Thursday, August 8, 2019

Contra Mullins on divine simplicity


The Theopolis Institute website is hosting a conversation on divine simplicity, with an opening essay by Ryan Mullins criticizing the doctrine and responses so far from Peter Leithart, Joe Lenow, and me.  More installments to come over the next couple of weeks.  You can read my own response to Mullins here.

246 comments:

  1. Hi Dr. Feser,
    If I am understanding you correctly, if God is the uncaused first cause, and creation involves intrinsic changes in God, those changes would have to be brute (which is arguably to admit an imperfection in God, if intelligibility is a perfection). Alternatively, if we hold on to the PSR, and insist that God intrinsically changes through creation, we must reject that God is the uncaused first-cause, which is really just to reject the existence of an uncaused first-cause (equivalent to atheism). I am trying to wrap my mind around the idea that creation is a Cambridge change relative to God's free and immutable will, and not a change intrinsic to God's free and immutable will. It is a mystery, at least insofar as it is completely outside of our experience, but my intuition tells me that this is what perfect freedom would look like, i.e. action that arises from an agent's whole substance and not parts acting on one another.
    Cheers,
    Daniel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Divine simplicity and immutability can not be held without the doctrine that GOD is not really related to the world (the world is, however, totally related to GOD).

      Dr. Feser does not mention this core-Thomist doctrine. Hence, his case for Divine simplicity becomes feeble.

      Delete
  2. Mullins destroys divine simplicity. Can't wait to see this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love how Ed Feser posts a picture of these people as if, 'Here is public enemy number one. Get him!'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see it as humanizing the opponent. Since it's so easy to forget in internet communications that the other people we're talking to are people with feelings and souls and stuff.

      Delete
    2. Anon,
      this is a civilized blog. Do you really think that Ed, when including pictures of his critics in his blog posts, is trying to harm them? What is wrong with you?

      Delete
    3. @Dominik Kowalski Know a joke when you see one. --same guy

      Delete
    4. Ed does sometimes post pictures that are caricatures, which reasonably might be taken to carry a sub-text meaning to us (the readers) as "you may now have fun at this guy's expense". But he generally only does it to people who he has a history with, whose history includes some pretty strained arguments with Ed that either (a) engage in some unsavory sorts of attacks on Ed (or theism) such as ad hominems, or (b) at least indulge in such awful argument tactics that they warrant being ridiculed, such as the gnu attempt at a stumper, "so if everything has a cause, what caused God?"

      Ed equally has had book-jacket photos of his interlocutors, when he engages their theses and tries to respond to them, simply as a courtesy and to enable us to put a face with a name - as Edward Isaacs says. This is by no means intended as a slight or for target practice.

      Delete
  4. I tried to post this comment earlier but do not appear to have succeeded. It seems to me that Mullins is conflating two types of necessity. If God is eternal and outside time then his act of creation is arguably eternal as well and because God is omnipotent his act of creation must be realized. In that respect creation is necessary but only on a derivative way. I am not sure the Cambridge versus real is illuminating. Socrates is not related to Plato in the same respect as God is to creation. Socrates did not create Plato. And Plato’s existence is independent of Socrates’.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Divine uniqueness does not secure monotheism, and so neither does divine simplicity by extension. In fact, things are quite the opposite: utter uniqueness leaves meaningless the object of existential quantification inherent to monotheism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. utter uniqueness leaves meaningless ...

      So, there could not be more than one "god" when the term is used univocally, but there logically might be distinct "gods" if the term is used analogically? Whatever the conceptual poverty might be entailed in trying to number things in different categories, we humans DO try to number such things precisely because we are limited, and until we can get around such limitations (i.e. in direct, unveiled vision of the Ultimate as He is in Himself) we will have to muddle along trying to number things in different categories.

      Delete
    2. I mean monotheism ends up being either trivially compatible with polytheism or materially equivalent with atheism.

      Delete
    3. The proposition is made of two parts: an existential quantifier -- "There is only one" -- and an object of quantification -- "God."

      What is being quantified? It's either how many there are of an individual or how many there are of a type; non tertium datur.

      If it refers to how many there are of an individual, monotheism fails to contradict polytheism because it in no way tells us how many there are of other individuals. I.e. does not tell us how many Poseidons there are.

      So in the first case, monotheism is trivially compatible with polytheism.

      But, it is materially equivalent with atheism in the second because it'd treat "God" as a type, ruining divine simplicity and making of the divine little more than the most impressive part of Nature.

      The inner logic of Divine uniqueness (called henadicity by the Platonists) unfolds into a radical polytheism, such that classical theism turns out to just be polytheism.

      Delete
    4. I think you're approaching it from the wrong angle. The assertion is that there can be but one simple being, and that assertion is the conclusion of several tightly woven metaphysical arguments. And once you arrive at a simple being, you find that it is impossible for there to be more than one.

      Delete
    5. @Bill

      //The assertion is that there can be but one simple being//

      This assertion falls prey to the same problem: you're either counting how many there are of an individual, or how many there are of a type of being. If the former, your assertion is trivially compatible with polytheism. If the latter, your assertion is materially equivalent to atheism.

      //and that assertion is the conclusion of several tightly woven metaphysical arguments.//

      I don't think Thomists have a cogent response to polytheism.

      //And once you arrive at a simple being, you find that it is impossible for there to be more than one.//


      I disagree. Monotheism is not a coherent position for the reason that it wants to contradict polytheism but can only do so by endorsing atheism.

      Delete
    6. ...you're either counting how many there are of an individual…

      No, we're not. You're insisting on that construct to sustain your false allegation that monotheism implies polytheism, which is absurd.

      If the argument leads you to one simple being, then there is one simple being. You have to dispute the premises in the argument, not construe it fallaciously to imply what you want it to imply.

      ...or how many there are of a type of being.

      And this shows you know absolutely nothing of Thomism. There's no point continuing this discussion because you're criticizing something of which you're ignorant.

      Delete
    7. I guess this is supposed to be some kind of reply...I'm just struggling to find an argument in there...

      Delete
    8. Dillon, it seems to me that you are flat out denying that God can be described analogically.

      When we say "God is good", "good" doesnt mean the same as if said in "Dillon is good." But it's not completely dissimilar either.

      When we say "there is only one God", it doesnt mean the same as saying "there is only one Dillon", but it isnt entirely dissimilar either.

      Delete
    9. Notice carefully the term "henadicity" that Dillon uses above. This is probably the only descriptive term one can use when it comes to divine Individuals, or henads as such, because following from Platonic philosophy the gods are NOT essentialized but are instead purely existential. Each God is a "Who", not a "What" at this henadic level, and are thus fully beyond any sort of relation or concept of being a part of a species or type of thing altogether. Nor is this held in violation of divine simplicity, because essence must of course exist in the first place. To be an henadic Individual is just what it means to be purely simple, and thus fully transcendent in the first place. This is not to say that any God doesn't act in the ontological realm, but it does point out that the ontological realm of Being does not act as a determinate of which deity is bigger or more important than another.

      Delete
    10. @Dillon

      What part of, "There's no point continuing this discussion..." don't you understand?

      Delete
    11. In using the term "being" of God, it is necessary to note that we are using the term analogically of God as compared to using it for creatures.

      Thus, in saying "one unique being" of God, we are not using it in the same manner as saying "there is one unique being, Socrates" as distinguishing him from others of the same kind.

      Also, in speaking of God apophatically, we are not affirming a positive condition of his being distinguished from other members of the class "god", but denying multiplicity. This mere negative, the denial, does not, by itself, require a conception of "many gods" like the polytheists (which it then denies), nor a conception of divinity in which it doesn't even make sense to ask "how many" (such as "how many justice do you have"). Initially the question _prescinds_ from narrowing the scope of the conceptualization to that extent - until the argument brought to bear makes it necessary to do so. When it arrives at the conclusion, the "not many" is found to reject the many of polytheists, not on
      a mere numerical basis for but on a more rooted basis that also precludes the very possibility of number applying to God. Doing so doesn't make the question a category mistake.

      Delete
    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    13. BillAugust 11, 2019 at 1:24 PM

      Very good answer, Tony, but I'm afraid it will fall on deaf ears. I have utter contempt for people who pop off about something they know little or nothing about.

      Delete
    14. @Bill

      You've contributed nothing to the exchange, so it's hardly a "discussion." You like to share your opinion without even trying to convince people it's true, and belittle their position without having hardly grasped what it is you're complaining about.

      @Tony

      I appreciate the reply! I do not believe the analogy of being affects my argument one way or the other, allow me to explain:

      I analyze the syntax (or logical structure) of the monotheistic proposition as being composed of an existential quantifier and an object of quantification. From this analysis, I deduce that the object of quantification is either a first order object or a higher order object, non tertium datur.

      At no point in the argument, that I can see at least, do I make assumptions about the univocity or analogy of being.

      Any denial of multiplicity involves, by its very structure, a quantification of either a first or higher order object. In the case of monotheism, this render it either trivially compatible with polytheism or materially equivalent to atheism.

      Delete
    15. Dillon,

      Symbolically, the uniqueness of God could be expressed in first-order logic by a sentence like (Ex)(Gx & (y)(Gy -> x=y)), where G is some reasonable predicate that picks out God within the domain of discourse. It's hard to see what your argument would say about this sentence, so it seems like the uniqueness of God does not force the dilemma you're try to get off the ground.

      But even aside from that, why should a monotheist care if certain arguments about God don't rule out Poseidon? It seems like further arguments would rule out lower case g gods without affecting on way or another the arguments for upper case G God.

      Delete
    16. Tim,


      If G refers to a personal identity, then it is trivially compatible with polytheism. I.e. just because anything that is YHWH is YHWH does not mean there is no Odin, Poseidon or other deity.


      But, if G refers to something of a higher order, then that is being called divine which is composite, and atheism is being asserted.


      So, the same problem arises in a different way.


      As to upper and lower case deities, I don't make the distinction: all Gods are Gods, regardless of what position or role they elect to play in the procession of being: each is, in themselves, first, omnipotent, omniscient, all good, and so forth.

      Delete
    17. Dillon,

      It seems to depend on what we take G to be. I agree that taking Gx to be something like x = g for some constant g would be silly, though not because it doesn't rule out polytheism but because, on its own, it doesn't seem to be informative.

      On the other hand, it's hard to see why G can't refer to something of a higher order. For instance, suppose Gx says that x is metaphysically simple. It is not clear why then Gx should imply that x is composite. Given the existence of a simple, which the monotheist says can be argued on independent grounds, it seems rather that any argument attempting to show that the simple is composite would just be a reductio of some of its premises (for example, the assumption that G picks out a kind). Much the same thing holds if Gx merely implies that x is simple. Thus, without defeating the arguments for a metaphysical simple, an unactualized actualizer, etc., this sort of approach doesn't lead anywhere.

      Delete
    18. Tim,

      You suggest that G can mean metaphysically simple and be higher order, but this is contradictory: all that is in the simple is the simple, and the simple is first order. Even if the predicate were allowed to be higher order in our minds without reflecting such a status ex parte rei, the predicate and subject would still be one in reality and collapse into first order, yielding the uninformative statement x = g. I should note that ineffability is explicitly expected by the Platonists at the level of henadicity.

      Now, be all that as it may, I feel from some of what you've said that I should clarify that I agree with the monotheist on the existence of a divinely simple: I simply maintain that there are many.

      Delete
    19. But, if G refers to something of a higher order, then that is being called divine which is composite, and atheism is being asserted.


      So, to assert anything of God is to imply composition in him.

      I think I am done here.

      Delete
    20. Dillon,

      So you grant there are simples. It seems too that you should grant that any two simples are absolutely indistinguishable, since simples agree in not having higher order properties, and the first order properties are uninformative. If that's right, then to resist the conclusion that there is only one simple, you would have to reject the identity of indiscernibles. But however you defuse the uniqueness argument, it seems like the dilemma amounts, at best, only to a proof that monotheism is incompatible with certain further assumptions (either that simples are discernible or that indiscernibility does not imply identity).

      Delete
    21. Since the simples that Dillon is speaking of are henads, they are discerned as Whos, not Whats, since to be simple in Platonism is not to be Being Itself, but to instead be an existential Individual previous to ontology itself. Am I correct, Dillon?

      Delete
    22. "Every God is essentialized [ousiôtai] in being a God, or rather is supra-essentialized [huperousiôtai], but there is nothing which is participated by him; because the Gods are the most venerable [presbutatoi] of all things." (Proclus, In Tim. I, 364.19-21)

      Delete
    23. @Richard,

      Exactly! The Gods are beyond Being and all of its attending notions. There is nothing about them to answer "what" they are, only "who" they are.

      @Tim,

      Do you think two or more things need to be differentiated in order to be individuated? And if so, do you think this should be expected of a simple?

      Delete
  6. I have long thought it incoherent to talk about impossibilities or possibilities with God. Take for example the classic example of: can God make a rock so heavy he can't lift it?

    One might say that either he can or cannot. But it seems omnipotence contradicts either. When you deeply look at it, either God is maximally powerful or does contradictions. I prefer to split the horns and say such language is incoherent with omnipotence. God properly speaking would not do that.

    Another way to argue my point is that can and can't are contraries and one can't properly exist without the other so if you can't have can't (as with omnipotence) you can't have can or possibilities (as in argument) either.

    Tldr; I suggest when it comes to God replace can't with wouldn't and can with would: destroys argument against simplicity

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I answer, (as the Angelic Doctor would say), that the only way to have a rock that God cannot lift (or otherwise move) is if the rock is infinite, or at least coterminous with the entire space-time continuum; in that case God cannot move it because there is nowhere else to move it to. But God in His wisdom has not seen fit to do that, as He requires the space-time continuum for other purposes. That’s where He keeps His stuff.

      A silly answer, but as sound, I think, as the silly question deserves. The more serious answer is, as C. S. Lewis said, that a nonsensical statement does not magically acquire sense because one prefixes it with ‘God can’.

      Delete
    2. The reply can be made much easier: Omnipotence doesn´t include logical paradoxes. The stone example is in the same ballpark as the squared circle

      Delete
    3. @dominik

      Whether or not you remove logical paradoxes, possibilities speak of potentialities. And omnipotence does not mean the maximum of potentialities,as one would think if one suggested that God can do everything except a logical paradox. But rather it means the absences of non-actual hypothetical impotentialities (impossibilities), because anything that has this is also devoid of potentialities, as mentioned in the section about contraries. So, God is absent of potentialities.

      Delete
    4. To quote the bible: nothing is impossible for God.

      Delete
    5. One more thing. Absolute impossibility is impossible without some form of hypothetical necessity. Because under the most sensible interpretation of modal logic, as you move to access different viewpoints (edges in the graph) you move closer and closer to absolute impossibility, given that the edges are themselves contingent or hypothetical events that can either allow for possibilities or not. Therefore, hypothetical necessity is a ladder up to absolute necessity.

      Or in other words absolute necessity is a graph where the world you're in is connected to every world and p is true at every world. You can't have that without individual connections

      Delete
    6. @Bill Solomon,

      When the Bible says that all things are possible with God, it does not include logical impossibilities or metaphysical ones. The Bible itself says that it is impossible for God to lie.

      As necessary existence, God's omnipotence does not entail an ability to die, commit sin, sleep or go out of existence. Hence, God can no more make something He couldn't do than He could draw a square circle. The question is absurd.

      Delete
    7. Nothing is impossible for God. The "logically impossible" doesn't count because it *isn't* anything; it is nothing; there is no such thing as a "square circle", that is just nonsense, nothigness, and thus nothing limits God. To say "God can't do jejdjcjsonfidshfjgigihtddjdsssa" doesn't limit God in the least, because it doesn't even mean anything, it doesn't refer to any thing.

      Delete
    8. The same is true for the rock. For something to be a rock in any meaningful sense, it would have to be movable by God. Otherwise it's nonsense.
      God can't destroy Himself either. The idea would also be nonsense, and not a limitation - rather it points to how God is unlimited -, existence itself cannot be non-existence.

      Delete
    9. @Atno

      And God "making a rock so big that He cannot lift it" is just as absurd.

      Delete
    10. @Atno

      I don't know what your religious persuasion is, but if you believe the Bible, it says explicitly that it is impossible for God to lie. So, when the Bible says that with God, nothing shall be impossible, we have to harmonize both passages. By doing so, we know that "impossible" has a particular meaning, not that everything carte blanche can be done.

      Delete
    11. I don't see a problem because to me "nothing is impossible" refers to things which make a minimum of sense. It refers to incredible, but nevertheless conceivable/minimally cogent stuff such as raising people from the dead, parting the seas, making pigs fall down from the sky, turn the moon into cheese, give wings to cows, give random desires to people, and so on. It does not refer to jahshauahsishdohfksndifjdjfkf because jakshsjshkdhsidhsihdjdhjd isn't anything at all; it does not refer to the making of square circles, which doesn't even make any sense; God making colorless green ideas sleep furiously, which again doesn't make any sense, and so on.

      That which is logically and metaphysically impossible is nothing. It has no being whatsoever. So it is not "something" that limits God or is beyond Him; it simply isn't anything at all.

      So, nothing is impossible with God. God can do everything. Jahsishdifhsjdhsif, sleeping colorless green ideas, and square circles aren't part of "everything"; they're nothing.

      Delete
    12. @Atno

      And you're not getting the point I'm making. The question, "Can God make a stone large enough to prohibit Him from lifting it?" is just as absurd! Why can't you "see" that?

      People appeal to the Bible that with God all things are possible, but lying is not "nothing." It is definitely something, but that is something God is incapable of doing. Lying isn't skjasjfdljdld (or whatever series of symbols you wish to type to express gibberish).

      Satan is an immaterial being, and he is called the father of lies. So, it is most certainly possible for immaterial beings to lie, excepting God. So we either have a biblical contradiction or the contradiction is resolved by different senses of "all things."

      Delete
    13. @Bill

      "Can God lie?" really is just the question of Divine Will vs Intellect again. It's perfectly valid to hold either that God in principle could lie, but that in His absolute perfection His Will would never accord with anything less than pure Good (voluntarism), or that He couldn't because His omnibenevolent nature is prior to His Will (intellectualism).
      The passage more readily agrees with the former view, but it would take the hermeneutical approach of atheists who compile lists of triflingly problematic Bible verses to seriously conflict it with the latter.

      Delete
    14. Bill,

      But I agree there is no stone which God cannot move. As I said, for something to be a stone in any meaningful sense, it would have to be movable by God. God isn't limited by not being able to negate Himself - He is pure existence, so to suggest He could destroy or negate pure existence would be like suggesting He could do jahskahfisdj. Likewise, He isn't limited by the fact that He cannot make a stone which can't be moved by an omnipotent being. Such an idea is an absurdity, like a square circle.

      W.r.t. lying, it again does not make any sense in this context. God is perfect truth and good; an event of the sort "a perfectly good and truthful God lies" is as meaningless as jahdkahkshfks. The nature of God is such that is precludes deficiencies (including lies); the "lie" in this case is nothing possible at all, because it does not refer to a positive power, it refers to an abstract concept which is contradictory (a perfect God lying).

      Delete
    15. Well, now you're goalpost moving. You argued that "square circles" are the equivalent of gibberish on a keyboard. It is nothing, so it is unintelligible to speak of God being unable to do it (since, of course, nobody is able to do it). You continued to do so after I cited the Bible's statement that it is impossible for God to lie. Lying isn't nothing, so your appeal to gibberish is off-target.

      Now, it makes perfect sense why God doesn't lie, and it's not because the concept of lying is gibberish. Lying can't be gibberish because everybody knows what it is. Lying is impossible for God because it would be contradictory to His essence, so when the Scriptures tell us that with God all things are possible, "all things" is qualified---that is, it has a specific meaning. It's not to be taken carte blanche. In other words, God does everything in accordance with His perfect essence.

      Delete
  7. I was conversing with Bill in the previous thread about McCabe, and Bill pointed out the following passage in Summa Theologiae:

    "Now whatever has an accidental existence in creatures, when considered as transferred to God, has a substantial existence; for there is no accident in God; since all in Him is His essence. So, in so far as relation has an accidental existence in creatures, relation really existing in God has the existence of the divine essence in no way distinct therefrom. But in so far as relation implies respect to something else, no respect to the essence is signified, but rather to its opposite term.

    "Thus it is manifest that relation really existing in God is really the same as His essence and only differs in its mode of intelligibility; as in relation is meant that regard to its opposite which is not expressed in the name of essence. Thus it is clear that in God relation and essence do not differ from each other, but are one and the same."

    Can someone tell me what the phrase, "as in relation is meant that regard to its opposite which is not expressed in the name of essence" means?

    It does not even appear to be grammatical English.

    I keep trying to interpret "as" into "just as," or "just in the same way that." But then I hit "in relation is meant" and my brain says "Syntax Error, line 12, char 11."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You’re right, that clause is terrible English. I think one would have to look at the Latin.

      Delete
    2. @RC, this translation might clear it up:

      So it is clear that a real relation existing in God is the same in reality as His essence and differs from the essence only conceptually (non differt nisi secundum rationem intelligentiae), insofar as the relation implies a connection with its relational opposite—something that is not implied by the name ‘essence’. Therefore, it is clear that in God the esse of the relation and the esse of the essence do not differ, but are instead one and the same.

      Delete
  8. "because That the world comes into being does not entail the acquisition of a real property by God, any more than Socrates’s becoming shorter than Plato by virtue of Plato’s becoming taller entails the acquisition of a real property by Socrates"

    This certainly fails because this is not analogous. Socrates did not cause Plato to grow taller thereby making him shorter whereas God caused the world to come in to being thereby making God "the creator" which is a real property because its not reducible to the change of something external to God because the worlds existence follows from an act of God. Divine simplicity leads to modal collapse and necessitarianism and should be rejected thus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if Socrates caused Plato to grow taller by giving him something to eat.This won't make the property intrinsic.

      Delete
    2. Second Anon,

      exactly. A head injury affecting the cognitive faculties is not an intrinsic change to the nature of the intellect.

      Delete
    3. Second Anon

      Actually, it would make the property intrinsic if Socrates had the intention of feeding Plato.

      Delete
    4. Walter

      I don't see how.

      Delete
    5. Anonymus

      Because an intention is intrinsic.

      Delete
    6. But how does that make property of taller/shorter intrinsic?

      Delete
    7. Anonymus

      The property "taller" is not intrinsic, but the property "wanting Plato taller clearly is.

      Delete
    8. The property "taller" is not intrinsic.

      Ok. then there is no disagreement here.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous

      I was actually referring to anonymous the first's use of the property "being the creator", which is an intrinsic property of God.
      I fully agree with anonymous the first that the kind of divine simplicity proposed by Feser inevitably leads to a modal collapse.

      Delete
    10. Correct, If we accept that "being the creator of the world" is a real/intrinsic property of God and all God properties are necessary and identical on Thomistic divine simplicity then the existence of the world is necessary entailing modal collapse the idea that the worlds comign to be dosent effect God intrinsically because its the change of something external is so clearly disanalogous and false because the world come to be as an effect of Gods act of making it exist entailing a real causal, intrinsic change. If this false analogy is all Thomists have to starve of the reality of modal collapse then Thomistic divine simplicity will quickly fall away.

      Delete
  9. Dr. Feser, perhaps you can help me understand something which I believe is closely related to your response to Mullins. You refer to Tomaszewski's article dealing with the question of modal collapse. In it, he says this: "While God’s act is indeed intrinsic (and therefore identical) to Him, 'God’s act of creation' designates that act, not how it is in itself, but by way of its contingent effects. That is, whether 'God’s act of creation' designates God’s act depends on the existence of a creation which is contingent, and so the designation is not rigid."
    But I'm confused (or at least not entirely clear) how this can leave a choice and dispel the rigidity. God's intrinsic act is necessarily only one way (viz. Subsistent Being Itself, being identical with the immutable and eternal Divine Nature), and it is upon this act alone that the existence of all contingencies depends, no? And all contingency is other than this intrinsic act. So what accounts for the arisal of one aggregate set of contingent realities rather than another, what accounts for the possibility of one or the other to exist? If their explanation is necessarily identical in either case (viz. the intrinsic act), what could account for one possibility being realized rather than another, or for this modality in possibilities? Is this in tension with PSR? (I think Oppy pressed this in your debate, but you got cut off before you could reply.) If this question goes unaccounted for, the appearance would seem to be that there is only one possible outcome (the current reality), and the act of creation WOULD rigidly designate the intrinsic act, since in such a case it could not have been other than the act of creation, this act, the particular effects of which we recognize as real today.
    And I struggle to see how your Cambridge properties reply (which appears quite similar) does not struggle from the same tensions. These properties are rooted in the relations that exist in the contingent realities, in creation (and according to Aquinas, the same relations do not really exist in God); they require the existence of contingencies. I think you said that the properties themselves are contingencies, or contingent beings. But the contingencies are all explained by the necessary intrinsic act of God, so that it almost looks like it just pushes the problem back a stage. How could the same, unchanging, absolutely necessary reality serve as the same explanation in the same way for irreducibly different realities, possibilities, and modalities, including the Cambridge properties which apparently piggy-back on the existence of other purported contingencies? It just sort of seems like it presupposes contingency rather than proving it, rather than proving that a different creation was freely possible.
    I don't doubt for a moment that there are solutions to these questions, I believe in Divine Simplicity and Freedom (both on account of independent convincing arguments in their favor and on account of my Catholic faith); but I'm just struggling to reconcile the two neatly in my mind, I think I'm misunderstanding or missing something. I think I have sufficient rational grounds for judging THAT they must fit together, but I don't yet quite see HOW exactly that would be.I know Aquinas discusses this type of stuff at length in, for example, Summa Contra Gentiles, and that Garrigou-Lagrange also has some important material on the matter in "God: His Existence and His Nature, V. II" (I wish his commentary on ST I. 1-26 was still available over at the Ite ad Thomam blog, too, but the link 404'd or the server's out). Just haven't been able to sufficiently digest it all yet, I guess. Apologies for the extremely long post, but I think this has thus far been the hardest part of classical philosophical theism for me personally to both understand and reconcile with Catholicism (which, in any case,internally requires BOTH Divine Simplicity and Freedom anyways, if I'm not mistaken).

    ReplyDelete
  10. The main thing people like Mullins miss is that when classical theists say "God wills the world", or "God loves us" (etc.), the statement is meant to be true by extrinsic denomination.

    God, having willed the world, is no different than he would be having not willed the world. God, knowing that Caesar existed, is no different than had Caesar not existed and God not known him to exist.

    To say that God knows or wills some fact about the world entails no difference in God.

    (Admittedly, some Thomists get this wrong too, as in Garrigou-Lagrange's dictum that God either determines or is determined).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr Cothran

      How is God having willed the world not different from God not having willed the world?
      Isn't it true that, per divine simplcity, God is identical to His will?
      So God is identical to His will to create, which is identical to His will not to create?

      Delete
    2. It is different because any predication about God in relation to the world is by extrinsic denomination.

      Suppose I put a flower pot in the sun, and my plants die. The sun killed my plant. However, had I put the flower pot in the shad, the sun would not have killed the plant.

      What makes the statement "the sun killed the plant" true or false is some difference in the plant's location, not a difference in the sun. That is a rough metaphor for extrinsic denomination.

      When we say that "God wills to create", we are not naming something in God that would be absent had he not willed to create. To posit something like that is to say both that God has accidents and that God is conditioned by the world. Obviously enough, classical theists reject both. The difference that makes that statement true or false is whether the world exists, not whether God has something like an intentional state.

      Delete
    3. Mr Cothran

      I know that Thomists claim that any predication about God in relation to the world is by extrinsic denomination, but I do not see how that claim makes any sense at all.
      The way I see it, the world existing is the result of God's intention/will that the world exist. If it is true that whether the world exists is what makes the statement "God willed the creation of the world" true, that comes down to God being conditioned by the world.
      Unlike the location of the plant, which is not caused by the sun but of by you, the existing of the world is caused by God. And it is supposed to be caused by God's intention to cause the world. Otherwise, why should God even have to be personal? If the very same intention causes various possible worlds, it's hard to see how God has any control over what exactly will exist.

      Delete
    4. > If it is true that whether the world exists is what makes the statement "God willed the creation of the world" true, that comes down to God being conditioned by the world.

      There's a misunderstanding about extrinsic predication here, but I can't pin it down without more context. If you expand a bit on why you think this follows, I can respond better.

      > it [the world's existence] is supposed to be caused by God's intention to cause the world.

      St. Thomas does not imagine that there is some particular intention in God to create the world. The sole object of God's will is itself, just as the sole knowledge of God's will is himself. So God knows all things by knowing himself, not by having an act of cognition directed at you or me. And God wills all things by virtue of being the ultimate end to which things are ordered.

      St. Thomas rejects the idea that we can imagine what it is like to know or will as God does. But we can know -- with certainty -- that God does will and know. Even if we have no corresponding mental picture. We can know very precisely in what sense God wills himself and the world. And we can know with absolute certainty that no ultimate being could fail to be simple or immutable. Those arguments have been floated here a number of times. I'd personally recommend Robert Spitzer's book on the subject, though Edward Feser's "Five Proofs" is quite good as well.

      Delete
    5. Oh, and regarding the plant example. The point is to see that the sun is really a cause of plants dying, yet there is no change to the sun if the plant dies or does not die, grows or does not grow, etc. Agents qua agents are unchanged in causing change.

      Delete
    6. Mr Cothran

      The question still remains if the sole object of God's will is himself, how He can end up creating world X or world Y. Whether world X or Y obtains seems to be a matter of sheer luck in that case.
      Which brings me to your first question, if it is not matter of luck that X obtains instead of Y, then the existence of X is what makes X obtain, in which case, God is conditioned by world X.

      I am not talking about us having an exact mental picture. I am talking of one intention bringing about a variety of effects.

      Also, I am not talking about agents changing in causing change, I am talking of intentions being different in order for then to bring about different objects.

      Delete
    7. > Which brings me to your first question, if it is not matter of luck that X obtains instead of Y, then the existence of X is what makes X obtain, in which case, God is conditioned by world X.

      I'm not following your reasoning for saying this. If the statement "God creates the world" is true in virtue of God's causing the world to be, without being changed by causing it (which you seem to grant), how could God possibly be conditioned by the world?

      The proposition about God is conditioned by the world, but God is clearly not. That's the whole point.

      Delete
    8. Thomas, my question would be this. Consider possible universe A and possible universe B. Should one of these actually be created, the explanation for its existence would be the Divine Will, the immutable Divine Nature. The Divine Will would be the same whether A is created or B is created. So what can account for the difference in effects if the explanation is exactly the same in either case, the same Divine Will. What can account for why A is created RATHER THAN B, if both be possible? And what could account for this range of possibilities in effects to be explained, if the explanation is exactly identical in either case, the Divine Nature. Why does the same Divine Will generate this effect rather than this other effect, if the same Will could possibly have done the opposite? I just am struggling to see how this can be squared with PSR, it seems like an additional explanatory factor nearly needs to be posited WITHIN the Divine Will.

      Delete
    9. Archstanton:

      That's an incisive way of putting the question. It's hard to know how best to frame the answer without knowing your philosophical background.

      What I will say generally is that I wouldn't hold to a version of the PSR that would exclude free choice. It's a perfectly legitimate answer to the question "Why did Peter choose pizza over salad", to say, ultimately, it was his choice and he could have chosen otherwise had he to choose again--without any difference in himself or his circumstances.

      So the way you put the problem affects all free choices, not only God's. If you're a Thomist (but not a Banezian), you'll hold that not even God predetermines the free choices.

      As with Peter, so we can affirm that God could have created something else without requiring a difference in disposition. The answer is simply that he chose X rather than Y. (And in God's case, the occurrence of this choice is identical with the existence of what is chosen.)

      I'm aware that might not be entirely satisfying depending on your philosophical perspective and how it relates to the PSR and free will. But at least that gives you an idea of what the lines a more complete answer would follow.

      Delete
    10. Thomas M

      Oh, and regarding the plant example. The point is to see that the sun is really a cause of plants dying, yet there is no change to the sun if the plant dies or does not die, grows or does not grow, etc. Agents qua agents are unchanged in causing change

      But Creation is not a change or transformation, since the latter process includes an actual underlying pre-existent subject that passes from one real state to another real state, which subject creation positively excludes.

      Delete
    11. Mr Cothran

      If X obtains, then , according to you, X is what makes the proposition "God wills X" true and if Y obtains, Y is what makes the proposition "God wills Y" true.
      But since God is God's will, God is clearly conditioned by either X or Y.

      To be honest, I do think that an account of free will that says that it was his choice and he could have chosen otherwise had he to choose again--without any difference in himself or his circumstances, makes free will utterly meaningless, but I am willing to accept it for the sake of the argument.
      The problem is that I am not my "choice". So if I choose X it may be that i could have chosen Y without " a diffrence in disposition". But God is His choice.

      Delete
    12. Jaime:

      I'm using change as an example of how extrinsic denomination works, as well as to make the point that agents are not necessarily changed by their operations. If the agent of a change need not be changed by acting, a fortiori neither need the agent of creation.

      Delete
    13. Walter:

      Your argument would hold against anyone who affirms "God wills x" in the form of an intrinsic denomination. But Thomists believe it to be true by extrinsic denomination.

      St. Thomas does not believe that relations between God and the world names something real in God. To affirm that God is creator, etc. is to say there is a dependence of finite things on God, not to say there is some difference in God.

      Your objection amounts to insisting that Thomists hold a position different than the one they actually do.

      Delete
    14. Thomas

      My argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world naming something real, it has to do with the obvious fact that God's intention/will to create X cannot result in God creating Y.

      But let's agree to disagree because I can't see us making any progress.

      Delete
    15. Walter,

      If you can't see how Thomas Cothran's answer makes sense, you can nevertheless hold that it is possible that it is cogent (and you are simply failing to grasp it) or there is some other cogent answer to your question, perhaps beyond your ken.
      This "mysterian" approach would be sufficient to reject modal collapse in a valid way, provided you take theism to be more plausible. Kinda like a Moorean shift. Instead of "If theism, then X. If X, then modal collapse. Modal collapse is false therefore theism is false" you can hold "If theism, then X. If X, then modal collapse. Modal collapse is false and theism is true, therefore the second premise is false" (of course, first premise could also be false, depends on how you assess it).
      I think this is a good enough answer. If one were unconvinced by Aquinas's response, one can conclude there might always be some mystery behind creation for limited intellects like ours. What we can be sure of, however, is that contingent reality has a cause, an absolutely simple cause. The "that" might be known even while the "how" can be utterly mysterious,

      Delete
    16. Atno

      There may be some cogent answer to my question, but if there is, I would like to hear it.
      So far, I have heard nothing at all that would lead me to the conclsuion that modal collaspe is false if divine simplicity is true. As far as I can tell, the arguments for modal collapse are rock-solid.
      I am always open to the idea that I am wrong, but the utter weakness of the arguments against modal collapse I have heard or read so far, do not give me much reason to think I am wrong.

      Delete
    17. > My argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world naming something real, it has to do with the obvious fact that God's intention/will to create X cannot result in God creating Y.

      Your argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world being real and yet has to do with the fact that God has a (presumably real) intention in relation to the world?

      Delete
    18. Walter,

      Fair enough, but my point is simply that even in your situation you can accept Divine Simplicity is true, if you accept that it follows from theism, and that theism is true. You'd simply end up with a mystery, or a difficult problem for which you do not have a solution, though you'd conclude there would be a solution for it - perhaps beyond your capacities.

      Of course, it is not the case that you are more convinced by classical theism. But you could be, and in this case the objection would, by virtue of a Moorean shift, cease to be particularly bad for classical theism. So if you wanna understand better the rationality of theistic belief, I suggest you'd gain more by focusing on the positive cases ("that classical theism is true", which is what really motivates philosophical classical theists) than objections such as modal collapse.

      That being said, I am trying to provoke an "epistemic shift" in your head. If you don't find yourself persuaded by Thomas's and others's answers, neverheless are you *really* that confident about modal collapse vs properties issue being such a terrible problem? I'm not, and that's because I find the issue terribly complex. I see many occasions for confusion and equivocation in this kind of high-level debate. To me, the issue of modal collapse and extrinsic denomination and Cambridge properties is far more complicated than, say, the cogency of a standard cosmological argument from contingency, and the conclusions of divine simplicity. So I suggest that, for most rational observers, the theist would still have the advantage against you, even if there were no known answer to your objections.

      Of course, you could be a very bright person who has a very, very high confidence that you are correctly understanding everything about Cambridge properties, extrinsic denomination, and relations between God and the world. But I suggest most people would be safer when dealing with the *positive* reasons for classical theism, which seem to me much clearer and safer than high-level discussion of relations between God and world. So the classical theist has the advantage from the very beginning, for most people.

      Delete
    19. Thomas

      My argument may imply that relations between God and the world are real, but that would be a conclusion, not a premise.
      So far, you have offered nothing in response to my actual argument. You have simply stated that Thomists don't believe God has an intention to create X instead of Y. That's fine, but I am not claiming they do believe that, I am arguing for why that position doesn't make any sense.
      So unless you offer some argument to show it does make sense, we will have to agree to disagree.

      Delete
    20. Atno

      Of course if yoy presuppose that DS follows from theism and theism is true then you have to assume that there is some mystery that you cannot solve.
      But I do not accept a priori theism or divine simplicity, and IMO no true philosopher should. Philosophy should be open to everything it logically lead to. If that's theism, that's fine, if that's non-theism, that's also fine.
      Modal collapse is not a problem for theism, not is it a problem for divine simplicity. It's perfectly fine to believe in DS as well as in modal collapse.Of course in that case, you would have to adopt a different kind of theism.

      It is not about being "safer", it's about following the evidence where it leads you, even if you don't like it.
      I have no problem when people believe in classical theism, but it should be for the right reasons, because they have truly considered the "positive" arguments to accept it as well as the "negative" arguments against it. Ignoring the arguments against it by appealing to "mystery" is anti-philosophy.
      Ignoring the

      Delete
    21. My argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world naming something real

      My argument may imply that relations between God and the world are real, but that would be a conclusion, not a premise.

      Pretty sure those two claims are contradictory.
      And what do you mean by intention? I feel like this here is where disagreement lies.

      Perhaps a better statement of your arguments would help.

      Delete
    22. Walter,

      Your suggestion is absurd. But perhaps you have misunderstood me. There is nothing anti-philosophical with appeals to mystery, if they can be used to preserve much safer ideas, and are not particularly implausible.

      For instance, take Moorean facts and skepticism. The skeptic wants to claim we do not know we have two hands, and devises many ingenious philosophical arguments for that conclusion. It is notoriously difficult to provide specific philosophical refutations of skepticism without begging the question and whatnot. Even if there are such responses, they are not available to the vast majority of people. Yet as Moore saw, none of this should particularly trouble us, because in the end we DO know that we have hands. I know that I have two hands, even though I might not know how I know this or how it comes to work or be justified. I know I have two hands, and this knowledge of mine is surer than any philosophical argument the skeptic can offer against it. The skeptic's arguments might involve many hidden premises and issues, while my knowledge that I have two hands is much surer and safer.

      So it is about being safer. It is eminently sensible and reasonable to lend a higher credence to claims which appear safer and clearer to us. My knowledge of the external world is safer, to me, than my grasp of skeptical debates.

      Likewise, when it comes to Classical Theism, my grasp, understanding and knowledge of the classical arguments for an absolutely simple God is much stronger, clearer and safer than my grasp and understanding of extremely complicated matters of God's relations with the world, Cambridge properties, extrinsic denomination, and the like. These are not simple matters.

      So it would be perfectly fine to conclude Classical Theism is true and the modal collapse objection has some flaw which we might not be able to see. I suggest the same could be true even for you. Due to the nature of this subject, you should be careful not to believe you have such a clear and powerful grasp of supposed problems between God's relation with the world, and extrinsic denomination, as you could have of easier questions (e.g. dependence of contingent beings, dependence of composite beings, etc).

      So the objector, in this case, is in a worse position in comparison with the typical Classical theist. Even if the classical theist has no independent answer against modal collapse objection. Rather like how the skeptic is in a worse position against common sense. Of course the skeptic is in a much worse position, but this is just an example.

      So my point is: due to the nature of the arguments and counter-arguments in this subject, in all likelihood you are not in as safe and good an epistemic position as the classical theist even if he has no response to your objection.

      For an illustration, consider this:
      CLASSICAL THEIST: "well, 755 + 19 = 774, and 36 + 14 = 50, therefore Classical Theism is true and modal collapse is false..."
      OBJECTOR: "the problem is that 8937457927457947993 + 22234337337363636327497 - 94566778494759 + 98374862345 + 46 + 83874855 - 1222234884844884734757 + 9373974475 = x, therefore Classical Theism implies modal collapse and must be false"

      Prima facie, who is in a better epistemic position? Even if the classical theist has no independent answers against the objector, he can be more confident in his conclusions than the objector is. This is super relevant for philosophical discussion.

      (That being said, I agree with Cothran's response and I don't think your objection seems consistent)

      Delete
    23. Atno

      First of all, the arguments for classical theism are extremely controversial, even among (christian)theists, so your comparison with extreme skepticism about two hand or whatever doesn't apply here.
      But more importantly, even if the evidence for Divine simplicity were iron-clad, it still wouldn't follow that modal collapse wasn't true as divine simplicty in and out of itself is perfectly compatible with modal collapse.
      Appealing to mystery because you do not like the implications of modal collapse anti-philosophical.

      Delete
    24. Red

      I am absolutely sure (not just "pretty" that my two claims are not contradictory.
      For the rest, I have nothing to say because you have offered no arguments.

      Delete
    25. Walter,

      Of course the arguments for Classical Theism are much more controversial than our knowledge of the external world. But the case of skepticism serves to illustrate a point which is also valid here. However controversial the arguments for Classical Theism may be, I claim that they are far simpler, easier to understand, and surer and safer than knowledge about how God is related to the world without having contingent intrinsic properties, extrinsic denomination, and so on. So the Classical Theist who is very confident in the truth of Classical Theism can employ a moorean shift against modal collapse (MC) objections. He is much surer that both Classical Theism is true and MC is false than he is about God needing intrinsic contingent properties or His act entailing MC. He is also much more confident - and rightly so - that he understands the arguments for CT than the MC objection which might rest on confusion or equivocation.
      The objector however is at a disadvantage, because of the (much higher) complexity behind the MC objection and all issues about extrinsic denomination and God's relations with creatures, which raises the likelihood that he is getting something wrong or not properly grasping certain concepts. The positive arguments for CT, by comparison, fare much better.
      So "mystery" is an appropriate response. And I think you should be careful about lending too high a credence to you having a great understanding of God's relationship with the world and contingency. Of course, if you *really* are strongly convinced that you properly grasp all the issues of extrinsic denomination and there is no way out of modal collapse for classical theists, then this won't apply to you. But it will apply to many people, anyway.

      Of course modal collapse would be compatible with theism per se, but I am assuming that modal collapse is false and the classical theist is thoroughly convinced of it (much more safely convinced than he is that your objection works; that's the whole point).

      Delete
    26. I am absolutely sure (not just "pretty" that my two claims are not contradictory.
      For the rest, I have nothing to say because you have offered no arguments.


      Well they seem to be. You appear to be saying that very conclusion of your argument have nothing to do with your argument.

      And I am not making a particular argument just yet because you are already discussing familiar points with others but like I said there is perhaps a disagreement because of different meanings of terms.

      Delete
    27. Thomas, I'm not sure if I completely follow your reply above, but reading Book 1 of Summa Contra Gentiles has really helped me meditate on this question, I think. Perhaps part of the key to this puzzle lies in the fact that God wills His own Goodness as well as other things by one act of will, but the principle object of His Will is His Goodness. These other things are willed only for the sake of this highest object, as expressions of a sort. Yet as Aquinas says, the Divine Goodness can be without other things, and, indeed, is in no way increased by other things, so it is under no necessity to will other things from the fact of willing its own Goodness. Since there is 'no increase,' and the Divine Will retains the identity of Pure and Perfect Act in willing the Divine Goodness, one may perhaps start to see how Simplicity is consistent after all with Freedom, although in a way which is difficult for us to grasp, imperfect as our grasp of the Divine is already known to be. And perhaps this can even tie into Dr. Feser's application of Cambridge properties. Seeing as willing other things in no way increases or alters the infinitude of Pure Act, but is rather consistently subsumed into this one Identity in some sense, it may well be that this sense is to 'kick-out', as it were, into the form of Cambridge properties, as our understanding would have it. This is brief and might be underdeveloped, but I thought it was an interesting view of the question anyways.

      Delete
    28. Atno

      "Of course modal collapse would be compatible with theism per se, but I am assuming that modal collapse is false and the classical theist is thoroughly convinced of it (much more safely convinced than he is that your objection works; that's the whole point)."

      I think the bolded part shows where the problem lies. You are assuming, I am following the evidence without a prior assumption.
      The classical theist is "sure" or "confident" about the truth of classical theism and hence isn't open to the possibility that something is wrong with it. The arguments for modal collapse are actually very easy to understand for somebody who is open to it.
      Nothing, howvere, is easy to understand for somebdoy who isn't open to it.
      And in that case, appealing to mystery probably feels very comfortable for you.
      I am afraid we have nothing further to discuss.

      Delete
    29. Red

      "You appear to be saying that very conclusion of your argument have nothing to do with your argument."

      I don't think you fully understand the context of my claim that "My argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world naming something real".
      I was replying to Thomas' claim that "St. Thomas does not believe that relations between God and the world names something real in God. To affirm that God is creator, etc. is to say there is a dependence of finite things on God, not to say there is some difference in God.
      Your objection amounts to insisting that Thomists hold a position different than the one they actually do." IOW Thomas think that I am insiting that St. thomas holds a position different than the one he actually does.
      But that's not what I am doing. I am working from implications of divine simplicity and I come to the conclusion that it leads to modal collapse.
      So, when I say that my argument has nothing to do with relations between God and the world naming something real, I do not use this as a premise, but of course it can be implied in the conclusion.

      Delete
    30. But then it is true that your argument has to do with relations between God and the world naming something real, its just that you don't use this as a premise, right?

      And this too seems to me to be false, that is why I was asking for a better statement of your argument. Your argument seems to require a premise about God being identical to God's will or God having a particular intention to bring about a particular world.

      Delete
    31. Red

      God being identical to God's will is the very heart of Divine Simplicty, if it wasn't, God would not be simple. So, yes, since i am starting from Divine simplicity, it is a part of my argument.
      The rest follows from that.
      But the point is, unlike Thomas Cothran seems to think, I do not beg the question by asserting what I want to argue for.

      Delete
    32. God being identical to God's will is the very heart of Divine Simplicty, if it wasn't, God would not be simple.

      I don't see how this is so and this exactly is what your interlocutors and Ed Feser are arguing is false.

      This would only follow if God's will names some intrinsic real property of God.

      Delete
    33. Red

      No, that is not what my interlocutors argue is false. What they argue is false is that the objects of God's will are intrinsic to God's will.
      And my argument attempts to show that that is an absurd position.

      Delete
    34. I suggest you read Dr.Feser's article again. You seem to be misunderstanding it.Divine simplicity is not committed to saying that God's will is God.

      Delete
  11. Why is anybody addressing the implications of rejecting divine simplicity? Just curious

    ReplyDelete
  12. I got in a little late on the last post, so I'll make bold to ask again:

    Is it accurate to say "God's will is God"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If divine simplicity is true, I would say yes.

      Delete
    2. I would say that if God is simple, then God's will is indistinguishable from God--but are you asking this from the vantage of an authoritarian spirit? In other words, are you suggesting that whatever God wills is God, and because God is good, whatever God wills is also necessarily good?

      Is it good because God wills it?

      If so, then what about Euthyphro's dilemma? Is God free to not confer grace on me, and if so, how can God then continue to be essentially good--the highest good and love that one can imagine?

      Wouldn't a failure to confer grace maximally to all humans--including me--imply a deprivation in the simplicity of God, meaning that there must be a still simpler God, greater than this lesser, demiurgic, grace withholding God.

      If the highest God is simple, doesn't that mean that God is perfect grace--perfect love--and thus broadcasts grace and love without limit?

      How could the simple, highest God choose to withhold grace (the first premise in Ryan Mullins's argument)--and still be God?

      God's grace is God, yes?

      Delete
    3. God’s grace towards you is manifested in the first instance by granting you the power of agency. That having been done, God is not going to deprive you of agency by forcing you to accept his grace in ways that you choose to refuse.

      A radio station also ‘broadcasts without limit’ – at least, without any limit that affects you if you are in range; but that does you no good if your receiver is tuned to a different frequency.

      Delete
    4. Tom Simon:

      Your response illustrates the arbitrary nature of premise starting and stopping points in argumentation, don't you think? In other words, why did you extend grace only so far, then stop? Why did you put a limit on God's capacity for grace with an argument for my responsibility to receive grace? In reply, I could say something like this: The greatest, simplest God is one that extends maximal grace--grace without limit--because God is grace. Grace is given to those who do not deserve it. My lack of belief may make me unworthy of grace, but God, being grace, overcomes even my unbelief in the end. No cosmic order that ends in an eternal hell for billions of people can be rationally justified as good. God, being good, will extend God's goodness maximally at some point.

      See how easy that was? And I didn't even make an argument about determinism--which is arguably more coherent than free will--taking me off the hook for my unbelief.

      My point is that the concept of a simple deity can be driven to all sorts of destination points depending on how one tweaks the starting and stopping points of one's argument.

      Metaphysics has just enough ambiguity in the starting and stopping points of its premises that it amounts, at the end of the day, to more of an exercise of imagination than, say, mathematical reasoning.

      Delete
  13. Wow. Ryan Mullins raised an interesting topic: trying to make pre-Christian, Aristotelian simplicity cohere with some key Christian ideas: God's freedom to confer grace, etc.

    But is it even coherent, in the first place, for Mullins to claim that God is good if his (her) goodness fails to reach an agnostic like myself, conferring grace (salvation from hell) on me?

    David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and someone who advocates divine simplicity, has a new book coming out soon that argues, on first principles, the following (and this is from the Yale press release for the book): "David Bentley Hart makes the case that nearly two millennia of dogmatic tradition have misled readers on the crucial matter of universal salvation. On the basis of the earliest Christian writings, theological tradition, scripture, and logic, Hart argues that if God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail. And if he is not the savior of all, the Kingdom is only a dream, and creation something considerably worse than a nightmare. But it is not so. There is no such thing as eternal damnation; all will be saved."

    So the first premise put forward by Ryan Mullins in his essay--"God can refrain from acting to give grace"--may not in fact be coherent with the concept of an ultimate, divinely simple, supremely good deity, in any event.

    So back to square one?

    And isn't Ryan Mullins's first premise a veiled introduction of Euthyphro's dilemma into the question of divine simplicity?

    Could God really "refrain from acting to give grace" to me and others like me and still have goodness as an aspect of his (her) undivided essence? How could God be love--and thus the highest, most supremely good, and simplest deity that could possibly be imagined--and leave me, and so many others, behind?

    ReplyDelete
  14. So Graham Oppy is implicitly a theist by affirming some kind of simplicity or "simples" and Mullins an atheist by rejecting Divine Simplicity.


    ReplyDelete
  15. In Feser's response to Ryan Mullins, he writes the following, which strikes me as chilling: "That the world comes into being does not entail the acquisition of a real property by God..."

    Notice what Feser is sublimating. If I create something new (a painting, for instance), it adds a property to me ("good artist" or "bad artist"). It reflects on me and my character forever after. It changes how I am perceived. I am changed or revealed in a new way by whatever it is that I produce in time.

    I might reveal myself to be a good or poor artist, and also as someone who is more interested in painting than helping the poor (a revelation of my character).

    Thus if I can be changed by history, how can Feser say that God goes unchanged by the kind of universe God creates (the world that, in Feser's phrase, "comes into being")?

    Isn't it the case that if God creates a cosmos in which a hell realm exists--and in which the Holocaust happened--and then God flatly withholds relief from the Holocaust's victims and to those suffering torture in hell, that the meaning of sentences such as "God is grace," "God is good," and "God is love" are changed by their interactions with history--and changed perhaps beyond recognition?

    What could such sentences possibly mean in the context of hell and history? "God is grace," "God is good," and "God is love" are necessarily altered by God's action (and inaction) in time.

    So wouldn't it be the case that God has no moral relation to the cosmos if Feser is right in saying that the world's existence "does not entail the acquisition of a real property by God"? God can creatively set things up however he/she wants. It touches him not. He remains the same. That sounds cold to me; a theological iteration on Nietzsche and nihilism.

    ReplyDelete
  16. What I find a bit disturbing is that Dr. Feser does not mention (in his book "Five Proofs") the important Thomist doctrine that the relation between the world and GOD is completely unilateral: The world is totally related to GOD, but GOD is in no way related to the world. Given this doctrine, however, it becomes rather difficult to say that we have communion with GOD or that GOD loves the world. Only the Trinitarian-christological content of the Christian message can answer to this very problem: The world is being taken up into the eternal love between the Father and the Son, i.e. the Holy Spirit. This can be known only through the word of the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ: Faith comes from hearing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point, but then why doesn't the Christian addendum of "Trinitarian-christological content" overlaid onto the idea of simplicity ultimately place simplicity under erasure?

      If you say that the link between the two is a mystery or can only be approached metaphorically for now, doesn't that make Ryan Mullins point, that such things as spooky language at a distance (from precision) hides the uncomfortable fit between Aristotle's deity and the anthropomorphisms of Christianity?

      Delete
    2. Id don't quite understand what you are trying to say.

      Theological language is analogical, but not "spooky".

      My point is that Dr. Feser does not consider this important Thomistic doctrine. No philosphical theologian can legitimately say that GOD loves the world. But Dr. Feser does so.

      Delete
    3. Sorry for the imprecision. You're right about analogical language. And if your point is that the idea of God's love cannot be arrived at by natural philosophy alone, but only by revelation through Christ, my response is the following: I thought that one of the premises of divine simplicity is that one of God's properties is "God is love." I thought this was arrived at by philosophical argument. Am I wrong about this?

      Delete
    4. I am not sure whether one can make this inference: GOD is absolute simple. Therefore, GOD is love. Actually, GOD does not fall under concepts. So you cannot use a concept of GOD within arguments.

      Natural philosophy can say analogically that GOD is infinite perfection. But from that it does not follow that GOD loves the world (given the fact that the relation between creature and Creator is, philosophically seen, completely unilateral).

      Delete
    5. Anon: That's clarifying, thank you.

      Delete
  17. Hi Ed,

    I'll come straight to the point. After reading your reply to Mullins, I believe you're wrong on three counts.

    First, the extreme version of Divine simplicity which you defend is not Catholic doctrine. Canon 1 of Lateran Council IV (1215), where the doctrine is defined, speaks only of God's having "one essence, substance, or nature absolutely simple." In other words, it is God's essence which is simple, and nothing more. Nothing is said about whether God's essence is the same as His operations (as Thomists maintain) or different (as many Orthodox theologians maintain). What's more, this issue never came up in the declarations of the fifteenth-century Council of Florence, which effected a brief reunification between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Nor does the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), in its declaration on God the Creator of All Things, broach the subject: it refers to God as an "absolutely simple and immutable spiritual substance," but says nothing about whether God is the same as His actions.

    Second, your argument for Divine simplicity fails to prove what you want it to prove. Briefly, you argue that "if God were composed of parts, there would have to be something ontologically prior to him and something which combines those parts, thereby causing him to exist." But that only shows that God's substance is not composed of parts - for if it were, these parts would have to be ontologically prior to it. However, my actions are not ontologically prior to me but posterior to me: in order for me to act, I have to exist. This is especially true of my free, contingent actions. Likewise, if God performs free, contingent actions, these would not be prior but posterior to Him. And just as nothing is needed to "tie" me to my actions, so too, nothing would be needed to "tie" God's actions to His essence. They belong to Him because they are His choices, and that's all.

    Third, your attempt to evade the force of Mullins' argument by talking of Cambridge properties basically amounts to the claim that God doesn't really DO anything extra (even timelessly) in creating the contingent world, from what He does in simply being Himself (a Necessary Being). And this is most absurd. For the action of creating the world is a contingent one, whereas God's act of existence is necessary, and one and the same act cannot be both necessary and contingent. The only way you could possibly dodge this is to deny that there IS any such action as God's act of creating the world, but in doing so, you land yourself in a lot of theological hot water. For instance, the Nicene Creed refers to God as the Maker of heaven and earth, but you cannot be a Maker without an act of making. What's more, if God doesn't DO anything to make the world, then who's to say that He is its Maker? (Think: would it make any sense to say that I killed Jones but that I didn't DO anything that killed Him?)

    It's time for Thomists to stop making a theological fetish of Divine simplicity. If they persist, it will become a stumbling block to intelligent unbelievers, who will find themselves unable to swallow such an absurd doctrine as the one that Thomists are propounding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. > It's time for Thomists to stop making a theological fetish of Divine simplicity. If they persist, it will become a stumbling block to intelligent unbelievers, who will find themselves unable to swallow such an absurd doctrine as the one that Thomists are propounding.

      Most Thomists I know are more annoyed with having to teach the opposition what the doctrine of divine simplicity actually is just to have an actual debate on the subject.

      Your third objection, for instance, completely overlooks the account of agency Aristotelians and Thomists give. It totally omits the discussions St. Thomas gives of divine action in the world, which considers exactly the objection you raise.

      Calling a doctrine "absurd" without actually knowing what it is, is exactly what elicits the knowing sigh: either teach someone who probably isn't interested in learning, or find something else to do. Rather than pursuing a "theological fetish", most Thomists I know quietly excuse themselves to find something else to do.

      Delete
    2. > Your third objection, for instance, completely overlooks the account of agency Aristotelians and Thomists give. It totally omits the discussions St. Thomas gives of divine action in the world, which considers exactly the objection you raise.

      Reference, please?

      Delete
    3. Vincent, can I trouble you to note even the words of the Lateran Council that you cited: Canon 1 of Lateran Council IV (1215), where the doctrine is defined, speaks only of God's having "one essence, substance, or nature absolutely simple."

      Right there in those words is the meat of Thomas's doctrine: God's essence is not distinct from his substance (as it is with us), two things distinct, because this would deny the "absolute simplicity" asserted of the essence, substance, or nature... If the substance and essence were distinct, then "absolute simplicity" would not be predicated of them.

      But what follows from there being no distinction between his essence, and his substance? This is the critical project here. If the "what kind" of a thing is the very same as the "to be" of the thing, then its essence is to be in act, wholly and utterly. But to be in act wholly - i.e. in the fullness of every kind, sort, and order of actuality that even can be, is to be perfect, and thus to be eternal, and omnipotent,... The rest follows.

      Delete
    4. > Reference, please?

      I'd start with the book St. Thomas wrote on just this subject: On the Power of God. The very first article should clear up a lot of this. Of course, his treatment of these issues extends throughout the book. Some of the other high points include Q III, art 15, and Q. VII, art. 10, both of which are right on the nose.

      Of course, it's pretty clear what St. Thomas thinks given his views on God as the prime mover and his account of the agent-patient relationship (in which the change occurs in the patient). So a grasp of these fundamental elements in St. Thomas' thought would allow you to readily deduce his specific answers, even had he not taken the trouble to write a whole book explaining the details.

      If you want the comprehensive scholarly treatment that gets into the details, as far as I know, Bernard Lonergan's book "Grace and Freedom" is unparalleled.

      Delete
    5. Vincent Torley makes a telling observation here: "[T]he Nicene Creed refers to God as the Maker of heaven and earth, but you cannot be a Maker without an act of making." This strikes me as the ongoing stumbling block between Aristotle and Christianity. All anthropomorphic religious language (a singular, simple God who is most essentially grace and love but is also a trinity, the maker of a demon haunted earth, an allower of the Holocaust, a sender of souls to hell realms, etc.) is chalked up to metaphor or mystery, thus making Ryan Mullins's point: the Thomistic proclivity toward the masking of language precision and the rationale for starting and stopping points for various premises make it hard to pin down the meaning and implications of God's simplicity.

      Thus if most Thomists are "annoyed" (Thomas Cothran's word) by their opponents's untutored and naive objections, maybe it's because Thomistic terms are not ultimately well defined, and the starting and stopping points for their premises amount to question begging.

      It is easier to walk away than to justify why arguments start and stop exactly where they do. It reminds me of the famous cartoon of a mathematician before a chalk board, pointing to a specific point in an elaborate equation and saying to his colleague--"Then right here, at this spot in the equation, a miracle happens!"

      Delete
    6. > maybe it's because Thomistic terms are not ultimately well defined

      Maybe people don't like Faulkner for the brevity of his sentences, or Shakespeare for his humorlessness, or Bach for his tendency to over-rely on downtuned, distorted electric guitars.

      It's a basic requirement of any criticism (literary, artistic or philosophical) to do some basic due diligence and try to understand the subject matter first. First read (or listen), then understand, then critique -- in that order.

      Delete
    7. Tony: You wrote, "[T]o be in act wholly - i.e. in the fullness of every kind, sort, and order of actuality that even can be, is to be perfect, and thus to be eternal, and omnipotent,... The rest follows."

      Your "The rest follows" strikes me as eliding where, exactly, your argument actually stops for God's simplicity and scope. For example, does it then follow that if God is love and God is grace that hell obviously cannot be eternal, and all must therefore be redeemed?

      Does God's perfect simplicity as unobstructed, infinite love and grace naturally lead to your rejection as metaphorical, monstrous, demiurgic, and anthropomorphic the Christian doctrine of eternal torture (hell)?

      Would God be God if his will that all be saved was ultimately thwarted by the eternal existence of hell--and would God be good is his will was in fact to sustain billions of human souls in torture for all of eternity?

      Ryan Mullins's point is that traditional Christian doctrines do not clearly square up well or clearly with the implications of Aristotelian simplicity, and I think your comment inadvertently reinforces that point.

      Delete
    8. Thomas Cothran,

      I was not familiar with the controversy surrounding this subject until this thread. After spending some time reading relevant materials on the issue, I can say that it seems to me that Mullins needs to do much better than complain that Thomists are ambiguous before he can claim to have vanquished his opponents. The arguments against Mullins are far more formidable than he seems to be aware.

      Delete
    9. @Thomas Cothran. You're being Orwellian now. Do words have meanings or not? It won't do for you to claim that Thomistic terms are precisely deployed and well defined, with well justified (ultimately non-arbitrary, non-audience dependent) starting and stopping points for argumentation, absent an example.

      So simply answer this question directly, please. Is the following affirmation of God's unchanging simplicity--"God is good and God is love"--coherent in a non-Orwellian way with the doctrine of eternal hell and the Holocaust as a historical event? What does a "simple God" who is "perfect love and good" mean in light of the Holocaust and in light of the claim that hell is eternal--and why don't these facts change God's essence by their very coming into existence?

      If I say I'm a good and loving parent in essence, but I then let my toddler wander off a cliff, doesn't that historical event change my essence from possessor of the property "good and loving parent" to the possessor of the property "bad and unloving parent"?

      Likewise, why isn't the essence of God changed substantially by historical events if God brings into existence an eternal hell realm and allows a historical event like the Holocaust to happen?

      Delete
    10. Santi:

      I poked fun at the claim that Thomists don't define their terms, identify their premises, etc. because it is just as absurd as the claim that Faulkner doesn't write lengthy sentences. If someone made that statement to you, you would conclude they've never read Faulkner.

      Similarly, in this case, it's immediately clear that you haven't read either the classical sources (St. Thomas' Summa discusses these points rather conspicuously), or any of the contemporary literature -- even the popular treatments by Dr. Feser, Brian Davies, Peter Kreeft, etc. I'm not saying that to be critical -- I hope you read them and come back with counter-arguments.

      The complaint against Thomists is usually that they focus too much on definitions and formal arguments.

      Your arguments from suffering and evil neither state a coherent objection nor account for the extensive discussion Thomists (including St. Thomas) have devoted to the subject. I actually strongly disagree with St. Thomas on many of his conclusions in this area (that natural evil is not really evil, or his doctrine of hell, etc.). But were I to critique them, I would have to be critique what he actually says, consider his arguments, and provide counter-arguments.

      Delete
    11. @Thomas Cothran: I get the concept of privation and how a Thomist thinks in general terms about evil. I've read Feser. So if you don't want to answer directly, fine, but I'm asking you to apply what I presume is your mastery of Thomistic language--and the language of simplicity--to God and the Holocaust.

      I know it's a hard topic, but concrete examples/performances of divine simplicity language applied to specific cases are important.

      I want to see if you, as someone presumably fluent in Thomism, can concisely maintain, right now, some sort of coherence in your use of terms like "simplicity," "God," and "love" in relation to the Holocaust (or the doctrine of eternal hell, if you prefer).

      I don't care what version of divine simplicity you subscribe to, or whether you believe in eternal hell yourself, but to apply your version to an analysis of God and the Holocaust (or, if you prefer, God and eternal hell).

      Your claim is that these subjects can be talked about together plausibly and coherently, so do it. You claim that I'm being "incoherent" in bringing up the Holocaust in relation to God's essence, but I want to then see how you--not Aquinas, not Feser--speak of these matters on the premise of God's transcendent simplicity (that God is love; that God is good; that God is all powerful, that God is grace, that God created this particular world, and not another, etc.). What do words like "love" mean in relation to God after the Holocaust?

      Delete
    12. Tony,

      > God's essence is not distinct from his substance (as it is with us), two things distinct, because this would deny the "absolute simplicity" asserted of the essence, substance, or nature.

      Answer me this: is an angel's essence distinct from its substance? According to Aquinas, each angel is a pure form. That form is an angel's essence, and it's also a substance, requiring no additional matter to individualize it, as each angel is said to be its own species, distinct from every other species of angel.

      > If the "what kind" of a thing is the very same as the "to be" of the thing, then its essence is to be in act, wholly and utterly.

      The Lateran Council's declaration says nothing about essence and existence; it simply equates God's essence with God's substance. Regarding essence and existence, many Scholastic philosophers have denied that there is a real distinction between the two, in any case.

      Thomas Cothran,

      You suggested that I consult Aquinas's "On the Power of God." I'm afraid I couldn't find anything that answered Mullins's objection. In Q. 1, art. 8, ad. 8, Aquinas writes: "God’s power is always united to act, i.e. to operation (for operation is the divine essence) : but the effects follow according as his will commands and his wisdom ordains. Consequently it does not follow that his power is always united to its effect, or that creatures have existed from eternity."

      That still doesn't explain how the contingent operation of creating the world can be identical with the necessary Divine essence.

      I also had a look at Q. 3, art. 15, ad. 11 (in response to the objection that everything in God is necessary): "As regards the things which are in God himself, nothing can be described as potential: all is naturally and absolutely necessary. But in respect of creatures we can call certain things potential not in regard to passive potentiality, but in regard to an active power which is not limited to one effect." Once again, that still evades the question of whether God's act of creating the world is a necessary act. If it is, then the world is necessary, which is contrary to faith; but if it isn't, then it's distinct from God's essence.

      In Q. 7, art. 10, Aquinas writes that "God does not work by an intermediary action to be regarded as issuing from God and terminating in the creature: but his action is his substance," but once again, the same dilemma arises: is this action necessary or contingent? Mullins's objection remains unanswered.



      Delete
    13. Thomas, you're correct about Santi. He has no idea what he's talking about. He's a massive troll who likes to go on self-indulgent, tedious, incoherent rambles about things he has no idea about. He is a troll, and everyone should ignore him.

      Delete
    14. Vincent,

      Unfortunately, there's a fundamental misunderstanding of what St. Thomas is affirming when he affirms God freely creates the world. This sentence captures it:

      > That still doesn't explain how the contingent operation of creating the world can be identical with the necessary Divine essence.

      It's a bit like objecting that the problem with Einstein is that he doesn't explain how space is absolute.

      St. Thomas, in the first article of the De Potentia and throughout, denies that predications relating God and the world posit something distinctive in God. He must say it a dozen times, and he has an article devoted to the subject (VII, 10). You take St. Thomas to be holding a position he emphatically, repeatedly, and clearly rejects.

      When St. Thomas affirm things of God in relation to creation -- for instance, that God is the creator, that he freely creates the world, and so on -- St. Thomas asserts that the reality affirmed exists in things, but doesn't name something in God. He says this right off the bat:

      > "For our mind conceives the creature as bearing a relation to and dependence on its Creator: and for this very reason, being unable to conceive one thing related to another, without on the other hand conceiving that relation to be reciprocal, it conceives in God a certain relation of principle, consequent to its mode of understanding, which relation is referred to the thing mediately." DP I.1

      When we speak of God acting in the word, St. Thomas says, we naturally tend to think of these contingent actions as imminent in God (either substantially or accidentally). But St. Thomas denies this: repeatedly, emphatically, and without ambiguity.

      What he says is that things depend for their existence on God, that their finite acts of being are received from the God's infinite act of being, that God's actuality is the principle from which things derive. This dependence of creature on creator means that we name God as the creator; the contingency of this dependence means we assert that God freely creates. But this relation does not, St. Thomas insists, posit something distinct in God. God is the unrestricted act of existence whether or not things exist, but if they do exist, the principle from which they derive is that act.

      There's a lot more to be said: the distinction between active power and passive power, the exclusive locus of God's operation operation being in the created things, the fact that the cause of the universe is necessarily simple, etc. But before coming to St. Thomas' justifications for his position, it's important to get that position straight. Mullins, unfortunately, has been attacking a straw man for years.

      Delete
    15. Hi Thomas,

      You appear to interpret Aquinas as denying that God really performs any such action as the contingent act of creating the world, although none of the texts you quote explicitly says this, and elsewhere (SCG II, 21 (1)), Aquinas writes that "creation is an action proper to God, and that He alone can create."

      But let's suppose you're right. Then what you're saying is that God is the Creator of the world, but there is no act whereby God creates the world. In plain English, God is the Creator, and all things are created by Him, but He doesn't create. That's just absurd. As I wrote above, that would by like saying that I'm Jones's killer, but I didn't DO anything that resulted in his death: in other words, I'm his killer but I didn't kill him. It's flat-out nonsense. Or to use another example: it's like saying that J.K. Rowling is the author of Harry Potter, but she didn't write it. Absurd.

      Aquinas repeatedly affirms that "there is a first efficient cause, which we call God" (SCG II, 6 (2)). What's an efficient cause? Feser, in his book Aquinas defines it as "that which actualizes a potency and thereby brings something into being," and he gives as an example the action of workers and/or machines in a factory of molding a piece of rubber into a ball. You can't actualize a potency without acting. Simple as that.

      Putting it another way: your position of affirming that God is the Creator but denying that there is a creative act is practically indistinguishable from that of someone who says that the universe "just is, and that's all." If there's no action of sustaining the universe in existence, then it makes no sense to say it has a Sustainer. Cheers.

      Delete
    16. Vincent:

      > You appear to interpret Aquinas as denying that God really performs any such action as the contingent act of creating the world, although none of the texts you quote explicitly says this, and elsewhere (SCG II, 21 (1)), Aquinas writes that "creation is an action proper to God, and that He alone can create."

      That is not at all what I said. That sort of misinterpretation can only happen if you misunderstand St. Thomas' account of language about God and agency.

      I'm simply repeating what St. Thomas says: predications about God in relation to the world do not posit real relations in God (much less do they determine his essence); action occurs in the patient, not the agent; and God's act of existence is completely unconditioned by any created thing.

      You're getting hung up on two things.

      First, extrinsic predication. To say that God acts in the world is not to say there is something God has or is he would not have had had he not acted. At least for St. Thomas, it is to say that there is an actuality in a created thing that depends on God. This is the linguistic point.

      Second, agency. This is the ontological side of the first point. Change or creation or action occurs, for St. Thomas, in what is changed, created, or acted upon. The agent, qua agent, remains unchanged in bringing about change. So to say God acts on the world signifies an event that happens in the world, an actuality that comes to be in some finite thing. It does not signify some new reality in God, some particular orientation or intention that has as its object something in the world, some difference in God from what he would have been like had he done something else. When God acts in the world, the only new actuality that comes to be is in the world, not in God.

      To put it a little differently, it is a sufficient condition for X to be an agent that X brings about something actual in Y. It is not a necessary condition that X be changed by Y, or that X have some particular real relation to Y, or that X be changed in acting.

      Delete
    17. @Thomas Cothran,


      Quote:"What he says is that things depend for their existence on God, that their finite acts of being are received from the God's infinite act of being, that God's actuality is the principle from which things derive."


      Does this mean that the existence of created things is the existence of God - that finite acts of being are merely finite modes of Pure Act inside limiting essences, like taking a cup and trapping the ocean water in it?

      Or is the act of being that creatures have their own unique act, and not God's Pure Act distilled, though it depends on Pure Act to exist at any moment?

      Aquinas himself denies that God enters into the composition of anything, or that we exist by the Divine Existence, and so it would seem that the participation finite acts have in God cannot be literally being pieces of God's act in a finite mode.

      What do you think?

      Delete
    18. JoeD:

      You're right that Aquinas denies God enters into composition with things. But the language of the act of existence as received ("receptum") is quite natural to St. Thomas, as is the term "participation" -- to take part.

      If existence were some kind of stuff, as Tertullian imagined there was God-stuff, then there would be some kind of efflux, as you suggest. But I think St. Thomas' account of the way in which form specifies and limits existence should quell those concerns.

      I think John Wippel, Cornelio Fabro, and L-B Geiger do really great work in this area (the participation of being). I'd more or less endorse their interpretations. The participatory aspect of St. Thomas' thought has been dramatically underplayed by many of his interpreters.

      It's not a "mode", in my view, because a mode is an accident or an aspect of a thing, whereas the act of existence, together with an essence, constituted a thing other than God, and the act of existence without a limiting essence is identical to God.

      Delete
    19. @Thomas Cothran,


      Quote: "But the language of the act of existence as received ("receptum") is quite natural to St. Thomas, as is the term "participation" -- to take part...

      ...whereas the act of existence, together with an essence, constituted a thing other than God, and the act of existence without a limiting essence is identical to God."



      It all depends on what one means by participation, and how exactly created things receive being. For example, Aquinas also denies that creation has being by the Divine Being, and this means created things have their own being, and the being they possess is not the divine being.

      I also recall reading of a comparison made between Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas, in that Eckhart often asserts that the creature's existence is in reality God's existence, while Aquinas seems to allow for some more independent existence in the creature, though always sustained by God.

      It seems that if we define God as pure act of existence, and created things as resulting from the pure act of existence being limited by an essence, this would entail that the very act of existence the creature has is God who is pure act of existence. This would give some truth to the "ocean trapped in cups" analogy, but that is dangerously close to pantheism, and is just intuitively problematic, at least to me.

      Now, Feser once compared how the being of creatures is received to how the moon receives light from the sun and in that sense has light. The problem with this is that the White Moonlight the moon has is merely reflected sunlight, and so it is false to say the moon has light, since it only reflects sunlight, and thus White Moonlight as we see it is really just identical to Sunlight.

      On the other hand, if we imagine Sunlight gave the moon Blue Moonlight that was unique to it, and was not a mere reflection of the sun, we would have a scenario where the moon really does have it's own light absolutely distinct from the Sun, even though it requires Sunlight to exist at every moment.

      What would be the better analogy of the two? If the being of creatures were White Moonlight, then it seems that whenever we, say, enjoy anything created we are actually enjoying God as a consequence. If it is Blue Moonlight, then there is a greater distinction between creation and God - the act of being creatures have is NOT the pure act of being limited to a cup of essence.

      Delete
    20. JoeD:

      > Everything which comes after the first being [i.e., God], since it is not its esse, has an esse which is received in something by which the esse itself is limited; and thus in every creature the nature of the thing which participates esse is one, and the participated esse is something other. And since every thing participates in the First Act by assimilation insofar as it has esse, the participated esse in each thing must be related to the nature which participates it as act to potency. On Spiritual Creatures, a 1.

      There's the issue of what St. Thomas said, and whether he was right. St. Thomas affirms only a logical participation in the ideas, but when it comes to creaturely existence, he affirms a real participation of the effect (creatures) in the cause (God). For an extended consideration of the texts, chapter 4 of Wippel's Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas is what I would defer to.

      The arguments you raise go more toward whether St. Thomas was right. Material propagation is, at best, a weak metaphor (though St. Thomas himself uses the example of light in air). Existence is not a form, still less a material form, and its communication is not a matter of things extending through space-time.

      I think that his account of the way in which potency receives act, and its application to how essence specifies existence are adequate. Existence is both accidental and limited in creatures; God is, by nature, unrestricted existence. In one case the act of being is received and limited, in the other original and unlimited. How could an accident in one thing be the substance of another? Not even accidents (not even relations) are shared between things. How could the unlimited be the same as the limited?

      Not only is this clear Thomist doctrine, but it is a key part of a very powerful argument from act and potency.

      This seems clearly to me to rule out the risk of pantheism -- though of course a more extended argument would be required to show that it is right.

      Delete
    21. Hi Thomas,

      Yes or no: does God perform the contingent act of creating the world? In your latest reply, you appear to have swung back to "Yes." Am I reading you aright?

      > ... action occurs in the patient, not the agent...

      What do you mean by "in"? In everyday parlance, actions are performed by an agent. But at the very least, God's act of creating the world would involve (i) His [timelessly] having an idea of the world and of the creatures in it; and (ii) His [timelessly] willing the world and its creatures to exist. And this act of will (or mental intention) is a contingent act, that God would not have performed, had He decided not to create.

      > To say that God acts in the world is not to say there is something God has or ... [that] he would not have had, had he not acted.

      See above. God doesn't "have" actions; He performs them. Nevertheless, we can say that God has intentions. Had God not created the world, He would not have formulated the intention to do so. So in that respect, God is [timelessly] different from what He would have been had He decided not to create.

      > The agent, qua agent, remains unchanged in bringing about change. The agent, qua agent, remains unchanged in bringing about change.

      Change is not the issue here. We both affirm Divine timelessness.

      > So to say God acts on the world signifies an event that happens in the world, an actuality that comes to be in some finite thing. It does not signify some new reality in God, some particular orientation or intention that has as its object something in the world, some difference in God from what he would have been like had he done something else.

      As I wrote above, had God not decided to create the world, He would never have formulated the mental intention to do so.

      Delete
    22. @Thomas Cothran,


      Quote: "How could an accident in one thing be the substance of another? Not even accidents (not even relations) are shared between things. How could the unlimited be the same as the limited?"


      This is, in fact, the key question.

      How exactly do creatures participate in God? Do they participate in God such that God is the very existence of creatures? Or, as I think may be the case, do creatures participate in God in a way that doesn't make them exist by the Divine Being?

      Now God is Existence Itself, not having existence but just being Existence essentially. Created things merely have existence. If God is Existence itself, does this mean creatures have God - that the statement "I have existence." is the same as and convertible with "I have God." ?

      Or, since God is Existence Itself, is it the case that the finite acts of being creatures have is not God? Since in that case, to say "I have existence" and to identify existence with God is to say "I have Existence Itself". But this is false, since my finite act of being is NOT Being as such, and so God is not my own existence.


      What do you think?

      Delete
    23. > But at the very least, God's act of creating the world would involve (i) His [timelessly] having an idea of the world and of the creatures in it; and (ii) His [timelessly] willing the world and its creatures to exist. And this act of will (or mental intention) is a contingent act, that God would not have performed, had He decided not to create.

      > Nevertheless, we can say that God has intentions. Had God not created the world, He would not have formulated the intention to do so. So in that respect, God is [timelessly] different from what He would have been had He decided not to create

      Are you attributing these views to St. Thomas? Because he clearly rejects these views. I've quoted and cited the passages, and I could produce a dozen more.

      If your position is, instead, that the statement "God is the free creator of the world" entails that there is some real difference in God such as an intention he would not have otherwise had, then you're begging the question.

      To answer your question: yes, God performs the contingent action of creating the world, but that action is really identical with the actuality brought about in the world, not with God's actuality. In other words, there is no gap between God's free actions and the contingent effect produced. When God wills something it is, and its being is not other than the operation of God.

      Delete
    24. > Are you attributing these views to St. Thomas?

      No. I'm saying that they're true by definition. Nobody can create a world without formulating the intention that that world should exist. "Let there be light." That says it all, really.

      > Because he [Aquinas] clearly rejects these views. I've quoted and cited the passages, and I could produce a dozen more.

      You haven't quoted any passages showing that God can create light without formulating the intention to do so.

      > ... you're begging the question.

      What's the alternative you're proposing?

      > To answer your question: yes, God performs the contingent action of creating the world, but that action is really identical with the actuality brought about in the world, not with God's actuality. In other words, there is no gap between God's free actions and the contingent effect produced. When God wills something it is, and its being is not other than the operation of God.

      You appear to be saying that God's intention that there should be light is no different from the light itself. OK, fine. Sounds a little pantheistic, but I can live with that. But as you yourself acknowledge, it's still a contingent action, and it's also an intentional one. So God still has this contingent intention that He wouldn't have had, had He decided not to create.

      You might say that the intention isn't "in" God. But by definition, an intention IS in the mind of the entity formulating it. That's why it's called an INtention, and not an EXtention.

      But if you simply want to insist that this intention is external to God's essence, then it seems to me that you're invoking a distinction between God's necessary essence and His contingent operations - in which case, we don't disagree with one another.

      Delete
    25. Vincent:

      > No. I'm saying that they're true by definition. Nobody can create a world without formulating the intention that that world should exist. "Let there be light." That says it all, really.

      This is a classic example of begging the question. You admit that St. Thomas denies an imminent intention (or any other form of contingency) in God, and you're just asserting (albeit vigorously) that there just must be. Without engaging with St. Thomas' argument as to how God freely creates the world.

      The stages of the argument Aquinas gives are, roughly, as follows.

      1. God is unrestricted, pure act of existence.
      2. God has no potencies, realized or unrealized (from 1)
      3. God is not dependent in any way on the world (from 1 and 2)
      4. God has no accidents (i.e., God has nothing in addition to his essence) (from 1 and 2).
      5. No contingent predication of God in relation to the world names a distinctive reality in God. Rather, it names a real relation in something in the world to God. Put differently, there is in God no real relation to the world, there is no difference in God given that he wills the world than there would be had he not willed the world. (from 3 and 4) Nevertheless we may attribute mental relations or mere Cambridge properties.
      6. The world depends for its existence on God (from the essence/existence distinction in creatures and 1)
      7. God creates the world (from 5 and 6).
      8. God is under no necessity to create the world (from 3).
      9. What is not done under necessity is done freely. (analytic)
      10. Therefore God freely creates the world. (from 8 and 9).
      11. God is not different by virtue of freely creating the world than he would be had he not created the world (restatement of 2 and 3).

      Now, these are just summaries, and I can expand on them or refer to fuller treatments as necessary. But this should make the general structure of the argument clear, and it should enable you to say specifically where you disagree. Really, though, once (1) is granted, the game is up.

      Delete
    26. Now God is Existence Itself, not having existence but just being Existence essentially. Created things merely have existence. If God is Existence itself, does this mean creatures have God - that the statement "I have existence." is the same as and convertible with "I have God." ?


      @ JoeD: No, it doesn't mean that.

      Thomas rejects pantheism and panentheism utterly. We are not God, we are not part of God, God is not part of us, we are not aspects of God, the universe is not an aspect of God, etc. When a human person is conceived, it is a new being that never existed before, its existence is completely new and original.

      It is true that (a) God is an exemplar of the human being, in that the essence of being human is good in being like to some perfection that is in God, but in Him in an eminent degree and transcendent way. And God is the end of the human, in that the end of human nature is to know and to love, and ultimately to know and love God. Thus nothing of man's being is in any sense perfective of him (i.e. bringing him fully into act) except insofar as it makes him like to God in some sense. Moreover, to know God properly (as He is in Himself) requires supernatural grace, which consists essentially in sharing (i.e. by participation) in the very life of God. But even in that perfection, man has participation in God (via an extrinsic principle, added to his substance), whereas God IS God intrinsically, so even in union with the Divinity we do not lose our individuality altogether and become nothing but God.

      In saying "God is existence itself" the meaning is not intended to claim that God's existence is ALL existence. It is a negative assertion about distinction and limitation: God is NOT limited in the way creatures are limited in receiving existence, and God is not limited in the way of having an essence that is distinct from his being.

      Delete
    27. Perhaps it would be less confusing to put it as "God is the one being for whom it is of his very essence to be." (Even there, "being" is used analogically, not univocally with creatures).

      Delete
  18. My worry is that the Cambridge properties distinction only tells us that God does not, necessarily, have the *real* property "being the creator." However, this doesn't tell us whether, if God just is his act, there isn't some truth-maker (creation itself) that necessarily exists for God to have the Cambridge property "being the creator."

    What am I missing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're not missing anything. You said it perfectly. If a cosmos exists, and we try to work out from that cosmos's existence what sort of God must exist to bring it into existence, then God's essence cannot be deduced just from armchair contemplation of that Being in isolation. God's essence must also be inferred from his action (or inaction) in bringing about this particular, "necessarily existing" (your phrase) creation.

      God is responsible for (owns, possesses) his action and inaction in relation to the created cosmos. What happens in history reveals (or at least suggests) God's essence to us. Does history coherently reveal God to be both all loving and all powerful?

      History, as it progresses, arguably changes what we can coherently say about God's essence. God let the Holocaust happen. That necessarily changes what we can reasonably, confidently, and coherently affirm about the essence and properties associated with God. It changes how we might speak of God.

      If we resist this conclusion, the language we deploy in reference to God necessarily becomes Orwellian, highly qualified, mystical, vague, imprecise, metaphorical--which I take to be among Ryan Mullins's complaints. (What does it mean, for example, for a simple, "necessary" being to do anything "unnecessarily," i.e. to act "freely"? What does it mean to say "God is love" after the Holocaust?)

      Reasoning about God after the Holocaust is different from reasoning about God before it. The creation necessarily feeds back into what can be inferred about God's essence.

      Delete
    2. Go away. Don't feed the troll.

      Delete
  19. Ed,

    You wrote a great article very concisely. Thanks much.
    Grateful to God - Omer

    ReplyDelete
  20. Could someone please explain to me what 'cambridge property' means?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I understand it, Feser is saying that this world is change and privation and God is self contained, unchanging, and complete. As such, all the movement and privation is on the creation side of the equation. God stays the same. God is akin to a man on a house boat. God on a house boat can be described at one hour as being south of Los Angeles, at another hour north of Los Angeles, but it is a change of relation, not of his inner essence.

      He (She) is redescribed in relation to things that are changing around him (her).

      Think of moving a book to a different shelf in a library. The book has not changed, but only the description of its relation to other books. It has the "property" of being to the right of Dostoevsky and the left of Tolstoy.

      Think of Shakespeare's Hamlet talking to Claudius about watching the play, "The Mouse Trap," and saying ironically to him: "We have free souls. It touches us not." God is untouched by the stage play of the cosmos. He is unmoved. He doesn't vary, though he may be at one point sitting to the left of where a particular actor is on the stage, and at another point he is sitting at the right of that actor. Change of descriptive properties all depend on the movement of the actor in this context, not the audience sitter.

      My problem with such a definition of God as unchanged by action, history, or relation is that it appears to make him (her) not responsible for history (for the Holocaust, etc.). Is God still to be properly or coherently defined as perfect love and grace after the Holocaust? I'm not so sure. Feser is.

      But if my character is revealed and shifts in my interaction with time and with others, so why isn't God's? Is God's essence as love and grace really untouched by the idea that hell exists for eternity or that the Holocaust happened?

      Delete
    2. Look up Feser's response to William Lane Craig from 2009.

      Delete
  21. "anything composed of parts is ontologically posterior to those parts, and can exist only if something causes the parts to be combined"

    This is only true depending on your definition of 'parts'. Of course, substances that can exist separately on their own would be prior to their being combined and thus need an external cause to combine them.

    But not all of what you call 'parts' are substances that can have independent distinct existence to begin with.

    The possible relations between two, or more, things are either: Separability or inseparability. Priority and posteriority apply only to separable beings. But inseparabale beings do not have priority or posteriority, except through mental construct, but they only have concomitance.

    That being said, why can't the case of God's essence and his attributes be of the concomitance one without having to say that God's essence is his attributes for otherwise He would be ontologically preceded by them and thus a cause would be needed to combine them? Nothing would precede God Ontologically in this case, and therefore would need a cause to be combined with Him, since they are not separable in the first blace but they would both be ontologically concomitants such that one cannot exist without the other. God's existence does not even mean more than the existence of a necessary essence with its necessary attributes which cannot exist without.
    -------------------------
    "Hence if God were composed of parts, there would have to be something ontologically prior to him and something which combines those parts, thereby causing him to exist"

    If it's meant by your saying: "If God were composed of parts" that God exists with certain meanings that He does not devoid of, such as his knowledge and his power, then nothing in that entails that something is ontologically prior to God, even if you called this 'composition', rather it entails that God does not exist without these meanings which are included in the reality of being God. Having these attributes is not something additional to being God. Rather, having these attributes is included in being God. So there is no two substances out there, namely God's essence and his power for example, waiting for a composer to combine them together into one entity.

    If you mean by 'parts' what enters in the meaning/reality of being God, such that we cannot say that God exists without having those meanings, then it doesn't follow that these meanings could, let alone would, have independent distinct existence prior to God that would call for a composer to combine them. There were not any segregated parts in the first place in order for them to be in need of a composer.

    'Parts' and 'Composition' are both general terms that need to be elaborated. If by them you mean what was separated then combined, then this would entail parts being ontologically prior to the compound and the need of a composer, but that's not the case with God's attributes. And If you mean by them What could be known of something without the other, absolutely, such as the knowledge of God's being powerful before the knowledge of his being hearing, then nothing in that, even if you call it composition, would entail something being ontologically prior to God or the need of any cause or composer, because they are relational meanings that necessitate that which they are related to, and they could be inseparable of that which they're related/attributed to and thus can't be prior ontologically to him let alone need a cause to combine them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "For example, there is a distinction between a given particular triangle and triangularity as a common nature or essence .... God just is his nature, so that it is not something that he could have in common with another thing"

      But this common nature, insofar as it's common, cannot exist outside the mind. Nothing outside is common and absolute. There is no such thing as many beings have one existential thing in common. Individuation entails uniqueness. And all that exists outside is individuated and particularized, not common and absolute, these exist only in the mind. So there could not be more than one being share one same existential thing in the first place. All beings are distinct and unique. All individuated things are distinct and unique. They do not share any common feature that exists out there

      So your saying: "God just is his nature, so that it is not something that he could have in common with another thing" misses that there could not be in principle many beings have something, which is existential, in common with another.

      Also this could be contravened by existence. God and other beings have existence in common, therefore, according to your logic, God is composed of existence and that by which distinguishes Him from other beings that agree with him in point of being out there. And If it's said God is distinguished from them by his very existence, then the same could be said about whichever you don't want to have something in common with God.
      -------------------------
      "That the world comes into being does not entail the acquisition of a real property by God, any more than Socrates’s becoming shorter than Plato by virtue of Plato’s becoming taller entails the acquisition of a real property by Socrates"

      False analogy. There is no parity here. Yes, Plato's becoming taller does not entail the acquisition of a real property by Socrates, but Socrates making Plato taller (i.e. stretching/lengthen him or whatever) does indeed entail Socrates acquisition of a real property. This is indeed a change on the part of Socrates.

      Your Socrates/Plato example does not involve Socrates action and his role of making Plato taller. Plato becomes Taller without Socrates being involved. Unlike the example of God creating the world, which the existence of the world is the act of God himself. Thus no parity.

      If the world just popped into existence by itself on its own without God's being involved then there would be a parity. But this is not the case. God is the one who bring the world into existence. And if there is nothing different on the part of God between God's creating the universe and God's not creating the universe, and he is after as he was before as he was in all imaginary points of time he existed through, then there's no different between saying God's bring the universe into existence and saying the universe popped in existence on its own while God was sitting there doing nothing.

      The procession of an act, at a certain point before which nothing proceeded, from an essence that nothing happens/occurs to it is pretty much inconceivable. It's either that God changes or He doesn't. If He doesn't His acts would be as necessary as he is. Simplicity and God's being necessary/actual in all ways from all respects are inconsistent with God's being voluntary agent.

      Delete
    2. salam.

      "Priority and posteriority apply only to separable beings."

      this is not true. suppose an eternal essence e with an eternal concomitant attribute F. in such a case, it would be true that e, the mawsuf, is prior to F, the sifa (assuming F is za'id 'ala e). now if a god were the e+F complex (as opposed to just being e), then it would be posterior to e and F

      Delete
    3. I don't even admit the separability between the mawsuf and the sifa Ontologically in the first place, but only mentally.

      "suppose an eternal essence e with an eternal concomitant attribute F. in such a case, it would be true that e, the mawsuf, is prior to F, the sifa (assuming F is za'id 'ala e)"

      This is nothing but asserting what is already in issue. Why would e being eternally attributed with F, such that they're concomitant, entail that e is ontologically prior to F? How could e be ontologically prior to F and in the same time ontologically concomitant?

      Your saying: "assuming F is za'id 'ala e" If by "za'id 'ala" you mean what is understanded of the meaning of the mawsuf is not the same meaning understanded of the sifa, then yes I agree, but how would this entail that an essence would be ontologically prior to the attribute?

      As I said, just supposing the existence of an essence, is itself supposing it being attributed with certain attributes since there cannot be in principle a mere essence that's devoid of any attributes that exists outside.

      Therefore your saying: "F is za'id 'ala e" The zyada (addition) here only in the mind, conceptually, not outside the mind, ontologically. And the first does not necessitate one being prior to the other out there.

      "now if a god were the e+F complex (as opposed to just being e), then it would be posterior to e and F"

      If you want to call God's being attributed with attributes 'e+f' or 'composition' that's fine, no dispute over terms, but God's being attributed with necessary attributes does not have any meaning that would call for a cause to make him so.

      "as opposed to just being e"

      Just being e includes his being attributed with F, since, as I said, there could not be in principle mere essence, that is devoid of any attributes, that exists outside the mind.

      Delete
    4. “I don't even admit the separability between the mawsuf and the sifa Ontologically in the first place, but only mentally.”

      Separability doesn’t matter. what matters is that you admit the two are distinct. And you do admit that; for you think the attribute is additional to the essence.

      “This is nothing but asserting what is already in issue. Why would e being eternally attributed with F, such that they're concomitant, entail that e is ontologically prior to F? How could e be ontologically prior to F and in the same time ontologically concomitant?”

      It would be true that e is prior to F because it’s true, generally, that the mawsuf is prior to the sifa, even if they are concomitant in eternity. For the justification of this latter claim, see next comment.

      “Your saying: "assuming F is za'id 'ala e" If by "za'id 'ala" you mean what is understanded of the meaning of the mawsuf is not the same meaning understanded of the sifa, then yes I agree, but how would this entail that an essence would be ontologically prior to the attribute?”

      Because the sifa subsists by the mawsuf. And, self-evidently, for any x, y, if y subsists by x, then x is ontologically prior to y.

      “Therefore your saying: "F is za'id 'ala e" The zyada (addition) here only in the mind, conceptually, not outside the mind, ontologically. And the first does not necessitate one being prior to the other out there.”

      No. You’re confusing ‘urudh (عروض) and ittisaf (إتصاف) here. The ‘urudh (of the sifa to the mawsuf) is in the mind, but not the ittisaf (of the sifa to the mawsuf).

      “If you want to call God's being attributed with attributes 'e+f' or 'composition' that's fine, no dispute over terms, but God's being attributed with necessary attributes does not have any meaning that would call for a cause to make him so.”

      You missed the point here. If a god is the (dhāt-sifat) whole, then god is posterior to the parts (dhāt and sifat) of that whole. For a whole is posterior to its parts, bidahatan.

      wa salam.

      Delete
    5. "Separability doesn’t matter"

      Yes it does since I'm saying that what would need a composer is that what was separated then got combined. But what could not be in principle separated would not need any composer.

      "what matters is that you admit the two are distinct. And you do admit that; for you think the attribute is additional to the essence."

      What about their being distinct that would call for a cause? Prove that any different meanings would need a cause to combine them.

      Yes and I said that the addition is in conception not in existence. And said if by addition you mean that what the mind grasp of the meaning of mawsuf is different from the meaning that mind grasp from the sifa, then it does not follow that outside the mind one would be prior to the other and would need a cause to combine them. You have to prove that.

      And you responded with: "Because the sifa subsists by the mawsuf. And, self-evidently, for any x, y, if y subsists by x, then x is ontologically prior to y."

      What do you mean by 'the sifa subsists by the mawsuf' tho? If you mean by it that the sifa cannot exist without the mawsuf, or that the sifa must be in a substratum or subject, then I admit that, but that does not entail that one is ontologically prior to the other or that there some cause needed for the mawsuf to have the sifa, for it could the mawsuf would have the sifa just for what he is, not for an external cause outside of him.

      And what do you even mean by an essence be ontologically prior to the attributes? This is saying that there could be an essence out there that is devoid of any attributes, and this is impossible. Mere absolute essences do not exist outside the mind.

      "And, self-evidently, for any x, y, if y subsists by x, then x is ontologically prior to y."

      It's not self-evident. Prove it. It's even nearly false.

      "The ‘urudh (of the sifa to the mawsuf) is in the mind, but not the ittisaf (of the sifa to the mawsuf)."

      So what? What does this have to do with what I said? How does this prove your point and falsify mine?

      "If a god is the (dhāt-sifat) whole, then god is posterior to the parts (dhāt and sifat) of that whole"

      The dhat and sifat, which you call 'parts', were not separated then combined, thus need no cause. That's all I care about, regardless of your terminology.

      You want to call The dhat and its necessary sifat a 'whole' that's fine. You want to call the dhat and the sifat 'parts' that's fine. You want to call God's being a dhat and sifat 'posterior to them, that's fine.

      But behind these terms, nothing in investigating the meanings would entail a dhat being ontologically prior to its sifat, nor would it entail a composer to add the sifat to the dhat. And that is all I care.

      "For a whole is posterior to its parts, bidahatan."

      Yes, for distinct and separated parts that exist outside the mind then got combined. And this does not apply to God's essence and his attributes.

      Delete
  22. There's a big flaw in Mullin's argument: Look at premise 7 and premise 8... Anything that is identical to God's existence must be absolutely necessary. God's essence is his existence.An idea in God is identical to his essence. So that means it's identical to his existence. God refraining from acting to give grace is one of his ideas. Therefore, God refraining from acting to give grace is necessary as well.

    ReplyDelete
  23. ...creation is ordered to God as a final cause by necessity...yet itself is contingent upon Gods act of creation...it is a modal scope fallacy to place necessity on Gods act of creation...if creation is necessary then every possible object would have been created...yet this is obviously not the case...

    ReplyDelete
  24. can there be a distinction between God’s essence (=existence) and his energies, as the Eastern Orthodox Churches believe? They also apparently affirm the doctrine of divine simplicity; I would presume that this is because God’s energies come from God—but are not a “part” of Him, they are of Him.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm hearing an appeal to the poetry of desire in the last two paragraphs of Feser's essay. Here's Feser: "[T]heistic explanation...already requires pushing language far beyond its ordinary usage, independently of considerations about the doctrine of divine simplicity."

    In other words, this strikes me as a significant concession by Feser that the practice of metaphysics surrounding God ultimately comes down to exercises of poetic imagination (Shelley's "unacknowledged Legislator of the world"). Theistic metaphysics amounts to a choice of ill-fitting words, metaphors, and analogies that are necessarily unavailable to verification as to their genuine usefulness, but directed toward longing and desire. These usages of language are then taken back as inadequate when pressed for precision and consistency. Just like a poem to a lover. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate...."

    Every word associated with the simple God is an expression of desire: a desire that God should exist, that God should be love, that God should be all powerful, that God should be grace, that God should be the rewarder of the just, etc. The rationality tracks the desire. But in these flights of ecstasy, poetic desire is unfortunately disrupted by reality testing.

    For example: if God (beyond space, matter, and time) is dreamily longed for and posited to "exist" beyond space, time and matter--and to be "love" and "all powerful"--and this simple being of "love" and "power" can nevertheless allow--not prevent--the Holocaust--then what could "existence," "love," or "power" applied to God mean? What analogy sustains itself in such a context?

    A parent analogy? No. A spousal analogy? No. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the words "existence," "love," and "power" applied to God after the Holocaust have no evident, stable meanings; that their usages when applied to God serve to fog rather than clarify the understanding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For example: if God (beyond space, matter, and time) is dreamily longed for and posited to "exist" beyond space, time and matter--and to be "love" and "all powerful"--and this simple being of "love" and "power" can nevertheless allow--not prevent--the Holocaust--then what could "existence," "love," or "power" applied to God mean? What analogy sustains itself in such a context?

      A parent analogy? No. A spousal analogy?


      Why Not? Why do you think God necessarily had an obligation to prevent that particular event?

      Delete
    2. And a word of advice, posting huge walls of somewhat spamy off-topic content is a sure shot way of simply annoying folks.Avoid it if you can.

      Delete
    3. Red, you must have become a regular only after the original Santi infestation. He was the original logorrheic troll, even before SP. Self-indulgent, barely coherent, emotivist walls of text are his speciality.

      Delete
    4. Red: You asked me the following: "Why do you think God necessarily had an obligation to prevent that particular event [the Holocaust]?"

      Because it speaks to God's essence and to our use of the language of goodness in relation to that essence. By way of analogy, and if words have meaning, we would not call a human "good" who had the power to save the Jews at Auschwitz--and did not. We thus must revisit (in my view) what it means to call God, a priori, essentially "good"--goodness as such--after Auschwitz.

      Maybe goodness is not one of God's properties, after all? Perhaps ascribing goodness to God has always been a category mistake that we ignored out of our desire that God should be good.

      After Auschwitz, it seems to me that only emotionally motivated reasoning would wholly resist this admittedly tragic, tentative, sad conclusion. I'm sorry to be a bummer. I'll call it the "Auschwitz properties" argument. I claim that God's relation to Auschwitz says things about God's essence.

      Delete
    5. @ Red and @ Anonymous: As I'm sure you know, many people are here (me for example) because we are interested in these subjects and a forum like this is a valuable tool for discussing these things, exchanging ideas, and learning from other [informed] people. But it only takes a few knuckleheads to make the forum annoying and tiresome. I guess it's just something about the subject of philosophy that makes novices think their facile cliches and chest-beating bravado are a perfectly good response to the developed arguments of some of the greatest thinkers in history. I guess I'm just venting. From now on I'll just read the articles and stay out of the comment section.

      Delete
    6. @ Santi. Not sure what is special about the Holocaust in particular, as opposed to Nazi killing of Slavs in WW2, the Holodomor, the mass death resulting from WW1 and the Russian Civil War and so on back through time.

      It sounds basically like a restatement of the problem of evil.

      Delete
    7. Coconuts: No interest in playing down other mass killings through history, but the Holocaust is broadly known and is widely recognized to have rattled the intellectual community in a manner akin to the Lisbon earthquake in the 18th century.

      Cambridge properties bring to the foreground only benign relations, but Auschwitz properties bring to the foreground moral relations.

      So I agree that God's essential nature is not changed by Cambridge properties, but what about Auschwitz properties (God's relation to Auschwitz)?

      Why God allows suffering in general is a different question from whether God's essence should be thought of differently after a genocide like that at Auschwitz.

      The Psalmist claims that the heavens declare the glory of God, but what then does Auschwitz declare about the nature of God?

      Delete
    8. Auschwitz properties? Do even you know what your talking about? Everyone, please don't feed the troll.

      Delete
    9. By way of analogy, and if words have meaning, we would not call a human "good" who had the power to save the Jews at Auschwitz--and did not. We thus must revisit (in my view) what it means to call God, a priori, essentially "good"--goodness as such--after Auschwitz.

      SO your point is that B has particular moral obligation therefore A has that particular moral obligation?

      Delete
    10. Assuming Santi isn't actually a bot, we could easily replace him by creating a formula liek this:

      Historical atrocity or evil + philosophical phrase = vaguely philosophically sounding nonsense.

      E.g,.

      Stalingrad + Theory of Time = The Stalingrad theory of time.

      Delete
    11. Or we can mix it:

      The principle of sufficient + Genghis Khan = The principle of sufficient Genghis Khan.

      Delete
    12. Anon,

      Well I don't feel like he is a troll. He just seems to like being a little provocative. Seems like a very good writer and definitely makes some interesting points. I just feel we would all be helped if he doesn't make similar point
      about eight times.

      Delete
    13. I thought Ed Feser banished him. That's one reason not to engage with him.

      Delete
    14. <>

      The Critique of Pure Holocaust?

      The Principle of Proportionate Rwandan Genocide?

      Delete
    15. Hi Red:

      Yes, I think a moral evaluation of A (a human) can be brought to B (a divine being). If words have meaning, and we use the word "good" in relation to both, in what sense are we talking?

      As for addressing the other gentlemen dismissing my distinction between "Cambridge properties" and "Auschwitz properties," it's obviously not a nonsense phrase, but a way of highlighting a distinction between neutral properties and moral properties.

      I'm working on being less long-winded, so I'm also asking a sincere question to those of you who are Thomist language fluent: Why isn't God's essence changed or at least inductively suggested to humans by how God responds or fails to respond to history and moral relations?

      It seems to me that if you want to get some reality testing going as to a priori reasoning surrounding the essence of God, one way to do it would be to think about God's Auschwitz properties (the properties we might infer about God's essence by his relation to Auschwitz).

      Delete
    16. Yes, I think a moral evaluation of A (a human) can be brought to B (a divine being). If words have meaning, and we use the word "good" in relation to both, in what sense are we talking?

      But like I said that simply is an invalid inference even apart from any consideration of divine simplicity.As for defining goodness in God, well that is again in general a very notorious philosophical problem.

      Delete
    17. Defining goodness that is.

      Delete
    18. It is in Santi's posting nature that he posts way too much. Believe it or not, he's actually improved.

      I don't see many goods points. I see boilerplate, emotivist naturalist points drowned in verbal (written) diarrhoea and absurd concoctions (Auschwitz properties???). He literally just seems to be raising the problem of evil. He could do that in a much, much simpler, concise way.

      Delete
    19. Here's one:

      The Santi time paradox.

      It occurs when you begin to read his posts, and time actually seems to have stopped.

      Delete
  26. I ain't no philosopher, but if I may, I'd like to bring into the discussion Brian Davies' and David Burrells' interpretation of St Thomas's account of divine simplicity: viz., it's an expression of negative theology. It doesn't tell us what God is; it tells us what he is not, and in doing so it specifies the boundaries of our discourse about God. This always seems to get forgotten when those trained in the analytic philosophical tradition, as is Ryan Mullins, discuss divine simplicity and modal collapse. As soon as someone begins talking about possible worlds and why did God create world X instead of world Y, all that needs to be said by way of reply is: not only can we not know, but the question does not make any sense, once we understand the logic of the apophatic (or negative) apprehension of divinity. Or to put it another way, it involves a category mistake.

    It's helpful to look at how Thomas himself distinguishes God's "necessary" act of willing himself as the Good and his "voluntary" act of creating beings order to the Good: God voluntarily and freely wills the latter because he does not need the world to be himself in the fullness, infinity, simplicity, immutability, eternality of the divine essence. And that is the explanatory stopping point, beyond which we can only speak nonsense. That is why, as Mr Cothran notes above, that the relationship between God and world is asymmetrical and we can only speak by way of extrinsic denomination. It follows from the logic of transcendent divinity, as expostulated not only by Aquinas but by Dionysius the Areopagite and other Church Fathers (and Plotinus before them).

    FWIW, I have made an amateurish attempt to elaborate on this problem in an article. I commend it to you only because it will direct you both to Aquinas himself and to some secondary authorities I have found particularly helpful: https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/aquinas-and-divine-freedom-god-might-have-willed-otherwise/

    ReplyDelete
  27. In the second to last paragraph of his essay, Feser writes the following: "[W]e [God philosophers] have to stretch language even further than the physicist does, because we are applying it to something that is altogether beyond time, space, and matter."

    This suggests to me that Ryan Mullins's concerns are justified and that God metaphysics indeed abides in the realm of the category mistake, with theologians akin to ocean fish speculating, via ocean language, on the properties of deserts. The distance between realms is simply too vast for crossing. What does it mean to "exist" outside of space, time, and matter? Or to "love," "think," or to be "free" beyond the context of space, time, and matter?

    Isn't Wittgenstein saner here? "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

    And wasn't this where Aquinas himself arrived at the end of his life?

    ReplyDelete
  28. I took Thomas Cothran as someone in this thread who speaks Thomism fluently, and so asked him a simple (not simplistic) question that reaches to the heart of Feser's Cambridge properties critique of Ryan Mullins: Why doesn't God's relation to the Holocaust speak to God's essence?

    In other words, by way of analogy, if you or I pass a beggar on the street and do not help them, it speaks to our essence (we may be aesthetic persons, not ethical ones; we may be more oriented to having aesthetic projects, not ethical ones). Why isn't God's essence revealed or changed by God's relation to history and the Holocaust?

    To protect God's freedom, Feser seems to be trying to wall off God's essence from having any necessary or essential relation to creation and history. But this has unpleasant to contemplate consequences to the argument that God, in a meaningful human sense, is "good." Are there any fluent-speaking Thomists in this thread that might explain why God's relation to the Holocaust has no impact on what we can say about God's essence?

    If analogical language is a Thomistic way of talking about God, I've applied an analogy of relation that speaks to a being's essential goodness--or lack thereof (the beggar and the action of the passerby).

    Why doesn't this analogy speak to God's essence in relation to the Holocaust?

    Put another way: why do Cambridge property analogies of relation seem compelling to Thomists in deployment concerning God's essence, but not Holocaust property analogy relations?

    It's one thing to stroll past someone in Cambridge on a sunny day in 2019, shifting one's relations with them, and quite another to stroll past someone behind barbed wire at Auschwitz in 1944.

    Put yet another way: Feser claims Mullins critique of simplicity collapses because of Feser's deployment of the Cambridge property analogy. Why is the Cambridge property analogy or relation chosen over a begger/passerby-Holocaust property analogy relation?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Santi

      Interesting, you seem to be trying to raise some sort of problem of evil with relation to God. I wonder if there's a whole body of theology not just relating to such a question in general, but specifically in relation to a 20th century massacre?

      Delete
    2. Duncist:

      Cambridge properties are neutral relations; I'm interested in Auschwitz properties (moral relations).

      So I haven't read it in a long while, but there is a Princeton book by Susan Neiman that was widely praised in 2002 titled "Evil in Modern Thought" that surveys various intellectual grapplings with the Holocaust, the problem of evil, etc., but when I look in the index, I don't see that neo-Thomist thinkers are mentioned in the book--which is why I'm posing such a question to the Thomist language fluent concerning the nature of what I would call God's relational "Auschwitz properties."

      In other words, what essential properties (if any) might we infer to God by God's relation to Auschwitz? Does protecting God's non-essential "freedom" mean that Thomists are saying that God can respond or fail to respond to a moral relation and still be considered essentially good? If the Thomist answer is yes to this question, that doesn't sound right to me, and I would like to understand their reasoning for so radically separating God from a moral relation to Auschwitz.

      Delete
    3. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest and say Duncist was being ironic.

      Delete
  29. Who knows? More importantly, why need it be chosen over the satisfactory, well understood and employed concepts concerning analogy present in Thomism itself?

    ReplyDelete
  30. More and more, I come to believe we need to become comfortable with mysteries and the limits of our intellect. Not *too* comfortable, of course, to the point where we stop asking questions or start holding absurd views. But comfortable enough that we can realize God's creation of the universe will always be something very hard to grasp for a finite mind and brain.
    We can know *that* contingent reality obviously must have a cause, not simply magically and inexplicably exist out of nothing. We can know the cause is simple, uncaused, necessary. But "how" this cause creates contingent realities might remain an utter mystery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perfect. Well said. This is the point too many people seem to miss. We can know that God is; but as to how and why God creates, that is a question beyond our complete grasp.

      The mere fact we may fail to understand such further concepts or answer such questions does nothing to negate the reality of the pure act and source of being from which all derives.

      Delete
  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The problem is that despite the excellent and irrefutable philosophical arguments make in favor of Divine simplicity they are usually quickly forgotten by theology when it wishes to say something about God's interaction with the world.

    I note, of course, that Mullins doesn't have anything actually to say contrary to the actual argument for Divine simplicity, but only makes an argument to undesired consequences. Because the argument is irrefutable: anything composed of parts cannot be metaphysically ultimate, because the parts themselves cannot explain the composition, and therefore something else must. Therefore, only something simple (to be specific, existence being identical to essence) can be metaphysically self-explanatory and thus metaphysically ultimate. But note well: this being must be ABSOLUTELY simple without any composition whatsoever, otherwise again it cannot be metaphysically ultimate, for something else is necessary to explain the composition.

    But that doesn't mean Mullins's objections are without all merit. All this is of course what (much) theology would like to forget when it talks about things like creation, revelation, and miracles; in short, God "doing" things in the created world. Because it tacitly assumes that God's act of will is a metaphysical thing, and this runs smack into the modal collapse objection. If God's act to create this world is a metaphysical thing, then it must be identical to the essence and existence of God; if separate, God would be composite, with a distinction between His existence and His actions. But then this world is modally necessary. (To be distinguished from God's power to create this, or any, world, which can be held as identical to His existence without any such problem.) And this world isn't modally necessary.

    The Thomist response that willing of the created world isn't in fact necessary because God necessary wills His own happiness and, in so doing, could will any one of a number of possible created worlds (or none at all), is valid (as it is conceded the world isn't modally necessary), but doesn't solve the problem regarding simplicity. The Thomist recourse to absolute vs. hypothetical necessity combined with "willing from eternity", on the other hand, misses the point entirely: Absolute Divine simplicity, combined with God's act of creation of the world being a metaphysical thing, makes this world absolutely, and not merely hypothetically, necessary.

    So, the better Thomists like Feser realize this problem and thus simply say that God's "act" of creation is in reality a misnomer and not a metaphysical thing at all; God is indeed the ground of existence of all creation but nothing about God can be appealed to as a contrastive explanation for why this world exists and not another one. Calling God the "creator of the world" is a mere Cambridge property and not an intrinsic one. This proposed solution really doesn't work either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Then if human speculation has got itself in such a tangle that it cannot handle a revealed truth like God the Creator, it is time for it to reexamine itself again until it coincides with the truth, as St. Thomas says...

      Delete
    2. The problem is, it can't even handle "revealed truth" itself, for that assumes God the Revealer, but now that is merely a Cambridge property and not a real one.

      The best that can be done is to say that "revealed" truths are those that can be known, not through the normal exercise of cognition, but through some extra faculty present in the soul.


      Delete
    3. might it be that so much is being made of the analogical nature of all terms which we use of God? Even if, as St. Thomas says, they are applied analogically, they are still true. I can assure you I and most people did learn the truths of Revelation through the normal processes of cognition.

      Thomism shows that using speculation to understand better what has been revealed is not a pointless exercise, even with its limitations.

      Delete
  33. The problem is that essentially all of Christian theology and not just the creation, whether it be about the Incarnation, miracles, soteriology, predestination, Providence, etc., attributes intentionality to God, and as a real property, not merely a Cambridge one. Christian theology does much more than merely make God the "ground of possibility" for which a miracle might happen. It says He actively causes it, and for a specific purpose. (Say, for instance, the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites.) But again, if His intention to part the Red Sea to free the Israelites is a metaphysical thing, the parting of the Red Sea is metaphysically necessary. If a mere Cambridge property, then God is simply the "ground of possibility" for the parting of the Sea.

    IOW, what make Cambridge properties true about something is what is intrinsically true about something else, and so the truth-maker for God being the creator of this world is simply that this world exists, and the truth-maker for God being the parter of the Red Sea is simply that the Red Sea actually parted. This, IMO, is hugely problematic for Christian theology.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See it like this, lets posit a complex God instead. I think theologian would still like to say that God could have not parted red sea instead, say in the world where nothing apart from him exists at all.
      Here too it is could be true in your sense that God is simply "ground of possibility" but I don't see this as a huge problem.

      Delete
  34. Also recommended:

    http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/On3ProblemsOfDivineSimplicity.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Atno

      Pruss doesn't really solve the problem of modal collapse in this essay. The argument for modal collapse is much stronger that Pruss thinks it is.

      Delete
  35. "Why isn't God's essence changed by X?" is answered by the fact that, if it exists, God's essence is immutable. The unmoved mover is immutable by definition. If you think that X is evidence against the existence of the unmoved mover, then make that case. If X is the event of the holocaust (or Shoah as it is usually referred to by Jews nowadays), then it is a standard argument from evil. But if the unmoved mover does exist, then it is arrant nonsense to think that its essence is changed by the Holocaust.

    ReplyDelete