A reader asks,
In your Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy divine simplicity article you draw a helpful comparison toward the end between trope theory and divine simplicity. However it left me wondering in what way the claim that 1) God is simple differs from the claim that 2) God is just a trope of divinity?
Excellent question. But can I answer it? Here is what I said in the SEP entry:
Tropes are ontologically simple entities. On trope theory, properties are assayed not as universals but as particulars: the redness of a tomato is as particular, as unrepeatable, as the tomato. Thus a tomato is red, not in virtue of exemplifying a universal, but by having a redness trope as one of its constituents (on one version of trope theory) or by being a substratum in which a redness trope inheres (on a second theory). A trope is a simple entity in that there is no distinction between it and the property it ‘has.’ Thus a redness trope is red, but it is not red by instantiating redness, or by having redness as a constituent, but by being (a bit of) redness. So a trope is what it has. It has redness by being identical to (a bit of) redness. In this respect it is like God who is what he has. God has omniscience by being (identical to) omniscience. Just as there is no distinction between God and his omniscience, there is no distinction in a redness trope between the trope and its redness. And just as the simple God is not a particular exemplifying universals, a trope is not a particular exemplifying a universal. In both cases we have a particular that is also a property, a subject of predication that is also a predicable entity, where the predicable entity is predicated of itself. Given that God is omniscience, he is predicable of himself. Given that a redness trope is a redness, it is predicable of itself. An important difference, of course, is that whereas God is unique, tropes are not: there is and can be only one God, but there are many redness tropes.
Not only is each trope identical to the property it has, in each trope there is an identity of essence and existence. A trope is neither a bare particular nor an uninstantiated property. It is a property-instance, an indissoluble unity of a property and itself as instance of itself. As property, it is an essence, as instance, it is the existence of that essence. Because it is simple, essence and existence are identical in it. Tropes are thus necessary beings (beings whose very possibility entails their actuality) as they must be if they are to serve as the ontological building blocks of everything else (on the dominant one-category version of trope theory). In the necessity of their existence, tropes resemble God.
If one can bring oneself to countenance tropes, then one cannot object to the simple God on the ground that (i) nothing can be identical to its properties, or (ii) in nothing are essence and existence identical. For tropes are counterexamples to (i) and (ii).
In the SEP article I was merely trying to "to soften up the contemporary reader for the possible coherence of DDS . . . by adducing some garden variety examples of contemporary philosophical posits that are ontologically simple in one or more of the ways in which God is said to be simple." I was not suggesting that God is a divinity trope.
But perhaps this suggestion can be developed. Perhaps God can be usefully viewed as analogous to a trope, as a divinity trope. One thing is clear and must be borne in mind. God is a stupendously rich reality, the ne plus ultra of absoluteness, transcendence, and alterity. He cannot easily be brought within the human conceptual horizon. If you are not thinking of God in these terms, you are probably thinking like an atheist, as if God is just one more being among beings. God, however, is nothing like that famous piece of (hypothetical) space junk, Russell's teapot.
Given the divine transcendence and absoluteness, one cannot expect God to fit easily into any presupposed ontological framework developed for the purpose of understanding 'sublunary' items. God is not a trope among tropes any more than he is a substance among substances or a concrete particular among concrete particulars. Two points. First, there are indefinitely many redness tropes, but there cannot be indefinitely many divinity tropes. If God is a trope, then he is an absolutely unique trope. Second, no concrete 'sublunary' item is identical to a single trope. (I trust my astute readers understand my use of 'sublunary' here.) Many tropes enter into the constitution of any ordinary particular. But if God is a trope he must be absolutely unitary, enfolding all of his reality in his radical unity. So 'trope' needs some analogical stretching to fit the divine reality.
To answer the reader's question, God cannot be a trope among tropes. But an analogical extension of the trope conception in the direction of deity may be worth pursuing.