Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Certitude: An Attempt to Clarify...

Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer begins his book on New Proofs for the Existence of God (Eerdmans, 2010), with a quotation from Sir Arthur Eddington's classic work, The Nature of the Physical World (1928).  Eddington emphasizes that there is something implanted in our nature that yearns towards God, a "light" that "beckons ahead" and to which "the purpose surging in our nature responds."

Most people will immediately recognize this as an echo of St. Augustine's famous cry:  "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."  And St. Augustine, in turn, produced the Christianized version of the Platonic and pagan restlessness, with emphasis upon the realm of the will and morality, leading more or less directly to the mystical, or what Sir Arthur Eddington refers to as "the mystical pursuits of the spirit" or "the intellectual pursuits of science"  (Spitzer, p.1).

And so, in the context of the total reality of man and creation, Plato, St. Augustine and Father Spitzer take as their starting point, a yearning of the human spirit for union with God as the Source of all Good. 

Without exaggeration, one might truthfully say that the starting point of Saint Thomas Aquinas is more scriptural and more in conformity with reality.  How so?  Because the real starting point in everyone's experience is not an idea abstracted from reality, but rather, an affirmative judgment, a non-conceptual recognition that things exist outside the mind.  The emphasis here is on the existence as such, of things other than my self. 

R. Descartes (d.1650) was probably the first to shift the emphasis so explicitly from objective existence to the subjective idea and philosophers have never yet recovered from his cogito, ergo sum, making the starting point and basis of all moderns, the thinking, feeling self rather than the sheer existence of all things, which existence leads most surely and directly to the one necessary Source of Existence which is God.  If God does not exist, then I cannot exist.  But I do exist, therefore God must exist, because He alone is existence.     

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