Archive for April 2009

Γιάννης Καλατζής – Παραμυθάκι μου

April 28, 2009

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Feeling Apodictic?

April 24, 2009


In the book of Job, Job complains that his sufferings are “without cause” (Job 2.3 9.7: appropriated from Coogan, 2006, on pp. 488), and scholars (like Coogan) take this to be problematic (why does bad stuff happen on God’s watch, type worries) — I don’t. I think that, by reductio ad absurdum, it must be the case that God’s actions are without cause. Before I get into the proof, reductio ad absurdum is a method of logical proof that has been in circulation (at the very least) as early as Euclid and is still widely used. A reductio ad absurdum proof is one where, if you are trying to prove ‘x’, then you assume the contradiction of x (i.e. not-x, or ¬x) and show that an absurdity is derived. For example, if I want to prove that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable with its two sides, I assume that it is commensurable and show that an absurdity ensues – in this example the absurdity would be that odd numbers are equal to even numbers, which is indeed absurd! So I’m going to combat Job’s (and Coogan’s) question of why God acts without cause by showing that the opposite leads to an absurdity:

(1) God’s actions can be attributed to some cause ‘∑’ (assumption)

(2) God’s potential to act is unlimited, “I know that You [God] can do everything” (assumption, Job 42.2)

(3) If God’s actions are caused by ∑, then God’s actions are an effect of ∑ (premise)

(4) God’s actions are an effect of ∑ (3,1 Modus Pones)

(5) Effects are determined by their causes (premise)  

(6) If God’s actions are an effect of ∑, then God’s actions are determined by ∑ (premise from 5)

(7) To determine is to limit potential according to the conditions of that which determines (premise)*

(8) If God’s actions are determined by ∑, then God’s potential to act is limited to the conditions of ∑ (premise from 7)

(9) God’s actions are determined by ∑ (6, 4 Modus Pones).

(10) God’s potential to act is limited to the conditions of ∑ (8,9 Modus Pones).

(11) God’s potential to act is unlimited and limited (2, 10 Conjunction), which is absurd!

(12) Therefore, God’s actions cannot be attributed to any other cause ∑. (11, reductio ad absurdum)


* see comment 1 for explanation.

The very questions “why did God do this to Job?” or “what caused God to do this to Job?” are fallacious, so far as they suppose that the question can be answered, and, as I have argued, any answer leads to absurdities. Hence I’m rejecting the question on the grounds that it is a loaded question

–> The less apodictic point being made (methinks) is that God IS THE ABSOLUTE CAUSE OF EVERYTHING; this seems to be the point of God’s response to Job: He does not give a reason for his actions, precisely because there is NO (and cannot be any) reason for his actions – God is the reason for God’s actions. In this respect I see the text as making a point similar to (though probably not historically connected with) Aristotle: God is the unmoved mover. God does not appeal to anything that moved him to move (read: act) because there is none – God is the absolute in all respects!

If you disagree, which premise do you reject? 

Chess Tactic

April 19, 2009

chess_imageHere’s a neat little tactic I stumbled onto today. It’s white to move, and white to win. The tactic is for white to bring her rook down to face (attack) blacks rook. From here black’s options are as follows:  (1) black can swap rooks with white. This fails, because white will have taken black’s rook with her pawn and march down for a queen before black can do anything. (2) black can attempt to avoid the swap and take the unprotected pawn, however this also fails because white will position her knight next to blacks bishop putting black in check and splitting the king and the rook. (3) any other positioning of black’s rook besides 1 and 2, and black loses the rook with no material gain whatsoever. 

Cool beans!