Out of all the arguments for the existence of God, my favourite has to be what Edward Feser calls the Neo-Platonic Argument, originally developed by the great philosopher Plotinus. Plotinus argued that God could not have intellect, I disagree (to the extent where I believe God ‘has’ to have intellect), so I have developed my own formulation from Feser’s.
To begin with, we should debunk a misconception. The argument is not concerned with ‘how’ the universe began, but rather on the grounding of composite things in the modern day. A ‘hierarchical series’ such as this must have a first member, to explain what ‘keeps’ everything else in existence. Now this first member must have no parts at all, since if it did, those parts would have to be more fundamental than the first cause, and would therefore in turn be the first cause themselves, and it would have to go on ad infinitum, when such cannot be so.
Furthermore, we should note that the very existence of composite entities presupposes the existence of such a being, who is non-composite, for composite entities must have prior causes, based on the simple fact that they did not exist until their parts were combined. Their existence must therefore be imparted to it by something else, in a chain which culminates in a being which is ‘not’ formed of combined parts.
Note, that the argument does not suffer from the ‘who created God?’ question often posed by atheists. Though such an argument could be posed against other cosmological arguments (especially those given by theistic personalists), no ‘special pleading’ is made for the ‘ungrounded grounding’ here, since the logic of the argument does not require that ‘every single thing’ have a cause, only composite entities.
Now this ungrounded grounding, which Plotinus called ‘the one’, must be purely actual. It cannot be a mixture of potentiality and actuality, for we should ask, ‘what about it is potential, and what about it is actual?’, the answer is just as simple as The One itself, part of it must be potential, and part of it must be actual, so The One must have parts, and therefore must be grounded in something else. The One cannot be pure potentiality either, for ‘nothing’ cannot ground anything in the here and now.
The implications of The One being purely actual are tremendous, for a being ‘purely’ actual being cannot have any potentialities, therefore it does not lack any perfection, anything it potentially could have. Therefore (and contra Plotinus) it must be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, the latter being so as it must have perfect goodness (a case for objective morality will come in a later post).
Therefore, classical theism is true. The question still remains, is there one god or many? Or can God be identified with the workings of the universe itself (pantheism), as Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein thought? But first, it may be asked, if God has all perfections, does this mean that he is composite? Well, no. God’s perfections are not the same as human perfections, rather they are ‘analogous’ to them. Therefore, they do not ‘have’ to exist (as human perfections do), as distinct entities, but rather could be contained in a single divine essence.
Moving on, could polytheism be true? No. This would imply the existence of a God species, or a God genus, but then it would need ‘something’ to distinguish it from other species or genuses. As these parts could potentially be added to, subtracted from, or combined in different ways, none of these beings could be purely actual. But we have already established that God ‘has’ to be. Therefore, God is unique.
But what about Pantheism? Well, since nature and all it contains could potentially be in some sense different (e.g. bigger), God could not be purely actual if pantheism were true. Therefore, God is not only not nature, but immaterial, and non spatio-temporal as well.
Therefore, we conclude that monotheism is true.