Plantinga: God and Other Minds

And so begins Plantinga’s project. Plantinga evaluates the issue of whether we are rationally *justified* in believing in God. In doing so, he considers the natural theologian’s arsenal, the atheologian’s response, and whether belief in God can be salvaged from the analogy of other minds.

Natural Theology

In considering the Cosmological, Ontological, and Teleological arguments, Plantinga points out that most criticisms of these arguments do not obtain, but still, at the end of the day, the natural theologian is not in a better position. Admittedly, this section is dizzying. The ontological argument comprised two chapters (though we did get a fine survey of the then-current literature).

Various Atheologica

Plantinga explores the atheologian’s criticisms of theism: the problem of evil (PE), the free will(FV) defense, and verificationism (Vf). With regard to PE, Plantinga notes if the atheologian’s premises are correct, it still doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist. There is no logical contradiction between the classical theistic view of God and the existence of evil. The atheologian needs to add the following premise:

(a) An all-powerful, all-loving God is *morally obligated* to create a world where persons freely choose the good at all times.

But introducing moral considerations is off-limits for the atheologian at this time. In any case, the atheologian’s criticism only speaks of what kind of God exists, not that he doesn’t exist.

Plantinga’s FW defense is the best chapter in the book. Whether we hold to free will or not is true, Plantinga argues that it is logically coherent and thus serves to defeat the atheologian’s defeater. The atheologian wants the following premise:

(b) God could create a world where the state of affairs obtain where a person P freely chooses the good at all times.

As Plantinga notes, this is hard to square with any definition of freedom. Further, just because God is omnipotent does not mean that he can create any state of affairs (e.g., God cannot create the state of affairs that is not created by God!) Further, Plantinga gives a nice discussion of what is a human person:

(c) x is a possible person = def. x is a consistent set of H properties such that for every H property P, either P or P (complement) is a member of x (Plantinga 141).

And if it is false that God can instantiate any possible state of affairs he chooses, then it is false that he can create any person he chooses. Therefore, (b) is no threat to theism.

God and Other Minds

This last section was confusing. Plantinga argued that the other minds analogy has drawbacks but then suggests something like it to *justify* belief in God.  It’s important to note that at this point in his career, Plantinga is still speaking in terms of justification and has not yet moved to warrant.

Evaluation and Limitations

This book was one of Plantinga’s earlier projects. Notice that I have been using the word “justify” in terms of evaluating belief in God. By the time of Warrant and Proper Function, Plantinga has rejected this line of thought. Justification is a stricter criterion of rationality. It suggests deontological duty and if Plantinga wants to speak of theistic belief as *justified* on the basis of other minds analogy, then his project certainly falls short. But this is no longer Plantinga’s position.

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Outline of Maximus’ Cosmology

maximus

Chapter 3: The Logos, logoi, and created beings

  1. Key to Maximus’s cosmology is the mystery of Christ (64).
    1. The logoi are all contained in the divine wisdom, not just his thoughts but his acts of will.
    2. Logoi are ideas through which the creative will of God manifests itself (66).
    3. The logoi are divine intentions for created beings.
  2. Logos as Centre of all Logoi
    1. The logoi are pre-existent.
      1. They are divine ideas through which the essences of such beings are instituted by the creative act (71).
      2. Dialectic as tearing apart. The fall represents an opposite movement, where man no longer moves in accordance with the logos of his being.
    2. Expansion and Contraction
      1. Expansion roughly corresponds with the Neoplatonic procession, but for Maximus it is God’s distributing the essence from highest (genera) to lowest (species).
      2. “The one logos in creative act should not be considerd an empty name for a sum of logoi….It seems rather that the One Logos holds the logoi together” (79).
      3. Principles of being: the means by which the Logos of God extends to the end of the world of creatures (sort of like the radii to the periphery of hte circle).
  3. The Logoi as Principles of a Porphyrian Tree
    1. Division of Being (Amb. 41).  The “subject” in question refers to particular beings of which accidents are predicates.  Somewhat equivalent to Aristotle’s substance.
    2. Maximus’s division of beings is in accordance with the divine logoi.  “The logoi are principles that are institutive of the essences of creatures” (85).
    3. God’s eternal wisdom is identical with the sum total of the logoi (87).
      1. What God has defined eternally and what he wills at the moment of creation is conceived in the logoi as a system of essence with internal differentiations (87).
      2. However, the logoi cannot be seen as a reservoir of Ideas or Forms.
    4. Universals: the logoi aren’t really universals in themselves, but are rather principles of immanent universal arrangements (91).
      1. The divine Logos manifests from Himself a logos of being as universal category, logoi of genera and species, logoi of individuals (91).
  4. The Ordering of Essential Being–Expansion and Contraction
    1. Maximus’ basic category is essence/ousia (93).
    2. There are two aspects of Maximus’ view of essence: common nature and particular nature.
      1. Common nature: location in particular beings; collects particulars into wholes.
        1. For Maximus created beings are comprised by their logoi.
        2. Essence and nature are said to be common and universal (Amb. 14).
      2. Difference: it is the effect of a logos of creation (98).
        1. The divide the genus but function constitutively  on the level of species.
        2. These are dynamic relations in the real world.
      3. Particular nature:
    3. Universals: the universals consist of particulars. If a particular perishes, the universal perishes.  Yet, the logoi cannot perish.
        1. For Maximus essence contracts and expands (Amb. 10). It is moved from the generic to the specific.
        2. It’s movement is the process of expansion.
    4. The movement of expansion is the ontological constitution of the cosmos (108).
      1. This moves from most genus (ousia) to most specific species, yet this isn’t an ontological scale with non-being at the bottom, for:
      2. God has no opposite (De Char. 3.28).
    5. The contractive movement is what unites the beings.
  5. Ontological Constitution of Created Beings
    1. Triad of origin –Middle — End
      Triad of essence — potentiality (power) — activity (actuality)
      Logos of being–logos of well-being–logos of eternal well-being
    2. These triads are constitutive of all created beings.
    3. An essence has in itself a limit (horos).  This limit is essential determination.
      1. This limit is due to the presence of a logos.
      2. The preconditioning essence makes present a potentiality which is to be actualized (119).
    4. What is a person?
      1. Greek philosophers: an individual is a collection of properties and this “bundle” cannot be contemplated in another.
      2. Fathers: a hypostasis is an essence with properties.
      3. A hypostasis does not exist separate from nature, but is always present
      4. The being of a hypostasis is in tension between the logos of nature and the mode of existence.
        1. A nature must always have a hypostasis, but not necessarily a hypostasis of its own kind.
        2. This is why Christ doesn’t have a human hypostasis.
      5. In the tropos (en men to tropo) the changeability of persons is know in in their activity, in the logos in the inalterability of natural operation (Th. Pol. 10).
      6. The mode of fallen man is dialectical, pulling in two different directions, since it doesn’t orient itself to the logos of its being.

The Divine Activity

Thesis: Maximus presupposes a distinction between essence, energy, logoi, and created beings.

  1. In earlier philosophy:
    1. Aristotle: distinction between potentiality and actuality is what explains change.
      1. An energeia is an action which includes the end (Metaph. Theta, 3.1047a30ff.).
  2. God’s essence and activities according to St Gregory Palamas.
    1. If man is to be deified by participation in God, and if the essence of God is imparticipable, then man must be deified by some other ‘aspect’ of God than His essence (140).
    2. The activity/energy is contemplated in God but God is not a matter for composition.
      1. When we say ‘God’ we do not mean the trihypostatic essence separately, but the essence with the activity.
      2. The energy is not separated from the essence because it is always from it (ex ekeines ousan)
    3. God’s energies are not an accident (Palamas Capita 127 and 135:
      1. Accidents come into being and pass away, which does not apply to God.
    4. The primary sense of energy is activity.
      1. It is the essential motion of nature (Capita 150, 143).
      2. The capacity of activity belongs to the nature from which it proceeds.
      3. The activities are certain powers which are deifying, life-giving, causing being, granting wisdom (quoted in Dionysius DN 2.7).
    5. The energies aren’t hypostases.
      1. They are natural manifestations and processions of the Spirit.
      2. They are proper to God’s essence before God relates himself to anything ‘other’ through them (144).
    6. The divine essence is One but the activities are plural; hence, they are distinguished from the essence.
      1. The divine will is the principle of distribution (similar to Maximus’s logoi).
      2. An energy is never a quasi-hypostasis that is a go-between the essence and the creature.
      3. It does not follow the essence in an external fashion.
    7. Dionysius
      1. Through the processions God is the cause of being, life, wisdom, etc.
      2. The divine names are divine activities (Goodness, Being, Life, Wisdom).
  3. Essence and Activity according to St Maximus.
    1. Two kinds of divine works: that which he began to create, and that which he did not begin to create (Cap. Gnost. 1.48).
    2. If something participates in a certain quality, then it participates in hierarchical order in more and more inclusive qualities (162).
  4. The Energies and the Logoi
    1. The logoi are God’s intention through which all creatures receive their generic, specific, and individual essences.  The logoi are acts of will instituting essence.
      1. They are the principles by which creatures participate in God (174). Cf. De Char. 3.23-25.
      2. By his logos of being man is constituted a essence which joins in the triadic structure of essence–potentiality–activity.
      3. Essence is the origin of potentiality.
    2. The divine energy is the manifestation of God’s power as Being, Goodness, etc.

Concept of Participation

  1. Basic idea
    1. God transcends every relation.
    2. As the cause of creatures God is immanent.
    3. Incarnation is the ontological condition of participation.
  2. The problem of participation.
    1. How do the many participate in the One without the One being divided up (since God is simple)?
    2. Plotinus: procession is the activity out of the essence
  3. The Logic of Participation
    1. When different hypostases have the same essence, there is a unity according to essence.
    2. For Aristotle, separateness is characteristic of ousia (Metaphysics M, 9.1058b34ff).  This means separate entities will exist independently of each other.  This is fatal to the hypostatic union.

Relations of relations

If persons are relations of a simple essence,

* How does such a relation become incarnate?

* Does this relation have a relation to the human nature?

* If two (or three) of the persons are relations, then are there relations between the relations?  How does this not entail gnosticism with its endlessly multiplied hypostases?ghd

I suppose one could get around this by saying that the term “relation” takes on a different meaning (albeit with no warning).

Person =/= Soul

Key to the definition of person is that it can’t be defined in terms of any of the soul’s or nature’s functions.  As part of what it means to be human is to have a soul (however you want to gloss that), this means that person can’t be defined as the sum total of will, memory (Augustine), consciousness, etc.

A patristic ordo theologiae

The following summary comes from years of studying and interacting with Joseph Farrell’s theological works.  I had a breakthrough yesterday on the nature of the soul. Many substance dualists see the soul as the person, yet Christologically this is impermissible, as Christ has two souls yet is one person. Farrell’s definition of the person, as seen below, shows that the person is more than the soul.  This is why animals have souls but they aren’t persons.ghd

Def. Person = an absolutely undefinable concrete uniqueness without analogy to any other person, save in that very uniqueness.  It is important to remember that we are not defining person in terms of the functions of soul or nature.

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.

Some terms:

  1. soul: the animating principle.  Not to be confused with the idea of “person.”
  2. nature: the whatness of a thing. Nature exists in a “mode of existence,” which is the hypostasis (Loudonikos 93ff). Essence, substance, being, genus, or nature.  The actual concrete reality of a thing, the underlying essence, (in earlier Christian thought the synonym of physis.)
  3. attribute: the static quality which something possesses (I prefer the term property).
  4. operations: the dynamic quality which something does by virtue of being what it is.
  5. Agency: surprisingly, a nature can function as an agent, in that natures have operations.  This doesn’t confuse person and nature, though, since the doing of a nature is seen more in the category of capacity.
    1. If an individual person acts, then it is the mode of his operation and such mode is exclusively personal.

The ordo:

Persons –> operations –> essence

Who is doing it? What are they doing? What are they that are doing these things? Heresies in the early church arose by confusing the essence with some operation (Eunomianism–seeing the nature in terms of the operation of unbegottenness).

 

 

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).  

Review: What Sort of Human Nature?

Medieval analytic philosophy gets to the heart of the problem:  If Christ has two natures, one of which he assumed as a human nature, and if he is consubstantial with us in our humanity, yet our nature is sinful, how is Christ not sinful?  Saying he chose not to sin doesn’t answer the question, as merely possessing a human nature tainted by sin makes one guilty. human nature

The short answer to the question is that we only need to show that Christ is fully human, and a tainted human nature is not necessary to the definition of what it means to be human.  Yet this reveals the deep octopus of questions that occurs at the intersection of anthropology and Christology.  Marilyn McCord Adams sets forth several questions on this topic and shows how (and why) the medievals answered the way they did.

Themes

(1) Metaphysical size-gap between God and man.
(2) There is a top-down pressure to regard Christ’s human nature with maximal perfection.
(3) Christ assumes something from each of man’s fourfold states. He has to have something to guide human beings into Beatific glory.

Adams interprets Chalcedon as defining person: Per 451, Person = supposit = individual substance (Adams 8). Other questions that arise: how much did the human soul of Jesus know?  Did it experience defects? If so, what kind?  Was it impeccable?

Anselm denies Christ is born in original sin. If he were, then he would be personally liable.  Anselm says Christ’s human soul was omniscient, yet he doesn’t explain how a finite human mind could have infinite cognitive capacity (17).

Lombard on Christ’s human knowledge: “Once again, Lombard charts a via media: the scope of Christ’s human knowledge matches the Divine, but the created act by which it knows will not be so metaphysically worthy or furnish the maximal clarity of knowledge found in the Divine essence. Even so, it will enable the soul of Christ to contemplate each creature clearly and as present and will include a contemplation of God as well” (21).

Conclusion:

The book admirably serves as a fine example of analytic theology. Adams plumbs the issues and shows the tensions and advantages in each theologian’s position.  I do feel the book’s conclusions were rushed at times, but given that it is actually a lecture and an essay, I suppose that can’t be helped.