Sunday, August 07, 2016

Being has depth

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tillich equates knowing that being has depth with knowing that God is real. This will be the basis of the “realization” that is the end goal and object of my work in this regard. The development of an alternative to endless arguments that must be taken on faith before they prove anything is moving toward an understanding of realization as the alternative to argument. We have seen this quotation before but I will use it here again:

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.1

Depth roughly correlates with the hard problem in brain/mind studies and with Dasein in Heidegger's thought, "A Being in the world" is how the latter defines it. Heidegger has this phrase, "ready to hand." This is like a carpenter with his tools, He doesn't have to think about how to use them he's used so many times before they are part of him, he uses them without thinking,. That how being is for us,that's how consciousness is for us. That how the hard problem is like Dasein. If one understands the hard problem one probably understands what is meant by being has depth, Both Dasein and hard problem have in common that those aspects such as consciousnesses and being are truncated and are structured by our expectations and our red-to-hand experiences of then, thus we only truly examine the surfaced of being, or of consciousness. Modes of being are an example of depth, infinitude and religious experience of the numinous are examples of depth, things beyond the surface of just existing.

God cannot be understood as standing alongside other beings, as part of creation, not even as the most powerful part. If God is “a being” he is subject to the categories of finitude; especially space and substance.2 Even if we try to call him the “highest” or “most perfect” being, as Tillich said “when applied to God superlatives become diminutives.”3 In saying God is “the most powerful being” we are diminishing God from a status much more lofty than “most powerful being,” that of the ground of all being. “Whenever unconditional power and meaning are attributed to the highest being it has ceased to be a being and has become being itself.”4 He adds explicitly “the power of being is another way of expressing it.” 5 At this point Tillich begins to talk about the power to resist nothingness. This idea that being is the power to resist nothing is mystifying to modern Americans, probably to modern anyone who hasn’t studied phenomenology. One is given the impression that nothingness is pulling us under like water out of a drain and being is hanging on to the drain cock trying to keep from being sucked into oblivion. This is all conditioned by the historical circumstances of the German situation which marked the Philosophy of the early 20s. George Steiner discusses this in the Introduction to his work Martin Heidegger. 6 Tillich says that God is the power of being “in everything and above everything.” This “in everything” is one of those pantheistic sounding phrases but as will be seen, Tillich repudiates this. He asserts that Plato and other thinkers have always known about being itself. “Every since the time of Plato it has been known, although it has often been disregarded—especially by the nominalists and their modern followers—the concept of being as being, or being itself points to the power inherent in everything, the power to resist non being.”7 When theology ignores God as being itself it relapses into monarchal theism, the worship of the “big guy in the sky,” even if the concept is a more refined version such as “universal mind.” If the universal mind is part of the world and reacts in the world as though another aspect of the world then it is nothing more than a refined cover for the big man in the sky.

Even if God is seen as “universal essence” this is as wrong headed as speaking of God as existing or as a big man in the sky, or as the “highest and most powerful being.” That is to say it would leave God subject to being, to space, to time. As the power of the ground in all of these, and in all being, God transcends all of these and all being. One might quibble, “if God transcends all being then he is beyond being, he’s not real, he doesn’t “be.” But of course this is a quibble with Tillich’s stylized form of speaking. God transcends the content of being as an object in the world, and transcends the level of ‘the beings.’ God transcends our understanding, thus language becomes meaningless at a certain point. God transcends the essential and he existential. Being itself does not participate in non being, it is not in a dialectical relationship with non being as are “the beings.” I identified that dialectic as indicative of Tillich’s over all approached and tried to link to being itself, but being itself is not in a dialectic with non being it does not participate in non being. But of course that doesn’t mean Tillich’s overall approach is not dialectical, that’s part of his dialectical theology. God is “prior to” or “higher than” the split that characterizes finite being.8 For this reason, as Tillich tells us, it is just as wrong to identify God as “universal essence” as it is to identify God as “existing.” If God is identified with universal essence, with the form of forms, he is limited to finite potentialities. He argues that pantheism is really identified with the idea of the forms and pours god’s creative power into forms to which god is then bound. Thus the Platonic and the pantheistic are ruled out. This statement that God transcends the essential and the existential and that God is not a universal essence may sound like a contradiction with a phrase Tillich uses, creative ground of essence and existence. This is not really a contradiction. Transcendence implies participation in and movement beyond. So God is the ground of the essential and the existential without being based in them. God is the basis of them without being what they are. Water molecules are not wet. Photons are not bright.
There are two more deep structures that need to be discussed. One has already been discussed and needs further elaboration:

The quotation itself tells us why he says that if we know being has depth we can’t be atheists. He equates depth of being with the source of being, the source of life, and he tells us that the term “God” means depth. Literally the word “God” does not mean “depth.” He’s saying that the concept of God in modern theology and in the Christian tradition has always been that God transcends the level of mere things in creation. Depth of being means that being is not just the fact of things existing, nor is it only a surface understanding of the causes of things around us. The depth of being is the big picture, the idea that being is more than what we observe empirically, it is the spiritual sense, depth in profundity. He actually uses the term “depth” in more than one sense; suffering as in depth of despair, profundity, as in “deep meaning,” and transcendence, beyond the surface level. All of these uses are embodied in his essay.2 According to this statement, when we come to realize that there’s a lot more to being than just surface fact of existence, then we understand that God is real. Thus God and the depth of being are equated. This is because God is not a big man in the sky, but rather, God is the power of being, that to say the ground upon which all is has come to be and in which it coheres and continues. In the last chapter I discussed the possibility that this is the power of mind to perceive or to think the universe. The connection between the possibilities of consciousness as the basis of reality and the philosophical questions raised by this notion, as well as others related to it, form the basis of a good place to start exploring the depth of being.


Truth is the bane of all philosophical existence. It’s the Holy Grail that everyone is searching for. The Post moderns deny its existence or its significance; the moderns reduced it to the fact of things existing. No knows what it is but everyone has an opinion about it and most think they knew it when they see it. Truth is also segmented. There’s big truth and little truth. No one minds much if one finds little truths but it’s the claim that one has the Big Truth that draws skepticism. It’s not so much that the approach here discussed has a means of proving big truth, as it is that the concept of big truth, unknowable thought it may be, is necessary and can’t be denied. Attempts at denying the possibility of big truth end in self contradiction. Most atheists, skeptics (materialists, physicalists, reductonisits) define that which is true as “the way things are.” That is to say truth is merely a recognition of things in existence, or the state of reality. They tend to assume that this can only be recognized empirically. On the other hand, this empirical recognition and assumption about truth also assumes a correspondence between the ability of the subject and the nature of reality. All positions on truth, whatever details they entail, must assume this correspondence norm unless they negate the possibility of being ever being right, even about truth not being possible. To say truth is not possible requires the ability to know the truth. 9

Because we are talking about recognition of truth the question is about the subject’s ability to understand truth or the correspondence between subjects understanding and what is. This is called correspondence norm. It doesn’t matter what the details are in the understanding, the concept of doubt and rejection, or being able to say “X is false” also assumes the possibility that some Y is true. Thus, the only way to get around the concept of truth has to be to just avoid the issue or fane the inability to communicate. This is the basic tactic of Postmodernism.

Duane Olson says:
It is important to note that the argument for a correspondence-norm, or norm of truth, is on a different level than arguments about the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object. The correspondence itself may be conceived in terms of naïve realism, idealism, or a multitude of positions in between. Every theory about the nature of the correspondence, however, relies on the presupposition of a correspondence-norm that would make it possible to formulate, and affirm, deny, debate, or declare uncertain that theory. Put differently, the theory of the specific nature of the correspondence between subject and object is another field of knowledge that is subject to the ultimate criterion of knowledge, which is what is disclosed in the idea of a correspondence-norm.To claim that the capacity to apply a norm is indubitable is the same thing as saying the subject bears an indubitable awareness of truth. In other words, when one analyzes the major postures toward judgments and shows how a norm of truth is presupposed as something borne by the subject in every posture, one is pointing out an awareness of truth the subject has, though it is something the subject may overlook, especially in doubting or denying particular truths. Through the reductio argument, one focuses attention on the fact that the subject bears a norm of truth, thus raising it to conscious awareness. I speak more below about the character of this awareness, but for now I simply affirm something Tillich presupposes, which is the identity between the affirmation that the subject bears a norm of truth and the subject’s awareness of this norm.As Tillich shows, the awareness of the norm of truth is the awareness of something unconditioned that transcends the distinction between subject and object. It is, as he puts it, “the identity of subject and object,”[xviii] or that which “transcends subject and object,”or “something beyond subjectivity[xix] and objectivity.”[xx] It is a transcending unity in which both subject and object participate and which makes possible all concrete affirmation, denial, doubt, and uncertainty in the knowing process. It is being-itself appearing in the theoretical function as that which is beyond subjectivity and objectivity, but that in which they both participate, and which makes possible the judgments in that process.10
The concept of transcendent truth is a prori. That truth is linked with the unconditioned. This is an indubitable depth of being.

These two, eternity and truth, come together in the next chapter (traditional arguments) to form Olsen’s idea of a Tillich based ontological argument. In that sense they fit my concept of signifiers of depth. At the same time they form the basis of other arguments, so they are really deep structures. Eternity is not some made metaphysical pie in the sky. There has to be, in some sense, something we call “eternal.” It’s absurd to think that all being began out of the big bang and a finite point in time and that’s the first that anything ever was and when it all dies in heat death that will be the last that anything ever was. An atheist who takes refuge in such notions is surely in for cold comfort (excuse the pun). If such a scheme was the case then that brief space of temporal reality (15 Billion years) would still mark a distinction between the temporal and the eternal. Thus the eternal but be even if only in default as the backdrop to the temporal. As seen above the temporal is an indicator of depth of being, because evokes in us the dissonance between temporal and eternal. That dissonance triggers mystical consciousness. 

Truth is a very important category as Augustine equated it with God in the same way that Tillich equated being with God. There is no ultimate contradiction between the two views; being is that which is, and truth is that which is. Being is a fundamental aspect of truth. With the divine we speak of eternal truth. Its this eternal nature of truth that evokes the sense of the numinous. The eternal nature of truth is what evokes the sense because it’s a direct reference to the nature of God.

The organization I impose upon these categories is this:

(1) Deep structures
Metaphysics (reductionisms have competing metaphysics by collapsing the categories: transcendent truth comes under the category of metaphysics
(1) Meaning is an example of metaphysics
(2)Stereological drama
(3) Ethics and Morality

(2) Signifiers of depth

Signifiers of depth can be arguments. They are not arguments to prove the existence of God. Proving the existence is a dubious proposition in the first place because God is too foundational to reality to be an object of empirical research. God is not a thing alongside other things in reality, thus God can’t be given in sense data. This does not negate the reality of God anymore than saying that laws of physics are not things in reality negates the concept of physics. The arguments demonstrate the rational nature of belief by producing a warrant for belief. The warrant is a reason to believe, subjected to logical scrutiny like any other idea, and perhaps even empirical data. It’s not God that the data is empirical in relation to, but the reason for belief in God. The primary example but not the only one would be the religious experience studies that show such experiences convey transformative power. That in itself would be a reason to believe in the reality of the object of those experiences. Another example could be cosmological argument. Tillich has problems with that argument; I will discuss this in the very next chapter (arguments). Assume, however, that these objections can be overcome by understanding the cosmological order not as proof of God’s existence but as an indication of a rational warrant for belief, because it points to depth of being.

To see the importance of the question is to see the depth of being.

1Tillich, Shaking of the foundations 0p cit, (see chapter three) 52.

2 Ibid, 52-53
3 Ibid. 235
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 George Steiner, Martin Heidegger Originally ed. Fran Kermode, for Viking press 1978, New addition Chicago: University of Chicago press, 1987, online gooble books URL ... elf&f=true
Steiner talks about how the political and social situation of Post WWI Germany effected the sitation in philosophy of that era. The country was in collapse, people were starving, the ideal of Gemran high culture was in collapse, the idea of the nation and the culture wasting away to nothingness was evident. Earnst Bolck, Oswald Spangler and Karl Barth to name a few all produced major works at that time, and subsequently Heidegger using the concept “of nothing or becoming nothing, being pulled into nothing” as a philosophical construct.
7 Paul Tillich, ST1, 236.
8 Ibid.
9 Duane Olson, “Paul Tillich and The Ontological Argument.” Quodlibet Journal. Vol 6, no 3, (July 2004). On line URL: visited last, 22/12/10.
10 Ibid. Olson’s fn xviii is Paul Tillich’s Theology of Culture, 14, xix is Tillich ST1 207, XX Tillich HCT 164.
tse Roman numerals are chapters in tillich Systematic V.I not footnotes.

No comments: