Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

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Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#1

Post by Kurieuo » Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:47 am

My understanding of divine simplicity if I were to sum up in a nutshell, is that God's characteristics are reducible to who He is. Not just that however, but that such things do not underlie any substance, but rather His characteristics of goodness, righteousness, benevolence, omniscience and the like simply are God. The being of God is the same as His attributes.

Yet, what this does is also simplify God's characteristics as the same. So that what we see as "loving" is also "righteous" is also "omniscience", "omnipotence" and so on. All these characteristics being God, yet not actually being parts of God but rather are the same thing -- God's simplicity. This for me, is where it begins to fail. Not that it does fail, as I have not thought it through fully. However, I have heard post-moderns use it to justify religious pluralism -- all religions being true.

For if God's characteristics are all actually the same, as they must be if they do not form parts of who God is but simply are God... then likewise why cannot all religions actually be the same on a fundamental level? The fact we perceive differences in God's attributes, if they belong to the one "simple God" (not that this makes God simple, but for lack of a better word coming into my mind since God has no real divine essense in divine simplicty)... such are only an illusion or matter of perception if they are all reduced to God's simplicity. To put another way, it might be hard for us to comprehend how God's righteousness is really the same as God's love, but when reduced along with all of God's other characteristics, they form God. Thus, likewise with religions, although it might be hard for us to comprehend the similarities in the big differences that exist, when they are all reduced we find they are actually the same truth.

Jac, I hope you will step in here. Those last two paragraphs of mine, come from my memories quickly learning about divine simplicity in college. It was put forward by my lecturer... I don't even know why he complicated it so much by injecting religious pluralism. I may have muddled it somewhat though, since I was struggling at the time to just understand the concept of divine simplicity.

In any case, as you accept divine simplicity, I'm sure you were be better equipped to give a run-down of it. Feel free to correct any misconceptions I might have, as I don't expect I still understand it entirely, but I do agree with elements like goodness and righteousness being rooted in God. That is, God is good rather than has the characteristic of good. But I guess I separate from divine simplicity when it comes to believing God's characteristics are not derived from a substance like a divine essense of some sort. I believe God has a divine essense, and that God is not simply His properties or characteristics.

So I invite and hope you'll step in here to share your thoughts.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#2

Post by Byblos » Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:55 am

Jac actually wrote his thesis on the subject (titled Reconsidering Divine Simplicity), an excellent read. I will leave it to him to make it available (or not).
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

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Post by jlay » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:19 am

Jac sent me the link a while back and said I was welcome to share with those here.

http://cmmorrison.files.wordpress.com/2 ... licity.pdf
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#4

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:04 am

I'm fine with anybody posting the thesis and quoting from it anytime/place they want. I didn't write it for profit, so there's not even any need for proper attribution! ;)

K,

I can accept your depiction of simplicity. Obviously we could nuance it a little more in some places, and in the thesis, I start from a different place than you did. But for the sake of conversation, I think we can do that as we go along. What I'd like to do, then, if it's fine with you, is focus on your main objections (as you currently understand the doctrine) and answer them as clearly as possible. That isn't to say that I expect you agree with me that the responses necessarily work, but if we can clarify why advocates of simplicity don't see the arguments you made as problems, then you can decide on your own whether or not the assumptions we make are warranted.

After that, I'd like a chance to put forward a positive argument in favor of simplicity, and this for two reasons. First, on my end, just answering objections doesn't provide warrant to accept simplicity as true. At most, it just makes it logically possible, and I think there's more to say in favor of simplicity than just that it is possible. Second, one of my beefs with modern critics of simplicity is precisely the fact that they do not consider the positive arguments in favor of the doctrine. For if the arguments work, then, necessarily, the arguments against it must necessarily fail since truth does not contradict itself.

Fair enough? If so, I'll leave it to you to tell me when answers to your objections have been sufficiently clarified and when I should present one of the two main arguments in the doctrine's favor.

On the assumption the above is good enough for you, let me start by just stating your two arguments concisely and you tell me if I've heard you correctly:

A. An Argument from the non-Identity of Divine Attributes
1. Attribute such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc. are not identical with one another (that is, omniscience <> omnipresence, etc.)
2. Divine simplicity necessarily makes all such attributes identical with one another
3. Therefore, divine simplicity errs in making all such attributes identical wit one another; that is, divine simplicity (so stated) is false

B. An Argument from the the Absurdity of Religious Pluralism
1. If all divine, mutually exclusive attributes are in some mysterious sense identical, then other mutually-exclusive propositions regarding God can be identical as well
2. Various religious claims about God are obviously mutually exclusive (e.g., God is a person (theism); God is an impersonal force (pantheism)
3. Therefore, if all divine attributes are in some mysterious sense identical, then various mutually exclusive propositions regarding God can be identical as well.

So (A) shows that divine simplicity is simply false (modus tollens), and (B) argues by reductio that simplicity entails absurdities. Have I heard you correctly?
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#5

Post by Kurieuo » Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:34 pm

Yeah, you framed it exactly. Are these common criticisms? I'm just really repeating what I remember from philosophy of religion class. Lecturer did advise me that it isn't that simple though and not to give up on DS as there are many good points to it. The fact William Lane Craig disagrees with the doctrine has coloured my initial perspective of it, so it has just been a doctrine I've set aside until I had time to investigate it more fully.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#6

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:44 pm

The first argument is common. It's one of the centerpieces of Alvin Plantinga's Does God Have a Nature?. His other main argument in that book (which has gotten, in my experience, more attention than any other single argument) is related--that if all God's properties are identical with one another, and they are all identical with God, then God simply is a property. But, he argues, that's absurd, because God is a person, not a property!

I'll confess that I've not come across the second argument, but I think the answer to the first applies equally to the second as well.

In short, the argument (and this includes Plantinga's above mentioned coup de grace) only has force on a Platonic view of properties. It's obvious that "being wise" is not the same thing as "being omnipotent" if you view properties as really existent thing as Moreland, Craig, Plantinga, etc. all do. But DS advocates generally (and Thomas explicitly) rejects the notion that properties really exist. To quote from him directly, "Thus Aristotle (Metaph. ix) rejects the opinion of Plato, who held that ideas [forms] existed of themselves, and not in the intellect." For Aristotle and Aquinas, properties and forms generally only exist in substances. There are, in short, no such thing as abstract properties. So on one hand, you have nominalism; on the other extreme is Platonic realism; in the middle is Aristotle's and Aquinas' moderate realism, which I think is correct. I'll defend that in another post. For now, I assume it with me for the sake of argument so that we can see how DS advocates hear the objections you raised.

Now, if abstract properties don't really exist in themselves but only exist in the thing that we are referring to, then it is not at all obvious that omniscience cannot necessarily be the same thing as omnipotence. It may simply be that the way we think about the one substance that is God leads us in one way to consider Him as knowledge (or, to consider "His knowledge") and in another to consider Him as power (or, to consider "His power"), and these two notions we speak of as omniscience and omnipotence respectively.

In fact, I think that is demonstrably the case. Suppose with me (again, for the sake of argument) that God, as pure being, is the cause of everything. Everything that is, is because God causes it. Thus, if anything happens, we say that a power was exercised; but since God ultimately caused it, then if anything happens we say that God caused it to happen. Thus, God causes all things; in that sense, God has all "power." But if God causes all things, then He is "aware" of all such things. And thus, God is omniscient.* And if God causes all things (including things not changing, but rather things being sustained) then God is "present" to all things. Thus, when we consider God's act as causing things to be, we call Him omnipotent; when we consider God's act as making Him aware of those things, we call Him omniscient; when we consider God's act in the relations things have to Him as their cause, we call Him omnipotent. But those distinctions are really only in our mind. Considering God qua God, there is really only His act, and His act is to exist and to bring about existence.

The bottom line is that the human mind distinguishes between thought, power, and knowledge, for those things really are different in us. But that is only because we are not pure being. In pure being, thought, knowledge, and power turn out to be precisely the same thing, for all of those things are just how we can consider pure being in relation to the world (or, strictly, the world in relation to pure being). A thing is made to be by an act of power; we consider that power in its purest form and call it omnipotence; a thing exists and draws its existence from God--that is, it is present to God; we consider that presence in its purest form and call it omnipresence; a thing exists and is directly related to Him; we consider that relation in its purest form and call it omniscience. In all cases, the distinction is only in our minds. It all cases, we are simply thinking about the same thing--pure being in itself.

Thus, so long as we are willing to reject Platonic realism, there is no reason that all the attributes of God cannot be identical in themselves. They are obviously not identical in our minds, but the mind, by definition, is a limited thing and cannot consider pure, unlimited being in itself. Instead, it must consider pure being from one perspective at a time, in a limited way. Those limitations produce distinctions for us that are not really there.

This model, then, should answer the second objection as well, for it is not really the case that that either the divine attributes are mutually exclusive or that they are mysteriously identical. These statements would only be true on a Platonic view of properties that supposes that the properties our mind grasps are real things in and of themselves. But if that is not true, then the divine attributes really are all one, and that can be explained in very non-mysterious terms. Thus, I am still within my rights to take explicitly contrary statements regarding God's nature as incompatible with God's nature as it is in Itself.

Your thoughts, then, so far?

------------------

* I've obviously glossed over a lot of things here, especially with regard to omniscience, but I want to get right to the bottom line. We can nuance things later as discussion requires.
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#7

Post by Kurieuo » Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:32 am

Jac, just noting I'll be reading your paper in coming days, which I'm sure will place to me in better stead to discuss DS and your own beliefs.
Jac3510 wrote:The first argument is common. It's one of the centerpieces of Alvin Plantinga's Does God Have a Nature?. His other main argument in that book (which has gotten, in my experience, more attention than any other single argument) is related--that if all God's properties are identical with one another, and they are all identical with God, then God simply is a property. But, he argues, that's absurd, because God is a person, not a property!

I'll confess that I've not come across the second argument, but I think the answer to the first applies equally to the second as well.

In short, the argument (and this includes Plantinga's above mentioned coup de grace) only has force on a Platonic view of properties. It's obvious that "being wise" is not the same thing as "being omnipotent" if you view properties as really existent thing as Moreland, Craig, Plantinga, etc. all do. But DS advocates generally (and Thomas explicitly) rejects the notion that properties really exist. To quote from him directly, "Thus Aristotle (Metaph. ix) rejects the opinion of Plato, who held that ideas [forms] existed of themselves, and not in the intellect." For Aristotle and Aquinas, properties and forms generally only exist in substances. There are, in short, no such thing as abstract properties. So on one hand, you have nominalism; on the other extreme is Platonic realism; in the middle is Aristotle's and Aquinas' moderate realism, which I think is correct. I'll defend that in another post. For now, I assume it with me for the sake of argument so that we can see how DS advocates hear the objections you raised.
When you say "view properties as really existent" I presume you mean as falling under a substance? This would be correct of at least Craig & Moreland as I read them, and also myself. However, properties without a substance would only be potential. They do not exist in and of themslves, except perhaps in conceptualisation (God's), albeit with a potentiality to exist. Hence an obvious issue that follows on with these beliefs for DS would be if God is simply His properties reduced -- then God is a potentiality and not actual unless He has substance.

Re: Nominalism, Platonic realism and Aristotle/Aquinas moderate realism. I can agree with Aristotle/Aquinas' as you define it, yet I suspect you mean more than I am reading. Are you advocating that properties are actual substances, rather than potential only becoming actual when substances are brought into being? If the former, I'm not sure how this would differ from Plato, but if the later then we can all agree with that. There is no issue there.
Jac wrote:Now, if abstract properties don't really exist in themselves but only exist in the thing that we are referring to, then it is not at all obvious that omniscience cannot necessarily be the same thing as omnipotence. It may simply be that the way we think about the one substance that is God leads us in one way to consider Him as knowledge (or, to consider "His knowledge") and in another to consider Him as power (or, to consider "His power"), and these two notions we speak of as omniscience and omnipotence respectively.
I find something confusing here. You have purposely attributed substance to God. That is, you say "abstract properties... only exist in themselves in the thing that we are referring to", for which the thing we are referring to here is God. In order for properties to exist in something, then they must fall under what that something is. And the "falling under" would imply some sort of substance, right? Otherwise they have no grounding, and as such no existence. Or you even more plainly write, "the way we think about the one substance that is God..."

What I am confused by, is that DS says there is no substance or even parts to God. So are you just affirming God's substance here for the discussion at hand, or?
Jac wrote:In fact, I think that is demonstrably the case. Suppose with me (again, for the sake of argument) that God, as pure being, is the cause of everything. Everything that is, is because God causes it. Thus, if anything happens, we say that a power was exercised; but since God ultimately caused it, then if anything happens we say that God caused it to happen. Thus, God causes all things; in that sense, God has all "power." But if God causes all things, then He is "aware" of all such things. And thus, God is omniscient.* And if God causes all things (including things not changing, but rather things being sustained) then God is "present" to all things. Thus, when we consider God's act as causing things to be, we call Him omnipotent; when we consider God's act as making Him aware of those things, we call Him omniscient; when we consider God's act in the relations things have to Him as their cause, we call Him omnipotent. But those distinctions are really only in our mind. Considering God qua God, there is really only His act, and His act is to exist and to bring about existence.

The bottom line is that the human mind distinguishes between thought, power, and knowledge, for those things really are different in us. But that is only because we are not pure being. In pure being, thought, knowledge, and power turn out to be precisely the same thing, for all of those things are just how we can consider pure being in relation to the world (or, strictly, the world in relation to pure being). A thing is made to be by an act of power; we consider that power in its purest form and call it omnipotence; a thing exists and draws its existence from God--that is, it is present to God; we consider that presence in its purest form and call it omnipresence; a thing exists and is directly related to Him; we consider that relation in its purest form and call it omniscience. In all cases, the distinction is only in our minds. It all cases, we are simply thinking about the same thing--pure being in itself.
Interesting how you brought everything together, and I see no issue with anything you wrote.

Some properties are qualitatively different though. For example, we have dealt with some characteristics of God, but harmonising characteristics with something qualitatively different like say mind, intent, will, light or say timelessness... would be more difficult. Indeed it would be hard to know even where to begin to link qualitatively different properties of God.

Further, I think it may be impossible to talk of God in a social Trinitarian understanding, unless one can distinguish elements, personal elements, in God's nature? The more I think of it, DS almost screams to me against a Trinitarian understanding of God since all persons must be reduced to at least one -- if indeed we even call the final reduction a person. I seem to be getting more into a thicket here, so interested in your take?
Jac wrote:Thus, so long as we are willing to reject Platonic realism, there is no reason that all the attributes of God cannot be identical in themselves. They are obviously not identical in our minds, but the mind, by definition, is a limited thing and cannot consider pure, unlimited being in itself. Instead, it must consider pure being from one perspective at a time, in a limited way. Those limitations produce distinctions for us that are not really there.[/qoute]
I accept your harmonisation of God's characteristics might be this way, however then there are those properties that also seem qualitatively different as mentioned above. One issue at a time though. You made a good start on attributes of God.
Jac wrote:This model, then, should answer the second objection as well, for it is not really the case that that either the divine attributes are mutually exclusive or that they are mysteriously identical. These statements would only be true on a Platonic view of properties that supposes that the properties our mind grasps are real things in and of themselves. But if that is not true, then the divine attributes really are all one, and that can be explained in very non-mysterious terms. Thus, I am still within my rights to take explicitly contrary statements regarding God's nature as incompatible with God's nature as it is in Itself.

Your thoughts, then, so far?
Yes, it would. Notwithstanding qualitatively different properties I find would be hard to reduce?? Or even to re-focus on some divine attributes, I find that God's love and God's righteousness to be more mutually exclusive. Yet, even there what appears mutually exclusive became harmonised in Christ.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#8

Post by Byblos » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:04 pm

Jac, I hope you don't mind but I'm going to save you the trouble and quote what you said re: the Trinity in the other thread here as I think it's relevant to the discussion here as well.
Jac3510 wrote:Classical theism teaches that God is a Trinity in that, first, God is pure being itself (so, strictly, God is not a being. He is Being--subsistent existence in jargon). This is the principle, which is called the Father. In knowing Himself, the Father knows all things, since everything that either is or could be is being in some sense (being this way rather than that); thus, to know pure being (which only God is) would be to know everything, since it would be to know every way that being could be. Yet this knowledge of the self requires an internal procession; that procession is really related to the principle. That procession is called the Word or the Son. Morever, the will always wills the Good. Being is identical with Good, and thus pure being is pure good. Pure being wills Good purely, which is to say, wills itself. This, again, is an internal procession, really related to the principle. This willing is called in Scripture the Spirit of God.

The principle and the two processions, all being the Pure Act of Existence itself, all contain all perfections, and are thus all Persons. But they are not three entities, because they are all the same instance of Pure Being. Thus, the Trinity.

(Note: I've left out a lot, obviously, and for what it is worth, as a technical aside, the procession of the Holy Spirit in my explanation above follows the Orthodox view rather than the Catholic view specifically. But that gets into the filoque debate . . . just full disclosure!)
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#9

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:56 pm

Byblos, I think that quote should be helpful in starting to set out how we can talk about the Trinity under divine simplicity. I also want to make a more fundamental point here:

All objections (to me) to DS based on the Trinity fail for one relatively simple reason--whatever else DS teaches, it simply emphasizes that God is one being. So when people start arguing against DS by appealing to the multiplicity of persons, it sounds like they actually have a tritheistic view their working from rather than a Trinitarian view. All the persons are one being. They are not just united. They are the same being. They are not the same person, but they are the same being. The early creeds make that emphatic. Each of the persons are the same substance! So immediately, any rejection of DS based on Trinitarianism is really a rejection of the Trinitarianism's emphasis that God is one. He may be Three, but He is Three in One.

K,

Let's table the discussion on universals (whether we are Platonists, Nominalists, or Aristotelians). That's a very important discussion that I have no doubt will come up again, but we could have a very, very long discussion just on that issue alone (see, for instance, Moreland's full book Universals in which he, following Plantinga, explicitly adopts a Platonic view of universals). What's important to me is that you accept the notion that the so-called properties of God such as being omnipotent and being omniscient do not, strictly speaking, necessarily exist as individual, real constituents of God, but rather exist in our mind as one way versus another way of perceiving God's nature.

You have pressed the issue now, however, and have argued that while DS can account for the three attributes listed above, that some attributes (e.g., love and righteousness) really are mutually exclusive. Let me again state your argument as I am hearing it clearly:

1. If any two properties of God are found to be mutually exclusive (that is, they cannot be properly reduced to a single nature of God considered under different aspects in the human intellect), then, necessarily, God's nature consists of multiple properties
2. X and Y are mutually exclusive properties of God
3. Therefore, God's nature consists of multiple properties, and therefore, divine simplicity is in error

Here X and Y in (2) are obviously whatever you want to substitute. So the first post would have made X and Y (and Z!) omniscience and omnipotence, respectively (with omnipresence thrown in). In your last reply, you suggested righteousness and love as the two mutual properties. So let me show you how, on the same type of reasoning as in my last offering, they are, in fact, reducible to Pure Being.

Righteousness is that which properly related to God. To put it crudely, it is the Good related to God. Thus unrighteousness is that which is improperly related to God; put crudely, it is the Evil related to God. Now if we understand evil as a privation, then evil is actually a lack of good. Thus, unrighteousness is actually the lack of good in a person or act, and righteousness is the presence of good in a person or act. Now, for Thomas, goodness is one of several so-called transcendentals that are actually identical with Being. Here is Thomas' statement on the matter:
  • Goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea; which is clear from the following argument. The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. i): "Goodness is what all desire." Now it is clear that a thing is desirable only in so far as it is perfect; for all desire their own perfection. But everything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists; for it is existence that makes all things actual, as is clear from the foregoing (Q[3], A[4]; Q[4], A[1]). Hence it is clear that goodness and being are the same really. But goodness presents the aspect of desirableness, which being does not present. (ST Ia.5.6)
Joseph Owens offers a clearer example that makes the same point. He says:
  • A thing is absolutely a being through its substance, and in particular respects through its accidents. A thing is good, on the contrary, in a certain respect through its substance, but absolutely through its accidents. A horse is absolutely a horse as long as it is just alive, but is it a good horse if it lacks sight, hearing, and sound limbs? Hardly. The reason is that goodness is based upon perfection, and accidents are necessary for the perfection of anything finite. If all the required physical perfections are present, the thing is physically good. A lack of a required physical perfection is called a physical evil, like blindness in man. The required moral perfection in human conduct is called moral goodness, and its privation moral evil. (Joseph Owens, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, 2d ed. Houston: The Center for Thomistic Studies, 1985, 120-21)
So much for argument. I hope you can see and even agree that goodness and being are really identical and simply considered in the human mind under different aspects. Assuming for the sake of our argument it is, then righteousness is obviously just being, and perfect righteousness is just pure being, because pure being is perfect goodness which is perfect righteousness!

But from here, it is easy to see how perfect love would be pure being as well. For love is not, strictly speaking, an emotion (here is an excellent article on that question: Does God Have Emotions?). Better, love is that which desires the best for its object. That's why Lewis could say somewhere that though we wish God would just quit fussing with us and love us as we are, He cannot, for if He did, He would be contenting Himself to allow us to remain in our truly miserable states--states He knows to be miserable even if we do not. No, it is precisely because of His love for us that He is always meddling about, making us more like His Son.

But then, if love is to desire the best, what is the best but the highest good? But if good is just being under a different name, then to love is to desire we maximize our being. Yet love itself is a perfection that requires being. And so it seems evident that perfect love is nothing less than perfect being; for perfect being, being unlimited in its good, desires everything that participates in it (and we all, even the most wicked of us, participate in God insofar as we have being!) to maximize their own being in whatever limited since it may possess it. "Desire" here is, of course, being used analogically, just as "knowing" was used analogically above. But I think the point is clear enough as stated. To love is to desire maximal being. God, as maximal being, loves first Himself, desiring His own being--His own goodness (that is, He actively wills it, which we call the Holy Spirit)--and by acting (read, by willing) for our behalf to bring about our being in the maximal sense possible, He is loving us. So God's very act of being is nothing more or less than love considered under a different name.

We can do this with all the perfections you like. I would contend that (2) in the above stated argument is incorrect, that in the end, there are no mutually exclusive properties in God, for all properties ultimately reduce to being. And that should prove to be evident insofar as any property one may have is simply a way we may be. So perfect being would "have" that property perfectly and without distinction. In fact, that property only appears in us differently than it does in pure being precisely because we are limited, whereas it is not!

All that is, then, is being. For us, as limited being, our being is considered this way rather than that. In pure, unlimited being, there is no place for such distinction. All "properties" are really just human attempts to comprehend the infinite--as we are finite, we cannot do so, and so we try this finite lens and then that. Through one lens, we call perfect being Love. Through another, Power. Through another, Righteousness. Through another, Justice. And on and on.
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#10

Post by Jac3510 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:21 pm

K,

Another quick reply - I don't know where I got love and righteousness as two properties more difficult to harmonize. I'll leave the above as I think it illustrates the thinking, but here is the list you actually provided: "mind, intent, will, light or say timelessness.."

Very quickly. Each can be reduced to Pure Act as follows

Mind: In man, the mind is the faculty of the soul whereby we understand what things are. But things are what they are in virtue of their form. Hence, the mind is that which perceives and possesses the forms of other things. Now, all potential or actual forms have in common being, for forms/essences are actually this way of being rather than that. But pure being is unlimited being. The form of pure being is just that: being itself. Thus, pure being would possess within itself all other forms implicitly. Therefore, mind, as a perfection, when spoken of perfectly is pure being.

Intent: Intention is the final cause of a thing. Since God is the First Cause, He is both the First and Final cause of everything. Further, all change is a change toward another--that is, the reduction of a potentiality by an actuality, in which the potentiality is the end of the changing act. Thus, change itself is a change in being (being this way rather than that). But pure being has within itself implicitly all actualities and potentialities, and hence, all possible ends, and hence, all possible final causes. Thus, Perfect Intention is nothing less than the Perfect Final cause (namely, unlimited being itself).

Will: Will in man is the elective power of the soul, and the soul always elects toward an end. As stated above, God is the end of all things. Now the will always wills what is good, and since God is the perfect Good, God necessarily wills Himself. Pure being, then, considered one way "knows" itself, and considered another way "wills" itself, and considered another way "loves" itself, etc.

Light: The term "light" as applied to God is the most analogous of your list. It's basic meaning here is intelligibility. Now things are intelligible insofar as they have being, for what we know are forms, and forms are ways in which things can be. Therefore, perfect being is perfectly intelligible, and therefore, perfect light.

"Light" under moral connotation is sufficiently explained above in our discussion of being and goodness.

Timelessness: To be in time is to be limited, for it is to be caused. But pure being is unlimited being, and therefore, it is impassible. Nothing changes God, and therefore, God is "timeless." Perfect being is "timeless," then, insofar as it is impassible.

Again, the reasoning process for all of these is the same--we simply show how each of the properties in question reduces to a way of considering Pure Being. In doing so, we show that each of these are just a different (human) way of considering Pure Being. In the mind, they are different properties. In God qua God, they are all the same thing.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

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Post by Canuckster1127 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:22 pm

This may be off topic and if so squelch it, but it seems to tie into the Trinity theme here. I remember some time back Jac, we discussed some things related to Perichoresis (the Relational dance within the Trinity that models in part our ability to relate to God). Has or did that come up in your thesis and thinking in this arena? Just curious.
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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

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Post by Jac3510 » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:52 pm

I didn't address it in the thesis, but I will say this with regard to perichoresis. Both advocates of DS and its detractors would agree that we have intimate fellowship with God. The question is how that is possible. On that question, DS would offer a bit of a different answer it seems to me (not theologically different, but philosophically different). The biggest reason here is that, on DS, God is 1) impassible and 2) not really related to creatures. That would seem to "get in the way" of such intimacy, but on second thought, we discover it is not because we are really related to God and our experiences of God are certainly not impassible. Moreover, I think in the ends, DS helps us better understand perichoresis on a theological level, because it takes seriously Jesus' claim that He is in the Father and the Father in Him. This isn't just a unity of purpose but actually a unity of being, which is the deepest possible unity there is. I don't see how detractors of DS can say that as seriously as we can, for as they themselves demonstrate, they find distinctions in the persons deeper than DS proponents will allow. So we see, it seems to me, a closer unity than they do. Ultimately, I think that unity plays out in our own relationships with God (albeit in an analogical sense), which is one of the benefits of the doctrine as I understand it.

Put simply, if God really just is what He does, then to be really united with the simplicity of His essence is unlimited (literally) in its profundity.We don't unite with this "part" and then look to unite to that "part." Unity with God becomes becomes binary from His perspective. From ours, though, it is infinitely degreed, for we, not being simple, are composed of parts. Thus, we can relate with part of ourselves down to all of ourselves. And I think that is what part of eternity is about. Learning to progressively give more and more of ourselves over into His love.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#13

Post by Kurieuo » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:58 pm

Byblos wrote:Jac, I hope you don't mind but I'm going to save you the trouble and quote what you said re: the Trinity in the other thread here as I think it's relevant to the discussion here as well.
Jac3510 wrote:Classical theism teaches that God is a Trinity in that, first, God is pure being itself (so, strictly, God is not a being. He is Being--subsistent existence in jargon). This is the principle, which is called the Father. In knowing Himself, the Father knows all things, since everything that either is or could be is being in some sense (being this way rather than that); thus, to know pure being (which only God is) would be to know everything, since it would be to know every way that being could be. Yet this knowledge of the self requires an internal procession; that procession is really related to the principle. That procession is called the Word or the Son. Morever, the will always wills the Good. Being is identical with Good, and thus pure being is pure good. Pure being wills Good purely, which is to say, wills itself. This, again, is an internal procession, really related to the principle. This willing is called in Scripture the Spirit of God.

The principle and the two processions, all being the Pure Act of Existence itself, all contain all perfections, and are thus all Persons. But they are not three entities, because they are all the same instance of Pure Being. Thus, the Trinity.

(Note: I've left out a lot, obviously, and for what it is worth, as a technical aside, the procession of the Holy Spirit in my explanation above follows the Orthodox view rather than the Catholic view specifically. But that gets into the filoque debate . . . just full disclosure!)
Yes, I read that, but I wanted to go back to it as there is something still amiss in divine simplicity (at least my understanding thereof). Because, it seems to me (and I may be confused), that Jac talks in non-divine simplicity terms when speaking of God. For example, if God is ultimately a collection of divine attributes and properties as we perceive them, and they are not parts of God, then they are all the one and the same even if we perceive otherwise. Jac as I understand his words, refers to this as "Pure Being". As such, it does not necessarily make sense to talk of God's substance (an underlying essence), or even social relations in the Trinity, since all properties are distinctions become blurred, indeed absorbed into the one Pure Being.

Something just seems amiss for me, and I want to understand more of Jac's beliefs on DS alongside a Trinitarian understanding, before really commenting on his Trinitarian beliefs alone. That said, based on what Jac wrote of the Trinity, we are actually quite similar here it seems, at least in understanding the Trinity. Indeed, Jac probably sees the Trinity as a necessary run on within Divine Simplicity.

Jac, you know how I believe in panentheism? Well, I opened a thread which contains a brief rundown on how I came to believe in entitled Creation ex nihilo. In one of the final paragraphs I state:
K wrote:Deeper yet, for those I have not lost and who can still grasp my thinking, panentheism begs for the existence of something like the Trinitarian concept of God we believe in. For in order for God to enter into relations with His created order, He must enter into His own be-all and end-all existence in order to relate. Thus, we have the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit derived in an undifferentiated manner from God, who together completely and perfectly fulfill distinct roles and functions that allow God to relate to us within Himself.
I believe this could be written in your DS language... for example, where I state "His own be-all and end-all existence" this is perhaps akin to your "Pure Being". And via an "internal procession" and "willing" God is able to relate with Creation.

With your more recent posts something has become more obvious I'd like to understand better.

I notice you keep referring to God as substance. In philosophy, there are essentially two understandings of what a substance is. The first, is some underlying essense which possess properties. For example, I believe our soul to be our underlying essence which possesses certain first order capacities (sight, hearing, smell, touch, etc) which become expressed and actualised through the proper formation of our physical human bodies. Thus, our "form" is expressed via an immaterial substance (soul) and material substance (physical body). Now I know from our previous discussions that you do not agree with that, but I leave it here for an example of substance nonetheless. This understanding of substance is what I understand to be a traditional understanding.

Now there is a second understanding of substance which is understood as a collection of properties linked together in a certain way. So for example, a dog would not have any underlying essence but rather is simply comprised of properties (although there are variations of dogs lets say snout, nose, eyes, ears, tail, fur, four legs, brown/orange/red/white, etc). These properties and structure is what we call "dog". There is no underlying essence, but rather just properties. Someone who believes substances to be a collection of properties would argue against a traditional understanding, pointing out it is difficult to say what a substance is within a traditional understanding except some unnecessary and mysterious immaterial stuff. Evidently, understanding substance as a collection of properties has clear Materialistic implications.

Now in DS, if God simply His properties (what you call "Pure Being"??), then when you talk of God's substance, are you ultimately referring to God's collection of properties we would attribute to God? Whereas when I talk of God's substance, I'm actually referring to some underlying essence wherein such properties have their existence. Are you using one definition throughout your words, or perhaps even both?

Knowing the answer to this question, and what you mean by substance, will help me to better grasp the intended meaning of your words.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#14

Post by Jac3510 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:11 am

Kurieuo wrote:Jac, you know how I believe in panentheism? Well, I opened a thread which contains a brief rundown on how I came to believe in entitled Creation ex nihilo. In one of the final paragraphs I state:
K wrote:Deeper yet, for those I have not lost and who can still grasp my thinking, panentheism begs for the existence of something like the Trinitarian concept of God we believe in. For in order for God to enter into relations with His created order, He must enter into His own be-all and end-all existence in order to relate. Thus, we have the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit derived in an undifferentiated manner from God, who together completely and perfectly fulfill distinct roles and functions that allow God to relate to us within Himself.
I believe this could be written in your DS language... for example, where I state "His own be-all and end-all existence" this is perhaps akin to your "Pure Being". And via an "internal procession" and "willing" God is able to relate with Creation.
I will refrain from commenting on panentheism specifically. Contrary to some beliefs, it can be nuanced in various ways. Process theologians would claim in it contradictory aspects than a Palamite. If you want a Thomistic perspective on the senses in which God is in things, I would recommend ST Ia.8.

Beyond that, I would not say that God "enter into relations with His created order." A basic tenant underlying DS is that God is not really related to creation. The relation is logical only. Creatures, however, are really related to God.

As to the notion of procession, Aquinas distinguishes between an internal and external procession. I'll just quote him directly:

  • Careful examination shows that both of these pinions take procession as meaning an outward act; hence neither of them affirms procession as existing in God Himself; whereas, since procession always supposes action, and as there is an outward procession corresponding to the act tending to external matter, so there must be an inward procession corresponding to the act remaining within the agent. This applies most conspicuously to the intellect, the action of which remains in the intelligent agent. For whenever we understand, by the very fact of understanding there proceeds something within us, which is a conception of the object understood, a conception issuing from our intellectual power and proceeding from our knowledge of that object. This conception is signified by the spoken word; and it is called the word of the heart signified by the word of the voice. (ST Ia.27.1)

In short, out acts (those that precede from within us to outside of us) are called external processions. But to all such acts correspond an inward procession (those that start in us and conclude in us). If I choose to raise my hand, there is an outward procession insofar as my body moves; but there is an inward procession in my will that elects to move the hand. If I speak of a dog, there is an outward procession insofar as the word "dog" is uttered by my mouth; but there is an inward procession in my intellect that comprehends the formal word (that is, the concept) dog.

The persons of the Trinity are the internal processions of the divine will and divine intellect. As internal processions, they are not distinct from the being itself, anymore than than your will to move your hand is in some sense different from you or the concept 'dog' in your mind is different from your mind. Rather, both the will to move the hand and the concept 'dog' in your mind are states of the will and the mind, respectively speaking.

As to the importance of the notion of procession, it is worth noting that it is the first issue Aquinas deals with in his discussion of the Trinity, and it is the issue that forms the foundation of the classical view of the Trinity. A failure to grasp the notion of processions makes it impossible to grasp the classical notion of the Trinity.

With your more recent posts something has become more obvious I'd like to understand better.

I notice you keep referring to God as substance. In philosophy, there are essentially two understandings of what a substance is. The first, is some underlying essense which possess properties. For example, I believe our soul to be our underlying essence which possesses certain first order capacities (sight, hearing, smell, touch, etc) which become expressed and actualised through the proper formation of our physical human bodies. Thus, our "form" is expressed via an immaterial substance (soul) and material substance (physical body). Now I know from our previous discussions that you do not agree with that, but I leave it here for an example of substance nonetheless. This understanding of substance is what I understand to be a traditional understanding.

Now there is a second understanding of substance which is understood as a collection of properties linked together in a certain way. So for example, a dog would not have any underlying essence but rather is simply comprised of properties (although there are variations of dogs lets say snout, nose, eyes, ears, tail, fur, four legs, brown/orange/red/white, etc). These properties and structure is what we call "dog". There is no underlying essence, but rather just properties. Someone who believes substances to be a collection of properties would argue against a traditional understanding, pointing out it is difficult to say what a substance is within a traditional understanding except some unnecessary and mysterious immaterial stuff. Evidently, understanding substance as a collection of properties has clear Materialistic implications.

Unfortunately, this gets complicated . . .

A few things. First, the two views of 'substance' you mention above are not opposed to one another. You seem to be delineating between Aristotle's primary and secondary substances, where primary substances are things that exist in themselves and are the subject of accidents and properties, whereas secondary substances are essentially synonymous with "essence" and define "what" a thing is. Unfortunately (again) secondary substances are not clearly understood either, depending on whether or not you accept a non-constituent ontology (as Plantinga, Moreland, and Craig do) or a constituent ontology (as Aquinas does). It seems that you might be viewing the various "properties" of God as abstract objects that need to be "connected to" an underlying essence. But for Aquinas, this is not the case. Rather, essences (secondary substances, in particular) just are a given set of capacities, and these sets of capacities (in living things, souls) are individuated by matter. (There is an added nuance here that distinguishes between designated and undesignated matter, in which the former is the "actual" matter of the soul--that is, the actualized matter; whereas the undesignated matter is the "potential" matter of the soul--that is, the fact that, definitionally, the soul is related to matter.) Yet in God (and angels, for what it is worth) there is no individuating matter. He just is His form. That is all the more reasons why when we talk about God's various properties, we are really just talking about the singular divine essence (or substance).

On a related note, what this means it that God is not a substance in the sense of a primary substance. In fact, one of the hardest parts of DS is not (contrary to popular belief) the identity of God's existence with His essence or even the identity of His essence with Himself. It's the fact that God is in no genus, and that has direct ramifications on how we view the term "substance" as applied to God. Again, let me quote from Aquinas here:

  • The word substance signifies not only what exists of itself---for existence cannot of itself be a genus, as shown in the body of the article; but, it also signifies an essence that has the property of existing in this way---namely, of existing of itself; this existence, however, is not its essence. Thus it is clear that God is not in the genus of substance. (ST Ia.3.5)

If God is not contained in a genus, he cannot be in the genus of substance; that is, God is not a substance (in the primary sense). But He is an essence, that is, a secondary substance. In fact, if you want to get very technical, this secondary sense of substance can be thought of as supposite, and on that view, there would be THREE substances in God. But, again, Aquinas addresses this explicitly:

  • The definition of "person" includes "substance," not as meaning the essence, but the "suppositum" which is made clear by the addition of the term "individual." To signify the substance thus understood, the Greeks use the name "hypostasis." So, as we say, "Three persons," they say "Three hypostases." We are not, however, accustomed to say Three substances, lest we be understood to mean three essences or natures, by reason of the equivocal signification of the term. (ST Ia.30.1)


So your last statement . . .

Now in DS, if God simply His properties (what you call "Pure Being"??), then when you talk of God's substance, are you ultimately referring to God's collection of properties we would attribute to God? Whereas when I talk of God's substance, I'm actually referring to some underlying essence wherein such properties have their existence. Are you using one definition throughout your words, or perhaps even both?

may not be far off. God is a substance in the secondary sense of the word. That is, He is an essence, which is a particular form--a collection of capacities.

Lastly, I want to note that when I say "pure being" I am talking of the notion of God as actus purus--strictly speaking, "pure act," where "act" here is opposed to "potency." Act is what something really is, where potency (as you well understand, I know) is how something really could be. Now, in God, there is no composition of act and potency. God is pure act, and He could thus be no other. In this sense, though, we cannot view God as a static being; rather, He is in act. So you have the Thomistic axiom, "God just is what He does."
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And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: Divine Simplicity - What is it and is it correct?

#15

Post by domokunrox » Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:36 am

I have a very short and sweet answer here.

To say that God's attributes are the same as you have said. Like omnipotence and omniscient for example.

Immediately, this commits the fallacy of equivocation.

X is God
God is Y
Therefore, X is Y

You're right though. I could see how this has pluralistic implications. God can be whatever you want him to be.

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