Tuesday, February 07, 2017

A Pandeist responds to PB

PB writes:

I agree with pandeistic thought when it posits that both an infinite or all-encompassing Being and a plurality of beings cannot exist simultaneously. There cannot be an all-encompassing Being + beings. The existence of beings obliterates the all-encompassing nature of a hypothetical original Being. Thus, there is either an all-encompassing Being or beings, but not both simultaneously, as each negates the possibility of the existence of the other. We know that beings exist but do not whether an original singular all-encompassing being ever existed. If it did, it transformed from a singular being (the One) into the plurality of beings (the Many). This mechanics of this transformation are inherently problematic because an all-encompassing being would be incapable of consciousness, and therefore experience. An all-encompassing being would be categorically unconscious. Therefore, the question remains as to the cause of the transition from singular to multitudinous being. It could not be any intention or conscious motivation, as an all-encompassing being is devoid of consciousness.

An infinite, all-encompassing, or singularly existing conscious being is a self-negating contradiction. If a being is all-that-exists, it will experience absolutely nothing. Experience is predicated upon at least an operative distinction between an experient and some content of experience, i.e, knower and known. Without perception there is no experience. Perception cannot arise without some form of distinction: a point-of-perspective, for lack of a better phrase. If consciousness is continuous and distributed evenly throughout all being, the net result is, paradoxically, the loss of consciousness. The distinction required for the arising of consciousness, and any distinction at all, would be absent in an all-encompassing being. Consciousness must somehow be separate in order for experience to exist. 

In short, perspectival limitation is required for the existence of consciousness and experience (incidentally, consciousness and experience are always coexisting, if not synonymous). Perspectival limitation also explains the existence of suffering and what we have historically termed "evil". These, contrary to the speculations of pandeism, are not purposed as part of God's experience of not-God. Rather, "evil"/suffering are the inevitable and ineliminable consequence of the limitation required for the existence of consciousness. Suffering is, quite simply, a byproduct of being conscious. There is no conscious experience without suffering or its immediate possibility. As such, there is no state or form of existence free of pain and suffering. Existence is not progressing towards any manner of "heaven". The real distinction is not between a painful existence and a heavenly one, but between being (with its concomitant misery) or nothingness. There is no other alternative. 

Explained as a sequence: 

• The phenomena of experience is dependent upon the phenomena of consciousness.
• Consciousness arises through localization, or perspective.
• Perspective necessitates differentiation (i.e., individuation). 
• Individuation equates to limitation. 
• Limitation necessarily entails vulnerability.
• Vulnerability invariably leads to suffering and what humanity has identified as "evil"(i.e., outcomes that are neither advantageous nor experientially pleasant to a subjective sentient being).

These observations have led to some interesting realizations: (1) the ultimate and original nature of Being does not include consciousness 
but the nothingness of unconsciousness, (2) the arising of consciousness is necessitated by perspectival distinction (limitation), and (3) that what we designate with the term "evil" and the resultant experiential suffering is, in fact, eternal. Suffering is an ineliminable by-product of experiential being.  To experientially exist is to suffer, in some form and degree or another.


I am delighted to receive such a thorough comment to address.

Firstly, let us discuss the experiential nature of existing as an all-encompassing being in a pre-Universal state. Naturally, such a being does not experience actual distinctions, as none have yet come into being for it to distinguish. But this does not mean that it would be impossible for such a being to hypothesize potential distinctions. At the least, if it is aware that it exists at all, it might surmise that an alternative position -- non-existence -- is possible as well. If it is aware of its all-encompassing nature, it might similarly be aware that a less-than all-encompassing nature is likewise an alternate possibility. Both of these positions presuppose awareness, which is itself a precondition to any action which is not purely instinctual (and it is hard to conceive of purely instinctual action leading to so productive thing as our life-bearing Universe.

But, of especial interest, in this context, Pandeism has never been a philosophy which requires absolutes and infinitudes. In the sense raised by noted process philosopher Charles Hartshorne, one may envision the Creator being relatively all-encompassing -- being all-encompassing as to all that actually is, even if not all that can conceptually be, and even if all that is is itself imperfect. Such a being would be inconceivably great, but not infinitely or absolutely so. It would be, perhaps, closer to perfection than anything else we may be able to model or conceive, but would not be an example of perfection itself. (And, indeed, there may be no such thing as "perfection" to be achieved.)

And indeed, the existence of our Universe, if created, is an indisputable indication that our Creator was motivated to effect a change in its situation -- and not just motivated to contemplate a change or plan a change and consider whether to implement it, but as a putatively all-encompassing being absolutely and irresistibly motivated to change. I have written in the past that the compulsion for the Creator to become the Creation and so to obtain existential experience and experiential existence must be a powerful one, perhaps irresistible, like a hunger so intense that it compels the body to digest itself to feed that hunger. And that would indeed be characterizable as a state of suffering.

Now whether we class this suffering as an "evil" seems to be a matter of interpretation.


Johnny G said...

This entire creation argument is predicated on the notion that this supposed original being was conscious, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case or how it could even be possible. There would be no distinctions at all for being that is "all encompassing as to all that actually is." Distinction-less experience is non-experience. It does not follow that a being unacquainted with distinction could even hypothesize about distinction. That is a cognitive leap that just doesn't follow. But all of this is actually a moot point because, as mentioned, consciousness is ultimately born out of differentiation. An undifferentiated being (infinite or not) is an unconscious being- unconscious even to its own existence. If this being was conscious prior to the universe, then some manner of differentiation must have always been, which points to some form of ultimate duality of Being rather than the "oneness" extolled by so many.

Furthermore, the burden is on one postulating a preexistent consciousness to explain the genesis of this divine suffering comprising this irresistible urge to create a universe. This being existed eternally, yet 14 billion years ago it could no longer tolerate this incessant longing? This simply doesn't add up. Interestingly, in accord with my original point, is the inevitability of suffering (of some form or another). Knuje has also realized that suffering is eternal and ineradicable, through his own speculations.

Knuje clearly describes a creator being suffers and cannot extinguish suffering. It can only trade one form for another. For the creation of the universe to be anything other than a tragedy or a crime, it would have to be an experiential upgrade from pre-universe experience. Yet, this universe has consisted of eons of unimaginable suffering of 100 billion people (current estimates of all humans to have ever existed), not to mention innumerable other sentient beings. It is difficult to imagine that the "hunger" of one being could justify the pain, misery, anguish, despair, fear, and utter desolation of countless billions of sentient beings. If there was a preexistent consciousness that directed the universe, it was at minimum entirely irresponsible to risk this disasterous outcome. If it was intelligent and compassionate, it would have continued to endure the "hunger" for eternity as it already must have up until that point. Obviously the problems engendered by the notion of a conscious creator being are more numerous than those of an "instinctual" universe born out of an unconscious quantum foam.

Finally, spirituality is at least partly born out of the desire to transcend the limitations (i.e., suffering) of experiential existence. But, the existence or non-existence of a creator being has absolutely no bearing on the brute existential fact that is suffering. This existence of a creator prior to the universe is entirely inconsequential. You will still suffer various torments and die. And if you don't die, that ever-shifting but ever-present misery will go on ad infinitum and you will desperately wish that you could die. If consciousness doesn't end with death, then Being is essentially locked in an eternal hell, wherein Being is forever driven by its own urge to relieve its suffering, unaware the of futility of such a pursuit.

Knuje said...

That was essentially the philosophy of Philipp Mainländer -- we would call that "Radical Pandeism." But things need not be that bleak; the "suffering" of the Creator might simply be a persistent nagging, an itch which it eventually decides to scratch; and it would bear no culpability at all for the outcome of its becoming if it had no conception of such things prior to the existence of our Universe as Universe.

Johnny G said...

Any preexistent "being" wouldn't have a conception of anything.

Is the original existence of this creator a positive thing? If so, how? How does it qualitatively alter the life of any particular being? In my estimation, other than the fact that there is zero evidence of an initial creative consciousness, its existence has no bearing on anything. In other words, an accidental and indifferent universe (godless) universe would appear identical as this supposedly created universe. This deity, should it exist, is entirely inconsequential.