If God exists, His existence should be so fundamental to reality that it should be obvious and understandable on basic principles alone. In fact Romans says that those who reject God are without excuse. Yet it appears that many atheists pretend to see no evidence or reason for God anywhere. So is there perhaps something so basic, and so in our faces, that we might have missed it? Something hiding in plain sight as it were?
Perhaps we should look even closer than plain sight to find the answer. Perhaps the mere existence of our minds is enough to establish the existence of God. I would suggest this is the case from a simple argument. Then I will back up the premises with a little philosophy of mind. Everything is laid out systematically for ease of skimming with lots of video links for quick reference. But first the argument:
P1.) The mind exists.
P2.) Mind is not reducible to non-mind.
C1.) Irreducible mental substance exists.
P3.) Substance dualism is false.
C2.) All is mind, and Berkeleyan idealism is true. (Thus everything exists in God’s mind.)
A video I did with InspiringPhilosophy on my Introspective Argument
Part 1: The Immateriality of the Mind
The existence of the mind is obviously true, so let’s start with premise two instead. A number of simple arguments for the immateriality of the mind exist in philosophy of mind. Here are a few, with video links for handy reference:
1.) Mary, The Color Scientist: Mary, a prodigious color scientist has obtained a complete physical understanding of color, including brain physiology, cones and rods in the eye, nerve impulses, chemical pigments, light waves, etc. Thus on a material basis she should know what color is. However there is a catch. She has been locked into a black and white environment since birth, and has never seen color. One day she leaves the black and white room and learns something new in addition to her complete material knowledge of color: what color looks like. Thus the mental perception of red is immaterial.
Mary, The Color Scientist (aka Jackson’s Knowledge Argument)
2.) Levine’s Explanatory Gap: First pointed out by philosopher of mind Joseph Levine, the explanatory gap shows that there is a conceptual gap between mental and material knowledge. Matter is supposed to be objective and third person, whereas the mind is subjective and first person. To reduce subjective to objective would be a contradiction in terms. If something subjective reduces to something objective, it is no longer subjective.
3.) The Hard Problem of Consciousness: Closely related to the explanatory gap is the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Philosopher of mind David Chalmers points out that the brain is essentially a machine and even if we had complete physical knowledge of the brain, we could never in principle distinguish it from other such machines. We may know why a brain acts like it does, but we can never deduce from that why it should be conscious and something like a toaster oven should not be.
To illustrate this point, he uses the concept of a philosophic zombie. In principle a molecular machine could be built atom by atom to look and behave like a human body. But there is no a priori reason why this machine should be conscious. It could simply be a zombie that behaves consciously even though it is not. Thus consciousness is something other than a material phenomenon.
David Chalmers on the Easy and Hard Problems
4.) The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN): First proposed by Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, the EAAN argues that if the mind is the product of unthinking material forces, we can not trust our own thoughts. If our thoughts are merely chemical accidents, then should we trust them to reach the right conclusion anymore than we can trust chemical accidents to reach the right conclusion? Thus belief that the mind is material is untrustworthy on its own grounds.
Plantinga’s EAAN explains why materialists can not trust their own minds.
5.) Modal Idealism: Most atheists I argue with on this, find this argument particularly irritating. The argument is set up in such a way that in order to refute it, they must first refute the final conclusion of the Introspective Argument. Here it is:
P1.) Mind has the property that it could exist in a conceivable idealist world.
P2.) Matter does not share this property.
C1.) Thus mind is immaterial.
This is of course true since there is nothing logically inconceivable about the world being a dream, but if the world is a dream then matter can not exist in it.
Part II: Why Dualism Doesn’t Work
Though it appears obvious that the mind is immaterial, there is a problem. We often think of the world as divided between immaterial mind and material matter, the ghost and the machine. But there is a problem with this view often referred to as the interaction problem.
My immaterial mind can move my material body, but my material body moves via a material force. Thus if my mind can interact with my body, it must produce material forces. However if it produces material forces, it can not really be immaterial at all.
Thus substance dualism is found to be self-contradictory at close inspection and must be rejected. But if immaterial mind already exists, then no other substance can. Thus matter can not exist, and idealism is true necessarily.
The interaction problem for substance dualism (ironically from an atheist youtuber 😉 )
Part III: Objections
Lastly here are a few objections I have seen and how to address them.
1.) The Masked Man Fallacy: First is the claim that the reason that we think the mind is immaterial is because we have insufficient knowledge of the mind. This applies particularly to modal logic style arguments. An example of the masked man fallacy would be Lois Lane claiming that Clark Kent is not Superman because she “knows” that Clark Kent can not fly while Superman can.
The trouble with this objection is that the masked man fallacy can never apply to consciousness. Consciousness is the one thing in the universe that can never be “masked.” If it were it we would not be conscious of it, and it would not longer be consciousness. “Masked consciousness” is a contradiction in terms.
2.) Is The Mind A Process? Secondly, many claim that the mind is not a substance at all but a process. The trouble with this is that processes only have syntax. Processes carry out instructions, but one can not have understanding merely by carrying out instructions. Semantic meaning has syntax, but syntax alone can never produce semantic meaning. Below is a one minute video on Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment, illustrating why the mind can never be a process.
In Searle’s Chinese Room, the man in the room speaks perfect Chinese but has no understanding of it.
3.) Is The Mind Emergent? Some claim that the mind is an emergent property of the brain, but this does not work either. Firstly emergent phenomena are only syntactic arrangements of smaller phenomena, and consciousness can not be merely syntactic. Secondly, emergent things are reducible, and consciousness is not reducible. If it was, then we could reduce our own minds back down into brain states, and thus do neuroscience through pure introspection. But of course this is impossible.
Why emergence of the mind doesn’t make sense
4.) Do The Arguments For The Immateriality Of The Mind Presuppose Dualism? Lastly some have suggested that the traditional arguments for the minds immateriality presuppose dualism. For instance in Mary, The Color Scientist, Mary first learns all non-mental physical knowledge, and then learns mental non-physical knowledge. However with a little clarification this is not a problem. The “material knowledge” is simply knowledge of what we call physical. And naturally since we are not God, our mental knowledge does not incorporate what we call physical knowledge.
While the original argument seems trivially simple, the conclusion sounds incredible. The physical world is within God’s mind. But surely something so fundamental to the nature of reality would have other far reaching implications as well. As it turns out it does, and these have also been hiding right under our noses all along in the so called “weirdnesses” of modern physics, but that is for the next blog. Stay tuned!
Famous atheist Sam Harris accidentally argues for idealism.