Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Predicament of Belief: Ultimate Reality (pt.3)

In chapter two of "The Predicament of Belief", Clayton and Knapp (C&K) make their case for theism - not as Christians, but more broadly as rational enquirers, or better, metaphysicians. As far as metaphysics go, C&K are minimalists.  Their goal is to articulate the most plausible version of theism. While they respect those who would argue for a more robust form, their goal is more modest and their audience is different: "...those who are uncertain that any form of distinctively Christian belief in God is still plausible in an age of science and religious pluralism."

Like the great metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead, C&K argue that scientists do have certain metaphysical assumptions. There is no getting around this fact, so achieving some metaphysical clarity - however difficult - is a necessary, reasonable task.  To avoid metaphysics is itself a metaphysical position.  It is to fall into self-contradiction.

C&K argue that the 'fine-tuning' argument is not meant to be evaluated on a scientific but philosophical basis. As such, they affirm its relevance to metaphysics. But what about a possibile multiverse (a typical counter-argument to fine tuning)? They question the coherence of the multiverse theory and push back that even if it is true, it does not defeat the argument for an Ultimate Reality along theistic lines. A multiverse requires, in order to be a scientific theory at all, the assumption of certain lawlike relations that hold across every universe. But such trans-universal laws do not apparently depend on any particular physical reality. Before any universe existed, they must have been purely possibilities. But if possibilities are not physical, what (and in what) are they in reality? This leads to their argument for the 'ultimacy of mind': these possibilities are ideas, and as such, must reside in something like a Mind.  Mind is thus the primary reality, not matter.

To summarize: the ordering principles of our universe (or multiverse) must be non-physical ideas contained in something like a mind.

But C&K go further and argue for an intential, purposeful UR: "We believe that this is the most justified position, the one that can best stand up to objections by those who are experts both in the relevant sciences and in the metaphysical debates..." They pull back from seeing the UR as a ‘person’ but argue that it has person-like qualities alongside impersonal qualities (e.g., Whitehead or Schelling's dipolar theism).  Additionally, they argue that it is logical to assume that the UR is infinitely powerful.

At this point they haven't affirmed that the UR does anything other than merely contain nonphysical ideas to be actualized (somehow) in the world. What about things like agency, values, benevolence, providence, etc? Unless more can be said, theistic religions have nothing to work with.

Fortunately, more can be said. C&K argue that it is most reasonable to affirm that the UR created the uni/multi-verse for no other reason than to bring others into existence. As infinite, it did not apparently need others. And in order to allow finite beings to exist, infinite reality must limit itself.  An infinite UR that brings finite beings into existence with the necessary self-limitation looks very much like self-giving love: agape.  This leads C&K to an argument for what they call the 'divine lure' (which I will not detail): the UR lures human conscience in the direction of particular values.  As such, the UR is more like a person than an impersonal force - or as C&K put it, the UR is "not less than personal."

To summarize: the mindlike, purposeful UR is characterized by self-giving love and motivated by something like values and intentions.

This UR is beginning to look very much like the God of Abrahamic traditions - but note that there is no justification for any religion at this point.  The next chapter will deal with divine action and the problem of evil.

No comments:

Post a Comment