Monday, May 24, 2010

Self-Refuting Nature of Pantheism

Please read also:
Critical Thinking, A Necessary Tool
A Logical Worldview


Pantheism (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, et al.) is self-refuting, especially all forms that claim individuality is an illusion caused by my mind. For according to pantheism, individual minds are themselves aspects of the illusion and can therefore provide no basis for explaining it.

If the mind is part of the illusion, it cannot be the ground for explaining the illusion. Hence, if pantheism is true in asserting that my individuality is an illusion, then pantheism is false, since there is no basis for explaining the illusion.

Pantheism also fails to handle the problem of evil in a satisfactory manner. To pronounce evil an illusion or as less than real is not only frustrating and hollow to those experiencing evil, but it seems philosophically inadequate. If evil is not real, then what is the origin of the illusion? Why have people experienced it for so long, and why does it seem so real? Despite the pantheist's claim to the contrary, he or she also experiences pain, suffering, and eventually will die. Even pantheists double-over in pain when they get appendicitis. They jump out of the way of an on-coming truck so as not to get hurt.

If God is all, and all is God, as pantheists maintain, then evil is an illusion and ultimately there are no rights and wrongs. For there are four possibilities regarding good and evil in a Pantheistic belief structure (as opposed to the one true explanation of evil):


1) If God is all-good, then evil must exist apart from God. But this is impossible since God is all - nothing can exist apart from It.

2) But if God is all-evil, then good must exist apart from God. This is not possible either, since God is in all.

3) God is both all-good and all-evil. This cannot be, for it is self-contradictory to affirm that the same being is both all good and all evil at the same time. Further, most pantheists agree that God is beyond good and evil. Therefore God is neither good nor evil.

4) Good and evil are illusory. They are not real categories.


Option four is what most pantheists believe. But if evil is only an illusion, then ultimately there is no such thing as good and evil thoughts or actions. Hence, what difference would it make whether we praise or curse, counsel or rape, love or murder someone? If there is no final moral difference between those actions, absolute moral responsibilities do not exist. Cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately the same. One critic made the point with this illustration:

'One day I was talking to a group of people in the digs of a young South African in Cambridge. Among others, there was present a young Indian who was of Sikh background but a Hindu by religion. He started to speak strongly against Christianity, but did not really understand the problems of his own beliefs. So I said, "Am I not correct in saying that on the basis of your system, cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately equal, that there is no intrinsic difference between them?" He agreed. The student in whose room we met, who had clearly understood the implications of what the young Sikh had admitted, picked up his kettle of boiling water with which he was about to make tea, and stood with it steaming over the Indian's head. The man looked up and asked him what he was doing and he said, with a cold yet gentle finality, "There is no difference between cruelty and non-cruelty." Thereupon the Hindu walked out into the night.'

If pantheists are correct that reality is not moral, that good and evil, right and wrong, are inapplicable to what is, then to be right is as meaningless as to be wrong. The foundation for morality is destroyed. Pantheism does not take the problem of evil seriously. If you do not take the distinctions between good and bad seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that.

In this and other ways, the concept of the pantheistic "god" is incoherent. To say God is infinite, yet somehow shares his being with creation is to raise the problem of how the finite can be infinite, which is what absolute pantheists say. Otherwise, one must consider the finite world less than real, though existing. We have seen the problems with the first, absolute option. But the second option makes God both infinite and finite, for it is said to share part of its being with creatures which entails an Infinite Being becoming less than infinite. But how can the Infinite be finite, the Absolute be relative, and the Unchanging changed?

Pantheism's "god" is unknowable. The very claim, "God is unknowable in an intellectual way," seems either meaningless or self-defeating. For if the claim itself cannot be understood in an intellectual way, then it is self-defeating. For what is being affirmed is that nothing can be understood about God in an intellectual way. But the pantheist expects us to intellectually know this truth that God cannot be understood in an intellectual way. In other words, the pantheist appears to be making a statement about God to the effect that no such statements can be made about God. But how can one make a positive affirmation about God which claims that only negative affirmations can be made about God? Plotinus admitted that negative knowledge presupposes some positive awareness. Otherwise, one would not know what to negate.

Critics further claim that the denial of many pantheists of the applicability of logic to reality is self-defeating. For to deny that logic applies to reality, it would seem that one must make a logical statement about reality to the effect that no logical statements can be made. For example, when Zen Buddhist D. T. Suzuki says that to comprehend life we must abandon logic, he uses logic in his affirmation and applies it to reality. Indeed, the law of non-contradiction (i.e. A cannot both be A an not A) cannot be denied without using it in the very denial. Therefore, to deny that logic applies to reality, one must not make a logical statement about reality. But then how will the position be defended?



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