The paper corrects misrepresentations of Aquinas's understanding of divinesimplicity, argues that the reasons he gives for divinesimplicity are persuasive ones, and suggests how Aquinas's account of the Trinity can be used to explain how God can be said to exist necessarily. It gives an account of Aquinas's conception of form and individualised form, and shows how Plantinga's criticism of Aquinas's position on divinesimplicity rests on a misunderstanding of Aquinas's notion of form. (...) It describes and makes the case for Aquinas's argument that God must be absolutely simply because he is the uncaused cause of all effects, and any real composition in things constitutes an effect. It shows that Brian Davies is mistaken in claiming that Aquinas does not hold God's existence to be logically necessary. It applies Frege's conception of existence to Aquinas's account of God's simplicity and his psychological analogy for the Trinity, in order to explain how God's existence can coherently be said to be logically necessary. (shrink)
Abstract In this article, I explain how and why different attempts to defend absolute divinesimplicity fail. A proponent of absolute divinesimplicity has to explain why different attributions do not suppose a metaphysical complexity in God but just one superproperty, why there is no difference between God and His super-property and finally how a absolute simple entity can be the truthmaker of different intrinsic predications. It does not necessarily lead to a rejection of divine (...)simplicity but it shows that we may consider another conception of divinesimplicity compatible with some metaphysical complexity in God. Content Type Journal Article Category Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s11153-012-9336-7 Authors Yann Schmitt, Faculté de Philosophie, Institut Catholique de Paris, 21, Rue d’Assas, 75270 Paris Cedex 06, France Journal International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Online ISSN 1572-8684 Print ISSN 0020-7047. (shrink)
The Fourth Lateran Council teaches that God is a substantia seu natura simplex omnino”—an “altogether simple substance or nature”—and the First Vatican Council reiterated the teaching. The doctrine of divinesimplicity is at the center of Thomas’s..
In this article I assess the coherence of Jonathan Edwards's doctrine of divinesimplicity as an instance of an actus purus account of perfect-being theology. Edwards's view is an idiosyncratic version of this doctrine. This is due to a number of factors including his idealism and the Trinitarian context from which he developed his notion of simplicity. These complicating factors lead to a number of serious problems for his account, particularly with respect to the opera extra sunt (...) indivisa principle. I conclude that Edwards sets out an interesting and subtle version of the doctrine, but one which appears mired in difficulties from which he is unable to extract himself. (shrink)
According to the doctrine of divinesimplicity, God is an absolutely simple being lacking any distinct metaphysical parts, properties, or constituents. Although this doctrine was once an essential part of traditional philosophical theology, it is now widely rejected as incoherent. In this paper, I develop an interpretation of the doctrine designed to resolve contemporary concerns about its coherence, as well as to show precisely what is required to make sense of divinesimplicity.
Descartes famously endorsed the view that (CD) God freely created the eternal truths, such that He could have done otherwise than He did. This controversial doctrine is much discussed in recent secondary literature, yet Descartes’s actual arguments for CD have received very little attention. In this paper I focus on what many take to be a key Cartesian argument for CD: that divinesimplicity entails the dependence of the eternal truths on the divine will. What makes this (...) argument both important and interesting is that Descartes’s scholastic predecessors share the premise of divinesimplicity but reject the CD conclusion. To properly understand Descartes, then, we must determine precisely where he diverges from his predecessors on the path from simplicity to CD. And when we do so we obtain a very surprising result: that despite many dramatic prima facie differences, there is no substantive difference between the relevant doctrines of Descartes and the scholastics . Or so I argue. (shrink)
According to a doctrine widely held by most medieval philosophers and theologians, whether in the Muslim or Christian world, there are no metaphysical distinctions in God whatsoever. As a result of the compendious theorizing that has been done on this issue, the doctrine, usually called the doctrine of divinesimplicity, has been bestowed a prominent status in both Islamic and Christian philosophical theology. In Islamic philosophy some well-known philosophers, such as Ibn Sina (980–1037) and Mulla Sadra (1571–1640), developed (...) this doctrine through a metaphysical approach. In this paper, considering the historical order, I shall first concentrate on Ibn Sina’s view. Then I shall turn to the theory of divinesimplicity of Thomas Aquinas (1225?–1274), as the most developed and comprehensive version of the medieval theories in Christian world. Finally, I will return to Islamic philosophy and explore the more complicated and mature account of the doctrine as it was introduced by Mulla Sadra according to his own philosophical principles. (shrink)
In On the Nature and Existence of God, Richard Gale follows majority opinion in giving very short shrift to the doctrine of divinesimplicity: in his view, there is no coherent expressible doctrine of divinesimplicity. Rising to the implicit challenge, I argue that---contrary to what is widely believed---there is a coherently expressible doctrine of divinesimplicity, though it is rather different from the views that are typically expressed by defenders of this doctrine. At (...) the very least, I think that I manage to show that there are ways of understanding the doctrine of divinesimplicity that have not yet been adequately examined. (shrink)
Aquinas maintains that, although God created the universe, he could have created another or simply refrained from creating altogether. That Aquinas believesin divine free choice is uncontroversial. Yet doubts have been raised as to whether Thomas is entitled to this belief, given his claims concerning divinesimplicity.According to simplicity, there is no potentiality in God, nor is there a distinction in God between God’s willing, His essence, and His necessary being. On the surface, it appears that (...) these claims leave no room for divine free choice. I argue that attempts by Aquinas and a pair of his contemporary defenders to reconcile God’s freedom with God’s simplicity fail to resolve the problem. Nevertheless, I maintain that Aquinas provides the key to a resolution in his claim that while creatures are really related to God, God is not really related to creatures. (shrink)
In this study, Andrew Radde-Gallwitz argues that Basil and Gregory develop an understanding of divinesimplicity which does not require that God be identical with the properties of God or that these be identical with one another. Their motivation is that they want to hold that we cannot, in all eternity, know God's essence and yet that we have knowledge of God. Radde-Gallwitz argues that, for Basil and especially Gregory, in addition to our "conceptualizations" (epinoiai), we also have (...) knowledge of propria, properties necessarily connected to God's essence.In the early chapters, Radde-Gallwitz surveys the background to the Cappadocians, beginning with the second century. He argues that in early Christianity the .. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that a false assumption drives the attraction of philosophers to a divine command theory of morality. Specifically, I suggest the idea thatanything not created by God is independent of God is a misconception. The idea misleads us into thinking that our only choice in offering a theistic ground for morality is between making God bow to a standard independent of his will or God creating morality in revealing his will. Yet what is God (...) is hardly independent of him, and in coupling a perfect being theology with the doctrine of divinesimplicity we discover that God’s “reason” is God. Accordingly, obeying the truths of goodness that we humans speak of as contained in the divine wisdom hardly impugns the divine sovereignty. By modifying divine command ethics to give primacyto God’s love or justice, thinkers such as Robert M. Adams, Philip L. Quinn, and Edward J. Wierenga admit the repugnance of this picture in spite of their verbal allegiance to divine command ethics. Accordingly, they implicitly concede that basing morality on God’s sheer power should not be the preferred option for the Christian theist. (shrink)
A well-known objection to divinesimplicity holds that the doctrine is incompatible with God’s contingent knowledge. I set out the objection and reject two problematic solutions. I then argue that the objection is best answered by adopting an “extrinsic model of divine knowing” according to which God’s contingent knowledge, which varies across worlds, does not involve any intrinsic variation in God. Solutions along these lines have been suggested by others. This paper advances the discussion by developing and (...) offering partial defenses of three such models. (shrink)
Proclus (c.412-485) once offered an argument that Christians took to stand against the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo based on the eternity of the world and God’s perfection. John Philoponus (c.490-570) objected to this on various grounds. Part of this discussion can shed light on contemporary issues in philosophical theology on divine perfection and creation. First I will examine Proclus’ dilemma and John Philoponus’ response. I will argue that Philoponus’ fails to rebut Proclus’ dilemma. The problem is that (...) presentism is incompatible with divinesimplicity, timelessness, and a strong doctrine of immutability. From there I will look at how this discussion bears on contemporary understandings of divine perfection and creation, and argue that there are at least two possible ways contemporary philosophical theologians can try to get around the dilemma. One option is to adopt four-dimensional eternalism and maintain the traditional account of the divine perfections. I argue that this option suffers from difficulties that are not compatible with Christian belief. The other option is to keep presentism and modify the divine perfections. I argue that this option is possible and preferable since our understanding of the divine perfections must be modified in light of divine revelation and the incarnation. (shrink)
Predication is an indisputable part of our linguistic behavior. By contrast, the metaphysics of predication has been a matter of dispute ever since antiquity. According to Plato—or at least Platonism, the view that goes by Plato’s name in contemporary philosophy—the truths expressed by predications such as “Socrates is wise” are true because there is a subject of predication (e.g., Socrates), there is an abstract property or universal (e.g., wisdom), and the subject exemplifies the property.1 This view is supposed to be (...) general, applying to all predications, whether the subject of predication is a person, a planet, or a property.2 Despite the controversy surrounding the metaphysics of predication, many theistic philosophers—including the majority of contemporary analytic theists—regard Platonism as extremely attractive. At the same time, however, such philosophers are also commonly attracted to a form of traditional theism that has at its core the thesis that God is an absolutely independent.. (shrink)
Richard Dawkins has popularized an argument which, according to him, proves that there is almost certainly no God. It rests on the assumption that complex and statistically improbable things are more difficult to explain than those that are not, and that any explanatory mechanism that is called on to do the explaining must show how this complexity can be built up from simpler means as it would be useless otherwise. In this paper, I first question what justifies the consideration of (...) the designer’s own complexity. I suggest a different understanding of both order and simplicity inevitable when one considers the psychological counterpart of information. I then assess what seems to be the inference engine of the proposal, the metaphor of biological organisms as either self-programmed machines or algorithms. I show how self-generated organized complexity would not sit well with our knowledge of both abduction and the theorems of information theory applied to genetics. I then turn to the positive side of Dawkins’ challenge, and I review some philosophers and their proposals for how the complexity of the world could be controlled from outside if one wanted to uphold a traditional understanding of God’s simplicity. (shrink)
I examine the central atheistic argument of Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion (“Dawkins’s Gambit”) and illustrate its failure. I further show that Dawkins’s Gambit is a fragment of a more comprehensive critique of theism found in David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. Among the failings of Dawkins’s Gambit is that it is directed against a version of the God Hypothesis that few traditional monotheists hold. Hume’s critique is more challenging in that it targets versions of the God Hypothesis that (...) are central to traditional monotheism. Theists and atheists should put away The God Delusion and pick up Hume’s Dialogues. (shrink)
God’s providence appears to threaten the existence of human freedom. This paper examines why Descartes considered this threat merelyapparent. Section one argues that Descartes did not reconcile providence and freedom by adopting a compatibilist conception of freedom. Sections two and three argue that for Descartes, God’s superior knowledge allows God to providentially arrange free choices without causally determining them. Descartes’ position thus strongly resembles the “middle knowledge” solution of the Jesuits. Section four examines the problematic relationship between this solution and (...) the creation of the eternal truths, arguing that Descartes’ position depends on his unique understanding of divinesimplicity. (shrink)
There is a traditional theistic doctrine, known as the doctrine of divinesimplicity, according to which God is an absolutely simple being, completely devoid of any metaphysical complexity. On the standard understanding of this doctrine—as epitomized in the work of philosophers such as Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas—there are no distinctions to be drawn between God and his nature, goodness, power, or wisdom. On the contrary, God is identical with each of these things, along with anything else that can (...) be predicated of him intrinsically. (shrink)
The authors try to show that many of the differences between Ross and themselves are only apparent, masking considerable agreement. Among the real disagreements, at least one is over the interpretation of Aquinas’s account of divinesimplicity, but the mostcentral disagreement consists in the authors’ claim that their concern was not with a distinction between the way God is and the way he might have been (as Ross suggests) but with the difference between the way God is necessarily (...) and the way he is contingently. Finally, the authors argue that the concept of simplicity is indeed required for the solution of the problems discussed at the end of their original article. (shrink)
The distinction between the divine essence and energies has long been recognized as a characteristic feature of Eastern Orthodox theology, one sharply at odds with traditional Western understandings of divinesimplicity. Yet attempts by Orthodox theologians to explain the distinction have sometimes exaggerated its distinctively Orthodox character by a failure to attend to its historical sources. This paper argues that the distinction was a natural and reasonable consequence of the synthesis between Greek philosophy and Biblical thought executed (...) by the Church Fathers, particularly the Cappadocians of the fourth century. (shrink)
The doctrine of God’s absolute simplicity denies the possibility of real distinctions in God. It is, e.g., impossible that God have any kind of parts or any intrinsic accidental properties, or that there be real distinctions among God’s essential properties or between any of them and God himself. After showing that some of the counter-intuitive implications of the doctrine can readily be made sense of, the authors identify the apparent incompatibility of God’s simplicity and God’s free choice as (...) a special difficulty and associate it with two others: the apparent incompatibilities between essential omnipotence and essential goodness, and between perfect goodness and moral goodness. Since all three of these difficulties are associated with a certain understanding of the nature of God’s will, the authors base their resolution of them on an account of will in general and of God’s will in particular, drawing on Aquinas’s theory of will.Taking creation as their paradigm of divine free choice, the authors develop a solution of the principal incompatibility based on three claims: (i) God’s acts of choice are both free and conditionally necessitated; (ii) the difference between absolutely and conditionallynecessitated acts of will is not a real distinction in God; and (iii) the conditional necessity of God’s acts of will is compatible with contingency in the objects of those acts. The heart of their solution consists in their attempt to make sense of and support those claims.The authors extend their solution to cover the two associated apparent incompatibilities as well.The article concludes with observations on the importance of the doctrine of God’s absolute simplicity for resolving problems in religious morality and in the cosmological argument. (shrink)
Many people are perplexed that God (if such there be) does not make His existence more evident. For many of them, the hiddenness of God puts their faith in God to the test. Others, however, claim that God’s hiddeness is the basis of an argument against God’s existence. While this claim is no newcomer to religious reflection, it has been the focus of renewed debate since the 1990’s. In this essay, I examine J.L. Schellenberg's version of the argument from (...) class='Hi'>divine hiddenness for atheism. (shrink)
In this wide-ranging study, Quinn argues that human moral autonomy is compatible with unqualified obedience to divine commands. He formulates several versions of the crucial assumptions of divine command ethics, defending them against a battery of objections often expressed in the philosophical literature.
J. L. Schellenberg claims that the weakness of evidence for God’s existence is not merely a sign that God is hidden, “it is a revelation that God does not exist.” In Divine Hiddenness: New Essays, Michael J. Murray provides a “soul-making” defense of God’s hiddenness, arguing that if God were not hidden, then some of us would lose what many theists deem a (very) good thing: the ability to develop morally significant characters. In this paper, I argue that Murray’s (...) soul-making defense not only fails to defend God’s hiddenness, it produces (ironically) an argument for the nonexistence of God. (shrink)
Focusing on God's essential attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, being eternal and omnipresent, being a creator and sustainer, and being a person, I examine how far recent discussion has been able to provide for each of these divine attributes a consistent interpretation. I also consider briefly whether the attributes are compatible with each other.
A scientific theory, in order to be accepted as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, must satisfy both empirical and non-empirical requirements, the latter having to do with simplicity, unity, explanatory character, symmetry, beauty. No satisfactory, generally accepted account of such non-empirical requirements has so far been given. Here, a proposal is put forward which, it is claimed, makes a contribution towards solving the problem. This proposal concerns unity of physical theory. In order to satisfy the non-empirical requirement of (...) unity, a physical theory must be such that the same laws govern all possible phenomena to which the theory applies. Eight increasingly demanding versions of this requirement are distinguished. Some implications for other non-empirical requirements, and for our understanding of science are indicated. (shrink)
Divine law theories of metaethics claim that moral rightness is grounded in God’s commands, wishes and so forth. Expressivist theories, by contrast, claim that to call something morally right is to express our own attitudes, not to report on God’s. Ostensibly, such views are incompatible. However, we shall argue that a rapprochement is possible and beneficial to both sides. Expressivists need to explain the difference between reporting and expressing an attitude, and to address the Frege-Geach problem. Divine law (...) theorists need to get past the Euthyphro dilemma, and to avoid moral externalism. This paper shows how a combined theory helps us to achieve this. (shrink)
There are two problems of simplicity. What does it mean to characterize a scientific theory as simple, unified or explanatory in view of the fact that a simple theory can always be made complex (and vice versa) by a change of terminology? How is preference in science for simple theories to be justified? In this paper I put forward a proposal as to how the first problem is to be solved. The more nearly the totality of fundamental physical theory (...) exemplifies the metaphysical thesis that the universe has a unified dynamic structure, so the simpler that totality of theory is. What matters is content, not form. This proposed solution may appear to be circular, but I argue that it is not. Towards the end of the paper I make a few remarks about the second, justificational problem of simplicity. (shrink)
The idea that simplicity matters in science is as old as science itself, with the much cited example of Ockham's Razor, 'entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem': entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity. A problem with Ockham's razor is that nearly everybody seems to accept it, but few are able to define its exact meaning and to make it operational in a non-arbitrary way. Using a multidisciplinary perspective including philosophers, mathematicians, econometricians and economists, this monograph examines (...) class='Hi'>simplicity by asking six questions: What is meant by simplicity? How is simplicity measured? Is there an optimum trade-off between simplicity and goodness-of-fit? What is the relation between simplicity and empirical modelling? What is the relation between simplicity and prediction? What is the connection between simplicity and convenience? The book concludes with reflections on simplicity by Nobel Laureates in Economics. (shrink)
I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good (...) judgment about when we are going too far in our search for simple explanations. These worries about simplicity are not unique to Hume. We can see versions of them in the work of Hutcheson, Smith, and Reid. (shrink)
For many people the existence of God is by no means a sufficiently clear feature of reality. This problem, the fact of divine hiddenness, has been a source of existential concern and has sometimes been taken as a rationale for support of atheism or agnosticism. In this new collection of essays, a distinguished group of philosophers of religion explore the question of divine hiddenness in considerable detail. The issue is approached from several perspectives including Jewish, Christian, atheist and (...) agnostic. There is coverage of the historical treatment of divine hiddenness as found in the work of Maimonides, St. John of the Cross, Jonathan Edwards, Kierkegaard, and various Biblical writers. A substantial introduction clarifies the main problems of and leading solutions to divine hiddenness. Primarily directed at philosophers of religion, theologians, and scholars of religious studies, this collection could also serve as a textbook for upper-level courses in philosophy of religion. (shrink)
Apparently, relationships between God (if He exists) and His creatures would be very valuable. Appreciating this value raises the question of whether it can motivate a certain premise in John Schellenberg’s argument from divine hiddenness, a premise which claims, roughly, that if some capable, non-resistant subject fails to believe in God, then God does not exist. In this paper, I argue that the value of divine–creature relationships can justify this premise only if we have reason to believe that (...) the counterfactuals of freedom work out in certain ways. Unfortunately, we can’t acquire such a reason, at least not without relying on other successful arguments (if there are any) for the relevant premise of Schellenberg’s hiddenness argument. (shrink)
Since its first delivery in 1993, J.L. Schellenberg’s atheistic argument from divine hiddenness keeps generating lively debate in various quarters in the philosophy of religion. Over time, the author has responded to many criticisms of his argument, both in its original evidentialist version and in its subsequent conceptualist version. One central problem that has gone undetected in these exchanges to date, we argue, is how Schellenberg’s explicit-recognition criterion for revelation contains discriminatory tendencies against mentally handicapped persons. Viewed from this (...) angle, our present critique imparts Schellenberg’s position with a philosophical dilemma: (1) endorsing divine discrimination to the effect that God does not love ‘cognitive-affective outsiders’ or (2) giving up on explicit recognition. Either way, the hiddenness argument does not succeed. (shrink)
Thanks largely to the work of Robert Adams and Philip Quinn, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a resurgence of interest in divine command theory as a viable position in normative theory and meta-ethics. More recently, however, there has been some dissatisfaction with divine command theory even among those philosophers who claim that normative properties are grounded in God, and as a result alternative views have begun to emerge, most notably divine intention theory (Murphy, Quinn) (...) and divine motivation theory (Zagzebski). My goal here is to outline a distinct theory, divine desire theory, and suggest that, even if it is not clearly superior to these extant views, it is at least worthy of serious consideration.1 As far as this paper is concerned, the discussion will be limited just to the deontic status of actions (obligatory, permissible, forbidden), and so no attempt will be made to also account for axiological properties such as goodness or evil. In order to get oriented to the range of deontological views in this area, consider the following three rough characterizations. (shrink)
Simple assumptions represent a decisive reason to prefer one theory to another in everyday scientific praxis. But this praxis has little philosophical justification, since there exist many notions of simplicity, and those that can be defined precisely strongly depend on the language in which the theory is formulated. The language dependence is a natural feature—to some extent—but it is also believed to be a fatal problem, because, according to a common general argument, the simplicity of a theory is (...) always trivial in a suitably chosen language. But, this trivialization argument is typically either applied to toy-models of scientific theories or applied with little regard for the empirical content of the theory. This paper shows that the trivialization argument fails, when one considers realistic theories and requires their empirical content to be preserved . In fact, the concepts that enable a very simple formulation, are not necessarily measurable, in general. Moreover, the inspection of a theory describing a chaotic billiard shows that precisely those concepts that naturally make the theory extremely simple are provably not measurable. This suggests that—whenever a theory possesses sufficiently complex consequences—the constraint of measurability prevents too simple formulations in any language. This explains why the scientists often regard their assessments of simplicity as largely unambiguous. In order to reveal a cultural bias in the scientists’ assessment, one should explicitly identify different characterizations of simplicity of the assumptions that lead to different theory selections. General arguments are not sufficient. (shrink)
Assuming an analogical account of religious predication, this paper utilizes recent work in the metaphysics of free will to build towards an account of divine freedom. I argue that what actions an agent is capable of freely performing depends on his or her moral character.
Despite the United States' economic abundance, "the good life" has proved elusive. Millions long for more time for friends and family, for reading or walking or relaxing. Instead our lives are frantic, hectic, and harried. In Graceful Simplicity, Jerome M. Segal, philosopher, political activist, and former staff member of the House Budget Committee, expands and deepens the contemporary discourse on simple living. He articulates his conception of a politics of simplicity--one rooted in beauty, peace of mind, appreciativeness, and (...) generosity of spirit. (shrink)
Divine immutability, the claim that God is immutable, is a central part of traditional Christianity, though it has come under sustained attack in the last two hundred years. This article first catalogues the historical precedent for and against this claim, then discusses different answers to the question, “What is it to be immutable?” Two definitions of divine immutability receive careful attention. The first is that for God to be immutable is for God to have a constant character and (...) to be faithful in divine promises; this is a definition of “weak immutability.” The second, “strong immutability,” is that for God to be immutable is for God to be wholly unchanging. After showing some implications of the definitions, the article focuses on strong immutability and provides some common arguments against the claim that God is immutable, understood in that way. While most of the historical evidence discussed in this article is from Christian sources, the core discussion of what it is to be strongly immutable, and the arguments against it, are not particular to Christianity. (shrink)
Berkeley argues that claims about divine predication (e.g., God is wise or exists) should be understood literally rather than analogically, because like all spirits (i.e., causes), God is intelligible only in terms of the extent of his effects. By focusing on the harmony and order of nature, Berkeley thus unites his view of God with his doctrines of mind, force, grace, and power, and avoids challenges to religious claims that are raised by appeals to analogy. The essay concludes by (...) showing how a letter, supposedly by Berkeley, to Peter Browne ("discovered" in 1969 by Berman and Pittion) is, in fact, by John Jackson (1686-1763), controversial theologian and friend of Samuel Clarke. (shrink)
Behind the global climate change debate are views of divine sovereignty. Those who believe that God is in charge of everything believe there is no change in the climate, but those who believe that God's sovereignty entails that we are responsible for working with the divine are willing to admit there is global climate change.
Theists in general and Christians in particular have good grounds for affirming divine action in relation to twenty-first-century science. Although humans cannot perceive with their five senses the causation—both divine and creaturely—at work in our world, they have reasons to believe God acts as an efficient, but never sufficient, cause in creation. The essential kenosis option I offer overcomes liabilities in other kenosis proposals, while accounting for a God who acts personally, consistently, persuasively, and yet in diversely efficacious (...) ways. We can reasonably infer that the love, beauty, and truth expressed in creation derive from divine and creaturely causation. (shrink)
When Darwin's theory of natural selection threatened to put Paley's Designer out of a job, one response was to reemploy God as the author of the evolutionary process itself. This idea requires an account of how God might be understood to act in biological history. I approach this question in two stages: first, by considering God's action as creator of the world as a whole, and second, by exploring the idea of particular divine action in the course of evolution. (...) As creator ex nihilo God acts directly in every event as its sustaining ground. Because God structures the world as a lawful order of natural causes, God also acts indirectly by means of creatures. More controversially, God might act directly within the world to affect the course of events; this action need not take the form of a miraculous intervention, if the natural order includes the right sort of indeterministic chance. In each of these ways God's purposes can shape evolutionary processes. (shrink)
Children learn their native language by exposure to their linguistic and communicative environment, but apparently without requiring that their mistakes be corrected. Such learning from “positive evidence” has been viewed as raising “logical” problems for language acquisition. In particular, without correction, how is the child to recover from conjecturing an over-general grammar, which will be consistent with any sentence that the child hears? There have been many proposals concerning how this “logical problem” can be dissolved. In this study, we review (...) recent formal results showing that the learner has sufficient data to learn successfully from positive evidence, if it favors the simplest encoding of the linguistic input. Results include the learnability of linguistic prediction, grammaticality judgments, language production, and form-meaning mappings. The simplicity approach can also be “scaled down” to analyze the learnability of specific linguistic constructions, and it is amenable to empirical testing as a framework for describing human language acquisition. (shrink)
In a recent work, Popper claims to have solved the problem of induction. In this paper I argue that Popper fails both to solve the problem, and to formulate the problem properly. I argue, however, that there are aspects of Popper's approach which, when strengthened and developed, do provide a solution to at least an important part of the problem of induction, along somewhat Popperian lines. This proposed solution requires, and leads to, a new theory of the role of (...) class='Hi'>simplicity in science, which may have helpful implications for science itself, thus actually stimulating scientific progress. (shrink)
If God brings about an event in the universe, does it have a preceding cause? For example, if the universe began with the Big Bang and if God brought it about, did the Big Bang then have a preceding cause? The standard answer is: yes, it was caused by a divine willing. I propose an alternative view: God’s actions, unlike human actions, are not initiated by willings, undertakings, or volitions, but God brings about the intended event directly. Presenting a (...) solution to the dilemma of free will I explain what ‘bringing about directly’ means and show that the question of what an action begins with is distinct from the question whether it is a basic action. (shrink)
This article provides a sympathetic treatment of Abelard’s account of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. It argues that the key to Abelard’s account lies in his ingenious defense of a form of numerical sameness without identity--a relation whose application to the Trinity he justifies on the grounds that it must be invoked to explain familiar cases of material constitution. The conclusion is that, although Abelard’s discussion provides the resources to establish the coherence of the Trinity, his attempt to reconcile (...) it with the classical doctrine of divinesimplicity, though going considerable distance toward this goal, remains incomplete. (shrink)
Before Duns Scotus, most philosophers agreed that God is identical with His necessary intrinsic attributes--omnipotence, omniscience, etc. This Identity Thesis was a component of widely held doctrines of divinesimplicity, which stated that God exemplifies no metaphysical distinctions, including that between subject and attribute. The Identity Thesis seems to render God an attribute, an abstract object. This paper shows that the Identity Thesis follows from a basic theistic belief and does not render God abstract. If also discusses how (...) one might move from the Identity Thesis to the full doctrine of divinesimplicity and shows that the Identity Thesis generates a new ontological argument. (shrink)
This paper examines the relationship between God and those universals that characterize his nature. It is argued that God has sovereignty over his nature, even though he is not self-creating, and does not give rise to the universals that characterize his nature by any act of intellection. Rather, God is himself an act of rational willing in which all that is has its existence. Because the act that is God is one of free will, he has sovereignty over the features (...) it displays, which include all that characterizes his nature. (shrink)
This paper strengthens an argument from Alvin Plantinga against versions of the doctrine of divinesimplicity which identify God with each of his properties. Plantinga shows that if properties are causally inefficacious abstracta, then God cannot be one of them—since God is surely causally efficacious. Here I argue that God cannot be even a causally efficacious property. The argument is an important complement to Plantinga’s work, since in the years following the publication of his essay many metaphysicians began (...) to think of properties as causally efficacious entities for reasons quite independent of the doctrine of simplicity. (shrink)
One can (for the most part) formulate a model of a classical system in either the Lagrangian or the Hamiltonian framework. Though it is often thought that those two formulations are equivalent in all important ways, this is not true: the underlying geometrical structures one uses to formulate each theory are not isomorphic. This raises the question of whether one of the two is a more natural framework for the representation of classical systems. In the event, the answer is yes: (...) I state and sketch proofs of two technical results—inspired by simple physical arguments about the generic properties of classical systems—to the effect that, in a precise sense, classical systems evince exactly the geometric structure Lagrangian mechanics provides for the representation of systems, and none provided by Hamiltonian. The argument not only clarifies the conceptual structure of the two systems of mechanics, but also their relations to each other and their respective mechanisms for representing physical systems. It also shows why naïvely structural approaches to the representational content of physical theories cannot work. [Lagrange] grasped that he had gained a method of stating dynamical truths in a way, which is perfectly indifferent to the particular methods of measurement employed in fixing the positions of the various parts of the system. Accordingly, he went on to deduce equations of motion, which are equally applicable whatever quantitative measurements have been made, provided that they are adequate to fix positions. The beauty and almost divinesimplicity of these equations is such that these formulae are worthy to rank with those mysterious symbols which in ancient times were held directly to indicate the Supreme Reason at the base of all things. (Whitehead , p. 63)1. Introduction2. Abstract Classical Systems3. The Possible Interactions of a Classical System and the Structure of Its Space of States4. Classical Systems Are Lagrangian5. Classical Systems Are Not Hamiltonian6. How Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Mechanics Represent Classical Systems7. The Conceptual Structure of Classical Mechanics. (shrink)
In this paper I compare two versions of non-eliminative physicalism (reductive physicalism and supervenience physicalism) with four of the five theses of classical theism: divine non-contingency, divine transcendence, divinesimplicity, and the aseity thesis. I argue that:1. Both physicalism (either version) and classical theism require intuition-transcending identifications of some properties or possibilities.2. Among other identifications, both reductive physicalism and classical theism need to identify psychological with functional properties.3. Both reductive physicalism and classical theism have a problem (...) with consciousness.4. Both reductive physicalists and classical theists should distinguish fine and coarse grained theories of properties. (shrink)
Aquinas teaches that human acts are caused by God. Assuming that such causation entails theological determinism, philosophers with libertarian intuitions tend either to read around Aquinas’s teaching on the relation of divine causality and human action, or to reject that teaching altogether. Unfortunately, the arguments most often used by Aquinas and his contemporary defenders to show that his teaching is compatible with human freedom fail to address thelibertarian’s main concerns. In part one of this essay, I consider these arguments (...) and show why they fail. In part two, I attempt to address the libertarian’s concerns more directly by arguing that Aquinas should not be thought of as a theological determinist. I will show that theological determinism presupposes acertain logic or explanatory scheme, which Aquinas’s understanding of God, and in particular of divinesimplicity, will not accommodate. Hence, the kinds ofinferences needed to make theological determinism intelligible do not apply in Aquinas’s case. (shrink)
Descartes argued that the eternal truths, most prominently the truths of mathematics, are created by God. He was not explicit, however, about the ontological status of these truths. Interpreters have proposed interpretations ranging from Platonism and conceptualism. I argue for an intermediate interpretation: Descartes held they have objective being in God’s mind. In this regard his view was line with a prominent view in Aristotelian scholasticism. I defend this interpretation against objections based on divinesimplicity and concerns about (...) causation. I raise questions about the philosophical merit of these objections, but in addition I argue that there is good reason to think that Descartes himself did not think they were problems for the view. Seemingly conceptualist passages in the Principles, I argue, in fact address issues different from the ontological status of the eternal truths. (shrink)
In this paper I explain several ways in which Descartes denied that the human soul or mind is composite and the role this idea played in his thought. The mind is whole in the whole and whole in the parts of the body because it has no parts. Unlike body, the mind is indivisible, and this is a different idea from the thought that mind and body are incorruptible. Descartes connects the immortality of the soul with its status as a (...) substance and as incorruptible rather than with its indivisibility. (shrink)
The problem of simplicity involves three questions: How is the simplicity of a hypothesis to be measured? How is the use of simplicity as a guide to hypothesis choice to be justified? And how is simplicity related to other desirable features of hypotheses -- that is, how is simplicity to be traded-off? The present paper explores these three questions, from a variety of viewpoints, including Bayesianism, likelihoodism, and the framework of predictive accuracy formulated by Akaike (...) (1973). It may turn out that simplicity has no global justification -- that its justification varies from problem to problem. (shrink)
I argue that the rationale behind the fine-tuning argument for design is self-undermining, refuting the argument’s own premise that fine-tuning is to be expected given design. In (Weisberg 2010) I argued on informal grounds that this premise is unsupported. White (2011) countered that it can be derived from three plausible assumptions. But White’s third assumption is based on a fallacious rationale, and is even objectionable by the design theorist’s own lights. The argument that shows this, the argument from divine (...) indifference, simultaneously exposes the fine-tuning argument’s self-undermining character. The same argument also answers Bradley’s (forthcoming) reply to my earlier objection. (shrink)
The concept of divine justice has been the subject of considerable scrutiny in recent philosophical theology, as it bears upon the notion of punishment with respect to the doctrine of eternal damnation. In this essay, I set out a version of the traditional retributive view of divine punishment and defend it against one of the most important and influential contemporary detractors from this position, Thomas Talbott. I will show that, contrary to Talbott’s argument, punishment may satisfy divine (...) justice, and that perfect justice is commensurate with retribution, rather than, as he suggests, reconciliation and restoration. (shrink)
Simplicity made difficult Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-8 DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9626-9 Authors John MacFarlane, Department of Philosophy, University of California, 314 Moses Hall #2390, Berkeley, CA 94720-2390, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
The simplest Divine Command Theory is one which identifies rightness with being commanded or willed by God. Two clear and appealing arguments for this theory turn on the idea that laws require a lawgiver, and the idea that God is sovereign or omnipotent. Critical examination of these arguments reveals some fundamental principles at odds with the Divine Command Theory, and yields some more penetrating versions of traditional objections to that theory.
In a 2002 paper for this journal, Richard Joyce presents three new arguments against the Divine Command Theory. In this comment, I attempt to show that each of these arguments is either unpersuasive or uninteresting. Two of Joyce’s arguments are unpersuasive because they rely on an implausible principle or an implausible claim about what counts as a platitude governing use of the term “wrong.” Joyce’s other argument is uninteresting because it is persuasive only if Joyce’s formulation of the Euthyphro (...) Problem is persuasive. However, Joyce argues that the Euthyphro Problem is not persuasive. Therefore, if Joyce is correct about this, then his own objection to the Divine Command Theory is not persuasive either. (shrink)