Saturday, November 3, 2007

Participation in divine goodness

According to St. Thomas, we only have properties like goodness, wisdom and being by participation in divine goodness, divine wisdom and divine being, respectively. Divine goodness, divine wisdom and divine being are the focal cases of goodness, wisdom and being, respectively. We have these qualities only insofar as we are dependent on God's having their focal cases. Our goodness, our wisdom and our being are mere shadows, as Plato would say, which is why Jesus said that only God is good (Mark 10:18), and St. Catherine of Siena reports God as having told her: "I am he who is and you are she who is not."

I suspect that if we reflect on this, we will find an answer to the question of why it is that we add nothing to the value of God--the world, given that God exists, is in an overall sense no better for having us in it. God's moral goodness is no greater if he creates us than if he does not. This had better be true--what God has chosen to do for us is pure grace, and is in no way necessitated. (And if one thinks that to be truly good, one needs some kind of generation of good, the a-causal timeless begetting of the consubstantial Son by the Father, and the a-causal timeless procession of the consubstantial Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son, should help.)

All this should provide ample ammunition against Rowe's argument that God doesn't exist, because if he did, then for any world he created, he could have created a better, and hence he could be morally outdone. For God's moral worth is not dependent on what he creates; this worth is, simply, infinite, no matter what.

4 comments:

Mike said...

Alex,

It seems to follow from this that no matter what world God might have actualized, it would not have been better or worse than this one. You say,

I suspect that if we reflect on this, we will find an answer to the question of why it is that we add nothing to the value of God--the world, given that God exists, is in an overall sense no better for having us in it. God's moral goodness is no greater if he creates us than if he does not

But in that case, we live in the worst possible world. That is, we live in a world that is at least as bad as any other God might have actualized (of course, also at least as good). But certainly, there is something I can do to make it worse. Certainly, we have a reason deriving from the disvalue it produces not to engage in ethnic cleansing, say. If so, then there is sometihng we contribute to the value of the world.

Enigman said...

But also Mike (if I may interject), if you piss in the sea do you defile it? No; if you piss in your pants, you defile them. So, if you piss in your pants whilst in the sea you defile your pants a little (although the sea washes them a bit, I guess) but the sea not at all (and not because you were wearing pants).

Alexander R Pruss said...

Mike:

But if we commit genocide, the part of the world that we're (individually or collectively) responsible gets worse. That seems relevant. (But this doesn't apply in the case of God, because God is (non-causally) responsible for his triune goodness, even though it is a necessary truth about him.)

Mike said...

Alex,

It can't matter to the overall value of the world what we do, right? So, I don't see how it can matter morally.

Enig,

I guess I'm lost a little in what I take to be an important metaphorical observation. My point was that it does not matter morally (not that it does not matter to this or that morally relevant being) what I do. What matters--I take it, definitively--to the moral question is the overall outcome. What matters prudentially is the local outcome. But I wasn't talking about the prudential question.