Archived

Nature of God

Read 31037 times

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« on: April 09, 2012, 04:47:25 pm »
The doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS), in its more radical formulations, is pretty controversial. I want to discuss some of the arguments pro and con. What is your opinion of DDS?

A sampling of arguments in favor:

It explains God's necessity: If God's attributes are identical to his existence, then clearly they cannot fail to exist.
It explains God's aseity: If God's properties are identical to his existence, this explains why God's properties are instantiated without appealing to anything external to himself.
Properties don't threaten aseity: If God's properties are distinct from his being, then, problematically, one could say God depends for what he is on the existence of the properties that he exemplifies.
Simplicity exalts God: God is exalted as the fundamental basis of all reality only if we deny that his properties are logically prior to him in the way expressed immediately above.

A sampling of arguments against:

Incoherence charge 1: The identity of all of God's different attributes is incoherent (e.g. omnipotence is not goodness)
Incoherence charge 2: The identity of essence and existence is incoherent, because it means that either God is a property or the property of divinity is a concrete object.
Simplicity destroys contingency: If God's existence is identical to his essence, then he possesses all of his properties essentially. Thus, he could not do or know anything contingently, destroying both his free will and creaturely free will.
Simplicity contradicts the Trinity: The doctrine of the trinity affirms distinct divine persons, and so seems irreconcilable with the idea that there are no components/distinctions/parts in God.

1

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2012, 05:22:31 am »
Jmac wrote: The doctrine of divine simplicity (DDS), in its more radical formulations, is pretty controversial. I want to discuss some of the arguments pro and con. What is your opinion of DDS?

A sampling of arguments in favor:

It explains God's necessity: If God's attributes are identical to his existence, then clearly they cannot fail to exist.
It explains God's aseity: If God's properties are identical to his existence, this explains why God's properties are instantiated without appealing to anything external to himself.
Properties don't threaten aseity: If God's properties are distinct from his being, then, problematically, one could say God depends for what he is on the existence of the properties that he exemplifies.
Simplicity exalts God: God is exalted as the fundamental basis of all reality only if we deny that his properties are logically prior to him in the way expressed immediately above.

A sampling of arguments against:

Incoherence charge 1: The identity of all of God's different attributes is incoherent (e.g. omnipotence is not goodness)
Incoherence charge 2: The identity of essence and existence is incoherent, because it means that either God is a property or the property of divinity is a concrete object.
Simplicity destroys contingency: If God's existence is identical to his essence, then he possesses all of his properties essentially. Thus, he could not do or know anything contingently, destroying both his free will and creaturely free will.
Simplicity contradicts the Trinity: The doctrine of the trinity affirms distinct divine persons, and so seems irreconcilable with the idea that there are no components/distinctions/parts in God.

Another argument against DDS:
1  : God is ultimately simple
2  Something is ultimately simple IFF it is not possible that something is simpler.
3   God can do lots of things
4  A entity that can do fewer things is simpler than God
5  An entity that can do fewer things is possible
6 There is possibly an antity that is simpler than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately simple.



2

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 07:09:36 am »
belorg wrote:

Another argument against DDS:
1  : God is ultimately simple
2  Something is ultimately simple IFF it is not possible that something is simpler.
3   God can do lots of things
4  A entity that can do fewer things is simpler than God
5  An entity that can do fewer things is possible
6 There is possibly an antity that is simpler than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately simple.



Interesting. I could see maybe arguing that simplicity is equivocated. The question, I guess, is whether or not absolute simplicity in composition is tied to simplicity in activities that a being can engage in. If this can be defended, then the argument seems to be sound.

3

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 01:51:16 pm »
Jmac wrote:

Interesting. I could see maybe arguing that simplicity is equivocated. The question, I guess, is whether or not absolute simplicity in composition is tied to simplicity in activities that a being can engage in. If this can be defended, then the argument seems to be sound.

No, simplicity is not equivocated. For if there is a 'simplicity' that entails the ability to do lots of things and another 'simplicity' that entails being able do do fewer things, then the latter is composed differently.
If simplicty means 'uncomposed' , then there cannot be any dinstinction between two ultimately simple beings. Since my argument shows that their clearly can be a dinstinction between two 'simple' beings', it follows that one of them is more complex than the other, and since it has at least one more property, it is 'composed'.

I think the only way for a proponent of DDS to get out of this is by denying 5. But that would open a completely differnt can of worms.
I should add that my premise 2 should, in fact, read 'an entity that  is in every way the same as God but can do fewer things than God is simpler than God'.

4

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 04:36:15 pm »
I inserted the composition definition into your argument.
  1. God is ultimately not-composed
  2. Something is ultimately not-composed IFF it is not possible that something is less composed.
  3. God can do lots of things
  4. An entity that can do fewer things is less composed than God
  5. An entity that can do fewer things is possible
  6. There is possibly an antity that is less composed than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately not-composed

(4) looked suspicious to me originally, just because I can conceive of a being that is very complex but has very little power. In fact, it seems that I am an example of (4). As a partly physical object, I am composed of many distinct parts in a way that God is not, but I can do fewer things than God can. We could say that a being that can do less than God has fewer properties than God (namely, the properties corresponding to each of those abilities). But the DDS advocate would probably just say that in God all these properties are really just one property.

5

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2012, 01:30:32 pm »
Jmac wrote:
I inserted the composition definition into your argument.
  1. God is ultimately not-composed
  2. Something is ultimately not-composed IFF it is not possible that something is less composed.
  3. God can do lots of things
  4. An entity that can do fewer things is less composed than God
  5. An entity that can do fewer things is possible
  6. There is possibly an antity that is less composed than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately not-composed

(4) looked suspicious to me originally, just because I can conceive of a being that is very complex but has very little power. In fact, it seems that I am an example of (4). As a partly physical object, I am composed of many distinct parts in a way that God is not, but I can do fewer things than God can. We could say that a being that can do less than God has fewer properties than God (namely, the properties corresponding to each of those abilities). But the DDS advocate would probably just say that in God all these properties are really just one property.

If a being that can do less that God has fewer properties than God, then that being's 'one property' is simpler than God's 'one proporty', IOW the 'one property' of God is a composed property, and the 'one property' of the other being is composed of fewer sub-properties; IOW this being is simpler with respect to composition.

6

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2012, 08:11:37 am »
belorg wrote:
If a being that can do less that God has fewer properties than God, then that being's 'one property' is simpler than God's 'one proporty', IOW the 'one property' of God is a composed property, and the 'one property' of the other being is composed of fewer sub-properties; IOW this being is simpler with respect to composition.

Yes, I agree. What I'm not so sure about is whether a being that can do less than God is necessarily simpler than God. Suppose God can do a huge number of things but (as simplicity advocates would claim) he is only one part. Suppose I can do only a few different kinds of things, but I am composed of a huge number of distinct parts (as my body plausibly is). Is it possible, in that case, for me to be more complex than God, and yet be able to do fewer things?

7

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 09:08:16 am »
Jmac wrote:
Quote from: belorg
If a being that can do less that God has fewer properties than God, then that being's 'one property' is simpler than God's 'one proporty', IOW the 'one property' of God is a composed property, and the 'one property' of the other being is composed of fewer sub-properties; IOW this being is simpler with respect to composition.

Yes, I agree. What I'm not so sure about is whether a being that can do less than God is necessarily simpler than God. Suppose God can do a huge number of things but (as simplicity advocates would claim) he is only one part. Suppose I can do only a few different kinds of things, but I am composed of a huge number of distinct parts (as my body plausibly is). Is it possible, in that case, for me to be more complex than God, and yet be able to do fewer things?

Probably yes, but that's not what my argument is about.

8

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2012, 12:48:51 pm »
Then I am misinterpreting your argument. I take my example to be contrary to (4), or at least my version of (4), with the "not-composed" definition of simple.

9

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2012, 02:43:23 am »
Jmac wrote: Then I am misinterpreting your argument. I take my example to be contrary to (4), or at least my version of (4), with the "not-composed" definition of simple.

Yes, your example is contrary with the non-composed definition of simple,. It is possible for a composed entity to be capable of doing fewer things than a being that is composed of fewer parts, or even uncomposed, but in my arguemnt I am comparing two possible entities, one of which is capable of fewer things while not being compmosed of fewer parts.
A refutation of my argument requires demonstrating the impossibility of such entity. IOW to refute my argument, it must be impossible for a simple non-material being that just exists without any action at all to exist.

10

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2012, 08:36:25 am »
belorg wrote: .
Yes, your example is contrary with the non-composed definition of simple,. It is possible for a composed entity to be capable of doing fewer things than a being that is composed of fewer parts, or even uncomposed, but in my arguemnt I am comparing two possible entities, one of which is capable of fewer things while not being compmosed of fewer parts.
A refutation of my argument requires demonstrating the impossibility of such entity. IOW to refute my argument, it must be impossible for a simple non-material being that just exists without any action at all to exist.

Alright, so would this be an accurate statement of your argument?

Another argument against DDS:
1  : God is ultimately simple
2  Something is ultimately simple IFF it is not possible that something is simpler.
3   God can do lots of things and is not-composed
4  A entity that is not composed and can do fewer things is simpler than God
5  An entity that is not composed and can do fewer things is possible
6 There is possibly an antity that is simpler than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately simple.



11

belorg

  • ****
  • 7645 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 02:21:37 pm »
Jmac wrote:

Alright, so would this be an accurate statement of your argument?

Another argument against DDS:
1  : God is ultimately simple
2  Something is ultimately simple IFF it is not possible that something is simpler.
3   God can do lots of things and is not-composed
4  A entity that is not composed and can do fewer things is simpler than God
5  An entity that is not composed and can do fewer things is possible
6 There is possibly an antity that is simpler than God
Conclusion: God is not ultimately simple.



Something like that. It may need some refinement, though, but basically that's what I mean.

12

Jmac

  • **
  • 50 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2012, 02:34:51 pm »
It definitely looks more plausible on that interpretation. (4) and (5) could probably both be challenged by a DDS advocate, but they certainly have some initial plausibility.

13

innerbling

  • ***
  • 1940 Posts
    • View Profile
Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2012, 05:08:05 pm »
I think this whole issue is confused as the word simplicity is not defined in this context. As are we talking about simplicity in context of Kolmogorov complexity or what?



14

Bill McEnaney

  • ***
  • 2986 Posts
    • View Profile
Re: Divine Simplicity: Yes or No?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2013, 10:55:00 am »
Maybe premise 2 is false.  If something is ultimately simple IFF nothing could be simpler than that thing, there might be another equally simple thing.