Eric Steinhart

The Simplicity of Santa

I prove, in opposition to materialists, that Santa is an unextended thinking substance.

Santa is an unextended thinking substance. Since Santa is unextended, he has no parts; since he has no parts, he is simple. Santa is a monad. According to the traditional accounts, Santa has agency. Yet Santa's agency need not be mechanical. Santa is not a machine. Santa's agency is not located in the physical motions of matter; on the contrary, Santa's agency is located in the logical structure of the world. It is revealed by a conceptual or logical analysis of the causal order itself.

Santa clearly perceives the physical world (he sees you when you're sleeping). Santa has knowledge of both physical facts (he knows when you're awake) and moral facts (he knows if you've been bad or good). We need not require any causal relation between Santa and the world to account for this perception or knowledge. Santa is an unextended thinking thing; his mental states are properties that involve the relevant states of the physical world. The properties of Santa may be regarded as non-physical properties of a non-physical object that is logically but not causally involved with the world.

If Santa were physical, then we would be right to demand a causal account of his properties; since he is not physical, no such account is required. We must, of course, assert the reality of some relation between Santa and the physical world. The relation is that Santa's properties are logically implied by the physical properties of the world. If the world has property P, then Santa has non-physical property Q. Santa's property Q may involve P in such a way that Q represents that P. Santa's perception involves only logical connections. Conversely: properties of Santa logically imply physical properties. Santa's agency, like his perception, involves only logical connections.

It is essential to see that logical implication is not causality. Indeed: logical implication is not any physical or mechanical relation at all. If logical implication were physical, it would be mechanizable; if it were mechanizable, then there would be a mechanical proof of every mathematical theorem; but Godel showed that this is not the case. If Godel is right, then denying the existence of Santa is equivalent to saying that some mathematical statements are neither true nor false; to deny Santa is to deny bivalence itself. Since Santa's relations with the world are logical, they need not violate any conservation laws. The existence of Santa is consistent with our best scientific theories. But science is not the whole story.

If physical science were able to offer a complete explanation of the reality of Christmas, then we would not need to appeal to Santa. But physical science offers only a partial explanation of the reality of Christmas. I restrict my focus to the universally acknowledged empirical fact that children get presents. It is popularly argued (at least, it is popularly argued among "physicalistic" or "naturalistic" thinkers) that Mommy and Daddy bring presents on Christmas. Unfortunately for the physicalists, this is just causal or physical sufficiency. We must not confuse the distribution of presents (which is merely physical) with the fact that presents are distributed (which is not physical but logical).

The fact that presents are distributed presupposes Santa. More precisely: Santa uses Mommy and Daddy. The hypothesis that Mommy & Daddy bring presents is not by itself logically sufficient for the delivery of presents on Christmas; for surely we can conceive of a possible world in which children get presents but they are not delivered by Mommy & Daddy. Hence the logical structure of Christmas is distinct from the physical system that merely partially realizes or reflects that structure. If we want to completely grasp the logical structure of Christmas, then we must posit an object that instantiates non-physical properties that underwrite the modal facts. We must posit Santa.

Although Mommy and Daddy can fully account for the physical aspects of the distribution of presents, they cannot fully account for the moral aspects of the distribution of presents. They lack the requisite knowledge. Mommy and Daddy do not always know when their children are awake, nor do they always see them when they're sleeping, nor, indeed, do they know whether their children have been bad or good. Mommy and Daddy may, of course, have well-justified beliefs concerning the relevant moral qualities of the children; but these beliefs, however well supported, are partial and cannot pass for knowledge. They are mere opinions based on heuristics. An explanation of the moral aspects of the distribution of presents is required - and the best explanation is Santa. Since Santa is not a machine, Santa has moral knowledge of the kind that no machine can have. Many of Santa's mental properties are moral properties. Santa knows moral facts. Without Santa, Mommy and Daddy's behaviors are meaningless motions. Mommy and Daddy merely put presents under the tree; but that is plainly distinct from the moral act of giving.

Santa uses Mommy and Daddy in the sense that Santa non-physically determines their behaviors. Apart from Santa's determination, Mommy and Daddy are mere automata; they are machines executing algorithms. Santa obviously does not physically push or pull Mommy and Daddy; rather, Santa is a kind of non-mechanical pattern into which Mommy and Daddy's Christmas behaviors logically fall. Santa's guidance is what enables Mommy and Daddy to have goals involving moral qualities (e.g. rewarding the good child with a nice toy; punishing the bad child with a lump of coal). Although we need not appeal to any old-fashioned "entelechies", we must posit some sort of final causality (teleology) to explain the meaning of the distribution of presents. There is obviously no mechanistic explanation of that sort of teleology. Functional analyses cannot avoid teleological concepts. If Mommy and Daddy are purposive, then Santa exists.

Santa is part of the non-mechanical logical structure of the world that permits certain behaviors and prohibits others. Santa is analogous to the law of gravity: the law does not cause bodies to fall, but when bodies do fall, they fall according to this law. But Santa's properties vary; they vary with his will, according to his beliefs and perceptions. Santa's properties form a system of contingent physical laws covering those behaviors of Mommy and Daddy that are relevant to the moral act of present-giving (especially insofar as those acts require knowledge that machines like Mommy and Daddy cannot have). It is plain, then, that Santa is the best explanation for the facts of Christmas that cannot be accounted for by mechanistic or physicalistic theories. Santa exists. More: Santa is necessarily an unextended, non-physical, non-mechanical, simple thinking substance.