Language Event, Narrative Structure and God
July 29, 2010 3 Comments
I propose a modified form of the transcendental argument for God’s existence. Not that it’s different, but it’s an aspect to the argument I’ve never seen previous proponents take. It occurred to me while reading Alisdair MacIntyre and while considering some of what Husserl and Karl Otto Appel have said. But of course, debates get old. They get old as I get old, maybe. Anyway, the subject matter itself is still worthy of reflection, even if one chooses not to engage in debate. Didn’t debate used to be a respected art? yes. But in our INGSOC modernity, questioning is itself suspect. But to the point.
MacIntyre points out that there is a kind of narrative structure for any meaningful conversation to take place. He makes a convincing case in his piece mentioned above. It occurred to me that for the localized instance of conversation to make sense, though, there has to be a larger narrative structure within which the localized conversation takes place. MacIntyre’s The Virtues, The Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition gives an example along the lines of approaching someone gardening. To say a nonsense statement like “flight of the condor eats cheese wings perpetually,” has no meaning. In fact, to say even a meaningful phrase assumes some sort of context, such as, “how is the gardening coming?” or something of that nature. So why is it that we do one and not the other? Deconstructionists, relativists, nihilists, and so on, can say that it’s just utilitarian and social convention that has caused to use certain sounds in a certain way to stand for certain things, and that we evolved this way, blah blah blah.
But this kind of simple, mundane interaction doesn’t just show a kind of appropriateness to the content of what can be said, it also evidences a narrative structure. For example, generally, such a conversation would have a greeting, middle, and climax. Granted not always per se, but even a passing hello, has a kind of narrative structure to it, with an intended meaning that one party has, that the other party receives and many or may not acknowledge. Again, the intentions obviously vary as well as the received meanings and responses, but none of this changes the loosely narrative structure of such interactions.
What I think follows from this is that we see an interpersonal interaction occur with a narrative structure even in the most trivial and localized events of human experience. So what can be fleshed out from this is that numerous things must be the case for this event to occur, which everyone (even a solipsist pretender) admits occurs. There is a beginning, with the event of the concept being expressed by the communicant to the one or more receivers. There is the actual event of communication transpiring and being received and processed by the receiver(s). Then we have the contingent period of response and further communication for however long. Then, the communication act ends. So we see the narrative structure present.
Also, we can flesh out other transcendentally necessary preconditions for this interaction to occur that are crucial to the overall argument for God. We can make a list:
1. That the subjects in question are separate entities and monism isn’t true.
2. That subjects experience phenomena of the external world.
3. That the subjects are distinct selves or persons that exhibit identity over time.
4. That the subjects themselves have a certain historical narrative – metanarrative – that “explains” or gives their being meaning, as well (this is my overall argument).
5. That the given subjects experience the phenomena in a kind of time-bound sequence.
6. That the subjects can internalize meaning from abstract concepts that pass from one brain to the other.
7. That the concepts in question have some kind of universal ontological reality apart from the interaction wherein they are..participated(?) or incarnated (?)
8. That the meaning of the concepts internalized by the communicants inheres over time.
9. That the beginning –> middle –> end narrative structure, connected to the beginning –> middle –> end time structure, also subsists and recurs over time.
One could go on and on. This off the cuff list shows, though, how many multitude preconditions must be the case for the meaningful interaction to happen. Another interesting question would be to bring in the notion of emotion. The above analysis, is of course, a bit dry, analytical and technical. Could one show that emotions such as love, fear, etc., are also in some way preconditions? Possibly. It would be an interesting route to explore. If we are ‘persons’ then the notion of person includes it. A kind of Heideggerian insight to the Husserlian.
What I deduce from this is that even the infinitely complex single interaction of saying hello to your neighbor gardening assume a certain world-structure. Not only does this world-structure assume a certain ontology (for example, the above precludes the possibility of monism or solipsism). But as MacIntyre shows, the persons in question and their conversation has a narrative structure, so also do the persons themselves and this event presuppose an entire world-story. A kind of meta-meta-narrative. Leibniz hit on this in his Discourse on Metaphysics when he noted that his monoadology showed a kind of necessary relation between each thing and every other thing.
The localized events like this, for them to be meaningful not only presuppose a certain world-structure, they also presuppose a certain narrative structure to the conversation, the persons and the world as a whole. MacIntyre only considered the unity of the person and the life, but it also shows a unity to the totality of the human experience as a narrative structure and as a structured time experience: beginning–>middle—>end.
Now, if this holds, and I think it does, then what holds together this totality metanarrative world-structure? A random, chaos universe born of the bowels of Tiamat cannot. Irrationality does not produce this irrationality, and apologists who argue it does, like the neo-Darwinians and “new atheists” have to ultimately admit that the concepts like freedom and meaning are illusions. Deterministic naturalism collapses back into their equally meaningless maya monism. What we need then, is something that functions as the over-arching Power that holds together the event mentioned, as well as the preconditions for the event. The doctrine of a personal, providential God does this perfectly, and not just any generic “god,” but the God of the Bible, replete with the omnis. The omnis, by the way, are absolutely necessary for this over-arching structure to hold, since were one of the attributes missing, the universe itself would then be ruled by chaos, we would have a time-emergent deity, and we’d collapse into meaningless and monism. Thus, a mundane conversation itself presupposes narrative, which presupposed meta-narrative, which presupposes time structure of beginning –> middle –> end, which presuppose an all-powerful God as presented in the Bible.
Indeed, as I wrote this little article, and as you read it, we participated in the very narrative structure I wrote about.