for allowing it). We can't, according to the skeptical part, because we can't presume to know the full range of justifications at God's disposal, if God exists. So we have to enter a "?" rather than a number (or range of numbers) into our calculation of the probability of the disjunction, which of course renders the calculation impossible. I don't mean to suggest that I accept the skeptical part of skeptical theism, but that's what it says, if I understand it correctly.

If God is the creator of the universe and all the living and non living things , Can he create or recreate himself ?

Because I think it's self-contradictory to say that God could literally create or re-create himself, I think believers in a Creator God must say this: God created all of the created things in the universe, but those things exclude God himself (and also Platonic abstract objects such as the laws of logic). For a bit more detail about why, you might look at my answer to Question 25260 .

Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist. Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. Can we accept the conclusion above as valid or even fact?

The argument itself is logically valid -- indeed, formally valid. It uses only modus tollens and the rule that "P" and "~ ~ P" are equivalent, both of which are valid rules of inference. However, I think the argument is unsound -- and therefore I think it fails to establish its conclusion -- because Premise 1 is false, at least if Premise 1 is meant as a strict conditional. (I think it's also false if it's meant as a material conditional, but that's more controversial.) For excellent discussion of Premise 1, I recommend this article and this collection of essays .

It sounds to me like the arguments about the existence of God are displaced from what the essence of the argument is "really" about. It seems pretty clear from the equations of quantum mechanics that there is a Deity. However, whether She takes any interest in human beings, let alone the quotidian details of our everyday lives, is another matter. That is where the argument "really" seems to be: if we posit that there is a Deity, what reasons do we have to believe that She cares about our everyday lives or intercedes in response to a prayer? It may well be that She is like a parent with grown children: "I took care of you and raised you to adulthood and gave you all the skills and abilities you need to take care of yourself on your own. Good luck!" Isn't that the basis of the argument in favor of free will? If we do have free will, then why would God respond to our prayers?

It seems pretty clear from the equations of quantum mechanics that there is a Deity. I must say: That's as striking a statement as I can recall reading in quite a while! I wonder if it's the view of most of those who do QM for a living. Indeed, aren't there aspects of QM (indeterminacy, randomness, the Measurement Problem, the difficulty of reconciling QM with General Relativity, etc.) that suggest that no Designer is responsible for QM? Anyway, you draw an analogy between the Deistic God and a parent of grown children. But parents of grown children don't take the totally hands-off attitude toward their children that Deism attributes to God. Not if they're decent parents. What decent parent would deliberately choose not to call for help if she saw her adult child clutch his chest and collapse on the pavement? The Deistic God is a puzzling figure: knowledgeable and powerful enough to create a universe of mind-boggling size and complexity but morally callous enough not to care if the universe She...

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