Sunday, October 29, 2017

Telepathy and Trinity

Recently I was asked a question about the Trinity:

How should a person be defined? Are Trinitarians committed to the idea that each Person has a distinct mind, yet God someone has one mind?

1. From the standpoint of Protestant theological method, we could define a person or divine person in particular in reference to God's moral and intellectual attributes, viz. wisdom, knowledge, virtue, will. 

To be a divine person is to have those and other related properties. 

2. From a philosophical standpoint, debates over whether artificial intelligence is possible in principle have focussed on the analysis of consciousness. What's a mind?

One component of consciousness in philosophical analysis is a first-person viewpoint. What it's like to be X from the perspective of X.

3. Minimally, Trinitarians are committed to the biblical data, viz. there's only one God; the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct from each other; yet each member is fully divine (i.e. has all the divine attributes).

4. In more philosophical lingo, each member has a first-person viewpoint. 

5. One way to explicate this philosophically is to use telepathy as a model. I happen to think there are credible cases of telepathy, but the comparison doesn't require that. We know what is meant by the idea of telepathy. That's a fixture of scifi lore.

Suppose two people are telepathically linked. As a result, they have complete telepathic access to each other's minds. In one respect, these remain two distinct minds. Each individual retains his unique, intransmissible first-person viewpoint. He understands another from his own first-person perspective.

In another respect, they understand each other from the inside out, due to their direct access to each other's minds. So that's different from two separate, compartmentalized minds. That has a "blended" quality. 

6. Another analogy is mirrors. In one respect, mirror images are identical to each other. There's one-to-one correspondence. Yet each image "flips" the other image. That's because reflection symmetries have the property of chirality (left-handed or right-handed). 

We might think of the Trinitarian persons "mirroring" each other. In a sense, the whole person is contained in the other, the way the whole image is replicated. And yet they're not reducible to each other.  

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