The Maker and the Material: God and the Material Cause by M Vasudevacharya978-1-925666-82-3, 978-1-925666-94-6
The Maker and the Material: God and the Material Cause
The five chapters of this book discuss a number of possibilities about the “relation” between the cosmos and God. This may seem abstract, but the way we think about the world has important implications for the way we treat it. Chapter 1 surveys the philosophical world of the ancient Greeks in order to examine the different ways that early Greek philosophers understood the relation between the cosmos and its Divine Source. From among them, I single out Plato’s depiction of God as a Divine Artisan who made the world out of pre-existing matter. In chapter 2, I discuss a conception of the relation between the world and God that is different to anything envisaged by the classical Greeks. This is the idea that God created the world from nothing (creatio ex nihilo). This idea has remained part of the Western intellectual background over the course of many centuries and it has provided the dominant creation paradigm for Western civilization. Chapter 3 offers another perspective, one which can be found across cultures in East and West. This is the idea that the world is an emanation from the Divine (creatio ex divino). I discuss this specifically in the context of the philosophy of Plotinus.
We thus have three different ways to explain the “relation” between the cosmos and its Creator: Plato’s idea of God as a Divine Artisan, the idea that God created the world from sheer nothing, and the idea of the world as an emanation from God. Chapter 4 begins with a discussion about the Argument from Design, as presented by David Hume, the eighteenth century Scottish philosopher. I concur with his conclusion that while the legitimate scope of the Argument from Design is very limited, when correctly formulated it is nonetheless a persuasive argument for the existence of a cosmic Intelligence that we might call God. Given that it is reasonable to think of the cosmos as having an Intelligent cause, we may inquire as to what is the relation between the cosmos and such an Intelligent cause. This leads to a comparison between the three possibilities we have already discussed. I first compare Plato’s portrayal of God as a divine Artisan with the Biblically inspired doctrine of “creation from nothing” and find in favour of the latter, because it solves the problems raised in Plato’s account. I next compare “creation from nothing” with the idea, taught by the Neoplatonists, but also found in the Upanishads, that the world is an “emanation from the Divine”. My argument is that the concept of the world as a “divine emanation” is a viable possibility with a number of advantages over the idea that the world is a creation “from nothing”. My proposal is that our understanding of God should be widened to include the idea that God is the intelligent cause of the cosmos and is its material cause as well. In other words, the Maker is also the material.
The idea of the world as an emanation of God is not without some philosophical challenges, which I try to address. Its chief benefit, which I discuss in chapter 5, is that the idea of the world as God manifest as form recovers the lost immanence of God and it restores the conception, common to many ancient cultures, of the world as a sacred place.
Trim size: 5 x 8 inches (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Page count: 190
Internal pages: B&W
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