This entry is a third response to Aidan Kimel. Fr. Kimel writes,
Reading through Vallicella’s article, I kept asking myself, Would Mascall agree with the proposition “existence exists”? I find the proposition odd. [. . .] What about the assertion of Pseudo-Dionysius that God is beyond all Being? Aquinas would certainly agree that the Creator transcends created being; but I suspect that Dionysius is trying to say something more. I wonder what the Maverick Philosopher thinks about “beyond Being” language (I can pretty much guess what Tuggy thinks about it).
I plan to discuss the strange question whether existence exists in a separate post. Here I will say something about whether God is beyond all Being.
Well, what would it be for God to be beyond Being? What could that mean?
First we must distinguish between Being and beings, esse and ens, das Sein und das Seiende. It is absolutely essential to observe this distinction and to mark it linguistically by a proper choice of terms. If we do so, then we see right away that Kimel's question is ambiguous. Is he asking whether God is beyond all beings or beyond all Being? Big difference! (Heidegger calls it the Ontological Difference.) I think what Kimel means to ask is whether God is beyond all beings. A being is anything at all that is or exists, of whatever category, and of whatever nature. Being, on the other hand, majuscule Being, is that which makes beings be. Now one of the vexing questions here is whether Being itself is, whether that which makes beings be is itself a being or else the paradigmatic being. Heidegger and Pseudo-Dionysius say No! Aquinas says Yes! (That is, Aquinas says that Being is the paradigmatic being from whch every other being has its Being.) Tuggy would presumably dismiss the question by maintaining that there just is no Being, there are only beings; hence the question lapses, resting as it does (according to Tuggy) on a false presupposition.
Now distinguish three positions. (A) God is a being among beings. (B) God is not a being among beings, but self-subsistent Being itself. (C) God is neither a being among beings, nor self-subsistent Being itself, but beyond every being. Tuggy, Aquinas, Pseudo-Dionysius. (You're in good company, Dale!)
I have already explained what it means to say that God is a being among beings. But to repeat myself, it it to say that the very same general-metaphysical scheme, the very same scheme of metaphysica generalis, that applies to creatures applies also to God. This implies, among other things, that God and Socrates (Socrates standing in for any creature whatsoever) exist in the same way. It implies that there are not two modes of Being, one pertaining to God alone, the other pertaining to Socrates. If, on the other hand, one denies that God is not a being among beings, then one is maintaining, among other things, that God and Socrates exist in different ways. The difference can be put by saying that God is (identically) his existence and existence itself while this is surely not the case for Socrates: he has existence but he doesn't have it being being it. In God there is no real distinction, no distinctio realis, between essence and existence while in Socrates there is a real distinction beteen essence and existence.
Equivalently, if God is a being among beings, then God is one member of a totality of beings each of which exists in the very same sense of 'exists' and has properties in the very same sense of 'has properties.' But if God is not a being among beings, then there is no such totality of beings each of which exists in the very same sense of 'exists' and has properties in the very same sense of 'has properties such that both God and Socrates are members of it.
How does (B) differ from (C)? On (B) God is (identical to) Being but also is. God is not a being, but the being that is identical to Being itself. (C) is a more radical view. It is the view that God is so radically transcendent of creatures that he is not! This is exactly what pseudo-Dionysius says in The Divine Names (Complete Works, p. 98) It is the view that God is other than every being. But if God is other than every being, then God in no way is.
This can also be explained in terms of univocity, analogicity, and equivocity. For Tuggy & Co. 'exists' in 'God exists' and 'Socrates exists' has exactly the same sense. The predicate is univocal across these two occurrences. For Aquinas, the predicate is being used analogously, which implies that while God and Socrates both are, they are in different ways or modes. But for Pseudo-Dionysius the predicate is equivocal.
Fr. Kimel suspects that Pseudo-Dionysius is saying more than that God transcends every creature. The suspicion is correct. Whereas Aquinas is saying that God is, but transcends every creature in respect of his very mode of Being, Pseudo-Dionysius is saying more , namely that God is so transcendent that he is not.
My question for Fr. Kimel: Do you side with the doctor angelicus, or do you go all the way into the night of negative theology with Pseudo-Dionysus?