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What is AskPhilosophers? This site puts the talents and knowledge of philosophers at the service of the general public. Send in a question that you think might be related to philosophy and we will do our best to respond to it. To date, there have been 5034 questions posted and 6331 responses. [more]

Question of the day

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Greetings. My four-year-old daughter asked why she could not "see" god. My response at the time was something like the following. God is one without a second and undifferentiated. For one to "see" something it is necessary to distinguish that object from others. God has no other from which it can be distinguished as separate and distinct. Abstract, yes, but at least I avoided using terms like "transcendant", etc. I wanted to give her a thoughtful answer even if hard to grasp. How did I do?

Response from Stephen Maitzen on November 13, 2014
I confess I have trouble grasping the answer you gave. You wrote, "God has no other from which it can be distinguished as separate and distinct," which seems to imply that God isn't distinguishable from you or from anything else there is. Did you mean to give your daughter the impression that you and your left shoe are both indistinguishable from God? I presume not. Now, on some views God just is the whole of reality, but even on those views it seems that God would be distinct from any proper part of reality such as you or your left shoe.

Why not say, instead, that according to various religious traditions God is a non-physical, spiritual being and therefore not the kind of being that we can expect to see or otherwise perceive with our physical senses?

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