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The state of being

Daniel J. Quinlan | Friday, April 1, 2011

In support of the chain of messages from Ms. Mason and Mr. Nawrocki, I think it is necessary to point out a fatal flaw withthe entire structure of the upcoming “God Debate.” Our modern culture is mistaken in believing that if we think hard and long enough, everything can be supported by human reason, even the nonexistence or existence of God. However, it is ironic that I have come to understand the contrary from one of the greatest contributors to modern philosophy.

In his “Critique of Pure reason,” Immanuel Kant claims that “‘being’ is … not a real predicate.” In other words, a predicate is an attribute belonging to a subject (God, in this case). These would be attributes such as “omnipotent,” “all-knowing,” and “good.” We then associate these attributes to God, the subject of our claim, to say things like “God is omnipotent,” and so on. However, according to Kant, the claim that “God is” or “God exists” does not add anything new to our understanding of God, even whether or not he exists. Asking if God exists would now be as if you had asked yourself whether this newspaper exists. Believe it or not, though you have a perception that this paper exists, the skeptic claims you have no reason to believe that. This is why it is futile to argue with a skeptic. He fails to use reason consistently by drawing into question conclusions and common sense premises you have taken for granted, without any real motivation for doing so, simply to deny your main conclusion.

With this in mind, it seems futile to reduce a demonstration of God’s existence to an academic debate. Because both sides are arguing with nearly incommensurable premises, each side will more than likely conclude that the other side is “unreasonable.” Although I am not against examining either an atheist’s or theist’s reasoning, the competitive structure of a debate suggests that we are looking for one side to come out on top, which in this case, is not possible for the reasons stated above.

Although reason has its limitations, it is not utterly useless. I do not believe that St. Thomas Aquinas thought he had once and for all proved God’s existence in The Five Ways. Rather, he sought to demonstrate that God’s existence can be supported by reason in someone who accepts on faith those natural first principles that Ms. Mason previously mentioned.

Though it may be difficult to grasp what we cannot directly sense, God does not “hide” to avoid being found. Rather, God is a personal being, and He seeks us out in order to have a closer, more personal relationship than the distant, remote attitude we have towards any scientific theory found in an academic debate.

In conclusion, if God could be conclusively “proved” at such a venue as the “God Debate,” I would have no more affection for Him than I have for Newton’s law of gravitation.

Daniel J. Quinlan

senior

St. Edward’s Hall

Mar. 31

-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

The state of being

Daniel J. Quinlan | Friday, April 1, 2011

In support of the chain of messages from Ms. Mason and Mr. Nawrocki, I think it is necessary to point out a fatal flaw with the entire structure of the upcoming “God Debate.” Our modern culture is mistaken in believing that if we think hard and long enough, everything can be supported by human reason, even the nonexistence or existence of God. However, it is ironic that I have come to understand the contrary from one of the greatest contributors to modern philosophy.

In his “Critique of Pure reason,” Immanuel Kant claims that “‘being’ is … not a real predicate.” In other words, a predicate is an attribute belonging to a subject (God, in this case). These would be attributes such as “omnipotent,” “all-knowing” and “good.” We then associate these attributes to God, the subject of our claim, to say things like “God is omnipotent,” and so on. However, according to Kant, the claim that “God is” or “God exists” does not add anything new to our understanding of God, even whether or not He exists. Asking if God exists would now be as if you had asked yourself whether this newspaper exists. Believe it or not, though you have a perception that this paper exists, the skeptic claims you have no reason to believe that. This is why it is futile to argue with a skeptic. He fails to use reason consistently by drawing into question conclusions and common sense premises you have taken for granted, without any real motivation for doing so, simply to deny your main conclusion.

With this in mind, it seems futile to reduce a demonstration of God’s existence to an academic debate. Because both sides are arguing with nearly incommensurable premises, each side will more than likely conclude that the other side is “unreasonable.” Although I am not against examining either an atheist’s or theist’s reasoning, the competitive structure of a debate suggests that we are looking for one side to come out on top, which in this case, is not possible for the reasons stated above.

Although reason has its limitations, it is not utterly useless. I do not believe that St. Thomas Aquinas thought he had once and for all proved God’s existence in “The Five Ways.” Rather, he sought to demonstrate that God’s existence can be supported by reason in someone who accepts on faith those natural first principles that Ms. Mason previously mentioned.

Though it may be difficult to grasp what we cannot directly sense, God does not “hide” to avoid being found. Rather, God is a personal being, and He seeks us out in order to have a closer, more personal relationship than the distant, remote attitude we have towards any scientific theory found in an academic debate.

In conclusion, if God could be conclusively “proved” at such a venue as the “God Debate,” I would have no more affection for Him than I have for Newton’s law of gravitation.

Daniel J. Quinlan

senior

St. Edward’s Hall

Mar. 31