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Back to Unedited Philosophy Quotes and Ramblings about Intequinism.

Book: THE MYTH OF RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories

Author: Roy A. Clouser

Edition: Revised Edition

Copyright: 2005 University of Notre Dame

Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press

Place: Notre Dame, Indiana


Reader: Mnr. Marquard Dirk Pienaar


p 3


"To be more precise, I will contend that one or another religious belief controls theory making in such a way that the interpretation of the contents of a theory differs depending on the contents of religious belief it presupposes."


p 4


"This position is bound to provoke stiff resistance from many quarters, and doubtless one of the strongest objections will be directed against my claim that the influence of religious belief extends to everyone."


"What will be demonstrated is that no abstract explanatory theory can fail to include or presuppose a religious belief. In that case, we may say that the only people who could possibly avoid all religious belief are those who believe no theory whatever!"


p 9


"The second thing to remember is that the definition I will offer focuses on one particular use of the term "religion," the sense in which it qualifies belief.


p 15-16


"Now there are at least two senses in which one belief may be primary with respect to another. One is a noetic sense, that is, a sense that concerns the order of our beliefs. In this sense one belief is primary with respect to another when it is a necessary presupposition to the other, such that one could hold the secondary belief without already holding (or assuming) the primary belief. The other sense of primacy is ontic, that is, it concerns the order of reality. In this sense one belief is primary with respect to another when the object of the secondary belief is taken to depend on the object of the primary belief for its reality. … In the first case, the primary belief is necessary to hold the secondary belief; in the second case the object of the primary belief is held to be what generates the reality of the object of the secondary belief."


p 17


"In Hesiod's account, the natural world in an undifferentiated state is what just is; it exists unconditionally and gave rise to everything else after it generated a gap between the earth and the heavens he called Chaos. Following that initial change, all other specific forms of existence were generated including the gods. According to Homer the primordial reality was Okeanos, a vast expanse of watery stuff from which arose all else including the gods."


P 18


"The proposal is that we think of what may be common to the various primary divinities as the status of divinity, on the one hand, and distinguish that from the specific description of whatever is believed to occupy that status, on the other hand."


P 19


"So the question is: is there anything that can, in a parallel way, be distinguished as the status of per se divinity? Is it possible .. common agreement among all religions as to what it means to be divine? … Now this is exactly what I find to be the case! For I have never found a single religion that fails to hold the divine per se to be whatever is unconditionally non-dependently real."


P 21-24


" .. I formulate as follows: A religious belief is a belief in something as divine per se no matter how that is further described, where "divine per se" means having unconditionally non-dependant reality. … To be complete, therefore, our definition must be expanded as follows. A belief is a religious belief provided that:

(1)  It is a belief in something as divine per se no matter how that is further described, or

(2)  it is a belief about how the non-divine depends upon the divine per se, or

(3)  it is a belief about how humans come to stand in proper relation to the divine per se,

(4)  where the essential core of divinity per se is to have the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality."


P 27


" .. , that person would still have to admit that the things we observe in the universe are not divine."


P 29


'In the ancient world there were Greek mystery religions in which the divine was believed to be "the ever-flowing stream of life and matter."'




'To rephrase the quote from Luther cited earlier: whatever our heart clings and entrusts itself to as unconditionally trustworthy is really our God (our per se divinity). … And this remains the case whether or not a believer's subjective feelings of confidence do or do not correspond to the unconditional status believed to be possessed by the object of his or her trust. … As I see it, faith or trust "in" something is the more basic expression, used to signify trust in its central meaning: openhearted acceptance of, and reliance on, what is believed. On the other hand, faith or trust "that" something is the case is an expression which is used with respect to belief which has undergone reflective judgment.'




"Doesn't materialism require a distinctive view of human values and happiness which is offered as the proper way to live in the light of its alleged truth? Doesn't it require, e.g., either that there are no real value properties in the world or that they are all physically determined?"


P52 - About the biblical type (Clouser's theory is according to him radically biblical but not fundamentalist)


'And although biblical religion stresses the role of experience in a person's belief in God, it does not require it to be a "mystical" experience in the sense that Hinduism or Buddhism require. On the biblical view, since God completely transcends creation, even experiences of unity with God are never taken to be with God's essential being but are always mediated through (and to) something he has created. Still less does any experience lead to becoming part of God. The promised destiny of believers is not to be absorbed into God's Being, since in the biblical religions humans are and always will be creatures distinct from God.'




Clouser uses the word "transcend" as something God does from outside the universe into the universe. Other philosophers for example Kant and Jaspers use the word "transcend" as an action by humans.




"Earlier we saw that some sciences theorize across aspects as well as within them. This allowed us to notice the possibility of developing a more general theory not restricted to a specific aspect, but one that gives an account of how properties of different aspects interconnect in certain data. That point raises the possibility of a wholly general theory, a theory about how all the aspects connect."




'But just what is meant by a "general theory of reality"? It is a theory that tries to discover the essential nature of reality. Its aim may be stated as trying to find what kinds of things there are. But saying it this way must not be mistaken for asking what types of things exist. Types of things would be an enormous list that would include: shoes, mountains, animals, clouds, people, etc. So the question here is not what types of things there are, but what is the most basic nature of them all. The traditional approach to answering that question can be thought of this way: if the various aspects of the things we experience are represented as beads on a necklace, then a general theory of reality wants to know "What is the string?'




"It should be clear, then, that theories of knowledge and reality seek to explain the general connectedness between the aspects forming the domains of all sciences in a way that parallels the way most sciences try to explain the relations of data within a particular aspect."




"So the real role of experiments in theory making is more subtle. It is this: when a theory survives a number of (well-planned and well-executed) attempts to prove it falls, theorists in that field regard themselves as justified in being more confident about it. The theory is then said to be confirmed by experiments. (Experiments can have other employments as well, of course. They can, e.g., help decide between competing theories.) But no set of successful experiments can ever reach the point of conclusively proving a theory true."




I think it was Popper who explained that my paper "experiment", which shows that honesties cause creativities, is not a theory or an experiment, it is logic, therefore it is confirmed as correct.




'So I call this second type of theory a "perspectival" hypothesis. … It then defends its priority assignment by arguing that its chosen aspect accounts for the connectedness between all the others because all the others are either identical with or generated by the one(s) assigned priority. The priority is therefore an ontological priority.'






'The first of these criteria rules out any theory that makes a claim which, while not contradicting any other statement of the theory, is incompatible with itself. Following a number of recent thinkers, I will call such a claim "self-referentially incoherent." … example of the strong sense .. "Nothing can be said of the Tao." …


The next criterion says that a theory must not be incompatible with any belief we have to assume for the theory to be true. I will call a theory that violates this rule "self-assumptively incoherent." As an example of this incoherence consider the claim made by some philosophers that all things are exclusively physical. This has been explained by its advocates to mean that nothing has any property or is governed by any law that is not a physical property or a physical law. But the very sentence expressing this claim, the sentence "All things are exclusively physical," must be assumed to possess a linguistic meaning. … Moreover, to assert this exclusivist materialism is the same as claiming it is true, which is another nonphysical property; and the claim that it is true further assumes that its denial would have to be false, which is a relation guaranteed by logical, not physical, laws. …


The last of the three criteria, like the previous one, also has to do with the compatibility of a theory with a factor that lies outside its explicit content. But rather than being concerned with the compatibility of a theory with its own unstated assumptions, this final one concerns the compatibility of a theory with conditions necessary for its production. In other words, it says that a theory must be compatible with any state that would have to be true of a thinker, or any activity the thinker would have to perform, in order to have formulated the theory's claims. To borrow and recast an old Marxist expression, a theory must be compatible with "the means of its production." Any theory that violates this criterion will be said to be "self-performatively incoherent." … To illustrate the weak version of the criterion, take the case in which we are asked to determine the temperature of water in a glass by using a thermometer. The fact is, once we put the thermometer into the water we cannot coherently claim to know what the temperature was prior to performing that act. …


A more serious example of the strong sense of this incoherency is the one offered by Descartes … "I do not exist." …


Ascribing independent existence to any aspect is always self-performatively incoherent in the weak sense. Its employment will show that any attempt to justify the claim that an abstracted aspect is self-existent (and thus divine) is always in-compatible with the activity of abstraction required to make the claim.'




"The biblical view is not that rain and other natural events are all partly miraculous, but that none of the things, events, or laws found in nature would exist at all unless God had created them and continued to sustain them.


So while it is the case that God's creativity and providence are the ultimate reason why there are such things as winds, clouds, and water, and the laws which guarantee their orderliness, it is the created order which explains created events in the sense that science looks for explanations. A scientific explanation of rain does not include why space, time, matter/energy, and all the laws that govern creation exist at all. That is a metaphysical and – ultimately – religious issue. Moreover, while God is the creator of the causal order which allows us to explain rainfall, he is not himself one of its causes alongside all the other causes – not even its first cause. Strictly speaking, God is not the cause of the universe, but the creator of all the kinds of causality in the universe."




"Thus the account is intended as a literary framework – a figure of speech – rather than as a literal six days. This is confirmed by the internal structure of the account when we notice the way Days 4, 5, and 6 correspond to Days 1, 2, and 3. Day 1 separates light from darkness, while Day 4 introduces the sun, moon, and stars; Day 2 separates sea from atmosphere, while Day 5 speaks of the creation of sea life and birds; and Day 3 sees the appearance of dry land and plants while Day 6 records the creation of animals and humans. The following diagram may help convey this correspondence:



Day 1




Day 2




Day 3




Day 4





Day 5


sea life


Day 6





This correspondence is just too prominent a feature of the account to be mere coincidence."




Whilst reading Clousers book I thought God made something on the 8th and 9th days as well and rested again on the 10th day because the work on the 9th and 8th period was as much work as from the 1st to the 6th period.




"One point cannot be overemphasized: a presupposition is a belief. This is why, strictly speaking, it is not beliefs or the sentences which express them that presuppose; it is people who presuppose. It is people who may presuppose the truth of one belief when they hold another belief. Thus a presupposition is a belief-in-relation to some other belief; it is a belief anyone would have to hold in order to accept another belief to which it is the presupposition."




"Aspects, we saw, are basic kinds of properties and laws, and what I'm about to say about them applies equally to any listing of them a thinker accepts, not just the list I'm provisionally working with. My examples will, however, be drawn from that list because most of its members are so widely accepted. You may also recall that theories of reality have traditionally taken some one or two aspects as the basic nature of all reality. They have done this by proposing either that their favored aspect is the only genuine one (the strong version of reduction), or that their favoured aspects generate all the others (the weak version of reduction)."




"The question is this: what makes it possible (and actual) for properties of the different aspectual kinds to be connected in the way we find them to be in our experience, or postulate them to be in our theories? … This is why hypotheses about the basic nature of reality (the string for the beads of the necklace) were among the first to be proposed when systematic theory making first arose (so far as we know this was in ancient Greece). …


The first stage of the argument in favour of the unavoidability of accounting for the inter-aspectual connectedness is drawn from the activity of abstraction necessary to the construction of any theory. … We noticed, too, that a high degree of abstraction is required for theories of science and philosophy, a degree that isolates not only individual properties but whole kinds of them from the objects that exhibit them. … <p188> Therefore, as long as high abstraction is unavoidable to forming theories, the question of how the different aspectual kinds connect is also unavoidable. … By contrast, pre-theoretical thinking never raises the question of how the law-and-property-kinds relate, since it never abstracts them from the things that exhibit them, nor distinguishes them from one another sharply enough to make their connectedness into a problem.




"Whatever makes possible and actual the connectedness between qualitatively different kinds of properties and laws is what they all depend on for their existence, since – so far as we can think of them at all – they can't exist apart from one another. That is why theories have been forced to offer explanations as to the nature of their connectedness. .. weak reduction … strong reductionist theory …"




'Here then is an impressive array of replies to the (preliminary) objections listed above. They don't dispel the irony of the fact that theistic thinkers intent on harmonizing their theories with belief in a transcendent Creator, have favoured a way of doing it which insists that many entities and properties found in the cosmos are independent of God and therefore uncreated. Nor do they dent the even greater irony that the reason of these thinkers have felt compelled to hold such a position is their understanding of the nature of that Creator! But the irony of this theology is not an argument against it. The questions before us are whether this view of God's nature is (1) internally coherent, and  (2) consistent with what is revealed about God in scripture. These questions are important because it is this view of God's nature which is what I referred to above as the deepest presupposition of the attempts of theists to retain reduction theories. So in the course of examining it I will try to make clear why and how it commends rather than forbids the reduction strategy for theories, as well as say why I find it to be an unacceptable view of God. I will argue that it is unacceptable because it has difficulties of internal coherence which can only be solved in ways that leave it incompatible with the biblical doctrine of creation. Since that is to be a central point of this critique, it is therefore necessary that we be as clear as possible about the meaning of the term "created" before going any further. To that end, we must now distinguish three senses in which something may be said to be created.


The sense in which we most commonly use the term is that something is said to be created if there is a time at which it comes to be, before which it did not exist. From now on, I will call this sense of the term created1. Another sense in which one thing is said to be created by another is when it is produced <p.201> by and is distinct in being from the other. This sense is important in speech about God since it is how scripture speaks of everything other than God as His creation. I will call this sense of the term created2. The third sense is one I will follow Thomas Aquinas in distinguishing from the first two senses. In this third sense, something will be said to be created3 if it is wholly dependent on God for its existence such that had not God brought it about it would not exist. God can, of course, do this ex nihilo; that is He can do it "out of nothing" where "nothing" is not the name of reality but the assertion that aside from God bringing something else into existence there would be only God. But once God has brought it about that there are creatures in addition to Himself He can also use the agency of some of them to bring about yet other things and events, all of which would also entirely depend on Him in this third sense.'




"Finally, there is the premise that God has only perfections. This means that God not only possesses all the great-making attributes, but that nothing else is true of Him. He has all and only perfections; that is why He is the greatest possible being. Put another way: if God had properties that were less than perfections, He would not be the greatest conceivable being, for we could then conceive of a being with only perfections and it, not God, would thereby be the greatest being conceivable. Once again, I find this premise also to be highly objectionable."


"Please keep in mind as we proceed, that the reason for this excursion into philosophical theology is to show how and why the AAA view requires the cosmos to be explained reductionistically, while the C/R view of God forbids reduction."




"It is this: according to the AAA position, God's attributes (goodness, justice, or power, e.g.) exist as necessarily and are as uncreated as He is and are shared (in a lesser degree) by humans. The difficulty with this that humans are thereby made to be (partly) divine because the qualities humans share with God would have to be as uncreated3 in us as they are in God."




"But humans would not be wholly creatures, which is exactly the way scripture depicts them."




"Finally, consider 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 as compared with Colossians 1:17. In the latter passage Christ (in his divine nature) is said to be the one on whom "all things" depend, while the former says that in God's final kingdom Christ will rule "all things" except for God himself. It seems quite natural to understand "all things" as having the same extension in each case: Christ rules what depends on him. But if that is right, then we have the explicit teaching that nothing about creation2 is either uncreated3 or not ruled by Christ except for God Himself. Thus the extension of "all things" is established as everything other than God, visible or invisible!"




"Rather, humans are in God's image and can know God because God has assumed to Himself created3 relations and properties we know from His having also placed them in the world and in us."




"Thus while it is beyond us to grasp conceptually what that being is, we can have the idea that there is ultimate, unconditional being upon which all else stands in the relation of total dependence.




".. God anthropomorphized Himself."


Chapter 11 – A non-reductionist theory of reality






It is the principle of pancreation defended in the last chapter: Everything other than God is His creation and nothing in creation, about creation, or true of creation is self-existent. … the principle of irreducibility: No aspect of creation is to be regarded as either the only genuine aspect or as making the existence of any other possible or actual."








'There are several species of laws that will need to be distinguished as we pursue this approach. One of these is what we usually call "causal laws," another is what I've been calling "aspectual laws," while a third is what I will term a "type law." … our provisional list of aspects so as to clarify several of its members:


















I have tried to avoid nouns to designate the members of this list since nouns tend to promote the misunderstanding that these are classes or groups of things.'



'So far as we know, of all the creatures in the earthly cosmos, only humans have active functions in all the aspects.


Perhaps the following diagram will help make this part of our theory clearer:



























































































































Active function




Passive function


Figure 6'




'.. the principle of aspectual universality: Every aspect is an aspect of all creatures since all creation exists and functions under all the laws of every aspect simultaneously.'




'.. principle of aspectual inseparability. This means that aspects cannot be isolated from one another since their very intelligibility depends on their connectedness.'






A. Natural Things



...: the qualifying aspect of a thing is the aspect whose laws regulate the internal organization of the thing taken as a whole.'




'B. Artifacts'




'Here, then is a summary of the concept so far introduced by the law framework theory:


  1. Aspect – a basic kind of properties and laws.


  1. Active function – the way a thing is governed by the laws of an aspect so that it has properties in that aspect independently of their being actualized by other things. In every aspect but the quantitative, spatial, and kinetic, a thing's active functions are exhibited by the effects it produces on other things.


  1. Passive function – the way a thing is governed by laws of an aspect so that it only has potential properties in that aspect until they are actualized by another thing's having an active function in that aspect.


  1. Qualifying function – the aspect of a thing or event whose laws govern its internal organization and/or development taken as a whole. In a natural thing this is also the highest aspect in which it functions actively.


  1. Foundational function – the aspect whose laws either qualify the natural material of (most) animal artifacts or govern the process of change by which (some animal and) all human artifacts are produced.


  1. Leading function – the aspect whose laws govern the plan or purpose which guided the process by which an artifact was produced.