Friday, June 8, 2012

On the Nature of the Supernatural

          On the Nature of the Supernatural

          What does it mean to say that something is supernatural? That it is ‘above nature’? That’s two questionable words in a row! Let’s set aside ‘above’; perhaps it means ‘not dominated by’; so the supernatural is immune from whatever nature can try to do to it.

But by what do we mean ‘nature’? The Nature of sentimentalized streams and forests? Then any city is supernatural. Or perhaps the Nature of the physical universe, with atoms and forces and fields and particles and waves? But that is Nature as measured and described; that is, it is Nature to the extent that Nature has a nature!

For something to have a nature is for it to have qualities of its own. So does the supernatural transcend having a nature? Is the supernatural beyond having qualities of its own?

Having a nature is having factuality. It is materiality, not in the sense of matter (electrons, quarks, etc.) but in the sense of that which matters; evidence, logic, etc. To have a nature is to be provably something in particular. To be natural is to be true to oneself; or in other words, honest.

Whereas the supernatural is notoriously at odds with factuality. It is immaterial, both in the physicist’s sense of not being made of matter, and in the philosopher’s sense of not mattering. The supernatural is never provably anything in particular.

Is the supernatural that which is above being true to itself? Is it beyond honest?

Fiction, too, is beyond honest; but it admits it, and so is honest after all. Perhaps it is the fate of the supernatural to admit its fictionality, and so regain its true nature – a.k.a. its soul.

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