So the funny thing is that [you were] motivated, as I was, by puzzling about these profound questions. The particular one at issue being, how come I am a body? What is the relationship between me, this subjective being, and this object. I puzzled about it, pondering it, looking at the question in relation to neuroscientific observations and so on. I was eventually led in the mid 1990s — in fact I wrote a paper about it in ‘97 — to this view that I sketched in a very rough and ready way some minutes ago, which is that there are two appearances. [01:02:30]
The actual thing called “Mark Solms” is neither his subjective experience nor his body. He’s something that unites the two and lies behind both surfaces. And he is not just the appearance, he’s something deeper than that. I was then sort of surprised and disappointed to discover this was not some great insight that I had forged. It was an ancient philosophy that belongs to Spinoza or was articulated most clearly initially by Spinoza. And you will know better than anyone, Michael, Spinoza’s view on these theistic questions that you are touching on. I mean he was a deeply spiritual man. And he saw all of this as that this… We are of God, we are… All of us, the whole universe is the expression of God…
Michael Egnor: Sure. One of the things I really love about Thomism is that it rather nicely combines [that with] the profundity of Spinoza insights. And I have a lot of respect for Spinoza… he’s been the inspiration for a lot of scientists. I mean Einstein commented that the God he believed in was Spinoza’s God so Spinoza fits very nicely into natural science. Spinoza had a lot of very deep insights, the Thomistic view fits in with that, I think, in many very nice ways.News, “Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God. Who is that God?” at Mind Matters News (December 5, 2021)
Takehome: In a discussion with Solms, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor argues that it makes more sense to see God as a Person than as a personification of nature.
So, double bill: Egnor and Solms: What does it mean to say God is a Person?
Mark Solms and Michael Egnor discuss and largely agree on what we can rationally know about God, using the tools of reason:
Michael Egnor: St. Thomas and Boethius said that there were some things that we could know about God, that God is not totally unknowable. The first thing we can know about God is what he is not. That is, God is not a piece of matter, he’s not finite, he’s not evil. He’s not mortal.
We can know about God by his effects, by what’s created in the world — with the assumption that whatever is created in the world is in some way an aspect of God that is reflected in his creation. And we can know about God by analogy that is that we can say for example, that God is infinitely powerful. Although the term “power” really can’t describe something that is transcendent, power is something that we understand in our universe. It’s like something infinitely powerful. [01:12:00]
When you look at the effects of God in the world, I think the most remarkable effect is our personhood, our subjectivity. The fact that we are persons leads me — and I think has led a lot of theologians — to say, “That’s because God is a Person.” That’s where our personhood comes from. We’re the small case I am and he is the big case I AM.
So I think Spinoza had a lot of things very right, and there’s a lot of consilience between his view of God as sort of being-in-everything and St. Augustine’s view that we are in God. But I think that the fact that we are persons means that God is a Person and that we are created in his image as persons.News, “What does it mean to say God is a Person?” at Mind Matters News (December 5, 2021)
Takehome: Egnor argues that, if the most remarkable thing about us is our personhood (I am), it Makes sense to think of God as a Person (I AM).
Bonus: A neuropsychologist takes a crack at defining consciousness. Frustrated by reprimands for discussing Big Questions in neuroscience, Mark Solms decided to train as a psychoanalyst as well. As a neuropsychologist, he sees consciousness, in part, as the capacity to feel things, what philosophers call “qualia” — the redness of red.