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God’s “simple” mind

The “brick through a window” guy from last Monday has got me thinking some more about William Lane Craig’s rendition of Leibniz’ cosmological argument. Here’s what Craig has to say about God.

 As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity. A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts… Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas…but the mind itself is remarkably simple.

The more I think about it, the more I think he’s right about God’s simple mind.

Think about it: what is the mind, anyway? I don’t mean what it’s made of necessarily, or how it works. I just mean what are the characteristics and functions that we ascribe to a mind, such that when we talk about these traits and functions, we know we’re discussing a mind and not something else?

Well, let’s see: thought, of course. Memory/knowledge. Feelings (unless we call that “the heart,” but that’s obviously metaphorical). Will. Perception—ah, a tricky one. Yes, your eyes do the actual seeing, but “vision” does not become “perception” until the mind interprets the physical stimuli and renders them into some kind of recognizable concepts. Intelligence, perhaps. Personality maybe. Or maybe we’re getting into the realm of overlapping definitions and aren’t really adding anything new to our catalog of traits and functions of the mind.

Thing is, all of these phenomena are physical phenomena. These are material functions of our physical brains. Imbibe too much booze, and these functions and traits will be suppressed by the physical, chemical actions of the ethanol on the nervous system. They develop over time as we mature and grow up, then all too often deteriorate over time due to the physical effects of aging and/or disease. Some things, like personality and perception, can be radically altered by physical injuries to the brain tissue. So they’re clearly physical phenomena, completely subject to material laws and conditions.

But, as Craig helpfully reminds us, God has no body, and thus none of these physical traits and functions. So let’s take them away! No thinking, because thinking is a physical function of the body. No feeling, for the same reason. No perception obviously—you can’t interpret physical sensory inputs if you have no physical sensory inputs. No knowledge in the absence of brain cells to store the memories in. No feelings (due to lack of thinking + lack of physical hormones). No will, no purpose, no intention, no character. None of those material things which we see manifesting themselves exclusively as physical processes in the real world.

So take away everything that God loses by not possessing a physical body, and what’s left to be this “pure mind” that God is supposed to exist as? Yup. God ends up being absolutely nothing.

Gotta admit, you don’t get much simpler than that. Now the only problem is explaining how “nothing” could create everything.