Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is [the] God [of classical theism] dead?


Is God dead?  I’m not asking a Nietzschean question about the fortunes of the idea of God in modern Western culture.  I’m asking whether the God of classical theism ought to be regarded as something literally non-living, even if He exists, given that He is characterized as pure actuality, subsistent being itself, immutable, absolutely simple or non-composite, etc.  In the combox of a recent post, the notion was mooted that descriptions of this sort make of God something “static” and therefore “dead.”  And of course, that the God of classical theism seems to some to be lifeless, impersonal, and abstract is a common motivation for theistic personalism or neo-theism.  As one reader put it, God so conceived appears (to him, anyway) to be something like “an infinite data storage device” or “a giant USB stick.”

Such criticisms are not lacking in imagination.  And that is the problem.  As I emphasized in an another recent post, if we are to understand the key notions of classical philosophy and theology, we need to stop trying literally to picture them.  We need to use, not our imaginations, but our intellects.
  
In particular, it is no good to bring before one’s mind images of living things moving about, growing, flexing muscles, and the like, as a way of understanding what it is to be alive.  Such imagery would, if it showed anything, also support the idea that to be alive is to be material, but theistic personalists would not deny that God is immaterial even though He is alive.  That the standard examples of living things change in the ways described simply does not entail that living things as such necessarily change.  To think otherwise is to commit a fallacy of accident, like assuming that, since all professors have been under 8 feet tall (which I suppose is true -- if not, pick a larger number), it follows that professors as such must be under 8 feet tall.  

Nor will it do to call before one’s mind conscious experiences and thoughts of the sort we have.  For these too manifest limitations that even the theistic personalist would not want to attribute to God -- limitations in what one is aware of or can imagine at a particular moment, in how far one can see or hear, and so forth.  And if these limitations have no essential connection to being a living thing, neither does undergoing change, even of a mental sort, have any essential connection to being alive.  Or at least, it would (again) be a fallacy of accident to suppose that it is essential merely because it is characteristic of the usual examples of living things.  (A USB stick or hard drive is, by the way, an even poorer analogy for theological purposes than human thought is, given not only that these objects are material, but that their “intentionality” is entirely derivative whereas our thoughts at least have intrinsic intentionality, whatever their defects as models for the divine intellect.)

For another thing, while the living things of our experience do of course change, what this change involves is (so the Aristotelian will argue) the actualization of potentials; and it is the actualization that is key to their being alive.  (A living thing that failed continually to actualize its potentials -- for digesting food, taking in information, healing injuries, etc. -- would not remain alive for long.)  Naturally, then, to be fully actual (as the God of classical theism is) can hardly intelligibly be said to be less than being alive.  On the contrary, it is to be more than the sort of thing we are insofar as we are alive.  It is to be that of which our living is but a finite approximation.  But what is fully actual is also (for the standard reasons given by Scholastics) necessarily to be simple or non-composite, to be subsistent being itself rather than “a being” among others, and so forth.  It follows that the key attributes of God as conceived of in classical theism are precisely the attributes of something that is more properly said to be living than we are, not less.

Nor does His being changeless entail that the God of classical theism is inert.  On the contrary, as Aquinas writes, “power is twofold -- namely, passive, which exists not at all in God; and active, which we must assign to Him in the highest degree” (Summa Theologiae I.25.1).  God cannot be changed, but it does not follow that He cannot cause change in other things.  Indeed, it is precisely because He is pure actuality that He is the source of all causal (or actualizing) power.

Aquinas himself considers the question of whether God can be said to have life, and answers:

Life is in the highest degree properly in God.  In proof of which it must be considered that since a thing is said to live in so far as it operates of itself and not as moved by another, the more perfectly this power is found in anything, the more perfect is the life of that thing.

He then goes on to argue that intelligent beings have a more perfect kind of life than non-intelligent living things have, since the former operate of themselves, or independently of other things, to a greater degree than the latter.  With that much the theistic personalist would presumably agree.  But then Aquinas argues further that

that being whose act of understanding is its very nature, and which, in what it naturally possesses, is not determined by another, must have life in the most perfect degree.  Such is God; and hence in Him principally is life.  From this the Philosopher concludes (Metaph. xii, 51), after showing God to be intelligent, that God has life most perfect and eternal, since His intellect is most perfect and always in act. [Emphasis added]

In other words, precisely because God just is His act of understanding, which just is pure actuality, His intellect is maximally independent of other things, and it is this which entails that He has life to the most perfect degree.  For since His intellect is, as it were, “always already” fully actualized it cannot be actualized by anything else, and thus cannot depend on anything else.  That is to say, the doctrines of divine simplicity and immutability, decried as implying a “lifeless” God, in fact entail the opposite conclusion.

109 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fact that one must only use one's intellect to conceive of this god is, I think, the •very reason• people see it as a lifeless abstraction. One can't draw from one's common •experience of life• in order to understand it. Only philosophers of religion who devote years of study to these ideas can fully comprehend them - you yourself often complain of modern philosophers – people who might have actually at least looked at these ideas – having a poor (or wholly erroneous) understanding of Scholasticism/classical theism, so what chance does the average Joe have? He needs personalism in order to relate.

Step2 said...

You've never been able to explain why this philosopher's God is not Time itself. I doubt you can prove a difference logically, especially not with the equivocations on divine goodness. You run into serious problems when you try to juxtapose revelation and reason, and end up making a mess of both.

George R. said...

I think you may be on to something there, Step2. I've seen pictures of both God and Old Man Time, and the resemblance is uncanny.

BenYachov said...

Even before I learned about the difference between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism I always had a latent sense God was something incomprehensible. Augustine said if you understand it then it is not God.

I don't relate to the overly anthropomorphic "god" at all.

That stupid useless thing contains no mystery no wonder and makes the Incarnation somewhat redundant and unremarkable.

Here is what people who complain "He needs personalism in order to relate" don't seem to get.

We can't relate to the incomprehensible God but He can relate to us on our level and that level makes Him naturally seem as a person like us. But we must informed with Revelation & Philosophy always know God is more than what we perceive.

My late Cat naturally couldn't conceive of me or relate to me on my level as an intellective being.

But I have no doubt she saw me via her instincts as a more dominate friendly fellow animal. I naturally anthropomorphize my Cat and imagined it's mere instinctive behavior was more human then it actually was.

But with God when He Divinizes me or you or anybody with Sanctifying Grace he is actually raising us up to transcend not merely imagining it. As Peter said "we become partakers of the Divine Nature".

A Purely Actual Immutable God is more living and worthy of worship then some Cosmic Incompetent Space buffoon Theistic Personalist jerk off who is just a disembodied
human only more Godlike in it's stupidity.

From now on the true Classic Theistic God will be called Him. The Theistic Personalist "god" will be called it or jerk wade.

Anonymous said...

BenYachov,

Yes, but you have extensively studied the philosophy of classical theism, so you don't need theistic personalism and can therefore reject it. But a theistic personalist can also accept that God is incomprehensible, but may still need to anthropomorphize God in order to have •any• relatable conception of him.

Gene Callahan said...

Anonymous, I think it is a good point that it is better to have *some* concept of God rather than none.

Dictatortot said...

For workaday purposes, I'm resigned to understanding and relating to God in ways that don't do His nature justice. Though I'm persuaded by Classical Theist arguments, in my practical stance towards Him it's hard to avoid personalist assumptions. However, I try to hold them modestly, as a relational tactic, understanding that I don't--CAN'T yet--interact on what would be an appropriate level.

It reminds me of quantum physics: virtually no one can think or talk about it without relying on several misleading metaphors. But they're all that make most of us able to juggle the concepts in the first place! So the only practical solution is to keep reminding oneself that they're metaphors, and to be wary of overidentifying them with what they quasi-describe.

Ian Thompson said...

If someone told you that being A was 'pure actuality', then you would think that it would be devoid of potentiality, capacity, power, and (hence) causal powers.

However, Feser claims about God that "it is precisely because He is pure actuality that He is the source of all causal (or actualizing) power."

I do not understand the inference here. There must be much more to God than 'pure actuality'. That does not seem to be a good characterization of his essence. What is missing? Can it be given a philosophical characterization (rather than by a theological accretion of attributes)?

Anonymous said...

Ben,

I agree with what youre saying. My only reservation would be in calling God incomprehensible. I reserve that adjective for naturalism. In the case of God I would that He is perfectly comprehensible and that it's us that are the obstacle in understanding him. As you said with divinizayoon one comes in union with God and partakes in the divine essence which at that point is of course perfectly comprehensible. For me something is incomprehensible if it is absurd like naturalism/atheism etc.

Glenn said...

Ian,

If someone told you that being A was 'pure actuality', then you would think that it would be devoid of potentiality, capacity, power, and (hence) causal powers.

However, Feser claims about God that "it is precisely because He is pure actuality that He is the source of all causal (or actualizing) power."

I do not understand the inference here.


First, actuality is what actually exists, and to hold that 'pure actuality' lacks power, is to hold that there is no power in what actually exists. But if there is such a thing as 'power', then surely it cannot stem from or be grounded in what does not exist.

Now, if a potentiality becomes actual, then there must have been something prior and already actual operating on, in or through that potentiality. Otherwise how would a potentiality become an actuality? Surely not by way of some kind of 'spontaneous actualization'.

If this something prior and already actual is itself an actualization of some earlier potentiality, then there must have been something more prior and likewise already actual operating on, in or through that potentiality. On and on it goes until the moon walk brings one to that actuality which is not an actualization of some potentiality but is Actuality Itself, i.e., 'pure actuality'.

The moon walk does not, indeed cannot, bring one to a 'pure potentiality'. Why not? Because a potentiality always is a potential something--which something itself as yet has no existence, i.e., is not actual, until it has been actualized; and this actualization requires (i.e., for the potentiality to become actual there must be) something prior to it which itself already is actual.

If one attempts to moon walk back to 'pure potentiality', then, one winds up like the befuddled cartoon character who runs beyond the edge of the cliff and only belatedly realizes there is nothing beneath him. This is to say that one necessarily must assert, explicitly or implicity, that God exists only potentially, i.e., not actually. But asserting that God is pure potentiality is just a fancy sounding, high falutin' way of saying that God does not exist and, consequently, has no power, i.e., is powerless.

Glenn said...

(The the last two paras should have been parenthesized.)

rank sophist said...

The fact that one must only use one's intellect to conceive of this god is, I think, the •very reason• people see it as a lifeless abstraction. One can't draw from one's common •experience of life• in order to understand it.

This is patently false. Thomism holds that every single created goodness, beauty, nobility and truth is analogous to God and is received directly from God. So, everything good is like God, but an infinity of created goodness could never equal God.

Thomism's God would be better described as a God of the mystics. The influences of Neo-Platonism and patristic mystical theology (particularly that of Pseudo-Dionysius) are heavy in Aquinas's work.

BenYachov said...

>But a theistic personalist can also accept that God is incomprehensible, but may still need to anthropomorphize God in order to have •any• relatable conception of him.

I don't think the above can be called a Theistic Personalist god.

By definition a Theistic Personalist believes God is unequivocally a person the same way a human is a person only more uber & a being who exists alongside other beings only more uber.

Otherwise you are giving me a Classic God whom you are calling Theistic Personal in error.

BenYachov said...

Other anon.

Becoming partakers of the Divine Nature by Grace does not mean and has never meant God will become comprehensible for you. That will never happen. As the Mystics say the Angels and the Blessed take eternal delight in the incomprehensibility and mystery of God.

Anonymous said...

Rank Sophist,

There is a reason that some people see the CT god as abstract and lifeless, do you agree? That reason, I think, is because it is a highly abstract conception - a philosophical conception that wasn't finally completed until the 13th century, after more than a millennium of high-level ratiocination. But human beings relate most easily to other human beings and to human-like things - the things that make up our social world. So it is natural (and inevitable) for many people to have anthropomorphic conceptions of God. Yet these are the very things that Dr. Feser acknowledges in the OP cannot be used to properly conceive of God ["Nor will it do to call before one’s mind conscious experiences and thoughts of the sort we have" etc.]. Your examples of beauty, nobility, etc., are themselves abstractions that you offer up for further analogical thinking - two layers of abstraction there. Then you add Neoplatonism and patristic mystical theology to the mix. Well! You are pretty much making my point for me.

If you disagree, what do you think is the cause of the view that CTG is a lifeless abstraction?

Ian Thompson said...

Glenn: thanks for helping to clarify this issues here.

I still have a problem, however, with the meaning of 'pure' in 'pure actuality'. (And how it is thereby supposed to refer to something essential about God.)

Normally, a 'pure A' means 'devoid of not-A'. Purely red means devoid of not red. Purely intellectual means devoid of not intellectual.

However, here, 'pure actuality' refers to something with no potentiality for changing itself, but still lots of power for changing other things. This does not seem to be a good sense of words. I am surprised that Aquinas uses it!

I agree that powers (whatever they may be) must be grounded in what exists. And that they cannot be grounded in 'pure potentiality'. From your examples, that is clearly ridiculous. I also agree that 'actuality' is practically synonymous what 'what exists'.

But then, how does the term 'pure actuality' get us close to identifying God? A god who is devoid of some potentialities (those for himself), but who is positively enthusiastic about other potentialities (those for others). Do you see the problem? It touches in many places on the topic of the OP.

Christian said...

Dr. Feser,

I was perusing some old posts and I saw in one of them (Kalb on TLS) that you plan to write sort of a "sequel" to TLS which will be centered around the truth of Christianity. Give the nature of this post and some other recent posts about the nature of God and his relationship to the world I was wondering, any idea as to when we may expect the "sequel"?

marycatelli said...

"why this philosopher's God is not Time itself."

Becuase Time is not pure actuality. Time is, in fact, only actual in the present moment. A new moment is only actualized when the last moment passes out actuality into the past.

Glenn said...

Ian,

...Do you see the problem?...

Not at the moment, no. So, if I may, I'd like to pose two questions, the responses to which may help me to see what the problem is:

1) What is it that might make God's actuality impure?

2) If God has the potentiality to change, what is the actuality prior to God which operates on, in or through His potentiality?

John Burford said...

@ Step2

God cannot be Time itself because Time is not pure actuality, perfectly simple, etc.

For instance, as I write this it is 2012, but one day it will be 2014. Thus time is actually some things, potentially others, and thus not pure actuality.

On the perfectly simple point, the mere fact that we can keep time, which requires sub-dividing time into uniform bits, shows that it is composed of parts and thus not perfectly simple.

Not to mention the kalam cosmological argument, which argues that time had a beginning and thus requires a timeless cause.

Ian Thompson said...

Glenn,

2) God has potentialities to change us. The prior actuality is God himself.

1) that fact (according to you, it seems) would make god impure.

Note: by 'potentiality' I refer to any capacity or power in onself to make a change, whether in the agent, or in another (patient).

I agree that god does not change himself. But, if he is defined as 'pure act' after Aquinas, is it possible for him to have in himself any powers to change others?
.

Charles said...

With respect to the "God is Time" hypothesis, St. Thomas would respond that time is something of motion, namely "the number of motion with respect to before and after". Motion is itself imperfect act, or "the act of the potential insofar as it is potential". Since God is the unmoved mover, nothing pertaining to motion can be said of him. Therefore, God is eternal.

Robert said...

What experiences should I anticipate if this post accuracy describes reality?

http://lesswrong.com/lw/od/37_ways_that_words_can_be_wrong/

rank sophist said...

Anon at 3:35,

I don't think that very many people find the CT God lifeless. If anything, this view is held by a handful of people who've heard a little bit about the technical aspects of the system, but who haven't dug very deep into the mystical or poetic elements yet. In all honesty, anyone who's read St. Augustine's Confessions--a widely known classic for over 1500 years--can get a glimpse of CT that is very far removed from the abstract debates you see here. Also, it is not true that CT was only fully fleshed out in the 13th century. Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, John Damascene, Pseudo-Dionysius and countless others wrote theology hardly different than that of Aquinas in terms of content, but their writings had a far more powerful poetic flourish. Aquinas's writing is straightforward and fairly dry, and his followers, largely up to the present day, have continued this tradition. Prof. Feser's work is highly entertaining and informative, but, if I may be forgiven, he does not spend much time describing the explosive liveliness of CT, or the infinite reciprocal love of the Trinity, or the endless music of creation, or the total mysteriousness of God, or the beauty of man's deification. These are the aspects on which patristic tradition heavily focused, and you can see them even in the writings of medieval mystics like Meister Eckhart (a Thomist himself) or Gregory Palamas. In fact, this is the way of talking about God that most followers of CT throughout history would recognize far more readily than they would the abstract method of Thomism. Both have merit for different reasons--my point is merely that this "USB stick" interpretation does not have much precedence outside of the last decade.

Mr. Green said...

Ian Thompson: Note: by 'potentiality' I refer to any capacity or power in onself to make a change, whether in the agent, or in another (patient).

Here's something Ed said in a previous comment:

Yes, when it is said that God is pure actuality and devoid of potency, what that means is that He is devoid of any passive potency (the capacity to be affected by anything) whatsoever. But He is supreme in what is sometimes called active potency or power -- the capacity to affect other things. ("Potency" is also a word for power, after all -- as in "omnipotent.") See Summa Theologiae I.25.1:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1025.htm

Anonymous said...

Eliezer is a great example of the internet standard, "So long as you make sure your every post is snotty, lecturing and self-confident, you will attain at least some kind of fanbase if you blog often enough."

Great post, Ed.

Ian Thompson said...

Ok then, MrG: we agree on the meaning of potency and power etc. so we can come back to my original question:

How is it possible for a 'purely actual' being to be the source of all potencies and powers?

That is, is it possible for the God of Pure Act to be 'supreme in active power'?

It cannot be because actual means exist, since ordinary existing things are to sources of powers. It cannot be since god = pure actuality and god is the source, since i am asking an ontological question not a theological one. It cannot be because every coming-to-be requires an actual thing to do that, because that has nothing to do with where the powers originate. It cannot be because the original actual being can have no potentiality, since that directly blocks answering the question.
R
I agree that a purely actual being will be devoid of all passive potencies. The question is, is it not, for the same reason, devoid of all active potencies as well??

BenYachov said...

Prof Thompson I have your book Beginning Theistic Science. Good stuff.

Ian Thompson said...

BenY. Glad to hear that!

I continue trying to resolve (eg now) some fundamental differences with the Thomists, but it is difficult. Give them a chance to defend in their best way.

BenYachov said...

Prof Thompson

Yes in some areas you seem to take the Scotus view. But hey Scotus is still a Classic Theist.

I find I tend toward Thomism these days & I find myself questioning some aspects of Molinism.

But it's all good in the hood yo.

Ian Thompson said...

I think of myself also as a classic theist. I just think that Aquinas at various points was let done by the poor development of Aristotle's ontology (physics and metaphysics).

It you look at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1025.htm for example, at the first section discussing whether there is power in god (my subject above!), all the crucial steps are based on ideas of 'perfection' and 'fittingly', etc. Aquinas does not have the philosophical machinery to give a robust answer, so he wings it, in order to get to the right answer. (Most of his final answers are quite good: it is the logic in the middle that is poor).

dguller said...

Ian makes a good point.

To have a power is to have a capacity that has elements of actuality and potentiality: X has the power to do Y, and either Y actually occurs or Y potentially occurs. If X does not actually do Y, then Y remains as a potentiality within X. Since God did not create all that he could have created, it follows that he has the power to create something while that something remains potential, and thus that he has potentiality within himself. After all, where else could this potentiality exist? It could not exist outside of himself, because nothing can exist outside of himself, and because all potentiality coexists within some actuality, and not as a free-standing ontological entity. Therefore, we have a contradiction between God as pure actuality and God as having a potentiality within himself due to his possession of potential secondary actualities within himself.

Glenn said...

Ian,

2) God has potentialities to change us. The prior actuality is God himself.

1) that fact (according to you, it seems) would make god impure.


Regarding response 1): You had extended an invitation to see 'the problem'; I did not see it, so posed a couple of questions. The first question was not for the purpose of intimating that God would be impure if He had potentiality, but to find out why the 'pure' in 'pure actuality' troubles you.

Regarding response 2): It isn't clear to me how God could be prior to Himself. And I think to say that God has potentialities to change us is--from Aquinas' point of view--more a manner of speaking than anything else. This isn't to say that we can't be changed, and it certainly isn't to say that it isn't God which can effect the changing, but to say that God cannot be or become something other than what He already is, so that it is we who have the potentialities (to be, say, changed by God).

- - - - -

Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish between the potential of a thing to do something, and the potential of a thing to be or become something other than what it presently is (in some way or to some extent).

Re the former: Since what does not exist cannot do anything, and there are things which can be done, it follow that only what actually exists can do something. This something which does actually exist we might call 'actuality'.

Re the latter: Since that which a thing might be or become does not yet actually exist, it has no actuality. This something which does not yet actually exist, i.e., which has no actuality, we might call a 'potentiality'.

With this distinction in mind, perhaps any talk of God's potentialities to change us necessarily includes an understanding--one which possibly is not consciously recognized--that it is only that which exists (an 'actuality') which can do or does the changing, and not something which does not yet exist (a 'potentiality').

Ian Thompson said...

Glenn, for you to "say that God cannot be or become something other than what He already is, so that it is we who have the potentialities (to be, say, changed by God)" is to just refuse to see that, in theism, all our life and power and potentialities comes from God. I cannot admit the opposite.

In your second paragraph, I agree with what you say, but nowhere do you get tor the point of where active powers are the properties of any object

Michael said...

Prof. Thompson,

I only wish to comment briefly (for that is all I have) on your first question, that of the fittingness of calling pure actuality pure, devoid of all potentiality.

For a number of years I have had the same question. I forget about it but then every once in a while I'll read something that brings it up again. Up until this point I do not think I had the tools to deal with the problem much at all. More recently I have been reading the book, "An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being" by Klubbertanz. The book gives an analysis of change that leads further and further, step by step, to some of the fundamental concepts like accident & subject, form & matter, existence & essence, and act & potency (or actuality & potentiality).

That said, potentiality (potency) is not the same as potential or capacity. You will find that in analysis of change there is always a common subject throughout the change. This subject receives some kind of determination while another principle gives some kind of determination to the subject. This is the case for all instances of accidental and substantial change, and, it would seem, for any change whatsoever.

This "receiving of determination" is more to the definition of the principle of potentiality. And as you'll note, is quite different than potential or capacity.

Somewhat of a language barrier, no? I guess language changes quite a bit in 800 years or so, especially when the long-standing philosophical tradition is overthrown and one starts from scratch.

Take care.

BenYachov said...

>Therefore, we have a contradiction between God as pure actuality and God as having a potentiality within himself due to his possession of potential secondary actualities within himself.

I'm not so sure about that. This seems like Craig's objection to the Divine Immutability. God does not change. God is my friend. But God "changes" into my enemy when I sin. Craig assumes falsely God changing his Cambridge Properties implies God has altered his Substance. When I became a Father my Cambridge properties changed but my substance stayed the same. My wife OTOH when she became a Mother went from Pregnancy to Child Birth and her substance changed over time.

Bottom line Craig is misunderstanding the meaning of the Divine Immutability. Of course God's Cambridge Properties can change. God cannot make a Rock so heavy etc etc or 2+2=5 etc that doesn't mean He is not omnipotent rightly understood.

Well it seems God does have the Power to do all things that there are powers to do & God may from all eternity freely choose not to do them. God could have from all eternity, sadly, chosen not to create a make actual a dguller or BenYachov(which would haven been a grievous tragedy hold back the tears people). He would always have the potential to do so but His substance would remain Purely actual and unchanged. But God has the Potential/Power can change or create anything outside himself or not. But He remains the unchanged changer.

Thus I don't see how this potential to do anything that potentially can be done & choosing for all eternity not to do it means God's substance changed? It remains Purely Actual in the sense that the Divine Substance itself doesn't within itself move from potential to actual.

All that God actualizes or creates is outside Himself by necessity.

Just some random primitive thoughts from moi.

dguller said...

Ben:

He would always have the potential to do so but His substance would remain Purely actual and unchanged. But God has the Potential/Power can change or create anything outside himself or not. But He remains the unchanged changer.

This is where I think that there is a contradiction. What does it mean to be pure actuality, i.e. have no potentiality whatsoever, but “always have the potential to do” something that remains potential? It would mean that there is a potentiality within God that he did not actualize, i.e. the potential to actualize a state of affairs that he did not choose to actualize, which contradicts his status as pure actuality.

The only solution here – RANK SOPHIST! – is to invoke his virtual composition, i.e. the fact that God has an infinite number of pre-existing and virtual forms within his intellect, some of which he has chosen to cause to exist and some of which he has chosen not to cause to exist. In that way, he does not have any potentiality and can remain pure actuality. My problem with virtual composition is that it is still a kind of composition, which should contradict his metaphysical simplicity.

Also, what is the relationship between actuality and virtuality? Does God have some degree of actuality and some degree of virtuality? If he does, then he has composition of actuality and virtuality, which is impossible. If he does not, then he either has only actuality or only virtuality. The former is impossible, because it would mean that he has no virtuality, and thus the virtual multiplicity of forms within his intellect does not exist – or pre-exist – at all. The latter is impossible, because it negates God’s status as pure actuality.

Or maybe virtuality is a kind of actuality, and thus God only has actuality, which is composed of virtual actuality and actual actuality? But then what are the different kinds of actuality? There is the ordinary actuality of myself or this computer, and then there is the virtual actuality of the pre-existent forms within an efficient cause. Furthermore, if there is virtual actuality and actual actuality within God, then there is composition!

So, for this account to be coherent, one must either give up pure actuality or metaphysical simplicity when it comes to God.

Glenn said...

Glenn, for you to "say that God cannot be or become something other than what He already is, so that it is we who have the potentialities (to be, say, changed by God)" is to just refuse to see that, in theism, all our life and power and potentialities comes from God. I cannot admit the opposite.

I agree with the implication that I don't see either how God, as He is in and of Himself, must change Himself in order to change me or how in changing me He Himself (again, as He is in and of Himself) is changed. And so far as I know, holding that God Himself does not change is not contrary to (at least Aquinas') theism.

(I will also acknowledge--without belligerence or impertinence--not understanding that "I Am that I Am" (emphasis added) might have been uttered with an imperceptible shrug and really meant "I Am the I Am that is not yet what It can be".)

In your second paragraph, I agree with what you say, but nowhere do you get tor the point of where active powers are the properties of any object.

I've gone back and reread your comment to Mr. Green, and now see something I had earlier missed. What I had missed earlier was the substitution of 'pure actuality' for 'purely actual'. In fact, I did see this--just not as something of which something should be made; but it now seems that something might be made of it.

If we simply say that He is 'purely actual', then it might sound as if we're saying, "He is actual, and that is that; don't expect anything more of Him than that He exists. Sorry, but that's the way it is. (And if you don't like it, too bad; you'll just have to deal with it.)" But this isn't what is meant by 'pure actuality', at least not as I understand it.

What I understand to be meant by 'pure actuality' is more like something along the lines of, "His actuality is of such a purity that no other actuality could be purer, or even come close to approaching it in purity."

The position you seem to be taking is that activity is the product of potency, and so you said, "...is it possible for the God of Pure Act to be 'supreme in active power'?... It cannot be because the original actual being can have no potentiality, since that directly blocks answering the question."

What might be true for created things, however, is not necessarily equally true for the Uncreated (i.e., is not necessarily equally true for God Himself). From the middle full paragraph on page 213 (PDF page 12) of Richard Field's St. Thomas Aquinas on Properties and the Powers of the Soulhere:

[A] power which is an activity, as opposed to a capacity, does not involve a reduction of potency to act. Now clearly, for Aquinas, God's activity is not the product of potency, for God is wholly actual and devoid of potency. Consequently God's power cannot be a capacity. But I believe that it is equally clear that for Aquinas the power of created things is always a potency which must be reduced to act by some agency. In this sense power is in created things an intermediary between a substance and its activity, and is distinct from both. Hence created things are not capable of having powers which are activities, for such a power does not have the intermediary function which potency plays in created substances.

Glenn said...

s/b/ "...the substitution of 'purely actual' for 'pure actuality'."

Ian Thompson said...

BenYachov:
. But God has the Potential/Power can change or create anything outside himself or not. But He remains the unchanged changer.

In above discussion, I was certainly not questioning divine immutability. I agree with most of your reply.

My question is really directed to Aquinas: "is your characterization of God as 'purely actual' ontologically compatible with God being (as everyone agrees) the original source of all powers.?"

Ian Thompson said...

Glenn:
If someone could resolve an argument only by saying "Consequently God's power cannot be a capacity.", I would say they had failed.

God has the power to create, but God does not have the capacity to create??

Ian Thompson said...

Glenn:
You suggest What might be true for created things, however, is not necessarily equally true for the Uncreated (i.e., is not necessarily equally true for God Himself).

If you keep blocking 'normal ontology' from being applied to God, what business then does Aquinas have using ontological concepts of 'pure act' to unequivocally refer to God?

I agree I was seeing purely actual as equal to pure actuality. You explanation, however, does not give much relevant difference to the present issue.

Glenn said...

I guess I still don't see the problem that you do. Please my apologies for having taken up your time.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

>It would mean that there is a potentiality within God that he did not actualize, i.e. the potential to actualize a state of affairs that he did not choose to actualize, which contradicts his status as pure actuality.

I reject that understanding it is no different then saying God is not omnipotent because he can't make 2+2=5 being Purely Actual means His Divine Substance is totally actual & within it nothing potential become actual. God is not composite He is Simple thus He needs nothing potental in His nature to become actual in order to exist or rather be Existence Itself.

God actualizes outside himself when He creates or chances what He creates. God doesn't change Himself within. If He never made you or I He would still have the idea of you and I in His Eternal divine intellect except the idea would never be made to exist outside of being an eternally existing Divine Idea. If I may bring in the concept of the Archaltypal Idea. God's Idea of You in the Divine Intellect is via the Divine Simplicity God.

Of course you get this:
>The only solution here – RANK SOPHIST! – is to invoke his virtual composition, i.e. the fact that God has an infinite number of pre-existing and virtual forms within his intellect, some of which he has chosen to cause to exist and some of which he has chosen not to cause to exist.

You are way ahead of me my friend. Good show.:-)

>My problem with virtual composition is that it is still a kind of composition, which should contradict his metaphysical simplicity.

Which is no different then saying Cambridge change is a type of change with God even thought He is Immutable or the inability to make 2+2=5 is a kind of limit on Omnipotence.

I'll leave the rest to greater minds then myself.

Cheers dguller.

You rock.

BenYachov said...

Maybe someone should hunt down The Smithy aka Lee Faber he is the Scotus expert?

Perhaps the confusion here on the Part of Prof Thompson is one of the differences between Scotism vs Thomism?

Just a thought.

BenYachov said...

OTOH to be fair maybe we are confused?

No matter somebody find Lee.

Glenn said...

Will Tim Berners-Lee do as a temporary stand in?

> Hi Tim,
>
> What's a normal ontology?
>

An ontology of a finite number terms agreed by a community to have a common;y
[sic] understood meaning, to be used in communications between programs used by the community.

God as consensus. Nice.

Suppose that the project to fashion a 'normal ontology' with respect to God were potentially doable, and actually reached its end--what would be the case? Would God then be a function of that 'normal ontology'? Or would He then of necessity be restricted to what results from the human whittle and paring down of His true Self?

Regardless, how can Perfection Itself be perfectly known by imperfect minds?

- - - - -

In need of reconciliation are two opposing notions of God. On the one hand, Classical Christian Tradition presents us with the notion of an utterly transcendent God, identified as the purposeful intelligence holding all things together, irrevocably bringing all things to a final end, utterly dependable and stable, the God 'of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change'. On the other hand, Christian believers are all too aware, via scriptural revelation and personal religious experience, individual and collective, of the antithetical notion of a God to whom we pray with the expectation of response, a God involved with the history of humankind and our personal lives, a God with whom we wrestle, treat as a friend, lover, arbitrator. To the extent that these two concepts of God lie, for some in dormant and unconscious, for others conscious and troublesome, juxtaposition, while for others, in difficult contradiction, we are prompted to ask the question whether we as human beings can meaningfully turn to God and God to us? This is a question at the core of religion. Can a human person be in a loving relationship with an immutable Divine Being? Can a person be in a trustworthy relationship with a God who changes? This is a modern question but the issue is an ancient one. The tension between God's attributes of justice and mercy hark back to the earliest writings of the Old Testament. -- Herrick, Jennifer Anne,
Does God Change? Reconciling The Immutable God With The God Of Love: A Thomistically Inspired Enquiry


'twould be a welcomed miracle were this issue of multi-millennial duration to be unequivocally resolved to everyone's satisfaction in the combox of Dr. Feser's blog--or anywhere else within the lifetimes of any of us.

monk68 said...

Ian,

I think the question you are asking with respect to “active potencies” is quite good. I would like to attempt to bring it to a finer point. However, before I do, let me lay down some context which I think helps to orient the problem.

I suspect we could agree that the primary means by which classical theists (of which I am one) reach the conclusion that God cannot have passive potencies is by way of an ontological-cum-metaphysical line of reasoning which begins epistemologically in sense perception and proceeds ontologically within the orbit of “changeable [material] being”. That is, it is a line of reasoning first developed within the philosophy of nature (physics in the classical sense). That’s the original soil from which the A-T ontological apparatus of form/matter, act/potency, etc arise in the first place; the conclusion not only to God’s “pure actuality” (at least “pure” in the sense of “free from any *passive* potency”), but also to His *immateriality* (God cannot have part over part / quantity extension, because those entail potency-act transitions, etc) being an a posteriori climax of to that line of argumentation/demonstration.

For anyone who has methodically and carefully traced the A-T account of knowledge (Thing->sensibles->sense organs/external senses-> sensible species->central sense/brain->percept>phantasm->intelligible species->cognition->concept *by which* we know the “thing” in its formal aspect); the fact that we know *things* in the realm of material changeable being as they exist outside the mind (contrary to the claims of skeptics both old and new) is certain, not only because the A-T account of knowledge has stood the test of time and is attested by common experience, but also because its rejection (or at least rejection of something very like the A-T account of knowledge) divorces the mind from extra-mental reality in a way which entails the fundamental unintelligibility of the universe (at least for human intellects) as it stands outside the mind: a postulate which would require a consistent proponent to adopt a stance of intellectual silence both verbal and (per impossible) cognitive.

ctnd . . .

monk68 said...

Therefore, unless we are willing to embrace the notion that extra-mental reality is fundamentally unintelligible, then we must acknowledge that we are capable of cognizing things in a way which significantly equates with how they stand outside the mind on some level (not comprehensively, of course): hence, the classical definition of truth as “the adequation of the mind to reality”. And the first way in which we perceive things at our own ontological level is *formal* (reality is perceived as composed of unicit/formal things – all carved up at the joints – in contrast to the flattened ontological picture of the universe as a shifting sandbox of subatomic particles envisioned by modern physics). Indeed, the sandbox notion of the real, along with the entire enterprise of the modern emperiological sciences depend for their very conception and operation, upon the mind’s prior access to things as unicit-formal, and not mere random collections of subatomic particles. Therefore, both epistemologically and ontologically, the rejection of any *real* formal aspect to things would undermine the modern sciences themselves, showing that the flattened ontology often associated with modern physics (physics itself often considered the gold-standard among the sciences or perhaps even among human knowledge generally) simply fails to do justice to the real as we actually experience and know it (i.e. in its formal aspect). Moreover, all the unicit/formal things of our experience are changing, and yet retain their identity across change unless or until they cease to exist. And this cognitive experience of the universe as marked by intellectually identifiable unicit-formal things which change across time, necessitates the distinction between form/matter and act/potency as the only solution that avoids the two horns of the age-old dilemma raised by Heraclitus and Parmenides with respect to change (i.e. that either there is only change, and hence no stable identifiable things persisting through change, or that change is an illusion), both of which horns are contrary to experience and both of which postulate an ontology which, if taken seriously, would ultimately render changeable being as unintelligible to the human intellect.

Given these epistemological and ontological foundations which A-T proponents think must obtain in order to preserve the very intelligibility of extra-mental reality (for some of the reasons I have already given), it takes only the further step of recognizing the contingency of all known unicit-formal existents with respect to potency and act to reach the conclusion that we must ultimately arrive at some Existent which admits of no act/potency distinction – no contingency - One whose existence requires no action on the part of another – no passive potency. Unless we ultimately reach such an Uncaused Cause or Actus Purus, there will be no intelligible explanation for any of the contingent things of our experience at all; including the entire changeable universe taken as a whole. To avoid that conclusion one must deny that the principle of sufficient causality obtains throughout the whole of the natural order, or to the natural order as a whole (as Russell seems to have denied at least implicitly by refusing to consider the question at the level of the universe-as-a-whole). But if all intelligible explanations worthy of the name are explanations in terms of causes, then to deny the principle of sufficient causality just here or there, or even at a macro-universal level, is arbitrary and also implies that some things of our experience (or perhaps even the universe as a whole) might simply come to exist without any cause or causes despite the fact that they admit of potencies whose actualization could only be caused by another – which is the very mark of a retreat to unintelligibility. Such is a sketch of the dialectical defense of the necessity of the principle of sufficient causality for preserving the intelligibility of extra-mental reality per se.

ctnd . . .

monk68 said...

I offer the above context and background to emphasize two things.

1.) To reiterate how strong are the grounds for affirming that God (God as limitedly understood via an a posteriori conclusion to an argument run within the philosophy of nature) must be pure act in the sense that He admits of no passive potencies and is *in this sense* simple (i.e. admitting no admixture of act and potency) and must therefore also be immaterial. For reasons given in the sketch above, A-T philosophers think that the existence of God, as Actus Purus and as immaterial, is *demonstrable*, where demonstration is understood to have been achieved by showing that denial of any of the principles, premises or logical steps involved in the demonstration would render extra-mental reality as fundamentally unintelligible. To undo the conviction that God’s existence as Actus Purus (admitting no passive potency) is demonstrable (in the sense just described), one would have to show some problem with the epistemological, ontological, or logical apparatus of A-T philosophy itself. I am an A-T proponent precisely because I have never come across any epistemological or ontological framework which preserves the intelligibility of the real (to the human intellect) without running along essentially Aristotelian lines.

2.) By the same argument that leads to the demonstration of God as Actus Purus one sees that God – as pure act with no passive potency – must in some sense be the ultimate Cause or explanation for all contingent things, and in particular the contingent things of our experience within the realm of changeable being.

Now if God *demonstrably* (on pain of existential unintelligibility) exists as pure act (devoid of all passive potency) and also *demonstrably* constitutes the ultimate explanation or Cause of all contingent existents (God being the only possible non-contingent Existent given the very structure of the demonstration), then no matter what difficulties we have in conceiving or explaining just how it is that God “causes” all other things to exist (i.e. how being devoid of passive potency can be compatible with active causality of another); it must nonetheless be the case that in God, an absence of all passive potency and yet the reality of His active causality are compatible. All that can remain is to give a coherent account of this compatibility – assuming that the human intellect has access to the resources necessary for expounding such an account; for the fact that the real is fundamentally, and in principle, intelligible, does not guarantee that *all* aspects or dimensions of the real are necessarily intelligible to *us*, given our cognitive and biological limitations. This is why it is difficult to be impressed by arguments or objections which some philosophers raise against divine simplicity. If the simplicity in question is that of God’s pure actuality, it cannot be undermined because it has been demonstrated. The objections usually attack a notion of divine simplicity which goes beyond what A-T proponents hold (misunderstanding what is and is not entailed by divine simplicity), or else the objections stem from the difficulty in conceptually reconciling divine simplicity (even correctly understood) with the initial and continual causation of contingent beings – which I take to be your essential difficulty.

cntd

Ian Thompson said...

A 'normal ontology' need not badly constrain God, if the ideas in it came from God in the first place.
Since much religion is to get us to listen to God, we should not be afraid to use the ideas we get.
(At least, then, they would be consistent)

monk68 said...

So how could God have no passive potencies and yet be the ultimate cause of all contingent existents? Notice that the demonstration of God’s existence as Actus Purus and as immaterial are essentially negative accounts of God’s nature. To say God is pure act is to say that He doe NOT admit of any passive potencies of the kind we recognize among changeable beings from whose consideration we arrived at God’s existence as First Cause and Actus Purus.. To say that God is im-material is to say that He is not composed of form and *matter* (or parts) as are the changeable beings from whose consideration we arrived at God’s existence as necessarily im-material. Beyond what “pure act” and “immateriality” negate, there is little that can be derived from the demonstration in the way of positive intelligible content concerning the manner in which God exist as non-constrained by matter or the manner in which God exercises causality.

However, one thing which the “negations” do highlight is the fact that God’s active causality – whatever it entails – cannot be of the same kind as the partial, contingent, causality experienced among changeable beings from which the demonstration is derived. In the first place, the traditional act/potency demonstration within philosophy of nature, draws its elements from perception of material natures which exercise causal powers one upon another. But the demonstration has resulted in the ancillary conclusion that God is immaterial. Hence, from the start, it is evident that whatever be the nature of God’s active causality upon contingent things, it is that of a non-contingent immaterial Nature upon contingent things - at least material things, and possibly other immaterial but contingent things (given other arguments for say the immateriality of the human soul).

But what reference point do we have for making sense of an immaterial nature exercising causal influence upon a material nature? Given arguments for the immateriality of the human intellect (which I will not explore here), the closest analogue would seem to be that of intellectual activity. Now it seems to me that it is precisely by way of a consideration of human intellectual activity that one can come to see the ultimate act/potency distinction which Aquinas so famously makes (and which some see as a completion of Aristotle) concerning the potency of essence to existence among contingent beings. The fact that we can cognize a concept or recall a phantasm with its variety of accidents, relations etc. does not entail that it exists outside the mind. In this way we can recognize a distinction between an essence and an act of existence. For all contingent things of our experience; to exist outside the mind is to exist as this or that – i.e. to exist essence-ially. But the mere presence of an essence or concept or form within the mind is no guarantee of its act-ual existence outside the mind. Hence, among contingent things there is a distinction between the essence of a thing and its actual existence. The same kind of distinction can be recognized by paying special attention to the existential qualifier “is” as predicated of things, but I will bypass that discussion here and assume you accept Aquinas’ arguments for the essence/existence distinction among contingent things.

cntd . . .

monk68 said...

Given the essence/existence distinction, and relying upon human intellectual experience as the closest analogate we have for considering what kind of causality might be entailed by an immaterial nature acting upon a contingent nature in a casual way, its not surprising that Aquinas utilizes this notion to explain God’s causal activity. As I understand the most common approach to explicating the ontology of the situation, the picture many Thomists give us is one wherein God, from all eternity contemplates all the ways in which His simple Nature (simple in the sense of non-composite because lacking passive potency) might be expressed in partial, divided, finite ways. In other words, the forms/natures of all possible contingent things eternally present in the Divine Intellect. Now I think that to this point, the explanation is relatively satisfying because I can conceptualize forms/natures as essences eternally present to an Intellect lacking all passive potency, even if the human intellect can only experience essences in limited numbers at any given time and also in sequential order.

But the second part of the explanation is that God gives some of these essences (eternally existing in the Divine Intellect) an “act of existence” or share in God’s act of existence, and this is the unique causality of Divine creation. So it seems to me that the precise point where the conceptual problem comes in is at the point where we try to conceptualize what it means for God to grant an “act of existence” or share in His own existence to an eternally conceived essence such that a *real* contingent being comes to be. What can it mean for God to add an act of existence to an eternally conceived essence without implying change in God? In what sense is creation ”outside of”, or not the same as God (how do we avoid something like pantheism or panentheism)? What I will say is that I am not clear that there is a true conceptual problem with the compatibility of the notion of creation as just described, and God as pure act (devoid of passive potency). The reason for this is that I cannot see any principle which would entail that a Being Who exists without being caused in any way by another (lacking all passive potency) cannot, because of that lack, express His existence in finite ways – though this may raise other questions about the necessity of creation and the freedom of God in creating, etc.

I expressed this concern to a respected Thomist at a conference last year by asking about the so called “causal-joint” between God and contingent existents, and his response was essentially to say that I was making a mistake in even asking the question that way because the very asking of the question in “causal-joint” form pre-loaded a notion of causality which applied to the natural order; whereas the kind of causality exercised by God in the (continuous) act of creation is utterly unique and can only be pointed to by way of analogy. While I am not entirely satisfied with that response, I can understand – given the role of analogy in facilitating meaningful “God-talk” – that this may, indeed, be one of those areas in which the human causal analogate is so far inferior to the Divine exercise of causality that a subjectively satisfactory explanation may not be forthcoming. Nevertheless, based on demonstration (as sketched above), I can affirm the two truths that God is Actus Purus and yet also the ultimate cause of all contingent beings. Moreover, though I cannot provide a clear positive account of how such causality is compatible with pure actuality, I can evade a charge of necessary contradiction by recourse to the analogy of being. Currently I see that recourse not as an evasion but as a necessary cognitive limitation.

I don’t claim to have solved anything here, but I wonder if you agree that the problem centers on the nature of creation in the A-T conception – particularly the notion of an act of existence being con-joined to an essence?

Pax

rank sophist said...

dguller

I got a kick out of the shout-out. In any case, I don't want to start another big argument (the other one is about ready to kill me), but let me remind you of the trilemma that you are stuck with on virtuality.

1. Entity X is X iff virtuality Z is Z, but Z is Z iff X is X. This is circular.
2. X is X iff virtuality Z is Z, and Z is Z iff M is M, etc. This is slippery-slope reductionism.
3. X is X, and Z is Z iff X is X. This is the law of identity.

Your objection above is based on 1, which is incoherent. You cannot endorse 2 without dangerous, self-refuting side-effects. 3 is the only coherent option, and it means that Z is entirely determined by and in no way determines X. Hence, God entirely determines and is not determined by his virtualities. This also means that virtualities cannot coherently be thought of as a kind of composition.

monk68 said...

Ian

I noticed that you wrote:

what business then does Aquinas have using ontological concepts of 'pure act' to unequivocally refer to God?

I am not aware of any place where Aquinas has used the concept of "pure act" univocally. He simply argues that to preserve the intelligibility of changable being, we must ultimately come to some Cause which is not caused by another (i.e. has no passive potency of the sort found among the natural things utilized in the demonstration), and that Cause, says Aquinas "is what everuone calls God". It is really a quite limited claim, and amounts to an apophatiic-like negation. I don;t see that Aquinas postulates any sort of positive univocal content about the nature of God simply by arguing that we must come to an Existent that is Actus Purus - i.e. pure because free from all active potencies of the kind we know of.

Pax

Ian Thompson said...

Actual powers

How about this resolution of problem?

We take (at least for now) God to be immutable, in the sense that his essence is constant for all time. He never changes: he is famed for his constancy.
This implies that the essence as it actually exists at one time, exists as such for all times. It has NO potentiality to change himself. For these reasons, we may reasonably characterize God as 'purely actual'. Aquinas would define God as Pure Act, as our most direct description.

But we also take God as the source of all life, love, power and activity in the universe. He is essentially omnipotent. That is, it is from his own nature that God is the source of all power. But is this compatible with being purely actual?

Maybe we can resolve this by being clearer on WHAT about God is purely actual? Some characterize God as 'love itself'. Let us conceive of God as a 'fixed and immutable actual love'. Does that make sense? Does it help above?

For our analysis, consider love as a specific kind of active power.

Certainly, a fixed and immutable love makes a good eternal essence for God. It makes sense for religion (find your own quotes). This love is always for others, so never changes itself: as we thought all along.

A God whose essence is love itself can then certainly give and share that love to creatures in the universe. This also makes sense for religion.

But a 'fixed actual love' is certainly not 'pure act' in the Aristotlean-Thomists sense. Sorry about that, but tough for A-T ontology. It is a 'fixed energy source' (imagine your local star, for a metaphor). It is purely actual, with absolutely no passive powers, but is 'full' of active powers to create and share.

What do y'all think?

Tony said...

Ian, among other concerns, you need to take care in accounting for God's love. In all creatures other than God, to love is to adhere to some good that is known by the intellect: the will is the intellectual appetite. We love because we know good.

For God, the order get's reversed: nothing is good but what He first decides to create. It His choosing out of love to make that is the source of the good created being. Thus, God does not love what is good, what is good is good because God loves it in such way as to create it.

Nor can His creating it be a change in God: on a purely simplistic plane, God didn't decide one morning to create the universe, thereby undergoing a change from when he had not yet decided to create. There was no time, no other, no substrate in which the act produced a different condition, before his creative act. Thus creating the universe was not a change.

But more metaphysically, being a created being means being in real relation to God, for the creature, but does not imply God has a real relation to the creature such that the new relation is a new fulfillment of capacity in God. God remains unchanged by the creative love expressed in new creatures.

dguller said...

Ben:

being Purely Actual means His Divine Substance is totally actual & within it nothing potential become actual. God is not composite He is Simple thus He needs nothing potental in His nature to become actual in order to exist or rather be Existence Itself.

I know that. The issue is how to understand his power. In Thomism, a power is a capacity that a substance possesses that is teleologically directed towards the actualization of a particular end. For example, the intellect has the power of abstracting universal forms from particular beings. So, all powers are some combination of actuality and potentiality, because the power is actual but the telos that the power is directed towards actualizing may or may nor be actualized. For example, the intellect is directed towards abstracting forms from material particular beings, but it may or may not actually abstract forms at any given moment, and thus its power may or may not be perfected, because perfection is associated with actuality.

Thus, to say that God has a power necessarily implies that God has a capacity that is a combination of actuality and potentiality, especially since most of the possible states of affairs that his power is directed towards are not actualized at all. If you want to say that these potentialities are disconnected from God’s essence, then you have also disconnected his power from his essence, because his power is a combination of actuality and potentiality. It would be like separating “three” from “sides” and still calling the shape a triangle.

God actualizes outside himself when He creates or chances what He creates. God doesn't change Himself within. If He never made you or I He would still have the idea of you and I in His Eternal divine intellect except the idea would never be made to exist outside of being an eternally existing Divine Idea. If I may bring in the concept of the Archaltypal Idea. God's Idea of You in the Divine Intellect is via the Divine Simplicity God.

But this entirely misses what it means to have a power. To have a power is to have the capacity to do something, which ultimately comes down to a directedness towards some potentiality becoming actualized. If that potentiality is not actualized, then the power necessarily is composed of both actuality (i.e. the actual primary actuality) and potentiality (i.e. the potential secondary actuality). Where does this potential secondary actuality exist? It either exists inside God or outside God. If it exists inside God, then God has a potentiality, which compromises his pure actuality. If it exists outside God, then God’s power is dependent and eternally connected to something outside of him.

Which is no different then saying Cambridge change is a type of change with God even thought He is Immutable or the inability to make 2+2=5 is a kind of limit on Omnipotence.

It is different. God is metaphysically simple, which means that he cannot have composition of any kind. Virtual composition is a kind of composition, and if it is within God’s intellect, then it is within God, and it necessarily follows that God contains composition, which contradicts his metaphysical simplicity.

I can understand the arguments for why a change in a Cambridge property of X is not any intrinsic change in X. I can understand why a logical impossibility is no kind of actual limitation upon God’s power, because a logical impossibility is nothing at all other than an incoherent string of symbols. However, I cannot understand why virtual composition does not compromise God’s metaphysical simplicity, other than by an ad hoc fiat, which should have no place in a system that purports to be akin to a mathematical theorem and proof.

Ian Thompson said...

Tony:
among other concerns, you need to take care in accounting for God's love. ......
I accept everything you say here: it does not affect my question or my proposed solution.

(My only doubt is your last point, but I do not understand that now, nor need to. Only, must be tough love for God too.)

dguller said...

Rank:

In any case, I don't want to start another big argument (the other one is about ready to kill me), but let me remind you of the trilemma that you are stuck with on virtuality.

Honestly, I simply do not understand the trilemma at all.

Your objection above is based on 1, which is incoherent.

Why is my objection based upon (1)? My objection is based upon the following idea:

(A) X is X iff X has virtual properties V1, V2, V3, …, Vn.

What (A) means is that the identity of X depends upon the properties that pre-exist in a virtual fashion within X. If any of those virtual properties are different, then X is not X, but rather is some other entity Y. For example, if there was a being that looked and acted just like a human, and even had an intellect, but its intellect could not abstract the form of dogness from a dog, then we would not call it a human, because a human must have an intellect that could abstract the form of dogness from a dog, assuming that its mind was functioning. This would be some other kind of being due to the absence of a single pre-existent and virtual property.

I would further argue for the following:

(B) For X to be a composite entity, X’s identity would depend upon its parts (i.e. X1, X2, X3, and so on).

Those parts (i.e. X1, X2, X3, and so on) could be anything at all. They could be form and matter, act and potency, essence and esse, or whatever. The point of (A) is that X would not be X without X1, X2, X3, and so on. If you eliminated X2, for example, then X would not be X, because to be X requires an entity to have X2. Since X’s identity depends upon these parts, X is a composite entity, if you agree with (B). I don’t see why you would reject (B), but maybe you have good reasons to.

With regards to God, God’s identity depends upon the pre-existent and virtual forms that exist within his intellect. You yourself have admitted that if God lacked even a single pre-existent and virtual form within his intellect, then he would not be God, because there would be something logically possible that God could not do, which contradicts his omnipotence. Thus, God’s identity depends upon the pre-existent and virtual forms that exist within his intellect (by (A)). And if that is true, then God’s identity depends upon his parts (i.e. the pre-existent and virtual forms within his intellect), and if God’s identity depends upon his parts, then God must be a composite entity (by (B)).

Ian Thompson said...

Monk68:

I asked "what business then does Aquinas have using ontological concepts of 'pure act' to unequivocally refer to God?"

You replied: "I am not aware of any place where Aquinas has used the concept of "pure act" univocally."

Some writers are not so circumspect. The owner of this blog, for example, draws many positive conclusions for something similar taken univocally: "Indeed, it is precisely because He is pure actuality that He is the source of all causal (or actualizing) power."

(This sentence was what started me on this discussion!)

Eduardo said...

Just one thing, isn´t G*d the origin of these forms, so doesn´t the forms depend on G*d but to identify G*d it takes us to consider that G*d is the origin of every form because that what was expected of The Almighty?

Eduardo said...

So... Does pure of Aquinas means pure as a technical term as Ian setf forth or is Pure a word to attempt to capture the features that Aquinas was talking about?

rank sophist said...

What (A) means is that the identity of X depends upon the properties that pre-exist in a virtual fashion within X. If any of those virtual properties are different, then X is not X, but rather is some other entity Y.

Exactly. But there is only one way in which V can determine X: X is X iff V is V. However, this raises a critical question: what makes V what it is? There are only two options:

1. V is V iff X is X. This is circular, and it's what you're implicitly endorsing above.
2. V is V iff some further determining factor M is M, and M is M iff some further determining factor Y is Y, etc.

The first is completely incoherent, and the second is bundle theory. The correct view--held by Aquinas--is that X just is X. This is the law of identity. What makes X an X is that X is an X, full stop.

For example, if there was a being that looked and acted just like a human, and even had an intellect, but its intellect could not abstract the form of dogness from a dog, then we would not call it a human, because a human must have an intellect that could abstract the form of dogness from a dog, assuming that its mind was functioning. This would be some other kind of being due to the absence of a single pre-existent and virtual property.

This is logically and metaphysically impossible, as we've discussed--and as Oderberg discusses at length in his refutation of modalist essentialism in Real Essentialism.

With regards to God, God’s identity depends upon the pre-existent and virtual forms that exist within his intellect. You yourself have admitted that if God lacked even a single pre-existent and virtual form within his intellect, then he would not be God, because there would be something logically possible that God could not do, which contradicts his omnipotence.

I have also pointed out that there is no possible world in which God does not have all of his virtual properties, because they are entirely determined by his essence. It is utterly impossible for X to lack V iff X is X.

Step2 said...

John Burford,
"Thus time is actually some things, potentially others, and thus not pure actuality."

You are severing act from reality. Pure actuality implies reality, not an unrealized probability or potential i.e. the omnipresent now.

"On the perfectly simple point, the mere fact that we can keep time, which requires sub-dividing time into uniform bits, shows that it is composed of parts and thus not perfectly simple."

I reject divine simplicity because it makes God so alien that communication is impossible. Nearly everything about humans is complex, most distinctively our language ability.

"Not to mention the kalam cosmological argument, which argues that time had a beginning and thus requires a timeless cause."

The Big Bang indicates a cause outside our space-time fabric that is perceived as timeless by us, but it does not need to be unequivocally timeless.

dguller said...

Rank:

1. V is V iff X is X. This is circular, and it's what you're implicitly endorsing above.

First, to say that X and V are necessarily related to one another such that you cannot have X without V and you cannot have V without X does not mean that the account is circular. To say that you cannot have the number 1 without the number 2 (because part of the meaning of 1 is that 2 – 1 = 1) and that you cannot have the number 2 without the number 1 (because part of the meaning of 2 is that 2 – 1 = 1) does not mean that 2 and 1 are circular.

Second, I actually reject (1) entirely, and not because its circular. For (1) to be true, it would have to be true for every instance of V and X that we plug into (1). Here’s an example:

(1*) Biting is biting iff dog is dog

(1*) isn’t true. Lots of non-dogs bite, and thus there is no such relationship. There, I’ve found an instance that falsifies (1), and so we can toss it out. Notice that rejecting (1) has no impact upon my position at all.

The correct view--held by Aquinas--is that X just is X. This is the law of identity. What makes X an X is that X is an X, full stop.

And that’s not circular? What is “X”? X. But what is “X”? X. Furthermore, does that mean that X lacks any deeper properties that determines its identity further? I mean, if I asked you what a dog is, and you replied that a dog is a dog, then you have not answered my question at all. You have just given a logical and metaphysical truth that is empty of content. You may as well have answered that a dog cannot be a non-dog at the same time. Great. Now I know what a dog is.

This is logically and metaphysically impossible, as we've discussed--and as Oderberg discusses at length in his refutation of modalist essentialism in Real Essentialism.

Why is it logically impossible? Why can’t there be a human-like being that can abstract every form other than dogness? What logical principle does this violate?

I have also pointed out that there is no possible world in which God does not have all of his virtual properties, because they are entirely determined by his essence. It is utterly impossible for X to lack V iff X is X.

Exactly. God’s identity depends upon his virtual properties, because to not have even one would mean that God is not God. God’s identity necessarily requires him to have all the virtual properties that are part of his essence. Without them, he is something else entirely. Remember, I am arguing that X’s identity depends upon the set of V’s within X’s essence, and you are arguing that the set of V’s within X’s essence is irrelevant, because X is X, and there is nothing more. It seems that you are actually agreeing with me, because to change the set of V’s would mean that X is no longer X, but rather is Y instead. X’s identity is necessarily related to X’s V.

Eduardo said...

Actually D, Rank is saying, G*d's ESSENCE determines all the possible forms.

Sort of like, if you happen to have A you will have B.

rank sophist said...

First, to say that X and V are necessarily related to one another such that you cannot have X without V and you cannot have V without X does not mean that the account is circular. To say that you cannot have the number 1 without the number 2 (because part of the meaning of 1 is that 2 – 1 = 1) and that you cannot have the number 2 without the number 1 (because part of the meaning of 2 is that 2 – 1 = 1) does not mean that 2 and 1 are circular.

That's because it's an entirely different situation. 1 = 1 and 2 = 2 are true statements without having to invoke any other number. We are dealing with virtual properties, though, which nest inside of actualities. Hence, 1 = 1 iff some virtual property of 1 exists. Your comparison is not valid.

Second, I actually reject (1) entirely, and not because its circular. For (1) to be true, it would have to be true for every instance of V and X that we plug into (1). Here’s an example:

(1*) Biting is biting iff dog is dog

(1*) isn’t true. Lots of non-dogs bite, and thus there is no such relationship. There, I’ve found an instance that falsifies (1), and so we can toss it out. Notice that rejecting (1) has no impact upon my position at all.


"Virtual biting ability" must always be the virtual biting ability of some determinate entity: a dog's biting ability, a cat's--whatever. There is no such thing as free-floating "virtual biting", and so your example is not helpful.

If the form of dogness is X and "dog's virtual biting ability" is Y, then X is X iff Y, as above. But then what defines Y? Assuming X = X iff Y, then X is always determined by Y, and so Y cannot be determined by X on pains of circularity: Y determines X but X determines Y, which is determined by X. A dog's biting ability cannot determine a dog and simultaneously be a dog's biting ability, because "dog" is presupposed, and so you're left in circularity.

We've gone over this, and you admitted defeat on this point in our earlier argument.

And that’s not circular? What is “X”? X. But what is “X”? X. Furthermore, does that mean that X lacks any deeper properties that determines its identity further? I mean, if I asked you what a dog is, and you replied that a dog is a dog, then you have not answered my question at all. You have just given a logical and metaphysical truth that is empty of content. You may as well have answered that a dog cannot be a non-dog at the same time. Great. Now I know what a dog is.

The law of identity is the most fundamental fact about existence. It cannot be questioned unless you presuppose it. Again, read Real Essentialism.

Why is it logically impossible? Why can’t there be a human-like being that can abstract every form other than dogness? What logical principle does this violate?

Several. But Oderberg explains it better than I ever could.

Remember, I am arguing that X’s identity depends upon the set of V’s within X’s essence, and you are arguing that the set of V’s within X’s essence is irrelevant, because X is X, and there is nothing more. It seems that you are actually agreeing with me, because to change the set of V’s would mean that X is no longer X, but rather is Y instead. X’s identity is necessarily related to X’s V.

We've been over this. You admitted defeat. Your argument is based on completely circular assumptions and logical impossibilities.

rank sophist said...

Actually D, Rank is saying, G*d's ESSENCE determines all the possible forms.

Sort of like, if you happen to have A you will have B.


Exactly. Previously, dguller accepted this conclusion, but he seems to have forgotten.

dguller said...

Rank:

That's because it's an entirely different situation. 1 = 1 and 2 = 2 are true statements without having to invoke any other number. We are dealing with virtual properties, though, which nest inside of actualities. Hence, 1 = 1 iff some virtual property of 1 exists. Your comparison is not valid.

It is not an entirely different situation. You are arguing that saying that X depends upon V and V depends upon X is circular, and thus illogical, and thus such an account should be rejected entirely, because of its fallacious nature. I’m saying that co-dependence does not necessarily imply circularity, at least not the fallacious kind. V gets its sense by virtue of its presence within X and X gets its sense by virtue of its possession of V. A different X will have a different V, and a different V will have a different X.

"Virtual biting ability" must always be the virtual biting ability of some determinate entity: a dog's biting ability, a cat's--whatever. There is no such thing as free-floating "virtual biting", and so your example is not helpful.

You have to be more precise about what X and V are supposed to be. I took X to be any particular being and V to be any virtual property. If that is correct, then your principle is false, because if you plug in “virtual biting ability” into V and “dog” into X, then you get a falsehood:

(1*) virtual biting ability = virtual biting ability iff dog = dog

The right side of (1*) depends upon the left side of (1*), but the left side of (1*) does not depend upon the right side of (1*), and thus the most that you can say is:

(2) if dog = dog, then virtual biting ability = virtual biting ability

So, by directly pluggin variables into your (1), you just get falsehood, which is reason enough to reject (1) altogether. If I’m doing it wrong, then I don’t know what (1) is supposed to mean.

Anyway, I agree that there is no free-floating V, but rather every V must exist within an X, and every X must have V to be an X at all. To change V is to change X, and to change X is to change V. That’s all I need for my argument.

If the form of dogness is X and "dog's virtual biting ability" is Y, then X is X iff Y, as above. But then what defines Y? Assuming X = X iff Y, then X is always determined by Y, and so Y cannot be determined by X on pains of circularity: Y determines X but X determines Y, which is determined by X.

Again, let’s plug variables into X and Y to test your proposition:

(3) If (a) Y determines X and (b) X determines Y, then you have circular reasoning, and must reject (a) as false, or reject (b) as false, or reject (a) and (b) as false.

Let’s plug 1 for Y and 2 for X:

(3*) If (3a) 1 determines 2 and (3b) 2 determines 1, then you have circular reasoning, and must reject (3a) as false, or reject (3b) as false, or reject (3a) and (3b) as false.

So, what happens now? Do we reject the truth that 1 determines 2? Do we reject the truth that 2 determines 1? Or do we just reject (3) altogether as a false principle? I would rather reject (3), because the others are too obviously true.

Remember that not all forms of co-dependence are viciously circular.

dguller said...

A dog's biting ability cannot determine a dog and simultaneously be a dog's biting ability, because "dog" is presupposed, and so you're left in circularity.

Personally, I don’t like your formulation of (1). It assumes that there is a single V when there is actually a set of V’s. Perhaps the following is better:

(1**) x = X iff (a) X is identified as a being with the set of virtual properties V1, V2, V3, …, Vn, and (b) x has the set of virtual properties V1, V2, V3, …, Vn

If you want to ask what V1 is, then you look at V1. For example, if we say:

(2**) x is a dog if and only if (a) a dog is identified as a being with the virtual properties of (a1) the ability to bite, (a2) the ability to run, and (a3) the ability to eat, and (b) x has the virtual properties of (a1) the ability to bite, (a2) the ability to run, and (a3) the ability to eat

So, now you want to know what (a1) means. Well, the ability to bite is just the ability to use jaws in a powerful hinging movement such that teeth are pressed against teeth to tear at food, for example. Without (a1), x could not be a dog, and for anything to be a dog, it would have to have the virtual property of (a1). However, not everything with the virtual property of (a1) is a dog, because there are other animals that have (a1) and are not a dog. So, you could say that (a1) is necessary, but not sufficient. Is this account circular in any way? Do you really not understand (a1) due to a vicious circularity?

The law of identity is the most fundamental fact about existence. It cannot be questioned unless you presuppose it. Again, read Real Essentialism.

That’s why I’m not questioning it at all. I accept it. What I reject is your idea that all circularity is a vicious circularity. The law of identity is circular, but it is a necessary circularity. A circle is just something that ends up at the start. You start with X. You end with X. A circle. But, that’s not enough of a reason to reject it.

We've been over this. You admitted defeat. Your argument is based on completely circular assumptions and logical impossibilities.

I don’t think so. I said that we should move on to something else, because I just didn’t understand what you were talking about any more. Anyway, I don’t think that you have shown that the identity of X is completely determined by the law of identity (i.e. X = X) without any relevance whatsoever to the virtual properties that X possesses. In other words, the answer to the question, “What is X?” is trivially answered by saying, “X”. Yes, it is necessarily true by virtue of the law of identity, but that only marks the beginning of an answer in that it is the foundation for any logical coherence, but it certainly does not represent the end of an answer. I’m sure on your college exams, when you were asked to define X, you would never have replied, “X is X. There!”

dguller said...

Eduardo:

Actually D, Rank is saying, G*d's ESSENCE determines all the possible forms. 

Sort of like, if you happen to have A you will have B.

I understand that, but what makes God’s essence God’s essence is the possession of all virtual forms in a pre-existent fashion. You cannot have the former without the latter, and you cannot have the latter without the former. What something is depends upon what pre-existent and virtual forms it possesses. Different virtual forms, different thing. Different thing, different virtual forms.

Remember the whole point of this argument.

I’m arguing that God has composition, because his very identity as God depends upon his possession of a multiplicity of virtual forms within his intellect such that if any of those virtual forms were absent, then he would not be God at all. As such, his virtual forms can be considered to be parts of his identity, and if his identity has parts, then he has composition, and cannot be metaphysically simple.

Rank is arguing that virtual composition does not count as composition at all, because the virtual properties that pre-exist within a being are not determine of that being’s identity at all. All that determines a being’s identity is the principle of identity, i.e. X = X and nothing else. If that is true, then God is metaphysically simple even though he has virtual multiplicity, because his identity does not depend upon any parts, and only depends upon the principle of identity.

So, the question is whether a thing’s identity depends upon the virtual properties that it has or not. If it does, then my argument holds. If it does not, then Rank’s argument holds.

rank sophist said...

You are arguing that saying that X depends upon V and V depends upon X is circular, and thus illogical, and thus such an account should be rejected entirely, because of its fallacious nature. I’m saying that co-dependence does not necessarily imply circularity, at least not the fallacious kind.

Sometimes it doesn't. Matter and form are co-dependent. But matter and form are not virtually distinct.

So, what happens now? Do we reject the truth that 1 determines 2? Do we reject the truth that 2 determines 1? Or do we just reject (3) altogether as a false principle? I would rather reject (3), because the others are too obviously true.

1 and 2 are not virtually distinct. They're also not substances--they're accidents.

If you want to ask what V1 is, then you look at V1.

You've begged the question. Whether or not a virtual property can be understood according a bare assertion of identity is what's at issue. And there is no way that you can argue for this position. Here is what you're saying:

1. V is V, and X is X iff V is V.

You deny X the law of identity but grant it to a virtual property that does not even have mind-independent existence. This does not work.

The law of identity is that A is A. It applies to entities--to things with essences. It means that an identity A cannot be broken down into further components. A just is A. What it means to be an A is what Aristotelianism investigates, but at no point does A become determined by something else. Your argument here hinges on the idea that A (or X) is determined by something else: some set of virtual properties V. Aquinas held that virtual properties are entirely determined by identity; you hold the reverse. But the only remotely coherent expression of your position is bundle theory, not the ludicrously circular, question-begging argument you've been presenting.

Look at what you're saying. Your argument is that it is possible for a virtual element--something that doesn't even exist in the strong sense--to determine the very thing that allows its existence, and your justification for this position is that this virtual element falls under the law of identity, while the actuality in which it is housed does not. Seriously?

rank sophist said...

So, now you want to know what (a1) means. Well, the ability to bite is just the ability to use jaws in a powerful hinging movement such that teeth are pressed against teeth to tear at food, for example. Without (a1), x could not be a dog, and for anything to be a dog, it would have to have the virtual property of (a1).

Again, you've begged the question with regard to virtual properties. But it's even worse than that. Your argument would make it so the law of non-contradiction relies on the conclusion that "Socrates is mortal", but that "Socrates is mortal" just is true for no reason at all. Realize that this makes all logical conclusions brute facts. Either that, or you think that explaining the details of Socrates's mortality is enough to explain the conclusion itself, and that this conclusion in turn determines the law of non-contradiction.

The trilemma remains, and you're on the wrong end of it.

What I reject is your idea that all circularity is a vicious circularity. The law of identity is circular, but it is a necessary circularity. A circle is just something that ends up at the start. You start with X. You end with X. A circle. But, that’s not enough of a reason to reject it.

The law of identity is not circular. At best, you might call it tautological. Circular reasoning requires a middle step before the recapitulation of the opening assertion, which is what you're doing.

Yes, it is necessarily true by virtue of the law of identity, but that only marks the beginning of an answer in that it is the foundation for any logical coherence, but it certainly does not represent the end of an answer. I’m sure on your college exams, when you were asked to define X, you would never have replied, “X is X. There!”

X being X exhausts the identity of X. There is nothing else to it. All we can investigate is what it means for X to be X: not some reductionistic structure that reveals ever deeper reasons why X is an X. Oderberg discusses this at length.

rank sophist said...

I understand that, but what makes God’s essence God’s essence is the possession of all virtual forms in a pre-existent fashion. You cannot have the former without the latter, and you cannot have the latter without the former. What something is depends upon what pre-existent and virtual forms it possesses. Different virtual forms, different thing. Different thing, different virtual forms.

First, you beg the question regarding the possibility of a virtuality differing in a certain actuality. This requires that you defeat Oderberg's top-quality arguments against modalism.

Second, the trilemma:

1. X is X iff V, V is V iff X.
2. X is X iff V, V is V iff M, M is M iff Z, etc.
3. X is X, V is V iff X.

I suppose we can expand this to a quadrilemma, you want to include your question-begging assertion that V just is V.

4. X is X iff V, V is V.

How V can be self-determining when it has no existence separate from some determining actuality is beyond me, but your most recent argument is based on it.

Tony said...

I understand that, but what makes God’s essence God’s essence is the possession of all virtual forms in a pre-existent fashion. You cannot have the former without the latter, and you cannot have the latter without the former....I’m arguing that God has composition, because his very identity as God depends upon his possession of a multiplicity of virtual forms within his intellect such that if any of those virtual forms were absent, then he would not be God at all. As such, his virtual forms can be considered to be parts of his identity, and if his identity has parts, then he has composition, and cannot be metaphysically simple.

dguller, I don't think that works. The point is that in whatever sense you want to posit that God "contains" the other forms, (saying 'contains' and 'has' and 'comprehends' are all imperfect for both grammatical and metaphysical reasons), He holds the perfections of those forms in a different mode than that of composition.

Let me give an example. If you take a young child, and you talk to him about dividing up a large brownie into pieces, you can explain to him that we can cut it in halves, or quarters, or sixths, or eigths. He grasps each option as you discuss it, but he doesn't venture forth into an inductive or deductive pursuit, and he just rests at those 4 specific divisions. His knowledge is COMPOSED of 4 parts, 4 distinct facts.

But if you present the same information to a mathematician (or anyone who is familiar with mathematical abstraction), he immediately grasps that the brownie can ALSO be divided into pieces of any fraction. He abstracts from the 4 particulars to a generality: the division can create sizes as A/B, where A/B can be any possible number between 0 and 1. Thus, in ONE thought, he understands the multiplicity of an infinity of possibilities. His thought is simple and singular, not COMPOSED of 1/3, 1/4, 2/5, 6/77, etc. You can speak of his thought containing virtually all of the individual possible fractions, and in a sense it does, but the manner in which it includes them is under a mode of simplicity rather than that of composition. He doesn't think the different fractions contained in the principle individually, he thinks them by grasp of the higher principle that under a mode of singularity contains the multiple possibilities all together in one simple truth.

Likewise (only much more so) with God.

dguller said...

Rank:

Like before, I’ll defer the discussion until I’ve read Oderberg. There’s a lot to your position that depends upon what he writes. I’ll probably just read his book after my presentation next week.

The law of identity is that A is A. It applies to entities--to things with essences. It means that an identity A cannot be broken down into further components. A just is A. What it means to be an A is what Aristotelianism investigates, but at no point does A become determined by something else. Your argument here hinges on the idea that A (or X) is determined by something else: some set of virtual properties V. Aquinas held that virtual properties are entirely determined by identity; you hold the reverse.

But let’s say that you are correct. X is X fundamentally and primary on the basis of the law of identity. That is the foundation upon which everything else about X flows. From that foundation, we can discover further details about X that help us to understand what it means for X to be X, i.e. X’s various properties, and knowing these different properties helps us to better understand X. So, a dog is a dog, and from that fact we can further learn that a dog is a canine, has jaws, has four legs, and so on.

My question is what exactly follows from this account with respect to composition. Are you arguing that if X is X, then X cannot be composite? That is clearly untrue, because if X is a being that necessarily is composed of essence and existence, for example, then even though X is X, X cannot be a simple entity, and rather must be a composite one. X is X is true whether X is simple or composite, which means that whether X is X is irrelevant to issues related to whether X is simple or composite. What is relevant is whether X has parts or components that are discovered in the subsequent analysis and investigation of what it means for X to be X. If during that investigation we discover that X has parts, i.e. what it means for X to be X involves different components -- i.e. X has A, B, C, D -- then we say that X is composite. If during that investigation we discover that X has no parts whatsoever -- i.e. X is A, and does not have B, C, D -- then X is simple.

We both agree that God has virtual composition in that his intellect virtually contains a multiplicity of forms, and that if he lacked even a single one of these pre-existent and virtual forms, then he could not be God at all, and thus they are part of what it means for God to be God. In other words, God is God, i.e. the law of identity, and yet an analysis of God leads to different parts, each of which is absolutely essential for God to be God, the absence of any one of which would mean that God is not God, but rather some other entity God*. Why can’t you say that God is composite when the very meaning of what God is demands that he have virtual parts?

dguller said...

Your only solution is to say that composition in the Thomist sense only applies to real composition, and not virtual composition. Two problems with that:

First, that move would have to be justified. Why doesn’t virtual composition count as the kind of composition that makes something a composite entity?

Second, you never really gave a good explanation of what “real distinction” means. And in order to say that only real distinction counts as composition, then you need an account of real distinction. My contention was that to say that X is really distinct from Y means that X can exist independent of Y. That holds fine for the distinction between form and matter, act and potency, and so on, but it does not hold for essence and existence. So, what exactly does “real distinction” mean?

Third, you would have to explain the difference between real actuality and virtual actuality (i.e. a kind of actuality, a quasi-actuality). And if there is a real difference between real actuality and virtual actuality, then God is composed of both real actuality and virtual actuality, because he has both. Why doesn’t that count as composition? Perhaps you could say that his real actuality is his virtual actuality, but that makes no sense, because virtual actuality is only quasi-actual, i.e. not fully and really actual, and thus you would have to endorse that real actuality is quasi-actuality, which is absurd. So, there is a distinction within God between real actuality and virtual actuality. The only other options are to say that God is totally real actuality, which is impossible, because he necessarily has pre-existent and virtual forms within his intellect, or that God is totally virtual actuality, which is impossible, because virtuality depends upon real actuality.

dguller said...

Tony:

Thus, in ONE thought, he understands the multiplicity of an infinity of possibilities. His thought is simple and singular, not COMPOSED of 1/3, 1/4, 2/5, 6/77, etc. You can speak of his thought containing virtually all of the individual possible fractions, and in a sense it does, but the manner in which it includes them is under a mode of simplicity rather than that of composition. He doesn't think the different fractions contained in the principle individually, he thinks them by grasp of the higher principle that under a mode of singularity contains the multiple possibilities all together in one simple truth.

This still doesn’t explain what simplicity and composition mean. I understand composition to refer to anything that has more than one part, loosely defined. So, I would endorse the following:

(A) X is composite iff (a) if X is X, then X must have A, B, C and D, and (b) A, B, C and D are different from one another
(B) X is simple iff X is not composite

So, a material object must have form, matter, essence, existence, and so on, in order for the material object to be a material object, and since they are all different from one another, it follows that a material object is a composite entity, according to (A). With God, we can say that God must have intellect, will, and power in order for God to be God, which satisfies (a) above, but in God, intellect = will = power, and thus (b) is not satisfied, which means that God is simple (by (A), (B)).

However, when you plug virtual properties as A, B, C and D, then you necessarily end up with composition, because X would not be X without those virtual properties and the virtual properties are different from one another. So, it would follow that anything with virtual properties must be composite.

But if you disagree with (A), then feel free to offer another definition of composition.

BenYachov said...

>Why can’t you say that God is composite when the very meaning of what God is demands that he have virtual parts?

Might I venture a guess?

Maybe we could but God's substantive nature would still be purely actual, simple, immutable and it would not be a composite substantive nature in the unequivocal sense that we have composite substantive natures.

Just as we can say "God's can't do anything" & still affirm he is omnipotent.

dguller remember God is not a material object.

BenYachov said...

>First, that move would have to be justified. Why doesn’t virtual composition count as the kind of composition that makes something a composite entity?

Maybe because by calling God simple it was always understood to mean "real composition" and never understood to mean simplicity to the n'th degree across categories?

Aquinas? Scotus? Augustine? Anselm? Pseudo-Dionysius? Would any of them have taught God's simplicity must equal virtual simplicity?

I think the answer might be simple here pun intended?

dguller said...

Ben:

Maybe we could but God's substantive nature would still be purely actual, simple, immutable and it would not be a composite substantive nature in the unequivocal sense that we have composite substantive natures.

I presume that when you say “unequivocal”, you actually mean “analogical”. In other words, when you say that God is simple, you are really saying that God is not composite, because we have absolutely no experience of anything simple. Saying that God is simple is a negative or apophatic utterance, i.e. denying of God that he is composite.

But then where does the analogical meaning come from? Analogical meaning comes from affirmative or cataphatic utterances, and not negative or apophatic utterances. When you say that God is not material, there is not one sense of “material” in “immaterial” for God, and another sense of “material” in “material” for us physical entities. In fact, negative statements must be univocal, because the denial is rooted in a univocal positive meaning that is then rejected as false.

Maybe because by calling God simple it was always understood to mean "real composition" and never understood to mean simplicity to the n'th degree across categories?

If that is the assumption, then that’s fine. But it has to be recognized as an assumption, and not as a deduction from first principles. As such, it seems to be an ad hoc addition to classical theology. I’m pretty sure that there must be an argument for it somewhere, because I find it hard to believe that classical theologians just assumed it as an obvious first principle.

Anyway, can you explain “real composition” to me? Even better can you explain why virtual composition does not count as composition?

BenYachov said...


>I presume that when you say “unequivocal”, you actually mean “analogical”.

I am making an analogical comparison of God to man yes, but unequivocally we have composition and God compared to us does not. God does not have what we have & God is not like us at all.

I hope that clears it up.

BenYachov said...

>But then where does the analogical meaning come from?

You and RS and others have already beat analogy to death I am not getting involved I don't think I have anything to contribute.

>Saying that God is simple is a negative or apophatic utterance, i.e. denying of God that he is composite.

Pretty much.

>In fact, negative statements must be univocal, because the denial is rooted in a univocal positive meaning that is then rejected as false.

That sound about right I don't see any problem is saying God is in the univocal sense not like me & vice versa.

>But it has to be recognized as an assumption, and not as a deduction from first principles. As such, it seems to be an ad hoc addition to classical theology.

How would you using first principles get to the idea God might be simple in the virtual sense? It sounds absurd God is simple and the First Cause of all composite things if He where virtually simple he would be an infinite simple Intellect that doesn't really know anything.

That doesn't sound right at all & I don't think even the Greek Philosophers operating on reason alone sans Divine Revelation would have thought that.

>I’m pretty sure that there must be an argument for it somewhere, because I find it hard to believe that classical theologians just assumed it as an obvious first principle.

One would have to look up arguments for the Divine Simplicity to see if they argue God must be virtually simple.

I know about as much as you do at this point.

>Anyway, can you explain “real composition” to me?

No I am going to dump that on RS & to be honest I don't know how to at this time.

>Even better can you explain why virtual composition does not count as composition?

I think there is a fallacy here. Of course virtual composition is a type of composition but it's not a composition of substance like being and essence with us vs God's Being is His Essence etc.

God simply knows & we can't comprehend what form His knowing takes.

Michael said...

Ben,

Prof. Ian's original difficulty, and apparently dguller's as well, is not a problem between Thomists and Scotists, unless Scotists fail to define their terms.

Too many words here, not enough method! Granted, there is some good things in this combox exchange, but it is simply not helpful when the problem lies at the outset. Why oh why do not people first define their terms!

My previous comment was ignored, but it is still true, the principles of potentiality/potency are being confused with potential. I will not repeat my explanation that shows why the terms are different, go look for it.

Capacity in created things requires both principles of potentiality and actuality. Capacity in God is predicated analogically because there is no need nor room for the principle of potentiality. And I think this can be easily seen in that the main thrust of capacity is that it is for something, to determine something, to act and give.

Of course this will be confusing to those who keep interchanging potentiality, capacity, and potential all as something synonymous (if you want quotes of the misuse I can give them to you. One would hope that terms were clarified before now...).

Take care all.

dguller said...

Ben:

I am making an analogical comparison of God to man yes, but unequivocally we have composition and God compared to us does not. God does not have what we have & God is not like us at all.

Then this is not an analogy at all. Analogy presupposes partial identity and partial difference. If “God is not like us at all”, then there is no partial identity, and thus no similarity, and thus no analogy. You seem to admit as much when you say: “I don't see any problem is saying God is in the univocal sense not like me & vice versa.” So, no analogy then.

How would you using first principles get to the idea God might be simple in the virtual sense? It sounds absurd God is simple and the First Cause of all composite things if He where virtually simple he would be an infinite simple Intellect that doesn't really know anything.

Right.

That doesn't sound right at all & I don't think even the Greek Philosophers operating on reason alone sans Divine Revelation would have thought that.

That’s the dilemma. In order for God to create particular beings with essences, he necessarily must have their forms as a multiplicity within his intellect. However, it seems that the possession of a multiplicity of forms within his intellect is a kind of composition, and his simplicity is supposed to be opposed to all kinds of composition, including the virtual kind. To solve this dilemma, a special exemption is made for virtual composition as not counting, but this does not seem to be a logical solution to me. It just seems to be an arbitrary and ad hoc division between real composition and virtual composition and saying that only the former has anything to do with simplicity. Why not the latter, too? Because if it did, then whole system would collapse! Everything fits so nicely in Thomism. This seems quite clumsy to me.

It would make more sense to me to just say that God is only relatively simple and not absolutely simple. Relatively simple just means that he lacks some kinds of composition, whereas absolutely simple just means that he lacks all kinds of composition. The problem with relative simplicity is that you have a God that is partially simple (i.e. no real parts) and partially compound (i.e. virtual parts). But that is a composition, too! In other words, if X is relatively simple, then X is partially simple and partially compound. And if follows that if X is partially simple and partially compound, then X has parts, and thus is compound after all.

So, only absolute simplicity will do the trick, but God cannot be absolutely simple, because there is a kind of composition within him.

BenYachov said...

dguller wrote:
>So, no analogy then.

I accept your correction. I should have said in making possitive statements about what God is we use analogy but negative statement you are correct are unquivocal.

Michael wrote:

My previous comment was ignored, but it is still true, the principles of potentiality/potency are being confused with potential. I will not repeat my explanation that shows why the terms are different, go look for it.

I'll look it up again before commenting further.

Though I am mulling over dguller's last post.

rank sophist said...

My question is what exactly follows from this account with respect to composition. Are you arguing that if X is X, then X cannot be composite?

Identity is simple, so, in a sense, yes. However, even though identity is simple, it does not follow that the entity described by the identity is simple.

That is clearly untrue, because if X is a being that necessarily is composed of essence and existence, for example, then even though X is X, X cannot be a simple entity, and rather must be a composite one.

Its composition is entailed by its identity; not the other way around. A is A, and, because it is A, certain things follow. This may be corruptibility; it may be incorruptibility; and so forth. If A's attributes came before A itself, then either A does not exist outside of its attributes (bundle theory) or you are left in circularity: A's attributes determine A, but they are A's attributes because of A, which is determined by its attributes, and so on. Either that, or you make the impossible assertion that A's attributes can be A's attributes without reference to A, making them all brute facts in themselves.

X is X is true whether X is simple or composite, which means that whether X is X is irrelevant to issues related to whether X is simple or composite.

That's a non sequitur. The composition or simplicity of X rely on the truth that X is X. If X is X, then it must mean something to be X. From this, we get X's other features. Oderberg spends quite a bit of time on the law of identity, so you'll see this information repeated in an academic context soon enough.

We both agree that God has virtual composition in that his intellect virtually contains a multiplicity of forms, and that if he lacked even a single one of these pre-existent and virtual forms, then he could not be God at all, and thus they are part of what it means for God to be God. In other words, God is God, i.e. the law of identity, and yet an analysis of God leads to different parts, each of which is absolutely essential for God to be God, the absence of any one of which would mean that God is not God, but rather some other entity God*. Why can’t you say that God is composite when the very meaning of what God is demands that he have virtual parts?

First, because you're describing a logical and metaphysical impossibility. Certain essences necessarily entail certain attributes. Oderberg talks about this (not in respect to virtual properties, but to powers and properties generally) in Real Essentialism.

Second, because, if God is determined by his virtualities, then we are left with bundle theory, circularity or an infinite number of brute facts.

Third, because virtual composition is not real composition. There is a difference between saying that a dog's identity virtually contains four legs and saying that a dog really has four legs. There is a difference between saying that God virtually contains all forms and that he is really composed by those forms.

First, that move would have to be justified. Why doesn’t virtual composition count as the kind of composition that makes something a composite entity?

Because this brings back the problems I've been citing. Either bundle theory (i.e. total reductionism) is true, or identity is viciously circular, or all things are brute facts. Those are your options on this path.

So, what exactly does “real distinction” mean?

I understand what "virtual" means a lot better than I do "real", at this point.

And if there is a real difference between real actuality and virtual actuality, then God is composed of both real actuality and virtual actuality, because he has both. Why doesn’t that count as composition?

Because a virtuality is merely something that may logically be found in an otherwise holistic identity.

Tony said...

(A) X is composite iff (a) if X is X, then X must have A, B, C and D, and (b) A, B, C and D are different from one another

First of all, the conditional "if X is X" cannot possibly help out the discussion in any manner, because it isn't in the least bit related to the necessary concepts composition and (its negation) simplicity. What you mean is, rather "For X to be such a thing as to have a nature we refer to as Y, X must have A, B, C, and D." Repeating (ad nauseum) "X is X" does not bring Y into it in the least.

For God to be such a thing as to be

First mover
Primary cause
Exemplar cause
Source of contingent being
Source of final causality of things
Source of order in and of creation

implies God must have perfect intellect, perfect will, absolute power, etc. In no wise do we get to the notions of God having intellect from saying "God is God", because that would be true for "Zeus is Zeus", and we don't think "Zeus is Zeus" implies Zeus has absolute power.

Which shows that when we say "God has intellect", we are expressing a possessive relation between God and another thing because of a third truth that we know. (i.e. knowing that God is pure act, or is the cause of intelligibility, or the source of final causes). But that in no wise means that the reason God HAS intellect is due to his being the source of final causality. Our path of knowing it isn't the path by which God's being is fulfilled in intellectual perfection. We know by effects, from effect to cause.

So, we have to constantly refrain from saying that the conceptual relation IN OUR MINDS when we express "has" in "God has intellect" is under the conceptual form of possession, but we are not attributing possession in God. Likewise for all the other statements of his attributes. "God has will" is under the FORM of a statement of an attribute belonging to God, but the form in which the truth is stated (and understood by us) does not reflect the real situation.

When we come understand the truth that God has intellect by reason of our first understanding that God is pure act, we are not saying that his having intellect is due to his being pure act. But the only reason WE POSIT the philosophical statement "God has intellect" is due to our first saying "God is the sort of thing who is pure act." Which is vastly more determinate a set of concepts than "God is God" in our minds.

"X is X" contributes nothing to the argument. And "X has A, B..." can only be used with God by equivocating on "has", which undermines the argument completely.

Daniel Smith said...

Re: Pure act and active potency...

It makes sense to my pea-brain that pure ACTuality entails unlimited ACTive potency.

"That which cannot be changed by another" just is "that which can change any other".

It's the same concept as the "uncaused cause" or the "unmoved mover" - God is the "unactuated actuator".

I guess it's so intuitive that I've never stopped to analyze it. (Oh the bliss of ignorance!)

dguller said...

Rank:

Its composition is entailed by its identity; not the other way around. A is A, and, because it is A, certain things follow. This may be corruptibility; it may be incorruptibility; and so forth. If A's attributes came before A itself, then either A does not exist outside of its attributes (bundle theory) or you are left in circularity: A's attributes determine A, but they are A's attributes because of A, which is determined by its attributes, and so on. Either that, or you make the impossible assertion that A's attributes can be A's attributes without reference to A, making them all brute facts in themselves.

It sounds like A could be said to be metaphysically prior to A’s attributes, but not temporally prior to A’s attributes. In other words, it is impossible for A to exist without A’s attributes, i.e. it is impossible to first have A, and later have A’s attributes. Instead, whenever you have A you necessarily have A’s attributes, as well, but A’s attributes are dependent upon A for their existence, because A is metaphysically prior to A’s attributes.

That's a non sequitur. The composition or simplicity of X rely on the truth that X is X. If X is X, then it must mean something to be X. From this, we get X's other features. Oderberg spends quite a bit of time on the law of identity, so you'll see this information repeated in an academic context soon enough.

It isn’t a non-sequiter. The whole point of our discussion is about composition. If the law of identity is irrelevant to simplicity and composition, then we can ignore it, and focus upon what is relevant to simplicity and composition. In fact, the digression about the law of identity was the non-sequiter!

First, because you're describing a logical and metaphysical impossibility. Certain essences necessarily entail certain attributes. Oderberg talks about this (not in respect to virtual properties, but to powers and properties generally) in Real Essentialism.

But it is only a logical impossibility, because you have already defined X as having attributes A, B and C, for example. If X must have attributes A, B and C, then it is impossible for something to be an X if it only has attributes A and B. It would lead to the contradictory conclusion that X has attribute C and does not have attribute C. Thus, it must be something else, i.e. X*. The same applies to God. God being God necessarily implies a variety of attributes, and thus to be God is to have those attributes. If something lacks any of those attributes, then that something cannot be God.

dguller said...

Second, because, if God is determined by his virtualities, then we are left with bundle theory, circularity or an infinite number of brute facts.

Perhaps it would help if we could at least agree upon the following statement:

(1) If x is X, then x must have attributes A, B, C, and so on

(1) supports your idea that the attributes flow from the nature of X, and not in the reverse direction.

I would further endorse the following statement:

(2) X is composite iff (a) for X to be X, X must have A, B and C, and (b) A, B, and C are different from one another

Notice that (2) assumes that the attributes A, B and C flow from the nature of X, as per your account. It also assumes that you cannot possibly have X without also having X’s attributes. When it comes to God, (2) protects his divine simplicity, because although God has a number of attributes, such as goodness, intellect, will, and power, which would meet (a), condition (b) is not met, because goodness = intellect = will = power in God.

Say that you have God with the virtual forms within his intellect. Does that meet (a) and (b)? It meets (a), because God could not possibly be God without having all virtual forms within his intellect, and thus for God to be God, God must have the virtual forms within his intellect. It meets (b), because each virtual form within his intellect is distinct from each other. Unless you have some alternative account of composition, it would follow that God is composite, because this argument presupposes your own account of the primacy of A over A’s attributes.

Third, because virtual composition is not real composition. There is a difference between saying that a dog's identity virtually contains four legs and saying that a dog really has four legs. There is a difference between saying that God virtually contains all forms and that he is really composed by those forms.

Those are great examples. Can you extract an account of “real” versus “virtual” that can let us know how to distinguish one from the other?

I understand what "virtual" means a lot better than I do "real", at this point.

That’s a bit of a problem, no? I mean, virtual is supposed to be the mean between real and logical. If you don’t understand “real”, then you cannot understand “virtual”. Their definitions mutually refer to one another.

Because a virtuality is merely something that may logically be found in an otherwise holistic identity.

First, you would then be talking about logicality and not virtuality.

Second, you could say the same thing about form and matter within a material entity. A material entity is a “holistic identity”, and yet it is composite, because within that “holistic identity” there is form and matter. According to your account, I could say that a material entity is simple, because its form and matter are just “logically” to be found within it, and cannot really exist apart and still have the material entity. So, you account seems to ultimately obliterate composition entirely.

dguller said...

Tony:

If you disagree with my definition of “composition”, then propose another one.

(1) X is composite iff … ?

rank sophist said...

dguller, why have you forgotten everything we talked about last time? Your understanding of the virtual distinction has regressed almost to where it was when we started arguing about it over a month ago.

In any case, I know enough about virtualities at this point to know that you're completely wrong. I have no interest in going over all of this with you again. I had hoped that you finally understood the virtual distinction, but, clearly, my hopes were misplaced. I will point out one thing, though.

It isn’t a non-sequiter. The whole point of our discussion is about composition. If the law of identity is irrelevant to simplicity and composition, then we can ignore it, and focus upon what is relevant to simplicity and composition. In fact, the digression about the law of identity was the non-sequiter!

Virtualities exist inside of identities and actualities. That's the entire point: they're prior to any other attribute, held within the simple identity itself. So, no; bringing up the law of identity was not a red herring.

dguller said...


Rank:

Virtualities exist inside of identities and actualities. That's the entire point: they're prior to any other attribute, held within the simple identity itself. So, no; bringing up the law of identity was not a red herring.

That’s great. Now, how do we determine whether X – being X = X – is simple or composite? What is the definition of “part” that is operative in “composition” such that if X – being X = X – having more than one “part” necessarily must be a composite being. That is what I am interested in. Just focusing upon the law of identity seems to imply that everything is simple and there is no composition anywhere, which is surely untrue. So, there must be something other than that law of identity that helps us understand whether something is simple or composite.

It is my understanding that God must be absolutely simple, which means that God cannot have any composition whatsoever. Since virtual composition is a kind of composition, God cannot be absolutely simple. The only other kind of simplicity is relative simplicity, which means that God cannot have some kinds of composition, but that he can have other kinds of composition. If that is true, then God must be partially simple (i.e. he has no real parts) and partially composite (i.e. he has virtual parts), which means that God is composed of a simple part and a compound part.

Would you agree with this?

Furthermore, do you disagree that to say that A is a part of X just means that X could not be X without A? I’ll even grant you that X is primary and A is secondary. The bottom line is that if x is X, then x must have A, and if x lacks A, then x is not X. That is what your position logically implies. From that I would argue that:

(1) A, B, C are parts of X iff (a) if x lacks A or B or C, then x is not X, and (b) A, B and C are different

(1) is perfectly consistent with your position, at least insofar as I understand it. If you can accept (1) as valid, then virtual properties would count as “parts” and thus anything with virtual properties would be a composite entity.

I suppose that you could reject (1), especially (b), and replace (b) with (b*)

(b*) A, B and C are really different

But then you need an account of what is means for A to be really distinct from B. I argued that for A to be really distinct from B, it would have to be possible for A to exist without B. You rejected that idea, and I’m very curious to see what you will replace it with.

dguller said...

Rank:

Oh, and one more thing. Your argument regarding virtuality keeps mentioning arguments in Oderberg's book as justifying your position. I'm open to your position, but remain agnostic until I've read that book and assessed the arguments myself. So, no need to get frustrated. I'll get around to reading it, and will better appreciate your position, maybe even to the point of embracing it myself.

dguller said...

Oh, and I should really work on my presentation for this Friday. Post your response, and I'll get around to commenting on it next weekend.

Take care.

rank sophist said...

Just focusing upon the law of identity seems to imply that everything is simple and there is no composition anywhere, which is surely untrue. So, there must be something other than that law of identity that helps us understand whether something is simple or composite.

There is. The distinctions between essence and existence, form and matter, species and genus and so on all tell us whether or not the thing is composite. But God is all that he is: there is nothing about him other than his own identity.

So, no need to get frustrated. I'll get around to reading it, and will better appreciate your position, maybe even to the point of embracing it myself.

Sounds good.

Oh, and I should really work on my presentation for this Friday. Post your response, and I'll get around to commenting on it next weekend.

I still don't really want to argue about the virtual distinction anymore. I've got work to do, myself; and that other argument about the Beatific Vision fills up a lot of time already.

Glenn said...

Composition -- a plan B to be implemented after an object of apprehension has been run through a shredder; more specifically, the act or process of assembling into a whole parts previously created by humans via the exercise of their faculties of intellectual discrimination.

Tony said...

Glenn, that's "composition" in the intelligible, or rational, or theoretical, or notional sense. The composite perspective is present in our minds, not in the thing itself.

Composition in the thing itself does not have to be present where there is notional composition. For example, in geometry you can have a point A that is constructed as the intersection of 2 specific lines. You "know it" under that notion, the location in which line b and line c meet. Then you do more construction involving many more lines, and designate the intersection of line l and line m as point B. So B is known under the notion of the location of intersection of l and m. But then you PROVE that A is the same point as B. Geometrically, a point has no part and cannot be "composed" really. All it has is location without any size. SO A=B and is simple. But our knowledge of the point presented under the aspect of 2 different notions: the point is complex notionally, but not really.

And this is part of what dguller is missing. We understand justice under a different notion than mercy. But in God His justice is not really distinct from His mercy, they are notionally (to us) distinct but really one. There is no reason to posit dguller's ", A, B, C, D as being really distinct.

grodrigues said...

@Tony:

Are you referring to the distinction made by Scholastics (I am thinking of Suarez, but it most probably precedes him) between a real distinction and a distinction of reason?

Glenn said...

Tony,

Glenn, ...The composite perspective is present in our minds, not in the thing itself.

Yes, indeed! The definition offered was a kind of 'daffynition' meant to paint a picture of this very point.

It is a sore point with me that I'm unable to better express myself, so I very much enjoy and appreciate your comments and explanations.

Anonymous said...

The imagination and the intellect are not totally separate. That's one of the problems for your static dead god, after all. Knowing everything means no imagination and hence no intellect.

Tony said...

G-rod: yes.

kuartus said...

I have to admit that this whole concept of divine simplicity makes little sense to me. Apparently thomists think that unless God is pure actuality and divinely simple, then he cant be God. I disagree. The only requirements to being God are, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternality, perfect goodness and divine aseity. Divine simplicity isnt on the list.

Mr. Green said...

Dguller: However, I cannot understand why virtual composition does not compromise God’s metaphysical simplicity, other than by an ad hoc fiat

God can have "virtual composition" and not have composition the same way God can have a fake diamond but not have any diamonds. To be virtually X is to have the "virtue", or power, of X, but not to be X — only to have X-ish effects. So a hologram is flat, but has the (visual) effect of a 3-D object. Virtual reality is not actually real, but has same effect (visibly, audibly, etc.) as reality. We no longer think of the sun as not being actually hot as the mediaevals did, but perhaps a microwave oven is a close enough stand-in: unlike an oven that heats things by itself being hot (i.e. formally possessing hotness), a microwave contains the form of heat only virtually: it can cause heat in other things, but is not actually hot. (Which is different from being potentially hot — you can of course melt a microwave oven, but that has nothing to do with its capacity to heat food.)

And premises virtually contain their conclusions because whatever effect you can get from the conclusions (to demonstrate something) can be demonstrated from the premises. The premises can virtually contain many different conclusions, but not because they are hidden inside, as though you could crack open the premises and pull out the different conclusions. (As opposed to a Swiss army knife, which has the power of many different knives because they are contained actually inside the single shell.) Thus God can virtually "contain" many forms insofar as He has the power to effect anything those forms could if you really did have a big composite ball of forms.

Mr. Green said...

Kuartus: The only requirements to being God are, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternality, perfect goodness and divine aseity. Divine simplicity isnt on the list.

If God truly is simple, then I guess it's a requirement! "A" god of course need not be omni-whatever. "The" God, the Supreme Being, must be whatever is at the top of the list, and utter simplicity, so the argument goes, puts you at the top: any non-simple being has to be less than supreme, even if it somehow managed to be otherwise omnipotent, omniscient, etc. Note that God introduced Himself as "I am Who am", not "I am Who can" or "I am Who know".

Glenn said...

Ian,

Two follow-ups on Michael's I guess language changes quite a bit in 800 years or so... (October 18, 2012 8:17 AM above):

1. From IRS Topic 308 - Amended Returns:

If you discover an error after your return has been mailed, you may need to amend your return... Use Form 1040X... Form 1040X must be filed within 3 years from the date of your original return or within 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

Though not explicitly stated, when a tax return is amended, it is not the tax laws current when the amendment is made which apply, but the tax laws in effect for the period in question. So, if in 2012 a return for tax year 2007 is amended (the tax due may not have been paid in full until, say, 2011) then it is the 2007 tax laws which apply, and not the tax laws of 2012--even though the amendment is taking place in 2012.

Metaphorical point: it isn't the term's meaning at the time an earlier reasoning involving that term is sought to be understood which applies, but the term's meaning in effect when the reasoning was constructed.

2. Payment errors occasional occur when banks transfer funds amongst themselves, and there are rules in effect which govern how financial restitution is to be made when these payment errors occur (see Clearing House Interbank Payments System: Rules On Interbank Compensation).

An anecdote:

In one case, the bank I was working for at the time was claiming compensation from another institution. The case was open for more than a year before a check arrived. Although the check was for less than the claim amount, that didn't seem to matter; higher-ups wanted the case closed ("The matter has dragged on long enough; we have a check, close the case."). While the person handling the case set about closing it, I made a phone call.

"I'm calling to let you know that we have received your check. Thank you very much. We're happy that the matter is now resolved. The amount of the check is less than the amount of the claim, however, and I'm wondering what the reason for that might be. It would be helpful to know, so a note could be made in the file." An explanation was offered, I said thank you, and hung up the phone. I then sent a letter to the interbank compensation representative at the other institution, and a few days later we received another check making up the difference.

What happened?

The rules governing how financial restitution is to be made were changed about a month before the check was sent,; the other institution used the new rules, reasoned its way to a smaller amount, and paid that. It was a nice try, but the new rules weren't retroactive--it was the earlier rules, the ones in effect at the time of the claim's initiation, which applied.

Metaphorical point: the current meaning of a term is not retroactively applicable to prior arguments using that term--it is the earlier meaning, the one in effect at the time the argument was made, which applies.

BenYachov said...

>Dguller: However, I cannot understand why virtual composition does not compromise God’s metaphysical simplicity, other than by an ad hoc fiat?

If I may Zen the question.

"Why isn't God's omnipotence compromised because of his inability to make 2+2=5 or make a Rock So Heavy even He can't lift it etc..?"

When we are talking about God's simplicity we are talking about His Nature & or His Substance & that brute fact He contains in His nature no potency that becomes actual.

But because God is Pure Act He can outside His nature cause there to be beings from nothing with individual essences distinct from their existence and He can actualize any potency he gives their essence or threw Providence allow other thing to do so.

I don't see the need to decree "God is Pure Act" in such absolute terms.