Nous

Random thoughts and views of Tim Young

Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument for God’s Existence

with 2 comments

St. Anselm of Canterbury was an interesting guy.  He was born 1033 in Aosta to a well off family.  Though he was a bright and well liked child who stole the affection of his mother, Anselm had a strained relationship with his father.  In his teens, he became intensely interested in religion and wanted to enter the monastery, but was denied.   While in his early twenties, Anselm’s mother died and his relationship with his father became hostile.  Unable to cope with this father, Anselm left his house at the age of 23 and wondered around Burgundy and France for three years.

Around the age of 27 Anselm arrived at a monastery and soon after became a monk.  His brilliance was quickly noticed, and he became popular among his peers.  At one point, they challenged him to prove the truths of scripture by reason alone (i.e. without using the Bible).  Anselm accepted the challenge, and wrote the Monologion.  In this book, Anselm attempted to argue for the existence of God and many of the Christian doctrines without the aid of Scripture. This was no easy task. Ultimately the book is a long chain of arguments that can be tiresome to read.   Anselm would later describe the book as being “knit together by linking of many arguments,” and this fact caused Anselm to be dissatisfied with the work.  It was not that he thought the arguments in the book were false, it was just that they were inelegantly strung together into a long laborious chain of arguments.

As Anselm’s dissatisfaction grew, he became very anxious to discover a new, single, argument that would, in his own words,

require no other for its proof than itself alone; and alone would suffice to demonstrate that God truly exists, and that there is a supreme good requiring nothing else, which all other things require for their existence and well-being; and whatever we believe regarding the divine Being

Anselm desired a single argument that would prove God’s existence and every attribute associated with him.  Anselm took this very seriously to the point that he became obsessed by it.  He lost his appetite and could hardly sleep at night.  At one point his obsession got so bad that he could no longer pay attention in church which lead him to believe the task was a temptation from the devil!  Eventually Anselm finally did discover his “proof,” and he wrote it in the second chapter of his work Proslogion.

So just what was Anselm’s great argument?  Let’s see his own words,

AND so, Lord, do you, who do give understanding to faith, give me, so far as you knowest it to be profitable, to understand that you are as we believe; and that you are that which we believe. And indeed, we believe that you are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Or is there no such nature, since the fool has said in his heart, there is no God? (Psalms xiv. 1). But, at any rate, this very fool, when he hears of this being of which I speak –a being than which nothing greater can be conceived –understands what be hears, and what he understands is in his understanding; although he does not understand it to exist.

For, it is one thing for an object to be in the understanding, and another to understand that the object exists. When a painter first conceives of what he will afterwards perform, he has it in his understanding, but be does not yet understand it to be, because he has not yet performed it. But after he has made the painting, be both has it in his understanding, and he understands that it exists, because he has made it.

Hence, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding, at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. For, when he hears of this, he understands it. And whatever is understood, exists in the understanding. And assuredly that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For, suppose it exists in the understanding alone: then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.

Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.

Did it convince you?  My guess is you’re probably still trying to figure out just what the argument is!  Well, it can probably be formulated like this,

(1)   God is by definition the greatest possible being.

(2)    The greatest possible being exists in the mind.

(3)   Either the greatest possible being exists in the mind only, or he is exists in the mind and in reality.

(4)   Assume (for reductio) that the greatest possible being exists in the mind only.

(5)   In that case there could be a greater being viz. that very same being existing both in the mind and in reality.

(6)   But then there could a being greater than the greatest possible being (which would be a contradiction).

(7)   Therefore the greatest possible being exists both in the mind and in reality.

Think on that for a second! 🙂  Do you think Anselm was successful?

_______________

–All quotations are from the preface of Proslogion except for the main argument which comes from chapter 2 of the same work.

William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument for God’s Existence

with 15 comments

  1. If God does not exist, then there are no objective moral values or duties.
  2. There are objective moral values and duties.
  3. Therefore, God exist.

It seems to me that those who want to reject this argument will do so by denying the second premise.  In that case he’d likely be a non-cognitivist or a relativist.  In response I think Craig would push his point about there being circumstances in which we can just see that certain acts are right or wrong.  We can just see, for example, that many of the acts done by Hitler were immoral.

I suppose some would want to reject the first promise.  So, for example, they might give a naturalistic account of moral properties.  They might argue, for example, that “keeping your promises is good” is equivalent to “keeping your promises is N” (where “N” is some natural property like “maximally conducive to human wellbeing.”).   Or they might give a non-naturalistic account of moral properties, in which case “good” would refer to some irreducible moral property (i.e. a property that could not be reduced to “N”).  I think in both cases Craig’s response would be “So what?  Why should either case create objective moral duties for me?”

His argument seems good to me, but I suppose I have my own biases.

Thoughts?

Written by Tim

January 15, 2010 at 9:58 am

An Argument for the Complexity of God? (Part 2)

leave a comment »

A few posts back I took a look at a critique of the design argument in which the author argued that in order for Intelligent Design to be successful it must be demonstrated that “fundamental complexity” is true.  But since it is extremely difficult or even impossible to demonstrate that fundamental complexity is true, we have good reason for rejecting Intelligent Design.

In response to this I pointed out that the author’s definition of “fundamental complexity” is ambiguous.  Most likely he takes “fundamental complexity” to mean the inability of a phenomenon to be explained in naturalistic terms.  I pointed out, though, that this definition presents no real problem for ID since the ID proponent is not committed to the claim that there can be no naturalistic explanations for a phenomenon; the ID proponent only has to show that ID offers the better explanation for that phenomenon.

With this in mind, here is the author’s argument for the complexity of God:

 (P1) Extremely complex phenomena that cannot even in principle be explained as arising from simpler, more fundamental principles are extremely improbable.

(P2) God is by definition a being that is a) conscious, and b) fundamental in the sense that he is not evolved or derived from anything more fundamental.

(P3) Conscious beings are necessarily extremely complex.

(I1) From (P2a) and (P3), God is extremely complex.

(I2) God cannot even in principle be explained as arising from simpler, more fundamental principles since, from (P2b), God is defined as being fundamental.

Conclusion: The existence of God is extremely improbable [from (P1), (I1), and (I2)].

I don’t think this argument works and here’s why:

(P1) – There are two problems in the first premise.  Firstly, it seems to me to be ambiguous.   Just what does the author mean by “complex phenomena”?  In the opening part of the article, the author says:

“Natural phenomena often seem to be extremely complex.”

Notice the author is talking about natural phenomena.  In other words the author is talking about physical features–cells, flagellums, etc.  This is further evidenced by what the author goes on to say:

“But when scientific explanation is found, the complexity is invariably seen to originate from some simple fundamental principle.  The incredible complexity of the biological world, for example, is beautifully explained by a simple process of random mutations and non-random natural selection.”

Again, notice that the author is talking about physical features; specifically physical features that can be given naturalistic explanations.  Now, it seems easy enough to see why things like cells, fegellem, and car engines are complex phenomena: they all have physical parts arranged in a fashion unlikely to have arisen by chance alone.  But how could it be said that God is a “complex phenomenon”?  That’s the crucial question that needs to be answered.  The engine in my car is pretty complex, and it’d be foolish of me to think it was by pure luck that all the parts randomly and for no apparent reason, formed into the car engine that powers my car.  A more likely story is that a team of engineers designed it, and it was pieced together in a factory. Hence we have a naturalistic explanation for the origin of my engine.   But how might this apply to God? God does not have physical parts that are arranged in some fashion.  It seems really hard to conceive of a way in which God is complex in a way relevant to the author’s argument.  But we’ll examine this a bit more in (P3).

The second problem with (P1) is that with respect to God, it seems likely false.  Suppose we determine that God is complex in a way relevant to the author’s argument.  Why think this would entail that God’s existence is improbable?   There is a strong tradition of Christians who have argued that God is a necessary being.  They have argued that it is not even possible that God not exist.  So even if we discovered that God were complex in some way relevant to the author’s argument, it still wouldn’t follow that God’s existence was improbable.  Now, of course the author might disagree with the claim that God is a necessary being, but then he would actually need to present an argument against this.

(P2a) and (P2b) – I’ll accept.

(P3) – is problematic as well.  The question we’ve got to ask is: How might God’s consciousness be complex in the same way that physical objects (or “complex phenomena”) are complex?   Here’s where the irrelevancy of (P1) comes in.  As pointed out above, in arguing for (P1) the author references physical features.   However, in (P3) the author is appealing to consciousness.   Consciousness itself is not a physical feature because it lacks physical properties.  I might feel pain when I get pricked by a physical needle, for example, but my feeling pain is not a physical event.  I cannot examine or burn, my  feeling pain, for example, because it doesn’t have physical properties.  Now, the author might be holding to a Mind-Brain Identity Theory—the view that mental states are identical to physical brain states.  If so, this would make a wonderful argument for the complexity of human consciousness, but remember, the author is supposed to be arguing that God’s consciousness is complex.  God, if he exists, is not a physical being, thus he has no physical brain for his mental states to be identical with.  So clearly that doesn’t work.

But let’s move on here…  How might we say that God’s consciousness is complex?  Well, says the author,

To see that consciousness itself is complex, consider that consciousness requires the ability to store and access information that is linked together in many intricate ways as well as the ability to process that information and to reason. The web of intricately interconnected data that consciousness requires is extremely complex.

But notice, he hasn’t argued for this point at all.  He just asserts it.  What’s worst is we never find out just what “intricately interconnected data” amounts to or why it should be considered “complex phenomena.”  Plus, when we take into account the fact that God is not a physical being, it becomes really hard to see how any part of him could be considered “complex phenomena.”  

Now, I suspect that ultimately what the author is attempting to argue is that mind has an organization about it that seems unlikely to have arisen apart from a designer (whether that designer be God or evolution).  Since God displays this ‘mental organization,’ and since God is not designed, then it is unlikely that God exists.   But then, again, he’d need to reply to the long tradition that God is a necessary being.  So on the whole, his argument seems to fail.

Written by Tim

January 14, 2010 at 7:03 am

You Can’t Prove a Universal Negative!…Or can you?

with 2 comments

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m a Bible thump’n evangelical Christian, but I have to point out bad arguments when I see them…even when they come from Christians.  In fact, I think I ought to be harder on Christians then I am non-Christians.  After all, we are supposed to be in possession of the most complete and cogent world view.  So why would we need to propound bad arguments?  So here’s a bad argument that I’ll seen thrown around a bit.  It goes something like this: 

Atheist: God doesn’t exist.

Theist: But you cannot prove a universal negative, so you cannot know that God doesn’t exist.  In order to know that God didn’t exist, you’d have to examine the whole universe.  But you cannot do that so you cannot know that God exist 

My dear Christian brothers and sisters, if you are using this argument, STOP!!  Do not pass go, do not collect $200…  It’s a bad argument.  Why?  Because you can prove a universal negative.  How?  By showing that it’s falsehood involves us in an inconsistency. Here’s an example: 

Universal negative: There are no four-sided circles. 

Now, let’s suppose, for a second that the above sentence were false.  In that case there would be at least one object in the universe that was a four-sided circle.  But how could there be a four-sided circle?  What would it look like exactly?  Try picturing it in your head… Don’t feel bad if you can’t.  In fact you shouldn’t be able to conceive of four-side circle because the concept is contradictory.  By definition circles don’t have sides.  So the existence of a four-sided circle would be inconsistent, hence the above is true. 

Now, in the past atheists have argued that believing in God’s existence is like believing the existence of a four-sided circle.  They argued that God—were He to exist—would be a ‘walking’ contradiction just as our four-sided circle proved to be.  So, for example, atheists argued that God’s omnipotence is contradictory.  You’ve seen the fruits of this argument if you’ve ever been asked the question “Can God create a stone so large he cannot lift it?”  This question shows—or at least it’s supposed to show—that God’s omnipotence is contradictory, thus such a God cannot exist.  Or consider this: 

  1. God is omnipotent, thus He has the power to rid the world of evil.
  2. God is omniscient, thus He knows how to rid the world of evil.
  3. God is omnibenevolent, thus He does not want there to be evil in the world.
  4. There is evil in the world.
  5. Therefore God does not exist 

Again, this is meant to show an inconsistency.  In this case we are told that God’s existence is incompatible with the existence of evil.  Thus either God exists, or evil exist, but not both.  Since we know evil exists, then God cannot exist…or so goes the argument.

 In any case, the point is that atheists have tried to show that God doesn’t exist, and that the whole “you can’t prove a universal negative thing” response simply ignores this fact.

Written by Tim

January 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

Pospositional Truth

leave a comment »

Just read this post from John H. Armstrong on propositional truth.

Unfortunately I wasn’t at the seminar he did 4 years ago (though I would have loved to be there since he sounds like a good and interesting guy), but his post has got me thinking about all the quarrels over propositional truth.  I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.   It seems like most of the issues people raise are based in misunderstanding.

Consider the issues raised by Armstrong.  His beef is with the word “proposition.”  He says there are “loads of problems” with the term.  Many logicians, for example, don’t like to use the word, and it is “hugely” controversial among philosophers.  But why should this present a problem for propositional truth?  He’s right about there being controversy among philosophers, but I think most of that controversy centers on the ontological status of propositions.   Philosophers disagree on whether propositions really exist, and if they (rather than say, sentences, or beliefs) are the proper bearers of truth.  But this whole controversy is irrelevant because believing in what many Christians are calling “propositional truth” does not commit one to the existence of propositions.  What’s important is that something (be it sentences, beliefs, or propositions) is true (or false).  Most Christians who use the term “propositional truth” don’t know anything about the technical issues surrounding propositions—nor is that necessary.  However the debate among philosophers turns out in the end is certainly important, but it will likely have no effect on the standing of propositional truth.

Now I mentioned just now that propositional truth does not commit one to the existence of propositions, but for the sake of argument let’s suppose that it does.  Why would this be a problem exactly?  All this would mean is that the person who believes in it stands on one side of the controversy rather than the other.  But why should this be a problem for propositional truth?  I mean, if you want to go that route, then why not take it a step further and point out that there is also controversy among philosophers over whether God exists, whether we have a mind/soul, or whether there are objective moral values?

Next, Armstrong raises another problem.  He asks us to think about the following syllogism:

Premise 1:  All men are mortal
Premise 2:  Jesus of Nazareth is a man
Conclusion: Therefore Jesus of Nazareth is moral

He then points out that Christ is not mortal in the same sense that any other man is moral.  But why should this be a problem for propositional truth?  If what Armstrong says here is true, then the above syllogism would be unsound, because the first premise would be false.  But that wouldn’t present any problem for propositional truth at all; it would only present a problem for that syllogism.

Next he says that propositional logic attempts to express “complete” propositions.  He finds this to be a problem because he does not think it is always possible to express complete propositions.  Why not? Because Christian truth claims sometimes lead us into mysteries.  Again, I don’t see what the problem is here.  Why think, for example, that expressing “complete” propositions about the Christian faith is incompatible with there being mystery in the faith?  Take the following propositions:

  1. Jesus is God
  2. The Father is God
  3. The Holy Spirit God
  4. Each is not the other
  5. There is only one God.

Surely these are “complete” propositions, yet there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the Trinity. Or consider,

6. The soul is an immaterial substance that interacts with a material body

There is a whole lot of mystery surrounding this as well, even though it is a complete proposition.  …but maybe I’m just misunderstanding what he means by a “complete proposition”?

Lastly, he points out that “Jesus is the truth, not our humanly constructed propositions.”  This is certainly true (Jesus says He’s the truth after all!) but it is, in my estimation, completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.  Nobody that I know of who believes in propositional truth, believes that propositions are the truth.  They believe that proposition are true (or false)–that is to say they believe propositions are truth bearers–but they don’t believe they are the truth.  In fact, I’d venture to say that Armstrong thinks the following proposition is true:

7. Jesus is the truth.

Yet he wouldn’t think that it is the truth. So it seems to me that Armstrong hasn’t said anything in his blog worth worrying about.

Thoughts?

Written by Tim

January 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

An Argument for the Complexity of God? (Part 1)

with one comment

So I’ve finally found an article that presents an argument for the complexity of God. The author of the article is anonymous so for simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to the author as “he” even though I’m fully aware that the author may be a “she.” I’m going to respond to the article in two parts. In the first part I will respond to the author’s objection to the design argument, in the second part I will response to the author’s argument for the complexity of God. Hope you enjoy, and if you happen to know the author of this article, feel free to direct him to my somewhat rough critique!

In the article the author distinguishes between complexity and what he calls “fundamental complexity.” As we shall see, the exact nature of “fundamental complexity” is a bit of a mystery—I’m just not exactly sure what he means by the term—but in any case the idea really presents no problem for intelligent design.

The authors begins the article by noting that though “[n]atural phenomena often seem to be extremely complex…when a scientific explanation is found, the complexity is invariably seen to originate from some simple fundamental principle.” That is to say, complex things like cells and flagellums can be explained in terms of random mutations and natural selection. At first brush, things such a cell seems impossible. However, when you throw natural selection into the mix suddenly it makes the cell’s complexity all the much more palatable. The same goes for many other natural phenomena we find in the world. They may seem very improbable at first, but there always seems to be some underlying principle in terms of which their complexity can be explained. Though these types of phenomena are complex they are not fundamentally complex.

So just what does it mean for something to be fundamentally complex? The author defines it this way:

By “fundamental complexity” I mean that the complexity cannot, even in principle, be explained in simpler terms.

That is to say, a phenomenon is fundamentally complex when it cannot be explained in terms of some underlying principle. Remember the example of the cell above? I said that the complexity of a cell can be explained in terms of random mutations and natural selection. In that case natural selection is the “simpler term” that explains the origin of cells. But suppose there was no simpler term or underlying principle that explained the complexity of a cell. What then? Well, then the cell would be “fundamentally complex” since there would be no underlying principle that explains its complexity. Fundamental complexity is the inability for some natural phenomenon to be explained in “simpler terms.”

Now for some reason the author seems to think this distinction creates a problem for the design argument. He says,

One of the latest incarnations of the Argument from Design, is Behe’s claim that biochemical processes are “irreducibly complex” and therefore a god must have created that complexity.

That’s a pretty crude representation of ID, but we get the point. In any case, what’s the problem with this? Well says the author,

The notion of irreducible complexity is a weaker principle than the notion of fundamental complexity discussed above. It is not enough for Behe to show that a biochemical system is irreducible complex for his conclusion of a designer to follow; he must show that the system is fundamentally complex and he has not done this.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Why on earth would Behe or any other ID proponent need to believe in fundamental complexity? What the author is assuming here is that fundamental complexity is a necessary component of ID. But that’s obviously false. Clearly both evolutionists and ID proponents believe that complexity can be explained in terms of some “underlying principle.” The evolutionist believes that principle is natural selection, while the ID proponent believes it is design. Evolution explains complexity in terms of random mutations and natural selection, while ID does so in terms of design and “intelligent causes.” Nobody needs to claim “fundamental complexity.” In fact, I have a hard time seeing why anyone would ever want to believe in such a thing like fundamental complexity. It really has no bearing on the discussion.

But perhaps the author means to say something different here. Perhaps when the author says that a phenomenon is fundamentally complex when it cannot be explained in “simpler terms” what he really means is that a phenomenon is fundamentally complex when it can’t be explained in naturalistic terms. Maybe he believes the fundamentally complex phenomena are those that have no naturalistic explanations are. He doesn’t spell this out explicitly, but since all his examples refer to natural explanations, (scientific explanations, natural selection, etc.) this seems to be what he means. So going off of this a more accurate definition of “fundamental complexity” would be:

-A phenomenon P is fundamentally complex if and only if P cannot, even in principle, be explained in naturalistic terms.

This definition avoids the problem I raised earlier. Plus, it serves the author’s intended purpose since ID proponents really do appeal to non-naturalist principles in order to explain complex phenomenon (like appealing to a supernatural intelligent designer, for example).

But still, there is something really odd about the author’s argument. Notice that a phenomenon is fundamentally complex only if there is no naturalistic explanation for it. This means that as long as there is some possible naturalistic explanation for a phenomenon, then that phenomenon is not fundamentally complex. So long as some evolutionist can give a naturalistic explanation for P than P is not fundamentally complex. But that’s a strikingly odd (and noticeably biased) claim to make.

Suppose an evolutionist and an ID proponent are discussing the complexity of a cell. The ID proponent tells the evolutionists “See, I think an intelligent designer best explains the enormous complexity we see displayed in a cell.” The evolutionist responds, “But, my dear friend, natural selection still represents a possible naturalistic explanation for the complexity we find in a cell. Therefore intelligent design is false.”

Clearly that would be fallacious reasoning on the part of the evolutionist. The ID proponent doesn’t have to show that there are no possible naturalistic explanations, she only has to show that ID is the best explanation—which is the very same task the evolutionist has. It is not as though the only way for ID to be true is for there to be no naturalistic explanations for complexity. I mean, why couldn’t we just suppose that the reverse is true? Why not suppose that so long as there are non-naturalistic explanations then naturalistic explanations (such as evolution) are false? What if after hearing about evolution and natural selection an ID proponent responded with “Well that’s a nice theory, but ID still represents a possible non-naturalistic explanation for the complexity of biological systems, therefore evolution is false.” Obviously that wouldn’t work for the ID proponent, so why should we allow such a move from an evolutionist?

More importantly, I wonder if the author even realizes his bias here. I doubt he does, and such an attitude is part and parcel of the elitism present in naturalists circles.

One last possibility. Maybe the author thinks that a phenomenon is fundamental complex only if there are no probable naturalistic explanations for that phenomenon. But of course, part of the ID case lies in showing that naturalistic explanations are highly improbable, and that’s a point the author would need to interact with if he wanted to avoid begging the question.

Written by Tim

April 8, 2009 at 5:30 pm

When is the Soul united with the Body?

with 2 comments

At what point does that organism we call a “human being” actually become a human person? A friend and I got into this discussion the other day. Specifically our conversation centered on the issue of when it is that the soul is united with the body and the human organism developing inside the mother can properly be called a person. Personally, I don’t believe that the soul is united with the body at some point after conception…to me that thesis just seems kind of odd. I do freely admit that that thesis is possible, but I’m not too sure it is plausible. It seems to me that the default view we should hold is that when a human being comes into existence, she comes into existence as a complete–albeit immature–human being, body and soul.

Well, what follows is a rough sketch of my very rough thinking on why I lean toward rejecting the ‘soul-body uniting’ thesis: (…and yes I just made that phrase up 🙂 )

Where do I start? I wonder what exactly my soul was doing before God united it with my body? Was it just a disembodied entity somewhere “out there”? If we suppose, for example, that God didn’t unite my soul with my body until three weeks after conception, then where exactly was my soul before God united it with my body, and what exactly was it doing? Well maybe that’s not that great of an objection. Perhaps what we’d want to say here is that my soul hadn’t yet been created. Once God created my soul He united it with my body. In fact, perhaps the concepts “created” and “united” are synonymous in this regard. In any case, maybe the process of life goes something like this: First the human organism developments for n-weeks inside the mother’s womb, then after that time has passed God creates a soul for that organism at which point it becomes an image bearer–a “complete” human being. But why should we suppose that? What would lead us to believe that God waits to make us into, as it were, complete humans? What reason do we have for believing that? It would seem to me that, all things being equal, the more plausible explanation would be that when a human being comes into existence she just is a complete human being—body and soul.

Let’s say that there are two states that a person can be in: He can either be associated with (or “united” to) a soul or he can exist in a state in which body and soul are disassociated ( or “separated”). Let’s call these two states S1 and S2 respectively.

S1 – The state where body and soul are associated or united with each other.
S2 – The state where body and soul are separated or disassociated from one another.

What do we know about S2? Well, I think we have good reason for believing that S2 occurs at death. When we suffer physical death our soul is separated from our body. Or to put it another way, our body dies and our soul continues to have life. Anyone who has died is presumably a disembodied soul that is no longer associated with a body. But here’s the interesting thing: Death is one of the most UNATURAL events that takes place! We were not created to die. Death entered the world as a consequence of sin, and because of sin the whole universe corrodes and decays. When we fell the universe fell with us, and in the end God will redeem us along with all of Creation. That is, in the end God will fix everything; He will put things back the way they are supposed to be. What’s interesting to me is that part of God’s plan to fix everything includes Him raising men bodily. Why do I find this interesting? Well because it means men are not supposed to exist as body and soul “separated.” We’re not meant to be disembodied souls while our bodies decay in the ground. When Christ rose from the dead, He rose bodily , and as He is, so shall we be. So, as human beings we are supposed to exist as a union of body and soul (or body, soul, and spirit if you’re a trichotomist).

Now, what this seems to suggest is that S2 is a completely unnatural state of existence. But what about S1? Well, what we know about S1 follows from what we know about S2. S2 is unnatural, and S1 is completely nature. S1 is how we were meant to exist. If this be the case, then it says a lot for the question, “When is the soul united with the body?” It seems to me that the question presupposes that men start off in S2 and proceed to S1. But as we’ve already seen, we have good reason for supposing that S2 is not the way we are supposed to exist. This being the case, it seems odd to say that we start off in a completely unnatural state and then proceed to our natural one.

Now I do realize that there is a glaring hole in my argument. Namely, it only shows that S2 is unnatural with respect to death. If my argument is successful then it only shows that it is unnatural for a body and soul to be torn apart in that event we called “death.” That is, it shows that only after a body and soul are united is it unnatural for them to be torn apart, but what it doesn’t show is that they didn’t start out that way. It still could be the case that God only unites body and soul after a certain amount of time has passed and that that is completely natural. It’s only when body and soul are united that it becomes unnatural for them to be separated. If this is the case, then we could say that at conception I was just an organism without a soul. However, after n-weeks (we’ll say 3 weeks) God decided to create me a soul, and at that point I became a ‘real’ human being in the image of God. And it is only at that point that it becomes unatural for the body and soul to be seperated.

Now this is true; my argument doesn’t stop that from being a distinct possibility. But my original question was if the thesis is plausible not if it were possible. In other words, the thesis still could be true, but what reason do we have for believing it is true? Why should we believe body and soul start off in a state of separation and are later united? What would prompt us to believe this? I’m really not sure other than to say that it is probably based in Platonic ideas of body and soul. What do you think?

Written by Tim

March 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm