Skip to content

The Existence of God 9: Arguments from Consciousness and Morality


Two separate arguments. First Swinburne points out the impossibility of scientific explanation of consciousness. He says that there is no reason to suppose that, given a naturalistic universe, there would arise something like mental events. There could just as easily have been automatons that act the same way instead of actually feeling anything. On the other hand, God creating consciousness solves this problem.

Next, Swinburne makes two moral arguments. The first is the argument from moral facts. If there are objective moral facts, God exists. There are objective moral facts, therefore God exists. There is also the argument from the feelings of morality, which is basically the same argument as the argument from consciousness. Sure altruistic behavior might be expected on evolution, but not feelings of right and wrong.

So I don’t know if there really is no reason to expect feelings of morality, or if it’s true that there is no way to scientifically explain them. Swinburne seems to point out the impossibility of ‘bridge laws.’ Even if we know everything about a brain, we don’t know everything about the consciousness of the being, therefore they are not one and the same, which entails the impossibility of explanation.

But does “God did it” a better explanation? I suppose we can say that an all powerful God who wanted consciousness to exist could make the existence of consciousness more likely, but can’t we just assume that there is something else in the universe that causes it? Or maybe that we just haven’t found out yet? I suppose the argument to Gods ultimate simplicity as an explanation is key here. If God is ultimately simple, then he would be a preferred explanation over many other hypotheses. If he is insanely complex (perhaps infinitely complex), then almost any other hypothesis would be more plausible.

Swinburne admits that his first argument from morality does not fly, since one can simply protest that there are no objective moral truths. Now I don’t think that moral truths entail God, but that’s a different story.

The argument from moral experience might suffer from the same flaws (if it does suffer) that the argument from consciousness does. The question is, does God provide a good explanation, and is God really simple as an explanation? Two key questions that would help to evaluate pretty much every other claim in this book.

Kindle Notes:

I emphasize my definition of the mental as that to which the subject has privileged access (2591).

I do not, of course, deny that most of my mental events are caused by my brain events. Clearly most of the passive mental events-the ones that we find ourselves having, sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and desires-are caused at least in part by brain events, themselves often caused by further bodily events; while some mental events are caused, at least in part, by other mental events (2595).

It follows that mere knowledge of what happens to brains or bodies or anything else physical does not tell you what happens to persons (2621).

Note: Doesn’t that depend on what we mean by person? I can see some arguing that two persons exist now and the old one is altered or gone. ‘Me’ is divisible.

it is immensely improbable that there could be a scientific explanation of the connections. Mind-brain connections are too `odd’ for science to explain; they cannot be consequences of a more fundamental scientific theory, and there are simply too many diverse connections to constitute laws (2790).

But once again there is available a personal explanation: God being omnipotent, is able to join souls to bodies (2791).

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: