Review: Reason, Metaphysics, Mind

This might be a series of essays in honor of Alvin Plantinga, but few of the essays have anything to do with Plantinga.  Some are extremely technical and it’s not always clear what is going on. Nevertheless, there are a few fine pieces. Zimmerman’s account of simple foreknowledge, Stump’s Thomistic view of the atonement, Peter Van Inwagen’s “Causation and the Mental,” and Wolterstorff’s fun “Then, Al, and Now.”

Reason, Metaphysics, and Mind by Kelly James Clark

Molinism starts off interestingly enough, but the discussion takes a strange turn over the

Plantingian middle knowledge: God knows what free creatures might do in circumstances that would never be actual (5).

  • Natural knowledge: knowledge God has by virtue of being God (think divine simplicity, where God’s mind is an ontological “=” sign to everything in God).
  • The Molinists accounts (Thomas Flint, rejoinder by Thomas Crisp) question whether we have counterfactual power over the past.  I’m just not sure how to approach that.
  • Free knowledge: God’s choices, like to create or not to create the world.

Stump contrasts the Anselmian account of the atonement with the Thomist one.  She says the Anselmian falters because his account, due to its objectivity, cannot address past shame. So what if Jesus died for my sins if others don’t want to associate with me?  Well, she doesn’t say it that crassly and to be fair, that might not even be her position. She might mean something like, “Yeah, the sin problem is taken care of but not the life part.”

In response, EJ Coffman points out that Christ’s work also deals with the effects of interpersonal shame. In any case, Stump’s account isn’t all that convincing.

Peter Van Inwagen: Causation and the Mental

  1. An object is concrete iff it can enter into causal relations and is abstract iff it cannot enter into causal relations (Van Inwagen 153).  PVI adjusts this to where concrete objects are substances and abstract objects are relations-in-intension.
  2. PVI is willing to say that causal relations exist, but not causality.  

The whole essay was kind of odd.  PVI did do a fine job surveying problems in phenomenology of mind (cf Jaegwon Kim).

Dean Zimmerman Simple Foreknowledge

Molinism: contingently true conditionals about what every possible individual will, or would freely do in each circumstance (175).  There are “conditionals of freedom” (CF)

Simple foreknowledge view: affirms libertarian foreknowledge yet rejects Molinism. The main difficulty with this is that God has no more control over the future than what one would find in Open Theism.

Difficulties the Libertarian (or LFW) faces:

* Zimmerman wants to affirm that God takes risks (177).

The most pressing difficulty with simple foreknowledge is what Zimmerman calls “The Metaphysical Principle:”

MP: It is impossible that a decision depend on a belief which depends on a future event which depends on the original decision (179).

He avoids this fallacy by comparing God to a “time traveler.”   I am not sure this really helps his argument.

Nicholas Wolterstorff gives a semi-autobiograpical account of his and Al’s grad-school years together.  But humor aside, Wolterstorff explains how analytic philosophy has developed in the 20th century, and how bold Plantinga’s project really was.

  • Logical positivism almost erased “real-talk” about God, yet Plantinga’s God and Other Minds threw down the gauntlet and cheerfully spoke about “justification for belief in God.”
  • David Lewis’s possible worlds semantics provided the groundwork for Plantinga’s Nature of Necessity.
  • And then, of course, Plantinga’s Warrant Trilogy.

 

The book is expensive and not every essay is equally good.

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Review: McCall, Invitation to Analytic Theology

This is an old review, but I thought I had already posted it.  I hadn’t.

Despite it’s relatively simple-sounding and generic title, this book is unique in offering both a model for analytic theology as well as a brief crash course in certain debates. There are a handful of books (Richard Muller’s Dictionary is one) that could replace a seminary class. This is one of them.

McCall begins by dispelling myths about analytic theology (hereafter AT). AT doesn’t *necessarily* entail univocal language, substance metaphysics or naivety about church history (though that probably is true about analytic philosophy–JBA).

McCall makes clear that AT doesn’t entail the following

  1. A univocal view of language (25). (NB: Does William Alston hold to univocity?  Cf. Divine Nature and Human Language, pp. 17-117).
  2. AT entails natural theology (26).
  3. AT is naive about the history of doctrine.
  4. AT is apologetics for conservative theology.  Depends on what we mean by “conservative.” Plantinga, for one, has advanced problems of divine simplicity; yet, it probably is true, pace the current leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, that analytic theologians are committed to Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
  5. AT relies on substance metaphysics (30ff).  The battle isn’t between pre-Kantian and Kantians, but between Kantians and post-Kantians.  It is possible to read Kant and remain unconvinced.
  6. Analytic Theology isn’t spiritually edifying.

The true gold-mine of the book is McCall’s “Case Studies” dealing with metaphysics, compatibilism, and evolution. Particularly, one gets a refreshing survey of what it means for something to have an essence (kind-essence, Individual essence, common properties, merely human, fully human) and how this pays significant dividends for Christology.


Analytic Theology and Scripture

How does the Bible control and authorize analytic statements?  McCall offers an interesting model that can be applied elsewhere in theology (55ff). Let P be a primary true proposition.

RA1: The Bible contains propositions that explicitly assert P.

RA2: The Bible contains propositions that entail P.

RA3: The Bible contains propositions that that are consistent with P and suggest P.

RA4: The Bible contains propositions that that do not entail ~P, and is consistent with P (it is neutral with respect to P)

RA5: The Bible contains propositions that entail neither P nor ~P, but suggests some Q that is inconsistent with P.

RA6: The Bible contains propositions that entail ~P.

RA7: The Bible contains propositions that which assert ~P.

RA8: The Bible contains propositions that assert P and assert ~P

RA6-8 are incompatible with orthodoxy, yet RA1-5 are compatible and are far more robust than stereotypes of inerrancy.

Christology

Abstractionism:

Individual essence (haeccity): set of properties one must have for this distinct individual.  The full set of properties possessed by that person in all possible worlds in which that person exists.

Kind-essence: the full set of properties individually necessary and sufficient for inclusion in that set.

Common human properties: a property possessed by many or most humans.  Most humans can have a property without its being essential.

Essential human properties: an object has a property essentially iff it has it and could not have not had it.  It belongs to kind-nature.

Merely human: to exemplify only that kind-essence of humanity.

Fully human: to exemplify the kind-essence of humanity.

How does the two-minds approach account for Jesus’s being omniscient per divine yet nonomniscient per human?  Thomas V. Morris suggests an asymmetrical accessing relation.

Concretist Accounts

The “natures” are reified, not properties.

Every primary substance (Fido the Dog) has a secondary substance-kind (caninity) that pertains to it without which it could not exist (104).

For every primary substance x, there is only one secondary substance-kind K that pertains to x through itself and is essential to it.

Unfortunately, this rules out the incarnation, since there can’t be more than one secondary substance-kind to a primary substance.

Medieval theology modified this Aristotelianism: it is possible for a primary substance x that is essentially of a substance-kind also to possess/be/come to be of a substance kind K’ (where K is not the same as K’) contingently and non-essentially (105).

Concretists affirm a part-whole (mereological) account of the Incarnation.  There

He gives a wonderful rebuttal to theistic evolutionism simply by showing how sloppy their language is. Thus, the whole point of analytic theology.

My only criticism of the book is the lack of survey on how to get started in AT (e.g., which texts to read first).

Review: Delivered from the Elements

My earlier notes here.  A potential problem with Leithart is that most people who read him either “join his camp” or “attack his camp.” I don’t want to do either. I actually think the book is quite good.  It has a lot of promise for evangelism and missions and steers a path through the problems with New Perspective on Paul. It is also a good book on metaphysics.

Main idea: the fundamental physics of every society consists of purity, pollution, and ritual (Leithart 12). If you “relocate” the sacred then you change the structure of society.  Goal: a successful atonement theology must show how Jesus’s death and resurrection is the key to history.

One interesting point is that he draws attention to the word “nature.”  Yes, the NT uses “substance” language, but not the kind usually thought.  The NT use of “nature:” a moral order rooted in the differences of the sexes (27).  When Paul uses “nature” it is neither Aristotelian or Stoic.  Gentiles do not have the Torah “by nature” but they still can do what Torah commands (sometimes). Physeis is closely linked to nomos, so of law means a change of the elements (29).

Here is the problem: given what is wrong with the world, how does Jesus’s death as my substitute fix the world?  Leithart will defend substitutionary atonement, but he does not the problem in most popular accounts.  If the goal is to cash Jesus out as the credit card on my account, then did it matter that he was a Jew?  Framed another way: how does Christ’s dying for me deliver humanity from ta stoichea?  You have to be able to answer this question.

“The elements (ta stoichea) are features of an old creation that Christ has in some way brought to an end” (25).  In both Gentile and Jewish worlds they are structures and symbols that involve distinctions between purity and impurity, sacred and profane.

Yahweh’s intention is to destroy the fleshly physics.  When he introduces Torah he is continuing his cutting away of flesh.  The problem with flesh is that flesh spreads pollution (100). As Leithart notes, “Torah cannot kill flesh without killing the man or woman who bears that flesh” (102).

Torah provides a way for Israel to be Yahweh’s people among the division of nations.  It regulates the flesh but does not fix it. As long as Israel is under Torah she is under managers. It is spiritual and we are flesh.  If we come to it it will kill us.

Justification

(1) The judgment is not a  mere verdict of righteousness, but it is the very act by which it is accomplished (181). “It is a favorable judgment in the form of resurrection.” It also makes more sense in the historia salutis than in the ordo.  Justification was an act in Jesus’s life (1 Tim. 3:16). And through it we are delivered from the realm of death and stoichea to the realm of Spirit.

Thesis: Paul denies that the Spirit comes through the mechanisms of Torah (193). Flesh and Torah are mutually defining (Romans 7:1-6).  Paul’s argument: to be reckoned righteous is to receive the Spirit.  We receive the Spirit who does acts of power by hearing the message [as Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Humanity is supposed to grow into maturity, but it cannot do this while remaining under the elements and Torah.  The elements are beings who guard and manage children. They could be angelic beings, since Jews received Torah through angels and Gentiles were under beings that are “by nature no gods” (Gal. 4.8).

While stoichea regulate the elements of social life, and a dissolution of stoichea would dissolve the universe, Jesus gives the Spirit who is the new fundamental element of social life (219).  As the Spirit spreads, stoicheic divisions give way to a new order of the Spirit. Instead of a pyramid society of slaves, Paul sees a single body.

Conclusion

The book has several appendices of varying interests.  My main problem with the book was it could have been about 50 pages shorter.  The chapter on Presbyterian Buddhists was neat, but could have been reduced to a footnote.

Review: Cosmic Mystery

I’ve read this book six or eight times.  It’s probably the most important theological piece ever written on cosmology.Maximus_Confessor

Ambiguum 7

  1. All created being is in motion since it aims toward some end.

This combats Origenism.  Origen (de Principis I.2) and his disciples said the order of things’ existence was stability (stasis), motion (kinesis), and becoming (genesis).  This means a fall before the fall.  It raises questions of how one could fall from enjoying the Beautiful.  Maximus countered with the following:

(2) Becoming (Genesis), Motion (Kinesis), and Stability (stasis).

(2a) Motion is always directed towards an End.

Passibility (pathos):  does not refer to a change or corruption of one’s power.  It is that which exists by nature in beings.  For that which comes into being is susceptible to movement.   

The Logos of being:  participation in god as good and is the principle of being.

On willing

(3) When one is firmly attached to a good there is a voluntary transcending of oneself, a willing surrender.

(3a) Gnomic willing is a non-natural volition.  

Maximus then moves away from discussing a fall from Origen’s henad.

(4) The One Logos is the Many Logoi (p. 54 = [1077C]).

This statement is the perfection of what all ancient philosophy tried to be.  Each thing remains distinct (Gk. asunchtos) from everything else.  Yet Maximus also wants to say they are the one Logos.  How does he do that?

(4*) The logoi are anchored within the Logos (55; Col. 1:15-17; Rom. 11:36)

(4’) The Logos multiplies the logoi after himself (and the logos of a thing precedes its existence).

(5) The Logos recapitulates all things in himself (Eph. 1:10).

Does this mean all things return back to the Logos?  In so brilliantly cutting off Origenism has Maximus allowed Origen a return via apocastasis?  

(5’) Since all things participate in God, and they participate proportionally, not all will have the same ending.

(5*) Thus, Maximus doesn’t posit an Origenist apocastasis.

The logos of our being pre-exists in God [1080C].  

(6) All created things develop and are defined and limited by their logoi.

Ambiguum 8

Thesis:  Bodily existence is within the realm of flux and chaos and needs the Creator to order it.  God changes the atakton into the eutakton..

Logos/Tropos distinction.  The logos is the principle of a thing.  The tropos is the mode of existence.  The Logos has innovated human nature not in its natural principle (logos phuseos) but in its post-lapsarian existential mode (tropos huparchos).

Is it fair, then, to see Logos/Tropos as akin to the Nature/Person distinction?  This would make it:

(7) There is one logos in the trinity but three tropoi huparchoi?

Unfortunately, this creates problems.  We would then have two persons of Jesus but only one nature!

(7*) Logos could perhaps stay as nature (or natural principle) but tropos refers not to person, but to the mode of the person’s existing.

(7a*) Every Logos has its own telos (1).  There is no temporal hiatus (diastema) of any kind within the logos.  Nature is already graced because it is intrinsically open to transformation.

Ad Thalassium 2: On God’s Preservation and Integration of the Universe

The logos of a thing is already established, but its development is ongoing..  

(8) God “works” through the latent potentialities within the logoi.  

Christ unites within himself the logoi of universals and particulars.  

Ad Thalassium 22: At the End of the Ages

(9) God divided the “ages” between those before he became human and those afterwards
(9a) This is God’s “oikonomia.”

(10) Jesus is the beginning (arche), middle (mesotes), and end (telos) of all ages.

(10*) The end of the ages has come upon  his in potency through faith.

Ad Thalassium 60: On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ

(11) The mystery is the preconceived goal for which everything exists (p. 124).

(11a) The Logos is the goal for which creatures received their beginning existence and to which they move [(1), (10)].

(11b) Time itself is rooted in Christ [=CCSG 22:76]

(12) Christ’s incarnation (economy) was the object of God’s foreknowledge.

EXCURSUS ON GNOMIC WILL

(a)   It is discursive [1104A]

(b)  It is deliberate [Ad Thal. 21).

(c)  It is vacillating and sin perpetuates itself not via the natural volitions but through the gnomic will
(d) Earlier in his career Maximus said Jesus had a gnomic fear of death, but he stabilized his gnomic will.  Later, he would deny Jesus had a gnomic will (Blowers 112 n7).

 

Analytic Outline, Balthasar’s Cosmic Liturgy

This isn’t an outline of the whole book–only the first half.  That is where Balthasar’s discussion on Person and Nature is.  I first read this book in 2010 when I was new to Maximus the Confessor.  Those were heady days. Maximus_Confessor

  1. the Free mind
    1. Opening up tradition: Maximus undercut Origenism by interpreting Gregory of Nazianzus in Origenist language (35).
    2. Between Emperor and Pope: tore the Greek tradition away from the destructive claws of the Empire.  
  1. Between East and West
    1. Religion and revelation
        1. Asiatic view of One and Many; seeking the Absolute which exists in a state of formlessness
        2. Biblical religion: man and God stand in confrontation, not emanation and decline.
      1. Polarities and Synthesis
        1. Maximus held to the Western view of phusis and logos, which grounds the existence of things.  Western thought also added “personal categories.”
        2. He held to the Eastern religious passion.
      2. Three bodies of material to be synthesized
        1. Origen: subordination is metaphysical; problem for Christology.  Falling away from spirits in a collective unity of God; apakatastis.
        2. Evagrius: silence sensible images and conceptual thought; eliminate form from realm of the spirit.
        3. Alexandrian Christology:
    2. Scholasticism and Mysticism
  2. The synthesis
  3. Divine Unknowing
    1. Lack of knowledge:
    2. The light of God enfolds one beyond the distinction of subject and object (94).
  4. Ideas in God
    1. “The idea of a thing is its truth” (Maximus PG 91, 1085AB).
    2. God’s ideas are not identical with his essence (otherwise I, as an idea of God, would be infinite) nor are they identical with the existence of created entities (HuvB, 118).
    3. Epistemology
      1. Maximus reworks some of Ps. Dionysius’ concepts.  When we approach an idea, or rather, when an idea comes across our consciousness, we first have a general impression of reality (pragma) and gradually grow clearer unity reaches the full knowledge of the individual object.  
      2. “What flashes upon us ‘in an undivided way’ (ameristos) in the first encounter () is not some empty general concept of being–a contradiction in terms–but a revelation concerning the Monad (), the unity of that being that truly is one: a logos that instructs the thinking mind that God and the world are undivided and so makes possible all thought of things different from God (123, see PG 91, 1260D).  
  5. Ideas in the World: A Critique of Origenism
    1. Maximus filtered Origenist spirituality and removed its fangs.
    2. Origen: there once existed an original Henad of beings.  It is a metaphysics of “peira,” of painful necessity (129).

Syntheses of the Cosmos

  1. Being and Movement
    1. The Age.  Finite being is characterized by spatial intervals (diastema), and thereby motion.  
      “To have a beginning, middle, and end is characteristic of things extended in time. One would also be right in adding to this ‘things caught p in the age (aiown).’ For time, whose motion can be measured, is limited by number; the age, however, whose existence is expressed by the category of ‘when,’ also undergoes extension (diastasis), in that its being has a beginning.  But if time and the age are not without beginning, then surely neither ar ethe things that are involved in them” (Centuries on Knowledge, 1.5).
    2. In short, for Origen motion is connected with the fall, while for Maximus it was an ontological expression of created existence (HuvB 141).
    3. Extension:
    4. The definition of every nature is given with the concept of its essential activity (energeia, Ambigua PG 91, 1057B).
      1. The essence of a thing is only truly indicated through the potential for activity that is constitutive of its nature.
      2. A nature is nothing else than organized motion….It is a capacity or plan, a field or system of motion (HuvB 146).
    5. Nature and the Supernatural:
  2. Generality and Particularity
    1. Being in Motion.
    2. The motion of a being is its way of establishing itself as a particular, existent thing (155).
      1. The whole structure of existent things, which are not God, is polar (duas). It is a dynamic relationship between the unity of individuality and the unity of generality (157).
    3. Essence in motion. The essence of all created things is motion–in the manner of expansion (diastole) and contraction (systole).
    4. Balance of contrary motions.

Christ the Synthesis

  1. Synthesis, not confusion, is the first structural principle of all created being (207).
    1. There is no contradiction between divine and finite life.
    2. We do not look for a synthesis on the level of nature and describe it as a synthesis of natural powers (Nestorius) or a natural union (Eutyches).
  2. The terminology
    1. Aristotle: ousia is the highest and most comprehensie of being (216).
      1. The Cappadocians used this as “universal concept
      2. And because Maximus didn’t want to identify God with a universal concept, he places God outside being (Ambigua PG 91, 1036B).
    2. Maximus at times wants to distinguish ousia from this-ousia.
    3. Being (einai). The existential aspect of Being (HuvB 218).
      1. Christ united in his own person “two distinct intelligible structures of being” (logoi tou einai) of his parts.”
    4. Hypokeimenon.  Underlying subject.  Maximus seldom uses this. It denotes the concrete, existent bearer of qualities that determine whata thing is.
      1. It does not mean the same thing as hypostasis. It is more of a point of reference for logical predicates than an existential reality.
    5. Hyparxis. Existence. Used to mean the Being of the Persons of God (tropos tes huparxeos; Cappadocians used this, as did Karl Barth).
    6. Hypostasis. Leontius refined it to mean “being-for-oneself.”  It is what distinguishes a concrete being from others of the same genus (HuvB 223). It is the ontological subject of the ascription of an essence, not the consciousness of such a subject.  
      1. It isn’t merely the contraction (systole) of universal being; it also suggests the “having” of such a being. When the Cappadocian Fathers defined hypostasis as the manner in which each person has his origin, it was to show the reality his having the Godhead.
      2. A nature is the hypostasis’s property (224).
      3. Maximus even suggests that nature is what is according to the image, whereas hypostasis is according to the likeness.  No doubt the Hebrew doesn’t sustain such a reading, but it is interesting that a Greek father would suggest it.
    7. Synthesis
      1. Union (henosis).
      2. Synthetic person.  
    8. Christology of essence.  The act of being is distinct from the actual being of Christ’s human nature. The act of being comes from the divine person, which is why the human nature of Christ isn’t a human person.
  3. Healing as Preservation
    1. The exchange of properties

Terminology:

First Substance (Aristotle): the irreducibleness of a thing.  It has an inner field of meaning and power defined in terms of potency (49).  

McGuckin on Natures

This ties in with my recent reflections on universals, natures, and metaphysics.  This is from John McGuckin’s fine work on St Cyril. I applaud Perry Robinson for doing the legwork in putting these quotes on his blog:

Ousia: Essence, substance, being, genus, or nature.

Physis: Nature, make up of a thing. (In earlier Christian thought the concrete reality or existent.)

Hypostasis: The actual concrete reality of a thing, the underlying essence, (in earlier Christian thought the synonym of physis.)

Prosopon: The observable character, defining properties, manifestation of a reality.

Even at first sight it is clear that the words bear a range of meanings that overlap in some areas so as to be synonymous.  This is particularly so with the terms Physis and Hypostasis which in the fifth century simultaneously bore ancient Christian meanings and more modern applications.. In relation to Physis, Cyril tended to use the antique meaning, Nestorius the modern. In relation to Hypostasis the opposite was the case.”

McGuckin, 138-139.

7. “Ousia is the genus of a thing.  Once can think, for example of the genus ‘unicorn.’  Such a genus exists, but only theoretically, not practically or concretely.  It does not exist, that is, ‘in reality’ as we would say today.  Nonetheless, it makes sense to talk of the necessary characteristics of a unicorn such as its magical horn, its horse like appearance, its whiteness, its beard and lion’s tail, and so on. Thus the genus of unicorn is the ousia, that which makes up the essential being of a thing.. The notion of the physis of our unicorn is intimately related to this.  It connotes what we might call the palpable and ‘physical’ characteristics of a unicorn such as outlined above-but always understanding that his possession of a physis-nature still does not necessarily imply that such a creature is real…In some circles, especially those represented by the Christian thinkers of Alexandria following Athanasius, the word physis signified something slightly different from this sense of ’physical attributes’ and had been used to connote the physical existent-in the sense of a concrete individual reality.  In the hands of Cyril the word is used in two senses, one in what might be called the standard ‘physical usage where it connotes the constituent elements of a thing, and the other in which it serves to delineate the notion of individual existent-or in other words individual subject.  This variability in the use of a key term on Cyril’s part goes some way to explaining Nestorius’ difficulties in following his argument over the single Physis of the Incarnate Word (Mia Physis tou Theou Logou Sesarkoene).  By this Cyril meant the one concrete individual subject of the Incarnated Word. Whereas Nestorius heard him to mean the one physical composite of the Word (in the sense of an Apollinarist mixture of fusion of the respective attributes of the natures of man and God.)

McGuckin, 139-140.

The prospon is the external aspect or form of a physis as it can be manifested to external observation and scrutiny.  It is a very concrete, empirical word, connoting what appears to outside observation.  Each essence (ousia) is characterized by its proper nature (physis), everything that is, which makes it up, and in turn every nature that is hypostatically real presents itself to the scrutiny of the senses in its own prosopon-that list of detailed characteristics or ‘propria’ that constitute this thing individually and signal to the observer what nature (physis) it has and thus to what genus (ousia) it belongs.  In the system Nestorius is following, every nature has its own prosopon, that such of proper characteristics (idiomata) by which it is characterized in its unique  individuality and made known to others as such.  The word carried with it an intrinsic sense of ‘making known’ and appeared to Nestorius particularly apt in the revelatory context of discussing the incarnation.”

McGuckin, 144.

Review of Aristotle’s Categories

Categories is the intro text to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, or so some essay from Plato.Stanford.Edu said.  Good enough for me.  It is short and clear.  

Some things are predicable of a subject but never in a subject.  By “being present in a subject” Aristotle means “incapable of existence apart from a subject” (2, 1a).

Substance is that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject.  

  • Primary: The individual man or horse.
  • Secondary: the species man; the genus animal.

Key point: everything except primary substances is either predicable of a primary substance or present in a primary substance.  The proposition “the man is an animal” is necessarily true, but not the reverse.  Further, the species is to the genus as subject is to predicate.

A primary substance has no contrary, for what can be the contrary to an individual man? Yet, while remaining numerically one it can admit contrary qualities.