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The Key Divine Attributes of the Absolutely Unique and Simple Unconditioned Reality

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NOTE: Today we continue our six-part series by Karlo Broussard on a metaphysical proof for God's existence. The posts will run each of the next three Mondays:

 


 
Over the course of several posts we’ve been examining a metaphysical demonstration for God’s existence that has led us to conclude that there must exist one and only one unconditioned reality in all of reality, and that such a reality is absolutely simple in the metaphysical sense (reality that is pure being or pure existence). In the current post, I intend to further our argument that unconditioned reality is worthy of the term “God,” as classically defined, by laying out key divine attributes for this absolutely simple and unique unconditioned reality.

The first key attribute is that the unconditioned reality is the continuous creator of all else that is. We can begin by recalling what we’ve seen in part 1 of this metaphysical proof and that is the fact that every conditioned reality, in order to exist right here and right now, must ultimately have its conditions fulfilled by at least one unconditioned reality; otherwise the particular conditioned reality under consideration, say a cat, would not exist. It is in this sense that we can call such an unconditioned reality a Creator – it ultimately fulfills the conditions that a conditioned reality depends upon for its existence (it is the ultimate source of the conditioned reality’s being). This is in contrast to the more restricted or narrower sense of a creative agent that is responsible for the creation of the universe from nothing at some point in the finite past.

Now, since there can be only one unconditioned reality (as proven in the third installment of this series), it follows that every other existing thing is a conditioned reality, which means that in order for it to exist right here and right now, it would ultimately have to have its conditions fulfilled by the one unconditioned reality. Therefore, at every moment one could say that a conditioned reality (e.g., a cat) exists, that conditioned reality would owe its existence to the one unconditioned reality. Hence, the Creator (the unique, absolutely simple, and unconditioned reality) must be the continuous Creator (the ultimate source of fulfillment of conditions) of all else that is real at every moment it exists. This is the rationale behind the popular phrase, “If God would stop thinking about us, we would lapse into nothingness.”

The second key attribute is that of immutability (the inability to change). Change, as defined in the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition, is simply the actualization of a potential within a being. For example, the cold tea that’s been sitting on my desk all afternoon has the potential to become hot and when I put it in the microwave or on the stove to re-heat it that potential will be made actual. As you read this article, you have the potential to learn something about change. Hopefully upon completing this article, you will have actualized that potential and thus will have experienced a growth in knowledge, i.e., change.

Now, every instance of change requires a changer (there must exist something that brings about the change). To use our previous example, the cold tea becomes hot due to the electromagnetic radiation in the microwave or the heat on the stove. Such a principle is not merely derived from our experiential knowledge of examples, like the tea getting hot, but from the very nature of change itself, which, recall, is the actualization of some potential. The tea’s potential to become hot cannot be actualized without something already actual precisely because the hotness of the tea is a mere potential when it is cold.

Furthermore, that which actualizes the tea’s potential for hotness would have to be something other than the tea itself. It could not actualize its own potential for hotness because in such a case it would have to be actually hot prior to actualizing the potential to become hot. In other words, it would have to be actually hot and potentially hot in the same respect at the same place and time. Obviously this amounts to an intrinsic contradiction and thus cannot be true. Therefore, the tea’s potential to become hot can only be actualized by something already actual and that something must be something other than the tea itself.

In light of this understanding of change, there are two ways in which we can see why the unconditioned reality cannot change.

First, if the one unconditioned reality could change, then that would mean it would depend upon something outside itself to actualize its potential, in which case an aspect of its being would be conditioned by that actualizer. But the unconditioned reality cannot have any aspect of its being that is conditioned by something outside itself for the simple reason that it is unconditioned reality. Therefore, the unconditioned reality cannot change.

The second line of reason that precludes mutability for the unconditioned reality involves its absolute simplicity (or the fact that it is pure being or pure existence without any real or really possible incompatible state of being on the same level of simplicity). According to the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition, something that is pure being or pure existence is that which is purely actual. The reason is that something is in act in as much as it exists. To return to our previous example, the state of hotness for the tea did not exist until the heat on the stove made it actual. Grant it the potential for hotness was present in the tea in a way that other potentials are not (such as the potential to become a dragon) but it was not there actually while the tea was still cold. Therefore, existence and actuality are interchangeable. So, if unconditioned reality is pure existence then it must be pure actuality.

Now, something lacks potentiality in as much as it is in act. The cold tea has the potential for hotness but lacks or loses that potential when it becomes actually hot. So, if unconditioned reality is pure actuality, then it would be devoid of all potentiality – that is to say there is no aspect of being that a purely actual being can potentially acquire or lose.

Now, if change involves the actualization of some potential, and unconditioned reality has no potentiality whatsoever, then it logically follows that unconditioned reality cannot be subject to change. Therefore, the unconditioned reality is immutable.

The next attribute for consideration is eternality (atemporality or timelessness). There are two ways in which we can argue for this attribute.

The first is by way of absolute simplicity. Recall how we saw in the previous post on the absolute uniqueness of unconditioned reality that unconditioned reality cannot be restricted in its mode of existence by a temporal restriction – making it exist now instead of then. As was proven, such an intrinsic restriction for unconditioned reality would allow for a real or really possible incompatible state of being on the same level of simplicity that would be excluded from it. But as was also proven unconditioned reality cannot have any real or really possible incompatible states of being on the same level of simplicity that would be excluded from it less we end up with an intrinsic contradiction. Therefore, the unconditioned reality cannot be limited in its mode of existence by a temporal restriction. In other words, it cannot be conditioned by time; thus it must be eternal.

The second way to argue for the eternality of the unconditioned reality is from the attribute of immutability. We know from our experience and reason that mutability (or changeability) is an essential element of time. Anything existing in time goes from one point in time to another – your act of reading the words in the previous clause has now become your past (there has been a change). But as proven above the unconditioned reality cannot change. Therefore, the unconditioned reality cannot be conditioned by time in any sense but must exist outside of time altogether – it neither comes to be nor passes away – it cannot have any successive moments in its existence whatsoever. This is the essence of eternality.

Now, the argument for the attribute of immateriality follows a very similar line of reason as does the argument for eternality.

First, if the unconditioned reality was restricted in its mode of existence by matter, then it would be restricted by a spatial restriction since all matter has extension in space – it would exist here instead of there. Now, such an intrinsic restriction would allow for a real or really possible incompatible state of being that would be excluded from it. But recall that the unconditioned reality cannot have any real or really possible incompatible states of being on the same level of simplicity that would be excluded from it less we end up with an intrinsic contradiction. Therefore, the unconditioned reality cannot be restricted in its mode of existence by a spatial restriction. And if the unconditioned reality cannot be restricted by a spatial restriction, then it cannot be restricted by matter. In other words, it must be immaterial.

Furthermore, like eternality, the second argument for immateriality comes from the immutability of the unconditioned reality. We know from our experience and from reason that all material things are subject to change. The reason is that all material things have potentiality built into them. The tree has the potential to be cut down; it’s wood to be made into paper. My body has the potential to break down into its component parts and become dust in the grave. The hot tea has the potential to become cool. So, everything that is material is subject to change. But, as proven above, the unconditioned reality is immutable. Therefore, the unconditioned reality must be immaterial.

So, along with the key attributes of absolute simplicity and uniqueness (discussed in the previous posts of this series), unconditioned reality is also immutable, eternal, immaterial, and the continuous creator of all else that is. This surely fits the traditional description of “God.”

But is there more? Can we go further in deducing key attributes for the one unconditioned reality that have been classically ascribed to God? The answer is yes. In the next post for this series, I will consider the absolute perfection of the one unconditioned reality along with the three “omnis” – omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience.
 
 
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Karlo Broussard

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After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • "Now, since there can be only one unconditioned reality (as proven in the third installment
    of this series), it follows that every other existing thing is a
    conditioned reality, which means that in order for it to exist right
    here and right now, it would ultimately have to have its conditions
    fulfilled by the one unconditioned reality"

    I do not think it follows that every other existing thing is a conditioned reality or that "things" are "realities". Things are objects in a reality, not realities themselves. I think it follows that "all that exists" is the unconditioned reality.

    I don't see any defeater here for monistic materialism.

    • Loreen Lee

      Are you equating the 'real' with actuality?
      I don't pretend to have the capacity to understand let alone intellectually 'contemplate' the 'absolute', but I would like to confess a thought that has come to mind, in relation to my minimal understanding of some of the conclusions made by such people as Godel. Is it possible, I hesitate to ask, that the 'ultimate' could be some 'reality' of an unconditioned 'contradiction', but not in a 'purely' logical sense, but as a 'reality' that 'contains' itself, in several or perhaps one meaning of that word, the meaning in the comment that I am searching for, but realize that I can't comprehend. For instance, and as a example with my perplexity with this subject, I must tell you of a surprising experience I had in coming to 'evidence' that the Judaic tradition interprets 'God' as "I am that I am" not, as I believe Christianity does, in the sense of being some absolute based on a kind of 'static' 'intellectual' 'logical' paradigm, but in some kind of 'dynamic' understanding.. (Send me to hell for this if you will !!!!!)

      • Yes, I'm afraid I don't understand your questions. I don't think I raised any issue of absolutes or ultimates.

        The issue I am raising here is that I understand Mr Broussard to mean by "reality" is "all that exists". He said to me that he meant the same as "being" or "that which" exists. I take this to mean he is using the word reality to mean everything, all material and all of any other substance that may exist. If this is indeed how he is using the term, it doesn't make sense to talk about different realities plural, that would mean part of what exists.

        So, you can't say that unconditioned reality is creating things, all things are part if unconditioned reality. A cat is not a reality conditioned or otherwise, a cat is not "that which exists" it is a thing that exists.

        I just do not accept that reality defined this way is simple, unchanging and so on. I do accept that it is unconditioned or uncaused.

        • Loreen Lee

          Thanks Brian Green Adams. Please note in closing that I am not attempting to deny the concept of 'uncaused'. I've said enough.

        • Brian, you are correct in saying that a cat is a thing that exists. It has its own distinct and particulate act of existence. It is a real-distinct-substantial being in the whole of reality. It is not "part" of reality in the sense that it doesn't have its own individuating qualities and own distinct act of being but "part" in the sense that it is one thing among real things in the whole of reality.

          It is from this distinct and particular real thing that exists that we reason to a real being that is not restricted to a particular way of existing, like the cat, but is pure existence or being itself (see the first installment).

          • I do not see how this can be the case. A cat is not a distinct being? It is not a part of reality? I accept that it is not a reality.

            You haven't explained what "pure being" is or why you consider it to be synonymous with unconditioned reality. You have stated it a number of times but never made an argument about it.

          • Loreen Lee

            Quote: It is from this distinct and particular real thing that exists that we
            reason to a real being that is not restricted to a particular way of
            existing,

            What about the 'unchangeability' of the unconditional being. Is the above statement not in 'contradiction' to that? It's OK. I interpreted what I came upon with respect to Judaism, that the changeability can itself be 'unchanging.

          • I have not seen any reasoning from the existence of a cat or any other material entity, or material itself to the existence of what you say is "pure being".

            You proclaimed in part one that unconditioned reality is "pure being" but did not define what it is or why we should accept that it is UR.

            Are you sure you mean "a real being" that is not restricted in any way? From my understanding God is not a being on Catholic theology.

    • Loreen Lee

      Quote: "I don't see any defeater here for monistic materialist". There also Russell's 'neutral monism", also a materialistic concept? But then, are these not 'metaphysical', ???? concepts/constructs? (I have read some of Dennet etc. by the way and think the concepts are very interesting and possible). But they still don't explain (for me) 'what is consiousness'????
      Edit: quote: but that which exists is by no means simple. I found Leibniz's theory of monads, for instance, very interesting and 'highly possible' ????.

      • Well I believe there is one fundamental substance to the cosmos and this is material. So I describe myself as a monist materialist. I don't know what consciousness is, I believe it is emergent from brain activity, and may be from other intelligent or even very complex and reflective, or recursive systems. I don't really know much about consciousness, nor do I think we are likely to get satisfying answers to such questions.

        Forgive me for being forward in this regard, I get the impression that you might believe if you can parse out metaphysical philosophy, you will get satisfying answers. I don't think this is the case. I say this because of the pervasive diversity of views. Whether it be idealism, dualism, theism, spiritualism and so on. I'd never heard of Russell's neutral monism. Maybe you can tell me about it.

        The person who had made the most sense to me on this subject is Douglas Adams (note my pseudonym). His joke about 42 is actually also (see below)

        • Something of a deeper point. Say there is an answer to the ultimate questions of life the universe and everything, would it be satisfying? Do we even know what we are asking? Isn't understanding the question the real trick? Is "to fulfil Gods purpose" a satisfying answer? Or does it not immediately suggest another question? Does any candidate answer not immediately suffer from the criticism of, "but why that?" .

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, yes. I have never found a 'satisfying answer'. And now that I simply haven't, with age, got the energy to read more, my time is spent piecing together 'memories' and attempting to find a coherent 'whole' merely within my understanding. With respect to Leibniz's monads, for instance, reading about this was most helpful to me at the time, in considering it a model perhaps within a social context, to explain the 'reality'? that we can never find the 'ultimate' source of another person. But it indeed help in my struggle to find for myself at least, a personal sense of wholeness.
            And the theories of God. (or Enlightenment) All have been found to have some contradictions, even if this can be attributed merely to my individual incapacity at understanding such thought. Who I have benefited from most, however, is Immanuel Kant, although here especially I know I did not comprehend his thought to any degree of sufficiency. But always I have merely attempted to satisfy my own needs for a kind of cognitive 'therapy'. I know I have not got the capacity to be an academic, let alone a scholastic. But perhaps in always related the arguments to my own personal experience, and the hope to understand and clarify 'my thought', my interpretation may not have been as 'abstract' as that found in the philosophies of persons of more competence. But I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be involved in such a study.

            As a final note, however, theories of materialism, do also not 'satisfy' my quest. Indeed, I would have to place my bias on the side of the rationalists, in this regard.

            My current discussion of the possibility of a proof of God based on the logical concept of 'contradiction' reflects perhaps most explanatory, my own awareness of contradiction within my 'personal' thought. But the paradigm of God as intellect and will, with reservations of what constitutes the translation of the Soul in the philosophy of Plotinus, has I understand been very productive even in current theories within 'neuro science'.

            And may in the final attempt to speculate on these great mysteries may I mention Spinoza. The possibility that indeed we do not 'understand' when he can posit a God or Substance, that may be neither mind or body, which in his philosophy are considered merely the two attributes of an infinity of possibilities that we do not know. Indeed, as another combox put forward, the 'universe' may be even far more complicated than we have possibly been yet able to consider. And yet is there not the possibility, also that it is also much 'simpler'.

            Don't know where I'm going from here. I have time on my hands, and I'm stuck in the human dilemna that I have to do something with my time. So, hopefully, I don't bore you all to 'tears'. Thanks Brian.

          • Krakerjak

            All have been found to have some contradictions, even if this can be
            attributed merely to my individual incapacity at understanding such
            thought.

            You are not alone in this, you have much company. I think that all mankind at this present state of our evolution has a cognitive deficit when it comes to understanding the complexities of "ultimate" reality, and perhaps we always will.

          • Loreen Lee

            Maybe they couldn't ask the question, because it didn't arise from a particular 'problem'. Necessity is the mother of invention?

          • The satire is of the exercise of seeking questions of ultimate meaning. It suggests these are not meaningful questions, like "what is the truth of yellow." We need to first have some framework of what truth is and how colours can have truths. If we did we would likely already have the understanding such that the question is answered. Alternatively, the question may simply be meaningless in any coherent framework.

          • Loreen Lee

            The above placement of truth with yellow could then be classified as a 'category mistake'. Want to look into that. It was the distinction between questions of ultimate meaning, and questions based on 'specificity', that prompted my above response. I think we understand one another.

        • Loreen Lee

          I didn't 'get the joke?' about 42. Your age?????

          • Ah, it is from Douglas Adams' The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

            Watch a clip from the original TV series here.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2rS-ha8DbE

            There is also a movie, but the best thing is to read the book. All very funny and illuminating.

            The story goes like this:

            Once upon a time there lived a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who were bothered by these nagging questions of life, the universe, and everything. So they designed a ridiculously large computer called Deep Thought, to sort it out for them. Deep Thought pondered the question, and seven million years later divulged the answer to the descendants of its designers. With great fanfare Deep Thought announced the answer to be "42". This left the beings rather disappointed. Deep Thought opined that the problem lay in the fact that they did not really understand the question. The put to him to tell them the answer, the ultimate answer to life the universe and everything. But that is not a question. Once they know what the question is, he suggested, they would understand what the answer means.

          • Loreen Lee

            When I first read your comment, I laughed myself 'silly'. We await the 'final judgment'.
            Oh and also read up on Leibniz on Stanford Encyclopedia, and decided the theory of Monads, (angels?) might also give me the power to consider myself a 'god' within the hierarchy. Of course I didn't really understand. But from now on I will have more respect for 'my?' computer as whenever I 'question' Google I will have to remember that it is potentially a 'monad' more powerful than "I". . Parallel universes anyone?

        • Loreen Lee

          On Neutral Monism: Google Stanford Encyclopedia, etc. Sorry I'm not good at links, etc.
          Neutral monism is a monistic metaphysics. It holds that ultimate
          reality is all of one kind. To this extent neutral monism is in
          agreement with idealism and materialism. What distinguishes neutral
          monism from its better known monistic rivals is the claim that the
          intrinsic nature of ultimate reality is neither mental nor physical.
          This negative claim also captures the idea of neutrality: being
          intrinsically neither mental nor physical in nature ultimate reality
          is said to be neutral between the two.
          A kind of 'neutralizing' of a Christian God, perhaps.

      • Krakerjak

        Consciousness seems mainly to be the complex byproduct of the neural activity of the brain.

        I watched an interesting video on The Enduring Conundrum of Consciousness which you may find interesting...or not.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7RL__ZgdEw

        • Loreen Lee

          Thoroughly enjoyed this. I actually broke out into laughter when they said that faith was a promissory materialism. Of the many 'marvelous' ideas, the one I found most related to this discussion was the theory of consciousness as integrating information. This with the suggestion that the more complexity discovered, the greater is the what? possibility? for a simplicity. The task I have assumed in my life therefore could be described as simply that. Integrating my lived experience into a coherent whole, or simplicity. Thus, thinking of 'God' as a concept, I find it coherent to speculate that this discussion would not be 'contradictory' with the present blog. . In any case, I enjoyed this discussion far more than Dennett and Hofstadter. I would love to 'integrate' more science! grin grin. And I especially appreciated the 'discovery' that we are not the only 'animals' who have a 'self' awareness. But I've got some chicken still left in my freezer and I'm going to eat it.. Thank you.

          • Krakerjak

            we are not the only 'animals' who have a 'self' awareness.

            Don't worry the chicken is not on the list.:-)
            http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/10-animals-with-self-awareness.html

          • Phil

            Hey Krakerjak,

            It seems there is some confusion about "self-consciousness" or "self-awareness" in the linked article. The fail-safe test for self-consciousness is the understanding of immaterial concepts/universals. The ability for a human person to understand immaterial concepts/universals is what makes it so unique as compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. (A key point being that the understanding of immaterial concepts is not an issue of complexity. An animal either is or isn't capable of this.)

            This means that there can be many very "smart" animals out there, but all their knowledge is tied to the physical world, either present right now or in their memory from the past. (We know that animals can be trained to do incredible things in the future based on the past, i.e., conditioning. But this has nothing to do with self-awareness.) This means that the mirror test is not a good test at all, since it has ties to the direct physical experience of the animal (the article admits a new test is probably needed).

            The best way is ultimately to begin teaching an animal basic concepts like even the youngest of children can understand. Note that we don't want to condition the animal in any way, we are simply trying to teach them (though conditioning will break down when we try and have the animal use that seemingly learned concept in another way). It was proposed a few years back that if we could get an animal to understand a concept such as "the day after tomorrow" like even a 4 or 5 year old human child does, that would be huge progress.

            Ultimately, we have no reason to believe right now that any animal, save the human person, is capable of understanding immaterial concepts, and hence is self-aware. (See "In Defense of the Soul" by Ric Machuga on why self-awareness and immaterial conceiving always go together.)

            I would love to watch the video you posted when I get a chance.

          • Loreen Lee

            The article did specifically state that animals lacked language. So you're right here. And it is language that 'is' the universality that I believe you are talking about. Unless you consider only words like justice, harmony, peace, etc. as universals. I expect there could be an argument here, but that is what philosophy is, and implies even an argument as to why scientific method 'needs' philosophy, (and vice versa). I believe this capacity is also related to the concept of judgment. i.e. placing a particular within a universal, but not always being able to identify the universal- (Kant???) Always something to learn., Liked your comment.
            A reason why you can always learn 'something' from arguments, especially such a good one as that exemplified in this post. (Always finer and finer distinctions. More and more 'angels'. Translation?

          • Phil

            Hey Loreen,

            I appreciate the support!

            A further point--while language is definitely tied to conceiving, i.e., universal concepts, it (concepts) cannot be reduced to language. When a child understands the concept of "hammer" or "procrastination", they do not understand the word or any specific physical object sitting in front of them. No, they understand a purely immaterial universal, which can be expressed in human language.

            To sum up my main point; humans are capable of conceiving because they are self-conscious animals. While non-human animals are merely capable of perceiving because they are only conscious animals.

          • Loreen Lee

            I do agree that philosophical language analysists since Kant may be forgetting that there is a trilogy, thought, word and deed. Some have questioned whether it is possible to think without language, however. I think it can be 'good' for one to jump around between the various 'languages', and attempt to understand within their contexts. The metaphor of the two of Bable takes on 'new meaning'. The language used within this post, for instance is based (my understanding) on Aristotelean logic. Thus reading these posts has made me aware that the 'concept of God discussed here is 'analytic'. (Kantian definition). I wonder now how it might be possible to 'capture' sorry about metaphor Hegel's 'dynamic' or qualitative thought within language. Not sure I'm even asking the 'right question here, or indeed whether my question? exceeds my capacity to understand. But change in understandings and language use/systems proceeds quite probably by degrees. At least my 'understanding' does. As I said before, 'seriously' I doubt that I 'really' understand what I am talking about!!!!!

            P.S. with respect to the hammer etc. we have a distinction between sense and reference, Kripke, and connotation and denotation. We cannot always identify these categories however, within our on-going usage of language. We 'don't know' what we are talking about!!!! As one post-modern put it - language talks us.

          • Krakerjak

            Thanks for the reply to my comment to Loreen.

            The fail-safe test for self-consciousness is the understanding of immaterial concepts/universals.

            Yes, but try explaining such to a chimp or any human three year old...or to myself when I was ten and only interested in having fun....was I not self aware at the time?

          • Phil

            After re-reading my comment above, I realized I might not have been as clear about my main point which was: humans are capable of conceiving because they are self-conscious animals. While non-human animals are merely capable of perceiving because they are only conscious animals.

            Yes, but try explaining such to a chimp or any human three year old...or to myself when I was ten and only interested in having fun....was I not self aware at the time?

            It sounds like you were a normally developed child, so you would have already been showing signs of understanding immaterial concepts (i.e., conceiving) for many years by the time you were ten. My youngest sister is 6, and she has been showing that she can conceive since she was about 4.

            The reason non-human animals can't learn anything close to human language (apart from conditioning, which actually wouldn't be learning the language), is because they can't conceive. That is why conceptual language, rationality, and self-awareness are intimately tied together. Either being would have all three in some way, or none of them at all. (We are sticking to material beings right now as well.)

          • Loreen Lee

            That is why conceptual language, rationality, and self-awareness are intimately tied together. Either being would have all three in some way, or none of them at all.

            This could be interpretated as a very dangerous premise, could it not, particularly within the context of such things as 'what is a person': pro life issues, for instance, or being deaf and dumb. Particularly a context which denies an 'ultimate' meaning of what constitutes rationality. within a social sphere. The video we watched for instance attempted a 'demonstration' that a child was not self-aware until some months after birth. Being brought up as a Catholic, I learned even in primary school, that the 'age of reason' was about seven. I actually remember my first thought. I saw a falling star, and was aware that I was aware of it. I also learned from the Buddhists about different 'levels' of awareness. Like in the video. And for them, ironically, the greatest awareness comes within a silence, not through the use of 'language'. Such a diversity of human 'experience'. .

          • Phil

            This could be interpretated as a very dangerous premise, could it not, particularly within the context of such things as 'what is a person'

            That's a good distinction you are recognizing.

            It would only be dangerous if the nature of a being was defined by what it could currently do or achieve. But we know very well that a human being does not stop being a human being when they are sleeping, unconscious, etc. We don't understand the nature of a being in regards to actuality, but in regards to potentiality.

            The nature of a living being is present from the first moment the living being is what it is. The nature of "oak tree" is present at the first moment the seed is fully present, cheetahs have the nature of "cheetah" at conception, and human beings have the nature of "human being" at conception. In other words, because a newborn cannot reason, conceive, or show forth its self-awareness yet, that doesn't make it any less human. (Same for the dying, unconscious, sleeping, etc.)

          • Loreen Lee

            The 'reality' is however, that Aristotle's potentiality/actuality distinction is 'no longer' the recognized authority in all cases.

          • Phil

            The 'reality' is however, that Aristotle's potentiality/actuality
            distinction is 'no longer' the recognized authority in all cases.

            While I would say that you would be mistaken to believe this, as I believe act/potency is still the best metaphysical explanation we have of experienced reality, we don't need to dive in to far to it in our example.

            We merely have to ask the question of if an unborn baby, at conception, has the real potential for rationality? If it does not have the potential already at conception, then it will never exhibit rationality (now that doesn't mean that something can't happen before/after conception that would take this potentiality away).

            In other words, you and I, at the moment of our conception had the potentiality for rationality because we could not reason now if it wasn't present back then. We know that the human person's nature is to be a rational animal. This means that if a human being develops normally, as it should, it will be able to reason.

          • Loreen Lee

            It’s a wonder-filled life: A meditation
            on the mystery and unlikely chances of our very existence...
            Msgr. Charles Pope

            The link didn't work. Please Google New Advent, and you'll find Msgr. Pope's blog. Trust you can relate this to the potency-actuality distinction.

          • Krakerjak

            Thank you Phil for your input on this.

          • Phil

            Not sure what you mean?

            We could propose that there are immaterial personal beings, e.g., "angels". Angels obviously couldn't use written/spoken language in the way that we do because they don't have a material body. But that doesn't mean that they wouldn't be capable of communication.

            The reason for the disclaimer was so that someone wouldn't throw out an "angel objection", which would take the discussion beyond what was necessary at the time. [And yes, angels do exist ;-) ]

          • Loreen Lee

            I have interpreted angels (a translation) within a modern context, for instance, as a conceptualization of particular beings, or of what constitutes 'partiular thoughts'. Some recognize numbers for instance, to have being analogous to this.. Even Buddhists recognize the being of consciousness, which is denied by many materialists. .We live in a mufti-faceted world.

          • Phil

            Angels are very different from numbers or any abstract concept. Though both abstract concepts and angels exist, the former is obviously not capable of reasoning or self-awareness--angels are.

            It may be helpful to understand that in simple terms a human person is an embodied spirit. Angels are pure spirit. Now because of our body, that does make us very different from them and places many limitations on our intellectual abilities.

          • Krakerjak

            And yes, angels do exist ;-)

            You state this as if there is no doubt about their existence. And what is your evidence that they do exist other than the bible or hagiography? Not saying that they cannot exist outside of the imagination, but I do think it very improbable.

          • Phil

            We are beginning to move at this point away from philosophy and what we can known by reason alone. We can know that it is possible for angels to exist by reason alone, but that they actually exist is only something that can be known through revelation--God's revelation to us.

            The short of it is that trust in God's self-revelation through the centuries is reasonable to believe, and this revelation includes purely spiritual beings, i.e., what we call "angels". But all that is a whole 'nuther discussion for another time!

    • “I do not think it follows that every other existing thing is a conditioned reality or that ‘things’ are ‘realities’. Things are objects in a reality, not realities themselves. I think it follows that ‘all that exists’ is the unconditioned reality.”

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. What exists is fundamental. Do things exist, i.e. are they entities? Or, is there only one entity or reality in which things are objects within that one entity?

      In accord with traditional philosophy, I maintain that there are two self-evident principles. A self-evident principle is one, which if denied, eliminates all knowledge and the possibility of knowledge. The first principle is: things exist. The second is: things are intelligible in their existence.

      The first two sentences in my first grade reader were in accord with this
      philosophy. They were: ‘See Dick.’ ‘See Dick run.’ They were not: ‘See
      reality.’ ‘See reality fluctuate.’ Even the word, ‘See’ implies a knower, who
      is an entity in itself. In contrast, if there is only one entity, reality itself, then there could be no real distinction between knower and known. There could be no intellectual inconsistencies within knowledge, because all distinctions are transient fluctuations. As transient fluctuations, intellectual perspectives could not be said to be true or false. Thus, there could be no arguments.

  • GCBill

    A contingent stimulus paired with an unconditioned reality will yield a conditioned reality. But if you remove the unconditioned reality, the conditioned reality will undergo extinction.

    I guess classical theists first described classical conditioning.

  • Indeed if unconditioned reality is restricted to material, anything non-material would be excluded from it as non-real or not really possible. That's exactly right and what I believe is the case.

  • Krakerjak

    Kant thought that there is essentially no difference between traditional metaphysicians in the Western tradition, like Plato, Aristotle or Descartes, and the spirit seers, like Swedenborg, who spin gossamer webs of unseen worlds and powers, or theologians with their ideas of God, angels, devils and such. Kant argued that reason ought to stop at the bounds of sense, critically aware of the limitations of our powers of understanding. Metaphysical ideas of God, soul, immortality. Metaphysics is a form of magical thinking that intimates a productive relation with a supernatural reality or relies on faith to affirm its basic unprovable assumptions.The power to think beyond the bounds of sense and empirical reason is a great boon as long as we do not take the conclusions of our speculations too seriously as the last word on what ‘is’ or ‘how things are.

    http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=322

    • Mike

      what if unbelieving is some kind of "defect" in that if we are predisposed biologicaly then maybe if you're missing that "gene" or whatever maybe you're not as likely to reproduce and therefore die out; maybe unbelief is something nature is working on "weeding out"? An idea that i read about in the telegraph is related: this leftwing guy wrote an editorial about homophobia, about how maybe it is genetic and therefore there's nothing we can do about.

      • Krakerjak

        what if unbelieving is some kind of "defect"

        What if grasping at straws for for some is a kind of "defect"?

        • Mike

          huh?

  • Loreen Lee

    Of course, I really haven't been all that 'clever' and 'original' in my comments in this post. Who was that pre-Socratic who proposed the philosophy of strife and love. Then there's Hegel's dialectic, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and unity of opposites. And the I Ching. So much for contradiction and paradox. Ah the wisdom of Ecclesiastics.
    But just got an e-mail on the political situation in the Middle East from my once a time spouse. Yeah like Heidegger said; we don't know what questions to ask, etc. etc. and with all the cleverness of our metaphysics we have no 'answer' to the 'conflagration' he is talking about. !!!!! But I e-mailed him back that I don't understand how he can be aware of so much detail, but that I would have to keep to my philosophy cause it's 'simpler'. Hope he gets a laugh out of this. Goodnight.

    • Loreen Lee

      Conflagration: definition.
      Large-scale military conflict (between nations, or schools of thought, etc.).
      This was well brought out in the skillfully conducted campaigns by the
      various governments in appealing to the masses with their characteristic
      suggestible subconsciousness, stirring to the very depths the reflex
      consciousness of gregarious man by all sorts of direct and indirect
      suggestions of fear of attacks and patriotic reactions of self-defence
      against such attacks until the evil genie of self-preservation and fear
      became loose, resulting in a sweeping conflagration of a
      war of nations with all the horror of diseases, mutilation, and
      extermination of millions of human lives, over seventeen and a half
      millions, according to latest accounts, having perished in this
      world-massacre of the human race.
      Philosophical question: Where is the 'love'????

  • A lot of this is just too much for many and needs to be explained in different ways. Here is how I explain “continuous creator of all else that is” OR “If God would stop thinking about us, we would lapse into nothingness.” to my confirmation students:
    When you stand in front of a mirror, what do you see? You see your image & likeness. If you leave the mirror even for an instant, what happens to your image & likeness? It ceases to exist. You “being” in front of the mirror continually holds your image & likeness in existence.

    • Krakerjak

      If God would stop thinking about us, we would lapse into nothingness.

      Which is what apparently happens to us when all neural activity within our brain ceases. Our consciousness, that part which is us seems to cease to exist.

      Consciousness seems to be a byproduct of neural activity within the brain, complex though it may be.

      • A big topic consciousness is. I’d say we think with the intellect
        which is part of the human soul. The brain is the "tool" we use. If you were looking at a bird, I would not say your eye balls are looking at a bird; I would say YOU are looking at a bird. The eyes are just the tool.

        • Krakerjak

          So what you are implying is that consciousness within the neural activity of the brain, is only a "tool" of the soul and is not really the "I" or the self?...therefore we all have our "real" existence outside of the body/brain. I understand that theists in their religious paradigm of faith are compelled to believe this sort of stuff, otherwise all would be for naught. Just so you know, I am not one who could be classified as an atheist. Perhaps am one who can be thought of as a nontheist.

          • Atheist or "nontheist", If one accepts a strict materialistic view of the intellect (not saying you do), it is interesting to see if said person is consistent within their position. For example…

            - Spiritual laws (moral law/natural law/divine law) are man-made “concepts”.

            - Concepts are like opinions; thoughts in the mind.

            - Thoughts in the mind are electrochemical impulses that have evolved over millions of years to help us survive.

            - The electrochemical impulses in one person’s brain can be different than another’s. Not good or evil, just different.

            - There is nothing above the human mind to judge what is moral or not; no “outside system”.
            Practical application: Is racism wrong? Of course not, it’s
            just another way of thinking.

          • Mike

            IF - "The electrochemical impulses in one person’s brain can be different than another’s. Not good or evil, just different."

            THEN - There is no actual good and actual evil just differently evolved opinions; and the stronger the ppl who hold one opinion the more likely that opinion is to prevail; the "struggle" for some thing we've created in our minds called "justice" is a useful illusion but nothing more. Today we think woman are equal to men but tomorrow our opinions may change via our chemical/physical structures which are continuously evolving in a totally random fashion - not in a "progressive" nor a "conservative" direction but blindly randomly.

          • All this discussion gives me an idea for a great new book:
            "ISIS: Our Misunderstood Friends"

          • Mike

            eek!

            my theory is that bc most ppl in the rich west have literally never had to confront real existential threats to their ways of thinking and living (the soviet threat is now 25 years old) they sincerely believe there is no such thing as evil, only misunderstanding and not enough "inclusion" or whatever; and of course they are at least partly right, but as previous generations knew, and ppl in many parts of the world still know, evil exists and men's hearts are always being tempted to act on it.

          • Krakerjak

            The electrochemical impulses in one person’s brain can be different than another’s. Not good or evil, just different.

            Bingo. For the most part yes.Hence we have schizophrenia, hallucinations and all manner of mental aberation.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

          • Loreen Lee

            Freedom is considered a metaphysical concept in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. One of three ideas, freedom, immortality and God. I associate the first with space, the second with time, and the third with my 'rational' consciousness, of my-self as well as the cosmos. The concept would be some kind of universalization of this 'rationality', and is one that is elemental for me, as I am only a part of the universe, yet can aspire to be whole.
            I have read many accounts of free will. That it is something we grow to have. That the lack of determination within our consciousness occurs only within specific contexts, as in the case of personal interrelationships. That, (Hegel) it is the 'recognition of necessity'. There are more. I do not identify free will with thoughts 'generally'. (Please understand that I couldn't help but leave you this message. grin grin).

          • Krakerjak

            Good attempt using a nonsequiter series to obfuscate things. The sarcasm intended is recognized.

    • Loreen Lee

      Yeah, Berkeley asked does the tree exist when it is no longer perceived? He had to call in God to settle the question. Just like Descartes had to call in God to support his clear and distinct ideas. Today, scientists, especially if we consider empiricism primary, would avoid the solipsism through the basis of collaborative, (many people) evidence.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    First, if the one unconditioned reality could change, then that would
    mean it would depend upon something outside itself to actualize its
    potential, in which case an aspect of its being would be conditioned by
    that actualizer.

    I don't think this follows. An unconditional reality does not need another reality to exist. However, its unconditional status is not enough to say that other conditional realities cannot interact with it.

    I do not think that a being of maximal simplicity would be a being of pure actuality. It would have to have potential. Simpler beings are simpler because they have less restrictions - this seems synonymous with potential.

  • Loreen Lee

    Well I'm going to go back to 'Google' for a study of Categories, specifically related to Gilbert Ryle's concept of category mistake. And to try to find the difference between performative and what 'descriptive' statements? Although I studied Analytic Philosophies back in the 70's, it is my belief that when you return to something, you can do so with a 'different' understanding. A video on this post also pointed out to me, a materialism which was not merely 'one' way epiphenomenon ism, and I would like to explore how the concept of simplicity could be related to an over-riding concept which 'contains' a plurality or complexity. Also the distinction between ontology and epistemology might be far more intertwined than I had even before considered; mind-body distinction again. Perhaps I really can 'learn how to think'. I never realized before that analytic philosophers are primarily 'materialists'. Live and learn. or is it Learn and live. grin grin.

    '.

    • @Loreen, check out Walker Percy's discussion of knowledge vs news:

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Message_in_the_Bottle

      • Loreen Lee

        Thanks so much Johnboy. Possibly the 'essential' (Aristotelian) reason why I am here, and am attempting to be 'inside' these conversations at the same time as being 'outside' of them. Why for instance I am so 'impressed' by the argument in this post and yet entirely 'skeptical'. The idea of 'empty' logic here, and why? Such contrasts as 'right' and 'rite': epistemological vs. ontological. And they are interwoven within all the conversations. (My 'understanding'). I like the idea of being caught between 'ages'. and cultures, and ideologies, etc. etc.set up against my 'personal experience and capacities. Am referring to the intro of the site you directed me to. And why I am so interested in the need for 'translation', etc. etc. etc. And at the same time, I 'know' the impossibility of same, but the quest often gives me insight, as for instance why the Buddhist believes in the 'silence' of 'enlightened' awareness!!!!!

      • Loreen Lee

        Yes. And then there's 'news'. Just checked my e-mails from Common Dreams to the Gatestone Institute. No comment!!!!!