Thank you first of all for a spectacular blog. I discovered Maverick Philosopher a few years ago and have been reading it regularly ever since. Through your blog, I learned that you wrote the SEP's article on divine simplicity, among similar things; I think, then, that you are qualified to answer my questions.
My questions concern divine simplicity and divine knowledge, two nuts that I've lately been making every effort to crack. First, do you think that theism can be salvaged without absolute divine simplicity? I know that there are many theists who don't believe that God is simple, but is such a concept of Deity coherent?
I believe a case can be made, pace Alvin Plantinga and other theistic deniers of divine simplicity, that to deny the absolute ontological simplicity of God is to deny theism itself. For what we mean by 'God' is an absolute reality, something metaphysically ultimate, "that than which no greater can be conceived." (Anselm) Now an absolute reality cannot depend for its existence or nature or value upon anything distinct from itself. It must be from itself alone, or a se. Nothing could count as divine, or worthy of worship, or be an object of our ultimate concern, or be maximally great, if it lacked the property of aseity. But the divine aseity, once it is granted, seems straightaway to entail the divine simplicity, as Aquinas argues in ST. For if God is not dependent on anything else for his existence, nature, and value, then God is not a whole of parts, for a whole of parts depends on its parts to be and to be what it is. So if God is a se, then he is not a composite being, but a simple being. This implies that in God there is no real distinction between: existence and essence, form and matter, act and potency, individual and attribute, attribute and attribute. In sum, if God is God, then God is simple. To deny the simplicity of God is to deny the existence of God. It is therefore possible for an atheist to argue: Nothing can be ontologically simple, therefore, God cannot exist.
A theist who denies divine simplicity might conceivably be taxed with idolatry inasmuch as he sets up something as God that falls short of the exacting requirements of deity. The divine transcendence would seem to require that God cannot be a being among beings, but must in some sense be Being itself . (Deus est ipsum esse subsistens: God is not an existent but self-subsisting Existence itself.) On the other hand, a theist who affirms divine simplicity can be taxed, and has been taxed, with incoherence. As an aporetician first and foremost, I seek to lay bare the problem in all its complexity under suspension of the natural urge for a quick solution.
This is indeed a problem. On classical theism, God is libertarianly free: although he exists in every metaphysically possible world, he does not create in every such world, and he creates different things in the different worlds in which he does create. Thus the following are accidental properties of God: the property of creating something-or-other, and the property of creating human beings. But surely God cannot be identical to these properties as the simplicity doctrine seems to require. It cannot be inscribed into the very nature of God that he create Socrates given that he freely creates Socrates. Some writers have attempted to solve this problem, but I don't know of a good solution.
Well, this too is a problem. If S knows that p, and p is contingent, then S's knowing that p is an accidental (as opposed to essential) property of S. Now if God is omniscient, then he knows every (non-indexical) truth, including every contingent truth. It seems to follow that God has at least as many accidental properties as there are contingent truths. Surely these are not properties with which God could be identical, as the simplicity doctrine seems to require. Now there must be some contingent truths in consequence of the divine freedom; but this is hard to square with the divine simplicity.
This is also a problem. The simplicity doctrine implies that God is identical to what he knows. It follows that what he knows cannot vary from world to world. In the actual world A, Oswald shoots Kennedy at time t. If that was a libertarianly free action, then there is a world W in which Oswald does not shoot Kennedy at t. Since God exists in very world, and knows what happens in every world, he knows that in A, Oswald shoots Kennedy at t and in W that Oswald does not shoot Kennedy at t. But this contradicts the simplicity doctrine, according to which what God knows does not vary from world to world. The simplicity doctrine thus appears to collide both with divine and human freedom.
I sincerely look forward to your addressing these questions. Thank you in advance for your consideration of these weighty matters.
I have addressed them, but not solved them. Solutions have been proffered, but they give rise to problems of their own -- something to be pursued in future posts.