Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 4


“The Rationalist God”

(Rene Descartes is holding a summit to discuss the implications of God for the modern world. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz challenges him, when other philosophers throw them for a loop.)

Descartes: Listen up, my fellow rationalists. A new world is upon us. One where we can no longer accept what we are told at face value. The empiricists have already taken precedence to wipe away clean of everything they thought they knew, starting from scratch. Like a blank, clean, slate.

Locke: That’s tabula rasa–

Descartes: God damn it, who invited this heathen to the summit?

Leibniz: Never mind him. He’s allowed to listen, and we are obliged to keep him here.

Locke: Thank you.

Leibniz: Besides, it’s not like the empiricists can really challenge anything we have to say. They simply know nothing of how we rationalists do anything anyway.

Descartes: Uhm… Leibniz

Leibniz: Our ideas are higher than theirs. They cannot touch us.

Descartes: He can still hear you…

Leibniz: After all, rationalism is the best of all possible schools of thought.

Locke: Oh. In that case, what do you “rationalists” really think of God? That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? (audience mumbles)

Descartes: Yes, yes, now shut up! (silence) Leibniz, since you’re one to gab, why don’t you remind everyone here what God is?

Leibniz: Of course, Monsieur. God is an omniscient, omnipotent, transcendent being who upholds the infinitude across all time and space. His infinite wisdom ensures that your infinite properties are all contained inside of you, as you are, past, present, and future.

Descartes: Right–

Leibniz: And must I stress, God can do anything. ANYTHING!

Locke: Okay, but if God is omnipotent, can He create an object so heavy, that not even He can lift it?

Descartes and Leibniz: Well that’s simple, (Descartes only) Yes. (Leibniz only) Maybe. (Both men stare at each other awkwardly, as the audience continues to murmur.)

Descartes: Leibniz we went over this. Anything is possible with an omnipotent God. But because He is good and would not deceive us, He would choose in all of his omniscience not to create an object that not even He could lift.

Leibniz: Nonsense! God probably has created an object that not even He could lift in another possible world. But that world fell to illogical chaos, so He destroyed it.

Descartes: How dare you! God wouldn’t do such a thing because He is infinitely wise. Why would He do something that even fallible humans can see would be stupid?

Leibniz: Aye, but where did His infinite wisdom come from? Surely He’s had a couple of test worlds that He has created before He arrived at our perfect world, the best of all possible worlds.

Spinoza: You’re both wrong! The answer is clearly Not at all! (Locke grimaces as he slowly exits the hall)

Descartes: How can you say such a thing about our omniscient, omnipotent, all good God?

Leibniz: Well, that “all good” part is pretty questionable–

Descartes: Only to you.

Spinoza: Look, you guys said it yourself. God ensures that all of infinitude is upheld, even within the parts that make up our finite, material bodies. And why is that? Because God is not a transcendent being in the skies above. That wouldn’t make any sense.

Descartes: Pardon–

Spinoza: So God couldn’t make an object that not even He could lift because everything in this world is a part of Him.

Leibniz: What–

Spinoza: God is literally the only substance that can possibly exist! Right here in this world!

(dead silence)

Descartes: Senhor, are you suggesting that we are all Gods?

Spinoza: Not exactly. Rather, it’s more like all of the infinitesimally small particles that come together to make everything in this world belong to the entire being that is God. After all, only God can last for an infinite time, and those particles that contain all of these universal properties are just as infinite.

Descartes: Oh no.

Leibniz: How could you.

Spinoza: What did I do?

Descartes: Those kind of thoughts are going to ruin God for the modern world! No wonder the empiricists have already moved to making God an arbitrary figure in the universe, because of an imminent God like yours!

Spinoza: Oh come on, lots of civilizations believe in an imminent divine! What do you think your Son of God is?

Descartes: Christ is exceptional! It is through His imminence that God is also good!

Leibniz: Keep telling yourself that. Christ only exists in the best possible world because God wouldn’t even have wanted to live in any others.

Spinoza: Do you guys even hear yourselves? It is exactly this kind of emphasis on an omnipotent, transcendent God that has caused a rift in how we as philosophers relate to the people outside of this tower!

Descartes: I’d rather not hear any more of this heresy. Only a being abstract from this finite world could ever hold such an idea as great as infinitude. It is the only way that I could grasp such an idea as “infinity” without ever truly experiencing it.

Leibniz: Not… really… It is through a transcendent God that everything else in the world can hold an infinite amount of properties. That infinitude had to have been borne beyond anything finite.

Spinoza: (sigh) Perhaps someone else can sort out this whole “God” mess for the modern world. But who could that be?

Kant: (aside) Well I have an idea.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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