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Friday, August 24, 2018


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Of course one way out might be to bite the bullet and try to incorporate the result into a form of theistic modal realism. God actualizes one vast plenitudeness omniverse (and is identical to this activity), which can then be partitioned off into spatio-temporally isolated 'worlds' for us indexical plebs.

I have a question about a tangential matter, in case you care to respond to it.
You say you don't need talk of possible worlds. I don't think I find such talk puzzling, but I've never understood the vogue for it. Since many absolutely first-rate philosophers seem to insist on using it, I assume there must be some great advantage to doing so, and not seeing what that is I assume that there is something important I don't understand. If you care to explain I'd be interested.


I think the problem can be avoided by rejecting what I will call the “No Difference without a Difference-Maker” principle.

The idea is that if God is perfectly identical across all possible worlds, with no intrinsic changes or differences of any sort, since He is purely actual, then if in α He creates this cosmos, then He creates this cosmos in every possible world (or, alternatively, α turns out to be the only possible world). After all, if in β He creates a different world (or no world at all), then we would expect there to be a “difference” in Him by virtue of which His effect is different. The principle: there can be no difference in effect without a difference-maker in the cause.

But if we reject that principle, then there is no problem — God can be identical across all worlds, though His effect is different in each of them, and there is no difference maker in God to explain this, nor need there be.

A person may appeal to a libertarian conception of free will to justify the rejection of the difference-maker principle. After all, libertarianism, at least construed one way, requires that a person be capable of choosing X or not, or perhaps choose between X or Y, all things remaining exactly the same. But on this view of things, there is no antecedent difference-maker to explain why in one scenario the agent chooses X and in another scenario the agent chooses Y. So libertarian freedom requires the denial of the difference-maker principle.

And if God is libertarianly free, then the proponent of divine simplicity is free to deny the principle as well.

An interesting line of thought to pursue: whether the only way to ground contingency in a necessary existent is through the denial of the difference-maker principle...

since this post may get more traffic, i’ll post what i think a solution to MC is, which involves an extrinsic model of all divine attributes which have creatures as constituents.


Hi Bill,

Thanks for this gracious response to my article. I agree with you that the two arguments have different forms if "God's act of creation" is a rigid designator. But why should the proponent of DDS accept that? Remember, the argument from modal collapse is attempting to establish that DDS entails a modal collapse. So they are entitled only to what DDS affirms as their premises for establishing a modal collapse. But DDS does not affirm that "God's act of creation" is a rigid designator?

So if the opponent of DDS needs that to establish a modal collapse, they are not showing that DDS entails a modal collapse. They could hope only to show that DDS plus the fact that "God's act of creation" is a rigid designator entails a modal collapse. But then, again: why should the proponent of DDS accept that "God's act of creation" is a rigid designator?

I have a very similar response to Tomaszewski's critique of the Modal Collapse Argument. View it here and let me know what you think:



While I can see why the DDS might seem inevitably to imply your premise (2) at first philosophical glance, I am not convinced that that is what the Church's theologians have accepted or taught. Their traditional distinction between divine operations ad intra and ad extra defines only the former as internal to the divine essence. Indeed, they treat ad intra and essential as synonymous terms in this context. Since Creation is a work termed ad extra (and thus not identical to the divine essence) by orthodoxy, it appears that the orthodox DDS denies God is identical to his creative action.

The distinction above was not made for the sake of defending the contingency of creation, as I understand it, but for the sake of distinguishing in Trinitarian doctrine between operations specific to the persons but internal relations of the one essence, and those common to all 3 by virtue of the creative "procession" out of their substantial unity which obtains by virtue of the choice to be the Cause of other beings.

God's identity as Pure Act (consonant with his metaphysical simplicity) denies potency absolutely to him only in himself, internally, otherwise he could not create (cause anything to be outside himself) at all, either contingently or of necessity. It does not deny his "potential" to create.

It seems I was partly right, partly wrong in describing the orthodox understanding. Here is a useful excerpt:

19th century Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben explains the relation of the attributes to God’s essence as follows:

“All the Divine attributes which designate something necessarily contained in God, designate the Divine Substance Itself, and not something distinct from It, inhering in it after the manner of an accident. This principle applies to the attributes of Unity, Truth, Beauty; and also to the Divine essential Activity—such as Self-consciousness and Self-love; because all of these necessarily belong to the integrity of the Divine Essence and Nature. It is also true of the Divine intellectual and volitional acts concerning contingent things; for although these acts are not essential to God, still they are not accidents of His Substance, but are the Divine Substance Itself as related to contingent objects. But the principle is true only to a certain extent in the case of attributes which express Divine external action—that is, active influence on creatures; because the power and will to act are in God, whereas the action itself (actio transiens), and still more its effect, are external to Him. Lastly, this principle cannot be applied to attributes expressing a relation between creatures and God—such as Creator, Redeemer, Rewarder; because these relations are not in God but outside Him. They need not belong to Him from all eternity, as may also be said of attributes designating Divine external actions, because their basis is not eternal. Essential attributes, on the contrary, and also attributes expressing something in God, even if not essential, belong to Him from all eternity. All this is the common teaching of the Fathers and theologians and is based upon the dogmas of the Simplicity and Unchangeableness of God.”

Scheeben, Matthias Joseph. A MANUAL OF CATHOLIC THEOLOGY: Based on Dogmatik (Complete in Two Volumes) (Kindle Location 3291). Lex De Leon Publishing. Kindle Edition


How about 'plenitudinous'? Your suggestion, which smacks of David Lewis' extreme modal realism, is itself a form of modal collapse. This would make a good separate post.


You ask a fair question which I hope to address in a separate post. My answer *in nuce* is that possible worlds talk allows for an exceedingly perspicuous representation in extensional terms of modal relationships.

Christopher T.,

Thanks for the response, and congratulations on winning the Baylor prize and on the *Analysis* acceptance. Has your article appeared yet? I would appreciate a pdf of the article when it appears. I need to revise my SEP entry on DDS by the end of the year and I would like to add your article to the bibliography. And if you have other DDS biblio items I need to be apprised of please let me know.

You are right that DDS in its classical formulations says nothing about whether 'God's act of creation' is or is not a rigid designator. But they also say nothing about whether 'God' or 'Deus' is a rigid designator. Ut I think you commit yourself in your article to 'God' being a rigid designator. That's not obvious. I seem to recall Peter Geach arguing that 'God' is best understood as a definite description in disguise.

It seems that if you accept what Kripke says about identity statements, and if there are no real distinctions in God, then I think we should say that 'God's act of creation' is a rigid designator.

Would you say that 'Socrates is the teacher of Plato' is an identity statement?


I basically agree with you. You say in your paper (link above):

>>Ryan Mullins’ argument does not assume the truth of what he is trying to prove; it isn’t as if he is arguing, “creation exists necessarily” because “necessarily creation exists,” no, Mullins is arguing that God exists necessarily and his act of creation is identical to God’s existence and so his act of creation is necessary as well.<<

That seems right to me.

One quibble. Later in your paper you speak of "accidental designators." But the opposite of a rigid designator is a non-rigid designator.

For example, the definite description 'the teacher of Plato' is non-rigid because it it does not designate the same person in every world in which Plato has a teacher.


Yes it is though no more so (I would argue) than Lewis own modal concretism (I was slipshot in that post as I ought to have said modal concretism rather than modal realism). It's rather a way of sugaring the pill to persuade others that modal collapse need not be so detrimental. Of course I am assuming trans-world identity is workable in the case of God as do most theistic modal concretists.

Fr. Kirby,

Thank you for that extended quotation. The crucial portion is this:

>>But the principle is true only to a certain extent in the case of attributes which express Divine external action—that is, active influence on creatures; because the power and will to act are in God, whereas the action itself (actio transiens), and still more its effect, are external to Him.<<

First, "true only to a certain extent" is a fudge phrase without a clear meaning.

And the distinction being invoked is none too clear. The distinction is between the will to act, on the one hand, and the transitive action and its effect, on the other. The will to act is one with the divine substance, and is therefore as necessary as the divine substance, while the action and its effect are contingent.

I understand what the orthodox theologian is trying to do, namely uphold the divine simplicity while accommodating the contingency of creatures. But I can't see that it makes sense.

God's will is automatically efficacious. So if God wills Socrates, then BANG the man exists. To change the example, there is no gap between FIAT LUX and LUX. We can make a conceptual distinction but in reality there is no distinction.

So if the will to create Socrates is identical to God, and therefore necessary, then S's existence is also necessary.


Very interesting suggestion.

>>But on this view of things, there is no antecedent difference-maker to explain why in one scenario the agent chooses X and in another scenario the agent chooses Y. So libertarian freedom requires the denial of the difference-maker principle.<<

Granted, there is nothing antecedent to a free choice that explains it. But choosing X and choosing Y are rendered different by their different objects, X and Y. Choosings are individuated by their objects.

So I don't think you've cracked the nut. If God is simple, then he is identical to his choosing U1 over U2; whence it follows that his choosing U1 makes U2 impossible.


Choosing X and choosing Y are rendered different by their different objects, but nothing in the agent, anterior to the decision is any different. So you can say that God's-creation-of-α is different from God's-creation-of-β in virtue of the differences between α and β, but there is nothing different in God, anterior to the decision.


I e-mailed the paper to the e-mail address listed on your SEP article.

I do assume in the paper that "God" is a rigid designator, but if it isn't, so much the worse for the opponent of simplicity! That would make the task of showing that the identity statement "God is God's act of creation" is necessary all the more difficult.

I'm not sure how you are getting from what Kripke says and the claims of DDS to "God's act of creation" being a rigid designator. My claim is that "God's act of creation" is a description for God just like "Creator" which is truly predicated of Him only in the worlds where He in fact creates. Whether I'm right about that doesn't seem to me to turn on whether DDS is true or not. That's why the analogy to "Creator" is illustrative.

Thanks again!

You are absolutely correct, Dr. Vallicella.

According to DDS God's existence and His "act of creation" MUST be identical. The "act of creation" is the cause of creation, and thus cannot be a mere descriptor; it must be an ontological thing, which can only be identical to God himself, since He is simple. There is nothing else the "act of creation" could possibly be.

But there's one assumption you haven't justified: that a cause is absolutely determinative of an effect (IOW a sufficient as well as a necessary condition). If this is not true, then you can't equate "act of creation" with "act of creation of this universe" because the latter is not only a description of the cause, but also of the cause and effect.

This creates an ontological randomness in nature, meaning there really is no real explanation as to why this universe exists instead of another one, and actually "God's will" has no real explanatory power for anything. But that's just the bullet that must be bitten.


In the case of God, his creating U is both necessary and sufficient for U's existence. Are you denying that?

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