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Friday, May 01, 2015

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Would you agree that "being is not a genus" is more obvious than "God is not a being among beings"?

I ask because it seems to be implied by the very meaning of "genus" that "being" cannot be one. This is because in order to have a real genus, you need (1) separate species and (2) differentiae to separate those species. Yet as Aristotle and many others point out, in the case of "being", every differentia turns out to be a species (because every conceivable differentia is, in some sense, a being), which means you don't actually have real differentiae at all. Thus "being" fails to qualify as a genus because it doesn't meet criterion (2) above.

Further, a genus seems to be, in some sense, a particular being (even if it is only mental, etc.). But any so-called "concept" of being cannot be a particular being, just as the concept of number can't be a particular number.

It seems like the question of whether God is a being among beings is not all that interesting if we don't first appreciate being's weird resistance to conceptualization.

Would the belief that all other beings depend upon God's continually sustaining them in existence refute the idea that God is a being among beings?

Josh,

Yes, I would agree. Being or existence is plainly not a genus by my lights. But it is not obvious that God is not a being among beings.

I've puzzled over A's argument at 998b22 of his *Metaphysics* many times. It is very obscure. And the Aristotelian and Thomistic commentators do not help much. But obscure or not, surely the very Being or existence of things is not some highest quidditative determination under which they fall.

The *initium sapientiae* here is to realize that when I say of a thing that it exists I am in no sense describing it. You can't get to Being by climbing the tree of Porphyry.

You are right to raise the question of the ontological status of genera.

>>It seems like the question of whether God is a being among beings is not all that interesting if we don't first appreciate being's weird resistance to conceptualization.<<

I like that! Existence resists conceptualization. I have always maintained that. One reason that existence cannot be a concept is because concepts 'track' essences, but existence is not an essence.

>>Would the belief that all other beings depend upon God's continually sustaining them in existence refute the idea that God is a being among beings?<<

It is a very good question. It depends on what exactly creation is. A good topic for a separate post.

Dale, how would you answer the question?

If something like Berkeleyian Idealism is correct, then I think the answer is rather obvious that God is not a being among beings.

So what sort of doctrine of creation, requiring that God continually sustain it in existence, would be consistent with the view that God is a being among other beings?

Julian,

Good point. I have often thought that theism is a kind of absolute idealism. Suppose the esse of creatures is their percipi by God. The Being of creatures is their being divine accusatives, divine intentional objects. Then it is clear that they don't exist in the same way that God exists. For it is clear -- to me! -- that a mind and its merely intentional objects do not exist in the same way. Esse intentionale and esse reale are different modes of Being.

From this it follows that God is not a being among beings.

But what if one held that God, in creating, creates things that exist on their own, i.e., not as merely intentional objects, after they have been created?

What would you say about that, Julian?

In such a situation, the created beings could exist independently of God, and it would be more difficult to understand their ontological difference from God. Does Dale hold to this view?

I don't know.

But at the very instant that God brings the universe into being, surely it is dependent in its existence on God,and that seems to give purchase to my distinction between two ways or modes of Being.

Wasn't that Fr. Kimmel's point, also?

Hi, Bill. Thanks for posting this. It's a very interesting topic, and I'm delighted to be discussing it with you, though I lack the necessary philosophical skills. I have posted part 1 of my response on my blog: http://goo.gl/R6XA2A.

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