Sunday, July 01, 2012

Freddoso reviews Plantinga on the nature of God

47 comments:

Bilbo said...

If we reject the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity, can we still maintain that God exists necessarily and has all His other attributes necessarily?

Papalinton said...

"Despite these minor criticisms, I wish to commend Does God Have A Nature? as yet another Plantingean exemplar of tough-minded yet creative philosophical theology. It goes without saying that such work is sorely needed today as an antidote to the disappointingly uncritical modernism characteristic of so much contemporary theology."

Something to play with among theology classes. It becomes irritantly problematic when this stuff breaks out of the theological corral and spills into the general community as a claim of fact.

BeingItself said...

Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.

H. L. Mencken

rank sophist said...

Leave it to a Gnu like BI to drop a snappy, vapid quote and then run away without making an argument.

Matt DeStefano said...

In our groping way we resort to grammatical deviance in order to cancel out, as it were, such connotations. So to say that God is Wisdom (and not just wise) is to say at least that God's wisdom is not accidental to him or limited in any way, and that he is the source and exemplar of the limited wisdom possessed by his rational creatures. But at this point we must ask: Does Aquinas also intend to claim that God is an attribute or property in some (perhaps minimal) sense of those terms which he shares with Plantinga?

Freddoso, don't leave me hangin'!

Any classical theists have an answer for this one?

BenYachov said...

Some possible responses.

From the IEP

General information on DS.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/

Plantinga & Kenny's criticisms.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/#H4

The responses:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/#H5

Might be related Feser's responses to Craig on Simplicity. Craig has similar objections.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

Matt DeStefano said...

Ben, I've read the IEP article on DDS before. I'm looking for a response to the specific objection that Plantinga is raising. Weigel doesn't address it (under "existence", he gestures at it but doesn't say much else).

Do you have a response yourself? This is a pretty basic question for the classical theist.

rank sophist said...

Platinga appears to conflate Plato's forms with Aristotle's here, which leads to confusion. Aquinas never "Christianized" Plato's forms--he never even believed in them.

Aristotle's forms don't exist on their own. They can only exist if instantiated, or if abstracted by a mind. If nothing is instantiating them and no mind considering them, then they cease to exist. In Aquinas's theology, they pre-exist within the mind of God, which in turn makes them entirely reliant on God--just as they might rely on a human intellect.

In addition, there seems to be a bit of a muddle over the doctrine of essence (nature) and existence. God does not "have a nature"; rather, his essence is existence. His essence also cannot be comprehended by us, for reasons spelled out in the Summa Theologica.

Any classical theists have an answer for this one?

From my meager understanding, the things with attributes/properties in our world possess lesser, disparate versions of a singular mega-concept within God. It's difficult stuff, though, so I'll just leave a link to the raw material: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1015.htm

BenYachov said...

Matt you really should have read the Feser link too.


>Ben, I've read the IEP article on DDS before. I'm looking for a response to the specific objection that Plantinga is raising.

The IEP article addresses Plantinga in the section on Ontology.

QUOTE"Contemporary ontologies of this sort regard natures and properties as abstracta,]like Plantinga] which individual objects only “have” in the sense of exemplifying or instantiating them. Medieval proponents of simplicity regard such things as natures and properties as entities that actually inhere in the individuals that have them. Wolterstorff observes"END QUOTE

Plantinga isn't speaking our philosophical language. He is doing what Feser calls reading classical philosophy using modern philosophical filters/lens instead of classic ones.

>Weigel doesn't address it (under "existence", he gestures at it but doesn't say much else).

Feser answers Kenny's Fregean objections 0n pages 55-59 of AQUINAS.

>Does Aquinas also intend to claim that God is an attribute or property in some (perhaps minimal) sense of those terms which he shares with Plantinga?

To say God is His Wisdom is not to say is the Attribute of wisdom. God is compared to human beings analogously but Plantinga is making an unequivocal comparison.

You should do some backround reading on the medieval philosophical doctrine of analogy.

Consult the Feser link.

>Do you have a response yourself? This is a pretty basic question for the classical theist.

Other then to agree with Feser that Plantinga like Craig does not make any reference to the Aquinas doctrine of analogy.

Matt DeStefano said...

Platinga appears to conflate Plato's forms with Aristotle's here, which leads to confusion. Aquinas never "Christianized" Plato's forms--he never even believed in them.

That's Freddoso's analysis/conflation, not Plantinga's.


"From my meager understanding, the things with attributes/properties in our world possess lesser, disparate versions of a singular mega-concept within God."

Here's what I'm looking for a response to:

"So to say that God is Wisdom (and not just wise) is to say at least that God's wisdom is not accidental to him or limited in any way, and that he is the source and exemplar of the limited wisdom possessed by his rational creatures. But at this point we must ask: Does Aquinas also intend to claim that God is an attribute or property in some (perhaps minimal) sense of those terms which he shares with Plantinga?"

Perhaps you can see why merely recasting it in terms of "a singular mega concept" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this claim?

Crude said...

Perhaps you can see why merely recasting it in terms of "a singular mega concept" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this claim?

Actually, it does at least scratch the surface. Did you have a look at the link?

The SEP spells it out a little more: "It is easy to see that Plantinga-style objections will not appear decisive to those who reject his ontological framework. Plantinga, along with many other philosophers, thinks of individuals and properties as belonging to radically disjoint realms despite the fact that individuals exemplify properties. Individuals are causally efficacious concreta whereas properties are casually impotent abstracta. Such an approach to ontology renders the divine simplicity inconceivable from the outset. For if God is a concrete individual and his nature (conceived perhaps as the conjunction of his omni-attributes) is an abstract property, then the general ontology rules out an identity of God with his nature. Any such identity would violate the separateness of the two realms. [...] Since a Plantinga-type approach to ontology rules out DDS from the outset, no sophisticated adherent of the doctrine is likely to adopt such an approach. The DDS defender will so adjust his ontology as to accommodate an ontologically simple being. Indeed, as Nicholas Wolterstorff (1991) notes, classical proponents of DDS such as Aquinas had a radically different ontological style, one that allowed for the coherent conceivability of DDS. They did not think of individuals as related to their properties as to abtracta external to them, but as having properties as ontological constituents. They, and some atheist contemporaries as well, think in terms of a “constituent ontology” as opposed to what Wolterstorff calls a “relation ontology” or what might be called a “nonconstituent ontology.” If one takes a thing's nature to be a constituent of it, together with some individuating constituent such as signate or designated matter (materia signata) in the case of material beings, then the notion of an immaterial simple being becomes conceivable."

It's not exactly an easy topic by any means, but what is easy to understand is that Aquinas and Plantinga start at different ontological beginnings - that changes the way they consider the claims.

Crude said...

My mistake. It's not a different ontology, but a different way of understanding and translating it into concepts - that seems like a better way to put it.

For the record, I think Plantinga has some fantastic ideas. He's one reason why I usually am of the mind (contra Ben here) that while classical theism is unlike personalistic theisms, and while I think classical theism has the intellectual edge, I don't sniff at personalistic theisms. They're preferable to atheism as well. (In some ways more intimidating to atheism, since they're arguing on a similar turf.)

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

This whole debate (?) over classical theism versus theistic personalism leaves me cold. Guess I'll never make a good philosopher. I take the view that whatever we can know about God, we learn by looking at Jesus. ("To have seen Me is to have seen the Father")

BenYachov said...

>They're preferable to atheism as well. (In some ways more intimidating to atheism, since they're arguing on a similar turf.)

Well Crude I am open to the idea Theistic Personalism may have more too it than atheism. Just as I am open to the idea not all Theodicies fail. In both cases I don't know for absolute.

But to save time & waste time on tangents I usually assume God can't make a moral case for allowing evil(which is automatically dissolved if He can't be seen as a moral agent) & I reject the idea God can be known empirically so I don't have to waste time with warmed over Positivist nonsense. I assume God can only be known via philosophical argument. It saves time.

Cheers man.

rank sophist said...


Perhaps you can see why merely recasting it in terms of "a singular mega concept" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this claim?


I've read the ending line of that paragraph roughly fifty times in an attempt to make sense of it, but with no success. My guess is that it's like what Ben and Crude said: someone projecting contemporary philosophy onto the ancients. Contemporary essentialism of the type Platinga endorses is foreign to me--I only know the original stuff.

Matt DeStefano said...

To say God is His Wisdom is not to say is the Attribute of wisdom. God is compared to human beings analogously but Plantinga is making an unequivocal comparison.

Plantinga isn't making a compasion between God and human beings, he's drawing a deeper question about the relationship between God and properties. Either you haven't bothered to read the link that Reppert posted originally or you misunderstand what Plantinga is driving at.


Actually, it does at least scratch the surface. Did you have a look at the link?

No, rephrasing the relationship as lower objects possessing disparate versions of "a singular mega-category" doesn't help me to parse out a meaningful ontology. Perhaps you could explain why you think that it does?

The link helps a bit more, but I'm not sure that waving off Plantinga's (it might actually be a worry that Freddoso has as a consequence of reading Plantinga) worry as a consequence of his "constituent ontology" is warranted. After all, I think we can assume a "relation ontology" and the question is still not answered. Freddoso notes this when he says "So to say that God is Wisdom (and not just wise) is to say at least that God's wisdom is not accidental to him or limited in any way, and that he is the source and exemplar of the limited wisdom possessed by his rational creatures."

That seems to be a fair characterization of CT views about what it could mean to say "God is Wisdom". But, does this also mean that God is an attribute/property in some meaningful sense of the term?

BenYachov said...

>Plantinga isn't making a compasion between God and human beings, he's drawing a deeper question about the relationship between God and properties.

You mean his understanding of God, nature & properties which is not identical or compatible with the Classical view or the backround philosophy of that view so it makes any critique a non-starter. Myself, RS and Crude pointed out some of the differences. Please don't down play them.

Also read the sentence right before the one you cited QUOTE"So to say that God is Wisdom (and not just wise) is to say at least that God's wisdom is not accidental to him or limited in any way, and that he is the source and exemplar of the limited wisdom possessed by his rational creatures."END QUOTE

He clearly is making a comparison between God & creatures in relation to properties and nature. Also using adjectives like "exemplar" imply he see God as is a being along side other beings only more uber. God is not an "exemplar" in the Classic View at least not in the unequivocal sense.

>Either you haven't bothered to read the link that Reppert posted originally or you misunderstand what Plantinga is driving at.

Rather I already understand from other things I read that Plantinga is a Theistic Personalist and must be read as one. He see God as a disembodies immaterial mind that is very much like our minds. I have too much documentation from Trakaris, Davies and Feser to think otherwise and to read him as if he where a traditional Thomist which he isn't.

All I care about is his critique of DS successful? Well I might concede it is given the truth of modern philosophy or a strict Platonism. But since I and my compatriots reject modern philosophy & Platonism 0in favor of the classical Aristotilan it is a non-starter.

Much like trying to get me to interact with the Bible using Protestant interpretive principles.

rank sophist said...

The link helps a bit more, but I'm not sure that waving off Plantinga's (it might actually be a worry that Freddoso has as a consequence of reading Plantinga) worry as a consequence of his "constituent ontology" is warranted. After all, I think we can assume a "relation ontology" and the question is still not answered. Freddoso notes this when he says "So to say that God is Wisdom (and not just wise) is to say at least that God's wisdom is not accidental to him or limited in any way, and that he is the source and exemplar of the limited wisdom possessed by his rational creatures."

That seems to be a fair characterization of CT views about what it could mean to say "God is Wisdom". But, does this also mean that God is an attribute/property in some meaningful sense of the term?


First, the "constituent ontology" was Aquinas's--not Platinga's.

Second, the CT God is not an attribute or property. If this is what Platinga and Freddoso were suggesting, then they've gotten mixed up, because it would only be a coherent statement under a Scotist univocal ontology. Aquinas's God can be described by analogy only, and statements such as "God is Wisdom" in fact have very little to do with reality. All good attributes in our world--such as wisdom--indeed reflect God, but God does not possess or Platonically exemplify any of them in a univocal way. His true essence is completely incomprehensible to a human mind, as Aquinas outlines. Even calling God "being itself" is misleading, because it is again only an analogy: God's being cannot be comprehended in terms of our being, but only hinted at. It is not a "perfect form of being" compared to our "imperfect form of being"; rather, it is a separate concept entirely.

I'd been confused about what exactly Platinga was saying, but I think it's a result of unconscious Scotist univocity.

Crude said...

Ben,

I actually am sympathetic to the Thomist (and particularly Feser's) attitude about these personalistic theisms. I think it has far less to do with any perceived problems or deficiencies for these theisms, and far more to do with the fact that too many people confuse theistic personalist arguments for Thomist arguments.

Really, when the hundredth person comes at the average Thomist attacking the first way because "Maybe the Big Bang wasn't the beginning of the universe" or such, I imagine they'd start to get pretty pissed off. Or trying to argue that the fifth way fails 'because evolution'.

BenYachov said...

Crude,

I hear ya brother!

Matt DeStefano said...

First, the "constituent ontology" was Aquinas's--not Platinga's.

Right, my mistake. I'm not used to Wolterstorff's terminology.

Second, the CT God is not an attribute or property. If this is what Platinga and Freddoso were suggesting, then they've gotten mixed up, because it would only be a coherent statement under a Scotist univocal ontology.

They aren't suggesting that God is an attribute or property (the underlying theme of the paper is exploring God's relationship to attributes/properties). The concern that's being raised in the piece I've quoted a few times is not claiming that "God is Wisdom", but asking about the proper way to view that syntax of such phrases given the CT ontology.

Aquinas's God can be described by analogy only, and statements such as "God is Wisdom" in fact have very little to do with reality. All good attributes in our world--such as wisdom--indeed reflect God, but God does not possess or Platonically exemplify any of them in a univocal way. His true essence is completely incomprehensible to a human mind, as Aquinas outlines.

What do you mean by "they have very little to do with reality"? When one says, "God is wisdom" (without being able to comprehend God's "true essence"), are they just speaking nonsense?

rank sophist said...

What do you mean by "they have very little to do with reality"? When one says, "God is wisdom" (without being able to comprehend God's "true essence"), are they just speaking nonsense?

As far as I know, the CT God is total unity. When one speaks of God's will, or wisdom, or being, or goodness, or intellect, or infinity, one is merely using different words for the exact same thing. Because of this, God cannot be described as a property, despite Platinga's concern. Our concepts--such as goodness, being, wisdom--are not applicable to God in a univocal fashion. They are merely analogies for something that cannot in fact be comprehended. Our wisdom is indeed derived from God, but God does not "have wisdom"--and the phrase "God is wisdom" is, again, merely an analogy. He is not the Platonic form of wisdom, nor is the Platonic form of wisdom contained within God.

Now, someone might coherently disagree with this doctrine. But it's important to understand what Aquinas was saying beforehand.

BenYachov said...

Well spoken RS again as I correctly recommended a study of Aquinas' doctrine of analogy is in order.

Matt DeStefano said...

When one speaks of God's will, or wisdom, or being, or goodness, or intellect, or infinity, one is merely using different words for the exact same thing.

How can one "merely be using different words" when those words refer to different properties? Surely when I say "God is goodness" and "God is infinite", I am not making the same claim.


Because of this, God cannot be described as a property, despite Platinga's concern.

Again... this is not Plantinga's concern.

They are merely analogies for something that cannot in fact be comprehended. Our wisdom is indeed derived from God, but God does not "have wisdom"--and the phrase "God is wisdom" is, again, merely an analogy.

How can we possibly know that our wisdom derived from God if we can't intelligibly speak about God's relationship to wisdom?

rank sophist said...

How can one "merely be using different words" when those words refer to different properties? Surely when I say "God is goodness" and "God is infinite", I am not making the same claim.

You are, actually. Under Aquinas's DDS and other doctrines, God is in no way composed of parts. As a result, any claim regarding God will necessarily use inappropriate language. We can necessarily only use words based on the multiplicity of concepts in our world, which can never adequately describe something that contains no multiplicity whatsoever.

Again... this is not Plantinga's concern.

It's Platinga's objection to the DDS. That's all I'm saying.

How can we possibly know that our wisdom derived from God if we can't intelligibly speak about God's relationship to wisdom?

Aquinas's Five Ways allow us to explain this by using a posteriori facts to get at something more fundamental. Even if this more fundamental thing can only be known by analogy, it must exist in a totally simple form (second Way) and it must be the source of perfections such as wisdom (fourth Way), even though we cannot ascribe wisdom to it.

BenYachov said...

>How can one "merely be using different words" when those words refer to different properties? Surely when I say "God is goodness" and "God is infinite", I am not making the same claim.

I told you Matt, Craig's objections to the DDS where similar to Plantinga & of course answered by Feser.

QUOTE "When we bring the concept of analogy to bear on the doctrine of divine simplicity, we can see what is wrong with Craig’s bare assertion that the doctrine is unintelligible.

For this assertion has whatever plausibility it has, I would suggest, only if we think of God as having an essence, as existing, and as having power, knowledge, etc. in the same or univocal sense in which we and other creatures have these things. For what we call power in us is clearly different from what we call knowledge in us; our essences are different from our “acts of existing” (to use the Thomistic jargon); and so forth. So to say that knowledge (in that sense) is identical to power (in that sense), etc. does seem unintelligible.

But that is simply the wrong way to understand the doctrine of divine simplicity. Properly understood, the doctrine does not say that power, knowledge, goodness, essence, existence, etc., as they exist in us, are identical.

Rather, it says that there is in God something that is analogous to power, something analogous to knowledge, something analogous to goodness, etc., and that these “somethings” all turn out to be one and the same thing. “Power,” “knowledge,” “goodness,” etc. are merely different, analogously used descriptions we use in order to refer to what is in God one and the same reality, just as (to borrow Frege’s famous example) the expressions “the morning star” and “the evening star” differ in sense while referring to one and the same thing (the planet Venus).

Precisely because God is simple, though, there is in Aquinas’s view a sense in which we cannot strictly know His essence. For we know things in the strict sense by being able to define them in terms of genus and specific difference, and since God is absolutely simple, there is in Him no distinction between genus and difference, and thus no way to define Him (again, in this technical sense of “define”). God is not merely a unique member of some general class of things; the fact that there is one God is not some metaphysical accident, but an absolute metaphysical and conceptual necessity.END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

A Link for the previous post & quote.

rank sophist said...

I didn't remember that Feser had covered this in the past--nice. Looks like my posts had it right.

Matt DeStefano said...

You are, actually. Under Aquinas's DDS and other doctrines, God is in no way composed of parts. As a result, any claim regarding God will necessarily use inappropriate language. We can necessarily only use words based on the multiplicity of concepts in our world, which can never adequately describe something that contains no multiplicity whatsoever.

After reading Craig and Feser (something I don't usually do both of in one day!), I'm with Craig on this one. I don't think Feser adequately responds to his second criticism:

Craig:"Claim (ii) remains problematic, however. Existence is part of God's nature. But existence is not the same property as, say, omnipotence, for plenty of things have existence but not omnipotence. It remains very obscure, therefore, how God's nature or essence can be simple and all His properties identical."

Feser's response to this criticism, is as you guys have done, is appeal to the doctrine of analogy: "Properly understood, the doctrine does not say that power, knowledge, goodness, essence, existence, etc., as they exist in us, are identical. Rather, it says that there is in God something that is analogous to power, something analogous to knowledge, something analogous to goodness, etc., and that these “somethings” all turn out to be one and the same thing. “Power,” “knowledge,” “goodness,” etc. are merely different, analogously used descriptions we use in order to refer to what is in God one and the same reality, just as (to borrow Frege’s famous example) the expressions “the morning star” and “the evening star” differ in sense while referring to one and the same thing (the planet Venus)."

I know you're sympathetic to the doctrine of DDS, but I don't think that this is actually intelligible. It just says "Well, there's a funny sort of relation between properties and God that makes it so such statements are true in an analogous way, just not a univocal way."

But the problem that Craig is pointing out is that it unintelligible that these various properties (which are all different) can be ultimately "simple" in the first place. Feser's next move, of course, is to say that we simply can't comprehend God's essence. I can't imagine how that's a satisfying answer to someone.

BenYachov said...

Matt you are in effect complaining over the brute fact that God as He has been expounded on in the entire western religious and philosophical Tradition is ultimately incomprehensible in terms of unequivocal knowledge.

To be incomprehensible is not the same as being unintelligible.

2=2=5 is unintelligible. Objectively knowing every actual number in the Value of Pi is incomprehensible.

God can be known analigiously.

You haven't done the leg work to study the doctrine of analogy as I asked. This isn't a response or defense of Craig. It is mere dismissal.

That will not do.

BenYachov said...

>But the problem that Craig is pointing out is that it unintelligible that these various properties (which are all different) can be ultimately "simple" in the first place.

Properties can't be simple only something Purely Actual can be simple & thus by analogy that which is Purely Actual's being is identical with it's essence.

This all presupposes the classic metaphysics of Aristotle which Craig doesn't presuppose.

>Feser's next move, of course, is to say that we simply can't comprehend God's essence. I can't imagine how that's a satisfying answer to someone.

Now you know how i feel when I hear Hume talk about possible "un-caused events".

Except along with Anscombe I would note "un-caused events" are incoherent but I have little trouble understanding the value of Pi goes on without resolution even thought I can't comprehend every number.

Analogy is indispensable for philosophy.

rank sophist said...

But the problem that Craig is pointing out is that it unintelligible that these various properties (which are all different) can be ultimately "simple" in the first place.

This is because he presupposes a contemporary brand of metaphysics. To a Neo-Platonist, for example, it makes perfect sense to say that the composite derives from the unified, in the way that a prism refracts light. (This is, of course, an imperfect analogy.) Again, you can disagree with the doctrine. But it's necessary to first explain why classical metaphysics are inferior to contemporary metaphysics, and why the traditional understanding of essence is inferior to talk of "dispositions" and "properties".

Matt DeStefano said...

Matt you are in effect complaining over the brute fact that God as He has been expounded on in the entire western religious and philosophical Tradition is ultimately incomprehensible in terms of unequivocal knowledge.

Ben, it's becoming painstakingly clear that you are the one who has not done the requisite "leg-work" in philosophical and theological tradition.

The DDS is not a component part of theology for the "entire western religious and philosophical tradition", as we've already seen two of the major western theologians of the day who explicitly deny the DDS, Craig going as far as saying it's "unintelligible", which I agree with wholeheartedly.


2=2=5 is unintelligible. Objectively knowing every actual number in the Value of Pi is incomprehensible.

Those words do not mean what you think they mean.

incomprehensible:Adjective:
Not comprehensible; not able to be understood.

unintelligibleAdjective: Impossible to understand.

Properties can't be simple only something Purely Actual can be simple & thus by analogy that which is Purely Actual's being is identical with it's essence.

I wasn't claiming that properties could be simple, I was reiterating the Craig claim that was never addressed: "It remains very obscure, therefore, how God's nature or essence can be simple and all His properties identical."

In this thread, you've yet to actually respond to this point. At some point, I've got to cut my losses and realize that the answer here is simply "We don't know, because it's stipulated that we can never understand it", which is another way of escaping an undesirable contradiction that one would rather not face head-on.

rank sophist said...

"Claim (ii) remains problematic, however. Existence is part of God's nature. But existence is not the same property as, say, omnipotence, for plenty of things have existence but not omnipotence. It remains very obscure, therefore, how God's nature or essence can be simple and all His properties identical."

I'd also like to mention something about this. Existence is not part of God's nature under A-T. A more accurate analogy would be that God is existence. Likewise, traditional versions of God were never "omnipotent"--rather, they were the source of everything at every moment. This indirectly implies "omnipotence", but not in the form of a property. Same goes with "omniscience" and "perfect goodness" and so forth.

Matt DeStefano said...

This is because he presupposes a contemporary brand of metaphysics.

No, he doesn't presuppose a contemporary brand of metaphysics, he is denying that the DDS (and the relevant principles of the metaphysics therein) is an intelligible doctrine, for he reasons he explicitly spells out after having shown he understands the different metaphysical systems.

Feser wants to ignore his explication and say "But, he forgot about analogy!" Of course, that doesn't help here except to obfuscate the concept and hand-wave away from it.

It's awfully weird to be defending Craig's philosophical acuity. My skin is crawling.

To a Neo-Platonist, for example, it makes perfect sense to say that the composite derives from the unified, in the way that a prism refracts light. (This is, of course, an imperfect analogy.)

It's not just an imperfect analogy, because it's absolutely wrong. The light isn't "unified" even in an "analogous" way, it's made up of constituent spectral colors.

I know that they think it makes perfect sense, but that doesn't mean it's actually intelligible. I'd ask any Neo-Platonist to point out an actual instance of this sort of phenomenon. It's understandable why Plato may have thought this, but we can see that the analogy (I'm not sure if it's Plato's analogy or your own) fails.

Again, you can disagree with the doctrine. But it's necessary to first explain why classical metaphysics are inferior to contemporary metaphysics, and why the traditional understanding of essence is inferior to talk of "dispositions" and "properties".


It's not necessary to compare two systems of metaphysics in order to show why one leads to an unintelligible doctrine like the DDS.

For example, when talking about Platonic Forms, it's not necessary to compare and contrast it to nominalism in order to point out the Third Man Argument.

BenYachov said...

>>To a Neo-Platonist, for example, it makes perfect sense to say that the composite derives from the unified, in the way that a prism refracts light. (This is, of course, an imperfect analogy.)

>It's not just an imperfect analogy, because it's absolutely wrong. The light isn't "unified" even in an "analogous" way, it's made up of constituent spectral colors.

When all the colors are mixed together in a composite as white light they are clearly a unity.

I got that. It wasn't hard.

>I know that they think it makes perfect sense, but that doesn't mean it's actually intelligible. I'd ask any Neo-Platonist to point out an actual instance of this sort of phenomenon. It's understandable why Plato may have thought this, but we can see that the analogy (I'm not sure if it's Plato's analogy or your own) fails.

Of course you don't know Metaphorical analogy, Analogy of Proportionality or analogy of attibution from a hole in your head.

Matt stop faking it. You don't do it as well as I do.;-)

BenYachov said...

>Ben, it's becoming painstakingly clear that you are the one who has not done the requisite "leg-work" in philosophical and theological tradition.

Matt for you post enlightenment Protestant Theistic Personalism is your sum philosophical knowledge of Western Theism. Augustine, Aquinas, Albert the Great, Plotinus, Proclus, Maimonides etc are unknown to you.


>The DDS is not a component part of theology for the "entire western religious and philosophical tradition", as we've already seen two of the major western theologians of the day who explicitly deny the DDS, Craig going as far as saying it's "unintelligible", which I agree with wholeheartedly.

So for you Matt theology begins & Ends with Plantinga and Craig and damn the previous 1500 years? Are you f***ing serious?

>Those words do not mean what you think they mean.

>incomprehensible:Adjective:
Not comprehensible; not able to be understood.

>unintelligibleAdjective: Impossible to understand.

You are correct I meant to write "incoherent" in place of incomprehensible. My mistake.

>I wasn't claiming that properties could be simple, I was reiterating the Craig claim that was never addressed: "It remains very obscure, therefore, how God's nature or essence can be simple and all His properties identical."

Which is why you should stop think and learn about the doctrine of analogy. Pretending it doesn't exist or doesn't matter is like you pretending Augustine and many Church Fathers didn't take Genesis One literally.

It's just plain lazy.

>In this thread, you've yet to actually respond to this point.

We did answer the point it is not our fault the point is a non-starter.

>No, he doesn't presuppose a contemporary brand of metaphysics, he is denying that the DDS (and the relevant principles of the metaphysics therein) is an intelligible doctrine, for he reasons he explicitly spells out after having shown he understands the different metaphysical systems.

The undergrade strikes again! Well Davies, Feser, Ross, Thrakakis, Oderberg and a host of other Philosophers with their PhD's don't agree with you. He is rejecting DDS because it is unintelligible on unequivocal grounds. But Aquinas and all the ancients proponents of the doctrine never claim it could be understood on those grounds.

Do your homework!

>Feser wants to ignore his explication and say "But, he forgot about analogy!" Of course, that doesn't help here except to obfuscate the concept and hand-wave away from it.

Feser is a former Atheist who has studied the history of philosophy. It is a brute historical fact Classic Philosophy and modern are not the same. Starting with Descartes.

BenYachov said...

One page simplistic summery of analogy.

http://faculty.cua.edu/hoffmann/courses/308_1078/308_analogy.pdf

Something more complex with some critique.

http://scholasticus.wordpress.com/2007/05/26/thomas-aquinass-doctrine-of-analogy/

I'll post more later when Matt calms down.

rank sophist said...

No, he doesn't presuppose a contemporary brand of metaphysics, he is denying that the DDS (and the relevant principles of the metaphysics therein) is an intelligible doctrine, for he reasons he explicitly spells out after having shown he understands the different metaphysical systems.

You seem to have failed to understand what I was saying. His accusation that it is unintelligible is the result of contemporary metaphysical leanings, as we have been saying. Ancient metaphysics are extremely different--and Craig (like Platinga) is not particularly well-versed in them.

It's not just an imperfect analogy, because it's absolutely wrong. The light isn't "unified" even in an "analogous" way, it's made up of constituent spectral colors.

Perhaps I could have explained it slightly better. The prism is a unity from which springs a multiplicity. It's an imperfect analogy because a previous light is necessary for it to happen, whereas there is no further cause is involved with God or the Form of the Good. That's kind of the idea of the CT God, though.

I know that they think it makes perfect sense, but that doesn't mean it's actually intelligible. I'd ask any Neo-Platonist to point out an actual instance of this sort of phenomenon.

Wait--what? The entire metaphysical structure rests on the idea that this only happens in one place: namely, the emanation of all being from the One or Form of the Good. If you want Plato's version, see the final section of the Allegory of the Cave, in which the Sun represents the Form of the Good.

It's not necessary to compare two systems of metaphysics in order to show why one leads to an unintelligible doctrine like the DDS.

This utterly begs the question. Whether the DDS is intelligible relates directly to the metaphysical system being presupposed.

BenYachov said...

>Those words do not mean what you think they mean.

>incomprehensible:Adjective:
Not comprehensible; not able to be understood.

>unintelligible Adjective: Impossible to understand.

OTOH maybe I was too hasty to concede ground here. Some might claim Comprehension is a function of Intelligence.

I looked these words up online

intelligible
: apprehensible by the intellect only

comprehendible
: to grasp the nature, significance, or meaning of
2 : to contain or hold within a total scope, significance, or amount
3: to include by construction or implication

Though they are listed as synonymous they seem to not be absolutely the same.


IFor example if I am intelligent then I have reasoning capacity. If I comprehend something I understand specifically what it is which is afforded to me by the powers of intelligence.

I certainly have the intelligence to calculate Pi to various decimal places(of course I haven't done that since High School) but I can't comprehend every actual number in Pi since the numbers are without end.

But I guess someone dead set on committing a falacy of equivocation would miss that.

Matt DeStefano said...

rank,

We're going in circles now, so I'll just post two final things and then move on. It's terribly ironic to me that even when insiders such as Plantinga and Craig criticize a doctrine held close to home by classical theists, even they get the "they don't know what they're talking about" treatment.

You seem to have failed to understand what I was saying. His accusation that it is unintelligible is the result of contemporary metaphysical leanings, as we have been saying. Ancient metaphysics are extremely different--and Craig (like Platinga) is not particularly well-versed in them.

Right, we've covered that. But Craig's criticisms don't rely upon a misconstrued perception of ancient metaphysics and especially not the premise that God is identical with abstract objects (or properties), which you and Ben have repeatedly pushed by referring me to the "doctrine of analogy". Craig explicitly acknowledges this corrective reading:

Wolterstorff's corrective of the modern reading of divine simplicity is welcome. Certainly medievals would not have thought of God's identity with His nature as His being an abtract object. But this mistaken critique is not the one I offer in Philosophical Foundations.

This utterly begs the question. Whether the DDS is intelligible relates directly to the metaphysical system being presupposed.

I'm not even remotely sure how my statement "begs the question", and even more puzzled by how this relates to what I said at all:

"It's not necessary to compare two systems of metaphysics in order to show why one leads to an unintelligible doctrine like the DDS."

I never argued that we do not need to take into account the metaphysics when examining the DDS, I was contesting the claim that we must "first explain why classical metaphysics are inferior to contemporary metaphysics, and why the traditional understanding of essence is inferior to talk of "dispositions" and "properties"."

Aristotle and Parmenides criticized Plato's ontology without having first to compare it to rival ontologies. Now, if we find DDS (and presumably the A-T ontology) to be unintelligible as Craig does, we can then ask "Well, what should we adopt in its stead?" Or "What ontology can we adopt to alleviate this perceived problem?"

rank sophist said...

It's terribly ironic to me that even when insiders such as Plantinga and Craig criticize a doctrine held close to home by classical theists, even they get the "they don't know what they're talking about" treatment.

Platinga and Craig are not "insiders". They're theistic personalists. I disagree with much of what they say, and their knowledge of classical theism is lacking.

Craig explicitly acknowledges this corrective reading:

I hadn't seen this. As for his objection to point 2, it falls flat as I showed above. To repost:

Existence is not part of God's nature under A-T. A more accurate analogy would be that God is existence. Likewise, traditional versions of God were never "omnipotent"--rather, they were the source of everything at every moment. This indirectly implies "omnipotence", but not in the form of a property. Same goes with "omniscience" and "perfect goodness" and so forth.

A further criticism:

On the doctrine of divine simplicity God is absolutely similar in all possible worlds; but then it becomes inexplicable why those worlds vary if in every one God knows, loves, and wills the same things.

This sounds more like a reason to abandon modal logic. Oderberg's critique of modal essentialism adds even more weight to this idea.

I'm not even remotely sure how my statement "begs the question",

Your statement: "It's not necessary to compare two systems of metaphysics in order to show why one leads to an unintelligible doctrine like the DDS."

This is almost a formulation of the Courtier's Reply: "I don't need to know the details or context because I already know that it makes no sense." Of course, whether or not it makes sense is what's at issue.

Aristotle and Parmenides criticized Plato's ontology without having first to compare it to rival ontologies.

Do you honestly think this is a relevant comparison? These men lived around the same time, in the same part of the world. One of them was a student of the other. What Craig is doing is more like using the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to attack early Confucianism. Craig and Aquinas speak in two different languages, and any assertion that the DDS is incoherent first requires that they stand on the same ground. Either Craig has to refute ancient metaphysics and show contemporary metaphysics to be the better option, or he has to show that the DDS is incoherent within the context of ancient metaphysics. Anything else is simply a pointless waste of time.

BenYachov said...

>We're going in circles now, so I'll just post two final things and then move on. It's terribly ironic to me that even when insiders such as Plantinga and Craig criticize a doctrine held close to home by classical theists, even they get the "they don't know what they're talking about" treatment.

Matt, Plantinga is not a Classic Theist he is a Theistic Personalist. Craig is not a full blown Classic Theist either. They are not Thomists not even Protestant Thomists like oh Norman Geisler who is also a Classic Theist.

What part of that do you not get?

>Right, we've covered that. But Craig's criticisms don't rely upon a misconstrued perception of ancient metaphysics.

Then by definition his criticism is non-starter objection since it fails to make distinctions that are important for a Classic Theist in understanding the doctrine. It's like giving a list of contradictions in the Koran to a Baptist and expecting him to give a shit. Or giving a critique of the Westminster confession's definiton of Justification & pretending it is the same as Trent's.

Craig's critique of the DDS only makes sense if you believe God can be unequivocally compared to his creatures. But Aquinas says you can't make an unequivocal comparison between God and creatures.

Even Scotus who says you can in a limited fashion doesn't go as far as Craig or Plantinga. A Scotus might say God has unequivocal being with creatures if we define being as "exists" vs "not-existing". But even Scotus would not goes beyond that & deny God's existence is identical with His essence.


>and especially not the premise that God is identical with abstract objects (or properties), which you and Ben have repeatedly pushed by referring me to the "doctrine of analogy". Craig explicitly acknowledges this corrective reading:

Sticking your finders in your ears and refusing to learn the doctrine of analogy dooms you to not being taken seriously by any Classic Theist with an IQ above 10.

Why you think you can give credible analysis of an issue from a position of willful ignorance is astounding to me!

If you where really interested in learning the actual differences between Theistic Personalist vs Classic Theists you would be reading up on analogy.

BenYachov said...

>Wolterstorff's corrective of the modern reading of divine simplicity is welcome. Certainly medievals would not have thought of God's identity with His nature as His being an abtract object. But this mistaken critique is not the one I offer in Philosophical Foundations.

Which means Craig is aiming his critique solely at those who already accept his metaphysical presuppositions. But it is impotent to those of us who reject the same.

Matt it was you who asked how Classic Theists respond to this. Craig is not interested here in convincing Classic Theists or Thomists.

He is like the Protestant who says "The doctrine of Mary's sinlessnes is not explicitly found in the Bible" which makes sense to other Protestants who already believe in Sola Scriptura.

But he doesn't convince those of us Catholics or Orthodox who reject Sola Scriptura on the Grounds of Scripture teaching the authority of Tradition and Church & failure of the bible to teach Sola Scriptura itself.


>I'm not even remotely sure how my statement "begs the question", and even more puzzled by how this relates to what I said at all:

Because Matt as you have shown in the past you have a completely anthropomorphic non-Classic view of God as a disembodied human mind only more Uber. You presupose God can legitimatly be compared to creatures unequivocally & you have refused to learn what the doctrine of analogy is so you are begging the question and we can't take you seriously.


>>"It's not necessary to compare two systems of metaphysics in order to show why one leads to an unintelligible doctrine like the DDS."

>I never argued that we do not need to take into account the metaphysics when examining the DDS, I was contesting the claim that we must "first explain why classical metaphysics are inferior to contemporary metaphysics, and why the traditional understanding of essence is inferior to talk of "dispositions" and "properties"."

First Matt you are commenting on your own words here. Second Classic Theists assume classic metaphysics. You can't disprove DDS by showing DDS is not compatible with Modern metaphyics. It's not based on those metaphysics in the first place. Just as you can't disprove the doctrine sinlessness of Mary using sola Scriptura. You have to prove Sola Scriptura using scripture alone. You have to prove modern metaphysics is true over classical. Neither Plantinga nor Craig have done that. Feser however does show the opposite in TSL.

>Aristotle and Parmenides criticized Plato's ontology without having first to compare it to rival ontologies.

Aristotle believed Being was an analigious concept he reject Parmenides belief being was an unequivocal concept. Yes they both critiqued Plato from their own points of view but that didnt mean their views where the same.

>Now, if we find DDS (and presumably the A-T ontology) to be unintelligible as Craig does, we can then ask "Well, what should we adopt in its stead?" Or "What ontology can we adopt to alleviate this perceived problem?"

Craig criticism is a non-starter since it does not treat DDS according to it's own metaphysical presuposition. It's like him criticising a Muslim doctrine using the Bible. A Muslim who accepts that Muslim doctrine on the authority of the Koran should give a shit why now?

Matt your defense of Craig is worthless.

BenYachov said...

@RS

>Likewise, traditional versions of God were never "omnipotent"--rather, they were the source of everything at every moment. This indirectly implies "omnipotence", but not in the form of a property. Same goes with "omniscience" and "perfect goodness" and so forth.

I am reminded of Brian Davies saying given the DDS and the nature of God as ipsum esse subsistens, omnipotence cannot be take to mean the Divine Nature by itself can ride a bike.

This is the folly of unequivocal comparisons between God and Creatures.

See this video for more.

http://vimeo.com/35461059

Matt should watch it too.

BenYachov said...

The Omnipotent Divine Nature by Himself sans any incarnate natures one of His Hypostasis picked up cannot ride a bike in the unequivocal sense that a human can.

Sure God could miraculously actualize the bike to move as if someone was ridding it but that is not the same as actually riding it in the unequivocal way a human can.

Sitting on the seat with your butt. Pushing the pettles with your feet. The Divine Nature has neither a butt or literal feet.

Ominipotence means God can actualize any potency. Not that He can do anything.