Sunday, December 26, 2010

Plantinga on Atheism and Proof of Other Minds

Hi Sammy (a pseudonym),

I don't want to go too deep into this point, so I'll
keep things brief.

Some years ago, a theistic logician named Alvin Plantinga wrote a book God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. In this work, Plantinga argued that belief in God is analogous to belief in other minds. What are minds? How do we know that minds other than ours exist?

By "minds" here, I mean "mental entities." Beliefs and desires are two mental or intentional states, but clearly not the only two states of mind.

Plantinga (similar to Bertrand Russell) seems to contend that one can never demonstrate (apodictically) by rational argumentation that other minds exist. By means of introspection, I can know that I experience certain mental states. But I cannot know that S1 experiences similar mental states because I cannot get into the head (so to speak) of S1. All I can do is
infer that S1 experiences mental states in a manner analogous to my experience of mental states. But the inference is a belief based on probabilistic factors. For all I know, if I could get into the head of S1, I might find that S1, for some reason, does not experience mental states such as beliefs or desires. Maybe S1 is really an android or automaton. But I seem justified in believing S1 does have beliefs or desires, even though I cannot know or prove apodictically that this is the case.

For more insight on this matter, I suggest the

I guess the bottom line is that we believe in many things that can be neither proved nor demonstrated by logic or science. How can science demonstrate or prove that other minds exist? Granted, I believe minds other than my own exist. But I did not arrive at that belief by logical or scientific means. Keep in mind that I am here explaining what the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist is saying. I believe it makes a good point about things science cannot prove. Astrophysicist Paul Davies also points this out in The Mind of God.

Your brother,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Addressing Translation Issues in Lactantius


You write:

"(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): ...Et quamvis alios postea innumerabiles per ipsum creavisset, quo angelos dicimus...' - (Latin Text of Divinae Institutiones Book 4, Chapter 6, Section 1. MGL.)

Does Latin ( alios ) mean 'another'?

Or does it mean 'other'?"

According to Lewis-Short Latin Dictionary and John C. Traupman's Latin-English Dictionary, the word can mean either "another" or "other" or "different" along with other denotations in determinate speech contexts.

"Is Latin ( alios ) the equivelant of Greek ( ἄλλος ) '...another (numerically) of the same kind and quality...'?

TRENCH says: '...( ἄλλος ) identical with the Latin 'alius' ... But ( ἔτέρος ) equivalent to the Latin 'alter'..." - (Page 357 SYNONYMS OF THE NT)

Is Latin ( alios ) a plural word?"

ALIOS is accusative masculine plural of ALIUS.

"Could it be (paraphrased): '...created innumerable others of the same kind, whom we call angels...'

Or would that be stretching it to far?"

I could be wrong, but I don't think "others of the same kind" would convey the notion behind the Latin ALIUS/ALIOS. IMO, the word usually stresses difference rather than sameness. See Lewis-Short at Perseus for many examples of how ALIUS is used.

You also write:

"The other two translations render it this way:

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...and though he later created countless (OTHERS), whom we call angels...' (Divinae institutiones 4.6.1)

(LACTANTIUS c. 240 to 320): '...And although He had afterwards created by Himself innumerable (OTHER-BEINGS), whom we call angels...' - (ANF Roberts & Donaldson)"

I like the second translation best since it preserves subtleties like the use of creavisset, etc.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Scattered Quotes from Lactantius

Maybe these quotes will prove to be helpful. They come from my years of researching the church father named Lactantius:

Divine Institutes 4.14:

"Nor did He [Christ] at any time say that He Himself was God; for He
would not have maintained His faithfulness, if, when sent to abolish
the false gods, and to assert the existence of the one God, He had
introduced another besides that one. This would have been not to
proclaim one God, nor to do the work of Him who sent Him, but to
discharge a peculiar office for Himself, and to separate Himself from
Him whom He came to reveal. On which account, because He was so
faithful, because He arrogated nothing at all to Himself, that He
might fulfil the commands of Him who sent Him, He received the dignity
of everlasting Priest, and the honour of supreme King, and the
authority of Judge, and the name of God" (Divine Institutes 4.14).

"God, then, who invented and constructed all things, as we said in book 2,
before approaching the remarkable task of making this world CREATED a
holy and incorruptible spirit whom he called his son and though he
later created countless others, whom we call angels, this, his first-
born, was the only one he distinguished with a name of divine
significance, presumably because he had his father's qualities of
power and supremacy" (Divinae institutiones 4.6.1).

"For if God, who made all things, is also Lord and Father, He must be one
only, so that the same may be the head and source of all things. Nor
is it possible for the world to exist unless all things be referred
to one person, unless one hold the rudder, unless one guide the
reins, and, as it were, one mind direct all the members of the body"
(Epitome 2).

All such utterances must be construed in accord with the literary context in which they appear. For instance, Lactantius argues that the
Father and the Son share a moral unity: "Because the son is loyal to
the supreme father and precious to him, he is never separated from
him, just as a river cannot be cut off from its source nor a sunbeam
from the sun . . ." (DI 4.29.5). See 4.29.7-8. For Lactantius, the
Father (strictly speaking) is the exclusive master over the created
order or universal household: "the world has one king, one father and
one lord only" (DI 1.7.3). The Father and Son are one in a moral or
legal sense as demonstrated in DI 4.29.7-8.

Another passage that also leads me to believe that Lactantius does not believe that the Son is fully God is the passage at DI 2.8.3-4:

"Since nothing existed at the time [of creation] apart from himself,
because the source of full and perfect good was in himself, as it
always is, in order that good should spring from him like a stream and
flow forth and on and on, he produced a spirit like himself, which was
to be endowed with all the virtues of God his father . . . Then by
means of the one he made first he made another, liable to corruption.
In this one the divine inheritance was not to abide."

Charles Thomas Cruttwell writes these words about Lactantius:

"Theologians have detected many flaws in his [Lactantius'] orthodoxy. It cannot be denied that he is unsatisfactory in his definition of the Godhead of Christ; that his theory of the part assigned to the angels in the government of mankind is unscriptural and unwarranted; and that
his omission of all mention of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity
is a grave theological defect. In fact, as has already been stated,
his contribution to Christian dogma is of little theological value.
It is rather to his earnestness, his purity of spirit, and his
soundness of moral judgment, that he owes his high position as a
Christian writer" (A Literary History of Early Christianity Including the Fathers and the Chief Heretical Writers of the Ante-Nicene
, page 650).

I also offer a quote which was reproduced above, from another translation:

"in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father. But how He willed that, I will endeavour to show in the fourth book. Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. " (Divine Institutes 2.9 in some editions).

"It is evident from the testimony of the poet, that there is one God who inhabits the world, since the whole body cannot be inhabited and governed except by one mind. Therefore all divine power must be in one person, by whose will and command all things are ruled; and therefore He is so great, that He cannot be described in words by man, or estimated by the senses" (De ira Dei) 11.