Covers topics in the metaphysics of the Trinity, Incarnation, and personal identity.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Reply to Bill on Statues and Lumps

I posted this comment in reply to Bill Vallicella's post on Statues and Lumps:

I do think that the claim that each can exist without the other is a defensible claim. If I were to accept (2), I would say that, in this case, just as no form can exist without some or other matter of which it is the form, so no matter can exist without some or other form of which it is the matter. In parallel, I think that if you say that the statue and the lump are numerically distinct from each other, where the lump constitutes the statue, you should also say that, in this case, just as the object that is constituted cannot exist without some or other distinct object that constitutes it, so the object that constitutes cannot exist without some or other distinct object that it constitutes. If so, constituting is essential and being constituted is also essential.

(Perhaps we only call what is constituted a statue if an artisan intentionally brings it about, but there may be a distinct object that the lump constitutes for all that, whether or not it results from an intentional act.)

2. You say that the chariot is not its parts but its parts in a particular arrangement. I see what you mean. However, on the one hand, the chariot is constituted by its parts. There is a partition of the parts of the chariot such that the parts compose the chariot. In this sense, it is true to say that the chariot is its parts. On the other hand, the chariot is neither identical to its parts nor identical to its parts in a particular arrangement. The chariot is one but the parts are many. No one thing is identical to many things. Composition is not numerical identity. In this sense, it is false to say the chariot is its parts in a particular arrangement.Rather you mean that the chariot is constituted by its parts when and only when they are in a particular arrangement. But there will be ship of Theseus problems here. If we repair the chariot bit by bit so that eventually every smallish part is new, but we keep all the old parts and reassemble them, which if any counts as the original chariot: the reassembled one or the repaired one? Nagasena was wise to avoid such problems.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Reply to Bill on the Trinity and Statue/Lump Analogy

This is a comment I posted on the Maverick Philosopher in reply to his reply to my message of a similar title below:

1. It is not clear to me that a statue cannot exist without the lump of marble that constitutes it. Suppose an insane and envious artist attacks Michelangelo's David, chipping away at one of the feet. If the statue exists in the first place, it strictly continues to exist, but strictly there is a different lump that constitutes it.

2. One may gather from what I said that I am rather sympathetic with the views of those who say that, though there may be fundamental particles arranged statue-wise, those particles do not compose anything. Saying such things invites blank stares. But less controversial is the claim that there cannot be coinciding objects. I endorse the uniqueness of composition that says it never happens that the same things have two different fusions. So suppose there are fundamental particles arranged statue-wise and lump-wise. I say that those particles do not compose more than one thing at that time. So either the statue and the lump are identical to each other or we must bid a fond farewell to the existence of one or the other or, of course, both.

3. What's a state? Many of my further claims that whatever a statue is, it is not a state depend on some answer to the question. If events are changes in or among substances and states are unchanges in or among substances, then I stand by what I said. If states are the truthmakers of true non-essential simple predications, then I also stand by what I said. A trope or a state of affairs does not have a shape, size, or mass.

4. "If there is a statue that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, there is an organism that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, but an organism is not a state of a lump of matter, so why think a statue is a state of a lump of matter?" My statement here is overly condensed. I'm saying this. If you accept an ontology where there are statues and numerically distinct lumps of matter that constitute such, then you should also accept an ontology where there are organisms and numerically distinct lumps of matter that constitute such. But if so and there is some analogy between the relation of statue to lump and the relation of organism to lump, then both or neither statues and organisms are states of their respective lumps. And even what I am saying is now is rather condensed!

5. Brian Leftow gave an excellent seminar on the doctrine of divine simplicity, saying that the claim says there is one thing in God in virtue of which every intrinsic predication of God is true. One problem that came up is whether if God is simple in this sense, he can have distinct concepts of every kind of being he might create.

Reply to Bill on Christology, Reduplicatives, and Truthmakers

This is a comment I posted on the Maverick Philosopher in Reply to Bill Vallicella here:

[The reply is now posted as a comment there.]

We normally take 'qua' to qualify the predicate rather than the subject of the sentence. Else, in the Christological context, the worry is that we have two distinct subjects, each of whom is a person, which is the view of the Nestorian. If Jesus qua the Son is one person and Jesus qua human is another person, we have two persons, two Jesuses. The Chalcedonian definition explicitly denounces the view that, in the Incarnation, there are two Sons or Christs.

Further, the Son becomes incarnate and whatever else is true of incarnation in this context, this is: if x becomes incarnate, x becomes human. But it is not clear that, if Jesus qua the Son has divine properties and Jesus qua human has human properties, that it is true that the Son becomes human. But in that case this is no account of the Incarnation at all; rather it is an account of how the Son and a human are two parts of the same whole. Those who believe in unrestricted composition would be unperturbed!

Finally, there are accounts of what, for example, makes two temporal parts parts of the same person, perhaps some kind of causal or psychological continuity and connectedness. What makes the Son and a human two parts of one person, Christ? Is it brute and sui generis? This would not be theoretically desirable.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Reply to Vallicella on Incarnation and Reduplication

Valicella replied to my reply on the Incarnation and Reduplication. This is my reply to his reply.

JJ: I like Rea and Brower's paper on the Trinity. And I really like Merrick's paper on the Trinity, entitled 'Split Brains and the Godhead' (apparently the pun is intended). You can find this on-line also. My view of the Trinity is similar. But I want to offer a theory rather than an analogy and I don't want to identify the divine Persons with the divine spheres of consciousness.

Let me respond to some things you raise. By a reduplicative, I mean an expression of the form 'as (an) F' or 'with respect to being (an) F', where F is a noun or an adjective. And there is a point to using them in the ordinary business of life as well as in the ordinary business of theology. Christ has different properties but he has some in virtue of being divine and others in virtue of being human. For example, Christ, as divine, created and sustains the world, and Christ, as human, was born, died, and rose. We agree that reduplication does not help one defend Christology from the charge of inconsistency.

But I think we may disagree about how to describe the case where Christ has two minds. I say if Christ has two minds, it is true to say that Christ, with respect to his divine mind, knows all, and Christ, with respect to his human mind, does not know all. I am in trouble if this really does collapse into Christ knows all and does not know all. There is only one mental subject here. The divine mind does not know anything. And the human mind does not know anything either. A mind, as I introduced the term, is a composite of conscious states. And a composite of conscious states is not the kind of thing that can know. Only the mental subject can know. Compare the case of a split brain patient. The word 'pencil' is flashed to the left half of his visual field and, at the same time, the word 'toothbrush' is flashed to the right half of his visual field. Asked to retrieve the corresponding object from beneath a screen with both hands, he rejects the toothbrush but keeps the pencil with his left hand and rejects the pencil but keeps the toothbrush with his right hand. The split patient, so I say, perceives 'pencil' and perceives 'toothbrush' but does not perceive'pencil' and 'toothbrush'. But let me say more. I say that he, with respect to his right hemisphere, knows that 'pencil' has been flashed but is ignorant that 'toothbrush' has been flashed, and, with respect to his left hemisphere, knows that 'toothbrush' has been flashed but is ignorant that 'pencil' has been flashed.


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BV: Because suffering, even physical suffering, is ultimately mental?

JJ: The suffering I had in mind involves a bodily sensation, a desire that the sensation should stop, and the frustration of that desire. This is all mental. Do you want to include tissue damage in suffering? I have no problem with that.

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JJ: Trenton Merricks in an unpublished paper entitled 'The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation' presents a different view. We are human organisms. To be human is to be a human organism. So a divine subject becomes human by becoming a human organism. So an immaterial simple becomes a material composite. I think that no immaterial being can become a material being and that no simple can become a composite. So I do not hold this view.

BV: You are a wise man.

JJ: But the strategy is a coherent one.

BV: How? It appears to be absurd on the face of it. An immaterial simple
becomes a material composite without ceasing to be an immaterial simple?!?
Next stop: The Twilight Zone.

JJ: This is too quick. Trenton does not think, as Graham Priest does, that some contradictions are true. I don't hold the view that an immaterial simple can become a material composite because I think that everything material is essentially so and every composite is essentially so. Trenton denies this. An entity is immaterial if it lacks physical properties. It becomes material if it acquires physical properties. An entity is simple if it lacks proper parts. It becomes composite if it acquires proper parts. When an immaterial simple becomes a material composite, it does indeed cease to an immaterial simple. But Trenton does not think that to be divine entails being an immaterial simple. And Trenton is not alone in thinking that an immaterial simple becomes a material composite.

Richard Swinburne holds that we are composites of soul and body. We have mental properties in virtue of our souls having those mental properties. And we have physical properties in virtue of our bodies having those physical properties. So we are material because we have physical properties and we are composites because we have proper parts. But if we become disembodied, we cease to have a body, and we come to coincide with our soul. So, in that case, we cease to have physical properties and so become immaterial. And, in that case, we cease to have proper parts and so become simple. What happens in the Incarnation is this in reverse: an immaterial simple becomes a composite of soul and body.


BV: For you a subject is human if it is humanly embodied in a human organism. That allows for a divine subject to be human accidentally. But it doesn't allow for a divine subject to become identical to a human subject: if x = y, then necessarily x = y. So it doesn't allow for the Incarnation strictly speaking, which is not a divine subject's assumption of a human body, but a
divine subject's becoming identical with a human mind/body complex.

JJ: I deny that to be human is to be a human mind/body complex. I say that to be a human subject is to be a mental subject that is humanly embodied in a human organism. The divine subject is a mental subject. So for the divine subject to become identical to a human subject is for the divine subject to become humanly embodied in a human organism. And I see no reason why that could not happen. I don't understand why you raise the essentiality of identity, which I endorse. Nothing I say is in conflict with it. The divine subject is accidentally human but he is not accidentally identical to a human subject. The human subject that the divine subject is identical to is also accidentally human because that human subject is the divine subject.

BV: Does not your view imply that human subjects are only contingently mortal? If a mind is human only due to the contingent fact that it is embodied in a human organism, then my mind is mortal not intrinsically, but only due to its contingent relation to a mortal body. But does not this Platonism contradict Christianity with its commitment to the proposition that death is a great evil? For Xianity, we are not naturally immortal; supernatural agency alone can save us from total death.

JJ: Death is a great evil. We were not created to die. When God renews creation there will be no more death. What do you mean by 'mortal'? We die when our body dies even if we continue to exist. We can also cease to exist. My view does not imply that we are naturally immortal. I have great sympathy for the view that in the ordinary course of nature if our body dies, we cease to exist, and it takes a miracle for God to sustain us in existence let alone have a mental life. We were made to live an embodied life. Our souls are restless until they find rest in the resurrection body God made for us. But this does not follow from what it is to be human. It follows from how God created us.

BV: I think we agree on this. I would be the point more forcefully: Reduplication is useless. As you know, T. V. Morris came to the same conclusion. Aquinas, however, seems to think that reduplication is the way to go judging by Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, Chapter 39.

JJ: I hope you see that, as I understand reduplication, there is more for it to do than defend Christology.

Vallicella on Incarnation and Reduplication

Vallicella has been writing about the Incarnation for a very long time. He has a paper on the topic, which is available from his website, which was published in Philo a few years back. On his blog, he wrote about Reduplication as an attempt to defend the doctrine of the Incarnation from the charge of inconsistency. This is my reply to his post, which now appears with his interpolated comments here.

JJ: I have a sense that we have been through this before. But there is no harm in a little repetition. I think there are two good views about what it is to be human, though I strongly prefer the first to the second. Either we are immaterial simples humanly embodied in human organisms or else we are human organisms. On the first view to be human is to be an immaterial simple mental substance that is humanly embodied in a human organism. And on the second view to be human is to be a human organism. I see no problem in the Incarnation on the first view, which I endorse: a divine mental subject is an immaterial simple mental substance who becomes human by coming to be humanly embodied in a human organism.

If you ask for a human soul and mind, I can accommodate. 'Soul' is used in two ways: in the Platonic sense, 'soul' means an immaterial mental substance, and a soul is human if and only if it is humanly embodied in a human organism; in the Aristotelian sense, 'soul' means a property a substance has in virtue of which a substance has a life, and a soul is human if and only if in virtue of having it a substance has a human life. Does Christ have a human soul? Yes. In the Platonic sense, Christ is a human soul. In the Aristotelian sense, Christ has a human soul. What is a mind? Some use 'mind' to mean a mental subject and so a human mind is a human mental subject. If so, Christ is a human mind. But others use 'mind' to mean a power to perform mental acts or have mental states and so a human mind is a power to perform distinctively human mental acts or have distinctively human mental states. If so, I think Christ has a human mind.Still others use 'mind' to mean a composite of mental states.

Let me add some flesh to this usage. Some talk of a mind as a consciousness or a stream of consciousness or a sphere of consciousness. Say two conscious states are strictly co-conscious if and only if they are parts of the same conscious state. And say two conscious states are serially co-conscious if and only if they stand in the ancestral of strict co-consciousness. Then say a stream of consciousness is a composite of conscious states, where every mental state that is part of that composite is strictly or serially co-conscious with every other conscious state that is part of that composite and no other conscious state. It seems to me from the literature on split brain cases that it could be that one mental subject has two conscious states that are simultaneous but neither strictly nor serially co-conscious with each other and that it could be that one mental subject has two streams of consciousness that are simultaneous. But I ask, why could not a divine subject, when he becomes humanly embodied have two streams of consciousness: one of which has distinctively divine conscious states and the other of which has distinctively human conscious states? If so, Christ has two minds.

In this case, one can see the point in using reduplicatives. Christ can know something in one mind but not another, can act from one mind but not another. Then we can say he, as divine, knows something, but, as human does not. We can even say, if we want to but whether we want to is another matter, Christ, as human suffers, but, as divine, does not suffer. Trenton Merricks in a paper entitled 'The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation' presents a different view. We are human organisms. To be human is to be a human organism. So a divine subject becomes human by becoming a human organism. So an immaterial simple becomes a material composite. I think that no immaterial being can become a material being and that no simple can become a composite. So I do not hold this view.

But the strategy is a coherent one. If you think that we are hylomorphic composites of form (soul) and matter (body), then I have a theory of the Incarnation for you. A divine subject becomes human by becoming a hylomorphic composite. Exercise: apply the strategy to other views of what it is to be human.

Must it be that every human subject is mortal and every divine subject is not mortal? I see nothing in my account of what it is to be human from which this follows. And I see nothing on Trenton's view of what it is to be human from which this follows either. Must it be that every human subject is passible and every divine subject is impassible? What do we mean by passible? Suppose it means this: able to be affected, i.e. able to be such that something affects it. I think my account does entail this because, though I did not get into the details, for a mental subject to be humanly embodied involves having active and passive causal powers, and in virtue of having passive causal powers, the mental subject is able to be affected. But in this case, I think that every divine subject is able to be affected. How else is God to know contingent truths whose truthmakers he does not cause, e.g. truths about non-divine free actions? At least, I think that, even if no divine subject has passive causal powers, every divine subject has the power to cause himself to have passive powers.

I don't think reduplication plays any part in defending the possibility of the Incarnation. But we don't need reduplication. All we need is a good account of what it is to be divine and a good account of what it is to be human. I can hardly wait to get on to the stuff about the Trinity. But as you can see, when it comes to such matters, brief I am not.

Vallicella on the Lump/Statue Analogy

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, has been writing about the Trinity since the beginning of the New Year. To be precise, he began December 31, 2004 with the post 'Does the Trinity entail Quaternity?'. This is my reply to one of his pieces on the Lump/Statue Analogy.

[This reply now appears in the Maverick Philosopher here.]

JJ: By the way, I think, as I expect you do as well, that dialetheism (i.e. some contradictions are true) and the sortal relativity of identity thesis (i.e. it can be that a is the same F as b, but not everything true of a is true of b) are beyond the pale, but that the former is worse than the latter.

I would put the initial problem like this. These three claims are apparently inconsistent:

(1) Every divine Person is God.
(2) There are three divine Persons.
(3) There is one God.

If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of identity and so ‘God’ to be a name, then (1) and (2) are inconsistent with each other and (1) and (3) entail there is at most one divine Person. If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of predication and so ‘God’ to be a noun, then (1) and (2) entail there are at least three Gods and (1) and (3) entail, again, there is at most one divine Person.


BV: Suppose you have a statue S made out for some lump L of material, whether marble, bronze, clay, or whatever. How is S related to L? It seems clear that L can exist without S existing. Thus one could melt the bronze down, or re-shape the clay. In either case, the statue would cease to exist, while the quantity of matter would continue to exist. It follows that S is not identical to L. They are not identical because something is true of L that is not true of S: it is true of L that it can exist without S existing, but it is not true of S that it can exist without S existing.

Although S is not identical to L, S is not wholly distinct, or wholly diverse, from L either. This is because S cannot exist unless L exists. This suggests the following analogy: The Father is to God as the statue is to the lump of matter out of which it is sculpted. And the same goes for the other Persons. Schematically, P is to G as S to L. The Persons are like hylomorphic compounds where the hyle in question is the divine substance. Thus the Persons are not each identical to God, which would have the consequence that they are identical to one another. Nor are the persons instances of divinity which would entail tri-theism. It is rather than the persons are composed of God as of a common material substance. Thus we avoid a unitarianism in which there is no room for distinctness of Persons, and we avoid tri-theism. So far, so good.

JJ: Some think that S and L can exist without each other. L can but S cannot survive radical change of shape. S can but L cannot survive radical change of parts. I think that if there are statues and lumps, then S and L are identical to each other, for I don’t think there could be coinciding objects that share the same proper parts. I don’t understand why you say that S overlaps L because S cannot exist without L. I cannot exist without God but I do not overlap God.

BV: Something like this approach is advocated by Jeffrey Brower and Michael Rea, here.

JJ: I would have to look at the paper again to confirm this. It does sound rather like Chris Hughes’ account of the Trinity, as given in his On a Complex Theory of a Simple God, which he develops from Anselm’s Nile analogy of the Trinity in his On the Incarnation of the Word. At a time each of the divine Persons does not have the same proper parts. But over time they do have the same proper parts because over time the parts flow from one to the other divine Person. God is the collection of proper parts out of which each divine Person is constituted over time.

BV: But does the statue/lump analogy avoid the problems we faced with the water analogy? Aren’t the two analogies so closely analogous that they share the same problems? Liquid, solid, and gaseous are states of water. Similarly, a statue is a state of a lump of matter. Modalism is not avoided. If the Persons are like states, then they are not sufficiently independent. But a statue is even worse off than a state of water. Water can be in one of its states whether or not we exist. But a hunk of matter cannot be a statue unless beings like us are on the scene to interpret it as a statue. Thus my little ceramic bust of Beethoven represents Beethoven only because we take it as representing the great composer. In a world without minds, it would not represent anything. The Persons of the Trinity, however, are in no way dependent on us for their being Persons of the Trinity.

JJ: What do you mean by a state? I don’t think that a statue is a state of a lump. A statue has shape, size, and mass, but a state of a lump doesn’t have such properties. If there is a statue that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, there is an organism that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, but an organism is not a state of a lump of matter, so why think a statue is a state of a lump of matter? And I don’t think that whether a statue exists depends on us to interpret it. A statue depend on us to make it. And whether a statue represents something depends on our intentions. But a statue can exist without representing anything.

BV: Connected with this is how God could be a hylomorphic compound, or any sort of compound, given the divine simplicity which rules out all composition in God.

JJ: Chris Hughes argues that Aquinas’ doctrine of divine simplicity is not consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. I agree but I am not sure that the doctrine of divine simplicity is consistent with God having concepts of different things like the concept of a dog or a cat. So I say no great loss there. What do you mean by divine simplicity? If God has more than one state or more than one event happens to God or God performs more than one act or God has more than one property, do you say God is not simple?

New Blog!

Hello Blogosphere!

I do philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. I am completing doctoral study at Oriel College, Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Richard Swinburne. My doctoral work is on the metaphysics of the Trinity and Incarnation. But I am also interested in all matters metaphysical, epistemological, and doctrinal. I may from time to time post my thoughts here, but my priority at the moment is to finish my dissertation.


Lockean Theory of the Trinity and Incarnation

[This also appears in the Maverick Philosopher with comments here.]

Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 2, Chapter 27, has quite a bit to say about substances and persons. By ‘a substance’, he means a fundamental entity and he says that, in this sense, there are three kinds of substance: God [infinite spirit], finite intelligences [finite spirits], and bodies [atoms]. By ‘a person’, he means ‘a thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection and can consider itself as itself the same thinking thing in different times and places’ (section 9). He gives an account of the unity of the mental items of a person at a time in terms of introspection and gives an account of the unity of the mental items of a person at different times in terms of memory. He says that just as atoms constitute an organism so long as their joint activity constitutes a life, so a spirit constitutes a person so long as its activity constitutes a consciousness. Same life; same organism. Same consciousness; same person. But he also thinks that just as the same atoms can compose different organisms at different times and different atoms can compose the same organism at different times, so the same spirit can constitute different persons at different times and different spirits can constitute the same person at different times. But there is no reason why, if so, the same spirit cannot constitute more than one person at the same time and more than one spirit cannot constitute the same person at the same time. Assume this could be.

So Locke believes that there are spirits who have consciousnesses and that spirits who have consciousnesses constitute persons. But the spirit and the person are distinct because they have different persistence conditions: the identity of persons consists in the identity of consciousness but the identity of spirits does not so consist. Now here is a theory of the Trinity and the Incarnation as a package deal. Consider it a late Christmas present.

Here is the Trinity. There is one divine spirit who has three divine consciousnesses and so the divine spirit constitutes three divine persons. God is the spirit who has three divine consciousnesses. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the divine persons that God constitutes. In this case, God is not a person, for he lacks the persistence conditions of a person. No divine person is identical to God, but there is a natural sense in which each divine divine person is God because every divine person is constituted by God. We can even add that the Father essentially causes the Son to exist and the Son essentially causes the Holy Spirit to exist. So we have the processions.

Here is the Incarnation. Locke thinks that a human being is an organism that exists so long as the activity of its constituent atoms constitute a life. Sometimes he says that a human being is a composite of atoms. Other times he says that a human being is a composite of atoms and a finite spirit. Let’s go with this last for the sake of exposition. He also thinks that human persons are composites of atoms and a finite spirit. But as the careful reader may have noticed, he thinks human beings and human persons are different because their persistence conditions are different. Finally, he thinks it probable that thinking substances are immaterial simples but sees no reason why God could not superadd thought to a material being. Now back to the Incarnation. It comes to be the case that the divine spirit and a human thinking substance (or human being) constitute the Son. The divine spirit is one nature and the human thinking substance (or human being) is another nature. Together they constitute one divine person who is also human. We can even add, if we want, that human beings are material beings to whom God superadds thought and so have the Incarnation with human beings as material. So what do you think about that?

My problem is not so much with the application as with the metaphysical account of persons here. Of course, we need not follow Locke in the details of what counts as a consciousness. My principal difficulty is that I think to distinguish persons and thinking substances here is double counting. There are too many thinkers here. If the person is a thinker and the thinking substance is a thinker, then the way I individuate events and states, there are too many thoughts here. I also see no reason why the thinking substance should not qualify as a person. So there are too many persons here. Finally, there is an epistemic problem. I think I am a person and so the thinking substance also thinks it is a person. I get things right; it gets things wrong. But then how do I know I am the person who gets this right and not the substance who gets this wrong? We have all the same reasons for our beliefs. I am aware that more could be said in reply here. But I also think there is more to be said in reply to the replies. Let that be an end to it for the nonce.