Five Proofs of the Existence of God with Dr. Ed Feser

A fantastic interview with prolific writer and professor of philosophy, Dr. Edward Feser. Called by National Review “one of the best contemporary writers on philosophy.” Feser gives a brief exposition and defense in this podcast of five of the historically most important (but in recent years largely neglected) philosophical proofs of God’s existence: the Aristotelian, the Neo-Platonic, the Augustinian, the Thomistic, and the Rationalist. This is one of the best podcasts of the year, don’t miss it!

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Five Proofs

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18 replies
  1. Andrew says:

    You know what would have been the best proof of God’s existence? If he would have been a guest on your podcast! Is it too much to ask for this elusive God character to just make a public appearance once in a while? All that convoluted philosophical jibber-jabber was hard to follow and it would make a lot more sense if this God guy would just come out of his hiding place for everybody to see. I’ll have my camera ready. If he won’t reveal himself in any credible, verifiable form then it’s only reasonable to conclude that he is just an imaginary character, you know, like all those other deities from all those other religions that you don’t believe. And please don’t tell me that the bible is how he reveals himself, that’s just words printed on paper, I’m talking about an actual real live appearance in public!

    Reply
    • Jonah F says:

      @Andrew
      I appreciate your skepticism, but I think you’re missing somethings here. I want to respond to some of your points if you’re interested:

      .

      “All that convoluted philosophical jibber-jabber was hard to follow and it would make a lot more sense if this God guy would just come out of his hiding place for everybody to see.”
      That you found this philosophical discussion difficult to understand is no more grounds for dismissing it as “jibber-jabber” or nonsense than it would be to dismiss complex mathematics as nonsense simply because you found it difficult to understand and was “hard to follow”.

      .

      “Is it too much to ask for this elusive God character to just make a public appearance once in a while?”
      That God does not make “public appearances once in a while” is no more reason to deny His existence than it is to deny the existence of electrons on the grounds that they are unobservable. Nor is it grounds to characterize God as “elusive”.

      .

      Despite the fact we cannot see them, we conclude electrons exist because of various logical deductions from evidences observable in the natural world. Likewise with God, His existence is demonstrable from certain facts of reality, and if you are to be justified in denying His existence you will have to deal seriously with the arguments for His existence.

      .

      The notion that God could even make a “public appearance” in the sense that He would fully reveal Himself to us as a person involves an extreme confusion about what Christianity conceives God to be. God is not a person hiding somewhere in the material world somewhere to be “caught on camera” if you wait at just the right moment; rather, He is understood as the cause and sustainer of the existence of the material world–the very reason it exists, and without whose constant causal power the universe would no longer exist.

      .

      ” And please don’t tell me that the bible is how he reveals himself, that’s just words printed on paper,”
      When Christians say the Bible “is how [God] reveals himself”, they mean the Bible is one significant means by which we learn about Him, but not a means by which we learn that He exists.

      .

      The Bible does not purport to prove God’s existence but simply to describe Him and His actions in the world. If you want logical reasons to believe He exists, you must turn to arguments, evidence, and the personal pursuit of Him, just as you must do to settle any intellectual issue: turn to the evidence, arguments, and make a concerted personal effort.

      .

      Of course, it should be noted that Edward Feser’s book this podcast discusses is not an attempt to specifically prove the existence of the Christian God, but merely a general theistic conception of God that fits into your typical monotheistic religion. If you are to maintain your atheism rationally, you will have to deal with the most significant arguments from the other side of the issue with critical scrutiny.

      Reply
    • Ken says:

      An invisible God is not going to be seen visibly, right? So try this: ask every Christian you know and meet how God has answered one of their prayers. Also, consider the implication John 7:17 and your own will concerning God. From my own personal understanding and experience He wants us to know Him.

      Reply
      • Andrew says:

        And how exactly do you identify an answered prayer? How do you determine if something is the result of prayer or if it was just going to happen anyway? Please explain!

        Reply
        • Ken says:

          Did you know Merriam Webster’s dictionary actually has a definition of “someone’s prayers have been answered”? I hope you’re not just a troll.

          Reply
    • Billy says:

      “If he won’t reveal himself in any credible, verifiable form then it’s only reasonable to conclude that he is just an imaginary character, you know, like all those other deities from all those other religions that you don’t believe.”

      So all you believe is the direct observation, you never believe anything that is derived from direct observation? If that is the case, then you must not accept any scientific law that is proposed, nor any scientific theory whatsoever, because those are derived from the observations. You don’t see Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It doesn’t come up to you and say, “Hello”, does it? All you see is physical phenomena doing things and you work from those observation to abstract theories that fit. You don’t observe the Doppler effect directly, since its just the scientific explanation of what is observed. Then there is the bigger problem of whether theories applies all the time, even when you are not specifically observing the event. How do you confirm that? Science assumes it so science can’t verify it.

      But if it makes you feel better, stick to your double standard.

      Reply
    • Robert di Mare says:

      Don’t feed him. He’s either a troll, a 14 year old who’s probably trolling and hasn’t been around long enough to read anything on the subject, or a grumpy, aging New Atheist who hasn’t upped his redneck caliber game beyond the ignorant, moronic, uneducated blather the Four Horsemen (now Three) and the lesser deities of the New Atheist pantheon have given him the confidence to say out loud without feeling the embarrassment he should.

      Andrew, how about you read Feser’s book? It might answer your questions, if you really are asking out of an honest desire to know and not out of presumptuous ridicule. If that doesn’t help, try “The Last Superstition”. You’re not asking original questions, as much as you may or may not think you are. Your ideas about the subject are rather shallow and silly, and if you actually look the time to honestly try to understand the material, you might actually come to see that as well. If not, well, then perhaps this subject matter is above your pay grade.

      Reply
    • Lord Archibald Brothschild says:

      Have you seen atoms or subatomic particles? Have you seen evolution happen? Did you say “Atoms! Evolution! Show thyselves!” Of course not. You either trust scientists who make these claims or you have followed the arguments yourself.

      Reply
  2. Jonah F says:

    @Andrew
    I appreciate your skepticism, but I think you’re missing somethings here. I want to respond to some of your points if you’re interested:

    “All that convoluted philosophical jibber-jabber was hard to follow and it would make a lot more sense if this God guy would just come out of his hiding place for everybody to see.”
    That you found this philosophical discussion difficult to understand is no more grounds for dismissing it as “jibber-jabber” or nonsense than it would be to dismiss complex mathematics as nonsense simply because you found it difficult to understand and was “hard to follow”.

    “Is it too much to ask for this elusive God character to just make a public appearance once in a while?”
    That God does not make “public appearances once in a while” is no more reason to deny His existence than it is to deny the existence of electrons on the grounds that they are unobservable. Nor is it grounds to characterize God as “elusive”.

    Despite the fact we cannot see them, we conclude electrons exist because of various logical deductions from evidences observable in the natural world. Likewise with God, His existence is demonstrable from certain facts of reality, and if you are to be justified in denying His existence you will have to deal seriously with the arguments for His existence.

    The notion that God could even make a “public appearance” in the sense that He would fully reveal Himself to us as a person involves an extreme confusion about what Christianity conceives God to be. God is not a person hiding somewhere in the material world somewhere to be “caught on camera” if you wait at just the right moment; rather, He is understood as the cause and sustainer of the existence of the material world–the very reason it exists, and without whose constant causal power the universe would no longer exist.

    ” And please don’t tell me that the bible is how he reveals himself, that’s just words printed on paper,”
    When Christians say the Bible “is how [God] reveals himself”, they mean the Bible is one significant means by which we learn about Him, but not a means by which we learn that He exists. The Bible is not purporting to prove God’s existence but simply to describe Him and His actions in the world. If you want logical reasons to believe He exists, you must turn to arguments, evidence, and the personal pursuit of Him, just as you must do to settle any intellectual issue: turn to the evidence, arguments, and make a concerted personal effort.

    Of course, it should be noted that Edward Feser’s book this podcast discusses is not an attempt to specifically prove the existence of the Christian God, but merely a general theistic conception of God that fits into your typical monotheistic religion. If you are to maintain your atheism rationally, you will have to deal with the most significant arguments from the other side of the issue with critical scrutiny.

    Reply
  3. Andrew says:

    “He is understood as the cause and sustainer of the existence of the material world–the very reason it exists, and without whose constant causal power the universe would no longer exist.”

    Understood by whom? By people like yourself who simply assume he exists in the first place? Can you point to any credible peer-reviewed articles from astronomers, physicists, or anybody involved in objective empirical science observations for that matter, who has found empirical evidence to support your claim? If you’re going to assert that there is some supreme being or deity sustaining the existence of the universe, you can’t expect people to simply take your word for it, you’re going to have to pony up some credible evidence. You can talk talk talk in circles all day long about abstract philosophical concepts but at some point words need to be backed up with hard evidence.

    In which direction should astronomers point their telescopes in order to examine evidence for your claim? Have you offered the scientists over at the Large Hadron Collider any guidance in what to look for in order to test your claim? What exactly would you tell them? What sort of scientific instruments should be used to observe and examine evidence for your claim? Many Christians seem to love to bash science, but science is simply the word we use to describe the process of eliminating ideas that aren’t true, or in other words, the process of separating fact from fiction.

    Reply
    • Jonah F says:

      “science is simply the word we use to describe the process of eliminating ideas that aren’t true, or in other words, the process of separating fact from fiction.”

      This isn’t even close to the actual definition of science.

      You seem to think that philosophical argumentation cannot establish God’s existence because they purely rely on conceptualization rather than the obtainment of “empirical evidence”. This is false on several accounts. First of all, most of the successful arguments for God’s existence rely on premises derived from observations of the natural world.

      .

      For example, in Edward Feser’s book Five Proofs of the Existence of God the Aristotelian Proof begins with the premise “Change occurs”, the Rationalist Proof begins with the premise “the universe exists”, and so on–and this is all verifiable through the senses. Of course, not everything used in arguments for God’s existence relies on sensory verification, but the notion that only that which the senses can verify is true is itself unverifiable by the senses, and so is self-referentially incoherent.

      .

      Unless you can show through the senses that “only that which can be shown through the senses is true”, it is a false claim. Unless you can show through science that “only that which is verified by science is true” (which is impossible, given the actual definition of science), then this proposition is also false.

      .

      You seem to think that only that which science can show to be true is true. What about that claim itself? Can science show itself to be true? What about historical knowledge? Can we know nothing about the War of 1812, simply because the process of acquiring knowledge about the past has no scientific method? What about the fundamental axioms of science–which all derive from “abstract philosophical concepts” and various exercises of logic? Your claim that science is the only credible source of knowledge is self-refuting, absurd, and benighted.

      .

      Science itself depends and originated entirely from philosophy, so to say philosophy cannot be a rout to truth is to say that science cannot be a rout to truth.

      .

      And if you are truly committed to finding the truth about reality, you will resolve to study the arguments for God’s existence and pursue Him personally–by reading Reasonable Fatih by William Lane Craig, watch this lecture on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ ( https://www.reasonablefaith.org/videos/lectures/evidence-for-jesus-resurrection-southampton-uk/ ), Feser’s book on the Philosophy of Mind (which proves that the soul exists), or by reading Edward Feser’s Five Proofs of the Existence of God.

      .

      It’s the most important question you could ever search for an answer to, since the existence of God and prospective truth of Christianity means the difference between a meaningless and finite life and an eternal, morally coherent, objectively meaningful life that does not end with bodily death.

      Reply
  4. Stardusty Psyche says:

    I took some notes as I listened to the podcast. It was asserted
    “Arguments are hard to refute, no serious responses to these arguments, ”
    —False, I can easily dispense with all the arguments of Feser. None are sound, and their flaws are rather obvious.

    “not much attention paid.”
    —True, because the arguments of Feser are so easily discounted not many serious atheists pay much attention to them. I will briefly summarize below.

    1.Aristotelian proof
    Things are changing.
    Purely actual actualizer.
    “only possible explanation”.
    Coffee in cup is warm, then cold. Actualization of a potentiality. Coffee cooled by air in room, causal series of changes (linear causal series). Hierarchical causal series members exist here and now, existence of water depends, on molecules, again on atoms, layers of reality, something just is necessary, non-material, outside time and space.

    First Way, very existence or operation of nature.

    Material cause, Formal cause, Efficient cause, Final cause.

    Doctrine of divine conservation.

    Brute fact. Inconsistency, science provides real explanations, but not fundamental laws, little bit of unintelligibility, takes down explanations above.

    Deepest level has no explanation, denies intelligibility in nature. Undermines all ability to do science.

    Atheist must be nihilist, denies intelligibility, atheists give certainty that science gives us real explanations.

    —The First Way is Aristotelian and fails because motion, or more generally change, is a superpostion of the unchanging respect of material and the changing respect of material.

    The unchanging respect of material, the amount of its mass/energy, does not require a changer at all.
    The changing respect of material changes temporally, or as Feser says, linearly, or you might say horizontally. These changes are accounted for by temporal mutual causation with other material objects.

    2.Neo Platonic
    Composite, made of parts.
    Need an assembly cause.
    Terminate cause without being caused.
    —The compositional regress simply terminates with fundamental physics, or what Feser sometimes calls “the most basic laws of nature, whatever they turn out to be”, possibly quantum fields.

    Nobody knows why, say, quantum fields proceed as they do, but there is no logical reason they cannot be the eternal necessary being.

    3.Augutinian proof, from eternal truth
    Math truths are necessary and eternal, triangles 180 deg.
    Must be inside minds, are eternal, so there is an eternal mind.

    Why must reason and truth be grounded in god? What grounds truths?

    Given necessary truths there must be a necessary mind for these truths to reside in.

    Infinite number of numbers means necessary mind must be infinite.

    What makes it the case that truths are true
    Grounded in material objects
    Grounded in minds
    Grounded in Platonic third realm

    —Mathematical and logical principles are postulates of brains, they are abstractions that seem to correlate with observations. Before there were brains there were no such abstractions. No problem on materialism.

    4.Thomistic proof
    World of experience.
    How to explain existence.
    Essence and nature, distinction must be derived.
    Regress cause of existence.

    —Mass/energy does not change in its existential respect. Every scientific experiment that has attempted to verify this conservation has in fact verified conservation of mass/energy to the limits of the measurement accuracy available.

    Since mass/energy does not change in its existential respect there is no changer needed to account for existential inertia, thus the DDC is not necessary.

    5.Rationalist proof
    Principle of Sufficient Reason.
    Must be an explanation.
    Requires a necessary being.
    —If everything need are reason then god needs a reason.
    If god exists and god does not need a reason then an existent thing can not need a reason.
    If an existent thing can not need a reason then quantum fields can not need a reason.

    Why proof? Not confined to absolutes. Not probabilistic. Strict metaphysical certainties. Existence of god follows logically. Not 1 possible explanation, god follows necessarily.

    Hard pressed to find errors in the arguments.
    —I have easily found errors in all the arguments of Feser.

    Attributes of god, summary chapter 6. Considers “all” objections. First cause could not be limited, atheists ignore hundreds of pages of argumentation,
    —If it takes you hundreds of pages of argumentation you don’t have a clear point, rather, what Midwestern Americans call a snowjob, just a blizzard of words without substance.

    Atheists strawman. Stock objection, if everything is caused god must be caused.
    What is contingent requires a cause, what is changing requires a cause, what comes into being has a cause. Pet peeve of Feser.
    —Mere special pleading for an invisible speculated being. Objections that point out the obvious flaws in his assertions peeve Feser and he is a touchy sort who is easily peeved.

    —All the above arguments of Feser fail immediately as arguments for the *necessity* of god, or a divine sustainer of existence acting in the present moment.

    Remember, Feser claims “proof” of “necessity”. In this he fails at every turn.

    Existential inertia is the observed fact of our material existence. No change in the net amount of material is ever measured. The Feser position is that to account for this lack of observed change in the amount of material in existence there is an invisible being that is acting upon every particle in the universe, unseen by us, but continuously changing things in just the right way so as to provide us with the illusion that existential inertia is the case.

    Besides the rather fantastic nature of the Feser speculation it simply is not *necessary*.

    Reply
  5. dr.fhm says:

    Dear Andrew,
    I read out of your words that you are filled with disappointment and frustration while you are seeking God. -Otherwise you would not have started a discussion in this forum.

    It is a classical phenomenon that people try to have God prove His existence to them by provocating Him.
    It just does not work that way.

    Take it as a fact:
    There is no way to prove God’s existence, except by experience in belief.
    Not by telescope or microscope, by science or philosophy, especially not by logic or reason.

    Sorry to dissapoint you. But it is so simple….and so difficult as long as your brain gets in the way.

    Reply
    • Stardusty Psyche says:

      dr.fhm January 1, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      “There is no way to prove God’s existence, except by experience in belief.
      Not by telescope or microscope, by science or philosophy, especially not by logic or reason.”
      —Agreed, but then what do you make of the OP?
      Feser claims to be able to start with what is manifest and evident to our senses, and from such observation deductively prove the necessity of the existence of God.

      Aquinas also claimed his conclusions follow logically by necessity, Feser being an adherent to Aquinas.

      You seem to contradict the core claims of the OP. Was that your intent?

      Reply
      • drfhm says:

        The ontological proofs are also called ontological arguments. Are these statements really proofs or not much more axioms? -or even only conjectures based on themselves?
        In that way: you are right; I am willing to contradict the core claims of OP. Contradicting on the other hand would either mean that the proofs are not absolutly and irrevocable true, or I am too stupid to wholly understand them.

        Take the second assumption (me being too stupid):
        I cannot really wrap my mind around these philosophical deductions and conclusions. All I know is that they leave people like me and -I suppose Andrew- who seek the truth of and about God more frustrated than before.

        If it were really possible to prove the existence of God by philosophical means, why would anyone with a sane mind doubt?
        The discussion about the existence of God would have been concluded with finality, once and for all, ages ago.
        But it is not. Not for an Einstein, a Hawkings, a Dawkins , a Hitchens, a Nietschke, and so forth and so forth: an endless hall of fame.

        Using the same philosophical technic I can argue the opposite: because not every person can be convinced of the existence of God, the core claims of OP cannot be indisputable and undeniable truth, which is the foundation of a valid proof.

        Reply
  6. dr.fhm says:

    ……if you care, I would like to extend on the topic:

    We humans are so fickle.
    We invest our money into insurances on the word and promise of a salesman,
    we give our health into the hands of doctors in the promise of their help for our health, we vote our representatives and believe in their trustworthiness, we marry in the belief that the other person is the person for life.
    Do we have proof that we can trust them?
    Only by what we think we can call knowledge and experience, often only by hearsay. Only by faith, trust, belief and personal experience. Do we really know? Do we have proof? No. Never!

    So with God. With your unique and personal, non-transferable experience God wants you to rely on Him more and more. In everything.
    No proof. Just He and you.
    And all of a sudden, you know that He is there. That He is more true than anything you can see, hear, or feel.
    Once you have given yourself unconditionally into a relationship with Him you will never ask for, never need, any proof.

    Reply

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