"Spinoza's Transcendent God"
Prof Yitzhak Melamed (Johns Hopkins University)

November 1, 2017, 9:00am - 11:00am
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Marist College

Hancock 2023
3399 North Ave
Poughkeepsie 12601
United States

Sponsor(s):

  • John Templeton Foundation

Organisers:

Marist College

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This event is part of the Pantheism and Panentheism Project directed by Yujin Nagasawa (University of Birmingham) and Andrei A. Buckareff (Marist College) and sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. This project builds upon another project sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation from 2011-2013 on "Exploring Alternative Concepts of God." While this project is larger, its scope is more narrow, focusing on pantheism and panentheism and some challenges facing both approaches to thinking about the metaphysics of the divine.

Both pantheism and panentheism, as accounts of the metaphysics of the divine, stand in contrast to traditional theism. According to variants of traditional theism, not only is God omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect, but God is ontologically independent of the universe. While some emphasize a sense in which the cosmos can be described as "internal" to God owing to divine omnipresence, God and the cosmos do not share anything in common, ontologically.

Minimally, pantheism and panentheism deny that the cosmos is internal to God without being in some sense either an aspect of God or identical with God. While there are multiple ways of characterizing both pantheism and panentheism, and numerous varieties of both, versions of each share a family resemblance to one another in virtue of some core commitments that allow them to count as versions of one or the other. Obviously, a consequence is that there is some vagueness over whether or not an approach to the divine counts as a version of pantheism or panentheism.

For the purposes of this project, we approach a metaphysics of the divine as pantheistic if it can be described as ontologically reductive, taking God to be identical with the cosmos. Any approach that is ontologically non-reductive, for instance, approaches on which God is constituted by the cosmos or divine properties are emergent properties of the cosmos, we regard as panentheistic.

This project is devoted to exploring the varieties of pantheism and panentheism and some of the challenges faced by them. In particular, the problems of personhood, unity, and evil will receive special attention. Regarding personhood, whether God is identical with the universe or bears another close relationship with the cosmos, such as constitution, is a system such as the universe adequate to provide the truthmakers to describe God as a person? Should we dispense with thinking of God in personal terms?  Regarding unity, what sort of unity must be displayed by the cosmos for it to be truthfully described as divine? What sorts of ontological commitments are implied by accepting either conception of the divine? Finally, given God's ontological status on both approaches and the reality of both moral and natural evil, how can proponents of either pantheism or panentheism account for evil? What, if anything, does the existence of such evils imply for God's moral character? Is it a mistake to even think of God using moral categories?

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