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

Thursday, January 27, 2005

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.