The One Cause Behind Everything Else in Reality
(NOTE: This it the second of a three part series on Bernard Lonergan's philosophical proof for God. Read the first part here. We'll share the third part on Friday.)
III. A Reality which is Unrestricted in Intelligibility Must be Absolutely Unique
The general argument is as follows: If there were more than one unrestrictedly intelligible reality, there would have to be a difference between the one and the other, and if there were such a difference, then one of the supposedly “unrestricted intelligibles” would have to be restricted in its intelligibility—and obvious contradiction. This proof can be set out in two steps:
Suppose there are two unrestrictedly intelligible realities – UI1 and UI2. There would have to be some difference between UI1 and UI2. If there were not some difference in intelligibility (difference as to activities, space-time point, qualities, etc.) between the one and the other, then the two would be the self-same, which means there would only be one of them (a priori). Therefore if there are two or more unrestrictedly intelligible realities, there would have to be a difference between them.
If there is a difference between UI1 and UI2, then one of them would have to be somewhere, be something, or have something that the other one did not. This “not having or being something or somewhere” implies that one of them would not be unrestricted in intelligibility – because one of them would not be intelligible in some way that the other one is. The one that is not intelligible in a way the other one is would have to be restricted in its intelligibility. This means that every second or third (etc.) hypothetical unrestrictedly intelligible reality would have to be restricted in its intelligibility – an obvious contradiction. Since every second or third (etc.) hypothetical unrestrictedly intelligible reality is intrinsically contradictory, it must be impossible. Therefore, there can be only one reality that is unrestricted in its intelligibility.
Prior to this point, we only showed that there must be at least one uncaused reality existing through itself. But in view of the fact that an uncaused reality (existing through itself) must be unrestricted in both its explicability and intelligibility, and the fact that there can be only one reality that is unrestricted in its intelligibility, we must now acknowledge that an uncaused reality must be “the one and only uncaused reality” – it must be absolutely unique.
Let’s review where we have come so far in the proof. We began by showing that there must be at least one uncaused reality existing through itself in “all reality” – otherwise nothing would exist (proved in the Minor Premise). We then proved that an uncaused reality would have to be unrestricted in its explicability – otherwise we would argue an intrinsic contradiction – “a reality that exists through itself that cannot fully explain its existence” (proved in Section II, Step 1). We then showed that a reality unrestricted in its explicability would also have to be unrestricted in its intelligibility – because the answer to the question “Why is it so?” must ground the answers to all other questions – “What is it?” “Where is it?” or “How does it operate?” etc. (proved in Section II, Step 2). We then showed that there can be only one reality unrestricted in its intelligibility because every second, third (etc.) hypothetical unrestricted reality would have to be an intrinsic contradiction – “a unrestrictedly intelligible reality that has restrictions to its intelligibility” (proven in Section III). We are now in a position to assess two other attributes of the absolutely unique uncaused reality which is unrestricted in its intelligibility – it is a Creator and an unrestricted act of thinking.
IV. The One Uncaused Reality is the Ultimate Cause of Everything Else in Reality
This proof comes from a simple combination of two conclusions given above:
- Every caused reality and every cause-effect series must ultimately be caused by an uncaused reality – otherwise they would not exist (proved in the Minor Premise – Section I).
- There can only be one uncaused reality (proved in Section III). Therefore, the one uncaused reality must be the ultimate cause of the existence of all caused realities (and cause-effect series).
We can now add one other deduction from the Minor Premise (Section I) to complete our conclusion. It comes from a simple disjunctive syllogism – in “all reality there must be either caused realities or uncaused realities.” This means that if there can only be one uncaused reality, the rest of reality must be caused realities. We may now complete our conclusion. If the one uncaused reality must be the ultimate cause of the existence of all caused realities, and all reality – except for the one uncaused reality – is constituted by caused realities, then the one uncaused reality must be the ultimate cause of the existence of everything else in reality – it is the ultimate cause of everything else that exists.
Since intelligibility follows existence (see Section II, Step 2), the one uncaused reality must be the ultimate cause not only of the existence of everything else, but also the intelligibility of everything else. It must be the ultimate, sufficient, correct answer to all questions about everything that exists.
In conclusion, the existence and intelligibility of every reality must be ultimately caused by the one – and only one – “uncaused reality existing through itself” which is unrestricted in its explicability and intelligibility. Inasmuch as “Creator” refers to the ultimate cause of reality and intelligibility, the one unrestrictedly intelligible uncaused reality is the Creator of everything else that exists.
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