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Mormons and the First Cause


WalkerW

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Would it be fair to say that Mormons still accept a First Cause of the Universe, considering we believe in eternal intelligence? Would intelligence thus be the First Cause?

Also, I'd like some of links to what you all consider to be the best papers on the philosophy of the Mormon concept of God.

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I believe that tradition Mormon theology would argue that there is no First Cause, there is merely an infinite regression.

I would recommend Sterling McMurrin's The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion.

Classic. Brilliant

Big UP!

Lamanite

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We simply just don't have enough info to make sense of any of it. Are there multpiple universes? Is this Universe the first of many that God created? I am trying to think in the context of what John said.

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Not to mention that creation projects (such as planets) are likely the result of the efforts of an entire godly society (as represented by a council), rather than a single individual. If you take all the implications of what we consider in Mormon ideas.

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Would it be fair to say that Mormons still accept a First Cause of the Universe, considering we believe in eternal intelligence? Would intelligence thus be the First Cause?

I guess that would not be fair to say since so many Mormons, although a minority, do not accept such arguments.

Also, I'd like some of links to what you all consider to be the best papers on the philosophy of the Mormon concept of God.

I personally have not read these ones but the reviews I have seen are pretty good compared to others:

http://www.amazon.co.../ref=pd_sim_b_8

http://www.amazon.co.../ref=pd_sim_b_2

http://www.amazon.co.../ref=pd_sim_b_2

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Would it be fair to say that Mormons still accept a First Cause of the Universe, considering we believe in eternal intelligence? Would intelligence thus be the First Cause?

I'm an incompatibilist and fan of libertarian free will. Don't really need a unique "First Cause" in this paradigm.

In my particular manifestation of that approach, I think intelligent matter is a substance capable of acting without being acted upon (or at the very least react in a non-deterministic fashion). Since all intelligent matter extends into the infinite past, there is no singular "First Cause" but a vastness of uncaused action.

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No first cause, which is appropriate since Hume totally destroyed that notion long ago.

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I'm an incompatibilist and fan of libertarian free will. Don't really need a unique "First Cause" in this paradigm.

In my particular manifestation of that approach, I think intelligent matter is a substance capable of acting without being acted upon (or at the very least react in a non-deterministic fashion). Since all intelligent matter extends into the infinite past, there is no singular "First Cause" but a vastness of uncaused action.

what role does Physics play in you adopting these views?

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No first cause, which is appropriate since Hume totally destroyed that notion long ago.

I'm currently reading Edward Feser's The Last Superstition, which is highly critical of the notion that "Hume totally destroyed that notion long ago." It is actually what triggered my question. So, if you could be more specific, I'd appreciate it.

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what role does Physics play in you adopting these views?

If one restricts oneself to our current physics then one is a determinist* -- every action is determined by physics alone. So, in adopting my views I am placing belief in a mechanics that hasn't been observed/recognized much less described. That is to say, intelligent matter would break several laws of physics that we use to describe physical matter.

* Some may say that the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics isn't true determinism, but for the purposes of free will it amounts to the same thing (i.e. randomness doesn't create free will).

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I'm currently reading Edward Feser's The Last Superstition, which is highly critical of the notion that "Hume totally destroyed that notion long ago." It is actually what triggered my question. So, if you could be more specific, I'd appreciate it.

Well good, I don't know Feser, but with a quick Google I see he is a young and upcoming Thomist who might have a new twist on this whole thing. Maybe you can teach me something valuable, but I think Thomism as a whole is long gone and can't hold a candle to analytical philosophy- I am pretty much a Willam James- Wittgenstein guy, so it could be an interesting discussion. I also see that Feser teaches or has taught at both LMU and Pasadena City both of which are just a few miles from me in either direction. Maybe I will like his stuff and go say hello.

It is clear to me that Thomism in general owes much to Aristotle obviously but certainly Aquinas was a great perpetuator of what I see as a major error which at first led to the great apostasy and later kept it alive, and that error was Neoplatonism.

But if this guy has cracked it open, that would make for an interesting discussion since I am a prejudiced old man, but still willing to learn from a "whippersnapper" (in the unlikely possibility I am wrong) :P

You already know Hume's argument, but for those who don't I'll post the customary Wikipedia link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume

Another quickly found site seems to have a good discussion of Hume is here: http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-David-Hume-Philosopher.htm

That site includes an actual quote from Hume, which is a novel idea:

It appears that, in single instances of the operation of bodies, we never can, by our utmost scrutiny, discover any thing but one event following another, without being able to comprehend any force or power by which the cause operates, or any connexion between it and its supposed effect. The same difficulty occurs in contemplating the operations of mind on body- where we observe the motion of the latter to follow upon the volition of the former, but are not able to observe or conceive the tie which binds together the motion and volition, or the energy by which the mind produces this effect. The authority of the will over its own faculties and ideas is not a whit more comprehensible: So that, upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one instance of connexion which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we never can observe any tie between them. They seemed conjoined, but never connected. And as we can have no idea of any thing which never appeared to our outward sense or inward sentiment, the necessary conclusion seems to be that we have no idea of connexion or force at all, and that these words are absolutely without meaning, when employed either in philosophical reasonings or common life. (David Hume, 1737)

The key to the whole argument imo is found in that last sentence "that these words are absolutely without meaning" which is the attitude which makes Hume the father of much of modern philosophy in the English language- it was he who understood that philosophy is not about what is "real" whatever that means, but indeed if we are to have rational discussions they will ultimately be about language itself and the logic thereof since arguments themselves by necessity are about words and how we define them. Language is all we have to communicate with and about- everything else is by definition non-communicable.

His argument in short is that all that can be seen about "causes" is that no logical connection can be seen between two events- event A may always preceed B and we can infer causation, but no logically necessary connection can be drawn. We cannot know with a priori certitude that A was the "cause" of B, just that it preceded it. I think he is right. Scientifically of course we observe and conclude about causes through induction, but that is a different type of argument. The proof of God as a first cause cannot be inductively shown because we cannot see God- but we still cannot logically prove the existence of a first cause.

If I understand anything about Feser from my literally five minute long google research, it seems that he finds that this very approach, which arguably defines "postmodernism" as what is wrong with the world.

So I would love to hear and discuss what it is that Hume got wrong since I am so deeply into that paradigm and frankly I think that Mormonism itself benefits from that paradigm whereas you will be forced into defending a view which looks very much like a Catholic point of view. But I am here to learn!

Second edit:

Oh yeah, and I agree that about the best out there right now from a Mormon pov is Ostler and McMurrin- also Paulsen is really great. Just google them and you will find some good stuff! I think I am pretty much a McMurrin pragmatist to be honest with you if you want a label, but it has been a while since I have read him.

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I believe that tradition Mormon theology would argue that there is no First Cause, there is merely an infinite regression.

I would recommend Sterling McMurrin's The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion.

News Flash:

Hell Freezes Over! Bukowski Agrees with Larsen!

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Would it be fair to say that Mormons still accept a First Cause of the Universe, considering we believe in eternal intelligence? Would intelligence thus be the First Cause?

Also, I'd like some of links to what you all consider to be the best papers on the philosophy of the Mormon concept of God.

No I don't except the First Cause argument. As in JS precept of 'No Beginning and No end" aka... KFD. I would accept Multi Universe with Big Bang coming from each. Ex Nihilo is not accepted by myself.

Well I can recommend a book titled Particles and waves: Crisis in America by Melton Stelter . You can find some used books on Amazon for about $50 to $75 now (ouch). I just got a new one as my old one disintegrated. It's in relation to physic of light properties, Einsteins relativity and various suppositions on Quantum Physics and their relation on KFD.

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So I would love to hear and discuss what it is that Hume got wrong since I am so deeply into that paradigm and frankly I think that Mormonism itself benefits from that paradigm whereas you will be forced into defending a view which looks very much like a Catholic point of view.

Feser is a Catholic. I'm not trying to argue because I'm not skilled enough in this area. I'm just trying to figure out what fits and what doesn't. Thanks for your brief explanation. I enjoy Feser. Been reading him the past couple months. I actually sent him a couple of Ostler's articles and asked him to critique them when he gets a chance. We'll see where that goes. Thanks again.

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Feser is a Catholic. I'm not trying to argue because I'm not skilled enough in this area. I'm just trying to figure out what fits and what doesn't. Thanks for your brief explanation. I enjoy Feser. Been reading him the past couple months. I actually sent him a couple of Ostler's articles and asked him to critique them when he gets a chance. We'll see where that goes. Thanks again.

OK fair enough. I will check out some more secondary source materials on Feser, and maybe he has a new angle, but frankly I have debated this issue many times on Catholic boards with fairly sophisticated Thomists and I don't think their position is supportable using a modern logical point of view. They frankly don't even tend to understand modern linguistic analysis because they have not been trained in it. They are stuck in Aristotilian logic and if you bring up language games or category errors, or whatever, they just cannot respond. That is what you get typically in Catholic universities- they are not going to teach opposing points of view. So the Thomists have their little club and journals and the others have theirs. It's kind of like ID vs the Darwinians- two opposing camps who cannot communicate with each other.

We are so used to thinking scientifically that through observation, that is inductively, we can see causes- that is what science is based on. So it seems that clearly there was a "first cause"- even the big bang etc. But "inductively highly likely" is far different from "logically necessary" which is what one would have to prove to have God as the first cause, since God cannot be scientifically observed to even be "inductively highly likely" to be the "cause" of the universe. He's a little hard to observe scientifically.

That is really the argument for example of Intelligent Design- one cannot prove "intelligent cause" scientifically. (In my opinion) But even if one could for example prove- inductively through evidence statistically though observation- that some kind of an alien intelligence started life, or theoretically the universe I suppose, it would not be LOGICALLY NECESSARY.

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OK fair enough. I will check out some more secondary source materials on Feser, and maybe he has a new angle, but frankly I have debated this issue many times on Catholic boards with fairly sophisticated Thomists and I don't think their position is supportable using a modern logical point of view. They frankly don't even tend to understand modern linguistic analysis because they have not been trained in it. They are stuck in Aristotilian logic and if you bring up language games or category errors, or whatever, they just cannot respond. That is what you get typically in Catholic universities- they are not going to teach opposing points of view. So the Thomists have their little club and journals and the others have theirs. It's kind of like ID vs the Darwinians- two opposing camps who cannot communicate with each other.

We are so used to thinking scientifically that through observation, that is inductively, we can see causes- that is what science is based on. So it seems that clearly there was a "first cause"- even the big bang etc. But "inductively highly likely" is far different from "logically necessary" which is what one would have to prove to have God as the first cause, since God cannot be scientifically observed to even be "inductively highly likely" to be the "cause" of the universe. He's a little hard to observe scientifically.

That is really the argument for example of Intelligent Design- one cannot prove "intelligent cause" scientifically. (In my opinion) But even if one could for example prove- inductively through evidence statistically though observation- that some kind of an alien intelligence started life, or theoretically the universe I suppose, it would not be LOGICALLY NECESSARY.

What do you think of this:

"In Metaphysics, Aristotle argues that without something outside the chain of explanations, there can be no actual explanation. I think that is an argument whose power is often overlooked. Aristotle calls this something the arch? (????), the "origin." It is tempting to think that the arch? is either the first in the series of efficient or other causes or to think of it as the first instance in a chain of rational explanations. However, to understand it in either of these ways is a mistake, for these two ways of understanding the arch? are of a piece. Each reduces the arch? to something with the same philosophical and perhaps ontological status as any other moment in the chain of explanation or account, the only difference being that, mysteriously, it is the first of those moments. Understood that way, Aristotle's argument makes no sense. However, as we see in Thomas Aquinas's use of Aristotle's argument in the proofs for God's existence, that is a misunderstanding of the argument. As I think Aquinas's use shows, Aristotle's point is that there must be something outside of or beyond or prior to any chain of reasons that grounds the chain in question, or there will be no real reasonings." (James E. Faulconer, "Room to Talk: Reason's Need for Faith," Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, Stephen D. Ricks, FARMS: 2002)

Perhaps we should understand Aristotle in this way.

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That is really the argument for example of Intelligent Design- one cannot prove "intelligent cause" scientifically.

ID never claims you can prove it. It only claims that it is a best explanation. Of course, in science, you can't really prove anything absolutely. That's too tall an order.

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I believe that tradition Mormon theology would argue that there is no First Cause, there is merely an infinite regression.

Or one eternal round.

200px-Ouroboros-simple.svg.png

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What do you think of this:

"In Metaphysics, Aristotle argues that without something outside the chain of explanations, there can be no actual explanation. I think that is an argument whose power is often overlooked. Aristotle calls this something the arch? (????), the "origin." It is tempting to think that the arch? is either the first in the series of efficient or other causes or to think of it as the first instance in a chain of rational explanations. However, to understand it in either of these ways is a mistake, for these two ways of understanding the arch? are of a piece. Each reduces the arch? to something with the same philosophical and perhaps ontological status as any other moment in the chain of explanation or account, the only difference being that, mysteriously, it is the first of those moments. Understood that way, Aristotle's argument makes no sense. However, as we see in Thomas Aquinas's use of Aristotle's argument in the proofs for God's existence, that is a misunderstanding of the argument. As I think Aquinas's use shows, Aristotle's point is that there must be something outside of or beyond or prior to any chain of reasons that grounds the chain in question, or there will be no real reasonings." (James E. Faulconer, "Room to Talk: Reason's Need for Faith," Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in Honor of Truman G. Madsen, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, Stephen D. Ricks, FARMS: 2002)

Perhaps we should understand Aristotle in this way.

In modern linguistic analysis though, it doesn't seem to me this makes much sense, but let me get to that in a minute.

You can look at it metaphysically, as I think Faulconer might be here, but honestly I don't see why he sees the need to resolve anything with Aristotle- if we are going to the Greeks, I would think anyone LDS would rather side with Heraclitus than Aristotle. The whole question of "ontological status" is a metaphysical way of seeing things, and I think modern English language philosophers for the most part would be looking more at the language here than the metaphysics.

But first let me make a metaphysical argument, which is rather simple I think- he speaks of an "explanation" which is outside of the chain of causes- but to me it is a circular argument- why do we need an "explanation" in the first place?

And is an "explanation" something else ontologically than a "Reasoning"? Why is that the case? To me it makes no sense- what is a "real reasoning"? It's mumbo jumbo as far as I can see.

Metaphysically I see no reason that it is not possible that everything "just is" as it has been, forever, and always will be- matter and spirit in combination re-forming and re-combining forever. Why do we need an "explanation" for that? And how would an "explanation" have anything to do with keeping that eternal stew boiling, as it were?

So metaphysically I see no need to postulate it, and in a linguistic sense, an "explanation" for a "reason" makes no sense- why do we need an explanation for a reason? You are using virtually the same words to describe something supposedly on a higher order- that isn't!

And yet that is what the words say! It is a mass of confusion- topless thrones etc!.

It doesn't "Say" anything to me- maybe I am missing it, but there's nothing there imo.

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Would it be fair to say that Mormons still accept a First Cause of the Universe, considering we believe in eternal intelligence? Would intelligence thus be the First Cause?

I would say, from a philosophical standpoint, "intelligence" is a suitable candidate for a "first Cause," since it is the only thing that "was not created or made".

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I would say, from a philosophical standpoint, "intelligence" is a suitable candidate for a "first Cause," since it is the only thing that "was not created or made".

Where does it say that matter WAS made? I thought the worlds were made of "matter unorganized"?

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I would say, from a philosophical standpoint, "intelligence" is a suitable candidate for a "first Cause," since it is the only thing that "was not created or made".

Well then where would you say intelligence came from if it had a beginning? Theorize if you wish. We were spirits gathered from intelligence and made. However how was the intelligence come to be? Ex Nihilo? Maddening to think about isn't it? Well at least to me.

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Where does it say that matter WAS made? I thought the worlds were made of "matter unorganized"?

I didn't say that it was or wasn't. Whether it was or not, matter cannot be a "cause," because "cause" implies activity or action, and matter can only be "acted upon," not act of its own. Only "intelligence" can act, therefore only it can be a cause.

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Well then where would you say intelligence came from if it had a beginning?

I didn't say it did. On the contrary, I said the opposite.

Theorize if you wish. We were spirits gathered from intelligence and made.

That in itself leaves many questions unanswered.

However how was the intelligence come to be? Ex Nihilo?

Obviously not, if you believe in modern scripture. According to the revelation, it "was not created or made, neither indeed can be." (D&C 93:29.) If God says something can't be done, then you had better believe it can't be done!

Maddening to think about isn't it? Well at least to me.

I agree!

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