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Monday, November 03, 2014


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Bill- thanks for the response. You are certainly correct that Q4 was my goal; but I wanted some underbrush cleared first (and isn't that philosophy's main job? - okay, that's an inside joke for those that have studied it a bit :-))
I will say that the statement: 'Not all persons are human' did catch my eye. But of course there are fictional persons, imaginary friends and such, and ()perhaps spiritual beings, angels, incubi et. al.

The strategy and the analogy made me somewhat dizzy; just saying the words out loud made a kind of sense, but not IMO sufficient to the Q1-4. The various creeds go to great pains to keep the natures separate, but I cannot imagine Christ qua human suffering while Christ qua divine, simultaneously - what? 'Looks on'? Is unaware?? (I'm not being blasphemous, please understand - just trying to get a handle on the 'qua' business.)
I am truly 'exercised' by this question; the contradiction you point to in Q4 is of course the nub of the matter. Q4 should be an easy question to answer, but the ambiguities in language -"personhood", "nature" - seem to make it very difficult, and a surprising number of 'heresies' revolve around this nub. And have for almost 2,000 years.
Bill, I'm going to continue on the investigation, though I do not have any great hopes that I will get any further than you already have, and no hope at all to clearing up the problem or contrarily convincing those for whom the Chalcedonian statement is mother's milk.
If you find time/have the interest, I will always be glad to read your further comments.


An angel is an example of a person that is not human (and the first and third persons of the Trinity as well) but if you are suggesting that a fictional person such as Captain Ahab is not human, then I disagree. Of course he is human.

You could have an imaginary friend that was a Martian, but aren't most imaginary friends human?

We can go deeper into this. So far I have just scratched the surface.

I was merely trying to make clear that the problem is not how one individual can have two or more natures, but the very specific problem of how one and same individual can have both a human nature and a divine nature.

More tomorrow perhaps.

What exactly is the argument for your following claim:

"Now he [Socrates] is both animal and human essentially as opposed to accidentally. Thus Socrates could not have existed without being an animal: he could not have been inanimate, say a statue or a valve-lifter in a '57 Chevy. And he could not have existed without being human: he could not have been nonhuman like a cat or a jelly fish."

I realise what you say is common wisdom, but claims like the above always struck me as plausibly deniable. Why can't 'Socrates' directly refer to the bare particular that instantiates his natures? Such a particular is not essentially human or animal. It can exist without either of those natures. Claims about what is essential to various properties, such as rationality to humanity for instance, are fine, and so are claims like 'Socrates, qua human, is essentially rational' (because they are really disguised talk about natures or properties), but claims like 'Socrates, that particular we call 'Socrates', is essentially human' give me pause.

Of course, you might not be a believer in bare particulars - perhaps you are a tropist, and Socrates is a trope of humanity - in that case I think your view more clearly invites acceptance. But it might still be the case that 'Socrates' refers to some other trope (some sort of soul trope maybe) in which the trope of humanity inheres.

But far be it from me to derail a thread.


You are right. The common Aristotelian wisdom I dispensed is plausibly deniable. There is, as you know, a lot of plausible deniability in philosophy. Bare/thin particulars have been defended by distinguished thinkers such as G. Bergmann and D. Armstrong and I think J. P. Moreland defends them too.

But my task above is limited to helping Dave, an educated layman, get a grip on Chalcedonian orthodoxy. So I just assumed an Aristotelian background ontology.

But the ontological issues underlying Christology are fascinating, and I will perhaps pursue some of them in separate posts. There is no denying that there is much that is puzzling about Aristotleian ontology.

I am not a trope theorist. My 2002 book on existence included an assay of ordinary particulars as facts -- and that involves the notion of bare/thing particulars.

Bill - A definition of 'human nature', gleaned from a Google search,(Yes, I go straight to the highest authority! :-)) reads as follows:
"the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans."

Can we accept that as a working definition? I think it serves the purposes of discussion pretty well. (My only caveat is that we don't confuse that use of the term 'nature' with our use of the term "It is not in his nature to do that", to express ourselves concerning another's (mis)behavior. That use of 'nature' is clearly a combination of nature and nurture, not just raw universal 'nature'.
I'm not prepared to offer a definition of 'Divine nature' yet - but it seems clear that once we have one, the question of 'personhood' will be key in understanding the dogma.

"...every nature is essential to a thing that has it."

This is one common view of natures and natural kinds, but it definitely spells trouble for christology. If every nature is essential to a thing that has it, and the Divine Logos has a human nature, then its not possible for the Logos to exist without having a human nature. And clearly this isn't right, since the Logos took on human nature. Furthermore, since the Logos himself exists necessarily, it would follow that its necessary that human nature is instantiated, which is a notion that conflicts with too much to tolerate.

"Now, necessarily, anything human is passible, thus capable of sufferi
ng. But, necessarily, nothing divine is passible; hence nothing divine is capable of suffering....I wonder whether the reader would be satisfied with the following strategy and the following analogy. Christ qua human is capable of suffering, but Christ qua divine is not. This removes the contradiction."

An interesting move, but unsuccessful, as the contradiction would seem to remain since there is presumably no ambiguity that properties such as humanity, divinity, passibility and impassibility are properly predicable of *persons* (instead of say, mere "parts" of persons). If passibility is an essential property of humanity and impassibility is an essential property of divinity, and a person exemplifies both humanity and divinity, then that person exemplifies both a property and its logical compliment, which of course is contradictory.

In this case, the contradiction won't be dissolved by introducing "qua" and "by virtue of" provisos that can occasionally do such work when the problematic predications are ambiguous or loosely stated as with the following example: Bob both *has* the property of weighing 180lbs (by virtue of having a body) and Bob also *lacks* the property of weighing 180lbs (by virtue of being a weightless soul) where the clarifying expressions show that the problematic property actually gets predicated of one object (a body), and the logical compliment of the property gets predicated of some other object (a soul) thereby dissolving the apparent inconsistency)

The Obama example is disanalagous here since while being CiC is an essential property of being U.S president (let us suppose), being not-CiC is clearly not an essential property of being a U.S. citizen.
There's also a distinction to be noted between:

*not having property Q* by virtue of having property P


*having property not-Q* by virtue of having property P

So Obama does not have the property of being CiC by virtue of being a U.S. citizen (in fact, he has the property of being CiC by virtue of having some *other* property, namely, the property of being president), but that does not suggest that he has the property of being not-CiC by virtue of being a U.S. citizen.

In any case, as far as salvaging Chalcedon Christology and its Two Natures doctrine of the Incarnation from present difficulties, this can likely be accomplished in a couple of ways. One way would be to take a cue from Thomas Morris and deny that *typical* (or even *universal*) properties of a kind are therefore *essential* properties of that kind. So we might deny that passibility is an essential property of humanity (even if its a near universal property of humanity), and while we're at it, we might also deny that impassibility is an *essential* property of divinity.

Alternatively, we can maintain both of those doctrines and deny that passibility and impassibility are properly predicable of persons, by adopting your "qua" strategy and insist that these are instead properties of minds, centers of consciousness, or some other "part" of a person, and as long as the relevant property and its compliment are predicated of *different* parts of the person, contradiction will be avoided.

Hi Bill,

I’ve read with appreciation your recent posts on Christology. Well, and very many of the other posts you’ve done on your blog through the years.

I’ve been doing a bit of work on Christology myself lately, and I think I have a viable answer to Q4. It was recently published in the Journal of Analytic Theology: http://philpapers.org/rec/PAWAST . I also have a forthcoming piece in the Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion on the qua-moves, and how they are isomorphic to the moves made in the temporary intrinsics literature: http://philpapers.org/rec/PAWTIA-2 .

I apologize if it is unseemly to refer to my published work in this blog post. I’ve written more specific responses to the arguments in your more recent posts about Christology.

Thanks for writing a consistently careful and interesting blog.


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