Divine Aseity

Divine Aseity

Articles exploring God's attribute of self-existence and the challenge posed to God's unique aseity by Platonism, the view that there are mind-independent abstract objects.


Review Article: God and Necessity by Brian Leftow.

A critical review of Brian Leftow's claim to ground modality in God's will.

Review Article: God and Necessity by Brian Leftow. Faith and Philosophy 30 (2013): 462-70.

Peter Van Inwagen, Substitutional Quantification, and Ontological Commitment

Peter van Inwagen has long claimed that he doesn’t understand substitutional quantification and that the notion is, in fact, meaningless. Van Inwagen identifies the source of his bewilderment as an inability to understand the proposition expressed by a simple sentence like “(∑x) (x is a dog),” where “∑” is the existential quantifier understood substitutionally. I should think that the proposition expressed by this sentence is the same as that expressed by “(∃x) (x is a dog).” So what’s the problem? The problem, I suggest, is that van Inwagen takes traditional existential quantification to be ontologically committing and substitutional quantification to be ontologically non-committing, which requires that the two quantifiers have different meanings—but no different meaning for the substitutional quantifier is forthcoming. What van Inwagen fails to appreciate is that substitutional quantification is directed at a criterion of ontological commitment, viz., W. V. O. Quine’s, which is quite different from van Inwagen’s criterion. Substitutional quantification successfully avoids the commitments Quine’s criterion would engender but has the same commitments as existential quantification given van Inwagen’s criterion. The question, then, is whether the existential quantifier is ontologically committing, as van Inwagen believes. The answer to that question will depend on whether the ordinary language “there is/are,” which is codified by the existential quantifier, is ontologically committing. There are good reasons to doubt that it is.

“Peter Van Inwagen, Substitutional Quantification, and Ontological Commitment.” Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 55 (2014): 553-561.
Originally published at http://projecteuclid.org/euclid.ndjfl/1415382955#info

Review: God and Necessity

A critical review of Brian Leftow's attempt to safeguard divine aseity in the face of the challenge of Platonism.

Review: God and Necessity by Brian Leftow. Philosophy 89 (2014): 171-6.
Reprinted with permission.
Copyright 2014 The Society of Christian Philosophers.

Propositional Truth - Who Needs It?

On a deflationary view of truth the truth predicate does not ascribe a property of any explanatory significance to statements. The truth predicate is merely a device of semantic ascent, by means of which we talk about a statement rather than assert that statement. Such a device is useful for blind truth ascriptions to statements which we cannot explicitly state. Such a view is compatible with truth as correspondence and so does not imply postmodern antirealism, since statements directly asserted are descriptive of the world as it actually is. Getting rid of propositional truth has the advantage of ridding us of abstract truth-bearers, which are uncreated by God.

“Propositional Truth: Who Needs It?” In Philosophia Christi 15 (2013): 355-64

Mary Leng's Mathematics and Reality

Review of

Mary Leng, Mathematics and Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 278 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-928079-7

God and the Platonic Host

This paper, presented before the C. S. Lewis Society in Oxford on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, surveys the options available to the theist for meeting the challenge posed by platonism to divine aseity and shows that Lewis anticipated a figuralist solution to the problem.

God and Abstract Objects

To the uninitiated, platonism, science, and Christianity might seem poles apart. Neither the average scientist nor the average Christian, after all, finds abstract objects to be relevant to his quotidian affairs. Appearances are in this case deceptive, however, for the principal argument for platonism today is that physical science requires the existence of abstract objects. This claim in itself demands careful scrutiny, since the very truth of science is at stake. But the importance of the issue is amplified for Christian theists because platonism is at the same time potentially a dagger in the heart of the Christian doctrines of divine aseity and creatio ex nihilo. In this article I shall first briefly introduce platonism and the argument for the reality of abstract objects based on their scientific indispensability; then I shall consider a series of responses that can be made to this argument and finally close with what I take to be a serious theological objection to platonism.

“God and Abstract Objects.” In The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, pp. 441-52. Ed. Alan Padgett and James Stump. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
Reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons. Any further reuse of the content for any purpose must be by written permission from John Wiley & Sons only.
Available at http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1444335715.html

Van Inwagen On Uncreated Beings

Peter van Inwagen argues that (1) there are uncreated abstract objects like properties and (2) the affirmation of the existence of uncreated abstract objects is consistent with the affirmation of the Nicene Creed that God is the creator of all things. I dispute both of these contentions. An examination of ante-Nicene and Nicene theology reveals that the Church Fathers opposed the postulation of any uncreated entity apart from God Himself, including such entities as properties and numbers, which they identified as ideas in the mind of God. Moreover, a detailed examination of van Inwagen’s argument for properties reveals a variety of nominalistic responses of which van Inwagen takes scant cognizance, thereby undermining his claim that one can’t get away with nominalism.

An abbreviated version of this article has been published as "Nominalism and Divine Aseity," Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 4 (2011): 44-65.

Why are (some) Platonists so insouciant?

Some platonists truly agonize over the ontological commitments which their platonism demands of them. But many others are remarkably insouciant about positing the existence of abstract objects, despite their unfamiliar nature. Why is that? An examination of various statements on the existence of abstract objects by the prominent platonists Bob Hale, Michael Dummett, and Burgess and Rosen suggest that some platonists may not believe that abstract objects really do exist. Hence, their insouciance.

Philosophy 86:2 (2011): 213-229. © Cambridge University Press. Used by permission of Cambridge University Press.