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God & the Deep Structures of Being (Pre-release Version)

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Joseph Hinman

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God & The Deep Structures Of Being

An Argument for Belief from ‘Transcendental Signifiers’

(Note: This pre-release version contains Chapters 1 & 2 only)

Table of Contents

1. The Argument And The Need For It

2. The Derridan Background Of The Argument

3. The Abductive Argument

4. Are The Laws Of Physics Prescriptive Or Descriptive?

5. Eliminating Alternative Hypotheses

6. Language, Truth, and Logic: Non Physics-Related Organizing Principles

7. Transcendent Mind

8. The Modern View of Reality: Irrational, Incoherent, and Meaningless.

9. Deep Structures Of Being

Copyright Page

 

 

1. The Argument And The Need For It

Western thought has always assumed a logos, a first principle that gives meaning to ambiguity and grounds all knowledge and norms. The concept of logos has been embodied in many different notions over the years, which were collectively referred to by the renowned French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) as “Transcendental Signifiers” (TS). These differing notions all point to a single idea, to one universal and necessary thing that gives order and meaning to all signs and signification; this is usually called the Transcendental Signified (TSED). Humanity has been unable to find any matching candidate for this concept of a TSED in our modern forms of thinking, primarily because we have given up on a logos. Modern science does include a sort of truncated logos in the belief that empirical observations will eliminate all hypotheses until just the true ones are left, and this will eventually give us all the understandings we seek. However, this goal is extremely unlikely to be realized, simply because it cannot. Science is incapable of rendering first principles in such fields as ethics and morality; nor can it delve into the spiritual, phenomenological, or existential arenas, nor into any other aspect of existence that is not immediately verifiable empirically. The stream of contemporary thought known as postmodernism, on the other hand, has (since its origins in the 1960’s) given up the whole project of ‘understanding.’ Postmodernism rejects the concept of truth and seeks to analyze all (seeming) forms of truths as only self-referential language games. Yet, in the very act of refusing a concept of truth, in their attempt to tear down hierarchies, postmodernists are forced to define a Transcendental Signifier of their own, one which Derrida named différance (‘difference’ spelled with an ‘a’).1 This concept, différance, can be understood as referring to the senseless, whirling play of metaphor as language folds back on itself to only self-refer. Or, it may refer to the indefinite, tenuous, and seemingly endless deferral of all meaning.

Over the course of this discussion, I will try to demonstrate that this concept of différance is not an adequate candidate for a logos and only ‘God’ fits with the parameters of the TS. God is the best explanation for hierarchical ordering and therefore offers the most likely correlate for the TS. Or by looking at things in a slightly different manner, I could suggest ‘mind’ is the missing dimension that unites human experience with understanding – and this idea alone should be sufficient to warrant a belief in God.

The Missing Arché

Human thought in general and Western thought in particular has always sought an arché[_ ](pronounced are-kay) which is a first principle or a [_logos _]that[ ]sums everything up and gives meaning to reality. According to Alexander Sissel Kohanski, the Greek notion of _logos was a reference to their efforts at finding a way to understand reality through their observations of the world, “…Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480BC) succeeded best in giving mythos and logos a philosophical meaning in a new world structure and putting man in a position to find his rightful place in it. The problem…to establish the reality of observable phenomena, to uncover its governing force, and to teach man the proper way of relating himself to both.”2 The notion of [logos _]in one form or another was deeply rooted among the Greeks: the stoics, for example, used the term to refer to the divine animating principle pervading the universe.3 William James, in his brilliant book _The Varieties of Religious Experience reflects on Immanuel Kant’s 18th-century notions of categories, “ideas of pure reason” that ground all our ideas and support all concrete knowledge, even though they themselves are not given in sense data:4

…such ideas and others equally abstract, form the background for all our facts, the fountain-head of all the possibilities we conceive of…everything we know is what it is by sharing in the nature of one of these abstractions.We can never look directly at them for they are bodiless and featureless and footless, but we grasp all other things by their means and in handling the real world we should be stricken with helplessness in just so far forth as we might lose these mental objects, these adjectives, these adverbs and predicates and heads of classification and conception.5

James argues these abstract notions are some of the “cardinal facts” of our human existence: we can’t escape them, and we can’t deal with life without them. He talks about Plato and Emerson as examples of thinkers whose grasp of such abstractions defined the nature of ideas in such a way as to both define thought and infuse ideas with a sense of the divine, “treat the moral structure of the universe as a fact worthy of worship.”6 Such notions of links between the concrete and the abstract are replete in human history. Around the turn of the nineteenth (into the twentieth) century, James observed this kind of transcendentalism moving into a scientific venue, “Science in many minds is genuinely taking the place of religion.”7 He discovered schools of thought that viewed the Greek gods as reflections of the abstract ideas. Similarly, in contemporary times, we find some scientists and apologists for scientism talking openly about science replacing religion, or providing a short-cut to God.

The rise of Christianity saw a new and clear interpretation of the logos. Then, with the triumph of modern science, we see the Christian thesis discarded. A new logos, however, needed to be put in its place, and this new, improved TS took the form of the newly-discovered laws of physics. The author, broadcaster, and mathematical physicist Paul Davies explains:

It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion…. People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.8

In the post-Newtonian era (i.e. the early 19th century) the physicist Pierre Laplace reshaped the world of science by removing God from his system, along with all the independent clock-winding and repairing that Newton envisioned his version of God doing. When Napoleon asked how he managed to leave all talk of God out of his scientific theories, Laplace supposedly replied, “I have no need of that hypothesis.”9 On that Laplacian basis, from a desire to prune all hypotheses down to a bare minimum, God was extracted from modern scientific thinking and all the built-in theological assumptions of science, which once were considered unassailable, were removed too. Along with them went a great deal of explanatory power – and all of this was based on the supposedly complete efficacy of cause and effect. Since then, a steady progression toward setting aside any consideration of concepts or final causes has occurred, with the assumption that the laws of physics simply “are”—they’re just “out there somewhere.” God as an explanation has become redundant and unnecessary, and, even if scientists still don’t know where the laws of physics came from, we, as a culture, feel no pressing need to know.10 Alfred North Whitehead, the renowned philosopher and mathematician, had already observed this trend by 1925:

“We are content with superficial orderings from diverse arbitrary starting points. … science which is employed in their development [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoints the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved.”11

According to Paul Davies, physicists generally assume the laws of physics “have some independent reality, prior to the universe they describe,” not in terms of prescribing what nature has to do but in terms of being “the base of the explanatory chain.12 Davies argues that the fine-tuning of the universal constants is an embarrassment to modern physics because it appears as if the universe has been fixed to produce life. In what might appear to be an attempt to cover up, physicists sometimes try to reduce physical laws to something less binding, as we note from this passage in [_The Guardian _]magazine: “The Cambridge cosmologist Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, suggests the laws of physics aren’t absolute and universal, but more akin to local by-laws, varying from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale.”13 Davies adds:

The root cause of all the difficulty can be traced to the fact that both religion and science appeal to some agency outside the universe to explain its law like order…..This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law has its origins in theology. The idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws comes straight out of monotheism, which was the dominant influence in Europe at the time science as we know it was being formulated by Isaac Newton and his contemporaries. Just as classical Christianity presents God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, so physicists envisage their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships. Furthermore, Christians believe the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case. Correspondingly, physicists declare that the universe is governed by eternal laws, but the laws remain impervious to events within the universe.14

However, the model has lost some of its coherence in contemporary times. Science may still find it difficult to move away conceptually from the word ‘law,’ but scientific facts are now often cast in terms of “mere descriptions.” To avoid all the potential implications of a lawgiver, it would appear, science will often vacillate between prescriptive or descriptive understandings of laws. Modern scientific thought therefore lacks the principle of grounding necessary to complete a correlate between our theoretical pictures of the world and an understanding of what actually ‘is.’ Perhaps this is because we’ve given up on the logos. We’ve inherited a worldview with a large, fragmented set of observations, and many principles, but no higher scheme to unite these fragments under a single Transcendental Signifier:

… most cosmologists agree: we don’t need a god-of-the-gaps to make the big bang go bang. It can happen as part of a natural process. A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing? Traditionally, scientists have supposed that the laws of physics were simply imprinted on the universe at its birth, like a maker’s mark. As to their origin, well, that was left unexplained.15

A framework at the top must still be assumed, even if we don’t know precisely what that framework is, because, for those who have given up on the project of truth, it gets so much worse.

Jacques Derrida was perhaps the closest thing to a single, prevalent voice in the philosophical movement known as postmodernism. If we were trying to sum up in one sentence a single thought emblematic of postmodernist views we could do no better than to say (along with the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard) in postmodernism, there are [no _]metanarratives. Derrida, on the other hand, working within the phenomenological heritage of the early 20th-century philosopher Edmond Husserl, and focused on the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, expressed a similar idea in linguistic or semiotic terms, when he made his celebrated statement, “There is _nothing outside of the text.” These two statements express a similar sentiment: a disbelief in any overarching or unifying hierarchy and a stark disavowal that meaning could ever have any more sweeping or wider horizons. Jacob Gabriel Hale tells us:

Given this ontological critique, which Derrida claims pervades all of western philosophy, [he] asserts a sort of post-metaphysical, post-foundational, perspective of reality that is not so much a new philosophy, but rather one that no longer naively accepts the arbitrary metaphysical claims of western thought.”16

Derrida’s view agrees with ours, as stated above, that Western thought has always assumed a logos or a Transcendental Signifier, “For essential reasons the unity of all that allows itself to be attempted today through the most diverse concepts of science and of writing, is in principle, more or less covertly, yet always, determined by an historico-metaphysical epoch of which we merely glimpse the closure.”17 Rather than seeking to destroy all truth, however, Derrida makes a subtler move, hoping to show the modern metaphysical referents to which assumptions of logos pertain are inherently problematic:

To explain the meaning of the transcendental signified with reference to the article itself as well as my previous understanding of this concept, I can say that Derrida assumes that the entire history of Western metaphysics from Plato to the present is founded on a classic, fundamental error. This error is searching for a transcendental signified, an “external point of reference” (like God, religion, reason, science….) upon which one may build a concept or philosophy. This transcendental signified would provide the ultimate meaning and would be the origin of origins. This transcendental signified is centered in the process of interpretation and whatever else is decentered. To Derrida this is a great error because. . . 1. There is no ultimate truth or a unifying element in [the] universe, and thus no ultimate reality (including whatever transcendental signified). What is left is only difference. 2. Any text, in the light of this fact, has almost an infinite number of possible interpretations, and there is no assumed one signified meaning.18

According to Derrida, there is nothing outside of the realm of signifiers we can latch onto, and nothing will ever allow us to pull ourselves out of the vast quagmire of signs and significations. No touchstone of meaning exists outside of the realm of signs because all meanings are based on the shifting sands of signifier and différance.19 Modern thought, therefore, is caught between a rock and a hard place. We find ourselves either trapped within the world of significations, where meaning is always arbitrary and always deferred to the next signifier (which is equally arbitrary), or we’re stuck in a desperate cul-de-sac of scientific reductionisms.

Jacob Gabriel Hale contends that Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) has an answer. Van Til was a philosopher and Reformed theologian who is best known for his ‘Transcendental Argument for God’ (TAG).20 Hale compares Derrida to Van Til. Both men understood modern thought to be trapped in the same dead end, seeking a logos but unable to connect with it. Derrida’s answer, however, is to give up on logos, tear down hierarchies, and be caught like an absurd character in a Beckett play, whereas Van Til understands God to be the true presupposition to logic.21 Van Til fills in the blank with the Christian[_ Logos_]. The Christian tradition has always regarded God as the basis of logic, probably inheriting this idea from the Greeks, and Van Til’s updated version of this Christian insight is reminiscent of Augustine’s much-earlier associations between God and ‘truth.’

St. Augustine (354-430) cites the concept of the Super-Essential Godhead many times in his works, so his understanding is developed in differing contexts. Augustine was a Platonist and, in that regard, perhaps his major innovative move was to place the Platonic forms in the mind of God, a great innovation at the time since it outflanked the Neo-Platonist followers of Plotinus, who had conceived of a form of forms called “the One.” In the Augustinian understanding, “the One,” the form that holds all the other forms within itself, is the mind of God. Augustine never made an argument for the existence of God since, in his view, God is always already known with certainty and immediacy. God is immediately discerned in the apprehension of truth and therefore need not be “proved.” In Augustine’s thought, God is the basis of all truth and the essential medium by which all other truths may be known, and therefore, God could never be the object of questioning about truth.22 The 20th-century theologian, Paul Tillich (1886-1965), reflects on Augustine’s concept:

Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient scepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in ever philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. [God is the presupposition of the question of God. _]This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the _object of a question and not its basis.23

Augustine says God is truth. He doesn’t equate God with being (as Tillich does) but he says God is truth, and, in this way, Augustine’s view is compatible with the mystical, pseudo-Dionysian writings about a century later that focused on the concept of a “Super-Essential Godhead”, and with Paul Tillich’s existential Christian ontology, although Augustine puts the emphasis on God’s name as love, not as being. A neo-Platonist himself, Augustine thought of true reality as existing beyond being, and he also thought God was “beyond being.” These concepts may make limited sense to us in our modern settings since, in our view, to “be” is always to be part of reality, and to “not be” would simply mean being non-real. In Augustine’s Platonic context, by contrast, the “true” reality was considered to be beyond our level, and what we normally think of as “reality” was viewed as only a ‘plane of reflection’ of this truer reality. For Platonists, we are creatures of a mere refection (as in a mud puddle), and the thing reflected that exists beyond our being, and beyond our everyday perceptions of things, is the true reality. In many of his writings, Paul Tillich tries to retrieve this ancient concept by distinguishing between being and existence.24

Augustine, in his meditations on the nature of God and being, looked to a scriptural passage that, many centuries later, the French philosopher Étienne Gilson (1884 – 1978) would also quote in connection with Thomas Aquinas’s views, Exodus 3:14, the description of God’s naming himself for Moses, “I Am Who I Am.”25 Augustine’s conclusions were similar to those of Aquinas – for him, the nature of God’s timeless being becomes a key to identifying God with truth, and the link between God and truth is the Platonic “One.” With that accomplished, it’s a simple matter to define an equivalency between eternal verities (such as truth, eternal being, beauty, etc) and the mind of God. The other half of the equation is God’s revelation of himself as eternal and necessary (evident in the name he gave to Moses) and its relation to Tillich’s being itself – or, if you prefer, the ‘transcendent of being’ in Augustine’s description: “He answers, disclosing himself to creature as Creator, as God to man, as Immortal to mortal, eternal to a thing of time he answers ‘I Am Who I Am…’”26

As we noted, Augustine’s understanding here is very similar to the Thomist principles later described and defined by Gilson:

Gilson … stress[ed] the intuition of being (esse) as the starting point of metaphysics, that is for sure. … {W]ithout this sense of esse, one would not know the “stuff” discussed in metaphysics, just as a blind man could never know what we mean by red and all other arguments involving this notion and its related terms. And especially since metaphysics is the science of ens qua ens (existence), and ens is the composition of essence and esse, to not know what esse is is to not know a lot in metaphysics: at least half or more.27

Problems with T.A.G.

I’m going to present a new argument in this book that also uses the word, ‘transcendental.’ Both mine and Van Til’s ‘Transcendental Argument for God’ argue for belief; the major difference between them is that TAG proceeds from presuppositional apologetic principles while my argument tries to find a more evidential basis. Both arguments, however, assume God is the basis of knowledge and meaning as a first principle. This is simply what is meant by “transcendental” – a philosophical term referring to the bases of systems of thought. My argument will use the TS to attempt to develop an evidential basis for belief while Van Til’s presuppositional arguments simply assume their own truth and reject the presuppositions of other views. (TAG has nothing to say about signifiers.) To understand the insufficiencies of TAG, and thus the need for a new argument, we’ll examine TAG more closely. Greg Bahnsenan, an American Calvinist philosopher, was the champion of TAG.28 Van Til never really made an argument, never stated one explicitly,29 and TAG is essentially an account of the assumptions found implicitly in Van Til’s presuppositional approach. Van Til wanted to give up starting from a point of detached neutrality and attempting to prove truth from there, preferring to just tacitly assert the presuppositions which most Christians believe:

“He maintained that because God, speaking in his word, is the ultimate epistemological starting point, there is no way of arguing for the faith on the basis of something other than the faith itself. God’s authority is ultimate and thus self-attesting.”30

This is the real basis of TAG. The problem is Van Til never really felt the need to ‘prove’ anything, and therefore, TAG tends to be an instant turnoff to nonbelievers. Further, since he never stated his argument clearly, it often seems not quite apparent what those presuppositions are. I appreciate the idea of not being stuck within a false ‘neutrality’ because many nonbelievers, especially among the so-called ‘New Atheists,’ lionize their own assumptions (or, at least, this is true in my experience of dialoguing with them). In my apologetics, I don’t seek for final proof, but try instead to establish a “rational warrant for belief.”

I will present my new argument, in those terms, as a ‘best explanation.’ The approach I’m offering will feature a couple of things TAG doesn’t have. First, by dealing with Derrida’s world of signifiers and his concept of a TS, we are in a better position to insist that God is the presupposition of logic because even the Derrideans agree that all Western metaphysics accepts a TS, and, essentially, the TS is another version of God. The difficulty is in finding a way for a secular thinker to accept that premise. ‘God is the presupposition’ will therefore not be such a great gap to cross if we can start by assuming that the entire Western tradition affirms a God-like premise with its conception of logos. Second, I don’t think Van Til’s version can ever bring us out of his closed-in world of presuppositional assumptions. Van Til asserts that the Triune deity is the presupposition that comes before all logic, truth, and meaning, but why would any unbeliever ever agree with that? My new argument will be successful if it becomes apparent that God is the best explanation for the actuality of meaning.

Modern secular thought can never make the leap outside to find God. Modern thinkers either reject God outright or rely on themselves to be the essential standard for truth. Of course, neither of these views is adequate. But the problem in the first place is precisely the transparency of ‘the problem.’ God is truth. But it’s not always obvious. That fact is too transparent for us. We are, ourselves, too close to the reality. Augustine made a statement that could be considered a kind of transcendental argument, since it assumes God as the presupposition for truth. Paul Tillich summarizes as follows:

Augustine, after he had experienced all the implications of ancient scepticism, gave a classical answer to the problem of the two absolutes: they coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in every philosophical argument; and veritas is God. You cannot deny truth as such because you could do it only in the name of truth, thus establishing truth. And if you establish truth you affirm God. “Where I have found the truth there I have found my God, the truth itself,” Augustine says. The question of the two Ultimates is solved in such a way that the religious Ultimate is presupposed in every philosophical question, including the question of God. ‘God is the presupposition of the question of God.’ This is the ontological solution of the problem of the philosophy of religion. In other words, God can never be reached if he is the object of a question and not its basis.31

One might ask, then, if God is synonymous with truth, why can’t all of us recognize it? The reason is obvious. As with being, we find it too easy to write off presence as “just what is” and then go around looking for this “God,” who can never be found, because we don’t understand he’s already nearer than our inmost being. The point is, of course, God is so basic to our being, such an unthinkably intrinsic part of the existence we share, that we usually don’t see it. We recognize no indications of God, and instead we simply take for granted all those aspects of being that should indicate God’s reality. Some of those indications might be cosmological or logical concepts, such as fine-tuning or modal necessity, while others are experiential. Sceptical thinkers sometimes point out, analogically, that water is physical and it can still be detected, but such is only an analogy and analogies are never proofs. Similarly, I’m not offering a final proof in this discussion, but only hoping to provide clarification of a concept. In so clarifying, however, I think we might establish a link or two of the connection between God and being itself.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), approached being in a similar manner, using his concept of ‘ready-to-hand’ to define being as a phenomenon that is “too basic to notice.” In other words, like a skilled carpenter at work, who is semi-consciously using his tools to implement his project, we become unaware of our context, and being becomes (for us) so much inherently a part of our experience that we are oblivious to it. (Here again, the truth is simply too obvious.) The theologian Tillich, working in a similar philosophical vein to Heidegger, wanted to translate classic Christian theology into modern forms of thought. He agreed with Heidegger that we are too close to being, and being itself is too fundamental to what we are for us to realize our place in it as contingencies based in God. (For Tillich, God was detectable, but not in the same way as a physical object.) Like a fish in water, ‘being’ was, for him, the medium in which all human beings exist. And so, with certain assumptions, we might begin to understand the correlation between our experiences of ‘presence’ and the nature of eternal, necessary being. When we experience the reality of God through the presence of holiness, we experience the nature of being as eternal and necessary, and all we need realize is the necessary aspect of being to realize the reality of God. Tillich writes, in one of his most famous passages:

The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not.”32

These two concepts, “depth of being” and “being itself” are almost synonymous. Depth simply means there’s more to being than is given on the surface, where ‘surface’ refers to the most obvious aspect of things, their sensual qualities, the fact that they exist; the ‘existence’ of any given contingent thing is “superficial,” only on the surface level. But, if we want to go deeper to probe the real nature of being, our exploration must now entail the realization of the eternal and necessary aspect of being. That is to say, we must acknowledge that being has depth. Then, by contrast, we are capable of realizing our own contingent nature and we are thusly (at one and the same time) in recognition of God’s reality. This is why God seems hidden to us. But God is not hiding. According to the well-known philosopher of religion, Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000), “only God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or UN-reflective fashion).”33 Now, the issue as to why God doesn’t hold a “press conference” is related to the fact that God does not normally communicate by violating causal principles. In terms of what is called ‘process thought,’ the communication of God might be understood as the “prehension” of God by human beings. A prehension is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) Since God is in every occasion’s past world, every actual occasion must “prehend” or take account of God.

It should be noted that prehension is a generic mode of perception, not necessarily entailing consciousness or sensory experience. There are two modes of perceptions involved: “perception in the mode of causal efficacy” and “perception in the mode of presentational immediacy.” If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy34 Thus, God is called “invisible”, i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsensory, nonconscious mode of prehension. Now, as to the further question, why is there so much variability in experiences of God? In other words, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, deists, etc.? The answer is, every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are diverse ways in which this datum may be prehended from different perspectives.

I agree with the English philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), who tells us that sense perception never reveals anything about efficient causation or, for that matter, about final causation.35 Nevertheless, even Hume was forced in the end to presuppose some form of causal efficacy, as an inescapable part of his attempt to deny it (i.e, in his relating of sense impressions to awareness).35 Causation can alternately be described as an element of experience itself, in a way that A.N. Whitehead demonstrated, although this kind of experience is not sensory experience. From Hume’s own analysis, Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our bodies, and the non-sensory perception of one’s own past.

All of this perception generally occurs on an unconscious level. In some people, however, the direct prehension of the ‘holy’ rises to the level of conscious experience, and we usually call these people “mystics.” Now, because a small group of people are particularly conscious of God does not mean that God is violating any of the principles of natural causation. Some people are simply more able to conform to God’s initial datum and with greater accuracy than others. I don’t believe God deliberately makes himself known to a chosen few and not to others, as God would then be an elitist. The reasons that I am a theist, instead of, perhaps, an atheist do have some basis in my experiencing some rather exceptional religious or mystical events. They have nothing to do, however, with supernatural experiences that proved anything to me. I do believe that the extraordinary experiences of both ordinary people and the great religious figures are genuine. They conform to the real and true nature of things. It’s not necessary, however, to make a completely “blind leap” of faith, since my religious convictions are partly accepted on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

Of course, the testimony of any single witness can never be ‘final proof,’ but, at the same time, if there were millions of witnesses all having similar experiences at differing levels, ranging from a vague or generally intuitive sense of well-being to a deeply mystical understanding, then the argument is strong that God is interacting with “human hearts” (i.e. acting at deep psychological levels). And the experiences of those who witness such interactions become the best evidence for our conclusion. This does not, however, completely remove the usefulness of making formal arguments. Such arguments could be constructed as purely inductive ones based on our various religious experiences. But those would leave us with greater uncertainties. While deductive veracity is a stronger assurance of truth than inductive repetition, for a deduction to be effective, it must also be shown that all its premises are true, which might be difficult if there is no basis in empirical facts. For example, we cannot prove by observation whether the moon was originally a fragment of Earth or a captured meteorite (unless and until we become capable of time travel!). But we might still deduce a theory that makes sense. Similarly for inductive arguments and belief in God, we might never know with certainty, yet, we might have an indication of what seems reasonable. In this sense, deduction might give us a “rational warrant for belief.” The difference between proof and warrant, in this case, is very much like the difference between knowing with certainty how the moon came to be, as opposed to reaching a rational conclusion about the moon’s origins using deductive (along with some empirical) forms of reasoning. So, if someone asks us, “What does warrant give you in terms of belief in God?” we could reply, “Well, it doesn’t prove anything, but it may clear away some unfounded assumptions so we can come to terms with God on an existential basis.”

The Argument

Thesis: Mind is the missing dimension that makes sense out of the TS. And ‘TS plus mind = God.’

P1. Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must presuppose organizing principles (OP’s)

P2. OP’s are summed up in the TS

P3. Modern Thought rejects TS outright or removes from it all aspects of mind.

4. Therefore, modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe.

P5. Minds organize and communicate meaning

6. Therefore universal mind, offers the best understanding of TS

P7. Concept of God unites TS with universal mind and offers the best explanation for a view that is rational, coherent, and meaningful (RCM).

Defending the premises of the argument:

(P1) Any rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose organizing principles (OP’s)

OP’s make sense of the universe and explain hierarchies of conceptualization: effects need causes, conclusions are mandated by premises, meaning in language is organized by the rules of its grammars, and so on. (RCM [rational, coherent, and meaningful] = hierarchical order). This premise is rooted directly in observation, and a coherent view of the universe requires both OP’s and observations. A rational view needs a principle that organizes reality at the top according to at least some of the elements of reason, logic or math, which is a fact that should be obvious. At this point, someone might suggest that mine is a sort of design argument. Or that it’s invoking the well-known claim that, “laws imply a law giver.” But neither of these is the case. In their 1996 book, Jerome E. Bickenbach and Jacqueline M. Davis show that the syllogism, ‘laws require a law-giver,’ is a fallacy of equivocation, since modern scientists no longer intend the word “laws” to be understood in the same sense as the early scientists. Such figures as Newton and Boyle had in mind a divine command directing the universe to behave in a certain way, and the use of the word “law” in science today is a holdover from this earlier age: 36

“The laws of physics, and other scientifically discovered laws of nature are principles formulated by scientists (not prescribed by lawmakers) in order to describe regularities and patterns observed in the natural world…while there may be a God this is not shown by taking the existence of laws of nature as evidence.”37

Whether physical laws are evidence of God or not remains to be seen, but my premise here is neither part of a design argument nor a reference to the above-mentioned syllogism.

First, the inference is not drawn from the concept of design. Design arguments are inferred either from fitness, function, or resemblance to things we know are designed. The premise also turns on order, so there may be some overlap with design (especially of the third kind). However, we’re not concerned with resemblances to known designs. The issue here is the all-pervasive nature of necessity in relation to every set of contingent orderings.

Premise 1 does not assume a set of rules but suggests a more organic relation. I propose a simple, central, and elegant concept that frames and grounds every metaphysical hierarchy in an all-encompassing first principle. How physical “laws” can be understood in a prescriptive sense while not reducing all descriptive statements to prescriptive ones will be discussed later in Chapter 4.

When I make this argument, an objection often comes up that nothing in science is called an “organizing principle.” One interlocutor (a physicist) was particularly exacerbated by my use of this term. Now, it is true that there is no formal phrase or bit of scientific jargon that scientists use when they speak of “organizing principles,” but scientists do actually talk about them all the time. A Google search we performed on “organizing principle in nature” yielded about 320,000,000 results,38 and, on every page, we found articles by cell biologists, cancer researchers, environmental biologists, mathematicians, physicists, and so forth. We even found a book by a physicist arguing that the scientific thinking of the poet and dramatist, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, is valid in terms of contemporary quantum mechanical theories, and Goethe, of course, talked often about organizing principles.39

An article in Nature entitled “Organizing Principles” talks about a noted experiment in developmental biology carried out by Hilde Mangold, a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Hans Spemann, in Freiburg, Germany, in 1924:

“[This experiment] provided the first unambiguous evidence that cell and tissue fate can be determined by signals received from other cells. [It] therefore demonstrated the existence of an organizer that instructs both neutralization and dorsalization, and showed that cells can adopt their developmental fate according to their position when instructed by other cells.”40

M.J. Bissell, et al, discuss malignancy in breast cancer. “A considerable body of evidence now shows that cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions are essential organizing principles that help define the nature of the tissue context, and play a crucial role in regulating homoeostasis and tissue specificity.41 All objects in nature are connected to other objects. This can be demonstrated easily enough, as William Graham makes clear in discussing “Nature’s Organizing Principles.”42 He turns to ecosystems as an example. Fish in a school function by an individually-possessed set of common principles such that they act in unison without a leader. These are not evidences of God, nor do they provide a basis for an argument from design. They merely serve to bring home the point that there are organizing principles about. I realize this general, informal use of the term does not imply the OP’s that I infer exist. But, as is clear, there are plenty of structures that organize and help determine the way things work, even if we still don’t have much understanding about what is organizing the OP’s. In any case, it’s still apparent modern science does seek a logos, or a TS, which will bind the OP’s together, uniting them under one, single, overarching principle.

Another argument against my point here might try to bring up theories of self-organizing mechanisms in nature. “Self-organizing systems,” as they are called, don’t seem to require outside sources to produce themselves, and, hence, would seem a defeater to my principle of the necessity of organizing principles. The answer is, self-organizing systems do exist, that’s true, but they may not be exclusively self-organizing. A self-organizing system is one in which the organization is decentralized or distributed throughout the system: examples include crystallization (snow flakes); swarms of bees or birds; and neural networks. But there are two problems with trying to use this concept of self-organization as an example of organizing without OP’s. First,“self-organizing” is a part of dynamic systems theory, but dynamic laws (e.g. the laws of non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems) operate locally. This suggests the concept of self-organizing systems is inapplicable to extremely large structures, such as universes.43 As Richard Johns relates:

Extending the familiar notion of algorithmic complexity into the context of dynamical systems, we obtain a notion of “dynamical complexity”. A simple theorem then shows that only objects of very low dynamical complexity can self organize, so that living organisms must be of low dynamical complexity. On the other hand, symmetry considerations suggest that living organisms are highly complex, relative to the dynamical laws, due to their large size and high degree of irregularity.44

Secondly, the term “self-organizing” is a misnomer. Systems do not organize themselves; they are organized by pre-existing physical laws and properties. Johns’ article points out that self-organizing systems are limited by “dynamical laws,” which is to say the prior conditions under which the system emerged (i.e. the physical laws that are involved) set a limit on the system. Entropy is one example of a limited form of self-organizing.45 An article in [_Advances in Artificial Life _]by Carlos Gershen and Francis Heylighen states, according to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy in an isolated system can only decrease, and, thus, “[self-organizing] systems cannot be isolated: they require a constant input of matter or energy with low entropy, getting rid of the internally generated entropy through the output of heat(‘dissipation’)”46 A philosopher of science with a keen interest in self-organizing, John Collier, writes, “Self-organization requires an entropy gradient that is external. But this need contain no further organization…”47 He goes on to say that new “selves” can emerge within a system but (as was stated above) this emergence does depend upon external forces. Another article deals with self-organizing systems and questions of identity, and Collier defines self-organizing in it thusly

“… a process by which larger scale (macro) order is formed in a system through the promotion of fluctuations at a smaller (micro) scale via processes inherent in the system dynamics, modulated by interactions between the system and its surroundings.”48

Apparently, Collier’s definition has already rejected the popular misconception that self-organization might infer some kind of unprecedented emergence from nothingness.

Other questions Collier explores in his essay are:

#
p<>. What is the self that organizes?

#
p<>. Why is it a self?

#
p<>. What is it for a process to be inherent to the system dynamics?

#
p<>. What does it mean for interactions with the surroundings to modulate rather than determine or control? Maturana holds that there are no satisfactory answers to the first two of these questions, if for no other reason than that the self that supposedly organizes does not exist at the onset of organization. Self-organization appears to require a sort of lifting oneself by the bootstraps without having even boots at the beginning. Self-organization thus appears to be an oxymoron, or at least a misnomer. Autopoiesis is a self-producing process that presupposes an organized self (Maturana and Varela, 1992: 43ff49).50

Collier asserts Maturana and Varele are wrong: ‘autopoiesis’ does not explain the process of self-organizing. The “new self” that emerges is changed enough to deserve the name “self-organizing,” but its emergence is not a process in which such a self “creates” itself with no dependence on external forces. One need not think of God interacting with these new entities each time a new process comes up, of course. But clearly, there must be a law-like regularity that exists in advance of the effects produced. We’ll explore law-like regularities more in Chapter 4; but, suffice here to say, self-organizing systems do not seem to negate the necessity of a TS.

(P2) OP’s summed up in TS

OP’s can be categorized and understood with regards to a few key principles describing their relations with one another, such as mathematics, language and thought all culminating in one overarching first principle or (are-kay) that makes sense of things. TS’s are first principles, and each vies for status with the others as the absolute and true first principle (TSED).

I’ve already discussed the logos of the Greeks and how they understood that concept. To an extent, Immanuel Kant’s categories and abstract principles also correspond to OP’s, and for Kant, these categories regulate all our understandings. I’ve spoken earlier about Paul Davies and his comment that the laws of physics have replaced God in the minds of modern physicists. And there’s yet another significant aspect of science that adopts a TS, and, in this case, perhaps even yearns for one; i.e. physics’ pursuit of a ‘Theory of Everything.’ In principle at least, the concept of a single, elegant concept that explains everything – accounting for all there is – is exactly what all physicists have always been working on, ever since the beginnings of their discipline. Science journalist, John Horgan writes this about the well-known theoretical physicist, Steven Weinberg:

In his 1993 book Dreams of a Final Theory, he extolled particle physics as the culmination of “the ancient search for those principles that cannot be explained in terms of deeper principles.” He predicted that the convergence of explanations down to simpler and simpler principles will eventually come to an end in a final theory.51

Now some of us might question the scientific veracity, or even the concept, of one, single physicalist principle that reveals the whole truth, and in such a way that truth itself can be seen to be built into the very fabric of nature. Yet, in Dreams of a Final Theory, Weinberg tells us, “this is what our science is about: the discovery of explanations built into the logical structure of nature.”52 Along these lines, David Deutsch, a quantum physicist at Oxford, has produced what is called a ‘constructor theory:’ a single framework hoping to unite all physical theories and eliminate the impossible, in the hope of finding some basic principle that will explain it all.53 Note that, from our perspective, the concepts of uniting theories and meta-laws are also, in fact, organizing principles in themselves, and the ‘meta-law’ sought by Deutch is an obvious form of a Transcendental Signifier. The concepts that physicists use which point us towards the TS are usually thought of, among physicists themselves, as impersonal forces. Yet, following the lines of argument developed here, we can realize that our premises about mind can’t be ruled out by any more limited, physical-only conceptualizations of ‘regularity.’

I’ve talked about TS and OP’s in a seemingly-interchangeable manner above, and someone might ask me, “which is which?” The actual case is a bit complex: the TS is a form of OP. I usually invoke the concept of OP’s to speak about ideas that are well-known either to be naturalistic or, if constructed, involve a notion that no one disputes. An example of the naturalistic sense would be a widely accepted basic concept such as cause and effect, while examples of constructed cases would be bigotry (which most people agree exists) and freedom. The TS is more theoretical, and might be metaphysical, as are such concepts as justice, the absolute, the soul, God, or the Buddha-mind. While it is true that the TS is an organizing principle, I usually reserve the term for more top-level ideas, and/or ones that are not so easily demonstrated, from which some of us perhaps might withhold our assent. If there’s an actual TS, of course, it organizes all the other organizers, i.e. the OP’s, and it also organizes itself. The TS is usually thought of as the next rung up on the metaphysical ladder, but, since the TS also organizes, it must (in another sense) be an OP.

For sensible thought, the TS is necessary, and it can’t be abandoned. As we’ve seen, every attempt to abandon the Transcendental Signifier invariably results in the adoption of a new TS, since (and this seems rather obvious) any new system of thought must reestablish the inevitable concept of a first organizing principle. One example of our ‘replacement theory’ was Derrida’s attempt to break down ethics, which led to the establishment of a new TS for an ethical paradigm; i.e, the concept of “difference.”54 The goal of privileging difference, i.e. emphasizing the positive aspects of human differences as a counter to unjust social hierarchies, becomes the new principle around which an ethical paradigm is constructed. Another example of a new OP coming into existence (this time from science) might be a paradigmatic shift within a particular branch of scientific inquiry. An example of the need for a new TS might be a radical atheist who tries to abolish God from his or her vocabulary, but then finds it necessary to put science there, in that same place, at the center. Or Karl Marx, the 19th century revolutionary ideologist, who made of his ideology a new version of God.

Finally, ‘the TS’ as a term simply stands for the signifier at the top of an assumed metaphysical hierarchy. The actual ‘thing’ at the top of the actual hierarchy is always the TSED, an object of belief to which every TS points. In other words, all Transcendental Signifiers point to one reality at the top, the Transcendental Signified. Every Transcendental Signifier might be wrong, but in any case, there will still be a Transcendental Signified. This is to say, the words describing the ultimate reality may be very tenuous, but nevertheless there must be such a reality. All-pervasiveness and exclusiveness are not, by necessity, parts of the definition pertaining to the TS, but those concepts flow from the TS’s location at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy, and so, for every example of the TS, the referent (i.e. the TSED) is exclusive and one-of-a-kind, as in the case of God.

We can, therefore, understand this tendency of all OP’s to be summed up in and explained by a single TS in a hierarchical ordering, and I call this a “metaphysical hierarchy.” The TS always functions at the top. The concept here plays a major part in my arguments below, because the TS is always the best explanation for the existence of metaphysical hierarchies.

(P3) Modern thought rejects the TS

It would be more technically correct to say that postmodern thought rejects TS. (Note that I’m only using ‘modern’ here in the sense of ‘contemporary’ and no reference is intended to any 20th century academic or aesthetic schools that use that name.) It’s not possible, however, for any system of thought to do without OP’s, and all such attempts will end by establishing a new organizing principle, as we argued with our Derridean example above. (See Chapter 2 below for more discussion of Derrida’s and other postmodern views.) Other forms of modern thought may allow for TS’s (e.g. reason), but typically they don’t allow the TS to be connected to mind. Modern scientific concepts often try to reduce the TS to something (seemingly) more grounded, such as the “laws of physics.” However, this proposed replacement also fails in properly uniting the function of the TS, which provides a coherent hierarchical ordering for the entire universe, with an understanding of what it means to be. In every case, the simple fact remains: we cannot organize without using a principle of organizing.

Jacques Derrida gave the term “Transcendental Signifier” its notoriety, but it simply refers to any of the fundamental and/or universal concepts in human understanding. There are many TS’s because the concept is not limited to one notion, and because the TS always refers to and includes the ultimate first principle. This shows that the concept of TS is addressing areas of reality about which humans possess only very limited knowledge, and that is why there are so many versions of it. The case remains, however, the inevitably hierarchical nature of our speculations must always imply one single first principle. Many different notions have been developed throughout human history: God, the life force, the oversoul, the Buddha-mind, being itself, etc, but they all point to a single principle on top. The discussions and arguments are always about, “ Which one is it?” . . . “Could it be reason?” . . . “God … logic … math?”

(P4) Modern thought fails to provide a rational, coherent, and meaningful view of the universe

In what senses are modern forms of thought incoherent, irrational, and/or meaningless? In most fields, there are forms of coherence and degrees of rationality in place, but certain key elements are often lacking in those areas, and this lack undermines the meaning of the whole. The major difficulty is the inability to explain hierarchical ordering, OP’s, and the TS, at least beyond a certain level of general assumptions. Clearly, OP’s exist in every field of human endeavor, and they all point to some kind of higher framework of rationality and meaning, but modern Western thought cuts off the top by removing mind from the equation, so there are always many loose ends and no possibility exists to find ultimate meaning.

Modern thought does seek a single principle, an arché, to explain everything (or at least one that explains quantum gravity) but does not seek an explanation for thought itself. This disconnection leaves no room for thought to discover connections between the rationality of the system and the real existence of the system. The forces of blind chance are the only guide, and while chance may be all that’s technically required, minds are capable of understanding so much more. Contemporary modes of thought often cast physical systems as a whole into a rational framework, but they are without an ultimate rationale. There is no explanation, furthermore, for existence, in the sense that modern forms of thought cannot or will not pose the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Those kinds of existential questions are hard to answer, but within the assumptions of modern scientific paradigms, they’re almost impossible even to ask. The universe, according to current scientific views, is irrational, and the human need for real explanation seems just a loose end, or, more likely, an accidental glitch happening somewhere along the lines of human evolutionary development.

Organizing is always hierarchical, and, within the context of our attempts to comprehend the possible hierarchies of epistemic answers, there are a number of principles that might be understood as transcendental. Many of them are also good candidates for first principles: mathematics, reason, logic; any of these might be seen as the basic principle upon which all knowledge could be grounded. Humanity has always tried to grasp a means of conceptualizing and connecting with the TS. In every culture, every age, and in every thought tradition, there have been forms of a first axiom that grounds knowledge and life simultaneously.

Aristotle would have recognized this notion:

In every systematic inquiry (method) there are first principles, or causes, or elements. Knowledge and science result from acquiring understanding of these; we think we know something just in case we acquire knowledge of the primary causes, the primary first principles, all the way to the elements. It is clear, then, that in the science of nature as elsewhere, we should try first to determine questions about the first principles. The naturally proper direction of our road is from things better known and clearer to us, to things that are clearer and better known by nature; for the things known to us are not the same as the things known unconditionally (haplôs). Hence it is necessary for us to progress, following this procedure, from the things that are less clear by nature, but clearer to us, towards things that are clearer and better known by nature.55

Axioms or first principles in philosophy are called a priori. These are foundational propositions that cannot be deduced from other propositions. But there appears to be an equivocation in my line of thought. Propositions of reason and concepts of God are two different things. There is a connection, however, between propositions of first principle and the God concept, and this involves the TSED. God is the ultimate first principle. God is the top of the metaphysical hierarchy (as is axiomatic). Thus, any proposition of first principle would bear an intimate relation to the concept of God, if we understand God as the TSED. Whenever we describe God in terms of metaphysical hierarchy or in terms of modal function, God as the TSED is essentially our implication. In this view, God would be the ultimate first principle and all other principles would derive their being and function from God.

The most important lesson to learn from modern irrationality, incoherence and meaninglessness is that we can’t do without a TS. As we’ve seen, Derrida’s attempts to do so simply ended by creating a new TS (difference with an ‘a’). Roger Con Davis elaborates:

“The constant danger of deconstruction is that it falls into the same kinds of hierarchies that it tries to expose. Derrida himself is quite aware of this danger–and his response–which is really a rhetorical response…is to multiply the names under which deconstruction traffics…56

(P5) Minds organize and communicate meaning

I think this point is self-evident. Minds organize and communicate meaning, and nothing else does. I’m not concerned with processes here. If one chooses to believe in “Dennett’s multiple drafts,” or consciousness as brain chemistry, or whatever other theory and/or perspective, it’s not an issue. None of those ideas will affect my argument. In fact, since your view is likely to require some over-arching hierarchical order, it may well end up supporting my argument.

(6) Therefore universal mind offers the best understanding of the TS

Modern views miss the unity of being (the TS, nature of the universe and meaning) exactly because they have disregarded mind and the role of mind as the basis of hierarchy. Minds organize and communicate meaning, but modern thought is missing the connecting link between the TS and the nature of things. Thomas Nagel, in his excellent book Mind and Cosmos, argues that mind is the missing dimension with which modern thought refuses to deal and that is why they’ve never solved the so-called “hard problem” of explaining consciousness.57 Indeed, the subtitle of the book “[_…the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False” _]says it all. Nagel does not argue against evolutionary theories nor other naturalistic declarations, but suggests only that a reductionist understanding of mind will never unlock the secrets of consciousness, because such views are unable to recognize that there is a significant aspect of mind that their methods don’t contend with. This issue of avoidance is not limited to compromising scientific models of the mind/brain interrelationship, according to Nagel, but it “invades our understanding of the entire cosmos and its history…a true appreciation of the difficulty of the problem must eventually change our conception of the place of the physical sciences in describing the natural order.”58 Introducing mind into the calculations of cognitive science may not yield all the solutions, but, if as there are reasons to think, it’s the case that leaving mind out of the equations is a major part of our difficulties, then including mind is probably our best hope of overcoming them.

The elephant in the room, therefore, is the insistence of some physicalist and materialist thinkers on their claim that mind can always be reduced to activities of brains. Many will argue, “How can there be mind without a brain?” Yet there are major neuroscientific researchers who disagree with reductionist views. Raymond Tallis, a former professor at University of Manchester, denounces what he calls the ‘neurohype’: “the claims made on behalf of neuroscience in areas outside those in which it has any kind of explanatory power….”59

The fundamental assumption is that we are our brains and this, I will argue presently, is not true. But this is not the only reason why neuroscience does not tell us what human beings “really” are: it does not even tell us how the brain works, how bits of the brain work, or (even if you accept the dubious assumption that human living could be parcelled up into a number of discrete functions) which bit of the brain is responsible for which function. The rationale for thinking of the kind – “This bit of the brain houses that bit of us…”– is mind-numbingly simplistic.60

Aside from these arguments based in neuroscience, we can come up with much stronger motivations to discount all forms of mind/brain reductionism. Whatever the outcomes for cognitive scientists, only the dimension of mind is capable of explaining “everything,” of uniting all the major elements of human existence: the physical nature of the universe, the moral realm, the semiotic/linguistic realms, the aesthetic, the existential (i.e. the dimension of our being where so-called ‘higher’ meaning and sheer existence meet). Mind is the missing dimension because mind gives purpose. Consciousness seeks understanding. If the top of the metaphysical hierarchy is mind, then meaning and moral precept and/or virtue, and beauty, and all these other aspects could be part of the fabric of what is. The core issue, for us, is therefore not the physical or natural production of mind, but rather its content. The notion of meaning necessitates purpose. Meaning is a communicated purpose that is involved in an utterance, and so the concept also implies consciousness, self-awareness and rationality. These are, of course, all qualities of mind. We can’t prove mind is behind the universe, but otherwise, if we assume only naturalistic ends, we’ll never find any coherence among our OP’s. We can assume a coherent unity among such pervasive principles as moral precepts, our existential sense of meaning, etc. only if we assume mind, and, if a creating mind is responsible for hierarchical ordering, we might then have a rationale for organizing our moral concepts and a purposive existence for humans together with the physical aspects of our existence. All of these will merge into a unity of creative wisdom and purpose, and this unity indicates mind as the best explanation.61 A complete Theory of Everything, therefore, needs to include mind, and the current reductionist models of scientific inquiry only explain mind away. The essential point is, if we don’t link purpose to meaning, we can only define local meanings, only private truths, which are sufficient perhaps for each of us as an individual, but they do not relate us to the whole:

“I came into this world understanding nothing; I saw many things, but what they meant, they only meant that to me. No one else knows my meaning and no one cares nor do I know what those things mean to others. Soon I will be gone. Those things may have meant something to me, but they will soon cease to mean anything to anyone. They and I will soon be forgotten.”

The perspective on life expressed here is truly meaningless: a bare existence based on brute fact only. We must continue to ask the question of meaning, not only because of our personal feelings, but in spite of them. Are the exigencies of our lives simply brute facts or are they deep structures? If they are ‘deep structures,’then they have meaning, since the concept implies a meaning that extends beyond us, and even lives on after us (in one sense or another). Of course, as some of my readers may suggest, my problem could be that I just can’t face life as it is: I can’t swallow the groundless anonymity of life, loss and death so I’ve made something up. (Yes. And with little regard for any amount of perplexity and sophistry that my version may contain.) Well, my response would be . . . neither can they swallow it, and, in fact, no one can! Why do we want to leave things for posterity? Why do we care about how we treat the earth? While it seems many reductionists take an indifferent stance towards meaning, if that’s the case, if they truly revel in meaninglessness, why do they blog? Why go on social media? Why do we concern ourselves with what violence is perpetrated on others or the bigoted things a Presidential candidate may utter? Why? Because—as seems obvious—“meaning for us is not just private, fleeting, and relative!”—and if that were true, we wouldn’t have such a long history of philosophers and other kinds of thinkers seeking after a logos, a TS, or a Theory of Everything.

(P7) The concept of God uniting the TS with universal mind, therefore, offers the best explanation in a view that is ‘rational, coherent, and meaningful’.

God is Derrida’s prime example of a TS. Nancy Murphy and James McClendon, speaking in the context of Derridean modes of thought, write, “Without God, who has been the ultimate Transcendent Signified, there is no central perspective, no objective truth of things, no real thing beyond language.”62 Creating, ordering and sustaining the cosmos, as well as grounding meaning and all reality would require a metaphysical first principal with God-like attributes.

(From the glossary: ‘God’ is defined as the eternal and necessary foundational aspect of being which creates all things, and chooses to do so, found in any many of the world’s religions, including Christianity.)

Summary – “God and Mind”

I’m arguing here for warranted religious belief, for belief in God in a general sense, not in favour of a particular tradition. My personal beliefs are Christian, and I’m committed to Christianity and to having a relationship with Jesus. Yet, I’m bracketing my own views here to deal with these notions in a more general sense. In this perspective, I understand God to be universal mind, which is a core concept within the Christian mystical tradition and in the Orthodox branches of the church, as well as being much-developed by modern theologians such as Paul Tillich,63 John Macquarrie,64 and Hans Urs Von Balthasar.65 Tillich filters this thought through those of the phenomenologist, Martin Heidegger, by saying ‘God is Being Itself.’ Additionally, he incorporates early Christian beliefs tracing back to Pseudo-Dionysus (c. 5th–6th century) when he claims God is “the ground of everything,” i.e. the Super-Essential Godhead that exceeds everything else, including all Platonic ideas and essences. He refers to these Dionysian views as ‘God beyond God.’66 The crucial point to remember from this chapter is, if we want a rational view of the universe, we’ll need to plug mind back into our understanding.

***

1 John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, Bloomington, Indiana: University of aindiana Press, 1997 2. Différance is not God but it functions as aTS

2 Alexander Sissel Kohanski, [_The Greek Mode of Thought In Western Philosophy. _]Rutherford, Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh, Dickinson University press, London, Toronto :Associated University Presses, 1984, 27.

3 [Cambridge Dkctiomary of Philosophy. _]London:[ _]Cambridge University Press, 2nd Edition, 1999, 45.,

4 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study In Human Nature: Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. London, New York, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1905 56

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., 57.

7 Ibid.

8 Paul Davies, “Physics and The Mind of God: the Templeton Prize Address,” First Things, August 1995, Online version URL:https://www.firstthings.com/article/1995/08/003-physics-and-the-mind-of-god-the-templeton-prize-address-24 accessed Nov 25, 2016

9 Taner Edis, The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Physics. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 2nd Printing edition ,June 1, 2002, 107.

Edis is professor of physics at Truman State University.

10 Ibid.

11 Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World. New York: Free Press, 1925, (1953), 76.

12 Paul Davies “When Time Began” New Scientist (oct 9 2004) 4.

13 __________, “Yes The Universe Looks like a Fix, But that Doesn’t Mean God Fixed It,” The Guardian, Monday (25 June 2007) 19.07 ED Online copy, URL:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jun/26/spaceexploration.comment accessed 5/21/16

14 Ibid.

15 __________, “Stephan Hawking’s Big Bang gaps,” The Guardian. (Saturday 4 September 2010) 03.30 EDT

16 Jacob Gabriel Hale, “Derrida, Van Til, and the Metaphysics of Postmodernism,” [_Reformed Perspectives Magazine, _]Volume 6, number 19 (June 30 to July 6, 2004) Third Medellin Ministries, Online Resource URL

http://thirdmill.org/files/reformedperspectives/hall_of_frame/HOF.Hale.Derrida%20and%20VanTil.6.30.04.html accessed 5/17/16

17 Jaques Derrida, The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovonovitch, trans. Gayatri Spivak 1967 in Contemporary Critical Theory, ed. Dan Latimer, 1989, p.166

18 Ayman Elhallaq. “Tramscemdemtal; Signiofioed as the basis of Deconstruction theory,”[_ Literary Theory in Class_],

(July 17, 2005) bloh URL: http://iupengl752-elhallaqayman.blogspot.com/2005/07/transcendental-signified-as-basis-of.html accessed 5/19/16

19 Hale, op cit,

Derrida intentionally spells “difference” with an “a” to remind the reader that the meaning signifier is not based upon an essential correspondence between signifier and signified but is arbitrary and meaning is always referenced by another word that is itself arbitrary. His overall point is that there is no ultimate meaning,

20 Michael R. Butler.“The Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence,” Online resourse, URL:http://butler-harris.org/tag/, viewed 7/3/15.

Mike Butler is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Faculty at Christ College, Lynchburg, Virginia.

21 Ibid

22 Donald Keef, Thomism and the Ontological Theology: A Comparison of Systems. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1971,140.

23 Paul Tillich,[_The Two Types of Philosophy of Religion. _]Theology of Culture,(O.U.P. 1995) Page 13.

 

24 Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, New York: Oxford University Press,1964 12-13.

25 Exodus 3:14

26 Carl Avren Levenson, John Westphal, editors, Reality: Readings in Phlosophy. Indianapolis[_, _]Indiana:Hackett Pulbishing company, inc. 1994, 54

“…St. Augustine’s view that God is _being itself _is based partly upon Platonism (“God is

that which truly is” and partly on the Bible—“I am that I am”). The transcendence of time as a condition of full reality is a central theme…[in Augustine’s work].”

27 Anonymous, “The Metaphysics of St. Thomas

in one easy but not simple lesson”

found at:

http://www.innerexplorations.com/philtext/the.htm

28 Greg L. Bahnsen.[_ Pushing the Antithesis, _]Powder Springs, Georgia: American Vision Inc. 2007Ibid., 6-7

29 Gordon H. Clark, in Nash, op cit 301.

original, Gordon H. Clark, “Apologetics,” Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Carl F. H. Henry, ed.), 140.

30 Butler, op.cit.

31 Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, London, op cit

32 Paul Tillich. [The Shaking of the Foundations. _]Eugene Oregon[: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012, 57._]

33 Charles Hartshorne,[_ The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God,_] New Haven: Yale University press, 1982, 70.

34 Jon Mills. “Harthorne’s Unconscious Ontology,” oneline,URL: http://www.processpsychology.com/new-articles/Whitehead.htm accessed,7/3/15.

35 This is common knowledge of Hume’s take on causality that we don’t see causes at work. This is the point about the billiard balls.

36 Jerome E. Bickenbach and Jackqueline M. Davis, Good Reasons for Better Arguments: An Introduction To The Skills and Values of Critical Thinking. Calgary:[_ _]Broadview Press, 1996, 189.

37 Ibid.

38 Google search, organizing principles in nature, https://www.google.com/#q=organizing+principles+in+nature accessed 5/3/16

39 Henri Bortoft, Wholeness of Nature of The Universe: Goethe’s Way Toward a Science of Conscious Participation in nature. Herdon VA:Lindisfarne Books originally published by Steiner Books,1971, 1985, re-worked version 1992, 69.

Henri Bortoft, (1938 – 29 December 2012) received undergraduate degree at university of Hull then did Postgraduate research at Birbeck College. He studied quantum physics with David Bohm.

40 Barbara Marte, “Milstone 1: Organizing Principles,” [_Nature.Org _](July 1,2004) doi:10.1038/nrn1449

URL: http://www.nature.com/milestones/development/milestones/full/milestone1.html accessed 6/3/16

Marte is senior editor Nature.

41 M.J. Bissell, D.C Radisky, and A. Rizki, “The Organizing Principle:Microenvironmental Influences In The Normal amd Malignant Breast.” Pub Med, NCB, Dec;70(9-10): 2002, 537-46. Online resource URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12492495 accessed 6:3/16

42 William Graham, “Natures Organization Principles,” Nature’s Tangled Web: The Art, Soul, and Science of a Connected Nature. Oct. 30, 2012, Online resource. http://www.freshvista.com/2012/natures-organizing-principles/ accessed 6/3/16.

43 Richard Johns, “”Self Organizations in Dynamical Systems,” Synthese, Volume 181, issue 2,( July, 2011) 255-275

Johns is in the Dpartment of Philosophy, University British Columbia.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid., 258.

46 Carlos Gershen and Francis Heylighen, “When Can We Call A System Self Organizing?” [_Advances in Artificial Life, _]Berlin Heidelberg: Springer, Volume 2801 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2003,

GGershen earned his PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Brussels.

 

47 John Collier, “Self Organization, Individuation, and Identity,” Revue Internationale De Philosophie, 2004/2 (n 228) 151-172, 172.

John Collier is a philosopher at University of Natal. The University of Natalis in Durbin South Africa, it has now become The University of Kwazulu-Natal. Collier is from Canada, he has taught at MIT and published extensively on self organizing systems.

48 Ibid., 151.

49 Huberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varele, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Boston: Sambhala,, 43ff.

50 Collier, “Self Organization…” op. cit

51 John Horgan, “Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg Still dreams of a final Theory,”[_ Scientific American_], (May 1, 2015) Graham is a marine biologist.

Online resourse, URL http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/nobel-laureate-steven-weinberg-still-dreams-of-final-theory/ accessed 9/20/15

John Horgan was a staff writer, A teacher at Stevens Institute of Technology, Horgan is the author of four books, including The End of Science, 1996, re-published with new preface 2015; and The End of War, 2012, paperback published 2014.

52 Steven Weinberg, [Dreams of a Final Theory: Scientists Search For the Ultimate Laws of Nature. _]New York:[ _]Vintage, reprint edition, 1994, 10.

53 Zeeya Merali, ”A Meta-law to rule them all: Physicists Devise a Theory of Everything.” [_Scientific American, _](May 26, 2014) Online Resource URL http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-meta-law-to-rule-them-all-physicists-devise-a-theory-of-everything/ accessed 9/20/15.

54 Derrida misspells différence for special reasons dealing with his theory “deconstruction.” Se chapter three on “the Derridian Background of the Argument.

55 Aristotle, Physics, 184a10–21

56 Con Davis, Roger.[_ Criticism and Culture: The Role of Critique In Modern Literary Theory, _]Harloow, England:Longman Group United Kingdom; 1 edition (April 13, 1995)

57 David Chalmers “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness,” Online resource University of Arizona, URL:

http://consc.net/papers/facing.html accessed 11/25/16

Chalmer’s concept for for summing up the unresolved aspect of consciousness studies, a precise understanding of what conciousness actually is a nd how to understand itat the experioential level, and how it differed from brain function and what causes it,

58 Thomas Nagel, [_Mind and Cosmos:Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,. _]Oxford: Oxford, London: New York University Press, first edition, 2012,3. (see chapter 1). The reason why a rendition of bran functions is not the answer to the hard problem is because the question demands an understanding from the inside out,

59 Raymond Tallis, “Ideas for Godless People” newhumanist.org.uk (Blog—Online Research Volume) 124 Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2009) URL: http://newhumanist.org.uk/2172/neurotrash

 

60 Ibid

61 Ibid.

62 Nancy Murphy and James McClendon Jr.” Distinguishing Modern and Postmodern Theologies.” Modern Theology, 5:3 April 1989, 211

 

63 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology Volume II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 10-11.

64 John MacQuarrie Principles of Christian Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1966. 92,97

65 Hans Urs Von Balthasar “A Resume of My Thought,” in David L. Schindler,Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco:Ignatious Press, 1991, 3.

66 Tillich, op cit

 

2. The Derridean Background Of The Argument

The Derridean background pertains mainly to the deductive argument, but it will aid us in for arguing the abductive version (found in Chapter 3) as well. Originally, I referred to this line of argumentation as my “reverse Derrida argument;” I would agree with Derrida’s premises about the nature of meaning in signifiers, and the consequences for the TS, but attempt to demonstrate that he drew the wrong conclusions.

Jacques Elie Derrida was born in Algeria, French North Africa.1 His greatest accomplishment was the development of a form of semiotic analysis, which had its greatest applications in the field of literary criticism, called “deconstruction.” He was one of the major figures in postmodernism and is still regarded as a major thinker by academics in continental Europe, on the Indian subcontinent, and in Latin America.2 Outside of philosophy and literary criticism, he has been enormously influential in art, architectural theory, and political theory. 3 One of the greatest influences on Derrida was the existentialist philosopher turned phenomenologist, Martin Heidegger.4 When I studied Derrida in my doctoral studies, I was struck by how much of his thought had been anticipated by Heidegger, or was co-opted directly from him.5

Derrida invented deconstruction, although we can find the roots of his idea in many examples of earlier Western thought, most especially in the writings of Charles Sanders Pierce.6 The perspective of deconstruction began with phenomenology-, which was an attempt by some 20th century philosophers to place the observer at the center of awareness and allow sense data to be understood in ways that are not predetermined by preconceived categories. The phenomenological idea is that the data will form its own categories. Attempts to gather sense data and herd it into preselected categories will bias reality. In vernacular, one might say “don’t pigeon-hole, but remain open to possibilities, no matter how familiar or obvious we think the answer might be.” The attempt to preselect categories of knowledge is what Heidegger calls “metaphysics.” In this strict, Heideggerian sense, even science conforms to metaphysics.7

The discipline of ‘phenomenology’ can be defined as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology means the study of ‘phenomena’: the appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, the ways we experience things, and by extension, the meanings that things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious perceptions as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. This field of philosophy can thus be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action), and so on..8

Derrida, from the beginning of his career in the 1960’s, sought to explicate the end of Western metaphysics, or, as we said in the previous chapter, he wanted to “overcome the tradition of Western metaphysics.”9He, like most of the postmoderns, believed the paths along which Western metaphysics had led us were dead ends. By now, we’ve run out of metaphysics. We’ve not run out of scientific discoveries in the sense that there’s plenty of facts left to discover, but in another way, we have run out of science because scientific reductionism has lowered our expectations of the kind of truths we’ll find. Derrida’s beef, however, was not with science. A major segment of postmodernism did try to attack science until they were swept away in the 1990’s by Alan Sokal’s scathing, famous article (a.k.a. “the Sokal Hoax”).10 But Derrida was not one of them.

Derrida’s philosophy argues that Western metaphysics has always been predicated on an organizing principal that orders reality and organizes sense data. The typical example is the Platonic mode of thinking found in Plato’s Dialogues. William James summarizes from his Gifford Lectures:

“Plato gave so brilliant and impressive a defence of this common human feeling, that the doctrine of the reality of abstract objects has been known as the [P]latonic theory of ideas ever since. Abstract Beauty, for example, is for Plato a perfectly definite individual being, of which the intellect is aware as of something additional to all the perishing beauties of the earth. ”The true order of going,” he says, in the often quoted passage in his ‘Banquet,’ “is to use the beauties of earth as steps along which one mounts upwards for the sake of that other Beauty, going from one to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair actions to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute Beauty, and at last knows what the essence of Beauty is.” In our last lecture we had a glimpse of the way in which a platonizing writer like Emerson may treat the abstract divineness of things, the moral structure of the universe, as a fact worthy of worship. In those various churches without a God which today are spreading through the world under the name of ethical societies, we have a similar worship of the abstract divine, the moral law believed in as an ultimate object.”11

In Derrida’s thought, the Platonic notion of “ideas” becomes what he refers to as the “myth of presence,” invoking the notion that, in language, meaning is erroneously thought to be ‘present’ within the signifier, i.e. within the sign itself. In other words, when we call a tree a ‘t-r-e-e’ in the belief that it has some kind of “treeness,” we are mistaken and our thought pattern is a holdover from the ancient Platonic forms, which represent, of course, the exact, ‘meaningful’ kinds of understandings that Derrida opposes.

For him, this form of metaphysical misunderstanding, the myth of presence, forms the entire basis of all Western metaphysics. Plato says that, prior to birth, we are in contact with the ‘ideas’ or forms, and so knowledge for us is a matter of remembering, not of learning things anew for the first time. (Keep in mind, this applies to abstract ideas such as beauty, not to concrete situations like whether my house or yours is in closer proximity to the store.) But Derrida raises the question, “is speech closer to what we ‘remember’ (in Plato’s sense), or is writing?” Socrates said the spoken word was closer to the ideas inside us, the memory of the forms, and thus the spoken word is better (more true, closer to reality) than the written word. According to Derrida, this (supposed) proximity to presence only betrays the desire of a ‘logocentrist,’ such as Socrates, to find the TS and have it serve as the ultimate basis for, and the justification of logocentric assumptions about ‘presence.’ 12 The spoken word is a stage closer to the mind thinking the ideas spoken,13 and so perhaps is presumed by Socrates (and other logocentrists) to be closer to the forms. One might object that writing is also done by that same mind, but writing, once the living mind is absent, becomes the province of the reader. This supremacy of the spoken word sets up a hierarchy of meaning and importance that continues right down throughout the history of Western culture. We have come, in contemporary times, to value reason as the organizing principle of truth, as the “natural light,” but that’s only because it’s an extension of the old Greek concept of ‘true Platonic knowledge.’

The opposition of the spoken word and the written word is a major aspect of Derridean deconstruction, the one which allows Derrida to turn philosophy back on itself. Philosophy, in the form of writing, is understood as representative of the “light of reason,” or the transparent representation of the original intentionality in the mind of the author. Reason thus becomes an overarching ‘truth regime’ (in Michel Foucault’s well-known phrase) that organizes all reality. Everything is paired up into little hierarchies, and all the hierarchies fit together into one big hierarchy. The pairings are called “binary oppositions.” They take the form of couplets, consisting of the “true” or “correct” term and its supplement: the “false” term, the unimportant addition to the “real thing.” Some examples of these pairings might be: up/down, black/white/ true/false, and male/female. Reason has been construed to be male by postmodernism, so according to these theories, this results in “phalologocentrism.” (The logos – the guiding OP of hierarchy, the source of reason, the organizing principle par excellence – has long been identified historically with the male.) Derrida’s ultimate goal was to destroy reason altogether in hopes that would destroy hierarchy. To achieve this goal, he needed to deconstruct the TS.14 Therefore, he had to prove ‘there is no truth;’ i.e. there is no meaning, and we can’t ‘know’ anything. Derridean postmodernism sees theories of knowledge as something along the lines of a team of archaeologists trying to piece together the fragments of a broken vase. Some will say, “there is a vase here, we just have to find out how the pieces fit.” Others say, “but there might have been two vases.” The postmodernist says “we don’t have all the pieces, so there may not have been a vase, or there may have been 16 vases, we can’t know for sure, there’s no final answer; it’s always going to be a jumble.” The Derridean position is a good philosophical justification for nihilism, with the difference being nihilism takes too much effort. The logical conclusion of a Derridean view, if one were consistent, would be to sit in a chair and say nothing until one starves to death! Of course, in this stance, Derrida was not consistent with himself, because he’s one of philosophy’s most prolific writers. In a well-known quote, with his goal of removing all meaning and reason in mind, he once asked, “Does reason ground itself?” In other words, can we use reason to prove the efficacy of reason?

“Are we obeying the principle of reason when we ask what grounds this principle [reason] which is itself a principle of grounding? We are not – which does not mean that we are disobeying it either. Are we dealing here with a circle or with an abyss? The circle would consist in seeking to account for reason by reason, to reason to the principle of reason, appealing to the principle to make it speak of itself at the very point where, according to Heidegger, the principle of reason says nothing about reason itself. The abyss, the hole, …, the empty gorge would be the impossibility for a principle of grounding to ground itself…Are we to use reason to account for the principle of reason? Is the reason for reason rational?” 15

Lurking behind all of these assumptions about presence, meaning, and reason is a basic rationale for dismissing the possibility of meaning. This rationale is based upon the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure claimed that the meaning of signifiers is always arbitrary. In other words, we don’t call a tree a “t-r-e-e” because it shares in some essence of “treeness,” but simply because we don’t call it a frog or a bat or use some other shape or sound. The meaning of signifiers is arbitrary and thus arises from absence (of higher meaning) not from its presence. Derrida used the phrase différance to refer to this absence, and spelled it with an ‘a’ to mark in symbolism the real nature of meaning in discourse. Meaning is always absent, always put off until the next definition, or, put another way, it’s always vague and confused with other meanings.

To displace meaning, Derrida creates a method of reading a text, a critical tool that would allow him to dissect any hierarchy simply because it is a hierarchy. This tool is known as “deconstruction.” To deconstruct means one takes apart, in the sense of ‘destroy.’ It tears down hierarchies by inverting binary opposition. The method essentially entails finding a contradiction and using it to turn over the rest of the system. One example is the way he uses logic to undermine itself (as seen above). Another is the way he uses the concept of binary opposition, which I have already discussed. Binary opposition, which forms the basis of hierarchy, consists of stacks of couplets, each containing a major term and secondary term:

good

/evil

up /

down

male /

female

The assumption is the term on top is somehow the “major term,” the “real” thing, while the one on the bottom is merely tacked on and somehow inferior. A hierarchical metaphysics is constructed out of these binaries. These are the categories we use to order our perception of sense data and order the world. We can see this kind of hierachizing in the atheist metaphysic of ‘scientism’:

objective /

subjective

empirical /

logical16

logical /

emotional

Derrida attempts to destroy this hierarchy of presence by demonstrating that meaning derives from absence (difference = absence because there is no presence of meaning in the signifier). He finds that meanings are never “present.” Meaning is always absent, always sought after, always differing and deferred. He makes a pun on ‘differ’ and ‘defer.’ Meaning is differed in that language has multiple meanings (which is why he likes puns) and one can never be sure that the meaning of a statement is not still offstage waiting to come on, but even when it does it will only refer to another meaning. Like a child who always asks “why,” the answer is never available, it’s always in the next question, and the next, and the next. Derrida uses the phrase “always already” indicating meaning is already absent[*. *]Deconstruction works by finding a contradiction in a thesis and using that to flip over all the meanings. The classic Derridean example is the distinction in Rousseau between nature and nurture, the natural and civilized. Rousseau says that we can have natural morality, so we can be naturally good and naturally happy by being spontaneous and rooted in nature. He asserts, however, that civilization is also good because it nurtures us and gives us a basis in education and understanding. This is a contradiction and Derrida exploits it by claiming all of Rousseau’s ideas are meaningless. From there, he goes on to try to show all meaning is meaningless. Everything falls apart, there is no grand edifice of truth that can stand up to the onslaught of a deconstructive analysis.

At the same time, many of Derrida’s readers, from bright-eyed, graduate students to grey-haired, tenured professors have come to realize that he is employing the language of metaphysics to critique metaphysics, and in doing so he expects us to derive a certain, stable and coherent meaning from his work.As Nicholas Wolterstorff pointed out, even in his critique of metaphysics, Derrida is still forced to speak the language of metaphysics. Indeed, every concept such as ‘true’ and ‘false’, as well as ‘coherent’ and ‘incoherent’ belong to metaphysical discourses. Even the notion of the ‘sign’ is implicated in metaphysics.17 As a fan of Heidegger, Derrida viewed the context of metaphysics not as indicative of unseen realms of the supernatural, but only as grouping sense data into preconceived categories. However that may be, we cannot cease to do metaphysical thinking without applying the thought-categories necessitated by metaphysical thinking (in same sense that one can only give up smoking if one smokes):

The upshot of Derrida’s thought is not that we should cease the practice of discourse interpretation, but that when we do practice it, as we sometimes should and must, we should recall that we are thereby implicated in systemic error. In that recalling is our freedom, and let it be noticed that the concepts of truth and error themselves belong to metaphysics….We can’t escape the language of metaphysics. 18

Derrida’s objection to metaphysics is predicated on his assault on logic and his claim that logic cannot ground itself. By the same token, for him, metaphysics cannot regulate itself. But, as we will see, Derrida’s rejection of metaphysics also cannot free itself. Metaphysics is simply too all-pervasive.

The inescapable reality of metaphysics is clearly seen in the attempt to develop an ethics based on deconstruction. As an example, a book by Simon Critchley on an implied ethical theory found in deconstruction called The Ethics of Deconstruction, 19 “helped spur what is known as ‘the ethical turn’ in continental [i.e. postmodern] philosophy.” 20 On the topic of deconstructive ethics, the scholar and ethical philosopher, Madeleine Fagan writes, “Racism and genocide are wrong, on this account, once again because they violate a prior ethical principle; not because they violate the concept of human rights but because they ‘discipline the contingent, constitute normality, punish deviance and defy their own logic.’”21 She goes on to connect Critchley’s deconstruction ethics to a politics of difference22: there is no hierarchical truth that makes human rights ‘right,’ but oppression of ‘the Other’ is wrong. (Fagan and the 20th century French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas enshrine the philosophical concept of the Other—a form of difference). Now there may be no positive rule for ethical behaviour in deconstructive ethics, but there must still be a negative rule, and it is one that will inevitably enshrine a positive value, even among the postmodernists. Indeed, such a rule can easily be defined that clearly stakes out “difference” as a positive value, so this brave, new concept will only lead to a different sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” predicament. A negative rule or a commandment against a certain behaviour is always just an oppositely-worded reaffirmation of some opposing behaviour. Similarly (but in a wider sense) to protect against arbitrary re-approbations of their ordering principles (based on their supposed non-hierarchy of values), Derrideans must always end by creating another hierarchy. They cannot avoid it. No one can organize anything at all without a principle of organization.

In other words, the nature of the Transcendental Signifier remains all-pervasive and necessary. To ensure hierarchy doesn’t creep back in, Derrideans have had to create another hierarchy based on a new organizing principle, which is one that privileges ‘not having hierarchy.’ The new rule, however, must also establish a new system of privilege (in favour of the non-hierarchical) and thus will only succeed in creating a new, ‘non-hierarchical’ style of hierarchy. Realizing this, we can flip over the rule given us by the postmodern school, and re-establish hierarchy as our necessary and beneficial foundation. This is to say, instead of making rules against rules, we may need to consider in more depth the ways we think about hierarchy. Instead of mandating exclusion and hegemony by privileged groups, perhaps our understandings of hierarchical orderings might be based on our shared values of empowerment and equality. Derrideans (and postmodernists in general) assume “all-pervasive” always means “totalizing,” but pervasiveness doesn’t have to be totalizing all the time. In proper contexts, it can also be energizing. (A postmodernist might us ask here, “How will we know what will structure our hierarchies properly?”We’ll bracket that for now.) Suffice to point out, the sense in which we call the TS ‘all-pervasive’ is demonstrated when we notice that the TS is equally bound with concepts of cause and effect, and those of predication of premises—and these are not the same thing. Premises don’t ‘cause’ conclusions in the same way friction causes heat. But the concepts are analogous; i.e. “premise” is to “conclusion” just as “cause” is to “effect.” Premises and causes both operate as organizing principals within their particular schema; they are prior ontologically and they mandate outcomes. In this way, we can show there is an overarching hierarchical principle.

I accepted Derrida’s premises in this chapter, but attempted to show that he draws the wrong conclusions. The finding of contradictions does not necessarily invalidate principles, nor can it destroy hierarchy. Contradictions could just as easily indict our understanding without necessarily indicting the actual TS. By the logic of the contradiction inherent in Derrida’s view, the necessity and all-pervasiveness of the TS should as surely mandate the TS as the contradiction would displace it. Thus we can use the mandate of OP’s to flip the ontology back over and show a rational warrant for belief in God.

In abductive terms, the analysis still applies. The all-pervasive nature of the TS, and the assumption of a TS is indicated as the best explanation for the all-pervasive nature of hierarchy.

Summary

Any specific hierarchy can be torn down; but not the concept of hierarchy. We can’t think without organizing our thoughts, and we can’t organize them at all without an organizing principle. If we tear one OP down, another must rise in its place. This realization alone might be a kind of ontological argument for God, since the concept of God is of a first principle that organizes all being. The principle is necessary; the TS can’t be gotten around. Of course, we can’t simply claim the TS is ‘God,’ because, even if we shown that an arché as a first principle is necessary, it’s not been demonstrated to be God. That is to say, the concept doesn’t seem to be ‘God’ out of pure definition. Many commentators would be happy to point out that this ‘God’ has yet be proven to be a person, or even have an intelligence, as would seem essential to our common, everyday concepts of God. Now, we might dispute this claim, but, in the end, it wouldn’t matter. Our original argument only asserted, “what makes the first principle necessary and effectual is the notion that without mind, the universe may be organized, but it is nevertheless irrational, incoherent and meaningless.”

***

1 Leonard Lawlor, “Jacques Derrida”, [_The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy _](Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .. Accessed 7/20/15.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Gavin Rae, “Heidegger’s Influence upon Post Humanism:The Deconstruction of Metaphysics, Technology and the Overcoming of Anthopocentrism.” History of the Human Sciences (February 2014) vol. 27 no. 1 51-69.

Rae is in the Department of Philosophy, American University in Cairo, AUC Avenue, PO Box 74, Cairo 11835, Egypt.

5 Martin Heidegger, Parmenides. Bloominton, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998.

I was privilaged to study Derrida with Alex Argyros, University of Texas at Dallas. Argyros studied with Derrida in Paris before Derrida moved to teach at Yale. Most of what I say as to my undrstanding of Derrida comes from lectures in his classes and private conversations with Dr. Argyros.

6 Russell Daylight, [_What if Derrida was wrong about Saussure? Edinburgh: _]Edinburgh University Press. 2012, 102.

7 Fred Dallmayr, [_Return to Nature?: An Ecological Counterhistory. _]Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011,103.

8 David Woodruff Smith, “Phenomenology”, [_The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy _](Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 7/24/15

9 Jacques Derrida: Critical Assessments of leading Philosophers. Psychology press, edited by Zeynep Direk and Lenard Lawlor, 2002, 174.

10 Alan Sokal,”Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” Social Text (May 1996).

Alan Sokal Physcist NYU wrote a hoax article to bait postmodernists. It succeeded. They affirmed numerous wary ideas because a scientists said them. His slef reveal cameimn the journal  Lingua Franca, It was a major embarrassmement for postmodernism.

11 William James. The Varities of Religious Experience, a Study In Human Nature: Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. London, New York, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1905, 57

12 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p.49.

13 Jonathan Culler, Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism After Structuralism. Ithaca New York: Cornell University Press,1982, 88.

14 Daylight, op cit.

15 Derrida in Criticism and Culture, Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schlefflier, Longman 1991, 20.

16 One might think logic goes over empirical sense it is closer to the logos. But in modern scientific terms the empirical is more important. This does not make empiricists Derridians because they set up their own hierarchy with empiricism at the top.

17 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim That God Speaks. Cambridge University Press, 1995, 162

18 Ibid., 163.

19 Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 3d ed., 2014. originally published 1992)

20 Jeremy Butman, “Jeremy Butman Interviews Simon Critchley: No Exit for Derrida,” [_Los Angelse Review of Books, _](Oct. 9, 2014).

Butman is a graduate student at the new school for social research.

21 Madeleine Fagan, Ethics and Politics After Poststructuralism: Levinas, Derrida, and Nancy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013, 33.

22 Ibid.

 

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God & the Deep Structures of Being (Pre-release Version)

What Does ‘Meaning’ Mean? Hinman raises and negotiates thorny questions here about the nature of God, the nature of being, as well as the amibivalent, sometimes-tense relationship between science and religion in our times. He demonstrates simultaneously how the seeming-intangibility of these issues may affect all modes of contemporary thinking. (The pre-release includes Chapters 1 & 2 from the full book and focuses on a thought-provoking argument to “reverse Derrida;” it insists that every reasonable form of thought has an (implicit, but) absolute requirement for a concept of mind – which is to say, it needs a "Transcendental Signifier."

  • ISBN: 9781370034109
  • Author: EFG Publishing
  • Published: 2017-02-26 02:35:10
  • Words: 17128
God & the Deep Structures of Being (Pre-release Version) God & the Deep Structures of Being (Pre-release Version)