Realist: ‘I don’t see a place for God in the universe. There is no supernatural meaning to life, no divine purpose to existence, no celestial antidote to the finality of death, no sublime answer to those heart-felt ‘why’ questions – and we are quite capable of deciding matters of right and wrong for ourselves.’
Phenomenalist: ‘How do you know you are right?’
R: It’s obvious. Show me otherwise.
P: Do you regard yourself as a product of nature?
R: Of course, and that’s why I can see things for what they are.
P: Then what makes you begin to consider the status of meaning, purpose and the supernatural in the first place?
R: I’m simply responding to what others claim.
P: But wouldn’t you agree that all manner of events take place within nature?
R: What’s your point?
P: Well, things change and either nature represents everything through a plurality of natures or because it hosts a supranatural reality that goes beyond the parameters of the purely mechanistic. Either way, the idea of a universe that remains devoid of thoughts and intentions doesn’t do justice to the facts.
R: That doesn’t prove there is a meaning to existence.
P: Nevertheless, the presence of a mindful, meaningful overview represents something of a larger reality than that portrayed by the blind workings of nature in its biological forms.
R: Aren’t you are jumping the gun by claiming that this proves there is a meaning to life itself?
P: Perhaps it is you who are failing to address the facts, because you want to say that the reality can be explained in terms of its ‘building blocks’.
R: Well it can.
P: Only by redefining the facts to suit.
R: It is you who are doing that, by implying that mental life is something more than the physical properties of the brain.
P: Yet, without a sentient dimension to reality the physical functions of the brain would not be observable.
R: But there is nothing to see except the workings of the brain.
P: However, you wouldn’t expect the brain to display anything else.
R: That’s because there is nothing else.
P: Only at the level of brain processes.
R: Don’t be ridiculous. You are contradicting the accepted findings of science.
P: It was once thought that the brain changes colour when we perceive different colours, but now we know that brain processes differ from the properties of light in the outside world. Likewise thoughts differ in kind from the biological properties of the brain. The evidence suggests that effects, like perceptions, are not simple copies of their causes, otherwise nothing would change.
R: But causality is in control.
P: Although we can’t be sure what it amounts to.
R: What do you mean?
P: Causality is a transitional process – causes change, effects redefine causes and the tide of change raises questions about how to address the evidence – how do we find a basis in fact, and is it right to start by assuming beforehand what must constitute an acceptable candidate? In short, what we find is that the cause doesn’t tell us everything. We can’t even be sure about what nature is and whether we can explain it as a thing that explains other things – the cause of all causes.
R: So what are you saying?
To be continued…