Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Review of Craig’s God Over All


My review of William Lane Craig’s book God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism appears in the April 2020 issue of First Things.  You can read it online here.

112 comments:

  1. Thank you, Ed.

    There's something I still don't understand, and really struggle with. You write:

    "One problem with voluntarism is that it violates what philosophers call the Principle of Sufficient Reason (or PSR), according to which, for everything that exists, every event that occurs, and every positive fact that obtains, there is a reason or explanation why it is that way rather than some other way (even if we don’t always know what the explanation is)."

    But what about God's freedom vis-a-vis creation itself? Surely God's thoughts include thoughts about creation, yet our particular history is contingent, even if the laws of mathematics are necessary. What's the difference?

    And what can ever be the ultimate explanation for why *this* history exists? Can we avoid modal collapse? It seems not, given the statement of PSR you give above.

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    1. I think Ed is missing something in the above quoted section. A more in depth version of what he's appealing to might be that, when one has the view of divine voluntarism, one is able to reduce PSR to something that seems doxastically unnapealing, namely that everything has a reason, but don't worry about it because it's God. Hope that helps.

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    2. Yeh I think Ed made a mistake in explaining the PSR as one that needs contrastive explanations.

      To be fair to Ed though, he has been on record multiple times defending a PSR that does not logically entail what it explains.

      With regards to Voluntarism, Feser has blogged before on whether an *extreme* Voluntarism is consistent with the PSR and in the context of his review he's looking at a Voluntarism which creates maths. That's pretty extreme.

      Also on his talk on the nature of the will, he clearly continues to use an indeterministic PSR where there is *a* reason for acting. Having a reason satisfied the PSR (his version) and so isnt arbitrary but neither does is the PSR so strong the motivating reason for a choice determines the choice.

      Ed has also maintained that God can free not to create or create something else. A contrastive PSR (as he explains in this article) would go against his view on Gods freedom as well as our freedom.

      So yeah, he probably just mis-spoke. His track record is consistent

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    3. Hi all,

      It seems that Feser was only using a common definition of PSR used by other philosophers without saying (in this review) whether or not he endorses this particular definition.

      It is similar to Craig who sometimes gave mathematics and numbers as examples of necessary truths (in his apologetic materials) without saying whether he endorses that idea (in fact he disagrees with it).

      Given that Feser at various articles elsewhere have given his preferred version of PSR, we should interpret Feser’s use of this definition of PSR in this review as a common definition other philosophers are familiar with, without interpreting it as a version that he would endorse. (Principle of Charitable Interpretation)


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

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    4. Thank you for the clarifications!

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    5. Callum got it right. Pruss in his book on the PSR also defended Leibniz' rationalist PSR, be reframed from the contrastive version

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  2. OP
    "But why did God opt for a world governed by the mathematics ..."
    The world is not governed by mathematics. Such a statement as made by the OP, even somewhat in passing to make another point, is an instance of reification, of conflating the abstraction with the structural reality.

    Objects, say atoms of hydrogen in intergalactic space, simply exist. We can count one, two three over here, and then count four more over there, and say three plus four equals seven.

    The atoms of hydrogen are not counting at all, nor are they obeying our mathematical concepts, rather, they simply exist, with our counting only an abstraction of how they exist and move moment to moment.

    Atoms of hydrogen, or anything else, are not governed by our mathematical expressions, we simply abstract real existent objects using logical systems of representation such as mathematics.

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    1. Don't feed the trollsMarch 11, 2020 at 10:21 PM

      Remember the SP is one of the trolls explicitly banned by Feser and please don't feed him.

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    2. Do you ever contribute to the on topic content of a thread or is your only skill to vacuously virtue signal?

      Did you read the OP link? Do you have any opinions about the governance of mathematics in our universe?

      The topic of this thread is Craig, his views as described in the link, and Dr. Feser's views as expressed in the link.

      I take issue with certain aspects of what Dr. Feser said on the merits of the arguments.

      Since your post is off the topic of this thread it is in violation of the rules of this site, which is to only post on topic.

      Dr. Feser explicitly instructed you to not post off topic, so perhaps you could enlighten us all with your views WRT my assertion that the universe is not governed by mathematics, as stated in the OP?

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    3. OBTW, (blank), perhaps you could also explain to me the reality of arithmetic?

      For example, one apple plus one apple equals two apples. Do you suppose that is a fact with its own existence that challenges the aseity of the speculation of god?

      Does one apple plus one apple equal two apples? Perhaps you consider me daft for even asking the question?

      Can there be two of a thing if those two things are not precisely the same things? Can one add apples and oranges? Are any two apples, or any two of any real objects, precisely the same such that we can precisely say we have two of the identical sorts of things?

      For apples, clearly not. No two apples are precisely the same, it should be obvious to you, (blank).

      Further, an apple, like all existent objects yet identified, continually changes, in the case of an apple with bits of it literally flying off through space into what we call the atmosphere.

      So how can we use a precise mathematical statement of 1 + 1 = 2 to represent a concept that two very different and continually changing objects, say, two apples, can actually somehow be considered to be precisely the same such that we can speak accurately of having precisely two of exactly twin things?

      Do you see the difficulty here? Even something as seemingly simple as 1 + 1 = 2 cannot be accurately mapped onto real existent objects.

      So, in what sense would you claim to say that the universe is governed by mathematics, as alluded to in the OP? Or don't you say such a thing?



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    4. Are you a realist about physics?

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    5. DrYogami
      "Are you a realist about physics?"
      Depends in what sense of the word "physics" you have in mind at the moment.

      If by "physics" one is referring to the formulations of modern physics found in textbooks and elsewhere, as applied to specific real existent material stuff, then human beings cannot precisely model any real physical object. The uncertainty principle is one reason, and the lack of a TOE is another reason.

      Modern physics, in the sense of the entire collection of formulations that have yet been written, are a sort of highly accurate trend line of some deeper underlying real physical structure.

      It might be that certain formulas are precisely valid as elements of a superposition of material properties. For example the frequency/wavelength relation under ideal conditions.

      On the other hand, if by "physics" you mean physical material itself, yes, I am certain that a real physical existence of some real structure exists in a real universe of some kind.

      I am personally convinced that the nature of the true underlying reality is tightly constrained by the formulations of modern physics because I am personally convinced that the human senses are basically reliable, while I realize the assertion of the basic reliability of the human senses is subject to counter speculations (such as I am god dreaming and you are a figment of my divine imagination), and counter argument (the circularity of using senses to demonstrate what is being sensed).

      Such counter arguments to the basic reliability of the human senses are why I am merely personally convinced and do not claim absolute proof.

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    6. OK. I ask because physicists have a tendency to sometimes concretize abstractions in their language. They speak of mathematical abstractions like 'spacetime' as if it were a real concrete thing in itself. Same when they speak of the universe being 'governed by laws of nature' (or laws of physics)

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    7. DrYogami,
      Well, spacetime might be a real concrete thing, a material, or it might turn out to only be an abstraction of the net essences and existences of more fundamental realities.

      But I agree, it is big mistake to think of the formulations of physics we presently have must necessarily be precisely describing any sort of fundamental real structure.

      Yes, and terms like "governed by the laws of nature" or "governed by the laws of physics" get thrown about quite a lot.

      Did you happen to read Dr. Feser's post of a couple months about about Cundy and the unreality of the B theory of time merely becuase certain formulations in an otherwise successful theory, GR, allow for other than presentism? Dr. Feser does a fine work of arguing for structural realism as opposed to the reification of abstractions. Here is a link to a comment in that post:
      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2019/12/cundy-on-relativity-and-a-theory-of-time.html?showComment=1577321598221#c4572358815536810505

      Material has properties that are inseparable from that material, so I see errors in Thomistic philosophy as well as the sometimes poorly thought through philosophical statements of some scientists.

      What would it even mean to separate properties from material? It's not as though properties are some separate thing that are somehow glued to material, like a pure existence quark and two property quarks to make up a material neutron,

      Properties are always of a thing, and a thing always has properties, for example, extent in space. How could any real material object exist without the property of extent in space? If the real material object were somehow separated from its property of extent where would that object go or be or exist?

      How much material can be fit into a mathematical point of zero dimension? It is incoherent to suggest real material can exist with zero dimension, for example, because that would lead to a divide by zero error if one considered the density of real material inside a point of zero dimension.

      So, the notions of pure existence and pure essence are both incoherent.

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    8. Don't feed the trollMarch 14, 2020 at 2:03 PM

      DrYogami, have some respect for the blog and stop feeding the troll. Everyone has been doing quite well, don't ruin it.

      Delete
  3. Hi Ed,

    Where would you rank Vatican I's teaching on divine simplicity in terms of infallibility? Such that if Craig and the voluntarists were right, it would be a mark against the church's claims of infallibility? In other words, is it permissible for a Catholic to agree with Craig?

    Thanks,
    Daniel

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    1. Here is the Lateran paragraph on Divine Simplicity:

      428 Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.

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    2. Notice that it is only God's "essence, substance, or nature" that is defined to be entirely simple. The definition neither approves nor condemns the Eastern Orthodox (Palamite) view that while God's essence is utterly simple, His operations are multiple and complex. Neither does Vatican I.

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    3. This one from Vatican I

      The Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one true and living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, Almighty, Eternal, Immense, Incomprehensible, Infinite in intelligence, in will, and in all perfection, who, as being one, sole, absolutely simple and immutable spiritual substance, is to be declared as really and essentially distinct from the world, of supreme beatitude in and from Himself, and ineffably exalted above all things which exist, or are conceivable, except Himself.

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    4. Vicent point is interesting. Do we need to understand the Church teaching on divine simplicity as Aquinas understood it? It seems he is right, but i still have this curiosity.

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    5. I tend to agree as well - for better or for worse, the church is basically tethered to Thomism on many of these issues and topics. Whatever else someone might say about divine simplicity, it cannot out and out reject the basic Thomistic framework which provides us with basic definitions of terms...

      That Craig has rejected this basic aspect of orthodox Christianity is concerning - especially since his rejection of Divine simplicity seems almost an afterthought for him. Comments on Divine simplicity range from "I don't think God is like that" to Ed's summation "it is mysterious what the Aristotelian means by saying that a pattern like triangularity is “in” particular things." It is a trifle dismissive - like he can't be bothered to engage the argument or perhaps is afraid to - LOL.

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    6. The last paragraph I wrote above is just my impression based on a superficial knowledge of his work. I'd be glad to be proven wrong.

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    7. Daniel, Craig has the brilliance and learning to claim to the second rank of philosophers (behind the first rank like Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas - no shame to be accounted second rank after minds like that!) if only he had not gone wrong in his theistic personalism commitments. Of which the rejection of simplicity is a major part. I cannot help thinking that every time I see Craig (and a few others like him) who discard Aristotelianism (and its Thomistic refinements), when I examine the arguments for why, it's always because they didn't actually grasp Aristotelianism properly, rather than grasp it and reject it for its failings. This is one of the examples of that - I don't think Craig gets Thomas's clarification of how it is that God can be His eternal thoughts, and yet He was free to create or not create this or some other universe. He did, after all, tackle the problem.

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  4. After reading Feser’s review then I realized the brilliance of the title “Keep It Simple”. It is about the necessity of Divine Simplicity in solving the problem which Craig set up to solve. Craig’s rejection of divine simplicity forced him to go that anti-realist pathway (about Mathematics) in his book.

    As logic and mathematical truth exists in the divine mind, and because divine thoughts is not distinct from God, I guess we can say:

    In the beginning was the logic/mathematics,
    the logic/mathematics was with God
    the logic/mathematics was God.

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    1. While God’s thoughts are not distinct from God base on divine simplicity (quoting Feser: “there can be no distinction in God between him and his thoughts either”), do we need to distinguish between thoughts about necessary truths (eg logic and mathematics) and thoughts about continent truths (eg about this tree or that cat)?


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

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    2. I don't even think Craig should've gone that route in his rejection of DS. I don't think the dilemma of caused vs uncaused thoughts is that problematic. Whatever horn one takes, it is still a very different causal relationship than that between God and Creation, it is God eternally and necessarily being the source of His thoughts. It would not be possible for God to not think and know 2 plus 2 equals 5, and yet that thought is still dependent on God.

      I prefer the Divine Simplicity solution, but I don't think there is a dilemma there in the first place.

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    3. @Reasonable:

      It's important to note that logic/mathematics, as we understand them, are limited aspects of the Word, which was in the beginning with God and as God. They are in the Word eminently, but the Word is more than just logic/mathematics.

      In the same way, individual math sentences like "2+2=4" and "1+1=2" are limited aspects of mathematics. A person who has no understanding of mathematics in general, can still do sums if they have a sufficient set of those individual math sentences memorized. But the one who understands mathematics in general is able to do sums without having to memorize individual math sentences. Those math sentences "emanate" from an understanding of mathematics in the same way that logic and mathematics "emanate" from the Word.

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    4. Hi Jimmy,

      Thanks for your sharing.

      I am not referring to logic/mathematics “as we understand them” just as the “existence” in “God is Pure Existence” should not be limited to the “existence” as we understand it base on our intellectual analysis of conditioned entities’ existence.

      I am thinking of it along the lines of:

      God viewed from the perspective of existence is Pure Existence,
      God viewed from the perspective of actuality/potentiality is Pure Actuality,
      God viewed from the perspective of power is Power itself,
      God viewed in terms of good/bad is Goodness itself.

      And so, similarly,

      God viewed from the perspective of logic or mathematics is Perfect Logic/Mathematics

      If the above’s line of thinking is correct, then Perfect Logic/Mathematics is not something apart/distinct from God but is God itself,

      and hence Perfect Logic/Math
      (1) was not created by God
      and
      (2) has never existed as an uncreated abstract entity apart from God,

      but is in fact God (in the sense Pure Existence is God, Goodness itself is God, etc)

      Perhaps, God viewed from the perspective of truths is Complete Necessarily Truth itself.
      (contingent truths are excluded; God’s thought of a dog does not render that dog God)


      Cheers!
      johannes hui



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  5. Last year at a panel with Craig about Craig's book, Peter van Inwagen, one of the panelists, argued that we must accept that abstract objects exist, since we make meaningful sentences that we can standardize along the lines of "there exists an x such that x is a sentence-form and x is faulty" (if you're making an argument about faulty sentence forms). But he argued that there is no threat therefrom to God's aseity because abstract objects do not have causal powers. No one queried van Inwagen on his sense of "causal powers," but I think he meant efficient causality.

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    1. What if someone, in response, says: “Of course abstract objects exist. They exist fundamentally in the mind, and secondarily in particular concrete entities.”

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    2. To be honest I kinda agree with Van Inwagen. I think Platonism about abstract objects would be a little weird under theism, but it wouldn't be much of a "threat", because abstract objects just are causally effete; they cannot produce changes in the world. They are also intuitively seen as "less real", even by the non-philosopher.

      Of course, these reasons are also typically taken as strong intuitive reasons to reject Platonism. But if I were to be a platonist in the face of that, I wouldn't be too worried. Don't think they'd be much of a threat to God's sovereignty.

      The real Plato's position would be more problematic (Plato took the Forms to have actual powers), but modern platonists don't follow him there.

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    3. I think Craig problem with this view is the prologue of the Gospel of John, hard to read that and think that Scripture would accept anything existing before creation with The Trinity.

      As a thomist, i also think the idea that something can have being that it did not get from Being Itself does not makes sense, but Peter would probably just reject this metaphysics.

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    4. Hi Talmid,

      We meet again :)

      Perhaps we can think along the line of:

      Being viewed from the perspective of existence is Pure Existence,
      Being viewed from the perspective of actuality/potentiality is Pure Actuality,
      Being viewed from the perspective of power is Omnipotence,
      Being viewed in terms of good/bad is Goodness itself.

      And so, similarly,

      Being viewed from the perspective of logic or mathematics is Perfect Logic/Mathematics

      If the above’s line of thinking is correct, then Perfect Logic/Mathematics is not something apart/distinct from Being but is Being itself, and hence Logic/Math is not something “that it did not get from Being itself”.

      Being viewed from the perspective of truths is
      Complete Necessarily Truth.
      (contingent truths are excluded; God’s thought of a dog does not render that dog God)


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

      Delete
    5. ficino,
      " "there exists an x such that x is a sentence-form and x is faulty" (if you're making an argument about faulty sentence forms)." "
      The statement you quoted in no way proves or demonstrates the assertion that abstractions are somehow real objects in the universe.

      What is an "incorrect" sentence? Is there a grammar god that is the dictator of grammatical correctness?

      Rules of grammar are not provably absolutely true, they are only true within a set of arrangements agreed upon by convention.

      Intelligent beings merely agree among themselves to construct their sentences is particular arrangements and to not construct their sentences in other arrangements.

      The fact that some number of beings have mutually agreed upon certain arrangements of words in no way indicates that those arrangements of words have some sort of brain independent real existence in the universe.

      An interesting aspect of listening to theists of many sorts is that they are often very good at pointing out the incoherencies of each other. In this case, Craig is correct that the notion of a being such that "his essence is his existence" is incoherent, and that abstractions are not real brain independent objects in the real universe.

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    6. Amended this paragraph as follows:

      If the above’s line of thinking is correct, then Perfect Logic/Mathematics is not something apart/distinct from Being but is Being itself, and hence Logic/Math is not something “that did not get its being from Being itself”.

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    7. Reasonable,
      "Being itself" is an incoherent term, and thus has no value in any sort of sound argument.

      Any argument that employs "being itself" as a critical element of the argument is unsound by the employment of an incoherent term.

      What is it that is "being" in "being itself"? Absolutely nothing at all? Then in what sense is absolutely nothing at all "being"?

      Rather than absolutely nothing at all, perhaps there is a thing "being" in "being itself"? Then "being" is not of "itself", rather of the thing that is "being".

      "Being" is always of an existent thing. "Being" and "thing" are inseparable by necessity. It cannot not be that "being" and "thing" are mutually co-dependent in structural reality.

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    8. Don't feed the trollsMarch 12, 2020 at 10:36 PM

      Remember SP is one of the banned trolls Feser was explicitly telling us not to feed. Please don't feed him.

      Delete
    9. @reasonable

      Hi too! What you are saying seems to me like Divine Conceptualism. Math and Logic exist as God thoughts and, by Divine Simplicity, are not diferent that Him. We think they are diferent from God, but is just a logical distinction, as Aquinas would say.

      I agree. But Van Inwagen seems to be a real modern platonist, who believes that abstract objects are as diferent from God as i'am.

      That view does not work in Scripture(as Dr. Craig defends) and in thomism. Other problem i have with this is the one i said in other places: if "action follows being", them is hard to see how something that can't act not even in principle, as a abstract object, really exist except as the content of a mind.

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  6. Hi Ed,

    While I think you made some telling criticisms of Craig's anti-realism, I was troubled to see you define PSR as the principle that "for everything that exists, every event that occurs, and every positive fact that obtains, there is a reason or explanation why it is that way rather than some other way (even if we don’t always know what the explanation is)." That's a deterministic interpretation of PSR, which is precisely what you disavow in your book, "Scholastic Metaphysics" (editiones scholasticae, 2014) where you stress that explanation does not require logical entailment (p. 141) and take care to avoid determinism, when applying PSR to quantum physics (p. 142). On pp. 137-138, you quote Wuellner as declaring (in his formulation of PSR) that there's an "adequate necessary objective explanation for the being of whatever is and for all attributes of any being." Note the choice of words: necessary, not sufficient. Indeed, on your 2014 reading of PSR, it would be better labeled PEA (Principle of Explanatory Adequacy: everything that exists has an adequate explanation for why it exists, but not for why it exists in that way rather than some other way). So why have you changed your interpretation of PSR?

    Also, your "new" reading of PSR would give God no choice but to make the most reasonable world, out of all the options available to Him. God could not capriciously decide to make this world rather than some other one. Your "new" reading of PSR would also seem to excuse sin, as the sinner could say, "There was a reason why I sinned rather than doing good!" (And should someone retort, "Yeah, your own bad will," that merely pushes the question back one stage. That needs a reason too.)

    I agree that Craig's objection to Divine conceptualism is weak, but not for the reason you propose. Craig thinks that if God causes his thoughts, then he causes his omniscience - which He can't do, as it's an essential property of God. But "omniscience" may refer either to God's explicit knowledge of all actual states of affairs, or His ability to possess such knowledge. Only the latter is an essential property of God, and I see no problem in affirming that God causes His omniscience in the former sense, as He decides what world to make.

    Finally, your statement that "Anything that is in any way composed of parts can exist only if something causes those parts to be combined" fails to inform readers what a "part" is. Is it something less than a whole, something logically distinct from the whole, something separable from the whole, or something logically prior to the whole? It seems to me that only in the last two senses of the term does a composite of parts require an explanation.

    Thoughts?

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    1. @Vincent Torley, you write:

      Finally, your statement that "Anything that is in any way composed of parts can exist only if something causes those parts to be combined" fails to inform readers what a "part" is. Is it something less than a whole, something logically distinct from the whole, something separable from the whole, or something logically prior to the whole?

      Why in the name of all that is sane do you keep bringing this up? Not only has Ed answered that numerous times in his books, but that's been answered on these boards as well. Perhaps Ed rarely replies to you because you're either not paying attention or the quality of your arguments is so poor, it doesn't merit a sniff. IMO, both are in play. Man alive.

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    2. Hi Vincent,

      It seems that Feser was only using a common definition of PSR used by other philosophers without saying (in this review) whether or not he endorses this particular definition.

      It is similar to Craig who sometimes gave mathematics and numbers as examples of necessary truths (in his apologetic materials) without saying whether he endorses that idea (in fact he disagrees with it).

      Given that Feser at various articles elsewhere have given his preferred version of PSR, we should interpret Feser’s use of this definition of PSR in this review as a common definition other philosophers are familiar with, without interpreting it as a version that he would endorse. (Principle of Charitable Interpretation)


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

      Delete
    3. Bill,
      " Not only has Ed answered that numerous times in his books, but that's been answered on these boards"
      Yet you seem unable to voice that asserted to be sound answer here.

      Pointing off into the distance and claiming an answer is out there is a particularly unconvincing form of argument.

      Further, Vincent quoted significantly from the very sort of book you claim would answer Vincent's question and showed how Dr. Feser, in that instance, in fact does not answer Vincent's question as you claim.

      In this post Dr. Feser indeed defines the PSR deterministically, as Vincent correctly observed.

      You realize, Bill, that from time to time philosophers have been known to either change their minds upon further consideration, or simply contradict themselves when comparing separate writings, may I assume?

      In truth, there are no sound arguments for a non-deterministic PSR. All such attempts are merely equivocations or an attempt to define no reason as the reason, or an attempt to wrap indeterminism within a deterministic grammatical shell, a sort of linguistic Russian doll that always fails to be sound under careful unpacking.

      But Bill, perhaps you can provide a sound argument in your own clear words as to how the PSR could be anything other than a mandate of universal determinism?

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    4. @Stardust

      I'm only going to say this once. I'm replying because I saw my name at the top of your post. I did not read your post, AND I WILL NOT READ YOUR POSTS.

      After I defended you on these boards, you've proven yourself to be a troll. You misstate Thomism and make some of the stupidest arguments I've read here. Moreover, you've been banned by Feser. If you had a shred of decency, you would respect the wishes of the administrator and post elsewhere.

      Again, I do not read your posts, so it does no good to address me.

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    5. There's no appealing to SP. He was actually posting repeatedly in the recent open thread right below where Feser talked about the blight of trolls like him. He must have known Feser was talking specifically about him, along with a few others. He has deep mental/personality issues.

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    6. Bill,
      "You misstate Thomism "
      Yet you provide no examples, just as you provided no arguments in response to Vincent.

      Reasonable agrees with Vincent and I that the definition pf PSR that Dr. Feser used in the OP here is clearly deterministic.

      Are Vincent, Johannes, and I all "misrepresenting Thomism"? all in the same way?

      "After I defended you on these boards, you've proven yourself to be a troll."
      So you feel I have somehow betrayed you? Sorry, I do not recall you defending me, if you did, thank you.

      It doesn't really matter to me though about all the vacuous virtue signalling of name calling. I am interested in the arguments. If you cannot or do not post any counter arguments or at least provide a specific link and passage reference to a specific counter argument then that indicates strength in the original argument opposing yours.

      Dr. Feser clearly defined the PSR as deterministic in the OP, but perhaps you can show on the merits of the argument how that is not the case?

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    7. Anon,
      " He must have known Feser was talking specifically about him,"
      Yes, Dr. Feser mentioned something about tolerance for those who return, so it seemed likely he was referring to me, but I don't really care about the personal attributions, guesses about identity, or any of that. I am interested in the arguments on the merits of what is written and reasoned.

      Vincent raised a very serious concern about Dr. Feser's treatment of the PSR in the OP. Do you have a specific argument or a specific link and passage citation that directly argues against what Vincent posted above?

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    8. Bill,

      1. Kindly provide your own definition of "part."

      2. Kindly cite a reference to one of Feser's books (I have a few of them at home) which has the same definition as yours, at least in substance.

      3. Kindly explain what's wrong with my argument, in 50 words or less.

      4. Kindly explain (again, as succinctly as possible) why something external is needed to glue an agent to its own actions [or a thinker to its own thoughts], if the latter are distinct from the former.

      reasonable,

      Thank you for your polite response. The interpretation you propose makes sense. I just wish Feser had prefaced his criticism with the words, "This is not my own interpretation of PSR, but ..." That would have saved a lot of trouble. Thanks once again.

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    9. @Vincent, you write:

      Kindly provide your own definition of "part."

      I did in a previous combox discussion, and you even thanked me for it! Sorry, Vincent, but you have some memory issues.

      And if you think that I'm going to spoon-feed you information from Feser's books when you can't even remember a recent discussion we had on that very topic, I've got some ocean-front property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

      If you don't have memory issues, then you've got attention span problems. Instead of reading material to poke holes into it, why don't you try looking at it from the other person's perspective?

      My experience with guys like you is you've got a personal agenda against Thomism, and that's why you can't see the nose on your face. You're more concerned about knocking it down than actually understanding what it is saying. In that regard, you're no different from Stardust.

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    10. Hi Bill,

      After a lot of searching, I finally found the combox discussion you were referring to. The date of the discussion was July 28, 2019. That's more than seven months ago. If you possess the rare ability to recall discussions you had with someone seven months ago, then you have a phenomenal memory. For my part, I'm cheerfully normal, in that regard. I have discussions with lots of people, and my brain rapidly discards what is not vitally important. I suggest you do the same.

      But let's have a look at what you wrote:

      "...everything that changes must, by definition, exist (be in act) and have the capacity (potential) to change. Thus, "part" is really a principle of being which accounts for change."

      Re your refusal to "spoon-feed" me "information from Feser's books," please note that you did not cite a reference to any of Feser's books for this definition. I've looked through them in vain for a definition of "part." That was why I asked in the first place.

      But does your proposed definition work? My original objection (after thanking you) was that "it would imply that a changeless being has no parts." I put forward a Boethian counter-example: "So if God stands outside time, like a watchman on a high hill seeing the past, present and future in one timeless sweep of His gaze (as Boethius supposed) then even though His knowledge of our free choices is (timelessly) derived from His own creatures, He would have no parts, on the definition you propose."

      Your reply was:

      "Of course a changeless being has no parts!" (I don't know why that's obvious to you; it certainly isn't to me.)

      You added:

      "And there are no "contingent properties" in God. If there were, He would not be changeless and thus composite."

      That doesn't follow. Why couldn't a timeless God nonetheless have contingent properties, relating to contingent decisions He makes about the world He creates, or contingent facts which He knows about the world? There's no need for change here, if you think of God as being like a watchman on a high hill, as Boethius did.

      You concluded: "Do you want me to lay out that whole argument too? Well, I'm not. If you really don't know why we believe that, perhaps you should read or re-read Ed's books."

      I've spent thousands of hours doing just that. I have yet to find a convincing refutation of the Boethian position anywhere in Ed's writings. And if you'd rather not lay out Ed's argument, please don't bother. Go and listen to some music, instead. I'm sure you have better things to do with your precious time. Enjoy!

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    11. @Vincent Torley, you write:

      That's more than seven months ago. If you possess the rare ability to recall discussions you had with someone seven months ago, then you have a phenomenal memory.

      Oh, please. It's not a "rare" ability, especially if you're sincerely looking for an answer to a question. I certainly remembered that exchange, and I've had myriad online discussions ranging from politics, sports, the theater, and theology. I even moderate a political blog, so don't give me this clap-trap about "pheomenal memory." You're agenda-driven, and that's why you didn't remember it. If you don't like the answer, you discard it because your history here shows that you're only interested in poking holes in Thomism. You're not at all interested in really understanding it, else you wouldn't ask the stupid questions you do.

      Re your refusal to "spoon-feed" me "information from Feser's books," please note that you did not cite a reference to any of Feser's books for this definition. I've looked through them in vain for a definition of "part." That was why I asked in the first place.

      You looked in vain because you were only looking to find fault with Feser's argument. Do you know where I got that definition? I got it from readiing Feser! Since that was my first interaction with you along that line, I thought I'd go ahead and supply the answer even though I was astounded that you didn't already know it. And you can rest your memory-challenged brain that I'll not spoon-feed you any longer. I've read Aquinas, The Last Superstition, Scholastic Metaphysics, and Five Proofs. Anybody who's read Feser knows the answer, and if some self-appointed thinker comes along and says he can't find it, I'm NOT going to waste my time pointing it out and explaining it to him.

      "Of course a changeless being has no parts!" (I don't know why that's obvious to you; it certainly isn't to me.)

      Exactly.

      And if you'd rather not lay out Ed's argument, please don't bother.

      I already told you that I'm not going to bother doing it for you. Did you forget?

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    12. Bill,

      Until now, I've been quite charitable about your definition of "part." But as someone who has a Ph.D. in philosophy, I'll tell it to you straight: your definition doesn't even get to first base. Here's why.

      You wrote: "Thus, "part" is really a principle of being which accounts for change."

      Sorry, but merely saying, "An X is that which accounts for Y" is not a proper definition. You have to explain how it does so. Your definition is really a stipulation. Saying "A part is a principle of being that accounts for change" is like saying "An engine is that which accounts for a motor vehicle's motion." It tells us nothing about engines, and it doesn't get to the heart of the matter, the "whatness" of an engine, as the following definition does: "An engine or motor is a machine designed to convert one form of energy (such as chemical energy or electrical energy) into mechanical energy." Now that's a definition.

      In defining a part, you also have to provide a definition which includes all cases of what are commonly recognized as parts, and no cases of what are commonly recognized as not being parts.

      What Feser wants to say is that: (a) essence and existence are distinct parts of any contingent being; (b) matter and form are distinct parts of the essence of any material substance; (c) the properties of a thing and the intrinsic accidents of a thing (contingent or otherwise) are parts of it; (d) any quantity of a physical thing that's less than the whole is a part of it; but on the other hand, (e) Three Persons of the Trinity are not parts of the Godhead. In his "Scholastic Metaphysics" (p. 147) Feser also rejects the Scotist and Suarezian view that the parts of a thing have to be separable from one another, and on p. 185, he insists that even if the parts of a being existing from all eternity did not pre-exist that being temporally, they still require an ontologically prior cause to hold them together. Feser apparently maintains that a thing's parts are ontologically prior to the whole they compose. Finally, in a blog post titled, Nature versus Art (April 30, 2011), he contrasts natural objects (such as a liana vine) with artifacts (such as a hammock): in the former case, the parts “have an inherent tendency to function together."

      In an online essay at http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/flawed-logic-and-bad-mereology-why-fesers-first-two-proofs-fail/#6 (see parts 6 and 7), I attempted to cobble together a definition of "part" from Feser's various writings on the subject, which I then critiqued. Here's the definition.

      A and B are two parts of a compound C, if and only if:

      (i) they are ontologically prior to C;
      (ii) they possess incompatible attributes, which make them really distinct;
      (iii) they have an inherent tendency to function together; and
      (iv) the reality they comprise is greater than either of them, when considered on its own (wholes being greater than their parts).

      Say what you like; that is at least a proper definition, unlike the one you provided. However, it's a bad one for the purposes of Feser's argument. If the parts of a thing have to be ontologically prior to it, then the properties and intrinsic accidents of a thing are not parts of it, which means that there is no good reason for Feser to insist that God has no (real) accidents. A thing's properties follow from the nature of the whole, while real contingent accidents are ontologically posterior to the nature of the whole, simply by virtue of being accidents. I conclude that Feser cannot rule out the possibility of a simple being, with no parts, possessing multiple properties and/or contingent real accidents.

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    13. @Vincent Torley, you write:

      Until now, I've been quite charitable about your definition of "part."

      Mighty big of you.

      But as someone who has a Ph.D. in philosophy, I'll tell it to you straight: your definition doesn't even get to first base.

      I guess I should be grateful you were so gentle to me previously. Since we're being candid, I'll be just as straight. In order to sidestep the point about your terrible memory issues, you whip out your PHD to prove that you're a golly-gee-whiz certified smart person. You want to show the world that you really, truly read Feser's work, and your superior intelligence tells you that he somehow failed to connect the dots sufficiently for you. Funny, though. I don't have a PHD and I could figure out what you allegedly invested a considerable amount of time looking for.

      Sorry, but merely saying, "An X is that which accounts for Y" is not a proper definition. You have to explain how it does so.

      And Feser does that in his numerous works.

      "An engine or motor is a machine designed to convert one form of energy (such as chemical energy or electrical energy) into mechanical energy." Now that's a definition.

      Now that's really how you describe an angel's "parts," right? Which part of a painting is "a machine designed to convert one form of energy...into mechanical energy"? The principle of being which accounts for change is a general definition which covers everything contingent. The various types of composition (form/matter, substance/accident, essence/existence, genus/species, etc.) are all given ample treatment in Feser's and others' works, and all of these "parts" are defined and explained in the plethora of works defending Thomism. If you really, truly researched the topic, your "question" would never have been asked. The specific definition of a "part" depends on the type of composition.

      If the parts of a thing have to be ontologically prior to it, then the properties and intrinsic accidents of a thing are not parts of it, which means that there is no good reason for Feser to insist that God has no (real) accidents.

      Which again demonstrates that your PHD is insufficient to enable you to pay attention to what you're reading.

      So, as I told you previously, I will not spoon-feed you what you failed to notice. I have no problem explaining it to newbies (for I was one myself), but for somebody with a big fat "PHD," forget it. It is inexplicable how you missed it.

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    14. I should not interrupt this duel between two gentlemens, but seems it will not get very far, so...

      "If the parts of a thing have to be ontologically prior to it, then the properties and intrinsic accidents of a thing are not parts of it"

      That is a interesting argument, sure you need the whole to have accidents*, but i think that God having accidents would entail He having potencials, and so not being the First Mover, which is impossible.

      Vicent, do you think God can change?

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    15. *gentlemen

      This way of indicating plurals confuses a bit.

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    16. You also has to remember that having these accidents entails that what you is now is dependent on they, even if they could not exist alone.

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    17. @Talmid, you write:

      I should not interrupt this duel between two gentlemens, but seems it will not get very far, so...

      You're correct. I'm about done here. Ed Feser had been very gracious to me when as a newbie I asked him all sorts of questions. He replied to my emails and gave me a lot of material to read. However, when I asked a couple of very stupid questions after reading the books that contained the answers, he didn't reply at all. I went back over one of the books, and there was the answer staring me right in the face. You can imagine my embarrassment.

      Ed can't help it if he takes the time to put the material out there and folks don't take the time to digest it.

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    18. Bill,

      I don't particularly care whether you're impressed with my Ph.D. or not. I am concerned, however, when you're unable to interpret a simple point I was making. You write:

      "Which part of a painting is 'a machine designed to convert one form of energy...into mechanical energy'?"

      Huh? You're quoting from my definition of an engine, and you're asking which part of my painting is an engine? That doesn't make sense.

      You add:

      "The principle of being which accounts for change is a general definition which covers everything contingent... The specific definition of a 'part' depends on the type of composition."

      Once again, you've failed to address my original objection. You cannot properly define something, simply by saying what it is for.

      But there's another reason why your definition of "part" is bad: it defines a primary concept in terms of a secondary, derivative concept. Suppose a child were to ask me "What's 'property'?" in the context of a discussion about crime, and I were to answer, "It's what thieves steal." The problem here is not with the answer's factual truthfulness, so much as with the whole attempt to define "property" in terms of "stealing," when the latter is parasitic upon the former.

      The same goes for parts and change. Change is possible only because things have parts. Hence the whole enterprise of defining parts in terms of change is misconceived: it's the wrong way round. Change can be defined in terms of parts, but not vice versa.

      Finally, Ed has many excellent qualities as a philosopher, but being analytic isn't one of them. He's not one for rigorous definitions. Trouble is, when you're doing metaphysics, you really do need to be rigorous, and define our terms.

      Talmid,

      In response to your question as to whether God's having accidents renders Him capable of change, I would answer: not if He possesses them timelessly and eternally (on a Boethian view of eternity).

      As to God's being the First Mover: I do not agree with Ed's view that God is the Purely Actual Actualizer. All his argument shows is that there's something capable of actualizing other beings without needing to be activated by anything else - in other words, a Self-Starting Agent. This Agent may be capable of (timelessly) interacting with other beings, even if it doesn't need to do so in order to activate them. Cheers.

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    19. @Vincent Torley, you write:

      I don't particularly care whether you're impressed with my Ph.D. or not.

      Yes, you do, else you wouldn't have brandished it. The substance of your arguments demonstrates whether you know what you're talking about. Your pride got wounded because you were shown to have a lousy memory. Or, rather, your memory is fine when you care to pay attention to what you read. You weren't paying attention, and that's why you forgot the exchange. Since you needed to reestablish your swagger, you whipped out your PHD. Not impressive, and yes, you care.

      Huh? You're quoting from my definition of an engine, and you're asking which part of my painting is an engine? That doesn't make sense.

      Oh, you weren't paying attention again? You said:

      In defining a part, you also have to provide a definition which includes all cases of what are commonly recognized as parts, and no cases of what are commonly recognized as not being parts.

      And I replied:

      The various types of composition (form/matter, substance/accident, essence/existence, genus/species, etc.) are all given ample treatment in Feser's and others' works, and all of these "parts" are defined and explained in the plethora of works defending Thomism.

      My, "principle of being which accounts for change" in a thing is simply a general statement applicable to every composite being. The specific definitions have all been provided by Feser and others depending on the type of composition. It would be a waste of time to connect the dots because Ed's already done it. This is so typical of how you read material. You look for a rebuttal instead of trying to absorb what's being said. As I've notice for some time, you're agenda-driven. You don't like Thomism for personal/political reasons, so your investigations are wholly designed to knock it down. It's very obvious to non-ideologues.

      Your definition of a machine misses the point entirely because it's merely specific to one type of composition and doesn't provide the underlying metaphysical description which renders "part" intelligible to the overall argument. It was a ridiculously stupid comment which demonstrates your total ineptness when it comes to these discussions. Your PHD hasn't helped you any, and it won't help you no matter how many times you stroke your degree at night. To repeat, since your memory is so bad, all the specific definitions have been provided, but you've been so busy attacking Thomism, you failed to notice. Did they teach you competency in college?

      Finally, Ed has many excellent qualities as a philosopher, but being analytic isn't one of them. He's not one for rigorous definitions. Trouble is, when you're doing metaphysics, you really do need to be rigorous, and define our terms.

      ROFL! The guy who can't read complains about Feser's incompetence. What a hoot you are.

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    20. Vincent,
      "his argument shows is that there's something capable of actualizing other beings without needing to be activated by anything else - in other words, a Self-Starting Agent. "
      Reading your posts here and at the zone wrt mereology you make some interesting points but I think you cede too much to the notion of a hierarchical first mover of any sort that in any sense can act as mover without itself being moved.

      Aristotle and Aquinas were under the mistaken ideas that all sublunary motion is in an impeding medium such that motion is lost absent a mover, and therefore all observed moving objects are being moved in the present moment.

      In truth, all motion is through space which does not impede motion. Motion is never lost, only transferred or transformed.

      Macro objects can and very obviously do move themselves, contrary to the staff/hand example of Aquinas and the rock/stick/hand argument of Feser.

      All change of every sort entails motion, the physical translation through space of material.

      Material interacts mutually, as in mutual gravitation, mutual charge attraction and repulsion, with all the physics formulations of change reducing to such mutual interactions.

      Once these modern understandings of how our real material universe progresses are understood the notion of a hierarchical regression of movers terminating in a first mover disappears, and in that respect, I say you cede too much.

      By applying reason to what is truly manifest and evident to our senses we regress to material entities that cannot move themselves and cannot move any other entities without themselves also being likewise moved.

      At base, a present moment regression analysis terminates finitely with minimally simple entities that by structural necessity can only, and do, mutually move each other in net lossless interactions through a lossless medium in a vastly complex system of perpetual motion.

      I have noticed that some Thomists have a penchant for invective, although they are not the only such people. I would be interested in your views on my above points on the merits of the arguments as you see them.

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    21. @Vicent


      "In response to your question as to whether God's having accidents renders Him capable of change, I would answer: not if He possesses them timelessly and eternally (on a Boethian view of eternity)."

      It is a very interesting view, but would not there be a metaphysical distinction between God before creation and after it?

      Like: Alone > creates > with creation

      Even if God His outside time it seems to me like it would have a distinction here, but maybe you can accept Aquinas view that God exists and do all by one act.

      "As to God's being the First Mover: I do not agree with Ed's view that God is the Purely Actual Actualizer. All his argument shows is that there's something capable of actualizing other beings without needing to be activated by anything else - in other words, a Self-Starting Agent."

      I believe Aquinas talks about this idea. If the being has the potential to change but changes itself them it got from potency to act with no act before, and this is not possible.

      The reason is that a potential can only be made actual by something in act, and if there is nothing in act before this being them it seems that it got in act for no reason. The only way to escape that is if you have a being that is in total act and has no potencies at all.

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  7. I wonder how much of Craig's antirealism in mathematics is driven by his rejection of modern mathematical theories of infinity in defense of his Kalam argument. Many Christian mathematicians (myself included) think that Craig is borderline crankish in his dismissal of modern set theory as an adequate response to the apparent paradox behind things like the Hilbert Hotel thought experiment. If the mathematical theory of infinity can be dismissed as fictional, it poses no threat to his version of the Kalam argument.

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    1. I don't follow. As far as I know, Craig doesn't dismiss modern set theory. In what way does modern set theory provide an "adequate response" to Hilbert's hotel? The point of Hilbert's hotel is not to show a paradox with the infinite per se in mathematics, only that it would be bizarre if it could have some real, metaphysical existence, which goes beyond mathematical theories.

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    2. This is a good video on it

      https://youtu.be/7OnZv9FC5uY

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    3. My response to the Grand Hotel mind game is to slightly change the initial premise: Suppose that the Hotel is full so that no further guests can be accommodated...

      My sense is that it works because an infinite set cannot be actual, and this is why the mechanisms "work" for adding more guests - we are trading off of the not-being-actual to assert such a solution. Which is OK as long as none of the results are then applied to something actual.

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  8. Interesting review. I had no idea that Craig takes an anti-realist approach to mathematics. Wow. Such an approach boggles my mind. I knew that he rejects divine simplicity so I assumed he would just put mathematical objects in God as an uncaused part. Seems bizarre that he goes for anti-realism instead.

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  9. I wonder if Scotus' formal distinction is useful here

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  10. @reasonable: I am not familiar enough with van Inwagen's work to answer in his stead; I only know his answers to Craig because I attended the colloquium at which they both spoke about God's aseity and abstract objects. From what Inwagen said there, I would guess he might reply that your imaginary interlocutor's answer needs a lot of unpacking. For example, Inwagen gave "sentence form" as in instance of abstract object, but I wouldn't think that sentence forms exist in concrete objects, unless a piece of discourse is a concrete object.

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    1. Thanks ficino4ml.

      Hence in my earlier comment I used the expression “abstract objects exist in the mind FUNDAMENTALLY, and in particular entities SECONDARILY”.

      I meant “secondarily” in the sense that abstract objects may or may not exist in particular entities; it is contingent/conditional upon
      (1) what kind of abstract objects they are, and
      (2) what kind of particular entities are actualised in the actual world.

      I intended “fundamentally” in the sense that any abstract object that exist must first and foremost exist in the mind.


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

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    2. amend my grammar errors:

      I intended “fundamentally” in the sense that any abstract object that exists must first and foremost exists in the mind.

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    3. As I recall, the drift of van Inwagen's criticism of Craig was to say that we don't appeal to the contents of God's mind in order to explain how abstract objects exist - but our not so appealing isn't a problem for God's aseity because abstract objects don't have causal powers. So I'm guessing that he would deny that abstract objects exist "in a mind." But I might have him wrong on this.

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  11. Dr. Michael Huemer holds that universals [like numbers] exist, but they depend on the existence of particulars. [The regular idea of Aristotle.]
    This makes sense to me. But it does not seem to conflict with Divine Simplicity since I also hold with Kant at least to the degree that Reason does not comprehend any area that is outside of conditions of experience. [Things in themselves].

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  12. I think Craig wants to evoid Catholicism. It is difficult to be a classical theist and not ended up a catholic. He is very prominent and very smart. I want him to be a catholic.

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    1. Remember what happened to St. John Ogilvie when he left fundamentalism for Christianity. His feast day was only four days ago.

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    2. You can be classical theist and orthodox :)

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    3. Yes, one can be a classical theist and be part of the Orthodox Church instead of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Another option which is easier for Craig:
      He can be a classical theist and a Protestant. Some of the reformers during the Reformation believed in Divine Simplicity. Some Protestants now are also classical theists. Protestant beliefs do not forbid classical theism.


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

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    4. Norman Geisler was is teacher and the man was a protestant thomist, so Craig probably knows how to be a classical theist and a protestant.

      I assume that in his first contact with Classical Theism he saw the view as too bizarre and unlike the God of the Bible, so he dismissed it. Craig is very smart but he seems pretty bad at getting concepts like Divine Simplicity, so he probably just never taked the view very serious and never studied much in deep.

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    5. Well, I didn't say that a classical theist is NECESSARILY a catholic.

      Norman Geisler was not terrible, intellectually speaking,defending protestantism and Sola Scriptura.

      If you are a classical theist and you ended up being something else other than a catholic then I would say something went wrong in your reasoning ,for why you would not be a catholic;why you aren't?

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    6. @Talmid, you write:

      Craig is very smart but he seems pretty bad at getting concepts like Divine Simplicity, so he probably just never taked the view very serious and never studied much in deep.

      Craig's two main objections to the divine simplicity (DS) are that it is unscriptural and that it logically affirms a modal collapse.

      I find it interesting that Craig consistently appeals to the authority of the Scriptures to sidestep the metaphysical arguments of Thomists. It's interesting because he regularly reminds his debating partners that they are not debating the Bible; they are debating this or that topic on the authority of reason. So, when he gets into a discussion of DS, what does he do? He jumps off the rational analysis track and argues that DS is incompatible with the Bible.

      As stated, his lone foray into a logical rebuttal is his disdain for what he thinks is the consequent of DS, and that is modal collapse. However, that still doesn't rebut the Thomist argument, for even if we get a modal collapse the argument is untouched.

      Craig has also stated that he doesn't see a real distinction between essence and existence, but in his recent dialog with Catholic apologists, that wasn't really fleshed out.

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    7. @Bill

      Yea, is pretty strange how he uses Scripture in a metaphysical discussion. Since Dr. Craig seems pretty honest to me, i assume that he act that way with the classical theists because he thinks that there are no good arguments for Divine Simplicity* and that there are good ones for the reliability of Scriture, so it is a valid strategy.

      Modal Collapse also seems a thing very hard to accept, so i understand him here. From what i remember of his talk with Bishop Barron about it is clear to me that it is really a great difficult to Craig.

      You can argue that Dr. Craig never studied the view much and i would agree, but it seems to me that his problems with DS are more on a intelectual level. To him is a view with no good arguments and a lot of problems.

      *He said that before, and if you don't believe in the existence of metaphysical parts like act and potency as he seems to it truly is harder to argue for

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    8. @Talmid

      The thing is when Craig is confronted with the direct argument, he goes silent or he talks about something else. When he talks about properties, it's clear he doesn't "get" the Thomist argument, and I'm not equating disagreement with not getting it. Whenever somebody argues a topic, it's clear regardless the side s/he takes whether s/he understands the argument s/he's rebutting. Craig keeps hitting a straw man.

      That's not to impugn his intelligence. I think he's so convinced that his main objections carry the day that he doesn't need to spend time dismantling the Thomist edifice.

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    9. @Bill

      From what a remember about he discussing it with Barron it really seems he just do not think the view is worth his time.

      Along with Modal Collapse other problem he seems to have with Classical Theism is the idea that we can't talk univocally abput God. The argument of his against Divine Timelessness that i can remember assumes that God knows time exactly as we do, for example.

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  13. I'm terribly sorry for asking an off-topic question but this is very important for me. In the Aristotelian Proof, it is concluded that:

    1. There must be an unactualized actualizer which actualizes the potentialities of other things to exist without its own existence having to be actualized.
    2. This unactualized actualizer cannot have any kind of potencies.

    How is the inference made from 1 to 2? Why can't this unactualized actualizer have potencies not pertaining to its existence? Why must it be unchangeable?

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    1. (I’m not an Aristotelian so excuse me if this explanation sucks), but my understanding is that is because then it would need something to actualize those potentials. If it were changeable then that would entail that it had potentials (because the Aristotelian account is literally that change = actualización of a potential). Essentially if it had any potentials, then it would itself need to have been actualized by another. Anything potential must be actualized by something already actual, and if it had potentials, then it would not be purely actual and thus the regress would continue. I looked in Feser’s 5 proofs and he discusses this from pages 65-67ish. Someone else who is more knowledgable on Aristotelianism May be able to better explain what I said.

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    2. Thank you for trying to help me.

      Yes, Feser addresses this objection on pages 66-67 in his book under the headline "Why an unmovable mover", but to my mind in an unsatisfactory manner. In particular he says on page 66: "So, suppose this first actualizer had some potentiality that had to be actualized in order for it to exist." But that's not the objection that's being brought up. Just because nothing actualizes the existence of the first actualizer, why couldn't this first actualizer still have potencies not pertaining to its existence? Why couldn't it have potencies to change in some way? Wouldn't it not having potencies related to change require that change in itself is always a hierarchically ordered series? But that is of course not so.

      To recap my question: why does that which actualizes the potentialities of other things to exist without its own existence being actualized also have to be devoid of potentiality to change? Why must it be immutable?

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    3. I think your question is sensible and very reasonable. Here's some things that might help:

      Feser mentions in the book (while discussing the first proof, I believe) that someone might object that the first cause is purely actual wrt its existence but could perhaps have other potentialities. He then answers something along the lines that existence is what is most basic or real for a thing, so if it is purely actual wrt existence how could it be potential in other respects? Agere sequitur esse gives a clue here. Though I wish Feser would go more in depth about why a purely existing thing cannot have any other potentials.

      My own idea is the following: potency can be either active or passive. Active potency is the power to do things, and in this sense the First Cause has active potencies (such as the potential to actualize a world) which do not imply change in the First Cause.
      Passive potency is the potency that involves change in things, such as when a thing is set on fire, melts, suffers some action, etc. I don't think a First Cause (or a Necessary Being) can have such potencies, for they would imply that the First Cause can become something other than it is. The First Cause must be actual, it must exist - but then how can it have a passive potency to become different than what it is? It cannot change into anything else, it must be as it is. So it must be purely actual.

      Another argument - which I think Feser mentions - is that by PPC the first cause has the actualities of all its effects, and if there is only one First Cause, then it has the actualities of every possible being (since everything other than the first cause would be caused by it) and as such it could have no potentials.

      A simpler argument would involve Swinburne's considerations of simplicity and Rasmussen's arbitrary limits principle. A purely actual being is simpler than a being that has some actualities and some potentialities. And a being that has some potentialities invited the question of why those aren't actual, why it would have these limits in power or being, which seem arbitrary.

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    4. Please Help,
      A few quotations from Feser have been kindly offered to you by the always magnanimous good folks here.
      “He then answers something along the lines that existence is what is most basic or real for a thing,”

      Existence of material never changes so there is no call for a changer to account for no change. Material interacts mutually with other material in net lossless re-arrangements of form. Motion is never lost, rather, only transferred and transformed.

      The First Way is an argument from motion that fails due to the obviously false premise that no macro object can move itself (counter examples abound, clocks, battery cars, you, etc.).

      The First Way also fails by invalid logic such as false dichotomy, because there is a third choice between infinite regress and an unmoved mover, which again is very obviously how the interactions of material in the universe progress, by mutuality, such as mutual gravitational attraction and mutual charge repulsion.

      But Craig, the main topic of this thread, rejects Thomism for other valid reasons.

      In particular Craig recognizes that the conclusions of Thomism are incoherent assertions. Anon previously wrote 2+2=5, obviously an incoherent assertion such that when I read it I attributed that statement to a simple human error in motor control as I have done many times myself. Anon then, realizing that an incoherent statement had been made, immediately wrote a correction, 2+2=4, which is what a reasonable person does, recognize that after a long line of reasoning an incoherent statement has been made and therefore something went wrong in the reasoning or writing process.

      Craig applies this very reasonably to Thomism, after all, the name of Craig’s website is Reasonable Faith. Craig realizes that these notions are incoherent:
      Essence and existence are identical in god
      God is perfectly simple
      Abstractions are real objects in the universe

      Dr. Feser recently wrote a post here titled “Agere sequitur esse and the First Way” in which he discusses how he uses the argument from motion, the First Way, to by extension, on the principle of Agere sequitur esse, argue for a first sustainer of existence.

      Well, the First Way is an argument from motion, or more generally change, all change entailing the physical translation through space of material. That is not about existence because material never changes in its existential aspect. No new material ever comes into being out of nothing, and no extant material ever passes out of existence into nothing. If material had the suicidal tendency to change itself from existing to not existing, absent a first sustatiner, then that is what would call for a changer, so Thomism has existence and sustainer back to front. Where would material go if it were to simply "blink out"? The very notion of material simply disappearing from existence absent a first sustainer is incoherent.

      So, a foundational work of reasoning, the First Way, fails due to false premises and invalid logic, which leads to the assertion of numerous incoherent terms in Thomism.

      Craig does the reasonable thing in recognizing that the conclusions of Thomism are incoherent and therefore the reasoning that leads to those conclusions is unsound.

      The Thomist, however, insists that 2 plus 2 really must equal 5 and if only I would read 75 pages of metaphysics and study multiple books by Dr. Feser I could understand why 2 plus 2 absolutely must equal 5.

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    5. ^Ignore this guy, he is a troll who has no idea what he’s talking about.

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    6. Anon,
      You say referring to me that “he has no idea what he’s talking about.”
      Could you be more specific? Which of my above citations of the positions of Craig are inaccurate? Which logical arguments I made above are unsound and why?

      OP
      “The Aristotelian approach to mathematics offers a middle ground between Platonism and nominalism. For the Aristotelian, the Platonist is correct to regard mathematics as a description of objective reality rather than as mere linguistic convention. Mathematics works because it is true and the entities it refers to are real, …”
      In this case I strongly agree with Dr. Feser. He and I share at least one viewpoint, that of structural realism. Abstractions such as logic, of which mathematics is a highly organized variety, are not real objects that exist in the universe. Craig has reached the same conclusion against Platonism.

      OP
      “Another objection Craig raises in passing is that it is not clear how the Aristotelian approach can deal with mathematical entities that cannot plausibly be found anywhere in the physical world. For example, there are actual triangles in the physical world, …”
      Here Dr. Feser speaks inaccurately, because there are no actual triangles in the physical world. There is no such object in the physical world as an actual triangle. No physical object conforms to the specifications of a triangle. All real physical objects deviate from the mathematical description of a triangle.

      A triangle is an abstraction, an idea in the human mind, not a real object in the universe at all. I suspect that Dr. Feser is well of aware of this fact and his inaccurate statement is likely just a case of using oversimplified language in the context of a relatively short posting.

      OP
      “Now, there are infinitely many numbers, infinitely many possible geometric shapes, and so on. No human mind or collection of human minds can contain them. But an infinite, divine mind could. Hence, to deal with the infinity of mathematical truths and entities that have no instances in the physical world, the Aristotelian approach to mathematics can be extended to include the mind of God.”
      Since numbers are abstractions that do not exist Platonically the statement “there ARE infinitely many numbers” (emphasis mine) is not true. Since numbers do not exist as real objects there ARE no numbers at all, much less an infinity of them. One need not account for an infinity of things that do not exist.

      Thus, there is no call to invoke an infinite mind as the source of an infinity of non-existent objects.

      Infinity is not a number, rather, infinity is a concept, an abstraction. One could never count up to infinity even in principle given an unbounded lifespan. In mathematics we simply write a symbol for infinity to express that concept, and use that symbol, for example, as a limit in a definite integral expression. At no point in one’s thinking is there a need to somehow contain in one’s mind more numbers than there are atoms in the brain, rather one simply performs a few logical steps that have been established in connection with the concept of infinity that is represented by a single symbol for that concept.

      In performing calculations that involve the use of the concept of infinity there is no need to somehow store an infinity of numbers in the brain that would then require some source of a real infinity such as the speculated real infinity of god’s mind.

      Hence, this section of reasoning by Dr. Feser on the subject of accounting for an infinity of numbers by attributing the source of this infinity to an infinite divine mind is poorly reasoned, being based upon a false premise, that there “are” an infinity of numbers, there are not.

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    7. @Atno

      Since you're conversing with a newbie, it would help to explain an abbreviation the first time you use it (in the event your interlocutor is unfamiliar with it. In this instance you could have followed "wrt" with (with respect to).

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  14. I'd like to know more about how divine conceptualism and divine simplicity can coexist. What does it mean to say that different universals are divine thoughts but that there is no distinction between these thoughts within God, and no distinction between God and these thoughts? It's hard to make sense of. 2+2=5 and 4+4=8 are distinct truths yet are not distinct in God. How?

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  15. @Please help, you write:

    To recap my question: why does that which actualizes the potentialities of other things to exist without its own existence being actualized also have to be devoid of potentiality to change? Why must it be immutable?

    Because if it were not Pure Act, it would be a composite of act and potency. The argument from an essentially ordered (per se) causal series leads to Pure Act which is Existence Itself devoid of composition. Since all beings except God are composites of act and potency, and if the cause of all contingent being is Pure Act, it follows that Pure Act must be non-composite and thus devoid of passive potency. If it were a composite of act and potency, then its existence would have to be explained by something other than what it is, for all composites are ontologically dependent on their components for their existence and are thus moved by something other than what they are. No potency can raise itself to act and no act can preexist its act. The essentially ordered chain of change necessarily, indeed must, end at something that cannot be changed.

    Anything with the capacity to change is a composite of two principles of being, act and potency. And since all composites must look to something other than what they are for their existence, we cannot look to any composite as the ground for all that is. Only Pure Act stops the series.

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    1. Bill,
      "Existence Itself" is an incoherent term.

      What is existing in existence itself?
      Absolutely nothing at all? Then in what sense do you say absolutely nothing at all exists?

      Something? If something is existing in "existence itself" then the existence is not itself, rather, of something.

      "The argument from an essentially ordered (per se) causal series" is an argument from change, or motion, all causal change entailing physical translation of material through space.

      Material does not change in its existential aspect. No new material ever comes into being from nothing. No extant material ever passes out of being into nothing.

      There is never any change in the existence of material, therefore an argument from change is not applicable to an argument for the existence of material.

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  16. Is there no existence at all in "existence itself"? If there is no existence in "existence itself" then how can one speak of existence at all in the term?

    Or is the claim only that existence is what is existing in "existence itself"? How is that anything other than a circular assertion?

    Or is there some other thing that is asserted to exist in "existence itself"? If so, then clearly the existence is not really of itself.

    Now, Bill, and others, have accused me frequently of "misstating Thomism", or "misrepresenting Thomism", but how is inquiring about "existence itself" somehow a misrepresentation on my part, since that term appears so frequently in the assertions of experienced Thomists?

    Can anybody explain or in any way justify that "existence itself" is anything other than an incoherent term?

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  17. How do we reconcile divine simplicity with Trinitarianism? Can someone point me to some resources on this, preferably Church Fathers and ancient sources, maybe newer sources as well? Does Feser deal with this problem?

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    1. @Tanner

      Feser has posted on the Trinity several times, but he has not replied to the various objections to his position either here or elsewhere.

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  18. Tanner, it's easy: subsistent relations. ;-)

    Cf. Summa, Prima Pars, Q.27 ff.

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    1. It's not "easy" at all. In fact, it entails a direct logical inversion.

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    2. Bill,

      Sorry...my comment was tongue-in-check, as I thought would be obvious. I mean, who actually thinks attempting a metaphysical reconciliation of what (at least) appears to involve a contradiction would be easy?

      In any case, I don't agree that it entails a logical inversion.

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  19. @Albinus

    I understand you don't agree that the doctrine of the Trinity (DT) entails a logical inversion, but it does nonetheless.

    Under divine simplicity, if there is a real distinction in personhood and if each person is fully God, there must be a principle of commonality (PC) and a principle of distinction (PD) for each person must differ in some way in order to be distinct. In other words, what makes them common and what makes them distinct? The PC (what makes them God) is the divine essence, and if the distinction is the subsistent relation, and if the subsistent relation is also equivalent to the divine essence, then the argument reduces to PC=PD. And therein is the contradiction: What the persons have in common is identical with what they do not have in common (C=~C). The PC cannot in principle be the PD for that asserts that the very thing which makes the persons the same is what makes them different. That is no different than saying that it's possible for each person to be really distinct without differing in any way.

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    1. A subsistent relation denotes two aspects: subsistence and relation. Identity follows from subsistent relation qua subsistent. Distinction doesn't follow from subsistent relation qua subsistent (if it did, there would be a contradiction) but only qua relation.

      Relation qua relation (i.e., what makes it distinct as a category of being) denotes reference to another (esse ad). I think you are forgetting this unique aspect of relation by collapsing it (as a category of being) into substance.

      So when you say "What the persons have in common is identical with what they do not have in common" a category mistake is being made. There is no "what" that they don't have in common. Distinction arises not by some "thing" but only by the aspect of relation to another.

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    2. But Aquinas identifies the relation as the essence and that the relation is real. Thus, the distinction is real. Now, if all you're saying is that the "real" relation is merely a distinction in the mode of God's revelation to man, then you're a modalist, not a trinitarian.

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    3. Basically, what you're saying is simply that God relates to Himself. We too can relate to ourselves in various ways, but we're still one person.

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    4. Bill,

      Correct, the relations are not really distinct from the essence, and the relations are real, and the distinction between relations is real.

      I have said nothing that implies distinction of relations merely according to the mode of God's revelation. No idea how you inferred that.

      Yes, God is related to himself. That is merely a logical relation of identity. Real distinction in God arises only by mutually opposed relations (i.e., begetting vs being begotten; spirating vs being spirated). In fact, there are *four* real relations in God, not three. But only three persons because active spiration is not opposed to paternity or filiation (i.e., there are only three *really distinct* relations in God).

      And yes, we are related to ourselves. But again, a relation of identity is merely logical. Also, of course, our various parts are related. But personhood implies a complete individual rational substance. No part of us is that, only the whole. Thus, I am only one person though my parts have innumerable relations. With God, on the other hand, paternity, filiation, and passive spiration is each complete rational substance and is really distinct from the other two relations...thus three persons.

      And that answers StardustyPsyche as well.

      But we're getting a little off topic, Bill. My previous comment responds directly to yours and shows how there is no contradiction, since a subsistent relation has two aspects: subsistent and relation, thus providing for unity and distinction. Your previous comments ignore my distinction and thus don't further the conversation.

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    5. @Albinus, you write:

      I have said nothing that implies distinction of relations merely according to the mode of God's revelation. No idea how you inferred that.

      Because I read your reply as separating the essence from the relation. If the essence is undivided, then there cannot be a real distinction between the essence and the relation. The "distinction" is but notional, and if it's notional, then it's modalism and not trinitarianism. If they are one and the same but really different, then you have a straight logical inversion.

      Yes, God is related to himself. That is merely a logical relation of identity.

      Then there is no Trinity. The one, undivided person of God relates to Himself in various ways, but remains one person, unless you define person in a manner indistinct from modalism.

      Real distinction in God arises only by mutually opposed relations (i.e., begetting vs being begotten; spirating vs being spirated).

      Begetting what? If it is the Son that is begotten, then the Son is not God because God is uncaused. Spirating what? If the Holy Spirit is "spirated" then the Holy Spirit is caused and cannot be God by definition. You cannot have a personal relation unless you're already really distinct, but since you deny a real distinction in the essence, then the distinction must be outside the essence, and per Aquinas, whatever is not of the divine essence is a creature. Thus, the "relations" are either creatures or they are the one undivided essence of God. That again gets you modalism because the distinction is merely a logical one from our perspective, not from God's.

      But personhood implies a complete individual rational substance.

      And if the "person" is the one, undivided essence of God, then there cannot be three of them on pain on composition. For if there is any aspect of the essence unique to a person, then you have composition defined. And if there is no aspect of the essence unique to a person, then my original critique holds: you are saying that it is possible for each person to be really distinct without differing in any way.

      So, this "rational substance" is either a nominal distinction (which you deny) or there is something analogous to a consciousness unique to each person that is either of the essence or it is not. If the latter, then it is a creature (contra the Trinity). If the former, your have a composite godhead. Either way, you must affirm a logical inversion.

      My previous comment responds directly to yours and shows how there is no contradiction, since a subsistent relation has two aspects: subsistent and relation, thus providing for unity and distinction.

      And your "distinction" has been shown to be either identical with the godhead or outside the godhead. There is no alternative. You must either affirm a composite godhead (recall that I am critiquing the Trinity under the doctrine of divine simplicity) which entails a contradiction, modalism, or creaturely relations. No option avoids contradiction.

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    6. **My second paragraph should read, in part, "...unless you define person in a manner indistinct from tritheism."

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  20. Abinus,
    If "God relates to Himself" as "We too can relate to ourselves" but "we're still one person" made of parts then god is one being made of parts.

    We "relate to ourselves in various ways" as each of our parts relates to the other of our parts. If god relates to himself then god has parts.

    We each consider ourselves to be "one person" only as a set of parts. We are one person only in the sense that we are one collection or one set of parts. If god relates to himself and is one being then god is one collection of parts or one set of parts.

    Or do you deny some or all of Bill's words here?

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  21. Hey Ed,

    I wrote a response: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MI2nGrQIQqacONg7IPbpUoBrezo3STibtQKbG96Owco/edit?usp=sharing

    Cheers,

    Tyson James
    Global Chapters Director
    Reasonable Faith

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    1. Hi Tyson,

      I suggest you post your link at Feser’s latest blog-post titled “ Craig, conventionalism, and voluntarism” which is about the same issue. Higher chance for Feser and others to notice your paper. I would not have noticed your post here if not because I went over to Craig’s Readonable Faith facebook to have a look and saw you mentioning there you were attempting to put the link to your paper on Feser’s blog.

      :)


      Cheers!
      johannes hui

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    2. Looks like someone beat me to it! Thanks anyway, Johannes!

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