Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An anti-Aristotelian argument for divine simplicity

The doctrine of divine simplicity fits comfortably with Aquinas’s Aristotelian framework. But it is interesting that anti-Aristotelianism also leads to divine simplicity.

  1. The proper parts are more fundamental than the whole. (Mereological anti-Aristotelianism.)

  2. Nothing is more fundamental than God.

  3. So, God has no proper parts.

Of course, as an Aristotelian I reject 1, so while I accept the conclusion of this argument, I can’t use the argument myself.


JohnD said...

Dr. Pruss,

What metaphysical commitments do you have that you would classify as Aristotelian?

I'm just curious, since whenever I visit here it seems your thought is developing on so many different issues!

Alexander R Pruss said...

Modality is grounded in causal powers. Causation is grounded in them, too. Substances are rock bottom, but they have accidents and forms. Platonism is false. Teleology is irreducible and central to causation and ethics. Wholes are prior to parts. There is a prime mover. The soul is the form of the body. There are both positive and negative truths. Time is at least probably discrete. Infinite per se (or any other, but that's not Aristotelian) causal histories are impossible. We are not souls. Animals have souls. Substances are not composed of substances. Probably a lot more...

Justin said...

Have you read Greg Fowler's "Simplicity or Priority?" (Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion vol. 6)? He uses the notion that a whole can be prior to its parts to block the traditional argument for simplicity from divine aseity (I take it your argument here is a variant on that traditional argument).

Scotist respecter said...

Even if you accept whole to part grounding, you can still get simplicity pretty easily. Composite beings have parts that are more fundamental then their wholes, because the whole doesn't directly depend on the parts. However, we can use some neat tricks to get around this. First, a) God has some part of him which accounts for his necessity, b) God depends on the part of him that accounts for his necessity, c) there is only one part of God that accounts for his necessity.

Once you have all of these, you have it that God depends for his existence on one of his parts. But dependence is a priority relationship. Whole to part grounding is true(on this view), so the part of God which contains his necessity so both prior to the whole which depends upon it, and the whole is prior to the part. This is obviously problematic, and the only way out is to deny a distinction between the whole and the part. Thus, in beings with a part that exists of necessity and grounds the existence of the whole, the whole must be identical to the part.

The argument is essentially

p1. wholes are prior to parts
p2. in necessary beings, one part is prior to the whole
p3. The only way to keep these two propositions consistent is to identify the whole with the part
c1. So The whole is identical to the part(so there are no proper parts in a necessary being)

You can get good arguments from a scholastic trope theory for c), a) comes from the fact that Existing necessarily simply seems like a positive property, and b) is just obvious from the explanatory work that it's supposed to do.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That's a neat argument. But it depends on the motivations for the non-simplicity view. If the motivation is that every positive property corresponds to a part, then it's pretty strong. But there could be other motivations, such as worries about how a simple God can know contingent truths.