Thursday, March 25, 2021

Unity vs. Unity

It is undeniable that diversity is an integral part of our experience. The world we experience is marked by plurality and diversity. From a temporal standpoint, we begin with a diversity of things. There is a diversity of facts, events, mental states, objects, perceptions, beliefs, concepts, persons, etc etc. It is safe to say that our experience, in order to be what it is, must contain diversity.


The question arises as to what can provide unity in our experience. As it turns out, if our experience consisted only of pure diversity, it would be unintelligible. In order to make sense of the world of experience, we must be able to find unity in the midst of the diversity. The human mind cannot but think in terms of unifying principles. Our minds are wired to order, organize, and categorize the different things we experience. If pure diversity were the case, we would be incapable of identification, predication, counting, using logic, applying moral principles, and so on. All these practices require diversity and unity. The task of the metaphysician is to find a unity that can bring together all the diversities of human experience.


The Christian metaphysician and the unbelieving metaphysician carry out this task in completely different ways. Their respective worldviews commit them to opposing metaphysical presuppositions, hence, their responses to the problem of finding unity in diversity would be different. The Christian presupposes the Triune God whose creative act accounts for the diversity in human experience. Every fact, object, event, owe their being to the creative act of God. Also, every fact, object, event, is related to every other in the comprehensive system which has existed for all eternity in God’s mind. For the Christian metaphysician, God’s mind provides the unity. What we have in this system, then, is an eternal unity. The unbeliever presupposes the opposite; he presupposes the non-createdness of the particulars of his experience. According to him, there is no comprehensive system which unites every fact, object, and event for all eternity. In his system, the mind of man provides the unity. He utilizes the categories, formal principles, and systems which exist in his mind to unite the diversities he experiences. What we have, then, is a temporal unity.


In the Christian picture, the “one” (the unifying principles) and the “many” (the diverse particulars) have been tied together from eternity past. Neither one is, metaphysically speaking, more fundamental than the other. The diversities we experience are not pure diversities; they have all been united even before our experience of them. In the Christian picture, then, what we have is an objective unity. In the unbeliever’s system, the “one” is imposed on the “many” by the mind of man. The diversity in experience is more fundamental than the unity since, in this picture, the unity is contingent on man’s mind. In this picture, what we have is a subjective unity


But a unity that is temporal and subjective is no unity at all; it is merely an illusion. The unbelieving metaphysician, in rejecting the Christian understanding of things, fails to achieve any real unity in his experience. He began with pure diversity, hence, no unity could be added later on. And as we noted earlier, given pure diversity, our experience becomes unintelligible. If diversity is metaphysically ultimate, then there are no real relations or connections between the particulars we experience. Everything is wholly individual and nothing can be said of them in terms of unifying principles. If diversity is ultimate, then there is no connection between my thoughts, perceptions, or mental states; hence, they cannot really be referred to as my thoughts or mental states. It cannot really be said that there is a me that thinks, perceives, or feels. If diversity is ultimate, then there is no connection between the events that occur in history. It cannot be said that there exists any causal relations. Any form of uniformity or order in history is forfeited. Science becomes impossible.


It must be said that only a Christian worldview can provide true unity in human experience. Without the Triune God who creates and orders the particulars according to his comprehensive plan, there can be no true unity or coherence in experience. Intelligible experience and human knowledge presuppose Christian Theism as their foundation.

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