Perry’s Logical Argument

My next post will focus on Origen and his dialectic of opposition.

Hypothetical Syllogism (HS)

If A, then B
If B, then C
If A, then C

This is a valid inference rule. If the premises are true, it will always lead you to the truth. The same can be said for Modus Ponens.

If P, then Q
P
Therefore Q

Clear? Good. Now try this,

1. IF p, then q
2. IF q, then r
3. Then, If p, then r (1,2 HS)
4. p (premise)
5. Therefore r, (3,4 MP)

Clear? Good. Now try this…

1. If God is absolutely simple (P), then his act of will to create is identical with his essence (R).
2. If God’s act of will to create is identical with his essence (R), then his act of will to create is necessary. (Q)
3. If God is absolutely simple (P), then his act of will to create is necessary. (Q) (From 1,2 by Hypothetical Syllogism)
4. God is absolutely simple. (Premise S)
5. Therefore, God’s act of will to create is necessary (R). (From 3,4 by Modus Ponens)

Support for (2) is given by the following argument.

(2)If God’s act of will to create is identical with his essence (R), then his act of will to create is necessary. (Q)

6. If God’s essence is had by him necessarily, then if anything is identical with his essence it is necessary.

7. God’s essence is had by him necessarily. (Premise)

8. Therefore, anything identical with his essence is necessary. (From 6, 7 MP)

Seven (7) I take to be uncontroversial and by that I mean that any Christian should agree with it on its face.

(6) can be supported by Liebniz’s Law:

(x) (y) [(x = y), then (P) (Px, ≡ Py)]

For any x and any y, if x is identical to y, then if x has a property P then y must have that same property P and vice versa.

So if God’s essence has the property of being had by God necesarily, then anything identical with God’s essence is had by God with the same necessity. This would rule out creation ex nihilo, among other free and voluntary acts by God. The world would become necessary and hence eternal. This is one reason why the eternality of the world is a continuing problem. If my argument is valid (it is) and sound (I think it is) then any view of God that includes absolute simplicity is incompatible with core Christian teachings. By incompatible I mean that they both cannot be true.

Now, by my reading, Protestants hold to the same basic doctrine of absolute simplicity as Rome does. It is mentioned to various degrees by most if not all of the Reformed Confessions and expounded in all the major systematic theologians from the period of Reformed Scholasticism forward. Much the same can be said of the Lutherans because it is their common heritage. It seems that Protestants and Rome have a serious theological problem if my argument is correct.

Thoughts?

45 Responses to Perry’s Logical Argument

1. Asher says:

Daniel, drop me a line re: GHD & JPF. Thanks.

2. Dear Daniel:

Unfortunately I have no way to email here at the local library as they will not allow it at all here in Topeka. I wish I could post a phone number here but it is actually my mother Dorothy’s number, so I don’t wish her to be the victim of calls.
I have only a poor master copy of God History and Dialectic left, and copying and binding it is very expensive. As for Free Choice, it does not surprise me that it is out of print, since St. Tikhon’s does not like to admit its association with me now that I’ve become “non-canonical”. Perhaps someday I will revise all those books and republish second editions of them. But that takes money, and we’re all poor these days it seems.

Best,

Joseph P Farrell

3. Daniel Jones says:

Dear Dr. Farrell,

Thank you for coming by and dropping a few lines on mine and Perry’s blog. I wondered what had happened to your email address as I have tried a few times contacting you over the last few months after our first initial contacts. Would there be a way I can contact you personally (or by mail)? If you could be so kind to email me at aureli_augustini@sbcglobal.net next time you are at the library, I would really appreciate it. Basicly, I’ve been searching, without much luck, for “God History and Dialectic,” and was wondering if I could purchase a copy directly from you.

Regarding “Free Choice in Saint Maximus,” the first time I tried obtaining this book was last summer (2004) through Amazon and had no luck there. I then called St. Tikhon’s and they said it was out of print (Amazon shows it out of print currently). I basicly ended up finding and ordering a copy from a small Orthodox bookstore in Australia about a month later (September I reckon). Your translation of the “Disputations with Pyrrhus” is still in print. I also have obtained a copy of your book on Photius. I thought the Introduction was amazing, and got right down to the issue.

Thanks again.

Warm Regards,
Daniel Jones

4. Joseph P Farre says:

Guys,

Just read through your comments about my books (Free Choice in St. Maximus etc) and as far as I know it’s still in print. You can’t get ahold of me as I have no internet/email currently, though I occasionally check out what’s going on at the library. Will drop in from time to time and as soon as I get an email I’ll let you know. DOn’t send to the posted email as it will not work.
All the best,
Joseph P Farrell

5. Gentlemen:

By now, Perry and Daniel at least have read the blog post of mine to which I referred just above. Perry has promised a careful reply this summer. Before he puts forth that effort, however, I shall say here that I am not entirely content with what I posted there. I have found at least one howler that needs correcting, one important omission that needs filling, and a better way to frame my overall argument. So I would ask Perry to delay his reply until I post my revised version sometime next week. Once he reads that, the subsequent discussion will do more justice to us both.

In the meantime I quote a passage from Perry above, written in response to Jonathan, to which I shall append a potentially time-saving observation.

“The approach you mention from Liccione was taken earlier by Stump and Kretzmann in their article “Absolute Simplicity” which came out in the 1980’s but now is by Stump alone (Kreztmann died and Stump revised the paper.) This apporach while dispelling some problems leaves my argument untouched. Notice premises 1-2. God’s act of will is identical to his essence. God cannot fail to exist and hence has his essence necesarily, not in terms of just the end of his volitions, but in just *being* God. Since his *act of will* is identical to himself it too is necessary and as a consequent the things that are created. Daniel and I had this conversation several months ago about the same literature I believe. I perfecly agree that for all those things that are not God that he can will them in one and not many acts of will along with willing himself as the Good. But if the act of will itself is identical with God’s essence, then the act of will, whether it be one or many, is necessary, just as necessary as God’s existence since in God essence and existence are identical. The “route* to the Good is necessitated by being identical with the Good.(I use “route” because it captures the notion of objects ordered to an end.) The only way out of that is to begin by positing multiple Goods in the Good, which Thomas is not willing (no pun intended) to do. The necessity will be a kind of natural necessity and not a necessity of the end either. It will be the kind of necessity that God has by virtue of existing or in the generation of the divine persons. That kind of necessity isn’t exactly friendly to a libertarian conception of freedom. The argument Liccione puts forward is really aimed at answering how is it by one act of will God can will many things and how can such an event be an act, how can it be voluntary. But this is a different question as to how such an act can be a *free* volition and that is what I am asking about.”

The key move allowed for there is that of positing “multiple Goods” in the Good, i.e. God, which Aquinas is said to be “unwilling” to do. Now Aquinas is certainly unwilling to do that if the inherence of multiple goods in the Good is taken to entail composition in God of any kind rejected in ST Ia Q3. But throughout his corpus he does admit a plurality of divine “ideas” as “ways in which the divine essence can be imitated” (See THE PROBLEM OF DIVINE EXEMPLARITY IN ST. THOMAS, http://www.thomist.org/journal/1985/April/1985%20April%20A%20Farthing%20web.htm). All such ways are eternal objects of God’s knowledge, and are goods. Whether that can be cashed out as “logoi” in a Greek patristic sense is an interesting question. But Aquinas obviously believed the plurality of divine ideas to be compatible with absolute divine simplicity. To argue that such a belief of his is incompatible with ADS is more likely a sign that ADS has been misunderstood by the critic than that Aquinas has misunderstood himself.

Best,
Mike

6. Gentleman:

Such is divine serendipity that I came upon this discussion only minutes after posting, on my own blog (http://mliccione.blogspot.com/) my reply to Perry’s rebuttal of Phil Blosser’s rebuttal of Perry’s argument against Aquinas on absolute divine simplicity. Since I’m new to blogging and haven’t yet mastered this RSS thing, might I ask Perry et al to post replies there, if they so desire?

Meanwhile, I’ll read and absorb this thread in anticipation of much fruitful discussion both here and there. Thanks!

Best,
Mike

7. Jonathan Prejean says:

But I wonder if we actually have to rely on the plurality/unity of the energies in order to preserve the concept of plurality/unity? More basically, what is the metaphysical status of “means” in St. Thomas’s thinking? Aren’t “means” like “energies” in terms of being ways to accomplish (ordered toward) some end? My inclination is that you need something like essence/energies simply to explain the formal immanence of God and some other properties, but speaking strictly of whether the simplicity of the will rules out metaphysical distinction in St. Thomas’s thought, I’m not sure that’s true.

8. Daniel Jones says:

The energy is not just simple and singular but is the many logoi and the one Logos. It is simultaneously one and many: The many logoi are the one Logos and the one Logos is the many logoi. The many logoi are recapitulated in the One Logos and offered up to the Father–which license Maximus to make the Chalcedonian montra of “dinstinction without confusion” “unconfused” and “unsepparated” of the One Logos (the One Rational principle) and the logoi (many rational principles) as the Chalcedonians did with the relationship between the deity and humanity in Christ. They are distinct and real plurality, but they are also the One Logos. To not make the distinction would lead us to ask: Are the logoi persons? Or is the Logos an attribute? Neither is what Maximus had in mind.

Lars Thunberg:
The logos is, as we have underlined, Himself and many logoi, but then the logoi may be said to be the one and only Logos, although what we know of them and their variety does not exhaust what is contained in the Logos. There is no complete identity. As differentiated, the logoi never cease to be different from one another…The logoi are thus not identical with the essence of God, nor with the empirical forms of existence of the things of the created world. (Man and the Cosmos, p.139)

It is in reference to these rational principles that it was said that He knew all things before their Genesis, since they already existed in Him and with Him Who is Himself the truth of all things…the many rational principles are one by being providentially attached, led, and offered up, to the One Rational Principle of the many, as to a source which possesses universal sovereignty, or as to a point which predetermines and unites all the radii [emanating] straight out of it. –Maximus, Ambigua 7, c.f. Free-Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor, pp.137-138.

Hope that helps some.

Daniel

9. Jonathan Prejean says:

“Are you referring to the Eschaton or decisions before death?”

Either, I think. The point is that a single energy can have multiple real actions. For example, everything I do is not a separate energy. So ISTM that just because God does multiple things with His simple will, they wouldn’t all be metaphysically identical.

10. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan,

In that last paragraph, it depends on your reference point. Are you referring to the Eschaton or decisions before death? Maximus recognizes that the Fall brought dialectic to man, but not that free-will must be in each situation dialectically determined, otherwise we couldn’t make sense of Christ in Gethsemane.

Daniel

11. Jonathan Prejean says:

I finally read the Disputation with Pyrrhus last night, and now I understand the problem with my first question. If Christ deliberated, then that would be a sign of using His will gnomically, which He doesn’t do (being a result of the fall into dialecticism). Thus, it can’t be that Gethsemane was a result of dialectic deliberation, but rather a sincere desire not to die (which was not in conflict with the divine will in a dialectic way).

Now that that one’s out of the way, I do have a follow-up. It would seem that St. Athanasius thought of the difference between God’s necessary actions and God’s free actions being a product of the former not involving any decision making process and the latter involving a decision-making process. My question is “How does one reconcile this decision-making process in God with the lack of deliberation in Christ?” My thought is that the free decision is deliberative in being a choice among goods, but it is not deliberative in terms of the false choice between opposites (not knowing whether a thing is good or evil).

I still think the difference between objects of the will and the act of will that I raised above is worth discussing. Per St. Maximus, a human being has one energy (in terms of human will) despite the infinite number of actual decisions and actions that might be performed with that will, so I don’t think that absolute simplicity in and of itself makes all objects of the will metaphysically identical. The argument for the necessity of creation may end up doing that, but it doesn’t appear that ADS *itself* does.

12. Jonathan Prejean says:

Well, I will half-heartedly attempt a reply to some of these things, half-heartedly because I’m pretty convinced now that the Eastern account is superior in most respects.

“With respect to relations allow me to say that I perfectly agree that the Father’s name is taken from the relation that the Father stands to the Son. I think my view can and does hold to such a view. But that is different than saying that what the person of the Father is, or any of the divine persons for that matter, is a relation. And I don’t think that passage from the Orations says any such thing.”

Yeah, I can’t think of any way that thinking of the hypostases as relations within the divine essence can work either, and it’s not for lack of trying. I thought Hughes’s argument was pretty solid on this one (and the Incarnation), and having worked through it some more, the notion of “oppositions of relation” just doesn’t seem to fly. The real turning point for me was the argument that the Son has everything in common with the Father, which includes the procession of the Holy Spirit. That’s just poor reasoning, and it’s untenable in light of the Cappadocian concept of the Trinity and the monarchy of the Father. Sorry for not putting up any more of a fight, but I’ve gotta admit when I’m beaten. 🙂

Regarding Christ’s decision in Gethsemane, I guess I’m still a bit perplexed. I certainly think that the desire to preserve one’s life is a good thing, but it would also seem to suggest that martyrdom requires a second will, which would seem to make the patience of the martyrs something less than voluntary. IOW, St. Thomas argued that it was perfectly natural (within the natural will) to recoil from suffering, and being natural, it could not be a bad thing like a concupiscent desire. But the reason mastered this natural desire in order to accomplish the good volition, just as it would in any martyr. Of course, it was deliberative, and I think it is undeniable that Christ had to make a conscious *decision* (viz., He really did not want to die and had to choose to do it anyway). Maybe if one of y’all could clarify what St. Maximus means by a “volition,” it would help. I feel like the descriptions are close enough that I’m having trouble discerning the difference.

“The identity relation excludes the metaphysical distinction between absolute necessity and necessity ex suppositione. If you can show me how they can be identical and different I am all ears.”

My problem here is this: if the multiplicity of objects of the will does not make the act of will itself complex (as Liccione argues), then I don’t see why a distinction in the necessity of the objects would either. Realistically, the entire distinction of suppositional and absolute necessity is quoad nos anyway, since we can’t comprehend the idea of a self-willed being, much less what it means for the will to have options in that case. I guess I’m just having trouble seeing why this can’t be admitted as a description of something that we don’t have the capacity to explain.

As far as the real metaphysical distinction between good objects, how is it that St. Thomas’s selection of various means to a good end does not account for this? The different means are not “unreal” in any sense, so one would still have a choice (analogous to God’s) of how one reached (or really, approached) the ultimate goal. IOW, the goal shines through in a number of individual ways. Granted, if your argument that all created goods are metaphysically identical to the divine will holds, then the difference in means would be illusory as well, but what you’re arguing here is really a consequence of that conclusion rather than a consequence of God being the ultimate good.

It seems that your account of the saved and the damned is pretty much harmonious than that. All are forced to look at God, but the individual has the choice of how to experience that view of God, including the damned. But as it becomes apparent in the light of God, all choices against God are essentially the same choice (self-negation, if you like), while there are a multiplicity of choices for God. What I’m saying is that the metaphysical equivalence (illusory nature) of the various means to achieve the goal is really identical to your argument about the necessity of creation rather than an observation in its own right.

13. Jonathan Prejean says:

Still pondering about Perry’s last response, but before I forget, I wanted to mention that I checked w/ Nevski to see if he had spoken with Dr. Farrell. Nevski said that he hadn’t spoken with him in a few years, and he gave the same email address. So if you’re coming up empty, it looks like we’re out of luck for the moment.

14. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Jonathan,

With respect to relations allow me to say that I perfectly agree that the Father’s name is taken from the relation that the Father stands to the Son. I think my view can and does hold to such a view. But that is different than saying that what the person of the Father is, or any of the divine persons for that matter, is a relation. And I don’t think that passage from the Orations says any such thing.

The point at issue between Tommy and I is not whether Christ’s willing in Gethsemane conforms to reason or not. But rather does Christ will two different things and does he will freely? On my view the will to preserve his life is a divine predestination for human nature. It is the natural and hence good reaction of a human agent. We naturally fear death. So the question is, did Christ initially will something different in his human will or not? Thomas says no, I say yes. And was his activity of his willing in conformity to the divine will free with libertarian freedom or no? If not, I can’t see how we are to stave off some kind of predestinarianism of some stripe or another.

Jonathan wrote

(7*) God’s essence is absolutely necessary where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.
Then the weaker version of (8) would look like:

(8*) Therefore, anything identical with His essence is necessary absolutely where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.

To which I (Perry) replied,

7* and 8* won’t work and here is why. On the supposition that God creates, that act is going to be identical with God’s essence being necessary absolutely. If it is not metaphysically identical then we have metaphysical plurality in God which is what Thomas’ view excludes. 2* and 5* won’t work for the same reason. The identity relation excludes the metaphysical distinction between absolute necessity and necessity ex suppositione. If you can show me how they can be identical and different I am all ears. As Vader said to Luke, “Don’t make me destroy you!”
I freely grant that on Thomas’ view God can diffuse himself as the Good in a plurality of ways. But this is illusory at best and here is why. Whichever way he does will be metaphysically identical to God’s essence as his act of will and we are back to the same problem all over again. As to the vision of God’s essence it is quite true that because of cognitive limitations the divine essence, assuming it is knowable by us (which I deny) would present itself in a myriad of ways. But the selection here for a redeemed agent is like that between real and apparent goods. What they take to be different objects are really one and the same object. They take themselves to be selecting to enjoy something different but are actually choosing one and the same object. The plurality here is merely epistemic and not metaphysical. This is the reason I take it that Heaven gets glossed as monotonous and boring. Have all of the epistemic distinctions you like and it still smells like a rouse to me. There is only one Good to select regardless of how we understand it so that any choose other than the one Good is evil. This means that free will is necessarily glossed as a choice between objects of differing moral value. Per the libertarian freedom that God has in creation, not to mention other things, ISTM that someone can be free, have a plurality of options and both of them be good options. This means that the gloss on free will as a choice between objects of differing moral worth as capturing the essence of freedom is mistaken. One way or another I think that is a pretty good counterexample. On my view these Goods are metaphysically distinct and God is fully present in each of them as God because they are his nature.

I agree that ultimately the choice for evil is that of non-being though I don’t think that the choice for God is the choice of being with respect to God but with respect to us. To turn away from God is to threaten ones own annihilation. I think that since we are made in God’s image that we have libertarian freedom and that kind of freedom is a necessary condition for being a person. To eliminate it is to mitigate or eliminate personhood. Moreover, I think it is intuitive to see us as having more, and not less freedom in the eschaton so that the elimination of alternative possibilities is counter intuitive. As for the damned, I have not yet given them their due with respect to their being fixed. I think to some degree they too are fixed in the Good, otherwise they would not exist eternally. But their fixity in the Good is not in the same way which explains their terrible state-it is with reference to their nature and not to their will which is why I take the willing alignment (faith) with Christ to be so important and the importance of asceticism comes to light here. As an aside the Crucifixion in light of Gethsemane is the chief example of free and willing asceticism. I take this to be the point of John 6, that Christ is the source of life for all and all will come to Christ whether they like it or not since all are raised on the Last Day.

15. Daniel Jones says:

Well I sent him an email. I’ll let you know what I find out. If true, that’s about the oddest thing I’ve seen. Patristics to ancient Pyramid technology. Wow.

Daniel

16. Jonathan Prejean says:

He’s the one with the Ph.D. from Oxford in patristics. “First book” evidently means “first non-scholarly (popular level) book.”

It’s quite serious as far as I can tell.

17. Daniel Jones says:

Dude,

That’s not the Farrell that used to teach at St. Tikhon’s seminary. The guy that wrote the Giza Death Star series is a physicist, and that was his first book 2002. The Farrell that wrote the book on Maximus, wrote in 1989.

Daniel

18. Daniel Jones says:

I presume that these later books are a fictional series?

Daniel

19. Jonathan Prejean says:

Just occurred to me that you were asking about Dr. Farrell and not Nevski. Dr. Farrell has since written books (the Giza Death Star series) about how pyramids were some type of high-tech weapon. I think he lives in Oklahoma now. Nevski would probably have more information on that as well.

20. Jonathan Prejean says:

I’ll mull over your suggestions re: possible worlds. I believe Nevski is in Colorado; I’m not sure what he does. As far as why he doesn’t beat on Farrell’s book anymore, you’d have to ask him yourself about that, as I have no idea. Here’s the link to his profile page on GregK’s board, so you can ezMessage him.
http://p090.ezboard.com/bgregsdiscussionboard.showUserPublicProfile?gid=nevski

You can tell him I sent you, but I’m not sure if that would elicit a laugh or a cold shoulder. 🙂

21. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan,

I’m sorry I’ve gotten extremely busy with school. My activity will be very limited right now.

Regarding your argument above, you might want to take a look at the dependent or identity relation your making between the essence and logically possibly worlds. Not only do I think this makes creation necessary in logically possible worlds, But the essence is in constant “flux” because of the relation you’ve made between it and the divine ideas. To me this makes the self-diffusive character necessary, and an infinite number of Gods tied to an infinite number of worlds. This “flux” to me removes the realist flavor of the divine essence and looks like a type of nominalism as well.

I’ll have to talk to Nevski about Dr. Farrell: Where he is now? What he does? On a side note, I don’t understand why Nevski ain’t thumpin that book.

Daniel

22. Jonathan Prejean says:

Looks like y’all have gotten as busy with other things as I have. Since I’m probably not going to have much time in the near future either, I’ll just get Farrell’s books on Maximus (Free Choice and the translation of the dialogues with Pyrrhus), and maybe I’ll drop in after I can get up to speed. Obviously, if you want to post your own summaries in the meantime, that would be great as well, but I’m just not sure how often I’ll be able to check in.

BTW, Daniel, I just learned that Nevski (Chris Little) on GregK’s theology board was a pupil of Dr. Farrell’s during his conversion to Orthodoxy, so he might be a good guy for getting an inside perspective on Farrell’s arguments or answering questions. If you ever want to grab dinner or anything, just drop me an email.

23. Jonathan Prejean says:

Re: Hughes, sorry if I came off as imputing complete agreement with him to you. I mentioned him in passing only because that is the context in which I first had that thought, but I wasn’t particularly responding to (or advocating for) his argument.

I did my best to locate Farrell’s work on my last book-buying outing, but I haven’t managed to secure a copy yet. I have a vague idea of what the argument could be, but it would probably be easiest to have you explain it.

I’m actually rather pleased to see that I came to the same conclusion as Prof. Stump, because I hadn’t read her argument before reaching that conclusion (viz., that God must have difference essences in different logically possible worlds). Makes me think that I might not be crazy in thinking these things (wrong, maybe, but not crazy). But I’ve lost you on why God having different essences in logically possible worlds entails modal polytheism, so I would appreciate it if you could explain that argument to me as well. That might be worth a new topic, because I think there will be a lot of people who get stuck on that point.

24. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan,

Let me make something clear real quick, we don’t think Hughes has a solution for divine simplicity. We just think he has a robust refutation of Thomas’ view. I wonder and doubt he is even aware of Palamas and Maximus’ view. Most of these analytical folks aren’t reading Palamas.

We think the solution is here: Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor–by Joseph Farrell. Farrell’s book doesn’t get into all the modal logic that is being done here, but it gives you plenty to trace out the system we are advocating.

I don’t think 5* is robust enough to be a REAL distinction, it still must be an epistemic distinction to be consistent with ADS. The only alternative seems to be God’s essence is different in logical possible worlds, and I think this is the one Stump has arguing/ed for as well. Both Perry and I have thought that one out and it looks alot like modal polytheism.

You say: “But if you want an argument from divine simplicity, Aquinas’s was that if creation is necessary, that would mean composition in God; therefore, creation must not be necessary.”

Jonanthan, I just think this shows how wrong Aquinas was on the issue. The fact that creation is composite (materially) just shows that he needed to re-think absolute simplicity. Furthermore, a good neo-Platonist committed to Plotinus view or others could easily say that our reality that we experience is all reducible to the one, and is a return to the one. The composition that we experience is all in our head, and not in the one–since our logoi is finite, the one can only be presented as infinitely complex. This is why the Greeks believed in the eternality of the world. This also seem to be why Zwingli thought God was the ONLY being–He alone existed.

Daniel

25. Jonathan Prejean says:

“I think both Perry and I recognize that Thomas takes absolute simplicity as an a priori truth and works from there, and gets about the most out of the system he is working with. We also recognize that he has to work from there to creatio ex nihilo. Not that he NEEDS to as a good thing to do, but He MUST affirm God has freedom in creating.”

Yes, but as I understand it, you’re arguing that divine simplicity entails a contradiction with revealed truth, namely God’s freedom, so it must be rejected. If all that is entailed by divine simplicity is (5*), then there wouldn’t be a contradiction with divine freedom, which leaves me free to assert it. But if you want an argument from divine simplicity, Aquinas’s was that if creation is necessary, that would mean composition in God; therefore, creation must not be necessary. The real point is whether he could consistently affirm that argument without contradicting his own premise of divine simplicity, and ISTM that he can if (5*) is all that is entailed by ADS.

“Metaphysical possibilities would be the right way of characterizing it, I think. The possible essences of God are identical to the possible worlds.

Modal polytheism?”

That was my gut reaction as well when Hughes suggested that there were multiple possible Gods, but on further reflection, I can’t come up with any good reason for the claim being heterodox or implausible. In fact, it strikes me that such a thing must be the case for there to be a coherent account of divine freedom.

26. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan said:

Metaphysical possibilities would be the right way of characterizing it, I think. The possible essences of God are identical to the possible worlds.

Modal polytheism?

Daniel

27. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan,

(10) is weak, and I don’t think you can take it as a premise since that is what you are out to prove.

I think you assume (10) from observation or from the teaching of the Church. You said: “Created things are unnecessary emanations (hence, not God) but oriented to God as final cause. As not being necessary, the created things are intrinsically different from God, but related to God as self-diffused good of God, ordered toward God.”

I think we all agree that creation isn’t necessary, and that their is an ontological divide between creator and creature. So, when you say: “St. Thomas affirms God’s freedom in creation too clearly to think that he accidentally missed what that would entail,” it’s not that we are thinking in our minds that Thomas botched it bad. I think both Perry and I recognize that Thomas takes absolute simplicity as an a priori truth and works from there, and gets about the most out of the system he is working with. We also recognize that he has to work from there to creatio ex nihilo. Not that he NEEDS to as a good thing to do, but He MUST affirm God has freedom in creating. I don’t think there were REAL competing systems of divine simplicity in the West inasmuch as they were all construed epistemically. The only one in the West who had an Eastern-like model was Gilbert de la Porrée, a Realist who maintained a real distinction between God’s essence and his attributes. Unfortunately, he was condemned by a Council of Reims in 1148, so that just wasn’t an option for Thomas.

Daniel

28. Jonathan Prejean says:

“In other words, what kind of distinctions are they? Epistemic? Metaphysical?”

Metaphysical possibilities would be the right way of characterizing it, I think. The possible essences of God are identical to the possible worlds.

“Same with the eschaton. Are the objects of choice real objects? or mental judgments?”

If I’m sticking with Thomas/Augustine, the object of the choice is identical, but the means are chosen.

29. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan,

It seems to me we need to get clear on just what are the distinctions you are making about the multiple “willings of God.” In other words, what kind of distinctions are they? Epistemic? Metaphysical?

Same with the eschaton. Are the objects of choice real objects? or mental judgments?

Daniel

30. Jonathan Prejean says:

Solid comments, Perry. I can already see some rethinking I’ll have to do.

I think that you are right (and I was just plain wrong) on the will being part of the rational nature subsisting in three persons. What you were saying about a shared faculty, so that it is one will subsisting in three persons, makes more sense, and explains Augustine clearly. So basically, I’ve got to think some more about the notion of relations as persons. Incidentally, you could probably help me out if you could clarify the East-West difference on schesis. I know St. Augustine took some of his thoughts in this respect from St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen (from Orat. 29): “I should myself have been frightened with your distinction, if it had been necessary to accept one or other of the alternatives, and not rather put both aside, and state a third and truer one, namely, that Father is not a name either of an essence or of an action, most clever sirs. But it is the name of the Relation in which the Father stands to the Son, and the Son to the Father. For as with us these names make known a genuine and intimate relation, so, in the case before us too, they denote an identity of nature between Him That is
begotten and Him That begets.”

On the question of monothelitism and the irresistible divine will, let’s go back to your point about deliberation. St. Thomas notes that:
“Hence it is plain that in His will of sensuality and in His rational will considered as nature, Christ could will what God did not; but in His will as reason He always willed the same as God, which appears from what He says (Mt. 26:39): “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” For He willed in His reason that the Divine will should be fulfilled although He said that He willed something else by another will.”

Given your thoughts on deliberation above, would the fact that Christ’s will conforms to the divine will through reason rather than sheer force of the divine will make a difference? Or does that amount to the same thing?

I’ve got one more thought on this necessity of the consequent angle, and if this one doesn’t work, then I may have to admit the at least the allure of the Dark Side. Turning back to my earlier questions about (6) and (7), suppose we construe divine freedom in terms of God’s freedom to will His own essence, so that we could formulate a weaker version of (7):

(7*) God’s essence is absolutely necessary where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.

Then the weaker version of (8) would look like:

(8*) Therefore, anything identical with His essence is necessary absolutely where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.

And (2) becomes:

(2*) If God’s act of will to create is identical with his essence, then his act of will to create is necessary absolutely where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.

And (5) becomes:

(5*) Therefore, God’s act of will to create is necessary absolutely where there is no divine freedom and necessary ex suppositione where there is divine freedom.

So then, if we adopt Aquinas’s premise that (10)God is absolutely free in His will to create, then (11) God’s act of will to create is necessary only ex suppositione (MP 5*, 10).

As far as the issue of libertarian freedom goes, ISTM that it’s at least plausible that if God can will His own good in a variety of different way without any being less good than the other, there could be just as many creaturely ways to enjoy the beatific vision. At least that’s what I gather from Augustine (not sure about St. Thomas). In essence, the choice for evil is always the same choice: nothingness. In choosing the good, however, there are an infinite number of ways that it can be realized. Thus, if the Son of Man makes you free, you are free indeed. In this way, we are like God in that we are truly free in the ways that we can choose the good, but we lose nothing by being deprived of the option to choose nothing. The damned, on the other hand, have chosen to have no choice.

31. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Elliot,

The energies are intrinsic to God because they are of God’s nature, but God’s nature is more than his essence. So they permit a real participation in God’s nature without requiring a participation in God’s essence.

32. Daniel Jones says:

Nope. From my understanding of Orthodox theology, God’s Essence to creatures is wholly unknowable, incommunicable, and unpartakable.

Daniel

33. Elliot B says:

Thanks for your input Daniel. More to chew.

For the moment, I thought the whole point of the nergies is that they ARE God’s eseence — that by being filled/suffused with them, we truly do partke of the divine nature. I understand the theological solvency of them to be how they preserve the pure, internal essence of God while allowing for a real extrinsic participation of him (in theosis and in his immanence). They can truly BE his essence because his essence is more than an absolutely simple substratum (as Latin theology seems to suggest).

Thoughts?

34. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Jonathan,

On the plurality of wills.

This account won’t work because Augustine, not to mention others clearly indicate that there is only one will in the Trinity. For the Cappadocians the one will is the basis on which they can infer a unity of essence. Also, if will is hypostatic and not of the essence then how many wills does Christ have seeing that he is one person? Moreover the subsistence of will and reason in the nature is exactly the point and no it does not lead to three wills but only that the faculty of will is employed by each of the divine persons which (better) explains why they always and without fail will the same things in one act of will.

The problem of the two wills in Christ for Thomas is that Christ’s human will is not free with libertarian freedom. There is one ultimate and genuine power or will, namely the divine will. This is why if you see the eternal preservation of human life as God’s irresistable will and his will that He suffer death, Thomas has to deny the former, lest there be two incompatible volitions so that Christ’s statement is an expression of a desire but not an act of will.

The distinction between the necessity of the consequent and the consequence of necessity will not help here and here is why. Whatever God wills in willing himself as the Good, he necessarily wills the end regardless of whatever other things he wills, even if he wills only himself as the Good and nothing else. It is not as if God can fail to will himself as the Good.

The approach you mention from Liccione was taken earlier by Stump and Kretzmann in their article “Absolute Simplicity” which came out in the 1980’s but now is by Stump alone (Kreztmann died and Stump revised the paper.) This apporach while dispelling some problems leaves my argument untouched. Notice premises 1-2. God’s act of will is identical to his essence. God cannot fail to exist and hence has his essence necesarily, not in terms of just the end of his volitions, but in just *being* God. Since his *act of will* is identical to himself it too is necessary and as a consequent the things that are created. Daniel and I had this conversation several months ago about the same literature I believe. I perfecly agree that for all those things that are not God that he can will them in one and not many acts of will along with willing himself as the Good. But if the act of will itself is identical with God’s essence, then the act of will, whether it be one or many, is necessary, just as necessary as God’s existence since in God essence and existence are identical. The “route* to the Good is necessitated by being identical with the Good.(I use “route” because it captures the notion of objects ordered to an end.) The only way out of that is to begin by positing multiple Goods in the Good, which Thomas is not willing (no pun intended) to do. The necessity will be a kind of natural necessity and not a necessity of the end either. It will be the kind of necessity that God has by virtue of existing or in the generation of the divine persons. That kind of necessity isn’t exactly friendly to a libertarian conception of freedom. The argument Liccione puts forward is really aimed at answering how is it by one act of will God can will many things and how can such an event be an act, how can it be voluntary. But this is a different question as to how such an act can be a *free* volition and that is what I am asking about.

Another problem with the idea that God has multiple “routes” in willing himself as the Good is that it won’t explain why God creates rather than not and an account of free will should go some what at not only showing how free will is possible but what free acts are constituted by. This apporach leaves God’s acts inexplicable in principle. For all of the criticism, Kretzmann’s position seems to survive, and I think my argument does as well. I specifically constructed my critique to get around attempts like Stump’s and Liccione’s. My argument is not driven by concerns over the self diffusing Good but by the identity relation claimed by ADS. So any criticisms made of Kretzmann’s approach do not necessarily tough my argument.

I am quite happy that Aquinas and others affirm that creation is free. I am interested in what his position commits him to, rather than what grace might have saved him from saying.

As to the eschaton.

I know that they gloss it in terms of a nihilation or an anti-volition. But that seems more of a consequence of the model than an explanation. That is, why does libertarian choice have to be eternally between Good and Evil? Conceptually, given that God chooses in some sense between two options, neither of which are evil, I take it as theologically unproblematic that libertarian free will isn’t necessarily to be construed in this way. Moreover it seems to me that to think so is to implicitly attribute some defect, the possibility of sin to creation, which seems like a mistake that Origen made from which he could not extricate himself. It seems to me that people should become MORE free in the Good, rather than less free. And closing one’s eyes in the eschaton doesn’t seem possible for Thomas. Certainly for Augustinians more widely glanced at the possibility of sin is only ruled out on pain of ruling out libertarian free will and that seems to have things backwards. You should have MORE freedom, not LESS freedom in redemption. Impeccability is not the curtailing of freedom in the eschaton but the perfection of it. What we want is a theory that gives us that plus showing how the damned have less freedom in damnation than they did when they were on earth.

Thoughts?

35. Jonathan Prejean says:

Sorry for the delay in responding. I wanted to mull over some things a bit more before I proceeded.

First, thanks for the kind words, Perry. I think that part of the problem was that trying to have these kinds of discussion in the context of many matters than come up on blogs is just trouble. People are always looking on anyone who suggests anything different as being adversarial, so I’m glad that there’s now a little oasis for calmer reflection.

The common question seems to be “It sounds good, but is there any way that Thomas could have been saying it?”

First, to clarify what I mean about the Trinity, I was referring to what Augustine and later Boethius asserted as the definition of a person: “an individual subsistence of a rational nature.” ISTM that if the rational nature (thinking, willing) subsists in three persons, that necessarily entails that each of the persons has distinct (which is, as you pointed out, the better term) reason and volition. That doesn’t mean that reason and volition are sufficient conditions for something to subsist as a person (e.g., a soul subsists in a body making a person, Christ’s human reason and volition do not constitute a person). But I think that reason and volition are necessary. Since there is but one divine will, I perceive that the antinomy must be resolved by the fact that every act of God is a cooperative act (including the necessary will for the divine essence to subsist as three persons), so that the perfect coinherence between the persons causes the three wills to act as one will (perfect union -> perfect cooperation). I *think* (although I’m a bit hazy on the point) that this is how the problem of the single will is solved. Just as an aside, if that’s true, it would also explain the two wills in Christ, in that there are really two, but the perfect, voluntary acceptance of the hypostatic union means that they will act separately.

Incidentally, I have a sense that Hughes was actually more rigorous about what essence, substance, and subsistence than Aquinas himself, but I need to think that one through in more detail before I can articulate exactly where I see the problem.

I’m inclined to follow the neoplatonic “creation as emanation” description, but where I believe the pantheism problem gets broken is by the question of necessary emanation. Created things are unnecessary emanations (hence, not God) but oriented to God as final cause. As not being necessary, the created things are intrinsically different from God, but related to God as self-diffused good of God, ordered toward God.

So turning to the question of whether this blood can be extracted from this stone, I think that maybe it can. St. Thomas affirms God’s freedom in creation too clearly to think that he accidentally missed what that would entail. With the question as to what type of necessity with which the divine essence must be had, I think there is a decent case for Michael Liccione’s argument against Lovejoy given here:
“Needless to say, a difficulty remains, and we shall have to make a detour to dispose of it. Lovejoy makes much of Aquinas s insistence, in the very next chapter of the 8CC, that God necessarily wills by one act of will whatever he wills (1.76). Thus, it is in some sense necessary that, in willing his own goodness or perfection, God wills not only all the divine ideas themselves but also wills to create what some divine ideas are ideas of. Quite so; but if so, then does not God necessarily will whatever he wills?

No. To see why, note first that Aquinas is unquestionably committed only to:

(1) Necessarily, for any F not identical with God, if God wills that there be an F, then God wills himself and there-being-an-F in one act of will.

This is an instance of what the scholastics called the ” necessity of the consequence.” But Lovejoy seems to read Aquinas as claiming also that:

(2) For any F not identical with God, God necessarily wills himself and there-being-an-F in one act of will..

This is an instance of the ‘necessarily of the consequent.’ Now (2) implies that God necessarily creates. But (1) does not, and (2) neither means the same as (1) nor follows from (1) in virtue of their logical form. If Lovejoy thought that Aquinas either means or is committed to (2) in virtue of meaning or being committed to (1), then the problem is that Lovejoy is attributing his own fallacy to Aquinas.

He [St. Thomas] consistently distinguishes absolute necessity from necessity ex suppositione. Absolute necessity arises from the relation of terms–e.g., ‘a man is an animal’ or ‘numbers are odd or even.’ Necessity ex suppositione might be explained as necessity on a given hypothesis–e.g., given that God wills something in particular, he cannot not will it, for his will is unalterable (ST Ia Q19 A7 resp. and ad7). Hence, ‘on the supposition’ that God creates anything at all, (2) is true if construed as:

(2*) For any F not identical with God, God unalterably wills himself and there-being-an-F in one act of will.

Now since Aquinas constantly affirms that creation is not absolutely necessary, he would clearly have said that, where ‘F’ ranges over creatures as well as the divine ideas, (2*) holds only if God creates. Hence, even though God wills both himself and creatures unalterably, the modal operator in (2*) is weaker than that in (1), which also signifies absolute necessity.22 That is why (2), on that construal of it which Aquinas would have affirmed, in no way follows from (1).”

Liccione summarizes in responding to Kretzmann:
“Rather, for him, the essential self-diffusiveness of his goodness entails only that if God creates, he diffuses his goodness as much as possible, and in that way has good reason to create.”
http://www.thomist.org/journal/1995/952aLicc.htm

Now, it is quite true that Aquinas relates sinfulness to fallibility and imperfection. But I think that this is actually where St. Thomas’s argument for transcendence and grace reaches full fruition. The theme is touched (though barely) in Summa Contra Gentiles that sinful resistance to grace can be analogized as closing one’s eyes to the light. It is an anti-volition, a will not to will. So sin does not come from a mere lack of grace; it comes from an active denial of the final cause, a denial both of the need for the transcendent and concomitantly, for the transcendent itself. It’s not fallibility but rather denial of one’s own fallibility and the need for the transcendent that is sin.

As I understand it, this is exactly the line of thought proposed by the phenomenologists, most notably de Lubac’s _The Mystery of the Supernatural_. The most influential philosopher among the phenomenologists was Maurice Blondel, and this article is a good summary:
http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/blondel.htm

One thing that I find extremely interesting is the contrast between Hegel and Blondel, because ISTM that Blondel is a relatively strong corrective to rationalistic tendencies in Hegel’s understanding of the transcendent. At any rate, I think it opens up a truly Thomist/Augustinian conception of immanence, effectively recreating the notion of uncreated energies in the real, phenomenal (contingent) action of the persons of the Trinity in individuals (His unnecessary emanations, perhaps better put as consequently necessary emanations). By seeing phenomena and the immanence of the supernatural, we learn to look for what is beyond phenomena and beyond limitations, allowing ourselves to yield to the majesty of what no reason can comprehend.

Now, one thing that is important to note here is that de Lubac and the like were strongly criticized at the time by neo-Thomists. The phenomenologists were essentially arguing that the strict nature/grace distinction was an artificial creation of the neo-Thomists to answer the Calvinists, which the neo-Thomists perceived as a threat to orthodoxy (NB, Karl Rahner essentially took the opposite view of integralism, emphasizing the grace above rather than the immanence below). It also is counter to the neo-Thomistic notion of what the philosophy/theology (reason/faith) coordination ought to be, which I think Perry had in mind when he spoke of the faith-reason synthesis above. ISTM that the phenomenologists were much more right than not about St. Thomas viewing reason and faith as coordinate and his recognition of the limits of reason and absolute necessity of the transcendent (perhaps even more so than St. Augustine). With these ideas informing our consideration of St. Thomas’s notion of divine simplicity, I am far from certain that the conclusion of necessary creation is compelled.

BTW, I am absolutely loving this discussion, and I’m very glad that y’all kept bringing it up.

36. Daniel Jones says:

Perry,

The problem I see with Elliot’s observations is he isn’t disentagling AS from his short take on the essence/energy distinction. To me it seems, that he’s just giving the Latin view: “I guess I fail to see how the energies can be free “acts” if they are the essence of God in a non-ADS sense.” That’s just the thing, the energies aren’t the essene of God.

The second problem I see, is dealing with the different forms of necessity. Given God willing, saying that God necessarily wills beneveloncy is different then saying that God wills something necessarily or by necessity. The redeemed in the eschaton necessarily will the Good. But since the good is not absolutely simple, they do not necessarily will one object over another (unless you thought of alternate possibilities as choices between differing moral worth). So saying that God necessarily wills benevolency, does not rule out alternate possibilities, since to create or not to create are both equally good.

Daniel

37. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Elliot,

The sequence is Essence, Power, activity. The energies are the activities. There is a kind of asymmetrical relation between God’s essence and his energies even thouugh the energies are no less deity and uncreated.

The problem comes in thinking that God’s activities are essential to him. What I think you want to say is that THAT God is manifested in the energies is necessary. But what energies exist isn’t. So the idea is that the energies have to be deity too, so that God’s nature is wider than his essence.

On ADS God’s acts of will are identical with his essence which appears to make creation necessary. The E/E distinction not only opens up a distance between God’s acts and his essence, but it opens up space in the essence too for understanding persons as inner subsisting real entitites rather than subsisting relations. So not only is God not AS with respect to E/E but God’s essence is not AS. Part of the reason for that is how the Cappadocians constructed their doctrine of the Trinity indirectly reasonng from single common acts between the persons to a common power and then to a common essence. Consequently they see simplicity, a lack of material composition and dependence in being as an energy itself.

Something else to think about is this. If the E/E view doesn’t get around making creation necessary and other problems, then it would seem that both the Augustinian/Thomistic model and the CAppadocian/Palamite model are done for. This would imply an inconsistency at the deepest levels of Christianity per se. At best the argument is something like a tu quo que. But I don’t think that the problem you raised, understandable as it is touches the position.

I hope that helps.

38. Elliot B says:

Hi guys,

I won’t get too carried here away since I’m probably stumbling over a simple error. I’m so over my head here I need to rent a neck, but here goes.

As far as I’m hearing from youse guys, ADS necessarily entails all of God’s actions (creation, mercy, revelation, etc.) as essentially unified expressions of God. (Or something like that.) The essence/energy distinction is meant to free God from determinism by offering Him (I think?) an infinity of free goods to choose from (i.e., “express” his essence). God is essentially but not necessarily creator, but creation is not necessary because it is only a free work of the free energies of God. Er, right?

If, according to hardline essence/energy theology, it is God’s essential nature to manifest Himself in his energies, how does this not engulf those same energies in a deterministic chain (of essence >> energies >> powers >> works)? If God’s energy as, say creator, is essential to him, how is this energy not necessarily demanded?

Or take God’s benevolence. He is essentially benevolent, and necessarily so. So, his benevolence is a necessary energy, although it may manifest itself in any variety of ways given the freedom of the energies. All the same, he is necessarily benevolent in some extrinsic, energies-way, so how is he exempt from necessity?

I guess I fail to see how the energies can be free “acts” if they are the essence of God in a non-ADS sense. If God is essentially triune and if the essence of the Son is to redeem and reveal, then regardless what form (or path) his energies take, he is essentially redemptive/revelatory.

I need to go to a friend’s going-away party.

39. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Jonathan,

Let me say how glad I am for your participation in the blog. Your comments are helpful and thoughtful. I am looking for people to help me think through the problems than fight me with me about them. Thinking out loud is quite alright.
I agree that Thomas or any other scholastic needs an exception for things created with respect to the self diffusing Good. The question tho is how to get that given the schema one is working with. I agree that creation ex nihilo require a distinction between necessary and free but I can’t see how we are supposed to get that blood from this stone.

I prefer the term distinct rather than separate, but ok. If you could point me to a text in say Thomas or Scotus concerning the rational will of each person that would be helpful. From my reading the Cappadocian model turns on there only being one will between the three persons. It is from the single act that one then reasons to the single essence. Will is to nature and not to person. If not, we are stuck with monothelitism since Christ is only one person but has two wills. Augustine seems in book 5 of De Trinitate to be clear that there is only one will between the three persons as well.
Here I am going to press a bit, by divine substance do you mean substance in terms of form? ON that view it is true, there is no cause in terms of personal causes. The persons are not generated of the Father. Autotheos then takes on some other connotation.

As to the Neo-Platonic one, the fact that it logically requires something apart from the essence, the One tie in nicely with the doctrine of creation as an emanation? The Neo-Platonic one requires the many, which is why the world would be eternal. That seems quite logical to me, wrong, but logical.

Here is something else to think about. If those things ad extra that are unnecessary to God by essence, are they God too? Are they deity too or creatures? And we need some work on the notion of attribute vs. property. Those don’t seem to me to be the same ideas.

Thomas could preserve the synthesis of faith and reason just fine without ADS or so I think.
I am not sure why a coinherence of wills would be compatibilist. A harmony of wills doesn’t imply a lack of options or that we are free even if we aren’t the source of our actions. The possibility of rejecting the hypostatic union sounds Nestorian to me. Thomas does say that the angels had liberarian free will concerning the fall. He just explains their fall in relation to some defect, which seems problematic because it signals that the explanation for the fall is ultimately rooted in their being. So sin’s possibility is necessarily tied to created being, which means that you will only be rid of it by changing the nature of created being in some way.

I don’t think it is the singularity of will in God that is the problem but ADS. It seems to me that the motivation for thinking of the plurality of persons as relations is generated by ADS. That’s why you have an identity between the economy and the essence with respect to the relations. That is what seems to justify the filioque. The economy exhausts the ad intra relations in order to stave off Modalism, ironically enough. Without ADS, I don’t see why we need the view of persons as relations.
I do think that your modifications when and if they could be carried through would have the right consequences or at least be in the ball park but then the view starts looking a lot like Constantinople and not very much like Rome. “Come with me Luke. It is the only way!” jk. 😉
Perry

40. Jonathan Prejean says:

Shoot. A question I could actually answer, and Daniel beats me to it. I did finally figure out that AFAIK was “as far as I know.”

Perry:
On further reflection, I think you’re right about the order of the analogia entis and divine simplicity (i.e., that the latter comes first, and the former from the incomprehensibility of the absolutely simple God). And between the requirements of Aristotle’s first mover and the self-diffusive good of the neoplatonic One, it’s hard to get around ADS. But I wonder a bit whether there’s not some implicit acceptance of an exception for things created ad extra within the entire idea of diffused good. IOW (that’s “in other words, BTW” (and that’s “by the way”) 😉 ), maybe the assumptions necessary for creation ex nihilo implicitly included this “necessary/unnecessary” tension. I’m going to have to ponder that one a bit.

Re: “incommunicable substance,” the understanding I had was that these were separate “subsistences” (hypostases) in that each hypostasis had a rational will that was incommunicable to each of the other hypostases. The wills always act in cooperation to produce a single act (so that every action of God was a coordinate action of the Trinity) and the coinherence of the persons meant that each such action was a single action of the divine substance (including the will to will the relations between the hypostases). In that respect, there’s no real “cause” in the Trinity; the Trinity itself is a self-causing phenomenon. At least, that’s the only sense (and I use that term loosely) I can make of it.

As far as the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction, I really meant intrinsic and extrinsic to the Essence. Recognizing that I’m grasping at straws, the inchoate concept that I am trying to make coherent is that the neoplatonic One is contradictory from the get-go and logically requires something apart from the essence by even allowing external self-diffusion of the good. Basically, for St. Thomas to assert creation ex nihilo by self-diffusion of the good, he denied ADS whether he liked it or not, and it only remains to be explained whether or how that necessary/unnecessary distinction can be explained by reference to the necessary attributes of God. If it can be appropriately explained, then I think the reason/faith synthesis doesn’t necessarily break down (although it wouldn’t properly be the same one that St. Thomas proposed).

Pardon me for thinking out loud, BTW. I don’t know if or whether any of that makes sense.

Anyway, on the extremely long shot that any of that can actually be done, then the distinction between necessary and unnecessary will can be used to explain other free actions that aren’t necessitated by nature. The harmony of wills (hypostases) in the Trinity in producing unnecessary actions becomes the model for compatibilist freedom (perfect coinherence of natures = perfect harmony of wills; resistance to union = disharmony). It would seem to be the right model for sinful resistance to grace (resistance to union -> choosing against God). Probably still runs into the monothelitism problem, but maybe since the union is chosen rather than forced, it wouldn’t be so simple. Christ’s human nature, given the free decision to reject the hypostatic union, does not do so, allowing the human and divine wills to be in harmony. It would still be true that there wouldn’t have been a separate volition in Gethsemane, but there would have been a specific (libertarian) volition in Christ’s human will not to sinfully reject the union, which in turn allowed the wills to act harmoniously. Ditto the beatific vision; people have the option to sinfully resist the union, and since they don’t choose to do so, the beatific vision persists. This would also be true of Satan and Adam (having pure natures), and it would comport with St. Thomas’s suggestion that all of the angels had a libertarian choice to accept or reject union with God (because of their perfect intellect, this was instantaneous, without deliberation).

Conversely, ISTM that if you *don’t* accept a necessary/unnecessary decision, then I don’t see how you get around a single necessary will, which strikes me as necessitating Calvinism. Anyway, from what I gather of St. Thomas and particularly his inconsistency on beings that are pure form (something that particularly struck me about Hughes’s argument), I’d say that his formulation of divine simplicity suffers from some inherent problems anyway. It may be most straightforward to rationalize it in terms of applying a Christian corrective to an inconsistency that he inherited (namely, the inherent inconsistency of a self-diffusive One).

Daniel:
Other than the fact that it’s a tremendous rationalization, would that answer your questions? St. Thomas is necessarily wrong about ADS, but that error can be corrected without necessarily rejecting the Latin concept of the Trinity as a relational difference in the essence. Granted, Perry will now proceed to expose this for the sham that it is, but does it at least have the right consequences?

41. Daniel Jones says:

ISTM = It seems to me ?

42. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Can someone please tell me what ISTM and some of the other abbreviations mean??!

43. Daniel Jones says:

Jonathan said:

ISTM that the Thomist’s affirmation that the Son is a necessary property of the Essence while creation is not accomplishes much the same function as the essence/energy distinction.

Yes, I would agree on a confessional level, sure. But how is that maintained on a logical level if God is pure act and pure being, which is nothing other than His essence for Thomas. I mean, we have to account for the “how” and “why” Athanasius is ABLE to argue for the deity of Christ on that very distinction of nature and will, along with the free contingency of the world. Arius made the same distinction as well.

And Thomas doesn’t confess monotheletism, that much is true. But his *rejection* of Christ having a true volition for self-preservation is motivationally the same for Pyrrhus–it’s viewed as a dialectic of opposition because the good is absolutely simple. Pyrrhus uses that as a spring-board to prove that there is only one true activity involved in Christ. Confessing two wills in Christ, in my opinion, is not sufficient to be orthodox on that point. Maximus did not have in view a voluntary divine will and a compatilistic human will.

Finally, the neo-Thomists (e.g. Garrigou-Lagrange) are absolutely clear that the ‘beatific vision’ is absolutely irresistible, because of the satisfaction of all men’s desires. That apologetic is erected against Calvinists, the Thomists ask, “How can the grace of God be irresisitible outside of seeing God face to face?”
By my lights, irresistible grace can still predicated to the Thomist view–the reference point is just taken from the eschaton.

Daniel

44. Perry Robinson aka Acolyte says:

Jonathan,

It seems to me that such a move would cut against Thomas’ synthesis of faith and reason. And an appeal to analogical predication is grounded in simplicity and not the other way around. So to some degree, it seems to me that Thomas’ view of transcendence is rooted in simplicity. That move seems ad hoc to me.

re: causal relationships in the Trinity. From my view, part of the problem is glossing person as relation in the first place. When you speak of incommunicable substance, what sense of substance is being employed?

re: Persons and Propterties

I am not sure it is right to say that for Thomas the person is a property of the essence because for Thomas God has no properties, at least not in the sense of how contemporary analytic philosophers understand properties as some kind of instance of a kind or type.

I think what you are speaking of here is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic properties. But that won’t help, or at least I don’t see how. Acts of will for God are intrinsic and not extrinsic. So I am not clear how that would be much the same as the essence/energies distinction.

Please explain how Calvinism falls out of the point you are making. Also expand on the free will of adam and the devil.

It is true that Thomas flat out denies monothelitism. Roughly put tho, it seems that for people like Maximus for something to be voluntary, it has to be free with libertarian type freedom. Thomas doesn’t think this is so. Christ’s expression in the Garden is an expression of a desire but not a volition for Thomas. I would say that for Maximus, Thomas’ reading is monothelite to a significant degree because it has the human will being determined and as such is not a genuine volition. It looks like there is only one real energy of operation, even though Thomas confesses two. It is not flat out monothelitism, but the real source of the act is in the divine will. It seems that one could argue tho via secondary causation that the volition is real even though determined. But we are back to different intuitions about what is a volition and free will.

One way to demotivate the Thomistic view is to show that we don’t need determinism to secure the impeccability of Christ’s human volitions. This doesn’t show that somethig can’t be a genuine volition without being free. An avenue to think about that problem would be to think about the relation of deliberation to freedom and volition.

Here is one thought. To deliberate is already to have and to exercise libertarian freedom. To deliberate is to stave off from making a decision and thereby to choose between alternative possibilities. Do I keep deliberating or make a decision? The only way to eliminate this libertarian freedom is to take away deliberation. But to remove that seems to remove a necessary part of volition. Of course one could argue that this view supposes that deilberation is essential to volition. I don’t have a handy argument for that view, though it seems plausible.

William Rowe (Purdue) has a new book out on divine freedom. I have read about half of it. I think he makes some mistakes, but I haven’t gotten to the heart of the book. His book is Can God be Free?

I thought I would mention it to those who might be interested.

45. Jonathan Prejean says:

One thing that is vaguely troubling to me is the question of necessity. It seems pretty apparent to me that St. Thomas’s necessary/unnecessary distinction is inconsistent, but I’m not sure how much that inconsistency buys his detractors. IOW, let’s suppose Perry’s argument is entirely true, and that logically, there is no way that the Essence could be entirely simple without creation being necessary. So at that point, the Thomist invokes the transcendence of the Godhead and says that we simply can’t articulate a concept of what it means for something to be necessary from an infinite nature, so we must simply accept on faith that the divine freedom must be affirmed (i.e., that the will has necessary and unnecessary attributes). IOW, the infinite will of God is sufficient to hold both acts of necessity and lack of necessity within itself.

On its face, that looks like a “cheap” claim of mystery, but I’m not sure that it is. One reason that the Latins moved from circumincession (interpenetration) to circuminsession (passive coinherence) was the resistance to the notion that internal causal principles could apply to the Trinity. IOW, the fundamental difference is the notion of causal principles in the Trinity (monarchy of the Father), which the Eastern view takes as dogmatic truth and the Western view does not. There is a relationship between the persons in the Latin view in terms of incommunicable substance (whether coherently expressed or not is another matter), but it’s not a causal relationship.

To give an example of how this might be applied, you remarked:
“Athanasius in his dispute with Arius made a distinction between acts of nature and acts of will. Arius believed that to safeguard God’s freedom, that the Son was contingent and was an act of will. Athanasius on the other hand believed that the Son was an act of nature and was necessary. Without the essence and energies distinction Athanasius argument collapses, likewise the Cappadocians in their defense of the Trinity collapses in the face of the Semi-Arian Eunomians.”

ISTM that the Thomist’s affirmation that the Son is a necessary property of the Essence while creation is not accomplishes much the same function as the essence/energy distinction. Now if you take it farther in its implications and break the mystery there, you obviously get Calvinism, but I can’t see a strong argument that this conclusion is “necessary” (pardon the pun). In fact, there is even a created analogy with the Western affirmation of free will in Satan and in Adam, not to mention the real image of God being preserved (though obscured) through the Fall. IOW, one can still deny monothelitism from a Thomist perspective. I don’t see offhand why the “necessary/unnecessary” distinction in the will is any more of a theological paradox than the connection between Essence (inhypostatized) and energies (or incidentally, why grace as an inhypostasized divine substance is implausible).

This obviously isn’t going to resolve the problem vis-a-vis original sin or whether we can experience the beatific vision on earth through contemplation of uncreated light. Nor does it necessarily solve the question of whether the persons of the Trinity are unknowable divisions in the Essence or essential energies of an entirely unknowable Essence. None of it resolves whether the Latin view reduces God to only the Creator without a truly transcendent “existence” (beyond Being and non-Being). But simply on the issue of logical difficulties, I’m not sure that the Thomist appeal to mystery is inconsistent or arbitrary.