Creation and the Second Person -- the creation of me

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, continuing chapter 29, can be found here.]

[This entry concludes chapter 29, "Resolving The Grand Paradox".]

You may have noticed I have often insisted throughout my book that opponents are not entirely wrong, but rather they're not entirely right; that they do have some good points, but they're taking them a bit too far or not taking them far enough or putting them together the wrong way. I have recently granted this in the case of pantheists and vitalists, for instance.

In the case of atheistic naturalists, I think they are actually on the right trail when they discuss aggregations of natural events as the source of our rationality. Their pivotal error, as I have deduced, is that they put these observations and conclusions into service of a nonsensical proposition: that non-initiation produces initiation ability, that reactions produce actions, that the non-rational can be rational.

The atheists don't only mean this as principle relating to us personally; they mean this as a principle of all reality. An atheist is, by being an atheist, proposing sentience to be the derivative from the Independent reality that is itself non-sentient--a proposition that sounds less nonsensical the fuzzier and more vaguely we consider ‘sentience’. (That’s “the ability to perceive” right?!) Proposing that the mental actions (not only automatic reactions) we all insist, tacitly or explicitly, that we ourselves are exhibiting were-and-are produced by an ultimately atheistic reality, is somewhat like proposing that the temperature of the universe at the instant of the Big Bang was absolute zero: if that was true, then there wasn’t in fact a Bang and nothing would exist with heat energy now either!

Thus I deduced (with rather more detailed arguments, of course) that basic reality must itself be sentient, personal, active; and that our Nature must furthermore be derivative from God and is not God Himself.

But the arguments of the atheistic naturalists have never been entirely wrong; indeed, one of the great strengths of atheistic philosophy is that it very often works quite well, especially at the scientific level. Atheism really is quite plausible (inductively speaking), if one doesn't look too closely at some of the consequential conclusions or preliminary presumptions.

What I propose is this: to a limited degree the atheistic naturalists are quite correct. There is something, even a lot, to be said for human rationality being a (but not the) result of the aggregation of physical phenomena.

What atheism leaves out of the account (which it must or it wouldn’t be this-or-that kind of atheism!) are the actions grounding such reactive behavior (as physical Nature) in the first place. I said earlier that I would not solve my action-to-derivative-action paradox by proposing that God created Nature, and then the natural reactions of themselves produced human sentience. Why? Because such an explanation divorces the intent of God from the behaviors of natural material, which aside from providing no better explanation for your and my sentience than atheism, simply cannot be true anyway: there cannot be a Cosmic Watch that a Designer winds up and leaves utterly to its own existence. That type of proposition is a result of the same fallacy borne by the imagery of God creating Nature 'over there' somewhere in a metacosmic vacuum.

Instead, God's "percolation", so to speak, permeates and underlies all natural events. Each reaction, as part of its reality, carries (from our perspective, although in reality it is carried by) an action event; but there are different types of action events.

If God creates a neutron and sends it careening into a critical mass of uranium, for instance, the result will be a factor of God's actions at many levels. The natural system itself is produced and maintained by God's actions. (Yet even such a production and maintenance involves a limited number of actions out of God's infinitude; for Nature is not itself God Himself fully Himself, but a real creation.) The reactions of the uranium atoms and their constituent bits of energy/mass are following reactive principles which God instituted for Nature to 'run' on. The neutron (in this particular illustration) is created directly by God; and the uranium mass (by contrast) is the result of a staggering number of reactions which have taken place within the natural system once God instituted it (including the reactions of a bunch of other neutrons). Both situations are results of God's actions, but there are subtle and real differences. The recently created neutron was given a vector impetus by God to move within the system; or, God could have driven it directly around every single molecule in the critical mass. Even these are subtly different sorts of actions, but both are still actions on His part: they are not (of themselves) reactions by Nature.

What I propose is that the various and variable actions of God which underlie the behavior of reactive material, can themselves fall into such-and-such a pattern or shape, within that reactive Nature. This shape would not have existed without the reactive Nature: but this composite shape is itself God's intentional creation and has such a property also intended by God from the first (for of course nothing takes God by surprise).

As it is, the shape is not God. It will have its 'own' behaviors, informed to one degree or another by the field of created Nature within which it manifests. It will have its own 'character', also informed to one degree or another by its environment within the history of that Nature. Its character and behaviors will also be informed and shaped by the will and action of God; but not directly. Indirectness--the indirectness which only a Nature created by a direct and foundational Intent can provide--allows this burgeoning entity to grow within the Nature, and to grow proportionately more and more individual from God without being separated from God by any sort of 'big ugly ditch'.

I think this is what a rational soul is. I think this is what you are, and what I am. We are (almost literally) born from the union of Nature and Supernature; of the created Earth-mother and the creating Sky-Father.

We are the children of God.

Although I think I am on exactly the right trail here, let me pause a moment to clarify: I am not claiming this particular part of my argument is entirely deductive. It requires many previous deductions in order to be set up, but I am not convinced that I have done anything here other than hypothesize a solution to a problem. The solution does not 'crash', as far as I can tell, and so by its self-consistency it allows for the increase of argumentative clarity later.

That my soul has certain properties, I am deductively certain; and I will attempt to deduce even more applications of principle from those earlier deductions. But to keep my argument going at this juncture, I only need to give a plausibly self-consistent guess as to how such a proposition could be satisfied. It is not (or at least should not be) deductively important to my further arguments in this book, that I have been created in exactly this manner; and I will watch myself carefully to ensure that further claims of deductive certainty hinge on previous deductions and not on this particular theory of method. (I may later argue inductively or abductively from this position, of course; although I will need to be careful not to hinge deductions on those subsequent positions, either.)

Still, I will understand if oppositional critics decide this is the weakest point of my whole argument. I may even agree with their reasons for rejecting it. Hopefully when this part of my argument comes under fire, I will be able to refine it properly to reflect the truth better.

Meanwhile, I am rather pleased with the 'shape' of this proposal! It allows as much real credit as possible to certain observations championed by my opposition; and this is important, for if truth truly exists (so to speak), then even errors must be grounded on real truths, and even partially successful (much more largely successful) theories in science and philosophy must in proportion reflect some aspect of real truth. (Ironically, many opponents would just as soon never allow any real credit to people on my 'side of the aisle'.) My proposal keeps rational grounding at many different levels, yet allows for real distinction in the derivative entity. It even gells very well with certain statements about man and his relation to God in my own tradition, although I did not apply to those traditions as necessary presumptions for building the argument.

In my next chapter, I will examine this proposal more closely in terms of practical questions and answers; to 'flesh out' (so to speak) this doctrine of derivative spirit.

[Next up: a personal story]


Jason Pratt said…
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