A proposition that can’t be acted upon must be false, or even meaningless. So its contradiction must be true. Thus you can’t think that you can’t think, e.g.; so you can think, period full stop.
The corollary is that if you cannot avoid acting as if a proposition is true, then it must be true. You must at every moment act, willy nilly; so it is true that you can act. Your agency is real. There is literally no way around this operational presupposition. There is no way for us to be, except by an implicit presupposition of its truth. And the only way for us not to be – namely, suicide – is a way that, again, implicitly presupposes its truth. You can’t kill yourself if you can’t act. You can kill yourself. So you can act. QED.
Likewise, you cannot but know that you can know, cannot but treat the world as real, cannot but treat other persons as such, and so forth. So it has to be true that you can think about and know a real world with real people in it. Which is good, because we have no alternative but to do just that.
So all silly philosophical notions – as materialism, nominalism, determinism, positivism, nihilism, skepticism, acosmism, and the like – devour themselves in their very consideration. It is impossible to think about them other than by implicitly repudiating them.
This will be more controversial, perhaps, but the same thing goes for atheism. You can’t aver that God does not exist other than by invoking the concept of God. But the concept of God, if it is coherent – which it is – entails his necessity. You literally cannot think about God, properly so called, other than by presupposing his necessary existence. So you can’t assert that God, properly so called, does not exist, except by virtue of a prior implicit assertion that he does.
To think “God” *just is* to think “that which necessarily is.”
Excursus: Tace for the nonce, of course, on the proper meaning of “is” as it pertains to God. It doesn’t mean what it means in respect to any other thing that is. But it doesn’t mean less; on the contrary, it means ineffably *more.*
To think that God might not exist, then, is to think that something other than God, properly so called, might not exist. It is in other words to think about something other than God. It is to miss the point of theism altogether. Atheism as such, then, departs categorically from consideration of God. It descends by definition into consideration of something categorically less than God; into consideration of gods like Thor or of a Flying Spaghetti Monster or of some other such thing that is *nothing like God.*
Alright, let’s cash this out. To be an atheist is to assert that the God who necessarily exists does not exist; or else, it is to believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or something like it) – but, *not* God – does not exist. To be an atheist is, in other words, either to be an implicit presuppositional theist, and thus to engage in a fatal retortion, in which you can’t say that God does not exist except by saying that he necessarily does exist; or it is to misconstrue the topic under discussion.
My experience with atheist interlocutors suggests that most will end up taking the latter course.
I know of course that there are lots of atheists out there who deny that atheism is an assertion of the nonexistence of God, and insist rather that it is more properly an admission that the atheist himself does not yet know whether or not there is a God.
But that won’t do. To think about God at all is to think about that which must necessarily exist. To think that, having thought about him, you might then need to adduce empirical evidence – or any other sort for that matter – for the proposition that what must necessarily exist must necessarily exist, is to descend into abject stultification.
We cannot but think that God, properly so called, necessarily exists; for, his necessary existence is entailed by definition in his ultimacy. We cannot but think that God necessarily exists. So God necessarily exists.
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What, beyond necessary existence, does this argument say about God and his attributes?
“You can’t aver that God does not exist other than by invoking the concept of God. But the concept of God, if it is coherent – which it is – entails his necessity. You literally cannot think about God, properly so called, other than by presupposing his necessary existence”
Can our intellects grasp his essence through the lighty of natural reason alone? I do not believe so.
If we could see him in his essence then he would be self-evident. But this is only granted, as I understand things, in the beatific vision and hence “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. ”
And so, whilst here, we know God by reasoning from his effects. Which is fine as “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.”.
Do any of your interlocuters just root for agnosticm?
This particular argument touches only upon God’s necessity. His necessity is entailed in his ultimacy. But so are all his other perfections – omniscience, omnipotence, ubiquity, eternity, infinity, simplicity, priority, and so forth. He is ultimate in all ways.
One of the things that we can understand about God is that he is God. Entailed in the concept of God is his ultimacy, and thus all his perfections.
Whether we can grasp his essence depends upon what is meant by “grasp.” Certainly we can’t comprehend the nature of God, because he is ultimate and we are not. But we can understand this or that about him; we can understand him in part. Our being is after all in the first analysis a participation of his. This is why when we look inwardmostly, we see him. So to the extent that we understand our own being – not far, to be sure – we understand something of his. This is what is meant, in part, by the doctrine of imago dei.
I find that agnostics are fairly rare in our little corner of the web. Most people who are interested enough in the concept of God to comment about him have been interested enough to familiarize themselves with the arguments to the point that they have come to some conclusions, and so have formed some definite opinions on the topic.
Dear Kristor — I am being provocative: Certainly the definition of God entails God’s necessity (or as I would prefer to say, his being), but just as certainly God exceeds any possible definition. Is that not so?
Yes and no. Obviously no definition of which we are capable could adequate to God. So God exceeds all definitions of which creaturely intellects are capable. This is one reason why even the seraphim must veil their faces from his glory: to see God directly would be to find that all one’s own definitions had been rendered radically inadequate to Reality, and that would be a sort of madness.
Or, no, wait: that would be the apotheosis of madness; would be madness completed and perfected; which is to say, chaos, nonbeing.
We can know that God is necessary, eternal, infinite, and so forth, as an abstract matter. Were we to apprehend necessity, eternity, or infinity immediately and concretely, we’d be blasted to smithereens.
On the other hand, God is himself certainly definite, and so is in effect his own definition, that he could not exceed other than by being something other than he is. It’s just that no one other than God is capable of his definition. This is why he tells us that the Name – i.e., the invocation and thus the specification of the definition – that we should use for him is simply, “I am that I am.” Or something like that; there are quite a few credible oral versions of the literal text (a fact that itself testifies to the squirreliness of the Divine Fact as our creaturely grasp tries for him). That’s as close as our definitions can safely get to his own, which is the sum and forecondition of all truth.
Okay, so what is the argument from looking inwardmostly to arrive at a concept of God that predicates of him an ultimacy that entails necessary existence?
Is the denial of any of its propositions to commit a fatal retortion?
We can conclude to God’s Ultimacy in a variety of ways: via the mystical encounter, via looking inwardmostly, via metaphysical logic, and so forth. No matter how you get to the conclusion that God is Ultimate, Ultimacy entails necessity by definition, just as it entails all the other maximal perfections.
I’m not clear on what you are asking in your last sentence.
Well, the argument given is that to deny God, properly understood as a being with ultimacy where ultimacy entails necessary existence, is to ‘engage in a fatal retortion’.
But we first need to get to this conception of God as a being with ultimacy. Which you at first suggested doing by looking inwardmostly and now in other ways.
So, can the atheist deny some part of the argument for God’s ultimacy without thereby engaging in a fatal retortion? If they can then they can deny God without engaging in fatal retortion by denying some part of the preliminary argument for his conception as a being with ultimacy.
The radical alternative to The Ultimate is “nothing.” Yet, the atheist loves ultimatums. So the conflict is not between The Ultimate and “nothing,” but The Ultimate and mere “ultimatums.” So as was explained earlier, the love of “ultimatums” just is tacit acknowledgement of The Ultimate.
The alternative to the Ultimate is nothing. Great line. Sounds like Chesterton.
What is more: absolutely, yes: the only way to propagate ultimata with any sort of credible authority is in virtue of a prior implicit and credible claim to apprehension of the Ultimate.
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