Why we like gods


Jina, Zora: Quick chat around the D&D table

CSH: Zora was saying that we demand that ultimate reality be irrational. According to survival-oriented reason, a religion that promoted suicide would be a failure and a bad choice. But the picture of ultimate reality inside atheistic science is not as comforting to our person-like consciousness as the picture of reality inside theism, because the latter makes the foundational basement stuff of existence into a person. Person-like consciousness wants ultimate reality to be a person-like consciousness.

And selves do irrational things. In fact, gods …

Back in the old days, gods did a lot of irrational shit. They were passion-ruled. Today we prefer the rational calculator god of deism. That’s great. But back in the olden times, in Greek and especially Jewish mythology, God does some irrational shit. This, of course, is because a god the projected voice of a tribe’s collective self-image.

So we want ultimate reality to be a god for two reasons:

  1. We want ultimate reality to be irrational because we want ultimate reality to be a person. This is familiar.
  2. We want ultimate reality to be irrational because then it can withstand rational analysis.

If ultimate reality is irrational then it won’t be dissolved away into the void of nothingness that results from thorough mathematical or logical analysis. A purely formal system—the dream of philosophical rationalism—begins from nothing. So a perfectly rational universe would dissolve under the process of formal analysis into nothing.

You can take solids and then melt them away into nothing through the power of analysis, because every whole is really made of parts. But the parts have parts! And it goes all the way down—leaving nothing.

A world that is fundamentally rational is a world that cannot exist. It cannot have fundamental existence because it is analyzable away by reason. If reason can take it apart, that means it’s not really together. Any object that reason can take apart doesn’t have real integrity. It doesn’t have a real basic unity in its core. So we want ultimate reality not to be digestible by reason because if it is it will just fly away and disappear. So there needs to be a knot at the end of the thread that keeps it from being digested away under the power of rational analysis.

We can call the thing that prevents the system from being digested away through the power of analysis a knot. And the knot that prevents elimination by analysis is paradox. This is Kierkegaard’s idea. The fundamental nature of reality can only be real if it is a paradox. If it’s not a paradox, then it’s not real, because it gets digested away by analysis.

Zora: Was he the guy who said, “It’s OK to kill yourself, that’s fine.”

CSH: No.

Zora: I’m thinking of a different K.