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)
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)
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 (...) class='Hi'>simplicity but it shows that we may consider another conception of divinesimplicity compatible with some metaphysical complexity in God. (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.
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)
Richard Dawkins has popularized an argument that he thinks sound for showing that there is almost certainly no God. It rests on the assumptions (1) that complex and statistically improbable things are more difficult to explain than those that are not and (2) that an explanatory mechanism must show how this complexity can be built up from simpler means. But what justifies claims about the designer’s own complexity? One comes to a different understanding of order and of simplicity when (...) one considers the psychological counterpart of information. In assessing his treatment of biological organisms as either self-programmed machines or algorithms, I show how self-generated organized complexity does not fit well with our knowledge of abduction and of information theory as applied to genetics. I also review some philosophical proposals for explaining how the complexity of the world could be externally controlled if one wanted to uphold a traditional understanding of divinesimplicity. (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)
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)
Philosophical foundations of Friedrich Schleiermacher’s christology are found in his rejection of the likeness theology found in many medieval theologians and in German rationalist philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries such as Leibniz and Kant. Instead, Schleiermacher offers a theology of divine otherness, as an interpretation of religious consciousness as awareness of oneself as absolutely (i.e., totally and unconditionally) dependent. On this basis all that we can characterize of that on which we are absolutely dependent (God) is its (...) causality. Hence, Schleiermacher argues, Christian theology must not speak of a nature of God, but only of a causality of God, as present in Christ in a special way. It is argued that he identifies this divine causality as love (that is, as a causality tending toward human redemption), and as identical with Christ’s human love, on the basis of a teleology known in Christian experience of redemption. (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 medieval Islamic philosophers held a certain conception of the divine unity that assumes the necessary existent to be both one and simple. The oneness of the necessary existent meant that it is the only necessary existent and its simplicity meant that it admits no composition whatsoever az presents, with elaboration, an exposition of the philosophers' conception of the divine unity, several arguments for its two components (i.e., oneness and simplicity), and his critique of these arguments. (...) In this paper I focus on six of the arguments attributed to the philosophers. Following the textual evidence, I reconstruct these arguments and offer two possible interpretations of them. The first interpretation, which I call the many-argument interpretation, sees one of the arguments as employing the simplicity of the necessary existent to establish its oneness and the other five arguments as invoking oneness to establish simplicity. The second interpretation, which I call the one-argument interpretation, doesn't offer a new reading for the first argument but sees the other five arguments as defending the simplicity of the necessary existent based on its basic concept. I argue for the superiority of the one-argument interpretation. (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)
According to traditional Western theism, God is maximally great (or perfect). More explicitly, God is said to have the following divine attributes: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. In this paper, I present three puzzles about this conception of a maximally great (or perfect) being. The first puzzle about omniscience shows that this divine attribute is incoherent. The second puzzle about omnibenevolence and omnipotence shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible. The third puzzle about perfect rationality and omnipotence (...) shows that these divine attributes are logically incompatible. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)