PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 130 11th October 2007
I. 'How to Live? Reflections upon a piece by John Shand' by Nicholas Joll
II. 'Human Life, Philosophy and Philosophical Outlook' by Sanchita Bora
III. 'Resolving Aristotle's Antinomy of Creation' by Dr A.B. Kelly
The topic of this issue is the weighty question of the Meaning of Life. Does life have a meaning? If so, is this meaning something discovered or merely invented? Does the conviction that life has meaning entail factual beliefs concerning either ourselves and/ or the nature of the universe, and if so, what are they and how can we know that these beliefs are true?
Nicholas Joll focuses his attention on an idea which has gained some currency amongst philosophers, that we can somehow create a meaning through the very recognition that there is no given meaning (see e.g. David Wiggins Truth, Invention and the Meaning of Life). In a recent article in the journal Philosophy, John Shand questions the consistency of this view. Joll shows that Shand's argument hides important conceptual distinctions that need to be made if we wish to think about this question clearly.
Sanchita Bora presents the case for the necessity of philosophical reflection, as a precondition for living a fully human life. Everyone, implicitly or explicitly holds views about the nature of the universe, the nature of oneself, the requirements for good conduct and the place of religion. To reflect on these matters is the ultimate duty of every human being.
Anthony Kelly grapples with the question which theists face, how to reconcile the perfection of God with the apparent imperfection of his creation. His answer borrows from Samuel Alexander's theory of emergent evolution in Space, Time and Deity. However, while Alexander defines, or rather re-defines 'God' as the ultimate product of cosmic evolution, Kelly argues that the final result of emergent evolution must be 'a communal entity whose nature is not significantly different from God's nature', if the antinomy concerning God's creation is to be resolved.
I. 'HOW TO LIVE? REFLECTIONS ON A PIECE BY JOHN SHAND' BY NICHOLAS JOLL
John Shand recently published a piece entitled 'How to Live?' (Philosophy 82 2007: 347-8). The brevity of Shand's piece suggests that the piece is less ambitious than its title suggests it might be. That is in fact that case. My piece, which is almost equally short, is of limited ambition too. But let me introduce what I want to achieve by showing how Shand restricts his topic. In so doing I can lay out those aspects of Shand's paper from which I mean to work.
Shand is concerned to establish the following conclusion. 'If life is pointless, and everything we do without value, then there can be no more value in a life that faces up to that truth than in one that doesn't' (op. cit., p. 347). Why? Because, 'One cannot deny all life having value and also suppose a residue of value entailed by saying that living in awareness of the valuelessness of life is a superior way to live' (idem, my emphasis). For 'if all values are spurious, then there is no greater value in facing up to the truth than not' (ibidem, p. 348). Shand's reasoning, and conclusion ('if life is pointless...'), is hypothetical. As Shand says, his piece is 'not about truth but about consistency'. Thus the modesty of his piece. Still, Shand does expand a little:
The argument is not meant to persuade anyone whether life
has value or not. If it does have value, then we can find
out what it is, perhaps. If it doesn't have value, then it
doesn't matter how we live our lives, and living life in a
way that ultimately doesn't care whether life has value or
not is as good as any other way. If it seems to have value,
then that's just fine, even if it doesn't. We shouldn't be
berated for living that way. (ibidem, p. 348)
Moreover, Shand adds a caveat. To wit: 'If the argument here is sound, then why does its conclusion seem wrong? We tend to think overridingly that it must matter how we live our lives in the evaluative sense regardless of whether life is valueless and pointless -- "absurd" -- or not' (idem). Shand calls this qualifying thought 'disturbing' (idem). Indeed one can suspect that some version of the 'overriding' intuition is at work in Shand's article itself. For he has drawn a normative (that is, an evaluative) conclusion. To wit: one should not be berated for living in ignorance of (or even, he says, fooling oneself about) the fact, if such it turns out to be, that life is valueless. As Shand adds (p. 348), 'Whatever "gets you through" is all right' -- a notion that threatens to be empty once one has emptied the idea of 'not all right' of all content.
But I am not interested in whether Shand is consistent, or at least not interested in it for its own sake. Rather, I mean to explore his 'disturbing' thought and, thereby, to disclose several distinctions implicit or invited by Shand's piece. However, I shall not try to determine whether life is pointless or how one should live. If thereby I am providing a supplement that itself needs supplementation, my justification is as follows. The question of the meaning of life -- for, as should become more evident, such is one way of rendering Shand's question of how to live -- remains rather neglected in recent philosophy. And something is better than nothing. Furthermore, I mean to add a final word that, in a way, is of broader scope.
The following composite idea seems to underlie Shand's 'disturbing' caveat. Life has no value in itself; but life can be given value; and it is important to do so. This unpacked version of the disturbing thought -- a version that, just by dint of the unpacking, is less disturbing -- I call 'the Thought'. A first distinction is all but explicit in the Thought. It is an as-yet unclarified distinction between an objective and a subjective value to life. I shall return to this. Another distinction the Thought prompts is between doings (what 'we do', as we heard Shand say) and lives. One might infer from Shand the view that my (someone's, anyone's) doings have value if and only if my life has value. More fully: my doings have value only if they serve -- are means to, or parts of -- a valuable life. One may wonder whether the relation holds vice-versa. Is it that our doings constitute or define a valuable life as against, or as well as, presupposing such a life? However, proper understanding of either version of that idea, and indeed of the Thought as a whole, requires not only clarification of the subjective-objective axis, but also a recognition of two other types or senses of value: value as significance, on the one hand, and as moral value, on the other.
In speaking of value as significance I mean, at least roughly, the value that consists in meaning in the sense of point or purpose. Questions about the meaning of life -- questions about how to live in that sense -- often ask after such significance. By contrast, it is the vexed notion of moral value that one more naturally associates with Shand's formulation ('how to live?'). A reason Shand's piece does not distinguish these two senses of value may be that the two conceptions can overlap. Religious conceptions, at a crude generalisation anyway, in each case have a single, putatively objective answer to both questions. Two further points here. First, one tends to ask about the significance of one's life, and about how one should live morally, only when a taken-for-granted answer is lacking (a point Terry Eagleton's recent The Meaning of Life emphasizes). Second, in some circumstances both questions, and especially the significance question, will be a luxury.
When one does question the significance of one's life, and considers a 'subjective' account of that significance, one encounters a limit. One cannot simply fabricate a significance to one's life. That is, one cannot adopt just anything -- and it would seem to have to be a role or goal or purpose -- as the significance of one's life. I am not thinking primarily of the idea (stressed by some Heidegger commentators) that socio-cultural context determines which roles, goals, purposes are available. The limit I have in mind is this. Any putative significance must have some foothold in the life in question. In that sense, there is some 'finding' or objectivity to any view of the significance of one's life (a point Adorno may mean to make in the fifth 'Meditation on Metaphysics' of his Negative Dialectics.) Moreover, such finding must extend beyond that which is involved in any making that is not a divine creation ex nihilo (compare Collingwood, The Principles of Art, VII.2). Still, perhaps none of this rules much out. For who is to say what some people may not manage to adopt as the -- at least perceived -- significance of their lives?
I end with an idea in a somewhat different register. The foregoing has involved notions of life and human doings, of value and significance, of subjectivity and objectivity. These notions, and many others, may pose a dilemma for philosophy. The dilemma involves rigour. Conventionally understood, rigour involves at least an approximation to deduction. Deductive relations hold, or hold most evidently, between precisely defined terms. But the following became apparent to and through twentieth century philosophy. Most words of natural languages lack such precision or at the least possess it in no obvious way. Consequently, pending feats of analysis or reduction, being rigorous about such terms as those used herein will involve a loss of content. Yet it may well seem that it is that very content that one needs for an understanding of such difficult notions as those just mentioned such as significance. On the other hand, rigour is much prized. Thus the dilemma.
[I thank Maria del Mar Medina and Rebecca Pitt for discussion, and Desiderio Murcho for reminding me of the section in Collingwood.]
(c) Nicholas Joll 2007
Junior Research Fellow University of Essex
Web page: http:---
II. 'HUMAN LIFE, PHILOSOPHY AND PHILOSOPHICAL OUTLOOK' BY SANCHITA BORA
Man, being rational can consider how best he can live. Reflection is the basic character of man. Life is a fact and we naturally ask questions: What is life? What is its value and destiny? What is the proper place of man in the democracy of things? With an unusually strenuous effort to seek an answer to these momentous questions we become philosophers. What a person wants to get and what he wants to give will depend on his own philosophy of life. It is common that each person bears a philosophical system in his thought, because it is absurd to think of a rational being without philosophical outlook. Every normally developed person, if he lives reflectively, is in some degree a philosopher. 'Philosophy is neither accidental nor supernatural but inevitable and normal' (Perry). The word 'Philosophy' has a beautiful practical exercise. It is an active theory, a conclusive way to conduct our life. If we are not using any adjective, like political, economical, educational etc. in front of the word Philosophy, it simply means philosophy of life. The root of philosophy is the reflection upon life and the world. 'Man and his values are primary; their primacy has to be acknowledged by any philosophy'. There is a common conception of philosophy that it is impractical, without any significance or utility. A little but minute observation will prove that it is a misconception. Actually philosophy springs directly from man's life and its needs. True philosophy is nothing but a general theory of human life and its environment.
'I believe that all life is sacred, and that every human being has a duty to preserve life, to promote life to raise to its highest value life which is capable of development...' Every man has at least a dogmatic and superficial philosophy of life based upon his temperament according to which he moulds his activities. There is no choice between philosophy and no philosophy. Philosophy is the rational attempt to have a world-view. Philosophy springs directly from man's life and its needs. It endeavors to reach a conception of the entire universe with all its elements and aspects and their interrelations to one another. Philosophy is the criticism or interpretation of life. Philosophy is regarded now more as an interpretation of human life, its source, value, meaning and destiny than as an enquiry into the nature of the world, soul and God. It tries to understand the universe in relation to man. It seeks to give a rational conception of the reality as a whole, which satisfies man's deepest intellectual, moral, aesthetic and religious aspirations.
Philosophy is considered to be the ultimate enquiry about life and its existence. It is a pursuit of knowledge dealing with the principles, causes and laws regarding life, human nature, creation, principles of living and the conduct of human activity. 'Reflective thought is man's peculiar power and prerogative to think. Most of the real progress which the world has made in every field has come through the medium of reflective thinking, especially the thinking of the great men of all times. When it becomes serious, sustained and logical and directed towards questions of life and values, it becomes philosophy'. Philosophy is the essential occupation of human life. Life and philosophy react upon each other. Thoreau said, 'To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust.'
One's philosophy of life is connected to one's world view. Again the connotation of the term 'outlook' suggests the synthesis of beliefs and attitudes. 'Outlook is the life's implicit spiritual basis and assumption: life is its explicit form and expression'. The outlook, to be philosophical, must express ones synoptic thought about world and life. A person can realize his concrete existence when he is able to develop a philosophical outlook. Sometimes philosophical outlook has been confused and identified with otherworldliness, asceticism, mysticism, theism etc. Therefore, we must be clear about the positive configurations and contents of the philosophical outlook in life. We find that this outlook consists of four constituents: 1) metaphysical, 2) psychological, 3) ethical and 4) religious.
The metaphysical foundation lies in the individual's deliberate views, beliefs and attitudes, regarding the nature of the universe and the place of human life in it. The main metaphysical questions are: Is the universe a mechanical interplay of material atoms? Or, is it the manifestation of some kind of purpose? Is the universe the manifestation of dead physicochemical processes, or the operation of a spirit? Is there nothing but matter and energy? What is life? What is death? What is Self? What is consciousness? etc. Every human being tries to fit suitable answers to all these questions. It proves that an individual is not the result of dead mechanism.
The second constituent of the philosophical outlook is the psychological basis of life. Psychology is the study of mind and of behavior as the expression of mind. Life must have a psychological basis in the form of belief, attitudes regarding the nature and functions of the mind that, directly or indirectly, shapes all human life and behavior. What is mind? What is its nature? And what is the practical bearing of all these on the conduct of human life? Every human being living meaningfully in the society tries to answer all these questions in his own way. It is the 'realization of the motivated character of the mind; and cultivation of a conscientious habit of truthful self-exploration of motives with a view to integration and harmonization of personality'.
The third ingredient of the philosophical outlook is the ethical orientation of life. If life must have a metaphysical foundation and a psychological basis, it must further, also have an ethical orientation. This ethical foundation consists of appropriate beliefs and attitudes regarding the ultimate goal of human life. It is also about the nature and modes of life conducive to that goal. The study of ultimate goal of all our life's aspiration has occupied the human mind from the dawn of reflection. What a man ought to be or do naturally depends on what man is. The nature of ethical goal of human life can only be ascertained after having due regard to the nature of human existence (metaphysical foundation) and human nature (psychological foundation). Ethics determines the art and goals of good living.
Finally, there remains the religious coping. If man's life must have a metaphysical foundation, a psychological basis and an ethical orientation, it must have also the finishing touch and grace of a religious coping. It is the appropriate beliefs and attitudes regarding the nature of the ultimate ground and sanction of the moral obligations that devolve in his life. Morality and religion are closely connected with each other. Religious experience is as old as smiling and weeping, loving and forgiving. It is concerned with the elevation of human personality. Love for humanity and devotion are the genuine expressions of true religion. Religion springs from the spiritual constitution of man and we know that man is a composite being having mental, physical and spiritual aspects. This fourth constituent of philosophical outlook signifies that an individual has obligations not only for the society but also for the whole universe.
'Man is the common denominator with reference to which religions, philosophies, political and social ideologies and even science are tested'. The common element that is associated with the above three-life, philosophy and philosophical outlook is the nature of human being. There are never ending controversies regarding man's nature. But it is clear that the change and development of an individual are physical, social as well as cultural. As he lives in a physical and social environment, he, at any rate cannot ignore others' individuality. With respect to the curiosity whether human life has any meaning W.H. Halverson has mentioned the theory of cosmic purpose. 'Everything that occurs in the world is part of a grand design, and that every individual human life derives its highest meaning from its participation in the whole.' That's why the guiding force of each and every plan of individual life should be the philosophical outlook. To live as a real member of human society is ones duty and responsibility also.
1. George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, Introduction to Philosophy, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1961, p.8
2. D.D. Vadekar, A Philosophical Outlook in Life, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Souvenir Vol. (ed. ) Darshana International, Moradabad, India 1964, p.475
3. Ibid., p.486
4. W.H. Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, Random House, New York, 1976, p.416
5. Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought, (New York and Toronto: Mentor Books, 1933, p.126) as quoted in A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, W. H. Halverson, Random House, New York, 1976, p.413
6. S. Radhakrishnan and P.T. Raju, (ed.), The Concept of Man (a study in comparative philosophy), Indus 1995, p.16
7. Ibid., p.23
(c) Sanchita Bora 2007
Lecturer Department of Philosophy Nowgong Girls' College Nagaon, Assam
III. 'RESOLVING ARISTOTLE'S ANTINOMY OF CREATION' BY DR A.B. KELLY
I argue that Aristotle is correct in his apparently contradictory conclusions that God is necessary as the first mover to explain the existence of the world and that God is not able to be the cause of an entity that is significantly different from God.
The cosmic process exists to make possible the self-creation of a communal entity whose nature is not significantly different from God's nature, resolving Aristotle's contradiction. Humans are involved in this process, creating aspects of their own being and their cultures. This self-creative process can enable humans to become similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness.
In 'The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos' (2006) I argue that the Cosmos is an intelligent design, a freely operating process of material self-organisation and human self-creation. Homo sapiens became human by developing a mind and beginning to create their individual and communal moral and spiritual natures.
In 'Resolving the Goldilocks Enigma' (2007) I argue that the Life-friendliness of the Universe is neither a chance occurrence in a Multiverse nor the result of interventions by a 'hands-on' God. God is necessarily 'hands-off' the world, which is Humanity's 'do-it-yourself kit'.
In this paper I resolve Aristotle's antinomy of creation, propose an explanation of God's motive for creation, and provide the solution to the problem of evil.
In previous roles as a Criminal Investigator and as Police Prosecutor I found Criminals were seldom obliging enough to commit crimes in front of witnesses. I always had to construct a coherent case from the available evidence. When I turned to Philosophical Cosmology I discovered I was immersed in the evidence that supports this case.
The Process of Emergent Evolution
The Cosmos freely develops by the process of Emergent Evolution. This process operates to make possible the development of a life-form that can freely create a mind, which can enable that life-form to begin the free self-creation of a communal entity that is similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness.
There are four Emergent Stages to date: Matter, Life, Mind and the present Human Moral-cultural Stage. The Cosmic process involves the free self-organisation of the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life, followed by the free self-creation of the Human Mind and of the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage.
The Emergent Stages of Matter and Life develop from the Energy of the Big Bang and the Information provided by the Mathematical Constants that accompany the Big Bang. These Mathematical Constants 'constitute a recipe for a universe.' (Rees 2000, 4) They inform the laws of nature of the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life and of the natural Moral Law.
The first Emergent Stage, Matter, freely self-organises into Galaxies, Stars and Solar systems. At least one life-friendly planet, Earth, is eventually produced through this process. The development of a life-friendly planet provides the opportunity for information from the Mathematical Constants to inform some available appropriate matter, enabling Life to emerge. Life then freely evolves, new forms of life appearing in response to internal genetic processes and changing environments. Life forms tend to increase in complexity and animal life forms tend to increase in cephalisation.
From about One Million years ago a series of large-brained Hominid species evolve. As with all life-forms, Hominids have the instinctive knowledge that is necessary for any species to survive in its environment. Homo sapiens, the most recent Hominid species, evolve some 160,000 years ago. This species is initially bound to the same pattern of instinctive activity as other earlier Hominids.
Eventually some Homo sapiens initiate the process of Human self-creation, using their cognitive capacity to acquire and apply knowledge that goes beyond the basic level of knowledge provided by instinct. The Human mind develops in this self-creative process. This development differentiates Homo sapiens from every other Hominid species. The development of a mind justifies the term 'Human' being applied to Homo sapiens, but not to other Hominids. The first clear physical evidence of the development of the Human mind appears in the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution some 40,000 years ago.
The next Emergent Stage, the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage, begins some 3,000 years ago. Prior to this, human cultures had developed customs that seemed appropriate to their situation, but these were often less than moral. Eventually some humans began to realise that actions can have a moral dimension, in the Kantian sense of relating to a natural Moral Law. Bruno Snell charts the development of the idea of the moral in the Ancient Greek world. In Chapter 8 of The Discovery of the Mind he notes that 'goodness' in Homer's time relates to either utility or profit rather than to morality, while to possess virtue or to be good related to realising one's nature or one's wishes, without any regard to a moral dimension. (1982, 158-9)
The Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage has much further to develop. Lawrence Kohlberg has shown that only a small minority of people are yet capable of making principled moral decisions. Most people still get their idea of morality from what is considered an acceptable practice in their culture. Some present cultures have very little morality, even accepting that it is legitimate to kill other people for their beliefs.
The Freedom of the Process of Emergent Evolution
The development of Matter after the Big Bang is a freely operating process involving material self-organisation. The Evolution of Life is also a freely operating process of self-organisation, as is the development of human cultures. Humans operate with complete freedom in relation to the Moral law, which can command but cannot compel. As Lawrence Kohlberg has shown, the Moral law is still perceived, understood or applied by individuals to a widely variable extent.
The laws of Physics are inherent in Matter and the laws of Life are inherent in the living, but the Moral law is not generally inherent in humans. However the Moral law appears to have the potential to become inherent in humans, as may be indicated by individual humans such as Moses, Socrates and Jesus.
The development of the Cosmos through the several Emergent Stages has the form of a process, a connected series of purposeful actions or changes over time. The Cosmic process, understood as the process of Emergent Evolution, can provide us with evidence relevant to the motive for creation.
The Motive for Creation
Consideration of the motive for creation begins with Aristotle. In his Christian Revelation and the Completion of the Aristotelian Revolution (1988) Patrick Madigan notes that the Greeks were able to reason up to a realm of true Being, or God, but they could not connect that realm with the world of appearances. (1988, 27) He then outlines the discussion of God's motive for creation from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond. None of the explanations of God's motive outlined by Madigan prove to be satisfactory.
Aristotle began the discussion of motive by establishing two apparently contradictory conclusions. (1) God is necessary, as first mover, to explain the existence of the world, and (2) God is not able to cause an entity that is significantly different from God. As Madigan puts it: 'Aristotle establishes simultaneously two very strong points: first, that God must exist as a necessary first cause to explain the world, and secondly that God, if he exists, could not cause a world significantly distinct from himself. Both conclusions are demonstrated as necessarily true, and the one contradicts the other'. (1988, 16)
Aristotle's conclusion that God could not cause a world significantly different from God was contradicted by his empirical knowledge of the world. Aristotle ultimately concluded that God could only be engaged in contemplation directed back to God, the world not being worthy of God's concern. (1988, 3)
Subsequent discussion of God's motive for creation has sought to avoid Aristotle's antinomy, rather than to confront or resolve it. Plotinus, for example, argues that the world is 'produced necessarily but unconsciously as an automatic emanation from God's nature'. (Madigan 1988, 62) Madigan's own explanation of the existence of the world, its generation by an expansion of the circuit of divine self-love (1988, 118) is similar to Plotinus' device of an emanation of the world from God's goodness. Both these explanations would make God directly responsible for evil.
The Problem of Evil
Any satisfactory explanation of the world has to account for the existence of evil. Evil could no more derive from an expansion of God's self-love than it could derive from an emanation from God's nature. Whether a satisfactory accounting for evil could ever be given has been a matter of doubt. John Courtney Murray asks how the world can be a place of manifold evil and an arena of human misery if an all-mighty God exists. He maintains that the problem of evil utterly defeats philosophy. (1964, 104) I challenge this view. The potential for natural evil is an unavoidable consequence of the self-organising freedom of the processes of Emergent Evolution at the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life. Moral evil is an unavoidable consequence of the complete freedom of the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage of the process of Emergent Evolution. This freedom is essential to any genuinely free process involving both self-organisation and self-creation.
Getting Around Aristotle's Problem
The explanations of the production of the world surveyed by Madigan, and Madigan's own explanation, all seek to avoid the force of Aristotle's conclusion that God could only be the cause of an entity that is similar to God. They seek to provide some other way to connect God to the world, in order to avoid Aristotle's conclusion.
Aquinas arrives at a similar conclusion to Aristotle. Madigan summarises Aquinas' conclusion that God will, as far as able, create another 'God', the closest approximation to himself, as like produces like. Later Theologians proposed that the motive for God's creation had to be the production of a perfect creature, which they argued had been realised in the person of Jesus Christ, 'the creature that uniquely justifies the enterprise of creation'. (Madigan, 1988, 111) They sought to avoid the uncomfortable reality of man in general by focussing on Christ as the one person who justifies creation, reasoning that the world was created as the only way to produce Jesus.
While Jesus is probably an example of the perfect man, the argument that the purpose of creation was finally and fully accomplished nearly two thousand years ago would raise the question of man's present purpose in a still imperfect world. Commenting on this tactic Madigan recognises that Christ 'is the proleptic anticipation of the life-form that should eventually characterise the world as a whole.' (1988, 124, Note 6).
Madigan does not suggest how a transition to such a new life-form might occur, but a further development of the present Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage could possibly provide such a transition. This would depend upon significant further self-development, in particular on moral development.
None of the arguments considered by Madigan confront Aristotle's conclusions that God is necessary as a first cause to explain the existence of the world, and that God could not cause a world which is significantly different from God. Aquinas' argument is more specific than Aristotle's, as he speaks of another 'god' both as created, and as being the closest possible approximation of the original. These descriptions appear at first sight to be self-contradictory. There can be no 'close approximation' between a creator God and a created entity. The difference between creator and created is perhaps the most significant difference which could exist between two entities.
However the extent of the difference between creator and created could depend on who does the creating. If Aquinas' 'other god' is self-created, in those aspects of its being that make it similar to God, it could well become the closest possible approximation to the original. There cannot be another self-existent being, but there could possibly be a communal entity that is self-created in those aspects of its being that make it similar to God. Understanding God's causal activity as restricted to direct creation has hindered us from recognising that God could initiate a process that could enable the self-creation of new aspects of the being of a created entity.
Aristotle's original position that God could not cause a world which was significantly different from God is worth further consideration. Our adoption of the Hebrew concept of mankind as a special creation 'in the image of God' may have contributed to our failure to resolve the Aristotelian antinomy. Mankind is only a special creation to the extent that he is self-created in those aspects of his being that in any way make him similar to God.
Aristotle's Unstated Assumption
The contradiction between Aristotle's conclusions that God is necessary as a first cause to explain the existence of the world and that God cannot cause a world that is significantly different from God, is more apparent than real. The contradiction rests upon the unstated assumption that the world is a finished product rather than a stage in a continuing process.
We are in a much better position than Aristotle to appreciate the extent of the changes in the cosmos since the Big Bang, the changes in life since it first evolved and the changes in Homo sapiens since the species first evolved. It is now commonplace to understand the world as evolving or in process.
The old idea of a completed world was reinforced by the Biblical idea of a completed creation. Clifford notes the effect Mesopotamian myths had upon biblical cosmogonies. He provides an example of the belief in Mesopotamia that everything was fixed permanently on the day of creation. (1988, 151-2) That assumption is untenable in the light of what is now known of the development of the cosmos since the Big Bang.
Accepting Aristotle's Conclusions
I accept Aristotle's conclusions that God is the necessary first cause and that God could not cause an entity that is significantly different from God. It is also clear that God can not create another self-existent entity. God can only create creatures. So what course could God adopt to resolve this apparent problem?
God could initiate the freely operating cosmic process of Emergent Evolution. Once big-brained animal species appear within the evolutionary process, the possibility is open to members of those species to begin a process of self-creation, utilising their cognitive capacity to generate a mind that can operate beyond the limitations of instinct. Homo sapiens appear to be the only species to successfully begin this process, despite an earlier species, Homo neanderthalis, having a larger brain.
It appears that the purpose of the present Cosmic process is to enable the self-creation of a communal entity that is not significantly different from God. When the Cosmic process is understood in this way the contradiction between Aristotle's conclusions disappears. If the purpose of the process is eventually achieved God, by creating a freely operating Cosmos, will become the ultimate cause of another entity that is similar to God.
The process of human self-creation began with the self-creation of the human mind. This was followed by the development of human cultures, as evidenced by the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution. The Human Moral-cultural Stage began about 3,000 years ago. Within the Jewish culture there had been a critical focus on the imperative of moral action for up to a millennium before Jesus.
Critical thinking appears to be a pre-requisite of moral thought. Within the Greek culture the capacity to reason critically appeared with the Pre-Socratics. Bruno Snell notes in The Discovery of Mind: 'the rise of critical thinking among the Greeks was nothing less than a revolution. They did not, by means of mental equipment already at their disposal, merely map out new subjects for discussion, such as the sciences and philosophy. They discovered the human mind.' (1982, v) In this passage Snell is not addressing the self-creation of the human mind, as I have done, but the initial recognition by a group of humans that they had developed a mind which they could apply to matters that were beyond the prevailing pre-critical paradigm.
The Jewish and Greek cultures were subsequently linked as a result of Alexander's efforts to take Greek culture to the rest of the world. (Weigall, 1933, Chapter 8) Socrates is a product of the Greek cultural process of human self-creation. Jesus is a product of both the Jewish and Hellenistic processes of human self-creation.
Both Jesus and Socrates were results of concentrated processes of individual and cultural self-creation within the processes of Human Moral-cultural self-creation. They both indicate the probable goal of the present Moral-cultural Emergent Stage, the emergence of humans in whom the Moral law is inherent.
In Jesus' case the Jewish emphasis on acting morally, which had been maintained for up to one millennium prior to his birth, enabled him to develop as a proleptic example of the next Emergent Stage. His selection of disciples may have been based on his recognition of others as similar products of the Jewish Moral-cultural process. The Moral law appeared to be inherent in Jesus' nature, rather than merely being perceived to some limited extent, as occurs with most humans. Whether this Jewish Moral-cultural process could continue to produce such people was not tested. The Romans sacked Jerusalem soon after Jesus' death, destroyed the Jewish culture and dispersed the Jews among other cultures.
Apart from his inherently moral nature Jesus was a person of his own time and place. He could only understand himself within the categories of the understanding that were available in his time. Being learned in the Jewish Scriptures he considered himself, and was considered by others, to be the Messiah. He discovered otherwise, hence the anguished 'Why have you abandoned me?'
Homo sapiens have already developed themselves from being animals in a habitat to becoming persons in a community, through the process of Human Moral-cultural self-creation. This occurred without their having any understanding of the overall process in which they are engaged.
Humans can now consciously engage in making themselves and their cultures similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness. The example of both Socrates and Jesus would suggest that goodness is the most important aspect of this development.
The cosmic process exists to make possible the production of a communal entity that is not significantly different from God, resolving Aristotle's antinomy. Humans are involved in a process of self-creation that could result in their becoming similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness.
To make this process of self-creation possible God initiates the 'Big Bang', providing the Time, the Energy and the Mathematical Constants that begin the process of Emergent Evolution. This process ensures the development of life-forms with the cognitive capacity to develop a mind and to begin to make themselves similar to God. The rest was, and still is, up to us.
Clifford R.J. (1988) 'Creation in the Hebrew Bible' Physics, Philosophy and Theology Vatican, Vatican Observatory
Kelly A. (2006) 'The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos' PHILICA.COM Article Number 50
Kelly A. (2007) 'Resolving the Goldilocks Enigma -- An Evidence Based Approach' PHILICA.COM Article Number 87
Madigan Patrick (1988) Christian Revelation and the Completion of the Aristotelian Revolution, Lanham U.P. America
Murray J.C. (1964) The Problem of God New Haven Yale University Press
Rees Martin (2000) Just Six Numbers, London, Phoenix
Snell Bruno (1982) The Discovery of Mind Dover Publications, New York.
Weigall A. (1933) Alexander the Great London, Thornton Butterworth
(c) Anthony Kelly 2007