Materialism suggests that when a new whole – such as a person – appears in the cosmos, it is as a result of the combination of preexistent parts that come together to form that whole. Persons, then, are on the materialist account somehow artifacts or characteristics of their constituent components, or are emergent from their componence. They are nothing but the combination of their components.
But notice that to say that a whole is only the combination of its parts is just to say that a combination combines in virtue of its combination. It is a dormitive virtue “explanation.” It is, to put it bluntly, a proposition that proposes nothing, an “explanation” that explains nothing.
This perhaps is why the most stringent, consistent materialists insist that there is no such thing as a whole with constituent parts; why they insist in particular that there are no such things really as persons. That way, they avoid the problem of explaining the genesis of any wholes. They can retreat to the void, and to dead aimless atoms aimlessly wandering, colliding, combining. They can retreat to death, and disorder, and the “freedom” that comes from utter want of meaning.
But that’s all stupid nonsense. There are persons, of course; and there are all sorts of other wholes, constituted of parts. To argue otherwise is to contradict experience as such.
It is then simply false that wholes are agglomerations of parts, and nothing more. Wholes are prior to their parts, qua parts. This is to say that they simply cannot be sufficiently derived from, or consist in, only the motions of their parts. It is to say that they are something different, and other than, and over, and above, their parts. It is, finally, to say that *they cannot be completely accounted for in terms of the motions of their antecedents, or by them sufficiently determined.*
It is to say that wholes come from somewhere other than, and more than, their past in this cosmos, as that is mediated by the motions of their constituent parts.
It is to say that novelty as such is an ingression to this world from somewhere beyond it.
And that is to say that each new moment is an instance of creation; of absolute creation; of creation of something from a nothingness of that thing.
Creatio ex nihilo follows inexorably from mere happening.