Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
This was my question:
Hello Dr. Craig.
Thank you very much for your enlightening work in Philosophy of religion. I am writing all the way from Malaysia! so you know your work has touched a lot of people globally.
I am a student in Computer science just reading up on Christian Apologetics. My question regards the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. I have not yet read any articles that you have written about Divine simplicity so i am not aware of your stand on this doctrine.
Someone however does quote you and JP Moreland as basically being opposed to the doctrine:
The doctrine [divine simplicity] is open, moreover, to powerful objections. For example, to say that God does not have distinct properties seems patently false: omnipotence is not the same property as goodness, for a being may have one and not the other.
My questions therefore are:
1. Are you for or against DS?
2. Would it be correct to assert that your understanding of the doctrine of divine simplicity as characterized by the above given quote (if indeed its yours) is wrong given that Nicholas Wolterstorff Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, and Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University, thinks that medieval Christian thinkers like St. Aquinas conceive of predication in terms of subjects possessing constituents. Whereas contemporary philosophers think of predication in terms of subjects exemplifying properties.
This makes all the difference on someone's view of DS.
Instead of God merely exemplifying eg Omnipotence, we can say that Omnipotence is a metaphysical constituent of God. And therefore it is not distinct from God. The same applies to Omnibenevolence. Instead of God just simply exemplifying goodness, we can say that goodness is part of God's nature, and thus not distinct from him.
Can't we then be charged with reducing God to an abstract property? I believe not. Since we have clearly indicated that we are talking of God's-goodness, which is a metaphysical constituent of God. If God's goodness is part of god's nature, then god's nature is surely identical or equal to God, God's-nature is just the same as God.
An objection can be raised that, We do know that there is a conceptual difference between God's nature and eg God's justice. Since God's nature is that which makes him God, and God's justice is that which makes him just. Therefore this seems to refute the doctrine of DS.
To me, this does not seem to defeat DS since DS does not claim that God's properties are conceptually similar, rather they are metaphysically similar.i.e the claim that God is identical with His nature becomes that God is identical with that constituent which makes him divine, i.e with his divine-making constituent. And the claim that God is identical with his Justice will amount to the claim that God is identical with that constituent that makes him just (just-making constituent).
I know this topic can get rather long, and i apologise for writing such a long post. I would love to hear your view on the issues i have raised.
Dr. Craig responds:
Thank you, Ernest, for such a stimulating and profound question concerning divine simplicity! I've addressed this doctrine briefly in my second chapter on "The Coherence of Theism" in my and J. P. Moreland's book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (IVP, 2003). The passage you cite appears on p. 524.
As I explain there, the classic doctrine of divine simplicity holds that God is an absolutely undifferentiated unity Who has no distinct attributes, stands in no real relations, Whose essence is not distinct from His existence, and Who just is the pure act of being subsisting. As such, the doctrine of divine simplicity is one that has no biblical support at all and, in my opinion, has no good philosophical arguments in its favor. Moreover, it faces very formidable objections. So in answer to your first question, I do reject the traditional doctrine that God is absolutely simple.
Now as for your second question, I assume that you're referring to Nicholas Wolterstorff's very interesting article "Divine Simplicity," in Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion (Atascadero, Calif.: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991), pp. 531-52. There Wolterstorff argues that the doctrine of divine simplicity has been misconstrued by moderns because we fail to understand the medieval metaphysical framework of that doctrine. The problem, he argues, is that we moderns work with a "relation ontology," according to which a thing's nature or essence is a sort of abstract object to which the thing stands in a relation of exemplification. For example, a cat is thought to exemplify the property being feline, which is an abstract entity to which the cat is related. But medieval thinkers were working with a "constituent ontology," according to which natures were actual constituents of things. In fact, an individual nature was more like a concrete object than an abstract object. Thus, Plato's humanity was not, in this sense, the same as Aristotle's humanity; each had his own individual human nature which was individuated by the matter out of which each man was composed. (I think Wolterstorff seriously downplays the extent to which the medievals also recognized a common nature shared by all things of a certain kind, but let that pass.) Now for entities which are immaterial, like angels, for example, there is no matter to individuate their natures. So each one just is its nature. Each angel is therefore literally one of a kind! Moreover, created things have in addition to their natures certain additional properties, which are called accidents, for example, being brown, being intelligent, being good, and so on.
Now in the case of God, God is immaterial, so He just is His nature. Moreover, the claim of the doctrine of divine simplicity is that God has no accidents; He has only His essence. Finally, in the case of God alone, His nature involves existence. He exists by His very nature. So understood, the doctrine of divine simplicity does not commit one to the absurd notion that God is a property and, hence, an abstract object, as modern critics of the doctrine have sometimes alleged.
Wolterstorff's corrective of the modern reading of divine simplicity is welcome. Certainly medievals would not have thought of God's identity with His nature as His being an abtract object. But this mistaken critique is not the one I offer in Philosophical Foundations.
Rather Wolterstorff has really watered down the classic doctrine of divine simplicity. On his explication God could have a very complex nature and yet count as a simple being. The traditional doctrine is much more radical. It makes four identity claims:
i. God is not distinct from His nature.
ii. God's properties are not distinct from one another.
iii. God's nature is not distinct from His existence.
iv. God has no properties distinct from His nature.
Claim (i) is not unique to God. Angels, too, are identical with their natures. So this claim is not problematic when understood in the medieval metaphysical framework.
Claim (ii) remains problematic, however. Existence is part of God's nature. But existence is not the same property as, say, omnipotence, for plenty of things have existence but not omnipotence. It remains very obscure, therefore, how God's nature or essence can be simple and all His properties identical.
Claim (iii) is misrepresented by Wolterstorff, I believe. His is what Thomistic scholars call an "essentialist" reading of Thomas Aquinas' doctrine: Existence is a property that is included in the divine essence. But many Thomists insist that the correct reading of Thomas is an "existentialist" one: existence is not a property at all, but is the act of being which instantiates an essence. Everything other than God is composed of an essence to which an act of being is conjoined to make it exist as a concrete particular thing. But in a sense, God has no essence on this view, rather He just is the pure act of being unconstrained by any essence. He is, as Thomas says, the pure act of being subsisting. The problem is, this doctrine is just unintelligible.
Finally, claim (iv) runs into the severe problem that God does seem to have accidental properties in addition to His essential ones. For example, in the actual world, He knows, loves, and wills certain things which He would not know, will, or love had He decided to create a different universe or no universe at all. On the doctrine of divine simplicity God is absolutely similar in all possible worlds; but then it becomes inexplicable why those worlds vary if in every one God knows, loves, and wills the same things.This is not to say that the doctrine of divine simplicity is wholly bereft of value. On the contrary, I have elsewhere defended the view that God's cognition is simple. But I do think that the full-blown doctrine in all its glory is philosophically and theologically unacceptable.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
1.A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
2.If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
3.We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.
4.There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."
5.The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
6.Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey 'people.' People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war... Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.
7.Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ.
8.Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.
9.It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad
Thursday, November 6, 2008
One of the most difficult doctrines to understand and one that has continued to challenge theists and philosophers is ironically the doctrine of divine simplicity. Proposed by early christian thinkers like st. Thomas aquinas,st. Anselm and st. Augustine,the doctrine says that god is simple,with no components and he is identical with his attributes.
The doctrine has received criticism from both christian philosophers and atheists as an incoherent doctrine. The idea that god is the same thing as omnipotence,omniscience and omni benevolence has not gone down well with modern day christian philosophers. The strongest critic being well known christian philosopher Alvin plantinga.plantinga said the doctrine reduces god to a property.
Since God is identical with each of his properties and so by extension also each of his properties are identical with each other.
I must warn you guys that this topic is very complex and it involves a lot of philosophical terms. I am still trying to understand it fully and some of the solutions offered.
The doctrine can be represented by taking an example of one of God's properties,goodness:
1.God is good
2.God has a certain property called “goodness”
3.This goodness belongs to God
4.Therefore we can call it God's goodness.
5.God's goodness is identical to God.
The doctrine arose from the need of avoiding to think of God as dependent on his properties and also the need to think of God as not having components.(physical or essence components) if god had these properties contingently and separate from his nature,then it would imply that the combination of properties such as omnipotence,omniscience-benevolence made up God.
This would mean that God depended on these properties so as to be “god”.and to the early thinkers this would imply God is not a maximal being since he would depend on these properties for his essence or existence. And so another maximal being could be thought of,who did not depend on these properties but rather was identical to these(goodness,omnipotence-omniscience) properties themselves.
To get a clear picture think of a human being. A human being is made up of parts,the brain,heart and other vital organs. Without these organs a human would not function. So we can say a human is dependent on his parts. So if God was made up of omniscience,omni benevolence and omnipotence,he would then be dependent on these properties so as to exist,or so that he can have his nature.
But if God was identical to his properties,then he would not be dependent on anything.and thus maintain status of a maximal being. But this is where the problem starts.
If God is identical with all his properties,then all his properties are identical to each other God is a property a single property but properties don't create,they are not personal,in fact properties don't stand in any causal relationships. They are abstract. Just like the color yellow,or numbers. For example if God is goodness,then how can “goodness” create anything?if its just a property?if God is “just” or “merciful”,how can merciful do things like create,speak or do anything at all? this is clearly not the God of Christianity.
God is the personal creator and sustainer of every contingent being. No abstract object is a person or a causal agent. No abstract object can be omniscient, or indeed know anything at all! this is not the only coherence problem faced by divine simplicity. In the next thread i will post some of the other coherence problems. And finally the counterarguments to this criticisms. To be continued....
Sunday, October 12, 2008
So, Ernest seems to go along with the ideas expressed just above: by the fact that God is our Father, Creator, Sustainer, it follows that we ought to follow his commands and respect the laws that He lays down for us.
But, by the fact that God is our Father it doesn’t follow that we ought to do as he commands. By analogy, if a child’s parent (who is, in a perfectly analogical sense, the child’s Father, Creator, and Provider), commanded his daughter to go out to Central Avenue in Albany, NY and sell crack, the daughter would in no way be morally obligated to do so, just on the grounds that the command comes from her father.
A natural reply to this analogy would be that it fails because the girl’s father is a mere human being, whereas God is our Ultimate Author, the all-powerful being who is responsible for our existence. So, then, it is not God’s parental status, but more his omnipotence, that makes his dispositions unique such that they provide as an objective basis for moral conduct, when no other individual‘s desires, or set of desires, can.
Is there any reason to suppose that there is a relationship between moral obligation and how powerful a person is? There doesn’t seem to be any relation between these two things. In Wielenberg (2005), we imagine a contest between two people where the prize is omnipotence. The first competitor in this contest means to win his omnipotence and use it for the good of humanity. The second competitor plans to use his omnipotence for his own “selfish, nefarious purposes”. He “plans to slaughter most of humanity and force the rest to live in excrement pits where they will work themselves to death as his slaves and be subject to torture at his hand for his own amusement” (pg. 41-42). If the second competitor won this contest, and became all-powerful, would we have any moral obligation at all to make his desires come true? The answer is obviously no. We don’t have any obligation. So neither a person’s power or parental/creator status has any relation to what our moral obligations are.
So, it looks like there’s no bridge between “is” and “ought” for EDCT.
2. On God’s dispositions being necessarily fixed:
Neccesarily God is Good.
Goodness being attributed to God can be thought of as a Propositional neccesity i.e Resulting from unpacking of a concept- the concept of God.By this I mean the very definition of God (in Christianity) is one who is all loving.eg If someone is a bachelor, for instance, then he is bound to be unmarried by conceptual necessity, because the meaning of the word "bachelor" determines that he is.therefore Good is part of the definiton of what God is.But this shiould not be confused as meaning that God is the same thing as goodness,but only part of the deifinition of What God is.
God is neccesarily Good
This can be thought of neccesity De Re i.e "of the thing".Where the neccesity holds true of the being who is infact God.And is the expression of one of his essential properties.A property without which,He could not exist.This De Re necessity ties goodness to the very existence of God.
Necessarily,God is essentially Good
For a being who was ultimately vulnerable to evil,sin or weakness in any possible circumstance,he would not be the greatest possible being.On the conception of deity,part of what it means to be God is having the property of goodness and to have it essentially,and not contingently.
You’ve got some things confused. Here, you’re trying to provide a reason for why God is necessarily good. But you have defined “good” as “in accord with God’s dispositions”. So the more relevant question is: Could God’s dispositions be different? If there is a possible world in which God’s dispositions are not the same as you imagine them to be, then it follows that what is right and what is wrong would be different. Since we’re all in agreement that any moral theory that entails this has been reduced to absurdity, it becomes necessary for you to show that God’s dispositions cannot be different. You haven’t really tried to show this.
The closest you’ve come to an argument of this sort is your ontological argument. God cannot be different because then He would not be the greatest conceivable being. But as I implied in an earlier post, this particular ontological argument uses the term “greatest” in (apparently) a very subjective way. How are you defining the word “greatest” in your argument, and how does it directly relate to and have consequences for what God’s dispositions could be? "Greatest conceivable being" from which person's perspective? Can you demonstrate, as a matter of fact, that differences in God’s dispositions would entail that He would not be the greatest conceivable being, in any sort of objective way that we would all have to agree with?
I think that you've been able to come up with a good answer to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, in that you have attempted to make the basis for moral facts both non-arbitrary and based on God’s commands/nature. You have the “right idea”, in other words, in terms of what you have to argue in order to make the Euthyphro argument go away. But, as far as the discussion has shown so far, it looks like EDCT fails for at least two reasons: (1) It fails to provide an adequate answer to the is-ought dilemma; and (2) It fails to show that God’s dispositions are necessarily the way that they are, and could not be different. The criticism expressed in (1) is an independent criticism apart from the Euthyphro Dilemma. The argument in (2) shows (at least, IMO) that the Euthyphro Dilemma is a continuing problem for your moral theory.
He was responding to this:
1.God is Kind
2.God has a disposition against stealing
3.Because stealing causes losess to the victim,and its an act of cruelty
4.Cruelty is agaisnt God's nature of Kindness
If am correct,What Deschain and You have a contention with is that number 3 i.e reasons for stealing,would be independent of God's nature.God would need reasons indepedent of his nature to have moral commands.
But my position is,the reasons themselves are grounded in God's nature.as i have illustrated.
Then the question would be as Deschain pointed out,Would number 3 be evident enough i.e serve as a motivation by itself to humans without number 4?
Now at this juncture we have to discuss all the Atheistic/secular ethical moral systems.(which is a another discussion)
But if they all fail,then we have to move from 3 to 4,that it might not be self evident that Stealing is cruel without an Objective Moral standard,who is God.
1. On the Ernestombayo Divine Command Theory, actions that would normally be described as immoral can be considered objectively wrong because of certain dispositions that God has toward those acts. According to EDCT, it is not possible that God could have an alternative set of dispositions - i.e., God’s nature is strictly fixed and is as it is by necessity. As a result, it can never be the case that moral facts change; for example, it can never be the case that rape suddenly becomes morally permissible, or that charity becomes morally reprehensible, because God’s dispositions toward those acts can never change. The result of this is that, according to Ernest, we have an answer to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, which attempts to demonstrate that either: (1) morality is not founded on God; or (2) Morality is an arbitrary construct decreed by God. With EDCT, moral facts are not arbitrary because they are true by virtue of God’s unchanging dispositions toward morally-relevant actions. And with that, the dilemma seems to be answered.
Here’s why this doesn’t sound like a good theory to me: Why is it that God’s dispositions are sufficient to provide as a basis for moral facts, when no other individual’s desires (say, the dispositions of Wittgenstein, or Satan, or Whoopi Goldberg, or Boy George) are able to do so? What is it about God’s personal dispositions that provide us with an objective theory, when, according to Ernest's rejection of secularly-based ethical theories, using anyone else's dispositions as a basis for moral conduct leaves us with moral subjectivism?
Different believers that I’ve talked to have different perspectives on this. Some say that God’s dispositions are unique in that God is our Father, our Creator, and so we must do what he commands and desires of us. Others say that it is because God is all-powerful. Others say that it is because he is omniscient and therefore knows what is right and what is wrong, and so it is important that we follow him as our (much wiser) guide for moral behaviour. Ernest himself wrote that:
"From a Christian theological standpoint, if God has created us and sustains us in existence at every moment and so all good things of life come to us through his agency or permission, we have some obligation to please him and so conform to his commands and forbidding."
Continued on the next post.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
An objection of the Divine command theory(That which is moral is moral because it is commanded by God), is that moral truthts become arbitray.
An objection to this claim is that God is necessarily good, and that the source and standard of the Good is God’s very nature.This avoids the assertion that morality is arbtriray since morality can now be shown that its grounded in an objective moral standard which is God's very nature of goodness.
But an opponent of the Divine Command theory can ask."If God’s nature rejects the raping of little children, but it is not an arbitrary rejection (rejected for no reasons), then would this not mean that God’s nature is good in accordance with good reasons?"
Then can we not say that God's nature is neccesarily opposed to such acts as rape and murder because there are good reasons not to rape and murder?
So God's nature to call an act wrong or good,must be grounded in "good reasons".This implies that in a world where rape does not cause any suffering or injustice to the victim,then God would have no reason to call rape wrong.But someone wopul say,that,there is no possible world where rape does not cause suffering or injustice.Then wouldn't this still mean that God's nature of goodness is grounded in reasons.Making God's nature of goodness a slave to "reasons" for being good.
It seems clear that for God to escape the charge that morality is arbitrary i.e something IS just good,or something IS just bad,then it must be grounded in reasons.
The question becomes,would this reasons exists if God did not exist?Would we see reasons not to rape,if God did not exist?If the answer is yes,then it means that "reasons' not to rape and by extension,.morality exists outside of God.
What are the problems raised with this type of objection?from Christian Philoaspher's site,William Lane Craig, reasonable faithe he says.;
"The position is that God’s moral nature is the paradigm of goodness; what is good or bad is determined by conformity or lack thereof to His nature.First, we can give good reasons for why God commands what He does,eg rape ir wrong because it is injurious and unjust.But that doesn’t imply that there should be good reasons why love, kindness, and patience are virtues, and why greed, cruelty, and hate are vices apart from the nature of God.
Second, I think we should not confuse being ultimate with being arbitrary. If something serves as one’s explanatory ultimate, there can be no further explanation why that thing is as it is. But that doesn’t imply that it is arbitrary in the sense that it could have been otherwise and so just happens accidentally to be the way it is. God’s nature, like Plato’s Good, is ultimate, it is not arbitrary. Nor is taking God’s nature as paradigmatic of the Good arbitrary, for He is the greatest conceivable being and it is greater to be the paradigm of goodness than merely to exemplify it."
Craig sums it up nicely for this dilemma that has troubled philosphers for ages.
Reasonable Faith - www.reasonablefaith.org - William Lane Craig.
Philosophical Logic - Sybil Wolfram
Euthyphro dilemma - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma