London Karl refers me to this piece by Stephen H. Webb in which we read (emphases added):
I recently reviewed Hart’s new book, The Experience of God, at First Things. Hart defends three basic points: First, there was a consensus among ancient philosophers and theologians regarding the simplicity of God. Divine simplicity can be stated in many ways, but it basically means that God has no parts. Or you could just say that God is immaterial (since anything material can be divided). Second, this consensus was shared by nearly all the world’s oldest religions. Third, this consensus is crucial for the Christian faith. It is, in fact, the only way to make sense of God, and thus it is fundamental for everything that Christians believe and say about the divine.
The first bolded passage is inaccurate. On traditional theism God is of course immaterial, and is maintained to be such by all traditional theists. But the doctrine of divine simplicity is not identical to the claim that God is immaterial, a claim rejected by many traditional theists. The simplicity doctrine entails the immateriality doctrine, but not vice versa. Thus the simplicity doctrine says more than the immateriality doctrine. If God is simple, then God has and can have no (proper) parts, hence has and can have no material parts; a simple God is therefore an immaterial God given that every material thing is partite, actually or potentially. But an immaterial God needn't be simple. The simplicity doctrine implies that there are no real distinctions among:
God and his existence
God and his attributes
Any divine attribute and any other one
Existence and nature in God: God doesn't have, he is, his nature.
Potency and act in God: God is actus purus.
Matter and form in God: God is forma formarum.
Consider God and the attribute of omniscience. According to the simplicity doctrine, God does not exemplify omniscience; he is (identical to) omniscience. And the same holds for all the divine attributes. For each such attribute A, God does not have (exemplify) A; he is (identical to) A.
Someone who holds that God is immaterial, however, holds that God has no material parts (and also no spatial parts, and no temporal parts if there are temporal parts). One can hold this consistently with holding that God is disinct from his attributes as he must be if he exemplifies them, exemplification either being or being very much like a dyadic asymmetrical relation.
But what if one were a constituent ontologist who thought that the attributes of a thing are parts thereof (in some suitably extended, non-mereological sense of 'part')? Then too the simplicity doctrine would not be identical to the immateriality doctrine. For immateriality has to do with a lack of material parts while simplicity has to do with a lack of material and 'ontological' parts such as attributes.
As for the second bolded passage, it is certainly false. Webb needs to read Plantinga and Swinburne.
1. God is an absolute, or rather the absolute. That is a non-negotiable starting point for both of us. To uphold the divine absoluteness, however, it is necessary to think of God as ontologically simple, as devoid of metaphysical complexity and composition. For if God is absolute, then he cannot depend on anything else for his existence or nature. It follows that God cannot be an instance of his attributes but must be them; nor can he be an existent among existents: he must be his existence and existence itself. Indeed, God as absolute must be ipsum esse subsistens, self-subsisting Existence. These are hard sayings and sharp heads, Plantinga being one of them, find them incoherent. For details and a bit of a response to Plantinga, I refer you to my Stanford Encyclopedia article. Note also that an absolute cannot be lacking anything or in need of developing itself: it is, eternally, all that it can be. This implies that there is no act/potency distinction in God, no unrealized powers or potentialities. In the classical phrase, God is actus purus, pure act, wholly actual. Dolezal puts it very well when he writes, "The consideration of God as ipsum esse subsistens and actus purus is crucial for any confession of God's absolute existence." (214)
2. But to uphold the divine absoluteness, it is also necessary that God be libertarianly free in his production of creatures. For suppose there is something in the divine nature that necessitates God's creation. Then God would depend on the world to be himself and to be fully actual. He would need what is other than himself to actualize himself. This entanglement with the relative would compromise the divine absoluteness. God would need the world as much as the world needs God. Each would require the other to be what it is. (210)
3. So God must be both simple and free to be absolute. But it is very difficult to understand how a simple being could be free in the unconditional 'could have done otherwise' sense. If God is simple, then he is pure act in which case he is devoid of unrealized powers, potentialities or possibilities. To act freely, however is to act in such a way that one (unconditionally) could have done otherwise, which implies unrealized possibilities. Now Dolezal's view if I have understood him -- and he can correct me in the ComBox if I am wrong -- is that it is not only difficult to reconcile simplicity and freedom, but impossible for us, at least in our present state. "Though we discover strong reasons for confessing both simplicity and freedom in God, we cannot form an isomorphically adequate notion of how this is the case." (210) In footnote 55 on the same page, Dolezal brings up wave-particle duality: light behaves both like a particle and like a wave. We have good reason to believe that it is both despite the difficulty or impossibility of understanding how it could be both. On the basis of the quotation and the footnote I hope that Dolezal will forgive me for pinning the label 'mysterian' on him, at least with respect to the simplicity-freedom problem which is only one subproblem within the the divine simplicity constellation.
4. I grant that if we have good reason to believe that p is true, and good reason to believe that q is true, then we have good reason to believe that p and q are logically consistent (with each other) despite an absence of understanding as to how they could be mutually consistent. What is actual is possible whether or not one can render intelligible how it is possible. To give an example of my own, motion is actual, hence possible, despite my inability in the teeth of Zenonian considerations to understand how it is possible. Many similar examples could be given.
And so a mysterian move suggests itself: We are justified in maintaining both that God is simple and that God is free despite the fact that after protracted effort we cannot make logical sense of this conjunction. The fact that the conjunction -- God is simple & God is free -- appears to us, and perhaps even necessarily appears to us, given irremediable cognitive limitations on our part, to be or rather entail an explicit logical contradiction is not a good reason to reject the conjunction. The mysterian is not a dialetheist: he does not claim that there are true contradictions. Like the rest of us, the mysterian eschews them like the plague. His point is rather that a proposition's non-episodic and chronic seeming to be a contradiction does not suffice for its rejection. For it may well be that certain truths are inaccesible to us due to our mental limitations and defects, and that among these truths are some that appear to us only in the guise of contradictions, and must so appear.
Of course, Dolezal's mysterian move cannot be reasonably made unless the extant attempts (by Barry Miller, Eleonore Stump, Brian Davies, et al.) to reconcile simplicity and freedom are failures. Since I agree with Dolezal that they are, I grant him this.
5. So what are some possible questions/reservations?
First, if a (conjunctive) proposition's seeming, after careful and repeated scrutiny, to be or entail an explicit logical contradiction is not sufficient evidence of its being a contradiction, what would be? To put it another way, my inability to explain how it could be true both that p and that q does seem to be pretty good evidence that p and q are not both true. Now I said above that the actual is possible whether or not I can explain how it's possible. Granted, but if I cannot explain the how, doubt is cast on the actuality.
How adjudicate between these opposing lines of argument: A: Because X is actual, X is possible, whether or not anyone can explain how it is possible! B: Because no one can explain how it is possible, it is not possible, and therefore not actual!
Second, if all extant attempts to reconcile simplicity and freedom fail, it does not follow that there isn't a solution right over the horizon. How can a mysterian rule out the possibiity of a future solution? The mysterian seems committed to saying that it is impossible (at least in this life) that there be a solution. How can he be sure of this?
Third, if a proposition appears under careful scrutiny to be or entail a contradiction, then is there even a proposition before the mind? If you require for my salvation that I believe that God is one and God is three, what exactly are you demanding that I believe? Before I can affirm a proposition as true I must understand it, but how can I affirm as true a proposition that appears necessarily false? Such a 'proposition' is arguably not a proposition at all. (This requires development, of course . . . Richard Cartwright's Trinity paper will help you see what I am getting at.))
A major problem with Scholasticism is the innate desire that all men have to participate directly and ontologically in their God. We all want that real connection. Sudduth explains, “I pondered this experience for several minutes, while at the same time continuing to experience a most blissful serenity and feeling of oneness with God”.
The fact is Van Tilism and Scholasticism, its Grandfather, can never give man real and ontological connection because like the fools they were, they tried to take the Ultimate Principle of Plotinus and the Pagans and somehow get a Christian worldview out of it with their theory of Absolute Divine Simplicity. This leaves only a pagan ecstatic trance state for Christian men to seek in their attempts to connect to their creator. Thus Sudduth, was in my opinion, simply following his monad back to its Pagan source. He is being consistent. Sudduth says, “I had gone so far in my Christian faith, but it was now necessary for me to relate to God as Lord Krishna.” Notice he doesn’t say, “through Lord Krishna” but “as” Lord Krishna. In Plotinus’ construction hierarchies of being emanated from the One which represent levels of composition , and at each hierarchy was an intermediary. In different versions of this metaphysical construction, the gods are intermediaries on this chain of being. As one move up the chain of being one becomes ontologically identified with the intermediary. Sudduth says, “Since this time I have experienced Krishna’s presence in the air, mountains, ocean, trees, cows, and equally within myself. I experience Him in the outer and inner worlds, and my heart is regularly filled with serenity and bliss.” You see on his view, God is in the state of mind not the proposition.
In conclusion, I commend Sudduth for his logical consistency. When will the rest of the Scholastic Reformed have the courage to do the same? My Scholastic reader, Sudduth is taking Absolute Divine Simplicity to its logical end. I have two options for you.
1. Follow Sudduth
2. Leave Scholastic Neoplatonism for Gordon Clark’s Scripturalism: An absolute Triad: Three ontologically distinct persons; three distinct complex-non-simple eternal divine minds who find their hypostatic origin in the person of the Father.
I'd love to comment, but I have a dentist appointment. Man does not live by bread alone, but without bread and the properly maintained tools of mastication, no philosophy gets done, leastways, not here below.
Afternoon Update: I now have time to hazard some brief and off-the-cuff bloggity-blog commentary.
Earlier in the post, the author writes, "Once someone believes that truth and God cannot be found in a proposition, but in a psychological state, truth by definition becomes something subjective and arbitrary." The full flavor of this no doubt escapes me since I haven't read Van Til or Gordon Clark. Not that surprising given my background, which is Roman Catholic, though as 'Maverick Philosopher' suggests, I aim to follow the arguments where they lead, roaming over the intellectual landscape bare of a brand, and free of institutional tie-downs and dogmatic ballast. The lack of the latter may cause my vessel to capsize, but it's a risk I knowingly run.
But speaking for myself, and not for Sudduth, though I expect he will agree with me, I do not understand how anyone could think that the ultimate truth or God (who is arguably the ultimate truth) could be found in a proposition or a body of propositions. Doctrine surely cannot be of paramount importance in religion. That is a bare assertion, so far, and on this occasion I cannot do much to support it. But I should think that doctrine is but a "necessary makeshift" (to borrow a phrase from F. H. Bradley) to help us in our "Ascent to the Absolute" (to borrow the title of a book by my teacher J. N. Findlay). The name-dropping gives me away and indicates that I nail my colors to the mast of experience in religion over doctrine. (Practice is also important, but that's a separate topic.)
Thoughts lead to thoughts and more thoughts and never beyond the circle of thoughts. But I should like to experience the THINKER behind the thoughts, which thinker can no doubt be thought about but can never be reduced to a thought or proposition. Philosophy operates on the discursive plane, cannot do otherwise, and so is limited, which is why we need religion which in my view, and perhaps in Sudduths', is completed in mystical experience.
The path to the ultimate subject that cannot be objectified, but is both transcendentally and ontologically the condition of all objectivity, is an inner path. I needn't leave my own tradition and make the journey to the East to find support. I find it in Augustine: Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas . "Do not wander far and wide but return into yourself. The truth resides in man's interiority." The way to God is through the self. The way is not by way of propositions or thoughts or doctrines, and certainly not by fighting over doctrines or condemning the other guy to hell for holding a different doctrine, or a doctrine that plays down the importance of doctrine.
The ultimate truth is not propositional truth, which is merely representational, nor the ontic true of things represented, but the ontological truth of God. (This tripartition can be found in both Heidegger and in Thomas.) Now if I find God, but not "in a proposition," but by experience (in fitful glimpses as if through a glass darkly here below, in the visio beata yonder) does it follow that that I have merely realized "an arbitrary and subjective psychological state"? That is a false alternative. Not that I wish to deny that some mystical experiences are nonveridical and misleading. Humans are subject to deception and self-deception in all areas of life.
There is also the matter of the divine simplicity. Here I will just baldly state that a God worthy of worship must be an absolute, and that no decent absolute can be anything other than ontologically simple. For more, I refer you to my Stanford Encylopedia article and the divine simplicity category of this weblog.
This is hotly contested, of course. Athens and Jerusalem are in tension, and you can see that my ties to Athens -- and to Benares! -- are strong and unbreakable. There are deep, deep issues here. I am not a master of them; they master me. One issue has to do with the role of reason and the power of reason. While confessing reason's infirmity, as I have on many occasions in these pages, I must also admit that it is a god-like faculty in us and part of what the imago Dei must consist in -- and this despite what I have said about the discursive path being non-ultimate.
I grant that the Fall has (not just had) noetic consequences: our reason is weaker than it would be in a prelapsarian state. But we need it to protect us from blind dogmatism, fundamentalism and the forms of idolatry and superstition that reside within religion herself such as bibliolatry and ecclesiolatry.
We should not paper over the deep tensions within Christianity but live them in the hope that an honest confrontation with them will lead to deeper insight.
And a little Christian charity can't be a bad idea either, especially towards such 'apostates' as Michael Sudduth.
A London reader, Rob Hoveman, kindly sent me Howard Robinson's "Can We Make Sense of the Idea that God's Existence is Identical to His Essence" (in Reason, Faith and History: Philosophical Essays for Paul Helm, ed. M. W. F. Stone, Ashgate 2008, pp. 127-143). This post will comment on the gist of section 4 of Robinson's article, entitled 'Existence is Not a Property.'
One major implication of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is that in God essence and existence are the same. My Stanford Encyclopedia article on DDS will fill you in on some of the details. A number of objections can be brought against DDS. Here only one will be considered, namely, the objection that existence cannot be a first-level property, a property of individuals.
The objection might go like this. If in God, an individual, essence and existence are identical, then existence must be a first-level property of God. But existence cannot be a first-level property. Therefore, essence and existence cannot be identical in God.
This objection is only as good as the Fregean theory according to which existence is a property of concepts only. Without explaining why distinguished thinkers have been persuaded of its truth, let me give just one reason why it cannot be right. The theory says that existence is the property of being instantiated. An affirmative general existential such as 'Horses exist,' then, does not predicate existence of individual horses; it predicates instantiation of the concept horse. And a negative general existential such as 'Mermaids do not exist' does not predicate anything of individual mermaids -- after all, there aren't any -- it denies that the concept mermaid has any instances.
To see what is wrong with the theory, note first that instantiation is a relation, a dyadic asymmetrical relation. We can of course speak of the property of being instantiated but only so long as it is understood that this is a relational property, one parasitic upon the relation of instantiation. Therefore, if a first-level concept C is instantiated, then there is some individual x such that x instantiates C. It would be nonsense to say that C is instantiated while adding that there is nothing that instantiates it. That would be like saying that Tom is married but there is no one to whom he is married. Just as 'Tom is married' is elliptical for 'Tom is married to someone,' 'C is instantiated' is elliptiucal for 'C is instaniated by some individual.'
Now either x exists or it does not.
Suppose it does not. Then we have instantiation without existence. If so, then existence cannot be instantiation. For example, let C be the concept winged horse and let x be Pegasus. The latter instantiates the former since Pegasus is a winged horse. But Pegasus does not exist. So existence cannot be the second-level property of instantiation if we allow nonexistent objects to serve as instances of concepts.
Now suppose that x exists. Then the theory is circular: it presupposes and does not eliminate first-level existence. The concept blogging philosopher is instantiated by me, but only because I possess first-level existence. One cannot coherently maintain that my existence consists in my instantiating that concept or any concept for the simple reason that (first-level) existence is what makes it possible for me to instantiate any concept in the first place.
If what we are after is a metaphysical theory of what it is for an individual to exist, then Frege's theory in all its variants (the Russellian variant, the Quinean variant, . . .) is wholly untenable. I demonstrate this in painful detail in A Paradigm Theory of Existence, Kluwer, 2002, Chapter 4. Robinson, p. 133, is on to the problem, and makes the following intriguing suggestion: "But there is a way of taking the second order analysis which is not incompatible with regarding 'exists' as a first order predicate, and that can be approached by treating existence as a monadic property of concepts." (133)
The idea is that, rather than being a relational property of concepts, as on the Fregean theory, existence is a nonrelational property of concepts. If this could be made to work, it would defuse the circularity objection I just sketched. For the objection exploits the fact that instantiation is a dyadic relation.
But if existence is to be construed as a monadic (nonrelational) property of concepts, then concepts cannot be understood as Frege understands them. For Frege, concepts are functions and no function is an ontological constituent of its value for a given argument or an ontological constituent of any argument. For example, the propositional function expressed by the the predicate '___is wise' has True as its value for Socrates as argument. But this function is not a constituent of the True. Nor is it a constituent of Socrates. And for Frege there are no truthmaking concrete states of affairs having ontological constituents.
For Robinson's suggestion to have a chance, concepts must be understood as ontological constituents of individuals like Socrates. Accordingly,
Existence is not simply a property of the individual, in the ordinary sense; it is more a metaphysical component of it, along with form or essence. So the monadic property of the concept -- its instantiation -- is the same as the existence of the individual. (134)
Essence and existence are thus ontological constituents or metaphysical components of contingent individuals. This is definitely an improvement over the Fregean view inasmuch as it preserves the strong intuition, or rather datum, that existence belongs to individuals. But this Thomistic view has its own problems. It is difficult to understand how existence could be a proper part of an existing thing as the Thomistic analysis implies. After all, it is the whole of Socrates that exists, Socrates together with all his spatial parts, temporal parts (if any), and ontological 'parts.' As pertaining to the whole of the existing thing, its existence cannot be identified with one part to the exclusion of others. For this reason, in my book I took the line that the existence of an individual is not one of its constituents, but the unity of all its constituents.
In this post I first try to get clear about the truthmaker theory of predication proposed by Michael Bergmann and Jeffrey E. Brower in their A Theistic Argument Against Platonism. I then try to understand how it solves a certain problem in the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS). Finally, I raise a question about the authors' solution.
The truthmaker theory of predication is a rival to the following theory of predication which, with a little inaccuracy, we can label 'Platonistic' so as to have a handy label:
P: The truth of all true predications, or at least of all true predications of the form "a is F", is to be explained in terms of a subject and an exemplifiable (however exemplifiables are themselves to be conceived). (p. 7)
This post will not address the authors' impressive theistic argument against P. For present purposes we can assume that it is sound the better to evaluate the alternative which Bergmann and Brower put as follows:
P*: The truth of all
true predications, or at least of all true predications of the form "a is F", is to be explained in terms of truthmakers. (p. 25)
To appreciate how the two theories differ, consider the proposition expressed by the true essential predication, 'God is divine.' The Platonistic theory explains the truth of this proposition in terms of the subject God and the exemplifiable, the property of being divine. The proposition is true because the subject exemplifies the property. By contrast, the truthmaker theory of predication explains the proposition's truth in terms of its truthmaker. Three questions: What is a truthmaker? What is the truthmaker of the proposition *God is divine*? What exactly is the difference between P and P*? The authors offer the following as a "partial analysis" of the notion of a truthmaker:
TM: If an entity E is a truthmaker for a predication P, then 'E exists' entails the truth expressed by P. (p. 22)
From TM and the fact that 'God is divine' is an essential predication it can be inferred that the truthmaker of this truth is God himself. For 'God exists' entails the truth expressed by 'God is divine.' This is because there is no possible world in which God exists and the proposition in question is not true. Thus God himself suffices as truthmaker for 'God is divine,' and there is no need for an exemplifiable entity or a concrete state of affairs (the subject's exemplifying of the exemplifiable entity.) This allows us to appreciate the difference between the Platonistic and the truthmaker theories of predication. The first, but not the second, requires that the explanation of a truth's being true invoke a subject and an exemplifiable. On the truthmaker theory it is not the case that every predication is such that its explanation requires the positing of a subject and an exemplifiable. The subjects of all essential predications of the form a is F suffice as truthmakers of the propositions expressed by these predications.
In the case of such accidental predications as 'Tom is tired,' the truthmaker cannot be Tom by himself, as the authors appreciate. (p. 26) Neither Tom nor Tom's existence nor *Tom exists* necessitates the truth of 'Tom is tired.' On one approach, the truthmaker of true accidental predications is a concrete state of affairs. On another, the truthmaker is a trope. I think it follows that P is a special case of P*. I don't find the authors stating this but it seems to be a clear implication of what they do say. According to the truthmaker theory of predication, the truth of every true affirmative monadic predication, whether essential or accidental, is explained by a truthmaker, an entity which can belong to any ontological category. The Platonistic theory is the special case in which the truthmaker either is or involves an exemplifiable. (A special case of this is the case in which the truthmaker is a concrete state of affairs.) The truthmaker theory is more general because it allows for truthmakers that neither are nor involve exemplifiables.
Application to Divine Simplicity
One of the entailments of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is that there is no distinction between God and his attributes. Thus God is (identical to) his goodness, his power, etc. We have discussed the motivation for this doctrine in earlier posts. But how could an individual be identical to its attributes or properties? If God is identical to one of his properties, such as the property of being divine, then it follows that he is a property or exemplifiable -- which is absurd. It is absurd because God is a person and persons are not exemplifiable entities. But if the truthmaker theory of predication is correct, then there is a way to make coherent sense of the notion that God is identical to his nature, goodness, power, wisdom, and other such attributes.
Consider 'God is his omnipotence.' If the abstract singular term 'God's omnipotence' is taken to refer to a property, then we get the unacceptable consequence that God is identical to a property. Proponents of the truthmaker theory of predication, however, can maintain that the referents of abstract singular terms are truthmakers. Accordingly, 'God's omnipotence' and 'God's divinity' refer respectively to the truthmakers of 'God is omnipotent' and 'God is divine' respectively. Because both of these predications are essential, the truthmaker of both is God himself. To say that God is identical to his omnipotence is to say that the referent of 'God' is identical to the referent of 'God's omnipotence.' And that amounts to the unproblematic claim that God is identical to God.
The authors have shown us a way to demonstrate the coherence of 'God is identical to his divinity' assuming we are prepared to accept P* and TM. But I wonder whether their demonstration 'proves too much.' Consider the parallel but presumably incoherent 'Socrates is identical to his humanity.' We now must ask whether the strategy that works in the case of God also works in the case of Socrates. If it does, then the radical difference between God and creature, which is part of the motivation for DDS, will not have been properly accommodated.
The authors will grant that Socrates is truthmaker enough for (the propositions expressed by) all essential predications about him. Thus Socrates himself makes true 'Socrates is human' by TM. Because they hold P* they will grant that no exemplifiable need be invoked to explain 'Socrates is human.' We needn't say that this is true because Socrates exemplifies the property of being human; we can say that it is true because 'Socrates' and 'Socrates humanity' have the same referent, namely Socrates. But then does it not follow that Socrates is ontologically simple, at least in respect of such essential predicates as 'human,' 'rational,' and the like? Does it not follow that Socrates is identical to his humanity, his rationality, animality, etc.? Rhetorical questions aside, I am arguing as follows:
a. Socrates is the truthmaker of 'Socrates is human' and like essential predications. (From TM)
b. Socrates is the referent of both 'Socrates' and 'Socrates' humanity.' (From P*) Therefore:
c. Socrates is identical to Socrates' humanity. (From b)
But we surely do not want to say that Socrates is identical to his humanity, rationality, etc. which would imply that his humanity, rationality,etc. are identical to one another. Socrates, unlike God, is a metaphysically composite being. So something appears to have gone wrong. The Bergmann-Brower approach appears to 'prove too much.' Their approach seems to imply what is false, namely, that both God and Socrates are ontologically simple in respect of their essential attributes.
Some recent attempts (by G. Oppy, J. Brower, A. Pruss and perhaps others) at making sense of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) have invoked the truthmaker principle (TMP). I made heavy use of TMP in my A Paradigm Theory of Existence (Kluwer 2002), though not in defense of DDS. Being a self-critical sort, I am now re-examining the case for TMP. Note that acceptance of TMP does not straightaway commit one to acceptance of any particular category of entity as truthmakers such as concrete states of affairs. One could accept TMP and hold that truthmakers are tropes. And there are other possibilities. So before we can address the truthmaker defense of DDS we must (i) argue for TMP and then (ii) decide on what can and cannot function as truthmakers. In this post I consider some of what can be said for and against truthmaking in general. It looks like we might be in for a long series of posts on this fascinating but difficult topic.
1. One of the entailments of the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS) is that God is identical to: God's omniscience, God's omnipotence, and in general God's X-ness, where 'X' ranges over the divine attributes. And it is easy to see that if God = God's F-ness, and God = God's G-ness, then (by transitivity of identity) God's F-ness = God's G-ness. I suggest that we use 'divine attribute' to refer to those properties of God that are both essential and intrinsic. The problem, of course, is to make sense of these identities given the fact that, prima facie, they do not make sense. The pattern is the same as with Trinity and Incarnation. These doctrines imply identities which, on the face of it, beggar understanding. It thus falls to the philosopher of religion to try to render coherent that which, on the face of it, is incoherent.
2. One of the questions that arise when we try to make sense of DDS concerns which category of entity such phrases as 'God's omniscience' pick out. One possibility is that such phrases pick out properties, whether universal (multiply exemplifiable) properties or particular (not multiply exemplifiable) properties, also known as tropes. But this leads to trouble as Brower points out. For if God is identical either to omniscience or to his omniscience, then God is identical to a property -- which sounds absurd: how can God, a person, be a property? Properties are predicable entities, but God is an individual and so not predicable. Properties are exemplifiable entities (whether multiply or non-multiply); but God is an individual and so not exemplifiable. Properties are abstract (causally inert) whereas God is concrete (causally active/passive). No property is a person, but God is a person. No property creates or knows or loves. These are some hastily sketched reasons for thinking that God cannot be identical to his properties.
3. Jeffrey E. Brower forwards an interesting proposal. He suggests that such phrases as 'God's nature,' 'God's goodness' and 'God's power' refer to "entities of a broadly functional type -- namely, truthmakers." (Simplicity and Aseity, sec. 2) The idea is that 'God's omniscience' refers to the trruthmaker of 'God is omniscient' or perhaps to the truthmaker of the proposition expressed by 'God is omniscient.' If (Fregean) propositions are the primary truthbearers, then (tokenings of) declarative sentences that express such propositions can be said to be secondary truthbearers. I trust that it is clear that truthbearers and truthmakers are not to be confused. One key difference is that while some truthbearers are are false, no truthmaker is false. Truth and falsity are properties of certain representations (propositions, declarative sentences, beliefs, judgments, etc.) whereas truthmakers are the ontological grounds of some true truthbearers. If I understand Brower's view, it is not only that truthmakers are neither true nor false -- every TM theorist will hold this -- but also that truthmakers are not at all proposition-like. By contrast, I follow D. M. Arstrong in holding that truthmakers must have a proposition-like structure. But more on this in a moment.
4. Roughly, a truthmaker is whatever plays a certain role or performs a certain function; it is whatever makes true a true truthbearer. The 'truthmaker intuition' -- which I share with Brower -- is that a sentence such as 'Tom is blogging' cannot just be true; there is need of some worldly entity to 'make' it true, to serve as the ontological ground of its truth, to 'verify' it in an ontological, not epistemological, sense of this term. To say that some or all truthbearers need truthmakers is not yet to specify which sort of entity plays the truthmaker role. Among philosophers who accept the need for truthmakers there is disagreement about the ontological category to which they belong.
Brower says rather incautiously that the functional characterization of truthmakers "places no restriction on the specific nature or ontological category to which a truthmaker can belong." (sec 2.1) That can't be right. Surely there are some restrictions. For one thing, a truthmaker cannot be a Fregean proposition for the simple reason that such items are among the items made true by truthmakers. And the same goes for declarative sentences, beliefs, and judgments. My belief that the cat is asleep is either true or false and as such is a truthbearer. It is in need of a truthmaker but is not itself one. Of course, the fact of my believing that the cat is asleep can serve as truthmaker for the sentence ' BV now believes that the cat is asleep' if concrete facts are admitted as truthmakers -- but that is something else again. So not just anything can be a truthmaker. Charitably interpreted, what Brower is telling us is that TM theorists are allowed some ontological latitude when it comes to specifying which category of entity is fit to play the truthmaker role.
5. Let us note that if a true Fregean proposition p entails a Fregean proposition q, then one could say that the first 'makes true' the second. And so one could speak of the first as a 'truthmaker' of the second. But this is not what is meant by 'truthmaking' in these discussions despite the fact that p broadly logically necessitates q. What is intended is a relation of broadly logical necessitation that connects a nonpropositional entity (but on some theories a proposition-like entity) to a propositional entity, or more precisely, to an entity that can serves as the bearer or vehicle of a truth-value. As I see it, the entailment relation and the truthmaking relation are species of broadly logical necessitation; but truthmaking is not entailment. Entailment will never get you 'outside the circle of propositions'; but that is exactly what truthmaking is supposed to do. A truthmaker is an ontological, not propositional or representational truth-ground. Philosophers who are attracted to truthmakers typically have a realist sense that certain of our representations need to be anchored in reality.
Brower sees it a little differently. He would agree with me that entailment and truthmaking cannot be identical, but he thinks of it as "a form of broadly logical necessitation or entailment" and says that entailment is necessary but not sufficient for truthmaking. (Sec. 2.1) So Brower seems to be maintaining that while there is more to truthmaking than entailment, every truthmaker entails the truth it makes true. But this makes little or no sense. Entailment is a relation defined on propositions. If x entails y, then you can be sure that x and y are propositions or at least proposition-like entities, whether these be sentences or judgments or beliefs or even concrete states of affairs such as the fact of (not the fact that) Peter's being tired, which concrete fact contains Peter himself as constituent, warts and all. But for Brower, as we will see in a moment, concrete individuals such as Socrates, entities that are neither propositions nor proposition-like, can serve as truthmakers. As far as I can see, it makes no sense to say that Socrates entails a proposition. It makes no sense because entailment is defined in terms of truth, and no individual can be true or false. To say that p entails q is to say that it is impossible that p be true and q false. Since it makes no sense to say of an individual that it is true, it makes no sense to say of an individual that it entails a proposition. So truthmaking cannot be a type or species of entailment if individuals are truthmakers.
6. But setting aside for the moment the above worry, if it makes sense to say that God is the truthmaker of 'God is omniscient,' and if 'God's omniscience' refers to this truthmaker, then it will be clear how God can be identical to God's omniscience. For then 'God is identical to his omniscience' is no more problematic than 'God is God.' It will also be clear how God's omniscience can be identical to God's omnipotence.
7. But can it really be this easy to show that DDS is coherent? Although I agree with Brower that some truthbearers need truthmakers, I don't see how truthmakers could be ontologically structureless individuals or 'blobs' as opposed to 'layer-cakes' in Armstrong's terminology. By 'ontologically structureless' I mean lacking in propositional or proposition-like structure. Consider the following true intrinsic essential predicative sentences: 'Socrates is human,' 'Socrates is an animal,' Socrates is a material object,' 'Socrates exists,' and 'Socrates is self-identical.' (It is not obvious that 'Socrates exists' is an essential predication inasmuch as Socrates exists contingently, but let's not enter into this thorny thicket just now.)
Brower's claim is that in each of these cases (which parallel the true intrinsic essential predications of divine attributes) the truthmaker is the concrete individual Socrates himself. Thus Socrates is the truthmaker of 'Socrates is human' just as God is the truthmaker of 'God is omniscient.' Unfortunately, no individual lacking propositional or proposition-like structure can serve as a truthmaker as I argued in #5 above. Just as it makes no sense to say that Socrates is true, it makes no sense to say that Socrates entails the proposition expressed by 'Socrates is human.'
There is more to say, but tomorrow's another day. Time to punch the clock.
The day before yesterday, I sketched the problem mentioned in the title. Today I offer a more rigorous presentation of the problem and examine a solution. The problem can be set forth as an aporetic triad:
1. Every free agent is a libertarianly-free (L-free) agent.
2. God is ontologically simple (where simplicity is an entailment of aseity and vice versa).
3. There are contingent items of divine knowledge that do not depend on divine creation, but do depend on creaturely freedom.
Each limb of the above triad has a strong, though not irresistible, claim on a classical theist's acceptance. As for (1), if God is L-free, as he must be on classical theism, then it is reasonable to maintain that every free agent is L-free. For if 'could have done otherwise' is an essential ingredient in the analysis of 'Agent A freely performs action X,' then it is highly plausible to maintain that this is so whether the agent is God or Socrates. Otherwise, 'free' will mean something different in the two cases. As for (2), some reasons were given earlier for thinking that a theism that understands itself must uphold God's ontological simplicity inasmuch as it is implied by the divine aseity. An example of (3) is Oswald's shooting of Kennedy. The act was freely performed by Oswald, and the proposition that records it is a contingent truth known by God in his omniscience.
But although each of (1)-(3) is plausibly maintained and is typically maintained by theists who uphold the doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS), they cannot all be true. Therein resides the problem. Any two limbs imply the negation of the third. Thus: (1) & (3) --> ~(2); (1) & (2) --> ~(3); (2) & (3) --> ~(1).
To illustrate, let us consider how (1) and (3), taken together, entail the negation of (2). Being omniscient, God knows that Oswald freely chose to kill Kennedy. But Oswald's L-freedom precludes us from saying that God's knowledge of this contingent fact depends solely on the divine will. For it also depends on Oswald's L-free authorship of his evil deed, an authorship that God cannot prevent or override once he has created L-free agents. But this is inconsistent with the divine aseity. For to say that God is a se is to say that God is not dependent on anything distinct from himself. But God has the the property of being such that he knows that Oswald freely chose to kill Kennedy, and his having this property depends on something outside of God's control, namely, Oswald's L-free choice. In this way the divine aseity is compromised, and with it the divine simplicity.
It seems, then, that our aporetic triad is an inconsistent triad. The problem it represents can be solved by denying either (1) or (2) or (3). Since (3) cannot be plausibly denied, this leaves (1) and (2). Some will deny the divine simplicity. But an upholder of the divine simplicity has the option of denying (1) and maintaining that, while God is L-free, creaturely agents are free only in a compatibilist sense. If creaturely agents are C-free, but not L-free, then Oswald could not have done otherwise, and it is possible for the upholder of divine simplicity to say that that Oswald's C-free choice is no more a threat to the divine aseity than the fact that God knows the contingent truth that creaturely agents exist. The latter is not a threat to the divine aseity because the existence of creaturely agents derives from God in a way that Oswald's L-free choice does not derive from God.
See Jeffrey E. Brower, Simplicity and Aseity, for this sort of solution. I cannot see that the solution is entirely satisfactory, but it is worth considering.
Thank you first of all for a spectacular blog. I discovered Maverick Philosopher a few years ago and have been reading it regularly ever since. Through your blog, I learned that you wrote the SEP's article on divine simplicity, among similar things; I think, then, that you are qualified to answer my questions.
My questions concern divine simplicity and divine knowledge, two nuts that I've lately been making every effort to crack. First, do you think that theism can be salvaged without absolute divine simplicity? I know that there are many theists who don't believe that God is simple, but is such a concept of Deity coherent?
I believe a case can be made, pace Alvin Plantinga and other theistic deniers of divine simplicity, that to deny the absolute ontological simplicity of God is to deny theism itself. For what we mean by 'God' is an absolute reality, something metaphysically ultimate, "that than which no greater can be conceived." (Anselm) Now an absolute reality cannot depend for its existence or nature or value upon anything distinct from itself. It must be from itself alone, or a se. Nothing could count as divine, or worthy of worship, or be an object of our ultimate concern, or be maximally great, if it lacked the property of aseity. But the divine aseity, once it is granted, seems straightaway to entail the divine simplicity, as Aquinas argues in ST. For if God is not dependent on anything else for his existence, nature, and value, then God is not a whole of parts, for a whole of parts depends on its parts to be and to be what it is. So if God is a se, then he is not a composite being, but a simple being. This implies that in God there is no real distinction between: existence and essence, form and matter, act and potency, individual and attribute, attribute and attribute. In sum, if God is God, then God is simple. To deny the simplicity of God is to deny the existence of God.It is therefore possible for an atheist to argue: Nothing can be ontologically simple, therefore, God cannot exist.
A theist who denies divine simplicity might conceivably be taxed with idolatry inasmuch as he sets up something as God that falls short of the exacting requirements of deity. The divine transcendence would seem to require that God cannot be a being among beings, but must in some sense be Being itself . (Deus est ipsum esse subsistens: God is not an existent but self-subsisting Existence itself.) On the other hand, a theist who affirms divine simplicity can be taxed, and has been taxed, with incoherence. As an aporetician first and foremost, I seek to lay bare the problem in all its complexity under suspension of the natural urge for a quick solution.
Second, if my understanding is correct, then according to the doctrine of divine simplicity, God has no intrinsic accidents. How is that compatible with divine freedom? I know it's trite, but I haven't seen a good answer to the question of how God could have properties such as having created mankind or having declined to create elves without their being just as necessary to Him as His benevolence and omnipotence (especially if He is what He does).
This is indeed a problem. On classical theism, God is libertarianly free: although he exists in every metaphysically possible world, he does not create in every such world, and he creates different things in the different worlds in which he does create. Thus the following are accidental properties of God: the property of creating something-or-other, and the property of creating human beings. But surely God cannot be identical to these properties as the simplicity doctrine seems to require. It cannot be inscribed into the very nature of God that he create Socrates given that he freely creates Socrates. Some writers have attempted to solve this problem, but I don't know of a good solution.
Even if there's a solution to that problem, what's to be said about God's knowledge? Isn't His knowledge an intrinsic property of His? But, since the truth of a proposition like the planet Mars exists is contingent, isn't God's knowing it an accidental property, and, furthermore, an intrinsic accidental property?
Well, this too is a problem. If S knows that p, and p is contingent, then S's knowing that p is an accidental (as opposed to essential) property of S. Now if God is omniscient, then he knows every (non-indexical) truth, including every contingent truth. It seems to follow that God has at least as many accidental properties as there are contingent truths. Surely these are not properties with which God could be identical, as the simplicity doctrine seems to require. Now there must be some contingent truths in consequence of the divine freedom; but this is hard to square with the divine simplicity.
And if it is in fact the case that God's knowledge is the cause of things, then how are we to understand His knowledge of the free actions of creatures? I know that God is supposed to be the final cause of these actions, as well as their ultimate efficient cause, but the issue is still unclear to me.
This is also a problem. The simplicity doctrine implies that God is identical to what he knows. It follows that what he knows cannot vary from world to world. In the actual world A, Oswald shoots Kennedy at time t. If that was a libertarianly free action, then there is a world W in which Oswald does not shoot Kennedy at t. Since God exists in very world, and knows what happens in every world, he knows that in A, Oswald shoots Kennedy at t and in W that Oswald does not shoot Kennedy at t. But this contradicts the simplicity doctrine, according to which what God knows does not vary from world to world. The simplicity doctrine thus appears to collide both with divine and human freedom.
I sincerely look forward to your addressing these questions. Thank you in advance for your consideration of these weighty matters.
I have addressed them, but not solved them. Solutions have been proffered, but they give rise to problems of their own -- something to be pursued in future posts.
The editors of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy want me to revise my Divine Simplicity entry by March 20th. Written in 2006, it needs revision. If anyone who knows this subject has any constructive comments on the style, content, coverage, or organization of the present entry, I'd like to hear them. In particular, references to recent literature not included in the present bibliography would be helpful.