Creation and the Second Person -- an argument from personal disparity

[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, chapter 26, can be found here.]

[This entry begins chapter 27, "My Relationship To Creation And To God".]

Let me pause to re-establish a previous point from a slightly different direction, before I continue.

If my arguments are to be worth anything, either I must be considered to be capable of thinking; or at least someone must exist who can judge the worth of what seem to me to be my arguments. However, what I call thinking doesn't affect me as if something is knocking into me. True, I can mention some mental behaviors of mine which do behave like this: automatic psychological associations, for instance. But the interesting thing is that I can (and do) form a conceptual, and even a merely perceptual, distinction between the two states. My recognition that some of my mental behaviors happen automatically without truly willed intention on my part implies tacitly that I can distinguish between these states: intentionally willed and unintentionally automatic thought.

If this perceptual distinction is itself an illusion, then I (as myself) cannot have a valid argument; yet even this position requires that I can make a distinction between two notions: illusion and reality.

It may be possible for an unconscious and purely reactive creature to be mistaken or deceived by an illusion (although it would only be a ‘mistake’ as a sympathetic externalist projection by someone like you and I who can actively reason!—we would be mistaken, so we consider the unconscious creature ‘mistaken’). But that creature will 'consider' (to whatever extent it makes sense to say such a creature can 'consider') the deception to be reality. The dissolving of the sensory phantom would merely be the replacement of one set of physical sensations (with appropriate automatic responses to the sensations) by another set. The differing automatic responses may be more or less efficient at a given task (reproducing, finding one's way though a tunnel-maze or a desert, getting food); but the unconsciously automatically reactive entity cannot ever be properly said to truly perceive the deception as an 'illusion'.

(The corollary to this, would be that if we detect entities other than our human species who do seem to be perceiving the illusion as an 'illusion', then we might conclude they are also active entities and not merely unconsciously reactive entities. This would be a highly interesting discovery, which we may have already made; but it would not be at all useful, of itself, as evidence for this-or-that theory of how such action ability came to exist. If dolphins or pigeons or cats are active to some degree, then they are in the same boat I am, for I am active, too, to that-or-a-greater degree; therefore, nothing is gained by referring to them, rather than to myself, as a source of data about the implications of true action capability.)

Yet, I can do just that: I can tell the difference, conceptually, between an illusion and reality. I may not be able to specifically detect the difference at a given time for a given particular bit of data, but in general I am capable of recognizing that such differences can and do exist.

This is part of what I call the 'argument from disparity'. Though not as far-reaching in itself as the 'argument from reason', it does have some interesting contributions to add to my synthetic apologetic.

God, the actively rational Independent Fact of all reality, would see what I call 'illusion' as being what it 'really' is: an exhibition of certain facts about the universe, not as a 'deception' (whether intentional or accidental) for He could not be deceived. If at His fundamental level of existence He could be deceived (or even mistaken), then He could not be the IF; it would mean that something other than He Himself can affect Him without His permission. (There is a special case exception to this, which I will mention soon.)

Having established this brief point (the importance of which I will explain in a moment), let me return to where I had reached at the end of my previous chapter.

God's creation of something other than God (and I must be in some fashion 'other than God', because one way or another I do not share full characteristics of the Divine) indicates that God willfully chooses to act in such a way that a selection (so to speak) of His actually (not abstractly) infinite self is not fully divine. This type of act is, in effect, the next distinctive step from self-generation; if God acts in any way that produces something other than fully He Himself (and I must be something of that sort), then the result of that action must be at best only like He Himself--and not necessarily much like Him! Similarly (though remember this is at best an analogy) '1' is 'like' infinity, insofar as both are real numbers and can be described and used mathematically, and both share many mathematic 'characteristics'; but the specific properties of infinity, above and beyond those it shares with the '1' (or any other finite number), are unique to itself.

This procedure I have deduced concerning God's creation, immediately yields a number of corollaries. There is no part of this derivative reality that is (at bottom) separate from God, conceptually speaking. God is eternally present within all points of this subsystem, for the subsystem resulted from God partially (but only partially) 'killing' (a selection of) 'Himself'--yet God is infinitely more than this subsystem.

Would God be fully locally present at all points of this subsystem simultaneously? Yes; but God would also be choosing to abdicate Himself throughout that region, in a way similar to how God Self-Begotten abdicates Himself for God Self-Begetting, although in a different ‘direction’ (so to speak): the result being something not-God instead of the eternal fulfillment (still occurring apart from creation) of the Self-existent interPersonal unity of God.

Let me take a moment to clarify, before I am misunderstood: I am not thereby saying that God had to do this creation of not-God reality. Rather, I have to say that God did (and does) this thing, in order to reconcile the implications of what I am discovering. I am only discovering what God has, in fact, done (assuming my arguments are correct). That does not mean God 'had to' create. Such a doctrine could tacitly imply that God was under some external necessity to do what He did--which would be the same as saying that I am not really talking about the IF. But I am only trying to find out what He does (and has done, from the perspective of my existence within a timeframe).

I may recognize necessities through this process of deduction, but they will be necessities of God's self-consistent existence and actions; I will not be discovering, nor could I ever possibly discover, that God has (for instance) created a boulder too heavy for Him to lift. That would be self-contradictive on the part of ultimate reality, and thus I will necessarily never be discovering that. I might put the logical math together and find that God definitely has created a boulder which He chooses (so far) not to lift: that would be a necessary (and self-consistent) conclusion if I find that God created a boulder and yet has not lifted it. And indeed, what I am deducing about the properties of divine creation, indicates that this type of choice not-to-act must happen as an intrinsic part of the 'creation' process, although I have not yet come to specific examples.

Let me take further moment to settle another possible (but, I think, minor) problem that may here arise for some readers. I am in essence saying that this subreality is not really what it seems to be; and some people may find this hard to accept. But, then again, even if you go back to a purely atheistic naturalism, physical Nature (assuming for the moment that it corresponds to the subsystem I am otherwise speaking of in my conclusions) still will not be quite what it seems to us to be, at virtually any level of perception we choose to consider.

Nor am I saying the subsystem is unreal. It is real; but a derivative system is, by being 'derivative', not quite as 'real' as the supersystem from which it derives. God is 'more real' (if you want to put it that way) than the derivative subsystems He creates; they are also real, but 'less real'. If you consider the analogy of a story you have created, you will have an advantage here of grasping the concept; there are many ways in which the story you wrote is 'real', but nevertheless it is not as 'real' as you are, nor as 'real' as the reality you inhabit. In God's case, the reality He ultimately inhabits is Himself; and any subrealities He invents could be fantastically more complex and also 'more real' than our (doubly derivative) inventions--yet, the subrealities created by God are not real in the same way, or to the same degree, that He is real.

Moving along: the argument from disparity, with which I began this chapter, indicates that I am not merely suffering an illusion about the derivative status of my existence. I am something that can be deceived, because I find myself deceived; but I am not always deceived, because I can tell the difference conceptually between a deception and reality. Yet God is something that cannot ever be deceived--neither about His own ultimate infinite characteristic, nor about the characteristics of any subsystem(s) He creates (for then He would not be self-consistent, and as the IF of reality He must be self-consistent).

Therefore I once more establish this point, although from a slightly different direction: if it seems to me that I am not God, I must not be God. (Though, of course, if I did perceive I am God, my perception wouldn't necessarily make it so!)

You will have already seen, perhaps, that if creation is (in a sense) God's "play-acting" (although to the nth degree compared to our play-acting, and also ontologically more real), then it might be feasible to say that I and the things I do must be the play-acting of God. But thanks to the argument from disparity, I should put a very sharp limit on how far I carry that doctrine!

If God chose to act within His creation as if He Himself was a creature, then we would have some form of manifestation or Incarnation; and God might further choose to abdicate His omniscience and knowledge-of-self within that Incarnation to certain degrees for certain ends (a topic I will take up later). But whatever else God might do as this Incarnation, He would be inconsistent to have this Incarnation directly deceived about what kind of entity he-or-she is. At worst, God might prevent this limitedly active expression of Himself from thinking about the issue at all--assuming such a prevention was necessary for some reason.

I, however, am certainly not in that boat. I have been allowed to ask the question; and I find my perception to be that I am not fully God. I am either correct, or I am mistaken; but if I am mistaken, then I still must in fact be correct about being not-God: for it would be inconsistent for God to allow Himself (or for one Person of God to allow another Person) to be mistaken about this topic.

Relatedly, and putting the issue a little differently: a Person of God, specifically the Second Person, might in some circumstances exhibit less than full omniscience, because the Second Person, the Son, God Self-Begotten, receives whatever knowledge He has as God from the Person of the Father (as the Son receives all things from the Father). If the Father doesn’t under some circumstances reveal things to the Son, the Son would have to make do with whatever properties were being allowed to Him by the Father--in which case the Son might under some very special circumstances make mistakes. But the question of ontological identity is not one of the mistakes the Father would allow the Son to make; at worst the Father would only prevent the Son from considering the topic.

Therefore, beyond every other argument I have marshaled on this particular subject, I can deduce confidently (it seems ludicrous to have to say this, but I am trying to be complete in my argument!): I am not fully divine: I am not the (or even 'an') Incarnation of God--nor any other kind of manifestation of God Personally. (For purposes of my current discussion I am treating Incarnation and manifestation as being the same sort of thing broadly speaking. I’ll be distinguishing between Incarnation and (mere) manifestation later.)

Yet, I find that one way or another I must presume that I nevertheless exist as a person. Also, because I am arguing to you I must presume that you are a real person as well. If only one other person than myself existed within the evident system I exist in, I suppose I might be stuck wondering if you were yourself God Incarnate; but as it happens there are billions of us, thousands of which I have met and seen interacting, and I can see that we do not all get along cohesively and properly and efficiently; so at least some of you-all (again, I know this sounds ludicrous to have to say) are also not God Incarnate. (If all my actual and potential readers were somehow God Incarnate, then you-all would interact cohesively, properly and efficiently, in order to avoid a reality-destroying breach in the Divine Unity. To put it mildly, this obviously isn't happening...)

Since at least some of my potential readers cannot be God Incarnate (no more than I myself), let me simply assume for purposes of argument that you, my particular reader, are a person of this sort: one who is not God Incarnate.

[Next up: God and system generation]


Jason Pratt said…
If God Incarnate happens to be reading this post after all, I am entirely certain He will not hold that last prudent working assumption against me, all things considered! {g!}

Also, registering for comment tracking.

Anonymous said…
Greetings from Southern California.

I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to :-)

God Bless You, ~Ron

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