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Saturday, January 09, 2021

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Hi Bill - thanks for posting on this subject, which I have been very interested in lately.
I don't understand what you mean by ".. and their Being cannot be reduced to their Being-for-God."
Help a brother out?
Thanks

Allow me to attempt an solution. Perhaps the tenets of classical theism can help us.

If God is a being, then if I am merely an accusative or intentional object of God’s mind, this would appear to radically undermine my status as a genuine being and a real substance. For it seems that in every case that something exists merely as an intentional object for a being, that something has at best a second-rate existence. I imagine a fictional character, and this man “exists” only insofar as I continue to conceive him. My existence as a being seems to deprive genuine being from the intentional objects of my thought.

But for at least some classical theists, God is not a being at all, but rather, God is Being Itself. This might be our way out of the aporia.

If God is a being, then other beings would indeed seem to be nothing but “moments of an all-embracing consciousness” (Cardinal Ratzinger). They would not be genuine beings. But if God is not a being but Being Itself, then for every being, what it is to be just is to be the intentional object of God’s mind.

And here we have the one case wherein something which is an intentional object of thought is nevertheless “released...into the freedom of its own, independent existence.” How can one and the same thing be at once the “being-thought of a consciousness and yet...true being itself?” If that consciousness was itself not a being at all, and if what it is to be a being is nothing else than to be thought in such a way. The fact that I am sustained by God in existence at every moment that I exist in no way threatens my genuine being only if God is not a being like me, but Being Itself.

In the end, this may not have been a solution at all, but a mere rewording of the original problem. Or perhaps I have just kicked the can down the road, or have not said anything coherent in the first place.

Greetings Brother Dave,


>>I don't understand what you mean by ".. and their Being cannot be reduced to their Being-for-God." <<

That merely recaps what I argued above, namely, that creatures -- whether material or spiritual -- cannot be merely intentional objects for the divine subject. They cannot exist merely for God; they must also exist in themselves.

As Ratzinger says,Christianity is in "opposition to idealism, which makes all being into moments of an all-embracing consciousness . . ."

BV: got it, thanks.

EGP: thanks for the input.

I had not come across the piece by Joseph Ratzinger before. He too seems to be alluding to the Platonic doctrine that I expressed (in a comment to the previous post) as the 'convertibility of being and knowledge'. I quoted the Greek because I have never found a satisfactory translation of 'to auto estin noiein te kai einai'. What I rendered as 'knowledge', the Cardinal renders as 'being-thought'. I must admit that he captures the meaning better than I did. (If only Plato had used a passive infinitive ('noiesthai'?) instead of an active one! But I believe he was quoting Parmenides.)

Be that as it may, I find myself in agreement with EGP. God is not a being. At the very least he is Being-itself. To refer to Plato again, he is even 'beyond Being' (epekeina tes ousias'). In the Platonic tradition he is referred to as 'the good that is above being'.

This being so, we can see why an Idealist is not committed to pantheism. As EGP says, "But if God is not a being but Being Itself, then for every being, what it is to be just is to be the intentional object of God’s mind." (my italics).

This does not dispose of the mystery, but it does restate it in a way that may be more palatable to some. God, who is the Fullness of Being (the Pleroma), is able (and here we are using highly symbolic language) to withdraw himself to 'make room' for other beings, his creatures, which are the intentions of his thought. These have a quasi-independent subsistence while at the same time requiring his sustentation. The immanence of God that sustains all beings requires the absolute transcendence that is able to create all beings. Quite how this works is certainly beyond our pay grade.

EGP,

Thanks for the comment.

You say: >>If God is a being, then other beings would indeed seem to be nothing but “moments of an all-embracing consciousness” (Cardinal Ratzinger). They would not be genuine beings. But if God is not a being but Being Itself, then for every being, what it is to be just is to be the intentional object of God’s mind.<<

Why? It is important to note that if God is Being (esse), it does not follow that God is not also a being (ens). After all, the formula is Deus est ipsum esse subsistens. Inasmuch as God is self-subsisting he IS, i.e., he is ENS. There are three positions that need to be distinguished:

A. God is a being among beings. (Plantinga and the analytic theists)
B. God is Being but not a being. (Pseudo-Dionysus and negative theology, radical-alterity theology)
C. God is Being and a/the being. God is Being in its prime instance. God is like a Platonic Form. Justice is itself just. Goodness is itself good. Being (esse, Sein) is itself being (ens, seiend).

(C) is classical theism. Since God is ENS, I don't see how EGP's proposal works.

JB,

Right, it goes back to Parmenides.

>>Be that as it may, I find myself in agreement with EGP. God is not a being. At the very least he is Being-itself. To refer to Plato again, he is even 'beyond Being' (epekeina tes ousias'). In the Platonic tradition he is referred to as 'the good that is above being'.<<

I disagree. See my response to EGP and my three-fold distinction.

You are committed to saying that God is not. For if God is esse, but not also ens, then God is non-ens, i.e., not a being. And if God is not ens, how can he be a subject of intentional states?

This dialectic comes up in Heidegger. If Being is other than every being -- as per his ontological difference -- then Being is not, which implies that Being is the same as das Nichts, Nothing.

You seem to be going the radical alterity route. But then every predication about God would have to be equivocal and not even analogical.A, B, and C correspond respectively to univocity, equivocity, analogicity.

> Is divine creation a mystery or an impossibility?

Much too hard. But, backing off a little, are there any inroads to be made into the above by answering the simpler question:

Are mysteries and impossibilities distinguishable?

Hmm. Still looks too hard (for me). But, would it help to pull back a bit further and instead of going straight to mystery vs impossibility, start with non-sense vs falsehood?

For example: assuming, the normal, everyday meanings of the various words involved, does each of the following sentences correspond with falsehood, or nonsense? (I’m hoping each must be either one or the other!)

1. The present King of France is bald.
2. C++ is more water-resistant than Shostakovich V.
3. There are four and a half Persons in the Trinity.
4. A square circle has an area of zero, and a perimeter of length infinity.
5. Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrue, [rasp], [fart], [sneeze].

Thomas,

Something tells me you are a professional philosopher.

>>Are mysteries and impossibilities distinguishable?<<

It is logically impossible that a rubber ball be red all over its surface and not red all over its surface at the same time assuming that 'red' has the same sense in both of its occurrences. In this simple case, we have no reason to think that such a ball is possible but that we just cannot understand how it is possible, and so it is a mystery.

Compare the ball to the Trinity. In the case of something like this so far beyond our ken we do have some reason to say that, while it must appear logically contradictory to us given our cognitive architecture, it is possible -- it is just that we cannot understand how it is possible, hence it is a mystery.

As for nonsense vs. necessary falsehood, the man in the street makes no distinction. But philosophers must.

If a proposition is necessarily false, e.g. (4) above, then, since it has a truth-value, it must have sense/meaning, ergo it has sense and is not nonsense.

'No potrezeebie is a slithy tove,' on the other hand is nonsense, although syntactically well-formed.

'Toves is or,' is nonsense both syntactically and semantically.

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