What caused the prime mover? I don't know. Perhaps the prime mover is self existent. Or perhaps a self existent unknowable deistic cause created lesser active personal gods, one of whom is our Jehovah who created us. That's what Ben Franklin believed at one point in his life and is (as far as I understand) what the Mormons believe.
A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Can of Worms
If you want to read the whole thing, see this link to Positive Liberty. I'm only going to reproduce the last paragraph which is on point with this blog's purpose.
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Well, if "Christian nationists" are regularly raked over the coals around here for bum quotes [guilty], we should note that some presumably scholarly and intelligent people are guilty of the same glosses.
Benjamin Franklin's "polytheism" is so insufficiently supported by the source documents that it doesn't even merit a mention in passing.
And if anyone's actually interested in metaphysics, the proper question is not one of a "Prime Mover" which ends up in the infinite backs of "turtles on the backs of other turtles" conundrum, but the Unmoved Mover, the final cause, that which keeps the electrons whirring around the nucleus, and so on. It's an immanent "God," not a mere "creator" God.
Aquinas' argument is completely misunderstood in our day and age, even to the point of misnaming the "Unmoved Mover." The discussion, because of the faulty term "Prime Mover," never gets us out of the starting gate.
And of course there is teleology, not where did we come from, but where are we going? What is our final end?
And if we know our final end, then "how shall man live?" and "what is the best life?" start to fall into place from the Completion Backwards Principle.
The Founding took all this for granted, and more, making God not only the Unmoved Mover, but Providential as well.
For an intelligent clarification of the arguments, see Feser, a true Aristotelian-Thomist, arguing the Thomistic arguments well-known to the Founding era.
I admit I'm not a big metaphysics guy meself, but I the Founding era had a better handle on the right questions that we in the 21st century do. [Basically, in the 21st century, we've discarded metaphysics, so it's no wonder we can't discuss the subject intelligently.]
We've touched on Madison referring to Samuel Clarke on this stuff*:
Although Clarke wasn't in total agreement with Aquinas, he used the same ontology, vocabulary and approach to the "Proofs of God," which were also scheduled to be taught at Jefferson's University of Virginia not in a "religion" class, but in an "ethics" class.
I haven't done a ton of work on this because nobody seems to give a damn, but I have bookmarked these things in case anybody ever does, which is why I'm able to pop them in so quickly. The "Proofs of God" have not only become grossly misunderstood, but something people reject out of hand just on general prejudice.
I know one philosophy professor who has no idea what they are. he told me he "heard" they'd been "disproved," so he never bothered with them. Can you imagine that?
Well, some of us critics of the American education establishment certainly can.
*Not on the Trinity, mind you. Madison was referring to Clarke on his "Proofs of God" metaphysics, not his Christology.
Clarke's Christology was not quite orthodox Trinitarian].
So don't even go there, man. You already did. Mostly, his theological concern was in the "Proofs of God" metaphysics, so after the hassle he got about his Christology, he just shut up about it. In the age of the ascendency of Hume's skepticism about God in general, [Clarke died in 1729] he had bigger fish to fry, the question of God itself.
I wouldn't entirely agree that this is what the Mormons believe. Our "prime mover" doctrine (if there is such a thing) is a bit different.
But there IS a source document and I see Walters does MENTION its differing interpretations.
Franklin can be hard to put your finger on because, of all the Founders, he was most likely to make jokes or do tricks with his theology and the Bible itself.
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