« Duty | Main | Paleo or Low Fat? »

Monday, February 25, 2013


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

Just as an aside, I understand Aquinas to hold that universals are not subsistent (ie, not Platonically subsistent), but that's not to say that universals only exist in "esse reale." They exist intentionally, as in the divine ideas (of which Aquinas has a lot to say in De Veritate), which seems to me to be virtually identical with your position. Because the divine ideas are productive, I'd say they exist irrespective of the existence of what they cause (like your picture of felinity). He certainly holds God has ideas of what doesn't exist which seems to me an argumentum a maiore.

You're right: universals for Thomas are not subsistent. They exist only in the mind or intentionally. But you are not right if you think that they exist in reality. Two cats share the common nature *felinity* but that common nature, in itself, is neither universal nor particular, neither one nor many. In the cat it is particular, in the cat-thinker universal.

One source of obscurity in McCann's treatment is that he makes some quasi-Thomistic moves while operating within a framework of subsistent abstracta that is decidely un-Thomistic.

Hi Bill,

Isn't the following also a problem for the proposal that God creates properties and Platonic abstracta? For if God's existence is prior to the existence of properties and such, then God himself cannot have any properties; he has to create them if they are to exist, so prior to the act of creation, he has no properties. But if he has no properties, how does he create? Creation assumes some kind of reality on the part of the creator, by which it creates and gives to its creation; what reality does God have if he has no properties and thus nothing is predicable of him? Is he just a bare, undefined existence? How does he create? But if he is not bare, if he has definition prior to creation, then he is not absolutely sovereign.

There is something to be said about divine simplicity somewhere in there...


You are right that those questions need to be addressed. I expect McCann to address them and others in the immediately following chapter, "Divine Will and Divine Simplicity." I haven't read the chapter yet, but I plan to post on it. Since we both have a keen interest in divine simplicity, we shall both have a keen interest in that post.

I too have been reading and enjoying McCann's book.

But I just can't see how the kind of boot-strapping problems Steven mentions aren't fatal for *any* attempt to reconcile a unified account of predication (whatever attribute-theory you put into play and whether you take Bill's moderate theistic activist approach in (B) or McCann's much harder line in (C)) with a commitment to divine aseity-sovereignty.

This one has really been keeping me awake at night for a while, so I much look forward to your thoughts Bill!


You have been kept awake for good reason. On the one hand, a God worth his salt must be ontologically simple. On the other, it is extremely difficult to make logical sense of a simple God. We will have to see whether McCann can pull it off. (I hope to post on his final chapter in a day or two.) I too have broken my head over this. My failed attempt is "Divine Simplicity: A New Defense," *Faith and Philosophy,* vol. 9, no. 4 (October 1992), pp. 508-525.

Dr. Vallicella,

I'm not sure that McCann's position suffers from modal collapse. I took McCann's position to be largely following James F. Ross' modal position and view of creation (e.g. see the two works cited in the McCann's bibliography, "God, Creator of Kinds and Possibilities" touches on modal issues specifically). Ross' book _Thought and World: The Hidden Necessities_ also deals with modal issues. There's a review of the book on the ND philosophical review that gives a good summary and might relieve the modal collapse worries (while probably raising other worries).

I'd attempt a summary but I need to go to class and the NDPR review offers a better summary than I could probably provide.


Thanks for referring us to the NDPR review of the book by Ross. It is here:


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