CHAPTERS 11 and 12
In Chapters Eleven and Twelve, Dr. Martin begins presenting his "Positive Case" for atheism. In Chapter Eleven, he addresses some preliminary issues and recaps his purpose for the format that he has used. In Chapter Twelve, he takes a look at some supposed inconsistencies in the traditional concept of God and attempts to show how these work as a demonstration for atheism.
Summary of Martin's Claims
Chapter Eleven is a very short chapter in which Martin makes three short arguments. First, based on an amended argument of Michael Scriven, he claims that the justification of negative atheism is in itself a premise in the justification for positive atheism. His argument is:
P-1: It seems that if an all knowing, all powerful, all good being existed, He would provide adequate evidence for believing in Him.
P-2: There is no such evidence
Conclusion: Therefore, such a being does not exist
Next, Martin argues that refuting the case for God results in the arguments for atheism not needing to be as strong as they would have if the theistic proofs succeeded. Finally, he makes a disclaimer regarding the ensuing chapter, that even if such a priori arguments fail the a posteriori arguments are still sufficient.
After these preliminary remarks, Martin proceeds (in Chapter Twelve) to make his case that the traditional attributes of God are incompatible with one another. He begins with the attribute of omniscience (all-knowing-ness). Martin begins this section by noting that knowledge can be classified in three ways: the speculative, the practical, and the relational (these are my terms, not his, but they correspond exactly to his terms). He then goes on to say that it would be inconsistent for God to have all knowledge possible in all three categories. As support for this claim he offers three examples: (1) God does not have all knowledge if he is spirit, since He would need a body to know how to do gymnastics; (2) God could not be said to have all knowledge of all actions, since He would have to be morally imperfect in order to know how it feels to lust; and (3) God cannot be said to have knowledge of all feelings, since He would have to know the experience of fear, frustration, and despair. After stating his examples, Martin notes some possible counterclaims and answers them saying: (1) these cannot be countered by appealing to logical impossibility, since it seems absurd to think that it would be impossible for God to have knowledge that humans can have; (2) to claim that God could know these things if He chose to (i.e. via an incarnation) is likewise absurd and does not solve the moral problem; and (3) Christianity does not allow for a distinction between lust of the heart and lust as acted out anyway, thus prohibiting such a counter.
After this, Martin attempts to show how a "weaker" omniscience (the view that omniscience only consists of all propositional knowledge) is also incompatible by critiquing the view held by his favorite target, Richard Swinburne. This view would allow for people to have knowledge that God does not. Martin offers three criticisms of this view: (1) God could not have any knowledge of any propositions beginning with "I" made by another being; (2) it is impossible for God to know all things since it would be impossible to know an infinite in space and time—and even if space and time were not infinite, then there would still be a problem with knowing mathematics, since they too include an infinite number of facts; and (3) it is impossible for there to be a set of all truths.
Next, Martin assesses what he believes to be irreconcilable incompatibilities relating to God's freedom. He claims that God's freedom would be incompatible with his omniscience and states the problem as: Because creatures are free, God cannot know His or their future acts (unless they are necessarily causally related to an event that has already happened or is presently happening). He then adds: since He does not know His own future acts, He does not really even know any event since He may choose to do a miracle, thus overcoming the natural necessity. Thus, he concludes, God cannot be both free and omniscient. Martin goes on further to point out that God's morality seems to also be incompatible with this previous conclusion. He notes that God, if He can not know the future, then He can not know the moral-value of His past acts since He does not know the ultimate effects. Thus, God cannot be considered to be essentially morally perfect, since being so would only be accidental if it were true.
Finally, Martin attempts to show how the classical attribute of omnipotence (all-powerful-ness) is incompatible with His other attributes. He notes that the biggest problem with arguing against omnipotence is pinning down how it is being defined. Thus, he critiques four different positions. After stating Swinburne's definition, Martin gives many criticisms including: (1) it is defined as what God can bring about, rather than what He can do; (2) the omnipotence is temporally limited; (3) the omnipotence is limited by contingency; (4) the omnipotence is limited to non-accidents; (5) the omnipotence is limited by potential overriding reasons for any act; and (6) he being is not worthy of worship. Obviously, based on these criticisms, the "omniscience" invoked is too limited to be truly considered as omniscience. Next, he states Mavrodes' definition and notes that, according to this view, omnipotence is still incompatible with many other attributes. Then Martin states Taliaferro's definition and, again, asserts that it does not solve the problem of incompatibility. Finally, he offers Gellman's definition and gives four main criticisms: (1) some features considered true by religious believers would not be considered as perfections; (2) Gellman does not explain how it is determined that a thing is worthy of worship; (3) people do not agree on what constitutes worth; and (4) different attributes constitute perfection for different beings. Regarding this forth criticism, he gives four examples: (a) immateriality would be an imperfection in a body sculpting contest; (b) Sinlessness would be an imperfection for a role-model, since modeling them would be unachievable and thus not worth attempting; (c) omniscience would be an imperfection for an explorer; and (d) omnipotence would be an imperfection since gain is had through struggle.
Agreements and What I Have Learned
There was not much to agree with in this section, but I will try to highlight as much as I think is relevant. First, I agree with Martin's threefold division of knowledge. I think that one would be correct to assert that if God did not possess all knowledge in all three areas, then he could not rightfully be called omniscient (and thus, I agree with his criticisms of all the "weaker" view of Swinburne). I will explain further how my view allows for this in the critique section. Second, I agree with Martin's critique of Swinburne's defense of God's freedom, though I think that he did not take on the strongest theistic position at all. Finally, I agreed with Martin's critique of Swinburne's definition of omnipotence. I also will grant him the criticisms of Mavrodes and Taliaferro, though I am really doing this because I think that the fourth definition is the only one worthy of fighting for.
My first criticisms are of the brief introductory chapter. First, his section on negative atheism has not accomplished what he said it would. Thus the first syllogism fails. Second, the a posteriori arguments are irrelevant since the Cosmological Argument has not been refuted. Nonetheless, I will have fun assessing them beginning next week. Third, I do not see how he considers Chapter Twelve to be an a priori argument for atheism. At best, it is an a priori argument against traditional theism as interpreted by the contemporary analytic philosophers of the theistic persuasion. This is still "negative atheism," not "positive atheism."
Next, I would like to assess Martin's examples regarding God's lacking of certain kinds of knowledge. He claimed that: (1) God does not have all knowledge if he is spirit, since He would need a body to know how to do gymnastics; (2) God could not be said to have all knowledge of all actions, since He would have to be morally imperfect in order to know how it feels to lust; and (3) God cannot be said to have knowledge of all feelings, since He would have to know the experience of fear, frustration, and despair. Regarding (1), there is nothing about lacking a body that keeps one from having knowledge of how to do gymnastics. An engineer does not have a carburetor yet he knows how a car works. Regarding (2), it is true that God does not know what it is like for God to lust, since such an event has never occurred and never could. However, it does not follow that God does not know what it is like for 'person 'x'' to lust. Every relation has a subject and an object. These do not change for God's knowledge of them. Therefore, since it is impossible for God to lust, no person could have such knowledge. So we are not stuck with a position allowing people to have knowledge that God does not have. Regarding (3), experience in itself is a manner of existence, not knowledge. Thus, while God may not have the actual experience of being fearful, He exhaustively knows what it is for any person in any situation to be in fear. Thus, these criticisms regarding God's omniscience fail.
Next, regarding Martin's attempt to prove that God does not have all propositional knowledge, I think that it can be shown that all three criticisms fail. The first criticism was that God could not have any knowledge of any statement beginning with "I" made by another being. But this is silly. Every "I" in every such statement is replaceable with a nominative. Like relations, every proposition has a subject, and every pronoun refers to that subject. The second criticism was that it is impossible for God to know all things since it would be impossible to know all things in space and time. But this begs the question. First, space and time are correlative, finite realities. God knows them completely in virtue of knowing Himself perfectly (since they virtually exist in Him as an effect does in its cause). Second, to hold such a position as Martin invokes is to assume that God exists in space and time, thus leaving the possibility open for other beings to be somewhere. But all of these principles of differentiation began to exist so there would not be a "somewhere" at all. Appealing to mathematics will not help either. Doing so as Martin does assumes that numbers and their relations are actually existing entities that exist separate from the being of God. We would reject this. Thus this criticism also fails. The third criticism regarding sets also fails. God does not know all truths as existing in sets. He simply knows all truths.
Next, Martin discusses the incompatibility of freedom with the moral nature of God. I reject this whole question by denying that God is subject to any moral categories. Overall, however, I agree with Martin's critique of Swinburne in this section. However, the fact that Martin spends the whole section critiquing him (Swinburne) without even a mention of the classical concept of God as transcendent over time tells me that he (Martin) is really not interested in taking on the strongest theistic positions. All Martin has done here is to show that process theology, finite Godism, and any other form of Neotheism, are weak metaphysical options. This does my side a favor. Further, by demonstrating that God is beyond time (scientifically via Big Bang Cosmology and Einstein's Theory of Relativity and philosophically via the Kalam argument and the nature of change) we have completely evaded any problem here. God is free, we are free, and God knows the results of all future free acts since they are not future to Him. Obviously, much more can be said of this view, and it is very dependable. See Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica.
Finally, I would like to make an assessment of Martin's handling of Gellman. First, I would like to say that I like the definition of omnipotence attributed to Gellman and think it is worthy of defense. Martin's first criticism was that some features considered true by religious believers would not be considered as perfections. But this could either be the result of ignorance or the believers may simply be wrong. Now, if an attribute were to be shown to be imperfect, then there would be a real problem (such as the Mormon God being a changing being). The second criticism was that Gellman does not explain how it is determined that a thing is worthy of worship. I think that this worth is clearly related to the being's absolute perfection. The third criticism was that people do not agree on what is worthy. Likewise, this can be attributed to the people's ignorance, rather than a deficiency in the perfect being. The fourth criticism was that different attributes constitute perfection for different beings. He gave four examples that all die the same death. An attribute is perfect when it is wholly good, and it is good when it is desirable for its own sake. None of those activities offered as counters are good for their own sake. Body sculpting is sought for the beauty and order of the result, but these are made perfect in the simplicity of God. A role model's end is to be a good example, thus a sinless role model would be much better example than a sinful one. The end of exploring is to gain knowledge, but this end is fulfilled already in an omniscient being. It is better to rest in a good than to seek it. Finally, struggling is good insofar as it results in strengthening. But an omnipotent being needs no strengthening and, thus, he already owns the end.