sunnuntai 7. helmikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Pulling God out of the hat

It is especially in his rational theology where Baumgarten diverges most from standards set by Wolff. As we should know by now, for Wolff, it was the cosmological argument that ruled the field of theology. With Baumgarten, we find no traces of this argument. Instead, Baumgarten starts straightaway with the ontological argument, which with Wolff clearly played a second fiddle.

The two gentlemen don't just have different taste in arguments, but their very arguments are different. Indeed, when with Wolff, ontological argument was essentially dependent on cosmological argument, with Baumgarten, the ontological argument obviously has to work on its own.

There's already a clear difference in the manner, in which Wolff and Baumgarten try to prove the possibility of God. With Wolff, the proof was based on the fact that he defined God as a sum of known possibilities that are also known to be possible in combination – it requires just quick analysis to see that this proof must work. Baumgarten, on the contrary, bases his proof on more spurious ideas. He defines God as a sum of positive characteristics, which have no negations or limitations in them. He then suggests that contradiction could only occur, if such a combination of characteristics would have some negations in them. This leap of thought seems to require a more careful justification – after all, one might think that characteristics might restrict one another without being literal negations of one another. Yet, it seems that with Baumgarten, development of a thing in one dimension is completely indifferent to its development in another dimension – basic characteristics are independent of one another.

Now, with Wolff, it is then all about knowing whether his combination of perfect possible characteristics is just a contingent entity or also necessary – in the former case, we can say nothing about its existence, in the latter case, we can conclude infallibly that it does exist. The only manner in which Wolff could decide this was to show that necessary things existed – this is where the cosmological argument came in.

Baumgarten, on the other hand, simply assumes that existence is one of the independent dimensions, of which the sum of all positive characteristics consists of. As one knows well, Kant was very much against this idea and denied that being or existence would be even a characteristic in the same sense as other characteristics of things. Wolff did not go as far, because he noted that Baumgartenian line of thought could not lead very far – even if you added existence as a characteristic of some possible entity, it would still be just possible existence (this is why he had to prove a stronger notion that he could add necessity to the required possible combination of perfect characteristics). With Baumgarten, actual existence is something you can just add to a possible thing and make it exist – indeed, existence is defined by him as a completeness in the combination of all characteristics of a thing.

Baumgarten then thinks that he has shown the necessity of God's existence – God comes out, when you start to add all sorts of perfections and finally existence. God cannot then fail to exist, because that would mean contradiction. Baumgarten's final account of all the properties of God is rather traditional (he is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good), but one should not even expect originality in such carefully observed part of education.

Next time, I shall wrap up Baumgarten's natural theology, and with it, all of Baumgarten's metaphysics.

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