Posts tagged ‘doctrine of divine simplicity’

September 13th, 2012

The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

by Max Andrews

The doctrine that God is absolutely simple derives from the metaphysical considerations that God is a being whose existence is self-explanatory, absolutely perfect, and pure actuality.  Prior to Thomas, the doctrine has its most influential formulations in Augustine and Anselm.[1]

According to Thomas, God is his essence and his existence.[2]  If the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential properties.[3]  The latter seems to be impossible; for nothing, if caused to exist, can be the sufficient and efficient cause of its own existence.  Nothing can be self-caused and thus the latter option is insufficient. Therefore, if existence differs from essence then another being must cause existence.  This option is also an insufficient explanation for God’s essence and existence because another being cannot cause God because he is the first efficient cause—the uncaused cause.

There are three important claims Thomas commits to concerning the doctrine of divine simplicity.[4]

(1) It is impossible that God have any spatial or temporal parts that could be distinguished from one another as here rather than there or as now rather than then, and so God cannot be a physical entity.

(2) It is impossible that God have any accidental properties.

(3) All of God’s intrinsic properties must be essential to him, it must be acknowledge that whatever can be intrinsically attributed to God must in reality just be the unity that is his essence.

September 20th, 2011

Divine Simplicity and the Multiverse–Thomas Aquinas Approved

by Max Andrews

For Thomas, there are four identity claims for God and simplicity.

  1. God is not distinct from his nature.
  2. God’s properties are not distinct from one another.
  3. God’s nature is not distinct from his existence.
  4. God has not properties distinct from his nature.

Now, I’m not a proponent of the doctrine of simplicity, I think it has its problems.  However, I want to consider the fourth claim.  The problem with the fourth claim is that it claims God is immutable and possesses no accidental properties.  Consider the actual world.  I’m currently wearing khakis, a dress shirt, tie, sweater vest, and glasses.  Suppose in another possible world, W, I am wearing jeans.  In world W2 I am not wearing glasses and I’ve got perfect eyesight.  In world W3 I don’t even exist.  In these worlds no obvious contradiction obtains.  I think it would be quite difficult to deny these worlds as being possible.  Given these possibilities it seems that God does have accidental properties when considering worlds W-W3 as they relate to the actual world since God’s knowledge and relation to me in these worlds would very (accidentally).

Perhaps, if the physical reality does exist in a manner of some form of the multiverse (at least Level 2 or greater) then God may perhaps be simple and this objection may not hold.  Thomas’ lack of distinction between properties may hold true and what appears to be accidental may just be a form of the actualization of the whole essence of God.  Perhaps all worlds W-W3 are actualized, either previously, presently, or in the future.  This, of course, doesn’t necessarily suggest that every possible state of affairs are actualized, it merely commits to the actualization of God’s essential desires/nature.