Substance and Spirit

Complexity and Ontogenesis contra Plantingan Dualism

I. Introduction

Alvin Plantinga, in his article “Materialism and Christian Belief,”1 makes a bold claim: he asserts that “Christian philosophers ought to be dualists.”2 As Plantinga will attempt to show, not only is dualism preferable to materialism, but the asserted truth of his conclusions should also morally oblige the Christian thinker to believe them. This is the effect of his “ought.” Plantinga himself certainly believes dualism to be true, but as in the more substantial Warranted Christian Belief,3 Plantinga cares as much about the truth of his beliefs as the warrant (or reasons) for holding them. Along these lines, then, we can say that Plantinga’s “ought” is an assertion of warrant. And yet, by taking such a firm position in the dualism-versus-materialism debate, Plantinga unnecessarily restricts himself to a dichotomy that prevents him from delving into a variety of other premises that fall outside the narrow bounds within which he operates, premises that afford a more nuanced understanding of the complex issues he addresses. In this paper, I challenge the “ought” of Plantinga’s argument. Through an analysis of his two arguments for dualism, with reference to scripture, Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Simondon, I will argue that dualism is not the overwhelmingly preferable belief for Christians to hold, and that Plantinga’s view does not preclude the warrant of other beliefs that contradict his own.

II. Plantinga’s Arguments

Plantinga makes two arguments for dualism, the first from possibility, and the second from impossibility. The argument from possibility is his “Replacement Argument,” and the possibility in question is the possibility of the independence of the “I,” or self, and the body, that the I has “the property possibly exists when [my body] does not.”4 In other words, Plantinga argues for the possibility that “I am not identical with [my body].”5 To assert this point, he undertakes a thought experiment wherein the “matter” of the body is steadily replaced with new matter, the old is “destroyed,” and all the while the I persists, and persists consciously.6 On the basis of this thought experiment, Plantinga thinks it likely that his self exists independently from (while in relation with) his body.

Second, Plantinga argues from impossibility, making use of Leibniz’s Problem to demonstrate the impossibility of a material thing having the capacity to think, or to possess the property of “consciousness.”7 He cites Leibniz at length, and it is of use to present his citation here:

It must be confessed, moreover, that perception, and that which depends on it, are inexplicable by mechanical causes, that is by figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine so constructed as to think, feel and have perception, we could conceive of it as enlarged and yet preserving the same proportions, so that we might enter it as into a mill. And this granted, we should only find on visiting it, pieces which push one against another, but never anything by which to explain a perception. This must be sought for, therefore, in the simple substance and not in the composite or in the machine.8

Based on Leibniz’s claim that perception, and its attendant conscious functions, are “inexplicable by mechanical causes,” Plantinga contends that thinking cannot be the result of a “mechanical interaction of its parts.”9 Furthermore, following Leibniz’s final claim, that perception “must be sought ... in the simple substance and not in the composite or in the machine,” Plantinga argues that, because “electrons and quarks can’t think, we won’t find anything composed of them that can think by way of the physical interaction of its parts.”10 Therefore, because the self is that which thinks—or the I is that which is conscious—it seems impossible that the I, the thinking, conscious thing, could be identical to the material body.

With these two arguments, Plantinga concludes that dualism is the belief that Christians ought to hold (and he strongly implies that any other thoughtful person should too). Given the general acceptance by Christians of such “non-physical things” as “angels” and “God” (not to mention those others non-physical things like “numbers, propositions, [and] possible worlds”), dualism, for Plantinga, simply holds more explanatory power.11 With the additional assertion that thought is a “basic” property of the soul (which, itself, is “simple,” i.e., it “doesn’t have any parts”), thought becomes, for Plantinga, a “basic activity of selves,” what selves do, simply, naturally, and necessarily.12 No interaction is required; thought is “immediate,”13 and it is so, we might add, in both senses of the word: instantaneous and without mediation. Such an explanation accounts for the conscious experience of thought, in Plantinga’s view, far better than any of the materialist explanations that have been proposed. What is more, taking into account the testimony of scripture and the creeds, and certain “crucial Christian doctrines,” belief in an immaterial soul is both preferable and warranted for the Christian thinker.14

Though Plantinga’s reasoning is sound, for the rest of this paper, I will argue that certain of his premises are not in fact preferable for the Christian thinker to believe, and therefore the Christian ought not to accept his claim for dualism. First, I will challenge Plantinga’s assumption of the simplicity of the soul, and the identity of the soul and consciousness, so arguing for a more complex vision of the self within the context of Christian doctrine. Second, I will challenge Plantinga’s use of Liebniz’s Problem, proposing a concept of reality according to Gilbert Simondon’s ontogenetic argument. I do not presume to conclusively disprove either dualism or materialism here, but rather wish to propose a more productive relationship between theoretical domains that would otherwise remain isolated from each other, and to suggest that the Christian thinker is warranted in holding either dualist or materialist beliefs respecting the self or soul without moral difficulty. In short, I intend to forge a link between these camps, in hopes that the entrenched parties on both sides might be able to enter into dialogue once more.

III. The Human Complex

In the article here discussed, Plantinga holds two beliefs that I wish to trouble: (1) the identity of mind and self, or soul and consciousness, and (2) the simplicity of the soul. The first he employs in his argument from possibility so as to try and demonstrate the division of self and body; the second he employs in his argument from impossibility by way of an answer to the problem of thinking (i.e., how does one think?). However, because he frames the entire discussion with the “ought” statement discussed above, his theoretical propositions take on a moral tone that exceeds the actual content of his claims. Though I could, as a Christian thinker, accept Plantinga’s theories on faith (and he certainly makes a strong argument to do so), I do not feel so morally obliged. Why is dualism so unique as a theory that I ought to believe it to be true?

In the same way that a Marxist or a psychoanalyst might present me with theories of history and consciousness that, given what knowledge and prejudices I hold, seem to me compelling, I am not, consequently, obliged to believe what they tell me. I can explore such theories, I can attempt to apply them to my thinking about the world and to the phenomena that I witness, but if I am confronted with evidence that appears to contradict these theories, or with another theory that articulates reality in a way that seems better to me from my own decidedly limited position, then I ought not to continue to believe such theories (or at least I should revise my understanding of them). The inevitable revolution of the proletariat did not occur as predicted, and so the thinkers of the Frankfurt School undertook a critical revision of Marxism so as to account for such an unforeseen historical development; Freudian techniques, and specifically his analysis of neuroses, proved limited or incorrect, and so psychoanalysts like Carl Jung, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, and Félix Guattari shifted their attention to other dimensions of his thought, innovating upon and even moving beyond the Freudian system. Dualism is (or at least should be) no different.

Such theoretical paradigms—Marxism, psychoanalysis, dualism—are what Karl Popper describes as “metaphysical research programme[s].”15 Though a metaphysical research programme cannot itself be proven or disproven, the programme provides the thinker with rational and intuitional guides for inquiry that, depending on findings, can increase or decrease the likelihood of the programme being true. Like Darwinism, which is Popper’s example, we could say, then, that dualism is “a possible framework for testable scientific theories,”16 or rather, we can nuance Popper’s language to account for the object of the theory of dualism: it is a possible framework for testable theological theories. It is one possible way to consider the human being in relation to the divine, providing us with guides in our considerations of scripture, Christian tradition, and philosophical argument. Like Darwinism, or Marxism, or psychoanalysis, each of which led scholars to pursue particular paths of scientific, historical, and psychological inquiry over others, dualism opens particular paths of theological inquiry for the Christian thinker in her engagement with her beliefs and her world. A Christian thinker could just as easily hold a materialist conception of the self and human being and pursue such a programme of theological inquiry in good conscience, as any scholar or student would with respect to their own beliefs in disciplines other than theology. Plantinga’s assertion of “ought” invests his perspective with an unwarranted moral obligation, the stakes of which are not borne out by his conclusions.

Considering now Plantinga’s two claims above—(1) the mind-self identity, and (2) the simplicity of the soul—I argue that not only are such claims properly theoretical, and therefore not morally obligatory to believe, but that such claims are not even preferable to the alternatives Plantinga presumes to discredit. Plantinga acknowledges that “dualism itself is multiple, if not legion,”17 and he sketches out three general categories of such multiplicity: (1) that “a human person is an immaterial substance,” (2) that “a human person is somehow a sort of composite substance,” and (3) that “a human person is a material substance with an immaterial part, the soul.”18 And yet, in a footnote he argues that for “present purposes ... substance dualism and materialism are the only relevant positions.”19 Substantialist dualism and materialism are all that matter to his argument. Despite significant differences in kind (such as property dualism, which he dismisses out of hand), Plantinga has no trouble lumping together disparate perspectives so as to present a unified front against the materialists. Given the hostility of the likes of Daniel Dennett (whom Plantinga cheekily critiques20), this is not entirely unjustified, but to exclude the multiplicity of dualisms from the conversation seems short sighted. Forcing the point of dualism before nailing down the details might be an effective unifying strategy against the materialist onslaught, but it hamstrings dialogue, and leads to hasty dogmatism and unnecessary contention.

There is no warrant for such belligerence; scripture itself challenges Plantinga’s definition of the self. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus declares that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”;21 in 1 Thessalonians, Paul prays that the “spirit and soul and body” of each member of the church would be “kept sound and blameless”;22 and in Hebrews, the author writes that the “word of God ... divides soul from spirit.”23 There is no simple identity, here, of the self, the I, or the mind, with the soul—indeed, in Mark the soul and mind are explicitly distinct from each other. What is more, in 1 Thessalonians and Hebrews, two purportedly immaterial entities are posited: the soul and the spirit. Both of Plantinga’s arguments depend on the identity of the thinking or conscious mind with the self and the simplicity of the self as an entity, but in these passages of scripture, no such identity or simplicity can be seen. The spiritual or essential aspect of the human person, that which is not the person’s “strength” or “heart,” is at least twofold, and both of these are independent of the mind, that which we commonly believe to be that which thinks. There is no evidence that the soul or the spirit is that which thinks, nor that the self can be reduced to one or the other. I find no reason, upon consideration of scripture alone, to accept Plantinga’s dualism, and in fact it seems to me a harmfully dogmatic reduction of human complexity to a neat philosophical binary with only the most superficial of bases in scripture.

If we turn to the Christian tradition, we can perhaps trace Plantinga’s perspective to that of Augustine. Augustine writes, in his Confessions:

Then I turned towards myself, and said to myself: ‘Who are you?’ I replied: ‘A man.’ I see in myself a body and a soul, one external, the other internal. ... What is inward is superior. All physical evidence is reported to the mind which presides and judges of the responses of heaven and earth and all things in them, as they say ‘We are not God’ and ‘He made us’. The inner man knows this—I, I the mind through the sense-perception of my body.24

Given the influence of Augustine upon the Western tradition, and upon Christian spirituality and doctrine, it seems likely that Plantinga’s equation of the self and the mind could be traced to such a passage, or the tradition flowing from it. And yet, Augustine is not himself consistent in his terminology. Augustine confesses by “words from [his] soul and a cry from [his] mind”;25 he speaks now of the “soul,” now the “heart,” now the “conscience,” and other times of his “most intimate self”;26 he even troubles his own concept of “mind”:

I who act through these diverse functions am one mind. I will also rise above this power. For this also is possessed by the horse and the mule. They also perceive through the body. I will therefore rise above that natural capacity in a step by step ascent to him who made me. I come to the fields and palaces of memory ...27

There is no simple identity here. Augustine is his mind, and yet he “rise[s] above” his mind, because animals too possess such a faculty. His humanity, and his most intimate self, is not reducible to mind and its capacity for thought. Not only that, his language betrays the “simple” interpretation of the self that would have the essence of the “I” be reducible to a single, indivisible entity. “I turned towards myself,” he writes—again, we encounter a doubling, a twofold subject, a reflexive complex.

In the work of Søren Kierkegaard, this sense of the self as reflexive complex is borne out further. In the famous (or perhaps infamous) opening to The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard writes:

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way, a human being is still not a self. In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self.28

This passage requires some unpacking. For Kierkegaard, the human being is equal to spirit and spirit is equal to the self. A human being, as both animal and image bearer of the divine, is also a synthesis, but a synthesis, in the logical sense, is a “relation between two,” and this alone does not constitute a human being. The synthesis requires a relation to exist, which is a “negative unity,” since the two terms of the synthesis are necessarily different from each other, and therefore can be said to negate each other; the relation is what preserves the synthesis from a destructive negation. Finally, then, when that relation, as the negative unity, “relates itself to itself”—that is, regards itself, thinks of itself, speaks of itself (as in Augustine)—it becomes the “positive third,” and this is the self, which is spirit, which is the human being. Mind enters the discussion only briefly as the “psychical,” which exists in synthetic relation to the “physical,” but neither the psychical nor the physical is the self. Rather, the self is the reflexive complex, the positive third, the relation relating to itself—it does not, in fact, consist in a substance or a property at all, but is the insistence of the relation, an insistence “established by another,” who is, for Kierkegaard, God.29

But what has this accomplished? Do not scripture, and Augustine, and Kierkegaard, still support an essentially dualistic understanding of the human being? If we strip away the literary flourishes, are we not dealing with the same basic concept as what we find in Plantinga? I would argue, no. Both Augustine and Kierkegaard argue for a complexity of the human person that outstrips the narrow bounds of Plantinga’s argument. What is more, on this subject we do not find in their work statements of “ought.” We are presented with arguments (and forceful ones) that, upon reflection, we are free to take up or discard. Plantinga does not afford his readers such freedom. Are you a Christian? You ought to be a dualist. And what sort of dualist? You ought to be one like him. And yet, what of the believer who meets God in her heart, or in the labour of her hands, and not in her mind? Plantinga’s assertion that he is his mind, and his mind is immaterial, and his mind is that which thinks, unnecessarily invests the particularity of his own experience with an ontological status that effectively shuts down all other considerations. Better indeed is the fourfold vision presented in Mark—heart, soul, mind, and strength—or even the twofold vision of Hebrews—soul and spirit. By investing his soul with the function of thought, Plantinga reduces the human person to a single dimension of her complex being, paring away the nuance and depth that such thinkers as Paul, Augustine, and Kierkegaard afford. Plantinga’s moral assertion of dualism does away with the vibrancy and variety of human existence and confession, simply to win a debate.

IV. Substance and Spirit

Some still might object that the argument I have put forward here does not accomplish anything of consequence. I have merely added complexity to the dualist position and undermined the desirable strength of the argument that Plantinga presents. But, as I argued above, Plantinga’s reduction of the debate to substance dualism versus substance materialism, and his emphasis on the simplicity of the soul and the basicality of thought, fetters theory with an unwarranted moral obligation that has no solid basis in scripture or in the work of at least two prominent Christian thinkers. Indeed, it is the substantialist position that must be critiqued, with respect to dualism and materialism.

The philosopher Gilbert Simondon, in his paper “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis” (the first part of the introduction to his book L’individuation psychique et collective), begins by doing away with the “substantialist path” of inquiry entirely.30 The idea that “being is ... consistent in its unity, given to itself, founded upon itself, not created, resistant to that which it is not” is untenable.31 Taken at face value, the dualist Christian believer might find this agreeable. Certainly, at least, creation cannot be uncreated. However, Simondon does not argue for the contrary “hylomorphic path”; if being is not “substantial,” it is neither “created by the coming together of form and matter.”32 With respect to souls or selves, Plantinga here would agree; Plantinga is skeptical of the third kind of dualism mentioned above, that the soul is an “immaterial part” of the material body, which, in Aquinas, becomes the idea that “the soul is the form of the body.”33 If the soul is a “form,” then it is “like a property; and a property, presumably, can’t think.”34 For Plantinga, hylomorphic dualism is neither explanatorily useful, nor truly dualism—thus his exclusion of property dualism from consideration. But in Simondon, hylomorphism is not a viable alternative to substantialism either: “both presuppose the existence of a principle of individuation that is anterior to the individuation itself, one that may be used to explain, produce, and conduct this individuation.”35 In other words, “substance” and “form” are meaningless concepts without first considering the principle that allows for the “individuated reality” in which they exist.36

Herein lies my purpose in troubling Plantinga’s dualism: if we consider reality in a way that does not privilege the “constituted individual” (whether material or immaterial, substance or property), we find our thinking opened to an alternative mode of being that does not require a schism between matter and spirit.37 Simondon argues that the “individual would then be grasped as a relative reality, a certain phase of being that supposes a preindividual reality, and that, even after individuation, does not exist on its own, because individuation does not exhaust with one stroke the potentials of preindividual reality.”38 Plantinga would circumscribe the being of the individual in such a way as to preserve his particular theory of soul and thought, which only serves to counter the reductionism of the likes of Dennett with a reductionism of his own. Simondon’s philosophy, on the contrary, allows for a relative unity of the theoretical terms matter and spirit, or body and soul, that does not presume to make either the “all of being” or the “principle of individuation.”39 The individuation of being is, therefore, a “partial and relative resolution” that does not limit “ontogenesis” to the “restricted and derived meaning of the genesis of the individual,” but uses the term to “designate the character of becoming of being, that by which being becomes, insofar as it is, as being.”40 Simondon continues:

The opposition between being and becoming can only be valid within a certain doctrine that supposes that the very model of being is a substance. However, it is also possible to suppose that becoming is a dimension of being corresponding to a capacity of being to fall out of phase with itself, that is, to resolve itself by dephasing itself. Pre-individual being is being in which there is no phase; the being in which individuation occurs is that in which a resolution appears through the division of being into phases. This division of being into phases is becoming.41

Individuation is not, therefore, the principle of ontogenesis, but rather is a phase in the becoming of being. Individuation “is not a consequence placed at the edge of becoming and isolated; it is this operation itself in the process of accomplishing itself.”42

With Simondon, we see Liebniz’s Problem dissolve and dissipate. If we begin with a substantialist conception of matter, Liebniz’s conclusion certainly seems unavoidable, as Plantinga suggests that it is. But for Simondon, reality cannot begin with substance: “the world cannot be re-constructed post factum with monads, even by adding other principles such as that of sufficient reason, so as to order them into a universe.”43 Through his analysis of mid-twentieth century developments in physics, Simondon concludes that what we experience as reality simply could not have originated in substance:

In order to think individuation, being must be considered neither as a substance, nor matter, nor form, but as a system that is charged and supersaturated, above the level of unity, not consisting only of itself, and that cannot be adequately thought using the law of the excluded middle. Concrete being, or complete being—that is, preindividual being—is being that is more than a unity. ... Unity and identity only apply to one of the phases of being, posterior to the operation of individuation; these notions cannot help us discover the principle of individuation.44

The origin of being is not in simplicity but complexity, multiplicity, plurality, in an “initial supersaturation ... that then structures itself and becomes, bringing forth individual and environment, according to becoming, which is a resolution of the initial tensions and a conservation of these tensions in the form of structure.”45 For the Christian encountering such a vision of reality, the universe becomes an exuberant testimony to the creativity of God, rich in potential, fecund and flourishing, bountiful and generative.

Plantinga sees the impossibility of mind emerging from substance as sure proof against the claims of the materialists, but before we even consider the question of mind, we must ask how the organic emerged from the inorganic, the biological from the physico-chemical. We cannot locate the principle of mind in lifeless “electrons and quarks,”46 as Plantinga contends, but neither can we locate the principle of life therein. Do we not merely accept that people and panthers and plants and protozoa are alive, though we cannot explain the particular operation of inorganic matter through which that life is produced? Liebniz’s Problem does not only undermine the possibility of a material mind, but the very possibility of a being originating in substance. For the Christian thinker, we can say that the reality that God created did not begin with a self-identical singularity but a “system state like that of supercooling or supersaturation, which governs at the genesis of crystals.”47 After Simondon, then, we can argue that:

reality, in itself, is primitively like the supersaturated solution and even more completely so in the preindividual regime, where it is more than unity and more than identity, capable of expressing itself as a wave or as a particle, as matter or energy, because every operation, and every relation within an operation, are an individuation that divides, or dephases, the preindividual being, while at the same time correlating extreme values and the orders of magnitude that were primitively without mediation.48

Such a vision of reality is far preferable to the substantialist position, whether materialist or dualist. As a metaphysical research programme, Simondon’s ontogenesis presents a richer, more holistic understanding of the universe that adds to, rather than threatens, the Christian confession, opening a space for what we refer to as matter and spirit to commune once more, and for the glory of God’s creative power to unfurl in new and marvelous ways.

IV. A New Vision

Though my presentation of Simondon’s ontogenetic argument has been necessarily cursory, I believe the discussion here has been sufficient to unsettle Plantinga’s assertion of dualism, and therefore his unnecessary reduction of the self to a simple, immaterial substance. What is more, Simondon does not merely allow us to deconstruct Plantinga’s substantialist position, but offers in its stead a richer, more comprehensive, and more explanatory understanding of reality that seems far preferable to that upon which Plantinga relies. Further, if we bring Simondon into conversation with the Christian existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard, we can see how spirit, as self-relating relation, might emerge from the potentiality of a supersaturated reality, a complexity that, as part and consequence of creation, does not replicate God, but rather images him in the mystery of his existence, which precedes and is external to, entirely other from, the reality that God speaks into being. Though the intricacies of such a synthesis escape the scope of this paper, such a path of inquiry seems far more beneficial to the Christian thinker than that which Plantinga supports.

With Simondon, objections to the logic of emergence become far weaker. How can the complex emerge from the simple? Certainly, substantialist emergentism encounters the same problems here as the other forms of substantialism above. But if we recall that Simondon posits an originary “system state,” what he describes as a “metastable equilibrium,” this difficulty vanishes.49 Simondon contends that equilibrium pictured by “[c]rystallization provides us with well studied notions that can be used as paradigms in other domains,”50 which is to say, as a metaphysical research programme that allows for the logic of emergence evidenced by studies across the natural sciences. This avoids the teleological inclinations of some emergentist theories, such as that of chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, while preserving their more general insights into the functioning of reality.51

Finally, then, it would seem that the Christian ought not to be a dualist, if being a “dualist” means that one must be the same sort as Plantinga. As I have shown here, his argument from possibility relies upon a mind-soul identity that is not attested by scripture, nor by at least two authoritative thinkers in the Christian tradition. If anything, the Christian should be a sort of pluralist, holding an idea of the self as a complex relation. With Plantinga’s doctrine of the soul unsettled, his argument from impossibility becomes similarly untenable. His accounting of thought as basic to the soul is a misleading shortcut that detracts from the nuance and variety of human experience, relying on hasty characterizations of his opponents without engaging with the broader corpus of theory. Finally, through Simondon’s ontogenetic argument, it becomes clear that a Christian thinker would be warranted in holding what might generally be described as a “materialist” belief, insofar as Simondon’s anti-substantialist perspective better accounts for both the complexities of the Christian confession, and of physical reality as demonstrated by contemporary advances in the natural sciences. Such a conception of reality does not preclude the possibility of God, or the spiritual, but rather, in the richness of its becoming, points to the creativity and benevolence of a God who chooses to enter into relation with that which he created, that which, in its flux and impermanence, is forever unfolding itself in the fecundity of its design, a dance directed, in its every movement and gesture, to the glory of its Creator.

Works Cited

Augustine. Confessions. Oxford, UK: Oxford World Classics, 2008.

Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York, NY: Harper Bibles, 1989.

Kierkegaard, Søren. The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuildimg and Awakening. Edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

Plantinga, Alvin. “Materialism and Christian Belief.” In Persons: Human and Divine, edited by Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman, pp. 99-141. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Polanyi, Michael. The Tacit Dimension. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1966.

Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (New York, NY: Routledge, 1992),

Simondon, Gilbert. “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis.” Translated by Gregory Flanders. Parrhesia 7 (2009): 4-16.


  1. Alvin Plantinga, “Materialism and Christian Belief,” in Persons: Human and Divine, eds. Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007), 99-141. 

  2. Ibid., 99. My emphasis. 

  3. Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000). 

  4. Ibid., 102. Original emphasis. 

  5. Ibid. 

  6. Ibid., 103. Original emphasis. 

  7. Ibid., 106. Original emphasis. 

  8. Leibniz, Monadology, cited in Plantinga, 107. Original emphasis. 

  9. Ibid., 107. 

  10. Ibid., 108. 

  11. Ibid., 115. 

  12. Ibid., 116. 

  13. Ibid., 117. 

  14. Ibid., 118. 

  15. Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography (New York, NY: Routledge, 1992), 195. Original emphasis. 

  16. Ibid. 

  17. Plantinga, “Materialism and Christian Belief,” 100. 

  18. Ibid., 100-101. 

  19. Ibid., footnote 3, 100. 

  20. Ibid., footnote 11, 104. 

  21. Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version, Mark 12:30. My emphasis. 

  22. Ibid., 1 Thessalonians 5:23. My emphasis. 

  23. Ibid., Hebrews 4:12. My emphasis. 

  24. Augustine, Confessions (Oxford, UK: Oxford World Classics, 2008), 184. 

  25. Ibid., 179. 

  26. Ibid., 180. 

  27. Ibid., 185. 

  28. Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuildimg and Awakening, ed. and trans. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 13. 

  29. Ibid., 13. 

  30. Simondon, “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis,” trans. Gregory Flanders, Parrhesia 7 (2009), 4. 

  31. Ibid. 

  32. Ibid. 

  33. Plantinga, “Materialism and Christian Belief,” 101. Original emphasis. 

  34. Ibid. Original emphasis. 

  35. Simondon, “Ontogenesis,” 4. 

  36. Ibid. 

  37. Ibid. Original emphasis. 

  38. Ibid., 5. 

  39. Ibid. 

  40. Ibid. 

  41. Ibid., 5-6. Original emphasis. 

  42. Ibid., 6. 

  43. Ibid. Here the footnote of the French editor, Jean-Hugues Barthélémy, is reproduced: “Simondon is alluding here to Liebniz, who is the quintessential substantialist thinker.” Original emphasis. 

  44. Ibid., 6. 

  45. Ibid. 

  46. Plantinga, “Materialism and Christian Belief,” 108. 

  47. Simondon, “Ontogenesis,” 6. Original emphasis. 

  48. Ibid. Original emphasis. 

  49. Ibid. Original emphasis. 

  50. Ibid. 

  51. For instance, see Polanyi’s “Emergence” in The Tacit Dimension, pp. 29-52. 

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