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.


  1. Randomfactor says

    Somehow, I’d guess your correspondent would have no problem with THAT kind of “nothing” creating everything.

    • says

      I agree. “The necessary immaterial is God” argument of Berkeley.

      All that remains as an exercise for the reader to go from

      “The immaterial exists”


      “A three-in-one god born of a virgin who he impregnated himself, and then killed himself on the cross to spare his own creation from his own wrath, exists”

  2. Daniel Schealler says


    If a mind can understand and interact with complex ideas, surely that mind must itself be complex too?

    Even if we assume substance dualism and allow for an immaterial mind – doesn’t that immaterial substance have to represent significant complexity in order to support such a mind?


    Does Craig actually define ‘mind’ anywhere?

  3. ah58 says

    1. How would your correspondent reconcile this view with the declaration in the bible that god made us in his image? We aren’t beings of pure thought. Of course, you could make the argument that the only place we exist is in god’s thoughts but that sort of defeats the whole purpose of making a cosmological argument.

    2. Does this being have a mechanism to produce a physical effect? Perhaps some sort of telekinetic ability? I wonder if he could explain how a being without physical effectors can create a physical effect.

    • mikespeir says

      You should pay a visit to the other site and see for yourself. This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to nail him on. But its amazing how light-of-foot he is! 😉

    • mikespeir says

      But you don’t understand. God doesn’t have a hand or “back parts.” He’s too simple to have parts. So Exodus 33:23 must be allegorical, since otherwise it would just be wrong, and, well….

      BTW, you you be so kind as to post a warning in all caps before you comment in the future? I had already finished lunch, so it was cool, but still. :-O

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Indeed. It’s the bane of all creationism, because sooner or later you hit an “everything” that is created by nothing. Even invoking the supernatural does not help: if God created everything, then who or what created God? And the answer to this question is: nothing. Nothing created God.


      Fortunately for our sanity, the universe neither has nor needs nor even allows a cause for itself. The real world has existed for all of time, and therefore there has never been a time when any cause could have changed things to bring the universe into existence. The universe may change in the form it takes over time, but the existence of reality itself does not change.

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