Necessary Beings/Entities

In studying the intersection of cosmology and the Christian Faith, one of the concepts that I have come across and have struggled with greatly is the idea that there are necessary abstract entities (e.g. numbers, properties, propositions, etc.) apart from God—that are not caused or created by God—that would exist in all possible worlds . I have encountered a wide range of views among contemporary Christian philosophers on the subject: William Lane Craig’s rejection of Platonism and necessary abstract entities; Peter Van Inwagen’s claim that the existence of abstract objects depends on nothing, and that “all things visible and invisible” in the Nicene Creed refers to things that can enter causal relations; the modern view of modified Platonism held by some contemporary philosophers; the list goes on and on. I have not found any of these views particularly helpful in clarifying the problem; indeed, if anything, they have intensified it for me. How is it we should view God? As a necessary Being as classical theism dictates, or only a “factually, but not logically necessary Being, as Richard Swinburne postulates? In addition, how does one make sense of the idea of necessary abstract entities (such as numbers) in relation to the omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God that we Christians believe in?

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I think I’ve read C.S. Lewis somewhere insisting that we shouldn’t think of God as somehow being above or separate from reason. Nonsense is everywhere still and always nonsense, not because God declared it so, but because it just is … and God is a God of Truth. When the scriptures describe God as a God of order, one doesn’t get the sense that God arbitrarily decided what order should look like, and then declared it so. No - we are asked (by Paul and others) to also have a share in this judgment even in our limited human ways, of beholding that what God does is true and orderly and good. Hence our ‘theodical’ distress when we perceive or discern things as disorderly or tragic, and yet still want to believe that God sovereignly directs all. So 1+1=2, not because God makes it so, but because it just does, and God, being a truthful God (a few passages about God sending deceiving spirits out and about notwithstanding) would never align anything falsely.

While it is perpetual (and never conclusive) fun to dance around such philosophical subjects, it also seems our part to find our best and truest understandings first through simple obedience. Then as our lives become more ordered, thus, I suspect (not being fully there myself) that we slowly find our set of questions to have, not so much been answered, as replaced by different priorities.

I very dimly recall a story of a physically afflicted man going up front in church for prayer and healing by various elders. The elder that prayed for him was apparently moved by the Spirit in a powerfully effective way, because he (the elder) prayed for the spiritual condition of the man in ways that moved the recipient to tears. Then the elder added (as an almost forgotten afterthought) to pray about the malady which had been the man’s request and entire reason for coming forward in the first place. But at that point, the man didn’t even care about the malady anymore - so consumed with joy was he over the real answer to prayer that he got that he didn’t even know he was asking for. Not saying that works that way all the time … but when the Spirit moves and we move with it, things happen!

All that to say that when we are out among others, sleeves rolled up and serving them, all our ivory tower concerns are suddenly seen (if seen at all) in very different light.

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First of all, numbers are not abstract entities. They are relational entities. Abstract means not real, but numbers are very real. Our civilization would collapse if numbers were not real. Relationships are real and created by God since God is love and Love is relational. If human knowledge is based on abstractions, then our understanding of the universe is not real.

The universe is relational. Humans are relational. God is relational. All knowledge is relational.

@Mervin_Bitikofer I like the rational. And that the elder was able to be real and compassionate; useful.

God can’t not work with the reality He grounds. How that works in the sublime we haven’t the faintest idea.

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Relates, at least philosophically, abstract does not mean “not real” under all definitions and understandings. Numbers absolutely are necessary under most philosophical schools, but they are considered abstract insofar as they do not have any causal power and are not concrete objects.

The debate between how to classify numbers is extremely controversial in philosophy, but I don’t know of any school that considers numbers to have causal power as a necessary being. Platonism for example considers numbers to be actual objects, whereas nominalism takes numbers to be completely made up things in the human mind.

I would say that Van Inwagen’s claims should be taken lightly when considering arguments regarding necessary beings, because much of his criticism in this realm is wildly controversial, and I believe Alexander Pruss practically eviscerated it in section 2.3.2 in this paper from 2009 (http://www.alexanderpruss.com/papers/LCA.html).

Ultimately, if it helps you to simply understand that the necessary being understood to be God in these arguments has causal power, whereas the necessary being of numbers does not have any casual power, that is good also.

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To the OP, om just the bloke on the bus me, down the pub. But the laws that govern materiality (from psychology, biology, chemistry, physics (QM, ROS the lot), maths, logic on down and all their intersects) govern God. If He doesn’t exist, there they are, crystallizing out of the ‘if null then not null’ principle of existence. If He does He is bound by them in the material or it can’t be, won’t work. He will be bound by an extended set in the sublime, i.e. heaven. How that works we haven’t the faintest idea. So non-dimensional numbers like the fine structure constant and other dimensional constants, like c have a reality one feels in one’s plebby common sense way. And WLC is so wrong it’s pathetic how not only did he fool me, I wanted him to so much and to be right.

Glad I’m not the only one that thinks so, but then I don’t believe God is the god of the Bible. I recognize that thinking so puts me outside of Christianity. Do you likewise not think of yourself as a Christian?

I do agree with you about WLC. The amount of certainty that man wrings from pure speculation makes what Jesus is said to have done with five loaves and two fish look like child’s play.

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What laws do you mean exactly? Do you mean things like logical contradictions? For example, I think most Christian theists when asked to respond to the “can God create a stone he can’t lift” example would normally answer by saying no, because it’s a logical contradiction and it is impossible for God to create a stone so heavy he cant lift it, impossible to make a square circle, etc. So in that sense, I think you both are in line even with a theist because theists do not believe God can engage in logical contradictions and impossibilities, and such rules of logic “govern” the actions of God in a way.

I am not a big fan of WLC either. I think he’s a smart man and I think he’s a good man, but I think the way he goes about arguing for God’s existence is fatally flawed.

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@MarkD :slight_smile: I don’t understand how anyone could think, let rationality have free, disinterested rein, otherwise.

Others here think differently, have different epistemologies. Fancy that!

For example I don’t understand how minds immeasurably superior to mine are Thomist, but if I’d been born me but Catholic, I would be too. I was fundamentalist, heretic, cultic for 25 years, who am I after all? It’s taken another 25 to finally dispense with the heterodoxy of mutabilty; that there was a change, a beginning; to realise that there is no beginning of beginnings. Old Thom believed in the beginning when there isn’t any.

And yes, I don’t believe in the evolving God of the Bible at virtually any stage, apart from in Christ and even then through that fully human lens. I believe He can be seen through the lens of the other texts despite them too. I want to believe.

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Well, Aquinas personally believed in a beginning, BUT not a single one of his arguments have anything to do with a beginning. This is a common strawman used against Thomistic arguments that unfortunately has taken over the internet-Atheist circles to an extent that it’s hard for Thomists to climb out of that claim. Remember, these arguments are all essentially improvements and adaptations of arguments from early thinkers like Aristotle who believed in an eternal universe. Aquinas did not believe that a beginning of existence could be proven through philosophical argumentation, something of which i agree with and think that’s where WLC is off.

I respect the hell (no pun intended) out of you for the way you approach this website and for wanting to believe… You seem like a good, smart dude.

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You’re far too kind @rojas27, I’m just old and very shallow, wee-wee end of the pool. I stand on the shoulders of giants and see yet more sporting in the deep end. If I had my time again I’d choose different parents, or the horror of knowing what I know now 55 years ago. Another 30 IQ points would help. Then I would have studied art, music, drama, maths, got a triple first, learned ten languages and made a filthy amount of money. I’d have fouled up in other ways I’m sure.

Aquinas was awesome. Without equal at the time +/- 2-300 years. Apart from Averroes and Avicenna of course.

Now you are smart. And I am not good. I yearn to be. But it’s all a bit too late.

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Best of luck to you brother, I hope you find what you are looking for. Avicenna was great, yes. Leibniz basically built his contingency argument off of Avicenna, haha.

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And yourself brother. Oh yeah, and philosophy. Kant to Lacan for a start.

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If numbers are not concrete objects, what are they? I say that they represent relationships and relationships are “real” aspects of reality. Math (numbers) is part of the rational aspect of Reality, not the physical aspect of reality, but math works with the physical and spiritual aspects of reality to create Natural Law. Math is not necessary, but is part of the rational framework of Reality which is rooted in God as is everything else.

I looked at the discussion of the Principle of Sufficient Reason that you cited. I see ther4 actual problem to be the “nature” of nature. I reject the understanding that nature is purely physical. Nature is physical, but it is rational also since natural laws and science are rational. It is spiritual because it has purpose and meaning, since nature is the habitat for humanity, physically, rationally, and spiritually.

We need to 1) reject Western dualism, 2) recognize the relational nature of Reality, and 3) the triune nature of Reality. See my paper on Academia.edu on Using the One And the Many.

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Relates, by concrete objects, do you mean are numbers Platonic objects in a realm of platonic objects that is supported by Platonists?

This is a hugely controversial thing in philosophy/logic and frankly I’m not sure anyone has the exactly right answer. There’s one end of the spectrum that would contend numbers are simple useful abstractions that are not necessary or real and we just come up with them, and the other end (platonism) that says numbers are actual platonic entities.

By “concrete,” I am making reference to concreta versus abstracta. I think we just are talking about different words for the same thing. When you say that numbers represent relationships, are you not saying then that they are abstractions? If there were no relationships to represent, would there still be numbers? It’s questions like this that make numbers such a controversial thing, lol.

I mean that numbers are relational, rational objects, as far as I can tell they hwqafve4 nothing to do with Plato who believed i9n static

When I say that numbers represent relationships, that is what I mean. 7 represents 4 + 3, just as Roger represents me. If there is no me to represent, there is no Roger. If 4 + 3 does not = 7, then there is no seven.

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