William S. Hatcher
William S. Hatcher (September 20, 1935 - November 27, 2005) was a mathematician, philosopher, educator and a member of the Bahá’í Faith. He held a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. A specialist in the philosophical alloying of science and religion, for over thirty years he held university positions in North America, Europe, and Russia.
Throughout his life as a Bahá’í, Dr. Hatcher served on numerous administrative bodies at the local and national levels. He was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland (1962-65), the National Assembly of Canada (1983-91), and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Russian Federation (1996). He played a vital role in promoting the academic study of the Bahá’í Faith through helping to found the Association for Bahá’í Studies in North America.
Although he made significant contributions to the fields of mathematics and philosophy, he is perhaps best known for his ostensible proof of God's existence and for his work towards a transcultural system of ethics.
In his books Love, Power, and Justice, and Minimalism, Hatcher attempts to prove God's existence while addressing many of the criticisms raised against previous theistic philosophers. While Hatcher admits that his argument does not establish the existence of any particular religion's God, he nevertheless asserts that it does support the existence of a God that he defines as a unique, universal, and uncaused cause. Written in first order logic, Hatcher's proof is based on three axioms that he calls "empirically grounded" and an apriori assumption that "something exists." Throughout this work, Hatcher strives to make his assumptions explicit, rather than concealing them. Moreover, unlike many proofs of God (beginning with the proof advanced by Aristotle) Hatcher's proof does not appeal to the absurdity of an infinite regression of causes. Hatcher points out that one must invalidate one or more of his three empirically grounded axioms to refute his ostensible proof.
In Love, Power and Justice, Hatcher outlines a system of ethics based on the principle that there is a universal human nature. As evidence, he outlines how all new born children will respond positively to love, and negatively to cruelty and hate. Hatcher also speaks of intrinsic and extrinsic value. Extrinsic value is socially conferred value; for example, the value given by society to money, which Hatcher points out "is nothing more than a mass of coloured fibers." Intrinsic value on the other hand stands inseparable from the object itself. Whereas extrinsic value can be determined by observation, intrinsic value is discovered upon reflection. Hatcher believes that human beings have intrinsic value (similar to the Kantian notion of our humanity). He points out that unless we discover our own intrinsic value, we will seek it elsewhere.
Hatcher was the author of over fifty monographs, books, and articles in the mathematical sciences, logic and philosophy. Among the publications of which he is author or coauthor are:
- The Foundations of Mathematics (1968)
- Absolute Algebra (1978)
- The Science of Religion (1980)
- The Logical Foundations of Mathematics (1982)
- The Ethics of Authenticity (1997)
- Love, Power, and Justice (1998)
- Minimalism: A Bridge between Classical Philosophy and the Bahá’í Revelation (2002)
Professor Hatcher is one of eight Platonist philosophers listed for the second half of the twentieth century in the Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle.
Relationship to the Bahá’í Faith
Dr. Hatcher discovered the Bahá’í Faith while a student. He enrolled in the Bahá’í Faith in 1957 following which he wrote an a letter to the Yale faculty explaining to the Yale Divinity School, his reasons for declining to enroll at the school where he was recently admitted. He spent the decades that followed in dedicated service to the Baha'i community and its administrative development, at the local and national level, in the United States, Switzerland, Russia, and Canada.
He served on National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada (1983-91) as well as on the inaugural National Spiritual Assemblies of Switzerland (1962-65) and the Russian Federation (1996). He lived in Russia from 1993 to 1998. He was also a founding member of the Association for Bahá’í Studies.
In a message of condolence, the Universal House of Justice (the international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith) said that "The Baha'i world has lost one of its brightest minds, one of its most prolific pens ..."
- reprint of open letter to fellow students on conversion Pamphlet copyright 1965, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States of America, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Illinois
- The Universal House of Justice. The Bahá’í World - An Internationl Record 2005-2006. Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa: World Centre Publications. ISBN 978-0-85398-968-4.
- Pokorny, Brad (2003-06-26). "Creating a new school of thought". Bahá’í International Community. http://news.bahai.org/story.cfm?storyid=226. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
- Bahá’í World News Service (2005-12-27). "Prolific author hailed for his penetrating insights". Bahá’í International Community. http://news.bahai.org/story/416. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
- DBLP. "List of publications". DBLP Bibliography Server. http://www.informatik.uni-trier.de/~ley/db/indices/a-tree/h/Hatcher:William_S=.html. Retrieved 2006-08-27.