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Tuesday, March 03, 2020


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Please correct me if I'm mistaken, Dr. Vallicella, but I've taken this proposition concerning God and creation as qualitative, not quantitative, in nature.

Recently, apropos, I read Robert Sokolowski's "The God of Faith and Reason" who comments on how God's creation doesn't "add" more to reality. To quote: "(God plus any creature) cannot be conceived as better than God alone" (pg. 9). That is, "better" in a qualitative sense, not quantitative sense.

By way of analogy, think of mathematical limits. (Infinity is really a limit in mathematics, not a number.) Loosely speaking, say we have the equation "x." If we take x as approaching infinity, the answer to the limit is infinity. Likewise, if we have the equation "x + 999999999999999999," have x approach infinity, the limit also equals infinity.

In an analogous sense, God plus any creation is no more than God plus no creation. The qualitatively infinite cannot be exceeded by any qualitatively finite creation. By analogy, infinity plus 100 is still infinity.

However, if we're thinking quantitatively, then we have a big problem. God is quantitatively one being. I---as a young man---am quantitatively one being. God (as creator) plus George (me as a creature) equals two. Two is greater than one. Though I cannot speak for Diogenes Allen, am I mistaken to think of the proposition in the qualitative terms?

Insofar as God is "Being Itself," this does raise how there can be many "beings." Yet can we not SEPARATE the issue of divine simplicity of God as Being Itself FROM THE question of if God's creation adds to the qualitative goodness to reality?

"To formulate the contradiction in a somewhat clearer form: My existence is MY existence, and as such 'incommunicable' to any other existing item AND my existence is NOT MY existence in that it is wholly derivative from Gods existence."

But if we distinguish between existence-as-fact and existence-as-act, calling the latter be-ing, we can say instead: "My existence is my existence (a fact noting that it is ME that has been brought into being) and none others (as that fact refers to me only), but my be-ing is not my be-ing in the active sense, but only in the passive, received sense. That is, I do not "be" strictly speaking, or self-actualise, I am an "actualised". The former sense of "existence" is ontologically dependent on the latter, but is epistemologically prior. More to the point, the two are genuinely distinct, and so the paradox is resolvable. Or so I would argue.


Consider two scenarios. On the first, God alone exists. On the second, God and one creature exists. Add to that the proposition that ens et bonum convertuntur. That implies that for any x, x is or exists iff x is good. To be = is to be good. Now to many it would seem obvious that if two entities exist (as on the second scenario), then more good is realized than on the first.

I can see your basic point, sir, though I still wonder if there's a way around this difficulty or if your point addressed my interpretation.

If "being" is identical to "goodness," then more beings means more goodness. This seems to be understood in simple quantitative terms. It's a matter of simple counting. And if there's an identity between "being" and "goodness," it seems if we consider "being" in a quantitative sense, we then must consider "goodness" in a quantitative sense.

Formula: God plus one creature = two beings = two good things

Nonetheless, what of thinking of the proposition concerning God and creation in qualitative terms-----or just in terms of matters of quantitative degrees? Doesn't that make a categorical difference? (Forgive me if I'm being dense. If I'm missing some nuance, please kindly help me.)

Actually, now that I think of it, I think this is essential: Don't we have to be careful in claiming an identity between being and goodness? Being and goodness is to be applied by an analogy of proper proportionality.

God and a creature are two beings, but they are not equal. In reply, you could say: two good things is greater than one good thing, EVEN IF those two good things are not of equal value (but each individually has goodness at least greater than zero). Two is greater than one.

X + Y > X (if Y>0 and X>0). Even in this context, however, couldn't I then reply: here the math limit analogy applies? The goodness of X and Y consists in their individual worth, assuming, I suppose, we can assign any quantitative values to qualitative things.

X approaches infinity (God), whereas Y (me) is some finite value. In that case, Infinity plus Y is NOT GREATER than Infinity plus zero (i.e., zero as in no creature created by God).

So, the issue, I believe isn't as simple as this: two beings (or two good things) are greater than---or more than---one being (or one good thing). We have to consider that the beings aren't just of equal worth but that one of those beings is taking on an infinite value. Do you believe that's a reasonable take?

One more thing I should add, which will hopefully clarify things more: (1) being and goodness are "identical"; (2) God plus one creature produces a greater number of beings; (3) thus, given (1), God plus one creature produce a greater number of goods.

This is a fine argument, but there may be something missing. There may be more goods quantitatively, but are there more goods qualitatively? My argument, as I have so far developed it, is that there isn't, even if there are more goods quantitatively. So, X and Y are more goods. But X + Y doesn't produce more qualitatively. Is this a distinction without a difference? No, I don't necessarily believe so. X + Y are about two things (namely, X and Y), but it doesn't follow that X + Y MUST be greater than X.

Also, maybe there's something wrong about (1)? Maybe or maybe not. Being and goodness may be "convertible" in some sense with each other, but aren't they still perceived from different angles such that we can speak about "being" and "goodness" as somehow separate? I'll have to review a metaphysics book.

Fr. Kirby,

In effect, you are distinguishing between Existence itself (ipsum esse subsistens) and existence as 'contracted' by a finite essence. And so we can say that my existence is mine (and incommunicable to any other) insofar as Existence itself is contracted by my essence and 'received' by my essence, and my existence is NOT mine insofar as it derives from self-subsistent esse.

But this solution is Avicennian and has problems of its own. It seems to require that there be pre-given essences and that creation is the actualization of such essences, the addition of existence to pre-given essences, when creation is ex nihilo.

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