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

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.