Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beatific vision and scepticism

One way to think of the beatific vision is as a conscious experience whose quale is God himself. Not a representation of God, but the infinite and simple God himself. Such an experience would have have a striking epistemological feature. Ordinary veridical experiences are subject to sceptical worries because the qualia involved in them can occur in non-veridical experiences, or at least can have close facsimiles occurring in non-veridical experiences. But while everything is similar to God, the similarity is always infinitely remote. Moreover, there is a deep qualitative difference between God in the beatific vision and other qualia. No other quale is a person or even a substance.

Thus, someone who has the beatific vision is in the position of having an experience that is infinitely different from all other experiences, veridical or not. This, I think, rules out at least one kind of sceptical worry, and hence the beatific vision is also a fulfillment of the Cartesian quest for certainty—though that is far from being the most important feature of the beatific vision.


Christopher Michael said...

The Beatific Vision can't be an experience the quale of which is God Himself, for this would imply at least two unacceptable theological consequences:

(1) That God can be a quale. Qualia are created accidents, and God is neither created nor an accident.
(2) That we can comprehend God. If God is my quale, then I have comprehended Him like I do all my other qualia, which exist only insofar as I experience them, and are therefore necessarily comprehended by me. But God is utterly incomprehensible to every creature, whether real or possible.

The Beatific Vision is of God face to face and immediate ("Benedictus Deus," DZ 530), but the Vision itself is a created act of the intellect of the creature, and thus cannot be really identical to God, Who is uncreated.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Qualia are whatever it is in virtue of being related to which in the relevant way we have a conscious perception of a particular sort. That they are accidents is a common theory but not the only one.
I don't think I comprehend my qualia. If I did, I could just see which ontological category they're in, and I cannot see that. I think they are typically accidents, but that's philosophical theory not vision (odd as that is etymologically).
In fact dogs probably have qualia bout surely they don't comprehend them.