Tillich's Being itself Argument

"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."


--Paul Tillich, The Shaking of The Foundations

Terms:

Aseity =
an existent cannot fail or cease to exist;is not dependent upon anything else for its existence (self sufficient existence--an extention of Ontological necessity, I will use the terms interchangeably).

God =
The object of our ultimate concerns; the proper object of our religious devotion.

Contingent existence =
an existant can fail or cease; the existence of which is conditioned other events.

PSA =
Putative State of Affirs, the essential starting point or the ontolgocially prior condition for existence.

Numionous =
Feeling of utter depedence, the object of ultimate concerns, sense of the Holy, any sense that we have of the special nature of things beyond the mundane.

Being itself =
not a pure abstraction, not the sum total of existing things, but the basic nature of being apart from nothingness; both being in itself and being for itself.This is nt a mystical concept, it is merely a reference to any form of being, without regard to any particualr being.


Argument:



(1)Nothingness as PSA is marked by its own contradiction,


A.True absolute nothingness and PSA are contradictions because nothingness means nothing at all, and PSA is something.

B.True nothingness would lack any essential potential for change; no time, no ptoentiality, noting at all; therefore, no change, no becoming.

Therefore: (2)Being, in some form, as the alterntive to nothingness must obtain to a state of aseity.


(3)Aseity implies eternal and the infinite.

(4)Human being is contrasted by finitude.

(5)The awareness of our finitude in contrast to Aseity of Being creates a sense of the unbounded condition; which evokes our sense of the numinous.

(6) The sense of the numious creates religious devotion, thus we have an object of religious devotion and theological discourse in Being itself.

(7) An object of religious devotion and theological discourse is a ratinal warrent for belief.

If you find this hard to take or understand, here's a simpler version:


(1) Sense of the Numinous evokes religious devotion

(2) The sense of the numinous is the sense of the special nature of being

(3) Thus being itself, the ground of being, is the object of religious devotion

(4) whatever is the fit object of religious devotion (the thing that evokes it at the core in the first place) is defined as "God."

(5) since we know this special sense of being existing then QED God exists.





Analysis:

this is not an attempt at modal logic. It's a desscription of the basic phenomenolgoical apprehension of depth in Being and how it unfolds into the object of religious devotion.



People confuses what God is with the most sticking or most frequently used images. That doesn't mean God is those images, it just means the images is used to point to the reality beyond the image. One example, God is not a big father-king in the sky. But the image of the father king was important to people in the ancient world, they understand certain things about that image,s o they used it a lot. So we today have inherited the notion that God has to be a big father-kind in the sky. No that is not the case.


God is not a big man, God is reality, God is the basis of how we understand and feel about what it means to be. God is the foundation of our take on the spacial nature of not failing to exist.


The nature of religion, the reason it exists in the first place, the core origin of what religion is about is prompted by these kinds of feelings, the sense of the numinous. The result of this this feeling is the evocation of religious devotion. That means the object of these feelings, the thing that evokes them is God! I mean by that not that I think God is evoking these feelings, and then you can go on imagining a big guy in the sky evoking them. I mean the thing that reallky evokes them, whatever it is, is actually God. that is the nature of our religious instincts.


It's the fulfillment of our religious impulse. It means the thing that evokes the sense of the numinous must be the object of our religious devotion, the term we use to describe that is "God."


Now we can speculate about the nature of that thing that evokes this sense. It could be connected to the origin of the Bible and the object of Biblical revelation or not. It could be object of Hindu revelation, or both, or neither. that's for the individual believer to decide.




1)Nothingness as PSA is marked by its own contradiction,


A.True absolute nothingness and PSA are contradictions because nothingness means nothing at all, and PSA is something.
B.True nothingness would lack any essential potential for change; no time, no ptoentiality, noting at all; therefore, no change, no becoming.

Therefore:

(2)Being, in some form, as the alterntive to nothingness must obtain to a state of aseity.


Some form of being must alsways be. I use the term "being" rather than "existence" because "existence" refurs to the particular fact of existence of a contingent object.Being in abstract terms (whcih is not to say that is a mere abstaction) is not contingent, cannot be contingent upon anything, because if it was that thing upon which it is contingent would have to be outside of the nature of being.


so here I'm not considering being as some kind of platonic form, but as whatever exampel of being happens to exist. If all that exists in all reality is a toco shell, then being itself is a taco shell. But whatever that x is, it is must have a reity and an aseity beyond that of any particular contingent thing, as this requires the eternal nature of some form of being apart from any events which might condition it.


This is not as mystical as it sounds, but it is beyond our knowledge. It doesnt matter if this is the universe or a singularity or whatever. It is still logically the case that Being in some form must always be. It is this eternal nature of being that contrasts with our own finite creaurliness and creates the sense of the numinous.


(3)Aseity implies eternal and the infinite.


The self sufficient nature of being requires that being always be, which contrasts with our finitude and gives us a sense of the unbounded condition.


(4)Human being is contrasted by finitude.


We know we will die, we know all things die. We are stuck by the contrast and can sense the greater unity in the life world of all things upon some larger scheme. That gives us a sense of the Holy. We have thus come into contact with a sense of the nature of the numionous. This creates our sense of ultimate concerns, we become aware of the greater questions like why am I here? And How should I live?


(5)The awareness of our finitude in contrast to Aseity of Being creates a sense of the unbounded condition; which evokes our sense of the numinous.



Unbounded condition is the sense of the open nature of reality, the limitless infinite expanse of whatever that great unkown is. It's like the thing all art works seem to be getting at, but no one can say.


(6) The sense of the numious creates religious devotion, thus we have an object of religious devotion and theological discourse in Being itself.


It doesn't have to be "the God of the Bible." It doesn't have to be a big daddy man in the sky who will tell you what to do (which I think all agthesits are afraid of). But any object of religious devotion which is connected that sense of the unboudned condition is a proper object of religious devotion; it evokes our ultimate concerns.


Since we have a proper object of religious devoition, we can religious beliefs. Connection with the ultimate concerns creates transformation and resolves the human problematic. This is what religion is all about, this is the core of the nature of religion itslef. since it is an object of theological disourse, we can talk about it, we can talk about talking about it, we can start a tradition, we can have religion. This is a ratinonal thing to do since it relates to our ultimate concerns.


(7) An object of religious devotion and theological discourse is a ratinal warrent for belief.


ie "God." This means that once we disover the depth in being, this proces of uncovering the unboudned condition, we have a rational reason to believe in God. We can sense the relation of the reality of God to our own lives, our existential nature, and our understanding of what our being in the world.


This does not have to be "the God of the Bible," but it can be and it really is. It is because we are told that it is. In two places or more the Bible identifies God with this unlimited and aseic notion of Being itself; Exodus 3:18 "I am that I am" (transltion from LXX might read "I am being itself") Acts 17 "in him we live and move and have our being."


This could be the God of the Bible.
Of course I would suggest that those who say that and those who fear it don't know what the God of the bible is. They are confussing the God of the Bible with the father image which is portrayed in the Bible, but they also exclude the many mother images, and the other staments that clearly disassociate God from being like a man ("our God is a consuming fire"--no one knows th mind of God"--"my ways are not your ways" that sor tof thing). I suggest that the God of the bible ties us into something much deeper that is much more universal to all human apprehensions of the divine and of the numinous; the atomon, the zeit gueist, the oversoul, transendental singifier, it's all there in the Bible if you just know where to look and what to look for.

Being itself: just an abstraction in the mind?


Of cousre atheists will say "this is just an idea in the mind. It's no different than 'yellowness' which does not exist. this is just an abstraction of being so it doesn't exist."


This is a totally wrong headed notion.Clearly what I'm talking about exists, because it is nothing more than the actuality of being of that which must exist eternally since we cannot start from nothingness. .It isn't the being of any particular being, it is not contingent being, but is being in itself and for itself as it is manifested etenrally apart from nothingness.It has to exist or we do not exist, because it is present and manifest in us!


Take one exmaple given against this argument already, on message baords, "yellowness." Yewllowness doesn't exist, it is only an abstraction based upon the color we see when we look at yellow colored things. We can abstract this color by itself, so the "ness" part is just in our minds (so to speak). But while that is true, it is also true that there is a color we call yellow upon which we base this abstraction.


The essence of this argument does not depend upon "God" being a big man on a throne. It doesn't depend upon God being an entity or even "personal." We know yellow because we see it. We don't know this X, this unkown form of Being which must exist etenrally (and could be many things, they could all be naturalistic) but it has to be; since we cannot start from nothingness, something must always have been.


Whatever that something is, it's aseity as soemthing which has to be conditions our religious sensitbilites and kickes off, so to speak, our sense of the numinous. Now I don't believe that its a quantm particle or that it isn't consciousness or something of that nature. Of course I do believe that, and that can be understood in that way through other arguments connected to it. But wheather it is or not, it is at least the ground of our understanding of meaning, reaity, relity, devotion, transformative experiences which resolve the human problematic, and that gives us the object of ultimte concerns and religious devotion; it makes religion a viable option because it does what it sets out to do, it resolves the human problematic.