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Pascal's Wager, Aquinas's proofs, and Emergency Aid

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I am a Christian (Prodestant Rationalist) who is considering Objectivism and was hoping the people at this forum could answer some questions for me.

The first is a hypothetical:

There is a car crash, and in the car is a dad, mom and baby, and both parents die. If I pass the accident, and the baby will die unless I help it, am I required to do so according to the trader principle?

The second has to do with rights:

Ayn Rand states in "The Anti-Industrial Revolution" that man's rights are come from his nature, i.e. that he is alive, and derives all other rights (property, speech, etc.) from this. How is the nature of man (that he is alive) different then that from animals such that he has rights and they do not? (I'm sure that there is an obvious answer to this that I am missing, but every time I get into a debate with a friend of mine about this he brings up that stupid monkey that can do sign language. )

The last two have to do with proofs of God:

According to Pascal's Wager, wouldn't it be in your rational self interest to be religious?

On AynRand.org it said that Aquinas's five proofs had been refuted. What are the counter arguments to those proofs?

I'd really appreciate your answers to these and look foward to reading them.

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There is a car crash, and in the car is a dad, mom and baby, and both parents die. If I pass the accident, and the baby will die unless I help it, am I required to do so according to the trader principle?
Ayn Rand rejected the use of "emergency" examples such as these as at all useful in one's basic grasp of ethics. Ethics, according to Objectivism, is a code of values to guide one's life--and emergency situations are not the norm in life.

That said, you do not give enough information in your example. What is your destination as you pass the baby? Might the baby still die even if you do help it? Is there any danger to your own life if you get out of your car to help the baby?

There is no duty to get out and help the baby. However, it is not a violation of selfishness to do so, assuming one does not give up something else vital to one's life in order to help. Getting to work on time is probably not vital--depending on what one's work consists of. If there is a risk to one's own life involved in helping the baby, it is probably best to call the experts in.

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According to Pascal's Wager, wouldn't it be in your rational self interest to be religious?

Pascal's Wager is flawed on many levels.

According to Pascal's Wager, if you believe in God and God exists, you will benefit enormously. If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will suffer only a minor nuisance. If you reject God and God exists, you will suffer eternally in hell. If you reject God and God does not exist, you will benefit slightly from having avoided a minor nuisance. Therefore, it's not worth risking disbelief.

One can first respond to this by pointing out that God would not approve of someone who believed in him based on this...so one would still end up in hell.

One can also respond that believing in God IS a major nuisance. One would no longer be completely sovereign and independent. It is not worth believing in God, one might say.

But the most fundamental answer to Pascal's Wager is that nobody has any experience on which to base a belief of God (a point which, based on your intro, you might disagree with...but let's complete this thought now and get to that later if you like). So how does Pascal know that there is a heaven and hell? How does he even know that hell will result from disbelief? Perhaps God is a sinner and rewards sinners. There's simply no way to know WHAT is in one's self-interest once one admits the arbitrary idea of God.

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1. Not by the trader principle, since there's no trade involved. But if there's no risk to you, you probably should help the baby. I wouldn't state it as a moral requirement, but I'd be very suspicious of a person who could just walk by a dying innocent.

2. The ability to use sign language at a very rudimentary level doesn't imply an actual conceptual faculty. I'd have to read up on those studies to give you a satisfactory answer here, so I'll leave it at that.

If you think the rights come from the fact of being alive, though, you should read more of Rand's works. That's not correct. Rights come from the fact of being alive as a human, i.e. as one with the rational/conceptual faculty. Check out Rand's book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" (or "The Nature of Government" in the back of Virtue of Selfishness) for more details on her actual theory of rights.

3. What Daniel said. Also, I also don't think Pascal's wager works psychologically. Believing in God requires believing, not just acting as though one believes. But suppose I offer you a 50/50 shot at a billion dollars if you come to believe that I have an invisible, intangible monkey living in my refrigerator. You have nothing to lose by not believing it (who cares what's in my fridge?), and you potentially have a lot to gain. Could you actually do it? I don't think so. You could try to trick me into believing that you did, and you might even get the billion dollars if you were tricky enough.

So that's point one: you couldn't satisfy Pascal's demand even if you tried. Second, you couldn't even get the benefits of pretending you did, because if it turned out that there was a God, he'd presumably be omniscient -- and probably a little pissed off at you for trying to fool him. :dough:

Third, like Daniel said, it's not the case that you have nothing to lose by believing in God. If you believe there's a God, your view on the world is radically different than if you don't. If you're wrong, you misunderstand the universe at a very basic level -- and this will have implications through your entire life.

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I would argue that it would be better to burn in hell than to be in the kind of pardise owned by the kind of god described in the bible, especially when factoring in the detrement to life on earth that is christianity. On this basis, one may reject pascal as being outright wrong. Furthermore, since the existance of a god is impossible, the betting odds given are not relevent.

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Rather, the wager should be, If I don't believe in God and this Christian does believe in God, they will harangue me to no end, so should I tell them I do in order to avoid them affronting me with their prosletyzing until I am forced to commit murder

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1. Not by the trader principle, since there's no trade involved.  But if there's no risk to you, you probably should help the baby.  I wouldn't state it as a moral requirement, but I'd be very suspicious of a person who could just walk by a dying innocent.

If there isn't a moral reason to save the child, why would you be suspicious of the person who doesn't do so?

It seems to me you need an ethical principle in order to say that the child is worth saving, or even worth 15 minutes of your time to save.

As for rights coming from man's reason, the person I was talking to argued that animals have the capacity for problem solving (rudimentary toolmaking exhibited in primates) and value judgements (the sign language Gorilla was sad when it's cat died).

I agree the above argument is wrong, but I'm curious how you'd refute it.

I agree Pascal's Wager is flawed, but bring up the question: what is the Objectivist answer for death?

Also, someone please tell me why Aquinas's proofs are wrong.

Aquinas Proof

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If there isn't a moral reason to save the child, why would you be suspicious of the person who doesn't do so?

A rational person places a small general value on people in general, people whom he has no reason to particularly like or dislike. This is because humans are rational beings... the existance of rational beings is of some general benifit to every rational man.

All else being equal (i.e. the time is not of any importance, and there is no danger to oneself) one should rescue anyone in such a situation. In reality, there is always some danger to oneself in making a rescue, and one must judge how much and whether it is worth the risk. For this reason, while one may be suspect of someone walking by the described situation, one may not morally condemn him for it, as it may have been or seemed more dangerous/uncomfortable to him than you percieve.

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I decided that there is no reason to answer Aquinas' proofs individually, since his claim is that there is an omnipotent being in a world which is bound by rules (the rules by which he deduces his proofs)... this in itself is contradictory.

If you really want to talk about his proofs individually, you should start a thread in the metaphyisics forum.

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I just read the argument from motion that that link lead me to....

The conclusion that "...it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, which is put in motion by no other..."

explicity contradicts a premise used to arrive at the conclusion. That..."whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another..." or "It is therefore impossible that...i.e. that it should move itself"

So his argument is self-refuting.

There is lots more wrong with this "arguement" but for me, right now, its not worth the trouble of getting into.

This would be how I would "refute" his arguement. By pointing to the explicity and clear-cut contradiction of his conclusion by one of his premises.

As for his other arguements....I won't read them unless I have reason to think they're worth it.

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Living Student:

Aquinas' proofs all flow something like this: X is impossible; we can observe X; there must be something exempt from laws of reality to make X happen. The entire concept of following reason to prove that there is something for which reason dosen't apply is absurd.

correction: they actually flow like this: X is impossible; X is imparitive; there must be something exempt from the laws of reality to make X happen.

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Living Student:

Aquinas says that nothing can be both mover and moved. This is not contradicted by his conclusion. The first mover moves other things without itself being moved. Also, since it is not itself in motion, it does not require something else to have moved it.

Richard Halley:

Aquinas claims that reason CAN give us knowledge about God...hence his proofs. By saying reason doesn't apply, you beg the question. He has given proofs that show how reason gives us knowledge of God. You need to identify where they go wrong in order to verify that reason does not, after all, give us knowledge of God.

Nor would Aquinas say that God is exempt from the laws of reality. Keep in mind that these proofs claim to be proofs of a first mover, not proofs of any of God's other qualities.

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Daniel:

His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.
This was originally stated by Augustine, but quoted by Aquinas in his reply to objection 1. Aquinas did say that god was omnipotent, that he is exempt from laws.

If god may do anything, reason does not apply... in this way Aquinas is self-refuting.

You are correct however, in saying that this self-refution does not apply directly to (all) his arguments. It does, however, manifest itself in some. In any case, I will go through his arguments one by one and refute or nullify them.

Proof 1: This argument flows like so: Nothing may move itself. If nothing may move itself than nothing may move. Things move. So, there exists something which may move itself.

The conclusion directly contradicts one of the premises.

Proof 2: This argument flows like so: Nothing may be the efficient cause of itself, everything must be an effect. If nothing is a cause of itself than nothing may be caused. Things are caused. So, there exists something which may cause itself.

The conclusion directly contradicts one of the premises.

Proof 3: The conclusion of this argument is merely: "there must be things which have always existed." This implies no god, it is merely a statement that existence exists and always has. Quite true.

Proof 4: This argument has a bad premise: "Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things." In fact, fire is not the cause of heat, but rather, heat is the cause of fire. Applying Aquinas' arguments to, for instance, televisions: 100" plasma TV's are the cause of all small black and white monitors. Clearly this is absurd, and is absurd about existents/beings as well.

Proof 5: This argument also has a bad premise: "We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result." As you can see, he offers two arguments to support his claim that non-intelligent bodies act for an end. The first, "acting always, or nearly always, in the same way" is easily explained by the concept of identity. The second is merely a restatement of his claim, not actually a supporting argument. So, Aquinas' argument that natural bodies must be guided by intelligent ones is unsupported.

Any questions?

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Halley,

I haven't read Aquinas's proofs for a while, so I'm just going by what you wrote. It sounds like what he's doing in the first two is showing that the view he opposes leads to a contradiction. In other words: if we assume that nothing may move itself, we reach the conclusion that nothing moves. But since that conclusion is wrong, the premise must be wrong. So he's not really asserting the original premises, except as a rhetorical point. (Aristotle used this method sometimes too.)

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Firstly, Aquinas' logic flows directly from the points which he negates in his conclusion. For example, his first proof goes like this:

Things may not move themselves...

Because things may not move themselves, all actions are effects...

If all actions are effects, there would be no actions...

Actions take place...

There exists an entity which is a "first mover" which men call "god."

If his conclusion had been that there must exist at least one entity which may move itself, than he would have been doing what you suggested. However, he keeps with his first premise when dealing with all objects other than his one first mover, so he is arguing the existance of something which breaks the laws of reality.

You may argue that he is not doing that, but there is no reason to, since, either way, his argument does not prove the existance of god. It merely proves that some things may initiate actions or "movements".

The same principles may be applied to his second proof.

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Living Student:

Aquinas says that nothing can be both mover and moved. This is not contradicted by his conclusion. The first mover moves other things without itself being moved. Also, since it is not itself in motion, it does not require something else to have moved it.

Danielshrugged:

You're right. And then again, you're not. :ph34r:

I thought Aquinas had said, "Therefore, whatever in motion must be put in motion by another already in motion." Which, in fact, he did not. Or did he?

If he did, then this would be in contradiction with a first mover which is not in motion itself.

It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself.

I ask how he came to conclude this. And my only answer is on the premise that something must be in motion before it can be a mover. Or said differently, that something must be actual before it can reduce the potential of something else into actuality. Like the wood which is potentially hot requires the fire to make it hot.

...nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.
If one can show me an another possible way of him reaching this point, then I'd open to that. If something musn't be in motion before it can be a mover, then why can't something move itself?

If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again.

This is the beginning of a refutation of the view that a first mover i.e. a mover that is not in motion, is not necessary. He tries to refute this view by showing that the premise that something in motion requires a mover which was already in motion leads to a contradicting conclusion.

MattBalin already said almost exactly this except he said that the view Aquinas was trying to show was self-refuting was the view that nothing may move itself. It is, rather, the view that I said.

So, actually, I'm more inclined than ever to agree with you now Danielshrugged. The premise that I had said Aquinas was contradicting with his conclusion is one that he himself tries to show is bad. But I still can't account for how he reached the above - that nothing may move itself without holding that movers must be in motion prior to their being movers.

But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover...

This is how he does it. This is false because, there only needs to pre-existing movers-in-motion to account for existing motion. And this indeed can go "on to infinity" - all movers being moved by immediately prior movers.

So, I would argue that his final conclusion that there must have been a first mover doesn't follow from his premises. But that it doesn't contradict his premises. And I would have to do this without a good account for how he came to conclude that things may not move themselves (which is false).

As an aside, I do not believe that there was a first mover, but that today they exist. B)

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I thought Aquinas had said, "Therefore, whatever in motion must be put in motion by another already in motion." Which, in fact, he did not. Or did he?
He did say that, not in those exact words.

The premise that I had said Aquinas was contradicting with his conclusion is one that he himself tries to show is bad.

Possible, but again, irrellivent. If his argument is not contrdictory, than it doesn't prove a god at all, only that somethings may move themselves, or that somethings not in motion may move something else (through gravity, for example).

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Danielshrugged:

You're right.  And then again, you're not.  :blink:

I thought Aquinas had said, "Therefore, whatever in motion must be put in motion by another already in motion."  Which, in fact, he did not.  Or did he?

If he did, then this would be in contradiction with a first mover which is not in motion itself.

I ask how he came to conclude this.  And my only answer is on the premise that something must be in motion before it can be a mover.  Or said differently, that something must be actual before it can reduce the potential of something else into actuality.  Like the wood which is potentially hot requires the fire to make it hot.

If one can show me an another possible way of him reaching this point, then I'd open to that.  If something musn't be in motion before it can be a mover, then why can't something move itself?

This is the beginning of a refutation of the view that a first mover i.e. a mover that is not in motion, is not necessary.  He tries to refute this view by showing that the premise that something in motion requires a mover which was already in motion leads to a contradicting conclusion.

MattBalin already said almost exactly this except he said that the view Aquinas was trying to show was self-refuting was the view that nothing may move itself. It is, rather, the view that I said.

So, actually, I'm more inclined than ever to agree with you now Danielshrugged.  The premise that I had said Aquinas was contradicting with his conclusion is one that he himself tries to show is bad.  But I still can't account for how he reached the above - that nothing may move itself without holding that movers must be in motion prior to their being movers.

This is how he does it.  This is false because, there only needs to pre-existing movers-in-motion to account for existing motion.  And this indeed can go "on to infinity" - all movers being moved by immediately prior movers.

So, I would argue that his final conclusion that there must have been a first mover doesn't follow from his premises.  But that it doesn't contradict his premises.  And I would have to do this without a good account for how he came to conclude that things may not move themselves (which is false).

As an aside, I do not believe that there was a first mover, but that today they exist. B)

But I still can't account for how he reached the above - that nothing may move itself without holding that movers must be in motion prior to their being movers.

This is how he does it.  This is false because, there only needs to pre-existing movers-in-motion to account for existing motion.  And this indeed can go "on to infinity" - all movers being moved by immediately prior movers.

i've read about this before, an infinite regress. correct me if i'm wrong, but isn't that supposed to create a huge mess of problems? kalam cosmological argument ring any bells?

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He did say that, not in those exact words.
Where does he say that?

Possible, but again, irrellivent. If his argument is not contrdictory, than it doesn't prove a god at all, only that somethings may move themselves, or that somethings not in motion may move something else (through gravity, for example).

Its relevant to the question of whether or not he held that "whatever in motion must be put in motion by another already in motion." Which contradicts his conlusion. I don't think he did.

But I agree that, regardless, it wouldn't prove the existence of "god". Just that something may be a mover without being in motion.

kalam cosmological argument ring any bells?

nope.

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Where does he say that?
Here:

...nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality.

Applying this to motion, we get nothing potentially in motion may become actually in motion, except by something in a state of being actually in motion.

It is true that his reasoning then leads him to decide that there must be a first mover... and therefore possible that he did not intend for this premise to be taken seriously (although his verbiage seems to suggest that the rule applys to all other movers).

This is all irrellivent to the validity of his arument (as it pertains to god) though... any arugment proving the existance of the supernatural--something which does not obey the laws of reality--is, necessariy contradictory of those laws.

This is how he does it.  This is false because, there only needs to pre-existing movers-in-motion to account for existing motion.  And this indeed can go "on to infinity" - all movers being moved by immediately prior movers.

Oh, and it cannot go into infinity. At least not unless there have always existed things, which have always been in motion.

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Applying this to motion, we get nothing potentially in motion may become actually in motion, except by something in a state of being actually in motion.
Right, I agree.

And he uses this to say that nothing may move itself which is an important part of his argument.

This is all irrellivent to the validity of his arument (as it pertains to god) though...

I agree again. He just kinda slips that "and this everyone understands to be God" part in at the end. Sneaky Sneaky. :D

At least not unless there have always existed things, which have always been in motion.
This is what I implied when I wrote...

And this indeed can go "on to infinity" - all movers being moved by immediately prior movers.
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