The debate between the rationalists and empiricists concerned the rationalists’ claim that there is a class of synthetic propositions that can be known a priori. Kant agreed with the rationalists on the existence of this class, claiming that various mathematical propositions were synthetic, but could be known a priori. To the best of my knowledge, he did not put the proposition, “God exists”, in this class.
The claim, “God exists”, seems to defy categorisation. It seems to be both analytic and synthetic – and more. Aquinas rightly perceived, as seen in his arguments, that our world of experience must be dependent on something beyond it. In other words, our experience is contingent, but the Great Reality is necessary. He wanted to say that the Great Reality is God. Hume held that this was a leap too far, that the inference of the Necessary Being could not, in and of itself, tell us whether that Being is God or simply an eternal universe.
This Necessary Being sits at the conjunction of the analytic and synthetic, of the a priori and a posteriori. The reasoning that leads our minds towards the inference of this Being’s existence tells us about both the structure of our conceptual world and objective reality. In other words, thoughts concerning the Necessary Being put us in touch with reality; this line of thought crosses from the phenomenal to the noumenal.
It should be noted, however, that humans cannot grasp God in His fullness. To enter the noumenal is not to know all or to know God in perfect exactitude. In this instance, it is to know that our thoughts have connected with the Great Reality.
Without the Objective, there is nothing at all. Nothing at all. Subjective existence, alone in the void, is a contradiction. This is because the subjective is contingent; it must depend on something else, ultimately upon the Great Reality.
This reasoning is not new. Long before Locke, Leibniz, Hume, and Kant, Descartes explored the conjunction of the analytic and synthetic. He realised that our world of experience could be a lie (the Evil Genius Hypothesis). He may not have had the language of analytic and synthetic, of a priori and a posteriori (these appear to have been codified by Kant), but he was able to work through the reasoning in his own language.
He wanted to show that God existed and that we could, in essence, trust our experiences and reasoning. While subsequent philosophers have found problems in his reasoning, and in the leap from the Great Reality to a personal God (on to which Christians must add further reasoning to show that God is Yahweh), his basic instincts are correct.
The next post will continue on the journey to the Argument from Coherence.