Hunky Panentheism


Panentheism, a frequently discussed view in recent theological debate, claims that the world is ‘in God’ but that God is ‘more than’ the world. Different theories of the structure of the world produce distinct panentheist views. According to the hunky structure, the world is composed of an infinite number of layers and lacks an ungrounded level. To depict this model, I employ the concepts of ‘grounding’ and ‘emergence.’ The outcome is that if the world is hunky and material reality emerges from such a structure, the world can be in God, but the model of God the Creator is dismissed.

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  1. 1.

    See, e.g., Clayton (2010), Lataster (2014, 2015a), and Göcke (2017). For an overview of panentheism across world traditions, see Cooper (2007) and Biernacki and Clayton (2014); see also articles in a special issue of Sophia on panentheism wherein a number of panentheistic views are discussed (e.g., Indian panentheisms), Vol. 49(2), 2010. Also see, Lataster and Bilimoria (2018)

  2. 2.

    Lataster mentioned this panentheist option in response to Göcke (2013).

  3. 3.

    Grounding is a relation among entities, for instance, facts, events, or objects. In this essay, I refer above all to concrete objects.

  4. 4.

    See, e.g., Fine (2012) for a characterization of grounding.

  5. 5.

    See Schaffer (2010) on this topic. A rival position is existence monism, in which just one concrete thing exists: the whole. All the plurality is merely an illusion.

  6. 6.

    One of the main strands of controversy regarding classical extensional mereology concerns mereological universalism, which is rejected in a hunky perspective. On this topic, see, e.g., Cotnoir (2014) and Mormann (2014).

  7. 7.

    Following a suggestion by Thomas Aquinas, ‘necesse est totum esse prius parte, ordine scilicet naturae et perfectionis. Sed hoc intelligendum est de parte materiae’ (Aquinas 1966: I, lect.1, n. 38). Here, the totality of things is prior to its proper parts.

  8. 8.

    See, e.g., Susskind (2006), Chapter 11. This view is compatible with the hunky hypothesis.

  9. 9.

    Morganti (2015) stressed this point.

  10. 10.

    Note that metaphysical infinitism could endorse the lack of just one closure.

  11. 11.

    See Clayton (2006) for a description of these features, which can be understood in a weak or strong sense. Weak emergence entails grounding, whereas strong emergence seems incompatible with grounding.

  12. 12.

    See also Morganti (2015) on this topic. The series is: \( Sn=\frac{1}{2}+\frac{1}{4}+\cdots +\frac{1}{2^n} \). The original length is achieved only in the limit: \( \underset{n\to \infty }{\lim } Sn=1 \).

  13. 13.

    In this view, extended simples are relative to universes in that extended simples are differently sized between universes. I will return to this topic in ‘Infinite Grounding Chains, Emergence, and Panentheism.’

  14. 14.

    Without referring to a hunky world, Cahoone (2009) proposed an argument of this kind.

  15. 15.

    In the words of Aquinas, ‘Creator et creatura reducuntur in unum, non communitate univocationis sed analogiae’. The commonality that refers to the analogy is described as follows: ‘creatura enim non habet esse nisi secundum quod a primo ente descendit, nec nominatur ens nisi inquantum ens primum imitatur’ (1929, I Prol.q1.a2.ad2).

  16. 16.

    Moltmann (1985) referred to the Kabbalistic notion of zimzum for which there is a self-limitation internal to God that makes room for all creation.

  17. 17.

    This attempted absorption of panentheism into classical theism has been criticized by, e.g., Lataster (2014, 2015a), who objected to God’s concept as defended by Göcke (2013, 2014, 2015).

  18. 18.

    This panentheist view denies an ontological division between God and the multiplicity. However, it does not avoid the criticism of ontological dualism that derives from the idea, claimed by any type of panentheism, that the physical world is not exhaustive of the divine being. Accordingly, there are ‘at least two ontological categories: matter and spirit’ (Leidenhag 2013, p. 977). Pantheism overcomes this criticism.

  19. 19.

    See, e.g., Mullins (2016) on this point.

  20. 20.

    See, e.g., Tegmark (2004) and Bousso and Susskind (2012). This view, which develops Lewis’ modal realism (1986) in mathematical terms, connects quantum mechanics, general relativity, and cosmology.

  21. 21.

    Quantum mechanics describes reality in terms of wave functions, which assign amplitudes to all the possibilities that can be observed. In the Copenhagen interpretation, when a wave function collapses, one possibility prevails over the others. For MWI, the wave function never collapses; thus, every possible outcome actually happens, each in a parallel universe. For some physicists (e.g., Tegmark 2004), the evolution of the world is described using a universal wave function that contains an infinite number of possibilities.

  22. 22.

    For more on this topic, see Malin (2012), who noted that ‘the suggestion that during a collapse nature makes a choice is reminiscent of Plotinus’s idea that nature contemplates’ (2012, p. 125).

  23. 23.

    Whitehead is one eminent forefather of point-free space. Recently, Whiteheadean space has been attacked. Alternative options are possible. On this topic, see Russell (2008).

  24. 24.

    If there is a minimal region that lacks proper subregions, there is no place for the proper parts of an object that occupies the minimal region (Tognazzini 2006).


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I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Roberto Rodighiero.

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Rodighiero, R. Hunky Panentheism. SOPHIA 58, 581–596 (2019).

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  • Panentheism
  • Emergence
  • Grounding
  • Fundamentality
  • Creation