Continued from my preliminary remarks «
I am charged with defending the moot that the Christian God is a necessary precondition for human reason. JC, my opponent, takes a physicalist approach; meaning that he believes everything about reality can be ultimately reduced to the physical universe; that the supernatural does not exist, and does not need to exist. While his particular view is, I think, trivial to refute, I am faced with a particularly challenging task in going further and proving that the specific supernaturalism taught by the Bible is the only kind which makes human reason possible.
Lest we find ourselves arguing at cross purposes because of some ambiguity, it seems to me that the meaning of the entire moot ought to be briefly considered—
The Christian God
I affirm, of course, the God of the Bible; but to exhaustively prove all of his attributes as necessary to human reason would require an argument from biblical rationalism. Since I have agreed to present an argument from reason instead, I must settle upon some attributes which are both useful to that argument, and unique to God himself. I am going to select aseity and trinity.
Aseity is the condition of being underived, noncontingent, and necessarily existent. This is in contrast to the material universe, which is derived from, contingent upon, and coincidentally existent because of God. Trinity is the state of being one single, united, indivisible substance comprised of three distinct persons.
Given the attributes chosen, and the limitation I face in having to prove the Christian God as necessary without an epistemological appeal to his Scripture, I would like to preclude speculative deities. It seems unreasonable to place such a burden of proof upon me that I must not only show that the physicalist worldview lacks the preconditions for reason, and show that an aseitic and trinitarian God is necessary; but also show that no counterfactual deity fulfilling these criteria is adequate. If I can show that an aseitic and trinitarian deity must exist, then, given the existence of such a deity in Christianity and his absence from any other religion, I consider that sufficient to persuade the unprejudiced intellect.
A Necessary Precondition
A necessary precondition is simply something which must be the case in order for something else to be the case. In this example, I contend that if the Christian God did not exist, then human reason could not exist. In one sense, the word necessary is superfluous; however, I wished to include it so that the moot was as clear as possible. Note that I am arguing that the Christian God is a necessary precondition. I have not chosen to defend the moot that he is the necessary precondition. This is simply because there may be other preconditions which are also necessary, but are not God. For example, JC may argue that the human brain is a necessary precondition for human reasoning. Since it may be beyond the scope of my own presentation to say whether or not this is so, and whether or not God is the necessary precondition for human brains also, it seemed best to simply leave the moot open to these possibilities.
I take human reason, broadly, to mean any process of the mind; for example, the process that you are going through at the moment in seeing these words, apprehending their individual meanings, relating them into propositions, and reflecting upon those propositions. I include qualia (subjective, first person experiences of objective, third-person phenomena) within the scope of human reason, since they are often integral to it despite not being rational per se. However, I will be focusing on what we might call the “core” of human reason: logical inference itself. I include the ancillary items of qualia and apprehension and the like because they seem, in a functional sense, to be inseparable from this core rational process.
I contend that God is the precondition for reason. Although it is trivial to argue that physicalism makes human reason impossible, I have spent a lot of time pondering precisely how to develop this argument from a negative one into a positive one in defense of Christian theism specifically. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to attempt this is to focus on the heart of the topic: logical inference.
We would all agree that, if all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. We believe that we apprehend this conclusion in view of the two premises, and the relationship we perceive between them. Now, it is evident that this relationship is not a physical one; and the premises are not physical things; and the properties they have of being about something (which is called intentionality) and of being true or false are not physical properties. In every way, this is a non-physical situation. A physical person named Socrates may be at the center of it, but the actual argument is clearly not a physical thing. Neither is the mind in which the argument is apprehended; but rather it is a real, but immaterial, non-physical entity. We might say that it is made of mental substance, as opposed to the brain which is made of physical substance. If you’re unconvinced about this, consider that a mental state can be about something, or that it can be true—and now try to say the same thing of physical brain states. We know that it doesn’t make sense to say that one state of the brain is about another, any more than that an electron is about a photon. Truth and intentionality are not physical properties. They are mental ones.
We know, because we are immediately aware of it through introspection, that we believe Socrates is mortal because of the premises: that all men are mortal, and that he is a man. When we say because of, we are acknowledging a causal relationship between the premises and the conclusion. The relationship is real; believing the premises really does cause the belief in the conclusion. We therefore conclude that our mental state in which we apprehend that Socrates is a man, and our mental state in which we apprehend that all men are mortal, are both causally linked in some way to our mental state in which we apprehend that Socrates is therefore mortal. There is a real, non-physical relationship between these premises and the conclusion.
None of this denies that our mental states may correlate to physical states in our brains. But we cannot reduce the mental states to these physical states, because we would then remove truth and intentionality completely, since they are non-physical things. Similarly, we cannot say that the mental states are caused by physical states, because then the only real causation would be physical causation while the mental states are just along for the ride, having no actual influence on what happens. But we have just established that mental states do really have causal influence on other mental states. If they don’t, then logical inference does not actually take place, and the relationship between premises and conclusions does not really exist.
But we agree that this relationship does exist. What is interesting about it, however, is that, although it entails a mind (because it is a mental relationship), it does not entail our minds. We could none of us exist, and yet we must acknowledge that this mental relationship would still hold. We perceive that it is a necessary one, and that it could not be otherwise; that it applies to everyone, and it is not a matter of convention, but of necessity. It is what we might call a mental law—or, really, mental laws, since there are several discrete relationships which we apprehend. We give them names, like noncontradiction and identity.
But mental laws do imply a mind. By definition, the mental entails a mind; and so universal, necessary mental laws therefore must imply a universal, necessary mental mind. We could otherwise phrase this by saying that such laws must imply an aseitic God. A necessarily existent, noncontingent, underived, and immaterial Mind exists. To the best of my knowledge, this formulation of God applies to only a very few deities. In fact, it seems only to describe YHVH—whether that be the Jewish, Muslim, or Christian understanding of him. However, I am not an expert on comparative religion, and so JC is welcome to dispute this point.
Now Judaism and Islam believe, and strongly affirm, that God ultimately is one. That is to say, he is a unity, and is also unary. They deny that he is several persons in one substance. While this does permit them to claim a unifying principle between propositions, since God, being one, is ultimately unity, it denies them the ability to have propositions themselves in any meaningful way. This is because propositions tend to describe things which are different—and if God, ultimately, is one, then how could plurality come about? This problem is only satisfactorily resolved by the Christian God; who, being three in one, represents an equal ultimacy of unity and plurality. Therefore, of the three religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), only Christianity remains viable, because God has revealed perspicuously in the New Testament that he is a trinity.
This, basically, is the position I will defend as we proceed: that there must be a real mental substance and real mental laws in order for argumentation to be possible (including argumentation against a real mental substance); that these mental laws entail an aseitic Mind; and that this aseitic mind must be a unity and a plurality, which implies the Christian God.