Monthly Archives: March 2024

Where is the Supernatural?

My answer to the question of this post’s title is “In two ways the supernatural is wherever we are!” First, the supernatural is a dimension of the human mind’s conceptual framework for representing reality. It goes wherever people go. Second the human mind plots human beings in this dimension of reality represented by the supernatural dimension. I argue for the first in this post and the second has been established in The Supernatural is for Love & Freewill. My argument for the first proceeds by sketching out a plausible way of organizing our thought about the structure of reality while conceding that the category of “supernatural” is demoted by many to being only for the imaginary which cannot be real.

The first answer somes from tracing out the implications of an assumption of a supernatural dimension in a conceptual scheme for representing reality. But giving it provides the occasion for sketching the framework of reality I use. I admit that my outline of reality mirrors an academic’s ideal of a university

In an effort to sketch a conceptual model of Satan, there is a need to outline a a comprehensive model of reality in which the model of Satan is to be placed. This model must provide a supernatural dimension to reality. For whatever else Satan may be, Satan is a supernatural being. In so far as I can speak for common sense,the following is a common sense model of reality for someone who believes in a God. Of course, the articulation of this allegedly common sense conceptual framework is not part of common sense. It is my construction. So, it is appropriate that I write of postualting features of this model.

Is there any point trying to provide a conceptual model for Satan in an atheistic model of reality? Hence, I could use “creation” instead of “reality.” To me it seems more accurate to write “reality as we experience it” or “creation as we experience it.” But for simplicity’s sake, I use unqualified “reality” For my use of “reality as we experience it,” see The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View .

Reality depends on the Transcendent for its existence. The Transcendent, or God, transcends reality and is, hence, not a supernatural reality.

The two main dimensions of reality are the natural and the supernatural.

The supernatural and natural have reality dimensions within them.

The dimensions of the supernatural are the visible and invisible (bodied & disembodied agents)

The dimensions of the natural are the physical, the chemical, living, the sentient, individual intelligence and collective intelligence. The various dimensions of reality contain the material for what exists, the laws for action of what exist and the forces for moving the existing entities according to the laws. In my use of Aristotelian causal concepts: The various dimensions of reality include the material, efficient and formal causes of whatever is or happens in that dimension of reality. I do not hold that elimination of all teleological explantions should be a goal of philosophy of science. For instance, there is no reason for not saying that higher concentrations of an element flow to lower concentrations until a uniform concentration is achieved. Evolutionary theory is based on a drive to replicate although evolutionary theory does not answer whether or not evolution has a purpose.

I am postulating for this model that the natural does not contain any ultimate final causes. In nature, there is no reason why there is any dimension of nature; let alone any reason why there are the dimensions of natural reality. If one only accepts the natural as reality, then nihilism is the correct religious stance. Ultimately, there is no purpose for anything; nothing matters. A philosophical pun tells us matter doesn’t matter.

At first glance, it may seem that my model is biased towards contemporary secular models of reality by separating fact from value and thereby banishing values to subjective states of human consciousness. In nature the only values are those created by humans. In the sense of “nature” used here, I do not locate values in nature. However, I do not banish values from reality. Nature is only one of the major two dimensions of reality. Values are in the supernatural dimension. There is no required separation of fact and value in reality. In many entities the factual dimensions intersect value dimensions. Reflection on the metaphorical use of “dimension” from mathematics reminds us that most curves are not one-dimensional.

The dimensions are connected -intersect-even if we have no clear idea of how they connected. The conceptual inability to represent how one dimension of reality interacts with another are occasions for postulating the emergence of one of the dimensions from the other. For instance, the goal seeking of living entities is hard to understand in terms of physics and chemistry and the lack of spatial dimensions for the mental challenges connecting thoughts and feelings with neurostates. However, simply postulating emergence because we lack an understanding of how it came about is not grounds for dismissing emergence as the correct account of how certain features came about. Unfortunately, even if emergence is a fact, the philosophic problems of how the emergent interacts with that from which it emerges continue to plague philosophy.

Even if an understanding of emergence requires accepting the emergent condition as a final cause for certain arrangements of that from which the emergent condition emerged, that does not contradict my previous claim that there is no ultimate final cause for nature. Emergent natural structures are merely final causes internal to nature; not an external goal giving a purpose for nature as a whole.

The dimensions of reality are not for any specific location of the universe. Wherever in the cosmos we might imagine ourselves to be, we view reality with this conceptual framework. Wherever humans are they are in reality and try to understand reality with these dimensions of reality. So, the supernatural and natural are wherever humans are. Of course, then, the supernatural is wherever humans are. At first glance, it seems I am inflating the tautology about human thinking that if humans have the category of the supernatural, then that category is wherever humans are into a factual claim that the supernatural dimension of reality is populated wherever humans may exist. I admit that in the culture of the West, the temptation is to reserve the supernatural as a framework for “make believe,” “once upon a time,” zombies, vampires, superheroes etc., The culture forces tempting us to reserve the supernatural for fiction are also those tempting us to hold that values are “just made up.”

Before moving on to characterizing what it would be like to have the supernatural populated by non-fictional beings, I want to address a question that might be of interest only to those who study philosophy. The question asks: Why hold that there is a reality beyond this conceptual framework along with words and thoughts when applying it,. For all questions about what to assert and reject are answered by using this conceptual framework? Holding that there is nothing but the conceptual framework can be fairly labeled “idealism” of some sort. It is also fairly clear that some fallacy is involved in interpreting the question “What is our conceptual framework for representing reality?” as “What is used to decide whether a factual claim is warranted?”