Being’s Superseding Ontic Over Both Material and Non-Being

Comments here are taken from a few threads relating to the Mind Body Interaction, to Pure Act (God) in the Creative Act (God does not “become”), Mind and Intentionality, and the Principle of Proportionate Causality:

In the blog post of E. Feser at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html the thread which follows it includes the following comments:

  1. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html?showComment=1516363956715#c283233813319391342
  2. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html?showComment=1516364050275#c42193263745976316
  3. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html?showComment=1516364157211#c6136304903345301380
  4. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html?showComment=1516535337883#c3855249211844647789
  5. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html?showComment=1516536978492#c8290865187822662812

A distinct topic which has overlapping areas to those items is in the post of E. Feser at https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html and the thread which follows it includes the following comments, which are re-plays of http://disq.us/p/1mj0his and also of http://disq.us/p/1mj0j0k – themselves labeled as the following:

Intentionality, Mental States, Searle, Networks, and Causal Backgrounds

Reason Itself: The Parasite Upon Irrational Physical Events & The Colony of Memes In the Ecology of Cerebral Cortices

Here’s those replayed in Feser’s thread:

  1. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530728283473#c6793128858268607057
  2. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530728351491#c5452479254916175161
  3. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530728553636#c6099619031571193993
  4. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530729405645#c6175501160704360481
  5. https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html?showComment=1530729452228#c6453254150407527162

Initial Primer:

“….Hence to write many paragraphs about the scientific banishment of teleology from everywhere else in nature while insisting that teleology is real in the case of human beings, and then casually to insinuate that the history of that banishment gives hope that someday a scientific explanation of the teleology of human consciousness will also be possible… to do that is something of a conjuring trick, a bit of sleight of hand….”

At https://www.metachristianity.com/absolute-reference-frame-pure-act-incarnation-time/ is “The Absolute’s Reference Frame, Pure Act, Incarnation, Time, The Truly Human, And The Last Adam and it opens with this with respect to Communicates / Communique:

Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to Time & Timelessness. Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to the First Adam. Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to the Last Adam.  To attempt the claim of, “Pure Act Becomes” entails an Uphill Ontic with respect to Pure Act (…which is a metaphysical absurdity…).  Pure Act in the Downhill Ontic reveals – Communicates – all ontic possibility. Logos in descent.

As per http://disq.us/p/1u20xbr we’ve the following: God Can Suffer? Feel? As I do? Taste? Smell? As I do? Yes. (…again, see http://disq.us/p/1u20xbr which is also at https://randalrauser.com/2018/07/the-problem-with-a-god-who-suffers/#comment-3994170039 …). The Truly Human houses “I Feel X” & every bit of that noetic frame is Downhill invention, gift, by Pure Act. Logos in descent.

But then that is true of any and all possible worlds – or we can say that such is true of any and all world-contingent reference frames. The attempt to ground the Contingent Conscious Observer in its own Mind – in its own Contingent Reference Frame – just is the absurdity of attempting to define this or that ToE by something less than Totality – something less than the Absolute’s Reference Frame.

One of the goals of this brief primer is to comment that the following content will be more clear if one has already read the above linked items and, also, to comment that the concept of Communique vis-à-vis the Processions within the Trinitarian Life is an entirely different metaphysic than that of Particles In Motion / Physics.

Another goal of the primer is to bring all of “that” into focus “so that” we can make the proverbial connection FROM all of “that” over TO the concept and actions or metaphysic of the Principle of Proportionate Causality.

The other segue which this basic primer serves is to infuse the landscape here with relevant concepts vis-à-vis the Philosophy of Mind as it relates to Non-Theism’s inability to find singularity in its own explanatory terminus with respect to reason and being.  As we push premises through to their breaking points we discover that nothing short of Reason (Itself) as Being (Itself) provides any such terminus.  A few basic inroads there are at https://www.metachristianity.com/reason-being-non-being-ontological-cul-de-sacs/

End primer.

Recall that we are, here, discussing the overlap and ontic-arrow in-play within, not one or the other, but BOTH the landscape of Creation Ex Nihilo (on the one hand) AND the landscape of the Mind-Body Interaction (on the other hand).  In short we are (…again see the linked essay in the opening primer…) looking at Being’s superseding ontic over both Material and Non-Being.

Important preliminaries are discussed in http://disq.us/p/1lx3d2k which opens with “Mind Body Interaction” – and – then – God can interface seamlessly with nature. Move it. And far more. Etc. And He not only creates said nature, but other natures too. One of the differences between a tree’s nature and the nature of Man is, well, among other things, the immaterial which outreaches the corporeal. God creates that too. He might, and certainly can, even grant it authority, as in the ontic-reach of faculty or capacity over and above. And so on. If interaction is a problem, then God isn’t interacting.

Think about what it is that God creates with respect to proportionate causality. We must not make the mistake of Pantheism or of Idealism here. Perhaps our tendency toward mechanistic physicalist thinking muddies our premises with respect to interaction whereas sound metaphysical causal closure vis-à-vis the exclusive ontic real estate of proportionate causality, concurrentism, and the ground of all ontic-possibility seamlessly and causally amalgamates that which Informs and that which is Informed.

Aquinas on the will as the efficient cause of movement:

Quote: “A thing is said to move in two ways: First, as an end; for instance, when we say that the end moves the agent. In this way the intellect moves the will, because the good understood is the object of the will, and moves it as an end. Secondly, a thing is said to move as an agent, as what alters moves what is altered, and what impels moves what is impelled. In this way the will moves the intellect and all the powers of the soul, as Anselm says (Eadmer, De Similitudinibus). The reason is, because wherever we have order among a number of active powers, that power which regards the universal end moves the powers which regard particular ends. … Now the object of the will is good and the end in general, and each power is directed to some suitable good proper to it, as sight is directed to the perception of color, and the intellect to the knowledge of truth. Therefore the will as agent moves all the powers of the soul to their respective acts, except the natural powers of the vegetative part, which are not subject to our will.” (S.T. I q. 82 art. 4) End quote.

We find in reality the unavoidable “order among a number of active powers” in the real sense of concurrentism [.. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/01/metaphysical-middle-man.html ..] moving from the ontic-proximal to the ontic-distal and Top Down Causation finds all created realities in some real sense within that same state of affairs (concurrentism) and, just the same, moving downhill, we find other (created, fully ontic) beings/wills who in like manner fully “concur” with that which is their own swath of ontic real estate.

How real are those more distal sorts of concurrence?

Given the Decree in question streaming from the wellspring of all proportionate causality, they are absolutely real, and, given said *God* we need not acquiesce to a full throttled Idealism (we are God’s thoughts – full stop) or Absurdity (we do not actually exist) in order to rationally affirm such metaphysical landscapes. Both proximally and distally it is the case that that which informs supersedes that which is informed. The “verb” therein is fully ontic, irreducible and springboards off of the rational ground of all possible being, thereby aborting all collapse into the silly non-starters of deism, pantheism, idealism, or absurdity.

We are speaking here of the Adamic in the sense of the most fundamentally decreed and hence to say of the Last Adam that the Son had no Form and “therefore” was not an individual prior to the creative act of God (Genesis 1:1) or was not in full the proverbial “I” in the full sense “but for” said creative act is to enslave that which informs to that which is informed, which is metaphysical nonsense. Of course that which informs “interacts” with that which is informed and (perhaps) in vectors and degrees which we do not fully appreciate (perhaps) as a consequence of an approach muddied by physicalist thinking rather than by thinking built atop premises of sound metaphysical causation (…speaking of Muddied Physicalist Thinkinghttp://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/07/fallacies-physicists-fall-for.html …).

The Necessary, that which informs, surfaces as that which is not static, is not procession-less, but is “living” in the absolute sense and that which ontologically supersedes the informed in a sense akin to concurrentism. Whether proximal or distal (God downward….), such is the nature of all real estate in question.

The only question is this: Can *God* create in this or that created being the ontologically irreducible Will Itself just as He creates in that same sense and in that same created being that which is the ontologically irreducible “Existence Itself“? Given *God* Who is reality’s eternal wellspring with respect to the principle of proportionate causality, the answer is obvious: of course He can.

On the content of proportionate causality, and Decree, and the Imago Dei, and the irreducible “Will/I” and existence itself, the content at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html is insightful. A brief excerpt:

“…The idea is perhaps best stated in Platonic terms of the sort Aquinas uses (in an Aristotelianized form) in the Fourth Way. To be a tree or to be a stone is merely to participate in “treeness” or “stoneness.” But to be at all – which is the characteristic effect of an act of creation out of nothing – is to participate in Being Itself. Now the principle of proportionate causality tells us that whatever is in an effect must be in some way in its cause. And only that which just is Being Itself can, in this case, be a cause proportionate to the effect, since the effect is not merely to be a tree or to be a stone, but to be at all…”

Necessary Being Itself affords that which nothing else can: ex nihilo. If God cannot grant to non-entity that which is His Alone to grant (existence, being, will, and so on), well then we, you and I, the created beings, do not “actually” exist as that which is other than God and we are then spiraling once again amid that collapse into the ontic-silliness of the non-starters of deism, pantheism, idealism, or absurdity even as a full-blown Idealism and/or Solipsism lurk in the shadows.

In a roundabout way Feser’s essay (and the com-box in particular) at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/11/averroism-and-cloud-computing.html are insightful in a few ways here.

I’ve never seen one argument, not one, ever, which supports any good reason for the “concern” that there is *not* that which is the ontologically irreducible “immaterial will“, that which outlives the corporeal vis-à-vis survivalism trumping corruptionism. At the end of the day, all our definitions force the reality of that which exists without any material “stuff”.

Again, I’ve never seen one argument, not one, ever, which supports any good reason for the “concern” that there is *not* that which is the ontologically irreducible “immaterial will“, that which outlives the corporeal vis-à-vis survivalism trumping corruptionism. At the end of the day, all our definitions force the reality of that which exists without any material “stuff”.

The essay on “SURVIVALISM, CORRUPTIONISM, AND MEREOLOGY” by David Oderberg at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieTVFfdl8xQjBnU2M/ agrees with Feser and the vast majority of Christians.

The syntax of incarnation of course is extreme should we demand or expect *not* sound metaphysical causal closure *but* instead in muddied thinking demand that the stuff of contingent and mutable causations account for the whole-show. As Sean Carroll’s “Poetic Naturalism” alludes to, the illusory awaits all syntax given such paltry means. What the First Adam *is* and what the Last Adam *is* dissolves any rational concerns about “interaction”.

Christianity just is ontology’s Extreme Dualism as it, and no other, weds the Necessary and Contingent, weds that which Informs and that which is Informed within the Imago Dei amid Groom/Bride in a fashion that is unparalleled by any other such interface/interaction. But then there is only one, and not many, such Decrees from He Who is the wellspring of all proportionate causality.

We are not Angels, nor Galaxies, nor Creatures With Many Eyes around the Throne of God. We are “the Adamic”, that which is predestined for nothing less than the semantics of incarnation (Scotus arrives on scene perhaps) as a wedding is Decreed. Such cannot be defined by “other decrees” with respect to “other created beings”. Not in whole at least. When the body is dust, we yet persist, yet motion, yet see, though in some real sense we are to put on the incorruptible through the corporeal’s (Body’s / Physicality’s) resurrection as the Whole Man soundly, finally, traverses all possible “interaction” amid Bride/Groom.

Physics in contrast to Communique: Within the Trinitarian Life we find that Communicate transcends efficient and final causality as that which is caused does not exist before in Act, whereas that which is communicated exists before in Act, as described in Garrigou-Lagrange’s “The Trinity and God the Creator”. Once again important preliminaries are discussed in http://disq.us/p/1lx3d2k  which opens with “Mind Body Interaction”.

Sean Carroll maps all such causation in his essay on Top Down Causation into the materialist’s only option of that which is fundamentally, or irreducibly, or ultimately, or cosmically the illusory at http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2011/08/01/downward-causation/ as any hope of ontological emergentism ends in nothing more than syntax, a kind of Wittgenstein-esc language game. Given Non-Theism’s anemic metaphysical means/ends, such is forced to do so where causation is concerned. Causal closure just is annihilation of the “I/Will” in question (and far, far more) given the physicalist’s creed.

Segues:

Proportionate Causality, Superseding Ontic, & Interaction:

Another way of saying much of this is to say that the “problem” of the Divine Mind ← → Interaction ← → The World is to say that “that” just is the “problem” of (in the contingent being) the Mind/Body interaction. It’s a bit tedious (perhaps) but, as a rough sketch, something like this:

The Nature of God and of His Relationship to the World

In E. Feser’s book titled “Five Proofs of the Existence of God” we find an appropriately nuanced approach to Negative & Positive Theology as well as to the triad of univocal vs. equivocal vs. analogical.

There are nine hits in the search of the Kindle book for the word “negative” many of which zero in on Negative Theology not being the WHOLE story. Also, much of that is in the chapter titled “The Nature of God and of His Relationship to the World”. That chapter also unpacks the univocal vs. equivocal and the analogical modes of reference. Two examples of those two approaches:

“……affirmative rather than negative claims? While negative theology is part of the story of God’s nature, then (since attributes like immateriality and immutability obviously tell us what God is not), it cannot be the whole story, or it would undermine the very arguments that led us to affirm that there is a God in the first place…..

…and…

“…..confining ourselves to univocal and equivocal terms would make it impossible to assign any positive content to what we say about God. We would be left with agnosticism, or (if we cannot even explain what we mean by the claim that God exists) even atheism. Indeed, it would not be clear that we are saying anything with any meaning at all. Yet the proofs for the existence of God that we have considered seem perfectly intelligible and give us positive knowledge about God’s existence and nature. The way to resolve this impasse is to see that there is a third use of language, the analogical use, which is motivated independently of the problem of theological language but is readily applicable to that problem. We can make literal, positive statements about God and his nature by applying the analogy of attribution and the analogy of proper proportionality…..”

Those two excepts are obviously given without the large swath of *context* which the book offers.

Given the fact that our Non-Theist friends lack in their causal means that which causally sums to the Principle of Proportionate Causality (…the PPC for brevity …see definitions at http://disq.us/p/1lwnawv) then when it comes to God’s Creative Act with respect to being and with respect to volition and with respect to intentionality they are simply at a loss as to how to unpack causality without reducing all of reality to that of the Grand-Automaton (or the illusory – and so on).

We come to this basic word-picture:

Non-Being ← → Proportionate Causality ← → Being ← → Pre-Eden Adamic ← → Proportionate Causality vis-à-vis Dualism ← → Edenic/Adamic (…proposal not wedding…) ← → [A] Privation or else ← → Proportionate Causality ← → [B] God’s Ideal (…wedding not proposal…)

It’s obviously more layered than that, but, it seems so common of an error to conflate non-identicals that it seems worth pointing out the general nature of things with respect to “causal content” and so on.

Proportionate Causality and the Positive Metaphysic (as opposed to “only” a negative theology) arrives again and again in this interface. One wonders whether God *can* and in fact *did* create a being in His Own Image with respect to the principle of proportionate causality *itself*. After all, we rationally affirm that Being Itself, as in God Who is Immaterial, both can and does interact with matter/material, and the reasons why He can are obvious given Being’s superseding ontic over both Material and Non-Being.

And *we* of course necessarily live and move and have and find our own being-itself from the *only* metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility, namely, “Being Itself / GOD“.

I am there using “being itself” to refer to what the Self is in contrast to “Matter”, which requires moving carefully. On the PPC there was the prior of Non-Being, and, then, Being which is not “to be a tree” as Feser notes but rather to be at all. Two interesting facts arise here. First, clearly that sense finds the ontic of be-*ing* and it is *different* than “a tree“. Secondly, it is that same dividing line which grants, and forces, the affairs of Being’s superseding ontic over both Material and Non-Being mentioned earlier as we approach the rational affirmation of the Immaterial God seamlessly interacting with the Material.

There’s an interface there of ontic distincts, or of ontic non-identicals, and we seem to see the seamlessness of that interface when it comes to God/World, which just *is* the interface of “The Divine Mind / World” but, then, we seem to “pull back” when it comes to “Our Mind / World”, which is curious. Again, the reason that is curious is Being’s superseding ontic over both Material and Non-Being.

That is all rough and hurried, but, it may offer something on the question of Consciousness or the Mind/Body interaction. Recall again that in the Trinitarian Life – and therefore at Reality’s Irreducible Substratum it is the case that Communicate transcends efficient and final causality as that which is caused does not exist before in Act, whereas that which is communicated exists before in Act, as described in Garrigou-Lagrange’s “The Trinity and God the Creator”.

It is the Trinitarian metaphysic alone which – at the end of the proverbial Ontic-Line – whether one travels Upstream or Downstream – provides lucidity given that there alone is reason’s last reply – reason’s final terminus – found amid the Wider, Thicker Heavy-Meta of Communique as opposed to the Narrower, Thinner Physics.

Our progressions upstream and downstream in fact retain Mind and Reason Itself hence we are rational to stand firm on reason’s last reply – on reason’s final terminus. Or, to say it another way, any and all Midstream progressions cannot retain coherence should one’s Upstream and Downstream termini finally forfeit the proverbial Means & Ends thereof.

Lastly, the items from https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/conjuring-teleology.html which were listed at the start (…taken from http://disq.us/p/1mj0his and from http://disq.us/p/1mj0j0k …).

Intentionality, Mental States, Searle, Networks, and Causal Backgrounds

Reason Itself: The Parasite Upon Irrational Physical Events & The Colony of Memes In the Ecology of Cerebral Cortices

Quote:

“This sort of theory proposes that the meaning or intentional content of any particular mental state (a belief, desire, or whatever) derives from the role it plays within a system of mental states, all of which, as we’ve seen, seem logically interrelated in the manner briefly discussed in chapters 3 and 6, since to have any one mental state seems to require having a number of others along with it. The idea is that what gives the belief that Socrates is mortal the precise meaning it has is that it is entailed by other beliefs meaning that all men are mortal and that Socrates is a man, that together with a belief meaning that all mortals will eventually die it entails a belief meaning that Socrates will eventually die, and so on. If we think of beliefs, desires, and the like as a vast system of logically interconnected elements, the theory holds that each element in the system gets its meaning from having precisely the place in the system it has, by bearing exactly the logical and conceptual relations it bears to the other elements. (More precisely, it is the objects of beliefs, desires, and the like — sentences of Mentalese according to the CRTT, or, more generically and for those not necessarily committed to the CRTT, “mental representations” of some other, non-sentential sort — that bear meaning or intentional content. But for the sake of simplicity, we can ignore this qualification in what follows.)

There seems to be a serious problem with the conceptual role approach, namely that even if it is granted that mental states have the specific meaning or content they do only because of their relations to other mental states, this wouldn’t explain how mental states have any meaning at all in the first place. That a particular belief either implies other beliefs or is implied by them presupposes that it has some meaning or other: nothing that was completely meaningless could imply (or be implied by) anything. The very having of logical and conceptual relations assumes the prior existence of meaning, so that no appeal to logical and conceptual connections can (fully) account for meaning. Moreover, if belief A gets its content from its relations to beliefs B and C, and these get their content from their relations to beliefs D, E, and F, we seem destined to be led either in a circle or to an infinite regress. Either way, no ultimate explanation of intentional content will have been given. To provide such an explanation thus inevitably requires an appeal to something outside the network, something which can impart meaning to the whole. John Searle, who endorses something like the conceptual role theory of meaning, acknowledges that logical and conceptual relations between mental states cannot be the whole story if circularity or infinite regress is to be avoided. He therefore postulates that the entire “Network” of intentional mental states (he capitalizes Network to signify its status as a technical term) rests on what he calls a “Background” of non-intentional capacities to interact with the world around us. We have, for example, such intentional mental states as the desire to have a beer and the belief that there is beer in the refrigerator, and these mental states do, in part, get the specific meaning they have via their relations to each other and to other mental states in the broader Network.

But ultimately these mental states, and the Network as a whole, function only against a Background of capacities, such as the capacity to move about the world of physical objects, pick them up, manipulate them, and so on. This capacity is not to be identified with the belief that there is a real external world of physical objects; for if it were such an intentional mental state, then it would have to get its meaning from other mental states, and thus couldn’t serve as part of the Background that ends the regress of mental states. The capacity in question is rather something unconscious and without intentionality, a way of acting rather than a way of thinking. One acts as if one had the belief in question, though one in fact does not. While this capacity could in principle become a conscious, intentional mental state — one could come to have the explicit belief that there is a real world of external physical objects that I can manipulate and move about within — this would mean that this particular capacity has moved out of the Background and into the Network, and now rests on some other unconscious, non-Intentional Background capacity or way of acting.

There is, in short, always some set of capacities or other that comprises the Background (even if it is not always the same set for different people, or even for the same person at different times), and these capacities serve to ground the Network of intentional mental states. There is much to be said for Searle’s hypothesis of the Background, but it seems that it cannot save the conceptual role theory, for to speak of a “non-intentional capacity for acting” is to speak ambiguously. Consider that when you act without the conscious belief that there is an external world of physical objects, but merely manifest a capacity to interact with the world of physical objects, your capacity isn’t non-intentional in the same sense that an electric fan’s capacity to interact with the world of physical objects is non-intentional. You behave “as if’ you had a conscious, intentional belief in a world of physical objects, but of course you don’t, because it typically never even occurs to you either to believe or doubt that there is such a world: you just interact with the world, period. The fan also behaves “as if” it believed there was a world of external physical objects (that it “wants” to cool down, say); but of course it doesn’t really have this belief (or any wants) at all. In the case of the fan, this is not because it just hasn’t occurred to the fan to think about whether there is such a world, for the fan isn’t capable of such thoughts; it is rather because, strictly speaking, the fan doesn’t really “act” or “behave” at all, as opposed to just making movements. And the reason we don’t regard it as acting or behaving in the same sense we do is precisely because it doesn’t have intentionality — it is a dumb, meaningless, hunk of steel and wires.

We on the other hand don’t merely make physical movements: the waving of your hand when your friend enters the room isn’t just a meaningless movement, but an action, the action of greeting your friend. If it were just a meaningless movement — the result of a seizure, say — we wouldn’t count it as an action at all; it wouldn’t in that case be something you do, but rather something that happened to you. The fan, however, is capable of making nothing but meaningless movements. For something genuinely to behave or act as we do requires that it does have intentionality — action and behavior of the sort we exhibit are themselves manifestations of intentionality, and thus presuppose it. But in that case, an appeal to a “capacity for action” cannot provide the ultimate explanation of intentionality.

We need to know why our capacities for action are different from the mere capacities for movement that a fan exhibits. Merely noting, à la Searle’s Background hypothesis, that our capacities are non-intentional ways of acting cannot help, for that they are genuinely ways of acting is precisely what needs to be explained. Indeed, since they are ways of acting, they cannot be literally non-intentional, for if they were, they would no more be true ways of acting than are the capacities of an electrical fan. A capacity for action is, as a matter of conceptual necessity, an intentional capacity. In fairness to Searle, it isn’t clear that he intends his hypothesis of the Background to serve as a complete explanation of intentionality. His aim may be just to draw out some implications of the fact that mental states are logically and conceptually related to one another in a Network.

The point, though, is that his way of avoiding the circularity or regress that threaten any conceptual role theory cannot be appealed to in order to vindicate such a theory as a complete theory of meaning — and that it may even be incoherent, if Searle holds that the capacities and ways of acting that form the Background are literally devoid of intentionality.” (by Edward Feser)

End quote.

And then the second of those two:

Quote:

“In any event, my topic is not really the philosophy of mind, though by this point it may seem as if I have forgotten that. I am concerned not simply with the mystery of consciousness but with the significance of that mystery for a proper understanding of the word “God.” I admit that I have taken my time in reaching this point, but I think defensibly so. My claim throughout these pages is that the grammar for our thinking about the transcendent is given to us in the immanent, in the most humbly ordinary and familiar experiences of reality; in the case of our experience of consciousness, however, the familiarity can easily overwhelm our sense of the essential mystery. There is no meaningful distinction between the subject and the object of experience here, and so the mystery is hidden by its own ubiquity. One extremely good way, then, to appreciate the utter strangeness of consciousness — the hither side, so to speak, of that moment of existential wonder that wakens us to the strangeness of all things — is to consider the extraordinary labors required to describe the mind in purely material terms. We have reached a curious juncture in the history of materialism, which seems to point toward a terminus that is either tragic or comical (depending on where one’s sympathies lie).

For a number of “naturalist” theorists it has become entirely credible, and even logically inevitable, that the defense of “rationalistic” values should require the denial of the existence of reason. Or, rather, intellectual consistency obliges them to believe that reason is parasitic upon purely irrational physical events, and that it may well be the case that our nonexistent consciousness is only deluded in intentionally believing that there is such a thing as intentional belief. Or they think that what we have mistaken for our rational convictions and ideas are actually only a colony of diverse “memes” that have established themselves in the ecologies of our cerebral cortices. Or whatever. At such a bizarre cultural or intellectual juncture, the word “fanaticism” is not opprobrious, but merely descriptive. We have reached a point of almost mystically fundamentalist absurdism. Even so, what is really astonishing here is not that some extreme proponents of naturalist thought accept such ideas but that any person of a naturalist bent could imagine that his or her beliefs permit any other conclusions.

If nature really is what mechanistic metaphysics portrays it as being, then consciousness is, like being itself, super naturam; and that must be intolerable to any true believer in the mechanistic creed. Materialism is, as I have said, the least rationally defensible and most explanatorily impoverished of metaphysical dogmas; but, if materialism is one’s faith, even reason itself may not be too great an offering to place upon its altar. If one is to exclude the supernatural absolutely from one’s picture of reality, one must not only ignore the mystery of being but also refuse to grant that consciousness could possibly be what it self-evidently is.” (David Bentley Hart, “The Experience of God”).

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