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Thursday, June 29, 2017


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Hi, Bill. Good post.

“For then, per impossibile, it would have to quit its kind and become another kind of thing.”

It sure seems impossible. Since God is necessarily God, he cannot stop being God.

“How is understanding helped by the rejection of what appears to the unaided intellect as obviously true, namely, kind-essentialism?”

I don’t see how understanding is helped. Instead, the rejection of kind-essentialism has awkward implications in other areas of Christian theology. It would make less clear several Christian doctrines. What would it mean to say that God created man in his image if kind-essentialism is false? What would it mean to talk about Original Sin or to say that the divine Logos took on human nature to save mankind? What about the doctrine of the hypostatic union, that Christ is one person with two natures or kind-essences?

Arguably, physicalism implies determinism. Physicalists also tend to deny agent causation and affirm event causation instead.

On Packages A and B, Christ (who is divine) is causally determined. He is not an agent with causal power. That seems inconsistent with Christian doctrine.

Moreover, human beings are identical to physical objects. They are determined. Yet they sin and are morally responsible for it, they can and should grow in virtue, they are called to have the mind of Christ, to love their neighbors, worship in spirit and truth, clean the inside of the cup (the mind, will, spirit) and so on. It is hard to see how physicalism helps to understand these points.

Good Afternoon, Dr. Vallicella:

If a physicalist accepts package B, would you consider them to be a physicalist still (or at least a physicalist of the animalism camp)? They are effectively admitting that it is not necessarily the case that humans are identical with their animal bodies since there is at least one exemplar who qualifies as human and yet is not identical with his body.


Physicalism is "the claim that each of us is [identically] a physical object." (294). Animalism, I take it, is the claim that each of us is identical to an animal organism.

Given that no one will claim that each of us is identical to a corpse, physicalism and animalism appear to be equivalent claims. You know this literature better than I do; is this right?

It is not clear how one could be a physicalist about minded organisms without being an animalist.

Your question is a good one and embarrassing to physicalists/animalists. Both packages strike me as incoherent. A physicalist/animalist who accepts Package B will just have to make an exception for the God-Man.

My Theses:

Physicalism about everything is untenable.

Physicalism/animalism about minded organisms is untenable.

Kind-essentialism must be upheld: it is absurd to suppose that a purely spiritual individual could become identical to an animal.

If the task is is show how the Incarnation could make sense and be free of absurdity, it is totally wrongheaded to embrace absurdities in pursuit of this end.

My initial impression, not knowing all of the literature, is that physicalist or materialist Christology is a foolish undertaking.

If 'mind' is used univocally when we speak of God as a mind and Socrates as a mind, then I fond it incoherent to suppose that the divine mind is purely spiritual whereas human minds are physical individuals.

So what is our take on all this? What are you arguing in your thesis?


“Once kind-essentialism is rejected, it is hard to see why the non-physical God the Son could not become [numerically identical to] a human organism.”

For me, it's hard to see how such a becoming could occur if kind-essentialism is rejected. Merricks' statement seems to presuppose a real difference between the non-physical and the physical. If there were no difference, it wouldn’t make sense to talk about the non-physical becoming physical.

How would one who rejects kind-essentialism make sense of this real difference?

I suppose the anti-essentialist could claim that the difference is only a matter of non-essential properties. He could say that the non-physical God the Son is a property-possessor with non-essential, non-physical properties which he relinquished while adopting non-essential physical properties.

But that would seem to mean that there is no essential difference between God and the physical world. The difference is non-essential. That doesn’t seem right.

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