sunnuntai 29. maaliskuuta 2015

Christian Wolff: Natural theology, prior part – God and the world

In the beginning, God might have created heaven and earth, but it is hard to explain what God did in this supposed creation. First there was no world and then there was one, but because we cannot do such things, these words do not convey any clear meaning. It appears that in case of creation, whether there was such thing or not, we are always incapable of truly understanding what it is all about.

Christian Wolff tries to shed some light on the topic. World is dependent on its elements, so in creating the world, God must have used the elements. Because elements, on the other hand, are dependent on the very world they should constitute, God cannot have used elements as a construction matter, but he must have begun his labourious efforts by creating the elements out of nothing. At the same time as he created elements, God ordered them to various structures constituting the world itself. On top of all this, he also created finite souls to think this world.

Now, Wolff believed that space and time are relational, that is, that there would be no space and time without any spatial and temporal things. Thus, space and time did not exist before creation, but both began to exist in the creation.

Since Wolffian God is supposed to exist beyond time, it seems hard to decide whether the world is supposed to be finite in its history or whether God created it as having existed for an infinity. Here, on the other hand, Wolff is willing to accept that there is a first state of the world. Because this beginning is not explained by anything in the world, it must be miraculous, Wolff concludes. This appears to be actually the first time when Wolff explicitly admits time has a first moment – it might be that he is trying to prove his non-Spinozism by this move.

God is then capable of doing the miracle of bringing truly new things into existence, while no other thing can do this, but is only restricted to modifying what is already given. Indeed, nothing else would even exist without God, because he is also preserving world. Of course, Wolff notes, since God is atemporal, his act of preservation is the same as his act of creation.

Wolff's God is still not just a creator and upholder of the world, but just like in Christian tradition usually, he has designed the world down to its last details. Indeed, God is a moral being who has wisely set up the machinery of the universe in such a manner that it serves some higher end, which obviously must be good – God is providential, which can be seen in the fact that all things in the world are of use to one another.

Especially in case of rational beings, like humans, God has set up some goals, which they should strive to obtain – God gives human an opportunity to perfect some part of the world. Of course, God doesn't force anyone to follows his councils, but merely creates an obligation that we should follow them. It is then up to an individual whether she wants to follow God, but in the end it would be in her best interests to follow them, since God's rules should be of benefit to anyone.

All in all, Wolff appears to know quite a lot of what God is like, what he has done, and what he wants of us. On a closer look, Wolff admits that we know not very much about this God. We know that God is the final ground of everything, but this is about as much as we can say. Many of the supposed divine attributes are mere negations – final ground of world is not material, but he isn't also any human soul. Then again, the supposed positive attributes of God are only eminent, that is, they are somehow similar as some of our own attributes, but in reality quite incomprehensible, because we do not know e.g. what an infinite understanding would be like. When people of Kantian leanings thus accuse Wolff of a philosophical arrogance and of an attempt to base substantial knowledge of God on mere concepts, these accusations do not hit the mark – our knowledge of what God is, is rather meager.

So much for the first past of Wolff's theology, onward to second!

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