DIRECTOR’S CUT: Coffee Shop God Talk (Extended Scene)

Not only has the content of the book been updated, Mike and Nita have returned in this extended Coffee Shop Talk which was recovered from the cutting room floor. It is a “popular level” discussion of an argument for the existence of God based on Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical work On Being and Essence. Enjoy!

. . .

“Well, let’s start with a premise that everyone can agree upon: Things exist.”

“That’s a pretty safe starting point!” Bert laughed. “OK, so things exist. So what?”

“Let’s begin with only one of those things – like a triangle. What is the definition of a triangle?”
“How about “a three sided, two dimensional figure”?
“Sounds good,” Mike responded. “Now, suppose I went through the universe and somehow destroyed all the triangles. How would that affect the definition of triangles?”
“It wouldn’t,” Bert said. ”Triangles would still have the same definition. In fact if they didn’t we wouldn’t know what one was if we saw it.”

“Very good,” answered Mike. “So what does that tell us about the existence of triangles?”
Bert caught on quickly. “That something doesn’t have to exist in order to be a triangle?”
“Excellent!” Mike said. “You’re well on your way to belief in God!” Everyone laughed.
Mike grinned. “I think you skipped a step or two,” Bert said wryly.

“Fair enough,” Mike replied, “let’s move on. So far we have discovered that triangles do not have to exist. That means they are not necessary. In philosophical terms, necessary means something that necessarily exists. It cannot come into, nor go out of, existence. Are triangles like this?” “No,” Bert answered. “Triangles are not necessary because they can exist or not.”
“Exactly,” Mike stated, “and it reveals something about the triangle’s definition.”

“I thought we already defined what a triangle is,” Bert said looking suspicious.
“Yes,” Mike said, ”and what did we say in this definition regarding existence?”
“We didn’t say anything about it in our definition.”
“And why not?
“Because existence is not part of its definition.”

“Correct again,” Mike said. Bert was following along very well so he pressed forward. “What would happen if existence were part of a triangle’s definition?”
“Then . . . triangles would have to exist,” Bert guessed.
“Very good,” Mike affirmed. “So you see then that we cannot simply define something into existence. For example, I could not define a unicorn as ‘a horse with a magic horn in its forehead that exists.’”
“Right,” Bert agreed, “because then unicorns would just pop into existence.”

“You’ve got it,” Mike answered. “Now let’s go back to triangles. Suppose that all triangles were in fact destroyed, could one come into existence?”
“Sure, I could draw one,” Bert said.
“And what would drawing a triangle do to its definition?” asked Mike.
“Nothing,” Bert answered. “There would just be one.”
“You mean that what a triangle is would not change?” Mike asked to clarify what was being said.
“So what does that tell us about the actual existence of triangles?”
“That they must be caused to exist.”

“Very good,” Mike stated. “OK, let’s sum up what we have so far: Unnecessary things (like triangles) exist, but they do not have to exist. Therefore what something is and whether or not that thing exists is not the same thing.”

“Is that all we’ve got so far?” Bert moaned in mock exasperation. “Took us long enough!”
“Just wait ’till I get going!” laughed Mike.


…To Be Continued…