Following Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn maintains that the mind-body problem is not solvable. His widely read paper, ‘Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem’, begins in the following way:
‘We have been trying for a long time to solve the mind-body problem. It has stubbornly resisted our best efforts. The mystery persists. I think the time has come to admit candidly that we cannot resolve the mystery. But I also think that this very insolubility — or the reason for it — removes the philosophical problem.’
Owen Flanagan has labelled McGinn a ‘mysterian’ about the mind-body problem. Mysterianism, to use such a horrible word, is not confined to the mind-body problem: there are mysterians about the origin of the universe, mysterians about the nature of thinking, and so on.
Taking my cue from the proliferation of such mysterian positions and also from the spectacular failure of the natural theological and atheological arguments to convince the other side, I wonder if we should be mysterians about the problem of rationally resolving whether God exists. One who is a mysterian about this problem maintains that there could (epistemic sense of ‘could’) not be a rationally compelling argument, one that should convince everyone concerned, for theism or for atheism. And perhaps, as McGinn maintains about the mind-body problem, the very insolubility of the problem of whether God exists removes the problem, that is, removes it as a distinctively philosophical problem.
In his ‘Eternity’ (in Quinn and Taliaferro (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 257-63), Brian Leftow canvasses some of the more prominent arguments for God being in time. Some of these are (quoting Leftow and retaining his labeling):
(b) God is alive. Lives are events. Events must occur in time. So God is in time.
(g) God acts. Actions are events. Again, events must occur in time.
(h) God is a cause. Either causal relations link only events, or they also link agents to events (“agent causality”). If the first, then as events occur only in time, God is in time. If the second, the agent’s action is dated at the time of the effect. So if God has any temporal effects as an agent cause, He is in time. (pp. 260-61)
Leftow notes that all of these arguments assume that:
(E) Events must occur in time.
He thinks that all of the arguments for this assumption are bad arguments. I think he is wrong about one of them.
One of the standard objections to divine command theory (DCT) can be framed in terms of the following argument.
(1) Necessarily, if God commands that subject S commit action A, then it is ethically right for S to commit A.
(2) Possibly, God commands subject S to commit an act of wanton cruelty.
So, (3) Possibly, it is ethically right for S to commit an act of wanton cruelty.
How should the DCTer respond to this argument?
In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James makes the following claims about mystical experiences:
(1) Mystical states, when developed, usually are and have the right to be, absolutely authoritative over the individuals to whom they come.
(2) No authority emanates from them which should make it a duty for those who stand outside of them to accept their revelations uncritically.
(3) They break down the authority of non-mystical or rationalistic consciousness, based upon the understanding and the senses alone. They show it to be only one kind of consciousness. They open out the possibility of other orders of truth, in which, so far as anything in us vitally responds to them, we may freely continue to have faith. (460-61)
Claim (1) seems to say that mystical experiences give a sort of invulnerable authority, or, one might say, indefeasible warrant, for mystical beliefs (beliefs concerning mystical experiences). Claim (2) might be interepreted, when purged of some unfortunate features, as saying that the warrant spoken of in Claim (1) for mystical beliefs is not transmissible by testimony from the one who experienced the mystical state to one who has not.
Whether or not this is an accurate interpretation of James, I would like to ask: how should we understand James’s use of ‘authority’ in Claim (1) and does this understanding fit with Claim (2)?
In a previous entry, on Baldwin’s counter-ontological argument, I considered whether there might be divine twins, that is, two co-existing individuals sharing all of their repeatable intrinsic properties, which are the traditional perfections. One reason for thinking that there couldn’t be two such individuals is that there couldn’t be two co-existing omnipotent agents. I’ve gone through what I’ve written before, and, I think, improved my argument that there could be two omnipotent agents, and I’m posting it below the fold.
In his Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), Philip Quinn terms the claim:
If God did not exist, then everything would be permitted.
‘Karamazov’s Thesis’ (KT). Are divine command theorists committed to KT? And are divine command theorists then committed to saying that if God did not exist, stealing this diamond ring would be permitted?
In his paper, ‘There might be nothing’ Analysis 56: 231-38, Thomas Baldwin gives the following argument, which he terms ‘the counter-ontological argument’:
(1) It is a mark of concrete objects that they do not satisfy the Identity of Indiscernibles. So the identity of a concrete object is not determined by the intrinsic properties which determine what kind of thing it is.
(2) In the case of any being whose existence is necessary, the fact that its existence is necessary is determined by the kind of thing it is, and thus by its intrinsic properties.
(3) For any being whose existence is necessary, the intrinsic properties which determine its existence also determine its identity.
From these premises, it follows that there are no concrete, necessary existents. Now if one supposes also, that is, in addition to (1) – (3), that:
(4) If God exists, he is the sort of thing that can be causally efficacious.
(5) Anything that is the sort of thing that can be causally efficacious is concrete.
(6) If God exists, he is a necessary existent.
It follows that God does not exist. What to do?