March 21, 2006

God Talk… and Robots!

Posted in philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, science, theology at 10:33 pm by Jerry

I just read an interesting article defining “Divine Simplicity“. Out of the many statements that caught my eye, here’s one of them:

[God] cannot harbor any unrealized potentialities, and so must be immutable.

I can accept the idea of God’s personality being immutable (like a statue), but should we understand God’s actions to be like a skipping record?

Maybe God doesn’t relate to Him or Herself in new ways, yet still finds Herself fascinating, I don’t know. But when She decided to communicate to new Beings (us) She had yet to create, didn’t She decide to express Herself in new ways? The quote above assumes God has no free will, there is no new act of God. But if God can create a new universe out of nothing, wouldn’t She be able to create new divine actions out of nothing?

Am I implying in my questions above, “free will” is only for agents capable of creating something new out of nothing? Maybe. But that would mean, if not now then later, our actions will become like skipping records. Who could accept that? I’ve heard it said, “Humans need to have ‘free will’ to avoid being mistaken for robots!”

Well, believe it or not, not all determinists view themselves as robots. Robots and humans both have a hand (program) that guide the glove (body), but the human hand is something more than a robot hand.

The difference is – language can be reduced to numbers by humans, but numbers cannot be made into a language by robots. Languages to robots are nothing more than practical tools any third party can witness being used. But to humans, language has meaning that is experienced on a conscious level where no third party can enter – the subjective. (See the philosophical works of John R. Searle)

The subjectivity of the mind is beyond the reach of empiricists. As of yet, no one has been able to measure our thoughts and feelings. The realm of the mind is left (so far) to rationalists and metaphysicists. Thanks to philosophers such as John R. Searle, the current development, and hot topic (philosophy of the mind), has returned to being a large playground for philosophers, including religious philosophers. Why? The subject is moving towards a rationalized perception of the soul.



  1. Ian H. said,

    I think the idea of the immutability of God is that if He is outside of time, then everything he has ever done and ever will do (from our perspective), he is doing at every instant (because of the outside of time thing). Therefore, he really can’t do anything new, because he’s doing everything all the time.

  2. Jerry said,

    Hi Ian,
    I’ve never understood the premise of God “being outside of time”. When God communicates with people, doesn’t time pass from the beginning of the conversation until the end of the conversation?

  3. jeff said,

    Perceiving the soul rationally? Instead of….irrationally? Or instead of spiritually or mystically? It can be known scientifically and understood vs. a spiritual reality unknown by the finiteness of our minds but known only to God? Just trying to get mind my wrapped around your last comment, “The subject is moving towards a rationalized perception of the soul.” Help me out.

  4. Jerry said,

    Hey Jeff,

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that there would be answers defining what exactly the soul is. Rather, the philosophy of the mind discussion looks like it is moving towards some good questions about what the soul is; and good questions means – “moving towards a rationalized perception of the soul.”

    Does that help out?

    By the way, I don’t think “spiritually or mystically” is necessarily equated with “irrationally”. That’s why I included “Metaphisicists” (speculative, inductive reasoning) with the “Rationalists” (deductive reasoning).

  5. Shuana said,

    One professor I had described the concept of God being outside of Time, by defining Time as a slowing-down of eternity. So, if you visualize this concept on a continuum, Eternity—–Material World of Time—-Eternity. This, he said, was so the soul could experience its eternity, and understand it. (I think that’s a fair approximation of his theory.)

  6. Shuana said,

    oops, sorry about the sentence fragment.

  7. Jerry said,

    Shuana, that is definitely and interesting theory! I have to ponder it…

  8. Theseus said,

    I was checking out the blog after your comments on mine and I thought that I would return the favor. I know some comments have already been made concerining the distinctions you have used but I wish to add some.

    It seems that this post is radically Cartesian. This comes as a huge surprise because I was under the impression that Eastern Spirituality did not have this mind-body dualism in their philosophy. Do not get me wrong, I am, myself, a Dualist of the Thomist persuation, but I think that this Cartesianism has led to some very odd distinctions that I would not necessarily agree with. For instance, your whole Kantian distinction between noumena and phenomena and inner/outer worlds. I would be interested to see another blog that dealt with these beliefs.

  9. Theseus said,

    It was my intention to place this comment on the “Philosophy of Mind” post that was speaking about the connection between the mind and body. I do not know how it ended up here. Please accept my apology.

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