Best Atheist Objections to Theism

Incorrect. Those statistical regularities find their reasons in the mathematical expression like the Langrangian of the Standard model. So yeah you want to ask why those mathematical expressions and the atheist wants to ask why this God you describe. The explanations at that point become so subjective there is no way to judge the satisfaction with one answer over the satisfaction that others have with different answers.

Incorrect. They can trace cause and reason for things to natural law the same way that theists trace cause and reason of things to God. And both stop there in exactly the same way with no cause or reason for the existence of God or natural law except with some rhetoric to say that these are somehow necessary. To be sure I buy into the idea that God is a necessary existence but I see no more objectivity in that belief than I see in an atheist idea of natural law having a necessary existence. In some ways, it just looks like the dispute between two theists over the name and nature of God, one calling it deity and the other calling it natural law.

I don’t buy this for second. This is effectively saying intentionality must come from intentionality much like the typical creationist saw that life must come from life. It does not follow. My own explanation for intentionality has nothing whatsoever to do with the existence of God, and I certainly do not buy magical explanations which have such things being inserted independent of natural law. My explanation is that life is a mathematical describable process of self-organization which creates intentionality. Living organisms do things for their own reason and the organization they create and maintain in the process of life provides the grounds for those reasons. I may be a theist but I see no reason whatsoever why such an explanation shouldn’t work just as well for an atheist.

The logical inconsistency atheists see in the whole idea of God is a good reason not believe in any such thing and that is all that the problem of evil is required to do. And atheists have no problem whatsoever in deriving a morality (basis for good and evil in human behavior) based on all kinds of different things. I did this when I was 13 years old based on what I learned of psychology from my parents. The authoritarian foundation of morality by which theists derive the argument from morality is utterly inadequate for mature intelligent human beings who have to solve all kinds of moral dilemmas in a rapidly changing world.

I certainly have my own answer to the problem of evil, and free will is pretty much at the center of it. But while I see free will as the whole point for the creation of life and the universe by God, I don’t see why one cannot believe in free will without God.

You know I have to wonder if when you finish redefining God (with all this talk of ontological status and teleological models and objective standards) to fit these arguments you use about what atheists supposedly cannot do, I wonder if the result is really all that distinguishable from the natural law that atheists already believe in.

Looks like justification for what you choose to believe, to me. I choose to believe much the same and yet don’t buy those justifications at all. Are skeptics convinced by these arguments? None that I have ever heard of. I am not finding them convincing even though I do believe.

They would probably say your teeth only shatter because you have been chewing so long on too many sugar coated justifications already.

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If there were no particles, could there be a universe? Likewise, God’s parts must either be ontologically prior or a creation of him. Both options are theologically abhorrent, the first implies God is not necessary, the problem with the latter is that there would have had to have been a ‘time’, when God did not have these parts, but God, as the grounding (I won’t quite say creator) of the space/time continuum, would have to transcend time. So I hold that Divine Simplicity is most coherent.

Every religion I know of (except perhaps Mormonism) utterly rejects the notion that God has a body, which this theology would imply.

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Obviously I made a metaphysical argument. And obviously you don´t understand the argument being made. The theists argument from motion/change (e.g. Aquinas first way) argues for necessary relationships in order to get the argument off the ground. Generally the answer in order to avoid this is to adhere to a Humean view of causality which regards A causing B as two logical distinct events. In other words billard ball A hitting B and passing kinetic energy which causes B to move, is not a necessary outcome. I reject that based on the fact that without necessary rules we´d have to be confronted with a lot of unintelligible brute facts. But this contradicts everyday experience.
Maybe my conclusion is wrong, metaphysics hardly get ever proven conclusively. But I give reasons for my convictions.

Not incorrect. And it would look better if you were more familiar with arguments, before you reject them. And in particular the passage you quoted from me is uncontroversial among philosophers. In the theists worldview, according to the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, the intelligibility terminates within a necessary being which is the explanation for its own states and existence, since it is existence itself. What follows from that proposition are the divine attributes we know of, as has been argued by St.Aquinas, the scholastics or other proponents of divine simplicity.
I never said that the atheist can´t have explanations in their worldview, what I said is that there can never be a full explanation of the state of any object, since within this worldview the existence of necessary, intelligible beings are rejected and a pure contingent reality is unintelligible when the existence of contingent objects aren´t rooted within necessity.
Here is Pruss´s version of the Leibnizian argument:
I agree with that passage though:

Surely for different reasons than you do. But I think most secular people don´t know what they are even rejecting and they have in mind the anthropomorphized version you seem to be proposing, which I on the other hand reject, after I made myself familiar with our history and the arguments that have been offered. From talking to regular people, it seems that there has always been fideism at the core of every religion. And that is what the chruch fathers and scholars always rejected.

Maybe you don´t know that, but all three persons I mentioned above are atheists. I mentioned Daniel Dennett, because he reached a popular audience, Donald Davidson because he was a respected proponent of physicalist reductionism and Alex Rosenberg who is a maddog eliminativist who has to be taken seriously. And they all recognize the difficulty intentionality poses for naturalism. Another widely known philosopher of mind recognizing it is John Searle. And it is also why Dennett and Rosenberg both, from their naturalistic perspective, reject the existence of intentionality alltogether and deny that if we think about a dog, that our thoughts really are about the dog.

Rosenberg in a debate with Bill Craig, defending that exact position

Rosenberg in an interview with 3:AM Magazine.
Quote: "What is clear to me about the reception of The Atheist’s Guide was first how hard it is to get nonphilosphers to understand the problem of intentionality and aboutness, second how much harder to understand the eliminativist solution to the problem, and most all, the degree to which our emotional attachment to narratives—stories with plots, good guys, bad guys, agents with motives—gets in the way of our understanding science and applying it to these persistent questions.
Especially the first part sounds a bit like you. And by the way why Rosenberg has to be taken seriously by theists and atheists alike is, that if he is correct, then a consistent naturalist necessarily has to be an Eliminativist about the mind and mental states. And then, I´d argue, we have reached a sound reductio ad absurdum about Naturalism.
Searles own solution is to pose some kind of intrinsic intentionality to our mental states. A rare position to find and I´m not even sure if this doesn´t collapse into the aristotelian arguments.
For Davidsons view, Feser wrote a post about him and his article “Mental Events” (link in post). Although he´s an adamant proponent of physicalist reductionism and materialism, he admits that he at the time of writing sees no way of putting intentionality into the materialistic picture in a coherent way.

And, as I argued, I don´t believe that it does. It is a good emotional argument, but I think that the problem of evil ultimately is a sole philosophical problem, citing Van Inwagen. It´s still an important puzzle and problem for the theist.

The problem is that you give us no examples in what the alternative ways for the atheist are. You don´t tell me what you did at 13. And I think that is because you know that I will probably have no problem poking holes in the construct due to the lack of objective standards to be set. I recognize the problem philosophy of morality has and currently the only way to combine the worldviews into a morality is virtue ethics and the natural law. The problem: Nature is conservative as hell.
I reject every theists attempt to base their morality on divine command.


Because that, once again, means that the person made further metaphysical assumptions. This little reddit post wrote down what some of those are.

If the implications are worked out, I´m not sure if it is possible to get free will from it. For me, compatibilism is not an option, citing Van Inwagen and Pruss.

Funny you say that. Because indeed, I believe that naturalism, which rejects the existence of the necessary being I describe, is incoherent. And what you call redefining, is only staying true to the tradition, philosophy and history. Maybe you don´t realize it. But what you are desctibing and what I was believing a few years ago would have been looked by the scholars the same way, we look at Mormonism with a God on a different planet.
The natural laws as abstractions of reality have no ontological status of their own and therefor don´t fucntion as necessary alternatives.

Without justification our believes are worthless. I despise fidesim. And with ignoring the reasons I described in my previous post, you can´t understand my position. It is obvious that you allow yourself a judgment about a philosophical inquiry without taking the time to make the judgment meaningful. Your confusion about the PSR shows as much. And the question if skeptics are convinced is hilariously ironic in regard to what you wrote prior. Hell, you don´t know the arguments, why would they?

If the theistic position couldn´t be supported or to be shown to be superior to the alternative, I wouldn´t be a theist, as unpleasant as that might be, since naturalism entails nihilism. The Leibnizian argument isn´t one of, if not the, strongest argument, for no reason, as it combines a positve scientific and intelligible reality with a necessary theistic being.

The first sounds like a hindusitic picture with the highest God being pantheistic and inactive and the lesser spirit being acting agents.

If there were no love, could there be a God? The answer is of course yes to both questions, it would just be a different universe or God, right?

But it doesn’t change the principle here that the particles have their existence from the space-time structure of the universe which are the mathematical laws of nature, and not the other way around that the universe is assembled from independently existing particles.

Or as I have already suggested, things in general have parts because of our own intellectual habit of dividing them into parts in order to understand them.

I have already said that God was not assembled from parts any more than the universe was. But I don’t think that makes the word “simple” or “simplicity” an accurate description of either of them.

Incorrect. Christianity believes that Jesus is God and that Jesus has a body.

What Mormonism believes that Christianity does believe is that the Father is limited to a body like just another person. But most Christians would not claim that God the Father cannot incarnate Himself as Jesus did.

Does God have a body at this very moment?

Also, Christianity (to the best of my knowledge) believes Jesus had both divine ‘and’ human natures, he was fully man and fully God (the hypostatic union). The God part of him was completely immaterial, the human part of him was material.

That is what Christians believe – for sure. They believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected and the story in John 20:24-29 is one of Jesus showing and demonstrating this to his disciples.

The dispute we have had many times on this forum is over the nature of that body. I go with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 who says it is a spiritual body and not a natural/physical body, with a long explanation about the difference between the two.

The whole point of the hypostatic union is that these (God and man) are not separate parts. Human beings, to be sure, have a part which is physical and a part which is spiritual. It depends on your definition of immaterial, but I don’t think equating spiritual with immaterial is correct. The spiritual body of the resurrected Jesus was clearly not immaterial.

I hope you understand that a commonality you see between a selection of atheists you have chosen to read from proves nothing, let alone proves the conclusions you have drawn from this which I seriously doubt they would agree with and would probably complain disregards their own explanations.

In any case you have branched out into a great variety of topics, and I have no intention of trying to cover everything. But will follow whatever catches my eye…

I read the article on Donald Davidson and it looks like pretty standard physicalism in response to the mind-body problem and I am a certainly physicalist with regards to the mind-body problem in the sense that I believe the mind is just as physical as the body. However, this does not mean that everything is physical. I believe there is a spiritual (i.e. non-physical) existence as well – the difference being the following. Physical things are all a part of the mathematical space-time structure of the physical universe and thus governed by the laws of nature which follow from that structure. Spiritual things are not a part of that structure. There is an effective dualism between mind and body because they are two different physical living organisms with their own self-organizing life process in their own mediums with their own desires and means to pass on an inheritance to the next generation.

I am certainly an opponent of reductionism (in all its forms, whether the Dawkins genetic reductionism or Whitehead’s process reductionism) and I think materialism is rather defunct and thus largely replaced by naturalism, because energy not matter is the substance of the universe and the fundamental difference is that energy does away with the difference between thing and action.

In any case… reductionism and physicalism, let alone materialism, are not atheism and so Donaldson’s inability to put intentionality into the picture says nothing about any such disability for atheists in general. Like I explained before, I have no such problem and make no reference to God in doing so. Therefore, I see no reason why atheists cannot adopt the same methods to explain intentionality as well.

I find you terribly misunderstand the doctrine of divine simplicity, the notion isn’t that God has no attributes, the notion is that God’s attributes have no distinction, they are just different aspects of the same existence. God is love insofar as he loves, he is mind insofar as he thinks, existence insofar as he exists.

In which case it would still have metaphysical composition requiring causes, since its essence is distinct from its existence (its essence is not existence since it derives its structure from something else.

As I suggested, God’s many attributes does not imply composition.

Again, you misunderstand the notion of divine simplicity, which ‘at its core’ is nothing more than the idea that God has no composition

My position is that “divine simplicity” doesn’t make any sense to begin with and there is no such difference in God by the name of simplicity. But perhaps here is the nail in the coffin. God IS separable from his attributes because He can discard them if He chooses. This connects with the typical dogma of theologians in their assertion of dominance over God in the declaration that God has no power over Himself but is required to be confined to their definitions. I refute this saying that a power over oneself is the most important part of omnipotence and thus God can be without attributes like knowledge and power as a helpless human infant, if He chooses.

Our universe exists, there are universal laws and constants which permit it to exist. Infinitesimal changes would render our universe, as it now exists, and us, impossible. This is certainly true. But it does not lead one to posit any anthropic principle originating from God as a logical necessity.

As I understand it, Augustine, posited that something is eternal if it exists in a timeless, unchanging state. He further contends that we cannot create anything timeless and unchanging because we are not those things. Something higher than us must sustain these things. Taking it another step, God does not produce these things. Rather, being eternal, He possesses the eternal truths and sustains them.

Ontologically, he proceeds:

A: If there is something eternal, not created by human minds, God exists.

B: Truth is eternal and not created by human minds.

C: Therefore, God exists.

So, to mathematical truth, God is true because we know math is true and math could not be true without God? But, mathematics can only uncover the constants, not how they relate, and other constants are still possible, even if that renders us impossible.

Which would (ironically), leave God ‘without’ power over himself

In all seriousness, I reject the idea of divine mutability for the same reasons I said before, God is necessary, ‘and’ transcendent of time and space.

First of all, let me thank you for providing the link to Peter Hacker’s essay. For me, it shed considerable light on some profound concepts that most modern philosophers have left “fuzzy”. One example is that Hacker gives us some insight into the interaction of human Conscience and Consciousness and how both bear on the concept of Free Will.

I am not sure if, in this final phrase, you give it a religious meaning that we humans are destined to become co-creators with God. (?)
Al Leo

Sure. But, as all of them plus Paul Churchland, who takes the same view as Dennett and Rosenberg, are required readings in an academic philosophy of mind course, it is a good indicator for which views are influential. Naturalist rarely follow Rosenberg in his radical conclusion. The question is though, if his conclusions based on the premises are valid, then it is the premise which has to be rejected, and that is the crux of the issue.

Of course, but additional arguments for that are made. from people specializing in the area.
Here for example is a paper from Feser:

I assert some premises here, since it explodes the topic and can hardly be discussed in a small comment section. So I can only argue for so much and my posts already have been long. But it is a small survey of the views of influential naturalists in the area. Could they be wrong? Sure and of course I argue that they are for the most part. But it is no good to continue the handwaving you have been professing.
By the way, alternatives from Dennett for example are “as-if”-intentionality, it rejects the idea of intrinsic intentionality and only speaks of derivative one. It is a useful fiction. However that ultimately rejects the existence of intentionality altogether, since it would have to be grounded within an intrinsic one, which is rejected. It is the same argument when one speaks of functions within biology but rejects the idea of aristotelian teleology.

I only answered what you have opened.

I will take that definition to show you why there are inconsistencies within your worldview. But I have to set the stage up a bit more.

Correct me if I´m wrong, but I read you as taking a Hylemorphist view. Maybe property dualism. But either way the mental is governed by the physical in your view in subject to a physicalist worldview concerning the physical world, where our mental aspects are a part of.
The soul, if it exists, is the whole of body and spirit, like it is taught by the Catholic Church. This is how I read you.

That is inconsistent with the position already stated.

As someone who rejects reductionism, you take emergent, irreducible properties to be existent. Life, language or consciousness are the most popular examples.
So the sum of A=Neurons enable the appearance of property B=consciousness.
If the mental is not a quantitative aspect which can be reduced to the single neurons, it follows that there is something additional. B already has a different ontological status. The additional probably has something to do with the arrangement, hence the popularity of computational theories within materialistic theories of mind. However there has to be a specific aspect about the arrangement which makes it possible for there to appear new properties which haven´t been found or even hinted at while researching the parts.
If you haven´t recognized it already, this all is fascinatingly resembling to aristotelian forms. If one is a realist about emerging properties, these are what have to be included within ones worldview. If a property appears on a specifically arranged number of As which haven´t been found in the individual A, there are two possible conclusions one has to draw:

  1. An additional property B came from nothing
  2. An additional property B existed prior as a potency and can express itself now.

I don´t see any reason the accept 1. Just because it is a property, this doesn´t mean that a violation of ex nihilo nihil fit can be vindicated. In fact, possiblity 1 is absurd.
What about 2? Of course I don´t argue that we as individuals existed prior to our coming into being. But there has to be something to account for even the possiblity of consciousness to arise. There are limits to the natural world. They have to be accounted for. However this exact potency B in our example is what is incompatible with a physicalist assumption. When one accepts emergentism, then properties with a status resembling aristotelian forms exist which can only be expressed within the physical reality when the arrangement of the physical is fitting. So physicalism is incompatible with emergentism. The ontology of the properties are not subject to the physical laws.


The latter can´t replace the former. Materialism is mostly replaced by physiclaism. Naturalism is the natural ally of materialism though. But there is no necessary relationship. Heck, I know Cartesian Dualists who atheists.

This is true. BUT I have yet to see a good way to naturalize it. Generally philosophers have problems to naturalize the mind, this is also why, after 2 centuries of Humeanism, Aristotelianism is making a comeback in philosophy, including by philosophers without theological dispositions (Cartwright, Mumford).

Well you have asserted it. I didn´t read anything resembling a way for the atheist to naturalize intentionality within your comment. It rather seems that you have a naive idea as to how the arguments for theism are supposed to work. The question for the atheist is how does intentionality arise from a pure non-intelligent reality? If my thoughts contain intentionality, e.g. when I think about a dog or if we have this conversation here, then the question as to how this is possible giving we are life forms arising from inanimate and non-intelligent matter? Where can this intentionality be grounded? Within matter? Not good! The physical aspects of the words I´m typing have no semantic meaning within their physical constituents. They have derived intentionality in the sense that they are instrumentalized to carry over information to an intelligent receiver. Maybe the neurons then? Same problem, the brain state itself is only a carrier. The meaning of it can hardly be linked 1:1 to the atoms or molecules or electrical signals which get passed.
See the problem? If the intentionality is real, it seems that it has to be grounded within intrinsic intentionality, similar to our mental capacities. Thomas Nagel, whose “Mind and Cosmos: Why the materialistic neo-darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false” caused furious responds from atheists and sympathetic responses from theists (Nagel belongs to the former) even proposes some kind of aristotelian intrinsic teleology to account for the origin of life and consciousness, an inherent tendency in a universe to give rise to it, but he is very cautious to avoid every kind of intrinsic intentionality. Because that collapses into a fundamental, underlying mind. It could be that there is an alternative. But there hasn´t been a successful way in doing so yet.
That is the exact problem for the atheistic philosopher of mind in naturalizing intentionality. This is the position the people take I wrote about prior. But you have a solution, those people haven´t yet thought of? Tell me and I´ll write to the philosophy department in the university right away.

Hi Al!
To begin with, Hacker is incredible. I very much enjoy his book co-authored with Mike Bennett: “The Philosophical Foundation of Neuroscience

To your question, Aristotle offered four kinds of causes necessary to explain an object. Take a chair for example:

Material Cause: Wood
Efficient Cause: The Carpenter
Formal Cause: The wood has been arranged to the form of a chair. It could also have become a table or a buch of toothpicks.
Final Cause: To sit on it.

Now of course, this is very simplistic. And no object only has one final cause of course. I could put my foot on the chair to lace my shoes, or stand on it to reach a higher object. But although there are so many possibilities, we can´t get an intelligible account of an object without the concept of a final cause. To put it simple: Final Cause= Function. And without speaking of it, no satisfactory explanation of the object can be given. Try to explain a gene without mentioning its function. The explanation will be pretty useless and leaves too much open.

Now to put it into the example of the passage you quoted from me: My arm has the tissue as material cause, my will to move it accompanied with the electrical signal as the efficient, the tissue in the form of an arm as the formal cause and the final cause is to grab some weight.
Currently I can fulfill my final cause to lift a specific weight. From my ability to do so, you can conclude that it is within my nature to do so. But it is safe to say that, as I grow older, the material cause of my arm will get weaker, thus preventing me from fulfilling a final cause which is within my nature.

Of course one could argue that the final cause of the human soul is to become co-creators with God, but this is a different argument. The four causes can be applied to all objects.

No kidding! But thanks for the thoughts–it’s kind of refreshing to think of it from that point of view.

…always… I simply doubt that atheism is the premise which needs to be rejected.

Hylomorphism is a first approximation, and property dualism is nonsensical to me. Perhaps you should say it has more to do with the discovery in physics that everything we know of in physics are different forms of energy. I extend this beyond the physical to suggest that all things are forms of some basic substance of being itself which is much like energy in the way this erases the distinction between thing and action.

“Mental governed by the physical” is not the correct way of saying this, any more than you should say that actions of people and living things are determined by the laws of nature. The mind is a living organism too and does things for its own reasons, BUT its existence like the body depends on and derives from those laws of nature which define the physical universe.

Don’t believe in the pagan notion of the soul which is substituted for “life” in some passages of the Bible by some translations, but really has no place in the Bible. I believe in the spirit which is a creation of the choices of living things.

Only in your set of presumption, which I am not obliged to accept.


This is like trying to identify a computer program with specific wires and transistor which is idiotic. The computer is the operation of the whole machine. The mind is a living organism and the process of life is highly quantitative in additive numbers, hierarchy, and speed. Furthermore the substance of the mind is linguistic and so trying to reduce this to neurons is absurd. Neurons are components of nervous system which in human beings enable linguistic symbolization of information. But just because you cannot identify the mind with biological components does not mean it is any less of a physical existence.

This sounds like it is mired in the artifacts of language much like a lot of ancient Greek philosophy. It is like constructing sentences by attaching adjectives to nouns and to think this is the way reality works with properties attached to objects is absurd. Emergent properties do not come from nothing. They come from the operation of a system of interactions and only exist in the context of that system of interactions. Thus we not only have a science of physics, but also of chemistry and biology, even though they are all the same physical universe with the same natural laws.

The point is that you can build new things and looking for those things in the pieces themselves is just silly. You might be tempted to say that life is included in the things you can build, except that the very essence of life is that it builds itself in a process of self-organization. Mind is simply a particular example of this phenomenon/process of life.

Again, only in your set of presumption, which I am not obliged to accept. Furthermore I think these premises of yours are unrealistic and out of touch with the findings of science.

This isn’t even coherent as far as I am concerned. Physicalism is a answer to the mind-body problem, which has very little to do with materialism. It would be more accurate to say that physicalism is the answer that both materialists and naturalists would give to the mind-body problem. But, materialism which is the assertion that nothing exists but matter, its motion and interactions, doesn’t fit very well with the defintions of matter in modern science so this been updated to naturalism which simply equates reality with the scientific worldview – that way it adjusts automatically to whatever science discovers.

The answer atheists give can be the same as my answer, which is that it arises the same way that life arises from non-life in abiogenesis through self-organization. Intentionality emerges as the self-maintaining organization of processes adapts to changing environmental conditions with both an increasing independence from the environment and an increasing sensitivity to the environment. In this way the changes become more and more of a response to the environmental change rather than merely an effect of the environmental change. The responses are intentional within context of the system which adapts and maintains an identity apart from the environment – in other words, this context provides the reasons which the organism has for those responses.

To be sure the mind creates words for abstract aspects of this process and makes it sound all lofty and special, but when you look behind the words at what is actually happening then I think it is the same thing. Now you might think that makes what you call intentionality disappear – to which I will reply that this is the extent to which I simply do not believe in your idea of intentionality anyway. And we can have pretty much the same conversation about “consciousness.”

It is not a premise at all, at least not in the arguments analyzed. Atheism, as well as Theism, are conclusion on the basis of premises analyzed in a coherent way toward the logical outcomes. My point is that I haven´t seen any syllogism with a realist premise about intentionality for a naturalistic worldview.

Well you could say that, but I´d suspect that there is hardly any philosopher in metaphysics going to champion that definition of physicalism. In fact, the way you describe it its more like substance dualism. Hardly physicalist in the orthodox way.

That would put a strange status on the laws of nature, similarly to what Descartes thought the epiphysis to be, the object interacting with the material as well as the spiritual. Descartes would agree that every mental action requires the material, but if you´d say that the mind is existentially dependent on the body then once again you´d at best get some kind of property dualism or materialism. But this contradicts you hinting to the fact that the mind is beyond the physical.

´Course you´re not. But then you´d have to explain where I missed the point. You said you´re a physicalist (though your definition is hardly used that way) and an anti-reductionist. I said that this puts the added property in a different ontological position than the material object enabling its appearance are. If the mind were a quantifiable aspect of the neurons, we´d ultimately be stuck with a kind of panpsychism and have bought little explanation for a high price. If the properties aren´t to be found within the material, we´d have aristotelian forms. Because, obviously, structure is important.

I reframed from making the examples more complicated than they need to be in order to get the point across. But it is not idiotic, it´s quite illustritative. The program makes the vacuum pipes switch on and off in a specific order to get the program to run on the hardware. The program derived its intentionality from the designer to follow the orders in the way the software is programmed. Just switching some pipes on and off doesn´t achieve anything, a program is needed for meaningful interpretation. It follows that only having the hardware isn´t enough to get the computer to calculate, an ability which can hardly be found when analyzing the components.
Not idiotic, quite literally the argument from Saul Kripke and later James Ross for the immateriality of the mind. Again, not physicalistic.

I don´t understand the point you are making. If the mind can´t be identified with the biological components, it has a different ontological status. That much should be clear. If there are aspects which the whole has and which the parts of the sum lack, it follows that there has been something added. Denying this results in reductionism. Now tell me how this is supposed to be made compatible with physicalism. Preferably in a more rigorous form, the definition you have been working with looks like it includes God as a kind of energy or power. You could do that, but it is meaningless.

Admittedly, it works with the aristotelian terms of act and potency, with act being the current state of an object and potency as the potential state of that said object, after change. I used the most cautious language available to me to express the possibility of the conscious state to arise, while not having to include some kind of preexisting state of the consciousness as a spirit without a body. This might sound like language game, but it really is for distinguishing between possibilities and impossiblities. It can be found within the neo-aristotelian tradition, though I normally reframe from that language. But here it is important to express some kind of ontological difference.

Exactly my point. But then they are platonic. Nothing in your statement

contradicts that and I sign that as far as it goes. But the possibility for the property to arise has to be accounted for. What is it within the Carbon that gives the possibility to give rise to a living substance (abiogenesis) which is not given in a pond with pure H2O? Especially taking in mind that all of the atoms and elements are made from the same parts, yet there are different properties which can´t be reduced to those parts. We are deeply in the realm of the science underlying metaphysics now. Changes and emergence mustn´t be simply accepted, but analyzed within metaphysical systems.

Sounds very much like animism. Or vicious circularity. Either the material objects always had some living essence within them, which makes the question for the beginning of life meaningless, or there was indeed a point at which life arose from dead matter. I´d say it´s the latter. But this has to be accounted for and my whole point is that I don´t see a way how this could be done within a physicalistic framework or without taking aristotelian forms in the concept. And you still haven´t shown an alternative. Your describtions in this comment have merely reframed the issue within a more scientific language, but you haven´t sidestepped the problem at all.

I´m aware when I step on an epistemological field and when I´m in the area of metaphysics. I´m following William Carroll in mcuh of my interpretations. So you´d have to argue, not merely assert why that is the case. Furthermore I have worked with your premises you have given to describe your own worldview. I only attempted to show that there is a logical inconsistency within the views you have. If that wasn´t successful, then tell me why. In this comment, especially in regards to emerging properties all you have described is a kind of pragmatist response, which is equivalent to just putting your fingers into your ears.

What? No. Physicalism is the assumption that all there is to reality is the space-time universe. It is the successor of materialism, which states that all there is is matter and energy. Physicalism is more open, as it allows for different statuses of the natural laws or for the discovery of further kinds of objects, as long as they are governed by the physical laws. Of course they are answers to the mind-body-problem, but that is way too narrowed down.

Probably, though the latter isn´t restricted to that. Take for example David Chalmers, Gale Strawson, Thomas Nagel and Raymond Tallis.

+energy, don´t forget the energy. We don´t talk about an extreme form of atomism.

Fancyful formulated non-answer. Intentionality is a special kind of teleology, not existent within purely material systems. Teleology though, is and your statement has made heavy use of it. We are already in Nagel-territory. Let´s look at where this path takes us.

You seem to be confused at what intentionality is even supposed to mean. As my argument in my previous comment goes, its intrinsic form can´t be identified with the physical, since the physical constituents lack semantic meaning, similarly to when only the ink on a paper is analyzed within its atomic structure. At best I could interpret you to describe extrinsic, derived intentionality. Where can I find its grounding?

Once again, teleological since the organism and the molecules are following rules and respond to enviromental changes in a law-like manner, but certainly not intentional qua definition. By its very definition intentionality is a psychological act in which the thoughts are directed at something. None of the examples you have provided is even in the same category.
By the way your examples on the topic of theism and atheism are interesting though since you already describe a worldview which Nagel adheres to, but which already concedes so many points, that the normal academic naturalist would shudder. And most theists I know would argue that you already conceded enough to collapse into Aquinas´ fifth way. So when following you, the naturalists project already stands on shaky grounds. And you haven´t even touched intentionality yet.

You sound like the biologist who rejects teleological language about function or purpose as useful fiction, but still fails to offer a useful alternative. It just can´t be right, can it? It´s not really a surprise that there is regrowing interest in such concepts of teleology within the philosophy of biology. And no scholastic or follower of Aristotle would claim that our abstractions give an exhaustive picture, we are not able to see the whole of reality. Nontheless, we can get the idea right and work out the details over time, like when working on Aristotelian notions of causality or philosophy of mind. This is, after all, the idea behind philosophy. Rejecting the project alltogether makes the whole idea of being, existence, mind, and scientific explanations unintelligible. This is, at best, a lazy response.

No, my reply will be that you have shown no indication to have understood what intentionality is supposed to be. Quoting me quoting Rosenberg above: What is clear to me about the reception of The Atheist’s Guide was first how hard it is to get nonphilosphers to understand the problem of intentionality and aboutness.

At last a question, which clears up further the confusion about my claim that physicalism is incompatible with emergentism: In your view, if we don´t take the structure (or form) itself to add properties to the sum of particles making them up, then why would we expect any emergent properties at all when the parts are arranged in a particular way?

There is no fundamental difference. Every premise can and often does become a conclusion. You just figure out what premises are required to make an argument for it. And every conclusion can and often does become a premise when the premises of an argument for that conclusion is discarded. Again it looks to me like your thinking is an artifact of language.

No definition of physicalism was made there. The only use I have ever had for the term “physicalism”, is the answer to the mind-body problem. But obviously when you are talking about some other use of the term then it does not apply to me.

A program might not even have a designer. It can be just a random sequence of numbers. Yeah it is looking more and more like I do not even believe in your intentionality stuff. I have explained the sort of intentionality I do believe in.

A computer is not identified with biological components. Does that mean it has a different ontological status? I don’t think so. Or how about the hardware and software of a computer? Do they have a different ontological status? Again… I don’t think so.

Certainly NOT! There is no such thing except in the imagination of Plato.

Carbon has nothing of the sort. There is no such thing as a living substance. There is only a living process. It doesn’t matter what the substance is but only what it is doing. Though to be sure the complexity of the substance is important because it enables greater complexity in the processes.

Yes because what a system of interacting atoms does is not determined by the properties of the atoms alone. There is a history, and what they did and do now is part of the cause for what they will do. This is where the emergence takes place – in the actions and interactions of the component parts, which can sometimes have no other cause than the actions and interactions themselves.

Incorrect. Animism is precisely what I am rejecting and what you are doing, trying to stick intentionality magically on top of things, while I am saying that there is nothing added. The process of life generates intentionality by what it does just like other physical systems generate lots of other physical properties and quantities like light or heat. But then, like I said before, part of the problem is because I don’t believe in your intentionality which you have concocted in such a way so that it has to be added woo woo from something outside the physical.

I already answered this above. Emergent properties emerge in dynamic structures, which is another way of saying that it comes from what the component parts do rather than only what they are or how they are arranged. And what they do is not always determined by what they are. This why you can have exactly the same stuff and it is alive in one case but not in another case. No, it is not because of some woo woo magical nonsense added to the stuff in one case. Like I said before… I don’t believe in the pagan soul thing or in fact any material, ectoplasm, or whatever which adds a quality of life or intentionality to things.