You cited Thomas Aquines five proofs for the existence of an absolute being:
1) things subject to impermanence and change cannot have ever come into reality without a first permanent unchanged thing to give rise to the impermanence and change.
This argument seems to be very popular. But it is not valid.
Things subject to impermanence and change cannot have come into existence without a cause. That seems evident to me.
But why should there have been a first cause? Why not an infinite regress of causes? From where comes the axiom that an infinite chain of causes preceding causes is impossible? I have never understood that whenever I heard this argument.
So please explain this axiom to me, if you can.
Well there is some background knowledge to understand it (four causes, actuality, privation), but ... the basic argument is:
(1) In sensible things we find an order of efficient causes.
(2) It is impossible for this order of causes to proceed to infinity.
(3) There must be a first efficient cause.
(4) This first cause is God.
You cannot have an infinite regress because nothing can move (= change/cause) itself in the same respect and in the same manner, it is always moved by another. A thing is not the efficient cause of itself, but another is the efficient cause. Otherwise it would be prior to itself. Since there is one thing needed to cause another, there has to be something which is the unmoved first mover or motion would never begin. Without the cause the effect would never begin. Without a first cause, there would be no middle causes, and no final effect. (Movement is a change from potentiality to actuality.) This first mover is called God.
This seems contrived and meaningless to me, although I have been hooked on this same thought previously, too.
Why should "existence" exist? Because of its name? Existence is just a concept, and so is nonexistence.
The main thing to (mis)understand here is that logic operates on concepts, not on reality. You can make up all kinds of concepts in language with some loose correspondence to experiential reality. But then when these concepts refer to more abstract and subtle aspects of experience and you draw rigid conclusions from your concepts things are not as they "are" anymore.
I hope I make some sense. If not I blame it on the limitations of language.
Well, I guess you are operating on the "I think, therefore I am" mode, which most modern people operate on. I think that sentence is wrong. The sentence should read, "I am, therefore I think." With this viewpoint we understand that being came before thought, and reality before concepts about reality. While we do use our thought to come up with all sorts of ideas about what we are and aren't, it is plain that we exist, and our thought depends on our existence.
(4) and (5) don't make any sense to me. So I can't say anything meaningful about them.
As for 4, With out perfect good, a privation of good (called evil) could never be distinguished. As regard to being, if there was no perfect being, being itself, then no imperfect being would ever exist. We exist and have imperfect being. This is related to the previous arguments.
As for 5, all things tend toward an end (goal/purpose). Chance is not chance. In fact, if there wasn't any order or design, then we'd never be able to distinguish things as "chance", like happening upon a friend while walking. You didn't intend to meet, so it is chance, but it wasn't chance. You didn't intend to meet, but you were acting on a purpose. Birds don't just happen to find themselves with wings. We don't look at our legs and wonder, What are they for? And the Buddhist path would never have been formulated if the Buddha did not know that if you do a, b, and c, x, y, and z will result. The cosmos is not arbitrary. It is complex, but not arbitrary. And since things which lack intelligence cannot act towards an end, it must be directed by something with knowledge and intelligence.
Why allude to something "divine", to some higher state of being? Longing for an elusive higher state of being would only perpetuate suffering. But reverence to accomplished teachers who are living examples of morality and wisdom that leads to satisfaction.
Okay, then I'll just call it reverence for the divine. The divine as defined has all he qualities I want, and never needed to follow a path in the first place. He is the path and goal wrapped in one.
Khalil Bodhi wrote:Thank you for your reply but you really haven't addressed my question. How does this belief translate into praxis. How does it become soteriologically efficacious?
Buddhism is about squaring with the way things really are. Are behavior stems from there. If things are different then we think, then our behavior would change. Efficacious? It really depends how far you go with it. But immediately it leads me to reframe my existence. Samsara takes on a different view. Asking this being for help may come into view. Worship may come into view. The goal will probably change from escape from samsara, to union with the divine.
acinteyyo wrote:I rather prefer practicing and seeing the benefits for myself instead of wallowing in a thicket of views actually doing nothing but disporting myself in speculation.
Buddhism is not immune from any of these things. Buddhism posits a world view, beliefs, and outsiders who view their wranglings as a thicket of views. It isn't speculation for speculation's sake. The path involves investigation into reality, so why is this investigation outside of the path to truth. And while I don't think fostering conflict is good, people of good will argue because they care. It is more than just distraction hiding as a mental exercise.