What Does God Add to an Idealist World?

In Kirk Lougheed (ed.), Value Beyond Monotheim: The Axiology of the Divine. Routledge. (forthcoming)
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There has been increasing interest among contemporary philosophers in nontheistic forms of ontological idealism, in contrast to the canonical theistic idealism of Berkeley. Given the ontological role that God plays in Berkeley’s metaphysics, it’s natural to think that questions of the value-impact of God will be greater in an idealistic context. Thus, it seems fruitful to ask: What does God add to (or detract from) an idealist world? This paper assesses the benefits and costs that come from moving to an idealism which is not (essentially) theistic. I explicate various dimensions along which theistic and nontheistic idealisms differ. Most of these metaphysical differences are surprisingly value-neutral. The one respect in which God’s (in)existence makes a distinctive value-impact within an idealistic context is in the intelligibility of reality. This is a variant of what Lougheed (2020) calls the Complete Understanding Argument. But the argument takes on a new significance within the idealistic context. Here, the inability to fully comprehend God doesn’t merely pose a challenge for understanding the God-part of reality, or the occasions on which God interferes with the naturalistic causal order. It presents a challenge to understanding the very nature of reality, itself. Finally, I consider what sort of value difference this is, distinguishing between two sorts of value that God’s existence might confer: value for a world (including its inhabitants) and value for a theory.



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Helen Yetter-Chappell
University of Miami

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