Friday, April 18, 2014

God’s wounds


The God of classical theism -- of Athanasius and Augustine, Avicenna and Maimonides, Anselm and Aquinas -- is (among other things) pure actuality, subsistent being itself, absolutely simple, immutable, and eternal.  Critics of classical theism sometimes allege that such a conception of God makes of him something sub-personal and is otherwise incompatible with the Christian conception.  As I have argued many times (e.g. here, here, here, and here) nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, to deny divine simplicity or the other attributes distinctive of the classical theist conception of God is implicitly to make of God a creature rather than the creator.  For it makes of him a mere instance of a kind, even if a unique instance.  It makes of him something which could in principle have had a cause of his own, in which case he cannot be the ultimate explanation of things.  It is, accordingly, implicitly to deny the core of theism itself.  As David Bentley Hart writes in The Experience of God (in a passage I had occasion to quote recently), it amounts to a kind of “mono-poly-theism,” or indeed to atheism.

But it is not only generic theism to which the critics of classical theism fail to do justice.  It is Christian theism specifically to which they fail to do justice.  One way in which this is the case is (as I have noted before, e.g. here) that it is classical theism rather than its contemporary rival “theistic personalism” that best comports with the doctrine of the Trinity.  But to reject classical theism also implicitly trivializes the Incarnation, and with it Christ’s Passion and Death.

Theistic personalists are, as I have said, explicitly or implicitly committed to regarding God as an instance of a kind.  Their core thesis, to the effect that God is “a person without a body” (Swinburne) or that “there is such a person as God” (Plantinga), seems to give us something like the following picture: There’s the genus person and under it the two species embodied persons and disembodied personsDisembodied persons is, in turn, a genus relative to the species disembodied souls, angelic persons, and divine persons.  And it’s in the latter class, it seems, that you’ll find God.  Perhaps he is for the theistic personalist a unique instance of this kind, though how this relates to the doctrine of the Trinity is not clear.  (Is God, for the Christian theistic personalist, three persons in one person?  Presumably not.  What, then?  Are there actually three instances, though only three, of the species divine persons?  No wonder Swinburne’s position on the Trinity seems to amount to a kind of polytheism.  Some thoughts on Plantinga and the Trinity from Dale Tuggy here -- be sure to read the comment by Dale in the combox.) 

For the theistic personalist, then, the biblical assertion that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” seems to amount to something like “a certain instance of a species within the genus disembodied persons acquired a body.”  Now, when you think about it, that’s essentially the plot of Ghostbusters II.  Not as bad as the critics took it to be, I suppose, but hardly the Greatest Story Ever Told.   And it doesn’t get much better if you add that the “person without a body” in this case “exemplifies” “great-making properties” like omnipotence, omniscience, etc.  What you’ve got then is at most something like a sequel that ups the ante, the Incarnation as a movie pitch:

Fade in: We meet God, a divine person who’s at the top of the game.  Think Olivier in Clash of the Titans, but invisible and with something even cooler than the Kraken: we call it ‘maximal greatness.’  I think we can get Anthony Hopkins, though maybe he’ll worry about typecasting after the Thor movies.  Anyway, God’s an Intelligent Designer too, like Downey, Jr. in Iron Man but with angels.  We’ll show him making bacterial flagella and stuff -- CGI’s pretty good now, so it’ll look realistic.  Now, here’s the twist: He takes on a human body and comes to earth!  It’s The Ten Commandments meets Brother from Another Planet.  We gotta go for 3D on this…

Well, we’ve seen that movie a hundred times.  Horus was incarnate in the Pharaohs, Zeus changed into a swan, the Marvel Comics version of Thor took on the human guise of Donald Blake, and so on.  If God were, as theistic personalism claims, “a person” and “a being” alongside all the other persons and beings that populate the world, then he would differ only in degree from these other gods.  His Incarnation would be more impressive than theirs only in something like the way having the president of the United States show up at your costume party would be more impressive than having a local city alderman show up. 

Now for the classical theist, God is not “a being” -- not because he lacks being but on the contrary because he is Being Itself rather than something which merely “has” or “possesses” being (in “every possible world” or otherwise).  Nor is he “a person” -- not because he is impersonal but on the contrary because he is Intellect Itself rather than something which merely “exemplifies” “properties” like intellect and will.  (As I have put it before, the problem with the sentence “God is a person” is not the word “person” but the word “a.”)  Describing God as “a being” or “a person” trivializes the notion of God, and it thereby trivializes too the notion of God Incarnate. 

For the classical theist, what the doctrine of God Incarnate entails is that that which is subsistent being itself, pure actuality, and absolutely simple or non-composite, that in which all things participate but which itself participates in nothing, that which thereby sustains all things in being -- that that “became flesh and dwelt among us.”  That is a truly astounding claim, so astounding that its critics often accuse it of incoherence.  The accusation is false, but those who make it at least show that they understand just how extremely strange and remarkable the claim is -- and how radically unlike the “incarnations” of the various pagan deities it is.  You can plausibly assimilate the incarnation of the “God” of theistic personalism to those of Horus, Zeus, et al.  You cannot so assimilate the Incarnation of the God of classical theism.  It is sui generis.

For this reason it is superficial in the extreme to think that the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection bears any interesting relationship to the various dying-and-rising deities of pagan mythology.  The story of Christ is as different from theirs as classical theism is from belief in one of the various pagan pantheons.  Hence, to think that calling attention to these myths is an embarrassment to Christianity is as frivolous and point-missing as the “one god further” objection to theism in general is. 

Thus do we see yet again how crucial classical theism is to a sound Christian apologetics.  But its significance is no less crucial for Christian spirituality.  The “God” of theistic personalism was already “one of us” -- an instance of our genus if not of our species -- before he took on flesh.  The God of classical theism most definitely was not.  Indeed, unlike the “God” of theistic personalism, the God of classical theism, the only God worthy of the name, is immeasurably different from any creature -- “Wholly Other,” in the apt phrase popularized by Rudolf OttoAnd yet he became one of us anyway.  It is because of this -- because Christ is so radically unlike us in his divine nature, so “Wholly Other” -- that his having become so much like us in his human nature is so incomparably profound and moving.  We will not understand the Incarnation, and we will not understand the divine love for human beings that it evinces, if we conceive of that divine nature in anthropomorphic terms.  Is God’s love for us like the self-sacrificing love of a father for his children or the love between brethren or friends?  Indeed it is -- except insofar as it is incomparably greater, incomparably more self-sacrificial, than those merely human sorts of love.

Nor does even the thought of God’s having become man -- mind-boggling enough as that thought is when properly understood -- entirely capture the depths of that love.  For the second Person of the Trinity did not take on the body of an Adonis, or of an emperor.  He was a carpenter in a backwater province of the empire, having “no form nor comeliness… no beauty that we should desire him,” who suffered and died as other human beings suffer and die.  He not only lived as a man, but lived as most men have to live, with all their weaknesses and defects, albeit without sin.  As Aquinas writes, he did so in part precisely to make it evident that he really was God become man:

It was fitting for the body assumed by the Son of God to be subject to human infirmities and defects…  in order to cause belief in Incarnation.  For since human nature is known to men only as it is subject to these defects, if the Son of God had assumed human nature without these defects, He would not have seemed to be true man, nor to have true, but imaginary, flesh, as the Manicheans held.  And so, as is said, Philippians 2:7: "He… emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man." Hence, Thomas, by the sight of His wounds, was recalled to the faith… (Summa theologiae III.14.1)

In his book Our Idea of God, Thomas Morris notes how, according to some philosophical theists, God is too grand even to know about the humbler parts of reality:

There is one ancient view according to which it would seem beneath the dignity of a perfect being to even bother to attend to certain details in the world.  On this conception, it would be inappropriate for a being of God’s exalted status to acquaint himself intimately with dirt, hair, mud and filth, to cite only a few standard examples…  [T]he fastidious deity of Plato’s Timaeus… must have lesser gods interposed between himself and the squalor of this world as buffers to guard his eminence from any taint of cognitive pollution. (pp. 85-86)

Now classical theism, when worked out consistently, in fact should lead us to reject such a view.  For classical theism entails that nothing -- most certainly including dirt, hair, mud and filth -- could continue in being even for an instant if God were not sustaining it.  He can hardly be said not to know about these things, then.  But the doctrine of the Incarnation goes far beyond that.  It asserts that God not only knows about “dirt, hair, mud and filth,” but out of love for us took on human flesh -- with its hair, and with its susceptibility to getting dirty, muddy, filthy. 

Nor does even that entirely capture the depths of his love.  For Christ did not take on human flesh only to get rid of it as soon as he could; nor did he even restore that flesh to perfect integrity as soon as he could.  He retains the flesh with its wounds perpetually.  As Aquinas writes (quoting Bede), among the reasons for this are:

"that He may convince those redeemed in His blood, how mercifully they have been helped, as He exposes before them the traces of the same death" (Bede, on Luke 24:40). (Summa theologiae III.54.4)

He who is Being Itself, pure actuality, and divine simplicity -- has, now as on the Cross, holes in his hands, holes in his feet, a gash in his side.  With these wounds, Christ says to us: I am one of you, now and always.  They are a valentine to the human race, given to us on Good Friday, on Easter, and forever.

For some other posts related to the Easter Triduum, see:



92 comments:

DS Thorne said...

My difficulty is squaring the incarnation with Thomas' analysis of purification in De Ente et Essentia:

"For, there can be no plurification of something except by the addition of some difference, as the nature of a genus is multiplied in its species; or as, since the form is received in diverse matters, the nature of the species is multiplied in diverse individuals; or again as when one thing is absolute and another is received in something else, as if there were a certain separate heat that was other than unseparated heat by reason of its own separation."

If one thing remains absolute (in this passage, God) it must be different from the thing that is received into matter.

So how can God remain both absolute and be received into matter -- and moreover, how can that which is received into matter, Jesus, remain absolutely simple while exhibiting all the compositions of man: potency and act, form and matter, essence and existence?

Or do I have to content myself with 'mystery' in this matter?

~DS Thorne, kindlefrenzy.weebly.com

Edward Feser said...

Hello DS,

What being "received into matter" amounts to in the passage in question is the instantiation, in a material particular, of a universal, as when the universal tree is instantiated in this particular tree, that particular tree, a third tree, etc. the Incarnation has nothing to do with that; it is not a case of divinity being "received into matter," as if Jesus were a particular instance of the universal divinity. So, you're comparing apples and oranges.

Re: simplicity, etc., it is wrong to say, with no qualification, that Christ is "absolutely simple while exhibiting all the compositions of man" etc. Rather, Christ is absolutely simple, pure act, etc. in his divine nature, but not in his human nature.

Daniel said...

May I make what on the face of it would seem an irrelevant aside? One of the greatest shifts in man’s growing theological awareness, a shift that is rarely discussed, perhaps because many commentators are either too eager to stress the ‘exceptional’ status of Christianity or to paint the pre-Socratic philosophers who undertook it as proto-physicists, was the realisation of God being a necessary being, one that didn’t just happen to exist but that had to exist. To illustrate Athena could possibly not have sprung from the head of Zeus, there would have been no contradiction in the world not having been this way, but for the Form of the Good/the Will beneath all strife/the Being that is Actus Pura not to exist would be ultimately incoherent. Plato is conscious of this distinction between God and the gods when in the Timaeus he has the Demiurge tell the earthly gods that they could theoretically not have been but that they have their being from it for all eternity.

The reason I say this is that if a ‘maximally great being’ is a necessary being then it cannot just be a person in the sense that some theist personalists imply it to be (partly because of this I find Plantinga and William Lane Craig’s talk of God in a theological sense incongruous with this type of statement). Despite all the emphasis on logical necessity in analytical philosophy of religion the theist personalist concept of God seems to point inevitably towards an impoverished Intelligent Designer, an outcome which does not sit well with the implicitly classical theist elements they’ve accepted in their endorsement of the necessary being side of things.

Anyway, thanks for the post and a profound and meditative Easter to you all.

Tom said...

With respect to the Passion: Was the Crucifixion strictly necessary? If it was, it seems that Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, the mob, and so on had no real choice in their actions, and thus cannot be condemned. All the same, Jesus acknowledges multiple times throughout the Passion narratives that they have sinned. The only solution that appears to me is that Jesus, as a result of original sin, had to be incarnated to give the fullness of the gospel and, knowing that they would kill him, chose to use the Crucifixion as the means of atoning for the sins of all. I'm not sure how orthodox this is, and I'm also not sure what the atonement for sins would look like without the Crucifixion, but that's difficult to answer in the first place, as we'd have to find a world (do original sin and the death of Jesus work by planet, by solar system, by galaxy, by universe, or what?) where Jesus was incarnated, but where he wasn't killed by those with whom he lived. This is a very high bar to clear at any rate, and not a question we are currently equipped to answer for a myriad of reasons.

Drew said...

Your dispute seems to be heavily semantic. Remember that theistic personalists like Plantinga (along with the rest of the non-Scholastics) reject the Aristotelian categories. Genus and species are biological terms and nothing more. It's gibberish to talk about things "participating in being" or for universals to exist as actual objects.

Properties like simplicity have major problems for things like omniscience. If God's knowledge of what is the case does not vary from possible world to possible world, then the state of affairs does not vary either. Spinoza was the one man who understood the true implications of divine simplicity.

So how do Scholastics get out of the problem? Philosophical nonsense about "analogical" descriptions of God. But if all you mean by your descriptions of God is that they apply anologically, then Plantinga and Swinburne could happily affirm them.

Anonymous said...

"Genus and species are biological terms and nothing more."

I'd like some clarification here from Thomists. Are these indeed biological terms? Or are they metaphysical terms like actuality and potency?

Drew said...

I'm not claiming that Aristotle thought of genus and species as purely biological. According to Aristotle, it is the species that has an essence, and the genus is the kind under which the species falls. The differentia tells what characterizes the species within that genus.

Edward Feser said...

Genus and species are biological terms and nothing more.

That will be news to anyone who has taken a logic class, or to anyone else who actually knows something about the history of the terms. "Genus" and "species" are used in logic and metaphysics in a sense -- the older, original sense -- that is broader than the narrow use now current in biology. Nothing wrong with the newer usage, of course, but it's just different from the older one.

I should have thought it obvious that it was the older, broader sense in which I was using the terms, but as I should have known from bitter experience, there is nothing I write that cannot be misunderstood by an uncharitable reader. This is why my posts are often so long -- the less space I devote to explaining terminology or concepts that will not be familiar to new readers, the more likely they will misunderstand it. On the other hand, the more space I devote to doing so, the more people will complain that a post is too long. I can't win.

Anyway, if you're not even familiar with something as simple and widely known outside of Scholastic circles as the broader senses of the terms "genus" and "species," you really ought to think twice before throwing around charges about "gibberish," "nonsense," etc. The right to make such judgments is reserved for people who know what the hell they're talking about.

rank sophist said...

Really great. Beautiful, honestly.

Georgy Mancz said...

@Edward Feser

Thank you for a wonderful post, Professor!

Sorry if that comment will look a bit silly (yeah, I'm a kind of fan), but I'd like to use this opportunity (comments are not that many yet) to thank you for this blog, the books you've written and the lectures you've given. I can't imagine any other way I would've been able to familiarise myself with the thought of Aristotle and St. Thomas, that study being enormously important to my recent conversion to the Catholic faith after long years of struggling with the various issues.

May the Lord bless you and your family!

Brandon said...

If anyone's interested in the actual history of 'genus' and 'species', and how the biological meanings split off from the logical and metaphysical meanings, and the occasional confusion that this causes, John Wilkins has a very good book, Species: A History of the Idea. (He is not any sort of Aristotelian on the issue; it's just a very good work.)

Andy said...

Dr Feser:

Posting this on Good Friday is truly a gift to those of us who don't hear enough of the beauty of classical theism during homilies on this day. I presume that a great number of priests lack your insights here, so thank you for sharing your thoughts to help us conceptualize and admit the profundity of the Passion.

Thanks also for being an unceasing intellectual voice in the Catholic community.

Drew said...

My previous post made it clear that I do know what Aristotle meant by genus and species. Learn to read more closely before throwing around charges of not understanding the topic. I have read everything that Plato and Aristotle have ever written, and am very familiar with their subjects. The charge that theistic personalists like myself would make against A-T metaphysics is that Aristotle simply did not cut reality at its proper joints. And in some cases, his categories are simply incoherent.

And if you are trying to convince others to change their minds, acting snarky toward them is not a good way to go about it.

Brandon said...

My previous post made it clear that I do know what Aristotle meant by genus and species.

Actually, your previous post didn't make anything clear; it's so vague and elementary a characterization, particularly as a response to Anonymous's question, which really requires a more sophisticated answer, that it doesn't convey much of anything about what you know or don't on the subject.

And if you are trying to convince others to change their minds, acting snarky toward them is not a good way to go about it.

The adjectives 'heavily semantic,' 'gibberish', and 'philosophical nonsense' from your previous post, which you don't back up but merely state, don't really give you the high ground in this respect. It's also, it should perhaps be said, a bit presumptuous to think that anyone cares about convincing you to change your mind; you're just a guy who happened to show up with some insults, and nobody knows anything about you except what you've written in a few brief comments. There might well be other concerns on the table than how to convince you.

Brandon said...

Since this is the only actual argument you've raised:

Properties like simplicity have major problems for things like omniscience. If God's knowledge of what is the case does not vary from possible world to possible world, then the state of affairs does not vary either.

Why would one conclude that 'God is not composite' implies 'God's knowledge of what is the case does not vary from possible world to possible world'?

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

I think Drew raises a substantial objection. His objection can be put as the following aporetic quartet:

(A) God is simple.
(B) God knows some contingent true proposition p.
(C) Necessarily, God's knowing some true proposition p implies some entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p.
(D) God exists necessarily.

(A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent. Take any contingent true proposition p. Given (B) and (C), it follows that there is an entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p. But since there are worlds where God doesn't know p, there are worlds where that intrinsic entity doesn't exist, and so, God's knowing p implies that something contingent entity intrinsic to God.

But since no contingent entity can be identical to a necessary entity, it follows that there is a distinction between God and the contingent entity intrinsic to God that is implied by his knowing p. And so (A) is false.

It seems the classical theist's only move is to reject (C). He will have to construct extrinsic models of knowing, in order to escape Drew's objection

Brandon said...

Mikhail,

Since Drew hasn't actually said much about his objection, it seems more prudent to distinguish it out as a possible objection that might be made, but there other problems besides (C) -- which would indeed be rejected by most classical theists, but notably is also not something most theological personalists are committed to, either -- for instance, your substitution of 'identity' for simplicity. Simplicity is merely noncomposition; the word 'identity' is sometimes used, yes, but that's because 'identitas' is the Latin word for 'sameness' (and can cover any kind of sameness), and has been the traditional way of stating it for ages, not because it has all the implications of identity in the modern sense. And this is quite obvious, since most classical theists don't deny that there can be some kind of distinction in God; a significant portion of them were Trinitarians, for instance.

Moreover, it seems somewhat otiose to consider it as a hypothetical question, since classical theists have been around for a very long time and considered all sorts of aspects of their view; one doesn't need to talk about what a classical theist would do, one only has to look to see what classical theists have actually done, and see if and how the problem arises in that context.

Greg said...

Mikhail,

As Brandon points out, classical theists have already made arguments for the consistency of God's simplicity and knowledge of contingent propositions. They don't make use of something like (C), which already assumes that God is not simple (I'm not sure what a "contingent intrinsic entity" would be other than a proper part). Consequently, the argument puts little strain on classical theists.

JP said...

"I have read everything that Plato and Aristotle have ever written, and am very familiar with their subjects."

@ Drew

Sorry, this is nit-picking and a side-track, but I can't help myself. There has never existed any person who has read everything Plato and Aristotle ever wrote.
There has only ever been one person who's read everything Plato wrote, namely: Plato. Ditto for the younger chap Aristotle. But both? That would be, practically speaking, impossible ;)

Drew said...

Why would one conclude that 'God is not composite' implies 'God's knowledge of what is the case does not vary from possible world to possible world'?

Because of how Aristotle and the Scholastics saw simplicity. Simplicity to them was not merely one object that was not composed of other objects. A truly simple object to them had no distinct properties. This is strange since it seems that God has properties such as "ability to speak in human language" but we have to remember that the vocabulary used by Scholastics is so different from that used by modern philosophy that we often talk past one another.

Again, we tend to think of properties of x as "something you can say of x" but Aquinas certainly would not agree with that!

I had a conversation with a Thomist once about compatibilism. About halfway through the conversation, we both realized that we did not hold to the same definition of the word. Once we clarified our terms, we realized that we actually agreed on the issue, and our dispute was purely of semantics.

Of course Scholastics have given arguments for harmonizing divine omniscience with contingent propositions, and I think that Spinoza & co. have handled them quite well. Generally, such arguments amount to a denial that one can speak univocally about God, stating either that one can only speak about God in the negative (Maimonedes) or can only speak analogically with no univocal element (Aquinas). Both seem incoherent, and seem to stem from the empiricist dogma that one cannot have a God's eye view of reality. If an empiricist cannot have such a view, that is just another reason to deny empiricism.

But let's not pretend that A-T theism is the original view and that theistic personalism is some Johnny come lately artifact of modern theology. John Philoponus, Mohammad Al-Ghazali, and Justin Martyr were unquestionably theistic personalists who had great contempt for Aristotelian theism. It is a much better fit with the God described in the Bible, requiring a whole lot less harmonization and hermeneutical waterboarding.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

The problem is that, if we reject (C), it is mysterious how God's knowing can be extrinsic. How can a knowing agent know some contingent p without any corresponding intrinsic entity in him? To say some knowing agent's knowledge is extrinsic to him is in effect to say that his knowledge makes no difference with respect to his cognitive states. It is to say that, regardless of whether such an agent knows p or not, his cognitive states are the same. Is this even intelligible?

Maybe it is, but the burden of proof is on the classical theist to show how such extrinsic knowledge is intelligible.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Drew:

What do you think of the following arguments for divine simplicity?

(1) God's existence doesn't depend on anything non-identical to him.
(2) If X has proper parts, then X's existence depends on those proper parts.
(3) So, if God has proper parts, then God's existence depends on those proper parts.
(4) Proper parts are non-identical to their wholes.
(5) So, God has no proper parts.

(6) God is the cause of everything non-identical to him.
(4) Proper parts are non-identical to their wholes.
(7) So, if God has proper parts, then he is the cause of each of them.
(8) Nothing that has proper parts can be the cause of all its proper parts.
(5) So, God has no proper parts.

(1) is implied by divine aseity.
(2) can be seen this way: let X1 and X2 be X's only proper parts. If X exists, then X1 and X2 exist - this is trivially true. But this is equivalent to - if X1 and X2 don't exist, then X doesn't exist. So X's existence depends on its proper parts.
(4) is true by definition.
(6) is also implied by divine aseity.
(8) is true, since, if it weren't, then something can cause its own existence, which is impossible.

Brandon said...

Because of how Aristotle and the Scholastics saw simplicity. Simplicity to them was not merely one object that was not composed of other objects. A truly simple object to them had no distinct properties.

This is false, and there's your problem. Simplicity is in fact simply noncomposition -- that's all the word means, and the standard way in which divine simplicity is argued for is by eliminating possible kinds of composition. And every major scholastic I know of who discusses the issue identifies ways in which we can legitimately identify some kind of distinction of properties in God -- practically the entire scholastic apparatus of rational distinctions on the part of reason, rational distinctions grounded in the thing, modal distinctions, the various kinds of real distinctions, and so forth was developed in such contexts.

Generally, such arguments amount to a denial that one can speak univocally about God, stating either that one can only speak about God in the negative (Maimonedes) or can only speak analogically with no univocal element (Aquinas).

Maimonides does not claim that we can only speak about God in the negative; the entire Guide for the Perplexed is filled with non-negative ways of talking about God. When he talks about negative attributes he is using it in a technical epistemological sense. And there are no such things as "univocal elements" in Aquinas's account of naming; whether something is a univocal, equivocal, or analogical way a whole predicate is predicated of something.

Brandon said...

Mikhail,

how can a knowing agent know some contingent p without any corresponding intrinsic entity in him?

What 'corresponding intrinsic entity' exists in us when we know the contingent proposition that we exist? What 'contingent part', precisely, do I gain when I know I am typing right now?

To say some knowing agent's knowledge is extrinsic to him is in effect to say that his knowledge makes no difference with respect to his cognitive states.

But only you've said that the knowledge would be extrinsic, and what counts as a difference with respect to a cognitive state has not yet been established at all.

It's a little early to talk about 'burdens of proof' when you haven't even established that, or how, or why the principle in question applies to any case, much less God's. And, again, we are not talking about some hypothetical position, but a family of positions that has existed, and been developed, for a very long time; the real question is, how does this arise within the context of what classical theists actually say?

Brandon said...

And there are no such things as "univocal elements" in Aquinas's account of naming; whether something is a univocal, equivocal, or analogical way a whole predicate is predicated of something.

Sorry, this should read: And there are no such things as "univocal elements" in Aquinas's account of naming; whether something is univocal, equivocal, or analogical has to do with the way a whole predicate is predicated of something.

rank sophist said...

Tom,

With respect to the Passion: Was the Crucifixion strictly necessary? If it was, it seems that Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, the mob, and so on had no real choice in their actions, and thus cannot be condemned.

It was necessary in one sense but not in another. First, it was necessary for the salvation of humanity, which is to say: if it had not happened, then humanity would not be saved. But it was not necessary in the more philosophical sense. It was not infallibly predetermined to happen from eternity.

But, for that to make sense in my opinion, you can't endorse a kind of modal logic about God's creation of the world. God did not choose one of many worlds to "instantiate": he created one world, which is this world. In this world, Jesus was born and killed. Jesus's death was foreseen from eternity, but it was not caused. God played no part in causing Jesus's death--not even in something as simple as instantiating a world in which Jesus dies. He merely allowed Jesus to die.

It's a very complicated issue, though, and it's one that Christians disagree on quite often.

Tom said...

@rank sophist: Thank you for the response, but this still leaves the central conundrum intact. For if Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and so on had acted virtuously and not committed the greatest evil in history, then humanity would not have been saved. Neither option is desirable, on this account, for either we have the greatest crime that we can possibly commit (short of blaspheming the Holy Spirit) or humanity not being saved.

dover_beach said...

"Really great. Beautiful, honestly."

Seconded.

Jeremy Taylor said...

John Philoponus, Mohammad Al-Ghazali, and Justin Martyr were unquestionably theistic personalists who had great contempt for Aristotelian theism.

This is not true. Al-Ghazali was a Sufi mystic and would not have been a personalist and there is nothing in Justin Martyr I have come across to suggest he was not a Classical Theist - he was a Platonist and once tried to be a Pythagorean and he incorporated these perspectives into his Christianity. No Platonist could be a Theistic Personalist.

I do not know enough on Philoponus to definitively comment, but from what I do know of him I would be amazed if he were a personalist.

As far as I know only one Father or even notable Christian thinker has said anything that even minorly contradicts the Classical Theist position - Tertullian - and I wouldn't go so far as to suggest he was a theistic personalist. He is also, in my opinion, one of the least interesting and insightful of the Fathers.

Theistic Personalism robs God of his position of being the ultimate explanation of things (and therefore really being God) and of being the supreme good and supreme quality. It is utter nonsense as a position and has very few historical representatives.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

"you haven't even established that, or how, or why the principle in question applies to any case, much less God's."

That there must be some entity corresponding to knowledge follows from truthmaker principles - there must be some truthmaker for "a knows p". Either this truthmaker is intrinsic to a or not, and very plausibly, it is the former. How can a know p and there be nothing in him that makes that true?

"But only you've said that the knowledge would be extrinsic"

(A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent, and unless you want to reject (A), (B), or (D), you will have to reject (C).

The burden of proof is on the classical theist, because he is forced to reject (C), and because (~C) is prima facie unintelligible.

Of course, classical theism isn't a hypothetical position, but how does that make (~C) intelligible? Maybe some classical theist has shown (~C) to be intelligible. If so, then please explain how he does so.

That's basically all I'm looking for here - a way to make (~C) intelligible. :)

Brandon said...

That there must be some entity corresponding to knowledge follows from truthmaker principles - there must be some truthmaker for "a knows p".

This seems a dubious inference at best. What truthmaker principles require is simply that there be something such that 'a knows p' is true. Trying to leap from this immediately to 'parts' and 'entities', much less that to know contingent truths you must have contingent entities, is dubious at best. We see it in the obvious ambiguity of your next question, "How can a know p and there be nothing in him that makes that true?" Note the vagueness of the description here, as opposed to your prior descriptions; this description tells us nothing about what it might be, nor what conceiving it as 'part' or 'entity' might mean. And it certainly doesn't tell us how it interacts with modalities like contingency.

(A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent

No, again. As I noted before, you are making additional assumptions to get the inconsistency; most obviously, how simplicity is related to identity, which played a key role in your exposition of the inconsistency but which is not actually made necessary by the doctrine of simplicity.

The burden of proof is on the classical theist, because he is forced to reject (C), and because (~C) is prima facie unintelligible.

Again, no. Setting aside the fact that talk about 'burdens of proof' is often a form of rigging the board, you haven't established that, or how, or why the principle creating the 'prima facie unintelligibility' in the case of God applies even in the easy case of human beings. Again: What, precisely, is the intrinsic entity corresponding to knowledge of the contingent fact of one's own existence? What, precisely, is the contingent part gained when one knows that one is doing some practical activity like signing one's name? These are not questions you can ignore if you are actually interested in intelligibility -- intelligibility of this sort is not primarily at the level of the fact that the principle applies, but how it applies, and why it applies. How in the world do you expect to determine whether something is unintelligible in the hard case if you haven't even bothered to determine what's going on in its application to the easy case?

And again, if this is supposed to be a problem for the classical theist, the real question is how it is already handled by classical theists, assuming the problem even arises in the terms by which they approach the question of divine knowledge (which you haven't established).

Brandon said...

I should add that it's not actually clear what work is being done by the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction here; certainly not without specifying what it is that is supposed to be intrinsic or extrinsic, and what it is with respect to which it is intrinsic or extrinsic. And this is particularly the case in that truthmaker principles, simply considered as such, don't actually force us to pick one or the other (the whole point of using truthmaker principles rather than a more robust theory of truth is that they don't force you to commit to much) -- it could be that the truthmaker straddles the border, or that the truthmaker is the joint fact or activity or what have you of something intrinsic and something extrinsic, or any number of things. I would consider the issue of how one brings in contingency to be a more serious issue -- why, for instance, is not 'necessarily omniscient by nature' a truthmaker for 'a knows the truth p' regardless of p's contingency or necessity, or why would one think that knowing a contingent truth requires in every case a contingent truthmaker for 'a knows the truth p' (in other cases it's a modal fallacy, so we'd need a principle allowing us to make the inference in this case -- and we'd need to know the principle in order to make sure that we weren't misapplying when shifting from our case to God's). But the objection puts so much weight on the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction here that it's not something that can just be lightly glossed over.

Anonymous said...

And here comes Zeus/TruthOverFaith to remind us of how - in many, perhaps most cases - modern atheism is best explained as a mental disorder. What sort of people would march into someone's house and shit on the carpet in such a manner?

Btw, doc, some fellow at skepticinc has called you out:

http://www.skepticink.com/atheistintermarried/2014/04/20/edward-fesers-imaginary-knockout-of-new-atheism/

rank sophist said...

Tom,

For if Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and so on had acted virtuously and not committed the greatest evil in history, then humanity would not have been saved. Neither option is desirable, on this account, for either we have the greatest crime that we can possibly commit (short of blaspheming the Holy Spirit) or humanity not being saved.

Actually, I'm fairly certain that killing God is worse than blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

In any case, the problem can be solved without too much trouble. The evil actions of those men were not necessary, but they were foreseen by God and used. As Genesis 50:20 puts it, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." God is known to subvert evil intentions to bring about good results. Judas and the rest tried to impose the economy of death upon Jesus (and, if they hadn't, others inevitably would have), but these actions were used to subvert that economy entirely. It was neither desirable nor necessary that they did what they did, but they did it, and it was transformed.

FZ said...

Anon, I think Greg's comment on that page is a solid response.

FZ said...

Also Anon, don't mention or reply to such troll posts, since your reply may get removed along with the troll post.

Greg said...

Troll posts are just evidence that Feser has managed to bother someone, and for whatever reason rational engagement is not regarded as an option...

The skepticink post is unserious. It does not contain an argument; at one point, the author asserts the truth of scientism. He tries to point out about half a dozen things that Feser has apparently "not considered," all of which Feser has considered in numerous places. I think he just has no background in Feser's writings. He read Feser's exhortation to scholasticism to a Catholic audience and seems to be reacting as though his one-hour talk should contain a full articulation of his arguments for his position and against his opponents.

Kevin said...

For if Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and so on had acted virtuously and not committed the greatest evil in history...Actually, I'm fairly certain that killing God is worse than blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

This sort of sentimentalism that intrudes into thinking has vitiated too much Christian discourse.

Judas did not "kill God", he betrayed Jesus, and bitterly regretted it, to the point of committing suicide in despair. Jesus addressed him as "friend" at the very moment of betrayal, and also gave him the sop at the Last Supper. Christ knew exactly what He was doing. Let God judge Judas, it is none of your business. Certainly he must suffer the inevitable consequences his sin, but leave it at that. God's mercy and magnanimity are not according to your scale. As for the phrase "killing God," to be valid it must be acknowledged as being highly elliptical, to put it mildly.

==================

How can God be absolute and be received into matter?

A good question, which theology tends to bracket, as it cannot be rationalized. Only the Divine Essence is absolute in the fullest sense, as an Eckhart or a Dionysius tries to explain. Inasmuch as Divinity entails a relationship with the cosmic creation, it does so not as pure Essence, for in the face of It nothing else is, but as the ontological aspect of divinity, which is relative in relation to the Essence, but absolute in relation to creation. It is the difference between Gott and Gottheit in Eckhart. It is not a question of two Gods, of course, but of two divine aspects. The Absolute and Infinite on the one hand, and the "Unmoved Mover" Creator on the other, which is Pure Being, while the Essence transcends even this degree of the Real.

The relative absence of this crucial metaphysical distinction is one of the stumbling blocks in theology. It is implied here and there, but not articulated clearly, generally speaking. Also implied is the distinction between the created and uncreated Word, as it is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John. It is the difference between God as ontological Principle and God as the "Spirit of God" which moved over the waters.

Theology cannot articulate these differences because they are very subtle and liable to be misunderstood, and because it is there to safeguard the faith of everyman, and not there a priori to instruct a spiritual elite. Of course, we modern individualists and egalitarians don't believe in such things! We have laptops and iphones!

Tom said...

@rank sophist: The only reason I saw it's worse is because Jesus said that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the one sin that won't be forgiven, while he calls on the Father to forgive his executors. But this is a side point; I understand what you're saying, and it matches up relatively well with my original theory. You are planning on becoming Eastern Orthodox rather than Catholic, so there's still a possibility it's off, but I'll take it for now. The only question question that remains is what would have happened had everyone done what was right. I can imagine Jesus taking the place of someone who was to be executed, or perhaps his natural death would have had some special, indescribable quality to it, but this is all the highest level of speculation, and might not be entirely healthy to engage in. Thank you for your help.

Uriel Lastrilla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

Given (B) and (C), it follows that there is, in God, some entity e which he would not have if he didn't know p. Furthermore, since p is contingent, e is contingent.

Now, no entity which is contingent can be identical to an entity which is necessary. So e is not identical to God. There is a real distinction between e and God. This seems clearly incompatible with (A).

So, (A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent. Before we discuss the other issues that have been raised, we at least need to agree to this point.

Ann Olivier said...

About God "being received into" matter --

God as Creator already *was* (and still is) immanent in all His creatures. The immanence of our own souls in our bodies is a similar sort of presence-within.

So to talk of "being received" is a rather unfortunate choice of words. It even makes God sound rather passive in the whole operation. And even the term "within" is somewhat misleading, implying as it does some sort of spatial presence. (Gotta watch those prepositions.)

Brandon said...

Mikhail, these are the issues that have been raised; the only ones that have been raised that are not linked to anything in your newest comment are those about the extrinsic/intrinsic distinction.

Furthermore, since p is contingent, e is contingent.

As I just said, in many cases this would be an example of a modal fallacy (you can't as a general matter shift a modal operator like this). We would need the specific principle legitimizing it in this particular kind of case; and, in particular, we would need to know how it works in easy cases like ourselves so we can see that, how, and why it extends to harder cases like divine knowledge. Truthmaker principles on their own are not strong enough to underwrite the move; the whole point of using truthmaker principles is that they don't pre-commit you to any particular ontology the way a more robust theory of truth might. Further, that this kind of move is usually a modal fallacy becomes even more obvious with other cases of truthmakers (knowing p where p is necessary doesn't require having necessary parts; knowing p where p is obligatory doesn't require having obligatory parts; knowing p where p is a hypothetical counterfactual doesn't require having hypothetical counterfactual parts; knowing p where p is always true doesn't require having parts that always exist; knowing p where p is true in Belgium doesn't require having parts that exist in Belgium; etc., etc.).

Now, no entity which is contingent can be identical to an entity which is necessary. So e is not identical to God. There is a real distinction between e and God. This seems clearly incompatible with (A).

Again, as I've said at least three times now, simplicity does not require the particular relation to identity you are assuming; simplicity is noncompositeness, which can be considered a kind of sameness, which is why it was described using terms like identitas. But identitas means any kind of sameness (it usually means 'sameness of kind', in fact, although it can be and was extended to other kinds of sameness). Simply to assume that it should be read as what we would call identity, without any qualification, is anachronistic reading. In fact, as most people in history have understood the doctrine of simplicity to be compatible with some kind of distinction, we need to take this into account in any analysis of divine simplicity. On the converse side, real distinctions cannot be conflated with non-identity unless you are using the term in a way it is not used any more; non-identity does not (at any stage in the history of the term and its cognates) automatically imply real distinction (unless you are misusing the latter term to mean only 'really having some kind of distinction', which is not what it means in the context of talking about simplicity).

Brandon said...

I should note, incidentally, lest it be misread this way, that the point about contingency is not merely a problem with (C) itself (although it is that); it is also a problem with using (C) to draw the result in question (i.e., it is a problem with taking this to be a genuinely inconsistent tetrad). (B) and (C) are, again:

(B) God knows some contingent true proposition p.
(C) Necessarily, God's knowing some true proposition p implies some entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p.

In order to get these two to the conclusion that God has a contingent 'intrinsic entity' we would have to take the counterfactual in (C) to carry it. But it doesn't (if true, it would apply to necessary truths as well), and you can't get contingency into the right place unless we're simply making some assumption about how the modal operator from (B) shifts. But this is not generally legitimate, only in particular cases, etc.

Also, the last sentence of my previous comment would read better, and would perhaps be less confusing, if one simply dropped the first part and started it at "non-identity does not...".

Timotheos said...

Off topic, but, unless Amazon is lying, I should be getting Scholastic Metaphysics sometime this week! I'm definitely ready for some heavy meta!

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

"simplicity does not require the particular relation to identity you are assuming"

Feser has written that, according to divine simplicity, "Talking or conceiving of God, God’s essence, God’s existence, God’s power, God’s goodness, and so forth are really all just different ways of talking or conceiving of one and the very same thing. Though we distinguish between them in thought, there is no distinction at all between them in reality."

He has also written that divine simplicity "entails that He does not 'have' existence, or an essence, or His various attributes but rather is identical to His existence, His nature and His attributes..."

In his recent book on divine simplicity, James Dolezal writes: "Identity is the watchword of the strong account of divine simplicity and is crucial to the orthodox articulation of divine absoluteness. Often this identity is expressed in the claim that all that is in God is God."

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on divine simplicity characterizes the doctrine this way: "There is also no real distinction between God as subject of his attributes and his attributes. God is thus in a sense requiring clarification identical to each of his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one."

The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology's article on divine simplicity says the following: "On the standard understanding of this doctrine— as epitomized in the work of philosophers such as Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas—there are no distinctions to be drawn between God and his nature, goodness, power, or wisdom. On the contrary, God is identical with each of these things, along with anything else that can be predicated of him intrinsically."

And: "what traditional formulations of the doctrine require is the following:

(DS) If an intrinsic predication of the form 'God is F' is true, then God’s F-ness exists and is
identical with God."

So, if e is not identical to God, then God is not simple.

Moreover, if p is contingent, then e is contingent, since p doesn't exist in all worlds, and so e doesn't exist in all world (e exists only if p) - no fallacy here.

So it is still the case that (A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent.

Scott said...

@Timotheos:

I'm looking forward to it as well, and Amazon is still showing that it should arrive by the 24th. But it hasn't shipped yet even though the estimated delivery range started on the 17th.

I am, by the way, amazed and astounded (as I so often am by the prices set by third-party sellers on Amazon) to see that two copies are already for sale—one new for $34.53 and one used/like new for $51.97, when the book is selling new on Amazon for $18.71. What are these people thinking?

Scott said...

@Mikhail Lastrilla:

I'm utterly certain that Brandon doesn't need to see quotations defining divine simplicity, especially when they just reproduce things he's already said or make points he's already addressed. The only one that even appears to introduce anything new is the one from Dolezal, who does indeed say that on p. 124 of his (generally very good) God without Parts. But even here it's not clear (and Dolezal himself doesn't make it clear) in what precise sense he's using the word "identity," and Brandon has already addressed this issue in the very paragraph to which you were replying.

"So, if e is not identical to God, then God is not simple."

We're still waiting for some account of what this e is and why classical theists should be committed to its existence. So far, even if your (A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent, it's not at all clear why classical theists should be bothered, since they needn't (and generally don't) accept (C) anyway.

But I'll leave those issues aside and move on to what I think is a more basic problem:

"Moreover, if p is contingent, then e is contingent, since p doesn't exist in all worlds, and so e doesn't exist in all world[s] (e exists only if p) - no fallacy here."

So, I take it, this e, whatever it is, is supposed to be "in God" when He knows p, but since p doesn't obtain in every "possible world," e is "in God" only contingently—in some "possible worlds" but not in others.

If that's what you mean (and if it isn't, what do you mean?), then you're treating God as though He's somehow "in" each of, and varies across, a range of possible worlds. That is of course completely antithetical to classical theism, which holds that God is the absolute source, ground, and explanation of any "possible world."

Now, let's set aside any objections to "possible world" scenarios and suppose for the sake of the argument that there's a possible world in which p and there's another possible world in which not-p. If that scenario even makes sense, then the God of classical theism knows both of those worlds absolutely; He doesn't know p "in" one world and know not-p "in" another. (What He knows is something more like "it is the case that p in Possible World 1 and that not-p in Possible World 2.") Moreover, He knows both worlds necessarily, not contingently. So whatever your e turns out to be, it's not at all clear that it exists in God contingently merely because p is "contingent" in some other sense.

And there you have an actual example of what Brandon has been at some pains to point out to you: that in general you can't shift modal operators around as you've been doing. If you're going to argue (not just assert, but argue) that your e is contingent merely because p is, you're going to have to provide some account of what e is and show that your modal shift is kosher under that account.

Scott said...

. . . which, I should add, you will most certainly not be able to do if your account of your modal shift continues to assume implicitly that God knows something "in" some worlds and not "in" others—for in that case you won't be addressing classical theism at all.

Brandon said...

Mikhail,

Yes, there are strong forms of the doctrine of simplicity, usually very recent ones; if you intend only them, you need to specify them, and not pretend it's a general problem for classical theists. And note your slippage: simplicity is a form of sameness; it does not follow that it is an elimination of every kind of distinction, but only of certain kinds of distinction understood a certain way. (Indeed, several of the cases you list in context make this clear elsewhere; and one is restricted in its discussion to one kind of doctrine of simplicity; and I've already pointed out that in some places 'identity' often gets used in this context in the older sense rather than the sense it is usually used today. It's not the use of the word that is important; it's the never-justified assumptions that you are dragging in with it that need to be brought to light.) Also I notice that you are using only secondary sources and not primary sources; this is very dangerous in this context. And there's simply no question that your assumptions about divine simplicity fail for at least certain classical theists, because they actively deny the kinds of claims you are making about identity; most Palamists, for instance.

In any case, you're supposed to be giving mutually inconsistent tetrad; you can't have any substantive assumptions floating free or you've failed. If you are only considering particular kinds of classical doctrines of simplicity, and not all kinds, the particular specification you are using needs to be in your list of propositions.

Moreover, if p is contingent, then e is contingent, since p doesn't exist in all worlds, and so e doesn't exist in all world (e exists only if p) - no fallacy here.

(1) One searches in vain for this in your tetrad.

(2) In fact, the reasoning is fallacious. It is pretty straightforwardly so. The tetrad claims in question are:

(B) God knows some contingent true proposition p.
(C) Necessarily, God's knowing some true proposition p implies some entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p.

(C), however, is not equivalent to "e exists only if p"; you've dropped the epistemic operator. (C) tells us that e exists only if God knows p. Now one might, if one were sloppy, say that 'God knows p' is equivalent to 'p is true'; but if we're more precise, we have to take into account how this reacts with contingency, and this ends up causing problems for the other part of your argument.

So let's take "p is contingently true" and let's take it that 'contingently true' here means simply that it is true at some possible worlds but not all of them, as your argument requires; let's call those possible worlds {W1}. But if God is omniscient, it is true at every possible world that God knows that p is true at {W1}. Therefore, assuming everything else, at every possible world God has the e by which he knows that p is true at {W1}.

You are in other words, treating the contingency of p entirely in terms of possible worlds; but the contingency of e, as you are using it, cannot be reduced to a statement of possible worlds -- you need a connection to the actual world. Setting aside the fact that it's widely regarded as unclear how best to handle actual worlds in a possible worlds framework, this is a shifting of what counts as contingent in the middle of the argument.

to be continued...

Brandon said...

We can approach the subject in a second way. Talk of 'possible worlds' is purely a device; in formal terms, the world could be anything, and nothing prevents talking about every modality in terms of possible worlds. Thus we should be able to replicate the inference in other kinds of modal situation. So let's talk instead about propositions that are true in some countries and not others. Then your reasoning can be brought over in this way:

if p is true in Belgium alone, then e is in Belgium alone, since p isn't true in every country, and so e doesn't exist in every country

and in the God case:

if p is true in Belgium alone, then God has an intrinsic entity that exists in Belgium alone, since p isn't true in other countries and so e doesn't exist in other countries.

This seems obviously absurd. But in fact, there is no formal difference. We could extend the analogies out to other modal operators, and see the absurdities there, as well, but I won't.

We can consider the matter a third way. Let's pay attention to what (C) actually says:

Necessarily, God's knowing some true proposition p implies some entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p.

Now consider God's omniscient nature. This is a plausible candidate for an "entity intrinsic to God". (I've already asked for clarification as to what the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction is here, and not gotten it, so you can't complain if I simply indicate anything that could plausibly be called 'intrinsic to God'.) It also would not exist were God not knowing p, given that p is stipulated to be true; this by an obvious definition of omnisicence. So if we were to take this to be what verifies the proposition, and combine it with (B), do we immediately get the conclusion that God's omniscient nature is contingent? No. There is nothing that implies such a conclusion in either (B) or (C) or the fact that we've assumed by hypothesis that the divine nature qua omniscient is itself an entity intrinsic to God, or in any combination of the three.

So on the contrary your reasoning appears entirely fallacious: either you are shifting modal operators around without explanation or you are (as in your most recent defense) dropping them without explanation. Of course, it could be that there is some underlying principle that makes it nonfallacious in this particular kind of case, but such a principle is not in your tetrad and I've asked for it and you've not given it.

So yes, either you are committing a fallacy or the inconsistency depends on hidden assumptions. In either case, (A)-(D) are not mutually inconsistent as they stand. Aporetic triads and tetrads are very difficult to construct; you have to test them at every point to see that they include everything that is needed to generate the inconsistency. Your tetrad clearly fails the test at several points.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

Nothing of what you said actually answered the question you posed. You just made a dubious distinction, at best.

[...]. Only the Divine Essence is absolute in the fullest sense, as an Eckhart or a Dionysius tries to explain. Inasmuch as Divinity entails a relationship with the cosmic creation, it does so not as pure Essence, for in the face of It nothing else is, but as the ontological aspect of divinity, which is relative in relation to the Essence, but absolute in relation to creation."

First, provide an argument for the distinction between "the ontological aspect of divinity" and the "Pure Essence". Second, if you claim that these two are really distinct "divine aspects", then you've comprised God's simplicity. And hence third, Divinity does not, under any so-called 'aspect', entail a relation with cosmic creation.

"It is the difference between Gott and Gottheit in Eckhart. It is not a question of two Gods, of course, but of two divine aspects. The Absolute and Infinite on the one hand, and the "Unmoved Mover" Creator on the other, which is Pure Being, while the Essence transcends even this degree of the Real. [...]."

All of this is a bunch of hand-waving, with no actual argument to justify any of it. You sound like a Perennialist - making profound sounding claims, but no substance to those claims philosophically speaking.

Brandon said...

Scott said:

If that's what you mean (and if it isn't, what do you mean?), then you're treating God as though He's somehow "in" each of, and varies across, a range of possible worlds. That is of course completely antithetical to classical theism, which holds that God is the absolute source, ground, and explanation of any "possible world."

This is a good point; in the historical forebears of possible-worlds-talk, namely as found in the Molinists and Leibniz, this is precisely true: they are orders of nature or creation.

Now, if one took 'possible worlds' as purely a device for formal reasoning, one could presumably run a translation of any modal talk, including that of classical theists, into this more modern use. But one would in that case have to take the talk about 'possible worlds' to have in itself no metaphysical implications. But it at least appears that it would have to have metaphysical implications here, so we'd have to ask what additional assumptions are allowing them. That is, there may well be some kind of underlying assumptions about the metaphysics of possible worlds here.

rank sophist said...

Tom,

Glad I could help. And I agree that possible-world speculations like that can lead down a rabbit hole.

Drew said...

Calling someone's claim "false" is not equal to a refutation of the claim.

Maimonedes did in fact claim that we can only speak about God in the negative. He makes this clear in Section 1.5 of his Guide of the Perplexed. The author of the Stanford article on Maimonedes summarizes it well "Without a genus or a minimal form of composition, there is no possibility of defining God and thus no possibility of saying what God is."

"Does that mean that statements like “God lives” or “God is powerful” are nonsense? The answer is yes if one insists on interpreting them as normal subject/predicate propositions. But they can be understood if one analyzes them as disguised negations."

In other words, Maimonedes held to the via negativa. He did not believe that anyone could literally speak about God in positive terms.

"If Maimonides is right, there can be no plurality of faculties, moral dispositions, or essential attributes in God. Even to say that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good is to introduce plurality, if one means thereby that these qualities are separate attributes."

Or let's go to the article on divine simplicity:

"There is also no real distinction between God as subject of his attributes and his attributes. God is thus in a sense requiring clarification identical to each of his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one."

In other words, there is no distinction of properties.

Brandon said...

Drew,

Calling someone's claim "false" is not equal to a refutation of the claim.

You might want to consider taking your own advice, then. You seem consistently to have this problem of attacking others for things you do.

Maimonedes did in fact claim that we can only speak about God in the negative. He makes this clear in Section 1.5 of his Guide of the Perplexed.

I don't know what you mean by "Section 1.5"; Maimonides talks about these matters in Chapters 51 and following of Part I. The claim is that the attributes that can be attributed to God are negative attributes or qualities of actions; 'negative attributes' is a technical term that Rabbi Moses is getting from Muslim debates about divine attributes; indeed, he explicitly addresses these debates at several points. It should not be conflated with general claims about "speaking about God in the negative". Further, as I pointed out, Maimonides repeatedly considers non-negative names of God; his point is not that we may not use them -- they are used by Torah and the prophets so obviously he wouldn't accept that view -- but that we must understand that they only attribute to God a negative attribute in the Mutakallimun sense of the phrase, and thus not understand them as polytheists or Muslim Attributists would.

Likewise, it is an error to conflate the via negativa with positions on predication or naming; via negative is a label describing a kind of inquiry or knowledge, not a kind of naming.

There is also no real distinction between God as subject of his attributes and his attributes. God is thus in a sense requiring clarification identical to each of his attributes, which implies that each attribute is identical to every other one.

I'm not really surprised that you only have a secondhand source on the subject and not actual primary sources, but you aren't even interpreting it correctly. 'Real distinction' is a technical term; denial of real distinctions is not a denial of all distinctions. Immediately prior to this Vallicella made very clear that simplicity was lack of composition; and it is not an accident that he uses the phrase "in a sense". (It's also not an accident that the entire substance of the article is devoted to very recent discussions of the subject; Vallicella's article is not a rigorous survey of classical theist positions on the subject, which is what you actually need, but only looks at one class of such positions.)

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Scott and Brandon,

That e exists follows from truthmaking principles. If a knows p, then there must be some entity that makes this true. I'm taking entity in a very broad sense here.

Now, is e intrinsic or extrinsic? Very plausibly, it is intrinsic. How can a know p, and this not make an intrinsic difference in him? Or are we to suppose there is no intrinsic difference between one who knows p and one who doesn't?

So e is an intrinsic entity. One doesn't need a detailed account of e to at least accept this.

If p is contingently true, it doesn't exist in all possible world. And if it isn't true in the actual world, then strictly speaking no one can know p. Knowledge requires p's truth, not p's truth at some possible but non-actual world. We do not say "God knows unicorns exist" or "God knows the Nazis won WWII". Since e exists only if p is true, and since p exists only in some possible worlds, e is contingent.

So I still maintain that (A)-(D) are mutually inconsistent.

If e is not identical with God, then e is an actual proper part of God - how can something non-composite have actual proper parts? If this isn't contradictory, at least it is far from clear how that is supposed to be intelligible.

Scott said...

@Mikhail Lastilla:

"If a knows p, then there must be some entity that makes this true. I'm taking entity in a very broad sense here."

And if God knows p, then of course there is an entity that makes this true, namely God.

(Please note carefully here that I am not proposing the truthmaker account as an adequate defense of the doctrine of divine simplicity itself. That's a different issue, and I agree with Bill Vallicella, pace Bergmann and Brower—and for that matter Dolazel—that it poses problems.)

"If p is contingently true, it doesn't exist [I think you mean "obtain"] in all possible world[s]. And if it isn't true in the actual world, then strictly speaking no one can know p."

We've been through this. God does know that p obtains in thus-and such possible worlds, whether or not p obtains in the actual world.

Completely apart from any other problems with talk of possible worlds, it's just silly to suppose that the God of classical theism has no knowledge of hypotheticals/counterfactuals. Even we can know things like If I dropped this hammer it would fall to the floor even if the hammer is never in fact dropped.

Brandon said...

Mikhail,

This is a much better development of the argument.

Very plausibly, it is intrinsic.

'Very plausibly' is not strong enough for your purposes, though. And indeed, this shows exactly why you need a detailed account of what sort of thing e is: it's the only way you can get out of 'very plausibly'.

Knowledge requires p's truth, not p's truth at some possible but non-actual world.

So in other words, 'true' is not true-at-a-possible-world but only true-at-the-actual-world. There are a lot of puzzles here: How do we handle the fact that we can clearly know truths about mere possibilities? Are all truths about things in possible worlds only true at the actual world? But how should we understand that? Or are we incapable of knowing what is true at a non-actual possible world? But if that's the case, how do we handle the possible worlds framework at all? What is the relation between the actual world and the possible worlds (as I noted, there is no standard and generally accepted way of talking about actual worlds in a possible worlds framework, so you need to specify this)?

More importantly, however, nothing in this is implied by (C), for reasons I already gave. For your tetrad to be inconsistent you need (C) to do the work. But your new principle is not (C), nor does it appear to be logically equivalent to it.

And you still haven't told me why the actual property of natural omniscience itself, which seems to fit (C) regardless of contingency of truth and nonetheless to be necessary, doesn't count as a perfectly good e to be a truthmaker for all truths of the form 'God knows p', regardless of the contingency of p.

The upshot is that you keep trying to defend the mutual inconsistency of (A)-(D) by substituting principles for (C) that are not equivalent to it. This immediately indicates that there is a problem with your argument. You either need to change out (C) for one of these other principles to get a different tetrad or come up with a different approach that makes direct use of (C).

If e is not identical with God, then e is an actual proper part of God....

This is not so clear; this gets you immediately into the standard paradoxes of identity -- 1001 Cats, and Chrysippus's Paradox, Constitution Paradoxes, and so forth. (One of the reasons I keep hitting on the simplicity is noncomposition and is not necessarily to be identified with an identity-based account is that identity is a less clear concept than simplicity, which is why we have an extensive philosophical literature over whether constitution is identity, over relative identity, over vague identity, over contingent identity, and the like.)

I also don't think you realize just how strong your suggested principle is: it seems to require a strong doctrine of temporal parts and probably four-dimensionalism, for instance. Are you really intending to suggest that the alternatives to that position like three-dimensionalism are so obviously and necessarily false that they don't raise questions about your general principle? Or do you have some way, using additional assumptions, of easily accommodating them? Also, your counterpart in a non-actual possible world is not identical to you, so according to your reasoning it would seem that he must be either something completely different from you or one of your proper parts; which is a very odd thing to say -- in what sense is a possible you a proper part of the actual you? In addition, since someone as thought of by person X is not identical to that person as thought of by person Y, and none of them identical to the person himself, we would have to say that each you-as-thought-of-by-someone is a proper part of you, which is also an odd thing to say, and doesn't in any obvious way link up with what we usually mean by proper parthood. And so on and so forth.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Scott,

"We've been through this. God does know that p obtains in thus-and such possible worlds, whether or not p obtains in the actual world."

Yes, but

(1) God knows unicorns exist in some non-actual possible world

is not equivalent to

(2) God knows unicorns exist.

In other words, God doesn't know unicorns exist, since unicorns don't exist.

Brandon said...

In other words, God doesn't know unicorns exist, since unicorns don't exist.

But this is (I take it) not really the point; if we're talking about possible worlds, the only concept of 'true' suitable to that situation is 'true-at-a-possible-world'. Introducing 'true-at-the-actual-world' is introducing yet another modality that has to be navigated, and whose relation to 'true-at-a-possible-world' has to be specified, given that you are using both. If the actual world just is one of the possible worlds, then true-at-the-actual-world just is true-at-such-and-such-possible-world, where such-and-such possible world just happens to be the actual one; but we already know that the doctrine of omniscience directly implies that God knows what is true-at-a-possible-world for any possible world, which would include the actual one. On the other hand, if discourse about the actual world is simply different from discourse about possible worlds, we need a way to relate them given that your argument clearly does assume some kind of relation between the two kinds of discourse.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

Suppose a1 and a2 are exactly intrinsically alike. If e were extrinsic, then it would be possible for a1 to know p and a2 to not know p. But this doesn't seem possible - how can intrinsic duplicates differ with regard to knowledge?

I don't see the need to resolve the problems you've raised about possibility. One doesn't need a complete philosophical account of possibility to see that there is a distinction between p being true, and p being false but possibly true, which is all that the objection needs.

I'm not replacing (C) with other claims. Rather, I am clarifying the role (C) plays in deriving the inconsistency of (A)-(D).

I'll reply to your other points when I'm able to go online again.

Brandon said...

Suppose a1 and a2 are exactly intrinsically alike. If e were extrinsic, then it would be possible for a1 to know p and a2 to not know p. But this doesn't seem possible - how can intrinsic duplicates differ with regard to knowledge?

You just stated it -- ex hypothesi in that case they would differ by extrinsic circumstance. What you need is some principle ruling this out.

I don't see the need to resolve the problems you've raised about possibility. One doesn't need a complete philosophical account of possibility to see that there is a distinction between p being true, and p being false but possibly true, which is all that the objection needs.

But you aren't making just any kind of objection -- you are proposing an inconsistent tetrad, which requires that all possible ways of avoiding the alleged inconsistency have been ruled out in some way. But it doesn't seem possible to do this without considering these issues about possibility.

I'm not replacing (C) with other claims. Rather, I am clarifying the role (C) plays in deriving the inconsistency of (A)-(D).

But this could only be the case if these other claims were logically equivalent to (C) -- but, again, they don't seem to be, nor have you established that they are (nor have you replied to any objections to their being such).

Brandon said...

But this doesn't seem possible - how can intrinsic duplicates differ with regard to knowledge?

I should add, as well, that it's a little odd that you repeatedly refuse to specify what kind of thing the truthmaker for knowledge would be for the cases you insist on while repeatedly insisting that other people do it for the cases they insist on.

Jeremy Taylor said...

You sound like a Perennialist - making profound sounding claims, but no substance to those claims philosophically speaking.

This is a below the belt insult. I think it safe to say that Coomaraswamy, Guenon, Schuon, Dr. Nasr, and Wolfgang Smith, at least, had a profound knowledge of much traditional philosophy, though there are differences amongst them in how much use they have for systematic philosophy (Schuon for example is not especially intersted in it, whereas Guenon spends a lot of time engaged in it). Lings and Burchkhardt spend little time on deep philosophy, and I cannot comment on their expertise in this area, although in certain fields (Lings on Shakespeare and Burkhardt on art, they are profound).

I am not a Perennialist per se (in their sense), largely because I avoid their exact doctrine of the transcendent unity of religions because of the ire they cause even amongst traditional believers. But as a Platonist I share much in common with them, as I do the related but distinct group associated with the Temenos Academy (the group of modern thinkers I most especially identify with), and one classical Perennialists are a powerful source of spiritual and philosophical wisdom in recent times, with a great knowledge of traditional thought and philosophy.

Personally, I do not understand either the tendency of some traditionally minded people to identify with the Perennialists entirely or other traditionally minded people to treat them as if they were so tainted one could never draw from them. One might suspect a certain fear and insecurity in the latter, at least.

And I don't think what Kevin said actually compromises divine simplicity. It was, rather, just a riff on the traditional Platonic - essentially non-dualist (and what he said clearly also had Vedantin influences) - accounts of creation. It is an attempt to say that, if God is as classical theism suggests, what is the world and its relationship to him.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I should add that my first paragraph above is based on what I have read of these authors. I have been reading more of them lately, but I cannot claim to have an exhaustive knowledge of any of these authors.

Greg said...

Looks like the delivery date for my copy of Scholastic Metaphysics has fixed... Thursday...

Scott said...

@Greg:

Mine too.

Daniel Joachim said...

Sorry, but I couldn't help continuing to elaborate on Greg's excellent response to Mr. Taylor.
skepticink.com/atheistintermarried/2014/04/20/edward-fesers-imaginary-knockout-of-new-atheism/

Is it just me, or is this kind of hand-waving pretty dominating among most "dismissals" of the classical perspective?

Daniel Joachim said...

And to provide a positive account as well. MY Scholastic Metaphysics is arriving to Norway this week as well.

I'm excited. I feel this to be something of a ground-breaker, going to be referenced for years to come.

Well - now to keep my hopes from escalating too much...

Chris said...

Anonymous,

The Perennialist perspective on the "aspects" or "levels" of Divinity does not compromise Divine simplicity any more than the Essence/Energy distinction found in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Timotheos said...

Amazon says Scholastic Metaphysics is on the way to be delivered Thursday evening! Can't wait!

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

Knowledge based on some extrinsic entity seems unintelligible. If you don't share this intuition, then perhaps this is where our discussion ends.

Regarding e, since e, by definition, exists only if p, and since p doesn't exist in all possible worlds, e is contingent. I really see nothing problematic about this.

I also don't see why statements clarifying the role of (C) in the objection need to be logically equivalent to (C), especially since I'm not offering substitutes for (C).

Regarding proper parts, you raised a good point regarding those paradoxes. But the objection can be formulated without relying on the notion of proper parts, since, as Brower has said:

"...what traditional formulations of the doctrine [of divine simplicity] require is the following:

(DS) If an intrinsic predication of the form 'God is F' is true, then God’s F-ness exists and is
identical with God."

Since e is not identical to God, (A) is false. You may not agree to identity-based accounts of divine simplicity, but many defenders of the doctrine do, and to show that those accounts are inconsistent with (B)-(D) is to raise a not insignificant problem.

Anonymous said...

Mikhail, it is quite clear Brandon is severely taxing your argument. Have you ever thought of listening and trying to learn instead of just doubling down?

Brandon said...

Mikhail,

Knowledge based on some extrinsic entity seems unintelligible.

First of all, despite my having more than once asked you to clarify, you haven't clarified what you mean by extrinsic. But using 'extrinsic' in the way most people mean, at least much knowledge is based on something extrinsic. If I say,

"John knows that the world is round,"

this cannot be made true only by what we would usually consider an intrinsic or internal state; since knowledge is factive, its truthmaker has to include the round world itself. And so forth. This is one reason why I asked those questions that you ignored a while back about what, exactly, e is supposed to be, and what, precisely, you meant by intrinsic and extrinsic.

Regarding e, since e, by definition, exists only if p, and since p doesn't exist in all possible worlds, e is contingent. I really see nothing problematic about this.

But in most cases, this kind of inference is a modal fallacy. I've already given some examples of the fact that with most modalities, you get a fallacious inference. If there is no problem with it in this case, you should either be able to prove it directly from standard modal principles (which you can't, for the reason I've given) or on the basis of the peculiar characteristics of the modality itself. There are any number of other possibilities. For instance, suppose there is an e that exists in every possible world that is structured conditionally so that it makes p true in world 1, q true in world 2, r true in world 3 (free will is often treated as being structured in precisely this way for the worlds in which it is posited, so it's not as if you can just ignore the possibility). And that's just one of many, many possibilities.

If you want only to deal with accounts of divine simplicity based on strict identity, you need to specify this and not present your tetrad as a general problem for classical theisms.

I point out, however, that since you have said nothing whatsoever about e beyond vaguely insisting that it must be an intrinsic truthmaker, and since you have -- despite my having brought it up about a jillion times now -- not addressed my point that it appears that actually having a necessarily omniscient nature meets all the criteria for e that (C) explicitly mentions, and since your claims about e being contingent because p is contingent are precisely the major point of dispute, it follows that you have not established that e could not be identical to God.

The fundamental fact of the matter is still that you are proposing an inconsistent tetrad. (This is why your principles 'clarifying' (C) have to be logically equivalent to (C), or at least to parts of (C) -- if you have to add new principles to the tetrad to get an inconsistency, the premises of the tetrad are not themselves mutually inconsistent.) Substantive inconsistent triads, tetrads, pentads, etc., are difficult to construct in one modal domain; adding another modality to the situation massively multiplies the number of different options that have to be considered. You are casually putting together a supposed inconsistent tetrad that involves at least three very different modalities (knowledge, true-at-a-possible-world, true-at-the-actual-world) and possibly four (if extrinsic/intrinsic turn out to have modal properties); and most of your argument seems to boil down to, "It just seems obvious" -- at least when asked to explain things that you would need to consider, you mostly don't explain things. There's simply no way this can be possible; no one can interrelate three different modalities in their head so perfectly as to guarantee that they can just look at it and see that they haven't overlooked some important gap somewhere. That's a feat of archangels; human beings need actually to rule things out step by step, not leap to the end and say that anything else is unintelligible.

Brandon said...

Regarding e, since e, by definition, exists only if p, and since p doesn't exist in all possible worlds, e is contingent.

I should add on this point that you are being sloppy again about the modality. What you should say, on principles you yourself have affirmed, is that e, by definition exists in the actual world only if p is true in the actual world. But this is consistent with e existing in every possible world and being the truthmaker for 'p is true at world 678687', which happens to be the actual world. And, again, free will is often put forward as having this world-specific truthmaking characteristic, so what if there were a necessary being that necessarily had free will? You know, like God is usually thought to be? Then its free will would be an e that would make such-and-such true at w1, something else at w2, and so forth. (This is another way of putting the point that Scott was making, or at least a close cousin of it.)

This is why I asked those questions a while back that you ignored about how your true-at-the-actual-world modality related to your true-at-a-possible-world modality.

Greg said...

Well, I've got my copy of Scholastic Metaphysics. It looks great. Unfortunately I am working through Braine's Human Person right now, so I can't set in yet... but soon...

Scott said...

My copy arrived yesterday as well, and it does, unsurprisingly, look great.

Timotheos said...

Loving Scholastic Metaphysics so far! I do have one complaint about it though addressed to Dr Feser. I think you might have dismissed Lagrange's argument for the PSR too quickly. The main reason you disregarded his argument was based on a objection by Hume distinguishing two senses of nothing, but Lagrange responded to this objection on pg. 147 in vol. 1 of God: His Existence and Nature. Now his response is a little strange, and so you may have just decided to not mention it for brevity's sake, but it seems unfair to only spend a mere paragraph on him when he did go to the trouble to attempt a response. Either way I would like to know your thoughts on his counter-argument.

I did think your way of grounding the PSR however, which was a clever linkage of it with Lewis' argument from reason (not that lame Plantinga version) and I think successfully, so Lagrange's argument may be a little superfluous.

Mikhail Lastrilla said...

Brandon,

I'm afraid I really don't see the problem you're getting at. Let's return to (C):

(C) Necessarily, God's knowing some true proposition p implies some entity intrinsic to God that would not exist were God not knowing p.

Since God doesn't know p in all possible worlds, e doesn't exist in all possible worlds, and so e is contingent. We can put this argument this way:

(1) If God doesn't know p in all possible worlds, then e doesn't exist in all possible worlds.
(2) God doesn't know p in all possible worlds.
(3) Therefore, e doesn't exist in all possible worlds.

(1) follows from the definition of e, and (2) follows from p's contingent truth.

Yes, I haven't been answering your questions about e's nature, but there's no need to substantially flesh out what e is. All the argument needs is that e is an intrinsic entity that wouldn't exist were God not knowing p. So while your questions are interesting, to answer them would distract us from the argument.

Brandon said...

As I have repeatedly pointed out and you have repeatedly refused to address beyond your original "It doesn't seem so to me", your (1) does not follow from the definition of e except by what it is usually a modally fallacious inference. By what you've said previously, e needs to be a truthmaker for p being true-in-the-actual-world. That was the point of the argument to which you responded that knowledge had to do with the actual world. You've explicitly tied the definition of e to truthmaking principles. Therefore you cannot from this draw any direct conclusion about whether e exists in every possible world or not.

You do in fact need to substantially flesh out what e is, because I have given you two a possible counterexample e -- an intrinsic entity that wouldn't exist were God not knowing p -- based on omniscience; I have noted a case -- free will -- that is usually understood in such a way that it fails to conform to the assumptions your inference makes (since it is a case in which, if it is understood the way it usually is, the same entity e can be a truthmaker for different propositions in different possible worlds). And I have pointed out other modalities in which the kind of inference you are making is fallacious, showing that you need some sort of analysis showing that this particular case is an exception. And you have ignored all of these as if they were irrelevant, without at all clarifying why they are irrelevant (indeed, you repeatedly don't even address them in any way at all) -- despite the fact, I note, that I have mentioned the former about a jillion times now. The questions you are choosing to pretend you to answer are questions that need to be answered in order to show that the possible counterexamples in question are not in fact actual counterexamples.

I do not write these comments for typing practice. These questions aren't something that "would distract us from the argument"; they are the argument. If you have any sort of argument at all, please stop repeating yourself like a broken record and show why the apparent counterexamples to your claims are not counterexamples -- which, you will see, requires addressing exactly the kinds of questions I have been asking.

Mikhail said...

Brandon,

We seem to be talking past each other. I think our discussion has outlived its usefulness. You may have the last word if you wish. Thank you for the discussion. :)

Brandon said...

"Talking past each other" is not what is going on here. I've asked straightforward questions -- What about the modalities in question do you think makes your inference legitimate given that it is not legitimate for other modalities? Why wouldn't an actually existing necessarily omniscient nature count as an intrinsic entity that wouldn't exist were God not knowing that p is true in the actual world? What is the difference between an intrinsic entity and extrinsic entity in the sense you are using the terms? Why aren't you considering cases like free will, which usually is treated as a single entity that will be truthmaker for different propositions depending on the world? How is your true-at-the-actual-world modality related to your true-at-a-possible-world modality, given that your inference seems to move between both? And so forth. And I have explained why I'm asking them. And you have not answered them -- outright refused to answer them, in fact. There is no sense in which that is "talking past each other".

Scott said...

@Mikhail Lastrilla:

I have to agree with Brandon. The two of you are not talking past each other; you (Mikhail) are merely failing to respond to Brandon's perfectly legitimate and very much on-point questions, counterarguments, and counterexamples, apparently because you don't understand them. I really fail to see how he could have made himself any clearer.

Anonymous said...

I just ordered SM. Feser is to classical theism what Bill Craig is to theistic personalism. Now, if only we could popularize classical theism to a greater extent than Craig has with personalism...

Also...sort of random: would anyone direct me to something explaining the difference between metaphysics and philosophy of nature? I never knew there was such a field as "philosophy of nature" until recently. In which does the act/potency schema fall?

Greg said...

Anon,

I'd say Bill Craig falls into a sort of middle area between classical theism and theistic personalism. He doesn't accept strong versions of divine simplicity, but he is much closer to classical theism than, say, Plantinga or Swinburne.

Someone can probably do more justice to the metaphysics/philosophy of nature distinction than I can. There is a lot of overlap, and you can't do philosophy of nature without metaphysics. And the act/potency distinction is the basis of Thomist metaphysics. In general, I guess you could say that metaphysics is more fundamental, and philosophy of nature is like "philosophy of natures," ie. given a proper metaphysics, it is the study of the natures of things. (Hopefully someone can clarify this.)

Greg said...

Mikhail,

I can think of two formulations of omniscience (those of Barry Miller and Eleonore Stump) that the distinctions you are brushing over are relevant to.

Stump, for instance, argues that when the modalities are clarified, God exists in all possible worlds and, in any given world, does not change. But divine simplicity does not require that he is the same in all possible worlds. On that formulation, "God knows that p" is made true by an improper part of God, namely God himself.

Miller argues that "God knows that p" is true, when p is in fact true, because God is the primary cause of every state of affairs. (If I recall, Stump doesn't accept a formulation like Miller's, in which omniscience is consequent upon God's causation.) But God's relation to creation, Miller argues, is a Cambridge relation (although creation's relation to God is not), and so does not impute any change or potentiality to God. This is in a sense "external," though it is not "an entity."

So the places where Brandon is asking you to tighten your argument do seem relevant.

Scott said...

@Anon:

"[W]ould anyone direct me to something explaining the difference between metaphysics and philosophy of nature?"

Gladly.

"In which does the act/potency schema fall?"

Metaphysics.

afkimel said...

As we are talking about classical theism, does anyone have any thoughts on open theism and divine foreknowledge?

I recently posted an article on this topic, with reference to Herbert McCabe: http://goo.gl/5sNwB8. Please visit and enter into the conversation.

And thank you, Dr Feser, for a very fine article.

afkimel said...

Dr Feser, over at his blog Dale Tuggy writes:

"God certainly belongs to a class we can call 'Deity,' but that’s not a class that could contain other members. His radical difference is, for one thing, existing a se – not because of anything else. No other thing has that distinction."

Comments?

Justin Steckbauer said...

Good writing. Thanks :)

JesseM said...

Re: simplicity, etc., it is wrong to say, with no qualification, that Christ is "absolutely simple while exhibiting all the compositions of man" etc. Rather, Christ is absolutely simple, pure act, etc. in his divine nature, but not in his human nature.

I don't understand how the idea of two "natures" resolves the issue of the same entity having seemingly contradictory properties. Is it within God's power to create other entities with multiple natures, regardless of whether these natures seem compatible? (and does "nature" here mean the same thing as "essence"?) For example, would it be logically possible for God to create a single shape which had both a square nature and a circular nature simultaneously?