Thursday, May 7, 2015

Divine Belief Simplicity

Divine Belief Simplicity is the thesis that all of God's acts of belief are the same act of belief, the same belief token. While my belief that 2+2=4 seems distinct from my belief that the sky is blue, God's believings are all one. This is a special case of divine simplicity.

Here is an argument for Divine Belief Simplicity. The primary alternative to Divine Belief Simplicity is:

  • Divine Belief Diversity: God's act of believing p is distinct from God's act of believing q whenever p and q are different.
But Divine Belief Diversity is false. The argument may be based on an anonymous referee's objection to a paper by Josh Rasmussen—I can't remember very well now—or to some comments by Josh Rasmussen. Here are some assumptions we'll need:
  1. For any plurality, the Fs, there is a distinct proposition that the Fs exist or don't exist.
For instance, there is the proposition that the world's dogs exist or don't exist, and the proposition that the French exist or don't exist, and so on. Next:
  1. Separation: Given any plurality, the Fs, and a predicate, P, that is satisfied by at least one of the Fs, there is a plurality of all and only the Fs satisfying P.
  2. Plurality of Believings: If Divine Belief Diversity holds, then there is a plurality of all divine acts of believing.
But this is enough to run a Russell paradox.

Say that a divine believing b is settish provided that there is a plurality, the Fs, such that b is a believing that the Fs exist or don't exist. For any settish divine belief b, there is the plurality of things that b affirms the existence or nonexistence of. Say that a divine believing b is nonselfmembered provided that b is settish and is not in the plurality of things that b affirms the existence or nonexistence of. By (1), Separation and Plurality of Believings, let p be the proposition that affirms existence-or-nonexistence of the nonselfmembered believings. Now p is true. So there is a divine believing b in p. This is settish. Moreover, this b either is among the nonselfmembered believings or not. If it is, then it's not. If it's not, then it is. So we have a contradiction.

Moreover, this argument does not need to take propositions ontologically seriously. It only needs divine believings to be taken ontologically seriously.

Denying Divine Belief Diversity, however, denies that there is such a thing as the plurality of things that b affirms the existence or nonexistence of.


Mika's Piano Blog said...

Hi Dr. Pruss,

What do you think of this objection? Take the proposition "God is omnipotent". That proposition is made true by God. But that proposition is also identical to God, given that propositions are divine ideas, and divine ideas are identical to God according to divine simplicity. If so, then God stands in the truth-making relation to himself - God makes himself true. But this seems absurd and incoherent.

We could reject the assumption that propositions are divine ideas, but if they aren't, what are they? To hold that they exist independently of God seems to compromise God's aseity.

Alexander R Pruss said...

There is nothing particularly absurd about a proposition making itself true.

For instance, the proposition that there are horses is made true by any horse. By the same token, the proposition that there are propositions is made true by any proposition, including itself!

(Or maybe we could say that talk about propositions and divine ideas is made true by God, but strictly speaking there are no propositions or divine ideas?)

Franco said...

Dr. Pruss, I have a question regarding how to answer an objection to Simple Divine Belief. It has to do with the plurality of knowledge of God, I understand that the knowledge of what an elephant is, is different from the knowledge of what a table is, since both knowledges embrace different characteristics or properties of the elephant and the table, so in God these knowledges cannot be identical. Now, this, I believe, does not affect the Simple Divine Belief, because God knows a plurality of things, but He does so by means of a single act of knowing, and it is this that is important for the Simple Divine Belief, since God is identical to that single act of knowing which embraces a plurality of knowledges. So the objection would be answered I think.

Alexander R Pruss said...

It seems you've answered your own question. :-)