Philosophical Proof of God: Derived from Principles in Bernard Lonergan’s Insight [Spitzer Scholarly Article]

Philosophical Proof of God: Derived from Principles in Bernard Lonergan’s Insight [Spitzer Scholarly Article]

Lonergan’s proof may be stated as follows:

If all reality is completely intelligible, then God exists. But all reality is completely intelligible.
Therefore, God exists.
1

We will first prove the minor premise—“all reality is completely intelligible(Section I)and then prove to the major premise—“if all reality is completely intelligible, then God exists(Sections II-V).

Proof of the Minor Premise: All Reality is Completely Intelligible

Step #1—“All Reality must have at least one uncaused reality that exists through itself.”

If there were not at least one uncaused reality in “all reality,then “all realitywould be constituted by only caused realities that is, realities that require a cause to exist. This means that all reality would collectively require a cause in order to exist meaning all reality would not exist because the cause necessary for it to exist would not be real (i.e. would not be part of “all reality”). Therefore, if there is not at least one uncaused reality that exists through itself in “allreality,there would be absolutely nothing in existence. But this is clearly contrary to fact, and so there must exist at least one uncaused reality that exists through itself in “all reality.

It should be noted that it does not matter if one postulates an infinite number of caused realities in “all reality.” If there is not at least one uncaused reality (existing through itself) in “all reality,” this infinite number of realities (collectively) would still not be able to exist, because the cause necessary for them to exist would still not be real – it would not be part of “all reality.”

Step #2—“An Uncaused Reality Must Be a Final and Sufficient Correct Answer to All Coherent Questions”—Making ‘All Reality’ Completely Intelligible.

There is another consequence of the existence of at least one uncaused reality. Anuncaused reality not only enables “all reality” to exist, but also enables “all reality” to be completely intelligible. This can be proven in three steps:

Step# 2.A

Using the above logic, we can also deduce that every real cause-effect series must also have an uncaused reality. If the series did not have an uncaused reality, it would not exist, because it would be constituted only by realities that must be caused in order to exist, and as we saw above, this means that the entire series (even an infinite series) would collectively need a cause to exist. But if an uncaused cause is not in the collective causes and effects in the series, then the collective cause-effect series would be nonexistentmerely hypothetical. Furthermore, this uncaused reality must ultimately terminate every real cause-effect series, because when the cause-effect series reaches a reality that does not need a cause to exist (because it exists through itself), there is by definition no cause prior2 to it. Therefore, an uncaused reality must terminate every real cause-effect series, and as such, no real cause-effect series continues infinitely. Thus, all real cause-effect series are finite insofar as they are terminated by an uncaused reality.

Step #2.B

At this point, Lonergan recognizes something special about a terminating uncaused reality. It is not only an ultimate cause and terminus a quo (the terminus from which any cause- effect series begins), it is also the ultimate answer to all questions of causal explanation – “Why is it so?” What Lonergan sees clearly is that intelligibility follows ontology. By “intelligibility” Lonergan means what makes something capable of being understood that is what makes something “questionable” and “answerable.” If any intelligent inquirer can ask a coherent question about something, and that question has a correct answer that comes from “that something,” then “that something” is intelligible it is capable of providing a correct answer to coherent questions asked about it.

What Lonergan sees in Chapter 19 of Insight3 is that the terminus a quo (beginning) of any cause-effect series must also be the final and sufficient answer to the question for causal explanation – “Why is it so?” So why is an uncaused reality a final and sufficient answer to this question? Inasmuch as an uncaused reality terminates any cause-effect series, it also terminates the possible answers to the question “Why is it so?” asked about that series; and since an uncaused reality exists through itself, it must also explain itself through itself. It is its own answer to the question of its existence. Thus, the terminating answer to the question “Why is it so?” about any cause-effect series is also a completely self-explanatory answer. In this sense, it is both the terminating and sufficient answer to the question, “Why is it so?” for any cause-effect series.

Thus, we will always reach a sufficient end to our questioning for causal explanation (“Why is it so?”), because we will ultimately arrive at an uncaused reality existing through itself—without which all reality would be nothing. Therefore, an uncaused reality must be the final and sufficient answer to every question of causation (“Why is it so?”).

This has a further consequence for Lonergan, because the final answer to the question “Why is it so?” must also be the final answer to all other questions as we shall see in Step 2.C.

Step #2.C.

If there must be a final and sufficient answer to the question “Why is it so?”, there must also be a final and sufficient answer to every other question (e.g. “What?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “How does it operate?” etc.), because the latter is grounded in (dependent on) the former. Without an ultimate cause of existence, there would be literally nothing to be intelligible. There cannot be questions for intelligibility (e.g. “What is it?”) that go beyond the final (ultimate) cause of existence. If there were such questions, their answers would have to be “nothing.” Therefore, a final (ultimate) answer to the question “Why is it so?” must ground the final (ultimate) answer to every other question. The answers to all possible questions must terminate in the final answer to the question “Why is it so?” Since there must exist a final and sufficient answer to the question “Why is it so?” (an uncaused reality existing through itself), there must also be a final and sufficient answer to every other question about reality. The complete set of correct answers to the complete set of questions really must exist and reality, as Lonergan asserts, must therefore be completely intelligible.

Proof of the Major Premise: If All Reality is Completely Intelligible, God Exists

Why does Lonergan believe that if all reality is completely intelligible, then God (i.e. a unique unrestricted reality which is an unrestricted act of thinking) exists? As we saw in the proof of the Minor Premise, all reality must include an uncaused reality that exists through itself.” Without at least one uncaused reality, there would be nothing in all reality. This uncaused reality brings finality to the answers to every question that can be asked about all reality and so makes all reality completely intelligible. Lonergan recognizes that such an uncaused reality must also be unrestricted in its intelligibility, and this requires that it be unique (one and only one) as well as an unrestricted act of thinking, and the Creator of the rest of reality. The proof of these contentions is summarized below in this section and in Sections III, IV, and V.

We now turn to the proof of the first of these contentions namely, that an uncaused reality existing through itself” must be unrestricted in its intelligibility. This may be shown in two steps:

Step #1

An uncaused reality must be unrestricted in its explicability (its capacity to explain itself from within itself). If it were restricted in its capacity to explain itself, then its existence would be at least partially unexplained, which contradicts the nature of a reality that exists through itself (an uncaused reality). Put the other way around, a reality that exists through itself (an uncaused reality) cannot be restricted in its capacity to explain its existence (because that would be a contradiction); therefore, it must be unrestricted in its capacity to explain its existence and so also unrestricted in its explicability.

Step #2

If an uncaused reality is unrestricted in its explicability, then it will be unrestricted in its intelligibility6 -- let’s begin with a logical examination of this contention. This can be analyzed by looking at the necessary logical implication of this proposition namely, that if an uncaused reality is not unrestricted (i.e. is restricted) in its intelligibility, then it cannot be unrestricted (i.e. it must be restricted) in its explicability (modus tollens). In brief, if a reality is restricted in its intelligibility, then it will also be restricted in its explicability. As we saw in Step #1 above, an uncaused reality must be unrestricted in its explicability, otherwise it would be a contradictory state of affairs – “A reality existing through itself that cannot fully explain its existence.” It now remains to show why a restriction in intelligibility implies a restriction of explicability.

What does it mean for a reality to be restricted in intelligibility? It means that the information within a particular reality is not sufficient to completely and correctly answer coherent questions about it – e.g. “What is it?”7 “How does it operate?” “Where can it or will it occur?” “When can it or will it occur?” “How frequently can it or will it occur?” etc. How do we know if a reality is restricted in this way? If any coherent question about a reality cannot be completely and correctly answered without making reference to realities beyond itself, then that reality does not contain within itself the information necessary to answer that question it is restricted in its intelligibility. For example, I cannot completely answer what an electron is without reference to the electromagnetic field through which it operates (which is beyond any given electron). Similarly, I cannot answer questions about where and when an electron will occur without making reference to the space-time field, the specific electromagnetic field, and other electromagnetic constituents in the region (which are all beyond a particular electron). I cannot even understand how an electron operates without making reference to electromagnetic fields and other electromagnetic constituents (which are beyond a particular electron). In view of the fact that many coherent questions about electrons cannot be completely and correctly answered without making reference to realities beyond it, it must be restricted in its intelligibility.

Notice that if the information in a particular reality cannot completely and correctly answer coherent questions (such as what it is, how it operates, where it will occur, when it will occur, and how frequently it will occur, etc) without making reference to realities beyond it, then the information in that reality will also be unable to answer the question “Why does it exist?” without making reference to those same realities beyond it. Let’s go back to our electron. If the question “What is an electron?” cannot be completely and correctly answered without making reference to electromagnetic fields (beyond it), then the answer to the question “Why does that electron exist?” will also not be able to be completely answered without making reference to those electromagnetic fields (beyond it). Similarly, if the questions “Where will it occur?” and “When will it occur?” cannot be completely and correctly answered without making reference to electromagnetic fields and other electromagnetic constituents in the region, then the question “Why does it exist?” will not be able to be completely and correctly answered without making reference to those same electromagnetic fields and constituents (beyond it). This correlation exists between all questions of intelligibility (“What?”, “How?”, “Where?” “When?”, “How frequently?”) and the basic question of explicability (“Why does it exist?”). If the complete and correct answers to questions of intelligibility must make reference to realities beyond it, then the complete and correct answer to the question of explicability must also make reference to those same realities.

What are the ontological implications of the conclusion given immediately above? If the intelligibility of any reality depends on realities beyond it, then the explicability of that reality also depends on these same realities beyond it. In view of the fact that a reality is restricted in intelligibility if its intelligibility depends on realities beyond it, and a reality is restricted in explicability if its explicability is dependent on realities beyond it, then it follows that if a reality is restricted in intelligibility, then it will also be restricted in its explicability.

Now let us return to the proposition under consideration in this section. It follows from the above conclusion by modus tollens if a reality is unrestricted in its explicability (i.e. it does not depend on any realities beyond itself for its explicability), then it must be unrestricted in its intelligibility (does not depend on anything beyond itself for its intelligibility). Therefore it must completely and correctly answer every coherent question of intelligibility and explicability that can be asked of it. Now what are the possible coherent questions for intelligibility and explicability that can be asked of an uncaused reality that exists through itself?

At this juncture, the proof of the minor premise (Section I above) becomes important. Recall that it was proved there that an uncaused reality existing through itself can be the final and sufficient answer to every question about “all reality” as well as every cause-effect series in “all reality.” Now let us return to the conclusion we just drew about the unrestricted intelligibility of an uncaused reality existing through itself. We said it would have to completely and correctly answer from within itself (without making recourse to anything beyond it) all coherent questions of what, how, where, when, and why, etc, that could be asked of it. In light of the minor premise, we now see that this would entail every possible correct answer to every possible question about “all reality” – since it is the final and sufficient answer to all such questions. This means that an uncaused reality existing through itself must be able to completely and correctly answer every possible question that can be asked of all reality which is unrestricted in its scope. There is no answer to any possible coherent question about “all reality” that is not included in it.

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Evidence of God from Contemporary Science & Philosophy [Spitzer Scholarly Article]

Evidence for God from Physics and Philosophy [Spitzer Scholarly Article]

Can Philosophy Provide Evidence for God’s Existence?

 

Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. is a Catholic Priest in the Jesuit order (Society of Jesus) and is currently the President of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center. He has made many TV appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Currently appearing weekly on EWTN in “Father Spitzer’s Universe“.

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