This is the first of six posts published on the opening of this blog. The first four are essentially theoretical in nature and set the ground for all our future posts. They are intended to be read sequentially. Familiarity with them and the page ‘Summary of Hlatky’s view’ will be assumed in posts thereafter.
The fifth post is a short unpublished article by Hlatky. The sixth, which relates to politics, is essentially a footnote to the fifth. Though written two years ago, it has particular relevance to Britain at the moment, and is an example of the practical kinds of issues, situations and events that we intend to cover in the future. Our next post – on climate change – will appear shortly, followed by a post on how one might answer children’s ‘why?’ questions about the big questions of life.
But now to Post 1:
- Hlatky contends that we need, logically, the idea of God to solve the question that has preoccupied humanity over the centuries, namely, the question of the original cause: who or what has brought the universe about (and why, see Post 2). The concept of God combines two ideas: that there is indeed an original – that is, a non-created – cause, and that it is a conscious being.
- What are the alternatives?
- One alternative is that there is no original cause. This is the stance of pantheism. It maintains that all that exists is the ongoing activity represented by the universe. The problem with this view is that it requires us to accept that activity can exist without a cause – and this is never our experience.
- Another alternative is that the original cause is something like the super-dense atom of the Big Bang. The problem with this view is that it requires us to accept that something non-conscious can be an original cause of activity – and, again, this is never our experience.
- Finally, it could be maintained that the whole question is an unanswerable mystery and that we should not bother our heads with it. It is possible to take this stance, but it is a difficult stance to take. Firstly, it requires us to resign ourselves to living our life with a mystery, and with the anxiety attendant on mystery. More crucially, however, it requires us to ignore the fact that our experience of life seems constantly to raise the question of where everything comes from [UR p.84] – as human beings’ interest in the question over the centuries suggests and, indeed, as each new generation of children also demonstrates through its questions to adults on the subject. So it appears that the language-equipped human species has a need to understand the whole reality. [UR Chapter 1]
- What follows here is based on the assumption that the question is answerable.
- The difficulty many people nowadays have with the idea of a conscious original cause – that is, God – as the answer to the question has to do, in Hlatky’s view, with the fact that historically only illogical notions of God and of his purpose have ever been proposed. And because they were illogical, they could only be asserted in an authoritarian manner. They were also, therefore, only capable of being believed blindly.
- Our introduction to the blog outlines how Hlatky’s view of God differs from these other views of God. Most crucially, his view is capable of reasoned belief.
- Specifically, he argues on the basis of the self-evident truth or axiom [UR p.6] that only a conscious being can be an original cause of activity. Since the universe itself is only activity – there is nothing permanent in it – it follows that its original cause must be a conscious being. As argued (see para. 4), to suggest that something non-conscious is at the origin of the universe contradicts this self-evidence. (A stone, for example, can’t move of its own accord.)
- A word of explanation: A self-evidence is a truth that cannot be, and doesn’t need to be, objectively proven or argued for . We all use self-evidences extensively in our everyday lives. Hlatky’s approach is to include self-evidences in our efforts to understand the philosophical question of the original cause.
- What it means in practice is that Hlatky assumes that the original cause (and meaning, see Post 2) must be understandable on the basis of our total everyday experience. By ‘total’, he means both our (subjective) experience of ourselves and our (objective) experience of the world around us. In including subjective experience – such as the experience of being conscious, the experience of love, as well as the experience of needs as a whole – he differs from modern science. On the other hand, Hlatky’s view mirrors science in being reality-based because it is based on our total everyday experience. (Science, ancient or modern, is based on reality – but in the restricted way suggested).
- The fact that Hlatky’s view is reality-based means that it can be checked by anyone against their own total experience. No one has to rely on the authority of another human being.
- Hlatky argues that God is inevitably still something we can only believe in, for the reason that we can’t experience God directly. (Remember, in Hlatky’s view of God, God is the whole and we are parts of that whole. Because we are inside the whole that is God, we self-evidently cannot experience the whole itself. [UR p.17])
- But although God remains a matter of belief, there are reasons – based on the self-evident – that can be given for that belief. So belief in God is no longer a matter of blind belief. (Unfortunately, blind belief has come to be seen as the major alternative to the empirical knowledge of science. As such, belief itself has come to be seen as inferior and to be avoided.)
- A final point. The question is often asked: ‘Yes, but who created God?’ This is a challenge to the idea that there could be any such thing as an original cause. By ‘original’ here is meant, of course, ‘non-created’. But God represents the idea of something non-created, even in the minds of atheists. This is because nothing can be understood if we don’t have a concrete starting-point for our thinking . So, with regard to reality as a whole, either we assume that a concrete starting-point exists, or we assume that reality is a mystery (then we are back to paragraphs 5 and 6 above).
The question of the meaning of the activity that we all experience as the universe will be addressed in the next Post.
1. For a full discussion of the self-evident, see Dialogue 4↩
2. For a lengthy discussion of the term ‘concrete’ and the point being made here, see Dialogue 1; or see UR pp.126-7.↩