maanantai 6. huhtikuuta 2015

Christian Wolff: Natural theology, posterior part – The enemies of faith

Included with the second book of Natural theology is also Wolff's first complete take on worldviews that rivaled Christianity – one might suppose that it was especially atheism controversy that generated his interest in the topic. It is no wonder that Wolff rejects all these theories, but what is interesting is how he groups these various viewpoints into distinct sets.

The most important of the wrong theories is obviously atheism, which Wolff thinks is so important that it deserves a chapter of its own. We all know atheists are of the opinion that God does not exist. What is more, a consistent atheist must even deny the possibility of God, because by Wolff's a priori proof, God would exist, if he just were possible. Because God does not exist, there is no final explanation of the world, but instead, the world must be an independent entity requiring no explanation – a strange conclusion in Wolffian eyes, because nothing extended could be really independent for Wolff. The worldly events must either go on forever or form a loop in which things repeat one another. In any case, they must follow an iron necessity, since nothing outside the universe could come and change anything. This doesn't mean that there would be no freedom, since human souls might still have the freedom to do things – this freedom just probably would have no consequences on the level of material world. Still, it means that morality is difficult to combine with atheism, because the necessity of the world makes it impossible to apply values like good or bad to it.

After atheism, Wolff groups together fatalism, deism and naturalism, probably because his pietist opponents had often grouped these three together. Fatalism, or the idea that everything in the world happens necessarily, is evidently the one Wolff likes least. Wolff clearly states that atheists must inevitably be fatalists, at least if they want to accept the laws of physics. Still, all fatalists need not be atheists, but they may well be deists, that is, they may believe that God has just created the world, but does not afterwards interfere with it in any manner. Wolff also points out that deist, like atheist, cannot use the idea of divine providence as a way to booster people's behaviour, yet, deist can be more consistent with morality, because he can accept that God might have chosen another world, which might have been better or worse.

Still, it is the third idea or naturalism that is the most interesting of the three theories. By naturalism Wolff does not mean belief in natural sciences, but the idea of natural theology as the only true source of religion. Wolff might have sympathised with the view, but he clearly wanted to show also that natural theology and revealed religion need not be rivals, but could in many cases meet one another.

It is not so strange to see materialism and idealism in the same chapter, but anthropomorphism seems a stranger bedfellow. Yet, Wolff obviously has a point – if God is thought to be shaped like a human, he is obviously material or at least has a material constituent. This also shows that materialist need not necessarily be atheist, since she can just assume that God is some material things (perhaps even the world itself).

Wolff criticizes both anthropomorphists and materialists, because they make God into something very ungodlike – a material object that could be cut to pieces. Interestingly Wolff is less critical of idealism and even says that idealist need not deny physics, because she can just think it concerns an apparent world. Still, Wolff finally denies idealism, because it takes away from the glory of God, who then wouldn't have created an independent world.

The final chapter of the book gathers together various philosophical theories, but also paganism or belief in the existence of several gods, which is perhaps highlihted, because it shares similarities with Manicheanism: both theories suggest that there are several principles guiding world and thus they essentially lower the status of God. The final two systems, Spinozism and Epicureanism, are quickly dealt with. Spinoza has the disadvantage, because it clearly confuses the notion of independency and substance – God is the only independent thing and others are God's creations, but these creations surely are not parts of God. Epicureanism, on the other hand, falls from traditional reasons – emphasising mere sensual pleasure destroys values in themselves.

Finally a last page on Wolff's natural theology. Next time I'll turn to a new philosopher.

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