« Easter Morning Thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:14 | Main | Of Gods and Men »

Monday, April 25, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for the post.

"If we assume that in (2)-(7), the 'is' expresses absolute numerical identity, then it is clear that the septad is inconsistent."

What, though, if we say that it expresses relative identity, so that we get

8. The Father and the Son are the same God, and
9. The Father and the Son are not the same Person?

Would this help matters, or would it just confuse them?

Also, would nor Mr. Lupu more immediately be guilty of the heresy of Modalism?


Thanks for the comments.

I think you are right about Peter being a modalist heretic. It occurred to me that the Fregean approach is a version of modalism, but I'll have to review modalism to be sure.

The topic of relative identity is a huge separate topic which ought to be discussed separately. Peter Geach favors the rel. identity approach.

Of course I am a heretic: isn't that obvious! But a modalist? No!

Modalism is the view that the three persons of the Trinity are aspects, modes, or some other manifestations of the one God. Fregean senses, for better or worst, are not merely aspects inherent in an object. They have independent existence, albeit not of the same kind as the referent. They serve as propositional constituents quite apart from the state of affairs that house the referent. They are the material from which truths (not necessarily truth-makers) are made.

The Fregean suggestion about the Trinity is that the three persons of the Trinity are the stuff (senses) from which true *propositions* about the one God are made. Yet the only truth maker of these propositions is one God, not three anything.

Of course, I have no clue whether the Fregean approach satisfies all elements of the orthodox creed. I do not know whether any suggestion would do so. In light of such a possibility, a very real one, something must give, perhaps slightly nudge the orthodoxy. The question is: What?

You said, Bill, "Bear in mind that we are laboring under the constraint of preserving orthodoxy." Why so labor? Would we so labor in the case of, shall we call it, orthodox Venusology?

To give up the orthodox view of the Trinity, rather than preserve it, is not even to give up Christianity. The heterodox view that sees the Son as the first creature, and so not identical with with the Father as the creator, is yet, for all its heterodoxy, a Christianity.


I grant that you can reasonably claim not to be a modalist. (But it depends on what exactly modalism is, which is a large separate discussion. Tuggy at his blog has a lot to say about it.)

The trouble with your comment is that you don't seem to see that I have refuted the Fregean approach. You correctly point out that senses are constituents of Fregean propositions. But then you ignore the two arguments I gave which are contained in the first two paragraphs under *Why the Fregean Solution Does Not Work.*


The precise question I am addressing is whether the consistency problem posed by the orthodox Athanasian understanding of the Trinity (click on the link to the Richard Cartwright article in the main body of my post) can be solved by invoking Frege's sense-reference distinction. That alone is what the post is about.

But of course one could solve the problem in other ways. One way is by abandoning all or part of the orthodox position. Another way is to hold on to orthodoxy by making some distinction or distinctions that defuse the contradiction.

Your suggestion, according to which the Son is the first creature, might count as a version of Christianity, but then again it might not. Central to and definitive of Xianity is the Incarnation: God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth. Now if the Son (the 2nd person of the Trinity) is the first creature -- and is therefore NOT "begotten not made" -- then it is not God but a creature who becomes man. And that would not sit well with Christian soteriology according to which man's salvation can be brought about only by God.

Hello Bill, and happy Easter to you and everyone. If I am not mistaken, this resolution of the problem of the Trinity is one that is discussed, and rejected, by Boethius in his treatise on the Trinity, here http://www.logicmuseum.com/authors/boethius/boethiusdetrinitate.htm#sedhocinterim . He asks whether ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ are different words referring to the same thing in the way that different words for ‘sword’ (Latin: ‘mucro’ and ‘ensis’) refer to the same thing. He says not, for “Father, Son and Holy Ghost are indeed the same, but not identical. For to those asking, "is the Father identical to the Son?" they (i.e. Catholics) say, "not at all." Again, to the question, "is the one the same as the other?" the answer is no.”

It seems to me that he is considering, and rejecting, something similar to the Fregean 'way out'

PS I discuss Boethius' solution to the problem in a post here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/09/boethius-treatise-on-trinity-is-one-of.html . I don't think his own solution is any better, however - see the post for my reasons.


Good seeing you and happy Easter. Will read the stuff as time permits.

Happy Easter, Edward. That is an awful translation full of typos and other mistakes. I skimmed it quickly and found a half-dozen errors.

Some philosophers distinguish between identity and sameness. If one makes such a distinction then one could say that the Father is not identical to the Son but is the same as the Son. That would be a different proposal, distinct from the Fregean one.

Heraclitus said, "The way up and the way down are the same." That makes good sense if you distinguish sameness from identity. The way up and the way down are certainly not identical, but they are the same in the sense of being necessarily co-implicative parts of one whole.

Not that this will rescure Athanasian trinitarianism from the jaws of incoherence.

Thank you Bill. The translation is by Kenyon. I note a problem with it in the blog posting linked above, together with my own suggested correction.

Geach's 'relative identity' resolution is an interesting one that we could profitably discuss.


Just took a quick look at your post. You set up the problem very nicely in your opening paragraph: the universal church would appear to demand of us that we accept a logical contradiction on pain of eternal damnation in the case of nonacceptance.

One question: how can one's salvation depend on intellectual assent to a proposition? Second, how can one accept a contradictory proposition? As Peter has said in the past, an uninteliigible proposition is no proposition at all.

Later I hope to address the Boethian way out.


I concede your refutation of the Fregean solution to the Trinity in light of orthodoxy. I will ponder the matter further.

Dorothy Sayers found nothing mysterious in Three-Persons-in-One considered as aspects of the Creative Mind. She went as far as claiming that this is intuitive to all creative artists. She also interprets Imageo Dei as man's capacity to create.
So Father is mapped to Idea (of the creative work), Son to Energy or Activity that realizes the work in time and Spirit to the Power of the work. This is not philosophy I suppose but interesting nonetheless.


Sayers view is a form of modalism or aspect-theory that contradicts orthodoxy.

She claims to take this analogy from St Augustine, though. .

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008



May 2023

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      
Blog powered by Typepad