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Thursday, June 11, 2015


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>>The One of the many is not one of the many<<


>>So I am and am not that in which I participate. Gilson does not show a convincing way around this contradiction.<<

I don't think it's accurate to say that this is a "contradiction." A mystery, sure, but if your proposition is true then the "am" on each side of the conjunct cannot mean the same thing in the same respect. This is part of what I was trying (shabbily) to say earlier re: God "exists." Each of these propositions seem to be true, without contradiction:

1. I am (i.e. I participate in) that in which I participate.
2. I am not (i.e. I am not the preeminent fullness of) that in which I participate.

I think to establish a univocal meaning of "am" underlying the participation language in this sort of proposition is exactly what a rigorously participatory metaphysics won't let you do, much to Scotus' dismay:

"Et ne fiat contentio de nomine univocationis, univocum conceptum dico qui ita est unus quod ejus unitas sufficit ad contradictionem affirmando et negando epusm de eodem pro medio syllogistico." Scotus, Philosophical Writings trans. Wolter, 20.

Thanks, Bill, for this post. If I am reading you rightly, you believe that if we are going to say both "God exists" and "the world exists," then God and the world are commensurable with regard to existence or being. Therefore God plus the world does equal two, contrary to Gilson and Allen. Am I understanding you correctly?


Your comment was one of those I found among the spammed. Don't ask me why.

To be pedantic, the translation of the Latin sentence is found on Wolter, p. 23.

I assume that we both hold that there are no true contradictions (contra G. Priest's dialetheism). So by a mystery you mean a true proposition that, in itself, is non-contradictory, but appears (or even must appear to us here below) as contradictory. Is that right?

You do, however, go on to make a distinction in respects to show that there is no contradiction and that we can see that there isn't. But then the target sentence does not express a mystery.

Buber had an interesting line: "This is Thou; this also is not Thou".
He was referring to the world of "it" as against the world of "Thou" - a person can be, to us, both an "it" - some thing to which we relate mostly objectively, to which we are oriented only as to his utility (to vastly oversimplify what B is saying) - or as a "Thou" - someone we can meet (and B means much more by 'meet' than a greeting and a chat)and in that meeting, between man and man, humanity happens. Depth can happen. It is the 'between-ness' that is important.

Does this relate to the 'One-and-Many' topic? Perhaps. God's 'way of Being' is to be constant Thou, always fully present, and not needing creatures to be complete. Our 'way of being' complete is to raise ourselves to being a "Thou" to God, consciously, with intent. So the 'modes of existence' in this respect are certainly different.

I don't draw any further inferences from this, but I think it could be expanded.


We sometimes use contradictory sentences to express non-contradictory propositions. For example, 'The news is both good and bad.' Something similar is probably going on with Buber. The check-out girl at the supermarket both is and is not a Thou: She is an IT and thus not a Thou if I relate to her as an appendage of the checkout machinery; she is a Thou if I relate to her as another I by perhaps looking her in the eye and saying something like, 'I haven't seen you in a while.' There is no contradiction here.

But there appears to be a contradiction above, though I haven't really made it clear.

Fr. Kimel,

Consider two possible scenarios. In the first God alone exists. In the second God exists and creates a world. Those are two very different scenarios. If God + the world = God, then there is no difference between the scenarios.

Therefore, it cannot be right to say that God + world = God.

What say you?

Bill, here is a comment that I left on my blog in response to a reader's question; and I thought it might be relevant to the discussion here:

"Been thinking a lot about what is theologically at stake in the debate between “Being” Christians and “Supreme being” Christians. Perhaps not a lot, given that the latter traditionally advance sufficient qualifications (God is eternal, impassible, immutable, etc.) to ensure that God is not to be understood as a finite being. On the other hand, with the increasing popularity of temporal, mutable, and passible construals of divinity, the difference between the two camps becomes accentuated and important.

"What is at issue? I suggest the following: a non-contrastive, non-competitive understanding of divine transcendence. Only such an understanding supports the kinds of things Christians need to say about divine immanence, divine agency, and mystical union."

What do you think?

First, I like your commenter's terminology: Being Xians vs. Supreme being Xians. But I would broaden it: Being theists versus supreme being theists.

Tuggy, Rhoda, and the boys surely have ways of upholding the uniqueness of God. And surely they do not maintain that God is a finite being among finite beings.

Unfortunately, I don't understand your commenter's second para.

Sorry for the delay--just saw this now--and for leading folks astray with the incorrect page number.

>>I assume that we both hold that there are no true contradictions (contra G. Priest's dialetheism).<<

I am not familiar with any position that would admit them, but yes, I agree that there are no true contradictions.

>>So by a mystery you mean a true proposition that, in itself, is non-contradictory, but appears (or even must appear to us here below) as contradictory. Is that right?<<

This is definitely too thin a definition of "mystery"; for often a simple conceptual analysis is enough to resolve these sorts of scenarios. What's more, there seem to be instances of mysterious language which do not invite suspicion of contradiction at all. You've opened up a nice problem for me, though--currently having a lot of difficulty coming up with a more satisfactory definition. I'm inclined to think that genuinely mysterious language is marked by its being non-literal--perhaps while still retaining its ability to refer. What happens to contradiction and logical inference in this case I have no idea.

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