Existence and Actuality: Conversations with Charles Hartshorne
by John B. Cobb, Jr. and Franklin I. Gamwell (eds.)
Chapter 2: The Experience of God: Critical Reflections on Hartshorne’s Theory of Analogy by Schubert M. Ogden
Schubert M. Ogden is University Distinguished Professor of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Simply in itself, "the experience of God’’ is ambiguous in that it can be construed both as a subjective and as an objective genitive phrase. If it is construed as the first, it means God’s own experience as an experiencing subject, whether the experience be of God’s self alone or also of some object or objects other than God. If it is construed as the second, it means someone’s experience of God as experienced object, whether the experience be solely God’s own or also that of some other subject or subjects. My contention is that this phrase will prove to be an important term in any adequate Christian theology insofar as, on either construction, it expresses a concept indispensable to the foundational assertions of such a theology. And this is so, I contend, precisely when, on both constructions, it is taken in its fullest sense -- as meaning that God is both the subject and the object of experience, not only reflexively in relation to self, but also nonreflexively in relation to others. The reasons for this contention can be explained in three steps.
First of all, by "Christian theology" is properly meant either the process or the product of critically reflecting on the Christian witness of faith so as to be able to evaluate any and all claims as to its meaning and truth. If the constitutive assertion of this witness, however expressed or implied, is specifically christological, in that it is the assertion, in some terms or other, of the decisive significance of Jesus for human existence, the metaphysical implications of this assertion are specifically theological in that they all either are or clearly imply assertions about the strictly ultimate reality that in theistic religious traditions is termed "God." In this sense, the foundational assertions of Christian witness and theology, as distinct from their constitutive assertion, are all assertions about God; and this means that, in the very same sense, the concept expressed by "God" must be as indispensable to Christian theology as to the witness of faith en which it is the reflection.
Second, a Christian theology can be adequate in a given situation only insofar as its assertions as formulated, whether expressed or implied, satisfy the specific requirements in the situation for being at once appropriate and credible: appropriate, in the sense that they are congruent in meaning with the assertions of the Christian witness as normatively represented in the witness of the apostles; and credible, in the sense that they are worthy of being believed by the same standards of critical judgment as properly apply to any other assertions of the same logical type or types. If this rule holds good of all the assertions of Christian theology, it obviously applies to theology’s foundational assertions about God. The adequacy of any such assertion depends on satisfying all that is specifically required by appropriateness and credibility alike, given some historical situation with its limits and opportunities.
Third, in our situation today, the specific requirements of these two criteria are such that no theology can be adequate unless it makes the assertion of the experience of God, by which I mean that it must assert, in some formulation or other, that the strictly ultimate reality termed "God" is the object as well as the subject of experience, and this in relation to others as well as to self.
One part of this assertion is made necessary by what we now take to be specifically required by the criterion of credibility. If in earlier situations the standards of critical judgment that properly applied to foundational theological assertions allowed for appeals to authorities of various kinds to settle the issue of their credibility, for us today all such appeals can have at most a provisional validity. Sooner or later, appeal must be made beyond all mere authorities to the ultimate verdict of our common human experience, which alone can establish the credibility even of theological assertions. This means, then, that God must be asserted to be in some way the object of human experience, else the foundational theological assertions could never be established as worthy of being believed.
The other part of the assertion is made just as necessary by what we now see to be the specific requirements of the criterion of appropriateness. One of the most assured results of the application of historical-critical methods of study to the tradition of Christian witness is the soundness of Pascal’s famous judgment that the God of the philosophers is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Provided this judgment is taken as it should be, not as formulating a timeless principle, but as relative to the classical philosophy that Pascal clearly had in mind in making it, it can claim the full support of contemporary historical, including biblical, theology. So far from being the God of classical philosophy, who is in no way related to others and whose sole object of experience is self, the God of Christian scripture as well as of the Hebrew patriarchs is consistently represented as the supremely relative one, who is related to all others as well as to self by the unique experiences of creation and redemption. And if this is true of scripture, it is no less true of the normative witness of the apostles of which the Old and New Testaments are the primary source. This is to say, then, that God must be asserted to be in some sense the subject of the experience of others as well as of self, lest the foundational assertions of Christian theology fail to be congruent in meaning with the apostolic witness that is their norm.
And yet if assertion of the experience of God is thus seen to be necessary to any adequate contemporary theology, it is nevertheless a problematic assertion, and that in the one part as well as in the other. This becomes particularly clear when one takes account of certain basic presuppositions that are now widely shared by theologians as well as philosophers.
Partly as a result of the emergence of modern culture generally, especially science and technology, but also in part because of developments in philosophy associated, above all, with the work of Immanuel Kant, most of us have long since come to think of the several fields of human experience or reflection as much more clearly differentiated than earlier generations supposed them to be. Thus, if we now understand religion and morality, say, as forms of life and experience that are quite different from that of science, the same can also be said, mutatis mutandis, of our understanding of philosophy and metaphysics. We recognize that, whereas science can claim to be empirical in a straightforward sense of the word, the same is not true of any of these other forms of culture or modes of thought, whose empirical connections, if any, are either less direct or more difficult to specify. As a matter of fact, for many of us, neither religion as a form of life nor theology and metaphysics as modes of reflection are empirical at all in the strict sense in which science can be said to be so. On the contrary, they are as clearly differentiated from science as we take them to be, precisely because they spring from an interest or concern that is more than merely empirical and because the assertions they typically make or imply are not subject to any strictly empirical mode of verification. Consequently, whatever reservations we may have about Paul Tillich’s dictum that "God is being-itself, not a being," we can only concur in its essential point about the uniqueness of God. We take for granted that, for religion as well as for philosophy, the question of God is extraordinary and cannot possibly be adequately answered on the same basis in experience or in the same terms and concepts as any ordinary question.
To the extent that presuppositions such as these are basic to our whole philosophical or theological approach, any talk about the experience of God, however construed, is bound to raise problems. If such talk is construed objectively, as asserting that God is in some way the object of human experience, the fact that "God’’ must be understood to express a nonempirical concept means that no empirical evidence can possibly be relevant to the question of whether the concept applies and that, therefore, God must be experienced directly rather than merely indirectly through first experiencing something else. Moreover, if "God" is correctly understood as in some sense referring to reality itself, its referent, if any, is evidently ubiquitous, and this implies that the experience of God is universal as well as direct -- something unavoidably had not only by mystics or the religious but by every human being simply as such, indeed, by any experiencing being whatever, in each and every one of its experiences of anything at all. To become aware of such implications, however, is to realize at once why asserting the experience of God is, in this part of the assertion, indeed problematic. Even aside from the consideration that prevalent assumptions as to the limits of human experience scarcely allow for any such direct experience of God, the plain fact is that ‘God’’ does not appear to express a universally indispensable concept. On the contrary, the sheer existence of non- and even a-theistic religions and philosophies throughout culture and history is prima-facie evidence against the claim that the experience of God is a universal human experience.
The other part of the assertion, which construes "the experience of God" subjectively, as asserting God’s own experience of others as well as of self, is hardly less problematic. To be sure, there is nothing new about the fact that the clear assertions or implications in scripture that God is really related to the world as Creator and Redeemer, and hence by experiences of love and care, judgment and forgiveness, create difficulties for theological reflection. It was precisely the attempt to cope with such difficulties that led the church fathers to appropriate Stoic and Hellenistic Jewish methods of allegorical interpretation and the medieval theologians to develop elaborate theories of analogy and nonliteral predication. But one may still question, I think, whether, prior to the emergence of the modem scientific world-picture and the sharp differentiation of the nonempirical claims of religion and metaphysics from the strictly empirical claims of science and ordinary language, these difficulties could be felt as acutely as most of us feel them today. At any rate, it was left to Christian theologians of the last two centuries to expressly try, in one way or another, to "overcome theism," and only in our own time have there been theologies of "radical demythologizing" and of "the death of God," as well as various attempts to salvage religious discourse by interpreting it exhaustively in noncognitive terms. This strongly suggests, I believe, that any assertion that God is the subject of the experience of others is certain to create a peculiar problem for theology today. However necessary such an assertion may be if justice is to be done to the normative Christian witness, it is bound to strike most of us as, on the face of it, a category mistake: the application of a merely empirical predicate to a subject that can be adequately conceived only as radically nonempirical.
But now the fact that the assertion of the experience of God is as problematic as I am arguing is directly connected with what I want to say about the work of Charles Hartshorne as a natural, or philosophical, theologian. One way, certainly, of making the claim for the extraordinary significance of Hartshorne’s work for Christian theology is to say that he has done more than any other thinker on the scene to clarify, if not to solve, the problems raised by both parts of this assertion.
To be sure, his contribution toward solving the problems of asserting that God is directly experienced by every experiencing subject is less original and is matched or even excelled in important respects by the essentially similar solutions of other revisionary metaphysicians. Basically, his solution takes the form of distinguishing two different levels of human experience, or of more or less conscious thinking about experience, on only the deeper of which is there an experience of God that is both direct and universal. Since such unavoidable experience of God need not be consciously thought about at the higher level and, in fact, may even be absent or denied there, the assertion that God is directly experienced by every human being as such is in no way incompatible with the existence of non- or even a-theistic modes of thought. But, of course, this is very much the solution to the same set of problems that is offered by so-called transcendental Thomist thinkers, beginning with Joseph Maréchal and continuing down to Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan. In fact, if Hartshorne’s solution can be said to surpass theirs in its explicitly psychicalist claim that God is somehow experienced not only by every human being but by every actual entity whatever, theirs can be said to go beyond his in its more fully elaborated metaphysics of knowledge or cognitional theory. Even so, Hartshorne clearly has his own contribution to make toward solving even this first set of problems; and if his own theory of human experience is hardly as fully developed as certain others, its basic axioms are arguably more adequate because better founded in experience itself.
But where his work clearly seems to me to be unsurpassed in every respect is in the contribution he has made toward clarifying the second set of problems raised by asserting the experience of God, which is to say, by the concept of God as also the subject of experience, of others as well as of self. By working out a neoclassical theory of nonliteral religious discourse consistent with his neoclassical theism generally, he has not only overcome the notorious contradictions involved in classical theism’s use of analogy and other modes of nonliteral language, he has also given good reasons for thinking that our distinctively modern reflection about God results from two movements of thought, not simply from one. At the very same time that it has become clear that the theistic question cannot possibly be discussed as a merely empirical question, it has also become clear, on secular philosophical grounds as well as religious, that contingency and relativity can be as readily predicated of ultimate reality as necessity and absoluteness. To this extent, Hartshorne has spoken, as no one else has succeeded in doing, to the peculiar problem posed by the apparent category mistake of any talk about God as the subject of experience. In fact, his contribution in this respect has been so impressive that a number of us who work at the task of Christian theology have long proceeded as though he had, in effect, solved this second set of conceptual problems.
But as impressive as Hartshorne’s achievement still seems to me to be in clarifying both sets of problems, I have become increasingly convinced that his attempted solutions to them also involve certain difficulties, some of which I take to be serious. As a matter of fact, unless I am mistaken, he can be said to succeed in solving one of these sets of problems only insofar as he must be said to fail in solving the other.
The source of these difficulties, I believe, is his theory of analogy, the attempt, in connection with his neoclassical theory of religious language, to establish a third stratum of meaning, or set of concepts and terms, distinct both from the set of plainly formal, strictly literal concepts and terms, on the one hand, and from the set of plainly material, merely symbolic or metaphorical concepts and terms, on the other. In attempting thus to establish analogy, of course, Hartshorne follows a precedent long since set by classical metaphysics and theology. Indeed, although he rarely makes use of the terms and distinctions of classical theories of analogy, the formal parallels between his own theory and that formulated by Thomas Aquinas are remarkably close. Still, as I already indicated, there are also important differences between Hartshorne’s neoclassical theory of analogy and any classical theory such as Aquinas’s.
For one thing, he is far more explicit in acknowledging that the whole superstructure of nonliteral predication, whether symbolic or analogical, rests on a base of strictly literal metaphysical claims. If Aquinas at least tacitly acknowledges this by making all analogical predications depend upon the clearly literal distinction between Creator and Creature, he can also seem not to acknowledge it by flatly declaring that we cannot know of God quid sit, but only an sit or quod sit. In Hartshorne’s case, however, the position is consistently taken that "whatever the qualifications, some abstract feature or ratio is implied, and this common feature must not be denied if anything is to be left of the analogy" (1945, 19). Another, even more important, difference between Hartshorne’s and any classical theory is not formal, but material -- namely, his demonstration that the strictly literal claims that must be made about God if there are to be any symbolic or analogical predications at all must be partly positive, not wholly negative, in meaning. It is just this demonstration, indeed, that enables him, as I said before, to overcome the contradictions between literal and nonliteral claims about God in the classical theistic tradition. By conceiving God as eminently relative, he is not only able to conceive God as also eminently nonrelative or absolute but is further able, without falling into contradiction, to make the symbolic or analogical assertions about God that are essential to theistic religious faith and worship.
There is no question, then, that Hartshorne’s theory of analogy, however similar to classical theories, is free of some of their most obvious and intractable difficulties. But these are not the only, or even the most serious, such difficulties; and, as I now propose to show, it is rather less clear that he has succeeded in surmounting certain others as well. I shall begin by trying to clear up some more or less minor difficulties which appear to be more hermeneutical than substantive. Since some resolution of them is necessary to a coherent interpretation of Hartshorne’s meaning, there is nothing to do but to work through them before discussing what I take to be the major difficulties of his theory.
In an essay entitled ‘‘The Idea of God -- Literal or Analogical?" Hartshorne concludes an account of his panentheistic concept of God by asking explicitly, "What, in the foregoing account, is literal, and what is metaphorical, or at least, analogical?" To this he replies: "The psychological conceptions, such as love, will, knowledge, are non-literal. For God’s love or knowledge differ in principle, not merely in degree, from ours. The criterion of these non-literal concepts is precisely that they involve degrees, that they are affairs of more or less, of high and low. They are qualitative. Literal concepts are not matters of degree, but of all or none. They express the formal status of an entity. They classify propositions about it as of a certain logical type" (1956, 134). Hartshorne’s main point here, presumably, is that non-literal concepts like "love" or "knowledge" differ from literal concepts in being matters of degree rather than of all or none. But he also appears to deny this when he says that God’s love or knowledge differ from ours "in principle, not merely in degree." What gives the appearance of contradiction, however, is the assumption, which Hartshorne’s essay says nothing to disabuse, that his one distinction between differing merely in degree and differing in principle corresponds exactly to his other distinction between being a matter of degree and being a matter of all or none. But my guess is that he is here implicitly depending on a distinction he explicitly introduces elsewhere that invalidates this assumption -- namely, the threefold distinction between "infinite," "finite,’’ and "absolute" difference (see, e.g., 1957, 80f.). Assuming this distinction, which turns upon his more basic distinction between "all," "some," and "none," he can assert that God’s love and knowledge differ in principle from ours without denying, as he appears to do, that the difference is still not absolute and hence expressible only in nonliteral concepts. In other words, what he means to say is that to differ in principle is to differ in degree, because it is not an absolute difference, but it is not to differ "merely in degree," because it is an infinite rather than a merely finite difference.
A second difficulty is connected with the statement, already quoted, that "Literal concepts are not matters of degree, but of all or none." What makes this and parallel statements in other writings problematic is that some of the very concepts that Hartshorne classifies as "literal" are elsewhere implied to be matters of degree rather than of all or none and are even said to be "analogical" when applied to God. Consider, for example, what he says about the polar concepts "absolute" and "relative."
In one place, where he expressly proposes a classification of theological terms, he speaks of "plainly literal terms like relative or absolute" (1970a, 155). Similarly, he tells us in another passage, whose larger context is closely parallel, that, although "God is symbolically ruler" and "analogically conscious and loving," God is "literally both absolute (or necessary) in existence and relative (or contingent) in actuality" (1962, 140). Elsewhere, however, in a discussion of "analogical concepts and metaphysical uniqueness," he makes his usual point that the unique status of deity is "a double one" by arguing that "no other being, in any aspect, could be either wholly relative or wholly nonrelative. Thus, while all beings have some measure of ‘absoluteness’ or independence of relationships and some measure of ‘relativity,’ God, and only God, is in one aspect of his being strictly or maximally absolute, and in another aspect no less strictly or maximally relative. So both ‘relative’ and ‘nonrelative’ are analogical, not univocal, in application to deity" (1948, 32). This argument is all the more striking because Hartshorne immediately goes on to say that the "completely metaphysical" distinction between deity and all else "may be expressed under any category and because he subsequently speaks of "a strong or eminent, as contrasted to a weak or ordinary, sense" of the terms "relative" and "absolute" (32, 76; cf. 67, 75).
Such passages confirm that Hartshorne does not always say that categorial terms like ‘‘absolute" and "relative," ‘‘necessary" and contingent,’’ being matters of all or none rather than of degree, have a literal rather than an analogical meaning. It is true that the contrast he makes in the passage in which he affirms that these terms are ‘‘analogical" in application to deity is not with "literal," but, rather, with "univocal." But this difference clearly is merely verbal. For in the sense in which he uses the term "literal" in the other passages in which he affirms the same categorial terms to have a literal rather than either a symbolic or an analogical meaning, it means nothing other than "univocal’’ (although, as we shall see presently, this is not the only sense in which he uses the term ‘‘literal"). Thus he argues that, whereas an analogical concept like "feeling’’ applies to the different things to which it is applicable in different senses, rather than in the same sense, the purely formal concept "contingency" has "a single literal meaning applicable to all cases, the meaning of excluding some positive possibilities" (1962, 140). Or, again, he can say of the term "relativity," that "to be ‘constituted in some way by contingent relations’ is simply and literally that, no more, no less, and no other" (1970a, 154). The fact seems to be, then, that Hartshorne means as well as says that the same categorial terms both are and are not literal rather than analogical when applied to God.
Is this to say that his theory is insofar inconsistent? To the best of my knowledge, he nowhere says anything that directly addresses this question. But it seems to me that there is something he could say that would remove the apparent contradiction.
Essential to his whole metaphysical position is the claim that, in addition to ‘‘the most general or neutral idea of reality,’’ we need to make certain purely formal distinctions between realities or entities of different logical types, thereby clarifying "metaphysical universals valid only within one type" (1970a, 141). Thus "reality is distinguishable categorially or a priori into concrete and abstract," and this distinction breaks down further into logical-type distinctions between ‘‘events,’’ "individuals,’’ and ‘‘aggregates’’ (or "groups of individuals"), on the one hand, and "qualities" (or "properties") on two different levels of abstractness, ranging from "species" and "genera" to "metaphysical categories," on the other (90, 141, 57, 101). Moreover, there is the "unique form of logical-type distinction" between "God and other things," or, more exactly, "God and any other individual being" (144, 140). Although God as an individual is as contingent in actuality, or with respect to the events embodying the divine individuality, as any individual must be, the existence of God as the one universal, all-inclusive individual is categorially different from that of all other particular, partly exclusive individuals in being necessary (245-60). According to Hartshorne, all of these distinctions, including the unique distinction between God and all other individuals, are purely formal and, therefore, literal in that they are not matters of degree but of all or none. An entity either is or is not an event, and the same may be said about its being an individual or an aggregate, a quality at the lower level of abstractness or at the higher, or the extraordinary individual God. Consequently, while there are metaphysical categories explicative of the meaning of each of these logical types and, therefore, applicable only to entities falling within them, these categories, too, are strictly literal in that they apply to every entity within their respective types, not in different senses, but in the same sense.
Now this much Hartshorne himself clearly says or implies, and that many times over. But, then, there is something else that he very well could say that would render his apparently contradictory statements consistent -- namely, that, although such terms as ‘‘absolute" and ‘‘relative," or "necessary" and "contingent," explicate the meaning of more than one logical type, and thus apply to entities within these different types in correspondingly different senses, rather than in simply the same sense, they nevertheless apply to the different entities within any single type whose meaning they in some sense explicate, not in different senses, but rather in the same sense.
Thus "relative," for example, means in the broadest sense "constituted in some way or degree by relations to the contingent." As such, it applies in some sense to entities of all logical types, except qualities at the highest level of abstractness, otherwise called "metaphysical categories." But the sense in which "relative" applies to an event, say, is systematically different from the sense in which it applies to an ordinary quality at some lower level of abstractness, whether genus or species. While an event is relative in being internally related to other entities of the same logical type; which it requires by a necessity that is "particular and definite," a species or genus is relative only in that it requires, by a necessity that is ‘‘generic or indefinite," one or more intentional classes (of individuals or of other more specific kinds), all of which are only contingently nonempty (1970a, l0l f., 103, 109). Consequently, while there is a perfectly definite sense in which any ordinary quality can be said to be less relative and more absolute than any event, it can be said just as definitely that even the highest genus is infinitely more relative and less absolute than any metaphysical category, or the necessary individuality of God that is the original unity of all such categories. This means that if terms like "relative" and "absolute" are taken in their broadest meaning, without regard to distinctions of logical type, Hartshorne has sufficient reason for saying that they can be used in systematically different senses and, therefore, are analogical, not univocal, in application to deity. If, on the contrary, they are taken strictly, in any one of the senses they have when applied solely to entities within a single logical type, he is equally justified in holding that they are then used in the same sense, and, therefore, are literal, not analogical, even when applicable to God.
So much, then, for this second difficulty. Because I take my resolution of it to be firmly based in Hartshorne’s own essential position, I shall proceed henceforth as though it were a proper interpretation of what he means to say, even though, to repeat, I know of no place where he actually says it.
The third difficulty that must be cleared up was already alluded to parenthetically when I remarked earlier that Hartshorne uses the term "literal,’’ also, in more than one sense. In fact, one could say, somewhat schematically, that, if the second difficulty arises from his saying that concepts that he classifies as literal are analogical, the third difficulty arises from his saying that concepts that he classifies as analogical are literal. The difference in this case, however, is that, in speaking so, he expressly recognizes that he is using "literal" in a different sense, even though he never explains very clearly just wherein this difference lies. Thus, after a discussion of the ‘‘literalness of theism," in which he argues that it is God who loves literally, while it is we who love only metaphorically, he remarks: "If someone should say that I have been using ‘literal’ and ‘metaphorical’ in an unusual, nonliteral, and even metaphorical sense, I should reply that I have apprehensions this may perhaps be true. I should be happy to be taught how to put the matter more precisely" (1948, 38). Elsewhere, having argued that analogical concepts are "not purely formal in the same sense as the other categorial terms,’’ he hastens to add, "And yet there is a strange sense in which the analogical concepts apply literally to deity, and analogically to creatures" (1962, 141; cf. 1970a, 155f.).
It would appear that Hartshorne is here depending, in effect, if not in so many words, upon something like the distinction made in the Thomistic theory of analogy between what is meant by an analogical term (the res significata) and how the term means (its modus significandi) (Thomas Aquinas 1964, 56-59, 66-71). By means of this distinction, one can argue that, although the primary sense of a term with respect to how it means is the sense it has as applied to a creature, or ordinary individual, the primary sense of the term with respect to what is meant by it is the sense it has as applied to the Creator, or eminent individual. Accordingly, one may hold that, even though God is the secondary analogue with respect to how an analogy means, God is nevertheless the primary analogue with respect to what is meant by the analogy.
A close reading of Hartshorne’s writings confirms, I believe, that he typically reasons in much this same way, even if it is Karl Barth or Emil Brunner, instead of Aquinas, with whom he acknowledges his agreement in doing so. But if I am right about this, the third difficulty, also, can be resolved. When Hartshorne says that there is a sense in which analogical terms apply literally to God and, therefore, simply are literal in this application, what he means by "literal" is not that such terms apply to God in the same sense in which they apply to any other entity of the same logical type, this being, as we have seen, what he otherwise takes "literal" to mean. He means, rather, that with respect at least to what is meant by such terms, they apply to God in the primary sense in which they can be applied analogically both to God and to all other individuals, their application to such other individuals being in this respect their secondary sense.
Yet a fourth difficulty -- actually, a complex of difficulties -- in Hartshorne’s theory has to do with his using certain terms that he classifies as analogical expressly in senses that render any such classification self-contradictory. By "analogical" here I mean in the strict sense implied by what has already been said about the meaning of "literal," namely, that terms are "literal" in the strict sense of the word when, within any single logical type, they apply in the same sense, rather than in different senses, to all the different entities belonging to the type. By contrast, terms are "analogical" in the strict sense when, even within the logical types within which alone they are applicable -- which is to say, the logical types of individuals, and hence of the eminent individual God as well as of ordinary individuals -- they apply in different senses, rather than in the same sense, to all the different entities within the respective types. Thus Hartshorne holds that the term "feeling," for instance, can be said to be analogical in this sense because, or insofar as, it applies to all entities of the logical type of individuals, including the unique individual God, but does so in suitably different senses to all the different kinds or levels of individuals, with its sense being infinitely different in its application to God (1962, 140).
The difficulty, however, is that it is not only, or even primarily, terms such as "feeling" or ‘‘sentience’’ that Hartshorne typically classifies as thus analogical when applied to God. On the contrary, because he seeks to interpret what is said or implied about God in such theistic religious phenomena as faith and worship, his preferred theological analogies involve terms like "knowledge," "love," and "will," and he likes to speak of God, as in a sentence already quoted, as "analogically conscious and loving" (1970a, 154 ff.; 1962, 140; cf. 1965, 301). At one point, he goes so far as to say that "the word God . . . stands for an analogy (difficult no doubt) between the thinking animal and the cosmos conceived as animate" (1970a, 220). Considering his use elsewhere of the phrase, "thinking animal," one can only suppose that here, too, it refers to man, or a human being, in contrast to other kinds of animals who feel but cannot think, or, at any rate, cannot think that they think (1970a, 94; 1971, 208). But if this supposition is correct, any analogy between such a specific kind of animal and God is not merely difficult but quite impossible. For by Hartshorne’s own criterion of the difference between an analogy and a mere symbol -- namely, that the first differs from the second in not drawing a comparison between God and one concrete species of entity in contrast to all others -- any comparison between God and the thinking animal cannot possibly be an analogy but only a symbol (1962, 134). Because "thinking," as Hartshorne expressly uses the word, is, in his terms, a merely "local," rather than a ‘‘cosmic,’’ variable, if it can be applied to God at all, it has to be applied symbolically rather than analogically (1937, 111-24).
It would be tedious to show that a similar difficulty arises in connection with most, if not all, of the other terms that Hartshorne typically represents as theological analogies. In each case, the source of the difficulty is the same: in the sense that he himself expressly gives the term, it can be applied at most to entities of some specific kind or kinds and, therefore, is anything but a variable having "an infinite range of values" (116). Of course, he is by no means unaware of such difficulties, as is clear from the admission already cited and clearer still from his statement elsewhere, that, as compared with the traditional problem of evil, "there are other difficulties in theism" that he at least finds "more formidable." Specifically, he allows, "the old problem of analogy: how if at all to conceive an unsurpassable yet individual form of experience, volition, or love, is still with us" (1966b, 212). But as clear as Hartshorne may be that there is a problem here, he says very little, if anything, by way of solving it. In fact, in discussions of how God might be conceived as conscious or knowing, his comments range all the way from raising the question whether God is really conscious at all to speaking none too clearly of "super-linguistic consciousness" or of "the One who knows without symbol (or for whom everything whatever serves as symbol)’’ (1967, 4f.; 1970a, 94; 1970b, 25f.). And just as significant, I think, he nowhere seems to explain, as he clearly has to explain if "conscious" and "knowing" are analogical, how not only the greatest but even the least possible individual must in some sense be said to be conscious and to know, as well as to be aware and to feel.
So far as this fourth difficulty is concerned, then, I see no obvious way of clearing it up. If Hartshorne is to uphold his claim that terms such as "thinking" and "knowing," "loving" and "willing," are analogical in meaning when applied to God, he has to give them a sense infinitely different from the specific sense in which he expressly uses them. But in that event it is no longer clear why he or anyone else should prefer them as theological analogies to such other psychical terms as "feeling" and "experiencing," "sentient" and "aware." For, surely, the same thing must then happen to them as happens to "consciousness" when, as he himself allows, "the word means no more than ‘experience’ or ‘awareness’ in the most noncommittal meaning" (1963, 4). In other words, the dilemma in which Hartshorne appears to be caught is that he can establish the properly analogical status of his favorite theological analogies only by preserving a merely verbal connection with the primary experience and discourse to which he is concerned to do justice: the faith and worship of theistic religion, which speaks of God in the most vivid symbols, not as one who somehow senses and feels, but as one who loves and cares, judges and forgives.
As serious as this dilemma may be, however, it is still relatively minor in comparison with the other difficulties in Hartshorne’s theory that we are at last in a position to discuss. Clearly, it is one question whether certain psychical terms can be coherently established as theological analogies rather than frankly accepted as only symbols, while it is another and far more serious question whether any such terms at all can be coherently classified as truly analogical rather than merely symbolic. Hartshorne explicitly recognizes this when he speaks of the terms that he distinguishes as analogical in the strict sense as "problematic,’’ in that they are "neither unambiguously literal nor unambiguously non-literal" (1970a, 156). Even so, he attempts to show that there is indeed such a third class of terms by way of what at least appear to be two lines of argument.
At one point, he observes that "besides obviously formal and obviously material ideas about God we have descriptions whose classification depends partly upon one’s philosophical beliefs" (1962, 139). As what follows makes clear, the beliefs he alludes to are those of "panpsychism," or, as he now prefers to say, "psychicalism.’’ According to such beliefs, psychical concepts like "awareness," "feeling," "memory," and "sympathy" do not apply merely to some individuals in contrast to others, as obviously material ideas do, but, rather, are "categorial, universal in scope" (140). And yet, even for psychicalism -- and this explains the qualification "partly" -- psychical concepts are also different from obviously formal ideas because they are categorial, and hence universally applicable, not to entities of all logical types, but only to ‘‘concrete singulars," which is to say, individuals and events, as distinct both from aggregates, which are concrete but not singular, and all levels of qualities, which are merely abstract (141). In fact, in a parallel passage, Hartshorne even speaks of psychical terms as merely ‘‘almost categorial" because of this difference in their scope of application from "the strictly categorial notions" like "relativity" (1970a, 154).
But such a confusing, if not self-contradictory, way of speaking is uncalled for. He himself explains in an earlier chapter of the same book that "strict metaphysical generality can stop short of literally ‘everything’," because "it is enough if a concept applies with complete and a priori Universality within one logical level" (89). Moreover, as we learned from our earlier discussion, he can occasionally speak even of a purely formal concept like "relativity" as being in a broad sense analogical, because it has systematically different senses as explicative of the meaning of different logical types. But this implies that any psychical concept that is truly analogical must be just as universal in its scope of application as a purely formal term like "relativity," provided only that this term is taken, as it should be, in the sense in which it alone explicates the meaning of "concrete singular," whether event or individual. The only question, then, is whether any psychical concept is truly analogical; and Hartshorne here appears to support his affirmative answer by appealing to the philosophical beliefs peculiar to psychicalism.
But if he really does intend this as an independent line of argument, which he perhaps does not, it is open to the objection that it begs the question. Granted that psychicalism as a metaphysical position does indeed imply that at least some psychical concepts are truly analogical in their application to God, it is just as clear that psychicalism itself can be established as true only if at least some psychical terms are known to express theological analogies.
Of course, one may very well seek to support a psychicalist metaphysics by appealing, as Hartshorne does, to a direct intuition of experience or feeling other than our own insofar as "we can consciously intuit our physical pleasures and pains as direct participations in feelings enjoyed or suffered by our bodily constituents" (1976, 71). One may then generalize this intuition and, employing the criterion of "active singularity," further argue by analogy that whatever is experienced to act as one must also feel as one, whether this be an animal or a cell, a molecule or an atom (1970a, 36, 143f.; 1979, 62). But while these arguments might well suffice to establish psychicalism as a speculative scientific cosmology, and thus to show that "psychics," not "physics," is the inclusive empirical science, they remain merely empirical arguments and as such are insufficient to establish psychicalism as a metaphysical position (1977). Nor can it be thus established, in my judgment, by Hartshorne’s additional argument that, since nothing positive can conflict with the presence of mind in some form, it cannot even conceivably be shown to be totally absent (1953, 32f.; 1970a, 160f.). For while this argument may indeed suffice to show that psychicalism cannot be falsified, it is not sufficient to show that psychicalism is metaphysically true. This it could show only if "mind" were already known to be a concept having infinite scope of application, and this is the very thing in question.
Consequently, one is forced to conclude that, if psychicalism is to be established as indeed a matter of philosophical beliefs, and hence as true metaphysically, there is nothing to do but to appeal to a direct intuition of the one individual who is in no way merely empirical but is strictly metaphysical. Only by directly intuiting that psychical concepts apply primarily to the extraordinary individual God can one possibly know them to be variables with a strictly infinite range of values and, therefore, truly analogical.
Hartshorne evidently recognizes the force of this reasoning because the other line of argument by which he at least appears to support his claim for a distinct class of theological analogies is to appeal to just such a direct experience of God. In fact, this may quite possibly be his only line of argument, the other apparent one not really being intended as such after all. In any event, in a closely parallel discussion of the very same question, of how problematic terms like "know" or "love" as applied to God are to be classified, he in no way appeals to psychicalism, but argues instead that, although they are "in such application not literal in the simple sense in which ‘relative’ can be," they nevertheless "may be literal if or in so far as we have religious intuition" (1970a, 155). Recalling our earlier discussion of the different senses in which Hartshorne uses the word "literal," we can infer that what he means by saying that "know" or "love" may be literal as applied to God is not that they may apply to God in the same sense in which they apply to all individuals, but, rather, that they may apply to God in the primary sense in which they are thus applicable, their application to any other individual being secondary. Thus the point of his argument is that such terms may apply primarily to God, or that God may be their primary analogue, if or insofar as we directly experience God.
This interpretation is confirmed by Hartshorne’s development of his case. "This is the question," he argues, "does our concept of ‘know’ come merely from intra-human experience, analogically extended to what is below and above the human, or does the concept come partly from religious experience, from some dim but direct awareness of deity?" The answer, he believes, is "that we know what ‘knowledge’ is partly by knowing God, and that though it is true that we form the idea of divine knowledge by analogical extension from our experience of human knowledge, this is not the whole truth, the other side of the matter being that we form our idea of human knowledge by exploiting the intuition . . . which we have of God" (155). If Hartshorne’s speaking here of "religious experience" seems to refer to some special kind of experience in contrast to other kinds or to experience generally, this is not his meaning. Although he often uses the term "religion" and its cognates in a way that would require such a construction, what he intends to say here is not that where there is religious experience there is awareness of deity, but rather, conversely, that where there is awareness of deity there is religious experience. Thus he concludes by holding that experience of God is an essential moment in all human experience: "man’s awareness of God is no mere contingent extension of his awareness of himself, but is rather an indispensable element of that awareness. . . . the divine-human contrast is the basic principle of all human thought, never wholly submerged, though it may often be driven rather deep into the dimly-lighted regions of experience" (156).
How successful is this line of argument? To answer this question, I first want to make sure of just what the argument has to show if it is to succeed. And for this purpose I shall cite yet another passage in which Hartshorne argues in very much the same way.
"An animal, which cannot say God," he holds, "equally cannot say I. There is no derivation of the first notion from the second; but the two are from the outset in contrast in experience. The animal feels both itself and God . . . and thinks neither; we feel and can think both. We are, indeed, likely to call the divine ‘I,’ ‘Truth’ or ‘reality’; that is, we think of certain abstract aspects of the inclusive something, and do not quite realize consciously that it must be an inclusive experience, the model of all experiences in its personal unity" (1948, 39f.). The several parallels here I take to be clear: the same insistence that the divine-human contrast is a priori in experience; the same denial of one-sided derivation of the idea of one side of the contrast from the idea of the other; and the same admission that the contrast may nevertheless not be fully realized at the level of conscious thought.
But what is arresting in this passage, in comparison with the others cited earlier, is the distinction Hartshorne explicitly makes between our merely feeling "the inclusive something," only some of the abstract aspects of which are we likely to think about when we speak of it as "truth" or "reality," and our consciously realizing, and thus thinking instead, that this inclusive something has to be "an inclusive experience," which as such is "the model of all experiences." It evidently follows from this distinction that, if "the inclusive something" must be "an inclusive experience," it can only be this inclusive experience that we are actually experiencing even when we merely feel something all-inclusive that we are likely to speak about only abstractly in calling it "truth" or "reality." But it just as clearly follows that we not only do not need to experience "the inclusive something" as "an inclusive experience" but are even likely to think about it consciously without quite realizing that this is what it has to be. It thus becomes an interesting question whether our merely feeling "the inclusive something" is already an experience of ‘‘an inclusive experience." Perhaps the only thing to say is that in one sense it clearly is, while in another sense it clearly is not. At any rate, one thing is certain: only an experience of "the inclusive something" as "an inclusive experience" and hence the conscious realization that this is all it can be could possibly warrant the claim that it is "the model of all experiences." I conclude, therefore, that if Hartshorne’s argument is successful, this can only be because it shows that we have not only a direct intuition of God but also a direct intuition of God as eminently psychical, and hence also think or consciously realize that the inclusive whole of which we experience ourselves to be parts is a universal subject of experience.
But now what does Hartshorne’s argument purport to show? The question is pertinent because he seems to say different things. On the one hand, he claims that our concept of "know" comes partly from "some dim but direct awareness of deity," which may often be driven below the level of conscious thought, even if it is never wholly absent there; in a word, we have a feeling of God as distinct from thinking or knowing God (1970a, 155; cf. 1962, 110). On the other hand, he says that "we know what ‘knowledge’ is partly by knowing God," which is presumably a different and stronger claim, even though he repeats it later in the same sentence by saying only that "we form our idea of human knowledge by exploiting the intuition . . . which we have of God." I am satisfied that Hartshorne’s apparent vacillation here is real and that there are good reasons for it. But however this may be, we have only to look at his own account of such matters to learn that having a feeling of God is one thing, and that thinking about God, or having knowledge of God, is something quite different.
Thus, in a recent defense of psychicalism, he stresses that "on the higher levels only does it [sc. the psychical] include what we normally mean by ‘thought’ or ‘consciousness.’ Lower creatures feel but scarcely know or think, and if we speak of them as conscious, . . . we stretch the sense of the word. This can be done, but then we need another word to distinguish high-level, thoughtful cognitive experience or feeling from mere experience or feeling" (1977, 95). The distinction Hartshorne insists on making here as applied to our present question can be expressed by saying that, whereas mere experience or feeling of God can be not only direct but immediate, high-level thought or cognition of God, being mediated, as it is, by the conscious judgment or interpretation of such feeling, is of necessity mediate. Moreover, since, according to Hartshorne, "human consciousness is essentially linguistic," the mediation involved in any thinking or knowing of God is also a matter of language or verbal formulation (1959, 178).
To recognize this difference, however, is to understand why Hartshorne’s argument cannot possibly succeed if it claims no more than that we have a dim but direct awareness of deity. Even if it were indeed the case that each of us in every moment is directly and immediately aware of God, whether any psychical concept is a true analogy would still be undecided. As Hartshorne himself admits, we may very well have an immediate experience of ‘‘the inclusive something" without ever consciously thinking of it, or even, it seems, being likely to think of it, as "an inclusive experience." And yet without so thinking of it, we could never know it to be "the model of all experiences" and so the primary analogue of at least some of our psychical concepts. Consequently, if Hartshorne’s argument is successful, it is only because it makes the other and much stronger claim that each of us in every moment is not only dimly aware of God but also thinks or knows God as eminently experiencing subject.
This claim, however, is open to the decisive objection that it could not be true unless human culture and history were radically other than we must suppose them to be. If the claim that God must somehow be experienced directly and universally already appears problematic, given the sheer fact of non- and even a-theistic religions and philosophies, how much more -problematic must it be when it becomes the claim that God is everywhere consciously known! Clearly, such a claim could be true only on the absurd supposition that every case of professed non- or a-theistic belief must involve conscious bad faith and intent to deceive.
Not surprisingly, Hartshorne has always been careful to avoid so incredible a claim. Although he has ever insisted that God somehow has to be experienced if anything at all is experienced, he has never failed to make clear, as in several statements already quoted, that God need not be consciously known and may even be expressly denied without conscious insincerity. Indeed, it is precisely the clarity with which he has thus distinguished the different levels of our experience of God that has enabled him, as I claimed earlier, to solve the problems raised by asserting the experience of God in the objective construction of this phrase. But this, of course, is exactly why I also implied that the success he enjoys in solving this set of problems explains his failure to solve the other set raised by construing this phrase subjectively. One has only to consult what he himself has consistently taught about our experience of God as object to have the very best of reasons for rejecting out of hand any claim that each of us knows and must know God as experiencing subject.
I have no hesitation, therefore, in saying that Hartshorne’s attempt to establish analogy is a failure. Either the claim he makes is weak enough to seem credible, in which case it is insufficient; or else he makes a claim strong enough to seem sufficient, in which case it is incredible.
Having said this, however, I think it is important to ask whether the reasons for his failure are merely contingent, in the sense that the attempt itself might well have succeeded, or still succeed, but for inadequacies in his argument that could have been, or yet can be, avoided. My own conviction is that the reasons his attempt fails are, rather, necessary and that the same fate must overtake any other similar attempt. Because this conviction has an important bearing on the conclusion to be drawn from these reflections I now wish to explain why it seems to me to be correct.
There is a further objection that might be made to Hartshorne’s argument. Even if he could establish the stronger claim that there is a universal knowledge of God as eminent subject of experience, he would have no way of ruling out the possibility that this knowledge as such, as distinct from the immediate experience of which it is the conscious mediation, is entirely a matter of, in his terms, "analogical extension," which is to say, the secondary and derivative application to God of concepts which apply primarily and originally to ourselves, and which, therefore, are not true analogies at all but mere symbols. He in effect recognizes this when he admits that "we form the idea of divine knowledge by analogical extension from our experience of human knowledge" (1970a, 155). Although he goes on to insist that this is not the whole truth, what he takes to be the other side of the matter is that we form our idea of human knowledge, not by exploiting our intuition of God as eminently knowing, but by exploiting our intuition of God -- period. Thus, for all he shows to the contrary, the only thing in our concept of human knowledge that derives from our direct intuition of God is the idea of totality or all-inclusiveness, just as he himself allows that we can very well experience "the inclusive something" without experiencing it as "an inclusive experience" (1948, 39f.).
But even more than this, Hartshorne himself again and again argues in such a way as clearly to imply that the primary, or as he can say, "normal," use of all our psychical concepts is their application to ourselves rather than to God. Thus, in one essay, for instance, he first argues against the idea of providence as a power freely determining all the details of existence by asking, "whence do we have this idea of freedom? Surely, we can conceive it because we have some little freedom of our own. . . we must have some range of possibilities genuinely open to us, or we could not form any conception of God as having an infinite range of possibilities open to him’’ (1963-64, 20). Employing the same reasoning, he then argues that we must also know ourselves as causes or creators, if we are to have any conception of God in these terms, concluding with the general comment that ‘‘we cannot simply nullify the normal meaning of a term and still use the term as basis for an analogical extrapolation to deity" (22). I submit that arguments of this kind can have the force that Hartshorne takes them to have only if the whole of our knowledge of God, beyond our unavoidable experience of "the inclusive something," can be derived from such knowledge as we have of ourselves, and hence is merely symbolic rather than truly analogical. If we could know anything else about God except through the mediation of concepts primarily applying to our own intrahuman experience, who could deny that we might very well know God to be free or creative without also knowing this of ourselves?
But if any knowledge of God mediated by psychical concepts would leave open the possibility of its being merely symbolic instead of truly analogical, what could rule out this possibility? The answer, I believe, is that the only thing that could conceivably exclude it is an immediate knowledge of God as the primary analogue of our psychical concepts. But then, of course, the question is whether there can conceivably be any such thing as an immediate knowledge, as distinct from an immediate experience, of God, any more than of anything else. Certainly, on Hartshorne’s presuppositions, as should by now be clear, any knowledge of God, just as of any other thing, is by its very nature mediate insofar as it is mediated by conscious judgment and interpretation as well as verbal formulation of what is immediately given in experience. Nor is it otherwise on the presuppositions of philosophers generally, who concur in analyzing the phrase "immediate knowledge" as expressing a self-contradiction and hence as meaningless. But if this analysis is sound, the reasons for Hartshorne’s failure to establish analogies as a class of terms distinct from symbols are by no means merely contingent. Because the only condition on which any such attempt could possibly succeed is itself impossible to meet, he was sooner or later bound to fail, as anyone else must always be who makes the same attempt.
My conclusion from these reflections, then, is that anything like Hartshorne’s distinction between analogy and symbol, however clear it may be in itself, can never be known to apply. If any of our psychical concepts really is a true analogy, in that it applies primarily to God and only secondarily to ourselves, at least with respect to what is meant by it, if not with respect to how it means, we, at any rate, neither are nor ever could be in the position of knowing it to be so. For all we could possibly know, all our psychical concepts apply to God not as analogies, but as symbols, in exactly the same way in which at least some of them clearly must apply if we are to do any justice at all to the faith and witness of theistic religion.
The implications of this conclusion are many and far-reaching, for my own work as a theologian as well as for what I understand by the related, but nonetheless distinct, tasks of philosophy and metaphysics. Obviously, if theological analogies cannot be established, the same is true of metaphysical analogies generally, whether those of Hartshorne’s psychicalism or those of any other categorial metaphysics necessarily involving such analogies. Consequently, if metaphysics can be established at all, it is only as a transcendental metaphysics, whose concepts and assertions are all purely formal and literal, rather than analogical, in the sense that they apply to all the different things within any single logical type whose meaning they explicate, not in different senses, but rather in the same sense.
So far as I can see, the foundations for such a transcendental metaphysics -- and a neoclassical transcendental metaphysics at that -- are firmly laid in Hartshorne’s own systematic clarifications of the strictly literal claims that are necessarily implied by any nonliteral claims about God, which is to say, his analyses of the utterly general idea of reality as such as well as of the several logical-type distinctions discussed above. Nor does the fact that these analyses, as he develops them, are not adequately distinguished from formulations that he takes to be analogical, but that I can accept only as symbolic, in any way interfere with my appreciating both kinds of formulations as having their proper places in any adequate philosophy. For if, on the one side, he has never left any doubt that they are and must be clearly distinguishable, whether or not adequately distinguished, on the other side, I have no more inclination than he does simply to identify philosophy with metaphysics. On the contrary, I fully share his own view that philosophy has "two primary responsibilities," only one of which is properly metaphysical, the other being rather practical or existential (1970a, xiv). It seems entirely fitting that, in carrying out its other responsibility of expressing effectively the meaning of ultimate reality for us, as distinct from describing metaphysically the structure of ultimate reality in itself, philosophy should in its own way make use of the same vivid symbols that religion and theology employ to this end. Thus there is very little in Hartshorne’s philosophy for which I do not also find a place, even if I feel compelled to distinguish it as indeed philosophy rather than metaphysics in the proper sense of the words.
But this is not the place to pursue further these or any of the other implications of the conclusion for which I have argued. Suffice it to say, simply, that on the alternative view I have proposed, no less than on Hartshorne’s own, the assertion of the experience of God that is now necessary to any adequate Christian theology can receive all the clarification and support that a natural, or philosophical, theology may be reasonably expected to provide. If, on the one hand, this assertion is construed objectively, as asserting that God is the eminent object of experience, because the only individual other than ourselves whom we experience directly and universally, it can be shown to be true both literally and necessarily, on the understanding that such immediate experience of God can become knowledge of God, or even experience of God as God, only through the mediation of concepts and terms. If, on the other hand, the assertion is construed subjectively, as asserting that God is the eminent subject of experience, because the only individual who experiences all things as their primal source and final end, it, too, can be shown to be true necessarily, although neither literally nor analogically, but only symbolically, on the understanding that it is nevertheless really and not merely apparently true, because its implications can all be interpreted in the concepts and assertions of a transcendental metaphysics, whose application to God, as to anything else, is strictly literal.
Those who are privileged to have Charles Hartshorne as their teacher know that not the least thing they continue to learn from him is a distinctive philosophical procedure. One of the cardinal principles of this procedure he formulates by saying, "If in philosophizing we choose one of two possible views we should always know clearly what the other view is and why we reject it" (1966a, 92). How well I may have managed to follow this principle I should not wish to say. But, since I accept it as binding even on a philosophizing theologian, I hope it is at least clear, especially to my esteemed teacher, that I have in my own way tried to be faithful to it.
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1945 "Analogy." In An Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Vergilius Ferm. New York: Philosophical Library: 19f.
1948 The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven: Yale University Press
1953 Reality as Social Process: Studies in Metaphysics and Religion. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press
1956 "The Idea of God -- Literal or Analogical?" Christian Scholar, 39: 131-36
1957 "Whitehead and Berdyaev: Is There Tragedy in God’?’’ Journal of Religion, 37: 71-84
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Response by Charles Hartshorne
Schubert M. Ogden’s essay is a striking example of his vigor and courage in following arguments through to their logical conclusions. He deals with central problems in the philosophy of religion; he is aware of their history and careful to do justice to whatever author he is discussing. So central and so subtle are the matters dealt with that I cannot hope to go far here and now in clarifying the obscurities and overcoming the difficulties he finds in my writings about them. In a way, the difficulties support the position I take about the status of theological issues, which is that the theistic question is what, if anything, we can coherently and definitely mean by "God," not whether or not God exists. If we know, clearly and consistently, what we mean by theism then what we mean is true; if not, it is absurd and could not be true. But do we know what we mean? Ogden shows how difficult a question this is.
I have, as he says, sometimes argued that, unless we have in our own natures instantiation of concepts (say that of decision-making) which we use to conceive God, we could not have these concepts. But I have also sometimes argued that we can conceive our own form of knowing, say, by introducing qualifications into what we know of divine cognition. God knows -- period; we -- partially, uncertainly, vaguely; and much of what we can hardly avoid taking as knowledge is erroneous belief. The appearance of contradiction here has sometimes occurred to me.
Ogden is correct also in finding the duality, feeling and thought, or sensing and knowing, a difficulty for psychicalism. Some might contend that it is vain to replace a dualism of mind and matter by an equally baffling dualism of merely sensitive in contrast to cognitive experiencing.
The origins of language are deeply obscure. However, we have some knowledge of how children learn to speak and understand languages. It does seem that they learn how words function largely by relating them to experiences other than religious. They learn what ‘‘decide’’ means by attention to their own or other peoples’ choosings or decidings. And there seems no doubt that the idea of God has from the beginning implied resemblance in some positive way to a human person. It has always been, in some sense, anthropomorphic. On the other hand, reading the resemblance the other way, the believer has always felt that there was something deimorphic about human beings, at least in comparison to lower animals. To think God is to think an analogue superior in principle to a human person; to think a human person is to think an individual with fallible, partly erroneous, unclear, more or less confused forms of knowledge but not the unqualified knowledge, coincident with truth, which God has. The contrast between God and the knowing animal that each of us is seems implicit in our thought about either term (as Descartes held); but the human side alone is usually explicitly attended to.
Ogden asks what is really literal, what is analogical, and what is symbolic in the foregoing. He knows my attempts to give clear meanings to these three words, and that I term "symbolic’’ concepts that are applied eminently to God but not at all to some sorts of creatures, for instance, "shepherd" or "light." According to my (or Whitehead’s) psychicalism, "feeling" applies analogically to all concrete, singular creatures, and to God, whereas "consciousness or "knowledge’’ applies only on the higher levels of reality. And discursive thought is not applicable to God. Divine knowledge differs infinitely from ours in at least two senses: quantitatively and qualitatively. Peirce even says that we merely "gabble" when we attribute knowledge to God. Once more the existential theistic issue is one of meaning, not of empirical fact. And it is hardly surprising that the meaning problem is here acute. We are in this matter trying to conceive what is most unlike ourselves but superior, as in dealing with atoms and particles, we are trying to conceive what is most unlike ourselves but inferior. Difficulty is to be expected in both cases.
I agree with Whitehead in distinguishing between physical and mental aspects of feeling. Thinking and our kind of knowledge are high levels of mentality. Deity is eminent physical and eminent mental feeling; it is above our thinking, somewhat as that is above the minimal physical feeling and mentality of atoms. Mentality is sense of the future, of possibility; physical feeling is sense of the past, of concrete actuality. All physical feeling is memory in a generalized sense, prehension of the past. Whitehead implies this. No singular creature is entirely devoid either of sense of the past or of sense of the future. Nor is God without either of these. This duality is the transcendentally categorial aspect of the matter.
Eminence as superior "in principle" does not contradict the possibility of transcendentals, categories applicable to God. God feels all creatures without negative prehensions. that is, without loss of distinctness. My use of the idea of degrees in such contexts may not always be clear and consistent.
It is correct that we cannot experience as ours wholly unthinking, unmediated physical feelings; it is only by abstraction that we can talk about the mere feeling aspect. But I am not convinced that the abstraction is illegitimate, provided one allows for the generalized notion of mentality, of future sensing, in contrast to past sensing.
What is at least analogical in the scheme is the idea of prehension as dependence of an actuality on other actualities, or of participation, feeling of feeling, experience of experience, together with sense of futurity. Also the idea of creative novelty. These apply from atom to God. Moreover, all of them are directly intuited in our immediate memories of our own past, and in our experience of our own bodies. Ogden mentions this last, but wonders if it begs the question. And he thinks it is not cogent to argue that all truth must be partly positive and that the complete absence of feeling has no positive meaning but is a mere negation. I am not sure he is right about either of these points.
Just how we use the word "symbolic" is of course a secondary question. What is not secondary is the avoidance of two extremes: on the one hand the idea that we can capture deity in some verbal formulas free from obscurity or doubt, and on the other that we are totally unable to talk coherently about God. The former extreme leads to intolerance and superstition, or the idolatry of confusing God with a certain book or tradition, or a certain human concept, the latter leads to atheism, the most rational form of which is precisely the doubt whether any form of God-talk makes sense.
The dualities of feeling and thought, or of discursive thought and divine intuition above thought, seem to me less objectionable than the hard dualism of feeling, thought, and super-discursive intuition on the one hand, and mere insentient matter on the other. All of the former dualities are spanned by experience as valuational and participatory, creative and preservative, which Whitehead from one point of view characterizes as "feeling of feeling" or "sympathy," and from another point of view as creativity. It is empathic freedom on many levels, from the most trivial forms to the unsurpassable or divine form. It is freedom dealing with other freedom, tolerating or ‘‘letting it be," as Heidegger says; it is enjoyment sharing enjoyment, love or caring in a variety of kinds which is in principle infinite. There is a completeness and integrity in the view that seems to me to place it above the available rivals. Whether or not this proves it to be true, does it not give reasonable support to faith that it is true?
Concerning my reasoning that there can be no merely negative truths, and that the total absence of feeling from any part of concrete actuality is a mere negation with no positive implications, Ogden comments that perhaps this shows only that psychicalism is unfalsifiable, not that it is true. I take it to show that "unfalsifiable’’ here is to be taken in so strong a sense that it implies "true." Many hypotheses are unfalsifiable by humanly available means, but our capacities to know are not the measure of reality. However, the sheer absence of feeling somewhere is unobservable by any conceivable mind or any conceivable means. In contrast, the presence of feeling is in principle knowable, unless prehension as essentially ‘‘feeling of feeling" is an absurdity. I hold that in feeling pain I am intuiting feelings in my bodily constituents, feelings which are not initially mine and only become mine by participation. But what would it be like to feel the total absence somewhere of feeling other than one’s own? I think that there is no way this could be done. Here again we are not discussing contingent facts but meanings, necessary or impossible combinations of basic ideas. If the combinations are necessary, they give metaphysical truth; if impossible, they give metaphysical error -- in both cases with the qualification that our human understanding has only fallible powers of discernment in such matters.
Is it a "merely empirical" argument for psychicalism that nothing positive could conflict with the presence of mind in some form, or that total insentience is strictly unknowable, and the sheerly unknowable is a pseudo-concept? I think it is an argument from conceptual necessities. Similarly, the argument that psychical concepts have infinite range does not need to start from knowing God as psychical. It starts from whatever experiences give us the concepts of feeling and the rest, and tries to see what imaginative generalization of these concepts leads to in extending their meaning. Still, again, my argument that it will not do to attribute supreme freedom to God and no freedom at all to anything else is a conceptual argument. The analogy from us to God implies a reverse analogy from God to us. In learning the meaning of words we appear necessarily to follow the us-to-God path, but then we must be able to follow conceptually the reverse path to understand fully what we have done. This is a matter of logical coherence. Indeed, coherence is a basic test of metaphysical truth, and the idealists who defined truth as coherence were defining metaphysical but not empirical truth, truths of contingent fact.
I do grant to Ogden that words such as "know" or "conscious" are symbolic, not analogical, as applied to God. As the lower animals are below what we normally mean by knowing, so God is above it. These are indeed special cases, and our human knowing is a third, and the one we have to take as our primary epistemic sample. Whitehead’s is by far the most brilliant attempt to generalize what is common to all three forms of the psychical by his concepts of feeling of feeling, or physical prehension, and mentality, all included in what he calls creativity.
To sum up: I still wonder why we cannot say that feeling of feeling, with the Whiteheadian characteristics of decision and the production of new definiteness (the many becoming one and increased by one), is analogically universal. And this I take to be a generalized idea of ‘‘love’’ as partly self-creative sympathy. Thinking or knowing, as distinguishing the human species from the lower creatures, is symbolic as applied to God, who neither knows as we do nor fails to know as the lower creatures do. But it can be argued that, while God’s knowing is not our scientific or philosophical thinking, even in its most successful forms, it has all the value, and more than all the value, of that thinking. It lacks the indistinctness, fallibility, and indirectness of our discursive, inferential reasoning and perceiving. To perceive with complete distinctness is more than to perceive indistinctly while trying to make up for this by inferential reasoning, which is always capable of making a false move.
I repeat once more: the puzzle about God is not, granting that we know very well what we mean by God, does what we mean describe anything real? No, the puzzle, the mystery is, do we clearly know what we mean? How are we, who are not infallibly, all-inclusively, consistently, and with unsurpassable appropriateness loving (with a love which embraces all the value of knowledge), able to know what we mean by this description? If we can know that, we need not worry about God’s existence. For this will be already included in what we will know A nonexistent but coherently conceivable deity is not even a possibility, but only the disjunction: either the necessary falsity (logical absurdity) or the necessary truth of the idea of God. If the theistic question is, Does ‘God’ exist, simply and precisely, as what we think of when we use the word? then it is highly unlikely that the answer is affirmative.
For reasons of Peirce’s theory of signs it might be better to say that ‘‘shepherd,’’ "ruler," or "world soul" are metaphors for God rather than symbols, since they are not merely conventionally related to deity; a genuine resemblance is intended. Moreover, understanding that the metaphors taken from personal relations are to be supplemented and in part corrected by those from the mind-body relationship, I think the entire procedure approximates analogy in my sense. Nor, I incline to think, is it merely empirical; for in any kind of world in which the question of God or any clearly conscious question whatever could arise there would be something like minds and bodies and something like persons.
As Ogden says, I distinguish a philosophy of life, meaning human life, from metaphysics. However, I include a theory of God and psychicalism in the latter. I do not include specific religious doctrines such as the Incarnation or the special significance of any human individual. Nothing about the contingencies of human history, or the present conditions of our species, is metaphysical.
Ogden has wrestled and forced me to wrestle, however well or ill, with essential difficulties in the philosophy of religion. It was a lucky day for me when he decided to take courses with me at the University of Chicago.