Transcendence of a First Cause

This is the second in a series of posts in which I present traditional arguments for the existence of God as ways of approximating a representation of what is totally beyond representation.

The tactic is a follows. We start with the formula for speaking of that which totally transcends what we can represent. The formula runs: That on which everything we can represent depends for its existence but which depends upon nothing for its existence. We cannot represent the entirety of what we can represent; let alone the unrepresentable upon which it depends. (The kernel of truth in idealism is that we cannot represent representing without locating ourselves in what is represented. The representable is a “box” outside of which we cannot think representationally. )

So, we look for some pervasive representable feature in reality such as motion, causality and order. We call attention to the existential dependency of this representable feature. For instance, in the previous post, I asked for consensus on “motion need not be.” (This is a stage in the argument at which the reader has to reflect on what is talked about to assent or dissent.) We are now thinking of something representable in its dependency relation to the transcendent – something immanent in its dependency upon the transcendent. We extend our representing notion of sufficient reason to the thought of a pervasive feature in a dependence relation to the transcendent to construct an approximation to a representation of the transcendent.

Thus, the argument for an unmoved mover was basically an argument for a sufficient reason for motion. The general assumption is that the transcendent is a sufficient reason for the immanent. But that general assumption gives not even a hint of what the transcendent might be. Focusing on sufficient reasons for specific features of the immanent gives indications something the transcendent might be in order to be a sufficient reason for the specific feature in question. We do not construct representations of the transcendent itself. These are only representations of the transcendent in relation of existential dependency to the immanent.

To illustrate the above, consider a “first cause” argument.

Causality need not be.
There is a sufficient reason for causality.
The sufficient reason for causality cannot be caused.
So, there is an uncaused reason, which can be called a cause, for causality.

I think that it is misleading to say that everyone calls an uncaused cause God. Rather it should be said that everyone calls God, amongst other things, an uncaused cause. Why misleading? Forget about the fact that very, very few people even think about God in this way. It is misleading, in my program for linking the God in religious practice to God in philosophy, to suggest that God is an explanatory entity for pervasive features of the natural world. The notion of God is not invented to explain. Rather we have this inchoate notion of God -the transcendent. Thoughts of a sufficient reason for pervasive features of nature help us add some detail to this notion. We try to discover, albeit always inadequately, what and who God might be.