Chapter 10

An objection

But there is a very serious difficulty with this view that is not based on someone's disagreeing with the conclusions it comes to, but seems inherent in the view itself:

We argued to the fact that there are many finite existences by the fact that the differentiation of consciousness into many forms of consciousness could not be explained either by consciousness (the effect) nor the mind (the single cause of sameness of all the forms as "mine"); and therefore, there had to be existence. But if existence were absolutely the same, then the total cause (mind + existence) of any "formed consciousness" would be identical with the total cause of any other; and since identical causes have identical effects, this would mean that there would be only one case of "formed consciousness."

But these many existences, then, we saw, had each of them to be a finite case of existence; and we argued then that the cause of each of them had to be analogously existence, and hence had to be a non-finite existence.

But it was demanded by this solution that the non-finite existence, God, be absolutely simple existence, and not something differentiated into many somethings really distinct from each other.

But that certainly seems to mean that the cause of any finite existence is identically the same as the cause of any other one; and there would be no problem with that if the existence were really distinct from its essence: we could have God the cause of the existence (what they all have in common) and finite existences the cause of the essences-as-distinct.

But in that case, the argument we gave from "formed consciousness," that the form couldn't be "separated" from the particularity or the "thisness" of the form--is false. Or alternatively, if the finiteness (the "formness") of the "formed consciousness" is not different from the "thisness"--which means that any cause of "formness" is also the cause of the "thisness"--then this must apply to finite existence also.

That is, every finite existence as finite has the absolutely simple God as its cause. Presumably, as "this case" of finite existence, it has God + a finite existence as its cause. But if the "thisness" can't be separated from the "essenceness," or even the existence, and if everything else but God is a finite existence, how did the plurality of these finite existences come to exist in the first place?

That is, it would seem that plurality of existences could be accounted for only by God + some finite existence; but that supposes that there would have to be God + more than one finite existence (because if there were just God and one other, then there could be only one "thisness"). But then if all of them owe their finiteness to God, how could they be?

There are actually two possible solutions: First of all, God was "never alone"; that is, God could have been the only existence (and of course, he can be now), in the sense that no finite existence is necessary for God's existence to be God's. But this situation is purely possible, and is not what actually obtains: it is eternally true that God + at least some finite existences exist.

As a Christian, I happen to believe that there are angels, who never began to exist and are not in time, but exist eternally(1) (and whose finite existences as eternally finite are eternally caused by God). There is no contradiction here; God's causality does not make anything begin to exist; and so an eternal finite existence is not a contradiction, nor is an eternal finite existence as eternally dependent on God for its finiteness a contradiction.

This would solve the problem, though it would leave it very mysterious.

The other thing that could solve the problem is that, like the "differentiation" within my consciousness into "being conscious" and "being conscious of being conscious," which is some kind of a differentiation without being a distinctness of parts or a separation into two connected acts, so if there were a kind of differentiation like this in God (into, for example, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, each of whom is one and the same reality with the other, but is a different person, whatever that means(2)), then this differentiation would be enough to account for the plurality of finite existences. God would then be absolutely simple in the sense that his existence does not contain finite parts, but would not be absolutely simple in that his act "reduplicates itself" as "the cause of this finite act" and "the cause of that finite act" more or less as we actively form our imagining by "finitizing" our consciousness while it is (as consciousness of what it is doing) actively beyond the act which it spontaneously limits itself to be.

This, by the way, would allow for the possibility of God's "finitizing" himself into a kind of finite expression of his infinite existence, and actively being beyond the "version" of himself that he limits himself to being--as when we recognize that when we choose, we choose to limit our choice to just this one of the alternatives (even when we could choose something greater).(3)

This also is extremely mysterious; but since there are two possibilities which would make a simple God the cause of the finiteness of any finite existence, and since I can't see how any other alternative but having a God doesn't leave the universe as we know it positively self-contradictory, I think we will have to say that the argument for the existence of God is not refuted by the difficulty in that God would seem to have to be a plurality if there have to be many finite existences to account for many finite forms of consciousness.

On, then, to the next section.



1. I am using "eternity" here to refer to what St. Thomas calls "aeviternity": the "eternity" that belongs to creatures rather than God. But I differ from him on a few counts. First, he thinks that angels can change (accidentally), and I will prove a couple of sections from now that this is not possible. Secondly, however "long" the angels exist, they owe, of course, their existence to God. Here I agree with him, but I stress that eternity is not "a long, long time," but eternity is to time as colorlessness is to color; time-words simply do not apply to it, as we will see. Anyhow, I see no need for using two terms. The point is that it was and is never the case that God exists, and also that angels exist; but their existence depends on God's causing them to be the finite beings they are. They don't have to begin to exist to be finite, because the type of "infinity" which is implied in "eternally existing" is a different kind of infinity from the deficiency in being that any finite being has.

2. We will see what it means much, much later.

3. This is what I was referring to about Jesus in the previous note. When we talk much later about sense consciousness, I will show that there is an analogy between God's incarnation as a man and what sense consciousness does with the energy of the brain. Note that I am not asserting in this philosophical investigation that Jesus the man is the infinite being in one of his "reduplicatons" of himself; only that there is no contradiction in this sort of thing, however paradoxical it may sound.