If God’s a brute fact, why not the universe?

Objection: If you’re going to take God as a brute fact, why not just take the universe as one?

I hate the term “brute facts”, but why bother fighting over names? Let the term mean “a proposition for which there is no explanation, even in principle.”

NB it’s crucial to note that facts are propositional, by which I mean nothing more profound than that single terms like “Unicorn” or “first” are not facts. Neither is “God” or the “universe”. The point of the objection has to be about predicating existence, as in “If you are going to allow for no explanation for why there is a God, why not allow for there being no explanation for why the universe exists?”

The first response is that this is not how cosmological arguments work. We don’t start off with a single “Brute fact” post-it note that we can stick to any existence claim we want. We take explanations where we find them, and if we have one for the universe (i.e. the totality of space-time or motion or whatever) then we take it.

But given what brute facts are, some examples of them are  “Socrates is Socrates” or “man is human” or “A brute fact is a proposition for which…” at least when taken unqualifiedly and not in some exotic sense like “Why was that individual (Socrates) named what he was?” or “what is the principal of identity when applied to the teacher of Plato?” Notice that these exotic senses end up proving the rule, since the proposition only needs an explanation when we find a way in which the predicate is not immediate to the subject.

If this is right, then we have a very good reason to take “God exists” as a brute fact in a way the universe cannot be, since a brute fact is something about which we could know that it exists simply by knowing what one was. But what we mean by “the universe” (the solar system, galaxies, etc.) is not something that tells us that there is such a thing. We know that there is a universe by looking at it, not by defining it. We know what it is only after we see that there is something there.

God is not like this at all. We know only that there is such a thing, but we can’t even take the first step to knowing what God is since we cannot place him essentially within a genus of things that are the same as he. We know God only by his effects, in such a way as to know that there is nothing in his essence making him homogenous with the effects themselves.

%d bloggers like this: