- Chapter 1: Opening Moves
This is a book about you and me. It is also a book about God. You may find these topics incongruent. What could we have in common with God, and what does our nature have to do with that of the Almighty? Such are the central questions of this study. In this chapter, I explain their content and significance. Abrahamic monotheism comprises three key doctrines: the existence, supremacy, and uniqueness of God. The question of what we are divides into three sub-questions that concern our ontological category, the modal status of our membership in that category, and the relation between our mental properties and the physical properties of our bodies. Monotheism, I argue, impinges on a number of arguments that address these three sub-questions about human nature.
- Chapter 2: Spirits Human and Divine
Here is an inchoate suspicion: if God is an incorporeal spirit, then so are we. In this chapter, I consider two proposals that move from suspicion to the realm of argument. The first says that spirits—incorporeal thinking beings—are possible, and supposes that we could have been among them. From this possibility, the argument extracts the conclusion that we are in fact incorporeal thinking beings. The second argument begins with the simple assumption that we have the concept of a spirit. I contend that both arguments fail, given the assumption of monotheism. For our nature is not fixed; it is, if there is indeed a supreme God, much more plastic than many have imagined.
- Chapter 3: Simplicity and Mystery
Some say that God is an ontological dangler—an extra bit that introduces unattractive theoretical complexities. In this chapter, I consider a different argument from simplicity that, in an ironic twist, supports dualism. This argument claims that the monotheistic materialist, unlike the monotheistic dualist, is committed to unattractive theoretical complexities. I show that the argument fails on its own terms; the monotheist has unique resources to resist its charms. For just as God's thinking is, in a certain respect magical, so too might ours be, even if we are wholly material beings.
- Chapter 4: God Alone
Divine uniqueness is common to the great Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. God is one. But what does it mean, exactly, to say that God is one, unique, or alone? In this chapter, I present two pictures or explications of the uniqueness of God and draw out the consequences that follow. On one view, God is unique because the number of gods is one. On the other view, God is unique because God is wholly different from everything else. I then show that views of this latter kind, on which God's uniqueness precludes sharing any category at all with other things, impose a serious challenge to reasoning from God’s nature to our own. If God is wholly different from all other things, then there is no good argument for dualism founded on the premise that we are like God.
- Chapter 5: Heterodoxy
We close the study by considering and rejecting a normative conception of God’s uniqueness according to which God alone is infinitely valuable. Having done that, I introduce the Lazarus problem, which lies in specifying how the activity of material beings can give rise to a particular conscious subject. I argue that materialists who reject naturalism may solve the problem by appealing to divinely instituted and singular laws of nature that pick us each out by name. Heterodox forms of materialism can survive within and indeed cohere well with monotheism. The evidence favors, I argue, a magical, plastic, and singular view according to which, though our mental lives do not robustly depend on the workings of the material world, though our nature is highly contingent, and though we figure into the laws of nature in a unique way, we are nonetheless wholly material beings. We are indeed subjects within nature’s kingdom. But we’re special too.