Friday, April 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

One has, I think, to go through a conceptual turn-around in general ontology somewhat like the one Newton executed for physics. Aristotelian physics made motion problematic and rest unproblematic. The question then was: "Why is there motion (here, or there, or at all) rather than rest? Newton saw that motion was no more problematic than rest. What had to be explained was change: from motion to rest, or conversely. Similarly, in general ontology one has to understand that existence is, in general, no more problematic than non-existence. Existence isn't somehow "harder" or inherently less likely than non-existence.

-Dallas Willard, "Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence", in Moreland, J.P. and Kai Neilsen, Does God Exist? The Great Debate (Prometheus, 1993).


Leo said...

Not bad.

Marc Belcastro said...


Hey there. Hope life is well.

Quick question. How would you compare Willard's consideration with Swinburne's, where the latter essentially suggests that non-existence is simpler and therefore more probable than existence?

Although it appears sensible to suppose that a hypothesis which postulates fewer entities is, on balance, simpler and thus more probable than a hypothesis which postulates more entities, but do you think we can transfer the underlying rationale to an evaluation of a hypothesis which postulates no entities and a hypothesis which postulates at least one entity?

exapologist said...

Hi Marc,

Good to hear from you. I'm agnostic on this issue. Considerations that push me to the middle are (i) David Lewis's short argument that qualitative parsimony is a weightier criterion than quantitative parsimony, and (ii) the van Inwagen/Lowe argument that the probability of there being no beings is 0. You've probably read it, but their argument can be found in their paper, "Why Is There Anything At All?", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 70: 95-110.

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