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Saturday, June 06, 2015

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Hi, Bill:

Is the following an accurate outline of your argument?

1. If God creates ex nihilo, then everything distinct from God depends on God for its existence, while God does not depend on anything for His existence.

2. God creates ex nihilo.

3. Thus, everything distinct from God depends on God for its existence, while God does not depend on anything for his existence. (1,2)

4. If everything distinct from God depends on God for its existence, while God does not depend on anything for his existence, then the Being of creatures is their Being-created-by-God while the Being of God is not his Being-created-by-God.

5. Thus, the Being of creatures is their Being-created-by-God while the Being of God is not his Being-created-by-God. (3,4)

6. If the Being of creatures is their Being-created-by-God while the Being of God is not his Being-created-by-God, then there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures.

7. Therefore, there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures. (5,6)

8. If there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures, then God and creatures exist in different ways (modes).

9. Thus, God and creatures exist in different ways (modes). (7,8)

10. If God and creatures exist in different ways (modes), then God is not a being among beings.

11. Thus, God is not a being among beings. (9,10)

Bill,

The following is not intended to poke a hole in the argument, but only to note an apparent need for a more comprehensive account.

The categorial analysis at work in the argument seems to countenance two modes of being: Being-created-by-God and ~Being-created-by-God. God is presumably the sole member of the latter category; perhaps he is both the category itself and its sole member. Everything created by God is in the former category.

But the argument seems to assume (or at least require) a third category. You wrote "everything distinct from God depends on God for its existence." Supposing that necessary truths such as the laws of logic are dependent on God but uncreated, we'd need a third category: something like Being-dependent-on-God-but-uncreated.

Elliot,

Thank you for your explicit and accurate presentation of my argument. Yes, that is my argument.

As for your second comment, it depends on whether necessary beings other than God should be considered creatures.

Would the following be a corollary to the argument as you understand it?

Since God does not depend on anything for his existence, God has Being in and of himself (i.e., aseity). And whatever has Being in and of itself is Being itself. Thus, God is Being Itself.

I think you are right, Elliot.

Suppose, for reductio, that God is *a se* but not (identical to) Being itself. Then he has Being: there is a real distinction between God and Being. But then God depends on Being to be: he depends on something other than him to be. It follows that God is not *a se,* from himself. But God is *a se.* Therefore, God is Being itself.

Bill,

I will take Elliott's presentation of your argument as a benchmark for my comment. Your opponents are liable to balk at (6):

"If the Being of creatures is their Being-created-by-God while the Being of God is not his Being-created-by-God, then there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures."

For one might argue that (1)-(5) entail not (6), but rather a much weaker variant which goes something like the following:

(6*) If the Being of creatures is their Being-created-by-God while the Being of God is not his Being-created-by-God, then either there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures or God, a being not created by anything, is a special kind of being among beings featuring special properties, including necessary existence, etc.

Notice that it is unclear in Elliott's representation of your argument whether (6) is a premise or a step in the chain of inferences. And your opponents might argue that, as it stands, it must be a premise, not a conclusion from previous steps. On the other hand, (6*) might be properly taken to be inferred from (1) - (5). However, if so, then (7) does not follow. Instead what follows is (7*):

(7*) Either there are two very different modes of Being, one pertaining to God, the other to creatures, or God, a being not created by anything, is a special kind of being among beings featuring special properties, including necessary existence, etc.

From (7*), however, one cannot infer (8). etc.

In short my concern is this: from the assumption that Xs depend for their existence upon Y it does not follow that Xs and Y feature different *modes of existence*. What follows is that either Xs and Y have different *modes of existence* or that Y has special properties that account for the dependence of Xs on Y.

Thanks, Peter.

It should be clear that (6) is a premise from Elliot's very clear representation of my argument: (6) is not immediately preceded by 'thus' or 'therefore' or any other conclusion indicator, and no line numbers are in parentheses at the end of it to indicate which propositions it is supposed to follow from.

But you are right: (6) is and must be a premise since it doesn't follow from what is above it.

While I intended (6) as a premise in the present argument, it is a conclusion of arguments given elsewhere.

One way to counter my present argument is by rejecting the claim that there are modes of Being, as most analytic philosophers would. But anyone who rejects my present argument in this way begs the question against me. For the denial that God is a being among beings is equivalent to the acceptation of at least two different modes of Being.

This brings us to a very important metaphilosophical point that I made before. What one says about God depends on deeper and broader commitments in one's general metaphysics. This is why Plantinga's crtique of DDS misses the mark and is beside the point: he foists upon the DDS defender a general metaphysics he could not possibly hold.

I should add that one must not confuse the claim that there are two or more modes of Being with the claim that there are two or more categories of beings.

Suppose you say there are two categories, the category of creatures, and the category of creators. Stipulate, if you like, that the latter category, if it has a member, has and can have only one member. This is consistent with God being a being among beings; it is consistent with God and Socrates existing without any difference in mode of Being or way of existing. It is also consistent with God and Socrates having properties in exactly the same way -- by instantiation, say -- and having some of the same properties.

E. J. Lowe published a good book with a terrible title: *Kinds of Being*

That is just awful because it is ambiguous. Is the book about the different categories of beings, or is it a book about the different modes of Being? Turns out it is the former. Then he should have made that clear with a title like: *Categories of Entity* or something.

Many thanks for the reply, Bill. I like your disambiguation of "sophisticated theist" (which also suggests, I suppose, a parallel disambiguation of "sophisticated atheist").

Let me play Dale's Advocate, as it were. I think the non-classical theist (NCT) will object that premise 4 (as per Elliott's expansion) begs the question by tacitly assuming that there are modes of Being -- an assumption which is then brought out explicitly in lines 6 and 7.

The NCT will most likely agree that everything other than God depends on God for its existence, while God depends on nothing for his existence. But why must he concede that there is a real metaphysical distinction between the Being of God and the Being of creatures? Why can't he simply say that God and creatures both enjoy Being (univocally understood) but creatures alone have the property of being-created-by-God or being-dependent-on-another-for-existence (or some equivalent property)? Why can't properties do the necessary distinguishing work here, rather than modes?

All this to say, it looks like your conclusion is presupposed by the consequent of premise 4.

Perhaps this is where your various independent arguments for different modes of Being need to be brought in. Or perhaps I'm just missing something in premise 4!

You're welcome, James.

The ambiguity of 'contemporary liberal' needs also to be noted. Does this refer to a contemporary who is also a liberal, perhaps in an old sense of this term? Or does it refer to a person who subscribes to contemporary liberalism which is very unlike paleo-liberalism?

Getting back to Dale, in assessing his level of sophistication, we must bear in mind that he is a native Texan and a gun owner [grin]. So if you are going to play the advocatus diaboli, you need to know who you are representing. [GRIN]

>>Let me play Dale's Advocate, as it were. I think the non-classical theist (NCT) will object that premise 4 (as per Elliott's expansion) begs the question by tacitly assuming that there are modes of Being -- an assumption which is then brought out explicitly in lines 6 and 7.<<

That's what I said myself in my response to Peter. Premise (4) is where I expect the attack from the NCT-ist to come.

I am sure you have noticed that every deductive argument, even if valid in point of logical form, can be turned aside with no breach of logical propriety by rejecting the conclusion and then rejecting a premise, adding, as one does so, that the argument 'begs the question' at the premise in question.

You will also have noticed that the 'begs the question' compliment can easily be returned. I can say to the NCT-ist, you beg the question against me by rejecting (4). You are in effect assuming that God is a being among beings.

I can of course bring forth my arguments in support of the MOB doctrine. (MOB = modes of Being) And I think I will in a separate post. Despite their manifold excellences, they will not prove to be rationally compelling either.

But a certain sort of modest progress is possible: we can get clearer and clearer about just what it is we are disagreeing about.

My goal, here as elsewhere, is clarity, not agreement except perhaps for that meta-agreement which consists in agreement as to what exactly we are disagreeing about.

One might (tentatively!) offer the following in support of (4) and (6).

Suppose there is only one way of being, and Being-created-by-God is the same way as ~Being-created-by-God. Then everything true of the former way as such would be true of the latter way as such and vice versa (law of indiscernibility of identicals). But it's not the case that everything true of the former is true of the latter and vice versa.

For one thing, the former has the property of "being created," and is thoroughly informed by this property. The property influences everything a creature does and is. The latter does not have the property of "being created". Moreover, the latter has the property of "being uncreated". But the former does not, etc.

(The ontological fundamentality and utter-ness of this point is sufficient to serve as a "mode-distinguishing" factor. Creature-of-God, insofar as it is created, dependent, limited, etc. exists in a completely different way from Non-Creature-of-God.)

Thus, the former and the latter are not the same way. If they are not the same way, then they are different ways. Thus, they are different ways/modes.

For another thing, supposing God is the only possessor of the ~Being-created-by-God way, this way has the attribute of "mentally and volitionally sustaining in existence all created beings moment by moment". The Being-created-by-God way does not and cannot possibly have this attribute. This is another "mode-distinguishing" factor. Hence, they are different modes.

With regard to Peter's conditional statement in (6*), the above might serve as a negation of the second disjunct in the consequent.

Perhaps the core point of disagreement at hand is whether or not the pertinent differences constitute distinct ways. At what point does a difference of attribute make a difference of way?

Consider the difference between a car and a sailboat. Both characteristically transport and thus move. But car and sailboat are different modes or ways of transportation and movement. Why?

Because each performs its characteristic activity in a fundamentally different way from the other. The car transports/moves by way of motor, wheel, and land. The sailboat does so by way of wind, water, and floatation. Each is a way of transporting/moving, and thus the two are analogous. But they are sufficiently different as to constitute different modes.

A fortiori, God's way of being is different from the creaturely way.

I appreciate that you are thinking hard about this, Elliot. I will write a separate post in defense of (6) and of the underlying notion that there are modes of Being.

Thanks, Bill, for another helpful post--and ditto for the comments. I especially found helpful the following: "Suppose, for reductio, that God is *a se* but not (identical to) Being itself. Then he has Being: there is a real distinction between God and Being. But then God depends on Being to be: he depends on something other than him to be. It follows that God is not *a se,* from himself. But God is *a se.* Therefore, God is Being itself."

Would it be fair to say that the difference between you and the theistic personalists is that whereas you begin with the creation of the world, the personalists begin (as the name suggests) with the biblical revelation of God as acting person?

I just received in the mail _Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas_ by Fran O'Roarke, which I hope to read over the summer. Are you acquainted with it? If yes, what is your evaluation of it?

I just started reading _Philosophy for Understanding Theology_ by Diogenes Allen. The first chapter is devoted to the doctrine of creation (https://goo.gl/lGxwQG). These two sentences jumped out at me: "The world plus God is not more than God alone. God less the world is not less than God alone." Do you agree? How would you unpack them? TIA.

Fr. Aidan,

An answer to your second comment would make a good separate post.

>>Would it be fair to say that the difference between you and the theistic personalists is that whereas you begin with the creation of the world, the personalists begin (as the name suggests) with the biblical revelation of God as acting person?<<

I hadn't quite thought of it like that, but yes, that is part of it.

Actually, this would make a good separate post too.

I'll look up the O'Roarke book.

Do I get a commission or something for inspiring two future articles? :)

I'll return to you 10% of what you pay me for writing them.

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