Tag Archives: Kant

Demystifying Mysticism

Einstein famously said that “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.[1]  The former Royal Astronomer of Britain, Martin Rees, says that Einstein was “expressing his amazement that the laws of physics, which our MINDS ARE SOMEHOW ATTUNED TO UNDERSTAND, apply not just here on Earth but also in the remotest galaxy.”[2]

But should it be so “incomprehensible” that the human mind is “somehow attuned to understand” the laws that govern the universe?

Broadly speaking, there are currently two alternative explanations for this curious ability. Either the human mind is entirely explicable by its physical make-up and its interaction with the environment through the senses, or there is an inexplicable element to the mind that gives it a metaphysical, or even mystical, character.

The former view is that of many physicists who hold that the principles that determine the behavior of fundamental particles determine the functioning of everything else in the universe, including the human brain. I include in this view those who argue that the chemistry of the neurological structure of the brain has a ‘life of its own’ that is ‘independent’ of the principles of the fundamental particles that make up its physical structure. There isn’t really any distinction between these views because in the last analysis they both perceive the functioning of the brain to be a consequence of its physiology.

The contrary view is that there is more to the human mind than the physical structure of the brain and its interaction with the environment. This view is exemplified by Immanuel Kant who said that “The moral law, although it gives no view, yet gives us a fact absolutely inexplicable from any data of the sensible world, and the whole compass of our theoretical use of reason, a fact which points to a pure world of the understanding, … and enables us to know something of it, namely, a law.”[3] This “moral law,” says Kant, is simply “presented for our obedience by practical reason, the voice of which makes even the boldest sinner tremble …”[4] Kant’s view is a mystical or metaphysical view. In religion it is called spirituality.

Although these views may seem incompatible at first, they are in fact simply different facets of the same phenomenon. Ironically, Friedrich Nietzsche inadvertently identified the mystical as a facet of the physical, and vice versa, when he mocked Kant for having “discovered a moral faculty in man.”[5]

In order to understand how that works, we need to go back to the Beginning, to the origin of the universe. Both science and the Scriptures recognize that an explanation for the universe and life, and consequently the structure and functioning of the human brain, is to be found in the origin of the universe itself.

A Final Theory – the scientists’ view

The physicist Steven Weinberg says that although DNA is too complex to be explained with current quantum mechanical equations, he maintains that with a sufficiently sophisticated computer, scientists could explain all the workings of DNA “by solving the equations of quantum mechanics for electrons and the nuclei of a few common elements.”[6]

Likewise, Martin Rees says that it is the principles, or properties, of fundamental particles, “their sizes and masses, how many different kinds there are, and the forces linking them together,” that dictate how everything in the universe functions, from planets and stars to chemical reactions and human beings. And this is all a result of “an expanding universe, WHOSE PROPERTIES WERE IMPRINTED INTO IT AT THE TIME OF THE INITIAL BIG BANG.”[7] According to Rees, “mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe.”[8]

This approach is known in science as reductionism[9]. Weinberg, for example, says that the “evolution of living things has been made possible by the properties of DNA and other molecules and that the properties of any molecule are what they are because of the properties of electrons and atomic nuclei and electric forces.[10] He goes on to say that physicists study fundamental particles “because we think that by studying [them] we will learn something about the principles that govern everything.”

Although this approach does not dispute that certain mental faculties and processes may determine aspects of human behavior, it argues that those faculties and processes are what they are as a consequence of the principles that determine the properties of fundamental particles. As Weinberg says, “we believe that atoms behave the way they do in chemical reactions because the physical PRINCIPLES that govern the electrons and electric forces inside atoms leave NO FREEDOM for the atoms to behave in any other way.[11]

By identifying these fundamental principles, physicists believe they could construct a Final Theory that will explain everything about the universe and life. This is also known as a Theory of Everything, and by definition such a theory would necessarily include an explanation for what we regard as the mystical. More importantly, this view also claims that a Final Theory would definitively settle the question of whether or not there is such a thing as God.

The problem with the reductionist approach is that it is morally ambivalent. Morality is simply a neurological response to certain environmental and social conditions.

In his book The First Three Minutes, Weinberg said that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”[12] In an attempt to deflect the criticism his remark attracted, Weinberg ‘clarified’ that statement in his next book, Dreams of a Final Theory, by saying that he “did not mean that science teaches us that the universe is pointless, but rather that the universe itself suggests no point. I hastened to add that there were ways that we ourselves could INVENT a point to our lives, including trying to understand the universe.”[13]

In other words, Weinberg suggests that we can “invent” some point to our lives by dedicating our lives to proving that there is no point to life. That sounds like ‘a Final Theory of Despair,’ in which the only purpose to human existence is the pursuit of vanity and the satisfaction of our physical desires.

This very ‘physicalist’ approach fails to recognize that the human capacity for moral judgment, which expresses itself in the establishment of systems of government and justice, may be a manifestation of a more profound dimension of the physical laws that govern the universe – a moral dimension,[14] rather than a neurological accommodation to physical conditions.

Kant recognized the nihilistic tendencies of such an approach when he said that “[man] is not so completely an animal as to be indifferent to what reason says on its own account, and to use it merely as an instrument for the satisfaction of his wants as a sensible [sensual] being. For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the brutes, if it is to serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in them; it would in that case be only a particular method which nature had employed to equip man for the same ends for which it has qualified brutes, without qualifying him for any higher purpose.”[15]

Although Kant was wrong that reason can tell us anything “on its own account”, and it is used by most people as a means to satisfy their wants as sensual beings, it is Kant’s recognition of a distinction between the human capacity for moral judgment, and the servicing of our primitive instincts, that is crucial to understanding the ‘mystical’ in human existence.

The Scriptural view – a seed to a tree to a seed

Jewish scholars and philosophers have long recognized this distinction, as did Jesus. And they found it in the same place that physicists look to unlock the ‘secrets’ of the universe and life – The Beginning.

In his Commentary on Genesis 1:1, the Jewish scholar Nahmanides (1194 – 1270 AD), says this: – “He [God] brought out a very fine element from complete nothingness; it has no substance, but it is the energy that can create, that is able to accept a form and to go from the potential to the actual. And this is the first material [and] is called hyle by the Greeks. And after hyle, He didn’t create anything, but [rather] formed and made [the creations]; since it is from it that He brought everything forth and clothed the forms and refined them. … Behold, with this creation, which was like a small [and] fine dot, and without substance, were created all of the creations in the heavens and the earth.”[16] Nahmanides included the creation of man as a subsequent creation from the original matter. On Genesis 1:24, he says “that God created something from nothing on the first day alone, and afterwards He formed and made [everything] from the fundamental elements.”

Nahmanides adopted a literal reading of Genesis, yet still described the origin of the universe and life in precisely the way science now understands it (except that he attributes it to God). That is because of the Hebrew meaning of the word “beginning”, which is reishit.[17] The word relates to the origin or beginning of a thing, like a seed, which then grows or expands into something much larger and grander, like a tree. Although the tree has no outward resemblance to the seed that ‘created’ it, the fruit that it yields contains a replica of the seed that initiated the whole process. The fruit is not some inconsequential by-product of the tree, but the very purpose of the tree’s existence. The fruit contains a seed that is an image of the seed that created it, and an image of the tree and the fruit that the seed is ‘programmed’ to create. The fruit of a tree is not itself a replica of the seed that created the tree, only the seed within the fruit is a replica. The flesh of the fruit hanging from the tree is what enables the replica seeds within the fruit to be dispersed so that the species can propagate. The fruit is the vehicle that carries the seed.

It should not be surprising, therefore, to find Jesus adopting such an analogy to explain the “mystery of the Kingdom of God[18] to his disciples: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it growth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”[19]

The account of creation in Genesis Chapter One describes the origin of the universe as a similar process. It tells us that the human organism is the fruit of the tree, the universe is the tree, and the human brain is a replica of the seed that gave birth to the universe.

The great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, who lived at about the same time as Jesus, recognized this when he said, regarding the creation of man “in the image of God[20], that “the resemblance [between God and man] is spoken of with reference to the most important part of the soul, namely, the mind: for the mind which exists in each individual has been created after the likeness of that one mind which is in the universe as its primitive model.[21]

In other words, the mathematical structure that gave birth to the universe is imprinted into the human brain as an image of the original structure. The human brain is ‘programmed’ with the “mathematical laws” that Rees says “underpin the fabric of our universe.[22] The incredible abilities of the ‘mathematical’ savants are evidence of that.[23] In his excellent book Islands of Genius, Darold A. Treffert notes that some mathematical savants “seem to ‘see’ their answers as if projected on to a screen,”[24] and asks whether the “actual knowledge [of the prodigious savant], or at least the software templates or scaffolding for [the] rules of music, art and mathematics, or even other areas of expertise, come ‘factory installed’ in all of us?[25]

Likewise, Rees notes that “Newton’s laws are in some sense ‘hardwired’ into monkeys that swing confidently from tree to tree.”[26] And if in monkeys, why not in humans?

However, Genesis also tells us that the mathematical structure of the replica seed that is the human brain, like the original seed that gave birth to the universe, has three distinct but interrelated elements: morality, reason and instinct.

As explained in Parts VII and VIII of my series A Legal Proof for the Existence of God, the “image and likeness[27] of God refers to the human capacity for moral judgment; the symbolism of God speaking to the male and female He had created refers to the human ability to reason; and what God is said to say to the humans refers to human instinct, some of which we share with animals (the instinct to reproduce, and the instincts for survival and security), and others that are unique to human beings (the instinct to subdue and conquer, and the instinct to pursue knowledge of our world and the universe).

Chapter Two of Genesis symbolizes these distinct faculties with trees. The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” refers to the human capacity for moral judgement; the trees that are “pleasant to the sight, and good for food,”[28] represent human instincts; the reference to God commanding the man[29] symbolizes the human ability to reason; and the “tree of life” represents our ability to apply the knowledge of the universe to understand and seek to fulfil our true moral purpose and our true moral destiny.[30]

Each year science discovers further evidence that suggests that these elements of the human brain are the consequence of the mathematical laws that govern the universe. In respect of the faculties of reason and morality, for example, Dr Kelly Smith, of Clemson University, says that the tendency of the universe to produce complexity suggests that the emergence of life with a capacity for reason and moral judgement may not be accidental, but a consequence of the basic structure of the universe unfolding in a predictable manner.[31]

In respect of the instinct for reproduction, Jeremy English, a physicist at MIT, has proposed that the second law of thermodynamics inevitably tends to the rearranging of atoms so as to create life. But he also suggests that the energy dissipation that drives this process is most effectively achieved by self-replication. As English says, “A great way of dissipating more [energy] is to make more copies of yourself.”[32]

These scientific discoveries show that the distinct neurological faculties in the brain are in fact facets of the mathematical laws that govern the universe, which, in turn, if the reductionist view is proved correct, are themselves a consequence of even more fundamental principles that determine the properties of all the other mathematical laws, like the second law of thermodynamics.

Origins of Mysticism – competing neurological networks

Using the symbolism of trees to describe these distinct faculties conveys the message that these faculties are imprinted into the human brain as neurological networks. These three networks convert the raw mathematical data ‘pre-installed’ in the brain, together with the mathematical data processed through the senses, into emotions, words, images and concepts, enabling us to understand what the raw mathematical data means, and respond accordingly.

But all these neurological networks start out like seeds in the brain. They need to be carefully tended and nurtured in order to germinate and grow, and fulfil their intended purpose and potential. That is especially important for the moral network because it is the most easily neglected network. As Jesus said, although the seed of the “word of the kingdom of God” is “within[33]” us, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becommeth unfruitful.[34]

That warning by Jesus brings us to the crux of the matter, because the neurological moral network is the most important of all the networks. It is the network that most induces the phenomenon we call mystical, or spiritual. That is because it acts as a ‘regulator’ and restraint on the networks that give us our instincts and our ability to reason. But its interventions often seem inexplicable. As Kant said, it is “the voice [that] makes even the boldest sinner tremble.”[35] And it is important that we learn to distinguish between the “voice” that speaks to us from the neurological moral network, and the voice of our instincts that tempts us with the prospect of pleasure, or fills us with the fear of pain.

Reason in the service of instinct, rather than in service of the moral law, is what we recognize as evil. It is responsible for the most despicable deceits, betrayals, humiliations and atrocities human beings can inflict upon their fellow human beings.

Take for example the instinct for reproduction. The instinct is fired by the prospect of the pleasure to be had by engaging in the act. But when this instinct is not restrained by the voice of the moral law, reason will find justification for all manner of deceptions and deceits in order to indulge the prospect of pleasure, or avoid the fear of pain. When totally unrestrained by the moral law, it will justify rape, incest, and even pedophilia, and devise deceptions to escape detection. It will even justify murder if its instinct for survival feels threatened by the possibility of detection. On the other hand, when reason is in the service of the moral law, it compels the instinct to reproduce to recognize that the act of creating a new life is sacred, and attaches profound and enduring obligations to those who engage in the act – obligations not just to the life they create together, but towards each other.

Likewise, reason in the service of the peculiarly human instinct to subdue and conquer is responsible for reprehensible acts like bullying, slavery and war. But when this instinct is regulated by the neurological moral network, we are compelled to apply it to subdue and conquer the human appetite for pleasure and the fear of pain. Reason in the service of the moral law enables us to subdue and conquer our primitive instincts. Buddhism is largely based on exactly this endeavor.

Likewise, reason in the service of our instincts for survival and security compels us to accumulate and appropriate to ourselves far in excess of what we need to survive and be secure, even at the expense of depriving others of a means for providing for their own survival and security. But reason in the service of the moral law compels us to compassion and a recognition of our obligations to the survival and security of the weak and least advantaged of the human species. This obligation was recognized as far back as 1,780 BC, when Hammurabi declared that the primary purpose of his Code was to bring “about the well-being of the oppressed” and ensure “that the strong should not harm the weak.” Similarly, Asoka (304 – 232 BC), in speaking of the Dhamma (Law), advocated “moderation in spending and moderation in saving.”[36]

And again, reason in the service of the instinct for knowledge, unregulated by the voice that speaks to us from our neurological moral network, willingly puts itself in the service of those who would use that knowledge to service their instinct to subdue and conquer. The claim by scientists that they only design the weapons of war, politicians use them, is such an example. It is like the irresponsible father giving his disturbed son a gun to take to school, but when the disturbed son then shoots dead scores of his schoolmates, the father protests that he only gave him the gun, he didn’t make him use it. However, when reason is guided by the voice of the moral law, the instinct for knowledge is applied to enhance the wellbeing of humanity, not to provide it with the instruments to inflict death and destruction upon itself.

It does not take a great deal of reflection to recognize those acts that are a consequence of reason in the service of instinct, and those acts that are a consequence of reason in the service of the moral law. The former we call evil or sinful, and we devise laws in an attempt to regulate them. The latter we recognize as good, and we should seek to encourage and promote them, if we had not so pitifully fallen into bondage to our primitive instincts.

Mysticism demystified – signposts in the mind

The ‘mystery’ of the moral law is that human beings recognize that there is a universal law that is not of human making; a law that is not a consequence of one person or group of people imposing their authority on others. It acts as a restraint on our instinctive reactions and motivations by directing us towards the good.

Science is now beginning to recognize that the human brain may indeed be programmed with such a neurological moral network that speaks to us of a supreme moral law. The IVF pioneer, Robert Winston, writes that “Psychologist Eliot Turiel observed that even three- and four-year-olds could distinguish between moral rules … and conventional rules … Furthermore, they could understand that a moral breach, such as hitting someone, was wrong whether you had been told not to do it or not, whereas a conventional breach, such as not talking in class, was wrong only if it had been expressly forbidden.[37] Winston concludes from such research that the human brain has “a sort of ‘morality module’ … that is activated at an early age.[38]

But, as yet, scientists have no idea how the “morality module” got to be ‘programmed’ into the brain, nor how it really functions.

Although research like that of Dr Kelly[39] suggests that the human capacity for reason and moral judgement may not be accidental, but a consequence of the laws of the universe unfolding in a predictable manner, another mathematical equation may reveal how the “morality module” presents the moral law to us “for our obedience.”

It is Richard Feynman’s “sum over paths” equation. Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, devised an equation (based on Schrödinger’s wave equation of quantum physics), referred to as “sum over paths,” which, in very simple terms, demonstrates that although particles are ‘free’ to choose between all probable paths, they appear to be ‘programmed’ to ‘know’ that they should adopt the path that leads to the deterministic laws of Classical (Newtonian) physics, the laws that are a prerequisite for an ordered universe capable of spawning and maintaining life.[40]

Then there is the curious behavior of particles in what physicists call delayed-choice experiments. As the TV physicist Brian Greene notes, modified versions of these experiments show that particles seem to “have a ‘premonition’ of the experimental situation they will encounter farther downstream, and act accordingly.”[41] That is, they appear to ‘know’ what a future environment will look like, and adjust to prepare for it. But they have to have that future environment communicated to them in some way.[42]

These ‘mystical’ properties of particles, or at least the mathematical equations that determine their properties, appear to be the origin of the similarly mystical mechanism in the neurological moral network that suggests to us which path is the right path to choose to comply with the “moral law.” Like the “sum over paths” equation, it suggests the path that fulfils our true moral purpose, and our true moral destiny, and warns us to adopt the right path by communicating to us the negative consequences of failing to do so. It suggests to us the path that leads to order and justice, not to chaos and oppression; the path that leads to compassion and sacrifice, not gain and vanity.

With the exception of psychopaths, who are virtually totally disconnected from their neurological moral networks (and according to a BBC Horizon program,[43] that includes a disturbingly large number of CEOs of leading corporations), most of us subconsciously ‘hear’ the voice of the moral law. Unfortunately, we are so overwhelmed with suggestions that appeal to our appetite for pleasure and fear of pain, and that appeal to our vanities, that what little we do hear is drowned out by the clatter of advertising. And as Jesus said, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in,” serve to silence the already faint voice of the moral law.

But how does the neurological moral network present the moral law to us for our obedience?

As already noted, most of us are only subconsciously aware of the moral law. Others, however, and I would put the Old Testament prophets in this category, appear to ‘see’ or ‘hear’ it with stark clarity, like those savants that ‘see’ answers to mathematical problems “as if projected on to a screen,”[44]

Others, no doubt, experience something similar to savants like Daniel Tammett, and incredible mathematicians like Ramanujan. When Tammett was doing complicated calculations he said “I’m seeing things in my head; like little sparks flying off, and it’s not until the very last minute that those sparks tell me what on earth they mean.” Likewise, Ramanujan said that he dreamed of drops of blood followed by visions in which scrolls appeared to him containing complex equations.[45]

As I explain in my article The Power of Insight, the experiences of Tammett and Ramanujan are similar to what the prophets are said to have experienced. Isaiah and Ezekiel, for example, saw visions, Jeremiah saw words, while Daniel, as well as having dreams and visions of his own, could ‘see’ the meaning in what others ‘saw,’ because he had ‘understanding in all dreams and visions’.

It is important however to distinguish between hallucinations, in which the mind plays tricks on us, and the kind of insight experienced by the likes of Tammett and Ramanujan. It is also important to distinguish between ‘seeing’ the mathematical raw data ‘programmed’ into the brain, as Tammett and Ramanujan did, and ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ that mathematical raw data after it has been converted into moral principles by the neurological moral network.

Although there is a ‘mystical’ element to the kind of insight experienced by Tammett and Ramanujan, only the “voice” of the neurological moral network, as it reveals to us the moral law, is truly mystical. It is this kind of insight that gives us signposts in the mind that reveals to us our true moral purpose, and leads us to our true moral destiny.

From Mysticism to A ‘Final Theory’ of God

Immanuel Kant best explained why this kind of insight is truly mystical when he said that the moral law is “absolutely inexplicable from any data of the sensible world, and the whole compass of our theoretical use of reason,” that it is “incomprehensible to speculative reason,” and, most significantly, that it demands our obedience “apart from all advantage.[46]

What Kant recognized was that the moral law is counter-intuitive. It holds out no prospect of physical or intellectual benefit. When viewed from the perspective of what we would normally consider logical or commonsense assumptions about life, it seems to suggest the contrary. Intuitively we aspire to personal gain, security and contentment; the moral law suggests submission, moderation and even sacrifice.

It tells us that there is something more to life than the physical. As Jesus said, “for what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.”[47] Or as The Preacher proclaimed, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding …”[48] In fact, the theme is the whole basis of the Sermon on the Mount, exemplified by the saying “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.[49]

But recognition of the supremacy of the moral law is not exclusive to the Scriptures. It is common to all religions, to all people, and to all ages of history. As we have seen, conquering our appetite to service our instincts is the objective of Buddhism, and it was the basis of Mahatma Gandhi’s way of life.

And it all rests on the moral law being ‘revealed’ to us by the neurological moral network converting the raw mathematical data ‘programmed’ into the brain as an image of the raw mathematical data that governs the universe. That is the mystical in the moral law – that the fundamental laws of physics are moral laws. It tells us that we can no more invent the laws of morality than we can invent the laws of physics. We can only discover them.

Ever since our early ancestors first activated the neurological moral network by offending against it (that is the story of Adam and Eve – see http://wp.me/p5izWu-7C), human beings have sought to give expression to the voice of the moral law. They have done so by establishing systems of government and justice.

These institutions are a manifestation of the moral law, and they give us an insight into what it means. It compels us to recognize that a supreme law to which all are subject requires a supreme lawmaker to promulgate it. And it requires a system of justice to ensure compliance with the law, and which requires that there be a consequence for a violation.

Religion is similarly an expression of the moral law which moves us to recognize a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker as its author. And just like human justice, it compels us to recognize that there has to be a consequence for a violation, otherwise the law is meaningless.

This means that government, justice, and indeed religion, are all a manifestation of the neurological moral network converting the mathematical data imprinted in the human brain into moral principles which, as Kant says, it then presents to us for our obedience.

Although Kant argued that his “moral law” did not prove an afterlife, or the existence of God, it did presuppose it. But it may just be more than a supposition. Perhaps we walk past the real proof of God, an afterlife, and even a judgment, every day of our lives – in the grand seats of our legislatures, in the courts of law in our towns, and in the prisons that incarcerate offenders. Of course, these institutions don’t get it right, because they are mostly occupied by those in bondage to their primitive instinct to subvert others to their own authority and power. Although they are not a model of what the moral law is, they do give expression to the basic components of the moral law.

It is clear, nevertheless, that the neurological moral network speaks to us of a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker. It reveals to us that the mathematical structure in the human brain that speaks to us of a Supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker is a replica of the mathematical structure that gave birth to the universe. And that tells us that the mathematical structure of the universe, the Supreme Law of the universe, must recognize itself as a creation of a Supreme Lawmaker.

That is the mystical in man, and it is a reflection of the mystical in the universe. But it is a mystical that is an integral aspect of the physical. It seems then that Weinberg was most probably wrong, the universe does suggest a point – to itself, and to human existence. And Nietzsche inadvertently explained where we can find it when he mocked Kant for having “discovered a moral faculty in man.”

But ultimately, the mystery may only be solved if the Final Theory, the theory that is the Holy Grail of science, turns out to be A ‘Final Theory’ of God.


The arguments and evidence in this article reflect certain arguments and evidence set out in the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved


[1] Physics and Reality (1936), in Ideas and Opinions, trans. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Bonanza, 1954), p292.

[2] Rees, Martin, Just Six Numbers, Phoenix, London, 1999 (paperback), pages 11-12 – my emphasis.

[3] Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Practical Reason, page 60.

[4] Kant, page 100.

[5] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Vintage (paperback), page 18.

[6] Weinberg, Steven, Dreams of a Final Theory, Vintage Books 1994 (paperback), page 32.

[7] Rees, page 1 – Capitals are my emphasis

[8] Rees, page 1.

[9] See Weinberg, Chapter 3 – Two Cheers for Reductionism.

[10] Weinberg, pages 57, 58.

[11] Weinberg, pages 9 – 10 (my emphasis).

[12] Weinberg, Steven. The First Three Minutes, Basic Books, 1993 (paperback), page 154.

[13] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 255 – emphasis on invent is mine.

[14] As noted in my article “Perhaps there is hope for Humanity’s moral destiny after all!” at http://wp.me/p5izWu-7V there is at least one physicist who believes that there could be a moral dimension to the cosmos.

[15] Kant, page 80.

[16] Nahmanides Commentary on Genesis 1:1 paras 3 & 4 – http://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Genesis.1.1.3-4?lang=en&layout=lines&sidebarLang=all .

[17] See Nahmanides on Genesis 1:1: http://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Genesis.1.1.3?lang=en&layout=lines&sidebarLang=all

[18] Mark 4:11, Mat 13:10.

[19] Mark 4:30; and see Mat 13:31 and Luke 13:18.

[20] Genesis 1:27.

[21] Philo, On the Creation, XXIII (69).

[22] Rees, page 1.

[23] See Part X of A Legal Proof for the Existence of God: The Power of Insight, at http://wp.me/p5izWu-aN

[24] Treffert, Islands of Genius (paperback), page 36 – emphasis on ‘see’ is mine.

[25] Treffert, page 12.

[26] Rees, page 37.

[27] Genesis 1:26.

[28] Genesis 2:9.

[29] Genesis 2:16.

[30] See Revelation 22:14 and Proverbs 12:13 & 14.

[31] See Perhaps there is hope for Humanity’s moral destiny after all!

[32] https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

[33] Luke 17:21.

[34] Mark 4:19. And see Mat 13:22 & Luke 18:24.

[35] See note 4 above.

[36] The Fourteen Rock Edicts, number 3.

[37] Winston, Op Cit.

[38] The Guardian, 13 October 2005.

[39] See Note 30 above.

[40] See Kaku, Parallal Worlds, Penguin, London, 2005 (Paperback), page 164.

[41] Greene,Brian, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin, London 2005 (paperback),pages 188 & 189, and see http://wp.me/p5izWu-8S

[42] See an explanation here: http://wp.me/p5izWu-8S

[43] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014kj65 and http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1y4j0s_e05-are-you-good-or-evil_tv for the video.

[44] See Note 24 above: Treffert, page 36.

[45] See The Power of Insight – http://wp.me/p5izWu-aN

[46] Kant, page 100.

[47] Mark 8:36.

[48] Ecclesiastes 9:11.

[49] Matthew 5:5.

Joseph BH McMillan reviews A Study of Perceptions of Evil by Professor Ron Galloway

I have written that philosophy is at risk of rendering itself an extravagant academic indulgence. By that I mean it risks becoming so obscure as to be of no relevance to our everyday actions and behavior.

On the philosophy of science, the physicist Steven Weinberg went so far as to say this: “… I found [it] to be written in a jargon so impenetrable that I can only think that it aimed at impressing those who confound obscurity with profundity.” [Dreams of a Final Theory – Steven Weinberg (paperback) page 168]

So it was refreshing to read Professor Galloway’s Perceptions of Evil (if I may take the liberty of shortening the title).

Not to detract from its academic credentials, it is readable and enjoyable. But more importantly, it compels the reader to reflect on his or her everyday behavior. It does so by cleverly weaving into our perceptions of what is good and evil, philosophical thought going back to Plato.

The central theme is whether our perceptions of what constitutes good and evil are entirely rooted in our perceptions of what constitutes knowledge (epistemology), and our conceptions of what constitutes the right view of the world (our worldview).

Although Galloway identifies coincidences between historical perceptions of evil and the theories of knowledge and worldview prevalent at the time, he does make this most astute observation: “Even developed perceptions of the evil and the good grounded in elaborated theories of knowledge and worldviews seem to owe their beginning to this at least partly intuitive, partly unlearned sense of the evil and the good. Why else does so much of humanity cry out against child abusers, child killers, mass murderers, and ethnic cleansing? Does humanity really feel a need to support or claim that such things are evil? Does not the near intuitive outrage itself seem to serve as the verification for punishments inflicted on offenders of this kind?” [Page 463 – emphasis in bold is mine]

That element of the inherent recognition of what constitutes right and wrong, or good and evil, comes across in Galloway’s analysis of the writings of some of the most commonly recognized names in philosophy so far as non-philosophers are concerned, such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and David Hume. Suddenly their writings don’t seem shrouded in philosophical mysticism. They speak of what we, as human beings, care about – what should I do in this or that situation?

Although we do not need to consult philosophical tomes to make such decisions, Professor Galloway’s exposition of some of these great philosophical works gives us reassurance that we can, in the final analysis, find in them the comfort to listen to that “voice [within] which makes even the boldest sinner tremble.” [Kant, Critique of Practical Reason].

It is becoming an increasingly rare thing to find a book on philosophy that is readable, enjoyable, and thoroughly informative. If only there were a lot more like this.

A highly recommended read.