The one remaining question is whether there is any other practical interest of reason. The traditional answer is that there is a kind of goal that is higher than both individual and spiritual interest, namely, religious interest, or the recognition of something that is worthy of worship. Is there anything holy in a spatiomaterial world like ours?
To assert that reason also has a religious interest is to hold that there is something worthy of its worship, that is, something that reason ought to recognize as holy or sacred and, thus, hold in reverence. Such an object would have to be of such exalted glory that it would inspire reason to adore it and act in a way befitting it. Such an object would be the source of a new kind of goal for reason, a goal which serves the religious interest of rational beings.
“God” is the name traditionally given for the object of the religious attitude, and the philosophical defense of religion has traditionally (in the West) been an argument for the existence of God. God is supposed to be a being of such surpassing perfection that He is worthy of our worship. But the belief in the existence of a being outside of space and time who is responsible for the natural world is supernaturalism, indeed, supernaturalism in its most familiar form, and that is what ontological philosophy gives up with its basic assumption of naturalism. Thus, if the existence of a transcendent God were what is required for reason to have a religious interest, then ontological philosophy would have to deny that reason has any such interest.
The repudiation of belief in a transcendent God has led naturalists to see religion in terms of its traditional function of justifying morality, and thus, it might be argued that ontological philosophy has already explained the religious interest by the spiritual interest of reason, as part of necessary truths of theoretical reason about what is. But if that is all there is to be said about religion, God is an illusion, and there are no religious goals for ontological reason to pursue, because ontological philosophy explains religion away. Ontological philosophy reveals that the reason for being moral derives from our spiritual interest, that is, from the function of reason as the behavior guidance system for both the spiritual animal and the individual. It would follow, then, that reason did not pursue religious goals because there is actually something worthy of worship, but simply because such beliefs were the most efficient way of guiding behavior to contribute to the natural perfection of rational beings, both individual and spiritual. It would debunk religion, because once ontological reason saw through its function, religion would no longer be needed to justify morality or to justify submitting to the group. Nor would reason be able to believe in anything like God, except, of course, as their own spiritual animal. But to hold that the interest of their own spiritual animal is what is served by the pursuit of religious goals would be to reduce religion to tribalism.
If this is how ontological philosophy must treat religion, people with a religious sensibility would surely use it as a weapon against ontological philosophy. It is ontological philosophy that believes in tribalism, for it makes the spiritual animal the source of highest goods that reason pursues. By contrast, traditional religions, despite their troubled histories, have usually thought of their goals as something more than mere tribalism, especially Christianity and Islam, with their universalistic claims. Thus, if ontological philosophy must simply dismiss religion, as most contemporary naturalists do, there are many people who will be disillusioned, if they accept it, and regret the absence of anything of truly ultimate value.
The issue is, therefore, whether there is anything in a spatiomaterial world like ours that is worthy of worship by rational beings, that is, anything that rational beings would submit to from sheer knowledge of its exalted nature.
None of the goals of reason explained thus far by ontological philosophy can be considered religious, because they are not pursued from awe at the prospect of something of extraordinary perfection and glory. Necessary goals of reason are pursued because they control conditions that affect the reproduction of the individuals or spiritual animals whose behavior reason guides. To be sure, optional goals are good for contributing to the natural (or artificial) perfection of something other than rational beings, but they are good for rational beings only because they are chosen. If ontological reason has a religious interest, therefore, there must be goals that are more valuable for reason than mere optional goals without being required in the way that necessary goals are.
The only way ontological reason could have such an interest is if there is something worthy of worship in a spatiomaterial world like ours. And as it turns out, there is. The reason is that it is possible that there is — or will be — an absolutely perfect being in a spatiomaterial world like ours. And the possibility of such a perfect being is enough, as we shall see, to make the religious attitude appropriate and to explain how reason has a religious interest in addition to its individual and spiritual interest. Ontological reason will pursue goals that are good because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world itself, and the pursuit of such religious goals will make the world even more perfect. Indeed, since ontological reason takes responsibility for doing what is good for the world, as well as the individuals and spiritual animals whose behavior it already guides, it will be the agent for the world, making the world itself a rational being. Thus, the world itself will be a perfect rational being. God is immanent, not transcendent. Though such an absolutely perfect rational being is something that will be created by reason, it is something that is worthy of worship, and the work of ontological reason in the world is to bring God into existence. That is how reason makes the world "whole."
A Perfect Being is possible in a spatiomaterial world like ours, because it could be the outcome of evolution. We have seen how the basic nature of a spatiomaterial world with a large scale structure like our own and with matter that is capable of taking on complex molecular structures like ours makes evolution by reproductive causation inevitable. Not only does evolution inevitably begin on suitable planets, but it goes through inevitable stages that lead up to rational beings like us. And as we have seen, when reason finally comes to understand how the world is whole, it discovers its own nature as a behavior guidance system for both the individual and the spiritual animal, and as I have suggested, that makes reason the most powerful being in the world. But what I want to suggest now is that, if rational beings take the perfect being that would come to exist they it were to pursue religious goals to be worthy of worship, ontological reason will eventually evolve all the perfections that have traditionally been attributed to God, insofar as that is possible in a spatiomaterial world. The evolution of ontological reason would make the world itself an absolutely perfect being, that is, God.
The personal perfection attributed to God are omniscience, omnipotence, and absolute goodness. It is possible for reason to evolve all the perfections attributed to God as a person, because a person is a rational being and theses traits are the perfection of reason as a behavior guidance system. They are, respectively, the perfection of knowing, doing, and choosing. This would be the outcome of a late phase of cultural evolution during the philosophical stage of spiritual evolution, one that starts with reason understanding of its own nature and place in the world (that is, with ontological reason) and may not be complete for some time.
Reason has three functions, let us recall, because behavior guidance systems are not mere cybernetic (or functional) systems, which use feedback to guide their behavior toward some goal, but have a function in addition to input and output, namely, choosing between incompatible goals. Even if the same input is used to select the kind of behavior and to generate it, as in animals, the selection is a third, essential sub-function of behavior guidance systems, the one that makes them the locus of evolutionary progress. It is the perfection of these three functions of behavior guidance systems that accounts for the traditional perfections: omniscience has to do with the input function, omnipotence with the output function, and absolute goodness with the function of choosing. In rational beings, the first has to do with the perfection of knowing, the second with the perfection of doing, and the third with the perfection of choosing.
Omniscience. Reason will eventually be omniscient, because the input to this behavior guidance system will be the most complete knowledge of the world possible. Reason will be able to know everything that it is possible for reason to know about the world. That is possible, given the nature of space and matter in our world, since as we know, everything in the world and everything about the world can be explained by how it is constituted by those two kinds of opposite substances. What is ontologically necessary in a spatiomaterial world like our own can be known without explaining why the basic laws of physics are true, but there is no reason to doubt that reason will eventually understand the essential natures of space and matter that make the basic laws of physics true. The knowledge of what is ontologically necessary is the framework that makes it possible to explain as completely as required any aspect of the world.
To be sure, this kind of omniscience does not include knowing all the contingent details about the world, nor does it include knowing aspects of the future that depend on its own practical reasoning. But that is the kind of omniscience one might expect of a transcendent God, not what can be expected of an immanent God. As an immanent God, reason will be able to know as much about any contingent aspect of the world as is possible for any part of a world made of space and matter. And since it will be able to figure out how efficient causes can be used to control whatever can be controlled in such a world, it will be able to discover whatever is relevant to attaining its goals. That is as much as is possible for a being in space and time.
As ontological reason begins this phase, the biggest gap in
its knowledge is in astronomy and cosmology. But that does not affect the
possibility of this future course of evolution, because it does not affect
what reason knows about evolution and its own nature as the outcome of biological
evolution. It is not necessary to know why the basic laws of physics
are true to demonstrate the global regularities about change; it is only necessary
to know that they are true.
It is not necessary to know why the basic laws of physics are true to demonstrate the global regularities about change; it is only necessary to know that they are true.
Omnipotence. Reason will also be omnipotent, because the output of this behavior guidance system can control conditions in the world as well as any structural cause can in a spatiomaterial world like ours. Its omniscience includes knowledge about the means to any goals it may choose (or, at least, where to look for them and how to recognize them when they are found), and so the only limit to its power will be its ability to structure the thermodynamic flow of matter from potential energy to evenly distributed heat. But reason is responsible for guiding the behavior not only of individual rational subjects, but also spiritual animals, and thus, no structural cause can be more powerful than the spiritual structural cause of spiritual animals guided by reason, for it can coordinate the behavior of as many, independently moving animal bodies as are needed to attain the goals that it pursues.
Nothing can equal its power except another spiritual animal. But as we shall see, war would be overcome, when reason understands the nature of goodness, because of its pursuit of religious goals. Understanding the basic cause of war makes it clear what rational beings must do in order to attain their goals without resorting to war. Without such conflicts among spiritual animals, rational beings will be as powerful as possible as anything that can exist in a spatiomaterial world.
Nor is the omnipotence of such spiritual animals is merely potential. Though the parts are rational subjects who are autonomous, they will cooperate in pursuing the goals that spiritual animals pursue, if they are good. Their autonomy as rational beings is what enables them to cooperate in pursuing such goals, because it enables them to do what they believe is good.
Though reason will not be omnipotent in the way that a transcendent God is supposed to be, it will be able to attain any goal that is it possible for a part of a spatiomaterial world. And the lack of the power to do magic or create a natural world from nothing is not a real limitation, if the world is made of space and matter, because it is not ontologically possible in the first place. Omniscience has never been understood as the power to do what is impossible.
Absolute Goodness. Reason could also be absolutely good in the end. We have already seen why reason would pursue what is good for reason. All that needs to be added for reason to be a perfect being is that it also pursue what is good for the world as a whole, that is, to pursue religious goals.
Ontological reason would always pursue what is good for itself, as we have seen, because the function of choosing how to behave is served by a behavior guidance system that discovers what is good by understanding the nature of goodness. It recognizes that goodness is contributing to natural perfection, and rational imagination gives reason the ability to tell what is naturally perfect by seeing how it is a unique optimum against the background of what is possible. And since ontological reason recognizes itself as an essential part of such a natural perfection, it has sufficient reason to do what is good. It knows that there can be no reason not to do what contributes to the natural perfection of which it is part. Thus, it will do what is good for reason, that is, it will pursue goals that contribute to the natural perfection of reason itself, including both necessary and optional goals.
In order to be absolutely good in the sense implicit in traditional theology, however, reason would have to pursue goals beyond what is good for rational subjects and spiritual animals. To do God’s work is to pursue religious goals, and that means pursuing goals that are good in virtue of contributing to the natural perfection of the world itself.
That would be possible, if there are conditions that reason can bring about that would make the world itself more naturally perfect and they would not come to be in any other way. The natural perfection toward which evolution proceeds is only what is possible by reproductive causation, and natural selection is a crude instrument that takes much time and can involve much suffering. By doing what natural selection cannot do, or doing it more quickly or less wastefully, reason could make contributions to natural perfection that are not otherwise possible. It might make the structural causes bundled together in organisms or the organisms combined in ecologies even more optimal in the sense of having more power to control relevant conditions, and reason might make contributions to the natural perfection of life and the natural perfection of change by avoiding setbacks in evolutionary progress or changing their timing. Such goals would require much more detailed understanding of the evolving structures involved, but it is not impossible to make the world even more naturally perfect than it would be otherwise. Thus, reason could be good in the sense of doing what is good for the world itself, rather than just what is good for rational subjects and spiritual animals.
There are some specific goals that might be good for reason to pursue because they contribute something to the natural perfection of the world that cannot come to exist in any other way. They include the goals mentioned above as optional goals for spiritual animals. But what we need to recognize now in order to see how there could be a perfect being in a spatiomaterial world like ours is that they are also good in a different way -- not because they are chosen, but because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world. Instead of being optional, we need to suppose that reason pursues them because they are good for the world as a whole, thereby taking responsibility for making the world more perfect than it would be otherwise.
One such goal is the protection of the ecology from disruption by spiritual animals, or what is called protection of the environment. Though the capacity to survive storms, asteroids and other natural disasters may be part of the natural perfection of the ecology, protection from what spiritual animals do to it is unique, because it is an effect on the ecology that only reason can control. Furthermore, there may also be other ways in which reason might make the ecology more perfect in the sense of maximizing the use of available free energy to fuel reproductive cycles than is possible by reproductive causation. For example, it might make the ecology more perfect to tend it like a garden so that more of the available free energy is consumed.
Another such goal would be to replace the natural selection of spiritual animals by warfare with measures that would make spiritual animals just as perfect, but without the suffering involved in warfare. The only way to stop war, however, is to control population growth, since war is merely the form that the natural selection caused by reproduction takes in the case of spiritual animals. But this would not necessarily make evolution and the world more naturally perfect, unless reason also tended to spiritual animals themselves so that they become no less naturally perfect for organisms of their kind without natural selection. But if that is possible, it would surely make the world itself more perfect, because it would attain the same end with fewer and simpler means than all suffering the effects of war. War is, after all, a very wasteful means to the evolution of spiritual animals. Thus, the creation of a world order in which all spiritual animals could live in peace with one another into the indefinite future is a plausible religious goal.
Another possible religious goal would take over natural selection at the individual level as well as the social level. Natural selection at the individual level is responsible for rational subjects evolving toward the natural perfection of organisms of their kind, but insofar as it is still at work, it is also a wasteful process because of the suffering that it involves (such as individuals dying of genetic diseases). But reason could take over from natural selection as the cause of individual evolution by intervening in the germ line to correct genetic defects and to change genetic structures so that rational subjects are more powerful in attaining the goals they pursue, that is, are more naturally perfect as rational subjects.
There are surely other religious goals, including many that can be pursued on the individual level, because there are other changes that reason could bring about in the world that are neither necessary goals nor mere optional goals, but that would make the world itself more naturally perfect. And as far as spiritual animals are concerned, one of the more important religious goals will probably be the colonization of the solar system in the sense of changing conditions on them so that life can evolve on them as well as on earth.
All that is required for the outcome of evolution to have the personal perfections traditionally attributed to God is for ontological reason to pursue goals because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world itself, rather than just because they contribute to the natural perfection of reason in its role as the behavior guidance system for rational subjects and spiritual animals. That would mean that religious goals rank after the necessary goals of rational beings, yet ahead of their optional goals.
Religious goals would not be good because they are necessary goals of reason. Necessary goals of reason are those that control conditions that affect its reproduction, either as individuals or as spiritual animals. But religious goals are good because they contribute to the natural perfection, not of the individual or the spiritual animal, but the world itself. Religious goals cannot reduce to necessary goals of reason as the behavior guidance system of the world, because there are no conditions that affect the reproduction of the world itself. What makes religious goals good is simply contributing to the natural perfection of the world. But that requires seeing the world itself as a form of natural perfection. It depends on reason understanding the nature of goodness as contributing to natural perfection and seeing how what reason can do beyond merely controlling conditions that affect the reproduction of rational beings would contribute to the natural perfection of the whole.
Nor would religious goals be good as mere optional goals, either of individual subjects or spiritual animals. Optional goals are good for reason because they are already good in some way, and reason makes them good for reason by choosing them. Though religious goals are also already good, they are good in a unique way, because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world itself, not just to the natural (or artificial) perfection of a part of it that happens to catch one’s fancy. Nor are religious goals good for reason simply because reason chooses to pursue them. Rather they are good because they make the world itself naturally perfect. If religious goals are good for reason at all, they are good for reason whether or not rational beings choose to pursue them.
The religious interest, if ontological reason has such an interest, is, therefore, distinct from both necessary and optional goals. There is no reason to believe that religious goals would conflict with the necessary goals of reason, because the control of conditions affecting individual and social level reproduction would be an essential part of the natural perfection of the world. But the pursuit of religious goals would affect the pursuit of optional goals, both individual and spiritual, because reason would see their goodness as prior to optional goals. Most optional goals would be compatible with the natural perfection of the world, because optional goals also contribute to natural (or artificial) perfection in some way. But the religious interest would set priorities among optional goals, because in the context of an overall plan is to make the world itself perfect, some optional goals will contribute more to the natural perfection of the whole than others.
Ontological reason has, therefore, the potentiality of being not only omniscient and omnipotent, but also absolutely good. But if that is the future of evolution, it means that the advent of ontological philosophy is only the beginning of a phase of the philosophical stage of the gradual evolution of spiritual animals that leads to it. It will be mainly cultural evolution by rational selection, but the natural perfection for culture of this kind may not be complete until the far distant future, because there may be much for reason to do, including, perhaps, even stages in the evolution of the means it uses to attain its ends. After all, the social and political problems that it must solve are not insignificant and reason has only begun to acquire the technological control of nature that is possible. However, if ontological reason does pursue religious goals, a perfect being with all three personal perfections traditionally attributed to God would be the natural perfection toward which gradual change during that stage will proceed.
The existence of such a perfect individual and spiritual being in the world would be a form of natural perfection by our definition of “natural perfection,” because it would be the kind of optimal part-whole relation that makes the most of what exists in a spatiomaterial world like ours. For an all-knowing and all-powerful being to act for the good of the world as a whole would be for structural causes to use as much free energy as possible to control as much as possible of what happens in the world.
To pursue religious goals would make reason more powerful than simply pursuing necessary and optional goals, because it would be to set a priority among optional goals with an eye to making the world as a whole naturally perfect. Since the goals pursued would do what is required for the natural perfection of the whole, they would fit together more completely than any other set of goals, and thus, reason would be doing as much as possible to control what happens in the world. In other words, to pursue goals that conflict with religious goals could only detract from the maximum power of life, and to pursue optional goals instead of religious goals would be to have less effect on the world than is possible.
Acknowledging its religious interest would, of course, make only its planetary system naturally perfect, because given how space separates it from other planetary systems, that is the only part of the world that it can affect. But that is all that ontological reason can contribute to the natural perfection of the world as a whole, at least, for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, it is clear that there can be no further evolutionary stage in the series that has led to ontological reason, because there is no higher level of part-whole complexity in reason as a behavior guidance system that would make it any more powerful. No higher level of forensic organization (that is, in the part-whole complexity of argument) can guide behavior any better than one in which reason understands its own nature as a system for guiding behavior that has evolved in a world of matter and space in time like our own, for there is no higher level of reflection than one that understands the wholeness of the world. Ontological philosophy is already complete in that way. Thus, once reason understands its own nature and function as a behavior guidance system, no other structure could discover what is good for individuals or spiritual animals better than it.
There is, by the way, no possibility that machines constructed as artifacts will replace multicellular animals as rational subjects, except for modifications of human biology. A machine could, perhaps, eventually be as powerful as reason, though that would require it to have rational imagination (including spatial and structural imagination as well as the capacity to reflect on itself). But such a machine would not be conscious in the way we are, unless it was constructed of neurons like our own, because the phenomenal properties whose intrinsic natures explain the subjective aspect of experience (or the fact that it is like something to perceive and think) are the intrinsic natures of the photons generated by the synchronized firing of many neurons throughout the cerebrum, like an extraordinarily complex antenna. Rational beings would not choose to replace conscious rational beings with machines that are not conscious, that is, with Zombies. They might know and control all the same conditions that make the world perfect, but without the unity of mind, there is a way in which the perfection would not exist at all.
If, therefore, ontological reason does find the prospect of such a perfect being worthy of worship and reason does evolve toward natural perfection of this kind, it will be the last stage of evolution, because it will have a kind of behavior guidance system than which none more naturally perfect can be conceived.
The kind of natural perfection that exists at this point in the evolution of philosophical spirit may be dwarfed by the perfection that eventually comes to exist, but it is clear that its basic nature permits it to acquire all the perfections that have traditionally been attributed to God as a person. Indeed, the traditional view of God can be seen as an attempt to conceive the greater perfection that is potential in rational beings before reason understands its own nature and place in the world. The traditional belief in God merely looks for God in the wrong place, as something that transcends nature, rather than as something in or about nature itself. But in order to show that what could evolve from ontological reason is a perfect being in the sense of a traditional God, it is necessary to show that this kind of perfect being also has the ontological perfections traditionally ascribed to God: being necessary, ubiquitous, and eternal.
Just as omniscience, omnipotence, and absolute goodness are simply the perfection of the three subfunctions of a behavior guidance system, so these three ontological perfections can be seen as holding of reason because it is the inevitable outcome of evolution in a world of matter and space like ours enduring through in time.
Necessary being. God as a perfect rational being would be a necessary being in a spatiomaterial world like ours, if it is the eventual outcome of evolution, because evolution is a process that inevitably gets started on suitable planets. His existence would follow from the nature of a world of matter and space in time, given that matter has the nature described by the basic laws of physics in this world and the universe has a large scale structure like our own.
If ontological reason inevitably acknowledges a religious interest, the existence of a perfect being would be a consequence of the basic nature of a spatiomaterial world like ours. Since evolution is, as we have seen, a global regularity, we might say that the necessity of a perfect rational being is shown mainly by recognizing how space is an ontological cause of evolution.
This would give God, however, the same kind of necessity that the world itself has, and there is another way in which God has traditionally been thought to be necessary. That is, substances exist necessarily because they cannot come into existence nor go out of existence as time passes, and that makes God necessary, since God is their necessary ontological effect. But the necessary existence of God has been said to derive from His being the cause of Himself, or causa sui. That would also be true of this perfect rational being, as we shall see, if ontological reason, in its practical capacity, inevitably acknowledges a religious interest.
Ubiquitous being. God is ubiquitous in a spatiomaterial world, because it is a necessary being. Reason will evolve everywhere in a spatiomaterial world with a large scale structure like our own, though its frequency depends on how often suitable planets occur. If reason must evolve into God, God will exist throughout the universe.
To be sure, scientists who understand that life could exist on other planets have set up antennas to listen for messages from more advanced life forms in the hope of solving the mysteries of the universe, and they have come up with nothing. But if ontological philosophy is right about the course of evolution, that is just what we should expect. Ontological reason will not even try to communicate with life on other planets, because it will know that intervening and solving the problems that reason confronts on other planets would only cripple the spiritual beings that are evolving there. On the other hand, if ontological reason has already evolved on distant planets, there is nothing to say to them, at least, not in that way. (There may be other ways that rational beings from different planetary systems interact. But they will be severely limited, given the distances they are separated in space and the impossibility of traveling faster than light, and they will occur at a much later point in the evolution of perfect rational beings.)
Reason is also ubiquitous in another sense, which comes from its spiritual nature as the behavior guidance system of a spiritual animal. As ontological reason evolves control over everything that happens on its planet or in its planetary system, there will be a single spiritual structural cause whose non-reproductive work dominates its entire planet, and eventually the entire planetary system where it evolves.
The ubiquity of a perfect being is a consequence of the basic nature of a spatiomaterial world like ours, but in a world that is obviously in space, evolution depends on matter being of the same kind everywhere. Hence, we might hold that its ubiquity is shown mainly by how matter is an ontological cause of evolution.
Eternal being. God is eternal in a spatiomaterial world, also because it is a necessary being. God will exist as long as the universe itself does, because He will evolve again and again throughout the existence of the world. If the universe is eternal, God will have eternal life.
Moreover, particular Gods can be eternal in their own planetary systems, because spiritual animals can exist indefinitely, even if individual rational subjects cannot, and there will always be some free energy to use as fuel for their reproductive cycles. Though God may have to inhabit only the farther reaches of the planetary system when the sun becomes a red giant and engulfs the earth. There is now about four and a half billion years to prepare. And if the red giant later becomes a white dwarf, God could move back in closer and have all the free energy required to exist indefinitely, if He so chooses.
This is to hold that the expansion of the universe does not end (as suggested in our discussion of cosmology). That is the most likely case, because as far as scientists can tell, there is not enough matter for gravitation to cause the universe to collapse back to another Big Bang, and apparently not even enough to slow the expansion to a stop asymptotically, that means the universe is eternal. However, if the Big Bang is a recurrent local process, as suggested earlier, there would be no end to the evolution of perfect rational beings.
The eternity of a perfect being is also a consequence of the basic nature of a spatiomaterial world like ours. But since it depends on how the space and matter constituting the world endure through time as substances, its eternity is shown mainly by how time is an aspect of the existential aspect of the nature of substance as substance. Thus, the eternality of God might be said to depend on how time is an ontological cause of evolution.
Except for being the creator of the world, therefore, ontological reason could eventually come to have all the perfections traditionally attributed to God, both personal and ontological perfections. It depends on whether ontological reason has a religious interest, that is, on whether it chooses to pursue religious goals in addition to its spiritual and individual goals, and that depends, in turns, on whether the prospect of the perfect being that would result is worthy of worship.
All that is required for ontological reason to evolve into a perfect being is for it to pursue goals that are good because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world itself, rather than just goals that contribute to the natural perfection of reason as the behavior guidance system for rational subjects and spiritual animals. Will ontological reason pursue religious goals?
It cannot be shown that reason ought to and will pursue religious goals in the same way that its pursuit of individual and spiritual goals, because religious goals do not contribute to the natural perfection of rational beings. Religious goals are not necessary goals of reason. They do not control conditions that affect the reproduction of rational beings at either the multicellular or social level of biological organization. And religious goals cannot be explained as optional goals, for that does not explain their special worth. Nor would optional religious goals make the existence of God inevitable.
To have a religious interest, reason would have to be the behavior guidance system for the world as a whole. But that is not a function reason could possibly have as a result of biological evolution. The pursuit of goals that contribute to the natural perfection of the world cannot evolve like another level of biological organization, beginning another stage of biological evolution, because the world itself is not a reproducing organism. That is, the world as a whole is not a primary structure generating reproductive cycles. Even something as small as the planetary system or the planet is still the whole in which evolution takes place, not a level of biological organization.
It is nevertheless possible for ontological reason to have a religious interest. The belief that rational beings ought to pursue religious goals would evolve by the rational selection of practical arguments, if what would result were perfect enough to be worthy of worship, because to beings with a faculty of rational imagination, it will be clear that accepting arguments for acknowledging a religious interest gives them the most rationally coherent world view.
As rational beings come to understand the nature of reason and its place in the world, they will see how it is possible for there to be a perfect being in a spatiomaterial world like ours, and they will recognize that its existence depends on whether they pursue religious goals, in addition to the necessary and optional goals of their and spiritual interest. If the perfect being that would result from pursuing religious goals is exalted enough that rational beings revere it and serve it from the sheer recognition of its unique natural perfection, rational beings will identify with the world itself, not just their spiritual animals or themselves as individuals. And by acting in the interest of the world as a whole, they will contribute what only reason can contribute to the natural perfection of all the organisms, to the natural perfection of the ecology, to the natural perfection of life, and to the natural perfection of evolutionary change itself. And by pursuing religious goals, a perfect being will come to exist in their planetary system.
The answer that ontological reason will give to this question is obvious to anyone who understands the situation in which reason will find itself and what is at stake in its choice. Once ontological philosophy evolves in the cultures of existing spiritual animals, rational beings will actually face this choice, and the answer will be acted out in history, determining the future course of evolution. But as rational beings who have traveled the path of this whole argument, we are in a position to know that ontological reason will see the perfect being that they can bring into existence by their actions as worth the effort.
Reason gives them more power than they need to pursue necessary goals, and among the optional goals that are open to them, some will take precedence because they contribute to the natural perfection of the whole of which they are part. By acknowledging that it has a religious interest, reason will change in the direction of maximum holistic power, because when the world as a whole is naturally perfect, as much as possible of what happens in its planetary system will be controlled using the available free energy as efficiently as possible. Ontological reason will, therefore, choose to pursue religious goals.
This choice is similar to another stage of evolution, because an entire new range of conditions come under the control of living organisms. In this case, those conditions are not relevant in the sense of affecting the reproduction of an organism with a higher level of part-whole complexity. But the conditions that are controlled are on a higher level of part-whole complexity than the necessary and optional goals of rational beings, because they contribute to the natural perfection of the world itself (that is, at the scale of its planetary system, the part of the world it can affect). Thus, what makes it good to pursue religious goals is the same thing that makes a higher level of part-whole complexity in evolving organisms good: it contributes to the natural perfection of life.
Though the autonomy of reason makes it possible to pursue any goals that are good, the pursuit of religious goals maximizes the holistic power of reason, because, as we have seen, they are aimed at controlling all those conditions that make the biggest difference in the perfection of the world as a whole. There is no other set of goals that would enable reason to control more of what happens in the world, and thus, religious goals would contribute to the natural perfection of reason itself.
The self-creation of God. For rational beings to choose to pursue religious goals, however, is for ontological reason to choose to transform itself into God. It is the prospect of a perfect being inspires them to make this choice, but the perfect being in prospect comes from reason itself, and thus, it comes from reason choosing to do what is good because it contributes to the natural perfection of the world as a whole. But since that is to act as the perfect being that ontological reason intends to bring into existence, God already exists in those actions. Thus, the belief in God is a self-fulfilling belief. God creates Himself. And God continues to create Himself in all the actions that are done in the interest of the world itself.
Even the immanent God in a spatiomaterial world like ours would be causa sui. God would create Himself, because ontological reason makes itself into God by acting in the name of God.
The world as a rational being. To pursue religious goals is, however, to act for the good of the world as a whole, and thus, it is for the world itself to be a rational being. That is, ontological reason takes up the function of being the behavior guidance system for the world itself, and thus, it does for the world what it does for the spiritual animal and for the individual rational subject.
To be sure, the world does not become a rational being because it is a reproducing organism like individuals and spiritual animals, imposing natural selection on themselves by their own reproduction. But that is merely to say that the world does become a rational being as a direct result of natural selection, or biological reproductive causation. It is due, instead, to the cultural evolution of practical arguments by rational selection. The world acquires the power of reason to do what contributes to the natural perfection of the world itself, because the kind of natural perfection that inevitably comes to exist within it includes rational beings who are able to understand how the world is whole, who recognize themselves as a necessary consequence of its nature, and who see how and why it is good for them to act in the interest of the world as a whole.
The world as a perfect rational being. Since this outcome is inevitable, however, the world is not only a rational being, but a perfect rational being. The nature of a spatiomaterial world like ours makes it inevitable that evolution will begin, because as we have seen, the effect of the cycle of night and day on the kinds of molecules that exist on suitable planets is the existence of reproductive cycles, which impose natural selection on themselves. The course of evolution is inevitable, because, as we have seen, it involves an inevitable series of evolutionary stages, each caused by a higher level of part-whole complexity in the evolving structures of reproductive organisms (taken broadly to include arguments that reproduce within spiritual animals as primary structures). We have seen how the inevitable outcome is ontological reason, that is, rational beings who understand how the world is whole, who recognize themselves as the inevitable outcome of evolution, and who inevitably choose to pursue religious goals because they see how it would make the world itself perfect. With reason acting as a behavior guidance system in its interest, the world is a rational being. But since it is an inevitable consequence of the nature of a spatiomaterial world like ours, it is an expression of the essential nature of what exists. The nature of the world is revealed, not only in the basic nature of what exists, the essential natures of space and matter in time and how they exist together as a world, but also in the nature of what inevitably comes to exist from it. Thus, it turns out that the world itself is perfect. And since the world is inevitably a rational being, the world is a perfect rational being.
What we have been calling “natural perfection” are part-whole relations that are optimal because of the basic nature of the world, but now we find that that nature not only sets the standard of perfection, but also measures up to it in the most complete way. In general, the perfect makes the most out of the least. But the standard of perfection appropriate to nature is fixed by the second law of thermodynamics, because that makes it possible for structural causes to use the thermodynamic flow of potential energy towards evenly distributed heat to make things happen that would not otherwise happen. Judged according to this standard, part-whole relations are optimal when structural causes are combined in such a way that they use the available free energy as efficiently as possible to control as much of what happens in the world as possible. That is how to make the most out of what exists in a world constituted by space and matter enduring through time. And now we find that the basic nature of the world not only sets the standard of natural perfection, but also makes it inevitable that what happens in the world eventually measures up to that standard as completely as possible. And it is more complete than what is possible by natural selection alone, because it uses a behavior guidance system that guides behavior to what is good by recognizing how and why the good is good, even when it does not control conditions that affect its own reproduction.
The world as God. Since the world, because of its very nature, inevitably becomes a perfect rational being, the world itself is God. As ontological reason acknowledges its religious interest, it takes responsibility for the world as a whole, doing what ought to be done because it contributes to the natural perfection of the world as a whole. That is the work of ontological reason in the world, to act for the good of the world itself.
Thus, it will be possible for ontological reason to answer G. E. Moore’s doubts about the possibility of any such naturalistic explanation of the goodness of religious goals in the same way as it does his doubts about the goodness of other goals. To a rational subject who understands her nature as a rational subject and her place in the natural world, including her identification with the world as much as with her spiritual animal or her individual Self, it will simply does not make sense to ask, But is contributing to the natural perfection of the world good? She will know that it is contributing to her own natural perfection and, thus, that it is good in the same way as her other goals are good. Religious self interest will, therefore, take its place, along with spiritual self interest and individual self interest, as what determines the goals she will pursue. That is, they all contribute to the natural perfection of reason.
The pursuit of religious goals is also the wisdom that Socrates was seeking, because this ontological explanation of the nature of goodness explains why religious goals are good for the rational subject in a way that will make him religious. The pursuit of religious goals is good for him as a rational being, because it contributes to his own natural perfection.
An act of free will. God comes into existence from an act of self-creation, and though it is inevitable, it is an act of free will. As we have seen, free will is autonomy, or the power that reason gives individual subjects to do the good simply because they know that it is good. The choice of ontological reason to pursue religious goals is autonomous in that sense, because it comes from the knowledge that it is good for rational beings to contribute what only reason can contribute to the natural perfection of the world as a whole. It is inevitable, but only because it really is good and reason understands things so completely that it knows that it is good.
God’s act of self-creation within a spatiomaterial world is free in the same sense that Aquinas had in mind when he argued that God’s choice to create the natural world was free. Aquinas was, of course, talking about the traditional, transcendent God of epistemological philosophy. But he wanted to deny that the existence of the natural world is a necessary consequence of God’s nature, because that would mean that it was not an act of free will. What Aquinas meant can be expressed, I believe, by saying that God created the world because He understood the nature of goodness. Because that understanding enabled Him to see that it would be good to create the world, He chose to create it because it is good. In the same sense, it is by an act of free will that God creates Himself in a spatiomaterial world: ontological reason understands the nature of goodness and, by seeing that it would be good for God to exist, chooses to create God because it is good.
That is also the sense in which practical reason, according to ontological philosophy, cannot be reduced to theoretical reason. Since ontological reason’s choice to pursue religious goals is inevitable, the existence of God is among the necessary truths about What is that reason can know by theoretical reason, that is, in reason’s capacity as knower of the true. But that does not mean that What is includes everything that holds necessarily for reason because spatiomaterialism is the best ontological explanation of the world, because What is is, in part, a result of what ontological reason does. Reason creates God, that is, transforms itself into God by acknowledging that is has a religious self interest, as well as a spiritual and individual self interest. Doing cannot, therefore, be eliminated in favor of knowing. It is a product of ontological reason in its practical capacity.
In explaining what happens before the evolution of ontological philosophy, reason can be treated like any other evolving structure. But when ontological philosophy evolves, that explanation becomes part of what is evolving, and as ontological reason, it is the agent whose practical reasoning brings about the subsequent course of evolution. Ontological reason cannot sit back and simply contemplate the existence of God, because the coming into existence of a perfect rational being is the doing of reason. And it does what it does, not because it recognizes its inevitability, but because what it does is guided by What ought to be. In the end, therefore, “ought” implies “is.”
To be sure, the content of practical reason, including all the goals that ought to be pursued, coincides, in part, with the content of theoretical reason. Its necessary truths about What is include what reason does inevitably in the world. But the diagram of the whole argument of ontological philosophy does not misrepresent what holds necessarily for reason by separating the conclusion about What ought to be from the conclusions about What is, because for reason, there is a difference between knowing and doing.
The difference between theoretical and practical reason is nearly as basic to reason as the difference between the ontological foundation and the necessary truths that follow from it, which is represented in a similarly fundamental way in the diagram of the whole argument. In that case too, the content of necessary truths coincides with part of the content of the ontological foundation, because the necessary truths, being truths that follow from it, are implicit in it. But the distinction is important for reason, because there is a difference between what reason knows about the world empirically (by an inference to the best ontological explanation of the world) and what reason knows about the world prior to discovering what happens in the world by experience. If there were no difference between ontologically necessary truths (including conditionally ontologically necessary truths) and ordinary empirical knowledge, ontology would not be a new way of doing philosophy.
God is known first of all, therefore, as an intention of practical reason, as the goal of ontological reason’s own plan of individual and social level behavior in the world. That is the sense in which practical reason is not reducible to theoretical reason. The creation of God is the work of ontological reason in the world.