God: The Immovable Mover

Immovable Mover

Ayn Rand claims that the existence of God is incompatible with her philosophy and morality – but is it? What if atheism, rather than theism is entirely incompatible with her philosophy?

Rand’s atheism was primarily, a very understandable reaction to the anti-intellectual ‘theists’ in popular culture – Christians in particular. But modern Christianity, like modern Capitalism and modern Conservatism, is very heavily influenced by the defunct philosophical assumptions of Immanuel Kant and his successors – which is why modern Christianity can often be referred to appropriately as ‘Kantianity’. This Kantianized Christianity (which has dominated the cultural scene for centuries) is, indeed, characterized by the propagation of irrationality, mysticism, and altruism – as Rand rightly points out. However, just as Rand was able to distinguish true Capitalism from its Kantianized distortions, she would have found a similar phenomenon with Christianity, had she desired to aim her focus in that direction. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she did not. No matter. I shall.

In addition to her highly commendable aversion to irrationality in modern Christianity, Rand’s main explicit reasons for rejecting theism had to do with some unfortunate misunderstandings about the claims of theism.  Rand thought that the super-naturalism of theism meant the existence of things beyond existence 1. She thought that the attributes of God were supposed to defy the laws of logic 2. She thought that God was merely a consciousness, conscious of nothing but its own consciousness 3. If theism actually demanded any of the above contradictions, she – and everyone else – would be absolutely right to reject it. The problem is: it doesn’t. No rational theist has ever taught or advocated the contradictions which Rand and her followers attribute to theism. They are all straw men.

But I’m not simply claiming that there is room for theism in Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I am arguing that Ayn Rand’s philosophy demands it. The ‘essence of Objectivism’, as Ayn Rand put it, is the supremacy of reason:

…and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.4

Very well. This means that, no matter what the jarring implications to preconceived notions may be, that which reason leads to must be earnestly embraced. Therefore, if reason demands (as I am about to argue) that God, in fact, exists, then no amount of inconvenient implications arising from this fact can negate its truthfulness or sufficiently excuse an atheist from taking it seriously. So, take a moment to forget about the emotional hang-ups and the difficult philosophical implications if its true, and just follow the simple reasoning presented below as objectively as you can.

The following is a very simple and concise demonstration of the rational necessity of theism, using basic facts and the simple laws of logic. It is my own re-statement of the ‘Prime Mover Argument’.

1)      Things can only act according to their natures. This is the law of causality.

2)      Regarding action, the nature of a thing is either purposeful or accidental – meaning that an action is either purposeful or un-purposeful, intentional or unintentional.  This is the law of the excluded middle applied to the nature of action.

3)      Accidental actions are necessarily the result of some sort of interaction – which means that every accidental action necessitates a prior action of some kind.

4)      There cannot be an infinite regress of accidental actions. An infinite regress of a series cannot exist because a series must have a beginning in order to exist.

5)      There must have been an action which triggered the beginning of accidental action (3 & 4), and this ‘trigger’ action could not, itself, have been accidental (3).

6)      If the beginning to accidental action could not have been accidental, then it must have been purposeful (2).

7)      A purposeful action is a volitional action and volition presupposes a mind and values.

8)      An actor with mind, values, and volition is a person.

9)      A personal actor began all accidental action in the universe.

That’s it. The extent to which it seems complex is merely the extent to which it needs to be worded in a specific way in order to avoid foolish misunderstandings and objections. The above could be summed up in the simple thought that “something with a sufficient nature to begin all of this must exist – and nothing but a personal, divine-like being, would be sufficient”.

I’ll admit that the above does not firmly establish that this personal actor is ‘divine’ or that it even still exists – let alone that it resembles historical conceptions of God. However, such can be easily concluded by a continuation of the simple reasoning process demonstrated above. In fact, given the proper philosophical tools, it is not difficult to see how this Mover is very similar, in character and motive, to the heroes of Ayn Rand’s writing. But, I’ll save that for future posts (and for my book!) haha.
For now it is sufficient to recognize that the classical argument for a ‘Prime Mover’ is fully and legitimately necessitated by anyone committed to reason. Those who genuinely desire to know the truth will eagerly pursue more detail about this Mover, and those who are simply playing intellectual games will employ every manner of evasion possible in order to dismiss the need to follow reason in this matter.

Which will you be?

49 thoughts on “God: The Immovable Mover

  1. JMayng

    Let's assume your logical proof is, indeed, perfectly logical. Until there is even a scrap of evidence to suggest that a such a being/entity exists, being of the opinion that it does is much the same as being of the opinion that leprechauns exist. Believing in something without evidence is one thing. Allowing it to change the entire way you life you life is quite another, and a road I personally would never go down. Now you seem to subscribe to Objectivism rather than the moral precepts of Christianity as disseminated over time. If the belief in a supreme creator does not affect your personal philosophy in any significant, then what is the point of believing in it all? And what is the point in trying to convince people that Objectivism necessitates a supreme being if an atheist Objectivist and a theist Objectivist would ultimately do nothing different?

    1. If my proof is perfectly logical, then that is the 'evidence'. Re-read the 'proof' or argument. The conclusion is not "God *could* exist". The conclusion is "God *does* exist" - and that conclusion follows directly from the facts preceding it in the argument.
      You may, personally, reject this form of an argument (the type of argument which I call 'Logical Necessity') because of certain faulty epistemological assumptions, in which case I will refer you to future posts on epistemology or simply suggest that you take the time to objectively analyze those assumptions for errors or contradictions (there are quite a few in the explicit Objectivist teachings on the subject).

      Regarding your second question, morality is determined by reality - not the other way around. I do not choose to believe things based on the way it impacts my life. I choose to believe things based on whether they are true or not (based on rational epistemological principles), and then my life is impacted by the truth of reality accordingly. The fact that God exists does not alter rational moral principles, but it does alter the applications of those principles. The details of those principles and their proper applications will be thoroughly addressed in my book.

    2. Jacob Equi

      I don't think there's a lot of useful conversation you could have with any Christian about the existence of God if you think there is as much evidence for the existence of leprechauns. Your statement about belief in a creator affecting personal philosophy is sort of irrelevant. We human beings are like a liquid taking the shape of the cup we are in: We do not chose what is moral any more than we chose whether or not God exists. Morality is indeed absolute, and once again, you could have little useful moral conversation with an objectivist if you do not believe this. Also, I would think it highly unlikely that being atheist-objectivist vs theist-objectivist would cause no change in one's behavior, and even in the certainly possible case that the two acted exactly the same, are you arguing that motives are of absolutely no significance to man?

  2. Jacob Equi

    You have no idea how happy this article made me. Every last word in it are things I've been saying for years. I've been a Christian objectivist for years, and I'm sure you know how hard it is to take this truly "narrow road" in this world. All around, I'm surrounded by Atheists, the majority of which are as whimsical and contentedly ignorant as some of the caricatures in Rand's books, and the few I find that agree with me on a lot of my philosophy will eventually spurn my most sacred beliefs and make these flimsy arguments that my own philosophy isn't reconcilable with my religion. Helping them understand that I can be compelled to no other philosophy because of my beliefs has proved close to impossible. Then there's the "Christians" I've had interactions with: This has proved yet further demoralizing. You said it better than I ever have: These "Kantian" Christians and their mysticism, dogmatism, and utter lack of reason are yet harder for me to make friends with. I find myself looking at them too often and asking myself if there's any way on Earth we could be following the same Jesus. Just knowing there's another human being out there who has seen all that I've seen and come to the same realizations is a comfort to me--not that I ever felt like my logic needed justification, I've just felt lonely for many years. You said that you're writing a book, and that's awesome! I would be absolutely thrilled to help you with that in any way I can! Please. Please. Please. If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of, debate philosophy/theology with, proofread writing, or anything at all, contact me. My names Jacob Equi, and I've liked your page on facebook. I'll definitely be reading your future work, and thank you so much for doing this!

    1. Jacob, Thank you very much for the inspiring words. I'm all too familiar with the struggle you've described above and I'm sure many others are as well. That is one of the purposes of this blog: to unite, equip, and inspire those who aren't willing to let go of what they know to be true even though the (Objectivist or Christian) culture screams that it can't be. I will be in touch shortly.

      1. James

        Well, what I was thinking is this: an infinite series is possible and has no beginning because all its component causal elements came into existence simultaneously - which is somewhat the thought of eternalism; that all time is co-extant. In this sense, the series as a whole is acausal, but each element is causal and accidental; the circumstances of every chronocule are caused by the circumstances of others, but the time series as a whole is uncaused. Is it more likely that a single element would be acausal than that a series of elements would be (but not each element individually)?

        I guess this is the argument for: I am God, and so are You. And so is that Soil.

  3. This is a misunderstanding of Objectivism in too many ways to count.. Dedication to reality has as a constituent part, dedication to objective Reality.. Something your repackage Christianity 6.0 doesn't address.. Objectivism holds man ,the individual, as his primary. It holds that a mans rational self interest are his only moral responsibility ... In this new Christianity dedicated to reason... Original sin is still in effect? Sacrifice ? Altruism? self emulation? You see.... It's not really the messenger we find destructive, it's the message ... If it came from your God, or little green spacemen.. It has at its core the ruination of humanity... Thanks for the essay.. I'm sure your nice person.

  4. What makes you think that the post advocates dedication to anything other than objective reality? Is there something subjective in the post? If a worldview is objectively true, then ultimately, it will be the best for humanity - rather than the ruination of it. The objections against Christianity that you (and many) list are more applicable to Kantianized Christiantiy than to a truly rational Christian worldview.
    Regardless, one should not determine one's view of metaphysics based on one's desired morality. The greatest good will always necessarily come from the worldview which most accurately represents all of reality.

    1. I think your assertion that god exist would be the subjective part lolol. It also happens to be the part the does not conform to any notion of objective reality.. To vindicate your position would require the validation of a negitive.. You are not the first to attempt a new hybrid Christianity.. I see the trend, hip Birkenstock, flannel shirt wearing pastors, cool modern rock bands, energized youth groups with god rocks t-shirts... Even a modern egocentric bend... This is rebranding of the same tired out ,worn out Christian ethos.. I disagree that Kant was the corrupting influence of Christianity ... It was well on its way in its effort to circumvent the rational mind before Kant.. And Kant would have been laughted out of any room he entered had faith not laid a foundation for him... This is your First cause argument in reverse : ) as I stated previously ... It's the message... Grounded in 2000 years of history... Canonized in your Bible.. You are not departing from that are you? If so.. What you are advocating is not Christianity .. But giving shape and form to a concept of Christ that has no basis in documented history .. But welcome to my side in part... What was lucifers primary sin against god... The sin of Pride.... Quilty as charged : D

      1. One follow up point if you please:

        One should not allow ones ontological or metaphysical perspective to be influenced only to achieve a disired morality? Correct... But that is exactly what faith does... It supplants an objective morality, one spacific to mans nature, and replaces it with an inverted morality denying man his spacific nature... Introducing a mind , body, spirt dichotomy that in reality, cannot exist... You have attempted to jumble two modes of thought that are mutually exclusive... One mode dependent on reason, on reality... The other requires the suspension of those attributes to make the mental gymnastics landing stick... Have no fear however... The first round is still on me.

      2. All of your misunderstandings about classical Christianity and the "Christ of documented history" can (and will) be addressed in future posts and other works. However, regarding *this* post, if the existence of God has been proved to be an objective fact (the point of the post), then it is therefore not 'subjective'. Rather, the insistence upon ignoring the proof because of implied difficulties would be the subjective position.
        One side is right and the other is wrong - but that is not determined by the most immediately desirably implications. It is determined by the truth - objective truth - which is discovered by accurate reasoning. So, if there is an error in the above reasoning, please point it out. If not, stay tuned for elaborated details which may aid in easing your fears and discomforts regarding the implications.

      3. I'm responding up here because your reply didn't have a respond box...

        Again ... You are trying to validate the existence of god by using the first cause argument ... And the premise of this argument is false... You may lull Lesser followers with this faulty reasoning ... But not here. You are attempting to validate a negative not by reason, but by implication... Stacked on top of a false premise...I'm not sure you know if I have lapses in my knowledge of classical Christianity ... I would be happy if you would point those out for me and not hide behind to ruse of future post to educate us all... You are the author of the post... I have indicated that you are wrong.. And your errors are many. So a further explanation of your position is warranted ... The very word Faith.. Means the acceptance of a concept absent proof... And your deductions have not cleared that up. I am going to state again for the 3rd time... It is the message of Christianity that flies in the face of Objectivist thought.. Please articulate how that is not so... Sacrifice, self denial, self emulation, altruism , original sin.... Have any of these been removed since the last 6 or 7 times I've read the bible? Thank you.

  5. "The premise of this argument is false" - which premise? How is it false?
    "You may lull lesser followers with this faulty reasoning" - which faults?

    I am insisting on keeping the comments here closely related to the topic of the post because that is the proper function of a blog. What you are asking (or demanding) of me is more appropriate for a book - the type of which that I am currently working on. I am neither able, nor willing, to address every difficulty, dismantle every straw man, dissect every detailed objection, and satisfy every minute question regarding an entire worldview in the comment section of a blog. While I *am* advocating an entire and cohesive worldview, it will take a significant amount of time, resources, and various formats to fully and sufficiently express it in the most articulate ways. The purpose of this blog is not to exhaust the details of that worldview, but to give glimpses of it and to progressively present important aspects of it in bite-size format. I am willing to interact with objectors in the comment section regarding the immediate topic of the respective post, only to the extent that it aids potential readers in more fully and comprehensively understanding aspects of that topic as objectively as possible. This means that if you have a specific objection to the post at hand, and you wish to submit that objection on some objectively rational and respectfully courteous grounds, I will be pleased to respond accordingly. Those are my terms. Take it or leave it.
    If you want to bring up new topics or issues, I will make a note of such issues and do my best to address them in future posts (which is no "ruse" - it's simply the most professional way that I have determined to present my ideas), or try and refer you to previous posts or other resources that may be helpful in satisfying your dilemma.
    Speaking of which, you have criticized my position for "faith"-related reasons on multiple accounts even though faith is not referred to once in this post or in the argument for the existence of God. Perhaps this post could assist you: http://thechristianegoist.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/faith-the-fruit-of-reason/

      1. I did read the forwarded post... It left me wanting to ask you more questions, but I probably shouldn't , because in keeping with the thesis of your post on "objectivism demands a belief in god" , you have failed to address 1 single question I've posed to you as it is. Instead we get non-facts by way of assertion, by supposition and by inference, instead of by reality. Your thesis makes claims about a 2 diametrically opposed modes of life, I've attempted ,without luck ,to have you validate your claim .. What I got was the classical Christianity version of Kabuki theater... Look here, look there, ill post later... Look anywhere but where you might find an answer.. You made the claim about Objectivism.. I didn't .. Instead of a spirited debate on fact, I got a run down of your posting requirements...I used the word faith to you because when the onion of your thesis has been peeled away.. That's what's left.. I'm ok with that .. But start there first and you could have been evangelizing your group in peace without my input.. You center you thesis on 1 question " god exist" as if the answer to that question remedies all the other message questions.. It does not.. If your god popped up next to me in the lab, with the same tripe of a message as is in the bible,I would oppose him on the grounds that " I am a man, I love my life... This Earth, this world.. I will not surrender it to an evil ideology set up against man kind... And that's what you have at the core of your onion. Now.. Evangelize in peace.. I will find no answers here.

  6. If you have questions about faith, my understanding of it, or how it properly fits into a rational Christian worldview, PLEASE feel free to bring them up in the comment section of that post.

    I understand your frustration, but I hope you can also understand my position. I highly doubt the early Ayn Rand would have been willing to publicly debate every detailed objection from a detractor in response to her highly misunderstood (at the time) celebration of egoism in her short story, Anthem - especially in such a format as this. If you are genuinely interested in a 'spirited' and rational debate, I'd be happy to discuss things with you (as I have time) in private correspondence. This blog, however, is my public presentation of my ideas, and debating every random objector on every conceivable point is not the way in which I wish to present my ideas to the public - at least not right now.

    Concerning your fears of the moral implications of the Christianity which I am promoting, you will be surprised to hear that I absolutely despise Altruism, and all that it entails. One of my chief passions is to utterly decimate it as a viable morality in the minds and lives of those I reach. It is absolutely antithetical to life, to reason, to happiness, and (I believe and will argue) to God and to Christianity. However, the very concept of Christianity has become so inextricably linked to the concept of Altruism, and the highly selective and out of context readings of the Bible have been so skewed by a number of horrible philosophical, epistemological, hermeneutical, and moral errors, that it will take more than a singular blog post (let alone comments under a blog post) to sufficiently prove my case.

    I understand and empathize with your concerns - MUCH more than you can likely imagine. My philosophical 'guns' are aimed much more at the Church than at Objectivism or Atheism, in general. Even if you and every other Objectivist completely disagrees with me to the end, you can be comforted in knowing that I intend to fight with all that I have against Altruism and irrationality in Christianity - which is unfortunately one of the worst peddlers of such evil in modern history.

    But I've got to set the proper foundation for such a crusade - and the only proper foundation is devotion to the truth, regardless of the implications. And that is a challenge which happens to be applicable to both Christians and Objectivists. Christians will need to face the truth of an Egoist God and an anti-altruistic message. Objectivists will need to face the truth of the existence of God and the necessity to do the difficult philosophical work of sorting out the erroneous moral implications from the valid ones. But neither will be able to do so if they are not first and primarily committed to objective truth regardless of the implications -- which means debating the implications without first establishing the metaphysical truths is counter-productive... for either side.

  7. todd anthonsen

    one simple fact ends all arguments pertaining to the reality of "God".....all that is seen, has it's origin in the unseen, force cannot been seen, results can be....

    1. Hi Todd,
      Your comment has a nice beat, but not one you can dance to.. It takes a considerable leap of .... Wait for it... Wait for it... FAITH - to suggests all things have their origins in the unseen world and then attribute the unseen to the all powerful great OZ at the end of the yellow brick road .. To suggest that non-observable molecular interactions( force) are not grounded in physically definable terms.. Is well, problematic ... Physical actions.. Have physical causes... The flaw in first cause... To observe a regressive series of actions.. To a singularity ( actions taking place in the real world ). God followers then jump from the physical world to a mystical non-reality in an effort to explain progressive causality in the physical universe ... This defies not only reason , but reality itself. Lack of a concrete definition of primary cause is not proof of a mystical construct replete with a vengeful god, winged fairies, peaceful heavens and fiery hells... And is hardly argument ending.

  8. I disagree with premise (4), and therefore, with the rest of the argument.

    Existents can be divided into two types, which I'll call primary and secondary. Primary existents are entities. Secondary existents are the qualities, actions, relationships, etc. of entities. Primary existents are metaphysically independent; they can be said to simply exist without qualification. Secondary existents are metaphysically dependent on the primary existents. They are aspects of the primary existents.

    At any given time, there can only be a finite number of primary existents. An "infinite number" of entities would violate the Law of Identity, and is conceptually impossible. But there is no necessary limit to the number of secondary existents that we can identify. We can identify qualities, relationships and actions ad infinitum, simply by using new perspectives or subdivisions.

    Causality is fundamentally the self-evident relationship between an entity and its actions. An entity must act as itself. So the fundamental cause of any action is the entity that acts. (See OPAR and/or this post.) Now properly, we explain the particular actions of inanimate objects in terms of both the nature of the object (a combination of Aristotle's formal and material causes) and the action to which the object is reacting (Aristotle's efficient cause.) But actions--and therefore, efficient causes--are secondary existents. The Law of Identity does not dictate that they must be finite. Thus, what you call an "infinite regress" of efficient causes is not philosophically problematic. A "temporal infinite regress" is not a logical infinite regress (the kind that is untenable.)

    Logically, the primary cause of all action in the universe is: the entities that act. Period.

    You are already committed, as you logically must be, to eternal existence. If entities can exist eternally, why can't they interact eternally? I have just shown you that there is no reason why they can't. Thus, contrary to Aristotle and Aquinas, there is no logical need for an "unmoved mover," and the existence of interacting objects is not evidence for such a being. We can infer back in the chain of efficient causes as far as we like, and at every step of the way, there is a finite universe that has identity and causality.

    So I would counter your statement that "An infinite regress of a series cannot exist because a series must have a beginning in order to exist," by saying that dealing with the series of efficient causes is like counting on a number line. The number line exists conceptually and makes logical sense, but we can count back as far as we like and never reach the beginning. We can also subdivide it indefinitely and consider pieces that are as small as we like. Yet at every point we consider, the number we are dealing with has identity.

    1. The difference here is that we are not talking about any random collection of actions (or efficient causes). We are talking about a series of actions which are inextricably linked to one another in a logical order of cause and effect. This means that it is closer to your illustration of a number line (though, not exactly) than it is to a random collection of attributes.
      The difference between your number line analogy and what we are talking about is the fact that the events exist more than just conceptually. It's true that, conceptually, a number line could *potentially* go on (in either direction) to infinity, but that is not the same thing as a series of linked events *actually* going back to infinity.
      If there is a series of logically linked events (a cause and effect chain), then that series must have a beginning in order to exist. If there is no beginning to such a series, then such a series cannot exist - because the very nature of such a series is that it is comprised of events which depend upon each other in causal relationships. In such a series, each event owes its existence to the event prior to it in the causal chain. No initiatory event means no consequent events... which means no series of events.

      1. 'The difference between your number line analogy and what we are talking about is the fact that the events exist more than just conceptually.'

        In strictly physical terms, what exists now is all that does exist. What actually exists from the past are your memories and other effects of past events. We casually make an analogy between time and a physical line in our minds, but it is a mistake to believe that the past can add to the actual quantity of entities in the universe. An "infinity of time" does not mean an "infinity of stuff" in the universe.

        So, no, there is no metaphysical difference between the "timeline" and a line I imagine in my mind.

        Because the past was the real universe, (rather than a fantasy) we still have to abide by the laws of the universe in thinking about it, in order to come to correct conclusions about it and its effects in the present.
        But where is the violation of the axioms or the self-contradiction in my way of conceptualizing the past? At no point is there an "actual infinity" of entities; everything has identity, and every action is caused.

        It would be a self-contradiction to say that there was a time prior to the existence of a set, then that the set existed at a later time, but that the set had no temporal beginning. But it is not a self-contradiction to say that the set has always existed and had no temporal beginning.

  9. I stopped at "4) There cannot be an infinite regress of accidental actions. An infinite regress of a series cannot exist because a series must have a beginning in order to exist."

    Plainly false. There is absolutely no logical axiom which dictates that an infinite progression cannot exist. In fact, it is only irrationality which suggests that reality has a stop and start.

    Rand was so effective in getting rid of the creation nonsense because she dealt in A=A. Reality exists. You can't ponder the nature of "before-reality". Before-reality is precisely imaginary, by definition. Thus, creation myths are precisely that - myths.

    I wish that irrational people would stop attaching themselves to Objectivism and leave it for individuals who reason.

    1. Also, in case you're still confused about the nature of supernatural nonsense:

      1. God is defined as a supernatural being.

      2. Supernatural beings are defined as beings which exist outside the natural realm, i.e. the natural universe.

      3. Everything which exists comprises the natural universe, by definition.

      4. God cannot exist.

      1. Michael

        "3. Everything which exists comprises the natural universe, by definition."

        This premise merely obviates the conclusion. The argument is ridiculous.

  10. @Sword of Apollo:
    "But it is not a self-contradiction to say that the set has always existed and had no temporal beginning."
    It is if the set is comprised entirely of events which are necessarily contingent upon prior events. This is why I call it a "series" rather than a "set". By "series" I mean that each event is inextricably tied to the one prior to it such that it would not exist apart from the one prior to it. At any point, if you take away a singular event in this chain/series, you therefore take away all of the following events. Simply saying that the chain goes back infinitely is just a pseudo-sophisticated way of saying that it had no beginning. And if there is no beginning to a series of this sort, then there would be no series to speak of. If you take away (or deny) the first event, you therefore take away all subsequent events.
    It doesn't matter if you're speaking of 3 events or an innumerable (in one's lifetime) amount of events - the number of events does not take away the nature of the events.

  11. Walter Donway

    There is something grand about seeing someone willing to lay out an argument premise by premise and to assert the logical necessity of the proof. It reminds me of the early days when my brother Roger, and I, were putting all of Galt's speech to the test of trying to lay out the premises and logic. No was better at it than Roger; and, to this day, some 50 years later, he asserts that that the proof of the Objectivist meta-ethics--Ayn Rand's solution to the "is-ought problem"--simply doesn't stand up to examination. We cannot abandon logic, though it is essential to keep in mind that the PREMISES of our logic are observations, empirical generalizations. "All men are mortal" is an observation. It is not proved by logic, but becomes a logic premise.

    Well, this slight restatement of Aristotle's unmoved mover argument, which St. Thomas made one of his give great arguments, has been debated for an awfully long time. It seems to be popular post, here, which is a tribute to the Galt's Gulch Online site. I mean where else do you get people debating strict logical necessity.

    The argument, as it works it way along, ends with the conclusion that, since there can be no infinite regress of actions that are non-purposeful, actions caused by other actions (always admitting that these are the actions of entities), we must have a starting place. And the starting place is not an accidental action but a purposeful action.

    We have to observe, here, that this logic says a purposeful action does not get us into infinite regress. We don't need a purposeful action caused by a purposeful action caused by... We don't need this. Because the purpose is not accidental; it is...well, a purpose. A movement by a mover that (HIMSELF) does not have to be moved.

    And that unmoved mover, that initiator of a purpose, must have a mind and choice. I mean, a purposeful action must be taken by an entity that/who can HAVE a purpose.

    Put it another way: If we speak of a "purpose," we have to act: whose purpose? What entity's purpose? Can't have a disembodied purpose can we?

    But, I mean, my question, my worry, is who or what caused, created, this entity? Granted that the entity just took a purposeful action, with no antecedent, still...where did this entity come from? Was it the purpose of some earlier entity? Or it the accidental result of previous actions?

    If we say, as Ayn Rand does, that the very first, axiomatic premise, beginning everything, is "existence exists," then perhaps we can argue that action--motion--is inherent in the very NATURE of existence. It does seem this way, with all those electrons, protons, neutrons swirling around inside of everything we know about... We could say existence exists, and inherently involves motion, instead of saying, a purposeful entity exists whose purposeful actions are the beginning of everything we know..

    Which means I still favor the Primacy of Existence argument over the Primacy of Consciousness argument (Unmoved Mover) and I try to alter that Primacy of Consciousness argument by asking: well, what existent entity HAS this initial prime purpose? And why couldn't action just be inherent in the nature of existence--as we see in the dynamics of the Big Bang?

    Still, great to be back in the grand old pursuit of laying down premises with logical necessity.

    1. Thanks for your comments and thoughts. Actually, I believe you are the first visitor to comment from the Galt's Gulch site - which I just recently joined. The rest of the conversations and traffic you see here has come through many different avenues.

      I would like to ask you to check your premise about "all of our premises being from empirical observation". After all, that is, itself, a premise - and not one that seems to be empirically observable 😉 ... But that's a different topic (see my posts on epistemology).

      You seem to have a good grasp on the Immovable Mover Argument in general, but you seem to misunderstand an important aspect: the conclusion is that a an un-caused "causer" must exist. Therefore, to ask "what caused Him?" is nonsensical... you're essentially asking "what caused the uncaused thing?" Perhaps you are making the very common mistake of assuming that "every *thing* must have a cause" - but that is not true, and that certainly is not included in the argument. It is an assumption which is proven wrong by the argument itself. Objectivists and Theists agree that there must be some eternal thing without prior cause. The question is about the nature of that thing. Objectivists simply want to stop short with the vague answer: "existence". Theists simply desire to know *which* existent - and what is it's nature.. because we're not afraid of the truth.

      When you propose that action is simply inherent to existence, which type of action are you talking about? And which existents? Purposeful or accidental action? If accidental, the argument proves it impossible. If purposeful, you destroy all Scientific inquiry by implying that all existents, as such, have purposeful action inherent to them. I don't think Objectivists want to go there...

      Perhaps you're un-eased at the idea of God implying a sort of "primacy of consciousness" (as implied in your post), or some other supposed contradiction? I would suggest that read the "Straw-Man Series" articles which may help you dispel such fears: http://thechristianegoist.wordpress.com/category/straw-man-series/

      Again, I appreciate your comments and thoughts. I hope I've given you more to think about, and I look forward to discovering whether I've helped to clear up some confusions. Thanks.

  12. Brilliant, just brilliant! I am a Christian Objectivist who struggles with people on both sides not "getting it." You have explained why God is not just a possibility but a logical necessity.

    One way I try to get people to understand it, if I have only a brief time, is to ask "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

    It is interesting to read between the lines of what the detractors here right. They reject the possibility that God exists on a purely emotional level and will make every convoluted argument and non-argument not to actually grapple with the question logically. Talk about subjective!

    The idea that multiple things or multiple process could have happened at the same time in the infinite past is not a solution. Something still had to cause those things. It is not true that two things can simultaneously cause each other. One must precede the other.

    Some people do not understand infinity or eternity. They do not mean "a very long time." Negative infinity is not just a long way back--it is unreachable, as is positive infinity. Eternity doesn't just mean a long time span--it is not a span at all.

  13. CB

    What does the Bible mean when it says "Do nothing out of selfish ambition", and also "anyone who loves their life will lose it".

    1. It certainly doesn't mean what modern altruistic Christians assume that it means. I suggest you look at the "Christian Egoism" posts, found on the page with that name. This question is out of place here on this post which is primarily about the logical necessity of Theism.

      Your question about the morality behind a few particular verses is a good question, but not to be discussed on this post. I think the Christian Egoism posts may help, but I will point you to some contextual verses which should help shed some light.

      "Do nothing out of selfish ambition" (Phil. 2:3): Read the whole passage. The exhortations are in the specific context of being united for a common goal (value), and Christ is set forward as a model. In the depiction of His model, He does what He does ("humbles Himself") for the sake of being exalted -- and again, because of a specific context. (Phil. 2:1-11)

      "Anyone who loves their life will lose it" (John 12:25): Read the rest of the verse: "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life". He's purposefully stating a paradoxical statement to make the hearer (or reader) stop and think. So, stop and think. And notice the appeal to "keep [your life] for eternal life". It is an appeal to ultimate value. Read Mark 9:35-37 for a better unpacking of the same principle: "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the Gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?"

  14. From what I understand as I read about the Christian Egoists ideas, it would seem that it is saying that seeking out the 'self' apart from God (i.e. Objectively True Reality) is evil (and dumb).

    So, I guess to make a parallel with Atlas Shrugged, think of it as those who tried to live with 'selfish ambitions' apart from the truth, or in other words, a submission to reality. Those who tried to 'profit' without understanding the value of genuine profit could only gain in the short term, but ultimately lose.

    It seems that the Bible is saying that any focus on the self isn't evil when it is combined with and in submission to God (Truth and Objective Reality), whereas to seek out a life on this Earth and expect to find true happiness apart from obeying God (Objective Reality) is actually self-destructive.

    Hence the focus being on eternal life, as he said above. Characters in the novel are asked to give up what seems like the just rewards of honest work on the surface - but in fact what they are giving up (their 'life' in the short term) is securing their ultimate reward (their life more fulfilled once evil is removed and defeated) in the long term: eternal life.

    So yes, in the context of each moment, Christians are losing their 'lives', but in reality, by obeying reality (God) they are actually more ambitious and self-valuing than those who are looking for the short term irrational goals.

    Does that make sense?

  15. As I learn to better understand the Bible and Christianity, it helps me to correlate everything Ayn Rand said about Objective Reality and associate it with the word God. If God is, as the Christian Egoist is demonstrating, THE Objective Reality of existence, than Ayn Rand's values of submitting to and obeying the truth align very much with God. The difference is that one is a purposeful actor, and the other is a purposeless accident.

  16. Jack Crawford said:
    "What is vague about existence? Also there are no assumptions in Objectivism. There are axioms which cannot be denied without accepting them."

    Which existent?

    I completely agree with the axioms. The real question is on how the Objectivist can know that the axioms are true, using Objectivist epistemology. Does one know that the axioms are universally valid based on sense perception -- or -- does one know they are valid because an axiom, by definition, must be valid? If the first (which seems to be the Objectivist position), then one could never know that the axioms are universally true without perceiving everything in the universe.

    So, you say that the Objectivist only has axioms, no assumptions. Prove it. Do you assume the universal validity of the axioms (as most Objectivists tend to), or is their universal validity also axiomatic (my position). Be careful in your answer -- you may end up denying the supremacy of perception in your epistemology and find yourself being labeled a 'rationalist' by your fellow Objectivists.

    For more on that topic, see these two posts:


  17. Cameron

    I am struggling with your distinction between "purposeful" and "accidental" actions. There is no evidence whatsoever in the existing universe that a purposeful action is even possible. I have never once heard a plausible scientific argument for the existence of free will - in fact, I have never even heard an ATTEMPT at such an argument. All thoughts, decisions, human actions and mental processes are a direct response to external stimuli - in other words, the actions of the mind are just as "accidental" as any other. Admittedly, it is conceivable that a god or some such being would be capable of purposeful action, but as such action does not fall within the realm of human experience, a supreme being capable of it can never be deemed a "logical necessity."

    1. If you've really never heard even an attempt at an argument for free will, then you have likely not studied much (if any) philosophy. And if you haven't studied philosophy at all, then you will not know what is meant by 'logic' -- let alone "logical necessity".

      I can lay out a short argument for free will, but it will likely mean very little to you unless and until you first examine your standards for what is meaningful or true (i.e your epistemology). As it stands, it would appear that your epistemology is akin to empiricism: "only that which can be demonstrated to the senses (i.e. via science) can be true". Would you agree that that is at least close to your standard for truth? In general, you should really be asking yourself what you mean by "evidence" and "proof" (i.e. what you consider to be acceptable and why). That is the study of epistemology.

      Regarding free will, it is actually pretty simple. If the ideas in your head are nothing more than the inevitable outcome of physical phenomena, then no idea in your head can be considered to be "true" (i.e. accurately corresponding to reality) -- any more than a belch can be considered "true". If there is no freedom from physical phenomena in any way, then there is no truth. If there is no truth, then no idea is true -- including your idea that there is no freedom from physical phenomena. In other words, if freedom were not possible, then we would never know it -- or anything else for that matter. Apart from some sort of freedom from physical phenomena, there can be no truth. No truth, no science. No science, no scientific theories. No scientific theories, no "evidence".

  18. A repost from galt's gulch:

    I honestly haven't been able to see how the two types of actions you've listed are relevant so I haven't really addressed it. It never occurred to me to ask why you think it's relevant. Here are my thoughts, though. The two types are not ruled by separate laws of causality, so why make the distinction? The same causal law produces many categories of types of actions, not just purposeful and non-purposeful. E.g., there is also the types: living actions and non-living actions. Or the types: magnetic actions and non-magnetic actions. Etc. why is purposeful and non-purposeful so crucial?

    Also, I'm not just saying that we haven't experienced a causeless cause -- the silent argument. I'm saying every cause we have experienced is caused and an un-caused cause is a contradiction in terms. If true, this is enough to necessitate the generalization: there is no such thing as a un-caused cause. We can honestly say every action we observe is caused -- even if we don't know what caused it. And here's the contradiction... The un-caused cause, if it is to cause anything physically, would need to physically exist to affect physical objects, but then it being physical would itself be subjected to physical causes -- it can't be un-caused. The un-caused cause, if it is not to be caused, would need to be non-physical to escape from being subjected to physical causes, but then it being non-physical wouldn't be able to affect any physical objects -- it can't cause. Any attempts to include a first cause (i.e., an un-caused cause) in the picture would require an entity that apparently exists outside of the law of causality -- i.e., a non-physical entity affecting physical objects, or a physical entity impervious to causality -- and therefore, an entity that exists outside the law of identity. This attempt seems to plant us in the realm of the irrational.

    If you agree that an un-caused cause is a contradiction, then how do we remedy the apparently irrational and this: "...or else He wasn’t the original actor, and we must begin the whole process over again until we arrive at an original actor who IS eternal." ? In short, we must accept on rational grounds, with the threat of accepting a contradiction if we don't, that there is no first cause (or un-caused cause).

    Unfortunately, parts of your last paragraph didn't make much sense to me.

    "Gravity requires at least two bodies..." Check, at least two things that produce gravity exist. Check and check.

    "...but how did those things get into those positions to begin with?" This is where you loose me. I'm not sure how this is relevant. We know at least two things exist today, and they must have existed yesterday.

    "Either they and gravity are all eternal, in which case they never would have been separate,..." There are other forces at play (i.e., weak and strong nuclear forces) that are just as fundamental to the physical objects as gravity is. These other forces would resist gravitational forces. I only listed one of the forces that's always present to demonstrate that physical entities always act.

    Gravity may not solve all problems, but it (and the other forces) solves the problem of figuring out whether or not physical objects always act. They do. They must. If you don't think so, do you mind clarifying why you don't think so? What evidence are you referencing to make your rational judgement?

    Read more at http://www.galtsgulchonline.com/posts/3eda551/ayn-rand-on-christian-egoism~kkixwwteencgpn6fsommjmet5a#sZCCg7gTXUp1cYRg.99

    1. I'm glad you pasted your response here. The thread at GG was getting a little crowded, and it was off topic from the original post.

      I focus on purposeful vs accidental action because those are the two relevant types of action to the discussion -- and because they are two of the most general types of action (all others will fall into one of those two).

      If you don't understand why I focus on those two, or how the nature of those two demand an original volitional actor, then you haven't fully grasped points 3-6 above.
      Your talk of an "uncaused cause" proves this out. The reason I speak of the differentiation between volitional and accidental action is because they each have different types of causes -- meaning that a purposeful action can be uncaused in respect to a certain type of cause, but caused in respect to a different type of cause.

      The cause of accidental action is wrapped up in the nature of the thing acting, the nature of the interaction it has with some other thing, and the nature of that other thing. The cause of purposeful action is wrapped up in the volitional nature of the thing acting, the motives for the action, and the referent(s) in reality which gave rise to those motives. Accidental action requires prior action. Purposeful action does not.

      Regarding whether this original volitional actor must be physical or not, I will leave that for another time, as it is a subordinate question to whether or not such an actor must exist (regardless of whether He were physical or not). As far as your objection goes, it is not true that only a physical thing could cause physical action. Though the alternative is difficult to imagine, there is no inherent contradiction -- and further I would argue that human reason and volition demands that the non-physical (the soul, reason, etc..) causes volitional physical actions (like standing and walking). But again, this is a separate and subordinate issue which is not worth discussing until the prior and more fundamental issue of the existence of the original actor is established.

      Finally, regarding whether physical objects "always act". Gravity is one mere example. You could (and likely will) think up many potential examples which may SEEM to be evidence of accidental action which requires no prior interaction -- or accidental action which had no beginning. But they will all be false. It is logically impossible for accidental action to occur apart from prior action, which means that it is logically impossible for accidental action to have no causal origin which is not, itself, accidental. I prefer not to get into the myriad of examples that could be brought up to attempt to counter that (gravity, magnetism, etc...) because they would all be attempts to prove the logically impossible via deluded (truncated) observation. My talk on the gravity issue was the attempt to show you that: to show that gravity could not be an example of eternal accidental action.

      1. I agree that all actions fall within a purposeful action or non-purposeful action, but this truth has nothing to do with the generality of those actions. It has to do with the law of the excluded middle. According to that law all actions fall within the excluded middle categories I listed as well -- and possibly an infinite number of other not yet identified excluded middle categories. And if the most general category of actions is one where all actions falls within one of the two possibilities, then they are all the most general, which is impossible. So, I'm not sure that you've established, on rational grounds, why one set of excluded middle category of actions are in fact necessarily essential here (or the most general).

        You say I am not understanding your points 3 through 6. This is true; I don't understand. I believe that I don't understand because I think there is a contradiction. Unless I missed something or made an error, 4 though six cannot make sense because of this contradiction. I've identified and I'm going to challenge two linchpins in your argument that I think are contradictions in the form of a floating abstractions. The two are: first, your conviction that a non-physical cause is possible; and second, your assumption that infinite regression is impossible.

        Your conclusion that a non-physical cause is possible is more challenging of the two to address because we must delve into the validity of concepts -- not as much fun as other topics. The concept, "cause," applies to entities -- physical entities. It is important to keep in mind that only physical things act, and when we speak of actions or a string of actions they are not an isolated series of events divorced from physical entities, which would be a floating abstraction, but rather, it is the physical entities that do the acting. The concept, "Cause," is arrived at by observing physical entities physically interacting with other physical entities. To demonstrate that a non-physical cause is a floating abstraction, I could simply ask you to name one observation you made where a non-physical entity physically interacted with a physical entity. I will also add, however, that it is not simply difficult to imagine, more than that it is impossible to imagine a non-physical cause because it's impossible to integrate and conceptualize any contradiction -- e.g., try to picture a leaf that is all red and all green at the same time. It may sound like a setup asking you to name a non-physical thing that physically interacts because its a contradiction in terms, but physical interaction is the necessary and proper application of the concept, "cause," if it's going to maintain its conceptual validity and link to reality. To accept the existence of a non-physical cause is to divorce the concept, "cause," from reality since we are no longer discussing physical interactions, which makes the concept, "non-physical cause" and any conclusions arrived at from its use a floating abstraction.

        The infinite regression assumption is the simpler of the two linchpins to address. This assumption is not an axiom; it is not self defeating by necessitating the acceptance of it in any attempt to refute it; it is not self-evident. There is no apparent contradiction to me in assuming otherwise; therefore, it isn't apparent to me that this can be assumed true on any rational grounds. If assuming the possibility of an infinite regression doesn't lead to a contradiction, then to assume it's impossible requires a depart from reason and reality via floating abstraction.

        I observe that you logically conclude by integrating the two linchpins, that since all actions can't regress infinitely and since physical causes must have prior causes, that the series must have started from a non-physical cause. From there I observe you logically apply that unpurposeful action are attributed to physical causes, which have been observed and proven to always have a prior cause; therefore, you logically conclude from what logically remains that purposeful actions requires no prior cause making it a non-physical cause even though I suspect you haven't observed it.

        Even though your conclusion that purposeful action requires no prior causes logically flows from your premises -- i.e., non-physical causes are possible and infinite regressions are impossible -- your conclusion is also is a floating abstraction because it is based on premises that are floating abstractions. To demonstrate that your conclusion is a floating abstraction can you please name one purposeful action that didn't require prior causes? It remains a floating abstraction along with the premise without an example grounding it to reality.

        I hope that I've demonstrated to your rational satisfaction that the two linchpins I challenged are in fact floating abstractions and that you can reconsider that the things that exist today are eternal and always interact and act.

        You might be wondering that if all actions (purposeful and unpurposeful) require prior causes, then where does this leave volition, our power of choice? It is important to keep in mind that volition isn't apart and above causality nor does one violate the other, but rather, volition is a type of causation.

        On gravity: gravity's existence has nothing to do with prior actions or the lack thereof. Gravity simply is. It's part of the nature of physical entities -- i.e., it's an attribute of physical entities. Again actions don't beget actions as such isolated from the things that act. The actors -- i.e., physical entities -- interact and act. Gravity is an always present attribute of the always present actors, which causes them to ceaselessly interact. I was not trying to prove an uncaused unpurposeful cause -- i.e., the genesis of an unpurposeful cause from no prior actions. I was demonstrating that simply no origin exists, but this leads back to your assumption of the impossibility of infinite regression. I'll wait on your response to my challenge to continue to beat this horse :).

  19. " It is important to keep in mind that only physical things act..."

    This is based in the naturalistic ("materialistic") assumption that only physical things exist (that physical existence is synonymous with existence, as such) -- and it is an assumption which I reject. You're correct that this will cause us to delve into a deeper issue, however it is not "concept formation" which we must delve into, but that which you mistake concept formation to be: epistemology.
    (See: Epistemology: Truth Criteria )
    I consider Objectivist epistemology to be lacking (at best) and evasive (at worst). The following posts will be of interest in that regard:
    - The Anti-Truth Laws: Objectivist Epistemology
    - The Categories of Objective Epistemoloy
    - Logical Necessity: Part 1
    - Logical Necessity: Part 2
    - D'Souza vs. Bernstein: Is Either Good for Mankind?
    (**Please direct comments or objections about epistemology to the posts which most appropriately regard the issue being addressed.)

    " It is important to keep in mind that volition isn’t apart and above causality nor does one violate the other, but rather, volition is a type of causation."

    I agree that volition is a type of causation -- but that does not meant that it is a type of physical causation, and simply stating that it is a "type" of physical causation does not get you (or the Objectivist) out of the logical pit on this issue. If volition and reason are entirely wrapped up in physical causation, then the Determinist is right, and volition and reason are illegitimate. The Objectivist seems to want to have his cake and eat it too, on this issue: He wishes to affirm the meaning and efficacy of volition and reason, while simultaneously denying or evading that which must be true about volition and reason in order for them to be meaningful or efficacious: that they must not be entirely subject to physical causation; that they must be free - in some respect - from physical cause and effect; that they must be some other type of cause which is not physical; i.e. spiritual.

    Regarding an infinite regress, it is a contradiction. That was the thrust of my points in the above post, but allow me to state it somewhat differently:

    A regress is a series going into the past. In this instance, the series is comprised of events (actions) in the past. It is a series in which each individual event is contingent upon the event(s) prior to it, such that if the event(s) prior to x event did not exist, then x event would not exist either (if you wish to say "occurred" rather than "exist", it does not change the argument). In such a series, the negation of any event necessarily implies the negation of every subsequent event. Now, what is meant by an "infinite regress" here, except that the series did not begin (i.e. that the series had no first event)? But if the first event is negated, then the entire series is negated. To speak of a series of this kind which did not begin, is to speak of a series which does not exist. Therefore, to say that there is an infinite regress of these types of events is to say that a series which did not begin (and therefore does not exist) exists. It is the assertion of the existence of a non-existent series. It is a contradiction.

    1. "Only physical things act" is not the same thing as "only physical things exist," nor does former rely on the latter to be true. Of course there are mental existents, such as ideas -- they exist... but not physically; nor do they act. "Action" is a term that names a concept derived from the context of observing physical things that do something. Once you remove the context or arbitrarily change it -- i.e., alter it not base on observable evidence -- then you've corrupted the meaning of action and the new concept is invalid -- i.e., it doesn't describe reality.

      I'll look into your papers on epistemology. I have to admit that I'm a bit skeptical about where this is going. I did not expect you to divert from Objectivism into this direction, and this part of Objectivism seems very Rock solid and lucid to me. I'm wondering at this point why you think your ideas are compatible with Objectivism at all. It doesn't seem like you agree on metaphysical fundamentals and now not even on epistemological fundamentals. I guess I'll see what I find.

      Regarding volition. You have zero evidence that volition is a non-physical cause, and the evidence to the contrary seems overwhelming. There are probably thousands of physical events that can end your volition (that has been observed from what has happened to others) and there is one particular that's required to create it (the process leading to birth). How do you overcome the seemingly arbitrary nature of your claim and the evidence to the contrary?

      Lastly, a physically caused volition doesn't necessitate the idea of determinism. Causality and determinism isn't the same. Causality is the application of the law of identity to action. Our mind has a specific nature that behaves a certain way when certain causes are present. We can destroy part of it (through alcohol) to destroy memory, which is stored in a physical location. We can inject hormones or other drugs that target the pituitary gland to release hormones that causes us to feel a certain way. Drugs can also help us improve or deteriorate our ability to focus our minds. So the brain is obviously a causal physical instrument. There are obviously internal processes in our mind that we possess control over -- introspection is the evidence of volition. Our volitional consciousness is an observable effect that requires the physical brain and yet our volition is also an observable cause that manipulates some of the functioning of the brain. I acknowledge that there is an information gap as to the exact nature of how volition can cause or can be caused; however, there is enough evidence to conclude that it does cause and is caused by physical means. There is no having a cake and eating it going on here -- it's just an information gap, one that I think should NOT be filled with the arbitrarily/contradictory idea that volition causes and is caused by non-physical means.

      Regarding infinite regress, your assumption that if no beginning existed, then nothing would exist is false. For one thing, if things always existed and always interacted, then no beginning would exist, and yet every event would have a prior event for eternity. This satisfies your requirement that every event must have a prior event, and yet there is no beginning.

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