Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On being a rationalist and a theist

Can one be a rationalist, an empiricist and at the same time also a theist?
Veṅkaṭanātha's case is fascinating, since –at least in his Seśvaramīmāṃsā– he adheres to the Mīmāṃsā paradigm, which refuses any deity on the basis of the facts that
  1. 1. natural causes (including karman) are enough to explain the world as it is,
  2. 2. there are no reasons to imagine that the world has ever been different than it is (thus, we do not need a creator god),
  3. 3. there is no need to postulate something if we do not need it (cfr. Ockham's Razor: Beings should not be multiplied unless it is necessary).


  1. 4. the belief in god is flawed with inconsistencies (for instance, omnipotency requires a body, but then the fact of having a body implies further difficulties).

Yet, Veṅkaṭanātha can write as a Mīmāṃsaka and at the same time write passionate devotional poems to Viṣṇu. How is this possible? Consider that it is not a case of divided rationality (such as a scientist who cannot help avoiding black cats, although he knows that her belief in the cats' bringing black luck is irrational). Veṅkaṭanātha wrote not only poems in praise of Viṣṇu, but also philosophical-theological works.

What other solutions are possible?

  • ––Perhaps, the Mīmāṃsā atheism can leave room for  a God, if this belief can be rationally grounded. It seems difficult to fight the premisses listed above, but Veṅkaṭanātha might have tried it.
  • ––Perhaps, the Mīmāṃsā atheismis is only devised against a) deities which should grant one the reward for having sacrificed, etc. In this second interpretation, the Mīmāṃsakas might not object against a god conceived in an altogether different way (for instance –and this is just my suggestion– one which is partially non-different from each of us as subjects).

Any other suggestion on how to reconcile rationalism and theism?

On Veṅkaṭanātha, see this post.

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