Our long-time friend Horace Jeffery Hodges kindly linked to and riffed upon my recent quotage of a bit of whimsicality from the second volume of J. N. Findlay's Gifford lectures. So here's another Findlay quotation for Jeff's delectation, this time from Plato and Platonism: An Introduction (Times Books, 1978):
It is not here, we may note, our task to defend Plato's Great Inversion, the erection of instances into ontological appendages of Ideas rather than the other way round. It is only our task to show what this inversion involves, and that it does dispose of many powerful arguments. For despite much talk of the concretely real and of what we can hold in our hands, it is plain that nothing so much eludes us or evades us as the vanishing instances which surround us or which go on in us. Even our friends leave nothing in our hands or our minds, but the characteristic patterns on which we can, alas, only ponder lovingly when as instances they are dead, and we ourselves and our whole life of care and achievement leave nothing behind but the general memory of what we did and were. (23)
My esteemed teacher's poetic prose may have got the better of him in that last sentence redolent as it is of an old man's nostalgia. For it is not only Findlay's characteristic patterns once so amply instantiated here below that I now ponder lovingly, but the actual words he wrote, many of them printed, some of them hand-written, that strikingly singular voluminous flow of Baroque articulation so beautifully expressive of a wealth of thoughts. In his books, I have the man still, and presumably at his best, even if he himself, long dead as an instance, has made the transcensive move from the Cave's chiaroscuro to the limpid light wherein he now, something of a Platonic Form himself, beholds the forma formarum, the Form of all Forms.
You will be forgiven if you think my poetic prose has gotten the better of me.
And it [a sound phenomenology or existentialism] will surely find room for a phenomenological characterization of the brotherly, the sisterly and the cousinly, and will perhaps find room for a special chapter on aunts, that interesting transitional category between maternity and random femininity, devoting perhaps a special study to the romantic aunt, who, dark, interesting, and beautiful, brings into the nursery the rumour of strange voyages and amazing encounters, as well as sympathies almost unbearably touching.
Findlay once told us that Ruth Barcan Marcus had referred to him as a "high-minded sentimentalist." Well, if I were to be banished to the moon tomorrow, and forced to choose between Marcus and Findlay as my sole philosophical reading matter, the choice would be an easy one.
Nothing could count as God that did not have the property of aseity, or in plain Anglo-Saxon, from-itself-ness. The concept of God is the concept of something that by its very nature cannot be dependent on anything else for its nature or existence, and this holds whether or not anything in reality instantiates the concept. This is equivalent to the assertion that God exists necessarily if he exists at all. But if everything that exists exists contingently, as philosophers of an empiricist bent are likely to maintain, then we have the makings of an ontological disproof of God. In a 1948 Mindarticle, J. N. Findlay gave essentially the following argument:
a. God cannot be thought of as existing contingently. b. Everything that exists can only be thought of as existing contingently. Therefore c. God does not exist.
This ontological disproof of God turns Anselm on his head while retaining the Anselmian insight that God is “that than which no greater can be conceived.” Precisely because God is maximally great, supremely perfect, id quo maius cogitari non nequit, he cannot exist. For if everything that exists exists contingently, then nothing exists necessarily. Necessary existence, however, is a divine perfection. Ergo, God does not exist.
The trouble with Findlay’s 1948 argument, an argument which the older and wiser Findlay renounced, is that premise (b) is by no means obviously true, even if we replace ‘everything’ with ‘every concrete thing.’ Indeed, I believe that (b) is demonstrably false. But the argument for this belongs elsewhere.
We must find a fulcrum outside of this world if we are to lift the heavy load of puzzles which weighs on us in this world, and no therapy can hope to heal us if we are unwilling to be transported, even hypothetically, to the world’s point of unity.