Ethics and the Third Person--questions of relation

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: I am here appending in several parts some excerpts from an unpublished book of mine (not CoJ incidentally), originally composed late 99/early 2000, wherein I work out a progressive synthetic metaphysic. The current topic is ethical grounding; and up until recently I have been analyzing crippling problems along the three general lines of ethical explanation, including general theism. The previous entry, though, returned to the argument I had been developing for several hundred (currently unpublished) pages, and used those developed positions to begin solving the philosophical dilemmas I had covered in previous entries.

This entry continues chapter 32, "the solution to the question of ethics", in my original text. I ended my previous entry by writing, "I am by this extension arguing that God [meaning a singular unity of distinct Persons as the Independent Fact grounding and generating all existence, which I had decided on other grounds I should believe to be true, before the beginning the discussion and analysis in this section of chapters] must be the objective ethical standard. But must we be capable of detecting the principles of that standard in some fashion? Is it necessary that we are capable of doing this?"

.......[excerpt begins here]

To go against the principles of this 'behavior of reality', would be to minimize our efficiency at dealing with reality, especially in terms of our relationships to each other as derivative persons: your and my relationship with each other as person to person, will ultimately be a shadow or subtype of the interPersonal relationship that (or rather Who) created us in the first place.

Therefore, I think it would be necessarily contrary to God's love (and thus also to His justice, which is the positive enactment toward fair-togetherness) for Him to prevent us from perceiving something of the principles of His love and justice. This would be doubly true if God decided to relate to us Himself, Person to person.

Would God relate to us as Person to person? I am not entirely sure that He could avoid it if He wanted to! His own interpersonal relationship is the cause of our being here at all; His omniscience guarantees that He knows what we think and know, as persons; His omnipresence guarantees that there is no mode of existence in which we could even possibly exist, where God would not be present with us. [Footnote: A position strangely and insistently denied, as a routine doctrinal matter, by some theologians who elsewhere would just as insistently affirm God’s omnipresence.]

To create derivative persons, and then to refuse to deal with us as persons, would be to set aside His love, which simply will not happen; to create us and then refuse to relate to us as being a Person Himself is even worse nonsense.

He might create us and then, for some reason, He might temporarily mask Himself, so that what we see of Him does not seem to us to be a Person at all. Considering the prevalence of religion throughout history, this does not seem entirely feasible to me as a historical fact; but I think I can allow the technical possibility (I mean that God might completely mask His personhood from us as a species, regardless of other factors). What I insist is that He would not do this forever. If any given person never came to know God as a Person, that would be a fundamental breach of love on God's part.

The person might of course decide to rebel against God, however much of Him she knows; but that does not change God's self-imposed (indeed self-existent!) duty, to relate to individual people as a Person.

Also, one cannot even 'rebel' consciously against something without at least attributing personhood (merely imagined or otherwise) to that something. We do not 'rebel' against impersonal Nature; we work within it and accomplish our goals. Impersonal Nature does not 'want' to keep us from flying; we figured out how to fly, but not literally "despite" Nature. We discovered more of Nature's character and worked within Nature to accomplish this (natural) goal.

But a person might decide that God would prefer for such-and-such not to happen, and then the person might go ahead and do it anyway.

I assure you a person can do this; because I affirm that I am a sinner.

This immediately raises the question: why does God allow me to sin?

This is a particular version of the more general question: why does evil exist? I think it is a much more useful and helpful version than the more general form, but I will be deferring the topic a little longer. At the moment, I wish to examine another potential problem.

A few chapters back [i.e. in the previous Section], I was inferring some of the relationships between you and I and Nature and God. At the time, I concluded that for you and I to interact as persons, we needed a common overarching system--which Nature does happen to provide. My especially perceptive reader may consequently have asked a very pertinent question: Does not God, as a Person, also require a common overarching system for interacting with us?

In other words, even if it seems necessary for us to interact with God, person-to-Person, in order for God's love and justice to be fulfilled, doesn't the notion I used earlier render such a relationship impossible--thus sinking a whole hunk of my argument?

The answer to this question shall provide another important bit of information to work with, including in connection to the whole question of evil (and particularly to the question of my own guilt). So, to this far more obscure (but extremely important) question I will turn first.

[Next up: the far more obscure but extremely important question of a common overarching system.]

[A very abbreviated and incomplete summary of the several hundred pages of argument preceding these chapters, can be found in my July 4th essay The Heart of Freedom.]


Jason Pratt said…
Back when I first posted this chapter, I hadn't realized that without dropping in a comment I wouldn't be registered in the blogger system for comment alerts--despite being the author of the post!

So, here's the registration. {wry g}


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