Reason and the First Person -- independence and God

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the first for chapter 21, can be found here.]

[This entry continues Chapter 21, "Some Detours".]

The form of my argument so far indicates that this entity is the ground of all existences: it (or He, rather) is the Final Fact, or the Independent Fact (the IF). It is no use postulating an intermediate entity for purposes of providing basic action or for grounding my potential reliability at making judgments. An intermediate entity would be a derivative entity, and would (to that degree) be as subject as I am to the properties of the Final Fact. If an ultimately non-sentient, reactive reality either does not provide me with active cognizance, or leaves me with a requirement that I justify my own ability to reliably justify claims; then a proposed intermediate sentience would be in the same boat I am. What I am discovering is that the IF is God, with no backdoor hatches into a qualified atheism.

But I think it is worthwhile to consider briefly certain counterclaims--or, rather, to re-consider them (since I have already made these arguments in my first section.)

For example, there is no point attempting to evade the conclusion "God exists" with the postulation of a cosmic infinite regress. Such a postulation says that absolutely everything can be reductively explained in terms of something else with no end; yet if that was true, then the distinctive claim 'reality is an infinite regression' could itself be effectively reductively explained as being something which is not really an infinite regress. The proposition slits its own throat, although it appears to offer a comfortably ambiguous approach to philosophy. (More details of this argument may be found in Chapter 7.)

Also, although cosmic dualisms have a long-standing and significant place in the history of religions and philosophies, I find that dualisms fail the self-consistency check at their foundational level--or alternatively, they collapse as a practical matter into a single IF philosophy. (My initial discussion of dualisms can be found in Chapter 8. I'll still be discussing them occasionally along the way, too.)

Do these proposed Independent Facts share an effective reality, or do they not?

If they do not, then why would a duality (or otherwise multiple IF) be proposed at all? Proposing that an entity has absolutely no bearing to our own reality, is the same as proposing the entity does not exist: for even 'existence' would itself have [u]some[/u] bearing to our own existent reality.

Yet if they do share an effective reality, then because they are proposed to be Independent of each other, one does not exist within, or dependent upon, the other; and thus both must exist within the boundaries of a third, for they share an effective reality. That third, overarching reality is revealed to be the true Independent Fact. It is this Fact which my argument primarily concerns--and it is about this Fact that I have concluded sentience must be an intrinsic characteristic.

Perhaps there is a sentient sub-entity whose reality is on a par with Nature yet the two are separate from each other; what is that to me? It provides an interesting hypothesis, perhaps, to be investigated and ratified or refuted later--but my business now is with God, not with speculative relations between the archangel Michael and Nature. Or perhaps our Nature is transcended by two personal beings of equivalent power but opposing characteristics; again, what is that to me? My business now is with God, not with the relationship and struggles between Michael and Satan. Maybe I shall eventually discover that a Most Powerful Rebel exists; but that is not a cosmic dualism. It is a more detailed theism.

I am speaking now of the Independent Fact; and by recognizing that my sentience can only depend on Its sentience (and by recognizing that without my presumed sentience 'my' 'ideas' about anything, including the IF, must be counted as effectively or literally nonexistent), I am recognizing and proclaiming the existence of God.

Furthermore because God is "the Independent Fact", I find that this apparently impersonal term ironically gives me strong grounds for speaking of God not merely as a person, but with a gender description that is something other than an arbitrary feature of my English language.

[Next up: gender language, names and God. (And the end of this Section.)]


Anonymous said…
...the distinctive claim 'reality is an infinite regression' could itself be effectively reductively explained as being something which is not really an infinite regress.

I am little confused as to the part where you said "as being something which is not really and infinite regress." Just need a little clarification as to what you mean.

How I put it is, that not all things are caused -- if all things were caused, then reality is an infinite regress of causes, and we must then ask " What caused the infinite regress of causes"? which leaves us facing an irredeemable absurdity.

Is this different from the point you were making?
Jason, this is a brilliant argument, but extremely complex. It really needs to be a book.

I also think in the long urn you are gonna have to deal with Heidegger and Tillich.

It seems to me you are trying to go around being and straight to being itself. That's going to be impossible. But that may just be that I have being on the brain.
Ana, good point about reality.

I am not sure how Jason would deal with that, but in general it's empirical things, things given in sense data, which tend to be part of the process of "natural world" that are caused. Yet that may be redundant. Like saying "only things with causes are caused."

It does there is a logic diving reality into N and SN. Although those terms really seem to mean "what can be observed" vs "what can't be observed."
Jason Pratt said…

Sort of. {g} Have you read the Section One chapter I linked to?

The standard complaint that you referred to against infinite regression, only works if causation always requires something other than self-causation. If positive aseity hasn't been excluded yet however (and to say the least I haven't excluded positive aseity yet in this argument--in fact I'm going to come down in favor of it later in the next Section!), then something could be actively self-causing, not dependent on something else for its existence.

So the answer to your challenge, once positive as well as privative aseity is recognized as an option (and not, or not yet, excluded as a possibility), is, "(maybe) the infinite regression causes itself."

As I argued previously, though, any claim that there is an infinite regression, is a claim that only makes sense by denying the existence of an infinite regression. It's a more fundamental formal problem than the standard objection you mentioned.

Jason Pratt said…
Meta: {{It seems to me you are trying to go around being and straight to being itself.}}

Well, I can't exactly be going around "being" per se and also straight to "being itself", since "being itself" is still "being". {g}

But if you mean that I appear to be going around derivative existence and straight to independent existence, my answer is that I haven't yet (so far as this argument goes) formally recognized the real existence of such distinctive ontological levels of reality (although I have occasionally discussed issues as though there was a distinction.) I'll be getting to that soon, in the next Section, which is largely dedicated to the question of the relationship between "God" and the evident field of reality (or "Nature"): are they the same thing? Are they substantially different?

I'll also be deciding on the question of privative vs. positive aseity: does the Independent Fact simply statically exist, uncaused, or does it actively cause itself?

(I was rather surprised, back when I first drafted the book ten years ago, that these two issues turned out to have close topical connections!)


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